Peace and No Peace.

Divine peace is a wonderful thing to him who has it, and only he knows what it is. He of all others carries a light in thickest darkness, has joy in deepest sorrow, is "calm amid tumultuous motion," quiet amid the strife of tongues, unperturbed and unruffled in the most trying hour, in the deepest waters is not overwhelmed, and in the season of Satan's angriest opposition can look up steadfastly into heaven.

Peace is a higher thing than comfort, a deeper thing than joy, a more solid thing than rest; for while here my comforts may be diminished, my joy be disturbed, my rest be broken, but my peace flows as a river. Interrupt the flow of a river, and it is a river no longer. You may dam up its waters, but you only make them stagnant; you may have widened their area, but you have only distended desolation, for their freshness and their fruitfulness depend upon the continuity of their changeless flow. Thus a river is the scriptural illustration of PEACE. "Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river." Again: "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river." (Isa. 48:18, and Isa. 66:12.) And "the troubled sea" just as fittingly illustrates the state of those who have no peace. (See Isa. 57:20-21.)

In the seven closing verses of this chapter (Isaiah 57) we have a beautiful presentation of grace. God speaks of Himself as "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell," says He, "in the high and holy place," but He adds, "with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." What is evident here is, that God's dwelling is in harmony with His own nature. He is high and holy, and He dwells in the high and holy place. But He dwells also with him "that is of a contrite and humble spirit," for He finds there that which is suited to Himself. The highest place in heaven is dignified by the presence of Him who yet condescends to make the lowly heart His throne. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17.) The God whom the highest heavens cannot contain is the God whom we may make our Guest, but only by ourselves getting down into the lowest and lowliest place. Thus, if we have never met Him, it is because we have never got down so low as that level of self-judgment on which He is found in grace. But when He takes up His abode in the humble and the contrite, it is in the sweetness of His love, and the tenderness of His mercy, that He may revive the spirit of His humble ones, and revive the heart of His contrite ones. How blessed to be thus humble before Him - lowly enough for the lofty One to dwell with us, contrite (or rubbed down) enough for the Holy One to revive us! The really humble are those who can never be humbled; such, in His own peerless perfection, was the Master Himself.

In the next verse, God condescends to remember human frailty, and reflects that if He stay not His hand from judgment man's spirit would fail before Him, and the souls that He had made. Divine compassion is here most touchingly exhibited. Yet (v. 17) He had been justly wroth for the iniquity of their covetousness, and had smitten them. Again He had been wroth, and had hid Himself, and they had gone on in frowardness of heart. Thus He had seen Israel's sin, and smitten him for it. Again He had seen it, and had refrained from smiting. But He had still to be wroth; for Israel had only taken advantage of His hiding Himself, and their frowardness was unchecked. Yet again will God act, and in a new way. "I have seen his ways, and will heal him." He shuts not His eyes to his sin, but He adds, "I will heal him." Marvellous grace! Thus are seen God's three ways of acting. (1) Seeing sin, wroth, and judging the sinner. (2) Seeing sin and wroth, but hiding Himself. (3) Seeing sin, and healing the sinner; leading him also, and restoring comforts unto him, etc. The first is seen in principle in the antediluvian world and the judgment of the flood. The second, in the law. The third, in the gospel of our salvation. How happy for us that we live in a day in which God commendeth His love to us by acting in the last of these ways! What wondrous grace! "I have seen his ways, and will heal him." Who can be insensible to such precious words? The One who measures the magnitude of my sin - as I never could, and views its hateful malignity with an abhorrence I have never felt, is the One who has righteously dealt with it suitably to His own glory; for, seeing the extremity and the exigency of my case, the word went forth from His lips of grace, "I will heal him." The One who knows, as none but He, the iniquity of my covetousness, and the frowardness of the way of my heart, is the One who says, "I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him." Adorable, matchless grace! All founded, we need scarcely say, in the blood of Christ.

Again: "I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and" (a second time) "I will heal him." These expressions, "him that is far off," and "him that is near," respectively bring in the purpose of God that Gentile and Jew should both receive the heritage of peace from His hand. For the former, see Zech. 9:9-10, the One who enters Jerusalem as her King, just and having salvation, speaks "peace unto the heathen;" on the other hand, in Micah 5:2-5, the One whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, "this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land." So also the Spirit of God by Paul, in Eph. 2:17, says, He "came and preached peace to you which were far off" (Gentiles, as those to whom he was writing), "and to them that were nigh" (Israel his kinsmen). And, says the apostle (v. 14), "He is our peace." So that having made peace by the blood of His cross for the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God, the One who will in a future day speak peace to the heathen, has already spoken it to us; and the One who will be Himself the peace to Israel is our peace now. It is deeply interesting in this, and many another case, to see how the Church, through grace, is in the highest way put in present possession of blessings, many and varied, which will, in another form, be the portion of earthly saints; for, indeed, "all things are yours."

"But the wicked" - solemn word of contrast - "are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." Or, as we read in Jude, "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame." Graphic picture, drawn by the Holy Ghost, of the state of a soul without God! And at the foot of the canvas He adds but this word, as an eternal inscription, "There is NO PEACE, saith my God, to the wicked."

W. Rickards. (Derby).