George Whitefield Sermon 21

Christ the only Rest for the Weary and Heavy-Laden

Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I

will give you rest."

Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to

Christianity; and yet, how amazing is it, nothing is less practiced? There

is much of it in name and show, but little of it in the heart and

conversation; indeed, if going to church, and to the sacrament, or, if our

being called after the name of Christ, and being baptized into that name;

if that will make us Christians, I believe all of us would have a claim

thereto: but if it consists in the heart, that there must be an inward

principle wrought in us by faith; that there must be a change of the whole

nature, a putting off the old man with his deeds, a turning from sin unto

God, a cleaving only unto the Son of Righteousness; and that there must be

a new birth, and we experience the pangs thereof; and that you must feel

yourselves weary and heavy laden with your sins, before you will seek for

deliverance from them; if this is to be the case, if there is so much in

being children of God, alas! how many who please themselves with an outside

show, a name to live whilst they are dead; and how few that have any share

in this spiritual state, in this true and living name? How few are they who

are weary and heavy laden with their sins, and seek to Christ for rest?

They say, in a formal customary manner, we are sinners, and there is no

health in us; but how few feel themselves sinners, and are so oppressed in

their own spirits, that they have no quiet nor rest in them, because of the

burden of their sins, and the weight that is fallen and lays on their


Under these burdens, these heavy burdens, they are at a loss what to

do whereby they may obtain rest; they fly to their works, they go to a

minister, and he tells them to read, to pray, and meditate, and take the

sacrament: thus they go away, and read, and pray, and meditate almost

without ceasing, and never neglect the sacrament whenever there is an

opportunity for the taking of it. Well, when the poor soul has done all

this, it still finds no ease, there is yet no relief. Well, what must you

do then? To lie still under the burden they cannot, and to get rid of it

then cannot. O what must the burdened soul do! Why, goes to the clergyman

again, and tells him the case, and what it has done, and that it is no

better. Well, he asks, have you given alms to the poor? Why no. Then go and

do that, and you will find rest. Thus the poor sinner is hurried from duty

to duty, and still finds no rest: all things are uneasy and disquiet

within, and there remains no rest in the soul. And if it was to go through

all the duties of religion, and read over a thousand manuals of prayers,

none would ever give the soul any rest; nothing will, until it goes to the

Lord Jesus Christ, for there is the only true rest; that is the rest which

abideth, and will continue for ever. It is not in your own works, nor in

your endeavors: no; when Christ comes into your souls, he pardons you,

without any respect to your works, either past, present, or to come.

From the words, my brethren, I have now read, I shall

I. Show you who are the weary and heavy laden.

II. Inquire what is meant by coming to Christ. And,

III. Conclude with exhorting you to accept of the invitation which the

Lord Jesus Christ gives unto you to come unto him, with the assurance of

finding rest.

FIRST, I am to show you, who are the weary and heavy-laden.

And here it will be necessary to consider who are not; and then, to

consider who they are that are really so.

1. Those who think themselves good enough, and are pleased that they

are not so bad as others, these are not weary or heavy laden.

No, these Pharisees are not thus troubled; they laugh and jest at

those who talk of feeling their sins, and think there is no occasion to

make so much ado about religion: it is to be righteous over-much, and the

means to destroy yourselves. They think if they do but mean well, and say

their prayers, as they call them, it is sufficient: though they may say a

prayer, yea, thousands of prayers, and all the while be only offering up

the sacrifice of fools. They may call God, Father, every day, when it is

only mocking of God, and offering up false fire unto him; and it would be

just for him to serve them, as he did Nadab and Abihu, destroy them, cut

them off from the face of the earth: but he is waiting to be gracious, and

willing to try a little longer, whether you will bring forth any thing more

than the leaven of an outward profession, which is not all that the Lord

requires; no, he wants the heart; and unless you honor him with that, he

does not regard your mouths, when the other is far from him. You may say

over your prayers all your lives, and yet you may never pray over one:

therefore, while you flatter yourselves you are good enough, and that you

are in a state of salvation, you are only deceiving you own souls, and

hastening on your own destruction. Come unto him, not as being good enough,

but as vile sinners, as poor, and blind, and naked, and miserable, and then

Jesus will have compassion.

O ye Pharisees, what fruits do ye bring forth? Why, you are moral,

polite creatures; you do your endeavors, you do what you can, and so Jesus

is to make up the rest. You esteem yourselves fine, rational, and polite

beings, and think it is too unfashionable to pray; it is not polite enough:

perhaps you have read some prayers, but knew not how to pray from your

hearts; no, by no means: that was being righteous over-much indeed.

But when once you are sensible of your being lost, damned creatures,

and see hell gaping ready to receive you: if God was but to cut the thread

of life, O then, then you would cry earnestly unto the Lord to receive you,

to open the door of mercy unto you; your bones would then be changed, you

would no more flatter yourselves with your abilities and good wishes; no,

you would see how unable you were, how incapable to save yourselves; that

there is no fitness, no free will in you; no fitness, but for eternal

damnation, no free will but that of doing evil; and that when you would do

good, evil is present with you, and the thing that ye would not, that do

ye. He knows the secret intent of every heart; and this is a pleasure to

you, my dear brethren, who come on purpose to meet with him, though it be a

field. And, however some may esteem me a mountebank, and an enthusiast, one

that is only going to make you methodically mad; they may breathe out their

invectives against me, yet Christ knows all; he takes notice of it, and I

shall leave it to him to plead my cause, for he is a gracious Master: I

have already found him so, and am sure he will continue so. Vengeance is

his, and he will repay it. Let them revile me; let them cast me out of

their synagogues, and have my name in reproach, I shall not answer them by

reviling again, or in speaking evil against them: no, that is not the

Spirit of Christ, but meekness, patience, long-suffering, kindness, &c.

Ye Pharisees, who are going about to establish your own righteousness;

you, who are too polite to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and

truth; you, who are all for a little show, a little outside work; who lead

moral, civil, decent lives, Christ will not know you at the great day, but

will say unto you, O ye Pharisees, was there any place for me in your love?

Alas! you are full of anger and malice, and self-will; yet you pretended to

love and serve me, and to be my people: but, however, I despise you; I, who

am God, and knoweth the secret of all hearts; I, who am truth itself, the

faithful and true witness, say unto you, "Depart from me, ye workers of

iniquity, into that place of torment, prepared for the devil and his

angels." Good God! And must these discreet polite creatures, who never did

any one harm, but led such civil, decent lives, must they suffer the

vengeance of eternal fire? Cannot their righteous souls be saved? Where

then must the sinner and the ungodly appear? Where wilt thou, O Sabbath-

breaker, appear, thou, who canst take thy pleasure, thy recreation, on the

Lord's-day, who refuseth to hear the word of God, who wilt not come to

church to be instructed in the ways of the Lord? Where will you, O ye

adulterers, fornicators, and such-like of this generation appear?

Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge, and them he will condemn. Then

you will not call these tricks of youth: no, but you will call on the rocks

and the mountains to fall on you, to hide you from the fury and anger of

the Lord. Where wilt thou, O man, appear, that takes pleasure in making a

mock of sin, who despiseth all reproof, who throws about thy jests as a

madman does fire, and asks whether thou art not in sport? Where wilt thou,

O man, appear, that makes it thy business to preach against the children of

the Most High; thou, who art inventing methods in order to stop the

progress of the gospel, and using thy utmost power to quash [squash] the

preaching thereof; who art raising of evil reports against the disciple of

Christ, and esteemest them madmen, fools, schismatics, and a parcel of

rabble? Thou, O man, with all thy letter-learning, wilt surely see the

judgment seat of Christ, though, perhaps, sorely against your will; to be

cast by him into eternal fire, a place prepared for the devil and his

angels. There is a burning tophet kindled by the fury of an avenging God,

which will never, never be quenched. The devil longs to embrace you in his

hellish arms, whenever the sentence is past, where you must for ever bear

the weight of your sin: there is no redemption then; the day of grace is

past; the door of hope is shut; mercy will be no more offered, but you must

be shut out from God for ever. O who can dwell with everlasting burnings!

However you may think of hell, indeed it is not a painted fire; it is

not an imagination to keep people in awe: then, then you will feel the

power of the almighty arm. If you will not lay hold on his golden scepter,

he will break you with his iron rod. O ye Pharisees, who are now so good,

so much better than others, how will ye stand before Christ, when dressed

in his glory as judge? You Arians, may now despise his divinity; then you

shall have a proof of it; he will show, that he has all power, and that he

was no subordinate God; he will show you that he has all power in heaven

and earth; that he was King of kings, and Lord of lords; that he was the

mighty God, the everlasting Father; and this power that he has, he will

exercise in preserving you to no other end, but to punish you forever. Thus

you, who please yourselves with being good enough now, who are not weary

and heavy laden with a sense of your sins here, will be weary and heavy

laden with a sense of your punishment hereafter.

2. Those, my brethren, are not weary and heavy laden with a sense of

their sins, who can delight themselves in the polite entertainments of the

age, and follow the sinful diversion of life.

Now they can go to balls and assemblies, play-houses and horse-racing;

they have no thought of their sins; they know not what it is to weep for

sin, or humble themselves under the mighty hand of God; they can laugh away

their sorrows, and sing away their cares, and drive away these melancholy

thoughts: they are too polite to entertain any sad thoughts; the talk of

death and judgment is irksome to them, because it damps their mirth; they

could not endure to think of their sin and danger; they could not go to a

play, and think of hell; they could not go quietly to a masquerade, and

think of their danger; they could not go to a ball or an assembly in peace,

if they thought of their sins.

And so it is proved, even to a demonstration, that these are not weary

and heavy laden: for if they are not thoughtful about their sins, they will

never be weary and heavy laden of them. But at the day of judgment all will

be over; they shall lose all their carnal mirth, all their pleasure, all

their delight will be gone forever.

They will say then of their laughter, it is mad; and of mirth, What

dost thou? Their merry conceits, and witty jests against the poor despised

people of God, are then over. Their mirth was but as the crackling of

thorns under a pot; it made a great blaze and unseemly noise for a while,

but it was presently gone, and will return no more.

They think now, that if they were to fast or to pray, and meditate and

mourn, they should be righteous over-much, and destroy themselves; their

lives would be a continual trouble, and it would make them run mad. Alas,

my brethren, what misery must that life be, where there is no more pleasant

days, no more balls or plays, no cards or dice, those wasters of precious

time, no horse-racing and cock-fighting, from whence no good ever came,

unless abusing God Almighty's creatures, and putting them to that use which

he never designed them, can be called so. How miserable will your life be,

when all your joys are over, when your pleasures are all past, and no more

mirth or pastime? Do you think there is one merry heart in hell? One

pleasing countenance? Or jesting, scoffing, swearing tongue? A sermon now

is irksome; the offer of salvation, by the blood of Jesus Christ, is now

termed enthusiasm; but then you would give thousands of worlds, if in your

power, for one tender of mercy, for one offer of grace, which now you so

much despise.

Now, you are not weary of your diversions, nor are you heavy laden

with the sins, with which they are accompanied; but then you will be weary

of your punishment, and the aggravation which attends it. Your cards and

dice, your hawks and hounds, and bowls, and your pleasant sports, will then

be over. What mirth will you have in remembering your sports and

diversions? I would not have you mistake me, and say, I am only preaching

death and damnation to you; I am only showing you what will be the

consequence of continuing in these sinful pleasures; and if the devil does

not hurry you away with half a sermon, I shall show you how to avoid these

dangers, which I now preach up as the effect of sin unrepented of. I

mention this, lest you should be hurried away by the devil: but be not

offended, if I point our unto you more of the terrors which will attend

your following these polite and fashionable entertainments of the present

age, and of not being weary and heavy laden with a sense of your sins.

They who delight in drinking wine to excess, and who are drunkards,

what bitter draughts will they have instead of wine and ale? The heat of

lust will be then also abated; they will no more sing the song of the

drunkard; no more spend their time in courting their mistresses, in

lascivious discourse, in amorous songs, in wanton dalliances, in brutish

defilements: no, these are all over; and it will but prick each other to

the heart to look one another in the face. Then they will wish, that

instead of sinning together, they had prayed together; had frequented

religious societies; had stirred up each other to love and holiness, and

endeavored to convince each other of the evil of sin, and how obnoxious

they are to the wrath of God; and the necessity of being weary and heavy

laden with a sense thereof; that they might have escaped the punishment

which they suffer, by their following the sinful an polite diversions of

the age they fell into. But as it was against God himself they had sinned,

so no less than God will punish them for their offenses: he hath prepared

those torments for his enemies; his continual anger will still be devouring

of them; his breath of indignation will kindle the flame; his wrath will be

a continual burden to their souls. Woe be to him who falls under the stroke

of the Almighty!

Thus they are not weary and heavy laden with their sins, who can

follow the polite and fashionable entertainments of the age. But,

SECONDLY, I am to show you what it is to be weary and heavy laden with

sins. And

1. You may be said, my brethren, to be weary and heavy laden, when

your sins are grievous unto you, and it is with grief and trouble you

commit them.

You, who are awakened unto a sense of your sins, who see how hateful

they are to God, and how they lay you open to his wrath and indignation,

and would willingly avoid them; who hate yourselves for committing them;

when you are thus convinced of sin, when you see the terrors of the law,

and are afraid of his judgments; then you may be said to be weary of your

sins. And O how terrible do they appear when you are first awakened to a

sense of them; when you see nothing but the wrath of God ready to fall upon

you, and you are afraid of his judgments! O how heavy is your sin to you

then! Then you feel the weight thereof, and that it is grievous to be born.

2. When you are obliged to cry out under the burden of your sins, and

know not what to do for relief; when this is your case, you are weary of

your sins. It does not consist in a weariness all of a sudden; no, it is

the continual burden of your soul, it is your grief and concern that you

cannot live without offending God, and sinning against him; and these sins

are so many and so great, that you fear they will not be forgiven.

I come, SECONDLY, to show you what is meant by coming to Christ.

It is not, my brethren, coming with your own works: no, you must come

in full dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ, looking on him as the Lord

who died to save sinners: Go to him, tell him you are lost, undone,

miserable sinners, and that you deserve nothing but hell; and when you thus

go to the Lord Jesus Christ out of yourself, in full dependence on the Lord

Jesus Christ, you will find him an able and a willing savior; he is pleased

to see sinners coming to him in a sense of their own unworthiness; and when

their case seems to be most dangerous, most distressed, then the Lord in

his mercy steps in and gives you his grace; he puts his Spirit within you,

takes away your heart of stone, and gives you a heart of flesh. Stand not

out then against this Lord, but go unto him, not in your own strength, but

in the strength of Jesus Christ.

And this brings me, THIRDLY, to consider the exhortation Christ gives

unto all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to come

unto him that you may have rest. And if Jesus Christ gives you rest, you

may be sure it will be a rest indeed; it will be such a rest as your soul

wants; it will be a rest which the world can neither give nor take away. O

come all of ye this night, and you shall find rest: Jesus Christ hath

promised it. Here is a gracious invitation, and do not let a little rain

hurry you away from the hearing of it; do but consider what the devil and

damned spirits would give to have the offer of mercy, and to accept of

Christ, that they may be delivered from the torments they labor under, and

must do so forever; or, how pleasing would this rain be to them to cool

their parched tongues; but they are denied both, while you have mercy

offered to you; free and rich mercy to come to Christ; here is food for

your souls, and the rain is to bring forth the fruits of the earth, as food

for you bodies. Here is mercy upon mercy.

Let me beseech you to come unto Christ, and he will give you rest; you

shall find rest unto your souls. O you, my weary, burdened brethren, do but

go to Christ in this manner, and though you go to him weary, you shall find

rest before you come from him: let not anything short of the Lord Jesus

Christ be your rest; for wherever you seek you will be disappointed; but if

you do but seek unto the Lord Jesus Christ, there you will find a fullness

of every thing which your weary soul wants. Go to him this night; here is

an invitation to all you who are weary souls. He does not call you, O

Pharisees; not, it is only you weary sinners; and sure you will not stay

from him, but accept of his invitation; do not delay; one moment may be

dangerous: death may take you off suddenly. You know not but that a fit of

the apoplexy may hurry you from time into eternity; therefore, be not for

staying till you have something to bring; come in all your rags, in all

your filthiness, in all your distresses, and you will soon find Jesus

Christ ready to help, and to relieve you; he loves you as well in your

rags, as in your best garments; he regards not your dress; no, do but come

unto him, and you shall soon find rest for your souls.

What say you? Shall I tell my Master you will come unto him, and that

you will accept him on his own terms. Let me, my brethren, beseech you to

take Jesus without anything of your own righteousness: for if you expect to

mix anything of yourself with Christ, you build upon a sandy foundation;

but if you take Christ for your rest, he will be that unto you. Let me

beseech you to build upon this rock of ages. O my brethren, think of the

gracious invitation, "Come unto me," to Jesus Christ; it is he that calls

you; And will you not go?

Come, come unto him. If your souls were not immortal, and you in

danger of losing them, I would not thus speak unto you; but the love of

your souls constrains me to speak: methinks this would constrain me to

speak unto you forever. Come then by faith, and lay hold of the Lord Jesus;

though he be in heaven, he now calleth thee. Come, all ye drunkards,

swearers, Sabbath-breakers, adulterers, fornicators; come, all ye scoffers,

harlots, thieves, and murderers, and Jesus Christ will save you; he will

give you rest, if you are weary of your sins. O come lay hold upon him. Had

I less love for your souls, I might speak less; but that love of God, which

is shed abroad in my heart, will not permit me to leave you, till I see

whether you will come to Christ or no. O for your life receive him, for

fear he may never call you any more. Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; it may

be this night the cry may be made. Now would you hear this, if you were

sure to die before the morning light? God grant you may begin to live, that

when the king of terrors shall come, you may have nothing to do but to

commit your souls into the hands of a faithful Redeemer.

Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be all

honor, praises, dominion, and power, henceforth and for evermore. Amen,