These two promises, of seeing God, and being filled with righteousness, have place between the individual man and his father in heaven directly; the promise I now come to, has place between a man and his God as the God of other men also, as the father of the whole family in heaven and earth: ‘Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.’
Those that are on their way to see God, those who are growing pure in heart through hunger and thirst after righteousness, are indeed the children of God; but specially the Lord calls those his children who, on their way home, are peace-makers in the travelling company; for, surely, those in any family are specially the children, who make peace with and among the rest. The true idea of the universe is the whole family in heaven and earth. All the children in this part of it, the earth, at least, are not good children; but however far, therefore, the earth is from being a true portion of a real family, the life-germ at the root of the world, that by and for which it exists, is its relation to God the father of men. For the development of this germ in the consciousness of the children, the church—whose idea is the purer family within the more mixed, ever growing as leaven within the meal by absorption, but which itself is, alas! not easily distinguishable from the world it would change—is one of the passing means. For the same purpose, the whole divine family is made up of numberless human families, that in these, men may learn and begin to love one another. God, then, would make of the world a true, divine family. Now the primary necessity to the very existence of a family is peace. Many a human family is no family, and the world is no family yet, for the lack of peace. Wherever peace is growing, there of course is the live peace, counteracting disruption and disintegration, and helping the development of the true essential family. The one question, therefore, as to any family is, whether peace or strife be on the increase in it; for peace alone makes it possible for the binding grass-roots of life—love, namely, and justice—to spread throughout what were else but a wind-blown heap of still drifting sand. The peace-makers quiet the winds of the world ever ready to be up and blowing; they tend and cherish the interlacing roots of the ministering grass; they spin and twist many uniting cords, and they weave many supporting bands; they are the servants, for the truth’s sake, of the individual, of the family, of the world, of the great universal family of heaven and earth. They are the true children of that family, the allies and ministers of every clasping and consolidating force in it; fellow-workers they are with God in the creation of the family; they help him to get it to his mind, to perfect his father-idea. Ever radiating peace, they welcome love, but do not seek it; they provoke no jealousy. They are the children of God, for like him they would be one with his creatures. His eldest son, his very likeness, was the first of the family-peace-makers. Preaching peace to them that were afar off and them that were nigh, he stood undefended in the turbulent crowd of his fellows, and it was only over his dead body that his brothers began to come together in the peace that will not be broken. He rose again from the dead; his peace-making brothers, like himself, are dying unto sin; and not yet have the evil children made their father hate, or their elder brother flinch.
On the other hand, those whose influence is to divide and separate, causing the hearts of men to lean away from each other, make themselves the children of the evil one: born of God and not of the devil, they turn from God, and adopt the devil their father. They set their God-born life against God, against the whole creative, redemptive purpose of his unifying will, ever obstructing the one prayer of the first-born—that the children may be one with him in the Father. Against the heart-end of creation, against that for which the Son yielded himself utterly, the sowers of strife, the fomenters of discord, contend ceaseless. They do their part with all the other powers of evil to make the world which the love of God holds together—a world at least, though not yet a family—one heaving mass of dissolution. But they labour in vain. Through the mass and through it, that it may cohere, this way and that, guided in dance inexplicable of prophetic harmony, move the children of God, the lights of the world, the lovers of men, the fellow-workers with God, the peace-makers—ever weaving, after a pattern devised by, and known only to him who orders their ways, the web of the world’s history. But for them the world would have no history; it would vanish, a cloud of windborne dust. As in his labour, so shall these share in the joy of God, in the divine fruition of victorious endeavour. Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God—the children because they set the Father on the throne of the Family.
The main practical difficulty, with some at least of the peace-makers, is, how to carry themselves toward the undoers of peace, the disuniters of souls. Perhaps the most potent of these are not those powers of the church visible who care for canon and dogma more than for truth, and for the church more than for Christ; who take uniformity for unity; who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, nor knowing what spirit they are of; such men, I say, are perhaps neither the most active nor the most potent force working for the disintegration of the body of Christ. I imagine also that neither are the party-liars of politics the worst foes to divine unity, ungenerous, and often knowingly false as they are to their opponents, to whom they seem to have no desire to be honest and fair. I think, rather, they must be the babbling liars of the social circle, and the faithless brothers and unloving sisters of disunited human families. But why inquire? Every self-assertion, every form of self-seeking however small or poor, world-noble or grotesque, is a separating and scattering force. And these forces are multitudinous, these points of radial repulsion are innumerable, because of the prevailing passion of mean souls to seem great, and feel important. If such cannot hope to attract the attention of the great-little world, if they cannot even become ‘the cynosure of neighbouring eyes,’ they will, in what sphere they may call their own, however small it be, try to make a party for themselves; each, revolving on his or her own axis, will attempt to self-centre a private whirlpool of human monads. To draw such a surrounding, the partisan of self will sometimes gnaw asunder the most precious of bonds, poison whole broods of infant loves. Such real schismatics go about, where not inventing evil, yet rejoicing in iniquity; mishearing; misrepresenting; paralyzing affection; separating hearts. Their chosen calling is that of the strife-maker, the child of the dividing devil. They belong to the class of the perfidious, whom Dante places in the lowest infernal gulf as their proper home. Many a woman who now imagines herself standing well in morals and religion, will find herself at last just such a child of the devil; and her misery will be the hope of her redemption. But it is not for her sake that I write these things: would such a woman recognize her own likeness, were I to set it down as close as words could draw it? I am rather as one groping after some light on the true behaviour toward her kind. Are we to treat persons known for liars and strife-makers as the children of the devil or not? Are we to turn away from them, and refuse to acknowledge them, rousing an ignorant strife of tongues concerning our conduct? Are we guilty of connivance, when silent as to the ambush whence we know the wicked arrow privily shot? Are we to call the traitor to account? or are we to give warning of any sort? I have no answer. Each must carry the question that perplexes to the Light of the World. To what purpose is the spirit of God promised to them that ask it, if not to help them order their way aright?
One thing is plain—that we must love the strife-maker; another is nearly as plain—that, if we do not love him, we must leave him alone; for without love there can be no peace-making, and words will but occasion more strife. To be kind neither hurts nor compromises. Kindness has many phases, and the fitting form of it may avoid offence, and must avoid untruth. We must not fear what man can do to us, but commit our way to the Father of the Family. We must be nowise anxious to defend ourselves; and if not ourselves because God is our defence, then why our friends? is he not their defence as much as ours? Commit thy friend’s cause also to him who judgeth righteously. Be ready to bear testimony for thy friend, as thou wouldst to receive the blow struck at him; but do not plunge into a nest of scorpions to rescue his handkerchief. Be true to him thyself, nor spare to show thou lovest and honourest him; but defence may dishonour: men may say, What! is thy friend’s esteem then so small? He is unwise who drags a rich veil from a cactus-bush.
Whatever our relation, then, with any peace-breaker, our mercy must ever be within call; and it may help us against an indignation too strong to be pure, to remember that when any man is reviled for righteousness-sake, then is he blessed.