by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (v.9)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” Matthew 5:9
This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of peace is a blessed work. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.
The reasons why we should be peaceable-minded are two:
First, we are called to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). God never called any man to division. That is a reason why we should not be given to strife, because we have no call for it. But God has called us to peace.
Second, it is the nature of grace to change the heart and make it peaceable. By nature we are of a fierce cruel disposition. When God cursed the ground for man’s sake, the curse was that it should bring forth ‘thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3:18). The heart of man naturally lies under this curse. It brings forth nothing but the thistles of strife and contention. But when grace comes into the heart, it makes it peaceable. It infuses a sweet, loving disposition. It smoothes and polishes the most knotty piece. It files off the ruggedness in men’s spirits. Grace turns the vulture into a dove, the briar into a myrtle tree (Isaiah 55:13), the lion-like fierceness into a lamb-like gentleness. ‘In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together’ (Isaiah 11:6-9). It is spoken of the power which the gospel shall have upon men’s hearts; it shall make such a metamorphosis that those who before were full of rage and hatred, shall now be made peaceable and gentle. ‘Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.’
It shows us the character of a true saint. He is given to peace. He is the keeper of the peace. He is ‘a son of peace’.
Caution: Not but that a man may be of a peaceable spirit—yet seek to recover that which is his due. If peace has been otherwise sought and cannot be attained, a man may go to law and yet be a peaceable man. It is with going to law as it is with going to war, when the rights of a nation are invaded (as 2. Chronicles 20:2, 3), and peace can be purchased by no other means than war; here it is lawful to beat the ploughshare into a sword. So when there is no other way of recovering one’s right but by going to law, a man may commence a suit in law yet be of a peaceable spirit. Going to law (in this case) is not so much striving with another—as contending for a man’s own. It is not to do another wrong—but to do himself right. It is a desire rather of equity than victory. I say as the apostle, ‘the law is good if a man uses it lawfully’ (1 Timothy 1:8).
You may ask, Is all peace to be sought? how far is peace lawful? I answer, Peace with men must have this double limitation:
1. The peace a godly man seeks is not to have a league of amity with sinners. Though we are to be at peace with their persons—yet we are to have war with their sins. We are to have peace with their persons as they are made in God’s image—but to have war with their sins as they have made themselves in the devil’s image. David was for peace (Psalm 120:7)—but he would not sit on the ale-bench with sinners (Psalm 26:4, 5). Grace teaches kindness. We are to be civil to the worst—but not twist into a cord of friendship. That were to be ‘brethren in iniquity’. ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness’ (Ephesians 5:11). Jehoshaphat (though a good man) was blamed for this: ‘Should you help the ungodly and love those who hate the Lord?’ (2 Chronicles 19:2). The fault was not that he entertained civil peace with Ahab—but that he had a league of friendship and was assistant to Ahab when he went contrary to God. ‘Therefore was wrath upon Jehoshaphat from before the Lord’ (verse 2). We must not so far have peace with others, as to endanger ourselves. If a man has the plague, we will be helpful to him and send him our best remedies—but we are careful not to have too much of his company or suck in his infectious breath. So we may be peaceable towards all, and helpful to all. Pray for them, counsel them, relieve them—but let us take heed of too much familiarity, lest we suck in their infection. In short we must so make peace with men that we do not break our peace with conscience. ‘Follow peace and holiness’ (Hebrews 12:14). We must not purchase peace with the loss of holiness.
2. We must not so seek peace with others as to wrong truth. ‘Buy the truth—and sell it not’ (Proverbs 23:23). Peace must not be bought with the sale of truth. Truth is the ground of faith, and the rule of life. Truth is the most orient gem of the churches’ crown. Truth is a deposit, or charge that God has entrusted us with. We trust God with our souls. He trusts us with his truths. We must not let any of God’s truths fall to the ground. Luther says, ‘It is better that the heavens fall—than one crumb of truth perish.’ The least filings of this gold are precious. We must not so seek the flower of peace—as to lose the diamond of truth.
We ought not to unite with error. ‘What communion has light with darkness?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14). There are many who would have peace, by the destroying of truth; peace with Arminian, Socinian, and other heretics. This is a peace of the devil’s making. Cursed be that peace which makes war with the Prince of peace. Though we must be peaceable—yet we are bid to ‘contend for the faith’ (Jude 3). We must not be so in love with the golden crown of peace, as to pluck off the jewels of truth. Rather let peace go—than truth. The martyrs would rather lose their lives—than let go the truth.
If Christians must be peaceable-minded, what shall we say to those who are given to strife and contention? To those who, like flax or gunpowder, if they be but touched, are all on fire? How far is this from the spirit of the gospel! It is made the note of the wicked. ‘They are like the troubled sea’ (Isaiah 57:20). There is no rest or quietness in their spirits—but they are continually casting forth the foam of passion and fury. We may with Strigelius wish even to die to be freed from the bitter strifes which are among us. There are too many who live in the fire of broils and contentions. ‘If you have bitter envying and strife, this wisdom descends not from above—but is devilish’ (James 3:14, 15). The lustful man is brutish; the wrathful man is devilish. Everyone is afraid to dwell in a house which is haunted with evil spirits—yet how little afraid are men of their own hearts, which are haunted with the evil spirit of wrath and anger.
And then, which is much to be laid to heart, there are the divisions of God’s people. God’s own tribes go to war with each other. In Tertullian’s time it was said, ‘See how the Christians love one another.’ But now it may be said, ‘See how the Christians snarl one at another, They are like ferocious bears!’ Wicked men agree together, when those who pretend to be led by higher principles are full of animosities and heart-burnings. Was it not sad to see Herod and Pilate uniting, and to see Paul and Barnabas arguing? (Acts 15:39). When the disciples called for fire from heaven, ‘You know not (says Christ) what manner of spirit you are of’ (Luke 9:55). As if the Lord had said, This fire you call for is not zeal—but is the wildfire of your own passions. This spirit of yours does not suit with the Master you serve, the Prince of peace, nor with the work I am sending you about, which is an mission of peace. It is Satan who kindles the fire of contention in men’s hearts—and then stands and warms himself at the fire! When men’s spirits begin to bluster and storm, the devil has conjured up these winds. Discords and animosities among Christians bring their godliness much into question, for ‘the wisdom which is from above is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated’ (James 3:17).