Mr. Beebe: My wife is an Old School Baptist and very much afflicted, and has been so for the last eight years, so that she does not have the privilege of hearing preaching often; you would confer a favor by giving your views on Heb. iv. 1-12.
Yours with respect,
Blooming Grove, Jan. 2, 1860.
Reply: “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into rest, any of you should seem to come short of it,” &c. The inspired apostle describes the endless rounds of legal ceremonies, rites, sacrifices, toils and labors required of the carnal Israelites under the Levitical law as a state of bondage and fatigue, allowing not a moment’s respite or rest, for the law not only required a perfect obedience, but also a perpetual labor. But the gospel in direct contrast in that respect, is set forth as a rest that remaineth for the people of God. The former dispensation is set forth by the six days labor in the creation of the world, and the six days of every week in which the Israelites were commanded to labor and to do all their work; also by their tedious wanderings for forty years in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, and other significant and impressing figures which are used in illustration. While the rest which the gospel presents and which remained after the expiration of the legal covenant to the people of God, is exemplified by the hallowed day in which God rested from all the work of creation; and the seventh day of every week to the Hebrews, also the possession of the land of milk and honey, to the Israelites after their tiresome journeys in the wilderness. Indeed, all the sabbath days, sabbatic years and other legally appointed times of rest to the carnal Israelites, were figurative of that spiritual rest which believers in Christ enter when fully and experimentally delivered from the toil and bondage of the law. With this brief explanation of the types employed in our subject, as a key to the admonition in our text, we pass to notice the entering into the rest which is left unto the people of God.
At the expiration of the old covenant dispensation all the rites and ceremonies of that covenant were abolished. The shaking of the heavens and the earth was to remove the things which are shaken that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Heb. xii. 27.) Of the things shaken and removed, the apostle includes the old covenant with all its rites and carnal commandments. (Heb. viii. 13; x. 9.) But the things which cannot be shaken remain. The covenant of grace and salvation in Jesus Christ, embracing the promise of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, made before the world began, could not be shaken. The kingdom prepared for the saints from the foundation of the world, as described and contrasted with the Sinai covenant in Heb. xii. 18-24, is a kingdom that cannot be shaken; for it shall never be destroyed nor left to other people. (Daniel ii. 44.) It shall stand forever. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” - Heb. xii. 27. While the commonwealth of Israel organized nationally under the covenant of works, as we have shown, could not rest, only in a ceremonial sense, the kingdom of Christ, embraced in the covenant of grace, is emphatically a kingdom of rest. “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision, I will satisfy her poor with bread.” - Psa. cxxxii. 13-15. The bread which is to sustain our earthly nature, is obtained by toil and labor, and by the righteous decree of God, man shall eat it in the sweat of his face, until he shall return unto the dust, &c. But the bread of life which sustains those who belong to the kingdom which Jesus claims as his rest forever, is not obtained by toil and sweat, it cometh down from heaven, is freely given, and divinely blessed, to fill Zion’s poor. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious.” - Isa. xi. 10. The apostle finds a promise of rest to the people of God implied in the types, the entering into Canaan, the seventh day, &c., and this promise is exclusively to the people of God who shall all be righteous, for the wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest. But Paul says, “For we which have believed, do enter into rest.” Again, “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his.” When God had finished the six days of creation, he rested from all the works which he had made. Nothing more has been created; nothing more required to be created. So, when the people of God enter into God’s rest, they find it a perfect cessation from all of their own legal works to commend them to divine favor, for Christ is their righteousness. He is made the righteousness of God unto them, and as the righteousness of God cannot be improved or made more perfect than it is, they have only to rest in it. When trembling at the startling thunders of Mount Sinai, before Christ was revealed to them as their righteousness, they labored hard and long.
“They toiled the precept to obey,
But toil’d without success.”
Guilt-stricken and despairing with deep contrition they confessed their guilt, and the justice of the fiery doom assigned them by the holy law of God, while on their heart the crushing burden pressed them down. But while in this state, far from the reach of human aid, the blessed Savior appears in all the glory of the Father, in all the irresistible attractions of life and immortality, and his voice is heard, not in the terror of Mount Sinai, not in bursting peals of wrath, but in the still, small sound, which thrills the heart with heavenly rapture and supreme delight, and his words are, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke, 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.” - Matt. xi. 28,29. This is not a mere invitation, but a heavenly calling which cannot be resisted by any unto whom it is addressed, it is the King’s word and full of power. At his word, the burden is removed from the heart, yea, a new heart is given, a new spirit is put within, and a new song breaks forth in sweetest melody of praise unto God and the Lamb. The toil-worn soul is now released from Moses’ yoke, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear, and ceasing from all his own works to justify him before God or to meet the fiery demands of the law, he enters into that rest which remains for the people of God when all things else have passed away. This is the rest which Paul enjoyed, when he said to all the troubled saints at Thessalonica, Rest with us. Cease from your own works as God did from his. Come under the yoke (or law) of Christ, your King, learn of him, for he is meek and lowly; he will condescend to instruct you, and lead you about and keep you as the apple of his eye, as he did Jacob, and although he will stir up your old nest, and tear it to pieces, he will teach you to mount up with wings as eagles, to run and not be weary, and to walk and not faint; for his yoke is truly easy, and his burden is light indeed.
Now for the admonition. “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.” We have seen that such a promise is left, and such a glorious rest remains for the people of God, but how can any of God’s people even seem to come short of it? Much perplexity has been occasioned to some of God’s people by mistaking the true import of the admonition, by supposing that the rest remaining for the people of God, will not be entered until we reach the final consummation of our glory. But the apostle does not say, there shall a rest remain, &c., but “there remaineth therefore a rest.” The things that are shaken, are removed, and the kingdom of Christ is received, which is that Zion of which the Lord says, “This is my rest forever, here will I dwell.” It even now remaineth, and all true believers have entered into it, and in entering into it, they cease from their own works. But as in the type, the carnal Israelites who believed not the promise of entering into Canaan, could not enter in because of unbelief, their carcasses fell in the wilderness of Sinai; so the people of God seem to come short of gospel rest, whenever their doubts and fears and unbelief prevail. How can a child of God rest, confide and feel secure in the provision of the gospel while he doubts his personal interest in our Lord Jesus Christ? It is only when our faith triumphs over our unbelief that we confidently rest in the full security and blessed enjoyment of the house of our God. To doubt our calling of God, and our having been born again, fills us with trouble, darkness, and we recede from the place of our rest, and become entangled with the yoke of bondage, and find labor and fatigue, and until we are again delivered from our unbelief it is impossible for us to rest. But the moment our faith is renewed, or made to triumph over our doubts, we say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” The Jewish Sabbaths were designed to illustrate the rest which remains to the people of God. It was enjoined on them to rest from all their work, to kindle no fires, gather no manna, to do no manner of labor, nor were they permitted to think their own thoughts, nor to speak their own words. So in our Sabbath of gospel rest. We are to kindle no fires. “Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.” - Isa. L, 2. Under the gospel dispensation it is sabbath-breaking in this sense to kindle fires or get up revivals of our own kindling. When instead of waiting a visit or a message from the Lord, we think our own thoughts, make up our own creeds, speak or proclaim the vain imaginations of our own understanding, and speak our own words, we violate the gospel Sabbath law, and seem to come short of that rest which is promised to the people of God. But we are commanded to strive to enter into rest, by denying ourselves, by ceasing from our own works, and by trusting confidently in what God has said, and in what he has done.
“Go ye that rest upon the law,
And toil and seek salvation there;
Look to the flame that Moses saw,
And shrink, and tremble, and despair.
Let me retire beneath the cross,
Savior, at thy dear feet I’d lie,
And the keen sword that justice draws,
Flaming and red, shall pass me by.”
Reviewing the whole subject, we think the christian will perceive that there is reason to fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest (experimentally), we may seem to come far short of it. But still, although the faith of God’s people must be tried, and they have to experience much tribulation, and sore temptations, and often oppressed with doubts, and failing of the enjoyment of that sweet rest which we desire, the final triumph of the saints over all their doubts and fear, over all their sorrows and their sins, is secured in Christ, and their divine inheritance of glory is reserved in heaven for them; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time.
“O glorious hour! O blest abode,
Thus to be near and like my God,
And flesh and sin no more control
The sacred pleasures of my soul.”
March 1, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 310 - 315