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On the Relief which the GOSPEL
affords to the DISTRESSED.
Preached at the Celebration of the Sa
crament of the Lord's Supper.
MATTH. xi. 28.
Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
SERM. THE life of man on earth is doom
1 ed to be clouded with various evils. Throughout all ranks, the afflicted form a considerable proportion 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 reli-S ERM, gion is particularly entitled to our re-'ca gard, 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 fame 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 fpirit of our religion conspicuously appears in the character of its great Author. It fhone in all his actions while he lived on earth. It breathed in all his discharges; 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, fave.
SER M. the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will
reveal him. But left 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 Chrift. This is a phrase which has often given occafion 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 Chrift,
therefore, is the same with resorting SER M. 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, forfaking the corruptions of fin 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
SERM. heavy laden, that is, who, in one way
or other, feel themselves grieved and
First, They may arise from inward moral causes; from certain feelings and reflexions 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 often not perceived, while that tendency is advancing. For as : sin is the reign of passion and pleasure, it forms men to a thoughtless inconfiderate 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 folitude, or some turn of adverse fortune, directs his attention inimediately upon