These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John, 16 Chap. 33 Ver.
These words are the parting expressions of our blessed Redeemer to his beloved disciples. The last words of our departed friends generally leave a lasting impression on our minds, and are not easily forgotten. Notwithstanding the last words of many of the ungodly are awfully terrific; yet many of the children of God have left a clear testimony behind them that they died in the Lord. If Servin died with his glass of ardent spirits in his hand, cursing, swearing, and denying the existence of God; Addison died exclaiming, By divine grace how great is man, by divine mercy, how stingless is death! If Francis Newport died wishing to be a thousand years burning in a natural fire, to obtain the favor of God, and breathed his last breath with the expressions, - intolerable, hell, and damnation; Dr. Lealand died saying that he was risen above the fear of death by the promises of the Gospel; for I know that my Redeemer liveth. Notwithstanding that Voltaire being told by his Physician that he could not live six weeks, died saying then I must go to hell; Walker died exclaiming with raptures of joy, heaven is opened unto me; I shall soon be there. Altamont died, exclaiming, O time, time! is it right for thee to strike thy murderer on the heart, and
fly away from me forever: time is lost, is lost, is lost ! the hottest place in hell is for me ! but hell itself would be a relief, if it were without the wrath of God. James Harvey said on his dying bed, "How thankful I am for death; it is the way to the Lord, the Author of eternal life. Welcome, welcome death; for me to live is Christ, to die is gain. Let thy servant depart in peace for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Romaine in his last moments said, The peace of God is in my conscience, and the love of God is in my heart. Glory. to God in the highest, for the enjoyment of such peace on earth. The friend of sinners died, saying, Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. The disciples did not understand as yet that the redemption of sinners was to be obtained by the death of the Messiah. When Christ was put to death, he sunk down to the lower parts of the earth, out of their sight in order to raise up sinners; but their faith could not follow him to the deep. Nicholas Pisces sunk to the sea to raise a golden cup, but neither he nor the cup ever came up. A man clothed in glass, went down to the bottom of the sea to attempt setting things in order to raise the Royal George, the man came up, but the ship remained in the bottom; but our blessed redeemer clothed in humanity descended to the depth of death, and raised his church from the most dreadful pit of perdition, and founded her upon the rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against her.
We would notice
I. The peace that is in Christ in opposition to the tribulation that is in the world, and
II. The victory of Christ over the world the source of comfort and joy to believers.
I. The peace that is in Christ in opposition to the tribulation
that is in the world. That in me ye might have peace. I know what you will have in the world, - nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit. I will put my peace in the other end of the scale, against the mountains of the tribulations of the world. Peace in Christ is peace with God, and peace of conscience. The peace that is in Christ is like an ocean sufficiently large to swallow up ten millions of fiery mountains. Let us imagine the awakened sinner, so deeply convinced, and his feelings so acute that the great and terrible name of the only true God, - his stern justice, his spotless holiness, - terrifies him like everlasting burnings, so that it is death for him to touch the mountains where God is; and he feels himself as a dry stubble ready to be consumed. The moment the Holy Spirit reveals unto him the peace and reconciliation through the blood of the cross, so that he can see the eternal power and Godhead raising from the grave to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins, there is a lively hope cherished in the soul, the burning mountains that were issuing forth fears and terrors are in a moment buried in the bottom of that sea of peace which is in Christ. Here is the eternal power in peace with the Son of Mary, and all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, and speaking as it were in raising from the grave, There is no other God but me, a just God, and a Saviour.
This peace is in Christ, - and where there is peace there is no condemnation. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is not the least drop of condemnation in Christ, no more than the water of the deluge was in Noah's Ark.
A man in a trance seeing himself locked up in a house of steel, through which he could see his enemies as through a glass, with their staves, swords, aud stones, attacking him, but his life was safe, for the steel house was locked inside. Your life is hid with Christ in God. The Psalmist prayed that he might be led to the rock that was higher than himself. Imagine a man seated on a high rock in the sea, where there is every thing necessary for his support, shelter and safety, as well as all the comforts of life. He is surrounded by voracious and hungry fishes, gnashing their teeth at him, ready to devour or swallow him alive, but he is too high for their reach, and too secure for them to hurt him. But what need have I to mention the rock and the steel house? for the peace that is in Christ is ten thousand times stronger tower and safer refuge. We may behold some of the martyrs of Jesus attacked by the famine, nakedness and swords; others by gloomy dungeons, wild beasts, and violent fires to consume their bodies; others sawn asunder, tempted, mocked, and scourged; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; but to finish our view of the tribulation of the world, we shall add death in all its terrors, life with all its allurements, present things with all their enchantments, things to come, covered with the wealth of futurity, - the height of prosperity nor the depth of adversity, the black angels, and their infernal principalities; these - all these with their most formidable appearance shall not be able to remove nor destroy the peace of those who are in Christ Jesus. They shall all be swallowed up by the mighty ocean, - of peace in him. Though the earth be removed out of its place, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and ba troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. This is the languege of strong faith in
the peace of God. How is it with you after such confusion? There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her and that right early. The peace of God like a strong fort will cheer their minds, and cause them to rejoice in the God of their salvation; as a city well supplied, and defended by the King's Life Guards. The fear of the grave, all the darkness of the shadow of death, and all the dark mountains between us and eternity must fly away like the mist of the morning before the glorious beams of the sun of righteousness. If the bright and morning star is risen in your hearts, it will be daylight when you cross over Jordan, which will make you very comfortable and happy to go home to your Father's house above, to see your elder brother and be forever with him. Look at old Simeon hoisting up his sails yonder, saying, Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. This peace is made between heaven and earth - between God and man and sealed by the blood of the cross.
In order to form any adequate idea of the inestimable value of Peace; we must enter the field of battle, and mark with strict attention, the awful desolation of war. When we witness the number of the dead lying on the ground, and ourselves wading as it were in the blood of our fellow creatures: - when we hear the shrieks and dying groans of the wounded; - when we behold the country lying waste; - property destroyed; houses pillaged and burnt, - the women ravaged - and the little children dashed against the walls! We cannot forbear exclaiming - O! what a blessing is peace!
When necessity urges us to witness family turmoils where parents and children, husbands and wives, masters
and servants, - bespeak aloud by their very looks, words and actions, confusion and opposition to each other; we retire with more painful feelings, than from a smoky house, and mutter as we go, O! what a blessing is peace!
If duly calls usto attend with that Church where discord, contention, envy, malice, hatred, evil speaking, and pride, put all in confusion; - we leave the unhallowed spot reiterating the words - how valuable is peace!
But when we think of the sinner who has lived in opposition to the law and service of Jehovah, whose conscience is awakened and looks for relief; but where? - If he looks to his past thoughts, words and actions - he is pronounced, Thou art verily guilty. He stands - he listens - and hears the solemn sound of the trumpet from Mount Sinai, summoning him to appear. As he approaches he beholds the mountains enveloped in thick darkness, - he hears the rolling thunders, - he sees the vivid lightnings running along the ground with inconceivable rapidity, - he feels the earth shaking beneath his feet as if ready to swallow him alive to the pit, - there he hears the awfully just and irrevocably holy sentence proclaimed from the thick darkness - Cursed is every one, that continueth not to do all the things written in the book of the law. He shudders - he trembles - he looks wild around him. What does he see? Hell opening her fiery mouth ready to swallow him to the gulph of endless misery. He sighs - he cries, Oh! Oh! what? I Oh! what shall I do to be saved? A voice whispers in his ears, which reaches his heart, Behold the Lamb of God on Calvary - by the sacrifice of himself, taking away the sin of the world. No sooner he looks by faith to the bleeding Saviour, than he finds all the horrors from without and the worst temptation from within, are hushed to silence - and all is peace; - peace
with God, peace with conscience through the blood of Jesus. My peace I leave with you says our blessed Redeemer.
When we think of the innumerable changes and vicissitudes of human life. The bereavements, and opposition the poor believer meets in his way through this world, how precious the jewel of peace in his bosom. - To be fully persuaded that Jesus who has loved him even unto death, sits at the helm of universal government, who can say when he pleases to the highest storms, and most boisterous waves of affliction and trial: Be still! and they are hushed to silence at his word. But should the voyage of human life be rough and dangerous we have an able pilot to lead us safe to the desired haven. In the darkest dispensations of providence he is taught to trust when he cannot trace the footsteps of his Divine Master. "For thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusted in thee." The true believer may sing with the poet,
Good when he gives - supremely good.
Nor less when he denies;
E'en crosses from his sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.
II. The victory of Christ over the world, the source of comfort and joy to believers. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. The world is one of the three castles that Belial built upon the earth; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. In one of the three temples in these three castles, every one by nature is worshipping. The world has two ways to fight. The one as a lamb, the other as a lion. In its smiles it appears like a lamb to allure the children of men to its den. In its frowns it is like an angry lion, or an exasperated dragon. Its frowns have killed thousands; but its smiles have murdered millions. A certain man laid out a rule that all must take the world as
it is; however there is no human rule without exception. Christ the conqueror of the world is an exception here. The prince of the world personally clothed in all the meekness of a lamb, met the Son of God in the wilderness, when he was alone in poverty and distress, being wearied, hungry, and thirsty, and offered him all the kingdoms of the world, for which there have been so much fighting; but Jesus refused the offer, and chose rather to be poor that we might be made rich. - After that the frowns of the world made an attack upon him. There was an attempt made to cast him over the rock, after he preached his first sermon. The archers shot most bitterly against him from the armor box of the world's frowns; as if all hell were let loose, and humanity itself, and all good manners infernalized. His name was cast out as a man that had a devil; he was falsely sworn against, - spit upon and mocked; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, that was united to the man Christ Jesus who died on the cross that we might live. Who will convince me of sin? In him was no sin. Being tempted in all things, yet without sin. Jesus is the only one, that went through the world without sin.
This is a glorious victory, that Jesus gained over the world in the greatness of his strength when he rose from the grave the third day. Glorious in his apparel as the head and representative of his people. Though he stood on the lower ground of poverty, yet he conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil. He went through the great forest of temptation, the hiding places of lions, and the mountains of leopards; he left them all gasping for breath, and struggling with the pangs of death. It is true that Alexander the great gained the empire of the world; but he did not live to keep nor enjoy it, death
feeds on him in the grave till the morning of the resurrection. But Jesus died to obtain for himself a glorious and immortal kingdom, and is alive forever more to defend and enjoy it. For he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. He died to gather a testament full of riches, and is alive to confer them to whomsoever he will. He died to reconcile sinners to God; he is alive to deliver them from the wrath to come, by drawing them to himself Jesus is alive to hold in his hand that which he redeemed by his death.
Be of good cheer, all ye that love him, believe in him and trust in him. Christ has conquered all your enemies for you, and he will ultimately conquer all your inward foes; so that you shall be more than conquerors through him who loved you.and hath given himself a ransom for you. In the things his enemies were proud he was above them. Pharoah was proud that Israel was shut up between Piahiroth. and Baalzeppon, the sea before them, and the Egyptian army behind them; but the God of Israel was higher than Pharoah; he could see farther; his arm was stronger and his design was firmer. He said to the children of Israel, stand still You are not able to raise this rampart, I will do it myself. I will open the sea and lead you through on dry land: and the Egyptians who have drowned so many harmless infants of the Hebrews, shall know by sad experience what it is to be drowned; yes, all of them, from the King to the last footman.
A servant of Julian the apostate asked one of the martyrs, What is the carpenter, your God, doing now in heaven? He answered, Making a coffin for thy master - Julian soon afterwards was killed by an arrow shot at him by one of the Scythians. The blind deaf, and dumb devils of Judea, with all their pride could not stand before the Son of Mary. The idols of Egypt trembled
before him. This is the only victory we have over the world, even our faith in Him who conquered the world by water and blood. Both water and blood ran from his side on the cross, denoting that atonement and sanctification flow unto us from the unfathomable sea of the infinite merit of the blood of Christ.
May his merits fill the whole universe.
Caiaphas was mighty proud that Christ was under the King's seal in the grave; but his carnal and ungodly mirth was like the crackling of thorns under a pot, only for a short duration. On the dawning of the third day, Cassar's seal is broken, the stone rolled away; the iron gate of death is broken: the Savior of sinners is risen, and Caiaphas' feast of joy turned to lamentation and wo; like the feast of Belshazzar in former times; and the hand of the Godhead and the eternal power written with an immortal pen, in the language of eternity; that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God with power.
The saints, the followers of the Lamb, shall triumph, though they die. John in a vision was permitted to see an innumerable multitude, of those, who had fully realized the truth contained in our text, they were of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, and they stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; to signify the glorious victory they had gained. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And one of the elders answered, saying unto John, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? So wonderfully were they changed since he saw them in this world dragged to prisons, thrown to wild beasts, and tortured to death, that he confessed that he knew them not. Then said the elder unto him - These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have
washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. - they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. - Here we loose thair exceeding sorrow in this world, in their unspeakable joy in heaven; their disgrace in their glory, and their death in their life there. They overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
From what has been said we evidently see that we cannot serve God and mammom. If we love the world the love of Christ is not in us. It is not a prevailing characteristic of human nature, to court poverty and obscurity, rather than the glare which wealth diffuses, and the honors which genius has won. It is repugnant to the feelings and the animal instincts of our nature. It is contrary to the evidence of experience, the dictates of selfishness, and the bias of the inclination. The motives which stimulate action and rouse industry, are numerous and diversified, as inclination may lead, or necessity enforce. The influences which almost insensibly actuate our desires, moderate their exuberance, and restrict their aberrations, are various; derived partly from nature, and gain an additional strength by the concentrated rays which education dispenses, and the force which competition produces and engenders. The passions are right and laudable when enlightened and directed by a well disciplined understanding, and guided by the revealed will of God. It is when they invade the dominion of reason, and acquire a too powerful ascendant over the mind, and are fixed on wrong objects that they defeat the
purpose for which they were intended. Christianity does not extinguish the passions: it only brings them under the guidance of high and holy principles, and the immediate direction of their pole-stars on earth - reason and conscience. The man of the world and the man attached to religion, are totally different characters; there is an equal aversion on either side, to adopt the practices of the one, and to follow the precepts of the other. They are each of them guided and impelled by their respective leaders. Religion forbids that thirst for fame, that ambition for glory, and that intense solicitude for acquiring wealth and power, when made the ultimate design and scope of attainment; and the pervading principles of the actions and life.
The injunctions are as much superior to those, as the the fulness of the sun exceeds the glimmering of a candle, or the immensity of the ocean the dimensions of a diminutive river. The sentiments which religion emphatically enforces, are such as these: Set the affections on things above. Lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can corrupt. Have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. These declarations of inspiration are essentially from the aphoristic language of the worldly code; they differ as much in elevation of thought and purity of morals, as in spirituality and heavenliness of aim.
Religion will never lose any thing by comparison with the world, whether we view their respective merits in raising man to the scale of enjoyment, in life or death, as his conduct on earth, or his guide to immortality.
When the influences it emits are preached, and its operations abiding, it becomes the consoler and sustainer of man under exigencies the most powerful, under calamities the most distressing, bereavements the most heart-rending, disappointments the most soul subduing, of which
it is possible to form conception, or realize an estimate. We may see abundant confirmation of this remark in the character of the Martyrs, of whom it might be said in the world they had their share of tribulation. They were men valiant for the truth, - men who met adversity in her harshest forms, - sufferings with the most excruciating torture, - and death in its most terrific attitudes.
But they trusted in God, relied on his promises, and the infinite merits of the crucified Saviour. Their foundation was sure, and they had a vitality within them that remained unmoved by death. They were actually cheerful in the midst of flames. The smiles of their God made amends for the frowns of their foes. The Apostle Paul, as well as many others too numerous to mention now, had his share of these tribulations; but the religion of Jesus was his support and consolation when he was led bound to Jerusalem, in prospect of tortures, imprisonment, and death; and which was his comfort and guide, in weariness, and painfulnesss, in watchings often, and hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. The apostles, as well as numbers in the after history of the Church, in vindication of their principles braved death, and remained unmoved by the most excruciating punishments that human invention could divine, and displayed a fortitude that astonished their persecutors. These illustrious men were inspired by the same hopes, animated by the same prospects, and sustained by the same power, that is sufficient for the weakest who might be called to pursue the same toilsome journey, and prosecute the same arduous career. - See Imperial Magazine and Fox's Book of Martyrs.
[From J. Davis, editor, Christmas Evans, Sermons on Various Subjects, Sermon IV, 1837, pp. 68-80. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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