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God, ought to be serviceable to our peace. I say, to our peace; for God has no need of us and our godliness ; God does not beseech us on his own account to seek peace ; Jesus needed not to weep on this occasion, as if he was in want of any thing that we could him: O no ! all that Jesus preaches, and all that his word teaches us, belongs to our own peace, to our own well-being, and to the salvation of our own souls. Hence the Saviour does not say in a general way, the things which belong to peace, but to thy peace. In truth, all the words and testimonies of God are merely expressions and words of peace to our souls. Let us, therefore, attend the more earnestly, and listen the more affectionately to that which Jesus
Now what is the peculiar subject that we ought to consider ? What is it that our gracious and compassionate preacher of repentance desires us to do, in order that we may attain to peace? The answer is, we must heartily repent, we must really turn from
evil way, unto Him who is ready to receive us; this is what belongs to our peace. To true repentance belongs, first, a sincere acknowledgment and confession of sin. It is our sins that separate between us and our God; it is on account of our sins, that the wrath of God and his displeasure impend over us; and it is because of them that the individual carries about with him a disturbed heart and conscience; this source of all disturbance must be removed before ever we can
enjoy peace. O soul, if thou wilt consider what belongs to thy peace, according to the address and admonition of Christ, begin by considering thy sins; how thou wast conceived and born in sin; how entirely destitute thou art of any thing good; how thou hast transgressed the holy law of God in thought, word, and deed; how thou hast not only sinned thyself, but also given offence to others by thy sins, and thus seduced them to sin and caused them to sin ; how thou hast omitted doing the good which thou wast aware thou oughtest to do, and on the contrary, hast daily advanced further in sin, abused the grace of God, and wilfully perverted it. Acknowledge this, confess this, and peace shall dawn upon thy heart
Many a one, when feeling distress of conscience on account of his sins, seeks to pacify himself by various kinds of imaginary self-righteousness, and thinks to himself, I have not, however, acted so ill as this one or that; I have not lived in gross vices and the practice of shameful things, like such and such a one; I have still much that is good in me; I live peaceably with my neighbours; am neither envious nor revengeful; give every one what belongs to him, and seek rather to be of service to people, than to do them injury; and is able to number up several other such like natural virtues. By this means the man seeks to lull to sleep again his excited conscience, and procure a peace, which however will not stand the test ; this is not considering what belongs to our peace. On the contrary, we must take
the blame to ourselves in every thing, and justify ourselves in nothing. Paul was more devout than any of us; even before conversion he had lived blamelessly; yet, notwithstanding, he gives himself the title of the greatest and the chief of sinners. Although an individual may not have committed great vices, and God have preserved him from them, yet still he has the root and source of sin in his heart. There may also be frequently in men, secret sins, secret offences against God, which in God's sight are more heinous than they appear to men to be. Sin may also be attended with certain circumstances, which may make even little sins great and important. Ah! he that will not acknowledge bis sins, but is desirous of showing himself to the best advantage, neither knows nor considers what belongs to his peace.
Another, who has been disturbed in his conscience on account of his sins, thinks, I will now act in a better manner, I will read the Bible diligently, go regularly to church, receive the sacrament, give alms to the needy, &c. Now all these things are good in themselves, they are laudable, when properly used; but when we wish to use the works we have outwardly performed to pacify our disturbed conscience, now become tender, they avail us not, but we rather by so doing offend the most holy God. This is also not considering what belongs to our peace.
Others again, when they feel disturbed in their consciences on account of their sins, seek to procure peace to themselves, by endeavouring to turn away
their thoughts from the disturbance, under the specious pretence, that they might become much too downcast, might despair, that it might even be a temptation of the evil one. The man then seeks to divert himself in the society of others, by trifling conversation, by hearing and seeing a variety of things; in short, by a variety of amusements, to forget the disturbance of his conscience again, and expel it from his mind. This is a very erroneous consideration of what belongs to our peace; for how long would such a peace last ? Should we not find it would fare with us just in the same manner, as if one should offer a puppet to a child suffering under great bodily pain, sing something to it, go with it to the window, and let it look at something ; how soon does the child forget these trifling diversions, and begin to cry again, because it feels the pain, which all these things could not remove ? O let every one attend to the teachings of divine grace, and seek faithfully to endure its reproofs, and obey them, in order that he may find rest and peace for his heart!
Others, it is true, are conscious of their sins, but they will not confess them; they hide and conceal them, disguise and deny them, so that they also are unable to obtain peace. Thus it once happened to a pious man, I mean the holy David. He says, “ When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long; for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer, Selah.
66 If we
ledged my sin unto thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” (Psalm xxxii. 3-5.) Thus the hiding, concealing, and being silent respecting our transgressions, gives no true peace, nay, it gives no peace at all : it causes a man to bear his burden about with him for days and years together, and torment himself with a hardened and uneasy conscience, because he will not sincerely confess his sins before God, and if needs be, before man also. confess our sins, says John, (1 Ep. i. 9.) God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," and the Apostle James tells us, that we ought to acknowledge our sins to one another : “Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed.” (James v. 16.)
Ah, it is but too often the case, that the individual must be roused and impelled by the stern voice of death, to confess his sins which he has so long covered and concealed, in order that he
obtain peace. Then something often comes to light which was hidden and had long lain concealed in the evil heart. The individual then says, “I have done this or that, if I could only rid my heart of that, I could die quietly !” What can it avail us to cover and conceal our sins! Jesus sees them, Jesus knows them notwithstanding. Is it not better now to look at the catalogue of our sins, now to confess our sins, than to wait with them till we are laid upon a sick