Peace Like a River: Advice for the Soul in Conflict from William Bridge, Part 1

Peace Like a River: Advice for the Soul in Conflict from William Bridge, Part 1

Bridge explains there is a world of difference between the genuine peace enjoyed by the Christian and the false peace counterfeited in the heart of the wicked. “True saving peace,” wrote Bridge, “is the child of grace, and the mother of grace… True saving peace, is such a peace as is wrought by faith. “Being justified by faith, we have peace,” Rom. xv. “The Lord give you peace in believing,” says the apostle.” Most importantly, Bridge explains that: True saving peace, will live in the sight of sin.

Jesus most assuredly promised a great peace to his children with the words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). However, it is no secret that though Jesus promised peace to his saints, yet Christians are often afflicted by great trials of disquietness, discontentment, and discouragement. Rather than quietness and stillness, the soul feels it is engaged in a most ferocious conflict. While many congregations sing Horatio Spafford’s hymn, It is Well with My Soul, and with loud voices like the tumultuous roar of rushing waters, joyfully shout the words,

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll;

whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Yet, many of those voices singing have no true peace. They do not feel like they have peace within themselves, with others, or with the Lord Himself. What is the Christian to do when, instead of his inward frame of spirit shouting, “It is well with my soul!” he instead dejectedly laments, “I am downcast and disquieted”?

William Bridge, as a good physician of the soul, pinpoints some of the problems that contribute to this lack of peace and despondency in his work of collected sermons, A Lifting Up for the Downcast (preached at Stepney, A.D. 1648). In the first sermon of this work, he examines the lack of peace that is often encountered in the hearts of even the most seasoned of Christians by examining Psalm 42:11. In this Psalm, King David laments his own sad countenance and disposition, brought about by various outward afflictions, and asks the question: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

Bridge takes this verse and carefully dissects it, noting a multitude of ways that peace may be lost, reasons why a Christian may lack peace, and various remedies that may, like a healing balm, be applied to the weary saint.

  1. Christians may, for a time, lose their sense of additional peace with God, but will never lose their fundamental peace with God.

As Bridge considers the various losses of peace that a Christian may experience, he is careful to instruct his readers that the Christian who has been justified by the blood of Christ, through faith in Jesus, according to the grace of God, will never lose their fundamental peace with the Lord. That is to say, Christians enjoy a most “Fundamental peace, which does naturally arise and flow from their justification: ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,’ Rom. v. And then there is an additional peace, which arises from the sense of justification.” In other words, the one who has been justified in the sight of God is truly at peace with the Lord. Whereas before God was angry with him because of his sins, and ready to unloose the arrow of just wrath He had aimed against him as a sinner, now, through faith in Jesus, he has been justified and God’s wrath has been exhausted. God has not merely lowered the arrow to only raise it again at a later date; He has both lowered and broken the arrow, never again to raise it against the one who has been justified in Christ. There is genuine forgiveness and eternal reconciliation between the repentant sinner and God. This is the foundational peace that every Christian now enjoys.

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