'Grace unto you and peace be multiplied' (1 Pet. 1:2).
Having spoken of the first fruit of sanctification, assurance, I proceed to the second, viz., peace, 'Peace be multiplied.'
What are the several species or kinds of peace?
Peace, in Scripture, is compared to a river which parts itself into two silver streams (Is. 66:12).
I. There is an external peace, and that is, (1) Economical, or peace in a famliy; (2) Political, or peace in the state. Peace is the nurse of plenty. 'He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat' (Ps. 147:14). How pleasant it is when the waters of blood begin to assuage, and we can see the windows of our ark open, and the dove returning with an olive branch of peace! (3) Ecclesiastical, or peace in the church. As unity in Trinity is the greatest mystery in heaven, unity in verity is the greatest mercy on earth. Peace ecclesiastical stands in opposition to schism and persecution.
II. A spiritual peace, which is twofold; peace above us, or peace with God; and peace within us, or peace with conscience, which is superlative: other peace may be lasting, but this is everlasting.
Whence comes this Peace?
It has the whole Trinity for its author. God the Father is 'the God of peace' (1 Thess. 5:23). God the Son is the 'Prince of peace' (Is. 9:6). Peace is said to be the 'fruit of the Spirit' (Gal. 5:22).
(1) God the Father is the God of peace. As he is the God of order, so he is the God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33; Phil. 4:9). This was the form of the priest's blessing upon the people. 'The Lord give thee peace' (Num. 6:26).
(2) God the Son is the purchaser of peace. He made peace by his blood. 'Having made peace by the blood of his cross' (Col. 1:20). The atonement Aaron made for the people, when he entered into the holy of holies, with blood, was a type of Christ our high priest, who by his sacrifice pacified his angry Father, and made atonement for us. Christ purchased our peace upon hard terms; for his soul was in an agony, while he was travailing to bring forth peace to the world.
(3) Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. He seals up peace to the conscience. The Spirit clears up the work of grace in the heart, from whence arises peace. There was a well of water near Hagar, but she did not see it, therefore she wept. A Christian has grace, but does not see it, therefore he weeps. Now the Spirit discovers this well of water, it enables conscience to witness to a man that has the real work of grace, and so peace flows into the soul. Thus you see whence this peace comes--the Father decrees it, the Son purchases it, the Holy Ghost applies it.
Whether such as are destitute of grace may have peace?
No! Peace flows from sanctification, but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. 'There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked' (Is. 57:21). They may have a truce, but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of his cannon; but though there be a truce, yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between a stupified conscience, and a pacified conscience. 'When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace' (Luke 11:21). This is the devil's peace; he rocks men in the cradle of security; he cries, Peace, peace, when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger.
What are the signs of a false peace?
(1) A false peace has much confidence in it, but this confidence is conceit. The sinner does not doubt of God's mercy; and from this presumptuous confidence arises some kind of quiet in the mind. The same word in the Hebrew, cassal, signifies both confidence and folly. Indeed a sinner's confidence is folly. How confident were the foolish virgins!
(2) False peace separates those things which God has joined together. God joins holiness and peace, but he who has a false peace, separates the two. He lays claim to peace, but banishes holiness. 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst' (Deut. 29:19). The wicked are loose and vain, and yet thank God that they have peace, what a delusion! You may as well suck health out of poison, as peace out of sin.
(3) False peace is not willing to be tried. It is a sign they are bad wares which will not endure the light; a sign a man has stolen goods, when he will not have his house searched. A false peace cannot endure to be tried by the word. The word speaks of a humbling and refining work upon the soul before peace; but false peace cannot endure to hear of this. The least trouble will shake this peace; it will end in despair. In a false peace, conscience is asleep; but when this lion of conscience shall be awakened at death, it will roar upon a man; he will be a terror to himself, and be ready to lay violent hands upon himself.
How shall we know that ours is a true peace?
(1) True peace flows from union with Christ . Communio fundatur in unione. The graft or scion must first be innoculated into the tree before it can receive sap or nourishment from it; so we must first be ingrafted into Christ, before we can receive peace from him. Have we faith? By holiness we are made like Christ; by believing we are made one with Christ, and being in Christ we have peace (John 16:33).
(2) True peace flows from subjection to Christ. Where Christ gives peace, there he sets up his government in the heart. 'Of his government and peace there shall be no end' (Is. 9:7). Christ is called 'a priest upon his throne' (Zech. 6:13). Christ as a priest makes peace; but he will be a priest upon his throne--he brings the heart in subjection to him. If Christ be our peace, he is our prince (Is. 9:6). Whenever Christ pacifies the conscience, he subdues the lust.
(3) True peace is after trouble. First, God lets loose a spirit of bondage, he convinces and humbles the soul; then he speaks peace. Many say they have peace, but is this peace before a storm, or after it? True peace is after trouble. First there was the earthquake, and then the fire, and then the still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Thou who never hadst any legal bruisings, mayest suspect thy peace. God pours the golden oil of peace into broken hearts.
Have all sanctified persons this peace?
They have a title to it; they have the ground of it; grace is the seed of peace, and it will in time turn to peace; as the blossoms of a tree to fruit, milk to cream. They have a promise of it. 'The Lord will bless his people with peace' (Ps. 29:11). They may have peace with God, though not peace in their own conscience; they have the initials and beginnings of peace. There is a secret peace which the heart has in serving God; such meltings and enlargements in duty as revive the soul, and bear it up from sinking.
But why have not all believers the full enjoyment and possession of peace? Why is not this flower of peace fully ripe and blown?
Some of the godly may not have so full a degree of peace. (1) Through the fury of temptation, though the devil cannot destroy us, he will disturb us. He disputes against our adoption; he would make us question the work of grace in our hearts, and so disturb the waters of our peace. He is like a subtle cheater, who, if he cannot make a man's title to his land void, yet will put him to many troublesome suits in law. If Satan cannot make us ungodly, he will make us unquiet. Violent winds make the sea rough and stormy; so the winds of temptation blowing, disturb peace of spirit, and put the soul into a commotion.
(2) The godly may not enjoy peace, through mistake and misapprehension about sin. They find so much corruption, that they think sure, if there were grace, there would not be such strong working of corruption; whereas this should be so far from discouraging Christians, and hindering their peace, that it is an argument for them. Let me ask, Whence is it that you feel sin? No man can feel sin, but by grace. A wicked man is insensible. Lay a hundredweight upon a dead man, he does not complain; but being sensible of corruption, argues a gracious principle (Rom. 7:21). Again, Whence is it that there is a combat with sin, but from the life of grace (Gal. 5:17)? Dead things cannot combat. Whence is it that the saints weep for sin? What are these tears but seeds of faith? The not understanding of this hinders a Christian's peace.
(3) The godly may not enjoy peace, through remissness in duty: they may leave their first love. When Christians abate their fervency, God abates their peace. If you slacken the strings of a viol, the music is spoiled; so, if Christians slack in duty, they spoil the sweet music of peace in their souls. As the fire decays, the cold increases; so, as fervency in duty abates, our peace cools.
Use one: Labour for this blessed peace--peace with God and conscience. Peace with neighbour-nations is sweet. Pax una triumphis innumeris melior [One peace is better than innumerable triumphs]. The Hebrew word shalom, peace, comprehends all blessings; it is the glory of a kingdom. A prince's crown is more beautiful, when it is hung with the white lily of peace, than when it is set with the red roses of a bloody war. Oh, then, how sweet is peace of conscience! It is a bulwark against the enemy (Phil. 4:7). It shall keep you as in a garrison; you may throw down the gauntlet, and bid defiance to enemies. It is the golden pot and the manna. It is the first fruits of paradise. It is still music, for want of which a Christian is in continual fear, and does not take comfort in ordinances. Hannah went up to the feast at Jerusalem, but she wept and did not eat (1 Sam. 1:7). So, a poor dejected soul goes to an ordinance, but does not eat of the feast; he weeps and does not eat. He cannot take comfort in worldly blessings, health, estate, relations; he wants that inward peace, which should be a sauce to sweeten his comforts. Oh, therefore, labour for this blessed peace. Consider its noble and excellent effects. (1) It gives boldness at the throne of grace. Guilt of conscience clips the wings of prayer, it makes the face blush, and the heart faint; but when a Christian has some lively apprehensions of God's love, and the Spirit whispers peace, he goes to God with boldness, as a child to his father. 'Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul' (Ps. 25:1). Time was when David's soul was bowed down. 'I am bowed down greatly' (Ps. 38:6). Now the case is altered, he will lift up his soul to God in a way of triumph. Whence was this? God has spoken peace to his soul. 'Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes' (Ps. 26:3). (2) This divine peace fires the heart with love to Christ. Peace is the result of pardon. He who has a pardon sealed, cannot choose but love his prince. How endeared is Christ to the soul! Now Christ is precious indeed. 'Oh,' says the soul, 'how sweet is this rose of Sharon! Has Christ waded through a sea of blood and wrath, to purchase my peace? Has he not only made peace, but spoken peace to me? How should my heart ascend in a fiery chariot of love! How willing should I be to do and suffer for Christ!' (3) This peace quiets the heart in trouble. 'This man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces' (Micah 5:5). The enemy may invade our palaces, but not our peace: this man Christ shall be the peace. When the head aches, the heart may be well; and when worldly troubles assault a Christian, his mind may be in peace and quiet. 'I will lay me down in peace, and sleep' (Ps. 4:8). It was a sad time with David, he was fleeing for his life from Absalom; it was no small affliction to think that his own son should seek to take away his father's life and crown. David wept and covered his head (2 Sam. 15:30). Yet at this time he says, 'I will lay me down in peace, and sleep.' He had trouble from his son, but peace from his conscience. David could sleep upon the soft pillow of a good conscience. This is a peace worth getting.
What shall we do to attain this blessed peace?
(1) Let us ask it of God. He is the God of peace; he beats back the roaring lion; he stills the raging of conscience: if we could call all the angels out of heaven, they could not speak peace without God. The stars cannot make day without the sun; none can make day in a dark deserted soul, but the Sun of Righteousness. As the wilderness cannot water itself, but remains dry and parched till the clouds drop their moisture, so our hearts cannot have peace till he infuse it, and drop it upon us by his Spirit. Therefore pray, 'Lord, thou who art the God of peace, create peace; thou who art the Prince of peace, command it. Give me that peace which may sweeten trouble, yea, even the bitter cup of death.'
(2) If you would have peace, make war with sin. Sin is the Achan that troubles us, the Trojan horse. When Joram saw Jehu, he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many' (2 Kings 9:22)? What peace, so long as sin remains unmortified? If you would have peace with God, break the league with sin; give battle to sin, for it is a most just war. God has proclaimed it: nay, he has promised us victory. 'Sin shall not have dominion' (Rom. 6:14). No way to peace, but by maintaining a war with sin. Pax nostra bellum contra daemonem [Our peace is a war against the Devil]. Tertullian. When Samson had slain the lion, there came honey out of the lion; so by slaying sin, we get the honey of peace.
(3) Go to Christ's blood for peace. Some go to fetch their peace from their own righteousness, not Christ's: they go for peace to their holy life, not Christ's death. If conscience be troubled, they strive to quiet it with their duties. This is not the right way to peace. Duties must not be neglected, nor yet idolized. Look to the blood of sprinkling (Heb. 12:24). That blood of Christ which pacified God, must pacify conscience. Christ's blood being sucked in by faith, gives peace. 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God' (Rom. 5:1). No balm to cure a wounded conscience, but the blood of Christ.
(4) Walk closely with God. Peace flows from purity. 'As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them' (Gal. 6:16). In the text, grace and peace are put together; grace is the root, and peace is the flower. As balmwater drops in distillation, so divine peace comes out of a gracious heart. Walk very holily. God's Spirit is a refiner before a comforter.
Use two: You who have this peace, peace above, peace within, labour to keep it: it is a precious jewel, do not lose it. It is sad to have the league of national peace broken, but it is worse to have the peace of conscience broken. Oh, preserve this peace! First, take heed of relapses. Has God spoken peace? Do not turn again to folly (Ps. 85:8). Besides ingratitude, there is folly in relapses. It was long ere God was reconciled and the breach made up, and will you again eclipse and forfeit your peace? Has God healed the
wound of conscience, and will you tear it open again? Will you break another vein? Will you cut a new artery? This is returning indeed to folly. What madness is it to meddle again with that sin, which will breed the worm of conscience! Secondly, make up your spiritual accounts daily; see how matters stand between God and your souls. 'I commune with my own heart' (Ps. 77:6). Often reckonings keep God and conscience friends. Do with your hearts as you do with your watches, wind them up every morning by prayer, and at night examine whether your hearts have gone true all that day, whether the wheels of your affections have moved swiftly towards heaven. Oh, call yourselves often to account! Keep your reckonings even, for that is the way to keep your peace.