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to in the text as the conclusion of all. Let both together until the harvest. The great spiritual year is to be closed by a harvest, when the householder is to gather the wheat into his barn; when, at the end of the world, the final distinction of men and characters is to take place. The confused mixture of good and evil, which now prevails, is only a temporary dispensation of Providence, accommodated to man's fallen and imperfect state. Let it not tempt us for a moment to distrust the reality of the Divine government; or to entertain the remotest suspicion that moral good and evil are to be on the same terms for ever. The frailties of our nature fitted us for no more at present than the enjoyment of a very mixed and imperfect society. But when our nature, purified and refined, shall become ripe for higher advancement, then shall the spirits of the just, disengaged from any polluted mixture, undisturbed by sin or by sinners, be united in one divine assembly, and rejoice for ever in the presence of him who made them. Looking forward to this glorious issue with steadfast faith, let no cross appearances ever discomfit our hopes, or lead us to suspect that we have been serving God in vain. If we continue faithful to the death, we may rest assured, that in due time we shall receive the crown of life.
On the RELIEF which the GOSPEL affords to the
[Preached at the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's
Matth. xi. 28.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
THE life of man on earth is doomed to be clouded
with various evils. Throughout all ranks the afflicted form a considerable portion of the human race; and even they who have a title to be called prosperous, are always, in some periods of their life, obliged to drink from the cup of bitterness. The Christian religion is particularly indebted to our regard, by accommodating itself with great tenderness to this distressed condition of mankind." It is not to be considered as merely an authoritative system of precepts. Important precepts it indeed delivers for the wise and proper regulation of life. But the same voice which enjoins our duty, utters the words of consolation. The Gospel deserves to be held a dispensation of relief to mankind under both the temporal and spiritual distresses of their state.
This amiable and compassionate spirit of our religion conspicuously appears in the character of its great Author.
It shone in all his actions while he lived on earth. It breathed in all his discourses; and, in the words of the text, is expressed with much energy. In the preceding verse, he had given a high account of his own person and dignity. All things are delivered unto me of my Father ; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father ; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. But, lest any of his hearers should be discouraged by this mysterious representation of his greatness, he instantly tempers it with the most gracious benignity ; declaring, in the text, the merciful intention of his mission to the world. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The first thing which claims our attention in these words is, what we are to understand by coming unto Christ. This is a phrase which has often given occasion to controversy. By theological writers it has been involved in much needless mystery, while the meaning is in itself plain and easy. The very metaphor that is here used serves to explain it. In the ancient world, disciples flocked round their different teachers, and attended them wherever they went; in order both to testify their attachment, and to imbibe more fully the doctrine of their masters. Coming unto Christ, therefore, is the same with resorting to him as our declared Master ; acknowledging ourselves his disciples, believers in 'his doctrine, and followers of his precepts. As Christ, is made known to us under the character both of a
Teacher and a Saviour, our coming to him imports not only submission to his instructions, but confidence also in his power to save. It imports that, forsaking the corruptions of sin and the world, we follow that course of virtue and obedience which he points out to us; relying on his mediation for
pardon of our offences, and acceptance with heaven. This is what is implied in the scripture term Faith ; which includes both the assent of the understanding to the truth of the Christian religion, and the concurrence of the will in receiving it.
What next occurs in the text to attract our notice, is the description of those to whom the invitation is addressed. All those who labour and are heavy laden, that is, who, in one way or other, feel themselves grieved and distressed, are here invited to come to Christ. — Now, from two sources chiefly our distresses arise, from moral, or from natural causes.
First, They may arise from inward moral causes, from certain feelings and reflections of the mind, which occasion uneasiness and pain. A course of sin and vice always proves ruinous and destructive in the issue. But its tendency to ruin is not often perceived, while that tendency is advancing. For, as sin is the reign of passion and pleasure, it forms men to a thoughtless inconsiderate state. Circumstances, however, may occur, and frequently, in the course of life, do occur, which disclose to a vicious man the ruin which he is bringing on himself, as an offender against the God who made him. When some occasional confinement to solitude, or some
turn of adverse fortune, directs his attention immediately upon his own character ; or when, drawing towards the close of life, his passions subside, his pleasures withdraw, and a future state comes forward to his view; in such situations it often happens, that the past follies and crimes of such a man appear to him in a light most odious and shocking; and not odious only, but terrifying to his heart. He considers that he is undoubtedly placed under the government of a just God, who did not send him into this world for nought; that he has neglected the part assigned to him; has contemned the laws of Heaven; has degraded his own nature; and instead of being useful, having been hurtful and pernicious to those among whom he lived, is about to leave a detestable memory behind him. - What account shall he give of himself to his Maker? Selfcondemned, polluted by so many crimes, how can he expect to find mercy in his sight ?— Hence, an overwhelmed and dejected mind; hence, dismal forebodings of punishment; hence that wounded spirit, which, when it is deeply pierced, becomes the sorest of all human evils, and has sometimes rendered existence a burden which could not be endured.
Such distresses as these, arising from moral internal causes, may be made light of by the giddy and the vain; and represented as confined to a few persons only of distempered imagination. But to those whose professions give them occasion to see men under various circumstances of affliction, they are known to be far from being unfrequent in the world and, on many more occasions than is commonly imagined, to throw over the human mind the blackest gloom of which it is suspectible. Religious feel