For we which have believed do enter into rest. — (Hebrews 4:3.) “REST” is a blessed golden word. It is the one thing, surely, which the world seeks after, It may be true that every man seeks after happiness; I question if it be not equally true that each man seeks after rest. There are some few fiery spirits who wish not to rest, who seem to be like thunderbolts that must speed on in their predestinated pathway, and only an incessant and morbid activity suits them at all; but for the majority of us the expectation of rest is very sweet, and the enjoyment of it now in the poor measure in which we can get it is one of our greatest refreshments.
The present age needs rest abundantly. Our fathers traveled by the broadwheeled wagon, but we are not content, or scarcely content even with the steam engine. “Faster and faster and faster” the demands of this world’s commerce seem to be. What we have done we must do again, though it strained us once, and we must do twice as much, and then twice as much as that. All around us there seem to be louder cries and fiercer demands for yet greater speed. This it is, I do not doubt, that has filled our lunatic asylums, that sends many to a premature grave. We have forgotten our resting place, and become like a rolling thing before a whirlwind that does not rest, and I scarce know a greater curse that can fall on an age than this.
A great many things we are proud of are by no means improvements. If somebody would contrive an engine that would do as much and do as well and let us sleep a little longer and rest a little longer it might be just as well for the general good of poor flesh and blood. Mental rest the world craves after, for now-a-days everything seems unsettled. Moorings have been shifted, vessels that seemed to ride at anchor and had lain there many a day have found their anchorage yielding, and they are drifting out to sea. New lights, instead of old, are constantly being demanded, and he that used to teach out of the old Book is now requested not to do anything of the kind, but to think out of his own head and to give something better than God’s thoughts, plucking up the common flowers of earth and presenting them to men instead of the stars of heaven, setting up the calf molten in his own furnace and saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” Bondage!
Everywhere there is the same unrest. As for spiritual unrest, it is discoverable by all those who really give any attention to it. Certain grosser minds neglect their spiritual ,needs, but those who think and seek after that which is high, that which is eternal, that which is divinely pure, these are crying still for rest. Noah’s dove was one, but the others fly as a cloud, these doves that seek rest and find none, and never will find it till they come back to the ark of the covenant and to the hand of that Noah who is God’s rest as well as ours. Do not we find in men’s minds now the belief that they shall get rest somewhere or other? To speak of common matters, when we are yet young we consider our schoolboy days to be full of slavery to books. We reckon that when we shall escape from those we shall get some rest. We have been long undeceived concerning that, and have found that the cares and business of life make us almost envy the days when we under — went the drudgery of the school.
I. And now, it may be, we are looking forward. Many a merchant expects when he has laid by sufficient, a competence being realized, that he shall retire to some villa in the country, and there get his rest. And yet we meet with aged men in that condition, and do not find that, after all, they rest; while many never reach that mature old age in which they expect to go beside the still waters. Those who do are still complaining, still murmuring, wanting something else; and still, when their own cares are over, find the cares of children and of grandchildren depriving them of rest. The notion of some has been that rest was to be found in a country life. Get away from the noise of traffic, from the multitudinous habitations of men; get away where nature was still in her virgin simplicity; and there would be rest; and peasants have been painted to us as being the very models and portraits of almost beatific bliss. If you go there and hear their own story you will soon be disenchanted of all idea of any rest being found there.
Others with, perhaps, somewhat more practical sense, have said, “No, not among the lowly and poor with very many wants, shall we find rest; but in the higher circles — there where incomes are counted by thousands, and broad acres can scarcely be numbered. There is rest.” It has not been found to be so, for the biographies of wealthy men, famous men, learned men, statesmen, have gone far to show that they were no more restful after their greatest success than they were before, and that still they cried, “Who will show us any good ?” Still their soul, like the horseleech in the Proverbs, cried “Give, give, give.” Insatiable as the grave, their spirit never could be satisfied with any of these things.
Peradventure there are some here to-night who particularly ask for rest, for they seem to be inundated with trouble. Wave upon wave, they have been tossed to and fro. They seem to have only gone from one trial to another. “Rest,” say they, “when is it to come? Working hard from morning to night to earn a scant pittance, when shall I escape from this drudgery ?”
Now, my text is a word of consolation, for, first, it gives the good news. It tells you that there are some who have rest; and on the strength of it I feel permitted to give you advice, namely, to urge many here, and to direct them as well, to the place where they can find rest for their souls. Very briefly indeed.
First, here is good news. There are some persons that have found rest. “For we which have believed do enter into rest.”
Who are these persons? The reply is, they are not strangers; they are not persons in some remote country; they are not a people in some ancient golden age long since past; nor are they the sort of persons who are to walk in the millennial period. No, there are persons here who have believed and have entered into rest — persons of your age, and your station in life, and your capacity of mind, persons once guilty of your sins and still subject to your infirmities. In many cases, let me add, these persons who have entered into rest are your own relatives. Some of you have a father who has believed and entered into rest. Many of you have mothers in that happy condition, and brothers and sisters and kinsfolk of all degrees. They have believed and have entered into rest. And they are not enthusiastic persons who tell you what is not true, not fanatical persons whose imagination supplies them with facts. You know them and esteem them. You live with them; you know that they are persons of credit; you place every confidence in them; in fact, you love them. And they will tell you to-night, when you reach home, if you wish to hear the story — and I trust you may — that they have believed and have entered into rest. There are many of us now present who without any exaggeration can declare that since the dear hour which brought us to the Savior’s feet, when grace enabled us to look to Him and trust in Him, we have, in very deed and of a truth, entered into rest.
Now, our text tells us that these people “entered.” It points to the gateway, the pearly gate of this golden garden of the Hesperides. It tells the way to enter into this Paradise of rest. “We that have believed do enter into rest.” The way to perfect peace with God, with conscience, and with our fellow-men, is the way of faith; faith in God, faith in what God has revealed, especially faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He that will have rest must come to the cross-foot, must there confess his sin and leave it there, must look up and see the streaming wounds of Emmanuel, and accept the substitutionary sacrifice of the dying Son of God. He that has done that has entered into rest. He that shall do that shall enter into rest. Moses cannot show you the gateway into rest. He can show you the gate through which Adam was driven when the flaming sword in the Cherubim’s hands guarded the way. That Cherubim stands there still, and his sword is not sheathed. By the way of works no man can enter into rest, since the works of all men are deficient, imperfect, and fall short of the demands of God.
But, by the way of trusting, there is an accessible road.
I am sure many here ought to be thankful indeed that there is such a way into rest, for had it been by the way of works they could not have entered; but by the way of faith even the sinner can enter and, however defiled he may have been, he can approach unto the throne of God by the exercise of faith in the righteousness of another, even the Son of God. It is by believing that we get rest — by no other means, not by scheming and plotting and planning and thinking and criticizing and judging and doubting and questioning, but by believing — the submission of the soul to God’s truth, the yielding of the heart to God’s salvation. This once done we lie down in green pastures, and are led beside the still waters.
II. Now, I have thus spoken of the persons who have found rest, and of the gate by which they enter the golden garden. They shall tell you — and I will be their spokesman — some-thing of the walks of that garden, something of those beds of spices whence they get the fragrance of rest.
They will tell you that they find much of their rest in what they have experienced. They have experienced the complete pardon of sin, for those who have believed in Jesus are forgiven. A free pardon is issued from the King of Heaven to every believer in Jesus. Now, if sin be pardoned we are secure. Even death has no sting. Besides, that is a precious walk in the garden of rest. Once get sin pardoned, beloved, and how can you help resting? Your spirit must rejoice when Jesus Christ has washed your sins away. They have, since that, experienced acceptance in the Beloved, for whoever believes in Jesus is acceptable to God. God looks upon him with complacency; He deals with him as a righteous person. And this is no small privilege — to be acceptable with God. Oh, this is a delightfully cool walk in the garden of rest, and happy is the man who can walk up and down in it. Pardoned of sin and accepted in the righteousness of Christ — that man has now experienced an acquiescence in the divine will. He feels now that the Lord may do what He likes with him. If He has forgiven him, He may do whatsoever He pleases with him. Now will he say, “Strike, Lord, for Thou hast forgiven me. I will have no questionings with Thee, since I have had such proofs of Thy love.” And when the mind is perfectly willing that God should do as He pleases, it cannot but rest. Now this is no small blessing to have been brought into peace with God through the forgiveness of sin, through the clothing of the soul with righteousness, and by the spirit being made cheerfully to submit to the ruling will of God. Blessed walks are these in this golden garden.
And then they tell you that they find much peace from what they know by faith. Here are some of their secrets. They who have believed know by faith that God loved them before the world began. They believe in eternal love — love which never had a beginning. They rejoice to know they were chosen in Christ from before the foundations of the world. If you knew that, would not that give you rest? Well, it gives believers rest. They know also by faith that God loves them immutably; that He cannot love them more and will not love them less; that His love never changes, and cannot be removed from its present objects. The people of His choice He cannot, will not cast away. They know this; they know that change as they may they have an unchangeable God to deal with. Think you, does not this give them rest?
They also know that the work which saves their soul is a finished work — that it is not half done, but all done. They are saved. For their pardon there is no need for a fresh ounce of suffering; for their clothing there is no need of a fresh thread of righteousness. They are complete in Christ — completely saved, and they know that, come what may, they never shall be lost. “For there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” He has given to His sheep “eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of His hands.”
Do not these things give them rest, think you? Surely if they did not rest they must be acting inconsistently with the nature and with the reason of things. They also know by faith that they are one with Christ, joined to Him as the wife is to the husband, in bonds that never can be snapped, joined to Him as the member is to the head, for we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Oh, what joy there is in this truth!
Surely he that knows it to be true of himself by faith cannot but enter into rest. How could it be that he should be disturbed in spirit? So I have shown you the things they experience and one or two of the things they know by which they enter into rest.
And there are some things implanted into believers’ minds that make them enter into rest; for, unless you change a man’s nature, he won’t rest, if you put him where you will. After all, our happiness more depends upon our own hearts than upon anything else. The believer has a new heart; he has a contented heart; he has a heart submissive to the divine will; he has a heart that does not live in the present, but lives in the future; he has a heart that looks across the river of Death, a soul that rejoices to live upon invisible things and eternal things. Scant may be his table here, but he eats the bread of angels; wretched may be his garments, but he wears about him robes of royalty. He may be despised of men, but he knows he is a son of God. He may not have a foot of land, a freehold of his own, but he knows that the whole of Heaven is his from its Dan to its Beersheba. Such a mind as that cannot but be restful — as a mind made to conform to God and to rejoice in Him. Such a man must: have rest; it cannot be otherwise.
III. Note again that these persons, though they have entered into rest, have to say to you, “We have only entered into rest; we don’t profess to know all about it — we have only entered it.” They may have entered into rest, but they are still as it were in the first part of the garden. They believe that there are inner walks where the fruit is more luscious, where the fountains are more cool, where the brooks flow with milk and honey more plentifully. They have entered into rest. They bless God for that, but they have only entered it. And this is one reason why you sometimes find Christians disturbed. They have not got far enough into the garden of rest to lose the sound of dogs outside. They can hear the howling of the helldogs at the garden gates, though they have come into rest. They are like men in one of our ships covered with impenetrable armor, shot at still; and though they are not fatally wounded they can hear the balls strike on the iron outside and they are troubled somewhat. And there are times when they don’t live by faith as they ought, and then they lose their rest; for it is only as they believe that they enter into rest.
I know there are some Christians who do not believe about daily bread and are worried about it. There are some who cannot believe. They get wanting to drive their own horses instead of sitting in the chariot and allowing the Lord to drive. They lose their rest. I know there are some who want to carve for themselves, but they cut their fingers and get but a small slice upon their plates; whereas if they left it all to God and did their part to it, namely, were obedient to God’s will and left the rest to Him, they would fare far better. They do not believe, and, therefore, do not rest; but you shall always find that in proportion as they believe they rest. Did you ever hear of a more restful man than George Muller, of Bristol? — a perfectly happy man with the care of an establishment with more than two thousand children — no care at all because he believes his Father about it and he leaves the Lord to manage the orphanage. I often wish ! could do that.
Don’t you wish so, too? Who are you that should say, “I have cast my burden on the Lord,” and then go back and take it again? How is it you can talk of leaving it with Him, and then, after all, try and bear it yourself? But he that believes has entered into rest.
I do not say that the believer’s life is all peace, for his condition is peculiar in this way. When the children of Israel entered into Canaan they were a portrait of a saint entering into rest. First, they had to cross the Jordan: the believer has to cross the Jordan of his sin. That is dried up, and he marches through by divine grace. Then there stand, inside the promised land, the walls of Jericho, namely, his own corruptions and his own sinful nature. It takes time to bring them to the ground, but after that, when the walls are leveled, there are Canaanites still in the land. Canaan was not a good type of Heaven, for they were always fighting in Canaan, always having to war against the adversary. That is a good type of the rest to which believers come. They do rest. They know that Heaven is theirs; that they are saved; that all their troubles work for their good; that they are God’s people. Still they have to fight against sin, and that is no more inconsistent with their being at rest than it was inconsistent with the fact of the holy land belonging to the Israelites, though they had still to go on fighting against the Canaanites. We are like those at sea; the vessel is tossed but not wrecked, and never shall be. There is a great deal of water outside the vessel that tosses her to and fro, but we are clean pumped out. We bless God that we can know the meaning of that text, “Let not your heart be troubled.” The trouble is outside; it does not get into the heart. The Lord has helped us to get rid of that: we have laid our burden of sin and grief and woe at Jesus’ feet, and now that we have believed do enter into rest.
IV. I have, therefore, now to close with the good advice I would wish to give; and it is this. The rest is to be had by those that seek it in the right way. It’ is to be had by believing. I know you have been for months trying to get rest from the burden of sin. Young men, you may have rest to-night if you believe in Jesus. At this very moment you may have complete rest. But if you refuse this, and go about and try to mend your ways, and to find salvation for yourself by your own doings, you will never have rest. You that wish to climb to Heaven by the way of Sinai had better look to the flames that Moses saw, and shrink and tremble and despair. Calvary is an easier mount to climb. When God gives grace to believe, rest is immediately obtained. Oh, that the Lord would make some rambler end his ramblings now at the foot of the cross and find perfect peace!
Remember that the door to this sacred garden is an open one. To believe in Jesus is not a matter that needs a great explanation from me. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” If ye would have it, “hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
You have heard the Word of God, for this is the testimony o[God, that He has given His Son Jesus to be a propitiation for sin, and whosoever believes in Him, that is, trusts in Him, rests upon Him, leans upon Him, depends upon Him for this faith — whosoever does that is pardoned, is a child of God, is accepted, is saved. He shall never be lost; he shall enter Heaven as surely as he lives. It is Christ’s business to keep him and to perfect him, and to present him faultless before the presence of the Father with exceeding joy. There is the door of faith. Sinner, will you enter? If you refuse to enter, know this, there is no other name given under Heaven among men whereby you can be saved or find rest. Do you say, “I am unfit to enter “? It is for the unfit that Jesus died. He died for the ungodly.
Remember that! He “came into the world to save sinners.” Catch at that precious word, and let your unworthiness rather console you than depress you, since your unworthiness is your claim to the promise through God’s grace. He came to save sinners — yen the very chief. “Oh that I had rest,” saith one. Why have ye it not? Turn not away from it.
Put not away your own salvation, but may God, by His sweet restful Spirit, lead you now to repose in Christ, and yours shall be the rest, and His shall be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.