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age. There is nothing in the words either of Christ or His disciples so to limit it. It would seem to have no other limit than this, that in order to enjoy peace, the mind must be capable of feeling the opposite to peace, that is, disquiet and annoyance. The heart so young as to be free
. from all care or pain, or so old as to have every feeling dulled and almost extinguished, may perhaps be incapable of receiving the promise, but all who are past the merest childhood and are not yet arrived at dotage, as they are capable of feeling grief, disappointment, pain, and anxiety, so are they capable also of receiving the peace of God.
We then here are all capable of receiving it; that is, it is a blessing neither out of our reach nor unsuitable to us because of our age. Other hindrances there may be in the way of our receiving it, great hindrances in our own will; but not in our age. Or if in our age, it is a hindrance which acts upon us in this way, that we do not trouble ourselves to seek any peace at all, because we are so little conscious of uneasiness.
Yet at a later age there may be hindrances of another sort; we shall seek for peace perhaps with more earnestness than we did in early life, but our tendency will be greater also to mistake a false peace for the true. And it is because of this tendency of later years, and of the certainty that we shall feel the craving after peace sooner or later, that it is so important to be possessed early with the true peace of God, and so be saved from all temptation of running after a counterfeit.
I have often alluded to the hardness of impressing persons in your present condition, because the world seems so sufficient to you, and you seem so sufficient to yourselves. And even when instances are brought very near to you, that the world's sufficiency and your own are not to be relied on, still the lesson, if it speaks loudly for a time, is soon repelled by the habits of your common life, which seem to assure you that you have no need of alarming yourselves, or of seeking for any thing more than you have already. And at this moment perhaps least of all, when your minds are set upon a prospect of very keen earthly pleasure, would you be disposed to seek or to desire very earnestly to become sharers in the peace of God.
Yet even at this moment the still small voice may speak, and some in all likelihood will hear it. For those who do not or will not, it will but testify against them, like the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar's feast; and its witness regarded with indifference will be recorded against them as an opportunity lost.
Some undoubtedly will hear it, for they have heard it already. I am fully persuaded that to many the peace of God is not a thing altogether unknown, though it may not yet have been enjoyed in such measure as to deserve in their experience the high title given it by the apostle, that it passes all understanding. But they know it to be a blessing which they desire and which they would fain taste more often and more perfectly. And if they were asked in what this peace consisted so far as they had known it, would they not answer something to this effect? That it had consisted, first in the entire absence of all angry and hostile feelings towards any, and in the sensible
and in the sensible presence of feelings of general kindness and benevolence. This is a state which sometimes possesses us consciously, and if it is not actually the peace of God, yet at the very lowest it is a state of preparation for it. For if it be true that he who hateth his brother is a murderer, and no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him, and again that he who dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him ; then the heart which is entirely free from any angry or unkind feelings towards any one, and feels within the very opposite, that is, a spirit of general kindness, and a wish to see and make others happy, may be said truly to be at least in a state not far from receiving the peace of God.
And here I think youth has often an advantage over maturer age. Commonly speaking, in youth our dislikes are very much personal; our angry feelings are stirred by something done or supposed to be done directly against ourselves. Now in our better and calmer tempers these are things which we can get over. It is not after all so very difficult when a little time has gone over, to forgive a personal affront or injury, unless the circumstances have in them something very peculiar, or our own temper and disposition be unusually bad. Far greater is the temptation in after life, when personal feelings are very often mixed up with questions of principle, and those who annoy us or injure us are also those whose opinion we entirely condemn, whose lives are marked with vices which we do well to hold in abhorrence. Then indeed it does become hard to judge ourselves strictly, to separate our just dislike of falsehood, whether in opinion or in practice, from some personal soreness for things personally displeasing; the flow of our charity becomes obstructed, and our evil passions, ever seeking for some pretence to justify themselves, keep whispering in our ears that we are not uncharitable, but only zealous; not hating our own enemy, but only shrinking from the enemy of God. This is a conflict and a trial from which the young are generally free. And in this respect their minds are often more prepared than those of older persons to receive in simplicity the blessing of
But now taking any person's mind in this state, a state free from enmity and unkindness, full of positive kindness, is it not a step at least to the higher peace of God? Surely it is, if there be any meaning in the prayer which says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." I mean that we can comprehend and believe something of God's infinite love to us, if our own hearts be cleansed from positive want of love to our brethren. We can believe that the peace which we feel towards all human beings God Himself is willing to take a share in, that He desires us to be at peace with Him also. The fulness of His grace, the infinity of His love, which gave His only begotten Son to die for us, having been manifested,—is not one great hindrance at any rate taken out of our minds which might stop us from believing this, the hindrance of unkindness in our own hearts? If we, with all our imperfections and sinfulness, yet know what it is to be at peace with all our brethren, can we not believe that the most gracious God would desire us to be at peace with Him much more, and wishes to remove every root of bitterness which separates us from His love?
And this sense of God's disposition towards us, this love of God in Christ being believed as a real thing, does undoubtedly strike into the heart with a very softening power; its tendency is, according to the witness which the Scripture bears of it, to make us feel the full peace of God. suaded that a sense of God's love to us in Christ
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