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with.” And what comes it to at length ? to no rest; for, ver. 18, “In much wisdom there is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow." Here is fulfilled, Eccl. x. 15, “The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.” Whereas, would they go to Christ, they would be in a fair way to get what they are seeking; for, John xvii. 3, " This is life eternal, that they might know thee the true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." " In whom are bid, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” Col. ii. 3. There is labour,-2. In pleasures of the fancy. What else are all the lusts of the eye? all the abundance of the riches for which men labour so much ? Eccl. v. 11, “ When goods increase, they are increased that eat them; and what good is there to the owner thereof, saving the beholding of them with his eyes? all they can think or say is, These are mine.” What is honour, credit, and the like, but a tickling of our fancy, with the fancies of others about us, adding nothing to real worth? And how busy is the soul oftentimes in that, Eccl. vi. 9, “ Better is the sight of the eyes, than the wandering of the desire, (Heb.) “ walking of the soul.” This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. What satisfaction is sought in imagination, sins, lust, revenge, and the like ? what restlessness there, 2 Pet. ii. 14, “ Having eyes full of adultery, that cannot cease from sin." How busy is the soul oftentimes in imagination, of wealth, and the like, as if, when it had tried all other means in vain, it would try, while awake, to dream itself happy! “ The thoughts of my heart," says Job, chap. xvii. 11, (Heb.) “ the passions of my heart,” “ broken off.”
3. The other thing in which natural men labour for rest, is the “ law :" compare the text, Matth. xi. 28, with vers. 29 and 30. Emphatically is that labour described, Rom. I. 3, “ For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness.” “Go about;" the word signifies, a seeking, like a disputer in the schools, or a tormenter of one upon the rack; to establish, to make it stand itself alone. They seek to make it stand, as men that will have a stone to stand on end, which at the same time is ever coming down on them again. Why all this? because it is their own: “Have not submitted.” Christ offers a righteousness ; but to take it, is to them a point of submission, against which they labour, as the untoward bullock against the yoke. They will never let it on till God break the iron sinaw of the neck, Isa. xlviii. 4.
To confirm this, consider,
quite silenced, more than he can get the notion of a God quite
(1.) In the profane person, who has not so much as a form of
(2.) In the formal natural man: some of whom labour in the duties of morality; others in those of religion : who are at no small travail in the law, if we consider it all for nought. Like the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11, they take not the gospel-way, yet they labour in the law. Sure lusts remain in them in their life and vigour. It surely costs labour so far to restrain them.—Let us view this,
(3.) In the awakened sinner. I am not for excluding those out of the text, but only that it be not restrained to them: Acts ii. 37,
Now, when they heard this, they were pricked to the heart, and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, what shall we do ?” These mend their hands at this hard labour, and ofttimes labour so to keep the law, that they are both by themselves, and others taken for saints of the first magnitude, and yet it is but still in the law, till converting grace come, and sned them off the old root.
2. It is natural for men to labour in the law for happiness, and therefore, till nature be overcome by grace, men will not be put off it. The law was Adam's covenant, who, with his children, were to work and win heaven by their works; though they have lost their father's strength, yet they will keep their father's trade; though their stock be small, yet they will keep the merchandising for hea
ven, and give God good works for good wages. See nature speaking out of him, Matth. xix. 16, " Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life ?” And it often happens, that they who have fewest of good works lay the greatest stress upon them.
3. Consider how this practice has been formed into principles, in the face of the sun of the gospel. Never was an error yet vented in principle, but in compliance with some corruption of the heart; therefore is that made the characteristic of true doctrine, that it is according to godliness, 1 Tim. vi. 3. No sooner was the gospel preached, than Cain sets up for works in opposition to faith : Gen. iv. 4, 5," And the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offering; but unto Cain and bis offering he had not respect." Paul gives the reason : Heb. xi. 4, " By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." In Abraham's family, to whom the promise of righteousness was more clearly made, Hagar bears her son; compare Gal. iv. 24. When the people were in Egypt, the generality of them knew nothing else. They had curtailed the law so very short, as all that labour in it do, that they thought they kept all very well: Rom. v. 13," For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed, when there is no law.” For that cause God gave them the law, as in Exod. xx. Gal. iii. 29, “ The law was added because of transgressions ;" it pravailed in the days of the prophets, in Christ's days, and from the beginning of the Christian church to this day ;-hence our swarms of Papists, &c.-Consider,
4. They turn the very gospel iato law, as unclean vessels sour the sweetest liquor that is put in them. What a real gospel was the ceremonial law to the Jews, holding up blood, death, and translation of guilt, from them to the substitute, every day before their eyes in their sacrifices; But, Rom. ix. 11, " Their very table (that is, their altar, so call, Mal. i. 12,) became a snare ;" and they went about these things, as if by them they would have made up what was wanting in their observation of the moral law. Just so was it turned in Popery; yea, and alas ! among Protestants it is found thus soured, to whom the gospel is the law, and faith, repentance, and new obedience, the fulfilling of the law. But would to God it stood in principles only ; but as sure as every unrenewed man is out of Christ, as sure even these natural men, whose heads are set right in this point, in their hearts and practice the very gospel is turned into law, and their obedience, their very faith and repentance, such as it is, is put in the room of Christ. For practice, when fairly traced, will show the principles from which it proceeds.
Lastly, Consider, though all would be saved, yet natural men are
enemies to the gospel-way of salvation : 1 Cor. i. 23," It is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." They must then be in love with the law, for there is no mids; yea, 50 cleave they to it, that nothing but death can part Adam's sons and it, and this even a violent death in a day of God's power : Psalm cx. 3; Rom. vii. 4, “ Yo also are become dead to the law;" (Greek,) " deadened, killed, or put to death.” As long as a soul sees how to shift without Christ, it will never come to him; add to this, that the godly find the remains of this principle in them to struggle against. Self-denial is the first lesson Christ gives, but they are a-learning it all their days. If it is thus in the green tree, what shall it be in the dry ?
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
MATTH. xi. 28,
We are now,
III. To inquire, What sort of a labour sinners have in these things? For the sake of plainness, it will be necessary to consider this labour, 1st, As it respects their lusts; 2dly, As it respects the law.
1st, To consider this labour of sinners, as it respects their lusts, their going up and down among the creatures, extracting from them a comfort and pleasures, which they take for happiness.-I shall here show the properties of this labour, and thus confirm the point, that they are engaged in a wearisome labour.
1. It is hard labour, and sore toil: Jer. ix. 5, " They weary themselves to commit iniquity.” None win the devil's wages for nought, they eat no idle bread where he is taskmaster, and they must needs run, whom he drives. The devil's yoke is of all yokes the heaviest. -To clear this point, consider,
(1.) What the Scriptures compare this labour in lusts unto; whereby it will appear hard labour.-It compares it,
[1.] To the labour of a man going to a city and not knowing the way : Eccl. x. 15, “The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.” That is hard labour, as many know by experience. Many a weary foot such must
go, many a hardship they must endure, and so must these in pursuit of happiness. - It compares it,
[2.] To a labouring in the fire : Hab. ii. 13, “Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts, that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity ?” How hard is their labour that lieth about a fire ! what sweat ! what toil! Jer. vi. 29, “ The billows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain, for the wicked are not plucked away." But how much more hard in the fire! As when a house is on fire, and men in it, labouring to preserve that which the fire consumes, even among their hands. These labour, 1st, In the fire of lusts, that inflames the heart, and scorches the very soul, Prov. vi. 27, 28, “For by means of a whorish woman, a man is brought to a piece of bread, and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned ?” 2dly In the fire of divine wrath that is kindled by the former : Isa. ix. 18, “For wickedness burneth as the fire, it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.” This consumeth what they are working for in the other; so that when, like the spider, they have spun out their own bowels for a covering, yet it is by far too narrow, and they have but wearied themselves for very vanity. It is compared,
[3.] To labouring under a burden, as in the text itself, which will not let the man get up his back. They are the devil's drudges, labouring under that load that will crush them at last, if they do not, as in Psalm lv. 22, cast their burden on the Lord, that he may sustain them. They are laden with divers lusts, which lie on them as a burden on the weary beast, which weary them indeed, but they are bound on as with bands of iron and brass.—It is compared,
[4.] To the labour of a soldier in war; they watch for iniquity as a sentry at his post: Isa. xxix. 20. The natural man himself is the very field of battle : Jam. iv. 1, “ From whence come wars and fightings among you, come they not hence, even of your lasts which war in your members ?" The war itself you may see described in the three following verses. Who cannot but be well laboured with the feet of men and horse in that confusion? Though there be not grace and corruption to war in them, there are lusts, and lasts opposed to one another, lusts and light also.-It is compared,
[5.] To the labour of the husbandman in plowing: Hos. x. 13, “ Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity.” They devise wickedness, which the Hebrew calls plowing it: “Devise not evil against thy neighbour," Prov. iii. 29. “An ungodly man diggeth up evil, and in his lips there is a burning fire,” Prov. xvi. 27.
It is compared,