Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

a

Spirit who procures so great a happiness for them. : Thus at length the man is translated into such, a 'state, that all enmity being on both sides blotted out, God lays aside the remembrance of past offences, appears no more as an enemy to him, but being reconciled, deals with him as a friend: the man likewise being grieved for having formerly offended God, now endeavours with all care to please him. Ind these are the beginnings of the spiritual peace with God.

X. But these are beginnings only: for, no sooner is the man in covenant with God, but he becomes the confederate and the friend of that great king, Jam. ii. 23. John xv. 14, 15. The gates of the heavenly palace are set open to him, and free access in the Spirit is granted him at all times, by night or by day. He may behold the king of glory nigh at hand; pour out all the oppressing grievances of his soul into his bosom; confidently make known his stammering requests for a fuller measure of grace; while God, instead of forbidding him, does even, by his condescending goodness, give him encouragement to attempt it, Cantic. i. 14.: he may often be earnest for the same things, and with a friendly and agreeable importunity wrestle with God, with reverence of his majesty be it spoken, who condescends as it were, to solace himself with us, till we have in a manner forced the blessings we stand in need of, out of his bands. Moses is an example of this, Exod. xxxiii. 12. and following verses.

XI. God also himself sometimes descends from heaven by his grace, and graciously visits the soul whom he loves, and who is filled with love for him, John xiv. 23. speaks to his heart, Hos. ii. 14. displays the riches of his supereminent goodness, and what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints," Eph. i. 18. He comforts him when dejected, and wipes away his tears with his own hand, Rev. vii. 17. and puts them as a precious liquor into his bottle

, Ps. lvii. 8. “ He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, Isa. lxi. 3. «Kisses her with the kisses of his mouth," Cantic. i 2. and if, at any time, she is sick of love, “ his left hand is under her head, and his right hand doth embrace her," Cantic. ii. 6. In fine, whatever good he is possessed of (and what is there he is not ?) he liberally communicates all, in that time, order, and degree, which bis wisdom knows to be most expedient. And what will be not give, who gives himself, as an exceeding great reward ? Gen. xv. 1.

XII. Who can doubt, but they who taste this incredible sweetness of divine love, do infinitely prefer the friendship of

[ocr errors]

God to all other things? Hence wben they gratefully acknowledge the things they have been $0 graciously favoured with beyond what they deserve, they carefully avoid every thing unworthy of such friendship, and which mars such a propense favour of the Deity by any coldness. Whereas they most readily perform what they know to be acceptable to God; and then at length it is, they seem to themselves to live, when in the whole tenour of their lives they approve themselves to God. And seeing they know that love deserves love, and that true friendship consists in this, that friends choose and refuse the same things, they stir up all their powers to make returns of love, and submit their will to that of God, and give it up to be swallowed up, as it were, in the divine will, and thus at length, with the king of angels, they bear the sweet yoke of love. “ The love of God begets the love of the soul, and attracts it to him. God loves, in order to be loved. When he loves, he desires nothing more, than to be loved again, knowing those to be happy in love who love him. The soul that loyes, renounces all its affections, and minds nothing but love, that it may give love for love. And when it has poured out itself wholly in love, what is that to the constant flow of the fountain ? As Augustine piously speaks, Manual. c. 20.

XIII. During these transactions in the soul, and while the daily contest of mutual friendship between it and God is renewed, it cannot but enjoy the most delightful peace of conscience. When it discovers the favourable sentence of God concerning the way, and intimates the same to him, and at the same time bears testimony to his unfeigned piety towards God, it spreads a surprising serenity and calm over the whole soul. Consequently the peace of God necessarily brings with it peace of conscience, and much confidence in God, Rom. xiv. 7. Eph. iii. 12. The soul no where reposes itself more comfortably, than in that bed of tranquillity, and in the bosom of Jesus, its lovely spouse, singing at that time to its adversaries; “ know that the Lord bath set apart him that is godly for himself. I will both lay me down in peace and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety," Psal. iv. 8, 8. “I laid me down and slept, I awaked for the Lord sustained me," Psal

. iü. 5. XIV. There is also a friendship with all the other friends of God, not only holy men, who mutually belp and comfort one another by communion of prayers and other duties of brotherly love, Psal. xvi. 3. and who without envy, mutually congratulate each other on the gifts conferred op every one in particular, by their common friend; but also with the blessed angels, who were formerly enemies to man, when he was the enemy of God,

[blocks in formation]

and kept our first parents from all access to paradise, Gen. iii. 24.; but now minister to man with the greatest complacency and readiness, Heb. i. 14. " encamp round about him," Psal

. , xxxiv. 9. “ keep him in all his ways, bear him up in their hands, lest he dash his foot against a stone," Psal. xci. 11, 12. till, at the command of God, they convey the reconciled soul to the blessed chuir of the inhabitants of heaven. And though at present they do not usually appear in a visible form, yet they familiarly surround and guard the friends of God, avert very many evils, procure good, and acknowledge them for their fellow ser. rants, Rev. xix. 10. On this account the apostle testifies, that believers, even in this world, are come to myriads [an innumerable company) of angels, Heb. xii. 22. And can mortals have any thing more glorious, than next to God, to be admitted into the bonds of fellowship and friendship, with these most noble spirits, whom the apostle, Col. i. 16. calls thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.

XV. I add, that peace being made with God, none of the creatures can exercise any acts of hostility against believers, to the prejudice of their salvation. According to the promise, Job v. 23, 24. " thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace :” which is repeated Hos. . 18. and in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground." The plain meaning of these passages seems to be this: rocks and stones shall be soft to the friends of God, they shall not hurt their feet: they shall not be molested by any rocky dismal places, where either robbers usually lie in wait, or in which the beasts of the field harboured. For, God so restrains them, that they are not able to hurt them: but are compelled to submit and be subservient to them: the ravenous fowls themselves and poisonous reptiles, and they who are emblematically represented by these, as well men as malignant spirits, shall have no power to do them harm, Psal. xci. 13. Mark xvi. 18. It is true, they cannot have any amicable peace with the enemies of God, the world, and the devil; and it is certain, that they are then most grievously harassed by their persecutions, when they cultivate peace with God: nevertheless, all the attempts of hell and the world against them are in vain : “ Behold, all they that were incensed against thee, shall be ashamed and confounded; they shall be as nothing, and they that strive with thee shall perish: thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall

[ocr errors]

be as nothing, and as a thing of nought," Isa. xiv. 11, 12. Add Isa. liv. 1417.

XVI. And the efforts of their enemies are not only in vain, but without their knowledge, and against their will, they pro mote their salvation: and the devils are constrained to bring the friends of God nearer to heaven, from which they themselves shall be for ever banished. Thus the chief master of pride proved, by his buffetings, a teacher of humility to Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 7. So true it is, that all things work together for good to them that love God, Rom. viii. 28.

XVII. Abundance of all salutary good things flow from this

peace which the Psalmist, Psal. cxliv. 18. describes to the life. And though it often happens, that the friends of God, as to the outward man, drag a life which scarce deserves that pame, amidst poverty, contempt, and diseases; yet since the least good thing they enjoy in all these calamities, is bestowed upon them by the special love of God, is the most noble fruit of the cross of Christ, and gives them to taste the infinite goodness of the Deity. Therefore that little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked," Psal. xxxvii. 16. For, he has it from, and with the favour of God, who is the inexhausted fountain of all desirable things. Nay, the very evils with which they are overwhelmed turn to their advantage, for they serve to humble them, to build them up in faith, patience, and self-denial, and wean them from the vanities of the world, and carry them towards heaven. Hence in their very adversities they find matter of joy and glorying, Rom. v. 3. Jam. i. 2.

XVIII. From what we have said, the excellency of this peace is easily concluded, which the apostle, Phil. iv. 7. de scribes, as passing all understanding : it is therefore worthy to be sought after with the utmost diligence; kept when obtained, and renewed when interrupted.

XIX. God, indeed, graciously tenders it in the word of the gospel : but not as if the sinner is to do nothing, before he enjoys the inward sense of it. For this purpose it is neces sary, 1st. That he confess, that, on account of his çery many and very heinous offences, he is altogether unworthy of the peace and friendship of God, and seriously grieve for them, Luke xv. 21. Psal. xxxii. 5, 6. Prov. xxviii

. 13. 2dly. With sorrow observe and declare, that be can do nothing that is fit to appease the justly provoked Deity, Mic. vi. 6, 7. but put all his hopes in the blood of Christ alone, the application of which depends on the good pleasure of the Lord himself. 3dly. Give himself up bumbly to God, thus thinking with

[ocr errors]

man.

[ocr errors]

ܪ

himself, “Since without peace with God there is nothing but ruin, I will approach to the throne of grace, humbly begging for pardon and mercy; if he is pleased to reach out his golden sceptre of grace to me, I will eternally praise him; but if in anger he turns away his face, I will confess his justice and proclaim it worthy of all praise, though it should be rigid to my destruction; and say, I will dio at his feet without repining :" See Esther iv. 18. This absolute resignation and surrender, cannot but be acceptable to God, and salutary to

That he add, to his devout prayers, reformation of life; sincerely keep his heart and actions from what he knows to be contrary to God; declare war against God's enemies; will, love, and do what becomes the friends of God. In this way, let him “ draw nigh to God, and God will draw nigh to him," Jam.iv. 8.

XX. No less diligent care is necessary to preserve the peace thus obtained, and daily to increase in intimacy with the divine favour and friendship. For this, there is required 1st. A daily exciting of his love to God by devout meditation, both on the divine perfections, on account of which he is most highly amiable in himself, and on his infinite love, wherewith he first loved us, and the inestimable benefits flowing from that infinite love. For God cannot possibly suffer himself to be exceeded in love by man, John xiv. 21. “ he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” 2dly. Frequent intercourse with God; so that worldly cares being for a little laid aside, and a pleasant retirement sought out, you may by frequent and repeated exercises of reading, meditation, and prayer, with a modest boldness, obtain familiarity with God, Job xxii. 21. “ acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee." It was a fine advice of Jerome to Eustachius, de custodia virginitatis : " Let the privacy of thy chamber always

“ keep thee: let thy bridegroom always delight himself within thee: when thou prayest thou speakest to thy bridegroom, when thou readest, he speaketh to thee: let foolish virgins wander abroad; be thou within with thy bridegroom, because, if thou shuttest thy door, and according to the precept of the gospel, prayest to thy Father in secret, he will come, and knock, and say, Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” 3dly. The practice of inoffensive and strict godliness, with an attentive watchfulness against “ the sins that so easily beset us." These things flow from the love of God, and without them none can have familiar converse with him, John xiv. 23. “ if a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will

« PreviousContinue »