Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 31st, 1859, by
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."Matthew 11:28-30.
HE single sentence which I have selected for my text consists of these words:"I am meek and lowly in heart." These words might be taken to have three distinct bearings upon the context. They may be regarded as being the lesson to be taught: "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." One great lesson of the gospel is to teach us to be meekto put away our high and angry spirits, and to make us lowly in heart. Peradventure, this is the meaning of the passage that it we will but come to Christ's school, he will teach us the hardest of all lessons,how to be meek and lowly in heart. Again; other expositors might consider this sentence to signify, that is the only Spirit in which a man can learn of Jesus, the Spirit which is necessary if we would become Christ's scholars. We can learn nothing, even of Christ himself, while we hold our heads up with pride, or exalt ourselves with self-confidence. We must be meek and lowly in heart, otherwise we are totally unfit to be taught by Christ. Empty vessels may be filled; but vessels that are full already can receive no more. The man who knows his own emptiness can receive abundance of knowledge, and wisdom, and grace, from Christ; but he who glories in himself is not in a fit condition to receive anything from God. I have no doubt that both of these interpretations are true, and might be borne out by the connection. It is the lesson of Christ's schoolit is the spirit of Christ's disciples. But I choose, rather, this morning, to regard these words as being a commendation of the Teacher himself. "Come unto me and learn; for I am meek and lowly in heart." As much as to say, "I can teach, and you will not find it hard to learn of me." In fact, the subject of this morning's discourse is briefly this: the gentle, lovely character of Christ should be a high and powerful inducement to sinners to come to Christ. I intend so to use it: first of all, noticing the two qualities which Christ here claims for himself. He is "meek;" and then he is "lowly in heart;" and after we have observed these two things, I shall come to push the conclusion home. Come unto him, all ye that are labouring and are heavy laden; come unto him, and take his yoke upon you; for he is meek and lowly in heart.
Look on me, a little Child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee."
He will not cast you away, or think you have intruded on him. Ye harlots, ye drunkards, ye feasters, ye wedding guests, ye may all come; "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." He is "meek and lowly in heart." That gives, I think, a still fuller and broader sense to the term, "meek."
4. But yet, to push the term a little further. Christ on earth was a king; but there as nothing about him of the exclusive pomp of kings, which excludes the common people from their society. Look at the Eastern king Ahasuerus, sitting on his throne. He is considered by his people as a superior being. None may come in unto the king, unless he is called for. Should he venture to pass the circle, the guards will slay him, unless the king stretches out the golden sceptre. Even Esther, his beloved wife, is afraid to draw near, and must put her life in her hand, if she comes into the presence of the king uncalled. Christ is a king; but where his pomp? Where the Janitor that keeps his door, and thrusts away the poor? Where the soldiers that ride on either side of his chariot to screen the monarch from the gaze of poverty? See thy King, O Sion! He comes, he comes in royal pomp! Behold, Judah, behold thy King cometh! But how cometh he? "Meek and lowly, riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." And who are his attendants? See, the young children, boys and girls! They cry, "Hosannah! Hosannah! Hosannah!" And who are they that wait upon him? His poor disciples. They pull the branches from the trees; they cast their garments in the street, and there he rideth on Judah's royal King. His courtiers are the poor; his pomp is that tribute which grateful hearts delight to offer. O sinners, will you not come to Christ? There is nothing in him to keep you back. You need not say, like Esther did of old," I will go in unto the king, if I perish I perish. Come, and welcome! Come, and welcome! Christ is more ready to receive you than you are to come to him. Come to the King! "What is thy petition, and what is thy request? It shall be done unto thee." If thou stayest away, it is not because he shuts the door, it is because thou wilt not come. Come, filthy, naked, ragged, poor, lost, ruined, come, just as thou art. Here he stands, like a fountain freely opened for all comers. "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely."
5. I will give you but one more picture to set forth the meekness of Christ, and I think I shall not have completed the story without it. The absence of all selfishness from the character of Christ, makes one ingredient of this precious quality of his meekness. You remember the history of Jonah. Jonah is sent to prophecy against Nineveh; but he is selfish. He will not go for he shall get no honour by it. He does not want to go so long a journey for so small a price. He will not go. He will take a ship and go to Tarshish. He is thrown out into the sea, swallowed by a fish, and vomited by it upon dry land. He goes away to Nineveh, and not wanting courage, he goes through its streets, crying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." That one man's earnest cry moves the city from one end to the other. The king proclaims a first; the people mourn in sackcloth and confess their sins. God sends them tidings of mercy, and they are spared. But what will Jonah do? Oh, tell it not, ye heavens; let none hear itthat ever a prophet of God could do the like! He sits himself down, and he is angry with God. And why his anger? Because, says he, "God has not destroyed that city." If God had destroyed the city he would have shouted over the ruins, because his reputation would have been safe; but now that the city is saved, and his own reputation for a prophet tarnished, he must needs sit down in anger. But Christ is the very reverse of this. Sinners! Christ does thunder at you sometimes, but it is always that he may bring you to repentance. He does take Jonah's cry, and utter it far more mightily than Jonah could; he does warn you that there is a fire that never can be quenched, and a worm that dieth not; but if you turn to him, will he sit down and be angry? Oh! no; methinks I see him. There you come poor prodigals; your father falls upon your neck and kisses you, and you are accepted, and a feast is made. Here comes the elder brother, Jesus. What does he say? Is he angry because you are saved? Ah! no! "My Father," saith he, "my younger brother have all come home, and I love them; they shall share my honours; they shall sit upon my throne; they shall share my heaven." "Where I am, there they shall be also." I will take them into union with myself, and as they have wasted their inheritance, all that I have shall be their's for ever. Oh! come home, prodigal, there is no angry brother and no angry father. Come back, come back, my brother, my wandering brother, I invite thee; for Jesus is rejoiced to receive thee. Do you not see, then, that the meekness of Christ is a sweet and blessed reason why we should come to him?
II. The second virtue which Christ claims for himself, is LOWLINESS OF HEART.
When I looked this passage out in the original, I half wondered how it was that Christ found such a sweet word for the expression of his meaning; for the Greeks, do not know much about humility, and they have not a very good word to set forth this idea of lowliness of heart. I find that if this passage stood in another connection, the word might even be interpreted "degraded, debased," for the Greeks thought that if a man was humble, he degraded himselfthat if he stooped, he debased himself right out. "Well," says Christ, "if you think so, so be it, and he takes the word. The word means, "near the ground." So is Christ's heart. We cannot be so low that he will not stoop to reach us. I would just set out the lowliness of Christ's heart in this way. Christ is "lowly in heart;" that is, he is willing to receive the poorest sinner in the world. The pharisee thought that the keeper of the gate of heaven would admit only the rich, and not the poor. Mark Christ's teaching. There were two came to the gate once upon a time; one was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day; he knocked, and thought that full sure he must enter; but "in hell he lift up his eyes being in torments." There came another, borne on angel's wings. It was a beggar, whose many sores the dogs had licked and he had not so much as to knock at the gate, for the angel's carried him straight away into the very centre of paradise, and laid him in Abraham's bosom. Jesus Christ is willing to receive beggars into his bosom. Kings, you know, condescend, when they permit even the rich to be presented to them, and the kissing of a monarch's hand is something very wonderful indeed, but to have the kisses of his lips who is the King of kings, is no uncommon thing for men that are shivering in rags, or that are sick upon miserable beds, in dingy attics. Christ is "lowly in heart;" he goes with what men call the vulgar herd; he hath nothing of affected royalty about himhe hath a nobler royalty than that, the royalty that is too proud to think anything of a stoop, that can only measure itself by its own intrinsic excellence, and not by its official standing. He receiveth the lowest, the meanest, the vilest, for he is "lowly in heart." If I have among my congregation some of the poorest of the poor, let them come away to Christ, and let them not imagine that their poverty need keep them back. I am always delighted when I see a number of women here from the neighbouring workhouse. I bless God that there are some in the workhouse that are willing to come; and though they have sometimes been put to a little inconvenience by so doing, yet I have known them sooner give up their dinner than give up coming to hear the Word. God bless the workhouse women, and may they be led to Christ, for be is meek and lowly in heart, and will not reject them. I must confess also, I like to see a smock frock here and there in the midst of the congregation. Oh! what a mercy, that in the palace of the Great King there shall be found these workmen, these blouses, They shall be made partakers of the kingdom of God. He makes no difference between prince and pauper; he takes men to heaven just as readily from the workhouse, as from the palace.
Further, this lowliness of heart in Christ leads him to receive the most ignorant as well as the learned to himself. I know that sometimes poor ignorant people get a notion in their heads that they cannot be saved, because they cannot read and do not know much. I have sometimes, especially in country villages, received this answer, when I have been asking anything about personal religion. "Well, you know, sir, I never had any learning." Oh! but, ye unlearned, is this a reason why ye should stay away from him who is lowly in heart? It was said of an old Greek philosopher, that he wrote over his door, "None but the learned may enter here." But Christ, on the contrary, writes over his door, "He that is simple let him turn in hither." There are many great men with long handles to their names who know little of the gospel, while some of the poor unlettered ones spell out the whole secret, and become perfect masters in divinity. If they had degrees who deserve them, diplomas should often be transferred, and given to those who hold the plough handle or work at the carpenter's bench; for there is often more divinity in the little finger of a ploughman than there is in the whole body of some of our modern divines. "Don't they understand divinity?" you say. Yes, in the letter of it; but as to the spirit and life of it, D.D. often means DOUBLY DESTITUTE.
The lowliness of Christ may be clearly seen in yet another point of view. He is not only willing to receive the poor, and to receive the ignorant, but he is also ever ready to receive men, despite the vileness of their characters. Some teachers can stoop, and freely too, to both poor and ignorant; but they cannot stoop to the wicked. I think we have all felt a difficulty here. "However poor a man may be, or however little he knows," you say, "I don't mind talking with him, and trying to do him good; but I cannot talk with a man who is a rogue or a vagabond, or with a woman who has lost her character." I know you cannot; there are a great many things Christ did which we cannot do. We, who are the servants of Christ, have attempted to draw a line where duty has its bound. Like the domestic servant in some lordly mansion who stoops not to menial employment. We are above our work. We are so fastidious, that we cannot go after the chief of sinners, and the vilest of the vile. Not so, Christ. "He receiveth sinners and eateth with them." He, in the days of his flesh, became familiar with the outcasts. He sought them out that he might save them; he entered their homes; he found his way into the slums. like some diligent officer of the police, he was willing to lodge where they lodged, eat at their table, and associate with their class to find them out. His mission was to seek as well as to save. Oh, see him stand, with arms wide open! Will that thief, who is justly executed for his crimes, be recognized by him? Yes, he will. There, with his arms outstretched, he hangs; the thief flies as it were to his bosom, and Jesus gives him a most blessed embrace. "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Christ has received the thief with open heart and open arms too. And there is Mary. Do you see her? She is washing the feet of Jesus. Why, she is a bad character, one of the worst women on the town. What will Christ say? Say? Why, hear how he speaks to Simon, the pious, reputable Pharisee. Saith he, after putting the parable concerning the two debtors, "which of them shall love him most?"and then he explains that this woman hath had much forgiven, and therefore she loves him much. "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven," saith he, and she goes her way in peace. There are many men you and I would not demean ourselves to notice, that Christ will take to heaven at last; for he is "lowly in heart." He takes the base, the vilest, the scum, the offscouring, the filth, the garbage of the world, and out of such stuff and matter as that, he buildeth up a holy temple, and gathereth to himself trophies for his honour and praise.
And further, while I speak of the lowliness of Christ's heart, I must remark another thing. Perhaps one is saying here, "Oh! sir, it is not what I have been, as to my conduct, that keeps me back from Christ; but I feel that what I am as to my nature restrains me; I am such a dolt, I shall never learn in his school I am such a hard-hearted one, he will never melt me, and if he does save me, I shall never be worth his having. Yes, but Christ is "lowly in heart." There are some great goldsmiths that of course can only think of preparing and polishing the choicest diamonds; but Jesus Christ polishes a common pebble, and makes a jewel of it. Goldmsiths make their precious treasures out of precious materials; Christ makes his precious things out of dross. He begins always with bad material. The palace of our king is not made of cedar wood, as Solomon's, or if it be made of wood, certainly he has chosen the knottiest trees and the knottiest planks wherewith to build his habitation. He has taken those to he his scholars who were the greatest dunces; so amazing is the lowliness of Christ's heart. He sits down on the form with us to teach us the A,B,C, of repentance, and if we are slow to learn it he begins again, and takes us through our alphabet, and if we forget it he will often teach us our letters over again; for though he is able to teach the angels, yet he condescends to instruct babes, and as we go step by step in heavenly literature, Christ is not above teaching the elements. He teaches not only in the University, and the Grammar-school, where high attainments are valued, but he teaches in the day-school, where the elements and first principles are to be instilled. It is he who teaches the sinner, what sinner means in deep conviction, and what faith means in holy assurance. It is not only he who takes us to Pisgah, and bids us view the promised land, but it is he also who takes us to Calvary, and makes us learn that simplest of all things, the sacred writing of the cross. He, if I may use such a phrase, will not only teach us how to write them highly ornamental writing of the Eden Paradise, the richly gilded, illuminated letters of communion and fellowship, but he teaches us how to make the pot-hooks amid hangers of repentance and faith. he begins at the beginning; for he is "meek and lowly in heart." Come, then, ye dolts, ye fools; come ye sinners, ye vile ones; come, ye dullest of all scholars, ye poor, ye illiterate, ye who are rejected and despised of men; come to him who was rejected and despised as well as you. Come and welcome! Christ bids you come!
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him:
This he gives you;
'Tis his Spirit's rising beam.
Come, poor sinners! come to a gentle Saviour! and you shall never regret that you came to him.
III. Having thus spoken on the two marks of our Lord's character, I propose to conclude, if God shall help me, by knocking home the nail, by driving in the wedge, and pressing upon you a conclusion from these arguments. The conclusion of the whole matter is this, since Christ is "meek and lowly in heart," sinners come to him.
Come to him, then, first, whoever you may be, for he is "meek and lowly in heart." When a man has done anything wrong, and wants a help through his difficulty, if about to employ some counsel to plead for him in a court of law, he might say, "Oh! don't engage Mr. So-and-so for me; I hear he is a very hard-hearted man; I should not like to tell him what I have done, and entrust my case in his hands. Send for Mr. So-and-so; I have heard that he is very kind and gentle; let him come and hear my case, and let him conduct the pleadings for me:" Sinner! you are sinful, but Christ is very tender-hearted. Speed thy way to Christ's private chamber,your own closet of prayer. Tell him all you have done; he will not upbraid you: confess all your sins; he will not chide you. Tell him all your follies; he will not be angry with you. Commit your case to him, and with a sweet smile he will say, "I have cast thy sins behind my back; thou hast come to reason with me; I will discover to thee a matter of faith which excels all reason," Though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow Come to Christ, then, sinful ones, because he is "meek and lowly in heart," and he can bear with the narrative of your offences. "But, sir, I am very timid, and I dare not go." Ah, but however timid you may be, you need not be afraid of him. He knows your timidity, and he will meet you with a smile, and say, "Fear not. Be of good cheer. Tell me thy sin, put thy trust in me, and thou shalt even yet rejoice to know my power to save. Come now," saith he, "come to me at once. Linger no longer. I do not strive nor cry, nor cause my voice to be hearth in the streets. A bruised reed I will not break, the smoking flax I will not quench; but I will bring forth judgment unto victory." Come then, ye timid ones to Christ for he is meek and lowly in heart. "Oh," says one, "but I am despairing; I have been so long under a sense of sin, I cannot go to Christ." Poor soul! he is so meek and lowly, that, despairing though thou mayest be, take courage now; though it be like a forlorn hope to thee, yet go to him. Say, in the words of the hymn
Whose sceptre pardon gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives.
I can but perish if I go;
And you may add this comfortable reflection
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died."
Come to him, then, timid and despairing; for he is "meek and lowly in heart." First, he bids thee confess. What a sweet confessor! Put thy lip to his ear, and tell him all. He is "meek and lowly in heart." Fear not. None of thy sins can move him to anger. If thou dost but confess them. If thou keepest them in thy heart, they shall be like a slumbering volcano; and a furnace of destruction thou shalt find even to the uttermost by-and-bye. But confess thy sins; tell them all; he is meek and lowly in heart." Happy confession! when we have such a confessor.
Again, he bids thee trust him; and canst thou not trust him? He is "meek and lowly in heart." Sinner! put confidence in Christ. There never was such a tender heart as his, never such a compassionate face. Look him in the face, poor soul, as thou seest him dying on the tree, and say, is not that a face that any man might trust! Look at him! Canst thou doubt him? Wilt thou withhold thy cause from such a Redeemer as this? No, Jesus! thou art so generous, so good, so kind Take thou my cause in hand. Just as I am, I come to thee. Save me, I beseech thee, for I put my trust in thee.
And then Jesus not only bids you confess and believe, but he bids you afterwards serve him. And sure, sinners, this should be a reason why you should do it. that he is so "meek and lowly in heart." It is said, "Good masters make good servants." What good servants you and I ought to be, for what a good Master we have! Never an ill word doth he say to us. If sometimes he pointeth out anything we have done amiss, it is only for our good. Not for his profit doth he chasten, but for ours. Sinner! I ask thee not to serve the god of this worldthat foul fiend who shall destroy thee after all thy service. The devil is thy master now, and ye have heard the wages he bestows. But come and serve Christ, the meek and lowly one, who will give thee good cheer while thou art serving him, and give thee a blessed reward when thy work is done.
And now, best of all, sinners! come to Christ. Come to him in all his offices, for he is "meek and lowly in heart." Sinner! thou art sickChrist is a physician. If men have broken a bone, and they are about to have a surgeon fetched, they say, "Oh! is he a feeling tender hearted man?" For there is many an army surgeon that takes off a leg, and never thinks of the pain he is giving. "Is he a kind man?" says the poor sufferer, when he is about to be strapped down upon the table." Ah! poor sufferer, Christ will heal thy broken bones, and he will do it with downy fingers. Never was there so light a touch as this heavenly surgeon has. "Tis pleasure even to he wounded by him, much more to be healed, Oh! what balm is that he gives to the poor bleeding heart! Fear not; there was never such a physician as this. If he give thee now and then a bitter pill and a sour draught, yet he will give thee such honied words and such sweet promises therewith, that thou shalt swallow it all up without murmuring. Nay, if he be with thee, thou canst even swallow up death in victory; and never know that thou hast died because victory hath taken the bitter taste away.
Sinner! thou art not only sick, and therefore bidden to come to him, but thou art moreover in debt, and he offers now to pay thy debts, and to discharge them in full. Come, come to him, for he is not harsh. Some men, when they do mean to let a debtor off, first have him in their office, and give him as much as they can of the most severe rebukes;" You rogue, you! how dare you get in my debt, when you knew you could not pay? You have brought a deal of trouble on yourself, you have ruined your family," and so forth; and the good man gives him some very sound admonition, and very right too; till at length he says, "I'll let you off this time; come, now, I forgive you, and I hope you will never do so again." But Christ is even better than this. "There is all your debt," he says, "I have nailed it to the cross; sinner, I forgive thee all," and not one accusing word comes from his lips. Come, then, to him.
I fear I have spoilt my master in the painting; something like the artist who had to depict some fair damsel, and he so misrepresented her features, that she lost her reputation for beauty. I have sometimes feared lest I should do the same, and so distort the face of Christ, and so fail of giving the true likeness of his character that you would not love him. Oh! could you see him! If he could stand here for one moment, and tell you that he was meek and lowly in heart. Oh, methinks you would run to him and say, "Jesus, we come Thou meek and lowly Messiah, be thou our all!" Nay, you would not come; I am mistaken. If sovereign grace draw you not under the sound of the gospel, neither would you be converted though Christ should appear before you. But hear now the message of that gospel"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved; for he that believeth on him, and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not, must be damned."