The Nature and Blessedness of Christ's Service
William Nicholson, 1862
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:29.
The text is a direction given, and a promise made to those who come to Christ. None come to him, but those who labor and are heavy laden with the service of sin and its consequences. When a sinner throws off the yoke or service of sin, he puts on the yoke of Christ, which, compared with the former, is not only easy, but pleasant. What a vast difference between the yoke of Christ — and that of Satan!
Not a command is given — not a duty is enjoined, but what is connected with a promise of gracious reward.
I. There Is Something to Be Borne:"Take my yoke upon you."
The word "yoke" is sometimes an emblem:
(1) of bondage, Deuteronomy 28:48; Leviticus 26:13;
(2) of the punishment of sin, Lamentations 1:14;
(3) of afflictions and crosses, those useful restraints, which arise from a sense of the duty we owe to God, and the obedience we ought to pay to his laws, Lamentations 3:27;
(4) the doctrines and precepts of Christ — and the temper, dispositions, and duties which flow from them. This is the meaning of the yoke in the text. It refers to the religion of the Redeemer, and he here calls upon mankind to embrace and obey it.
1. It is the yoke of faith. The assent of the mind to the plan of salvation, and the service of Christ. It is actual trust in Christ for the blessings of the Gospel; and the whole of the Christian's life is a life of faith, Galatians 2:20.
2. It is the yoke of public profession. The disciples of Christ must profess him openly before the world. Mark 8:38.
3. It is the yoke of church fellowship, 2 Corinthians 7:5. Union with the Church is essential to pleasing God, and to spiritual enjoyment. The promises, privileges, etc., are bestowed upon the people of God as members of his church militant.
4. The yoke of holy service. "Go work in my vineyard." A believer is not to be idle. Faith works by love. There is much service to be performed.
5. It is a yoke of submission. A Christian has to meet with persecution, afflictions, and numerous trials. These may discourage him, and cause him to faint. But he must hold fast, and not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel. Like Paul, who said, "Yet none of these things move me!" Or like Christ; "Not my will — but may your will be done."
6. It is an easy yoke, verse 30. The services that I shall require are easily rendered. They are not burdensome, as compared with other yokes. As a master, I am meek, etc. — not harsh, overbearing, and oppressive, like the Pharisees, etc., but mild, gentle, and compassionate in my government. My yoke is easy.
(1.) When compared with the yoke of sin. Compare Christ's service with the laws which sin imposes on its votaries — the laws of fashion, honor, sensuality — and it will be seen that this yoke is the yoke of freedom, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin!" John 8:34. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides." It is easier to be a Christian, than a slave to sin and Satan.
(2.) Compared with the yoke of the law. "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?" Acts 15:10. Or compare it with the yoke of Heathenism — or with the yoke of Popery.
(3.) Because Christ will enable to bear it. This yoke is lined with love. The Apostle Paul bore this yoke, when he suffered from the "thorn in the flesh," but the yoke was lined with grace, and it became easy to bear, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong!" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
II. There Is Something to Be Learned."Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart."
1. Meekness. This was eminently Christ's personal character. It may be defined calmness of mind under provocations; it is the
fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:23. It is an ornament which Christians are to clothe themselves with. 1 Peter 3:4. See the various exhibitions of meekness by Christ, and learn of him.
Its import in the text is more extensive: "My laws are reasonable and tender; my spirit is mild, gentle, and sympathetic; my government is not harsh and oppressive" "Learn of me."
2. Humility. "Humble in heart." This grace adorned his character during the whole of his life; from his birth until his death on the cross. "He made himself of no reputation," etc. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9. No man can be his disciple without this grace of humility.
"Learn of me,"
(1.) By studying my character.
(2.) By craving the influence of the Spirit.
II. There is Something to Enjoy."You shall find rest to your souls."
How rich and sweet a blessing is rest! Even bodily rest is a great blessing, and so is rest from great mental excitement. It is so estimated by the mariner tossed on the tempestuous ocean — to the soldier conflicting and exposed to death on the field of battle — to the weary traveler, and to the toiling laborer, etc. And how desirable is rest to the heavy-laden guilty sinner — to the man who is inquiring after substantial happiness, and to the expectant saint!
So shall find rest to your souls, by throwing off the yoke of Satan — the world, etc.
You shall find rest in me your Ransomer, your Peace, your King.
You shall find rest,
1. From guilt and condemnation.
2. From apprehensions of portending wrath — you shall hide in me, and rest safely.
3. From carnal pursuits, with all their stings and thorns.
4. From earthly solicitude and anxiety. I will guide you — arrange all your affairs, and cause all things to work together for your good.
5. Eternal rest with me in the mansions of eternity!