“Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28
We read that, when David was withdrawn into the wilderness from the rage of Saul, every one that was in distress, or in debt, or discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became their captain. This was a small honor in the judgment of Saul and his court, to be the head of a company of fugitives. Those who judge by outward appearances, and are governed by the maxims of worldly wisdom, cannot have much more honorable thoughts of the present state of Christ’s mystical kingdom and subjects upon earth. The case of David was looked upon as desperate by those who, like Nabal, lived at their ease. They did not know, or would not believe, the promise of God, that he should be king over Israel; and, therefore, they preferred the favor of Saul, whom God had rejected. In like manner, though our Lord Jesus Christ was a divine person, invested with all authority, grace, and blessing, and declared the purpose of God concerning himself, and all who should obey his 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; their portion and hearts were in this world, therefore they rejected him, and treated him as a blasphemer and a madman. A few, however, there were who felt their misery, and desired to venture upon his word. To these he gave the freest invitation. Those who accepted it found his promise made good, and rejoiced in his light. Thus it is still; he is no longer upon earth to call us; but he has left these gracious words for encouragement to all who need a Savior. The greatest part of mankind, even in Christian countries, are too happy or too busy to regard him. They think they deserve some commendation if they do not openly mock his messengers, disdain his message, and offer abuse to all who would press them today, while it is called today, to hear his voice. Even 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 laboring 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 at this time receive a blessing and peace from his hands.
The text readily points out three inquiries:
1. Who are the persons here invited?
I. The persons are those who labor (the Greek expresses toil with weariness) and are heavy laden. This must, however, be limited to spiritual concerns, otherwise it will take in all mankind, even the most hardened and obstinate opposers of Christ and the Gospel. For let your consciences speak, you that account the yoke of Christ a heavy burden, and judge his people to be miserable and melancholy, are not you wearied and burdened in your own way? Surely you are often tired 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 wormwood of that state) that you do not find all that pleasure in your wickedness which you pretend to. So much as you affect to despise hypocrisy, you are great hypocrites yourselves. You often laugh when you are not pleased, you roar out your boisterous mirth sometimes, when you are almost ready to roar with anguish and disquiet of spirit. You court the friendship of those whom 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, further, what visible burdens do you bring upon yourselves? “The way of transgressors is hard.” Your follies multiply your troubles every day. Confusion and uneasiness in your families, waste of substance, loss of health and reputation, discord, strife, sorrow, and shame; these are the bitter fruits of your evil ways, which prey on your present hours, and make your future prospects darker every day. Surely you are weary and heavy laden beyond expression.
But this is not the case with others. You avoid gross vices, you have perhaps a form of godliness. The worst, you think, 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 law, to heap up money, to join house to house, and field to field; or you spend your days in a thoughtless indolence, walk in the way of your own hearts, and look no further: and here you will say you find pleasure, and insist on it that you are neither weary nor heavy laden. I might enlarge on your many disappointments, the vain fears which are inseparable from those who live without God in the world, and the trouble you find from disorderly, restless, and unsatisfied passions. But, to waive these things, I say briefly, that if you are not laboring and heavy laden, then it is plain that you are not the persons whom Christ here invites to partake of his rest. And though you can rest without him now, think, oh think what rest you will find without him hereafter! If you now say, Depart, he will then say, Depart. And who will smile upon you when he frowns? To whom will you then flee for help? or where will you leave your glory? Oh that it would please him to touch your hearts, that, as weary and heavy laden sinners, you might fall humbly at his feet before his wrath burn like fire, and there be none to quench it!
But to proceed: let us,
1. Explain the terms, what it is to labor and be heavy laden.
First — The persons are said to be:
1. Laboring, toiling, weary. This is not hard to be understood. Weariness proceeds either from labor or from weakness; and when these are united, when a person has much to do, or to bear, and but little strength, he will soon be weary. The case of some, however, is, that when they are tired, they can lay down their burden, or leave off their work. But these are not only laboring, fainting, weary, but,
2. Heavy laden likewise. 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 and at home, sleeping (if sleep in such circumstance was possible) and waking. How would the poor creature be wearied! How could you comfort or give him ease, unless you could rid him of his burden? How desirable would the prospect of liberty be to such a one! and how great his obligations and acknowledgments to his deliverer!
Secondly: This representation is an emblem of the distresses and burdens of those who seek to Jesus, that they may have rest for their souls; nor can any truly seek him till they feel themselves in such a state. They may be generally comprised under three classes:
1. Awakened sinners. None but those who have felt it can conceive how sinners labor, toil, and faint, under their first convictions. They are burdened — First, with the guilt of sin. This is a heavy load. When Jesus 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 permits it to lie heavy upon us. I suppose the best of us can remember some action or incident or other in our past lives, which we would wish to forget if we could. Now, how would you be distressed to have a person sounding in your ears, from morning till night, and every day of your lives, that worst thing that you ever did? Would it not weary you? This is a faint image of the convinced sinner’s state. When conscience is truly awakened it acts this officious and troublesome part; but its remonstrances are not confined to one sin, it renews the remembrance and the aggravations of multitudes. Nor is this the voice of a man, but, indeed, of God, who speaks in and by the conscience. The poor sinner hears and trembles: then the complaint of Job is understood: “Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” Do you wonder 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, it gives them such a lively sense of what sin is, and what it deserves from a righteous God, that they are almost afraid or ashamed to see any person that knows them. They are ready to think that people can read in their faces what passes in their hearts, and almost expect that the ground should open under their feet. Oh, how wearisome is it to be continually bowed down with such a burden as this!
Secondly, with the power of sin. Perhaps they were once in some measure at ease in this respect: they saw others whom they supposed to be worse; and, therefore, trusted in themselves that they were righteous. But convictions arouse and inflame our sinful natures. St. Paul exemplifies this by his own case before conversion: “I was without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” He never was strictly without the law; for he expected salvation by obeying it; but he was without the knowledge of its spirituality, demands, and sanction: and while he remained thus, he was alive, that is, his hope remained good, and he was satisfied with his obedience. But when the commandment came, when its extent, purity, and penalty were brought home to his conscience, sin revived, and he died. He found all his pretensions to liberty, obedience, and comfort, were experimentally confuted by what he felt himself. The more an awakened sinner strives against his corruptions, the more they seem to increase. This wearies him: for, besides the greatness of the toil itself, he finds himself weak, weak as water, weaker and weaker. And he is not only weary, but heavy laden; for this likewise is a burden he cannot shake off. He sees that he cannot succeed; yet he dares not desist.
2. Those who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, are laboring and heavy laden, engaged in what is beyond their strength and baffles all their endeavors. This may appear from what has already been said. It is a hard task to keep the whole law; and nothing less will either please God, if made the ground of justification, or satisfy the conscience that has any true light. Those declarations of the Word, that “cursed is the man who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them,” and “whosoever keepeth the whole law, and yet offendeth in one point, he is guilty of all,” keep them in continual anxiety and servitude. The weakness of the flesh makes it impossible for the law to give a ground of hope; yet they cannot lay down their burden, but are compelled to renew the fruitless task. I speak not of mere formalists, who go through a round of external services, without meaning or design; but all who are in a measure sincere, finding themselves still followed with a restless inquiry, “What lack I yet?” Endless are the shifts and contrivances they are put to; but all in vain; for, what makes it worse, they always add to this burden many inventions of their own, as though the demands of the law were too few.
3. Those who are under temptation. It is a hard and wearisome service to be in close conflict with the powers of darkness. The leading branches of this exercise are:
First. When the soul is assaulted, and as it were filled with insufferable blasphemies. When Satan is permitted to shoot these fiery darts, none can express (not even those who have felt them) the amazement and confusion that fills the mind. For a person who has received a reverence for the name and attributes of God, to be haunted from morning to night, from day to day, with horrid imprecations, so strongly impressed that he often starts and trembles with an apprehension that he has certainly consented, and spoken them aloud with his lips; this is irksome and terrifying beyond description.
Secondly. When the foundations of faith and experience are attacked. Many who have thought themselves grounded in the truth, who have hoped that they had surely tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have in their first comforts been ready to say, “I shall never be moved, thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my mountain so strong,” have found themselves afterwards at their wits’ end, when the enemy has been permitted to come in upon them like a flood. One black cloud of temptation has blotted out all their comfortable evidences; and they have been left to question, not only the justness of their own hopes, but even the first and most important principles on which their hopes were built.
Thirdly. When the hidden corruptions and abominations of the heart are stirred up. And perhaps there is no other way but this of coming to the knowledge of what our depraved natures are capable. Such things a season of temptation has discovered to some, which I believe no racks or tortures could constrain them to disclose, though but to their dearest friend. This subject, therefore, will not bear a particular illustration. The Lord’s people are not all acquainted with these depths of Satan. As people who live on shore have a variety of trials, dangers, and deliverances, yet know but little of the peculiar exercises of those who go down to the sea in ships; so, in the present case, there are great waters, depths of temptation, known comparatively to few. Those who are brought through them have more to say of the wonders of God in the great deep than others; and this is his design in permitting it, that they may know more of him, and more of themselves. But while they are under these trials, they are weary and heavy laden; and this burden they must bear till the Lord removes it. The help of men, books, and ordinances, is sought and tendered in vain, till his appointed hour of deliverance draws near.
These, therefore, convinced, striving, and tempted souls, are the persons to whom Jesus says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” The purport of this gracious invitation we are to consider hereafter. In the meantime rejoice in this, Jesus has foreseen your cases, and provided accordingly. He says, Come; that is, believe, as he himself expounds it: “He that cometh unto me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst.” I proceed to consider:
II. What it is to come to Christ. I have observed in general, that it appears to have the same signification with believing in him. But, that we may understand it more clearly, let us inquire:
1. It does not appear that those to whom our Lord spoke in person were so 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. Many questioned his authority and right to exact a dependence on himself; but they seemed to be at no difficulty about his meaning. It certainly 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, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.” Therefore, if we consult what is written of those who came to Jesus for relief, and obtained it, we may conclude that coming to him implies,
First. A persuasion of his power, and of their own need of his help. They knew that they wanted relief, and conceived of him as an extraordinary person empowered and able to succor them. This persuasion of Christ’s sufficiency and willingness was then, as it is now, afforded in different degrees. The centurion spoke with full assurance: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” The leper more dubiously: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Another, in still fainter language: “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” The faith of this last was, as the man himself acknowledged, mixed with much unbelief and fear; yet Jesus did not despise the day of small things: he pardoned his suspicions, confirmed his fluctuating mind, granted him his request; and his case is recorded as an instance of how graciously he accepts and cherishes the feeblest effects of true faith: “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.”
Secondly. An actual application. This evidenced their faith to be right. They did not sit content with having heard of him, but improved it: they went to him, told him their cases, and implored his compassion. Their faith prevailed against all discouragements. In vain the multitude charged them to hold their peace; knowing that he only was able to relieve them, they cried so much the more a great deal. Even when he seemed to discover a great reserve, they still waited, and knew not how to depart without an answer. Nor could a sense of unworthiness, fear, or shame, keep them back, when once they had a strong persuasion of his power to save.
Thirdly. When he was sought to as a soul-physician, as was the case with many, whose bodily diseases he healed, and with others who were not sick, those who came to him continued with him, and became his followers. They depended on him for salvation, received him as their Lord and Master, professed an obedience to his precepts, accepted a share in his reproach, and renounced everything that was inconsistent with his will. Some had a more express and open call to this, as Matthew, who was sitting at the receipt of customs, regardless of Jesus, till he passed by him, and said, “Follow me.” That word accompanied with the power of his love, won his heart, and diverted him from the worldly pursuits in an instant. Others were more secretly drawn by his Spirit and providence, as Nathanael, and the weeping penitent who silently washed his feet with her tears; and this was the design and effect of many of their bodily and family afflictions. The man who was brought to be healed of the palsy, received the forgiveness of his sins; and the ruler who first came to Jesus with no other view than to obtain the life of his son, obtained much more than he asked or expected. The Lord afforded such an affecting sense of his power and goodness upon that occasion, that he from thenceforth believed, with all his house.
2. These things are applicable to us. Jesus is no longer visible upon earth; but he has promised his spiritual presence to abide with his Word, ordinances, and people, to the end of time. Weary and heavy laden souls have now no need to take a long journey to seek him: for he is always near them, and in a spiritual manner, where his Gospel is preached. Poor and inconsiderable as we are in the judgment of the world, I trust we have a right to claim his promise, and to believe that he is even now in the midst of us. Therefore, come unto him; that is:
First. Raise your hearts, and breathe forth your complaints to him. Do you see your need of him? Be persuaded, and pray to him to assure you more strongly of his power and goodness. He is just such a Savior as your circumstances require, as you yourself could wish for, and he is able to convince you in a moment that he is so. If he is pleased to cause a ray of his glory to break in upon your mind, your fears, and doubts, and griefs, would instantly give place.
Secondly. Persevere in this application to him. Set a high value upon these his public ordinances, and be constant in attending them. His eye is fixed upon us; his arm is revealed among us. I trust it is a time of his grace, and that every day we meet, he does something for one or another in the assembly. He has a fixed time for every one whom he relieves. He knew how long the poor man had waited at the pool side; and when his hour came he spake and relieved him. So do you endeavor 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. You will find many things arising from within and without to discourage and weary you in this course; but persist in it, and in good time you will find rest for your souls. These are the means which the Lord has appointed you. Converse likewise at proper opportunities with his people; perhaps he may unexpectedly join you, as he did the two disciples when walking to Emmaus, and cause your hearts to burn within you. Further — Thirdly. You are to follow him, to take up his cross, to make a profession of his name and Gospel, to bear contentedly a share in the reproach and scorn which is the usual lot of those who will live godly in Christ Jesus, in the midst of an unbelieving and perverse generation. You are not only to trust in him as a priest to atone for your sins, but to receive and obey him as your teacher and your 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 likewise willing to forsake everything 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 vain companions. Rather these are a part of the burden from which you long to be freed.
Come in this way, and you shall find rest for your souls. Are any of you thinking — Oh, that I could! — Surely if I had seen him and heard him, I should have ventured; but now unbelief and fear keeps me back. I observe, therefore —
3. That as we have no less need of Jesus than those of old who saw and conversed with him; so we have at least equal encouragement to come unto him. This I think will appear, if we consider that,
On the one hand, the bodily presence of Christ, considered in itself, had no peculiar or extraordinary influence upon those who saw him, but all was wrought by the power of his Spirit; the same Spirit which is promised to abide with his church forever.
First. Multitudes who saw and heard him were unmoved and unconvinced by all the wonders of his love. Though he spoke as never man spoke, and went about doing good, he was slighted, opposed, and hated, even to the death.
Secondly. Many of his professed disciples, even after they had followed him for a while, turned back and forsook him. We have therefore the less reason to wonder when we see any give up the profession of the Gospel, and return to the world again. It was thus from the beginning.
Thirdly. Even his true disciples, who were constant1y with him, to whom he had personally made the most express and endearing promises, and who sometimes thought themselves assured beyond the power of a doubt, yet could not maintain their confidence longer than his Spirit upheld them. To them expressly, though not to them exclusively, Jesus had said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again to receive you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” When he had concluded that affectionate discourse, their doubts and fears were dissipated, and they could confidently say, “Now we believe,” yet it was not long before they found his reply fulfilled: Jesus said unto them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming when you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.” Will not this instance convince you of your mistake, when you think you could depend more on a voice from heaven than on the written Word?
What exceptions can your unbelief devise against the invitations, motives, and examples, which the Lord sets before you by his preached Gospel?
(1) Is it a sense of your load which makes you say you are not able? But consider that this is not a work, but a rest. Would a man plead, I am so heavy laden that I cannot consent to part with my burden; so weary that I am not able either to stand still or he down, but must force myself further? The greatness of your burden, so far from being an objection, is the very reason why you should instantly come to Christ, for he alone is able to release you.
(2) But perhaps you think you do not come aright. I ask, how would you come? If you can come as a helpless, unworthy sinner, without strength, without righteousness, without any hope but what arises from the worth, work, and word of Christ, this is to come aright. There is no other way of being accepted. Would you refresh and strengthen yourself, wash away your own sins, free yourself from your burden, and then come to him to do these things for you? May the Lord help you to see the folly and unreasonableness of your unbelief.
I have observed already, that coming to Christ signified more at first than merely to come into his presence: so, likewise, it means more now than to be found among his worshippers. Let none of you be deceived with a form of godliness. Examine your religious professions by this test. Have you labored under a sense of your misery? Have you known the burden of sin? Has Jesus given you rest? Or are you earnestly seeking to him for it? If you understand not the meaning of these questions, you are not yet in that state to which the promises are made. And why are you not laboring and heavy laden? Are you not sinners? Has not the righteous God revealed a law? Has he not guarded this law with the sanction of a dreadful curse? Have you not transgressed this holy law in thought, word, and deed, times without number? If you have, how will you escape the penalty? How, indeed, if you dare to neglect this great salvation? The law condemns you already; if you receive not the Gospel you must perish without remedy: for other name or means whereby men can be saved there is none under heaven. Once more you are warned of danger; once more the refuge is set before you. We are now to speak,
III. Of this promised rest. And here two things offer to our consideration:
1. What this rest is.
1. The Greek word used here expresses something more than rest, or a mere relaxation 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 to repair his wasted strength. Such is the rest of the Gospel. It not only puts a period to our fruitless labor, but it affords a sweet reviving cordial. There is not only peace, but joy in believing. Taken at large, we may consider it as twofold.
First. A present rest. So the apostle speaks, “We who have believed do enter into rest.” (Heb. 4:3).
(1) The common wearisome pursuit of the world is described as “spending their money for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which satisfieth not,” wandering from object to object in quest of good, but still mortified by incessant and repeated disappointment. We should pity a person whom we should see seeking some necessary thing day after day, which we knew 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 to be found in him. When they come to him, their wishes are answered. This is exemplified by our Lord in the character of a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls, who was still upon the inquiry till he had found one pearl of great price. This answered and exceeded his desires: upon the discovery of this one, he rejoiced to forego all his former acquisitions, and to give up every other possession or purpose, that he might obtain it.
(2) I have spoken something concerning the wearisome exercise of a conscience burdened with guilt: but by coming to Jesus, and believing in Him, an end is put to this. When we are enabled to view our sins as laid upon Christ, that those who come are accepted in the Beloved, and there is no more condemnation, but pardon, reconciliation, and adoption are the sure privileges of all who trust in Him, Oh, the sweet calm that immediately takes place in the soul! It is something more than deliverance. There is a pleasure more than answerable to the former pain, a comfort greater than all the trouble that went before it. Yea, the remembrance of the former bitterness greatly enhances the present pleasure. And the soul understands and experiences the meaning of those Scriptures, “When the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” “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. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.”
(3) There is likewise a rest from the power of sin. In vain is this sought from resolutions and endeavors in our own strength. Even after we are spiritually disposed, and begin to understand the Gospel salvation, it is usually, for a season, rather a fight than a rest. But when we are brought nearer to Christ, and taught to live upon him as our sanctification, deriving all our strength and motives from him by faith, we obtain a comparative rest in this respect also. We find hard things become easy, and mountains sink into plains, by his power displayed in our behalf. Further,
(4) There is a rest from our own works. The believer is quite delivered from the law as a covenant, and owes it 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 unhallowed 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 is at his wits’ end. But there is a promise, and therefore an attainable rest in this respect; a liberty and power to repose on the finished work and unchangeable word of Christ; to follow him steadily through light and darkness; to glory in him only, when our frames are brightest; and to trust him assuredly, when we are 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 —
Secondly, a future rest besides and beyond all that can be experienced here: “There remaineth yet a rest for the people of God.” Faint and imperfect are our most enlarged ideas of that glory which shall be revealed. “It does not yet appear what we shall be.” Who can describe or conceive the happiness of heaven? The most we can clearly understand of it lies in negatives. It will be as unlike as possible to this wilderness of sin and sorrow where we are now confined. Here we are in a warfare, but then we shall enter in perfect rest.
(1) A rest from all sin. There no unclean thing shall defile or disturb us forever. We shall be free from sin in ourselves. This alone would be worth dying for. Indwelling sin is a burden under which even the redeemed of the Lord must groan while they sojourn in this body; and those who are most spiritual are most deeply affected with shame, humiliation, and grief, on this account, because they have the clearest views of the holiness of God, the spirituality of the law, the love of Christ, and the deceitfulness of their own hearts. Therefore the apostle Paul, though perhaps in grace and talents, in zeal and usefulness, distinguished above all the children of Adam, accounted himself the chief of sinners, less than the least of all saints, and cried out, under the disparity he felt between what he was and what he would be, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But we shall not carry this burden beyond the grave. The hour of dissolution shall free us from the inbred enemies (the inseparable concomitants of this frail perishing nature) which now trouble us, and we shall see them no more forever.
Again, we shall be free from all the displeasing effects of sin in others. Our hearts shall be no more pained, nor our ears wounded, nor our eyes filled with tears, by those evils which fill the earth. Now, like Lot in Sodom, we are grieved every day with the filthy conversation of the wicked. Who that has any love to the Lord Jesus, any spark of true holiness, any sense of the worth of souls in his heart, can see what passes amongst us without trembling? How openly, daringly, almost universally, are the commandments of God broken, his Gospel despised, his patience abused, and his power defied. To be a silent spectator of these things is sufficiently grievous; but if (as we are in duty bound) we dare to stand as witnesses for God in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, we find the spirit of the firstborn, Cain, instantly takes fire, and denounces war against all who should presume to say that we ought to obey and fear God rather than men. Invectives and ill treatment are the certain lot of all who openly and consistently appear on the Lord’s side.
(2) A rest from outward afflictions, which, though necessary, and, under the influence of divine grace, profitable, are grievous to bear; but then they will be necessary no more. Where there is no sin there shall be no sorrow. Then, believers, God “shall wipe away all tears from your eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
(3) A rest from Satan’s temptations. How busy is this adversary of God and man, what various arts, what surprising force, what constant assiduity does he employ to ensnare, distress, and terrify those who by grace have escaped from his servitude. He follows them to the last stage of life, but he can follow them no further. The moment of their departure out of the body shall place them beyond his reach forever.
(4) A rest from unsatisfied desires. Here, the more we drink, the more we thirst: but there our highest wishes shall be crowned and exceeded; we shall rest in full communion with him whom we love; we shall no more complain of interruptions and imperfections, of an absent God, and a careless heart. Here, when we obtain a little glimpse of his presence, when he brings us into his banqueting-house, and spreads his banner of love over us, how gladly would we remain in such a desirable frame! How unwilling are we to come out of the mount! But these pleasing seasons are quickly ended, and often give place to some sudden, unexpected trial, which robs us of all that sweetness in which we lately rejoiced. But when we ascend the holy hill of God above, we shall come down no more; we shall be forever with the Lord, never offend him, never be separated from him again. We shall likewise rest in full conformity to him. Here we find a mixture of evil in our best moments; when we approach nearest to him, we have the quickest sense of our defilement, and how much we fall short in every branch of duty, in every temper of our hearts: but when we shall see Jesus as he is, we shall be fully transformed into his image, and be perfectly like him.
2. But how is this rest to be obtained? Blessed be God, in that way which alone can render it attainable, by such unworthy, indigent creatures. If it was to be bought, we have nothing to offer for it; if it was proposed as a reward of merit, we can do nothing to deserve it. But Jesus has said, “I will give you rest.” Our title to it cost him dear; he purchased it for us with his own blood; but to us it comes freely. Faith in his name puts us in immediate possession of the first-fruits, the earne8t of this inheritance; and faith will lead us, powerfully and safely, through all hindrances and enemies, to the full enjoyment of the whole. Faith unites us to Christ; gives us an immediate interest in all the benefits of his life, death, and intercession; opens the way of communication for all needed supplies of grace here and ensures to us the accomplishment of all the Lord has spoken to us of, in a state of glory. “He that believeth shall be saved”; saved in defiance of all the opposition of earth and hell; saved, notwithstanding he is in himself unstable as water, weak as a bruised reed, and helpless as infancy. What Jesus will give none can take away. Only remember that it is a free gift. Receive it thankfully, and rejoice in the giver. Let him have all the glory of his own undertaking. Renounce every hope and every plea but his promise and mediation. Commit your souls to him, and then fear nothing. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” He will fight your battles, heal your wounds, refresh your fainting spirits, guide you by his counsel while here, and at last receive you to himself.
John Newton was born in London, England on July 24, 1725. He was educated early in life by his mother while his father, a respectable master of a ship in the Mediterranean, was at sea. He was deprived of the godly influence of his mother before he was seven years old.
When he was fourteen years of age, he became an infidel. When England was at war with France in 1744, Newton joined the Navy. He was in love with Mary Catlett so he overstayed a leave and finally deserted his ship. In 1750 they were married. When he was twenty-three years old after having lived a terrible life, he sought the mercy of the Lord. He became more serious and earnest. He studied for the ministry and was ordained at the age of thirty-nine.
Newton was curate of the church at Olney, Buckinghamshire for sixteen years, where he became an intimate friend and adviser of William Cowper, and a collaborator with him in the production of Olney Hymns. In 1779 he was appointed rector of St. Mary Woolnoth in London where he remained until his death.
He founded the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England. He was famous for writing hymns, some of which were, Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, and Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken. Two hundred eighty of his hymns were published in the Olney hymnbook. He wrote many letters and had volumes of sermons printed. In theology, he was a pronounced Calvinist. He also had an influence on various people amongst others, Thomas Scott.
He died on December 21, 1807. He requested in his will that his body be deposited in the vault under the parish church in St. Mary in Woolnoth.
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