MEDITATION: True Rest of the Soul, Johann Gerhard

The mind that leans upon the Lord is at rest.

The soul often seeks rest in transitory and worldly things but does not find it.  Why?  Because the soul is nobler than all other creatures; it cannot find rest and peace in such ignoble things.  All worldly things are fleeting and transitory, while the soul is immortal.  Therefore, how will you find true rest in them?  All these things are earthly, while the origin of our soul is heavenly.  Therefore, how is it possible to fulfill its desires with them?  In Christ, it finds rest. (Matthew 11:29)  He is able to satisfy and fulfill its desires.  Facing the wrath of God, it finds rest in the wounds of Christ.  Facing the accusations of Satan, it rests in the power of Christ.  Facing the terror of the law, it rests in the preaching of Christ.  Facing accusing sins, it rests in the blood of Christ, which is more able to speak before God than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)  Facing the terror of death, it finds rest and full confidence in Christs’s sitting at the right hand of the Father.

And so our faith finds rest in Christ, but our love finds rest there too.  Whoever clings to earthly things with love will not have true rest, because these earthly things do not have it.  They are not able fully to satisfy the desires of the soul because they are finite, while our souls, made in the image of God, seek that infinite good in which all good things are found.  Therefore, just as our faith ought to lean on nothing in all creation except the merit of Christ alone, so our love ought to cling to no creature, not even ourselves.  Indeed, love of self impedes love of God, so we ought to prefer love of God to all things.  Our soul is the bride of Christ; therefore, it ought to cling to him alone. (2 Corinthians 11:2)  Our soul is the temple of God; therefore it ought to give a place only to him. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Many seek rest in riches, but outside of Christ there is no rest for the soul.  Where Christ is, there is poverty, if not externally, then internally.  The Lord did not have a place in Heaven or Earth to lay his head, and so he wanted to commend and entrust poverty to us. (Matthew 8:20)  Riches are outside of us, but what gives rest to the soul ought to be within it.  Truly, to what will the soul cling in death when it must relinquish everything in the world?  Either riches desert us or we them, often in this life but always in death.  Therefore, where will the soul find peace and rest at that time?

Many seek rest in pleasure, which is able to give some kind of rest and delight to the body, but not to the soul.  In the end, pain and sorrow follow as its companions.  Pleasures are sought in this life, but the soul was not created for the sake of this life.  Because it is forced to leave pleasures behind through death, how can the soul find rest in them?  Outside of Christ, there is no rest for the soul, but what was the life of Christ?  It was full of sorrow from the time of his birth until his death.  So, that true appraiser of things wanted to teach us what we should feel about pleasure.

Many seek rest in honors.  Truly, they are miserable because they are deprived of rest by every change in the wind of popular opinion.  Honor is an external and fleeting good, while what gives rest to the soul ought to be within it.  What more will you say of human praise and honor than has been said of that painting [of Alexander the Great] by Apelles?

Consider the little corner in which you are hidden.  What is its proportion in comparison to the whole province, to Europe, to the whole inhabitable world?  That, indeed, is true honor, which is obtained some day by the elect from God.  The rest for anything is found in its end, nor does anything rest naturally until after it has attained its end and place.  The end of the created soul is God, since it has been made according to the image of God.  Therefore, it cannot be at rest and peace except in its end, which is God.

Just as the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul.  Therefore, just as a soul truly lives in which God lives spiritually by grace, so a soul is dead if God does not inhabit it.  Indeed, how can there be rest in a dead soul?  That first death in sin necessarily is followed by the second death of damnation. (Revelation 20:6)

Consequently, the soul that clings firmly by love to God and enjoys divine consolation internally cannot have its rest disturbed by external evils.  In times of sadness it is joyful, in poverty it is rich, in times of tribulation it is secure, in the midst of worldly disturbances it is calm, in the midst of human rebukes and insults it is peaceful, in death itself it lives.  It does not care about the threats of tyrants because it feels the riches of divine consolation within itself.  In adversity it is not sad, because the Holy Spirit effectively consoles it within.  It is not distressed in poverty, because it is rich in the goodness of God.  It is not disturbed by human abuse, because it enjoys the delights of divine honor.  It does not care for the desires of the flesh, because the sweetness of the Spirit is a greater grace.  It does not seek worldly friendship, because it experiences the delight of God as its friend and propitiator.  It does not marvel at earthly treasures, because it has the greatest treasure hidden in Heaven.  It does not fear death, because it always lives in God.  It does not greatly desire worldly wisdom, because the Holy Spirit teaches it within.  What is perfect removes what is imperfect. (1 Corinthians 13:10)  It does not fear lightening storms, tempests, fires and floods, distressing configurations of the planets, or the darkening of celestial lights because it rests by faith in Christ, carried upward above nature.  It is not distracted by the seductions of the world, because it hears the sweeter voice of Christ within itself.  It does not fear the power of the Devil, because it experiences divine compassion.  The one who lives within it is stronger than the Devil who attempts, in vain, to conquer it.  It does not follow the temptations of the flesh, because it experiences the richness of living in the Spirit.  The vivification of the Spirit mortifies and crucifies the flesh.  (Galatians 5:24)  It does not fear the accusations of the Devil, because it knows Christ to be its intercessor.

May the only author and granter of this true rest, our Lord, blessed God forever grant it to our souls.

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