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sion of the fleece; who* intrudes into the post of a watchman, but gives no alarm of the impending danger. If the Scriptures be true ; if the Gospel be not, indeed, as pope Leo the tenth profanely
; styled it, a lucrative fable; the more he accumulates riches, the more he rises in dignity, the more his influence extends, the more he is to be commiserated. He may have the reward he seeks; he may be admired and flattered; he may, for a season, be permitted to withstand and discountenance the efforts of the Lord's faithful servants ; he may shine in the accomplishments of a scholar or a courtier; but nothing less than repentance, and faith in the Redeemer, whose name and cause he has dishonoured, can finally screen him from the full effect of that terrible denunciation-Wo to the idle shepherd that forsaketh, or neglecteth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.'+
REST FOR THE WEARY.
MATTH. xi. 28.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
Which shall we admire most; the majesty or the grace, conspicuous in this invitation? How soon would the greatest earthly monarch be impoverished, and his treasures utterly exhausted, if all that are poor and miserable had encouragement to apply freely to him, with a promise of relief fully answerable to their wants and wishes ! But the riches of Christ are unsearchable and inexhaustible. If millions of millions of distressed sinners seek to him for relief, he has a sufficiency for them all. His mercy is infinite to pardon all their sins ; his grace is infinite to answer and exceed their utmost desires; his power is infinite, to help them in all their difficulties. A number, without number, have been thus waiting upon him, from age to age ; and not one of them has been sent away disappointed and empty. And the streams of his bounty are still flowing, and still full. Thus the
* Ezek. xxxiii. 7, 8.
Zech. xi. 17.
Sun, his brightest material image, has been the source of light to the earth, and to all its inhabitants from the creation ; and will be equally so to all succeeding generations, till time shall be no more, There is, indeed, an appointed hour when the sun shall cease to shine, and the course of nature shall fail, But the true Sun, the Sun of Righteousness,* has no variableness nor shadow of turning; and they who depend upon bim while in this world, shall rejoice in his light for ever. Can we hesitate to accept of these words, as affording a full proof of the divine character, the proper Godhead of our Lord and Saviour, supposing only that he meant what he said, and that he is able to make his promise good ? Can a creature, however excellent and glorious, use this language? Can a creature discharge the debts, sooth the distresses, and satisfy the desires of every individual who looks to him? Who but the Lord Godt can raise up all that are bowed down, and comfort all that mourn ?
“ Again ; as is his majesty, so is his mercy. In acts of grace amongst men there are always some limitations. If a king proclaims a pardon to a rebellious nation, there are still exceptions. Some ringleaders are excluded. Either their crimes were too great to be forgiven, or their obstinacy or influence are supposed to be too great to render their safety consistent with the safety of the state. But the Saviour excludes none but those who wilfully exclude themselves. As no case is too hard for his power, so no person who applies to him is shut out from his compassion. Him that cometh to bim,' whatever his
• former character or conduct may have been, he will in nowise
6 cast out.' This glorious exercise of sovereign mercy is no less a divine attribute, than the power by which he created the heavens and the earth. It is the consideration of his inercy in pardoning
. sin, and in saving sinners, which causes that admiring exclamation of the prophet, Who is a God like unto thee ?'S
This passage, (including the two following verses,} closes the first part of the Oratorio. In tracing the series of the Scriptures thus far, we have considered several signal prophecies which foretold his appearance ; we have seen their accomplishment in his birth, and have, I hope, joined with the heavenly host, in ascribing glory to God in the highest, for this unspeakable gift and effect of his love. We have learnt from the prophets his characters, as the great Restorer, and the great Shepherd. The evangelist proposes him to our meditation here, in a gracious and inviting attitude, as opening his high commission, proclaiming
* Mal. iv. 2. James, i. 17. Micah, vii 18.
+ Psalm cxivi. 8. Isa. Ixi. 2.
| John, vi. 37.
bis own sovereign authority and power, and declaring his compassionate purpose and readiness to give refreshment and rest to the weary and heavy laden.
The two principal points in the text are, the invitation and the promise.
1. The invitation is expressed in very general terms. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.' There is no qualifying or restraining clause, to discourage any person who is willing to accept it. Whoever hath an ear to hear, let him hear.
Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.'* I cannot doubt but these words authorize me to address myself to every person in the assembly. I
I speak first to you who are spending your money for that which satisfieth not;'t who are wearied in seeking happiness where it is not to be found, and 'in digging pits, and hewing out cisterns for yourselves, which will hold no water,'I and have hitherto been regardless of the fountain of living waters,' which is always near you. While you are pursuing the wealth or honours of this world, or wasting your time and strength in the indulgence of sensual appetites, and look no higher, are you, indeed, happy and satisfied ? Do you find the paths in which you are led, or rather hurried and driven on, to be the paths of pleasantness and peace?'S With what face can you charge the professors of religion with bypocrisy, if you pretend to satisfaction in these ways? We have trodden them far enough ourselves, to be assured that there are feelings in your heart which contradict your assertion. You know that you are not happy, and we know it likewise. Are you quite strangers to a secret wish, that you had never been born ? or that you could change condition with some of the brute creation ? Are you not heavy Jaden,' burdened with guiit, and fears, and forebodings; harassed with crosses, disappointments, and mortifications ? Are you not often, at least sometimes, like children in the dark, afraid of being alone ; unable to support the reflections which are forced upon you in a solitary hour, when you have nothing to amuse you? And while you seem so alert, and upon the wing, after every kind of dissipation within your reach, is not a chief motive that impels you, a desire, if possible, of hiding yourselves from yourselves, and of calling off your attention from those thoughts which, like vultures, are ready to seize you, and prey upon you, the moment they find you unemployed? And how often do your poor expedients fail you, especially in a time of trouble or on a sick bed? What comfort does the world afford you then? What relief do you then derive from the companions of your vain and gay hours? Most probably, at such a season, they stand aloof from you; the house of mourning, or the chamber of sickness, are no less unpleasing to them than to yourself. They do not choose the pain of being reminded, by a sight of your distress, how soon the case may be their own. Or, if they visit you, you find them miserable comforters. But I have to speak to you of one who is able to comfort you, in all seasons, and under all circumstances ; whose favour is better than life. And will you still refuse to hear his voice? What hard thing does the Lord require of you ? Only to come to him, for that peace and rest to which you have hitherto been strangers. But, though you are invited, I know that of yourselves you will not come ; you will not, and therefore, you cannot. Be assured, however, the invitation does not mock you ; and if you finally refuse it, the fault will lie at your own doors. But may I not hope you will refuse no longer ? The preaching of the Gospel is his appointment, and has a great effect, when accompanied with the energy of his Holy Spirit, to make a willing people in the day of his power.'
* Rev. xxi. 17.
Isa. lv. 2,
| Jer. ii. 18.
& Prov. iii. 17,
There are others, however, to whom this invitation speaks more directly. The convinced sinner is 'heavy laden' with the guilt of sin, and “wearicd' with ineffectual strivings against it. He is weary of the yoke and burden of the law, when he can neither answer its commands with cheerful and acceptable obedience, nor sec any way of escaping the penalty which is due to transgressors. He sighs earnestly and anxiously for pardon and liberty. If he has an interval of comparative peace and hope, it is more derived from some occasional fervour and liveliness in the frame of his spirit, than from the exercise of faith ; and therefore, as that fervour abates, and it will not always remain at the same height,) his fears return. If, in such a favoured moment, he feels little solicitation or trouble from the evil propensities of his heart, he is willing to hope they are subdued, and that they will trouble him no more; but his triumph is short, the next return of temptation revives all his difficulties, and he is again brought into bondage. For nothing but the knowledge of the Saviour, and the supplies of his Spirit, can give stable peace to the mind, or victory over sin. A representation of these disappointments and changes fixes a heavy burden and distress upon the mind. But here is help provided exactly suited to the case. Comply with his invitation. Come to him, and he will surely give you rest.'
But what is it to come to Christ?' It is, to believe in him, to apply to him, to make his invitation and promise our ground and warrant for putting our trust in him. On another occasion, he said, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that
believeth in me shall never thirst."* The expressions are of the same import. When he was upon earth, many who came to him, and even followed him for a season, received no saving benefit from him. Some came to him from motives of malice and illwill, to ensnare or insult him. Some followed him for loaves and fishes; and of others, who were frequently near him, he complained, 'Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.'t But they who were distressed, and came to him for relief, were not disappointed. "To come to him,' therefore, implies a knowledge of his power, and an application for his help. To us he is not visible, but he is always near us ; and as he appointed his disciples to meet him in Galileet previous to his ascension, so he has promised to be found of those who seek him, and wait for him in certain means of his own institution. He is seated upon a throne of grace; he is to be sought in his word, and where his people assemble in his name, for he has said, “There will I be iu the midst of them.'s They, therefore, who read his word, frequent his ordinances, and pray unto him, with a desire that they may know him, and be remembered with the favour which lie beareth to his own people,'|| answer the design of my text. They come to him, and he assures them, that whoever they are, he will in nowise cast them out. If they thus come to him, they will of course come out from the world and be separate.'T If they apply to him for refuge and dependence, and trust in him alone; according to the words of the prophet, ' Asshur shall not save us, we will not ride upon borses, neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods, for in thee the fatherJess, the helpless, and comfortless, findeth mercy.'**
II. The promise is, ' I will give you rest.'tt The word signifies both rest and refreshment. He gives a relief and cessation from former labours and bondage, and superadds a peace, a joy, a comfort, which revives the weary spirit, and proves itself to be that very satisfaction which the soul has been ignorantly and in vain seeking amongst the creatures and the objects of sense. · This ‘rest includes a freedom from the forebodings and distressing accusations of a guilty conscience; from the long and fruitless struggle between the will and the judgment; from the condemning power of the law; from the tyranny of irregular and inconsistent appetites : and from the dominion of pride and self, which makes us unhappy ourselves, and hated and despised by others : a freedom likewise from the cares and anxieties, which, in such an un
* John, vi. 35. John, v. 40. Matth. xxviii. 16. | Psalm cvi. 4. 1 2 Cor. vi. 17. ** Hos. xiv, 3. xvi. 18. 2 Cor. vii. 13. Philem, vii. 20.
Matth. xviii. 20. # Compare 1 Cor.