The Labourer's Rest - Mt 11:28 (Part 2)
The Lord speaks to such, "Come unto me." What a sweet invitation! What gracious words! "I, that am mighty to save:" I, Jehovah Jesus, the Lord of life and glory: the once crucified, but now risen Immanuel, invite all such, "Come unto me."
But whom does He thus address? The virtuous, the moral, the upright? those who have cleansed their own hearts and hands, and in their own strength and righteousness live good lives? He does not deign these a look. These are whited sepulchres, fair without, but within full of dead men s bones and uncleanness. These are "scribes and pharisees, hypocrites," who lay heavy burdens upon others, and never touch one of them with their little finger. The Lord does not speak to such. He will not spare them one look of compassion. But He fixes His penetrating gaze, His sympathising eye upon, and opens the tenderness and compassion of His loving bosom unto those who labour and are heavy laden; to His poor, suffering, sorrowing, groaning, and mourning family; to those who have no one else to look to; those who are burdened in their consciences, troubled in their minds, and distressed in their souls. He says to such, "Come unto me." This leads me to the third branch of my discourse.
III.- "The invitation." How authoritatively, and yet how graciously, does the Lord speak! Have you never observed this in the word? How differently the Lord speaks from the prophets of old! When the prophets spake, it was with a "Thus saith the Lord." But when the Lord of life and glory spake, it was, "I." He stood on earth not as a prophet, to interpret the word of God, as the spiritual instrument, or as the vessel of clay through which God addresses men. No; he spake not so: but He spake, clothed in all the majesty of Godhead. Jehovah spake when He spake; for He is God over all; God and man in one glorious Person. And what does He say? What is the gracious invitation that dropped from His lips? O that we might hear them spoken with power to our hearts: "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
And what is coming? How frequently the Lord speaks thus in the word! He says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without price." How frequently does the word occur! But what is its meaning? Is there not in coming some movement? When I come to a place, is it not perfectly distinct from standing where I am? In coming, there is a movement of my body-is there not? So spiritually for we are to interpret these spiritual figures by their natural meaning there is, in coming to Jesus, a movement of the soul; so that if there be no movement toward Him, there is no coming. But as "labour" is spiritual, and "heavy laden" is spiritual, so the "coming" is spiritual. It is not then a coming of the body. The body may come, and the heart be left behind. It is not the humble tone, the prostration of the body, the bending of the knee, or the upturned eye; -all these forms may and do exist, where the soul is dead in sin.
But coming is a movement Godward of that divine nature which God himself has implanted in the soul. It therefore implies faith. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is." We cannot come to Jesus except we believe in His name, and we cannot believe in His name except special and spiritual faith is in our hearts; for "faith is the gift of God," a grace and fruit of the Spirit. Before, then, we can come, there must be faith communicated through the special operation of the Spirit upon our conscience.
Now, wherever there is this special faith given whereby we see Jesus, what a precious sight! believe in Jesus, what precious faith! and move toward Jesus, what a blessed movement! then there will be a coming to Him. But we come in two different forms. I will not say there are two ways of coming; there is only one way; yet in our feelings they are often distinct. I will explain my meaning.
Sometimes we come as driven: sometimes we come as drawn. Sometimes the north wind blows us from behind; sometimes the south wind allures us from before. Guilt, fear, wrath, death, hell, eternity-this storm upon our back will often drive us; for we have no refuge but Jesus where we can hide our guilty heads. For where else can I hide? In the law? That curses. In self? That is treacherous. In the world? That is under the curse of God. My own righteousness? That is filthy rags. My own strength? All is weakness. My own resolutions of amendment? They will all issue in my falling more foully than before. Then, when the north wind of guilt, wrath, and terror beat upon the soul; and at the same time, the Holy Spirit, by His internal operations, holds up to the eyes of the understanding, and illuminates the mind to see who this precious refuge, this shelter, this harbour is, then the soul flies unto Jesus; as one said of old
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.
We find this traced out in Isa 28:16,17, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place." Now, when the hail sweeps away the refuge of lies; and the waters of guilt and fear overflow the hiding-place; and the soul sees the stone that God has laid in Zion for a foundation, a tried stone, a chief corner-stone, elect, precious, it flees to this Rock for shelter, hides in this Rock of Ages, and takes shelter in his Person, blood, and righteousness. This is coming.
But there is another coming, and that not of a different nature; for the Spirit works in one and the same way; yet His operations are different; and that is drawing. Have you never felt drawn? What said one? "Draw me" not drive me, "and I will run after thee!" "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" Jer 31:3 There is the putting in of the hand by the hole of the door, and a moving of the bowels towards the Lord of life and glory. There is a sweet attractive power put forth in the heart. We see His beauty; "we behold His glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." We see in Jesus all the Majesty of the Godhead, and all the tenderness of manhood, and see them both combined in one glorious Person. We see the hands that made heaven and earth nailed to the bloody tree. We see the divine nature united to the human; and the infinite nature shining forth in the finite. And we see beauty, glory, and blessedness in this divine Immanuel. We hear Him speak; we catch the sound of His invitation falling on our heart; some dew and savour drop into the soul, and this melts, stirs, and breaks-this softens, moves, and draws-and this blessedly leads the soul to look to, and take refuge in a glorious Immanuel. This is coming. There is a sweetness in this. This is not being driven by necessity, but drawn by love. This is not being compelled through the hardness of the case, and through wrath, guilt, and fear beating upon our unsheltered head. But it is the sweet putting forth of the power of the Lord, drawing up our heart s affections unto Himself. The children of God feel both at different times and at different seasons. They need both. They are sometimes in situations where drawing would not do: and they are sometimes in situations where driving will not do. When they are carnal, worldly-minded, wrapped up in self, and going after idols, they want a driving north wind. But a driving north wind continued too long would make them rebellious, stir up the enmity of their hearts, and almost plunge them into despair. Therefore they want the drawings of divine love, the sweet attractive power of the beauty of the Lord to overcome rebellion, put down unbelief, smite the demon of infidelity in them, and lead them to the footstool of the Lord of life and glory to lay hold of His strength, and embrace Him in the arms of faith and affection. When this is done, that is fulfilled-"Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." There is a willingness then to be saved by Jesus. There is no self-righteousness then clamouring for its share of work and wages; no rebellion boiling within; no infidelity nor unbelief striving for the mastery; but the world drops its charms, self-righteousness is turned into self-loathing, and the soul is willing to be saved in the Lord s own way by superabounding grace, and the love and blood of the Lamb.
Is not this a sweet coming? But how many times do we thus come in our lives? Some persons would make us believe that we come to Christ once as poor guilty sinners, and when we have come once, and got a blessing, there is no more such coming again. Delusion is stamped upon all such doctrine. I venture to say this, that if a man say he has only come to Christ as a poor needy sinner once in his life, and has lived many years to make a profession after, and never came again, he never came spiritually at all; he has never known the attractive power of the Holy Ghost in his conscience; his hope is delusive, and he has nothing but a lie in his right hand. Is guilt felt but once?-pardon received but once?-then may coming be but once, and receiving but once.
Is not religion that is worth the name, a daily work? Is it not begun, carried on, and crowned by the Lord of life and glory Himself? Is it by coming once that we are made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light?" What! Is all the beauty of Jesus exhausted at one view? Are there not in Him treasures of mercy? Are there not in us treasures of wickedness? Are there not in Him boundless depths of compassion? Are there not in us unfathomable depths of iniquity? Do we not daily sin, hourly provoke God? Do we not daily need mercy and compassion? Are we not daily transgressors against infinite patience? And do we not daily want that patience to be manifested? As long as we live in the body, there will be at times would to God there were more times of it! a coming unto this blessed Jesus. There will be a prostration of the spirit before Him; there will be a yielding up of a broken heart to His service; there will be a clasping of Him in the arms of love and affection; there will be a pouring out of the soul at His footstool. And every temptation that does not produce this, and every burden that does not effect this, and every conviction and sorrow that does not thus bring to His feet, is of as little value as the howling wind over a heath. There is no spiritual effect produced by our experience of trial, temptation, and sorrow, if it do not bring us to the only spot where rest and peace are to be found.
But this leads me, as time is waning, to the last branch of the subject.
IV.- The promise- "I will give you rest." What does rest imply? To my mind it implies several things.
1. To rest is to lean upon something. Is it not? So spiritually. We want to lean upon something. The Lord Himself has given us this figure. "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" The figure of "a rock" on which the church is built-"the foundation" which God has laid in Zion-points to the same idea, that of leaning or dependence. Now when the soul comes to lean upon Jesus, and depend wholly and solely on Him, it enters into the sweetness of the invitation. Have we not leant upon a thousand things? And what have they proved? Broken reeds that have run into our hands, and pierced us. Our own strength and resolutions, the world and the church, sinners and saints, friends and enemies, have they not all proved, more or less, broken reeds? The more we have leant upon them, like a man leaning upon a sword, the more have they pierced our souls. The Lord Himself has to wean us from the world, from friends, from enemies, from self, in order to bring us to lean upon Himself; and every prop He will remove, sooner or later, that we may lean wholly and solely upon His Person, love, blood, and righteousness.
2. But there is another idea in the word "rest,"- termination. When we are walking, running, or in any way moving, we are still going onwards; we have not got to the termination of our journey. But when we come to the termination of that we have been doing, we rest. So spiritually. As long as we are engaged in setting up our own righteousness, in labouring under the law, there is no termination of our labours. But when we come to the glorious Person of the Son of God-when we hang upon His atoning blood, dying love, and glorious righteousness, and feel them sweet, precious, and suitable, then there is rest. "We which have believed, do enter into rest," says the apostle. His legal labours are all terminated. His hopes and expectations flow unto, and centre in Jesus-there they end, there they terminate; such a termination as a river finds in the boundless ocean.
3. But there is another idea still connected with "rest," relief. When we rest, we find relief to our weary limbs. So spiritually. When the soul comes to Jesus, He gives it rest and relief from its burdens; as well as deliverance from anxiety, and cessation from the labour that distresses and distracts it. He promises to give this-"Come unto me, and I"-Who else can do it? None, either in heaven or earth-"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." How? By communicating to the soul out of His infinite fullness, by sprinkling upon the conscience His atoning blood, by shedding abroad in the heart His dying love, and enabling the soul to believe on His name, and cling to His Person.
In this there is rest-nothing else will do it-nothing else will give it. Other remedies will leave us at last under the wrath of God. But he that comes to and leans upon Jesus, His finished work, His dying love, will have rest here and heaven hereafter. Are not our poor minds often restless, often anxious, and pensive, because of a thousand doubts, perplexities, painful trials, and grievous afflictions-do they not all make your spirit weary and restless within you? There never can be anything but restlessness while we move round this circle of sin and self. But when by precious faith we come out of our own righteousness, our own strength, our own wisdom, our own worthiness; come to, believe in, hang upon, and cleave unto the Person, blood, and work of the only-begotten Son of God, so as to feel a measure of His preciousness in our hearts-then there is rest. This is solid, this is abiding, this is not delusive; this will never leave the soul deceived with false hopes. No, it will end in eternal bliss and glory-in the open vision of eternal love-in seeing Him face to face whom the soul has known, looked to, believed in, and loved upon earth.