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

No. 11

Matthew 11:28 (3)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[preached on Sunday afternoon 7 April 1765, Easter Day]
The learned have a variety of arguments whereby to prove the Scripture to be the Word of God, but though that kind of proof which may be brought in a way of reasoning and external evidence is doubtless useful upon proper occasions, yet I apprehend the chief and most satisfactory argument to those who are capable of receiving it, arises from the correspondence and harmony between what is contained in the Scripture, and the state of an awakened mind. When the eyes of the understanding are opened, we begin to see that everything within us, and everything around us, to be just so as the Scripture has described them. Then and not till then we perceive that what we have there read of the evil of sin, the vileness of our nature, the darkness and ignorance of those who know not God, our own emptiness, and the impossible[impossibility] of finding relief and comfort from creatures, is exactly true. We cannot but apply the words of the woman and say, Come and see a book that is told me all that ever I did [1] – the ground of all my complaints – the true cause and nature of all the evil I either see, hear or feel from day to day. And as we find our disease exactly described, so we perceive a suitableness in the proposed remedy. We need a Saviour, and he must be a mighty one; but let our wants, sins, fears and enemies be ever so many and great, we are convinced that the character of Christ is sufficient to answer them all. We want a rest – a rest which the world cannot give. Run where we will among the creatures experience brings in the same answer from all, It is not in me. [2] This again confirms the word, which has forewarned us that we shall meet nothing but disappointment in such enquiries. But there is a spiritual rest spoken of, which we know to be the very thing we want. And all our anxiety is, How to attain it. From hence as I said arises a solid proof that the book which gives us fresh views of everything that passes – must be given by inspiration from him, who is the searcher of hearts this proof is equally plain and conclusive to all capacities.
We are now to speak:
3. Of this promised rest.
And here:
    1. what it is
    2. How obtained. Freely – I will give.
  3.1 The Greek word signifies something more than rest, or a mere freedom from toil – it denotes refreshment likewise. A person weary with long bearing a heavy burden will need not only to have it removed, but likewise he wants food and refreshment to restore his spirits and repair his strength. Such is the rest of the gospel – it not only puts a period to our fruitless labour, but is a sweet reviving cordial – there is not only peace but joy in believing. Taken at large we may consider it as twofold:
    3.1.1 A present rest – Hebrews 4:3 [3] The common wearisome pursuit of the world is described Isaiah 55:2 [4] and Psalm 4:6. [5] We should pity a person whom we see seeking some necessary thing day after day, which was impossible to be found there – it is however the case with all till they come to Christ. Satisfaction is what they profess to aim at, and they turn every stone as we say, try every expedient to meet with it, but in vain – it is only to be found in him. When they come to him, their wishes are answered. Matthew 13:44.[6] I spoke something of the wearisome exercise of a conscience burdened with guilt. But by coming and believing there is an end put to this. When we are enabled to see our sins laid upon Christ and that those who come are accepted in the beloved, no more condemnation, but pardon, reconciliation and adoption, O the sweet calm that takes place in the soul. It is more than deliverance; there is a pleasure more than answerable to the former pain – comfort greater than all the trouble that went before it. Isaiah 12:1; [7] Psalm 126:1,2. [8] Yea the remembrance of those bitter hours, then increases the pleasure. There is likewise a rest from the power of sin. In vain it is sort from resolutions and endeavours in our own strength – and even after we are spiritual[ly] inclined it is usually for a season rather a fight than a rest – but when we are brought nearer to Christ and live upon him as our sanctification deriving all our strength and motives from him by believing, we obtain a comparative rest in this respect also – as likewise: A rest from our own works. The believer is quite divorced from the law as a covenant, and owes it no longer service in that view. His obedience is gracious, cheerful, the effect of love and therefore he is freed from those fears and burdens which once disturbed him in the way of duty. At first there was a secret though unallowed dependence on himself – when his frames were lively, he was strong and thought he had something to trust to – but under a change (and changes will happen) he was at his wit’s end. But there is a promised rest in this respect – to repose on the finished work, and sure word of Christ, and to follow him steadily through light and darkness – to glory in him only when our frames are brightest, and to trust in him assuredly when at our lowest ebb.
      Such is the present rest – in different degrees according to the proportion of faith, and capable of increase even in those who have attained most so long as we remain in this imperfect state. But there is:
    3.1.2 A future rest – Hebrews 4:9 [9]
Besides and the beyond all that can be experienced here there remaineth yet a rest for the people of God: From all sin. There are no unclean thing shall defile or disturb. No more evil: In ourselves. This alone would be worth dying for. In others. Our hearts will no more be pained, nor our ears wounded. Now like Lot in Sodom, we are grieved daily. From all outward afflictions, which though necessary are bitter, but there they will be necessary no more. From Satan's temptations. He will follow us as Pharaoh did Israel to the last step, but there we shall be out of his reach for ever. From unsatisfied desires. Here the more we drink, the more we thirst, but there our highest wishes will be crowned and exceeded. We shall rest: In full communion. In full conformity.
1. May we not say, Happy are the people that are in such a case – who have been enable[d] to accept this gracious invitation – who have already entered upon the rest of grace and have a well-grounded expectation to rest in glory. Believers what should you fear, or why complain? Look back to where the Lord found you, look forward to what he has provided, and run with patience and thankfulness the race set before you. It will not be long.
2. Happy likewise are you, whose hearts are fixed upon this rest and this Saviour. Though as yet you are in heaviness through manifold temptations – the Lord will give you rest – tarry his leisure, be strong and he shall comfort your hearts.
3. And you who are yet strangers to rest are thus far happy that you are still spared, and have the gospel continued to you. The Lord is still waiting to be gracious. He says to all, Come. What! Do you not see it desirable? What rest can you expect in the service of sin? Why not obtain your liberty. You are no worse than others. Arise, he calleth you. O may he accompany the outward call with the inward power of his grace – and enable you to say, Turn me O Lord and I shall be turned, draw me and I will run after thee. [10] Behold I come unto thee, take away iniquity and receive us graciously.

 [1] John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
[2] Job 28:14 The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.
[3] Hebrews 4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
[4] Isaiah 55:2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
[5] Psalm 4:6 There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
[6] Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
[7] Isaiah 12:1 And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
[8] Psalm 126:1,2 When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
[9] Hebrews 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
[10] Jeremiah 31:18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.
Song of Solomon 1:4 Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N2