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Preach'd on the 22d of February, 16.
at Lambeth Chapel.
MATTH. XI, 30.
OT to trouble you with the various
Interpretations of Toke and Burden in the Text, and the Distinction made by some between them ; I suppose the peculiar Scope of the Words to be a Recommendation of the Christian Religion, from the Easiness of its Precepts, and Agrecableness of its Constitution.
All Systems of Religion, whether Natural or Revealed, may be fully expressed by the Metaphors of a Yoke and Burthen, inasmuch as they restrain the Actions of Man, limit them to certain Rules, impose upon him the Practice of fome, and Abstinence from other Actions, which otherwise he should not have regarded, and used them as indifferent ; which demonstrates their Subjection to God, the Author of such Religion, as fully as a Yoke doth the Subjection of Beasts to their possessors, or of Captives to their Conquerors.
Yet this Difference ought to be observed; that however the latter may be repined at with some Shew of Reason, as being the Deprivation of precedent Liberty ; the former is no more than the Result and necefsary Consequence of human Nature ; which deriving its Being from God, doch
that Account owe absolute Subjection to him ; and enjoying the Use of Free-will, is capable of receiving and practising such Rules of Conduct, as the Sovereign Lawgiver shall appoint.
So that altho' in the former Case it may be off-times lawful to cast off the Toke, or at least defire the Removal of it; yet in this Cafe, it is no more reasonable to deny Subjection, than to receive any Advantage, and yet refuse to perform the Condition of it.
While Men therefore put any Value upon the Benefit of Life and Being, it is but just that they should receive it with those infeparable Burdens, which it pleased the Author of it to annex to it ; such as Subjection to himself, and Obedience to his Laws.
And as Natural Religion may upon this Account be truly called a Toke, fo, much more all Instituted Religions ; wherein the
Professors of it, beside the natural and common Reasons of Subjection to God, do in a peculiar Manner, and for some more particular Reasons, put themselves under the Command and Direction of God, and testify their Subjection by folemn Professions, and some External Rites.
The Jews did therefore fitly express the whole Obligation of their Law by the Denomination of a Yoke ; and whosoever became a Proselyte to it, was said to take the Toke of God upon them; and Men who denied all Obedience to God, either in their Opinion or Practice, were called Men of Belial, that is, Men without a Yoke, / In Compliance to this received Form of Speech among them, our Lord also calls his Religion a Yoke, and confesseth the Precepts of it to be a Burden. But then, as well to distinguish it from other Religions, whether Natural or Jewish, as to encourage Mankind to take that Toke upon them, he assureth them that his roke is easy, and his Bnrden light. In Pursuance of which Design, I shall treat of the Words,
I. Comparatively ; as this Description of the Toke, or Religion of Christ, distinguisheth it from all other Religions. And,
II. Absolutely ; as it implieth the Precepts of it, taken either feparately or all together, to be easy of Practice, and not grieyous to be undergone.
The Easiness and Gentleness of his Religion above all others, our Lord intimates in his whole Discourse preceding this final Sentence. Come unto me,
that labour and are heavy laden , and I will give you reft ; Ver. 28. Which supposeth Men to have been oppressed, and even to have yielded under the Wcight of their Burdens; to have been so far from receiving any Satisfaction or Complacency therein, that they grew weary of
them ; sought for Rest and Relief, and afflicted themselves with the Sense of the want of it. And surely, not Without Reason.
For, to begin with the Toke of Natural Religion ; that could not but be very grievous, when no Prospect of Reward appeared to the Conscientious Observers of it.
It is the Hopes of some Good to be obtained by it, which excites the Diligence of Man; and the Continuation of those Hopes will support him under all Difficulties. Nothing leis than the Prospect of some excellent Reward, could encourage the Soul of Man to break through all the Temptations of the World ; to maintain a constant and vigorous War against the Lusts of the Body, to afflict itself with continual Carefulness, and enter upon all the Difficulties of a virtuous Life. When no Reward, therefore, is promised ; when the Supreme Happiness is, if not unknown, yet at least un
certain; as they wanted an effectual Motive to the Practice of Virtue ; so the very lgnorance of true Happiness was none of their leaft Anxieties.
They found themselves to be capable of more noble Enjoyments than what their Senses could present to them ; and they could not stifle 'the restless Desires of this Happiness. They fer themselves to enquire after it ; framed nice Systems, and subcie Definitions of it; yet all their Labour ended in empty and uncertain Notions. What a continual Vexation was it then to the Soul of Man, to consider that they were capable of great Improvements of Felicity, and yer knew not either wherein they consisted, or how they might be obrained: To view the Extent of their Duty, the many and laborious Virtues which were required of them, and yet to be unsatisfied to what Purpose all this tended, or wherein they should receive any Advantage by it. They could not but conclude, indeed, that the Justice of God did require a Discrimination of the Good and Bad : But then it did not appear, that because the Bad were to be
punilhed, the Good must be rewarded with any supernatural Favours. It was a sufficient Reward to Man for his Obedience to the Divine Laws, that he had received his Being, and all the Benefits of his Life from God, and enjoyed them upon no other, Condition, VOL, II.