The Pulpit Commentaries
Instead of the words, into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan, the passage, by a change of reading from διὰ τοῦ to καὶ. He will run thus: into the coasts (borders) of Judaea and beyond Jordan. Our Lord was now on his last progress towards Jerusalem. It would appear from St. Luke (Luke 9:51) that in the earlier part of his journey he touched the frontier of Samaria. Putting the accounts together, we conclude that, being refused by the Samaritans, he passed eastwards along their frontier, having Galilee on his left, and Samaria on his right; and then crossed the Jordan, perhaps at Scythopolis, where was a bridge, and so entered Peraea. As Judaea and Galilee both lay west of the Jordan, this route above described would be literally coming "to the borders of Judaea and beyond Jordan." Again multitudes flocked together to him, and again he taught them. St. Matthew (Matthew 21:1) says that "he healed them." His miracles of healing and his teaching went hand in hand.
And there came unto him Pharisees—the article should be omitted—and asked him—they came forward before the people, and publicly questioned him—Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? St. Matthew (Matthew 21:3) adds to the question the words, "for every cause." There were causes for which it was lawful. They put this question to our Lord, tempting him; of course with an evil intent. This question about divorce was one which was much agitated in the time of our Lord. In the century before Christ, a learned rabbi, named Hillel, a native of Babylon, who afterwards came to Jerusalem, studied the Law with great success, and became the head of the chief school in that city. One of his disciples, named Shammai, separated from his master, and set up another school; so that in the time of our Lord the scribes and doctors of the Law were ranged in two parties, namely, the followers of Hillel, the most influential; and the followers of Shammai. These two schools differed widely on the subject of divorce. The followers of Shammai only permitted divorce in the case of moral defilement, while the followers of Hillel placed the matter entirely in the power of the husband. The object, therefore, of this artful question was to entrap our Lord, and to bring him into collision with one or other of these two opposing parties. For if he had said that it was not lawful for a man to put away his wife, he would have exposed himself to the hostility of many of the wealthy classes, who put away their wives for any cause. But if he had allowed the lawfulness of divorce at all, they would have found fault with his doctrine as imperfect and carnal, although he professed to be a spiritual Teacher of a perfect system, sent down from heaven.
Mark 10:3, Mark 10:4
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? They professed much reverence for Moses; he therefore appeals to their great lawgiver. And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. If we now turn to St. Matthew (Matthew 21:4, Matthew 21:5). He we shall find that our Lord then appeals to the original institution of marriage. "Have ye not read, that he which made them from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh? So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." He thus reminds them that marriage is a Divine institution; that as Adam and Eve were united by him in a union which was indissoluble, therefore he intended that the marriage bond should remain ever, so that the wife ought never to be separated from her husband, since she becomes by marriage a very part of her husband. To this purpose St. Augustine says ('City of God,' bk. Matthew 14:22). He "It was not of the spirit which commands and the body which obeys, nor of the rational soul which rules and the irrational desire which is ruled, nor of the contemplative virtue which is supreme, and the active which is subject, nor of the understanding of the mind and the sense of the body; but plainly of the matrimonial union, by which the sexes are mutually bound together, that our Lord, when asked whether it were lawful for any cause to put away one's wife, answered as in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:4, Matthew 21:5). It is certain, then, that from the first men were created as we see and know them to be now, of two sexes—male and female—and that they are called one, either on account of the matrimonial union, or on account of the origin of the woman, who was created from out of the side of the man."
St. Matthew appears to give the more full account, of which St. Mark's is an abbreviation. If we suppose the scribes here to interpose their question, "Why then did Moses permit a bill of divorcement?" t he two narratives fit exactly. Our Lord here answers their question, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. He permitted (not commanded) them to put away their wives, lest dislike might turn to hatred. From the beginning God joined them in one indissoluble bend; but man's nature having become corrupt through sin, that sin changed and corrupted the institution, and so was the occasion of bills of divorcement, and polygamy. The Law of Moses put some restraint upon the freedom with which men had till then put away their wives; for thenceforth, a divorce could not take place until some legal steps had been taken, and a regular instrument had been drawn up; and this delay might often be the means of preventing a divorce which might otherwise have been effected in a moment of passion. Thus this legislation was adapted to the imperfect moral condition of the people, who were as yet quite unprepared for a higher moral code.
The discussion with the Pharisees, related in the previous verses, had taken place in public. But now in the house, and in private, the disciples asked him again of this matter; so that what follows seems here to have been said to them privately. But it would appear from St. Matthew (Matthew 21:8) that our Lord had already said this in public; so that here he proclaims a new law, or rather affirms the sanctions of the primitive institution, abrogating the "bill of divorcement" excepting in the one case of fornication, and restoring the rite of marriage to its primaeval and indissoluble character.
Committeth adultery against her ( μοιχᾶται ἐπ αὐτήν). This must surely mean the wife that has been put away. The adultery is against her, against her rights and interests.
This verse should be read thus: And if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὑτῆς γαμήση ἄλλον μοιχᾶται. This reading is well supported. These words indicate that, according to our blessed Lord's teaching, wives and husbands have equal rights in reference to divorce; and so the Greek, according to the best authorities, is ( γαμήση) "shall marry," not ( γαμηθῆ) "shall be married." Josephus, however, makes it evident that in his time husband and wife had by no means equal rights in these matters.
It is worthy of notice that this touching incident follows here, as well as in the parallel passage in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:13). He immediately after the discourse about the marriage bond. And they brought unto him ( προσέφερον)—literally, were bringing—little children ( παιδία)—St. Luke (Luke 18:15) calls them "babes" ( βρέφη)—that he should touch them ( ἵνα ἅψηται αὐτῶν). St. Luke has the same word ( ἵνα ἅπτηται); but St. Matthew (Matthew 21:13) says "that he should lay his hands on them and pray." The imposition of hands implies a formal benediction; the invoking of Divine grace upon them, that they might grow up into wise and holy men and women. Why did the disciples rebuke them? Perhaps because they thought it unworthy of so great a Prophet, whose business was rather that of instructing those of full age, to be spending his time upon little children.
But when Jesus saw it ( ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ ἰησοῦς). The Greek shows that there was no interval between the acts of the parents and the disciples, and our Lord's seeing it. The parents were bringing the children, the disciples were rebuking them, Jesus was perceiving. He was much displeased ( ἠγανάκτησε); literally, he was moved with indignation. His words imply eagerness and earnestness: Suffer the little children to come unto me; forbid them not. The copulative καὶ is not to be found in the best authorities. The omission adds force and vividness to the words. The simplicity, candour, and innocence of little children are very attractive. This narrative shows with what care children should be educated. For of such is the kingdom of God; that is, of such little children as these. The kingdom of heaven belongs in a peculiar manner to little children. We know for certain that little children who have been brought to Christ in Holy Baptism, if they die before they are old enough for moral accountableness, are undoubtedly saved. They pass at once into a nearer position to the throne. "They are without fault before the throne of God."
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. Observe the "verily" with which our Lord introduces these words. He here adds something which extends what he has just said to those who are, not literally, but figuratively, little children. We must first receive the kingdom into our affections before we can really enter into it. It is as though Christ said, "It is not unworthy of my dignity to take little children into my arms and bless them, because by my benediction they become fit for the kingdom of heaven. And if you full-grown men would become fit for my kingdom, you must give up your ambitious aims and earthly contests, and imitate the simple unworldly ways of little children. The simplicity of the little child is the model and the rule for every one who desires, by the grace of Christ, to obtain the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord's whole action here is a great encouragement to the receiving of little children by Holy Baptism into covenant with him.
And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them. This is considered the true order of the words, according to the best authorities. The word rendered "taking in the arms" ( ἐναγκαλισάμενος) has already occurred in this Gospel at Mark 9:36 (where see the note). The description here is very graphic. Our Savior would first embrace the little child,. He folding it in his arms; then he would lay his right hand upon the child's head, and bless it.
This verse should be rendered, And as he was going forth ( ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ)—that is, just as he was leaving the house—there ran one to him, and kneeled to him, and asked him. St. Matthew (Matthew 21:20) says that he was "a young man." St. Luke (Luke 18:18) that he was "a ruler." He had apparently been waiting for our Lord, waylaying him, though with a good intention. He showed zeal—as soon as he saw Jesus he ran to him; and he showed reverence, for he kneeled down to him. He wanted advice from one whom he must have heard of as a celebrated Teacher; and he wanted this counsel as a matter of great interest to himself. Good Master. This would be the ordinary and courteous mode of accosting a person professing to be a teacher, so as to conciliate his attention and interest. What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? It is as though he said, "Rabbi, I know thee to be good, both as a man and as a teacher, and a prophet, well able to teach me perfectly those things which are really good, and which lead to blessedness hereafter. Tell me, therefore, What shall I do?" St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17) says, "What good thing ( τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω) shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
Why callest thou me good? According to the best authorities, the words in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17) run thus: "Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good." The word "good" is the pivot on which our Lord's answer turns, both in St. Matthew and here. The question is doubtless put to test the young ruler's faith. If, as may be supposed, the young man used the term, "good Master," as a mere conventional expression, it was not the proper epithet to apply to our Lord, who at once transfers the praise and the goodness to God, that he might teach us to do the same. This ruler, by his mode of accosting our Lord, showed that he had not as yet a right faith in him—that he did not believe in his Godhead. Our Lord, therefore, desired to rouse him and lift him up to a higher faith. He seems to say to him, "If you call me good, believe that I am God; for no one is good, intrinsically good, but God. God alone is essentially good, and wise, and powerful, and holy. It is from him that angels and men derive a few drops, or rather some faint adumbration, of his goodness. There is none essentially, entirely, absolutely good but one, that is, God. Therefore seek after him, love him, imitate him. He alone can satisfy your longing desires, as in this life with his grace, so in the life to come with his glory; yea, with himself. For in heaven he manifested himself as the supreme good, to be tasted and enjoyed by the blessed for ever."
In St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17, etc.) the record of our Lord's conversation with the young ruler is more full; and it should be read side by side with the more condensed narrative of St. Mark. It will be observed that it is upon the commandments of the second table that our Lord here lays stress. For the love of God produces the love of our neighbor; and he who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
Master, all those things have I observed from my youth ( ἐφυλαξὰμην) literally, I kept, I guarded. St. Matthew adds here (Matthew 19:20). He "What lack I yet?"—"What is still wanting in me, that I may inherit the life to come in its fullness of glory and bliss? You seem, good Master, as a heavenly Teacher, to set forth a higher and more excellent way than that pointed out by our scribes and Pharisees. Tell me what that way is. Tell me what! still lack; for I earnestly desire to go forward in the right way that leadeth to everlasting life."
And Jesus looking upon him loved him. ( ἐμβλέψας αὐτῶ ἠγάπησεν αὐτόν) This is another of St. Mark's graphic touches—an exquisite piece of word-painting, probably supplied to him by St. Peter. The words express most vividly an earnest, tender, searching look. They seem, if it may be said reverently, to combine the Divine penetration with human sympathy and compassion. The counsel of our Lord which follows was not a general command, but a particular precept, which the young ruler specially needed. One thing thou lackest. In St. Matthew (Matthew 19:21) the words are, "If thou wouldest be perfect." But our Lord's words here, "One thing thou lackest," fit in excellently with the young ruler's question given just before in St. Matthew, "What lack I yet?" showing a substantial unity in the narrative, with just that variety which we should expect in the account of the same incident given by two independent but equally trustworthy witnesses. The "one thing thou lackest" of St. Mark, and "if thou writ be perfect of St. Matthew, both point to the same conclusion—that our Lord's object was to reveal this young man to himself. His stumbling-block was his wealth; and so our Savior at once pierces his besetting sin of covetousness. The precept was a special counsel to him; it directed him to do something which, as our Lord saw, was in his case necessary to his salvation. He could not follow Christ without parting with this sin, and with that which ministered to it. This was his particular spiritual difficulty.
But his countenance fell at the saying ( ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῳ λόγῳ). The same word is used in St. Matthew (Matthew 16:3) for a "lowering," "frowning sky" ( οὐρανὸς στυγνάζων). And he went away sorrowful ( ἀπῆλθε λυπούμενος)—literally, for he was one that had ( ἦν γὰρ ἔχων)—great possessions.
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples ( καὶ περιβλεψάμενος ὁ ιησοῦς λέγει). St. Mark frequently uses this word περιβλέπω. Our Lord turned from the young man, who was now going away, and looked round about, no doubt with a sad and disappointed look, and said to his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Why is this? Partly because the love of riches tempts men to heap them up, whether lawfully or unlawfully. Partly because the love of riches binds the soul to earth, so that it is less likely to think of Partly because riches are an incentive to pride and luxury and other sins. The heathen poet Ovid could speak of riches "irritamenta malorum." Poverty and contempt of riches often open that heaven which wealth and covetousness close.
And the disciples were astonished ( ἐθαμβοῦντο)—literally, were amazed at his words. The Greek word here implies wilderment. It is used again below at Mark 10:32. We find it also at Mark 1:27. This doctrine of our Lord was so new and strange to them. They had been accustomed to think little of the danger, and much of the advances of wealth. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children how hard is it for them that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of God! He the enduring expression of "children" ( τέκνα). He and takes off somewhat of the edge of the seventy of the expression, by changing the form of it into the words," how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" There is some authority for omitting the words. "for them that trot in riches;" so to reduce the sentence to the simple form, "How hard is it to enter into the kingdom of God!" Such is the reading in the two great uncial manuscripts, the Sinaitic and the Vatican. But on the whole the balance of evidence is in favor of that which was adopted in the Authorized Version, and has been retained by the Revisers of 1881; and it is reasonable to believe that our Lord qualified the former expression, in order to relieve the minds of his amazed disciples.
It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, etc. This is a strong hyperbolic proverbial expression to represent anything that is very difficult to do. Dr. John Lightfoot, in his Hebrew exercitations upon St. Matthew's Gospel. He quotes instances from the binical writings of a very similar phrase intended to represent something that is possible. For example, he quotes one rabbi disputing with another, who says, "Perhaps thou art one of those who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle; that is, "who speak things that are impossible.' St. Jerome says," It is not the absolute impossibility of the thing which is set forth, but the infrequency of it."
And they were astonished exceedingly ( περισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο). saying among themselves—according to the best reading the words are, saying unto him ( πρὸς αὐτόν)—Then who can be saved?
Jesus looking upon them ( ἐμβλέψας δὲ αὐτοῖς). The Greek verb implies an earnest, intense looking upon them; evidently narrated by one who, like Peter, had watched his countenance. St. Chrysostom says that he looked on them in this way that he might mitigate and soothe the timid and anxious minds of his disciples. It is as though our Lord said, "It is impossible for a rich man, embarrassed and entangled with his wealth, by his own natural strength to obtain salvation; because this is a supernatural blessing, which we cannot obtain without the like supernatural aids of grace. But with God all things are possible, because God is the Author and Source, as of nature, so of grace and glory. And he enables us, by his grace, to triumph over all the difficulties and hindrances of nature; so that rich men shall not be hindered by their riches; but, by being faithful in the unrighteous mammon, shall make it the means of their being received unto 'the eternal tabernacle.'"
Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. Peter began to say unto him. He had been thinking of himself and his companions, the other disciples.. He in reference to these last words of our Lord. It is probable that the sacrifice which Peter and the rest of the disciples had made when they became his followers, was small, compared with the sacrifice which our Lord demanded of the rich young ruler. Nevertheless they forsook their all, whatever it was. They had forsaken their boats and their nets. They had forsaken their means of subsistence. They had forsaken things which, though they were not much in themselves, were nevertheless such things as they would have desired to keep. Cornelins a Lapide says, "Such things are forsaken by those who follow Christ, as are capable of being desired by those who do not follow him." St. Augustine says, "St. Peter not only forsook what he had, but also what he desired to have. But who does not desire daily to increase what he has? That desire is cut off. Peter forsook the whole world, and he received in return the whole world. They were as those who had nothing, and yet were possessing all things."
St. Matthew (Matthew 19:28) here introduces the great promise, to be fulfilled in the regeneration, that is, at the second coming of Christ—at the second birth of the world to a new and glorious state. It may be that St. Matthew was guided to record it, inasmuch as his Gospel was written for Jews. Its omission by St. Mark and St. Luke may be explained by the fact that they were writing, the one to Romans, and the other to Gentiles generally. Omitting further notice here of this great promise recorded only by St. Matthew, St. Mark's words seem general, common to all faithful Christians. This leaving, of house, or brethren, or sisters, etc., might be rendered necessary from various causes. But they are all covered by that one expression, for my sake, and for the gospel's.
But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time ( ἑκατονταπλασίονα). St. Luke (Luke 18:30) says ( πολλαπλασίονα) "manifold more"—an indefinite increase, to show the greatness and multitude of the recompense. He who forsakes his own for the sake of Christ will find others, many in number, who will give him the love of brethren and sisters, with even greater affection; so that he will seem not to have lost or forsaken his own, but to have received them again with interest. For spiritual affections are far deeper than natural; and his love is stronger who burns with heavenly love which God has kindled, than he who is influenced by earthly love only, which only nature has planted. But in the fullest sense, he who forsakes these earthly things for the sake of Christ, receives instead, God himself. For to those who forsake all for him, he is himself father, brother, sister, and all things. So that he will have possessions far richer than what earth can supply; only with persecutions ( μετὰ διωγμῶν). This is a very striking addition. Our Lord here includes "persecutions" in the number of the Christian's blessings. And no doubt there is a noble sense in which persecutions are really amongst the blessings of the believer. "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you" (1 Peter 4:14). St. Peter, who must have had in his mind the "with persecutions" of our Lord when he wrote these words, here shows that the blessedness of the Christian when suffering persecution is this, that he has a special sense of the abiding presence of the Spirit of God, bringing with it the assurance of future glory. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: far great is your reward in heaven." The words are also, of course, a warning to the disciples as to the persecutions that awaited them. And in the world to come eternal life. This is that splendid inheritance in which the blessed shall be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; and so shall possess not only the heaven and the earth, and all things that are in them, hut even God himself, and all honor, all glory, all joy, not merely as occupiers, but as heirs for ever; as long as God himself shall be, who is himself "the eternal God."
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Most fitly does our Lord add this weighty sentence to what has just gone before. For thus he places himself, his grace, and his gospel in direct opposition to the corrupt teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Perhaps the disciples thought within themselves, "How can it come to pass that we, the poor, the unlearned, the despised, are to sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, amongst whom are men far our superiors in station, in learning, and in authority, such as are the scribes and Pharisees, and that rich young ruler just mentioned." Our Lord here teaches them that the future will reveal great changes—that some who are first here will be last there, and some who seem last here will be first there. The disciples, and others like them, who, having forsaken all and followed Christ, seemed to be last in this world, will be first in the world to come—most dear to Christ, the King of Heaven, in their lives; most like to him in their zeal for his cause.
They were now going up from Jericho to Jerusalem, going up with Christ to his cross and his death. He went before them, eagerly leading the way for his timid disciples, who were now beginning to realize what was about to happen, and that he would be condemned and crucified. Therefore the evangelist adds, they were amazed (Greek, ἐθαμβοῦντο); the same word which is used at Mark 10:24. The words in the original, according to the best reading, make a distinction between the utter amazement of the disciples and the fear of the others who followed ( οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο). St. Mark draws a distinction between the disciples, who would be following him, though at a little distance, and the mixed company, who were also following him, though at a greater distance. The whole scene is before us. Our blessed Lord, with an awful majesty on his countenance, and eager resolution in his manner, is pressing forwards to his cross. "How am I straitened until it be accomplished!" His disciples follow him, amazed and bewildered; and even the miscellaneous crowd, who no doubt gazed upon him with keen interest as the great "Prophet that should come into the world," felt that something was going to happen, though they knew not what—some-thing very dreadful; and they too were afraid. In the case of the disciples, Bede says that the chief cause of their amazement was their own imminent fear of death. They were amazed that their Master should hasten forward with such alacrity to his cross, and they feared lest they too should have to suffer with him. He took again the twelve; and once more impressed upon them the dread realities which were awaiting him. They were still slow of apprehension; they required to be told again and again.
And there come near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. St. Matthew (Luke 20:20) informs us that this request was made by Salome, "the mother of Zebedee's children." The two accounts are readily reconciled if we consider that the request was made by Salome and her sons, and by her in their behalf. This request was made by them not long after they had heard our Lord's great promise that his apostles "in the regeneration" should "sit upon thrones," judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). He and very soon after they had heard his repeated announcement of his sufferings and death. But the thought of the glory which was to follow swallowed up the thought of the suffering that was to precede it; and so these two disciples were emboldened at once to ask for prominent positions amongst the thrones. St. Chrysostom finds an excuse for the imperfection of their faith. He says, "The mystery of the cross was not yet accomplished; nor yet was the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into their hearts. Wherefore, if you desire to know the strength of their faith, consider what they became after they had been endued with power from on high."
It will be observed that in St. Matthew (Luke 20:20). He while Salome is represented as the person who makes the request, the answer is given, not to her, but to her sons. Ye know not what ye ask. Our Lord knew that the sons had spoken in the mother and by the mother. They knew not what they asked
Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? It is as though he said, "It is by my cross and passion that I am to attain to the kingdom; therefore the same way must be trodden by you who seek the same end." Our Lord here describes his passion as his cup. The "cup" everywhere in Holy Scripture, as well as in profane writers, signifies a man's portion, which is determined for him by God, and sent to him. The figure is derived from the ancient custom at feasts, by which the ruler of the feast tempered the wine according to his own will, and appointed to each guest his own portion, which it was his duty to drink. Our Lord then proceeds to describe his passion, which he had already spoken of as his cup, as his baptism. He uses this image because he would be totally buried, immersed, so to speak, in his passion. But it seems probable that the idea of purification entered into this image. It was a baptism of fire into which he was plunged, and out of which he came forth victorious. The fire of his bitter passion and death tried him. It was his "salting with fire." It pleased God thus to "make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings." Our Lord asks these ambitious disciples whether they could drink his cup of suffering, and be baptized with his fiery baptism.
James and John seem to have understood the meaning of the cup; and perhaps also of the baptism. They both of them drank the cup, though in different ways. St. James, preaching Christ more boldly and fervently, became an early martyr, having been slain by the sword of Herod (Acts 12:2). St. John also drank of this cup, and was baptized with this baptism, when, if we may trust the authority of Tertullian ('De Praescript.' c. 36.). He he was cast by order of Domitian into a caldron of boiling oil, before the Porta Latina at Rome, although the oil had no power to hurt him. Another legend states that he drank a cup of poison, and took no harm. On this account he is frequently represented with a cup in his hand.
But to sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared. The Arians gathered from this that our Lord was not of one substance with the Father. But this arose from a misunderstanding of the words. For the antithesis is not here between Christ and the Father; but between James and John on the one side ambitiously seeking the pre-eminence, and those on the ether side to whom it ought of right to be given. St. Jerome wisely says, "Our Lord does not say, 'Ye shall not sit,' lest he should put to shame these two. Neither does he say, 'Ye shall sit,' lest the others should be envious. But by holding out the prize to all, he animates all to contend for it." Our Lord is also careful to point out that he who humbles himself shall be exalted. But Christ is the Giver, not indeed by way of favor to any one who asks, but according to the eternal and unalterable principles laid down by the Father. That Christ is the Giver is plain from St. Luke (Luke 22:29). "I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me."
And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John. How did they hear it? It is most likely that Salome and her two sons sought this favor secretly from Christ, lest they should excite the envy of the ethers. But they, the ten, must have noticed the approach of James and John with their mother to our Lord. They came in a formal manner, worshipping him first, and then making their request (see Matthew 20:20). The ten would naturally be desirous to know the nature of this interview; and when it was explained to them, they began to show indignation. Our Lord perceived that they were disputing; and he then called them and addressed the whole body. For he saw that they were all laboring under this disease of ambition; and he wished to apply the remedy at once to all, as we see in the words which follow.
In these words our Lord does not find fault with that power or authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, which is exercised by princes or bishops; for this is necessary in every state, and so is sanctioned by Divine and human law. What he condemns is the arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of such power, which the princes of the Gentiles were accustomed to.
Mark 10:43, Mark 10:44
In these words our Lord enjoins him who is raised above others to conduct himself modestly and humbly; so as not to lord it over those beneath him, but to consider for them and to consult their security and happiness, and so to conduct himself that he may appear to be rather their minister and servant than their lord; ever remembering the golden rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do to them." At the same time, our Lord here teaches all alike, whether superiors or inferiors, by what way we should strive to reach heaven, so as to sit at the right or left hand of Christ in his kingdom, namely, by the way of humility. For those who are the lowliest and most humble here will be the greatest and most exalted there.
A ransom for many ( λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν; from λύω. to loose, or set free). Not that Christ died only for the elect. For Christ died for all; and has obtained for all the means necessary and sufficient for their salvation. Yet the fruit of his death and his full salvation comes only to those who persevere to the end. When our Lord says that he came "to give his life a ransom for many," he regards the vast multitude of those who are included within his purposes of mercy. He "is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe."
And they come to Jericho. Jericho, situated in the midst of a fertile, well-watered country, celebrated for its palm trees, was situated about seventeen English miles east-north-east of Jerusalem, and about six miles from the nearest bend of the river Jordan. In the time of our Lord it was one of the most important cities next to Jerusalem. It is now known by the name of Richa or Ericha, and is almost deserted. The journey from the Jordan to Jericho is through a fiat country; but that from Jericho to Jerusalem is very hilly. It is supposed that it was upon the rocky heights overhanging this city that our Lord's temptation took place. Jericho derives its name, either from "the moon," or from the fragrant edours of the "balsam" plant, which was extensively cultivated in the neighborhood. Its palm groves and balsam gardens were bestowed by Anthony upon Cleopatra, from whom Herod the Great purchased them. It was here that Herod the Great died. It is now one of the most filthy and neglected places in Palestine. To this place our Lord came; and St. Luke (18 and 19.) gives a full account of his reception there. St. Matthew speaks of two blind men; but he agrees with St. Mark in saying that the cure took place as he went out from Jericho. St. Luke mentions only one; but he places the cure at the time of our Lord's entrance into Jericho. How do we reconcile St. Mark's account of one only, specially named, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus? St. Augustine says that there were two blind men; but that the one, better known, overshadowed the other. He also says that Bartimaeus was a well-known character, and that he was accustomed to sit by the wayside, not only blind, but as a beggar. It is of course possible that St. Luke may refer to another ease altogether. But on the other hand, with the exception that he mentions only one, and that he places the cure at the time of the entrance into Jericho, and not at the time of the departure, all the other circumstances are identical. May not this latter discrepancy be reconciled thus?—the blind man may have sought a cure from Christ at his first entrance into the city; but he may not have been able to be heard on account of the crowd. Or our Lord may have passed him by at first, in order to stimulate his faith and hope. So the day after, he may have placed himself at the gate of the city, close by where Christ would pass through; and there again he may have urged his request, and so obtained healing. Dr. John Lightfoot says that the careful description of Bartimaeus would seem to imply that his father may have been a person of some note. Dr. Lightfoot adds that it is possible that Timaeus, or "Thimai," may be the same with Simais, blind, from the use of the letter thau from samech, common amongst the Chaldaeans; so that Bartimaeus might mean nothing more than "blind son of a blind father."
Many rebuked him, that he should hold his peace. They rebuked him, perhaps, out of reverence and regard for Christ, who might perhaps at that moment have been preaching to the people, and so might be disturbed by the blind man's loud and noisy appeal. But the rebuke of the crowd gave additional energy to his entreaties; and he cried out the more a great deal, that his voice might be heard above them all. He was in good earnest, and would not be restrained. A useful lesson is hem suggested to all. He who desires to serve God must overcome all earthly shame and fear; for, indeed, this unworthy feeling keeps back many from Christ.
And Jesus stood still ( στὰς ὁ ἰησοῦς)—literally, Jesus stood—and said, Call ye him. St. Jerome says that our Lord stood still on account of the man's infirmity. There were many walls in Jericho; there were rough places; there were rocks and precipices over which he might stumble. Therefore the Lord stood, where there was a plain path by which the blind man might approach him. The crowd show their, sympathy. There is something very genuine as well as touching in their words, Be of good cheer: rise, he calleth thee.
And he, casting away his garment, rose—the word in the Greek is ἀναπηδήσας. literally, sprang to his feet—and came to Jesus. He cast away his "garment," that is, the loose outer robe which covered his tunic. He was in haste, and desired to disengage himself from every ira-pediment, in his eagerness to approach Jesus. We seem here to have the description of a keen eye-witness, such as St. Peter would be.
Mark 10:51, Mark 10:52
Our Lord well knew what he wanted; but it was necessary that he and those around him should hear from the lips of the blind man the confession of his need, and of his faith in the power that was present to heal him. And the blind man said unto him, Rabboni, that I may receive my sight. "Rabboni," or "Rabbuni," means literally, my Master. It was a more respectful mode of address than the more simple form "Rabbi." This expression shows that Bartimaeus had yet much to learn as to the Divine character of our Lord. But his faith is accepted; and he showed that it was genuine as far as it went, by forthwith following Jesus in the way. There were six occasions on which our Lord is recorded to have healed the blind: St. Matthew (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:22; Matthew 21:14); St. Mark; St. John (John 9:1). St. Chrysostom says of Bartimaeus, that as before this gift of healing he showed perseverance, so after it he shewed gratitude.
Marriage and divorce.
Our Lord Jesus is the great moral Legislator of humanity. His authoritative teaching applies to all classes and to all relationships of mankind. And it is to be noticed that he bases his commands and counsels both upon grounds of natural right and reason, and also upon the revealed Mosaic Law. With regard to the latter, it is observable that he professes not to destroy it, but to fulfill it—to inspire it with a new motive, and to give it a wider range; whilst he allows no authority to mere traditions and usages, but treats them simply upon their own merits.
I. UPON WHAT OUR LORD BASES THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE. It is to be observed that Jesus goes back behind the old Mosaic Law, which was universally accepted among the Jews as the authoritative standard of conduct.
1. There is reference to what we should call natural adaptation. If there is design in any arrangement or provision of nature, there is certainly design in the division of mankind (as, indeed, of other races of living beings)into two corresponding and complementary sexes. Man was made for woman, and woman for man; and the equality in numbers of male and female is evidently a natural reason both for marriage and for monogamy.
2. There is reference to the creative, historical basis of marriage. The record of Genesis is adduced, and Jesus reminds the Pharisees that marriage dated, as a matter of fact, from the beginning of the creation—that our first parents lived together in this relationship from their first introduction to each other until the close of life.
3. Jesus asserts marriage to be a Divine ordinance. "God hath joined together" husband and wife. The Law of Moses came in with its additional provisions and sanctions; but it presumed the existence of the marriage state. God, who orders all things well, had seen that it would not be good for the man to be alone; accordingly he instituted wedded life, and hallowed it.
II. WHAT OUR LORD DEDUCES FROM THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE,
1. A condemnation of the custom of facile divorce. It was a common practice for the Jews, when dissatisfied with their wives, to put them away for very trivial reasons—even because they were not pleased with them, without any offense having been committed. They were wont to appeal to a permissive provision in their law as a warrant for acting thus. In our own times, in many countries even professedly Christian, it is too common for regulations of great laxity to be made regarding divorce. In some countries even incompatibility of temper is a sufficient ground for permanent separation. Such practices are condemned by Jesus as contrary to the Divine intention regarding marriage, and as subversive of all sound morality. As the family is the unit and the basis of all communities, and of all moral unity and welfare, it is of the highest importance that the sacredness of this Divine institution should be upheld, and that all practices and sentiments which undermine it should be discountenanced and opposed. Lax views upon divorce are to be repressed, as inimical to all social welfare as well as to domestic concord.
2. A declaration that such divorce is conducive to adultery. Our Lord does not say that the remarriage of divorced persons is in all cases adulterous; but, speaking of these who are separated for trivial offenses, and for any offense short of the most serious, he declares that for such persons to marry again is nothing less than adultery. They are not really and in God's sight released from one another, and a second union is therefore unlawful. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
1. Learn our Lord's independence as an ethical and spiritual Teacher, and his superiority to traditional and even Mosaic authority.
2. Learn his interest in all our human relationships; he consecrates them by the regard of his grace and by the imposition of his Law.
3. Let Christians discountenance lax opinions and practices upon a question so vital to social and national well-being as the ordinance of marriage.
Christ and the children.
That three of the evangelists should have recorded this incident is proof of the impression it made upon the early Christians, and of the importance they attached to it. The Son of man interested himself in all classes and conditions of humanity; and it is not strange that he should have come into direct and tender relations with the very young.
I. THE CHILDREN who were brought to Jesus. They were very young, for they are called "little children," and they were so small as to be taken up in the arms. Jesus had himself been a child, and had passed through the stages of infancy and boyhood, so that from his own experience he could sympathize with this age and condition of human life. These children may have been children of the house where Jesus had been staying, and of the neighbors. It should be remembered that, not long before, Jesus had taken a little child and used him as an example of simplicity and humility. We may certainly learn from this incident that no child, however young or feeble, is disregarded by our Lord Jesus. In every one he sees an immortal, God-given nature, capable of fellowship with the Creator's mind, and of obedience to his commands.
II. THE PARENTS OF THE CHILDREN.
1. They revered and honored Jesus themselves, or they would not have acted thus. They would not have treated another rabbi thus. There must have been something in our Lord which attracted them and induced them to believe that he would not repel them should they ask a favor on behalf of their little ones.
2. They brought their children to Jesus. The babes had neither knowledge nor strength to come of themselves; but their parents acted for them. Parents should regard it as their duty and privilege to bring their offspring to the Savior. This they may do by instructing them as to who and what Jesus is, by leading them into the society of Christ's people.
3. They had a definite purpose in bringing the children to Jesus, viz. that he should touch them and should pray for them. To tell our children of Christ is, or should be, with a view to their personal spiritual contact with him, and with a view to their enjoying both the regard of his friendship and the benefit of his intercession:
III. THE TWELVE, AND THEIR TREATMENT OF THE CHILDREN. It is instructive to observe that the very persons whose office it was to make Jesus known to men, and to introduce all the needy to his notice, and to commend them to his aid, should have on this occasion interfered with the approach of those whom Jesus would have welcomed. The twelve rebuked the parents, and forbade the children to be brought to Jesus, probably from a mistaken idea that the Lord would not care to be troubled with those so young and so helpless. How important that Christians should not interpose to prevent children from seeking Christ and the fellowship of his people!
IV. JESUS, AND HIS TREATMENT OF THE CHILDREN. The narrative gives us a delightful view of the Savior's character, as the children's Friend.
1. What he felt. A very strong expression is used to denote our Lord's disapproval of his disciples' conduct. He was "moved with indignation" by their demeanour. They were both misrepresenting him and inflicting a wrong upon the applicants for blessing.
2. What he said. His language includes a special reference to the occasion, and a general statement of a Divine principle. "Suffer the children to come!" "Forbid them not!" How gracious a revelation of the Savior's mind and disposition, and how instructive a lesson for his people! The general principle he enunciates is even more valuable: "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." The reference is doubtless to the dependence and teachableness of little children. God's kingdom is composed of childlike natures. The proud, self-sufficient, and self-confident are out of harmony with a spiritual society which recognizes a Divine Head and is governed by Divine laws.
3. What he did. Doubtless, in these actions, Jesus was obeying the impulse of his affectionate nature. Yet he intended to teach the world how gracious is his heart, how compassionate are his purposes, how vast and widely extended are the arms of his love. He took them in his arms, verifying the prediction concerning him as the Good Shepherd. He laid his hands upon them, signifying his tender interest. He blessed them, praying for them, and pronouncing over them words of Divine benediction.
1. An encouragement to Christian parents to bring their children to the Savior.
2. An inducement to the young to look to Jesus as the Giver of true blessing.
3. An example to the Church of Christ as to the spirit in which the Lord's people should deal with the young—with inexperienced and immature natures. impatience or contempt, but rather gentleness and consideration, should distinguish the attitude of Christ's people towards the lambs of the flock.
Loved, yet lacking.
An interesting character this, coming in the Gospel history like a meteor out of the darkness for a brief moment, and then vanishing again, to be no more seen. An interesting conversation this, casting valuable light upon the character and the demands, of Christ, and upon the aspirations and virtues, the tests and the deficiencies, of human nature. Strange that Jesus should love one who came before him in this one short interview; stranger still that, in this loved one, he should find a lack so serious and even fatal, that such promise should issue in such disappointment! In this young ruler we have a type of a class of applicants to Christ.
I. HE POSSESSED MANY THINGS. How much was in this young man's favor!
1. His worldly position. Though young, he was a ruler, and the possessor of great riches. It was to his credit that, when his worldly condition and circumstances were such, he yet acted as he did, evincing a mind set upon higher blessings than this world can give.
2. His character. There is no reason to disbelieve his assertion that he had in his outward life kept the Law of the Decalogue. Christ did not charge him with hypocrisy in this profession; he rather admitted its truth in requiring more than compliance with. the rules of morality.
3. His reverence for Jesus. This is apparent in his action and attitude: "he came kneeling down on the road before Jesus;" and in his address, "Good Master," as well as in the fact that he reverently asked the judgment of the prophet of Nazareth upon a most important question.
4. His aspiration after eternal life. This was a proof of a noble dissatisfaction and a noble desire; this question which the young ruler addressed to the one Being who was able to answer and resolve it.
II. HE WAS LOVED AND TESTED BY CHRIST.
1. Jesus loved him, doubtless seeing in him an ingenuous disposition, a thirst for truth, a reverence for goodness; doubtless looking back upon a pure and honorable life in the past, and forward to the bright possibilities of the future. What an insight we thus gain into the truly human nature of the Savior! And are there not now those whom he looks upon and loves, beholding in them so much that is congenial to his heart?
2. Jesus tested him. He did this in love, yet in faithfulness. And in three ways.
III. HE LACKED ONE THING. Consider:
1. Christ's demand.
2. The young ruler's failure under trial. The saying was too hard; the test was too severe; the world was too strong! His heart sank within him, and his countenance fell. And then he went away sorrowful, grieving to leave Christ, yet feeling that the grief would be greater of leaving the riches in which he delighted and trusted. Had he given, not his admiration, his respect, only, to Christ, but his very heart, then it would have been possible to him to have "left all, and followed him." But one thing he lacked—the surrender of self, of the spiritual nature, which would have involved the surrender of all.
APPLICATION, Christ will be satisfied with nothing less than our heart, our all. We may have many things, and yet lack the spirit of perfect surrender and consecration. The test is certain to be applied; how shall we endure it?
Christ must be all.
Sometimes our Lord gave utterance to paradox. Certainly it was so on this occasion. Any ordinary observer would have pronounced the rich young ruler blessed, and would have pitied the poor fishermen who neglected their petty craft and followed the homeless and penniless Rabbi of Nazareth. But God's ways are not our ways. Jesus looked below the surface. To him the case of the favored of fortune and the admired of society was a sad case, and the choice of the twelve was the choice of the good part, which none can take away.
I. THE SPIRITUAL DISADVANTAGES AND PERILS OF WEALTH. This is not a popular or acceptable lesson; and most people would be willing to accept, without a murmur, the position of danger and temptation occupied by the affluent. However, the warnings of the Master are fully borne out by the experience of those who have watched the working of human nature under the influence of riches.
1. To have wealth is to be in danger of trusting in wealth.
2. To trust in wealth is not conducive to humility, penitence, and faith—the dispositions peculiarly suitable to those who would be saved.
3. To lack these dispositions is to be disqualified for the kingdom of God.
4. Yet the grace of God, with whom all things are pOssible, is able to overcome difficulties and temptations great as these.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF GIVING UP ALL FOR CHRIST.
1. Really and truly the Christian surrenders all he has to his Lord. That Lord may give him back, as it were, of what was his own, but even when used for himself, it is consecrated, and is still the Lord's.
"Come, learn, your follies quitting,
That this world's gain is loss;
To his mild rule submitting
Who bare for you! the cross."
2. In so doing the Christian reaps a rich reward. This is twofold.
"When the shore is won at last,
Who will count the billows past?"
The reiterated prediction.
This was the third occasion upon which Jesus expressly and formally intimated to his followers the approaching close of his ministry and life. The occasion was the last great journey up to Jerusalem. He wished the disciples to understand what their discipleship involved, into what scenes they were now about to follow him; that, forewarned, they might be forearmed. Observe.—
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THIS COMMUNICATION. Mark, in a few words, graphically and vividly portrays the scene. An unusual state of excitement pervades the company. The attitude of the Master, and the expression of the disciples' countenances, display the prevalence of common emotion. Jesus goes before, absorbed in contemplation of his approaching sufferings; the group of disciples are amazed at the prospect opened up to them in the words of warning they have just heard; and the people around are silent with dread and awe!
II. JESUS PREDICTS THE PLACE OF HIS SUFFERINGS. They are going up to Jerusalem. The city, in which he has often preached and wrought his mighty works, is about to reject him. The metropolis is in this act to fulfill the counsels of the nation. "He came to his own, and his own received him not." "It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem."
III. IT IS FORETOLD WHO SHALL, BE THE INSTIGATORS OF THE MARTYRDOM. The chief priests and the scribes have opposed him at every point; have disputed with him, calumniated him, stirred up the people against him. And now it is into their hands that he is to be delivered, and they are to take the initiative in his destruction. The leaders of his own nation are to compass the violent end of him who is that nation's Glory and Redeemer.
IV. IT IS FORETOLD WHO SHALL BE THE AGENTS IN HIS MARTYRDOM. It is a proof of our Lord's prophetic foresight, that he predicts that the instrumentality by which the leaders of the Jews shall effect their purpose is not a native but a foreign agency. He came "a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of God's people Israel;" and it was permitted that he should be "despised and rejected of men," and that both sections of the human race should conspire and concur in his martyrdom.
V. JESUS FORETELLS THE INSULTS AND INDIGNITIES WHICH SHALL PRECEDE HIS DEATH. The circumstantial manner in which the great Sufferer describes beforehand the cruel and inhuman treatment with which he shall meet, is pathetic and instructive. He reads the very hearts of his foes, and marks their malignity and baseness, their hostility to himself and to all that is good. Death is formidable, but the prospect of such a death as this awakens horror.
VI. THE RESURRECTION IS FORETOLD AS THE COMPLETION OF THE MARTYRDOM. Christ's death was not merely a martyrdom; it was a sacrifice. Its purpose would not have been answered had it not been shown that it was impossible that he should be holden of death. Thus was there given to the world an assurance from Heaven that this was indeed the Christ, declared to be the Son of God with power. And for the sake of the disciples themselves, the Lord Jesus foretells his approaching victory over the grave, that their hearts may be cheered and their hopes inspired, that they may learn the more truly to reverence him and the more ardently to trust him.
True ministry is true dignity.
Some of the most sacred and precious lessons which the Lord Jesus has taught mankind were suggested by incidents which occurred in his own ministry. This is true, both of lessons regarding his own grace and of lessons regarding our duty and life. His hand turns all that he touches into gold. Who would have thought that the selfish and thoughtless request of a mother and her sons could have led to one of the profoundest statements concerning the Saviours mission, and to the publication of one of the most novel and powerful laws that were to govern the subjects of the Savior's kingdom? Yet so it is.
I. THE REQUEST OF AMBITION. There is scope in every position of human life for the display of this principle of human nature. The desire to be wiser and better and more influential for good than we are is to be commended; but the desire to have more power and honor than our fellow-men is bad, unless it be cherished with a view to their advantage. There is such a thing as religious ambition, as the history of the Church in all ages abundantly shows. And the passage in the Gospel history now before us exhibits the working of this principle in the breasts of some of our Lord's first followers and apostles. Observe:
1. By whom this request was preferred. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, the owner of fishing-boats upon the Galilean lake. As the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, she may naturally have thought she and hers had some claim upon the Founder of the new kingdom. Her sons, James and John, joined with her in this petition for pre-eminence, so that it was in all likelihood discussed and arranged beforehand. It is remarkable that these ambitious followers of Jesus, who herein showed so little of the Master's spirit, were, with Peter, his most intimate and trusted friends, who might have been supposed the most to resemble him in disposition and character. A warning which none should neglect, as to the possibility of even eminent Christians falling into this snare.
2. On what occasion was this petition presented? It is observable that, shortly before, Jesus had promised his disciples honor and dignities; in fact, thrones of dominion and judgment in the kingdom that was to be. Yet more recently, however, he had amazed his disciples by informing them of events which he plainly foresaw—his own approaching persecution, sufferings, and death. The end was indeed near, and Jesus seems to have foretold its accompaniments the more clearly the nearer the time approached. It is singular that the ambition of the brothers, instead of being subdued by the mournful prospect, was inflamed by the glorious promise. They thought of their thrones more than of his cross.
3. There was some good in this request. It recognized Christ's authority, for the petition was urged upon him as upon a King who was able to grant it. It evinced faith in his character and in his future; for unless the kingdom had been a real thing to them they would not have sought participation in its glories. Not only did they refer the appointment to him; they evidently desired above all things to rule, not only under him, but with him.
4. Yet there was still more manifestly what was bad in the request. Their great error was that they overlooked the sublime truth, that fellowship is spiritual and not circumstantial. To be Christ's, whether upon a throne, or in a hovel, or a dungeon—that is the aspiration of the true Christian's heart; the aspiration to share in his outward glory (as if that were the best) is mean and contemptible. What a carnal conception was theirs of the kingdom! They laid hold of the emblem, but the underlying truth and reality escaped them altogether. And yet, again, we discern in the request a selfish desire for personal aggrandizement. They were thinking of themselves when they should have been thinking of their Lord. They ought to have asked, "How, Lord, can we serve thee, or suffer with thee, and so please and glorify thee?" Instead of which they were scheming what they might get from Christ, and how a connection with him might be turned best to their own advantage.
II. THE REBUKE OF AMBITION. Our Lord had on several occasions to rebuke the pride, vain-glory, and strife for pre-eminence which broke forth now and again even in the chosen band of the twelve. This he did by symbolical acts, as when he set the little child in the midst and exhorted them to a childlike spirit; and again when he washed their feet, bidding them follow his example of condescension and humility. On the occasion before us our Lord censured the conduct of the brothers with a peculiar and memorable solemnity.
1. Remark what he refused. The places asked for he would not grant them. He gave them to understand that the bestowment of honors in Christ's kingdom is not a matter, so to speak, of favouritism, of private and personal feeling. It is governed by great moral laws. It is the result of their operation in the heart and in society. There is nothing arbitrary or capricious in it. It is the expression of the Father's wisdom. The future shall reveal what for the present lies hid from all.
2. Remark what Jesus promised. He first puts it to them in the form of a question; but he very graciously passes from interrogation to assurance and promise. These two men who asked for thrones were promised—what? The cup of sorrow and the baptism of suffering. But it was to be his cup, his baptism. What Jesus meant we are at no loss to decide. The cup he drank in the garden of Gethsemane; the baptism all but overwhelmed him upon the cross of Calvary. Of all this they should know something by bitter, yet blessed, experience. They had some foretaste of their portion when they saw their Master in his humiliation and in his death. After years enlarged their experience. James fell a victim to the sword of the persecutor; John lived a long life of witness, both by work for Christ and by steadfastness in suffering for Christ. Both were faithful unto death. Both lost all taint of earthly ambition, and knew the fellowship of their Lord's cross and passion.
3. Consider how contrary to their expectations was this revelation of the mode in which Christ's disciples should share with him. The manner in which the Lord dealt with them showed alike his knowledge of human nature and his habitual power of spiritual sympathy. How fitted was his treatment of them to draw out and encourage their better feelings! How much higher and nobler a view of human nature and its possibilities and destinies was this which Jesus presented! And he did it in such a way as not to discourage those whom yet he felt it needful to rebuke; in such a way as to prepare his friends to give, in due time, the convincing proof that their friendship was genuine, sympathetic, and unselfish.
III. THE REMEDY FOR AMBITION. Here, as everywhere, Christianity is Christ. Jesus never merely tells us what he would have us be; he first shows us this in his own Person, and then he supplies us with the Divine and all-sufficient motive in his own ministry and sacrifice. "For verily the Son of man came not to be," etc.
1. Not that Jesus absolutely and always refused to be ministered unto. In his infancy his mother nurtured him; during his ministry his friends supplied his wants, and welcomed him to their homes. Gracefully and graciously he accepted their kind and affectionate service.
2. But that his chief purpose in his earthly life was to minister to men. He observed and pitied those whom he came to save and bless, for their wants were many and their woes were great. He supplied their bodily necessities, he relieved their bodily privations, he healed their bodily maladies; he sympathized with them in their griefs, and brought both health and consolation to their hearts. Their spiritual wants aroused his deepest commiseration. He taught the ignorant, aroused in the sinful the conscience of sin, brought pardon to the penitent, hope to the downcast, and salvation to all prepared to receive it. His career on earth was one long ministry of wisdom, faithfulness, love, and power.
3. And his death was voluntary sacrifice and service, in the highest form. The purpose of our Lord's coming was a purpose of" obedience unto death, even the death of the cross." There was nothing accidental or unforeseen in the close of our Lord's earthly career. He consciously and voluntarily gave his life. What others prized, he surrendered; what others strove to save, he was content to lose. A sublime spectacle of self-abnegation! But there was a purpose in this act of Jesus. It was that he might pay a ransom that he deigned to die. He is the Redeemer, and redemption was his great work. From the bondage and power, from the penalty and curse of sin, he died to set us free. Ann observe the expansive benevolence that characterized his redemptive work. It was to ransom many that he died. Not to exalt himself merely, as was the carnal aim of his half-trained followers, but to save multitudes, to redeem mankind.
IV. THE CURE OF AMBITION. We must not lose sight of the close connection between our Savior's statement regarding himself, his ministry, and death, and his language to the twelve, especially to the ambitious brothers. Observe:
1. How the remedy works. Difficult as it is to explain the bearing of our Savior's redemption upon the Divine character and government, there is little difficulty in explaining its bearing upon human character and life. The soul that ,by faith lays hold upon the Redeemer, and accepts the redemption as the provision of God's free grace, comes under a new impulse and motive. Gratitude and love towards him who gave himself for us lead, both naturally and of purpose, to devotion, obedience, and assimilation of character. Such motives the Holy Spirit applies to the nature, and thus overcomes the native tendency to selfishness and sinful pride. The Christian feels that Jesus lived and died to redeem from all evil, and certainly from this prevailing fault and folly. Our Savior is both the Model and the Motive of our new service. Himself the highest example of humility and benevolence, he furnishes in his cross the power which inspires us to conflict with sin, and encourages us to hope for victory. It is Divine wisdom which has devised the plan, and Divine grace which has executed it, and the results are worthy of him to whom we owe them.
2. By what signs the efficacy of the remedy is made apparent. Our Lord clearly saw how contrary is the law of his kingdom to that which prevails in earthly society. He observed how men aim at pre-eminence and dominion; and, instead of qualifying this practice, he condemns it; instead of lopping the boughs, he strikes at the root of the tree. "It is not so among you." On the contrary, he unfolds the new law: "Foremost in service, foremost in kingdom, in houour." Accordingly, if you would know whether an individual, a community, is truly Christ's, apply this test. Do not ask—Is the creed orthodox? Are the devotions splendid or fervent? Is profession loud and ample? But ask—Is the Spirit of Jesus manifest? Is the law of Jesus observed? For "if a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." They are truly Christians who, instead of asking—How can we enjoy ourselves? how can we raise ourselves? ask, on the contrary—How can we live as ministers of one another, and as servants of all? In the family, in the Church, in the world, we have ever-widening circles within which our influence may extend. To promote the bodily, the social, the educational, the moral, and spiritual welfare of our fellow-creatures—this is an aim worthy of all adoption, and an aim which will supply a sufficient and conclusive answer to the somewhat foolish question of the day, "Is life worth living?" To work for others and to work for Christ,—this is what the Lord expects from his people. And this is the manner of moral life which leads to his approval; this is the pathway to the stars.
1. Adore the compassion and humility of the Redeemer.
2. Accept the deliverance which he has wrought in the payment of your ransom.
3. Check the rising spirit of self-seeking and ambition.
4. Live as ministers of blessing to those around you. "Freely ye have received, freely give."
It is not without a purpose that the evangelists have put upon record so many of our Lord's miracles wrought on behalf of the blind. In all such miracles the "sign" is prominent, the moral lesson is instructive, impressive, and encouraging.
I. We recognize, in the privation of Bartimaeus, AN EMBLEM OF THE SINNER'S STATE. For:
1. The sinner is without spiritual knowledge. The blind are necessarily, by their deprivation of the highest of the senses, cut off from much knowledge of the outer world, and of the properties of matter, and consequently of the appeals of the Creator to the mind and heart of man.
2. The sinner is a stranger to many pure and elevating pleasures. The enjoyments of the sightless are grievously curtailed. The votary of sin has indeed his pleasures, but they are impure, debasing, and unsatisfying.
3. The sinner lacks true guidance. Just as the blind man depends upon others to lead him, and unless so assisted goes astray, so the unenlightened are doomed to wander in the mazes of error and of sin.
4. The sinner has no assurance, for he has no means of safety. As the blind fall into dangers for want of sight, so those whose minds are dark know nothing of true spiritual security, and have no well-founded hope.
II. Here we have an EXAMPLE OF THE CRY OF DAWNING FAITH.
1. There is presumed a sense of privation, of misery, of need. This expresses itself when opportunity invites the expression.
2. We observe a recognition of Christ's power and willingness to help and save. When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus who drew near, he cried aloud for help, having no doubt heard from some credible quarter of the customary compassion and the miraculous powers of the Prophet of Nazareth.
3. This shapes itself into a definite appeal for mercy.
4. And this appeal is distinguished by perseverance and persistency. Hindrances and dissuasions are of no avail; they only incite the applicant to more earnest supplications. The soul that truly feels its need, and has caught a true glimpse of Jesus, is not to be deterred from entreaties for grace and help. Obstacles may hinder the indifferent; they quicken the zeal of those who are earnest.
III. AN INSTANCE OF CHRIST'S COMPASSIONATE INTEREST. When the blind beggar cries aloud, Jesus hears; he pauses to allow an interview; he bids that the suppliant be brought to him. It is ever so. Nothing is so welcome to the Savior as the entreaty and appeal of the penitent and believing sinner. No voice is unheard, no wretchedness unfelt, no applicant rejected, by him. The sinner's need is his concern; the sinner's cry prompts his interposition.
IV. AN INDICATION OF THE CHURCH'S PROPER MISSION The people, attentive to Christ and friendly to the sufferer, call the blind man, raise his hopes, encourage his approach. This conduct is exactly that of our Lord's faithful ministers and of all his true disciples. The Church cannot save, but its privilege and its duty is to point to him who can save. The vocation of the Church is to tell of Jesus, to point to Jesus, to lead to Jesus. This is the true ministry, at once humbling and ennobling; for whilst it presumes the spiritual powerlessness of man, it affords to human benevolence an abundant scope, and assimilates it to the pity of the Savior's gracious heart.
V. AN ILLUSTRATION OF EARNESTNESS RESPONDING TO THE INVITATION OF CHRIST. How picturesquely does Mark tell us that this blind man, casting away his garment, "sprang up, and came to Christ"! A suggestion that he who hears the gospel should fling from him all his doubts, should abandon his evil companions and the sin that doth so easily beset him, should forsake his evil ways and thoughts, and so should draw near to Christ.
VI. THE CHARACTERISTIC MANNER IN WHICH CHRIST IMPARTED THE BLESSING SOUGHT. The dialogue between Jesus and Bartimaeus was brief, and it was "to the point." Question, answer, and final assurance were all satisfactory. The point upon which stress is chiefly laid is the faith which makes whole. It is the one condition. When this is complied with, all things are possible; the blind see, the prayer is granted, the soul is saved.
VII. THE GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF THE BOON CONFERRED IS A LESSON TO ALL WHO ARE BLESSED BY CHRIST. As Bartimaeus followed Jesus in the way, doubtless to testify to the pity and the power of the Redeemer, to glorify his Deliverer, and to invite others to extol and praise him; so does it become all those whose eyes Christ has opened to witness to the Divine Healer, and to say fearlessly in the presence of all men, "He hath opened mine eyes;" "Whereas I was blind, now I see."
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
Christ's statement of the Divine law of marriage.
It is well to note his locality at this time. He was approaching the center of the Judaean party, outlying members of which encountered him as he was entering Judaea from beyond Jordan. Nevertheless he no longer observes "counsels of prudence." He freely addresses the crowds that throng to his ministry, and confronts the attempts of his enemies to catch him in his words. This Divine abandonment is very noble and beautiful, and argues that he now clearly foresaw all that was to take place. There are two intentions in the reply of Jesus which it is necessary to distinguish, viz. that of defense, and that of teaching. His words are to be studied, therefore, as—
I. A MEASURE OF DEFENCE. That his questioners meant him mischief there can be no doubt. The word "tempting" is used for "trying," "proving," and that in an evil sense.
1. What, then, was the danger that lay in such a question? According to his reply they hoped:
(2) To discredit him with the common people. It was a vexed question at the time in the rival schools of Hillel and Shammai, the latter being stricter, the former laxer, in their view of the lawfulness of divorce. Probably convinced of their own view of the case, they relied upon easily confuting his arguments, and thereby "showing him up" as a pretender and imposter.
2. But in this twofold scheme they were defeated, Jesus making his interroggators themselves the declarers of the Law which he accepted and simply interpreted. He appeared, therefore, as a defender and not an assailant of the Law. And then he showed how deep the basis of obligation really was, and how much less strict the "precept" of Moses was than it might have been, and the cause of this.
II. A PERMANENT DOCTRINE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The historical circumstances of the time when the precept was formulated were probably considered at greater length than could be represented in Mark's account, and the position justified that it was a compromise or provisional measure necessitated by "the hardness of heart" of the Jews the drawing up of a formal document being a check upon hasty and passionate ruptures of the marriage tie. He thus proved that moral obligation is deeper and more permanent than convention or external law. He next considered marriage as a law of nature anterior to the social sanction, which does not therefore create the institution, but ought only to recognize and enforce it. To this end he traces it to the original purpose of God in creation, quoting Genesis 1:27; and strengthening the inference from this by the positive command of Genesis 2:24, long anterior to the time of Moses. It is not for man to interfere with or modify an arrangement so manifestly Divine. The only ground upon which marriage can be set aside is therefore that of one or other party to the marriage bond having already broken it by sinful action, and thus destroyed it as an actual thing. The Law then simply steps in to defend the rights of the party who has been injured, setting that party free from further possibility of like injury. This transgression of the marriage bond which amounts to its annulment is not stated, but is clearly implied, viz. adultery. The Savior thereby proves his teaching in harmony with the teaching of nature and previous revelation. But the gospel which is proclaimed in his Name does more than this. It seeks to fit man for the highest social and religious duties, by purifying and strengthening his moral being.—M.
Jesus blessing the little children: a children's sermon.
One of the scenes in the life of the Savior which illustrate most strongly and beautifully the genius of the gospel. The imagination loves to dwell upon it, and the heart is its best interpreter. There is, so to speak, a climax in the action.
I. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE ATTRACTED TO JESUS. There must have been something in the aspect, etc.. He of the Savior which drew the little ones and their mothers to his side. Christianity differs from the systems of idolatry in presenting us with One whom we instinctively can love. A little girl, when asked why she thought Jesus must have smiled, said, "He must have smiled when he said, 'Suffer little children,' etc.. He else they would never have come!" A chief object of preaching and living the gospel is to exhibit this charm.
II. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE INVITED TO JESUS. HOW many people won't come to a place unless they think they are welcome, and therefore they expect an invitation. Now, when the disciples thought that their Master was too engrossed with high thoughts and important affairs to attend to the children, they took it upon themselves to send them away. This was not done through unkindness, but simply through a mistake. Christ corrected the mistake, and deliberately invited the little children. That proves-does it not?—in the strongest way that he intends them to come to him. But Jesus does more than invite.
III. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE CLAIMED BY JESUS. "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." That means that little children are very near to him already. They are really in his kingdom, and he is their King. He has a greater right, therefore, to their obedience and service and society, than father or mother, or brother or sister. When little children are good and loving they are with Jesus, and it is only when they do or think what is wrong that they go away from him. And all who come into his kingdom have to come in as little children, i.e. they are to be childlike—simple, loving, trustful, and obedient.
IV. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE BLESSED BY JESUS. He took them in his arms and embraced them. But he also put his hands on them, and gave them his Father's blessing. How great a thing did the Jews think a blessing was! Let us try and live so that we shall at last get the blessing Christ has in store for us. Do you love to be with Jesus? Do you do whatever he commands you? Then you are a subject of his kingdom, and a child of grace; and hereafter you will share his glory.—M.
The great inquiry.
This seems a better title for the subject than "The Great Decision," as we have no reason to believe that the decision come to was a final one. But the reference to "eternal life" proves how momentous the occasion was to him who inquired. Such a time comes but seldom yet it comes to every man, when he feels that everything else dwindles into insignificance in comparison with "life." As to this inquiry, notice—.
I. HOW IT WAS MADE.
1. Earnestly. The manner of the man is vividly portrayed by St. Mark: "running, and kneeled to him." This spirit is a primary requisite. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, tie seized the passing opportunity and despised the judgment of onlookers.
2. Intelligently. What he was seeking was definitely before his mind. His previous training had prepared him to think of the object he sought more or less correctly. He used the word "inherit," which implied something different from "have," or "possess" (Matthew).
3. With real but defectively justified acknowledgment of Christ's character. This vague instinct which he expressed in the title "Good," had to be grounded in some true apprehension of the nature and character of Jesus ere it could be accepted as satisfactory. How radical this misconception was appears as he answers the question regarding the commandments.
II. HOW IT WAS ANSWERED.
1. With the needful correction to the question. It is of the utmost importance that we clearly perceive what real "goodness" is, and to whom alone it can belong, ere we seek it.
2. With a provisional test. The commandments; perhaps those emphasized which bore most directly upon his position and circumstances. Self-restraint is a first requisite, and that is witnessed to by the Law. But he still stands outside the true conception of "goodness," for he answers from the conventional and not from the absolute and spiritual standpoint. "The Law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ," by showing us our imperfection and need of a Saviour.
3. With a final test. "One thing thou lackest: go, sell whatsoever thou hast etc. Self-restraint being insufficient, self-denial and that specially corresponding with his circumstances, is invited. This was the crucial test. It has to be varied according to the difference in individual tastes, ideals, circumstances, etc., of different people.
4. By a look of love. It was spontaneous, full of attraction, and, up to a certain degree, of approval; then of yearning sorrow and concern. Such questions and such a disposition can never be received by Christ with indifference.
III. IN WHAT IT RESULTED. "His countenance fell," etc. There was grief, disappointment, perhaps even a little resentment, and also inward shame. Not decision; rather indecision. Tested by highest test and found wanting. Drawn by tenderest love of the Son of God, yet unwilling to yield. The grieved heart may yet return: its sad disconsolateness is its most hopeful attribute.—M.
Riches a spiritual drawback.
Valuable to the moral as to the scientific or artistic teacher to have a real instance—a study from the life. Yet it is not given to many to seize the salient points and analyze the character as Christ did. He did it, too, in a manner the most natural.
I. THE SAYING OF CHRIST. "How hardly shah they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" It is no proverb culled, from the pages of the past. but evidently his own instinctive, penetrating moral from what the had just seen was self-evident to him "how hardly," i.e. with what difficulty, such a thing could take place. He knew by personal experience the price that was to be paid for the realization of that kingdom, and what its nature would be when realized; but he alone. As fruit of his own inward experience it was a distinct discovery in morals. The disciples, not so conversant with the inner nature of the kingdom, were amazed. It was the exact opposite of their own idea. They thought that it would be absolutely necessary to gain such disciples if the kingdom was ever to be realized. It was impossible for them to conceive of spiritual power apart from material means and influence. They could not get rid, moreover, of the dream that a political shape would sooner or later habit of thought of the ancient world. The well-to-do had not only the material advantage of their riches, but a certain rejected honor as enjoying the theocratic blessing upon the keeping of the commandments. And in the case of the ruler this moral excellence was not only an ancestral trait but a personal characteristic. The Greek who styled the rich and powerful of his nation οἱ ἀγαθοί, or καλοί, and the poor οἱ κακοί, was representative of his age; cf. the Latin optimates, the Saxon good men (opposed to lewd people, base hinds). the French prudhommes. And the modern mind has not yet got rid of the twist. There is a superficial gentleness of manners, refinement, and honor, identified, by long association, with the "better classes," that is easily mistaken for a deeper moral principle. Nor can we ignore the "minor moralities," the conventional proprieties and respectabilities which wealth generally brings in its train. It is only when the emphasis is laid on character that these are estimated at their proper worth. Therefore the necessity for—
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SAYING. It is done in a spirit of tender, condescending sympathy—"children."
1. The general difficulty attending entrance into the kingdom is declared (the clause, "for them that trust in riches," being probably not genuine). The reason for this difficulty is not, however, stated. It ought to have been remembered. "Taking up his cross" was the condition imposed upon every would-be "disciple."
2. A figure of speech is employed in relation to the rich. The tradition identifying the "needle's eye" with a certain gate of Jerusalem is hardly well enough supported to be reliable. It was probably but an impromptu hyperbole that flashed from the mind of Christ. But it would recall the teaching of the "strait gate." κάμιλος, a rope, may, however, be the true reading. Everything that exaggerates and pampers "self" hinders from the better life. The disciples had learnt that lesson in part (Mark 10:28). but its absolute import and spiritual realization they were not to arrive at until their Master had gone away. Their astonishment is not, therefore, lessened, but rather increased, by the repeated statement; and they said, "Then who can be saved?" A question which seemed to imply, "If the rich cannot be saved without difficulty, the poor will have still less chance." The temptations of poverty were probably prominent in their minds. From the human point of view this would seem to be a just observation; therefore he qualified his statement, and under certain conditions declared—
III. THE SAYING SUPERSEDED. "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God." There is here a double hint, viz. as to the objective work which he himself was to do for men, and the spiritual aid which would be experienced in men by the advent of the Holy Ghost. The difficulty is wholly on the human side. Salvation is thus vindicated as a supernatural achievement—a Divine grace, and not a human virtue.—M.
I. IS CHRISTIAN SELF-SACRIFICE WORTH WHILE?
1. A question relocatedly asked, by worldlings and by Christians themselves: by the former because they do not comprehend or perceive the things of God, and by the latter from an imperfect experience and an imperfectly matured spiritual consciousness.
2. Reasonably enough. The privation to which Christianity exposes men is sometimes extreme. They are called upon virtually or actually to renounce all things. Peter not to be accused of sordidness-of a desire to "make the best of both worlds." Life and the things of life are precious gifts with which we should not lightly or aimlessly part; and the neophyte in Christian life cannot be expected to have all his aims perfectly spiritual. Christianity is a means of raising men from the carnal to the spiritual, and it does so by gradually spiritualizing the desires and interests of the soul. It is an instinct of our being not to part with a real, tangible good unless in exchange for another of equal or higher value, although not necessarily estimated from a selfish or self-regarding point of view.
3. It is only from the highest point of view and he most advanced experience that this question can be properly and adequately answered. There is, therefore, a Divine fitness in Jesus, our Example, being the Answerer and Judge. Yet out of the most imperfect experience of the Divine life, if that experience be properly interpreted, the answer would still be satisfying and justifying.
II. THE CONSIDERATIONS BY WHICH THIS QUESTION IS DECIDED.
1. The measure of recompense. "A hundredfold:" an estimate not to be literally construed. It is intended to express "overwhelmingly more." "In the preceding verse the connective between the items is or; here it is and. There is great propriety in the exchange, for here the Savior is giving, as it were, an inventory of the Divine fullness of blessing, so far as it is available for the most ample compensation of those who have suffered loss. And there is, besides, in the spiritual sphere of things a kind of mutual involution of blessed relationships; the sum total of them all belongs to every true disciple" (Morison).
2. The manner of it. It is to be correspondent to the things renounced, although not necessarily similar in kind. "With persecutions:" an addition that seems strange, but is justified in the experience of the Christian; as that which is lost is gain (cf. Matthew 5:10; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 3:14). He so that which is endured for Christ's sake is a new occasion and factor of blessedness. Suited to the differing conditions of this life and that which is to come. Here there is variety, objectiveness, material embodiment; there there is one grand reward, subjective, spiritual, viz. eternal life. And the relative position of Christians wilt be wry much altered from that which they occupy here. The honor and blessedness conferred will depend, not upon accident of birth or fortune, but upon intrinsic worth and direct Divine appointment.—M.
The kingdom of God a revolution of the world-order.
I. BECAUSE REWARD WILL BE ACCORDING TO CHARACTER AND WORK,
II. IT WILL NOT BE OF DESERT, BUT OF GRACE,
III. EVERY SAINT WILL RECEIVE WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO HIS HAPPINESS, USEFULNESS, AND SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT,
IV. BUT THERE WILL BE DEGREES IN THE GLORY AND BLESSEDNESS OF THE REDEEMED.
1. Reflecting the manifold glory of God.
2. Correcting and compensating the inequalities of time.
3. Stimulating to nobler attainment.—M.
The greatness of the Son of man.
I. HOW IT DISPLAYED ITSELF. In a quasi-concealment: reversal of order and method of worldly greatness. The great of this world exercise authority for the most part and generally to their own advantage, and the loss and denudation of others. This precedent is only mentioned that it may be condemned. The greatness of the Son of man showed itself in:
1. Service. Typically set forth in the washing of the disciples' feet (John 13:4). Realized:
2. Sacrifice. The culmination and seal of service. "To give his life" "indicates the climax of the service in which he was engaged (comp. Philippians 2:6 : obedient—obedient unto death on the cross). The term ministering expresses the spirit of the life of Christ. His sufferings and death illustrated and displayed the submission of his whole course; they shed the fullest light on the object of his life" (Lange).
II. WHAT IT WAS TO ACHIEVE. It was to be no barren spectacle, or merely personal glory, but was to exert a practical influence upon the condition of those amongst whom he came. The kind of work it had to do corresponded to the needs of man. It was for men the Son of man lived. And as they were in a state of wretchedness and danger, he undertook to save them. In respect of this purpose the death of Christ availed for:
1. Redemption. His life was given as the ransom. "It is the first distinct utterance, we may note, of the plan and method of his work. He had spoken before of 'saving' the lost (Matthew 18:11); now he declares that the work of ' salvation' was to be also one of redemption.' It could only be accomplished by the payment of a price, and that price was his own life" (Plumptre). The natural state of men is one of bondage to sin. A "ransom" is an equivalent for a man's life or service (cf. Exodus 21:30; Le 25:50; Proverbs 13:8). This price our Savior gave "instead of" ("for") men, as their Representative before God—in a certain sense as their Substitute (cf. Matthew 17:27; Hebrews 12:16; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:19).
2. The redemption of many. "The expression 'many' is not intended to indicate an exclusive minority, or a smaller number as compared with all, for the latter expression occurs in Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4. The term is intended rather by way of antithesis to the one whose life was the ransom of the many" (Lange). Its efficacy was to be felt far beyond the personality in which it first took place. We are invited to take wide, comprehensive views of the work of Christ. And there is nothing in the language of Scripture to lead to the supposition that only some may be saved. That which avails for one will avail for all who choose to comply with the condition of salvation, viz. faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's death as an atoning sacrifice for sin. The sinlessness and perfect obedience of Christ are his qualification for this work.
III. IN WHAT WAY IT SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED. The verse commences with "for"—a word connecting it with the previous verses, to which it is appended as a reason for what is there enjoined. Our duty, therefore, with respect to the service and sacrifice he has rendered is:
1. To accept them for ourselves. By believing in the redemptive work of Christ we honor him, and the Father by whom he was sent.
2. To imitate his spirit. His kingdom is based upon service, and its dignities and authorities are the result of the spontaneous affection thereby secured. Service and self-humiliation are not only means toward the attainment of future greatness; they are that greatness already. Offices in the Church are not thereby abolished; they are only interpreted as functions of love: all dignity and authority otherwise derived are discountenanced, and convicted as usurpations.
3. To declare his work amongst men. In so doing we shall truly glorify him, and extend his kingdom to the ends of the earth.—M.
I. THE BEHAVIOUR OF THOSE WHO ARE IN EARNEST ABOUT BEING SAVED. They will:
1. Seize every opportunity that presents itself.
2. Make the most of it, by
3. Not be easily discouraged.
4. Hasten to do what Jesus commands.
II. THE SPIRIT THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN BY CHRIST'S SERVANTS TOWARDS THOSE SEEKING SALVATION. TWO standards of conduct observed by them, viz. the dignity and glory of their Master, and the good of men. The mistake has been in overemphasizing the one or the other of these, or in divorcing them. They are really but the two sides of one thing. The glory of Christ is that of a Savior, i.e. in saving from misery and sin.
1. Christ corrects what is faulty in their attitude.
2. Employs them to further his purpose of mercy.
3. Infuses his own spirit of gentleness and love. "Be of good cheer: rise, he calleth thee," is the expression of the spirit of the gospel as it ought to be proclaimed to the world.
III. CHRIST PROVING HIMSELF THE SAVIOUR OF MEN.
1. By his sympathy for distress. He heard the cry of the beggar notwithstanding the tumult, and the thoughts which agitated his mind. It was natural for him to postpone everything to attend to such a cry.
2. My inspiring others with his own spirit, and employing them to further his purpose.
3. By calling forth and exercising the principle of faith in the subjects of his mercy.
4. By freely and completely delivering from distress, pain, and sin.—M.
I. NOT ONE OF SEVERAL KINDS OF FAITH, BUT SIMPLY FAITH PROPERLY DIRECTED, AND PRACTICALLY TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHRIST'S POWER. Much confusion on this subject. Theologians have spoken of different sorts of faith, as speculative, practical, historical, realizing, and saving. There is but one faith, a faculty of the soul. What is needed is not the faculty, which already exists, but the proper direction or destination of it. That is a true faith by which I see and appropriate the truth; that a saving faith by which salvation is seen and received.
II. FAITH DOES NOT SAVE THROUGH ITS OWN VIRTUE OR POWER, BUT BY BRINGING THE SOUL INTO CONTACT WITH THE VIRTUE AND POWER—THE SALVATION OF CHRIST. It is not the cause of salvation, but the condition. The only Savior is Christ, but he saves us through our having faith towards him. By our having faith towards Christ what is his becomes ours; we enter into union and fellowship with him. His life, righteousness, spirit, become ours; and we are identified with him in his sacrifice for sin.
III. SO ALSO OUR FAITH IS THE MEASURE OF THE SAYING GRACE WE RECEIVE. St. Matthew puts it thus: "According to your faith be it unto you." Bartimaeus's faith was strong and practical, and it saved him, by uniting him to the power and holiness of Christ. A weak faith will ever entail spiritual weakness. To be "made whole" we must believe with our whole heart.—M.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
The excellences of the young ruler.
Too often religious teachers have attempted to classify all who are mentioned in the Bible as being either definitely good or utterly bad. If the latter exhibit any excellency it is depreciated, or explained away; and if the former have faults, they are carefully concealed. But the Bible gives no such definite decision respecting them. It mentions the faults of the saints, and exhibits the excellences of those whose character and destiny are left doubtful. Here, for example, one is mentioned who was not what he ought to have been, of whom it is boldly said, "Jesus beholding him loved him." The feeling with which our Lord regarded him was not the result of regard for his social position, which led to a discreet hiding of his faults. Amongst us too often one of dubious character, because he has wealth or brilliant prospects, is admitted to circles from which he ought to be excluded; and a rich man is not told of his sins as a poorer man would be, so that it is the more hard for him to enter into the kingdom. But with our Lord esteem was won not by what a man had, but by what he was. Nor was our Lord influenced by the young man's religious knowledge, for he made small account of theological lore, such as was possessed by lawyers and Pharisees. And as knowledge would not win his love, neither did ignorance and error prevent it. There was evidently much in this young ruler that was commendable and lovable, all of which found its source in God; for even those who are not decided followers of Christ have in them gleams of heavenly light, and must beware of quenching the Spirit.
I. THE YOUNG RULER WAS GENUINE AND SIMPLE. Christ rebuked nothing so severely as unreality. He exposed the Pharisees mercilessly, because they pretended to be what they were not. He declared that if a man's eye was "single" his whole body would be full of light; that he who was of the truth (who was a true man) would hear his voice. Such was this man. He expressed his real want. He felt that he had obeyed the commandments, and frankly said so; and when told to go and sell all that he had, he made no fallacious promise to do so. We should cultivate the grace of truthfulness in all the relations of life. If we are engaged in a common occupation, we should be true enough not to be ashamed of it; if in Church relationships, we should never ignore them; if we have done a wrong, we should candidly confess it either to God or man. In proportion as we are true we are nearer to the kingdom of truth.
II. HE WAS SINGULARLY COURTEOUS. He kneeled before the peasant Teacher of Galilee, and addressed him reverently. Courtesy is a small thing if it be identical with outward mannerism, which observes a suitable deportment, and carefully discriminates between those in different social ranks. But true courtesy is consideration for others, thoughtfulness for their feelings, respect for their age and experience and character; and this was exhibited by the young ruler whom Jesus loved. There was no rudeness like that of the Sadducees and Herodians, nor any outburst of hot temper at the sacrifice demanded of him.
III. HE WAS OF IRREPROACHABLE LIFE. So far, at least, as human judgment could determine. A young man whose passions had not misled him; rich enough to indulge evil propensity, yet outwardly pure and without reproach. The morality of the noblest does not win heaven, but it is good in itself and in its source. The idea that a profligate is the happier after his conversion because of his sinful experience, is utterly false. His experience is more remarkable, but he is not so blessed, nor so strong for Christian service; for if evil thoughts stain the mind, and sinful habits are indulged, these have their effects.
IV. HE WAS NOT SELF-SATISFIED. Self-satisfaction is one of the greatest preventives of good: e.g. the lad who can do without his father's counsel; the girl who scorns her mother's advice; the children who drift away from Sunday schools, to live without God and without hope in the world. This is most perilous in spiritual things. No condemnation is more severe than that of the Church which says, "I have need of nothing;" no welcome is more loving than that given by our Lord to the children, who could give him nothing but love, or to the young ruler who wistfully asked, "What lack I yet?" "He fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away." If your heart is hungry for the love of God, our heavenly Father is pleased, just as an earthly father is when he knows his child wants him. If your son had run away and been hidden for years, and at last was found abroad, what would you wish to hear? Not that he was doing well, and had lost all care for you; but that, although he had everything to make him happy, he was sad because he wished to see his father, and obtain the assurance of his forgiveness.
V. HE CAME TO CHRIST WITH AN EARNEST QUESTION. What shall I do, not to gain wealth or fame, but eternal life? In the New Testament life is not spoken of as equivalent to existence, but it means life coupled with conditions which make it blessed, and therefore desirable. Life and holiness are correlatives, as are death and sin. So a man may be dead in part, and alive in part. A person struck with paralysis may lie for months in a living death, unable to reason, to speak, or to move a limb. Sin does that to our moral being. It paralyzes sensitiveness to God's presence, the power of speaking to him with naturalness and the capacity for hearing his voice. It is an endless existence, with the full enjoyment of these attributes (the exercise of which constitute the joys of heaven). He which is involved in the phrase "eternal life."
VI. HE BROUGHT HIS EARNEST QUESTION TO THE LORD JESUS. It was a great thing for a man in his position to do. He faced the scorn of his friends when he ran eagerly to Christ and humbly knelt before him, beseeching him to teach and guide him. "And Jesus beholding him loved him," as he loves all who in this spirit fall at his feet.—A.R.
"One thing thou lackest."
This incident occurred on a journey to Jerusalem, which our Lord undertook between the Feast of Dedication, at which the Jews sought to stone him, and the Passover, during which he was crucified. Hostility, therefore, was both before him and behind him, but his serenity was not ruffled, nor his willingness to bless impaired. There was never in him a sign of the indiscriminate judgment which leads us to condemn a whole nation or sect as being outside the bounds of Christian charity. He was, and still is, gracious to one seeker, even though he dwells among the heathen; and hears any prayer, though it rises from a godless home. We notice here also our Lord's freedom from the pandering to popular passion, which has often been the snare of statecraft, and sometimes of the Christian Church. We naturally bend before an adverse current of opinion, and count it good policy to withhold the advocacy of our opinions for a season. But here was a crisis in Christ's ministry which would lead to his reception or rejection, when the decision of each one would make a weight in the scale of popular judgment. Judicious hedging just then might avert hatred or win a convert. Here was a ruler of the synagogue—a man of wealth, position, and good repute—who was willing to become a disciple; but he was met with words of discouragement, and the great Teacher put his claims before him in the strongest form. The fact is, that he thought more of the suppliant than of himself. He would rather bring him to deep repentance than have his showy following. With all his estimable qualities, the young ruler had spiritual deficiencies, which were seen by the Searcher of hearts, and revealed to himself by the test applied to him. What were these?
I. HE WAS MISTAKEN AS TO THE NATURE OF "GOODNESS." "Good Master, what good thing shall I do?" asked he. Christ at once put him in the way of discovering his mistake by answering, "Why callest thou me good?" etc. He did not decline the appellation, but repelled it when used in this superficial sense. He wanted him to weigh his words, to know what they implied, to say exactly what he meant; and this he requires of us. He reminded him that God was the Source of all goodness, because he would not have him regard any good act or good person as isolated or independent, but in connection with the God of goodness. He was himself "good;" but why? Because he was one with God. The young man might do a "good thing; "but how? Not as an isolated acts but by loving God supremely, and living in him. He enumerated the commandments as declarations of the will and character of the good One, which could only be obeyed in fullness When supreme love to God was the master passion of the soul; the duties to his fellows being mentioned because these constituted the easiest test of obedience.
III. HIS GREAT DEFICIENCY WAS AN ABSENCE OF COMPLETE SELF-SURRENDER. When told to sell all that he had, this was not the special "good thing" which would gain eternal life; but the command was given because the attempt to obey it would reveal the fact that he did not love the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength. This is the one important thing so often lacking, short of which so many halt, but which is essential to the righting of life. If we set clown a series of noughts we may say they only want one figure to make them millions; but that one figure is all-important. So is it with "the one thing" lacking to many a moral life, namely, the consecration to God, of which prayer is the natural expression.
III. HE BROKE DOWN UNDER THE TEST APPLIED. The command, "Sell whatsoever thou hast," was to be obeyed literally by him, but not by all. Christ came in contact with other rich men, and did not call upon them to do this. But it was the best thing to teach this man the special lesson he needed. The test our Lord applies to those who come to him varies greatly, but in some form it comes to all such. It may appear to be so trifling a thing as the giving up of an amusement or pursuit, or so peculiar a thing that no one has previously been asked to do it. But it is the test of character to that one, and the trifle is fraught with future destiny. That which is not a source of peril to some may be disastrous to others. A blessing in some circumstances may prove a curse in others. The lighted candle, which is useful in the home, may be a destroyer in a mine. Anything which seems a source of danger must be abjured for Christ's sake. The young ruler did not make the required sacrifice when it was called for. He went away sad; and if he went away for ever, it was to far deeper sadness, for he left the Savior of the world—the King of heaven. Dante says that in his journey through hell he saw him "who with ignoble spirit made the great refusal." But was the refusal final? We hesitate to believe it. We hope that this inquirer, who was so sincere, earnest, and humble, only went away to consider the question, not in the excitement of the moment, but alone, on his knees, and that then and there he gave himself up, to be Christ's consecrated servant for evermore.—A.R.
The request of the sons of Zebedee.
As we read the history of our Lord's dealings with his disciples, we are amazed at his unfaltering patience. They had preconceived theories about his kingdom which, in spite of his teaching, they held fast till after his death and resurrection. They constantly expected him to assume temporal power. Why he delayed they did not know; the reason for his present obscurity they could not conceive; but to all his allusions to suffering they gave, and were resolved to give, a figurative interpretation. With all this persistent misconception our Lord was patient. In this he has left us an example of the patience we should cherish towards those who, as we think, misunderstand the truth. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were two of the favored triumvirate, and their mother, Salome, was a near relation of the Virgin Mary. It was she who expressed the request of her sons, first asking for an unconditional promise—such as a Herod might give, but our Lord never. The Old Testament counterpart of this scene is the coming of Rebekah, with her son Jacob, to win the blessing of the firstborn.
I. THE REQUEST OF THE DISCIPLES.
1. It was the offspring of ignorance. They littleknew what it would be to stand on the right hand and on the left of their Lord in the day when the word would be fulfilled, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Well might he say, "Ye know not what ye ask." We often set our desires on some object which is vain or wrong. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought;" and sometimes we learn by a bitter experience that it is best to put ourselves trustfully in God's hands. Lot found it so. Of the Israelites, too, it is said, "God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
2. It was the dictate of ambition. Ambition is a wholesome stimulus, if only it is free from selfishness. A teacher can do little with a child who is always satisfied with the lowest position in the class. If your ambition be a lawful one it will not allow you to shirk difficulties, or to get over an obstacle by a doubtful expedient, but it will lead you to a patient and faithful doing of what your hand finds to do. You will go higher, as you faithfully fulfill the duties of the lower sphere. Ask yourself whether the object you are aiming at is worthy of a Christian man; whether the time spent in its pursuit could be better employed; whether God or self is supreme in the motives which are prompting effort, etc. Ambition can be and ought to be tested. Some people are like precious stones, glittering, but non-productive; others are like the plainer millstones, which, by steadfast work, minister food to the hungry and wealth to the nation.
3. It was the outcome of selfishness. One of the best tests we have of the lawfulness of ambition is this question—How does it affect my feelings towards others? There is reason to fear that the idea of these disciples was that the chief places in the kingdom should be allotted to them, regardless of the claims of their brethren. No wonder, then, that they were rebuked by their Lord, and that when the ten heard it they had great indignation. Self-seeking ever tends to separate friends, and to arouse discord in the Christian Church. Selfishness is the root of the indolence that dishonors the disciples of Christ; it is the cause of civil dissensions; it is the spring of the bloody wars that desolate the world; and when it asserts itself in sectarianism it checks the advance of Christ's kingdom, and brings upon the Church paralysis and death. Against it Christ Jesus declared ruthless war. He declared that men must deny themselves if they would follow him; he taught us to love our enemies, and still more our neighbors, and said that if a man would be really great, he must minister to others for his sake.
II. THE REPLY OF OUR LORD. He pointed out the distinction between real greatness and seeming greatness, and declared that dignity in his kingdom was bestowed according to a certain law—the law of moral fitness. A similar law asserts itself everywhere in God's economy. Each plant and animal have their own habitat, and for their well-being we are compelled to study those conditions which the Creator designed for them. The disciples supposed that honor was at the arbitrary disposal of the Lord on the ground of personal favor. It was so with the positions held under the Roman government. The favor of an emperor might appoint a Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judaea, in complete disregard of character and suitability. It was not to be so in Christ's Church, whether on earth or in heaven. There would be distinctions of rank and honor, but they would be given by God to those worthy of dignity, and fit for it. In the kingdom of righteousness nothing would be arbitrary, or dependent upon caprice. To some extent this is so in the attainment of knowledge. Knowledge cannot be given by a teacher because a pupil is a favourite, or because a pupil wishes to be first among competitors; but it is the reward of individual work and consequent fitness. And greatness in heaven will not consist in so many pleasures or dignities, but in the enjoyment of so much life, in the developments of power and in the possibilities of service. These, then, are some of the principles laid down in our Lord's reply:
1. Prepared places are for prepared people. (Verse 40.)
2. Humble ministry is the source of highest exaltation. (Verses 43, 44.)
3. Christ's mission is the pattern of Christian service. (Verse 45.)—A.R.
Blind Bartimaeus: the publicity of Christ's miracles.
Our Lord stood face to face with men. He said with truth, "I spake openly to the world, and in secret have! said nothing." His life was spent in the glare of publicity. His miracles were not performed among chosen witnesses, who might be interested in the propagation of what was false; nor in the secrecy of some convent or retreat. They were wrought on the mountain-side, in full view of five thousand men, besides women and children; in a synagogue full of worshippers hostile to his claims; or on a public road, crowded with pilgrims going to the Passover. This not only strengthened the evidence of the supernatural, but it was a sign that the blessings signified by such wonders were not intended for a class but for a race. Therefore we must beware lest we, by act or word, should be saying to any earnest seeker, what the crowd said to Bartimaeus, "Hold thy peace!" By our coldness we may tacitly rebuke enthusiasm, and by our inconsistencies we may destroy the desires of the contrite. Christ can save us from this. He can by a word transform us, as he transformed that crowd, so that those who had just been saying, "Hold thy peace," became ready to say, "Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee." Subject—In this miracle we have reminders of some characteristics of our Lord.
I. THE POWER OF JESUS. Its exemplification outside Jericho was appropriate both to the beauty of the city and to its memories. Jericho was an oasis in the desert. There palms flourished and roses grew. Whether approaching it from the robber-haunted road from Jerusalem, or from the Dead Sea valley, it was significant of the Paradise Christ came to restore, which would be beautiful with the flowers of his grace and fragrant with the sweetness of his love. And here Joshua, the Jesus of the Old Testament, had proved the power that was his because the Lord was with him. The angel of the covenant which appeared to him was a precursor of the mighty Conqueror who came now. As the giant walls of the city had fallen by the simplest means, so now the darkness was conquered by light through a single word.
1. This power is manifest if you consider the condition of the sufferer. Blindness then was common, unalleviated, incurable. No wonder that it was used as an emblem of insensibility to spiritual facts and things. There is a sphere of thought, hope, and desire which many never know. Intelligent and active, they ask, "Are we blind also?" and the Lord says, "Because being blind you say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth." Because there is no sense of want there is no cry for a blessing, and because there is no such cry the light is not given. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Tests may be applied to the spiritual condition as to the physical malady which represents it. An oculist is not satisfied with a casual question; he patiently and variously tests the organ, by presenting objects and asking respecting one after another, "Can you see this?" So we may test ourselves by seeing what sin is, and what God is to us.
2. This power appears greater as you contrast it with the weakness of men. Like those in the crowd, we can see the Lord and hear his voice, and as far as sympathy and prayer go may lead others to him. But after all the main issue rests between each man and Christ. If there is no spiritual contact he is left in darkness. Sometimes the most unlikely are chosen. A publican like Zacchaeus is visited in a city of priests, and a blind beggar on the road is invited to join the festal procession.
3. This power appears in the exercise of its Divine freedom. Bartimaeus was not dealt with as were those of whom he had heard. The man born blind had been told to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he of Bethsaida was led out of the town uncured. Yet no one would question the reality of the change in the other. Each could say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Let us not expect the same experiences, but only the same effects of Divine contact with Christ. He is willing to lead us into light, but each one of us in his own way.
II. THE PITY OF JESUS. Describe the pitiable condition of Bartimaeus. It is sad enough for a rich man to be blind, but it is a terrible aggravation of the privation when he who endures it has to beg his daily bread. Nor did Bartimaeus know, as we do, God's love in Christ. He had not the assurance that "all things work together for good." He had not seen the cross which sanctifies sadness to each believer. In his darkness he cried to the Light of the world, and not in vain. The pity of the Lord always surpassed infinitely that of those around him. The disciples rebuked the children, but Jesus said, "Suffer them to come." Simon the Pharisee condemned the sinful woman, but Jesus let her bathe his feet with her tears. Judas blamed the waste of the ointment, but the Lord said, "She hath wrought a good work on me." The crowd said, "Hold thy peace," but the Lord said, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"
III. THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. A crisis had come in the life of Bartimaeus, when a single resolve would make all the difference to his future. Jesus was "passing," and therefore was within reach; but he was "passing by," and therefore would soon be beyond reach. Such crises appear unexpected to us; but he who knows the heart sees that they are not really so. Bartimaeus had heard of the words and works of Jesus before this, and, shut up to his own thoughts, he had pondered them in the dark; so he was ready now to salute Jesus as "the Son of David." Similar preparation has been going on in your heart. A trouble has solemnized your thoughts; a tender touch at home has aroused new sensibility; a word has startled you to consideration; and now you are nearer Christ than before. "Jesus is passing by." Unseen, as by Bartimaeus, yet able to hear the believing prayer for mercy. See to it that the world's "Hold thy peace!" does not stifle the cry for help.—A.R.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Again with low motives, "tempting him," the Pharisees propound a question as to whether it was "lawful for a man to put away his wife." Opinions were divided, and the Teacher was in danger of offending one or other party by his reply. This was the trap "to involve him with the adulterous tetrarch, in whose territory he was." But he wisely referred them to Moses, and their thought, which was for evil, he tamed to good; for he took occasion by it to show the grounds of Moses' "commandment" to have been to their condemnation, their "hardness of heart;" and he further took occasion to lay down for all Christian times, for the blessedness of the Christian home and for the preservation of Christian morals, the true, the wise, the beneficial law of marriage, founded upon the conditions of the original creation; and he defined with authority and precision what constituted "adultery." These words remained to condemn the disobedient, and will remain to "judge him in the last day." The indissoluble bond of the marriage relation Jesus here affirms, and in the old words, spoken at "the beginning," "the twain shall become one flesh." To the propriety, the goodness, the blessedness of this law many Christian centuries bear their unequivocal testimony. The purest institution and the best, so hallowed, so beneficent, promoting in the highest degree individual happiness, the peace and sanctity of family life, the purity of public morals; preserving national health, stability, and greatness; guarding against wild lust, and a long train of envy, jealousy, revenge, and other passionate crimes; preserving the honor and dignity of women, the love and careful training of children; imposing responsibilities, but cherishing virtue and peace and joy. The family life is the symbol of the heavenly community; the marriage bond the type of the Redeemer's relation to his people, who are "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." It is God's ordination, and is very sacred; nor may it be set aside, but "for the kingdom of heaven's sake;" nor may its bond be broken, but for the one cause of fornication, from which it is the most efficient guard. Its rites were honored by Jesus, and its "holy estate adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle." The wisest legislation tends to the conservation of the family, whose multiplied relations, whose sweet fellowship, whose united interest, and whose common possessions give rise to the lofty idea of the home. Conjugal, parental, filial, fraternal affection are cherished. Obedience on the one hand, care and providence on the other; discipline and wise authority; the sense of dependence arising from want; responsibility arising from the power to meet that want; common interests and common aims, go to make each home a miniature kingdom. Teaching to those in authority the beneficence of rule, and to those under authority the lessons of submission, the home lays the foundation for stable national life; while mutual interests and obligations teach all to respect the rights and just claims of the entire community; whilst each learns his responsibility to the whole, and his deep interest in the general welfare. The nation that honors the home and the sanctities of family life is honored of God. The Christian teaching, reverting to the condition of things as it was "from the beginning of the creation," shows how truly it is in harmony with natural law, which is the expression of the Divine will.—G.
Parental anxiety led thoughtful women to bring "unto him little children, that he should touch them," according to a custom which has its approval in the hearts of all races and all times, of presenting young children to persons of sanctity and age that they may invoke a blessing upon their young life. Such are brought to Jesus, "that he should lay his hands on them and pray." Touched, perchance, by a remembrance of the humiliating lessons which the presence of a child must now have suggested, "the disciples rebuked them." Why obtrude children on the attention of One who is so competent to deal with adult wisdom? But he who came to correct error and false views, who had redeemed and established the essential marriage laws, now raises child-life to its rightful place. "Moved with indignation" at the indiscretion of the disciples, he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me; forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God"—words which
The rich young ruler.
Never did a more becoming question escape from human lips than when "there ran one"—"a certain ruler"—"to him," and, kneeling at his feet, "asked him, Good Master, what [what good thing] shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" With characteristic calmness Jesus drew him away from the thought of his ability to do any "good thing," and from his question concerning that which is good. Only the good can do good things, and "none is good save One, even God." Therefore thou art not good; therefore thou canst not do any—that is, every—good thing. But there is a way unto life, even that of the commandments. "If," therefore, "thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments." They lead unto eternal life. Along that path, he replied, I have ever walked. "All these things have I observed from my youth." And this was no vain boast, for" Jesus looking upon him loved him." But the thought of doing good things, and of establishing a claim to eternal life as to an inheritance, still fills the young ruler's thoughts, and the bold demand is pressed to the utmost—"What lack I yet ?" Alas! "one thing thou"—even thou—"lackest." Then, hesitatingly, knowing so well" what was in man," Jesus offers to this loved one the higher attainment: "If thou wouldest be perfect," if thou wouldest lack nothing—If!—ah, if! Jesus was neither unkind nor severe in his demand. The young man pressed him for a reply, and the prize was with his reach. Whether he could pay the price, whether he really was prepared to do any good thing, as the "what good thing" implied, whether he valued the eternal life so highly as his words seemed to indicate, must be proved. "Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Alas! "his countenance fell,… and he went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions." He was not the only sorrowful one. A lowering cloud must have passed over the brow of the Rabbi himself. It is not out of place to inquire—What did Jesus offer him for his riches; and what did he lose by retaining them? The offer embraced—
I. PERFECTNESS OF CHARACTER—that which can be gained only by great sacrifice and effort, by withdrawment from the world, by such apprehension of the spiritual as to lead to the surrender of the material; that faith in God which lifts the trusting heart from its confidence in the "possessions" which the eye can see and the hands handle, and which promise "much goods" for "many years," to that "treasure in heaven "which fadeth not. For imperfect man there is a perfectness, to which he shall be led if he forsake all and follow Jesus. From that path the young ruler at this time turns away, perhaps to reflect, to repent, to turn again to the Master who was patient, and finally, afar earnest struggles to join the company of those who made the sacrifice of all things for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Again be it said that he who forsakes all for Christ's "sake and the gospel's" sake enters upon a path that leads to perfection.
II. A second part of the offer made to the young man was "TREASURE IN HEAVEN"—"in the world to come eternal life." It was this the young man desired; but he knew not that the heart could find its "treasure in heaven" only by consenting to have it there alone. He who would really have" eternal life" must be content to be freed from anything and erecting that withdraws the heart from that life. The living unto this present world does so withdraw the heart. Therefore the earthly possessions must be sacrificed. That many rich men enter, though "hardly," into the kingdom of heaven, and retain their place therein, is a sign of the prevalence of Christ's grace. Yet these cease to "trust in riches," or the "deceitfulness of riches" would choke in them the seeds of eternal life. For the present, at least, the rich, eager, honored young ruler cannot say his whole treasure is in heaven.
III. But Jesus further offered him A PLACE AMONGST THE MOST HONOURED BAND OF MEN THE WORLD HAS KNOWN, AND A SHARE IN THE MOST HONOURABLE WORK. "Come, follow me." Who can tell what might have been the effect of his sacrifice? His example might have saved Judas. He might have enriched the world with a fifth Gospel. He might have drawn many of the rulers to believe. But for the time he lost his chance, and the world is the worse for his decision, as it is the worse for every error of men. What did he gain? His "great possessions." But only for a time—it may have been a very brief time. And, when enjoying the fruits of his wealth, would the thought ever spring unbidden to his mind, "I purchased this with the price of eternal life; for this I gave up the hope of being perfect; this I chose rather than follow the good Master'"? He who forsakes all for Christ finds all in Christ; but he who has any possession which he would not forego, even for eternal life, loses both the life and the possession. Well may the hope be cherished that this one on whom the loving look, if not the loving kiss, of Christ rested, turned again, and laid all at his feet, yea, "and his own life also," or joined those who "were possessors of lands or houses," and who "sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet." Gently did Jesus thus teach the rich ruler that with all his wealth he lacked at least "one thing." He that would have eternal life as an inheritance must establish his claim, and that claim must be faultless. One flaw is sufficient to invalidate that claim. Further, the Lord taught that eternal life is ours, not by this title of inheritance, but is a gift of God.—G.
The entry of the rich into the kingdom of heaven.
So impressive a scene as that which had just been witnessed needed some explanation, and was well suited to be the basis of important teaching. With much meaning, therefore, "Jesus looked round about," and, arresting the attention of his disciples, taught them further concerning the entry of the rich into the kingdom of God.
I. IT IS DIFFICULT. It is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom! But that difficulty lies, not as the disciples thought, simply in the possession of riches, but in the proneness of men to love riches. And how short is the step from having riches to loving them! Only by exertion, only by the painfulness of self-denial, by giving up trust in riches and fondness for them, can the rich enter the kingdom of heaven. How hard is this to them who have abundance! How easy it seems to them who possess little! So difficult did this appear to him who knew all men, that the parabolic illustration has no extravagance, though to the disciples it shut out all hope, and rightly so from their point of view, as was confirmed by the Master's word, made the more impressive by his tender look—"With men it is impossible." Happily, however, there are springs of hope for men other than those which rise from among themselves. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." So it comes to pass that, concerning the entry of rich men into the kingdom of heaven, it may be proclaimed—
II. IT IS POSSIBLE. Yes, it is "possible with God," without whom, indeed, nothing is possible. The human inability to effect salvation stands in direct contrast to the efficiency of Divine grace. Many things hinder the salvation of men; but few have more power than "the deceitfulness of riches," which lure to self-security and self-indulgence, which lead men to think they are better than other men, and are not in the same danger or need. The voice of riches is a syren voice; the hold of riches on the heart is firm as a death-grip. Riches prevent the lowliness, the childlike feeling of utter nothingness, of trustful timidity, of tractable weakness. They inspire a false sense of strength, and security, and abundance, and superiority. Often are they the devil's counters with which he buys men's souls. But "with God" the mighty may be made to feel themselves feeble, the wealthy to be truly poor. Great is the trust reposed; great the difficulty of fidelity. But "with God" even this may be done. And in our days, as has been happily in all the days of Christ's Church, men have learned to forsake all—even when that all was much—to follow Christ in lowly humility, in the poverty of self-abasement. Let the poor know that if they lack the hindrance which riches throw in the way, they also need the help of God; if they will rise and accept it, that help shall be freely given. And let the rich know that help awaits them; if they will stoop lowly and ask, it shall not be withheld from them. Then shall "the brother of low degree glory in his high estate: and the rich in that he is made low." All of us are poor before God; all by him, and by him alone, may be made rich. In proportion as the rich become poor shall they be truly enriched; and it shall be proved that they who press through difficulties hard as the passing of a camel through a needle's eye, are not left unrequited. Of the entry of the rich into the kingdom of heaven it may further be said—
III. IT IS REWARDED. How gently did the Lord of all warn his disciples of days of poverty and loss which were coming upon them apace, when both voluntarily, in the fullness of their love, they would sell "their possessions and goods, and part them to all according as any had need," and when with ruthless hands all would be tern from them; when "houses" and "lands" would be confiscated; when from the fellowship of brethren and sisters, of mother and father, and even from their own children, they would be separated "for the gospel's sake"! But how graciously did he assure them of the "hundredfold" which should be repaid them "now in this time," though "with persecutions;" and the great reward which should be theirs in the hereafter—"in the world to come eternal life." Who of the many disciples of those early times of suffering and persecutions was not rich in "house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands"? And who that "left" these for his "sake and for the gospel's sake" did not—does not and will not ever—find, in the undying love and fellowship of the great spiritual community, and in the eternal riches of the heavenly inheritance, more than the "hundredfold"? Yet shall there be no pre-eminence, but a true equality; for the "first shall be last, and the last first."—G.
The post of honor.
How soon are the Master's words misapprehended! James and John, concerning whom it is recorded that on the call of Jesus "they straightway left the boat and their father, and followed him," come now apparently to secure the promised reward. With cautious words, and by the aid of their mother, the demand is urged upon that good Master on whose lips are ever the gracious words, "What would ye that I should do for you?" We would fain "sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory." Ah! the old leaven is not yet wholly purged out. The self-seeking, the love of supremacy, place, and honor still lurk within. The chaff mingles with the pure grain. He who holds the winnowing fan is at hand; and with decisive though gentle words, heavily weighted with their sad import, corrects their error. He had but recently "in the way" told them "the things that were to happen unto him." Direful were the words, "The Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall spit upon him, and shall scourge him, and shall kill him; and after three days he shall rise again." But these words could have had little influence, for "they understood none of these things." Perchance then they understood not "the cup that I drink," or "the baptism that I am baptized with," or there had not been so ready a response, "We are able." With prophetic eyes the Master sees the future of these brethren, and declares, "The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized. Doubtless "this saying" also "was hid from them" until the very hour when that cup touched their lips, or the waters of that baptism fell upon them. But even this could not entitle them to the high place they desired; certainly not on the grounds they desired it—that of arbitrary selection. It is given to them "for whom it hath been prepared." Out of all this the lesson arises—
I. THAT THE POSTS OF REAL HONOUR ARE NOT ATTAINED BY MERE FAVOUR OR BY ARBITRARY ALLOTMENT. All such endowment, either in the kingdom of heaven or among men, would instantly rob the distinction of all worthiness and make it a sham. The incident presents an example of that kind of false estimate of honor which supposes that it can be conferred without regard to the fitness of him who seeks it. It is true medals may be placed on the breast of him who has never fought, and the ribbon may adorn him who never did one deed of distinction; but such a decoration is a deceit or an empty title—a mere ribbon which a child might wear. No mere will of the ruler can make a life honorable and worthy. Signs of a sovereign beneficence may be heaped upon favourites, but they add no lustre to the character of him who is adorned or enriched. And the posts of honor in the highest of all kingdoms are not assigned arbitrarily to favored ones. As the kingdom is open to all, so are its seats of honor. Each receives according to his deserts—"according as his work shall be."
II. So is learnt a second lesson like unto the first: ALL TRUE HONOUR LIES IN SERVICE AND MERIT, NOT IN ITS RECOGNITION. HOW often are men attracted by the reward! They esteem the honor which attaches to attainments, to position, to wealth, to learning, or brave deeds. The eye is on the medal. Such seldom do much that is worthy, or make themselves really great. The man who works for praise and prizes is selfish and little, and the world in its deep heart hates both. He has his reward. Others steadily do their duty, undiverted by anxiety respecting honor; these finally achieve true distinction. So is it in all kingdoms.
III. IN THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM HONOUR COMES TO HIM WHO IS MEET FOR IT. Christ has no favourites to lift to emolument and dignity. He who would reach the highest place must climb up to it. But how many truly and wisely desire to stand well in the heavenly kingdom? They desire a happy freedom from evil, a lot among the sanctified! It is well. Yet the words, of the great Lord come back to such, "Ye know not what ye ask." Would you be spiritually great? Would you make high attainments in spiritual knowledge? Would you do good works in the spiritual kingdom? How much of self-denial, of patient labor, of disciplinary correction—"the chastening of the Lord," which we should "regard not lightly"—how much of sacrificial endurance is needed! How many hours of quiet communion must be passed with the Redeemer if we would catch his spirit! How much of fasting and prayer, and diligent self-culture, and patient self, denial! How many strong acts of faith! What baptism of fire, what bitterness of the cup, is needed to make the disciple like his Master! But after all another spirit is to prevail. Christ's disciples are exhorted not to aim at superiority of position, at rank and order. Let the Gentiles "lord it over" one another. "It is not so among you." The greatest is the least truly. The minister, the servant of all, is chief and first. The true lesson being, "In my kingdom there is neither first nor last, highest nor lowest, near and afar off. Dismiss the thought of primacy. Look not for high places. Such there are not in my kingdom. Look for posts of service. Fix your eye on your ministering, and remember that the Lord of all came to give all—even 'his life a ransom for many'"—G.
On the roadside near Jericho sat a blind beggar, making his appeals to the pilgrims that passed up to Jerusalem to attend the feast. "A great multitude" accompanied Jesus on his leaving Jericho on his way to the holy city. The tramp of many feet and the hum of many voices caught the quick ear of the sufferer, and "he inquired what this meant." Learning it was "Jesus of Nazareth," he, having evidently some knowledge of the great Healer, cried aloud, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" Thus did the blind sufferer of that day formulate a cry—a prayer for all sufferers and sinners in all subsequent ages; a cry which will ascend to heaven as long as suffering saddens the history of our race. The hindering, self-occupied crowd strove to silence the cry. But the very impediment to his earnestness only gave greater intensity to it, and "he cried out the more a great deal" the same pitiful words. As every earnest, fervent prayer, this entered the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, without whom not one sparrow falleth, and who again and again had laid an emphasis of attention on individual sufferers and sinners. Standing still, for a cry of need arrests him, he silenced their rude, unfriendly words by, "Call ye him." Then the same selfish spirit veers round to the favourite, and they cheer him and bid him rise. Casting aside his loosely flowing garment, he sprang to his feet and came to Jesus." Brief and beautiful is the colloquy, in its sweet and simple haste. "What wilt thou?" "My sight." "Go... thy faith" hath brought it thee. Straightway he receives his sight, and follows in the way. Brief as this narrative is, it holds much teaching.
I. ON THE TRUE METHOD OF PRAYER.
II. OH THE SPIRIT OF HIM TO WHOM PRAYER IS ADDRESSED. Prayer springs from a sense of need, and it must express the sincere desire of him who prays. Words thrown into the form of a petition do not of themselves constitute prayer; without the heart of him who utters them they are dead, being alone. He who asks with his lips only cannot expect him in hear who looketh on the heart. Prayer must needs be offered to One who it is believed is able to answer. Jesus laid down the clear and definite rule in his demand," Believe ye that I am able to do this?" "The prayer of faith" is the true prayer, though the patient Lord will "forgive" even the "unbelief" of timidity. Nevertheless, the Lord declares the immediate cause of the answering cure in this case: "Thy faith hath made thee whole." Prayer must be prepared to push its way through surrounding discouragements and opposition; nor will it exceed propriety if it the more fervently plead by how much it is hindered and impeded. Prayer must, moreover, have respect to proper objects. Here one imperfectness in the life called forth the one petition when the "What wilt thou that I should do?" opened wide the permission to ask many things. Surely to him who came to redeem life, it was a perfectly right subject of petition: "That I may receive my sight." Thus we learn that for the freeing of the life from its incumbent evils, and for whatever will lead that life on to perfectness, we may ask, and ask in the full assurance of faith, in the readiness and ability of the Lord of life to hear and to answer. Happy the man who has learned thus to pray.—G.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The law of marriage.
I. THE DIRECTIONS OF SCRIPTURE FOLLOW THE OLDER LAW OF NATURE.
II. THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE IS FOUNDED ON NATURE.
III. IN ITS IDEAL, MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE, AND INDISSOLUBLE.
IV. YET THE ACTUAL CONDITION OF HUMAN NATURE COMPELS SOME RELAXATION.
V. BUT WHAT IS PERMITTED IS NOT, THEREFORE, TO BE APPROVED OR FOLLOWED PRACTICALLY. Christianity is throughout ideal. It makes appeal to our higher nature. At the same time, it admits the difficulty of carrying our ideals unexceptionably into practice.—J.
The blessing of the children.
I. THE CONTRAST: WHAT MEN THINK IMPORTANT, AND WHAT GOD RECOGNIZES AS OF WORTH. Children am "only children." They are often "in the way." They are "out of place." They are to be "sent out of the way." But Divine intelligence and love shed a bright light upon the little ones. They are living parables of the Christian spirit. Ever are they to be associated with Christ. Learning, wealth, rank,—all draw away from our true attitude, nay, tend to falsify our spirit. 'Tis the sight of the children that must win us back.
II. CHRISTIANITY THE RELIGION OF REVERENCE FOR THOSE BELOW US. In them God is found. "The religion of reverence for what is above us is ethnic religion. This delivers from degrading fear. The religion of reverence for what is around us is the philosophical. The philosopher stations himself in the middle, and must draw up to him all that is lower, and down to him all that is higher. This is the religion of wisdom. Reverence for what is under us,—this is Christian, and is the last step mankind was fitted and destined to attain" (Goethe). The lowly, the hated, the despised, the contradictory, are glorified by the insight and the sympathy of Christ.—J.
The rich man's temptation.
I. THE RICH MAN FEELS THE NEED OF SALVATION. "Money answereth all things," but only in a limited sphere after all. Riches bind as well as set free; close certain doors to the spirit, as well as open them to others. The poor man knows "straitness" of one kind, the wealthy man another. Could he but unite the advantages of wealth with freedom and joy of spirit!
II. SALVATION IS POSSIBLE TO THE RICH MAN. But the practical conditions may be different from those in other cases. It is some idea, some phantasy, a pride, or a dread, or a lust, that every man needs to expel from his mind in order to salvation. In some way the idea of his riches stood in the way of this man's bliss. But the way to salvation was pointed out to him. It would be wrong to generalize the direction of the Savior. All that can be said is that there doubtless are cases where entire renunciation may be indispensable to salvation. The principle is: the false opinion of ourselves must be given up, and our being must be grounded on the truth, if we would "enter into life."
III. IT IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS IN THE WORLD TO RENOUNCE RICHES. How very rare are the cases where this is done! For money represents our root in earth. Let us, without affectation or hypocrisy, confess that it is so. Power, service, and estimation of others, a flattering self-representation,—this is what riches mean. To have grown into this circle of ideas, and to be asked suddenly to break them up, 'tis a wrench, like parting with life itself. But let us not exaggerate in any particular. Renunciation of any object with which the imagination in its dearest play is interwoven, is hard. It may be as hard for some to give up the retirement of a humble home for Christ's sake, as for others to renounce station and splendor.—J.
I. "MORAL IMPOSSIBILITIES" IS A PHRASE OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Like all such phrases, saws, and proverbs, it represents the side of truth that is obvious and turned to general view. Men being what they arc, certain changes in the character and conduct are not likely, are scarcely probable or possible. So we argue, and justly. So Jesus speaks, using a very strong figure of speech.
II. "MORAL IMPOSSIBILITIES" MAY NEVERTHELESS BE OVERCOME. AS Napoleon, in the physical sphere, blotted the word "impossible" from his dictionary, so is the Christian taught to do in the moral sphere. In one light, it looks unlikely that anybody can be saved, considering the power of sin, the "weight," and the "besetment," and the apparent lack of moral energy. But nothing that is conceivable is impossible. Nothing that is morally desirable may not be expected to come to pass.
1. We are prone to a scepticism about our own nature, which we ought to overcome. It is not justifiable, in the light of the facts of history, of personal experience, of the might and love of God.
2. A deep faith in the possibilities of human nature is inspired by the love of God. Love is the spring of the human mechanism, the leaven that works in its lump, the struggling force contending against immense disadvantages, but destined to final victory. "All things are possible with God!"—J.
I. TO EXPECT COMPENSATION FOR WORTHY LOSS IS NATURAL AND RIGHT. The gospel encourages this. Compensation is founded on the law of things. God hath set the one over against the other. The conservation of energy is a law that applies to the life of the soul. "It will be made good to us." We cannot help feeling that the integrity of our being has a worth which must be preserved.
II. CHRIST ENCOURAGES THIS EXPECTATION TO THE HIGHEST DEGREE. Self-abandonment to the good cause will bring its reward. God pays a high rate of interest.
"Fear not, then, thou child infirm;
There's no God that will wrong a worm.
Laurel crowns cleave to deserts,
And power to him who power exerts.
Hast not thy share? On winged feet,
Lo! it rushes thee to meet;
And all that Nature made thy own,
Floating in air, or pent in stone,
Will rive the hills and swim the sea,
And, like thy shadow, follow thee."
"Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer." "The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison a more illustrious abode; every burned book enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side."
III. THIS PRINCIPLE HAS UNEXPECTED APPLICATIONS. Success is not always what it seems; nor apparent failure. There will be great "reversals of human judgment" (see Mozley's fine sermon on this). "Those who begin early and do much are not always preferred." Some show in the front early in life's race, but fail of the goal. Others lag at first, and come out first in the end. Gain in power may be loss in time; or self-extension involve loss of intensity. The great lesson is to live for the soul, for the inner and spiritual world. Everything gained then is gained for ever; and seeming loss and failure are converted into means of progress.—J.
The coincidence of opposites.
Once more the forecast of shame and death.
I. MEN FLY IN THE FACE OF THEIR INTEREST, AND TREAT THEIR BENEFACTORS AS ENEMIES. Christ foresaw that the ruling party would be angry with him "because he told them the truth." And we partake of this guilt. We are blind to love in its disguise. We hate that which reproaches us. It is an error of the understanding and of the heart.
II. PROVIDENCE BRINGS GOOD OUT OF OUR EVIL, AND FURTHERS OUR SALVATION IN SPITE OF OURSELVES. So limited is the power of passion, it gains but a momentary end. The patriot or the traitor falls by the hand of the assassin or the judicial murderer; and his principle takes the deeper root, watered by his blood. Christ's resurrection is the eternal type of all moral victories.—J.
It is ambition for place and power that is here illustrated.
I. IT IS NATURAL IN THE SENSE IN WHICH ALL HUMAN INSTINCTS ARE NATURAL.
1. To be without ambition of some kind is a defect of organization; a negative, not a positive; a weakness, not a virtue. Man is man because he aspires. He ceases from his worth when he becomes content to remain what he is. Milton speaks of the last "infirmity of noble minds." It is an infirmity of which a man will be ashamed to be ashamed, though he will try to conceal it under that name from others. Shakespeare makes one of his characters exclaim, "If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive."
2. This passion reveals our social nature. We delight in the picture of others' respect, love, obedience, esteem. Such pictures goad us to our noblest actions.
3. Vice lies not in the passion itself, but in the wrong direction of the will, the mistake of our proper objects. We are ambitious to govern when we are only fit to serve; to teach when we should still be learning; to act when we have need to be acted upon; to be artists when we are only fit for clay, to be moulded by the Divine Artist; to be assessors of Christ when our initiation into the ways of the kingdom has only just begun.
II. CHRIST'S CORRECTION OF AMBITION.
1. By showing its ignorance of its proper objects. There is a condition attached to every distinction. The price must be paid. Have we counted the cost? One illusion is that we separate the pleasure from the means to it in our thought. Another is that we represent to ourselves incompatible things, e.g. a high place with a satisfaction only to be obtained by working up from a low place. Crabb Robinson said that having read, as a young man, Mrs. Barbauld's essay on the vanity of inconsistent expectations, it had cured him for life of idle wishes.
2. By showing its impossibility. Places are reserved in Providence for those fit to fill them. In the kingdom of God there is no putting of wrong men into wrong places. The principle of spiritual selection unerringly prevails in the kingdom, and "the fittest survive." The path of self-denial and suffering is open to all. It coincides at many points with that of duty for all; and it may be throughout coincident for some. It leads to blessing, but that blessing is internal. If we confound the inward blessing with the outward place, we deceive ourselves. If God gives us the higher, let us not envy those to whom he is pleased to allot the lower.
III. CHRIST'S EXPOSURE OF THE UNSOCIAL CHARACTER OF AMBITION.
1. The other disciples were indignant when the failings of the brethren were brought to light. Our secret vices never look so hideous as when we see them mirrored in another. For then the illusion of self-love has vanished, and we stand before the naked and ugly fact.
2. To desire to be above others is not Christian. To dominate and exact is the reverse of the Christian temper. It makes self the center the world revolves around. To serve, to be useful, is the Christian temper; this makes human good the center of every sphere of life—the family, the Church, the nation.
3. The example of Christ is the eternal light for conduct. His glory arises out of service, as in an immortal passage St. Paul teaches (Philippians 2:1-30.). Without method there is nothing sound. We need a method of thought and life—to put the first before the second. The whole is before the part, humanity more than the individual; there must be giving in order to receiving; and for the highest possible objects of our aspiration nothing less than the whole life must be paid.—J.
Viewed from the side of Christ, the incident may teach—
I. THE OPENING OF THE EYES OF THE BLIND IS THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY. If the physical boon be great, let it express for us the far greater spiritual boon. Ignorance is painfully felt by large numbers. Few who have not received a good education but bitterly feel the lack at some period or other of their life. In spreading knowledge freely we follow the example of Christ.
II. THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY IS PECULIARLY TO THE LOWLY AND THE MEAN. It is easier to be kind to our inferiors than to avoid jealousy among our equals. The gifts that bless beth giver and receiver the most are worth much, though they cost little. From the side of Bartimaeus we may reflect—
III. LONG SITTING IN DARKNESS MAY PREPARE FOR THE WELCOMING OF THE LIGHT. Yet in the darkness the lamp of hope may be kept burning, as did Bartimaeus. "In our griefs we find reliefs." As every night gives place to morning, so the very constitution of nature prophesies the deliverance of mankind and of the individual. The memories of the dark hours of life mingle with attained joys. Life would not have its full significance without these mingled threads in the texture.
IV. PERSEVERANCE IS EVER REWARDED. Faith proves itself by constancy, and is in fact the perseverance of the whole man towards his hope, the realization of his life in God. In the change of events, things will change for the better to him who endures. "All things come round to him who waits." "Yet a little while, and he who is on the way shall come." The tarrying of God is in our imagination. To gain one sight, to see God and the world in God,—this compensates for an age of waiting and watching, suffering and toil of the spirit.—J.
HOMILIES BY J.J. GIVEN
Parallel passage: Matthew 19:3-12.—
Doctrine of divorce.
I. EVENTS IN THE INTERVAL. There is a gap in the narrative of St. Mark between the events of the preceding and present chapter. We need not do more than intimate them, and that for the continuity of the history. They are the following:—
1. His journey to Jerusalem on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles.
2. Occurrences by the way:
3. The sending out of the seventy, and its similarity to the previous mission of the twelve.
4. Presence and preaching at the Feast of Tabernacles.
5. Various discourses during that feast, as recorded in the eighth chapter of St. John's Gospel, and escape from a murderous assault.
6. Ministrations in Judaea, recorded in part by St. Luke (10-13.) and partly by St. John (9-11.), including the following:—
7. His tour through Peroea, referred to in Matthew 19:1, Matthew 19:2, and Mark 10:1; his teaching during that tour, recorded by St. Luke (Lu 13:22-18:10), including, among other things,
II. A NEW DEPARTURE. The Pharisees now Change their tactics, and adopt a new mode of opposition. They, in fact, make new departure. The old hostility remains bitter as ever, or perhaps is increasing in intensity, but the manner of its manifestation is new. Up till this period their method of attack consisted in fault-finding—objecting to the conduct of our Lord and his apostles, or taxing them with violations of the Law; henceforth it consists in questioning—captious questioning—for the purpose of eliciting his opinion on doubtful or debatable matters in order to entangle him. The subjects on which his views were sought were those keenly discussed by the Jews of that day, and an answer could scarcely fail to give offense to some party or expose him to peril on some side. The present question was eminently one of this class. It was likely to entrap him into the charge of lax morality on the one hand, or of want of respect for the authority of Moses on the other; perhaps to embroil him with the tetrarch Herod Antipas, in whose dominions he now was.
III. THE ORIGINAL MARRIAGE LAW. In the days of our Lord one of the burning questions was the law of divorce. The school of Shammai limited the law of divorce, and allowed it only in the case of adultery; that of Hillel affirmed its legitimacy in case of dislike, or disobedience, or incompatibility in general, thus granting an arbitrary or discretionary power in the matter. The ground of the controversy is found in a difficult or obscure expression in Deuteronomy 24:1, Deuteronomy 24:2, where we read, "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife." The difficulty or obscurity of this passage arises from the original words ervath davar, rendered "some uncleanness" in the text of our version, and in the margin, "matter of nakedness," or more exactly still, "nakedness of word or matter." The important point to be determined, and that which produced such diversity of opinion in its determination, was whether the expression referred to meant lewdness or merely something disagreeable.
IV. NATURE OF THE BILL OF DIVORCEMENT. The bill of divorcement was called "a writing of cutting off" (sepher kerithuth). This bill or writing of divorcement implied, not only a mere separation from bed and board, as some restrict it, but a complete severance of the marriage tie. It was a certificate of repudiation, and either stated or omitted the cause of such repudiation. If the cause was adultery or a suspicion of adultery, the husband might prove himself ( δίκαιος) just (vide Matthew 1:19), that is, a strict observer of the Law in dismissing the guilty wife with a bill of divorcement; and yet, not wishing to expose her, he might send her away privately. If, however, the guilty person or the suspected person were brought openly to justice, and the crime proved, certain death was the penalty, as is distinctly stated in Le Deuteronomy 20:10, "The man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Most commonly, therefore, when a bill of divorcement was resorted to in accordance with the Mosaic permission, it was for some less cause or minor offense than conjugal infidelity; and in such cases it served the wife as a certificate of character.
V. REASON OF THIS WRITING. Our Lord, in his reply, proceeds to the original marriage law; first, however, accounting for the Mosaic regulation referred to. That regulation is regarded by many as a relaxation of the Law; but it can scarcely be viewed in that light, because it would thus appear to be a lowering of the standard in favor of wrong-doing. It was rather a remedy for harsh treatment of wives, resulting from violations of the Law; it was rather a relief bill for wives who suffered from the unkindness of cruel husbands acting in defiance of the Law. It was a remedial measure to check the bad effects of their hardness of heart; it was to ( πρὸς) this the lawgiver had respect. It was, in fact, to minimize the evil results that proceeded from their transgression of the Law rather than any relaxation of the Law itself. Of two evils it was the less, and even the less owed its existence to their hardness of heart. Besides, it was not an express command, as the Pharisees appear to make it from the word ἐνετείλατο in Matthew, but a permissory injunction ( ἐπέτρεψε), as subsequently acknowledged by the Pharisees themselves.
VI. ORIGINAL MARRIAGE LAW. The Savior argues the indissoluble nature of the marriage law from the original unity of male and female, from the extreme closeness of the marriage bond taking precedence of every other union even parental and filial; above all, from its Divine origin. Marriage was thus an ordinance of God; it was instituted in Paradise in those bright and sunny bowers before sin had marred the freshness and the loveliness of the new-created world. Even then God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, and accordingly he gave him a help meet for him—one that was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto [literally, be glued unto] his wife: and they shall be one flesh." It was an ordinance of God himself, an ordinance nearly coeval with the creation, an ordinance made for man even in his unfallen state of innocence, an ordinance which our blessed Redeemer himself, when in sinless humanity he trod our earth and tabernacled among our race, honored with his presence, and at the celebration of which he was graciously pleased to work his first miracle. In Cana of Galilee, at the marriage at which Jesus and his disciples and his mother were present, Jesus made the beginning of his miracles by turning water into wine, manifesting forth his glory, "and his disciples believed on him."
"Living, he own'd no nuptial vow,
No bower to Fancy dear:
Love's very self—for him no need
To nurse, on earth, the heavenly seed:
Yet comfort in his eye we read
For bridal joy and fear."
The conclusion at which he arrives is in keeping with all this—that an institution created by God at first, coeval with our race, and confirmed by so many sanctions, can neither be nullified nor modified by any human enactment, nor set aside by any authority other than his who created it. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
VII. ONE EXCEPTION TAKEN FOR GRANTED. Conjugal infidelity, as it is a violation of the marriage vow, is a virtual dissolution of the marriage relation. This is implied or taken for granted in the passage before us, though it is expressly stated, in the parallel passage of St. Matthew, where it is written, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." With respect to marriage with the divorced wife, there is a great and important diversity of sentiment. This diversity is in a certain way and to some extent connected with the right rendering of the word ἀπολελυμένην in Matthew 19:9.
1. Some translate it as if it were preceded by τὴν, and so equivalent to "her which is put away," or "the divorced woman." Thus it stands in the common English Version, and reference to the woman lawfully divorced, that is, for fornication, is presumed.
2. Others, more accurately, render it "her when she is put away," as it is translated in the Revised Version, the reference being thus to her who is unlawfully divorced, that is, divorced not on the ground of adultery. This view is maintained by Stier and Meyer, the latter confirming it by the fact that "under the Law the punishment of death was attached to adultery,… and consequently, under the Law, the marrying of a woman divorced for adultery could never happen."
3. There is, however, another rendering, namely, "a divorced woman," that is, any divorced woman. This is the rendering advocated by Wordsworth, who says, "In no case does our Lord permit a person to marry a woman who has been divorced." This is the view of the matter taken by the Latin Church, which declares marriage with a divorced woman under any circumstances unlawful. The Oriental and most Reformed Churches, on the contrary, hold that, in the excepted case, both husband and wife may contract a fresh marriage. These are the two extreme views; but what of the ease of unlawful divorce, that is to say, where the wife has been divorced for some other and less offense than that of adultery, or πορνεία, which is of widest extent, comprehending ante-nuptial as well as post-nuptial unchastity ( μοιχεία)? This is the case to which the guilt of subsequent marriage attaches, for it is that in which the marriage bond has not been really ruptured. The delay connected with getting a divorce or after its being granted might give time for better counsels to prevail; second thoughts might be found preferable; angry passion might in the mean time cool down, and reconciliation and reunion be effected.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17.—
I. CHILDREN BROUGHT AND BLESSED.
1. Our Lord's love of children. Our Lord, when on earth, had no greater favourites than children. He set them in the midst; he laid his hands on them; he blessed them; he invited them to his presence; he welcomed them to his person; he folded them lovingly in his arms. He calls them the lambs of his flock; he provides them suitable spiritual food, and with it he bids us feed them. He represents by them his faithful followers; he reproves his disciples when they would have prevented their access to him. He reminds us all that they are precious in our heavenly Father's sight, preserved by his providence and protected by his power. He assures us, as we have seen, that "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
2. Individual features of the three narratives. The request of those who brought the little children, as reported by St. Matthew, is not only that the Savior should touch them, as in St. Mark and St. Luke; but "put his hands on them, and pray." In St. Mark, we are told that Jesus not only touched the little children, as requested, but "took them up in his arms." They thus got more than they asked. This is usually the way with Christ; he does more for us than we ask or think. An additional feature of the narrative, as supplied by St. Luke, is that some of these children were of very tender age—mere infants
II. THE CHANGE BY WHICH WE BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN.
1. A parallel passage. In St. Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 18:3) we have a statement exactly corresponding to the fifteenth verse of this tenth chapter of St. Mark, with this difference, however, that the former passage goes further back, bringing us up to the turning-point at which we become as little children. The verse referred to reads thus, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God;" the Revised Version has, "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." This rendering of εἰσέλθητε in the last clause brings out the meaning with due emphasis, and is thus more accurate than that of the common version; the substitution of turn for be converted in the first clause is intended to divest the term of the technical theological sense which some attach to it. The word στραφῆτε (second aorist passive) may be translated as a passive, or as a middle, since the aorists passive have often a middle meaning, equivalent to turn yourselves, or simply turn intransitively, as we have it in the Revised Version. In its application, as shown by the context, it urged those addressed to turn away from their ambitious notions, self-seeking eagerness, and fondness for precedence. The term is general, we readily acknowledge, and denotes a change such as that referred to; hut before men are capable of turning from the courses indicated, and of exhibiting the characteristics of little children, they must have become the subjects of a special and greater change, of which that immediately referred to is a manifestation. We may read the statement of St. Mark, that "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein," or, as it is more accurately rendered in the Revised Version, "he shall in no wise enter therein," in the light which St. Matthew's statement sheds on it.
2. Divine agency. We have seen that the word in the closely corresponding text is limited by some, and may indeed be limited, to its literal sense, and understood of a turning away from such high-mindedness as the disciples had displayed on that occasion—a turning away from such haughtiness of spirit as led to the question asked by them, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Others may be disposed to take it in the sense of recovery from backsliding, of a return to the Lord after some wrong step, as a compound form of the same verb is employed ( ἐπιστρέψας) in the words addressed to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen the brethren; or, as we read it in the Revised Version, "And do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren." Others may prefer the wider and more technical sense of conversion. But whatever sense be attached to the one particular term, a change effected by Divine agency must be presupposed; otherwise the changes implied in the lower sense cannot be rightly accomplished, nor the characteristics of childhood fully attained. "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein," is the statement of St. Mark, and suggests the inquiry—What is it to receive the kingdom of God? Now, to take the simplest and plainest view of this matter, to receive the kingdom of God is to receive the gospel of the kingdom; and to receive the gospel of the kingdom is to receive him who is the Subject of that gospel, and the Sovereign of that kingdom—the Christian's King and Head; and to receive him, again, is the turning-point in a man's spiritual history, the greatest and most important event of his whole life. This reception of the Savior implies faith of the operation of God—faith, which is God's gift and the Spirit's work in the heart. Wherever faith exists, even as a grain of mustard seed, Christ is formed in the heart. It matters little what name is given to this change, whether we call it "the new birth," or "regeneration," or "conversion;" to be subjects of it is the great thing, for it is the principle of all right action, and the prolific source of all Christian graces and of all truly virtuous conduct.
3. Statement of a difference. We may notice a difference which will help to a clearer apprehension of the change in question. Conversion is akin to regeneration; it is most nearly similar, and cannot be separated from it, and yet it is not quite the same thing. Regeneration implants a new principle in the soul; conversion is the practical putting forth of that principle. Regeneration imparts new life to the soul; conversion is the exercise of that life. Regeneration bestows new power; conversion is the manifestation of that power. For sake of illustration, let us suppose a man dead and buried. Regeneration may be compared to life entering into the sepulcher, opening the eyes that death had scaled, giving back the healthy color to the cheeks and causing the vital fluid once more to circulate through all the frame; conversion may be represented by the same man, after being thus reanimated, exerting the power of life which he has just received, rising up from among the dead, coming forth from the tomb, and entering on the various duties and activities of life. Conversion and regeneration are thus so closely linked together as cause and effect that they often stand for one another.
4. Human instrumentality. Here, too, the power of God and the work of man unite; Divine agency and human instrumentality combine. The hand of man may roll away the stone and remove the grave-clothes, as in the case of Lazarus; but nothing short of the power of God can resuscitate the buried corpse, or speak the dead to life. So, also, it is when the dead in trespasses and sins are quickened. By the instrumentality of man, the stone that stops the mouth of the sepulcher may be taken away and the grave-clothes unbound; but nothing less than "the working of God's mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," can make any one of us alive through Christ Jesus. We may preach and pray, and it is our duty to combine both, and our privilege to engage in either; but the power that raises the dead to life is the power, and not only the power, but the mighty power of God. The prophet of old acknowledged this, for after he had prophesied to the dry bones in the valley of vision, he followed up his prophesying by prayer, saying, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." The psalmist felt the same when he said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." The apostle was of the same mind when he wrote, "But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)."
5. The means employed, and the manner in which the change is effected. God treats us as reasonable beings; he makes his appeal to the faculties with which he has endowed us. He addresses us as his intelligent creatures, and challenges us to inquiry, saying, "Judge ye what I say." He speaks to us in his Word and by his ambassadors, and even entreats us to be reconciled to God. He bestows his Spirit, for without the agency of that Spirit all the rest would be but as the rolling away of the stone and the unbinding of the grave-clothes already spoken of.
6. The nature of the change. After the creation of the heavens and the earth, the first work of God was light. God said, "Let there be light." In the change in question, which, for convenience' sake, we may call conversion, the first work is also light; he enlightens our understanding in the knowledge of Christ. God's Word, indeed, is light, "a light to our feet;" but while we are unconverted there are scales on our eyes, and if we see at all, it is only "men like trees, walking." The Spirit takes away the scales; and we see the suitability and sufficiency of the Savior, the completeness of his work, the fullness of his offices, the freeness of his mercy, the riches of his grace, the length and breadth and depth and height of his love; we see also our sins in the light of his sufferings, and his sufferings endured for and expiating our sins. This is not all; it is not enough to have light in the head. There is often natural light, intellectual light, the light of science, even the light of theological speculation or doctrine or controversy; but such light by itself never brought any soul to the Savior. Of such light we may say, it is the light of the moon shining on an iceberg away in a frozen sea; it is the nocturnal light of twinkling stars, as they sparkle in the firmament, and shed their flickering radiance on some far-off mountain capped with snow. In this gracious change there is an additional element. With light in the head it combines love in the heart. Like light and heat from the same fire, they go hand in hand. The heart follows the head, and they act and react upon each other. The will obeys the understanding, and the affections go along with both. The subject of this blessed change can say with one of old, "Whereas I was blind, now I see;" but he goes further, and can say with the apostle, "The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which was given unto us." The regenerate soul can say, "I know whom I have believed;" but it stops not there; it adds, "Whom having not seen, I love." Conversion, if we may use the term in its popular sense, is the love of Christ constraining us; it is the Word of Christ instructing us; it is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" it is the work of Christ renewing us; it is the Spirit of Christ enlightening us; it is the life of Christ imparted to us—"because I live, ye shall live also;" it is the love of him "who first loved us, and gave himself for us." This love expels the enmity of the carnal mind, gives a new bent to the will and a new bias to the feelings; it lays hold of the affections, and influences all the energies of our being, operating at once on the faculties of the mind and the members of the body. It is God making us willing, as well as welcome, to be his people in the day of his power.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDHOOD.
1. Infant salvation. When it is said that "of such [that is, children] is the kingdom of God," it may mean children literally; and so many understand it, and refer kingdom to the state of future blessedness, maintaining that, as the majority of mankind die in infancy, and as they are redeemed, children will constitute the majority of the saved. But there is another interpretation, which understands children spiritually, that is, those who resemble children in character; thus St. Paul says, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." While we are fully persuaded that all children dying in infancy are saved because of the superabundant grace of God in Christ Jesus, we are far from supposing that regeneration is not necessary in case of children as well as of others. Indeed, the Word of God proves it indispensable; for thus says the psalmist, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" and again, "We go astray as soon as we be born, speaking lies;" and further, the Prophet Isaiah says," All we like sheep have gone astray." It thus becomes our duty to seek, by all available means, to bring children to Christ the Good Shepherd, who carries the lambs in his besom, that he may bless them and make them members of his flock. There are, however, several characteristics of children which serve well to illustrate the character and conduct of God's spiritual children.
2. The first characteristic is humility. When converted to God, we become like little children in humility. Pride is the ruin of our race; we trace it back to Paradise. Satan introduced it there. It was the great inducement with our first parents that they should be "as Gods, knowing good and evil." We mark its dark waters along the stream of time from then till now. It was a fruitful source of disaster to King David. In the pride of his heart he numbered the people, and the dreadfully calamitous choice was allowed him to elect between seven years' famine, three months' war, or three days' pestilence. Another instance occurs in the case of Naaman, commander-in-chief of the host of Syria. Leprous as he was, and consequently miserable as he must have been, he felt his pride wounded when the prophet directed him to wash seven times in Jordan; he turned away in a rage, saying, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" Come we to New Testament times, we have another still more awful instance of pride and its punishment. Herod sat upon his kingly throne; he made an oration—a king's speech, and more eloquent, no doubt, than royal speeches generally are; at all events, the people were in raptures with him and it, so that they shouted, "It is the voice of a God, and not of a man." He was arrayed in royal robes; he was proud of his pomp, of his power, and of his popularity. But the angel of the Lord smote him; "he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." The same evil propensity of fallen humanity finds thousands and tens of thousands of living exemplifications in those whom the Scripture calls "proud boasters," "heady, high-minded," and classes with the vilest and the worst. On the contrary, the first evidence of conversion to God is humility. The child of a prince will, if permitted, amuse itself with the child of a peasant. As they sport together there is no distinction of riches or of rank; they meet together on the same common level; they stand on the same footing of equality. We are not universal levellers; we would not do away with the distinctions of rank that exist, and perhaps must exist. We find in the membership of the human body some members discharging honorable functions, others functions less so. We find in the heavenly hierarchy various grades—thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers. But we would willingly do away with, and Christianity tends to do away with, that proud spirit that sets up castes and opposes class to class, preventing that cordial sympathy that should ever bind together all the many members in the great family of man. Why should we be proud? What are we proud of? Is it of our bodies? They are "fearfully and wonderfully made," yet dust they are, and unto dust they must return. Is it of our souls? God" breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." Is it of what we are? We are only creatures of a day, and our foundation is in the dust. Is it of what we have? We have nothing, be it worldly wealth, or intellectual endowment, or physical superiority, or spiritual grace,—nothing that we have not received. We are pensioners on the Divine bounty, daily recipients of the Divine favor, almoners on the liberality of God. Most of us have read the Revelation Legh Richmond's little book entitled ' The Dairyman's Daughter,' and the text which by the blessing of God became the means of converting that once poor, proud girl. That text was, "Be ye clothed with humility" ( ἐγκομβώσασθε: literally, "wrap tight round you your humility," in allusion to Christ girding himself with a towel to wash his disciples' feet), and by its application to her heart she was led to feel her own emptiness and Christ's fullness. Next to the robe of Christ's righteousness, and inseparably connected with it, is this garment of humility which distinguishes every converted soul, which every child of God puts on, and which every Christian wears. Of all the many promises of Scripture, not one is made to the proud. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble;" "The humble and the contrite heart the Lord will not despise."
3. A second characteristic is teachableness Christ was meek and lowly in heart." He invites us to learn of him. Most children are docile; at all events, childhood and youth are the seasons for learning. Though there is no age however advanced at which we should not be learners, and no stage o! progress at which we shall not have still much to learn—for here "we only see through a glass, darkly"—yet there is truth in the trite old proverb, "Learn young, learn well." The Christian, by his very profession and by his practice, when truly converted to God, is a disciple; and what is that but a learner, a scholar in the school of Christ? There are three teachers in this school—the Word of God, the providence of God, and the Spirit or God. The entrance in of that Word giveth light; it makes "wise unto salvation." Every time we hear it preached, or peruse it prayerfully and thoughtfully, the light is brightened and increased. It is our privilege, and should be our pleasure, to study that Word daily and diligently, dutifully and devoutly. If it were only a single text meditated on each day, it would result in spiritual blessing. We are to search this Word. There is a treasure in it, and we are to dig for that treasure—a pearl of great price, and we are to seek for that pearl, and, if needs be, part with everything else rather than miss it. That treasure is Christ, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." That pearl is Christ—a pearl of exceeding price. There are shallows in this Word where a child may wade, and depths which no human line can fathom. "Search the Scriptures,." said our Lord; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." The providence of God teaches us in many ways and furnishes many lessons. We need grace to mark those lessons and follow the leadings of that providence, and in this way the most afflictive dispensations are productive of good, so that there is occasion to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." The Spirit of God is the great Teacher, he leads us into all truth, he takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, he convinces us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. Let us pray for childlike docility of spirit; let us come to the three teachers we have named, and hear what God the Lord will say to our souls.
4. A third characteristic is trustfulness. Children are proverbially confiding. When we pass from the years of childhood we become wary—too wary; cautious—often far too cautious, though never too circumspect. Let a parent make a promise to his child; that child never questions his father's word, he never doubts his father's ability to perform his promise, he never suspects his father's willingness to make good what he has said. Would that we all acted thus towards our heavenly Father! Would that we all took him in this childlike manner and with this childlike trustfulness at his word! Would that we all sought the Spirit of adoption, by which we could look up and say, "Our Father in heaven," and inward and say, "Abba, Father," and outward and around saying, "All things work together for good to them that love God,"—the beautiful things of earth and sea and sky are mine, for my Father made them all. In the 'Life of Sir Henry Havelock,' one is amused with a remarkable example of childlike confidence on the part of his son which is recorded therein. Sir Henry had had occasion to call at a public office on business. He left his son at the door to wait for him outside. The father, after despatching the business in band, passed out of the office by another way, in total forgetfulness of his son and of the appointment made with him. The boy, however, had such perfect confidence in his father's promise and usual punctuality, that he waited, and waited, and continued waiting all the day long, till the shades of evening were gathering. By that time something had occurred to remind Sir Henry of his son, when, going immediately to the place, he found him on the spot where he had left him in the morning. God has given us his sure Word of prophecy and promise; he bids us wait, and that prophecy will be fulfilled and that promise performed. An earthly parent may fail or forget; God never forgets his promise, nor fails to perform it to his people. He is never slack concerning his promise; at the time appointed it shall come, and not tarry. It is ours to wait and watch and work, "for the day of redemption draweth nigh." It is ours to exercise filial trust and childlike confidence in our heavenly Father, who "is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent."
5. A fourth characteristic. Another characteristic is simplicity. We do not mean that a child of God must be a simpleton; quite the opposite. We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Now, by Christian simplicity we understand guilelessness and harmlessness. We take it to denote singleness of heart, of tongue, and of eye; it becomes the Christian, it glorifies God and impresses man. "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God hath ordained strength." The children in the temple proclaimed, "Hosanna in the highest!" Once in a stagecoach, as we have read, a little interesting girl five years old was sitting beside her mother. A gentleman was paying attention to the child. After a time, turning her full blue eyes upon him, with childlike lovingness and in her own simple accents, she said," You love God?" The gentleman passed the child's question off as best he could. The coach reached the place of destination,, the journey ended. But still the words of that child haunted him. The question she asked was new to him; he had never thought of it before. He never rested till, by the grace of God, he was able to answer it by felt experience. Time rolled on. A few years after, as he passed through the streets of a town, he saw the mother of that little child at a window, in weeds of mourning. He called to inquire for his favourite, but she was gone; God had taken her home to glory, and to be for ever with himself.
1. Contrast. Over the entrance to Plato's famous academy at Athens was written the sentence, "Let no one enter here who does not possess a knowledge of geometry." Over the gate of heaven is written, not the proud maxim of the philosopher, but this plain statement, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein."
2. What is implied in exclusion. Not to enter heaven, in other words, exclusion from heaven, implies the absence of holiness, of hope, and of happiness. It is never to see the King in his beauty, never to see the land that is afar off, never to enjoy peace, never to enter into rest, never to meet God in mercy, never to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and never to join the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn which are written in heaven. Still more, exclusion shuts out from wearing the crown and occupying the throne, from tenanting the mansion, and tuning the harp, and swelling the anthem of "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Not to enter heaven is to be excluded from the holy presence, from the blessed fellowship of patriarchs and prophets and apostles and martyrs and confessors; to be shut out from the life and light and love of the upper sanctuary; to be shut up with the devil and the damned, with lost spirits, with devouring fire and everlasting burnings; to be doomed to "weening, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," and to dwell for ever in that prison-house of hell, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30.—
1. The rich young ruler's great refusal.
I. HIS APPLICATION.
1. The position of this man. We have in this section a most interesting narrative. The subject of it was a young man, in the bright and beautiful prime of life, as St. Matthew tells us; a ruler of the synagogue, as St. Luke informs us; an exceedingly rich man, as all three synoptists relate; for St. Luke tells us he was very rich, and St. Matthew and St. Mark that he had great possessions. Besides this, he was an exceedingly interesting person—frank, sincere, amiable; he thus possessed many winning and endearing qualities. Nor was this all; he was outwardly moral, outwardly observant of God's Law, and so not far from the kingdom of heaven.
2. His mode of approaching the Savior. His approach was all that could be desired. It was marked by thorough earnestness and sincerity. Our Lord was going forth into the way, or on his way—starting, it would seem, on his last journey from Peraea beyond Jordan to Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha and Lazarus. This young ruler, in breathless haste, lest he should miss his opportunity before the Savior departed, came running up and fell on his knees before him. The manner, too, in which he put his question was highly respectful, and even reverential, as appears from the words with which he addressed him. By the title "Good Master" he acknowledged his authority as a teacher, and his kindness of heart, having just witnessed the graciousness and benevolence with which he had received the little children and folded them in his arms. Our Lord appears to reprove him in a gentle way on the ground of this title, and especially to reject the term "good," thus applied to him; he apparently refuses to accept it as a mere conventional expression, flippantly and thoughtlessly applied. But, on examining the subject more closely, it will be evident that our Lord wished to elevate the young rulers notion about himself as the Messiah, and raise his thoughts to God. He wished to give this young man a hint that he was mere than an ordinary teacher in Israel, that he was more than a mere teacher possessing great excellence of character and goodness of heart; that he was a Teacher sent from God, and therefore invested with highest authority, and holding a Divine commission—yea, and himself Divine. To this end he requires the ruler to reflect on what ground he applied the term "good," reminding him that there was no one absolutely good save God, and implying the inconsistency of his position, and the unwarrantableness of his calling him "good" when he did not regard him as Divine. Our Lord intimates, obscurely indeed, that, while rejecting the term in the sense in which the ruler meant it, as a mere complimentary one paid to a rabbi of eminence, and regarding it as inapplicable from that standpoint, he can only accept it in conjunction with the One alone who is good, that is, God. But, as the ruler did not apply it in that sense, our Lord takes occasion to lift up his thoughts to the only One absolutely good; as though he said, "Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good;" and, "Why callest thou me good?" and, Why inquirest about the good from any mere human teacher whose goodness of head and heart, however great, is necessarily defective? Why not go at once to the One who is alone truly and absolutely good, and the Fountain-head of all goodness, and whose will is the rule and standard of what is good; while the revelation of his mind on the subject is made known in the commandments?
3. His motive in coming. With all this young man's advantages he felt his need of something better; he had cravings for something higher. His wealth, with all the facilities it afforded, and all the profits it implied, and all the pleasures it procured, did not satisfy his desires or supply his spiritual needs. His longings for something better than earth or sense could furnish remained unappeased; there was still a void within which the world could not fill; he felt irrepressible yearnings for immortality. He had heard the promise of a kingdom made to the little children who believed, or rather to all who possessed their childlike spirit. He had himself come recently into the inheritance of much wealth and great possessions, and thus he is prompted to ask the question very natural under the circumstances, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life'?" He was alive to the worth of his soul; he felt the paramount importance of eternal life. His question, therefore, was not prompted by mere curiosity, neither was it a cold or careless inquiry; it was a downright earnest one; it was a matter of life or death with him.
II. HIS SELF-SUFFICIENT INQUIRY.
1. Nature of the inquiry. The inquiry is that recorded by St. Matthew, "What lack I yet?" to which the answer of our Lord is that recorded by St. Mark in the words, "One thing thou lackest." We must first consider the question itself. This was a second question; the first was, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" and contained the very essence of Pharisaism, which made religion consist in doing—scrupulously adhering to outward rules of conduct. This young man's error was that of the better part of his nation; for "Israel, which followed after the Law of righteousness, did not attain to the Law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law."
2. His Pharisaism. This young man's first inquiry shows that he expected to entitle himself to eternal life by doing many great things, or some special good thing, as the question in St. Matthew's Gospel is, "What good thing shall i do, that I may inherit eternal life?" To this our Lord replied, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." By this reply he meant to convince him
3. His surprise. The young ruler was somewhat surprised at the common* place nature of the answer, and, lest he had misheard or misapprehended it, he proceeds to inquire further, "Which" or, more accurately, "What kind of commandments?" He evidently expected that some new commandment would be announced by the great Teacher, or that some recondite rule of the oral Law would be set forth, or that certain minute ceremonial regulations would be made known to him. But no; the plainest, simplest, broadest commandments of the Decalogue were repeated in his hearing. The thing appears at first sight so plain, the direction so very trite, and the answers so commonplace, that the ruler, half puzzled by this very plainness, and surprised at the simplicity of the instruction of One whom he regarded as a distinguished public teacher, if not something more, exclaims in amazement,—Of what kind? Which commandments do you mean? Is it those ten uttered in an audible voice on Sinai, amid thunderings and lightnings, and other circumstances of splendor and solemnity? Is it those ten that were delivered to our nation amid scenes of such unparalleled publicity as well as grandeur? Is it those ten words, as they are beautifully called in the original, which are now hoary with the antiquity of long years gone by, which claim the respect of the whole Hebrew commonwealth, and to which every respectable member of the community renders an outward obedience? Is it those ten commandments to which your direction refers—commandments with which compliance is enforced even by an earthly judge, and transgression of which is visited with penalties by the common law?
4. Our Lord's repetition of the commandments. In reply to this further inquiry of the young ruler, our Lord specifies the commandments of the second table in the following order, according to St. Mark:—the seventh, sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, and fifth. The expression "Defraud not" is taken by some
5. Our Lord's object in this. He saw that this in many respects estimable young man depended on his works for eternal life, and he reminded him that he must in that case keep the commandments, and keep them perfectly. The Savior meant to show him that such had not been the case. He meant to show him that he was a sinner, and as such needed a Savior; he meant to show him that, as far as the Law is concerned, every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Even if a man from a certain point—an early period in life—kept all the requirements of God's Law at all times and in all ways, what would atone for previous sins or remove original guilt?
6. The Law a schoolmaster. He meant to show him that he had "sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" that, as a matter of fact, he had been very far from attaining to universal, perfect, and constant obedience; that, in the absence of such obedience, all were concluded under sin, and that there was no exception. In this manner usually the way is prepared: the filthy rags of self-righteousness are torn off; men are led to abandon their own righteousness as a ground of pardon and acceptance before God, and to rest upon a better righteousness, even that "everlasting righteousness," which Daniel and others of the prophets long years before had predicted as to be wrought out and brought in by Messiah, Such was probably the import of that instructive symbolic transaction, of which we read in the third chapter of Zechariah, when the filthy garments were taken away from Joshua the high priest; and when a fair mitre was set upon his head, and he was clothed with change of garments, as it is there written: "Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will Clothe thee with change of raiment." Such is the significance of the contrast between the righteousness of the Law and the righteousness of faith in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them .. If thou shalt confess with thy month the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised: him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
7. True obedience inward and spiritual. When the young man had heard our Lord's answer he looked upon the whole matter as a very simple thing, and possibly stood higher in his own estimation than he had done before, if that were possible. He seemed to say, If these be the commandments which you include in your direction, and if these be all, then have I obeyed them—every one of them—from my youth up, nay, from childhood till the present hour; they have been the rule of my life. Is there anything still wanting? Have you any new commandment to add? Is there anything needed to supplement those which I long since learnt from the Law, and to which I have duly conformed from the earliest dawn of reason? And though you have overlooked the traditions of the elders, I have neither forgotten them nor neglected them, but observed them most punctiliously. What then remains? What lack I yet? Ah, how little this young man knew of his own heart! how little of the spirituality of God's Law! how little of the exceeding broadness of the commandment! In the Law of God, as in the love of God, there are a length and breadth and depth and height to which this ruler was entirely a stranger, he had not, we are sure, been one of the audience when our Lord preached his sermon on the mount; or, if he had, he must have failed entirely to comprehend the explanation of the Law as contained in that sermon. At all events, he remained apparently ignorant that the Law in its requirements extends to the heart as well as to the life; to the principles as well as to the practice; to the feelings as well as to the facts; to the internal passions as well as to the external acts; to the inmost thoughts as well as the outward deeds. This young man had, we doubt not, maintained an unblemished character before the eyes of men; he had been guiltless of such sins as are public and common in the world, and free from all notorious vices; he had kept the Law in the letter and as prohibiting outward acts of sin; for the Savior does not call his assertion in question. Besides, had he not been a young man of blameless conduct as well as of promising talents, he could not have attained, and at an early age, his honorable position as one of the rulers of a local synagogue, or perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin, or great council of the nation.
8. The young man's deficiency in his own department of morals. "What lack I yet?" may be taken as a boast rather than a question for information or an inquiry about future duty. He lacked much, we are sure, even on the low ground of morality; for taking the Law in its spiritual sense, and as Christ expounded it, he had no doubt offended at many times and in many ways; "for in many things we offend all." Instead of the self-righteous, self-sufficient assertion, "all these have I kept from my youth up," had he looked inward he might, nay, he would, have found reason to say, "All these have I broken;" for we have it on the authority of God's own Word, that "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually." The first commandment which our Lord specified, according to the common order as given by St. Matthew, is, "Thou shalt do no murder." The young ruler judged himself guiltless of any breach of this commandment, because his hands had been free from blood, lie forgot that blood-guiltiness attaches to the heart as well as to the hand, to the tongue as well as to the arm that wields the deadly weapon. The teeth, as we learn from the fifty-seventh psalm, may be murderous as "spears and arrows;" and the tongue may wound as mortally as "a sharp sword;" while "out of the heart," as our Lord himself has declared, "proceed murders." "All these have I kept from my youth up." And hast thou never, O young man, been angry with thy brother without a cause—when no real offense was offered and no insult intended? Hast thou never indulged the angry feeling till it formed itself in the contemptuous expression? Hast thou never said to thy brother, "Raca?" Hast thou never permitted thine anger to proceed still further, till it vented itself in terms of deepest guilt? Hast thou never said to thy brother, "Thou fool"? If so—if thy heart be thus pure, thy tongue innocent, and thy hand without stain of thy brother's blood—then in regard to this commandment thou mayest say, "What lack I yet?" But we may take one other example. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This is another requirement of God's Law, and another branch of duty towards man. Here the young ruler again declares his innocence: "This also have I kept." Here again we must take him to task and catechize him. Is it, O young man, the external act merely of which you plead not guilty, or do you include what God's Law includes, the impure thought and the wanton imagination? Do you include the secret desire of the heart, the lascivious look of the eye, and the indelicate utterance of the lips? Or have you never read of "eyes full of adultery," of evil concupiscence, and of filthy communication proceeding out of the mouth? Have you never listened to or taken part in the lewd song, or the foul anecdote, or the equivocal innuendo, or the expression of double meaning? Have you ever regarded the vengeance of Heaven as due to every wanton affection, and every unchaste desire, and every roving glance, and every lustful look, and every lascivious gesture, and every impure word? Has your observance of this requirement always been thus severe, strict, and spiritual? If so, then mayest thou say with regard to this commandment also, "What lack I yet?"
9. The Scripture standard of morality. Oh, how exceeding broad and deep, pure and spiritual, are the commandments of an infinitely pure and holy God! In his sight the bright and beautiful sky above us is not pure, and in his presence the angels themselves—those pure spirits whose nature is like fiery flame, and who minister the high behests of the Eternal—are not unimpeachable with folly. Morality of outward action is highly commendable, and may pass current in sight of men like ourselves; but who can boast of his obedience, inward as well as outward, to all God's commandments, in the sight of that God whom the prophet in vision saw sitting on a throne high and lifted up, before whom holy seraphic intelligences veiled their faces in deepest homage and holiest reverence, while the burden of those seraphim's song was a just acknowledgment of his infinite holiness, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory"? Who, in the sight of that God who "searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts," can, like this young ruler, ask proudly, or even boastfully, "What lack I yet?"
III. HIS IMPERFECTION PROVED.
1. The great defect. "One thing thou lackest" was our Lord's declaration. But that one thing was the most important, the most needful, and the most indispensable of all. He was outwardly moral, but a stranger to spiritual religion; he had a form of Godliness, but wanted the power. The one thing he lacked was love, and love which manifests itself in entire self-surrender to God and in self-denial for man. After our Lord had reminded him of the commandments and of the duties required by God's Law, he stated a general principle that included them all, saying, as St. Matthew records it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." In fact, the whole Law, including the commandments of both tables, is fulfilled in that one word "love"—love to God and love to man; for "love is the fulfilling of the Law." And now he brings the principle just stated to a practical test, and puts the young ruler to the proof. "One thing thou lackest"—one thing, without which no obedience can be really beautiful before men or truly acceptable to God; one thing, without which obedience is neither real nor reliable, neither permanent nor performed consistently and efficiently; one thing, without which obedience is merely mechanical, and nothing more than a whitening of the outside of the sepulcher, while the inside is dead men's bones and all uncleanness. That one thing was the principle of love, which is the moving spring of all gospel obedience. This principle of love is the great impulse to all genuine morality; it is the essential element in all holiness. By this principle our Lord tested the young ruler, and in this practical way,—You profess entire obedience to God's Law; now, the sum and substance of that law is love—love to God and love to man, and this love must be supreme. You must love the Lord your God with all your mind, and soul, and strength, and heart; and your fellow-man as yourself. Go, then, and act out that great principle by selling all that you have, and distributing it to relieve the necessities of your poorer brethren of mankind, and to maintain and promote the service of God. The test was found too severe for the young man's morality; his love was more of outward observance than of spiritual obedience, more of profession than of practice, more of the lip than of the life. He was not prepared to subordinate all, to surrender all, to sacrifice all, and to suffer all, if necessary, in fulfillment of that Law, the whole of which is contained in that one word "love." This one thing he lacked; weighed in the balance, he was found wanting. He needed another to fulfill the Law in his stead; he required a better righteousness than his own.
IV. APPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT.
1. In relation to the irreligious. Men may have fame and fortune; they may have intellectual endowments and worldly wealth; they may have every earthly comfort and convenience; they may have kind friends, happy homes, and pleasant family relations; they may have all that heart can wish. But, if they want religion, then they lack the one thing that can make men truly prosperous—blessed in time and happy through eternity.
2. With respect to the amiable, and persons possessing certain good qualities. Persons may be amiable; they may be frank and affable and obliging; they may be generous and liberal, hospitable and kindhearted; they may be upright in their dealings, and honorable in all the business of life; they may have strong natural affection in their various relationships, as sons or husbands or parents;—they may be all this, and have all these good natural qualities, without either possessing or professing religion. We may admire and even love them for their amiability and other natural excellenecs, for men differ widely by nature as well as by grace; but, wanting religion, one thing they lack, and that one thing is the one thing needful.
3. In regard to professors of religion. Men may profess themselves to be on the Lord's side; they may be hearers and readers and students of God's Word; they may by study make themselves acquainted with its precious truths—its doctrines and duties, its precepts and promises, its entreaties and exhortations, its warnings and reproofs; they may have respect for the Scriptures, for the sabbath, for the sanctuary, and its services; they may unite with God's people in prayer, in praise, in the sacraments, and in other exercises of religion;—and after all this, and notwithstanding all this, their heart may not be right toward God; one thing they lack, and, continuing to lack it, they must perish in the end. Oh, how dreadful to think of such having their lot at last with the openly irreligious, the profligate, and the profane! And how such will gloat over those professors of religion when they descend to the abode of the lost, and exultingly say, "Are you also become as we? Are you become like unto us?" You, who professed religion, who offered prayers, and sang praises, and piqued yourselves on your superiority to profligates like us; you, who did so much and went so far,—are you become cur comrades in misery, our companions in distress? Oh, we may imagine the fiendish glee with which false or fallen professors shall be jeered, when they sink down into partnership with the utterly abandoned in the place of destruction and the region of despair!
4. With reference to ourselves, and to avoid self-deception. The young ruler was practising self-deception, without knowing it. He did not know his deficiency till the Savior brought him to the severe practical proof before us. Here is a salutary lesson and a solemn warning to beware of deception in our estimate of ourselves. We too, even we, may be resting on a morality that is hollow and defective; we may fancy ourselves religious, while our heart is not right toward God, and has no real love to man. We may mistake enthusiasm, or the excitement of the occasion, or the power of sympathy, especially in times of revival, for love to Christ and his cause. We may enrol our names among the followers of the Lamb, and profess our readiness to follow him whithersoever he leadeth, through evil report and good report; we may worship with a degree of devoutness in the sanctuary, partake of the sacraments, wear the so-called "livery of religion," and practice strict outward morality. All this is right and proper, all this we should do; and yet, notwithstanding all this, we may not possess supreme love of the Savior; and so this one thing we lack, and thus are destitute of the chief thing, the main thing, the one thing most essentially needful, and absolutely indispensable to our present and everlasting well-being.
5. How we are undeceived. We may be ignorant of our deficiency till the Savior calls us to self-renunciation in some form or other; till he summons us to surrender some besetting sin or mortify some beloved lust—to cut off a right hand or a right foot or pluck out a right eye; to take up our cross in some way and follow him. He may require us to contribute more liberally to the claims of his religion, to give more largely to his cause, to work more vigorously as well as pray more earnestly for the extension of his kingdom; or, it may be, he demands a more unreserved consecration of our time, or talents, or influence, or example, or eloquence, or wealth, or whatever else we have to give and can give. Our refusal or reluctance to comply in any of the cases supposed, proves that one thing we lack, and the lack of it proves the entire absence or imperfection of that love which is the basis of duty and the principle of religion.
6. Evidence of our possessing that love which works by faith. If we have true love to the Lord Jesus, our surrender to his service will be complete; we shall give on all proper occasions and in due proportion to his cause; we shall, in a word, do and dare, and even die, if needs be, for his sake. We shall put in practice that principle of self-sacrificing love which our Lord requires, and which is ready to give all and do all and suffer all for him who loved us and gave himself for us. Wherever there is real affection, whether it be to friend or fellow-man or fatherland, that affection may be modified by national character or natural temperament, but it will be sure to manifest itself in some shape and develop itself in some way; it will unfetter the feet, it will untie the hands and set them to work, it will give utterance to the tongue, and impart activity to the life. We find an illustration of this in that remarkable military enterprise, "The Retreat of the Ten Thousand Greeks" out of the heart of the Persian empire. They had crossed deep rivers and climbed high mountains; they had overcome difficulties almost incredible, and encountered dangers of every kind; they made good their retreat in the face and in spite of all the artifice and arms of Persia. At length they reached the summit of a hill called Theches (now Tekeh), between Erzeroum and Trebisond; and when, from the top of that high hill, those gallant Greeks, many of whom were islanders and all of them accustomed to the sea, descried in the distance the dark waters of the Euxine, they raised a loud and long-continued cheer. "The sea! the sea!" was the shout of every tongue. The sea reminded them of their native waters, and of their island homes; and the tide of affection rose in their bosoms, high as the laughing tides that "lave those Edens of the Eastern wave." So, wherever true affection exists, it needs but the occasion to call it forth—something to move the memory, and it vents itself spontaneously with overflowing fullness.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 19:22-30; Luke 18:23-30.—
2. Riches and their relation to the kingdom.
I. REFLECTIONS TO WHICH THE INCIDENT GAVE RISE.
1. Effect on the young ruler. He went away grieved. He is now brought to see that he cannot obey two masters; he cannot serve God and mammon. "He was sad at that saying." The word στυγνάσας here used is peculiar. In one other place it is applied to the appearance of the sky, and translated lowering; and so a cloud came over the young man's brow. Our Lord esteemed him ( ἠγάπησεν), for he undoubtedly manifested several endearing traits of character—he was sincere, ardent, and evidently aspiring to something heroical in religion. For the present, however, he went away.
2. Question about his return. Whether this young man was Lazarus, as some have conjectured from a certain similarity of incidents, such as "One thing is needful," compared with "One thing thou lackest," is of course uncertain, as is also the probability of his afterwards returning to the Savior. "He was having ( ἧν ἔχων) great possessions," is a somewhat striking, phrase, and denotes habitual as well as actual possession, His preference was given to worldly things for the present, and was called. by Dante "the great refusal." One thing is certain, that those possessions soon reverted to others; and whether it was force, or fraud, or casuality, or death that at last deprived him of them, they were taken away; and if he continued to cling to them, and to prefer them to the heavenly inheritance, then he could reckon on no reversion in the skies—no portion of which it could be said, "it shall not be taken away from" him.
3. The rich man's difficulty. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The difficulty of his entrance into the kingdom of heaven is stated
4. The claim preferred by Peter on behalf of himself and fellow-disciples. The refusal of the ruler to take up his cross and follow Christ suggests a comparison. Peter is the mouthpiece, as usual, and gives utterance to his own and the unspoken thoughts of his fellow-apostles. "Lo," he says, "we have left all, and have followed thee;" he draws special attention to the fact by a "Lo," or "Behold." Others soon after did the same, and literally acted out the requirement which our Lord proposed to the ruler as the practical test of that principle of self-denying, self-sacrificing love which is the spring of true obedience; for in Acts 4:34, Acts 4:35, we read, "As many as were possessed of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." Peter, however, supplements his statement of fact by the inquiry, "What shall we have therefore?" as St. Matthew informs us. Peter reckons on a reward—he calculates on a quid pro quo; and so far forth he shows that he has failed in the spirit of the requirement, though he has fulfilled it in the letter. An earthly kingdom with its attractive rewards was still looming before the eyes of these partially enlightened men.
5. The promised compensation. In the componsatory reward the equivalents for "father" and "wife" are omitted. The reason is not far to seek; we have not many fathers in Christ. As the apostle writes to the Corinthians, "Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers;" but contrariwise we may have many spiritual mothers, as well as brothers and sisters. Thus Paul reckons among his spiritual mothers the mother of Rufus, when he says (Romans 16:13), "his mother and mine." The jeer of Julian, with respect to a multiplicity of wives, is referred to by Theophylact in the following terms:—"Shall he then also have a hundred wives? Yes. Though the cursed Julian mocked this." Theophylact then proceeds to explain it of the ministry of holy women supplying food and raiment, and relieving the disciples of care about all such things. The compensation of a hundredfold for all we abandon or lose for Christ's sake must be understood figuratively and spiritually—figuratively as to the quantitative proportion, spiritually with regard to quality or kind. The apostles enjoyed the fulfillment of this promise to the utmost in the presence and companionship of their Lord and Master, his instructions, his guidance, and his grace. There is no one who will make a similar sacrifice for his name's sake, according to St. Matthew—that is, as read in the light of the other evangelists, for sake of Christ and his cause, or Christ and his kingdom, not by reason of a calculation of reward—that will not gain what is a hundred times more valuable than all they sacrifice: Divine favor, pardon of sin, purity of heart, peace of conscience, spiritual consolations, friends in Jesus; and all these not only in the present dispensation, but at the present season ( καιρῷ); while in the coming dispensation we shall have eternal life; that is to say, every blessing we need in this world, and eternal blessedness in the world to come. One of the items here enumerated is generally understood as a limitation; but μετὰ διωγμῶν does not denote
implying that persecutions have a place among the enumerated blessings, just as in the sermon on the mount we read, "Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We should also compare with this promise of the Savior the inventory of the Christian's possessions, as reckoned up by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:22, 1 Corinthians 3:23. Further, strictly temporal blessings are not excluded, but either directly or indirectly included. Godliness enables us in a certain sense to make the best of both worlds, being profitable for all things, and "having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come." The blessing of the Lord maketh rich; for with 'his blessing and the enjoyment of his favor men cultivate those virtues and habits that tend to temporal as well as spiritual well-being, such as industry, thrift, temperance, health, purity, prudent management, proper economy, and consequent credit, all of which bear directly on worldly wealth and present happiness.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-34.—
A third prediction by our Lord of his passion and resurrection.
I. REPEATED PREDICTIONS ON THESE SUBJECTS. The disciples required line upon line on this subject; they were so slow to grasp it and so loth to entertain it. It appeared to them inconceivable and incredible. When it was first directly and definitely announced, Peter deprecated it in the strongest terms, and so far forgot himself that he presumed to rebuke his Master, which drew down on him in turn that severe and sharp reproof, "Get thee behind me, Satan," as though Satan had employed Peter as his emissary, and to do his work on that occasion by tempting our Lord to shrink from the sufferings he foretold. Instead of affording our Lord that support and sympathy, that strength and encouragement which, in view of the approaching ordeal, his human nature craved, his servants whom he loved and who loved him so well, though not always wisely, fell in with Satan's own suggestion at the temptation to the Savior, to seek the crown without the cross. Why not prove his Messiahship and assume his Kingship over the nations with out such suffering and sorrow, without the sharpness of death and shade of the sepulcher?
II. PREVIOUS PREPARATION. The previous training which the disciples had received from the Lord would, one might think, be sufficient to have disabused their minds of the prejudices of their race and nation to which they were so prone. Even after they had been convinced of his Messiahship, and after Peter's notable and noble confession of it, they needed to be repeatedly reminded of the necessity of his suffering and death to the completion of his work, and to be instructed once and again about the needfulness of his resurrection to demonstrate the divinity of his mission, and that he had power to lay down his life and power to take it again, as also that, delivered for our offenses, he was to be raised for our justification. The notion of a temporal kingdom was so firmly fixed in their minds, and intertwined with all their Messianic hopes and expectations, that it was next to impossible to eradicate it. And yet, at an early period of his ministry, and almost immediately after his proclaiming the near approach of the kingdom of heaven, he expounded the principles, laws, and spiritual nature of that kingdom. Thus, in the sermon on the mount, he explained the object and elucidated the rules of that kingdom in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew; he then interpreted, according to the rules of the kingdom, those religious exercises in which the subjects of the kingdom engage, in the sixth chapter of the same Gospel; while in the seventh he lays down the mutual duties of the members, with other duties of a more general but practical kind. In his seaside parables, again, as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the same Gospel, he traces the gradual progress, steady development in spite of all obstacles, and ultimate success of that kingdom. When thus prepared for it, he proclaimed to them once and again, and now the third time, in distinct, definite, and decided terms, his passion, death, and resurrection.
III. AN ADDITIONAL FEATURE IN THIS PREDICTION. In this third direct prediction a new element is introduced, the Gentiles are mentioned for the first time in connection with our Lord's death. "The Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles." And yet, strange, yea, passing strange, "they understood," as St. Luke tells us, "none of these things." It is probable that they understood his Language as figurative, and expressive of the great difficulties to be overcome, and the formidable obstacles he would have to encounter in making his way to his Messianic throne. Hence it was that they were amazed at his alacrity, as he went before them and led the way as they were going up to the capital. This much, at the least, they must have known, that he was soon to face his bitterest foes; they must have had some foreboding of the risk he was about to run, and the perils to which he was going to expose himself. Consequently they were amazed at the more than wonted energy with which he pressed forward to the place of danger and the scene of suffering; and though, like a dauntless leader, and fearless hut faithful general, he marched at their head, preceding them and leading them forward, they fell timorously behind, afraid to follow him in the perilous path he was pursuing. We may here recall to mind that the first direct prediction of his death was in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, soon after Peter's confession; the second shortly after, as they were returning to Capernaum; and now, on their way up to Jerusalem, he states the particulars more fully and clearly than ever before. The "spitting" is here mentioned by both St. Mark and St. Luke, the condemnation of the Jewish Sanhedrim is referred to by St. Matthew and St. Mark; the execution by the Gentiles is recorded by all three synoptists; while the mode of death by crucifixion is mentioned by St. Matthew alone.—J.J.G.
Parallel passage: Matthew 20:20-28.—
The ambition of the apostles: the sons of Zebedee.
I. PROBABLE. ORIGIN. Peter and James and John certainly enjoyed a sort of precedence over the other apostles; they were primi inter pares at least, and constituted an inner circle among the members of the apostolic office. They were not only the first called to follow Christ, and to undertake special service in his cause; they had been privileged with his closest confidence; and they were admitted as his sole attendants, as we have already seen, on three most remarkable occasions. It was soon after one of these occasions, that of the Transfiguration, that the dispute about precedence occurred, on their journey to Capernaum. The natural inference seems to be that the prominence assigned to these three favourite apostles excited the jealousy of the rest, and occasioned the dispute referred to. And now again two of these aspiring men, having their heart still fixed on an earthly and secular kingdom, had their ambition fired by our Lord's mention of twelve thrones, as recorded by St. Matthew, and the apostles seated on them, in the regeneration, that second birthday of our world, in which the present sufferings and sorrows of earth's travail-throes shall at length issue. Accordingly, ashamed perhaps to present the petition themselves, they induce their mother Salome, according to St. Matthew's record, to present it for them, "desiring a certain thing of him;" and according to the principle, Quod facit per alterum facit per se. They thus try by a sort of trick, if we may so say, to make sure of our Lord's consent before specifying the nature of this unreasonable petition.
II. THE CUP AND THE BAPTISM. By "cup" is meant one's lot or destiny, be it good or bad, especially the latter. Thus, "Thou makest my cup run over," where the lot is plenty; and the words, divested of the figure, are nearly equivalent to, Thou givest me a plentiful supply as my lot. Again, it stands for vengeance allotted to the wicked, as is said of Jerusalem, "Thou hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out;" and in Psalms 75:8, it is the cup of wroth, or the portion of Divine and deserved indignation apportioned to the wicked, for it is there written, "In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them." Baptism, again, has three different meanings, or rather applications, in Scripture. There is baptism with water, a Christian sacrament; there is baptism by the Holy Spirit, or regeneration, which is that change by which we become truly Christians; and there is baptism in the sense of suffering, which is its meaning here.
III. A MISRENDERING. "But to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." This verse, as it stands in our version, seems to limit the power of the Savior, and to be at variance with his own statement in Luke 22:29, where he says, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It also appears flatly to contradict that! promise of our Lord recorded in Revelation 2:21, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." Various methods of rectification have been resorted to. The Latin Vulgate cuts the knot by inserting, vobis, to you, and so rendering the clause in question, "It is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." But as this addition is not supported by any manuscript authority, it must be rejected as arbitrary. Still more unwarrantable is the explanation of some, who understand the answer of our Lord as having reference only to the time previous to his sufferings, as though it meant, "It is not mine to give till after I shall have suffered; then all power will be vested in my hands." Now, the difficulty is in a great measure created by the words supplied in our version, and therefore marked in italics as above. The ellipsis thus indicated is either too little or too large. It must either be extended or eliminated altogether. We might enlarge the ellipsis, and take the clause to signify, "It is not mine to give (as a matter of favouritism), but it is mine to give (on the ground of fitness) to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." It is much better, however, to omit entirely the words supplied. This at once does away with the difficulty, and removes the seeming contradiction, while the sense of the original thus becomes plain and clear. Accordingly, we would read the last part of the verse thus, "Is not mine to give, but [save] to them for whom it is prepared." The preparedness of the recipients, not the power of the Savior, is the only limitation of the bestowment in question. This power, again, is exercised in accordance with the Divine purpose, while in Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30 we have a full declaration of such purpose: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." The view which we thus adopt corresponds with the rendering of the old Syriac, which translates the portion of the verse before us without supplying any words. It is confirmed by Luther's German translation. It has the sanction of several other important versions, both ancient and modern. The only objection to this, namely, that ἀλλὰ has thereby the sense of εἰμὴ, is set aside by comparing Matthew 17:8 with Mark 9:8, Where, in recording the same fact, in nearly the same words, St. Matthew uses εἰ μὴ, while St. Mark expresses the same sense by ἀλλὰ. Even in the chapter immediately foregoing (Matthew 19:1-30.), ἀλλὰ is employed in nearly the same signification at the eleventh verse: "All men cannot receive this saying, save ( ἀλλὰ) they to whom it is given." Though not identical, they closely approximate, for "res eodem recidit sire oppositione sive exceptione" If an ellipsis be at all admissible in the verse we are considering, then the words suggested by Alford, "Is not mine to give, but it shall be given by me," or those supplied by De Wette, "Sondern denen wird es verhehen," or even those supplied in the Revised Version, "Is not mine to give: but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared, are undoubtedly preferable to those supplied in our common version, and express the sense much better. Still, even the words thus introduced to eke out the meaning of the origininal seem awkward and unnecessary.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43—
The cure of two blind men at Jericho.
I. BLIND BARTIMAEUS.
1. His condition was blind; he was deprived of that most valuable sense of sight. He was a stranger to the beauties of nature. "The light is sweet, and a plant thing it is for the eyes to see the sun;" but that sun, that light, those beauties, those bright colors of sky or earth or sea; those lovely forms that appear in the heaven above, the earth beneath, and the waters round the earth—all, all were to him a blank. We know nothing of this blind man's family or friends, but from the patronymic, "Son of Timaeus," we may infer that his father or family had been of some note; but the former had gone the way of all the earth and the latter had fallen into decay. That morning, however, whether by relative or friend or neighbourly hand, he was led forth to his accustomed seat by the Wayside. He could hear the sound of the voices round him, but he could not see the persons who spoke; he could feel them if they came in contact with him, but could not behold them. Of all that passed by that way he could only judge by the voice or sound. The expression of their countenance, their form or figure, theie smiles or tears, their bright eyes or sad looks, their sweet or sullen, were to him unknown and by him unseen. Our Lord, having continued his journey through Peraea, crossed the Jordan opposite Jericho, and arrived at that once famous city, upwards of five or six miles to the west of the river, and miles in a direct line eastward of Jerusalem. This ancient place, round which so many associations gather—such as its conquest by Joshua, its rebuilding by Hiel the Bethelite in the reign of Ahab, notwithstanding the curse; its mention in the history of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, its close connection at an early period with our Lord's own ancestry—was celebrated for its palms and balsams. Its fertilizing spring contributed to its wealth and importance. It was beautified by Herod the Great; subsequently destroyed, but rebuilt by Archelaus; celebrated by the historian Josephus as a populous and prosperous place in his day. But its glory long ago passed away. It is now a miserable hamlet called Riha. At the time of our Lord's visit, however, it was a flourishing town, and entitled to its ancient designation of the "city of palm trees," or "city of fragrance," as the name derived from the verb ruach imports. Fragrant flowers and aromatic shrubs perfumed the air; the scenery around was fresh and lovely; while every prospect was pleasing, and "man alone was vile." On the morning of the day that our Lord arrived at Jericho the gardens round the town bloomed in beauty, as usual, and charmed the eye of the beholder; the feathery palm lifted high its head in air or waved in the morning breeze; the Jordan valley stretched away into the distance. It was springtime, moreover, for multitudes were on their way to the great spring festival of the Passover at Jerusalem, and spring had clothed the landscape with vernal beauties. Over all the loveliness of earth was spread the clear blue of a Judaean sky, while down on all the glorious sun was shedding his bright beams, lighting up the whole with brilliancy and beauty. But what were all these beautiful sights and bright scenes to the blind Bartimaeus? As far as he was concerned, they might as well have been dark and dismal, blank and black, like a moonless, starless night, with its darkness thick as in the land of Egypt, even "darkness that might be felt."
2. His circumstances. He was poor. Incapable of any worldly calling, he was a dependant on the charity of others; he was reduced to solicit alms of the passing traveler. Thus he was not only blind, but a beggar. Troubles love a train: one trouble seldom comes alone. The blindness of Bartimaeus was aggravated by his poverty, and his poverty had no relief nor remedy but begging. His blindness had been the visitation of God; his poverty and beggary were misfortunes consequent thereon. For both he was to be pitied, for neither to be blamed. There was no special sin in his blindness, and therefore none in his begging. What a complication of misery had fallen to this poor man's lot in life! One almost fancies he sees Bartimaeus as he sat that day by the wayside, with face pale, his head bare, perhaps bald from age; while those placid features—as the features of the blind always are—and those sightless eyes might well move the hardest heart to pity. The blind man hears the footsteps of travelers going on their way; he hears the earnest conversation of passers-by, eagerly bent on business or pleasure. Many a time the proud priest has gone that way, but ever passed by on the other side; or the haughty Levite has only cast a glance of curiosity at the blind man; sanctimonious Pharisees, with broad phylacteries, have looked with scorn on the poor mendicant. Many a time the cheerful voices of men and women have sounded in his ears, and many a time he has listened to the sound of childhood's fun and frolic. Day by day, as such sounds were repeated in his hearing and close at hand, all must have seemed to him lively, all cheerful, and all happy save himself, the poor blind beggar, doomed to melancholy darkness. This day, however, he hears the rush of many feet, the tread as of a numerous crowd, the shouts as of a mighty multitude. He wonders what the sound of those many footsteps means, what the swell of those voices can be. He listens till the crowd comes nearer, and he hears them speak in praise, a few, perhaps, in blame, of the Prophet of Nazareth.
3. The corresponding state of the unconverted. Many in the state of their soul resemble that poor blind beggar. The Scriptures speak of blind people that have eyes—"they have eyes, but see not;" their understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart. Satan, the prince of darkness, blinds the minds of them that believe not. His followers are of the night and of darkness, and at last, if they follow him to the end, they shall be east into outer darkness. By nature men are spiritually blind. They are face to face with great realities—God and heaven and eternity—but they do not see them. They are on the brink of a great precipice, they are close to great peril, but they do not see it. Like a blind man on the edge of a frightful abyss, and yet seemingly secure just because he is blind to the danger. They are side by side with great truths, but, not seeing them, they deny their existence, as if a blind man denied the existence of mountains and rivers, the great sea and the bright sun, because he does not see them. There are great beauties just beside them—beauties of holiness, of grace, of glory, of Christ, and God; but they are as blind to spiritual beauties as a blind man to all the multiform beauties of this lovely world—a world so lovely notwithstanding the blight of sin. The spiritually blind see no comeliness in Christ that they should desire him, no glory in the gospel that they should embrace it, no preciousness in salvation that they should seek it, no beauty in holiness that they should practice it. Neither do they see any terror in the threatenings of God, nor much, if any, sinfulness in sin; nothing to attract in the promises of the gospel, and nothing to terrify in the curses of a broken Law. Sinner, you are blind, though you know it not! The sinner is poor as well as blind. He has no peace in this world, no prospect for the next; he has no real satisfaction on earth, and no sure hope of heaven. He has no shelter from the storm of Divine wrath, and no refuge in the day of danger. He has neither part nor lot with the people of God, no interest in the covenant of promise, no title to the heavenly inheritance, and no meetness for it. He is without the only blood that can cleanse from sin, the only righteousness that can justify a sinner, the only Spirit that can sanctify the soul. In a word, he is without Christ, and without God, and without hope. This surely is poverty—spiritual poverty, the deepest and the worst. This is the sad state of all unregenerate persons. They are, in the words of Scripture, "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." They are blind in soul as Bartimaeus in body, poor in spiritual things as he was in temporal. And yet to such the advice is addressed, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve,
II. THE APPLICATION OF BARTIMAEUS TO JESUS.
1. His inquiry. The first step here was inquiry. Hearing the noise of the on-coming crowd and the voices of the multitude passing by, he asked what it meant, and the answer returned to his inquiry was "that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by." This was good news for the poor blind beggar. Bartimaeus had no doubt heard of Jesus, of his works of wonder and miracles of mercy. Some report may, nay, must, have reached him about the lepers cleansed, the demoniacs cured, the sick restored to health, the deaf whose ears were opened, the dumb whose tongues were loosed, even the dead raised to life, and, what came more closely home to himself, the blind whose eyes were opened. Bartimaeus might, most probably did, hear all this; but how was he to reach the Prophet? Where could he find him? How could he, a poor, blind beggar, make such a long and weary way? Unless Jesus came into the neighborhood of Jericho, he could not expect to be blessed and benefited. Now, however, what he never expected has come to pass. Jesus is at his side—he is passing by; and now Bartimaeus feels that it is his opportunity, a most precious opportunity, far too precious to be lost. When his condition had rendered it impossible for him to go to the Savior, the Savior has come to him. Instantly and energetically he avails himself of this blessed opportunity. Now or never, he thinks with himself. He does not lose a moment; he cannot afford it, for he knows not but that the chance may be lost for ever. Bartimaeus bethinks himself of all this, reasoning thus:—He is come to me; I could not go to him; and it is do or die now. If I lose this opportunity I may never have another. The tide will soon ebb; I must take it at the flow. The steamer will soon start; I must enter it or it will go without me. The bell is ringing and the train will soon be off; if I do not take my place at once I am left behind, and perhaps for ever. Somehow thus reasoned the poor, blind beggar—if we may be permitted to translate his words, or rather express his thoughts, in modern parlance.
2. His earnest appeal. And so "he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." Previous occurrences had prepared for this: Christ was passing by that way; Bartimaeus was informed of his approach; he felt his need, and the Friend of sinners was near. Thus the Various stages were inquiry, information, felt necessity, and the Savior's presence. His appeal was earnest as well as instant. He cried out, and it was a strong and loud cry. Many things might have prevented his appeal, but they did not; many impediments lay in the way, but he did not allow them to keep him back. The crowd did not deter him, for he was in earnest, and cared not what the crowd either said or thought. The fact of so many strangers being round him did not stop him, for their presence was nothing to him, and he was too anxious for relief to feel false shame. The circumstance of his poverty did not prevent him; on the contrary, it prompted him all the more. True, he had no introduction to the Prophet from Galilee—no one to make known his situation or explain his unhappy circumstances, and bespeak the Savior's favor on his behalf. Still he hoped his earnest appeal would find an echo in the bosom of the illustrious Stranger. He had no merit, he knew, to recommend him, and no particular claim on that Stranger's clemency; yet he was resolved to try whether his misfortune might not awaken his sympathy.
3. A lesson for ourselves. Jesus passeth by; he is near to us, and his presence is close at hand. In this sense he passeth by every time a sabbath dawns upon us, and every time we see the light of the sabbath sun? He passeth by, that is, is present, every time we enter the sanctuary and assemble ourselves with the people of God. He passeth by, and we are apprised of his presence, every time we are privileged to listen to a gospel sermon. He passeth by us every time we read his Word, or sing his praise, or call on God's name in prayer. He passeth by us every time we partake of the sacrament of the Supper, and he maketh himself known to us in the breaking of bread. Oh, how often on such occasions has "our heart burned within us as he talked to us by the way, and opened to us the Scriptures"! He passeth by us every time his Holy Spirit strives with us or exercises his gracious influences upon us. He passeth by and makes us feel his presence times and ways past specifying or reckoning. He assures us of this; for has he not said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me"? Jesus has come near and close to each of us. He assumed our nature and became our Kinsman. He saw us in our blood, cast out into the open field on the day in which we were born; he pitied us and passed us by, and his time was a time of love. He has come to us, or we should never have gone to him; he has sought us, or we should never have sought him. He has passed us by and made his mercy known to us. He has made good his word, "I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry." Nor is it a mere hasty and passing visit he pays us. He has stood at the door of our heart until his head has become wet with dew and his locks with the drops of the night. But he will not stand always. He passeth by; and while we understand this statement of his presence, and of that presence manifested to our souls, of his gracious presence in his ordinances, and of his Holy Spirit stirring in our hearts, yet we must not make the fatal mistake of supposing that this will last always. In the very nature of things it cannot continue. Life itself is uncertain, and time is short. Besides, the day of grace will not always tarry; like the Savior himself, it passeth by. Jesus never visited Jericho again, nor did he ever pass by that way again. So with ourselves. He has visited us often; who can say when or which shall be his last visit? Oh, then, for such earnestness and eagerness as Bartimaeus showed, on the part of all that hear the gospel! Jesus has passed near us many a time, and yet some of us, up to the present moment, care for none of these things. We have never cried for help as we ought, or sued for mercy as we should; we have never eagerly sought his grace, or earnestly supplicated forgiveness. We have been lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. If so, let us beware lest, like the Laodiceans, we are spued out of his mouth. We may have been at ease in Zion, and like wine settled on the lees, forgetful of the woes pronounced on such. How little of the earnestness of this blind beggar do we show in the things of God! And yet, if like him we felt our need, we could not but be earnest and energetic. The hungry man will beg for bread; the thirsty man will repair to the clear cool spring; the starving babe, by the very instinct of its nature, will cry for nurture; even the dumb animals have ways of making known their wants and of seeking a supply: and shall we be so indifferent to spiritual necessities and eternal interests?
4. Characteristic of discipleship. Bartimaeus exhibited several characteristics of true discipleship—characteristics Which all should seek to possess. He was prompt. There is need for promptness, for God's long-suffering has its limits. He may wait long, but will not wait always. He passeth by, vouchsafing his presence for a time, but withdrawing it when he sees fit so to do. He was humble, for his plea was for mercy: "Have mercy on me." He was conscious of the entire absence of all merit. He came at once, and came as he was—in his blindness, in his poverty, and in his beggary. So should it be with ourselves. We must come according to the spirit of the simple lines—
"Just as I am—without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!
"Just as I am—poor, wretched, blind—
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come!"
His faith was remarkable; he was fully abreast of his times in theological knowledge; he was fairly ahead of the crowd in his knowledge of the Savior. They informed him that it was Jesus of Nazareth that was passing by. They represented him correctly, as far as they went; but their representation was sadly imperfect and shamefully incomplete. They regarded him as a prophet, but a prophet of a despised place and of a despised province. His native town and native province were both of little, or rather of ill repute. "Can any good thing," asked Nathanael, "come out of Nazareth?" The Pharisees said scornfully to Nicodemus, "Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." Bartimaeus knew better. Blind as he was, and so shut out from books as the source of knowledge; poor as he was, and so deprived of the means of acquiring information, he had made himself in some way or by some means acquainted with the descent and dignity of Messiah. Hence he accosted him, not as Jesus of Nazareth, but addressed him, "Jesus, thou Son of David." In any case the Spirit of God had been his instructor. Thus, too, we must come to Jesus with a proper apprehension of his character and claims, of his mercy and his might, as well as of our own worthlessness and helplessness. Feeling ourselves sinners, our individual inquiry must be, "What must I do to be saved?" Accepting the answer furnished by God's Word, we must "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we shall be saved." Feeling ourselves lost, we are encouraged by the Savior's own gracious assurance, that He "came to seek and save that which was lost." Feeling ourselves deep down in the pit of sin, in this low and lost condition, we are cheered by the declaration that his errand into our world was to save sinners, even the chief. However blind the eyes, Christ can open them; however hard the heart, he can soften it; however dark the stain of our sin, his blood can wash it out; however desperate our case, his grace can meet it; however sorrowful and forlorn our spirits, he can soothe and comfort them. His perseverance was also remarkable. His ardor was not to be repressed, his earnestness was not to be checked. Having found the long-expected Deliverer, he was determined not to be parted from him; having attained a conviction—a rapidly growing and speedily maturing conviction—that he was now within reach of One who could convert the soul as well as cure the body, he continued to cry to him, and ceased not till his cry was heard and answered. The crowd wished to impose silence on him, yet he persevered; the multitude rebuked him, that he should hold his peace, yet he "cried the more," says St. Matthew; "the more a great deal," says St. Mark; "so much the more," says St. Luke. They protested against his appeal, and many—not one, or two, or three, but many of them—charged him to hold his peace. His outcry appeared to them, no doubt, so loud, so boisterous, so rude, that they did their best to suppress it; but he refused to desist. Some thought him too contemptible to deserve notice, or to delay the procession; felt or feigned concern for the Master, as have too many objects of others, perhaps, solicitude on his spirit, and too many and too heavy burdens on his shoulders already; but in spite of all these obstacles, and in face of all this opposition, Bartimaeus persisted, and in the end succeeded. Such was this poor beggar—this brave, blind man! When sinners set about seeking God, they may expect similar obstruction, and rebukes equally heartless and cruel. Satan will be sure to rouse opposition from some quarter. The world will flatter them or force them to desist; friends will speak words of pity or persuade them to abandon their self-imposed task; formalists may shake the head and speak of fanaticism, enthusiasm, or unwisdom. But earnest souls, like Bartimaeus, will not, must not, give up or give over. Once they have put their hand to the plough, they may not turn back; once they have set their face Zionward, they must not turn away or turn aside. The language of the twenty-seventh Psalm will be on their lips, and acted out in their life, as the psalmist says, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after .. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me." Thus waiting on the Lord, they shall be enabled to hold on their way; waiting on the Lord, they shall be strengthened; waiting on the Lord, they shall experience that merciful support, of which mention is interjected six and twenty times in the psalm which records Israel's trials and triumphs—"for his mercy endureth for ever."
III. THE SUCCESS WHICH CROWNED THE APPLICATION.
1. "Jesus stood still." So says St. Matthew, so says St. Mark, so says St. Luke; all three evangelists agree in recording this fact. He was on his last journey to Jerusalem; he was hurrying on to drink and drain the cup of bitterness, and be baptized with the baptism of blood; he was hastening forward with eager steps to bear his people's sins in his own body on the tree, to satisfy Divine justice by the sacrifice of himself, to vindicate God's truth, express God's love, and magnify God's Law, to maintain the glory of the Divine attributes, and secure the salvation of countless human souls. Never was there a journey so important, never was errand so deeply interesting, and never was there another embassy involving such weighty consequences and vast concernments. Heaven and earth and hell were all affected by that journey; the glory of God was connected with it; and the redemption of man depended on it. And yet, notwithstanding all the urgencies of that journey, and all the ardor, even bordering on impatience, with which our Lord was speeding forward on that journey, the cry of distress arrested him; the prayer of a blind beggar stopped him! And so it is still, for the prayer of the penitent has a potency that Divine mercy never resists, and will not repel. The waves of the sea stood still, and the waters of the river stood still, in the interests of God's people, and in order that they might pass over; the sun and moon stood still at the cry of Joshua, and that the hosts of Israel might prolong their victory; the shadow stood still, or rather went back, on the dial-plate of time at the prayers of good King Hezekiah, and to assure him of an addition of fifteen years to his limit of life. But what are the waters of the sea, or the luminaries of the sky, or the element of time to him who furrowed the channel for the one and fixed the place of the other, and who himself fills all space with his presence and all time with his fullness? And yet he stood still when that crisis, the greatest in all this world's history, was fast approaching—for Messiah to be cut off, sin to be made an end of, and everlasting righteousness brought in; and all this in answer to Bartimaeus's earnest entreaties, and to restore sight to his blind eyes and impart life to his dead soul.
2. What he did on standing still. We have three accounts of this also, but, while identical in the main, they exhibit the same thing under different aspects. "He called" is the statement of St. Matthew; "he commanded him to be called" is the version of St. Mark; "he commanded him to be brought" in the addition of St. Luke. In the first we have the sovereignty of God, who calls us by his grace—calm us out of darkness into marvellous light. In the second we have the ministry of man. "The Lord gave the Word," we read: "great was the company of those that published it." In the third we have the agency of the Holy Spirit. God, of his sovereign grace and mere good pleasure, calls us—calls us, as St. Peter assures us, "unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus;" and so, as stated in other Scriptures, it is a "high calling," a "holy calling," and a "heavenly calling." To men, as his ambassadors, is committed the ministry of reconciliation; they are employed to explain the Divine call, to enforce it and repeat it. The Holy Spirit's agency must accompany the minister's message, to bring it home in power and demonstration and assurance, convincing of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Thus we are made willing in the day of his power; and thus at his own command we are brought unto him. The lessons of his Word, the dispensations of his providence, the ordinances of religion, the movements of his Holy Spirit on our hearts, are all employed in drawing us to Christ for the salvation of our souls.
3. A strange question. We almost see the blind man rise in haste at the word of command, which is now repeated to him by the crowd, with the encouraging "Be of good comfort," and, in obedience to the Savior's call, rush forward, "casting aside his garment," in his eager, earnest haste. We almost hear the Savior answer the unspoken thought of the blind man's heart, as he said unto him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" There was little need for such an inquiry, one would think, on the part of our Lord. There was not one in all that crowd that could not guess, and guess correctly, the answer; the Savior knew the thought that was uppermost in the blind man's heart, for he knew what was in man. Why, then, does he ask the question? Just in order to give him an opportunity of presenting his petition and making known his wants in his own words.
4. The blind man's direct reply. Bartimaeus, we are sure from all the known circumstances of the case, wanted many things—better clothing, more wholesome food, a more comfortable place of abode, more of the necessaries of life in general; some even of its simple comforts would not be likely to spoil this poor mendicant, who had suffered so long from privation, pining in poverty, and pinched with want. Bartimaeus refers to none of these things, or such things as these; he comes directly to the point; he names at once the thing which he needs most; he mentions the one thing needful for the relief of his direst necessity. "Lord," he said, "that I might receive my sight." In like manner, whether we engage in public supplication, or family worship, or private devotions, we should have before our mind our most urgent necessities, rightly discriminate them, really feel them, and with pointed earnestness and plain directness of speech express them; we should have some felt want, some real necessity, an actual petition to prevent or hearty thanksgiving to render.
5. The cure. It was immediate: "immediately he received his sight." It was a wonderful change for this poor, blind man; it was a new and blessed experience; it was like a transference into a new and beautiful world; in fact, we cannot realize, and words fail to express it. Equally new, and gracious, and wonderful, and blessed is the translation out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, which takes place in regeneration, when the eyes of the understanding are opened and the light of the knowledge of the glory of God flashes in upon the soul.
6. The means employed. The gentle touch of Jesus' hand was the outward instrumentality. Lovingly, tenderly, he passed his hand over the sightless eyeballs. What a thrilling touch that was! What condescension withal! How it helped the sufferer to hope for the best, and to have faith in the Savior's power! The inward means was faith: "Thy faith hath saved thee." Nor is it said, "Thy promptness hath saved thee," though his promptness was laudable; nor "Thy humility," though that was most becoming; nor "Thy perseverance," though that was commendable; nor "Thy Scriptural knowledge in relation to the Messianic hopes of the nation," though that was of a superior kind; but "Thy faith." Faith and salvation go hand in hand together; God has joined them; let not man separate them: God has wed them, and let not man divorce them.
7. How faith saves. It saves, not by any merit in itself, not by any virtue of its own; it saves by bringing us into contact with Christ. It is the instrument that extracts virtue from the grace of Christ; it is the link of gold that unites with and binds us to Christ; it is the arm that puts on the robe of Christ's righteousness, and that is the robe of salvation; it is the hand stretched out to receive the gifts that grace bestows. "He that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned."
IV. HOW BARTIMAEUS PROVED HIS GRATITUDE.
1. He followed Christ. His faith, as usual, wrought by love; and love keeps near, and delights in, the presence of the beloved object. So with all who love the Lord; they follow him. Soon as the eyes are enlightened to see his beauty and his excellence, we follow him; soon as the heart begins to burn within us by his teaching, we follow him; if true disciples, we follow him; if sheep of the Good Shepherd, we follow him. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." In Old Testament as well as in New Testament times, it was so with all who loved the Lord. Thus it is recorded to the honor, and redounded to the salvation, of Caleb and Joshua that they" wholly followed the Lord." The psalmist speaks his personal experience in the words, "My soul followeth hard after thee." The children of God in both Testaments followed the Lord as monuments of his mercy, as trophies of his grace, as living witnesses of the power of his love, and as witness-bearers to his truth. Bartimaeus followed him "in the way." We read of the Israelites, in their journeyings, being on one occasion sorely "discouraged because of the way." It may be so with ourselves, yet we must follow the Savior whithersoever he leads; whether it be up the hill of difficulty, or down the hill into the valley of humiliation; whether it be a way of toil and trial, of danger and distress, or in green pastures and by still waters; taking up our cross, we shall, by his gracious help, follow him; through evil report and good report we shall follow him. Even when his way, as often, is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known, we will follow him. But how do we make sure that it is the way—the right way? He has himself marked out the way in his Word, and said to us, "This is the way, walk ye in it;" his providence has erected signposts along the way, so that a "wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein" or wander therefrom; his Spirit guides us in the way and comforts us by the way. Thus instructed in his Word, led by his providence, and guided by his Spirit, we shall follow him in the way which, rough though it be at times, and painful, and even distressing, leads in the end to glory, honor, and immortality.
2. He glorified God. "Glorifying God," says St. Luke. So, too, shall we. We have always admired that opening statement in one of the Westminster standards, which says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever;" it contains at once the whole duty of man, and the chief blessedness of man. We glorify God by deep and heartfelt gratitude; we glorify him when we praise his name and defend his cause; we glorify him by the devotedness of our life and our consecration to his service. Thus by the homage of the heart, by the fruit of the lips, and by the sinlessness and faithfulness of the life, we glorify him. We have good cause to glorify God for his unspeakable gift—the Son of his love and our beloved Savior. We glorify God for raising up "a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;" for the perfection of his person, the purity of his life, the suitability of his offices, the efficacy of his death, the prevalence of his intercession; for "his agony and bloody sweat, for his cross and passion, for his precious death and burial, for his glorious resurrection and ascension, and for the coming of the Holy Ghost;" for all he has done for us, for all he is doing, and for all he has promised to do.
3. The happy influence exerted on others. "All the people," says St. Luke, "when they saw it, gave praise unto God." There is a holy contagiousness in this work. When one gets good for his own soul, he cannot keep it to himself, he cannot hide it; the gratitude is so deep, the joy is so great, that he must declare it aloud and to all around, just as the psalmist, saying—
"All that fear God, come, hear; I'll tell
What he did for my soul."
"God will I bless all times; his praise
My mouth shall still express.
Extol the Lord with me, let us
Exalt his name together."
4. Conclusion. We would sum up our study of the case of this poor, blind beggar in the now somewhat trite, but still touching and tender verses of a poet lately departed—
"Blind Bartimaeus at the gates
Of Jericho in darkness waits;
He hears the crowd;—he hears a breath
Say, 'It is Christ of Nazareth!'
And calls, in tones of agony,
ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν με
The thronging multitudes increase;
'Blind Bartimaeus, hold thy peace!'
But still, above the noisy crowd,
The beggar's cry is shrill and loud;
Until they say, 'He calleth thee!'
θάρσει ἔγειραι φωνεῖ σε
Then saith the Christ, as silent stands
The crowd, 'What wilt thou at my hands?'
And he replies, 'Oh, give me light!
Rabbi, restore the blind man's sight!
And Jesus answers,
υπαγε ἡ πίστις σοῦ σέσωκέ σε
"Ye that have eyes, yet cannot see,
In darkness and in misery,
Recall those mighty voices three,
ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν με
θάρσει ἔγειραι ὕπαγε
η πίστις σοῦ σέσωκε σε
We may here add, in a very few words, the common solution of two seeming discrepancies of the evangelists' narrative: viz. our Lord cured two blind men together on this occasion; but Bartimaeus was better known, either previously, as already hinted, in reference to the patronymic, or subsequently as a "monument of the Lord's miracle;" while in reference to the place or time of cure, one of the two had made his application to our Lord as he approached or entered Jericho, yet was not cured at that time, but in company with the second, as our Lord left the city.—J.J.G.
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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