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I. To consider the character of those who shall enter into this rest. And,
II. The nature of that rest which is reserved or remaineth for such.
I. What is the character of those who are entitled to the rest respected, and who shall enter into it?
They are called in the text, "the people of God.” But all are not God's people. Some openly renounce him, and set themselves against him and his kingdom; and some, who profess to be his people, and avouch him to be their God, yet in works deny him, and will not be owned by him, or suffered to see his rest.Who then are the people of God, and by what are they distinguished? Let us hear the description from God's Spirit, by the mouth of the apostle, Phil. iii. 3. "We are the circumcision," (i. e. the true people of God,) "who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
The people of God of old, who were to enter into the rest of Canaan, were distinguished from the rest of the world, by many things, and particularly, by circumcision. In allusion to this, the apostle, speaking of Christians, who should enter into that rest which remaineth, calls them "the circumcision ;" they being indeed the subjects of that circumcision, which, as expressed by the apostle, "is made without hands." And he adds several things as the peculiar characteristics of such. As,
1. That they "worshp God," and "worship, him "in the spirit.' It is a characteristic of the enemies of God, that they neglect prayer-they call not upon the name of the Lord. Or if at any time they begin to call upon him, it is in a formal and servile mannerthey delight not in the duty, and offer no spiritual service. But the people of God give themselves
unto prayer, secret, social, and public. They delight. to draw near to God. Their language is, "I will go unto the altar of God, unto God, my exceeding joy.
They "worship God in the Spirit." The Spirit helpeth their infirmities, and maketh intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered: The Spirit of Christ is sent forth into their hearts, crying, Abba Father.
2. It is a characteristic of the people of God, that they rejoice in Christ Jesus. He is the foundation of all their hopes, and their hearts are drawn out towards him, as being the brightness of the Father's glory, and express image of his person: the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely. "Whom, having not seen" (says the apostle) 66 ye love in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
3. It is a characteristic of God's people, that they have no confidence in the flesh. They are deeply convinced that in them i. e. "in their flesh dwelleth no good thing." They feel totally helpless in themselves, and wholly dependent on God. They see the folly of trusting to their own strength, or wisdom,' and look, for every thing, to Christ alone. He is of God, made unto them, wisdom, strength, sanctificacation, and redemption; and they cheerfully acquiesce in the divine injunction, "let him that glorieth glory in the Lord." Such are some of the distinguishing marks of the people of God, who are to enter into his rest.
We proceed therefore,
II. To consider the nature of this rest, and what is included in it.
1. We notice that it is spoken of as remaining. The idea is, that it is future; and is not to be enter
ed upon in this life.
The rest respected is the heav
There is a sense however, in which all Christians enter into a present rest. They are freed from the terrors of a guilty conscience, through the blood of the atonement. They delight in the sabbaths, the ordinances, and the word of God. They are fully satisfied with the way of life in the gospel. They find joy and peace in believing; and can testify to the faithfulness of Christ in fulfilling his promise :→→→ "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." In the world they have tribulation, but in him they have peace. A peace and rest of soul, which the world can neither give nor take away. But the heavenly rest is infinitely superior to this. It is a rest from all labor and pain of body, from all crosses and afflictions; and from all sin and temptation. The present life is a life of labor. In consequence of the fall, labor, fatigue, and toil, either of body or mind, are the portion of the children of men. Not only so, but some of our fellow creatures, and most commonly some of our acquaintances and friends, if not ourselves also, are groaning in distress, and borne down under a weight of sorrow. But from all these, the children of God rest at death. Sickness never enters the tomb. Pain and distress are not known in the grave. The body of the saint lies down in the dust, and sweetly sleeps until the resurrection. Of this, Job in his affliction had a pleasing view, when he said, "there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest." The children of God, also, at death rest from crosses and afflictions. Man that is born. of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. Disappointments, crosses, bereavements, and an almost infinite variety of sorrows, are constantly ready to attack us. Among the trials which are the lot of men, in this life, none are more distressing than the death of near connections, and beloved friends.
Is the husband deprived of the wife of his bosom, the partner of his joys, the solace of his affliction? Is the wife bereft of a kind husband, her guide, her protector, her faithful, tender, and affectionate friend? Is the kind father called to close the eyes of an only son, or the fond mother to part with the smiling infant at her breast? These indeed are trying scenes! They bring a weight of sorrow which almost breaks the heart. Says the poet,
"Oh, the tender ties,
Close twisted with the fibres of the heart!
Which, broken, break them; and drain off the sout
But from all these afflictions the people of God, at death, are free. Nor shall they any more feel any loss, disappointment, or sorrow. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Then also they rest from sin and temptation; and from the molestations of all their spiritual enemies. While in this life they labor almost continually under the burden of sin. They find so many lusts unmortified; are surrounded with so many temptations; and so often fall into sin, that they groan and are troubled as Paul was, when he said, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" In this world the people of God are like Israel in a wilderness-in the country of their enemies, surrounded with them on every side. The world, the flesh, and the devil, combine against them, perplex them, and retard their progress-so that their whole life is an arduous warfare. But no sooner do they pass the Jordan of death, and enter into the heavenly Canaan, than they rest from sin and temptation, and all their spiritual contests-they no more fall into sin-they no more endure temptation, or are led astray— they enter upon an holy rest-they see God as he is,
and their sanctification is perfected. Nor is that rest, which remaineth to the people of God, a mere rest or cessation from painful labors, sorrows, temptations, and sin. It is a state of holy activity in the service and enjoyment of God. A state of inactivity would be quite inconsistent with their rational natures, and indeed with happiness. They will be continually engaged in the service of God, and in the contemplation and enjoyment of his perfections. Hence it is called, a "sabbatism," the keeping of a sabbath. Thus it is in the original, and it is observable that the apostle here changes the word, which he had before used to signify rest. That used in the former verses denotes chiefly a cessation or rest from labor and trouble. But the word here used includes more. It is the keeping of a sabbath, and the Christian sabbath; as kept by the saints here, in the private and public worship of God, is a true though faint emblem of it. As in this the people of God not only cease from secular labors and cares, but are engaged in devout meditation, hearing of the things of God and his kingdom, and uniting in his praise; so in that rest, that sabbath which remaineth to the people of God, they not only rest from their labors, sorrows, and sins, but are engaged in the glorious service and worship of God. There they worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus in the highest perfection. They are constantly improving in the knowledge of God and the Saviour. They are employed in studying and learning the divine perfections, and considering the relations in which God stands to the several orders of beings through the universe, and the schemes of his providence and grace relating to them. They dwell in the immediate presence of God-and see him, not darkly as here, but face to face. As their knowledge of him increases, they increase in love to him, and in the highest satisfaction in his favor and friendship. This produces the sublimest exercises of devotion,