“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
To come unto Jesus is to believe in his Divinely appointed mission and Authority; to believe in his promises, and to make use of such assistance as his religion offers.
By giving rest is meant, either deliverance from the sorrows which before afflicted us, or the aid of such encouragements and motives to bear them, that the pain and weight which before distressed might be lightened, and ease of mind take place of former disturbance; and that it is our object, to show what these encouragements and motives are, and what is the nature of the relief which his religion may be expected to give.
The burdens under which we labor, from which the Gospel may be expected to relieve, are chiefly those of a moral nature, arising from a consciousness of guilt, and fear of the Divine displeasure; from a sense of the dominion and power of sin, the prevalence of temptation, and the strength of evil habits; or from a sense of the weakness of already-formed resolutions, and the too frequent defects in our duty.
Some persons who are yet awakened to a sense of sin are still oppressed with the weighty burden of moral uneasiness and distress from the dominion and power of sin, the prevalence of temptations, and the strength of their vicious habits.
When the eyes are opened to a conviction of guilt, and liableness to the righteous judgments of God, Conscience then begins to be uneasy at the view of the present tyranny and absolute possession which sin retains over it. It then begins to feel the truth of our Savior's words (John 8:34) “Whosoever commits sin " (that is, habitually) the same is the servant, or slave, of sin."
We know that God has declared that He will reject all who continue to sin, and though we are taught to hope that He will forgive sins that are past, it is only on our sincere repentance; and no repentance can be admitted as sincere, which is not followed by newness of life.
As, then, we cherish any hopes of the mercy, acceptance, and favor of God, we must necessarily see all the reason in the world to be uneasy at the continuance of the power and dominion of sin in ourselves; because it puts an effectual bar in the way of all our hopes, both of the pardon of sins past, and of the final acceptance of God.
Let us then enquire what means Jesus has provided to deliver those from the dominion and power of sin, who come unto him, by a steady faith in his Divine Mission, and an attitude to submit to his authority and government.
First, His holy laws give us a clear and full view both of sin and duty; they leave us at no uncertainty concerning either the one or the other. They represent sin in all its odiousness and deformity, and duty in all its genuine beauty and loveliness.
And it must be obvious how great a help it is towards a right conduct, to have a clear knowledge of what is right and wrong - and that it is a happy step towards a recovery from what is evil, to have a knowledge of what is evil, and conviction of the happiness of what is good.
Jesus did not fail to give us light and instruction. So let not us fail ourselves by not making use of his assistance to turn from away from darkness and towards God. Let's fortify ourselves with all those holy doctrines and precepts which are particularly levelled against those sins which most easily afflict us.
The religion of Jesus furnishes us with many ways to assist us to overcome the dominion and power of sin. The chief cause of the prevalence of temptation, and the support of the dominion of sin, is the neglect of cultivating the habit of reflection, and patient serious consideration. We are not lacking sufficient light to inform us of moral evil, or of motives to dissuade us from the commission of it.
The Gospel furnishes us with both in great abundance. Jesus has offered to us every instruction and every motive calculated to produce the most desirable effects. There lacks nothing but our own attention and sincere belief.
He assures us that God has now established His own Kingdom among us, and calls us to be subjects of it; that the goal of this Kingdom is to make us a holy people.
That though He has promised the pardon of sin to the penitent, yet this by no means encourages us to continue in sin, but that, on the contrary, the mercy of God is of no use unless it leads us to repentance and a new life.
Let us, therefore, come to Jesus by a diligent inquiry into his precepts: let us cultivate a teachable attitude; and with it, diligently search his will.
Let his word be the subject of our frequent enquiry, and let it dwell in us by frequent recollection and meditation. Let us by this means get his laws written, not only on the leaves of our Bibles, but on our memories, and the tables of our hearts; that we may always have them at hand on every emergency, to be able to confront every temptation with an appropriate command of Jesus.
(Adapted from the collected sermons of Rev. William Turner, Jr., 1839)