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it ; lest death overtake us unawares, and Ave be obliged to
bewail our unthoughtfulness in a miserable eternity.



SERMON XXX.



1. 79.



THE CONDITION OF OBTAINING THAT PEACE OF GOD WHICH
PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING.



Psalm xxix. 10.

See Luke The Lord shall give His people the hlesshig of peace.



If you expect that, from these words, I shall speak of the
blessings of a peace which we have talked of so much of
late, and wished for ; though that is the occasion, it is not
to be the subject of the discourse I am now going to make
to you.

The truth is, considering that the world was engaging all
our thoughts and passions in favour of an expected peace,
and the consequences of it, I thought it would be a very
proper time to put people in mind of a peace of another kind,
which the world can neither give nor take away ; and which
it concerns us, above all things, to think of.

It is true, even a worldly peace is a very desirable blessing ;
but then, it is so little in our power to hinder or promote it,
that we are not accountable whether it goes forward or not.
Besides, such a peace (though made with wisdom and fore-
sight) is at best uncertain ; neither does our happiness de-
pend Tipou it.

But the peace which I would propose to your meditations
is of another nature : it is what is certainly attainable ; our
happiness depends upon it ; it is our business to look after
it ; and we shall be accountable, we shall be the sufferers, if
we do not obtain it. It is that peace which we pray for
daily, which the world cannot give, which the world cannot
deprive us of, and which, if we once obtain it, will effectually



CONDITION OF OBTAINING THE PEACE OF GOD. 329

convince us, that the government of the world, and conse-
quently all the changes of this mortal life, are in the hands
of God, Who will always do what is best for such as fear
Him.

In short ; this is that legacy which the Son of God left at
His death to all His faithful servants, in these loords, " Peace John 14. 27.
I leave with you, My peace I give unto you : not as the
world givetb, give I unto you." Of which peace the words of
the text are a prophecy ; " The Lord shall give His people"
\the true Israelites] " the blessing of peace."

It is certain, it is God Who maketh ivars to cease in all the [Ps. 46. 9.]
ivorld. This He does to all, as He maketh His sun to shine on [Matt. 5.
the evil, and on the good; but it is to His people only that He ^^'^
gives that peace, which is a blessing indeed, and Yi\\\c\\ passeth
all understanding. As for all others, the way of peace they
know not.

And now, if what has been said has raised in you a desire
of knowing more particularly, what this peace is; how we
may obtain, how ive may secure, so great a blessing ; and what
will be the fruits and effects of it ; I shall, by the good bless-
ing 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 [Veni
of Ordination, where she describes and prays for this blessing Sp^ritus.]
in these words : " Put back our enemies far from us, and
help us to obtain peace in om* 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, hj believing and ^mcereXj embracing these truths:
That Jesus Christ, our peace-maker, hath reconciled us to Col. 1. 20.
God by the blood of His cross ; that if, even after this recon-
ciliation, any man sin (as we are apt to do), our condition is
not desperate ; for we have an Advocate ivith the Father, for [i John 2.
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 thera that ask Him, by
whom the eyes of our understanding shall be enlightened, our [Epb.i.18.]



330 OF OBTAINING THAT PEACE OF GOD

SERM. 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 liumble 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 continue so ; and that we shall always continue so, if it
is 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 con-
dition 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 spoke 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

1 Pet. 2. 11. His laws? The Holy Scriptures call this "a state of war;"

Rom. 7. 14. in which we are not only led captive, but like slaves "sold
under sin;" 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

Luke 12. 4. Saviour expressly, " 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 power to 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 mariy 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

1 Tim. 4. 2. Apostle expresses it,) " seared with a hot iron." It cannot



WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING. 331

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
univillingness to do ivhat 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 joeace of conscience, ?ixid fearing no danger.

A man may be asleep on the top of a mast, (as Solomon
observes,) and fear no danger; but it cannot be said, that he Prov.23.34.
is in safety. One may stifle, divert, bribe, and sear the con-
science; one may wink hard, and stop his ears, so that he
shall neither hear, nor see the mischief that is ready to befall
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 good-
ness, 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 pro-
ceed from His goodness and kindness for His creatures : " For
never (saith the Wise Man) "would God have made any Wisd.i 1.24.
thing, if He had hated it." Here then let us fix our firm
belief. That the love of God for us ivas 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 j



332 OF OBTAINING THAT PEACE OF GOD

s E R M. [ivhich are the conditions of cur peace) are all given for these

■ — '- — very euds ; and not to be a burden to us.

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 habits ; 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 search-
ings 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 repent-
ance, 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 may lay 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, except in the way of God's
appointment.

Let us now see what the Scriptures say upon these con-
ditions of peace.

2 Tim. 2. 19. And,, first, of repentance. St. Paul assures us, that this is
the foundation of our peace with God ; and upon which He
will acknowledge us : " Let every one that nametli the name
of Christ" (and pretends to be His servant) " depart from
iniquity." How depart from iniquity? Why, not only con-
fess our sins, (which we are ready enough to do, and lament
our weaknesses ;) but sincerely resolve, for the time to come,
to forsake every evil way, to avoid all sin, and the occasions
of it.

[James?.2.] But wc are beset with temptations, and in many things we



AVIIICH PASSETII ALL UNDERSTANDING. 333

offend all. Must not we, therefore, hope for pardon and peace,
when at any time we have been overtaken in a fault ? Yes,
sure; but on this condition only, that when I repent of any
fault, I do at the same time sincerely resolve, not to repeat
that fault in particular, and to the best of my power to do as
I have resolved, praying for grace as well as pardon : other-
wise, he that does not keep a stricter watch over such sins as
do most easily beset him, must not too confidently hope for
pardon : which obliges me to take notice of a mistake which
people are too apt to run into.

We are apt to conclude, that if in the main our lives be
tolerable; for a slip now and then, there is no great hurt
in it.

But pray let us consider, that such slips as these, if wilful,
are a plain disowning of God's authority, and as plain a
forfeiture of His favour, and the peace which attends it.

All at present that I shall say to this mistake is this : see
what are those sins which the Scriptures say ivill keep men
out of heaven, li your sin, which you now and then indulge,
is one of those, (as to be sure it is,) why then depend upon
it, it will shut you out of heaven ; and then it is all one how
many other good qualifications you had ; they will be of no
use to you.

In short; He that calleth sinners to repentance, calleth
them from all their sins. And it is the greatest instance of
presumption, to hope that God will pass by any wilful sins,
because we serve Him in other things ; as if our service pro-
fited Him more than ourselves.

But to proceed : to the promise of God, " that He will
accept of our repentance, instead of a sinless obedience,^'
there is this condition added, "If ye forgive m?n their tres- Matt. vi. 15.
passes, your heavenly Father will forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your
heavenly Father forgive your trespasses."

Now, this is so far from being a burdensome condition,
that it is certainly one of the most comfortable clauses that
could have been added to the article of repentance. For, if
I sincerely forgive others, I may plead with God for a pardon
for my own sins which I have repented of, and very securely
depend upon His word and promise. Thus you see how



334 OF OBTAINING THAT PEACE OF GOD

S E R M. necessary, and how reasonable it is, that we should repent, as

'- — we hope for the favour of God.

The next condition of our peace is faith, by which we
receive the conditions of our salvation offered us by Jesus
Christ; believing Him to be sent from God for that very
end ; confidently relying upon all that He hath revealed to
us, without questioning His authority, or disputing His
commands.

Now, whoever has this faith will soon find himself obliged
to do what God has commanded, in order to his peace and

[Heb. 12. happiness. For instance : if he really believes that God has
in His Holy Word set down the terms of salvation, he will
not hope for salvation on any other terms. If he believes
that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, he will think

[2 Cor. 7.1.] himself certainly obliged to jmrify himself from all filthiness
of flesh and spirit. If he believes that God will give His Holy
Spirit to them that ask Him, as he will find reason, so he will
not fail to pray for, the comfort and assistance of that blessed
guide. If he believes a judgment to come, he will take care
to examine and to judge himself, that he may not be con-
demned of the Lord when He cometh to judge the world in
righteousness. Lastly, if he believes the everlasting rewards
and punishments of the life to come, he cannot be indifferent
which of these may be his oivn portion.

From all which it appears, that faith, as it is a condition of
our peace, is a real principle of obedience ; not only discover-
ing to us where we are to look for happiness, but also engag-
ing us to do what we believe we ought to do in order to
attain it.

And this brings us to consider the last condition of our
peace with God, a sincere obedience. " He that doeth the

Matt. 7.21. will of My Father," saith Jesus Christ (and he only), "shall
enter into the kingdom of heaven.^' And what the will of

iThess.4.3. God is, the Apostle tells us: "This is the will of God,^' the
great design of the Gospel, " even your sanctification /' that
is, that we be renewed in our nature, freed from the tyranny
of sin, and so far in the way of perfection, as to be always
making some progress towards it.

And why is this so necessary an article of our jyeace?

[Matt. 22. Wh}', because this is the wedding garment, without which



WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDEESTANDING. 335

no man shall ever be admitted into heaven. For, without [Heb. 12.

14.]

holiness no man shall see the Lord.

See the goodness of God : — He does indeed positively
require our obedience to certain laws He hath given us ; but
then this is to the end " that, by obeying the truth, we may i Pet. 1.22.
purify our souls," and qualify ourselves for heaven, where no
impure thing can enter.

But how shall we know the laws He has given us for this
purpose? Would to God that were the only thing that is
wanting to make our obedience perfect ! He that endeavours
to live up to that measure of knowledge he has already, and
is ready to do the will of God at all times when he knows it,
" he shall (as our Saviour saith) know of the doctrine whether [John7.i7.]
it be of God."

Thus I have laid before you the nature and the conditions
of a peace better than any the world can give ; the effect of
a conquest greater than those the world so much magnifies.
It is Solomon's assertion, not mine, " He that ruleth his Prov.i6.32.
spirit is better than he that taketh a city."

What hinders us. then from obtaining this peace ? Do we
think it will be time enough hereafter ? fVhen, pray ? When
we come to die ? Perhaps that may be too late. To be plain,
God has fixed the time : " To-day, if ye will hear His voice, [Heb. 3.
harden not your hearts." And he who will not take this time, *
may, too likely, never embrace another.

But perhaps I am persuading you to seek for that peace
which most men think they are possessed of. We may easily
know that, by considering seriously whether we observe the
conditions before-mentioned.

A sign of true repentance (for instance) is amendment of
life : a sign of true faith is, our living as if the things we pro-
fess to believe were true : a sign of true obedience is, having
respect unto all God's commandments.

Verily, if we have not this testimony of our peace with
God, we have no manner of reason to be easy with our con-
dition : it is a false peace we are possessed of, which will
stand us in no stead at the hour of death (when we shall
have most need of it), nor in the day of judgment. He
that shall not have made his peace with God before he
go hence, (and how soon that may be, God only knows,)



336 OF OBTAINING THAT PEACE OF (iOD

S E R M. he will have God for his enemy, and for his portion eternal
XXX.
misery.

But God forbid that we should let so great a concern con-
tinue in so great uncertainty. Is the peace of God of so
little value ? Is the peace of conscience, grounded upon God's
Word, not worth our striving for? Is tlie love of God, which
is better than life itself, a favour fit to be despised? And
yet, do we not plainly despise Him and His offers of mercy,
when we despise the means laid down for our salvation ?

The Gospel is, with great reason, styled the Gospel of Peace;
because the terms of peace and salvation are contained in it.
And yet, it seems, these terms may be hid or cannot be per-
ceived by some. But who are they ? Why, only such as are
[2 Cor. 4. lost, — lost to all conccm for themselves, all gratitude to God,
and all sense of virtue. As to all others, who have the eyes
of their understanding enlightened, they see the reasonable-
ness, the exceeding mercy, of the terms of reconciliation pro-
Is. 32. 17. posed in the Gospel : they find by experience, that " the work
of righteousness (as the Prophet speaks) is peace ; and that
the eflFect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for
ever.^^

Having therefore made their peace with God by a sincere
repentance ; having received the Gospel with a full resolution
to be governed by its laws ; and lastly, being intent to sub-
due their wills and affections to the will of God ; having these
testimonies of their repentance, faith, and obedience, they find
themselves upon good grounds easy; being hereby /reerf from
the tyranny of their corruptions, from the prevailing power
of the devil, from the terrors of an evil conscience, from the
wrath of an angry God, and from the fears of what may come
hereafter.

These motives, to well-disposed minds, will be sufficient to
oblige them to set about the work of their conversion, with
fear, and a concern worthy of so great an interest. I shall
therefore conclude this discourse, after I have made a few
useful observations from what has been said.

And first ; as this blessing of j^eace is the gift of God, so the
conditions on which we may hope to attain it are set down
in His Word. And if an angel from heaven should tell me
that I might obtain pardon and peace upon any other terras



WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDIXG. 337

than repentance and holiness of life, I should have reason to
suspect his message. How miserably disappointed then are
they like to be, who continue in sin, depending upon God's
mercy, — upon the prayers of the faithful, — or upon any
other method which God has no where declared He will
accept of!

Secondly ; if obedience to the laws of God be necessary to
obtain such dispositions as shall fit us for heaven ; what will
be the lot of those who put off their conversion to the last mo-
ments of their lives ? If becoming a new creature (which is
absolutely required in the Christian dispensation), if that be
necessary, sure it will require time to be formed, as all other
creatures do.

Our third observation may be this : that such as make their
whole lives a course of sinning and repenting, depending upon
God's goodness, should consider, that this is a very odd way
of reasoning, — that because God is merciful, I may therefore
be less careful to please Him.

Fourthly ; that such as dare not look into the state of their
souls, may depend upon it, they are not in the way of peace,
however easy they may be : because peace of conscience ariseth
from a knowledge and assurance, that God will be favourable
to me according to His Word ; because, upon considering my
ways, I find that they are ordered in some good measure ac-
cording to that Word.

Lastly ; this blessing is attainable by all sorts and condi-
tions of men, who shall set their hearts upon it. For as we
may have all worldly blessings, and yet want this, which is
better than all besides ; so we may want those worldly bless-
ings, and be possessed of this, which will make us sufficient
amends. Our weakness cannot hinder us, when God has pro-
mised to hear and help us. Want of spare time to seek after
it should not discourage us, since God, the author of peace,
has appointed us our lot in the world. And want of learning
will be no excuse ; for God has given us a co?iscience to sup-
ply that want in a good measure; and he that attends to
that will in most instances knoiv what will please God.

What have we then all to do, but with an humble faith to
embrace those truths, which lie open to the meanest capacities ;
with a willing obedience to do what we believe will please



338 OF OBTAINING THE PEACE OF GOB.

SERM. God; and with an unfeigned sorrow to beg God's pardon
whenever we know we have offended Him^ and strive in ear-
nest to do so no more.

Then the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
will be with us, and remain with us for ever. Amen.



SERMON XXXI.



WORKS, NOT WORDS ONLY, NECESSARY TO SALVATION.



Matthew vii. 21.

Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the See Matt.
Jcingdom of heaven : hut he that doeth the will of My Father 33 . 23. 28,
which is in heaven. 46 48"^!^'

21'; I'Cor.

How often do we hear these words of Christ ! That you 4. 20 ;

1 • 1 2 Tim. 2.
may attend to what is going to be said to you upon this sub- 19 ; James

ject, pray take notice, that the salvation of every soul of us ijoh'n 1. 6.

will depend upon our understanding this declaration of our

Lord, and upon our ordering our lives accordingly. " Not

every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord," that is, who pro-

fesseth himself a christian, and observes the outward duties

of Christianity, " shall enter into the kingdom of heaven :

but he that doeth the will of My Father :" he that leadeth a

Christian life, he, and he only, shall be saved.

There is a most sad mistake, which people of all religions
and professions do naturally fall into; namely, to satisfy
themselves with performing the outward parts of religious
worship, without considering, that the strictest observation
of such duties will avail us nothing in the sight of God, if we
are not by these, and through His grace, brought to lead a
godly, righteous, and sober life, to His honour and glory. [Tit. 2. 12.]
This was the false hopes of the Jews, and this was their ruin
at last, when they would not be persuaded, either by their
prophets, or by Christ, or by His forerunner the Baptist, to
mend their lives ; but depended upon their acceptance with
God, on account of their strict observance of their outward
worship and ceremonies, without a change of heart and



Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 49)