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

No. 9

Matthew 11:28 (1)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[preached on Sunday afternoon 21 March 1765]
We read of David that when he was withdrawn into the wilderness from the rage of Saul, everyone that was in distress or in debt, or discontented gathered themselves unto him and he became a Captain over them.[1] Small honour this in the judgement of the world, to be a Captain of fugitives and mean persons – yet such is the kingdom of our LJ C [Lord Jesus Christ]. David's case was looked upon as desperate by those who like Nabal were at ease, they did not know or would not believe the promise of God that he should be King of Israel, and therefore they preferred the favour of Saul whom God had rejected. So though our LJ [Lord Jesus] was a divine person, invested with all authority, grace and blessings, and declared the purpose of God – concerning himself, and all who obeyed their voice that he would be their king, and they should be his happy people – yet the most that heard him saw no excellence in him or need of him that they should desire him. Their portion and hearts were in the world – therefore very rejected him, and treated him as a blasphemer and madman. A few there were however who felt their misery, and desired to venture upon his word – to these he here gives the freest invitation. Those who accepted it found his promise good and rejoiced in his light. So it is still – he is no longer upon earth to call us, but he has left these gracious words for an encouragement to all who need a Saviour. The greatest part of mankind even in Christian countries are too happy or too busy to regard him. They think it a great matter if they do not mock his messengers, deride his words, and offer abuse to all who would press them today while it is called today, to hear his voice – this treatment his servants must expect from many. But there are a few like David's men distressed in conscience, deeply in debt to the law of God, and discontented with the bondage of sin, who see and believe that he and he only is able to save them; to these weary and heavy laden souls he still says Come unto me and I will give you rest. May his gracious Spirit put life and power into his own words, and into what he shall enable me to speak from them – that they may receive a blessing and peace from his hands at this time.
The text naturally points out three enquiries:
  1. Who are the persons here invited.
  2. What it is to come to Christ.
  3. What is implied in the promised rest.
1. The person[s] – weary and heavy laden
This must however be limited to spiritual concerns, otherwise it would take in all mankind even his greatest opposers, and the most hardened and apposite sinners. For let your consciences speak, you that account the yoke of Christ a heavy burden, and think his people miserable and melancholy – are not you wearied and burdened in your own way – surely you are often weary of your drudgery, though you are so wedded and sold to your hard master, that you cannot break loose – though you are so mad as to be fond of your chains – yet you know and I know (for I remember the gall and bitterness of that state) you do not find all that pleasure in your wickedness that you pretend to. So much as you affect to despise hypocrisy you are great hypocrites – you laugh when you are not pleased, you roar out your boisterous mirth, when you are almost ready to roar another way for anguish and disquietness of heart – you court the friendships of those whom in your heart you despise, and though you would be thought to pay no regard at all to the Word of God – there are seasons when like him you serve you believe and tremble. And besides what burdens do you bring upon yourselves – uneasiness in your families, waste of substance – loss of health and reputation. Surely you are weary and heavy laden.
But this is not the case with others. You avoid gross vices – the worst that can be said of you is that you employ all your thoughts and every means that will not bring you under the lash of the laws of the land to heap up money – or spend your days in a thoughtless indolence, walk in the way of your own hearts – and here you will say you find pleasure and insist on it that you are not weary or heavy laden. I might speak of your disappointments, your vain fears, the trouble you find from disorderly and restless passions – but to waive this, if you are not weary etc, then it is plain you are not the persons whom Christ invites to partake of his rest – and though you can rest without him now think, O think, what rest you will find without him hereafter. If you say, Depart now, he will say, Depart then. [2] O that it would please him now to touch your hearts.
But to proceed, let us:
  1. Explain the terms.
  2. Apply them.
  1.1 The persons are said to be:
    1.1.1 Weary
You know what this is – it proceeds either from toil, or from weakness. And when these are united when a person has much to do, or to bear, and but little strength they will soon be weary. The case of some is however that when they are tired they can lay down their burden, or leave off their work – but these are not only weary but
    1.1.2 Heavy laden
As if a man had a burden, which he was unable to bear a single minute, so fastened upon him that he could not by any means be freed from it. But it must always press him down night and day, abroad or at home, sleeping (if sleep in such a circumstance was possible) and waking. How would the poor creature could be wearied! How could you comfort or give him ease, unless you could rid him of his burden.
  1.2 This is the case with:
    1.2.1 Awakened sinners. They are wearied and burdened: With guilt
A heavy load when rightly felt. When our Lord bore it, it made him sweat great drops of blood. It is true he bore the weight of all his people’s sins – but the weight of one sin is sufficient to press us down if God should let it lie heavy upon us. I suppose the best of us can remember something or other that is past which we would wish to forget if we could – now how would you like to have a person sounding in your [ear] from morning till night – and every day, that worst thing that ever you did – would it not soon tire and weary? This is something the case when conscience is awakened – it acts just such an officious and troublesome part – but not of one sin only but of thousands – and this is not the voice of a man, but indeed of God, who speaks in and by the conscience. The poor sinner hears and trembles. Job 13:26. [3] Do you wonder then that such a one can no longer take pleasure in worldly things – it is impossible unless you could silence this importunate voice, that they can bear themselves at all. Nay often it is so strong and urgent – sets their sins – aggravations and just deserts – that they are most afraid or ashamed to meet anybody – they are ready to think that people can read in their faces what passes in their hearts. They almost expect that the ground should open under their feet. O how wearisome. The power of sin
Perhaps they thought themselves pretty well in this respect, they saw others whom they supposed worse, and therefore trusted to themselves that they were righteous. But convictions rouse and enflame our sinful nature. Romans 7:9. [4] The more the sinner strives against his corruptions the more they seem to increase. This wearies him – for besides the greatness of the toil – he is a weak, weak as water – and he is not only weary but heavy laden – it is a burden he cannot shake off.
    1.2.2 Those who are seeking salvation by the works of the law. This is a hard task – to keep the whole law – and nothing less will either please God, or satisfy the conscience that has any true light. Galatians 3:10. [5] James 2:10. [6] I speak not of mere formalists but those who are in measure sincere will be followed with What lack I yet? They are weak. Romans 8:3. [7] They find they cannot keep even one. And thus they are wearied and Heavy laden. They cannot shake off this burden, but are compelled to strive again and again to do that which they know to be impossible. Endless are the shifts and contrivances they are put to but all in vain – and what makes it worse they add to the burden these inventions of their own, as if the demands of the law were too few.
    1.2.3 Those who are under temptation. It is a hard and wearisome exercise to be in close conflict with the powers of darkness: When the soul is assaulted with blasphemies. When the foundations of faith and experience are attacked. When they hidden corruptions and abominations of the heart are stirred up. A poor weak creature then soon grows weary – and this likewise is a burden that cannot be shaken off, but must be born till the Lord remove it. In vain the help of men, books and ordinances till then.
I must [leave] the rest – till then in brief – rejoice in this: Jesus has foreseen our cases, and says Come – that is believe. John 6:35. [8]
Are you weary and heavy laden:
1. With guilt? – 1 John 1:7 [9]
2. The power of sin? John 11:25 [10] and Isaiah 40 [11]
3. Are you striving in the fire to keep the law? See Romans 10:4. [12]
4. In temptation? He that says Come unto me, has been tempted himself and knows how to pity you. Hebrews 2:18. [13] He has power over your enemy and can deliver you with a word. Mark 1:27. [14] If then, surely not less now, for since that he triumphed over the powers of darkness. Colossians 2:15. [15] And he has given a promise to all that believe in him. Zechariah 3:2. [16] Romans 16:20. [17]

 [1] 1 Samuel 22:2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.
[2] Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
[3] Job 13:26 For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
[4] Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
[5] Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
[6] James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
[7] Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
[8] 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.
[9] 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
[10] John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
[11] Isaiah 40 [e.g. verses 1,2 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.]
[12] Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
[13] Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
[14] Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.
[15] Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
[16] Zachariah 3:2 And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
[17] Romans 16:20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N2