網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

6

certain world as this, disquiet the minds of those who have no solid Scriptural dependence upon God, and especially a freedom from the dread of death, and of the things which are beyond it. In these and other respects, the believer in Jesus enters into a present rest. He is under the guidance of infinite wisdom, and the protection of Almighty power ; he is permitted to cast all his cares upon the Lord,'* and is assured that the Lord.careth for him.' So far as he possesses, by faith, the spirit and liberty of his high calling he is in perfect peace. The prophet Jeremiah has given a beautiful description and illustration of the rest of a believer ;t which is rendered more striking, by being contrasted with the miserable state of those who live without God in the world. Thus saith the Lord, Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and

. shall not see wben good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places of the wilderness, in a salt land not juhabited. But, blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in

i the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.'

But, besides rest, there is refreshment. There are pleasures and consolations in that intercourse and communion with God to which we are invited by the Gospel, wbich, both in kind and degree, are unspeakably superior to all that the world can bestow, and such as the world cannot deprive us of; for they have no necessary dependence upon outward situation of circumstances; they are compatible with poverty, sickness, and sufferings. They are often most sensibly sweet and lively when the streams of creature-comfort are at the lowest ebb. Many have been able to say, with the apostle, “As the sufferings of Christ,' those which we endure for his sake, or submit to from his hand, .abound iu us, so our consolation in Christ also aboundeth.'I The all-sufficient God can increase these communications of comfort from himself, to a degree beyond our ordinary conceptions, so as not only to support his people under the most exquisite pains, but even to snspend and overpower all sense of pain, when the torment would otherwise be extreme. And he has sometimes been pleased to honour the fidelity of his servants, and to manifest his own faithfulness to them by such an interposition. One well-attested instance our own martyrology affords, that of Mr. Bainham, who suffered in the reign of queen Mary. When he was in the fire, he addressed

6

* 1 Pet. y. 7.

Jer. xvii. 5--8.

to Cor. i. 5

himself to his persecutors to this effect: You call for miracles in proof of our doctrine, now behold one; I feel no more pain from these flames than if I was laid upon a bed of roses. But in ordinary cases, and in all cases, they who taste how good the Lord is to them that seek him, how he cheers them with the light of his countenance, and what supports he affords them in the hour of need, can without regret, part with the poor perishing pleasures of sin, and encounter all the difficulties they meet with in the path of duty. Whatever their profession of his name, and their attachment to his cause may have cost them, they will acknowledge that it has made them ample amends.

Come therefore unto him, venture upon his gracious word, and you shall find rest for your souls! Can the world outbid this gracious offer ? Can the world promise to give you rest when you are burdened with trouble? when your cisterns fail, and your gourds wither? or when you are terrified with the approach of death, when your pulse intermits, when your are about to take a final farewell of all you ever saw with your eyes, and an awful, unknown, untried, unchangeable eternity is opening upon you view ? Such a moment most certainly awaits you; and when it arrives, if you die in your senses, and are not judicially given up to hardness and blindness of heart, you will assuredly tremble, if you never trembled before. Oh! be persuaded ; may the Lord himself persuade you to be timely wise; to seek him now, while he may be found, to call upon him while he is yet near ; lest that dreadful threatning should be your portion; Because I have called and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded ; I also will laugh at yoar calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.'*

SERMON XV.

MESSIAH'S EASY YOKE.

MATTH. xi. 29, 30. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.

and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Though the influence of education and example may dispose us to acknowledge the Gospel to be a revelation from God, it

* Prov, i. 24, 26.

can only be rightly understood, or duly prized, by those persons who feel themselves in the circumstances of distress which it is designed to relieve. No Israelite would think of fleeing to a city of refuge,* till by having unwittingly slain a man, he was exposed to the resentment of the next of kin, the legal avenger of blood : but then, a sense of his danger would induce him readily to avail himself of the appointed method of safety. The skill of a physician may be acknowledged, in general terms, by many ; but he is applied to only by the sick.f Thus our Saviour's gracious invitation to come to him for rest, will be little regarded, till we really feel ourselves weary and heavy laden. This is a principal reason why the Gospel is heard with so much indifference. For though sin be a grievous illness and a hard bondage, yet one effect of it is, a strange stupidity and infatuation, which renders us (like a person in a delirium) insensible of our true state. It is a happy time when the Holy Spirit, by his convincing power, removes that stupor, which while it prevents us from fully perceiving our misery, renders us likewise indifferent to the only mean of deliverance. Such a conviction of the guilt and desert of sin is the first hopeful symptom in a sinners's case; but it is necessarily painful and distressing. It is not pleasant to be weary and heavy laden ; but it awakens our attention to him who says, 'Come unto me, and I will give you rest,' and makes us willing to take his yoke upon us.

Oxen are yoked to labour. From hence the yoke is a figurative expression to denote servitude. Our Lord seems to use it here, both to intimate our natural prejudices against his service, and to obviate them. Though he submitted to sufferings, reproach, and death, for our sakes; though he invites us, not because he has need of us, but because we have need of him, and cannot be happy without him; yet our ungrateful hearts think unkindly of him. We conceive of him as a hard master ; and suppose, that if we engage ourselves to him, we mast bid farewell to pleasure, and live under a continual restraint. His rule is deemed too strict, his laws too severe ; and we imagine, that we could be more happy upon our own plans, than by acceding to his. Such unjust, unfriendly, and dishonourable thoughts of him, whose heart is full of tenderness, whose bowels melt with love, are strong proofs of our baseness, blindness, and depravity ; yet still he continues his invitation,· Come unto me;'-as if he had said, Be not afraid of me. Only make the experiment, and you sball find, that what you have accounted my yoke' is true liberty; and that in my service, which you have avoided as bur

* Josh. xx. 2, S.

| Matth. ix. 12.

6

6

"

densome, there is no burden at all; for,my ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. I have a good hope, that many of my hearers can testify, from their own happy experience, that (according to the beautiful expression in our liturgy) • his service is perfect freedom.'

If we are really Christians, Jesus is our Master, our Lord, and we are his servants. It is in vain to call him · Lord, Lord,'* unless we keep his commandments. They who know him will love him, and they who love him will desire to please him, not by a course of service of their own devising, but by accepting his revealed will as the standard and rule, to every part of which they endeavour to conform in their tempers and in their conduct. He is likewise our Master in another sense ; that is, he is our great Teacher ; if we submit to him as such, we are his disciples' or ' scholars.' We cannot serve him acceptably unless we are taught by him. The philosophers of old had their disciples, who imbibed their sentiments, and were therefore called after their names, as the Pythagoreans and Platonists, from Pythagoras and Plato. The general name of Christians, which was first assumed by the believers at Antioch,t (possibly by divine direction,) intimates that they are the professed disciples of Christ. If we wish to be truly wise, to be wise unto salvation, we must apply to him. For, in this sense, the disciple' or scholar' cannot be above his Master.'I We can learn of men no more than they can teach us. But he says, ' Learn of me; and he cautions us against calling any one master upon earth. He does, indeed, instruct his people by ministers and instruments ; but unless he is pleased to superadd his influence, what we seem to learn from them only, will profit us but little. Nor are the best of them so thoroughly furnished, nor so free from mistake, as to deserve our implicit confidence. But they whom he condescends to teach, shall learn what no instruction merely human can impart. Let us consider the peculiar, the unspeakable advantages of being his scholars.

1. In the first place, this great Teacher can give the capacity requisite to the reception of his sublime instructions. There is no prospect of excelling in human arts and sciences, without a previous natural ability, suited to the subject. For instance, if a person has not an ear and a taste for music, he will make but small proficiency under the best masters. It will be the same with respect to the mathematics, or any branch of science. A skilful master may improve and inform the scholar, if he be rightly disposed to learn, but he cannot communicate the disposition. But

6

1 Luke, vi. 40..

* Luke, vi. 46. Vol. Ill.

Aets, xi. 26.

18

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Jesus can open and enliven the dullest mind; he teaches the

1 blind to see, and the deaf to hear. By nature we are untractable, and incapable of relishing divine truth, however advantageously proposed to us by men like ourselves. But happy are his scholars! be enables them to surmount all difficulties. He takes away the heart of stone, subdues the most obstinate prejudices, enlightens the dark understanding, and inspires a genius and a taste for the sublime and interesting lessons be proposes to them. In this respect, as in every other, there is none' teacheth like him.'*

2. He teacheth the most important things. The subjects of human science are comparatively trivial and insignificant. We may be safely ignorant of them all. And we may acquire the knowledge of them all, without being wiser or better, with respect to the concernments of our true happiness. Experience and observation abundantly confirm the remark of Solomon, that he who increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow ; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.'t Unless the heart be seasoned and sanctified by grace, the sum total of all other acquisitions is but' vanity and vexation of spirit.'I Human learning will neither support the mind under trouble, nor weaken its attachment to worldly things, nor control its impetuous passions, nor overcome the fear of death. The confession of the learned Grotius, towards the close of a life spent in literary pursuits, is much more generally known than properly attended to. He had deservedly a great name and reputation as a scholar ; but his own reflection upon the result of his labours expresses what he learnt, not from his books and ordinary course of studies, but from the Teacher I am commending to you. He lived to leave this testimony for the admonition of the learned, or to this effect : Ah, vitam prorsus perdidi nihil agendo laboriouse :

Alas, I have wasted my whole life in taking much pains to no purpose ! But Jesus makes his scholars wise unto eternal life, and reveals that knowledge to babes, to persons of weak and confined abilities, of which the wisdom of the world can form no idea.

3. Other teachers, as I have already hinted, can only inform the head, but his instructions influence the heart. Moral philosophers, as they are called, abound in fine words and plausible speeches, concerning the beauty of virtue, the fitness of things, temperance, benevolence, and equity; and their scholars learn to talk after them. But their fine and admired sentiments are mere empty notions, destitute of life and efficacy, and frequently leave

*

Job, xxxvi. 22.

$ Eccles. i. 8. 18.

| Eccles. ii. 17.

« 上一頁繼續 »