A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 8, 1861, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Mt 5:9)
1. This is the seventh of the beatitudes. There is a mystery always connected with the number seven. It was the number of perfection among the Hebrews, and it seems as if the Saviour had put the peacemaker there, as if he was most nearly approaching to the perfect man in Christ Jesus. He who would have perfect blessedness, as far as it can be enjoyed on earth, must labour to attain to this seventh benediction, and become a peacemaker. There is a significance also in the position of the text, if you regard the context. The verse which precedes it speaks of the blessedness of “the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It is well that we should understand this. We are to be “first pure, then peaceable.” Our peaceableness is never to be a compact with sin, or an alliance with what is evil. We must set our faces like flints against everything which is contrary to God and his holiness. That being in our souls a settled matter, we can go on to peaceableness towards men. The following verse of my text also seems to have been put there on purpose. However peaceable we may be in this world, yet we shall be misrepresented and misunderstood; and no wonder, for even the Prince of peace, by his very peacefulness, brought fire upon the earth. He himself, though he loved mankind, and did no ill, was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Lest, therefore, the peaceable in heart should be surprised when they meet with enemies, it is added in the following verse, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Thus the peacemakers are not only pronounced to be blessed, but they are surrounded with blessings. Lord, give us grace to climb to this seventh beatitude! Purify our minds so that we may be “first pure, then peaceable,” and fortify our souls, so that our peaceableness may not lead us into surprise and despair, when for your sake we are persecuted among men.
2. Now let us endeavour to enter into the meaning of our text. With God’s help us, we shall handle it this morning like this. First, let us describe the peacemaker; secondly, let us proclaim his blessedness; thirdly, let us set him to work; and then, fourthly, let the preacher become a peacemaker himself.
Let Us Describe the Peacemaker.
3. I. First, LET US DESCRIBE THE PEACEMAKER. The peacemaker, while distinguished by his character, has the outward position and condition of other men. He stands in all relationships of life just as other men do.
4. Thus the peacemaker is a citizen, and though he is a Christian, he remembers that Christianity does not require him to forego his citizenship, but to use and to improve it for Christ’s glory. The peacemaker, then, as a citizen, loves peace. If he lives in this land, he knows that he lives among a people who are very sensitive about their honour, and are speedily and easily provoked—a people who are so pugilistic in their character that the very mention of war stirs their blood, and they feel as if they would go at it at once with all their force. The peacemaker remembers the war with Russia,1 and he remembers what fools we were that we should have meddled there, to bring to ourselves great losses both in trade and money, with no perceptible advantage. He knows that this nation has often been drawn into war for political purposes, and that usually the pressure and burden of it comes upon the poor working man, upon such as have to earn their living by the sweat of their brow. Therefore, though he, like other men, feels hot blooded, and being born an Englishman, feels the blood of the old sea kings often in his veins, yet he represses it, and says to himself, “I must not strive, for the servant of God must be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient.” So he puts his back against the current, and when he hears everywhere the noise of war, and sees many that are hot for it, he does his best to administer a cooling draught, and he says, “Be patient; let it alone; if the thing be an evil, yet war is worse than any other evil. There was never a bad peace yet, and never a good war,” he says, “and whatever loss we may sustain by being too quiet, we shall certainly lose a hundred times as much by being too fierce.” And then in the present case he thinks how bad it would be for two Christian nations to go to war—two nations sprung from the same blood,—two countries which really have a closer relationship than any other two countries upon the face of the earth,—rivals in their liberal institutions,—fellow labourers in propagating the gospel of Christ,—two nations that have within their midst more of the elect of God and more of the true followers of Christ than any other nations under heaven. Yes, he thinks within himself, it would be bad that the bones of our sons and daughters should go again to fertilize our fields, as they have already done. He remembers that the farmers of Yorkshire brought home the mould from Waterloo2 with which to fertilize their own fields—the blood and bones of their own sons and daughters, and he thinks it not proper that the prairies of America should be enriched with the blood and bones of his children; and on the other hand he thinks that he would not strike another man, but would sooner be struck by him, and that blood would be to him an awful sight. So he says, “What I would not do myself, I would not have others do for me, and if I do not wish to be a killer, neither would I wish to have others killed for me.” He envisions himself over a field of battle; he hears the shrieks of the dying and the groans of the wounded; he knows that even conquerors themselves have said that all the enthusiasm for victory has not been able to remove the horror of the dreadful scene after the battle, and so he says, “Indeed, peace, peace!” If he has any influence in the commonwealth, if he is a member of the House of Parliament, if he is a writer in a newspaper, or if he speaks from the platform, he says, “Let us be careful before we hurry into this strife. We must preserve our country’s honour; we must maintain our right to entertain those who flee from their oppressors; we must maintain that England shall always be the safe home for every rebel who flees from his king, a place from which the oppressed shall never be dragged by force of arms; yet still,” he says, “can this happen without bloodshed?” And he bids the law officers carefully examine it and see if they cannot find that perhaps there may have been an oversight committed, which may be pardoned and condoned without the shedding of blood, without the drawing of the sword from its scabbard. Well, he says about war that it is a monster, that at its best it is a fiend, that of all scourges it is the worst; and he looks upon soldiers as the red twigs of the bloody rod, and he begs God not to strike a guilty nation like this, but to put up the sword for awhile, so that we be not thrown into trouble, overwhelmed with sorrow, and exposed to cruelty, which may bring thousands to the grave, and multitudes to poverty. The peacemaker acts like this, and he feels that while he does so, his conscience justifies him, and he is blessed, and men shall one day acknowledge that he was one of the children of God.
5. But the peacemaker is not only a citizen, but a man, and if sometimes he lets general politics alone, yet as a man he thinks that the politics of his own person must always be those of peace. There, if his honour is stained, he does not stand up for it: he consider to be a greater stain to his honour for him to be angry with his fellow man than for him to bear an insult. He hears others say, “If you tread upon a worm it will turn;” but he says, “I am not a worm, but a Christian, and therefore I do not turn, except to bless the hand that strikes, and to pray for those who despitefully use me.” He has his temper, for the peacemaker can be angry, and woe to the man who cannot be; he is like Jacob halting on his thigh, for anger is one of the holy feet of the soul, when it goes in the right direction; but while he can be angry, he learns to “be angry and not sin,” and “he does not allow the sun to go down upon his wrath.” When he is at home, the peacemaker tries to be agreeable with his servants and with his household; he puts up with many things sooner than he will speak one uncomely word, and if he rebukes, it is always with gentleness, saying, “Why are you doing this?—why are you doing this!”—not with the severity of a judge, but with the tenderness of a father. The peacemaker may learn a lesson, perhaps, from a story which I found last week in reading the life of Mr. John Wesley. Going across in a ship to America with Mr. Oglethorpe, who was to be the governor of Savannah, he one day heard a great noise in the governor’s cabin. So Mr. Wesley went there, and the governor said, “I dare say you want to know what this noise is about, sir. I have a good reason for it. You know, sir,” he said, “that the only wine I drink is Cyprus wine, and it is necessary for me; I put it on-board, and this rascal, my servant, this Grimaldi, has drank all of it; I will have him beaten on the deck, and the first ship of war that comes by, he shall be taken by press, and enlisted in his Majesty’s service, and a hard time he shall have of it, for I will let him know that I never forgive.” “Your honour,” said Mr. Wesley, “then I hope you never sin.” The rebuke was so well put, so pointed, and so needed, that the governor replied in a moment, “Alas, sir, I do sin, and I have sinned in what I have said; for your sake he shall be forgiven; I trust he will not do it again.” So the peacemaker always thinks that it is best for him, since he is a sinner himself, and responsible to his own Master, not to be too hard a master on his servants, lest when he is provoking them he may be also provoking his God.
6. The peacemaker goes abroad also, and when he is in company he sometimes meets with slurs, and even with insults, but he learns to bear these, for he remembers that Christ endured much hostility from sinners against himself. Holy Cotton Mather, a great Puritan divine, of America, had received a number of anonymous letters, in which he was greatly abused; having read them and preserved them, he put a piece of paper around them, and wrote upon the paper when he put them on a shelf, “Libels;—Father forgive them!” So does the peacemaker do. He says of all these things, “They are libels,—Father, forgive them!” and he does not rush to defend himself, knowing that he whom he serves will take care that his good name will be preserved, if only he himself is careful how he walks among men. He goes into business, and it sometimes happens to the peacemaker, that circumstances occur in which he is greatly tempted to go to law; but he never does this, unless he is constrained to it, for he knows that law work is playing with sharp edged tools, and that those who know how to use the tools still cut their own fingers. The peacemaker remembers that the law is most profitable to those who carry it on; he knows too, that where men will give sixpence to the ministry for the good of their souls, and where they pay a guinea to their physician for the good of their bodies, they will spend a hundred pounds, or five hundred for a retainer to their counsel in the Court of Chancery. So he says, “Indeed better that I be wronged by my adversary, and he get some advantage, than that both of us should lose everything.” So he lets some of these things go by, and he finds that on the whole, he is none the worse off by sometimes giving up his rights. There are times when he is constrained to defend himself; but even then he is ready for every compromise, willing to give way at any time and in any place. He has learned the old adage, that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” and so he takes heed to it, to agree with his adversary quickly while he is yet in the way, letting strife alone before it is meddled with, or when it is meddled with, seeking to end it as quickly as may be, as is possible in the sight of God.
7. And then the peacemaker is a neighbour and though he never tries to meddle with his neighbour’s disputes, more especially if it is a dispute between his neighbour and his wife, for he knows well that if they two disagree, yet they will both agree very soon to disagree with him, if he meddles between them; if he is called in when there is a dispute between two neighbours, he never stirs them up to animosity, but he says to them, “This is not good, my brethren; why do you quarrel with each other?” And though he does not take the wrong side, but always tries to do justice, yet he always tempers his justice with mercy, and says to the one who is wronged, “Can you not have the nobility to forgive?” And he sometimes puts himself between the two, when they are very angry, and takes the blows from both sides, for he knows that Jesus did this, who took the blows from his Father and from us also, so that by suffering in our place, peace might be made between God and man. Thus the peacemaker acts whenever he is called to do his good offices, and more especially if his station enables him to do it with authority. He endeavours, if he sits upon the judgment seat, not to bring a case to a trial, if it can be arranged otherwise. If he is a minister and there is a difference among his people, he does not enter into the details, for he well knows that there is much idle tittle tattle, but he says, “Peace” to the billows, and “Hush” to the winds, and so he bids men live. They have so little time, he thinks, to live together, that it is best that they should live in harmony. And so he says, “How good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to live together in unity!”
8. But once again, the peacemaker has it for his highest title, that he is a Christian. Being a Christian, he unites himself with some Christian Church; and here, as a peacemaker, he is like an angel of God. Even among Churches there are those who are bowed down with infirmities, and these infirmities cause Christian men and Christian women to differ at times. So the peacemaker says, “This is unseemly, my brother; let us be at peace;” and he remembers what Paul says, “I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord;” and he thinks that if these two were thus admonished by Paul to be of the same mind, unity must be a blessed thing, and he strives for it. And sometimes the peacemaker, when he sees differences likely to arise between his denomination and others, turns to the history of Abram, and he reads how the herdsman of Abram quarrelled with the herdsman of Lot, and he notices that in the same verse it is said, “And the Canaanite and the Perizzite lived in the land.” So he thinks it was a shame that where there were Perizzites to look on, followers of the true God should disagree. He says to Christians, “Do not do this, for we make the devil sport; we dishonour God; we damage our own cause; we ruin the souls of men;” and he says, “Put up your swords into your scabbards; be at peace, and do not fight with each other.” Those who are not peacemakers, when received into a Church, will fight over the smallest thing; will differ about the minutest point; and we have known Churches torn in pieces, and schisms committed in Christian bodies through things so foolish, that a wise man could not perceive the occasion; things so ridiculous, that a reasonable man must have overlooked them. The peacemaker says, “Follow peace with all men.” He especially prays that the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of peace, might rest upon the Church at all times, binding believers together in one, so that they being one in Christ, the world may know that the Father has sent his Son into the world; heralded as his mission was with an angelic song—“Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good will toward men.”
9. Now, I trust in the description which I have given of the peacemaker, I may have described some of you; but I fear the most of us would have to say, “Well, in many things I come short.” However, this much I would add. If there are two Christian men present here, who are at variance with each other, I wish to be a peacemaker, and bid them be peacemakers too. Two Spartans had quarrelled with each other, and the Spartan king, Aris, ordered both of them to meet him in a temple. When they were both there, he heard their differences; and he said to the priest, “Lock the doors of the temple; these two shall not leave this place until they agree;” and there, within the temple, he said, “It is unseemly to differ.” So they settled at once their differences and went away. If this was done in an idol temple, much more let it be done in the house of God; and if the Spartan heathen did this, how much more let the Christian, the believer in Christ do it. This very day, put aside from you all bitterness and all malice, and say each other, “If in anything you have offended me, it is forgiven; and if in anything I have offended you, I confess my error; let the breach be healed, and as the children of God, let us be at peace with one another.” Blessed are those who can do this, for “blessed are the peacemakers!”
Declare His Blessedness.
10. II. Having thus described the peacemaker, I shall go on to DECLARE HIS BLESSEDNESS. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” A threefold commendation is implied.
11. First, he is blessed; that is, God bless him, and I know that he whom God blesses is blessed; and he whom God curses, is cursed. God blesses him from the highest heavens, God blesses him in a godlike manner; God blesses him with the abundant blessings which are treasured up in Christ.
12. And while he is blessed by God, the blessedness is diffused through his own soul. His conscience bears witness that just as in the sight of God through the Holy Spirit, so he has tried to honour Christ among men. More especially he is most blessed when he has been most assailed with curses; for then the assurance greets him, “So they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And whereas he has a command to rejoice at all times, yet he finds a special command to be exceedingly glad when he is poorly treated. Therefore, he takes it well, if for well doing he is called to suffer, and he rejoices thus to bear a part of the Saviour’s cross. He goes to his bed; no dreams of enmity disturb his sleep; he rises and goes to his business, and he does not fear the face of any man, for he can say, “I have not in my heart anything except friendship towards all;” or if he be attacked with slander, and his enemies have forged a lie against him, he can nevertheless say,—
He that forged, and he that threw the dart,
Has each a brother’s interest in my heart.
Loving all, he is thus peaceful in his own soul, and he is blessed as one who inherits the blessing of the Most High.
13. And not infrequently it happens that he is even blessed by the wicked; for though they wish to withhold a good word from him, they cannot. Overcoming evil with good, he heaps coals of fire upon their heads, and melts the coldness of their enmity, until even they say, “He is a good man.” And when he dies, those for whom he has made peace, say over his tomb, “It would be well if the world should see many like him; there would not be half the strife, nor half the sin in it, if there were many more like him.”
14. Secondly, you will observe that the text not only he says is blessed; but it adds, that he is one of the children of God. This he is by adoption and grace; but peacemaking is a sweet evidence of the work of the peaceful Spirit within. As the child of God, moreover, he has a likeness to his Father who is in heaven. God is peaceful, longsuffering, and tender, full of lovingkindness, pity, and compassion. So is this peacemaker. Being like God, he bears his Father’s image. Thus he testifies to men that he is one of God’s children. As one of God’s children, the peacemaker has access to his Father. He goes to him with confidence, saying, “Our Father who is in heaven,” which he dare not say unless he could plead with a clear conscience, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” He feels the tie of brotherhood with man, and therefore he feels that he may rejoice in the Fatherhood of God. He comes with confidence and with intense delight to his Father who is in heaven, for he is one of the children of the Highest, who does good both to the unthankful and to the evil.
15. And still, there is a third word of commendation in the text. “They shall be called the children of God.” They not only are so, but they shall be called so. That is, even their enemies shall call them so; even the world shall say, “Ah! that man is a child of God.” Perhaps, beloved, there is nothing that so strikes the ungodly as the peaceful behaviour of a Christian under insult. There was a soldier in India, a big fellow, who had been, before he enlisted, a prizefighter, and afterwards had performed many deeds of valour. When he had been converted through the preaching of a missionary, all his fellow soldiers made a laughing stock of him. They considered it impossible that such a man as he had been should become a peaceful Christian. So one day when they were at mess hall, one of them wantonly threw into his face and chest a large pot full of scalding soup. The poor man tore his clothes open, to wipe away the scalding liquid, and yet self-possessed amid his excitement, he said, “I am a Christian, I must expect this,” and smiled at them. The one who did it said, “If I had thought you would have taken it in that way, I would never have done it; I am very sorry I ever did so.” His patience rebuked their malice, and they all said he was a Christian. Thus he was called a child of God. They saw in him an evidence that was to them the more striking, because they knew that they could not have done the same. When Mr. Kilpin, of Exeter, was one day walking along the streets, an evil man pushed him from the pavement into the gutter, and as he fell into the gutter, the man said, “Lay there, John Bunyan, that is good enough for you.” Mr. Kilpin got up and went on his way, and when afterwards this man wanted to know how he took the insult, he was surprised that all Mr. Kilpin said was, that he had done him more honour than dishonour, for he thought that being called John Bunyan was worth being rolled in the gutter a thousand times. Then he who had done this said that he was a good man. So that those who are peacemakers are “called the children of God.” They demonstrate to the world in such a way, that the very blind must see and the very deaf must hear that God is truly in them. Oh that we had grace enough to win this blessed commendation! If God has brought you far enough, my hearer, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, I urge you never cease your hunger until he has brought you so far as to be a peacemaker, that you may be called a child of God.
Set the Peacemaker to Work.
16. III. But now, in the third place, I am to try and SET THE PEACEMAKER TO WORK.
17. You undoubtedly have much work to do in your own households and your own circles of acquaintance. Go and do it. You remember well that text in Job—“Can what is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”—by which Job would have us know, that unsavoury things must have something else with them, or else they will not be pleasant food. Now, our religion is an unsavoury thing to men: we must put salt with it; and this salt must be our quietness and peace making disposition. Then those who would have avoided our religion alone, will say of it, when they see the salt with it, “This is good,” and they will find some relish in this “white of an egg.” If you wish to commend your godliness to the sons of men, in your own houses make clear and clean work, purging out the old leaven, so that you may offer sacrifices to God of a godly and heavenly kind. If you have any strifes among you, or any divisions, I urge you, even as God, for Christ’s sake, forgave you, so do likewise. By the bloody sweat of him who prayed for you, and by the agonies of him who died for you, and in dying said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” forgive your enemies, “pray for those who despitefully use you, and bless those who curse you.” Let it be always said of you, as a Christian, “That man is meek and lowly in heart, and would sooner bear injury himself than cause an injury to anyone else.”
18. But the main work I want you to do is this, Jesus Christ was the greatest of all peacemakers. “He is our Peace.” He came to make peace with Jew and Gentile, “for he has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” He came to make peace between all striving nationalities, for we are “no more Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all in all.” He came to make peace between his Father’s justice and our offending souls, and he has made peace for us through the blood of his cross. Now, you who are the sons of peace, endeavour as instruments in his hands to make peace between God and men. For your children’s souls let your earnest prayers go up to heaven. For the souls of all your acquaintance and kinsfolk let your supplications never cease. Pray for the salvation of your perishing fellow creatures. Thus you will be peacemakers. And when you have prayed, use all the means within your power. Preach, if God has given you the ability; preach with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven—the reconciling word of life. Teach, if you cannot preach. Teach the Word. “Be instant in season and out of season.” “Sow beside all waters;” for the gospel “speaks better things than the blood of Abel,” and cries peace to the sons of men. Write to your friends about Christ and if you cannot speak much, speak a little for him. But oh! make it the object of your life to win others for Christ. Never be satisfied with going to heaven alone. Ask the Lord that you may be the spiritual father of many children, and that God may bless you to the ingathering of much of the Redeemer’s harvest. I thank God that there are so many among you who are alive to the love of souls. It makes my heart glad to hear of conversions and to receive the converts; but I feel most glad when many of you, converted by my own instrumentality, under God, are made the means of the conversion of others. There are brothers and sisters here, who bring to me constantly those who have been brought first to this house by them, over whom they watched and prayed, and at last have brought them to the minister, so that he may hear their confession of faith. Blessed are such peacemakers! You have “saved a soul from death, and hidden a multitude of sins.” “Those who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.” They, indeed, in heaven itself “shall be called the children of God.” The genealogy of that book, in which the names of all the Lord’s people are written, shall record that through God the Holy Spirit they have brought souls into the bond of peace through Jesus Christ.
Be a Peacemaker this Morning.
19. IV. The minister has now, in the last place, TO PRACTISE HIS OWN TEXT, AND ENDEAVOUR THROUGH GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE A PEACEMAKER THIS MORNING.
20. I speak to many scores of people this morning who know nothing about peace; for “‘there is no peace,’ says my God, ‘to the wicked.’” “The wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” I do not speak to you with any desire of making a false peace with your souls. Woe to the prophets who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace!” Rather let me, first of all, so that we may make sound work in this matter, expose the peaceless, the warring state of your soul.
21. Oh soul! you are this morning at war with your conscience. You have tried to quiet it, but it will prick you. You have shut up this recorder of the town of Mansoul in a dark place, and you have built a wall before his door; but still, when his fits are on him, your conscience will thunder at you and say, “This is not right; this is the path that leads to hell; this is the road of destruction.” Oh! there are some of you to whom conscience is as a ghost, haunting you day and night. You know the good, though you choose the evil; you prick your fingers with the thorns of conscience when you try to pluck the rose of sin. To you the downward path is not an easy one; it is hedged up and ditched up, and there are many bars and gates and chains on the road; but you climb over them, determined to ruin your own souls. Oh! there is war between you and conscience. Conscience says, “Turn;” but you say, “I will not.” Conscience says, “Close your shop on Sunday;” conscience says, “Alter this system of trade, it is cheating;” conscience says, “Do not lie to each other, for the Judge is at the door;” conscience says, “Away with that drinking cup, it makes the man into something worse than a brute;” conscience says, “Tear yourself away from that unchaste connection, be finished with that evil, bolt your door against lust;” but you say, “I will drink the sweet though it damns me, I will still go to my cups and to my haunts though I perish in my sins.” There is war between you and your conscience. Still your conscience is God’s vicegerent in your soul. Let conscience speak a moment or two this morning. Do not fear him; he is a good friend to you, and though he speaks roughly, the day will come when you will know that there is more music in the very roarings of conscience than in all the sweet and siren tones which lust adopts to cheat you to your ruin. Let your conscience speak.
22. But more, there is war between you and God’s law. The ten commandments are against you this morning. The first one comes forward and says, “Let him be cursed, for he denies me. He has another God besides me, his God is his belly, he yields homage to his lust.” All the ten commandments, like ten great pieces of cannon, are pointed at you today, for you have broken all God’s statutes, and lived in the daily neglect of all his commands. Soul! you will find it a hard thing to go to war with the law. When the law came in peace, Sinai was altogether in a smoke, and even Moses said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake.” What will you do when the law comes in terror, when the trumpet of the archangel shall tear you from your grave, when the eyes of God shall burn their way into your guilty soul, when the great books shall be opened, and all your sin and shame shall be published? Can you stand against an angry law in that day? When the officers of the law shall come forth to deliver you up to the tormentors, and cast you away for ever from peace and happiness, sinner, what will you do? Can you dwell with everlasting fires? Can you abide the eternal burning? Oh man! “agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him: lest at any time the adversary delivers you to the judge, and the judge delivers you to the officer, and you are cast into prison. Truly I say to you, you shall by no means come out of there, until you have paid the uttermost farthing.”
23. But, sinner, do you know that you are at war with God this morning? He who made you and was your best friend you have forgotten and neglected. He has fed you, and you have used your strength against him. He has clothed you,—the clothes you have upon your back today are the livery of his goodness—yet, instead of being the servant of him whose livery you wear, you are the slave of his greatest enemy. The very breath in your nostrils is the loan of his charity, and yet you use that breath perhaps to curse him, or at best, in lasciviousness or loose conversation, to do dishonour to his laws. He who made you has become your enemy through your sin, and you are today still hating him and despising his Word. You say, “I do not hate him.” Soul, I charge you then, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “No,” you say, “I cannot, I will not do that!” Then you hate him. If you loved him, you would keep his great command. “His commandment is not grievous,” it is sweet and easy. You would believe in his Son if you loved the Father, for “he who loves the Father loves him also who is begotten by him.” Are you thus at war with God? Surely this is a sorry plight for you to be in. Can you meet him who comes against you with ten thousand? Yes, can you stand against him who is Almighty, who makes heaven shake at his reproof, and breaks the crooked serpent with a word? Do you hope to hide from him? “‘Can anyone hide in secret places, so that I shall not see him?’ says the Lord. Though you dig in Carmel, yet will he pluck you from there. Though you dive into the caverns of the sea, there he shall command the crooked serpent, and it shall bite you. If you make your bed in hell, he will find you. If you climb to heaven, he is there.” Creation is your prison house, and he can find you when he wishes. Or do you think you can endure his fury? Are your ribs of iron? Are your bones brass? If they are so, yet they shall melt like wax before the coming of the Lord God of hosts, for he is mighty, and as a lion he shall tear in pieces his prey, and as a fire he shall devour his adversary, “for our God is a consuming fire.”
24. This, then, is the state of every unconverted man and woman in this place this morning. You are at war with conscience, at war with God’s law, and at war with God himself. And, now, then, as God’s ambassadors, we come to make peace. I beseech you give heed. “As though God did beseech you by me, I pray you, in Christ’s stead, be reconciled to God.” “In his stead.” Let the preacher vanish for a moment. Look and listen. It is Christ speaking to you now. I think I hear him speak to some of you. This is the way he speaks, “Soul, I love you; I love you from my heart; I would not have you at enmity with my Father.” The tear proves the truth of what he states, while he cries, “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing, but you would not.” “Yet,” he says, “I come to make peace with you. Come, now, and let us reason together. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Sinner,” he says, “you are bidden now to hear God’s note of peace to your soul, for thus it runs—‘You are guilty and condemned; will you confess this? Are you willing to throw down your weapons now, and say, Great God, I yield, I yield; I would no longer be your foe?’” If so, peace is proclaimed to you. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn to the Lord, for he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Pardon is freely presented to every soul that sincerely repents of its sin; but that pardon must come to you through faith. So Jesus stands here this morning, points to the wounds upon his breast, and spreads his bleeding hands, says, “Sinner, trust in me and live!” God proclaims to you no longer his fiery law, but his sweet, his simple gospel, believe and live. “He who believes on the Son is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Oh soul! does the Spirit of God move in you this morning? Do you say, “Lord, I wish to be at peace with you?” Are you willing to take Christ on his own terms, and they are no terms at all—they are simply that you should make no terms in the matter, but give yourself up, body, soul, and spirit, to be saved by him? Now, if my Master were here visibly, I think he would plead with you in such a way that many of you would say, “Lord, I believe; I wish to be at peace with you.” But even Christ himself never converted a soul apart from the Holy Spirit, and even he as a preacher did not win many to him, for they were hard hearted. If the Holy Spirit is here, he may as much bless you when I plead in Christ’s place as though he pleaded himself. Soul! will you have Christ or not? Young men, young women, you may never hear this word preached in your ears again. Will you die at enmity against God? You who are sitting here, still unconverted, your last hour may come, before another Sabbath’s sun shall dawn. You may never see tomorrow. Would you go into eternity “enemies to God by wicked works?” Soul! will you have Christ or not? Say “No,” if you mean it. Say “No, Christ, I never will be saved by you.” Say it. Look the matter in the face. But I hope you do not say, “I will not answer.” Come, give some answer this morning—indeed, this morning. Thank God you can give an answer. Thank God that you are not in hell. Thank God that your sentence has not been pronounced—that you have not received your just deserts. God help you to give the right answer! Will you have Christ or not? “I am not fit.” There is no question of fitness; it is, will you have him? “I am black.” He will come into your black heart and clean it. “Oh, but I am hardhearted.” He will come into your hard heart and soften it. Will you have him?—you can have him if you wish. When God makes a soul willing, it is a clear proof that he means to give that soul Christ; and if you are willing he is not unwilling; if he has made you willing, you may have him. “Oh,” one says, “I cannot think that I might have Christ.” Soul, you may have him now. Mary, he calls you! John, he calls you! Sinner, whoever you may be out of this great throng, if there is in your soul this morning a holy willingness towards Christ, indeed, or if there is even a faint desire towards him, he calls you, he calls you! Oh do not hesitate, but come and trust in him. Oh, if I had such a gospel as this to preach to lost souls in hell, what an effect it would have upon them! Surely, surely, if they could once more have the gospel preached in their ears, I think the tears would bedew their poor cheeks, and they would say, “Great God, if we may only escape from your wrath, we will lay hold on Christ.” But here it is preached among you, preached every day, until I fear it is listened to as an old, old story. Perhaps it is my poor way of telling it; but God knows, if I knew how to tell it better, I would do so. Oh my Master! send a better ambassador to these men, if that will woo them. Send a more earnest pleader, and a more tender heart, if that will bring them to yourself! But oh! bring them, bring them! Our heart longs to see them brought. Sinner, will you have Christ or not? This morning is the day of God’s power to some of your souls, I know. The Holy Spirit is striving with some of you. Lord, win them, conquer them, overcome them! Do you say, “Yes, happy day! I wish to be led in triumph, captive to my Lord’s great love?” Soul, it is done, if you believe. Trust Christ, and your many sins are all forgiven; cast yourself before his dear cross, and say—
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into your arms I fall;
Be my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.
And if he rejects you, tell us about it. If he refuses you, let us hear it. There was never such a case yet. He always has received those who come. He always will. He is an open handed and an open hearted Saviour. Oh sinner! God bring you to put your trust in him once and for all! Spirits above! tune your harps anew; there is a sinner born to God this morning. Lead the song, oh Saul of Tarsus! and follow you with sweetest music, oh Mary, the sinner! Let music roll up before the throne today; for there are heirs of glory born, and prodigals have returned! To God be the glory for ever and ever! Amen.