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lars ; first, that they, who die in this state of renovation, rest from their labours; and secondly, that their works do follow them.
The labours of life, and the Rest of death, were sig. nified to us from the beginning of the world: for God worked upon the six days of the creation, and then rested upon the seventh; giving us a promise and a pattern, that if we labour with him, we shall rest with him. No Rést was necessary to him; for the holy one of Israel neither slumbereth nor sleepeth: a world cometh forth into being, and is arranged into order and perfection at his word. He rested therefore for our instruction: to teach us, that the labour of this life, if it is for good, like that of God, will certainly end in the Rest of heaven. And we learn farther, by plain inference from this example, that there can be ho test for man, properly so called, till the works of this life are done and over.
There is a passage, wonderfully beautiful and instructive, on this subject, in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews--He that is entered into his Rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. In which the Apostle means, that the Christian who is departed, and hath ceased from the works of life, and not till then, enters into a state of Rest; which is not a mere cessation from labour, but a rest which is blessed and sanctified, and which is also heavenly and eternal, because it is called the Rest of God if they shall enter, saith he, into my Rest.
Hence again, we have another sure inference, that there will be no rest for those who do not labour : the sleep of a labouring man is sweet: he that will rest with God, must work with God. The idle and the unprofitable have their rest here (such as it is) and their trouble is to come after. Lazarus is carried by
the angels to his Repose, in what is called the bosom of Abraham; and they fall into a place of torment, where their eyes are at last open (they were shut all their life-time) only to discover that their condition is miserable and hopeless. Instead of having angels ready to receive them at their death, they fall into the company and custody of those, to whose advice and direction they committed themselves in their lifetime, without seeing their guides: but now they see their keepers.
The true Rest not only presupposes labour, but that this labour is of the right sort. They rest from their labours, saith the text; that is, from such labours as Christian men, who live and die in the Lord,
, are engaged in and exercised with. Wicked men have their labours; and the devil himself is always at work. Few men are more zealous and active than they who have ends of sin or mischief to promote. Such is the deceitfulness of sin, that many of the works of vice are very laborious and distressing to those who are occupied therein. But such labour doth not lead men to Rest; it keeps them for life under the torment and disappointment of their passions; which trouble them perpetually, as winds and tides give an unceasing motion to the sea. And it is too commonly followed by an hopeless death. The pains which tear them from the body are but the beginning of their sorrows.
The labours intended in the text, are the labours of good men; and we are to enquire more particularly into the nature of them, because it is added, their works do follow them. The works of their life are not forgotten; an account is taken of them all; they are noted in God's book. Their works follow with the fruits of them, and they shall reap as they have
sowed. None of their labours shall be in vain in the Lord; but all shall be repaid in their kind; as the
; husbandman who hath sowed wheat receives a crop of the same grain, and that with an abundant increase.
For their labours of mercy, they shall find mercy, even the forgiveness of their sins, in that great day, when all shall stand in need of it.
What they gave in faith to the poor brethren of Christ on earth, shall be repaid in treasure from the stores of heaven.
What they gave up in this world, through an uncoveting poverty of spirit, they shall possess in the kingdom of God. What they gave up was temporal; what they shall receive will be eternal.
If they delighted in peace, and laboured to promote it, they shall be reckoned among the children of God; and be heirs together with Jesus Christ, who came to make peace between heaven and earth.
By enduring persecution for righteousness sake, they shall be received as friends by the blessed company of heaven. Angels will welcome into their society those whom wicked and envious men defamed, as if they were not worthy to live; when in fact, the world was not worthy of them.
For these and other of their labours, great shall be their reward in heaven; they shall be numbered with prophets, martyrs, and saints, in glory everlasting.
The admonition arising from all this doctrine is expressed for us in few words by the Apostle-let us labour, therefore, to enter into that Rest; the plain interpretation is, let us study to enter into that Rest; which none will find, but they who make it their study to obtain it: labouring with this assurance, that as certainly as the six days of work are followed by
the Sabbath, so surely will the labours of faith be followed by that Sabbatism (that State of Rest signified by the Sabbath) which remaineth for the people of God. And as you see that all men have not a share in the Sabbath here, but either neglect the use, or despise the blessings of it; so it will be hereafter. Many are following their own vain pleasures on the Lord's day; many are absent from the church; and some sotting away their time in public houses; many are drudging at the accounts of their worldly occupations, rather preferring incessant labour for themselves, and the poor unfortunate beasts which serve them, than partaking thankfully of that holy relaxation which God hath given them in great goodness, for the ease of their bodies, and the edification of their minds. Such poor mistaken souls were found among the Israelites, who were led out of Egypt by Moses : they had no taste for that Rest which was before. them, but thought scorn of the pleasant land, and lusted after the ways of Egypt; where they had been in bondage, under that idle people, who kept them constantly to hard labour. Yet thither did those be. sotted people wish to go again, rather than follow God into a land of liberty. So they fell short in the wilderness, and never saw the blessings of Canaan. Their example is followed by thousands of perverse people, who are enemies to themselves, and lust after their own misery: leading a life of more labour and sorrow than God ever impused upon any of his servants, and finding no rest in death. Their example is proposed to us, that we may not follow it. Let us therefore labour to enter into that rest, tliat we may not fall after the same example of unbelief: then shall we rest from our labours, and our works will fol. low us.
Your minds will now be naturally asking the question, how far the things which have been spoken are applicable to the present occasion? You will expect I should make that application : and I should be unkind to you, and unjust to the departed, if I were to avoid it.
To speak of those who are gone, is often dangerous; because, perhaps, we cannot speak well, and humanity and decency forbid us to speak ill. To say the truth, I verily believe, it is partly owing to the decay of Christian piety, and the increasing corruption of the times, that funeral sermons are gone so much out of fashion : because so few are now found who are fit for them. However, we are under no difficulties of that kind in the instance now before us : had I thought so, I should by no means have made it my own choice, as I have done, to appear in the pulpit on this occasion.
Of our dear sister here departed, nothing can be said but what is good, and may edify the hearers. Such indeed was her own meekness and lowliness of mind, that she would have taken all praise for flattery; and I dare not have spoken it: but we may speak now without offence. How many useful, humble, exemplary characters there are in private life, who are never spoken of in public, to the end that their virtues may be applauded and imitated : who pass off the stage of life unknown and unnoticed ; like the flowers which blow in a pathless wilderness, and fall to the ground in secret!
Nothing was more distinguishable in her character, than that persevering quietness and mildness of spirit, which seemed never to have been moved to speak evil of any one. What a peaceable, and what a happy world would this be, if all were of that mind! It