Heb. 13. 20, 21.
IT would give light to these words, if you consider the scope and design of the Apostle in this Epistle to the He∣brews, the sum of which is, He writes to them, that he might animate their spirits against Apostacy from the Do∣ctrine of the Gospel; they were liable to this upon a double account: (1) Partly in respect of those Per∣secutions to which they were exposed; for the Jews were filled with a bruitish zeal for the Ceremonies of the Levitical Law, and exprest the greatest rancour against those, who left Moses to follow Christ. This Page 2 is the Reason why the Apostle lays down so many preservatives against their revolting from Religion; and he spends one part of this Epistle in a most pas∣sionate exhortation to perseverance, and doth in the tenth Chapter insinuate himself into them; You have already tasted the first-fruits of affliction, vers. 34. You took joyfully the spoyling of your goods, know∣ing in your selves, that you have in Heaven a better, and an enduring substance. This is that temper that Martyrs have exprest, who have not only parted with their goods, but with their lives for the Gospel: When they came to the Stake, they would not so much as shed a tear to quench those flames, where∣in they should ascend to God as in a fiery Chariot, You took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in your selves, that you have a better and an endu∣ring substance. Thus he insinuates himself, by re∣presenting what they had done, to encourage them to perseverance; and partly he fortifies them against Back-sliding, by those terrible judgments which he threatned against Revolters, as you may read, chap. 6, & 7. (2) As they were liable to this Apostacy upon the account of Persecution, so up∣on the account of the unsettledness and instability of their own spirits. There were several of those who had given up their names to Christ, who did compare the Ceremonies of the Law with the puri∣ty of the Gospel: Now the Apostle, to secure them from this mixture, his great design is to represent the vanity and infectiveness of all the Ceremonial Law, and to express and prove the vertue and ef∣ficacy of the Lord Jesus his death, which was the substance of all the shadows. And this takes up one great part of his discourse with them.
Page 3 Now in these two verses he sums up, by way of Recapitulation, all that which he had discoursed of at large; and in them you may observe these two things:
- (1) A Description of God, to whom he ad∣dresses this prayer.
- (2) The Substance of the prayer it self.
The Description of God, that he amplifies by these two things: (1) From the Attributes and Qualities of God, (if I may so express it) Now (saith he) the God of peace. (2) From the effects of his power and love, That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepheard of the Sheep. And these Titles, they are not here set down to a∣dorn his discourse, meerly as an ornament, but they have all a peculiar efficacy, as to the obtaining of the request which here he makes for them.
I shall begin with the first, the Description of God, from that Attribute. (Now the God of peace) The Title that is used in the Old Testament fre∣quently is this, [The Lord of Hosts] but in the New he is called, The God of peace. There were darker representations of the mercy and love of God then, the more ful discoveries of his grace were reserved til the coming of Christ: Their discoveries under the Old Testament were but as the Day-star, which usher'd in the Sun of Righteousness. Now this Title of the God of peace imparts two things.
- (1) That he is the Author of peace, and works it.
- (2) That he loves and delights in peace.
First, That he is the Author of it: And if you consider Peace in all its notions and kinds, it is a Page 4 fruit of God, and that which descends from him. (1) Peace in Nature is the harmony that is between all the parts of the world, the union that is be∣tween the dis-agreeing Elements, this is from God; for without him, the whole Creation would pre∣sently disband, and return to its first Chaos of con∣fusion. (2) Civil Peace, which is among the Soci∣eties of men; that which is so amiable and lovely, and which needs no other foil to commend it, and set off its lustre, than the miseries of War; this Peace comes from God also: When there is a subjection to just Laws, this is from God. Every rash hand is able to make a wound, or cast a fire-brand; but it is only the God of Peace that is able to heal breaches, to allay those storms that are in a Nation. You know, those showers which render the earth fruitful, descend from Heaven, from God; so all the coun∣sels of peace descend from above: The fiery exha∣lations ascend from the earth, counsels of war and disturbance proceed from the devilish hearts of men. Or (3) If you consider that Ratio∣nal Peace, which is in the spirits of men, i. e. when the understanding exercises a coercion and restraint over our licentious appetites, when all our inferior Faculties are under the Empire and conduct of Rea∣son; this proceeds also from God: For, since the fall, there is a great deal of tumult, many riots and disorders in the soul of a man. Reason hates a bad Guide; and our Appetites, those are evil instruments, and do many times hurry Reason from its regular actings. But (4) much more, if you consider Spiri∣tual peace, that peace doth not only import an agree∣ment of a man within himself, but the agreement of Page 5 the Soul with God. This is the fruit of the Spirit; and it is onely God that is able to convey this peace to us. And upon a particular account this Title is given to him, by way of eminency and propriety; as,
(1) He is alone able to allow and dispence this peace to us; for, all our sins are injuries committed against him, against his Crown and Dignity; all the Arrests of Conscience are made in the name of God, and therefore it is only he that can speak peace. As in the Civil State, it is an Act of Supremacy to give a pardon; only he that can condemn is able to speak a pardon, so, it is that God that is our Judge, pro∣voked and incensed by us, he that hath a judicial power to cast body and soul into hell-fire, is alone able to speak peace, and pass a Pardon for us in the Court of Heaven: and this is experienced by a wounded spirit; it is just with such a person as it is with a Malefactor, who stands condemned at the Bar, he cannot receive encouragement from any of his Spectators, til the Judge speak peace to him: So, if an Angel from heaven should come and speak to a wounded Spirit, it were impossible, unless God did order, command, and dispence it, that the spirit should receive any peace, because our sins are im∣mediately committed against him.
(2) He is alone able to reveal and discover it. There is nothing harder in the world, than to calm and quiet a disturbed conscience, it must be the same power that makes light to spring out of darkness, that must cause a cheerful serenity in a dark and discon∣solate soul. I know there is nothing more easie than that false peace which is so universal in the world; Page 6 for the most amongst us cheat themselves with pre∣sumption, instead of peace with God, and security in∣stead of peace with conscience: but that peace which is solid and true can only be revealed by God him∣self. We have an instance of this in David, (Psal. 51) although Nathan had told him from God, Thy sin is pardoned; yet notwithstanding he saith, Make thou me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoyce. He stil addresses him∣self to God, that he would cause him to hear the voice of pardon and reconciliation, for his soul could not be quiet by the voice of the Prophet. There is so much infidelity in the soul of a man, that when he comes to take a view of his sins in all their bloudy aggravations, only the Spirit of God him∣self is able to allay the terrors of the conscience: And this he doth by an overpowering light, when he doth in an imperative and commanding manner silence all the doubts of the soul, and establish it in peace with God. Certainly he that shall but consider the terrors, the faintings, the paleness of a wounded conscience, when you shall see a person dis-relish all the things of the world upon this ac∣count, Fearing lest God is his enemy; when all dis∣courses that are addressed to him are ineffectual, and but like warm cloath to a dead carcase, can∣not inspire any heat into him. Oh! this shews, on∣ly God is able to reveal peace. So Job, If he hide his face, who is able to be at peace? There needs no other fury to complete the misery of a man, than his own accusing conscienee, Conscience is a verier devil than the devil himself, and able more to tor∣ment and lash the creature. Therefore, if that be Page 7 once awakened, 'tis only God, to whose tribunal conscience is liable, which is able to speak peace to the soul. Now you see in what respect this Title, [The God of peace] is attributed to him, as he is the Author and worker of it.
2. As he loves and delights in peace. This is that which is so pleasing to him, that he adopts those in∣to the line of Heaven who are Peace-makers, for they shall be called the Children of God, Mat. 5. 6. This characterizes persons to be his children, to be ally'd to him. God, he only delights in the reflecti∣on of his own Image; for those things that we ad∣mire in the world, and delight in, do not affect his heart: He delights not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Nothing attracts his eye and heart, but his own similitude and resemblance; and therefore, where he sees peaceable dispositions, this is that which indears the soul to him, and makes it amiable in his eyes. You may judge of his delight in peace by this, it is that grace which in an especial manner prepares us for communion with him; for, we can never really honour nor enjoy him, unless we bring to him those dispositions, which (if I may so speak) are in himself. And therefore it is no won∣der that those have little peace of conscience, who make so little conscience of peace. You know, when God appeared to Eliah, he did not appear in the Storm, nor in the Fire, but in the small still voice, and when Elisha was transported with anger, he was fain to allay that passion by Musick, that so he might be prepared for the holy motions of the Spirit; Page 8 he call'd for an Instrument, and then the Spirit moved in him. I bring it for this end, to shew, how God delights in peace, and he will only maintain communion with those that are of calm and peace∣able spirits. So much way as we give to rash anger, so much proportionably do we let in the Devil, and cast out the God of peace.
Now, the reason why this Title is given to God is upon a double account, partly with respect to the Blood of the everlasting Covenant, which made peace between God and us; partly with respect to the Covenant it self, which is founded in that Blood.
(1) In respect of the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant. For, it was the blood of Christ that hath sprinkled Gods Throne, and made peace in hea∣ven. You shall read therefore, when Christ came into the world, 'tis said (Luke 2. 14.) that the hea∣venly Host appeared and sang, Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, &c. Since the Fall, God and man are enemies, there is a reciprocal enmity be∣tween God and Man, God hates the Creature as it is unholy, and man hates God▪ as he is just, the avenger of sin, the Author of the Law: Now, Christ was the Umpire that composed this difference, he was God and Man in one person, and so being ally'd to both, he was a fit person to reconcile both. He was (as Job speaks) a Days-man between us. He hath paid every farthing that was due: for he did not compound with God, but paid the utmost that was due to him. He it is that hath reconciled us to God by the power of his Spirit, in changing and renewing our natures and creating in us those dis∣positions Page 9 which are like to God; so that his Bloud is the foundation of this peace. And now, God ap∣pears to us, not as a consuming fire, but as a refresh∣ing light, full of calmness, serenety and peace to∣wards us. Christ he brought more honour to God by his obedience, than we brought dishonour by our transgression; and therefore without any injury to God, he might be at peace with us. You know, all our sins were but the acts of finite creatures, and only infinite in regard of the object against whom they were committed. But the Bloud of Christ was of infinite value in regard of the Subject; for, he was God, and the inriching union of the Deity conveyed such value and worth to his Bloud, that he was able to appease God, and not only to free us from con∣demnation, but to make us the favourites of God. We are not only pardoned, but preferr'd upon the account of his Bloud.
(2) He is the God of peace, as with respect to the Bloud of Christ, which is the purchase of peace; so with respect to the Covenant which is made be∣tween God and us (through the bloud of the ever∣lasting Covenant) There are three sorts of Cove∣nants amongst men, some are Covenants of Friend∣ship and Amity, some are Covenants of Trade and Commerce, and some are Covenants of Assistance and Help. Mow all these qualifications meet in this Covenant, which is made between God and Belie∣vers: It is a Covenant of Peace and Friendship, for now we stand upon tearms of amity with God, Those who were strangers and enemies, are now re∣conciled. And there is between God and us per∣fect peace, there is a League (as the Scripture Page 10 speaks between God and the Creature. It is a Co∣venant of Trade, there is now a way opened to Hea∣ven, we may now ascend to God in duties of holi∣ness, and God descend to us by the excitations of his grace, and influences of joy. And 'tis a Cove∣nant of assistance, for he promises not only to give us the reward of the Covenant, but to secure unto us the Condition; he promises to enable us to dis∣charge the conditions of Faith and Repentance. Now upon this account, of that Covenant which is founded in the blood of Christ, he is the God of peace to his people.
[1 Vse] Is by way of Conviction. This may dis∣cover to us how distant their temper is from God, who are enemies to peace: We unman our selves, we unchristian our selves, so far as we are opposite to this blessed temper of peace. Certainly, as di∣sturbed water cannot make any reflection unto us of that face that looks into it, so when our Spirits are disturbed by animosities, exasperations heats and divisions, 'tis impossible for us to see the Image of God, as he is the God of peace. And certainly, there is no more doleful consideration in the world than this, That Man, whom God made a sociable creature, who hath all the engagments and endear∣ments laid upon him, which may cause him to live in peace and gentleness towards those who are of the same nature with him, yet that in fierceness our heats should exceed those of the most salvage creatures. Man comes into the world naked, and altogether unarmed, as if he were designed for the Picture of peace; but could you look into the hearts of men, you would find there such tumults, Page 11 divisions, such seeds of enmity against their fellow-creatures, that Tigres and Lions are calm and peaceable in comparison of them. Now, how is this distant from the temper of the God of peace? 'Tis very strange to consider, that when promises are made to bury all differences, as rubbish under the foundation, that nevertheless the great work of many persons should be, only to revive those former animosities, to make those exasperations fresh and keen upon their own spirits: but is this to imitate the God of Peace? These, to promote divisions and disturbances amongst us, cloath their enemies with the Livery of shame and reproach, that so they may be baited by their fury; that make it their design to represent that party, which they think is dissonant from them, with the most odious appearances, (you know this is the old Art) and those showers of calumnies which are in the world, they usually precede the storm of persecu∣tion. The devil was first a Liar, and then a Mur∣therer; and those who are of his seed, they fol∣low his Art. In the primitive times, all the Perse∣cutions of the Heathens arose from the reproaches of Christians; so it is now. It is an easie thing to blast the name of those persons, who are design'd for ruine. But if the contending Parties would consider, (if I may call one Party contending which is only liable to Penalties, and is resolved to bear them patiently) how unlike this is to that God of peace, me-thinks it should allay the rancour that is in mens spirits, and make an attonement be∣tween all the differences that is amongst them.
Page 12 (2) If only peace come from God, you may from hence take a trial of that peace that is within you, (for hitherto I have been only discoursing of Civil peace) whether it be the effect of this God of peace. I know nothing more common in the world than presumption; there is a false peace, which doth not arise from the knowledge of a mans happiness, but from the ignorance of his misery: Peace, which is only like a Torch to shine in the night, or like Players, that glitter only by Torch-light; so is the false peace men cherish in their bosom, meerly up∣on this account, because they do not bring their souls to the light of the Word, they never had it from this God of peace; because,
(1) God never speaks peace to a soul, but in the way of holiness and obedience: And therefore you shall find 'tis the counsel of the Scripture, Ac∣quaint thy self with God, and be at peace. Our peace is found in the way of duty: and there are none who are more blessed with the peace of conscience, than those who with the greatest fervour, frequen∣cy, and delight, maintain communion with God in holy Duties: For, as friendship among men is che∣rished and preserved by visits and conversations, so, our peace with God is preserved by those visits we make to Heaven in prayer.
(2) That peace that comes from God, al∣waies causes in us a war with sin; for God's Cove∣nant with us in Offensive and Defensive, and there∣fore it is impossible any person should have true and solid peace, that waking tranquility of soul, which is the reward of holiness and obedience, that entertains sin; for every sin thou dost wilfully Page 13 commit, 'tis an act of hostility against God, 'tis that which makes him thy enemy, and makes thee an e∣nemy to him. As Jehu said, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witch∣crafts are so many? So, what peace can there be, so long as thou dost indulge thy self in sin, and make it thy business to gra•ifie thy outward senses, though it be to the displeasure of God? 'Tis the greatest mercy in the world to rob such persons of their peace, and to discover to them their dan∣ger; they are only capable of true peace, by the knowledge of that which is false. Therefore bring your selves to this trial, whether or no doth that peace which now you please your selves in, cause in you an eternal hatred of sin? doth it set you at a distance from your most beloved lusts? Then it is that peace that springs from God. The greatest part of the world are in a state of war with God, though they do not feel the effects of that war. True indeed, God doth not always draw the sword, either of Famine, Pestilence, or War, against a Nation, and yet they may be act∣ing in a most hostile way against God: So for a person, God may not blast thy estate, or send dis∣eases upon thy person, or raise a tumult in thy conscience, and make a conspiracy of thy thoughts and passions against thy peace: thou maist be quiet within, and yet have war with God, because, as in the world, there may be a Truce, when there is no Peace, the War may still continue, though there be a Truce between two Princes: or rather there is not a Truce between God and the sinner, Page 14 but, as a Town that is besieged for many days, may not feel the battery of their enemy, because he is undermining them to blow them up at once; so God doth not many times make his battery against sinners, but he is undermining them, and the fall at the last will be dreadful, if there be not a com∣position.
[Vse 2.] By way of Exhortation; Let me press you all to follow peace, it is a duty which the Gospel enjoyns with the greatest vehemency, with the greatest force of words and expressions. The Apostle, when he is to seal up his affection to them, he doth it with that prayer, (2 Thess. 3. 16) Now the God of peace himself give you peace always, by all means: What strange expressions! First, he gives you here the Title of the God of peace, and then he saith, [Himself] The God of peace himself. There's a great deal of force in that word; Peace is so excellent a blessing, and there is such an abhor∣rency in our corrupt nature to it, that it is only the Lord himself that is able to effect it: As if the Apostle had said, The Lord must bow the Heavens, he must come down himself to create peace among you; and to express the greater vehemency of his desire, he saith, Give you peace always, by all means. So another Scripture, pursue peace, Follow peace with all men, a word that imports our pursuit after it, though it run from us. This is the strain and te∣nor of the Gospel, and this becomes you as Christi∣ans. When Christ came to purchase our peace, he came as a Lamb, an Innocent and meek creature, Behold the Lamb of God. When the holy Spirit descended to seal the priviledge of peace to us, he Page 15 descended in the form of a Dove; a gaul-less crea∣ture in whom there is no rancor nor bitterness. What a strong engagement should this be upon all of us, to pursue and promote peace? And for your encou∣ragement consider,
(1) That in the times of the Gospel all the promi∣ses, do as it were empty themselves into this blessing, the blessing of peace. Thus Isa. 11. 6. you shall find there a gracious promise, respecting the times of the Gospel, The Wolf also shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lie down with the Kid, and the Calf, and the young Lion and the Fatling together, and a little child shall lead them: and the Cow and the Bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the Lion shall eat straw like the Oxe. That which I observe from thence is this, that God here promises to cause an universal peace and unity un∣der the Gospel, though it be as difficult as to per∣swade the most disagreeing natures to a peaceable cohabitation. For here the Scripture instances in those Creatures, between which there is the most natural, and therefore the most fierce animosities. The Lord will reconcile men, though their differen∣ces be never so great. What is too hard for the God of peace to effect? Is not God of infinite power, of infinite love? then it should quicken us to pursue peace. (1) By prayer to him, because he is able to effect it: certainly that God that was able to bring Order into the World, when it was a meer lump and mass of Confusion, is able to bring peace and to unite our spirits. And it is observable, the greater our differences and divisions are, the more will the power of this God appear in reconciling them. 'Tis said in Page 16 the Psalms, that God's Throne is in darkness, i. e. His ways of providence are very difficult for us to trace and find out: and therefore when our Divisions are at the highest, he is able by one word to allay the storm. This should encourage us in prayer. This is the course of God to glorifie himself, by putting a stop to the greatest Troubles, when nearest to us, and to work out one contrary by another. To give you some Instances, that so we may encourage our Faith, and quicken our Prayer to God for this blessing. Con∣sider how still God hath made difficulties the way for enjoyment; for Instance, The promises that Sarah should be the Mother of a Child; but he made way for that by her dead womb: for all that numerous Progeny, which like the Stars of the Sky descended from her. That he first maimed Jacob, and then gave him the blessing. He brought Joseph from the Prison to a Princely Pallace. First David was harassed with troubles, and then his head was deck'd with the Im∣perial Crown. So if you look into the Kingdom of Christ, who would have thought that a few Fishermen should have advanced the Empire of Christ in the World; had you lived to have seen those despicable beginnings, when a few unlearned men were the Heraulds and Preachers of Christ, how would this have caused you to fail and sink in your spirits? and yet the Gospel hath been preached in all the parts of the World, and that by a few Fishermen. The Providences of God are like those plated Pictures if you look one way upon them, there is the appea∣rance of a Serpent; if you look on the other side, there's the appearance of an Angel. So here, many times God is pleased to suffer exasperations to go Page 17 very high, that so his power may appear more e∣minent in the composure of them. He it is that ena∣bles the faith of his people to draw water out of the Rock, when the Fountain is dry: that makes meat to come out of the Eater, (as in Sampson's Riddle) that is able to bring a peaceable harmony out of devouring differences: and therefore it should quic∣ken our prayers to him.
(2) To make us more serious in our endeavours after peace. Consider, what a dishonour it is to the Gospel; that those that profess themselves Sons of the same God, Members of the same Christ, Temples of the same Spirit; should be at deadly jars one with another. It is strange & unnatural that Lillies should prove thorns to one another: that those who are Saints in pretence, should be Devils in practice to one another: that Gods Diamonds should cut one ano∣ther; this is very strange, yet thus it is. But how espe∣cially, it is most sad, when Religion which should re∣strain and bridle our passions, is made fuel and insen∣tives of them: How far distant is it from the counsel af the Apostle, Rom. 14. 10. where he speaks concern∣ing their lesser differences, One values one day above another, another esteems every day alike, what's his counsel? he speaks as a person that was fill'd with bowels and compassion: Oh, saith he, let not him that doth not esteem the day judge him that doth; For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, there we shall appear all upon a level, stand upon equal ground, and receive our final doom from him: This therefore should calm our spirits. Why may there not be some differen∣ces in judgment, without division in affection;Page 18 for it is as impossible that all judgments should be of the same extent, as all our faces to be of the same colour and figure. Therefore consider what an in∣jury it is to our profession, how doth it obscure the the glory of God, and lustre of our Religion?
(3) Doth not the publick enemy rejoyce over us, I mean the Papists? do they not warm them∣selves at the sparks of our divisions: for you know the old Maxim of Divide and Reign: Therefore it should compose our spirits, and quicken us to la∣bour after union. Unmortifi'd lusts are thence, whence all Wars and enmities springs in the world. The Apostle Paul, when he would compose their differences, he doth not lay down Rules to decide their coutroversies, but corrects their secret passi∣ons, pride, self-seeking, revenge, &c. this being the seed of all disturbances in the Church: And although these lusts may not be conspicuous and visible to the eyes of men, yet they are certainly the fuel of our distempers.
The sum of all is this; Those that have the Spi∣rit of God, they cannot but mourn and be sensi∣ble of these divisions. I know a great part among us are unconcern'd: some rejoyce, those that are ra∣ther buried in the affairs of the world and incum∣bred with much business, or those that are steeped in the pleasures of sense, are altogether unaffected with these things, and stand as Newters, dis-re∣garding all events: But the Saints of God cannot but mourn over them, when our divisions hinder the progress of the Gospel, and are serviceable to nothing but to the Kingdom of darkness. There∣fore I beseech you, let what hath been spoken Page 19 quicken you in your prayers to God, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, (that's the least effect of our love and desires after peace) and by all endea∣vours to labour to bring back peace to us, that we may see that Prophesie fulfilled in our time, that the Lord shall be one, and his Name one amongst us.