EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED
SERIES OF SERMONS;
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, S. T. D. LL. D.
LATE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
IN FOUR VOLUMES
PUBLISHED BY T. DWIGHT & SON,
AND SOLD BY LEAVITT, LORD & CO.
180 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.
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DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.
BE it remembered, that on the fifth day of January, in the forty second year of the Independence of the United States of America, Timothy Dwight, and William T. Dwight, both of said District; Administrators of the Rev. Timothy Dwight, now deceased, and late of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as Administrators as aforesaid, and Proprietors, in the words following, to wit:
Theology; explained and defended, in a Series of Sermons; by Timothy Dwight, T. D., LL. D. late President of Yale college. With a Memoir of the Life the Author,. in five Volumes. Vol 2.’’
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors arid proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."
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Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
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[ SERMON 84 ]
CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.—PEACE OF CONSCIENCE
John xiv. 27.—Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, giveth, I give unto you.
HAVING examined the Nature of Adoption, and Sanctification, I shall now proceed to consider another consequence of this change in man viz. Evangelical Peace.
These words are a part of Christ’s first discourse to his Apostles, after the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He was now about to leave the world. His death he had often predicted to them in the plainest language: yet so strong were their expectations of a reigning, conquering Messiah, that they seem never to have believed these predictions. So far as they were able, they appear to have interpreted them in any manner, rather than the true one; and, when they could not misinterpret them, to have concluded, that they involved some mystery, which it was beyond their power to unriddle.
However, as the time drew near, and the events, which led to this great one, began to thicken, they became apprehensive and alarmed. What evils were before them they seem not to have realized; but they appear to have been fully sensible, that something terrible was at hand, and to have become deeply discouraged by loose and undefined forebodings.
Christ understood, perfectly, the state of their minds; and, with his own peculiar tenderness, commenced the benevolent work of furnishing them the necessary relief. This he accomplished in three discourses: the first included in this, the second in the two following, and the third in the seventeenth, chapters. Never were consolations so well devised, or so well administered. The discourses are beautiful beyond all parallel; supremely instructive; exquisitely tender; and replete with considerations of the most supporting nature. The last of them is a prayer; more interesting, more sublime, more wonderful, than ever was, or ever will be, uttered in the present world; and may fairly be regarded as a specimen of that intercession, which the divine Advocate makes for his followers before the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
Among the considerations which endear these discourses of Christ to his children, the most affeecting one is, they are his dying words; his last addresses before be ascended the cross. They succeeded the institution of the Sacramental supper: they preceded the Crucifixion.
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Never was there an occasion so interesting, so solemn, so divine; nor was an mind, beside that of Christ, ever so perfectly fitted to understand and feel, the nature of this occasion, or so able to employ it to the best of all purposes. He seems; here, to have poured out his soul with supreme love, and infinite endearment. The whole Saviour is brought out to -view the God becomes visible in his most lovely and glorious character.
The Apostles were now to be left by him; to go, unbefriended and unprotected, into a world of enemies; and to meet all the evils, which could be inflicted on them by bigotry, malice, and-persecution. To support them in this state of suffering, he promises them a rich variety of blessings particularly, the presence, and everlasting love, of his Father and himself; reminds them of his own sufferings, and of the fortitude, with which he had endured them; and assures to them the consolations of the Spirit of truth, as a most desirable, and delightful, support under all external distresses.
Of all the blessings, contained in these promises, none seems to be better suited to their situation, and their wants, than that, which is announced in the text. When contentions multiply, and enemies invade, from without; when friends withdraw, and comforts diminish; whey enjoyments lessen, and hope retires; nothing can more timely, more desirable, more welcome, than peace within peace, quieting all the tumults of the mind, soothing the wounds of a troubled conscience, and allaying, on the one hand, fear; on the other, suffering.
That we may understand the value of this legacy, left by the Redeemer not to the Apostles only, but to all his followers, it will be useful to consider,
I. The nature of the Peace, which he gave; and.
I. I will endeavour to explain the Nature of the peace, which Christ gave his disciples.
Peace is always opposed to war; and, when begun in any instance, involves the cessation of the preceding conflict. With a direct reference to such a conflict, Christ was pleased to bestow the blessing, mentioned in the text; and called it by a name, fitted to show both the nature of the evils to be remedied, and the nature of the remedy.
Such a conflict actually exists between man and himself; his fellow men; and his Maker. Against God this hostility manifests itself in ten thousand acts of resistance to his pleasure. While He claims the supreme love, and implicit obedience, of every Intelligent creature, man denies both his claims, and the rights on which they are founded; and boldly sets up in opposition to them, claims and rights of his own, which be determines to support to the utmost of his power. For this end he commences a progress of revolt, and contention. which occupies most of his time, and most of his
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thoughts; and, at death, leaves, not unfrequently, the controversy undecided.
With his fellow-men his contention arises from two sources: his own selfishness, and theirs. The mind, in which selfishness reigns, always wishes, intends, and labours; to make every other interest subservient to its own; or, at the least, to prevent it from disturbing, precluding, or diminishing, its own. From this source have sprung all the private, and all the public; contentions, which have destroyed the peace of neighbourhoods, and ravaged the world; the sufferings and the sighs, the tears and the groans, which have spread from one end of heaven to the other.
Nor is man less busily employed in conflicting with himself. The passions and appetites of the human heart have ever opposed the dictates of Conscience. The Conscience was intended by God to regulate the moral conduct of the man; and strenuously, and firmly, asserts its right to this most important, and most necessary control. Still more strenuously the passions rebel against it; force the man to submit to their own dictates; and hurry him into a course of disobedience. In this progress of guilt, Conscience holds out her dreadful mirror to his terrified eye; and exhibits him to himself, odious, deformed, and fearfully exposed to the anger of God.
To this distracted, miserable being, peace is announced, in the text, by Him, who knew all the wants, sufferings, and dangers, of our race. Upon a strict examination, the legacy will be found to be exactly suited to the state of those, for whom it was intended.
1st. It is a happy state of the Mind, or intellect.
Every person, who has at all entertained serious and solemn thoughts concerning religious subjects, must have often perceived a multitude of doubts, springing up in his mind, at different times, concerning the Word of God; the evidence, by which its divine origin is evinced; and the nature of the doctrines, and precepts, -which it contains. These doubts may, at times, grow out of ignorance; usually they spring from the heart ; from its disrelish to the truth itself, and its opposition to its Author. Every doubt on this subject is attended with some degree of distress. The soul is unwilling, that there should be any such truths; and that God should have such a character, as to be capable of being the author of them. Especially is this observation applicable to those doctrines, which exhibit ourselves as guilty, condemned, and ruined; and God as pure, holy, and sovereign. Against these doctrines mankind have contended in all ages; have doubted their truth; have denied their import; and have exploded the evidence, by which they were- sustained in the place of these doctrines the mind substitutes others, which are more palatable to itself. For their obvious and real meaning, which it is determined not to admit, it substitutes others; kindred, perhaps, and plausible, but oblique, and
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incapable of being supported. In this manner it struggles to get loose from the truth of God; sometimes by believing, that he has made no revelation of his will to mankind; sometimes by determining, that he has made no such revelation, and is commonly received; and generally by adopting a creed, essentially different from that which is contained in the Scriptures. Every part of this creed it makes more pleasing to itself, less terrifying, less humiliating, and yet, as it hopes, equally safe.
Still, Revelation, in spite of all these labours and struggles, continues, to be supported by no small evidence. The obvious meaning of the doctrines, which it contains, will, at times, appear but too probably the true meaning. In spite of the mind itself, its arguments, and persuasions, God may, and it frequently fears, will, be found to be just such a Being, as he seems to be exhibited in the Scriptures. Its own character, also, it almost daily suspects, (and conscience perpetually enhances the suspicion) is just such, as the Scriptures lave declared; and its danger neither less real, nor less terrible. Thus the soul becomes a troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Nor is either this opposition, or the distress which springs from it, less excited by the tenour of the Scriptural precepts, nor by that of the doctrines. In the view of such a mind the precepts appear to be unnecessarily numerous, nice, and rigid; enjoining many things, which it thinks might better have been omitted; and prohibiting many things, which, it conceives, would have been much better allowed. The life, which they require, it pronounces to be unnecessarily strict, difficult, and discouraging; and regards as being of a gloomy and melancholy nature. Hence it supposes, and at times believes, that God cannot have intended, that his precepts should be understood in their obvious meaning; and that some other meaning, attended with many softenings, and involving many limitations, is to be attributed to them; or that, at the worst, a partial, imperfect obedience to them will ultimately he accepted.
Under the influence of these wishes, and the views to which the give birth, accompanied by fears, that the things, thus oppose may all be the real pleasure of God; the views erroneous, and the wishes sinful; such a mind wearies itself to find out a more palatable moral system; is harassed by suspense, and distressed by painful apprehensions.
But when the hostility of the heart towards its Maker, and towards his truth, is dissolved by the mild influence of the Spirit of grace; and the soul is indued with love to its Maker; the character of God, and the doctrines and precepts of his Word, are seen with new optics; and appear, therefore, in a new light. It is the nature of Evangelical love to delight, alike, in the Truth and its AUTHOR. Both are thenceforth seen with the eyes of good-will. Of course, God appears to the mind, invested with his proper character and supreme glory; as the sum of excellence; as infinitely
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great, and wise, and good. It is seen to be impossible for him to deceive, or to be deceived. Whatever he declares is, therefore, admitted without reserve. The divine origin of the Scriptures is readily believed, because the evidence, which supports it, is such, as to satisfy any candid mind; and because the mind, in question, has now become possessed of real candour. The true and obvious meaning of the doctrines and precepts, wherever it is seen, is readily received, because it is relished, and because God is believed to have made his precepts plain to him, that understandeth; or, in other words, is possessed of piety. The things, to be believed, the mind now loves to believe. The things required, it now chooses to do. The nature of the doctrines, and
the reasons on which the precepts are founded, it will, indeed, at times, be unable to unravel. But here its faith, and obedience, will be implicit; because it knows, that God does not prescribe with out the best reasons, and that his instructions, however mysterious, must be always true, and always desirable. What it understands it welcomes. What it does not understand, it receives with a humble submission to him, who has said, The secret things belong to God; but the things, that are revealed, belong to men.
From such a mind, it is easy to see, suspense and perplexity must vanish of course; together with all the agitation, fear, and pain, with which they were attended. The weapons of its warfare have been laid down; its toils are ended, its alarms are over; its struggles are relinquished; and a delightful repose has succeeded to its multiplied, long-continued, and painful efforts; a repose, doubly delightful, in its own nature ; and as a charming contrast to the various troubles, by which it has been so often, and so deeply distressed.
2dly.. It is the happy state of the Affections.
It has been already sufficiently indicated, that the affections are originally alienated from God, and opposed to his government, and pleasure. Thc spirit of apostacy is, primarily, a spirit of pride and self-dependence; which always exalts itself against its Maker. The angels, who fell, fell by refusing to keep their first estate; their own office, or principality; and by deserting their habitation, their station. They refused to continue even in that exalted rank of existence, and to execute the duties of that high station, assigned to them by the goodness of God. The same spirit predominates in fallen men. They too are dissatisfied with their own station, and their own duties. All apostate beings say to God in their hearts, We will not have Thee to reign over us.
Equally hostile to the divine government is the lust of the flesh: sensuality; and the lust of the eyes: avarice. Concerning these three great controlling affections of the human mind, it is alike true, that they are not of the Father, but of the world; and that, wherever they reign, the love of the Father cannot exist.
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From the indulgence of this spirit, continually spring up in the soul haughty claims upon its Maker for an increase of its enjoyments, and an exemption from its duties: claims, which God never satisfies, unless in the way of judgment, and indignation. The soul, therefore, is discontented with its allotments; questions his wisdom, goodness, and truth; murmurs against his providence; refuses to perform its own duty; and thus carries on a continual, ardent, painful conflict with its Maker.
A controversy with such a Being, as God, cannot fail of being attended with perpetual anxiety and alarm. He, who is the subject of it, dreads the presence of God; is terrified by all the threatenings of his Word; trembles at the approach of Death; shrinks from the Judgment; and looks towards a future retribution with horror.
Of these evils there is but one possible termination; and that is, submission to God. Whenever this is accomplished in earnest, they dissolve, like an enchantment in Arabian tales. The Creator, before dreaded and hated, is changed at once, to the view of the soul, into an affectionate Parent, reverenced, loved, and delightfully obeyed. This awful enemy becomes instantaneously an everlasting and almighty Friend; this hard Master, a divine and boundless Benefactor. His character is then contemplated with awe, indeed, but with delight also. His commandments, no longer grievous, are preferred to thousands of gold and of silver. His presence, no longer terrible, is continually coveted; and communion with him in prayer, and praise, is daily sought, and delightfully found.
In this manner the affections become serene, cheerful and pleasant. The storm subsides into a calm; and the darkness of the soul is illumined with a perpetual sunshine.
3dly. It is a happy state of the Conscience.
When the affections have thus bowed to their Creator; when the soul has sincerely said, Thy will be done; Conscience, unopposed and undisturbed, dictates whatever is to be done; and smiles its approbation, whenever it is performed. In the various retrospects, which the Christian takes of his progress, at the end of a day, a week, a month, or a year, he is enabled to look on, and approve; and to feel a supporting hope, that he is approved, in some good measure, by his God. His thoughts, affections, and designs, cease to be objects of dread; and self-examination, to be a duty, which he cannot perform. To himself he is no longer a stranger. Prayer, he no longer dreads. From his moral character he no longer shrinks. At his future destiny he ceases to shudder. A daily, welcome, cheerful visitor at the internal fire-side, he finds there nothing but peace, harmony, and pleasure.
4thly. It is happy state of the Life.-
In a world, like this, it will not be imagined, that external peace can be perfect. Although the man in question is possessed of a
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peaceful spirit only, yet in those around him he will not always find the same disposition. In him there is no cause of hostility; but in them it will not, of course, be extinguished. While he is surrounded by beings of this description, therefore, he cannot expect undisturbed peace. Yet amid the discord, .and violence, of this world, his moderation, his kindness, will either allay, or quietly and firmly endure, the storm. Men of candid dispositions, beholding his conduct, will approve, and commend ; and men of prejudice and passion will often be overcome, and desist from their persecution.
Yet even here he will find many persons of a character, kindred to his own. Of the approbation, the love, and the kind offices, of these men, he is assured. The esteem of Wisdom, and Worth, is invaluable ; is accompanied by sincere love; is followed by a perpetual train of kind offices; and is, therefore, an ample compensation for the contempt, hatred, and obloquy, of all the unreasonable, and unworthy. Should he meet, then, with many troubles from men of this character; he will still find a rich enjoyment from the approbation and good-will of the wise and virtuous; a table of rich viands, spread before him in the presence of his enemies; a cup, running over with blessings.
At the same time he is still more refreshed, and comforted, by a sense of the approbation of God. h humble hope of forgiveness is accompanied, of course, by a hope of the divine complacency. The favour of God even in this world is life, and his loving-kindness better than life. A disposition to obey this great
and glorious Being is always delightful; and his law sweeter to an
evangelical taste than honey, and the honey-comb. Although men, therefore, all men should rise up in hostility against him; would say David, The Lord is on my side, 1 will not fear. What can man do unto me? I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved. The Lord God is his shield: he cannot fail, therefore, of being safe. The Lord God is his sun: his life will, therefore, be cheered with the light of heaven.
II. The Manner, in which this legacy is given, is taught in those remarkable words of our Saviour, Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
The world gives with an intention to gain, at least as much as it gave; and thus gives for its own benefit; not for ours. The world gives by halves; and often resumes what it has given. The world gives grudgingly; with a meanness, which embitters the boon, to those who receive it. The world gives in pretence, and not in reality: its gifts being, at best, of little value, and of momentary duration. Finally; the world reproaches us, as being deeply indebted for its largesses; and imperiously demands servile acknowledgments, and base compliances, as a proper return for the obligations which it has conferred.
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Christ, on the contrary, gives with perfect liberality, and unlimited bounty; cheerfully; never resuming what he has given; for our benefit only; really, and not in pretence; with absolute sincerity, and supreme nobleness of disposition. His gifts also, while they are of high value in themselves, endure for ever. At the same time he never reproaches us on account of his blessings; and demands of us no unworthy sacrifices.
From these observations we learn, 1st. How to estimate this legacy of Christ.
To a Being, in the situation of man, as described in the former part of this discourse, such a gift is plainly and pre-eminently necessary. Condemned, loathed, and afflicted, by his Maker, he has no friend; to whom he may betake himself for consolation; and no refuge, to which he may fly for safety. Whatever he does; God is present to see, and to retribute. An Enemy here, he is an enemy every where: an enemy, from whom there is no concealment, defence, nor escape. Still the circumstances of the unhappy man would be less dreadful, if he could find peace and support within. But, there, Conscience arms herself against him; while his rebellious passions bring them pain in hand, and are frequently followed by remorse and despair. When he looks abroad, he sees his fellow creatures at war with him, also; and from them seeks in vain for an alleviation of his sufferings.
In this situation Christ proclaims to him peace with God, with mankind, and with himself; peace passing all understanding ;peace1 which the world can neither give, nor take away. Henceforth, nothing is desirable in his sight, but that which God chooses; nothing lovely, but that which God loves. To know the divine will is, in his view, to know all that is necessary; and to obey it, all that in useful. He is assured of the divine protection, and is therefore safe: for he knows, that no enemy can endanger his welfare, or disturb his repose.
In the mean time, his soul tins returned to its rest, and is quiet. The storm is past; and is succeeded by serenity and sunshine. If he finds enemies abroad; he disarms half their rage by his own meekness: the rest he sustains, pities, and forgives.
In times of danger, when God comes out against mankind, to judge the world in righteousness, he enjoys the unspeakable consolation of believing, that this awful Being is a friend to him. When, therefore, the tempest rages, the famine desolates, or the pestilence hurries its victims to the grave; when a thousand fall at his side, and ten thousand at his right hand; it shall not come near HIM.
Afflictions will, however, reach even him. It is necessary, that he should be chastened: and chastening in its very nature is grievous. But, for this grief the peace of the Gospel provides a sure
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and delightful alleviation. The pain, he knows, is inflicted by the Father of his spirit; that he may become a partaker of his holiness, and live. He receives it, therefore, with patience and resignation;. and thus strips disease of’ its languor; robs pain of its sting; and lights up a cheering lamp in the dark chambers of sorrow.
In death, that melancholy and distressing day to the wicked, his eye. penetrates the gloom, and descries the glorious morning which dawns beyond it. On the other side of this narrow gloomy valley, spreads a world of peace: where no storm ever blows; no enemy ever invades; and no danger ever threatens. There all are friends. God is his friend : Christ is his friend: and none but his friends are found among the innumerable company of angels, or the general assembly of the first-born.
2dly. How greatly is this blessing enhanced by the consideration, that Christ has given us
his own peace. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you. In this declaration we are reminded of the glorious character of him, who bestows the legacy and of the wonderful things, which he has done to procure it for us. Christ is divinely great and excellent; and the gift is suited to his character; is excellent, noble, and divine. It is the rich fruit, the genuine evidence, of virtue: a seal, impressed by the Saviour on the soul, as unquestionable proof, that it has become his:, a living witness, that he has there taken up his residence, as in a temple, in which he is pleased to dwell. It is his still, small voice, whispering in delightful accents, that he is there; and that he is there, on his own most benevolent, purpose of purifying it for heaven, and quickening it with immortal life. The Giver is divine; the gift is divine: the end, for which it is given, is also divine.
The things, which he has done, and suffered, to procure this gift for man, are infinitely great and endearing. For this end, when he was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he made himself of no reputation ; was made in the likeness of men; and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. In the peace, which Christians enjoy, they are presented with a perpetual memorial of these wonderful efforts of him, who thus in his flesh abolished the enmity; and made, preached, and became, Peace to them who were afar off and to them who were nigh. Whenever this delightful serenity of soul is enjoyed by us, we cannot easily avoid recollecting, that with boundless benignity the Son of God became man; lived a life of unceasing humiliation and suffering; died on the cross; rose from the dead; ascended to heaven; and there intercedes for ever, that this blessing may be ours. What love can be compared to this? What character was ever so lovely, so endearing, so peculiarly divine?
As the Peace of Christ, also, this glorious possession assumes a new character of excellence and worth. In him, this peace was
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the result of consummate wisdom and supreme rectitude: a divine harmony of perfect intelligence and immeasurable love. It was a possession completely independent. None could give it: none could take it away. In the pure, serene, eternal Mind of the Saviour, it dwelt of course, inseparably, and for ever. It was the necessary and immortal offspring of immortal excellence: the coeternal splendour of light eternal. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever he had formed the earth and the world; then was it by him, as one brought up with him; and was daily his delight, rejoicing alway before him: rejoicing with a divine prescience in the future, habitable parts of the earth, and placing its delights in the sons of men.
In his Mediatorial residence among the children of apostate Adam; amid all his sorrows and labours, amid all the opposition, rejection, and persecution, which he experienced; amid all the living anguish, and dying agonies, which he suffered; this celestial companion, this divine inmate of his bosom, perpetually sustained him; and diffused fortitude and serenity around his soul. Thus sustained, thus tranquillized, he smiled in agony, and triumphed in death.
To us, as to him, it is peace passing all understanding; peace, which the world cannot give, nor take away. Grace and Mercy descend first in the train of infinite blessings from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ; and Peace enters our doors immediately behind them. A guest, fresh from heaven, and from the presence of God, Peace bears all the characteristics of the world from which she descends ; of the region in which she was born; of the family to which she is allied; and of the Parent from whom she sprang. Gentle and serene, beautiful and lovely, she becomes a willing companion to every humble, faithful follower of the Lamb; to every genuine child of God. Her own angelic disposition she breathes insensibly into the soul; her softness and gentleness she infuses into the heart; and her living smiles she spreads over the aspect. At once, the man is changed into a new creature. His soul, before the region of darkness and storm, is cleared, at once, of the clouds by which it was overcast. Its tempestuous passions cease to rage, and ravage; and a heavenly sunshine illumines the world within. The universe, to him heretofore a vast kingdom of war and opposition, is converted into a delightful residence of quiet and harmony; in which an Immense multitude of the inhabitants, such as no man can number are become his friends, and in which the hostilities of the rest only work together for his good. God, also, seen by him before in clouds and darkness, which were very tempestuous round about him, has unfolded to him the light of his countenance; and given him a lively and transporting earnest of serene, unclouded, everlasting day. [ Bold face added for emphasis, Willison ed.]