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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Mark 12

 

 

Verses 1-12

Mark 12:1-12

A certain man planted a vineyard and set an hedge about it.

The vineyard, or the visible Church transferred to the Gentiles

I. The Church is God’s peculiar treasure.

II. The Jewish people were appointed its guardians.

III. The Jewish nation was unfaithful to its trust.

1. They rejected the moral government of Jehovah.

2. They rejected His political control as the head of their theocracy.

IV. The sacred trust was transferred to other peoples and nations.

V. They were fearfully punished as a nation.

1. We are now led to admire the sublime features of the scheme of Providence.

2. That there is a great responsibility on the nations, communities, and individuals, to which God commits His Church.

3. We are the husbandmen. (E. N. Kirk, D. D.)

God the Proprietor of all

The manufacturer in his office knows that through building after building filled with machinery, running out to the very first and rudest processes, every single act of every single operative, down to the last and lowest boy, has its direct commercial connection with him and his interest. There is not one of the wheels that revolve of the ten thousand; there is not a thread spun or woven; there is not a colour mixed nor employed; there is not a thing done by any of the hands working in his vast establishment of whom there may be hundreds or even thousands, that is not related directly to his interest. The whole economy of the globe is, as it were, but a small manufactory under the direction of God; and there is not a single act performed in it which has not some relation to the thought, the feelings, the purpose of God. And He declares Himself to be in a wonderful sense identified with everything that is going on in life, in one way or another. (H. W. Beecher.)

Obligation to God

Horace Bushnell tells us that a few years before his death, Daniel Webster, having a large party of friends dining with him at Marshfield, was called on by one of the party as they became seated at the table to specify what one thing he had met with in his life which had done most for him, or had contributed most to the success of his personal history. After a moment he replied: “The most fruitful and elevating influence I have ever seemed to meet with has been my impression of obligation to God.”

The world’s ingratitude

Socrates, one of the wisest and noblest men of his time, after a long career of service in denouncing the wrongs of his age, and trying to improve the morals of the people, was condemned to death and obliged to drink poison. Dante, when Italy was torn by political factions, each ambitious of power, and all entirely unscrupulous as to the means employed to attain it, laboured with untiring zeal to bring about Italian unity, and yet his patriotism met no other reward than exile. “Florence for Italy, and Italy for the world,” were his words when he heard his sentence of banishment. Columbus was sent home in irons from the country he had discovered. The last two years of his life present a picture of black ingratitude on the part of the Crown to this distinguished benefactor of the kingdom, which it is truly painful to contemplate. He died, perhaps, the poorest man in the whole kingdom he had spent his lifetime to enrich. Bruno, of Nola, for his advocacy of the Copernican system, was seized by the Inquisition and burned alive at Rome in 1600, in the presence of an immense concourse. Scioppus, the Latinist, who was present at the execution, with a sarcastic allusion to one of Bruno’s heresies, the infinity of worlds, wrote, “The flames carried him to those worlds.” (M. Denton.)

God’s forbearance

The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, who, as in one triumphal march, conquered the world, observed a very singular custom in his method of carrying on war. Whenever he encamped with his army before a fortified city and laid siege to it, he caused to be set up a great lantern, which was kept lighted by day and night. This was a signal to the besieged, and what it meant was that as long as the lamp burned they had time to save themselves by surrender, but that when once the light should be extinguished, the city, and all that were in it, would be irrevocably given over to destruction. And the conqueror kept his word with terrible consistency. When the light was put out, and the city was not given up, all hope of mercy was over. The Macedonians stormed the place, and if it was taken all were cut to pieces who were capable of bearing arms, and there was no quarter or forgiveness possible. Now, it is the good pleasure of our God to have compassion and to show mercy. But a city or a people can arrive at such a pitch of moral corruption that the moral order of the world can only be saved by its destruction. It was so with the whole race of men at the time of the flood, with Sodom and Gomorrah at a later period, and with the Jewish people in our Saviour’s time. But before the impending stroke of judgment fell, God always, so to speak, set up the lamp of grace, which was not only a signal of mercy, but also a light to show men that they were in the way of death, and a power to turn them from it. (Otto Funcke.)

Pursued by God’s mercy

“Saved at the bottom of the sea!” So said one of our Sydney divers to a city missionary. In his house, in one of our suburbs, might be seen lately what would probably strike the visitor as a very strange chimney ornament; the shells of an oyster holding fast a piece of printed paper. But devoutly do I wish that every chimney ornament could tell such a tale of usefulness. The possessor of this ornament might well value it. He was diving amongst wrecks on our coast, when he observed at the bottom of the sea this oyster on a rock, with this piece of paper in his mouth, which he detached, and commenced to read through the goggles of his head dress. It was a tract, and, coming to him thus strangely and unexpectedly, so impressed his unconverted heart, that he said, “I can hold out against God’s mercy in Christ no longer, since it pursues me thus.” He tells us that he became, whilst in the ocean’s depth, a repentant, converted, and (as he was assured) sin-forgiven man-“saved at the bottom of the sea!” (Mothers Treasury.)

God’s longsuffering

The axe carried before the Roman consuls was always bound up in a bundle of rods. An old author tells us that “the rods were tied up with knotted cords, and that when an offender was condemned to be punished the executioner would untie the knots, one by one, and meanwhile the magistrate would look the culprit in the face, to observe any signs of repentance and watch his words, to see if he could find a motive for mercy; and thus justice went to its work deliberately and without passion.” The axe was enclosed in rods to show that the extreme penalty was never inflicted till milder means had failed; first the rod, and the axe only as a terrible necessity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s love in sending His Son

What would tempt you to give the baby out of your cradle? Is there anyone you love on earth, mother, that would tempt you to give your baby for that? But what if the child had grown up and had come to man’s estate? Say it had bloomed into fruition and all your hope was on it. What do you love in this world that would tempt you to give this child up as a sacrifice? You might for the country in hours of heroism. Many and many a mother has done a work that was divine when she consecrated her only son and sent him forth into the war, believing that she should never see him again. How many hearts are touched with the thought of this remembrance. But, oh, is there language that can expound such heroism, such zeal, such enthusiasm, as must inhere in the hearts of everyone that can do such work as that? And yet our hearts are small comparatively, and pulseless and shallow, and our human senses, as compared with God, are like a drop of water in comparison with the ocean. And what is the love of God, the Infinite, whose flowings are like the Gulf Stream? What are the depths, and the breadths, and the lengths of the love of God in Christ Jesus, when, looking upon a world that was so degraded and animal like, He gave His only begotten Son to die for it that there might be an interpretation of the love of God to the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ ungratefully treated

Surely a servant of the government may risk himself in the very heart of a convict prison alone, if he is the bearer of a royal pardon for all the inmates. In such a ease it would not be necessary to look out for a man of rare courage who might dare to carry the proclamation to the convicts. Give him but the message of free pardon, and he may go in unarmed, with all safety, like Daniel in the den of lions. When Christ Himself came to the world-the great convict prison of the universe-came the Ambassador from God, bringing peace-they said: “This is the heir; come, let us kill Him!” He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; and the servant is not greater than his Lord. (A.)

Cruelty to Christ

Some time ago a father had a son who had broken his mother’s heart. After her death he went on from bad to worse. One night he was going out to spend it in vice, and the old man went to the door as the young one was going out, and said, “My son, I want to ask a favour of you tonight. You have not spent one night with me since your mother was buried, and I have been so lonesome without her and without you, and now I want to have you spend tonight with me; I want to have a talk with you about the future.” The young man said, “No, father, I do not want to stay; it is gloomy here at home.” He said, “Won’t you stay for my sake?” and the son said he would not. At last, the old man said, “If I cannot persuade you to stay, if you are determined to go down to ruin, and to break my heart, as you have your mother’s-for these grey hairs cannot stand it much longer-you shall not go without my making one more effort to save you;” and the old man threw open the door, and laid himself upon the threshold, and said, “If you go out tonight you must go over this old body of mine;” and what did he do? Why, that young man leaped over the father, and on to ruin he went. Did you ever think that God has given His Son? Yes, He has laid Him, as it were, right across your path that you might not go down to hell; and if there is a soul in this assembly that goes to hell, you must go over the murdered body of God’s Son. (D. L. Moody.)

The stream of mercy directed into another course

In the channel through which a running stream is directed upon a mill wheel, the same turning of a valve that shuts the water out of one course throws it into another, Thus the Jews, by rejecting the counsel of God, shut themselves out, and at the same moment opened a way whereby mercy might flow to us who were afar off. (William Arnot.)

The parable of the vineyard.

One who was wont to illustrate His teaching by imagery drawn from the objects which surrounded Him, could hardly fail in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem to speak of vineyards. The hills and table-lands of Judah were the home of the vine. Five times our Lord availed Himself of this figure for His parables (St. Matthew 20:1; Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:33; St. Luke 13:6; St. John 15:1); and though it is doubtful in what locality He spoke that of the labourers in the vineyard, it is almost certain that the remaining four are intimately associated with Jerusalem. In many places in Southern Palestine the features of this parable may still be traced. The loose stone fences, like the walls so familiar to the eye in Wales or Derbyshire; the remains of the old watchtowers, generally in one corner of the enclosure; and the cisterns hewn in the solid rock in which the grapes were pressed-all remain to the present day. It was the custom in our Lord’s time for the owner in leasing a vineyard to tenants, to arrange for the rent to be paid, not in money but in kind-a certain portion of the produce being set apart as “a first charge” for the landlord. The system prevails in modem times in some parts of France, and more widely under the name of “ryot-rent” in India. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

God’s dealings with the Jews are signified in this parable

I. He did by His special providence protect and defend the Jewish Church, against all enemies and dangers both bodily and spiritual, which might annoy them and so hinder their fruitfulness.

II. He afforded them all necessary helps and means to further them in grace, and to make them spiritually fruitful.

1. The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, together with the whole true worship of God prescribed in the moral and ceremonial Law.

2. Godly discipline.

3. Afflictions and chastisements.

4. Mercies and deliverances.

5. Miracles. (G. Petter.)

God’s care of His church

Where God plants a true church, He does not so leave it, but is further careful to furnish it with all things needful for a church; and not only for the being, but also for the well-being of it; that it may not only be a church, but a happy and prosperous church, growing and flourishing in grace, and bringing forth plentiful fruits of grace, such as God requires and are acceptable to Him by Jesus Christ. As a careful and wise householder, having planted a vineyard for his use, doth not so leave it, and do no more to it; but is at further care and cost to furnish it with such things as are necessary and commodious, to the end it may grow, flourish, and prosper, and that it may bring forth much fruit and profit to the owner of it. So here, the Lord having planted a church in any place or amongst any people, doth not so leave it, but is careful to use all further means for the good of His church; especially for the spiritual good and prosperity of it, that it may grow, and increase, and prosper spiritually, and bring forth much spiritual fruit to God who planted it. Thus He did to the church of the Jews: He did not only plant His vineyard amongst them, by adopting and calling them to be His people, but withal He hedged about that vineyard, and set up a winepress, and built a watchtower in it, i.e., He furnished the Jews with all things needful to make them happy and prosperous, truly growing, thriving, and prospering in grace, and bringing forth plentiful fruits thereof, to the glory of God, the good of others, and the furtherance of their own salvation. To this end, He compassed them about with His special providence, as with a strong and sure hedge, to defend and keep them safe from all enemies and dangers bodily and spiritual which might annoy them; He gave and continued to them all spiritual helps and means of grace, and a government of His own appointing; He corrected them with afflictions, bestowed on them great mercies and deliverances, and wrought miracles for their benefit, to further their spiritual good and prosperity. And this is but a sample of how He treats every true church that He plants. (G. Petter.)

The church divinely protected

Whether in the parable the hedge and winefat and tower had each a special application in the system of God’s providential care for His ancient people, we cannot say; but at least in one particular we may trace a peculiar fitness in the figure of “the hedge.” What was it that protected the land of Israel year by year during the three Great Festivals, when by the Divine Law the country was denuded of its male population; when every man from north, south, east, and west, from the most unguarded districts, leaving their flocks and herds, their wives and little ones, totally unprotected from their bitterest enemies, went up to Jerusalem, the centre of religious worship? What was it that held in check the Moabite and Ammonite, and the robber tribes of Arabia? It was the fence of Divine protection, which, like a wall of fire, God in His providence had built up, so that no one dared to pass it. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

The pleading of the last Messenger

The coming of the Son of God in human form, as Emmanuel, is love’s great plea for reconciliation. Who can resist so powerful an argument?

I. The amazing mission.

1. He comes after many rejections of Divine love. None have been left without admonitions and expostulations from God. From childhood upwards He has called us by most earnest entreaties of faithful men and affectionate women; and, in spite of our obstinate resistance, He still sends to us His Son to plead with us and urge us to go to our Father.

2. He comes for no personal ends. It is for our own sake that He strives with us. Nothing but tender regard for our well-being makes Him warn us.

3. See who this Messenger is.

Nothing remains when Christ is refused. Heaven contains no further Messenger. Rejecting Christ you reject all, and shut against yourself the only possible door of hope.

II. The astounding crime. There are many ways of killing the Son of God.

1. Denying His deity.

2. Denying His atonement.

3. Remaining indifferent to His claims.

4. Refusing to obey His gospel.

Thus you may virtually put Him away, and so be guilty of His blood, and crucify Him afresh.

III. The appropriate punishment. Our Lord leaves our own consciences to depict the overwhelming misery of those who carry their rebellion to its full length. He leaves our imagination to prescribe a doom sufficient for a crime so base, so daring, so cruel. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The son rejected

I. The owner’s claim. His right and authority are complete. God presses His right to our love and service. Blessings are privileges, and privileges are obligations. We owe Him more than Israel owed. The human will has a natural repugnance to submission to absolute authority. But God never presents His claim as grounded on this alone. He tells of His love before He declares His laws. Only a bad heart can resent the authority or refuse the service.

II. The owner’s loving patience. There never was an earthly employer who showed such persistent kindness towards such persistent rebellion. This is a faint picture of God’s forbearance towards Israel. Mercies, deliverances, revelations, gather around their history.

III. The rejection. Rejection of the prophets leads up to the rejection of Christ. Privilege and place do not lessen the danger.

IV. The judgment. It was just, necessary, complete, remediless.

V. The final exaltation of the son. The kingdom is not to perish, only the rebellious. (C. M. Southgate.)

The Head of the Corner

I. The picture suggested by the scene which Christ calls up into imagination would be likely to cause surprise, or be termed an exaggeration, if it were laid anywhere outside of Palestine. Down even to the present time customs remain very much the same as in Christ’s day in that oppressed country.

1. The insecurity of property and person is proverbial. The Scripture record might be incorporated into the ordinary guide books.

2. There has been in all ages a special confusion of iniquitous dealing in respect to real estate. Thievery and violence seem to be the rule in the east, peace and possession the exception. Something is to be charged to the government; the laws are indefinite, and bribery is rife; indeed, the government sets the example of systematized crime. In all history of the Holy Land, from Christ’s time to ours, the rulers have been organized for official robbery and outrage. No titles are secure, even when one has paid for his vineyard or his building plot.

3. Then, too, the custom of committing all oversight and control of farms and orchards to underlings makes the matter a great deal worse. Absenteeism is a fruitful reason for crime (Mark 12:1). Those men left in charge of the vineyard, to whom messenger after messenger had been sent, and who now were peremptorily addressed by the owner with a final demand in the august person of his son, are represented as communing with each other, and saying, as they laid the wiles of their conspiracy, what might be construed into an utterance of their belief that, if this one inheritor were only dead, all heirship would be extinguished (Mark 12:7).

4. Still, so far as we can learn, there was no ground for hope of success in this plot. No enactment has come down to us which would sustain such an entailment or division or heirship as those infamous creatures assumed. Luke’s language (Luke 20:14) agrees with Mark’s; but Matthew (Matthew 21:38) says, “Let us seize on his inheritance.” This suggests the true interpretation. The husbandmen had no countenance in the common law; they intended to say that they would make the vineyard theirs by violence, and hold it by any extremities of force. It was a singularly stupid plan; it could not have even a plausible look anywhere but in that wretched region. It assumed an absence of justice, an insecurity of possession, an immunity from the worst crime, positively oriental in its toleration of rapine and murder.

5. Add to this the fact that in those early days, when invention had not yet brought firearms into use, the measures taken for homicide were brutal and hard beyond description. Not even spears or daggers or knives are used there for assassination now any more than they used to be. The coarse, rude weapon for murder is a club or bludgeon of the roughest sort; the Bedawin will have a gun on their shoulders, but will knock their victim on the head with a knotted stick all the same. The description, left on record by the Psalmist, is true to this day: “He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it.”

6. Hence, this frightful picture was a tremendous invective as well as a vivid illustration when employed by our Lord. He used it for a similitude in one of His most direct and forcible arraignments of the Jewish nation for their blind, dull, coarse, criminal rejection of God’s only-begotten Son, despatched then from high heaven to secure His Father’s rights from those who had grasped after heirship by murder.

II. We turn now to the second branch of the story. Our Lord suddenly drops His figure, and leaves the parable altogether, finishing His application with a quotation from one of the most familiar of the psalms (Psalms 118:22).

1. Thus He illustrates His position. He claims a Messianic psalm for Himself. Matthew (Matthew 21:43) tells us He said to those hearers of His in plain words that He was speaking this parable concerning them. And He chooses to show them that, for Himself, there was no fear of the future. The “son” of the story, who got murder instead of “reverence,” is heard of no more. But the Son of God, though “rejected” now, should one day come to His place of honour. They understood Him very well, for in an alarmed sort of murmur they said, “God forbid!” (Luke 20:16).

2. Thus He predicts His eventual triumph. There is a tradition of the Jewish Rabbis which relates the history of a wonderful stone, prepared, as they say, for use in the building of Solomon’s temple. Each block for that matchless edifice was shaped and fitted for its particular place, and came away from the distant quarry marked for the masons. But this one was so different from any other that no one knew what to do with it. Beautiful indeed it was; carved with figures of exquisite loveliness and grace; but it had no fellow; it fitted nowhere; and at last the impatient and perplexed workmen flung it aside as only a splendid piece of folly. Years passed, while the proud structure was going up without the sound of axe or hammer. During all the time this despised fragment of rock was lying in the valley of Jehoshaphat covered with dirt and moss. Then came the day of dedication; the vast throng arrived to see what the Israelites were wont to call “the noblest fabric under the sun.” There it stood crowning the mountain’s ridge, and shining with whiteness of silver and yellowness of gold. The wondering multitudes gazed admiringly upon its magnificent proportions, grand in their splendour of marble. But when one said that the east tower was unfinished, or at least looked so, the chief architect grew impatient again, and replied that Solomon was wise, but a builder must admit there was a gap in his plans. By and by the king drew near in person; with his retinue he rode directly to the incomplete spot, as if he there expected most to be pleased. “Why is this neglect?” he asked in tones of indignant surprise: “where is the piece I sent for the head of this corner?” Then suddenly the frightened workmen bethought themselves of that rejected stone which they had been spurning as worthless. They sought it again, cleared it from its defilement, swung it fairly up into its place, and found it was indeed the top stone fitted so as to give the last grace to the whole.

3. Thus Jesus also clinches His argument. He made His audience see that He was fulfilling every necessity of the Messiah’s office, and answering to every prediction made of Him, even down to the receiving of the “rejection” at their hands as they were now giving it to Him. They were educated in the ancient oracles of God, and were wont to admit the bearing of every sentence and verse of prophecy. And when this strange, intrepid Galilean asked them, “Did ye never read in the Scripture?” they saw that He knew His vantage with the people, and would be strong enough to hold it against their violence or treachery. There was force in argument when one brought up a text inspired.

4. Thus, likewise, our Lord enlightened their consciences. There is something more than logical defeat in their manner after this conversation: there is spiritual dismay and consternation. “They know that He had spoken the parable against them.” It was necessary to silence this terrible voice of denunciation. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

They will reverence My Son

A father may be sure that his son will be counted as standing for himself in a peculiar sense; and that all there is of gratitude or affection or reverence toward himself will indicate itself in the reception and treatment of that son, wherever the son goes as the father’s representative. When the Grand Duke Alexis visited America after our civil war, he was greeted with the liveliest expressions of interest by young and old throughout the North, because of his father’s sympathy with our government in the hour of its need. The Prince of Wales, on his visit to this country, was honoured as the representative of his royal mother; and the admiration for her character as a woman was commingled with the respect for her as a sovereign, in all the honours that were tendered to him wherever he moved. Any father or any mother may always be sure that a real friend will be true to the interests of a child of that parent, keenly alive to that child’s welfare, and tenderly sensitive to its comfort and good name, because it is that parent’s child. God recognized this truth when He sent His only Son into this world as His representative. Whatever of real love for the Father there was among the sons of men, would be cure to show itself wherever the Son was recognized. (H. Clay Trumbull.)

Rejection of Christ a common, but most unreasonable iniquity

There is no sin more common or more pernicious in the Christian world than an unsuitable reception of Jesus Christ and the gospel. A soul that has the offer of Christ and the gospel, and yet neglects Him, is certainly in a perishing condition, whatever good works, whatever amiable qualities or appearances of virtue it may be adorned with. This was the sin of the Jews in Christ’s time, and this brought temporal and eternal ruin upon them. To represent this sin in a convictive light is the primary design of this parable. But it will admit of a more extensive application. It reaches us in these ends of the earth. However likely it be from appearances that the Son of God will universally meet with an affectionate reception from creatures that stand in such absolute need of Him, yet it is a melancholy, notorious fact that Jesus Christ has but little of the reverence and love of mankind. The prophetical character given of Him long ago by Isaiah still holds true. This is a most melancholy and astonishing thing; it may spread amazement and horror through the whole universe, but, alas! it is a plain fact.

I. To show you what kind of reception we may reasonable be expected to give to the Son of God.

1. We should give Him a reception agreeable to the character which He sustains.

II. The seasonableness of the expectation that we should give the Son of God a welcome reception. Here full evidence must strike the mind at first sight. Is there not infinite reason that infinite beauty and excellence should be esteemed and loved? that supreme authority should be obeyed, and the highest character revered? Is it not reasonable that the most amazing display of love and mercy should meet with the most affectionate returns of gratitude from the party obliged, etc.? In short, no man can deny the reasonableness of this expectation without denying himself to be a creature.

III. To show how different a reception the Son of God generally meets with in our world, from what might reasonable be expected.

1. Let me put you all upon a serious search, what kind of reception you have given to Jesus Christ. It is high time for you to inquire into your behaviour.

2. Is it not evident that Jesus Christ has had but little share in your thoughts and affections?

3. Is Jesus Christ the favourite subject of your conversation?

4. Are not your hearts destitute of His love? If you deny the charge and profess that you love Him, where are the inseparable fruits and effects of His love?

5. Have you learned to entrust your souls in His hands, to be saved by Him entirely in His own way? Or, do you not depend, in part at least, upon your own imaginary goodness? etc.

Conclusion:-

1. Do you not think that by thus neglecting the Lord Jesus, you contract the most aggravated guilt?

2. Must not your punishment be peculiarly aggravated, since it will be proportioned to your guilt?

3. How do you expect to escape this signal vengeance, if you still continue to neglect the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:8)?

4. If your guilt and danger be so great, and if in your present condition you are ready every moment to be engulfed in everlasting destruction, does it become you to be so easy and careless, so merry and gay? (President Davies.)

Reverence claimed for Christ

The Saviour here applies an ancient prediction to Himself (verse 10), “And have ye not read,” etc. Our present design is the consideration of the words of our text as they will properly apply to us.

I. The dignified character of Christ. “God’s well-beloved Son.” This representation presents Jesus to us.

1. In His divine nature.

2. As the object of the Father’s delight (Isaiah 13:1; John 17:24).

II. The mission of Christ. “He sent Him also.” God had sent His prophets and ministering servants to teach, to warn, and reveal His will to His people; but, last of all, He sent His Son.

1. From whence? From His own bosom (John 1:18).

2. To whom was He sent? To a world of sinners.

3. For what was He sent? To be the Saviour of the world; to restore men to the favour, image, and enjoyment of God.

III. The reverence God demands on behalf of His Son. Let us ascertain-

1. The manner in which this reverence should be evinced.

2. The grounds of this reverence.

Application:

1. Address sinners. Rejection of Christ will involve you in endless wrath and ruin.

2. Saints. Aver your reverence for Christ. Not only cherish it, but exhibit it. Fearlessly profess Him before men, and ever live to the glory of His name. (J. Burns, D. D.)

The reverence due to the Son of God

I. It is reasonable He should be reverenced on account of-

1. The dignity and authority of His Father.

2. His inherent excellencies.

3. His actual achievements.

II. The reception which He met with.

III. The doom of those who disregard the Son. The ancient Jews who persisted in their rebellion did not escape punishment. So all those who now reject the offers of mercy and disregard the Son of God, will not escape punishment.

IV. Christ shall be reverenced. (G. Phillips.)

The builders overruled by the great Architect

This is a striking though homely image applied to the most wonderful of events.

I. The blindness of the builders. The position which the Jewish leaders occupied was a very honourable one. They were appointed to build-to build up the Church. They have to deliberate and devise regarding all that greatly pertained to the ecclesiastical life of the nation. But there also lay their great responsibility. They might do a great service, putting Christ into the place intended for Him; or they might do a great disservice, setting Him aside, and putting Him in a false light before the nation. It unhappily turned out in the latter way. And their crime is represented as a refusing of Him whom God meant to be a chief cornerstone. And what made their conduct so criminal was that they acted against the light.

II. The builders as overruled by the Great Architect. It has always been matter for surprise how bad men get into power. Never was human liberty brought into such antagonism to the Divine sovereignty. It would have been a sad thing if their conduct had prevented the building up of a Church. That, we know, could never be. This may be put on the ground of the Divine purpose. Christ was the living stone, chosen of God, But deeper than the purpose itself is the ground of the purpose in the character of God, and the fitness of the stone for the place. He was a stone refused, disallowed. But God was independent of them, and got others more humble than they, but more in sympathy with the purpose. Ay, even they are taken up into the purpose as unconscious, involuntary instruments. For it was in the very refusing of Him in His death that He became chief cornerstone. They were thus doing what they did not intend to do. And He rose triumphant out of their hands when they thought they had effectually secured Him in the tomb.

III. Let us draw some lessons from the theme.

1. Let us beware of self-deception, of blinding ourselves. These rulers thought they were doing God service in what they did to Christ. If they could so far deceive themselves who occupied so prominent a position in the Church, have we not reason to be on our guard?

2. Let us beware of leaving out Christ.

3. Let us admire the placing of Christ as chief cornerstone.

4. Let us remember the way and glory of becoming living stones in the spiritual temple.

5. Let us consider the loss of not being living stones in this building. Our Lord has a comment on these words, than which there is nothing more fearful: “Whosoever shall fall,” etc. (R. Finlayson, B. A.)

Rejected and chosen

I. The principle here asserted. The quotation is from Psalms 118:22-23.

1. The intrinsic excellence of a thing is not at all affected by its non-recognition.

2. The intrinsic excellence of true principles enables them to become, in spite of human contempt, true rulers of the world and of life.

3. In their opposition to the true and the good, men know not what they do.

4. We see now how God must make use of what seem the unlikeliest instruments for the realization of His gracious purposes.

5. The processes of spiritual regeneration and new life are carried on by means of rejected powers.

II. The reaction of this principle upon the men of Christ’s time. “They knew that He had spoken the parable against them.” They lost the Christ they rejected. “To him that hath shall be given,” etc.

III. There are special lessons here for the men of the present age.

1. The possession of great privileges and advantages is not to be regarded as excluding moral abuses and dangers.

2. Faithfulness to spiritual truth is the true life giving and conservative force in individual and national life. What is morally wrong can never be safe.

3. Personal relations to the Christ determine destiny. “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.” (The Preachers Monthly.)

The rejected stone

God’s truth overcoming human opposition:-There is a legend which I have seen somewhere, which describes the origin of the figure in this way: That at the building of the temple a stone was cut and shaped in the quarries, of which the builders could make no use. It lay about daring the period of the building, held by all to be a hindrance (a stone of stumbling), but at the very last its place was found to be at the head of the corner, binding the two sides together. And so the Father explains Christ the cornerstone, as binding Jew and Gentile in one Church of God. It is very remarkable how often this has been repeated in the history of the Church-how great religious movements have been frowned down, if not actively opposed, by those in high places, which have afterwards subdued all opposition. In our own times, in this very century, this has occurred twice. First, the great evangelical movement in our Church was set at naught by the builders, though it was the assertion of the primary truth of personal religion-that each soul must have a personal apprehension of Christ, and look to Him with the eye of a living faith; and then the great Church movement was almost unanimously rejected by the bishops between 1810 and 1850, though it was the assertion of the truths patent through all the New Testament, that the Church, though a visible organization, is the mystical body of Christ-that it is a supernatural system of grace, and that its sacraments are the signs of grace actually given in and with the outward sign. In neither of these cases did “the builders” discern the strength of the principles asserted, and foresee that they must win their way; though the formularies of the Church, of which these builders were the exponents and guardians, assert very unmistakably both these truths in conjunction, viz., spiritual apprehension of Christ, and sacramental union in His body. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

The headstone of the corner

The Lord Jesus is-

I. A stone: No firmness but in Him.

II. A fundamental stone: No building but on Him.

III. A corner stone: No piecing, or reconciliation, but in Him. (Anon.)

They knew that He had spoken.-

A guilty conscience

During the Protectorate, a certain knight in the county of Surrey had a lawsuit with the minister of his parish; and, whilst the dispute was pending, Sir John imagined that the sermons which were delivered in church were preached at him. He, therefore, complained against the minister to Oliver Cromwell, who inquired of the preacher concerning it; and, having found that he merely reproved common sins, he dismissed the complaining knight, saying, “Go home, Sir John, and hereafter live in good friendship with your minister; the Word of the Lord is a searching word, and it seems as if it had found you out!”


Verses 1-12

Mark 12:1-12

A certain man planted a vineyard and set an hedge about it.

The vineyard, or the visible Church transferred to the Gentiles

I. The Church is God’s peculiar treasure.

II. The Jewish people were appointed its guardians.

III. The Jewish nation was unfaithful to its trust.

1. They rejected the moral government of Jehovah.

2. They rejected His political control as the head of their theocracy.

IV. The sacred trust was transferred to other peoples and nations.

V. They were fearfully punished as a nation.

1. We are now led to admire the sublime features of the scheme of Providence.

2. That there is a great responsibility on the nations, communities, and individuals, to which God commits His Church.

3. We are the husbandmen. (E. N. Kirk, D. D.)

God the Proprietor of all

The manufacturer in his office knows that through building after building filled with machinery, running out to the very first and rudest processes, every single act of every single operative, down to the last and lowest boy, has its direct commercial connection with him and his interest. There is not one of the wheels that revolve of the ten thousand; there is not a thread spun or woven; there is not a colour mixed nor employed; there is not a thing done by any of the hands working in his vast establishment of whom there may be hundreds or even thousands, that is not related directly to his interest. The whole economy of the globe is, as it were, but a small manufactory under the direction of God; and there is not a single act performed in it which has not some relation to the thought, the feelings, the purpose of God. And He declares Himself to be in a wonderful sense identified with everything that is going on in life, in one way or another. (H. W. Beecher.)

Obligation to God

Horace Bushnell tells us that a few years before his death, Daniel Webster, having a large party of friends dining with him at Marshfield, was called on by one of the party as they became seated at the table to specify what one thing he had met with in his life which had done most for him, or had contributed most to the success of his personal history. After a moment he replied: “The most fruitful and elevating influence I have ever seemed to meet with has been my impression of obligation to God.”

The world’s ingratitude

Socrates, one of the wisest and noblest men of his time, after a long career of service in denouncing the wrongs of his age, and trying to improve the morals of the people, was condemned to death and obliged to drink poison. Dante, when Italy was torn by political factions, each ambitious of power, and all entirely unscrupulous as to the means employed to attain it, laboured with untiring zeal to bring about Italian unity, and yet his patriotism met no other reward than exile. “Florence for Italy, and Italy for the world,” were his words when he heard his sentence of banishment. Columbus was sent home in irons from the country he had discovered. The last two years of his life present a picture of black ingratitude on the part of the Crown to this distinguished benefactor of the kingdom, which it is truly painful to contemplate. He died, perhaps, the poorest man in the whole kingdom he had spent his lifetime to enrich. Bruno, of Nola, for his advocacy of the Copernican system, was seized by the Inquisition and burned alive at Rome in 1600, in the presence of an immense concourse. Scioppus, the Latinist, who was present at the execution, with a sarcastic allusion to one of Bruno’s heresies, the infinity of worlds, wrote, “The flames carried him to those worlds.” (M. Denton.)

God’s forbearance

The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, who, as in one triumphal march, conquered the world, observed a very singular custom in his method of carrying on war. Whenever he encamped with his army before a fortified city and laid siege to it, he caused to be set up a great lantern, which was kept lighted by day and night. This was a signal to the besieged, and what it meant was that as long as the lamp burned they had time to save themselves by surrender, but that when once the light should be extinguished, the city, and all that were in it, would be irrevocably given over to destruction. And the conqueror kept his word with terrible consistency. When the light was put out, and the city was not given up, all hope of mercy was over. The Macedonians stormed the place, and if it was taken all were cut to pieces who were capable of bearing arms, and there was no quarter or forgiveness possible. Now, it is the good pleasure of our God to have compassion and to show mercy. But a city or a people can arrive at such a pitch of moral corruption that the moral order of the world can only be saved by its destruction. It was so with the whole race of men at the time of the flood, with Sodom and Gomorrah at a later period, and with the Jewish people in our Saviour’s time. But before the impending stroke of judgment fell, God always, so to speak, set up the lamp of grace, which was not only a signal of mercy, but also a light to show men that they were in the way of death, and a power to turn them from it. (Otto Funcke.)

Pursued by God’s mercy

“Saved at the bottom of the sea!” So said one of our Sydney divers to a city missionary. In his house, in one of our suburbs, might be seen lately what would probably strike the visitor as a very strange chimney ornament; the shells of an oyster holding fast a piece of printed paper. But devoutly do I wish that every chimney ornament could tell such a tale of usefulness. The possessor of this ornament might well value it. He was diving amongst wrecks on our coast, when he observed at the bottom of the sea this oyster on a rock, with this piece of paper in his mouth, which he detached, and commenced to read through the goggles of his head dress. It was a tract, and, coming to him thus strangely and unexpectedly, so impressed his unconverted heart, that he said, “I can hold out against God’s mercy in Christ no longer, since it pursues me thus.” He tells us that he became, whilst in the ocean’s depth, a repentant, converted, and (as he was assured) sin-forgiven man-“saved at the bottom of the sea!” (Mothers Treasury.)

God’s longsuffering

The axe carried before the Roman consuls was always bound up in a bundle of rods. An old author tells us that “the rods were tied up with knotted cords, and that when an offender was condemned to be punished the executioner would untie the knots, one by one, and meanwhile the magistrate would look the culprit in the face, to observe any signs of repentance and watch his words, to see if he could find a motive for mercy; and thus justice went to its work deliberately and without passion.” The axe was enclosed in rods to show that the extreme penalty was never inflicted till milder means had failed; first the rod, and the axe only as a terrible necessity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s love in sending His Son

What would tempt you to give the baby out of your cradle? Is there anyone you love on earth, mother, that would tempt you to give your baby for that? But what if the child had grown up and had come to man’s estate? Say it had bloomed into fruition and all your hope was on it. What do you love in this world that would tempt you to give this child up as a sacrifice? You might for the country in hours of heroism. Many and many a mother has done a work that was divine when she consecrated her only son and sent him forth into the war, believing that she should never see him again. How many hearts are touched with the thought of this remembrance. But, oh, is there language that can expound such heroism, such zeal, such enthusiasm, as must inhere in the hearts of everyone that can do such work as that? And yet our hearts are small comparatively, and pulseless and shallow, and our human senses, as compared with God, are like a drop of water in comparison with the ocean. And what is the love of God, the Infinite, whose flowings are like the Gulf Stream? What are the depths, and the breadths, and the lengths of the love of God in Christ Jesus, when, looking upon a world that was so degraded and animal like, He gave His only begotten Son to die for it that there might be an interpretation of the love of God to the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ ungratefully treated

Surely a servant of the government may risk himself in the very heart of a convict prison alone, if he is the bearer of a royal pardon for all the inmates. In such a ease it would not be necessary to look out for a man of rare courage who might dare to carry the proclamation to the convicts. Give him but the message of free pardon, and he may go in unarmed, with all safety, like Daniel in the den of lions. When Christ Himself came to the world-the great convict prison of the universe-came the Ambassador from God, bringing peace-they said: “This is the heir; come, let us kill Him!” He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; and the servant is not greater than his Lord. (A.)

Cruelty to Christ

Some time ago a father had a son who had broken his mother’s heart. After her death he went on from bad to worse. One night he was going out to spend it in vice, and the old man went to the door as the young one was going out, and said, “My son, I want to ask a favour of you tonight. You have not spent one night with me since your mother was buried, and I have been so lonesome without her and without you, and now I want to have you spend tonight with me; I want to have a talk with you about the future.” The young man said, “No, father, I do not want to stay; it is gloomy here at home.” He said, “Won’t you stay for my sake?” and the son said he would not. At last, the old man said, “If I cannot persuade you to stay, if you are determined to go down to ruin, and to break my heart, as you have your mother’s-for these grey hairs cannot stand it much longer-you shall not go without my making one more effort to save you;” and the old man threw open the door, and laid himself upon the threshold, and said, “If you go out tonight you must go over this old body of mine;” and what did he do? Why, that young man leaped over the father, and on to ruin he went. Did you ever think that God has given His Son? Yes, He has laid Him, as it were, right across your path that you might not go down to hell; and if there is a soul in this assembly that goes to hell, you must go over the murdered body of God’s Son. (D. L. Moody.)

The stream of mercy directed into another course

In the channel through which a running stream is directed upon a mill wheel, the same turning of a valve that shuts the water out of one course throws it into another, Thus the Jews, by rejecting the counsel of God, shut themselves out, and at the same moment opened a way whereby mercy might flow to us who were afar off. (William Arnot.)

The parable of the vineyard.

One who was wont to illustrate His teaching by imagery drawn from the objects which surrounded Him, could hardly fail in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem to speak of vineyards. The hills and table-lands of Judah were the home of the vine. Five times our Lord availed Himself of this figure for His parables (St. Matthew 20:1; Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:33; St. Luke 13:6; St. John 15:1); and though it is doubtful in what locality He spoke that of the labourers in the vineyard, it is almost certain that the remaining four are intimately associated with Jerusalem. In many places in Southern Palestine the features of this parable may still be traced. The loose stone fences, like the walls so familiar to the eye in Wales or Derbyshire; the remains of the old watchtowers, generally in one corner of the enclosure; and the cisterns hewn in the solid rock in which the grapes were pressed-all remain to the present day. It was the custom in our Lord’s time for the owner in leasing a vineyard to tenants, to arrange for the rent to be paid, not in money but in kind-a certain portion of the produce being set apart as “a first charge” for the landlord. The system prevails in modem times in some parts of France, and more widely under the name of “ryot-rent” in India. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

God’s dealings with the Jews are signified in this parable

I. He did by His special providence protect and defend the Jewish Church, against all enemies and dangers both bodily and spiritual, which might annoy them and so hinder their fruitfulness.

II. He afforded them all necessary helps and means to further them in grace, and to make them spiritually fruitful.

1. The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, together with the whole true worship of God prescribed in the moral and ceremonial Law.

2. Godly discipline.

3. Afflictions and chastisements.

4. Mercies and deliverances.

5. Miracles. (G. Petter.)

God’s care of His church

Where God plants a true church, He does not so leave it, but is further careful to furnish it with all things needful for a church; and not only for the being, but also for the well-being of it; that it may not only be a church, but a happy and prosperous church, growing and flourishing in grace, and bringing forth plentiful fruits of grace, such as God requires and are acceptable to Him by Jesus Christ. As a careful and wise householder, having planted a vineyard for his use, doth not so leave it, and do no more to it; but is at further care and cost to furnish it with such things as are necessary and commodious, to the end it may grow, flourish, and prosper, and that it may bring forth much fruit and profit to the owner of it. So here, the Lord having planted a church in any place or amongst any people, doth not so leave it, but is careful to use all further means for the good of His church; especially for the spiritual good and prosperity of it, that it may grow, and increase, and prosper spiritually, and bring forth much spiritual fruit to God who planted it. Thus He did to the church of the Jews: He did not only plant His vineyard amongst them, by adopting and calling them to be His people, but withal He hedged about that vineyard, and set up a winepress, and built a watchtower in it, i.e., He furnished the Jews with all things needful to make them happy and prosperous, truly growing, thriving, and prospering in grace, and bringing forth plentiful fruits thereof, to the glory of God, the good of others, and the furtherance of their own salvation. To this end, He compassed them about with His special providence, as with a strong and sure hedge, to defend and keep them safe from all enemies and dangers bodily and spiritual which might annoy them; He gave and continued to them all spiritual helps and means of grace, and a government of His own appointing; He corrected them with afflictions, bestowed on them great mercies and deliverances, and wrought miracles for their benefit, to further their spiritual good and prosperity. And this is but a sample of how He treats every true church that He plants. (G. Petter.)

The church divinely protected

Whether in the parable the hedge and winefat and tower had each a special application in the system of God’s providential care for His ancient people, we cannot say; but at least in one particular we may trace a peculiar fitness in the figure of “the hedge.” What was it that protected the land of Israel year by year during the three Great Festivals, when by the Divine Law the country was denuded of its male population; when every man from north, south, east, and west, from the most unguarded districts, leaving their flocks and herds, their wives and little ones, totally unprotected from their bitterest enemies, went up to Jerusalem, the centre of religious worship? What was it that held in check the Moabite and Ammonite, and the robber tribes of Arabia? It was the fence of Divine protection, which, like a wall of fire, God in His providence had built up, so that no one dared to pass it. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

The pleading of the last Messenger

The coming of the Son of God in human form, as Emmanuel, is love’s great plea for reconciliation. Who can resist so powerful an argument?

I. The amazing mission.

1. He comes after many rejections of Divine love. None have been left without admonitions and expostulations from God. From childhood upwards He has called us by most earnest entreaties of faithful men and affectionate women; and, in spite of our obstinate resistance, He still sends to us His Son to plead with us and urge us to go to our Father.

2. He comes for no personal ends. It is for our own sake that He strives with us. Nothing but tender regard for our well-being makes Him warn us.

3. See who this Messenger is.

Nothing remains when Christ is refused. Heaven contains no further Messenger. Rejecting Christ you reject all, and shut against yourself the only possible door of hope.

II. The astounding crime. There are many ways of killing the Son of God.

1. Denying His deity.

2. Denying His atonement.

3. Remaining indifferent to His claims.

4. Refusing to obey His gospel.

Thus you may virtually put Him away, and so be guilty of His blood, and crucify Him afresh.

III. The appropriate punishment. Our Lord leaves our own consciences to depict the overwhelming misery of those who carry their rebellion to its full length. He leaves our imagination to prescribe a doom sufficient for a crime so base, so daring, so cruel. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The son rejected

I. The owner’s claim. His right and authority are complete. God presses His right to our love and service. Blessings are privileges, and privileges are obligations. We owe Him more than Israel owed. The human will has a natural repugnance to submission to absolute authority. But God never presents His claim as grounded on this alone. He tells of His love before He declares His laws. Only a bad heart can resent the authority or refuse the service.

II. The owner’s loving patience. There never was an earthly employer who showed such persistent kindness towards such persistent rebellion. This is a faint picture of God’s forbearance towards Israel. Mercies, deliverances, revelations, gather around their history.

III. The rejection. Rejection of the prophets leads up to the rejection of Christ. Privilege and place do not lessen the danger.

IV. The judgment. It was just, necessary, complete, remediless.

V. The final exaltation of the son. The kingdom is not to perish, only the rebellious. (C. M. Southgate.)

The Head of the Corner

I. The picture suggested by the scene which Christ calls up into imagination would be likely to cause surprise, or be termed an exaggeration, if it were laid anywhere outside of Palestine. Down even to the present time customs remain very much the same as in Christ’s day in that oppressed country.

1. The insecurity of property and person is proverbial. The Scripture record might be incorporated into the ordinary guide books.

2. There has been in all ages a special confusion of iniquitous dealing in respect to real estate. Thievery and violence seem to be the rule in the east, peace and possession the exception. Something is to be charged to the government; the laws are indefinite, and bribery is rife; indeed, the government sets the example of systematized crime. In all history of the Holy Land, from Christ’s time to ours, the rulers have been organized for official robbery and outrage. No titles are secure, even when one has paid for his vineyard or his building plot.

3. Then, too, the custom of committing all oversight and control of farms and orchards to underlings makes the matter a great deal worse. Absenteeism is a fruitful reason for crime (Mark 12:1). Those men left in charge of the vineyard, to whom messenger after messenger had been sent, and who now were peremptorily addressed by the owner with a final demand in the august person of his son, are represented as communing with each other, and saying, as they laid the wiles of their conspiracy, what might be construed into an utterance of their belief that, if this one inheritor were only dead, all heirship would be extinguished (Mark 12:7).

4. Still, so far as we can learn, there was no ground for hope of success in this plot. No enactment has come down to us which would sustain such an entailment or division or heirship as those infamous creatures assumed. Luke’s language (Luke 20:14) agrees with Mark’s; but Matthew (Matthew 21:38) says, “Let us seize on his inheritance.” This suggests the true interpretation. The husbandmen had no countenance in the common law; they intended to say that they would make the vineyard theirs by violence, and hold it by any extremities of force. It was a singularly stupid plan; it could not have even a plausible look anywhere but in that wretched region. It assumed an absence of justice, an insecurity of possession, an immunity from the worst crime, positively oriental in its toleration of rapine and murder.

5. Add to this the fact that in those early days, when invention had not yet brought firearms into use, the measures taken for homicide were brutal and hard beyond description. Not even spears or daggers or knives are used there for assassination now any more than they used to be. The coarse, rude weapon for murder is a club or bludgeon of the roughest sort; the Bedawin will have a gun on their shoulders, but will knock their victim on the head with a knotted stick all the same. The description, left on record by the Psalmist, is true to this day: “He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it.”

6. Hence, this frightful picture was a tremendous invective as well as a vivid illustration when employed by our Lord. He used it for a similitude in one of His most direct and forcible arraignments of the Jewish nation for their blind, dull, coarse, criminal rejection of God’s only-begotten Son, despatched then from high heaven to secure His Father’s rights from those who had grasped after heirship by murder.

II. We turn now to the second branch of the story. Our Lord suddenly drops His figure, and leaves the parable altogether, finishing His application with a quotation from one of the most familiar of the psalms (Psalms 118:22).

1. Thus He illustrates His position. He claims a Messianic psalm for Himself. Matthew (Matthew 21:43) tells us He said to those hearers of His in plain words that He was speaking this parable concerning them. And He chooses to show them that, for Himself, there was no fear of the future. The “son” of the story, who got murder instead of “reverence,” is heard of no more. But the Son of God, though “rejected” now, should one day come to His place of honour. They understood Him very well, for in an alarmed sort of murmur they said, “God forbid!” (Luke 20:16).

2. Thus He predicts His eventual triumph. There is a tradition of the Jewish Rabbis which relates the history of a wonderful stone, prepared, as they say, for use in the building of Solomon’s temple. Each block for that matchless edifice was shaped and fitted for its particular place, and came away from the distant quarry marked for the masons. But this one was so different from any other that no one knew what to do with it. Beautiful indeed it was; carved with figures of exquisite loveliness and grace; but it had no fellow; it fitted nowhere; and at last the impatient and perplexed workmen flung it aside as only a splendid piece of folly. Years passed, while the proud structure was going up without the sound of axe or hammer. During all the time this despised fragment of rock was lying in the valley of Jehoshaphat covered with dirt and moss. Then came the day of dedication; the vast throng arrived to see what the Israelites were wont to call “the noblest fabric under the sun.” There it stood crowning the mountain’s ridge, and shining with whiteness of silver and yellowness of gold. The wondering multitudes gazed admiringly upon its magnificent proportions, grand in their splendour of marble. But when one said that the east tower was unfinished, or at least looked so, the chief architect grew impatient again, and replied that Solomon was wise, but a builder must admit there was a gap in his plans. By and by the king drew near in person; with his retinue he rode directly to the incomplete spot, as if he there expected most to be pleased. “Why is this neglect?” he asked in tones of indignant surprise: “where is the piece I sent for the head of this corner?” Then suddenly the frightened workmen bethought themselves of that rejected stone which they had been spurning as worthless. They sought it again, cleared it from its defilement, swung it fairly up into its place, and found it was indeed the top stone fitted so as to give the last grace to the whole.

3. Thus Jesus also clinches His argument. He made His audience see that He was fulfilling every necessity of the Messiah’s office, and answering to every prediction made of Him, even down to the receiving of the “rejection” at their hands as they were now giving it to Him. They were educated in the ancient oracles of God, and were wont to admit the bearing of every sentence and verse of prophecy. And when this strange, intrepid Galilean asked them, “Did ye never read in the Scripture?” they saw that He knew His vantage with the people, and would be strong enough to hold it against their violence or treachery. There was force in argument when one brought up a text inspired.

4. Thus, likewise, our Lord enlightened their consciences. There is something more than logical defeat in their manner after this conversation: there is spiritual dismay and consternation. “They know that He had spoken the parable against them.” It was necessary to silence this terrible voice of denunciation. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

They will reverence My Son

A father may be sure that his son will be counted as standing for himself in a peculiar sense; and that all there is of gratitude or affection or reverence toward himself will indicate itself in the reception and treatment of that son, wherever the son goes as the father’s representative. When the Grand Duke Alexis visited America after our civil war, he was greeted with the liveliest expressions of interest by young and old throughout the North, because of his father’s sympathy with our government in the hour of its need. The Prince of Wales, on his visit to this country, was honoured as the representative of his royal mother; and the admiration for her character as a woman was commingled with the respect for her as a sovereign, in all the honours that were tendered to him wherever he moved. Any father or any mother may always be sure that a real friend will be true to the interests of a child of that parent, keenly alive to that child’s welfare, and tenderly sensitive to its comfort and good name, because it is that parent’s child. God recognized this truth when He sent His only Son into this world as His representative. Whatever of real love for the Father there was among the sons of men, would be cure to show itself wherever the Son was recognized. (H. Clay Trumbull.)

Rejection of Christ a common, but most unreasonable iniquity

There is no sin more common or more pernicious in the Christian world than an unsuitable reception of Jesus Christ and the gospel. A soul that has the offer of Christ and the gospel, and yet neglects Him, is certainly in a perishing condition, whatever good works, whatever amiable qualities or appearances of virtue it may be adorned with. This was the sin of the Jews in Christ’s time, and this brought temporal and eternal ruin upon them. To represent this sin in a convictive light is the primary design of this parable. But it will admit of a more extensive application. It reaches us in these ends of the earth. However likely it be from appearances that the Son of God will universally meet with an affectionate reception from creatures that stand in such absolute need of Him, yet it is a melancholy, notorious fact that Jesus Christ has but little of the reverence and love of mankind. The prophetical character given of Him long ago by Isaiah still holds true. This is a most melancholy and astonishing thing; it may spread amazement and horror through the whole universe, but, alas! it is a plain fact.

I. To show you what kind of reception we may reasonable be expected to give to the Son of God.

1. We should give Him a reception agreeable to the character which He sustains.

II. The seasonableness of the expectation that we should give the Son of God a welcome reception. Here full evidence must strike the mind at first sight. Is there not infinite reason that infinite beauty and excellence should be esteemed and loved? that supreme authority should be obeyed, and the highest character revered? Is it not reasonable that the most amazing display of love and mercy should meet with the most affectionate returns of gratitude from the party obliged, etc.? In short, no man can deny the reasonableness of this expectation without denying himself to be a creature.

III. To show how different a reception the Son of God generally meets with in our world, from what might reasonable be expected.

1. Let me put you all upon a serious search, what kind of reception you have given to Jesus Christ. It is high time for you to inquire into your behaviour.

2. Is it not evident that Jesus Christ has had but little share in your thoughts and affections?

3. Is Jesus Christ the favourite subject of your conversation?

4. Are not your hearts destitute of His love? If you deny the charge and profess that you love Him, where are the inseparable fruits and effects of His love?

5. Have you learned to entrust your souls in His hands, to be saved by Him entirely in His own way? Or, do you not depend, in part at least, upon your own imaginary goodness? etc.

Conclusion:-

1. Do you not think that by thus neglecting the Lord Jesus, you contract the most aggravated guilt?

2. Must not your punishment be peculiarly aggravated, since it will be proportioned to your guilt?

3. How do you expect to escape this signal vengeance, if you still continue to neglect the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:8)?

4. If your guilt and danger be so great, and if in your present condition you are ready every moment to be engulfed in everlasting destruction, does it become you to be so easy and careless, so merry and gay? (President Davies.)

Reverence claimed for Christ

The Saviour here applies an ancient prediction to Himself (verse 10), “And have ye not read,” etc. Our present design is the consideration of the words of our text as they will properly apply to us.

I. The dignified character of Christ. “God’s well-beloved Son.” This representation presents Jesus to us.

1. In His divine nature.

2. As the object of the Father’s delight (Isaiah 13:1; John 17:24).

II. The mission of Christ. “He sent Him also.” God had sent His prophets and ministering servants to teach, to warn, and reveal His will to His people; but, last of all, He sent His Son.

1. From whence? From His own bosom (John 1:18).

2. To whom was He sent? To a world of sinners.

3. For what was He sent? To be the Saviour of the world; to restore men to the favour, image, and enjoyment of God.

III. The reverence God demands on behalf of His Son. Let us ascertain-

1. The manner in which this reverence should be evinced.

2. The grounds of this reverence.

Application:

1. Address sinners. Rejection of Christ will involve you in endless wrath and ruin.

2. Saints. Aver your reverence for Christ. Not only cherish it, but exhibit it. Fearlessly profess Him before men, and ever live to the glory of His name. (J. Burns, D. D.)

The reverence due to the Son of God

I. It is reasonable He should be reverenced on account of-

1. The dignity and authority of His Father.

2. His inherent excellencies.

3. His actual achievements.

II. The reception which He met with.

III. The doom of those who disregard the Son. The ancient Jews who persisted in their rebellion did not escape punishment. So all those who now reject the offers of mercy and disregard the Son of God, will not escape punishment.

IV. Christ shall be reverenced. (G. Phillips.)

The builders overruled by the great Architect

This is a striking though homely image applied to the most wonderful of events.

I. The blindness of the builders. The position which the Jewish leaders occupied was a very honourable one. They were appointed to build-to build up the Church. They have to deliberate and devise regarding all that greatly pertained to the ecclesiastical life of the nation. But there also lay their great responsibility. They might do a great service, putting Christ into the place intended for Him; or they might do a great disservice, setting Him aside, and putting Him in a false light before the nation. It unhappily turned out in the latter way. And their crime is represented as a refusing of Him whom God meant to be a chief cornerstone. And what made their conduct so criminal was that they acted against the light.

II. The builders as overruled by the Great Architect. It has always been matter for surprise how bad men get into power. Never was human liberty brought into such antagonism to the Divine sovereignty. It would have been a sad thing if their conduct had prevented the building up of a Church. That, we know, could never be. This may be put on the ground of the Divine purpose. Christ was the living stone, chosen of God, But deeper than the purpose itself is the ground of the purpose in the character of God, and the fitness of the stone for the place. He was a stone refused, disallowed. But God was independent of them, and got others more humble than they, but more in sympathy with the purpose. Ay, even they are taken up into the purpose as unconscious, involuntary instruments. For it was in the very refusing of Him in His death that He became chief cornerstone. They were thus doing what they did not intend to do. And He rose triumphant out of their hands when they thought they had effectually secured Him in the tomb.

III. Let us draw some lessons from the theme.

1. Let us beware of self-deception, of blinding ourselves. These rulers thought they were doing God service in what they did to Christ. If they could so far deceive themselves who occupied so prominent a position in the Church, have we not reason to be on our guard?

2. Let us beware of leaving out Christ.

3. Let us admire the placing of Christ as chief cornerstone.

4. Let us remember the way and glory of becoming living stones in the spiritual temple.

5. Let us consider the loss of not being living stones in this building. Our Lord has a comment on these words, than which there is nothing more fearful: “Whosoever shall fall,” etc. (R. Finlayson, B. A.)

Rejected and chosen

I. The principle here asserted. The quotation is from Psalms 118:22-23.

1. The intrinsic excellence of a thing is not at all affected by its non-recognition.

2. The intrinsic excellence of true principles enables them to become, in spite of human contempt, true rulers of the world and of life.

3. In their opposition to the true and the good, men know not what they do.

4. We see now how God must make use of what seem the unlikeliest instruments for the realization of His gracious purposes.

5. The processes of spiritual regeneration and new life are carried on by means of rejected powers.

II. The reaction of this principle upon the men of Christ’s time. “They knew that He had spoken the parable against them.” They lost the Christ they rejected. “To him that hath shall be given,” etc.

III. There are special lessons here for the men of the present age.

1. The possession of great privileges and advantages is not to be regarded as excluding moral abuses and dangers.

2. Faithfulness to spiritual truth is the true life giving and conservative force in individual and national life. What is morally wrong can never be safe.

3. Personal relations to the Christ determine destiny. “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.” (The Preachers Monthly.)

The rejected stone

God’s truth overcoming human opposition:-There is a legend which I have seen somewhere, which describes the origin of the figure in this way: That at the building of the temple a stone was cut and shaped in the quarries, of which the builders could make no use. It lay about daring the period of the building, held by all to be a hindrance (a stone of stumbling), but at the very last its place was found to be at the head of the corner, binding the two sides together. And so the Father explains Christ the cornerstone, as binding Jew and Gentile in one Church of God. It is very remarkable how often this has been repeated in the history of the Church-how great religious movements have been frowned down, if not actively opposed, by those in high places, which have afterwards subdued all opposition. In our own times, in this very century, this has occurred twice. First, the great evangelical movement in our Church was set at naught by the builders, though it was the assertion of the primary truth of personal religion-that each soul must have a personal apprehension of Christ, and look to Him with the eye of a living faith; and then the great Church movement was almost unanimously rejected by the bishops between 1810 and 1850, though it was the assertion of the truths patent through all the New Testament, that the Church, though a visible organization, is the mystical body of Christ-that it is a supernatural system of grace, and that its sacraments are the signs of grace actually given in and with the outward sign. In neither of these cases did “the builders” discern the strength of the principles asserted, and foresee that they must win their way; though the formularies of the Church, of which these builders were the exponents and guardians, assert very unmistakably both these truths in conjunction, viz., spiritual apprehension of Christ, and sacramental union in His body. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

The headstone of the corner

The Lord Jesus is-

I. A stone: No firmness but in Him.

II. A fundamental stone: No building but on Him.

III. A corner stone: No piecing, or reconciliation, but in Him. (Anon.)

They knew that He had spoken.-

A guilty conscience

During the Protectorate, a certain knight in the county of Surrey had a lawsuit with the minister of his parish; and, whilst the dispute was pending, Sir John imagined that the sermons which were delivered in church were preached at him. He, therefore, complained against the minister to Oliver Cromwell, who inquired of the preacher concerning it; and, having found that he merely reproved common sins, he dismissed the complaining knight, saying, “Go home, Sir John, and hereafter live in good friendship with your minister; the Word of the Lord is a searching word, and it seems as if it had found you out!”


Verse 13-14

Mark 12:13-14

Catch Him in His words.

Eastern spies

The course pursued by the enemies of our Lord does not seem strange to anyone who knows anything of the surveillance which a Hindoo uris establishes over anyone whose sayings or doings it may be of importance for him to know. For instance, Major T-, the agent for the Viceroy at the court of the Nawab Moorshedabad, complains that his house is as full of spies as it is of servants, nearly all of whom, he suspects, are in the pay of the Nawab. One servant, who pretended not to know a word of English, was discovered at length to know it well, and great was the major’s disgust at the discovery; for this man was in attendance at the table, where of course he would have ample opportunities of hearing his master’s opinions expressed in all the confidence of social intercourse. One of the punkah bearers, too, was found to be a quite well-to-do man. His position was a most menial one, yet its duties took him within sight and hearing of his master many times in the day. It was suspected that the Nawab was making it worth his while to submit to the drudgery of so mean a post. (A Missionarys Notes.)

We know that Thou art true.-

Concerned only to do right

“What I must do,” says Emerson, “is all that concerns me, and not what people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what us your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to look after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Moral fearlessness

In Scotland, Knox arose, of whom the Regent Morton said, “Here lies one who never feared the face of man;” who said himself that “he had locked in the faces of many angry men.” When he was working in chains on the galleys in France, they brought him an image of the Virgin, and bade him worship the mother of God. “Mother of God,” he exclaimed, “it is a pented bredd” (or hoard), and he flung it into the river to sink or swim. “Who are you?” said Mary Queen of Scots to him, “that presume to school the nobles and sovereign of this realm?” “Madam,” he answers, “a subject born within the same.” “Have you hope?” they ask him on his death bed, when he can no longer speak; and lifting his hand he pointed upwards with his finger, and so, pointing to heaven, he died.


Verses 13-17

Verse 15

Mark 12:15

But He knowing their hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy

Sir John Trevor, who had for some misdemeanours been expelled from Parliament, one day meeting Archbishop Tillotson, cried out, “I hate to see an Atheist in the shape of a Churchman.” “And I,” replied the good Bishop, “hate to see a knave in any shape.” (Clerical Anecdotes.)

Always a hypocrite

The sincerity of his (the Emperor Alexius) moral and religious virtues was suspected by the persons who had passed their lives in his familiar confidence. In the last hours, when he was pressed by his wife Irene to alter the succession, he raised his head and breathed a pious ejaculation on the vanity of this world. The indignant reply of the Empress may be inscribed as an epitaph on his tomb: “You die as you have lived-a hypocrite.” (Gibbon.)

Bring Me a penny.

Lessons in the smallest things

We may learn and be put in mind of good and Christian duties by the smallest things that are in common use amongst us; e.g., the very stamp of the coin or money which is in common circulation may put us in mind of our duty of subjection and obedience to the prince and to all lawful magistrates. So also the matter of the coin, whereof it is made, being silver or gold, may remind us of God’s goodness and bounty towards us, in affording us such precious metals for our use and trading one with another. The meanest garment we wear may cause us to think of our sins and be humbled for them, sin being the first cause of nakedness appearing shameful. Every bit of meat or bread which we eat may teach us the frailty of our bodies, which cannot be sustained without such food. Every blade of grass in the field, and every flower in our garden may put us in mind of our mortality, and stir us up to prepare for death and judgment. Hence, also, it is that the Scriptures send us sometimes to brute beasts to learn our duties, as to the ox and the ass, and to the birds of the air, yea to such tiny creatures as the ant. This leaves us without excuse if, having so many masters at hand and near about us continually to teach us and stir us up to our duties, we yet do not learn, or make conscience of what is required of us. (G. Petter.)

The Roman penny

The silver penny was a coin a little larger than a sixpence, but probably equal to 4s. or 5s. in purchasing power. In this coin the poll tax-so much for each man-was paid. Until very lately the Jews had had a Hebrew coinage, on which no head was permitted (in deference to the second commandment), but which carried the names of their ruler and their high priest. Even now the Herods issued money of their own coinage. But since Judaea had been reduced to a province, the Roman penny had been introduced, and was the coin legally demanded for payment of taxes. Its use proclaimed who was master, as the head of Victoria on an Indian rupee proclaims her ruler of India. Indeed, already it had become a maxim that he is ruler whose coin is current in a land. It was not, therefore, an unsettled question whether they would have the Romans for their rulers or not; but they being rulers-and any government being better than anarchy-were they at liberty to withhold the amount needed for its fair support? (R. Glover.)

Christ’s victory over cunning

I. They take counsel. He is thoroughly armed.

II. They would entangle Him. He seeks to deliver them out of their own snare.

III. They praise Him in order to His destruction. He rebukes them, for their awakening and salvation. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

A penny

A penny has two sides. As I hold it up I see one and you the other. If I were to ask you what is represented on the coin, you would say, A portrait of the Queen and some Latin. If I say what I see it is something very different, it is a representation of Britannia and some English. You say one thing and I say another. Now, suppose we were to wrangle about it, and I were to contradict you, and say, “It is a falsehood; I can see no likeness of the Queen;” and you were to say, “You must be out of your senses; I am sure there is one;” that would be very foolish. Yet that is about the way with one half of the disputes amongst people. It is so with many religious controversies. And with party feeling in politics. And with those quarrels that take place in the family or amongst friends. People cannot see both sides of the penny at once. Two persons may have very different opinions on the same subject, and yet both be right. Try and remember that when you look on a penny. Look at these two sides. On the one is a portrait of the Queen. It has two inscriptions. Victoria D.G. that means by Divine grace. It is well to acknowledge that every blessing we have is through the grace of God. Then we read, Britt. Reg. F.D. that means Queen of the Britains, or the British Islands, and Defender of the Faith. The double T shows the plural, which in Latin is by doubling the last letter rather than adding S, as in English. There is a beautiful story told of our Queen. When she was a little girl, about twelve years of age, her tutors thought the time had come when she ought to know that she might some day become Queen of this great and glorious nation. Into one of her lesson books was put a paper which showed to her that it might be so. On looking at it, she said, “I see I am nearer the throne than I thought.” “So it is, madam,” said her governess. After some moments’ thought the Princess said, “Now, many a child would boast, but they don’t know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more responsibility.” Then she gave the lady her hand, and said, “I will be good.” That was a noble resolve. None of you can hope to gain an earthly crown, but you may each resolve, and solemnly say, “I will be good.” Better be good than great, better be good than rich, better be good than powerful, better be good than to sit on a throne. Best of all to have the true goodness-that which comes from the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the penny the crown is a crown of leaves. It is a fading crown. Jesus Christ has promised to all who trust Him a crown of glory that fadeth not away. You cannot be kings and queens here, but if you are amongst the followers of Christ you will be grander in heaven than kings and queens. Of all things it is best to be a Christian. The Lord said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Try and remember that when you look upon a penny. Look to the other side, and consider the representation of Britannia. It is full of beautiful suggestions of what our nation should be. Let us consider the emblem, and we shall find it quite a treasury of good ideas. Our country would be indeed great and glorious if every British young person acted up to them.

1. She appears very calm, holding firm the shield of faith in her right hand. On the shield are three crosses-the cross of St. George of England, the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland, and the cross of St. Patrick of Ireland. The true Christian, however, only lays hold of the one true cross-that of Jesus Christ-and finds, resting upon that, a peace that passeth all understanding.

2. She is clad from head to foot with a robe. This reminds us that by faith in the Lord Christ the Christian has the robe of righteousness, which covers every defect. It is pure and white, and the wedding garment of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The saints in glory are represented as having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

3. She holds her head erect, having on the helmet. The Apostle speaks of the helmet of hope. Nothing can more enable us to lift up our heads and look out brightly than the hope of heaven.

4. She is prepared for attack. She holds the very ancient weapon called the trident. The Christian is surrounded by danger, and always liable to the attacks of sin and Satan, and should ever be on the guard, and the old weapon of the Word of God is the best after all. Whilst resting on faith, wearing the robe of righteousness, and lifting up the head with hope, there must be the preparation for conflict: Jesus Christ bid all His followers “Watch.” There are two other beautiful emblems of the Christian hero. One is a lighthouse. This is a tall column placed in a dangerous part of the ocean, in which there is a powerful light. That shines out into the darkness and so guides vessels safely into the harbour. Thus the Christian is to show the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and help souls to avoid dangerous rocks and to find the way to heaven. On another part of the coin is a ship in full sail. That, too, is an emblem of the Christian. He leaves the port of this world; he takes Christ for his captain; he sails through perils and dangers, through sunshine and storm, but reaches at last the desired haven. Try and remember these truths when you look upon a penny. Thus I have endeavoured to give you some of the important lessons which Jesus taught, and to illustrate them by a penny, so that when you look at a penny you may remember some of these truths you ought ever to have in mind. There are many others which might be considered if time permitted, and which you may well discover for yourselves. I conclude by giving you a very beautiful old Rabbinical legend taken from the Talmud:-

“From the mint two bright, new pennies came,

The value and beauty of both the same;

One slipt from the hand, and fell to the ground,

Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.

The other was passed by many a hand,

Through many a change in many a land;

For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,

Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.

At length it so happened, as years went round,

That the long-lost, unused coin was found.

Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed

Through rusting peacefully unemployed;

Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear

Through active service year after year;

For the brightest are those who live for duty-

Rust more than rubbing will tarnish beauty.”

(J. H. Cooke.)


Verse 17

Mark 12:17

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Our obligations to God and man

The spirit of the passage requires us to regard the rights of all beings as sacred, and to give to them all that is theirs.

I. What is due to God? Or what are the things, the property of God, which our Saviour here requires us to render to Him? “The earth is the Lord’s,” etc. Of course we, and all that we possess, are God’s property. More particularly-

1. Our souls with all their faculties.

2. Our bodies.

3. Our time.

4. All our knowledge and literary acquisitions.

5. Our temporal possessions.

6. Our influence.

He, then, who withholds from God any of these things, or any part of them, does not comply with the precept in the text.

II. What things are due from us to men?

1. All men have a right to our love.

2. To all whom God has made our superiors we owe obedience, submission and respect.

3. To our inferiors we owe kindness, gentleness and condescension.

4. Those of us who are members of Christ’s visible church, owe to each other the performance of all the duties which result from our connection.

5. There are some things which we owe our families and connexions. As husbands and wives.

Improvement:

1. How great, how inconceivable is the debt which we have contracted both to God and to men!

2. Our need of an interest in the Saviour, and the impossibility of being saved without Him. We evidently cannot discharge our past debts. In Christ is there help. He becomes surety for all who believe in Him. And do not reason, conscience, and a regard to our own happiness, combine with Scripture in urging us to accept the offers of this Divine benefactor, and, constrained by His love, to live henceforth to Him, and not to ourselves? (Dr. Payson.)

God before Caesar

Frederic, the Elector of Saxony, who, being prisoner to Charles V, was promised enlargement and restitution of dignity, if he would come to mass. “Summum in terris dominum, agnosco Caesarem, in caelis Deum.-“In all civil accommodations I am ready to yield unto Caesar, but for heavenly things I have but one Master, and therefore I dare not serve two: Christ is more welcome to me in bonds, than the honours of Caesar without Christ.” (Dictionary of Illustrations.)

An offence against Caesar

A boy about nine years of age, who attended a Sabbath school at Sunderland, requested his mother not to allow his brother to bring home anything that was smuggled when he went to sea. “Why do you wish that, my child?” said the mother. He answered, “Because my catechism says it is wrong.” The mother replied) “But that is only the word of a man.” He said, “Mother, is it the word of a man which said, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?’” This reply entirely silenced the mother; but his father, still attempting to defend the practice of smuggling, the boy said to him, “Father, whether is it worse to rob one or to rob many?” By these questions and answers, the boy silenced both his parents on the subject of smuggling. (Biblical Museum.)


Verse 18

Mark 12:18; Mark 12:27

In the resurrection.

More in Scripture than as first appears

These words of Christ show us how much more there is in Scripture than at first sight appears. God spoke to Moses in the bush, and called Himself the God of Abraham; and Christ tells us, that in this simple announcement was contained the promise, that Abraham should rise again from the dead. In truth, if we may say it with reverence, the All-wise All-knowing God cannot speak, without meaning many things at once. He sees the end from the beginning; He understands the numberless connections and relations of all things one with another. Every word of His is full of instruction looking many ways; and, though it is not often given to us to know these various senses, and we are not at liberty to attempt lightly to imagine them, yet, as far as they are told us, and as far as we may reasonably infer them, we must thankfully accept them. (J. H. Newman.)

Christ’s proof of immortality

Christ raises the question: Could God call Himself Abraham’s God if He had permitted his hopes to be disappointed, and his whole life to be dissipated by the touch of death? Whatever we love we seek to keep alive, and, if God loved Abraham, would He let him die? If the Sadducee was right, Abraham was at the time a handful of desert dust in which certainly God could take no peculiar interest. The fact that man can engage the interest of God, speak to Him, enter into covenant with Him; be beloved, embraced, protected by God, is the proof of immortality. Because God lives, he will live also whom God loves. There are many arguments that go to prove immortality, but this is chief, that God loves man, delights in him, and would be Himself bereaved, and spend a desolate eternity, if death robbed Him of the spirits that trust Him. (R. Glover)
.

The error of the Sadducees

1. Knowledge of the Scriptures may be very superficial.

2. Christ shows us how to conduct controversy.

3. Jesus enlarges our thoughts of what life is.

4. We are not to measure the unseen by the seen.

5. We cannot ignore one truth without danger of losing our hold on others.

6. The future life differs from the present

7. A higher existence hereafter suggests the folly of expecting perfection here.

8. Our friends, who “sleep in Jesus” are not dead. (F. Wagstaff.)

Materialism and the Resurrection

I. The argument. It may be presented in three aspects.

1. After the three patriarchs were dead, and had been in the grave for centuries, God spoke of Himself as their God. If the words assume their then conscious existence as spirits, then it followed

2. Supposing they do not exist in a state of consciousness, still God considers Himself as sustaining relations to them; He is their God. This, again, disposes of materialistic Sadduceeism. For God cannot sustain that relationship to what has been annihilated-to what has ceased to be-to nothing.

3. The emphasis may be put on the term “God.” “I am the God,” etc. What is it to be God to a being who has a religious nature, is capable of worship and happiness through Divine relations? How had He shown them He was their God? He called, led, educated, tried them, and taught them to rest implicitly on His word. He promised them a wonderful possession. What seemed to be conveyed by the words was never actually enjoyed. Yet they lived in faith, and died in the exercise of this faith-that in bestowing this possession He would prove Himself to be their God. If the Sadducees were right, there was an end of them and of the Divine faithfulness. It was a commencement without a conclusion, a porch without a temple, a beginning of promise without the termination.

II. Now, this subject will cast light upon two others.

1. The manner in which Christ threw light upon the future condition of man. He did not bring life and immortality to light as a new thing. There were indications of it in the ancient Church. He brought out in distinctness, and clearness, and fulness what was involved in mist and fog. Speaking with Divine authority,

2. Light is cast upon the state of the pious and holy dead. They live.

Martyred saints committed their spirits to the Lord Jesus.

1. If men choose to live “without God” here, they will find hereafter that there is a sense in which the actual relation between Him and them has not been destroyed.

2. The dignity and glory of a religious life. They are to be glorious immortals who love God, cherish religious faith, cultivate acquaintance with the infinite, and walk in holy obedience. The character of faithful worshippers is to be perpetuated and become eternal.

3. It is of infinite importance that all possess this Divine faith, and live the real life based upon the truth of God and the Gospel of Christ. (Thomas Binney.)

Immortality and love

I never saw a man that did not believe in the immortality of love when following the body of a loved one to the grave. I have seen men under other circumstances that did not believe in it; but I never saw a man that, when he stood looking upon the form of one that he really loved stretched out for burial, did not revolt from saying, “It has all come to that: the hours of sweet companionship; the wondrous interlacings of tropical souls, the joys, the hopes, the trusts, the unutterable yearnings-there they all lie.” No man can stand and look in a coffin upon the body of a fellow creature, and remember the flaming intelligence, the blossoming love, the whole range of Divine faculties which so lately animated that cold clay, and say, “These have all collapsed and gone.” No person can witness the last sad ceremonials which are performed over the remains of a human being-the sealing down of the unopenable lid, the following of the rumbling procession to the place of burial, the letting of the dust down into dust, the falling of the earth upon the hollow coffin, with those sounds that are worse than thunder, and the placing of the green sod over the grave-no person, unless he be a beast, can witness these things, and then turn away and say, “I have buried my wife; I have buried my child; I have buried my sister, my brother, my love.” (H. W. Beecher.)

A type of the Resurrection

One bright summer day I stood beside a large water butt, watching the insect life which skimmed its surface and the lower forms of life which revelled and rejoiced in its depths. Whilst thus engaged, I saw a little creature, in the shape of a worm, come up with zig-zag course apparently from the bottom of the butt to its surface. There was a little agitation-the shell broke, and a bright and beautiful insect flew away towards heaven. To my apprehension that was the most beautiful type of the resurrection ever beheld, and thus has our gracious God filled all nature with appropriate and instructive emblems of the glorious doctrine of the resurrection. (S. Cocks.)

The Resurrection

In Dr. Brown’s work on the resurrection, their is a beautiful parable from Halley. The story is of a servant, who, receiving a silver cup from his master, suffers it to fall into a vessel of aquafortis, and, seeing it disappear, contends in argument with a fellow servant that its recovery is impossible, until the master comes on the scene, and infuses salt water, which precipitates the silver from the solution; and then, by melting and hammering the metal, he restores it to its original shape. With this incident a sceptic-one of whose great stumbling blocks was the resurrection-was so struck, that he ultimately renounced his opposition to the gospel, and became a partaker of the Christian hope of immortality. (S. S. Teacher.)

Heaven will reveal itself

John Bunyan was once asked a question about heaven which he could not answer, because the matter was not revealed in the Scriptures; and he thereupon advised the inquirer to live a holy life and go and see. (Christian Age.)

Progressive knowledge of the Bible

It is curious to compare old and new maps, and to mark the progress of discovery. The black space of ocean is followed by a faint outline of a few miles of coast, marking the termination of an intrepid voyage. Then further portions of the same coast are laid down at intervals as supposed islands. Then by and by these portions are connected, and the outline of a great continent begins to be developed. The “undiscovered” passes into the region of the known and familiar. Thus it is with the Bible. What progress is being made in the discovery of its meaning! How much better acquainted is the Church of Christ now with its spirit, its allusions, its inner and outer history, than the same church during a former period! What a far more true and just idea of the mind of Christ, as manifested in and by the Apostolic Church, have we now than the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries possessed! Distance has increased the magnitude, the extent, the totality, the grandeur in the heaven-kissing mountain range. Individually I find in daily study of the Bible a daily discovery. What was formerly unknown becomes known, and what seemed a solitary coast becomes a part of a great whole, and what seemed wild and strange and lonely becomes to me green pasture and refreshing water-the abode of my fireside affections. And surely I shall read the Bible as an alphabet in heaven. It was my first school book here, and I hope it will be my first there. What I shall I never know the Spirit which moves the wheels, whose rims are so high that they are dreadful? The only true theory of development is the development of the spiritual eye for the reception of that light which ever shineth. (Norman Macleod, D. D.)

Our knowledge of the future state imperfect

Whatever correct ideas we have about the heavenly state, are of course derived from the revelation God has made. And yet from the very nature of the subject our ideas must necessarily be vague, and perhaps even incorrect. The information may be, and doubtless is, the very best God could give us; but the unsatisfactoriness of it clearly remains, just because the subject is so far beyond our present attainments and conceptions. It is like talking of the higher mathematics to a child who has only begun to comprehend the simplest relations of numbers, and to whom the multiplication table is an “Ultima Thule.” (Christian World Pulpit.)

Like the angels

The children of God, in the resurrection, our Saviour says, shall be equal to the angels; or, perhaps, more properly, they shall be like the angels in attributes, station, and employments. Like the angels, they will possess endless youth, activity, power, knowledge, and holiness; enjoy the same immortal happiness, dignity, and Divine favour; be lovely, beautiful, and glorious in the sight of God, and “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Like the angels, shall they be sons, and kings, and priests to God, and live and reign with Him forever and ever. (Pres. Dwight.)

Individual relation to God

In our mysterious being we have a double existence; we are part of a body, and God deals with men collectively as communities: yet also we are as much single spirits as if we were alone in the world, each running separately and apart its individual course. To teach men from the first the awful, the difficult truth, that they have each of them a soul-this was the meaning of that discipline of Abraham and the Patriarchs; and the whole history has shown how necessary it was. The visible world is all about us, early and late, wrapping us around, occupying eye and thought and desire; we seem to belong to it, and to it alone; it seems as if we must take our chance with it. And, on the other hand, we know how easily men come to think that being one of a body-even though it were the “seed of Abraham,” or “the Church of Christ”-made it less necessary to remember their personal singleness, their personal responsibility. To belong to a “good set,” to a religions family, seems to give us a security for ourselves; insensibly, perhaps, we take to ourselves credit for the goodness of our friends, we look at ourselves as if we must be what they are. The soul has indeed to think and to work with others and for others, and for great aims and purposes, out of and beyond itself. For others, and with others, the best parts of its earthly work is done. But first, the soul has to know that sublime truth about itself: that it stands before the Everlasting by itself, and for what it is. Abraham learned it, like Moses, like Elijah, like Isaiah, like St. Paul: in Job and the Psalter we see the early fruits of that discipline. The soul knew itself alone with God; no words could tell the incommunicable secret of the presence of God; and in that secret was wrapped up the seed of its conviction of its mysterious immortality-“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” This is the first lesson of the masters of the spiritual life. This is the first opening of the eyes to the reality of religion, when it comes upon us in our heart of hearts, in the deep certainties of conscience, that in spite of all that fills the eye and is not ourselves, there is ourself and there is God; and we begin by degrees, as it has been said, to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe-two only supreme and luminously self- evident beings-our own soul, and the God who made it. (Dean Church.)

As the angels.-

Employment in heaven

What shall we do in heaven? Well, our employments will accord with our state and disposition. Some one of you may perhaps be an artist. Now to paint a fine picture to hang upon somebody’s wall on earth is accounted a great thing. Pooh! In heaven, your canvas shall be a soul, and your picture a loving spirit which under your guidance shall become a being of grace and beauty for evermore. On earth, an artist generally paints to make himself a name and earn both money and glory, but in heaven the object and aim of an artist shall be, “Oh, that I might train this soul to be like Christ! Oh, that my work might glorify God!” Someone else here may, I think, be an architect in heaven, not with bricks, stone, mortar, ladders, and rubbish. No; you build houses here; there you shall build human souls into angels. If life in heaven is to be as the angels, we have the joy of knowing that useful and congenial occupation will be our lot. (W. Birch.)

Congenial occupation in heaven

A lad, who served as a milk vendor, stood one day in Antwerp cathedral before the glorious picture by Rubens of the bringing down of Christ from the cross. The boy drank in all the beauty of the painting as if it were a thing of life; and it seemed as if the hunger in his soul were satisfied while he gazed upon the marvellous glory of that scene. At length, he turned away with a sigh in his heart, but a light in his eye, saying, “I, also, have in me the soul of a painter!” But he was only a poor boy, who went with a dog and a little cart carrying milk cans from the country to the people of Antwerp. In his soul he said, “I in soul am an artist!” But he had to go back to his dog and cart and milk cans, and that sort of humdrum work continued to be his daily employment, until having lost his living through a false accusation, and he and his dog being refused bread, they wandered up and down in the cold of the winter until one day they found themselves weary and starving at the door of the cathedral. The poor boy, with the soul of an artist, followed by his dog, more faithful to him than men and women, walked up the grand aisle of the cathedral, and stood before the glorious picture of Christ. Being weary, he lay down, when the poor dog crouched close to his starving master to warm him, and the boy kissed the head of the faithful beast and fixed his eyes on the sacred canvas. In the morning, the people found a boy and dog both dead, and clasped together. He had the soul of a painter, but he was poor and cold and hungry, yet he died feeling the love of his dog and beholding the picture whose glory had inspired his soul. And the people wept, and mourned over the poor boy whose circumstances had prevented the realization of his heart’s desire. In the other world there will be no obstruction to lawful desires, and the possibilities of the human heart shall be granted. Every one of us shall have our opportunity of congenial employment. That which is within the soul and forms our real nature shall come out and have an opportunity of being employed in the service of God and mankind. A man with a musical soul one day went into a shop where he saw a beautiful violin for sale, and with all the money he had, he bought it. He came exultingly out of the shop the possessor of the glorious instrument. Then somebody said to him, “My friend, where is the bow?” He had the fiddle, but he had no bow. In a corresponding way, many of you have the violin in your nature, the capacity for harmony, but circumstances are against you; you cannot realize your earnest resolves because there is something wanting, You were meant to be a poet, and yet are, perhaps, a brick setter; or you were made to be an artist, and may be only a chimney sweep; or you may have the instincts of an engineer, and yet are probably chained to a desk in some dingy office, or may be a shoemaker sitting at a stall all day mending boots. These are some of the disciplinary contradictions of this life, where round people are continually found in square holes, and square people in round holes. But in the better land all these “odds” shall be made “even,” and an opportunity given to everyone to bring out that which God has put within us, and we shall be and do that which harmonizes with our angelic nature and inclination. (W. Birch.)

Leisure in heaven

Most earnest men are too busy in this world to find time to really live and know themselves. They are too much engrossed in the “maddening maze” of things to “watch and pray” and practise self-examination. They are like a steamer which is of excellent build and power of speed, and which is so profitable to its owners that they send it about from port to port and never put it into harbour to survey and restore it; and at length when stress of weather comes, the beautiful, powerful steamer gives way and sinks. Thousands of business men are like that steamer; they perish for want of overhauling and renovation. They are too busy to think of God, and death, and judgment. They are too busy to do a good deed in any way except putting their hand into their pocket to give something to a charitable institution, or throwing a copper to some unfortunate beggar. In the other world these over busy men will bare time to think of God and of themselves. The life of the other world will without doubt be progressive. Progress or development is the law of creation. There is progress on earth, and there will be progress in heaven. Your life is to be as a pure river which cannot be defiled or overshadowed by evil. We shall have to learn to forgive, learn to be pure, learn to be loving, learn to be kind. Have you learned these things on earth? Not fully; but you are trying to learn them; if so, you shall be as the angels and finish your education in heaven. There has been only One who went perfect into heaven. That perfect being was Jesus, and He has promised that His Spirit shall be with everyone who desires to follow Him. (W. Birch.)


Verses 18-27

Verse 27

Mark 12:18; Mark 12:27

In the resurrection.

More in Scripture than as first appears

These words of Christ show us how much more there is in Scripture than at first sight appears. God spoke to Moses in the bush, and called Himself the God of Abraham; and Christ tells us, that in this simple announcement was contained the promise, that Abraham should rise again from the dead. In truth, if we may say it with reverence, the All-wise All-knowing God cannot speak, without meaning many things at once. He sees the end from the beginning; He understands the numberless connections and relations of all things one with another. Every word of His is full of instruction looking many ways; and, though it is not often given to us to know these various senses, and we are not at liberty to attempt lightly to imagine them, yet, as far as they are told us, and as far as we may reasonably infer them, we must thankfully accept them. (J. H. Newman.)

Christ’s proof of immortality

Christ raises the question: Could God call Himself Abraham’s God if He had permitted his hopes to be disappointed, and his whole life to be dissipated by the touch of death? Whatever we love we seek to keep alive, and, if God loved Abraham, would He let him die? If the Sadducee was right, Abraham was at the time a handful of desert dust in which certainly God could take no peculiar interest. The fact that man can engage the interest of God, speak to Him, enter into covenant with Him; be beloved, embraced, protected by God, is the proof of immortality. Because God lives, he will live also whom God loves. There are many arguments that go to prove immortality, but this is chief, that God loves man, delights in him, and would be Himself bereaved, and spend a desolate eternity, if death robbed Him of the spirits that trust Him. (R. Glover)
.

The error of the Sadducees

1. Knowledge of the Scriptures may be very superficial.

2. Christ shows us how to conduct controversy.

3. Jesus enlarges our thoughts of what life is.

4. We are not to measure the unseen by the seen.

5. We cannot ignore one truth without danger of losing our hold on others.

6. The future life differs from the present

7. A higher existence hereafter suggests the folly of expecting perfection here.

8. Our friends, who “sleep in Jesus” are not dead. (F. Wagstaff.)

Materialism and the Resurrection

I. The argument. It may be presented in three aspects.

1. After the three patriarchs were dead, and had been in the grave for centuries, God spoke of Himself as their God. If the words assume their then conscious existence as spirits, then it followed

2. Supposing they do not exist in a state of consciousness, still God considers Himself as sustaining relations to them; He is their God. This, again, disposes of materialistic Sadduceeism. For God cannot sustain that relationship to what has been annihilated-to what has ceased to be-to nothing.

3. The emphasis may be put on the term “God.” “I am the God,” etc. What is it to be God to a being who has a religious nature, is capable of worship and happiness through Divine relations? How had He shown them He was their God? He called, led, educated, tried them, and taught them to rest implicitly on His word. He promised them a wonderful possession. What seemed to be conveyed by the words was never actually enjoyed. Yet they lived in faith, and died in the exercise of this faith-that in bestowing this possession He would prove Himself to be their God. If the Sadducees were right, there was an end of them and of the Divine faithfulness. It was a commencement without a conclusion, a porch without a temple, a beginning of promise without the termination.

II. Now, this subject will cast light upon two others.

1. The manner in which Christ threw light upon the future condition of man. He did not bring life and immortality to light as a new thing. There were indications of it in the ancient Church. He brought out in distinctness, and clearness, and fulness what was involved in mist and fog. Speaking with Divine authority,

2. Light is cast upon the state of the pious and holy dead. They live.

Martyred saints committed their spirits to the Lord Jesus.

1. If men choose to live “without God” here, they will find hereafter that there is a sense in which the actual relation between Him and them has not been destroyed.

2. The dignity and glory of a religious life. They are to be glorious immortals who love God, cherish religious faith, cultivate acquaintance with the infinite, and walk in holy obedience. The character of faithful worshippers is to be perpetuated and become eternal.

3. It is of infinite importance that all possess this Divine faith, and live the real life based upon the truth of God and the Gospel of Christ. (Thomas Binney.)

Immortality and love

I never saw a man that did not believe in the immortality of love when following the body of a loved one to the grave. I have seen men under other circumstances that did not believe in it; but I never saw a man that, when he stood looking upon the form of one that he really loved stretched out for burial, did not revolt from saying, “It has all come to that: the hours of sweet companionship; the wondrous interlacings of tropical souls, the joys, the hopes, the trusts, the unutterable yearnings-there they all lie.” No man can stand and look in a coffin upon the body of a fellow creature, and remember the flaming intelligence, the blossoming love, the whole range of Divine faculties which so lately animated that cold clay, and say, “These have all collapsed and gone.” No person can witness the last sad ceremonials which are performed over the remains of a human being-the sealing down of the unopenable lid, the following of the rumbling procession to the place of burial, the letting of the dust down into dust, the falling of the earth upon the hollow coffin, with those sounds that are worse than thunder, and the placing of the green sod over the grave-no person, unless he be a beast, can witness these things, and then turn away and say, “I have buried my wife; I have buried my child; I have buried my sister, my brother, my love.” (H. W. Beecher.)

A type of the Resurrection

One bright summer day I stood beside a large water butt, watching the insect life which skimmed its surface and the lower forms of life which revelled and rejoiced in its depths. Whilst thus engaged, I saw a little creature, in the shape of a worm, come up with zig-zag course apparently from the bottom of the butt to its surface. There was a little agitation-the shell broke, and a bright and beautiful insect flew away towards heaven. To my apprehension that was the most beautiful type of the resurrection ever beheld, and thus has our gracious God filled all nature with appropriate and instructive emblems of the glorious doctrine of the resurrection. (S. Cocks.)

The Resurrection

In Dr. Brown’s work on the resurrection, their is a beautiful parable from Halley. The story is of a servant, who, receiving a silver cup from his master, suffers it to fall into a vessel of aquafortis, and, seeing it disappear, contends in argument with a fellow servant that its recovery is impossible, until the master comes on the scene, and infuses salt water, which precipitates the silver from the solution; and then, by melting and hammering the metal, he restores it to its original shape. With this incident a sceptic-one of whose great stumbling blocks was the resurrection-was so struck, that he ultimately renounced his opposition to the gospel, and became a partaker of the Christian hope of immortality. (S. S. Teacher.)

Heaven will reveal itself

John Bunyan was once asked a question about heaven which he could not answer, because the matter was not revealed in the Scriptures; and he thereupon advised the inquirer to live a holy life and go and see. (Christian Age.)

Progressive knowledge of the Bible

It is curious to compare old and new maps, and to mark the progress of discovery. The black space of ocean is followed by a faint outline of a few miles of coast, marking the termination of an intrepid voyage. Then further portions of the same coast are laid down at intervals as supposed islands. Then by and by these portions are connected, and the outline of a great continent begins to be developed. The “undiscovered” passes into the region of the known and familiar. Thus it is with the Bible. What progress is being made in the discovery of its meaning! How much better acquainted is the Church of Christ now with its spirit, its allusions, its inner and outer history, than the same church during a former period! What a far more true and just idea of the mind of Christ, as manifested in and by the Apostolic Church, have we now than the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries possessed! Distance has increased the magnitude, the extent, the totality, the grandeur in the heaven-kissing mountain range. Individually I find in daily study of the Bible a daily discovery. What was formerly unknown becomes known, and what seemed a solitary coast becomes a part of a great whole, and what seemed wild and strange and lonely becomes to me green pasture and refreshing water-the abode of my fireside affections. And surely I shall read the Bible as an alphabet in heaven. It was my first school book here, and I hope it will be my first there. What I shall I never know the Spirit which moves the wheels, whose rims are so high that they are dreadful? The only true theory of development is the development of the spiritual eye for the reception of that light which ever shineth. (Norman Macleod, D. D.)

Our knowledge of the future state imperfect

Whatever correct ideas we have about the heavenly state, are of course derived from the revelation God has made. And yet from the very nature of the subject our ideas must necessarily be vague, and perhaps even incorrect. The information may be, and doubtless is, the very best God could give us; but the unsatisfactoriness of it clearly remains, just because the subject is so far beyond our present attainments and conceptions. It is like talking of the higher mathematics to a child who has only begun to comprehend the simplest relations of numbers, and to whom the multiplication table is an “Ultima Thule.” (Christian World Pulpit.)

Like the angels

The children of God, in the resurrection, our Saviour says, shall be equal to the angels; or, perhaps, more properly, they shall be like the angels in attributes, station, and employments. Like the angels, they will possess endless youth, activity, power, knowledge, and holiness; enjoy the same immortal happiness, dignity, and Divine favour; be lovely, beautiful, and glorious in the sight of God, and “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Like the angels, shall they be sons, and kings, and priests to God, and live and reign with Him forever and ever. (Pres. Dwight.)

Individual relation to God

In our mysterious being we have a double existence; we are part of a body, and God deals with men collectively as communities: yet also we are as much single spirits as if we were alone in the world, each running separately and apart its individual course. To teach men from the first the awful, the difficult truth, that they have each of them a soul-this was the meaning of that discipline of Abraham and the Patriarchs; and the whole history has shown how necessary it was. The visible world is all about us, early and late, wrapping us around, occupying eye and thought and desire; we seem to belong to it, and to it alone; it seems as if we must take our chance with it. And, on the other hand, we know how easily men come to think that being one of a body-even though it were the “seed of Abraham,” or “the Church of Christ”-made it less necessary to remember their personal singleness, their personal responsibility. To belong to a “good set,” to a religions family, seems to give us a security for ourselves; insensibly, perhaps, we take to ourselves credit for the goodness of our friends, we look at ourselves as if we must be what they are. The soul has indeed to think and to work with others and for others, and for great aims and purposes, out of and beyond itself. For others, and with others, the best parts of its earthly work is done. But first, the soul has to know that sublime truth about itself: that it stands before the Everlasting by itself, and for what it is. Abraham learned it, like Moses, like Elijah, like Isaiah, like St. Paul: in Job and the Psalter we see the early fruits of that discipline. The soul knew itself alone with God; no words could tell the incommunicable secret of the presence of God; and in that secret was wrapped up the seed of its conviction of its mysterious immortality-“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” This is the first lesson of the masters of the spiritual life. This is the first opening of the eyes to the reality of religion, when it comes upon us in our heart of hearts, in the deep certainties of conscience, that in spite of all that fills the eye and is not ourselves, there is ourself and there is God; and we begin by degrees, as it has been said, to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe-two only supreme and luminously self- evident beings-our own soul, and the God who made it. (Dean Church.)

As the angels.-

Employment in heaven

What shall we do in heaven? Well, our employments will accord with our state and disposition. Some one of you may perhaps be an artist. Now to paint a fine picture to hang upon somebody’s wall on earth is accounted a great thing. Pooh! In heaven, your canvas shall be a soul, and your picture a loving spirit which under your guidance shall become a being of grace and beauty for evermore. On earth, an artist generally paints to make himself a name and earn both money and glory, but in heaven the object and aim of an artist shall be, “Oh, that I might train this soul to be like Christ! Oh, that my work might glorify God!” Someone else here may, I think, be an architect in heaven, not with bricks, stone, mortar, ladders, and rubbish. No; you build houses here; there you shall build human souls into angels. If life in heaven is to be as the angels, we have the joy of knowing that useful and congenial occupation will be our lot. (W. Birch.)

Congenial occupation in heaven

A lad, who served as a milk vendor, stood one day in Antwerp cathedral before the glorious picture by Rubens of the bringing down of Christ from the cross. The boy drank in all the beauty of the painting as if it were a thing of life; and it seemed as if the hunger in his soul were satisfied while he gazed upon the marvellous glory of that scene. At length, he turned away with a sigh in his heart, but a light in his eye, saying, “I, also, have in me the soul of a painter!” But he was only a poor boy, who went with a dog and a little cart carrying milk cans from the country to the people of Antwerp. In his soul he said, “I in soul am an artist!” But he had to go back to his dog and cart and milk cans, and that sort of humdrum work continued to be his daily employment, until having lost his living through a false accusation, and he and his dog being refused bread, they wandered up and down in the cold of the winter until one day they found themselves weary and starving at the door of the cathedral. The poor boy, with the soul of an artist, followed by his dog, more faithful to him than men and women, walked up the grand aisle of the cathedral, and stood before the glorious picture of Christ. Being weary, he lay down, when the poor dog crouched close to his starving master to warm him, and the boy kissed the head of the faithful beast and fixed his eyes on the sacred canvas. In the morning, the people found a boy and dog both dead, and clasped together. He had the soul of a painter, but he was poor and cold and hungry, yet he died feeling the love of his dog and beholding the picture whose glory had inspired his soul. And the people wept, and mourned over the poor boy whose circumstances had prevented the realization of his heart’s desire. In the other world there will be no obstruction to lawful desires, and the possibilities of the human heart shall be granted. Every one of us shall have our opportunity of congenial employment. That which is within the soul and forms our real nature shall come out and have an opportunity of being employed in the service of God and mankind. A man with a musical soul one day went into a shop where he saw a beautiful violin for sale, and with all the money he had, he bought it. He came exultingly out of the shop the possessor of the glorious instrument. Then somebody said to him, “My friend, where is the bow?” He had the fiddle, but he had no bow. In a corresponding way, many of you have the violin in your nature, the capacity for harmony, but circumstances are against you; you cannot realize your earnest resolves because there is something wanting, You were meant to be a poet, and yet are, perhaps, a brick setter; or you were made to be an artist, and may be only a chimney sweep; or you may have the instincts of an engineer, and yet are probably chained to a desk in some dingy office, or may be a shoemaker sitting at a stall all day mending boots. These are some of the disciplinary contradictions of this life, where round people are continually found in square holes, and square people in round holes. But in the better land all these “odds” shall be made “even,” and an opportunity given to everyone to bring out that which God has put within us, and we shall be and do that which harmonizes with our angelic nature and inclination. (W. Birch.)

Leisure in heaven

Most earnest men are too busy in this world to find time to really live and know themselves. They are too much engrossed in the “maddening maze” of things to “watch and pray” and practise self-examination. They are like a steamer which is of excellent build and power of speed, and which is so profitable to its owners that they send it about from port to port and never put it into harbour to survey and restore it; and at length when stress of weather comes, the beautiful, powerful steamer gives way and sinks. Thousands of business men are like that steamer; they perish for want of overhauling and renovation. They are too busy to think of God, and death, and judgment. They are too busy to do a good deed in any way except putting their hand into their pocket to give something to a charitable institution, or throwing a copper to some unfortunate beggar. In the other world these over busy men will bare time to think of God and of themselves. The life of the other world will without doubt be progressive. Progress or development is the law of creation. There is progress on earth, and there will be progress in heaven. Your life is to be as a pure river which cannot be defiled or overshadowed by evil. We shall have to learn to forgive, learn to be pure, learn to be loving, learn to be kind. Have you learned these things on earth? Not fully; but you are trying to learn them; if so, you shall be as the angels and finish your education in heaven. There has been only One who went perfect into heaven. That perfect being was Jesus, and He has promised that His Spirit shall be with everyone who desires to follow Him. (W. Birch.)


Verses 28-34

Verse 30

Mark 12:30

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.

Love to God secures all blessings

“Love not pleasure,” says Carlyle; “love God. This the Everlasting Yea wherein all contradiction is solved; wherein he who so walks and works, it is well with him.”

Love to God contrasted with not loving Him

Man not loving God, not looking upward and outward, becomes sensual. He spends his time in feeding his body, in satisfying his appetites, in grovelling in the dust, in joining himself to earth, that God made simply for his footstool and his pathway, and he forgets the realm of empire over nature, and over ideas, and over thoughts, that God opens out before him; and hence, without love of God, man is the animal; with love to God, he is the seraph; without love to God, he lives for his appetites and is debased; with love to God, he lives in His affections and rises toward glory; without love to God, he crawls like the worm; with love to God, be Soars like the seraph, flames like the cherubs; without love to God, he goes down Ward until he is ready to make his bed with demons; with love to God, he rises above angels and archangels, and is preparing for the throne of God. (Bishop Simpson.)

Love to God the supreme feeling

A man may be weary of life, but never of Divine love. Histories tell us of many that have been weary of their lives, but no histories can furnish us with an instance of any one that was ever weary of Divine love. As the people prized David above themselves, saying, “Thou art worth ten thousand of us;” so they that indeed have God for their portion, oh, how do they prize God above themselves, and above everything below themselves l and, doubtless, they that do not lift up God above all, they have no interest in God at all. (Thomas Brooks.)

The great commandment

When Tom Paine, the man who did so much mischief years ago in spreading infidel opinions, and making our Bible a laughing stock, resided in New Jersey, he was one day passing the house of Dr. Staughton, when the Doctor was sitting at the door. Paine stopped, and after some remarks of a general character observed, “Mr. Staughton, what a pity it is that a man has not some comprehensive and perfect rule for the government of his life.” The Doctor replied, “Mr. Paine, there is such a rule.” “What is that?” Paine inquired. Dr. Staughton repeated the passage, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Abashed and confounded, Paine replied, “Oh, that’s in your Bible,” and immediately walked away. The great commandment from which the infidel turned away, is the rule which Christians accept, love, and try to obey.

The nature of our love to Christ

I. It must be sincere, with all the heart.

II. Intelligent, with all the mind.

III. Emotional, with all the soul.

IV. Intense and energetic, with all the strength. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The two great commandments: all true love is one

The first commandment is very great, but the second is not little. They are upper and nether pools, and the same fountain fills them. He who is richest in the love of God has the greatest advantage for loving his neighbour-for loving his family, his household, his country, and the world. And that is the best and happiest state of things, the primal and truly natural, where, springing from under the throne of God, with a bright and heaven-reflecting piety, love fills the upper pool, and then, through the open flower-fringed channel of filial affection and the domestic charities, flows softly till it again expands in neighbourly kindness and unreserved philanthropy. The channel may be choked. The devotee may close it up in the hope of raising the level in the first and great reservoir, and by arresting the current he causes an overflow and converts into swamp the surrounding garden. In the same way the materialist or worldling, content with the lower pool, may fill up the conduit, and declare that he is no longer dependent on the upper magazine; but from the isolated cistern quickly evaporates the scanty supply, and thick with slime, weltering with worms, the stagnant residue mocks the thirsty owner, or, as over the bubbling malaria he persists to linger, it fills his frame with the mortal poison. Cut off from living water, receiving from on high no consecrating element, human affection is too sure to end in the disgust of a disappointed idolatry or the mad despair of a total bereavement; whilst the mystic theopathy, which in order to give the whole heart to God gives none to its fellows, will soon have no heart at all. Love is of God, and all true love is one. The piety which is not humane will soon grow superstitious and gloomy; in eases like Dominic and Philip II we see that it may soon grow bloodthirsty and cruel; nor, on the other hand, will brotherly love long continue if the love of God is not shed abroad abundantly. (Hamilton.)

Supreme love to God impossible without a Saviour

The Rev. M. Jeanmarie, a widely known French Protestant pastor, has recently passed away. The story of his conversion appears in the continental journals, and is a fine example of the power of the Word of God. He was at the time a preceptor in a family of the House of Hohenlohe and a rationalist. A neighbouring preacher asked him to supply for him. He declined on the plea of “How could he preach what he did not believe?” “What! not believe in God?” “Yes, I do that.” “And surely you believe that man should love Him?” “Doubtless.” “Well, then, preach on the words of Jesus, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and strength.’” “I will try, just to oblige you.” He thought over the words, and took note:-

1. We must love God, and the reasons thereof.

2. We must love Him with all our powers in very deed; nothing short of this could satisfy God.

3. But do we thus love God? … ” “No!” and then said he, “Without any previously formed plan I was brought to add, ‘We need a Saviour.’ At that moment a new light broke upon my soul; I understood that I had not loved God, that I needed a Saviour, that Jesus was that Saviour: and I loved Him and clung to Him at once. On the morrow I preached the sermon, and the third head was the chief-viz., the need of Jesus, and the necessity of trusting to such a Saviour.” (Christian Age.)

The properties of love

Because many deceive themselves in thinking that they love God, when they do not, it is needful to set down the marks of the true love of God, by which we may ascertain whether it be in us or not. The principal are these:

1. A deliberate preferring and esteeming of God above all things in the world, though never so excellent or dear to us.

2. A desire to be united and joined to God in most near communion with Him, both in this life and the next.

3. A high estimation of the special tokens and pledges of God’s love to us-the Bible, Sacraments, etc.

4. A conscientious care to obey God’s will, and to serve and honour Him in our calling.

5. Joy and delight in the duties of God’s service and worship.

6. Zeal for God’s glory, causing in us a holy grief and indignation when we see or hear that God is dishonoured by sin.

7. Love is bountiful, making us willing and ready to give and bestow much upon the person we love.

8. True love to the saints and children of God. (G. Petter.)

Love to God and men

Man’s life, rightly ordered, revolves, like the earth upon which he dwells, upon an axis with two fixed poles. That axis is love, and the poles are God and man. The love thus defined and exercised fulfils the whole law. It embraces in its scope all of man’s duties, religious and moral. Consider-

I. The nature of this love.

1. An affection of the soul.

2. An all-inclusive affection, embracing not only every other affection proper to its object, but all that is proper to be done to its object.

3. The most personal of all affections. One may fear an event, hope for and rejoice in it; but one can love only a person.

4. The tenderest, most unselfish, most divine of all affections. Such is that axial principle, on which man’s life, when obedient to God, revolves. It reminds us of that great discovery of the age, which has traced the various powers of nature-light, heat, electricity, etc.

back to one great original force, from which they all spring and into which they are convertible. Like the mythic Proteus, that force changes its form according to the exigency of the time, now appearing as heat, then as light, then as magnetism, then as motion-so this love, which is the fulfilment of the law, is at the basis of all acts of piety and of all forms of virtue (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

II. The object of this love.

1. God is the first and supreme object.

2. True love of God begets love to man. The latter, resulting from the former, must needs occupy a subordinate position. The fountain is higher than the stream, and includes it.

III. The degree in which this love to God should be exercised. It should not be a languid affection, but one in which all the powers of man’s nature are engaged. The various parts of our complex being are summoned to contribute their utmost force to the formation of it.

1. With the heart: perfectly hearty and sincere.

2. With the soul: ardent-full of warmth and feeling.

3. With the mind: intelligent. God does not want fanatical devotion.

4. With the strength: energetic and intense.

In a word, our love to God is to be of the most earnest, real, and vital sort; one into which we are to put the whole of our being, as a plant puts into its flower the united forces of root and leaf and stem.

IV. This love is possible only through Christ. He reveals to us the almighty, incomprehensible Creator, who would otherwise be to us a mere abstraction.

V. False and true manifestations of this love.

1. Take care not to let it become a matter more of outward form than of inward reality.

2. The real proof of love is its willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of its object. (A. H. Currier.)

The mind’s love

The love of God fills the mind, when knowledge gathereth all things with reference to God; when speculation ever weigheth the things of God with the things of men; when imagination compareth all things with the things of God; when memory storeth in her treasure things of God, new and old; when the thoughts ever turn to God, as their end; when all studies are in God, and there is no study which hath not God for its end. We are always thinking of something, at all times, and in all places; we can behold no object in the earth or sky, but thought is busy with the same. The thoughts are according to the heart. If one might say it with reverence, as angelic ministrations execute God’s will, so are the thoughts to the heart and soul of man ever busy traversing and returning, through earth and heaven, as the heart wills. And these, in the good man, are ever full of God. (Isaac Williams, M. A.)

Love

Observe that love is not merely one way of fulfilling the Law. It is the best way. Far better to love man so much that to steal from him would be impossible, than merely to refrain from stealing in obedience to the Eighth Commandment. Nay, more, it is the only way. One who would steal, but for his sense of its being forbidden, and therefore wrong, already sins against his neighbour by breaking the Tenth Commandment.

1. Love brings all the powers of man’s soul into interior harmony.

2. It begets obedience, both inward and outward.

3. It begets a strong desire after God.

4. It finds God in everything.

5. It is the mainspring of the soul, controlling hands, feet, eyes, lips, brain, life. (Anon.)

Love is the most important thing

“Father,” asked the son of Bishop Berkeley, “what is the meaning of the words ‘cherubim’ and ‘seraphim,’ which we meet with in the Bible?” “Cherubim,” replied his father, “is a Hebrew word signifying knowledge; seraphim is another word of the same language, signifying flame. Whence it is supposed that the cherubim are angels who excel in knowledge; and that the seraphim are angels likewise who excel in loving God.” “I hope, then,” said the little boy, “when I die I shall be a seraph, for I would rather love God than know all things.” The first and great commandment:-

I. Whether we are possessed of this supreme love to God? A sincere love manifests itself by approbation, preference, delight, familiarity. Do these terms express the state of our affections towards our heavenly Father?

1. Do we cordially approve all that the Scriptures reveal concerning His character and His dealings with men?

2. Approbation, however, is the very lowest token of this Divine affection. What we really love we distinguish by a decided preference: we have compared it with other things, and have come to the conclusion that it is more excellent than all of them.

3. Further, the love of God will lead us to delight in Him.

4. I will mention but one more sign of love unfeigned; which is seen when a person courts the society and familiar intimacy of the object of his affections.

II. By what means a spirit of love to God may be acquired, if we have it not, or increased, if we have.

1. The first step is to feel our utter deficiency in this duty.

2. Take up your Bible, and learn the character of Him whom you have so neglected.

3. These views of the love of God, however, will, in great measure, be ineffectual, till you have actually cast yourself at the foot of the cross, and believed in Jesus Christ for the justification of your own soul.

4. My next direction for cherishing this spirit of love to God is, that you should carefully guard against everything in your temper and conduct which might grieve the Spirit of God.

5. I would press upon you the necessity of frequent communion with your reconciled God in prayer and thanksgiving. (Joseph Jowett, M. A.)

Love to God

I. A true love to God has three principal constituent parts.

1. The love of desire, which takes its origin from the wants of man, and the fitness and willingness of God to supply them.

2. The love of gratitude, arising from the sense of the Divine goodness to us.

3. A disinterested love, having as its foundation the excellence and perfection of God considered in themselves, and without any reference to the advantages we derive from them.

II. The measure of divine love.

1. That we must love God supremely above any other object.

2. With all the ardour and intensity of our soul. (H. Kollock, D. D.)

The life of Christian consecration

I. The character of this love. The whole man must be enlisted in our love of God; all the force of our life must go to express and to fulfil it.

1. God claims from us a warm personal affection.

2. God must be loved for His moral excellence. Not only must our conscience approve our affection; it will be ever supplying us with new material for exalted worship of Him. The sense of righteousness will kindle gratitude into adoration.

3. God claims from us an intelligent affection. Our intelligence must have full scope, if our love of God is to be full.

4. God claims from us that we love with all our strength. The whole force of our character is to be in our affection for Him. Men devote their energies to worldly pursuits.

II. The unity of spiritual life in this love. The command of our text is introduced by a solemn proclamation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” The object of Moses in declaring the unity of God was to guard the Jews against idolatry; my object in dwelling on it is to claim from you the consecration of all your powers. A simple illustration will make both these points clear. Polygamy is contrary to the true idea of marriage; he who has many wives cannot love one of them as a wife should be loved. Equally is the ideal of marriage violated if a man cannot or will not render to his wife the homage of his whole nature. His affection itself will be partial instead of full, and his heart will be distracted, if, whatever her amiability may be, her conduct offends his moral sensibilities; if he cannot trust her judgment and accept her counsel; if she is a hindrance to him and not a help in the practical business of life. Many a man’s spiritual life is distracted and made inefficient, simply because his whole being is not engrossed in his religion; one-sidedness in devotion is sure to weaken, and tends ultimately to destroy it. Consider the infinite worthiness of God. He is the source and object of all our powers. There is not a faculty which has not come from Him; which is not purified and exalted by consecration to Him. And as all our powers make up one man-reason and emotion, conscience and will uniting in a complete human life-so, for spiritual harmony and religious satisfaction, there must be the full consecration and discipline of all our powers. Again and again is this truth set before us in the Bible. The blind and the lame were forbidden for sacrifice; the maimed and imperfect were banished from the congregation of the Lord. The whole man is redeemed by Christ-body, soul, and spirit, all are to be presented a living sacrifice. The gospel is intended, not to repress our powers, nor to set a man at strife with himself, but to develop and enlarge the whole sphere of life; and he wrongs the Author of the gospel, and mars his own spiritual perfection, who allows any faculty to lie by disused in God’s service. Look at the same truth in another aspect; consider how our powers aid one another in gaining a true apprehension of God. The sensibilities of love give us insight into His character, and furnish us with motives for active service of Him. On the other hand, intelligent esteem of God expands affection for Him, and preserves it strong when mere emotion will have died away. Obedience is at once the organ of spiritual knowledge, and the minister of an increasing faith. “They that know Thy name,” says the Psalmist, “will put their trust in Thee.”

III. The grounds and impulses of this love. In reality it has but one reason-God is worthy of it; and the impulse to render it comes directly from our perception of His worthiness and the know, ledge that He desires it from us. The claim for love, like all the Divine claims, is grounded in the character of God Himself; and it takes the form of commandment here because the Jews were “under the law.” There are, however, two thoughts suggested by the two titles given by Moses to God, which will help us in further illustration of our subject.

Of loving God

I. The duty enjoined is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” A true love of God must be founded upon a right sense of His perfections being really amiable in themselves, and beneficial to us: and such a love of God will of necessity show forth itself in our endeavouring to practise the same virtues ourselves, and exercise them towards others. All perfection is in itself lovely and amiable in the very nature of the thing: the virtues and excellencies of men remote in history, from whom we can receive no personal advantage, excite in us an esteem whether we will or no: and every good mind, when it reads or thinks upon the character of an angel, loves the idea, though it has no present communication with the subject to whom so lovely a character belongs: much more the inexhaustible Fountain of all perfections; of perfections without number and without limit; the Centre, in which all excellencies unite, in which all glory resides, and from which every good thing proceeds, cannot but be the supreme object of love to a reasonable and intelligent mind. Even supposing we ourselves received no benefit therefrom, yet infinite power, knowledge, and wisdom in conjunction, are lovely in the very idea, and amiable even in the abstract imagination. But that which makes these perfections most truly and substantially, most really and permanently, the object of our love, is the application of them to ourselves, and our own more immediate concerns, by the consideration of their being joined also with those relative and moral excellencies, which make them at the same time no less beneficial to us than they are excellent absolutely in their own nature. I say, then is it that God truly appears the complete object of love, for so our Saviour Himself teaches us to argue (Luke 7:47)-To whom much is forgiven, he will love the more; and the apostle St. John (1 John 4:19)-“We,” says he, “love Him, because He first loved us.” This, therefore, is the true ground and foundation of our love towards God. But wherein this love towards God consists, and by what acts it is most properly exercised, has sometimes been very much misunderstood. It always signifies a moral virtue, not a passion or affection; and is therefore in Scripture always with great care explained and declared to mean the obedience of a virtuous life, in opposition to the enthusiasm of a vain imagination. In the Old Testament, Moses, in his last exhortation to the Israelites, thus expresses it (Deuteronomy 10:12): “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to love Him?” And what is loving Him? Why, He tells them in the very next words, ‘tis, “To walk in all His ways, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good.” And again (2 John 1:6), “This,” says he, “is love, that we walk after His commandments.” For what is rational love but a desire to please the person beloved, and a complacency or satisfaction in pleasing him? To love God, therefore, is to have a sincere desire of obeying His laws, and a delight or pleasure in the conscience of that obedience. Even to an earthly superior, to a parent, or a prince, love can no otherwise be shown from a child or a servant than by cheerfully observing the laws, and promoting the true interest of the government he is under. Now from this account which has been given of the true nature of love towards God, it will be easy for us to correct the errors which men have sometimes fallen into in both extremes. Some have been very confident of their love towards God from a mere warmth of superstitious zeal and enthusiastic affection, without any great care to bring forth in their lives the fruits of righteousness and true holiness. On the contrary, others there are, who though they really love and fear and serve God in the course of a virtuous and religious life, yet, because they feel not in themselves that warmth of affection which many enthusiasts pretend to, therefore they are afraid and suspect that they do not love God sincerely as they ought.

II. Having thus at large explained the duty enjoined in the text, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” I proceed now in the second place to consider briefly the circumstances requisite to make the performance of this duty acceptable and complete: “Thou shalt love Him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” In St. Luke it is somewhat more distinctly: “With all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”

1. It must be sincere: we must love or obey Him with all our heart. ‘Tis not the external act only, but the inward affection of the mind principally that God regards, an affection of mind which influences all a man’s actions in secret as well as in public, which determines the person’s true character or denomination, and distinguishes him who really is a servant of God from him who only seems or appears to be so.

2. Our obedience must be universal: we must love God with all our soul, or with our whole soul. He does not love God in the Scripture sense who obeys Him in some instances only and not in all. The Psalmist places his confidence in this only, that he “had respect unto all God’s commandments” (Psalms 119:6). Generally speaking, most men’s temptation lies principally in some one particular instance, and this is the proper trial of the person’s obedience, or of his love towards God.

3. Our obedience must be constant and persevering in time as well as universal in its extent; we must love God with all our strength, persevering in our duty without fainting. “He that endureth to the end,” saith our Saviour, “the same shall be saved;” and “he that overcometh shall inherit all things;” and “we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” The Scripture notion of obedience is, walking “in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75).

4. Our obedience to God ought to be willing and cheerful: we must love Him with all our mind. “They that love Thy name will be joyful in Thee” (Psalms 5:12): and St. Paul, among the fruits of the Spirit, reckons up peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. But virtue becomes more perfect when ‘tis made easy by love, and by habitual practice incorporated as it were into a man’s very nature and temper.

III. The last thing observable in the text is the weight and importance of the duty: it is the “first and great commandment.” The reason is, because ‘tis the foundation of all; and without regard to God ,there can be no religion. (Samuel Clarke, D. D.)

On the love of God

It is the improved ability of the head that forms the philosopher, but ‘tis the right disposition of the heart that chiefly makes the Christian. ‘Tis our love directed to that Being, who is most worthy of it, as the Centre in which all excellencies unite, and the Source from which all blessings proceed. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” ‘Tis not the mere action that is valuable in itself. ‘Tis the love from which it proceeds that stamps a value upon it, and gives an endearing charm and beauty to it. When a servile fear engrosses the whole man, it locks up all the active powers of the soul, it cramps the abilities, and is rather a preservative against sin than an incentive to virtue. But love quickens our endeavours, and emboldens our resolutions to please the object beloved; and the more amiable ideas we entertain of our Master, the more cheerful, liberal, and animated the service that we render Him will consequently he. Upon love, therefore, the Scriptures have justly laid the greatest stress, that love which will give life and spirit to our performances.

I. I shall inquire into the nature and foundation of our love to the Deity. The love of God may be defined a fixed, habitual, and grateful regard to the Deity, founded upon a sense of His goodness, and expressing itself in a sincere desire to do whatever is agreeable, and avoid whatever is offensive to Him. The process of the mind I take to be this. The mind considers that goodness is everywhere stamped upon the creation, and appears in the work of redemption in distinct and bright characters. It considers, in the next place, that goodness, a lovely form, is the proper object of love and esteem, and goodness to us the proper object of gratitude. But as goodness exists nowhere but in the imagination without some good Being who is the subject of it, it goes on to consider that love, esteem, and gratitude is a tribute due to that Being, in whom an infinite fulness of goodness ever dwells, and from whom incessant emanations of goodness are ever flowing. Nor does the mind rest here; it takes one step farther to reflect that a cold speculative esteem and a barren, unactive gratitude is really no sincere esteem or gratitude at all, which will ever vent itself in strong endeavours to imitate a delight to please and a desire to be made happy by the Being beloved. If it be objected that we cannot love a Being that is invisible, I answer that what we chiefly love in visible beings of our own kind is always something invisible. Whence arises that relish of beauty in our own species? Do we love it merely as it is a certain mixture of proportion and colours? No; for, though these are to be taken into the account as two material ingredients, yet something else is wanting to beget our love; something that animates the features and bespeaks a mind within. Otherwise we might fall in love with a mere picture or any lifeless mass of matter that was entertaining to the eye. We might be as soon smitten with a dead, uninformed, unmeaning countenance, where there was an exact symmetry and regularity of features, as with those faces which are enlivened by a certain cheerfulness, ennobled by a certain majesty, or endeared by a certain complacency diffused over their whole mien. Is not this therefore the chief foundation of our taste for beauty, that it giveth us, as we think, some outward notices of noble, benevolent, and valuable qualities in the mind? Thus a sweetness of mien and aspect charms the more because we look upon it as an indication of a much sweeter temper within. In a word, though the Deity cannot be seen, numerous instances of His goodness are visible throughout the frame of nature. And wherever they are seen, they naturally command our love. But we cannot love goodness abstractedly from some Being in which it is supposed to inhere. For that would be to love an abstract idea. Hitherto, indeed, it is only the love of esteem. The transition, however, from that to a love of enjoyment, or a desire of being made happy by Him, is quick and easy: for, the more lovely ideas we entertain of any being, the more desirous we shall be to do his pleasure and procure his favour. Having thus shown the foundation of our love to God, I proceed-

II. To state the degree and point out the measures of our love to Him. The meaning of these words, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength,” is, that we are to serve God with all those faculties which He has given us: not that the love of God is to be exclusive of all other loves, but of all other rival affections; that, whenever the love of God and that of the world come in competition, the former undoubtedly ought to take place of the latter. To love God, therefore, with all our heart is so far from excluding all inferior complacencies that it necessarily comprehends them. Our love must begin with the creature, and end in Him as the highest link in the chain. We must love, as well as argue, upwards from the effect to the cause; and because there are several things desirable even here under proper regulations, conclude that He, the Maker of them, ought to be the supreme, not the only, object of our desires. We cannot love God in Himself without loving Him in and for His works. We are not to parcel out our affections between piety and sin. Then is our affection like a large diamond, most valuable, when it remains entire and unbroken, without being cut out into a multitude of independent and disjointed parts. To love the Lord with all our strength is to put forth the active powers of the soul in loving and serving Him. It is to quicken the wheels and springs of actions that moved on heavily before. It is to do well without being weary of well-doing. The love of God is a settled, well-grounded, rational delight in Him, founded upon conviction and knowledge. It is seated in the understanding, and therefore not necessarily accompanied with any brisker agitations of spirits, though, indeed, the body may keep pace with the soul, and the spirits flow in a more sprightly torrent to the heart, when we are affected by any advantageous representation of God, or by a reflection on His blessings. This I thought necessary to observe, because some weak men of a sanguine complexion are apt to be elated upon the account of those short-lived raptures and transient gleams of joy which they feel within themselves; and others of a phlegmatic constitution to despond, because they cannot work themselves up to such a degree of fervour. Whereas nothing is more precarious and uncertain than that affection which depends upon the ferment of the blood. It naturally ceases as soon as the spirits flag and are exhausted. Men of this make sometimes draw near to God with great fervency, and at other times are quite estranged from Him, like those great bodies which make very near approaches to the sun, and then all at once fly off to an immeasurable distance from the source of light. You meet a person at some happy time, when his heart overflows with joy and complacency: he makes you warm advances of friendship, he gives you admittance to the inmost secrets of his soul, and prevents all solicitation by offering, unasked, those services which you, in this soft and gentle season of address, might have been encouraged to ask. Wait but till this flush of good humour and flow of spirits is over, and you will find all this over warmth of friendship settle into coldness and indifference; and himself as much differing from himself as any one person can from another; whereas a person of a serious frame and composure of mind, consistent with himself, and therefore constant to you, goes on, without any alternate heats and colds in friendship, in an uninterrupted tenour of serving and obliging his friend. Which of these two is more valuable in himself and acceptable to you? The answer is very obvious. Just so a vein of steady, regular, consistent piety is more acceptable to that Being with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of change, than all passionate sallies and short intermitting fits of an unequal devotion. Truly to love God is not then to have a few warm notions about the Deity fluttering for a while in the breast, and afterwards leaving it void and empty of goodness. But it is to have the love of God dwelling in us. It is not a religious mood or humour, but a religious temper. It is not to be now and then pleased with our Maker in the gaiety of the heart, when, more properly speaking, we are pleased with ourselves. It is not to have a few occasional transient acts of complacency and delight in the Lord rising in our minds when we are in a vein of good humour, as the seed in the parable soon sprung up and soon withered away, because it had no root and deepness of earth, but it is to have a lasting, habitual, and determinate resolution to please the Deity rooted and grounded in our hearts, and influencing our actions throughout.

III. I proceed to examine how far the fear of the Deity is consistent with the love of Him. “There is mercy with Thee, therefore shalt Thou be feared,” is a passage in the Psalms very beautiful, as well as very apposite, to our present purpose. The thought is surprising, because it was obvious to think the sentence should have concluded thus: There is mercy with Thee, therefore shalt Thou be loved. And yet it is natural, too, since we shall be afraid to draw upon ourselves His displeasure, whom we sincerely love. The more we have an affection for Him, the more we shall dread a separation from Him. Love, though it casteth out all servile fear, yet does not exclude such a fear as a dutiful son shows to a very affectionate but a very wise and prudent father. And we may rejoice in God with reverence, as well as serve Him with gladness. Per love, if not allayed and tempered with fear and the apprehensions of Divine justice, would betray the soul into a sanguine confidence and an ill-grounded security. Fear, on the other hand, if not sweetened and animated by love, would sink the mind into a fatal despondency. Fear, therefore, is placed in the soul as a counterpoise to the more enlarged, kindly, and generous affections. It is in the human constitution what weights are to some machines, very necessary to adjust, regulate, and balance the motion of the fine, curious, and active springs. Happy the man who can command such a just and even poise of these two affections, that the one shall do nothing but deter him from offending, while the other inspirits him with a hearty desire of pleasing the Deity. (J. Seed, D. D.)

Love of God peculiar to Christianity

Do you know that ours is almost, if not quite, the only religion which teaches us to love God? The heathen do not love their gods. They are afraid of them; they are such horrid, ugly things; they are so fierce; they fear them. It was thought that the Esquimaux had no word for “love” in their language. At last they found one nearly two lines long. It makes two lines in a book-you could hardly say it. But ours is very short. If I were an Esquimaux, and I had to say “love,” I should have to write a word of two lines, made up of all sorts of words. It is a great privilege that we can love God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Love buried

I have heard it said of a man, “That man is a grave!” because something in him lay dead and buried. What do you think it was? Love. Love was dead and buried in him, so the man was a grave! I hope I have no graves here. I hope there is nobody here that is a grave; a person in whom love lies dead and buried. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Thy God

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” You won’t love Him, you will never love the Lord, till you can call Him yours. “Thy God.” “My God.” “He is my God.” If a little girl likes her doll, she says, “My doll.” if a boy likes his hoop or bat, he says, “My hoop; my bat.” We say, “My father; my mother; my brother; my sister; my little wife; my husband.” “My is such a nice word. Till you can say “thy” or “my “you will not love God. But when you can say, “My God!” then you will begin to love Him. “The Lord thy God.” When one of the Roman emperors-after a great triumph, a military victory-was coming back to Rome, he went up the Appian hill in great state, with his foes dragged at his chariot wheels. Many soldiers surrounded him, adding to Iris triumphant entry. On going up the hill, a little child broke through the crowd. “You must not go there,” said the soldiers, “that is the emperor.” The little child replied, “True, he is your emperor, but he is my father!” It was the emperor’s own little boy. He said, “He is your emperor, but he is my father.” I hope we shall be able to say that of God. He is the God of everybody; but he is my God specially. He is not only the Creator of the world,-but He is my God! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

How it is that we love God

What is the way to do it? I will tell you. When I look at some of you boys and girls down there, I cannot see much of your right cheek, but I can see your left cheek very clearly, because the light comes that way, shines directly down upon you. That is the way I see them. How do I love God? Love comes from God on me; then it shines back again on Him. I must put myself where God can shine upon me; then His love shining upon me will make a reflection go back again to Him. There is no love to God without that. It is all God’s love reflected back to Him. Have not you sometimes seen the sun setting in the evening, and it has been shining so brightly on a house that you have thought, “Really that house is on fire”? It was only the light of the sun shining back again, the reflection. So if the love of God shines on your heart, then it will shine back in love to Him. Did you ever go near a great high rock where there was an echo? You said a word, back it comes to you; you said, “Come! come!” It said, “Come! come!” It was an echo. It was your voice coming back to you. It is God’s love that comes back to you when you love Him. It is not your love. You have no right to it. It is God’s love shining upon you makes your love go back to Him. God’s love touching you goes back to Him. That is the way. I hope you will so love God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Love for God at the bottom of everything

In one of the wars in which the Emperor Napoleon was engaged, we read that one of his old soldiers, a veteran, sustained a very bad wound; and the surgeon came to dress it and probe it. He was feeling it with his probe, when the man said to the surgeon, “Sir, go deep enough; if you go quite deep, you will find at the bottom of my wound ‘emperor!’” It was all for the love of the emperor. “You will find the word ‘emperor’ at the bottom of my wound.” I wish I could think in all our wounds, on everything we do, we could find quite at the bottom of it, “I have got this wound for love of the Emperor. The love of my Emperor has given me this wound.” O that we might find at the bottom of everything, “God!” God!” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Love for God supreme

I will tell you another thing. Many years ago, there lived a schoolmaster in the Netherlands. It was at the time that a very wicked persecution was going on against the Protestants, when they had “The Inquisition.” It was a very cruel thing. The inquisitors, as they were called, put this poor man to the torture of the rack. They pulled his limbs almost asunder. This rack was a horrible instrument! have you ever seen one? You may see them in some museums. These inquisitors put men on the rack, and then pulled their joints out, thus putting them to horrible pain! When on the rack, the inquisitor said to this poor schoolmaster, “Do you love your wife and children? Won’t you, for the sake of your wife and children, give up this religion of yours? Won’t you give it up?” The poor old schoolmaster said, “If this earth were all gold, if all the stars were pearls, and if that golden globe and those pearly stars were all mine, I would give them all up to have my wife and children with me. I would rather stay in this prison, and live on bread and water with my wife and children, than live like a king without them. But I will not for the sake of pearls, or gold, or wife, or children, give up my religion, for I love my God more than wife, or child, or gold, or pearls.” But the inquisitors’ hearts did not soften a bit; they went on inflicting more tortures, till the man died on the rack. He loved God with “all his mind, and soul, and heart, and strength.” Do you think we could go to the death for Him? If we love Him, we shall every day do something for Him. What have you done this day to show your love to God? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I should just like to point you to a few ways by which we may show our love to God

Supposing you had got a very dear friend-someone whom you loved very much-should you like to be quite alone with that friend, and tell him your secrets, and for him to tell you his secrets? Did you ever do that? If you have a friend, I am sure you would like to be quite alone with him, and talk secrets. This is just what you will do with God if you love Him-you will like to be quite alone with Him; you will tell Him your secrets, and God will, tell you His secrets. He has promised this, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” He will tell you things He does not tell to everybody. He will tell you things you have not heard before. I will tell you another thing. Do you know anybody you love very much? If they go away from you, don’t you like to have a letter from them? and when a letter does come, don’t you read it from beginning to end without one wandering thought? I don’t think you can say your lessons without a wandering thought; but if you had a letter from a dear friend, I think you would give it all your best attention-from the first word to the last. Well, is there a letter from God? Yes. Here it is-the Bible! It is a letter from God Himself. If you love God, you will love His letter, and you will read it very lovingly, and attentively, and give your whole mind to it. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Loving those like God

If you have got a friend you love very much, you will like anybody who is like your friend. You will say sometimes, “I quite like that person, she is so like my mother; he is so like my friend.” You will love other Christian people, because you can say of them, “They are so like my Jesus, so like my God. I will love them therefore.” So you will like poor people. I will tell you why. I will tell you a little story, I do not know whether you ever heard of it. There was a gentleman who always used to say grace before dinner, and he used to say,

“Be present at our table, Lord,

Be here and everywhere adored:”

and his little child, his little boy, said, “Papa, you always ask Jesus Christ to come and be present at our table, but He never comes. You ask Him every day, but He never does come.” His father said, “Well, wait and see.” While at dinner that very day, there was a little knock at the door, given by a very poor man indeed, and he said,” I am starving; I am very poor and miserable. I think God loves me, and I love God, but I am very miserable; I am hungry, wretched, and cold.” The gentleman said, “Come in; come and sit down, and have a bit of our dinner.” The little boy said, “You may have all my helping.” So he gave him all his helping; and a very nice dinner the poor man had. The father-after dinner-said, “Didn’t Jesus come? You said He never came. There was that poor man, and Christ said, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me!’ Christ sends His representatives! What you have done to that poor man, it is the same as if you had done it unto God.” Then I am sure if you love people very much, you will love to work for them, and you will not mind how hard, because you love them. If you love God, you will love to do something for God. Like Jacob felt about Rachel: “He served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” I will tell you one more thing. If you love a person very much, and he has gone away from you, you will love to think he is coming back again. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Do you love Jesus

A long time ago, a gentleman, a young man, was travelling in a coach, and opposite to him there sat a lady, and the lady had a very little girl on her lap, a very sweet pretty little girl. This young man was very much pleased with the little girl: he played with her, took great notice of her, he lent her his penknife to play with; and he sang to her, and he told her little stories; he liked her so exceedingly. When the coach arrived at the hotel where they were to stop, this little girl put her face close to the young man’s, and said, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” The young man could not catch it, and so he asked, “What do you say, my dear?” She said again, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” He blushed, and went out of the coach, but he could not forget the question. There was a large party to dinner, but he could hear nothing but, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” After dinner, he went to play billiards, and while playing he could not forget it “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” He went to bed, uncomfortable in his mind. When on his bed at night, in his wakeful moments and in his dreams, he could only hear the same question, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” The next day he had to meet a lady by appointment, he was still thinking about it, he could not forget it, but spoke a little out loud, and when the young lady came in, he said, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” She said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I forgot you were present. I was saying what a very little girl said to me yesterday, ‘Does ‘oo love Jesus?’” She said, “What did you say to her?” He replied, “I said nothing. I did not know what to say.” So it went on. Five years afterwards, that gentleman was walking, I think it was through the city of Bath. As he was going along the streets, he saw at the window the very lady who had had the little girl on her lap. Seeing her, he could not help ringing the bell, and asked if he might speak to her. He introduced himself to her thus: “I am the gentleman you will remember, perhaps, who travelled with you in a coach some years since.” She said, “I remember it quite well.” He said, “Do you remember your little girl asking me a question?” She said, “I do, and I remember how confused you were about it.” He said, “May I see that little girl?” The lady looked out of the window, she was crying. He said, “What! what! is she dead?” “Yes, yes,” was the reply. “She is in heaven. But come with me, and I will show you her room. I will show you all her treasures.” And the gentleman went into the room, and there he saw her Bible, and a great many prize books, very prettily bound; and he saw all her childish playthings, and the lady said, “That is all that is now left of my sweet Lettie.” And the gentleman replied, “No, madam, that is not all that is left of her. I am left. I am left. I owe my soul to her. I was a wicked man when I first saw her, and I was living among other wicked people, and living a very bad life. But she said those words to me, and I never forgot them. And since that time I am quite changed. I am not the man I was. I am now God’s. I can answer that question now. Don’t say that all of little Lettie is gone.” And now I say to you, and to everybody in this church, “Does ‘oo love Jesus?” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The nature of love to God

I. That the love which we ought to cultivate and cherish, in reference to God, is supreme in its degree. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;” thus reminding us that, in every respect, God is to have the preeminence, because He possesses a right of absolute and entire proprietorship in us, as the author and the end of our existence because He only is adapted, in Himself and in the benefits which He has to bestow, to constitute the happiness of man, as an intelligent and immortal being. And, indeed, it cannot be otherwise: it is utterly impossible that the love of God should be a subordinate principle. Wherever it exists it must be the ascendant; from its own nature it cannot mix with anything that is unlike itself, and, in reference to its object, it cannot by possibility admit of a rival. For what is there in us to which it can be subordinated? Can the love of God in us be subordinated to the love of any sin? Certainly not; for “if any man love Me,” said the Saviour, “he will keep My commandments.” Can the love of God in us be subordinated to the love of fame? Certainly not-“How can ye believe,” said Christ, “while ye seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God?” Can the love of God be subordinated in us to the love of the world? Most certainly it cannot. This is as inimical to it, and as unlikely to mix with it, as any other principle or feeling that can be specified: “Love not the world,” says the Apostle, “neither the things of the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,”-and “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Can the love of God be subordinated in us to the love of creatures? Can it be subordinated to the love of the various comforts and enjoyments of this life? Most certainly it cannot-for what says our Lord? Why, He asserts thus much on this subject that if any man love houses or lands-that if any man love father or mother-that if any man love wife or children-that if any man love sister or brother, more than Him, he is not worthy of Him. Nay, indeed, He goes beyond this, and gives us to under stand, that where the continuance or preservation of our own life is inimical to, or incompatible with, the performance of our duty to Christ, even to this our love to God is not to be subordinated; for, says He, “If any man love his own life more than Me, he is not worthy of Me.” This is the view we are to take of that gracious empire established over man by Jesus Christ: it is not the reign of coercion or of fear, but of freedom and of love. It supposes the entire surrender of our hearts to Christ, so that Christ is enthroned in our affections, and exercises entire dominion over us, bringing every imagination and thought of the heart into entire subjection. It would be just as foolish to say, that a kingdom was given up to a conqueror while at the same time its strongholds were in possession of his adversary, as for an individual to say that he had surrendered his heart and affections to Christ, while, at the same time, these affections are placed on anything opposed to the will and inimical to the interests of Christ.

II. That the love of God, as inculcated upon us by Himself, is to be regarded as a rational exercise of our affections, implying the highest possible esteem of God. Man is not only the subject of passion, but also of reason. It is originated in us by the knowledge of God; it arises from the admission of the soul into an acquaintance with God. But this is not all: there are vast multitudes that have this knowledge of God; at the same time, they love not God. And hence we would distinctly and seriously impress it upon your minds that that knowledge of God which is to originate in us supreme affection for Him, implies the peculiar and personal application to us of the benefits of His grace-it supposes our reconciliation to God by the forgiveness of our sins, through faith in the redemption that has been wrought out by Jesus Christ. When this becomes the case, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us;” then our love assumes the character of filial love, the love which a child feels to its parent.

III. That the love of God, inculcated upon us by the precepts of His Holy Gospel, supposes supreme delight or complacency in God. Now, the exercise of our affections forms a very prominent part of that capacity of happiness by which we are distinguished; for our own experience has taught us that the presence of that object on which our affections are placed is essential to our happiness; and that its absence at any time occasions an indescribable feeling of pain, which cannot be alleviated by the presence of other objects, however excellent in themselves-for this very reason, that they do not occupy the same place in our affections. Look, for instance, at the miser: let him only accumulate wealth and add house to house and land to land, and to the presence and claims of every other object he seems completely insensible: his attention is completely engrossed with the one object of his pursuit; and, dead to everything else, he cares not to what sufferings or privations he submits, if he can only succeed in gratifying his penurious avidity. Now, look at the same principle in reference to the love of God. Wherever it exists, it lifts the soul to God, as the source and fountain of its happiness-it brings the mind to exercise the utmost possible complacency in God-it leads the mind to seek its felicity from God-it brings it to Him as to its common and only centre. God is the centre to which the soul can always tend the sun in whose beam she can bask with unutterable pleasure and delight; she finds in Him not merely a stream but a sea-a fountain of blessedness, pure and perennial, of which no accident of time can ever deprive her.

IV. That the love of God, as inculcated upon us in His Word, implies the entire and practical devotedness of ourselves to His service and glory. Ordinarily, you know, nothing is more delightful than to promote, in any possible way, the interests of those whom we love: and whatever is the sacrifice which we make, however arduous the duty we perform, in order to accomplish this object, if successful, we feel ourselves more than adequately rewarded. (John James.)

The great commandment

I. How can this love be discriminated? It is directed towards “the Lord thy God” (Psalms 16:8).

1. It may be known by its sensibility. It is the love of a bride on the day of her first espousals (Jeremiah 2:2). A new convert wants to be demonstrative. At the ancient Roman games, so we are told, the emperors, on rare occasions, in order to gratify the citizens, used to cause sweet perfumes to be rained down through the vast awnings which covered the theatres; and when the air grew suddenly fragrant, the whole audiences would instinctively arise and fill the space with shouts of acclamation for the costly and delicate refreshment (Song of Solomon 6:12).

2. This love will be characterized by humility. Call to mind David’s exclamation, for a notable illustration of such a spirit (2 Samuel 7:18-19). A sense of unworthiness really renders a lovely person more welcome and attractive.

3. This love will be recognized by its gratitude. Christians love their Saviour because He first loved them. He began the acquaintance. A true penitent will remember how much she owes for her forgiveness, and will break an alabaster box, costly and fragrant, over the Redeemer’s head (Mark 14:3). Once Dr. Doddridge secured for a sorrowful woman the pardon of her husband who had been condemned for crime; she fell at the minister’s feet in tears of overcharged feeling, and exclaimed, “Oh, my dear sir, every drop of blood in my body thanks you for your kindness to me!”

4. So this love will be manifested in consecration. What belongs to God shall be defiled by nothing earthly (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Once among the Scottish highlands, the queen of Great Britain, storm stayed, took refuge in a cottage. Not till after she had gone did the simple-hearted housekeeper learn who it was she had been sheltering under her roof. Then she gently took the chair which her sovereign had occupied, and set it reverently aside, saying, “None shall ever sit in that seat less than the heir of a crown!”

5. Then this love will be distinguished by its solicitude. It would seem as if every true convert might hear Jesus saying to him, as He said to the impotent cripple at Bethesda on receiving his cure: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee!”

II. So we reach a second question: how may this love be injured? It may be wilfully “left,” and so lost (Revelation 2:4).

1. It may lose the “heart” out of it. It was fabled that Mahomet’s coffin was suspended in the air half way between heaven and earth; that is no place for a Christian surely while he is alive. Christ said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Look at the account given of the military people who wanted to make David king (1 Chronicles 12:33-38). No man can love God with a heart for Him and another heart for somebody or something else (Psalms 12:2, margin).

2. This love may lose the “soul” out of it. See how fine seems the zeal of Naaman when he scoops up some loads of earth from the soil of Israel, that he may bear it over into Syria for an altar to Jehovah; and now see how he takes the whole worth out of it by the absurd proposition that, when his royal master walks in procession to the temple of Rimmon, he may be permitted to go as he always went, kneeling down to the idol with the rest of the heathen worshippers (2 Kings 5:17-18). When the heart is gone, and so there is no interest in loving, and the soul is gone, and there is no purpose in loving, where is love?

3. Then this love may be injured by losing the “mind” out of it. All true affection is intelligent. Defections from the true doctrines of the Scriptures are inevitably followed by a low state of piety.

4. This love may lose all the “strength” out of it. When the worldly Lord Peterborough stayed for a time with Fenelon, he was so delighted with his amiable piety that he exclaimed at parting, “If I remain here any longer, I shall become a Christian in despite of myself.” Love is a power; but it is possible that the force of it shall be mysteriously spirited away while the form of it might appear unchanged. One secret sin, or one indulged lust, will turn the whole man from its influence. We saw the story of a ship lost not a great while ago; it went on the rocks miles away from the harbour which the pilot said he was entering. The blame was passed as usual from hand to hand; but neither steers man’s skill, nor captain’s fidelity, nor sailor’s zeal, could be charged with the loss. Then it came to light at last that a passenger was trying to smuggle into port a basket of steel cutlery hid in his berth underneath the compass; that swerved the needle from the north star. A single bit of earthliness took all the strength out of the magnetism. That is to be the fate of those who try to smuggle little sins into heaven.

III. Now comes our third question: how should this love be exercised? This brings us straight to the eleventh commandment, which our Lord declares is new in some respects, but in its spirit is like the rest of the Decalogue (John 13:34). We are bidden to love our neighbour as ourselves.

1. Who is our neighbour! The answer to this is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29).

2. What are we to do for our neighbour? The answer to all such questions is found in the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). We are to comfort his body, aid his estate, enlighten his mind, advance his interests, and save his soul. There is a story that a priest stood upon the scaffold with Joan of Are till his very garments took fire with the flames which were consuming her, so zealous was he for her conversion. “None know how to prize the Saviour,” wrote the good Lady Huntingdon, “but such as are zealous in pious works for others.” (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Supreme love to God, the chief duty of man

I. The places of scripture where this great duty is enjoined, either expressly or implicitly, are the following: Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God.” Deuteronomy 10:12; Joshua 22:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

II. Let us look a little into the nature of this comprehensive duty. And without controversy it is the most excellent qualification of the human nature. This love supposes some acquaintance with God: not only a knowledge that there is such a Being, but a just notion of His nature and perfections. And further, this love of God is justifiable in the highest degrees possible; nay, it is more laudable in proportion to its ardency, and the influence it has on our thoughts and on the actions of life: whereas love to our fellow mortals may rise into unlawful extremes, and produce ill effects. Even natural affection, such, for instance, as that of parents to their children, may exceed due bounds and prove a snare to us, and be the occasion of many sins: but the love of God can never have too much room in the heart, nor too powerful an influence on our conduct; but ought to rule most extensively, and to govern and direct in all our purposes and practices.

III. Let us now, in some particulars, consider the excellency of this duty.

1. The object of it is the infinitely perfect God; the contemplation of whose glories gives the angels inexpressible and everlasting delight; nay, furnishes the eternal mind with perfect unchangeable happiness.

2. Love to God is a celestial attainment: it flames in the upper world; heaven is full of this love. God necessarily loves Himself; takes delight in His own glory; reflects upon His own perfections with eternal complacency: the Son loves the Father; the angels and the spirits of the just behold the face of God with entire satisfaction.

3. The love of God is the noblest endowment of the mind of man. It more exalts the soul, and gives it a greater lustre than any other virtue. Nay, this is the most excellent part of godliness, internal godliness.

4. The excellency of this gracious principle, love to God, will appear, if we consider it as productive of the most excellent fruits. Love is the fulfilling of the law. It prepares us for communion with God, for gracious communications from Him, for delight in Him, for a participation of the comforts of the Spirit, for the light of God’s countenance, a sense of His love to us, and a lively hope of glory.

5. Without love we cannot be approved and accepted of God, either in religious worship, or in the common actions of life. What the apostle says of faith, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” we may likewise say of love.

6. Love to God entitles us to many special privileges and blessings.

7. Besides the promises of the life that now is, they have a claim to such as relate to another life. It is not in this life only they have hope, there is an eternity of glory provided for them; they shall have the pleasure of an everlasting view of the infinite beauties of the Deity, and forever feel the ravishment of that incomprehensible glory.

8. It likewise prepares the soul for heaven, adapts the mind to celestial entertainments. It meetens us for the presence of God, as it is an ardour like that which is raised by the heavenly vision, though so much below it in degree.

IV. The reasons for the love of God.

1. The infinite perfections of God call for our highest esteem and love.

2. Creating goodness teaches us to adore and love our Maker.

3. The consideration of God’s preserving care directs us to love Him.

4. The liberality and bounty of God in making provision for mankind is what should by no means be overlooked, but considered and acknowledged to the praise of His goodness, and should incline our hearts to the great Benefactor.

5. The patience of God is engaging, and should attract the soul to Him, and dispose us cheerfully to return to obedience with grateful resentment of His unmerited and forfeited goodness.

6. The titles which God is pleased to take on Himself with regard to His people should be thought an inducement to love Him, at least by those who hope they have an interest in His special favour.

7. The promises of God are of an attractive engaging nature, and are mate to gain our hearts, and to render the paths of duty pleasant.

8. Redeeming grace directs our hearts into the love of God.

9. Another argument directing and pressing us to the love of God is the distinguishing goodness of God to us in giving us the gospel revelation.

10. With respect to those I have mentioned, and all other instances of the love of God, the disinterestedness of it exalts and magnifies it, and shows Him to be infinitely worthy of our esteem and love. We are bound to love the Lord our God for the hope He has given us as to another life; hope of a fulness of joys and pleasures for evermore, blessedness mere suitable to the highest powers of the soul than any that we enjoy here, and lasting as eternity itself.

V. I must now lay before you, in some particulars, the fruits of this excellent principle in the soul of man.

1. Love to God will produce obedience, voluntary, cheerful obedience.

2. Love to God will beget in us a sincere affection for the people of God, such as in the gracious condescending style of the Scripture are called His children.

3. Love to God will moderate your affections towards worldly enjoyments, which are apt to take up too much room in our hearts, and to engross unlawful degrees of our love.

4. It will qualify you for dutiful submission to God under temporal evils, and bodily afflictions, and prevent complaints against God.

5. Love to God will prepare you for communion with God, manifestations of Himself to you.

6. It fits the soul for delightful meditation upon God.

7. If you truly love God, you will delight in His worship, you will love the house of God.

8. Love to God will furnish you with a lively hope of glory. What remains further to be done on this subject is to add some inferences and exhortations.

The inferences are the following:

1. If the love of God be a great and indispensable duty, then the whole of religion does not lie in love to our neighbour; much less does it in being just and honest in our dealings, giving to all their due, and doing no one any harm.

2. If the love of God be so great a duty, and there are so many clear unanswerable arguments to prove it to be so, what a horrid accursed wickedness is it to hate God!

3. What a vast advantage is it to enjoy the gospel revelation, where we have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ!

4. If to love the Lord our God with all our heart be the first and great commandment, then we are greatly concerned to inquire, whether we have this Divine principle in the soul.

I have a few particulars of exhortation to add, and with these I shall finish this subject.

1. Believe in God, His existence, His glorious perfections, His infinite, eternal, unchangeable rectitude, His providence, His care of His creatures, His mercy and love, His general goodness to all.

2. Use yourselves to meditation on those attributes of God which have a more direct tendency to attract esteem and love, the attributes which are as it were the spring from whence blessings flow to His creatures, such as His compassion, mercy, and goodness.

3. Believe the gospel. God’s purposes of love to fallen man before the foundation of the world, the incarnation of the Son of God, the sufferings and death of the Mediator, remission of sin purchased by His blood.

4. Be conversant with the Scriptures, which were written to bring us to God as the fountain of good and the author of happiness, to raise and improve in the mind all gracious affections towards Him, and, among the rest, our love to Him,

5. Labour to get the heart more purified from natural corruption.

6. Take care to keep your affections towards other things within due bounds, that they may not lessen your esteem of God. (Thomas Whitty.)


Verse 31

Mark 12:31

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The second great commandment, love to our neighbour

I. I shall make a few observations concerning the nature of this duty. This phraseology has been very differently understood by different persons. Some have supposed it to contain a direction that we should love our neighbour with the same kind of love, which is exercised towards ourselves. This plainly cannot be its meaning. The love which we usually and naturally exercise towards ourselves is selfish and sinful. Others have insisted, that we are required to love them in the same manner as ourselves. This cannot be the meaning. For we love ourselves inordinately, unreasonably, without candour, or equity; even when the kind of love is really evangelical. Others, still, have supposed, that the command obliges us to love our neighbour in exactly the same degree in which we ought to love ourselves. This interpretation, though nearer the truth than the others, is not, I apprehend, altogether agreeable to the genuine meaning of the text. It has, if I mistake not, been heretofore shown satisfactorily, that we are in our very nature capable of understanding, realizing, and feeling whatever pertains to ourselves more entirely than the same things when pertaining to others; that our own concerns are committed to us by God in a peculiar manner; that God has made it in a peculiar manner our duty to “provide for our own, especially for those of our own households”; and that thus a regard to ourselves, and those who are ours, is our duty in a peculiar degree. To these things it may be justly added that we are not bound to love all those included under the word neighbour, in the same degree. Some of these persons are plainly of much greater importance to mankind than others; are possessed of greater talents, of higher excellence, and of more usefulness. Whether we make their happiness or their excellence the object of our love; in other words, whether we regard them with benevolence, or complacency, we ought plainly to make a difference, and often a wide one, between them; because they obviously and exceedingly differ in their characters and circumstances. A great, excellent, and useful man, such as St. Paul was, certainly claims a higher degree of love from us than a person totally inferior to him in these characteristics. For these, and various other reasons, I am of opinion, that the precept in the text requires us to love our neighbour generally and indefinitely as ourselves. The love which we exercise towards him is ever to be the same in kind, which we ought to exercise towards ourselves; regarding both ourselves and him as members of the intelligent kingdom; as interested substantially in the same manner in the Divine favour as in the same manner capable of happiness, moral excellence, and usefulness; of being instruments of glory to God, and of good to our fellow creatures; as being originally interested alike in the death of Christ; and, with the same general probability, heirs of eternal life. This explanation seems to be exactly accordant with the language of the text. “As” does not always denote exact equality. In many cases, for example, in most cases of commutative justice, and in many of distributive justice, it is in our power to render to others exactly that which we render to ourselves. Here, I apprehend, exactness becomes the measure of our duty. The love which I have here described is evidently disinterested; and would in our own case supply motives to our conduct so numerous and so powerful as to render selfish affections useless to us. Selfishness therefore is a principle of action totally unnecessary to intelligent beings as such, even for their own benefit.

II. The love here required extends to the whole intelligent creation. This position I shall illustrate by the following observations:-

1. That it extends to our families, friends, and countrymen, will not be questioned.

2. That it extends to our enemies, and by consequence to all mankind, is decisively taught by our Saviour in a variety of Scriptural passages. It is well known that the Pharisees held the doctrine, that, while we were bound to love our neighbour, that is, our friends, it was lawful to hate our enemies. On this subject I observe

3. This term, of course, extends to all other intelligent beings, so far as they are capable of being objects of love; or in other words, so far as they are capable of being happy.

4. The love required in this precept extends in its operations to all the good offices which we are capable of rendering to others.

Remarks:

1. From these observations it is evident, that the second great command of the moral law is, as it is expressed in the text, “like the first.” It is not only prescribed by the same authority, and possessed of the same obligation, unalterable and eternal; but it enjoins exactly the exercise of the same disposition.

2. Piety and morality are here shown to be inseparable.

3. We here see that the religion of the Scriptures is the true and only source of all the duties of life. (T. Dwight, D. D.)

The second commandment

I. Explain the second command.

1. Who is my neighbour?

2. What is my duty to my neighbour? It includes:

3. What is the measure of duty to your neighbour? “To love him as yourself.” Self-love is thus lawful and excellent, and even necessary. It is not the disposition which leads unregenerate man to gratify vicious appetites and passions. This is rather self-hatred. Nor that which leads us to grasp at all advantages, regardless of the consequences to others. This is selfishness. But that principle which is inseparable from our being; by which we are led to promote our own happiness, by avoiding evil and acquiring the greatest possible amount of good. This is the measure for our neighbour. While avoiding everything that would injure him in body, family, property, reputation, seek to do him all the good you can, and do it in the way in which you would promote your own welfare.

Now, how does a man love himself?

1. Tenderly and affectionately. Then so love your neighbour. While helping him, never show sourness of countenance or use asperity of language.

2. Sincerely and ardently. This will make him prompt and diligent, in everything he thinks, for his good. “Say not unto him, go and come again, and tomorrow I will give, when thou hast it by thee.” Our opportunities for doing, as for getting, good are precarious. Now is the accepted time.

3. Patiently and perseveringly. So if we do not succeed by one means we try another, keeping on to life’s end. Consider how varied the means which God employed with you. Having thus explained the text, let us,

II. Enforce it. In doing this, we make our appeal.

1. To authority. His, who is Lord of all.

2. To example. Example is of two kinds. First, those we are bound to imitate: these are strictly patterns for us. Secondly, those which, though we are not obliged to follow, yet, for their excellence, are worthy of imitation.

3. To the connection and dependence which subsist between us and our neighbour. We are parts of one and the same body, and each is expected to contribute to the general good.

4. How much present pleasure arises from the exercise of this duty. This is present pleasure; and have we not present advantages too? Is not charity a gain?

5. Advert to the future recompense of benevolence.

The duty of loving our neighbour as ourselves explained

It is not said, thou shalt love thy neighbour with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. No, that would have been carrying the point too high, and scarce have left any sufficient note of distinction between what we owe to man, and what we owe to God only.

I. To show what neighbour, in the text, means. The word neighbour primarily and properly signifies one that is situated near unto us, or one that dwelleth nigh us. But by use and custom of language, the same word neighbour has been made to signify one that we are any way allied to, however distant in place, or however removed from the sphere of our conversation or acquaintance. From all which it is plain, that in construction of gospel law, every man whom we can any way serve, is our neighbour. And as God is a lover of mankind at large, so ought every good man to consider himself as a citizen of the world, and a friend to the whole race; in real effect to many, but in good inclination and disposition, and in kind wishes and prayers, to all. So much for the extent of the name, or notion of neighbour.

II. Next, I am to explain, what it is to love our neighbour, or all men, as we love our own selves. There is the more need of frequent exercise this way, because indeed selfishness is originally sown in our very nature, and may perhaps be justly called our original depravity. It shows itself in the first dawn of our reason, and is never well cured, but by a deep sense of religion, or much self-reflection. From hence may appear our Lord’s profound wisdom and deep penetration into the darkest recesses of man’s heart; while to the precept of loving one’s neighbour, He superadds this home consideration, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Not so highly, or so dearly, as you love yourself (for that is not expected) but as highly and truly as you could reasonably desire of him, if his case and circumstances were yours and yours were his. Judge from yourself, and your own just expectations from others, how you ought to behave towards them, in like cases and circumstances.

III. Having thus competently explained the precept of the text, it remains now only, that in the third and last place, I lay down some considerations proper to enforce it.

1. First, Let it be considered, that this second commandment, relating to the love of our neighbour, is so like the first, relating to the love of God, and so near akin to it, and so wrapp’d up in it, that they are both, in a manner, but one commandment. He that truly, sincerely, consistently loves God, must of course, love his neighbour also: or if he does not really love his neighbour, he cannot, with any consistency or truth, be said to love God.

2. It may further be considered (which indeed is but the consequence of the former) that by this very rule will the righteous Judge of all men proceed at the last day; as our Lord Himself has sufficiently intimated in the twenty-fifth of St. Matthew. (D. Waterland, D. D.)

The proof of brotherly love

It is said that when the story of West India slavery was told to the Moravians, and it was told that it was impossible to reach the slave population because they were so separated from the ruling classes, two Moravian missionaries offered themselves, and said: “We will go and be slaves on the plantations, and work and toil, if need be, under the lash, to get right beside the poor slaves and instruct them.” And they left their homes, went to the West Indies, went to work on the plantations as slaves, and by the side of slaves, to get close to the hearts of slaves; and the slaves heard them, and their hearts were touched, because they had humbled themselves to their condition. (Bishop Simpson.)

Love to each other should he constant

“On the top of the Mourns Mountains in the North of Ireland there is a clear, cool pool of water. The bill on which it is situated is very high and steep, and when you have laboured to the top you feel very tired, hot, and thirsty, especially if it be a warm day. How gratefully you drink of the clear, cool water, and you think that if you had met with it half way up the hill the ascent would have been much easier completed. The peculiar thing about this well is that on the warmest day in summer the water is always cold, almost ice cold; and on the coldest day in winter the water will not freeze, but is exactly the same all the year round. The well is a spring, or rather a running stream which suddenly emerges from the earth, showing itself at this place, and immediately disappearing. When I looked at that I thought, should this not teach Christians a lesson? Should not brotherly love springing from Christ, and making its appearance as an unexpected refreshing stream in us, flow constantly, swiftly, and strongly, refreshing, and strengthening, and preparing for new efforts, all with whom we come in contact, and such, that no matter what trouble or annoyance may come in the way, the love of Christ flowing through us may be strong enough to sweep them all away and leave us as clear and calm as ever-loving and kindly affectionate one towards another as ever.” (Forbes.)

The nature of true laudable self-love

I. Endeavour to explain to you the nature of true laudable self-love and show you what is not meant by it. The mistakes to which we are generally liable as to this matter; and then what we are to understand by self-love, in what respects it is our duty.

1. That it is not self-conceit, an extravagant opinion of our own qualifications, and an unreasonable esteem and value for ourselves.

2. By self-love I do not mean self-indulgence, allowing ourselves in the gratification of sensual appetites without restraint or control, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and giving liberty to our own inclinations and passions however irregular and unbounded.

3. Neither does this duty consist in taking care only for the body, in employing all our thought and care, spending all our pains, and all our time in making provision for our subsistence in the world.

4. By loving ourselves, I do not mean what we may call selfishness, a confining our regard and concern wholly to ourselves, minding our own pleasures, or our own interest, not caring what becomes of others, what difficulties they go through, what miseries they suffer. For a further explication of this duty of love to ourselves, take the following particulars.

II. Our love must extend to our whole selves, body and soul.

III. True love to ourselves must have respect to eternity as well as time. The arguments for rational religious self-love are such as the following.

1. The excellent nature of the soul requires a regard for ourselves, and a concern for our own welfare, and particularly for the true happiness of the soul.

2. To love ourselves, and to show a concern for our own welfare is a natural duty.

3. Your eternal salvation depends upon your serious concern for yourselves.

4. Consider the love of God to souls, manifested in his declarations of goodness and mercy.

5. How great is the loss of the soul! It is shameful folly and ignorance to think that any pleasure you can find in the way of sin will in any measure compensate it: What is a man profited. (Thomas Whitty.)


Verse 32

Mark 12:32

Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth.

The Divine echo in the human heart

Man needs a Saviour. The heart of man answers, “Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth.” What are the practical consequences of our having this responsive faculty?

I. Man is made a co-worker with God; not a machine, but a cooperating agent.

II. Man enjoys the restraints of conscience. The Bible appeals to and has the consent of conscience.

III. God bases His judgment upon this responsive faculty. “To him that knoweth to do good,” etc. The judgment day will be short, because every man will be his own witness. (The Pulpit Analyst.)


Verse 34

Mark 12:34

Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.

Need of self-examination

There is great cause for every one of us diligently to try and examine our knowledge and faith in Christ, whether it be true, sound, and sincere; or whether it be an hypocritical and counterfeit faith, seeing one may be “not far from the kingdom,” and yet not in it. The rather, because so many deceive themselves with a vain persuasion and opinion of faith, thinking they have true faith in Christ, when it is not so. We are to try our faith by those marks of it, which are taught in the Word of God.

1. By the object of it. True faith believes and applies not only the promises of the gospel touching forgiveness of sins and salvation in Christ, but also all other parts of God’s Word, as the precepts and commandments of it forbidding sin and commanding holy duties, also the reproofs and threatenings denounced against sin and sinners.

2. By the means by which we attained to it, and by which it is daily nourished in us.

3. By the contrary sin of unbelief. Look whether thou feel and complain of thy unbelief, and doubtings of God’s mercy and forgiveness of thy sins in Christ, and whether thou daily pray and strive against such doubtings.

4. By the fruits and effects of it, especially by our hatred of sin, and care to avoid it, and to live holily. (G. Petter.)

Danger of this state

Among those who have turned out to be the most determined enemies of the gospel are many who once were so near conversion that it was a wonder they avoided it. Such persons seem ever after to take vengeance upon the holy influence which had almost proved too much for them. Hence our fear for persons under gracious impressions; for, if they do not now decide for God, they will become the more desperate in sin. That which is set in the sun, if it be not softened, will be hardened. I remember well a man who, under the influence of an earnest revivalist, was brought to his knees, to cry for mercy, in the presence of his wife and others; but never afterwards would he enter a place of worship, or pay attention to religious conversation. He declared that his escape was so narrow, that he would never run the risk again. Alas, that one should graze the gate of heaven, and yet drive on to hell! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Nearly a Christian

After being twelve days on shipboard, I awakened in the morning and saw the American coast. The headlands seemed beautiful; even Sandy Hook seemed attractive. I was impatient to get on shore. It seemed as if we never would get free from quarantine, or get up the Narrows, or come to our friends who stood on the wharf waiting for us. I think that the most tedious part of a voyage is the last two or three hours. Well, there are many before me who are in the position I have described myself as once having been in. You have been voyaging on towards Christian life; you have found it a rough passage; a hurricane from Mount Sinai has smitten you, but now you see lighthouses, and you see buoys, and the great headlands of God’s mercy stretching out into the ocean of your transgression. You are almost ashore. I have come here tonight to see you land. You are very near being a Christian-“Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” O that this might be the hour for your emancipation. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Lost within sight of home

A Christian minister says: “When after safely circumnavigating the globe, the Royal Charter went to pieces in Moelfra Bay, on the coast of Wales, it was my melancholy duty to visit and seek to comfort the wife of the first officer, made by that calamity a widow. The ship had been telegraphed from Queenstown, and the lady was sitting in the parlour expecting her husband, with the table spread for his evening meal, when the messenger came to tell her he was drowned. Never can I forget the grief, so stricken and tearless, with which she wrung my hand, as she said, ‘So near home, and yet lost!’ That seemed to me the most terrible of sorrow. But, ah! that is nothing to the anguish which must wring the soul which is compelled to say at last, ‘Once I was at the very gate of heaven, and had almost entered in, but now I am in hell!’”

Not quite saved is lost

Suppose you stop where you are, and go no further? Suppose you perish at the gate? Suppose I tell you that multitudes have come just where you are, and got no further? Do you know that to be almost saved is not to be saved at all? Suppose a man is going up a ladder and he slip, from what round had he better slip? If he slip from the bottom rung it is not half so perilous as if from the top. Suppose you are making an effort for eternal life, and you have come almost to the kingdom of heaven, and you fall-not quite saved, almost saved, very near the kingdom of God, not quite-but lost! A vessel came near the Long Island coast, and was split amid the breakers in a violent storm. They were within a stone’s throw of being saved, when a violent wave took the boat and capsized it, and they perished-almost ashore, but not quite. And there are men who are pulling away towards the shore of safety. Nearer and nearer they are coming. I can say to them tonight: Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. But you have not quite reached it. Alas! if you stop where you are, or if a wave of worldliness capsizes your soul, and you perish almost within arm’s reach of the kingdom! O do not stop where you are. Having come so near the kingdom of God, push on! push up! Will you tantalize your soul by stopping so near the kingdom of God? Will you come to look over the fence into the heavenly orchard, when you might go in and pluck the fruit? Will you sit down in front of the well curb, when a few more turns of the windlass might bring up the brimming buckets of everlasting life? (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Not far off

The man to whom these words were addressed was a candid inquirer.

I. The characteristics of those who are not far from the kingdom.

1. They may possess considerable knowledge of Scripture.

2. They may make a candid confession of their belief.

3. They may have strong convictions of sin.

4. They may have a desire to amend their lives.

5. They may have partially reformed. They only need repentance and faith.

II. The reasons why they do not enter the kingdom.

1. Difficulties in the way.

2. Advantages in a middle course.

3. Belief that they are Christians already.

4. Reluctance to observe the needful conditions.

III. The inducements to enter.

1. The blessedness of those who do.

2. The misery of those who do not. (Seeds and Saplings.)

“So near:”

I. What are its marks?

1. Truthfulness of spirit.

2. Spiritual perception.

3. Acquaintance with the law.

4. Teachableness.

5. A sense of need of Christ.

6. A horror of wrongdoing.

7. A high regard for holy things.

8. Diligent attention to the means of grace.

II. What are its dangers? There is danger-

1. Lest you slip back from this hopefulness.

2. Lest you rest content to stop where you are.

3. Lest you grow proud and self-righteous.

4. Lest instead of candid you become indifferent.

5. Lest you die ere the decisive step is taken.

III. What are its duties?

1. Thank God for dealing so mercifully with you.

2. Admit with deep sincerity that you need supernatural help for entrance into the kingdom.

3. Tremble lest the decisive step be never taken.

4. Decide at once, through Divine grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

For the candid and thoughtful

I. The commendation which is here expressed.

1. He possessed candour.

2. He possessed spiritual knowledge.

3. He knew the superiority of an inward religion over that which is external.

4. He saw the supremacy of God over the whole of our manhood.

5. Yet he did not despise outward religion so far as it was commanded of God.

II. The question which is here suggested. This man came so near to the kingdom; did he ever enter it?

1. There is no reason why he should not have done so.

2. But perhaps he never did enter the kingdom. If he did not enter, one of the reasons, no doubt, would be-that he was afraid of his fellow men. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Not far from God’s kingdom

I. We find many excellent people whose goodness is of a negative kind. By judicious management and advice of parents and teachers, they have grown up free from the grossest sins.

II. Another class of persons are fitted by the character of their minds, and the nature of their studies, to take an interest in Christianity and the Church from an intellectual point of view. But let such remember that religion is something more than correctness of intellect; it is a life-giving principle, regulating the will, as well as directing the creed.

III. A third class who, in disposition and habits are not far from the kingdom of God, may be described as the amiable.

IV. One other class which I shall speak of, as embracing many “not far from the kingdom of God,” is that of the generous and liberal spirited. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Not quite in time

To see a friend riding briskly away, by the time we have reached the door to deliver a parting message; to have the boat pushed off from the dock, while we are hurrying down to get on board. These small disappointments will serve as illustrations in greater things. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Indecision dangerous

I. Are there not many bearing the Christian name who, though not far from the kingdom of God, have never yet passed the boundary which separates them from the world

1. In this state there are those who have correct views of doctrinal truth without a spirit of devotion.

2. They are not far from the kingdom, but do not belong to that kingdom, who are the subjects of frequent and powerful convictions, yet have never been converted to God.

3. They are not far from the kingdom, but do not belong to it, who cultivate amiable tempers and agreeable manners, and yet are strangers to the influence and grace of the Divine Spirit.

II. Are there not some reasons to be assigned as causes why may of you continue so long go hover round the borders of the kingdom of God, yet never enter it? Your conduct carries in it a multitude of strange inconsistencies.

1. Your hovering still round the outer borders of the kingdom of God must be ascribed to a want of firm decision of mind.

2. It must be ascribed to a want of warm and loyal attachment to the blessed Immanuel, the Prince of life.

3. It must be ascribed to a want of true faith and humility.

III. While you continue without the boundary of the kingdom of God, at whatever point of nearness, is not your state a state of awful dancer? You are more liable to self-deception than vile profligates; you are commanded; you are in danger of attaching too much consequence to the soundness of your creed and strictness of your morals. Do not expect to glide into the kingdom without effort or hindrance.

1. You must press into the kingdom by casting off every incumbrance, and by forsaking every prejudice and passion which has a tendency to entangle and obstruct your progress.

2. You must press into the kingdom through all possible resistance. (J. Thornton.)

“Not far from the kingdom”

True praise never does harm; it softens and humbles. Yet this man belonged to a class which had no right to expect any indulgence at Christ’s hand. Christ sees the good points of the scribe. There is a “kingdom of God” in this world, and it has distinct boundary lines. What was there in the man which made Christ speak of him as “near to the kingdom”?

I. That the scribe spoke practically and sensibly, and without prejudice-as Christ expresses it, “discreetly.” Such a mind will always be approximating to the kingdom of truth.

II. There were further indications, in the particular thoughts which were in the scribe’s mind, that he was nearing the shores of truth. It is plain that he saw before his eyes the true, relative value of the types and ceremonies of the Jewish church. He recognized them as inferior to the great principles of truth and love. His mind had travelled so far as to see that the sum of all true religion is love to God and man. How is that love of God implanted in a man’s breast? Will the beauties of nature do it? Will the kindnesses of Providence do it? Will the natural instincts of gratitude do it? I think not. There must be the sense of forgiveness. Within this he distinguished and magnified the unity of God. “For there is one God,” etc. The unity of God the argument for a unity of service.

III. And perhaps, still more than all, that enlightened Jew had been drawn near to the Person of Christ. Consequently he consulted Him as a Teacher. Do we not know that Christ is the kingdom of God, and that we are all in or out of that kingdom just according to what Christ is to us? To be indifferent to Him is to be very “far off;” to feel the need of Him is to be “near.”

IV. The most affecting of all possible conditions is a nearness which never enters. If I had to select the most awful passage in history, I should select the Israelites on the Canaanitish boundary-they saw, they heard, they tasted, they were on the eve to pass;-they disbelieved, they did not go in, they were sent back, and they never came near again; but their carcasses fell in the wilderness. It will be an unutterably solemn thing if Christ shall, at the last, say to any of us, “Thou wast not far from the kingdom of God.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Critical hours

The kingdom of heaven is a certain condition of the human soul. Christ stands contrasted with the condition of selfishness, vulgarity, animalism. See how it comes directly out of the controversy here: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” The superior love of God is what we mean by spirituality-the fulness of thought, imagination, and feeling in the direction of the Infinite. We know how men divide themselves up, and live under the dominant influence of certain parts or faculties of their nature. One man lives under the dominion of his passions; another class of men build themselves into a power in which property and collateral influences shall be central. These dominant states in which men dwell will give us an idea of what it is to be in that condition in which Christ says men are not far from the kingdom of heaven. When a man has attained the higher spiritual state, then he is in the kingdom of God. Then his mind becomes luminous. The man comes into union with God, and discerns truths which in his lower state he never could discern. When, therefore, a man is said to be not far from the kingdom of God, he is where he can easily enter into these higher perceptions and conditions. There are a great many persons who are bordering on the kingdom of heaven even in this life. There are luminous hours given to most men, and especially to men of large brain and intelligence. Persons in vulgar conditions of life have certain hours given to them which they do not understand, but which render them susceptible of being drawn into the kingdom of heaven.

1. There are hours of vision in which men are under the direct stimulus of the preached truth.

2. Sometimes the same result is produced because they have seen the truth embodied somewhere. A man goes to a funeral, and comes home and says, “That was a great man; I wish I were like him. I wish I were living on a higher plane.”

3. There are times of awakening that are the result of great sorrows and affliction in some natures. When men see how uncertain is everything that pertains to life, they say, “I ought to have an anchor within the veil.”

4. When men are in great distress in their social relations there is oftentimes a luminous hour. I do not say that if men neglect the first impulse to change their course they will never have another; the mercy of God calls a great many times; but very likely they will not have another that is so influential. If, however, in such hours of disclosure, hours of influence, hours in which everything urges him toward a nobler and a better life, a man would ratify his impulse to go forward, even though at first he stagger on the journey, he would not be far from the kingdom of God; but if he waits, you may be sure that these hours will pass away and be submerged. That is where the real force comes in. All the civilized world sent out men to take an observation of the transit of Venus; and when the conjunction came it was indispensably necessary to the success of the undertaking that the very first contact should be observed. An astronomer who had devoted six months to preparation, and has gone out to take this observation, eats a heavy dinner and takes copious draughts of liquid to wash it down, and lies down, saying, “Call me at the proper time,” and goes to sleep; and by and by he is waked up and is told, “The planet approaches,” and, half conscious, he turns over and says, “Yes, yes, yes, I will attend to it; but I must finish my nap first;” and before he is aware of it the thing is all over, and he has thrown away the pains he has taken to prepare himself. It was important that he should be on hand to take the observation on the second; and the whole failed, so far as he was concerned, for want of precise accuracy. A little girl sickened and died. She might have recovered; for the nature of the disease was such that if it had been watched, and if stimulants had been applied at the critical moment, they would have been like oil in a half or wholly exhausted lamp. But this was not known, and the child slept, and the caretaker thought the sleep was all right, and it slept itself out of life. The child might have been alive, walking and talking with us today, if it had not been for that. There are such critical moments as those, and they are occurring in human experience everywhere-in health, in sickness, in business, in pleasure, in love, in political affairs, in all the congeries of circumstances in which men live and move. (H. W. Beecher.)

Pharisaical righteousness to be exceeded

I. What is here meant by the kingdom of God?

II. What is meant by being far from this kingdom?

1. In regard of the means

2. In regard of the terms: Namely, the state in which they are at present, compared with the state which they stand in opposition unto. They are far from the kingdom of God as being destitute of those personal qualifications in order to it. Their principles and life are remote. The notoriously wicked (Ephesians 5:5; Romans 21:8; Revelation 22:15). Hypocrites or secret enemies. All such as are formal but not pious.

3. In regard of the event. In regard of God’s purpose and degree concerning them. This was the case of Paul. He was far from God’s kingdom in regard of the terms and his personal qualification; yet, in regard of the event, was very near. Sometimes the most notorious offenders are nearer conversion than civil persons. Let us look more minutely at the text.

III. It is a word of commendation: an acknowledgment of that reality of goodness which was in the Scribe, and so encouraging him in it. If we see beginnings of good in any, to cherish them. We should not break the bruised reed, etc., nor nip the sproutings of grace.

1. This does honour God Himself in the bestowing of His graces. He that takes notice of the streams acknowledges the fountain whence they proceed.

2. We draw men on further and make them more willing to improve; it is the whetstone of virtue.

3. By this course we occasionally work upon others who are much moved by such examples.

IV. It is also a word of diminution. Thou art not quite at home; you must go further; an excitement. We must not flatter so as to make beginners satisfied with less grace, but urge them forward. The speech of our Lord was effectual to him hereunto in sundry respects.

1. It showed him his defects and imperfections, for which he had need to go further. There is no greater hindrance to improvement than a conceit of perfection: when men think they are at their journey’s end, they will not step any further; but when they are persuaded that they are not at home, they will set them upon going (Philippians 3:12-13).

2. It showed him also his hopes and possibilities: that is another excitement to endeavour. There is hope of coming hither, for you are almost there.

3. It showed him also his engagements, from what he had done already, to proceed. You have already made some endeavour, do not decline and grow worse. We should imitate Christ in helping others forward in religion, as Aquila and Priscilla did Apollos. Consider these words as reflectively, as coming from Christ the speaker of them. We should discern and distinguish persons. He discerned the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees in the foregoing part of the chapter; now He discerns the sincerity of the Scribe.

V. The occasion whereupon his censure was passed. “When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly.” This includes those things.

1. Distinctly as to the matter of his answer. He was right in the notion and in the thing itself. He who knows anything of religion knows that it does not lie in outside duties, but in a gracious soul; yet he does not take away the forms. Those which are above ordinances are below heaven; and they which hate instruction shall never partake of salvation.

2. He answered intelligently as to the principle from whence he answered. He did not speak by rote, but he was able to give a rational account of his religion. We must believe more than we can understand, and yet we must also understand why we believe.

3. He was hearty and serious in it. He spoke as a man that had some savour of that which he spoke. A man may be an orthodox divine, and yet but a sorry Christian.

4. He answered discreetly; that is prudently, as to the manner of it. It was with humility, teachableness, and submission to Christ. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Near but not secure

He perishes for want of that remedy which otherwise might be supplied withal. As it is sometimes in the body; those which have great sicknesses, they many times get up and recover, whilst those which have some smaller distemper, do perhaps die under it. What’s the reason of it, and how comes it about? Why, the one, thinking himself to be in danger, goes to the physician; the other, being more secure, neglects him, and looks not after him. Thus it is with men also in religion; civility trusted in is further off from conversion than profaneness in the effects and consequents of it. This was the case of the Jews in comparison of the Gentiles. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Mere morality alone is remote from the kingdom of God

Civility left alone to itself would never be grace, nor attain to the consequents of it. These two are at a very wide distance one from the other, and left alone, would never meet together. Though mere civility be not so far from the kingdom of God as absolute profaneness, yet it will never come thither, no more than profaneness itself. A mere civil man is as truly excluded from heaven as a profane man. I say as truly, though not in so great a degree. To explain it to you by an easy and familiar resemblance: Dover (for example) is not so far from Calais as London, yet he that goes no further than Dover shall never come to Calais, no more than be that stays at London. So here, a mere moral or civil person is not so remote from salvation as a debauched; but yet if he goes no further than morality, he will come short of it as well as the other. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Nearness not possession

A man may be almost in possession of a fortune; but that adds not to his credit at the bank. A man may be almost honest, or almost sober; but that will be no recommendation to a position of trust and responsibility. And as with these, so with the kingdoms of mental force, health, and social influence; nearness is not sufficient. How near it is possible to be to the kingdom of God without being in, we know not. Nor do we know how it is possible to remain near without entering; unless it be that those who are near mistake nearness for, possession. Notice:

Not far from the kingdom of God

There are, then, different degrees of approximation to the light. Let us consider-

I. Some of those things which bring a man near the kingdom of God.

II. What is needed to make a man decidedly belong to the kingdom of God? Our Lord’s words imply that, with all that is favourable in this man, there is still something wanting. He perceived the claim of God’s law, and admitted it to be spiritual; but, so far as we can see, he had no conviction of that hopeless violation of it which only a Divine deliverer like Christ could meet. Then, too, while admiring Christ’s teaching, he gave no sign of his soul bowing before Him as a teacher sent from God, still less of his being ready to follow Him as his spiritual leader, to cast in his lot with Him, to walk in His steps and do His will. He lacked

On the verge of the kingdom

I. The qualities which consist with the state here described.

1. Religious knowledge. You may have an accurate creed, an extensive acquaintance with the Bible, a power to discuss with clearness and precision controverted points, without the will being influenced, the affections purified, the life and conversation regulated.

2. A life of blameless uprightness and integrity. Many things may tend to preserve you from the commission of great sins, besides real love for God, e.g., a prudent regard to your own well-being and well-doing in the world.

3. Strong convictions of sin, and even consequent amendment. You may, like Herod, do “many things,” and yet neglect “the one thing needful.” Outward reformation is not necessarily the result of an inward moral change.

4. Carefully maintained habits of public and private devotion. The form may be kept up long after the spirit has vanished.

II. The reasons people remain in this dangerous state.

1. A want of real and heartfelt love to God. We must give God and the things of God not only a place, but the first place in our heart. The service He requires is that which springs from a real preference of Himself.

2. If God is not loved, something else must be receiving an undue share of the affections; for man must bestow them somewhere, whether in the attractions of his calling and profession, or in the cultivation of refined and intellectual tastes, or in an idolatrous fondness for the comforts of social and domestic life. The more naturally amiable a man is, the more beloved, the more honoured, the more respected for his social and moral worth, for the largeness of his charities, for the constancy of his friendships, for the kindness of his heart, and for the blameless purity of his life, the greater danger there is lest that man should be ensnared by mere human approbation, and close his eyes to the danger he is in of falling short of the kingdom of God.

III. Now, what is the moral value of the state here described? If a long journey were set before me, it would be some comfort to have one to say, “Thou art not far from thy journey’s end.” If all through life I had been proposing to myself the accomplishment of some great object, it would be some comfort to know I was not far from attaining the object of my ambition. This is on the supposition of continual progress, constant advancement towards that object. But the spiritual condition we have been considering is that of a person who is standing still-continuing year after year in the same state of dead, motionless, unadvancing formalism, ever seeking, but never striving to enter in at the strait gate, ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. What, then, is the moral value of being, and continuing, not far from the kingdom? There is a door. We must be on one side of it, or the ether. There is no paradise of mediocrity. How sad to be overtaken by the avenger, when close by the city of refuge-to have made shipwreck of our souls, when just within sight of the harbour! (D. Moore, M. A.)

Reasons why a man who is near the kingdom should strive to enter it

If there are some so far away that they at times fall into a despair of ever reaching it, there are a greater number so near that they sink into an apathetic contentment with being almost Christians. Those who are far off may come to be nigh, when the children of the kingdom are cast out.

1. Though the distance may not seem great, there is momentous importance in it. A great deal depends on being a Christian, and to be a Christian needs something more than a decent arrangement of the natural life. The end of man’s soul can only be found in looking to God, and learning to stand right with Him. Otherwise, it is to let a plant cling to the earth that was made to climb, and that can bring forth its best flowers and fruits only when it ascends; as if a palace were tenanted in its dungeons and lower rooms, while the higher apartments, commanding infinitely the best view, were left desolate; or as if a city had its streets crowded with traffic, and filled with the labour and din of busy life, while the temples, which tell of man’s dignity by pointing him to God, remained in untrodden silence, and became the homes only of the dead. Can a man, who has a soul, feel that it is well with him in such a state? And yet thus he stands while he refuses to admit God to His rightful place.

2. The harmful effect of this position upon others. When there is a nature which has so much of the beautiful and attractive outside the proper Christian sphere, it is apt to give shallow-minded persons the idea that the gospel is not so necessary as the Bible declares.

3. The only security for permanence in what is naturally attractive in man, consists in connecting it with God. The brightest and most beautiful things of the heart lie all unshielded if God’s shadow be not over them. The conflicts of life, the assaults of passion, the irritations of care and ill-success, and the resentments against man’s injustice, will corrode and canker the finest heart if it be not constantly drawing the corrective from a Divine source. Even without these trials, whatever has not God in it is smitten with the inevitable law of decay. (John Ker, D. D.)

Crossing the line

It is as if a man were standing on the snore, close to where a ship is moored. There is but a line between, and a step may cross it. But the one is fixed, the other moves, and all the future of existence depends upon that step,-new lands, a new life, and God’s great wide world. In the spiritual sphere to stand still is to fall away, to be left on that shore, doomed to decay and death. To pass into God’s kingdom is to move with it, not only up to the grandeur of His universe, but into the heritage of Himself. (John Ker, D. D.)

Some are in the suburbs of the city of refuge

I warn you against staying there. Oh, what pity is it that any should perish at the gates of salvation for want of another step!


Verses 35-40

Verse 37

Mark 12:37

And the common people heard Him gladly.

The gospel and the masses

This passage refers to the reception given to the teachings of our Lord by the masses of the people.

I. The hearers of Christ referred to in the text are designated “the common people.” As the words in the original Greek mean, literally, “the great multitude,” it has been suggested that the better rendering of the passage would be “the great multitude heard Him gladly.” The revisers of the New Testament, however, have adhered to the rendering of the Authorized Version, and in the text of the Revised New Testament we have the long-familiar words, “the common people heard Him gladly,” while the alternative rendering, “the great multitude,” is relegated to the margin. A critic has remarked that in the words “the great multitude” there is no intended antithesis or opposition to the upper classes. This, to say the least, is questionable; but of this we are certain, that, whether any distinction of classes was intended or not, “the great multitude” necessarily includes the common people, By “the common people” is meant, in every country, the people without wealth, or power, or exalted rank, or intellectual culture, or refinement of manners. They are the vulgar, the uneducated, the lowly, the poor, the masses. The phrase “the common people” is suggestive of human inequality, and implies that the gradations of rank and class obtain amongst men. But why, and how, it may be asked, should there be these distinctions? Are not all men equal? To this I reply that in certain important senses all men are equal. All men are equal by natural descent, as the offspring of the same first parents. Then there is the base equality of natural depravity and guilt. Over the entire race is written the inspired description: “There is none righteous; no, not one.” And, thank God, there is the blessed equality of a common redemption, an equal connection with the second Adam as with the first. Notwithstanding the universal equality of man in the essential aspects to which I have referred, there are other important respects, some of them natural, and some of them artificial, in which men are not equal. There are differences in physique, in stature, and strength, which are obvious to all. There are still greater differences to be found amongst the minds of men. And whilst the native and constitutional varieties of human intellect are numerous and great, these differences are further increased in number and variety by education and culture. The social inequalities which exist in society, and which are not removed, but are aggravated, by civilization, comprise, with other classes, the common people. However class distinctions may be disliked, they appear to be inevitable, at least to some extent, and in some variety. In recognizing the distinctions of ranks, classes, and conditions of men, we, as Christian preachers, recognize existing facts-facts which exist now, and which have always existed. The mission of the gospel, however, is to all men without distinction; and if the most numerous class, the great multitude, give it a favourable reception, it is a matter of thankfulness now, as it doubtless was when the Author of the gospel was a preacher of the gospel, causing the evangelist to make, in the midst of Christ’s sayings, the abrupt record, “and the common people heard Him gladly.”

II. The reception given to the ministry of Jesus by the masses is worthy of thought and investigation. The question, Why did the common people hear Him gladly? is a very natural question, and is worthy of the best answer that can be given to it. The reasons for their gladness are not assigned, and must be gathered mainly from inference and from the hints of Scripture. No doubt the principal causes were connected with the character of the Great Teacher Himself; with the nature of the truths which He taught; with the style and methods of His teaching; and with the receptability of the hearers.

1. Jesus was no ordinary teacher, but in the singularity of His greatness stood out in marked contrast to the scribes and rabbis of His day, and even rose vastly superior to the ancient prophets of Israel, although grand to sublimity were the characters of these holy men of old. There is an impressiveness amounting to awe in the quiet self-assertion of His Messianic professions and Divine claims.

2. The favourable reception given by the masses to the ministry of Jesus may be further accounted for by the nature of the doctrines and precepts which He taught, and especially by the methods, style, spirit, and sympathetic feeling of His teachings. Not less striking was the system of morals which He set up and enforced. The common people heard Him gladly because of the tone of certainty with which He taught. This teaching, as beautiful as it was true, is intelligible to the humblest intellect. No wonder that at Jerusalem, when He taught in the temple, “the common people heard Him gladly.”

III. The text is suggestive of the relations of the gospel to the masses of men now, and to their attitude towards it. The gospel is for the masses, because the gospel is for all. It comes with good news to every man, without distinction of rank or condition. The gospel, like the Sabbath, was made for man-for universal man. The impartial manner in which the Bible treats of the different classes of society is to me an additional proof of its Divine origin. Nor does it, on the other hand, denounce the less favoured classes, and call them “the swinish multitude,” “the great unwashed,” “the many-headed beast,” “the canaille, “the dregs,” “the scum.” Such offensive language is never employed in that Holy Book, which teaches us to honour all men; which declares God to be the common Parent; “the Father of the spirits of all flesh”; which says, “The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.” And then, in consequence of the saving grace of God, it places all upon the one platform of common privilege and blessing. It levels up by dignifying the lowly; it levels down by clothing the lofty with humility; and it says to both, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice, in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low.” The masses should listen to the gospel now with delight, just as the common people in the days of our Lord heard with gladness the Author of the gospel Himself. To hear at all is a point gained, and is matter of thankfulness. The most deplorable characteristic of the masses of the wage-earning classes is their habitual absence from the house of God. They do not hear the gospel gladly, because they do not hear it at all. How to get the masses to hear the gospel is one of the great religious problems of the day. In order to success, the Christian ministry must enlarge upon the right theme. That theme is gospel truth, of which the atonement is the principal article, around which ethers are grouped. Hearing the gospel gladly is the duty and privilege of all alike-the rich man with his gold ring and goodly apparel and the poor man in vile raiment. (T. MCullagh.)

The gospel and the common people

The state of society in Palestine when Jesus appeared in one respect resembled that of our own age and country-the habit of going to the synagogue was for the most part restricted to the upper and middle classes, led by the scribes and Pharisees. The mass of the working people were “scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.” They had sunk into a state of general neglect of religion. To these common people Jesus Christ specially addressed Himself; for, while the learned men rejected Him, and sought only to entangle Him in His talk, these heard Him gladly, welcomed His discourses, recognized His Divine mission, and many of them repented at His reproof. We have an indication of this willingness on the part of the common people to hear Him, in the words of this text.

I. Leaving the context, however, we shall first make some remarks on the expression “The common people”-an English phrase, which, without being an exact translation of the original, sufficiently, well conveys its meaning. The common people: This is a description of the multitude of the population-comprising the whole of the working orders. The phrase implies that there are other sorts of people who are not so common, but fewer and scarcer, and distinguishable by certain eminent qualifications from the crowd around them. Well, there are everywhere such common people, and people less common. What makes the difference? Society is built up of three classes of men-those who have remarkable mind, those who have money and rank, and those who labour with their hands. The latter class are by far the most numerous. They are nearly a hundred to one of the others. These are the common people. The others are distinguished from the crowd by some personal qualification. Illustration:-There always will be a real difference between educated and uneducated men. A man may grow rich, and push his way up into the middle or higher classes; but, if his education has been neglected and his taste uncultivated, neither he nor his family will be able to establish themselves as the equals of their neighbours in a similar position of wealth. It is not an artificial-it is a real difference that separates the two. A cultivated rose really is a different flower from a dog rose that grows in a hedge; and not all the airs of the hedge flower will give it a place of equal rank with its betters. There is, and there ought to be, a difference in rank between educated and uneducated persons; and, so far as the differences in English society represent differences, not merely of wealth, but of mind and culture, you will never be able to break them down, except by converting the common people into uncommon. How very common many of the common people are-common in the sense of low and degraded in thought, in feeling, in habit, in speech, in character! It is sad to think how the wretched lives of the labouring multitude might be varied, and rendered infinitely more comfortable and respectable, if they would. The single particular of more cleanliness would itself double the comfort of life. The most sunken type of human life may be raised into a fellowship with saints and angels. The ladder Jacob saw was a glorious scale on which the lowest grade of humanity may rise to heaven and to God. This “common people” may all be clothed in glory, honour, and immortality, and put on forever the splendours of eternity. When, therefore, we look upon our own multitudes of common people, alienated from the redeeming influence, despising the ministers of Christianity, and abhorring the churches, we ask, Why is it that we have so sadly failed? When Jesus preached, the common people heard Him gladly; and, believing in Him, they were changed into the same image, and became the sons of God. What was it in His preaching that made them hear Him so gladly-that won their hearts, and drew them to Him and to God? Let us first mention two or three things that cannot be alleged as Christ’s means of influencing the multitude.

1. It was not a comical, a jocose mode of address.

2. Neither did He seek to propitiate the common people by flattering them with the promise of great temporal and social rewards for adhering to His cause.

1. Then, the common people heard Him gladly, because of the great and obvious sincerity and disinterestedness of His character. All the suspicions which attended the ministrations of the Pharisees were absent from Him.

2. They heard Him willingly because of the spiritual depth of His doctrine, and the suitableness of His teaching to the mind of the populace. He did not approach them with a long array of puzzling articles and creeds, which a man must believe, or pretend to believe, or “without doubt perish everlasting.” But He showed both His wisdom and His patience by teaching even His own apostles only “as they were able to bear it.” Love is still more powerful than argument; or, rather, it is the most powerful of arguments.

3. I think we should mention that one of the most characteristic traits of our Lord’s teaching was its perfect manliness and freedom from affectation.

4. Once more: Jesus commanded the attention of the common people because He spoke to them with a compassion which reached their hearts and won their affections. (E. White.)

On preaching to the common people

I. First, then, we have no quarrel with you because you are of the number of those who hear gladly. This is so far well. It is one of the deadliest symptoms of those who perish, that to them the preaching of the cross is foolishness. A very promising symptom most assuredly; and it may evidence the beginning of a good work which God may carry forward and bring to perfection.

II. But, secondly, though your hearing gladly be a promising symptom, it is not an infallible one. The common people of Jerusalem heard gladly; and we need not repeat the awful disaster and ruin which, in the course of a fear years, overtook the families of that common people.

III. But though to hear gladly be not an infallible symptom, yet to hear the whole truth gladly is a much more promising symptom than only to hear part of the truth gladly. We fear that it is this partial liking for the Word which forms the whole amount of their affection for it, with the great majority of professing Christians. They like one part; but they do not like another. Some like to hear of the privileges of the gospel; but they do not like to hear of the precepts of the gospel, and that the soul in whom Christ is formed the hope of glory, will purify itself even as Christ is pure.

IV. But lastly, if it do not follow that because a man is a delighted hearer of the word, he is therefore an obedient doer of it, how is he to become one? What is there which can bring relief to this melancholy helplessness? We assert that the glow of a warm and affecting impression is one thing, and the sturdiness of an enduring principle is another. We again, then, recur to the question, how shall we give the property of endurance to that which in time past has been so perishable and so momentary? The strength of your own natural purposes, it would appear, cannot do it. The power of argument cannot do it. The tongue of the minister, though he spake with the eloquence of an angel, cannot do it. (Dr. Chalmers.)

Common people heard him gladly

Luther when preaching to a mixed assembly, said: “I perceive in the church Dr. Justus Jonas and Melancthon, and other learned doctors, Now, if I preach to their edification, what is to become of the rest? Therefore, by their leave, I shall forget that Dr. Jonas is here at all, and preach to the multitude.” So must I do at this good hour, asking those of you who are advanced in the Divine life to unite your prayers with mine, that the word of the gospel may be blessed to the unconverted. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus and the common people

We are all common people as to the ground covered by His teachings. The duties incumbent on us to God and man have in their principles, their motives, their spirit, no diversity corresponding to the differences of condition and culture. You cannot specify a primal obligation that admits of any exceptions. You can name none that belong to the highly endowed and privileged, but not to the simple and unlettered-none that appertain to the lowly, and not to those who hold a superior position in the social scale. The Sermon on the Mount may be all lived out by the labourer, the poor widow, the person whose intelligence and sphere of action are of the very narrowest; and at the same time there is no life so large, so high, so extended in its relations and responsibilities, that it may not find here all that it is bound to be and to do. Still more, we can conceive of no broader, fuller, loftier law of duty for the redeemed in heaven, or for any created being in the universe. As regards our trials and our griefs, too, we are all common people. There is no resource for high or low, when the heart is overwhelmed, but trust in Almighty love-no prayer that can bring an answer of peace, but “Father, Thy will, not mine, be done.” In the presence of the mighty leveller Death we are all common people. (A. Peabody, LL. D.)

The Model Preacher

Why did the common people hear Him gladly?

I. Because Christ gave a new and broader meaning to religion. He proclaimed God’s love to all, Jew and Gentile. Christianity touches the great heart of humanity. Those who live at the bottom of society are, by nature, most open to conviction. They are governed largely by their feelings: but religion is a matter of feeling; it is love.

II. The affections of life have their largest scope and effect among the lowest. He said, “Come unto Me, all ye weary,” etc. Look at the manner of our Lord’s preaching.

1. He spoke as one having authority; He revealed truth.

2. Much of our Lord’s preaching was outside of synagogues, and in conversation with the people.

3. His ministry was in the “demonstration of the Spirit and with power.” (W. E. Griffith.)

Other gospels hidden from the common people

In Greece and Italy, while a few superior minds acknowledged a spiritual worship, the common people were kept in brutish ignorance by the celebrated philosophers of Greece and Rome. In Hindostan, though the doctrines of their complicated faith are freely revealed to the Brahmins and their pupils, it is a law never to be violated that the sacred books shall be locked up from the bulk of the people, and the Paris, or lowest caste, is not only excluded from the common assemblies of the people, but forbidden even to enter the temples to pray or to sacrifice. Nay, the Gentoo code even enacts that, should a priest read the sacred books to the inferior orders, heated oil, wax, and melted tin shall be poured into his ears; and that, should any member of these classes get passages by heart, he shall instantly be put to death. (Eastern Manners and Customs.)

Preaching so as to be understood by the common people

Archbishop Tillotson, who has left imperishable memorials of his excellence in his sermons, as well as in the traditional reports of his voice and delivery, regarded it as the highest compliment ever paid him, when, on descending from the pulpit, he overheard a countryman who came to London to hear him, ask his friend with evident surprise, “Is that your great Archbishop? Why, he talks just like one of ourselves.” And the greatest of all preachers, who “spake as never man spake,” must have been characterized by the same sublime simplicity; for it is written of Him, “The common people heard Him gladly.”

Study the people

Mr. Hill always wished to be considered the apostle of the common people, in resemblance of Him whom the common people heard gladly, and in whose teaching “the poor had the Gospel preached unto them.” But he who undertakes this work of faith and labour of love will find that he has not to address angels, and sometimes hardly men. He will need to learn the advice which the philosopher was wont to give his pupils, “Study the people;” or that which Cromwell gave to his soldiers, “Fire low.” Had his men fired high they would have done no more execution than some of our preachers, who shoot over their hearers’ heads. (Rowland Hill.)

The intuitions of the multitude

“When an uninstructed multitude,” says Nathaniel Hawthorne, “attempts to see with its eyes, it is exceedingly apt to be deceived. When, however, it forms its judgment, as it usually does, on the intuitions of its great and warm heart, the conclusions thus attained are often so unerring as to possess the character of truths supernaturally revealed.”


Verses 38-40

Mark 12:38-40

Beware of the Scribes which love to go in long clothing.

Recklessness of ambition

There is the Synagogue of Ambition, whose bond of union is the lust of place and of power. Let Diotrephes be its representative, who, “loved to have the preeminence,” and whom St. John censured for this ambitious temper, which tempted him, though nominally a member-perhaps a minister-of the early church, violently to reject the best Christians. What are not men ready to do to gratify an inordinate and insatiate ambition! You know how the old Romans built their military roads. They projected them in a mathematical line, straight to the point of termination, and everything had to give way, there could be no deviation. And so on went the road, bridging rivers, filling up ravines, hewing down hills, levelling forests, cutting its way through every obstacle! Just so men set their lust upon self-emolument, some height of ambition, the attainment of place, rank, power, and hew their way toward it not minding what gives way. No obstacle is insurmountable, health, happiness, home comfort, honesty, integrity, conscience, the law of God, everything is sacrificed to the god of ambition. (Christian Age.)

Yielding the preeminence

Old Dr. Alexander used to say to us students, “Young brethren, envy is a besetting sin with the ministry: you must keep that abominable spirit under.” When a servant of Christ is willing to take a back seat, or to yield the preeminence to others, he is making a surrender which is well pleasing to his meek and lowly Master. One of the hardest things to many a Christian is to serve his Saviour as a “private,” when his pride tells him that he ought to wear a “shoulder strap” in Christ’s army. (Christian Age.)

Long prayers.

Prayers judged by weight, not length

God takes not men’s prayers by tale, but by weight. He respecteth not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many there are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they are; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they are; nor the music of our prayers, the sweetness of our voice; nor the logic of our prayers, nor the method of them; but the divinity of our prayers is that which He so much esteemeth. He looketh not for any James with horny knees through assiduity in prayer; nor for any Bartholomew with a century of prayers for the morning, and as many for the evening; but St. Paul, his frequency of praying with fervency of spirit, without all tedious prolixites and vain babblings, this it is that God makes most account of. It is not a servant’s going to and fro, but the despatch of his business, that pleases his master. It is not the loudness of a preacher’s voice, but the holiness of the matter and the spirit of the preacher, that moves a wise and intelligent hearer. So here, not gifts, but graces in prayer move the Lord. But these long prayers of the Pharisees were so much the worse, because thereby they sought to entitle God to their sin, yea, they merely mocked Him, fleering in His face. (John Trapp.)


Verses 41-44

Mark 12:41-44

And Jesus sat over against the treasury.

The treasury test

The lesson taught by this narrative is-man’s treatment of God’s treasury the true touchstone of piety.

I. God has a treasury in His church. God has conferred on man various kinds of material possessions and property for use and enjoyment. Among these, money has become the portable representative and circulating medium of all. Far above these possessions is the privilege of sacred worship. This would be an urgent necessity and a lofty privilege even if man were holy. How much more now that he is a sinner! As all material arrangements are costful, so also is worship. If man could not meet this cost, God would. As man can, Why should he not? Is he not honoured in being allowed to do it? Does not this test his character?

II. Men contribute to God’s treasury in various measures and from various motives. The Divine rule has ever been according to one’s power. This principle is definitely stated in an instance for universal guidance (Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 5:11): “As God hath prospered.” “According to that a man hath.” In the temple scene before us, we behold the devotion of every coin, from the golden mineh, of three guineas value, to the mite of brass, three quarters of a farthing. Motives also differ, often as much as coins. Some give from necessity. Some give from a sense of honesty; if they did not give, debt and dishonour must ensue. Some give with pride and self-righteousness even before God. Some give from habit acquired from youth. Some give with holy love and joy, as a blessed privilege and rich delight: thus did the widow; so also have many done till now.

III. The Saviour observes how men treat His treasury and by this He tests their love to Himself. As worship is man’s highest act, its gifts should be rich and substantial. Jesus beheld men at the treasury. He still directs His eye thither; not that He needs man’s gifts; but deeds and gifts test man’s love; also they elevate and refresh man’s heart. Men test others’ love by deeds and gifts. Jesus challenges us to test the love of God thus.

IV. Jesus estimates gifts chiefly by what is retained. This principle alone accounts for the higher worth of the widow’s gift.

1. This estimate of gifts according to what is retained agrees with reason. Man’s gauge of the moral value of a deed is the power of the doer. The child is not expected to put forth the strength of a man. Less force is looked for from the feeble than the strong man. A small gift from a narrow income is esteemed as much as a large gift from a vast income.

2. This treasury test accords with general life. This principle is acknowledged in all departments of life. Men readily meet the cost of their chosen pursuits and pleasures, in the measure of their means. True patriots willingly pay national charges, according to their ability, Faithful husbands provide for their wives, in the measure of their power. Loving parents nourish their children, as their resources allow. Should not Christians thus provide for the service and glory of Christ? Notice God’s rebuke of Israel’s neglect of this principle (Isaiah 43:22-24; Jeremiah 7:18).

3. This treasury test accords with universal Scripture demands. God tested man’s confidence and honesty by the forbidden fruit. We know the sad issues. Jesus tests our obedience, love, and devotion by a treasury. Besides the large dedication of their property to the national religious service, Israel were commanded to open a treasury to the Lord, to build a tabernacle (Exodus 35:1-35; Exodus 36:1-38); David to build a temple (1 Chronicles 29:1-30); Joash to meet the expenses of worship (2 Kings 12:1; 2 Kings 12:9). This woman would give her all to His worship. Who doubts her love? But did she act prudently? She acted according to the rule. She acted for the hour and the occasion. She would not make herself an exception to the rule. She gave her all to God. She left the future to Him. Does any one think she starved by this? Behold what a grandeur the smallest service acquires, when it is done for God! Observe what magnificent interest and enduring renown accrue from the devotion of a creature’s all to God. Jesus did not disparage the other gifts; He simply indicated their true relative value, and attached to the widow’s His highest commendation.

Application:-

1. God has a treasury for human hearts, His own heart. He would have your heart centre in love, safety, and joy in His own heart. He wants you there, as a creature who can love, serve, and delight in Him. He claims and demands you for His. Christ has died to redeem and win you back to Him, Will you give yourself to Him now just as you are, that He may make you all that He can delight in, that you may find Him all that your soul can desire?

2. Christ gathers the funds of His kingdom in His Church.

3. All worshippers are required to give as a duty.

4. To give cheerfully is to elevate a duty into a privilege.

5. Jesus thus tests His friends and foes, the obedient and the disobedient.

6. Jesus waits at the treasury for your gift, to receive it at your hands, to bless it, and to teach you how to use it. If Christ is Lord of your mind, and heart, and life, let Him be also of your silver and gold. (John Ross.)

Helpers of sacred institutions

Surely this must tell us what it did to those that stood by the Messiah. The principle now is exactly the same as it was then, as certainly as any principle governing matter in natural laws. The young man may say, “I am willing to do my share for sacred causes and institutions;” but if he means by that, he will aid them after he gets all his parties, and operas, and sleigh rides, and everything besides that his heart can wish-the gift for which he will not deny himself the least of these things, must be before heaven less than the least. And the man of business may say, “I will help; the Lord has been good to me, I will be grateful;” if gratitude takes the form of that he can well spare, and yet spare nothing out of his life. But after he has purchased with the talents God gave him as a steward everything for himself that he can possibly need, then he really spares nothing, makes no sacrifices, gives only out of his abundance, and is still open to that touch of fear, that he may not even be dealing fairly with the Principal who has committed the talents to his trust; the fear which good old brother Cecil used to say, always gathers about stewards and agents that grow uncommonly rich. So may we all give, no matter what we are, a poor selvage out of the web in our ample and voluminous robes; give the crusts after we have eaten the dinner; spare in the Lent what we could not spend in the Carnival-and it will be the same to every one of us. The wise all-seeing eyes will see us, and what we are doing, and the angel will write in his book of life, “He gave to God and good uses what he did not need himself for any uses.” Or we may give out of the real substance; but if we do not give with a real sacrifice, I have no authority from the Lord to say that the poorest Irish washerwoman in this town who gives to the Lord, according to her light, her two mites, which make one farthing, gives it out of her life to say a mass, even for the soul of her wretched sot of a husband who was found dead in the Bridewell-does not take infinite precedence of the best and most generous who have all they want, and then do ever so nobly out of the rest. (R. Collyer.)

The widow’s mites

I. Some of the things which the incident reveals concerning Christ Himself.

1. It presents Him as the omniscient Teacher of hearts.

2. By what a different standard Christ judges men’s actions from that they themselves judge by.

3. His eyes are upon the treasury and those who contribute to it.

II. Some of the things which this incident reveals respecting ourselves.

1. It shows that offerings to the Lord’s treasury must bear some decent proportion to what He has bestowed upon us.

2. Our offerings to be acceptable must be felt to involve some sacrifice.

3. Liberality is a means of grace.

III. 1. There are here lessons for the whole church. What value God sets on tittles.

2. Christ will strictly reckon with the Church for all the wealth bestowed upon her. (James Molt, M. A.)

Giving ourselves in the sacrifice

AEschines, when he saw his fellow scholars give great gifts to his master, Socrates, he being poor and having nothing else to bestow, did give himself to Socrates, as confessing to be his in heart and goodwill, and wholly at his devotion. And the philosopher took this most kindly, esteeming it above all other presents, and returned him love accordingly. The widow’s two mites were welcome into His treasury, because her heart was full, though her purse was empty. (Dr. Donne.)

The power of mites when combined

There is now-A.D. 1887-in the French savings banks the sum of £100,000,000 sterling. These savings banks are patronized only by workmen, servants, and small shopkeepers. What missions might be founded and Christian work accomplished, if professors would but cast their mites into the treasury. (Somerset Express.)

Over against the treasury

One form of gift which is found with increasing frequency is the in memoriam gift. This touching form of offering in remembrance of some loved one is a beautiful new departure from the old mode, which too often expressed its loss only by the stately monument in the quiet churchyard. The Christian inventiveness revealed in many of the contributions is significant. A young lady gathers snowdrops in the fields around Carnarvon, and realizes £2, which she sends to Dr. Barnardo. A friend of missions puts on one side all the threepenny pieces he receives. Talents, such as painting and drawing, are made to contribute towards sending the Gospel across the seas. In many quaint ways Christian inventiveness helps on the work of God in the world. Another class of contributions are the thank offerings. One sends a shilling-“a thank offering for God’s kindness to me on the evening of March 1, when I was out in that severe snowstorm.” An old lady of eighty sends a thank offering because she has had no doctors’ bills for two years! The thank offerings of parents for the recovery of children from sickness are also frequent. Then there is the sacrifice pure and simple. The ring, the pencil case, the brooch, the treasured coins, given by devoted hearts who feel that if missionaries are willing to give up the comforts of home and kindred, and to sacrifice their lives even for the love they have for the Master, Christians in England should be joyfully ready to support them at all cost. A form of contributions peculiar to these days springs from the growing practice of abstainers to devote the money saved by giving up stimulants to missionary and charitable societies, who thus save their money from doing harm, and spend it in doing good. The last, but not the least, kind of offering is that which comes from the stricken themselves. The life-long invalid, the afflicted, the maimed, with a sympathy born of pain, and a Christ-like desire to relieve and help other lives, are among the most frequent contributors to our societies. The concealment by many of the donors of their identity is another feature of present day charity. In this present time this anonymity brings its reward, for it saves them from the reiterated requests of the importunate letter writers. “If thou hast abundance give alms accordingly; if thou hast but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little. (Edward Dakin.)

Small gifts

Jesus commends the worshipper who put in the smallest gift. This was strange. Why did He do it? Two reasons.

1. Because she gave her heart with it: and God wants hearts, not coins, and coins only when they carry with them hearts.

2. Because hers was really a great gift in proportion to her means. Sixpence from one may be really more than a sovereign from another. The sixpence may come from one who has but few shillings a week; the sovereign from one who has thousands a year. This woman gave all. Hers was a great sacrifice.

The duty of giving in proportion to our means

Dean Ramsay relates of a certain penurious laird in Fife, whose weekly contributions to the church collection, notwithstanding his largely increasing wealth, never exceeded the sum of one penny, that he, one day, by mistake, dropped into the plate at the door a five-shilling piece, but, discovering his error before he was seated in his pew, hurried back, and was about to replace the silver coin by his customary penny, when the elder in attendance cried cut, “Stop, laird, ye may put what ye like in, but ye maun tak’ naething out.” The laird, finding his explanations went for nothing, at last said, “Aweel, I suppose I’ll get credit for it in heaven.” “Na, na, laird,” said the elder, “ye’ll only get credit for the penny.” It is not the amount of our gift, but the proportion of it, and the spirit of it which are noticed, and commended by Christ.

The widow’s gift of her sons

The eldest son of a widowed mother went out to missionary work in Western Africa. In a short time he filled a missionary’s grave. There was another son left at home, and he came to his mother and said, “Mother, let me go, and I will take my stand by my brother’s grave. I will preach to my brother’s people. I will tell them of my brother’s God.” He went, and it was not long before there were two graves in that heathen land, and the brothers were sleeping side by side; at least their ashes were; their spirits, no doubt, were safe in the heavenly land. The news came to the mother, and the story said she wept sore. Her mourning friends tried to comfort her, “Oh,” she said “you do not understand my grief. I am not mourning because two of my lads have filled a missionary’s grave in Africa. I grieve because I have not a third son to die in the same cause.” (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

Motive the measure of the acceptability of gifts

Xenophon tells us of Socrates, that when he sacrificed he feared not his offering would fail of acceptance in that he was poor; but, giving according to his ability, he doubted not but, in the sight of the gods, he equalled those men whose gifts and sacrifices overspread the whole altar; for Socrates ever deemed it a most indubitable troth, that the service paid to the Deity by the pure and pious soul was the most grateful service. As with what Plutarch relates of Artaxerxes, out on a royal progress, during which people presented him with a variety of gifts; but “a labouring man, having nothing else to give him, ran to the river, and brought him some water in his hands. Artaxerxes was so much pleased that he sent the man a gold cup and a thousand darios.” (Francis Jacox.)

Give till you feel it

A religion which costs nothing is good for nothing. Like a certain kind of faith which we read of, “it is dead, being alone.” How much meaning was conveyed in the reply which one man made to another who offered to contribute a small amount to some benevolent object, and said, “I can give this and not feel it!” “Would it not be better for you, my friend, to increase it to such an amount that you will feel it?” So in every case. A person should feel what he does, and should do what he will be likely to feel, or morally there will be but very little good resulting from it. (Quarterly Journal.)

Giving her all to God

In the beautiful Island of Ceylon, a few years ago, the native Christians decided that they must have a church built for themselves. To the amazement of all, Maria Peabody, a lone orphan girl who had been in the schools at Oodooville, came forward and offered to give the land upon which to build-the best site in her native village. Not only was it all she owned in this world, but it was her marriage portion, and in making the gift she renounced all hopes of being married. As this, in the East, is regarded as an awful step, many thought her beside herself, and tried to dissuade her from her purpose. “No,” said Maria, “I have given it to Jesus, and as He has accepted, you must.” Maria Peabody’s schooling had been paid for years by a coloured servant in Salem, Massachusetts, whose wages were rather more than a dollar (4s.) a week. (Light and Life.)

The widow’s donation

Religion is the road to honour. Little did this woman imagine she was doing an act that would be handed down, for the admiration of mankind, to the end of time. This is the only instance recorded in history, of an individual going the whole of his or her possessions. Observe from this incident:-

1. That God employs man’s instrumentality, for carrying on His work. Not of necessity, but to exhibit His grace and power.

2. That we should combine in our religion, piety, zeal, and humanity. We must corns to Christ ourselves, before trying to benefit others. We must make it a matter of conscience to influence others for good. While caring for men’s souls, we must also have regard to the comfort of their bodies.

3. That the Saviour is ever watching His treasury, and those who come up to it, or pass it by. He notes all our opportunities for doing good, and whether we embrace or reject them. How this should impel us to look to our motives, spirit actions; and stimulate us to do our utmost.

4. That there is great propriety in contributing to collective funds for public objects. The relief of men’s bodily miseries cannot be met without hospitals, dispensaries, etc.; so it is our duty to support them. Especially should we take care that everything connected with public worship is well sustained. It was a gift for the service of the temple that won this high commendation from the Saviour. (J. A. James.)

The widow’s farthing

In that court of the temple called the court of the women, there stood thirteen vessels, shaped liked trumpets, to receive offerings. Shaped like trumpets! surely a sarcasm is lurking here. As the rich man drops in much, the clash of it sets the trumpet blowing, and all the temple knows what a liberal man is passing by. But two mites would cause the trumpet to sound very faintly, if at all. Yet Love can see love, and will honour it. Christ views it not relatively to what it will buy, but to the love that gave it. But there is an ascetic or envious disparagement of riches in Christ’s praise of this tiny offering. Great gifts are just as capable of illustrating pure motives as small ones.

1. If, then, Christ thought much less of the rich men’s gifts than they did themselves, it was because they gave

2. And if Christ thought much more of the widow’s gift than any of these men would have done, or even His own disciples, it was because of

Offerings for God’s treasury

Observe these four points.

I. The contrast. It is not the poor, or widows, that Christ contrasts with rich men, but a widow. She was, perhaps, in almost as great contrast to many of her own class as to these; for many of the poor forget God, and offer Him nothing, because they have but little; and many widows make widowhood worse by murmuring. But circumstances may be imagined in which it would not have been right for the widow to give away her last farthing. But why suppose she was in such circumstances? A heart that so loved God, as hers did, would understand Him too well to divert the last farthing from the service of her sick child, if she had one. Then, perhaps, God would have received only a mite. She threw herself utterly on God’s Providence, and would not withhold from Him even the half of her last farthing.

II. The lesson. Christ might have said, “See how these rich men can offer openly in the temple; how much better would it be to give private aid to this poor widow. That would be real love; this is but paraded zeal.” He might have said this, but He did not. Instead of directing attention to what the poor want done for them, He pointed to what they (in spite of their poverty) do; instead of teaching His disciples liberality towards them, He here bids all men learn from their liberality.

III. The master’s attitude. Christ sat over against the treasury, as if placing Himself there on purpose to observe. Our gifts are offered under the Divine eye. We know the difference between a bad half-crown and a good one; but we think a half-crown from a bad man and from a good one of the same value. Christ, doubtless, thinks otherwise. He tries the heart as well as the money; notices what our spiritual temper is, and what proportion our gifts bear to our possessions.

IV. The motive. Though money came plentifully to the treasury, and the splendid temple was sustained by splendid offerings, yet this vigour of the “voluntary principle” did not prevent Christ from being crucified, nor avail to keep the temple standing. It was not the purified will of believing hearts that brought the plentiful money. There may be strong motives for supporting “religion,” when there is in the heart bitter enmity against the very religion sustained. (T. T. Lynch.)

The woman who gave her all

I. God still has a treasury.

II. The poorest may make some offering.

III. Christ stiff watches over against the treasury.

IV. God’s estimate of gifts differs from ours.

V. God looks at motives as well as gifts.

VI. An individual unconscious of God’s high estimate. (T. Sherlock, B. A.)

The widow’s acceptable offering

I. Great hearts are often found where great sorrows have been before them.

II. Little services and little gifts are needed by man and noted by God. If we can only give even two mites, God will not despise the offering.

III. Had this woman listened to excuses, she would have lost her great honour and reward.

IV. More justice should be done to the giving of the poor, for their generosity still surpasses that of any other class. God notes their gifts of money, whose necessary smallness permits them to be overlooked by men. O what a gospel for the poor is here! (R. Glover.)

The widow’s offering

I. The occasion described. Gill says there were thirteen chests placed, six of which were to receive the free-will offerings of the people. Macknight says they stood in the second court, and each had an inscription, signifying for what use the offerings were destined. The chief objects were to repair and beautify the temple. The whole, however, was voluntary.

II. The lesson taught. That the value of the offering depends chiefly on the state of the heart.

1. Some that were rich gave liberally.

2. Of the poor widow it is said that she gave but two mites, which make a farthing. What were the motives which rendered her offering so precious in the Saviour’s sight?

III. But what would Christ have said to those who gave nothing, if there were any such who passed in review before him? (Evangelical Preacher.)

Two mites

A woman who was known to be very poor, came to a missionary meeting in Wakefield, and offered to subscribe a penny a week to the mission fund. “Surely,” said one, “you are too poor to afford this?” She replied, “I spin so many hanks of yarn a week for my living, and I’ll spin one hank more, and that will be a penny a week for the society.”

Loving and giving

From this passage we may learn:

I. That God is pleased with offerings made to Him and His cause.

II. That it is our duty to devote our property to God. We received it from Him; we are stewards, etc.

III. That the highest evidence of love to the cause of religion is not the amount given, but the amount compared with our means.

IV. That it may be proper to give all our property to God, and to depend on His providence for the supply of our wants.

V. That God does not despise the humblest offering, if made in sincerity. He loves a cheerful giver.

VI. That there are none who may not in this way show their love to the cause of religion. The time to begin to be benevolent is in early life.

VII. That it is every man’s duty to make inquiry, not how much he gives, but how much compared with what he has; how much self-denial he practises, and what is the motive with which it is done.

VIII. Few practise self-denial for the purpose of charity. Most give of their abundance-what they can spare without feeling it, and many feel that this is the same as throwing it away. Among all the thousands who give, how few deny themselves of one comfort, even the least, that they may advance the kingdom of Christ. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

The widow’s mites

I. Christ’s notice of apparently trivial things. This is not incompatible with true greatness. Things are not always as trivial as they appear. The fact affords encouragement to those whose means are small and whose opportunities are few.

II. The nature of true benevolence.

1. It is unobtrusive. The widow did not want to be observed. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men,” etc. The gifts most acceptable to God do not always appear in the subscription list.

2. It is spontaneous. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” Love must rule us in giving, as in other matters. The word charity stands for love.

3. It is self-denying. God is best pleased when our gifts cost us something. He judges less by what is given than by what is left behind.

4. It involves trust in God. She cast in all that she had. Faith asks no questions. It concerns itself with present duty, and leaves the future with God. Have you of your abundance or of your penury cast into the treasury? If Christ gave Himself for you, is it unreasonable that He should ask you for your money? (Seeds and Saplings.)

The due proportion of Christian benevolence

I. As it regards the individual contributing.

1. There should always be a due proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his means. Appearances are often considered. Precedent and example have a painful influence. Strongly excited feeling is not unfrequently a cause of error and of sin in our benevolent contributions, nor must it be concealed that men are often lured, in the present day, by the fame and splendour of an institution, rather than by its intrinsic merits, to contribute to its funds. There should be a due proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his means; a man’s means are to be determined by what he has-what he owes-what he can obtain by exertion-and what he can save by economy.

2. There should be a proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his station.

3. There should also be a proportion between our benevolent contributions and our opportunities of doing good.

II. To the objects of benevolent contribution. The souls of men are to be preferred before their bodies; we must do good to them who are of the household of faith. Remarks:

1. See that what you give in the cause of Christian benevolence is from love to Christ, and to the souls of men.

2. Give as much as possible in secret, and this will at once relieve you from the suspicion that you give to be seen of men.

3. Never pride yourself on what you give.

4. Consider what Christ gave for you, and be ashamed that you should give Him so little in return. (T. Roffies, LL. D.)

The widow’s gift

I. The giver: a widow, and a poor widow. The widow alone understands widowhood; it must be felt to be known. God knows its grief. Sorrow often makes people selfish, but this benevolent donor was a widow, and she was poor. Perhaps a young widow whose husband had been cut off before he could provide for his own house. Poverty, like rain, comes from several quarters, and is not easy to be borne, whether the wind that brings it blow from east or west, from south or north. With poverty we generally associate getting, not giving. This poor widow was pious and generous; the tree is known by its fruit.

II. The gift. Money was her gift; hard to get, hard to hold, hard to part with; the severest test of religious integrity. The commercial value is small, but the value to her is great. Wealth called it small, commerce called it small, religious custom reckoned it small; but in relation to the means and heart of the donor, and in the judgment of God, the gift was exceeding great.

III. The place, or scene of the gift. It was bestowed in the temple of God, deposited in one of the thirteen boxes in the women’s court. It is meet and right that we give where we receive.

IV. And what, fourthly, was the object of this gift? These two mites were given as a free-will offering to the support of the temple, its institutions and its services, and the offering them with this intent constituted this “certain poor widow” a contributor to all that he temple yielded-to all it offered to heaven, and to all it gave to the children of men. The incense and the light and the fire and the shewbread and the daily sacrifices were, in part, this woman’s oblation. She helped to clothe the priests in their holy garments, to supply the altars with oblations, and to preserve the order, decency, and beauty of the house of God. Say not, she gave only two mites. This voluntary offering, although commercially so small, as really contributed to support the temple, as the immense revenue derived from tithes and other appointed contributions. Jehovah received these two mites, and the world was by this offering made a debtor.

V. The spirit of the offering. Was it gratitude for benefits received? She may have valued more highly the benefit of God’s sanctuary, since she became a mourning widow, than while she was a rejoicing wife. She had there heard words of consolation which had healed her wounded heart (Psalms 68:5; Psalms 146:9). What impulse opened her hand? Was it the force of hallowed and pleasant association? Her fathers worshipped there. She could say, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house” (Psalms 26:8). The spirit of the offering was the spirit of true piety and of real godliness.

VI. The Divine recognition of the gift. Jesus Christ saw the gift, estimated, approved, and commended the giver. He did not speak to her, but of her, in an undertone to the disciples. “No person takes any account of what I do,” some disciples are heard to complain. Thy fellow servants may fail to recognize, but the Master never fails. Jesus is in a position to see, and He is disposed to observe. Everything that is human is interesting to Him, and all that is right is attractive. Some people only see faults. Jesus approves all that He can approve. He gives the testimony of a good conscience.

VII. Look at the fact that Jesus Christ calls attention to this gift.

1. That the greatness of a gift depends upon the possessions of the individual after the gift has been made.

2. That grief need not hinder giving. The child of sorrow doubly needs the returns which acts of piety and charity invariably bring.

3. And shall we not be taught by this incident to learn well-doing from each other? The Head Teacher bids His disciples learn from this certain poor woman. He makes her a kind of object lesson.

4. Let us learn to act as under our Great Master’s eye. He sees us. He speaks of you, it may be to His angels and glorified saints. And what can He say of you? (S. Martin.)

Giving in the sanctuary

It is meet and right that we give where we receive. The tree yields its fruit on the very spot where it has been nourished by the earth; there, where it has received the light and air and heat of heaven, does it hold up as into the face of heaven its increase. The child gives joy to the parent in the home whose very walls remind the mother of her anguish. The place of an unsealed spring is the seat of a flowing fountain. And it seems but meet that, in the place where we receive, we give. And what a place of blessing is a true house of the Lord; it is Bethel and holy ground, it is beautiful Zion and Bethesda, a house of light, and life, and love, of healing, and salvation, and redemption. (S. Martin.)

Christ mindful of our love service

He who knows how much I am loved, knows how I love; He who knows all that I receive, and how I receive, knows what I give, and in what spirit. It is possible that my very gifts to His Church may grieve Him. Not that He is hard to please; He waits, looks, longs to delight in the doings of His disciples. Their good works may be concealed like violets in the tall grass of the forests, but He will scent their fragrance; they may be feeble as the newborn infant, but He will rejoice over them as over the bright beginning of blessed life; they may be imperfect as some flower or fruit in a formative state, but He will see the end from the beginning; they may wear an appearance of evil, but He will look deeper than the surface; they may be condemned by His disciples, but they shall be approved by Himself, and He will show to the universe that He is not unrighteous, to forget any work of faith or service of love. (S. Martin.)

The two mites

I. That there may be more splendour in some obscure thing we never stop to notice, and would not care for if we did, than there is in the things that dazzle our sight and captivate our hearts.

1. We have all tried to notice this among children. One little child runs all the errands, makes all the sacrifices, but beyond that is a little nobody; plain, small; not brilliant. This is the two-mite child of the family; the small piece of home heroism, of a worth surpassing all the gifts and graces of the household besides; the little one Christ would see if He came and sat down in the house.

2. We notice this again in the Church. Some naturally attract applause by their gifts; others no more attention than this widow with her two mites. They say their poor word. It is their sorrow that they cannot do more; but the joy of heaven that they do so much.

3. This is true of the whole life we are living. There are many never seen or known who cast in more than the brilliant characters who cast in of their abundance.

II. It was an illustration of this law of our life, that the most god-like deed is that which belongs to the sacrifices we make, giving for sacred things and causes that which costs us most, and is most indispensable, and yet is given back to God. Nothing was worth a thought in this poor widow’s gift, but the sacrifice it cost her to give. The whole worth of it lay in that piece of her very life which went with it, but that made the two mites outweigh the whole sum of silver and gold cast in by the wealthy, which cost nothing, beyond the effort to give what a very natural instinct would prompt them to keep. They gave of their fulness, she of her emptiness; they of the ever-springing fountain, she, the last drop in her cup. It was not the sum, but the sacrifice that made the deed sublime.

III. We learn, in this simple and most obvious way, of that whole world of grace and truth that culminated on Calvary. (R. Collyer.)

The scene

Here comes a merchant; the times are hard, he tells you; nothing doing, taxes heavy, losses large, and things so bad generally, that you have to say, “What a misfortune it must be to be a merchant.” But you have to notice that his chariot is of the latest style, and by the best maker; his robes of the finest texture and colour; his diamonds of the purest water; and, altogether, for a man in such hard trial, he looks very well. Yesterday he looked over his accounts; he will not tell you wharf he saw there, but, certainly, he did not seem any worse for the sight. This morning, before he goes to his store, he will go to the temple; he will be thankful, to the extent of offering a lamb; and then there is a little balance, when all is done, that he would like to drop into the treasury. A little balance! but it would buy all that widow has in this world,-the hut she lives in, all the furniture, and all the garments she has to keep her from the cold. Very low the priest, who stands by the chest that day, bows to the generous gift; the holy man would be horrified if you told him he was worshipping a golden idol, but it is true for all that. Then the great merchant passes on, and you see him no more; he has given out of his abundance; ‘he will not need to deny himself one good thing for what he has given. If a new picture strikes his fancy, he will ask the price, and then say, “Send that round to my house;” he will have his venison, all the same, whether it is a sixpence a pound or a dollar; and at the end of the year he will have his balance undamaged, in spite of the hard times. He has given out of his abundance; but, considering the abundance, he has not given as the widow did. Then there comes a lady. You can see that she is not looking well, and the world goes hard. This has been a hard year for her. She has had to give parties, and attend parties; to dress, and dance, and smile when she wanted to weep; and lose her rest, and be a slave that the slaves themselves, if they had any sense of what she is, and has to do, might pity. The season is over, and now she must think of her soul-her poor soul. She must repent in dust and ashes; go to the temple; give to the poor, and to the support of the true faith; and altogether lead a new life. It is the most exquisite “make up” of dust and ashes on the avenue that morning. She sweeps on in her humility, gathering her garments of penitence about her, lest even a fringe should touch the beggar at the gate. She stops a moment to give her gift; low bows the priest again as she passes, and she takes her place among the women, and says her prayers, and her soul is shriven. May we venture to watch her back to her home, and see the luxury that waits her? Is there one jewel, or one robe the less for what she has given, or one whim the less gratified, when the time for penitence is over, and the season opens? I see no sign of that. I never hear her say, “This and that I will forego, that I may give.” She has given of her abundance; she simply purchased a new luxury, and got it cheap, and she fades out of sight and out of life. You see others come with better gifts, not so much, it may be, in mere money value, but more in those pure eyes that are watching that day, not for the amount of the gifts, but for their meaning. A decent farmer follows the fine lady, forehanded, and fall of industry. His crops have done well; his barns are full; his heart is open. He has come to the city to sell his produce; has sold it well, and is thankful, and he will make his offering of two doves in the temple, and give something for the sacred cause, and to the poor besides, because his heart is warm and grateful, and, as he says, he will never feel what he gives to God and the poor; there will be plenty left at the farm when this is given; and then who knows but that the Lord will give a greater blessing next year, for does not the wise book say, “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he giveth shall be rendered to him again?” So it is at once a free gift, and in some way, a safe investment. He is glad to give the money, and yet to feel that this is not the last of it. Very pleasantly the holy man smiles on him too, as he drops his shekels and passes on; he has been there before; he will come again. He is one of those fast friends who can always be counted on to give while the fruitful fields answer to the diligent hand. He is a sort of country connection to these commissioners of the Most High, and will always be received, as he is today, with grace and favour. And very low indeed the good man bows to that stately centurion who comes now. He is not a member of this church; indeed, he is not a member of any church; for, like all his nation of that rank, he thinks that all churches are very much alike, and none of them of much account, except as managers of the common people. But it is a good thing to keep in with them; there is no knowing what you may want; and so he comes now and then, and looks on at the service, tosses his Roman gold into the chest, nods and smiles to the cringing priest, and feels that he has done well. Then with all these come the good and sincere men and women, with not much to spare, but who make a conscience of giving, and manage to get an education for their children, and everything decent; who never want any simple and wholesome thing they need, and are able to lay up a little beside for a rainy day; as various as they are now, they were then, who would do something for these things which to them were so sacred; and it was when givers like these came, that the widow came with her two mites-the smallest matter, possibly, that anybody ever thought of giving. I think if she was like most women, the utter littleness of what she had to spare, would be a shame to her; she would be tempted, on the mere ground of her womanly pride, to say, “Since I cannot give more, I will not give anything: to put in these two mites when others are pouring in their gold and silver, will only show how poor I am.” So it was like giving her life to give so little; and yet these two mites that meant so little to the treasury, meant a great deal to her. They meant darkness, instead of a candle on a winter’s evening; a pint of milk, or a fagot of sticks, or a morsel of honey, or a bit of butter, or a bunch of grapes, or a pound of bread. They meant something to be spared out of the substance and essence of her simple and spare living. And this these wise and loving eyes saw at a glance. Jesus knew that the two mites were all she had; and so as they made their timid tinkle in the coffer, they outweighed all the gold. He saw what they came to, because He saw what they cost, and so His heart went with the two mites; and while the holy man, who had made such deep obeisance for the larger gifts, let this trifle pass unnoticed, Christ caught up the deed and the doer, and clad them both in the shining robes of immortal glory.

The poor widow’s two mites

I. See God’s ordinance that His cause should be supported by our gifts.

II. That the Lord notices the gifts we cast into His treasury.

III. That the Lord passes judgment on those who cast their gifts into His treasury. He declared she had given more than all the rest.

1. She had given more, because she had given with a larger heart, with more real love.

2. She had given more in proportion to her possessions.

3. She had given more in the force of her example.

4. She had given more in its beneficial influence on the character of the giver.

5. She had given more in the relation of the gift to its future reward.

Learn:

1. The right use of money.

2. The value of the offerings of the poor.

3. That the Lord sits over against the treasury. (W. Waiters.)

The power of pence

Those whose means are small may take encouragement to give what they can. There is a mighty power in the combination of littles. We see this in nature, and in the institutions of society. One star would afford small light to the midnight sky, but countless myriads shining together brighten it with their glory. One drop of rain could have no moistening effect on the earth’s dry and thirsty soil, but millions of such drops make the barren land fruitful. There are two bodies of religionists who show us in a striking manner what may be done by the combination of a large number of small contributions, by regular, systematic giving on the part of all their members, even the poorest. I refer to the Roman Catholics and the Wesleyan Methodists. Both sects number the poor largely among their members, and derive no inconsiderable support from their offerings. The sums they annually raise furnish in a most striking manner an illustration of the power of pence. (W. Waiters.)

The power of humble fidelity

There were many gifts, many of them of vanity, many of them of pride, many of them of superstition, many of them of mere custom and necessity; but hers was a voluntary gift of love. And that fact consecrated it. Love imparts a value to a gift which nothing but love can stamp upon it.

I. This is a striking. Illustration of our Lord’s sympathy for the heart of human life, instead of for its exterior. He was sitting in the very culmination of the pride and beauty of the Jewish ceremonial. He was not attracted by sumptuous trains of these gorgeous gift bringers. He saw that which interpreted the innermost and the best nature, the gentle, generous, and piteous. When human strength disdains to notice, there is the very point at which Divine strength notices most. Where men see least to be admired, under uncouth forms of helplessness, there Christ looks with sympathy and compassion. This imparts to the Divine government an aspect of comfort and encouragement. If human life takes care of the successful, the Divine government takes care of the weak and obscure. The great eye is not looking out for the great deeds alone, but for those whose deeds are in secret.

II. Many of the secret fidelities of life have power to outlaw, in usefulness, the products of ambitions, desires and deeds. All the rich gifts of the temple are now forgotten. We do not know what Rabbi was syllabled with admiration among his fellows on that day. The only person who has come down to us was the least conspicuous. The gentle light of that example shines still. All the ages have not buried her. How little she thought she was enriching the world. Christ is still the same. We think those gifts most influential which have most of record; but it is not so. While many a proud philanthropist will scarcely be seen, many strange philanthropists will emerge from among the poor, and take their places as princes in God’s glory. So God works Himself, in secret might. So gives He a pattern for us to work after. It is not the thunder which makes the most racket, that does the most work. The things in this world that are accomplishing great deeds are silent things, and hidden things. And we are told, in a kind of strange paradox, that the things which are not, are ordained to bring to nought the things that are. The most inconspicuous things often belong to God’s most potential working. The root neither strives nor cries, and yet, all the engines of all the ships and shops on earth, that puff and creak with ponderous working, are not to be compared for actual power with the roots of one single acre of ground in the meadow. All the vast pumps of Harlem Lake, and all that serve our needs, adjoining, are not to be compared for force with that might which inheres in one single tree. It is a fact revealed only to those who study natural history, that leaves, that vegetation, that dews, and rains, and heat, that the natural attractions which prevail in the world, without any echo or outward report, have an enormous power in them, and that they are the means by which God works. He works in silence, and inconspicuously, and almost hiddenly. And so they work importantly who work by thought, by love, by zeal, by faith unrevealed; who work in places not seen by the public eye, in season and out of season, from the mere desire to do good, and not from the mere love of being found out in doing it. Look upon your scarfs, so brilliant. The colour shines afar off. Comely it is on the shoulder of beauty. How exquisite is the dye that comes from the cochineal insect. And yet how small is that insect-scarcely, I may say, so big as the point of a pin-which feeds so inconspicuously on the under side of the leaf of the cactus, nourishing his growth quite unconscious that as one of all the myriads of all these little shining points he will by and by help to produce these glowing colours which civilization and refinement will make so meet and comely in distant lands! So it is with good deeds. The great things in this world are the sum of infinitesimal little things. And those who are in sympathy with God and nature, are not to reject in men the ripening, the development of themselves or their true spiritual life, because the effect is but little. That effect will be joined to other things which are like itself obscure, and others and others will make their contributions; and little by little the sum of these specks of gold will make masses of gold; little by little these small insects will make great quantities of colouring matter; little by little small things will become large in magnitude. Do not be ashamed, then, to live in humility, if you fill it up with fidelity. Never measure the things that you do, or do not, by the report which they can make.

III. There are two spheres in which men must work. The first is that which judges of causes by their apparent relations to the end sought. That is important; but it is not the only sphere. It is the visible, material sphere-the one which belongs to the region of physical cause and effect. We are obliged to work in that sphere according to its own laws. But in the moral sphere men must judge of acts by their relations to the motives and dispositions which inspire them; and they are great or little, not according to what they do, but according to the sources from which their actions spring. In engineering that only is great which does. It matters not what the intention is; he who in the day of battle is not victorious, is not saved by his intention. No matter hew wisely you mean, if your timber is not squared and fitted right, the result is not right. In the outward sphere effect measures the worth of the plan. In that sphere effect must always be measured by the cause; and the worth of the cause must be proved by the effect. And that is the lower sphere. In the moral sphere it is the other way. There, no matter what the effect is, you do not measure in that direction. Pray. Your prayer accomplishes nothing? The measure is not “What did it do?” Speak. Your words fall apparently uncaught and unprofitable? You do not measure in that direction. You measure the other way. What was it in your heart to do? What was your purpose? In the moral sphere we look at the bow-not at the target. From what motive did the soul project its purpose? What gave that sigh? What issued that speech? What created that silence? What produced that moral condition? In that sphere the heart measures, estimates, registers. This gives rise to thoughts which, perhaps, may have relation to ourselves. There are many who will work if you will show them that their working will insure immediate good results. They will work in the moral sphere if they can work according to the genius of the visible or the physical sphere. They will work if they can do what others do. They do not work because they love to work. They do not work because they feel that it is their duty to work, simply, without regard to consequences. They are willing to work under the stimulus of a vain ambition. They will work if they may be praised. They will work if they are to receive an equivalent for their working in some appreciable form. The equivalent, oftentimes, for exertion, is praise or popularity. Do, then, whatever there is to be done without questioning and without calculation. Make progress in things moral. If need be, utter stammering words. Would you console the troubled if you only had a ready tongue? Take the tongue that you have. Ring the bell that hangs in your steeple, if you can do no better. Do as well as you can. That is all that God requires of you. Would you pray with the needy and tempted if you had eminent gifts of prayer? Use the gifts that you have. Do not measure yourself according to the pattern of somebody else. Do not say to yourself, “If I had his skill,” or, “If I had his experience.” Take your own skill and your own experience, and make the most of them. Do you stand over against trouble and suffering, and marvel that men whom God hath blessed with such means do so little? Do you say to yourself, “If I had money, I know what I would do with it”? No, you do not. God does; and so He does not trust you with it. “If I had something different from what I have, I would work,” says many a man. No; if you would work in other circumstances, you would work just where you are. A man that will not work just where he is, with just what he has, and for the love of God, and for the love of man, will not work anywhere, in such a way as to make his work valuable. It will be adulterated work. What if you have not money? If you have a heart to work, it is better than if you had great riches. And if you find that you are hesitant, reluctant, and are acting accordingly, be sure that you do not belong to the widow’s school. Did she say to herself, as she handled her fractions of a penny, “What is the use of my throwing these in? They will scarcely be taken out. They are all that I have, with which to buy my day’s food. There it will do very little good; here it will do a great deal of good”? (H. W. Beecher.)

Consecrated womanhood

What is it to be a consecrated woman?

I. Such consecration involves heart dedication to Christ and His service.

II. Such consecration embraces the sacred devotion of time to the work God carries on through female agents. She saves her odd minutes as the jeweller saves the cuttings of gems and gold.

III. Such a consecration implies the devotion of culture to the Divine glory and uplifting of humanity.

IV. Such consecration embodies the ability to do varied work of a beneficent nature, whereby God is glorified,

V. Such consecration involves the sanctification of the pence to the Divine glory. (S. F. Leech, D. D.)

The Lord’s searching eye

The Saviour noticed not merely, the fact or acts of contribution, but also the wonderfully diversified modes in which the acts exhibited themselves. Mode is inseparable from act, and, when outward, reveals the inward essence of the act. We may suppose that our Saviour looked in, through the diversified modes that struck His outward eye, to the diversified characters of the contributors, as they passed in succession before Him. If so, it would be with far more interest and innerliness than was ever manifested by Lavater, and with an intuition that was unerring. “On Sundays, after the sermon,” says the poet Goethe, “it was Lavater’s duty, as an ecclesiastic, to hold the short-handled, velvet alms bag before each one who went out, and to bless as he received the pious gift. Now, on a certain Sunday he proposed to himself, without looking at the several persons as they dropped in their offerings, to observe only their hands, and by them silently to judge of the forms of their donors. Not only the shape of the finger, but its peculiar action in dropping the gift, was attentively noted by him, and he had much to communicate to me on the conclusions he had formed.” As the idiosyncrasy and form of the whole body was revealed to Lavater’s eye by the form and action of the fingers, so the idiosyncrasy and moral condition of every soul were unveiled to our Saviour’s gaze, as He noticed “how” the offerings were cast in. (J. Morison, D. D.)

Liberality of the poor

Peggy had been consigned by her dying mother in Ireland to the care of a lady, who brought her up as a servant, giving her only clothes and food as her wages. Her residence with this lady led to Peggy’s attendance on the ministry of the gospel, which met, in her case, with a heart prepared by Divine grace to receive it. She imbibed it as the thirsty earth the shower; her appearance became altered, and her whole demeanour greatly improved. Her mistress, finding her services increasingly valuable, and fearing that the temptation of higher wages might cause her to seek another place, offered, of her own account, to give her a small sum of money annually. For this she was truly thankful; and some months having elapsed, she came to me (says a Christian minister in London) one evening after service, apparently with great joy, and slipped a piece of paper into my hand. On examination I found it to be a one-pound note. “Peggy,” said I, “what is this?” “Your reverence,” said she, “it is the first pound I could ever call my own since I was born; and what will I do with it? Ah! will I forget my country? No; it is for poor Ireland; it is for my countrymen to have the blessed gospel preached to them.” I admired her disinterestedness, but thought the sacrifice too great, as I knew she must want such a sum for very important purposes. “Peggy,” I said, “it is too much for you to give; I cannot take it.” “Oh, your reverence,” she replied, with her characteristic energy, “if you refuse it, I shall not be able to sleep for a fortnight! “And she went away, leaving the money in my hand, and exclaiming, “God bless my poor country with the ministry of the gospel.”

Costly gifts

A missionary, in a report of his field of labour says: “I can imagine someone saying, as he reads this report, ‘Well, I will give £5 to the cause; I can give that, and not feel it.’ But suppose, my Christian brother, you were to give £20, and feel it?” There is vast meaning in the advice, “Give till you feel it.” It is by this principle that churches are founded, and gospel institutions sustained. If this rule were to be put in operation everywhere, there would hardly be a feeble church in our land, or a church in debt, or a sanctuary out of repair, or a minister half-sustained, or a true cause of charity without adequate support. (Anon.)

Religion the first thought

A poor negro woman, after the death of her husband, had no means of support for herself and two little children, except the labour of her own hands, yet she found means, out of her deep poverty, to give something for the promotion of the cause of her Redeemer; and would never fail to pay, on the very day it became due, her regular subscription to the church of which she was a member. In a hard winter she found it very difficult to supply the pressing needs of her little family, yet the few pence for religious purposes had been regularly put by. As one season for the contribution came round, she had only a little corn, a single salt herring, and a five-cent piece remaining of her little store. Yet she did not waver. She ground the corn, prepared her children’s supper, and then with a light heart and cheerful countenance set out to service, where she gave joyfully the five cents, the last she had in the world. Returning from the church she passed the house of a lady, to whom a long time before she had sold a piece of pork-so long, indeed, that she had quite forgotten all the particulars of the transaction; but seeing her this evening, the lady called her in, apologizing for having been so tardy in the settlement, and then inquired how much it was. The poor woman could only reply she did not know; but the lady, determined to be on the safe side, gave her two dollars, besides directing her housekeeper to put up a basket of flour, sugar, coffee, and other good things for her use. She returned home with a joyful heart, saying, as she displayed her treasures, “See, my children, the Lord is a good paymaster, giving us a hundredfold even in this present life, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

The gift of love

Once upon a time there was a king, and he was very powerful and great. He was also very good, and so kind to his people that they all loved him very much. To show their gratitude to him for all his kindness and the many favours he was constantly bestowing upon them, and also to show the very great love which they had in their hearts for him, the people resolved to make him a present. Now there was a poor woman who loved the king very, very much, and she wished to contribute something to the present for her dear sovereign; but she was so very poor that she had nothing at all in the world to give but only one little brown farthing. And a rich neighbour came to her, and said, “You can never put that dirty brown farthing among the bright gold pieces offered to the great king. Here are some new silver shillings, they will not look so bad; you can put them in, and it is all the same, for I was going to give them at any rate.” But this poor woman replied, “Oh no; when I bring a gift to the good king, it must be my very own. I am very sorry I have nothing better to give; but I will just slip it in quietly, so that the king won’t take any notice of it; and if he throws it away afterwards, I don’t mind. It is all I have, and I will have the pleasure of giving it to him whom I love so very, very much.” So this poor woman went forward with the rest; but she walked very slowly, and hung down head, being sorry her gift was so small; and when she passed the king she never once looked up, but just slipped her little brown farthing into the plate among the rest of the gifts. When she was turning away she felt someone give her a tap on the shoulder, and when she looked round the king was looking down at her, and smiling very graciously. “My good woman,” he said, “was it you who put in this costly gift?” And as she looked in his hand she saw something very like her old brown farthing; but just as she was wondering if that could be what the king meant, the farthing began to grow brighter and brighter, till the poor woman could scarcely look at it, for it had changed into a beautiful locket, all shining with gold and diamonds and other precious stones. The poor woman gave a little sigh of disappointment in bet heart, but she looked up straight into the king’s face, and said, “Oh no, I only gave one little brown farthing.” “Take it into your hand and see,” said the king, still smiling. So she took it as he bade her, and then she saw that it was her farthing after all. “Yes,” she said, feeling greatly surprised, “that is the very farthing I put in, for I tried hard to clean it up, and could only get it to look a little bright at the edge.” So she laid it back again in the king’s hand, and as soon as he touched it, there it was shining and sparkling as before. Then the king said, “I thank you very much for this beautiful gift; it is very precious to me.” And he took it, and hung it upon the chain that was round his neck, and the poor woman went home quite happy, because the king had been pleased to accept her gift, and loving him a thousand times more than before, if that were possible. Now it is more than eighteen hundred years since that day, and the great and good king has been wearing that poor woman’s brown farthing at his chain all the time. And whenever any poor woman wishes to offer him a gift from the great love that is in her heart, and is afraid to bring it because it seems so small, he points to the shining locket, and says, “Why, this was once only a little brown farthing, and it pleased me as much as the rich man’s gold; for with me a man is accepted according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not?” (C. P. Craig.)

Covetousness cornered

A gentleman called upon a rich friend for a contribution to some charitable object. “Yes, I must give you my mite,” said the rich man. “Do you mean the widow’s mite?” asked his friend. “Certainly,” was the reply. “I shall be satisfied with half as much as she gave. How much are you worth?” “Seventy thousand dollars.” “Give me, then, your cheque for thirty-five thousand; that will be half as much as the widow gave, for she, you know, gave ‘all that she had, even all her living.’” The rich man was cornered. Covetous people often try to shelter themselves behind the widow’s mite; but it is a dangerous refuge.

Alms-giving, false and true

Alms-giving is degraded in two ways-when it is done to be seen of men, and when it is done to save your soul. You cannot tender to God 1s. 6d. or £1 for a sin committed. You cannot wipe out guilt with half a crown. The Jews thought you could. The Roman Catholic Church, in its worst days at least, openly taught that you could. The priests invited the dying to insure against hell or purgatory by leaving their property to the church or the poor. The fallacy is not yet quite extinct. The other day a witty ecclesiastic was listening to a rich merchant who, after dinner, boasted that, although no better than he should be, he gave £2,000 away to the poor every year. He did not know, nor apparently care, who got it, but it went. “Well,” said his clerical listener, “that is the largest insurance against fire I ever heard of!” Now, mark this, if in alms-giving the donor is thinking more of himself than of the recipient of his gift, his act is not Christian charity, but selfishness. If he gives, in order to be praised, or to save his soul, or merely to relieve his own feelings, without regard to the effect of his gift, that is not Christian charity. The impulse is good, but not alone. It does more harm than good, without reflection, common sense, and eves wisdom. Every penny given to a knave robs a deserving person. There are plenty such: find them out, and when you find them, do not pauperize them. Help them to help themselves. Every Christmas we are deluged with circulars; choose the right institutions and pleas to support; avoid the professional beggars of this world, in print or out of print, who prey on the credulous and impulsive, and can give no satisfactory account of their stewardship. I am not against extras at Christmas. If we brighten our homes for our friends, God forbid that we should forget the poor; but again I say, be careful. Let us comfort the sick, seek out the deserving poor, think of poor dependents, old servants, the people in our own neighbourhood; let us do all we can to lighten the burden of unobtrusive sufferers, helping the thrifty poor, the sick, the aged; but let us avoid bolstering up the blatant impostor! (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

All her living.

Mr. Skelton’s devotion to the poor

The salary of the Rev. Philip Skelton, an Irish clergyman, arising from the discharge of his ministerial duties and from tuition, was very small; yet he gave the larger part of it away, scarcely allowing himself to appear in decent clothing. Returning one Lord’s day from public worship, he came to a cabin where an awful fire had occurred. Two children had been burnt to death, and a third showed but faint signs of life. Seeing the poor people had no linen with which to dress the child’s sores, he tore his shirt from his back piece by piece for their use, and cheerfully submitted to the inconvenience to which it exposed him. Some time after this, when a scarcity of food was felt around him, he sold his library, though his books were the only companions of his solitude, and spent the money in the purchase of provisions for the poor. Some ladies hearing of this, sent him £50 to replace some of his most valuable books with; but, while gratefully acknowledging their kindness, he said he had dedicated the books to God, and then applied the £50 also to the relief of the poor.


Verses 41-44

Mark 12:41-44

And Jesus sat over against the treasury.

The treasury test

The lesson taught by this narrative is-man’s treatment of God’s treasury the true touchstone of piety.

I. God has a treasury in His church. God has conferred on man various kinds of material possessions and property for use and enjoyment. Among these, money has become the portable representative and circulating medium of all. Far above these possessions is the privilege of sacred worship. This would be an urgent necessity and a lofty privilege even if man were holy. How much more now that he is a sinner! As all material arrangements are costful, so also is worship. If man could not meet this cost, God would. As man can, Why should he not? Is he not honoured in being allowed to do it? Does not this test his character?

II. Men contribute to God’s treasury in various measures and from various motives. The Divine rule has ever been according to one’s power. This principle is definitely stated in an instance for universal guidance (Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 5:11): “As God hath prospered.” “According to that a man hath.” In the temple scene before us, we behold the devotion of every coin, from the golden mineh, of three guineas value, to the mite of brass, three quarters of a farthing. Motives also differ, often as much as coins. Some give from necessity. Some give from a sense of honesty; if they did not give, debt and dishonour must ensue. Some give with pride and self-righteousness even before God. Some give from habit acquired from youth. Some give with holy love and joy, as a blessed privilege and rich delight: thus did the widow; so also have many done till now.

III. The Saviour observes how men treat His treasury and by this He tests their love to Himself. As worship is man’s highest act, its gifts should be rich and substantial. Jesus beheld men at the treasury. He still directs His eye thither; not that He needs man’s gifts; but deeds and gifts test man’s love; also they elevate and refresh man’s heart. Men test others’ love by deeds and gifts. Jesus challenges us to test the love of God thus.

IV. Jesus estimates gifts chiefly by what is retained. This principle alone accounts for the higher worth of the widow’s gift.

1. This estimate of gifts according to what is retained agrees with reason. Man’s gauge of the moral value of a deed is the power of the doer. The child is not expected to put forth the strength of a man. Less force is looked for from the feeble than the strong man. A small gift from a narrow income is esteemed as much as a large gift from a vast income.

2. This treasury test accords with general life. This principle is acknowledged in all departments of life. Men readily meet the cost of their chosen pursuits and pleasures, in the measure of their means. True patriots willingly pay national charges, according to their ability, Faithful husbands provide for their wives, in the measure of their power. Loving parents nourish their children, as their resources allow. Should not Christians thus provide for the service and glory of Christ? Notice God’s rebuke of Israel’s neglect of this principle (Isaiah 43:22-24; Jeremiah 7:18).

3. This treasury test accords with universal Scripture demands. God tested man’s confidence and honesty by the forbidden fruit. We know the sad issues. Jesus tests our obedience, love, and devotion by a treasury. Besides the large dedication of their property to the national religious service, Israel were commanded to open a treasury to the Lord, to build a tabernacle (Exodus 35:1-35; Exodus 36:1-38); David to build a temple (1 Chronicles 29:1-30); Joash to meet the expenses of worship (2 Kings 12:1; 2 Kings 12:9). This woman would give her all to His worship. Who doubts her love? But did she act prudently? She acted according to the rule. She acted for the hour and the occasion. She would not make herself an exception to the rule. She gave her all to God. She left the future to Him. Does any one think she starved by this? Behold what a grandeur the smallest service acquires, when it is done for God! Observe what magnificent interest and enduring renown accrue from the devotion of a creature’s all to God. Jesus did not disparage the other gifts; He simply indicated their true relative value, and attached to the widow’s His highest commendation.

Application:-

1. God has a treasury for human hearts, His own heart. He would have your heart centre in love, safety, and joy in His own heart. He wants you there, as a creature who can love, serve, and delight in Him. He claims and demands you for His. Christ has died to redeem and win you back to Him, Will you give yourself to Him now just as you are, that He may make you all that He can delight in, that you may find Him all that your soul can desire?

2. Christ gathers the funds of His kingdom in His Church.

3. All worshippers are required to give as a duty.

4. To give cheerfully is to elevate a duty into a privilege.

5. Jesus thus tests His friends and foes, the obedient and the disobedient.

6. Jesus waits at the treasury for your gift, to receive it at your hands, to bless it, and to teach you how to use it. If Christ is Lord of your mind, and heart, and life, let Him be also of your silver and gold. (John Ross.)

Helpers of sacred institutions

Surely this must tell us what it did to those that stood by the Messiah. The principle now is exactly the same as it was then, as certainly as any principle governing matter in natural laws. The young man may say, “I am willing to do my share for sacred causes and institutions;” but if he means by that, he will aid them after he gets all his parties, and operas, and sleigh rides, and everything besides that his heart can wish-the gift for which he will not deny himself the least of these things, must be before heaven less than the least. And the man of business may say, “I will help; the Lord has been good to me, I will be grateful;” if gratitude takes the form of that he can well spare, and yet spare nothing out of his life. But after he has purchased with the talents God gave him as a steward everything for himself that he can possibly need, then he really spares nothing, makes no sacrifices, gives only out of his abundance, and is still open to that touch of fear, that he may not even be dealing fairly with the Principal who has committed the talents to his trust; the fear which good old brother Cecil used to say, always gathers about stewards and agents that grow uncommonly rich. So may we all give, no matter what we are, a poor selvage out of the web in our ample and voluminous robes; give the crusts after we have eaten the dinner; spare in the Lent what we could not spend in the Carnival-and it will be the same to every one of us. The wise all-seeing eyes will see us, and what we are doing, and the angel will write in his book of life, “He gave to God and good uses what he did not need himself for any uses.” Or we may give out of the real substance; but if we do not give with a real sacrifice, I have no authority from the Lord to say that the poorest Irish washerwoman in this town who gives to the Lord, according to her light, her two mites, which make one farthing, gives it out of her life to say a mass, even for the soul of her wretched sot of a husband who was found dead in the Bridewell-does not take infinite precedence of the best and most generous who have all they want, and then do ever so nobly out of the rest. (R. Collyer.)

The widow’s mites

I. Some of the things which the incident reveals concerning Christ Himself.

1. It presents Him as the omniscient Teacher of hearts.

2. By what a different standard Christ judges men’s actions from that they themselves judge by.

3. His eyes are upon the treasury and those who contribute to it.

II. Some of the things which this incident reveals respecting ourselves.

1. It shows that offerings to the Lord’s treasury must bear some decent proportion to what He has bestowed upon us.

2. Our offerings to be acceptable must be felt to involve some sacrifice.

3. Liberality is a means of grace.

III. 1. There are here lessons for the whole church. What value God sets on tittles.

2. Christ will strictly reckon with the Church for all the wealth bestowed upon her. (James Molt, M. A.)

Giving ourselves in the sacrifice

AEschines, when he saw his fellow scholars give great gifts to his master, Socrates, he being poor and having nothing else to bestow, did give himself to Socrates, as confessing to be his in heart and goodwill, and wholly at his devotion. And the philosopher took this most kindly, esteeming it above all other presents, and returned him love accordingly. The widow’s two mites were welcome into His treasury, because her heart was full, though her purse was empty. (Dr. Donne.)

The power of mites when combined

There is now-A.D. 1887-in the French savings banks the sum of £100,000,000 sterling. These savings banks are patronized only by workmen, servants, and small shopkeepers. What missions might be founded and Christian work accomplished, if professors would but cast their mites into the treasury. (Somerset Express.)

Over against the treasury

One form of gift which is found with increasing frequency is the in memoriam gift. This touching form of offering in remembrance of some loved one is a beautiful new departure from the old mode, which too often expressed its loss only by the stately monument in the quiet churchyard. The Christian inventiveness revealed in many of the contributions is significant. A young lady gathers snowdrops in the fields around Carnarvon, and realizes £2, which she sends to Dr. Barnardo. A friend of missions puts on one side all the threepenny pieces he receives. Talents, such as painting and drawing, are made to contribute towards sending the Gospel across the seas. In many quaint ways Christian inventiveness helps on the work of God in the world. Another class of contributions are the thank offerings. One sends a shilling-“a thank offering for God’s kindness to me on the evening of March 1, when I was out in that severe snowstorm.” An old lady of eighty sends a thank offering because she has had no doctors’ bills for two years! The thank offerings of parents for the recovery of children from sickness are also frequent. Then there is the sacrifice pure and simple. The ring, the pencil case, the brooch, the treasured coins, given by devoted hearts who feel that if missionaries are willing to give up the comforts of home and kindred, and to sacrifice their lives even for the love they have for the Master, Christians in England should be joyfully ready to support them at all cost. A form of contributions peculiar to these days springs from the growing practice of abstainers to devote the money saved by giving up stimulants to missionary and charitable societies, who thus save their money from doing harm, and spend it in doing good. The last, but not the least, kind of offering is that which comes from the stricken themselves. The life-long invalid, the afflicted, the maimed, with a sympathy born of pain, and a Christ-like desire to relieve and help other lives, are among the most frequent contributors to our societies. The concealment by many of the donors of their identity is another feature of present day charity. In this present time this anonymity brings its reward, for it saves them from the reiterated requests of the importunate letter writers. “If thou hast abundance give alms accordingly; if thou hast but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little. (Edward Dakin.)

Small gifts

Jesus commends the worshipper who put in the smallest gift. This was strange. Why did He do it? Two reasons.

1. Because she gave her heart with it: and God wants hearts, not coins, and coins only when they carry with them hearts.

2. Because hers was really a great gift in proportion to her means. Sixpence from one may be really more than a sovereign from another. The sixpence may come from one who has but few shillings a week; the sovereign from one who has thousands a year. This woman gave all. Hers was a great sacrifice.

The duty of giving in proportion to our means

Dean Ramsay relates of a certain penurious laird in Fife, whose weekly contributions to the church collection, notwithstanding his largely increasing wealth, never exceeded the sum of one penny, that he, one day, by mistake, dropped into the plate at the door a five-shilling piece, but, discovering his error before he was seated in his pew, hurried back, and was about to replace the silver coin by his customary penny, when the elder in attendance cried cut, “Stop, laird, ye may put what ye like in, but ye maun tak’ naething out.” The laird, finding his explanations went for nothing, at last said, “Aweel, I suppose I’ll get credit for it in heaven.” “Na, na, laird,” said the elder, “ye’ll only get credit for the penny.” It is not the amount of our gift, but the proportion of it, and the spirit of it which are noticed, and commended by Christ.

The widow’s gift of her sons

The eldest son of a widowed mother went out to missionary work in Western Africa. In a short time he filled a missionary’s grave. There was another son left at home, and he came to his mother and said, “Mother, let me go, and I will take my stand by my brother’s grave. I will preach to my brother’s people. I will tell them of my brother’s God.” He went, and it was not long before there were two graves in that heathen land, and the brothers were sleeping side by side; at least their ashes were; their spirits, no doubt, were safe in the heavenly land. The news came to the mother, and the story said she wept sore. Her mourning friends tried to comfort her, “Oh,” she said “you do not understand my grief. I am not mourning because two of my lads have filled a missionary’s grave in Africa. I grieve because I have not a third son to die in the same cause.” (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

Motive the measure of the acceptability of gifts

Xenophon tells us of Socrates, that when he sacrificed he feared not his offering would fail of acceptance in that he was poor; but, giving according to his ability, he doubted not but, in the sight of the gods, he equalled those men whose gifts and sacrifices overspread the whole altar; for Socrates ever deemed it a most indubitable troth, that the service paid to the Deity by the pure and pious soul was the most grateful service. As with what Plutarch relates of Artaxerxes, out on a royal progress, during which people presented him with a variety of gifts; but “a labouring man, having nothing else to give him, ran to the river, and brought him some water in his hands. Artaxerxes was so much pleased that he sent the man a gold cup and a thousand darios.” (Francis Jacox.)

Give till you feel it

A religion which costs nothing is good for nothing. Like a certain kind of faith which we read of, “it is dead, being alone.” How much meaning was conveyed in the reply which one man made to another who offered to contribute a small amount to some benevolent object, and said, “I can give this and not feel it!” “Would it not be better for you, my friend, to increase it to such an amount that you will feel it?” So in every case. A person should feel what he does, and should do what he will be likely to feel, or morally there will be but very little good resulting from it. (Quarterly Journal.)

Giving her all to God

In the beautiful Island of Ceylon, a few years ago, the native Christians decided that they must have a church built for themselves. To the amazement of all, Maria Peabody, a lone orphan girl who had been in the schools at Oodooville, came forward and offered to give the land upon which to build-the best site in her native village. Not only was it all she owned in this world, but it was her marriage portion, and in making the gift she renounced all hopes of being married. As this, in the East, is regarded as an awful step, many thought her beside herself, and tried to dissuade her from her purpose. “No,” said Maria, “I have given it to Jesus, and as He has accepted, you must.” Maria Peabody’s schooling had been paid for years by a coloured servant in Salem, Massachusetts, whose wages were rather more than a dollar (4s.) a week. (Light and Life.)

The widow’s donation

Religion is the road to honour. Little did this woman imagine she was doing an act that would be handed down, for the admiration of mankind, to the end of time. This is the only instance recorded in history, of an individual going the whole of his or her possessions. Observe from this incident:-

1. That God employs man’s instrumentality, for carrying on His work. Not of necessity, but to exhibit His grace and power.

2. That we should combine in our religion, piety, zeal, and humanity. We must corns to Christ ourselves, before trying to benefit others. We must make it a matter of conscience to influence others for good. While caring for men’s souls, we must also have regard to the comfort of their bodies.

3. That the Saviour is ever watching His treasury, and those who come up to it, or pass it by. He notes all our opportunities for doing good, and whether we embrace or reject them. How this should impel us to look to our motives, spirit actions; and stimulate us to do our utmost.

4. That there is great propriety in contributing to collective funds for public objects. The relief of men’s bodily miseries cannot be met without hospitals, dispensaries, etc.; so it is our duty to support them. Especially should we take care that everything connected with public worship is well sustained. It was a gift for the service of the temple that won this high commendation from the Saviour. (J. A. James.)

The widow’s farthing

In that court of the temple called the court of the women, there stood thirteen vessels, shaped liked trumpets, to receive offerings. Shaped like trumpets! surely a sarcasm is lurking here. As the rich man drops in much, the clash of it sets the trumpet blowing, and all the temple knows what a liberal man is passing by. But two mites would cause the trumpet to sound very faintly, if at all. Yet Love can see love, and will honour it. Christ views it not relatively to what it will buy, but to the love that gave it. But there is an ascetic or envious disparagement of riches in Christ’s praise of this tiny offering. Great gifts are just as capable of illustrating pure motives as small ones.

1. If, then, Christ thought much less of the rich men’s gifts than they did themselves, it was because they gave

2. And if Christ thought much more of the widow’s gift than any of these men would have done, or even His own disciples, it was because of

Offerings for God’s treasury

Observe these four points.

I. The contrast. It is not the poor, or widows, that Christ contrasts with rich men, but a widow. She was, perhaps, in almost as great contrast to many of her own class as to these; for many of the poor forget God, and offer Him nothing, because they have but little; and many widows make widowhood worse by murmuring. But circumstances may be imagined in which it would not have been right for the widow to give away her last farthing. But why suppose she was in such circumstances? A heart that so loved God, as hers did, would understand Him too well to divert the last farthing from the service of her sick child, if she had one. Then, perhaps, God would have received only a mite. She threw herself utterly on God’s Providence, and would not withhold from Him even the half of her last farthing.

II. The lesson. Christ might have said, “See how these rich men can offer openly in the temple; how much better would it be to give private aid to this poor widow. That would be real love; this is but paraded zeal.” He might have said this, but He did not. Instead of directing attention to what the poor want done for them, He pointed to what they (in spite of their poverty) do; instead of teaching His disciples liberality towards them, He here bids all men learn from their liberality.

III. The master’s attitude. Christ sat over against the treasury, as if placing Himself there on purpose to observe. Our gifts are offered under the Divine eye. We know the difference between a bad half-crown and a good one; but we think a half-crown from a bad man and from a good one of the same value. Christ, doubtless, thinks otherwise. He tries the heart as well as the money; notices what our spiritual temper is, and what proportion our gifts bear to our possessions.

IV. The motive. Though money came plentifully to the treasury, and the splendid temple was sustained by splendid offerings, yet this vigour of the “voluntary principle” did not prevent Christ from being crucified, nor avail to keep the temple standing. It was not the purified will of believing hearts that brought the plentiful money. There may be strong motives for supporting “religion,” when there is in the heart bitter enmity against the very religion sustained. (T. T. Lynch.)

The woman who gave her all

I. God still has a treasury.

II. The poorest may make some offering.

III. Christ stiff watches over against the treasury.

IV. God’s estimate of gifts differs from ours.

V. God looks at motives as well as gifts.

VI. An individual unconscious of God’s high estimate. (T. Sherlock, B. A.)

The widow’s acceptable offering

I. Great hearts are often found where great sorrows have been before them.

II. Little services and little gifts are needed by man and noted by God. If we can only give even two mites, God will not despise the offering.

III. Had this woman listened to excuses, she would have lost her great honour and reward.

IV. More justice should be done to the giving of the poor, for their generosity still surpasses that of any other class. God notes their gifts of money, whose necessary smallness permits them to be overlooked by men. O what a gospel for the poor is here! (R. Glover.)

The widow’s offering

I. The occasion described. Gill says there were thirteen chests placed, six of which were to receive the free-will offerings of the people. Macknight says they stood in the second court, and each had an inscription, signifying for what use the offerings were destined. The chief objects were to repair and beautify the temple. The whole, however, was voluntary.

II. The lesson taught. That the value of the offering depends chiefly on the state of the heart.

1. Some that were rich gave liberally.

2. Of the poor widow it is said that she gave but two mites, which make a farthing. What were the motives which rendered her offering so precious in the Saviour’s sight?

III. But what would Christ have said to those who gave nothing, if there were any such who passed in review before him? (Evangelical Preacher.)

Two mites

A woman who was known to be very poor, came to a missionary meeting in Wakefield, and offered to subscribe a penny a week to the mission fund. “Surely,” said one, “you are too poor to afford this?” She replied, “I spin so many hanks of yarn a week for my living, and I’ll spin one hank more, and that will be a penny a week for the society.”

Loving and giving

From this passage we may learn:

I. That God is pleased with offerings made to Him and His cause.

II. That it is our duty to devote our property to God. We received it from Him; we are stewards, etc.

III. That the highest evidence of love to the cause of religion is not the amount given, but the amount compared with our means.

IV. That it may be proper to give all our property to God, and to depend on His providence for the supply of our wants.

V. That God does not despise the humblest offering, if made in sincerity. He loves a cheerful giver.

VI. That there are none who may not in this way show their love to the cause of religion. The time to begin to be benevolent is in early life.

VII. That it is every man’s duty to make inquiry, not how much he gives, but how much compared with what he has; how much self-denial he practises, and what is the motive with which it is done.

VIII. Few practise self-denial for the purpose of charity. Most give of their abundance-what they can spare without feeling it, and many feel that this is the same as throwing it away. Among all the thousands who give, how few deny themselves of one comfort, even the least, that they may advance the kingdom of Christ. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

The widow’s mites

I. Christ’s notice of apparently trivial things. This is not incompatible with true greatness. Things are not always as trivial as they appear. The fact affords encouragement to those whose means are small and whose opportunities are few.

II. The nature of true benevolence.

1. It is unobtrusive. The widow did not want to be observed. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men,” etc. The gifts most acceptable to God do not always appear in the subscription list.

2. It is spontaneous. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” Love must rule us in giving, as in other matters. The word charity stands for love.

3. It is self-denying. God is best pleased when our gifts cost us something. He judges less by what is given than by what is left behind.

4. It involves trust in God. She cast in all that she had. Faith asks no questions. It concerns itself with present duty, and leaves the future with God. Have you of your abundance or of your penury cast into the treasury? If Christ gave Himself for you, is it unreasonable that He should ask you for your money? (Seeds and Saplings.)

The due proportion of Christian benevolence

I. As it regards the individual contributing.

1. There should always be a due proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his means. Appearances are often considered. Precedent and example have a painful influence. Strongly excited feeling is not unfrequently a cause of error and of sin in our benevolent contributions, nor must it be concealed that men are often lured, in the present day, by the fame and splendour of an institution, rather than by its intrinsic merits, to contribute to its funds. There should be a due proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his means; a man’s means are to be determined by what he has-what he owes-what he can obtain by exertion-and what he can save by economy.

2. There should be a proportion observed between an individual’s contributions and his station.

3. There should also be a proportion between our benevolent contributions and our opportunities of doing good.

II. To the objects of benevolent contribution. The souls of men are to be preferred before their bodies; we must do good to them who are of the household of faith. Remarks:

1. See that what you give in the cause of Christian benevolence is from love to Christ, and to the souls of men.

2. Give as much as possible in secret, and this will at once relieve you from the suspicion that you give to be seen of men.

3. Never pride yourself on what you give.

4. Consider what Christ gave for you, and be ashamed that you should give Him so little in return. (T. Roffies, LL. D.)

The widow’s gift

I. The giver: a widow, and a poor widow. The widow alone understands widowhood; it must be felt to be known. God knows its grief. Sorrow often makes people selfish, but this benevolent donor was a widow, and she was poor. Perhaps a young widow whose husband had been cut off before he could provide for his own house. Poverty, like rain, comes from several quarters, and is not easy to be borne, whether the wind that brings it blow from east or west, from south or north. With poverty we generally associate getting, not giving. This poor widow was pious and generous; the tree is known by its fruit.

II. The gift. Money was her gift; hard to get, hard to hold, hard to part with; the severest test of religious integrity. The commercial value is small, but the value to her is great. Wealth called it small, commerce called it small, religious custom reckoned it small; but in relation to the means and heart of the donor, and in the judgment of God, the gift was exceeding great.

III. The place, or scene of the gift. It was bestowed in the temple of God, deposited in one of the thirteen boxes in the women’s court. It is meet and right that we give where we receive.

IV. And what, fourthly, was the object of this gift? These two mites were given as a free-will offering to the support of the temple, its institutions and its services, and the offering them with this intent constituted this “certain poor widow” a contributor to all that he temple yielded-to all it offered to heaven, and to all it gave to the children of men. The incense and the light and the fire and the shewbread and the daily sacrifices were, in part, this woman’s oblation. She helped to clothe the priests in their holy garments, to supply the altars with oblations, and to preserve the order, decency, and beauty of the house of God. Say not, she gave only two mites. This voluntary offering, although commercially so small, as really contributed to support the temple, as the immense revenue derived from tithes and other appointed contributions. Jehovah received these two mites, and the world was by this offering made a debtor.

V. The spirit of the offering. Was it gratitude for benefits received? She may have valued more highly the benefit of God’s sanctuary, since she became a mourning widow, than while she was a rejoicing wife. She had there heard words of consolation which had healed her wounded heart (Psalms 68:5; Psalms 146:9). What impulse opened her hand? Was it the force of hallowed and pleasant association? Her fathers worshipped there. She could say, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house” (Psalms 26:8). The spirit of the offering was the spirit of true piety and of real godliness.

VI. The Divine recognition of the gift. Jesus Christ saw the gift, estimated, approved, and commended the giver. He did not speak to her, but of her, in an undertone to the disciples. “No person takes any account of what I do,” some disciples are heard to complain. Thy fellow servants may fail to recognize, but the Master never fails. Jesus is in a position to see, and He is disposed to observe. Everything that is human is interesting to Him, and all that is right is attractive. Some people only see faults. Jesus approves all that He can approve. He gives the testimony of a good conscience.

VII. Look at the fact that Jesus Christ calls attention to this gift.

1. That the greatness of a gift depends upon the possessions of the individual after the gift has been made.

2. That grief need not hinder giving. The child of sorrow doubly needs the returns which acts of piety and charity invariably bring.

3. And shall we not be taught by this incident to learn well-doing from each other? The Head Teacher bids His disciples learn from this certain poor woman. He makes her a kind of object lesson.

4. Let us learn to act as under our Great Master’s eye. He sees us. He speaks of you, it may be to His angels and glorified saints. And what can He say of you? (S. Martin.)

Giving in the sanctuary

It is meet and right that we give where we receive. The tree yields its fruit on the very spot where it has been nourished by the earth; there, where it has received the light and air and heat of heaven, does it hold up as into the face of heaven its increase. The child gives joy to the parent in the home whose very walls remind the mother of her anguish. The place of an unsealed spring is the seat of a flowing fountain. And it seems but meet that, in the place where we receive, we give. And what a place of blessing is a true house of the Lord; it is Bethel and holy ground, it is beautiful Zion and Bethesda, a house of light, and life, and love, of healing, and salvation, and redemption. (S. Martin.)

Christ mindful of our love service

He who knows how much I am loved, knows how I love; He who knows all that I receive, and how I receive, knows what I give, and in what spirit. It is possible that my very gifts to His Church may grieve Him. Not that He is hard to please; He waits, looks, longs to delight in the doings of His disciples. Their good works may be concealed like violets in the tall grass of the forests, but He will scent their fragrance; they may be feeble as the newborn infant, but He will rejoice over them as over the bright beginning of blessed life; they may be imperfect as some flower or fruit in a formative state, but He will see the end from the beginning; they may wear an appearance of evil, but He will look deeper than the surface; they may be condemned by His disciples, but they shall be approved by Himself, and He will show to the universe that He is not unrighteous, to forget any work of faith or service of love. (S. Martin.)

The two mites

I. That there may be more splendour in some obscure thing we never stop to notice, and would not care for if we did, than there is in the things that dazzle our sight and captivate our hearts.

1. We have all tried to notice this among children. One little child runs all the errands, makes all the sacrifices, but beyond that is a little nobody; plain, small; not brilliant. This is the two-mite child of the family; the small piece of home heroism, of a worth surpassing all the gifts and graces of the household besides; the little one Christ would see if He came and sat down in the house.

2. We notice this again in the Church. Some naturally attract applause by their gifts; others no more attention than this widow with her two mites. They say their poor word. It is their sorrow that they cannot do more; but the joy of heaven that they do so much.

3. This is true of the whole life we are living. There are many never seen or known who cast in more than the brilliant characters who cast in of their abundance.

II. It was an illustration of this law of our life, that the most god-like deed is that which belongs to the sacrifices we make, giving for sacred things and causes that which costs us most, and is most indispensable, and yet is given back to God. Nothing was worth a thought in this poor widow’s gift, but the sacrifice it cost her to give. The whole worth of it lay in that piece of her very life which went with it, but that made the two mites outweigh the whole sum of silver and gold cast in by the wealthy, which cost nothing, beyond the effort to give what a very natural instinct would prompt them to keep. They gave of their fulness, she of her emptiness; they of the ever-springing fountain, she, the last drop in her cup. It was not the sum, but the sacrifice that made the deed sublime.

III. We learn, in this simple and most obvious way, of that whole world of grace and truth that culminated on Calvary. (R. Collyer.)

The scene

Here comes a merchant; the times are hard, he tells you; nothing doing, taxes heavy, losses large, and things so bad generally, that you have to say, “What a misfortune it must be to be a merchant.” But you have to notice that his chariot is of the latest style, and by the best maker; his robes of the finest texture and colour; his diamonds of the purest water; and, altogether, for a man in such hard trial, he looks very well. Yesterday he looked over his accounts; he will not tell you wharf he saw there, but, certainly, he did not seem any worse for the sight. This morning, before he goes to his store, he will go to the temple; he will be thankful, to the extent of offering a lamb; and then there is a little balance, when all is done, that he would like to drop into the treasury. A little balance! but it would buy all that widow has in this world,-the hut she lives in, all the furniture, and all the garments she has to keep her from the cold. Very low the priest, who stands by the chest that day, bows to the generous gift; the holy man would be horrified if you told him he was worshipping a golden idol, but it is true for all that. Then the great merchant passes on, and you see him no more; he has given out of his abundance; ‘he will not need to deny himself one good thing for what he has given. If a new picture strikes his fancy, he will ask the price, and then say, “Send that round to my house;” he will have his venison, all the same, whether it is a sixpence a pound or a dollar; and at the end of the year he will have his balance undamaged, in spite of the hard times. He has given out of his abundance; but, considering the abundance, he has not given as the widow did. Then there comes a lady. You can see that she is not looking well, and the world goes hard. This has been a hard year for her. She has had to give parties, and attend parties; to dress, and dance, and smile when she wanted to weep; and lose her rest, and be a slave that the slaves themselves, if they had any sense of what she is, and has to do, might pity. The season is over, and now she must think of her soul-her poor soul. She must repent in dust and ashes; go to the temple; give to the poor, and to the support of the true faith; and altogether lead a new life. It is the most exquisite “make up” of dust and ashes on the avenue that morning. She sweeps on in her humility, gathering her garments of penitence about her, lest even a fringe should touch the beggar at the gate. She stops a moment to give her gift; low bows the priest again as she passes, and she takes her place among the women, and says her prayers, and her soul is shriven. May we venture to watch her back to her home, and see the luxury that waits her? Is there one jewel, or one robe the less for what she has given, or one whim the less gratified, when the time for penitence is over, and the season opens? I see no sign of that. I never hear her say, “This and that I will forego, that I may give.” She has given of her abundance; she simply purchased a new luxury, and got it cheap, and she fades out of sight and out of life. You see others come with better gifts, not so much, it may be, in mere money value, but more in those pure eyes that are watching that day, not for the amount of the gifts, but for their meaning. A decent farmer follows the fine lady, forehanded, and fall of industry. His crops have done well; his barns are full; his heart is open. He has come to the city to sell his produce; has sold it well, and is thankful, and he will make his offering of two doves in the temple, and give something for the sacred cause, and to the poor besides, because his heart is warm and grateful, and, as he says, he will never feel what he gives to God and the poor; there will be plenty left at the farm when this is given; and then who knows but that the Lord will give a greater blessing next year, for does not the wise book say, “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he giveth shall be rendered to him again?” So it is at once a free gift, and in some way, a safe investment. He is glad to give the money, and yet to feel that this is not the last of it. Very pleasantly the holy man smiles on him too, as he drops his shekels and passes on; he has been there before; he will come again. He is one of those fast friends who can always be counted on to give while the fruitful fields answer to the diligent hand. He is a sort of country connection to these commissioners of the Most High, and will always be received, as he is today, with grace and favour. And very low indeed the good man bows to that stately centurion who comes now. He is not a member of this church; indeed, he is not a member of any church; for, like all his nation of that rank, he thinks that all churches are very much alike, and none of them of much account, except as managers of the common people. But it is a good thing to keep in with them; there is no knowing what you may want; and so he comes now and then, and looks on at the service, tosses his Roman gold into the chest, nods and smiles to the cringing priest, and feels that he has done well. Then with all these come the good and sincere men and women, with not much to spare, but who make a conscience of giving, and manage to get an education for their children, and everything decent; who never want any simple and wholesome thing they need, and are able to lay up a little beside for a rainy day; as various as they are now, they were then, who would do something for these things which to them were so sacred; and it was when givers like these came, that the widow came with her two mites-the smallest matter, possibly, that anybody ever thought of giving. I think if she was like most women, the utter littleness of what she had to spare, would be a shame to her; she would be tempted, on the mere ground of her womanly pride, to say, “Since I cannot give more, I will not give anything: to put in these two mites when others are pouring in their gold and silver, will only show how poor I am.” So it was like giving her life to give so little; and yet these two mites that meant so little to the treasury, meant a great deal to her. They meant darkness, instead of a candle on a winter’s evening; a pint of milk, or a fagot of sticks, or a morsel of honey, or a bit of butter, or a bunch of grapes, or a pound of bread. They meant something to be spared out of the substance and essence of her simple and spare living. And this these wise and loving eyes saw at a glance. Jesus knew that the two mites were all she had; and so as they made their timid tinkle in the coffer, they outweighed all the gold. He saw what they came to, because He saw what they cost, and so His heart went with the two mites; and while the holy man, who had made such deep obeisance for the larger gifts, let this trifle pass unnoticed, Christ caught up the deed and the doer, and clad them both in the shining robes of immortal glory.

The poor widow’s two mites

I. See God’s ordinance that His cause should be supported by our gifts.

II. That the Lord notices the gifts we cast into His treasury.

III. That the Lord passes judgment on those who cast their gifts into His treasury. He declared she had given more than all the rest.

1. She had given more, because she had given with a larger heart, with more real love.

2. She had given more in proportion to her possessions.

3. She had given more in the force of her example.

4. She had given more in its beneficial influence on the character of the giver.

5. She had given more in the relation of the gift to its future reward.

Learn:

1. The right use of money.

2. The value of the offerings of the poor.

3. That the Lord sits over against the treasury. (W. Waiters.)

The power of pence

Those whose means are small may take encouragement to give what they can. There is a mighty power in the combination of littles. We see this in nature, and in the institutions of society. One star would afford small light to the midnight sky, but countless myriads shining together brighten it with their glory. One drop of rain could have no moistening effect on the earth’s dry and thirsty soil, but millions of such drops make the barren land fruitful. There are two bodies of religionists who show us in a striking manner what may be done by the combination of a large number of small contributions, by regular, systematic giving on the part of all their members, even the poorest. I refer to the Roman Catholics and the Wesleyan Methodists. Both sects number the poor largely among their members, and derive no inconsiderable support from their offerings. The sums they annually raise furnish in a most striking manner an illustration of the power of pence. (W. Waiters.)

The power of humble fidelity

There were many gifts, many of them of vanity, many of them of pride, many of them of superstition, many of them of mere custom and necessity; but hers was a voluntary gift of love. And that fact consecrated it. Love imparts a value to a gift which nothing but love can stamp upon it.

I. This is a striking. Illustration of our Lord’s sympathy for the heart of human life, instead of for its exterior. He was sitting in the very culmination of the pride and beauty of the Jewish ceremonial. He was not attracted by sumptuous trains of these gorgeous gift bringers. He saw that which interpreted the innermost and the best nature, the gentle, generous, and piteous. When human strength disdains to notice, there is the very point at which Divine strength notices most. Where men see least to be admired, under uncouth forms of helplessness, there Christ looks with sympathy and compassion. This imparts to the Divine government an aspect of comfort and encouragement. If human life takes care of the successful, the Divine government takes care of the weak and obscure. The great eye is not looking out for the great deeds alone, but for those whose deeds are in secret.

II. Many of the secret fidelities of life have power to outlaw, in usefulness, the products of ambitions, desires and deeds. All the rich gifts of the temple are now forgotten. We do not know what Rabbi was syllabled with admiration among his fellows on that day. The only person who has come down to us was the least conspicuous. The gentle light of that example shines still. All the ages have not buried her. How little she thought she was enriching the world. Christ is still the same. We think those gifts most influential which have most of record; but it is not so. While many a proud philanthropist will scarcely be seen, many strange philanthropists will emerge from among the poor, and take their places as princes in God’s glory. So God works Himself, in secret might. So gives He a pattern for us to work after. It is not the thunder which makes the most racket, that does the most work. The things in this world that are accomplishing great deeds are silent things, and hidden things. And we are told, in a kind of strange paradox, that the things which are not, are ordained to bring to nought the things that are. The most inconspicuous things often belong to God’s most potential working. The root neither strives nor cries, and yet, all the engines of all the ships and shops on earth, that puff and creak with ponderous working, are not to be compared for actual power with the roots of one single acre of ground in the meadow. All the vast pumps of Harlem Lake, and all that serve our needs, adjoining, are not to be compared for force with that might which inheres in one single tree. It is a fact revealed only to those who study natural history, that leaves, that vegetation, that dews, and rains, and heat, that the natural attractions which prevail in the world, without any echo or outward report, have an enormous power in them, and that they are the means by which God works. He works in silence, and inconspicuously, and almost hiddenly. And so they work importantly who work by thought, by love, by zeal, by faith unrevealed; who work in places not seen by the public eye, in season and out of season, from the mere desire to do good, and not from the mere love of being found out in doing it. Look upon your scarfs, so brilliant. The colour shines afar off. Comely it is on the shoulder of beauty. How exquisite is the dye that comes from the cochineal insect. And yet how small is that insect-scarcely, I may say, so big as the point of a pin-which feeds so inconspicuously on the under side of the leaf of the cactus, nourishing his growth quite unconscious that as one of all the myriads of all these little shining points he will by and by help to produce these glowing colours which civilization and refinement will make so meet and comely in distant lands! So it is with good deeds. The great things in this world are the sum of infinitesimal little things. And those who are in sympathy with God and nature, are not to reject in men the ripening, the development of themselves or their true spiritual life, because the effect is but little. That effect will be joined to other things which are like itself obscure, and others and others will make their contributions; and little by little the sum of these specks of gold will make masses of gold; little by little these small insects will make great quantities of colouring matter; little by little small things will become large in magnitude. Do not be ashamed, then, to live in humility, if you fill it up with fidelity. Never measure the things that you do, or do not, by the report which they can make.

III. There are two spheres in which men must work. The first is that which judges of causes by their apparent relations to the end sought. That is important; but it is not the only sphere. It is the visible, material sphere-the one which belongs to the region of physical cause and effect. We are obliged to work in that sphere according to its own laws. But in the moral sphere men must judge of acts by their relations to the motives and dispositions which inspire them; and they are great or little, not according to what they do, but according to the sources from which their actions spring. In engineering that only is great which does. It matters not what the intention is; he who in the day of battle is not victorious, is not saved by his intention. No matter hew wisely you mean, if your timber is not squared and fitted right, the result is not right. In the outward sphere effect measures the worth of the plan. In that sphere effect must always be measured by the cause; and the worth of the cause must be proved by the effect. And that is the lower sphere. In the moral sphere it is the other way. There, no matter what the effect is, you do not measure in that direction. Pray. Your prayer accomplishes nothing? The measure is not “What did it do?” Speak. Your words fall apparently uncaught and unprofitable? You do not measure in that direction. You measure the other way. What was it in your heart to do? What was your purpose? In the moral sphere we look at the bow-not at the target. From what motive did the soul project its purpose? What gave that sigh? What issued that speech? What created that silence? What produced that moral condition? In that sphere the heart measures, estimates, registers. This gives rise to thoughts which, perhaps, may have relation to ourselves. There are many who will work if you will show them that their working will insure immediate good results. They will work in the moral sphere if they can work according to the genius of the visible or the physical sphere. They will work if they can do what others do. They do not work because they love to work. They do not work because they feel that it is their duty to work, simply, without regard to consequences. They are willing to work under the stimulus of a vain ambition. They will work if they may be praised. They will work if they are to receive an equivalent for their working in some appreciable form. The equivalent, oftentimes, for exertion, is praise or popularity. Do, then, whatever there is to be done without questioning and without calculation. Make progress in things moral. If need be, utter stammering words. Would you console the troubled if you only had a ready tongue? Take the tongue that you have. Ring the bell that hangs in your steeple, if you can do no better. Do as well as you can. That is all that God requires of you. Would you pray with the needy and tempted if you had eminent gifts of prayer? Use the gifts that you have. Do not measure yourself according to the pattern of somebody else. Do not say to yourself, “If I had his skill,” or, “If I had his experience.” Take your own skill and your own experience, and make the most of them. Do you stand over against trouble and suffering, and marvel that men whom God hath blessed with such means do so little? Do you say to yourself, “If I had money, I know what I would do with it”? No, you do not. God does; and so He does not trust you with it. “If I had something different from what I have, I would work,” says many a man. No; if you would work in other circumstances, you would work just where you are. A man that will not work just where he is, with just what he has, and for the love of God, and for the love of man, will not work anywhere, in such a way as to make his work valuable. It will be adulterated work. What if you have not money? If you have a heart to work, it is better than if you had great riches. And if you find that you are hesitant, reluctant, and are acting accordingly, be sure that you do not belong to the widow’s school. Did she say to herself, as she handled her fractions of a penny, “What is the use of my throwing these in? They will scarcely be taken out. They are all that I have, with which to buy my day’s food. There it will do very little good; here it will do a great deal of good”? (H. W. Beecher.)

Consecrated womanhood

What is it to be a consecrated woman?

I. Such consecration involves heart dedication to Christ and His service.

II. Such consecration embraces the sacred devotion of time to the work God carries on through female agents. She saves her odd minutes as the jeweller saves the cuttings of gems and gold.

III. Such a consecration implies the devotion of culture to the Divine glory and uplifting of humanity.

IV. Such consecration embodies the ability to do varied work of a beneficent nature, whereby God is glorified,

V. Such consecration involves the sanctification of the pence to the Divine glory. (S. F. Leech, D. D.)

The Lord’s searching eye

The Saviour noticed not merely, the fact or acts of contribution, but also the wonderfully diversified modes in which the acts exhibited themselves. Mode is inseparable from act, and, when outward, reveals the inward essence of the act. We may suppose that our Saviour looked in, through the diversified modes that struck His outward eye, to the diversified characters of the contributors, as they passed in succession before Him. If so, it would be with far more interest and innerliness than was ever manifested by Lavater, and with an intuition that was unerring. “On Sundays, after the sermon,” says the poet Goethe, “it was Lavater’s duty, as an ecclesiastic, to hold the short-handled, velvet alms bag before each one who went out, and to bless as he received the pious gift. Now, on a certain Sunday he proposed to himself, without looking at the several persons as they dropped in their offerings, to observe only their hands, and by them silently to judge of the forms of their donors. Not only the shape of the finger, but its peculiar action in dropping the gift, was attentively noted by him, and he had much to communicate to me on the conclusions he had formed.” As the idiosyncrasy and form of the whole body was revealed to Lavater’s eye by the form and action of the fingers, so the idiosyncrasy and moral condition of every soul were unveiled to our Saviour’s gaze, as He noticed “how” the offerings were cast in. (J. Morison, D. D.)

Liberality of the poor

Peggy had been consigned by her dying mother in Ireland to the care of a lady, who brought her up as a servant, giving her only clothes and food as her wages. Her residence with this lady led to Peggy’s attendance on the ministry of the gospel, which met, in her case, with a heart prepared by Divine grace to receive it. She imbibed it as the thirsty earth the shower; her appearance became altered, and her whole demeanour greatly improved. Her mistress, finding her services increasingly valuable, and fearing that the temptation of higher wages might cause her to seek another place, offered, of her own account, to give her a small sum of money annually. For this she was truly thankful; and some months having elapsed, she came to me (says a Christian minister in London) one evening after service, apparently with great joy, and slipped a piece of paper into my hand. On examination I found it to be a one-pound note. “Peggy,” said I, “what is this?” “Your reverence,” said she, “it is the first pound I could ever call my own since I was born; and what will I do with it? Ah! will I forget my country? No; it is for poor Ireland; it is for my countrymen to have the blessed gospel preached to them.” I admired her disinterestedness, but thought the sacrifice too great, as I knew she must want such a sum for very important purposes. “Peggy,” I said, “it is too much for you to give; I cannot take it.” “Oh, your reverence,” she replied, with her characteristic energy, “if you refuse it, I shall not be able to sleep for a fortnight! “And she went away, leaving the money in my hand, and exclaiming, “God bless my poor country with the ministry of the gospel.”

Costly gifts

A missionary, in a report of his field of labour says: “I can imagine someone saying, as he reads this report, ‘Well, I will give £5 to the cause; I can give that, and not feel it.’ But suppose, my Christian brother, you were to give £20, and feel it?” There is vast meaning in the advice, “Give till you feel it.” It is by this principle that churches are founded, and gospel institutions sustained. If this rule were to be put in operation everywhere, there would hardly be a feeble church in our land, or a church in debt, or a sanctuary out of repair, or a minister half-sustained, or a true cause of charity without adequate support. (Anon.)

Religion the first thought

A poor negro woman, after the death of her husband, had no means of support for herself and two little children, except the labour of her own hands, yet she found means, out of her deep poverty, to give something for the promotion of the cause of her Redeemer; and would never fail to pay, on the very day it became due, her regular subscription to the church of which she was a member. In a hard winter she found it very difficult to supply the pressing needs of her little family, yet the few pence for religious purposes had been regularly put by. As one season for the contribution came round, she had only a little corn, a single salt herring, and a five-cent piece remaining of her little store. Yet she did not waver. She ground the corn, prepared her children’s supper, and then with a light heart and cheerful countenance set out to service, where she gave joyfully the five cents, the last she had in the world. Returning from the church she passed the house of a lady, to whom a long time before she had sold a piece of pork-so long, indeed, that she had quite forgotten all the particulars of the transaction; but seeing her this evening, the lady called her in, apologizing for having been so tardy in the settlement, and then inquired how much it was. The poor woman could only reply she did not know; but the lady, determined to be on the safe side, gave her two dollars, besides directing her housekeeper to put up a basket of flour, sugar, coffee, and other good things for her use. She returned home with a joyful heart, saying, as she displayed her treasures, “See, my children, the Lord is a good paymaster, giving us a hundredfold even in this present life, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

The gift of love

Once upon a time there was a king, and he was very powerful and great. He was also very good, and so kind to his people that they all loved him very much. To show their gratitude to him for all his kindness and the many favours he was constantly bestowing upon them, and also to show the very great love which they had in their hearts for him, the people resolved to make him a present. Now there was a poor woman who loved the king very, very much, and she wished to contribute something to the present for her dear sovereign; but she was so very poor that she had nothing at all in the world to give but only one little brown farthing. And a rich neighbour came to her, and said, “You can never put that dirty brown farthing among the bright gold pieces offered to the great king. Here are some new silver shillings, they will not look so bad; you can put them in, and it is all the same, for I was going to give them at any rate.” But this poor woman replied, “Oh no; when I bring a gift to the good king, it must be my very own. I am very sorry I have nothing better to give; but I will just slip it in quietly, so that the king won’t take any notice of it; and if he throws it away afterwards, I don’t mind. It is all I have, and I will have the pleasure of giving it to him whom I love so very, very much.” So this poor woman went forward with the rest; but she walked very slowly, and hung down head, being sorry her gift was so small; and when she passed the king she never once looked up, but just slipped her little brown farthing into the plate among the rest of the gifts. When she was turning away she felt someone give her a tap on the shoulder, and when she looked round the king was looking down at her, and smiling very graciously. “My good woman,” he said, “was it you who put in this costly gift?” And as she looked in his hand she saw something very like her old brown farthing; but just as she was wondering if that could be what the king meant, the farthing began to grow brighter and brighter, till the poor woman could scarcely look at it, for it had changed into a beautiful locket, all shining with gold and diamonds and other precious stones. The poor woman gave a little sigh of disappointment in bet heart, but she looked up straight into the king’s face, and said, “Oh no, I only gave one little brown farthing.” “Take it into your hand and see,” said the king, still smiling. So she took it as he bade her, and then she saw that it was her farthing after all. “Yes,” she said, feeling greatly surprised, “that is the very farthing I put in, for I tried hard to clean it up, and could only get it to look a little bright at the edge.” So she laid it back again in the king’s hand, and as soon as he touched it, there it was shining and sparkling as before. Then the king said, “I thank you very much for this beautiful gift; it is very precious to me.” And he took it, and hung it upon the chain that was round his neck, and the poor woman went home quite happy, because the king had been pleased to accept her gift, and loving him a thousand times more than before, if that were possible. Now it is more than eighteen hundred years since that day, and the great and good king has been wearing that poor woman’s brown farthing at his chain all the time. And whenever any poor woman wishes to offer him a gift from the great love that is in her heart, and is afraid to bring it because it seems so small, he points to the shining locket, and says, “Why, this was once only a little brown farthing, and it pleased me as much as the rich man’s gold; for with me a man is accepted according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not?” (C. P. Craig.)

Covetousness cornered

A gentleman called upon a rich friend for a contribution to some charitable object. “Yes, I must give you my mite,” said the rich man. “Do you mean the widow’s mite?” asked his friend. “Certainly,” was the reply. “I shall be satisfied with half as much as she gave. How much are you worth?” “Seventy thousand dollars.” “Give me, then, your cheque for thirty-five thousand; that will be half as much as the widow gave, for she, you know, gave ‘all that she had, even all her living.’” The rich man was cornered. Covetous people often try to shelter themselves behind the widow’s mite; but it is a dangerous refuge.

Alms-giving, false and true

Alms-giving is degraded in two ways-when it is done to be seen of men, and when it is done to save your soul. You cannot tender to God 1s. 6d. or £1 for a sin committed. You cannot wipe out guilt with half a crown. The Jews thought you could. The Roman Catholic Church, in its worst days at least, openly taught that you could. The priests invited the dying to insure against hell or purgatory by leaving their property to the church or the poor. The fallacy is not yet quite extinct. The other day a witty ecclesiastic was listening to a rich merchant who, after dinner, boasted that, although no better than he should be, he gave £2,000 away to the poor every year. He did not know, nor apparently care, who got it, but it went. “Well,” said his clerical listener, “that is the largest insurance against fire I ever heard of!” Now, mark this, if in alms-giving the donor is thinking more of himself than of the recipient of his gift, his act is not Christian charity, but selfishness. If he gives, in order to be praised, or to save his soul, or merely to relieve his own feelings, without regard to the effect of his gift, that is not Christian charity. The impulse is good, but not alone. It does more harm than good, without reflection, common sense, and eves wisdom. Every penny given to a knave robs a deserving person. There are plenty such: find them out, and when you find them, do not pauperize them. Help them to help themselves. Every Christmas we are deluged with circulars; choose the right institutions and pleas to support; avoid the professional beggars of this world, in print or out of print, who prey on the credulous and impulsive, and can give no satisfactory account of their stewardship. I am not against extras at Christmas. If we brighten our homes for our friends, God forbid that we should forget the poor; but again I say, be careful. Let us comfort the sick, seek out the deserving poor, think of poor dependents, old servants, the people in our own neighbourhood; let us do all we can to lighten the burden of unobtrusive sufferers, helping the thrifty poor, the sick, the aged; but let us avoid bolstering up the blatant impostor! (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

All her living.

Mr. Skelton’s devotion to the poor

The salary of the Rev. Philip Skelton, an Irish clergyman, arising from the discharge of his ministerial duties and from tuition, was very small; yet he gave the larger part of it away, scarcely allowing himself to appear in decent clothing. Returning one Lord’s day from public worship, he came to a cabin where an awful fire had occurred. Two children had been burnt to death, and a third showed but faint signs of life. Seeing the poor people had no linen with which to dress the child’s sores, he tore his shirt from his back piece by piece for their use, and cheerfully submitted to the inconvenience to which it exposed him. Some time after this, when a scarcity of food was felt around him, he sold his library, though his books were the only companions of his solitude, and spent the money in the purchase of provisions for the poor. Some ladies hearing of this, sent him £50 to replace some of his most valuable books with; but, while gratefully acknowledging their kindness, he said he had dedicated the books to God, and then applied the £50 also to the relief of the poor.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 12:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/mark-12.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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