« Prev VII. Christ Asleep. Next »

VII.

CHRIST ASLEEP.

And behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.”—Matt., viii. 24.

Christ asleep—the eternal Word of the Father, incarnate, lapped in the soft oblivion of unconsciousness—a very strange fact, when deeply enough pondered to reveal its significant and even singular implications.

Where then do we go to look upon so great a sight, the sleep of God’s Messiah? Is he royally bestowed in some retired hall, or chamber of his palace? Is he curtained about and canopied over on his bed of down, as one retiring into the deepest folds of luxury, there to woo the delicate approach of sleep? Must no doors be swinging, no feet of attendants stirring in the halls? Are the windows carefully shaded, lest some ray of moonlight streaming in may break the tender spell of the sleeper? No, it is not so that Jesus sleeps, or with any such delicate provisions of luxury to smooth his rest; but he is out upon the Gennessaret, in some little craft that his disciples have picked up for the crossing, and upon the short space of flooring, or deck, in the hinder part, he sinks, overcome with exhaustion, and is 140 buried shortly in the deepest, soundest sleep. The open sky is over him, the boat swings drowsily among the waves, and the boatmen, talking over the miracles of the day, and all they have seen and heard, under the wonderful new ministry, continue on, as we may suppose, till by degrees the conversation lulls, the replies become slow and sepulchral, as if coming from afar, and finally cease. Meantime Jesus sleeps, fanned by the gentle breath of the night, rocked by the babbling waters, watched by the stars, that brighten seemingly to a finer purity, reflected from the sleeper’s dreams.

By and by a change appears. A dark and ominous cloud, sailing up, shuts in the sky. The lightnings begin to fall, crashing on the head of Gerizim and Tabor, and very soon the tempest that was booming heavily in the distance, strikes the little skiff, dashing the waves across, and filling instantly the forward part with water. The little company are thrown, as it would seem, into the greatest panic and confusion, unable to manage the sinking vessel, and only mixing their cries of distress with the general tumult of the storm. Still Jesus sleeps, folded in that deep self-oblivion which no rage of the elements can disturb. “And behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.” Even so, no wildest tumult without can reach the inward composure of his rest. The rain beating on his face, and the spray driving across it, and the sharp gleams of the lightning, and the crash of the thunder, and the roar of 141 the storm, and the screams of the men—not all of these can shake him far enough inward, to reach the center where sleep lodges and waken him to consciousness. It is as if both consciousness and soul were gone—gone up in holy dream, to bask in the divine peace, breathing airs of music, and wandering along the rivers of paradise, where angels moor their boats and watch the currents of eternity. Finally some one touches him gently and says, “Master;” whereupon he is roused instantly; for it is a tender word, spoken, too, distressfully, in a manner of appeal, and there is no softest call of compassion that is not louder in his ear than either tempest or thunder. So his sleep is ended, and the storm, in turn, is laid in a deeper sleep than he.

The sleeping of Jesus I believe is mentioned nowhere else in the gospels, and I do not recollect ever to have heard the subject presented as a topic of discourse, or even distinctly noticed—an omission the more remarkable that the theologic implications of the fact appear to be so important.

Sleep is a shadow that falls on the soul, as well as on the body. It is such a kind of state, or affection, as makes even the mind, or intelligent principle, unconscious. What could be more in point, then, for the speculative humanitarian, than to call this fact to his aid, by raising the question, what can be made of the sleep of Jesus, on the supposition that he is divine? Does sleep attack divinity? How can it be conceived that deity, or a nature essentially deific, sleeps, falling 142 into the condition of unconsciousness? And then what next should follow, in the common way, but that such as think to maintain the divinity of Christ, only as they are able to explain it, will make answer, that it is the human nature of Jesus that sleeps and not the divine—giving up thus, for the time, the fact of the incarnation itself; which, if it is any thing, is the absolute unity of the divine and the human in one person.

It would carry me too far, to go into these questions here, taking me, in fact, quite away from my subject. I most readily admit that Jesus, being essentially a divine person, can not, in good logic, sleep; and just as certain it is that, if we proceed logically, he can not, as having a deific nature, be a man. And yet he both slept and was a man. As being God incarnate, the Word made flesh, the infinite in the finite, he is logically impossible. But God has a way of doing the impossible. In the communication of himself to men, he tears away the logical carpentry, refusing to put his glory into it. The truth is that our laws of thinking are totally at fault, in regard to subjects of this nature, speculatively handled. All that we can say of the personality of Jesus is that he is a being in our plane, and yet not in it—in it as a practical approach of God, not in it as being logically resolvable by our scientific, or speculative deductions. The very thing proposed in the person of Jesus is to make an approach transcending any possible explication by us; viz., to humanize divinity; that by means of a nature, fellow to our own, he may bring himself within our range, and meet our feeling by a feeling formally humanized 143 in himself. And in order to this, there must be no doubt of his humanity; he must not be simply templed in a human body, but he must make his humanity complete by that last, most convincing evidence, the fact of sleep. If he were exhaustible only, or weak, or frail, as other men are known to be, but were never to sleep, we could scarcely feel that he is one of us; but beholding his intelligence close up, his consciousness fall away, and his prostrate body palpitating in deep slumber, we no longer question his humanity. Call Him the Word incarnate, the Son of God, God manifest: still he is none the less truly man to us, now that we find him asleep. No matter if we can not explain the mystery, or seeming contradiction, as we certainly can not. To say that only the human soul sleeps, explains nothing, and it signifies nothing more to us, if it does, than the sleep of any other human soul. To say that he is only human,: is against the plainest declarations of scripture, and against all that we know of his more than mortal bearing, or character. All that we can do here is to confess that the incarnate Word is somehow man, even one of ourselves, receiving and embracing in him the eternal love, and fellowship, and fullness of God.

There is then a very great spiritual importance, in the fact that Jesus sleeps. In it we behold the divine humanity sealed or set in complete evidence. Divine he must be, for his character is deifically spotless and perfect; human he must be for he sleeps like a man. 144 O this Great Benefactor and World’s Redeemer in his sleep! just to look upon him here, in this strange hour—the rain and the spray drenching his body, his hair and pillow of plank washed by the driving storm, his calm benignant face lighted by the glittering flashes that set the night ablaze—thus to gaze upon him, king of angels and men, descended to this mortal plight—how very nigh does it draw us to his humbled state, how closely, and by what easy ties of sympathy, knit us to his person!

And yet more nigh, by a sympathy more tender, when we go over the count of what he had been doing yesterday, and see how it was that he fell into a sleep so profound. The warrior sleeps returning spattered and spent from the bloody horrors of the field; the devotee of pleasure sleeps, because he has drunk the cup dry and would fain forget himself; one hasting to be rich, exhausted and spent by his overmastering cares, and the strain of his mighty passion, sleeps a hurried sleep, fevered by his price-current dreams; the hireling sleeps on his wages, gathering strength for the wages of tomorrow; Jesus sleeps, because he has emptied the fund of his compassions and poured himself completely out in works of mercy to the sick and the poor. His giving way to sleep is well accounted for, when we find him engaged the whole day previous, in works of teaching, advice, counsel, sympathy, consolation, healing, and rebuke, such as kept him in a constant expenditure of feeling and strain of attention, that no mortal strength could support. According to Matthew he 145 heals the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s wife’s mother, and continues at his work of healing, thronged by multitudes pouring in upon him, even till night. On the same day, according to Mark, he appears to have given the parable of the sower, and that of a candle hid under a bushel, and that of the earth as a harvest field sown by the owner, and that of the grain of mustard seed, with a discourse on hearing, and a private exposition of his parables to his own immediate disciples. It is also understood by some, combining what is given in the sixth chapter of Luke, and the third of Mark, that he was awake the whole night previous to this day, engaged in prayer; that he chose the twelve at day-break, and that coming down from the mountain, he was so thronged, at that early hour, that he could not so much as eat bread, and came near being trampled by the crowd; whereupon his friends laid hold of him to bring him off, declaring that he was beside himself; his mother and brethren also came to expostulate with him. However this may have been, it is at least clear that every moment of his day is a draft upon his physical resources, and the multitude are growing more clamorous for attention as their number increases, till finally, unable to bear the strain longer, he flies what he can not support. It even appears to be intimated by Matthew, that he was obliged to effect his escape, by hastening on board a vessel that lay near the place—“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart to the other side.” The greatness of the multitude, and their pressing applications 146 were rather a reason why he should stay, than why he should try to escape. They were only not a reason, when he was just ready to sink for exhaustion. Accordingly we see that, no sooner is he entered into the boat and cleared from the shore, than he drops on the deck of the skiff, apparently not minding the hunger of a whole day’s toil unrespited, perhaps, by food, and is buried immediately in a slumber so profound that not even the hurricane wakes him.

In this sleep of Jesus therefore, as related to the works of the day, a very great mistake, into which we are apt to fall, is corrected or prevented; the mistake, I mean, of silently assuming that Christ, being divine, takes nothing as we do, and is really not under our human conditions far enough to suffer exhaustions of nature by work or by feeling, by hunger, the want of sleep, dejections, or recoils of wounded sensibility. Able to do even miracles—to heal the sick, or cure the blind, or raise the dead, or still the sea—we fall into the impression that his works really cost him nothing, and that while his lot appears to be outwardly dejected, he has, in fact, an easy time of it. Exactly contrary to this, he feels it, even when virtue goes out only from the hem of his garment. And when he gives the word of healing, it is a draft, we know not how great, upon his powers. In the same way every sympathy requires an expenditure of strength proportioned to the measure of that sympathy. Every sort of tension, or attention, every argument, teaching, restraint of patience, concern of charity, is a putting forth with cost to him, as it is to 147 us. And yet we somehow do not quite believe it. We read that he goes long journeys on foot, but we do not conceive that he is weary and foot-sore as we might be. We read that he is actually “wearied with his journey,” and sits him down by a well, while his disciples go into the town to obtain food, but we do not seem to think that he is really way-worn, or faint with hunger, in the proper human sense of these terms. We read that he actually “hungered,” and that having no table, or supply, he went aside to explore a fig tree, and break his. morning fast on the fruit, but we do not think that such a being as he could really care much for a breakfast any way. He declares his poverty and his outcast lot on earth, by protesting that he has not so much as a place for comfortable and protected sleep—“the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head”—but we think of him probably as meaning only to say, that he has no property; never as testifying his privation of comfort in this first article of civilized bestowment, a sheltered, in-door sleep—obliged, like the dumb animals, to sleep where he may; in the mountains, on the rocks, sometimes under the night rains, shivering often with cold.

Now all such miscolorings of his human experience take him, so far, out of our tier of life, and slacken proportionally our sympathy with him. And they are beautifully corrected in the night of the boat. Jesus had become so exhausted that he could not, in fact, support himself an hour longer, and dropped immediately down, mind and body together, into the profoundest 148 sleep. Is it really no true sleep, but only a divine seeming? Is he conscious in it? Does he hear the storm? does he feel the rain? does the plunging of the boat startle him? Ah! there is reality enough here to make a sight how affecting.

Blessed be thy rough sleep, O thou great benefactor! thou that art wearied and spent by thy particular works and the virtues that have gone out of thee! What is it now to thee, that the waters drench thee, and the fierce tempest howls in tumult round thee! Sleep on exhausted goodness, take thy rest in the bosom of the storm! for it is thy Father’s bosom, where they that are weary for works of love, may safely trust, and sink so deeply down into the abysses of sleep, that no thunder even may rouse them.

Notice more particularly also the conditions, or bestowments of the sleep of Jesus, and especially their correspondence with his redemptive undertaking. Saying nothing of infants, which in a certain proper sense are called innocent, there have been two examples of full grown innocent sleep in our world; that of Adam in the garden, and that of Christ the second Adam, whose nights overtook him, with no place where to bestow himself. And the sleep of both, different as possible in the manner, is yet most exactly appropriate, in each, to his particular work and office. One is laid to sleep in a paradise of beauty, breathed upon by the flowers, lulled by the music of birds and running brooks, shaded and sheltered by the overhanging trees, shortly to wake and look upon a kindred nature standing 149 by, offered him to be the partner and second life of his life. The other, as pure and spotless as he, and ripe, as he is not, in the unassailable righteousness of character, tears himself away from clamorous multitudes that crowd upon him suing piteously for his care, and drops, even out of miracle itself, on the hard plank deck, or bottom, of a fisherman’s boat, and there, in lightning and thunder and tempest, sheeted, as it were, in the general wrath of the waters and the air, he sleeps—only to wake at the supplicating touch of fear and distress. One is the sleep of the world’s father, the other that of the world’s Redeemer. One has never known as yet the way of sin, the other has come into the tainted blood and ruin of it, to bear and suffer under it, and drink the cup it mixes; so to still the storm and be a reconciling peace. Both sleep in character. Were the question raised which of the two will be crucified we should have no doubt. Visibly the toil-worn Jesus, he that takes the storm, curtained in by it as by the curse—he is the Redeemer. His sleep agrees with his manger birth, his poverty, his agony, his cross, and what is more, as the curse that is maddening in his enemies is the retributive disorder of God’s just penalty following their sin, so the fury of that night shadows it all the more fitly, that what he encounters in it is the wrathful cast of Providence.

How fitting was it also, both that sleep should be one of the appointments of our nature, and that Christ should be joined to us in it. These rounds of sleep are rounds, in fact, of bodily regeneration, 150 and there is no better possible type of the regeneration of a soul, than the recreating of a body, in the article of sleep. It was spent by labor. All the functions were subsiding unto weakness. The pulse ran low and slow, the gait was loose, life itself was ebbing consciously, and a general ferment of disability was, in every faculty, from the brain downward. The man said he was tired, and alas! he could do nothing in himself to mend his condition. No surgeon’s or physician’s art could put him up again equipped for action. But the silent new-creator, sleep, could do it. Taking down the spent subject of consciousness into his awful abyss of nihility and dark un-reason, he will decompose him, so to speak, and put him together again, all lubricated for new play, and send him forth to his old works, as it were with a new nature. We are made familiar thus with great internal changes and mighty new-creations, wrought by mystic powers, whose methods we can not trace. And Christ the great moral Regenerator goes the same rounds with us here; suffers the same exhaustion, sinks into the same unconsciousness, rising to the same newness of life—himself regenerated bodily with us, as he fitly should be.

But as I have spoken of the sleep, I must also speak of the waking; or at least I must so far note the manner of it, as to draw from it some deeper and more fit conception of the internal state of the sleep. It is a matter of common remark that one who goes to his night’s rest charged with a purpose to rise at some given signal, or at some fixed hour, will catch the faintest 151 notification, and will almost notify himself, by a kind of instinctive judgment, or sense of time kept ready for the spring, even in his unconscious state. So Christ, whose love is ready, and full-charged to catch the faintest note of human distress, sleeps on through all the commotion of the elements, undisturbed; but the first cry of panic, “Lord save us, or we perish”—louder to him than all the tumult of the sky and the waters—strikes his inward ear and brings him straightway to his feet. “Then he arose and rebuked the sea, and there was a great calm.” The tempest met his sovereign look and fell abashed before him; type sublime of the diviner and more difficult calm that he will bring to the storms of the mind. “What manner of man,” said they, “is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” A far more wonderful and greater, that he can speak to man’s guilty feeling, and the turbulent storms of his remorse, and calm even these into peace.

But observe specially his manner when he wakes. It is as if the great commotion round him had been only a hymn lulling his slumber. He is not flurried or startled by the tumult, shows no sign of confusion, or alarm. If he sleeps, a man, he wakes, a God. You can almost see by his waking, that his dreams have been thoughts pure and mighty, coasting round the horrors of a guilty wrath-stricken world on errands of love and peace. Indeed if it has ever occurred to you to wish that you could once look in upon the sleep of Jesus, and distinguish accurately the dream-state of his thought, even this you may sufficiently guess from the 152 manner of his waking. How majestic the tranquillity of it. The tempest roaring, the men screaming, the vessel just ready to go under—and yet, if his waking were the sunrise, it would not be less disturbed, or less flurried by excitement. Could any thing make it more certain that his sleeping mind has been flowing serenely, steadied and evened by a mighty peace. Internal purity, order, and harmony have been the paradise plainly of his rest. In all the wild confusion of the night and the sea without, his self-approving mind has been sleeping, as it were, in a chiming of sweet melodies. Thoughts vast, mysterious, merciful and holy, have been coursing through his unconscious humanity, as recollections, or recurrences of habit, from his august and supremely good eternity; so that when he wakes, at the cry of his disciples, it is only to say, “peace,” to the raging elements, from that transcendent peace that was bathing his spirit within. It was no such waking as the bad and guilty mind, haunted all night by spectres, pursued by murderers, dropping into pitfalls, throttled by serpents round the neck, crushed by weights on the breast, scared by night-mare shapes in the air—it was out of no such element of guilt, or dyspeptic torment that Jesus waked. A sleep thus exercised prepares to fear and the wildness of panic—if the house be on fire, to leap into the fire, if the ship be sinking, to leap into the waters. A good pure mind sleeps goodness and purity, and wakes in peace; a bad sleeps painfully, conversing with internal horrors, ready, when it wakes, to meet the images it has seen. 153 Probably the sleep of a holy mind is even more distinct from that of a bad, than its waking state is, because, in sleep, the thoughts run just as the internal habit makes them; the superintending will-power that musters, and drills, and artificially shapes them, when awake, being now suspended. Hence the profound philosophy as well as the beauty of the poet’s prayer—

“Be thine the sleep that throws

Elysium o’er the soul’s repose,

Without a dream, save such as wind,

Like midnight angels, through the mind.”

I am fully conscious, my friends, that I have been discoursing on this matter of the sleep of Christ, in a somewhat random way; for it is a specially intangible, unexplorable subject. Not an unimportant subject either in its theological implications, or its practical relations to our Christian life, but one whose value does not so much depend on our definite interior knowledge of it, as in the external and evident fact. It does not definitely, or conclusively teach, but it suggests many things, and things only suggested are often of as great consequence to us as things proved. Let us note a few of the points suggested. And

1. The possible, or rather actual redemption of sleep. Sleep is just as truly fallen as humanity itself. And who that knows the sleeping thoughts of man, as they are, can have any doubt of it? Nay, who that knows the waking thoughts of man, as they are, can be at all ignorant how they will run when he sleeps? Gnawed 154 by care, racked by ambition, bittered by the gall of envy, sensual, selfish, fearful, hateful, a prey to bad resentments, loaded and clogged by excesses, filled with hypocondriac terrors from nerves that are shattered by abuse, what can he be, in his sleep, but a faithful representative of what he is awake? And hence it is even one of the saddest known facts of the world, that it sleeps badly—one of the most grateful and most touching facts of the world, that Christ will even be the Redeemer of sleep. He does not of course offer himself to the state of sleep, for it would only be absurd; but he does undertake the regeneration of the soul in character, and that includes every thing; for when the soul’s fearful stricture is taken off by love, when it is rested in faith, fortified by self-government, cleared by temperance and spiritual chastity, cheered by hope, it falls into chime, inevitably, with the divine order; so that, when the will is suspended, as in sleep, its internal movement flows on still in the divine order, meeting only grateful images and thoughts of peace. Hence partly it was that so much was made of their dreams, by holy men of old. It was no superstition of theirs—they had only come, so consciously, into the divine order of health and sanctity, that when they went to their sleep, they seemed even to be yielding themselves up to a sanctified flow of the mind, and to the unobstructed sway of a really harmonic movement with God. Nor is any thing more certain than that souls, advancing in holiness, will advance proportionally in the quality of their sleep. As they are being redeemed 155 themselves, so it is a part of their divine privilege that their sleep is also. Accordingly it is often reported by such as have cleared the bondage of nature, and risen to a specially high pitch of intimacy with God, that they find a remarkable change in their sleeping thoughts. None but Christ can sleep the sleep of Christ, and they that are nearest to him ill spirit will as certainly be most like him, in the peace of their unconscious hours. Their very redemption is, according to its measure, the redemption of their sleep.

2. It is another point suggested here, that there is a right and wrong sleep, as well as a right and wrong waking state. Sleep is the subsiding of soul and body into nature’s lap, or the lap of Providence, to recruit exhaustion, and to be refitted for life’s works. But what right has any one to be refitted for wrong; and above all refitted, by the help of Providence? Such sleep is a fraud, and the fund of new exertion obtained by it is actually stolen. Sleep was never appointed by God, to refit wrong-doers and disobedient children, and enable them to be more efficient against Him. Their very sleep they go to, therefore, as a crime, and the dark shadow of guilt curtains in their rest. O ye days-men, that a few hours hence, when your fund is spent, will go to your sleep to be refitted for to-morrow, is it to be a lying down upon wrong, upon sin, or will it be upon right—there is a very serious meaning in the question. Will you suffer it to rise and be distinctly met, when your head meets your pillow? How very hard a pillow would it be to many, if they took it understandingly!

156

Observe, meantime, how free a guarantee Christ gives to sleep, when it is right sleep. There have been multitudes of devotees under the Christian name, that made a great merit of withholding sleep, in the rigid observance of long vigils; as if the reduction of the soul’s quantity, and the obfuscation of its functions, were the same thing to God as advancing in holiness. These vigils are about the most irrational, most barren kind of fast, that was ever invented; for the reason that, instead of clearing, or girding up the mind, they even propose to make a penance of stupor and lethargy. It is a great mistake also of some that they are jealous of sleep, and have it as a point of merit to shorten the hours, by a regularly enforced anticipation of the dawn. Any such rule for the reduction of quantity is doubtful. A much better rule respects the quality. Make it your duty to prepare a Christian sleep; that kind which the exhaustion of a righteous, or right minded industry requires, and then you may know that Christ your master is with you. It is remarkable that he actually tore himself away from even his healings, and from vast multitudes of people crying piteously for help. He did not reason as some very good men often do, that he must go on, pressed by such calls of mercy, till he could stand no longer. He was famished with hunger, his strength was gone, and enough, to him, was enough. What merit could it be, if he should continue into the night, and falling at last on the ground for faintness, be carried off in that weak plight, to be himself commiserated in turn? He plucked himself away, therefore, fled 157 to the boat, and casting himself down, fell, at once, into the soundest sleep. So when a man’s capacity, full spent in good, comes to its limit, and conscience audits the reckoning of its hours, to fall back into God’s sole keeping, and be recruited by unconscious rest in his bosom, is the true Christly sleep, at once a natural bestowment, and a supernatural gift. Be it in a palace or a hovel, be it on the land or on the sea, be it in outward calm or storm, be it with man’s approbation or without, the resting place is glorious, the rest itself a baptism of peace—“God giveth his beloved sleep.”

3. The associations connected with the sleep of Jesus induce a very peculiar sense of his nearness to us in it. Only to have slept in some fisherman’s hut, or about some hunter’s fire, in company with a noted or publicly known person, gives a certain familiar kind of pleasure to our remembrance of him. In the same way, when the Son of God is joined to us here in a common sleep, subsiding nightly into unconsciousness with us, under the same heaven, a most strange association of nearness is awakened by the conjunction. In our very proper endeavor to exalt God, and give him the due honors of majesty, we commonly push him away, just so far, into distance; we seat him on the circle of the firmament, we lift him, not above the clouds only, but even above the stars; scarcely content, till we have found some altitude for Him, higher than all points visible, and even outside of the creation itself. When, therefore he comes down, as the incarnate One, to be a man with us, tired and spent as we by life’s toils, when he lies so 158 humbly down that even the waters of a lake some hundreds of feet below sea level, dash over him, and there sleeps, even as a soldier, or a sailor might, our feeling is in a strange maze of tenderness. Our God is so nigh, our glorious tent-mate in a guise so gentle, that we come to look upon him in his divine sleep, more tenderly than we could even in the waking mercies and charities of his life. The very heaven of sky and star, that ceils the august chamber of his sleep, is more sanctified from underneath, than before, it was from above. The world is another world—We are other ourselves. O this nearness, this daring familiarity, shall I say, of God! When he says so evidently in this dear, tender, mystery, “come,” canst thou, guilty, fearing spirit, reject an approach so lowly and so lovely! And thou disciple too, whose faith is clouded, and upon whom the storms of the mind, as well as the less terrible storms of Providence, are loosed, think it not strange or disheartening, that thy Master sleeps—tender and great sign is it for you that he does—only go to him and say “Master I perish,” and have it also to say, as the storm settles forthwith into peace, “What manner of man is this?”

Once more the analogies of the sleep of Jesus suggest the Christian right, and even duty, of those relaxations, which are necessary, at times, to loosen the strain of life and restore the freshness of its powers. Christ, as we have seen, actually tore himself away from multitudes waiting to be healed, that he might refit himself by sleep. He had a way too of retiring often to 159 mountain solitudes and by-places on the sea, partly for the resting of his exhausted energies. Sometimes also he called his disciples off in this manner, saying—“come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.” Not that every disciple is, of course, to retire into solitudes and desert places, when he wants recreation. Jesus was obliged to seek such places, to escape the continual press of the crowd. In our day, a waking rest of travel, change of scene, new society, is permitted, and when it is a privilege assumed by faithful men, to recruit them for their works of duty, they have it by God’s sanction, and even as a part. of the sound economy of life. Going after a turn of gaiety or dissipation, not after Christian rest, or going after rest only because you are wearied and worried by selfish overdoings, troubled and spent by toils that serve an idol, is a very different matter. The true blessing of rest is on you, only when you carry a good mind with you, able to look back on works of industry and faithfulness, suspended for a time, that you may do them more effectively. Going in such a frame, you shall rest awhile, as none but such can rest. Nature will dress herself in beauty to your eye, calm thoughts will fan you with their cooling breath, and the joy of the Lord will be strength to your wasted brain and body. Ah, there is no luxury of indulgence to be compared with this true Christian rest! Money will not buy it, shows and pleasures can not woo its approach, no conjuration of art, or contrived gaiety, will compass it even for an hour: but it settles, like dew, unsought, upon the faithful 160 servant of duty, bathing his weariness and recruiting his powers for a new engagement in his calling. Go ye thus apart and rest awhile if God permits.

But if you go to kill time, or to cheat the ennui of an idle life, or to drown your self-remembrance in giddy excesses, or to coax into composure nervous energies eaten out by the passion or flustered by the ventures of gain, there goes an enemy with you that will bitterly mock you, giving you the type, in what you seek but nowhere find, of that more awful disappointment that awaits the rest of eternity. What, in fact, are you dying of now, but of rest that is no rest—the inanity of ease and idleness, the insipid bliss of cloyed, overworn pleasures, nights that add weariness to the weariness of the days, sabbaths of God that are bores and not restings under the fourth commandment. O I would rather sleep in a fisherman’s boat, in thunder and tempest and rain, exhausted by a day of useful, Christly work, only dreaming there of the good rest to come, than to never know the exhaustions of true industry, and spend life, lolling in equipages, and courting pleasures that will not come! For what too are such ready, dying in their pampered bodies and worn out splendors, but to turn away heart-sick, as here, from the golden sands of the river, and chill with nervous ague for the shades of the trees of life. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; for they rest from their labors. Blessed only they; for where there is no labor, spending life’s capacity for God, there is, of course, no rest.

161
« Prev VII. Christ Asleep. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |