« ZurückWeiter »
the Gospel with the sword-point amongst Infidels; and massacres millions of Indians, to make room for Christianity.
It is a rare thing, if, where great spirits and great power are met in any prince, he can be content to sit still, and not break forth into some notable breaches of public peace.
And, where once the fire of war is kindled, it is not easily quenched; yea, it runs as in a train, and feeds itself with all the combustible matter it meets withal on every side: and, therefore, it is a marvellous work of the power and mercy of God, that he makes war to cease.
And this he doth, either by an over-powering victory, as in the case of Hezekiah and Sennacherib; which should seem to be the drift of this psalm, whereof every passage imports such a victory and triumph as the conquered adversary should never be able to recover: or, by tempering and composing the hearts of men; restraining them in their most furious career; and taming their wild heats of revenge, and inclining them to terms of peace.
This is a thing, which node but he can do. The heart of man is an unruly and headstrong thing: it is not more close, than violent. As none can know it, so none can over-rule it; but he, that made it. It is a rough sea: he only can say, here shalt thou stay thy proud waves. Shortly, then, public peace is the proper work of an Almighty and Merciful God. His very title is Deus Pacis; the God of Peace; Rom. xv. 33: and xvi. 20: Heb. xiii. 20: so as this is his peculium : yea, it is not only his, for he owns it; but his, for he makes it; I make peace, and create evil: 1, the Lord, do all these things; Isaiah xlv. 7.
That Malignant Spirit is in this his profest opposite, that he is the great make-bait of the world; labouring to set all together by the ears; sowing discord betwixt heaven and earth, betwixt one piece of earth against another, man against man, nation against nation: hence he hath the name of Satan, of 'Avridinos; of Diabolus, of 'Abadwv; as whose whole endeavour is enmity and destruction.
Contrarily, the good God of Heaven, whose work it is to destroy the works of the Devil, is all for peace: he loves peace; he commands it; he effects it; He inaketh wars to cease.
This is his work, in the kind : and so much more his work, in the extent: To the ends of the earth. By how much more good any work is, by so much more it is his; and by how much more common any good is, by so much better it is. Even the par pectoris, “ the Private and Bosom peace" of every man with him.
. self, is his great and good work: for the heart of every man is paturally as an unquiet sea; ever tossing and restless; troubled with variety of boisterous passions: he only can calm it. peace of the Family is his: he maketh men to be of one mind in a house ; without whose work, there is nothing but jars and discord betwixt husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants, servants and children with each other; só as the house is made, if not a hell for the time, yet a purgatory at the least. The
peace of the Neighbourhood is his; without whom, there is nothing but scolding, brawling, bloodsheds, lawing. That a City is at unity in itself, not divided into sides and factions, it is the Lord's doing: for many men, many minds; and every man is naturally addicted to his own opinion: hence grow daily distractions in populous bodies. That a Country, that a Nation is so, is so much more his work, as there are more heads and hearts to govern: but, that one nation should be at unity with another; yea, that all nations should agree upon an universal cessation of arms and embrace peace; a Domino factum est hoc, el est mirabile, “ It must needs be the Lord's doing so much more eminently, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Faciam eos in gentem unam, was a word, fit only for the mouth of God; who only can restrain hands and conjoin hearts, as here, He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth.
III. Now wherefore serves all this, but for the Direction of our Recourse; for the Excitation of our Duty and Imitation; for the Challenge of our Thankfulness?
1. In the first place, are we troubled with the fears or rumours of wars? are we grieved with the quarrels and dissensions, that we find within the bosom of our own Nation or Church? would we earnestly desire to find all differences composed, and a constant peace settled amongst us? we see WHITHER TO MAKE OUR ADDRESS, even to that Omnipotent God, who maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth; who breaketh the bow, and snappeth the spear in sunder. And, surely, if ever any nation had cause to complain, in the midst of a public peace, of the danger of private distractions and factious divisions, ours is it: wherein I know not how many uncouth sects are lately risen out of hell, to the disturbance of our wonted peace; all of them eagerly pursuing their own various fancies, and opposing our formerly received truth. What should we do then, but betake ourselves, in our earnest supplications, to the God of Peace, with a Help, Lord ? never ceasing to solicit him with our prayers, that he would be pleased so to order the hearts of men, that they might incline to a happy agreement; at least to a meek cessation of those unkind quarrels, wherewith the Church is thus miserably afflicted.
2. But, secondly, in vain shall we pray, if we do nothing. Our prayers serve only to testify the truth of our desires; and, to what purpose shall we pretend a desire of that, which we endeavour not to effect? That God, who makes wars and quarrels to cease, useth means to accomplish that peace, which he decrees. And what are those means, but the inclinations, projects, labours of all the wellwillers to peace? It must be our care, therefore, to imicate, yea to second God, in this great work of peace-making. The phrase is a strange, but an emphatical one, that Deborah uses in her song:
Curse ye Meroz, said the Angel of the Lord; curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof : because they came not to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty; Judges v. 23. Lo, what a word bere is, To help the Lord! What help needs the Almighty; or what
help can our weakness afford to his Omnipotence? Yet, when we put our hands to his; and do that, as instruments, which he, as the author, requires of us, and works by us; we help that Lord, which gives us all the motions, both of our wills and actions. So must we do, in the promoting of peace, and the allaying of quarrels. When a house is on fire, we must every one cast in his pailful, to the quenching of the flames. It is not enough, that we look on harmlessly, with our hands in our bosoms. No; we add to that burning, which we endeavour not to quench.
We must CONTRIBUTE OUR UTMOST TO THE CESSATION OF THESE SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL WARS: which shall be done
(1.) By withdrawing the fuel of contention ; mitigating, what we may, the grounds of dissension. Those grounds are the matters controverted: these, our Christian charity and love of peace will teach us, either to decline, or to abate and lessen by all fair interpretations; according to that of the blessed Apostle, Charity thinks not evil; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, dureth all things; 1 Cor. xii. 5,7. So, when Isaac's servants found the Philistines to strive with them for their two wells of Esek and Sitnah, they did not stand upon points with them; but removed and digged another, which was out of the reach of the strife, and called it Rehoboth; Elbow-room ; Gen. xxvi. 22: and thus, the servants of Isaac made the Philistine quarrels to cease, though, by Abimelech's own confession, Isaac was much mightier than himself; Gen. xxvi. 16. Thus, when the main difference grew betwixt Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and the rest of Israel, concerning the altar beyond Jordan, a fair construction stinted that strife, which might have embroiled both parts in a bloody war. Thus it was in the synod of Ephesus, betwixt our good Bishops Cyril and Theodoret, whose ditierences had like to have rent the Church in pieces; but, upon better understanding, were allayed. Thus it was, in the more general and dangerous quarrel, betwixt the East and West Churches, concerning the Útóctecis and ycia “subsistences" and “essence” in the Trinity, had not holy Athanasius interposed, showing them their own, unknown and unacknowledged, accordance. Would God I could give this plurase to these times: we should not be in the condition we are. How many are
rather apt to cast oil, than water, upon this Hame! to enlarge, rather than heal this wound of the Church!
(2.) By giving seasonable counsels of peace. So, the Father of the Faithful to his nephew: Let there be no contention between me and thee, and thy herdmen and my herdmen; for we are brethren; Gen. xiii. 8. So Moses to the contending Israelites: Wherefore smilest thou thy fellowo ? Exod. ii. 12. So, the wise woman of Abel to Joab: Thou seekest to destroy a city, and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord? 2 Sam. xx. 19. So, Abner the son of Ner, after he had set the two armies together by the ears, by the pool of Gibeon; yet, at last, moves for a retreat, calling to Joab, whose men he had challenged: Shall the : sz'ord devour for ever? knowest thou not, that it will be büterness in
the latter end? how long shall it be then? 2 Sam. ii. 26. Oh, for these counsels of peace in these distracted times! How beautiful would their feet be, that should bring these glad tidings of peace! Alas, men are more ready to clap their hands, as boys are wont to do in dog-fights; and to say Eia, Socrates; Eia, Zantippe! How much more justly may we take up that word of the Psalmist; Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech; that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! my soul ha h long dreelt with him, that hateth peace: I am for peace; but, when I speak, they are for war; Psalm cxx. 5, 6, 7.
(3.), By opposing and restraining the known make-baits of the Church and State. If Korah and his company rise up against Moses and Aaron, God takes the quarrel in hand; and they are swallowed up of the earth. If Sheba, the son of Bichri, blow a trumpet of sedition, he must be speedily pursued to the gates of Abel; 2 Sam. XX. Hould God those were cut off that trouble you ! saith the charitable Apostle. Neither know I whether this be a greater act of justice or of mercy: of justice, in respect of the delinquents; or of mercy, to the Church and Commonwealth. Woe is me, with what words should I bewail the deplorable estate of these late times in this behalf! Let me appeal to your own eyes
and ears. I know I speak to judicious Christians. Tell me whether ever you lived to see such an inundation of libellous, scandalous, malicious pamphlets, as have lately broke in upon us: not only against some particular persons, which may have been faulty enough; but against the lawful and established government itself; against the ancient, allowed, legal forms of divine worship. Certainly, if we love the peace of this Church and Kingdom, we canuot but lament, and, to our power, oppose these insolencies. It Reformation bé the thing desired and aimed at; let not that man prosper, which doth not affect it, pray for it, bend his utmost endeavours to accomplish it: but is this the way to a Christian Reformation, to raise slanders, to broach lying accusations against the innocent, to caluniniate lawful and established authority? God forbid! These are the acts of him, that is the man-slayer from the beginning. The Holy God hates to raise his kingdom, by the aid of the Devil. Be as zealous as you will; but be, withal, just: be charitable; and endeavour to advance good causes, by only lawful means. And then, let him come within the compass of the curse of Meroz, that is not ready to assist and second
you. (4.) By cherishing the moderately affected, and encouraging those that intercede for peace; as those, who do the noblest offices both to the Church and Commonwealth. If we meet with a man, that can truly say, with the woman of Abel, Ego sum er colentibus pacem, as Tremellius turns it; 2 Sam. xx. 20: “I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel;" make much of such. To the counsellors of peace shall be joy; Prov. xii. 20. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, saith the Psalmist : they shall prosper, that love thee. Certainly, thus it should be: but, alas, we are fallen upon times, wherein it is cause enough for a quarrel, to plead for peace:
too well fulfilling that of the Psalmist; They speak not peace, but they devise deceiiful matters against them that are quiet in the land; Psalm xxxv. 20. A man, in this case, is like the shepherd, that would part the fray betwixt his two rams: they both met together upon his bones, and send him halting out of the field. The God of Peace, in his good time, remedy these distempers; but, in the mean time, let us con ort ourselves in the conscience of our happy endeavours with that of St. James, The fruits of righteousness are sown in peace, of them that make peace; James i. 18.
And thus much for our duty, in seconding and imitating this act of God, in making this cessation of wars; by withdrawir.g the fuel of contention; by giving seasonable counsels of peace; by opposing known make-baits ; by cherishing the peaceable minded.
3. We descend to our third use proper for this day, which is THE CHALLENGE OF OUR THANKFULNESS. And, surely, wheresoever God vouchsafes to bestow this mercy, That he causes wars to cease unto any nation, he looks for no less; and we shall be foully ungrateful, if we disappoint him. Whereto we shall the better be excited, if we shall consider, first, the miseries of war; and, then, the benefits and comforts of peace.
(1.) The Miseries of War may be talked of; but can never be thoroughly conceived by any, but those, that have felt them. I could tell you of sieging and famishing; sacking, and spoiling, and killing, and ravishing, and burning; of weltering in blood; and a thousand such tragical calamities of war: but I would rather the Spirit of God should describe them, in his own expressions ; These sword without and terror within shall destroy; both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs; Deut. xxxii. 25. . And Isaiah; Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be vih burning, and with fuel of fire; Isa. ix. 5. Not to press those passionate descriptions of Isaiah and Nahum; that one of the prophet Azariah, the son of Obed, shall shut up all; 2 Chron. xv. 5, 6. In those times there was no peace to them that went out, nor to him that came in; but great verations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries; and nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city, for God did ter them with all adversity. Mark but the foot of this report. Upon the mention of war, straight it follows, God did ver them with all adversiy: surely, there is no adversity incident unto a creature, which doth not inevitably attend a war: and, as all wars are thus woeful and hideous, so much more the intestine and domestical; those, that are raised out of our own bowels: these are, beyond all conceit, dreadful and horrible. As, therefore, we do, in out ordinary prayers, put all these together, which are the effects and concomitants of war, “ From plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle, and murder, and from sudden death; Good Lord, deliver us:” so, good reason have we, to put them into the tenor of our hearty thanksgiving, that God hath graciously delivered us from the fury of all these, in that he caused wars to cease to the ends of our earth.