"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."— Matt. 11:28-30.
THE yoke is a symbol of servitude and subjection, and all in the world are under yokes of some kind—political yokes, social yokes, financial or business yokes, yokes of sin, of selfishness, of pride, etc., etc. The man who is under the political yoke finds it a very hard one. He is busy days and nights planning and scheming and working for office, studying all the arts of worldly policy to gain the friendship of voters, spending time, money and thought and concentrating every energy upon the risky business of seeking office, which, if he gain it, brings only a multitude of cares, and exposes him to a host of enemies of the opposing party who are often ready to blacken his character at the slightest provocation.
Those under the financial or business yokes are similarly oppressed. They labor long and hard; they scheme and plan and contrive and fret and worry to be rich, and in so doing they fall into a snare which robs them of the true happiness which riches cannot bring.
Those under the social yokes labor hard and sacrifice much in meeting the demands of society upon them. Few in the humbler walks of life know how galling is this yoke upon the rich, and particularly to those who are vieing with others in better circumstances. Women often wear themselves out in this unsatisfying service, while husbands and fathers are driven to despair and ruin trying to keep up with the financial drain. The yokes of pride, selfishness and sin of every kind are indeed hard yokes, and their burdens are heavy. To shake off all yokes and free ourselves from all burdens is impossible in this evil day. The prince of this world, Satan, has already imposed upon all the yoke of sin. And there is none able to deliver us from this yoke and its binding fetters but Christ, who, in his own good time and way, will do it for all who come unto him by faith and repentance.
While it is the purpose of Christ ultimately to set all such free from every yoke and to release them from every burden, he sees that they are not able yet to exercise and enjoy the glorious liberty of sons of God; and so by way of discipline and training, he purposes to bring them to that condition. It is therefore necessary that those who would be delivered from the galling yokes of sin and of the present general order of things should submit themselves fully to Christ—that they take his yoke upon them. And he invites all who have come to feel and realize the discomfort of other yokes and the weight of other burdens, to come unto him for rest and release.
In tender sympathy for all the oppressed and sorrowing he says, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you," etc. Thousands have responded to the kind invitation, and they testify in no uncertain terms to the ease of Christ's yoke and the blessedness of his promised rest. And yet the rest is not of general temporal prosperity and freedom from care and toil and from all restraint.
Few would say in viewing the Apostle Paul's experience that the yoke of Christ on his shoulders was an easy yoke, or that the burden of Christ's work which he bore was a light one. But evidently he thought so, for he counted it an inestimable privilege to endure hardness as a good soldier for Christ's sake. He joyfully suffered the loss of all things and counted them but dross, that he might win Christ and be found in him. He rejoiced to be made a partaker of his sufferings that he might also be made a partaker with him of his glory, and share with him in the blessed work of his Kingdom.
Blessed work! Paul gloried in the prospect of such a future mission, and was in haste to manifest his readiness of mind for it, by zealously and most energetically devoting his life here to the Lord's service along the lines indicated in the divine plan. He took Christ's yoke upon him: he did not attempt to guide himself, but humbly placed himself under subjection to Christ, and obediently followed his guidance whithersoever it led him—whether to prison and the stocks, to an ignominious public beating or stoning that left him almost dead, to shipwreck, to perils on land and sea, among heathen enemies or false brethren, to wearing labor, and painful toil, or what not? And yet Paul counted this burden of Christ a light one, and his yoke an easy yoke. He spoke of his trials as light afflictions, and said he rejoiced in tribulations; and with lacerated backs and feet fast in the stocks in the depths of a miserable dungeon Paul and Silas rejoiced and sang praises to God.
Stephen had the same rest and joy even while his enemies were stoning him to death; and thousands more of God's saints can testify to the same thing—in the midst of poverty, sickness, affliction, temptation, and enemies on every hand, and even in the flames of violent persecution. Whence comes it? or how are rest and even joy compatible with such conditions? The answer is: it is a rest of mind—"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." None can know the blessedness of this rest until they have experienced it. And none can realize its great value until they have been put to the tests of affliction.
The Lord gives the key to this rest in the words—"and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart." Truly, in a meek and quiet spirit is the secret of rest. To be meek is to cultivate the graces of patience; of loving submission to the will of God; of abiding confidence in his love and care and in the wisdom of his guiding counsel and overruling providences; and to perseveringly pursue this course through evil and through good report, or through favorable or unfavorable circumstances.
Let the beloved children of God seek more and more to copy Christ's meek and quiet spirit, accepting the providences of God and obeying his precepts and leading as he did, armed with the strength which he alone can supply, and will, to all those who take his yoke upon them, and learn of him.