Peace! There is a benediction in the word! It is one of the fairest words in human speech. All that is brightest and happiest in life is associated with peace. There is a substance known as ambergris which is found floating in the ocean. Absolutely odorless itself, its use is to enrich the scent of odours. And peace has a quality like ambergris; it heightens and enriches every blessing. What is a congregation without peace; what without peace a home? It may have money, art, refinement, luxury, but if peace is wanting everything is wanting. All that wealth can give is but a mockery, all that art can furnish but a show, without the beatitude of peace. It was of peace the angels sang when Christ was born in Bethlehem. It was a message of peace that was first breathed from the lips of the risen Savior. And the sum and substance of all Gospel blessings, wrought out for sinful man by the Redeemer, is the peace of God that passes understanding. No wonder then that our Lord pronounced His blessing on the peacemakers. No wonder that the Scripture urges us to seek peace and ensue it. No wonder that this great apostle, who had known the havoc of dissension, cannot close his letter without this: “Follow after the things that make for peace.”
Social Peace Is a Goal To Be Striven For
You will notice in our text that social peace is pictured as a goal. It is a thing to be followed after. It is a thing to be lived for, to be striven for, to be followed through ill report and good report. It is the end, not the beginning, of endeavor. That is in keeping with the peculiar form which our Lord gave to His beatitude. He did not say, “Blessed are the peaceable” — He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Social peace was a thing that must be made. There are some blessings that we do not make. They are freely given us by God. We do not make the sunshine or the grass or the summer evening or the sea. But in all the greatest spiritual blessings, you and I are workers with the Infinite. They are bestowed, and yet we have to make them. It is so with love, so with every talent, so with the nobility of Christian character. We are saints from the hour of our electing mercy, and yet to the end, a thousand leagues from sainthood. And as it is in all these highest blessings which make life strong and beautiful and rich, so it is with peace. We do not start with social peace; in a fallen world like this we start with enmity. To the seeing eye this world is all a battlefield, and every living creature is in arms. And then there falls the blessing of the peacemaker, and we see that peace is something to be striven for; the goal, the difficult and distant goal, of the struggle and the anguish of the ages. Remember that when there is not peace at home. Remember it when there is war in the world. We have not really lost what once was ours. We have failed to achieve the infinitely difficult. Social peace is a thing we follow after. It is not the beginning but the end, the long last goal that we are making for, through Nazareth and the desert and Gethsemane.
Peace Is a Goal Attainable by All
I remark in passing that this is an end that everybody can set before himself. The Master’s blessing on the peacemaker is a blessing within the reach of all. I remember a sentence in Dr. Bonar’s diary to this effect. “God has not called me,” he writes, “as He calls Dr. Chalmers, to do great service for Him: He calls me to walk three or four miles today to be a peacemaker in a disunited family.” My Christian friend, God may not have called you to follow the things that make for power. And only rarely amid life’s multitudes does He call men to follow the things that make for fame. But there is nobody, whether old or young, whether mother or business man or child, but is called to follow the things that make for peace. For social peace, one of the choicest blessings, can be ruined by the most trifling of causes. It is like a delicate and jewelled watch that is disordered by a single hair. A word will do it, or a fit of temper, or a suspicion, or the discovery of falsehood — how great a matter a little fire kindleth! You may destroy the lute by breaking it in two, and there are hearts and homes that lose their peace that way. But a little crack within the lute makes all the music mute. And it is just because the things that make for peace lie so largely among life’s common elements that this is a calling that everyone can share.
Peacemaking Requires a Watchful and Charitable Silence
One of the first things that makes for social peace is a watchful and a charitable silence. No man or woman can ever be a peacemaker who has not learned to put a bridle on his lips. Every student of Christ must have observed the tremendous emphasis He puts on words. Of every idle word, He tells us, in the day of judgement we are to give account. And if you want to understand aright the passion and the depth of that, you will remember the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Think of the infinite harm that can be wrought by a malicious or a thoughtless tongue; think of the countless hearts it lacerates; think of the happy friendships which it chills. And sometimes there is not even malice in it- only the foolish desire to be speaking, for evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart. There is no more difficult task in life than to repeat exactly what someone else has said. Alter the playful tone, you alter everything. Subtract the smile, and you subtract the spirit. And yet how often do we all repeat things that are almost incapable of repetition and so give pain that never was intended. You can say good-bye in such a tone that it will carry the breaking of a heart. You can say it in such a tone that it is a dismissal of contempt. And yet how seldom do we think of tone, of voice, of eye, of smile, of personality when we pass on the word which we have heard. There are times that call for all outspokenness. No man ever denounced like Christ. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees.” “Go, tell that fox.” All that I know, and yet the fact remains that as we move along life’s common ways, one of the mightiest things that makes for social peace is a wise and charitable silence. Not to believe everything we hear, not to repeat everything we hear, or else believing it to bury it unless we are called by conscience to proclaim it, that is a thing that makes for social peace, a thing within our power today, and it may be along that silent road lies our “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Peace Comes as a Result of a Happy Conscience
Another thing that makes for social peace is the possession of a happy conscience. Conscience not only makes cowards of us all: it overshadows our society. He who walks with an uneasy conscience because he is unworthy or unfaithful is an unfailing source of social upheaval. I need not remind you how the Gospel insists upon wholeheartedness. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, it says, do it with all thy might. And it insists on this not only because all honest labor makes the doer happy, but because — so interwoven are our lives — it brings happiness and peace to others too. Here is a man, for instance, who comes home at evening after a day of honest, manly toil. He has done his work, faced his difficulties, resisted temptation when it met him. Such a man, when evening falls, not only enjoys serenity himself; he also spreads serenity around him. He feels a kinship with the children’s merriment. There is that in him which augments the merriment. His wife has been toiling patiently all day —there is nothing to reproach him there. His happy conscience is a source of peace not only to himself, but to everyone with whom he comes in contact. Contrast with him another man who has squandered the precious hours of the day, who has not faced his work as a man should, who has yielded weakly to soliciting: such a man when he goes home at evening is not only unhappy in himself, he is also a source of unhappiness to others. He is almost certain to be irritable. He is very likely to be quarrelsome. On bad terms with himself, he is ready to be on bad terms with everybody. Like those widening ripples on the lake which the stone makes when cast into its stillness are the outward goings of the heart. None is so ready to foment a quarrel as he who has a quarrel with his conscience. None is so angry with the innocent as the man who is angry with himself. Half of those brutalities which shock us when the drunken ruffian beats his wife are but the outward sign of that dumb rage which the poor wretch feels against himself.
Happy People Are Rarely Quarrelsome
It therefore needs to be very clearly said, and it needs to be constantly remembered, that one of the things that makes for social peace is the possession of a happy conscience. Happy people are very rarely quarrelsome. They are not often abettors of turmoil. How often have I seen some newborn happiness act like magic on a bitter tongue. And there is no happiness in life more real, none that is more deserving of the name, than that of the task that is well done, of the cross that is well borne. Let any man so live his life then, and he shall not miss the blessing of the peacemaker. He may never know it. He may never dream of it. He may never interfere in any quarrel. Yet all the time in that brave way of his, he may be spreading the sunshine as he goes, and that is one of the things that makes for peace.
Righteousness Makes for Social Peace
Then there is another thing that makes for social peace on a larger and a grander scale. It is righteousness. It is the passion, the long endeavor, on the part of the individual or the nation, to be unfaiteringly true to what is right. Very often to a hasty judgment it is the opposite that seems the truth. There is not one of us here but has been tempted to secure peace at the expense of righteousness, and many succumb to that temptation. There is indeed one temperament which is peculiarly exposed to that temptation — not the temperament of the hero, but that of many most delightful people — the temperament that loves all human kindliness —is courteous, deferential, genial —that shrinks from struggle and from contradiction. To such a temperament, a text like ours may come as a positive temptation. It is tempted to follow the things that make for peace at the expense of things more glorious than peace. Yet is it not alone in being tempted so. When a child is tempted to a lie rather than confess and bear its punishment, when a mother is tempted to wink at disobedience rather than have the sorrow of chastising, when a man dishonors his convictions, when a nation takes refuge in neutrality, then righteousness and peace seem far apart. My Christian friend, they are not far apart. They are eternally, inextricably one. Freedom from pain and struggle is not peace. Freedom from struggle may be the devil’s peace. That momentary calm, that short escaping, that lull that is possible where truth is forfeited, is but a travesty of peace as we have learned it from the lips of Christ. Do you think that child knows anything of peace that has secured exemption by a lie? Do you think that mother knows anything of peace who has secured it by being false to duty? Do you think that land knows anything of peace that has taken refuge in a base neutrality when the voice of the feeble which is the voice of Christ is crying out for protection in its ears? That is not peace. That is ignoble quiet. That is the stillness which betokens death. That is not the peace of Him who followed it through Gethsemane and Calvary. He knew — He had a right to know- that the world of His Father is founded upon righteousness, and that neither for man or nation is there peace unless it be broad-based on that. My Christian friend, lay it to your heart that cowardice can never make for peace, neither can lying, whether in man or nation, neither can neutrality. Such peace is but the quivering of moonlight. Such peace is but a sleep and a forgetting. Such peace is a dream from which a man awakes to find he has lost the angels and the stars.
Being Reconciled to God Leads to Peace
I close by suggesting in a word — I should be false to my calling if I omitted it — I close by suggesting that there is one thing more that contributes most wonderfully to social peace. It is the experience of being reconciled to God. And so pervasive is the eternal spirit, so really does it determine everything, that so long as man is out of touch with God, he cannot be in perfect touch with anything. Then through the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, a man is reconciled to God. All the love that has been waiting for him flows in a tide into his life. And then at last, in harmony with God, he feels himself in harmony with everything, with bird and beast, with sunset and with hill, with every brother-man and sister-woman. There is no experience in life that makes for peace so steadily as that. Drawn into loving unity with God, we are drawn to a new brotherhood with everybody. That is how our Savior is our Peace. That is how He, Himself, has been the peacemaker. And that is how every man who really knows Him follows after the things that make for peace.