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Good Words 1860
The True Rest for Man - Exposition of Matthew XI. 28-30.


Exposition of Matthew XI. 28-30.

The persons here addressed are those who are in want of rest, the weary and the heavy laden.

This description is applicable, more or less, to every man, until he finds rest in Christ. We do not say that men know why they are not finding rest, or that they will accept of the explanation of their condition which is given by Jesus; far less that they will receive from Him the rest which He is willing to impart. What we assert is, that men are seeking a rest for their being, which they do not find.

A very remarkable instance of this condition, so natural to all men, is that of Solomon. He, the great king, the great conqueror, the great merchant, the man of taste, of learning, and of wisdom pre-eminent, records in the book of Ecclesiastes, his many and varied labours in order to find repose for his great mind and heart. He says, for example:—

"I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." (Eccles. ii. 3-11.)

That is, he found no rest; yet if any man could have found it in the creature, or in life without God, it was Solomon. No doubt, after all this sad experience, he discovered at last where repose was to be found, as well as where it was not; for he thus sums up the results of all his labours, "Hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

In this weary and restless state Jesus Christ finds every man; all seeking rest, each in his own idol, but none in the living God; each following his own path, but all departing from God through unbelief; and to every man Jesus says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest."

We have often heard these remarkable words, and they have been familiar to us from our infancy; but have we ever pondered upon their meaning, so as to feel in some degree how very wonderful they are? He who spoke them was a poor man, so poor that He had not a place where to lay His head, yet He says, "Come to me, I will give you rest." He "was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;" yet He says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." For Jesus did not address this invitation to those weary ones only who gathered round Him when on earth to hear the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. His words are of value to us, because they are addressed to us as really and truly as they ever were to any. It is the same living Person who speaks from age to age to the weary thousands in all lands; to the philosopher, weary while seeking rest in science; to the covetous, weary while seeking rest in wealth; to the ambitious, weary while seeking rest in power; to the active, weary while seeking rest in occupation; to the voluptuary, weary while seeking rest in passion; to the poor and needy, the afflicted and bereaved, who think that for them rest can be found on earth no more; to each and all is this invitation sent, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." The cry of the prophet is repeated by Him to whom the prophets gave witness:—"Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live."

Do you ask if these words of our Lord are true? Is it certain that this person, Jesus Christ, can indeed give rest to every weary one who goes to Him! We do not wonder that you should ask such a question with deepest anxiety—yea, even with some doubt and trembling; for if His words are not true; if there is no such person now as this Jesus; if He does not, or cannot give, real abiding rest to the human spirit—then where can rest be found for any of us in the universe of God? If the whole living Church which has trusted Christ, and found a rest in so doing, has been deceived; if the Christian's peace has been but a deadly calm, his joy a dream, and his hopes delusions, how shall we be assured of finding anywhere a truer rest without Jesus? If this ark is but a cloud on the waste of waters, where can the eye of faith discover within the circumference of the universe a more sure resting-place for the weary soul? But such a supposition as the unreality of Christ's life, and of the rest which millions have found in Him, would land us in atheism; for there cannot be a God, under whose government mankind could find perfect rest for their spirits, and possess holiness of heart just in proportion as they believed in Him, and clung to Him with their whole soul, if there be no such person as Jesus, and if, consequently, faith in Him is a delusion, and love to Him an idolatry. But as we believe in God, so do we believe also in Jesus; and we know in whom we have believed, and know surely that His words are true, and His promise faithful, when He says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

But how does Jesus gives rest to the soul? This is a most important question, and one which we wish you very earnestly to consider.

We bid you notice, first of all, how He invites us to come to Himself—"Come to me." This is more than going to the church, or to ministers, or to sacraments, or even to the Bible. These tell us about Christ, and help us to go to Christ; but they cannot, dare not, be made substitutes for Christ, or they will practically become Antichrists—not for Him, but against Him. Our Lord invites us to go to Himself, which is possible only on the supposition that He is a living person, who knows us, and whom we may also personally know, and with whom an intercourse, by means of prayer, is a reality, and no mere doctrine. But this all living Christians practically believe, or love to Jesus would be impossible; and equally impossible would it be to meet His wishes by going to Him now with the same singleness of heart, the same necessity and faith, as the poor and needy, the sinning and sorrowful, exercised when they journeyed to meet Him while He dwelt among them, and fell at His feet with the cry, "Lord, help us." We would, therefore, press this on all the weary and heavy laden who seek rest in Jesus— go to Himself in prayer, and pour out your wants before Him, sure of such a welcome as He alone can give, and of finding such rest as He alone can impart!

But let us enter a little more into the spirit of this blessed teaching. We notice further, then, that when Christ offers us rest, it is the same kind of rest and repose of soul which He Himself possessed; as when He says, "My peace I give unto you," or prays "that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves." Is it indeed possible that we can ever possess and enjoy the rest of Jesus? Oh, who can comprehend the depth of such inward peace ! His soul was like the temple of God: without, the storm might rage in fury, and the thunder-cloud flash its lightning, but within all was the holy calm of God's own peace, and the voice of prayer and praise ascended from it to the throne of the Majesty on High.

But how shall this peace be ours? This brings us to a point of the utmost importance for us to understand. Observe, then, the remarkable process by which Jesus imparts rest. It is by laying upon us His burden and His yoke. He finds every man with a yoke and with a burden, and these He removes only by putting on His own yoke and His own burden. So that the difference between one when he first comes to Christ, weary and heavy laden, and when he finds in Christ rest and peace, is not that once he had a yoke and a burden, but that now he has neither; it is rather that formerly he bore his own yoke, which made him weary, and carried his own burden which crushed him to the dust, but now he has exchanged these for Christ's yoke, which is easy, and for Christ's burden, which is light; and by this exchange does he enter into Christ's rest.

But this leads us to inquire still further as to the Divine secret of rest; and to ask what is meant by these different yokes and burdens? Now the yoke, we know, is the sign of servitude, and that which Jesus finds on every man's neck is the yoke of self-will; and the burden which He finds every man bearing is the burden of self pleasing. The individual will, without reference to God's will, is by nature every man's rule ; and to please and indulge self, is by nature every man's end. Each person, no doubt, has his own way of finding rest and satisfaction for his being; but self, in some form or other, is the sole rule and end of all his plans and purposes. "God is not in all his thoughts." And the result is that no rest is found. "His life is a false nature—it is not in the harmony of things." Living in self and to self, he has missed "the way;" he knows not "the truth;" and possesses not "the life." In exact proportion as he seeks for freedom in the following of his own will, he becomes a slave, and his yoke becomes uneasy; and just as he seeks to gratify self by the indulgence of self, does he "loose himself" altogether, and becomes a weary and heavy-laden man —a miserable prodigal, who, having departed from his father with the portion of his goods to waste upon himself, soon spends all, until a mighty famine arises in his soul, so that he perishes for hunger, and no man can give unto him!

In this condition we have all been; and in this condition Jesus finds us, and says, "Take my yoke and my burden," and you will find rest.

And what was His yoke and His burden?

Christ's yoke was the service of God. Many are apt to think of Christ as having come to the world only to die. This, indeed, was the grand end of His incarnation, and this no Christian can forget who cleaves to the cross on which He died as our atoning Saviour. But neither let us forget that He lived for upwards of thirty years in the world, entering into every condition of humanity; and that, if in His divine nature He revealed to us what God was towards man, so in His human nature He revealed every day and hour what each man should be towards God. And surely, in dwelling on the life of Christ, you cannot fail to be arrested by His absorbing love to the will of His Father. Ere He reaches the world, and is seen by the eyes of men, the joyful cry is heard coming from the unseen, and heralding His approach, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God!" While He was on earth, it was His "meat and drink"—the very element of His being—to do His Father's will. In the depth of His agony in Gethsemane, He cried, '' If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" but though it was not possible to remove it, yet He was so subject to His Father, that He said with peace, "Not my will, but thine be done!" And while the world esteemed Him "smitten of God and afflicted," and might be disposed to extend to Him its sympathy as one subjected to a hard and cruel lawgiver, Jesus, who had true fellowship with His Father, and who rejoiced in His will, knowing how holy and loving it ever was, said, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee!"

Such was the yoke of loving obedience which our Lord carried through life and in death. To do the will of His Father was a joy constantly set before Him, for which He endured the cross, and despised the shame.

And what was our Lord's burden? It was the burden of the cross. And by the cross is meant, not His sufferings only, which He endured upon Calvary, but all the sufferings of soul which He endured through life in doing His Father's will. It is not difficult to conceive perfect obedience without suffering; for the will of God is done in heaven, by angels and by saints, without any pain; they wear the yoke without the burden. But in this world it is not so; and in redeeming us from sin, and fulfilling the good will of God towards a lost world, it was necessary that ''the Christ should suffer" before entering into His glory. But the Son did not the less "delight to do the will of God," as man's Saviour and as man's example, or refuse to be " made perfect by sufferings." He had a perfect knowledge before He came to the world of all that was involved in doing the will of God. He was able to measure beforehand every step, from the cradle to the tomb, and what He must endure, ere He fulfilled all that was written in the law and the prophets concerning Himself. But nevertheless, He accepted of the yoke, and carried the burden; and accordingly His whole life was a constant sacrifice of self, because it was a life and love which "seeketh not her own." "Even Christ," says the apostle, "pleased not Himself." "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." This was His saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." His sufferings were the necessary accompaniment of love, and were the shadow cast by the sinful world from "the light of life" which was in Him, and which shone upon the darkness that did not comprehend it. It was His very delight in doing His Father's will, and the reality and intensity of His love to His Father, and of His fellowship with Him, which made the world's sin, and the whole condition of God's creatures here such a burden to Him; and thus there was realised in Christ, as there must be in every believer, what seems a contradiction and a paradox, viz., a peace and joy unutterable, along with sorrow unutterable; for both spring from the same source— holiness in contact with sin, or love in contact with hearts "hateful, and hating one another," and "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them."

It is this Jesus who has come to the world to reveal to mankind where, and how, true life can be obtained. He finds every man seeking rest, but not finding it, because every man is believing a lie, and labouring under a terrible delusion. For all are busy serving self and pleasing self, and are therefore "weary and heavy laden." Jesus comes to such with a new idea of life altogether, and one which He has realised in His own person and experience, as if He said, "Come to me, and take my yoke; I have come not to do mine own will, but the will of Him who sent me. Be like me; know my God and your God, and do with me His will on earth, as it is done in heaven, and this yoke you will find easy. Come, and carry my burden; it is light to the spirit; deny self; take up your cross and follow me; so shall ye be my disciples, and so shall ye enter into my rest."

This is "learning of Christ Jesus." Such learning is a far deeper thing than a learning about Christ Jesus, however profound or extensive such knowledge may be. The Apostle Paul says to the Ephesians, "Ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and be renev)ed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." And such a coming to Christ, and learning of Him, so as to take His yoke and carry His burden, is being, in truth, His "disciples." It is a following of Him in spirit, and being disciplined by Him—brought as pupils into His school, in which the grace of God brings salvation by ''teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem, us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

And let us add, this learning of Christ is being "meek and lowly in heart," as He was; having towards God that babe-like spirit of holy confidence, dependence, obedience, which spring out of love; instead of the proud self-reliance, and separate-ness from God, which characterises us, while bearing our own yoke, and carrying our own burden.

Our space does not permit of our dwelling longer on this passage. We exhort you, in one word, to be first at peace with God through faith in the blood of Jesus for the remission of sins that are past, which He pardons freely by His grace; and seek His Spirit, to be delivered from sin in time to come, by bearing Christ's yoke, and carrying Christ's burden!


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