Christ hath left us his peace, as the great and comprehensive legacy, "My peace I leave you," John xiv.27. And this was not peace in the world that he enjoyed; you know what his life was, a continual warfare; but a peace above the world, that passeth understanding. "In the world you shall have trouble, but in me you shall have peace," saith Christ, -- a peace that shall make trouble no trouble. You must lay your accounts to have such a life as the forerunner had; but withal, as he hath left us his trouble, so hath he left us his peace; the trouble will have an end, but the joy can no man take from you. We have this sure promise to rest upon, in behalf of the church, peace shall be in Israel; a peace that the world knoweth not, and so cannot assault it, or take it away. O that ye would hearken to this word, that ye would trust in the Lord, and stay upon your God, then should your peace be as a river, Isa. xlviii.18. There is nothing more desired in time of trouble than peace; but all peace is not better than war: some necessary war is better than evil-grounded peace. The kingdoms have been long in pain, labouring to bring forth a safe and well-grounded peace. But, alas! we have been in pain and brought forth wind; when we looked for peace, no good came, and for healing, behold trouble. But how shall we arrive at our desired haven? Certainly, if peace be well-grounded, it must have truth for its foundation, and righteousness for its companion; truth must spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven. This were the compendious way for public peace, if every man would make his own peace with God. There are controversies with God, between king, nobles, and people; and therefore God fomenteth the wars in the kingdoms. If you would have these ended, make peace with God in Christ, by flying in unto him, and resting on him; more trusting in God would despatch our wars; trusting in the arm of flesh continueth them. Always whatever be, peace or war, here is the business that more concerns you, -- your eternal peace and safety; and, if ye were more careful of this, to save your own souls, you would help the public more. If you could be once persuaded to be Christians indeed, we needed not press many duties in reference to the public; and until you be once persuaded to save yourselves, by flying from the wrath to come, it is in vain to speak of public duties to you. We do therefore declare unto you the way of obtaining perfect peace, -- peace as a river; if you will quit all self-confidences, flee from yourselves as your greatest enemies, and trust your souls unto the promise in Jesus Christ, and lean all your weight on him, we assure you, your peace shall run abundantly and perpetually. Whoever trusteth in creatures, in uncertain riches, in worldly peace, in whatsoever thing besides the only living and glorious Lord, we persuade him, that his peace shall fail as a brook. All things in this world shall deal deceitfully with you, as a brook which is blackish, by reason of ice; what time it waxeth warm, it shall evanish. You that looked and waited for water in it shall be confounded, because you hoped, and are ashamed because of your expectation. Job vi.15, &c. The summer shall dry up your peace, and what will ye do? But if you pour out your souls on him, and trust in the fountain of living waters, you shall not be ashamed, for your peace shall be as a river. The elephant is said to trust that he can drink out a river; but he is deceived, for he may drink again, -- it runs, and shall run for ever. If any thing would essay to take your peace from you, it is a vain attempt, for it runs like a river; it may be shallower and deeper, but it cannot run dry, because of the living fountain it proceedeth from. There is no other thing can be made sure; all besides this is uncertain, and this only is worthy to be made sure; nothing besides this can give you satisfaction.
Are your hearts asking within you, how shall this peace be attained? If you desire to know it, consider these words, "Whose heart is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." It concerneth you much to know well, what this is that your eternal peace depends on.
Trusting in God, is the leaning of the soul's weight on God. The soul hath a burden above it, heavy and unsupportable, and this the truster casteth upon God; and so he is a loadened and weary man, whom Christ exhorteth to come to him, and he shall find ease for his soul, Matt. xi.28; Prov. iii.5. Leaning to ourselves, and trusting in God are opposed. Psal. xxii.10, trusting is exponed(296) to be "a casting upon God." Psal. xxv.1, it is called, "a lifting up the soul to him." This one thing is included in the bosom of trusting and believing, that a man hath many burdens too heavy for him, which would sink him down: the believer is such a one as Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx.12, "O Lord, we have no might against this great company, neither know we what to do." O Lord, I have an army of iniquities against me, a great company compasseth me about; an army of curses as numerous as mine iniquities; both are innumerable as the sand of the sea; I have no might against them, neither know I what to do: nay, the Lord is against me, his wrath is like the roaring of a lion; what can I do against him? The first beginning of trusting in God is distrusting ourselves; and until a man see his duty and burden beyond his strength, his burden greater than he can bear, you will never persuade him to come to Jesus Christ, and lean on him. We will not preach any such doctrine, as to discharge any to come to Christ, till they be wearied and loaden; for, when a man conceiveth that he wanteth that weariedness, whither shall he go to find it? Is there any fountain, but one, Jesus Christ, both of grace and preparations to it, if any such be? But this we preach unto you, that until you be wearied and loaden, you will not cast your burden on Jesus. We need not discharge you to come till you be such, for certainly you will not come. This is the desperate wickedness of our hearts, that we will never forsake ourselves till we can do no better. Until men be as David, "I looked on the right hand, and there was none would know me; refuge failed me," certainly they will not cry to God. Men will look round about them, before they will look up above them; they will cast the burden of their souls upon any thing, upon their own sorrow and contrition, upon their resolution to amend, upon external duties and privileges, upon civil honesty, until all these succumb under the weight of their salvation; and then, it may be, they will ask after him who bare our griefs. I would not willingly speak of preparations to faith, because it putteth men upon searching for something in themselves, upon fashioning their own hearts, and trimming them to come to Christ; whereas there is nothing can be acceptable to him but what cometh from him. But I think all that men intend, who speak of preparations, may be gained this way by holding out unto men the impossibility of coming to Christ, till they be emptied of themselves. Not that the one is a thing going before, to be done by us, but because they are all one; it is one motion of the soul to come out of itself, and into Jesus; it is one thing really to distrust ourselves, and to trust in him; and by this means, when the true nature of faith itself is holden out, men might examine themselves rather by it, whether they have it, than by the preparations of it.
But to come to our purpose, when the soul is pressed under burdens of sin and misery, of duty and insufficiency, and inability to do it, then the gospel discovereth unto the wearied soul a place of reposing and rest. The Lord hath established Christ Jesus, an "ensign to the people;" those who seek unto him shall find his rest glorious, Isa. xi.10. When there is discovered in us all emptiness and inability, yea impossibility to save ourselves, or perform any duty, then are we led to Jesus Christ, as one who is come with grace and truth, in whom it hath pleased the Father all fulness should dwell; and the turning of the soul over upon him is trusting in him. You would not mistake this; trusting in the Lord in its first and most native acting, is not always persuasion of his good-will and love in particular. No, the soul meets first with a general promise, holding out his good-will in general; and the soul closeth with this, as a thing both good and true, -- as faithful in itself, and worthy of all acceptation. This is it that we must first meet with, -- an all-sufficient Saviour, able to save to the utmost all that come to him; and the soul's accepting of that blessed Saviour on the terms he is offered, this is believing in him, and trusting to him, as a complete Saviour.
Now when the soul hath disburdened itself upon God, and set its seal to the truth of the promises in the gospel for salvation; if the light of the Spirit shine to discover this unto it, that it hath laid hold on his strength who is able to save to the utmost, then it becometh persuaded of his love in particular; and this is rather the sealing after believing, than believing itself.
When once men have hazarded their souls upon his word, and trusted in him, then they may trust in him for all particulars: he that hath given his Son for us, will he not with him give all things? This, therefore, is the continual recourse of a believer, -- from discovered emptiness and insufficiency in himself, to travel unto the fulness and strength of Jesus Christ, that his strength may be perfected in weakness. Yea, when all things seem contrary, and his dispensation writes bitter things against us, yet ought we to trust in him, Job xiii.15. There is a peace of wilfulness and violence in faith, that will look always towards his word, whatever be threatened to the contrary.
Now, from this faith in God, floweth a constant dependence and stayedness on him, they are stayed on him, because they trusted in him; for faith discovereth in God such grounds, that it may lean its weight upon him without wavering and changing. It considereth his power, his good will, and his faithfulness; he is able to perform, he is willing to do it, and he is faithful, because he hath promised. His greatness and power is a high rock, higher than we, that faith leadeth us unto. His love and good-will in Jesus Christ, maketh an open entry and ready access to that rock; and faithfulness engageth both to give a shelter and refuge to the poor sinner. Would a soul be any more tossed, would there be any place for wavering and doubting, if souls considered his excellent loving-kindness, and great goodness laid up and treasured with him for those that trust in him? Psalm xxxvi.7. Who would not put their trust under the shadow of his wings, and think themselves safe? Again, if his eternal power were pondered, how he is able to effectuate whatever he pleaseth; what everlasting arms he hath that by a word supports the frame of the world; what he can do, if he stretch out his arm; and then, if these two immutable things, (Heb. vi.18,) his promise and his oath, were looked upon; -- how he hath engaged himself in his truth, and sworn in his holiness; would not a soul lie safely between these three? What strong consolation would such a threefold consideration yield? Would any wind or tempest blow within these walls mounted up to heaven?
Stayedness on God is nothing else but the fixedness of believing and trusting, Ps. cxii.7, 8, "his heart is fixed, trusting in God; his heart is established." It is even the mature and ripe age of faith. Faith, while it is yet in infancy, in its tender years, neither can endure storms, nor can it confirm us in them; but when it hath sprung up and grown in that root of Jesse, when it is rooted and established in Jesus Christ, then it establisheth the soul. Faith abiding in him and taking root, groweth, confirmed as a tree that cannot easily be moved; and if you establish faith, you shall be established.
There are two particulars which I conceive the trusting soul is stayed on. First, in the meditation of God. Secondly, in expectation from him of all good things. When I say the meditation of God, I take in both contemplation and affection. The most part of men have but few thoughts of God at all; even those who trust in him do not consider sufficiently what a one he is in whom they believe. If faith were vigorous and lively, it would put men to often thinking on him, seeking to know him in his glorious names; the mind would be stayed upon this glorious object, as the most mysterious and wonderful one. How strong are men's minds with their vanities? When they awake, they are not still with God. The meditation of him is a burden to them; any other thing getteth more time and thoughts. But meditation addeth affection to contemplation; men may think long upon the heavens and their course, but their affections are not ravished with them. But thus is the soul stayed on God; -- when the soul's desires are towards the remembrance of his name, then affection stayeth the mind upon what it pitcheth on; and certainly the mind giveth but passing looks, constrained thoughts, where the heart is not. Here is David's meditation, Ps. i. "My delight is in the law of the Lord." The soul of a believer should be constant and fixed in the consideration of God, till he be wholly engaged to admiration and wondering. "O Lord, how excellent is thy name," Psal. viii.1: "and who is like unto thee?" You all say that you believe in God, and know his power, -- you know he is good, he is merciful, just, long-suffering, faithful, &c. But what is all this knowledge but ignorance, and your light darkness, when it doth not press you to put your trust in his name? You know; nay, but you consider not what you know. This is trusting, when the mind is stayed on what it knoweth, when all the scattered thoughts and affections are called home, and united in one, to be exercised about this comprehensive object, "the Lord our God." It is not want of knowledge destroyeth you, but want of consideration of what you know, and this is brutishness. Men's hearts do not carry the seal and stamp of their knowledge, because thoughts of God and his word are but as passengers that go through a land, as lightning going through the mind, but warms it not; and so their practice carrieth no impression of it either. How base is it for those who have God for their God, to be so ignorant of him! Would not any man willingly travel about his own possessions? Have you such a large portion, believers, and should ye be taken up with other vanities? Should your hearts and minds be stayed on them, more than the living God? There is a great vanity and levity in men's minds; "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vanity." There is an unsettledness of spirit, -- we cannot pitch on that upon which we may be stayed; and so all the spirits of men are in a continual motion from one thing to another, for nothing giveth complete satisfaction, and therefore it must go and try one after another, to see if it can find in it what it found not in the former. And such is the inconstancy of the spirit, that it licketh up its vomit; and what thing it refused, it eateth it up as its meat. The time is spent in choosing and refusing, rejecting one thing and taking another, and again returning to what you have rejected. Thus are men tossed up and down, and unstable in all their ways, as a ship without ballasting. Now, faith and trusting in God is the ballast and weight of this inconstant ship: it is the anchor to stay it from being driven to and fro. If once men would pitch upon this one Lord, who hath in himself eminently all the scattered perfections of creatures, and infinitely more, -- if you would consider him, and meditate on him, till your souls loved him, would you not be ravished with him? Would you not build your house beside him, and dwell in the meditation of his name? This would fix and establish you in duties -- "when I awake, I am still with thee." A little searching and experience discovereth emptiness in all beside; and therefore is it, that the soul removeth sooner from such a particular creature than it expected. But here is One that is "past finding out." The more I search and find, I find him the more above what I can search and find. The creatures are but painted and fair in men's apprehension, and at a distance; but the near enjoyment of them discovereth the delusion, and sendeth a man away ashamed, because he trusted. But the Lord God is, and there is no other. He is not as waters that fail, no liar, -- he is an everlasting fountain, -- the more you dig and draw, it runs the faster; he will never send any away ashamed that trust in him, because they shall find more than they expected.
Therefore the soul that is stayed on meditation of God, and knoweth him certainly, will be fixed in expectation from him. Our expectation from the creatures changeth, because it is often frustrated. Disappointment meets it. It is above what is in the creature, and so it must meet with disappointment; but as he is above our meditation, so is he far above our expectation; and if a man's experience answer his hope, he hath no reason to change his hope. The Lord hath often done things we looked not for, but we never looked for any thing, according to the grounds of the word, but it was done, or a better than it. He doth not always answer our limitations; but if he give gold, when we sought silver, are we not answered? Are we disappointed? There are three things that use most to disquiet and toss men's spirits, -- sin and wrath, future events, and present calamities. Faith establisheth the soul on God in all these, and suffereth it not to be driven to and fro with these winds; it finds a harbour and refuge in God from all these. If he be pursued by the avenger of blood, God's wrath and justice, here is an open city of refuge that he may run to and be safe. If iniquities compass me about, yet I will not fear, but oppose unto that great company the many sufferings and obedience of Jesus Christ. My conscience challengeth and writeth bitter things against me, yet I have an answer in that blood that speaketh better things than Abel's. If sins prevail, he will purge them away. His mercy is above all my sin, and his virtue and power is above my sin. He hath promised, and will he not do it? Oft times men's souls are perplexed and tossed about future events, careful for to morrow. This is a great torment of spirit, it cutteth and divideth it, -- putteth a man to his own providence, as if there were no God, but he that trusteth in God is established in this, "His heart is fixed trusting in the Lord." He hath committed his soul to him, and why may he not his body? He hath nothing but his promise for eternal salvation, and may not that same suffice for temporal? He careth for me, saith faith, why then should we both care about one thing? He hath given his Son for me, the most precious gift which the world cannot match, and will he not with him give all these lesser things? And thus the believer encloseth himself within the Father's love and providence, and is fixed, not fearing evil tidings, for what tidings can be evil, seeing our Father hath the sovereign disposing of all affairs, and knoweth what is best for us? Present dispensations often shake men, and drive them to and fro, their feet slip, and are not established, "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." But if you trusted in God, and considered what is in him to oppose to all difficulties and calamities, you would say, "I shall not be moved, though the floods lift up their voice." If you believed his love, would not this sweeten all his dealing? He maketh all work together for good. Sovereignty, righteousness, and mercy, are sure and firm ground to stand upon in all storms. You may cast anchor at any of those, and lie secure. "It is the Lord, let him do what he pleaseth." This was enough to quiet the saints in old times. Should he give account of his matters to us? Shall the clay say to the potter, why is it thus? His absolute right by creation maketh him, beyond all exception, do what he pleases, but beside this, he is pleased and condescendeth to reason with us, and give account of his matters, to testify to our conscience that he is righteous in all his ways. It was the ground of Jeremiah's settling, Lam iii. "It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed." It should have allayed and stayed Job. Know this, thou art punished less than thy iniquities deserve. Who will set a time to plead with him? Shall any be found righteous before him? And this might stop all men's mouths, and put them in the dust to keep silence, seeing he hath law to do infinitely more than he doth, why should not we rather proclaim his clemency, than argue him so very hard? If to both those you shall add the consideration of his mercy, that all his paths are mercy and truth unto you, even when he correcteth most severely, so that you may bless him as well for rods as for meat and clothing, and count yourself blessed when you are taught by the rod and the word, the one speaking to the other, and the other sealing its instruction, -- if you believed that it were a fruit of his love, that "he chasteneth every son whom he loveth," because he will not let you depart from him, will not let you settle upon a present world, and forget your country above, therefore he compasseth you about with hedges of thorns to keep in your way, and therefore he maketh this world bitter and unpleasant, that you may have no continuing city, -- if all this were believed would not the soul triumph with Paul, "What can separate me from the love of God?" -- not past things, for all my sins are blotted out, and shall be remembered no more, not present things, for they work to good, and are a fruit of his love, not things to come, for that is to come which shall more declare his love than what is past, would not a soul sleep securely within the compass of this power, this love, and faithfulness of God, without fear of dashing or sinking?
Now, judge whether a perfect peace may not flow from all this. May it not be a perfect calm, when the mountains that environ go up to heaven? Not only doth the soul trust in God, but God keepeth the trusting soul in peace. He is the Creator of peace, and the preserver of it, -- "I create peace, I keep him in peace." The same power and virtue is required to the preserving of a thing, and the first being of it. Our faith and hope in God is too weak an anchor to abide all storms. Our cords would break, our hands faint and weary, but he is the everlasting God, who faileth not, and wearieth not. He holdeth an invisible gripe of us. We are kept by his power unto salvation, and we are kept by his power in peace. "Thy right hand holdeth me," saith David, and this helpeth me to pursue thee. What maketh believers inexpugnable, impregnable? Is it their strength? No indeed. But "salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." Almighty power is a strong wall, though invisible, -- this power worketh in us and about us.
Now, believers, pity the world about you, that knoweth not this peace. When they lie secure, and cry Peace, peace, alas! they are a city open without walls as the plain field, -- there is no keeper there, nothing to hold off destruction. Entertain your own peace, do not grieve the Spirit who hath sealed it. If you return to folly after he hath spoken peace to you, I persuade you, you shall not maintain this peace. There may be peace with God, but no peace in thy conscience, as long as the whoredoms of thy heart are to the fore, thou mayest be secure, but security is worse than fear. Know this, that continuing in a course of sin, entertaining any known sin, shall trouble thy peace. If God hath spoken peace to thee, thou shalt not lodge that enemy in peace. "Great peace have they that love thy law." Obedience and delight in it doth not make peace, but it is the way of peace, and much meditation on the blessed word of God is the most excellent mean to preserve this peace, if it be secured with much correspondence with heaven by prayer, Phil. iv.6, 7. If you would disburden your hearts daily at the throne of grace, peace should guard and keep your heart, and then your peace would be perfect indeed. But because your faith is here imperfect, your requests few and infervent, your follies and iniquities many, therefore is this promised perfection a stranger to the most part of Christians. Always what we want here, we must expect to have made up shortly. Heaven is a land of peace, and all things are there in full age, here all are in minority, it is but yet night, but when the day shall break up, and the shadows fly away, and the Prince of peace shall appear and be revealed, he shall bring peace and grace both with him, and both perfect. To Him be praise and glory.