And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
Jesus and His Doubters.
I. The doubt. It is not at all clear who doubted, whether John or his disciples, or indeed whether they all did. The stoutest faith has often failed before now; ours has often failed us in circumstances far less grievous than these. John was indeed a prophet, but he did not cease to be human on that account. He had done his work before his imprisonment. The movement was too advanced to be determined henceforth by any influences which might proceed from John's life. If his faith should for the time be unequal to the dampness and dimness of the dungeon, it had been equal to the warmth and the light of the open day. Whatever be the condition of mind his words here disclose, the question is formulated by one who can trust the Christ for telling the truth of the matter, and that when he had no confidence in the mood of his own mind or in the suggestion of his circumstances.
II. How the doubt was dealt with by the doubters. John did not wish to hear more about Christ, but something from Him. He might have called for the books of the prophets, to see again whether the anticipation there corresponded with the reality here; or have asked very helplessly, as we do, for a symposium of his disciples' opinions, and tested the merits of the Christ by their vote. To his honour be it said, he did nothing of the kind, but sent two of his disciples to ask Him, "Art Thou He that should come?"
III. How Christ treated the doubters. He seems to have received them with great deference, and thought apparently no less of them and of John than He had done before. The messengers were commanded to go and tell John, and they would be able to use words in their true meaning now that they had heard Christ. It had been a tale of general beneficence and of universal kindness, and told by one who felt the power of its every word. It carried with it its own evidence.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 171.
References: Matthew 11:1-6.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. v., p. 11. Matthew 11:1-19.—Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 8; Ibid., Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 162. Matthew 11:2-4.—E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 164. Matthew 11:2-5.—G. Salmon, Non-miraculous Christianity, p. 1; C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 22. Matthew 11:2-6.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 404; W. Bull, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 103; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 19. Matthew 11:2-10.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 473; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 292.
I. There is no sin in doubting. Some doubts are sinful. They are so when born of irrational prejudices or bred of an ill-regulated life. But doubt, of its own nature, cannot be sinful. For what is it? It is a certain fluctuation of the mind, this way and that way, while as yet, in the matter in question, it has no convincing evidence. The miracles of Jesus, in one aspect of them, were the Divine answers to men's sinless doubts, and also the Divine method of preventing them from arising.
II. Faith is better than doubt. We are never encouraged in the Scriptures, nor are we justified in any of the dictates of natural wisdom, in cultivating, as an inner habit, an intellectual or moral scepticism. We are encouraged to ask questions of God and man, to read books, weigh evidence, reject fallacy; in one word, to prove all things. But all this with a view to the ending of hesitancy, to the settling of faith, and the holding fast of that which is good. So that to say we are encouraged to doubt is only another way of saying we are encouraged to believe.
III. In any attempts to subdue scepticism, either in ourselves or in others, regard should be had to the proximate cause of it—or, since proximate and remote are often inseparably blended, say to the real cause—as far as that can be ascertained. (1) For instance, there can be no doubt that a large amount of mental perturbation is due to physical causes. The suffering body sometimes makes the troubled mind. In such cases physical medicaments are needed, and should be sought and used as the very balm of Gilead for the occasion. (2) Then if the doubt be purely intellectual, if it arises in the course of a natural development of thought and knowledge, then there must be applied to it an expressly intellectual solvent. (3) Let those who have moral doubts obey the Lord's injunction and come unto Him for rest. Nearly all doubts concerning Christ or Christian truth ought to be brought in some way before Christ Himself, and given, as it were, into His own hands for solution.
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 110; see also Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 16.
References: Matthew 11:3.—R. W. Dale, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 355; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 13. Matthew 11:4.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 111. Matthew 11:4, Matthew 11:5.—E. M. Goulburn, Occasional Sermons, p. 191. Matthew 11:4-6.—R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 49.
Matthew 11:5I. We may always find Holy Scripture, in its endeavours to make men good, using such arguments and taking such methods as are within the understanding of the poorest and most unlearned, if they have but a will to please God. When it would teach us to love God it does not require of us to plunge ourselves into deep and high thoughts of what He is in Himself, but it tells us what He is to us; our Father, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we would understand how we are to love our neighbour, the Bible tells us that it must be as we love ourselves. Would we know how we are to renounce the world and cleave to Christ, it must be with such a love as causes a man to leave father and mother, brethren and sisters, and to cleave unto his wife—i.e., with our very best and most entire affection. Now this is quite as much within the reach of the poorest and meanest as well as of the wisest and wealthiest among us.
II. Consider our Lord's manner of teaching, and see whether the same be said of that also. We must be, most of us, too well aware how sadly our attention first fails us, and afterwards our memory, when we are to receive instruction in a set speech or sermon; how apt we are to let go the thread of the preacher's meaning, and how difficult it is to gather it up again. How thankful, then, ought we to be towards that best of masters, that best of instructors, who has left for our use so many short and plain sayings, any one of which, rightly received into an upright heart and seriously considered, will be found to contain the whole way to heaven in a very few words.
III. Again, the Gospel is preached to the poor especially by means of the great abundance of examples with which it is stored. When we tell a poor untaught person, who has not been much used to consider the meanings of words, that he must be merciful, contented, humble, devout, it is not to be wondered at if he often goes away without any very clear notion of what is expected from him. But when we bid him be merciful like David, contented like St. Paul, humble like the blessed Virgin, devout like St. John, and all like the holy Jesus, then, if he know anything of his Bible, he cannot fail to understand us in some measure, and he knows where to turn that he may understand us better.
IV. But the greatest privilege of all which the poor my find in the Gospel, if they will, is this: that our Master and only Saviour, when He was upon earth, chose to be one of them—chose to be so poor and needy as not to know where to lay His head. A rich man, when he is considering how to use his wealth, has to take thought how his Saviour would have acted if he had been rich in this world. A poor man, when he is considering how to bear his poverty, has only to look and see how his Lord actually did bear His, and how, in spite of it, He made Himself, even humanly speaking, most useful to the souls and bodies of all around Him. God give us all grace to make the most of those inestimable privileges which the meanest of us here enjoy.
J. Keble, Sermons Occasional and Parochial, p. 143.
Consider the answer of our Lord to John. Jesus was to show that He was the Messiah. He was to send to His poor suffering, despairing friend and cousin a true message of hope and reassurance. He says to the two messengers, "Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see;" and one of these things is this, "The poor have the Gospel preached to them."
I. This, then, is one of the signs that the Son of God has come into the world. There is a Gospel for the poor. There are glad tidings for those who need them most. And of necessity, also, this is one of the marks and notes of the Church of Christ. She can hardly be a faithful handmaid of the Master who sent such a message to His poor afflicted servant, if it be not true of her that "to the poor the Gospel is preached."
II. If the preaching of the Gospel to the poor be so plain a duty of a church which would follow the example and obey the command of Christ, is it quite certain that we are rightly and fully grasping the meaning of the Gospel which is to be preached, and that we thoroughly understand how to preach it? I hold that the Gospel is larger than men are wont to think. I cannot confine my Gospel to the death of Christ, and shut out the life of Christ. I cannot teach a Gospel of the crucifixion, and ignore the Gospel of the resurrection. And yet the central light and glow of the Gospel is gathered round the cross of Calvary. And it is such a Gospel which is the one great spiritual need of the poor. The one thing which will brighten and beautify the darkest, meanest lives is the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the bringing home to these poor souls of the love and tenderness and sympathy of our personal Saviour, the opening up to these of visions of a life of purity and peace in Him. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," is the sort of sermon which encourages and strengthens the oppressed and exhausted toilers. It should ever be pointed out to them that Christ was a toiler Himself, personally acquainted with the difficulties and sufferings of the most abject of our race, and that He is as full of love and as ready to assist and comfort the needy as He ever was; that despotism and oppression are no part of the Gospel of Jesus. These would be the sermons, that the Gospel, which would fill our churches.
Bishop Walsham How, Cambridge Review, Feb. 11th, 1885.
References: Matthew 11:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 114; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 172; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 157; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 163; Bishop Magee, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 17; J. J. S. Perowne, Contemporary Pulpit, p. 207. Matthew 11:6.—J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 17; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1398; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 155; Bishop Moorhouse, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 257; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 362. Matthew 11:7.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 108; J. C. Hare, The Victory of Faith, p. 351; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 359; H. P. Liddon, Christian World, Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 369; Ibid., Expository Outlines of Sermons on the New Testament, p. 12. Matthew 11:7-15.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. v., p. 98. Matthew 11:9, Matthew 11:10.—F. W. Robertson, Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 143.
Matthew 11:10I. Consider this text as referring to ourselves. Every Christian man, woman, or child is a messenger of God, sent to prepare the way for Christ's coming. We are all of us, in one sense, apostles—that is, sent forth to help each other nearer to God. Our part is to build up the Church of Christ, and to strengthen His kingdom by setting a good example to others.
II. Let us remember Whose we are and Whom we serve. If we are tempted to do a mean, a fake, or a disgraceful action, if we are tempted to do or say what our conscience tells us to be wrong, then let us pause and think. I am a messenger sent by God to prepare His way before Him; how dare I commit this sin against God, and against my brother whom I injure by my example? If we would escape the unspeakable remorse of knowing that we have led astray, by our evil ways, souls for which Jesus died, let us guard more carefully our conduct and our conversation. Let us day by day ask God to make us more like our perfect pattern, Jesus Christ.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 17.
References: Matthew 11:10.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 117; A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vi., p. 61; H. W. Grimley, The Temple of Humanity and other Sermons, p. 226; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 26. Matthew 11:10, Matthew 11:11.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 20.
Matthew 11:11I. The first thing which demands our notice in John the Baptist seems to be his singleness in carrying out the work which God appointed him. Consider the time when he appeared. It was no ordinary season. Many eyes were eagerly looking for the dawn of the kingdom of God. The Deliverer to come was much in the thoughts and on the lips of the devout men in Israel. Any one of pre-eminent sanctity and power of persuasion might have gathered the Jewish people round him as their Messiah. It was a moment which might well try the earnestness and singleness of purpose of any of the sons of men. Yet amidst all, how blameless is John—how simple-hearted—how is his eye ever fixed on the one great object of his mission—how totally absent are all self-regard, all visions of ambition, all pretensions to holiness and eminence! To testify to Christ is all his aim, and from that nothing diverts him.
II. Another point in the Baptist's character was his "bold rebuking of vice." We have this exemplified in the strong and fervid exhortations he administered to the various classes of persons who came to his baptism. But it reaches its highest point in his behaviour towards the unprincipled and licentious Herod Antipas. In our witnessing for Christ we must not shrink from this, one of its most imperative, as it is one of its least palatable duties. By the fearless testimony of Christian men almost all the improvements in society and opinions among us have been brought about.
III. The last scene in the Baptist's life stands unsurpassed in history, both for what it does relate and what it does not relate. It furnishes us, on the one hand, with the saddest recorded triumph of vanity and depravity over integrity and godliness. And the saint of God—he is utterly worthless in the matter; his life is recklessly sacrificed to the cruelty and caprice of an adulteress. But turn to the other side—to that which is not recorded, but left for us to infer. Who are they for whom our hearts bleed in this sad history? Who lie the deepest in misery after the catastrophe—the oppressed or the oppressors, the martyr or the tyrant and his court? Hence let us learn to measure all such incidents in the history of the world, and to cast in our lot accordingly.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 32.
Nature and Circumstances.
Jesus was telling His disciples that the true greatness of human life must come by following Him. It was inevitable, then, that men should ask, "How is it about those great men who are not His followers; those great men who have gone before Him; those great men who are wholly outside of His influence—are they not truly great? And if they are, what has become of His saying that true greatness lies only in Him, and in the kingdom of God to which He is so earnestly summoning us?
I. This question belongs not to the things of Christ, nor to religious things alone. All life suggests it, for in all life there are these two ways of estimating the probable value of men: one by the direct perception of their characters; the other by the examination of the institutions to which they belong, the privileges which they enjoy. Think of the schoolboy who is just graduating from one of our public schools, and of Socrates, who died more than two thousand years ago in Greece. The schoolboy represents the privileged condition which is the result of centuries of civilization. He cannot help knowing things which were utterly out of the power of the ancient philosopher. The philosopher is among the very greatest of historic men; but the least of modern men has that which he, with all his greatness, could not have.
II. Here, then, we see the two elements: there is the greatness of nature, and there is the greatness of circumstances. Christ recognizes the two elements of personal greatness and of lofty condition, and He seems almost to suggest another truth, which is at any rate familiar to our experience of life, which is that personal power which has been manifest in some lower region of life seems sometimes to be temporarily lost and dimmed with the advance of the person who possesses it into a higher condition.
"You must be born again," the Master said to Nicodemus. Nicodemus wanted Christ to meet him in a lower world, a world of moral precepts and Hebrew traditions, where the Pharisee was thoroughly at home. But Christ said, "No, there is a higher world; you must go up there; you must enter into that; you must have a new birth, and live in a new life—in a life where God is loved and known and trusted and communed with. He who is least in that kingdom, he who has in any degree begun to live that higher kind of life, has something which the best and noblest soul in the inferior life has not, is greater than the greatest who is not in the kingdom."
Phillips Brooks, Sermons in English Churches, p. 200.
Matthew 11:11I. These words, as they were spoken, need very little explanation. We can well understand how they rose to the lips of our Lord as He looked back upon the past history of His race, and forward to the larger Church which He came to found. He came to set before men a new ideal, another standard, a higher rule of life, to make a new revelation of God to man; but not for this only. He came to plant a leaven in the world, that must spread and germinate and affect the world, or perish; and therefore, as He looked back on that earlier Church which had been laid step by step to the eve of this era, and forward to the new power and the new life which His own work was to bring alike to the spirit of the individual and the framework of society, He might well say that the humblest of those who were admitted into that new kingdom would enjoy greater privileges, stand on a higher vantage-ground, than even he who, like Moses, had led his race to the verge of the promised land, but had failed to enter.
II. The text may save us from refusing to honour all that justly claims our homage; it may guard us against doing violence to the Christian conscience by accepting a lower or un-Christian standard, by reverencing that which has no claim to reverence. It may remind us that we need not prostrate ourselves in unmanly hero-worship before the mingled clay and gold of mere human greatness; but that we may not refuse to acknowledge and to honour all that is high, all that is good, see it where we may. We cannot admire too fully or too cordially whatever in any age or on any scene is truly great, is truly noble; but we may still prize above all gifts for ourselves and for others the full surrender of the heart to God, the admission into the number of those who seek His voice and do His bidding, and are taught of Him, led by Him, and owned by Him. Verily, I say unto you, we may hear within our hearts that among those born of women there is none greater than this or that hero of this age or of another; yet "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
Dean Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 289.
References: Matthew 11:11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 89; S. Macnaughten, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 172; J. Brierley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 53.
Matthew 11:12(with Luke 16:16)
The Virtue of Violence.
We shall try to draw the character of the βιαστής, or man of violence, as Christ here introduces him, in two or three of his relations to the kingdom of grace.
I. The "royal" life, or it would not be such, is a life, in part, of renunciation. It has to make sacrifices. The violent man, determined to take the kingdom by force, goes to war with his sins, makes no excuse for them, never pretends to say that they are venial, or to say that they are natural. He must be rid of them, and he knows it, or he cannot enter heaven. Therefore he brings the fire and sword of the new kingdom into their encampments and into their fastnesses, burns and slays without mercy, as though they were his enemies, counts nothing worth keeping if it involves truce, treaty, or compromise with them.
II. Every one knows, most men have felt, at some period of their lives, that the royal life is not easy in what it demands of the reason. In the most difficult, most delicate, most critical matter of believing there is a timidity which is no prudence, and there is a vehemence which is no presumption. The man of violence must have his answer; and when he has it he will embrace, he will avow, he will live it. This one thing I do: I follow after till I know, and then I follow after till I attain.
III. The life into which man finds entrance through faith is a life of two chief activities: there is an activity Godward and there is an activity manward. The one is devotion, the other is work. There is a force necessary, as well as a sweetness, to the perfection of the Christian character. All the great works have been done by it. There has always been an outspokenness, an independence, a willingness to stand alone, to go forth without the gate and the camp of the conventional and the traditional, in the men who have told upon their times, in the men who have made history, in the men who have set forward on its march the cause of good. This is the violence of which the text tells in its positive activity.
C. J. Vaughan, Cambridge Review, May 5th, 1886.
I. Let us look in a large way at this important truth. Everything great on earth has to be achieved by long, earnest, persistent toil. If you seek to become master of any art, any literature, any science, any accomplishment, you do not sit down and say, "God is the Giver of all good, and I shall not be so arrogant as to strive for that which He alone can bestow." You know very well it can only be had by meeting every obstacle and conquering it. The very value of a thing is estimated often by the straining endeavour, the unconquerable zeal, and the ceaseless labour which are requisite to its attainment. One might go through the whole range of human experience and culture, and everywhere the kingdom that you want to become master of has been taken by force. The door is opened to the persistent knocking. The bread is given to the unwearied demand. The treasure is found by the one who has been seeking.
II. Now we come to the highest life of all, to the culture of that part of our nature which transcends all else. Is it not this principle which pervades all the physical and mental world, and which is to be found in the grander life of the immortal soul? Surely it is, and we ignore the teaching of Christ and His apostles if we regard Christ's religion as merely a means by which we are to be saved from all trouble and responsibility about the future. Side by side with the fullest statements of God's free grace, what do we find in the life and writings of St. Paul? All through those Epistles which are so full of the Gospel of the grace of God, and where Christ and Him crucified is the central fact of the Christian faith, the apostle, in words which thrill with the living power of deep personal experience, speaks of the Christian life as a ceaseless, protracted, fearful struggle. He exhausts things sacred and profane to find imagery to depict and to impress this truth. The Christian life is a race for which no previous preparation is too careful, in which every nerve is to be strained, and in which all our force is to be concentrated, that we may "obtain the prize." It is not a mere isolated battle, but a fierce, protracted warfare, for which is provided alike offensive and defensive armour, and into which he dare not enter unless completely equipped. Such was St. Paul's conception of the Christian life; such, he tells us, was his experience of what it was "to live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
T. T. Shore, Some Difficulties of Belief, p. 165.
References: Matthew 11:12.—R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 238; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,905; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 252; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 79; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 8; S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 252; D. Rhys Jenkins, The Eternal Life, p. 318. Matthew 11:12, Matthew 11:13.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. v., p. 197. Matthew 11:14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., pp. 337, 505. Matthew 11:14-17.—Ibid., p. 470; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 81. Matthew 11:15.—J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 184; S. Cox, Expository Essays and Discourses, p. 159. Matthew 11:16, Matthew 11:17.—S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 33.
Matthew 11:16-19The Baptist and Christ.
I. When John appeared to Israel, and made his voice heard from the wilderness, the stern reality of such a life struck all imaginations; the hope he held out of a teacher who should subdue all hearts, and lift off the weight of sin, his own short, well-defined teaching kindled men with the hope of peace, and all classes streamed into the desert to hear his tale. Only a few remained; the rest streamed back again, untouched or angry. But all the same, they could not get rid of the religious impulse in their heart. The leaven of the time still worked, and when they got back to their homes in Jerusalem they were charmed to hear of a more liberal teacher than John. (1) The religion of the Baptist had been too hard for them, because of its stern morality. It demanded outward purity—domestic, social, political, and mercantile purity. We shall be better off with Christ, they thought. "He will not be so hard on us." Alas! they found themselves worse off than before. It was bad enough to hear that the whole of the outward life had to be reformed; it was ten times worse to hear that the inward life had to be reformed. (2) The religion of the Baptist had been too hard on them, because of its demand for self-sacrifice. And, lo! Christ was ten times more severe on this point than John. To relieve their conscience they turned to abuse and vilify Him who had shown them a vision they could not bear. They were piped unto, and they had not danced.
II. Another class of men turned from the Baptist to look at the religion of Christ. These were the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees. John had treated them with no gentle terms. Serpents, generation of vipers—these were the soft words ho used. No doubt there were sleek hyprocrites and bigots among them, and the bitter words were well deserved. But there must have been others who were really moral men among them, and who strove to follow righteousness. So far as the religious pride and persecuting and exclusive spirit was concerned, they were not much better than the hypocrites. The Pharisees were disappointed in Christ. No sharper or more indignant language was ever used by man against other men than the words with which Christ denounced them—words which cost Him His life, and which He knew would do so. He would have nothing to do with them unless they came to Him humbly, and confessed themselves sinners. Not among their ranks, but among unlearned fishermen and villagers, He chose His special followers; He dined with the publicans, even at one of their houses He admitted the sinful women to salvation. Let the Pharisees say what they will, "wisdom is justified of her children."
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 19.
References: Matthew 11:16-19.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, Nos. 2,248, 2,251; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 75; G. Salmon, Sermons Preached in Trinity College, Dublin, p. 249; Pulpit Parables, p. 207. Matthew 11:16-20.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. v., p. 257. Matthew 11:16-29.—R. C. Trench, Studies in the Gospels, p. 153.
Matthew 11:19I. The idea of the essential badness of pleasure has been very commonly held and advocated by the propounders of ethical and religious systems. The religions of the Hindus and the Buddhists aim at the gradual suppression of the body, and the entire eradication of desire. Like many other views which find no warrant in the Christianity of Christ, this idea has had a considerable influence upon the Christianity of Christendom.
II. Asceticism in its extreme form, in which it is synonymous with the worship of pain, will scarcely bear a moment's examination. The supposition that God takes delight in agony is the foulest of all conceivable blasphemies. Asceticism, however, often takes a somewhat different form. Many persons seem to think that they ought by rights to care for nothing but heaven. They seem to think, as they lavish their affections upon those who are dear to them, that God is watching them with an angry, greedy jealousy, and will never be satisfied till He has concentrated the whole wealth of their love upon Himself.
III. Now this is not the kind of self-denial which Christ requires from us. Serious and earnest as the Saviour was, no one can say that He was a harsh or gloomy ascetic. Think of Him at the marriage festival. Think of His friendly visits to the family at Bethany. He never refused anything agreeable, except when it would have hindered Him in the accomplishment of His Father's work. "I pray not," said our Lord, "that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "The Son of man came eating and drinking." Ay, the very Man of Sorrows refused to join in the irrational worship of pain.
A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, p. 123.
References: Matthew 11:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 556; J. W. Lance, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 129; F. W. Farrar, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 46; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 182. Matthew 11:20.—J. Tulloch, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 25. Matthew 11:20, Matthew 11:21.—H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 233. Matthew 11:20-24.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. v., p. 387; R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 514; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 173. Matthew 11:21, Matthew 11:22.—C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 2nd series, p. 275.
Matthew 11:23I. Consider first what is implied by the denunciation of Capernaum as exalted unto heaven. The Bible finds man in a garden, it leaves him in a city. We cannot but think that it is here intimated to us that the highest kind of life is social life; that man, in the noblest development of his gifts, is not a creature meant to live in any degree by or for himself, but to dwell in close contact with his brethren, in a condition in which both his happiness and his sanctification are to be increased by, and to find scope in, mutual sympathy and mutual subjection. We take it, therefore, to be a very shallow view of things which considers a great town as a great evil, and a town life in its nature inferior to a country life in moral and religious excellence. But whilst this is so, we may not shut our eyes to the fact that city life has temptations peculiar to itself. Our Lord speaks of Capernaum as exalted to heaven; and it is this precise self-exaltation which is the snare of every man who is one of a great community. The concourse of men together has a tendency to put God at a distance. Men come gradually to trust to themselves, to do without God. Now it is this self-exaltation, which grows up so gradually and so naturally in great cities, which Christ in the text threatens with the doom of being cast down. And we thus arrive at a lesson profitable for all, that if we would lead a life safe from the casting down of shame and care, we must keep steadily before us, as a rule and motive, the thought of an ever-present, personal God.
II. But it is not only the being independent of God which our Lord charges upon Capernaum. He speaks of it as being in an especial degree insensible to His own wonder-working power. And here, again, Christ appears to us to lay bare another fault to which large and flourishing communities are peculiarly liable, namely, insensibility to religious impressions. There are various ways in which this insensibility shows itself. Perhaps, amongst ourselves, it is chiefly proved by the small proportion of the population who attend the public services or partake of the Lord's supper. The root of the neglect is what Christ mentions in the text, an insensibility to all religious impressions, a half disbelief in any real operations of God amongst us. It is the spirit of independence and insensibility—whose final casting down our Lord foretells.
Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. ii., p. 135.
Reference: Matthew 11:23.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,510.
Matthew 11:25I. Note, first, the Master's words when He thanks God that He "has hid these things from the wise and prudent." A man may have understanding and wisdom enough on certain of life's matters without having them on all. Everything must be known after its kind, and under its condition as knowledge. God is not to be inductively put together; we cannot by searching find Him out. The ultimate truth of everything is unseen, and accepted on the evidence of faith. If the world by wisdom found not God, much less can it find, or even appreciate, those things which the Master affirmed to be hid from the wise and understanding. The Gospel of God in His Anointed reconciling the world to Himself, while it is nearer in revelation—for in it God is made manifest—than is the thought of the existence of God, is the remoter of the two to speculation and reason. The formalist in thought will reject either it or its form. The Sadducee will be accompanied by the Pharisee in rejecting its claim.
II. He hath revealed these things unto babes. Ignorance was not the feature which the Master seized upon when He used this word "babes." A man who knows little may have this knowledge imparted to him; these things were revealed to Galilean fishermen, and are still being unveiled to the wondering eyes of the childlike. And they may be all made known to the man who knows much. A man may have the keen scrutiny of Faraday, and like that great and unsophisticated man, pray to God as his Father, and love Christ as his Revealer; or, as Pascal, be the abstruse reasoner, and the acute mathematician, and still hold his best thoughts in devout consecration to God. The thing is to conserve spiritual impressibility; if this be done, we may know much of the world and much of Him whose ways are past our finding out.
III. No other condition of receiving spiritual truth than that of being babes is universally possible. It is in our obedience that we realize our adoption, and become free to cry, "Abba, Father." Time is meaningless without these hidden and revealed things, and eternity is very cold and very dark to look to. But with these every day has in it some lasting thing, and by these the unseen is made substantial and real.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 191.
The Educating Power of Strong Impressions.
I. The character of the child is wanted as the provisionary state, favourable for getting from the superior mind all that it can give. It does this all the better for its own passiveness and childlike properties; it takes in all the more intensely a living fund of thought from a master, which ultimately turns to the disciple's own strength and his advantage as a man of power. What he needs for this is an extraordinary capacity of impress; but an extraordinary capacity of impress from a superior makes a child, for the time, in tone and character.
II. This was the case with the Apostles. They first appear as children in Scripture, being acted upon, receiving an impress, drawing into their hearts a type and pattern. And they have what is a characteristic of children, namely, an extraordinary happiness. They are wholly relieved from the care and responsibility of the sublime mission; that burden is taken off them. He bears it all who is able to bear the whole of it. This very happiness, this freedom and absence of strain upon them, enabled them all the more to take in the fresh ideas which were flowing in from our Lord's discourse and example. All the powers of the fresh opening of life were devoted to the new springtide of truth.
III. Thus they came out men of formed and strong character, when the Apostles were all at once, by the departure of our Lord, thrown back upon themselves, and upon the supernatural guidance of the invisible Spirit; when, upon our Lord's ascension, they were obliged to meet all the difficulties and face the dangers of the Gospel cause. The Apostles became men, able to see their way amidst obstacles, to guide the movement, to encourage the weak, and to give strength to the growing cause. This was the maturity of manhood, but it was the fruit of a previous childhood which had used to its utmost extent the power which childhood has of following a type, submitting to a superior influence, and receiving, in fact, education.
J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 330.
I. The small success and efficacy of the preached Gospel upon multitudes who hear it is a subject of wonder and grief to the ministers and people of God. It was so to our Lord Jesus, considered as a Preacher and Messenger; and they, so far as they have received His Spirit, judge and act as He did. Those who have indeed tasted that the Lord is gracious have had such a powerful experience in their souls of the necessity and value of the Gospel that in their first warmth, and till painful experience has convinced them of the contrary, they can hardly think it possible that sinners should stand out against its evidence.
II. The best relief against those discouragements we meet with from men is to raise our thoughts to God and heaven. For this the Lord Jesus is our precedent here. He said, "I thank Thee, O Father." The word signifies to confess, to promise, to consent, and to praise. As if it had been said, "I glorify Thy wisdom in this respect. I acknowledge and declare it is Thy will, and I express My own consent and approbation." It is needful for our comfort to be well established in the truth suggested in the text, that the Lord hath provided for the accomplishment of our purposes, and that His counsels shall surely stand. From this doctrine we may infer: (1) That where the faithful labours and endeavours of ministers and others to promote the knowledge of grace and the practice of holiness fail of success, yet they shall be accepted. (2) Faithful endeavours in the service of the Gospel shall not wholly fail. (3) The Divine sovereignty is the best thought we can retreat to for composing and strengthening our minds under the difficulties, discouragements, and disappointments which attend the publication of the Gospel. If God appoints and overrules all according to the purpose of His own will, we have sufficient security both for the present and future. (1) For the present, we may firmly expect what Scripture and reason concur to assure us, that the Judge of all the earth will do right. (2) For the future, He has appointed a day when He will make it appear that He has done right. What we shall then see it is now our duty and our comfort assuredly to believe.
J. Newton, Church of England Pulpit, July 29th, 1876.
Matthew 11:25-26Why God reveals to babes. The babe is the representative of the receptive spirit. Its characteristic is trust, openness to impression, and freedom from prejudice. Childlike men may be powerful in intellect and capable of a bold initiative quite as much as those of a contrary character, but they possess, above all, the capacity of surrendering themselves to an influence outside of them, and letting it work its effects upon them unhindered by theory or questioning.
I. To reveal to babes harmonizes with God's character as a Father, and illustrates it. "Babe" is the counterpart to "Father;" "wise and understanding" has no such relation. A father's heart is not attracted to the brilliance or power in his family, but to the want. The open, clinging heart appeals to him. This is the advantage of the babe over the wise and understanding—he recognizes and claims relationship to God, and receives.
II. It glorifies God as Lord of heaven and earth to reveal to babes. Had God shown a preference for the elevated, had He touched mainly the hill-tops, what an impoverishing of the world it would have been! How the whole conception of God would have been lowered by the absence of lowliness! But how near God comes; how dear He is to us by His frequent close relationship to the poor and lowly! We are drawn to the mighty God who is drawn to the babes. This is the greatness that cheers us, and binds us to God. This makes us rich and great.
III. By revealing to babes the Father and Lord of heaven and earth manifests the supremacy of the moral element. When God passes by the soaring imagination, the lofty intellect, the keen understanding, and puts His main blessing into the lowly heart and open spirit, when He comes down to the very lowest form of the moral and spiritual—the mere sense of want, the mere hunger for better things—and gives infinite wealth to that, what a rebuke He conveys to pride of intellect! what honour. He confers upon plain heart and conscience!
IV. It glorifies God as Father and Lord of heaven and earth to reveal to babes, for it shows His desire to reveal as much as possible, and to as many as possible.
V. The appointment of a personal Saviour glorifies God as Father and Lord of heaven and earth, and is peculiarly adapted to babes.
J. Leckie, Sermons preached in Ibrox, p. 1.
I. the apparent paradox involved in these words, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." (1) All revelation is to some extent a concealment. The veil is ever being drawn aside, but it is never taken away. Wherever we take our stand, our own shadow will fall on the glorious countenance. (2) The special revelation which God has made to some individuals is the very process by which He has concealed Himself from others. If God's revelation has been made to certain nations, and if He is educating our race by conferring special and peculiar functions on different nations of men, then the process has been one of election on the grand scale, and He whose love has revealed itself to some has concealed itself from others. (3) The revelation, though made, needed special eyes, ears, minds, to receive it.
II. The Redeemer's judgment and gratitude concerning it. (1) He attributes the arrangement to the universal Lord. The great fact and apparent paradox is a Divine arrangement, not an unfortunate accident. (2) The Saviour acquiesces in this arrangement, not simply as an act of universal sovereignty, but as most merciful and good, as the Father's good pleasure. (3) Christ deliberately thanks God that it is so. Instead of being narrow or restricted in its range, the principle of discrimination was the widest and noblest that can be conceived. The babes may never become wise and prudent, but the greatest mind may and can humble itself, and become as a little child. Hence, this is the noblest and broadest offer of mercy.
H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 67.
I. "Thou hast hid these things." What things? The facts that the Apostles had cast out devils, that they had healed the sick, that they had given antidotes for poison? Not at all. You must follow the inward thought of the Saviour. Here was the power of unlearned, untaught men. They were not equipped for speaking or for acting before the public, and yet there was a secret hidden power in their souls which was more than a match for the temple, and the synagogue, and the forum. It was not continuous at first, but it became so. The whole drift of the New Testament is to create in men the Divine element, or to let it loose if it be captive, or to develop it if it be yet in the germ. The hidden kingdom of the soul, this depth which no man can reveal in language, recognized by the Lord Jesus Christ, was the state into which the Apostles came, and is the state into which a great many have entered in every age and throughout the world.
II. Faith, hope, and love are the three things which the Apostle says will survive time and the changes of death. He declares that all our intellectual states are merely approximations. Knowledge, comprehensive with its relativities, subject to the light and to the disclosures of a new condition—these shall pass away. When the Apostle says that faith, hope, and love survive, can any man out of these three words give any conception of that vast kingdom which shall come by these disclosures, and combinations, and developments? No man can do it. And yet it is the power of this inward, hidden soul-life which is revealed to these babes, these unwashed fishermen, these uneducated peasants.
III. This hidden life of the soul is the most powerful life. It gives a man courage. It imparts light and gladness. It dissipates fear. It takes away doubt. He is luminous that dwells in the secret of God.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 227; see also Sermons, 2nd series, p. 25.
Matthew 11:25-30I. The word which our English version renders "I thank Thee" is in reality of more extended meaning. It means something of this kind, "I confess, I acknowledge, Thy great wisdom." There was something in the dispensation of God's providence, of which our Saviour speaks, which at once commended itself to His holy mind as wise and good; not merely something in which He saw the demonstration of God's power, which proved God's omnipotence, but rather that which equally proved His mercy, His goodness, His wisdom.
II. What does our Lord mean by wise and prudent? These are words capable of a good sense. It is obvious that the text cannot mean that God has hidden the Gospel from all those who are endued with powerful minds, or who are learned in such things as pertain to this world. If it be said that the wisdom and prudence of this world can never reveal God to us, and can never be a substitute for that revelation which God has been pleased to make to us in Jesus Christ, this is indeed most true, and contains the meaning of the words of the text; for the just appreciation of the value of the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires something for which no talent, no learning, or wisdom or prudence, can be any substitute, any more than seeing can be hearing, or hearing can be smelling. And if the wise and the prudent very often miss the message of the Gospel, this is probably the point at which they go wrong; they imagine that they have in their own wisdom and prudence the guide to all they want to know; but it is not by his wisdom or his prudence that man holds communion with God; it is not by reasoning that he learns his true relation to God; for what is that true relation? It is that relation in which a man stands by sin, the relation of a lost sheep, wandering and straying, to a shepherd willing to lead it back again. Here, then, we see how it is that the Gospel, which the wise and prudent despise, may be accepted by babes—that is, by the poorest, the weakest, the simplest, the most ignorant.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 98.
This text teaches two lessons—
I. How the Lord judges results of His ministry which to our eyes appear strange. We are surprised to find that the very men who seem best fitted to understand the Lord remain in opposition to Him. How could the people understand the Lord? That was the business of the cultured, of the scribes and Pharisees. Further, who were better qualified to advance the work of the Lord than the scribes, the leaders of the people? The Lord is less surprised than we are at this issue of His work. He sees in it a Divine arrangement of His heavenly Father; He knows how faith arises in men; He knows that no man cometh unto the Father save through the Son, and that no man cometh to the Son save through the Father. Because He knows this, He sees in the fact that the truth of His salvation has been revealed to babes a sacred and Divine appointment, and He welcomes this appointment with thankfulness and praise. We feel that the words of the text are no mere resignation to a Divine appointment which He fails to understand. Through the meek resignation we catch a note of inward joy. St. Luke tells us that Jesus rejoiced in spirit when He spoke these words. It is hard for the wise man to attach himself closely to Christ. The scribes were prepared for a Messiah, but not for such a Messiah as this. It was not easy for them to accept a manifestation which was opposed to all their previous conceptions. The Lord had an easier task in dealing with the babes. He could be best understood by those who brought no preconceptions with them. His image was the first to be stamped upon their souls. Enlightened by His teaching, the witness of the babes was other and far nobler than that of cultured men and scholars.
II. The comprehension of this fact incites our Lord to a special kind of activity: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." This is what the Lord says to the wise and prudent as well as to the babes. He does not address them as wise and prudent, but as weary ones, and the refreshment He offers depends on one condition only, we must take His yoke upon us. Who would refuse to take it, since He says, "I am meek and lowly in heart," and "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light"?
R. Rothe, Predigten, p. 161.
Reference: Matthew 11:25.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 31. Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 394. Matthew 11:25-30.—J. J. S. Perowne, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., pp. 215, 249, 348; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 183; G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 136; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 87; J. J. S. Perowne, Expository Outlines of Sermons on the New Testament, p. 23.
Matthew 11:26I. There are some occasions of life and times of perplexing difficulty and sorrow when the mind, which was at first paralyzed, by degrees awakes and recovers itself to see reasons—merciful, satisfying reasons—why God did these things. That is one of the paths which lead out of the lower places up to a purer atmosphere, to peace and safety. But there is a much higher and more blessed state than that. It is when, with all your thinking, you can see no explanatory reason, nor trace one justifying cause whatsoever, in the whole circumstances of the case. Then at such a time as that to bend, to submit and believe, as much as when the mind had some clues to help it and rays to guide it—that is faith indeed, and will have its reward. "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight."
II. To cherish such a feeling in our hearts our Lord's words give us two suggestions—one implied, and one expressed. (1) Take right views of the Fatherly character of God. There are no sins we ever commit greater than the sin of not treating God as a Father. (2) We often speak of certain great principles—principles of justice, reason, love, fitness—and we are offended if ever we see or hear anything which does not square with these great fundamental truths. But have these truths no foundation under them? Assuredly the mind of God must be the first seat of all—of all that is true and all that is right. These great principles make the mind of God; they come from the mind of God. Take that thought also with you down the labyrinth. Nothing could have happened to you unless it had first been in the mind of God. He knows the end from the beginning. To that vast intelligence there are thousands of reasons present of which you cannot read one. The unfoldings of another world will solve the problems here, and justify God in His moral government.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 60.
Matthew 11:27I. We can know Christ, and yet we cannot. It seems a strange contradiction to say so, yet it is a contradiction which applies to a great many even of created things. We know them, and we know them not. We know how they act; we have seen, or can image to ourselves a notion of them, but what they are in their very nature we know not. So it is with the sun in the heavens: we have all felt his warmth, and seen his brightness; we know how he ripens the fruits of the earth, and makes the world such as we can live in; yet what he is in himself, of what made, or how—that we know not, and probably cannot know. And so it is much more with Him by whom the sun was made. His goodness we know, and His power; His love and mercy we have felt; and even of His very person, as it pleased Him to become flesh, and to dwell among us, we can readily conceive. But what He is in Himself—the Eternal, the Incomprehensible—that we cannot know. None but the Godhead knows what the Godhead is; none knoweth the Son, save the Father; none knoweth the Father, save the Son; none knoweth the things of God, save the Spirit of God.
II. In what sense is it true that none knoweth the Father, save he to whom the Son will reveal Him? or, in other words, what is the knowledge of the Father which we, as Christians, have gained? When I put myself in thought, even for a moment, out of the light of Christ's Gospel,—when I fancy myself to be as one to whom the Son has not revealed the Father,—it seems to heighten my sense of the happiness which it is to have been taught of Christ. For consider what it is to be told that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In these few words there is contained all we need. Truly may we say that we know the Father, when Christ has revealed to us thus much of His infinite love and holiness.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 29.
References: Matthew 11:27.—B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 205. Matthew 11:27, Matthew 11:28.—Spurgeon, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 20.
Matthew 11:28I. Restlessness. (1) We have all known the misery of restlessness in its physical, its bodily working. (2) There is a restlessness of mere suspense. (3) There is a suspense and a restlessness accompanying doubt, more trying still. (4) There is the restlessness of sin. (5) There is the restlessness of the heart itself.
II. The restless are all to whom Christ has not yet given His rest. To these He here addresses Himself. For He, seeing the end from the beginning, sees that the end of these things is death. In Him human restlessness finds sweet repose—in Him, in whose hands are accident and circumstance, chance and change. They that are in Him fear nothing. They will not be afraid of any evil tidings. In Him they who even doubt about all else find their feet upon the rock. Receiving Him into the ship, they are immediately at the land whither they go. He sends them strength, as their day, to do and to forbear, to dare and to endure. In Him the tempter "has nothing;" the souls that are in His hands no torment and no temptation can touch. In Him they find that spring and fountain of perfect beauty and absolute love of which no earthly loved one can have more, at the best, than the image and the reflection. There they cling to Him, and will not forsake Him, because they have found once, and because they find day by day, His words verified, "Come unto Me, thou that art weary and heavy laden, and I will give thee rest."
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 123.
There was an old philosopher, long ago, who summed up his experience of man's life and toils and cares by saying that "the end of work is to enjoy rest." And truly there is no pleasanter word or thing. We come to feel that at last. There are days when the young heart pants for larger excitement; when the strong arm is eager for earnest toil; when we are ambitious, and would fain do something which might be the talk of men. But the sobering years go forward. We grow wearied in the greatness of the way. We understand the Psalmist's vague aspiration, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest." Now, when we would find true rest for our souls we can find it only in Christ. He can give rest. He does give rest. When we think what are the main sources of the soul's unrest, we shall see that Christ, even in this life, is ready to deliver His people from them.
I. The burden of sin. If we saw things rightly, and as they really are, we should feel that of all the burdens which can oppress us in this world, this is the weightiest; and when the Holy Spirit "convinces us of our sin and misery," what does that mean but just making the soul see what an overwhelming weight our sins, and the woe that follows on them, make up together, and how inexpressible is our need that the great Sin-bearer should take that load away?
II. The fear and the actual endurance of the ills, the bereavements, the losses, the disappointments that compass our path in this life. Those who know not our Christian consolation have solemnly said that the pains of life outweigh its satisfactions. Now Christ has changed all that, changed it utterly. It is not merely that Christ sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify all sorrows into means of grace. To a certain extent Christ gives His own, even in this world, rest from worldly cares.
III. The eager, anxious pursuit of those things to which worldly persons give their whole heart—worldly gain and good, wealth, eminence, and distinction. Is it not true that, even here, Christ gives His people rest? The fear of earthly chances and changes He takes away. The unrest of ambition He lifts above. Often burdened as we are, often disquieted as we are, we can see that the fault does not lie with our Saviour. The fault lies in our own lack of faith to fully trust Him, if He has not given us rest.
A. K. H. B., The Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 3rd series, p. 203.
Rest in Christ the true Communion of Saints.
I. The saying of our Lord in the text is one of those distinctive sayings of Christianity that have life and growth, and while appreciable by the little child in a sense which he can appropriate and live by, can never be exhausted by the most Christlike of men. The words were addressed at first to the unlettered peasants of Galilee, to those who were on the threshold of their new life as disciples. The Saviour does not mention from what burdens He called men to be delivered. He says nothing of hell, or even of sin. Nor of what nature the rest was to be did He make clear. The Greek equivalent of the word He used is ἀνάπαυσις, merely cessation. And each of His hearers would receive His words as He was able to receive them. But they would not listen long to the new Teacher without finding new anxieties stirring in their breast, new yearnings waking into life, and a desire for a rest they had never sought for before—a respite, not from sorrow, or poverty, or oppression, but from their own wayward fancies and erring wills—a rest for their souls.
II. And as they accepted the call to come to Him which the Master offered them they went on to learn new facts as to rest and the opposite of rest. The word Christ used was a word signifying a negative gift—"cessation" from labour and anxiety. But they were to learn that it implied something else, which no negative gift can supply. The body is rested in the most effectual manner, and bodily strength regained, by quiet and absolute inaction. The mind that has been wrought upon by hard study or by anxiety is best relieved by amusement or change. But if the spirit of immortal man is to find rest, it cannot be in lying inactive. The true rest of the soul must be in activity, not in vacuity. If it has hitherto worn the yoke of the world, there is no rest in only throwing off that yoke. It needs some other yoke in its stead. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me," etc. Here is one of the glorious paradoxes of the Gospel. The true deliverance from burdens is in taking on us a yoke. Rest is the reward of faith. If we have found something in which we can implicitly trust, we have found also that in which we can rest.
A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 39.
When we think of this invitation we must think of human burdens of every kind. Weariness of body and mind, of soul and spirit, must alike be taken into account. There is nothing that we are able to feel which He will not relieve, if we come to Him. And He promises this relief to burdens, not only of every kind, but also of every degree. All that are weary and heavy laden.
I. But where is the reality of this burden and the pressure of this weariness found? Are not men living and passing on around us contented and gay-hearted, without Christ, knowing Him not, loving Him not, caring nothing for Him? These surely are not weary; these feel no burden. These He invites in vain, for they want Him not. But are we so sure of this? They are spending but a false and artificial life, after all; they are burdened with the thought of its real condition, burdened with the fear of death, burdened with every event of God's providence as it occurs. These also are among the weary and heavy laden, and to them Jesus of Nazareth repeats His invitation in every one of the means of grace, every dispensation of His world-ruling providence.
II. Let us advance another step. You feel the burden. You have learned, at least, to see that ignorance is not bliss in matters of life and death. You do look on the past, and see it like a dark wave, mountain high, coming on your frail bark to overwhelm it. You do look on the future, as much as you dare; you see in it matter for desperation, rather than for hope. Such a state is just the most critical one in which any man can be placed. If the penitent listens to the suggestions of the tempter, the balance turns for death; the brimming pool, which has paused and rippled with the breath of the Spirit towards the bright light of God's morning, bursts at once over the dark hillside, and plunges downward into the gloom. But come to Christ when he will or when he can—whether the awakening be an easy one, from the lighter slumber of youth's thoughtless-ness; or a hard and painful one, from the deep and deadly sleep of years—the Lord's promise to the sinner is the same: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 100.
In this text Christ has made two classes out of those to whom Me speaks—those that labour, and those that are heavy laden. Both are sufferers; but the one class is composed of the active, and the other of the passive sufferers—a description which exactly answers to the reality of daily life. We are all under active or passive discipline.
I. Look at the offered gift. It is clear that there are two ways in which God might deal with and relieve the mind that labours and is heavy laden. He might remove the cause, and so exempt the man from its effects; or He might leave the evil, but impart something which would entirely neutralize it. Of these two methods, the first is the obvious one, and therefore we call that man's way,—man is always trying to remove evil. The second is much deeper and much better, and therefore it is God's way.
II. A believer's rest is threefold. (1) First there comes the rest of a sense of pardon. "We which believe have entered into rest." We "cease from our own works, as God did from His." The chief cause of the restlessness of the world is that it has not yet rested in God. (2) Sin, after it is pardoned, struggles, and often prevails; and it cannot be quite rest to a Christian so long as what he hates gets such a mastery over him. Therefore he wants a rest like that rest to Israel, when they settled down in Canaan,—their enemies not all destroyed, but all conquered and held down. So it comes to pass. The higher power of the new nature in the man gradually prevails over the old inhabitants. They are there, but they are kept under. Holiness increases, and holiness is rest. The heart becomes more one, the counter-tides are not so violent, the aim of the man is single, the whole man is gathered up to a point, and that is rest. That is the rest of santification. (3) Far on, however, after this, and unto the very gate of heaven, sin lives, we feel it lives, but it does not reign. It is not perfect rest; that rest remaineth. But it is coming, it is very near—perfect rest, when we shall rest from the presence of sin. Sin will be nothing but a memory, a memory of a forgiven thing, and every memory will exalt Him. That will be the rest of glory.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 126.
Matthew 11:28I. Sin always imposes burdens upon the sinner.
II. The burdens of the sinner are a continual appeal to the affection and power of Jesus Christ.
III. Jesus Christ, in offering rest to burdened souls, asserted His claim to be regarded as God.
IV. A double action is indicated in the offer. Come—give. Come with your burdens, and in the very act of coming the burden will be taken away.
R. A. Bertram, City Temple, vol. i., p. 11.
References: Matthew 11:28.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 39; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1,691; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 351; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 182; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 530; vol. x., p. 268; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 423; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 18; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 18; B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 229; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 224; Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 45; E. V. Hall, Sermons in Worcester Cathedral, p. 50; G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, vol. ii., p. 11.
Matthew 11:28-29One does not know whether tenderness or majesty is pre dominant in these wonderful words—a Divine penetration into man's true condition, and a Divine pity, are expressed in them. Jesus looks with clear-sighted compassion into the inmost history of all hearts, and sees the toil and the sorrow which weigh on every soul. And no less remarkable is the Divine consciousness of power to succour and to help which speaks in them.
I. Consider the twofold designation here of the persons addressed. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." The one word expresses effort and toil, the other a burden and endurance. The one speaks of the active, the other of the passive side of human misery and evil. Toil is work which is distasteful in itself, or which is beyond our faculties. Such toil, some time or other, more or less, sooner or later, is the lot of every man. All work becomes labour, and all labour, some time or other, becomes toil. Toil is a curse; work is a blessing. But all our work darkens into toil; and the invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," reaches to the utmost verge of humanity, and includes every soul.
II. Look at the twofold invitation that is here. "Come unto Me"—"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me." In these words, which come so familiarly to most of our memories that they have almost ceased to present sharp meanings, there is not only the merciful summons to the initial act, but the description of the continual life of which that act is the introduction.
III. Look, lastly, at the twofold promise which is here. "I will give you rest"—"Ye shall find rest." There is rest in coming to Christ; the rest of a quiet conscience, which gnaws no more; the rest of a conscious friendship and union with God, in whom alone is our soul's home, harbour, and repose; the rest of fears dispelled; the rest of forgiveness received into the heart. There is rest in faith. The very act of confidence is repose. There is a further rest in obedience, and emphatically and most blessedly there is a rest in Christlikeness.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, April 1st, 1886.
References: Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29.—A. B. Bruce, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vi., p. 142; W. J. Knox-Little, Characteristics of the Christian Life, p. 223.
Matthew 11:28-30In the little word "come" is folded up the whole morality of the sentence, the very ethics of the Gospel.
I. "Come unto Me;" wherefore the all-important question is, How are we to come? We hear the call, we kindle into fervour at the Divine promise; but what are we to do? how are we to come? Faith is the hand that toucheth the hem of our Saviour's garment; or faith is the tongue which responds to the invitation, and saith, Lord, I come; faith is that which appropriates the merits of our Lord, and secures, through His righteousness, our justification. But this is not the coming. The coming is something additional to this. We come to the Lord whenever (aware that we can only be made righteous through the sanctifying influences of His Holy Spirit, and seeking for pardon and grace, for life and light) we exert ourselves to break off habits of sin; and a further step we take when saying, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner. We endeavour deliberately to form habits of good. Step by step we draw nearer and more near unto the Lord, as we advance from one degree of holiness to another.
II. Exertion on our part is implied through the whole Christian scheme. We are regenerated, renovated, sanctified, by the Spirit of Christ; but to receive that gift we must come by an endeavour to remove all those impediments to grace which His all-searching eye may detect in our moral nature, to eradicate whatever there may be in us of evil, and to cultivate whatever of good the Holy Ghost may have already imparted to the soul.
W. F. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 294.
I. That Christ has what He promises to give. Rest was the boon which the wandering Jew coveted, and which every wandering man covets now, but not rest from activity. The rest which we want is the rest of being fitted for our sphere. Give us this, and we can say, "Return, my soul, unto thy rest." We can do without all our happiness if we have this repose of inward faculty, and if we can retire from the world into ourselves, and find ourselves redeemed in God, and to be the temples of the Holy Ghost. (1) We are restless because our outward condition is not such as we deem compatible with our nature and temperament. Our deepest discontent, however, is not because there is a winter without, with many storms and shrivelling winds, but because there are wrong and frailty within. Christ was at rest with His own conscience. Men found no fault with Him; He found no fault with Himself. (2) Our unrest is deepened by our suspicions, if not by our certainties, of something beyond and above our life. Christ was strangely calm as He looked up and beyond, whether to the past or to the future. He was at rest in rest, at rest in action, and at rest in death, at rest with himself and with God.
II. He can give this rest under the conditions He imposes. His conditions are comprised in coming to Him, taking His yoke, and learning of Him. They are nothing more, when divested of figure, than that men are to submit trustfully to whatever influence He has to exert on them. The highest influence which is ever experienced in life is the influence of that indefinable thing called character. The unknown thing in character is being, life, consciousness; and we come to this at last, that it is by life that our life is moved and moulded. We find rest unto our souls through learning of Christ, and by being baptized into His great soul in our communion with Him. He will perform the offices of a Divine friend by us, and through His friendship we enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God; and as we enter into the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding," we learn how, by the elevation of our consciousness, to pardon ourselves, and to relinquish our old because we need our hands to take the new.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 211.
I. To come to Christ is to approach Him in the exercise of faith, for deliverance from sin and condemnation.
II. Coining to Christ has regard to the future as well as to the past. He who comes to Christ truly comes to be Christ's. To come to Christ is not only to trust Him to deliver us from the consequences of our past transgressions; it is also, in all the future, to submit ourselves to His control and government. Christ Himself teaches this in our text, "Take My yoke upon you." From the earliest ages the yoke has been the instrument by which oxen have been subjected to man, and compelled to toil in his service; and hence it has always been the symbol of the subjection into which men are sometimes brought to their fellowmen. So that what Christ invites and commands us to do is to submit ourselves absolutely to Him.
III. Whoever comes to Christ truly comes to be made like Christ. It is our nature to imitate. Every man has some model whom He strives to resemble. Now Christ says to us, "Make Me your model; strive to be like Me; become, like Me, meek and lowly in heart."
R. A. Bertram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 248.
References: Matthew 11:28-30.—S. Leathes, Truth and Life, p. 219; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 265; vol. xvii., No. 969; vol. xxii., No. 1322; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 36; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 10th series, p. 141; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 309; vol. xii., p. 220; E. Johnson, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 264; T. M. Morris, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 309; H. Platten, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 273; A. M. Mackay, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 134; Fergus Ferguson, Ibid., p. 329; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 115; G. Matheson, Expositor, 1st series, vol. xi., p. 101; C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 2nd series, p. 163.
Matthew 11:29-30I. Let us set it down as a first principle in religion that all of us must come to Christ, in some sense or other, through things naturally unpleasant to us; it may be even through bodily suffering, or it may be nothing more than the subduing of our natural infirmities and the sacrifice of our natural wishes; it may be pain greater or less, on a public stage or a private one; but till the words "yoke" and "cross" can stand for something pleasant, the bearing of our yoke and cross is something not pleasant; and though rest is promised as our reward, yet the way to rest must lie through discomfort and distress of heart.
II. If you call to mind some of the traits of that special religious character to which we are called, you will readily understand how both it, and the discipline by which it is formed in us, are not naturally pleasant to us. That character is described in the text as meekness and lowliness; for we are told to "learn" of Him who was meek and lowly in heart. The same character is presented to us at greater length in our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount, in which seven notes of a Christian are given to us, in themselves of a painful and humbling character, but joyful, because they are blessed by Him.
III. Nothing short of suffering, except in rare cases, makes us what we should be—gentle instead of harsh, meek instead of violent, conceding instead of arrogant, lowly instead of proud, pure-hearted instead of sensual, sensitive of sin instead of carnal. Never fancy that the true Christian character can coalesce with the world's character, or is the world's character improved—merely a superior kind of worldly character. No, it is a new character, or, as St. Paul words it, "a new creation." There is but one cross and one character of mind formed by it, and nothing can be farther from it than those tempers and dispositions in which the greater part of men called Christians live.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii., p. 182.
References: Matthew 11:29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1105; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 84; vol. xxix., p. 30; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 37; W. Morrison, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 18; W. Gresley, Practical Sermons, p. 199; G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, vol. i., p. 63.
Matthew 11:30This passage has in it some far-reaching things, which do not strike us on a mere cursory reading. (1) It sets before us very clearly the Saviour's constant attitude of invitation. (2) It reminds us that we become learners in Christ's school only through the process of obedience. (3) It teaches us that there are degrees of rest in the experience of the Christian disciple. Consider especially the words of the text. Christ does not mean to allege that the cross which we are to take up is not a real cross, or that the self-renunciation to which He calls us is but a nominal thing. Still less does He design to show the superiority of His religion to the systems of heathenism which so enslaved their votaries. His words are absolute, and not comparative; and therefore, admitting to the full all the tribulations and unpleasantnesses, all the sacrifices and afflictions, which his very adherence to Jesus entails upon every Christian disciple, let us see if we can discover anything which may justify the assertion that His yoke is easy, and His burden light.
I. The yoke of Christ is easy, and His burden light, because we bear it with the approbation of conscience. The yoke which is borne by a good conscience is always light; the burden which does not consist of sin is never heavy.
II. This yoke is easy because it is borne in love. Love lightens labour, lessens adversity, sweetens care, and is unconscious of a yoke which otherwise would be heavy. When we are murmuring within ourselves at the cost of our Christianity, it is because we have not yet realized the value of Christ.
III. Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden light, because it is borne with the help of the Spirit of God.
IV. Christ's words are true because His burden becomes lighter the longer it is borne. That which required effort at first is at length done with ease and enjoyment. Nobody will believe that until he has experienced it. But every Christian knows that it is true.
V. Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden light, because we are sustained under it by a good hope. Heaven and endless happiness are before us, and the assurance that they are reserved for us, while we are kept for them, steadies us beneath a weight which else might bear us down.
W. M. Taylor, Christian at Work, March 20th, 1879.
References: Matthew 11:30.—A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 142; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 19. Matt 11—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 294.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
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.