Christ's Word With You
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”— Matthew xi. 28.
ONE is struck with the personality of this text. There are two persons in it, “ye” and “me”— that is to say, the labouring one and the tender Saviour who entreats him to come that he may find rest. It is most important, if we wish to see the way of peace clearly, to understand that we must each one come personally to Jesus for rest— “Come unto me, all ye that labour”: and that coming on our part must be to a personal Christ. In effect he says, “Come yourselves to me. Come not through sponsors, not through men whom you choose to call your priests, not through the petitions of ministers and teachers, but come yourselves, for yourselves.” Dear hearers, the quarrel is between you and God, and this quarrel can only be made up by your approaching the Lord through a Mediator: it -would be folly for you to ask another to come to the Mediator for you: you must trust in him yourself. Personal faith is indispensable to salvation.
But the personality of Christ is equally clearly brought out in our text. Jesus says, “Come unto me”— “not to anybody else, but to me.” He does not say, “Come to hear a sermon about me,” but “come to me.” He does not say, “Come to sacraments, which shall teach you something about me,” but “come to me”— to my work and person. You will observe that no one is put between you and Christ. The text is, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden”— not to somebody that will stand between you and me, but “Come to me at once, and without a go-between.” Come to Jesus directly, even to Jesus himself. You do want a mediator between yourselves and God, but you do not want a mediator between yourselves and Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Mediator between you and the Father; but you need no one to stand between you and Christ. To him we may look at once, with unveiled face, guilty as we are. To him we may come, just as we are, without anyone to recommend us, or plead for us, or make a bridge for us to Jesus. We are to come distinctly to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom God has ordained to be the way of access. I shall fail at this time in setting forth the gospel if I shall lead anybody to think that he can get salvation by going to church, or going to the meeting-house, or going to a minister, or going into an inquiry-room, or going to a penitent form. No, we are to go nowhere but to Jesus. You, as you are, are to come to Christ as he is, and the promise is that on your coming to him he will give you rest. That is the assurance of Jesus himself, and there is no deception in it. He will give you rest as surely as you come to him. What a blessing it will be if those who have no rest in themselves should find rest at once in Jesus while yet this sermon calls them. Why not? I hope many of you, my brethren and sisters, who have found rest already, will be praying while I am preaching, that the unresting ones may come at this good hour and find rest in Jesus Christ the Saviour.
You see there are two persons. Let everybody else vanish, and let these two be left alone, to transact heavenly business with each other. Jesus says to you, “Come to me.” Your answer to him, if it be, “Yea, Lord, I come,” shall be the means of bringing peace to your heart from this time forth and for evermore.
I want at this time to set forth the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who sends this pressing personal invitation to every labouring and heavy laden one in this place. I wish that I knew how to preach. I have tried to do so for thirty years or so, but I am only now beginning to learn the art. Oh, that one knew how to set forth Christ, so that men perceived his beauty, and fell in love with him at first sight. Oh, Spirit of God, make it so now. If men knew the grandeur of his gospel,— the joy, the peace, the happiness which comes of being a Christian, they would run to him: as flies seek after sweet fruits, so would men seek after the Saviour, if they did but know that sweeter than honey and the honeycomb is the word of his salvation.
I. I first call your attention to THE VALUE OF THE BOON which in this text is set before weary, labouring men, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest of the heart is worth more than all California. To be at peace,— to be no more tossed up and down in the soul,— to be secure, peaceful, joyful, happy, is worth mountains of diamonds. A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses: many a poor man is vastly happier than the possessor of wide estates, for peace comes not with property, but with content. The music of peace is not the jingle of gold or silver. Sweeter bells sound in the pardoned heart than ever wealth can ring. The herb called heart’s-ease often grows in tiny gardens, and happy is the man who wears it in his bosom. It is this boon which, for value, outshines the pearls and rubies which deck an Indian queen, which Jesus promises to give to all that come to him for it. Oh, rare peace which comes from the Prince of peace!
This, if a man gets it, is practically helpful to him in all the affairs of life. I say that, other things being equal, there is nobody so fit to run the race of life as the man who is unloaded of his cares and enjoys peace of mind. The man who is happily restful towards God is the man to fight the battle of life. I have known a man losing money on the market step aside, and, getting into a quiet place, breathe a prayer to God, and come back calm and composed; and, whereas before, in his distraction, he was ready to make bad bargains, plunge into speculation, and lose terribly, he has come back rested and peaceful, and has been in a fit frame for dealing with his fellow-men. I know this, brethren, having many cares resting upon myself, that when I can feel calmly restful and quiet before God, I am a match for anybody; but when once the spirits sink, and depression comes in, then the grasshopper becomes a burden, and a trifle frets the soul. Bring solid rest to the heart, and you have given the man a fulcrum upon which he may rest the lever with which he can lift the heaviest weight; but let him always be tossed up and down, and he has nothing to give him force. When a man is afraid to die, he may well be afraid to live. He who could not look death in the face— ay, that could not look God in the face, is a man who has a latent weakness about him that will rob him of force and courage in the heat of the battle. I commend to you, men and brethren, in this busy London, the precious boon of my text called “rest,” because it is not only a preparation for the world to come, but for the life that now is. The peace of God will serve both as arms and armour; it is both battle-axe and breastplate. It will be your heart’s comfort and your hand’s strength; it will be good for day and night, for calm and storm: it hath a thousand uses, and all of them are essential to spiritual well-being.
This rest is not found anywhere else but in Christ. Let me tell you what kind of rest it is, confessing that I now enjoy it and revel in it. It is rest to the man’s entire spiritual being. Conscience troubles us till Jesus speaks it into rest. Conscience looks back and cries, “Things are not right. You were wrong here, and wrong there, and wrong altogether: there is no rest for you.” Conscience keeps a day-book, and writes with heavy pen a gloomy record, which we read with alarm. “Tremble,” says conscience, “for you will see this record again at the judgment-day, and find yourself condemned by it to eat the fruits of your doings.” Men laugh and say they do not believe it; but they do believe it. Deep in their hearts they must believe it, for God hath a witness within which blurts out the truth. Conscience perpetually rouses some men, as a watch-dog wakes a slumbering householder. “Down, sir,” they say, “Lie down, lie down,” but this watch-dog of God in the heart will not lie down always: every now and then it begins to howl horribly, and the man cannot sleep as he wants to sleep. Even if you drug conscience it will have fits of barking in its sleep. Now, Jesus promises to those who come to him a peaceful conscience, which he will give through pardoning all the past, through changing the current of the man’s ideas in the present, and through helping him to avoid in the future the faults into which he fell in the days that have now gone by.
“Rest, weary soul!
The penalty is borne, the ransom paid,
For all thy sins full satisfaction made;
Strive not to do thyself what Christ has done:
Claim the free gift, and make the joy thine own;
No more by pangs of guilt and fear distrest,
Rest, sweetly rest!”
It is a grand thing to have rest of conscience. But then we have minds, and minds are troublous things. In these days of doubt it is not easy for a mind to get an anchorage, and keep it. Many are searching for something to believe, or, at least, they long to be quite sure that it would be the right thing not to believe. Minds are tossed about like ships at sea, or birds caught in a fierce gale. My mind was once in that state— drifted, carried along I knew not whither; I for awhile believed nothing, till at last it came to this— that I thought my own existence might be, after all, a mere thought. Having a practical vein in my character, I sat me down and laughed at my own dreams of non-existence, for I felt that I did exist. Up from the depths of doubt and unbelief I rose to feel there must be something sure. I cast my soul at Jesus’s feet, and I rested, and I am now perfectly content in mind. Thousands of us can say, “We know whom we have believed, and are persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him;” therefore we cannot leave the gospel. No new doctrines, no novelties, no scepticisms, no fresh informations, can disturb us now: at least, they can but breathe a surface-ruffling; all is calm in the soul’s deeps. Having found rest of intellect in the doctrine of Jesus, there will we stay till death and heaven, or the second advent, solves all riddles.
But then we have hearts. I hope we all have hearts; though some are so harsh and almost heartless. Men that have great, all-embracing hearts need a rest for their love. What a cause of trouble this heart of ours is, for it often clings to that which is unworthy of it; and we are deceived and disappointed, and heart-break crushes us. The tempting fruit, like the apple of Sodom, crumbles into ashes in our hand. Here then is rest and remedy for heart palpitations and the anguish of the breast. Let a man love Jesus, and he will crave no other love, for this will fill his soul to the brim.
“Him on yonder cross I love;
Nought on earth I else count dear!
May he mine for ever prove,
Who is now so inly near!”
Christ fills a man’s nature to the full. The incarnate Son of God once known gives rest of conscience, rest of intellect, and rest of heart: in a word, he brings complete satisfaction to the spirit.
Now, I do not know of any religion that offers perfect rest to the mind except the religion of Jesus Christ. Men go the world over to try and find this pearl of great price, but their quest is vain. I often talk with religious people who have no idea of being saved now, and finding rest at once, because they do not understand that Christ came to give immediate salvation to those who trust him. I spoke with one earnest soul a little while ago, and she said, “I have no rest.” I replied, “Have you believed in Jesus Christ?” She answered, “Yes.” “But,” I asked, “Do you not know that as soon as you believe in Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven you, and you are saved?” “I did not grasp that,” said she. Yet that is the gospel— that whosoever believeth in Jesus is not condemned. He that believeth in him hath everlasting life, and is saved the moment he believes— becomes changed from the power of sin and made into a new man, possessing a new life which can never die. This assurance is worth getting hold of, and he that has it, let him hold it fast, and rejoice in it; yet it is not to be obtained anywhere except from the dear hands that were nailed to the wood. This rest can never come from any lips but those that prayed upon the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This, then, is the boon which is presented by Christ Jesus at this moment to all that labour and are heavy laden; if they will come to him for it, they shall have rest of soul.
Some in this place are panting for rest. In this great city there must be much trouble, sorrow, unrest, misery, and distraction. When I look on this congregation, I know that I could not bear to hear the tale of sorrow that would be unfolded if each man were to tell his inward anguish. We look cheerful, but many a cheerful face covers a sad heart. The weight of human misery is enough to make the axles of the earth to break. Oh, what a blessing it is that there is One who can lift us up— who can make the poorest to be better than if he were rich, and the sad to be happier than the merry, and the afflicted to be more blest than the prosperous. Jesus is here in our midst with hands loaded with mercy. May he prove his presence among us by giving rest to all those who came in here labouring and laden.
Thus have I spoken upon the value of the boon. Oh, Spirit of God, teach men its value!
II. Bear with me, in the second place, while I speak upon THE LARGENESS OF THE SAVIOUR’S HEART. Oh, that I could stand aside, and that he would come here himself and utter the words of my text with his own dear lips! “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”
See the persons whom he invites to come to him. None but a man of great soul would keep suck company. If we would be merry, we choose merry company. Some folks I should be glad to be in heaven with, but I could dispense with their company here: for ten minutes with them on earth is enough to make one wretched. Only a generous spirit would say, “Come to me, all you that are downcast— all you that are desponding— all you that are broken-hearted.” Yet that is exactly what the text says. Christ courts the company of the sorrowful, and invites those who are ill at ease to approach him. What a heart of love he must have! Nay, he invites all such to come. You know two or three that are really cast down are quite enough at a time for most of us. It happened some months ago, when I was sitting here to see people, that I had four or five cases so sad— so deplorable— in which I could render such little help, that, after trying to pray with them, and encourage them, I said to a friend who was helping me, “I hope the next that comes to me will be cheerful, for I feel my head ache, and my heart too!” I tried as far as I could to enter into these poor people’s troubles till I became troubled myself. Now, the Saviour has such a large heart that he does not forbid the sorrowing ones to come, all of them. “Come one,” says he, “come all. All of you that labour and are heavy laden may at this hour come to me.” The love of my Master's heart is so great, and the sympathy of his nature with man is so deep, that if all should come that ever laboured or ever sorrowed, he would not be exhausted by the sympathy, but would still be able to give them rest in himself. But what a large heart Jesus has that he comes only to do men good, and begins by doing good first to those that want it most. Oh, my lords and ladies, Jesus did not come to win your patronage that you might applaud him. Oh, ye gay and high-flying ones, Jesus did not come to win your approbation. It would be a small thing to him for you to think well of him. But, O ye despised and rejected, ye oppressed and down-trodden; ye weary, ye worn, ye sad, ye sick, ye desponding, ye despairing, the great Physician of souls came after you, and it is to you he addresses the invitation at this time: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Come, such as you, and come all of you.
And, he says, come at once. He does not say, “Stop till you get your spirits raised, stop till you get some measure of relief;” but come just as you are. There is a notion in some people’s minds that they cannot believe in Christ till they are better. Christ does not want your betterness. Will you only go to the physician when you feel better? Then you are foolish indeed, for you do not want the physician when you are getting better. The best time to apply to a physician is when you are as bad as you can be; and the time to come to Jesus is when you are so bad that you cannot be worse. You had better come just as you are: he invites you so to do. “Come,” says he, “all ye that now labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Stay not to improve yourselves, but come to him for improvement. If you cannot come with a broken heart, come for a broken heart. If you cannot come with faith, come for faith. If you cannot come repenting, come and ask the Lord to give you repentance. Come empty-handed, bankrupt, ruined, condemned, and you will find rest. Oh, you that have written out your own sentence, and have said, “I shall perish; there is no pardon for me:” come to Jesus, for— depths of mercy!— there is pardon even for you. Only come you to the Saviour, and he will give you rest.
He promises this rest to all who come to him. My Master stakes his credit upon every case that comes to him. He has already given rest to thousands, to millions; and he promises to each one that comes to him that he will give rest to him. If there is in this place, if there is in this country, if there is in this universe, a single person who ever did come to Jesus Christ and he did not give him rest, I would like to know of it, because it is my daily habit to declare that Jesus gives rest to all that come to him, and I do not want to declare a lie! Let us know when Jesus fails. He says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out:” the first one of you that comes, and he casts you out, let us know of it. We will post it up on the Royal Exchange,— “A sinner came to Jesus, and he would not receive him.” Woe to the world in that dark day, for the sun of hope will be quenched and the night will miss her stars. Till then we beg you to remember that Jesus has said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Come and test my blessed Lord, and see if he does not accept you. We stake the veracity of Christ, we stake the truth of the gospel upon the case of every one in this place who will come to Jesus Christ by faith, and trust him. Each heavy-laden one must and shall find rest if he will come to Jesus, or else the Redeemer’s promise is not true.
Thus have I spoken upon the largeness of our Lord’s heart in promising rest to all that come to him for it.
III. But now, thirdly, and but a moment, let me speak to you about THE BLESSEDNESS OF HIS POWER. Our Lord Jesus Christ is able to give peace to all that labour and are heavy laden. He has not outrun his power in the promise that he has given. He is conscious that within himself there resides a power which will be able to give peace to every conscience.
Notice there is no reserve made whatever, no way is left of backing out of the promise. “Come unto me,” says he, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” No limiting clause is inserted. Some men will speak what looks to be a very wide promise, but a little condition inserted in it narrows it horribly; but there is no condition here. Whoever of woman born that labours and is heavy laden, and will come to Christ, must have rest; and Christ has said it because he can give it. There are desperate cases among the myriads of troubled hearts, but no single one is too far gone for Jesus. You have read the story of John Bunyan in “Grace Abounding.” Was there ever a poor wretch that was dragged about by the devil more than poor John was? For five years and more he could not call his soul his own. He did not dare to sleep, because he was afraid he should wake up in hell; and all day long he was troubled, and fretted, and worried with this, and that, and the other. Poor tinker that he was, he first thought this, and then thought that; and as he says, he was “considerably tumbled up and down in his mind.” I am sure such a case as that would have been given up by men; but when Jesus took it in hand John Bunyan found perfect rest; and his blessed “Pilgrim’s Progress” remains a proof of the joy of heart which the poor tinker found when he came to rest in Christ. Now, if within these walls there is a case in which poverty combines with sickness and disease, and if that poverty and disease are the result of vice, and if that vice has been carried on for many years, and if the entire man is now depressed and despondent, like one shut up in an iron cage, yet the Lord Jesus can give rest in such a case. It matters not how black or horrible is your condition, if you believe in Jesus you shall be delivered. As far as this trouble of soul is concerned, and as far as the venom of sin in your nature is concerned, you shall be healed. You shall be made pure, though now you are filthy: you shall be restored, though now you are fallen; you shall be started again in life by a power that shall cause you to be born again, so that you shall be as though you were a little child commencing life again, only under happier skies and holier influences. My Lord and Master has a power to comfort which reaches to the uttermost of human necessity. Some go a long way in sin and doubt, but they cannot rush beyond the uttermost, and therefore they are within the bounds of grace. Let the wind drive the bird far off the shore, yet the Lord hath a rest for it in another land. Still does Jesus bid us sound the great trumpet, and ring out the notes both clear and shrill,— “Come to me! Come to me! Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Blessed shall those ears be that hear the sound if their hearts obey it, and come to Jesus, and find rest at once. He is able. He is able to give rest. He is willing to cause joy. Doubt no more.
Jesus speaks thus without reserve because he is conscious of power; for note this:— Jesus Christ is God, and he that made men’s hearts can make them all anew. The God at whose bidding sprang that mighty arch of the blue sky, who poured out the sea from the hollow of his hand, and named the, stars in their hosts, is able to save unto the uttermost them that come to him. This blessed God took upon himself our nature and became man, and being found in fashion as a man he took men’s grief and sin upon him, and went up to the cross loaded with it, and there suffered in our room and stead, to make expiation for our guilt. There is such merit in his precious blood that no sin can ever overpower it. I can see man’s sin before me: it towers aloft, defying heaven; it rises like an awful alp shrouded in a tempest of ill. It seems to thread the clouds, to overtop the stars. Oh, mighty mountain, what shall become of thee? But, lo! I see Christ’s precious blood and merit like an ocean of grace poured forth to cover sin. Comparable to Noah’s deluge, the power of the Atonement is revealed till, twenty cubits upward, the tops of the mountains of our sin are covered, and not a speck of them remains; while on the top of the waters rides the ark of everlasting salvation, and all that believe in Jesus are safe, and safe for over. Oh, sinner, Christ is able to cast your sins into the depths of the sea, so that they shall never be mentioned against you any more for ever, and thus he will give you serenest rest. “Come to me,” says he, “and I will give you rest.”
I wish I knew how to put this so that it would get into men’s hearts; my Master knows that he can save you, for he had reckoned up every possible case before he spoke so positively. His prescient eye discerned all men that have ever lived, or that ever shall live, and he perceived you, dear friend, whom nobody else knows. You up in the corner there, whom nobody understands, not even yourself— he understands you, and he is able to give rest to your eccentric mind. He meant this promise to ring down the ages till it reached you. We have nearly completed the nineteenth century; but if ever we should get to the one hundred and nineteenth century, his power to give rest will be still the same. Still will he cry,— “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Oh, the vastness of my Master’s power, that in all ages, and all places, to all the children of man, he promises perfect rest of heart if they will but come to him! Will not you come at once and test that power? Oh that the Holy Ghost may incline you to do so!
IV. Now, fourthly, and this is a very important point, I want you to notice THE SIMPLICITY OF THIS INVITATION. It only says, “Come to me, come to me, come to me, and I will give you rest.” The call is, as we say, plain as a pikestaff: it has not a fine word in it. What is the way of salvation? If any minister replies, “I should want a week or two to explain it to you,” he does not know the way of salvation; because the way of salvation which we need must suit a dying man, an illiterate man, and a guilty man, or else it will be unavailing in many cases. We need a way of grace which will answer all occasions— a mode of salvation suitable to all conditions.
Our Lord Jesus Christ proves how willing he is to save sinners by making the method of grace so easy. He says, “Come to me.” “Well,” says one, “how am I to come?” Come anyhow. If you can run, come running; if you can walk, come walking; if you can creep, come creeping; if you can only limp, come limping— come anyhow, so long as you come to Jesus. “But what is coming to him?” says one. “If he were at York, I would walk to York to-night to get at him.” He is not at York any more than he is here. We are not to come to him with our persons, or with our legs and feet by a visible motion. How, then, can we come to him? Listen, you friends in the front gallery, how can I come to you, and yet stand here? Why, by thinking about you, knowing about you, and then confiding my thoughts to you, as I am now doing. If you over yonder are a business man, I resolve in my mind that I will commit my affairs into your hands; and in so doing I have mentally come to you. We are to do with our Lord Jesus just what we do with a physician. We are very ill; it is a bad case. We hear that a certain eminent doctor has great skill in one particular disease; so at once we go to him. Our physical going is not so much required as our mental resort to him, by putting our case into his hands. We say to him, “Sir, here is my afflicted person. I will tell you all about my state as far as I know it. Ask me any questions. I will make a clean breast of all. Whatever you prescribe for me I will take; whatever regimen you lay down as to diet, I will follow. I place myself entirely in your hands because I have faith in your skill. You cured my mother of this disease; you cured my brother; and I believe you can cure me.” Such is faith in Christ. A man says, “Jesus, thou hast died to save men, and thou hast revealed thyself as a Saviour. I want saving. Thou hast saved a great many like me; I now put myself into thy hands. I will do what thou biddest me, I will follow any directions thou mayest lay down, I confide myself to thee.” Now, if this is a genuine surrender, and a hearty confidence, you are already a healed man. Your power to trust Christ is evidence of spiritual sanity: you would not have been able to trust the blessed Jesus if a sound work of restoration had not already commenced in you.
“Oh,” says one, “do I understand, then, that if I trust Christ, I may do as I like?” Stop, stop. I never said that. Hearken, and learn I Here is a ship which cannot get into the haven. The pilot comes on board. The captain says, “Pilot, can you get her into harbour?” “Yes, captain, I will guarantee it. I will guarantee that I will get the ship into harbour if you leave her with me.” The captain goes to the helm, or gives orders as to steering the vessel, and at once the pilot objects that they are not trusting to him. “Yes, I am,” says the captain, “and I expect you to get me into harbour, for you promised to do so.” “Of course I did promise,” replies the pilot; “but then it was understood that I should take charge of the ship for the time being.” He orders the helm to be changed, and the captain declares that it shall not be done. Then cries the pilot, “I cannot get you into the harbour, and I will not pretend to do so. Unless you trust me I can do nothing, and the proof that you trust me is that you obey my orders.” Now, then, trust Jesus, so as to be obedient to him, and he will pilot you safely. Yield yourself up to follow his example, to imitate his spirit, and obey his commands, and you are a saved man. Your ship shall not be driven out to sea while Jesus steers it; but do not go away under the delusion that you have only to say, “I trust Christ,” and that you are saved directly. Nothing of the kind. You must really trust him,— practically trust him, or there is no hope for you. Give yourself up to Jesus, renounce your old sins, forsake your old habits, live as Christ will enable you to live, and immediately you shall find peace to your soul. You cannot enjoy rest, and yet riot in sin. Shall the drunkard have rest, and yet drown his soul in his cups? Shall an adulterer have rest, and wallow in his filthiness? Shall a man blaspheme, and have rest? Shall a man be a rogue and a liar, and have rest? Impossible. These things must be given up by coming to Jesus Christ, who will help you to give them up, and make a new man of you, and then you shall receive rest in your soul. Come to him, then, in spirit and in truth. Oh, that you would come to him while I am speaking, and find instantaneous rest to your souls!
V. I must not keep you longer, and so I want upon the last point briefly to call your attention to THE UNSELFISHNESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. “Come unto me,” says he, “and I will give you.” That is the gospel. “I will give you.” You say, “Lord, I cannot give thee anything.” He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, “I will give you” Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. “I will give you:” that is the gospel in four words. Will you come and have it? It lies open before you. Jesus wants nothing of you. Suppose you were to become Christ’s disciple, and serve him with all your might throughout your life— in what way would that enrich him? He has died for you: how can you ever pay him for that? He lives in heaven to plead for you, and he loves you; how can you ever reward him for that? Our hope is not in what we can give to him, but in what he gives to us. Weak-minded men have taken pleasure in flagellating themselves, starving themselves, shutting themselves up in monasteries, lacerating their bodies, and torturing their minds: to what purpose were these pains? Did the loving Jesus require this of them? Could such miseries afford his tender heart the least pleasure? Not at all. He has no pleasure in human misery, but he desires that his joy may be fulfilled in us that our joy may be full.
I see before me a spring-head, from which the clearest crystal water is always leaping with a gladsome sound. A streamlet which this spring creates runs down the meadow: you can track it by the long grass, with reeds, and rushes, and tangled wild-flowers which drink their life therefrom. In summer and in winter the crystal fount never ceases to pour forth its treasures. Come hither when you may you shall see the silver jet spurting forth, and splashing up again from the stones upon which it falls. How musical the sound! Listen! The spring is pleading, quietly but plaintively. It would become a greater blessing if it could but gain the means; and so it sighs and whispers,— Buckets! Pitchers! Goblets! Cups! It longs to fill them all. See, here are a couple of pails; but they are empty. Yes, they are all the better for the purpose; full buckets would not help the spring to dispense its water. Here is a cup, but it is a very little one. Never mind, fill it, and bring many like it. This girl has brought a jug, but it is spotted with dirt. We bid her take it away, lest she pollute these sparkling waters. Not so, the spring pleads, and this is its pleading— a Bring it hither, I will cleanse it, and then fill it to the brim.” Need I expound the parable? I hope not. Come and act it out, ye little ones or great ones, ye empty ones or unclean ones. Thus shall ye know more surely and more sweetly than words can tell you how free and full is the grace of our Lord Jesus. The emptier you are the better can you receive from our overflowing Saviour. He longs to bless you for your own sake. His yearnings are all unselfish: they are yearnings to give, longings to bestow favour. He cries even now to labouring and laden souls— “Come unto me, and I will give you, not only rest, but all you can require.”
Friends, have you well learned the lesson that there is nothing good in yourselves wherewith to attract Jesus, but all the good is in him to attract you? Is it not clear enough that physicians do not come to heal healthy persons? I saw a brougham dashing down the street with a doctor in it, and I felt morally certain that he was not coming to my house, for I am in perfect health. I dare say he was hastening to see a poor creature who was on the brink of the grave. When I see the chariots of mercy flashing with winged steeds through the air I know that they are not speeding to you who are good and righteous, and think you do not need a Saviour; but they are hastening to such as are sinful and crave forgiveness, to such as are guilty and require a change of heart, for these are those that Jesus comes to bless. See, then, how the unselfishness of his character comes out in his inviting to come to himself those who cannot benefit him, but must be pensioners on his bounty.
“I will give you rest.” Men, brethren, women, sisters, all of you, this is the filial word. The day is coming when we shall all sigh for rest. We need it badly now, and if we have it not we are leading a pitiful life. Those poor rich people in the West-end that have no Christ, how can they bear their irksome idleness, the satiety and disgust of unenjoyed abundance? Those poor people in the East-end that have no Christ— what they do without him I cannot tell. Alas for their poverty and suffering, but what are these to their wretchedness in being Christless? Those of us who have all that heart can wish yet feel that we could never be happy if we were not resting in our dear Saviour; how, then, do the starving exist without him? But we shall soon die, and what then? A young man said to his father some little while ago, “Father, I am prospering in business wonderfully! if I get on at this rate what will it come to?” “Come to a grave,” said his father. And so it will; all things of earth end there. Oh that we were always ready to die, for then we should be ready to live! He that is ready to live to-morrow is ready to die to-morrow. There is no need that death should be a jerk in our existence; life ought to run on as a river pursues its way, and widens into the sea. Our existence here should glide into our existence there, but that cannot be unless we get on the right track while we are here. If we are on the right track now, which is believing, loving, fearing, serving, honouring God, we shall go on loving, fearing, honouring God for ever and ever. “Come,” says Christ, “Come to me.” What will Jesus say at the judgment-day to those who so come? Why, he will say, “Come”— “Come, ye blessed of my Father. Keep on coming. Come, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world.” Ah, my hearers, you will prize this coming when death and eternity are near you.
I am glad to see this great company gathered here; but before I came into this house I felt much heaviness of heart, and it has not gone from me even now. To stand here and look into familiar faces from Sunday to Sunday is infinitely more pleasant than to look upon so many, the most of whom I have never seen before; for you cause me new anxieties that I may do good to you also. This was my thought: “I shall see them all again at the judgment-day, and I shall be accountable as to whether I preached the gospel to them with all my heart.” I shall not have to answer for the blood of you all, because there are more Sabbaths than this one, and more opportunities of hearing the gospel than this; and on other Sundays others preach to you, and these share the burden; or else you waste the holy day, and in that case your blood will be on your own heads. Still, for this one service I must answer to God for you all. If I have not preached Jesus Christ simply and plainly, and from my heart, if I have been cold, and dull, and dreary when speaking upon a theme that might arouse any man to burn and glow with seraphic flame, then I shall be censurable by him that shall judge the quick and dead. If you think there is nothing in what I have said, reject it. I have no authority to preach it of my own head, for I am no great philosopher. I speak in the name of God, and if you think I do, and believe that God has sent me, then I beseech you to lay hold of the truth which has been held up before you. The most important thing a man can do is to attend to that which is most important: your soul is of more importance than your body, and therefore your eternal life ought to secure more attention than your mere temporal existence. A man said the other day that he should die like a dog. Let him, if he likes, but I have no ambition in that direction; I want to live like an angel. If any man be content to be a dog, well, I know not what I can do for him but give him a bone: I did not know that he would care to come here, or I might have sent to the butcher’s for fit provender. But he that wishes to live for ever should, at least, consider where he would live, with whom he would live, and how he can secure happiness in such a life. If there be a God— and that there is a God is written on the very skies— I devoutly desire to have him for my friend. I think, as I look up to the stars, “I love the God that made those shining worlds, I worship him, I desire to serve him, I wish to be at peace with him.” And what has made me desire to serve him and obey him? Can it be a lie which has done this? Does a lie make a man love God, and desire to serve him? No. It is truth, then, that has made me of obedient heart. The gospel must be true, or it could not thus put men right with their Creator. O, my beloved, trust your Saviour! Lay hold on Jesus. Oh, may Christ lay hold on you at this good hour, and cause you to enter into his rest. Amen and amen.