Discourses on Matthew 11:25-30 – ad fin continued

No. 10

Matthew 11:28 (2)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[preached on Sunday afternoon 31 March 1765]
The dispensation of the Gospel, may be compared to the cities of refuge in Israel. [1] It was a privilege and honour to the nation in general that they had such sanctuaries of divine appointment, but the real value of them was known to few – only to those who found themselves in that case for which they were provided. So the Gospel of Christ is the highest privilege and honour in which a professing nation can boast, but is only rightly prized and understood by weary and heavy laden souls. All who feel their misery by nature, who are tired of the drudgery of sin, who see the justice of God pursuing them like the avenger of blood of old. [2] This is the only consideration that keeps them from utter despair – that God has provided a remedy by the Gospel, and Jesus has said Come unto me. If they could receive the full comfort of these words, and heartily obey the call, their complaints would be at an end. But remaining ignorance, unbelief and Satan, combine in various ways to keep them back. Some will say, O that I could come, but I cannot – others, I fear I do not come aright. Having therefore endeavoured to show you the persons chiefly intended here, by the weary and heavy laden, I proceed to consider: [3]
2. What it is to come to Christ
I observed in general that it appears from John 6:35 [4] to be the same as in other places is meant by believing in him. But that we may understand it more clearly let us:
    1. Enquire: how those to whom he personally spoke these words, in all probability understood them.
    2. How far the apprehensions are applicable and suitable to our circumstances.
    3. Whether as we have the same necessity so we have not equal encouragement to come to him, as those who were conversant with him upon earth.
  2.1 It does not appear that those to whom our Lord spoke in person, were much perplexed as many are now – to know what ‘coming’ or ‘believing’ should mean. He seems to have been understood both by friends and enemies. See John 9:36 [5] and 6:30. [6] Some questioned his authority and right to exact a dependence on himself, but they seemed at no difficulty about his meaning.
    2.1.1 It implied more than a mere bodily coming into his presence. He was surrounded and even followed by multitudes who never came to him in the sense of his invitation. To such while standing about him, he complained John 5:40. [7] Therefore if we consult what is written of those who came to Christ for relief and obtained it we shall find it includes: A persuasion of his power, and of their own need of his help. This was in different degrees as it is now. The centurion spoke with full assurance Matthew 8:9. [8] The leper verse [2] more dubiously, If thou wilt. [9] Another still lower – if thou canst Mark 9:20. [10] This last faith, was as the man acknowledged mixed with much unbelief and fear, yet Jesus did not despise the day of small things. [11] An actual application. This showed their faith to be of the right sort – they did not sit content with having heard of him – but improved it. They went to him, told him their case and implored his compassion. Their faith prevailed against all discouragements – in vain the multitude charged them to hold their peace Mark 10:48. [12] Even when he seemed to show great reserve they still waited Mark 15:27. [13] Nor could a sense of unworthiness, shame and fear keep them back, when once they had a strong persuasion of his power to save Mark 5:27. [14] Whereas was for the most part the case in those whose bodily diseases he healed, and with others who were not sick he was sought to as a soul physician. Those who came to him, continued with him and became his followers – depending on him for salvation, receiving him as their Lord and Master, professing obedience to his precepts, accepting a share in his reproach, and renouncing everything that was inconsistent with his will. Luke 9:23, 60. [15] Some had a more express and open call to this as Matthew 9:9. [16] Others were more secretly drawn by his word, Spirit and providence. Luke 7:38; [17] John 1:46. [18] And this was the design and effect of many of their bodily and family afflictions. Mark 2:5; [19] John 4:53. [20]
  2.2 Now these things are applicable to us. Christ is no longer upon earth – but he has promised his spiritual presence in his Word and ordinances and with his people to the end of time. Weary and heavy laden souls, have no occasion to take a long journey to seek him, for he is near them always Romans 10:8 [21] and in an especial manner where his Gospel is preached. Poor and inconsiderable as we are in the judgement of the world, I doubt not but we have a right to claim that promise Matthew 18:20. [22] He is even now in the midst of us. Therefore come unto him. That is:
    2.2.1 Lift up your hearts and desires, breathe forth your complaints to him. You see your need of him – be persuaded, and pray to him to assure you more strongly of his power and goodness – that he is just such a Saviour as you would wish for.
    2.2.2 Make application to him. Prize these his public ordinances. Be constant in attending them. His eye is fixed upon us, his arm is revealed amongst us. I trust it is a time of his grace. I trust every day we meet, he does something for some poor soul. He has a fixed time for everyone. He knew how long the poor man had waited at the pool side, and when his hour came, he spake and relieved him. John 5. [23] So do you endeavour to be found in his way. And not here only but in whatever he has made your duty. Read his Word – be frequent in secret prayer – he is found in these. Converse with his people, perhaps he may join you as he did the two disciples Luke 24. [24] And cause your hearts to burn. Farther –
    2.2.3 You are to follow – to take up his cross, his profession, to welcome his reproach, and not only to wait on him as a priest to atone – but to receive and obey him as your Teacher and Lord. If you are truly weary and heavy laden, you will be glad to do this, and are crying to him to enable you – and you are willing:
    2.2.4 To forsake and renounce all that is inconsistent with his will and service – if you are desirous to come to Christ, it is not grievous to you to think of parting with your sinful pleasures and companions.
  Come in this way and you shall find rest to your souls. Are any of you thinking, O that I could. Surely if I had seen him and heard him, I should have ventured – but now unbelief and fear keep me back. I observe therefore:
3. That as we have equal need with those of old, so we have equal encouragement.
  3.1 On the one hand
Christ[‘s] bodily presence considered in itself, did nothing then – but all was wrought by the power of the Spirit, which is promised to abide with the Church forever.
    3.1.1 Multitudes who saw and heard him remained unconvinced by the wonders of his love and hated him even to the death. There were many more blind, lepers, etc, in the country than those who came to him.
    3.1.2 Many of his professed disciples, even then after they had followed him for a while, turned back. John 6:66. [25]
    3.1.3 Even his true disciples, who were most with him, to whom he had made the most express and endearing promises, and thought themselves assured beyond the power of a doubt, yet could not hold fast their confidence longer than his Spirit upheld them. John 16:31, 32. [26] Will not this convince you of your mistake when you think you could depend more upon a voice from heaven, than on the written Word? The apostles had the highest evidence – the word of Jesus face to face – and yet this would [not] uphold them without renewed supplies of strength.
  3.2 On the other hand
See if the want of his bodily presence is not more than made up to us:
    3.2.1 By the fuller manifestation of the Spirit than was afforded before his ascension.
    3.2.2 By the greater number and variety of promises which we enjoy.
    3.2.3 By the experience of the multitudes who have gone before us.
    3.2.4 By the proofs of his power and grace amongst ourselves.
What then should hinder you to come to Jesus?
1. Is it a sense of your load makes you say you are not able? Consider that this is not a work but a rest. Would a man say, I am so laden that I cannot consent to part with my burden – so weary that I am not able to stand still or lie down, but must force myself farther?
2. But you do not come aright. How would you come? Would you refresh and strengthen yourself – wash away your sins, free yourself from your burden and then come to him to do it for you? The Lord help you to see your folly and unreasonableness of your unbelief.
I observed that to Come intended more than to come into his presence – so now it means more than to be found amongst his worshippers. Let none of you be deceived with a form of godliness. [27] Do you labour under a sense of your misery – are you burdened with sin? If not, you are not yet in that state to which the promises are made. And why not? Are you not sinners? Is there not a law, a curse denounced? O turn to him.

 [1] Numbers 35:11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
[2] Joshua 20:9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
[3] This sermon follows on from Sermon 9 where Newton considered his first point on this verse.
[4] John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
[5] John 9:36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
[6] John 6:30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
[7] John 5:40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
[8] Matthew 8:9 [v8 … but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.] For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
[9] Matthew 8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
[10] Mark 9:20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming… [v22:] And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
[11] Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
[12] Mark 10:48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
[13] Mark 15:27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
[14] Mark 5:27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
[15] Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Luke 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
[16] Matthew 9:9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
[17] Luke 7:38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
[18] John 1:46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
[19] Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
[20] John 4:53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
[21] Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
[22] Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
[23] John 5 [v6] When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? [v9] And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
[24] Luke 24 [v15] And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. [v32] And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
[25] John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
[26] John 16:31,32 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
[27] 2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N2