Peace Like a River: Advice for the Soul in Conflict from William Bridge, Part 2
In the first post of this two-part series, we began to examine the various reasons why the Christian may struggle to find peace with the help of William Bridge’s first sermon from his work, A Lifting Up for the Downcast. In it, he focused on Psalm 42:11, “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.” Examining this verse and dissecting it carefully, Bridge concluded there are a number of reasons why peace may, for a time, be lost. We noted five reasons why peace may be lost:
1. Christians may, for a time, lose their sense of additional peace with God, but will never lose their fundamental peace with God.
2. A Christian may confuse peace with feelings of comfort and joy.
3. A Christian may feel discouragement that they are not yet what they ought to be, but find in peace in what they are no longer.
4. A Christian may actually possess peace but suppress it.
5. The Christian may have peace, but fear that it is not the true peace of God.
This being the case, it is clear that the Christian must be equipped to do battle for peace. But how are we to do so? How do we go from asking, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” to answering, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” How do we get peace when all we seem to have is discouragement and conflict?
Bridge helpfully points us in the right direction. He first notes that, due to our tendency to compare ourselves with others and think ourselves less than they, we must remember that:
- Experiences of salvation, grace, and peace differ from one to another, but do not disqualify any.
How often have Christians had their salvation called into question because their experience did not match another’s? One was saved after a great deal of wrestling with God; another cannot remember the day or hour; another was brought to their knees before Christ with tears; another came laughing to the Lord. When we compare our testimony with that of others, we may feel as though our experience was not true. Worse yet, some may even antagonize us by asking if we can genuinely hold to peace or assurance if our experience differs so much from theirs.
Bridge notes the issue well when he wrote that some are troubled about their peace because:
I came so lightly and slightly by it. I see how it hath been and is with others of the people of God; some that have been long afflicted and wounded and have lien troubled a great while, and so they have had peace: but as for me, it is not so with me, I came lightly and slightly by my peace and quiet, and therefore I do even fear that the Lord never spake peace yet unto my soul.
Have you, dear reader, ever felt this inadequacy within yourself in comparison to others? Well, take heart! Experiences may very well differ from person to person, but none is disqualified so long as their faith in Christ is genuine. As Bridge pointed out, no one purchases or earns either their salvation or peace with God. “I pray tell me, did those who have had all this trouble, did they purchase, or buy their peace at the hand of Christ with all this trouble? Or did Christ give them that peace and comfort freely? Buy it! no, surely; they did never purchase it, never buy it, but Christ gave it them freely.”
Beyond this, Bridge goes on to point out that Zacchaeus was saved by Jesus in a way that differed greatly from the Apostle Paul’s experience, yet both were genuine. It is true that, “When Christ is formed in the souls of men and women, some are regenerate and born again with more pain, some are regenerate and born again with less pain: should he that is born with less pain, say, I am a bastard, and not a true son, because there was not so much pain at my first regeneration as such an one had?”
Zacchaeus would have been foolish to doubt his salvation because his experience did not match up with Paul’s. As another example, consider my own experience. I do not remember the day I was saved; I only know that, for as far back as I can remember, I have known that Jesus is both my Lord and Savior. On a few occasions, I have had others question me on this matter: “Are you sure,” they ask, “That you are saved if you can’t remember the day or hour?” Once, while I was baptizing a new Christian, I had a woman ask me this same question: “If you can’t remember the day or hour, how can you be sure?” The answer is this: Because, by faith, I believe in Jesus Christ now as my Lord and Savior and know that, by faith, I believed in Jesus Christ then. Nor should you doubt your salvation, dear Christian, because your experience was different. Perhaps you grew up in an environment that insisted you needed to walk an aisle, sign a card, or do something else. No matter. The question is this: Do you, by faith, believe now? Then, rejoice in peace! Experiences may differ, but God saves based on faith, and not based on experience.
- The Christian must frequently return to the gospel itself when peace is waning.
David was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), but he still penned Psalm 42:11. He still experienced discouragement and waning peace. But what was his solution? To look to God! “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
We must look not only to our God, but also to what He has done on our behalf. Bridge pinpointed this as the source of comfort, joy, and peace for the Christian when he wrote that, “[God] wills you to study and consult much the death, sufferings and fulness of the satisfaction made by Jesus Christ; go down into the grace of Christ; Christ’s blood is the object of faith, and death brings peace…” If you feel your peace has been surrendered, or has waned with the passage of time, then recall the atonement that Christ made for you at Calvary, and remember that the one who believes by faith is saved!
- The Christian must first desire God’s will before peace can be truly sought.
Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done both on earth and in Heaven (Matthew 6:10), and praying for peace is no different. Bridge explained that the Christian must:
Labour to mortify your affections, and to get your will melted into the will of God: as the winds are to the sea, so are the affections to the soul of man: so long as the sea is hurried with the wind, it hath no rest or quiet; and what is the reason that our hearts are no more calmed and quieted, but because we have not yet reigned up our wills to the will of God?
- The Christian must be careful, when seeking peace, to not surround himself with others who lack peace, but to seek strong believers for help and guidance.
The company we keep matters, and especially when fighting for peace. Bridge amusingly records a story he had read about two doubting people, wrestling for peace:
I have read of a woman that was under great temptations, and meeting with another in the same condition, said to her, I am afraid I shall be damned; So am I to [sic], said the other; Oh, but said she again, I do not only fear, but I am sure of it; certainly I shall be damned; Aye, but said the other, yet my condition is worse, for I am damned already.
If you are wrestling for peace, you must seek Christians that are strong and faith and possess the peace you seek. If you have peace, you must encourage those who are weakened and distraught by doubt.
- The Christian must go to Christ Himself for peace.
“You must,” wrote Bridge, “go unto Christ himself for peace, he is the great peace-maker, [and] hath a commission to take up all differences without us, and within us.” He implores us to approach Christ and pray, “O Lord, I am one of those wearied souls; wearied with my temptations, wearied with inward trouble; now, Lord, speak a word in due season to this poor, wounded, and wearied soul.”
You must not believe the lie that you must first change your disposition before coming to Christ for peace. For example, “If you be humbled before you do come to Christ, you will have no great peace and comfort in your humiliation: but if you first come to Christ, and then carry Christ along with you to your humiliation, then you will have much comfort and peace therein.” Even when it comes to our own repentance and dealing with sin, we make certain that we come immediately to Christ to deal with the sin. “Do not begin always with sin to go up to Christ, but rather begin at Christ, and so fall down upon your sin.” Peace will only come to the one who possesses Christ. To fight for peace without Christ is to fight a losing battle.
Of course, it may be that in going to Christ, He responds with merely a drop of peace, or a single word. “When our Saviour Christ sometimes speaks peace, he doth at the first speak by a small word, and if that be improved, then he speaks more.” If this be your experience, do not lose heart:
Doth the Lord therefore speak but one word unto thee, yet stir up thyself in believing, and hearken unto him, for he will speak yet more fully and plainly; only when he speaks, listen: hearken diligently unto him and improve what he saith, so shall your peace be as a river, and your righteousness as the ocean.
Thus, when we remember our salvation was wrought through faith in the Gospel, and we approach Jesus with an upright heart, we will find that, soon, in the Lord’s timing, peace is secured to us like a river.
Jacob Tanner is pastor of Christ Keystone Church, a Reformed Baptist church plant in Central Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife and two sons. He is the author of Union with Christ: The Joy of the Christian’s Assurance in the Doctrines of Grace
 William Bridge, A Lifting Up of the Downcast in The Works of William Bridge, vol. 2 (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2022), 17.
 Ibid, 17-18.
 Ibid, 18.
 Ibid, 19.
 Ibid, 22.
 Ibid, 23.
 Ibid, 20.
 Ibid, 21.
 Ibid, 22.
 Ibid, 24.
 Ibid, 25.