Living Peaceably One With Another

Background: Edwards first delivered this sermon in 1723 in New York City. He apparently repreached it later in both Bolton and Northampton. The sermon can be read in its entirety, along with more background information and informative footnotes, at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.


Manuscript: Edwards' original manuscript of the sermon can be seen and studied at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library. The first page is pictured here:


The sermon has been reproduced here in its entirety. A few aesthetic edits have been made for an online environment.

 

Living Peaceably One With Another


Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.


This chapter is a sort of a summary of those virtues and graces, amiable actions and heavenly dispositions, which more especially adorn the Christian, and make 'em shine brighter than other men. If the rules of this chapter were but followed universally in the world, it would most surprisingly transform and alter it, and make it another in comparison, but little differing from Jerusalem (Romans 12:1, above). The chapter is well worth our most diligent and frequent reading, and that we should bind the words and rules thereof, that we should bind them upon our hearts; yea, that they should be written in indelible characters there, that it should be the object of continual meditation, lying down and rising up, and that we should frequently examine our lives by it, as by an excellent catalog of those duties and practices, which, if performed, will make us appear Christians indeed, and will mold our hearts and regulate our lives according to Jesus Christ and his image. If this chapter were but eyed, and so put in practice by us, we should excel,


1. In lively true devotion, in dispositions and duties more immediately respecting God, which are here most livelily represented and powerfully urged. Romans 12:1–2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." And Romans 12:11, "Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."


2. Here are perfect rules, which, if followed, will make us excel in the duties more immediately relating to ourselves. Romans 12:3, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." And Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation." But more especially,


3. Here are directions for behavior with relation unto men, which exceedingly tend to make mankind happy, and to make each particular person both excellent and blessed in human and Christian society, and every particular society to flourish. Here are rules how to behave ourselves in our particular stations, and duties from thence arising incumbent on us, from the fourth verse to the eighth; and then the duties which are undistinguishedly incumbent upon all towards each other, as verses nine and ten, "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another"; and from the thirteenth verse to the end. Here we are exhorted to distribute to the necessity of saints, and to be given to hospitality; to bless them by whom we are wronged and abused; to bless always and never to curse; to sympathize with others, either in their prosperity or adversity, from love to them; and to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and weep with those that weep, as if their prosperity were our own. This is not only our friends, but, if we would be as Christians, we must rejoice at the happiness of those that persecute us, and weep and be grieved for their misfortunes. Here we are exhorted to unanimity, and to be of the same mind one towards another; not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low degree, those that are below ourselves, and not to be wise in our own conceit; to recompense to no man evil for evil, and to provide things honest in the sight of all. If these things were but followed, what [is] exhorted to in the next verse, the verse of our text, would of course follow. If men did use themselves to be kind unto those that abused them, to bless those that persecuted them, and did not mind high things, but were humble and lowly, and would condescend one to another, and were not wise in their own conceits—that is, if they were not tenacious of their own opinions, as thinking themselves wiser than any other—if men were slower in resenting injuries, and would never recompense evil for evil, and would be fair and open and sincere in all their dealings, and honest in the sight of the world, there would need no more in order to obtaining peace with all men.


That which follows this verse seems to be directions by what means we shall thus obtain peace with all men: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath." If we would maintain peace, we must not avenge ourselves and go about violently to resist what is done in opposition to ourselves; no, but we must give place to wrath, for God has challenged vengeance as his own prerogative. Therefore if our enemies hunger, we are to feed him; if he thirst, we must give him drink. This is all the revenge that we must make use of. We must not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.


But to return to the words under consideration, in them we observe,


1. The thing that is exhorted to, that is, peace, a living peaceably with our fellow men.


2. The universality of this peace with others that we are to seek: "live peaceably with all men."


3. The extent of our obligation to this duty of living peaceably with all men: if it be possible, not only if it can be done without private inconveniences, not only when we are not injured by others, but if it be any way in the world possible, by any lawful means.


4. How we are to seek this living peaceably with all men: with all our might and power, as much in us lies. If there be any power, or any advantage, or any knowledge, how to live peaceably with all men, we are [to seek them].


Doctrine.


It is an indispensable duty incumbent upon us to endeavor, to the utmost of our power, to live peaceably with all men.


'Tis plain from the words that 'tis a duty without conditions or without any dispensations, because we are obliged to [it], notwithstanding all excuses, if it be possible. The utter impossibility of the thing is what alone will [not] excuse the not living peaceably with all men.


And that we are to endeavor to the utmost of our power is evident from the words, inasmuch as 'tis expressly said, "as much as in you lies." The duty is very earnestly urged upon [us], as what we should as earnestly strive after.


The parts of the doctrine [are] to be considered and separately demonstrated in these three propositions:


I. We ought to endeavor to live peaceably with all men universally.

II. We ought to endeavor to it to the utmost of our power.

III. This duty is unconditional and indispensable.


[Prop.] I. We ought to endeavor to live peaceably with all men universally. None are to be excepted. The gospel spirit is a catholic spirit, a noble and unconfined benevolence, like unto that of our Creator, not confined to any particular part of mankind exclusive of others; but the Christian's good will is general to all the seed of Adam. 'Tis in this respect like the beams of the sun that enlightens the whole world and rejoices all sorts of creatures, shines indifferently on gardens and the wilderness, on fruitful fields and the barren mountains alike, on fragrant fruits and flowers and on the bramble; or rather like to God, who causes his sun to rise and his rain to descend on the good and the bad. Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men." The word for "follow" in the original is diokete, which signifies "earnest," as a man that earnestly pursues another who flees from him, an expression that signifies much the same as in our text: "If it be possible, as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men." Thus we are pursue after peace with all men universally.


First. We ought to follow peace with unjust and sinful men as well as with those who are to appearances true Christians and the fearers of God. This we are to do by all lawful means. Not that we are to countenance them in any wickedness; yea, we ought to manifest zeal for the glory of God and interest of religion, and the utmost abhorrence of wickedness in whomsoever it is found, and to discountenance such persons as are notorious sinners, to withdraw from them and not to company with them. But yet there is no need of our causing contention and strife upon their account, if it be possible to avoid it. We need not be at peace with their practices, but we may be at peace with their persons. To make the wickedness of men the cause of contention and strife in us, is to make one sin the cause of another. We cannot please the devil better than by hating men's persons under pretense of duty. Our carriage towards sinful men's persons ought to be manifestation of pity and compassion and grief for their sin, and every action of ours towards them ought to be from love towards and peace with them, and from a hatred to their worst enemies, that is, their sins. We cannot show friendship more than by hating their worst enemies. Luke 6:35,


"And ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." Alas, if we should take the liberty upon every occasion to fight and quarrel and contend with men from this excuse, that they are wicked men, the world would be full of nothing but fighting and strife and the most woeful confusion; and Christianity, instead of being the gospel of peace, would be the greatest incendiary of strife: for if we are to fight with all but godly men, how few are there but that we should contend with them.


Second. We ought to endeavor to live in peace with those who are of different opinions from us. 'Tis a most unreasonable thing to take the liberty of contending with men because they cannot see with our eyes. If this were granted, we should be at war with the greatest part of the world. 'Tis as unreasonable to strive with others because they can't be in everything of our minds, as to quarrel with another because he differs in the color of his hair or the features of his face. No, we have not thus learned Christ Jesus, we don't learn to do thus out of the gospel of God. Christianity teaches us other things. We have not so learned Christ. We ought to receive those who differ from [us] only in circumstantial matters in religion into our charity, and look on them as Christians, and live with them as such. Romans 14:1–5, "Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."


Yea, if another man differs from us in the substantials and fundamentals of religion, however erroneous he is and however pernicious his tenets, yet we ought, as much as in us lies, [to] endeavor to live peaceably with him. Our text seems to be put in such universal terms, with an eye to the heathen amongst whom the Christians in those times lived: they are required, if it be possible, to live peaceably with them.


And certainly, if differences in opinion with respect to religion ought not to be the cause of our not living peaceably with men, much less ought differences of opinion in other matters, however positive and assured we may be in any matter, and others will not think as we do and are as positive in the contrary opinion. How foolish and childish is it to break peace upon this account. Because others are tenacious of their opinions against what we think to be reason plain and evident, shall we afflict and bite each other upon this account? How unreasonable is this. If this were allowed, there would not be two persons in the world that would be at peace one with another. If any will make contention upon this account, they act very contrary to the gospel of peace. The Corinthians fell out in matters of opinion the Apostle writes to them upon. 1 Corinthians 11:16, "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."


Third. We ought to our utmost to endeavor to live in peace, be at peace with those who have injured, wronged and abused us. We must not only live at peace with those that are friendly to us. It will not suffice that we don't quarrel and fall out with our good neighbors or near relations, that we let them alone that let us alone, and to be at peace with men while they do not abuse us, and those that are kind to us. But we are commanded to love those [that] hate us; we must do all the good we can to them that do what evil they can to us; to be peaceable and quiet and well-wishers to them who are full of hatred and strife towards us. Matthew 5:43–44, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you"; and [Matthew 5:46, "For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?"


Some say they do love them that do them wrong and wish them no hurt, but wish them well, that are mistaken: they have no sincere and hearty love to them, but would feel really the better for their misfortunes, would smile to hear that they met with as bad injuries as they did to them; not only because they hoped it would enlighten their eyes to see their souls for their own good, but would really be secretly glad because evil is befallen them. They know not their own hearts. We ought to have a love that is true, inward and sincere to our injurers, whether they injure us in our estates, or names, or bodies; whether they injure us by one vice or another, whether by covetousness and a craving after much of the world, or by their malice or backbiting. 1 Thessalonians 5:14–15, "Be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." It would be endless to reckon up all the places of Scripture for the proof of this so certain a duty.


Prop. II is that we ought to endeavor to live peaceably with all men to the utmost of our power. We must do as much as is possible this way and as much as in us lies. That is, if anything that we can do tends to the establishing of peace with any, we ought to do it. We ought to study how we may maintain peace. Peace is a thing so excellent and desirable, and tends so much to our own and others' happiness, that we ought to pursue it on that account; and then it is a thing so necessary, that we ought to seek it as we would seek the welfare of mankind, the prosperity of our souls. We must be active for peace, peacemakers as well as not peace-breakers. Where we are exhorted to peace, it is very earnestly [and] vigorously to pursue it; so in our text, so Hebrews 12:14, so 1 Peter 3:11. It ought to be a real grief to us when we cannot live peaceably with all men, that is, when others will not live peaceably with us; still, we ought to endeavor it with a real desire and earnest diligence.


Prop. III. This duty thus to endeavor to the utmost of our power to live peaceably with all men, is absolute and indispensable. As there is no sort of men but what we are to endeavor to live peaceably [with], so neither is there any case wherein we are not obliged to endeavor peace with men. There are very many cases whereby men are wont to think they are very well excused in not endeavoring to live peaceably with men here.


First. Some may say, "Let them that I am contending with follow those rules of the Word of God concerning living peaceably with all men. They would be willing to follow the rules if the opposite party would, but they will be bound to no such rules, but will take liberty to contend with me; and why not I with [them]? I shall but do by them as they by me." To this I answer,


What unreasonable arguing is this: "Because another will not follow the rules of the gospel, therefore I need not; because others do not obey the express commands of God, therefore I need not"? Does God say, "Do this if other men do it," or does he not say positively, "Do it," without a condition? Does God mean, so love your enemies if they'll love you? This is a contradiction, for if they followed the gospel with respect to us, and love us, they would be no more enemies but friends; and what thanks if we love our friends, or what do we more than others? Does the New Testament say, "Do by others as they do by you"? or don't it rather say, "Do by others as you would that they should do by you"? Christ speaks positively without a condition: "But I say unto you, love your enemies." Proverbs 24:29, ["Say not, I will do to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work."]


Second. Some say, "If I should be kind to those [who] wrong me, they would not thankfully receive it nor take notice of it."


Ans. Do you obey the commands of God for the thanks of men, or because they are the commands of God? Are we not commanded to be kind unto the unthankful (Luke 6:35)? Or suppose, instead of being thankful for our kindness, they abused it and were the more unworthy. Why, if we should continue kindness to them notwithstanding, we should do more than follow the example of our Father in heaven, for multitudes of men do abuse his kindness. Yea, have not you yourself abused God's kindnesses and made use of his mercies as5 instruments of sin to fight against God with, and yet don't you hope that God will continue to be kind and gracious to you?


Third. Others plead the example of saints to excuse them, and especially of the ministers of the gospel, as an excuse to them why they may break those: "There is such an one makes a profession of godliness, [yet] he is as quarrelsome and contentious as any man;6 yea, there is a minister of the gospel does it not." Yea, it may be they'll say there [are] but few ministers that do follow those rules. Yea, perhaps they'll say, "Those ministers themselves that preach up these doctrines don't practice them; let them put them in practice themselves, before they expect that we should."


Ans. Do you reckon that you may very lawfully commit every sin that a professor commits, or that ministers commit? Did Christ say you may if ministers and church members do, or did he give no such liberty?7 Did God give professors and ministers to be your patterns in all things, which you are indispensably obliged to follow, whether they obey God or no? Or are you not rather to follow the example of Jesus Christ? You may be assured that your damnation for the neglect of those duties will not be one whit the less or more gentle because ministers and church members did them not. If a wicked man and one that don't pretend to follow those rules himself makes it out clearly to you that those things are your duty, you are indispensably obliged to hearken to him: for reason and the Word of God is the same in the mouth of a fool or a sinner as 'tis in the mouth of a saint; and God will strictly require it of you if you do it not, whether he that tells you of it does it or no.


Fourth. Some plead their corruptions as an excuse from doing those duties. They say, "'Tis true those things are commanded, but they are very contrary to flesh and blood; we are so full of corruption, that 'tis a very hard matter to do them"; and so they make sin an excuse for sin. 'Tis as if man should be called to an account for his wickedness, and should give in this [as] an excuse why he did it, because he was very wicked. They say 'tis against corrupt nature, and so they neglect to do it.


Ans. To those I say, let them consider whether they intend to plead that when they come before God or his judgment seat, and whether they think 'twill be accepted.


Application.


I. We shall give some directions what to do, that we may live peaceably {with all men}.

II. [We] shall offer some motives to a living peaceably with all.

III. Particular motives why Christians should live peaceably.

IV. A more particular application of this doctrine.


[I.] For Direction. Are we willing, if it be possible, as much as in us lies to live peaceably with all men? Do the commands of God move us? The only method whereby we can obtain this, is by doing what we are now about to direct to.


First. If we should do what in us lies to live peaceably with all men, we must forgive one another. If anything is done wherein we think another to blame, we ought to forgive and bury [it] in oblivion, and not to suffer all love to be broken on the account and hatred to prevail, if something is done whereby we are wronged and injured; and not only to forgive upon their manifestation of repentance and upon their acknowledgment, but although they should continue obstinate, and should finally persist in what they had done, we ought so far to forgive, or nevertheless to retain a hearty good will and readiness to do any kindness from the heart, so as to be neighborly towards him and peaceable with him. Those that crucified Christ persisted obstinately in their actions, but yet Christ, even upon the cross, says, Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Ephesians 4:31–32, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evilspeaking, be put away from among you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Colossians 3:13, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye"; and in the next verse but one, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts." We cannot make one prayer that is acceptable to God without this (Matthew 6:12). God has told us he will not otherwise forgive us (Luke 11:14–15).1 We can never expect to maintain peace with men, except we do thus, etc.


Second. If we would maintain peace, we must bear with each others' infirmities. There can never be any peace at all without this, etc. How foolish a thing is [it] to be in a rage with every infirmity that we see in others, which the best are not without. Christians are exhorted, Colossians 3:12–13, to be "longsuffering, forbearing one another." 'Tis one effect of charity, that it suffereth long (1 Corinthians 13:4), and that it beareth all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burthens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."


Third. If we would do what in us lies for to live peaceably with men, we must in some cases forego our own private interest, yea, our own right, for the sake of peace. 'Tis one sort of suffering for the sake of Christ, who is the prince of peace, to suffer for the sake of peace and quietness. A Christian so indeed will be willing in many cases to suffer wrong than to cause contention. Contention is so contrary to a Christian temper. Peace is more desirable than many of our rights. Not [but] that 'tis lawful in some cases to stand for our right; but when the matter is not of very great weight, the Christian will be willing to forget rather than make a jangle—yea, 'tis an indispensable duty so to do. The Apostle speaks of the contrary as a very great fault, as in the case of going to law. 1 Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"


Matthew 5:39–40, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." That is, in ordinary cases we ought to forego our own right for the sake of peace.


Fourth. For the sake of peace, we must condescend and yield to one another. A Christian temper is a condescending yieldable temper. We ought not to set up a singular judgment against the common judgment of others. This we are commanded in the sixteenth verse of our context: "Condescend to men of low degree. Be not wise in your own eyes." We ought, for the sake of peace in many cases, [to] yield to the lawful desires and inclinations of others, and to the interest of others. Philippians 2:3–4, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others"; and in the fourteenth verse, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." 1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth." 'Tis said of charity, 1 Corinthians 13:5, it "doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." What can be more fully proved from the Word of God?


Fifth. If we would maintain peace, we must give place to wrath. When others are raging at us, we must be mild and gentle towards them. By this means, anger and strife mightily loses its force; 'tis quashed and deadened by this means more than any. Anger and wrath, if it find none in the object of like fire, that finds no fuel to work upon, will go out of itself. By stepping a little back when we are resisted, the blow of the enemy loses its force, as a woolsack stops and deadens a bullet sooner than an oak tree because it gives way. So a man of a meek and mild temper kills strife sooner than he that resists. Fire will never be quenched by fire; but if we would quench it, we must throw on water, its contrary. So neither will strife be quenched by strife, but by its contrary, meekness. Matthew 5:39, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil"; and in the nineteenth verse of our context, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath."


Sixth. If we would, as much as in us lies, live peaceably with one another, we must be plain, free and open one to another. We ought friendlily to open our hearts one to another. If we did so, it would prevent abundance of strife. Men oftentimes who were enemies one to another, when they are together freely opening each other's thoughts, find themselves not at so great a distance as they imagined, they become friends before they are aware; whereas keeping at a distance, shunning and avoiding one another, acting secretly, naturally begets in men's minds suspicions and jealousies one of another, and we are apt to form a judgment of men worse then they are, and think that they are at a greater distance than they find when they come to be freer together. The devil loves to make the difference between men as wide as he can, and one contrivance of his is to keep them at a distance. Therefore whatever designs and intentions concerning each we may have, we ought to be open in it, we ought not to act secretly and unknown to the person to whom the actions have a relation: this tends to strife. This openness is much recommended in the gospel, in our context, the word immediately foregoing the text: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." We ought to do nothing but what is good and honest, and then we ought to do it in the sight of all men (2 Corinthians 8:21). Those who are children of light ought to walk as children of light; they ought not to do their works in darkness.


II. We will offer some motives to move us to do what in us lies to live peaceably with all men.


First. Let it be considered that we are all reasonable creatures. How exceeding unpleasant and undesirable is contention amongst reasonable creatures. 'Tis the part of beasts, of wolves, tigers, dogs and the beasts of the forest to bite and devour one another. 'Tis exceeding hateful amongst creatures that have reason and understanding, and of such a noble make.


Second. We are all made of the same blood. We are all descendants of the same heavenly Father who has made us all, and all from the same earthly father and mother; so that we are all brethren, of whatever nation, religion or opinion. Acts 17:26, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men." And shall we, who are brethren, contend and fight one with another?


Third. We are made one for another. We are not made for ourselves alone; we are made to be useful to society. Neither can we possibly subsist without the help of our fellow men. God in the creation designed men for society, that we might help each other and love each other; and shall we, instead of that, tear one another or do what tends to make each other's lives uncomfortable?


Fourth. Peaceableness betokens a noble and a generous disposition of mind. 'Tis a sign of a little mind, of an inferior soul, to be upon every occasion picking a quarrel and flying out at everyone. But he that is of a noble disposition is not so lavish of his passion. He rather disdains to be moved to anger by unworthy men. He is of a generous disposition and freely condescends and yields to others, is not presumptuous and self-willed as those spoken of, 2 Peter 2:10. Peaceableness is the effect of considerateness and a capacious mind.


Fifth. Let it be considered how much it tends to make our lives happy, to live peaceably with all men. 'Tis the contrary that makes our lives in this world unpleasant. How happy are they who live in peace and unity: it makes all troubles seem the less, and makes the world easy to us. We cannot consult our own happiness more than by endeavoring to live peaceably with all men. All happiness consists in peace. There is no happiness of no kind but what is derived in peace, either peace with our fellow creatures or peace of conscience, peace in our own minds or peace with God. All happiness on earth and all happiness in heaven consists in peace, and all evil consists in contention, either contention with ourselves, fellow creatures, or God. Even bodily pain is the result of contention, even contention and struggle of nature with the painful sensation. Therefore "peace" is put very often in Scripture for all manner of good. It was the usual salutation, "Peace be with you," thereby2 intending their desires of their good and happiness in general. And so it is evidently intended in Scripture oftener than otherwise.


Sixth. Let us consider how often and how positively 'tis commanded in those places of Scripture which have been already mentioned, and [in] many others it is vehemently urged and much insisted, and the neglect of it much blamed. If we pretend anything about the Word of God, let us consider what we find in it and practice. I do not exhort that anything should be hearkened to or put in practice but what I have brought positive proof from the Word of the Almighty for; but [God] will expect and require of us that we should practice what we see plainly we are directed to in the Scripture.


Seventh. Consider that this peaceable spirit is necessary in order to salvation. Those duties are not only convenient, as they are often thought. Those things are of greater importance than is often thought, not only virtues that belong to eminent saints but to every true Christian, and what 'tis impossible to obtain heaven without. A contentious man and a Christian are as contrary as light and darkness. If Christ is the prince of peace, then those in whom a contentious spirit reigns are of a contrary spirit to Christ; and [if] it be necessary in order to salvation to [be] of a disposition conformed to Christ, then they that are not of a peaceable temper are not in a state of salvation. If without charity we are as a sounding brass and tinkling cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1), and if it be the character of charity that it suffers long and is kind, envieth not, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked (as 1 Corinthians 13:4–5), then those who are contrary to this are as a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. If it be the character of the children of God that they are peacemakers (Matthew 5), then none that are contrary are so. If no true Christians have such a custom as that of contention, then to be without such a custom is necessary to salvation (1 Corinthians 11:16). If the wisdom from above is peaceable (James 3:17), and to have wisdom from above is necessary to salvation, then to be peaceable is necessary to salvation. If it be necessary in order to being the children of God to do good to our enemies (Matthew 5:44–45), then to be so is necessary in order to salvation. And innumerable other proofs might be brought.


III. I thought to specify the particular obligations that Christians are under to live peaceably one with another, but time allows not. [I] shall therefore comprise them in brief. And here it cannot but be evident at first sight, that Christians are under unspeakable obligations above all others to this. What, shall not the children of God be at peace one with another? Shall there be contention in the family of heaven among God's dear children? God is the God of peace, etc. Shall not we, who profess subjection to him, be peaceable one with another? We hope that God will be at peace with us, though we have wronged him and dishonored him and injured [him] more than ever any man in the world ever did us. Shall not we then be at peace one with another? Christ Jesus came into the world and died to this very end, that he might make peace, not only between God and us, but between one man and another. Ephesians 2:14, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." The Apostle here is not speaking of peace with God, but of peace one with another. And [the] fifteenth and sixteenth verses, "So making peace, that he might reconcile both unto God"; that is, he died to make peace between one and another, and reconciling both unto God (Colossians 1:20). Shall not we, who are the visible members of the body of this meek and peaceable Jesus, be peaceable one to another? Alas, we have enemies enough to fight with, without fighting one with another. We had need mutually to assist each other against our common enemies. Let us not do as the Jews did when Jerusalem was besieged, one while fight with the Romans and then destroy one another. We are but a little handful, Christ has but a little flock: and shall his sheep devour one another? It is enough for wolves to devour, and not that they should devour one another. Christians are a small number who are traveling towards heaven, the region of peace, and following our mild and gentle leader: and shall we devour one another by the way? Let it not be! O let not such a thing be once named amongst Christians! Let [us] rather join our hearts and hands in worshipping of our God and in serving our dear Savior, who died for the sake of our peace. Let us be full of quietness and meekness. Let us bear each other's burdens and bear with each other's infirmities, and rather return good for evil. Let us do what we can to help each other in duty, and not spare time to contend. Let us pray for each other and be full of benevolence, quietness, meekness, and a forgiving temper.


[IV.] Particularly, let us of this congregation and of this town do what in us lies, if it be possible, to live in peace one with another. Nothing is more dreadful than contention in any society; innumerable are the evils that are brought into a place by it. Here let it be considered,


First, that peace exceedingly tends to the flourishing of religion in a place. When brethren live peaceably together, then the gospel of peace is like to obtain and gain ground. Peaceableness keeps the mind calm and fills it with tranquillity, which is the only disposition in which we are fit to serve God in. Yea, one half of religion consists in peaceableness, in being at peace with our neighbors and brethren: this is what is acceptable unto God. Contention lets in Satan and hinders the reception of the Word of God and the salvation of souls. Therefore all that would have religion flourish in this town, and the kingdom of Christ set up here, and their own souls and the souls of theirs saved, follow after peace.


Second. It conduces to the temporal prosperity of a people. Every interest is destroyed by contention; it lets into all other vices, as covetousness and injustice, which are the ruiners of wealth. But when peace reigns, they are ready to advance each other's wealth.


Third. It adds to the reputation of any people, and that way, to their wealth and prosperity. Much according to the reputation of a people, is that people like to flourish.


Fourth. How amiable a thing is it to see a society living together in peace and unity. Psalms 133, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 'Tis like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; and as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion." Let us all therefore of this town, as we regard its temporal and spiritual prosperity, its reputation and beauty, do all that in us lies for the sake of unity. O that peace may continue with us and reign in the midst of us! O that there may be nothing but perfect amity and agreement! Let us therefore by all means abstain from anything that either directly or indirectly tends to contention. Let us not only follow peace immediately, but everything that makes for peace. Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore follow after things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

More Edwards

Edwards Updated