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SAINT'S EVERLASTING REST.
OF THE HEAVENLY REST.
Heb. iv. 9.—There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
It was not only our interest in God, and our actual fruition of him, which we lost by Adam's fall, but all spiritual knowledge of him, and true disposition toward such a felicity. Man has now a heart too suitable to his state,-a low state and a low spirit. When the Son of God comes with discoveries and offers of spiritual and eternal happiness, he finds not faith in man to believe him. Man will hardly now believe that there is such a happiness as once he possessed, much less such as Christ has now procured. When God would give the Israelites his Sabbaths of rest, in a land of rest, he had more to do to make them believe it, than to overcome their enemies, and procure it for them ; and when they had it, only as a small intimation and earnest of an incomparably more glorious rest, through Christ, they will yet believe no more than they possess, but sit down and say, as the glutton at the feast, “Surely there is no other heaven but this.” Or, if they do expect more by the Messiah, it is only the increase of their earthly felicity. The apostle employs most of this epistle against this distemper, and clearly shows the Hebrews, that it was the design of all the ceremonies and shadows under the law, to direct them to Jesus Christ the substance; and that the rest of the
Sabbath and of Canaan, should teach them to look for a further rest, as the consummation of their happiness. My text is his conclusion after various arguments to that end; a conclusion so useful to a believer, as containing the ground of all his comforts, the end of als his duty and sufferings, the life and sum of all gospel promises and Christian privileges, that you may easily be satisfied why I have made it the subject of my present discourse.
Though the sense of the text includes in the word Rest, all that ease and safety which a soul, wearied with the burden of sin and suffering, and pursued by law and conscience, has with Christ in this life; yet because it chiefly intends the rest of eternal glory, I shall confine my discourse to this last.
There are some things which this Rest pre-supposes; and, before proceeding farther, it may not be improper briefly to notice them.
1. A person in motion, seeking rest. This is man here on earth; angels and glorified spirits have it already; and the devils and damned are past hope.
2. An end toward which he moves for rest; which end must be sufficient for his rest, else when it is obtained, it deceives him. This can be only God, the chief good. He that takes any thing else for
his happiness, is out of his way, the very first step. The principal damning sin is, to make any thing besides God our end or rest. And the first true saving act, is, to choose God only for our end and happiness.
3. A distance is pre-supposed from this end, else there can be no motion towards it. This sad distance is the woful case of all mankind since the fall. It was our God that we principally lost, while we were shut out from his gracious presence. When Christ comes with regenerating, saving grace, he finds no man sitting still, but all posting on to eternal ruin, and making haste towards hell; till, by conviction, he first bring them to a stand, and, by conversion, turn first their hearts, and then their lives, sincerely to himself.
4. Here is pre-supposed, not only a distance from this rest, but also the knowledge of that distance. If a man have lost his way, and know it not, he seeks not to return: if he lose his gold, and know it not, he seeks it not. Therefore they that never knew they were without God, never yet enjoyed him; and they that never knew they were in the way to hell, did never yet know the way to heaven. Nay, there will not only be a knowledge of this distance, and lost estate, but also affections corresponding to this. Can a man be brought to find himself on the very brink of hell, and not tremble ? Or to find he has lost God and his soul, and not cry out, I am undone? The reason why so few obtain this rest is, they will not be convinced or made sensible that they are, in point of title, distant from it, and, in point of practice, contrary to it.
5. Here is also pre-supposed a superior moving cause, and an influence therefrom, else we should all stand still, and would no more move a step forward toward our rest, than the inferior wheels in a watch would stir, if you take away the spring, or the first mover. This first mover is God. The case is clear in good actions; if God move us not, we cannot move. Take heed of being estranged or separated from God, or of slacking your daily expectations of renewed help, or of growing insensible of the necessity of the continual influence and assistance of the Spirit. When you once begin to depend on your own understanding or resolution, for duty and holy walking, you are then in a dangerous declining state. In every duty remember Christ's words, “ Without me ye can do nothing :" and those of Paul, “ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.”
6. Here is pre-supposed an internal principle of life in the person moving. God moves not man like a a stone, but by enduing him first with life, not to enable him to move without God, but to qualify him to move himself, in subordination to God the first mover.
7. Here is pre-supposed before rest, an actual motion, Rest is the end of motion : no motion, no rest. Chris.
tianity is not a sedentary profession and employment; nor does it consist in mere negatives. Not doing good, is not the least evil. Sitting still will lose you heaven, as well as if you run from it. I know that “when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants;" and that he cannot be a Christian who relies upon the supposed merit of his works; but yet, he that hides his talent, shall receive the wages of a slothful servant.
8. Here is pre-supposed not only motion, but such motion as is rightly ordered and directed toward the end. It is not all motion, labour, seeking, that brings to rest; every way leads not to this end; but he whose goodness has appointed the end, has in his wisdom, and by his sovereign authority, appointed the way. O the pains that sinners take, and worldlings take, but not for this rest! O the pains and cost that many an ignorant and superstitious soul is at for this rest, but all in vain! How many “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge! Who being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God;" nor known, “that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.' The truth is, Christ is the only way to the Father; yet faith is the way to Christ; and gospel obedience, or faith and works, the way for those to walk in, that are in Christ.
9. Here is pre-supposed not only motion rightly ordered, but strong and constant motion, which may reach the end. If there be not strength put to the bow, the arrow will not reach the mark. They that have been most holy, watchful, painful to get faith and assurance, do find, when they come to die, all too little. We daily see the best Christians when dying, repent their negligence; but I never knew any then repent their diligence and holiness. An easy, dull profession of religion which encounters no difficulties and takes no pains, is a sad sign of an unsound heart. If the way to heaven be not far harder than the world imagines, then Christ and his apostles knew not the way, or else they have deceived us; for they have told us, that the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, that the gate is strait, and the way narrow; and we niust strive, if we will enter, for many shall seek to enter and not be able ; and that the righteous themselves are scarcely saved. If ever souls obtain salvation in the world's common, careless, easy way, then I will say, there is a nearer road found out than ever God has revealed in the Scriptures to the sons of men.
I have seen this doctrine also thrown aside with contempt by others, who say, What! do you set us to work for heaven? Does our duty do any thing ? Has not Christ done all? Is not this to make him a half Saviour, and to preach the law ?
I reply, it is to preach the law of Christ; his subjects are not lawless. It is to preach duty to Christ; none. is a more exact requirer of duty or hater of sin than he. Christ has done, and will do, all his work; and therefore is a perfect Saviour. But yet he leaves for us a work too. It is not a Saviour offered only, but received also, that must save us. It is not the blood of Christ shed only, but applied also, that must fully deliver us. Nor is it applied for the justification or salvation of a sleepy soul; nor does Christ carry us to heaven in a chair of security. Where he will pardon, he will make you pray, “ Forgive us our trespasses ;" and where he will give righteousness, he will give a hungering and thirsting after it. It is not through any imperfection in Christ that the righteous are scarcely saved, but through our own imperfection in duty. Our righteousness, which the law of works requires, and by which it is satisfied, is wholly in Christ, and not one grain in ourselves; nor must we dare to think of patching up a legal righteousness of Christ's and our own together. But yet we must personally fulfil the conditions of the new covenant, and so have a personal evangelical righteousness, or never be saved by Christ's meritorious righteousness. Therefore, say not, It is not duty that must save us, but Christ; for it is Christ in a way of duty. As duty cannot save us without Christ, so Christ will not save us without duty.
And as this motion must be strong, so it must be