FROM the Sunday of Christian joy we pass to a Sunday of Christian
peace. This is the second Sunday of Peace, the Fifth Sunday after Trinity
having already taught us that Peace is the gift of God. We are now to learn
the conditions on which it may be obtained. Our Church is careful to teach
on both Sundays that peace must be employed in service and not enjoyed
THE EPISTLE. (EPH. vi. 10.)
PEACE IN AND THROUGH CONFLICT.
This Epistle is in strange contrast with the soothing sweetness of the
Collect, for it is an Epistle of War, and it teaches that we are to gain
peace through inward and outward struggle.
We learn the three secrets of assured peace.
Peace is for the strong, not in their own strength, but “in the Lord
and in the power of His might.” We have to fight, not against men like
ourselves, weak as we are weak, but against the Prince of Evil, with his
terrible resources of invisibility and cunning, and against a mighty host
of evil ones, “darkly eminent in place and dignity,” the spiritual forces
of wickedness around us, the “world-rulers of this darkness.” The world
is “this darkness,” and this darkness is under the rule, in degree, of
evil spirits. How great is our danger—so great that, apart from Christ,
we cannot but fall! Let us realize our peril, and secure the only strength
that can save us. He Who was so strong for Himself can be strong for us.
We must stand—this is to be our position, ever on the watch. We must
withstand—this is to be our work, to drive back attack. Then we may be
able to stand—this is to be our reward, to have gained everlasting acceptance
and security. In order to do this we’ must be armed, not from any arsenal
of our own, but with the armour of God. We must take, not only armour,
but the whole armour, the panoply of God. This complete and divine armour
is supplied to us, and we must put it on, and we must put on every part
(1) The Christian Belt or Girdle.
This is truth or sincerity. Conscious reality gives a sense of power
and firmness to the whole character.
(2) The Christian Breastplate.
This is righteousness (cf. Isaiah lix. z7) or true principle, which
will defend the body from mortal wounds. No backplate is pro. vided for
the Christian, for he may not seek safety in flight, but in fight.
(3) The Christian Sandals.
That readiness for all obedience and service which comes from peace
with God. A well-shod man feels ready for anything. His shoes seem to send
up life and energy into his nature. Such sense of peace sent the Apostles
marching through the world, and many others since.
(4) The Christian Shield.
Faith in the Father shields from all distrust as to outward things;
faith in the Son from all inward alarms as to our acceptance with God;
faith in the Spirit from all temptations to gross evil.
(5) The Christian Helmet.
This is the hope of salvation or final victory, sure to be ours through
Christ, which nerves us to persevere.
(6) The Christian Sword.
The Word of God is a sword both to cut and to parry. It was forged
by the Spirit, is the gift of the Spirit, and only the Spirit can enable
us to use it. With this the Christian may both conquer the world and defend
himself. Christ came not to bring peace, but a sword, but this Sword of
Christ brings peace.
This last section was added to the Epistle by the Reformers, because
without prayer the armour would be of no avail, and could not, indeed,
be even put on.
Prayer must be habitual; must be earnest (supplication); must be “in
the Spirit”; must be watchful against hindrances and excuses; must be “with
all perseverance.” Lastly, it must be intercessory for all Christians,
and especially for all Christian ministers, on whom the fight so much depends.
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN iv. 46.)
PEACE IN AND THROUGH TRIAL.
The peace of God, which is to be our stay in the conflict against sin,
is to be our very present help in trouble. The miracle of the healing of
the Nobleman’s Son teaches that this peace depends upon faith, and comes
only to the believing.
There are three distinct stages in the journey of the Nobleman, of which
each has its own lessons
A. The Journey of Sorrow.
His rank and position purchased no exception from sorrow for the nobleman,
for those separated by birth from the common herd of men are by birth exposed
to the common herd of trials. The more we have the more we have to lose,
and the more we love the more possible sources have we of sorrow. When
Christ sends an arrow of chastening, He can readily find a tender place
in which to plant it.
Sad, tremulous, and excited was this journey, and yet it was a journey
of faith, though mixed with fear. Without faith he would not have come;
with less faith he would have sent. Faith was present, but feeble, for,
unlike the Centurion, he thinks that Christ could not heal without coming,
and that if the child died before He came all would be over. Thus little
faith has little peace.
B. The Journey of Hope.
He who had faith to come needed a greater faith to go away; thus Christ
nurses feebleness into strength by discipline. Who can describe this return
journey, and its struggle between faith and
unbelief, between confidence and anxiety? The divine mercy shortened
the time of trial, and arranged that the servants should meet their master
by the way. The journey of faith may be shorter than we fear, and the message
of peace may be already on its way.
C. The Return in Peace.
The last part of the return journey, so different from the first! The
very servants have echoed the Word of Christ, “Thy son liveth,” and have
told of the cure so absolute and so immediate that there is no further
room for doubt, and the journey of sorrow ends in peace.
May it be so with our life-journey as Christians, and may we learn the
lesson that our peace will ever be in proportion to our faith. Then the
sadness of the journey will be forgotten in the joy of coming home.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR PEACE.
The comfort of the Sunday of Peace finds expression in this gentlest
and most touching of all the Collects, in which we pray for God’s two greatest
A. The Blessing of Pardon.
This is the foundation blessing of all Christians, that çod should
be at peace with them. All inward peace must rest upon this foundation:
by this we are cleansed from all our sins.
B. The Blessing of Peace.
This is God’s second blessing, that should be at peace with Him. Peace
without pardon is to be glad when we should be sad; pardon without peace
is to be sad when we might be glad. Yet are we to remember that God’s peace
is no pillow on which to sleep, but an aid for better and holier service,
by which we may “serve with a quiet mind.”