As the love of God is manifested in grace to sinners, and in
mercy to sufferers, so is it also shown in giving the blessing of peace
to His people in their trials and dangers. As He has grace for sin, mercy
for misery, so He has peace for discord, and this peace is to be found
in His Church, as promised in St. John xiv. 27.
THE EPISTLE. (1 S. PETER iii.
8.) PEACE IN THE CHURCH.
The Church of God is the home of peace as the earthly home of the children
of God. It is entered by a door of peace, the one baptism for the
remission of sins, and the peace of baptism is continually renewed by the
ministry of absolution. The sacraments which minister peace with
God are also sacraments of fellowship with one another. The Church
is, therefore, not only God’s place of sanctuary for sinners and a refuge
from doubt and perplexity, but it is also the home of God’s family. S.
Peter gives us the laws of this home. It is to be:—
A. A Home of Brethren.
We are to love “as brethren.” There is to be one mind in that
holy house, even though there be many temperaments and much variety of
opinion. There is to be “compassion” in its true sense of mutual
sympathy and consideration. We all require this on account of our
weaknesses and peculiarities of character, our errors and faults, our cares
and difficulties, and should, therefore, learn to place ourselves in the
position of others in order to realise how they feel. We are to show
pity for those in trouble. We are to manifest “courtesy,” shrinking
from all that gives pain or annoyance to others and is inconsistent with
B. A Home of Guarded Tongues.
As we are to agree as brethren, so we are to learn to differ as brethren.
The heirs of the Divine blessing are to learn to bless and live lives of
blessing even towards those whom naturally they are inclined to do anything
rather than bless. There is to be no malice or guile, for we are
members one of another and these separate.
C. A Home of Holy Work and Prayer.
Quoting Ps. xxxiv. 16, S. Peter describes the life of Christians as
lived under the eye and ear of God, under His eye as directing all our
work, under His ear as listening to our prayers. Such a life is safe
from harm. Should suffering come, happiness, or rather “blessedness,”
for the word is a reminiscence of the Sermon on the Mount, will not depart.
The Christian will not be afraid as other men fear: “Be ye not afraid
of their terror” (Is. viii. 12). He will “sanctify the Lord God in
his heart,” or, according to the best attested reading, “ sanctify in your
hearts the Christ as Lord.” The meaning of the passage is best explained
by continuing the quotation: “Let Him be your fear and let Him be your
dread, and He shall be for a sanctuary” (Is. viii. 13, 14). The fear
of God will be, that is, a refuge from all other fear.
Such is S. Peter’s view of the Church of Christ as the home of peace
in a troublesome world. The divisions of the Church are, therefore, the
contradiction of the very object of the Church, as preventing that for
which “we were baptized into one body.”
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE v. 1.)
PEACE IN SERVICE.
We are to learn that the peace of the Church so much to be desired,
is, after all, a means and not an end. It is not to be selfishly
enjoyed, but used as an opportunity for arduous toil. As in Acts
ix. 31, “Then had the churches rest and were edified, and walking in the
fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
May it not be that we have lost peace because we have used it amiss?
The Gospel may be summarised as follows:—
A. A Working Master.
The disciples had finished their work, their “ships were standing by
the lake, but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their
nets,” in preparation for their return home.
Their work was at an end, but Christ’s work was never finished.
He could say, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” An idle Christian
is unlike his Master.
Christ preached from many pulpits—the Synagogue, the well-side, the
Pharisee’s table, the plain, the mountain, the Temple, the upper-room,
the cross, but He loved the floating pulpit of the fishing boat best of
all, and the eager audience that “pressed upon Him to hear the Word of
B. A Working Church.
Though they are wearied, unsuccessful, despairing, Christ calls upon
His disciples “to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for
a draught.” They are to be brave, and leave results to Him.
Success is not due to the Church, but to the Master. He can dispose
the hearts of men no less than the shoals of fish. He can fill the
net to breaking and the ship to sinking. Alas! that we are so far
separated that we cannot beckon to our comrades. Many fish are lost by
our unhappy divisions, and instead of helping we often hinder.
C. A Humble Church.
Christ’s best workers are the humblest, who feel themselves unworthy
of His presence, who feel that the power is not theirs, but Christ’s.
Yet Christ, Who gives His disciples the message of peace, would have them
serve Him “in all godly quietness.” He gives peace to their anxious
consciences, and promises success in their work. Our work is to catch
men, not for any selfish purpose, nor by any deception leading men into
anything of which their reason and judgment disapproves, but rather through
their reason and judgment. We are to catch men in Christ’s net of
love and to persuade them that there is no bondage and confinement in the
net of Christ. Our difficulty is this, that men are unwilling to
be caught, and that they prefer their own liberty in the broad sea of sin
and self-will. Our power is Christ’s power, as our mission is the
mission of Christ. To realise this will enable us to labour in peace
and fear not.
How often has this scene spoken peace to Christ’s Church, and enabled
for joyful and effective service!
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR PEACE.
This Collect gains infinite significance when it is viewed in its evident
connection with the Epistle and Gospel.
A. A Prayer for Peace.
We pray that the course of the world may be peaceably ordered by the
governance of Him Who directed the apostles in their labours, and Who,
as the Epistle teaches, is able to protect the Church from harm, and enable
it not to be afraid of the terror of those who persecute, and make it to
suffer for righteousness’ sake.
B. The Purpose of Peace.
The peace of the world is to be used for the joyful service of the Church.
There is a quietness of sleep and worldliness which is not godly, and sometimes
a godliness not sufficiently quiet. We are to serve God without anxiety,
quietly maintaining godly reality and habits, quietly cultivating the Christian
character and performing all Christian duties.