Great Texts of the Bible
A Peculiar Treasure
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I do make, even a peculiar treasure [A.V. in that day when I make up my jewels]; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.—Malachi 3:17.
Little or nothing is known historically of the prophet Malachi. It is not even certain that a prophet of that name ever lived, as the name means simply “my messenger.” But if he lived, the time, the place, the circumstances of his birth are all unknown. We know nothing of his ancestors and nothing of his descendants if he had any. Like a meteor he starts up suddenly in the horizon of the Church, and, after running a brief career of exceeding brightness, he disappears as suddenly, leaving no trace behind except the few pages of thrilling prophecy with which the Old Testament closes.
If the Book of Malachi is the last prophetic book in the Old Testament, the Book of Nehemiah is the last historical book, and it would be an advantage to read these two books together, for they refer to the same period in the history of Israel. It was a period of fearful religious degeneracy. The long captivity of seventy years in a land full of idols, of a base degrading heathenism, far away from the Temple with its sacred ordinances, had exerted a most baneful influence on Israel and loosened the bonds which bound the nation to Jehovah. The abominations so sternly denounced by Nehemiah in his book are precisely the same as those denounced by Malachi in his book. Nehemiah as civil governor employs the rod of authority and punishes the evildoers, while Malachi as a prophet warns, admonishes, and threatens in the name of Jehovah.
Wide and deep, however, as the degeneracy was, there were still some who feared the Lord, and thought upon His name, and trusted in His faithfulness in spite of the disorder and confusion of which they were the daily witnesses. What they saw around them made them draw closer together; they would often meet in secret to commend themselves to God in prayer, as well as to cheer one another with words of hope and consolation; and they were so blessed from above in the use of such means of mutual encouragement, as to be able to hold fast their integrity. The interest with which God looked on these “little ones”—this handful of faithful souls in a dark time—how strikingly expressed! So touched was He with the thoughts and feelings and prayers that were breathed by them,—sounds sweet in any circumstances, but still sweeter in this case in contrast with the strife and violence of the outside world,—that He is represented as causing their names to be written in a book, as if to make sure of their being kept in remembrance. And of the interest He felt in them we have still stronger evidence in the words of the text, where He says that He would claim them as His own in that day when He should bring together in its most perfect state all that was most valuable, all that was most worthy of being owned by Him, all that He would deign to store up among His most precious possessions.
Let us try to place ourselves beside Malachi, that we may understand this gracious promise of God; and may we be encouraged to examine ourselves and see whether we belong to the peculiar treasure which is His and which He has promised to spare in the great Day.
The Judgment of God
The translation is a little difficult. Literally the words mean “In the day that I do” (or “act”). G. A. Smith translates, “In the day that I rise to action.”
It is the Day of the Lord, the Day of the appearing and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without entering upon disputed ground, it will suffice to say that we all look for some sort of termination to the present state of things, some period when the present strife between good and evil shall come to an end, and when the separation shall take place between those who serve the Lord and those who serve Him not. We may differ as to the manner how and the time when, but we are all agreed as to the fact. And it is an object of most pleasing contemplation to the Christian that, whether it come during his own stay upon the earth or not, still it will usher in a great and glorious time for him; it will bring with it the perfection of his nature, the completed likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ, the redemption of his body; and it will bring with it bright and glorious things for the world, indeed we may say (following the statement of St. Paul), for the universal creation of God; for he tells us that the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
1. First, there will be a judgment of sins on that day; and at that judgment many will accuse Christians. Many, at least, may be supposed to do so. Satan, for example, will—the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). And conscience will, which even now compels us to exclaim, “Iniquities, I must confess, prevail against me” (Psalm 65:3). And may not fellow-sinners maintain that, as to this forbidden fruit, it was we that beguiled them, and made them eat? But, worst of all, when the books of God are opened they will show what Satan cannot, no, nor self either, even the every sin of every sinner.
This used to be a well-known fact; and daily still, in certain edifices, steeple-house, joss-houses, temples sacred or other, everywhere spread over the world, we hear some dim mumblement of an assertion that such is still, what it was always and will forever be, the fact: but meseems it has terribly fallen out of memory nevertheless; and, from Dan to Beersheba, one in vain looks out for a man that really in his heart believes it. In his heart he believes, as we perceive, that scrip will yield dividends: but that Heaven too has an office of account, and unerringly marks down, against us or for us, whatsoever thing we do or say or think, and treasures up the same in regard to every creature,—this I do not so well perceive that he believes. Poor blockhead, no: he reckons that all payment is in money, or approximately representable by money; finds money go a strange course; disbelieves the parson and his Day of Judgment; discerns not that there is any judgment except in the small or big debt court; and lives (for the present) on that strange footing in this Universe. The unhappy mortal, what is the use of his “civilizations” and “useful knowledges,” if he have forgotten that beginning of human knowledge; the earliest perception of the awakened human soul in this world; the first dictate of Heavens inspiration to all men? I cannot account him a man any more; but only a kind of human beaver, who has acquired the art of ciphering.1 [Note: Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, No. v.]
2. But there will be a judgment of services as well as of sins; and at that judgment also many will accuse Christians. Satan will say, “Lord, their brightest deeds were marred by sin, their best by shortcoming. I marked them well, and watched them often. They never once did good and sinned not.” And, as he speaks, so likewise will a multitude of others also. But Gods book of remembrance will also accuse them; for He has a book for services as well as one for sins. We read about it here, where it is written, that “they that feared the Lord spake one with another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). This, some might say, is comforting. Ah! but that remembrance-book of services will, of course, just show them as they are—all spotted, wrinkled, blemished, and defiled, mere rags of righteousness, and filthy rags. What, in these circumstances, will the Judge do?
Slowly and painlessly consciousness returned. He looked about him and remembered. It seemed but a moment, and yet the life he had lived on earth was as far from him as if he had died a century ago. In the stillness and the measureless quiet which enfolded him after those last agonizing hours he knew that he had already entered into rest. So deep was the peace which fell softly as if from the vast heights above him that he felt no curiosity and was without fear. He was in a new life and he must find his place in it, but he was content to wait; and while he waited his thought went swiftly back to the days when, a little child, he looked up at the sky and wondered if the stars were the lights in the streets of heaven. One by one the years rose out of the depths of his memory and he recalled, step by step, all the way he had come; childhood, youth, manhood, and age. He read with deepening interest the story of his life—all his thoughts, his words, the things he had done and left undone. And as he read he knew what was good and what was ill; everything was clear, not only in the unbroken record of what he had been, but in a sudden perception of what he was. At last he knew himself. And while he pondered one stood beside him, grave and calm and sweet with the purity that is perfect strength. Into the face which turned toward him, touched with the light of immortal joy, he looked up and asked, “When shall I be judged?”
And the answer came: “You have judged yourself. You may go where you will.”1 [Note: H. W. Mabie, Parables of Life, 27.]
The Judgment that Spares
“I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”
The need of such a promise as this is very urgent, and never more so than at the present time. Saints might say, as they often do, “Ah! but a judgment-day will be very awful—awful, whatever else. Think of its hopes as we may, we cannot forget its terrors; we cannot forget that the day when the Lord will make up His jewels will be one of scrutiny and testing trials—a day of fire that shall try every mans work of what sort it is ” (1 Corinthians 3:13), “and burn up all that is not gold, silver, and precious stones. It must be a dreadful, unsparing day for sinners; and what else are we? Our own hearts condemn us, and God is greater than our hearts; He knoweth all things.” Well, to hush these fears, we have this promise given us of God, “And I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”
The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. He will spare those only who can be spared in righteousness. He will not call evil good, and good evil, to arrive in this way at an unrighteous judgment. He will spare only those whose best the blood of Jesus clears, as well as those whose worst the blood of Jesus covers.
Being moved by His own free mercy and goodness, even in the same love in which He sent His Son, the beloved, into the world, to seek and save the lost; on the 1st day of the second month, in the evening, in the year, according to the common account, 1689, being alone in my chamber, the Lord brake in upon me unexpectedly, quick as lightning from the heavens, and as a righteous, all-powerful, all-knowing, and sin-condemning Judge; before whom my soul, as in the deepest agony, trembled, was confounded and amazed, and filled with such awful dread as no words can reach or declare.
My mind seemed plunged into utter darkness, and eternal condemnation appeared to enclose me on every side, as in the centre of the horrible pit—never to see redemption thence, or the face of Him in mercy, whom I had sought with all my soul. But in the midst of this confusion and amazement, where no thought could be formed or any idea retained, save eternal death possessing my whole man, a voice was formed and uttered in me:—“Thy will, O God, be done: if this be Thy act alone, and not my own, I yield my soul to Thee.” In conceiving these words from the Word of Life I quickly found relief: there was all-healing virtue in them; and the effect was so swift and powerful that, even in a moment, all my fears vanished, as if they had never been, and my mind became calm and still, and simple as a little child; the day of the Lord dawned, and the Sun of Righteousness arose in me, with Divine healing and restoring virtue in His countenance, and He became the centre of my mind.
In this wonderful operation of the Lords power, denouncing judgment in tender mercy, and in the hour of my deepest concern and trial, I lost my old self, and came to the beginning of the knowledge of Him, the Just and Holy One, whom my soul had longed for.1 [Note: 1 A Journal of the Life of Thomas Story, 13.]
1. “I will spare them,” says God, “as a man spareth his own son”; in other words, “I will spare them fondly, I will spare them affectionately”—not as a judge spares a stranger, whom he dismisses from his bar, but as a father spares a son, whom he takes to his bosom. This is a noteworthy fact or feature in the case. It would be a little thing comparatively to be merely spared—spared, with no feeling toward us in Him who spares—spared, as a stranger might be, who is nothing to Him. What would life eternal be? What would innocence itself be? What would both together be, without love to us in the heart of God? Just an eternity without a summer and without a sun. But it is no such cheerless prospect that awaits us. God will spare us “as a man spareth his own son.” On the great judgment day, every accuser that assails us will be answered by Himself and answered from His own remembrance-books; and when, at last, the trial through, the process ended, He can spare us righteously, He will gather us in His arms, and clasp us to His bosom, saying, “These my sons were dead, and are alive again; they were lost, and are found.”
In a letter to his youngest sister, announcing his intention to offer himself for foreign mission work, Henry Martyn wrote: “I am thankful to God that you are so free from anxiety and care; we cannot but with praise acknowledge His goodness. What does it signify whether we be rich or poor, if we are sons of God? How unconscious are they of their real greatness, and they will be so till they find themselves in glory! When we contemplate our everlasting inheritance, it seems too good to be true; yet it is no more than is due to the kindred of God manifest in the flesh. ”1 [Note: J. Sargent, Life and Letters of the Rev. Henry Martyn, 28.]
2. But the full promise of the text is greater still. “I will spare them,” says God, “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him”—that kind of son. In other words, “I will spare him admiringly, I will spare him approvingly.” A man usually would spare his own son in any circumstances. Though he were a son that served him not, he would labour to spare him till the going down of the sun. See, for instance, how David would have spared Absalom—a wicked son that would never have spared his father. Davids charge to all his captains was “Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.” And when, notwithstanding, Absalom perished, and news reached his father that it was even so, his bitter cry was this—“O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Yes, a man would even spare his own son that served him not. Of course it would be only pityingly; still, pityingly, he would do it. But it is not thus that the Lord will spare His people, for He will spare them approvingly, “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him”—not as David would have spared Absalom, but as Abraham would have spared Isaac, that beloved son in whom he was at all times pleased.
God will spare us approvingly, as having much in us to approve, much in us to admire (mystery of mysteries!), much in us to reward and crown. In the day of Christ, remembrance will be made of every service that we ever did. Nothing will be forgotten—not even the cup of cold water given by His poorest people. It will be remembered how, when Christ was hungry, we fed Him; when thirsty, we gave Him drink; when a stranger, we took Him in; because, doing so to the least, mayhap, of His many brethren, we did it unto Him. To ourselves our services may seem so few, and the few so feeble, that we conclude they must be nothing in the sight of God. Ah! but He treasures them to-day, that He may tell of them at last, and then say, “Servant of God, well done.”
Forres suggests the name of Martin, who was a short time in the ministry after Mr. Murkers ordination. He was a Haldane student, and of him the story is told that a military gentleman, who was one of his stated hearers, remarked one day—“Why, Mr. Martin, if I had power over the pension list, I would actually have you put upon half pay for your long and faithful services.” Mr. Martin replied—“Ah, my friend, your master may put you off in your old age with half pay, but my Master will not serve me so meanly. He will give me full pay. Through grace I expect a full reward.”1 [Note: J. Stark, John Murker of Banff, 175.]
Here [in a letter written by Oliphant to Alice LEstrange, who afterwards became his wife] is another fine apprehension of that more magnanimous view of Christian work and recompense which was dear to those visionary souls:—
“I was thinking to-day, darling, how it would help us, to realize that all pleasures, joy, and happiness must never be considered except as being the accident of service. The mistake of the popular theology is that it makes people desire their salvation for its own sake, instead of its being the accident of our working for other people. It seems very hard upon God that He cannot invest His service with delight without our having a tendency to drop the service and appropriate the delight. We have thus got into the habit of putting the cart before the horse.… We are not forbidden to enjoy intensely the pleasure He attaches to the fulfilment of our highest duties; but the love of those highest duties must be greater than that of the delight which they impart.”2 [Note: Mrs. Oliphant, Memoir of the Life of Laurence Oliphant, 246.]
A Peculiar Treasure
“They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I do make, even a peculiar treasure.”
The Lord Jesus when on earth was one of the poorest of men. He was born to poverty; He was cradled in a stable; He went through His brief life on foot; He had no home during His ministry in which to lay His weary head; and His crucified body was buried in a family tomb borrowed from one who was almost a stranger. Yet He was all the time laying the foundations for the most magnificent possessions in the universe of God. He was accumulating the only treasures that can outlast this fleeting globe. They are the innumerable human souls redeemed by Him unto everlasting glory. To them His prophetic eye looked forward when He said, “They shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels.” More closely rendered, the passage is, “They shall be my peculiar treasure in the day I act.”
There are very few alterations in the Revised Version which give us a keener pang than this one. The time-worn phrase “When I make up my jewels,” has been so precious that it seems almost sacrilege to touch it. But, except for the hallowed associations of the Authorized Version, the Revised Version is equally precious. The word segullah is one of the most endearing terms in the Hebrew language. Its locus classicus is to be found in 1 Chronicles 29:3, where we find that David had prepared for the temple 3000 talents of gold and 7000 talents of silver; but over and above this, David had a segullah, “a private treasure of his own of gold and silver,” and this he was willing to dedicate to the same purpose. That part of a mans possessions, then, which he values most of all is his segullah. The word occurs in Exodus 19:5 : “If ye will obey … ye shall be to me a segullah above all peoples”; Deuteronomy 7:6 : “Jehovah has chosen thee to be a segullah to himself”; and in the passage before us, the Lord says: “In the day that I do make”—“that day,” “the day of the Lord,” “the unique day,” so often mentioned in the prophets—“they shall be mine, a peculiar treasure.”1 [Note: J. T. Marshall, in The Expository Times, vii. 18.]
Some people are afraid lest the thought of Gods people being His jewels should be lost by this rendering, but it is not. If you read it as it is in the Authorized, “They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels,” you have an idea conveyed to your mind that a day is coming when God will gather His jewels and make them up into one great whole; but this, while perfectly true, is nevertheless a very partial idea. The real idea is best expressed thus: “They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day when I act—my jewels.” The word “jewels” is in the nominative case in apposition to the pronoun “they,” at the beginning of the sentence, “They shall be mine in the day when I act, my special treasure.” So that you have not merely the assuring and blessed word that God will gather these people together, His own precious treasure; but there is another word, which goes deeper and is more full of blessed assurance still, that God is coming “to do”—and “to act,” coming in upon all this indifference to set it right; and God says, “In the day I act, these people who have been faithful, and have feared My name, and thought upon My name, shall be My special treasure.” You see there is nothing lost. We still have the sweet assurance that He will gather His own people as His jewels; but we have also the great assertion that He is coming to act, that while the present is mans day, Gods day lies ahead. He will manifest Himself in greater power and glory than ever before. “In that day they shall be Mine, My jewels, My special treasure.”1 [Note: G. Campbell Morgan, “Wherein?” 85.]
1. It seems, then, that the Lord of Hosts has something, even in this evil world, on which He sets a high and peculiar value; notwithstanding there is so much that He condemns,—sometimes as if all were evil. Indeed, it were very strange if He had not, when we consider what it is for Him to have formed, sustained, governed, a world. Think of this mighty globe of matter! Why, it requires an angels faculty to conceive any adequate notion of its very magnitude. There never was a man on earth who had space enough for it in his mind, if we may express it so. And then think of all its elements—its marvellous order, the laws of Nature (invented, established, maintained in perpetual force), its productions, and then, its relation to the heavens, as well as the mighty scheme of Providence, and the whole system of spiritual government. Now in so vast a system of existence, and so immense and various an economy of operation and regulation, there should be found something peculiarly precious, of which He may say, by eminence—“It is mine.”
2. Who are Gods “peculiar treasure”? God estimates them not by their physical structure, not by their mental qualities, not by their learning or wealth, but by their harmony or disharmony with His will, by their sympathy or want of sympathy with His character and authority, by their dominant thoughts and feelings concerning Himself. You tell me what a man feels, thinks, and does in relation to God and I will tell you what Gods estimate is of that man. In Malachi 3:16 we have a full description of the small remnant of faithful ones whom God designates His peculiar treasure.
(1) “They feared the Lord”—not that guilty tormenting fear which drives man away from God, which shudders with remorse in His presence, which trembles beneath His frown, which seeks, like Adam, guilty, a hiding-place where God is not; but that holy fear which reverently approaches God, which devoutly yearns for His fellowship, and yet is awed by a sense of His nearness, that fear which covets His favour, and whose highest heaven is to live in the light of His approval, that fear which remembers His covenant and submits to His kingly authority.
(2) “They thought upon his name.” Twice He had revealed that Name to their fathers; once to Moses as the “I Am” and once to Abraham as “I am God All-sufficient.” To Moses He proclaimed what He is in Himself, the “I Am,” the Self-Contained, the Self-Existent, the Absolute, the Source of life and being. To Abraham He proclaimed what He is to His people, “God All-sufficient,” the All-satisfying portion, the All in All. This Great Name was ever in the thought of the faithful Remnant; they pondered over it as revealed to their fathers; they gloried in its infinite superiority to the gods of the heathen from whose bondage Jehovah had delivered them; they remembered what that Name had done for them and for their fathers before them and were thankful; they thought of the infinite resources of that All-sufficient Name and were trustful.
(3) “They spake one with another.” They not only thought about God in solitude and silence, but they also cheered and strengthened one another in evil times by rehearsing together the wonderful things which God had done for them and for their fathers. It was no empty idle talk; it was so good that Jehovah hearkened and heard; so precious was it that God bent His ear, put Himself in a listening attitude to hear every word they said. God not only heard the talk, but it was so pleasing to Him that He wrote it in a book, which He calls “the book of remembrance,” kept before Him for them that fear the Lord. These are the men whom God calls “a peculiar treasure.”
Notice the gracious recognition of true piety. It is not lost, but is always recognized in its surrounding obscurity. Here in this chapter which contains the text we find a prophetic rebuke launched against the rebellious sacrilege and infidelity of the people. The general feeling and conduct of the time tended to obscure the grace of piety, to introduce an element of revolt which was antagonistic to it. Amidst this eclipse and conflict we find a Divine alacrity in noting, and a quick complacency in presenting, the main features of fidelity and truth. God had His hidden ones, and He knew and marked them, knew where to find them, to call up His reserves, even though they did not form any conspicuous band amidst the Babel of unbelief. Although the social aspect of the time showed the world at variance with Gods truth, there were still some who held it precious, and would not let it go. They failed to find sympathy from the world, but they kept together and they “spake one with another.” The great world took no notice of them, but the Lord heard their loyal interchange, and blessed them. They never gathered—this people of the Lord—they never gathered in their little groups to think upon His name but He took mark of them. The spoken prayer and the silent prayer were registered by Him. The sympathetic link forged between the Lord and them that feared Him trembled with every mark of their fidelity and moved with no uncertain pulse within their heart. It is always so. The Christian can never be deserted or alone, but will always be Divinely supported. If the child has recognized the Fathers house as his home, and has gone back to it after never so ungrateful a departure, the welcome never falters, the rejoicing never flags, the fatted calf and the best robe are ever ready, because the dead is alive again and the lost is found. No matter what social humour, no matter what whims of fashion may obscure His meaning from the world, amidst all conflict the movement of the soul is recognized, the children of God who fear His name shall find a book of remembrance in which their names are written, they shall find the Divine Listener with them when they speak one with another, and “they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”
3. They are precious to Him. That is the idea especially involved here. God will delight in acknowledging them as His peculiar treasure, in whom His soul delights. As those rich in jewels have a peculiar pleasure in exposing them to the inspection of admiring friends, so God will delight in displaying His treasure before friends and foes. Before an assembled universe He will testify to His peculiar pleasure in those who were His faithful witnesses on earth—those who professed Him in the face of all the opposition, obloquy, and shame they encountered from a godless world. God will now show His delight in them by planting them as stars for ever and ever in the firmament of glory, in holding them forth as a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty in His right hand, and in rejoicing over them with joy and singing.
What is it that makes a thing precious?
(1) The sense of ownership.—God has formed and fashioned us for Himself. For Him we were created, and this frame in which our spirit is enshrined testifies in all its lines of adaptations and uses, in all its marvellous anatomy, to the God that created it. We have given ourselves to other lords that have had dominion over us. Every one has gone his own way, all astray from the protection and the control of Him whom we were formed to confess. God tells us that it shall not always be so; that there is coming a time when He will claim His own, and that edict which was sounded in the day of our birth shall be echoed in the day of our redemption. The purpose of our creation shall be vindicated. We were not formed simply to eat and drink and sleep. God never made these bodies for the mere uses of this world, or for the enjoyment of temporary and fleeting pleasures. He has put the signet of infinity upon them. They are fashioned and formed for immortal joys and immortal living. When in the resurrection they shall be refashioned according to His own body and His own will, it shall then be manifest to whom we belong. Now, sometimes, when we look in the mirror, it would seem an awful reflection upon God to call ourselves His. For there are lines of sin sculptured in our faces; there are shades of shame that creep over our features. “It shall not be so,” saith the Lord. “They shall be Mine, and be known in their adaptation for the life to which they have been called.”
(2) The fact of purchase.—Is that thing ours which we have bought by current coin in the market, and for which we have paid its highest possible value? If so, how much more do these belong to God whom He hath purchased for Himself, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of His own beloved Son! Surely none will question Gods right to those He purchased at so great a price. Law and justice will not do so, for they have long ago proclaimed—“Deliver from going down to the pit for we have found a ransom.” They are fully satisfied with the return made to their claims. Hence, they have surrendered every claim to those once lying under the curse and doom, Christ having been made a curse for them. Satan dare not do it. For though at one time he could claim sovereignty and dominion over them—though at one time he ruled in them as the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience—yet his unjust usurpation has long been overturned, and he has now nothing in them. All his claim to them rested wholly upon their own sinful and willing submission to his yoke; but they have now cast it off, with as thorough a hatred as they once had delight in it. Hence, his they are no longer. The reigning power of sin, the blinding influence of spiritual death, by means of which they had been so long kept in his degrading servitude, are now removed, and they have escaped for ever out of the fowlers snare. Hence, this adversary can no longer lay claim to them. And no other creature can, for they are Gods, who loved them, and saved them, and washed them in the blood of the Lamb, and hence has secured an uncontroverted right to them.
Turn to Matthew 13:45, and look at that sweet parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” In reading that parable, I used to think that the Lord Jesus Christ was the pearl of great price, I was the merchant man, and the price which I paid was one sin and another which I gave up to accept Christ. Now, in reading this Blessed Word, I can find no place in which the sinner is said to purchase Christ, or eternal life, or anything else. Certainly in that beautiful chapter in Isaiah the sinner is invited to “come, buy wine and milk”; but it is “without money and without price”—if we are not to pay anything, then it is a gift which we receive, not a purchase which we make. Again it is said, “Buy the truth and sell it not”; but this is for the Christian, and not for the unsaved soul. The sinner cannot purchase salvation, Christ has purchased it. The Lord Jesus Christ has purchased His Church; He was the purchaser, not the Church. Remember it makes all the difference in the world to make sure of this, because the buyer has the right to sell. If I had purchased Christ, then I could part with Him; but if He has purchased me I cannot part with Him, I am His by right of purchase. Men do not buy with the intention of selling at a loss. So when the Lord Jesus Christ purchased the Church, He paid a very high price for it, and He can never part with it until He gets a higher price; that He can never get. He laid down His own life for the Church, and the Church is safe until a higher price be offered. Eighteen hundred years ago, Satan offered a price—“All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” The price was too low. Christ was about to pay His life-blood for the Church, and He would not sell it for these earthly things. Turn to one or two passages to prove this point. In Acts 20:28 we read: “The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” There you get the merchant man, the pearl of great price, and the price paid. Again in Galatians 2:20 : “Who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Once more, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 7:23 : “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price … be not ye the servants of men.”1 [Note: H. Moorhouse.]
(3) The pain of preparation.—The diamond has to undergo a rough and rude process before it can glow and sparkle, burning with many-coloured fires, and flashing with matchless lustre. The lapidary must grind it on his flying wheel, and polish it with its own dust before it can pass into the hand of the jeweller to be set in a golden crown, and become a fitting ornament for a monarchs brow. So with the Christian. He must be sanctified and purified, and made meet for the Masters use. By the hammer of His Word, God breaks the heart of stone, and changes it into a heart of flesh. Often He casts the people whom He intends for great honour into the furnace of affliction, where He purifies them in seven-times-heated fires. It is thus that He takes away the dross and refines them; and through a painful process destroys the power of sin in their hearts, and prepares them for heaven.
Lately, I visited a famous pottery. In one room I found a young lady painting a beautiful flower on a vase. I said, “You take a great deal of trouble with that.” “Yes, it takes me a long time to do it.” “But what is the use? With my finger I could in a moment spoil the flower. How do you manage to keep the painting on the vase?” “When I have finished the painting, a man comes and takes the vase to the fire, and after it has passed through the fire no power in the world can take it off.” The Lord Jesus Christ would paint on us the likeness of the lovely Rose of Sharon, contact with the world takes it off; but He puts us in the fire and burns it in: then it will not rub off. The lessons learned in the fire of affliction are never forgotten. I suppose we all know that, and every Christian learns at length to thank God that he was afflicted and had passed through the fire.1 [Note: H. Moorhouse.]
4. What is the security? The word of “the Lord of hosts.” No further guarantee is needed. The name comprises all perfection. His throne is built upon the promise. Two immutable things make it impossible for God to lie. Our cause is His, and all His attributes are interested in our salvation, and all the infinite resources of His empire stand pledged for the future blessedness of every saint. “The Lord of hosts”—no matter how the term is understood, it is fraught with ample assurance for the faithful, and its sound breaks upon the ear like the anthem of the resurrection and the choral greeting of the seraphim. Refer it to the angels, who bear His messages, and minister to the heirs of salvation; and with such a host on your side how can you fear the future? Refer it to the human race, whose hearts are all in His hand, whose plans are subject to His providence, whose very wrath and malice are made tributary to the interests of His redeemed people; and with such agencies in your favour how can you question the result? Refer it to the saints themselves—the little flock becoming a great multitude that no man can number, marching up from every region of the earth, from every island of the sea, with the chant of joy that wakes the echoes of the morning stars, and makes eternal jubilee in heaven; and with such security for your hope, how can you doubt the consummation?
God hath so many ships upon the sea!
His are the merchant-men that carry treasure,
The men-of-war, all bannered gallantly,
The little fisher-boats and barks of pleasure.
On all this sea of time there is not one
That sailed without the glorious name thereon.
The winds go up and down upon the sea,
And some they lightly clasp, entreating kindly,
And waft them to the port where they would be;
And other ships they buffet long and blindly.
The cloud comes down on the great sinking deep,
And on the shore the watchers stand and weep.
And God hath many wrecks within the sea;
Oh, it is deep! I look in fear and wonder;
The wisdom throned above is dark to me,
Yet it is sweet to think His care is under;
That yet the sunken treasure may be drawn
Into His storehouse when the sea is gone.
So I, that sail in peril on the sea,
With my beloved, whom yet the waves may cover,
Say: God hath more than angels care of me,
And larger share than I in friend and lover!
Why weep ye so, ye watchers on the land?
This deep is but the hollow of His hand?1 [Note: Carl Spencer.]
A Peculiar Treasure
Bell (C. D.), The Name above Every Name, 85.
Comrie (A.), Memorial Sermons, 184.
Cross (J.), Knight-Banneret, 118.
Cuyler (T. L.), Wayside Springs, 47.
Foster (J.), Lectures, ii. 405.
Hutchison (G.), Sermons, 386.
Lee (W.), From Dust to Jewels, 1.
Macaskill (M.), A Highland Pulpit, 15.
Merson (D.), Words of Life, 289.
Moorhouse (H.), Ruth, the Moabitess, 153.
Parker (J.), Sermons (Cavendish Pulpit), No. 18.
Price (A. C.), Fifty Sermons, iv. 209.
Roberts (R.), My Jewels, 1.
Stalker (J.), The New Song, 131.
Talmage (T. de W.), Fifty Sermons, ii. 50.
Tuckwell (W.), Nuggets from the Bible Mine, 232.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), New Ser., xii. (1876), No. 960.
British Weekly Pulpit, i. 193 (A. Mursell).
Churchmans Pulpit: Sermons to the Young, xvi. 371 (J. Edmond).
Clergymans Magazine, 3rd Ser., vi. 296.