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ON THE PEACE ARISING FROM TRUST IN
Isaiah xxvi. 3.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.
IT might be thought, that in a world so full of troubles and evils as the present, a proposal to keep the mind in perfect peace would be received with serious attention at the least; with eagerness, if it promised to be successful, and, if made in the name and by the authority of God, with the most confident expectation of the blessing. Nothing can be more evident than that men stand greatly in need of a support upon which to rest their troubled minds. All are exposed to distress in various ways; from severe and painful disappointments; from still more serious calamities; and from fears and forebodings of evil, which are often as painful as the realities themselves. Nay, a very considerable number are actually suffering under trials which threaten continually to overwhelm them. Peace is more or less
a stranger to the bosom of them all. They live in a state of restless agitation, far, very far, from the calm and quiet which they crave; and yet, even in this state of mind, there are but few who will give that welcome to the promises of the Bible which, from the nature and design of them, we might so reasonably expect. They want peace, but they do not think of finding it there. I speak not here of unbelievers, but of persons who, in a general way, give credit to the revelation of God. Many, even of these, will go on sorrowing in their afflictions without hope, as if there were really no hope for them: and, while the short and sure road to peace is marked out, by God himself, in the Scriptures; while the Gospel, which they hold in their hands, sets the object of their wants and wishes in full view before them; they make as little use of that Gospel in their distress, have as little expectation of relief, or support, or comfort from it, as if they were infidels and heathens. The fact will not be disputed, but how must it be accounted for? Chiefly I conceive from the very low and false ideas which men entertain of the nature and design of religion. They do not consider it as a remedy which the mercy of God provides for all the miseries of our condition. They view it not as his manifestation of grace and good-will to man, but rather as a system of painful duties which he requires them to discharge. Looking first at the self-denial and sacrifices which it demands, and forming their conceptions of its nature from these views, they consider it rather as adding to their burdens, as calculated, by the heavy obligations which it imposes, to produce deeper gloom and more painful anxiety, and thus to increase and aggravate their distresses; than as contributing in any way to their consolation, or as likely to promote the peace and happiness of their lives. This is indeed the impression which minds corrupt like ours would be apt, in the first instance, to receive from so pure and holy a religion. Its contrariety to their own nature would seem to afford but little hope of comfort:
and they would of course be but little inclined to look for comfort there.
But, O ye sons and daughters of affliction, allow me to present religion to you under another aspect, which is perhaps new, but which ought to be peculiarly interesting to you.- propose it as the best and surest source of peace. This it professes to be: let it be our part to make the trial. The Scripture declares, that God will keep that man in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. Give credit to this declaration. Do not practically deny the truth of a revelation which you profess solemnly to believe. Remember that this is not a detached and solitary position. It is not one passage of Scripture only which declares, that true peace is to be found by trusting in God; but the doctrine is every where interwoven into the very fabric and texture of Divine truth. Happy would you be if you would give entire credit to it.
The words of my text naturally suggest three points of consideration:
I. The nature of the duty here commended, that of staying the mind on God.
II. The blessing annexed to it; a state of permanent and perfect peace; and,
III. The reason assigned for communicating this blessing, because confidence is placed in God.
My chief object in this discourse will be to explain the first of these; namely, the nature of the duty here commended.
To stay the mind on God is to trust in him confidently; to repose securely on his care and protection; to be persuaded that he will order and appoint all things well; to place a firm reliance on the goodness of his nature, and on the certainty of his over-ruling providence.
But here we should very carefully distinguish between a just and well-founded confidence in God, and a confidence not just, and not well-founded, which is too often mistaken for it.
Many persons entertain a kind of trust in God, neither founded on the principles nor warranted by the authority of Scripture. They conceive of God as of a being infinitely kind and good, who pities the miseries of his creatures, and though circumstances may not admit of the entire removal of them at present, will yet, in a short time, effect his gracious purpose, and either make amends to them in this life for their sufferings, or give them ample recompence in the life to come. According to this system, therefore, there is evil in the world, which seems to have sprung up independently, as it were, of God, the progress of which he is continually counteracting and will ultimately overcome; though time must elapse before he completes the triumph. And the duty of man therefore is, to suffer with patience and cheerfulness, in a full persuasion of the power and goodness of his Creator, and that he will make all things work for good.
The system is the more dangerous, because it wears the mask of piety. By representing God in an amiable point of view, as a most gracious benevolent being, it appears as if framed to do him honour, while it is in fact a misrepresentation of his nature; and directly contrary to the character he has given of himself. Being well suited to a sceptical turn of mind, it is a favourite system with Deists and freethinkers of all times. And tending necessarily to allay all apprehension of God's wrath, and to prevent all remorse or compunction for sin, it leads men quietly on in the path of destruction, even while they flatter themselves that theirs are the most exalted conceptions of the Deity, and the only just views of his religion.Moreover, it is no novelty. The error of the Manichees, an heretical sect in the early ages of the Church, was at bottom very much the same. It supposed, that there were two beings or principles of contrary qualities and dispositions, from whose contending influence resulted the mixed and chequered state of things on earth; the one unhappy and malignant, the author of all the evil which
we see; the other blessed and benevolent, continually resisting that evil, and author of all the good which prevails in the creation.
Modern infidels, indeed, have dropped the idea of two independent warring powers: but they still account for the evil on principles much the same, as originating against the will of the supreme and merciful Creator; as what he is continually opposing, and will certainly at last destroy. They do not look upon evil as inflicted immediately by God, but rather as an imperfection, the ground of which was laid in the very constitution of moral beings; and which, though it cannot be entirely prevented, will yet be graciously overruled in the issue, to the production of a much greater degree of good.
I would earnestly warn you, my brethren, against admitting any representation of God, as a good and merciful being, which does not clearly and fully acknowledge his justice also.-Of the Divine goodness it is impossible to form conceptions too high, but it is easy to form false ones; such as are equally contrary to Scripture and to fact, and such as are of dangerous tendency, though masked under a specious appearance. His justice is full as important a part of his character; and it is as fully manifested to us. To trust aright in God, we must trust in a being such as God is described to us in Scripture; a being holy, and angry with the wicked; just in punishing transgression, though long-suffering and of great goodness to those who seek and serve him. Every thing in our religion depends on the kind of Deity which we frame to ourselves. Men may flatter themselves that they trust in God, when they trust only in a phantom of their own imagination; a being, perhaps, as unlike the God of Scripture, as the Jove of the ancients, the Allah of the Mahometans, the Brama of the Hindoos, or the Great Spirit of the American Indians.
To trust in God aright, is, also, to place a confidence in him which is warranted by his own word.-Having