The Rest of the Soul!
by William Nicholson, 1862
"Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." Psalm 116:7
God is the only foundation of true happiness; therefore it is the wisdom and privilege of man to look to him for substantial and never-ending bliss. If he applies elsewhere, he will be disappointed.
Man, while separated from God, is in a state of agitation and misery. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." Blessed is he who can say, "Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
I. God Has Graciously Become the Rest of the Soul.
Let it be observed that the soul required rest. It was absolutely necessary. Contemplate the soul of man as presented in the Scriptures: depraved, impure, guilty, condemned, cursed, and therefore wretched and miserable. What a lamentable description Paul gives, Romans 3:10-19; Galatians 3:10.
God has provided for the soul,
1. By devising and executing the stupendous plan of redemption, thereby reconciling the world to himself, 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19. This was the fruit of infinite love. John 3:16.
2. By giving rest to the condemned and weary soul, that penitently and believingly applies to him through Christ. Matthew 11:28-30.
He says to the guilty and distressed, "Your sins are forgiven!" To the prisoner he says, "Be free!" Luke 4:18. He gives complete absolution, and perfect freedom from all law charges.
Hushed is the tempest of wrath.
Sheathed is the sword of Divine justice.
God smiles upon the forgiven soul.
This is rest. See Isaiah 12:1, etc.; Romans 8:33, 34. It is called "entering into rest." Hebrews 4:3.
3. By becoming their portion. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26
The outcasts are taken in. "I will be a father unto you." God is their God with all his purposes of grace and mercy concerning them. All his attributes can be called into exercise for them. All the blessings of the new covenant are for them. The guardianship of angels, the influence of the Spirit, and the precious promises are for them. The administration of his government, and the conduct of his providence are for their welfare. Here, then, there is rest!
4. By separating from the world, and sanctifying them to his service. John 15:19; 17:14-19.
In their former state of sin and worldly devotedness, they had no rest, no peace. In the service of God, they "find rest for their souls; Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden is light." "Great peace have those who love your law."
5. He gives them rest by spiritual manifestation. By his Spirit, John 16:7. By his word — in his house — by fellowship with him. What delightful rest in prayer! Psalm 84:4-7.
6. Lastly. He will give them endless rest in Heaven — in his immediate presence. "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand!" Psalm 16:11. "There remains a rest for the people of God."
II. The Enjoyment of this Rest is Frequently Interrupted.
The experience of many Christians confirms this. Sometimes they . . .
walk in darkness,
have no clear perception of a saving interest in Christ,
are devoid of spiritual enjoyment,
they enjoy no rest in God, and are even indifferent about it. Job 23:8.
This abject state may be induced:
by neglecting the means of grace,
by the neglect of closet duties,
from the lack of self-investigation,
by worldly association, ever inimical to the prosperity of the soul,
by extreme anxiety about secular pursuits, and extreme devotedness to them,
by domestic cares, etc. etc.
Thus God and the soul may be separated. The soul may be cast down from the most lofty elevation, its joy be turned into sorrow, its light into darkness, its rest, its calmness, and its triumph, into agitation, confusion, and despair.
III. A True Sensibility of Spiritual Destitution Will Lead the Soul To God."Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
1. It is the language of an awakened sinner.
He discovers his lost condition — he perceives Christ as his rest. He hears him say, "Come," or "Return."
The dove sent out from the ark found no rest until it returned to Noah, his name signifying rest. The convinced sinner finds no rest but in Christ.
2. It is the language of one who perceives the fallacy of trusting in self-righteousness. What labor Paul made to establish his own righteousness! but he said, "Return unto your rest," Philippians 3:7-9.
That law, so holy and spiritual, I have broken;
its penalty I cannot remove;
its requirements I cannot perform;
its curse is upon me.
Around the base of Mount Sinai, I see a line drawn which seems to say, "Within this oircle is nothing but death!" On its summit there are the demonstrations of wrath. There the lightnings flash and the thunilers roll; the voice of incensed justice demands its victim. I flee from the base of that terrible mountain to the hill of Calvary — the place of refuge; charged, condemned, and pursued by the law — and I find rest in the arms of the crucified! You, O Jesus, are my substitute, my refuge, my righteousness and strength! Isaiah 45:24. He is the end of the law for righteousness. Romans 10:4.
3. It is the language of the returning backslider. He has had no rest in sin. The Lord deals bountifully with him in sparing him, etc. He says, "Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
The returning backslider says, "Cast me not away," etc. Psalm 51:11, 12; Hosea 2:6, 7.
4. It is the language of the afflicted and distressed.
I am insufficient for these trials. I shall sink if not Divinely supported.
God cares for me. He says, "Cast your burden," etc. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," etc. "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you!" Isaiah 43:2. Therefore, "Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
5. It is the language of the tempted.
God supports them. Christ intercedes for them. He prayed for Peter, Luke 22:31. The temptation may be great — the struggle long — but triumph comes at last. How sweet then to say, "Return unto your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." The Lord knows how to deliver the godly from temptation.
6. It is the language of the perplexed, dwelling on the mysteries of creation, providence, and grace — driven sometimes to the precipice of infidelity and atheism. I cannot unravel these mysteries. I believe and adore. I will leave all in the hands of God, let others deny his existence and government if they will. "Return unto your rest, O my soul."
7. It is the language of the dying. God has led me through the wilderness, to the borders of the promised land. Yonder I see the goodly land! There is my eternal rest.
Heaven is the very element, and Christ is the center and resting place of every gracious soul. The redeemed soul cannot live outside of that element; and it cannot rest out of this center; it is always struggling until it gets to Heaven; it is always restless until it comes to Christ. Therefore when my death comes, I trust I shall say from my heart, "Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
IV. The Return of the Soul to God Is Influenced by the Most Powerful Motive."For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
The bountifulness of God is a boundless subject, embracing . . .
all his purposes of love and mercy,
all the arrangements of his covenant, and
all the operations of his providence and grace.
It is manifested by the death and love of Christ, which love is . . .
as deep as the anguish he endured;
as high as the heavens to which he ascended;
as ancient as eternity, and
as lasting as the interests of the immortal soul.
This is the source of all spiritual life here, and of eternal life hereafter. And this is the constraining motive for the soul, calmly and hopefully to repose in God.
The Psalmist experienced the bountiful kindness of Jehovah in many scenes . . .
raising him from obscurity to be a king,
by many deliverances,
by hearing his prayers,
by preservation from death,
by inspiring in him the hope of Heaven, etc.
God's bountiful goodness was the magnet that drew him to God!