One-hundred-fifty-two years ago on the occasion of the beginning of the year 1866, Rev. Henry A. Boardman, D.D., the minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, delivered his sermon for the New Year titled, This is Not Your Rest, which is an exposition of a portion of Micah 2:10. Included in his purpose for the sermon was encouraging his congregation to remember the five-word passage as a personal admonition and guide for the year.
Dr. Boardman was born in Troy, New York, January 9, 1808. He was a brilliant student at Yale graduating first in his class in 1829. He then studied for the ministry in Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained and installed the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 8, 1833. His hand never came from the plow handle, nor did he look back, because he continued in Tenth Church until his retirement, May 5, 1876. He served over forty-three years. Henry Augustus Boardman died June 15, 1880.
The following transcription of his sermon has been edited to provide a more comfortable text for the modern reader. Archaic words have been replaced with terms more common for twenty-first century readers, some of the punctuation has been modified, and in some cases portions of sentences have been recomposed for clarity. Sometimes his use of pronouns becomes confusing because as a paragraph develops, there are more nouns to which additional pronouns refer, which sometimes leads to a lack of clarity. The editing has hopefully cleared up many of the ambiguities, but in a few cases the editor had to guess at Dr. Boardman’s meaning. It could be that since the text is a sermon, the ambiguous pronouns were not so ambiguous when Dr. Boardman varied his pitch, adjusted hs volume, changed his facial expressions, and increased his gestures in the pulpit to provide nuance and emphasis. The presentation of a sermon that was originally delivered for hearing and seeing is not the same sermon when it is transcribed into text without the auditory and visual aspects of communication. An asterisk in brackets [*] has been added by the editor to refer the reader to explanatory notes at the end of the sermon. The Scripture references for specific quotations from the Bible have been added by Presbyterians of the Past. The sermon was originally posted for New Year 2016 on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. It has had a few spelling corrections, but no other changes have been made.
The sermon’s message is as timely today as it was in 1866 even though it is a very different world with different problems, political conflicts, technologies, hopes, and fears. When one is a Christian, the process of sanctification involves overcoming temptation and self adulation for the ultimate purpose of God’s glory. As one travels through the tortuous tunnel of life, one’s eyes must be kept on the light of the glory of God and the ultimate rest at its end. For another perspective on rest that predates Dr. Boardman’s perspective by 1500 years, see the Presbyterians of the Past article, “The Quest for Rest in Augustine’s Confessions.”
“This is not your rest,” Micah 2:10
Henry A. Boardman, January 1866
(Barry Waugh, editor, Presbyterians of the Past, 2018 )
Having in view the various passages of Scripture which have already been offered to you as “Year Texts,” I find nothing more appropriate for the present New Year than the statement, “this is not your rest.” It is so concise as to be easily remembered, so simple as to carry with it its own exposition, and so practical as to admit of a ready application to all the current experiences of life.
As it stands in the book of Micah, it is part of an admonition or command to the people of God. They had fallen in great disobedience. Their land was filled with iniquity. Yet, they fondly imagined they would be allowed to retain possession of it. Israel had been given them in solemn covenant as a perpetual inheritance and could not be taken from them. Their offended God dispels this illusion. He gives them to understand that the country had been given to them with the condition of their continued faithfulness to Him. This condition they had violated, and thereby forfeited the grant, Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest (Micah 2:10). They must relinquish their land, but they would, in fact, have to be driven from it and others would enter in and dwell there.
We are not now concerned with the Hebrews’ eviction from the land. But we are deeply interested in the words addressed to that people—”this is not your rest.” It has a lesson for us all—a lesson which we shall be likely to need every day of this coming year.
Besides what the words express, there are two things they imply. First, that we shall require a rest; and secondly, that there is somewhere a rest for us. On each of these points the Scriptures are, in other passages, very explicit. Nor could the prophet have meant less when he said, if we be allowed at all to thus generalize the sentiment, “this is not your rest.” Why speak to us of a rest unless we require one? And if this be not the rest provided for us, where is it? The latter of these topics may be noticed by and by; the former will interweave itself with the whole discussion of the subject. For the present, let us consider how we may take this text as our motto and carry it, to some good purpose, into the scenes and avocations of the coming year. We shall find, I think, that it is equally good for joy and for sorrow, for adversity and for prosperity.
We may begin with the brighter side of life. It may not at first strike you so, but the prosperous, as also the poor and afflicted, need the lesson, “this is not your rest.” Look around, see if it is not so. Go into these homes of health and plenty, these factories and warehouses into which wealth pours its abundance. What is the reigning spirit there? Allowing for exceptions, is it not, “I shall die in my rest; and I shall multiply my days as the sand” (Job 29:18); “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). The tendency of the prosperous is most often in this direction. Where the result is otherwise, it is because the tide has been turned back by a stronger counter current from without. The prosperous of society show how faint the power of resistance is to the pernicious influence. That it should consume the crowds who avowedly live for this world, is a thing, of course, that is to be expected. They yield to it by choice. It is the only happiness they know, and they have no sense of accountability which interferes with it. But to estimate the force of this injurious opposition we must come into the Church. See how often prosperity breaks down the props and safeguards of a Christian profession of faith. Where will you go, that you do not find a multitude of people who sit down at the Lord’s Supper on the Sabbath, running into every species of entertainment, not excluding the most extravagant, during the week? Where will you go that you do not meet individuals, once active in the church, whose growing piety has blighted as a frost withers a bed of flowers?
Does this prove that the acquisition of wealth is necessarily evil? Does it say that it is wrong to desire prosperity? By no means; within due limitations and in the use of legitimate means, there can be no sin in success and wealth. But it does prove that it is a perilous path to walk in; it is an atmosphere which one must not breathe without using every precaution against the subtle principle that infects it. And, therefore, it is that this Scripture is given you as some slight protection against the dangers of prosperity. It need not and should not be an ungracious memento—a specter to frighten you—a shadow over your innocent festivities. Why should it impair the enjoyment of life, to be reminded of our actual condition here; to keep in view the important truth, which no indifference of ours can make other than a truth, that we are here as sojourners in a strange land. If we do not hear this lesson, there must be something seriously wrong with our characters or activities. And all the more do we need it because it is unwelcome. This is one of the cases where antipathy to the remedy proves the danger of the disease.
Nor let it be supposed that the admonition here set forth is needed only by those who are thoroughly immersed in plans of sudden wealth or amusements. Your tastes may run in other directions; they may be wiser and nobler. You may find your happiness among your books and your paintings. Surrounded by a few choice friends, you readily surrender to others the frivolities of society, the conflicts of politics, and the contests and rewards which divide the great body of even able and cultivated men. This is well as far as it goes. But, even in this tranquil and elevated sphere, you may forget the true ends of life. It may be very needful that as you sit in your well-stocked library, or loiter through your choice gallery, you should recall now and then the admonition, “this is not your rest.” Peradventure, the occasion for this may be quite as urgent with you as with any of the eager crowd who jostle each other along the thoroughfares of business. For these tastes are eminently fascinating. Few persons indulge these attractions without becoming enthusiasts. And an obvious reason for this is that the pleasure they yield is more satisfying than that supplied by most other pursuits. It comes nearer to filling the capacities of the soul—not that it does fill them. When was a scholar, a painter, a sculptor, or a musician, perfectly satisfied? But, as among the customary professions of men, the inherent craving of the mind after some real good is at least better met in these directions than in others. And thus they usually become supreme and controlling. Unless carefully watched, the arts and intellectual pursuits detach the affections from their true object, indispose to serious thought, create a distaste for religious meditation, and repress all interest in the church, the study of the Scriptures, and private devotion. Assuredly, then, the class of men here intended require to have the lesson kept constantly before them, “this is not your rest.”
We now will pass into quite another sphere, where we offer Micah’s Scripture as a sedative to worry.
“Worry!” How wide the sweep of this word! Who can reckon the vast concourse it represents? It were easier to count the hearts which have not some worrisome burden than those which have. The burdens, it is true, are sometimes self-imposed. There are persons who are constitutionally anxious and worry. They must have something to feel distressed about. Their eyes, by some strange defect, have one lens too many and it is always tinted to see everything in a false light. Have you not met these unhappy people full of misgivings, skillful in detecting the dark side of things, suspicious of a latent hot wind mingled with the fresh breath of spring, treating good tidings as the proverbial harbinger of bad, and fearing to rejoice in the mercies of today, lest some trouble may come tomorrow! Poor, unquiet souls, what a toilsome journey they have of it! The path to Bunyan’s celestial city in Pilgrim’s Progress is not overly smooth at best, but to them it is very rugged. Somehow they are attracted to the rough places. They rather choose them, because when they come to a spot where there are no rocks, the air is perfumed with flowers, the living water sparkles in the sunlight, and the melody of the distant harpers seems floating down from the palace of the Great King, they begin to apprehend that they must have wandered out of the road. Nothing will do which savors of present enjoyment.
Now it might seem incongruous to come to disciples like these with the admonition, “this is not your rest.” For do they not know it already? Is it not this very conviction that is spreading such a gloomy hue around them? It is, and it is not, according as the lesson is understood. What they gather from the lesson is, that since this world is not designed to be our permanent residence, therefore we are to make ourselves as uncomfortable here as possible. The true use of it is just the opposite of this. “This is not your rest,” therefore, do not be surprised at the anomalies and difficulties you encounter. Do not exaggerate them. They are frequent enough and serious enough. But life is not made up of these. The good Master we serve has mercifully mingled troubles with our portion that they may keep us mindful of the rest that awaits us, and they help to discipline us in our way. But we miss the benefit of troubles whenever we become blind to the mercies with which He has tempered them. Although our “rest” is not here, yet we have resting places here. There is many a green pasture, and many a spring by the roadside, for the refreshment of weary pilgrims.
The hill of Zion yields,A thousand sacred sweets,Before we reach the heavenly fields,Or walk the golden streets.
And if this is not enough to check the rising waters of thoughts of doom, it might be sufficient for you to remember what lies beyond the flood. That you as a Christian have a “rest,” this you do not question. Why not, then, make the best of the inconveniences of the way? Why live in constant fearfulness, when you could trust the Father’s care and be at peace? Have you ever found that your nervous fear of trouble, as a cherished habit of mind, gives you strength for present responsibilities, or makes you fitter for the heavenly rest?
But there are modes of worry, anxious care, which cannot be referred to thoughts of doom, or morbid fear. People who are in no way morbid in their feelings have anxieties about their children, their businesses, their domestic concerns, about public affairs, and about the Church. Do we reprimand this? Do we say, “It is foolish and wrong; you ought to know better!” For how can we avoid all anxiety about these things? We have too much at stake. Our feelings are too deeply involved. We have seen too much of the peril that assails all earthly interests for us to remain at ease. This is not what our Heavenly Father asks of us. At least, He would not have us impassive stones. It was not for inaction that He endowed us with these feelings and tender sympathies. Life fails of its proper discipline when we become petrified, even though we may imagine we are doing service to God. But we need not, in eluding one extreme, go to the other. If we must worry, let it not run into a consuming passion. Let us not treat the source or occasion of it as we might if this world were our permanent abode. Viewed only in this light, there might be cause enough for painful and lasting consideration. But there is another light to fall upon the scene, “this is not your rest.” Do not these words relieve the shadows blurring your situation?
Take, for example, matters of public concern. The course of events both with the State and with the Church may fill you with apprehension.[*] There are periods when no friend of the Church or of the human race can well avoid this—certainly there is but one way of counteracting it. Excluding the doctrine of providence and a retributive hereafter, nothing could reconcile one to the moral chaos which the world presents to the eye. When we think what it might be and what it is; when we compare its governments and peoples in their actual condition with the state they are capable of attaining; when we contrast the relative prevalence throughout the globe of piety, justice, benevolence, and content, on the one hand, and ignorance, oppression, superstition, violence, and suffering, on the other; it is natural to anticipate a future which shall engulf the human race in still deeper darkness and consign it to a more hopeless misery. This, I say, is “natural.” Looking over the scene from any mere earthly standpoint, we can hardly avoid it. For the mysteries which meet the eye are intractable to any human wisdom. There is only one key to them, and it is our own fault if we have not secured it, “this is not your rest.” Here is the solution to this mighty riddle of public concern. This disorder and confusion; this reign of passion and cruelty; the triumphs of evil over virtue, of might over right, of the slow progress of Christianity; the jealousies and divisions within the church—in a word, the whole tide of events so counter to our plans, and apparently so pregnant with evil—why should this fill us with apprehension? Is it not just in keeping with the design of the present life—which is confessedly preparative and transitory—where nothing is completed, nothing stable, nothing so isolated that you can pass a judgment upon it without knowing all that has gone before and all that is to follow? If this were intended as your “rest,” you might well be appalled. But because it is not, you have your remedy against desponding fears. Whatever unpleasant aspect the world may present to you, you know whose hand is on the helm, and how able He is to control the winds and the waves, and how certainly He will bring the ark which bears the hopes of a ruined race into the haven of perfect peace. These tempests of life in government and politics are only helping it on its way. And it is part of their errand to keep us mindful that we are not to seek our rest here.
It is a slight transition when we pass from the sphere of worry, or anxious care, into that of positive trials. A broad area it is. Few of us will get through the year without traversing some corner of it. And there may be those here whose paths will take them into its stretches of deepest gloom and danger. In any case, it will prove not to be bad equipment for the way if we can go forward with the sentiment engraved upon our hearts as with the point of a diamond, “this is not your rest.”
We have seen how much the rich need to know, “this is not your rest,” and it is no less the case for the poor. The one class, the rich, for admonition; the other, the poor, for encouragement. How compassionate its aspect towards the toiling millions! How sad that so few of them should open their hearts to its benediction! Shut the Bible, and the poor have a dismal lot. Hard enough it may be at best. But how much harder without the teachings of Christianity! Privation, weariness, anxiety, exposure to suffering and to sin, scant comforts, cravings never satisfied, today like yesterday, and tomorrow as today—if this be your all, you drag a heavy chain. And is it not all, in so far as the world is concerned? Has the world any balm for your wounds, any drink to revive your waning strength, any crutch you can lean upon? Can the world hold out any future good which may compensate for the trials of the present scene? We cannot deny that the world tries to counteract these evils. It comes to you with its pleasures. It offers you an intoxicating beverage, the theater, the gambling table, and a wide range of similar recreations. With these you are to drive your cares away, and end the curse from Eden of laborious work. That multitudes attempt the experiment of entertaining distractions, is self-evident. And it would not be candid to deny that some have achieved a sort of success. A dear-bought success it is, however. These so-called pleasures are fragile and temporary. They break down the better principles of the soul. They nourish tastes and habits that turn into traps for unwatched steps. They strengthen the burdens they are invoked to relieve. Where the world’s diversions protect one wound, they open another. Every hour of enjoyment they supply is followed by a longer period of pain. And the life of the poor that was barely endurable without them becomes intolerable with them.
How different from man’s is God’s remedy for these trials! When Jesus came to our world to rescue us, He took his place among the poor. From that first Christmas night, eighteen centuries ago, the paths of poverty have been sanctified, as any path must be which the feet of Jesus have pressed. Then, Christ’s personal ministry was chiefly among the poor. All the doctrines, precepts, and promises, which fell from his lips and those of his apostles were replete with comfort for the poor. And as He gives them other supports, so also He cheers them with that sweet assurance, “this is not your rest.” As if Jesus had said, “You are ready to complain of the roughness of the way, of your hard work, your difficult fare, your incessant struggle with want, and your dread of coming misfortunes. But did not I tread this path? Have not I felt all its thorns? Have not I promised you my sympathy? And do you forget the lesson so often taught, that these trials are but for a moment? In this life you must have them. It was never meant that you should find your rest here. But there is a rest awaiting you. Set your affections there. And when you attain it, you will not regret one step of the way that has brought you to it.
With the same wise and gracious forethought the Master addresses this lesson to the sick, the bereaved, and the sorrowing of every class. For real problems heavenly comfort offers the only sufficient remedy, so that unless we accept the love and sympathy of Christ and the sense of his all-controlling providence, then we are without hope. There are many who know, and others who will know in the course of another twelve months, what those trials are. The loss of health is a far-reaching affliction, for the shadow it casts is broad enough to cover nearly the whole sphere of life. Happy is the invalid who has learned that, “this is not your rest.” And is it not to instill this very lesson that sickness often comes? And to enforce it that it is frequently prolonged through weary weeks and months? Infirmity found you, perhaps, clinging too fondly to earth, laying your plans for a long course of prosperity, and doing just as you might have done if you had really believed that this was your rest. Your health gave way and you distrusted your plans. The world began to wear a different face. Its resources failed you when you needed them most. There came to you longings which the world could not satisfy. And, looking upward for comfort, you yielded yourself to the conviction that your true rest is to be found only beyond the grave. Convinced of this, you discovered that feebleness and suffering became not simply tolerable, and that you could cheerfully accept them with the feeling—
Glory to thee for strength withheld,For want and weakness known,And the fear that sends me to thy breastFor what is most my own.
I review in this poetry quotation a familiar experience, and one that will be many times repeated before all God’s people are prepared for their heavenly rest.
If looking to “this is not your rest” is the lesson of sickness, how much more so that of death! Go with me into this mansion with its windows closed and sadness at the door. Sit down with this group of mourners. Can you take the measurement of this great sorrow, these lacerated affections, these blighted hopes, these pensive memories, these undefined fears, this loneliness, and this desolation? Can you interpret it? Not by the methods of any earth-born philosophy. You can neither comprehend nor find comfort in it. For nothing you do for these mourners will bring comfort, so they continue to weep. But another voice falls upon their ears—”this is not your rest.” And instantly light begins to illumine the scene. The heavenly “rest” is revealed, not in its splendor, but some broken rays of light come diffused into the gloom, which are enough to show that even death itself stands at the very portal of life—
The bright beginning of eternal bliss,The gleam of coming immortality.
There are other trials in life which find in this lesson their only adequate relief. Their need of it is greater because they fail to have the sympathy that serves sickness and bereavement. In the class of trials here intended may be embraced the experience of ingratitude, unkindness, slander, the loss of friends, and also the loss of interest in life. These troubles come with an added burden because they are ordinarily borne alone. It may be pride, it may be a morbid love of grief, it may be a simple conviction of duty, but the wounded spirit declines all fellowship with its pain. The sense of wrong is keen and deep seated, but the world cannot resolve it. The quivering shaft of the arrow of distress piercing the heart has no friendly hand to extract it. And so you encourage yourself, as you may, to suffer in silence. Of course, the goodness of life has abandoned you, and no matter how festive the situation into which you enter, there is no activity in which you indulge which does not have an undercurrent of wounded feeling and conscious discontent with this treacherous world.
Now of what avail would it be to you if one said—“Nothing unusual has happened to you. Every one encounters ingratitude. The world is full of envy and uncharitableness. On every side there are people to whom the best sensibilities of the heart are no more important than beds of wild flowers are to the huntsman whose horse’s hoofs trample them in the dust. Why mind such people? Let them say or do what they may!” This kind of remark may be familiar to you, but it does not help you. There is no healing in it for a wounded spirit. Nor is there in any ointment which the world has to offer. But it is not a futile message to come to you and say, “this is not your rest.” Your Heavenly Father means that you shall not take the world’s counsel as your rest. And to prevent this, He permits these trials to come upon you. He knows the peculiar correction which every one needs. Why this particular discipline is precisely what you require, you may not understand. But there is a reason for it, or it would not have happened. One thing is apparent—it sets your trials in the only light which can suppress murmuring or expressions of discontent. For it reveals God’s hand in them, and reminds you that they are simply incidents of a temporary trial, which, rightly understood, will end in a perfect and unchangeable “rest.” This conviction will take you to the mercy seat for comfort. And while it may not reduce your sense of being wronged, or your feeling of bitter disappointment, it may do much to inspire you with a patient and even cheerful temper while burdened with injuries.
There is a different sphere into which we may take this short Scripture from Micah with the certainty of a ready and grateful hearing. The conflict with sorrow and suffering is painful enough, but it is nothing compared with the conflict with sin. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). “That which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). What Christian does not recognize his own experience here? Who does not know the bitterness of this warfare? Who is there that does not have wounds to show? Who has not been so oppressed by it at times as to feel weary of life? Who could endure it were it not for the assurance, “this is not your rest?” Terrible as it is, remember that this conflict will not last forever. It may last while life does, but then it ceases. Not till then, for He who calls dead sinners to life wills that they shall learn something of the evil of sin, in order that they may know how to appreciate the goodness of their redemption. The rougher the journey, the sweeter will be their rest. And so, however they may rise to the greater challenges of Christian living, they shall still find the path set thickly with thorns, for they sow them as they go, and they go on sowing them up to the very gates of the celestial city of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Let me illustrate this by the testimony of a most reliable witness. Writing from her couch of weakness and suffering only nine days before her death, that singularly gifted woman, Caroline Fry [*], has said to her friend—
I shall tell you why I want no time of preparation, often desired by far holier ones than I. It is not because I am so holy, but because I am so sinful. The peculiar character of my religious experience has always been a deep, an agonizing sense of sin: not past, but present sin; the sin of yesterday, of today, confessed with anguish hard to be endured, and cries for pardon that could not be unheard; each day cleansed anew in Jesus’ blood, and each day loving more for more forgiven; each day more and more hateful in my own sight, and hopeless of being better; what can I do in death, I have not done in life? What am I to do in this week, when I am told I cannot live, other than I did last week when I knew it not? Alas, there is but one thing left undone; to serve Him better; and the death-bed is no place for that. Therefore I say, if I am not ready now, I shall not be so by delay, so far as I have to do with it. If He has more to do in me, that is His part. I need not ask Him not to spoil his work by too much haste.
These touching words will awaken responsive echoes in many a heart. In this case, the lesson, “this is not your rest,” had been well and thoroughly learned. And the saintly sufferer was eager to go to the land which was her rest. We are all learning this lesson. And the deeper our experience of the power of sin, the more earnest will be our aspirations after a full discharge from this exhausting warfare in the final rest.
There are various other aspects in which this Scripture from Micah might be set forth as an appropriate text for the year. But it is of greater importance to enforce the primary truth it indicates. How slow of heart we are to apply ourselves to Micah’s words and keep it in remembrance, which has already been pointed out. The temptation to take this world as our rest has arrayed on its side the decisive bias of our natural appetites, the whole power of sense, the ties of blood, the presence of popular example, the countless fascinations of the world, and the remoteness and spirituality of the true rest. The potency of these influences may be seen in the powerful force they exert over the mass of men, and still more, in the perpetual struggle they impose upon those who attempt to repel them. The necessity of resisting them, however, is too obvious to require argument. Reason and Christian obedience alike demand it. It is due to God, and to our own souls. There is neither solid peace for us here, nor happiness hereafter, unless we remember “this is not your rest.”
What greater mistake can anyone make than to substitute the mere vestibule of life for life itself, the journey for the goal, the conflict, with its scant intervals of peace, for the final rest and crown! What grosser indignity can be shown to our Maker than to allow his dominion over us to be usurped by the creature, and to waste our lives upon self indulgence. He has given us to be occupied in his service! What baser ingratitude to the Savior than to lavish upon the transitory interests of this world the love and honor which are due him alone! All this is involved in taking the world as our rest. Shall we not set out in a new year with a determination to shun this fatal error? The due consideration of that future rest would curb the tendency to rest here. It is a rest which answers all the conditions our circumstances demand—a rest from sin, from toil, from suffering, from sorrow, from death, from trials of every kind; a rest which embraces absolute purity, perfect bliss, and an everlasting growth of the soul in knowledge and holiness. It is a rest which God has linked with the present life, and which owes some of its sweetest attractions to our experiences here. The one sphere is in order to the other. It would often check the rising murmur and cheer your saddened heart, to reflect that the sorrows of your present life are the necessary introduction to a realm which knows no sorrow. It would chasten the ardor with which you pursue the world, as well as moderate the grief of your disappointments, to remember that with the whole world as your treasure you would still be discontented, unless you could secure the future rest.
Here is our mistake—that we view so lightly that true rest. In theory we profess to believe that our best friends are there, our most valued estates, our truest comforts. How strange, then, that our thoughts should not be there also! An authority we all reverence has said, “Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also” (Matthew 6:21). Tested by this rule, is our treasure in heaven or on earth? Sadly, we have to confess that we are so much engrossed with the cares, the business, the plans, the possessions, the trials of earth, that we often seem to lose sight of heaven altogether. This is one main source of our unhappiness, our unfaithfulness, and our danger. Our earthly blessings fascinate and ensnare us. They make us forget that they are sent only to refresh us on our way to the better country. Overtaken by misfortune or sorrow, we halt at the trouble, unmindful that it brings a gracious message from our Lord to hasten on toward our rest. If we meet with ingratitude or injustice, we think more of the wrong and its authors than of the merciful purpose of Him who would use it as a means of relaxing our hold of earth, and invigorating our faith in his promises. Let the future rest have its due place in our affections, and these annoyances along our way will not greatly disquiet us. Even the more serious calamities of life will lose some of their harshness. The personal conflict with sin will become strengthened. For how slight the loss or discomfort which earth or hell can visit upon one who is fully imbued with the feeling that this is not his rest, and whose thoughts and desires are habitually occupied with the heavenly rest!
Let this heavenly rest be your resource through all the temptations and afflictions of the year. Take it with you as well into your brighter as well as your sadder hours. You will need it to detect the traps which health and success spread around your feet. And it will strengthen you alike in your efforts for personal holiness, and in your exertions for the good of others. Some of you are no strangers to such labors. If you are ever tempted to abandon or abridge them, if your toil oppresses and exhausts you, cheer up, faint heart, “this is not your rest.” You must needs work hard here; the Master of the vineyard has so appointed your task. He knows how heavy your duty is, and how ready flesh and blood is to sink under it. But He toiled much harder for you. And it is in mercy that He permits you to do something for Him. It will not be very much in the end, but He will treat it as if it were. These feeble but grateful efforts at serving him will have a glorious recompense in the rest He is preparing for you.
What greater mercy can I desire for you than that you all have this Scripture written upon your hearts as by God’s finger, “this is not your rest.” To some of us the lesson will, no doubt, be brought home during the present year, in a manner not to be misunderstood or forgotten—
The cradle and the tomb, alas, so nigh,To live is scarce distinguished from to die!
And death will not pass us by. God grant that we may so live in the faith of his holy Word, and with a steadfast trust in the blood of Christ, as those who are humbly and joyfully looking forward to the rest which remains for the people of God.
[*] It was for New Year 1866 when Dr. Boardman delivered this sermon. Not so long ago General Lee had surrendered, there were differing ideas about the assimilation of the former slaves into the reunited nation, and there were questions regarding how the future of the South would play out—all of which contributed to an unsettled and tense nation. There were many unhappy people in the country and many difficult issues to resolve. With respect to the Presbyterian Church, some were hoping for a quick reunion of the Old School, North and South, but on the other end were some Presbyterians seeking both an ecclesiastical and political heavy hand upon the former Confederacy.
[*] Caroline Fry was a writer of popular Christian books in the Victorian era. Her married name was Caroline Fry Wilson. Some of her books are Assistant of Education, 1826; The Listener, 1833; Christ our Example, 2nd ed. 1834; The Table of the Lord, 1840; A Word to Women, The Love of the World, and Other Gatherings, Being a Collection of Short Pieces, 1840; Christ our Law, 1842; The Scripture Reader’s Guide to the Devotional Use of the Holy Scriptures, 1849; and An Autobiography, and Letters, of [Caroline Fry]… etc., 1849, see pages 339-340 of this last title for the quote used by Henry Boardman.