They have dressed the wound of My people with very little care, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace at all.
saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace?" No greater crime can be imagined than this of which our text tells. The physician who should pamper a man in his disease, who should feed his cancer or inject continual poison into the system, whilst at the same time he promised sound health and a long life, - such a physician would not be one-half so criminal as the professed religious teacher who should knowingly bid those entrusted to his charge to be at ease and to take comfort, when he ought to be crying, "Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion!" The pilot who should pretend to steer a ship toward its proper haven, but all the while was of intent driving her upon unseen rocks, would not be a worse traitor than the man into whose hands the helm of human souls is entrusted, and whose professed duty it is to steer them towards Christ, but who, instead of so doing, was guiding them to utter ruin, by flattering them that all was welt when all was ill. In the great day, when all shall render up their account to God, what awfulness of doom will not be reserved for him who has been chargeable with blood-guiltiness like this? We observe -
I. THAT IT IS AN ALL TOO FREQUENT SIN.
1. The prophets of Judah and Jerusalem were guilty of it, notwithstanding that
(1) they knew the truth;
(2) they professed the truth;
(3) they were ordained to teach the truth.
Still, out of all manner of evil motive they were guilty of this sin. Oh, let all who teach, whether in the pulpit, the home circle, or in the school, remember that their sacred charge and duty may not merely be imperfectly fulfilled - that it ever is; nor even neglected merely, sad as that is; but it may be utterly perverted, and that which was designed to be for our own and others' great good may become the means of our and their more terrible condemnation. From this may God save teachers and taught alike!
2. And there are now those who are bidding men be at peace when there is no peace.
(1) They who bid men be at peace on the ground of their moral integrity, their respectability of character, and of the righteousness with which they are credited amongst their fellow-men. God forbid that we should decry or depreciate the value of character, reputation, and integrity amongst men. go, indeed; but all the same we feel that it is a plea all too feeble, and one that cannot avail such as we are before the bar of the all-holy God.
(2) They who teach men to trust in sacraments or Church ordinances of any kind. These, too, are precious in their proper place, but regarded as a valid claim to eternal life, apart from the disposition of the heart Godwards, they will save no man, and he who trusts them or teaches others to trust them, is guilty of saying, "Peace, peace," etc.
(3) They who rely on a faith which is fruitless in love to God and man. This is the characteristic of all forms of Antinomianism, and though that be "a way which seemeth right unto many men, the end thereof is death."
3. But let us remember that we may practically be preaching this fatal peace. Christian men and women, who do nothing for the salvation of those around you; who are eager about amusements, business, worldly position, and all such things, but who are unmoved or but very little moved at the ungodliness in the midst of which you live; what is the conclusion that others draw from this unconcern? Why, that you don't believe what you profess, and that therefore they need not either. And so you encourage them to say, "Peace, peace," etc. Whose conscience is there that does not smite him here? and who of us is there that has no need of the prayer, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation?" And all who are unconcerned about their own eternal welfare. Fathers and mothers who have not sought the Lord, you will die in your sins if you repeat not; but you will die not to yourselves merely; you will drag your children down with you, for you are teaching them to be unconcerned and indifferent, when neither you nor they possess any true peace at all.
4. But after all, those who are the most guilty of saying, "Peace, peace," etc., are sinful men to themselves. The devil taught men the way very early in the history of our race. "Ye shall not surely die;" so he lyingly declared to our first mother, and she, all too willing to believe that there would be peace though she did disobey God, ruined herself, her husband, and all her children by that one deed. And ever since men who love to disobey have encouraged themselves in their sin by this fatal flattery of their souls of which our text tells. They did so in the days of Noah," until the flood came and took them all away." See also Belshazzar's feast at the height of merriment, when the handwriting appeared on the wall, and that night Babylon was taken and her king slain. So has it been with the Jewish people - in Jeremiah's time, and so in our Lord's. The Captivity shattered that first false peace, and the utter destruction of Jerusalem the second. And we are told it will be so at the last, in that "day when the Son of man cometh." Observe, then, some of the deceits whereby men beguile themselves into saying, "Peace, peace," etc. They are such as these:
(1) The infinite mercy of God.
(2) "I am no worse than those who make a religious profession. If they are saved, I shall be too."
(3) "Yes, I am going to repent and turn to God; I certainly mean to one day."
(4) Religious profession: "I am baptized and take the sacrament."
(5) Denying the truth of the Bible: "I have no proof that there is a God, a heaven, or indeed that I have a soul. It is all a ' perhaps; '"so men say. And there are many other such deceits. But now -
II. NOTE HOW THE LIE THAT IS IN ALL SUCK SAYING OF "PEACE, PEACE," ETC., MAY BE DETECTED. A man may hold up a phial of liquid that is colorless, clear, - sparkling, that seems in all respects like pure, wholesome water. But the skilled chemist drops into it the fitting test, and at once the poisonous substance is precipitated, and thus is made evident to all. Now, with all these deceits of which we have been telling, their true nature may be made manifest if we apply those tests which only the true peace of God will endure. For, if the peace in which we are trusting be a true one and not a deception, it will:
1. Always tend to the making of us holier, purer, more Christ-like. God's peace always does this. It "keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus," it "rules" in our hearts.
2. Stand under the hardest blows of misfortune and earthly sorrow. Listen to its voice: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." Now, will peace such as springs from such sources as those told of help a man in straits like those of Job?
3. Be with him in death.
III. SAFEGUARD IS NOT IN OUR BEING ABLE TO DETECT THE FALSE PEACE, BUT IN POSSESSING THE TRUE. That is ours when we surrender our souls to Christ. Then we shall have peace indeed.
(1) Peace from fear of God's condemnation;
(2) peace from dread of guilt;
(3) peace from the tyranny and oppression of "the evil one;"
(4) peace from the crushing power of earthly sorrow;
(5) peace from the terror of the grave and the judgment day;
(6) peace in the conscious possession of the love of God.
Such is the true "peace of God." Oh, how foolish, then, to barter that for the false and fatal pretences of peace which are forever beguiling the hearts of sinful men! May he who is "our Peace," even Christ, cause us to give heed to his own loving call, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" - C.
I. A FALSE PEACE, WHAT IS IT? We do not mean, in describing a false peace, to depict the state of those who are utterly indifferent to religious claims and obligations. We are speaking of another class, in whose minds there has been at some time an anxiety concerning their state in the sight of God. They have felt that sin is within them, that sin is working out terrible results, and, unless some remedy be applied, must work their ultimate ruin. This anxiety has increased upon them; and at length they have found the anxiety soothed; its pressure has been alleviated, and at length it has departed. But it has been soothed by unsuitable means. To be in a state of false peace is to be in a state of composure — not of indifference, but of composure and satisfaction, in a belief that all is well when all is not well. And this may arise from various causes.
They have healed also the hurt...slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.I. WHAT NEED WE ALL HAVE OF HEALING.
1. Asserted in Scripture.
2. Confirmed by experience.
II. WHO THEY ARE THAT HEAL THEIR WOUNDS SLIGHTLY.
1. They who rely on the uncovenanted mercy of God, fatally deceive their souls by expecting mercy contrary to Gospel.
2. They who take refuge in a round of duties; no attainments can stand in place of Christ.
3. They who rest in a faith that is unproductive of good works; but the faith that apprehends Christ will "work by love," "purify the heart," "overcome the world."
III. HOW WE MAY HAVE THEM HEALED EFFECTUALLY.
1. The Lord Jesus has provided a remedy for sin (Isaiah 53:5).
2. That remedy applied by faith shall be effectual for all who trust in it.Address —
1. Those who feel not their need of healing.
2. Those who, after having derived some benefits from Christ, have relapsed into sin.
3. Those who are enjoying health in their souls.
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
1. It may be that some are lulled into this false peace from the fact of never having had clear and scriptural notions of the true nature of sin. They have had their attention perhaps drawn rather more to sins and to sinning than to sin; and in their cases it may have happened that the course of sinning has not been a very atrocious course — that the habitude has never manifested itself in any very formidable way. Now, so long as our attention is fixed upon sins, and so long as our minds are drawing distinctions between the greater and the lesser amount of actual transgressions against God, we overlook the scriptural view of sin, as that fatal principle in the nature of man which taints every faculty, and which renders it utterly impossible that man should live in the light of God's countenance.
2. But suppose men do entertain scriptural views of sin, as a deadly principle within them, still they may have very inadequate views of the justice of God and of His perfect holiness. Many minds are very apt to measure God, as it were, by a human standard, as if God's mode of procedure would be governed on the same principles on which man's mode of procedure is usually governed; and the consequence is, that they invest God with a kind of mercy which is altogether unscriptural. If the sinner views God merely as a God of goodness and tenderness and mercy, and thinks His justice is not to have its full and unrestricted exercise, then we ask, what are we to do with those passages of God's Word which exhibit all His attributes in their just proportions, and their relations one to another?
3. False peace may also be produced by having obscure notions of the Gospel. If we could sum up the whole Gospel message, the whole of the rich provision of God's mercy and justice in Christ Jesus, in one sentence, we should say, it is a remedy for sin; but multitudes hear the Gospel, in all its simplicity and fulness, and yet come to the conclusion that the Gospel system only calls us into a greater familiarity of relation to God, that it sets before us a more spiritual walk than the people who lived under the Jaw were accustomed to, that it calls upon us for a higher moral bearing, and that if we do in the main adhere to that, as if it were a second form of law exhibited to us, then all shall be well; but they overlook the fact that there is in the Gospel a remedy for sin — that it contains a provision for the healing, the true healing of the wound which sin has made.
4. This false peace may arise, moreover, out of an imperfect reception of the true Gospel. The doctrines may be received; the matters of fact upon which the doctrines are based may be received; the economy of the Gospel may be received, as far as the intellect goes; but there may be no surrender of the soul to the Gospel — there may be no yielding up of all the perversity of the natural man to the sweet and precious operations of the Spirit of God, seeking to establish His truth in the heart as a remedy for sin. Now we believe, that wherever these four, or any one of these four causes exist, the result is a false peace. And let it be borne in mind, that most men are very much disposed to be satisfied with a false peace. When the testimony of conscience has been stirring, when the burden of sin has been felt to be a heavy burden, there is a disposition to embrace the first offer of peace that presents itself. And why is it so? Because the burden is heavy to be borne, and the anxiety it occasions is a distressing anxiety, which is to be got rid of in any way. Anything, therefore, that can silence conscience, or that can lessen the severity of its testimony, will be resorted to, and will be regarded as peace.
II. THE REAL NATURE OF THAT ONLY PEACE WHICH CAN BE RELIED UPON. Let it be remembered, that true peace has relation both to God and to man; that is, it must be a peace on both sides — on the side of a just and holy God, and on the side of man with his "carnal mind" which is "enmity against God." There must be peace on both sides; and the peace on God's side must be a peace that shall be in the highest degree honourable to Himself; and in order to be strictly honourable to Him, it must be a peace that shall have magnified His justice, as well as given Him. a just occasion for the exercise of mercy. It is plain, therefore, that man himself cannot make and establish such a peace, either by sacrifice or by service. Then the truth is, that God has taken the whole matter into His own hands. He regards man as altogether helpless in this respect; and God undertakes for the establishing a peace that shall be in the highest degree honourable to Himself, and in the utmost degree suitable to man. In graciously revealing Himself, then, in Christ, God has come forth from the light and glory in which He has dwelt from all eternity, and in the person of Jesus, the Eternal Word, has manifested Himself in an attitude of peace — is at peace. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." In that declaration we "see the attitude of peace. God comes not forth, in the Gospel of His dear Son, as an avenger, but He comes honourably forth as a peace. maker. He comes forth, manifesting the strength and severity of His justice, and magnifying the perfection of His justice. He spared not His own Son."
III. THE DANGER OF A FALSE PEACE. There is present danger, and there is future danger. So long as a false peace is soothing our anxieties in regard to our state as sinners before God, this helps to deaden conscience; it does not always satisfy, but it subdues the activity of conscience, and opens a way for the subtle workings of Satan. Moreover, this false peace disinclines the mind of the deluded one for the definiteness of the Christian state and the Christian character — makes all the peculiarity that marks the Christian and the Christian's walk distasteful — makes it regarded as too exact, as too minute, as going too far in its restraints upon the natural freedom of man; and the consequence is, that it is said, as it is sometimes said of some ministers of the Gospel, that their views are a great deal too high, that they expect a great deal more of people than they ought, that they are always raising a standard which makes religion appear so impracticable. Lastly, there is the danger of indisposing us to study the depths of the written Word, and to listen to those depths when they are brought out in the public ministry of the Word. So long as the imagination is pleasantly exercised, and the ministry of the preacher is like the song of one who hath a pleasant voice, and playeth well upon an instrument, there is contentedness; but when the depths of God's truth are brought forth, then it is regarded as a dry matter — a matter in which they have but little concern; and whilst this state of mind exists, the false peace makes the sinner to lie in a perilous abode, like a man whose roof is on fire, and who is pressed down by the weight of slumber. But the danger is also future. If we die in a false peace, then in the day of resurrection and in the judgment we meet God as an avenger, and an avenger during all eternity.
(G. Fisk, LL. B.)
I. The prophet here lays his finger on the essential error — THE FORMALIST HAS NO ADEQUATE IDEA OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SIN. To suppose you have healed the corruption of a man's nature by the sacrifice of a turtle dove is the merest folly. To suppose that you remove the enmity of a man's heart against God by crying "Peace, peace" is an incredible mockery. Peace with God is the will, and the heart, and the conscience at one with Him.
II. This ignorance of the priests as to the very nature of the sin they professed to cure reminds us of the truth of Lord Bacon's saying, that THAT IS A FALSE PEACE WHICH IS GROUNDED UPON AN IMPLICIT IGNORANCE, just as all colours agree in the dark. You may cherish the ignominious ambition to have peace at any price. You may escape the problems of thought by declining to think. You may avoid the responsibility of freedom by voluntary slavery; you may escape the pain of repentance by ignoring the reality of sin; yes, you may refuse to acknowledge the obligations of the light by dwelling ever in the darkness; you may prefer to be the victim of error and superstition to being their victor; you may prefer the cowardly acquiescence of surrender to the glad triumph of conquest; but you will surely not delude yourselves into the belief that you have settled anything, healed any hurt, or that the peace you enjoy is a worthy one, with any elements of desirability at all. For let us be quite sure that true peace — moral or mental — is based upon an honest facing of the truth. It was old Matthew Paris, the last of the old monastic historians, who complained somewhat pathetically that the case of historians was hard, because if they told the truth they provoked men, while if they wrote what was false they offended God. The historian's art, it appears, must have in it something of the photographer's, whose bounden duty is well known to be to make men better looking than they are. It has been urged, that if you can persuade a man that he is better than be really is, he will try to live up to the new revelation. Overlook his faults, and explain his errors away, and he will take heart and grow better. The question comes back to an old one that has been asked and discussed again and again, "Can there ever be any moral uses in a lie?" Do we believe in that religious homoeopathy that proposes to cure one immorality by another, conceal corruption by falsehood, and cover sinfulness by lying? Can any possible good come out of such a practice? Can there ever be any moral uses in a lie? I think you will agree with me, that even if it were possible to obtain a satisfactory peace by the suppression of conviction on the one hand, or a misrepresentation of fact on the other, we are not at liberty to take it on such terms. To obtain a worthy peace we must face the facts.
(C. S. Horne, M. A.)
1. The first person I shall deal with is the man who has peace because he spends his life in a ceaseless round of gaiety and frivolity. You have scarcely come from one place of amusement before you enter another. You know that you are never happy except you are in what you call gay society, where the frivolous conversation will prevent you from hearing the voice of your conscience. In the morning you will be asleep while God's sun is shining, but at night you will be spending precious time in some place of foolish, if not lascivious, mirth. If the harp should fail you, then you call for Nabar's feast. There shall be a sheep shearing, and you shall be drunken with wine, until your souls become as stolid as a stone. And then you wonder that you have peace. What wonder! Surely any man would have peace when his heart has become as hard as a stone. What weathers shall it feel? What tempests shall move the stubborn bowels of a granite rock? You sear your consciences, and then marvel that they feel not. Oh, that you would begin to live! What a price you are paying for your mirth — eternal torment for an hour of jollity — separation from God for a brief day or two of sin!
2. I turn to another class of men. Finding that amusement at last has lost all its zest, having drained the cup of worldly pleasure till they find first satiety, and then disgust lying at the bottom, they want some stronger stimulus, and Satan, who has drugged them once, has stronger opiates than mere merriment for the man who chooses to use them. If the frivolity of this world will not suffice to rock a soul to sleep, he hath a yet more hellish cradle for the soul. He will take you up to his own breast, and bid you suck therefrom his own Satanic nature, that you may then be still and calm. I mean that he will lead you to imbibe infidel notions, and when this is fully accomplished, you can have "Peace, peace, when there is no peace."
3. I shall come now to a third class of men. These are people not particularly addicted to gaiety, nor especially given to infidel notions; but they are a sort of folk who are careless, and determined to let well alone. Their motto, "Let tomorrow take care for the things of itself; let us live while we live; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." If their conscience cries out at all, they bid it lie still. When the minister disturbs them, instead of listening to what he says, and so being brought into a state of real peace, they cry, "Hush I be quiet I there is time enough yet; I will not disturb myself with these childish fears: be still, sir, and lie down." Oh! up ye sleepers, ye gaggers of conscience, what mean you? Why are you sleeping when death is hastening on, when eternity is near, when the great white throne is even now coming on the clouds of heaven, when the trumpet of the resurrection is now being set to the mouth of the archangel?
4. A fourth set of men have a kind of peace that is the result of resolutions which they have made, but which they will never carry into effect. "Oh," saith one, "I am quite easy enough in my mind, for when I have got a little more money I shall retire from business, and then I shall begin to think about eternal things." Ah, but I would remind you that when you were an apprentice, you said you would reform when you became a journeyman; and when you were a journeyman, you used to say you would give good heed when you became a master. But hitherto these bills have never been paid when they became duo. They have every one of them been dishonoured as yet; and take my word for it, this new accommodation bill will be dishonoured too.
5. Now I turn to another class of men, in order that I may miss none who are saying, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." I do not doubt but that many of the people of London enjoy peace in their hearts, because they are ignorant of the things of God. If you have a peace that is grounded on ignorance, get rid of it; ignorance is a thing, remember, that you are accountable for. You are not accountable for the exercise of your judgment to man, but you are accountable for it to God.
6. I now pass to another and more dangerous form of this false peace. I may have missed some of you; probably I shall come closer home to you now. Alas, alas, let us weep and weep again, for there is a plague among us. It is the part of candour to admit that with all the exercise of judgment, and the most rigorous discipline, we cannot keep our churches free from hypocrisy. Oh! I do not know of a more thoroughly damnable delusion than for a man to get a conceit into his head, that he is a child of God, and yet live in sin — to talk to you about sovereign grace, while he is living in sovereign lust — to stand up and make himself the arbiter of what is truth, while he himself contemns the precept of God, and tramples the commandment under foot.
7. There remains yet another class of beings who surpass all these in their utter indifference to everything that might arouse them. They are men that are given up by God, justly given up. They have passed the boundary of His long suffering. He has said, "My Spirit shall no more strive with them"; "Ephraim is given unto idols, let him alone." As a judicial punishment for their impenitence, God has given them up to pride and hardness of heart.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. HOW IS IT PERSONS REACH THIS STATE OF EASY CONFIDENCE?
1. There is a disposition to acknowledge in a general way that they are sinners, though also to palliate the enormity of sin, and to gloss it over with the gentle epithet of an infirmity.
2. Then, to make all right, secure, and comfortable, the sentiment is cherished that God is merciful and will overlook our infirmities. But this mercy, so vaguely trusted in, is not the mercy which has been made the subject of an actual offer from God to man. He has stepped forth to relieve us from the debt of sin.
II. THE EVILS OF SUCH A FALSE CONFIDENCE.
1. It casts an aspersion on the character of God.
2. It is hostile to the cause of practical righteousness, since it tends to obliterate all restraints, on the specious plea of all-availing mercy, and leaves every man to sin just as much as he likes.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
1. The same oppression, the same sin, the same corruptions which are causing so much anguish in our midst, were at work there, and from many a heart there went up the cry, "How long, O Lord, how long?" The means they adopted were not sufficient for the end, and that is just the point at which these Israelites join hands with many reformers in our days. There are fashions in these things as in everything else. With the crowd and with the priests in these far-off days it was sacrifice and burnt offering. With us the favourite nostrums are somewhat different. Let us look at some of them.(1) There is what has been called the doctrine of culture. "Educate, educate, educate," some cry, and that will put all right. The exponents of this school are enthusiastic, and talk of great things to be accomplished when the refinement and culture which is fostered in the "upper ten" has filtered down through university extension schemes and settlements to the working classes.(2) Others, of a more practical turn of mind, think that the world can be set right by legislative means. "Better laws and greater freedom are what is wanted," they say, "to elevate the people." Life to them consists in the abundance of things which men possess. They laugh at the notion of a happiness which has not plenty, and ridicule the very idea of comfort or contentment in a one-roomed house.(3) Another set think that if we could make the people sober all would be well. They tell us that almost nine-tenths of the crime and mischief in the country comes from drunkenness.
2. There is much truth in a great deal of what has been said by the advocates of each of these different systems, and within certain limits they are right. That they will ever reach the root of the matter is another thing. They are no new doctrines. Long have men tried them. And what has been the result where they have had freest play? A perfect cure? An approach to an ideal State? Alas, no. In some cases one or other of them, or all of them together, may have contributed to render life easier, or more comfortable to individuals here and there; but none of them, nor all of them together, have been able to heal the hurt of humanity. They are but the purple patches with which men seek to hide the festering sores. The trouble is in the heart, in the blood, in the innermost centre of our being, and till it is expelled from that citadel, there can be no hope for us, or the world. They who cherish the supposition that man at bottom is a lover of truth and light, of purity and goodness, fondle a vain conceit. Is there no cruelty, is there no lust in upper circles of society? Is there no impurity, no degradation, no oppression among the learned? Is there no misery, no broken hearts in the homes of the wealthy? Are there no tears, no sighs, no wrinkled brows where intemperance is unknown?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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