"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to
the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I
have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
The "loss of all things" bringing with it
rest—tranquility! This seems a contradiction in terms. Worldly loss
generally, and as an almost necessary consequence, leads to unrest, unquiet,
trouble. Yet in Paul's case it was sublimely true—the surrender of former
grounds and subjects for exultation and boasting led him to the truest, to
the only stable rest. We are reminded of another of his seeming paradoxes:
"Having nothing, yet possessing all things."
We may readily believe, indeed, that it would be no small
effort for him to discard what he once so fondly loved and prized, and to
which he so proudly clung. Sad to go to that gallery of pleasant pictures
which he himself had hung in the chambers of his soul, and with his own hand
to wrench one by one from its place—to tear sculpture by sculpture from
niche and pedestal, and to write upon these walls, so lately gleaming with
fancied righteousness, "All loss for Christ!"
In the words of the entire passage, he has undoubtedly
reference to that wild night in the Adriatic Sea, to which in former pages
we have incidentally referred, when pursuing his voyage to Rome in the
Alexandrian ship. The tempest was threatening; the safety of the ship seemed
to demand a lightening of the cargo. But that precious corn! must it be
sacrificed for the safety of the vessel? It was "gain;" but must it come to
be counted as "loss," and tossed overboard? Yes, the tempest decides the
question. It must be consigned to the waves, otherwise the vessel will sink.
There is no room for debate; the crew make up their minds to "suffer the
loss of all." No, more, when the tempest howls with greater fury, and danger
and death stare them full in the face, they go a step further. The "loss" is
never thought of. They do not now pause in uncertainty and indecision,
saying, 'Cannot we save these precious barrels of merchandise?' Imminent
danger makes them glad to plunge them into the roaring sea. When the
question is between the loss of the wheat, and the loss of the ship, there
can be no hesitation. They account them as absolutely worthless—of no value.
They are glad to see them pitching against one another in the dark abyss.
They look upon them now, not as gain or treasure, but as having proved an
absolute hindrance, endangering their safety.
And this was the process in Paul's mind. First, there was
a clinging to all these birthright gains and self-righteous confidences. He
was unwilling to part with them. Secondly, he underwent the "loss," but it
was accompanied with "suffering." It was an intense effort for him to
renounce that which he had once so fondly treasured and trusted in. But the
third stage of feeling was when he was brought to say, 'I hate them
all! they are as rubbish—they are worthless: they are endangering the
vessel's safety; they are endangering my soul's interest; let them go, every
one of them! They were once "gain to me;" once I endured "suffering" at the
thought of losing them; but now, heave them into the raging sea. I count
them as refuse, sweepings, husks, that I may win Christ, and be found in
Is this our case? Can we, as voyagers on the sea of life,
make such a declaration, that all in which we once trusted and gloried, as a
ground of justification in the sight of God, we toss overboard, in order
that the giant deed of Christ's doing and dying may stand out alone in
solitary grandeur? "Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law,
but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of
God by faith."
"Accepted in the Beloved," says Hedley Vicars, "What a
healing balm is there here, for a weary, heavy-laden sinner!"
And if being clothed in the imputed righteousness of
Immanuel is a blessed truth to live on, what a blessed truth to
die on! What a joyous garment this, with which to wrap around us when
the billows are high, and we are plunging into Jordan! We can imagine, when
that solemn hour arrives; when, perhaps suddenly, we are laid on the pillow
from which we are to rise no more; and when, despite our well-grounded
confidence in the Gospel, gloomy visions and memories of former guilt
will gather around, filling us with trembling and dismay—oh! in the
midst of the thick darkness, to feel clothed with a garment, which the rush
of waters cannot penetrate, and of which the King of terrors cannot
rob us—the robe which we received at the cross, and which we are to wear
before the throne!
Yes, children of God, of every age and rank and
experience, tune your hearts and lips for the joyous strain. Aged
believers, sing it! you whose earthly pilgrim-garments are soiled and
travel-worn, but whose robe of righteousness is fresh as in the day of your
betrothals with the Heavenly Bridegroom. Young believers, sing it!
you who may have but recently stood at the marriage-altar with your Lord,
and received at His hands the glistering apparel; who may have a long
journey, it may be, still to travel, before you reach the King's Palace.
Sorrowing believers, sing it! take down your harps from the willows of
sadness. You are in mourning attire; but through your garments there shines
this "clothing of wrought gold," which the shadows of death and the grave
cannot dim or alloy. Let the whole Church of the living God, divided on
other themes—mute with other songs—kindle into holy rapture with this—
"Jesus, Your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Mid flaming worlds, in these array'd,
With joy I shall lift up my head.
"This spotless robe the same appears
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue—
The robe of Christ is ever new.
"And when the dead shall hear Your voice,
And all Your banish'd ones rejoice,
Their beauty this, their glorious dress—
JESUS THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS!"
"To the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely
given us in the One He loves."