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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Matthew 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 4-6

DISCOURSE: 1347

CHRIST’S ANSWER TO JOHN’S DISCIPLES

Matthew 11:4-6. 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.

IT has pleased God in every age so to deal with his most favoured servants as to shew, that though he had raised them up and qualified them for his service, he was not dependent on them, nor needed their labours for the support of his interests in the world. He has permitted many to languish on a bed of sickness, or to be immured in a prison, or to be cut off by an untimely death, when they might have been actively engaged in promoting his glory: and this circumstance has sometimes filled the weak and inexperienced with surprise. But it becomes all to submit with meekness even to his darkest dispensations, assured that, though clouds and darkness may be round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne. We are persuaded that this was the frame of the Baptist’s mind when shut up in prison, and apparently neglected by his Lord and Master. Some indeed imagine, that John was himself beginning to doubt whether Jesus were the Christ: but when we consider the miraculous attestations of it which he had received from heaven, and the many testimonies which he himself had borne to Christ, and the evidence which Christ daily gave of his Messiahship, and that there was no other person at that time existing as a rival of Christ, we cannot admit the idea that John’s faith was at all shaken. But his disciples hearing of the wonderful miracles which Christ wrought, yet thinking that, if he were the Messiah, he would have shewn more regard for John, and used his almighty power to liberate him from prison, were much in doubt, and were therefore referred by their master to Jesus himself, in order to get all the satisfaction which they desired. To Jesus they came, and inquired whether he were the true Messiah or not: and our Lord, not choosing to let their faith rest on a mere verbal testimony from himself, gave them the fullest evidence of their senses, and cautioned them against yielding to the force of prejudice, or rejecting him on account of any circumstances which they could not altogether account for. His answer to them will naturally lead us to consider,

I. The grounds we have for faith in Christ—

There were two things to which our Lord appealed in proof of his divine mission:

1. The miracles he wrought—

[These were great and stupendous, wrought on the occasion, publicly, in the sight of these messengers; and they were of such a nature as did not admit of any confederacy or collusion — — — Nothing but a Divine power could have effected such things; and consequently they were unexceptionable testimonies from God himself that he was the true Messiah.

With the disciples of John these miracles must have bad peculiar weight; for John, whom they regarded as their master, had wrought no miracle [Note: John 10:41.]; whereas the miracles which they had just seen were precisely such as the Messiah was to perform: and the very same prophet who had spoken most plainly of John’s office, as the forerunner of the Messiah, had specified these very works, as distinctive of the Messiah himself [Note: Isaiah 35:4-6.].

These works are still a standing proof that Christ was the promised Messiah: and the spiritual effects which are still wrought by his word, and which precisely correspond with those miracles, are yet further evidences of the same truth: for wherever the true Gospel is preached, there “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up” to a new and heavenly life.]

2. The preaching of the Gospel to the poor—

[The philosophers of old addressed themselves only to the great and learned, whilst they wholly overlooked the lower classes of society; and even the prophets were sent principally to the kings and nobles of Israel: but our Lord addressed himself chiefly to the poor: he sought to benefit the meanest and the vilest of mankind. This of itself was a strong presumptive proof that he was the Messiah, because an impostor would rather have sought to gain over to his interests the great and powerful. But it was foretold that the Messiah should have peculiar respect to the poor in his ministrations [Note: Compare Isaiah 61:1. with Luke 4:18. What is called “the meek” in the one place, is called “the poor” in the other.], and that this regard for them should eminently distinguish his kingdom upon earth [Note: Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:4; Psalms 72:12-13.].

This evidence also still exists, not merely as an historical fact, but as a matter of daily experience and observation: for it is universally true, wherever the Gospel is preached, that the poor are the people to whom the word is sent, and that they chiefly, though not exclusively, are benefited by it [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.].]

But faith in Christ, notwithstanding these grounds, is not easy to be exercised; as will appear by considering,

II. The difficulties it has to surmount—

Our Lord himself intimates, as indeed the prophets had before declared [Note: Isaiah 8:14-15.], that he was likely to prove a stumbling-block to many: and it must be confessed that there were many things in him which were calculated to offend a carnal mind.

1. The meanness of his appearance—

[His birth and education as a carpenter, his abject condition, (without even a place where to lay his head,) the poverty of his attendants, together with the contempt poured upon him by all ranks and orders of men, were circumstances which must have been an occasion of stumbling to any one, but especially to those who had been taught to expect only a temporal king, and a triumphant Messiah. Let us only put ourselves in their place, and conceive of a poor carpenter, surrounded by a few illiterate fishermen, and professing himself to be the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world; what should we think of such pretensions? Whatever miracles he wrought, we should be very slow of heart to believe in him, and very backward to become his acknowledged followers. Something of the same difficulty still exists; and it operates with great force upon the world at large. The followers of Jesus are still “a poor and afflicted people,” despised and hated for his name’s sake: and it is no easy matter to think that they are right, in opposition to the great and learned who reject him: we cannot endure to be told, that “what God has hid from the wise and prudent, he has revealed unto babes:” we are ready to reply, like those of old, “Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? But for this people, who knoweth not the law, they are cursed;” they are misguided, ignorant enthusiasts, wholly undeserving of any notice or regard.]

2. The mysteriousness of his doctrines—

[Poor and despised as he was, he professed to be in heaven whilst he was yet on earth; yea, to be one with the Father, and to know and do all that the Father himself either knew or did. He declared that he would give his life a ransom for the souls of men; that all must “eat his body and drink his blood,” if they would be partakers of his salvation; and that as soon as ever they should eat his flesh and drink his blood, they should dwell in him, and he in them, and he would give them eternal life, and raise them up to the enjoyment of it at the last day.

Now these were “hard sayings,” which they were not able to hear. And are they not hard savings still? When we speak of a life of faith on the Son of God, of maintaining the most intimate fellowship with him, and receiving out of his fulness a constant supply of all spiritual blessings, are not these things deemed enthusiastic and absurd? Wherever these truths are insisted on with becoming energy, does not a considerable degree of reproach attach both to those who preach, and those who receive them? Yes; notwithstanding we profess ourselves followers of Christ, “the preaching of the cross is yet foolishness to us,” till God himself has humbled us in the dust, and subdued our spirits to the obedience of faith.]

3. The self-denying nature of his precepts—

[The very first condition imposed on his disciples was, to “deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow him.” He shewed them by his own example what a superiority to every thing in this world he required, and told them plainly that they must be no more of the world than he was: and finally, he warned them, that he would acknowledge none as his disciples, unless they were truly willing, at any time and in any manner, to lay down their lives for him. How offensive these declarations and injunctions were to the carnal hearts of his hearers, we may judge by the conduct of the Rich Youth, who, though convinced in his judgment that Jesus was the Christ, could not prevail upon himself to follow him, but abandoned all his hope in Christ, rather than make the sacrifice that was demanded of him.

And what is it that at this day forms the principal ground of offence against the Gospel? It is the purity of its precepts. If only we would leave men at liberty to indulge their corrupt desires, and to retain their earthly and sensual dispositions, we might set forth the mysteries of the Gospel as strongly as we pleased: but, if we require from our hearers the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and a conformity to his heavenly example, we put a stumbling-block before them, which they fall over to their eternal ruin: they cannot, they will not endure to hear of such requisitions; and on account of their aversion to such restraints they reject the Gospel altogether.]

But that faith which is the gift of God will triumph over all: hence,

III. The commendation given it, when duly exercised—

To have the mind brought to a cordial acquiescence in all that is spoken of the Lord Jesus, is indeed a great victory; and blessed is that man who has attained it: for that acquiescence clearly shews,

1. That he is taught of God—

[It is impossible for the human mind, blinded as it is by innumerable lusts and prejudices, to see the truth and excellence of the Gospel, unless it have been first enlightened by the Holy Spirit; “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” When Peter confessed his Master to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” our Lord told him, that “flesh and blood had not taught him this, but that his heavenly Father had revealed it to him;” on which account he pronounced him truly blessed: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” &c.: and at another time he pronounced all his disciples blessed on a similar account: “Blessed are your eyes, for ye see; and your ears, for ye hear.”]

2. That he is brought into the path of life—

[The man who exercises true and saving faith, must have “passed from death unto life;” for our Lord himself says, “This is life eternal, to know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” The change that has taken place in him is not in his understanding only, but his heart: he must have become a new creature: the same Divine operation that wrought faith in his heart, must have produced every other grace, according to the measure in which the gift of faith has been bestowed upon him. Having “received Christ Jesus the Lord, he has the privilege of being a child of God.” And is not he blessed? What man on earth has so much reason to rejoice as he? When some were ready to magnify the blessedness of our Lord’s mother on account of her having borne and nourished such a son, our Lord rectified their mistake, and taught them to consider every true believer as more blessed on account of his spiritual relation to him, than she was on account of her relation according to the flesh; “yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.”]

3. That all the glory of heaven is his—

[Being born of God, he is born “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefined, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him; and he shall be kept by the power of God, through faith,” unto the everlasting possession of it. “The Lord will not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people.” Say then, is not he blessed that has such a Father, such a Friend, such a Protector, and such a portion? Truly he is blessed: and the Lord himself will ere long pronounce him so: “Come, thou blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for thee from the foundation of the world.”]

Address—

1. Those who openly stumble at Christ—

[You think that because many learned persons deny the divinity of his person, and the expiatory power of his death, your rejection of him is excusable. But no such excuse was ever admitted for his enemies of old: nor will it ever be admitted for you. It was foretold that he should be “a rock of offence; and that many would stumble at him and fall:” but it was declared by our Lord himself, that “all who should fall on that stone, should be broken in pieces; and that on whomsoever it should fall, it would grind him to powder.” Beware then how you justify your infidelity or attempt to extenuate its guilt; for the unalterable determination of God is, that “he who believeth not, shall not see life, but that the wrath of God shall abide upon him.”]

2. Those who profess indeed to receive him, but are inwardly offended at him—

[It is to no purpose to receive his word in theory, whilst we practically deny its influence on our hearts. He himself says, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Do not judge yourselves, therefore, by your professions, but by the manner in which you live upon him, and serve him. Whilst there is any one saying of his that appears hard to you, or any one commandment that is grievous, or any other attainment that is not ardently desired by you, your heart is not right with God; and Christ, in that particular, is an offence unto you. O “judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord.”]

3. Those to whom Christ is altogether precious—

[To those who truly believe, he is precious: his person, his office, his character, his word, his dispensations, all are precious; yea, “he is altogether lovely.” And what shall I say unto you? What more suitable than the angel’s address to Mary? “Blessed are ye among men; ye are highly favoured of the Lord.” You have within yourselves the evidence that Christ is “he that was to come;” and you have no occasion, or disposition, to “look for any other.” If ye are “poor,” adore his name that “his Gospel has been preached to you,” and that you have not heard it in vain. Adore your heavenly Father too, who hath “chosen the poor of this world, to be rich in faith and heirs of his kingdom.” If, on the other hand, ye be among the rich, you have, if possible, still greater reason to adore the riches of his grace, for distinguishing yon thus from the great mass of those who reject him, and for bringing you into his kingdom, notwithstanding all the difficulties which your wealth has interposed to obstruct your entrance. Labour then, with your more numerous talents, to bring more honour to him, and to evince to all around you, that his grace is still as efficacious to heal the diseases of the soul, as ever his word was to heal the diseases of the body. The various persons whom he healed or raised from the dead were witnesses for him in every place: be ye the same; and let the whole of your spirit and conduct approve itself to the world as his workmanship: so shall ye be truly blessed both in time and in eternity.


Verse 11-12

DISCOURSE: 1348

CHRIST’S COMMENDATION OF JOHN

Matthew 11:11-12. 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.

OUR blessed Lord lost no opportunity of encouraging persons to believe on him. He had forborne to applaud the character of John whilst John was bearing testimony to him, lest it should be thought that there was a concerted plan between them to exalt each other: but, when John was now shut up in prison, and come near to the close of his ministry, our Lord bore testimony to him in the most exalted terms. The people had flocked from every quarter to hear John: and our Lord asked them, what sort of a person they had expected to hear and see: they had not travelled so far to see a fickle man, like a reed shaken with the wind, or a soft effeminate man, like those often bred in courts; but a prophet, who, with self-denying labour and unshaken steadfastness, was instructing and reforming the land: and such indeed he was, even like Elijah of old, whose spirit and character he bore, agreeably to the prophetic representation that had been given of him four hundred years before. Yet eminent as John was, even greater than any prophet that had ever lived, our Lord told his hearers, that the least of his true disciples was really greater than the Baptist himself.

Many interpret this as referring only to those who should preach his Gospel; but though it is true that the Apostles were superior to John in their office, and should far exceed him in the success of their labours, we see no reason for limiting to them what was spoken to the whole multitude: we are persuaded, on the contrary, that this information was intended for the encouragement of all, and as an incentive to them to follow him, with the same avidity and zeal as they had manifested in following John.

Considering the passage thus as referring to all true Christians, we shall take occasion from it to point out,

I. Their pre-eminent advantage—

John was greater than all that had ever been born of woman, not in sanctity (for Daniel, and perhaps several others, were not a whit inferior to him in this respect,) but in office; being the forerunner of the Messiah, who did not merely speak of him at a distance, but pointed him out as present; and declared him to be that very “Lamb of God that should take away the sins of the world.” But the least in the Messiah’s kingdom, which was just then founded upon earth, are greater than he, inasmuch as they have,

1. A fuller discovery of Christ’s character—

[John himself, and indeed the Apostles too, till after the resurrection, had very imperfect views of Christ: they saw not, or saw but very faintly, the dignity of his person, the necessity of his death, the certainty of his resurrection, or the nature of his kingdom: but the most ignorant of Christ’s disciples have a comparatively clear, enlarged, and certain knowledge of him: they know what God has revealed concerning his person, as Emmanuel, God with us; his work, as fulfilling and satisfying the law for us; and his offices, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his Church and people — — — In this they are as superior to John, as John was to the least enlightened of all the ancient prophets.]

2. A richer experience of his love—

[They can tell, not merely what he is to do, but what he has done: yea, they can say, “He has loved me, and given himself for me.” They have felt the virtue of his blood in purging their consciences from guilt, and the efficacy of his grace in subduing their most inveterate corruptions. They know what it is to receive out of his fulness the blessings which they need, and to maintain sweet fellowship with him from day to day. They have within themselves the evidence that he is a living, a gracious, and an almighty Saviour, who fulfils to them all his promises, guides them by his Spirit, upholds them by his arm, sanctifies them by his grace, comforts them with his presence, and renders them meet for the enjoyment of his heavenly kingdom — — — In this their superiority to the Baptist is as the meridian sun to the early dawn.]

The ministry of John was as remarkable as his endowments. As he had clearer views than all who preceded him, so was the success of his labours incomparably greater: for almost the whole of Jud ζa, and even of the people beyond Jordan, came and were baptized of him [Note: Matthew 3:5-6. Luke 16:16.]. Even those who were the most remote from the kingdom of heaven, according to human apprehensions, were the foremost to seek admission into it, and to take it, as it were, from those, who, from their education and professions, seemed most likely to become the subjects of it [Note: This is the sense in which many understand the latter verse of our text. Compare Luke 7:28-30. Matthew 21:31-32.]. In this conduct of theirs we may see a lively image of the followers of Christ, and may read,

II. Their universal character—

Whilst they approve themselves the Lord’s people by their views of his salvation, they manifest in relation to it,

1. A fixed purpose—

[They regard the care of the soul as the one thing needful: other things may be good and useful; but this is necessary: it cannot be dispensed with for a single day: nor will any thing be tolerated that would interfere with it. Allurements or menaces are alike disregarded by them: no menace is terrible to them in comparison of God’s displeasure; no pleasure is desirable in comparison of his favour. Hence, if tempted, they reply, What shall it profit me to gain the whole world and lose my own soul? And, if threatened, they answer, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” In a word, they readily part with all to obtain the pearl of great price; and having “bought the truth,” nothing under heaven can induce them to sell it. As in a race the persons contending for the prize may easily be distinguished from the spectators by the earnestness with which they pursue their object, so may these be known amidst a supine and thoughtless generation: they are lights shining in the midst of a dark, benighted world.”]

2. A persevering endeavour—

[Having put their hand to the plough, they will not look back again. They know that they must “endure unto the end, if ever they would be saved;” and they wait upon God in prayer, and beg him to perfect that which concerneth them. They now desire, not merely to be saved from death and hell, but to have Christ dwelling and reigning in them: nor will they ever be satisfied till “every thought of their hearts is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Hence their diligence in reading the word, and in every ordinance of religion, whether public or private. They find enemies both without and within: but they will not yield to discouragement. They know that their Redeemer is mighty, and able to save them to the uttermost; and therefore they go forth in his strength, and, though defeated, rally; though wounded, fight; though faint, pursue; and never put off their armour till they are made more than conquerors.]

Address—

1. The ignorant Christian—

[Wherein are you superior to John and all the prophets? Truly you are less than heathens, because of your neglect of your superior advantages — — — Remember that God will “take vengeance on them that know him not, and that obey not his Gospel.”]

2. The formal Christian—

[You value yourselves on your moderation: and, if there be a person striving to take the kingdom by violence, you discourage him. You approve of violence in every thing else; and disapprove of it where alone it should be used — — — Did you never hear that “many seek to enter into heaven, but fail,” because they do not strive? Beware lest that be your unhappy case.]

3. The fainting Christian—

[Be not weary in well doing. You have many difficulties, it is true; but you have omnipotence on your side: and “if God be for you, who can be against you?” The temptations you have, may seem peculiar to you; but they are only “such as are common to man:” and God engages that you shall have “none without a way to escape” from it, or strength to withstand it. “Be strong then in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

But beware of sloth: that will soon enervate the soul, and paralyse every effort in the way to heaven. The promises of God and the assistances of his Spirit do not supersede your own exertions: it is true at this day, as much as in the days of Christ, that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent must take it by force.”]


Verse 28

DISCOURSE: 1349

THE HEAVY-LADEN INVITED TO CHRIST

Matthew 11:28. Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

IT is thought by many, that the Gospel is a mere system of notions, which may be received without benefit, or rejected without loss. But it is rather proposed to us as a remedy for all the miseries, which sin has brought into the world. In it we are represented as guilty and undone: but Christ is set before us as a Saviour, and is exhibited under every figure that can unfold his excellency, or endear him to our souls. Under the Old Testament, he is shadowed forth as a brazen serpent to heal the wounded, as a city of refuge to protect the man-slayer, and as a sacrifice to remove the sinner’s guilt. In the New Testament, he speaks of himself as bread for the hungry, as living water for the thirsty, as a physician for the sick, and, to mention no more, as a kind and hospitable friend, who invites to him the weary and heavy-laden.

In the words here addressed to us, we may notice,

I. The characters invited—

Under the description of the weary and heavy-laden we must certainly include those, who groaned under the burthen of the Mosaic law

[The ceremonial law required a great multitude of ritual observances, which, to those who saw not their typical use and tendency, must have appeared frivolous and arbitrary; and, even to those who had some insight into their meaning, they were an irksome task, and an intolerable burthen. From this yoke however the Messiah was to deliver them; he was to annul the old covenant with all its ceremonies, and to establish a better covenant in its stead [Note: Hebrews 8:8; Hebrews 8:13.]. When therefore our Lord proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, he invited to him all that were weary and heavy-laden with the Mosaic law, and assured them, that the yoke which he would impose upon them was light and easy.]

There is however a further reference to those who laboured under temporal afflictions

[None are such strangers to the common lot of mortality, as not to know that mankind are subject to many grievous troubles. Indeed, such are the calamities incident to life, that few, who have been long in the world, can cordially “thank God for their creation.” But more especially when the hand of God is heavy upon us, and we feel the weight of great and multiplied afflictions, we are ready to hate our very existence, and to “choose strangling rather than life.” Many probably of those, to whom Jesus addressed himself, had drunk deep of the cup of sorrow: for their encouragement therefore he promised that, whatever their trials were, whether in mind, or body, or estate, if only they would come to him, they should find a relief from all, or (what would be of equal value) support and comfort under their pressure.]

But doubtless we must principally understand by these terms those who are oppressed with a sense of sin

[Though all are sinners, all do not feel the weight of sin, because they know not what tremendous evils it has brought upon them. But when any are awakened from their lethargic state, and see what a good and holy God they have offended, they begin to tremble, lest the wrath of God should break forth upon them to consume them utterly. Perhaps they obtain a transient peace by means of their repentance and reformation; but their subsequent falls and backslidings rend open the wounds afresh, and make them feel how hopeless their condition must be, if they be left to themselves. Even after they have attained peace through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, so that they no longer tremble for fear of condemnation, they groan more than ever under the burthen of their indwelling corruptions, saying, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:24.]?” These are the persons for whose relief our Lord came into the world, and whom, above all, he invited to him in the words before us.]

To ascertain more fully the import of his address, we proceed to consider,

II. The invitation itself—

By the expression, “Come unto me,” our Lord could not mean to call them nearer to him, because they were already round about him: but as he himself explains the words, he called them to believe on him [Note: John 6:35; John 6:37; John 6:44-45; John 6:65.]; or, in other words, to come to him in the exercise of faith, of hope, and of love.

Its import will best appear in a short paraphrase—

[‘To impart rest unto you all is the great end of my appearance in the world. Seek it therefore in me, and come to me, that ye may receive it at my hands. Turn not away from me as an impostor; for I am the very person referred to in your prophecies, and sent unto you by the Father. Go not any longer to the vanities of this world in search of rest; for it is not in them; it is a gift which none but myself can impart unto you. Keep not back, from an apprehension that you can make satisfaction for your own sins, or cleanse yourselves from your iniquities: for you can never have redemption, but through my blood; nor can you ever subdue your lusts, but by my all-sufficient grace. Neither delay your coming on account of your own unworthiness, as if it were necessary for you to bring some meritorious services as the price of my favour: come, just as you are, with all your sins upon you; stop not to heal yourselves in part; but come instantly to your Physician; come and receive all my blessings freely, “without money, and without price.” Come in faith, believing me able to save you to the uttermost, and as willing as I am able. Come also in hope: let your expectations be enlarged: “ye are not straitened in me; be not straitened in your own bowels.” Count up all the blessings of time; survey all the glories of eternity; stretch your imagination to the uttermost; ask all that eye ever saw, or ear heard, or heart conceived; and I will not only grant your requests, but give “exceeding abundantly above all that ye can ask or think:” “open your mouths wide, and I will fill them.” Come moreover in love. Be not like persons driven to me through mere necessity, and influenced by nothing but a dread of condemnation; but contemplate my character, meditate on my kindness, strive to comprehend the heights and depths of my love; and let a sense of my love constrain you to walk with me, to depend upon me, to delight yourselves in me.’

Such may be supposed to be the import of the invitation. And every one who is weary and heavy-laden, whatever his burthen be, may consider it as addressed to himself in particular, as much as ever it was to those, who waited on the personal ministry of our Lord. Let us then hear him thus inviting us, as it were, with his dying breath, and from his throne of glory: and let us go to him with one accord; yea, let us fly to him on the wings of love, even “as the doves to their windows.”]

That nothing might be wanting to give efficacy to his invitation, our Lord added,

III. The promise with which it is enforced—

The world are glad to see us in our prosperity, and when we can participate in their pleasures: but in a day of adversity, when want and trouble come upon us, they are but too apt to lessen their regards, and to grow weary of our complaints. How different is the conduct of the Lord Jesus! He bids us “call upon him in the time of trouble,” and, instead of turning a deaf ear to our complaints, promises to “give us rest.”

How suitable is this promise to those to whom it is made!

[What do the weary and heavy-laden desire? If their troubles be of a temporal nature, they wish for something that shall soothe the anguish of their minds, and be a support unto their souls: and this our blessed Saviour administers by the aids of his grace, and the consolations of his Spirit. Are their sorrows altogether spiritual? He speaks peace unto their conscience, saving unto them, “Be of good cheer, I am thy salvation:” he discovers unto them the sufficiency of his blood to cleanse them from sin, and the efficacy of his grace to subdue and mortify their lusts. He gives them that, which nothing else in the universe can supply, a firm and stable hope of pardon and peace, of holiness and glory. Whatever other blessings he should offer to the soul, they would all be despised in comparison of this: it is bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, healing to the sick, and life to the dead.]

And can any thing be more precious to a heavy-laden soul?

[The term used in the text imports far more than an exemption from labour and trouble: it implies also that refreshment which a great and seasonable relief administers. And how sweet is that peace which he imparts to a believing penitent! it is a “peace that passeth understanding,” a “joy unspeakable and glorified.” Surely the consolations of his Spirit are not unfitly called “an earnest of our inheritance,” since they are indeed a beginning and foretaste of heaven in the soul. But we must extend our thoughts yet further, even to “the rest that remaineth for the people of God.” Doubtless that was most eminently in the view of our blessed Lord; nor shall any thing short of all the glory and felicity of heaven be the portion of those who come to him aright.]

That it is also a true and faithful saying, there can be no doubt—

[Never did any come to our Lord without experiencing his truth and faithfulness. Many indeed there are who profess to follow him, while yet they are far from enjoying this promised blessing: but, instead of coming to him in faith and hope, and love, they are impelled only by terror; they listen to the suggestions of despondency; and they live under the reigning power of unbelief. No wonder then that they find not the rest which they desire. But if any go to him aright, there is no guilt, however great, which is not removed from their conscience, no tumult of contending passions that is not moderated and restrained, nor any earthly trouble in which they are not enabled to rejoice and glory. If under any calamity whatever we go to him like the Apostle, like him shall we receive such an answer as will turn our sorrow into joy, and make the very occasions of grief to be the sources of exultation and triumph [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.].]

Application—

1. To those who feel not the burthen of sin—

[If we be exempt in a measure from earthly calamities, we have reason to rejoice. But to be unacquainted with spiritual troubles is no proper subject for self-congratulation. It is “the broken and contrite heart only which God will not despise.” We may boast of our goodness, like the Pharisee, or the elder brother in the parable [Note: Luke 15:28-29; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:14.]: but, like them, we shall have no forgiveness with God, nor any part in that joy, which returning prodigals shall experience in their Father’s house. We must “sow in tears, if ever we would reap in joy:” we must be heavy-laden with a sense of sin, if ever we would experience the rest which Christ will give [Note: Jeremiah 2:35.].]

2. To those who are seeking rest—

[It is indeed a mercy to have an awakened conscience: but you must now guard with earnest and equal care against self-righteous hopes on the one hand, and desponding fears on the other. You may be ready to fear that your burthens are too heavy to be removed, and your sins too great to be forgiven: but the persons, whom Christ invites, are the heavy-laden, yea, all of them without exception, whatever be their burthens, and whatever be their sins. On the other hand, you may be tempted to seek rest in your duties or your frames: but it is Christ alone that ever can bestow it, and from him you must receive it as a free unmerited gift. Endeavour therefore to draw nigh to him in his appointed way; and be assured that he will draw nigh to you with his promised blessings.]

3. To those who have attained rest and peace—

[A deliverance from fear and trouble, instead of relaxing our obligation to watchfulness, binds us to tenfold diligence in the ways of God. When therefore our Lord invites us to come to him for rest, he adds, “Take my yoke upon you;” and then repeats the promise, in order to intimate, that a submission to his will is as necessary to our happiness, as an affiance in his name [Note: ver. 29.]. Let this then be your daily care. If his yoke were ever so grievous, you could not reasonably hesitate to bear it, since the burthen of sin and misery, that he has removed from you, is infinitely heavier than any other can be. But “his yoke is easy and his burthen is light;” and the bearing of it will conduce no less to your present, than to your everlasting felicity.]


Verse 29

DISCOURSE: 1350

CHRIST A MEEK AND LOWLY TEACHER

Matthew 11:29. Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

EVERY office which Christ sustains in the economy of redemption, is replete with encouragement to sinful man. His sufficiency as our great High-Priest to make atonement for us, and his power as our King to subdue our enemies, are subjects of frequent meditation, and sources of unspeakable comfort, to the true Christian. His prophetic office, especially as exercised towards ourselves, is less considered by Christians in general, though it is equally necessary for us, and no less conducive to our eternal welfare. In a preceding verse our Lord has told us, that none can know the Father, except they to whom the Son should reveal him; and, in the words before us, he invites all to come and learn of him the mysterious truths, which, though already recorded in the written word, cannot be apprehended aright, unless he unfold them to us, and enable us to understand them.

In these words we may discern,

I. Our duty—

Christ having undertaken to teach us the way of safety, and the way of duty, we should learn of him,

1. With the teachableness of children—

[Children receive with the most implicit submission whatever their teachers tell them. Thus should we learn of Christ: we should not bring our own preconceived notions to the Scriptures, or presume to try the mysteries of revelation at the bar of our own corrupt reason; but we should believe whatever God has spoken, and receive it simply on the authority of the speaker. Nor should the opinions of the wisest philosopher be of any weight with us, if they be clearly contrary to the voice of inspiration [Note: Isaiah 8:20.].]

2. With the diligence of students—

[They who have a thirst for knowledge, are almost constantly employed in deep thought, and laborious investigation. Nor do they account any pains too great, if only they can gain that eminence and distinction, which superior attainments will ensure. Thus should we be occupied in pursuit of divine knowledge; reading the word, “searching into it as for hidden treasures,” meditating upon it day and night, and praying over it for divine illumination. While others are careful, and cumbered about many things, we should be sitting at the feet of Jesus [Note: Luke 10:39-42.], and embracing all opportunities of religious instruction, whether in public or in private.]

3. With the obedience of devoted followers—

[Earthly knowledge may be merely speculative: divine knowledge must be practical; it is of no use at all, any further than it purifies the heart and renews the life. Whatever we find to be the mind and will of God, that we must do without hesitation, and without reserve. As the reasonings of men are to be disregarded when opposed to the declarations of God, so are the maxims of men to be set at nought, when by adopting them we should violate a divine command. One single word, confirmed with Thus saith the Lord, should operate more powerfully to the regulating of our faith and practice, than the sentiments and customs of the whole world combined.]

The description which our Lord has given us of his own character, shews what abundant provision is made for,

II. Our encouragement—

Our Lord’s words are not to be understood as an exhortation to learn meekness and lowliness from his example, but as a reason why we should cheerfully submit ourselves to his teaching. In this view they are very encouraging: they imply, that,

1. He will condescend to our ignorance—

[Those who are proficients in deep knowledge, cannot bear the drudgery of teaching children the first rudiments of language. But Jesus, who is able to instruct the highest archangel, is yet willing to take, as it were, under his tuition the most ignorant of mankind. As in the days of his flesh, “he spake the word to men as they were able to bear it,” so now will he give us “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little [Note: Isaiah 28:10.].” When his own disciples forbad people to bring their children to him, under the idea that his time ought not to be occupied with persons so incapable of benefiting by his instructions, he rebuked them, and desired that all, of whatever age or description, might have the freest access to him [Note: Mark 10:13-14.]; being as willing to adapt himself to the capacity of a child as to the more enlarged understandings of the Scribes and Pharisees.]

2. He will bear with our dulness—

[Human teachers are but too apt to feel irritation from the stupidity of their disciples. But Jesus, who has infinitely more to bear with than we can have, is ever patient, and ready to renew yet again and again the lessons that he has given us a thousand times. Scarcely any person can be conceived more dull of understanding than his own disciples, who, after he had been teaching them for nearly four years, were yet ignorant of the necessity of his death, of the ends of his resurrection, and of the spiritual nature of his kingdom. He was constrained sometimes to complain of them in this very view; “Are ye also yet without understanding [Note: Matthew 15:16.]?” Nevertheless he continued to teach them, till he had initiated them fully into all the mysteries of his kingdom. And thus will he do to the most ignorant of men; he will “open their understandings [Note: Luke 24:25.],” and “guide them into all truth [Note: John 16:13.].”]

3. He will encourage our feeblest efforts—

[It not unfrequently happens, that they who are slow of understanding, are altogether driven to despondency through the impatience of their teachers. But Jesus is all meekness and lowliness: and, however weak our efforts be, provided only they be sincere and humble, he will bless them with a measure of success, and with manifest tokens of his approbation. We may appeal to the experience of all, in confirmation of this truth: who ever sought instruction from him in a way of reading and prayer, without finding his mind gradually opening to an apprehension of the truth? Has not Jesus shewn, if we may so speak, a partiality for the poor and weak, revealing to them what he has hidden from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.]; confounding thereby the wisdom of the wise [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:27.], and securing to himself the glory of his own work? Yes; in reference to the illumination of the mind, as well as to any thing else, we may say, “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory [Note: Matthew 12:20 and Zechariah 4:10.].”]

But, in addition to the encouragement which his condescension affords us, we have a further inducement to learn of him, from the consideration of,

III. Our reward—

An attention to the instructions of earthly monitors is productive of no little benefit. But if we diligently learn of Christ, our advantages will be greater than we can well conceive: we shall find benefit to our souls; we shall obtain “rest,”

1. From the uncertainty of conjecture—

[Mankind in general are in a state of doubt respecting the most important of all concerns: though they may assent to the principal truths of Christianity, they feel no assurance respecting them. But those who have learned of Christ, soon attain a full persuasion of the things they have been taught. The Scripture speaks of a threefold assurance; an assurance of understanding [Note: Colossians 2:2.], an assurance of faith [Note: Hebrews 10:22.], and an assurance of hope [Note: Hebrews 6:11.]: of all these, the men of this world have no idea: they are ready to speak of such things as marks of daring presumption. But the disciple of Christ has an inward witness of the truths he has learned [Note: Hebrews 11:13. 1 John 5:10; 1 John 3:19.]; and knows perfectly that they are not a cunningly-devised fable [Note: 2 Peter 1:16.]. He can venture his soul upon them with as much confidence, as he can recline his weary body upon his bed. He knows in whom he has believed; and that the soul which is committed to Jesus, is safe for ever [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].]

2. From the accusations of conscience—

[In spite of men’s endeavours to silence the convictions of their conscience, they never can obtain peace but in God’s appointed way. But the person that has learned of Christ to rely simply on his blood and righteousness, enjoys a “peace that passeth all understanding.” He knows that “the blood of Jesus will cleanse him from all sin,” and that “there is no condemnation to the soul that believes in him” — — —]

3. From the turbulence of passion—

[Whatever difference there may be in the natural tempers of men, all have some predominant passion that leads them captive. But the disciple of Christ has a new and more powerful principle infused into his soul [Note: Galatians 5:16-17.]; by means of which he is enabled to bring into subjection his corrupt appetites, and to mortify those evil dispositions which are such a fruitful source of misery to the unregenerate. This forms the great line of distinction between the Lord’s people and others; for, whereas others are led captive by some sin, believers “have not so learned Christ, if they have indeed heard him and been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus [Note: Ephesians 4:19-21.]:” on the contrary, “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: Galatians 5:24.].”]

4. From the fear of death—

[Men may brave death on a field of battle; but all, except the true Christian, shrink from it in its more silent and gradual approaches. But Christ purchased for his followers a deliverance from this bondage [Note: Hebrews 2:14-15.]. With respect to them, death has lost its sting: yea, it is counted amongst their richest treasures [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:22.]: and they are enabled to look forward to it with pleasure, as the period when all their conflicts will cease, and their joys be consummated for ever [Note: Philippians 1:23.] — — —

“Such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord;” and such is the rest that Christ will impart to all who learn of him.]

Address—

[Are there any amongst us that are prosecuting human learning with avidity? O remember, that the knowledge of Christ infinitely transcends all other knowledge [Note: Philippians 3:8.], and will bring with it a more certain, and far nobler, recompence. Be persuaded then to devote to it some portion of every day, and the whole of your sabbaths, that you may not only be wise, but “wise unto salvation [Note: 2 Timothy 3:15.].”

Are there any that are dejected on account of their own incapacity to learn? Consider the abilities of your Teacher; and say, whether he be not able to instruct you, as well as others? He can make “the blind to see out of obscurity, and out of darkness [Note: Isaiah 29:18.]:” yea, he will the more readily exert himself on your behalf, because the excellency of the power displayed in your proficiency will the more evidently appear to be of him [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:7.]. Take comfort then, and expect the certain accomplishment of that promise, “Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord [Note: Hosea 6:3.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 11:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/matthew-11.html. 1832.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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