“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” – Romans xiv, 19.
Since our remembrance of the travel of the visible church, there has appeared no more opportune time for attention to this Divine testimony. After long and distressing conflicts for Truth and Gospel order, through an exhibition of infinite goodness and mercy, our churches at last quietly settle in the paths of peace and righteousness.
While our ranks were swelled by nominal professors, and by Baptists who loved “this present world” more than the heavenly kingdom, we were continually met with irritations and contentions, conflicts and divisions to such an extent that every one “with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon,” – Nehemiah iv, 17.
But now how changed the scene among us! In the place of strife and contention, peace and harmony reign; in the place of secret and open attack upon Gospel Truth, love to such Truth reigns; in the place of a disposition to swell our numbers at the expense of clean work, there is a desire for unity upon the principles of Truth eternal, for “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” – Proverbs xv, 17, as was so greatly known in earlier times among our people.
Of course we do not mean to imply but what the visible church in her travel have foes yet to meet, obstacles yet to overcome, enemies yet to arise in her borders, conflicts and trials yet to endure; but for the present time being, a calm has succeeded the storm of conflict against us, and the spices in the heavenly garden (Song iv, 16) flow out. “Spikenards and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all the chief spices.” – Chapter iv, 14. “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.”
In this blessed, precious, and heavenly realization, we trust, of the Divine Presence, how pleasant to follow “after the things which make for peace.” These things are evidently the things that pertain to sound doctrine and Gospel order, a close adherence to the Divine injunction by each member and each church in this travel. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” – Romans xii, 5. And, “to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James I, 27.
In these Divine commandments can be embodied the doctrine and order of the Gospel, embracing the eternal choice IN Christ before the world began, through which, according to the eternal purpose, Predestination, of God, children of grace rise above the world, and follow the path of peace. “The things which make for peace,” are most surely things which our God has commanded, and which we are to “Do,” “without murmurings and disputings. That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” – Philippians ii, 14-15.
To those who are born of God, these things command themselves. Children of God are born in the Gospel world with the love of the Truth in their heart. However, the nominal professor is not subject to this law (Romans viii,7,) but is enmity against God. How refreshing for the one to love the Truth; how bitterly the other hate it.
How easy for the one to be free from worldly spots such as secret orders, life insurance policies etc., while the nominal professor takes to such things as a duck to water, is full of them as a dog is of flies, or as a leper is of scabs. In the power of indwelling, heavenly life the child of God turns to the things of God, he loves them most surely as he loves nothing else in this world, all must be forsaken for Christ’s sake – Matthew xix, 29.
One born of God (not of blood, or the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but of God) contends for doctrine because he loves it, he follows the order from the same exalted cause. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter I, 8,11.
But the apostle in the connection of our text refers to minor things not regarded as essential to doctrine and order. Perhaps he more fully expresses the testimony in Philippians ii, 2-4: “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” If we strive, let it be for something worthy of strife. If we contend, let it be for that which is worthy of such contention. Such is not disorder, but obeying the command to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered the saints.” – Jude 3.
In laying aside all trivial, nonessential, traditional considerations; in contending for the “doctrine of God our Savior,” and the order thereof; in thus following “after the things which make for peace,” will most surely be found the path of peace, and the “things where-with one may edify another.”
Paul tells us in Romans 1, 11,12; “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Here is but a manifestation of the glorious and wonderful testimony found in Ephesians iv, 9-16, in the growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians iv, 8.
Elder William M. Smoot