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MATTHEW V. 9.
"BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD."
THERE is one thing, my brethren, which cannot possibly have escaped your observation in the course of your previous reflections on these beatitudes. I allude to the profound wisdom of this divine teacher, both in the appropriate method of instruction he employs, and the sentiments he delivers. There are two ways of condemning vice and correcting error. The first consists in a direct attack on the evil itself, the second in the distinct and earnest inculcation of the opposite good. The former of these modes is sometimes necessary; but the latter is generally preferable. Both, however, were observed by the Saviour, as occasion required; but the last was the more frequent method of the two. It was not his usual manner so much to explode the particular doctrines and customs of men, however false or vicious, as it was to strike at the passions from whence they spring, and enforce that divine truth, by the influence of which, both destructive errors and sinful habits would be eventually subdued. "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,"
and in no part of his conduct are they
Col. ii. 3.
more powerfully exhibited than in the discharge of his ministerial functions. In the vicissitudes of moral society, crime might undergo repeated modifications, and many cases of unknown profligacy may arise, ere the triumphs of the gospel should become complete. How could the deadly plants of sin-plants ever likely to thrive in the human heart, be so effectually destroyed, as by crushing the germ that produced them, and planting the soil in which they grow with the seeds of righteousness and peace?
This happy and prudent method of removing the wrong and communicating the right, is remarkably obvious in the sermon before us. The dishonourable passions of the heart, and the dangerous maxims too commonly received by the understanding, are, indeed, condemned; but, it is by a distinct benediction on opposite affections and principles. Thus he successively pronounces his blessing on the humble, the mourning, the meek, the hungering and thirsting after righteousness, the merciful, the pure, the peaceable, and the sufferer for righteousness' sake. By these marks of decisive approbation on this lovely assemblage of Christian virtues, he must be considered as passing an unequivocal sentence of strong and lasting reprobation on all the contrary passions of the breast. It is as though he had said, "Ye have been accustomed to account the fierce and warlike happy. Men of ambition and thirst for martial glory, who are never satisfied with their present conquests if any nation remain to be subdued, ye have supposed to be blessed. But ye mistake. They are unhappy. I will not acknowledge them as my subjects; my Father will not own them as his children. The dispositions I pronounce blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peaceable. Embrace and exemplify these, and although you may not be applauded as the sons of valour, shall be enrolled as the offspring of God." "Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
In the consideration of this beatitude, I will endeavour to explain the
CHARACTERS OF WHOM IT SPEAKS-THE PRIVI
WHICH IT CONFERS. AND THE DUTY OF EXEMPLIFYING THE SPIRIT WHICH IT PRONOUNCES
I. THE CHARACTERS OF WHOM IT SPEAKS UNDER THE DESIGNATION OF PEACEMAKERS.
The Greek word here used, and which answers to the Latin word pacificus, in its simple acceptation, signifies a pacificator; a mediator of peace between contending parties. But there is a fulness of meaning in the term as it stands in the Scripture, which includes both the effort to make peace, and the disposition of the mind towards it. A man may officially or otherwise be employed in composing a difference that exists between two families, or two individuals, without possessing the spirit and disposition of peace which the word includes. No one, therefore, can be the peacemaker of the text, without he possesses a peaceable and conciliatory disposition. This is the true principle; and the effort to make and maintain peace, is the divine and genuine fruit which it will ever produce. And, here I remark, once for all, that no man can reach this character who is not at peace- with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The enmity of his own mind must be slain; and his heart must be purified by obeying the truth through the spirit, "unto unfeigned love of the brethren," or he will feel little concern about a storm that does not beat on his own house or threaten his own safety. Nothing short of this radical and divine change can enable a man, uniformly and consistently, to follow the things which make for peace and mutual edification.
Now, as it regards the duty itself, I need scarcely say anything in order to explain its nature. You are, I hope, aware, that it combines the attempt to reconcile men to God through the peace-speaking blood of the cross, with the effort to heal the breach of friendship which has been made among individuals. This, of all labours, is the most noble and divine: for it has been the great end of the ever blessed God, by the ministry of the word, and the dispensation of his grace, to bring men unto himself. And to accomplish this pacific purpose, he sent his own Son "to preach peace to them that were far off and to them that were nigh." It was in prosecution of the same benevolent intention, and for its effectual attainment, that this divine messenger at length "became obedient unto death; even the death of the cross." Thus writes the apostle: "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace."* So also in another place the same inspired servant of Christ remarks, "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven."+ In fine, for the completion of this scheme of mercy and love, he sent forth his servants "to preach peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." The inference, which appears to me fairly deducible from these facts, is, that we overlook the most essential and important part of making peace, if we confine our endeavours to the composing of differences among men, valuable as such services doubtless are, while we pass by the multitudes
around us, who are under the dreadful woe of "contending with their Maker." My brethren, you are in unison, both with the Saviour himself, and the primitive believers, when your efforts in this great cause comprehend the termination of all hostility towards God, as well as contention between individuals. Indeed, he only is the scriptural peacemaker, who, moved by the constraining influence of the love of Christ, combines present peace with the eternal happiness of the human family. And there is a mutual dependence, and reciprocal relation, between the two. Then are we most likely to succeed in this labour of love, when we blend peace with purity. It was, therefore, peculiarly appropriate to the subject, that the apostle, having exhorted the Hebrews to "follow peace with all men," added, "and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."* As we attain unto conformity to Christ in this respect, the more shall we be disposed to seek peace, and the more likely to preserve and promote it.
Before I dismiss this part of the beatitude, seeing the duty under consideration is of great importance, allow me to give you a few words of fraternal counsel, as to the way in which it is to be discharged. And I will briefly suggest the following particulars:—
First. That all our endeavours should be founded in prayer, and accompanied with it. I scarcely need remind you that, unless the divine blessing be given, every effort in the cause of Christian benevolence, will be wholly unavailing. If we are useful in any respect, we owe it all to him "from whom cometh every good and every perfect gift." Of him, therefore, we should ask assistance, and to him we should give the praise of what we are enabled to do. We cannot be too deeply impressed with this sentiment, and this fact;-" Except the Lord build
Heb. xii. 14.