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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ matthew-19.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause.
The marriage tie
I. Its prescribed limitation. Enforced by
(1) numerical proportion of the sexes;
(2) evils of polygamy;
(3) teaching of the Bible.
II. Its tender intimacy,
III. Its conditional dissolubility:
(1)toleration of Moses;
(2) justifiable grounds of divorce.
IV. Its optional formation. (Dr. Thomas.)
The doctrine of Christ concerning marriage
(1) Its binding character as instituted by God;
(2) its decay in the progress of history;
(3) its prepared restoration under the law;
(4) its transformation by the gospel. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
Husband and wife should be not only one flesh, but also one heart and mind. (Hedinger.)
Marriage and celibacy
Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches, and heaven itself. Celibate, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness, but sits alone, and is confined and dies in singularity; but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into societies and republics, and sends out colonies, and feeds the world with delicacies, and obeys their king and keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interests of mankind, and is that state of good things to which God has designed the present constitution of the world. Single life makes man, in one instance, to be like angels; but marriage, in very many things, makes the chaste pair to be like Christ. This is (as St. Paul says) a great mystery; but it is the symbolical and sacramental representation of the greatest mysteries of our religion. Christ descended from His Father’s bosom, and contracted His Divinity with flesh and blood, and married our nature, and we became a church, the spouse of the Bridegroom, which He cleansed with His blood, and gave her His Holy Spirit for a dowry, and heaven for a jointure; begetting children unto God by the gospel. (Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)
This union should not be entered into lightly, or rashly. It involves all the happiness of this life, and much of that to come. The union demands congeniality of feeling and disposition; of rank in life; of temper; similarity of acquirements; of age; of talent; intimate acquaintance. It should also be a union on religious feelings and opinions: because religion is more important than anything else; because it will give more happiness in the married life than anything else; because where one only is pious, there is danger that religion will be obscured and blighted; because no prospect is so painful as that of eternal separation; because it is heathenish to partake the gifts of God in a family and offer no thanksgiving, and inexpressibly wicked to live as if there were no God, etc.; because death is near, and nothing will soothe the pangs of parting but the hope of meeting in the resurrection of the just. (A. Barnes, D. D.)
Advantages of marriage
If you are for pleasure, marry; if you prize rosy health, marry. A good wife is heaven’s best gift to man: his angel of mercy; minister of graces innumerable; his gem of many virtues; his casket of jewels; her voice, his sweetest music; her smiles, his brightest day; her kiss, the guardian of his innocence; her arms, the pale of his safety, the balm of his health, the balsam of his life; her industry, his surest wealth; her economy, his safest steward; her lips, his faithful counsellors; her bosom, the softest pillow of his cares; and her prayers, the ablest advocates of heaven’s blessing on his head. (Bp. Taylor.)
The scriptural view of divorce
I hold that there is only one cause for which a man can lawfully be divorced from his wife, according to the Scriptures; that is, adultery.
I. Let us turn to the scriptures in proof of this view. “What God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” God thought it not good for man to be alone: so He made him an helpmeet. Had it been better for a man to have more than one wife, God would doubtless have made two. But in our Saviour’s time women had multiplied; but He did not change the original law. The relation of man and wife is nearer than that of parent and offspring. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother,” etc. Where is the nation or man who shall assume authority to put apart these thus joined together save for the one cause? “And I say unto you, whoso shall put away his wife,” etc. St. Paul says, “The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth.”
II. The views of some of the leading writers in the Christian church. Dr. A. Clarke, in his Commentary, has the following: “It does not appear that there is any other case in which Jesus Christ admits of divorce” (Matthew 5:32). On Matthew 19:9, “The decision of our Lord must be very unpleasant to these men; the reason why they wished to put away their wives was, that they might take others whom they liked better; but our Lord here declares that they could not be remarried while the divorced person was alive; and that those who did marry during the life of the divorced person were adulterers.” “In this discourse our Lord shows that marriage, except in one case, is indissoluble, and should be so.
1. By Divine institution (Matthew 19:4).
2. By express commandment (Matthew 19:5).
3. Because the married couple become one and the same person (Matthew 19:6).
4. By the example of the first pair (Matthew 19:8). And
5. Because of the evil consequent on separation (Matthew 19:9).
Watson’s “Theo. Institutes,” vol. 2., p. 543, has the following: “The foundation of the marriage union is the will of God that the human race should increase and multiply, but only through a chaste and restricted conjunction of one man and one woman, united by their free vows in a bond made by the Divine law indissoluble, except by death or by adultery.” Dr. Wayland, in his “Elements of Moral Science,” says: “In the act of marriage, two persons, under the most solemn circumstances, are thus united, and they enter into a mutual contract thus to live in respect to each other. This relation, having been established by God, the contract thus entered into has all the solemnity of an oath. Hence, he who violates it, is guilty of a twofold crime: first, the violation of the law of chastity, and second, of the law of veracity-veracity pledged under the most solemn circumstances.
1. The contract is for life, and is dissoluble for one cause only: the cause of adultery.” Referring to the text, he says: “We are here taught that marriage, being an institution of God, is subject to His laws alone, and not to the laws of man. Hence, the civil law is binding upon the conscience only, in so far as it corresponds to the law of God.” Matthew Henry’s testimony is, “Christ allows of divorce in cases of adultery; he disallows it in all others.” Olshausen says: “This union is to be considered indissoluble, one which man cannot, and only God can dissolve, and in which the Omniscient does really dissever only in cases of adultery.” Such are the opinions of some of the most learned and pious Biblical scholars.
III. Now let us turn to the question already anticipated: what man or nation dare assume authority to put asunder those whom God hath joined together? The answer I call your attention to is this: 1st, the Jews, and 2nd, our own nation.
1. The Jews. I quote from Dr. Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Matthew 19:3. “At this time there were two famous divinity and philosophical schools among the Jews, that of Shammai, and that of Hillel. On the question of divorce, the school of Shammai maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife, except for adultery. The school of Hillel taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes: and when she did not find grace in his sight, that is, when he saw any other woman that pleased him better.” Rabbi Akiba said: “If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own wife, he might put his wife away; because it is said in the law, ‘If she find not favour in his eyes’” (Deuteronomy 24:1). “Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, in his Life, tells us, with the utmost coolness and indifference, About this time I put away my wife, who had borne me three children:, not being pleased with her manners.” These eases are enough to show to what a scandalous and criminal excess this matter was carried among the Jews.
2. Then we inquire, How is it with us in America? I find that divorces are wry common, some for one cause and some for another. So that the question, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” is far from being foreign, but really is applicable to us, and a question of the greatest importance. For, for almost any little thing that springs up between man and wife, a divorce is applied for, and is obtained. From the Standard, a Baptist paper, I took the following: “Those whose attention is not directed to the subject of divorce, will be surprised at the number of applications in the courts of our large cities and centres of population to have the bonds of marriage dissolved. In Indianapolis, in 1866, there were 822 marriages, and 210 applications for divorce, which is more than one to four of the whole number of marriages. In Chicago, the same year, there were 4,182 marriages, and 330 applications for divorce, being nearly one to every thirteen marriages. In both these cases the number seeking divorce is alarming. But the unenviable and disgraceful distance in which Indianapolis leads Chicago in this warfare on marriage, is to be attributed to the peculiarly lax legislation of Indiana, which, for years, has been notorious on the subject of divorce.” “The various courts of Chicago granted bills of divorce in 1865 to the number of 274; in 1566, the number was 209; in 1867, 311; making the whole number of divorces granted in three years, 794. Is not this appalling? But since 1868, Chicago has registered as high as 730 applications in a single year, representing families containing about 3,500 souls, and the most of which are poor women.” The Christian Statesman says that the number of divorces in eight years, in four States, viz., Vermont, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Connecticut, have been 5,831. And in the year 1877, in Maine, there were 500 divorces. Brethren and fellow-citizens, I believe that our lawmakers are to blame for allowing such laws to exist as they do, and not bringing the law of divorce in these United States to the Scriptural standard. Look at our statutes of Minnesota, and see the looseness of this matter. In the General Statutes of Minnesota, page 407, sec. 6, we find the following: “A divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be adjudged and decreed by the district court on suit brought in the county where parties, or either of them, reside, for either of the following causes: 1st, adultery; 2nd, impotency; 3rd, cruel and inhuman treatment; 4th, when either party, subsequent to the marriage, has been sentenced to imprisonment in the State Prison; 5th, wilful desertion of one party by the other for the term of three years next preceding the filing of the complaint; 6th, habitual drunkenness for the space of one year, immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.” Here, then, are six causes in our State statutes for which a man or woman may put away wife or husband. The first is according to Scripture; the others are unscriptural. What latitude is here given for divorces! I remark, further, that the peace of the churches is endangered by this ungodly practice of divorce. All Christian people and all true philanthropists must awake to their duty. Politicians have made these laws, and by them public sentiment has been educated. (A Cressey, in American Homiletic Review.)
Jewish divorce customs
Divorce is still very common among the Eastern Jews. In 1856 there were sixteen cases among the small Jewish population of Jerusalem. In fact, a Jew may divorce his wife at any time, or from any cause, he being himself the sole judge; the only hindrance is that, to prevent divorces in a mere sudden fit of spleen, the hill of divorce must have the concurrence of three rabbis, and be written on ruled vellum, containing neither more nor less than twelve lines; and it must be given in the presence of ten witnesses. (Allen, “Modern Judaism.”)
The usual causes of divorce (in Asia Minor)are a bad temper or extravagance in the wife, and the cruel treatment or neglect of the husband. (Van Lennep.)
The Rulee of Reformation
“From the beginning it was not so.” Which rule, if we apply unto “the scope of this text, as it stands in relation unto the context, we shall have more to say for it than for most constitutions, Divine or human. For that of marriage is almost as old as Nature. There was no sooner one man, but God divided him into two; and then no sooner were there two, but he united them into one. This is that sacred institution which was made with mankind in a state of innocence; the very ground and foundation of all, both sacred and civil, government. It was by sending back the Pharisees to the most venerable antiquity, that our Lord here asserted the law of wedlock against the old custom of their divorce. Whilst they had made themselves drunk with their muddy streams, He directed them to the fountain, to drink themselves into sobriety. They insisted altogether on the Mosaical dispensation; but He endeavoured to reform them by the most primitive institution. They alleged a custom; but He a law. They a permission, and that from Moses; but He a precept, and that from God. They did reckon from afar off; but not, as He, from the beginning. (Thomas Pierce.)
Matthew 13:4; Matthew 19:1-30
Some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up.
Way seed devoured by birds
The birds devour the truth we neglect to cover. Let us study these birds:-
1. The first belongs to the heron species, having long legs, a long bill, broad strong wings, and an eye keen as an eagle’s, yet filmy at times, which causes serious mistakes. This is the bird of intellectual scepticism. It delays your acceptance of the truth with all kinds of questions.
2. There is another bird of dirty and ruffled feathers, a nondescript, but a hearty eater of the seed dropped by the wayside. It is evil associations. They neutralize the influences of the Spirit of God.
5. There is the muscular bird with curved beak that holds like a vice. It is a moth eater of the falcon order, and ravenous, evil habits, and belongs to a large family.
4. There is a bird of bad odour. Carrion drops from feather and from bill. It i; of the buzzard tribe. Let us call it the inconsistencies of Christian professors.
5. There is a dull and heavy bird, not easily seared away, of the booby order. It is religious indecision. All these hinder our salvation. (T. E. Brown, D. D.)
The seed by the wayside
The truth described as a “seed.” There are manifold facilities about the emblem on which we may dwell. The seed has a germinating power in itself that leads to endless reproduction. So has every true word. Then man is but the soil. If you are to get Divine desires in the human heart, they must be sown there: they are not products of the soil. Again, man’s part is accurately described as a simple reception, not passive, but a co-operation. Then these different kinds of soil are not unalterably different: it is an acquired disposition, not a natural characteristic that is spoken of.
I. The beaten path.
II. The lost seed.
I. Let us think about that type of character which is here set forth under the image of “the wayside.” It is a heart trodden down by the feet that have gone across it; and because trodden down, incapable of receiving the seed sown. The seed falls upon, not in it. Point out ways in which the heart is trodden down.
1. By custom and habit. The process of getting from childhood to manhood is a process of getting less impressible.
2. The heart is trodden down by sin. It is an effect of sin that it uniformly works in the direction of unfitting men to receive God’s love. Every transgression deprives us, in some degree, of power to receive God’s truth, and make it our own.
3. The heart is trodden down, so far as receiving the gospel is concerned, by the very feet of the sower. Every sermon an ungodly man hear, which leaves him ungodly, leaves him harder by the passage of the Word once more across his heart.
II. The lost seed. Satan’s chosen instruments are those light, swift-winged, apparently innocent flocks of flying thoughts, that come swooping across your souls, even whilst the message of God’s love is sounding in your ears. (A. Maclaren D. D.)
Hardened by sin
Every transgression deprives us, in some degree, of power to receive the Divine word of God’s truth, and making it our own. And these demons of worldliness, of selfishness, of carelessness, of pride, of sensuality, that go careering through your soul, my brother, are like the goblin horseman in the old legend; wherever that hoof-fall strikes, the ground is blasted, and no grass will grow upon it any more for ever! (A. Maclaren D. D.)
Hardened by habit
The best way of presenting before you what I mean will be to take a plain illustration. Suppose a little child, just beginning to open its eyes and unfold its faculties upon this wonderful world of ours. There you get the extreme of capacity for receiving impressions from without, the extreme of susceptibility to the influences that come upon it. Tell the little thin; some trifle that passes out of your mind; you forget all about it; but it comes out again m the child weeks and weeks afterwards, showing how deep a mark it has made. It is the law of the human nature that, when it is beginning to grow it shall be soft as wax to receive all kinds of impressions, and then that it shall gradually stiffen and become hard as adamant to retain them. The rock was once all fluid, and plastic, and gradually it cools down into hardness. If a finger-dint had been put upon it in the early time, it would have left a mark that all the forces of the world could not make nor can obliterate now. In our great museums you see stone slabs with the marks of rain that fell hundreds of years before Adam lived; and the footprint of some wild bird that passed across the beach in those old, old times. The passing shower and the light foot left their prints on the soft sediment; then ages went on, and it has hardened into stone; and there they remain and will remain for evermore. That is like a man’s spirit; in the childish days so soft, so susceptible to all impressions, so joyous to receive new ideas, treasuring them all up, gathering them all into itself, retaining them all for ever. And then, as years go on, habit, the growth of the soul into steadiness and power, and many other reasons beside, gradually make us less and less capable of being profoundly and permanently influenced by anything outside us; so that the process from childhood to manhood is a process getting less impressible. (A. Maclaren D. D. )
The seed sown on the wayside
I. What is the wayside?
1. The wayside hearers are such as are unploughed, unbroken up by the cutting energy of the law.
2. It is trampled upon by every passer by. The want of “understanding” lies in this: that they do not see their own connection with the Word.
II. What is the seed? No matter where the seed fell, in itself it was always good; that which fell on the wayside was the same ,us that which fell on good ground. Thus the blame of man’s condemnation is in himself. The seed is the Word of God.
III. What are the disadvantages; which prove fatal to its being received at all?
1. The hardness of the ground.
2. The active agents of evil which were near at hand snatched it away. You give no advantage to the devil which is not immediately seized by him. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
The seed and the husk
Christ is the living seed, and the Bible is the husk that holds it. The husk that holds the seed is the most precious thing in the world, next after the seed that it holds. (W. Arnot.)
The Word falling on the external senses
Falling only upon the external senses, they are swept off by the next current; as the solid grain thrown from the sower’s hand rattles on the smooth hard roadside, and lies on the surface till the fowls carry it away. (W. Arnot.)
Unskilful sowing fruitful
if the seed is good, and the ground well prepared, a very poor and awkward kind of sowing will suffice. Seed flung in anyn fashion into the soft ground will grow: whereas, if it fall on the wayside,it will bear no fruit, however artfully it may have been spread. My latimer was a practical and skilful agriculturist. I was wont, when very young, to follow his footsteps into the field, further and oftener than was convenient for him or comfortable for myself. Knowing well how much a child is gratified by being permitted to imitate a man’s work, he sometimes hung the seed-bag, with a few handfuls in it, upon nay shoulder, and sent me into the field to sow. I contrived in some way to throw the grain away, and it fell among the clods. But the seed that fell from an infant’s hands, when it fell in the right place, grew as well and ripened as fully as that which had been scattered by a strong and skilful man. In like manner, in the spiritual department, the skill of the sower, although important in its own place, is, in view of the final result, a subordinate thing. The cardinal points are the seed and the soil. In point of fact, throughout the history of the Church, while the Lord has abundantly honoured His own ordinance of a standing ministry, He has never ceased to show, by granting signal success to feeble instruments, that results in His work are not necessarily proportionate to the number of talents employed. (W. Arnot.)
The wayside hearer
The proposals made to the wayside hearer suggest nothing at all to him. His mind throws off Christ’s offers as a slated roof throws off hail. You might as well expect seed to grow on a tightly-braced drum-head as the Word to profit such a hearer; it dances on the hard surface, and the slightest motion shakes it off. (Marcus Dods.)
What can we do with the trodden path?
May it not be possible to do as the farmer would do, if he had some piece of field across which men and animals were constantly passing? May we not pray for ability to put some sort of hurdles across, to prevent the mere animal portion of our life, whether of pleasure or business, or of our own animal passions, from crushing the spiritual life, and prevent us from giving earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Robert Barclay.)
No time for understanding
“How is it, my dear,” inquired a schoolmistress of a little girl, “that you do not understand this simple thing? … I do not know, indeed,” she answered, with a perplexed look; “ but I sometimes think I have so many things to learn that I have not the time to understand.” Alas! there may be much hearing, much reading, much attendance at public services, and very small result; and all because the Word was not the subject of thought, and was never embraced by the understanding. What is not understood is like meat undigested, more likely to be injurious than nourishing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Then were there brought unto Him little children.
The children for Christ
I. They need the Saviour.
1. AS children, they are within the covenant and provisions of grace.
2. They are naturally blind and dark.
3. Nor let us forget that they are guilty.
4. They need, therefore, to be led to Jesus as penitent sinners for forgiveness and peace. They need a guide, a shield, a true friend, etc.
II. They may be brought to him when very young.
1. On this point, opinion among godly people has been very much modified since the general establishment of Sunday-schools.
2. It is a great mistake, and involves a great wrong to the child, not to insist upon his deciding and choosing Christ now, for unbelief and carnality are gaining strength.
3. There is no kind of knowledge which will find readier access to the juvenile mind, and be more easily retained there, than the knowledge of Christ.
4. How many and how marked are the examples of early piety which the Bible records.
5. The religion of children-if genuine and healthy-will differ in some respects from the religion of elderly people. Ignorant prejudice has done a world of mischief.
III. One of the first duties we, as a church, owe the Lord Jesus is to assist in bringing these children to him.
1. They are our own flesh and blood. They are our own immediate successors in the Church and the world. They are immortal. They are the object of Jesus’ redeeming love; they are brought within our influence that we may be Christ’s ministers to them, and their guides to Him, etc.
2. The present is the golden Opportunity. The promise is true to your children, that they also shall receive:’ remission of sins,” and “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Bring them to Jesus! Alas! some of you parents, masters, heads of households are not yourselves following Christ, and how can you bring your children or young people to Him? Teachers, suffer the children to come to Jesus, and hinder them not, etc. (J. Findlay.)
A sermon on Sunday-school work
I. The principle on which the sunday-school should be founded. It must be founded and carried on in Faith, in its usefulness, its worth, its importance. Faith in your schools; faith in God; in the child whom you teach; and in the Scriptures which are to be taught.
II. The end, the great object, which should be proposed and kept steadily in view by its friends. The great end is, to awaken the soul of the pupil, to bring his understanding, conscience, and heart into earnest, vigorous action on religious and moral truth, to excite and cherish in him spiritual life. The great end in religious instruction, whether in the Sunday-school or family, is, not to stamp our minds irresistibly on the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth; not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs; not to burden the memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought;… not to tell them that God is good, but to help them to see and feel His love in all that He does within and around them. In a word, to awaken intellectual and moral life in the child.
III. What is to be taught in sunday schools? The Gospels, the Gospels, these should be the text-book of Sunday Schools. There are three great views of Christianity, which pervade it throughout, and to which the mind of the learner must be continually turned.
1. The spirituality of the religion.
2. Its disinterestedness.
3. The vastness, the infinity, of its progress.
IV. How shall it be taught? Attention must be secured by moral influence. You must love the children. You must be interested yourselves in that you teach them. Be intelligible. Teach by questions. Teach graphically where you can. Lay stress on the most important things. Carry a cheerful spirit into religious teaching. (Dr. Channing.)
Little children brought to Christ
I. Who were now brought to Christ? Probably infants. None of them were arrived at the full exercise of reason; and some of them might be carried in the arms of their friends.
II. For what end were they brought to Christ? Probably not to be healed of sickness or weakness. It was, that He might lay His hands upon them and bless them. They had a high opinion of the piety of Jesus, and of His interest in the Divine favour.
III. The reception Jesus gave the children. Kind and gracious.
IV. The declaration he made concerning them. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Christ commends in children three or four things, wherein they who are adult ought to resemble them.
1. Freedom from prejudice or openness to conviction; freedom from pride, or humility; freedom from worldly affections, or indifference to earthly things: and finally, freedom from custom of sinning, or innocence. (Nath. Lardner.)
Reflections on the incident
1. The doctrine of this text may afford comfortable thoughts concerning such as die in infancy, or in very early age, before they have done good or evil.
2. It teaches us to be cautious, how we disparage the human nature, and say, that it is, in its original conception, corrupt, depraved, and defiled.
3. This history teaches us the right of young persons to be present at the worship of God, and seems to hold forth the duty of those under whose care they are, to bring them early to it.
4. We may infer that it is not below persons of the greatest eminence for wisdom and piety to show affection and tenderness for little children.
5. We hence learn, that all of us arrived to years of knowledge and understanding should see to it, that we bear a resemblance to little children. And 6, this history affords encouragement to young persons arrived to the use of reason and understanding to come to Christ, and offer up themselves to God in and through Him. (Nath. Lardner.)
Our likeness to little children.
1. As respects faith. Children are trustful: its trust has little to do with the intellect. Faith is not a thing of the understanding, but of the heart. When you read the Bible, do it as a little child, “My Father says thus.” A child’s joy is always truer than a child’s sorrow.
2. A child’s mind has a wonderful power of realization. They soon picture what is said to them. We should realize the invisible.
3. Little children may be angry, but their anger never lasts.
4. They are innocent and do not hurt.
5. They are, as a rule, generous with their possessions.
6. The sympathy of a child is perfect, to a tear or a smile he will respond in a moment.
7. A little child is a thing new born. We must be born again. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
“Suffer” little children to come
I. What mothers want for their children.
II. What disciples sometimes want for the children. To run away and not be troublesome. Sometimes they would keep them away from Christ until they grow big. Whence can such a mistake arise? From such ideas as-
1. Christ is too busy with saving men to care about the children.
2. Children have not the needs which Jesus came to supply.
3. If the children get the blessing now they will lose it ere they become men.
III. What Jesus wants for the children. To come to Him. They can trust, love, etc. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Jesus and children
The most beautiful scene in the Bible.
I. Jesus is attractive to children. Some men and women for whom they do not care. Jesus not like these. There are others for whom children are never shy, or afraid. Jesus like these.
II. Jesus is deeply interested in children.
III. Jesus prays for children. “He put His hands on them,” etc. Ancient custom. He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
IV. Jesus wishes children to be happy. He blessed the children who came to Him, and He blesses you.
V. Many children are with Jesus in heaven. (Alex. McAuslane, D. D.)
I. Who spake these words, and why were they spoken, “Jesus said.” Because He loved children and came to do them good.
II. How should little children come to Christ.
1. By thought.
III. What keeps little children back from Christ, and who forbids them to come to him. The disciples. I will point out what in yourselves keeps you back.
2. The mockeries of your playfellows.
IV. What is to be gained by coming to Christ. (T. J. Judkin M. A.)
Blessing by imposition of hands
From Christ has been derived the custom among Christians, that lax; people, and especially children, should ask a blessing from their elders and from priests. This is the case in Belgium, where boys will run up to the priests and religious men, and ask them to sign them with the sign of the cross. They are taught to do this, both by the catechists and by their parents. Remigius says this was a custom among the Jews before the time of Christ. The great Sir Thomas More, the glory of England and a martyr, when he was Lord High Chancellor, publicly asked his aged father to give him his blessing. Moreover, the Church uses this ceremony of imposition of hands in baptism, confirmation, and orders. It is to pray for and obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Lapide.)
Christianity cares for children
The gospel alone opens its warm bosom to the young. Christianity alone is the nurse of children. Atheism looks on them as on a level with the brutes. Deism or scepticism leaves them to every random influence, lest they catch a bias. The Romans exposed their infants. Barbarians and ancient tribes offered them as burnt-sacrifices to Moloch. Mahometanism holds mothers and infants as equally of an inferior cast. Hindooism forgets the infant she bears, and leaves it to perish on the banks of the Ganges. The Chinese are notorious as infanticides. Christianity alone contemplates them as immortal creatures, and prescribes for their tuition for heaven. And the nearer the time that the rising of the Sun of Righteonsness approached, the warmer and the more intense did the interest of the Church show itself in regard to the young. Moses gave directions on the subject. Joshua and Abraham commanded their households after them; David declared how the young were to purify their way; and Solomon distinctly enjoined them to remember their Creator in the days of their youth; but it was reserved for Him who spake as never man spake, to press that sentence, “Suffer the little children,” etc. The temple of Juggernaut presents a grave; the mosque, contempt; infidelity, neglect for children. The bosom of the Son of God alone Ends them a nursery and a home. (Salter.)
Children specially susceptible of spiritual induences.
In their case there is still-
1. Confidence, instead of scepticism.
2. Self-surrender, instead of distrust.
3. Truth, instead of hypocrisy.
4. Want of pretension, instead of pride. (Lisko.)
Ideas of women and children in the East
Women were not honoured nor children loved in antiquity as now they are; no halo of romance and tenderness encircled them; too often, indeed, they were subject to shameful cruelties and hard neglect. (Farrar.)
How children are forbidden
They may be “forbidden,” both by neglect and injudicious teaching.
I. By not being taught of Christ through word and example.
II. By being taught legalism; that is, “Be good, or God will not love you,” instead of this: Christ (God) loves you, therefore go to Him in order to be good. (Schaff.)
Christ’s example of dealing with children
1. His sympathy for and with children.
2. Our right to bring children to Him for blessing, and this before they can understand anything concerning Him or His truth.
3. That they are members of Christ’s kingdom, and are so regarded by Him, and are to be so regarded by us, and this irrespective of any parental faith.
4. That such as die before they have wandered out of God’s kingdom into the kingdom of Satan are certainly saved, since they are of the kingdom of heaven.
5. The incident condemns all conduct on the part of the church, the teacher, or the parent, which tends to repress, chill, or check the enthusiasm of childhood for Christ, and darken its simple faith in Him. (Abbott.)
A sermon to mothers
I. A mother’s love.
II. A mother’s responsibility.
III. A mother’s consolation. (P. Robertson.)
Maternal influence on children
It has been truly said that although women may have produced no work of surpassing power, have written no Iliad, no “Hamlet,” no “Paradise Lost; “ have designed no Church of St. Peter’s, composed no “Messiah,” carved no “Apollo Belvidere,” painted no Last Judgment; although they have invented neither algebra nor telescopes nor steam engines, they have done something greater and better than all this: it is at their knees that virtuous and upright men and women have been trained-the most excellent productions in the world. If we would find the secret of the greatness and goodness of most famous men we must look to their mothers. It was the patient gentle schooling of Monica which turned Augustine from a profligate to a saint. It was the memory of a mother’s lessons which changed John Newton, of Olney, from blasphemous sailor to an earnest minister of God. It was a mother’s influence which made George Washington a man of such truth, such nobleness, and such power, that he swayed the people of America as one man. (Wilmot Buxton.)
Conversions after forty years are very rare: like the scattered grapes on the remotest branches after the vintage is over, there is on]y one here and there. I have sometimes seen an old withered oak standing with its stiff and leafless branches on the slopes of a woody hill; though the same refreshing rains and genial sunshine fell on it as on its thriving neighbours, Which were green with renewed youth and rich in flowing foliage, it grew not, it gave no signs of life, it was too far gone for genial nature to assist. The old blanched, sapless oak is an emblem of the aged sinner. (Dr. Thomas.)
And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do?
Formal obedience insufficient
It is certainly the doctrine of Scripture that moral integrity alone can never benefit us with God; that even the offering of our prayers is accounted worthless except as it is perfumed with love. Evidently, then, his confidence is false and dangerous indeed who, because he keeps unbroken the great laws of social morality, imagines his claim to mercy and salvation secure. Besides being unscriptural, such a theory is not rational.
I. It ignores the very design of man’s creation, viz., the glory of God. Social morality is at best a very inferior virtue. It is only the submission of one part of man’s nature to an inferior series of God’s laws. If this world were all, that might be enough. Man is endowed with faculties which can only be exercised toward the unseen world. As well might the planet, obeying the one law of its propulsion around the earth, break away from the other which binds it to the sun, and yet hope to escape, as he who, fulfilling his duty to man, neglects his duty to God.
II. It is founded on a false idea of religion. God seeks not mere abject obedience, but the devotion of the heart. Without a distinct movement of the will and affections towards Him, all religious observances are worse than naught. They are the casket without the diamond-the body without the sustaining, invigorating, glorifying life.
III. It makes the sacrifice of Christ an unnecessary thing. If man by being honest and upright and humane and gentle could merit heaven, no need for Calvary. Yet Jesus laid aside the robes of His Deity and came to earth, and offered Himself a sacrifice on the cross. To rely for salvation on natural morality is, then, to mock Christ in His sufferings; it is to go up, as it were, upon the blood-stained slopes of Calvary, and, beholding Him in His agony, to cry aloud, “We need not Thy blood, we despise Thine aid!” (W. Rudder, D. D.)
Coming to Jesus
A right thing to come to Jesus, in a right way, for a right thing, in a right spirit. This last element of coming rightly was here left out.
I. How he came.
4. Respectfully-“good Master.”
II. Why he came: “inherit eternal life.”
1. Belief in a future state.
2. Concern to obtain it; in this he differed from many.
3. Thought something must be done; many think not of this, and
consequently do nothing.
4. Thought he was willing and able to do anything needful; but did not know himself; had not counted the cost.
1. Salvation not by works.
2. Works an evidence, not a cause of grace. (The Hive.)
The rich youth’s application to Christ
I. The character and pretensions of the youthful applicant who approached our Lord. Something in his character exceedingly favourable, interesting external appearance, air of sweetness about his address, correct in morals, of ample means, fair reputation, he entertained proper views of our Lord; he had serious regard for religion. But-
1. He was ignorant of his moral inability.
2. He displays an ignorance of his actual guilt.
3. He was ignorant of the prevailing disposition of his heart.
II. THE manner in which the application was diet.
1. Our Lord repels his adulatory address.
2. Our Lord shows the imperfection of his obedience.
3. The youth went away sorrowful.
III. Those important lessons which naturally arise out of this interesting case.
1. Learn the danger and prevalence of self-deception.
2. The great responsibility which the ministerial office involves.
3. The dangerous situation which the rich occupy. The subject guards us against the following: Low thoughts of God, high thoughts of ourselves, slight thoughts of sin, and mean thoughts of Christ. (J. Thorp.)
Men’s persuasions of their own obedience
Whence this ariseth.
1. Ignorance of the total, deep, and universal pollution of our natures.
2. Ignorance of the spiritual exactness and obligation of the law.
3. Attention only to the negative commandments.
4. Not understanding either positive or negative precepts in their comprehensive sense.
5. Neglecting self-reflection and self-examination.
6. From the abominable self-love, and self-flattery, which cleaveth to every man.
7. Fear of guilt makes men hoodwink their eyes that they may neither look into the law, nor into their hearts.
8. Ignorance of regeneration and the necessity for being born again.
9. The devil hath blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.
10. Every man is naturally destitute of the Spirit, without which we are all devoid of light and life. (Anthony Burgess.)
The rich young ruler
I. Examine the young man’s roast. He boasted that his obedience was:
II. Answer his question. He lacked:
1. A new heart.
2. A sense of guilt and sin.
3. Faith in Christ.
4. Spirituality and self-denial. (G. Brooks.)
I. How entirely even an intelligent man may misapprehend his own spiritual attainment.
II. And his willingness to attain.
III. Between our present attainment and perfection there may be a sacrifice equivalent to cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye.
IV. The one thing essential, if we are to attain perfection, is the following of Christ.
V. Other things may also be lacking, as, for example, determination to be holy. Conclusion: The lack of one thing may make all other attainments useless. (M. Dods, D.D.)
The young ruler
I. A hopeful meeting. It was-
1. A young man-special promises to the young.
2. A meeting with Christ-patient and physician.
3. One who was in earnest. Mark says, “he came running.”
4. One who had many rare qualities. “Jesus loved him.”
5. One who was bold (compare Nicodemus); yet reverent, for he “kneeled.”
II. An important conversation. It reveals:
1. Our simpleness-unable to keep the law.
2. Our pride-trusting to our own works.
3. Our idolatry-loving other things better than Christ.
4. Our only hope of salvation-willing to leave all, take the cross and follow Christ.
III. A sorrowful parting.
1. It was parting with Christ, therefore no hope.
2. It was a deliberate parting-not a sudden step.
3. It was a final parting.
IV. Important lessons. How far some may advance and yet not be saved. Abandon at once that which keeps us from Christ. (D. Macmillan.)
Morality made a snare
Take heed that thy morality be not thy snare. The young man in the gospel might have been a better man if he had not been so good. (Gurnall.)
Youth’s obstructions in their way to Christ and eternal life
I. Self-conceit, This young man thought that he had kept all the law. Young people with a smattering of knowledge soon imagine themselves competent judges of all truth and conduct. They have righteousness to recommend themselves to God’s favour.
II. The pleasures and vanities of youth; especially when they are fed by great possessions. These unreasonable sordid pleasures are not to be compared with the exalted substantial delights that are to be found in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
III. A false prejudice, as if the ways of Christ were nought and melancholy. Thus the young man thought when Christ told him to take up his cross and follow Him. Grace would give new tastes and make the burden easy. Christ will never let you be a loser by Him.
IV. An inconsiderate, heedless temper. To be heedless about small matters is a blemish; about essential, a reproach without excuse.
V. A presumptuous, daring rashness of spirit. Young persons are most sanguine, even to foolhardiness.
VI. The companions of youth.
VII. An apprehension of long life, They have a long day before them and can put away the thought of death. (John Guyse, D.D.)
A sorrowful departure
1. He was sorry at the thought of giving up those large possessions of which he was naturally proud.
2. He was also grieved at the idea of losing heaven.
3. Thus opened to the young man’s mind some of the difficulty which there always is in the attainment of everything which is really worth having.
4. Part of his sorrow was the discovery which he was making at that moment of his own heart.
5. But he was most sorrowful of all in the wretched sense he had of his own guilty hesitation and inexcusable weakness. Many worldly people are sorrowful in the midst of their worldliness; it indicates life and struggle. In any state of life the characteristic of the Christian is self-renunciation. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Jesus’ answer to the young ruler’s address
I. What we may infer from our Lord’s question.
1. That our Master was not fond of flattering titles.
2. The language affords a remarkable instance of our Lord’s modesty and humility.
3. Our Lord’s question contains a proof of His reverence for His Father.
II. Explain and enforce our Lord’s answer.
1. There is none good in comparison of God; and consequently, our sentiments of regard and devotion should not stop short of Him.
2. God alone is absolutely good. His goodness is from Himself, independently of all others.
1. Our Lord hath set us an example for our imitation.
2. Our Lord will not finally approve of any pretended reverence and respect paid to Himself which in the least lessens the glory due to His Father. (Thomas Twining.)
The way to happiness
I. We have the example of one who was solicitous and inquisitive after his future condition, and desirous to know upon what terms he might hope for happiness,
II. We have the ordinary way to happiness marked out to us.
III. In some extraordinary cases God does require some extraordinary things of particular men, which are not generally necessary to the salvation of all men.
IV. We have the sad example of one that went far towards happiness, and yet fell short. (Samuel Johnson.)
W/mr are the senses in which none is good but God?-
I. God is the only necessarily good being.
II. God is the only originally good being.
III. God is the only self-subsistently good being.
IV. God is the only immutably good being.
1. If God is alone supremely good, He alone is to be glorified and adored.
2. If He alone is supremely good, it is sin, and the very essence of it, not to glorify Him. (Dr. Shedd.)
What he lacked
1. A sense of guilt. He was self-complacent. He had obedience, self-respect, morality. He rested in these and boasted of them. He did not know the estimate which heaven places upon the righteousness which is of the law. He was under condemnation, and thought himself justified.
2. Faith in Christ. As the only Saviour. He did not know that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness.
3. A new heart. An essential. He loved the world, etc. This shows the old heart.
4. Self-denial. He loved ease and riches. He had no heart to give these up for Christ. He had much to give up, and the surrender would be hard; but a Christian spirit is willing to give up all; even life if needs be for Christ, and the “needs be” is Christ’s word. (Anon.)
A new year’s personal inquiry
I. There may be many excellences, and much that is amiable in man, without true religion. Morality, benevolent and social virtues, orthodoxy, reverence for Divine ordinances, etc.
II. There are various evils which keep men from being entirely the Saviour’s. Self-complacency, favour of the world, attachment to riches, unwillingness to deny self, etc.
III. The inquiry of the text is one which is worthy of personal consideration. Ask the question as in Christ’s presence, with all possible seriousness, with perfect deference to God’s word, in the spirit of prayer and with a resolution to obey the answer. (J. Burns, LL. D.)
Good things to do
Sidney Smith tells us that he cut the following from a newspaper, and preserved it for himself: “When you rise in the morning, say that you will make the day blessed to a fellow-creature. It is easily done; a left-off garment to the man who needs it; a kind word to the sorrowful; an encouraging expression to the starving-trifles as light as air-will do at least for the twenty-four hours. And if you are young, depend upon it, it will tell when you are old; and, if you are old, rest assured it will send you gently and happily down the stream of tiptoe to eternity. By the most simple arithmetical sum, look at the result. If you send one person away happily through the day, that is three hundred and sixty-five in the course of a year. And, suppose you live forty years only after you commence that course of medicine, you have made fourteen thousand six hundred persons happy-at all events, for a time.”
Heaven won by being, not doing
Very likely the question involved a mass of confusions. The young man thought, perhaps, that heaven was to be won by external actions and quantitative merit. He did not understand that we must enter into heaven by being, not by doing. He held perhaps the vulgar notion that eternal only means endless, so that eternity becomes the infinitude of time instead of its antithesis. He very likely did not know that every holy soul has entered already into eternal life; that to all who are in Christ it is now as the invisible bright air they breathe. He certainly did not realize that “this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” But yet, because the question was sincere and noble, and did not spring from Pharisaism-the one thing which the Lord detested most-but from the Divine dissatisfaction of a struggling soul which God alone can fill, Christ answered it. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
Man not left in doubt as to the good
“Why dost thou ask Me about the good?” that seems to have been our Lord’s answer, not “Why askest thou Me?” as it is often read-for whom else should the young man ask? but “Why dost thou ask Me about the good?” Has God left you in any doubt as to what is good? Have you in your heart no voice of conscience? Has duty never uplifted within you that naked law of right, so imperial in its majesty, so eternal in its origin, which you know that you ought to follow even unto death? If not, and if experience has had no lessons for you, and history no teaching, was there no Sinai? Do not the cherubim of your temple veil with their golden wings the tablets-alas! the shattered tablets of your moral law? And there Jesus might have stopped. But, being unlike us, being infinitely patient with man’s irritating spiritual stupidity, not loving, as we do, to be cautious and reticent, and “to steer through the channel of no meaning between the Scylla and Charybdis of yes and no,” He added,” but, if thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments.” (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
The first step towards righteousness
Christ did not begin with the injunction, “Go, sell all that thou hast.” He began very much lower; He said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Let us learn to flutter as sparrows, before it is worth considering whether we ought also to soar as eagles. Let us cease to be very guilty before we can be righteous. Let us be righteous before we can attain to the greatness of good men. Let us be but ordinary good men before we ask Christ for His counsels of perfection, or attempt to attain to the stature of His saints. Christ knew this well. We come to Him, and say, “O Saviour, whom I love, tell me what I must do to inherit eternal life.” And so long as we are all standing ankle-deep, chin-deep, in the world’s mire, would it be of any use for Him to point to some shining cloud in the deep blue, and say, “You must stand there”? Ah, no! He says to you, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Until you have learnt to plant firm feet on the green lower slopes, how can you breathe the difficult and eager air, or stand in the glory of the sunrise on the splendour of the snowy heights? (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
The commandment regarded as ordinary
The young ruler, not being so familiar as we are with those accumulated cobwebs of two thousand years which priests, and churches, and sects, and theologians, and theorists, and system-mongers, and schoolmen, have spun over wellnigh every simple word of Christ; the young ruler, whose natural instincts were not crushed under hundreds of ponderous folios of human doctrines and commandments of men, which, with inconceivable arrogance and a bitterness which has become universally proverbial, would fain palm themselves off as infallible theology; the young ruler, hearing the answer from the lips of Jesus, in all its bare, naked, unqualified, unmistakable simplicity, was quite frankly amazed. He was like the child Charoba in the poem, who, having been talked to about the majestic glory of the sea, and being led to the shore, innocently exclaimed, “Is that the mighty ocean? Is that all?” “Keep the commandments.” Is that all that Jesus has to tell him? Surely there must be some mistake! It did not need a prophet to tell us that! This youth had gone to Christ seeking for some great thing to do, and secret thing to know. The great Teacher could not mean anything so commonplace, so elementary, so extremely ordinary, as those old ten words which He had learned to lisp, ever so many years ago, when He was a little child, at His mother’s knee? (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
This young man thought himself somewhat beforehand, and that God, perchance, was in his debt. Truly, many nowadays grow crooked and aged with over-good opinions of themselves, and can hardly ever be set right again. They stand upon their comparisons-“I am as good as thou; “ nay, upon their disparisons, “I am not as this publican.” No, for thou art worse; yea, for this, because thou thinkest thyself better. This arrogant youth makes good that of Aristotle, who, differencing between age and youth, makes it a property of young men to think they know all things, and to affirm lustily their own placits. (John Trapp.)
What lack I?-
I. Examine his boast. His obedience was:
II. Show his deficiencies.
1. A sense of guilt.
2. Faith in Christ.
3. A new heart.
4. Self-denial. (Pulpit Germs.)
This query must not be regarded as an expression of satisfied self-righteousness, as if it implied, “In that case I lack nothing.” It is, indeed, true that the young man was still self-righteous. He had no conception of the spirituality, the depth, or the height of the commandments of God. Taking only the letter of the law, he considered himself blameless, and perhaps even righteous, before God. Yet his heart misgave him, and he felt that he still lacked something. Under this sense of want, he put the question to the Saviour, as if he would have said, “What is it then that I yet lack? All these things have not given me peace of mind.” (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
The various forms of self-righteousness.
1. Of the head and of the heart (of doctrine and of sentiment); or, Pharisees in the strictest sense.
2. Self-righteousness of the heart with orthodoxy of the head, as in the case of some in the Church who seem to be zealous for soundness of doctrine.
3. Self-righteousness of the head, combined with a deep sense of spiritual need, although its grounds may not be fully understood, as in the case of this young man and of many Christian legalists. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
Why wealth is to be renounced
What did our Lord mean by this reply? Did he mean that the mere giving up his wealth to the poor would make this man acceptable with God? Certainly not. The cattle on a thousand hills are His. He asks no sacrifice from human hands. Man can give Him nothing that is not His already. This, therefore, could not have been His meaning. Did He, then, mean that the voluntary poverty caused by this distribution of his wealth would render him meritorious with God? Poverty in itself is no more a merit than riches. To this question, therefore, we must say, as to the other, certainly not. Well, then, what did He mean? Evidently this: that whatever may be our moral excellence; however exactly we may fulfil the law toward our neighbour; unless there is, besides this and behind all this and originating all this, an ardent love of God-a love fulfilling the first and great commandment, and fastening upon God with all the heart and soul and mind; a love born of faith, and yet increasing faith-unless there is such a love as this seated on the very throne of our being, originating all our motives and our acts; making our purpose not expediency, but the glory of God; causing us to be ready if need be to sell all that we have-unless there is such a love ruling in our hearts, our moral excellences, however great, are, in the sight of God, of no account. This unquestionably was His meaning; this was the doctrine which He designed to teach. (W. Rudder, D. D.)
The true spirit of renunciation
To the question “What lack I yet?” Christ answers in substance, “This: the temper that counts property worthless beside true life. You come to me with your money, with)’our sense of complacency, of consequence, of power, and you want to bring these with you into the kingdom of God. You are not indeed satisfied with things as they are. How can you be, so long as you are vainly striving to feed your immortal nature upon husks and chaff? You want to be enlarged into a life nobler, fuller, worthier of your better self. But you would come as Dives, not as Lazarus. What you have, you think, ought to be reckoned in with what you are. You and your estate are in your own conception too entirely identified to be separated. Believe me, my young brother, the kingdom of Jesus can not know you upon any such terms. It is not necessary that you should be stripped bare of all your belongings in order to enter it. But you should be willing to be stripped bare. You must come to look upon what you call yours as though it mattered not, when you set your face toward the kingdom of God, whether it were yours or no. The spirit of renunciation must be so deep in you that you must be ready to give up all for Christ. And this not from any arbitrary reason, but simply because a human heart is not large enough to hold two thrones. If Christ is to be in it at all, He must be king of the whole domain; and if He is to be king, the money power, the sense power, the brain power must go to the rear. There will be a place for each of these in every sanctified life, but it must be a subordinate place. “Go,” or at least, if it be a question between your securities and your Saviour, be ready to go, “and sell all that thou hast, and follow Me!” (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
Obedience to this command not necessarily literal
It is not to be hastily concluded from this, that the rich man is to give all that he has to the poor. If, in deference to any narrow and superficial interpretation of Christ’s language, a man should take his wealth and distribute the whole of it in largesses to the poor to-morrow, he would be doing the poor an incalculable evil and not a benefit. Men ask, “Why do not you, as a believer in Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount, make common cause in the things of this world with the destitute around you, and trust for the needful food and raiment to Him who feeds the birds and clothes the lillies?” Why not, indeed! Is it merely because such an act would be fanatical and enthusiastic, or because political economy forbids it? Or, because, whatever else I ought or ought not to do, I ought not to do my brother man a wrong? Is anybody ignorant of the fact that every human life needs the discipline of forethought and self-denial, of responsibility and self-help; and that if I by my ill-judged kindness enable another to escape things, I am degrading and hurting him as well as abusing my own power? What would be the effect of the announcement that half a dozen rich men had disinherited themselves, and that to-morrow morning fifty millions of dollars would be distributed to the poor? Does anybody care to contemplate the pandemonium that New York would become-the idleness, the licentiousness, the fierce hatreds, the bitter discords, the mad license that would be engendered: and ought a Christian man to do an act that would make his brother men incalculably worse instead of better? (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
Great possessions a hindrance in the way to heaven
How nimbly does that little lark mount up, singing, towards heaven in a right line! whereas the hawk, which is stronger of body and swifter of wing, towers up by many gradual compasses to his highest pitch. That bulk of body and length of wing hinder a direct ascent, and require the help both of air and scope to advance his flight; while the small bird cuts the air without resistance, and needs no outward furtherance of her motion. It is no otherwise with the souls of men in flying up to their heaven. Some are hindered by those powers which would seem helps to their soaring up thither: great wit, deep judgment, quick apprehension, send about men with no small labour, for the recovery of their own incumbrance; while the good affections of plain and simple souls raise them up immediately to the fruition of God. Why should we be proud of that which may slacken our way to glory? Why should we be disheartened with the small measure of that, the very want whereof may (as the heart may be affected) facilitate our way to happiness? (Salter.)
The worth of heaven
Far beyond the treasures of Egypt, which yet is called Rahab because of the riches, power, and pride thereof. Oh! get a patriarch’s eye to see the wealth and worth of heaven, and then we shall soon make Moses’s choice. In the year of grace 759, certain Persian magicians fell into that madness, that they persuaded themselves and sundry, others that if they sold all they had and gave it to the poor, and then afterwards threw themselves naked from off the walls into the river, they should presently be admitted into heaven. Many were cast away by this mad enterprise. How much better (if without superstition and opinion of merit) Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, who being asked by certain ambassadors that came to his court what hounds he had, for they desired to see them, showed them next day a pack of poor people feeding at his table, and said, “These are the hounds wherewith I hunt after heaven.” (John Trapp.)
Deteriorating influence of riches
Many a Christian do you find among the rich and the titled, who, as a less encumbered man, might have been a resolute soldier of the cross; but he is now only a realization of the old Pagan fable-a spiritual giant buried under a mountain of gold. Oh! many, many such we meet in our higher classes, pining with a nameless want, pressed by a heavy sense of the weariness of existence, strengthless in the midst of affluence, and incapable even of tasting the profusion of comfort which is heaped around them. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The danger and misery of self-deception
I. The state and character of the person who here addresses the Lord.
1. We discover many circumstances which are calculated at first sight to impress us with very favourable sentiments of his state and character. He was young; engaging manners; amiable disposition. He exhibits a pleasing combination of many attractive qualities.
2. How inadequate his conception of the corruption of his own heart. What “good” thing can he do?
3. The defective views which he entertains of his own guilt.
4. He is not better acquainted with the secret bias of his affections than with his depravity and guilt.
II. The conduct of our Lord on this occasion.
1. He does not promote the self-deception and thus augment the danger. He does not compliment the young man on his moral attainments. He acts the part of a true Physician and Friend; palliatives will only increase the disorder.
2. Compassionate regard.
3. Admirably suited to the peculiar circumstances of his case. Christ mentions the law as a corrective to his pride and self-sufficiency.
4. Eminently calculated to prove in the highest degree beneficial to his most important interests.
(1) The misery of a state of self-deception.
(2) That in removing the specious covering which self-deceit imposes, and in disclosing the sinner to himself, consists one important part of the duty of a minister.
(3) Reflect on that disposition of heart which Christ requires of His people. Follow Me. (E. Cooper.)
The Christian’s life-long work after confirmation
“What lack I yet?”
1. A thorough devotion to God’s service.
2. A spirit of prayer.
3. A due appreciation of the work that God has appointed you to do.
4. You may lack patience.
5. You require to be incited to perseverance. (J. H. Norton, D. D.)
The great question answered
The path a soul treads when it comes to Christ is one of beauty. To come to Jesus is a noble and manly act. It is a soul drawn by the good; rising above sinful forces which have enslaved it; of special interest to see the young come to Christ. The conditions necessary to such an approach are illustrated in the young man-
1. He believed that the character of this life determines that to come.
2. He believed that obedience to God was the first principle of religion.
3. He desired to exhaust his powers in perfecting his character.
4. He had faith that Christ would show him the way of salvation. “What lack I yet?”
I. Self-renunciation. “Sell that thou hast.” This embraces a recognition of the supreme right of God over the soul. God gave all; this leads to an abandonment of selfish pursuits. Why religion makes this demand.
1. Selfishness is deceitful and delusive; it does not see man’s real interests; it does not comprehend the Divine relations of man;it looks only at things seen.
2. Selfishness and self-love dwarf manhood; narrow the thought and corrupt the affections; they shut out noble sentiment which leads men to deeds of daring.
3. There must be this self-abandonment to allow a higher ideal of life to possess the soul. That man who is full of himself can contain nothing beside. He must forget himself who would live after the pattern shown him on the mount.
II. Religion demands Christ consecration.
1. Supreme affection for Christ. The heart must be first given to Him.
2. The purposes of the heart must be turned to Christ’s cause.
3. The influence must be for God.
4. Human passions must be at God’s disposal. Is the demand too rigorous, and does it embrace too much?
It may encourage us to yield full submission to call to mind a few precious facts.
1. It assimilates us to a likeness of Christ. His soul exceeded all bounds and barriers, and poured out its life an immortal benediction upon His enemies. The widowed mother, whose midnight toil earns bread and raiment for her darling ones, is embalmed in poetry and song; the artist weaves a crown of glory” about her brow. But such labour and consecration is yet only that of a true heart and human impulses. But he who is consecrated to Christ is Godlike.
2. It brings peace to the heart. Men who are vacillating are unhappy. No soul rests so perfectly at ease as that one which has its home on God’s altar.
3. It centralizes and makes the man strong. Scattered men are weak. A consecrated man is a felt man.
4. It enlivens and sets the life on fire. Men go to sleep and are frozen, as the fairy city celebrated in story. God breathes on the powers of the man consecrated; he is set on fire by the breath of Jehovah. Such a life will have given back to it from God, in its new realm, a better being. The curtains are now withdrawing. See, yonder the field is fairer and the sward is all green! There that life runs on and on and on for ever! It gathers to itself all that was of possible value on earth in the years of its pilgrimage, and, having yielded obedience to the conditions of its noble being, enters upon that higher life of love and joy for which it has been fitted by a faithful stewardship. (J. W. Holt.)
Christ and good people
The gospel indicates three particulars in regard to their mutual relations.
I. There is a point which attracts them to each other. A noble young man; although surrounded by great wealth, he has not yielded himself to youthful frivolities, but has kept his spirit intent on higher aims than earthly qualifications. He is modest enough to be conscious of imperfection, and to make inquiry where there is an opportunity to learn. He retains enthusiasm, and the object of his enthusiasm is no inferior one. Such people must feel the attraction of the person of Jesus Christ. They love the good, and Christ is the good One. All their ideals are realized in Jesus. The rich young man felt this. But this attraction was mutual. Jesus came to seek the lost and to save the sinner; much more would the purity of this naturally noble heart receive His recognition. Neither is this mutual attraction for a moment merely; the attraction remains, though the discipline required is hard to understand; an inner impulse draws us to Him.
II. There is a point which separates them from each other. At the very point where the Lord exerts the strongest power of attraction upon the naturally noble, their separation begins. It is a necessity of the case. Our Lord’s word about the “good,” and the mention of the commandments, had been designed to awaken distrust of self. Then comes the unheard-of demand, “Sell all,” etc. He was touched in his heart’s core. Christ exposes the point in which this good person was not good. Christ wants complete persons for His followers; it takes a complete person to win the prize of eternal life. If you want to be perfect you must renounce the secret reservations you oppose to the rigour of the Divine commands, put away the lusts which hamper the inner man. Renew your heart; put a new object in its centre. But for the sake of one thing you will turn away from your Saviour, in spite of all your noble efforts and ideal endowments.
III. This separation must be realized in order truly to find the Lord. When the physician performs an operation, it is because he wants to heal; and when our Lord seems to discourage nearer approach it is because He wants to deepen the reason for it, so that after they unite nothing shall be able to separate them. Hence we believe this young man’s separation was not final. He will return, no longer fiery and with a surplus of power; for with God all things are possible. It was necessary that he should be impressed with the requirements of Christ, for as long as he can say, “All these things have I kept,” a Redeemer is superfluous-a Moses or a Socrates would suffice. But when he learns to despair of his own strength, then he arrives before the gate of salvation and stretches imploring hands for a Redeemer. Therefore Christ first destroys this young man’s merit; and this is the more difficult from his high virtue. In the light of Jesus little sins becomes great. To sacrifice for Him for love is to lose nothing. His yoke is easy. (E. Dryander, D. D.)
“What lack I yet?”
This young man was hungry for improvement; that was all right. But there were other things for which he had a stronger hunger. Morality is the endeavour according to a man’s power to obey laws, and I will divide moralities into five different kinds.
1. We call that physical morality which consists in the knowledge of men, and of those physical laws which surround them. Thus a man is immoral who violates law in eating and drinking and sleeping.
2. Next is social morality. Men are obliged to obey those laws which connect them with their fellow men; also as members of the household; as neighbours.
3. Next comes civil morality. Men are organized into states and nations.
4. Business morality.
What is the relation of obedience in these different spheres to the nature and character of men?
1. All these observances are external. They are not in their nature internal at all. They leave out entirely the vital question of character. A man may be obedient to physical law, and yet be proud. Man is a creature of two worlds; so that when he is called to the other sphere the physical elements which he has accumulated here drop off. The spiritual only he carries with him.
2. This lower morality leaves out of view the higher human relations to God. A man may be an atheist and yet good in lower respects; but it is not fair to measure his genial qualities by his atheism as he has been brought up amidst Christian influences. A man has an immortal self as distinguished from his physical, social, and civil self; what about that part of him which is to live for ever? Are there no laws higher than those which belong to secular affairs, which apply to the higher reason and the moral sense. Are there no laws for faith, imagination in its dealings with religion, which connect a man with the invisible, universal, and infinite? Is there no morality which reaches beyond the earthly sphere? Morality is not complete without religion. There are practical uses in the inferior forms of morality; from them we learn the typical forms of the higher religion. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar,” etc. The lower moralities are schools, as it were; it is a great preparation for religion. Generally speaking the higher you go the more difficult is the achievement. Few men are competent to be eminent artists. In realizing the higher conceptions of religion there are inherent difficulties: but some make it harder than they need. The sun may shine on a slate roof for ever, and yet the garret beneath it may be dark; but make the roof of glass and the sun Will shine through. Let your higher life have the best care. (H. W. Beecher.)
The centred principle of character
There are multitudes of men who live moral lives, generous lives, lives that are good in a thousand respects; but it does not come to this, that their whole being is centred in God and spiritual things. It is centred, rather, in the possession of wealth. (H. W. Beecher.)
Selfishness may be associated with many virtues
I remember watching, last summer, spiders that burrowed in the crevicess of a trellis where the wind had borne much dust. I noticed that the hole where they lay lurking looked dark and ugly. I also noticed, as I sat one day watching, a vagrant spider taking a morning glory, in full blossom, and spin his web over the mouth of it. And there never was a prettier nest in this world-a nest more richly gemmed with beauty-than this was. But, after all, it was the same spider, whether he lay in the dark hole at the corner of the trellis, or in the blossom of that exquisite flower. Now, selfishness may weave its web in the dusky places, or in the hideous-looking recesses of a man’s disposition, or about the mouths and graces of sweet affections; but it is the same selfishness after all. The place is changed, and the appearance of the surroundings is changed, but the spider is not changed. So, the point to be remembered is that in every man there is a centre around about which his life really swings. There is a balance-point, and it preponderates one way or the other. The great influences of life weigh down toward the flesh, or else they go toward the spiritual. You may change the circumstances of a man’s life, and it may be modified one way or the other; but after all there is a predominant force in his character, and that controls all the minor forces. (H. W. Beecher.)
Morality not to be despised
Again, a selfish-centred man, clothing himself with all manner of Christian graces and aspirations, is not to be condemned as if these graces and aspirations were of no account. Here is a point where ministers have trouble in preaching to men. When we see men embowered under external moralities, and attempt to teach that morality is not enough, the impression arises that we undervalue morals. I do not undervalue morals any more than the taxcollector undervalues a hundred dollars, when I go to pay my taxes, and offer him that amount, when my bill is five hundred. He says: “I will not take it. It is not enough.” He does not despise the hundred dollars. He merely says: “You must put more with it.” And I do net despise morality because I say that it does not rise high enough. It is good as far up as it goes. So is a grape-vine good as far up as it goes, when it is two or three feet high: but it does not arrive at what it was planted for until it reaches that point where it has blossoms and clusters. It is the cluster that determines its value. (H. W. Beecher.)
A man may love poetry and music, and have generous impulses which draw him toward a higher range of life; but after all, it is only a polished form of selfishness, or selfness that is manifesting itself in him. It is self that is at the bottom. I do not say that it is not better that a man should be refinedly selfish than coarsely selfish. It is a great deal better. It is better that man should be intellectually selfish than coarsely selfish. It makes social intercourse easier. It makes it easier for men to get along with each other. And if the centre of a man’s disposition is selfish, and at the same time he has aspirations and refinements, and generosities and kindnesses, I do not say that he is no better for having these things: I say that as a member of society he is a great deal better. He energizes society. He adds something to those elements which take away attrition and harshness and rudeness from society. But he is not inwardly better; for nothing makes a man better within until the centre of his life and character are changed. Every blossom that you put upon a man who is radically selfish, and is going to be selfish, the worse you make it for him. The prettier you make a man’s selfishness, the more music there is that accompanies it, the more flowers there are that decorate it, the more balm there is along with it, the more sunlight there is shed upon it, the more it is painted with glowing colours, the better is it for society; but the worse it is for him, because these things delude; because they are satisfying; because they bide the mischief; because they do not let him see what an unforgiveable and what a demoralizing quality selfishness is. (H. W. Beecher.)
The need of an inner spiritual change
What is that change? It does not consist in doing a few more things, or in adding a few more excellences, as the young man thought it did. “Good Master, what new thing shall I do? What new prayer shall I say? What extra morality shall I take on? What other charities and bounties shall I bestow for man’s relief? I should be glad to add to my stock of excellences.” That was the purport of the young man’s inquiry. The Master said to him, in substance: “Your whole character is wrapped up in your position. You are rich, you have large estates, and you know it and you stand centred in them. And now, with this centre, you want to add various excellences. Go sell all these, give them away, and take up)our cross and follow Me.” That brought him to a decision instantly. Choosing between the higher and the lower, he took the lower, and went away sad and grieved. And Christ everywhere brought men to this choice. If you are to be Christians, Christianity does not mean having some few things on a selfish basis. You must change the foundation of your life. You must pass over from the animal, up from the lower, away from the predominantly self-seeking life that is in all of us by nature. You must come into the kingdom of God, which is the kingdom of love. Beneficent love, love for others, and not for yourself, must be the predominant, the governing tendency. (H. W. Beecher.)
Religion more than an outward addition
Being possessed of all that could gratify his senses, he did not mean to be over-indulgent in it, but he did not want to give it up. Being in this position, he wanted, not to exchange it for anything else, but simply to have sprouting up around about him, over-arching him, and embowering him, flowers of spiritual and poetical aspirations, and all manner of Divine feelings, so that he should have both things-his feet rooted in this earth, and his head placed in the other life. He wanted to take this world first, and then superadd the kingdom of God as a polish to it. He wanted all spiritual excellence to sit, as it were, in the clouds above him, like an orchestra, and play sweet music to him, while he sat below, on a level with the earth, sensuous, and indulging himself selfishly. (H. W. Beecher.)
The spiritual must supplant the physical life
Men have wanted, in every age, to have both worlds-a thing which Christ said was impossible. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Our Saviour taught this young man that the spiritual life must supplant the physical life. The two can co-exist; but the spiritual life must be in the ascendency, and must control the lower physical life. Our Saviour taught all the way through His life that spirituality cannot be simply the complement of secularity. It cannot be a parasite growing on the boughs of worldly prosperity. If a man is to have the kingdom of God, he must make that first, and that must be supreme. Or, to change it to a more psychological statement, if a man is to be truly a Christian, his spiritual nature must predominate and bear rule over everything else that is in him. You cannot have the temporal, lower nature strongest, and then expect the spiritual nature to please it and play down to it. And yet, that is what men are attempting to bring about everywhere. Every person has some dominant point. There is no uncentred character anywhere. There is a point in every man’s character which rules, and to which everything is brought for comparison and settlement. This point often seems to shift and change; but, after all, there is some point in a man’s character which you may say is the dominant point, and before which all things above it and below it have to come into judgment. It is this that gives character to a man, and determines whether he is high or low, good or bad.
Religious impressions soon shaken off
After a shower in the night, if you go out in the morning, it is scarcely safe for you to go near a bush or a tree, because if you touch it, there will rain down such multitudes of drops on you. I sometimes think this church is like a tree that has stood out in the open air, and collected the dew. Every leaf is covered with it. If you shake the tree, down comes a shower of drops. I see you moved to tears every Sunday. I know that you follow and enjoy the service of prayer and of song and of preaching. You have much deep religious feeling, and a great deal of thought. The pews are full of young men and young women who are going to Christ and saying: “Master, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” And Christ says, by me, to-day, to every one of you, “It is not adding one good thing to another that you need but that you should rise from the centre of selfishness, and go over to the centre of true Divine benevolence, by the power of the Holy Ghost, without which power no man can rise to the higher level.” (H. W. Beecher.)
The price of a great ambition
Yours is a great ambition, and, withal, a very noble ambition: are you prepared to pay the price for your great ambition? You are a man of the very finest impulses, but you live in a fine house and know nothing of hardship, and while these things may do for your old life, the new to which you aspire demands sacrifice and surrender. Sell up all, and let us know how much is due to an impulsive temperament and how much to inherent nobility. If it be due to that no change of circumstances will matter. It was a Spartan-like call to duty, but did he not look, like a Spartan youth, equal to it? (J. W. Thew.)
Nobility worthy of the highest culture
I apprehend that here lay the chief reason of our Saviour’s great demand upon him. Is it not precisely because he is so good that that demand is so great? Is it venturesome to say the Master would not have made such a demand upon an inferior mind to his? That was not simply because, being a young man, he was better able to bear it: it was because, standing already, as he does, so high, occupying such a vantage ground-shall I put it this way-the Master’s ambitions are fired, He sees him on such a level, and He would have him, at one grand stride, take the highest level of all. As when you have a lad at school of more than ordinary promise, you keep him longer there, you say the lad shows signs of genius, and the opportunity of becoming a genius shall not be wanting. Here are signs of uncommon goodness and greatness, and the opportunity should be afforded for accomplishing good. This view is borne out by the story. “Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor,” is not given in answer to the question, “What good thing shall I do?” but in answer to the question, “What lack I yet?” It is not, “If thou wouldst be saved, sell all that thou hast;” it is, “If thou wouldst be perfect.” It is not merely a question of eternal life, but of eternal distinction. It is not a mere matter of getting through the curriculum, but of getting through it with honours. (J. W. Thew.)
The whole surrender
I. There is a certain spurious sort of religion which because it is not complete (or perfect) is useless. A vessel may look very well, but if it have a hole in the bottom, it will hold nothing-useless for want of being perfect.
II. The whole surrender. The decisive act which consecrates all to the kingdom:-must be done by the man himself. Not even God can do it for you. It was useless for Christ to say “Follow Me” as He was, for his body only could have followed, his anxieties would still have been with his possessions. It was also a prudent provision against approaching persecution.
III. How can I go and sell? By a full consecration to God. Like the whole burnt-offering, every portion must be consumed on the altar.
IV. It is an awful consideration that the word of life itself is powerless to persuade a covetous will, (W. I. Keay.)
On being right in the main.
1. He displayed a degree of moral earnestness.
2. He employed the language of veneration.
3. He was well instructed in Biblical ethics.
4. He was inordinately attached to worldly possessions.
Christ’s conduct showed:
1. That He compels men to look at the logical consequences of their own admissions.
2. That personal regard may be entertained where full moral approbation cannot be expressed.
I. The necessary limitations of the most careful religious training.
II. That the final attainment of education is the conquest of the heart.
1. That Christ-following involves self-abnegation.
2. That Christ-following must be the expression of the soul’s supreme love.
3. That Christ-following means self-giving.
III. That lack of one thing may be lack of everything.
IV. That the sincerity of men must be tested according to their peculiar circumstances. What is a test to one man may be no test to another. A man must be prepared to surrender what he values most. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The lack of one thing the lack of all
The garden is beautifully laid out: the straight lines and the curves are exact; the terraces are arranged with artistic taste; but no seed is sown,-and the summer says, “One thing thou lackest.” The machinery is perfect: cylinder, piston, valve, are in excellent order; no flaw is in the wheel, no obstruction in the flue; finer engine never stood on the iron way; everything is there but steam,-and the intending traveller says, “One thing thou lackest.” The watch has a golden case, the dial is exquisitely traced and figured, the hands are delicate and well-fixed; everything is there but the mainspring-and he who inquires the time says, “One thing thou lackest.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
Sins as great possessions
There are sins so rooted, so riveted in men, so incorporated, so consubstantiated in the soul, by habitual custom, as that those sins have contracted the nature of ancient possessions. As men call manners by their names, so sins have taken names from men, and from places; Simon Magus gave the name to a sin, so did Gehazi, and Sodom did so. There are sins that run in names, in families, in blood; hereditary sins, entailed sins; and men do almost prove their “ gentry “ by those sins, and are scarcely believed to be rightly borne, if they have not those sins. These are great possessions, and men do much more easily part with Christ than with these sins. But then there are less sins, light sins, vanities; and yet even these come to possess us, and separate us from Christ. How many men neglect this ordinary means of their salvation, the coming to these exercises, not because their undoing lies on it, or their discountenancing, but merely out of levity, of vanity, of nothing, they know not what to do else, and yet do not this. You hear of one man that was drowned in a vessel of wine, but how many thousands ill ordinary water! And he was no more drowned in that precious liquor than the)-in that common water. A gad of steel does no more choke a man than a feather or a hair. Men perish with whispering sins, nay with silent sins, sins that never tell the conscience they are sins, as often as with crying sins. And in hell there shall meet as many men that never thought what was sin, as that spent all their thoughts in compassing sin; as many who, in a slack inconsideration, never cast a thought upon that place, as that by searing their conscience, overcame the sense and fear of that place. Great sins are great possessions, but levities and vanities possess us too; and men had rather part with Christ than with any possessions. (J. Donate.)
Estimate of the ruler
He was not a spiritual man; there was really nothing spiritually good and loveable in him: nothing truly gracious, as a Puritan divine would call it. He was but a natural man after all-a beautiful specimen of the natural man, as Dr. Chalmers said of some one, but still only a natural man. Nature had indeed done much for him, all it could for him; it had endowed him with riches, power, a high moral nature, an amiable, warm, frank, loving, loveable disposition. See here what nature can do; she can raise her favourites very high in the scale of humanity, so as to compel the homage even of the Saviour’s love and admiration. See here what nature cannot do; she cannot carry any one across the boundary that separates the kingdom of God from the world; she can bring him to the very threshold, but there she leaves him; there she is powerless; there her weakness is made known. (A. L. R. Foote.)
Giving up all for Christ
The words are terribly clear, sharp, and stern. Francis of Assisi heard them once. Straying into a church, they were in the lesson for the day which was read. The words seized on his conscience; they haunted him, they tormented him. He sold everything but the bare garment which clothed him. Still the obedience seemed to fall short of the Saviour’s command. So he stripped himself even of his poor raiment; and they clothed him there in the church, for very shame, in a peasant’s tunic, which he wore on till death. (J. B. Brown.)
It is as if our Lord had said, “Thou aimest at perfection and on the footing of this thou art looking for eternal life; thou indulgest the dream of human perfectibility. Well, I will put thee here to the test: sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor. What! dost thou hesitate? What, then, becomes of thy favourite doctrine of perfectionism? Ah! thy fond idol is dashed to pieces, and by thine own hand, too; and wilt thou still indulge in such a golden dream? Is this all the length thy doctrine of human perfectibility can carry thee?” If-an important qualification this-if thou wouldst be perfect! Who can fail to see a delicate yet severe irony here? The Saviour is not teaching the doctrine of perfection in any sense, but is trying to wean him from a theory which was deeply rooted in his mind, and which was exercising so prejudicial an influence over him. (A. L. R. Foote.)
Possessions that possess
Every man hath some such possessions as possess him, some such affections as weigh down Christ Jesus, and separate him from Him, rather than from those affections, those possessions. (Dr. Dotage.)
Not wise to go from God
That no man that ever went from Him went by good way or came to good end. There is none good but God; there is centrical, visceral, gremial gold, goodness in the root, in the tree of goodness, God. (Dr. Dotage.)
The regulation of conduct
Conduct may be regulated in two ways:-
1. By the hand.
2. By the heart: as with a watch so with the life. The face of the watch may be made to represent the truth by simply altering the hands, or it may be corrected by touching the interior works. Here is a young man who says, “What shall I do to make my watch tell the hour accurately?” He is answered, “Thou knowest the great clocks by which time is kept in the city.” He replies, “All these have I observed.” He is then told to open his watch and correct the regulator. So is it with human life: many seek to correct it by the outside; they search for models, they inquire for foot-prints; but they neglect the life-spring within, and consequently never get beyond the affectation of artificialism, or the stiffness of Pharisaic conceit. (Dr. Parker.)
But how is this spiritual lack to be supplied?
How is this hiatus in human character to be filled up? How shall the fountain of holy and filial affection towards God be made to gush up into everlasting life, within your now unloving and hostile heart? There is no answer to this question of questions, but in the person and work of the Holy Ghost. If God shall shed abroad His love in your heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto you, you will know the blessedness of a new affection, and will be able to say with Peter, “Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” You are shut up to this method and this influence. To generate within yourself this new spiritual emotion which you have never yet felt is utterly impossible. Yet you must get it, or religion is impossible, and immortal life is impossible. (W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)
The remorse occasioned by enlightened reason on the rejection of Christ
There is no misery comparable to that which follows after a near access to happiness; nor any sorrow so quick and pungent as that which succeeds a preconceived, but disappointed joy. Neither was the proposal unreasonable, because usually practised, even by the most worldly, it being frequent with men to sell an estate in one place to buy another in a more convenient. We may observe in this passage these four things considerable-
1. The person making the address to Christ, who was one whose reason was enlightened to a solicitous consideration of his estate in another world.
2. The thing sought for in this address, viz., eternal life.
3. The condition upon which it was proposed, and upon which refused; viz., the sale and relinquishment of his temporal estate.
4. His behaviour upon this refusal. He that deliberately parts with Christ, though for the greatest and most suitable worldly enjoyment, if but his natural reason is awakened, does it with much secret sting and remorse.
I. I shall show whence it is that a man actuated by an enlightened reason finds such reluctancy and regret upon his rejection of Christ. It may proceed from these causes-
1. The first may be taken from the nature of conscience, that is apt to recoil upon any error, either in our actions or our choice. After a good action, though never so difficult, so grim, and unpleasant in the onset, yet what a lightsome, refreshing complacency does it leave upon the mind! What a fragrancy, what a cheerfulness, upon the spirits! So, on the contrary, an action morally evil and irregular. A man no sooner displeases God but he presently displeases himself. No sooner is the action past but conscience makes the report. As soon as David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe how quickly did his heart smite him! An impure heart, like a foul gun, never vents itself in any sinful commissions but it recoils. It is impossible to sequester and divide sin from sorrow. That which defiles will as certainly disturb the soul. As when mud and filth is cast into a pure fountain, it is not so much said to pollute, as to trouble the waters. And do you think that this young man had not the experience of this? He departed indeed, but it was sorrowful, his conscience ringing him many sad peals within, hitting him in the teeth with the murder of his soul; that he had foolishly and irrationally bartered away eternity for a trifle, and lost a never-returning opportunity, in its improvement invaluable, and in its refusal irrecoverable.
2. The second cause of this trouble and reluctancy that men find in the very instant of their rejecting Christ is taken from the usual course of God’s judicial proceeding in this matter, which is to clarify the eye of reason to a clearer sight of the beauties and excellences of Christ in the very moment and critical instant of his departure. God can affect it with a sudden, instantaneous view of a good. It is like a sudden lightning that flashes in the face, but alters not the complexion; it is rather vision than persuasion; it struck his apprehension, but never changed his resolution. This is another cause that whets the sting, that enhances the vexation, and sends him away sorrowful.
3. The third and last cause of the anxiety that a sinner feels upon his relinquishment of Christ, if his reason be enlightened, is because there is that in Christ and in the gospel, even as they stand in opposition to the best of such enjoyments, that answers the most natural and generous discourses of reason. For the proof of which I shall produce two known principles of reason into which the most severe, harsh, and mortifying commands of the gospel are by clear and genuine consequence resolved.
(1) The first is that the greatest calamity is to be endured rather than the least sin to be committed.
(2) A second principle is this, that a less good is to be forsaken for a greater-an aphorism attested to by the natural, untaught, universal judgment of reason. Now to reduce this principle to the case in hand we are to demonstrate two things. 1st. That the good promised by our Saviour to the young man was really greater than that which was to be forsaken for it. Christ opposed eternal life to the young man’s possessions, and what comparison is there between these upon terms of bare reason? 2nd. The second thing to be demonstrated is that the good promised by our Saviour was not only greater in itself, but also proposed as such with sufficient clearness of evidence, and upon sure, undeniable grounds.
II. To show the causes that, notwithstanding all this remorse of conscience, the soul is not brought in the issue to reject and shake hands with Christ.
1. The first cause is from this, that the perceptions of sense overbear the discourses of reason. The young man desired eternal life; but he had no notion of the pleasure of it, what kind of thing it was; but he knew and found the sweetness of an estate, so that the sensible impressions of this quickly overcame and swallowed up the weak and languid conceptions that he had of the other.
2. The second cause or reason of this final rejection of Christ is from the prevailing opposition of some corrupt affection, which being predominant in the soul, commands the will and blears the eye of the judgment, showing it all things in its own colour by a false and partial representation. Come to the sensual and voluptuous person and convince him that there is a necessity of his bidding farewell to all inordinate pleasure in order to his future happiness; perhaps you gain his reason, and in some measure insinuate into his will; but then his sensual desire interposes and outvotes and unravels all his convictions. As when by much ado a vessel is forced and rowed some pretty way contrary to the tide, presently a gust of wind comes and beats it further back than it was before.
3. The third cause, inducing men to relinquish Christ contrary to the judgment of their conscience, is the force and tyranny of the custom of the world. And amongst other dissuasives from following Christ the young man could not but be assaulted with such as these: “What! part with all for a new notion of another world? Sell land to buy hope, be preached out of my estate, and worded out of such fair farms and rich possessions? “ He would do like the world though he perished with it; swim with the stream, though he was drowned in it; rather go sociably to hell than in the uncomfortable solitude of precise singularity to heaven-the jollity of the company made him overlook the broadness and danger of the way. Now the inferences and deductions from the words thus discussed are these:
(1) We gather hence the great criterion and art of trying our sincerity, which is by the test of such precepts as directly reach our peculiar corruptions.
(2) The issue of the whole action in the young man’s not closing with Christ’s proposals about eternal life, and his sorrowful departure thereupon, lays before us a full account of that misery which attends a final dereliction of Christ.
(a) Of that which is eternal.
(b) But it bereaves even of temporal happiness also, even that which it promises, and which only it designs, and for the retaining of which it brings a man to part with his hopes of that which is future and eternal. (R. South, D. D.)
Man ruled by his affections
In sum, the economy of the soul in this case is like a public council sitting under an armed force; let them consult and vote what they will, yet they must act as the army and the tumult will have them. In this sense every soldier is a commander. In like manner, let both the judgment and the will be for Christ, yet the tumult of the affections will carry it; and when they cannot out-reason the conscience, they will out-cry it. (R. South, D. D.)
If Christ ever wins the fort of the soul, the conquest must begin here: for the understanding and will seem to be like a castle or fortified place; there is strength indeed in them, but the affections are the soldiers who manage those holds, the opposition is from these: and if the soldiers surrender, the place itself, though never so strong, cannot resist. (R. South, D. D.)
The evil temper varied
Now, as in a tree, it is the same sap and juice that spreads itself into all that variety of branches: some straight, some crooked, some of this figure, some of that: so it is the same stock and furniture of natural corruption that shoot forth into that great diversity of vices, that exert such different operations in different tempers. And as it is the grand office of judgment to separate and distinguish, and so to proportion its applications; so herein is the great spiritual art of a prudent ministry, first to learn a man’s proper distemper, and then to encounter it by a peculiar and suitable address. Reprehensions that are promiscuous are always ineffectual. (R. South, D. D.)
Observe the excellent method that Christ took to convince this person. Had he tried him by a precept of temperance, chastity, or just dealing, He had never sounded the bottom of his heart: for the civility of his life would have afforded a fair and satisfactory reply to all these: but when He came close to him, and touched upon his heartstring, his beloved possessions, the man quickly shows himself, and discovers the temper of his spirit more by the love of one particular endeared sin, than by his forbearance of twenty, to which he stood indifferent. (R. South, D. D.)
Every man’s sincerity is not to be tried in the same way. He that should conclude a man pious, because not covetous, would bring but a short argument; for perhaps he may be lustful or ambitious, and the stream be altogether as strong and violent, though it runs in a different channel. (R. South, D. D.)
Sins of omission
When the archer shoots at the target, he as really fails to strike it if his arrow falls short of it, as when he shoots over and beyond it. (Dr. Shedd.)
Honour thy father and thy mother.
I. Obedience. Keep their commands (Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3).
II. Respect, reverence.
III. Regard their opinions. Do not despise them or ridicule them.
IV. Respect their habits. May be different from ours, antiquated, etc.
V. Provide for them. Deny ourselves to promote their welfare. (A. Barnes, D. D.)
The duties of children
I. You are required to view and treat your parents with respect. Nothing is more unbecoming in you, nothing will render you more unpleasant in the eyes of others, than forward or contemptuous conduct towards your parents.
II. You should be grateful to your parents. Consider how much you owe them-every comfort, etc.
III. You must make it your study to obey your parents, to do what they command, and to do it cheerfully.
IV. Do all in your power to assist and oblige your parents. You can very soon make some return for the kindness you receive.
V. Place your unreserved confidence in them. Be honest, sincere, and open-hearted.
VI. Attend seriously to their instructions and admonitions, and improve the advantages they afford you for becoming wise, useful, good, and happy for ever. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)
And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.-
Loving our neighbour
I. Who is our neighbour?
II. The duty of loving our neighbour.
1. This commandment evidently means-that we should not injure our neighbour in his person, property, or character; that we should seek to do him good; that in case of debt, difference, or debate, we should do what is right, regarding his interest as much as our own, that in order to benefit him we should practise self-denial, or do as we would wish him to do to us (Matthew 7:12).
2. It does not mean-that the love of ourselves, according to what we are, or according to truth, is improper; that I am to neglect my own business to take care of my neighbour’s (1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 2:5). (A. Barnes, D. D.)
Love thy neighbour
I. The command.
1. Whom am I to love? Thy neighbour
(1) albeit that he be of a different religion;
(2) although he oppose thee in trade;
(3) though he offend thee with his sin.
2. What am I to do to my neighbour? It prohibits all rash temper. Then do not neglect him.
3. How we are to love our neighbour.
II. Reasons why we should obey this command.
1. God commands it.
2. Selfishness itself would bid you love your neighbour. It is the short way to make yourself happy.
3. Because that will be the way to do good in the world.
4. The quiet of us all. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A gentleman once said to Dr. Skinner, who was asking aid for foreign missions, “I don’t believe in foreign missions. I won’t give anything except for home missions. I want what I give to benefit my neighbours.” “Well,” the doctor made reply, “whom do you regard as your neighbours? Why, those around me.” “Do you mean those whose land joins yours? Yes.” “Well,” said Dr. Skinner, “how much land do you own? … About five hundred acres,” was the reply. “How far down do you own it?” inquired Dr. Skinner. “Why, I never thought of it before, but I suppose I am half way through? Exactly,” said the doctor, “I suppose you do, and I want this money for the Chinese-the men whose land joins yours at the bottom.” Every Christian should say in a higher sense than the heathen poet, “I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me.” To a believer in Christ all men are neighbours.
Selfness versus selfishness
1. Christ made change from selfishness to benevolence the very marrow of religion. Selfness is to become a mother and ministrant of true benevolence-“as thy self.” He did not put His hand upon slavery, but if this principle could be secured all these evils would die away.
2. Religion, both in the individual and in the sects, as well as in theology, is to be tested by its power to develop benevolence.
3. All great schemes of reformation will fail which do not begin with releasing men from animal selfishness. (H. W. Beecher.)
Social evils not removed by outward means
Go out in early June, and with your scythe cut the May-weed that grows dense and malodorous along the sides of the road: and then let it come up again, not destroying root nor seed, simply cutting it off. That is Nihilism. It proposes to cut to the surface of the ground everything that has been developed out of human life and experience, but not to touch the root out of which they have selfishly and wrongfully developed. It leaves men just as they were, to destroy simply these accretions of oppression and wrong. Some good will be done, doubtless, in destroying multitudes of manners and customs, even by revolutionary evolutions-some good came from the red-hot ploughshare of the French Revolution; but, after all, as a philosophical method of correcting the evils of mankind and of the world, a child could have conceived something better than that. To destroy the outward forms of human society and to leave the inward causes of them, is to attempt to dry up a river, and let alone the springs from which it is fed. Nihilism is contemptible, except as a piteous exposition of men’s suffering, and of their ignorance of how to remedy that suffering. It is not the king, it is not the prince, it is not the inexorable law; it is the vital selfishness of the individual and the collective heart, that makes the trouble in this world. It is the fact men treat each other as animals treat each other, and only to a limited degree have transformed self-seeking into form of benevolence toward others. Just in the proportion in which it is transformed men grow happier and happier in society, and the average condition is better. (H. W. Beecher.)
Social suffering arising from selfishness
The same is true of all the schemes of Fourier and Comte, and of all the social reconstructionists that are writing and planning to-day. They vitiate the result that they seek, by leaving out of consideration the prime factor of the mischiefs that they would exterminate. If a man takes a book that is being printed, and attempts to erase in each proof-sheet a misprinted or a blotted word, but does not correct the wrong types in the form, the errors will reproduce themselves just as fast as they are erased. All the forms of suffering in human society have causes that lie in the animal selfishness of the human race; and if you will correct them-except for a moment, as it were, making a temporary correction, others developing in the same way-you must teach men, being born again, how to make themselves the instruments, not of selfishness, but simply of benevolence and selfness. All the efforts which are, in our day, being made to do this by law-as if machinery would ever correct human nature-are ineffectual. (H. W. Beecher.)
The effective operation of the law of love in social life
Faithful and uniform obedience to this royal law throughout the churches of Christ would be of itself an evangelistic power, an aggressive spiritual energy far transcending all the revival meetings ever held. Just as the regular action of the tides does more to purify the ocean than the occasional storms that sweep over its surface, so would the constant operation of this law of love do for humanity more than the occasional excitements that sweep over the surface of society. (D. Jackson.)
The ideal the true object of love
If my neighbour be an evil-living man, who is not subject to the law of Christ; or if he be a proud, overbearing man, caring only to further his own selfish interests, regardless how he may wound the feelings of others, and cause them to suffer wrong-if, I say, my neighbour be such a man, I cannot, and I ought not, it would be against the royal law, to love these things in him, just as it would be wrong to love them in myself. (D. Jackson.)
The law of self-love
It is very dangerous for a man to care for himself, and not for anybody else; and it is even more dangerous for a man to expend himself on other persons, and neglect or care nothing for himself. The danger is as great, and, if possible, greater, when the law of self is paralyzed, than when the law of benevolence itself is paralyzed. These two laws must work under mutual restraint. They are antithetical. They are counterparts. They are complements the one of the other. To care for yourself is an indispensable pre-requisite of caring for anybody else. If this be so, then, first, to rear up children to be cared for, and not to learn to care for themselves, is to make them self-indulgent, soft, worthless. Secondly. Any method of charity which weakens or destroys self-reliance is not charitable, but is cruel. Thirdly. It is therefore dangerous to interfere with the law of suffering. Suffering is as beneficent as enjoying. Indeed suffering is better than enjoying under certain circumstances. If a man have a diseased brain, and the whole world to him sparkles with fantastic visions of pleasure, and if, in order to restore him to a healthful and normal condition, it is necessary to put a blister on the nape of his neck, then in his case surgery, with all its attendant suffering, is better than the pleasing sights and sounds that he sees and hears. Charity should be so directed as that it shall inspire men to avoid the reasons of suffering, and as that it shall make suffering, when it cannot be avoided, educate men to bear it till they can get out of it. An easy relief of suffering not only is unwise as it relates to humanity, but it is contrary to the fundamental principles on which the globe has been organized. This leads me to say, fourthly, that the social tendencies and theories which are beginning to be preached are demoralizing and dangerous, and to no other part of the community so much as to those who are seeking to better their condition by promulgating them. (H. W. Beecher.)
That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven:
The hindrances and temptations of the rich
1. Riches tend to obscure faith; to make one trust in them, instead of in God.
2. They encourage their possessor to love the world, and to withhold his heart from God.
3. They exclude disinterested love and goodwill toward others.
4. They hinder humility. People dare not tell a rich man of his faults, so he seldom gets an opportunity of mending them.
5. They prevent meekness.
6. They make a man hard and unyielding, difficult to convince of what is true, unwilling to be persuaded, or to submit m any way to others.
1. To atheism. With riches a man seems dependent on no one. He thinks himself his own master.
2. To idolatry. From the worship of no God there is an easy transition to, the worship of false gods. He who loves not the Creator will certainly love the creature, e.g., the gratification of the outward senses. Not necessarily gluttony and drunkenness, destroying the body. A moderate sensuality, a regular kind of epicurism will be quite enough to keep the soul dead to God and all true religion.
3. To the gratification of the imagination-beautiful houses, elegant furniture, curious pictures, delightful gardens. Innocent in themselves, how do all these things draw off the mind from more serious pursuits!
4. To self-inflation.
7. Contempt of inferiors.
8. Fretfulness and peevishness. A gentleman of large fortune, while we were seriously conversing, ordered a servant to throw some coals on the fire. As he did so, a puff of smoke came out, on which the gentleman threw himself back in his chair and cried out, “Oh, Mr. Wesley, these are the crosses which I meet with every day!” I could not help asking, “Pray, Sir John, are these the heaviest crosses you meet with!” Surely these crosses would not have fretted him so much if he had had only fifty pounds a year, instead of five thousand. (John Wesley.)
Danger of riches
It is hard to carry a full cup with a steady hand. High places are dizzy places, and full many have fallen to their eternal rain through climbing aloft without having grace to look up. Trailing robes raise a dust, and gather upon themselves all sorts of filthiness, besides being subjected to needless wear and tear. A man may have so much of this world that he misses the next. His long robe may trip him up in the race for the heavenly prize, and he may fall a victim to the wealth he idolized. Alas, for the poor rich! Faring sumptuously every day, and yet full often strangers to that deep and peerless joy which belongs to those who, in the deep waters of poverty, find a boundless bliss in trusting God. When the rich are saved they should count it a miracle of grace, and feel great gratitude to Him who enables a camel to go through the eye of a needle, notwithstanding his hump. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Beware of growing covetous,
for of all sins this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth, so that by degrees, unless the conservators catch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit it imperceptibly creates a bar which is dangerous to navigation. Many a man when he begins to accumulate wealth commences at the same moment to ruin his soul; and the more he acquires, the more closely he blocks up his liberality, which is, so to speak, the very mouth of spiritual life. Instead of doing more for God, he does less; the more he saves, the more he wants; and the more he wants of this world, the less he cares for the world to come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Salvation easier for humble rank
Pope Adrian VI. said that nothing befell him more unhappy in all his life than that he had been the head of the Church and monarch of the Christian commonwealth. Another pope said that when he first entered into orders he had some good hopes of his salvation; when he became a cardinal he doubted it; but since he was made pope he almost despaired of it.
Small threads best for the needle’s eye
Let rich men often ruminate this terrible text, and take heed. Let them untwist their cables, that is, their heart, by humiliation (James 1:10; James 5:1), till it be made like small threads, as it must be, before they can enter into the eye of a needle, that is, eternal life. (John Trapp.)
The tendency of wealth to produce moral insensibility
When we read history, whether it be the history of Dives in the parable, or of Shylock in the play, we see how hard wealth can make men-how it can contract their vision and dwarf their aspirations and extinguish their sympathies. Nay, when we read the lives of our fellow-men, as they are lived alongside of us, we see how wealth can benumb the conscience and brutalize the moral sense, so that a rich man’s career shall remind you of nothing so much as those buccaneers of the Spanish main with whom might made right, and who knew no law but the law of triumphant audacity. When one notes these things and sees what a power there is in the possession of wealth to stimulate the instincts of cruelty and a petty revenge, and to extinguish those finer traits which make life sweet and sunny-above all, when one sees how riches rear a dome of brass over so many human lives, and ,hake heaven and Christ and the life to come as unlonged-for and unappreciated as would be a lock of a dead child’s hair to a pawnbroker-then one can at least understand why Christ should pronounce the solemn words which are recorded here. (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
The difficulties in the way of salvation for a rich man are
I. That riches engross the affections.
II. Men consider wealth as the chief good, and when this is obtained think they have gained all.
III. They are proud of their wealth, and are unwilling to be numbered with the poor and despised followers of Jesus.
IV. Riches engross the time, fill the mind with cares and anxieties, and leave little for God.
V. They often produce luxury, dissipation, and vice.
VI. It is difficult to obtain wealth without sin, avarice, covetousness, fraud, and oppression (1 Timothy 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:17; James 5:1-5; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 16:19-31). All these may be overcome. God can give grace to do it. Though to men it may appear impossible, yet it is easy for God (verse 26). (A. Barnes, D. D.)
The pride of wealth
Heaven is a stately palace, with a narrow portal; there must be both stripping and straining ere one can get through this strait gate. The greatest wealth is ordinarily tumoured up with the greatest swelth of rebellion against God. Pride breeds in wealth as the worm doth in the apple, and he is a great rich man indeed and greater than his riches, that doth not think himself great because he is rich. Have them we may, and use them too; but mind them we may not, nor love them; that is spiritual harlotry, such as God’s soul hateth, and He smiteth His hands at. (John Trapp.)
Danger of riches
Though we may not be exposed to this danger, thinking of it may free us from envy. There is danger in-
I. The acquisition: fraud, etc., heart drawn away from God.
II. The possession: hoarded, they beget covetousness; enjoyed, lead to riot, etc., may be loved inordinately; trusted in, may lead to pride and contempt of the poor. Learn-
1. A difficult thing to get wealth rightly, and use it well.
2. An awful thing to die a rich man in a world of so much sorrow; give an account of stewardship.
3. Do not envy the rich.
4. Remember that the true and lasting riches may be easily got. (The Hive.)
The dangers of wealth
The danger of the possession of wealth being admitted, let us now examine a few of the causes of this danger.
1. There is a fascination in the ownership of money, for it represents much of this world’s power; there are few worldly things it cannot purchase. Besides, there is a satisfaction to the rich man in counting his money, in the quiet contemplation, the secret consciousness of the power which if he pleases he cam wield through it.
2. Money takes from man the feeling of dependence on God. Possessing it, he is apt to say to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years”-why then should he trouble about possible future wants, when his income is so far above his expenditure?-and hence his state of mind is entirely opposed to the spirit in which we are taught to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The possession of wealth is therefore destructive of humility, of dependence upon God.
3. Riches incline a man in all ways to lean upon the world, which provides him with too much in which he delights, to make this world his home, thus hindering him from looking up; for we cannot live by faith and sight any more than we can serve two masters.
4. The possession of wealth tempts a man to be self-indulgent; to a needless display of magnificence in himself and his surroundings. Through the pleasures his wealth creates he soon gets entangled, and the daily cross of a disciple of Christ is altogether kept out of sight; the soul’s eye becomes darkened, the affairs of time seem to be the only reality, those of eternity a shadow, a dream about which the man who is happy need not trouble himself. But there are many who have the feeling that they are not rich, and cannot therefore be concerned in the danger which the possession of riches brings. This may be true in one sense, but then “riches” is a word having different meanings to different people. Again, many who have not money look upon its acquisition as the aim of life, and accept success in gaining it as the measure of happiness. Many suffer the danger of the rich, because their thoughts are all centred on becoming rich. Labour being the ordinance of God, we ought to be able to find in our work the path allotted to us by His will. We should love God, not self, the centre, the ultimate aim of our toil. But not one of us, left to himself, is capable of efficiently discharging the responsibilities entailed by the possession of wealth; we need to be sustained by God. (Canon Gregory.)
Wealth a hindrance on the heavenly way
When a man is to travel into a far country, a great burden at his back will but hinder him in his journey; one staff in his hand may comfortably support him, but a bundle of staves would trouble him. Thus a competency of these outward things may happily help us in the way to heaven, whereas abundance may be hurtful, and, like long garments to a man that walks on in the way, will trip up our heels too, if we look not well about us. (Sibbes.)
Riches a nest of evil
Thorns are the shelter for serpents, and riches the den of many sins. Riches is a warm nest where lust securely sits to hatch all her unclean brood. (Adams.)
Wealth hinders soul elevation
Our Saviour, indeed, doth not speak of an impossibility, but of the difficulty of it and the rareness of it. Job unfolded the riddle, and got trough the needle’s eye with three thousand camels. But it is hard to be wealthy and not wanton; too often are riches, like birdlime, hindering the soul in its flight towards heaven. (Swinnock.)
The world in the heart
A man in the very prime of life was lying on his death-bed. Paralysis had seized upon his body. It was creeping up, slowly and surely, to, his heart. His very hours were numbered. A faithful minister of God sat beside him, showing him the way of life. He was agonized in the effort to listen, to comprehend, but the old habit of years bound him so firmly that he could not fix his mind upon what his friend was saying. His life had been spent in the acquisition of wealth. Honestly, honourably it had been gained. There was no stain upon it, but yet it proved the millstone to drag him down. “Why, why!” he exclaimed in a voice of keenest anguish, “at this awful moment, can I think of nothing but my bank stock?”
Who, then, can be saved?
Who, then, can be saved?
This sounds as if there were some great difficulty in the way of being saved. How is this, is not salvation free? Yes. Then where is the difficulty? Man’s restoration is not merely legal, but moral, and in the latter the real hindrance will be found. Men make excuses, etc.
I. What is meant by being saved? In the narrative connected with the text, our Saviour calls it “ Entering into the kingdom of heaven.” The governing power of true religion over a man. Governed by love. To be saved is to be delivered from the kingdom of Satan, etc. It is a present change. Would you wish to be saved? Or, would you like to compromise this matter in the way of postponement? Or, would you wish to have your love of “ good society,” etc., made secondary to the love of Christ? Let these questions sink deep into your hearts. The Young Ruler.
II. The holy ghost can deal, and does deal, with this moral hindrance in the way of man’s salvation as effectually as God the Son has dealt with the legal hindrance by His work of substitution for man. There is hope for us all. To You is the word of this salvation sent. Use the appointed means, for God works by means, etc. (Hugh McNeile, D. D.)
Who can be saved?-
I. To put the question. This inquiry sometimes arises-
1. From partial views of the character of God.
2. It is often suggested by correct and scriptural views of the Divine law.
3. It arises from ignorance of the plan of human redemption.
II. To answer the inquiry.
1. Shall I first tell you who cannot? Not the ignorant, proud worldling, not the impure.
2. Who, then, can be saved? The vilest can. (Dr. T. Raffles.)
Who can be saved?-
I. That men often err as to the real difficulties of salvation, that they are prone to under-estimate its cost, effort, self-sacrifice, and demanded pains. Christ never deceived anybody as to the real cost of discipleship. Salvation under the gospel is not an easy thing.
II. The disciples were left to derive from this incident the lesson that moral uprightness was a different thing from gospel piety. The young man had kept the law. Christ will not be in the heart except He have absolute dominion there.
III. Our particular impediment to salvation. Riches. A wealthy class of men in a community is a social necessity. Greed to be avoided; compassion to be cultivated.
IV. A practical inference is that, however difficult salvation be, IT is never impossible at least, the impossibility is only relative. With man it is impossible; but with God it is possible and promised. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?
The advantages of following Christ
I. That a follower of Christ possesses a character of high and essential importance. To be a follower of Christ we must-
1. Believe the testimony which the Word of God has given as to His character and office.
2. From this principle of faith emanates all the other elements which compose the Christian character.
3. A public profession of His name, and exertion in His cause. Do you believe, etc.?
II. That in sustaining this character painful sacrifices must frequently be made. The disciples, primitive Christians, etc.
1. Remember for whom these sacrifices are to be made.
2. Remember for what these sacrifices are to be made. Are you determined at all costs to follow Christ?
III. That our present sacrifices in the Saviour’s cause shall issue in a glorious reward.
1. Here is an advantage promised as to the present life.
2. As to the life to come. The time and nature of the recompense. What encouragement does this subject hold out to the followers of Christ? (A. Weston.)
The reward of Christ’s followers
I. The evils they renounce. We must forsake all our sinful practices, ungodly associates, unholy attachments.
II. The example they follow. Christ, as our Teacher, Sovereign, Pattern.
III. The reward they anticipate. Following Christ will secure our personal salvation, our temporal interests and our eternal happiness. (Sketches.)
Christian fidelity and its rewards
I. The Christian disciple abandoning the world the better to serve Christ. What was left?
(1) A home that was dear;
(2) friends of the old time;
(3) a familiar occupation;
(4) the religion of forefathers.
II. The Christian disciple engaged in duties of Christian profession. It involved
(1) being thrust out of synagogue;
(2) ceaseless combat with the world-opinions, fashions;
(3) arduous labours.
III. The Christian disciple’s recompense. What shall we have?-
(1) Present peace;
(2) joy of discipleship;
(3) anticipation of sharing in future results of all Christian work;
(4) the final rest and reward. (J. C. Gray.)
The gain greater than the loss
We must understand the requirements of religion; and not over-value the things which we are obliged to give up. Some say “that a Christian must renounce all the world, all its gains, and pleasure.” This has been true in the world’s history; as in case of Xavier, Wesley, and missionaries. These exceptional cases. Then some people think that if they love Jesus Christ, they must be careful not to love wife and children too much. This is a mistake. God has made the family and cemented it with love. It is not necessary for a man to love God more that he love family less. There is a difference between that sacrifice which brings everything to God, to be regarded as His, and that slavery which dispossesses of all worldly goods and earthly affections in order to appease the heart of the infinite Creator. Love of God intensifies our home affections. So with regard to worldly possessions. A man is not called upon to endanger his working capital, but to consecrate it. The rules of the gospel bend to wealth; and a Christian has a larger expectancy of possessing the good things of this life. But he views himself as the steward of God, and does not allow it to imperil his soul’s salvation. Then comes another question: If I am a follower of Christ, what is to be my attitude towards the world’s amusements and pleasures. Give up the follies of the world, not its true pleasures. There is a high sense in which a man is to live soberly in Christ Jesus. If any man has a right to the pleasures of the earth, it is His disciple; he has a right to inherit its fruits, blessings. He has the joys of sense, and others much higher and richer in the green pastures. I would like to ask the Christian if he really thinks that he gives up much in following Christ? Our sacrifices have been joys to achieve in faith and love. But there will come a time when the text will have a certain literalness about it, when “there will be no question as to what we leave, but what we are going to find? The man will have to turn his back upon his possessions. All will have forsaken us. He will then fulfil the promise of eternal life. This the final consummation. We shall not then in the eternal sunshine be disposed to think much of what we have given up to follow Christ. (J. R. Day, D. D.)
The hundred-fold recompense
This reply of our Lord as furnishing guidance for us in our endeavours to act upon men and persuade them to give heed to religion. It will not do, constituted as men are, to enlarge to them abstractedly on the beauty of holiness and on the satisfaction derivable from a conscience at rest. They will not regard virtue as its own reward. We must admit that religion requires great sacrifices; but we contend that even in this life they are more than counterbalanced by its comforts, and that in the next they will be a thousand-fold recompensed.
I. Take the case of the young. You are reluctant to lose the pleasures of earth. We do not wish to deprecate these; all your senses are against our arguments. Christ did not tell Peter that his boat and net were worth but little at the most. We admit the extent of the sacrifice. We take the ground of recompense more than equivalent for all renounced. A nobler pursuit; reward more enduring.
II. It is the apparent conflict between duty and interest which causes us in a variety of cases to disobey God and withstand the pleadings of conscience. The conflict is only apparent, as our true interest is always on the side of duty. Here, again, we must magnify the remunerative power of Him in whose cause the sacrifice is made, rather than depreciate the sacrifice itself. But the duty is clear, and the difficulty of discharging it will not excuse its neglect. A man says he must sell his goods on the Sabbath in order to support his family, his interest demands it. But if he follows duty as against apparent interest, we assert that he engages on his side all the aids of Providence, if you cannot be religious but through bankruptcy, let not your name in the Gazette scare you from inscribing it in the Lamb’s book of life. We remind you of the inexhaustibleness of God; He is the Proprietor of both worlds. To men who are in danger of being engrossed in business, as well as those who are tempted to swerve from rectitude, we say, dwell on the word “ hundred-fold” in our text as suggestive of the Divine fulness and power. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Forsaking all to follow Christ
I. Christ is the pre-eminent object and the boundless source of all moral attraction and influence.
1. He is the pre-eminent object of moral attraction. He is the centre of all moral power. It is the overpowering force of the sun’s attraction that regulates the motion of the planets; it is the overwhelming attraction of the earth that neutralizes the mutual attraction of things upon its surface, and prevents them from inconveniently clinging together. So is Christ the centre of the moral world. As God, He claims our adoration: as Man, our lively affection. He is the realization of every Divine idea. In a gallery of paintings, comprising portraits, allegories, historic scenes, and ideal creations, one grand masterpiece, long concealed, is at length uncovered and disclosed to view. Immediately all others are forsaken; the admiring gaze is directed to this. It is “ the attraction,” not because of its mere novelty, but because it comprises all the subjects and all the excellences of every other work, and displays them with unrivalled power. He is the way to the Father, and to the soul’s everlasting home. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” A wild country is spread before us, with numerous paths, by-ways, and intersecting roads. Many of these tracks are toilsome, but supposed to lead to the possession of some profit and gain; many are pleasant, but of doubtful issue; many are perilous; many are evidently ways of perdition. But at length a bright “way” appears, and it is seen to lead upwards, and to terminate in a glorious “city of habitation.” Shall we not forsake every other way to follow this? He is the fulness of all good. He is all and in all. Is it not great gain to forsake all and to follow Him? He is the friend beloved. When a beloved friend arrives, business and pleasure are alike abandoned, for the joy of his society. Jesus comes, He calls to us; He announces the joyful news of reconciliation with God. Should we not forsake all to follow Him, and to be received into His everlasting friendship? He is the heavenly Bridegroom. The bride forsakes her father’s house, her country, her early associates for the bridegroom.
2. He is the boundless source of moral influence. He changes the earthly into the heavenly. No teacher nor doctrine can produce a transformation like this; the all-powerful influence is with Christ alone. If we desire our own true glory, should we not forsake all to follow Him? He changes the corrupt into the spiritual. He raises the spiritually dead into a Divine life. This reminds us that the attraction and influence of the Lord Jesus Christ can only be savingly experienced through the instrumentality of faith.
II. To forsake all and to follow Christ is alike our indispensable duty and our true happiness.
1. It is our indispensable duty to forsake all and to follow Christ. It is not by abstract considerations we usually judge of duty, but by contemplating actual and living relations. Now, if we contemplate the actual relations Christ sustains to us, and of the reality of which we are assured by Divine testimony, the entireness of His claims will become immediately evident. As the Son of God, He claims supreme homage and entire obedience: as Mediator, He has a peculiar claim, because we are the subjects of His all-prevailing intercession. This imperative duty is sustained by every conceivable motive; it is also indispensable. It is the divinely appointed condition of salvation. We must look at the awful alternative. We are all under the most sacred obligation to hold the possession of earthly things in subservience to the service of Christ.
2. It is our true happiness to forsake all to follow Christ. “What shall we have therefore?” Is it not true happiness to derive present and everlasting joy in the contemplation of so pre-eminent an object of love; to experience the transforming influence of His Spirit and truth changing us into His likeness; and to enter into living and effectual relation with Him, all whose names are significant of unlimited blessing? “What shall we have therefore?” Exemption from eternal death, and the inheritance of everlasting life. The truth of Christ. The fellowship of the saints. An infinite compensation; a blissful result of self-denial. “And the last shall be first.” As the first in their own and in the world’s esteem should be really the last, so the last shall be first. The last in worldly esteem. The last in social conditions-Christians are required to avoid all vain display and ostentation. The last in their own esteem. “What things were gain to them, these they counted loss for Christ.” (J. T. Barker.)
What called forth this question? An event had just taken place which had made a deep impression on the minds of the disciples.
I. Let us consider the spirit in which those words were uttered by St. Peter. There are some who always seem to delight in putting a bad construction upon the actions and words of God’s saints. We have no sympathy with such men. They judge others by their own standard and motives. But in the words of the text we find no instance of human infirmity. Whatever St. Peter’s faults may have been, certainly he was the last man to think of payment for service, or of reward. He was impetuous, affectionate, generous. Nor, again, can we admit that there was something vain-glorious in the words. What, then, led St. Peter to say, “What shall we have therefore?” It was thankfulness. He was thrilled with gratitude at the thought of the grace which had enabled him to do what others had not done. But further, instead of pride there was, we believe, humility in this utterance. It was as much as to say, “What condescension that thou hast chosen us, such as we are, for so great a vocation!” They felt the greatness of the love which had called them, and their own unworthiness of the dignity. Let us look at the statements which are made. They are two. Christ had bidden the rich youth to give up all, and St. Peter now says, “‘We have done this-we have forsaken all. Yes, it was not much, but it was all, and the sacrifice is to be measured not by the amount which is surrendered, but by the love which prompted it. Again, St. Peter adds, “We have followed Thee.” This was the second thing which our Lord demanded of the rich youth. Perfect does not consist in the mere abandonment of external goods. St. Peter was careful to add that they had forsaken all with a definite motive-that of following Christ, and of being like Him in the external conditions of his life. It is not merely world-surrender, but self-surrender which Christ demands. The forsaking is the preliminary of the following. Detachment from the creature is useless unless it leads to attachment to the Creator. Sin consists in two things-the turning away from God, and the turning to the creature. “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, saith the Lord, the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Holiness, on the other hand, requires a spirit of detachment from visible things, and love for God. They loved Him. It was a progressive love.
II. Our lord’s reply to St. Peter’s question was an encouraging one. He did not find fault with the question, knowing the purity of motive which prompted it. But He was careful to elevate their thoughts. They should have some great honour, some mysterious union with Christ in His exaltation, as they now had fellowship with Him on earth. Christ is Judge alone. They can have no share in His judiciary authority. In what sense, then, will the Apostles sit with Christ and judge the world? By the judgment of comparison. They will be examples of faithfulness to grace, condemning those thereby who have clung to earthly things and forsaken Christ. And besides this, by the judgment of approbation. They will be Christ’s court, His princes, marked out from others by special glory and blessedness as the recompense of their allegiance to Him. Is this honour to be confined to the original disciples? We are not called, as Apostles were, actually to forsake all, and to follow Christ. But all Christians must share their spirit. We must “use this world, as not abusing it” (1 Corinthians 7:31). The outward acts of religion, necessary as they are, will not compensate for a worldly spirit. But the Christian life is no mere negative thing-the quenching of the love of the temporal; it is the following of Christ. Try by meditation to gain a clearer view of our Lord’s example. Nor is it a sordid movement of soul to desire to look over the hills of time into the glories of the eternal world. Love, not selfishness, prompts all sacrifice made for Christ. But He who “for the joy which was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2), permits the inquiry of the text when made in the spirit of hope and thankfulness. “What shall we have therefore?” It is not merely happiness, it is blessedness. (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)
We must not understand this of an hundredfold in specie, but in value. It is-
1. Joy in the Holy Ghost, peace of conscience, the sense of God’s love; so as, with the Apostles, they shall rejoice that the)” are thought worthy to suffer for Christ.
2. Contentment. They shall have a contented frame of spirit with the little that is left to them; though they have not so much to drink as they had, yet they shall have less thirst (Philippians 4:11-12).
3. God will stir up the hearts of others to supply their wants, and that supply shall be sweeter to them than their abundance was.
4. God sometimes repays them in this life, as He restored Job after his trial to greater riches. (M. Pool.)
The Christian’s recompense
The man who forsakes his possessions and friends for Christ’s sake, shall find that Christ will take care that he has “a hundred,” i.e., very many others, who will give him the love and help of brothers, wives, and mothers, with far more exceeding sweetness and charity; so that it shall not seem that he has lost his own possessions, but has only laid them down, and in Christ’s providence has multiplied them with great usury. For spiritual affections are sweeter than natural ones. (Lapide.)
The reward of self-sacrifice
1. The security of those who are poor for the gospel’s sake.
2. The privilege of judging.
3. Dignity and eminence above others.
4. The nearest place to Christ and most perfect union with Him.
5. A principality of grace, happiness, and glory, that inasmuch as they are princes of the kingdom of heaven, they should have the right of judging, and of admitting into it those who are worthy, and excluding the unworthy. (Lapide.)
The Christian’s possession
He who has left all things begins to possess God; and he who has God for his portion is the possessor of all nature. Instead of lands, he is sufficient to himself, having good fruit which cannot perish. Instead of houses, it is enough for him that there is the habitation of God, and the temple of God, than which nothing can be more precious. For what is more precious than God? That is the portion which no earthly inheritance can equal. What is more magnificent than the celestial host? What more blessed than Divine possession? (Ambrose.)
The joy of the virtuous
If, instead of the perturbation of anger and fury, you weigh the perpetual calmness of the mind; for the torment of anxiety and distraction, the quiet of security; for the fruitless and penal sadness of the world, the fruit of sorrow unto salvation; for the vanity of worldly joy, the richness of spiritual delight:-you will perceive that the recompense of such an exchange is a hundredfold. (Cassian.)
The first last
This is an awakening sentence to the best of men. It was as much as to say to the Apostles, “You have forsaken all and followed Me; but you had need look and consider, from what principle, with what love, and to what end you have done it; you had need keep a watch upon yourselves, and see that you hold on, and that you have no confidence in yourselves. For many that are first in profession, first in the opinion of others, first in their own opinion and confidence, at the Day of Judgment will be found to be last in Mine and My Father’s esteem and reckoning; and many who make not so great a noise, nor have so great a name and repute in the world, and who have the lowest and meanest opinion of themselves will be found first and highest in My favour. The Day of Judgment will frustrate many expectations. (M. Pool.)