« PreviousContinue »
A CHECK TO PRESUMPTION.
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.-Heb. iv. 1.
FAITHFUL are the wounds of a friend. Hence said David, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."
Would you deem a man your enemy, because he told you the truth? especially if the intelligence was of importance, and your ignorance of it would be ruinous? Would you blame a person, who, seeing your house to be on fire, would wake you from a pleasing dream? Or, would you say to one who checked you on the brink of a precipice-" Why did you not suffer me to go on? why did you spoil my reverie?" Surely, even a blow that saved you from such a dreadful jeopardy, would be esteemed an instance of friendship.
But all illusions fail, when we think of the soul and eternity. Everything is little and trifling, compared with the acquisition of endless
life. He is a subject which requires, infinitely more than any other, fidelity in the speaker; and a disposition open to conviction, and fearful of deception in the hearer. "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." Let us consider two things. The first regards the blessing promised. And the second the state of mind in which we should consider it.
I. The gospel is not only a revelation but a promise; and a promise exceeding great and precious. It not only holds forth to our view, but it proposes to our hope eternal life, and whatever is previously necessary to the acquisition of it.The promise was early made, and was often renewed with enlargements. Thousands in the successive ages of the world have laid hold of it, and-it is left for us. Yes, in this blessed book, we have "A promise left us of entering into his rest."
This rest is deservedly called his—because it is entirely of his own providing-is given us freely by his grace-and is to be enjoyed only in a state of union and communion with him.-But what is it? we may view this blessedness as it is begun upon earth, or completed in heaven.
Even while the believer is upon earth, this rest is not only ensured, but begun. Hence, says the apostle, "We who have believed do enter into rest." Before he knew the Saviour, he was a stranger to rest-but Jesus had said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"-he was enabled to believe his word; he ventured upon his promise; made application to him; and found rest unto his soul. Let us observe him.
View him with regard to his understanding— and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from the jealousies and uneasiness which arise. from uncertainty of mind with regard to truth. He is no longer the sport of delusion: he is no longer like "a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed," now urged in one direction, and now in another: he no longer flounders, sinking in the mud and mire-he has found rock; he stands upon it; his goings are established. He knows in whom he has believed. He knows that he has not followed cunningly devised fables. He knows the doctrine he has received to be of God -He has the witness in himself.
View him with regard to his conscience-and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from the torment of fear, and the horrors of guilt. A crucified Saviour "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savour." An apprehension of this "healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." In proportion as we realize all this by faith, the burden too heavy for us to bear, loosens and falls off: and, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
View him with regard to his passions and appetites-and you will find he has rest. While pride and envy, and malice, and avarice, and sensual affections reigned within, often striving with each other, and always fighting against the convictions of judgment, the man's breast was nothing but a scene of tumult; he was "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; whose waters
cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." But sanctifying grace has delivered him from the bondage of corruption, and from the tyranny of adverse and raging lusts it has subdued his tempers, and regulated his desires; it has restored order and selfgovernment--and these have restored peace.
View him once more with regard to his condition and circumstances—and you will find that he has rest. He is freed from those anxieties and disquietudes which devour others, who make the world their portion, and have no confidence in God.--But the world is not his portion; he has not laid up his treasure on earth; his inheritance "is incorruptible and undefiled, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him." He is, therefore, nobly superior to events; nothing that occurs can materially affect him; he is therefore easy and composed. Besides, he has a confidence in God which wonderfully calms the mind, with regard to present occurrences. He knows that the God who loves him, reigns over all; that all his dispensations are righteous, and wise, and kind; that he will not forsake him, but make all things, however contrary in their appearance and tendency, to work together for his good.Hence, he feels a holy indifference, a blessed resignation to the will of Providence, and committing all his concerns to his Heavenly Father, he learns in whatsoever state he is, there with to be content; according to the language of the prophet, and the apostle, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.-Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be
made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
But excellent as his present condition is, compared with his former state, it is nothing compared with his future. With all his advantages here, a voice perpetually cries in his ears," Arise ye, and depart: for this is not your rest." However favourable the voyage, they are now on the boisterous, treacherous ocean; they are looking out for their native shore; and by and by they will enter the harbour. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven." At death, we are told, the righteous and the merciful enter into rest. And this rest is pure, undisturbed, and everlasting.
They shall rest from their labours. Though all activity, they shall be incapable of fatigue, and languor, for their powers will be fully equal to their work. Repentance shall be hid from their eyes. Their praying days will be all over. It shall never more be said to them, "Be patient in tribulation; or fight the good fight of faith."Without were fightings, and within were fears. But they are for ever ended. Darkness no longer struggles with light; or faith with unbelief."The flesh no longer lusteth against the Spirit, or the Spirit against the flesh." They are delivered from all the temptations which were so often ensnaring or distressing them here. "There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." And nothing remains of all their trials, but a grateful remembrance of the hand