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JESUS LEAVING PEACE TO HIS DISCIPLES.
JOHN xiv. 27.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
THERE is no single event in the life of our compassionate Redeemer, which is not calculated to interest and instruct us. Whether we view him when the people hailed him as the promised Messiah, and shouted hosannas to the son of David, or when they covered him with reproaches, and pursued him with curses; whether we listen to him uttering the severest denunciations against the proud pharisees, or giving the most tender assurances to the humble and broken hearted; whether we behold him mingling with the rude populace of Judea, that he might reclaim them, or retiring to the mount, that, aloof from the world, he might hold sweet converse with his Father; whether we contemplate him clothed with the power of divinity, and commanding all nature at his pleasure, or invested with our purest affections, taking little children in his arms and blessing them in a word, at
whatever part of his conduct we look, we behold a character uniformly bright and glorious; admirable for its perfect combination of every virtue, attractive for its overflowing benignity and love.
But though all his conduct is godlike, nevertheless, the last scenes of his life shine with peculiar splendour. In proportion as he draws nearer to its close, his charity appears to burn with a warmer flame, his divinity to shed forth brighter beams through the clouds which enshrouded it. This Sun of Righteousness, now that it is about to set, emits its mildest lustre, and collects, thus to speak, all its fires. The chapter whence my text is taken, and those immediately succeeding it, confirm this observation. They present to us Jesus surrounded by his dear disciples, on the evening before his crucifixion. He is not ignorant that in a few hours his soul will experience agonies unutterable, and the ground of Gethsemane be smoking with the blood gushing from his tortured frame. He looks at his disciples professing their attachment to him, and foresees that before they sleep, one of them will betray him; another deny him with execrations; and all of them timidly abandon him to sustain his misery alone. He fully knows that he just touches that period, when he is to be scourged, buffeted, spit upon, loaded with curses; when his body, suspended between heaven and earth, is to be racked with pain; and his soul, encircled with the flames of divine justice, to be made a sacrifice for sin. In such a situation, the bare idea of which makes us to tremble, what is his deportment? Does he lament his sad destiny, and make loud protestations of his innocence, and execrate the authors of his calamities? Ah, no! with a mind serene as the regions of hea
ven, he looks on these terrible objects; with a resolution fixed and steady as the eternal purposes of God, he advances to meet them. But though thus calm and intrepid with regard to that weight of woes which is descending on himself, he is not indifferent to the miseries of others. His sensibility is exquisitely alive to the sufferings of his disciples, and he seizes with avidity the few moments of liberty which remain to him, to arm them against the sorrows with which they will have to contend. He institutes a simple ordinance as a memorial of his death, and a pledge of his love; he commends them to the guidance and protection of his Father; he animates them by the most consolatory promises; he sustains them by the richest benedictions, and takes a solemn farewell of them in the words of the text: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
These words may be paraphrased in the following manner: I am now about to be taken from you, and your outward situation will be dreadful. Innumerable calamities will assail you. Your conduct in propagating my religion will be esteemed impious; you will be exposed to the bitterest persecutions; many of you will suffer the most cruel deaths. Yet let not the prospect of these evils affright you, nor induce you to decline from my service. To support you under them, I leave you a peace and quietness of mind which external troubles cannot disturb; a tranquillity which will repose in your hearts, and be insuperable by human or diabolical malice. This I call peculiarly my peace, because it, is purchased by my blood, and applied by my Spirit, and because it is distinct from and superior to those 46
kinds of tranquillity derived from other sources. Your countrymen, whenever they meet or part, exclaim, Peace be unto you: With them this salutation is frequently an unfelt ceremony or an impotent wish. But it is not so with myself; for as I sincerely desire that you may enjoy it, so I will be careful that this desire be accomplished.' Such is the spirit of these words: the principal truths taught in them will be perceived while we illustrate these two ideas :
I. Jesus Christ gives peace to his followers:
My brethren, I do not ask your attention! It is surely secured by such interesting words uttered on so interesting an occasion; but I ask, I beseech thee, merciful Jesus, to afford us thine aid, and whilst we are meditating on thy precious legacy, make us to enjoy it. Shed down in our souls that "peace which passeth understanding," that so our cares and fears may expire in thy bosom.
I. Jesus Christ gives peace to his followers; or in other words, he has opened for them sources of tranquillity and joy amidst all the calamities and afflictions of life. "Peace I leave with you: let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
This will be established if we can prove these two points:
I. He has given us the most adequate supports under all the woes to which we are exposed; and,
II. He has bestowed on us positive grounds of tranquillity. That is to say, with the one hand he gives us an antidote against every sorrow, and with the other reaches forth to us the richest benedictions.
1. Look at your life and heart, and you will find
two great enemies of peace and tranquillity, sins and afflictions; and in vain will the heart sigh for rest, till in some mode the sting of sin is taken away and the bitterness of affliction removed. These effects, these desirable effects, are produced by the Redeemer, and by him alone.
While the conscience is burdened by the guilt of sin, and the mind harassed by the apprehension of that punishment to which it exposes us, we in vain hope for peace. The dreadful anger of God will crush me if I die in my present situation, and I may die every moment,' is a thought that will dash every festivity, and embitter every enjoyment. Other miseries are trifling in comparison with this sense of guilt. In the sorrows which proceed from the unkindness and injustice of the world, we may retire within our own breasts, and enjoy that pure and unalloyed satisfaction which results from conscious rectitude: but here the executioner is within us, and it is only by fleeing from ourselves that we can be calm. In most of our other sorrows we see opposed to us, men weak like ourselves, whom we may overcome, and who at most "can only kill the body, and after that, have nothing else that they can do:" but here it is the mighty God who appears as our foe; the God "who can cast both body and soul into hell," and make us feel in every atom of which we are composed, torments which shall never end. No, no! there is no other grief that can be compared with the anguish of the soul, that is enlightened to behold the spotless purity and inflexible justice of God, and the depth of the abyss dug by its own crimes and iniquities. The tears that are wrung from us by outward afflictions, are ecstasy, compared to these quakings of the heart that has a true