« PreviousContinue »
be succeeded by a joyful morning; and “upon you who” thus “ fear bis name, shall the Sun of righteousness” shortly “ arise with healing in bis wings;" for this gracious temper is the peculiar work of the Spirit of God; it is he who brings that light into the soul, whereby its natural deformity is seen; it is he who casts down those proud imaginations which exalt themselves against God, and hide from the sinner his poverty and wretchedness: and it is this divine Spirit, wbo, by the ministry of the law, removes those false grounds of hope upon which the sinner was accustomeù to lean, and obligelb him to ask that interesting question, “What shall I do to be saved ?” As John Baptist prepared the way for Christ's public appearance, by rousing the world with the doctrine of repentance; in like manner, the Holy Spirit prepares the heart for the reception of the same glorious Redeemer, by such painful and humbling convictions, as to render him both necessary and desirable to the soul: And therefore it ought to be matter of joy and thankfulness to the sinner, when God smites his heart with a sense of sin; of such sickness, it may be truly said, “ This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God." Hereby, as it were, he dislodges his enemies, and empties the soul of every other guest, that he may come and fill it with bis own gracious presence.”
Lift up your heads, then, O trembling sinners! look forward but a very little way, and you may see to the end of that dark valley through which you are now passing. This road became necessary after man's apostacy; and it is the kindness, not the anger, of your heavenly Father, that hath brought you into it. Had your
destruction been pleasing to him, he would have suffered you to walk, without disturbance, in the broad way that
leads to destruction: but by alarming your fears, he plainly intends to prevent your ruin; and the present taste he hath given you of the bitterness of sin, is gra. ciously meant to divorce your hearts from the love of it, and to render the remedy which he offers, more welcome and precious in your esteem.--For, let it be observed, as a further ground of encouragement, that the gospelcall is particularly addressed to persons of this character: “ Come unto me," says the blessed Jesus, " all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And herein he exactly fulfils the appointment of his Father, and acts in the most perfect conformity to the commission he received from him; of which we have a fair copy, (Isaiah Ixi. at the beginning :) “ The Spir. it of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” From this passage it plainly appears, that humble, convinced souls are his peculiar charge: he is the physician, not of the whole, but of the sick; not of those that justify themselves, but of those who are perishing in their own apprehension, who feel their need of him, and know something of the worth of that salvation which he brings.
Let every humble sinner, then, take comfort from these considerations. God knoweth the penitent relentings of your hearts: Behold, he stands, like the father in the parable, stretching forth his arms to every prodigal son! he registers all your groans, “ he putteth your tears into his bottle," and, ere loug, “ he will give you the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for
your present spirit of heaviness." In the mean time,
let me recommend to you the following directions, with which I shall conclude.
Beware of smothering or quenching your convictions. I admit they are bitter, but they are also medicinal; and, by the blessing of God, shall issue in that repentance unto salvation, which is not to be repented of: whereas, if you stifle them at present, your hearts may contract a hardness and insensibility, which, if ever it be cured at all, shall cost you more pain and anguish than you presently feel, or indeed easily imagine.
At the same time, beware of drawing desperate conclusions against yourselves from the discoveries you have got of your guilt and danger. I may justly say to you, what the apostle said in another case,-“Mourn not like those who have no hope.” Your case, bad as it may seem, is certainly better than once it was. Formerly you were out of the way of mercy, now you have got into that very path where mercy meets the elect of God: It was then your sin to presume beyond any promise; beware now of despairing against many commands; but amidst all your fears and anxieties, still endeavour to keep hope alive in your hearts.
Especially hasten to the Saviour, who alone can give you rest. This is the great errand upon which convictions are sent; for, as I have already observed, " the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,—who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” – Doth the Lord Jesus appear precious to your souls ? do you see your absolute need of him, and his perfect suitableness to your circumstances? O, then, speedily have recourse to him, and receive him thankfully as the “unspeakable gift of God to men!" Embrace him cordially in all the important characters he sustains, as the Prophet, the Priest, and the King, of
his Church; and then shall you find, to your present comfort, and your everlasting joy, that he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by him." Amen.
This, and the four Sermons that immediately follow, were preach
ed at the celebration of our Lord's Supper.
MATTHEW xi. 28.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
It was prophesied of our Lord, long before his manifestation in the flesh, that he should “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound :" And lo! here he doth it in the kindest and most endearing manner, offering rest, or spiritual relief, to every labouring and heavy laden sinner. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
In discoursing from which words, I propose, in dependance upon divine aid,
, First. To open the character of those to whom the invitation is addressed:
Secondly. To explain the invitation itself, and show : what is included in coming to Christ: After which, I shall endeayour, in the
Third place, To illustrate the gracious condescending promise with which our Lord enforces the call: I will give you rest.
I BEGIN with the character of those to whom the invitation is addressed. They are such, you see, as labour and are heavy laden; that is, who feel the unsupportable load of guilt, and the galling fetters of corrupt af. fections, and earnestly long to be delivered from both; for these were the persons whom our Saviour always regar led as the peculiar objects of his attention and care. By our fatal apostacy, we forfeited at once our innocence and happiness; we became doubly miserable, liable to the justice of God, and slaves to Satan and our own corruptions. But few, comparatively speaking, are sensible of this misery! The bulk of mankind are so hot in the pursuit of perishing trifles, that they can find no leisure seriously to examine their spiritual condition. These indeed have a load upon them, of weight more than sufficient to sink them into perdition; but they are not heavy laden in the sense of my text. Our Saviour plainly speaks to those who feel their burden, and are groaning under it; otherwise the promise of rest, or deliverance, could be no inducement to bring them to bim. And the call is particularly addressed to such, for two obvious reasons :
First. Because our Lord knew well that yone else would comply with it. “ The full soul loathes the honey-comb.” Such is the pride of our hearts, that each of us would wish to be a saviour to himself, and to purchase heaven by his own personal merit. This was the “ rock of offence" upon which the Jews stumbled and fell: they could not bear the thought of being indebted to the righteousness of another for pardon and acceptance with God; for so the apostle testifies concerning