Rev. John Sinclair
This sermon, now slightly edited, is taken from the recently republished Ministers and Men in the Far North by the Rev. Alexander Auld. (See New Publications on page 93) It is regretted that parts of the sermon are in outline only. Nevertheless, the first editor of the Free Presbyterian Magazine, the Rev. James S. Sinclair, wrote, “The present sermon is one of the best on this particular text that we have ever read.” He also said, “The author of this sermon, though not so widely known as some others, was eminent for gifts and grace, a man of deep experience and holy life. He exercised a brief but powerful ministry.” For a biographical sketch of Rev John Sinclair, see page 76
TEXT: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11: 28.
SIN is the cause of all the restlessness in the creation. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. It is true that we often see the wicked enjoy much comfort and worldly ease, and the godly chastened every morning; but this is a dreadful rest to the former, and a blessed chastisement to the latter. This brought the Psalmist to a stand till he went into God s sanctuary, and saw the end of the two states. The rest of the wicked is worse than the rest of a beast. God has placed him on a slippery place, near to destruction. There is no rest to his soul. And there is a sad inhabitant along with it: The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked. God is the source of every drop of true happiness that ever existed. When man forsook that fountain of living waters he lost his happiness, and none shall ever again taste of that happiness except those who are brought back by Christ the Mediator to take up their begun rest in the divine attributes by faith on earth, and who shall be in due time made to enter that rest which remains for the people of God.
First, consider Christ s qualifications to give rest.
First, Christ is God. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Now, there were several things in the Godhead which pursued the sinner and required his eternal restlessness, and which none could remove but one who is Himself God.
There was His justice. Justice demanded full satisfaction for the injustice which sin had done to God. His “righteousness is like the great mountains. This was a mountain between God and the sinner which no created arm could remove. But the Son of God, who here invites poor sinners to come to Himself, removed this mountain by rendering complete satisfaction to Justice, so that it could say, I am well pleased for His righteousness sake. So well pleased was He that I may say that Justice, which previously pleaded against the sinner, now pleads for the sinner who comes to Christ by faith. Viewing the sinner in Christ, Justice is so satisfied that it will never rest till the sinner who believes in Christ be as sure in rest as He is.
Truth pleaded against the sinner. In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Now, in the death of Christ as their substitute this was fulfilled, and truth was vindicated; so that the promise of life implied in the threatening must be fulfilled; and we may say (to speak with reverence) that God would be found a liar if He did not admit to eternal life those for whom Christ died. Hence it is said, In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” O! get into Christ. Come to Him, and your salvation is as sure as the truth of God can make it.
The holiness of God was against the sinner. Now, no blood of bulls and of goats could wash away the stain of sin. Christ gave His own blood to wash the souls and bodies of those for whom He died, that they might wash their robes in it and make them white. Now, being God, He could speak to God on their behalf, and on a footing of equality. Though His divine glory was veiled on earth in His humanity, He remained equally God in all His attributes as before. So when you come to Christ, and put your case in His hands, you may trust His authority and dignity with it as surely as you could trust the other persons of the Godhead. While as Mediator, in the execution of His office, He became the Father s servant, it was in His own name that He healed, in His own name that he cast out devils, in His own name that he gave pardon of sin, in His own name that He promised heaven, and, in short, exerted all the prerogatives of Divinity on earth.
And so, secondly, Christ is all-powerful. “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth,” He said. “All things are delivered to me of my Father,” (verse 27). If He promise rest, none may gainsay it in heaven or on earth. Are you afraid that the Father may refuse you though you come to the Son? Oh! no. He does always those things that please His Father. If He had not the authority of His Father for offering rest, you had never heard of such a word as this from His mouth. All things which He has heard of His Father, He makes known unto poor sinners, (John 15:15). He can teach them to know the Father, (verse 27). Would you like to know what is in the heart of God? Come to Christ, and He will tell you. He reveals the Father, having been in the bosom of the Father from eternity.
Thirdly, He is the Fathers Prophet. “A prophet will the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you,” said Moses. In the days of Moses, when an enemy came against the people, they went to the prophet whom the Lord raised up, even Moses himself, and he consulted the Lord, and then told them what means to use to get deliverance from their enemies. He told them what was the controversy for which the Lord was letting their enemies loose upon them, and what means to use to have the controversy removed.
Now, my friends, there is a controversy between God and our souls because of our sin, and Christ is the only prophet in all the creation that can tell how that controversy can be removed. “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” There are some people very anxious to know others secrets. Oh! were you never anxious to know that great secret what shall become of your immortal souls in eternity? Well, come to Him, and He can tell you; and, for your encouragement, I tell you that never did any come to Him but they got a good report of their case never any but found that He had their names in the Book of Life. Perhaps He did not tell them this at first. Perhaps they had an old estate of self-righteousness, like the young man who had great possessions but to you I say, Come to Him as poor and heavy laden, and as one that has not a crumb, and He will let you see a rich treasury of mercies, of pardons, of peace, of soul-refreshing cordials. And He is no churl over this treasury nothing gives Him more pleasure than to be dealing out the finest of the wheat and honey from the rock. You would fain know whether you are elected. Well, come to Him. That is the only way to know it; that is a secret only known by coming to Him. He never bade any wait till they knew that. Then they never would come. Secret things belong to the Lord; things revealed belong to us. This secret of the Lord is revealed only to them that fear Him, and there is no true fear till one comes to Him. He tells His friends none are friends till they come to Him. But you think you desired to come, and yet He has never told you. Well, remember He knows best what is good for you, and He is sovereign wait upon Him. Have you determined never to go to another? Lord, to whom shall we go; thou hast the words of eternal life.” Well, the Lord says, They that wait for Me shall never be ashamed.” He has written one of the names of His elect upon you, and ye did not know it. My sheep hear my voice, and a stranger will they not follow.” They are His sheep, who keep about His fold, and do not follow strangers.
Fourth, He is a Priest.
Fifth, He is a King.
Sixth, He is meek and lowly. Never one so lowly. He has no pride. It never touched His heart. We often cannot get access to one on earth who could give us rest outwardly, on account of his pride. We cannot get a word from him. Now, Christ is never so busy attending the rich but He can speak to the poor. I may say, if there is a poor one in the company, He must be there. Did you see Him in the house of Simon the Pharisee? He is engaged with poor Mary, who is washing His feet with tears of godly sorrow for sin. Oh! are you poor in spirit, and can get nothing from the sermon because He is not there? Can you tell to whom He is nearest in the company? To the poorest, most needy. He knows they have most need of rest, and He must be there. It is His office. If you had seen Him, in His bowels of compassion, yearning over Ephraim when he was chastised, you would also have seen Ephraim very dear to Him, though chastised. We may say He wept most of the two Ephraim thought his tears very bitter, no doubt, but Christ s bitter tears were the source of Ephraim s tears, or Ephraim had never shed one drop. Is Christ not, then, well qualified to give rest? He wove a covering of His own righteousness; He washed sinners in His own blood; He gave them the fine wheat of His promises; He made a bed on His own bosom, and perfumed it with the fragrance of the rose of Sharon; and think you not that they have rest?
Secondly, consider who are invited to come.
“All ye that are labour and are heavy laden. All are included in this call who have the word of the gospel. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” In this world they are labouring, but have not the proper object in view. Ever since man went out from the bosom of God, he was labouring. In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread.” Now, he invites all, even those who are seeking in a wrong way. He calls all present here today to come to Him. Do you shut yourself out? We offer Him to every individual here, and pray you to come to Him. You came here this day for various reasons, but all are seeking happiness and rest. Some have come from curiosity; some thinking they get good by going to church, but they know not what way; some from superstition, yet He says, Come unto me all that are seeking rest by whatever means. Look unto me all ye ends of the earth.” But now, though all are invited, all are not sensible of burdens, but are dead and without feeling, and therefore do not come. They shall come who are made sensible of their burdens.
Who are labouring? And who heavy laden?
First, those who have got their soul s salvation for their burden. What must we do to be saved? is their question. They had souls before they asked that question but they did not know it. All their care was, What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? But when they get their souls laid as a burden on their back, I may say their bodies go out of sight. They lose concern about their bodies. Were they in sickness, it is not the pain of the body that makes them distressed, but the fear that on its dissolution the soul would enter eternal suffering. Christ said that one soul was of more value than the whole world. They are taught to be of the same opinion. Oh! have you an immortal soul laid upon you as a heavy load? Come to Him with it, for He says, I will give you rest.” Are you afraid of hell? Aye, if you seem to have one foot in hell, come to Him. Oh! you cannot come? Well, look to Him. You cannot look? Breathe after Him. Hold not thy peace at my breathing, at my cry.” If you come, the burden of your soul will be taken off you.
Second, they have got a sense of sin upon them. Their sins were formerly as light to them as a feather. They would own that they had sin, but it never gave them a heavy heart. Perhaps cheerful company or worldly gain would relieve them of as much trouble as they might have had for sin; but when the Holy Spirit comes in saving conviction, sin will take such hold that nothing but the gracious communications of the Spirit through the Word, showing Christ in His all-sufficiency, and His atoning blood applied to the soul, will ease the burden. Have you seen sin in its vileness? The holy Jonathan Edwards was wont to say that during the revivals of religion in America, some would come and say they were as black as the devil. He would say, If that be all, you are nothing to me. My sins are infinity added to infinity.
Third, besides old sins, some have burdens of corruptions. Iniquities prevail against me, says the Psalmist. Do you have a burden of vain thoughts, foolish thoughts, sinful thoughts perhaps directly against one of the Commandments, prompting to break it perhaps blasphemous thoughts. Oh! my friends, there are more murderers than ever hung on a gallows, more unclean persons than ever stood before a congregation for rebuke, more thieves than ever lay in a jail, more liars than ever were thought so among neighbours, more covetous persons than he who seized Naboth s vineyard. Were the spirituality of the law to search this congregation, I believe that not one would escape the charge of having broken every one of the Commandments. Well, come with your heavy burdens to Him, and He will give you rest.
Thirdly, what is implied in coming?
“Come unto Me.” Coming and believing are the same thing. He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Now in this coming there are several things implied. It is a believing on Him as He is held forth in the gospel, as a Saviour every way suited to our cases. It is, as the Catechism expresses it, a receiving and resting upon Him for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel. Coming to Christ is the movement of the soul quickened by the Holy Ghost, going out after Him; it is of various degrees of strength, according as the Spirit works on the soul to exercise that faith.
But since it is represented here as a coming, we may mention a few things which it is a coming from.
First, it is a coming from unconcern. You are labouring under the divine wrath, under the curse of the law. God s arrows are, as it were, set against you yet nothing moves you. What if He bend the bow? Where will you end?
Second, it is a coming from open sin. Oh! give over your drinking, dancing and lewdness. If ever you meet with Him, He will take you out of that mire of sin in which you are. He cannot dwell in such a filthy stable as your heart is.
Third, it is a coming from worldly company. I think the godly do hurt to themselves and to the world when they court the company of the world for other ends than lawful business or profit to the souls of men. They injure themselves. I am sure they cannot enjoy God in a worldly company into which they enter causelessly. I think if they have not some special call in Providence or from the Word if they go without an errand, they shall come back with one. They will likely have need enough of the fountain opened by the time they return. And they injure the company in which they have been by making them think there is little more in godliness than they themselves have.
Fourth, it is a coming from sloth. There are some who labour and are heavy laden; yet sloth folds their arms. They cannot move. Now, He will have means of grace honoured as His own appointment. Oh! who can tell but some poor soul would have been delivered long ago by use of the proper means, for they are fitted for the end? Were the ceremonies under the law fit for their end? Yes, till He that was typified came. And He that appointed the means under the gospel knew that they were fit under the work of the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, it is a coming from self-righteousness. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Prayers, reading, meditation and hearing sermons are all defiled, and must be given up as ground of justification.
Sixth, it is a coming from your own faith. You cannot have belief without the Holy Spirit working in you. Well, despair of self, and seek and cry till He lift you and lay you on Christ s bosom. Remember that in all your praying there is not a word of it acceptable to God further than as it is moved by the Holy Ghost. This will make you to wait upon Him, and depend upon Him more every day. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” The prophet saw that nothing would be done till the Spirit should be poured out from on high. No more will it be with us. What is the reason that means and ordinances are so barren among us, and that scarcely do we hear of a single case of conversion in a year, aye, it may be in many years? Why, we compliment the Spirit with mentioning His name, but we honour Him not in depending upon Him; and we are so untender in our walk that we grieve Him away from our hearts and souls. Oh! mourning, burdened, heavy-laden person, try to wait for the Spirit. Luther says that a cry of Abba, Father , by the Spirit of Adoption, can go further than all the howlings of despair and so it can!
Fourthly, we remark briefly regarding this rest, that it is:
First, rest with God.
Second, rest of conscience.
Third, a sweet rest.
We conclude with a word of application. Here is a call to all to come to Christ. There may be some great sinners here, and if we were to ask them, “What is the greatest sin that ever you committed?” some would be thinking of one and some of another. Well, I can tell every unbeliever what is his greatest sin. It is his refusing to come to Christ! The work of God is to believe on Him whom He has sent. This is His commandment, that we believe on Him. We lay His invitation before you, and we pray you to be reconciled to God. We lay his promise before you, and plead that you believe it. We lay before you His complaint: And ye will not come unto me that ye might have life, and beg you to remember it will appear before you again. We lay His sovereign command upon you, and ask, “How shall you meet Him with a refusal?” You shall be welcomed by Him if you come to Him, however guilty you are; however polluted.
If you do not come if you persevere in refusing His invitation, the time is coming when you shall no more hear, Come, but, Depart . Oh! sad word who can describe the misery implied in that sentence pronounced upon the sinner? He has sent it down to you in His Word that you may study it. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” I shall not enlarge upon these words, but leave them before you. And I beg you never, from this day onward, let this sentence out of your view, till this text, or some part of Scripture, deliver you out of that sad number who shall be told to depart. He now says, Come. And to those who come now, He will say on the great day, Come I may say, an everlasting Come.” May He who can open the ears of the deaf make us all to hear His voice, saying, Come.”