(picture of Charles P. Jones)
“COME UNTO ME, I WILL GIVE YOU REST”
“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)
INTRO.: A song which encourages those who are heavy laden to come to Jesus for rest is “Come Unto Me, I Will Give You Rest” (#632 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Charles Price Jones, who was born on Dec. 9, 1865, in Texas Valley, Floyd County, near Rome, GA, the year the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution outlawing slavery was ratified, and grew up at Kingston, between Rome and Atlanta. While African-Americans like the Jones family welcomed the abolition of slavery, the harsh realities of poverty and prejudice remained. Charles’s mother died when he was a teenager, and he was afflicted with poor health. Raised as a Baptist in rural Georgia, at age seventeen he left his home in Texas Valley travelling through Georgia and Tennessee into Arkansas where he settled at Cat Island and became a member of the Locust Grove Baptist Church in 1884. Beginning to preach the next year, he eventually became a very popular speaker in evangelistic meetings. After studying at Arkansas Baptist College starting in 1887, he served as minister with churches in Pope Creek, Little Rock, and Searcy. Then he moved to work with the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, AL, where he felt he needed a deeper experience of grace to be personally holy.
After moving in 1895 to Jackson, MS, where he met Charles Harrison Mason, Jones, Mason, and two other radical preachers held a faith healing revival in Jackson. The doctrine of sanctification that was presented at this revival was not approved of by Jones’ church. In 1897, he and Mason were both thrown out of their church for their beliefs in the holiness movement and abstinence. They organized a “coloured” Holiness convention for people from Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, in June, 1897, with a second convention the following year. The conventions were interdenominational, but most of the people joined to form their own church, the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., in which Jones became bishop. They started first preaching in supporters’ homes and eventually in a former gin house. The desire to proclaim holiness also led Jones to become a song-writer, and he eventually produced more than a thousand gospel songs, many of which were printed in the Jesus Only Standard Hymnal published in 1899, followed by His Fullness Hymnal the following year. Another of his hymns, “I’m Happy in Jesus Alone,” appeared in some of our older books. Also his song “Deeper, Deeper in the Love of Jesus” has been generally popular. The date for the writing of “Come Unto Me” and the circumstances surrounding its origin are unknown, other than that it is usually identified as early twentieth century and seems to have been first published in 1908.
In 1907, Jones split with Mason over the doctrine of speaking in tongues as the evidence of the Holy Spirit. In 1915, Mason went on to found the Church of God in Christ. Also in 1915 Jones made his first trip to California to help William A. Washington organize the Christ Temple Church of Los Angeles, CA, in an upstairs hall at Washington and Central. In 1916, Jones’s wife Fannie (nee Brown) died in Little Rock, AR. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1917 and married Pearl E. Reed on January 4, 1918; to this union three sons were born, Charles Price Jones Jr., Vance Reed Jones, and Samuel Sherman Jones. In 1921, the first property bought for Christ Temple was on 37th and Naomi. Then in 1926, a church and parsonage were purchased for $18,000 on the corner of 54th and Hooper. In 1922 the church created a council of Bishops in the national convocation and he was chosen to be the first Senior Bishop. Jones actively maintained his role in spiritual leadership as Senior Bishop until he fell ill in 1943 and underwent major surgery. Because of his declining health, he attended his last convention in 1944 in Chicago, IL, where he was elected President Emeritus of the National Convention for life. Jones died in Los Angeles on January 19, 1949, and his funeral service was held at Christ Temple Church, 54th and Hooper, on January 25.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2, with stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 5, edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections, with stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 4, said to be arranged by the editor, Ellis J. Crum; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns, in which the first edition had all five of Jones’s original stanzas with a minor variation but the later edition replaces stanzas 2 through 5 with three new stanzas by the editor, V. E. Howard; and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church, which also uses only Jones’s stanza 1 and three additional stanzas by the editor, William D. Jeffcoat; in addition to Hymns for Worship which has only stanzas 1 and 4.
The song is obviously intended as an invitation song to call sinners to come to Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 speaks to those who are heavy-laden
Hear the blessed Savior calling the oppressed,
“O ye heavy-laden, come to Me and rest.
Come, no longer tarry, I your load will bear;
Bring Me every burden, bring Me every care.”
- Those who are heavy-laden with sin are oppressed by the devil: Acts 10:38
- Therefore, they should not tarry but understand that now is the day of salvation: 2 Cor. 6:2
- In coming to Jesus they can cast their burden of sin on Him: Ps. 55:22
II. Stanza 2 speaks to those who are disappointed
Are you disappointed, wandering here and there,
Dragging chains of doubt and loaded down with care?
Do unholy feelings struggle in your breast?
Bring your case to Jesus—He will give you rest.
- Life upon earth is full of disappointment and trouble: Job 14:1
- Sometimes these disappointments and troubles may cause us to doubt: Jas. 1:6-8
- When this happens, we may end up allowing unholy feelings in our breasts, but we can find rest by giving our hearts to Jesus: Prov. 23:26
III. Stanza 3 speaks to those who are stumbling
Stumbling on the mountains dark with sin and shame,
Stumbling toward the pit of hell’s consuming flame.
By the powers (power) of sin deluded and oppressed,
Hear the tender Shepherd, “Come to Me and rest.”
- The fact is that we all stumble at times: Jas. 3:2
- If we keep on stumbling around in sin, we will stumble toward the pit of hell’s flame: Matt. 25:41
- However, if hear the tender Shepherd, keep ourselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of the Lord Jesus, He is able to keep us from stumbling: Jude vs. 21-24
IV. Stanza 4 speaks to those who have cares
Have you cares of business, cares of pressing debt,
Cares of social life or cares of hope unmet?
Are you by remorse or sense of guilt depressed?
Come right on to Jesus He will give you rest.
(“Come right now” in Special Sacred Selections and Hymns For Worship Revised)
- As long as we live in the flesh, there will be cares of this world by which the devil wants to choke out the word: Mk. 4:18-19
- When we give in to such cares, we should feel remorse or guilt, as Paul did: Rom. 7:21-24
- However, we can have rest if we heed the invitation to come to Jesus: Rev. 22:17
V. Stanza 5 speaks to those who have been conquered by temptation
Have you by temptation often conquered been?
Has a sense of weakness brought distress within?
Christ will sanctify you, if you’ll claim His best;
In the Holy Spirit, He will give you rest.
(In the original edition of [Church] Gospel Songs and Hymns, the last two lines read:
“Christ will sanctify you; He will give you rest.
Will you come to Jesus all to Him confess.”)
- Also as long as we live in this life, we shall face temptation: Jas. 1:14-15
- If we are weak and yield to the temptation, we shall err from the truth: Jas. 5:19-20
- But when we come to Jesus, we can be washed, sanctified, and justified by the Spirit of our God: 1 Cor. 6:11
CONCL.: The chorus repeats the invitation of the Savior to come to Him for rest.
Come unto Me, I will give you rest;
Take My yoke upon you, hear Me and be blessed.
I am meek and lowly, come and trust My might;
Come, My yoke is easy, and My burden’s (burden) light.
I have lengthened the title to this song a bit to distinguish it from the hymn by Franklin E Belden also titled “Come Unto Me” with the first line “O heart bowed down with sorrow” and the chorus beginning “Come unto me, all ye that labor.” As we proclaim the gospel message of salvation to a lost and dying world, we must let people know that our Lord Jesus Christ says to them, “Come Unto Me, I Will Give You Rest.”