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blessing of God, endeavour to give you satisfaction in each of these particulars.
I. And first, What is the peace here spoken of? I know not whether one can give a better answer to this question, than in the words of our church, in one of her hymns, in the office of ordination, where she describes and prays for this blessing in these words:-Put back our enemies far from us, and help us to obtain peace in our hearts with God and man,—the best, the truest gain.
To be a little more particular.
It is that peace which arises in our souls, by believing and sincerely embracing these truths: That Jesus Christ, our peace-maker, hath reconciled us to God by the blood of his cross ;*
that if, after this reconciliation, any man sin, (as we are apt to do, our condition is not desperate; for we have an Advocate with the Father, for whose sake God will graciously receive and pardon all such as with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; and, because of ourselves we are not able to please God, that he has promised his Holy Spirit to them that ask him; by whom the eyes of our understandings shall be enlightened, our infirmities helped, our souls strengthened, until we are rooted and grounded in the love of God.
This is the foundation of that peace we are speaking of, which consists in an humble assurance, (built upon God's promise,) that he is no longer our enemy; that we are under his guidance and protection; that we are safe while we
Col i. 20.
continue so; and that we shall always continue so, if it be not our own fault.
We easily perceive, that this is a blessed state of life; and we shall see it yet plainer, when we have considered the condition of those, who, instead of enjoying this happy peace, are at war with God and their own consciences; as all indeed are who live in any known sin.
To defy the Almighty, to despise what he can do to us, are words of too much horror and madness to be spoken out: but let it be considered, whether men do not what they dare not speak, while they live in rebellion, in an open defiance of his laws? The holy scriptures call this a state of war,* in which we are not only led captive, but like slaves sold under sin;t which expressions are made use of, to represent unto our minds the miseries of such a condition, where (if our consciences are awake) we are in continual fear of being undone.
And, verily, it were better for us that our houses were burnt over our heads, our goods plundered, and ourselves prisoners, and at the will of our enemies, than that we should be at war with God and our own consciences, So saith our Saviour expressly, Luke xii. 4: Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: fear him which, after he hath killed, hath cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.
But if this be so unhappy a condition, how comes it to pass, that so many are so easy under
it? One would rather expect, that one-half of the world should be distracted with the fears of what shall become of them. Why truly so they would, if they did but see the danger they are in: but there are ways of preventing this.
Some there are whose consciences are hardened, or (as the apostle expresses it*) seared with a hot iron. It cannot be expected that these should feel any uneasiness.
There are others who make their minds easy by purposing some time or other to lead a new life, and so to die in the favour of God.
Many fear no danger, because they perform the outward acts of Christian worship as well as others.
Lastly: The greatest part of men seek for ease, and in some measure find it, in the
great variety of business, in the great variety of pleasures, in worldly cares, and worldly company.
And the very reason why people choose any of these methods of ease, before a more perfect acquaintance with themselves, is the sad
apprehension of knowing God to be their enemy, and an unwillingness to do what is necessary to gain his friendship.
It is not our business, at present, to shew the extreme folly of laying conscience asleep, by these or any other ways; but this is fit to be taken notice of, that there is a vast difference betwixt peace of conscience, and fearing no danger.
A man may be asleep on the top of a mast, (as Solomon observes,t) and fear no danger;
• 1 Tim. ir. 2.
4 Prot. xxii. 34.
but it cannot be said that he is in safety. One may stifle, divert, bribe, and sear, the conscience; one may wink hard, and stop his ears, so that he shall neither hear, nor see the mischief that is ready to befal him; and yet the danger is as near him as if he saw it.
But peace of conscience, arising from the knowledge of God's goodness, and our sincere endeavours of doing what we know will please him, is both safe and grateful; and while we enjoy the blessing of this calm, we need not fear a storm will follow.
II. How we may obtain this blessed peace, we come now to consider. But first let us consider, that the conditions of this peace cannot possibly be hard or unreasonable.
As God has a right to give us laws, so all his laws do proceed from his goodness and kindness for his creatures: For never (saith the wise Man*) would God have made any thing, if he had hated it. Here then let us fix our firm belief, That the love of God for us was the foundation of all that he has commanded us to believe or do, in order to our happiness.
He only knows what can make us happy, what we can do ourselves, what help we shall want, what enemies we shall meet with, what dispositions are necessary to fit us for that happiness he has designed for us: and all his commands (which are the conditions of our peace) are given for these very ends; and not to be a burthen to us.
• Wind, al. 84.
After all, we must not imagine, that this great blessing is to be obtained without trouble. To get out of the snare of the devil; to break off evil liabits; to accustom one's self to virtuous actions; to make the service of God one's delight; this will require pains, and patience, and prayers, and searchings of heart, before it is brought about: and sure it is worth all this, to be possessed of that peace which ariseth from an assurance of being beloved of God.
To come to the conditions of this peace we are speaking of ;-how it is to be obtained ?
Now; all our fears arising from a sense of our having offended God, our peace can no otherwise be made, than by obtaining his pardon, receiving the terms of grace which he proposes, and resolving to be more fearful of offending him for the time to come; or, in other words, the conditions of our peace are, Repentance, faith, and obedience. By repentance, we are reconciled to God; by faith, we understand what will please God, and are encouraged to undertake it; by obedience, we gain such dispositions as fit us for heaven.
He that would find rest unto his soul, has this and this way only of obtaining it:-He his conscience asleep; he may please himself with ways of his own devising; he may flatter himself that God will be merciful to him, though he should not observe these methods of
peace; but safe it is impossible for any man to be,
of God's appointment. Let us now see what the scriptures say upon these conditions of
except in the