Not Peace, But a Sword

From “Satan’s Devices” (1772)

Satan made use of Peter’s tongue to persuade our blessed Lord “to spare himself,” and thereby decline those sufferings, by which alone we could be preserved from suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. And thus, in these last days, he often stirs up our most powerful friends and dearest intimates, to dissuade us from going in that narrow way, which alone leads to life eternal.

But our blessed Lord has furnished us with a sufficient answer to all such suggestions. “Get you behind me, my adversaries.” For otherwise they will be an offense to you; and the only reason why they give such advice is because they “favor not the things of God, but the things of men.”

Whoever, therefore, among you are resolved to serve the Lord, prepare your souls for many such temptations as these. For it is necessary that such offenses should come, to try your sincerity, to teach us to cease from man, and to see if we will forsake all to follow Christ.

Indeed, our modernizers of Christianity would persuade us that the gospel was calculated only for about two hundred years, and that now there is no need of hating father and mother, or of being persecuted for the sake of Christ and his gospel. But such persons err, not knowing the scriptures, and the power of godliness in their hearts. For whosoever receives the love of God in the truth of it will find that Christ came to send not peace but a sword upon earth as much now as ever. That the father-in-law shall be against the daughter-in-law, in these latter, as well as in the primitive times. And that if we will live godly in Christ Jesus, we must — as then, so now — suffer persecution from carnal friends and relations.

George Whitefield (1714-1770) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, a leader of the first Great Awakening. As a student of Oxford, he was part of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, committing himself to serious discipleship. After his ordination he became an itinerant evangelist, and is estimated to have preached 18,000 sermons to as many as 10 million people in thirty years of ministry in Britain and the American colonies. “Satan’s Devices,” a sermon that was preached in London’s St. Helen’s Church, was included in his posthumously published works.

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