"Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill towards men!"
TEXT: MATT. x.34. "Think not that I came to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."
HOW wonderfully out of harmony these words sound with the angelic greeting that we have just heard; threatening to rob us of all the joy and blessedness of this holy season! For is the sword pre-eminently the glory of God? and if it rages anew, is that a special delight to men? When the message has come down from heaven, Let there be peace on earth, how can the Lord Himself say, "Think not that I came to send peace, but a sword"? and even though this is true, should we not, on this very day of rejoicing over His coming, try our utmost to conceal from our selves the sorrowful truth and to put it far from our souls? No, this will not do. It has long been the custom in a great part of the Christian Church to commemorate, on this second day of the Christmas festival, that first martyr who died for the name of the Lord. It was in that death that this Word of the Lord began to be fulfilled. And why then do we thus connect the two events? Does it not seem just to express this thought, that the birth of martyrdom is, as it were, the first and most direct glorification of the birth of Christ Himself? Yes; and as at other times we think of what it cost Him to redeem us at so great a price, so now, in these our days, we ought to know and lay specially to heart what kind of crowns of victory are thereby procured for us -- I mean for the whole race of believing men since Christ's first appearing. All the suffering that men have endured for His name's sake, all the misery that has come upon His believing disciples, all the disquiet that has been caused on earth by strife about His name -- all these things we should keep in view when we celebrate His appearing; and thus we shall recognise Him as the Dayspring from on high who hath visited us, as the Prince of peace, who guides our feet into the way of peace. "Well then, in this way we shall not be afraid to join the thought of this earnest and weighty word of the Lord with our Christmas joy; rather, let us use the consideration that the Lord came to bring a sword, in the way of exalting and purifying our joy on account of His coming. It is to this thought, then, that I beg your devout Christian attention for this sacred hour. And the points to be considered are these; first, the fact that the Lord came to bring a sword on the earth affords us the strongest security for the truth that He became really our Brother; even to the extent of His whole life and work being subject to all the conditions of really human work; secondly, we find in it the best guarantee that the fulness of the Godhead truly dwelt in Him; and, finally, it gives us the most comforting assurance of the immovable firmness of the covenant between Him and us. Let us try to look at these more clearly in their order.
I. I say, in the first place, the fact that the Lord could not but bring a sword on earth gives us the strongest security that His life and work were, from the very first, truly human.
For how do men act in relation to every human influence that acts on them? They inherit, as the indelible mark of their frailty, the liability to mistake, to which, however well-intentioned they may be, and however earnestly striving towards good, they are still unhappily so subject that it may even steal on them unawares. Hence a man may blind himself about everything that is offered to him by others; that which is most beneficent may appear to him dangerous; what is most salutary he may think hurtful; even what is divine may seem to him wrong and unpleasant. Now if the influence of the Lord Himself was to be a really human influence, with no secret power modifying the usual way of communication between the minds of men, then He also must have been subject to having His work received and judged in the same way as that of other men. When the evil spirits fled before Him, it could not fail to happen that some of those who witnessed His deeds should be so blinded about Him and what He was, as to imagine that He cast out devils only through the prince of the devils. When the rumour of Him began to spread abroad, and men softly and, as it were, stealthily whispered to each other the surmise whether this Jesus of Nazareth might not be He who was to come, the Helper, the Saviour, the Messiah; it could not but be that even among His own people, acquainted though they were with the divine promises given to that nation through many generations, there would be some so blinded about Him that even the proofs and indications of Scripture confirmed them in their blindness. And thus it came about that some said, When Christ comes, we shall not know whence He is; but we know whence this Man is, we are acquainted with His father and mother, his brothers and sisters. Others again held to another prejudice, and said, Is He not from Nazareth? and did you ever hear that a prophet had arisen, or should arise, out of Galilee? It was inevitable that this should be the lot of the Saviour if His influence was to be genuinely and purely human; and it was just this blindness of men who wished to find salvation in some other way than that in which alone it is to be securely and abidingly found, that was the cause, in the first place, of His bringing a sword on earth, by parents taking up arms against children, and children against parents, brothers and sisters and friends against each other, on His account.
How, we ask again, do men act in relation to every human influence that acts on them? We are like each other, we know, so far as it concerns the deepest and most essential parts of human nature; and yet the same event that occurs to several persons, that touches many at once, affects them in very different ways according to the different general attitude of each, or to something that may determine their feelings at the moment. And so it could not but be that as it was in the case of the Lord Himself, as long as He lived on earth, so, now that He is here no longer, the preaching of the Word which He has appointed in His Church should affect men in various ways. When it was proclaimed that this Jesus, whom they had delivered up and slain, was made of God both Lord and Christ, and that salvation and forgiveness of sins could be found only in His name, some were cut to the heart, and asked, What shall we do to be saved? But how many others heard it with indifference, shook their heads, and went away just as they had come? Now when men are so differently affected, is it not quite according to human nature that he who has remained indifferent counts as only a foe to his repose his neighbour who has been moved to the depths of his heart, and who would fain have all others to share his feeling? And it is just thus that things have gone on from the beginning until now. Ever since the word of reconciliation began to be proclaimed, there have been men who refused to be disturbed out of the rest in which they were in reality only sitting in the darkness and shadow of death, though they probably thought themselves safe and well-advised, till at last the divine impulse reaches their perhaps already hardened heart.
Hence it could not be otherwise than that He who occasioned such a stirring of men's minds as the Saviour did, must in doing so bring a sword on the earth. For, my friends, if once men are at variance, and yet they restrain themselves and keep within certain limits, so that their difference never reaches such scenes of violence, such conflict and destruction as are indicated by the word "sword," what is the reason of this but that they do not hold the subject to be of sufficient importance? But although the life and influence of the Lord was subject to all those limitations which told on the influence of other men; yet this, at least, always necessarily belonged to it, that the movement which He awakened on earth must have always, as time went on, appeared to every one a greater movement than any other to which they had ever been prompted; otherwise the kingdom of God could never have proceeded from it. Hence the variance between men of different minds, produced by His appearing, and afterwards by the tidings of Him, was generally keen enough to justify the expression that He had come to bring a sword on the earth; and hence it is also that we see this sword raging, now more now less bloodily and destructively, everywhere without exception where the word of peace is proclaimed. Now if it had been otherwise than this, how would the matter have stood? In that case this word of the apostle could not have been true, "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, made under the law." For the absence of the sword would imply that men's minds were not yet prepared to be sufficiently interested in the object of His mission to be very strongly moved by it, or stirred either to eager approval or vehement dislike. But when the human race had reached such a stage of progress that wherever the Saviour appeared He brought the devouring sword, then the fulness of the time was come, -- then it was time for the Saviour to appear. And well for us, my friends, that He came at that time! Or would it have been better, perhaps, that His appearing had been delayed until it would have been no longer necessary that with the promise of peace He should bring the sword -- until all the blessings of His appearing could have been brought in gently and peaceably, with no disturbing movement in opposition? Nay, verily. If men had been able of themselves to make so much progress that they would at once, without variance or division, have ranged themselves on the side of the divine life and the heavenly light as soon as it appeared to them, then they might also have found it out for themselves, and there would no longer have been any need for the Saviour's appearing. But if it is not and cannot be so, then we might still be sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, thousands of generations might still perish, but never would salvation come. Therefore either no real redemption could have been found at all, or it was inevitable that the Deliverer of the world must first have brought a sword, before the peace which He left to His people could extend its blessings over them. Thus the stern and sharp word of the Saviour, that He came to bring a sword, coincides exactly in this respect with the milder saying of the apostle which we have quoted, that He should be born of a woman and made under the law. For in the law of His nation, everything that had any resemblance to magic, every use of any secret power, was most strictly forbidden. And therefore the Saviour, just because He was made under the law, was limited to the mode of acting on the minds of men that was in accordance with Nature. If it could have boon otherwise if He had drawn hearts to Himself in any other way than by genuine, human influence, then He could not have been our Brother; because the divine power in Him still made use of other instruments and means than His human nature, and set it aside as useless. We could not then glory, in the sense in which we so gladly do so, that in Christ the Dayspring from on high has visited us. For this beautiful and precious word means nothing less than this, that when the Dayspring from on high appeared in this world, which is our dwelling-place, He took part in the whole order of our life and wrought in no other way than as one of ourselves, in this world; where everything, as we have just been showing, is what is natural, and can only cease to be natural and in order when His work is completed at the end of the day. Therefore while we rejoice in Him and in His appearing, we will rejoice also in this, that He so came, born of a woman and made under the law, that His redeeming, saving work could not fail to bring a sword on the earth.
II. But this is also, secondly, a sure guarantee to us that in Him dwelt the fulness of the Godhead, and that He who visited us was truly the Dayspring from on high.
For, as we know from the words of our text and from so many other utterances of the Lord, this result of His coming was not hidden from Him; He knew it well and most clearly foresaw it. He who had seen so deeply into human nature and the human heart, as well as into the special circumstances of His own times, knew that He was bringing a sword on the earth; and yet He came; and yet, because no other way was possible, He could not forbear from saving the human race in this way, and freeing those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death!
My friends, just call to mind that account which the Lord gave to the disciples of how He was tempted in the wilderness; consider how, in His so purely and simply rejecting every seductive suggestion, we find the clearest proof of the Divine strength that lived in Him; and then Bay what, nevertheless, are those temptations, as there related, in comparison with what we can imagine they might have been. Let us suppose that the tempter had come to Him, and instead of showing Him, from the top of the mountain, the kingdoms of the world and their glory, had shown Him the rivers of blood which would flow on earth because of Him; that he had not merely shown Him His own cross, but how it would be endlessly multiplied for the whole host of His believing confessors and disciples, -- had shown Him how the devouring sword would sweep away thousands on thousands, the bonds of slavery in which His witnesses would have to groan, all the insult and scorn of the world, all the pains and privations of love: suppose that he had showed Him the full fury of the persecution that would come upon His people, far more bitter than the bondage out of which Moses had by a strong hand freed the people of the old covenant; and, finally, the heart-rending breaking up of the holiest human relationships for the sake of His Name, -- that he had showed Him all this in one dark picture embracing hundreds and thousands of years, and had then earnestly put it to Him, whether, having thoroughly considered all this, He was yet firmly resolved to bring upon men this incalculable amount of woe and misery, in addition to all the sufferings which, apart from this, by their own fault or innocently, they had to bear, -- whether He were even sure that the salvation He hoped to introduce on earth would outweigh all this misery. Suppose further that the tempter reminded Him how men, through their ancient and inveterate tendency to follow delusions and error, would pervert His teaching, -- and here again what a terrible picture he might have drawn, -- what multitudes of wretched figures in hair shirts, reduced by fanatical mortifications to feeble shadows, their minds darkened by a system of genuflexions and prayers in which heart and thought have no part, vainly wearing themselves out in a narrow round of dead works, yet all this without the old man being slain in them, and a new glad life created. Let us suppose that he showed Him all this also, and then pressed the question whether He really meant to risk the undertaking at this cost, -- whether it did not seem to Him more prudent to return to the secluded life from which He was just in the act of coming forth, and in quiet prayer to avail Himself of the Father's regard for Him, in inducing Him to alleviate the lot of those brethren of His in some other way; or even whether He should not leave the human race to themselves, if perchance they might find without Him a less costly way out of the darkness that encompassed them. Now think of a man, the very bravest, who so far as he himself alone is concerned goes firmly on in the way of faith, though devils should threaten him from every roof; think of the most cheerfully willing-hearted man, who does not shrink from demanding both from himself and from others all kinds of self-sacrifice for the good cause; and then reflect whether in view of all this, with such a prospect for the future, even such men would not faint in spirit, and withdraw their hand from the plough. But, you perhaps ask, did the Lord actually encounter this temptation, or were not those still far distant events and conditions rather at that time unknown to Him, as indeed He said Himself that the Father had reserved many things in His own power? But then we have sufficiently clear evidence in His own words how distinctly these things were before His mind, not only from the words of our text, but still more from what follows, where He speaks of setting the son against the father and the daughter against the mother, as well as from other warning and encouraging discourses. And with what unshaken tranquillity, with what heroic calmness He says all this, seeming indeed hardly able to wait for the first blazing up of the fire which He had come to kindle! Yes, without a doubt He knew that He was very different from other benefactors of His race, -- that He had something more to bestow than what had until then been counted the best human possessions; and as He had no external possessions whatever, but on the contrary was in this respect the poorest of all men, He must have had within Himself some thing more than human; He must have been aware of an inexhaustible source of spiritual blessings, and indeed have known that He was the sole possessor of those good things, and that through Him alone men could attain to the possession of them. And all this just means that He must have been conscious of a Divine power and fulness in Himself; so that in dealing with this temptation, about which He kept silence to His disciples, because they were not yet able to bear it, He did not so much as put all those terrible things into the balance, but let them pass Him by in effectual, that He might worthily pursue the path of His duty.
Now, if a man could foresee in spirit even the smallest part of such troubles and scenes of destruction as the result of his efforts, supposing those efforts to be merely selfish, aiming only at his own security and repose, at personal fame or dominion; and yet were capable of going on in cold blood, with tranquil mind and undisturbed self-possession, should we not say -- nay, why do I put the question, have we not said it a thousand times -- that there was some thing more than human, -- that such a man was driven on by some dark power, stronger than himself? But even when a man's labours are directed to the reviving and blessing of others, to furthering the common salvation and the common welfare, -- when he who in this way brings a sword, yields himself, and that not without consideration, as the first victim to the power of the sword, desiring nothing but to awaken and to establish permanently among men the higher life which is in his own heart; even in such a case we may well say that not only would such a purpose and plan be mere empty delusion without a higher than human strength; but also, unless there were a higher strength Dwelling in him, no man could bear the picture of the misery that would precede and accompany what he meant to bring about. The Saviour must indeed have been divinely certain of this, that, after all the troubles caused by the sword, and in the midst of them, He could not fail to guide the feet of the children of men into the way of peace, -- a peace higher than any that the world had known before; He must have known certainly that, after all those scenes of destruction, and in the midst of them, He would draw men out of the darkness and shadow of death, and transplant them into the glorious kingdom of light and love; He must have been certain that all those hostile demonstrations were only the last struggles of that ancient power of death, from which He was just redeeming men, the decisive birth-pangs of that new and eternal life which was just being received into human nature. But such a confidence implies nothing less than this -- the consciousness that in Him dwelt the fulness of the Godhead, that it was the Father's words that He spoke, the Father's works that He did, and that what He was going forth to accomplish was the eternal counsel and will of the Father, which could be carried out through Him alone. The confidence that this Divine purpose, holding steadily on through all those horrors, could not possibly fail of its fulfilment; this confidence, it must certainly be evident to us all, is one and the same thing with the certainty that He Himself was divinely moved to this work; and that this will of God was so thoroughly His own that even in the moments of life most fitted to suggest doubt the two wills could never be separated. We can have no Saviour who brings a sword in such a way, unless that Saviour is the only begotten Son of the Father, and as such, even in all this, full of grace and truth.
But, my friends, this is still not all; we have not yet fully examined these words, "I am come to bring a sword," even in this one aspect. Can we think it enough to remember what the Lord's witnesses and disciples have suffered from those who are the enemies of His word? No; in these days, when we desire so specially to rejoice in His appearing on earth, and therefore in His whole work, we dare not close our eyes to the inner history of the Christian Church! Ah, the sword has raged even there! Even there we see fathers and children, brothers and sisters opposed to each other in bitter strife as to what is the real and true meaning of salvation in Christ, what are the necessary means, the essential and indispensable conditions for becoming partakers of it. Did He know and foresee this also? We certainly cannot doubt it. For although His gentleness did not give it such distinct expression, yet let us remember how fervently, in His last solemn prayer, He besought His Father for this very thing, that they whom the Father had given Him during His life on earth, as well as those who should believe on Him through their word, might be perfectly one, even as He and His Father are one; -- a petition that suggests to us a sorrowful, but only too sure foreboding of His divine mind, that it would not always be so. And when they are not entirely one in spirit, -- and they are so and can be so no longer when they seek after some other unity than the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; -- then they are exposed to all those troubles which continually arise from all kinds of schism, and from the manifold delusions produced by the magic power of the letter and the law. This sad page of Christian history, which has so often been repeated in various forms, -- this also the Saviour was aware of! Did He know that He must bring, instead of peace, even this sword? And yet what could be more fitted to weaken and darken the pure impression which otherwise His work might make on men? Could we imagine a greater hindrance to faith for those who are not yet believers, than to see that even there, where love is set forth as the law which is to govern all, where internal peace could be the only sure compensation for all outward adversities, -- that even there discord reigns, that even there enmity breaks out, that even there the sword rages? And yet so it is. But when the Lord on the cross prayed to His Father for His enemies and persecutors, and even spoke of them to Him only as men who knew not what they did, He was even then regarding in the same light the great host of souls who, since His appearing and the completion of His work, have fallen into deplorable dissension over His word, His doctrine, and the constitution of His Church. All the mistakes of love, and the turning aside into the path of strife by those who yet desired to walk in the way of peace; -- all this He recognised beforehand, as ignorance of what they did. Now we know that none of these things kept Him back nor arrested His steps; that He was able, with all this clearly in view, to retain His tranquillity and calmness. For He knew that though His people might be at variance among themselves, and to outward view excited to so bitter a hostility against each other that no common eye could distinguish it from an outbreak of selfish passions; yet they were certainly delivered out of the darkness and shadow of death, with which these clouds of division, through which the light was really shining, had no longer anything in common. He knew that their feet were really turned into the way of peace; because, although human blindness made them wage this noble spiritual warfare for the truth with unseemly and prohibited weapons, they were yet seeking to become one flock under one and the same Shepherd. And while His judging of these things in this way and no other wise affords, on the one hand, the clearest proof that He saw human affairs exactly as they are seen by the Father in heaven, to whom He commends His people; on the other hand, we must admit that to be able, with such a view of the future, to enter on this path and continue in it in effecting the work of salvation, demanded a consciousness of divinity in Himself; and that human strength was incapable of either planning or carrying out such a work. He alone could thus act, with the knowledge of all these things before His mind, who had come down from above, and was conscious of possessing an eternal dominion and a firmly established authority, by which all those difficulties would be adjusted and smoothed away; nay, more; changed into peace and happiness.
III. And because of all this, my friends, the fact that the Lord could not but bring a sword is to us the surest measure of the immovable steadfastness of the union between the Saviour and His people.
How little His work had advanced when He had so suddenly to leave this earthly scene, so that even His own human soul desired that the cup which He was to drink might pass away from Him, though only for a time, -- all this we know. But even then it did not come upon Him unexpectedly: it was really that when He meant to begin the work which His Father had committed to Him, He was obliged, -- He who knew what was in man, -- to resign Himself to the necessity of doing the greatest work by means of weak instruments. And, -- without recalling the fact that not only was he who betrayed Him among the twelve, but that the others also asked, "Lord, is it I?" -- weak indeed the whole of those whom He had gathered round Him as His dearest and most trusted friends still were when He was obliged to leave them. This is evident, whether as regards the pure fulfilling of His precepts; for they had only a short time before disputed about which of them should be next the Master in the kingdom of heaven; or as regards a correct conception of His aims and a mature understanding of His teachings; -- for they were still thinking of an out ward glory in which He would sooner or later reveal Himself; and even later, many of them countenanced those Christians who still clung to the ceremonial of Judaism. In every respect, therefore, they were still children as to their faith; like those Christians of whom the apostle says that they were not yet able to bear strong meat, but needed still to be fed with the first milk of the gospel. And yet they were to begin at once themselves to feed others; indeed, on their testimony and their preaching depended from that time forward the whole result of the Saviour's mission. For while most assuredly the work of reconciliation and of justifying the human race in the sight of God was accomplished by Christ alone, who not only needed help from no one in that work, but could have made use of no one in it; yet if men were to reap the benefit of that work, it was necessary not only that He Himself should actually appear, but that after His departure the gospel should be preached and the association of Christians instituted. And so the Apostle Paul places these two things in direct connection, praising God that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, and then that He had appointed the office which proclaimed among men the message of reconciliation. But what kind of apostles for such a message, what kind of instruments for such a purpose, if they had continued such as they then were! How would it have been possible that everything which, although mixed with innumerable defects, has been developed during succeeding ages in the Christian Church, -- all the strength of faith, the purity of discernment, the confidence amidst dangers, the steadfastness before temptations, the power of love, the gladness of hope, -- that all this should have emanated from such teachers! And yet, from the time when the Saviour Himself was withdrawn from this earthly life, there was no other means of influencing men than through those disciples, who, however, could call forth nothing in others but what they had in themselves.
But hear what those men became, -- hear it from the mouth of one of those very apostles. We suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are troubled, but not distressed; we are cast down, but not destroyed; we bear about always in our body the dying of Christ, that the life of the Lord may be manifested in us. Therefore, what can separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? In all these we are more than conquerors, for we know that no power, either earthly or more than earthly, no separation between life and death, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. But what more does he say here? We are more than conquerors, because of Him who loved us. And what does he set in the forefront of all this? That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. It came from Christ, who was of God; and it was the life of Christ that was in this way made manifest. And this the Lord must have known when He came to bring a sword, and to yield His own earthly life as the first sacrifice to it. He must have known that when once, through His appearing on earth, the Divine power that dwelt in Him had begun to act on men, it would, of necessity, continue to act, and would do ever greater works. He must have known that He would abide constantly in His people; that their understanding of Him would become ever clearer, their love to Him ever purer; and that so, without His bodily presence, though still only by reason of His presence in Spirit, they would become fit to carry His message. Through all temporary denial, all unstable turning back, He must have seen that He was able to kindle in all believing hearts a love and loyalty like those of that first martyr whom we hold in sacred memory to-day; who, in the face of death, bore his testimony that in Jesus of Nazareth all the promises given to the fathers were fulfilled, and that in Him alone salvation was to be found. He saw not the rage of the excited crowd, not the stones already lifted to crush that radiant and heaven-lighted head, nothing of all the wrathful tumult: he saw only heaven (in which even here he had lived his life) opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God; and thus made plain to outward view the firm inward conviction to which he had just given utterance; and for the sake of which he now counted his life so little dear to him that he laid it down as a fruitful corn of wheat, which, when it dies, does not remain alone, but is preserved to eternal life and brings forth much fruit.
Yes, my friends, the Lord must have had in His heart this confidence; that He would, in this way, and ever, more gloriously, live on in His people; and this confidence reaches even to us, as certainly as that He still goes on working, and that He works only through us, the whole body of living Christians in all times. Thus the first of our principal festivals is connected with the last. How could we even rejoice truly in the appearing of the Saviour, unless we could also rejoice that this same strength of love and loyalty, and all that the apostle designates as the fruit of the Spirit, was poured out on us also by the same Spirit? Do we hail Christ in these days of solemn festival as our Lord? we can do so only through the Holy Spirit, who is the fountain of all these gifts. Do we hail Him as the Saviour who frees us from all other bonds? then that can only be, and continue to be, truth, if at the same time He holds us firmly united in one life with Himself by the indissoluble bonds of love, according to His promise, that when He should be lifted up from the earth, He would draw all men unto Him. Now if we are objects of this confidence of Christ, that all human life is to become one with His; then as surely as this confidence belongs to the divinity of His nature, we must share in it and work in the strength of it. - Therefore if we, though living neither in the earliest times of the Christian Church, nor on its frontiers, yet experience in many ways that we must bring a sword; -- only let us see that, like Him, we only bring it, but by no means ourselves take it and draw it. lest we perish by it; but if bring it we must -- then let us be of good courage, ever keeping fast hold, like Him, of the love that makes free, which is always able to regard even those who oppose His truth as persons who know not what they do. Let us so much the more, constrained by love, gladly unite all our powers in the beneficent service of making Him known to those who, through ignorance, are in any way against the Lord; in such a way, certainly, as that on our side we follow after peace with all men; but also in such a way as not to be false to the Word of God which is committed to us; lest in this way the office of preaching reconciliation, which is the common duty of us all, should, through us, be accused of cowardice, and fall into contempt. And if, in doing this, we cannot avoid contention, whether with those who fight against the kingdom of God through want of understanding, or with those who, while acknowledging the doctrines of salvation, yet, out of the obstinacy of a foolish heart, refuse to be disciplined by them to godliness; well, let us reflect that at the festival of the Lord's birth, and therefore, from the beginning of His life, we greet Him as the Prince of Peace, and that this always continued to be His character in the midst of all the strife that He Himself brought, so that in this sense also His life is carried on in us. And thus, both in the midst of the internal dissension, which, alas! not unfrequently exists among the professors of His name; and in the outward conflict with the world; we also preserve the cheerful calmness, which with Him was never disturbed; and go on in the way of peace; so that, notwithstanding the sword, peace still rules on earth, for it has fixed its seat in the inmost heart of believers. And notwithstanding all apparent vicissitudes, a hearty good-will is found among all men to whom the grace of God in Christ has appeared; and who have had a glimpse into the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God; for they know that, often as it threatens to grow dark again around us, the kingdom of Light is firmly established, and that all things must work for the best in the fellowship of those whom God loves in His Son. And so, through Him whose birth we are celebrating, peace and good-will have in truth, in spite of the sword, turned in to dwell with us, for which glory be to God in the highest now and evermore. Amen.