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ning to feel impressions of fear, shame, and grief?— Happy beginning! Obey the voice of God now opening in your conscience! Now is the time to pray; before, you knew not what to pray for: but now you see you want the blood of Christ, and the teaching of his Spirit. "Ask, and you shall receive; and seek, and you shall "find." Take your warrant from my text; Jesus has said, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." Let your hearts answer, "Take away our iniquity, and re"ceive us graciously: Behold, we come unto thee, for "thou art the Lord our God; and in thee the father"less, the helpless, the comfortless, find mercy."
THE PRESENT AND FUTURE REST OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST.
MATTH. xi. 28.
Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
THE learned have a variety of arguments whereby to prove the Scripture to be the word of God. But though that kind of proof, which may be brought in a way of reasoning and external evidence, is doubtless useful upon proper occasions; yet, I apprehend, the chief and most satisfactory argument to those who are capable of receiving it, arises from the correspondence between the subject-matter of the Scripture, and the state of an awakened mind. When the eyes of the understanding are opened, we begin to see every thing around us, to be just so as the Scripture has described
them. Then, and not till then, we perceive, that what we read in the Bible concerning the horrid evil of sin, the vileness of our fallen nature, the darkness and ignorance of those who know not God, our own emptiness, and the impossibility of finding relief and comfort from creatures, is exactly true. We cannot but apply the words of the woman, and say, Come and see a book that has told me all that ever I did, the ground of all my complaints, the true cause and nature of all the evil I either see, hear, or feel, from day to day. And as we find our disease precisely described, so we perceive a suitableness in the proposed remedy. We need a Saviour, and he must be a mighty one; but though our wants and sins, our fears and enemies, are great and numerous, we are convinced that the character of Christ is sufficient to answer them all. We need a rest, a rest which the world cannot give. Inquire where we will among the creatures, experience brings in the same answer from all, It is not in me. This again confirms the word of God, which has forewarned us that we shall meet nothing but disappointment in such pursuits, but there is a spiritual rest spoken of which we know to be the very thing we want, and all our remaining solicitude is how to attain it. From hence, as I said, we may assuredly conclude, that the book which gives us such just views of every thing that passes, must be given by inspiration from him who is the searcher of hearts. This proof is equally plain and conclusive to all capacities that are spiritually enlightened, and such only are able to understand it. We are now to speak,
III. Of this promised rest. And here two things
offer to our consideration.
* John iv. 29.
1. What this rest is?
2. How it is obtained?
1. The Greek word aawau expresses something more than rest, or a mere relaxation from toil; it denotes refreshment likewise. A person weary with long bearing a heavy burden, will need not only to have it removed, but likewise he wants food and refreshment, to restore his spirits, and to repair his wasted strength. Such is the rest of the Gospel. It not only puts a period to our fruitless labour, but it affords a sweet reviving cordial. There is not only peace, but joy in believing. Taken at large, we may consider it as twofold.
1st, A present rest. So the apostle speaks, "who have believed do enter into rest*."
(1.) The common wearisome pursuit of the world is described, as "spending their money for that which is
not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth "nott;" wandering from object to object in quest of good, but still mortified by incessant and repeated disappointment. We should pity a person whom we should see seeking some necessary thing day after day, which we knew was impossible to be found there. It is, however, the case with all till they come to Christ. Satisfaction is what they profess to aim at, and they turn every stone, (as we say,) try every expedient, to meet with it, but in vain. It is only to be found in him. When they come to him, their wishes are answered. This is exemplified by our Lord in the character of a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls, who was still upon the inquiry till he had found one pearl of great
Heb. iv. 3.
+ Isa. lv. 2.
Ps. iv, 6.
price. This answered and exceeded his desires: upon the discovery of this one, he rejoiced to forego all his former acquisitions, and to give up every other possession or purpose that he might obtain it.
(2.) I have spoken something concerning the wearisome exercise of a conscience burdened with guilt: but by coming to Jesus and believing in him, an end is put to this. When we are enabled to view our sins as laid upon Christ, that those who come are accepted in the Beloved, that there is no more condemnation, but pardon, reconciliation, and adoption, are the sure privileges of all who trust in him; O the sweet calm that immediately takes place in the soul! It is something more than deliverance. There is a pleasure more than answerable to the former pain, a comfort greater than all the trouble that went before it. Yea, the remembrance of the former bitterness greatly enhances the present pleasure. And the soul understands and experiences the meaning of those Scriptures, "When the Lord "turned the captivity of Zion, then was our mouth "filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing." "In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise "thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger "is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold "God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid; "for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; "he also is become my salvation f."
(3.) There is likewise a rest from the power of sin. In vain is this sought from resolutions and endeavours in our own strength. Even after we are spiritually disposed, and begin to understand the Gospel salvation, it is usually for a season rather a fight than a rest. But + Isa. xii. 1, 2.
Ps. cxxvi. 1, 2.
when we are brought nearer to Christ, and taught to live upon him as our sanctification, deriving all our strength and motives from him by faith, we obtain a comparative rest in this respect also. We find hard things become easy, and mountains sink into plains, by his power displayed in our behalf. Further,
(4.) There is a rest from our own works. The believer is quite delivered from the law as a covenant, and owes it no longer service in that view. His obedience is gracious, cheerful, the effect of love; and therefore he is freed from those fears and burdens which once disturbed him in the way of duty. At first there was a secret, though unallowed dependence on himself. When his frames were lively, he was strong, and thought he had something to trust to, but under a change, (and changes will happen,) he was at his wit's end. But there is a promised, and therefore an attainable rest in this respect; a liberty and power to repose on the finished work and unchangeable word of Christ; to follow him steadily through light and darkness; to glory in him only when our frames are brightest; and to trust in him assuredly when we are at our lowest ebb.
Such is the present rest; in different degrees according to the proportion of faith, and capable of increase even in those who have attained most, so long as we remain in this imperfect state. But there is,
2dly, A future rest besides and beyond all that can be experienced here: "There remaineth yet a rest for "the people of God." Faint and imperfect are our most enlarged ideas of that glory which shall be revealed. "It does not yet appear what we shall bef."
*Heb. iv. 9.
1 John iii. 2.