Key Thought: "Jesus Christ is a full Saviour, and I am here to preach a full salvation. Jesus Christ, by His revelation of God the Holy Ghost, as the sanctifier and helper, meets this need of the soul. The Holy Spirit does not only convince men of sin, He breaks the power of sin, and casts it out. He cleanses the heart and fills it with love—love to God, and love to man. This casting out of sin, and the enthroning of love, brings rest to the soul."
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."—Matthew xi. 28—30.
In the preceding verse our Lord speaks of Himself as the one true Revealer of God, as the one true Revealer of the Father. He speaks of Himself as the Divinely authorized Revealer, the absolutely perfect Revealer, and the indispensable Revealer. "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." And now our Lord, as the one perfect Revealer of the Father, looks upon the afflicted and sin-burdened souls before Him with infinite compassion, and tenderly invites them to come unto Him for rest. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." More gracious words than these never dropped from the lips of even the Son of God. The crowd before Him presented a sad spectacle to His compassionate eye. He saw them groaning under various burdens, some under one and some under another. They had their social burdens, domestic burdens, political burdens, physical burdens, mental burdens. They had also their religious burdens. The ceremonial laws and the traditions of the elders constituted a grievous burden—a burden which the nation, as a nation, felt to be intolerable. The heaviest burden of all was the burden of sin. These people were groaning under the yoke of sin, and struggling in vain to obtain deliverance. It was this burden that gave crushing force to all the other burdens. Sin is the burden of burdens. Such was the spectacle which that crowd presented to the eye of Christ. As He gazes on the crowd, His heart is moved to its deepest depth, and in words of fathomless tenderness He invites them one and all to come to Him, and be at rest. Oh, ye weary ones, tired of the world, tired of life, tired of yourselves, tired of your religious teachers, tired of religion itself, come unto Me. "I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
Let me observe, in passing, that the rest which our Lord promises is spiritual rest—rest of soul. He does not promise freedom from all toil, and labour, and trial. What He promises is that if we come to Him in the spirit of true humility, obedience, and faith, He will so teach us, so charge us, and so help us that we shall find the trials of life wholesome, and the burdens of life despoiled of their crushing weight.
The Yoke of Absolute Subjection to Christ
I would observe also that the rest promised by our Lord is not the rest of inactivity. "Take My yoke upon you." Christ's yoke is the yoke which He imposes on His followers, namely, absolute subjection to Himself, as He was in absolute subjection to the Father. It is the yoke of absolute obedience to the requirements and demands of Christ. And what are the demands of Christ? He demands a righteousness exceeding that of the Scribes and Pharisees. He demands an obedience more inward and more implicit than was ever exacted by any human teacher. He demands the surrender of the will itself. He demands our love, our deepest love, our supreme love. He bids us learn of Him, learn from His teachings, and learn from His example. He bids us follow Him, no matter how rough the road, no matter how great the trials. "Follow Me." "Take up thy cross and follow Me." "Deny thyself and follow Me." There never were demands more exacting than the demands made by Jesus Christ on His followers. And yet He tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Can it be true? Yes, blessed be God, it is true, absolutely true. But everything depends on the relation of the soul to Christ. The yoke of Christ to the man who has not the spirit of Christ, must necessarily be an intolerable burden; but to the man who has the spirit of Christ, and whose soul is strengthened by the love of Christ, it is, as someone has said, like the plumage of a bird, an easy weight, enabling the soul to soar upwards and heavenwards. When we take this yoke upon us the very spirit of Christ is implanted in us, and Christ's spirit, dwelling in us as a mighty power, enables us to realize that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
Jesus Christ the Giver of rest. This is the subject to which I wish to call your attention at this time. Is there true rest to be found in Jesus Christ? How does He give rest to the soul? Has He given us rest? Does He give us rest now? If so, how? This is a question of vital importance. I will try and answer it from my own personal experience. Jesus Christ reveals God; Jesus Christ, as the Revealer of God, gives me rest. That is the sum of what I have to say on this occasion.
Experiencing Rest as God is Revealed as Father
And first, Jesus Christ gives me rest by His revelation of God as Father. This great word was ever on the lips of our Lord. When a boy of twelve He spoke of His Father's house; and at the close of life, He spoke of Himself as going to the Father, and His last words on the cross were, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." In the Old Testament God is revealed as Creator, as Jehovah, as God Almighty; but not as Father. The word is there, but the revelation is not there; the depth of meaning is not there. It was Jesus Christ who gave the world this great name. It is He who has taught us to say "Our Father." It is only as we live in union with Christ and absorb His spirit that this great name becomes a living name to us. But once it does become a living name to us, once it does become a reality to us, life assumes a new aspect, and its varied experiences become clothed with a new meaning. Realizing that God is my Father, life is no longer a mere playground, but a school; the grand aim of life is no longer mere pleasure, but education and progress; and the trials of life are no longer meaningless hopes and accidents, but gracious discipline, measured by the Father's love and the child's need. Let this conviction sink deep into the soul, and spiritual rest must follow. The spirit will become calm, patient, restful. The brightest day in a man's life is the day on which the revelation of God as Father becomes a reality to the soul. Is God my Father? Then I know that He will never leave me, and that He can never forsake me. Is God my Father? Then I know that there is no poison in the cup which He gives me to drink. It may be bitter, very bitter; but there is no poison in it, there is nothing in it to hurt me. Is God my Father? Then, though nailed to a cross, I can trust Him, and will trust Him. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." Such was His trust in God on His cross; and such shall be my trust in God on my cross. Jesus as the perfect Son reveals the perfect Father. He knew the Father perfectly, and trusted Him implicitly. He did so with regard to Himself personally, and He did so with regard to His mission and work. If He believed, why should I doubt? If He trusted in God, why should I hesitate to put my whole trust and confidence in Him?
Experiencing Rest as God is Revealed as Love
Jesus Christ gives me rest by His revelation of God as love. By some God is looked upon as a vindictive Tyrant, delighting more in the condemnation of men than in their salvation. He is looked upon as a Being of infinite power, severely strict, and exclusively concerned about His own honour and dignity. In the minds of many, a sort of antagonism is set up between God and Christ. There, on the one hand, is the burning wrath of God, and there, on the other hand, is the quenching love of Christ. There is, I am told, in one of the Continental galleries, a picture which depicts God as shooting arrows at men, and Christ catching them and breaking them before they struck. I have not seen that picture, but many a sermon did I hear in my boyhood of the theology of which that picture might be taken as a faithful representation—God angry and threatening; Christ pitiful and appeasing. What a hideous picture of God! And yet it was the picture that was hung up in most of the sermons 1 listened to in my early days. And what was the effect of that preaching on me in those days? It was this: It made me take sides with Christ against God. It drew my heart to Christ in grateful affection; whilst it created within my breast a strange sense of dread and alienation as the thought of God presented itself to my mind. I loved the Son, but feared the Father. That horrible picture lurked in my mind for many years; and it lurks in the minds of many Christians to-day. To the imagination of many, God is a Being to be feared and shunned, and religious duties are felt by them to be sacrifices and burdens. The thought of God, which ought to bring joy and confidence to the soul, brings nothing to them but pain and dark forebodings.
Now, Jesus Christ came to deliver us from all that, and He does so by declaring and manifesting the love of God. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." That is a wonderful declaration. Let us beware of toning it down by substituting words of our own for the words of Christ. Don't say God pities the world; Jesus Christ did not say that. God did pity the world; but He did more, He loved the world. Love is a greater word than the word pity. Let us cling to that word, for the whole Gospel is in it. Don't say God so loved the chosen few, and that He gave His only begotten Son for them, and for them only. Jesus Christ did not say that. What right have we to say that? Don't say that Jesus Christ came to create love in the heart of God, that He came to appease an angry and offended God by the sacrifice of Himself. That is not what Jesus said, but the very reverse of what He said. The only begotten Son came from the bosom of the Father to tell men what God is, and this is what He tells us: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God and Christ are one. The works of Christ were the works of God. The love of Christ was the love of God. The cross is a manifestation and a proof, not of Christ's love only, but of the Father's love also. "He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father." "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of Myself; but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works."
"God is love." How did the apostle make that grand discovery? Not by gazing on nature. There is much in nature that cannot be easily reconciled with the declaration that God is love. Not by reading history. Many of the facts of history seem to go right against the assumption that God is love. Not by reading the scriptures of the Old Testament even. You cannot read the Old Testament without discovering that there is love in God; but nowhere in the Old Testament is God revealed as love. Where and how did the apostle learn this sublime truth concerning God? He learnt it in the school of Christ. Apart from Christ, he could never have discovered it. Apart from Christ, he could never have given utterance to it. It was whilst gazing on the face of the only begotten Son that this momentous truth became manifest to the spiritual vision of the apostle. "We beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father." "No man hath seen God at any time." Yet we know God, we know that God is love. How do we know it? Because the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him. "God is love." That is the declaration.
But if God is love, then we are sure that there is no malice in God, no malignity, no selfishness, no unrighteousness. There is anger in God; but it is anger against sin and wrong. It is righteous anger; it is holy displeasure at sin. God is a consuming fire to all that is wrong in me, and I bless His Holy Name for that, but His heart towards me is a heart of love. Let this conviction sink deep down into my soul, and soul-rest must follow. God will no longer be looked upon as an object to be shunned and mistrusted, but to be loved with the heart's best and strongest love, to be reverenced with the soul's deepest reverence, and to be trusted with unquestioning faith. "God is love." That is one of the great truths concerning God revealed by Jesus Christ; it is also one of the most important lessons with regard to God which we can possibly learn. No one can come to Christ and learn this lesson at His feet without finding that it does bring rest, true rest to the soul.
Experiencing Rest as God is Revealed as a Sin-Forgiving God
Jesus Christ gives me rest by His revelation of God a the sin-forgiving God. The revelation of God as Father brings rest to the soul; the revelation of God as love does the same. But I feel the need of a further revelation. I am a sinner; and I know by painful experience that sin is the most terrible of all burdens. It is the sense of sin that gives pressure and galling force to every other burden. Now, Jesus Christ gives us rest from this burden; and He does so, not by teaching us to regard sin as a thing of no importance, a mere trifle, but the very reverse. We never knew the real meaning of sin, never realized what a bitter thing it is, till we entered the school of Christ, and began to learn of Him. It is the man who has the deepest knowledge of Christ, that has the deepest insight into his own heart, and the man who has the deepest insight into his own heart is the man who has the deepest insight into the heart of sin. But whilst Christ does, on the one hand, give the soul a keener sense of sin, He does, on the other hand, give the peace and the rest which a sense of forgiveness brings with it. And this He does by revealing God as the sin-forgiving God, and the sacrifice of Himself as the ground of the Divine forgiveness. "The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many." "This is the blood of the covenant which is shed for many unto the remission of sin." Some will tell you that you cannot find the Atonement in the teachings of our Lord. I venture to say that you have the whole truth in these two passages. With these two passages before me, I feel that I can say with the Apostle, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." His blood was shed for the remission of my sins. Being justified by faith, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Some say that they can do without the Atonement. Well, I judge no man, but I am free to confess that I cannot do without it.
"This is the rock on which I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
The Atonement is a fact, forgiveness is a fact, and this fact rests on that fact. Take that away, and this must fall to the ground. I have no theory of the Atonement to propound. I have never come across a theory that satisfies my own mind. But I believe in the fact, and, resting the whole weight of my soul on the fact, I have peace with God. Jesus Christ on the cross took my place, the just for the unjust. In some mysterious sense, He bore my sins and set me free. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin." I believe that, and believing that, I have peace—I have rest of soul.
Experiencing Rest as God is Revealed as the Divine Sanctifier and Helper
Jesus Christ gives me rest by His revelation of God as the Divine sanctifier and helper. Sin is a tyrant; it is the great enemy of the soul. I need deliverance, not only from the doom of sin, but from its power and dominion also. As long as man is under the dominion of sin, he cannot be at rest. The soul, whilst under the power of one sinful passion, must be torn, distracted, tormented. As long as the demon of pride, envy, jealousy, malice, lust, selfishness, or any such demon, holds the sway over us, we shall never know what soul-rest is. Let us take that for granted. The sooner we do take it for granted the better it will be for us all. For the lascivious man, for the unclean man, for the intemperate man, there can be no rest; neither can there be for the proud man, the envious man, the jealous man, the bad tempered man, the faithless man. But can Jesus Christ give me rest from these demons? Can He give me the victory over these inward sins? Can he deliver me from such sins as envy, jealousy, and pride? What about this ungovernable temper of mine? What about these brain-storms, which make me feel more like a man possessed than a man in his right mind? Can Jesus Christ cast out this bad temper? Can He quell these storms? Do you mean to say that Jesus Christ can do all this for me? Yes, my friend, that is precisely what I mean to say. Jesus Christ is a full Saviour, and I am here to preach a full salvation. Jesus Christ, by His revelation of God the Holy Ghost, as the sanctifier and helper, meets this need of the soul. The Holy Spirit does not only convince men of sin, He breaks the power of sin, and casts it out. He cleanses the heart and fills it with love—love to God, and love to man. This casting out of sin, and the enthroning of love, brings rest to the soul.
"Walk by the Spirit," says Paul, "and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." "Now the works of the flesh are these: Fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." Think of a soul being under the dominion of these lusts, or under the dominion of any one of these lusts! What rest, what peace can there be to that poor soul? Now look at the man who is under the dominion of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, temperance." Such are the fruits produced by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. Where these are there is rest, true rest, heavenly rest. "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." Come unto Me, be united to Me, dwell in Me, and the Holy Spirit, as the Divine sanctifier and helper, will take up His abode in your soul, and fill it with his own power, purity, and peace.
Experiencing Rest as the Father is Revealed as the Supreme Lord With Whom All Things Work for Good
Jesus Christ gives me rest by His revelation of the Father as Supreme Lord, and by giving me the blessed assurance that, under His paternal rule, all things must work together for good. "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." It is not easy to believe at all times and in all circumstances that all things must work together for good. Can this heavy loss be for my good? Can this sore bereavement be for my good? Can these disappointments in life be for my good? Can it be that this black cloud which I so much dread is full of blessing for me? Impossible! Impossible! Such is the language of sight. Apart from Christ, that is the only answer we could give to these questions, and to all such questions as these. The mystery of suffering, apart from Christ, baffles us, and tends sometimes to madden us. But Christ Jesus, by His teachings, by His life, by His death, and by His presence in us, enables us to face the mystery with calmness. He may not in any case make it plain to the understanding, but He does give rest and peace to the soul. He gives us the blessed assurance that the Father is over all, that under His paternal rule all must be right, that all must work together for good to every one of His children; and thus He enables the heart to bear the mystery with calmness. He enables us to trust where we cannot see. He enables us to trust in the darkest night, to trust in the fiercest storm, to trust on to the end.
I was reading some years ago a story about Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather, which interested me very much. He was upon a drifting ship, on a lee shore, on a stormy night. He could hear the surf upon the breakers, and it seemed as if all must be soon over. Stevenson went on deck, and he found only one person there. Lashed to the helm the pilot stood, turning the vessel away from destruction inch by inch, but doing it. As Stevenson came on deck the pilot turned and smiled upon him. He went below, and said to himself, "It's all right; it will be all right in the morning. I have seen the pilot's face, and the pilot smiled." Brothers and sisters, the bark of our life is being guided by our Father; the helm is in our Father's hand. It will be all right in the morning. Nay, it is all right now. Jesus has given as to see the Pilot's face, and the Pilot smiles.
''Though faith and hope awhile be tried,
I ask not, need not, ought beside;
How safe, how calm, how satisfied
The soul that clings to Thee!"
That clings to Thee!
Clings to Thee in the dark!
Clings to Thee in spite of the darkness!
Clings to Thee to the end!
Experiencing Rest as God is Revealed as the Giver of Everlasting Life
And, lastly, Christ gives me rest by His revelation of God as the Giver of Everlasting Life, and thus inspiring my soul with a glorious hope. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." "I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." That is the great hope with which Jesus Christ inspires the soul. It is the hope of eternal life; it is the hope of seeing Him, of being forever with Him, and of sharing with Him in His eternal glory. We are indebted to Jesus Christ for this blessed hope. It is He who has brought life and immortality to light. The truth is in the Old Testament; but it is not brought to light even in that wonderful Book. Jesus Christ has brought it to light. He has made it certain that death does not end all. He did not only die; He rose again and ascended into heaven. And this is not all. He will come again and take us to Himself. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." What a beautiful vision of heaven have we here! We have all had our visions of heaven. I have had mine. There were the visions of my childhood, very beautiful and very satisfying at the time; but they have passed away. There were the visions of my boyhood, also very beautiful and very satisfying at the time; and they have passed away. And many a vision of heaven, and many a theory of heaven have I had since; but they have all vanished one by one. And now, in my old age, there is just one vision of heaven that remains with me as a permanent possession, and I find it abundantly satisfying. Where is heaven? Where Christ is. In what does heaven consist? In being with Christ, in being like Christ, and in sharing with Christ in His eternal glory. I want nothing more. That satisfies my intellect; it satisfies my heart. Having this, I can take everything else for granted. The man who has this great hope filling his breast will not succumb under the trials of life. He will not allow the burdens of life to crush him; he will not allow the storms of life to terrify him. The tempest may rage fiercely and long, but the inward calm remains unbroken. His real home is in heaven, and he knows that no earthborn storm can rob him of the sweet rest, the perfect rest, the eternal rest that awaits him there.
And as for death, it is to him a vanquished foe. It is to him the mere entrance gate to the life immortal.
"'Tis the entrance to our home;
'Tis the passage to that God,
Who bids His children come,
When this weary course is trod.
Such is death, such is death."
Yes, such is death as realized by the believers, in and through Jesus Christ His Lord. "Thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What a glorious Gospel to preach to men. Christ, the Son of God! Christ, the revealer of God! Christ, the giver of rest! It is the very message men need. It is the message the Chinese need. The great need of China to-day is Jesus Christ, and the great need of China is the great need of the world. The man who can preach this Gospel with the clearness, the emphasis, and the authority which spring from an inward experience of its truth, will not fail to touch the hearts of his fellow men. We value knowledge of every kind. But, oh! how poor and paltry every other appears to be, when compared with the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. I have seen it stated that Lord Kelvin, a very prince in science, as you all know, was asked what he considered the greatest discovery he had ever made, and that his reply was: "I think my greatest discovery was to discover my Saviour in Jesus Christ." That, dear friends, is the greatest discovery possible to man. Have we made it? Have we all made it?
A Word in Conclusion
Some of us have come to Jesus Christ, and have found in Him true rest of soul. In so far as we have this soul-rest at all, we are indebted to Him for it. But is the rest we have found in Him perfect? Does it satisfy the soul? Perhaps not. Probably not. Such as it is, we would not part with it for all the wealth of the world. But it is not complete. Why not? Is it not because our faith is defective? Or is it not because there is something lacking in our consecration? Or is it not because these wills of ours are not fully surrendered to the power of Christ? Perfect faith, perfect consecration, and perfect surrender must bring perfect rest to the soul. When these are wholly wanting, there can be no rest at all; where they are partly wanting, the rest must be incomplete. If we do not enjoy complete rest of soul, it is not because Christ has failed us; it is not because He has broken His promise; neither is it because He has promised what He cannot give. The fault is ours, entirely ours, not His.
"Sometimes I catch sweet glimpses of His face,
But that is all;
Sometimes He speaks a passing word of peace,
But that is all.
Sometimes I think I hear His loving voice
Upon me call.
And is this all He meant when thus He spoke,
'Come unto Me'?
Is there no deeper, more enduring, rest in Him?
In Him for thee?
Is there no steadier light for thee in Him
Oh, come and see!"
Let us, then, once more come to Him; and let us do so in the spirit of implicit faith, perfect consecration, and entire surrender, and thus find in Him the perfect rest which He can give, and which we so much need.
Responding to Jesus’ Invitation to Come
One word more. There may be some among us who have never come to Christ at all, who know absolutely nothing of Him as the Giver of rest, who know nothing by experience of the soul-rest of which I have just been speaking. You have never realized that God is your Father. You have never realized that God is love. You have never known God as the sin-forgiving God. The slavish dread of God is still upon you, and you are still a stranger to the blessedness of forgiveness. Sin is still your master, and you are not at peace with God or with yourself. The trials of life crush you, the thought of death terrifies you, and you have to confess to yourself that this wonderful soul-rest is not yours. Am I describing the spiritual condition of anyone in this congregation? I do not know. It may be that I am; and this being the case, I cannot close without reminding all such that Jesus Christ is here to-day, standing in our very midst, and tenderly saying, "Come!" And let me remind you that Jesus, and Jesus alone, can give you this soul-rest. The world—its wealth, its pleasures, its pomp, its splendours—cannot give it. Theology cannot give it. The Church cannot give it. The ordinances of the Church cannot give it, even the Bible cannot give it. Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone, can give you this blessed rest. It is only as the soul comes into vital union with the personal Christ, the living Christ, that it can enter into the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." So did the Saviour speak in Palestine nearly 1,900 years ago, and so does He speak here to-day. Shall He speak in vain? God forbid. May the language of every heart be:
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am—Thy love unknown,
Has broken every barrier down.
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come."
John, Griffeth, A Voice From China, (London: James Clarke & Co., 1907), pp. 89-105.