Friday, October 30, 2009

All Saints Day and Baxter's Sants' Rest

Richard BaxterImage via Wikipedia

I am preparing for another preaching opportunity this coming Lord's Day, which according to the Church Year happens to be All Saints Day. In light of this occasion, I have decided to preach a sermon based upon four texts found in one of the common lectionaries. The texts are as follows:

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12
Studying and meditating upon the messages of these texts and seeking a way to weave them together into one sermon is proving to be a rich blessing. Along with studying these texts of scripture, I am doing some reading in Richard Baxter's The Saints' Everlasting Rest. (This work was first published in 1650. My copy was printed in the early 1800's, however it is still in print. It can be read online here. Christian Focus has recently reprinted it, and it can be purchased from Westminster Bookstore.)

According to the Prefatory Note,

The Saints' Rest is deservedly esteemed one of the most valuable parts of his practical works. He wrote it when he was far from home, without any book to consult but his Bible, and in such an ill state of health as to be in continual expectation of death for many months; and therefore, merely for his own use, he fixed his thoughts on this heavenly subject, "which," says he, "hath more benefited me than all the studies of my life." At this time he could be little more than thirty years old. He afterwards preached over the subject in his weekly lecture at Kidderminster, and in 1650 published it; indeed it appears to have been the first that ever he published of all his practical writings.
Of particular interest to me, in light of my current studies, is Baxter's third chapter titled "The Excellencies of the Saints' Rest." I heartily recommend this chapter to you! The texts listed above fit very well with Baxter's thoughts in this chapter. For your consideration, here is his outline:

1. It is the purchased possession;
2.
[It is] A free gift;
3.
[It is] Peculiar to saints;
4.
[It is] An association with saints and angels;
5. It derives its joys immediately from God himself;
6. It will be seasonable;
7.
[It will be] Suitable;
8.
[It will be] Perfect, without sin and suffering;
9. And
[It will be] everlasting.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven ~ Matt. 5:12
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure ~ 1 John 3:3
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints ~ Psalm 116:15

Our home church observes All Saints Day by remembering (not worshiping or praying to) those from our communion who have preceded us into Eternal Rest during the previous year. Remembering that I am a member of the body of Christ which is made up of many members from all ages, giving thought to Christ's faithfulness to those whom he has redeemed with his own blood, and considering the eternal reward awaiting all who have been cleansed by his blood is a wonderful exercise for corporate worship. If you will be observing All Saints Day this Sunday, remember the saints particularly for who they are in Christ. And even more so, consider the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is their reward. As John saw them in his vision of the great throne room of heaven, "they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on his throne will shelter them with his presence" Revelation 7:15.
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