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Gospel and the Apostle, in exact agreement with his Master, speaks thus to all Christians: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Here, however, it will perhaps be objected :-" But has not Christianity been the cause of many wars, as well as of heats and animosities among the several sects who profess it? Do not individuals often quarrel on the very subject of religion? Does not Christianity, therefore, hinder peace, instead of promoting it; and are not many Christians very far from peaceable?" Two answers must be given to this objection. First, it must be admitted, that Christianity (and we mean real Christianity) has been the innocent cause of many differences. It has necessarily created a new diversity of opinion. Imagine to yourself a family in which all the members agree to forget GOD; and to live wickedly, without upbraiding or reproving one another. And, then, imagine a part of this wicked family (and at first only a small part) to become sensible of their former wickedness, and to begin to lead a new life, and to wish to bring the rest of the family to the same sentiments. Do you not see, that, in such a case, a contention will arise which there was not before; the good, by their conduct, and sometimes also by their speech, reproving the wicked; and the wicked becoming exasperated at the reproof? And to whose fault ought this new contention to be charged? The wicked, no doubt, will be inclined to say, that it is the fault of those who have introduced the new opinions; and who assume themselves to be so much better than their neighbours, but is it not much fairer, to affirm that the wicked are in fault, who are determined to retain their wickedness; expecially if the good should be peaceable in their behaviour, and if this peaceableness of temper should have made a striking part of their very change?
Such is the fair explanation of the manner in which Christianity has been the occasion of new differences. In this respect, we grant that it has broken the peace of the world.
But there is another observation to be made in answer to the objection. Many false Christians have appeared; and these have caused much disputation respecting religion. A rash, vehement, and unguarded conduct has often been confounded with zeal for the Gospel. Some persons think that every kind of religious stir in the world is good and desirable. They forget that the Gospel is the Gospel of peace and should never even be preached in a spirit of hostility and disputation. Reconciliation and peace with GOD, and peace and love among men, are the chief things which it teaches. Whoever, therefore, in attempting to spread the Gospel is only indulging his own natural passions, should not be considered among the real Christians; nor should his Gospel be accounted to be the true Gospel of Christ.
Having thus answered the objection, let us proceed more particularly to consider the duty which is implied in this precept of CHRIST" Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of GOD." The Christian, then, though by his holy singularity he may innocently cause others to take offence, will himself endeavour to be at peace with every one. He will be engaged in healing quarrels, not in inflaming them; his very profession will be that of a peacemaker. Are any persons at variance?-He is glad to compose strife, to lessen differences, and to calm down all the bad passions of men. His own tempers having been subdued and regulated by the Gospel, he is qualified to become a mediator to others; and he is willing to become umpire in any dispute, which he can indulge the hope of being able to compose. While other men, by their ungoverned tempers, enter into quarrels themselves, and, also, by the rashness of their tongues, encourage heats and animosities in others, the Christian is prudent and gentle; he fears lest, by spreading a false tale, or by making a hasty charge, or by taking too strong a side either with one party or another, he should be the means of increasing feuds; he therefore keeps his tongue as with a bridle; he
does not repeat one half the tales which he has heard, be cause he knows that peace will best be promoted by his silence; and he prefers peace to the indulgence of his vanity, or of his talkativeness. Do any speak violently to him? He does not answer them as violently, for he wishes to be at peace with them; he is such a lover of peace that he will not break it, though he should be reflected on for his quietness. He pursues this cautious plan, healing many quarrels, and causing none; and labouring to bring all men to love one another. War and discord are his aversion. A national war he will be slow to justify: he will join in it only on the ground of self-defence, and of its appearing not to be avoided with safety. And lastly, he will be a in matters of religion. "The wisdom promoter of peace which is from above, is first pure, indeed, and then peaceable." It is pure in the first place, and peaceable in the second. After looking well, therefore, in the first place to the purity of religion, he will next consider how peace may best be consulted. "Peace, he will say, as well as grace, be with all them that love the LORD JESUS in sincerity." He will rate very highly the importance of preserving peace in the Church of God; and will be very fearful of multiplying sects and creating needless dissension. He knows that edification is best promoted amidst the tranquillity of the Church: for the "fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." It is not sown amidst the noisy disputation and virulent invectives of angry and contending parties.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 10, 11, 12.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; so: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall
say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake : Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
OUR SAVIOUR here sets before his disciples the opposition and persecution which they were to expect in this world, on the one hand; and the glorious reward in a life to come, on the other. His doctrine would, in this respect, seem new to his hearers. The Pharisees were of a religion which brought to them much honour from men; and the general body of the Jews had no idea that a man's religious faith would expose him to trial and persecution. The religion, indeed, both of the Pharisees, and of the body of the Jews, was an easy and popular religion; it was not the struggling religion of a minority. The professors of it had only to swim with the stream; they neither combated their own natural corruption, nor the common errors and iniquities of the age.
In this respect the disciples of CHRIST were to differ from the Jews; and of this difference our SAVIOUR gives notice, in the passage which we are considering. It is, as if He had said, "Think not that if you are my followers, all men shall speak well of you. Far from it;-if you follow me, you must expect much reproach." The servants of God have in all ages been the objects of censure to those who lived at the same time with them; though they may have been extolled by the worldly people of succeeding ages. Learn, therefore, to consider the opposition of the age in which you live, as a proof that you are followers of
the Prophets who went before you; and be content to be as ill received as they. "Blessed are they which are per secuted for righteousness' sake. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake: Rejoice and be exceed. ing glad." Account yourselves happy in the midst of your persecutions; for great is your reward in Heaven. Look forward to that immense recompense which awaits you; and which shall be proportioned to your persecutions here on earth. Take care, indeed, that you are reviled not for that which is evil, but for that which is good. Be sure that whatever is said against you, be said "falsely," and "for my sake." Let the reproach be on account of faithfulness to my cause; and while you continue thus faithful and thus reproached, not only be not cast down, but rejoice, even, and be exceeding glad; for "great is your reward in Heaven."
Such was our SAVIOUR'S language to his disciples; and it is no small proof of the truth of his religion that it was received under such discouraging circumstances. They embraced persecutions and tribulations, having been told to expect them; but they embraced at the same time the hope of eternal glory; and this hope supported them, even under the pains of martyrdom. Though, for a time, fearful and weak in faith: yet, when endued with that "power from on high," which they received on the day of Pentecost, they learned to fear the face of no man. We find, that, when beaten with many stripes, "they rejoiced, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of CHRIST;" we read, also, that Paul and Silas, when in prison,
sung praises to GOD;" and we hear the Apostle thus expressing himself" For Thy sake we are killed all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Who shall separate us from the love of CHRIST? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or uakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us