<< PEACE IN THE LORD. >>
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you : not as the
world giveth, give I unto you.'' —John xiv. 27.
WHAT is this peace which the Lord promised to the disciples in His farewell words,—promised as His most precious gift, and as the fruit of His finished labors ? We have some knowledge of peace on the material and natural planes of life. Natural forces are at peace though these bright worlds are moving with inconceivable velocity, because each one keeps in its orbit and flies on its shining way in the path ordained for it. Natural forces give us most beautiful and impressive types of peace when they act in harmony : a river gliding along in a smooth and silent current ; the wind bending the waving corn, playing with the dancing leaves, rippling the smooth surface of the lake which sleeps among the hills, and bringing coolness and refreshment on its wings. A spring morning when new life is beating in the heart of nature and quickening every vegetable form into new activity is a most impressive exhibition of immense forces moving in orderly ways to accomplish the Divine purposes.
How silently the tender leaf emerges from the coarse bud ! How gently the blossom opens its prison doors and smiles in beauty upon the world ! There is no noise, no confusion, no struggle with opposing obstacles. The murmuring winds, the vernal warmth, the opening flower, the growing harvests, with united voice say, Peace. Invisible influences melt into the soul with the benedictions of peace. Such is the voice of the Lord in His works ; such are the hints of the nature of peace, which He gives us on the lowest plane of the creation, and from them we may get a suggestion of the origin and nature and blessedness of the peace which He desires to give us in the higher realms of the spirit. Let us look up then from nature to the Lord's direct teachings concerning the origin and nature of His peace. " My peace I give unto you."
"By peace," says Swedenborg, " are signified all the things in the complex which are from the Lord, and thence all the things of heaven and the church, and the blessedness of life in them. These are of peace in the highest or inmost sense. It follows from this, that charity, spiritual security, and internal rest are peace ; for, when a man is in the Lord, he is in peace with his neighbor, which is charity ; in protection against the hells, which is spiritual security ; and when he is in peace with his neighbor, and in protection against the hells, he is in internal rest from evils and falsities." ("Apocalypse Revealed," No. 306.) Let us consider this instruction in regard to the essential nature of peace.
First, observe what is said of its origin. It is from the Lord. All its constituents in their aggregate are from Him. What are we to understand by their being from the Lord ? All life, all power, all capacity to love, to know, to act, to sufler, are from Him, but the order may be disturbed, their nature chaaged, in coming to us. Peace results when these constituents of life are received by us in the same form, order, and harmonies in which they exist in the Lord. Love and truth are united and become one in act. They go forth in the form of use to others. Truth does not remain a cold and separate thing in the understanding ; love is not an aimless and helpless impulse in the will. They become one. Each gives itself to the other, and hand in hand they go forth to serve and bless. They move in the paths of the Divine order, and in the harmonies of the Divine life. There is no struggle with obstacles, no conflict with hostile forces, no resistance, no doubt, no fear ; there are no clashing and distracting influences. All the faculties are lifted up and borne onward to attainment by the gentle attractions of the Divine love. The will and the understanding are in the Lord,—that is, they are in the sphere of His love, they are in the harmonies of His order. The will is vivified with His life, the understanding is illuminated with His truth, and all the faculties move in accord with His creating and sustaining energies. This is the condition into which the Lord created us, and these are the relations which the Lord desires us to sustain to Him. In such a state of the soul there can be no jar, no discord in the harmony of life, no failure in the attainment of the highest good. " In me," says our Lord, "ye shall have peace." Such is peace in its aggregate. Let us consider its three essential constituents.
The first is charity ; " for, when a man is in the Lord, he is in peace with his neighbor, which is charity." Charity consists essentially in loving the neighbor as ourselves. It consists in putting his interests on a level with our own, and in doing to others and thinking of others and in regarding them in all respects as we desire to have them think of us and do to us. When we are in this state we are at peace in ourselves with others. They may think evil of us, but we do not think evil of them ; they may try to injure us, but we do not try to injure them ; they may hate us, but we do not hate them. We do not make others an excuse or an example for ourselves. Our minds are serene whatever storms of passion may be raging in the minds of others. The Lord gives us His peace when we abide in His love.
Suppose every member of a family to act from this principle of charity. Would there not be peace in that house? Each member of the family is looking to the good of all. Each one is trying to contribute to the comfort and happiness of all. Consequently all the members are serving each one. This is the heavenly order. To every family living in this order the Lord comes with the Divine benediction, "Peace be to this house."
When the members of social, civil, or religious societies think and speak and act from this principle of heavenly life the kingdom of God will come to them. They will be societies of heaven upon the earth. Suppose every member of the various societies that are founded for social, civil, industrial, or religious purposes should regard every other member as he or she wished to be regarded ; suppose we all thought of others with the same kindness, consideration, and good feeling with which we desire others to think of us ; suppose we all spoke of others with the same tenderness, the same scrupulous regard for the truth, the same desire to do them no harm, the same desire to help them, with which we wish others to speak of us ; suppose we were in the constant effort, according to our abiHty, to give strength to the weak, courage to the timid, hght to the ignorant, and in all kind, wise, gentle, and useful ways to help the needy, as we, who are all needy in some respects, desire to be helped by others, would not such societies be heaven upon the earth? The Lord's peace would reign in them. There would be union, harmony, activity, strength, help for each and all, peace and happiness beyond our present conception of the possibility of attainment in this life.
Another constituent of the peace which the Lord gives us is " spiritual security' ' from the assaults of all the influences which tend to disturb the harmony of life. This is an essential factor of perfect peace. However deep and full and exquisite might be our peace, it would still be imperfect if its harmonies could be disturbed by any corruption from evil desires or assaults from false principles. The Lord gives us His peace according to the immutable laws of His Divine order. The soul stands in them, is lifted up by their attractions. It is borne onward in the currents of the Divine forces. They environ it on all sides ; they flow into it from within ; they encompass it from without. It takes refuge under the wings of the Almighty. There is no possibility that any disturbing influence can gain access to it. The love of self and the world has become quiescent, and we yield ourselves without any reservation or reluctance to be led by infinite love and guided by infinite wisdom. The promise is fulfilled : '' Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."
When the Lord gives His peace unto us we come into the clear and steadfast light of Divine truth. The darkness of error cannot cast a shadow over us. Darkness cannot approach light. Darkness comes by the absence of light. Fill a room with light and you cannot get any darkness into it. Illuminate a mind with genuine truth and error can find no place in it, a falsity cannot approach it. Cold cannot exist in the presence of heat. The most delicate plant is perfectly secure against frost in a warm and genial atmosphere. So the love of self and the world cannot approach the love of the Lord and the neighbor. They are opposites and cannot dwell together. When the heart is full of heavenly love there is no room for hatred. The conditions on which we gain heavenly peace secure us against its disturbance and loss. The reason why our peace is so often disturbed and destroyed now is because we live so much in the world, under the influence of selfish and worldly desires. We have not gained the peace which the Lord gives to all who will receive it. We have not yet gained the heavenly mansions; we are in the border-land between heaven and hell, and we are the subjects of contention between the heavenly and the infernal hosts. We are troubled, distracted, drawn in opposite directions. But the Lord bids us be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world and has gained a position in which He can help us to overcome it. When by His Divine aid this is accomplished, we shall be where no falsity can find us and no evil disturb the serenity of our peace. We shall gain '' spiritual security. ''
The third essential of peace is '' internal rest.'' While we live in the world,—that is, in the love of it and in the thought of it,—we shall look to it for peace. This is the condition of the mass of humanity, and we are all more or less in this state. We are looking without for peace, to our external and natural relations for rest. If we can gain sufficient wealth to satisfy our wants and gratify our desires, then we vainly think we shall be contented and happy. But we forget that our wants increase with our means of supplying them. Our desires grow faster than our means of gratifying them. Then, too, there is no security against the loss of any possession. It has become a maxim of worldly wisdom that it is more difficult to keep wealth than it is to gain it. The consequence is that those who possess it and set their hearts upon it must be disturbed with anxieties and fears for its safety. Those who look for happiness in domestic and social relations and who are the most delightfully situated in these respects have no security for the permanence of these possessions. The relation of husband and wife, on which more than on any other depends our happiness in this world, is liable at any time to be severed by death.
Parents and children must part ; the most intimate friends must separate ; families are broken up and dispersed ; homes are forsaken and become desolate. There is no worldly, no natural possession that is permanent. There is no place on the earth where we can lay up a treasure of any kind in which it will be secure. There is no natural relation or possession, no knowledge, no affection, no honor, no power, no personal tie that is safe from harm and loss. Consequently every state and condition of the natural mind is subject to doubts and fears and anxieties and disappointments. " In the world ye shall have tribulation." This is a truth to which there are and can be no exceptions. But by the world is not meant the material world, but the world of the natural mind, the world of thought and affection that relates to this life alone. So long as we limit our thoughts and affections to a purely natural life, and in the degree that we do so, our hearts will be troubled with fears and cares and anxieties. We shall be subject to disappointment and sorrow. It lies in the nature of things that it should be so. There is nothing substantial and permanent and fully satisfying in a worldly life or in worldly knowledge, in worldly thoughts and possessions of any amount or kind. They are useful in their time and place ; they are as the husk to the corn, the chaff to the wheat. They are instrumental to a permanent and substantial good, and when they are regarded as instrumental means to the attainment of something better than themselves they are estimated at their true value and do not disappoint us.
This is a difficult lesson for us to learn. How hard, almost impossible, it was for the disciples to believe that the Lord would be more fully present with them, and in a position to do more for them after His ascension than while He was with them in the material body ! And yet it was so. How difficult it is for us to beheve that those to whom we are bound by the most intimate and tender ties, ties which can never be severed, are nearer to us and dearer to us, and we to them, and can render us a more precious service now that they have awakened to the spiritual Hfe than when they dwelt with us in the world ! And yet it is true beyond all possibility of mistake. How difficult it is to get out of the world in our thoughts and affections and regard ourselves as spiritual beings, as citizens of the spiritual world, and all our permanent possessions and relations to others as spiritual !
But only in the degree that we do this shall we comeinto '' the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Internal rest is peace of the soul. It is the harmony and orderly activity of the inmost and purest faculties of our nature. It lies beyond the reach of all the changes of time and space. Its home is in the serene heaven above the clouds and storms, the doubts and fears, the disappointments and sorrows of a natural, worldly life. Internal rest ! Quiet, peaceful, trusting, satisfied affections ! Clear, distinct, tranquil thoughts ! Secure from every disturbing influence ; secure from harm and loss ; every treasure of the heart safe and assured ; no more severed ties ; no more partings. '' There the wicked cease from troubling ; and there the weary are at rest." This is what the Lord promises us. But this is not all, and consequently it is not enough. There is no assignable limit to the Lord's peace. It is more than rest ; it is more than security from any disturbing force ; it is more than possession of any present attainment ; it is more than home and life with loved ones ; it is more than we possess or can ask at any assignable point in our progress.
Peace is not a quiescent, passive state. It is a most active one. It is caused by the inflowing of the Divine love into the inmost affections, vivifying them with hfe and awaking them to harmonious and deHghtful activities. This love comes by means of the Divine truth, the truth of peace, which affects universally all in heaven, and makes heaven to be heaven. For peace contains in it a confidence that the Lord governs all things and provides all things and that He leads to a good end. When a man is in the faith of these things he is in peace, for then he fears nothing, and has no solicitude about things to come to make him unquiet. A man comes into this state in proportion as he comes inio love to the Lord. "The state of peace which prevails in heaven," says Swedenborg, "is such as cannot be described in any words, neither can it come into the thought and perception of man, so long as he is in the world, by any idea derived from the world ; for it is then above every sense. Tranquillity of mind, content, and gladness on account of success are respectively as nothing, for these affect only externals, whereas peace affects the inmosts of all . . . and thus makes the mind of man a heaven." ("Heavenly Arcana," No. 8455.)
Such is the peace, so sweet with inmost blessedness, so full of every possible delight from the centre to the circumference of our being, which the Lord promises to leave with us and to give unto us. Such is the peace He offers to each one of us to-day. Such is the peace He will give unto us as fast and in as full measure as we are able to receive it. It is indeed the result of the awakened activities of the deepest and purest affections of our nature going forth to the attainment of their end; it is the glow and glory of the highest intellectual faculties, acting in harmony with our affections, conjoined with them, married to them, and working with them for the attainment of our highest good. It is rest in action ; it is certainty in the attainment of the highest good we can conceive ; it is the fruition of our highest hopes ; it is possession without the possibility of loss. It is more than these ; it is elevation into clearer light and into a finer and larger power ; it is the opening of the doors of every intellectual faculty to be illuminated with the light of Divine truth, and of every affection to be thrilled with the Divine love.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895