ŇBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God   Matthew 5:9

 

Here is the seventh rule and precept of Christ touching true happiness; wherein observe, first, who are blessed; secondly, wherein this blessedness consists.

 

 

I. The parties blessed are peacemakers. By peace we must understand concord and agreement between man and man. Now peace is twofold: good or evil. Good peace is that which stands with good conscience and true religion. This was among the converts in the primitive church (Acts 4:32), who lived together, and were all of one heart, and one soul. Evil peace is an agreement and concord in evil, as in the practice of any sin against GodŐs commandments. In a word, evil peace is such as cannot stand with true religion and good conscience. Hence Christ spake (Matt. 10:34), saying, I came not to send peace, but a sword; that is, division by means of the doctrine of the gospel. Now in this place, good peace is the quality of those parties that be blessed. Further, by peacemakers, two sorts of men are to be understood: First, all such as have care, so much as in them lieth, to have peace with all men, good and bad. Secondly, such as not only themselves be at peace with others, but also do labour to reconcile parties at variance, and to make peace between man and man. Both these sorts are blessed, that is, they are in a happy state and condition, because this gift of peacemaking is a grace of GodŐs Spirit in them alone who are blessed; for where GodŐs Spirit worketh peace of conscience towards God in Christ, there the same Spirit doth move the party to seek peace with all men; as also to make peace between those that are at variance, so far forth as it may stand with religion and a good conscience. Yet here are certain questions to be scanned touching peace, which will give great light to the better understanding of this rule:

 

Question 1. Seeing peacemakers are blessed, why should they be blamed which seek to make peace between papists and Protestants, by reconciling these two religions? Answer: Because this is not good peace, for there is no more concord between these two religions than is between light and darkness. Whereas it is said, they differ not in substance but in circumstances, both having the same Word, the same creed and sacraments; we must know that notwithstanding all this, yet by necessary consequence of their doctrine and religion, they do quite overturn the foundation of the Bible, of the creed and sacraments; as in the points of justification by works, of human satisfaction, of worshipping saints and images, and their massing sacrifice and priesthood, may soon appear. But they have the same baptism with us? Answer: Baptism severed from the preaching of the Word is no sufficient note of a true church; for the Samaritans had circumcision, and yet the Lord saith (Hos. 1:9), they were not His people. Again, they hold the outward form of baptism, but they overturn the inward power by denying justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Thirdly, baptism is preserved in the church of Rome, not for their sakes, but for the hid church which God hath kept to Himself, even in the midst of all popery; so that if they return to us, we shall accord; otherwise we may not go to them, lest we forsake the Lord.

 

Question 2. If peacemakers be blessed, how can any nation with good conscience make war? Answer: The LordŐs commandment to have peace with all men, doth not bind men simply, but with this condition (Rom. 12:18), if it be possible, as much as in us lieth. But when there is no hope of maintaining peace, then the Lord alloweth a lawful war, such as is for just defence, or claim of our needful due and right; for herein the case standeth with the body politick as it doth with the natural body; while there is hope of health and safety, the physician useth gentle means; but when the case is desperate, then he useth desperate means, and sometimes gives rank poison, to try if by any means life may be saved. And so may the safety of a state be sought by war, when motions of peace will not take place.

 

Question 3. How can suits in law be maintained with good conscience, seeing it can hardly stand with this blessed peace? Answer: So long as means of agreement other ways may be had between man and man, suits in law should not be taken up; for Paul blameth the Corinthians, not only (1 Cor. 6:6) for going to law under heathen judges, but because they lawed for light matters upon small occasions (v.7), why rather (saith he) sustain ye not harm? But if by private means we cannot get or hold our right, we may use the help of law.

 

Question 4. How far forth may one man, or one people, be at peace with another? Answer: League or society between man and man, people and people, is twofold: either of concord, or of amity. The league of concord is when men bind themselves in peace one with another; and this may be had between all men, believers or unbelievers, good or bad (Rom. 12:18), Have peace with all men, saith the apostle. League of amity is when men or people bind themselves one to another in special love, besides their outward concord; and this kind of peace ought only to be had with true believers. Good king Jehosaphat is greatly blamed of the Lord for making this special league with wicked Ahab; Wouldest thou help the wicked (saith the prophet), and love them that hate the Lord? For this thing the LordŐs wrath is upon thee (2 Chr. 19:2).

 

1. Whereas peacemakers are blessed, we are to be admonished, if it be possible to have peace with all men, as much as in us lieth; and within the compass of our callings, to avoid all occasions of contention and strife. St PaulŐs exhortation must here take place (Eph. 4:3), we must hold the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. To the effecting whereof, three virtues are there propounded for our practice: humility, meekness and longsuffering.

 

(1) Humility is a virtue whereby one man thinks better of another than of himself; for this makes a man think basely of himself, in regard of his own sins and corruptions, whereupon he is content to give place unto others, and to yield of his own right, for the maintaining of peace; when as on the other side, pride causeth men to seek for more than their due; and so causeth contention; as Solomon saith (Prov. 13:10), only by pride doth man make contention.

 

(2) Meekness is a virtue whereby a man is gentle in behaviour towards every person, good or bad; this causeth a man to put up injuries, and to forbear wrongs, when occasion of revenge is given him.

 

(3) Longsuffering is a virtue whereby a man doth bear with other menŐs wants, as moroseness and hastiness, and in bearing yields of his own right, for the maintenance of peace; thus dealt Abraham with Lot, when the herdmen were at variance, though he were the superior both for age and place; yet for peaceŐ sake (Gen. 13:8,9), he put Lot to choose the place of his abode, whether on the right hand or on the left.

 

Besides these, there are many other virtues propounded in the writings of the apostles for the maintaining of peace; to wit, humanity, when a man can so carry himself towards all others, that he can take well all indifferent sayings and doings, and construe them to the best part, if it be possible. This is a most needful virtue for Christian peace, which we must follow, and hereunto frame our nature and affections, which are crooked and rebellious of themselves, that so far as is possible, we may have peace with all men; for peace is the bond of every society, of families, towns and commonwealths, without which no state can endure; and Christian religion commends the same unto us (Jam. 3:17), The wisdom which is from above, is pure, gentle, peaceable, full of mercy and good fruits.

 

2. Secondly, if peacemakers between man and man be blessed, then much more happy are they who make peace between God and man; and these are the faithful ministers of the gospel, which set themselves wholly to reconcile men unto God. So Paul (speaking as a peacemaker) saith (2 Cor. 5:20), We beseech you as ambassadors of Christ, that ye be reconciled to God; and therefore all those that by GodŐs grace are set apart for this work, must in sincerity set their hearts, and employ themselves diligently for this end: to reconcile men unto God, and to bring them to peace with God; and in their own conscience, this shall be a seal of the LordŐs mercy towards them, whereby they may assure themselves that they be blessed; for howsoever unto some, their ministries may be the savour of death, yet they are always a sweet savour unto God in Christ.

 

3. Thirdly, hereby we may see what a blessed thing it is, in the day of GodŐs wrath against His people, to stand in the breach, and by earnest prayer to stay His hand, and so to make peace between God and His people by prayer. This was MosesŐ practice many a time, for which he is renowned with all posterity (Psa. 106:23; Exod. 32:10,11). And so did Aaron (Num. 16:47,48), David (1 Sam. 24:17) and many others. This duty concerneth us, for God hath a controversy with our land for the innumerable crying sins hereof, as blasphemy, oppression, contempt of religion, adulteries, and such like. Now when we see the great mortality of our brethren, or hear of treasons and conspiracies, and rumours of wars by enemies, who threaten our overthrow; then must we know that God shakes His rod at us, and then especially is everyone to entreat the Lord more earnestly for mercy and reconciliation; for this is a blessed work of peace, to stay the Lord from the destruction of His people. Read Isa. 59:16; 63:5; Jer. 5:7; 12:11; Ezek. 22:30,31; sundry times God complains of the want of such as should stand in the breach before Him for the land, that He should not destroy it. Behold the weight and worth of this duty in AbrahamŐs intercession for Sodom; for he so far prevailed with the Lord (Gen. 18:32), that if there had been ten righteous persons in Sodom, the whole city had been spared for their sakes; but because there were none, so soon as righteous Lot was got out, it was burned with fire and brimstone from heaven (Gen. 19:24,25).

 

4. Lastly, if peacemakers be blessed, the peace-breakers are cursed. Many there be of this sort, but above all, they are most notorious who disturb the peace of the land, which by GodŐs mercy we have for many years enjoyed. It may be thought we have none such among us, but only traitors, and such as plot with foreign enemies; but the truth is, all those do disturb our peace that walk after their heartsŐ lusts in sin and wickedness, as idolaters, blasphemers, oppressors, drunkards and such like; these are the peace-breakers, who cause the Lord to take away the blessing of peace (Jer. 16:5), the Lord saith that He hath taken His peace from His people; the reason is (v.12) because everyone walketh after the stubbornness of his wicked heart, and would not hear Him; and (Lev. 26:23-25), The sword of the enemy is sent of God, to avenge the quarrel of His covenant. It is then our transgression and rebellion against God that will bring war and rebellion into our land; if this were not, our peace would continue for ever; for (Isa. 32:17) the work of justice shall be peace, quietness and assurance for ever. And (Isa. 54:14) in righteousness shalt thou be established, and be far from oppression. This therefore should move all ungodly persons to repent, and to break off the course of their sins, unless they will continue professed enemies to the peace of the state under which they live.

 

 

II. The second point, wherein the blessedness of these peacemakers consists; namely, in that they shall be called the children of God; that is, they shall be they shall be esteemed and reputed for GodŐs children in this world, of God Himself and all good men; and in the world to come, fully manifested so to be. That this is true happiness will soon appear by the view of the state of every child of God; for they are united unto Christ by the Spirit of grace, by which they are regenerate, and in Christ they are adopted for sons and daughters, and so enjoy GodŐs special grace and favour. Now hereupon they are kingŐs children, having God for their Father, who loves them more tenderly than any earthly parents can love their own children. Secondly, they have Christ for their brother, and so are heirs annexed with Him, having heaven and earth for their possession; (Rev. 1:6) In Him they are made kings and priests unto God; and (1 Cor. 6:3) shall be judges of the world at the last day; yea, they have (Heb. 1:14) the holy angels for ministering spirits to attend upon their persons, for their defence from the power of the enemy, which far surpasseth the dignity of any guard of men on earth whatsoever; all things work together for the best unto them, their crosses and afflictions are no curses, but fatherly trials and chastisements; yea, their sins are turned to their good; to them death is no death, but a sweet sleep unto their bodies, and a straight passage for their souls into eternal glory; yea, in the act of death, they have the comfort of life in the joy of the Spirit, and the angels ready, when breath departeth, to carry their souls to heaven.

 

If this be true happiness, to be called GodŐs children; then they that live after their own wicked lusts, void of all care to keep a good conscience, are miserable and accursed; for they are the children of the devil, serving him in the works of sin, and expressing his image in ungodliness and worldly lusts. It stands men therefore in hand, if they have any care of true happiness, to labour after regeneration; whereby, forsaking the lusts and courses of their former ignorance, and embracing and obeying sincerely the Word of life, they may become GodŐs children, and so happy.

 

Secondly, hast thou received this grace of GodŐs Spirit, whereby thou art inclined to have peace with all men, and to seek for peace between God and thine own conscience, yea, between the Lord and others? Then comfort thyself, thou art the child of God, these motions come from grace. Flesh and blood bring forth no such fruits. Labour therefore to maintain these good motions, with all other pledges of thine adoption, and so shalt thou grow fully assured of thine own happiness. In this age men make much ado to get good assurance of earthly purchases; but what madness is this, so greatly to regard momentary things, and to have no care, in comparison, of our eternal inheritance, which we shal have assured unto us, when we become the children of God.