BROTHER BEEBE: - While attending the associations in your vicinity last summer, sister M. A. Watkins, of Bradford County, Pa., requested me to write through the SIGNS my views on the rest that remains to the people of God, as spoken of in the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. Judging from my present feelings, I do not flatter myself that sister W., or anyone else, will receive much profit from what I may write.
The first part of the chapter is very intimately connected with the closing part of the third. There we have an account of the disobedience and unbelief of the children of Israel after their miraculous deliverance from their Egyptian bondage, in view of which the Lord sware that they should not enter into his rest. The apostle referring to them as an example, reminds us of their unhallowed provocation, the terrible consequences and the direful destruction of those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness. Then comes the admonition in the beginning of the fourth chapter, "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." The saints should recoil at the idea of even seeming to come short of so benign a promise; for seeming to come short of it is seeming unbelief, and calculated not only to mar our own peace, disturb our own rest, but to affect in a degree the fellowship of the brethren and strengthen the hands of Arminians. No doubt but many of the children of God now seem to come short of that promise by remaining among the New School Baptists and among the daughters of Mystery, Babylon. The apostle then says to his brethren, "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." If Arminians could believe that faith is the gift of God, and that all men have not faith, they would surely blush and be ashamed of their incessant efforts to "convert sinners to God," or to "evangelize the world," by preaching what they miscall gospel. Can they believe that the word preached does not profit unless it is "mixed with faith." And how is it to be mixed with faith in them that have not faith? Faith is given us as a hand by which we lay hold of the promises, as a mouth by which we feed upon them; in fact it is the only faculty we have to serve as a recipient of the promised rest, and it is by faith we enter into it. Having this "substance of things hoped for," this "evidence of things not seen" by mortal vision, the weary saint ceases from his labors, sits down under the shadow of the prolific fruit-tree, serenely rests and rapturously sings,
"I spurned his grace, I broke his laws,
And yet he undertook my cause;
To save me though I did rebel,
My Jesus hath done all things well."
O what repose! What a heart-soothing solace when the sin-stricken, weary, heavy-laden, laboring child can quietly repose in green pastures, and sing with joy while immersed in overwhelming and unchanging love.
"Here's rest for the weary, here's heart-thrilling pleasure,
Here's glory and grace in a lasting abode;
Here life, love and bliss in an unwasting treasure,
Eternally flow from the fullness of God."
"For we which have believed do enter into rest." Here we learn what constitutes the rest of the people of God. It is to believe in Jesus, seeing that he has finished the work that we have tried in vain so long to do. Ah, say the devotees of Mr. Campbell, "That's it; believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That is easily done." Yes, that much seems easy even for devils, for they "believe and tremble;" but that belief merely, gives neither work-mongers or devils any real rest, and is of a very different character or quality. The children of God believe not according to a fickle fancy of the carnal mind, but are taught by the Holy Spirit that it is the work of God that they believe on Jesus. They therefore learn of the Father, come to Jesus, and believe according to the working of his (the Father's) mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead. It is "given them to believe," as well as "to suffer for his sake." Yes, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and no power inferior to that, is adequate to the working of that belief in the children of God to give them rest. It is more, then, infinitely more than a mere formal assent or historical belief that men and devils exercise under the influence of external evidence or outside causes. It is the result of an inward work of the Spirit of the Lord, unseen by mortal vision, unaided by mortal labor or scientific research, but felt, deeply felt by the subject upon whom that power operates. Thus it produced "the faith of the operation of God," "the faith of God's elect," and is peculiarly and exclusively theirs. It is not their province to "act (this) faith," but it actuates them, for it is an active working principle, producing wonderful and beneficent works, for it works by love, (Gal. v. 6,) purifies the heart, (Acts xv. 9,) it wrought effectually with the works of Abraham, (James ii. 22,) and the result of that faith is wonderful indeed; and perhaps no transition in this life is more remarkable, thorough and complete than that produced by the working of this belief in the children of God.
Previous to the reception of this reviving principle, we find no rest. The weary, wandering, working outcast toils and labors languidly, but incessant labor gives no rest. Nay, it but exhausts the feeble, failing powers, or proves that we are powerless. Impending dangers everywhere threaten us; the wilting, withering anathemas of a righteous, sin-avenging law seems ready to pour down its terrible streams of wrath upon us for our repeated violations of his holy precepts, while stern inflexible justice cries, "Pay me that thou owest," and while the enormous debt stands out with stern demands against us, we realize that we have naught to pay. Now the awful Judge seems to frown with a dreadful scowl upon us, miserable forebodings fill us with dismay and terror, and a wretched state of deep despair appears to be our inevitable fearful doom; we hunger, thirst for righteousness to meet the rigorous demands of that righteous law, but alas; all we have is as valueless as "filthy rags." We mourn in bitterness, but comfort is gone from us, and the last, lingering, forlorn hope wilts down in weakness, and we cry, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Thus the sin-stricken captive, the heart-broken penitent, bound fast in the fetters of sin, longs for deliverance with an anxiety that exceeds all other desires, and is prepared to appreciate the rest that is "prepared for the people of God."
And now the acceptable time, the day of salvation, when Jesus speaks, as I trust he did near a half century ago to a poor, downcast, helpless, lost sinner, "The Master is come and calleth for thee;" or perhaps to another, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee;" and if no words are suggested, the emotion, the sensation is realized; the heart, the eye is given that longs for and looks to Jesus, and in him we find the long desired, long sought for rest.
Now we cease from our own work as God did from his; and as the Spirit unfolds to us the glorious mystery that Christ has done all for us that the law required, and done it well, we see the imbecility, the worthlessness of our own toil and labor, and "lie down in green pastures." The awful dangers that seemed to threaten, the angry cloud that lowered from Sinai has vanished from the gloomy heavens, having spent all its force and fury upon the Son of God, when the day of vengeance was in his heart and the year of his redeemed had come. The heavens are calm, serene and brilliant, while the mellow and cheering light of the Sun of Righteousness gilds and brightens all the scene around us; all creation seems to be vocal in his praise. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Yes,
"His glory shines where'er we gaze,
With thrilling joy we chant his praise;
Enraptured, charmed and filled with love,
An earnest of the joys above."
And now we are prepared to exclaim with the psalmist, "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power."
The features of Justice now have changed! Placid, serene, satisfied. No flaming sword now threatens us; no stern demands for payment now; its claims have all been met, the whole debt canceled by the "Surety," and Justice now with propriety can say, Deliver that soul from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom. That terrible frown that seemed to flash with indignation from the face of the Judge, has given place to the most benignant smile, and instead of those alarming fears and dismal forebodings that caused us to tremble and quail before him, we eagerly flee to him as a welcome refuge, "as a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land;" and where that dismal state of deep despair hung like a frightful incubus upon our sin-burdened mind, that dread has given place to that everlasting consolation and good hope through grace; hope, that as a sure anchorage has entered into that within the vail, whither the forerunner has for us entered. "A hope so much divine may trials well endure." The hungering, the thirsting, the gaunt famine, is followed by "a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees well refined." The hungry is filled with the bread of life, and a plenitude of living water wells up into everlasting life, while the cheering voice of the bountiful giver is heard with rapture, "Eat, O friends; drink abundantly, O beloved." Instead of the flimsy fig-leaf, or the tattered filthy rags with which we once tried in vain to conceal our nakedness, the spotless and seamless robe wrought out on Calvary is placed upon us, and,
"Lest the shadow of a spot,
Should on my soul be found,
He took the robe the Savior wrought,
And cast it all around."
We may now join the laudations with Isaiah and say, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels." - Isa. lxi. 10.
A little while ago we mourned in deep despondency, wept with the gall of bitterness; but now we have "the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Our sorrow is turned into joy, "For his anger endureth for a moment; in his favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." - Psalm xxx. 5.
That poor captive exile that lay bound in fetters, incarcerated in the gloomy prison, is made to hear the voice of its great Deliverer, "He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to comfort all that mourn." - Isa. lxi. 1, 2. And thus "the captive of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." - Isa. lix. 25. This is a given rest. Said Jesus, "I will give you rest." Perhaps the rest is never so sweet, never relished with such heavenly rapture, such emotions of joy during our whole pilgrimage, as when we for the first time enter into it, for now it is a most acceptable time, now it is with us, "The day of salvation." There has been a lesson taught us while passing through this dreary, waste howling wilderness that we can never forget. But consoling as it is, it is only an earnest, a foretaste of the never-to-be-forgotten rest that still remains for the people of God. It is a lovely Sabbath morning indeed, when we are first brought to the banqueting house, where we for the first time realize the banner playing in the bracing breeze of love, and are made to sit down under the cooling, quieting shade of the apple tree, and feast upon the plenitude of its delicious food with delight. This is the christian's Sabbath, the anti-type of the former Jewish Sabbath, and while we keep it according to the true spirit of it, is a day of complete rest, and is not confined to anyone particular day of the week. How completely it corresponds with the type, and how radically different from the so-called Sabbath that Arminians prate so much about. It is well for them that the law of Moses is not in force, and not summarily executed against them now. Had they lived in the days of Moses and kept such a Sabbath as they now keep, death would have been their inevitable doom. The word Sabbath signifies rest, and Moses commanded that it should be kept in strict accordance with its meaning. Compare their Sabbath keeping with that commanded by the Jewish lawgiver. Moses commanded that no work was to be done on that day by man, woman or animal. Every man was to abide in his house or place, and no man was to go out of his place on the seventh day. - See Exodus xvi. 23-29, and xx. 10, 11. How does this agree with the keeping of the Sabbath by those workmongrel arminians that are so continually carping about the keeping of the Sabbath? Moses says, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work," but they can indulge in laziness and lounging six days, (perhaps afford to write out a sermon). But the Sabbath (as they call the first day of the week) is their most incessant working day, on which they labor for the most of their living. It is said that one in our vicinity charged his dupes twelve dollars a sermon and preached two sermons a day, which would be twenty-four dollars for his Sabbath day's labor. How would he have fared under Moses' rule? He says, "Whosoever doeth any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death." - See Exodus xxxi. 14, 15. They know nothing of the christian's Sabbath. From the time that the children of God believe in Jesus they cease from their own works as God did from his, while they have a correct view of the finished work of Jesus; and that constitutes their only Sabbath, their happy day of rest. But those Babel-builders have no such rest, for their whole theory presents one continual din of labor. They work for salvation, or aim to, on Moses' plan; but not knowing him they follow in the wake of those who "transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions." They must work to get their religion, work to keep it, work to support it, and so far as the christian's Sabbath is concerned, they are the most incessant Sabbath-breakers in the whole country. They cannot appreciate the rest of the people of God, because they are unacquainted with the wearisome toil, the heavy load that tires and weighs down the saint. David says of such, "They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men." But the wayworn child of grace, the "afflicted and poor people," would famish and fall but for their trust in the Lord for the promised rest.
After a toilsome and laborious day, how sweet is rest! Food is only relished when we are hungry, drink when thirsty; so the rest that remains to the people of God is doubly welcome, refreshing, invigorating, especially after toiling, laboring, heavy-laden, they all at once hear the soothing voice of the good Shepherd saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." Enjoying this refreshing rest, they wait upon the Lord, renew their strength, mount up with wings as eagles, run and are not weary, walk and faint not. "And in that day (of rest) 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." The poor arminians can work too, but find no rest. Their works, however, are of quite a different character. Their objects, their aims, their interests and their ends are all different. The object of the one is self-aggrandizement; that of the other is to glorify God. The aims of the one are to exalt, eulogize and puff up self; those of the other to extol, praise and magnify their blessed Lord. The interests of the one are the accumulation of worldly emoluments, worldly fame, worldly renown and worldly splendor. The interests of the other are heavenly-mindedness, self-humiliation to bear the cross.
"Their former gain they count their loss,
And nail their glory to his cross."
In short, selfishness drives the whole machinery of the worldly religionists, from their starting point to the consummation of their whole theory. Their prime object is to work themselves out of a bad place into a better one; to keep away from hell, and get to heaven.
But what a contrast is seen when we behold the objects, aims, interests and ends of the dear children of God. Having been taught the sinful propensity of their depraved nature, and that the depraved propensity still lingers and works in their fleshly nature, they desire to keep under their body, bring it into subjection to the law of Christ, deny themselves, take up the cross and follow their Redeemer; and when they can extol, adore, praise, reverence and love his precious name and cause and children; they most highly appreciate a rest from the temptations, toils, tribulations, doubts and fear's that so often assail and annoy them; and how sweet and welcome the repose that falls from the consoling lips of Jesus, "I will give you rest." Yes, sweet and welcome rest.
"A rest that calms the troubled breast,
The prelude of eternal rest;
A calm and solacing repose,
An antidote for mortal woes."
My dear brethren, sisters, and fellow-laborers in the cause of the dear Redeemer, if we have once realized, entered into and enjoyed this rest, let the fact console us that it shall remain for us. However wearisome our journey through this careworn life, however rugged and thorny our pathway, however burdensome our pilgrimage, Jesus will still give rest, and always at an acceptable time. It is often interrupted, often lost sight of in the distance that lies beyond the scan of our mortal vision, but is safely secured to us in Jesus. And while no works or means or instrumentalities of ours can secure or retain it, yet at every time of need, by reigning grace we enter into rest. No enemy so potent, no circumstance so formidable as to rob us of our rest, for Jesus reigns over all, and must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. Principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness in high places, the world, the flesh and the devil, with all his leagues and legions, may stand in hostile array against us, but one by one all will be crushed under the tread and in the triumphal march of the King of kings and Lord of lords, until the last one is swallowed up in victory.
"Then eternal repose in the land of the blest,
With the charm of a calm and immutable rest;
When enraptured with bliss, with celestial renown,
With a halo of glory the Savior we'll crown."
Brother Beebe, the foregoing remarks are at your disposal, and if published, dedicated to sister Watkins, and all the dear saints who may consider them worthy their perusal.
In conclusion I will say by way of apology to sister Dudley, of Missouri, and a brother of West Virginia, both of whom requested (earnestly) my views through the SIGNS on two different texts of scripture, that after some hesitation in my own mind, I did conclude to try to comply with those requests, but in consequence of other engagements and considerable traveling I have lost sight of the texts, forgotten what they were, and even the name of the brother who made "An appeal to Elder J. F. Johnson of Kentucky." I think the papers containing the requests were consumed in our disastrous fire at Lawrenceburg, for in looking over my file I do not discover them. I hope they will forgive me.
With earnest desire for the peace and prosperity of Zion, I still remain as I humbly hope, Your brother devotedly,
J. F. JOHNSON.
Unknown date of the Signs of the Times