The Way of Peace
H.A. IRONSIDE, Litt.D.
Except Ye Repent, etc.
I. NOT PEACE, BUT A SWORD 5
II. MISSING THE WAY 12
III. FALSE PEACE 21
IV. PERFECT PEACE 30
V. PEACE AND TRUTH 38
IV. “PREACHING PEACE BY JESUS CHRIST” 47
VII. RIGHTEOUSNESS THE BASIS OF PEACE 55
VIII. “PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU” 63
IX. “HE IS OUR PEACE.” 72
X. THE PEACE OFFERING 80
XI. PEACE WITH GOD 89
XII. THE PEACE OF GOD 98
XIII. THE BOND OF PEACE 108
XIV. THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE 117
XV. PEACE IN HEAVEN 124
XVI. THE KINGDOM OF PEACE 133
A longing desire for Peace in a war torn world is in the hearts of the vast majority of men and women of all nations. How to secure Peace is the perplexing problem that all the world is now facing. It is with such a background as this that Dr. Ironside selected the title “The Way Of Peace.”
When he won the $1,000.00 prize offered by the American Tract Society in 1937 for the best manuscript, emphasizing one or more essentials of the evangelical faith, he took the timely subject of “Repentance,” as this word seemed, at that time, to express our greatest need. That he was correct in his judgment was clearly shown by the large circulation of “Except Ye Repent.”
Now he comes with God’s offer of Peace and makes clear the one way that individuals can secure it, believing that if Peace is brought about in the individual heart, wars will cease.
This is an exceptionally timely book which will awaken widespread interest and will challenge the attention of peace loving people by its convincing logic and its cheering and reasonable optimism.
Peace! Rest of heart and mind for the individual soul. Security and comfort for the nations of the world. Freedom from distraction and surcease from the terrors of armed conflict. A conscience that does not condemn and memories that do not burn and distress. All of these and more are included in our thoughts as we think of the meaning of peace.
But where is this desirable state to be found? Who enjoys this blissful condition? The worldling is a stranger to it. The self-righteous cannot attain it, however smugly complacent they may be. The callously wicked may have a conscience seared as with a hot iron, but they know nothing of true and lasting peace. The libertine may defy every law, human or divine, and thus hope to find by freedom from all restraint peace of heart and mind, but he seeks in vain. Heartsease is a lovely flower which never grows in the garden of the lawless or the profane.
Nations may plan and statesmen may sign pacts, but peace seems as far away as ever.
But for this great boon men long, though from seeking it in vain many are ready to give up in despair and sink into deeper than Schopenhauer pessimism.
And yet there is a peace that flows as a river; a peace that may be obtained and enjoyed if men will but take God’s way as revealed in His Word. Hence this effort to unfold “The Way of Peace.” Ponder it carefully, test it for yourself, and see if it does not point the way to a peace that all the exigencies of life can never destroy and which death itself cannot disturb – a peace that endures when the body decays and world-states are crumbling.
The yearning for world peace is surging up in countless troubled hearts today. The nations are ready to spring at one another like so many savage brutes, fulfilling the Scripture, “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20). Statesmen are at their wits’ end. Peace conferences and treaties have broken down so far as restraining the lust for power and the desire for revenge is concerned. Even Bible believers are perplexed as they see so little evidence of the fulfillment of the Scripture promises of peace and righteousness through the Redeemer, who came from heaven to bring in the kingdom of God here on earth. Why the long delay, and, at times, the seeming defeat of the divine purpose? Will the golden age of peace never come? Has the church been following a will o’ the wisp, instead of a revelation from heaven, in its endeavor to bring all nations to own the Lordship of Christ and so be enabled to manifest that brotherly unity which the world has been looking forward to for so long?
In view of the announcement of the angelic host at the nativity of Jesus, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), what could be stranger or apparently more inconsistent and startling than his own asseveration over thirty years later, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34), or, as we have it in Luke 12:51, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay, but rather division.” Is it any wonder that even sober, thoughtful men, as well as careless, shallow thinkers, have had difficulty in reconciling such seemingly opposite declarations?
For centuries, inspired prophets had encouraged Israel to look forward to an era of universal peace to be ushered in by the advent of Him “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2), one of whose names or titles was to be “the Prince of Peace,” which was coupled with the promise, “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end” (Isa. 9:6, 7).
What could be more beautiful than the Aaronic benediction, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:24-26)? Words such as these must have impressed the heart of every Israelite with a sense of the desire of Jehovah to give peace to His people. To Phinehas God gave His “covenant of peace” and proclaimed it as everlasting (Num. 25: 12, 13); yet how few ever entered into it in reality and enjoyed its blessings for any length of time.
David looked beyond the storms of earth to a halcyon season when “the Lord will bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29:11), and in two definitely Messianic psalms he portrays an age of universal peace, for which the nations seem still to wait in vain. “The mountains shall bring peace to the people” (Ps. 72:3), and in Ps. 147:14 a similar prediction is given. These clearly coincided with the other prophetic messages of Isaiah, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Ch. 54:13); “Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace… and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Ch. 55:12, 13); “Behold, I will extend to her peace like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream” (Ch. 66:12). Through Jeremiah, God declared, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). Though that “end” – so greatly to be desired – has not yet come, and the world is sick with fear, the promise abides, “Behold I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace” (Jer. 33:6).
In post-exilic days Haggai encouraged the builders of the second temple by the promise, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (Ch. 2:9). His brother prophet, Zechariah, foretold the glad day of “the Man whose name is The Branch,” saying, “Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne and the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (Zech. 6:12, 13). This is surely none other than our great Melchizedek priest – our Risen Saviour. The counsel of peace is made between the Father and the Son, and that for man’s blessing.
To these there might be added many other Old Testament passages, all alike pointing on to the coming of Him who, in a fuller sense than Mordecai ever knew, will speak peace unto His seed (Esth. 10:3).
And so we are not surprised when we begin the study of the gospel records, to hear the anthem of the heavenly choir as they joyously acclaim His incarnation and make the welkin ring in the ears of their amazed shepherd audience, as they announce the long-waited for era of peace on earth and good will to men, or, as some versions put it, “to men of good will.”
With such a proclamation stirring our hearts, we go on to read the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, only to be crushed with disappointment as we hear Him sadly aver that instead of peace He brings a sword.
And yet the reason is not far to seek. He came, exactly as predicted, laden like David of old (1 Sam. 17:17, 18) with gifts of love for His brethren after the flesh, but they had no welcome for him. The spirit of the brothers, both of David and of Joseph (Gen. 37:8, 20) was seen again in them, and, failing to recognize Him as the promised Kinsman-Redeemer who came to bring in the Kingdom of Peace, they spurned His message and trampled on His grace. The cross with all its shame and grief was their answer to the loving kindness of His heart. Like the wicked husbandman, they said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance” (Matt. 21:38). And so they fulfilled their own Scriptures in rejecting Him (Acts 13:27-29) even as Peter charged them, following the miracle of Pentecost: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). For the cross is not only the fullest expression of the love of God to sinners, but is also the evidence of man’s hatred to God when his heart is moved with Satanic malignity.
This explains why peace has not yet come to earth and why wars and rumors of wars still persist. Christ, the Prince of Peace, is rejected, and because of this there can be no complete fulfillment of promises which were all based upon and connected with His acknowledged authority over the hearts of men and nations. Instead of peace, history records one sad, almost unbroken, series of misunderstandings and enmity among rival peoples; “wars and rumors of wars” prevail on every hand; restlessness and selfish strife dominate mankind and “the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:17).
The history of the world, for the past nineteen centuries, is a sad commentary on the folly of attempting to achieve lasting peaceful conditions by human planning, while persistently refusing recognition of the only plan that can insure the security of nations and a lasting peace on earth; that is, subjection to Him whose law is love and who is the incarnation of the God of peace. It has been well said, when thoughtless men have sought to lay the blame on Christianity for the unhappy conditions prevailing, that this is to leave the unrest and strife at the wrong door, for “Christianity has never been tried.”
While gladly recognizing the fact that where the Bible has been most widely disseminated and where more people of a given nation are Christians, the whole commonwealth is blessed thereby, yet, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a Christian nation and never has been. Nor does Scripture indicate there ever will be until the return of the Prince of Peace, when “in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). “In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth… His name shall endure forever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed” (Ps. 72:7, 8, 17). Then indeed, the prayers of David, and of all the righteous shall be ended, and the angel’s song shall have its complete fulfillment.
Until that day, faith recognizes the righteousness of God in permitting men to eat of the fruit of their own devices, (Prov. 1:31) while grace offers peace to the individual soul who dares to take a stand against the world, reversing its judgment and owning as Saviour and Lord the one to whom that world has refused allegiance. Even while the rider on the red horse is galloping through the world, with power to take peace from the earth (Rev. 6:4) it is possible for the repentant, trusting heart to be kept in perfect peace, knowing that the reins of power are held firmly in the hand of Omnipotence.
But now we must turn to the consideration of the other side of the truth embodied in our Lord’s declaration, that He had come, not to send peace, but a sword. The world being as it is, and sin holding sway as it does, manifestly there can never be peace until unrighteousness is dealt with and iniquity is driven from the scene. Therefore, the significant command, ere our Saviour went out to die, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). So long as the Master is rejected and the principles of His kingdom are spurned, those who would be His faithful servants must engage in the conflict of the right against the wrong, and do valiant service for righteousness in fighting against entrenched evil. For the world, there can be no peace without surrender. Men must yield the sword to Christ ere He takes the proffered hand of fellowship. It is true, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against enthroned principalities and powers of iniquity, against wicked spirits in heavenly places, the world-rulers of this darkness. But against these we are called to wage unceasing warfare. Clad in the full panoply of heaven, we are to stand valiantly for truth and righteousness, wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the saying of God. (Eph. 6:10-17.) This warfare will never end until the kingdom of Christ is established over all the earth and His truth prevails in every place. Then, at long last, the sword shall be sheathed and the victor’s palm will take its place and “great shall be the peace of (His) children” (Isa. 54:13). With days of strife at an end, the long-waited for reign of righteousness and peace shall prevail over all the earth, as the waters cover the great deep.
Then, and not till then, all the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and men shall learn war no more. (Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3.) The desire of all nations will have come (Haggai 2:7) and “judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever” (Isa. 32:16, 17).
With such a prospect before his soul, no believer in the inspired Word of the living God should become depressed and pessimistic because he does not yet see the fulfilment of these promises. Knowing that God will not call back His words (Isa. 31:2) he can rest in quietness of spirit, sustained by the truest optimism, assured that all is under divine control and that all earth’s sorrows will end in gladness, when man’s day shall give place to the long-waited for day of the Lord.
This, however, is not to imply that the Christian should not be concerned in seeking the things that make for peace among the nations at the present time, during the long period of Satanic usurpation, while the true King sits on the Father’s throne above, waiting for the appointed hour to strike when He is to rise from that throne and descend as the Mighty-Conqueror, to give to the world a righteous government, which will fulfil all the longings of the idealists of all ages who have dreamed of a warless world and a united humanity living together in concord and happiness throughout the length and breadth of the earth.
On the contrary, none can possibly be more interested in seeking the peace of mankind than the followers of Him who wept because men refused His program and chose, though unwittingly, war and bloodshed, instead of peace and amity. Therefore we find Christians in the forefront of every righteous movement that seeks to ameliorate the ills of the world. By prayer, precept and example they should ever endeavor to rouse men to rise above sordid selfishness, that has ever been the prolific source of such misery and wretchedness, and learn to look upon all men as brothers in one common human family, and so entitled to kindly consideration and assistance, as they strive for the higher and better things of life. Although the believer in the Word of God knows there can be no firmly established, and therefore lasting, peace until He comes whose right it is to reign. (Eze. 21:27.) Until that day God says, “I will overturn, overturn, Overturn it,” and this will ever follow when men and nations depart from the principles of equity, righteousness and the fear of God. But in the measure in which they humble themselves before Him and seek to do justly and to love mercy, temporal blessing and prosperity will follow: for it is ever true that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). History shows that the nations that have been characterized by reverence for the Word of God and by integrity and uprightness of life, have always been signally blessed. In the days of King Asa, of Judah, we read, “He had no war in those years” and that because the ruler and his people put first things first and sought to glorify Him. (2 Chron. 14:6.). It is written, “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness” (Ps. 11:7) and we may be assured He will honor it wherever it is found, and always everywhere the effect of righteousness shall be peace.
If the nations of the world would repent of their greed, their luxuriousness, their inebriety, their unholy toleration of iniquity entrenched in high places, and above all, their forgetfulness of God, we might still look for some amelioration of the ills that afflict mankind and vast improvement in the relations of nation with nation. Moral and spiritual re-armament are of prime importance and would mean more than vastly increased armies, navies and air fleets in preserving the peace of the world. A return, not merely to religion, but to God Himself is the greatest need of our times.