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the painful reality of the words of the wise king of Israel. Then, indeed, is it true, that mirth is sorrow, and laughter heaviness. Then is wealth a weary burthen, and poverty a bitter curse. Then is occupation without interest, and leisure without repose: labour fruitless; knowledge vain; power contemptible; and wisdom foolishness. Then, indeed, is every thing “vanity and vexation of spirit, and there is nothing that profiteth under the sun.”
THE YOKE OF CHRIST EASY, WHEN
TAKEN UP EARLY.
Matt. xi. 30.
MY YOKE IS EASY, AND MY BURTHEN LIGHT.
THERE are many expressions in Scripture, which appear to represent the course of Christian obedience, as a work of great difficulty, labour, and self-denial, and the terms of which are, doubtless, very discouraging to our worldly and self-indulgent feelings. Thus our Saviour tells us in one passage, that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it 1." In another he exhorts us to “strive to enter in by the strait gate, for that many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able ?." In another place he intimates, that sacrifices of worldly objects must be made for the sake of religion, to be compared only to cutting off an hand, or plucking out an eye :: and again, that, whoever would be his disciple, must be prepared to give up all the dearest ties that bind men to life, and to take up his cross and follow Him.
1 Matt. vii. 14. 3 Matt. v. 29.
2 Luke xiii. 24. 4 Luke xiv. 26.
In like manner, St. Paul uses many expressions implying the great difficulty of leading a life of godliness, and the continual exertion on our part, and the constant assistance of the Holy Spirit necessary to enable us to do. He tells us, that “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would 5.” He tells us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling 8.” He compares the Christian life to a warfare waged against powerful enemies, in which, that the victory may be on our part, we have need of the whole armour of God?; with many similar expressions, of which like examples may be found in the writings of the other Apostles.
On the other hand, Christian obedience is not unfrequently described in Holy Writ as easy and pleasant. Expressions are used, which seem to imply, that it entails no trials, or troubles, or labours, on those who embrace it, but leads them on by peaceful and happy paths on earth, to eternal joys in heaven. Thus the Psalmist, instancing the effect of religion on himself, says, “therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth 8.” Solomon asserts of divine wisdom, that “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace 9”. Our Saviour
5 Gal. v. 17.
8 Ps. xvi. 9.
6 Phil. ii. 12.
Eph. vi. 13. 9 Prov. iii. 17.
himself calls upon all those “who labour and are heavy laden, to come unto him, and he will give them rest ?.” In the words of my text he says, “my yoke is easy, and my burthen light.” The disciples are represented in the Acts to have been "filled with joy and the Holy Ghost.” St. Paul says, “the kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Ghost ?.” And lastly, St. John declares, that, “His commandments are not grievous *."
Now these two classes of texts (and many more might be adduced of each kind) may seem, at first sight, opposed to each other. The sacrifices, which religion is represented to demand, may be thought to contradict the pleasantness attributed to it. The
narrow gate,” and “strait way,” may appear hard to reconcile with the “ways of pleasantness," and the “paths of peace.” I propose, therefore, to consider in what manner this may be done. These expressions of Holy Writ are certainly somewhat different from each other ; but not, I believe, contradictory. I will endeavour, therefore, to point out how they harmonise; and whereas both of them are, in themselves, equally applicable to the subject of religion, we will enquire whether any practical conclusion can be drawn, by which we may learn how we may ourselves experience the truth of the one, rather than of the other-how the ways of religion may
Matt. xi. 28.
2 Acts xiii. 52.
3 1 John v. 3.
be to us ways of pleasantness, and paths of peacehow the yoke of our Saviour may to us prove easy, and his burthen light-how we, as the disciples of old, may be “filled with joy and the Holy Ghost”— may find “his commandments not grievous”—and have, as a constant inmate of our breast, that “ peace of God which passeth understanding.”
I will first remark, that whatever appearance of contradiction there may be in these passages of Scripture, there is at least as much to be seen in the general aspect of society around us—in the recorded experience of different persons-and in the language we constantly hear used on the subject in the daily intercourse of life. Most persons, probably, in their efforts to obey the law of God, have found much difficulty and opposition from the struggles of rebellious nature.
We see man every day making efforts after righteousness—obviously sincere efforts—but failing in the attempt, from want of adequate moral energy, or the misapplication, or misdirection of it. We still more frequently hear the strictness and severity of religion complained of; and the self-denials it requires, and the irksomeness of obedience alleged in excuse of transgression.
On the other hand, the impartial observer cannot doubt, that multitudes are deriving great comfort and happiness from practical obedience--are walking with apparent ease in the way of God's