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Canaan was a land of rest: it was that good land in which the Israelites were to terminate their long and wearisome march in sweet and delightsorne repose. The moment a poor believing soul is brought to Jesus, he is brought to rest. ‘We which have believed do enter into rest’ (Heb. 4:3). The instant that he crosses the border that separates the covenant of works from the covenant of grace, the moment that he emerges from the wilderness of his doings and toil, his going about to establish a righteousness of his own and enters believingly into Christ, he is at rest. The true Joshua has brought him into Canaan, has brought him to Himself; and his long traveling, weary soul is at peace with God through Christ. ‘For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His’ (Heb. 4:10). Behold the rest! It is Jesus. His finished work, His blood and righteousness, His law-fulfilling obedience, and His justice-satisfying death, give perfect rest from guilt and condemnation and sorrow to him that simply enters, though it be but a border-touch of faith, into Jesus.
Oh, art thou a sin-burdened, a wilderness-wearied soul? Art thou seeking rest in the law, in convictions of sin, in pious duties, in churches and sacraments? Each one exclaims, ‘It is not in me!’ Turn from these, and bend your listening ear to the gentle voice of your gracious Saviour, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28). What wondrous words are these! Tell me not that you are too sinful and unworthy to come; that you are too vile to lay your head upon that sacred bosom; too guilty to bathe in that cleansing stream; too poor to clothe you in that divine righteousness. I reply, Jesus bids you come. Can you, dare you refuse? The instant that you cease to labour, and enter believingly, savingly into Christ, that instant you are safe within the City of Refuge, beyond the reach of sin, and condemnation, and the law’s curse, and the uplifted arm of the avenger of blood. ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 5:1). Note the present tense here: we have peace.
But notwithstanding this perfect state of pardon, justification, and rest, into which the believing soul is brought, is sin utterly and totally extirpated from his bosom? In other words, because forgiveness is complete and acceptance is complete, is sanctification complete? Far from it, beloved. It is a good land and a wealthy, a land of peace and rest, into which grace has led us, but it is, nevertheless, a land besieged by foes — for the Canaanites still dwell therein — and of consequent warfare. The believer has to fight his way to heaven. In the soul, in the center of the very heart where perfect rest and peace are experienced, there dwell innate and powerful corruptions, ever invading our peaceful possessions, seeking to disturb our repose and to bring us into subjection. ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Rom. 7:24)
Observe, too, these inhabitants of the land interposed a powerful barrier between the Israelites and their full possession. They were at best but borderers. They had indeed passed the confines of the desert and pressed the soil of the Promised Land, but how small a portion of the vast territory did they as yet occupy! Far beyond them, stretching in luxuriant beauty, were vine-clad hills, and flowing rivers, acres of wheat and barley and pomegranates, fountains and depths that spring out of valleys which they had not as yet explored.
Is not this a picture of our spiritual state? How much interposes between us and our spiritual possessions! What keeps us from the ‘abundant entrance’ into the kingdom of grace, but our ever-present and ever-sleepless enemy, unbelief? What prevents a more full and cordial acceptance of the righteousness of Christ, but a constant dealing with our own unrighteousness? What keeps us from enjoying more of heaven upon earth, but the too-absorbing influence of the world? What causes us to live so far below the privilege of our high vocation, dwarfs our Christianity, lowers our profession, shades the luster and impairs the vigour of our holy religion, but the depravity, the corruption, the sin that dwells in us? These are the spiritual Canaanites which prevent our going up to possess the good land in its length and breadth. What an evidence this is, that though our Lord Jesus has put us into a state of present and complete acceptance, we have not as yet attained unto a state of perfect and future holiness — the Canaanites still dwell in the land! We are called to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Tim. 6:12). Not only do we war with flesh and blood, but we wrestle ‘against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Eph. 6:12).
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