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ation of the text. To them it is in a particular manner addressed; overlooking the giddy and dissipated multitude. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. Not as if our Saviour were always ready to accept that sort of piety which is merely the consequence of distress; or made all those welcome, who are driven by nothing but fear or danger to have recourse to him. His words are to be understood as intimating, that the heart which is humbled and softened by afiliction, is the object of his compassionate regard ; that he will not reject us merely because we have been cast off by the world; but that, if with proper dispositions and sentiments we apply to him in the evil day, we shall be sure of meeting with a gracious reception. It now remains to show what that reception is which we may look for; for what that rest is which Christ hath promised to confer on those who come to him ; whether their distress arise from moral or from natural causes. Come unto me, and I will give you rest.
I. CHrist affords rest to the disturbed mind that labours under apprehensions and fears of guilt. Let those who suffer distress of this nature come to Christ, that is, with contrition and repentance, have recourse to him as their Saviour, and they shall regain quietness and peace. Foolish and guilty they have been, and justly lie under dread of punishment; but the penitent sorrow which they now feel implies their disposition to be changed. It implies, as far as it is genuine, that, sensible of their folly, they now desire to become good and wise; and are determined for the future to hold a virtuous course, could they only hope to obtain pardon for the past. In this si
tuation of mind, let them not be cast down and despair. Christ has brought with him from heaven the olive-branch. He carries in his hand the signal of forgiveness. The declaration which he publishes is, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Insufficient though our own repentance be, to procure pardon from Heaven, we are informed, that an all-sufficient atonement has been made by Christ. Neither the number nor the atrocity of offences excludes from forgiveness, the penitent who returns to his duty. To all who come under this description, the offer of mercy extends, without exception. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? +
This discovery of Divine government, afforded by the Gospel, is perfectly calculated to scatter the gloom which had overcast the desponding heart. The atmosphere clears up on every side; and is illuminated by cheering rays of celestial mercy. Not only is hope given to the penitent, but it is rendered sinful not to indulge that hope. We are not only allowed and encouraged, but we are commanded to trust in the Divine clemency. We are commanded to believe that none who come unto Christ he will in any wise cast out. I As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live ; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? S Such is the relief which the religion of Christ brings to them who labour and are heavy laden under the impressions of guilt and Divine displeasure ; a relief which nothing can render ineffectual to the heart, except the most gloomy superstition founded on gross misconceptions of the nature and attributes of God. — Let us now,
* Isaiah, ly. 7.
+ Rom. viii. 32.
II. Consider what rest the religion of Christ gives to them whose distress arises not from inward and moral, but from natural and external causes ; from adverse fortune, or any of those numerous calamities to which we are at present exposed. To such persons it may seem more difficult to promise any effectual relief. In the former case, the distress lay entirely in the mind. As soon as its views are rectified, and its apprehensions quieted, the evil is removed, and the cure effected. Here, the distress arises from without; and the religion of Christ affects not the course of external events. But though it removes not all the evils of life; though it promises no continuance of undisturbed prosperity (which indeed it were not salutary for man always to enjoy); yet, if it mitigates the evils which necessarily belong to our state, and supports us under them, it may justly be said to give rest to them who labour and are heavy laden. When much that is material and important is effected, we have no cause to complain, though all that we desire be not accomplished. - In this part of the discourse, I am to be considered as addressing myself not merely to such as are at present suffering any severe calamity ; I now speak to many, who, in the midst of health and affluence, enjoy the various comforts of life. But I must desire such persons to look forward to what may one day be their state. Let them reflect how important it is to prepare themselves for the future: unknown vicissitudes of the world. For, if a man live many years and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many.* -- Now, either in the prospect of future distress, or under present suffering, I say, that the religion of Christ gives rest to the heart by the fortitude which it inspires, and by the consolations which it affords.
First, It inspires fortitude. It discovers a supreme administration, so friendly to the interests of goodness, as never to allow the followers of Christ to dread, that in any situation of fortune, they shall be neglected by Heaven. From the abstract consideration of the Divine perfections, men had always some ground to believe, that the general order of the universe was consulted by its great Ruler. But how far the interests of individuals might be obliged to yield,
in many cases, might be sacrificed, to this general order, they were left altogether in the dark. Here the gospel of Christ comes to our aid by the explicit assurance which it gives, that, in the great system of Providence, the welfare of every single good man is particularly included. All things, we are expressly told, are made to work together, not merely for the order and perfection of the whole, but also, for good to them who love God. The life of every person who comes under this description, forms a system complete within itself; where every event that happens to him possesses its destined place, and forms a link in that great chain of causes, which was ap
* Eccles. xi. S.
of Rom. viii. 28.
pointed, from the beginning of things, for carrying on his improvement and felicity. Such an arrangement of the affairs of the world, may appear astonishing to our narrow capacities; yet surely implies no effort beyond the reach of infinite power, joined with infinite wisdom and goodness.
Hence arises a degree of fortitude and constancy to good men, which can upon no other grounds be attained. Faith, in these principles of the Gospel, erects for them a fortress impregnable to the assaults of the world, into which they can at all times retreat. Sitting under the shelter of Divine protection, they calmly hear the storm, when it blows with its utmost violence around them. The floods have lifted up their voice; they have lifted up all their waves. But the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters; yča, than the mighty waves of the sea.
Of the man who
possesses such principles, it is justly said, His heart is established; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.+ Tranquillity, order, and magnanimity, dwell with him; while all is confusion and trepidation among those, who have nothing to look to but the apparent disorders of the world.
The doctrine of Christ not only arms us, in this manner, with fortitude against the approach of evil; but supposing evils to fall upon us with their heaviest pressure, it lightens the load by many consolations to which others are strangers. While bad men trace, in the calamities with which they are visited, the land of an offended Sovereign, Christians are taught
* Psalm xciii. 3, 4.
† Psalm cxii. 7, 8.