CHRIST OUR PEACE IN TROUBLE [Note: Preached in July, 1803.]
Mic_5:5. This man shall be the Peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land.
IT is of the very nature of prophecy to be dark and intricate: for, if it were perfectly plain, men would either labour to defeat the counsels of heaven. or ascribe the accomplishment of them to second causes. Among the various things which tend to obscure the predictions of the prophets, we notice more especially their complicated allusions to things temporal and spiritual, present and remote. In the prophecy before us, considerable difficulties occur, because it is so expressed as to comprehend several distinct events, and to be accomplished in a variety of ways: nevertheless the general scope of it is sufficiently plain; and the truth which we shall deduce from it, is obvious and indubitable; it is none other than this, that Jesus Christ is the one source of peace to his people, under all their calamities, temporal or spiritual [Note: The meaning of the context seems to be this: the prophet foretells that the enemies of Judah should “besiege” them, and treat their governor with contempt and cruelty; which may be considered as relating to the times of Hezekiah, and Zedekiah. He then foretells, that in the little city of Bethlehem the Messiah shall be born: but that, notwithstanding that event, the Jews, as a nation, shall be given up, till the time when Zion shall travail in birth (Isa_66:7-8. with Gal_4:27.) and all, both Jews and Gentiles, be converted to the Lord. In the mean time, however, the Messiah shall govern and protect his people, and be a source of “peace” and comfort to them under their heaviest calamities.].
Christ then will be the peace of his Church,
Under all temporal calamities—
God may, for wise and gracious reasons, suffer his people to be reduced to the greatest straits and necessities; just as he did in the days of Hezekiah, when all Jud
a was subdued by Sennacherib, and the capital itself was besieged by the Assyrian army. We must not therefore conclude that God has given us up, even though we should see our land invaded, and many strong places taken, and the capital itself in the most imminent danger of being plundered and destroyed. God may suffer it, in order to wean us from confiding in our fleets and armies, and to glorify himself in our deliverance. Supposing such a calamity to come upon this land, Christ will be our peace,
Through the instrumentality of others—
[In the words following the text, he promises to raise up for his people “seven shepherds and eight principal men,” that is, an indefinite number [Note: Ecc_11:2.] of eminent and useful men in all the departments of state, whom he would endue with wisdom and courage; and through whose instrumentality he would effect their deliverance. And is it not in this way that he has most marvellously interposed for us? Was there ever a period within our remembrance, when all ranks and orders of men were so unanimous as at the present? In the last war, some doubted whether we might not have avoided war; and others, whether we might not have terminated it long before. But is there a man in this whole kingdom who doubts whether our inveterate enemy would suffer us to be at peace; or whether if we were to make all the sacrifices that his ambition could dictate, he would not speedily find some fresh pretext for insult and exaction? No; we are unanimous in our conviction of the unavoidableness of war; unanimous too in our determination to maintain it with vigour, and to die rather than become the vassals of France: and this is a source of much peace and comfort to us in the midst of our impending dangers. And to whom can we ascribe this astonishing unanimity, but to Him who “has all hearts in his hand, and turneth them whithersoever he will?”]
Through his own immediate agency upon our minds—
[The Lord Jesus Christ is the Governor of the Universe; and he makes his people to know, that their enemies derive all their power from his commission, the limits of which commission they cannot exceed, and the effects of which power shall be overruled for good. These are sources of unspeakable peace to their souls. Suppose “the Assyrian to be come into our land,” and to be bearing down all before him, our murmurs will be silenced by that reflection, “Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it [Note: Amo_3:6.]?” The enemy is no more than “the axe with which he hews, or the saw with which he saws [Note: Isa_10:15.];” “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good [Note: 1Sa_3:18.].” Suppose the enemy to be vaunting like the blaspheming Rabshakeh, and to be regarding the riches of the capital as a nest of eggs on which he is just going to lay his hands [Note: Isa_10:14.]; even then, if the plunder of the capital be not within his commission, “God will put a hook in his nose, and a bridle in his jaws, and will cause him to return to his own land” ashamed and confounded [Note: Isa_37:33-35.]. Suppose he be suffered entirely to prevail, yet if it be over-ruled for the good of immortal souls, and the glory of our God, no temporal trials, however great, can counterbalance the benefit derived from them. It was by sending his people to Babylon that he cured them of idolatry; and if he may but cure this nation of its manifold impieties, all will be well. In these views then Christ will surely be the peace of his people, yea, he “will keep them in perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on him [Note: Isa_26:3.].”]
But these observations apply to us yet more forcibly,
Under all spiritual troubles—
There is not in all the sacred volume one single prophecy that more clearly speaks of Christ than that before us. It is repeatedly applied to Christ in the New Testament, as marking out with precision the very place where he should be born [Note: ver. 2. with Mat_2:6 and Joh_7:42.]. In explaining it therefore as referring to his spiritual kingdom, we cannot err.
The enemies of God’s people of old were typical of those spiritual enemies with which his people have to contend in every age. And it is certain that the enemies of our souls may prevail for a season in a very alarming degree. But when sin and Satan make their fiercest assaults, even then will Christ maintain our peace,
By the merit of his blood—
[This it is which enables us to behold all our guilt without terror or despondency: this it is which enables us to answer the accuser of the brethren, “Who is he that shall condemn, since Christ has died [Note: Rom_8:34.]?” In this view especially is Christ called “our peace,” since “he made peace for us by the blood of his cross;” and every one of us by believing in Him shall have peace with God [Note: Rom_5:1.].]
By the prevalence of his intercession—
[The prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah were effectual for the peace of Jerusalem, even while the besiegers encompassed it [Note: Isa_37:22.]: and in answer to them, one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army were slain by an angel in one night [Note: Isa_37:36.]. What then may not be expected from the prayers of our adorable Redeemer? Shall not he prevail, seeing that “He ever liveth on purpose to make intercession for us [Note: Heb_7:25.]?” To this, as to an inexhaustible source of consolation, we are taught to look, under the conflicts which we are called to sustain; “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is also the propitiation for our sins [Note: 1Jn_2:1.].”
By the sufficiency of his grace—
[We may be reduced to a more perilous condition than even Jerusalem itself, and yet find peace in the consideration, that Christ is all-sufficient, and that “through him we shall be more than conquerors.” We can scarcely conceive a more distressing experience than that of Paul under the buffetings of Satan: yet this word, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” was able to turn his desponding sorrows into joy and triumph [Note: 2Co_12:9.]. In like manner we also may go forth with confidence against all our enemies, saying with him, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me [Note: Php_4:13.].”]
By the inviolableness of his promise—
[To all his people is that word addressed, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee [Note: Jos_1:5.]?” And can we find one instance wherein he has ever violated that blessed promise? May we not then adopt that inspired inference, and say, “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me [Note: Heb_13:5-6.]?” If the Apostles, when almost overwhelmed in a storm, were blameworthy for entertaining fears while Christ was with them in the vessel [Note: Mar_4:38-40.], much more must we be faulty, if we give way to discouraging apprehensions of ruin, when the word of Christ is pledged for our security. Relying on his word, we have an anchor which will keep us steadfast in the midst of all the storms and tempests that can assault our souls [Note: Heb_6:19.].]
[Let every one then seek to know this “Prince of Peace.” To “acquaint ourselves with him is the way to be at peace [Note: Job_22:21.].” If we know him not, we cannot flee to him for refuge: but if we “trust in him, he will keep us in perfect peace.”]