REST OF THE SAINTS.
For we which have believed do enter into rent. Hebrews 4:3.
The following is the course of thought to which I wish to directyour attention this evening:
I. I shall endeavor to show what is not the rest here spokenof. II. Show what it is. III. Show when we are to enter into thisrest. IV. Show how to come into possession of this rest. V. Showthat all sin consists in, or is caused by, unbelief.
I. I will endeavor to show what is not the rest spoken of inthe text.
1. It is evidently not a state of inactivity in religion, thatis spoken of in the text under the name of rest.
The apostle who wrote this was very far from being himselfinactive in religion, or from encouraging it in others. Thoseof whom he spoke, including himself, where he says, we who havebelieved, do enter into rest, would know at once that it was nottrue, that they had entered into the rest of supineness.
2. Neither are we to understand that the perfect rest of heavenis the rest here spoken of.
He speaks of it as a present state, we do enter, which wasnot consistent with the idea that heaven is the rest here spokenof. The perfect rest of heaven includes an absolute freedom fromall the pains, trials, sufferings and temptations of this life.The rest of the believer here, may be of the same nature, substantially,with the rest of heaven. It is that rest begun on earth. But itis not made perfect. It differs in some respects, because it doesnot imply a deliverance from all trials, pains, sickness and death.The apostles and primitive Christians had not escaped these trials,but still suffered their full share of them.
II. I will show what we are to understand by the rest herespoken of.
1. It is rest from controversy with God.
In this sense of cessation from controversy, the word rest,is often used in the Bible. In the context, it is said the childrenof Israel rested, when they were freed from their enemies. Itis cessation from strife or war. Those who enter into this restcease from their warfare with God from their struggle againstthe truth, their war with their own conscience. The reproachesof conscience, that kept them in agitation, the slavish fearsof the wrath of God under which men exert themselves as slavesin building up their own works, all are done away. They rest.
2. It implies cessation from our own works.
(1.) Cessation from works performed for ourselves.
Much of the apparent religion there is in the world is madeup of works done by people which are their own, in this sense.They are working for their own lives that is, they have this endin view, and are working for themselves, as absolutely as theman who is laboring for his bread. If the object of what you doin religion be, that you may be saved, it matters not whetherit is from temporal or eternal ruin, it is for yourself, and youhave not ceased from your own works, but are still multiplyingworks of your own. Now, the rest spoken of in the text, is entirecessation from all this kind of works.
The apostle, in verse 10th, affirms this: "He that isentered into his rest, hath eased from his own works." Andin the text, he says, we that believe do enter, or have entered,into rest. It is plain that this rest is ceasing from our ownworks. Not ceasing from all kind of works, for that is true neitherof the saints on earth nor of saints in heaven. We have no reasonto believe that any saint or angel, or that God himself, or anyholy being is ever inactive. But we cease to perform works withany such design as merely to save our own souls. It is ceasingto work for ourselves, that we may work for God. We are performingour own works, just as long as the supreme object of our worksis to be saved. But if the question of our own salvation is thrownentirely on Jesus Christ, and our works are performed out of loveto God, they are not our own works.
(2.) In entering into this rest, we cease from all works performedfrom ourselves, as well as works performed for ourselves.
Works are from ourselves, when they result from the simple,natural principles of human nature, such as conscience, hope,fear, etc., without the influences of the Holy Ghost. Such worksare universally and wholly sinful. They are the efforts of selfishness,under the direction of mere natural principles. His conscienceconvicts him, hope and fear come in aid, and under this influence,the carnal, selfish mind acts. Such acts cannot but be whollysinful. It is nothing but selfishness. Multiply the forms of selfishnessby selfishness forever, and it will never come to love. Wherethere is nothing but natural conscience pointing out the guiltand danger, and the constitutional succeptibilities of hope andfear leading to do something, it comes to nothing but the naturalworkings of an unsanctified mind. Such works are always the worksof the flesh, and not the works of the Spirit. To enter into restis to cease from all these, and no more to perform works fromourselves than for ourselves.
Who does not know what a painful time those have, who set aboutreligion from themselves; painfully grinding out about so muchreligion a month, constrained by hope and fear, and lashed upto this work by conscience, but without the least impulse fromthat divine principle of the love of God shed abroad in the heartby the Holy Ghost? All such works are just as much from themselves,as any work of any devil is. No matter what kind of works areperformed, if the love of God is not the mainspring and life andheart of them, they are our own works, and there is no such thingas rest in them. We must cease from them, because they set asidethe gospel. The individual, who is actuated by these principles,sets aside the gospel, in whole or in part. If he is actuatedonly by these considerations, he sets aside the gospel entirely,and just so far as he is influenced by them, he refuses to receiveChrist as his Savior in that relation. Christ is offered as acomplete Savior, as our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification,and Redemption. And just so far as any one is making efforts todispense with a Savior in any of these particulars, he is settingaside the gospel for so much.
(3.) To enter into rest implies that we cease from doing anythingfor ourselves.
We are not so much as to eat or drink for ourselves!
"Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever yedo, do all to the glory of God." The man who has enteredinto this rest, has ceased from doing it. God requires it, andhe that has entered into rest has ceased to have any interestof his own. He has wholly merged his own interest in that of Christ.He has given himself so perfectly to Christ, that he has no workof his own to do. There is no reason why he should go about anywork of his own. He knows he might as well sit still till he isin hell, as attempt anything of his own, as to any possibilityof saving himself by any exertions of his own. When a man fullyunderstands this, he ceases from making any efforts in this way.
See the convicted sinner, how he will strain himself, and putforth all his efforts to help himself, until he learns that heis nothing; and then he ceases from all this, and throws himselfhelpless and lost, into the hands of Christ. Until he feels thathe is in himself without strength, or help, or hope, for salvationor anything that tends to it, he will never think of the simplicityof the gospel. No man applies to Christ for righteousness andstrength, until he has used up his own, and feels that he is helplessand undone. Then he can understand the simplicity of the gospelplan, which consists in receiving salvation, by faith, as a freegift. When he has done all that he could, in his own way, andfinds that he has grown no better, that he is no nearer salvation,but rather grown worse, that sin is multiplied upon sin, and darknessheaped upon darkness, until he is crushed down with utter helplessness,then he ceases, and gives all up into the hand of Christ.
See that sinner, trying to get into an agony of conviction,or trying to understand religion, and finding all dark as Egypt,and cannot see what it is that he must do. O, says he, what mustI do? I am willing to do anything. I can't tell why I don't submit,I know not how to do anything more; what am I to do, or how shallI find out what is the difficulty? When he is fully convinced,then he turns his eyes to the Savior, and there he finds all heneeds. Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption. Christthe Life of the world, the Light of the world, the Bread of life,and he needs nothing of all these but what is in Christ, thatall he wants, and all he can ask, is in Christ, and to be receivedby faith; then he ceases from his own works, and throws himselfat once and entirely upon Christ for salvation.
(4.) To cease from our own works is to cease attempting todo anything in our own strength.
Every one who has entered into rest knows, that whatever hedoes in his own strength, will be an abomination to God. UnlessChrist lives in him, unless God worketh in him, to will and todo, of his good pleasure, nothing is ever done acceptably to God.To set himself to do anything in his own strength, independentof the spirit of God, is forever an utter abomination to God.He who has not learned this, has not ceased from his own works,and has not accepted the Savior. The apostle says, we are notable of ourselves to think anything, as of ourselves. The depthof degradation to which sin has reduced us, is not understooduntil this is known and felt.
3. To enter into rest also includes the idea of throwing ourburdens upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
He invites us to throw all our burdens and cares on him. "Comeunto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will giveyou rest." "Casting all your cares upon him, for hecareth for you." These words mean just as they say. Whetheryour burden is temporal or spiritual, whether your care is forthe soul or body, throw it all upon the Lord. See that littlechild, going along with his father; the father is carrying somethingthat is heavy, and the child takes hold with its little hand tohelp, but what can he do towards carrying such a load? Many Christiansmake themselves a great deal of trouble, by trying to help theLord Jesus Christ in his work. They weary and worry themselveswith one thing and another, as if everything hung on their shoulders.Now, the Lord Jesus Christ is as much pledged to the believerfor all that concerns him, as he is for his justification; andjust as absolutely bound for his temporal as for his eternal interests.There is nothing that concerns the Christian, which he is notto cast on the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not mean to be understood,that the Christian has no agency in the a matter. Here is a manwho has cast his family upon Jesus Christ; but he has not doneit in any such manner, that he is not to do anything for his family.But he has so cast himself upon God, for direction, for light,for strength, for success, that he has yielded himself up absolutelyto God, to guide and to sustain him; and Christ is pledged tosee to it that everything is done right.
4. To enter into rest is to make the Lord Jesus Christ ourwisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption,and to receive him in all his offices, as a full and perfect substitutefor all our deficiencies.
We lack all these things, absolutely, and are to receive Himas a full and perfect substitute, to fill the vacancy, and supplyall our needs. It is to cease expecting, or hoping, or attemptinganything of ourselves, to fill the vacancy; and receiving Christas all.
5. Entering into this rest implies the yielding up of our powersso perfectly to his control, that henceforth all our works shallbe his works.
I hope you will not understand anything from this language,more mystical than the Bible. It is a maxim of the common law,that what a man does by another, he does by himself. Suppose Ihire a man to commit murder; the deed is as absolutely my ownas if I had done it with my own hand. The crime is not in thehand which struck the blow, any more than it is in the sword thatstabs the victim. The crime is in my mind. If I use another'shand, if my mind, as the moving cause, influenced him, it is myact still. Suppose that I had taken his hand by force, and usedit to shoot my neighbor, would not that be my act? Certainly;but it was in my mind, and it is just as much my act, if I influencehis mind to do it. Now apply this principle to the doctrine, thatthe individual who has entered into rest has so yielded himselfup to Christ's control, that all his works are the works of Christ.This apostle Paul says, "I labored more abundantly than theyall; yet not I, but the grace of God in me." And he frequentlyinsists upon it, that it was not himself that did the works, butChrist in him. Do not misunderstand it now. It is not said, andit is not so to be understood, that the believer acts upon compulsion,or that Christ acts in him without his own will, but that Christby his Spirit dwelling in him, influences and leads his mind thathe acts voluntarily in such a way as to please God. When one ceasesfrom his own works, he so perfectly gives up his own will, andplaces himself so completely under guidance of the Holy Spirit,that whatever he does, is done by the impulse of the Spirit ofChrist. The apostle describes it exactly when he says, "Workout your own salvation, with fear and trembling, for it is Godthat worketh in you, to will and to do of his good pleasure."God influences the will, not by force, but by love, to do justwhat will please him. If it were done by force, we should be nolonger free agents. But it is love that so sweetly influencesthe will, and brings it entirely under the control of the LordJesus Christ.
It is not that our agency is suspended, but is employed bythe Lord Jesus Christ. Our hands, our feet, our powers of bodyand mind, are all employed to work for him. He does not suspendthe laws of our constitution, but so directs our agency, thatthe love of Christ so constrains us, that we will and do of hisgood pleasure.
Thus, you see that all works that are really good in man, arein an important sense, Christ's works. This is affirmed in theBible, over and over again, that our good works are not from ourselves,nor in any way by our own agency without God; but God directsour agency, and influences our wills to do his will, and we doit. They are, in one sense our works, because we do them by ourvoluntary agency. Yet, in another sense, they are his works, becausehe is the moving cause of all.
6. Entering into this rest implies, that insomuch as we yieldour agency to Christ, insomuch we cease from sin.
If we are directed by the Lord Jesus Christ, he will not directus to sin. Just as far as we give ourselves up to God we ceasefrom sin.
If we are controlled by him, so that he works in us, it isto will and to do of his good pleasure. And just so far as wedo this, so far we cease from sin. I need not prove this.
III. I am to inquire when they that believe do enter into rest.It is in this life.
1. This appears from the text and context. The apostle in connectionwith the text, was reasoning with the Jews. He warns them to beware,lest they fail of entering into the true rest, which was typifiedby their fathers entering into the land of Canaan. The Jews supposedthat was the true rest. But the apostle argues with them, to showthat there was a higher rest of which the rest of temporal Canaanwas only a type, and into which the Jews might have entered butfor their unbelief. If Joshua had given them the real rest, hewould not have spoken of another day. Yet another day is spokenof. Even so late as David's day, it is spoken of in the Psalmsas yet to come: "Today, after so long a time; as it is saidToday if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For ifJesus (that is Joshua) had given them rest, then would he notafterwards have spoken of another day. There remaineth thereforea rest to the people of God." He therefore argues, that therest in Canaan was not the real rest which was promised, but wastypical of the true rest. What then was the true rest? It wasthe rest of repose of faith in Christ, or the gospel state, acessation from our own works. And believers enter into that stateby faith.
I know it is generally supposed that the rest here spoken ofis the heavenly rest, beyond this life. But it is manifestly arest that commences here. "We which believe do enter intorest." It begins here, but extends into eternally. It isthe same in kind, but made there more perfect in degree, embracingfreedom from the sorrows and trials to which all believers aresubject in this life. But it is the same in kind, the rest offaith, the Sabbath keeping of the soul when it ceases from itsown works, and casts itself wholly upon the Savior.
2. It is manifest that this rest must commence in this world,if faith puts us in possession of it. This is the very point thatthe apostle was arguing, that faith is essential to taking possessionof it. They "could not enter in because of unbelief.""Beware, least ye fail of entering in after the same exampleof unbelief." He warns them not to indulge in unbelief, becauseby faith they may take immediate possession of the rest. If thisrest by faith ever commences at all, it must be in this world.
3. The nature of the case proves this. Nothing short of thistaking possession of rest is fully embracing Jesus Christ. Itis a spiritual rest from the conflict with God, from the stingsof conscience, and from efforts to help ourselves by any workingsof our own mind. Nothing short of this is getting clear away fromthe law, or entering fully into the gospel.
IV. I am show how we are to enter into this rest.
From what has already been said, you will understand that wetake possession of it by faith.
The text, with the context, show this. You will recollect alsowhat the Lord Jesus Christ says, Matthew 11:28, 29. "Comeunto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will giveyou rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meekand lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."Here this same rest is spoken of, and we are told that if we willonly come to Christ we may find it. If we will take his easy yoke,which is love, and trust him to bear all burdens, we shall findrest. The Psalmist speaks of the same rest "Return unto thyrest, O my soul." What Christian does not know what it isto have the soul rest in Christ, to hang upon his arm, and findrest from all the cares and perplexities and sorrows of life?
Again: It is evident that faith in Christ, from its own nature,brings the soul into the very state of rest I have described.How instantly faith breaks up slavish fear, and. brings the soulinto the liberty of the gospel! How it sets us free from selfishness,and all those influences we formerly acted under! By faith weconfide all to Christ, to lead us, and sanctify us, and justifyus. And we may be just as certain to be led and to be sanctified,as we are to be justified, if we only exercise faith and leaveourselves in the hands of Christ for all. As a simple matter offact, such faith brings the soul into a state of rest. The soulsees that there is no need of its own selfish efforts, and nohope from them if they were needed. In itself, it is so far gonein sin that it is as hopeless as if it had been in hell a thousandyears. Take the best Christian on earth, and let the Lord JesusChrist leave his souls and where is he? Will he pray or do anythinggood, or acceptable to God, without Christ? Never. The greatestsaint on earth will go right off into sin in a moment, if abandonedby Jesus Christ. But faith throws all upon Christ, and that isrest.
Again: Faith makes us cease from all works for ourselves. Byfaith we see that we have no more need of doing works for ourselves,than the child needs to work for his daily bread whose fatheris worth millions. He may work, from love to his father, or fromlove to the employment, but not from any necessity to labor forhis daily bread. The soul that truly understands the gospel, seesperfectly well that there is no need of mingling his own righteousnesswith the righteousness of Christ, or his own wisdom with the wisdomof Christ, or his own sufferings with the sufferings of Christ.If there was any need of this, there would be just so much temptationto selfishness, and to working from legal motives. But there isnone.
Again: By faith the soul ceases from all works performed fromitself. Faith brings a new principle into action, entirely aboveall consideration addressed to the natural principles of hopeand fear and conscience. Faith brings the mind under the influenceof love. It takes the soul out from the influences of conscience,lashing it up to duty, and brings it under the influence of thesame holy, heavenly principles, that influenced Christ himself.
Again: Faith brings the mind into rest, inasmuch as it bringsit to cease from all efforts merely for its own salvation, andputs the whole being into the hands of Christ.
Faith is confidence. It is yielding up all our powers and intereststo Christ, in confidence, to be led, and sanctified, and savedby him.
It annihilates selfishness, and thus leaves no motives forour own works.
In short: Faith is an absolute resting of the soul in Christ,for all that it needs, or can need. It is trusting him for everything. For instance Here is a little child, wholly dependent onits father, for house and home, food and raiment, and everythingunder the sun. Yet that little child feels no uneasiness, becauseit confides in its father. It rests in him, and gives itself nouneasiness, but that he will provide all that it needs. It isjust as cheerful and happy, all the day long, as if it had allthings in itself, because it has such confidence. Now the soulof the believer rests in Christ, just as the infant does on thearms of it mother. The penitent sinner, like a condemned wretch,hangs all on Christ, without the least help or hope, only as theycome from Christ alone, and as Christ does all that is needed.
If faith does consist in thus trusting absolutely in Christ,then it is manifest that this rest is taken possession of whenwe believe; and that it must be in this life, if faith is to beexercised in this life.
V. I am to show that unbelief is the cause of all the sin thereis in the world.
I do not mean to imply by this, that unbelief is not itselfa sin; but to say, that it is the fountain out of which ensuesall other sin. Unbelief is distrust of God, or want of confidence.It is manifest that it was this want of confidence which constitutedAdam's real crime. It was not the mere eating of the fruit, butthe distrust which led to the outward act, that constituted thereal crime for which he was cast out of Paradise. That unbeliefis the cause of all sin is manifest from the following considerations:
The moment an individual wants faith, and is left to the simpleimpulse of natural principles and appetites, he is left just likea beast, and the things that address his mind through the sensesalone operate on him. The motives that influence the mind whenit acts right, are discerned by faith. Where there is no faith,there are no motives before the mind but such as are confinedto this world. The soul is then left to its mere constitutionalpropensities, and gives up itself to the minding of carnal things.This is the natural and inevitable result of unbelief. The eyeis shut to eternal things, and there is nothing before the mindcalculated to beget any other action but that which is selfish.It is therefore left to grovel in the dust, and can never riseabove its own interest and appetites. It is a natural impossibilitythat the effect should not be so; for how can the mind act withoutmotives? But the motives of eternity are seen only by faith. Themere mental and bodily appetites that terminate of this world,can never raise the mind above the things of this world, and theresult is only sin, sin, sin the minding of the flesh forever.The very moment Adam distrusted God, he was given up to followhis appetites. And it is so with all other minds.
Suppose a child loses all confidence in its father. He canhenceforth render no hearty obedience. It is a natural impossibility.If he pretends to obey, it is only from selfishness, and not fromthe heart; for the mainspring and essence of all real hearty obedienceis gone. It would be so in heaven, it is so in hell. Without faithit is impossible to please God. It is a natural impossibilityto obey God in such a manner as to be accepted of him, withoutfaith. Thus unbelief is shown to be the fountain of all the sinin earth and hell, and the soul that is destitute of faith, isjust left to work out its damnation.
I. The rest which those who believe do enter into here on earth,is of the same nature with the heavenly rest.
The heavenly rest will be more complete; for it will be a restfrom all the sorrows and trials to which even a perfect humansoul is liable here. Even Christ himself experienced these trialsand sorrows and temptations. But the soul that believes, restsas absolutely in him here, as in heaven.
II. We see why faith is said to be the substance of thingshoped for.
Faith is the very thing that makes heaven; and therefore itis the substance of heaven, and will be to all eternity.
III. We see what it is to be led by the Spirit of God.
It is to yield up all our powers and faculties to his control,so as to be regulated by the Spirit in all that we do.
IV. We see that perfect faith would produce perfect love, orperfect sanctification.
A perfect yielding up of ourselves, and continuing to trustall that we have and are to Christ, would make us perfectly holy.
V. We see that just as far as any individual is not sanctified,it is because his faith is weak.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth, if his disciples fellinto sin, he always reproached them with a want of faith: "Oye of little faith." A man that believes in Christ has nomore right to expect to sin, than he has a right to expect tobe damned. You may startle at this, but it is true.
You are to receive Christ as your sanctification, just as absolutelyas for your justification. Now you are bound to expect to be damned,unless you receive Christ as your justification. But if you receivehim as such, you have then no reason and no right to expect tobe damned. Now he is just as absolutely your sanctification, asyour justification, and if you depend upon him for sanctificationhe will no more let you sin, than he will let you go to hell.And it is as unreasonable, and unscriptural and wicked, to expectone as the other. And nothing but unbelief, in any instance, isthe cause of your sin. Some of you have read the life of Mrs.Hester Ann Rogers, and recollect how habitual it was with her,when any temptation assailed her, instantly to throw herself uponChrist; and she testifies, that in every instance he sustainedher.
Take the case of Peter. When the disciples saw Christ walkingupon the water, after their affright was over, Peter requestedto be permitted to come to him on the water, and Christ told himto come; which was a promise on the part of Christ that if heattempted it, he should be sustained. But for this promise, hisattempt would have been tempting God. But with this promise, hehad no reason and no right to doubt. He made the attempt, andwhile he believed, the energy of Christ bore him up, as if hehad been walking upon the ground. But as soon as he began to doubt,he began to sink. Just so it is with the soul; as soon as it beginsto doubt the willingness and the power of Christ to sustain itin a state of perfect love, it begins to sink. Take Christ athis word, make him responsible, and rely on him, and heaven andearth will nor fail than he will allow such a soul to fall intosin, say, with Mrs. Rogers, when Satan comes with a temptation,"Lord Jesus, here is a temptation to sin, see thou of that."
VI. You see why the self-denying labors of saints are consistentwith being in a state of rest.
These self-denying labors are all constrained by love and havenothing in them that is compulsory or hard inward love draws themto duty. So far is it from being true, that the self-denying laborsof Christians are hard work, that it would be vastly more painfulto them not to do it. Their love for souls is such, that if theywere forbidden to do any thing for them, they would be in agony.In fact, a state of inaction would be inconsistent with this rest.How could it be rest, for one whose heart was burning and burstingwith love to God and to souls to sit still and do nothing forthem. But it is perfect rest for the afoul to go out in prayerand effort for their salvation. Such a soul cannot rest, whileGod is dishonored and souls destroyed, and nothing done for theirrescue. But when all His powers are used for the Lord Jesus Christ,this is true rest. Such is the rest enjoyed by angels, who ceasenot day nor night, and who are all ministering spirits, to ministerto the heirs of salvation.
The apostle says, "Take heed, therefore, lest a promisebeing left of entering into rest, any of you should come shortof it." And "Let us labor therefore, to enter into rest."Do any of you know what it is to come to Christ, and rest in him?
Have you found rest, from all your own efforts to save yourselves,from the thunders of Sinai, and the stings of conscience? Canyou rest sweetly in Jesus, and find in him everything essentialto sanctification and eternal salvation? Have you found actualsalvation in Him? If you have, then you have entered into rest.
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