Rev. Christopher Munro
Note: See page 33 for a sketch of the life of Rev. Christopher Munro. The sermon below was Mr Munros farewell sermon at Tobermory, on 1st January, 1864; and from the same text he preached his farewell sermon at Kilmuir. On both occasions the sermon was blessed to hearers.
Text: 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.
THE Apostle John, at the conclusion of his history of Christ, says that if all that Christ did and said were committed to writing, even the world itself could not contain the number of books that should be written. But he remarks that the things written by himself as well as by others were written that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing in Him, they might have life through His name. For to believe the truth of all that is recorded concerning Christ must lead to the conclusion that He is the Son of God. Our text contains a statement which clearly proves the justness of the claims He made to this relation and title.
The statement of the text contains an invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden;” a promise to those who comply with it, “I will give you rest;” and a duty which is imposed upon them, “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.” These three elements, if duly considered, afford a clear proof of Christs divinity, and therefore must lead to the reception of Him by faith.
First, let us consider the invitation. It runs in these terms, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” Here are set forth claims of the highest nature. We hear One inviting all the weary and heavy laden among men to come unto Him, in order to find relief. It is not an individual here and there that is invited but all of every nation, of every rank from the highest to the lowest; all who are weary and heavy laden, which, of course, includes all mankind; for all men are in sore travail, burdened and weary, one in this way, and another in that way.
One is heavy laden with the cares that attend a post of high responsibility and the anxieties connected with the attempt to discharge its duties. Another is weary in the paths of ambition and vainglory, kept in the fire by struggling to obtain a name and fame among men, and continually suffering chagrin and disappointment. A third is weary in the paths of pleasure and self-gratification; he tastes a short-lived pleasure, and then is oppressed with languor and self-accusation, and he sighs after some relief which he knows not how or where to find. A fourth is weary and heavy laden with the toils and cares of this life; he eats his bread with the sweat of his brow, and is constantly followed by the fear of want, like a spectre which one imagines to tread on his heels.
Others, again, are weary with troubles and afflictions of various kinds; for no sooner are they relieved from one trial than another overtakes them, like one tossed on the stormy billows. Some find themselves in darkness and ignorance regarding spiritual and Divine matters, and their consciences burdened with a sense of sin and guilt; there is a wound at the heart that continually runs, and for which no balm can be found either to soothe or heal. This sore within frequently extorts the secret cry, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?” (Micah 6:6). One labouring under this burden cannot find relief in anything he does himself in order to obtain rest.
Another is burdened with ignorance and pressed with the question, “What is truth?” and finding himself at sea without compass or star to guide him, and without sight of land, he knows not which course to take, and is unable to say where he is. In such circumstances there is a deep felt need of help, and the soul is stirred to its greatest depths, and the mind is ill at ease and tossed about. No human art can tranquillise or satisfy this need. Let the wisest of men endeavour to chase away this darkness, and his efforts produce no more result than would the emission of a few sparks in the dark chaotic night, or in the darkness which brooded over the deep before God said, “Let there be light.”
Still further, some are labouring, under the burden of the body of death, of which the Apostle Paul complained when he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24), and which he had in view when he said, “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon” (2 Cor. 5:4); “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23).
These classes of burdened ones include all mankind, whether they may be the slaves of the world or the votaries of ambition and pleasure; whether the self-righteous and hypocritical, who labour in the fire to save themselves, or the deluded and superstitious fanatic, who pursues idle dreams; whether the anxious inquirer, who feels the burden of the guilt of innumerable sins, or the believer, who feels the bondage of corruption, and is pained with the desire to be free from it and to depart to be with Christ. To all these is addressed the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
And who is He who calls all these poor, distressed, and afflicted ones unto Him who calls men whose wants are so numerous, whose misery is so deep, and whose desires are so earnest and vehement?
Were one to appear in our own country, and to issue an invitation to all the poor, the sick, the maimed, and afflicted, who form so large a portion of the people, and were he to promise that on their coming to him he would supply their every want, would clothe them and keep them comfortable, would heal all their diseases and remove all their griefs and sorrows, he would be regarded either as an insane man and deceiver, or as one who had unheard-of resources at his command, and as one of uncommon benevolence.
But in our text there are claims of a far higher nature set forth. Here is One who without ostentation or imposture invites all men to come to Him. Here we see One who was regarded as a root out of a dry ground, and without form or comeliness a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is One who had not where to lay His head, who wore no earthly crown, who wielded no earthly sceptre, who had no exchequer full of gold and silver, who was followed by no conquering army.
Yet He is a King a King whose kingdom is not of this world. He does not invite men in order to bestow wealth on the covetous, or to confer honour on the ambitious, or earthly rewards on the mercenary. His promise refers to far better and more enduring blessings. That His claims are not pretences is abundantly evident; they have been put to the test by many and found to be well grounded.
In the second place, let us consider the promise given, or the good that is here held forth to men, namely, rest. Men are represented as weary and heavy laden. Whilst one is fresh and vigorous he feels not the fatigue of a journey, nor the weight of a burden. But when one pursues a journey for a long time, and carries a heavy burden, how desirable then does rest become! The Israelites were sorely oppressed in Egypt, and, groaning by reason of their heavy burdens, they longed for deliverance. How highly valued would rest be by them; but who could give them rest as long as Pharaoh held them in his power? Rest is relief from heavy burdens and refreshment from weariness.
The rest promised by Christ is analogous to this, and those dissatisfied with earthly things find in Him a good portion that shall not be taken from them. Those who once pursued pleasure, and to whom carnal pleasure is now turned into gall, find in Him true pleasures which last for ever. Those who feel the burden of ignorance find in Him the truth that, like the sun in the firmament, dispels the darkness of their souls. Those burdened with a guilt find a free, full, and lasting, pardon. Those who seek an object to fill their hearts and satisfy their desires, find in Him a Friend who can supply their every need, and who will never leave them nor forsake them. Those who are heavy laden with a body of sin receive a promise of assistance and help from One who offers to bear their burden, and who will at last relieve them from it. And those who groan here receive an assurance that a house, a home on high, is prepared for them, where the inhabitant shall not say, “I am sick.”
All this is received by faith. By faith they are justified, so as to have peace with God, and they rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Believing, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. They live, and walk, and stand fast by faith, and learn to wait with patience for the day of their eternal salvation.
That this is true is abundantly testified by Scripture and by the experience of Gods children. Moses believed it and experienced it when it was said to him, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” Ex. 33:14). David also believed it when he said, “Return now unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee” (Psl. 116:7). And Solomon, who enjoyed all that the world can afford, and who said of it all, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:12), believed it and found the ways of Wisdom to be ways of peace and of true happiness. Paul, who knew the terrors of the Lord, and who believed that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, found peace with God in Christ, a peace that passes all understanding. The language of the Church in all ages is found in the declaration, “This is all my salvation and all my desire” (2 Sam. 23:5).
The saints in heaven shall ascribe for ever their salvation, their pardon, and peace, and their entrance into the Holy of holies above, to their being washed in the blood of Him who here invites sinners of every character to come unto Him. This is a true and faithful saying that Christ is able to give them this rest. We have stated some of the testimony given us in the Word in confirmation of it, and could we inquire of those now before the throne of the Lamb whether it is true or not, they would all with one voice declare it to be the truth of Him who sits on the throne in heaven, and of whose truth one jot or tittle shall not fall to the ground. The person then that believes shall know it to be the truth of God, and shall know that it never fails.
In the third place, let us consider the duty imposed on all who come to Him, or who believe in Him. It is to take His yoke and to bear His burden. These are figurative expressions, and used to illustrate spiritual things. A yoke, as you know, was in ancient times a part of the harness by which beasts of burden, such as the ox, were attached to the plough or harrow. It was early spoken of as the badge of servitude, whether of a compulsory or of a voluntary nature. To bear the yoke meant submission to a superior power and readiness to serve that power. If we regard it as indicating the bond that ties one to a certain master, and to his service, and not the service itself, then it denotes the conditions of submission, the willing surrender that one makes of himself, and his obligations to continue in the service.
The yoke of Christ may, according to this meaning, be said to be His authority, His supreme and eternal right to the obedience of all rational creatures, which He claims, in all that He teaches and commands. On the part of the believer the yoke may be said to be the love of Christ: “If ye love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14). It draws and binds to Christ, so that the language of such a soul is, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35). Nothing present, nor to come, shall do so. And is not this an easy yoke? Is it not agreeable and pleasant? If the love of a fellow creature be effectual when it occupies the thoughts and affections, how much more effectual must be the love of Christ when one apprehends something of its height and depth, of its breadth and length!
The burden that Christ says is light is to do what He commands. This may be hard to flesh and blood, but not to the new man. To deny oneself is hard, to cut off the right hand, or right foot, or pluck out the right eye, is hard for one ignorant of Christ, but not for the believer, who has felt the love of Christ. To crucify the flesh, to bear the cross, and to do all things for Christ is nothing more than He is worthy of. In keeping His commandments there is a great reward (Psl. 19:11) a good, happy, and eternal reward.
Application. Consider, then, those who are called and invited; consider under what view they are regarded. Consider too, Him who calls, what He promises to fulfil, and is able to fulfil. Could any one but He, who is God over all, give such an invitation and hold forth such promises?
This passage then points out the error in which too many gospel hearers pass their time I mean those whose consciences are naturally enlightened, and who know the letter of the Word of God; who know what is commanded and what is forbidden, and yet they uniformly fail in obeying Jesus from the heart. All their attempts and exertions to do what is right, and to avoid what is wrong, are made without coming first to Jesus Himself and learning of Him. They know Him not, they are blind to His glory, a veil covers their faces, so that they never enter into the meaning of such statements as, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10); “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8); “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14); “Christ crucified . . . the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23, 24); and, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
Have you come to Him? Have you taken His yoke upon you? Do you bear His burden and feel that you can do nothing? Cast that burden upon Himself, who says to another who came to Him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Follow Him and be not ashamed of Him, or of His truth, or of His cause, or of his people. Be not as ashamed to be known as His. And when others declare openly that they will not obey Him, let all know by your willing obedience, and not by mere words, that you find His yoke easy and His burden light.
You who have not yet come to Jesus and taken Him as your Saviour, let me once more invite you to come to Him and to forsake your evil doings and thoughts. Seek the Lord while He may be found; pray that He may make known to you His name, His glory, His love, and His power to save. He Himself invites you and promises you rest. Come, then, and make no delay. For too long many have delayed already; come, all ye careless and prayerless ones; come, all ye open transgressors, ye foolish and vain; come, ye who are satisfied with a name, ye waverers who at times are ready to say, “I am almost persuaded to be a Christian.” Oh! come to a decision before it is too late. Come, ye who are in vain pursuing happiness in ways in which it is not to be found. Rest assured that this call is to you; that you are welcome if you come; that you will find in Christ real rest, real peace and true joy.
With these observations on this blessed portion of truth, I finish the work of my ministry among you, leaving the result in the Lords hand, and praying that He may give you a pastor who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding, and to whom many who are yet Christless among you shall be a crown of righteousness in the day of the Lord.