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

No. 13

Matthew 11:30

 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
[preached on Sunday afternoon 21 April 1765]
This verse alone is rightly attended to might convince numbers that though they bear the name of Christians, and are found among his worshipping people, they are as yet entire strangers to the gospel religion. Can it be supposed that our Lord would give a false character of his yoke? How then can any dream that they are his followers who account a life of communion with God, and entire devotedness to his service dull and burdensome? Those however who have tried find it to be such a burden as wings are to a bird. So far from being wearisome, they are convinced that there is no real pleasure attainable in any other way.
What the yoke of Christ is we have already considered – the profession of his gospel – obedience to his precepts, and submission to his will under every dispensation. But since it is allowed that a sinful nature and a sinful world will bring many difficulties, trials and temptations upon those [who] walk in this way – it may be worth our while to enquire what there is in the yoke of Christ that overpowers all these hardships, and makes such amends for every suffering – that upon the whole every believer will subscribe to this as a sure truth that the yoke is easy and the burden light.
1. They act from a principle which makes all things easy – this is Love. So it is said of Jacob – that when he served a hard master seven years for Rachel, they seemed to him but a few days for the lovely bore you[her]. [1] So many of you find it easy to do much for your parents, children and friends because you love them. But there is no love like that which a redeemed sinner bears to him who has loved him and washed him from his sins in his own blood. And love works strongest when it is mutual. People will do and suffer much to gain the affection of a person they regard, though perhaps they meet a disappointment at last. But the believer does not love at uncertainties – he knows that Jesus loved him first. [2] Now this love affords two great and sweet encouragements in service:
  1.1 A cordial desire to please
Love does what it can, and is sorry it can do no more. Mark 14: [3,]4. [3] People do not think much either of time, pains or expense when the heart is warmly engaged.
  1.2 A pleasing assurance of acceptance
If we know not whether what we do, will be favourably received, it makes us go on heavily. But this animates the Lord's people – they are assured he will not overlook the smallest services or sufferings they are engaged in for his sake. Though it be but a cup of cold water – he will own and accept it. [4]
2. It makes a service still more easy and pleasant if besides acting from a principle of love – the service itself is agreeable to our inclination. Esau would probably have done anything to oblige his father, in hopes of the blessing – but no command could please him more than to be sent for venison, because he was a cunning hunter, and his pleasure lay that way. Now the believer has received a new nature – so that the Lord's commands are not grievous to him, but he delights in them with his whole heart. It is true he groans under remaining corruptions – and this is properly his burden – not the service of Christ which he approves and delights in, but because he can serve him no better.
So far as faith is in exercise he rejoices:
  2.1 In the profession. He has made Moses’ choice Hebrews 11:26. [5] So the Apostles Acts 5:41. [6]
  2.2 In the precepts. Nothing pleases him more than to find an increasing victory over the hindrances to his obedience.
  2.3 Even afflictions though not grievous are cheerfully submitted to – because the Lord has appointed them, and is pleased to account them a filling up his sufferings. Colossians 1:24; [7] Philippians 3:20. [8]
3. In other cases, where there is a principle of love, and the service agreeable in itself, yet weakness may render it wearisome or impracticable. Though perhaps you would willingly take a long journey to serve a friend, yet if you are sick, or lame, what could you do? But this makes the yoke of Christ light and easy because there is a sufficiency of strength provided for the performance. This consideration makes every difficulty vanish, for though these should be increased tenfold, yet if strength should be increased in the same proportion it amounts to the same thing. What is hard or impossible to a child may be easy to a man. What is hard to flesh and blood is easy to faith and grace. The believer though weak in himself is strong in the Lord. It is true this power is not in his own keeping, but it is treasured up in the Covenant and promise, and always to be obtained by prayer. See Deuteronomy 33:25. [9] This day respects:
  3.1 A day of service
Whatever the Lord appoints asked to do, he will enable us for. 1 Samuel 17:37. [10]
  3.2 A day of suffering
Daniel 3:16 [11] and 6:22; [12] Psalm 91:15; [13] 2 Timothy 4:17. [14]
4. There is farther a consideration of profit and advantage which makes the yoke of Christ easy. The believing soul is not mercenary, he loves his master and his service. Yet it is impossible to serve God for naught. Psalm 19:11. [15] There is a reward though not of debt yet of grace. A great and sure reward:
  4.1 A present reward
    4.1.1 The testimony of conscience
St Paul though a champion for free grace set a high value upon this – 2 Corinthians 1:12. [16]
    4.1.2 The consolations of the Spirit which though lightly esteemed by those who know them not – satisfy the believing soul as with marrow and fatness.
    4.1.3 Communion with God in:
  • ordinances
  • providences – which makes the sweet sweeter, and takes away the sting of affliction.
    4.1.4 Converse with his people
How pleasing when their hearts are opened to each other, and experiences answer as face to face in a glass.
    4.1.5 A comfortable expectation of a better world
Genesis 49:18. [17] And when the appointed time comes, death will put an end to all their troubles, and they shall know what is:
  4.2 The future reward
Summed up 2 Corinthians 5:8. [18]
    4.2.1 Absent from the body, and all its inseparable evils.
    4.2.2 Present with the Lord. Then they shall see his face and share his joy.
    4.2.3 All this forever – without abatement, interruption or change. 1 Thessalonians 4:17. [19]
    The prospect of this makes them rejoice under all their tribulations, for they know whereto they lead, and how they will end. 2 Corinthians 4:20[17?]. [20]
From these things I hope it will appear that the yoke of Christ is easy. His people serve him because they love him – they love his ways – he is their strength – he comforts them now, and will be their portion for ever.
1. But some who have need of comfort will be discouraged, and say – Alas my love is so weak – my strength so feeble – my consolations so small, my obedience so imperfect – that surely I have not known the easy yoke of Christ. Observe notwithstanding what our Lord here says he has assured us that:
  1.1 The entrance is not easy. Matthew 7. [21]
  1.2 The progress is gradual. Mark 4:28. [22]
  1.3 The difficulties many – Acts 14:22 [23] – though these do not arise from the spiritual yoke, but our situation. But:
  1.4 The end is sure – Matthew 10:22. [24] Your complaints and fears are therefore no proof that you are not right. Go on in the Lord's way – the longer you wear the yoke, the easier you will find it.
2. Let others examine themselves by this view – If you have not a principle of true love to Christ – and a prevailing desire to his ways you are no Christian. And though you may begin warmly you will not be able to hold out. If you love him you have seen your need of him, and abhor yourself in dust [and] ashes. [25] Is it so?
3. See the difference between the religion of the gospel and that formal worship that contents many, in which the heart has no place. Remember God is a spirit, and unless you love him, you cannot possibly please him. Canticles 8:7. [26]
4. Believers rejoice in your security. The Lord has given you a never dying principle of love and provided for you a never failing supply of grace. [27] These will bear you up through all your journey, and at last bring you safely home. Then shall you praise him world without end. Amen.

 [1] Genesis 29:20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
[2] 1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
[3] Mark 14:[3,]4 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
[4] Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
[5] Hebrews 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
[6] Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
[7] Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
[8] Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
[9] Deuteronomy 33:25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
[10] 1 Samuel 17:37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.
[11] Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. [17,18 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.]
[12] Daniel 6:22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
[13] Psalm 91:15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
[14] 2 Timothy 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
[15] Psalm 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
[16] 2 Corinthians 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
[17] Genesis 49:18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
[18] 2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
[19] 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
[20] 2 Corinthians 4:20[17?] v17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
[21] Matthew 7 [e..g. v14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it; v21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.]
[22] Mark 4:28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
[23] Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
[24] Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
[25] Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
[26] Canticles [Song of Solomon] 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
[27] See Newton’s hymn Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion city of our God, v2:
Grace which, like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N2