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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-19.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Matthew 19:1. He departed from Galilee.—This marks a very solemn period in our Lord’s public ministry. It was His farewell to Galilee (Brown). Came into the coasts of Judæa beyond Jordan.—From the parallel passage in Mark (Mark 10:1) we learn that this means: Came into Judæa by the trans-Jordanic route through Peræa. It does not mean that any portion of Judæa lay beyond Jordan (Carr). St. Matthew here omits various particulars, of which some are to be supplied from Luke 9:51 to Luke 17:11; others from John—two visits to Jerusalem (John 7:8-10; John 10:22-39); the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46); the retirement, to Ephraim (John 11:54).
Matthew 19:3. The Pharisees.—The article is omitted in R.V. Peræa was removed from the great centres of Jewish hierarchism, but even there the sect of the Pharisees was represented. Tempting him.—To know how entangling the question was it is necessary to remember that there was a dispute at the time between two rival schools of Jewish theology—the school of Hillel and that of Shammai—in regard to the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. The one school held that divorce could be had on the most trivial grounds; the other restricted it to cases of grievous sin (Gibson).
Matthew 19:4. Answered.—The answer Jesus gives is remarkable, not only for the wisdom and courage with which He met their attack, but for the manner in which He availed Himself of the opportunity to set the institution of marriage on its true foundation (ibid.). Have ye not read? etc.—It is noteworthy that the answer to the question is found not in the words of a code of laws, but in the original facts of creation. That represented the idea of man and woman as created for a permanent relationship to each other, not as left to unite and separate as appetite or caprice might prompt (Plumptre).
Matthew 19:5. And said.—Through Adam (Genesis 2:24). The words “embody, not Adam’s opinion, conjecture, or imagination, but God’s own marital law for universal man” (Morison).
Matthew 19:7. Why did Moses then command, etc.?—Our Lord’s answer exposes the double fallacy lurking in the question, “Why did Moses command?” He did not command, he only suffered it; it was not to further divorce but to check it, that he made the regulation about the “writing of divorcement.” And then, not only was it a mere matter of sufferance—it was a sufferance granted “because of the hardness of your hearts.” Since things were so bad among your fathers in the matter of marriage, it was better that there should be a legal process than that the poor wives should be dismissed without it (Gibson).
Matthew 19:10. It is not good to marry.—Nothing could prove more clearly the revolution in thought brought to pass by Christ than this. Even the disciples feel that such a principle would make the yoke of marriage unbearable (Carr).
Matthew 19:11. All men cannot receive this saying.—It is as if the Saviour had said: True, so far; it is expedient in some respects and indeed in many, not to marry. Not a few inconveniences, annoyances, difficulties, and trials would thus be avoided. But then, that would be only one side of the case. And it is by no means all men who could easily, or wisely, receive this saying as the rule of their life, and reduce it to practice (Morison). The saying was that of the disciples as virtually re-iterated, and partially accepted by our Lord (ibid.). They to whom it is given.—Who are these? the disciples would naturally ask; and this our Lord proceeds to tell them in three particulars (Brown).
Matthew 19:12. Eunuchs.—See Dr. Schaff’s remarks (p. 448).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 19:1-12
The law of marriage.—The Saviour has left Galilee, and is on the other side of the Jordan, preparatory to crossing to Jericho and going up to Jerusalem (Matthew 19:1; Matthew 20:17). Those who are in need of Him find Him out there in great multitudes; and find Him also to be all that He had ever been, both in word and in deed (Matthew 19:2, Mark 10:1). Those who are opposed to Him find Him out too (Matthew 19:3). They come to Him with an insidious question on the subject of divorce. In what cases did He hold it “lawful” for a man to “put away his wife?” In their own teaching there were many “causes” which were held to justify a man in so doing. What did He say on the matter? In reply to this question the Saviour first lays down an absolute rule; tnen qualifies it by a certain necessary exception; and finally fortifies it by a further word of considerate caution.
I. An absolute rule.—A rule which is absolute, first, in regard to its authority. It is so, on the one hand, on the question of time. It goes back at once to “the beginning” of all (Matthew 19:4). Let that be which has always been. This is what it first says. It is so, on the other hand, on the question of source. There can be no greater authority on this subject than the authority of the Creator (Matthew 19:4). Only He who made man can know fully what man is. Only He, therefore, can either rightly or wisely decide ultimately what man ought to do. Not less absolute is this rule, in the second place, in regard to its nature. Its nature, on the one hand, in recognising so clearly in the marriage relation the idea of “duality,” and of duality only, of nothing beyond. That original and first marriage to which the rule in question refers us, being one which was both brought about and expressly sanctioned by God Himself, is therefore a “pattern” instance to all. That same instance, however, as is so expressly taught us, was one of this kind—a dual instance—a case of “male and female”—one of “man and wife”—one of nothing beyond. Its nature, on the other hand, in recognising just as clearly the idea of “unity” also. These “two” in one sense—so it was also declared by that original and authoritative instance—were to be “one” in another. “One” so intimately that in this respect no other human relation was to be put in comparison with it (Matthew 19:5). One so intimately, also, that those “two,” in a certain sense, ceased to be “two” any more (Matthew 19:6). That, in short, is the primary idea—that is God’s conception—of marriage. The rule to be observed is to keep strictly to that conception in practice—a rule which, of course, precludes the idea of setting that bond on one side (end of Matthew 19:6).
II. A necessary exception.—This exception is brought out, in part, by a further question on the part of the adversaries of the Saviour. Unable to dispute the answer He has given in a general way, they are yet not satisfied with it in full. It leaves untouched, they think, what Moses has said in another part of his writings; as, for example, where he implies, that there are cases in which men might be allowed to “put away” their wives, by stipulating, if they do so, that the dissolution of the marriage should take place in as formal and open and valid a manner as the original contract did at the first (Matthew 19:7). What did He say about this? Did He allow at all—and, if so, in what cases did He allow—of such exceptions? Our Saviour’s answer is twofold. First, He shows that their inference from Moses was not correct as it stood. The stipulation he insisted on did not prove that the exceptions it pointed to were lawful in His judgment. All it showed was that they could not be avoided in the circumstances of the case. Not even Moses could always do all that should be done with the materials at his disposal. With such blinded minds and perverse wills and hardened hearts as he had to deal with, he could sometimes only seek so to regulate an evil as to keep it within bounds. But this was no proof that he looked on it as being a good. To regulate that which for the time being could not be removed, was not to wish it to remain. To supply a man with crutches when he is lame is not to say that lameness is a good thing in itself. Neither was it difficult, in the next place, to see, even so, where the only exception should be. The essence of marriage was in being “one flesh.” There were cases—only too common cases—where this essence had gone. The marriage contract, in all such cases, had been already broken de facto. In such cases to declare it also broken de jure, and to treat it as such by granting a divorce was not out of keeping with the original institution and purport of marriage; and, therefore, might be allowed (Matthew 19:9). That very statement, however, seems to shut out all other “causes” besides.
III. A faithful caution.—On hearing this the disciples say to the Saviour as related in Matthew 19:10. The spirit of His answer to them may be given in very few words. In certain exceptional cases and times it might be as they said (see 1 Corinthians 7:26). It might be better, in such circumstances, not to enter at all into the marriage relation; on that point, to a great extent, men must judge for themselves. If they felt they could do so, let them do so. It would not be displeasing to God. On the other hand, there was no doubt that this view of that relation might cause it, in some cases, to become a very considerable burden and trial to those who had entered upon it. In no case, however, but that mentioned, were they to regard this as a sufficient reason for attempting to dissolve it. For such a remedy would involve more evils than those it attempted to cure. If He has allowed such troubles to come upon us in that connection (Romans 8:28). He will help us to bear them. He will even cause them, if we look to Him for it, to work for our good (Romans 8:28). Anything is better than unlawfully seeking to set asunder what God hath once joined.
From all this we may see, in conclusion:—
1. How holy a thing marriage is.—Of few other human relations can we say as of this, that it was “instituted of God.” It is not be terminated, it is not to be entered into, apart from God’s will.
2. How naturally, therefore, it leads our thoughts on to what is holier still (Ephesians 5:23, etc.).
3. How well we may rejoice, therefore, to find it spoken of here as that which must not be dissolved.—How glorious to think that in this also it sets forth the union of Christ and His church! If the less sacred much more the more so—if the earthly much more the heavenly—if the type much more the antitype—is something which, once entered in, is not to be lightly dissolved!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 19:3-6. Divorce.—Christ proves by divers arguments that for every cause a divorce is not lawful.
I. From the authority of the Institutor of marriage, viz. God.
II. From the antiquity of the institution of marriage.—“From the beginning.”
III. From the manner of the conjunction and union (Matthew 19:5).
IV. From the excellency of the conjugal bond and tie.—“A man shall leave father and mother,” etc.—Richard Ward.
Matthew 19:6. A happy marriage.—Rev. Robert Newton, the Wesleyan pulpit orator, and his bride, began their married life by retiring twice each day to pray with and for each other. This practice they kept up, when opportunity served, to the end of life. When an old man Mr. Newton remarked, “In the course of a short time my wife and I shall celebrate the jubilee of our marriage; and I know not that, during the fifty years of our union, an unkind look or an unkind word has ever passed between us.”
Matthew 19:3-9. Marriage and divorce among the Jews.—Their highest standard [was] represented in this case by the school of Shammai, while that of Hillel, and still more Rabbi Akiba, presented the lowest opposite extreme. But in reply to the Pharisees our Lord placed the whole question on grounds which even the strictest Shammaite would have refused to adopt. For the farthest limit to which he would have gone would have been to restrict the cause of divorce to “a matter of un-cleanness” (Deuteronomy 24:1), by which he would probably have understood not only a breach of the marriage vow, but of the laws and customs of the land. In fact, we know that it included every kind of impropriety, such as going about with loose hair, spinning in the street, familiarly talking with men, ill-treating her husband’s parents in his presence, brawling, that is “speaking to her husband so loudly that the neighbours could hear her in the adjoining house” (Chetub., vii. 6), a general bad reputation, or the discovery of fraud before marriage. On the other hand the wife could insist on being divorced if her husband were a leper or affected with polypus or engaged in a disagreeable or dirty trade, such as that of a tanner or coppersmith. One of the cases in which divorce was obligatory was if either party had become heretical, or ceased to profess Judaism. But even so, there were at least checks to the danger of general lawlessness, such as the obligation of paying to a wife her portion, and a number of minute ordinances about formal letters of divorce, without which no divorce was legal, and which had to be couched in explicit terms, handed to the woman herself, and that in presence of two witnesses, etc.—A. Edersheim, D.D.
Facilities of divorce among the Jews.—The facility of divorce among the Jews had become so great a scandal, even among their heathen neighbours, that the Rabbis were fain to boast of it as a privilege granted to Israel, but not to other nations.—C. Geikie, D.D.
Matthew 19:4-6. Christianity superior to other systems.—It ought to increase our esteem for Christianity that it takes such a particular care, above all other religions in the world, of regulating that brutish passion of lust, and for the procreation of children in a way so sacred, by making the Christian marriage a covenant of perpetual chastity and friendship. It is plain to any wise, considering man how much the Christian religion, in this respect, is preferable both to Paganism, Mahometanism, and Judaism. As for Paganism, the generality of those of that religion were so far from contriving anything on this subject that was wise or useful to mankind, that their religion abounds with fables of the whoredoms and adulteries of their very gods; and by their example they encouraged themselves in all manner of lewdness, not excepting the most unnatural mixtures, such as the very brute creatures abhor. Some of the learned Greek philosophers were so brutal in their notions of these things that they recommended a promiscuous use of the female sex and gave loose reins to men’s lusts; so that of a whole country they made a general house of debauchery, by this means not only corrupting the minds and manners of men, but hindering both the procreation and good education of children. Indeed, they had so little love to their children that it was a common thing most unnaturally to expose them to perish. The Jewish religion, it is true, rectified a great many of those abuses, yet gave great indulgences to the irregular appetites of mankind; for it allowed them, because of the hardness of their hearts, both a plurality of wives at one time, and the power of putting away their wives by a bill of divorce for every trivial cause, and so does Mahometanism at this day. But the Christian religion goes to the root of all these evils and digs them up. It forbids wandering lust in the very heart and thoughts, so far is it from approving the practice of it. It sets up a sacred, lasting friendship between man and wife, as much more becoming the higher degree of Christian holiness, and forbids the dissolution of marriage by anything else but infidelity to the marriage covenant.—Jas. Blair, M.A.
Matthew 19:10. Is it good to marry?—The disciples think this doctrine hard, for in case divorcement were not lawful, they say it were better not to marry than to be straitly bound in marriage. In whom we see:
1. How impatient our nature is of all restraint, and how much we love to be at liberty, even from the bands of God.
2. Sudden resolutions and sentences are readily full of folly; for here the disciples neither do look unto their own strength, or rather inability, to live in a single life, nor do they consider the incommodities of an unmarried life, nor the commodities of marriage, where God giveth a blessing.—David Dickson.
Milton on divorce.—It is instructive to remember that one of the greatest of English writers has taken the same line of thought in dealing with the question. Milton’s Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and the treatises that followed it, are but an elaborate and eloquent expression of the words of the disciples, “If the case of the man be so with his wife it is not good to marry.”—E. H. Plumptre, D.D.
Matthew 19:12. Eunuchism.—As I understand the mysterious passage the Saviour distinguishes three kinds of eunuchism:
1. Congenital, which implies neither merit nor guilt.
2. Forced, which implies misfortune on the one hand and guilt on the other.
3. Voluntary, which has moral value and merit if it proceeds from faith and love to Christ, but no merit superior to chastity in the married state. The first and third are only improperly called eunuchism. To speak more fully, the first class of eunuchs embraces the comparatively small number of those who are constitutionally either incapable of, or averse to, marriage; the second class, the eunuchs proper, or mutilated persons, who at that time were quite numerous, especially at courts, and are still found in eastern countries, among heathens and Mohammedans (yea, even in the choir of the papal Sixtine chapel in Rome, the famous Miserere being sung by the clear, silver voices of these unfortunate victims of sacred art); the third class, those who deliberately abstain from marriage either altogether or from second marriage after the death of their first husband or wife, not, however, for the purpose of thereby gaining the kingdom of heaven, but for the purpose of working for the kingdom of heaven from pure and disinterested love to Christ, believing that they can serve Him more unreservedly and effectually in the single state, or remain more steadfast in times of peculiar trial and persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26). To this class belong St. Paul (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:26), Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:5-6), probably also St. John (who in the Greek Church bears the standing title, ὁ παρθένος, with reference to his virgin purity), and thousands of missionaries, divines, ministers and pious laymen, sisters of charity, virgins and widows in all ages and among Protestants as well as Catholics. The great and serious error of the Romish Church consists in making a law for the whole clergy of what the Saviour left to free choice on the basis of a special calling and gift of God (Matthew 19:11), and in attaching a superior merit to celibacy at the expense of the holy and normal state of marriage. From a grossly literal misunderstanding of Matthew 19:12, Origen, in the youthful ardour of enthusiasm for Christ, and misguided by the ascetic notions of his age, committed the unnatural deed which forever disqualified him for marriage. But this was justly condemned in the ancient church, and was made subsequently a reason for his excommunication from the church of Alexandria.—P. Schaff, D.D.
Matthew 19:13. Then.—The concurrence of St. Matthew and St. Mark seems to show that this occurrence is immediately connected in point of time with that narrated in the preceding verses. If so, it is worthy of notice that this action of our Lord, in blessing little children, and thus sanctifying the marriage-tie and its offspring, should have followed a saying which His disciples erroneously understood as involving the consequence that it is not good to marry, and in which the perverse ingenuity of a modern critic (see Strauss’ Life of Jesus, § 79) has attempted to discover a trace of the asceticism of the Essenes (Mansel). Little children (παιδία).—Not only little boys and girls, but also infants or babes, as is evident from the term βρἑφη of Luke 18:15 (Schaff). Put His hands on them, and pray.—It appears that it was customary for Jewish infants to be taken to the synagogue to be blessed by the Rabbi (Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Synagogue,” note E). Rebuked them.—As also those who brought them (Mark 10:13). Bengel supposes the greater part of the disciples to have been unmarried.
Matthew 19:14. Of such is the kingdom of heaven.—That is, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, is theirs as by inheritance (Plumptre).
Matthew 19:15. Laid His hands on them.—No unmeaning act, therefore infants are capable of receiving a blessing, though not conscious of an obligation (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 19:13-15
The rights of infants.—We are not told why the disciples tried to prevent these little ones from being brought to the Saviour; but we have reason to believe that there were not a few others who shared in their views. It is certainly singular that this is the only occasion on which we read of any marked attempt of the kind, and that this occurred so late in the course of His ministry and on the other side of the Jordan. Nor does it seem easy to point to any other great teacher of men who showed himself so specially ready as the Saviour did here to teach and welcome the young. How this came to be so, therefore, in His case, is a very natural point of inquiry. How came He to be so seriously angry, as it is evident that He was, with those who would have kept these children away? (Mark 10:14). Partly, we think, because of that which is usually true of little children themselves, and partly because of that which is always true of the Saviour Himself.
I. About little children.—There is that, first, in their nature which makes them suitable for being brought to the Saviour. Far from being unfit for this, as the disciples seem to have considered, there are no others so fit, as a matter of fact. “Of such”—of such primarily—of such-like exclusively—“is the kingdom of heaven” (see Mark 10:15). This is true, on the one hand, with regard to the docility of their nature. Older persons too often think that they know; and so are unwilling to learn. The only thing little children do know is, that they require to be taught. True, also, in regard to the general trustfulness of their nature. They have not yet learned to believe only the half of what is told them. True, once more, in regard to the comparative innocence of their age. In many things they are not as yet committed to wrong; not “accustomed” yet “to do evil.” All these things make it a comparatively hopeful enterprise to bring infants to the Saviour. How few there are of them who do not smile upon those whom they find smiling upon them! How likely they are, therefore, to be at least “responsive” to the love of the Saviour Himself. Also, it may be, there was that in their age itself which drew the Saviour to these. When you have really gained a babe, you may hope that you have done so for the rest of its life. That you have “prevented” both evil and its consequences, therefore, in such a case, in an almost incalculable degree; and have shut the door against innumerable heart-aches and reproaches and pangs and approaches, at least, to despair. And you may also hope, therefore, that you have set up an influence for good which shall do the same, during its course, for many others beside. A saved infant, in short, may mean a saved nation; a rescued germ, a whole succession of harvests, in process of time. Well, therefore, may we understand the Saviour wishing to have such at His feet. Nothing more hopeful, nothing more probably helpful, could there very well be!
II. About the Saviour Himself.—The considerations we have named have had to do principally with the work of the Saviour. Humanly speaking, little children are the most likely to be gained; and the most likely, also, when so gained, to lead to other gains too. But even apart from this, there would be that in Himself, we think, which would make Him yearn over them much. His native holiness, for example, would make their comparative innocence especially attractive in His eyes. How charming to all of us is the absolute ignorance of the little ones about certain descriptions of evil! How delightful to see things which tempt more developed natures to what is vile and unworthy passing over their baby natures without a suggestion of wrong! And how especially delightful, therefore, to Him as the Holy One of God would be this sweet incapacity on their part even for thinking amiss in this way! In their childish company He would be away from much from which He was never far away among men. So, on the other hand, would it be in connection with the overflowing compassion of His nature. How touching a sight to all pitying eyes is the comparative helplessness of the little ones! How urgent an appeal to all feeling hearts is their cry for assistance! The very anger it sometimes arouses is itself a testimony to its potency. How deeply would it tell, therefore, though in an opposite direction, on the blessed Saviour Himself. Amongst the many famishing ones around Him on one memorable occasion, He specially remembered those who were probably most weary as having come “from afar” (Mark 8:3). Amongst the many weak ones at the Pool of Bethesda, He selected one who appears to have suffered most and longest of all (John 5:5-7). How would He be drawn, therefore, on similar grounds to the case of these babes. And how His every word, therefore, as well as every action recorded, showed the tenderness of His love in this case! (Mark 10:16).
Let us take care, therefore, if we would be His disciples indeed, that there is a like tenderness in ourselves. Let us love the little ones both for their own sake and for that of the church. Let us love them for His sake as well as their own. It is one of the marks of the true gospel that it is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18). It is another mark that it has a special welcome for the lambs of the flock (Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 20:15-16). Happy those on whose hearts this double attestation is found!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 19:13-15. Christ blessing the children.—A picture:—
I. Of Godly parents.
II. Of narrow religionists.
III. Of a loving Christ.
IV. Of a beautiful heaven.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Love of children.—I am fond of children. I think them the poetry of the world, the fresh flowers of our hearths and homes, little conjurers with their natural magic, evoking by their spells what delights and enriches all ranks.—Thomas Binney, D.D.
Matthew 19:13. The relation of children to the history of Jesus Christ.—
1. There were children in the time of Christ.
2. These children heard and saw Christ.
3. Children were the objects of His merciful and miraculous interposition.
4. Children were the objects of His sincere affection.
5. The Saviour employed children to illustrate great principles.
6. Christ uttered concerning children great and important truths.—J. Viney.
Matthew 19:14. The children’s Christ.—Jean Paul Richter is said to have summed up his creed in the words: “I love God and every little child.” Such words are but a faint echo of a greater than Richter, who said: “Suffer little children,” etc. Christ threw a glorious halo around the head of childhood, and threw wide open to them the gates of His kingdom. There is no incident in the life of Christ so tender and beautiful as that of blessing the children on His last journey.
I. Christ’s conception of the capacity of children for religion.—His words are as wonderful as the act was beautiful. He declares that instead of these being shut out, the very kingdom is made up only of such. And if grown-up people enter, it is only by being converted, and made again as little children. All children are born in the kingdom. By a strange perversity we have been taught the reverse: that all children were the children of wrath and corruption until the saving grace of God made them of the household of faith. Original sin has loomed so largely, that original grace has been quite forgotten. Yet we are plainly told that “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18). And because of Christ’s atonement, no child is ever born a child of the devil. The taint of sin has entered our soul, and we inherit terrible tendencies and possibilities of evil. But there is also given a measure of the Spirit to every man born into the world, and all are born under the covenant of reconciliation and grace. Some will ask, where then comes the need of conversion? In children conversion is the voluntary acceptance of the relationship into which the death of Christ has placed them. There is no condemnation where there is no power of choice. Sin is in the will. And there comes a time when the will must assert itself—on one side or the other. Then the choice is made; and when made for righteousness the child puts its name to the covenant in Christ Jesus. There may or may not be excitement. The great point is the surrender of the will to Christ. Convulsion is no necessary part of conversion.
II. Their place in the church.—Christ’s rebuke in the temple declares their right to a place in His church. If His kingdom is “of such,” surely they cannot be shut out of the privileges of His church. And I take it they have a place all their own, both in its worship and its service. Having underestimated their capacity, it was only to be expected their claims would be overlooked. A little while ago the students of a theological college sent to every church of their denomination a neat little card to be hung in the pulpit, in a place likely to catch the preacher’s eye, with the exhortation, “Remember the children,” a request by no means uncalled for. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children might find ample scope for its mission in many of our churches.
III. In the teaching of Christ the child-life is the ideal life.—(Matthew 18:3; Luke 9:46, etc.) Such a standard is unique. The world exalts strength, bravery, majesty, wisdom, wealth. Gentleness is the truest strength; humility the path to exaltation; simplicity the truest wisdom; trust the greatest safeguard; and love the key that opens the treasures of the world.—S. Chadwick.
The claims of children.—I. Christian economy calls upon us to expend the greater part of our time and attention on the young, under the consideration that there is a higher probability that our efforts shall be successful.—Comparatively few persons are converted after twenty years of age. The vast majority of those in our churches, in whom we have any confidence, were subjects of serious impression by the time they were fifteen years of age; many of them before they were twelve.
II. Christian economy counsels us to expend our principal exertions on the young, under the consideration that we shall obtain a better piety out of them, for the glory of God.
III. The church is more dependent for prosperity on the conversion of the young than on that of the aged.
IV. The education of children is both more agreeable and more profitable to the teacher himself.—Win. Anderson, LL.D.
Childhood and youth.—An inference from these precious words of Christ is the importance of seeking to win the children for Christ while yet they are children, ere the evil days come, or the years draw nigh, when they will be apt to say they have no pleasure in Him. It is a sad thing to think how soon the susceptibility of the child-nature may harden into the impenetrability which is sometimes found even in youth. Is there not a suggestion of this in the story of the young man which immediately follows?—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
Tenderness to children.—Dr. Stalker, in his lectures on preaching, tells us that when Dr. Wilson, of Edinburgh, was leaving home for the work of the ministry, a ministry which has been greatly blessed to the young, his mother told him she had not much advice to give him, but, said she, remember this—“Whenever you put your hand on a child’s head you put it on a mother’s heart.”
Children’s voices in heaven.—In “Women Workers of the Past in Bristol,” Mrs. Marshall writes that when Mrs. Schimmelpenninck was dying, she exclaimed, as if listening with delight to music, “Do you not hear the voices? and the children’s are the loudest.”
Matthew 19:16. Good Master.—The better MSS. omit the adjective, and it has probably been added here by later copyists to bring the passage into a verbal agreement with the narrative of St. Mark and St. Luke. From the prominence given to it in the form of our Lord’s answer, as reported by them, we may reasonably believe that it was actually uttered by the questioner (Plumptre).
Matthew 19:17. Why callest thou me good?—Here again the older MSS. give a different form to our Lord’s answer (See R.V.). Keep the commandments.—The questioner is answered as from his own point of view. If eternal life was to be won by doing, there was no need to come to a new Teacher for a new precept (Plumptre).
Matthew 19:20. From my youth up.—Omitted in R.V., as in oldest MSS., but not in the parallel passages.
Matthew 19:21. If thou wilt be perfect.—If thou wishest to be characterised by full-orbed “goodness” (Morison).
Matthew 19:23. Hardly.—I.e., with difficulty (see R.V.).
Matthew 19:24. It is easier for a camel, etc.—It has been suggested that the needle’s eye was an expression in common use for a narrow gate into a city intended for foot-passengers only, and through which, if a camel could squeeze at all, it would first need to be unladen and entirely stripped of trappings and encumbrances. Very possibly this explanation may be right, but it is not necessary to scrutinise closely what is so obviously the language of hyperbole. The object is to stamp on the mind and memory the idea of extreme difficulty, and it has been shown by Dr. John Lightfoot that a Talmudist used for the same purpose a phrase still more hyperbolical: “an elephant going through the eye of a needle” (Fraser).
Matthew 19:25. Who then can be saved?—Since everyone has more or less of the same love of the world (De Wette). The question shows that the disciples took their Master to be referring not to men of great wealth alone, but to a much larger class (Canon Duckworth).
Matthew 19:27. What shall we have therefore?—There is something in Peter’s question that abundantly betrays his spiritual imperfection. There was too great eagerness for reward. Arnot somewhat plainly says, “His eye was on the main chance.” But still there was transparency of character and ingenuousness manifested by the question which he put. And then, too, it must be borne in mind that regard to reward is right in its own place; although, assuredly, its place ever has been, and must for ever be, as it deserves to be, in a very subordinate sphere of moral motives (Morison). The answer of Christ shows that all true sacrifice shall have its reward, but all that looks like sacrifice is not really such; therefore “many that are first shall be last.” Among the Twelve there was a Judas (Carr).
Matthew 19:28. The regeneration.—“The renewal of things,” “the return to a perfect state,” otherwise called “the restitution of all things,” nearly = the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 17:11) (Carr). There is to be a “new birth” for mankind as well as for the individual (Plumptre). Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones.—What approximations to a literal fulfilment there may be in the far-off future lies behind the veil (ibid.). In at least one instance the words, absolute as they were in their form, failed of their fulfilment. The guilt of Judas left one of the thrones vacant. The promise was given subject to the implied conditions of faithfulness and endurance lasting even to the end (ibid.).
Matthew 19:30. Many that are first, etc.—See on Matthew 19:27.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 19:16-30
The perils of wealth.—Long as this passage is, it will be found to turn on one topic throughout, viz., on that “love of money” of which the Apostle tells us that it is the possible “root” of all ill. It will be found also to tell us, in regard to this evil, almost all we require—its special malignity, e.g. on the one hand, and its only cure, on the other.
I. Its special malignity.—We may see this, first, in the kind of cases attacked by this evil. They are often such as appear to be proof against everything else. See this exemplified in the “young man” who here comes to the Saviour (Matthew 19:16). How earnest and right his desires! How perfect his aim! “That which was good” (Matthew 19:16). How well ordered his life! Even if we suppose his testimony about himself (Matthew 19:20) to refer only to externals, what a record it was! No impurity, no falsehood, no dishonesty, no failure in duty towards his parents; nothing, in short, for which even the Saviour could, so far, reprove him! How simply lovely, in short, such a life! We can hardly wonder at what we are told about it in Mark 10:21. What we do wonder at is that there was yet “one” form of excellence in which this young man was “lacking” (Matthew 19:21)—one form of evil before which he was found to succumb. How deadly an evil, therefore, this form of evil must be in itself! We may see this, also, in the next place, in the kind of results it produced. Consider what was actually done by this subtle evil in this, so far, eminent case. This is very soon told. When things were put here to the test—when this most exemplary youth (in so many respects) was invited to be “perfect” indeed, and to show that he was ready to do anything rather than fail in his aim in any direction—then he fell at a stroke. Then his inward faith in the all-surpassing importance of worldly gain came out of its secret hiding place, and stood, as it were, in his way (Matthew 19:22). From one point of view, he was asked, no doubt, to do much. But he was promised still more. He was to part with treasure on earth. But he was to gain treasure in heaven. He was asked to do, therefore, what he knew in his heart to be both the “good” and the “wise.” But he was unable to do it. The “deceitfulness of riches” bewildered his judgment and benumbed his desires, so that he could not do, therefore, what it yet made him bitterly “sorrowful” to be unable to do. See the effect, therefore, in this most pitiable sorrow, of this wide fountain of evil. Never, surely, were fairer hopes more disastrously shattered. Never, surely, goodlier vessel wrecked so near to its port! What evil, therefore, can be greater than that which brought about such an end?
II. The only cure of this evil.—Where alone, for example, on the one hand, an available remedy can be found, viz., in something, of course, which should be of greater strength than the greatest strength of mankind. The Saviour will be found to bring His disciples to this conclusion by degrees. How hard it is, He says first, for those who have riches at all to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). How hard it is because of the fact that, where this is the case, the man who has once, in consequence, tasted their sweetness and seen their effect is always tempted to “trust” in them too (Mark 10:24); and to think of them, therefore, as this “young man” did, as though nothing could stand in their place. In which case, of course, it becomes “impossible” for him to suppress the love of them in his heart (Matthew 19:24). How should a man be able to give up that which he believes to be all? Only God Himself can bring his bewitched steps into the pathway of life (Matthew 19:26). How alone, next, the benefits of the remedy in question can be secured by ourselves. We see this by the way in which, in this passage, in the case of some who had overcome the evil in question (Matthew 19:27), the Saviour strengthens them in their decision. He does so, on the one hand, by solemnly assuring them that all shall be well with such in the end; that a time is coming in which there shall be a wholly altered condition of things on the earth, in which He Himself shall be seated on the throne of His glory, and all those who have truly followed Him shall have their share in the same (Matthew 19:28). He does so, on the other hand, by assuring them that, even meanwhile, things shall be for their real good in a most pre-eminent way, all that they may so have to lose in this life for His sake being made up to them a “hundredfold” more (Matthew 19:29). This is, therefore, how He would have us resist this temptation, viz., by working at these counterbalancing gains. To avoid thinking too much of the present and transitory, think more of the future and permanent. To avoid being deceived by earthly riches, fix your eyes on the true. “Set your affections,” in a word, “on things above,” where they “ought to be fixed.” Nothing else is so sure! Nothing else so safe! Nothing else so transcendently gainful in the very best sense! And nothing else, therefore, so able to deliver us from this most insidious and most fatal of snares!
One other thought, to conclude. These solemn cautions are not addressed to rich men, but to poor. The love of money is not a danger to those only who possess it. To no men, probably, does affluence sometimes seem more alluring than to those who see it afar off. Does not the last commandment also teach us the same? It is not to those who have, but to those who desire to have, that its language is addressed. Let all men, therefore, beware of covetousness, whoever they are!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 19:16-22. A sad story.—We have here one of the saddest stories in the Gospels. It is a true soul’s tragedy. The young man is in earnest, but his earnestness has not volume and force enough to float him over the bar. He wishes to have some great thing bidden him to do, but he recoils from the sharp test which Christ imposes. He truly wants the prize, but the cost is too great; and yet he wishes it so much that he goes away without it in deep sorrow, which perhaps, at another day, ripened into the resolve which was too high for him then. There is a certain severity in our Lord’s tone, an absence of recognition of the much good in the young man, and a naked stringency in His demand from him, which sound almost harsh, but which are set in their true light by Mark’s note, that Jesus “loved him,” and therefore treated him thus. The truest way to draw ingenuous souls is not to flatter nor to make entrance easy by dropping the standard or hiding the requirements, but to call out all their energy by setting before them the lofty ideal. Easy-going disciples are easily made—and lost. Thorough-going ones are most surely won by calling for entire surrender.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 19:16-26. The requirements of the King.—I. We have the picture of a real though imperfect moral earnestness, and the way Christ dealt with it.—Matthew tells us that the questioner was young and rich. Luke adds that he was a ruler,—a synagogue official, that is—which was unusual for a young man, and indicates that his legal blamelessness was recognised. Mark adds one of his touches, which are not only picturesque, but character-revealing, by the information that he came “running” to Jesus in the way, so eager was he, and fell at His feet, so reverential was Hebrews 1:0. His first question is singularly compacted of good and error. The fact that he came to Christ for a purely religious purpose, not seeking personal advantage for himself or for others, like the crowds who followed for loaves and cures, nor laying traps for Him with puzzles which might entangle Him with the authorities, nor asking theological questions for curiosity, but honestly and earnestly wanting to be helped to lay hold of eternal life, is to be put down to his credit. He is right in counting it the highest blessing. Where had he got hold of the thought of “eternal life”? It was miles above the dusty speculations and casuistries of the Rabbis. Probably from Christ Himself. He was right in recognising that the conditions of possessing it were moral, but his conception of “good” was surface, and he thought more of doing than of being good, and of the desired life as payment for meritorious actions. In a word, he stood at the point of view of the old dispensation. “This do, and thou shalt live,” was his belief; and what he wished was further instruction as to what “this” was. He was to be praised in that he docilely brought his question to Jesus, even though, as Christ’s answer shows, there was error mingling in his docility. Such is the character—a young man, rich, influential, touched with real longings for the highest life, ready, so far as he knows himself, to do whatever he is bidden, in order to secure it. We might have expected Christ, who opened His arms wide for publicans and harlots, to have welcomed this fair, ingenuous seeker with some kindly word. But He has none for him. We adopt the reading of the Authorised Version, in which our Lord’s first word is repellent. It is in effect, “There is no need for your question, which answers itself. There is one good Being, the Source and Type of every good thing, and therefore the good, which you ask about, can only be conformity to His will. You need not come to Me to know what you are to do.” He relegates the questioner, not to his own conscience, but to the authoritative revealed will of God in the law. On another occasion He answered a similar question in a different manner (see John 6:28-29). Why did He not answer the young ruler thus? Only because He knew that he needed to be led to that thought by having his own self-complacency shattered, and the clinging of his soul to earth laid bare. The whole treatment of him here is meant to bring him to the apprehension of faith as preceding all truly good work.
2. The young man’s second question says a great deal in its one word. It indicates astonishment at being remanded to these old, well-worn precepts, and might be rendered, “What sort of commandments?” as if taking it for granted that they must be new and peculiar. The craving for more than ordinary “good works” shows a profound mistake in the estimate of the ordinary, and a fatal blunder as to the relation between “goodness” and “eternal life.” So Christ answers the question by quoting the second half of the Decalogue, which deals with the homeliest duties, and appending to it the summary of the law, which requires love to our neighbour as to ourselves. Why does He omit the earlier half? Probably because He would meet the error of the question by presenting only the plainest, most familiar commandments, and because He desired to excite the consciousness of deficiency, which could be most easily done in connection with these.
3. There is a touch of impatience in the rejoinder, “All these I have kept,” with more than a touch of self-satisfaction. The law has failed to accomplish one of its chief purposes in the young man, in that it has not taught him his sinfulness. Still he was not at rest.
4. His last question is a plaintive, honest acknowledgment of the hungry void within, which no round of outward obedience can ever fill.
II. Now comes the sharp-pointed test, which pricks the brilliant bubble. Mark tells us that Jesus accompanied His words with one of those looks which searched the soul, and bore His love into it. “If thou wouldst be perfect” takes up the confession of something “lacking” and shows what that is. The principles involved in the precept is medicine for all, and the only way of healing for any.
III. Then comes the collapse of all the enthusiasm.—His earnestness chills at the touch of the test. One sign of grace he does give, in that he went away “sorrowful.” He is not angry nor careless. He cannot see the fair prospect of the eternal life, which he had in some real fashion desired, fade away, without a pang. If he goes back to the world, he goes back feeling more acutely than ever that it cannot satisfy him. He loves it too well to give it up, but not enough to feel that it is enough. Surely, in coming days, that godly sorrow would work a change of the foolish choice, and we may hope that he found no rest till he cast away all else to make Christ his own. A soul which has travelled so far on the road to life eternal as this man had done, can scarcely thereafter walk the broad read of selfishness and death with entire satisfaction.
IV. Christ’s comment on the sad incident.—He has no word of condemnation, but passes at once from the individual to the general lesson, of the difficulty which rich men (or, as He explains it in Mark, men who “trust in riches”) have in entering the king dom. The reflection breathes a tone of pity, and is not so much blame as a merciful recognition of special temptations which affect His judgment, and should modify ours.—Ibid.
Matthew 19:17. The goodness of God.—The notion of goodness is inseparable from the notion of a God. We cannot own the existence of God, but we must confess also His goodness.
I. What this goodness is.—
1. The bounty of God.
2. The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effluxes of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the objects it is exercised about; as the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washes and beats upon. When He confers happiness without merit, it is grace; when He bestows happiness against merit, it is mercy; when He bears with provoking rebels, it is long-suffering; when He performs His promise, it is truth; when He commiserates a distressed person, it is pity; when He supplies an indigent person, it is bounty; when He succours an innocent person, it is righteousness; and when He pardons a penitent person, it is mercy; all summed up in this one name of goodness.
II. The nature of this goodness.
1. He is good by His own essence.
2. He is the prime and chief goodness.
3. This goodness is communicative.—Without goodness He would cease to be a Deity, and without diffusiveness He would cease to be good (Psalms 119:68).
4. God is necessarily good.
5. He is also freely good.—It would not be a supreme goodness, if it were not a voluntary goodness. It is agreeable to the nature of the highest good to be absolutely free, to dispense His goodness in what methods and measures He pleaseth.
6. This goodness is communicated with the greatest pleasure (Psalms 21:3).—It is the nature of His goodness to be glad of men’s solicitations for it.
III. The manifestations of this goodness.
1. If God be so good, how unworthy is the contempt or a buse of His goodness (Jeremiah 2:5).
2. It is matter of comfort in afflictions.
3. Imitate this goodness of God (Matthew 5:44-45).—Anon.
Matthew 19:21. Christ’s demand of the young ruler.—Commentators stumble over the difficulty of this command. But it came to others, and they stood the test. It came to Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, when Christ bade them leave all to follow Him, to become fishers of men. It came to Paul, when Christ bade him crucify his pride, and go into Damascus, and take his instructions from one of the despised and persecuted Christians, who would tell him what he should do. It came to Luther, when Christ bade him forsake the church of his fathers and of his childhood; to Coligny, when Christ bade him abandon wife and home and peace; to William of Orange; to the Puritans; to John Howard; to David Livingstone. In one form or another it comes to every Christian; for to every would-be Christian the Master says: “Give up your property, your home, your life itself, and take them back as Mine, and use them for Me in using them for your fellow-men. He who cannot, does not, do this, is no Christian. He can do naught but go away sorrowful: in this life, if he is keen of conscience; in the life to come, if a false education has lulled his conscience into uneasy slumber, but slumber so deep that only the judgment day can awaken it.—L. Abbott, D.D.
Christ’s demand.—There seems to be a twofold danger.
1. On the one hand, lest while trying to explain the words of Christ, we should find ourselves to be only explaining them away.
2. On the other hand, lest by insisting on their literal and universal application, we should destroy Christian liberty, should put the letter for the spirit, rules for principles, and so degrade the gospel into a system of purchase in which a certain outlay secures unfailing return.—Canon Duckworth.
A surgical case.—Clearly it is a surgical case; the medicine of the commandments will not do; there must be the insertion of the knife, “Go and sell,” etc.—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
St. Anthony.—It was from the story of the rich young man in the gospel that the famous Anthony, the very patriarch of Monachism, inferred that it was his duty to abandon his ancestral estate and live in solitude and poverty. There is no question of the ardour and sincerity of the man; but as we read what history has to tell of the moral and social effects of Monachism, we cannot but reflect how much better it would have been for all Christendom if Anthony had lived on the estate which he inherited, and used his means and position for the honour of Christ and the gospel among the ignorant peasantry around, rather than have passed his life in the desert, injuring his own body by gratuitous hardships, maintaining mysterious combats with fiends, and so leading hundreds and thousands of misguided men into a similar pursuit of an illusive, ascetic perfection.—D. Fraser,D.D.
Hindered by one thing.—It is the things which are apparently the smallest that prevent the greatest results. A slight defect in the finest bell and it ceases to sound, a lost key and the richest money-chest is useless. The day of battle has arrived, the troops are admirably disposed, the despatches of the general fly here and there; suddenly the horse of the adjutant stumbles on a stone; he arrives a quarter of an hour too late, and the battle is lost. So it is in spiritual matters. Many a man who has got safely over the Rhine has been drowned in a little brook. Sin has no more dangerous delusion than to convince a man that he is safe if only he avoids the so-called flagrant transgressions.—A. Tholuck, D.D.
Matthew 19:20-21. Christ’s test.—The rich young ruler presented fine certificates—of his own composition. Christ didn’t tear them up, but He did what you tradesmen do with an applicant for a vacancy; He gave him a bit of work to try his hand on. The gentlemanly commandment-keeper wrote no more certificates.—John McNeill.
Matthew 19:22. Self-inflicted sorrow.—I. Who was He?—
1. A young man.
2. A well-to-do young man.
3. A young man of considerable Mark 4:0. A pre-eminently virtuous young man.
5. A young man who was anxious about the life to come.
II. Where had he been of late?—He went away. From whom, or from what place? Christ has answered the man’s interrogation; Christ has responded to his entreaty; Christ has given him a definite and conclusive answer. He came running, he goes lagging. He came complacently; he goes resentfully. He came as one who would lay a giant’s hold upon eternal life; he goes with no shadow of a hold upon eternal life. He was sorrowful as he went away; but go away he did, right clean away. And Jesus, looking intently after him, as he went, intimated to His disciples that he was gone for good and all; that of his ever entering into the kingdom of God there was little hope now. In vain his acknowledged moral excellence. In vain his religious anxiety. In vain his fellowship with the good Master. In this, the momentous crisis of his being, something had interposed which had marred and ruined all. What could it be?
III. Why had he gone away?—
1. Had Christ’s behaviour to him been unkindly? Some teachers are morose, ungenial, supercilious, austere.
2. Had Christ’s treatment of the case been inconsiderate?
3. Had Christ’s direction to him been unreasonable? Then, why did he go away? Alas! he loved his possessions more than he loved his soul! He would not forego the present for the future. He would not cease to be what he was that he might become something better. Whatever his solicitude about eternal life, that solicitude was secondary, not supreme. And what a thing it was to let go! what a thing it was to determine to let go! You are struck with the infatuation of the man! But mind that you are not infatuated too! Think now.
1. In character you resemble him.
2. In procedure you resemble him.
3. In disposition you resemble him.—W. Brock, D.D.
Going away from Christ.—“He went away.” What more, what else could he do? He faced alternatives stubborn and fixed when that reply came to him from Jesus. He must decide for himself now. He did decide.
I. Why did he go? He had great riches, and the alternative seemed hard. But this was not a reason; it was only a test. Jesus did not want his money. He said, “And give to the poor.” No, there were two reasons why the young man failed.
1. What Jesus required involved the entire revolution of his life. He was a member of the Sanhedrin; he must now become instantly a true Christian. He must immediately avow Jesus as the Messiah, and become a defender of the faith which that whole nation hated. All this involved a sudden change in his history. He was not ready for it.
2. The other reason, however, was probably the critical one; it was his unregenerate heart that lay at the bottom of the refusal.
II. How did he go?
1. In low dejection of heart. This young ruler, under pressure of spiritual need, had come to find a path out from his sense of guilt and leading to eternal salvation. He only met heavier admonitions laid on his already sore conscience. Formerly he imagined he had done his entire duty, and still he had wondered why he was not safe and easy in his mind; now he saw that he was as hollow as a hypocrite, and his trouble of heart was explained by the fact that he might have known bettor; so the trouble was worse.
2. He went away thoroughly unsettled as to his future. There remains for him nothing possible except a religious compromise, and that will never give him rest.
3. He went away pitied and mourned by those who loved him.
III. Where did the young ruler go?
1. He went back to the world. It would be a question whether he idolised his old treasures as he once did, whether he was as amiable or as popular as he had once been. Men who stifle their best emotions, and try to hush their noblest convictions, are sure to get soured after a while, and grow unhappy and cynical; and then they are not agreeable. He went back to his old companions. It would be likely to sting in his mind a little, this recollection of the time when he went forth to find Jesus, and actually kneeled down in the road before Him. Some of his Jewish comrades would taunt him, too, with having once set out to become a Nazarene.
2. He went on to his grave. It was to be expected that there should be a proud funeral at his abode some while after this, and that he should be laid with his fathers ostentatiously, with much pomp and attention of social show.
3. He went on to the judgment. The will that refused, the heart that was hard, the pride that was unsubdued, the avarice that was imperious, the determination which fixed his future destiny where he is now, never were put into his coffin for a moment, never had any place whatsoever in the ashes of his tomb.
4. He went “to his own place.” Character decides destiny. If any one is ready to turn away from the Lord where is he going next?—C. S. Robinson, D.D.
Christ left sorrowfully.—It was, we may suppose:
1. The sadness of loss. “And cannot I have eternal life? Is the way so hard? Are the terms so difficult? Must I relinquish so great a prize, bear so heavy a cross?”
2. The sadness of disappointment. “Must all I sought and thought I saw in prospect vanish thus?”
3. The sadness of self-conviction. “Ah! He is right. I did not know myself. It is I, not He, that is to blame,” etc.
4. The sadness of shame. “And I have gone to Him, and He has seen me through. Oh! that look of gentle pity; those tender tones; that hard but loving invitation. He said not “go,” but “come.” And I have left Him, declined His offer, spurned His precepts,” etc. But the sorrow did not prevent his going; did not make Christ relent; did not keep Him from saying, “How hardly,” etc. There are special times when we may be said to leave Christ; when we are brought very near to Him, and have to make an election, and perhaps for ever. Such a time is that of deep religious conviction. Such a time is that when we are obliged by outward circumstances to take a stand. A new position in life compels us to come out afresh, and either as His servants or His foes. Some painful enterprise of sin forces on conscience a decision. A companionship promising pleasure and advantage, requires by its rejection that we honour, or by its acceptance that we renounce, the Saviour. It matters not what we leave Him in spite of, if we leave Him. The greater the difficulties in leaving Him the more sad and fearful the forsaking. And in leaving Christ we leave all.—A. J. Morris.
Hindrances to inquirers.—Sometimes the inquirer may not himself suspect just what the hindrance is until he is probed. In some cases it is a besetting sin that has got a mastery of the heart. In other cases it is an evil habit, or a course of sinful practices or secret sensualities, or dishonest methods in business, or something else’ that must go out before Jesus Christ will come in. Dr. Charles G. Finney tells us that he once had a man on his knees beside him, and the man promised to surrender everything to God until it came to his “business.” The man bolted at that test point, and said: “I can’t give that to God, for I am a liquor seller.”—T. L. Cuyler, D.D.
Matthew 19:23. The perils of wealth.—“Who ever heard,” exclaims Paulus de Palacio, “such theology? It was unknown,” he adds, “to the Stoics. It was unknown to the Platonics. It was unknown to the Peripatetics.” It is true theology, nevertheless. It is one of the most difficult things in the world to deal conscientiously with riches—that is, to keep a good conscience and be rich. It is easy to be rich and honest in the human plane of things. But to take up riches to the higher plane, in which the will and wish of God are recognised and adopted as the rule of life, and consequently as the rule of giving and of keeping, is one of the severest possible tests to which the human heart can be subjected. Happy is the man of opulence who does not shrink from ascending to that platform.—J. Morison, D.D.
Matthew 19:25. The great question.—“Who then,” etc.? an admission that all men share the same guilt and love of the world. How may a rich man enter heaven?
I. It is always difficult in his peculiar circumstances.
II. It is impossible, if in mind and heart he cleaves to his wealth—the Pharisees.
III. It becomes possible by a miracle of Divine grace—Joseph of Arimathea.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 19:27-29. “What shall we have therefore?”—
1. Albeit it be little that we suffer for Christ, yet we think much of it.
2. Howsoever it be not worthy to speak of what we do or suffer for Christ, yet the least thing done in sincerity is not despised by Christ, but highly esteemed and richly rewarded, for Christ promiseth a reward.
3. Christ doth not narrowly mark the infirmitics of His own, but doth cherish the smallest beginnings, and fomenteth the smoking flax, as here may be seen in His answer to Peter. Peter’s speech smelleth of pride, yet He passeth it over, saying, “Verily I say unto you,” etc.
4. Although Christ doth not always answer His people’s expectation by giving them the very thing which they look for, yet He will not fail to give them a better thing; as here the Apostles dreamed of an earthly kingdom and of earthly honours to be given unto Christ and themselves. This He will not give them, but He leadeth them higher, showing them that what they loved to have in this life should be given them in substance, and in a more eminent way, in the life to come.
5. The day of judgment shall be a sort of regeneration, wherein our bodies and souls shall be renewed perfectly, for glory and immortality.
6. At that day Christ, even in His human nature, shall be seen to reign in glory, suitable to His Divine majesty.
7. Such as follow Christ must be resolved for Christ’s sake to be deprived of what is dear unto them in this life, if He shall be pleased to put them to trial. That is imported in “Every one that forsakes houses,” etc.
8. What men do lose for Christ shall breed them gain a hundredfold even in this life, because the comforts and privileges of Christ’s kingdom are a hundredfold better than anything they can be deprived of.
9. Besides what spiritual gain is gotten in this life to such as suffer for the gospel, life eternal is also given for an inheritance in the world to come, which is able to make up all losses sustained for Christ.—David Dickson.
Matthew 19:29. The hundredfold.—What is the meaning of the promise, that which gathers into itself all its various senses and aspects, and reconciles them? Perhaps it may be summed up and expressed under these three heads:—
I. We find in Christ, in loving and serving Him, all that makes our natural kinships and our possessions of real worth to us.—Our kinships and possessions are valuable to us and reach their true end only as they minister to our welfare and culture, as they develop our various faculties and powers, as they furnish us with opportunities of serving our fellows, and both enable and incline us to avail ourselves of them.
II. We find in Christ corresponding, yet superior, relationships and pos sessions to those which we resign for His sake.—Houses and lands, kinsfolk and friends, are intended for our culture in virtue and righteousness and charity; they are also the express types of higher kinships which are open to us, and of more enduring riches. From the father of our flesh we derive our first and best conception of the Father of our spirits. The love of woman helps us to apprehend and trust the love of Christ. The obedience and simplicity of childhood speak to us of the wiser simplicity and nobler obedience of discipleship. The corruptible treasure on earth symbolises, in many ways, the immortal treasure in heaven. And if we leave, or lose, any of these typical relationships and possessions for Christ’s sake, we gain that which they typify.
III. In virtue of our oneness with Christ we possess all things and persons in a deeper, truer way.—Strictly speaking, a man’s property is exactly what he can appropriate; that, and not a jot more. But on what does the power of appropriation depend? Obviously on the kind of life that is in us, on its volume and quality, on the vigour and variety of its faculties, and on the manner in which these faculties have been trained and developed. He who has most life in him, and in whom this life has been best cultivated, will infallibly possess himself of most that is really valuable and enduring. He will see farther into men, and be able both to do more for them and to get more from them, than those can do in whom there is less life, or a life less cultivated and accomplished. All events and all changes, all kinships and possessions, will have more to say to him, and will more variously and profoundly minister to his culture and to his welfare. And it is precisely this great blessing which the Lord Jesus offers to us. He offers us life of the highest quality, in the richest abundance.—S. Cox, D.D.
Self-denial and its reward.—I beg leave to think that only a hearty recognition of the Divinity of Jesus Christ can save both the claims and the promises from the charge of absurdity and blasphemy.
I. What Christ demands from us.—He seems to divide the thing into two, and between them He places all the more sacred and precious things of life—family ties, brother and sister, wife and children, and all these He says we are to surrender—for His sake. Well, if there is any one thing that modern Christianity does not need to be taught it is that the New Testament is not to be translated literally, as people say. It is a vast deal easier for a man outwardly to abandon than to abandon in his heart and desire. Christ explains the words of my text in another of His sayings. If any man loves so and so more than Me he is not My disciple. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. The life is the man.
1. The inward abandonment of everything we possess.—That is to say that honestly we shall put all these things of which we can say, “I have them”—houses, lands, mills, factories, balances at our bankers, pictures, home, honestly we shall put all these second, and put Jesus Christ first.
2. An inward abandonment of all the people that we love is as imperative as an inward abandonment of all the possessions that we have, and just in the same position as in regard to the former so in regard to this. A mother’s tenderness; a father’s care; a wife’s self-sacrifice; children’s love; all these are to be rigidly subordinated to the supreme love of Christ and all these are to be put aside, to be put aside gently and tenderly, with a very loving hand, but yet with a very firm one, to be put aside if they would at all avail to cross the path along which our eye should travel, and our heart with our eye, unto Him.
II. The great and wonderful promise which our Lord sets forth.—It falls into two parts. A hundredfold they shall receive; eternal life shall inherit.
1. How, in regard to the thought shall receive a hundredfold?—I suppose the ordinary interpretation given to such a promise as that is something like this, which is perfectly true and very beautiful—to point out how after a man does keep earthly brethren or earthly love second, and make Christ first, all the things He so gives away become more precious; how religion puts a new spirit into everything; how the love of home held in subordination to the love of Christ, and all illuminated and irradiated by that love, derives a higher sweetness than under any other circumstances, etc. And in like manner outward things—houses and lands and so on, held as from Him and subordinated to Him, used according to His will and for His sake—how they all become to be enjoyed with a higher power and blessedness, and how better is the dinner of herbs with God there than great revenues without Him; and all that is wonderfully and beautifully true. But that I do not think goes to the bottom of the words here, and it would be a self-contradictory assertion to a man to say, “Do not care so much about the world, because if you will only do that you will make a great deal more out of it.” I think, therefore, we must go a great deal deeper than that thought and see what is the hundredfold compensation that the text promises to us. What? Jesus Christ. If you will give up houses and lands for Me, you will get Me, and I am a hundredfold or, as it is in some places, manifold, I am infinitely more than you would give up.
2. And “shall inherit everlasting life.”—As I take it, the language of my text points rather to the everlasting ages inherited beyond the grave. There is one point that strikes me as significant, and that is the variety of the expressions of these two clauses, “shall receive a hundredfold; shall inherit everlasting life.” “Receive,” as the result of a certain course of conduct, “inherit,” not as the result of a certain course of conduct. The Bible does not represent that eternal life is given to a man by reason of anything that he does. The Bible represents to us that eternal life is given to us by reason simply and solely of God’s great love in Jesus Christ, and that all we have to do is simply to take the gift which is freely given to us.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
The joy of giving up all for Christ.—A friend once told me what had been the happiest time in his life. It was soon after his conversion from infidelity; but that conversion involved the loss of friends and fortune. For all, however, he found amends in Christ; in Christ who had saved his soul, who had awakened in him the hope full of immortality, and with whom he could walk and talk the live-long day, telling Him all that was in his heart, and feeling his own being refined and exalted by the ennobling fellowship. And the happiest hour was in the city of Paris, when he sat down on a stone in the Champs Elysées, with no friend in all the place, and with just two sous in his pocket. “For now,” he felt, “Christ is all to me. I have no other friend; I have no other joy.” The equipages rolled past; the gay people shouted and laughed, but none of them all felt so rich or so happy as the stranger who, there on the stone, sat under Christ’s shadow with great delight; not another friend in all the place, but the Saviour at his side; just a penny in his pocket but so rich in his new friendship, that happiness flowed from every feature, and he felt “I have all and abound.”—The Church.
The power of supreme love to Christ.—There is no way of getting away from the tyrannous dominion of the world except by having given ourselves to our dear Lord and letting His love rise up in our souls, and then just as the electric light in our streets makes the gas we thought to be so bright look red and smoky and dim, so this better light in our hearts will dwarf the beauty and dim the brightness of all other lights by reason of its purity and strength.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 19:30. Reversals.—I. Enforce this saying with respect to the final judgment.—
1. In the judgment of reason many things that were first come to be last, and the last first.
2. The judgment of life also illustrates the text.
3. Our text is still more confirmed by the judgment of history.
4. We turn for the chief illustration of our text to the judgment of eternity. The final judgment will in many cases be the opposite of human judgment, because of the difference of its rule, and because of the difference of its manner of judgment.
II. A few practical inferences.—
1. In view of this first judgment, we may be patient in the midst of the inequalities and injustice of the present time.
2. Let us be prepared, through Christ, for this strict and just judgment.
3. In view of such a judgment how intensely true we should be.
4. Let us beware how we seek to be first at that day. He is most likely to be first who seeks not to be first, who forgets such seeking in the anxiety of his desire to be and to do good.—A. Goodrich, D.D.
The last shall be first.—I. Consider some illustrations of this truth.
1. Historical.—Jews cast out, etc.
2. From social life.—Those with religious disadvantages often go to the front.
3. With regard to mental acquisitions.—The last in Bible knowledge often the first in rich experience and Christian usefulness.
4. From human character.—The worst become the best, while the good often make but little progress.
II. Make an application of this truth.
1. It may check presumption.—Let not those boast who think themselves first now.
2. It may prevent despair.—Let those who feel themselves among the last persevere.—J. C. Gray.