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■tying, " Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out!"
A CHECK TO PRESUMPTION.
Let u» therefore fear, teat, a promise being left u-? of entering into hit rest, any of you should seen to come short of it—Heb. iv. 1.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Hence, says David, "let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."
Would you deem a man your enemy because he told you the truth? especially if the intelligence was'of importance, and your ignorance of it would be ruinous? Would you blame a person, who seeing your house to be on fire, would endeavour to wake you from a pleasing dream i Or would you say to one who checked you on the brink of a precipice —" Why did you not suffer me to go on? Why did you spoil my reverie V Surely even a blow that saved you from such dreadful jeopardy, would be esteemed an instance of friendship.
But all allusions fail when we think of the soul and eternity. Every thing is little and triflingscompared with the acquisition of endless life. Here is a subject which requires, infinitely more than any other, fidelity in the speaker; and a disposition open to conviction and fearful of deception, in the hearer. "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"
Let us consider two things. The First regards The Blessing Promised. And the Second, THE STATE OF MIND IN WHICH WE SHOULD CONSIDER IT.
I. The Gospel is not only a revelation, but A Promise: and A Promise exceeding great and precious. It not only holds forth to our view, but it proposes to our hope eternal life; and whatever is previously necessary to the acquisition of it The promise was early made, and was often renewed with enlargements. Thousands in the successive ages of the world have laid hold of it, and—it is "left" for us. Yes, in this blessed book, we have " a promise left us of entering into his rest"
But what is this rest?—We may view it as it is begun upon earth, or completed in heaven. Even while the believer is upon earth, this rest is not only ensured, but begun. Hence, says the Apostle, "We which have believed do enter into rest" Before he knew the Saviour, he was a stranger to rest; but Jesus had said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest;" he was enabled to believe his word; he ventured upon his promise, made application to him, and found "rest unto his soul." Let us observe him—
View him with regard to his understanding—and you will find t(iat he has rest He is freed from the jealousies and uneasinesses which arise from uncertainty of mind with regard to truth. He is no longer the sport of delusion : he is no longer like "a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed," now urged in one direction, and now in another ; he no longer flounders in the mud and mire—he has found rock; he stands upon it; his goings are established. He "knows whom he has believed." He knows that he "has not followed cunningly devised fables." He knows "the doctrine" he has received "to be of God."—He "has the witness in himself."
View him with regard to his conscience— and you will find that he has rest He is freed from the torment of fear, and the horrors of guilt A crucified Saviour "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savour." An apprehension of this truth "healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." In proportion as we realize it by faith, the burden, too heavy for us to bear, loosens and falls off; and, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ"
View him with regard to his passions and appetites—and you will find he has rest While pride and envy, and malice, and avarice, and sensual affections, reigned within, often striving with each other, and always fighting against the convictions of his judgment the man's breast was nothing but a scene of tumult: he was "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; whose waters cast up mire and dirt: there is no peace, sailli my God, unto the wicked." But sanctifying grace has delivered him from "the bondage of corruption," and from the tyranny of adverse and raging lusts: it has subdued his tempers, and regulated his desires; it has restored order and self-government—and these have restored peace. .
View him once more with regard to his "condition and circumstances"—and you will find that he has rest He is freed from those anxieties and disquietudes which devour others who make the world their portion, and have no confidence in God. But the world is not his portion; he has not laid up his treasure on earth. His inheritance is " incorruptible and undented, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him." He is nobly superior to events. Nothing that occurs can materially affect him; he is therefore easy and composed. He has also a confidence in
God which wonderfully calms the mind with regard to present occurrences. He knows that the God who loves him, reigns over all; that all his dispensations are righteous, and wise, and kind; that he will not forsake him, but " make all things," however contrary in their appearance and tendency, to " work together for his good." Hence he feels a holy indifference, a blessed resignation to the will of Providence; and committing all his concerns to his Heavenly Father, he learns "in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content:" according to the language of the Prophet and the Apostle: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
But, excellent as his present condition is, compared with his former state, it is nothing compared with his future. With all his advantages here, a voice perpetually cries in his ears, "Arise and depart; for this is not your rest" However favourable the voyage, they are now on the boisterous, treacherous ocean; they are looking out for their native shore; and by-and-by they will enter the harbour—" then are they glad because they are quiet; so he bringeth them into their desired haven." At death we are told the righteous and the merciful enter into rest And this rest is pure, undisturbed, and everlasting.
They shall rest from "their labours." Though all activity, they shall be incapable of fiitigue and languor, for their powers will be fully equal to their work. "Repentance shall be hid from their eyes." Their praying days will be all over. It shall never more be said to them, "Be patient in tribulation;" or "fight the good fight of faith." Without were fightings, and within mere fears: but they are for ever ended. Darkness no longer struggles with light; or faith with unbelief. "The flesh no longer lusteth against the Spirit, nor the Spirit against the flesh." They are delivered from all the temptations which were so often ensnaring or distressing them here. "There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest" "And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." And nothing remains of their trials, but a grateful remembrance of the hand that sustained them under all their difficulties, and delivered them from all their grief.
The Apostle therefore, to express heaven, often aiies the word rest And it is observable that he employs two allusions to enable us to conceive of it the more clearly: the one taken from Canaan, in which the Jews
rested after the toils of the wilderness; and the other from the Sabbath, on which Christians rest after the perplexities of the week. Ah! ye glorified saints, you can tell us what this blessed rest is. You have traversed the wilderness—where you "wandered in a solitary way; where you found no city to dwell in:" where, "hungry and thirsty, your souls fainted in you." But you have left the desert? you have passed the river Jordan; and have entered "the land flowing with milk and honey"—you are "come unto the rest which the Lord your God giveth you."
Your week days, your worldly days are now over, and you have begun your Sabbath. Here you loved the Sabbath: but here the Sabbath was soon over, and the things of the world again deprived you of the fine feelings it produced. You sometimes passed silent Sabbaths, and mourned the loss of sanctuary privileges. You always spent imperfect ones: you could not do the things that you would; and soon grew weary in the service of God, though not of it But now your "strength is perfectly renewed." You are "for ever with the Lord." You "serve him day and night in his temple; and shall go no more out"— you have the keeping of " the Sabbath which remains for the people of God."
Such is the blessing. Let us consider, II. The State Of Mind In Which We Should Regard It—Let u8 therefore "fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" But what is this fear?
It is not the fear of the sluggard dismayed by difficulties, and crying, "There is a lion in the way, I shall be slain in the streets." Such a man will be sure to come short The fearful are to have "their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Nor is it the fear of the unbeliever, who suspects that the promise shall not be accomplished; for there is not the least ground for such an apprehension: because "faithful is he that hath promised, who also will do it" This fear prevailed in the Jews, and excluded them from the land of Canaan. They thought God had undertaken more than he could perform: they asked, "Can he furnish a table in the wilderness V they said, " The people are too strong for us:" and thus despairing, they murmured to return. Let us guard against this fear, and be fully persuaded that what God has promised he is able to perform; and that difficult, or even impossible as ii rhay appear in our eyes to bring a guilty, depraved, helpless sinner to glory—if he has undertaken it he will perfect that which concemeth us. But the fear here enjoined is a fear of caution; of vigilance; of scrutiny; a fear which leads us to examine ourselves; and allows us in this awful concern to be satisfied with nothing less than evidence: a fear that induces
os to question—and therefore to inquire whether we are the subjects of divine grace; whether we are the "heirs of promise;" whether we have a title to heaven, and are in a fair way to obtain this blessedness.
Now the thought of missing this rest is surely enough to awaken in you this peculiar concern—especially when you consider two things: the possibility of your coming short; and the consequence of your coming short
First To excite in you this fear, remember the possibility of your coming short And here let me mention a fact which should make you tremble. It is this—out of six hundred thousand Israelites, who came out of Egypt to possess the land of Canaan, two only entered!—But what is this to us! Hear how the Apostle applies it "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples"—adds the Apostle. They are emblems and warnings to us. We here behold persons, under a dispensation of peculiar privileges, considered as the people of God, delivered from their enemies by the most wonderful displays of Divine power; clothed in garments unimpaired by wearing, or by time; and whose meat and drink were not only miraculous, but sacramental—and, after all this, we see them perishing under the wrath of Heaven. "Wherefore," says the Apostle again, "let him that thinketh he standeth" high in the Divine favour, and is perfectly secure, " take heed lest he fall." Let him not depend on external privileges; on gifts; on being baptized in his infancy; on his partaking of the memorials of the Saviour's death—or a thousand other things, which are no certain proofs of salvation. Persons may go far, but not far enough; they may be convinced, but not converted; like Saul, they may have another heart, and not a new one. And indeed nothing is more common than delusions of this kind. Oh! how many there are who say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!" Oh! how many are there who entertain confident hopes of heaven, that will never see it! They are pillowed up on the bed of carnal security—die like lambs—and awake with the devil and his angels!" Let us therefore fear."
But, Secondly. Consider the consequence of coming short Is it not dreadful to be depriv
ed of " that fulness of joy"—of that "crown of life"—of that " everlasting kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Km?" What would it be to lose your business, your health, your friends, compared with the loss of the soul?
And remember, there is no medium between heaven and hell—if you miss the one, the other is unavoidable.
And remember, also, the aggravations which will attend the misery of those who perish in your circumstances. There is nothing so healing, so soothing, as the expectation of hope; and of course there is nothing so tormenting as the disappointment of it, especially where the object is vastly important What then can equal the regrets and horrors those will feel who shall come short of eternal life! What will be their reflections when they see that the blessing was attainable, but that their own folly had deprived them of it! And when they discover their mistake, but alas, too late to rectify the error! —A timely fear would have prevented all this.
Yea, remember also, that you will not only be disappointed in coming short—but you will be punished for it \our perdition will be your greatest sin. You could not be lost without contemning the authority of God, who commanded you to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and trampling under foot his mercy and his grace. You offend him even more by your unbelief than by your iniquity. The Gospel has its threatenings, as well as the Law; and after the one has condemned you for transgressing its commands, the other will condemn you for the rejection of its remedy. Thus, as the Apostle says, the word you hear will "prove the savour of death unto death." How then can you escape if you neglect so great salvation? If you could even elude the curse of the law, you would have to encounter the damnation of the Gospel. What then think you of both'? "Can thy heart endure, or thy hand be strong, when he shall deal with thee?"—"Let us therefore fear."
And observe, how far the Apostle extends the admonition—" Let us fear, lest any of you seem to come short of it" We see that he applies it to all: deeming none below the benefit of caution, and none above the necessity of it—lest " any of you." And he applies it to all in the greatest degree. Lest any of you—what? should come short? No —but seem to come short He not only forbids us to go back—but even to look back. He would have us not only avoid the reality —but the appearance of evil. He would have us not only possess religion, but "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." He would not have us remit our caution and our zeal in the smallest degree, so as to render our adherence to the truth suspicious, or our declension from the ways of God probable. He would not have you to leave your eternal state in the least uncertainty; or live so as to awaken doubts in others, and to lead the people of the world to say—" Ah! they are yielding by little and little; they cannot throw off every thinjj at once—they will soon join us again." We are, like the patriarchs, to " declare plainly that we seek a country" —and not puzzle our neighbours to determine whether to consider us at home, or only as strangers and pilgrims upon earth. We are not to be doubtful characters, so that no reader can make any thing of us, or say whose hand the writing is; but we are "to be manifestly the epistles of Jesus Christ, known and read of all men." "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"
To conclude. Let us observe, first, how thankful we should be for such a promise left us of entering into his rest! For surely we could not have reasonably expected it Had we been informed that God was about to give us a revelation from heaven, our guilty minds would have foreboded nothing but tribulation and wrath, vexation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil. This we deserved —but behold, he speaks—and his "thoughts are thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to bring us to an expected end." The address is to tell us of a remedy for our disease; a refuge from the storm; a passage from this world of misery into a better, even " a heavenly country.
O what welcome intelligence is this! How much did we stand in need of such a discovery, such an assurance as this! Our earth is a vale of tears; creatures are broken reeds and empty cisterns: our mortifications are frequent; our pains numerous; our enjoyments unsatisfying!" Surely man walketh in a vain show !"—But he is not compelled to walk so now. There are realities attainable; there is satisfaction; there is rest "He hath showed thee, O man! what is good. Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee." Do not do not resemble the Jews of old: " to whom he said, This is the rest wherewith may cause the weary to rest and this is refreshing:—yet they would not hear."
Let us, secondly, see how necessary it is in religion to avoid passing from one extreme into another. The Gospel encourages our hope: but then it enlightens it, and guards it It tells us not to " refuse to be comforted;" but it teaches us to blend a holy jealousy with our confidence, and "to rejoice with trembling." Some people seem to consider the fear of which we have been speaking, as legality and unbelief—whereas it is promoted by an evangelical frame of mind, and is the tflspring of faith. It does not question the
truth of the promise—but only makes a man anxious to ascertain whether he has any part or lot in the matter.
And should this be carelessly decided? Can a man in such a case be too safe or too certain? Is it not much better to be even needlessly distressed for a time, than to be deceived for ever? Is it not better to have a troubled conscience than a seared one ?" To this man, says God, will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit and that trembleth at my word." "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Be not highminded, but fear. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Indeed, this fear seems to be unavoidable from the very nature of the case. Whoever attends to the workings of his own mind, well knows that the proposal of any great or unexpected benefit always produces a variety of emotions. Wonder is the first: this is instantly succeeded by joy—but there is another feeling which also immediately seizes the mind and works very powerfully—and this is solicitude—care to attain and secure it—fear, lest after all we should not realize the possession of it And this is what our Saviour means when he says, "The kinedom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field: the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." This hiding is not in order to secresy, but safety : for as by hiding things we commonly secure them— the one is put for the other; and this explanation accords with the experience of every awakened soul. For in proportion as you prize salvation, and desire it, and apprehend it to be necessary—will be your fear of coming short of it Indifference does not generate fear—No—but conviction does, and so does attachment
Lastly. What are we to say of those of you who know nothing of this salutary concern? Perhaps, if some of you were to speak what you feel, you would say, That the loss of this rest was the least of all your fears. It never disturbs your repose by night nor embitters your enjoyments by day. Whenever the thought enters, you consider it as an intruder and soon expel it All your fear is limited to the world and the present life. You fear for your health, and are alarmed when any unfavourable symptoms appear. You fear for your business; your fortune; your estate, and cannot deem yourselves too secure. "You ask, what shall I eat and what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed?" But you never inquire, "What must I do to be saved?"
And yet what is every other interest to this ?—And do you imagine that this greatest of all concerns can be managed or secured
without attention or care? Do you think
that leaving the boat to the stream will bring
Tou Safe—while you are asleep, or at play? •—This may do if you wish to sail down with the stream and be carried into the gulf below. But the course to heaven lies against the sttaam—and helm and oars and labour and diligence are indispensably necessary. "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" Amen.
REVIEW OF LIFE.
(LAST DAY OF THE YEAR.)
.Ind God requireth that which it past
Eccl. iii. 15.
With God, nothing is past; nothing is future. I AM is his name, and this is his "memorial in all generations." "One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day."
The very reverse of this is the case with us. For with us, nothing is present: all is futifre, or past Thus a man stands by the side of a river, and sees something swimming down the stream—now it is above him—and now it is below him—but it never abides before him—so of all the things that befall us in this world, to use the language of the poet,
"We can never say, they 're here,
But when they are gone by, we have not entirely done with them. Some consequences do remain, and others ought to remain—" And God requireth that which is past" He demands an account of the past —and this we shall have to render hereafter: he demands an improvement of the past —and this we must attend to now.
Let us then apply this to a review of our Means—to a review of our Mercies—to a review of our .sorrows—and to a review of our Sins. We cannot have a better opportunity for this exercise, than the present season, when we are closing another period of our short and fleeting time. While therefore the few remaining sands of the year are running out, let us remember, that God requires "that which is past"—
L A REVIEW OF OCR PAST MEANS AND
Privileges. God judges of things as they are: he knows that the body is nothing to the soul, or time to eternity. He has therefore
Cciously provided for our spiritual and evering welfare. He remembered us in our low estate, and devised a way in which his mercy could be exercised in harmony with his justice. This purpose of grace, formed before the foundation of the world, was accomplished in the fulness of time. The friend of sinners came to seek and to save that O
which was lost He Was delivered for our oflences, and was raised again for our justification. "All things are now ready. But you are to be made ready too. Hence the dispensation of the Gospel, and all the advantages with which you have been indulged. By these, I mean your having been born in a land of vision where the Saviour of the world is known. I mean, your having enjoyed the blessings of the Reformation, which gave each of you the Scriptures in your mother tongue ;-~in the original, the Bible would have been no more to you than a fine well of water covered by a rock, which you could not move, or as so many beautiful pictures hung up in a dark room; but now the stone is rolled away from the well's mouth, and these pictures are placed in open day. I mean, your having had the word of life, not only to read, but also to hear. I mean, your having had ministers to call you to repentance, to warn you of your danger, to beseech you in Christ's stead to be reconciled unto God. I mean, the various ordinances of the sanctuary, and all the helps to seriousness and devotion which the goodness of God has aflorded you. These means of grace are unspeakably important, and you have had them in rich profusion: you have had " line upon line, and precept upon precept" During the past year only you have to account for fifty-two sabbaths, and perhaps more than one hundred sermons!— What influence have all these had upon your minds? Are you crucified to the world? Are you denying yourselves, and taking up your cross, and following the Saviour? Are your affections more spiritual, your principles more powerful, your minds more enlightened? Must we address you as our Lord did his disciples, "Are ye also yet without understanding?" or as the apostle did the Hebrews, "When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat?"
Oh! let me call upon you to review all your opportunities and means of instruction and improvement, and compare yourselves with them. See whether the end of them has been answered at all; and whether your proficiency has been proportioned in any degree to the number and value of your privileges. Do not think your concern with them f is all over—"God requireth that which is past" What is become of these advantages? To what purposes have you applied them? Where are the fruits of them ?—They were given you as talents to improve; and if they have been useless, be assured they will prove injurious. If they do not save, they will condemn; and if they are not the "•savour of life unto life," they are the "savour of death unto death."