How, at times, does the weary wayfarer in the battle of life long for peace and rest; physical rest, mental and spiritual peace; that peace which the world cannot give—nor, once possessed, take away! "Give peace in our Time, good Lord!" "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
It is well to pray and work for outward peace, that wars may cease in the land; but how much more important that we should have peace within ourselves. That we should know of that peace of which Christ spoke, and which He ever gives to His disciples. Not merely to professing Christians, but to all, "whether Jew or Gentile," who have learnt to live the Christ-life, is peace given. The power of God is not so limited, or His love so narrow, that only those who chance to be born in Christian lands have the chance of salvation and peace; but to all, in every clime and nation, is possible the Christ-life, with its spiritual peace. What is this peace for which we all long and pray, and which so few, comparatively, possess? Not the mere knowledge of sins forgiven, helpful as that may be, and the appreciation and realization of which shows that the face is turned towards the spiritual Jerusalem, the Holy City. But the peace which passes understanding is only to be attained by becoming at one with God. We may intellectually believe that all life is from God, that we are His children, and even feel the love as of children to the Father, and yet not fully realize this peace, which can only be attained by becoming at one with God—or in proportion as we realize that spiritual state. And we may well ask ourselves the question:—How have we individually used the life given to us? Is our path away from or towards the Eternal City of God? Some who live the merely outward form of a good life hope by that means to attain peace. They fail; and in the time of stress doubt of God and truth. They have looked for outward salvation—every ceremony with them has been outward only. l have no wish to depreciate ceremonial religion; these things are helpful to many, perhaps to most minds. But they are helps only, and do not insure that peace which Christ promised. That must come to us from within. By ceasing to live to the outward, and by letting the spirit, the divine within us, which is of God and from God, develop; by this means and this alone can we obtain peace, have communion with God, be at one with Him. To some this blessing may come early in life, to others it is only a late possession, to many, alas, it is, for various reasons, an impossibility, a phrase of no meaning, a creation of the imagination, a myth. If the earth-life has too strong an attraction the result is usually spiritual blindness—but we must not fall into the error of supposing that, per contra, those who care not for this life are, therefore, spiritually enlightened, for that indicates a state far from the truth; there is no peace there. When we can say, as Paul did: "to live is Christ, and to die is gain," to have "a desire to depart, and be with Christ," yet for the sake of others to wish "to abide in the flesh," when we attain that state we know something of true spiritual peace.
"Be still and know that I am God." That does not suggest the looking to anything inward, for truly, indeed, as we are so often told, is the Kingdom of Heaven within. By the spirit and through the spirit can we alone have communion with God, can He alone speak to our souls; and it is by coming into this communion, this being at one with Him, which is the heaven of peace.
Only by learning how, by meditation, we can withdraw the spirit from its outward environments, put off, as it were, for the time, the vesture of mortal form, can we know of the Spirit.
"No man knoweth the Spirit of God, save the spirit of man which is in him," for spiritual truths must be spiritually apprehended; to the worldly-wise they are foolishness, but to the spiritually minded they are life, joy and peace.
Sometimes the earnest striving for spiritual peace does not result in its attainment, and discouragement follows. Yet the fault may not be that "the world is too much with us," in such cases. It is easier for some than for others to "become as little children," spiritually, and so be receptive to divine truth. Then, again, it may be desirable for some to be led out of the land of their fathers into a land which they know not, and so the satisfying peace which would have kept them in the old groove of thought and of life is in mercy not given. Yet every true and earnest prayer, whether in work, words or aspirations, is answered in God's good time. The seed must have time to grow, the good thought to develop, ere peace can be realized.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe