Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 24, 1857, by
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."Hebrews 4:9.
HE Apostle proved, in the former part of this and the latter part of the preceding chapter, that there was a rest promised in Scripture called the rest of God. He proved that Israel did not attain that rest for God sware in his wrath, saying, "They shall not enter into my rest." He proved that this did not merely refer to the rest of the land of Canaan; for he says that after they were in Canaan, David himself speaks again in after ages concerning the rest of God, as a thing which was yet to come. Again he proves, that "seeing those to whom it was promised did not enter in, because of unbelief, and it remaineth that some must enter in, therefore," saith he, "there remaineth a rest to the people of God."
Has done with sin, and care, and woe,
And doth with Jesus rest."
He has no dread of dissolution, no fear of the coffin or the shroud, and so far the life of heaven is not worthy to be put in comparison with the life of the sinner. But the worldling, with all his joys, always has a worm at the root of them. Ye votaries of pleasure! the blush upon your cheek is frequently but a painted deception. Ah! ye sons and daughters of gaiety! the light foot of your dance is not in keeping with the heavy woe of your miserable spirits. Do you not confess that if by the excitement of company you for awhile forget the emptiness of your heart, yet silence, and the hour of midnight, and the waking watches of your bed, bid you sometimes think that there must be something more blessed than the mere wanderings of gaiety in which you now are found? You are trying the world some of you; speak then! Do you not find it empty? Might it not be said of the world, as an old philosopher said of it when he represented a man with it in his hands smiting it and listening to its ringing? Touch it, touch it I make it ring again; it is empty. So it is with the world. You know it is so; and if you know it not as yet, the day is coming when after you have plucked the sweets you shall be pricked with the thorn, and when you shall find that all is unsatisfactory that does not begin and end with God. Not so the Christian in heaven. For him there are no nights; and if there be times of solitude and rest, he is ever filled with ecstatic joy. His river floweth ever full of bliss, without one pebble of sorrow over which it ripples, he has no aching conscience, no "aching void the world can never fill." He is supremely blessed, satisfied with favor, and full with the goodness of the Lord. And ye know, ye worldlings, that your best estates often bring you great anxiety, lest they should depart from you. You are not so foolish yet as to conceive that riches endure for ever. You men of business are frequently led to see that riches take to themselves wings and fly away. You have accumulated a fortune; but you find it is harder to retain than it is to get. You are seeking after a competence; but you find that you grasp at shadows that flit awaythat the everlasting vicissitudes of business and the constant changes of mankind are causes of prudent alarm to you, for you fear that you shall lose your gods, and that your gourd shall be eaten by the worm, and fall down, and your shadow shall be taken away. Not so the Christian. He lives in a house that can never hasten to decay; he wears a crown, the glister of which shall never be dim; he has a garment which shall never wax old; he has bliss that never can depart from him, nor he from it. He is now firmly set, like a pillar of marble in the temple of God. The world may rock, the tempest may sway it like the cradle of a child; but there, above the world, above the perpetual revolution of the stars, the Christian stands secure and immovable; trio rest infinitely surpasseth yours. Ah I ye shall go to all the fabled luxuries of eastern monarchs, and see their dainty couches and their luscious wines. Behold the riches of their pleasantry! How charming is the music that lulls them to their sleep! How gently moves the fan that wafts them to their slumber! But ah!
For all the world calls good or great;
And whilst my faith can keep her hold
I envy not the sinner's gold"
I reckon that the richest, highest, noblest condition of a worldly man is not worthy to be compared with the joy-that is to be revealed hereafter in the breasts of those who are sanctified. O ye spendthrift mortals, that for one merry dance and a giddy life will lose a world of joys! O fools that catch at bubbles and lose realities! O ten thousand times mad men, that grasp at shadows and lose the substance! What! sirs do you think a little round of pleasure, a few years of gaiety and merriment, just a little time of the tossing about, to and fro, of worldly business, is a compensation for eternal ages of unfading bliss! Oh! how foolish will you conceive yourselves to be, when you are in the next state, when cast away from heaven you will see the saints blessed! I think I hear your mournful soliloquy, "Oh! how cheaply did I sell my soul! What a poor price did I get for all I have now lost! I have lost the palace and the crown, and the joy and bliss for ever, and am shut up in hell! And for what did I lose it? I lost it for the lascivious wanton kiss. I lost it for the merry drunken song; I lost it for just a few short years of pleasures, which, after all, were only painted pleasures!" Oh! I think I see you in your lost estates, cursing yourselves, rending your hair, that you should have sold heaven for counters and have changed away eternal life for pitiful farthings, which were spent quickly and which burned your hand in the spending of them! Oh! that ye were wise, that ye would weigh those things, and reckon that a life of the greatest happiness here is nothing compared with the glorious hereafter: "There remaineth a rest to the people of God."
Now let me put it in more pleasing contrast. I shall contrast the rest of the believer above with the miserable estate of the believer sometimes here below. Christians have their sorrows. Suns have their spots skies have their clouds, and Christians have their sorrows too. But oh! how different will the state of the righteous be up there, from the state of the believer here! Here the Christian has to suffer anxiety. He is anxious to serve his Master, to do his best in his day and generation His constant cry is"Help me to serve thee, O my God," and he looks out, day after day, with a strong desire for opportunities of doing good. Ah! if he be an active Christian, he will have much labor, much toil, in endeavoring to serve his Master; and there will be times when he will say, "My soul is in haste to be gone; I am not wearied of the labor, I am wearied in it. To toil thus in the sun, though for a good Master, is not the thing that just now I desire." Ah! Christian, the day shall soon be over, and thou shalt no longer have to toil; the sun is nearing the horizon; it shall rise again with a brighter day than thou hast ever seen before. There, up in heaven, Luther has no more to face a thundering Vatican; Paul has no more to run from city to city, and continent to continent, there Baxter has no more to toil in his pulpit, to preach with a broken heart to hard hearted sinners, there no longer has Knox to "cry aloud and spare not" against the immoralities of the false church; there no more shall be the strained lung, and the tired throat, and the aching eye; no more shall the sunday school teacher feel that his sabbath is a day of joyful weariness; no more shall the tract distributor meet with rebuffs. No, there, those who have served their country and their God, those who have toiled for man's welfare, with all their might, shall enter into everlasting rest. Sheathed is the sword, the banner is furled, the fight is over, the victory won; and they rest from their labors.
Here, too, the Christian is always sailing onward, he is always in motion he feels that he has not yet attained. Like Paul he can say "Forgetting the things that are behind, I press forward to that which is before." But there his weary head shall be crowned with unfading light. There the ship that has been speeding onward shall furl its sails in the port of eternal bliss. There he who, like an arrow, has sped his way shall be fixed for ever in the target. There we who like fleeting clouds were driven by every wind, shall gently distil in one perennial shower of everlasting joy. There is no progress, no motion there; they are at rest, they have attained the summit of the mountain, they have ascended to their God and our God. Higher they cannot go; they have reached the Ultima Thule, there are no fortunate islands beyond; this is life's utmost end of happiness; and they furl their sails, rest from their labors, and enjoy themselves for aye. There is a difference between the progress of earth and the perfect fixity of the rest of hearer.
Here, too, the believer is often the subject of doubt and fear. "Am I his or am I not?" is often the cry. He trembleth lest he should be deceived, at times he almost despairs, and is inclined not to put his name down as one of the children of God. Dark insinuations are whispered into his ears, he thinks that God's mercy is clean gone for ever, and that he will not be mindful of him any more. Again, his sins some times upbraid him, and he thinks God will not have mercy on him. He has a poor fainting heart; he is like Ready-to-halt, he has to go all his way on crutches; he has a poor feeble mind, always tumbling down over a straw, and fearing one day he shall be drowned in a cart-rut. Though the lions are chained he is as much afraid of them as if they were loose. Hill Difficulty often afrights him; going down into the valley of humiliation is often troublesome work to him; but there, there are no hills to climb, no dragons to fight, no foes to conquer, no dangers to dread. Ready-to-halt, when he dies, will bury his crutches, and Feeblemind will leave his feebleness behind him; Fearing will never fear again; poor Doubting-heart will learn confidently to believe. Oh, joy above all joys! The day is coming when I shall "know as I am known," when I shall not want to ask whether I am his or not, for in his arms encircled, there shall be no room for doubt. Oh! Christian, you think there are slips between your lips and that cup of joy, but when you grasp the handle of that cup with your hand, and are drinking draughts of ineffable delight, then you will have no doubt or fear.
And never, never sin
There from the rivers of his grace,
Drink endless pleasures in."
Here, too, on earth, the Christian has to suffer; here he has the aching head and the pained body; his limbs may be bruised or broken, disease may rack him with torture; he may be an afflicted one from his birth, he may have lost an eye or an ear or he may have lost many of his powers; or if not, being of a weakly constitution he may have to spend the most of his days and nights upon the bed of weariness. Or if his body be sound, yet what suffering he has in his mind! Conflicts between depravity and gross temptations from the evil one, assaults of hell, perpetual attacks of divers kinds, from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there, no aching head no weary heart; there no palsied arm, no brow ploughed with the furrows of old age; there the lost limb shall be recovered, and old age shall find itself endowed with perpetual youth, there the infirmities of the flesh shall be left behind, given to the worm and devoured by corruption. There they shall flit, as on the wings of angels, from pole to pole, and from place to place, without weariness or anguish; there they shall never need to lie upon the bed of rest, or the bed of suffering, for day without night, with joy unflagging, they shall circle God's throne rejoicing, and ever praise him who hath said, "The inhabitants there shall never be sick."
There, too, they shall be free from persecution. Here Sicilian Vespers, and St. Bartholomew, and Smithfield, are well-known words; but there shall be none to taunt them with a cruel word, or touch them with a cruel hand. There emperors and kings are not known, and those who had power to torture them cease to be. They are in the society of saints; they shall be free from all the idle converse of the wicked, and from their cruel jeers set free for ever. Set free from persecution! Ye army of martyrs, ye were slain, ye were torn asunder, ye were cast to wild beasts, ye wandered about in sheep skins and goats' skins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented. I see you now, a mighty host. The habiliments you wear are torn with thorns; your faces are scarred with sufferings; I see you at your stakes, and on your crosses; I hear your words of submission on your racks, I see you in your prisons, I behold you in your pilloriesbut
Brighter than the noonday-sun
Fairest of the sons of light,
Nearest the eternal throne."
These are they, who "for their Master died, who love the cross and crown;" they waded through seas of blood, in order to obtain the inheritance; and there they are, with the blood-red crown of martyrdom about their heads, that ruby brightness, far excelling every other. Yes, there is no persecution there. "There remaineth a rest for the people of God."
Alas! in this mortal state the child of God is also subject to sin; even he faileth in his duty, and wandereth from his God; even he doth not walk in all the law of his God blameless, though he desireth to do it. Sin now troubleth him constantly; but there sin is dead, there they have no temptation to sin, from without or from within, but they are perfectly free to serve their Master. Here the child of God has sometimes to weep repentingly of his backslidings; but there they never shed tears of penitence, for they have never cause to do so.
And last of all, here, the child of God has to wet the cold ashes of his relatives with tears; here he has to bid adieu to all that is lovely and fair of mortal race; here it is he hears, "earth to earth, and dust to dust, and ashes to ashes," while the solemn music of the dust upon the coffin lid beats doleful time to those words. Here is the mother buried, the child snatched away, the husband rent from the bosom of a loving wife, the brother parted from the sister. The plate upon the coffin, the last coat of arms of earth, earth's last emblems are here ever before our eyes. But there never once shall be heard the toll of the funeral bell, no hearse with plumes has ever darkened the streets of gold, no emblems of sorrow have ever intruded into the homes of the immortal, they are strangers to the meaning of death; they cannot diethey live for ever, having no power to decay, and no possibility of corruption. Oh! rest of the righteous, how blest art thou, where families shall again be bound up in one bundle, where parted friends shall again meet to part no more, and where the whole church of Christ united in one mighty circle, shall together praise God and the Lamb throughout eternal ages.
Brethren, I have tried thus to set the rest of the righteous in the way of contrast; I feel I have failed. Poor are the words I can utter to tell you of immortal things Even holy Baxter himself, when he wrote of the "Saints' Rest," paused and said; "But these are only tinklings compared with the full thunders of heaven." I cannot tell you, dear friends, nor can mortal tell, what God hath prepared for them that love him.
2. And now I shall try very briefly to exhibit this contrast in the way of comparison. The Christian hath some rest here, but nothing compared with the rest which is to come.
There is the rest of the church. When the believer joins the church of God, and becomes united with them, he may expect to rest. The good old writer of the "Pilgrim's Progress," says, that when the weary pilgrims were once admitted to the house Beautiful, they were shown to sleep in a chamber called peace," or "rest." The church-member at the Lord's table has a sweet enjoyment of rest in fellowship with the saints; but ah! up there the rest of church fellowship far surpasses anything that is known here; for there are no divisions there, no angry words at the church meetings, no harsh thoughts of one another, no bickerings about doctrine, no fightings about practice. There Baptist, and Presbyterian, and Independent, and Wesleyan, and Episcopalian, serving the same Lord, and having been washed in the same blood, sing the same song, and are all joined in one. There pastors and deacons never look coolly on each other; no haughty prelates here, no lofty-minded ministers there, but all meek and lowly, all knit together in brotherhood; they have a rest which surpasseth all the rest of the church on earth.
There is, again, a rest of faith which a Christian enjoys; a sweet rest. Many of us have known it. We have known what it is, when the billows of trouble have run high, to hide ourselves in the breast of Christ, and feel secure. We have cast our anchor deep into the rocks of God's promise, we have gone to sleep in our chamber and have not feared the tempest, we have looked at tribulation, and have smiled at, we have looked at death himself, and have laughed him to scorn, we have had much trust by Christian faith that, dauntless and fearless, nothing could move us. Yes, in the midst of calumny, reproach, slander and contempt, we have said, "I shall not be moved, for God is on my side." But the rest up there is better still more unruffled, more sweet, more perfectly calm, more enduring, and more lasting than even the rest of faith.
And, again, the Christian sometimes has the blessed rest of communion. There are happy moments when he puts his head on the Saviour's breastwhen, like John, he feels that he is close to the Saviour's heart, and there he sleeps. "God giveth his beloved sleep;" not the sleep of unconsciousness, but the sleep of joy. Happy, happy, happy are the dreams we have had on the couch of communion; blessed have been the times, when, like the spouse in Solomon's song, we could say of Christ, "His left hand was under my head, and with his right hand did he embrace me."
Though sweet may be the stream;"
When we shall have plunged into a very bath of joy, we shall have found the delights even of communion on earth to have been but the dipping of the finger in the cup, but the dipping of the bread in the dish, whereas heaven itself shall be the participation of the whole of the joy, and not the mere antepast of it. Here we sometimes enter into the portico of happiness, there we shall go into the presence chamber of the King, here we look over the hedge and see the flowers in heaven's garden, there we shall walk between the beds of bliss, and pluck fresh flowers at each step; here we just look and see the sunlight of heaven in the distance, like the lamps of the thousand-gated cities shining afar off, but there we shall see them in all their blaze of splendor, here we listen to the whisperings of heaven's melody, borne by winds from afar; but there, entranced, amidst the grand oratorio of the blessed, we shall join in the everlasting hallelujah to the great Messiah, the God, the I AM. Oh! again I say, do we not wish to mount aloft, and fly away, to enter into the rest which remaineth to the people of God?
II. And now, yet more briefly, and then we shall have done. I am to endeavor to EXTOL this rest, as I have tried to EXHIBIT it. I would extol this rest for many reasons; and oh! that I were eloquent, that I might extol it as it deserves! Oh! for the lip of angel, and the burning tongue of cherub, to talk now of the bliss of the sanctified and of the rest of God's people!
It is, first, a perfect rest. They are wholly at rest in heaven. Here rest is but partial. I hope in a little time to cease from every-day labors for a season, but then the head will think, and the mind may be looking forward to prospective labor, and whilst the body is still, the brain will yet be in motion. Here, on Sabbath days a vast multitude of you sit in God's house, but many of you are obliged to stand, and rest but little except in your mind, and even when the mind is at rest the body is wearied with the toil of standing. You have a weary mile perhaps, many miles, to go to your homes on the Sabbath day. And let the Sabbatarian say what he will, you may work on the Sabbath day, if you work for God; and this Sabbath day's work of going to the house of God is work for God, and God accepts it. For yourselves you may not labor, God commands you to rest, but if you have to toil these three, these four, these five, these six miles, as many of you have done, I will not and I must not blame you. "The priests in the sanctuary profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." It is toil and labor, it is true but it is for a good causefor your Master. But there, my friends, the rest is perfect; the body there rests perpetually, the mind too always rests; though the inhabitants are always busy, always serving God, yet they are never weary, never toil-worn, never fagged; they never fling themselves upon their couches at the end of the day, and cry, "Oh! when shall I be away from this land of oil?" They I never stand up in the burning sunlight, and wipe the hot sweat from their brow; they never rise from their bed in the morning, half refreshed, to go to laborious study. No, they are perfectly at rest, stretched on the couch of eternal joy. They know not the semblance of a tear; they have done with sin, and care, and woe, and, with their Saviour rest.
Again, it is a seasonable rest. How seasonable it will be for some of you! Ye sons of wealth, ye know not the toils of the poor; the horny-handed laborer, perhaps, you have not seen, and you not how he has to tug and to toil. Among my congregation I have many of a class, upon whom I have always looked with pity, poor women who must rise to-morrow morning with the sun, and begin that everlasting "stitch, stitch," that works their finger to the bone. And from Monday morning till Saturday night, many of you, my members, and multitudes of you, my hearers, will not be able to lay aside your needle and your thread, except when, tired and weary, you fall back on your chair, and are lulled to sleep by your thoughts of labor! Oh! how seasonable will heaven's rest be to you! Oh! how glad will you be, when you get there, to find that there are no Monday mornings, no more toil for you, but rest, eternal rest! Others of you have hard manual labor to perform; you have reason to thank God that you are strong enough to do it and you are not ashamed of your work; for labor is an honor to a man. But still there are times when you say, "I wish I were not so dragged to death by the business of London life." We have but little rest in this huge city, our day is longer, and our work is harder than our friends in the country. You have sometimes sighed to go into the green fields for a breath of fresh air, you have longed to hear the song of the sweet birds that used to wake you when you were lads; you have regretted the bright blue sky, the beauteous flowers, and the thousand charms of a country life. And perhaps, you will never get beyond this smoky city, but remember, when you get up there, "sweet fields arrayed in living green" and "rivers of delight" shall be the place where you shall rest, you shall have all the joys you can conceive of in that home of happiness; and though worn and weary, you come to your grave, tottering on your staff; having journeyed through the wilderness of life, like a weary camel, which has only stopped on the Sabbath to sip its little water at the well, or to be baited at the oasis, there you will arrive at your journey's end, laden with gold and spices, and enter into the grand caravanserai of heaven, and enjoy for ever the things you have wearily carried with you here.
And I must say, that to others of us who have not to toil with our hands, heaven will be a seasonable rest. Those of us who have to tire our brain day after day will find it no slight boon to have an everlasting rest above. I will not boast of what I may do, there may be many who do more, there may be many who are perpetually and daily striving to serve God, and are using their mind's best energies in so doing. But this much I may say, that almost every week I have the pleasure of preaching twelve times, and often in my sleep do I think of what I shall say next time. Not having the advantage of laying out my seven shillings and sixpence in buying manuscripts, it costs me hard diligent labor to find even something to say. And I sometimes have a difficulty to keep the hopper full in the mill, I feel that if I had not now and then a rest I should have no wheat for God's children. Still it is on, on, on, and on we must go, we hear the chariot wheels of God behind us, and we dare not stop, we think that eternity is drawing nigh, and we must go on. Rest to us now is more than labor, we want to be at work; but oh! how seasonable it shall be, when to the minister it shall be said
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master's joy."
It will be seasonable rest. You that are weary with state cares, and have to learn the ingratitude of men; you that have sought honors, and have got them to your cost, you seek to do your best, but your very independence of spirit is called servility, whilst your servility would have been praised! You who seek to honor God, and not to honor men, who will not bind yourselves to parties, but seek in your own independent and honest judgment to serve your country and your God you, I say, when God shall see fit to call you to himself, will find it no small joy to have done with parliaments, to have done with states and kingdoms, and to have laid aside your honors, to receive honors more lasting amongst those who dwell for ever before the throne of the Most High.
One thing, and then once more, and then farewell. This rest, my brethren, ought to be extolled, because it is eternal. Here my best joys bear "mortar" on their brow; here my fair flowers fade; here my sweet cups have dregs and are soon empty; here my sweetest birds must die, and their melody must soon be hushed; here my most pleasant days must have their nights; here the flowings of my bliss must have their ebbs, everything doth pass away, but there everything shall be immortal; the harp shall be unrusted, the crown unwithered, the eye undimmed the voice unfaltering, the heart unwavering, and the being wholly consolidated unto eternity. Happy day, happy day, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life, and the mortal shall have put on immortality!
And then, lastly, this glorious rest is to be best of all commended for its certainty. "There remaineth a rest to the people of God." Doubting one, thou hast often said, "I fear I shall never enter heaven." Fear not, all the people of God shall enter there; there is no fear about it. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who, in his country brogue, exclaimed, "I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me. God's finger is on the latch of my door and I am ready for him to enter." "But," said one "are you not afraid least you should miss your inheritance?" "Nay," said he "nay, there is one crown in heaven that the angel Gabriel could not wear; it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven that Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it. There is one dish at the banquet that I must eat, or else it will be untasted, for God has set it apart for me." O Christian, what a joyous thought! thy portion is secure! "there remaineth a rest." "But cannot I forfeit it?" No, it is entailed. If I be a child of God I shall not lose it. It is mine as securely as if I were there.
And view the landscape o'er."
Seest thou that little river of death, glistening in the sunlight, and across it dost thou see the pinnacles of the eternal city? Dost thou mark the pleasant suburbs and all the joyous inhabitants? Turn thine eye to that spot. Dost thou see where that ray of light is glancing now? There is a little spot there; dost thou see it? That is thy patrimony; that is thine. Oh, if thou couldst fly across thou wouldst see written upon it, "this remaineth for such an one, preserved for him only. He shall be caught up and dwell for ever with God." Poor doubting one; see thine inheritance; it is thine. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus thou art one of the Lord's people; if thou hast repented of sin thou art one of the Lord's people; if thou hast been renewed in heart thou art one of the Lord's people, and there is a place for thee, a crown for thee, a harp for thee. No one else shall have it but thyself, and thou shalt have it ere long. Just pardon me one moment if I beg of you to conceive of yourselves as being in heaven. Is it not a strange thing to think ofa poor clown in heaven? Think, how will you feel with your crown on your head? Weary matron, many years have rolled over you. How changed will be the scene when you are young again. Ah, toil-worn laborer, only think when thou shalt rest for aye. Canst thou conceive it? couldst thou but think for a moment, of thyself as being in heaven now, what a strange surprise would seize thee. Thou wouldst not so as much say, "What! are these streets of gold? What! are these walls of jasper?" "What, am I here? in white? Am I here, with a crown on my brow? Am I here singing, that was always groaning? What! I praise God that once cursed him? What! I lifting up my voice in his honor? Oh, precious blood that washed me clean! Oh, precious faith that set me free! Oh, precious Spirit that made me repent, else I had been cast away and been in hell! But oh! what wonders! Angels! I am surprised. I am enraptured! Wonder of wonders! Oh! gates of pearls, I long since heard of you! Oh! joys that never fade, I long since heard tell of you! But I am like the Queen of Sheba, the half has not yet been told me. Profusion, oh profusion of bliss!wonder of wonders!miracle of miracles! What a world I am in! And oh! that I am here, this is the topmost miracle of all!" And yet 'tis true, 'tis true; and that is the glory of it. It is true. Come, worm, and prove it, come, pall; come shroud; come, and prove it. Then come wings of faith, come, leap like a seraph; come, eternal ages, come, and ye shall prove that there are joys that the eye hath not seen, which the ear hath not heard, and which only God can reveal to us by his spirit. Oh! my earnest prayer is, that none of you may come short of this rest, but that ye may enter into it, and enjoy it for ever and ever. God give you his great blessing, for Jesus sake! Amen.