Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
~ Luke 2:14

In a sermon on this text, Jonathan Edwards reflected on how Christ brings peace on earth. As the following excerpts from his sermon (available in this volume) show, Edwards celebrated the incarnation of God in Jesus and the peaceful effects of his coming to earth, which brought peace between man and God, peace within man, and peace between men:[1]

 

The angels sing the glorious effects of Christ taking on him human nature, first in heaven and then on earth. . . .  God’s glory is continually manifested [in heaven] in a degree and manner inconceivable to us who dwell on earth, but yet this was a new manifestation of it even to [the angels] and gave them a new theme of praise.

The effect of it on earth which they celebrate is peace. Peace was gone from the earth ever since the Fall, and enmity and confusion had reigned in this lower world. . . .

Christ’s coming did, as it were, add this earth to heaven as a province of the same kingdom of peace, causing war to cease between heaven and earth which the Fall had occasioned and also that wars and contentions which were among the inhabitants of the earth.

Doctrine: The Son of God by appearing in our nature laid a glorious foundation for peace to the inhabitants of this world.

1. Peace with God. So dreadful are the effects of the Fall and of sin that it has made a breech between man and his Creator. . . .

But by Christ appearing in the world for us, peace is again restored and a foundation is laid for an everlasting friendship between God and us—a friendship that is not liable to be broken as the former was, a better and surer foundation. The foundation that our alliance with heaven stood upon before was mankind’s own innocency and righteousness, which was mutable, but it is the immutable righteousness and intercession of Christ Jesus. This peace with God consists in God’s being reconciled to us and in our being reconciled to God. Hereby God is reconciled unto us, Christ reconciling God to us by making satisfaction for sin. . . .

2. Christ has laid foundation for peace within ourselves. Sin has put all things into an uproar and confusion in the mind, hath set man at variance with himself, has made him his own worst enemy. In whatever circumstances the sinner is, he has no peace, for there is continual war in his own breast and he feels great trouble and uneasiness from the tumults and tempests that are in his own soul. ’Tis Christ heals these divisions and ’tis he only who can heal them. . . .

In Christ we may have the comfortable consideration that God is reconciled to us and is well pleased with us[,] that all our sins are forgiven. We may behold his frowns turned into smiles. Whosoever we are, in whatever condition, we may have the comfort of thinking that we are in the hand of a God who is at peace with us. . . .

3. ’Tis the nature and tendency of the gospel of Jesus Christ to procure peace among men one with another. Strife and contention, malice, envy, debate and mutual ill will are some of the greatest miseries of this apostate world—that which makes it most different from the heavenly and most like the infernal world. . . . Surely ’twould be a glorious thing if God should send down some extraordinary messenger from heaven to the earth to be a peacemaker among men and to reconcile them one to another. This hath God done. He hath sent his own Son on this errand. . . .

Thus we have shown how God by sending his Son into the world has consulted the peace of mankind—peace between God and man and peace in our own breasts and peace one with another. ’Twas the light of this that made the angel sing “Peace on earth.” . . .

Here in this world the spirit of Jesus Christ, the spirit of love and meekness is given, but in part. There are remainders of corruption of that root of bitterness . . . so that perfect peace is not to be enjoyed here even among Christ’s disciples. . . .

But in heaven they shall be all righteous, all perfectly free from the seeds of contention, so that there will be no more ill will, anger, and high-spiritedness, reproaches and evil-speaking. No such thing will be found within the walls of heaven forever, but they shall be a perfect and uninterrupted and everlasting peace in that kingdom of peace.

(You can read Edwards’ full sermon in The Glory and Honor of God, vol. 2 of The Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, edited by Michael D. McMullen.)

 

[1] These excerpts are drawn from Edwards’ sermon on Luke 2:14, “That the Son of God by Appearing in Our Nature Laid a Glorious Foundation for Peace to the Inhabitants of This World,” in The Glory and Honor of God, vol. 2 of The Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Michael D. McMullen (Nashville: Broadman, 2004), 174–76, 179, 181–82, 184–85.

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