« VorigeDoorgaan »
share. He gave himself for them, as well as for others. But we may suppose, that in the days of his flesh, during his abode on this earth, he had an especial affection and tenderness for those whom he had called to be with him, and who had hearkened to that call. Before he gave them that call, they believed in him, and were disciples in general, and had a respect for him as the expected Messiah. Such an idea they formed of him, founded upon the preaching of John the Baptist, and some discourses with himself, compared with the prophecies of the ancient scriptures.
And now they had been with bim a year or two, during the time of his public ministry. They persevered in their faith and profession, and attendance on him, notwithstanding the reflections cast upon him, and upon them for his sake. They were not free from defects and failings, which his all-discerning eye observed, and which he kindly took notice of to them. But they had shown a sincere affection and respect for him, and an ardour for his honour and service, which were very acceptable.
They were become more especially his charge, and were as his family. As such he is now retired with them, and has friendly and intimate conversation with them. And he takes his leave of them, as a parent does of his children, a little before his expected departure out of this world; or as some person, of eminent station and character, may do of his friends and dependents, or others, whom he has treated with special regard.
3. There is still another very remarkable difference to be observed by us. Christ's peace surpasseth that of the world in real excellence and value.
His wish of peace is not only sincere and fervent, but also wise and judicious, not weak and fond, or partial.
What was the peace, which our Lord now gave, and left with his disciples, we may clearly discern from the tenour of all his exhortations and teachings, public and private. He does not wish them the great things of this world, abundance of riches, honour, and splendour; these are not the thing's which he wishes for them chietly, and in the first place. He continually cautioned men against setting their affections upon such things, and seeking them as their main happiness. "Undoubtedly, he wishes that his friends and followers may fare well, and meet with a kind and friendly reception among men, and obtain other advantages and comforts, so far as they can be secured in the way of integrity and strict virtue, and without abating the ardour of their zeal for the honour of God, and the interest of true religion in all its branches. But he first of all desires, that they may do well, and in the next place only, that they may fare wel.
In this respect the peace of Christ differs very much from the peace of the world, and the men of it. The peace, which they usually wish for those whom they love best, is made
of all the ingredients of a worldly felicity. They set a great value upon such things themselves. And there fore, when their love of others is sincere and warm, they are very apt earnestly to desire abundance of worldly goods for them.
But that is not true wisdom. Solomon said of old : “ Fear God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole” duty and interest “ of man,” Eccl. xii. 13. Our Lord proceeds upon the same plan, only farther improved. As he
21,“ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father. And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” His precepts are very sublime and spiritual, requiring purity of heart and life. His blessings and promises are suitable, even heavenly and eternal. And the desires and pursuits of his disciples and followers should be answerable. My sheep hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow
And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands,” John x, 27, 28.
This blessing our Lord now gives to his disciples. This peace he leaves with them, and wishes, and recommends it to them to take care that they fail not of it, and fall not short of the everlasting rest which remains for God's people. And if they act thus, all other things needful and convenient will be added.
Then they will have peace with God. God will not be an enemy to them, but will love and approve of them. And they will have a comfortable persuasion of his favour and acceptance. If they seek the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness, in the first place, they will never contract such friendship with this world, as would produce enmity with God.
Then they will have peace in their own minds. They will not easily do any thing, for which their own hearts should afterwards reproach them; but will so act, as to enjoy a happy serenity and composure of mind.
They will be also free from tormenting, ambitious pursuits of the great things of this world ; and will have satisfaction and contentment in every condition.
Says our Lord : “ And ye now therefore have sorrow. But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. And your joy no man taketh from you,” John xvi. 32. This is a great advantage of the peace of religion, the peace which our Lord gives, that it is durable. It is not to be broken in upon, and carried away, by every flood of affliction. It is not fleeting and inconstant, like worldly peace and joy, depending upon advantages, passing and fading. But it resembles the rock upon which it is built, the hope of everlasting life, which God has promised to them that love him, and keep his commandments. The earnest desire and steady pursuit of that, above all things else, must produce great and constant peace. For whatever we lose, this great blessing is sure, if we do not forfeit it by wilful disobedience and transgression.
This is a blessed peace. St. Paul speaks of the peace of God, as“ passing all understanding,” Philip. iv. 7. It includes advantages, not easy to be apprehended by such as have had no experience of it.
There is a passage of a Gentile philosopher, who lived in the Roman empire, soon after the rise of the christian religion, whose study, as is supposed, was not so much the contemplation of the works of nature, as the rules of virtue, and who aimed to cultivate the manners of men. You • perceive, says he, that the emperor gives you great peace,
inasmuch as there are no longer wars and fightings, rob• beries and piracies, and you may travel safely from the • east to the west, But can he give you peace from fevers, ' from shipwreck, from fire, from earthquakes, from thun• der ? Can he give you peace from ambition ? No, he can• not. From grief? No, he cannot. From envy? No, not • from any such things. But the doctrine of the philoso
phers promises you peace from these also. And what says • it ? O ye men, if ye will hearken to me, then wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall not be sad, you shall not be angry, you shall be free from tumul• tuous passions. He who has this peace, not proclaimed
by Cæsar, (for how should he proclaim such peace ?) but • proclaimed by God, according to reason; he, I say, who • has this peace, is he not happy ? Has he not wherewith may
be satisfied ? So that Greek philosopher. And indeed this is great
b Arrian. Epict. 1. 3. cap. 13.
peace; to suffer afflictions, and not to be depressed by them; to meet with provocations and injuries, and not to be angry; to behold others preferred and advanced before us, and above us, and to be free from envy; to observe the practices of the crafty and designing, and not to admit within our breasts vexatious and tormenting jealousy; to live in a world, where some things are desirable, others grievous; and to be free from uneasy and tumultuous affections; not too much desiring the one, nor too much fearing and dreading the other.
This is great peace. Nor is there any so likely to give it as Christ.
4. Which brings us to the fourth particular; Christ's peace, or wish of peace and happiness, excels the peace of the world, as being more effectual.
He was to be soon parted from his disciples by death. But he would see them again. And if he lived, they should live also. John xiv. 19.
His doctrine, his life, his death, his resurrection, and exaltation, tended mightily to confirm the faith and hope of eternal life; which would engage their affections for things heavenly, and take them off from things sensible and temporal ; and thereby lay a foundation for peace and comfort, amidst all the vicissitudes of the present condition. And all they who believe in Jesus, and attend to his doctrine and example, have like advantages with those who conversed personally with him.
III. APPLICATION. I now conclude with a few reflections by way of application.
1. We may here observe, that our blessed Lord is great and admirable every where, and upon all occasions. We discern his most excellent temper and conduct in private and in public, with his disciples, and when retired from the world, as well as at other seasons.
2. Our Lord's conduct here, as well as upon other occasions, deserves our attention and imitation,
Being about to be removed from his disciples by death, he takes leave of them in an affectionate manner. them a valedictory blessing; or leaves with them a legacy and present of peace. Conceive it either way, it makes no great difference. Nor let us be concerned about imitating him in form only. Let our peace, as his did, exceed that of the world. Let our peace, our wishes of happiness to others, be more sincere, more fervent, more valuable, and more effectual, than that of most men. Especially let us attend to the third property, more valuable and important. Let
He gives us be above all things desirous, that they, whom we love in the flesh, may seek heavenly things in the first place. And if we set them an example of moderation for earthly things, as our Lord did, and at the same time are concerned for their temporal welfare, as for our own, and practise frugality, diligence, and application; this will be the way to render our wishes for those who are dear to us, advantageous, and effectual. Hereby we shall leave, and give to them that peace, which we wish and desire may be their portion ; provided they do their part, and are not wanting to themselves.
3. Lastly, Let us each one reflect upon ourselves. Have we that peace, which Christ gave to his disciples? If not, let us inquire what is the reason of it; for, as our Lord said to his disciples, when they wished peace or prosperity to any house into which they entered, “ if the son of there, their peace should rest upon it,” Luke x. 5, 6. In like manner, if we are true disciples of Jesus, if we love him, and keep his commandments, “ his peace will rest upon us." But if we are not humble; if we are not meek and selfdenying, as he has required us to be; if we are proud and aspiring; if our prevailing aims and desires are selfish and worldly, without any fruits of generous love; we are not sons of peace, or Christ's disciples; nor does his peace belong unto us.
However, having once found where our fault or defect lies, let us be willing and careful to amend it. So wrath shall not abide upon us, but we may become sons of peace. We shall then enjoy comfort and peace of mind now, and hereafter enter into that undisturbed and everlasting rest and peace, which remain for all the people of God, of all places, and of all times. Amen.