Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I do willingly assent to those who by peace understand all prosperity and felicity, both earthly and heavenly, in this life, and that to come.
1. First, the inward peace of conscience with God, which springeth out of the grace and favour of God (Romans 5:1). A man's conscience will never be at quiet within him till it feels this grace.
2. The peace of charity among ourselves. This also is an effect of God's grace, which as it maketh a man at peace with himself and God, so with his brethren. The love of God shed into our hearts will make us love our brethren also.
3. The peace of amity, and a holy kind of league with all God's creatures. This also is an effect of grace; for when we have His favour, who is the Lord, we have the good will also of His servants the creatures.
4. Outward prosperity and good success in our ways; so it is commonly taken in all their salutations (1 Chronicles 12:18). Now, the reason why outward prosperity is signified by this name of peace is — first, because to the godly they are pledges of that sweet peace they have with God. Secondly, they are notable maintainers of the peace and quietness of our affections; for in the want of outward things how are we disquieted. But peace, in this fourth signification, is so taken for outward prosperity, that which all this outward prosperity hath security annexed unto it, and is a forerunner of that eternal prosperity and felicity in God's kingdom; for both these things are understood by the name of peace.
I. From hence observe, that as we may lawfully desire for ourselves and others outward prosperity and the blessing of this life, so HOW AND IN WHAT MANNER WE MUST DESIRE THEM.
1. Having desired grace in the first place "First seek the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6); and then in the second place we may seek temporal things; but now men are all for peace, "Who will shew us any good?" few or none for grace; peaceable men, as I may call them, enough, very few gracious men that do first of all seek God's grace, and then in the second place peace.
2. In desiring of outward things we must moderate our desires, that they go not beyond their bounds, to desire abundance and superfluity of them; for we desire them by the name of peace: therefore no more must we desire, but that which will serve us, to attend the works of our calling with free and quiet minds, without disturbance or distraction.
II. Paul first desiring grace and then peace, showeth us THAT PEACE, NAMELY, OUTWARD PROSPERITY, IS A FRUIT OF GRACE, and so, that the nearest and most compendious way to get peace, is first to get grace and favour with God. Joseph and David had wonderful success in all their ways, and the reason the Holy Ghost yieldeth thereof is this, "The Lord was with them" (Genesis 39; 1 Samuel 18:1). Grace is the only means to draw on peace. When we have got Christ's righteousness, it is that grace which makes us graceful to God (Matthew 6). Then outward things come voluntarily, as it were, without our seeking or desiring; no marvel then if oftentimes things go cross with us, we by our sins having drawn down the curse of God upon all our enterprises. This is the reason why God's children live better, even with greater credit and reputation in the world with a little, than many times the wicked do, which have far more. God's blessing sets forward the one, and his curse blows upon the other. But we oftentimes see those that are not in greatest favour with God abounding with these earthly blessings. And on the contrary, those that have greatest store of grace, to have a very small pittance of peace.
1. For the godly, who, having their part in grace, have always in some measure their portion in peace also; for —
(1) The end of all his afflictions, whereto they are disposed, is peace.
(2) He hath the peace of security in his greatest distresses (Psalm 3:6; 4:9).
(3) He hath the peace of contentation, grace supplying and sweetening the want of peace, and turning very war itself into peace, darkness into light to the godly, his heart is at rest and at peace within itself. There is no warring of the affections against God, whatsoever his outward estate is.
2. For the wicked. It is far otherwise with them in their peace, which being a graceless peace, is in truth a peaceless peace, for in the midst of their peace they want the peace of security, their hearts tremble like an aspen leaf, in fear of change; or if they have security, it is a presumptuous and false security; for when they cry, "Peace, peace," then is their destruction at hand (1 Thessalonians 5:3). And let their peace be never so flourishing, yet still want they the peace of contentation. They think all too little; if they had the whole world, with Alexander, they would grieve there were no more for them to get. Again, as the end of the godly man's warfare is peace, so the end of the wicked man's peace is warfare, even an eternal warfare, and wrestling with the anger of God in hell. Therefore a sound and safe peace ariseth only from the grace of God.
(D. Dyke, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.