And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding . The peace which God gives, which flows from the sense of his most gracious presence, and consists in childlike confidence and trustful love. This peace passeth all understanding; its calm blessedness transcends the reach of human thought; it can be known only by the inner experience of the believer. The similar passage, Ephesians in 20, "Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," seems decisive for the ordinary interpretation. Bishop Light-foot, Meyer, and others take another view of the passage: "Surpassing every device or counsel of man. i.e. which is far better, which produces a higher satisfaction, than all punctilious self-assertion, all anxious forethought." Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus ; rather, as R.V., shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Peace shall guard—"a verbal paradox, for to guard is a warrior's duty" (Bishop Lightfoot). The peace of God abiding in the heart is a sure and trusty garrison, guarding it so that the evil spirit, once cast out, cannot return. The thoughts issue from the heart; for the heart, as commonly in the Hebrew Scriptures, is regarded as the seat of the intellect, not of feeling only. In Christ Jesus ; in the sphere of his influence, his presence. True believers, abiding in Christ, realize his promise, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."
The key-note of the Epistle: holy joy, with its blessed results.
I. THE DUTY OF REJOICING .
1 . The Christian should learn to rejoice always. The word "always" is emphatic. There lies the difficulty, there too lies the blessedness, of rejoicing in the Lord. It is easy to rejoice in moments of excitement, but to rejoice always , in affliction, in pain, in weariness, in disappointment, is difficult indeed. St. Paul had learned the lesson which he teaches—he rejoiced in hardships and in chains.
2 . Christian joy is joy in the Lord. Rejoice in what he did, in what he is, in himself. Rejoice in his incarnation, his holy limb, his sufferings for us, his precious death, his resurrection, his ascension, his perpetual intercession. Rejoice in his humility, his purity, his unselfishness, his holy courage, his love, his gentleness, his sympathy, his power, his glory, his majesty. Rejoice in himself, in spiritual fellowship with him, in his most gracious presence abiding in the Christian heart.
II. THE RESULTS OF HOLY JOY .
1 . Christian joy leads to genuineness and forbearance towards others. He who rejoices in the Lord, happy in that great possession, is not selfish, does not insist eagerly on his own rights, but will give way to others, will be gentle and kind; and that because the Lord is at hand. The Christian who rejoices in the Lord loves his appearing, loves to think on it, to prepare for it. he does not set overmuch store on his earthly rights, in view of the coming of the Lord and the great reward reserved for the faithful servant.
2 . Holy joy dispels anxious care. He who rejoices in the Lord is not disturbed by distracting anxiety about worldly things. Holy joy keeps the mind clear and calm; it concentrates the thoughts upon the great gladness of the presence of the Lord, in comparison with which the objects of worldly pursuit are insignificant indeed. If we are learning to rejoice in him, we shall learn in like measure the difficult lesson to cast all our care upon him, for we shall know that be careth for us.
3 . Inner spiritual joy must express itself in prayer and supplication.
4 . Holy joy implies habitual thanksgiving. "In everything give thanks" is the precept of St. Paul. He illustrates his teaching by his own example: he sang praises unto God in the dungeon at Philippi; his Epistles abound in doxologies, in thanksgivings. he had formed the habit of giving thanks continually; it grew out of that holy joy which filled his soul. Holy joy finds its natural expression in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The soul which is blessed with that highest joy which is the fruit of the Spirit must give thanks always for all things; for such a one knows by his own happy experience that God maketh all things work together for good to them that love him. Daniel gave thanks in the extremity of peril; Job, in his deep distress: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord."
5 . Holy joy expresses itself in prayer and thanksgiving ; prayer and thanksgiving bring peace. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit is given in answer to earnest prayer. "My Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." It is the peace of God, the peace which he giveth. It is the peace of Christ, such peace as he had. "Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you." It is trustful love and childlike confidence; it implies the blessed consciousness of forgiveness and acceptance with God. The heart in which that peace abideth is not troubled, neither is it afraid. For
1 . The truest, the most abiding joy is joy in the Lord. The best of earthly joys comes from the society of those whom we dearly love. Christian joy springs from fellowship with Christ. Pray for grace to win Christ, to know Christ, to love Christ.
2 . Love, joy, peace, are the fruit of the Spirit; pray for the blessed experience of the working of the Spirit in the heart. "Ask, and ye shall have."
A cure for care.
The apostle forbids harassing anxiety and enjoins prayerfulness as the sure way to peace. "Be anxious for nothing." Mark—
I. THE WISE COUNSEL OF THE APOSTLE .
1 . This does not mean that we are not to be anxious about duty. We ought to have a deep concern for every interest of God's kingdom. A certain measure of anxious thought is necessary to the efficient performance of every duty of life.
2 . It means that we are not to be anxious about the results of our work or consequences generally.
3 . Over-anxiety is sinful.
II. THE REMEDY FOR OVER - ANXIETY . "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
1 . The range of prayer. "In everything." This counsel is often neglected, for men carry their great misfortunes or their great anxieties to God, but keep their trivial vexations to themselves. A good man has paraphrased this passage thus: "Be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything."
2 . The variety of prayer. The word "prayer" here points to the frame of mind, the word "supplication" to the actual asking of blessing, the requests point to the various parts of the supplication, while the thanksgiving marks the subjective condition of acceptance.
3 . The effects of prayer.
III. THE RESULT . "And the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This beautiful text is often the subject of independent treatment, but we have no right to separate what God has joined together; and accordingly it is only when we are careful for nothing and prayerful in everything that we may exact to enter into Divine peace.
1 . The nature of the peace of God. It is deep inward repose of spiritual life, and is called "the peace of God" because he communicates and sustains it, as the result of our reconciliation with him.
(a) It passeth the understanding of wicked or worldly men; for their experience lies in a very different sphere.
(b) It surpasses the understanding of godly men; for light often breaks in upon their darkness, in a way quite mysterious. Who can understand the peace of the dying? Does it not pass all understanding?
2 . The effects of this peace. "It shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This does not signify that the peace shall keep possession, but rather, as the word signifies, garrison or stand sentry before the heart or mind, so as to prevent the intrusion of disturbing or disquieting thoughts. It is Christ himself who plants the garrison there.
3 . The abiding source of this peace. "In Christ Jesus."
The life of joy and peace.
Celestial citizenship, "other-worldliness," as it has been called, should have a further issue than the expectation of the advent. It should have practical issues in a life of great peace and joy. It is, therefore, to such a life Paul calls his Philippian converts. Let us look at the interesting details.
I. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR UNITY AND COOPERATION IN THE WORK OF THE LORD . ( Philippians 4:1-3 .) Nothing is so productive of unity as our assurance that we are citizens of the same heaven. Why should compatriots fall out in this distant land? Should we not bury our differences and march forward shoulder to shoulder? Euodias and Syntyche must be of the same mind in the Lord. The workers male and female at Philippi are cordially to co-operate. They ought to be a united band. As heaven overarches us all and unifies the population of the globe, so should the thought of our celestial citizenship make all one. For in heaven there shall be no divisions and vexations. The brotherhood shall never there be broken. For unbroken brotherhood, therefore, we should long and labor here.
II. CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR JOY IN THE LORD AT ALL TIMES . ( Philippians 4:4 .) The art of enjoying life is what Christianity alone can teach us. Man's effort at first was to rejoice apart from God; to eat and enjoy the fruit, no matter what charges God had given. And this idea still haunts mankind. Prodigals and legalists imagine that they can enjoy life most away from the heavenly Father ( Luke 15:11-32 ). But we learn a different lesson in the gospel. We learn that the Father's house is full of " music and dancing;" in other words, heaven is the home of joy—joy, too, that is everlasting. And we realize that in the Lord alone the sources of true and lasting joy are to be found. When we look to him and confide in him, then we come as citizens of heaven to rejoice in him at all times. In seasons of sorrow as well as in seasons of mirth there may be an undertone of celestial joy. Man is called to joy, not to trouble. The art is in going straight to Jesus the infinite Fountain, and in avoiding the broken cisterns that line our way.
III. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP BESPEAKS MODERATION . ( Philippians 4:5 .) It ill befits a citizen of heaven to be ostentatious and venturesome to the utmost brink of Christian liberty. Display is not the outcome or issue of a consciousness of our citizenship above. Especially when we live with the abiding persuasion of the Lord's speedy advent, all want of moderation seems out of place. In proportion as we rejoice in the Lord shall we be distinguished by moderation in our life and carriage. If God gives abundance, it is that we may manifest the spirit of moderation and never be the least intoxicated by success. Ostentation must be left to the world.
IV. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR A LIFE WITHOUT CAREFULNESS . ( Philippians 4:6 , Philippians 4:7 .) Just as in heaven the saintly souls keep nothing back from God and so live an unclouded life before him, so ought celestial citizens to live the open life with God here and be correspondingly free from care. And here it may be observed that an old divine has quaintly put our duty as expressed in these verses thus, that we should "be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything." The result of such confidence is peace. "God's peace which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds," or, as the Revised Version has it, "shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Freed from anxious care, why should we not be peaceful?
V. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS UPON US TO LOOK OUT FOR AND THINK UPON THE TRUE , THE HONOURABLE , THE JUST , THE PURE , THE LOVELY , THE GRACIOUS , THE MANLY , AND THE PRAISEFUL . ( Philippians 4:8 .) Now, it is truly wonderful how a joyful Christian spirit will discover upon his path, be it ever so lowly, such food for thought as is sketched for us here. It has been said with great beauty, "If we do but open our hearts at a single point, the spiritual water and blood will find an entrance, will purge our egotism and complete the sacrifice. In this confidence, 'as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,' we shall go freely on our appointed way, knowing that it may become to us a discipline of God, and that there is no way so beaten but that things true and honest, and just and lovely, may be found in it." The joyful, heaven-centred soul discerns food for meditation where others cannot find it, and moves upward upon a path of increasing light towards "the perfect day."
VI. THE GOD OF PEACE GRANTS FELLOWSHIP TO SUCH CITIZENS . ( Philippians 4:9 .) If we honestly enter upon the joyful, peaceful life of heavenly citizenship, the felt presence of God as the God of peace shall be always with us. Over the peace he has made in our once tempest-tossed hearts he will rejoice with singing, and in his love and fellowship we shall be enabled to rest. The King of the celestial country can keep his citizens company all the time they are here on earth; they are at home with God all their happy days; he takes their burdens from them and soothes them in sorrow and makes them somewhat worthy of their heavenly hopes. With such well-filled minds and hearts may we journey onward towards the fatherland above!—R.M.E.
I. STEADFASTNESS . "Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved." As in the first chapter our performing our duties as citizens is followed by the exhortation to stand fast, so here our possession of the privileges of heavenly citizens is more formally made the ground of the same exhortation. We are to stand fast so as has been pointed out, i.e. as heavenly citizens. There might be a standing fast against becoming heavenly citizens. And even as heavenly citizens they were to stand fast in the Lord, i.e. within the limits and to the extent prescribed by Christ, and in the strength offered by Christ. But the duty of steadfastness is almost lost sight of in the wealth of epithets of endearment with which it is surrounded. The Philippians were his brethren beloved; he cherished the warmest feelings toward them. They were his longed for; he had in absence a great desire to see them. They were his joy; he had a great delight in their Christian excellences. They were his crown, or wreath of victory round the diadem; they were evidence that he had not run in vain. And, having stated the duty with all brevity, he falls back on the first epithet, as if he had difficulty in breaking away from affectionate expression. Let them not, then, grieve such love by neglecting to stand fast.
II. THE RECONCILIATION OF EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE .
1 . Direct appeal "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord." It is a strange destiny by which the names of these women have been handed down from generation to generation in God's Book, in connection with a difference which existed between them. It is well that our differences are soon forgotten, as even our names will be after we are gone. And yet the record is kept of our differences, as of our names, in God's book of remembrance. It would be a surprise to these women to be thus referred to by name in the apostle's letter, read before the assembled congregation. And so it will be a surprise to us to hear many things in connection with our names read out before the assembled universe. The apostle appeals to each separately, as being both to blame, though not necessarily equally to blame. Their own conscience would tell them how much they were each to blame; and so our conscience , appealed to at the last day, will tell us how much we are each to blame. It would be humbling to these women to have public notice taken of their difference; and so we ought to be humbled now on account of our differences, that we may not be humbled by publicity hereafter. The difference between these women arose from their not being in the Lord in the matter concerned, i.e. not following Christ's leading, not cherishing Christ's spirit. And so it is when we are not true to Christ that differences arise between us. The way in which these women were to be of one mind was by returning to the leading and influence of Christ; and there is no other way in which a reconciliation can be satisfactorily effected.
2 . Assistance of the apostle ' s yokefellow at Philippi solicited. "I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life." The true yokefellow not being named, we are to understand the one to whom it properly belonged to grant assistance in the work of reconciliation, viz. the minister of the Church at Philippi. Had Paul been present he would have undertaken the work; but, in his absence, it fell to him who was set over the Church and over these women in the Lord, and who was of like spirit with him, to undertake it. The ground on which the apostle was so anxious to have the reconciliation effected was that they were deserving women. And it was satisfactory that, when their names were to go down to all ages in connection with a difference, there was also something to be added which was to their credit. They had labored in the gospel, and in honorable company. That is the testimony that is borne regarding them. The influence of women seems to have been a feature of the Macedonian Churches. At tnessalonica it is said, "Of the chief women not a few." At Beroea, "Many of them believed: also of the Greek women of honorable rank not a few." And in connection with the start of the Philippian Church, it is said, "We spake to the women that were gathered together." "The extant Macedonian inscriptions," says Lightfoot, "seem to assign to the sex a higher social influence than is common among the civilized nations of antiquity. In not a few instances a metronymic takes the place of the usual, patronymic; and in other cases a prominence is given to women which can hardly be accidental. But whether I am right or not in the conjecture that the work of the gospel was in this respect aided by the social condition of Macedonia, the active zeal of the women in this country is a remarkable fact, without a parallel in the apostle's history elsewhere, and only to be compared with their prominence at an early date in the personal ministry of our Lord." We can think of Euodia and Syntyche as of the number of those who assembled at the riverside, It may have been in connection with their work that they differed. The Greek word translated "labored" suggests that, while they strove with each other in a way that was not to their honor, they at the same time strove, as in the games, in the sphere of the gospel. Of the honorable company in which they thus nobly strove, the first was Paul. The next is Clement, whose identity with Clement of Rome is very doubtful. Of the others, the names are not given, but the honorable thing is said regarding them that they, as well as Clement, were Paul's fellow-workers, and that their names are in the book of life. Not known now to men, they are known to God, written among the living in Jerusalem. Their names are in the register of the covenant people kept in the heavenly Jerusalem, and will yet be read out before the assembled universe as among those who have title to all covenant privileges.
III. THE DUTY OF REJOICING . "Rejoice in the Lord alway: again I will say, Rejoice." The apostle takes up the parting address which was broken off at Philippians 2:1 , strengthened here by the addition of "alway," and repeated with emphasis in a form which points to the maximum of deliberation, "Again I will say, Rejoice." All wish to rejoice, but mistakes are made even by Christians as to the object. According to the teaching here, we are to rejoice in the Lord. Or, as Christ says, bringing us back to the pure fount of joy, "Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." We are not to rejoice in ourselves, or in any of God's creatures, as though they were the first cause, the primal source of joy. Nay, we are not even to rejoice primarily in works which God may do by us. When one is eminently successful in conversion-work, we say, perhaps not without a feeling of envy, "What a joy must fill that man's soul!" If we were the instrument of converting sinners like him, we think we could rejoice too. But it is to be noted that the most successful laborer in the vineyard is not before the humblest Christian in the deepest source of his joy. What we have all alike to rejoice in is this, that our names are written in heaven; in other words, that we ourselves are the children or people of God, that we have God as our Portion, that he regards us individually with judicial favor and fatherly love. There is thus a very humble, self-excluding element in our joy. The ground of rejoicing in the Lord, for us who were born in sin, is the atoning work of Christ. To atone for sin entailed great sorrow on our Substitute. From eternity having joys most exalted in himself, he endured pains which, considering their cause, were infernal The pains of hell got hold upon him. Think of Gethsemane; think of Calvary. But he never veered a hairbreadth from the purpose of our salvation. He set his face like a flint, and so the work was done, and done for ever. And now, in Christ, God stands in a gracious relation to his people. He has entirely altered their relation to him, from being objects of his regard to being objects of his complacent regard. Double reason, then, have we for rejoicing in God. "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Ours, then, should be a deep and a perennial joy. Even under depreciation of earthly comfort, there should be more gladness in our heart than men of the world have in the time that their corn and their wine and their oil abound. God, in Christ, is more to us than corn, or wine, or oil; ay, more than the dearest earthly friend, and One who will never fail us; and therefore we may alway rejoice.
IV. DUTY OF FORBEARANCE .
1 . S tated. "Let your forbearance be known unto all men." Forbearance is reasonableness (to which the derivation points) on its gentle side. It is the opposite of rigorism. It is "considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustice of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of his Law against us, as we deserve, though having exacted fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety." It was a grace especially to be "known" unto their persecutors. It was a grace to be "known" unto the worst offenders. As inseparable from them, it was to be "known" unto all men; i.e. in all their dealings with men.
2 . Enforced. "The Lord is at hand." Rigorism "would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogative of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone; and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the Law." Let us think kindly of men, even of the worst of men, as those who are still under trial, and who, by our forbearance, may be won over to the Lord's side. And, as judgment lingereth not, let us fully embrace the opportunity.
V. MEANS TO BE USED AGAINST ANXIETY .
1 . The evil to be avoided. "In nothing be anxious." "Nothing" has the emphasis. To not one thing is our anxiety to extend. Anxiety is harassing care, very different from the providential care of God. We cannot help having cares in the world—cares about getting a livelihood, cares about health, cares about higher matters, cares about those who are near and dear to us, and cares, beyond our immediate circle, for men generally and for the Church. But, though we cannot help having cares in this world, we are not to be harassed by cares, as though we had to bear them ourselves.
2 . Means to be used against the evil. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Over against the "nothing" of anxiety is the "everything" by prayer. Every part of our life is to be connected with prayer. There is nothing too small to be connected with prayer. Specially on every occasion of care are we to pray. And, while we pray generally, we are to make our prayer turn upon our special need. We are to supplicate to be relieved from care, or to be strengthened under care. And while we thus supplicate for relief or strengthening, we are to be thankful for our freedom from other cares, for the number of our mercies, for the special mercy that is mingled with our care. In our supplication we are to have special petitions which we are to make known unto God. For though known unto God are all our wants, yet it is good for the work of communion, for the exercise of faith and of other graces, that we should make our wants known in the proper quarter. If we have cares, what more natural than that we should go with them to him from whom they have come as their First Cause? That must be more satisfactory than going to an intermediate cause or burdening ourselves with them. We can feel assured of his thoroughly understanding our case, of his power to help as having inexhaustible resources at his command, and of his being invested, not with a mere earthly greatness such as might repulse us, but with a greatness which is fitted to be a home and a shelter to us. He will not cover himself with clouds, so that our prayer shall not pass through. He will not turn away our prayer nor his mercy from us.
3 . Blessed results of using the means. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." This is the peace of God, i.e. of which God is the source and origin. It is not the peace of unfallen beings, but the peace of those who have been sinners and are now reconciled, the sweet sense of sin forgiven, the blessed feeling that the condemnation which was resting upon us is now removed. More than that, it is, in its essence, a holy tranquillity, that comes from resting in God, such a tranquillity as fills the mind in God. It is a peace which passeth all understanding, which has a mysterious, unspeakable sweetness about it, so that he who has once felt what it is would never like to lose it. This peace is to guard our hearts and our thoughts, is to be stationed as a strong guard, so that no disturbing influence shall pass through to the center of our being or into the workings of our mind. So effectually is anxiety to be excluded. Our wisdom, then, is to seek repose by prayer. "If your mind be overcharged or overwhelmed with trouble and anxiety, go into the presence of God. Spread your case before him. Though he knows the desires of your heart, yet he has declared he will be sought after; he will be inquired of to do it for you. Go, therefore, into the presence of that God who will at once tranquillize your spirit, give you what you wish or make you more happy without it, and who will be your everlasting Consolation, if you trust in him. He will breathe peace into your soul, and command tranquillity in the midst of the greatest storms."—R.F.
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." These words direct attention to the highest good in the universe—peace; highest because it implies the existence and development of every conceivable moral virtue. These words suggest three remarks concerning Divine peace.
I. ITS NATURE IS OF DIFFICULT INTERPRETATION . "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding." "That is, which surpasses all that men had conceived or imagined. The expression is one that denotes that the peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The Apostle Paul frequently used terms which had somewhat of a hyperbolical cast, and the language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order." Elsewhere Paul says, concerning the love of Christ, "it surpasseth knowledge;" that is, the knowledge of the understanding. You cannot put it into propositions.
1 . Who can interpret peace as it exists in the mind of God ? We may have negative conceptions of it, exclude from it that which cannot possibly belong to it and which is opposite to its nature. It is not stagnation. Not the peace of the lake that has no ripple. He is essentially active. It is not insensibility. Not the quiescence of the rock which feels not the greatest violence of storms. He is feeling, the infinite Sensorium of the universe. But what is it? It transcends all intellectual understanding. We cannot measure the measureless, we cannot fathom the fathomless.
2 . Who can interpret Divine peace as it exists in the mind of the Christly ? The peace of God comes from God; it is the gift of Christ. "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." In truth the highest states of mind, such as love, joy, peace, cannot be explained. These are matters of consciousness, not logic. You can no more put the divinest and deepest emotions of the heart into a proposition than you could put the ocean into a nutshell. They are things that "cannot be uttered."
II. ITS EXISTENCE IN MAN IS A TRANSCENDENT GOOD . "Shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds [your thoughts] through [in] Christ Jesus." It keeps the heart and mind, it garrisons the soul from every distressing element. what are the disturbing elements of the soul? The three chief may be mentioned.
1 . There is fear. Foreboding fears are agitating elements. Under the influence of fear all the powers of the soul often tremble and shake like the leaves of a forest in a storm. But "perfect love casteth out fear," and peace is the fruit of love.
2 . There is remorse. Sense of guilt fills the soul with those feelings of self-loathing and self-denunciation which lash Auto fury. But in the case of Christly men this sense of guilt is gone. Being made right, or justified, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
3 . There are conflicting tendencies. In every soul there are instinctive tendencies towards. God and the true. In every unregenerate soul there are tendencies towards the devil and the false. These are ever in battle on the arena of un-Christly minds. Hence the wicked are like the troubled sea. He who is Christly is delivered from this conflict. The corrupt tendencies are exorcised, and all the corrupt passions and forces of the soul are brought into one grand channel, and will flow on translucently and harmoniously with ever-increasing volume to the great ocean—God.
III. IT CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY THE PRACTICE OF GOODNESS . "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest [honorable], whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Whatever minute definition we may give of these terms, they all stand for the elements of moral goodness; and to these elements we are bidden to give a practical regard. "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The practice of the morality of Christ is the ladder by which alone we can climb through all that is dark and tumultuous in the atmosphere of the soul into the pure heavens of peace. It is the "doer" of the Word that is blessed, not the hearer. There are some, alas! who recommend other means to this glorious end, but they are utterly worthless. Some recommend ritualistic observances and sacerdotal services. Some recommend faith in an event that transpired on Calvary eighteen centuries ago. They say you have only to believe on this and peace will come at once. A philosophic absurdity and a monstrous delusion! Some recommend a mechanical religiousness. They say, " Go to church regularly, join in the liturgy, listen to sermons, partake of the communion, and all will be right." Ah me! The peace which such things give is like that peace in nature which cradles the thunder-storm. I tell you peace is only reached by the practice of that morality proclaimed in that grand sermon on the mount and embodied in the life of its matchless Preacher, and this requires faith in him.
Though my means may be small and name quite obscure,
Live only by labor and dwell 'mid the poor,
I'm resolved upon this, and I'll follow it through,
To love and to practice the "things that are true."
The things that are showy are things in request,
The empty and thoughtless regard them as best.
I've pondered the matter, and I will pursue,
Despite of all customs, the "things that are true."
I'm resolv'd upon this, and I'll follow it through,
To love and to practice the "things that are true."
The things most imposing are things for the proud;
The pomp and the glitter enamour the crowd;
Pretences and shams I'm resolved to eschew,
And walk in the light of the "things that are true."
Though things most in vogue are the things to ensure
Most gold for the pocket, most fame for the hour;
The vain and the greedy, for them they may do,
To me all is worthless but "things that are true."
I'm resolved, etc.
The "things that are true" are the things that will last,
All seemings will vanish as dreams that are past;
Like clouds that are swept from the face of the sky,
All falsehoods of life they shall melt by-and-by.
The things of a party Heav'n knows how I hate!
The blight of the Church and the curse of the state;
The minions of cliqueship, what mischief they do!
Avaunt to all canting! All hail to the true!
I'm resolved, etc.
I. WHAT IT IS . God's own peace; that which he himself possesses. It is the peace which our Lord had and which he promised to his disciples: "My peace I give unto you." It is, therefore, no mere superficial freedom from external troubles, but a deep-seated harmony with God the Source of all peace. Thus it transcends human understanding and human expression.
II. WHAT PREVENTS OUR POSSESSING IT ? Over-anxiety and worry. These are a kind of practical atheism, since they prevent us from leaving all things to him who is supreme over all circumstances.
III. HOW TO OBTAIN IT . By prayer , which rests upon him for all things; by cation , which brings our own special causes for anxiety into his presence; by thanksgiving , which recognizes that his will must be full of blessing. By thus turning our cares into prayers we throw them upon him who gives us in return his peace.
IV. WHAT IT DOES FOR US . It keeps our hearts and minds, preserving them from undue anxiety, and making them realize the strength of the peace which Christ bestows. How do these words come home with sublime force at the end of our Communion Service! Having received him who is our Peace ( Ephesians 2:14 ), we have entered into and taken possession of the Face of God which passeth all understanding.—V.W.H.
The peace that is better than intellectual satisfaction.
I. GOD ANSWERS THE PRAYER OF ANXIETY WITH A GIFT OF PEACE , The promise of peace follows close upon the exhortation to convert our anxieties into prayers. The result of such conduct is not the immediate removal of the source of care: the old trouble may still be with us, and the dreaded danger may not yet be averted; but we have an inward peace and acquiescence in the assurance that all must be well in our Father's hands. Thus the prayer is answered, though not exactly as we expected.
1 . This peace is given by God. It is not the product of our own reasonings, nor of altered circumstances, but of Divine grace.
2 . It is directly dependent on communion with God ; for it is not so much a blessing bestowed in response to prayer as the natural consequence of approaching God in prayer. As we turn from the fretting cares of life to talk with God, we enter a new serene atmosphere above the tumults of earth, and the peace of it steals into our souls.
3 . It is a peace like that of God himself. Given by God, growing out of communion with God, it has the character of God. It is a solid, deep, pure, true, lasting peace, quite different from any peace the world can give ( John 14:27 ).
II. THIS PEACE IS BETTER THAN ANY INTELLECTUAL SATISFACTION . We are impatient for an explanation of the mysteries of providence. We would know why God has dealt with us so differently from what we had expected. We would have the veil of the future uplifted that our anxious hearts might be set at rest. But it is not possible. We are left to grope among many dark secrets while we learn to walk by faith. Nevertheless, if we have not the understanding, the peace is better. If we cannot know all, we can live trustfully with an inward quiet. Better a calm in midnight darkness than a storm in the glare of noon. For our training it is well not to know many things that God has mercifully hidden from our imperfect comprehension. If we can trust God in the darkness and be at peace in our own souls, we have the highest blessing.
III. THIS DIVINE PEACE PREVENTS OUR MINDS FROM WANDERING FROM CHRIST . It is represented as a sentinel on the watch, guarding our hearts and thoughts, and keeping them in Christ. The cares of this world tempt us from Christ with vexing doubts and distracting claims. In peace of heart our thoughts return to him. No understanding of providence and its mysteries would thus settle the Soul on the true foundation of its rest. That would not guard our hearts and thoughts because it is not the ideas of our minds but the spirit of our lives, the tone and temper and character of them, that dissuades our affections and thoughts from wandering from Christ. This, therefore, is the great commendation of the Divine peace which is given in response to the prayer of anxiety, It does not remove the trouble that causes the anxiety, but it prevents that trouble from driving us from Christ, and so secures to us the supreme blessedness of abiding in him.—W.F.A.