Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), by Watchman Nee


The rest in verse 28 is spoken of this way: "Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest." This rest is the rest of salvation. Verse 29 is the rest of victory. The first rest is the rest of being reconciled with God. The second rest is the rest within us. The first rest is the rest of our salvation. The second rest is our rest on earth.

"Come to Me all who toil and are burdened," Brothers and sisters, perhaps you do not realize what the world is. There are many people whose days on the earth are not many, yet they have much experience of the world. They would tell you that the world is in a fever. When I cross the big streets, I see many people walking to and fro. All of them are so busy. I would ask, "What are they doing? Are they mad?" I pity them. Probably the whole world is in a fever. Oh, they do not have rest. The Lord did not say here, "Come to Me all who are sinful and wicked, and I will give you rest." This is because the pleasure of sin is sweet, and a sinner desires to have more pleasure in sin. Therefore, the Lord used another term and said, "Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest." You are toiling, and you are burdened. Some people may feel that sin is pleasant and sweet. But everyone feels that he is toiling. Many people do not think that sin is painful. But everyone feels that their experiences are painful. Therefore, regardless if a person is a millionaire, a high-ranking person in the political world, a renowned scholar, a student, a businessman, a civilian, a coolie, or a beggar, no one is satisfied with himself. For a while I thought that those who pull rickshaws surely would sigh, but that millionaires do not need to sigh. However, one time when I was staying in a millionaire’s home, I heard him sigh also. There is the pleasure of sin, but at the same time the labor of life makes a person sigh also. One time when I preached to an illiterate lady, she said, "Ah, unfortunately I do not know how to read; otherwise, I could believe and read the Bible." I thought if an illiterate lady would sigh, "Ah," perhaps a well-educated college professor would not sigh, "Ah." Actually, both sigh just the same. There was a foreign college professor in a certain school who was always very pessimistic. He always sighed, "Ah!" no matter what he saw. One day the sun was bright, the sky was clear, and the grass was green. The campus grounds were filled with the fragrance of flowers and the singing of birds. A few colleagues of the professor came to speak to him, saying, "See how wonderful today is? There is no need to sigh `Ah,’ today." He looked at the sky and everything around him; there was indeed nothing for him to sigh about. But did he stop sighing? Not at all. In the end he said, "Ah, unfortunately this time will not last long. Ah!"

One can see men toiling and restless everywhere. All day long, they are unsettled in their worries. Where should they settle down? I am afraid that you are not at rest and are still laboring.

Many people feel the weight of their burden and the toil of their labor. They realize that they do not have rest. I did not realize how heavy a burden can be until one time when I went down to a village to preach the gospel. The village where I went was on the other side of a mountain, and no steamboat could get there. I traveled first by a small steamboat to one place. After getting off the boat, I had to walk over the mountain to reach that place. The weather was very hot at that time. I brought with me gospel books and tracts, food, clothing, etc. I was not able to hire anyone to carry these things for me and had to carry them myself. I did not feel anything when I walked the first twenty steps. But after that, I began to find them too heavy for me to carry. I thought how nice it would be if I could get home soon and have a little rest. There were no trees on the mountain to provide shade. Just then, I realized how painful are those sinners who are toiling and are burdened. They would probably think that it would be nice if they could rest for a little while. Today among those in the audience, there are still some who have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus. You do not have rest. What will be your end? Come and hear the Lord Jesus’ word today, which says, "Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

Oh! This world is a tiresome world. Many people have money, yet they say, "I am tired!" Many people are in business, yet they say, "I am tired!" Many people have received fame and love in this world, yet they are tired. They think they can never rest until they have gained a certain item. The world realizes clearly that rest is good, but because their burdens are too heavy, they dare not seek after rest; they would be happy enough if their labor could be reduced. They are like the Israelites in the Old Testament, who only hoped that Pharaoh would reduce their labor and had no hope for rest. The condition of the Israelites represents the world. The Israelites only hoped that their labor could be lightened; they dared not hope for rest. In the same way, you only hope that your burden would be reduced a little, and that you would be free from tiredness and worries. However, I must tell you that what our Lord Jesus gives is not only a reduction of your toil but absolute rest; He causes you to stop everything. I wonder if you know what rest is? Rest means not to work or to stop working. You have suffered from the heavy burden and entanglement of sin and lust and do not have rest. You have to understand that the Lord Jesus wants you to come and have rest. You do not have to do anything to have this rest.

When I was young, my parents always spoke to me concerning how Jesus became the Savior to appease God’s wrath. Then I began to consider how good I would have to behave in order for God not to hate me but to save me to heaven. Many people also think the same way. But here, the Lord says, "You do not have to do anything; just come and have rest." What He wants to give to us is rest. He does not ask us to suffer and to do good. Man enjoys rest. But he always thinks that God is not pleased with him, and that he has to do some good work before God will be pleased with him. But the Lord Jesus calls people to come to rest and not to work. You may think that God hates you, and that you must do good before God will be pleased with you. But the Lord Jesus says that there is no need to work. This is the gospel! Why can the Lord Jesus give rest to people, and why does He not want them to work? The Bible says that the Lord Jesus has already accomplished all the work whether it be the work for going to heaven, the work of redemption, the work related to your being judged before God, the work of justification, or any work related to light, eternal life, and justification. The Lord Jesus has accomplished them all. He only bids you to come to have rest.

Let me tell you another story. In a certain village there was a Christian who had an unbelieving carpenter as his neighbor. The Christian understood the truth, and he was always trying to persuade the carpenter to believe in Jesus. The carpenter thought that although Jesus had accomplished the work of redemption, it was still not sufficient, and that he still had to do some good work and improve himself before he could believe in Jesus. To him, while it was true that Jesus had redeemed men, men must also do something. For this reason, he did not believe. One night, a thief came to the house of the Christian and tried to enter the main door to steal something. But he heard some noise inside the house and was afraid to go in. As a result, he stole the main door. The next morning when the Christian saw that the main door was taken, he asked his neighbor, the carpenter, to make him another door. The carpenter thought that since this was his neighbor and his good friend, he would select the best wood and hurry to finish the door that same afternoon. When he was ready to put in the door, the Christian said to him, "You have not finished this door; it is still not good enough." He spoke in such a blunt way that the carpenter felt very embarrassed and very upset. The carpenter asked, "I have used the best material and have finished it with extra effort. Why is it still not good?" Nonetheless the Christian insisted that he had not done a good job. Finally the carpenter said, "If this door is not done well, how should it be done to be well?" The Christian said, "Go home and bring me some wood, nails, and a hammer; let me show you how to do it." When the material came, the Christian hammered the boards onto the door haphazardly. The carpenter was both upset and amused. He thought that the Christian’s mind must have become muddled up from the break-in and must have become crazy. The Christian then said to him, "Friend, do not be angry. Let us have a talk. Was your door finished?" He said, "Of course, it was finished." The Christian said, "Is it not very good that I added something on?" The carpenter said, "The door was already finished. By adding these boards and nails, you made it no more a door." The Christian said, "The redemptive work of the Lord Jesus is already accomplished. John 19:30 says that it is finished. However, you said that although the Lord Jesus has finished His work, you still have to add something to improve and repair it. This is why I added the nails and the boards to the door which you have already completed." The carpenter understood then and believed in the Lord. The Christian lost a door the night before, but God gained a sinner that day. The Lord Jesus asks us not to work but to come and rest. He has died to bear our sins and has resurrected to secure a new position for us before God. Therefore, we do not have to work. All we have to do is to come to Him and rest. This is the gospel!

Many people live a life of toil and burden with respect to the world. But many others toil and are burdened with respect to their salvation also. They think that by gritting their teeth to do something and by suffering a little, God may have pity on them and save them. Many Hindus do this. They put nails onto a door with the spikes pointing upward. Then they lie on such doors full of sharp nails, thinking that by suffering this way, the God whom they do not know may by chance have pity on them and forgive their sins. Many people think that if they suffer more, God will forgive their sins. Even a little child would think this way. Once a little child told me, "After I commit a sin, the first thing I have to do is to make myself suffer to the uttermost; then God will forgive my sin." Not only do little children think this way, most people in the world think this way also. They think that by laboring strenuously, they can work themselves to the point where God will forgive them. They do not realize that this is a lie. It is a self-deception and will never earn them anything. It is not by bearing more burdens and suffering more toil that one can have rest before God. The calling today says, "Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Redemption has been accomplished, and the Lord has borne our sins. Whosoever will may come to the Lord to have rest. No sinner can obtain rest by himself. If you come before the Lord, you will have rest.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)