THE soul often seeks rest and peace in transitory and worldly things, but finds them not. And why? Because the soul is of far more worth than all created things; it cannot therefore find the rest and peace it seeks in these meaner objects. All things of earth are fleeting and transitory; but the soul is immortal; how then can it find peace in these? All these are of the earth earthy, but our souls are of heavenly origin, how then could these satisfy its holy desires? In Christ alone it finds the peace it seeks (Matt. xi. 29); He only can satisfy and fully meet its immortal desires. Against the holy wrath of God, it quietly rests in the wounds of Christ the Saviour; against the accusations of Satan in the almighty power of Christ; against the terrors of the law in the gospel of Christ; against her accusing sins in the precious blood of Christ, that speaketh better things in the presence of God than the blood of Abel (Heb. xii. 24); against the fear of death it reposes in joyful confidence in the intercession of Christ at the right hand of the Father above. And so faith finds rest in Christ; but our love also finds there its most blessed repose. If we set our hearts upon earthly things, we shall not have this true peace, because these earthly things themselves do not have it, nor can they possibly satisfy the longings of the soul, because they are finite, whilst our souls, made in the image of God, ardently long for that Infinite Good, in whom all good things are. As then our faith ought to rely upon nothing in all the world but the merit of Christ alone, so also our love should be set upon no earthly object, not even upon ourselves. The love of self hinders the love of God, and we ought to prefer that love to all things else. Our soul is the bride of Christ (2 Cor. xi. 2); it ought then to cling to Him alone. Our soul is the temple of God (1 Cor. iii. 16), and hence it ought to be the dwelling-place of God alone.
Many seek for rest of soul in earthly riches, but out of Christ it cannot be found; where Christ is, there is poverty if not in outward reality, at least in spirit and feeling. When on earth, the Lord of heaven and earth did not have where to lay His head (Matt. viii. 20); and thus He would commend and consecrate the life of poverty we may be called upon to lead. Riches are something external to us; but the soul can look for true peace only within itself. And in the hour of death when all earthly things must be given up, to whom will thy soul then cling? Either riches desert us or we them; frequently this occurs in life, and always at death. Where then will thy soul find the peace and rest for which it longs?
Many hope to find rest in pleasure. Now pleasure may afford a certain rest and joy to the body for awhile, but not to the soul, and at the last it is always attended by pain and grief. Pleasure has respect to this life; but the soul is not created for this life alone, since at death it is obliged to leave it for another life; how then can it find true rest in pleasure? Out of Christ thou canst find no true peace for thy soul. But what was the life of Christ in this respect? All His life from His birth to His death was one of deepest sorrow. So He, who could rightly estimate the value of all earthly things, would teach us how to regard pleasure.
Many seek rest in worldly honors. But miserable indeed are they who are dependent for honor upon the fickle winds of popular favor. Honor is an external and short-lived good. But again that which ought to afford rest of soul must be within us. What more canst thou say of human praise and honor, than has been said of that famous picture of Apelles, the Grecian painter? Consider the little corner of the world in which thou art hid; what proportion it bears to the whole province in which thou dwellest, to the whole of Europe, to the whole round world. That only is true honor, which God will by and by bestow upon His elect children. The rest of any natural object is in its end; nor does it rest naturally until it has attained its true end and place. The end of a human soul is God Himself, since it is created indeed in His image. It can never then be at rest and peace, except as it attains the end of its being, that is God. As the life of the body is the soul, so the life of the soul is God; as therefore that soul truly lives in which God graciously dwells, so that soul is spiritually dead in which God dwells not. But how can there be rest to a dead soul? This first death in sin necessarily involves that second death unto eternal damnation (Rev. xx. 6).
And so it is that these evils without him cannot possibly disturb the rest of soul which he possesses, whose heart is firmly fixed upon God, and who enjoys His blessed divine consolations. In sorrow he is joyful; in poverty he is rich; in the tribulations of this world he is secure; in all the storms and commotions of this life he is tranquil; amidst the abuses and insults of wicked men he is peaceful; and in the hour of death itself he lives. He regards not the threats of tyrants, because in his heart he experiences the rich consolations of Almighty God. In adversity he is not cast down with sorrow, because the Holy Spirit inwardly supports and comforts him. He is not distressed because poor in this world’s goods, for he is rich in the goodness of God. He is not disturbed by the insults of men, because his heart rejoices in the honors God heaps upon him. He cares not for the pleasures of sense, because he has far greater joy in the ministries of the blessed Spirit. He seeks not worldly friendships, because he rejoices in the friendship of God reconciled to him through the blood of His Son. He covets not the treasures of earth, because he has a treasure laid up in heaven of priceless value. He fears not death, because he ever lives in God. He does not greatly desire worldly wisdom, because he has the Holy Spirit (1 John ii. 20) dwelling within him, teaching him, whose perfect teaching does away with the more imperfect (1 Cor. xiii. 10). He has no fear of lightnings and tempests, of fire and flood, of direful configurations of the planets, and eclipses of the heavenly luminaries, because exalted above all the powers and forces of nature he reposes calmly in Christ by faith, and lives in holy union with Him. He is not led astray by the allurements of the world, because deep in his soul he hears the far sweeter voice of Christ. He fears not the power of the devil, because he is sensible of God’s forbearance toward him. Christ who lives in him and is the all-powerful conqueror is stronger far than the devil, who busies himself in vain to conquer him. He yields not to the enticements of the flesh, because living in the Spirit of God he experiences the riches of His grace, whose quickening power crucifies and puts to death the sinful flesh (Gal. v. 24). He feels no dread of the accusations of Satan at the last day, because he is assured of the intercessions of Christ in his behalf.
And now may He, who is the only author and giver of this true rest, our Lord Jesus Christ, God over all, blessed forevermore, grant it unto our souls!