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

No. 12

Matthew 11:29

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
[preached on Sunday afternoon 14 April 1765, Easter Day]
Those who are enabled to come to Christ not only experience a change of state, but of character, disposition and practice. They are not only freed from condemnation, but are made partakers of the divine nature. They are delivered from the slavery and the yoke of Satan, and made willing in the day of the Lord's power, to accept and embrace his yoke, which is commended to us in the following verse, as easy and pleasant.
Our Lord speaks of his service as a yoke and burden because it is so esteemed by all who know him not. They account him a hard master, and think his service must be unpleasant, but those who have tried find it otherwise. Though it must be confessed, it exposes to some difficulties, calls for the daily exercise of self-denial, and will not admit either of competition or composition with the world – nor can be pleasing to the unrenewed part of our nature. But the knowledge of his love, the hope of glory, and those seasonable refreshments which he is pleased to favour those who come to him – sweetens every bitter thing and makes them willing to bear his yoke and to prefer it to all that the world accounts freedom.
  1. What is the yoke of Christ.
  2. The proper means by which we can be enabled to take it upon us. The consideration of him, as our Teacher and pattern – Learn of me, for I etc.
  3. The happy effect of bearing his yoke Ye shall find rest.
1. The yoke of Christ taken at large, includes all that dependence, obedience and submission which we owe him as our rightful Lord – and as our gracious Redeemer. He has a double claim to us:
    1. He made us. Psalm 100:3. [1]
    2. He bought us. Acts 20:28. [2]
  Good reason therefore that we should be his and live and cleave to him in love alone. In particular we may consider:
  1.1 The yoke of his profession
This is very pleasing to a gracious soul so far as faith is in exercise. Far from being ashamed of the gospel of Christ he is ready and willing to tell to all that will hear what God has done for his soul. Many young converts in the first warmth of their affections have more need of a bridle than of a spur in this matter. For want of prudence to time things rightly, and perhaps for want of more tenderness mixed with their zeal, they are apt to increase their own troubles, and sometimes by pushing things too far, to obstruct the success of their well-meant endeavours to convince. But though this is a fault, it is a fault of the right side, which time, experience and observation will correct. And though we are hasty enough to condemn the irregular overflowings of a heart deeply impressed with a sense of eternal things I doubt not but the Lord who owns and approves the main principle from whence they spring – beholds them with a far more favourable eye than the cold, cautious, temporising conduct, of some others who value themselves for their prudence. So we should judge if we had servants of our own. We should prefer one who was hearty and affectionately devoted to our interests and always ready to run by night or by day, refusing no danger or difficulty from a desire to please us, though sometimes through ignorance or inattention he should make some mistake – to another of greater knowledge and capacities, who was always slow and backward, and discovered at least as much care to save himself from inconveniencies, as to promote our service. However this warm zeal usually suffers abatement. We are flesh as well as spirit – and there are some circumstances attending a profession of the gospel which make it with propriety to be called a yoke, to us who have so much remaining evil within us, and so many outward temptations to call them forth. It will stir up opposition from the world – break in perhaps upon our dearest connections, and threaten our most necessary interests.
  1.2 The yoke of his precepts
These the gracious soul approves and delights in, but still we are renewed but in part, and when the commands of Christ stand in direct opposition to the will of men, or call upon us to sacrifice a right hand or a right eye [3] – though the Lord will surely make those who humbly depend upon him victorious at the last, yet it will cost them a struggle, so that when they are sensible how much they owe to his power working in them and enabling them to overcome, they will at the same time have a lively conviction of their own weakness.
  1.3 The yoke of his dispensations
This none can bear but those who come unto him. It is natural to us [to] repine, fret and toss like a wild bull in a net, when under afflictions.[1] Believers likewise find their flesh weak, when their spirits are willing. Yet they see reasons for submission and they know where to apply for grace. This leads me to:
2. The means: Learn – as if he had [said], I know you are unable of yourselves – but I will help you be not afraid at the prospect. Consider:
    1. What I can do.
    2. What I have done.
  2.1 Learn of me – be not afraid to come to me. I am meek and lowly. Great and mighty as I am, you may free apply to me in every doubt and difficult[y]. Poor awakened souls, are backward to come to Christ, and think, Surely he will take no notice of such a one as me. But how kind and condescending are his promises suited to engage our confidence.
  2.2 Learn of me. I know the cause why these things appear so hard. It is owing to the pride and inpatients of your hearts – to remedy this take Me for your example, I request nothing argued but what I have done before you. In the path I mark out for you, you may perceive my own footsteps, all the way. This is a powerful argument, a sweet recommendation of the yoke of Christ that he bore himself. He is not the Pharisees whom he blamed on this very account. Matthew 23:4. [5]
    2.2.1 Are you terrified with the difficulties attending your profession, and ready to show resentment against those who oppose? Think of Jesus: his constancy – Hebrews 12:3 [6] – his meekness – 1 Peter 2:23. [7]
    2.2.2 Do you find it hard to walk steadfastly in his precepts? Think of Jesus – Romans 15:3. [8] He considered – not what was safe or easy but what was the will of his heavenly Father.
    2.2.3 Are you ready to repine at the dispensations of Providence? Take our Lord for your pattern and be ashamed to complain. John 18:11. [9]
    It is thus by looking to Jesus, that the believer is enlightened and strengthened, and grows in grace and sanctification according to that word. 2 Corinthians 3:18. [10] And not in grace only but in comfort, this is the way to:
  2.3 Rest. Sweet peace and composure of soul.
    2.3.1 This affords the best and most unshaken evidence that he has begun a work of grace in our hearts.
    2.3.2 The promise of the peculiar manifestation of his love is made to those who walk in the path of obedience. John 14:21. [11] And true rest is to be found in no other way. You that refuse this yoke of Christ know well that you are [far] from rest.
1. The profession of the gospel is subject to inconveniencies, but surely not so many as those find who renounce it. If those who are of your household are not your foes on this account – yet we may see how it fares with those who live without the fear of God. Have they not daily trials from:
  • disobedient children
  • unfaithful servants
  • false friendships
  • loss of character.
They cannot reproach you with being a believer but may they not do they not reproach you with being a drunkard or a liar, or a miser or an extortioner. And is this more honourable?
2. Do the precepts of Christ seem hard? Surely not so hard as that obedience you pay Satan. He will not allow you to conscience, health, interest, reputation but on you must – in his drudgery – go like a milkhorse the same tedious round of folly and sin. Though you are aware of the consequence and wages beforehand.
3. Especially you are pitied in affliction, when your idols are torn from, when sickness seizes you, or death stares you in the face – then how do you fret, and pine what fears and alarms. Then you are your own tormentors.
Why then will you continue thus, when Jesus says, Come unto me for rest. O may he incline your hearts to hear his voice.

 [1] Psalm 100:3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
[2] Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
[3] Matthew 5:29,30 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
[4] Isaiah 51:20 Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.
[5] Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
[6] Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
[7] 1 Peter 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
[8] Romans 15:3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
[9] John 18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
[10] 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
[11] John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N2