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abide with them. So Philip. i. 2; the salutation is, "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." The concluding wish or farewell, ch. iv. 23, is: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." And Col. i. 2. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." The valediction at the end of the epistle is, "Grace be with you."
Complying with the common forms, our Lord here gives his blessing to the disciples in a like manner, and says, "Peace I leave with you." I wish you all happiness. I leave and bequeath it to you: and remember, it is my valedictory blessing.' My peace I give unto you. Nor do I only wish, but I actually give and impart happiness to you, provided you are desirous of it, and careful to obtain it.' Or, he repeats the same wish, as we sometimes do at parting, saying, "Farewell, farewell:" or, "again and again I wish you all happiness."
II. Which brings us to the other point to be considered by us: wherein Christ's peace exceeds and surpasses the peace which the world gives.
It may imply these several things. Christ's wish of peace is more sincere, more fervent, more valuable, and more effectual, than that of the world.
1. Christ's wish of peace is more sincere.
Men's wishes of happiness are sometimes formal only, an empty sound, mere words, and nothing else a compliment performed out of regard to custom and fashion, without any real love, or true desire of the welfare of those who are favoured with it. In this respect, Christ's peace exceeded that of the world. His farewell wish was not without thought and meaning. He was not unconcerned about the welfare of his disciples. Their happiness was not a thing indifferent to him. He truly loved them, and wished them well. As St. John observes at the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of his gospel: "Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end." He was continually giving them marks of affection for their
welfare: and at this time he was sincere as ever.
2. Christ's wish of peace exceeds that of the world in the fervour and earnestness, as well as in the truth and sincerity of it.
It was not a cold and faint desire of their happiness, but most fervent and earnest. Otherwise he had not now concerned himself about his disciples, when he was so near a time of bitter sufferings.
Indeed Christ's love was very general and extensive. "For God so loved the world, that gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii. 16. He gave himself for "the life of the world," John vi. 51. In his difficult and important undertaking, and every part of it, he had an eye to the recovery and salvation of all, even of all such as were in darkness and ignorance, sin and misery. And certainly that love is very great and. extraordinary, which produces such effects, and carries through the sorrows of a painful and ignominious death.
In this general and fervent love the disciples had their share. He gave himself for them, as well as for others. But we may suppose, that in the days of his flesh, during his abode on this earth, he had an especial affection and tenderness for those whom he had called to be with him, and who had hearkened to that call. Before he gave them that call, they believed in him, and were disciples in general, and had a respect for him as the expected Messiah. Such an idea they formed of him, founded upon the preaching of John the Baptist, and some discourses with himself, compared with the prophecies of the ancient scriptures.
And now they had been with him a year or two, during the time of his public ministry.: They persevered in their faith and profession, and attendance on him, notwithstanding the reflections cast upon him, and upon them for his sake. They were not free from defects and failings, which his all-discerning eye observed, and which he kindly took notice of to them. But they had shewn a sincere affection and respect for him, and an ardour for his honour and service, which were very acceptable.
They were become more especially his charge, and were as his family. As such he is now retired with them, and has friendly and intimate conversation with them. And he takes his leave of them, as a parent does of his children, a little before his expected departure out of this
* Bis autem eundem sensum repetit, sicut dicere solemus: Vale, Vale. Grot, in loc.
world: or as some person of eminent station and character, may do of his friends and dependents, or others, whom he has treated with special regard. Christ's peace
3. There is still another very remarkable difference to be observed by us. surpasseth that of the world in real excellence and value.
His wish of peace is not only sincere and fervent, but also wise and judicious, not weak, and fond, or partial.
What was the peace, which our Lord now gave, and left with his disciples, we may clearly discern from the tenour of all his exhortations and teachings, public and private. He does not wish them the great things of this world, abundance of riches, honour and splendour: these are not the things which he wishes for them chiefly, and in the first place. He continually cautioned men against setting their affections upon such things, and seeking them as their main happiness. Undoubtedly, he wishes, that his friends and followers may fare well, and meet with a kind and friendly reception among men, and obtain other advantages and comforts, so far as they can be secured in the way of integrity and strict virtue, and without abating the ardour of their zeal for the honour of God, and the interest of true religion, in all its branches. But he first of all desires, that they may do well, and in the next place only, that they may fare well.
In this respect the peace of Christ differs very much from the peace of the world, and the men of it. The peace, which they usually wish for those whom they love best, is made up of all the ingredients of a worldly felicity. They set a great value upon such things themselves. And therefore, when their love of others is sincere and warm, they are very apt earnestly to desire abundance of worldly goods for them.
But that is not true wisdom. Solomon said of old: "Fear God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole" duty and interest" of man," Eccl. xii. 13. Our Lord proceeds upon the same plan, only farther improved. As he says in this context, ver. 21. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father. And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." His precepts are very sublime and spiritual, requiring purity of heart and life. His blessings and promises are suitable, even heavenly and eternal. And the desires and pursuits of his disciples and followers should be answerable. 66 My sheep hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands," John x. 27, 28.
This blessing our Lord now gives to his disciples. This peace he leaves with them, and wishes, and recommends it to them to take care that they fail not of it, and fall not short of the everlasting rest which remains for God's people. And if they act thus, all other things needful and convenient will be added.
Then they will have peace with God. God will not be an enemy to them, but will love and approve of them. And they will have a comfortable persuasion of his favour and acceptance. If they seek the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness, in the first place, they will never contract such friendship with this world, as would produce enmity with God.
Then they will have peace in their own minds. They will not easily do any thing, for which their own hearts should afterwards reproach them: but will so act, as to enjoy a happy serenity and composure of mind.
They will be also free from tormenting, ambitious pursuits of the great things of this world; and will have satisfaction and contentment in every condition.
Says our Lord: "And ye now therefore have sorrow. But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. And your joy no man taketh from you," John xvi. 22. This is a great advantage of the peace of religion, the peace which our Lord gives, that it is durable. It is not to be broken in upon, and carried away, by every flood of affliction. It is not fleeting and inconstant, like worldly peace and joy, depending upon advantages, passing and fading. But it resembles the rock upon which it is built, the hope of everlasting life, which God has promised to them that love him, and keep his commandments. The earnest desire and steady pursuit of that, above all things else, must produce great and constant peace. For whatever we lose, this great blessing is sure, if we do not forfeit it by wilful disobedience and transgression.
This is a blessed peace. St. Paul speaks of the peace of God, as "passing all understanding," Philip. iv. 7. It includes advantages, not easy to be apprehended by such as have had no experience of it.
There is a passage of a gentile philosopher, who lived in the Roman empire, soon after the rise of the Christian religion, whose study, as is supposed, was not so much the contemplation of the works of nature, as the rules of virtue, and who aimed to cultivate the manners of men. You perceive, says he, that the emperor gives you great peace, inasmuch as there are no longer wars, and fightings, robberies and piracies, and you may travel safely from the east to 'the west. But can he give you peace from fevers, from shipwreck, from fire, from earthquakes, 'from thunder? Can he give you peace from ambition? No, he cannot. From grief? No, <he cannot. From envy? No, not from any such things. But the doctrine of the philosophers 'promise you peace from these also. And what says it? O ye men, if ye will hearken to me, then wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall not be sad, you shall not be 'angry, you shall be free from tumultuous passions. He who has this peace, not proclaimed by Cæsar, (for how should he proclaim such peace?) but proclaimed by God, according to reason: he, I say, who has this peace, is he not happy? Has he not wherewith he may be • satisfied?'
So that Greek philosopher. And indeed this is great peace: to suffer afflictions, and not to be depressed by them: to meet with provocations and injuries, and not to be angry: to behold others preferred and advanced before us, and above us, and to be free from envy to observe the practices of the crafty and designing, and not to admit within our breasts vexatious and tormenting jealousy: to live in a world, where some things are desirable, others grievous: and to be free from uneasy and tumultuous affections: not too much desiring the one, nor too much fearing and dreading the other.
This is great peace. Nor is there any so likely to give it as Christ.
4. Which brings us to the fourth particular: Christ's peace, or wish of peace and happiness, excels the peace of the world, as being more effectual.
He was to be soon parted from his disciples by death. But he would see them again. And if he lived, they should live also. John xiv. 19.
His doctrine, his life, his death, his resurrection and exaltation, tended mightily to confirm the faith and hope of eternal life; which would engage their affections for things heavenly, and take them off from things sensible and temporal: and thereby lay a foundation for peace and comfort, amidst all the vicissitudes of the present condition. And all they who believe in Jesus, and attend to his doctrine and example, have like advantages with those who conversed personally with him.
III. APPLICATION. I now conclude with a few reflections by way of application.
1. We may here observe, that our blessed Lord is great and admirable every where, and upon all occasions. We discern his most excellent temper and conduct in private and in public, with his disciples, and when retired from the world, as well as at other seasons.
2. Our Lord's conduct here, as well as upon other occasions, deserves our attention, and imitation.
Being about to be removed from his disciples by death, he takes leave of them in an affectionate manner. He gives them a valedictory blessing or leaves with them a legacy and present of peace. Conceive it either way, it makes no great difference. Nor let us be concerned about imitating him in form only. Let our peace, as his did, exceed that of the world. Let our peace, our wishes of happiness to others, be more sincere, more fervent, more valuable, and more effectual, than that of most men. Especially let us attend to the third property, more valuable and important. Let us be above all things desirous, that they, whom we love in the flesh, may seek heavenly things in the first place. And if we set them an example of moderation for earthly things, as our Lord did, and at the same time are concerned for their temporal welfare, as for our own, and practise frugality, diligence and application: this will be the way to render our wishes for those who are dear to us, advantageous and effectual. Hereby we shall leave, and give to them that peace, which we wish and desire may be their portion: provided they do their part, and are not wanting to themselves.
3. Lastly, Let us each one reflect upon ourselves. Have we that peace, which Christ gave to his disciples? If not, let us inquire what is the reason of it: for, as our Lord said to his disciples, when they wished peace or prosperity to any house into which they entered, "if the
* Arrian. Epict. 1. 3. cap. 13.
son of peace be there, their peace should rest upon it," Luke x. 5, 6. In like manner, if we are true disciples of Jesus, if we love him, and keep his commandments, "his peace will rest upon But if we are not humble: if we are not meek and self-denying, as he has required us to be: if we are proud and aspiring: if our prevailing aims and desires are selfish and worldly, without any fruits of generous love: we are not sons of peace, or Christ's disciples; nor does his peace belong unto us.
However, having once found where our fault or defect lies, let us be willing and careful to amend it. So wrath shall not abide upon us, but we may become sons of peace. We shal then enjoy comfort and peace of mind now, and hereafter enter into that undisturbed and everlasting rest and peace, which remain for all the people of God, of all places, and of all times. Amen.
THE APOSTOLICAL BENEDICTION.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.-2 Cor. xiii. 14.
I AM not insensible of the difficulty of the subject, and that, possibly, what shall be proposed may not be satisfactory to all. I have been desirous, nevertheless, to explain this apostolical benediction; which is very often, though not always and constantly, made use of in our assemblies, at the conclusion of our solemn and public worship.
As every word in it may require distinct observation, so there may be reckoned to be some special difficulty in settling the precise meaning of the last phrase, "the communion of the Holy Ghost:" which is not found at the conclusion of any other of the epistles in the New Testament. And it is questioned by some, whether it does not intend those miraculous gifts which were then common, but were peculiar to the early ages of Christianity, and have for a long time ceased in the church. If that be the direct, and the sole and only meaning of the expression; then it will be argued, that this benediction, in all its fulness, cannot be fitly used in our assemblies in these times. For it is not reasonable to ask for ourselves, nor to wish and pray for others, such things, as we have no ground to hope for, and which the circumstances of things in the world declare and manifest, that it is not the good will and pleasure of God to bestow. As this is a main difficulty in the words, we should have a particular eye to it.
In order the better to conceive distinctly of this matter, I shall mention these several following propositions.
I. It will be of use to compare this with the farewell, or valedictory wishes and benedictions at the end of the other epistles of the apostles.
I begin with those in the two epistles to the Thessalonians, which seem to be the first written epistles of St. Paul, and the most early scriptures of the New Testament.
1 Thess. v. 28. "The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all." 2 Thess. iii. 17, 18. "The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is the token in all my epistles. So I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
And exactly the same in Rom. xvi. 24. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." And before in ch. xv. 13, he had said: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." And ver. 33. "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." And ch. xvi. 20." The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
1 Cor. xvi. 23, 24. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen."
Gal. vi. 18. "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen." Philip. iv. 23. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all. you Amen." Col. iv. 18. “The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen."
1 Tim. vi. 21. "Grace be with thee.
2 Tim. iv. 22. "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Tit. iii. 15. "All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen."
Philem. ver. 25. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
In the epistle of St. James there is nothing very solemn, either at the beginning, or at the end. What he says at the beginning is this: "To the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad, greeting."
1 Pet. v. 13, 14. "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.'
There is no salutation at the end of the second epistle of St. Peter. St. John's third epistle concludes thus: "Peace be to thee. Greet the friends by name."
The brethren salute thee.
Rev. xxii. 21. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. These are the conclusions, or the valedictory blessings, of the several epistles of the New Testament. Whereby we perceive, that none is more frequent, than that of "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." Sometimes it is shorter: "Grace be with you all." Or "the God of peace be with you:" or peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus.
II. It may be of use to compare the valedictions at the end with the salutations which are at the beginning of the apostolical epistles.
For a valediction, or farewell, is nothing else but a salutation at parting. The chief difference seems to be in the form, without much difference in the meaning. At meeting it usually is: " peace be to you." At parting: "peace be with you," or abide with you. Another small difference may be observed. be observed. The wish at the end is more summary. Or, perhaps, there is none at all: the salutation at the beginning of a writing, or at first meeting, being reckoned sufficient. Besides that, possibly, in the midst of your discourse, or in the body of your epistle, or other writing, you have inserted divers good wishes.
I shall now recite some of the salutations at the beginning of the epistles, and in the present order of the books of the New Testament. You will in your own minds compare them with the valedictions, or farewell wishes at the end, which have been already recited.
Rom. i. 7. "To all that be at Rome-Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Cor. i. 3. "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Cor. i. 2. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gal. i. 3. "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ."
So also Eph. i. 2; and Philip. i. 2; and Col. i. 2; and 1 Thess. i. 1; and 2 Thess. i. 2.
1 Tim. i. 2. "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord." So also 2 Tim. i. 2.
Tit. i. 4. "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour."
Philem. ver. 3. "Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the epistle to the Hebrews there is no salutation at the beginning.
James i. 1. " To the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad, greeting."
1 Pet. i. 2. "To the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia,-grace unto you, and peace be multiplied."
2 Pet. i. 2." Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and
of Jesus Christ our Lord."
In St. John's first epistle there is no solemn wish or prayer, either at the beginning, or the