Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
counsels of prudence." He freely addresses the crowds that throng to his ministry, and confronts the attempts of his enemies to catch him in his words. This Divine abandonment is very noble and beautiful, and argues that he now clearly foresaw all that was to take place. There are two intentions in the reply of Jesus which it is necessary to distinguish, viz. that of defense, and that of teaching. His words are to be studied, therefore, as -
I. A MEASURE OF DEFENCE. That his questioners meant him mischief there can be no doubt. The word "tempting" is used for "trying," "proving," and that in an evil sense.
1. What, then, was the danger that lay in such a question? According to his reply they hoped:
(1) To discredit him with the respectable classes, and to found a charge against him of overturning the social and religious institutions of the land. It is the reproach and shame of nearly all "heresies" in religion that they sooner or later attempt to abolish the safeguards of society, and the time-honored customs of the social order. Marriage is a touchstone that betrays the inherent unrighteousness and impracticability of a large proportion of them. His enemies hoped on this point to array him against Moses.
(2) To discredit him with the common people. It was a vexed question at the time in the rival schools of Hillel and Shammai, the latter being stricter, the former laxer, in their view of the lawfulness of divorce. Probably convinced of their own view of the case, they relied upon easily confuting his arguments, and thereby "showing him up" as a pretender and imposter.
2. But in this twofold scheme they were defeated, Jesus making his interroggators themselves the declarers of the Law which he accepted and simply interpreted. He appeared, therefore, as a defender and not an assailant of the Law. And then he showed how deep the basis of obligation really was, and how much less strict the "precept" of Moses was than it might have been, and the cause of this.
II. A PERMANENT DOCTRINE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The historical circumstances of the time when the precept was formulated were probably considered at greater length than could be represented in Mark's account, and the position justified that it was a compromise or provisional measure necessitated by "the hardness of heart" of the Jews the drawing up of a formal document being a check upon hasty and passionate ruptures of the marriage tie. He thus proved that moral obligation is deeper and more permanent than convention or external law. He next considered marriage as a law of nature anterior to the social sanction, which does not therefore create the institution, but ought only to recognize and enforce it. To this end he traces it to the original purpose of God in creation, quoting Genesis 1:27; and strengthening the inference from this by the positive command of Genesis 2:24, long anterior to the time of Moses. It is not for man to interfere with or modify an arrangement so manifestly Divine. The only ground upon which marriage can be set aside is therefore that of one or other party to the marriage bond having already broken it by sinful action, and thus destroyed it as an actual thing. The Law then simply steps in to defend the rights of the party who has been injured, setting that party free from further possibility of like injury. This transgression of the marriage bond which amounts to its annulment is not stated, but is clearly implied, viz. adultery. The Savior thereby proves his teaching in harmony with the teaching of nature and previous revelation. But the gospel which is proclaimed in his Name does more than this. It seeks to fit man for the highest social and religious duties, by purifying and strengthening his moral being. - M.
I. THE DIRECTIONS OF SCRIPTURE FOLLOW THE OLDER LAW OF NATURE.
II. THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE IS FOUNDED ON NATURE.
III. IN ITS IDEAL, MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE, AND INDISSOLUBLE.
IV. YET THE ACTUAL CONDITION OF HUMAN NATURE COMPELS SOME RELAXATION.
V. BUT WHAT IS PERMITTED IS NOT, THEREFORE, TO BE APPROVED OR FOLLOWED PRACTICALLY. Christianity is throughout ideal. It makes appeal to our higher nature. At the same time, it admits the difficulty of carrying our ideals unexceptionably into practice. - J.
I. EVENTS IN THE INTERVAL. There is a gap in the narrative of St. Mark between the events of the preceding and present chapter. We need not do more than intimate them, and that for the continuity of the history. They are the following: -
1. His journey to Jerusalem on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles.
2. Occurrences by the way:
(1) Inhospitality of certain Samaritan villages;
(2) rebuke of the "Sons of Thunder" by the Savior;
(3) journey continued through Samaria rather than Peraea;
(4) cleansing of the ten lepers as he passed through Samaria.
3. The sending out of the seventy, and its similarity to the previous mission of the twelve.
4. Presence and preaching at the Feast of Tabernacles.
5. Various discourses during that feast, as recorded in the eighth chapter of St. John's Gospel, and escape from a murderous assault.
6. Ministrations in Judaea, recorded in part by St. Luke (10-13.) and partly by St. John (9-11.), including the following: -
(1) Instruction of a lawyer, explanation of "neighborhood," and parable of the good Samaritan;
(2) hospitality of the family of Bethany, disciples taught to pray, and return of the seventy;
(3) cure of a man bern blind, our Lord's comparison of himself to the Good Shepherd, celebration of the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem, retirement to Bethabara beyond Jordan, and subsequent raising of Lazarus at Bethany; also his retirement to Ephraim.
(1) the multitudes from all quarters in the kingdom of God, the great feast and generous invitation, also true discipleship;
(2) parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son;
(3) parables of the unjust steward, Dives and Lazarus, importunate widow, the Pharisee and publican.
II. A NEW DEPARTURE. The Pharisees now Change their tactics, and adopt a new mode of opposition. They, in fact, make new departure. The old hostility remains bitter as ever, or perhaps is increasing in intensity, but the manner of its manifestation is new. Up till this period their method of attack consisted in fault-finding - objecting to the conduct of our Lord and his apostles, or taxing them with violations of the Law; henceforth it consists in questioning - captious questioning - for the purpose of eliciting his opinion on doubtful or debatable matters in order to entangle him. The subjects on which his views were sought were those keenly discussed by the Jews of that day, and an answer could scarcely fail to give offense to some party or expose him to peril on some side. The present question was eminently one of this class. It was likely to entrap him into the charge of lax morality on the one hand, or of want of respect for the authority of Moses on the other; perhaps to embroil him with the tetrarch Herod Antipas, in whose dominions he now was.
III. THE ORIGINAL MARRIAGE LAW. In the days of our Lord one of the burning questions was the law of divorce. The school of Shammai limited the law of divorce, and allowed it only in the case of adultery; that of Hillel affirmed its legitimacy in case of dislike, or disobedience, or incompatibility in general, thus granting an arbitrary or discretionary power in the matter. The ground of the controversy is found in a difficult or obscure expression in Deuteronomy 24:1, 2, where we read, "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife." The difficulty or obscurity of this passage arises from the original words ervath davar, rendered "some uncleanness" in the text of our version, and in the margin, "matter of nakedness," or more exactly still, "nakedness of word or matter." The important point to be determined, and that which produced such diversity of opinion in its determination, was whether the expression referred to meant lewdness or merely something disagreeable.
IV. NATURE OF THE BILL OF DIVORCEMENT. The bill of divorcement was called "a writing of cutting off" (sepher kerithuth). This bill or writing of divorcement implied, not only a mere separation from bed and board, as some restrict it, but a complete severance of the marriage tie. It was a certificate of repudiation, and either stated or omitted the cause of such repudiation. If the cause was adultery or a suspicion of adultery, the husband might prove himself (δίκαιος) just (vide Matthew 1:19), that is, a strict observer of the Law in dismissing the guilty wife with a bill of divorcement; and yet, not wishing to expose her, he might send her away privately. If, however, the guilty person or the suspected person were brought openly to justice, and the crime proved, certain death was the penalty, as is distinctly stated in Leviticus 20:10, "The man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Most commonly, therefore, when a bill of divorcement was resorted to in accordance with the Mosaic permission, it was for some less cause or minor offense than conjugal infidelity; and in such cases it served the wife as a certificate of character.
V. REASON OF THIS WRITING. Our Lord, in his reply, proceeds to the original marriage law; first, however, accounting for the Mosaic regulation referred to. That regulation is regarded by many as a relaxation of the Law; but it can scarcely be viewed in that light, because it would thus appear to be a lowering of the standard in favor of wrong-doing. It was rather a remedy for harsh treatment of wives, resulting from violations of the Law; it was rather a relief bill for wives who suffered from the unkindness of cruel husbands acting in defiance of the Law. It was a remedial measure to check the bad effects of their hardness of heart; it was to (πρὸς) this the lawgiver had respect. It was, in fact, to minimize the evil results that proceeded from their transgression of the Law rather than any relaxation of the Law itself. Of two evils it was the less, and even the less owed its existence to their hardness of heart. Besides, it was not an express command, as the Pharisees appear to make it from the word ἐνετείλατο in Matthew, but a permissory injunction (ἐπέτρεψε), as subsequently acknowledged by the Pharisees themselves.
VI. ORIGINAL MARRIAGE LAW. The Savior argues the indissoluble nature of the marriage law from the original unity of male and female, from the extreme closeness of the marriage bond taking precedence of every other union even parental and filial; above all, from its Divine origin. Marriage was thus an ordinance of God; it was instituted in Paradise in those bright and sunny bowers before sin had marred the freshness and the loveliness of the new-created world. Even then God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, and accordingly he gave him a help meet for him - one that was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto [literally, be glued unto] his wife: and they shall be one flesh." It was an ordinance of God himself, an ordinance nearly coeval with the creation, an ordinance made for man even in his unfallen state of innocence, an ordinance which our blessed Redeemer himself, when in sinless humanity he trod our earth and tabernacled among our race, honored with his presence, and at the celebration of which he was graciously pleased to work his first miracle. In Cana of Galilee, at the marriage at which Jesus and his disciples and his mother were present, Jesus made the beginning of his miracles by turning water into wine, manifesting forth his glory, "and his disciples believed on him."
"Living, he own'd no nuptial vow, VII. ONE EXCEPTION TAKEN FOR GRANTED. Conjugal infidelity, as it is a violation of the marriage vow, is a virtual dissolution of the marriage relation. This is implied or taken for granted in the passage before us, though it is expressly stated, in the parallel passage of St. Matthew, where it is written, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." With respect to marriage with the divorced wife, there is a great and important diversity of sentiment. This diversity is in a certain way and to some extent connected with the right rendering of the word ἀπολελυμένην in Matthew 19:9. 1. Some translate it as if it were preceded by τὴν, and so equivalent to "her which is put away," or "the divorced woman." Thus it stands in the common English Version, and reference to the woman lawfully divorced, that is, for fornication, is presumed. 2. Others, more accurately, render it "her when she is put away," as it is translated in the Revised Version, the reference being thus to her who is unlawfully divorced, that is, divorced not on the ground of adultery. This view is maintained by Stier and Meyer, the latter confirming it by the fact that "under the Law the punishment of death was attached to adultery,... and consequently, under the Law, the marrying of a woman divorced for adultery could never happen." 3. There is, however, another rendering, namely, "a divorced woman," that is, any divorced woman. This is the rendering advocated by Wordsworth, who says, "In no case does our Lord permit a person to marry a woman who has been divorced." This is the view of the matter taken by the Latin Church, which declares marriage with a divorced woman under any circumstances unlawful. The Oriental and most Reformed Churches, on the contrary, hold that, in the excepted case, both husband and wife may contract a fresh marriage. These are the two extreme views; but what of the ease of unlawful divorce, that is to say, where the wife has been divorced for some other and less offense than that of adultery, or πορνεία, which is of widest extent, comprehending ante-nuptial as well as post-nuptial unchastity (μοιχεία)? This is the case to which the guilt of subsequent marriage attaches, for it is that in which the marriage bond has not been really ruptured. The delay connected with getting a divorce or after its being granted might give time for better counsels to prevail; second thoughts might be found preferable; angry passion might in the mean time cool down, and reconciliation and reunion be effected. - J.J.G.
VII. ONE EXCEPTION TAKEN FOR GRANTED. Conjugal infidelity, as it is a violation of the marriage vow, is a virtual dissolution of the marriage relation. This is implied or taken for granted in the passage before us, though it is expressly stated, in the parallel passage of St. Matthew, where it is written, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." With respect to marriage with the divorced wife, there is a great and important diversity of sentiment. This diversity is in a certain way and to some extent connected with the right rendering of the word ἀπολελυμένην in Matthew 19:9.
1. Some translate it as if it were preceded by τὴν, and so equivalent to "her which is put away," or "the divorced woman." Thus it stands in the common English Version, and reference to the woman lawfully divorced, that is, for fornication, is presumed.
2. Others, more accurately, render it "her when she is put away," as it is translated in the Revised Version, the reference being thus to her who is unlawfully divorced, that is, divorced not on the ground of adultery. This view is maintained by Stier and Meyer, the latter confirming it by the fact that "under the Law the punishment of death was attached to adultery,... and consequently, under the Law, the marrying of a woman divorced for adultery could never happen."
3. There is, however, another rendering, namely, "a divorced woman," that is, any divorced woman. This is the rendering advocated by Wordsworth, who says, "In no case does our Lord permit a person to marry a woman who has been divorced." This is the view of the matter taken by the Latin Church, which declares marriage with a divorced woman under any circumstances unlawful. The Oriental and most Reformed Churches, on the contrary, hold that, in the excepted case, both husband and wife may contract a fresh marriage. These are the two extreme views; but what of the ease of unlawful divorce, that is to say, where the wife has been divorced for some other and less offense than that of adultery, or πορνεία, which is of widest extent, comprehending ante-nuptial as well as post-nuptial unchastity (μοιχεία)? This is the case to which the guilt of subsequent marriage attaches, for it is that in which the marriage bond has not been really ruptured. The delay connected with getting a divorce or after its being granted might give time for better counsels to prevail; second thoughts might be found preferable; angry passion might in the mean time cool down, and reconciliation and reunion be effected. - J.J.G.
I. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE ATTRACTED TO JESUS. There must have been something in the aspect, etc.. He of the Savior which drew the little ones and their mothers to his side. Christianity differs from the systems of idolatry in presenting us with One whom we instinctively can love. A little girl, when asked why she thought Jesus must have smiled, said, "He must have smiled when he said, 'Suffer little children,' etc.. He else they would never have come!" A chief object of preaching and living the gospel is to exhibit this charm.
II. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE INVITED TO JESUS. HOW many people won't come to a place unless they think they are welcome, and therefore they expect an invitation. Now, when the disciples thought that their Master was too engrossed with high thoughts and important affairs to attend to the children, they took it upon themselves to send them away. This was not done through unkindness, but simply through a mistake. Christ corrected the mistake, and deliberately invited the little children. That proves-does it not? - in the strongest way that he intends them to come to him. But Jesus does more than invite.
III. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE CLAIMED BY JESUS. "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." That means that little children are very near to him already. They are really in his kingdom, and he is their King. He has a greater right, therefore, to their obedience and service and society, than father or mother, or brother or sister. When little children are good and loving they are with Jesus, and it is only when they do or think what is wrong that they go away from him. And all who come into his kingdom have to come in as little children, i.e. they are to be childlike - simple, loving, trustful, and obedient.
IV. LITTLE CHILDREN ARE BLESSED BY JESUS. He took them in his arms and embraced them. But he also put his hands on them, and gave them his Father's blessing. How great a thing did the Jews think a blessing was! Let us try and live so that we shall at last get the blessing Christ has in store for us. Do you love to be with Jesus? Do you do whatever he commands you? Then you are a subject of his kingdom, and a child of grace; and hereafter you will share his glory. - M.
(1) are inscribed as on a banner of defense, that has floated from that hour over the heads of "little children;" words which
(2) have been an admonitory corrective of personal vanity and assumption;
(3) have expounded the spirit of the heavenly kingdom;
(4) have expressed the qualification needed by all who would enter within its gates;
(5) have been seized upon as affording a justification for the admission of children into the visible community of the Church by the sacrament of baptism; and
(6) have, especially in these later days, become the stimulus to diligent endeavor to bring the young under religious training and to give them the benefits of religious instruction. By so much did the Master's words of truth rebut the disciples' error, and found upon it a teaching of unlimited benefit. Thus did Christ pay his tribute to the preciousness of life, even in its infancy and imperfectness, and throw the shield of his protection around it. Thus did he compel the attention and effort of his Church in all ages to be paid to young life, knowing its susceptibility and the important bearing of its right treatment on the general condition of human society. "Forbid them not" transforms itself into a command to the heart of the Church, ever attentive to catch the Lord's will, to remove every hindrance from the way of a child's participation in spiritual benefits. And "suffer them to come unto me" becomes an equally authoritative command to bring them unto him; to place them in close alliance wish him, and, if with him, then with his kingdom. For if he, the Head of the house, receive them, they of the household may not reject them; and if he take them up in his arms, surely they may come within the embrace of his Church. If they lie in his bosom at the head of the table, they may not be denied a place in the house, or be denied a portion of its bread or a measure of its care; while their purity, helplessness, trustful dependence, and tractableness form the typical example of that spirit which he desires shall characterize all the subjects of his kingdom, all the members of his household, in every age. - G.
I. THE CONTRAST: WHAT MEN THINK IMPORTANT, AND WHAT GOD RECOGNIZES AS OF WORTH. Children am "only children." They are often "in the way." They are "out of place." They are to be "sent out of the way." But Divine intelligence and love shed a bright light upon the little ones. They are living parables of the Christian spirit. Ever are they to be associated with Christ. Learning, wealth, rank, - all draw away from our true attitude, nay, tend to falsify our spirit. 'Tis the sight of the children that must win us back.
II. CHRISTIANITY THE RELIGION OF REVERENCE FOR THOSE BELOW US. In them God is found. "The religion of reverence for what is above us is ethnic religion. This delivers from degrading fear. The religion of reverence for what is around us is the philosophical. The philosopher stations himself in the middle, and must draw up to him all that is lower, and down to him all that is higher. This is the religion of wisdom. Reverence for what is under us, - this is Christian, and is the last step mankind was fitted and destined to attain" (Goethe). The lowly, the hated, the despised, the contradictory, are glorified by the insight and the sympathy of Christ. - J.
Mark 10:13-16Mark 10:13-16. Parallel passages: Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17.
I. CHILDREN BROUGHT AND BLESSED.
1. Our Lord's love of children. Our Lord, when on earth, had no greater favourites than children. He set them in the midst; he laid his hands on them; he blessed them; he invited them to his presence; he welcomed them to his person; he folded them lovingly in his arms. He calls them the lambs of his flock; he provides them suitable spiritual food, and with it he bids us feed them. He represents by them his faithful followers; he reproves his disciples when they would have prevented their access to him. He reminds us all that they are precious in our heavenly Father's sight, preserved by his providence and protected by his power. He assures us, as we have seen, that "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
2. Individual features of the three narratives. The request of those who brought the little children, as reported by St. Matthew, is not only that the Savior should touch them, as in St. Mark and St. Luke; but "put his hands on them, and pray. In St. Mark, we are told that Jesus not only touched the little children, as requested, but took them up in his arms." They thus got more than they asked. This is usually the way with Christ; he does more for us than we ask or think. An additional feature of the narrative, as supplied by St. Luke, is that some of these children were of very tender age - mere infants
II. THE CHANGE BY WHICH WE BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN.
1. A parallel passage. In St. Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 18:3) we have a statement exactly corresponding to the fifteenth verse of this tenth chapter of St. Mark, with this difference, however, that the former passage goes further back, bringing us up to the turning-point at which we become as little children. The verse referred to reads thus, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God;" the Revised Version has, "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." This rendering of εἰσέλθητε in the last clause brings out the meaning with due emphasis, and is thus more accurate than that of the common version; the substitution of turn for be converted in the first clause is intended to divest the term of the technical theological sense which some attach to it. The word στραφῆτε (second aorist passive) may be translated as a passive, or as a middle, since the aorists passive have often a middle meaning, equivalent to turn yourselves, or simply turn intransitively, as we have it in the Revised Version. In its application, as shown by the context, it urged those addressed to turn away from their ambitious notions, self-seeking eagerness, and fondness for precedence. The term is general, we readily acknowledge, and denotes a change such as that referred to; but before men are capable of turning from the courses indicated, and of exhibiting the characteristics of little children, they must have become the subjects of a special and greater change, of which that immediately referred to is a manifestation. We may read the statement of St. Mark, that "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein," or, as it is more accurately rendered in the Revised Version, "he shall in no wise enter therein," in the light which St. Matthew's statement sheds on it.
2. Divine agency. We have seen that the word in the closely corresponding text is limited by some, and may indeed be limited, to its literal sense, and understood of a turning away from such high-mindedness as the disciples had displayed on that occasion - a turning away from such haughtiness of spirit as led to the question asked by them, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Others may be disposed to take it in the sense of recovery from backsliding, of a return to the Lord after some wrong step, as a compound form of the same verb is employed (ἐπιστρέψας) in the words addressed to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen the brethren; or, as we read it in the Revised Version, "And do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren." Others may prefer the wider and more technical sense of conversion. But whatever sense be attached to the one particular term, a change effected by Divine agency must be presupposed; otherwise the changes implied in the lower sense cannot be rightly accomplished, nor the characteristics of childhood fully attained. "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein," is the statement of St. Mark, and suggests the inquiry - What is it to receive the kingdom of God? Now, to take the simplest and plainest view of this matter, to receive the kingdom of God is to receive the gospel of the kingdom; and to receive the gospel of the kingdom is to receive him who is the Subject of that gospel, and the Sovereign of that kingdom - the Christian's King and Head; and to receive him, again, is the turning-point in a man's spiritual history, the greatest and most important event of his whole life. This reception of the Savior implies faith of the operation of God - faith, which is God's gift and the Spirit's work in the heart. Wherever faith exists, even as a grain of mustard seed, Christ is formed in the heart. It matters little what name is given to this change, whether we call it "the new birth," or "regeneration," or "conversion;" to be subjects of it is the great thing, for it is the principle of all right action, and the prolific source of all Christian graces and of all truly virtuous conduct.
3. Statement of a difference. We may notice a difference which will help to a clearer apprehension of the change in question. Conversion is akin to regeneration; it is most nearly similar, and cannot be separated from it, and yet it is not quite the same thing. Regeneration implants a new principle in the soul; conversion is the practical putting forth of that principle. Regeneration imparts new life to the soul; conversion is the exercise of that life. Regeneration bestows new power; conversion is the manifestation of that power. For sake of illustration, let us suppose a man dead and buried. Regeneration may be compared to life entering into the sepulcher, opening the eyes that death had scaled, giving back the healthy color to the cheeks and causing the vital fluid once more to circulate through all the frame; conversion may be represented by the same man, after being thus reanimated, exerting the power of life which he has just received, rising up from among the dead, coming forth from the tomb, and entering on the various duties and activities of life. Conversion and regeneration are thus so closely linked together as cause and effect that they often stand for one another.
4. Human instrumentality. Here, too, the power of God and the work of man unite; Divine agency and human instrumentality combine. The hand of man may roll away the stone and remove the grave-clothes, as in the case of Lazarus; but nothing short of the power of God can resuscitate the buried corpse, or speak the dead to life. So, also, it is when the dead in trespasses and sins are quickened. By the instrumentality of man, the stone that stops the mouth of the sepulcher may be taken away and the grave-clothes unbound; but nothing less than "the working of God's mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," can make any one of us alive through Christ Jesus. We may preach and pray, and it is our duty to combine both, and our privilege to engage in either; but the power that raises the dead to life is the power, and not only the power, but the mighty power of God. The prophet of old acknowledged this, for after he had prophesied to the dry bones in the valley of vision, he followed up his prophesying by prayer, saying, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." The psalmist felt the same when he said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." The apostle was of the same mind when he wrote, "But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)."
5. The means employed, and the manner in which the change is effected. God treats us as reasonable beings; he makes his appeal to the faculties with which he has endowed us. He addresses us as his intelligent creatures, and challenges us to inquiry, saying, "Judge ye what I say." He speaks to us in his Word and by his ambassadors, and even entreats us to be reconciled to God. He bestows his Spirit, for without the agency of that Spirit all the rest would be but as the rolling away of the stone and the unbinding of the grave-clothes already spoken of.
6. The nature of the change. After the creation of the heavens and the earth, the first work of God was light. God said, "Let there be light." In the change in question, which, for convenience' sake, we may call conversion, the first work is also light; he enlightens our understanding in the knowledge of Christ. God's Word, indeed, is light, "a light to our feet;" but while we are unconverted there are scales on our eyes, and if we see at all, it is only "men like trees, walking." The Spirit takes away the scales; and we see the suitability and sufficiency of the Savior, the completeness of his work, the fullness of his offices, the freeness of his mercy, the riches of his grace, the length and breadth and depth and height of his love; we see also our sins in the light of his sufferings, and his sufferings endured for and expiating our sins. This is not all; it is not enough to have light in the head. There is often natural light, intellectual light, the light of science, even the light of theological speculation or doctrine or controversy; but such light by itself never brought any soul to the Savior. Of such light we may say, it is the light of the moon shining on an iceberg away in a frozen sea; it is the nocturnal light of twinkling stars, as they sparkle in the firmament, and shed their flickering radiance on some far-off mountain capped with snow. In this gracious change there is an additional element. With light in the head it combines love in the heart. Like light and heat from the same fire, they go hand in hand. The heart follows the head, and they act and react upon each other. The will obeys the understanding, and the affections go along with both. The subject of this blessed change can say with one of old, "Whereas I was blind, now I see;" but he goes further, and can say with the apostle, "The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which was given unto us." The regenerate soul can say, "I know whom I have believed;" but it stops not there; it adds, "Whom having not seen, I love." Conversion, if we may use the term in its popular sense, is the love of Christ constraining us; it is the Word of Christ instructing us; it is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" it is the work of Christ renewing us; it is the Spirit of Christ enlightening us; it is the life of Christ imparted to us - "because I live, ye shall live also;" it is the love of him "who first loved us, and gave himself for us." This love expels the enmity of the carnal mind, gives a new bent to the will and a new bias to the feelings; it lays hold of the affections, and influences all the energies of our being, operating at once on the faculties of the mind and the members of the body. It is God making us willing, as well as welcome, to be his people in the day of his power.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDHOOD.
1. Infant salvation. When it is said that "of such [that is, children] is the kingdom of God," it may mean children literally; and so many understand it, and refer kingdom to the state of future blessedness, maintaining that, as the majority of mankind die in infancy, and as they are redeemed, children will constitute the majority of the saved. But there is another interpretation, which understands children spiritually, that is, those who resemble children in character; thus St. Paul says, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." While we are fully persuaded that all children dying in infancy are saved because of the superabundant grace of God in Christ Jesus, we are far from supposing that regeneration is not necessary in case of children as well as of others. Indeed, the Word of God proves it indispensable; for thus says the psalmist, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" and again, "We go astray as soon as we be born, speaking lies;" and further, the Prophet Isaiah says," All we like sheep have gone astray." It thus becomes our duty to seek, by all available means, to bring children to Christ the Good Shepherd, who carries the lambs in his besom, that he may bless them and make them members of his flock. There are, however, several characteristics of children which serve well to illustrate the character and conduct of God's spiritual children.
2. The first characteristic is humility. When converted to God, we become like little children in humility. Pride is the ruin of our race; we trace it back to Paradise. Satan introduced it there. It was the great inducement with our first parents that they should be "as Gods, knowing good and evil." We mark its dark waters along the stream of time from then till now. It was a fruitful source of disaster to King David. In the pride of his heart he numbered the people, and the dreadfully calamitous choice was allowed him to elect between seven years' famine, three months' war, or three days' pestilence. Another instance occurs in the case of Naaman, commander-in-chief of the host of Syria. Leprous as he was, and consequently miserable as he must have been, he felt his pride wounded when the prophet directed him to wash seven times in Jordan; he turned away in a rage, saying, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" Come we to New Testament times, we have another still more awful instance of pride and its punishment. Herod sat upon his kingly throne; he made an oration - a king's speech, and more eloquent, no doubt, than royal speeches generally are; at all events, the people were in raptures with him and it, so that they shouted, "It is the voice of a God, and not of a man." He was arrayed in royal robes; he was proud of his pomp, of his power, and of his popularity. But the angel of the Lord smote him; "he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." The same evil propensity of fallen humanity finds thousands and tens of thousands of living exemplifications in those whom the Scripture calls "proud boasters," "heady, high-minded," and classes with the vilest and the worst. On the contrary, the first evidence of conversion to God is humility. The child of a prince will, if permitted, amuse itself with the child of a peasant. As they sport together there is no distinction of riches or of rank; they meet together on the same common level; they stand on the same footing of equality. We are not universal levellers; we would not do away with the distinctions of rank that exist, and perhaps must exist. We find in the membership of the human body some members discharging honorable functions, others functions less so. We find in the heavenly hierarchy various grades - thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers. But we would willingly do away with, and Christianity tends to do away with, that proud spirit that sets up castes and opposes class to class, preventing that cordial sympathy that should ever bind together all the many members in the great family of man. Why should we be proud? What are we proud of? Is it of our bodies? They are "fearfully and wonderfully made," yet dust they are, and unto dust they must return. Is it of our souls? God" breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." Is it of what we are? We are only creatures of a day, and our foundation is in the dust. Is it of what we have? We have nothing, be it worldly wealth, or intellectual endowment, or physical superiority, or spiritual grace, - nothing that we have not received. We are pensioners on the Divine bounty, daily recipients of the Divine favor, almoners on the liberality of God. Most of us have read the Revelation Legh Richmond's little book entitled ' The Dairyman's Daughter,' and the text which by the blessing of God became the means of converting that once poor, proud girl. That text was, "Be ye clothed with humility" (ἐγκομβώσασθε: literally, "wrap tight round you your humility," in allusion to Christ girding himself with a towel to wash his disciples' feet), and by its application to her heart she was led to feel her own emptiness and Christ's fullness. Next to the robe of Christ's righteousness, and inseparably connected with it, is this garment of humility which distinguishes every converted soul, which every child of God puts on, and which every Christian wears. Of all the many promises of Scripture, not one is made to the proud. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble;" "The humble and the contrite heart the Lord will not despise."
3. A second characteristic is teachableness Christ was meek and lowly in heart." He invites us to learn of him. Most children are docile; at all events, childhood and youth are the seasons for learning. Though there is no age however advanced at which we should not be learners, and no stage o! progress at which we shall not have still much to learn - for here "we only see through a glass, darkly" - yet there is truth in the trite old proverb, "Learn young, learn well." The Christian, by his very profession and by his practice, when truly converted to God, is a disciple; and what is that but a learner, a scholar in the school of Christ? There are three teachers in this school - the Word of God, the providence of God, and the Spirit or God. The entrance in of that Word giveth light; it makes "wise unto salvation." Every time we hear it preached, or peruse it prayerfully and thoughtfully, the light is brightened and increased. It is our privilege, and should be our pleasure, to study that Word daily and diligently, dutifully and devoutly. If it were only a single text meditated on each day, it would result in spiritual blessing. We are to search this Word. There is a treasure in it, and we are to dig for that treasure - a pearl of great price, and we are to seek for that pearl, and, if needs be, part with everything else rather than miss it. That treasure is Christ, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." That pearl is Christ - a pearl of exceeding price. There are shallows in this Word where a child may wade, and depths which no human line can fathom. "Search the Scriptures,." said our Lord; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." The providence of God teaches us in many ways and furnishes many lessons. We need grace to mark those lessons and follow the leadings of that providence, and in this way the most afflictive dispensations are productive of good, so that there is occasion to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." The Spirit of God is the great Teacher, he leads us into all truth, he takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, he convinces us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. Let us pray for childlike docility of spirit; let us come to the three teachers we have named, and hear what God the Lord will say to our souls.
4. A third characteristic is trustfulness. Children are proverbially confiding. When we pass from the years of childhood we become wary - too wary; cautious - often far too cautious, though never too circumspect. Let a parent make a promise to his child; that child never questions his father's word, he never doubts his father's ability to perform his promise, he never suspects his father's willingness to make good what he has said. Would that we all acted thus towards our heavenly Father! Would that we all took him in this childlike manner and with this childlike trustfulness at his word! Would that we all sought the Spirit of adoption, by which we could look up and say, "Our Father in heaven," and inward and say, "Abba, Father," and outward and around saying, "All things work together for good to them that love God," - the beautiful things of earth and sea and sky are mine, for my Father made them all. In the 'Life of Sir Henry Havelock,' one is amused with a remarkable example of childlike confidence on the part of his son which is recorded therein. Sir Henry had had occasion to call at a public office on business. He left his son at the door to wait for him outside. The father, after despatching the business in band, passed out of the office by another way, in total forgetfulness of his son and of the appointment made with him. The boy, however, had such perfect confidence in his father's promise and usual punctuality, that he waited, and waited, and continued waiting all the day long, till the shades of evening were gathering. By that time something had occurred to remind Sir Henry of his son, when, going immediately to the place, he found him on the spot where he had left him in the morning. God has given us his sure Word of prophecy and promise; he bids us wait, and that prophecy will be fulfilled and that promise performed. An earthly parent may fail or forget; God never forgets his promise, nor fails to perform it to his people. He is never slack concerning his promise; at the time appointed it shall come, and not tarry. It is ours to wait and watch and work, "for the day of redemption draweth nigh." It is ours to exercise filial trust and childlike confidence in our heavenly Father, who "is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent."
5. A fourth characteristic. Another characteristic is simplicity. We do not mean that a child of God must be a simpleton; quite the opposite. We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Now, by Christian simplicity we understand guilelessness and harmlessness. We take it to denote singleness of heart, of tongue, and of eye; it becomes the Christian, it glorifies God and impresses man. "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God hath ordained strength." The children in the temple proclaimed, "Hosanna in the highest!" Once in a stagecoach, as we have read, a little interesting girl five years old was sitting beside her mother. A gentleman was paying attention to the child. After a time, turning her full blue eyes upon him, with childlike lovingness and in her own simple accents, she said," You love God?" The gentleman passed the child's question off as best he could. The coach reached the place of destination,, the journey ended. But still the words of that child haunted him. The question she asked was new to him; he had never thought of it before. He never rested till, by the grace of God, he was able to answer it by felt experience. Time rolled on. A few years after, as he passed through the streets of a town, he saw the mother of that little child at a window, in weeds of mourning. He called to inquire for his favourite, but she was gone; God had taken her home to glory, and to be for ever with himself.
1. Contrast. Over the entrance to Plato's famous academy at Athens was written the sentence, "Let no one enter here who does not possess a knowledge of geometry." Over the gate of heaven is written, not the proud maxim of the philosopher, but this plain statement, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein."
2. What is implied in exclusion. Not to enter heaven, in other words, exclusion from heaven, implies the absence of holiness, of hope, and of happiness. It is never to see the King in his beauty, never to see the land that is afar off, never to enjoy peace, never to enter into rest, never to meet God in mercy, never to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and never to join the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn which are written in heaven. Still more, exclusion shuts out from wearing the crown and occupying the throne, from tenanting the mansion, and tuning the harp, and swelling the anthem of "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Not to enter heaven is to be excluded from the holy presence, from the blessed fellowship of patriarchs and prophets and apostles and martyrs and confessors; to be shut out from the life and light and love of the upper sanctuary; to be shut up with the devil and the damned, with lost spirits, with devouring fire and everlasting burnings; to be doomed to "weening, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," and to dwell for ever in that prison-house of hell, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." - J.J.G.
I. HOW IT WAS MADE.
1. Earnestly. The manner of the man is vividly portrayed by St. Mark: "running, and kneeled to him." This spirit is a primary requisite. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, he seized the passing opportunity and despised the judgment of onlookers.
2. Intelligently. What he was seeking was definitely before his mind. His previous training had prepared him to think of the object he sought more or less correctly. He used the word "inherit," which implied something different from "have," or "possess" (Matthew).
3. With real but defectively justified acknowledgment of Christ's character. This vague instinct which he expressed in the title "Good," had to be grounded in some true apprehension of the nature and character of Jesus ere it could be accepted as satisfactory. How radical this misconception was appears as he answers the question regarding the commandments.
II. HOW IT WAS ANSWERED.
1. With the needful correction to the question. It is of the utmost importance that we clearly perceive what real "goodness" is, and to whom alone it can belong, ere we seek it.
2. With a provisional test. The commandments; perhaps those emphasized which bore most directly upon his position and circumstances. Self-restraint is a first requisite, and that is witnessed to by the Law. But he still stands outside the true conception of "goodness," for he answers from the conventional and not from the absolute and spiritual standpoint. "The Law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ," by showing us our imperfection and need of a Saviour.
3. With a final test. "One thing thou lackest: go, sell whatsoever thou hast etc. Self-restraint being insufficient, self-denial and that specially corresponding with his circumstances, is invited. This was the crucial test. It has to be varied according to the difference in individual tastes, ideals, circumstances, etc., of different people.
4. By a look of love. It was spontaneous, full of attraction, and, up to a certain degree, of approval; then of yearning sorrow and concern. Such questions and such a disposition can never be received by Christ with indifference.
III. IN WHAT IT RESULTED. "His countenance fell," etc. There was grief, disappointment, perhaps even a little resentment, and also inward shame. Not decision; rather indecision. Tested by highest test and found wanting. Drawn by tenderest love of the Son of God, yet unwilling to yield. The grieved heart may yet return: its sad disconsolateness is its most hopeful attribute. - M.
not the result of regard for his social position, which led to a discreet hiding of his faults. Amongst us too often one of dubious character, because he has wealth or brilliant prospects, is admitted to circles from which he ought to be excluded; and a rich man is not told of his sins as a poorer man would be, so that it is the more hard for him to enter into the kingdom. But with our Lord esteem was won not by what a man had, but by what he was. Nor was our Lord influenced by the young man's religious knowledge, for he made small account of theological lore, such as was possessed by lawyers and Pharisees. And as knowledge would not win his love, neither did ignorance and error prevent it. There was evidently much in this young ruler that was commendable and lovable, all of which found its source in God; for even those who are not decided followers of Christ have in them gleams of heavenly light, and must beware of quenching the Spirit.
I. THE YOUNG RULER WAS GENUINE AND SIMPLE. Christ rebuked nothing so severely as unreality. He exposed the Pharisees mercilessly, because they pretended to be what they were not. He declared that if a man's eye was "single" his whole body would be full of light; that he who was of the truth (who was a true man) would hear his voice. Such was this man. He expressed his real want. He felt that he had obeyed the commandments, and frankly said so; and when told to go and sell all that he had, he made no fallacious promise to do so. We should cultivate the grace of truthfulness in all the relations of life. If we are engaged in a common occupation, we should be true enough not to be ashamed of it; if in Church relationships, we should never ignore them; if we have done a wrong, we should candidly confess it either to God or man. In proportion as we are true we are nearer to the kingdom of truth.
II. HE WAS SINGULARLY COURTEOUS. He kneeled before the peasant Teacher of Galilee, and addressed him reverently. Courtesy is a small thing if it be identical with outward mannerism, which observes a suitable deportment, and carefully discriminates between those in different social ranks. But true courtesy is consideration for others, thoughtfulness for their feelings, respect for their age and experience and character; and this was exhibited by the young ruler whom Jesus loved. There was no rudeness like that of the Sadducees and Herodians, nor any outburst of hot temper at the sacrifice demanded of him.
III. HE WAS OF IRREPROACHABLE LIFE. So far, at least, as human judgment could determine. A young man whose passions had not misled him; rich enough to indulge evil propensity, yet outwardly pure and without reproach. The morality of the noblest does not win heaven, but it is good in itself and in its source. The idea that a profligate is the happier after his conversion because of his sinful experience, is utterly false. His experience is more remarkable, but he is not so blessed, nor so strong for Christian service; for if evil thoughts stain the mind, and sinful habits are indulged, these have their effects.
IV. HE WAS NOT SELF-SATISFIED. Self-satisfaction is one of the greatest preventives of good: e.g. the lad who can do without his father's counsel; the girl who scorns her mother's advice; the children who drift away from Sunday schools, to live without God and without hope in the world. This is most perilous in spiritual things. No condemnation is more severe than that of the Church which says, "I have need of nothing;" no welcome is more loving than that given by our Lord to the children, who could give him nothing but love, or to the young ruler who wistfully asked, "What lack I yet?" "He fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away." If your heart is hungry for the love of God, our heavenly Father is pleased, just as an earthly father is when he knows his child wants him. If your son had run away and been hidden for years, and at last was found abroad, what would you wish to hear? Not that he was doing well, and had lost all care for you; but that, although he had everything to make him happy, he was sad because he wished to see his father, and obtain the assurance of his forgiveness.
V. HE CAME TO CHRIST WITH AN EARNEST QUESTION. What shall I do, not to gain wealth or fame, but eternal life? In the New Testament life is not spoken of as equivalent to existence, but it means life coupled with conditions which make it blessed, and therefore desirable. Life and holiness are correlatives, as are death and sin. So a man may be dead in part, and alive in part. A person struck with paralysis may lie for months in a living death, unable to reason, to speak, or to move a limb. Sin does that to our moral being. It paralyzes sensitiveness to God's presence, the power of speaking to him with naturalness and the capacity for hearing his voice. It is an endless existence, with the full enjoyment of these attributes (the exercise of which constitute the joys of heaven). He which is involved in the phrase "eternal life."
VI. HE BROUGHT HIS EARNEST QUESTION TO THE LORD JESUS. It was a great thing for a man in his position to do. He faced the scorn of his friends when he ran eagerly to Christ and humbly knelt before him, beseeching him to teach and guide him. "And Jesus beholding him loved him," as he loves all who in this spirit fall at his feet. - A.R.
"If thou wouldest be perfect," if thou wouldest lack nothing - If! - ah, if! Jesus was neither unkind nor severe in his demand. The young man pressed him for a reply, and the prize was with his reach. Whether he could pay the price, whether he really was prepared to do any good thing, as the "what good thing" implied, whether he valued the eternal life so highly as his words seemed to indicate, must be proved. "Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Alas! "his countenance fell,... and he went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions." He was not the only sorrowful one. A lowering cloud must have passed over the brow of the Rabbi himself. It is not out of place to inquire - What did Jesus offer him for his riches; and what did he lose by retaining them? The offer embraced -
I. PERFECTNESS OF CHARACTER - that which can be gained only by great sacrifice and effort, by withdrawment from the world, by such apprehension of the spiritual as to lead to the surrender of the material; that faith in God which lifts the trusting heart from its confidence in the "possessions" which the eye can see and the hands handle, and which promise "much goods" for "many years," to that "treasure in heaven "which fadeth not. For imperfect man there is a perfectness, to which he shall be led if he forsake all and follow Jesus. From that path the young ruler at this time turns away, perhaps to reflect, to repent, to turn again to the Master who was patient, and finally, afar earnest struggles to join the company of those who made the sacrifice of all things for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Again be it said that he who forsakes all for Christ's "sake and the gospel's" sake enters upon a path that leads to perfection.
II. A second part of the offer made to the young man was "TREASURE IN HEAVEN" - "in the world to come eternal life." It was this the young man desired; but he knew not that the heart could find its "treasure in heaven" only by consenting to have it there alone. He who would really have" eternal life" must be content to be freed from anything and erecting that withdraws the heart from that life. The living unto this present world does so withdraw the heart. Therefore the earthly possessions must be sacrificed. That many rich men enter, though "hardly," into the kingdom of heaven, and retain their place therein, is a sign of the prevalence of Christ's grace. Yet these cease to "trust in riches," or the "deceitfulness of riches" would choke in them the seeds of eternal life. For the present, at least, the rich, eager, honored young ruler cannot say his whole treasure is in heaven.
III. But Jesus further offered him A PLACE AMONGST THE MOST HONOURED BAND OF MEN THE WORLD HAS KNOWN, AND A SHARE IN THE MOST HONOURABLE WORK. "Come, follow me." Who can tell what might have been the effect of his sacrifice? His example might have saved Judas. He might have enriched the world with a fifth Gospel. He might have drawn many of the rulers to believe. But for the time he lost his chance, and the world is the worse for his decision, as it is the worse for every error of men. What did he gain? His "great possessions." But only for a time - it may have been a very brief time. And, when enjoying the fruits of his wealth, would the thought ever spring unbidden to his mind, "I purchased this with the price of eternal life; for this I gave up the hope of being perfect; this I chose rather than follow the good Master'"? He who forsakes all for Christ finds all in Christ; but he who has any possession which he would not forego, even for eternal life, loses both the life and the possession. Well may the hope be cherished that this one on whom the loving look, if not the loving kiss, of Christ rested, turned again, and laid all at his feet, yea, "and his own life also," or joined those who "were possessors of lands or houses," and who "sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet." Gently did Jesus thus teach the rich ruler that with all his wealth he lacked at least "one thing." He that would have eternal life as an inheritance must establish his claim, and that claim must be faultless. One flaw is sufficient to invalidate that claim. Further, the Lord taught that eternal life is ours, not by this title of inheritance, but is a gift of God. - G.
I. THE RICH MAN FEELS THE NEED OF SALVATION. "Money answereth all things," but only in a limited sphere after all. Riches bind as well as set free; close certain doors to the spirit, as well as open them to others. The poor man knows "straitness" of one kind, the wealthy man another. Could he but unite the advantages of wealth with freedom and joy of spirit!
II. SALVATION IS POSSIBLE TO THE RICH MAN. But the practical conditions may be different from those in other cases. It is some idea, some phantasy, a pride, or a dread, or a lust, that every man needs to expel from his mind in order to salvation. In some way the idea of his riches stood in the way of this man's bliss. But the way to salvation was pointed out to him. It weald be wrong to generalize the direction of the Savior. All that can be said is that there doubtless are cases where entire renunciation may be indispensable to salvation. The principle is: the false opinion of ourselves must be given up, and our being must be grounded on the truth, if we would "enter into life."
III. IT IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS IN THE WORLD TO RENOUNCE RICHES. How very rare are the cases where this is done! For money represents our root in earth. Let us, without affectation or hypocrisy, confess that it is so. Power, service, and estimation of others, a flattering self-representation, - this is what riches mean. To have grown into this circle of ideas, and to be asked suddenly to break them up, 'tis a wrench, like parting with life itself. But let us not exaggerate in any particular. Renunciation of any object with which the imagination in its dearest play is interwoven, is hard. It may be as hard for some to give up the retirement of a humble home for Christ's sake, as for others to renounce station and splendor. - J.
I. HIS APPLICATION.
1. The position of this man. We have in this section a most interesting narrative. The subject of it was a young man, in the bright and beautiful prime of life, as St. Matthew tells us; a ruler of the synagogue, as St. Luke informs us; an exceedingly rich man, as all three synoptists relate; for St. Luke tells us he was very rich, and St. Matthew and St. Mark that he had great possessions. Besides this, he was an exceedingly interesting person - frank, sincere, amiable; he thus possessed many winning and endearing qualities. Nor was this all; he was outwardly moral, outwardly observant of God's Law, and so not far from the kingdom of heaven.
2. His mode of approaching the Savior. His approach was all that could be desired. It was marked by thorough earnestness and sincerity. Our Lord was going forth into the way, or on his way - starting, it would seem, on his last journey from Peraea beyond Jordan to Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha and Lazarus. This young ruler, in breathless haste, lest he should miss his opportunity before the Savior departed, came running up and fell on his knees before him. The manner, too, in which he put his question was highly respectful, and even reverential, as appears from the words with which he addressed him. By the title "Good Master" he acknowledged his authority as a teacher, and his kindness of heart, having just witnessed the graciousness and benevolence with which he had received the little children and folded them in his arms. Our Lord appears to reprove him in a gentle way on the ground of this title, and especially to reject the term "good," thus applied to him; he apparently refuses to accept it as a mere conventional expression, flippantly and thoughtlessly applied. But, on examining the subject more closely, it will be evident that our Lord wished to elevate the young rulers notion about himself as the Messiah, and raise his thoughts to God. He wished to give this young man a hint that he was mere than an ordinary teacher in Israel, that he was more than a mere teacher possessing great excellence of character and goodness of heart; that he was a Teacher sent from God, and therefore invested with highest authority, and holding a Divine commission - yea, and himself Divine. To this end he requires the ruler to reflect on what ground he applied the term "good," reminding him that there was no one absolutely good save God, and implying the inconsistency of his position, and the unwarrantableness of his calling him "good" when he did not regard him as Divine. Our Lord intimates, obscurely indeed, that, while rejecting the term in the sense in which the ruler meant it, as a mere complimentary one paid to a rabbi of eminence, and regarding it as inapplicable from that standpoint, he can only accept it in conjunction with the One alone who is good, that is, God. But, as the ruler did not apply it in that sense, our Lord takes occasion to lift up his thoughts to the only One absolutely good; as though he said, "Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good;" and, "Why callest thou me good?" and, Why inquirest about the good from any mere human teacher whose goodness of head and heart, however great, is necessarily defective? Why not go at once to the One who is alone truly and absolutely good, and the Fountain-head of all goodness, and whose will is the rule and standard of what is good; while the revelation of his mind on the subject is made known in the commandments?
3. His motive in coming. With all this young man's advantages he felt his need of something better; he had cravings for something higher. His wealth, with all the facilities it afforded, and all the profits it implied, and all the pleasures it procured, did not satisfy his desires or supply his spiritual needs. His longings for something better than earth or sense could furnish remained unappeased; there was still a void within which the world could not fill; he felt irrepressible yearnings for immortality. He had heard the promise of a kingdom made to the little children who believed, or rather to all who possessed their childlike spirit. He had himself come recently into the inheritance of much wealth and great possessions, and thus he is prompted to ask the question very natural under the circumstances, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life'?" He was alive to the worth of his soul; he felt the paramount importance of eternal life. His question, therefore, was not prompted by mere curiosity, neither was it a cold or careless inquiry; it was a downright earnest one; it was a matter of life or death with him.
II. HIS SELF-SUFFICIENT INQUIRY.
1. Nature of the inquiry. The inquiry is that recorded by St. Matthew, "What lack I yet?" to which the answer of our Lord is that recorded by St. Mark in the words, "One thing thou lackest." We must first consider the question itself. This was a second question; the first was, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" and contained the very essence of Pharisaism, which made religion consist in doing - scrupulously adhering to outward rules of conduct. This young man's error was that of the better part of his nation; for "Israel, which followed after the Law of righteousness, did not attain to the Law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law."
2. His Pharisaism. This young man's first inquiry shows that he expected to entitle himself to eternal life by doing many great things, or some special good thing, as the question in St. Matthew's Gospel is, "What good thing shall i do, that I may inherit eternal life?" To this our Lord replied, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." By this reply he meant to convince him
(1) that "by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in his (God's) sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin;" and
(2) to bring him to the conclusion that "the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe."
3. His surprise. The young ruler was somewhat surprised at the common* place nature of the answer, and, lest he had misheard or misapprehended it, he proceeds to inquire further, "Which" or, more accurately, "What kind of commandments?" He evidently expected that some new commandment would be announced by the great Teacher, or that some recondite rule of the oral Law would be set forth, or that certain minute ceremonial regulations would be made known to him. But no; the plainest, simplest, broadest commandments of the Decalogue were repeated in his hearing. The thing appears at first sight so plain, the direction so very trite, and the answers so commonplace, that the ruler, half puzzled by this very plainness, and surprised at the simplicity of the instruction of One whom he regarded as a distinguished public teacher, if not something more, exclaims in amazement, - Of what kind? Which commandments do you mean? Is it those ten uttered in an audible voice on Sinai, amid thunderings and lightnings, and other circumstances of splendor and solemnity? Is it those ten that were delivered to our nation amid scenes of such unparalleled publicity as well as grandeur? Is it those ten words, as they are beautifully called in the original, which are now hoary with the antiquity of long years gone by, which claim the respect of the whole Hebrew commonwealth, and to which every respectable member of the community renders an outward obedience? Is it those ten commandments to which your direction refers - commandments with which compliance is enforced even by an earthly judge, and transgression of which is visited with penalties by the common law?
4. Our Lord's repetition of the commandments. In reply to this further inquiry of the young ruler, our Lord specifies the commandments of the second table in the following order, according to St. Mark: - the seventh, sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, and fifth. The expression "Defraud not" is taken by some
(1) as a repetition of the eighth;
(2) by others as a summary of the four commandments that preceded, or of the fifth that succeeded and that by way of anticipation; or
(3) it is a peculiar form of the tenth, which we regard as the most natural and correct opinion. These commandments he quoted from the second table as the most obvious; appending a general principle which embraced all these commandments, and summarily comprehended the whole of the second table of the Law. That principle was love - love to brother man, and a love required to be equal in intensity and extent to the love of self, as it is added, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
5. Our Lord's object in this. He saw that this in many respects estimable young man depended on his works for eternal life, and he reminded him that he must in that case keep the commandments, and keep them perfectly. The Savior meant to show him that such had not been the case. He meant to show him that he was a sinner, and as such needed a Savior; he meant to show him that, as far as the Law is concerned, every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Even if a man from a certain point - an early period in life - kept all the requirements of God's Law at all times and in all ways, what would atone for previous sins or remove original guilt?
6. The Law a schoolmaster. He meant to show him that he had "sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" that, as a matter of fact, he had been very far from attaining to universal, perfect, and constant obedience; that, in the absence of such obedience, all were concluded under sin, and that there was no exception. In this manner usually the way is prepared: the filthy rags of self-righteousness are torn off; men are led to abandon their own righteousness as a ground of pardon and acceptance before God, and to rest upon a better righteousness, even that "everlasting righteousness," which Daniel and others of the prophets long years before had predicted as to be wrought out and brought in by Messiah, Such was probably the import of that instructive symbolic transaction, of which we read in the third chapter of Zechariah, when the filthy garments were taken away from Joshua the high priest; and when a fair mitre was set upon his head, and he was clothed with change of garments, as it is there written: "Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will Clothe thee with change of raiment." Such is the significance of the contrast between the righteousness of the Law and the righteousness of faith in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them .... If thou shalt confess with thy month the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised: him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
7. True obedience inward and spiritual. When the young man had heard our Lord's answer he looked upon the whole matter as a very simple thing, and possibly stood higher in his own estimation than he had done before, if that were possible. He seemed to say, If these be the commandments which you include in your direction, and if these be all, then have I obeyed them - every one of them - from my youth up, nay, from childhood till the present hour; they have been the rule of my life. Is there anything still wanting? Have you any new commandment to add? Is there anything needed to supplement those which I long since learnt from the Law, and to which I have duly conformed from the earliest dawn of reason? And though you have overlooked the traditions of the elders, I have neither forgotten them nor neglected them, but observed them most punctiliously. What then remains? What lack I yet? Ah, how little this young man knew of his own heart! how little of the spirituality of God's Law! how little of the exceeding broadness of the commandment! In the Law of God, as in the love of God, there are a length and breadth and depth and height to which this ruler was entirely a stranger, he had not, we are sure, been one of the audience when our Lord preached his sermon on the mount; or, if he had, he must have failed entirely to comprehend the explanation of the Law as contained in that sermon. At all events, he remained apparently ignorant that the Law in its requirements extends to the heart as well as to the life; to the principles as well as to the practice; to the feelings as well as to the facts; to the internal passions as well as to the external acts; to the inmost thoughts as well as the outward deeds. This young man had, we doubt not, maintained an unblemished character before the eyes of men; he had been guiltless of such sins as are public and common in the world, and free from all notorious vices; he had kept the Law in the letter and as prohibiting outward acts of sin; for the Savior does not call his assertion in question. Besides, had he not been a young man of blameless conduct as well as of promising talents, he could not have attained, and at an early age, his honorable position as one of the rulers of a local synagogue, or perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin, or great council of the nation.
8. The young man's deficiency in his own department of morals. "What lack I yet?" may be taken as a boast rather than a question for information or an inquiry about future duty. He lacked much, we are sure, even on the low ground of morality; for taking the Law in its spiritual sense, and as Christ expounded it, he had no doubt offended at many times and in many ways; "for in many things we offend all." Instead of the self-righteous, self-sufficient assertion, "all these have I kept from my youth up," had he looked inward he might, nay, he would, have found reason to say, "All these have I broken;" for we have it on the authority of God's own Word, that "every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually." The first commandment which our Lord specified, according to the common order as given by St. Matthew, is, "Thou shalt do no murder." The young ruler judged himself guiltless of any breach of this commandment, because his hands had been free from blood, lie forgot that blood-guiltiness attaches to the heart as well as to the hand, to the tongue as well as to the arm that wields the deadly weapon. The teeth, as we learn from the fifty-seventh psalm, may be murderous as "spears and arrows;" and the tongue may wound as mortally as "a sharp sword;" while "out of the heart," as our Lord himself has declared, "proceed murders." "All these have I kept from my youth up." And hast thou never, O young man, been angry with thy brother without a cause - when no real offense was offered and no insult intended? Hast thou never indulged the angry feeling till it formed itself in the contemptuous expression? Hast thou never said to thy brother, "Raca?" Hast thou never permitted thine anger to proceed still further, till it vented itself in terms of deepest guilt? Hast thou never said to thy brother, "Thou fool"? If so - if thy heart be thus pure, thy tongue innocent, and thy hand without stain of thy brother's blood - then in regard to this commandment thou mayest say, "What lack I yet?" But we may take one other example. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This is another requirement of God's Law, and another branch of duty towards man. Here the young ruler again declares his innocence: "This also have I kept." Here again we must take him to task and catechize him. Is it, O young man, the external act merely of which you plead not guilty, or do you include what God's Law includes, the impure thought and the wanton imagination? Do you include the secret desire of the heart, the lascivious look of the eye, and the indelicate utterance of the lips? Or have you never read of "eyes full of adultery," of evil concupiscence, and of filthy communication proceeding out of the mouth? Have you never listened to or taken part in the lewd song, or the foul anecdote, or the equivocal innuendo, or the expression of double meaning? Have you ever regarded the vengeance of Heaven as due to every wanton affection, and every unchaste desire, and every roving glance, and every lustful look, and every lascivious gesture, and every impure word? Has your observance of this requirement always been thus severe, strict, and spiritual? If so, then mayest thou say with regard to this commandment also, "What lack I yet?"
9. The Scripture standard of morality. Oh, how exceeding broad and deep, pure and spiritual, are the commandments of an infinitely pure and holy God! In his sight the bright and beautiful sky above us is not pure, and in his presence the angels themselves - those pure spirits whose nature is like fiery flame, and who minister the high behests of the Eternal - are not unimpeachable with folly. Morality of outward action is highly commendable, and may pass current in sight of men like ourselves; but who can boast of his obedience, inward as well as outward, to all God's commandments, in the sight of that God whom the prophet in vision saw sitting on a throne high and lifted up, before whom holy seraphic intelligences veiled their faces in deepest homage and holiest reverence, while the burden of those seraphim's song was a just acknowledgment of his infinite holiness, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory"? Who, in the sight of that God who "searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts," can, like this young ruler, ask proudly, or even boastfully, "What lack I yet?"
III. HIS IMPERFECTION PROVED.
1. The great defect. "One thing thou lackest" was our Lord's declaration. But that one thing was the most important, the most needful, and the most indispensable of all. He was outwardly moral, but a stranger to spiritual religion; he had a form of Godliness, but wanted the power. The one thing he lacked was love, and love which manifests itself in entire self-surrender to God and in self-denial for man. After our Lord had reminded him of the commandments and of the duties required by God's Law, he stated a general principle that included them all, saying, as St. Matthew records it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." In fact, the whole Law, including the commandments of both tables, is fulfilled in that one word "love" - love to God and love to man; for "love is the fulfilling of the Law." And now he brings the principle just stated to a practical test, and puts the young ruler to the proof. "One thing thou lackest" - one thing, without which no obedience can be really beautiful before men or truly acceptable to God; one thing, without which obedience is neither real nor reliable, neither permanent nor performed consistently and efficiently; one thing, without which obedience is merely mechanical, and nothing more than a whitening of the outside of the sepulcher, while the inside is dead men's bones and all uncleanness. That one thing was the principle of love, which is the moving spring of all gospel obedience. This principle of love is the great impulse to all genuine morality; it is the essential element in all holiness. By this principle our Lord tested the young ruler, and in this practical way, - You profess entire obedience to God's Law; now, the sum and substance of that law is love - love to God and love to man, and this love must be supreme. You must love the Lord your God with all your mind, and soul, and strength, and heart; and your fellow-man as yourself. Go, then, and act out that great principle by selling all that you have, and distributing it to relieve the necessities of your poorer brethren of mankind, and to maintain and promote the service of God. The test was found too severe for the young man's morality; his love was more of outward observance than of spiritual obedience, more of profession than of practice, more of the lip than of the life. He was not prepared to subordinate all, to surrender all, to sacrifice all, and to suffer all, if necessary, in fulfillment of that Law, the whole of which is contained in that one word "love." This one thing he lacked; weighed in the balance, he was found wanting. He needed another to fulfill the Law in his stead; he required a better righteousness than his own.
IV. APPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT.
1. In relation to the irreligious. Men may have fame and fortune; they may have intellectual endowments and worldly wealth; they may have every earthly comfort and convenience; they may have kind friends, happy homes, and pleasant family relations; they may have all that heart can wish. But, if they want religion, then they lack the one thing that can make men truly prosperous - blessed in time and happy through eternity.
2. With respect to the amiable, and persons possessing certain good qualities. Persons may be amiable; they may be frank and affable and obliging; they may be generous and liberal, hospitable and kindhearted; they may be upright in their dealings, and honorable in all the business of life; they may have strong natural affection in their various relationships, as sons or husbands or parents; - they may be all this, and have all these good natural qualities, without either possessing or professing religion. We may admire and even love them for their amiability and other natural excellenecs, for men differ widely by nature as well as by grace; but, wanting religion, one thing they lack, and that one thing is the one thing needful.
3. In regard to professors of religion. Men may profess themselves to be on the Lord's side; they may be hearers and readers and students of God's Word; they may by study make themselves acquainted with its precious truths - its doctrines and duties, its precepts and promises, its entreaties and exhortations, its warnings and reproofs; they may have respect for the Scriptures, for the sabbath, for the sanctuary, and its services; they may unite with God's people in prayer, in praise, in the sacraments, and in other exercises of religion; - and after all this, and notwithstanding all this, their heart may not be right toward God; one thing they lack, and, continuing to lack it, they must perish in the end. Oh, how dreadful to think of such having their lot at last with the openly irreligious, the profligate, and the profane! And how such will gloat over those professors of religion when they descend to the abode of the lost, and exultingly say, "Are you also become as we? Are you become like unto us?" You, who professed religion, who offered prayers, and sang praises, and piqued yourselves on your superiority to profligates like us; you, who did so much and went so far, - are you become cur comrades in misery, our companions in distress? Oh, we may imagine the fiendish glee with which false or fallen professors shall be jeered, when they sink down into partnership with the utterly abandoned in the place of destruction and the region of despair!
4. With reference to ourselves, and to avoid self-deception. The young ruler was practising self-deception, without knowing it. He did not know his deficiency till the Savior brought him to the severe practical proof before us. Here is a salutary lesson and a solemn warning to beware of deception in our estimate of ourselves. We too, even we, may be resting on a morality that is hollow and defective; we may fancy ourselves religious, while our heart is not right toward God, and has no real love to man. We may mistake enthusiasm, or the excitement of the occasion, or the power of sympathy, especially in times of revival, for love to Christ and his cause. We may enrol our names among the followers of the Lamb, and profess our readiness to follow him whithersoever he leadeth, through evil report and good report; we may worship with a degree of devoutness in the sanctuary, partake of the sacraments, wear the so-called "livery of religion," and practice strict outward morality. All this is right and proper, all this we should do; and yet, notwithstanding all this, we may not possess supreme love of the Savior; and so this one thing we lack, and thus are destitute of the chief thing, the main thing, the one thing most essentially needful, and absolutely indispensable to our present and everlasting well-being.
5. How we are undeceived. We may be ignorant of our deficiency till the Savior calls us to self-renunciation in some form or other; till he summons us to surrender some besetting sin or mortify some beloved lust - to cut off a right hand or a right foot or pluck out a right eye; to take up our cross in some way and follow him. He may require us to contribute more liberally to the claims of his religion, to give more largely to his cause, to work more vigorously as well as pray more earnestly for the extension of his kingdom; or, it may be, he demands a more unreserved consecration of our time, or talents, or influence, or example, or eloquence, or wealth, or whatever else we have to give and can give. Our refusal or reluctance to comply in any of the cases supposed, proves that one thing we lack, and the lack of it proves the entire absence or imperfection of that love which is the basis of duty and the principle of religion.
6. Evidence of our possessing that love which works by faith. If we have true love to the Lord Jesus, our surrender to his service will be complete; we shall give on all proper occasions and in due proportion to his cause; we shall, in a word, do and dare, and even die, if needs be, for his sake. We shall put in practice that principle of self-sacrificing love which our Lord requires, and which is ready to give all and do all and suffer all for him who loved us and gave himself for us. Wherever there is real affection, whether it be to friend or fellow-man or fatherland, that affection may be modified by national character or natural temperament, but it will be sure to manifest itself in some shape and develop itself in some way; it will unfetter the feet, it will untie the hands and set them to work, it will give utterance to the tongue, and impart activity to the life. We find an illustration of this in that remarkable military enterprise, "The Retreat of the Ten Thousand Greeks" out of the heart of the Persian empire. They had crossed deep rivers and climbed high mountains; they had overcome difficulties almost incredible, and encountered dangers of every kind; they made good their retreat in the face and in spite of all the artifice and arms of Persia. At length they reached the summit of a hill called Theches (now Tekeh), between Erzeroum and Trebisond; and when, from the top of that high hill, those gallant Greeks, many of whom were islanders and all of them accustomed to the sea, descried in the distance the dark waters of the Euxine, they raised a loud and long-continued cheer. "The sea! the sea!" was the shout of every tongue. The sea reminded them of their native waters, and of their island homes; and the tide of affection rose in their bosoms, high as the laughing tides that "lave those Edens of the Eastern wave." So, wherever true affection exists, it needs but the occasion to call it forth - something to move the memory, and it vents itself spontaneously with overflowing fullness. - J.J.G.
the indiscriminate judgment which leads us to condemn a whole nation or sect as being outside the bounds of Christian charity. He was, and still is, gracious to one seeker, even though he dwells among the heathen; and hears any prayer, though it rises from a godless home. We notice here also our Lord's freedom from the pandering to popular passion, which has often been the snare of statecraft, and sometimes of the Christian Church. We naturally bend before an adverse current of opinion, and count it good policy to withhold the advocacy of our opinions for a season. But here was a crisis in Christ's ministry which would lead to his reception or rejection, when the decision of each one would make a weight in the scale of popular judgment. Judicious hedging just then might avert hatred or win a convert. Here was a ruler of the synagogue - a man of wealth, position, and good repute - who was willing to become a disciple; but he was met with words of discouragement, and the great Teacher put his claims before him in the strongest form. The fact is, that he thought more of the suppliant than of himself. He would rather bring him to deep repentance than have his showy following. With all his estimable qualities, the young ruler had spiritual deficiencies, which were seen by the Searcher of hearts, and revealed to himself by the test applied to him. What were these?
I. HE WAS MISTAKEN AS TO THE NATURE OF "GOODNESS." "Good Master, what good thing shall I do?" asked he. Christ at once put him in the way of discovering his mistake by answering, "Why callest thou me good?" etc. He did not decline the appellation, but repelled it when used in this superficial sense. He wanted him to weigh his words, to know what they implied, to say exactly what he meant; and this he requires of us. He reminded him that God was the Source of all goodness, because he would not have him regard any good act or good person as isolated or independent, but in connection with the God of goodness. He was himself "good;" but why? Because he was one with God. The young man might do a "good thing; "but how? Not as an isolated acts but by loving God supremely, and living in him. He enumerated the commandments as declarations of the will and character of the good One, which could only be obeyed in fullness When supreme love to God was the master passion of the soul; the duties to his fellows being mentioned because these constituted the easiest test of obedience.
III. HIS GREAT DEFICIENCY WAS AN ABSENCE OF COMPLETE SELF-SURRENDER. When told to sell all that he had, this was not the special "good thing" which would gain eternal life; but the command was given because the attempt to obey it would reveal the fact that he did not love the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength. This is the one important thing so often lacking, short of which so many halt, but which is essential to the righting of life. If we set clown a series of noughts we may say they only want one figure to make them millions; but that one figure is all-important. So is it with "the one thing" lacking to many a moral life, namely, the consecration to God, of which prayer is the natural expression.
III. HE BROKE DOWN UNDER THE TEST APPLIED. The command, "Sell whatsoever thou hast," was to be obeyed literally by him, but not by all. Christ came in contact with other rich men, and did not call upon them to do this. But it was the best thing to teach this man the special lesson he needed. The test our Lord applies to those who come to him varies greatly, but in some form it comes to all such. It may appear to be so trifling a thing as the giving up of an amusement or pursuit, or so peculiar a thing that no one has previously been asked to do it. But it is the test of character to that one, and the trifle is fraught with future destiny. That which is not a source of peril to some may be disastrous to others. A blessing in some circumstances may prove a curse in others. The lighted candle, which is useful in the home, may be a destroyer in a mine. Anything which seems a source of danger must be abjured for Christ's sake. The young ruler did not make the required sacrifice when it was called for. He went away sad; and if he went away for ever, it was to far deeper sadness, for he left the Savior of the world - the King of heaven. Dante says that in his journey through hell he saw him "who with ignoble spirit made the great refusal." But was the refusal final? We hesitate to believe it. We hope that this inquirer, who was so sincere, earnest, and humble, only went away to consider the question, not in the excitement of the moment, but alone, on his knees, and that then and there he gave himself up, to be Christ's consecrated servant for evermore. - A.R.
I. REFLECTIONS TO WHICH THE INCIDENT GAVE RISE.
1. Effect on the young ruler. He went away grieved. He is now brought to see that he cannot obey two masters; he cannot serve God and mammon. "He was sad at that saying." The word στυγνάσας here used is peculiar. In one other place it is applied to the appearance of the sky, and translated lowering; and so a cloud came over the young man's brow. Our Lord esteemed him (ἠγάπησεν), for he undoubtedly manifested several endearing traits of character - he was sincere, ardent, and evidently aspiring to something heroical in religion. For the present, however, he went away.
2. Question about his return. Whether this young man was Lazarus, as some have conjectured from a certain similarity of incidents, such as "One thing is needful," compared with "One thing thou lackest," is of course uncertain, as is also the probability of his afterwards returning to the Savior. "He was having (ῆν ἔχων) great possessions," is a somewhat striking, phrase, and denotes habitual as well as actual possession, His preference was given to worldly things for the present, and was called. by Dante "the great refusal." One thing is certain, that those possessions soon reverted to others; and whether it was force, or fraud, or casuality, or death that at last deprived him of them, they were taken away; and if he continued to cling to them, and to prefer them to the heavenly inheritance, then he could reckon on no reversion in the skies - no portion of which it could be said, "it shall not be taken away from" him.
3. The rich man's difficulty. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The difficulty of his entrance into the kingdom of heaven is stated
(1) proverbially. This proverb is quite in keeping with the Oriental style of exaggeration, or hyperbolical expression. Some have read
(2) κάμιλον, a rope, instead of κάμηλον, a camel, but without adequate authority. Some, again, understand it to mean
(3) the narrow side-gate for foot-passengers beside the large gates of Eastern cities. This, however, is rather a modern conception to explain an ancient idea. The difficulty is connected with trusting in riches, and arises from the temptations to which riches expose their possessors. The love of riches is the root of the evil. A rich man may sit loose to the riches he possesses, while a poor man may set his heart upon the wealth to which he aspires. The astonishment of the apostles was occasioned partly by the extreme difficulties placed in the way of the rich by the temptations inseparably connected with riches; and partly by temptations of other kinds which they felt as placing difficulties in the way of salvation, specially, perhaps, among these the need of that inward subjective righteousness which is to be wrought out, and which, though it is not the title to, is the meetness for, the heavenly inheritance. The universal desire for wealth, and their own secret expectations of the rich rewards of an earthly kingdom, all of which were reprobated by the words of our Lord, increased the anticipated difficulty and intensified their amazement.
4. The claim preferred by Peter on behalf of himself and fellow-disciples. The refusal of the ruler to take up his cross and follow Christ suggests a comparison. Peter is the mouthpiece, as usual, and gives utterance to his own and the unspoken thoughts of his fellow-apostles. "Lo," he says, "we have left all, and have followed thee;" he draws special attention to the fact by a "Lo," or "Behold." Others soon after did the same, and literally acted out the requirement which our Lord proposed to the ruler as the practical test of that principle of self-denying, self-sacrificing love which is the spring of true obedience; for in Acts 4:34, 35, we read, "As many as were possessed of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." Peter, however, supplements his statement of fact by the inquiry, "What shall we have therefore?" as St. Matthew informs us. Peter reckons on a reward - he calculates on a quid pro quo; and so far forth he shows that he has failed in the spirit of the requirement, though he has fulfilled it in the letter. An earthly kingdom with its attractive rewards was still looming before the eyes of these partially enlightened men.
5. The promised compensation. In the componsatory reward the equivalents for "father" and "wife" are omitted. The reason is not far to seek; we have not many fathers in Christ. As the apostle writes to the Corinthians, "Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers;" but contrariwise we may have many spiritual mothers, as well as brothers and sisters. Thus Paul reckons among his spiritual mothers the mother of Rufus, when he says (Romans 16:13), "his mother and mine." The jeer of Julian, with respect to a multiplicity of wives, is referred to by Theophylact in the following terms: - "Shall he then also have a hundred wives? Yes. Though the cursed Julian mocked this." Theophylact then proceeds to explain it of the ministry of holy women supplying food and raiment, and relieving the disciples of care about all such things. The compensation of a hundredfold for all we abandon or lose for Christ's sake must be understood figuratively and spiritually - figuratively as to the quantitative proportion, spiritually with regard to quality or kind. The apostles enjoyed the fulfillment of this promise to the utmost in the presence and companionship of their Lord and Master, his instructions, his guidance, and his grace. There is no one who will make a similar sacrifice for his name's sake, according to St. Matthew - that is, as read in the light of the other evangelists, for sake of Christ and his cause, or Christ and his kingdom, not by reason of a calculation of reward - that will not gain what is a hundred times more valuable than all they sacrifice: Divine favor, pardon of sin, purity of heart, peace of conscience, spiritual consolations, friends in Jesus; and all these not only in the present dispensation, but at the present season (καιρῷ); while in the coming dispensation we shall have eternal life; that is to say, every blessing we need in this world, and eternal blessedness in the world to come. One of the items here enumerated is generally understood as a limitation; but μετὰ διωγμ῀ν does not denote
(1) after persecutions, which would require the accusative, nor
(2) amidst persecutions, but
(3) with persecutions,
implying that persecutions have a place among the enumerated blessings, just as in the sermon on the mount we read, "Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We should also compare with this promise of the Savior the inventory of the Christian's possessions, as reckoned up by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:22, 23. Further, strictly temporal blessings are not excluded, but either directly or indirectly included. Godliness enables us in a certain sense to make the best of both worlds, being profitable for all things, and "having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come." The blessing of the Lord maketh rich; for with 'his blessing and the enjoyment of his favor men cultivate those virtues and habits that tend to temporal as well as spiritual well-being, such as industry, thrift, temperance, health, purity, prudent management, proper economy, and consequent credit, all of which bear directly on worldly wealth and present happiness. - J.J.G.
I. THE SAYING OF CHRIST. "How hardly shah they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" It is no proverb culled, from the pages of the past. but evidently his own instinctive, penetrating moral from what the had just seen was self-evident to him "how hardly," i.e. with what difficulty, such a thing could take place. He knew by personal experience the price that was to be paid for the realization of that kingdom, and what its nature would be when realized; but he alone. As fruit of his own inward experience it was a distinct discovery in morals. The disciples, not so conversant with the inner nature of the kingdom, were amazed. It was the exact opposite of their own idea. They thought that it would be absolutely necessary to gain such disciples if the kingdom was ever to be realized. It was impossible for them to conceive of spiritual power apart from material means and influence. They could not get rid, moreover, of the dream that a political shape would sooner or later habit of thought of the ancient world. The well-to-do had not only the material advantage of their riches, but a certain rejected honor as enjoying the theocratic blessing upon the keeping of the commandments. And in the case of the ruler this moral excellence was not only an ancestral trait but a personal characteristic. The Greek who styled the rich and powerful of his nation οἱ ἀγαθοί, or καλοί, and the poor οἱ κακοί, was representative of his age; cf. the Latin optimates, the Saxon good men (opposed to lewd people, base hinds). the French prudhommes. And the modern mind has not yet got rid of the twist. There is a superficial gentleness of manners, refinement, and honor, identified, by long association, with the "better classes," that is easily mistaken for a deeper moral principle. Nor can we ignore the "minor moralities," the conventional proprieties and respectabilities which wealth generally brings in its train. It is only when the emphasis is laid on character that these are estimated at their proper worth. Therefore the necessity for -
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SAYING. It is done in a spirit of tender, condescending sympathy - "children."
1. The general difficulty attending entrance into the kingdom is declared (the clause, "for them that trust in riches," being probably not genuine). The reason for this difficulty is not, however, stated. It ought to have been remembered. "Taking up his cross" was the condition imposed upon every would-be "disciple."
2. A figure of speech is employed in relation to the rich. The tradition identifying the "needle's eye" with a certain gate of Jerusalem is hardly well enough supported to be reliable. It was probably but an impromptu hyperbole that flashed from the mind of Christ. But it would recall the teaching of the "strait gate." Κάμιλος, a rope, may, however, be the true reading. Everything that exaggerates and pampers "self" hinders from the better life. The disciples had learnt that lesson in part (Ver. 28). but its absolute import and spiritual realization they were not to arrive at until their Master had gone away. Their astonishment is not, therefore, lessened, but rather increased, by the repeated statement; and they said, "Then who can be saved?" A question which seemed to imply, "If the rich cannot be saved without difficulty, the poor will have still less chance." The temptations of poverty were probably prominent in their minds. From the human point of view this would seem to be a just observation; therefore he qualified his statement, and under certain conditions declared -
III. THE SAYING SUPERSEDED. "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God. There is here a double hint, viz. as to the objective work which he himself was to do for men, and the spiritual aid which would be experienced in men by the advent of the Holy Ghost. The difficulty is wholly on the human side. Salvation is thus vindicated as a supernatural achievement - a Divine grace, and not a human virtue. - M.
I. IT IS DIFFICULT. It is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom! But that difficulty lies, not as the disciples thought, simply in the possession of riches, but in the proneness of men to love riches. And how short is the step from having riches to loving them! Only by exertion, only by the painfulness of self-denial, by giving up trust in riches and fondness for them, can the rich enter the kingdom of heaven. How hard is this to them who have abundance! How easy it seems to them who possess little! So difficult did this appear to him who knew all men, that the parabolic illustration has no extravagance, though to the disciples it shut out all hope, and rightly so from their point of view, as was confirmed by the Master's word, made the more impressive by his tender look - "With men it is impossible." Happily, however, there are springs of hope for men other than those which rise from among themselves. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." So it comes to pass that, concerning the entry of rich men into the kingdom of heaven, it may be proclaimed -
II. IT IS POSSIBLE. Yes, it is "possible with God," without whom, indeed, nothing is possible. The human inability to effect salvation stands in direct contrast to the efficiency of Divine grace. Many things hinder the salvation of men; but few have more power than "the deceitfulness of riches," which lure to self-security and self-indulgence, which lead men to think they are better than other men, and are not in the same danger or need. The voice of riches is a syren voice; the hold of riches on the heart is firm as a death-grip. Riches prevent the lowliness, the childlike feeling of utter nothingness, of trustful timidity, of tractable weakness. They inspire a false sense of strength, and security, and abundance, and superiority. Often are they the devil's counters with which he buys men's souls. But "with God" the mighty may be made to feel themselves feeble, the wealthy to be truly poor. Great is the trust reposed; great the difficulty of fidelity. But "with God" even this may be done. And in our days, as has been happily in all the days of Christ's Church, men have learned to forsake all - even when that all was much - to follow Christ in lowly humility, in the poverty of self-abasement. Let the poor know that if they lack the hindrance which riches throw in the way, they also need the help of God; if they will rise and accept it, that help shall be freely given. And let the rich know that help awaits them; if they will stoop lowly and ask, it shall not be withheld from them. Then shall "the brother of low degree glory in his high estate: and the rich in that he is made low." All of us are poor before God; all by him, and by him alone, may be made rich. In proportion as the rich become poor shall they be truly enriched; and it shall be proved that they who press through difficulties hard as the passing of a camel through a needle's eye, are not left unrequited. Of the entry of the rich into the kingdom of heaven it may further be said -
III. IT IS REWARDED. How gently did the Lord of all warn his disciples of days of poverty and loss which were coming upon them apace, when both voluntarily, in the fullness of their love, they would sell "their possessions and goods, and part them to all according as any had need," and when with ruthless hands all would be tern from them; when "houses" and "lands" would be confiscated; when from the fellowship of brethren and sisters, of mother and father, and even from their own children, they would be separated "for the gospel's sake"! But how graciously did he assure them of the "hundredfold" which should be repaid them "now in this time," though "with persecutions;" and the great reward which should be theirs in the hereafter - "in the world to come eternal life." Who of the many disciples of those early times of suffering and persecutions was not rich in "house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands"? And who that "left" these for his "sake and for the gospel's sake" did not - does not and will not ever - find, in the undying love and fellowship of the great spiritual community, and in the eternal riches of the heavenly inheritance, more than the "hundredfold"? Yet shall there be no pre-eminence, but a true equality; for the "first shall be last, and the last first." - G.
I. "MORAL IMPOSSIBILITIES" IS A PHRASE OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Like all such phrases, saws, and proverbs, it represents the side of truth that is obvious and turned to general view. Men being what they arc, certain changes in the character and conduct are not likely, are scarcely probable or possible. So we argue, and justly. So Jesus speaks, using a very strong figure of speech.
II. "MORAL IMPOSSIBILITIES" MAY NEVERTHELESS BE OVERCOME. AS Napoleon, in the physical sphere, blotted the word "impossible" from his dictionary, so is the Christian taught to do in the moral sphere. In one light, it looks unlikely that anybody can be saved, considering the power of sin, the "weight," and the "besetment," and the apparent lack of moral energy. But nothing that is conceivable is impossible. Nothing that is morally desirable may not be expected to come to pass.
1. We are prone to a scepticism about our own nature, which we ought to overcome. It is not justifiable, in the light of the facts of history, of personal experience, of the might and love of God.
2. A deep faith in the possibilities of human nature is inspired by the love of God. Love is the spring of the human mechanism, the leaven that works in its lump, the struggling force contending against immense disadvantages, but destined to final victory. "All things are possible with God!" - J.
I. IS CHRISTIAN SELF-SACRIFICE WORTH WHILE?
1. A question relocatedly asked, by worldlings and by Christians themselves: by the former because they do not comprehend or perceive the things of God, and by the latter from an imperfect experience and an imperfectly matured spiritual consciousness.
2. Reasonably enough. The privation to which Christianity exposes men is sometimes extreme. They are called upon virtually or actually to renounce all things. Peter not to be accused of sordidness-of a desire to "make the best of both worlds." Life and the things of life are precious gifts with which we should not lightly or aimlessly part; and the neophyte in Christian life cannot be expected to have all his aims perfectly spiritual. Christianity is a means of raising men from the carnal to the spiritual, and it does so by gradually spiritualizing the desires and interests of the soul. It is an instinct of our being not to part with a real, tangible good unless in exchange for another of equal or higher value, although not necessarily estimated from a selfish or self-regarding point of view.
3. It is only from the highest point of view and he most advanced experience that this question can be properly and adequately answered. There is, therefore, a Divine fitness in Jesus, our Example, being the Answerer and Judge. Yet out of the most imperfect experience of the Divine life, if that experience be properly interpreted, the answer would still be satisfying and justifying.
II. THE CONSIDERATIONS BY WHICH THIS QUESTION IS DECIDED.
1. The measure of recompense. "A hundredfold:" an estimate not to be literally construed. It is intended to express "overwhelmingly more." "In the preceding verse the connective between the items is or; here it is and. There is great propriety in the exchange, for here the Savior is giving, as it were, an inventory of the Divine fullness of blessing, so far as it is available for the most ample compensation of those who have suffered loss. And there is, besides, in the spiritual sphere of things a kind of mutual involution of blessed relationships; the sum total of them all belongs to every true disciple" (Morison).
2. The manner of it. It is to be correspondent to the things renounced, although not necessarily similar in kind. "With persecutions: an addition that seems strange, but is justified in the experience of the Christian; as that which is lost is gain (cf. Matthew 5:10; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 3:14). He so that which is endured for Christ's sake is a new occasion and factor of blessedness. Suited to the differing conditions of this life and that which is to come. Here there is variety, objectiveness, material embodiment; there there is one grand reward, subjective, spiritual, viz. eternal life. And the relative position of Christians wilt be wry much altered from that which they occupy here. The honor and blessedness conferred will depend, not upon accident of birth or fortune, but upon intrinsic worth and direct Divine appointment. - M.
I. TO EXPECT COMPENSATION FOR WORTHY LOSS IS NATURAL AND RIGHT. The gospel encourages this. Compensation is founded on the law of things. God hath set the one over against the other. The conservation of energy is a law that applies to the life of the soul. "It will be made good to us." We cannot help feeling that the integrity of our being has a worth which must be preserved.
II. CHRIST ENCOURAGES THIS EXPECTATION TO THE HIGHEST DEGREE. Self-abandonment to the good cause will bring its reward. God pays a high rate of interest.
"Fear not, then, thou child infirm; III. THIS PRINCIPLE HAS UNEXPECTED APPLICATIONS. Success is not always what it seems; nor apparent failure. There will be great "reversals of human judgment" (see Mozley's fine sermon on this). "Those who begin early and do much are not always preferred." Some show in the front early in life's race, but fail of the goal. Others lag at first, and come out first in the end. Gain in power may be loss in time; or self-extension involve loss of intensity. The great lesson is to live for the soul, for the inner and spiritual world. Everything gained then is gained for ever; and seeming loss and failure are converted into means of progress. - J.
III. THIS PRINCIPLE HAS UNEXPECTED APPLICATIONS. Success is not always what it seems; nor apparent failure. There will be great "reversals of human judgment" (see Mozley's fine sermon on this). "Those who begin early and do much are not always preferred." Some show in the front early in life's race, but fail of the goal. Others lag at first, and come out first in the end. Gain in power may be loss in time; or self-extension involve loss of intensity. The great lesson is to live for the soul, for the inner and spiritual world. Everything gained then is gained for ever; and seeming loss and failure are converted into means of progress. - J.
I. BECAUSE REWARD WILL BE ACCORDING TO CHARACTER AND WORK,
II. IT WILL NOT BE OF DESERT, BUT OF GRACE,
III. EVERY SAINT WILL RECEIVE WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO HIS HAPPINESS, USEFULNESS, AND SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT,
IV. BUT THERE WILL BE DEGREES IN THE GLORY AND BLESSEDNESS OF THE REDEEMED.
1. Reflecting the manifold glory of God.
2. Correcting and compensating the inequalities of time.
3. Stimulating to nobler attainment. - M.
I. MEN FLY IN THE FACE OF THEIR INTEREST, AND TREAT THEIR BENEFACTORS AS ENEMIES. Christ foresaw that the ruling party would be angry with him "because he told them the truth." And we partake of this guilt. We are blind to love in its disguise. We hate that which reproaches us. It is an error of the understanding and of the heart.
II. PROVIDENCE BRINGS GOOD OUT OF OUR EVIL, AND FURTHERS OUR SALVATION IN SPITE OF OURSELVES. So limited is the power of passion, it gains but a momentary end. The patriot or the traitor falls by the hand of the assassin or the judicial murderer; and his principle takes the deeper root, watered by his blood. Christ's resurrection is the eternal type of all moral victories. - J.
I. REPEATED PREDICTIONS ON THESE SUBJECTS. The disciples required line upon line on this subject; they were so slow to grasp it and so loth to entertain it. It appeared to them inconceivable and incredible. When it was first directly and definitely announced, Peter deprecated it in the strongest terms, and so far forgot himself that he presumed to rebuke his Master, which drew down on him in turn that severe and sharp reproof, "Get thee behind me, Satan," as though Satan had employed Peter as his emissary, and to do his work on that occasion by tempting our Lord to shrink from the sufferings he foretold. Instead of affording our Lord that support and sympathy, that strength and encouragement which, in view of the approaching ordeal, his human nature craved, his servants whom he loved and who loved him so well, though not always wisely, fell in with Satan's own suggestion at the temptation to the Savior, to seek the crown without the cross. Why not prove his Messiahship and assume his Kingship over the nations with out such suffering and sorrow, without the sharpness of death and shade of the sepulcher?
II. PREVIOUS PREPARATION. The previous training which the disciples had received from the Lord would, one might think, be sufficient to have disabused their minds of the prejudices of their race and nation to which they were so prone. Even after they had been convinced of his Messiahship, and after Peter's notable and noble confession of it, they needed to be repeatedly reminded of the necessity of his suffering and death to the completion of his work, and to be instructed once and again about the needfulness of his resurrection to demonstrate the divinity of his mission, and that he had power to lay down his life and power to take it again, as also that, delivered for our offenses, he was to be raised for our justification. The notion of a temporal kingdom was so firmly fixed in their minds, and intertwined with all their Messianic hopes and expectations, that it was next to impossible to eradicate it. And yet, at an early period of his ministry, and almost immediately after his proclaiming the near approach of the kingdom of heaven, he expounded the principles, laws, and spiritual nature of that kingdom. Thus, in the sermon on the mount, he explained the object and elucidated the rules of that kingdom in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew; he then interpreted, according to the rules of the kingdom, those religious exercises in which the subjects of the kingdom engage, in the sixth chapter of the same Gospel; while in the seventh he lays down the mutual duties of the members, with other duties of a more general but practical kind. In his seaside parables, again, as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the same Gospel, he traces the gradual progress, steady development in spite of all obstacles, and ultimate success of that kingdom. When thus prepared for it, he proclaimed to them once and again, and now the third time, in distinct, definite, and decided terms, his passion, death, and resurrection.
III. AN ADDITIONAL FEATURE IN THIS PREDICTION. In this third direct prediction a new element is introduced, the Gentiles are mentioned for the first time in connection with our Lord's death. "The Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And yet, strange, yea, passing strange, they understood," as St. Luke tells us, "none of these things." It is probable that they understood his Language as figurative, and expressive of the great difficulties to be overcome, and the formidable obstacles he would have to encounter in making his way to his Messianic throne. Hence it was that they were amazed at his alacrity, as he went before them and led the way as they were going up to the capital. This much, at the least, they must have known, that he was soon to face his bitterest foes; they must have had some foreboding of the risk he was about to run, and the perils to which he was going to expose himself. Consequently they were amazed at the more than wonted energy with which he pressed forward to the place of danger and the scene of suffering; and though, like a dauntless leader, and fearless but faithful general, he marched at their head, preceding them and leading them forward, they fell timorously behind, afraid to follow him in the perilous path he was pursuing. We may here recall to mind that the first direct prediction of his death was in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, soon after Peter's confession; the second shortly after, as they were returning to Capernaum; and now, on their way up to Jerusalem, he states the particulars more fully and clearly than ever before. The "spitting" is here mentioned by both St. Mark and St. Luke, the condemnation of the Jewish Sanhedrim is referred to by St. Matthew and St. Mark; the execution by the Gentiles is recorded by all three synoptists; while the mode of death by crucifixion is mentioned by St. Matthew alone. - J.J.G.
sons, first asking for an unconditional promise - such as a Herod might give, but our Lord never. The Old Testament counterpart of this scene is the coming of Rebekah, with her son Jacob, to win the blessing of the firstborn.
I. THE REQUEST OF THE DISCIPLES.
1. It was the offspring of ignorance. They littleknew what it would be to stand on the right hand and on the left of their Lord in the day when the word would be fulfilled, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Well might he say, "Ye know not what ye ask." We often set our desires on some object which is vain or wrong. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought;" and sometimes we learn by a bitter experience that it is best to put ourselves trustfully in God's hands. Lot found it so. Of the Israelites, too, it is said, "God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
2. It was the dictate of ambition. Ambition is a wholesome stimulus, if only it is free from selfishness. A teacher can do little with a child who is always satisfied with the lowest position in the class. If your ambition be a lawful one it will not allow you to shirk difficulties, or to get over an obstacle by a doubtful expedient, but it will lead you to a patient and faithful doing of what your hand finds to do. You will go higher, as you faithfully fulfill the duties of the lower sphere. Ask yourself whether the object you are aiming at is worthy of a Christian man; whether the time spent in its pursuit could be better employed; whether God or self is supreme in the motives which are prompting effort, etc. Ambition can be and ought to be tested. Some people are like precious stones, glittering, but non-productive; others are like the plainer millstones, which, by steadfast work, minister food to the hungry and wealth to the nation.
3. It was the outcome of selfishness. One of the best tests we have of the lawfulness of ambition is this question - How does it affect my feelings towards others? There is reason to fear that the idea of these disciples was that the chief places in the kingdom should be allotted to them, regardless of the claims of their brethren. No wonder, then, that they were rebuked by their Lord, and that when the ten heard it they had great indignation. Self-seeking ever tends to separate friends, and to arouse discord in the Christian Church. Selfishness is the root of the indolence that dishonors the disciples of Christ; it is the cause of civil dissensions; it is the spring of the bloody wars that desolate the world; and when it asserts itself in sectarianism it checks the advance of Christ's kingdom, and brings upon the Church paralysis and death. Against it Christ Jesus declared ruthless war. He declared that men must deny themselves if they would follow him; he taught us to love our enemies, and still more our neighbors, and said that if a man would be really great, he must minister to others for his sake.
II. THE REPLY OF OUR LORD. He pointed out the distinction between real greatness and seeming greatness, and declared that dignity in his kingdom was bestowed according to a certain law - the law of moral fitness. A similar law asserts itself everywhere in God's economy. Each plant and animal have their own habitat, and for their well-being we are compelled to study those conditions which the Creator designed for them. The disciples supposed that honor was at the arbitrary disposal of the Lord on the ground of personal favor. It was so with the positions held under the Roman government. The favor of an emperor might appoint a Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judaea, in complete disregard of character and suitability. It was not to be so in Christ's Church, whether on earth or in heaven. There would be distinctions of rank and honor, but they would be given by God to those worthy of dignity, and fit for it. In the kingdom of righteousness nothing would be arbitrary, or dependent upon caprice. To some extent this is so in the attainment of knowledge. Knowledge cannot be given by a teacher because a pupil is a favourite, or because a pupil wishes to be first among competitors; but it is the reward of individual work and consequent fitness. And greatness in heaven will not consist in so many pleasures or dignities, but in the enjoyment of so much life, in the developments of power and in the possibilities of service. These, then, are some of the principles laid down in our Lord's reply:
1. Prepared places are for prepared people. (Ver. 40.)
2. Humble ministry is the source of highest exaltation. (Vers. 43, 44.)
3. Christ's mission is the pattern of Christian service. (Ver. 45.) - A.R.
was hid from them" until the very hour when that cup touched their lips, or the waters of that baptism fell upon them. But even this could not entitle them to the high place they desired; certainly not on the grounds they desired it - that of arbitrary selection. It is given to them "for whom it hath been prepared." Out of all this the lesson arises -
I. THAT THE POSTS OF REAL HONOUR ARE NOT ATTAINED BY MERE FAVOUR OR BY ARBITRARY ALLOTMENT. All such endowment, either in the kingdom of heaven or among men, would instantly rob the distinction of all worthiness and make it a sham. The incident presents an example of that kind of false estimate of honor which supposes that it can be conferred without regard to the fitness of him who seeks it. It is true medals may be placed on the breast of him who has never fought, and the ribbon may adorn him who never did one deed of distinction; but such a decoration is a deceit or an empty title - a mere ribbon which a child might wear. No mere will of the ruler can make a life honorable and worthy. Signs of a sovereign beneficence may be heaped upon favourites, but they add no lustre to the character of him who is adorned or enriched. And the posts of honor in the highest of all kingdoms are not assigned arbitrarily to favored ones. As the kingdom is open to all, so are its seats of honor. Each receives according to his deserts - "according as his work shall be."
II. So is learnt a second lesson like unto the first: ALL TRUE HONOUR LIES IN SERVICE AND MERIT, NOT IN ITS RECOGNITION. HOW often are men attracted by the reward! They esteem the honor which attaches to attainments, to position, to wealth, to learning, or brave deeds. The eye is on the medal. Such seldom do much that is worthy, or make themselves really great. The man who works for praise and prizes is selfish and little, and the world in its deep heart hates both. He has his reward. Others steadily do their duty, undiverted by anxiety respecting honor; these finally achieve true distinction. So is it in all kingdoms.
III. IN THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM HONOUR COMES TO HIM WHO IS MEET FOR IT. Christ has no favourites to lift to emolument and dignity. He who would reach the highest place must climb up to it. But how many truly and wisely desire to stand well in the heavenly kingdom? They desire a happy freedom from evil, a lot among the sanctified! It is well. Yet the words, of the great Lord come back to such, "Ye know not what ye ask." Would you be spiritually great? Would you make high attainments in spiritual knowledge? Would you do good works in the spiritual kingdom? How much of self-denial, of patient labor, of disciplinary correction - "the chastening of the Lord," which we should "regard not lightly" - how much of sacrificial endurance is needed! How many hours of quiet communion must be passed with the Redeemer if we would catch his spirit! How much of fasting and prayer, and diligent self-culture, and patient self, denial! How many strong acts of faith! What baptism of fire, what bitterness of the cup, is needed to make the disciple like his Master! But after all another spirit is to prevail. Christ's disciples are exhorted not to aim at superiority of position, at rank and order. Let the Gentiles "lord it over" one another. "It is not so among you." The greatest is the least truly. The minister, the servant of all, is chief and first. The true lesson being, "In my kingdom there is neither first nor last, highest nor lowest, near and afar off. Dismiss the thought of primacy. Look not for high places. Such there are not in my kingdom. Look for posts of service. Fix your eye on your ministering, and remember that the Lord of all came to give all - even 'his life a ransom for many'" - G.
I. IT IS NATURAL IN THE SENSE IN WHICH ALL HUMAN INSTINCTS ARE NATURAL.
1. To be without ambition of some kind is a defect of organization; a negative, not a positive; a weakness, not a virtue. Man is man because he aspires. He ceases from his worth when he becomes content to remain what he is. Milton speaks of the last "infirmity of noble minds." It is an infirmity of which a man will be ashamed to be ashamed, though he will try to conceal it under that name from others. Shakespeare makes one of his characters exclaim, "If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive."
2. This passion reveals our social nature. We delight in the picture of others' respect, love, obedience, esteem. Such pictures goad us to our noblest actions.
3. Vice lies not in the passion itself, but in the wrong direction of the will, the mistake of our proper objects. We are ambitious to govern when we are only fit to serve; to teach when we should still be learning; to act when we have need to be acted upon; to be artists when we are only fit for clay, to be moulded by the Divine Artist; to be assessors of Christ when our initiation into the ways of the kingdom has only just begun.
II. CHRIST'S CORRECTION OF AMBITION.
1. By showing its ignorance of its proper objects. There is a condition attached to every distinction. The price must be paid. Have we counted the cost? One illusion is that we separate the pleasure from the means to it in our thought. Another is that we represent to ourselves incompatible things, e.g. a high place with a satisfaction only to be obtained by working up from a low place. Crabb Robinson said that having read, as a young man, Mrs. Barbauld's essay on the vanity of inconsistent expectations, it had cured him for life of idle wishes.
2. By showing its impossibility. Places are reserved in Providence for those fit to fill them. In the kingdom of God there is no putting of wrong men into wrong places. The principle of spiritual selection unerringly prevails in the kingdom, and "the fittest survive." The path of self-denial and suffering is open to all. It coincides at many points with that of duty for all; and it may be throughout coincident for some. It leads to blessing, but that blessing is internal. If we confound the inward blessing with the outward place, we deceive ourselves. If God gives us the higher, let us not envy those to whom he is pleased to allot the lower.
III. CHRIST'S EXPOSURE OF THE UNSOCIAL CHARACTER OF AMBITION.
1. The other disciples were indignant when the failings of the brethren were brought to light. Our secret vices never look so hideous as when we see them mirrored in another. For then the illusion of self-love has vanished, and we stand before the naked and ugly fact.
2. To desire to be above others is not Christian. To dominate and exact is the reverse of the Christian temper. It makes self the center the world revolves around. To serve, to be useful, is the Christian temper; this makes human good the center of every sphere of life - the family, the Church, the nation.
3. The example of Christ is the eternal light for conduct. His glory arises out of service, as in an immortal passage St. Paul teaches (Philippians 2.). Without method there is nothing sound. We need a method of thought and life - to put the first before the second. The whole is before the part, humanity more than the individual; there must be giving in order to receiving; and for the highest possible objects of our aspiration nothing less than the whole life must be paid. - J.
I. PROBABLE. ORIGIN. Peter and James and John certainly enjoyed a sort of precedence over the other apostles; they were primi inter pares at least, and constituted an inner circle among the members of the apostolic office. They were not only the first called to follow Christ, and to undertake special service in his cause; they had been privileged with his closest confidence; and they were admitted as his sole attendants, as we have already seen, on three most remarkable occasions. It was soon after one of these occasions, that of the Transfiguration, that the dispute about precedence occurred, on their journey to Capernaum. The natural inference seems to be that the prominence assigned to these three favourite apostles excited the jealousy of the rest, and occasioned the dispute referred to. And now again two of these aspiring men, having their heart still fixed on an earthly and secular kingdom, had their ambition fired by our Lord's mention of twelve thrones, as recorded by St. Matthew, and the apostles seated on them, in the regeneration, that second birthday of our world, in which the present sufferings and sorrows of earth's travail-throes shall at length issue. Accordingly, ashamed perhaps to present the petition themselves, they induce their mother Salome, according to St. Matthew's record, to present it for them, "desiring a certain thing of him;" and according to the principle, Quod facit per alterum facit per se. They thus try by a sort of trick, if we may so say, to make sure of our Lord's consent before specifying the nature of this unreasonable petition.
II. THE CUP AND THE BAPTISM. By "cup" is meant one's lot or destiny, be it good or bad, especially the latter. Thus, "Thou makest my cup run over," where the lot is plenty; and the words, divested of the figure, are nearly equivalent to, Thou givest me a plentiful supply as my lot. Again, it stands for vengeance allotted to the wicked, as is said of Jerusalem, "Thou hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out;" and in Psalm 75:8, it is the cup of wroth, or the portion of Divine and deserved indignation apportioned to the wicked, for it is there written, "In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them." Baptism, again, has three different meanings, or rather applications, in Scripture. There is baptism with water, a Christian sacrament; there is baptism by the Holy Spirit, or regeneration, which is that change by which we become truly Christians; and there is baptism in the sense of suffering, which is its meaning here.
III. A MISRENDERING. "But to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." This verse, as it stands in our version, seems to limit the power of the Savior, and to be at variance with his own statement in Luke 22:29, where he says, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It also appears flatly to contradict that! promise of our Lord recorded in Revelation 2:21, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." Various methods of rectification have been resorted to. The Latin Vulgate cuts the knot by inserting, vobis, to you, and so rendering the clause in question, "It is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." But as this addition is not supported by any manuscript authority, it must be rejected as arbitrary. Still more unwarrantable is the explanation of some, who understand the answer of our Lord as having reference only to the time previous to his sufferings, as though it meant, "It is not mine to give till after I shall have suffered; then all power will be vested in my hands." Now, the difficulty is in a great measure created by the words supplied in our version, and therefore marked in italics as above. The ellipsis thus indicated is either too little or too large. It must either be extended or eliminated altogether. We might enlarge the ellipsis, and take the clause to signify, "It is not mine to give (as a matter of favouritism), but it is mine to give (on the ground of fitness) to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." It is much better, however, to omit entirely the words supplied. This at once does away with the difficulty, and removes the seeming contradiction, while the sense of the original thus becomes plain and clear. Accordingly, we would read the last part of the verse thus, "Is not mine to give, but [save] to them for whom it is prepared." The preparedness of the recipients, not the power of the Savior, is the only limitation of the bestowment in question. This power, again, is exercised in accordance with the Divine purpose, while in Romans 8:29, 30 we have a full declaration of such purpose: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." The view which we thus adopt corresponds with the rendering of the old Syriac, which translates the portion of the verse before us without supplying any words. It is confirmed by Luther's German translation. It has the sanction of several other important versions, both ancient and modern. The only objection to this, namely, that ἀλλὰ has thereby the sense of εἰμὴ, is set aside by comparing Matthew 17:8 with Mark 9:8, Where, in recording the same fact, in nearly the same words, St. Matthew uses εἰ μὴ, while St. Mark expresses the same sense by ἀλλὰ. Even in the chapter immediately foregoing (Matthew 19.), ἀλλὰ is employed in nearly the same signification at the eleventh verse: "All men cannot receive this saying, save (ἀλλὰ) they to whom it is given." Though not identical, they closely approximate, for "res eodem recidit sire oppositione sive exceptione" If an ellipsis be at all admissible in the verse we are considering, then the words suggested by Alford, "Is not mine to give, but it shall be given by me," or those supplied by De Wette, "Sondern denen wird es verhehen," or even those supplied in the Revised Version, "Is not mine to give: but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared, are undoubtedly preferable to those supplied in our common version, and express the sense much better. Still, even the words thus introduced to eke out the meaning of the origininal seem awkward and unnecessary. - J.J.G.
I. HOW IT DISPLAYED ITSELF. In a quasi-concealment: reversal of order and method of worldly greatness. The great of this world exercise authority for the most part and generally to their own advantage, and the loss and denudation of others. This precedent is only mentioned that it may be condemned. The greatness of the Son of man showed itself in:
1. Service. Typically set forth in the washing of the disciples' feet (John 13:4). Realized:
(1) In his position. Incarnate: born into the pain and shame of sinful humanity. In humble social circumstances; accustomed to labor and obedience to authority.
(2) In his work. His whole life, in its example, teaching, and miracles, was a ministry. What men needed was help, and he rendered it. And that his doing so might not be regarded as accidental, he declares it as the purpose of his coming into the world. And in relation to God, in the demands of his Law, he was obedient," fulfilling all righteousness."
2. Sacrifice. The culmination and seal of service. "To give his life" "indicates the climax of the service in which he was engaged (comp. Philippians 2:6: obedient - obedient unto death on the cross). The term ministering expresses the spirit of the life of Christ. His sufferings and death illustrated and displayed the submission of his whole course; they shed the fullest light on the object of his life" (Lange).
II. WHAT IT WAS TO ACHIEVE. It was to be no barren spectacle, or merely personal glory, but was to exert a practical influence upon the condition of those amongst whom he came. The kind of work it had to do corresponded to the needs of man. It was for men the Son of man lived. And as they were in a state of wretchedness and danger, he undertook to save them. In respect of this purpose the death of Christ availed for:
1. Redemption. His life was given as the ransom. "It is the first distinct utterance, we may note, of the plan and method of his work. He had spoken before of 'saving' the lost (Matthew 18:11); now he declares that the work of ' salvation' was to be also one of redemption.' It could only be accomplished by the payment of a price, and that price was his own life" (Plumptre). The natural state of men is one of bondage to sin. A "ransom" is an equivalent for a man's life or service (cf. Exodus 21:30; Leviticus 25:50; Proverbs 13:8). This price our Savior gave "instead of" ("for") men, as their Representative before God - in a certain sense as their Substitute (cf. Matthew 17:27; Hebrews 12:16; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:19).
2. The redemption of many. "The expression 'many' is not intended to indicate an exclusive minority, or a smaller number as compared with all, for the latter expression occurs in Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4. The term is intended rather by way of antithesis to the one whose life was the ransom of the many (Lange). Its efficacy was to be felt far beyond the personality in which it first took place. We are invited to take wide, comprehensive views of the work of Christ. And there is nothing in the language of Scripture to lead to the supposition that only some may be saved. That which avails for one will avail for all who choose to comply with the condition of salvation, viz. faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's death as an atoning sacrifice for sin. The sinlessness and perfect obedience of Christ are his qualification for this work.
III. IN WHAT WAY IT SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED. The verse commences with for" - a word connecting it with the previous verses, to which it is appended as a reason for what is there enjoined. Our duty, therefore, with respect to the service and sacrifice he has rendered is:
1. To accept them for ourselves. By believing in the redemptive work of Christ we honor him, and the Father by whom he was sent.
2. To imitate his spirit. His kingdom is based upon service, and its dignities and authorities are the result of the spontaneous affection thereby secured. Service and self-humiliation are not only means toward the attainment of future greatness; they are that greatness already. Offices in the Church are not thereby abolished; they are only interpreted as functions of love: all dignity and authority otherwise derived are discountenanced, and convicted as usurpations.
3. To declare his work amongst men. In so doing we shall truly glorify him, and extend his kingdom to the ends of the earth. - M.
I. THE BEHAVIOUR OF THOSE WHO ARE IN EARNEST ABOUT BEING SAVED. They will:
1. Seize every opportunity that presents itself.
2. Make the most of it, by
(1) putting all their knowledge to the proof, and
(2) exerting all their powers to attract attention and help.
3. Not be easily discouraged.
4. Hasten to do what Jesus commands.
II. THE SPIRIT THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN BY CHRIST'S SERVANTS TOWARDS THOSE SEEKING SALVATION. TWO standards of conduct observed by them, viz. the dignity and glory of their Master, and the good of men. The mistake has been in overemphasizing the one or the other of these, or in divorcing them. They are really but the two sides of one thing. The glory of Christ is that of a Savior, i.e. in saving from misery and sin.
1. Christ corrects what is faulty in their attitude.
2. Employs them to further his purpose of mercy.
3. Infuses his own spirit of gentleness and love. "Be of good cheer: rise, he calleth thee," is the expression of the spirit of the gospel as it ought to be proclaimed to the world.
III. CHRIST PROVING HIMSELF THE SAVIOUR OF MEN.
1. By his sympathy for distress. He heard the cry of the beggar notwithstanding the tumult, and the thoughts which agitated his mind. It was natural for him to postpone everything to attend to such a cry.
2. My inspiring others with his own spirit, and employing them to further his purpose.
3. By calling forth and exercising the principle of faith in the subjects of his mercy.
4. By freely and completely delivering from distress, pain, and sin. - M.
this miracle we have reminders of some characteristics of our Lord.
I. THE POWER OF JESUS. Its exemplification outside Jericho was appropriate both to the beauty of the city and to its memories. Jericho was an oasis in the desert. There palms flourished and roses grew. Whether approaching it from the robber-haunted road from Jerusalem, or from the Dead Sea valley, it was significant of the Paradise Christ came to restore, which would be beautiful with the flowers of his grace and fragrant with the sweetness of his love. And here Joshua, the Jesus of the Old Testament, had proved the power that was his because the Lord was with him. The angel of the covenant which appeared to him was a precursor of the mighty Conqueror who came now. As the giant walls of the city had fallen by the simplest means, so now the darkness was conquered by light through a single word.
1. This power is manifest if you consider the condition of the sufferer. Blindness then was common, unalleviated, incurable. No wonder that it was used as an emblem of insensibility to spiritual facts and things. There is a sphere of thought, hope, and desire which many never know. Intelligent and active, they ask, "Are we blind also?" and the Lord says, "Because being blind you say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth." Because there is no sense of want there is no cry for a blessing, and because there is no such cry the light is not given. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Tests may be applied to the spiritual condition as to the physical malady which represents it. An oculist is not satisfied with a casual question; he patiently and variously tests the organ, by presenting objects and asking respecting one after another, "Can you see this?" So we may test ourselves by seeing what sin is, and what God is to us.
2. This power appears greater as you contrast it with the weakness of men. Like those in the crowd, we can see the Lord and hear his voice, and as far as sympathy and prayer go may lead others to him. But after all the main issue rests between each man and Christ. If there is no spiritual contact he is left in darkness. Sometimes the most unlikely are chosen. A publican like Zacchaeus is visited in a city of priests, and a blind beggar on the road is invited to join the festal procession.
3. This power appears in the exercise of its Divine freedom. Bartimaeus was not dealt with as were those of whom he had heard. The man born blind had been told to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he of Bethsaida was led out of the town uncured. Yet no one would question the reality of the change in the other. Each could say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Let us not expect the same experiences, but only the same effects of Divine contact with Christ. He is willing to lead us into light, but each one of us in his own way.
II. THE PITY OF JESUS. Describe the pitiable condition of Bartimaeus. It is sad enough for a rich man to be blind, but it is a terrible aggravation of the privation when he who endures it has to beg his daily bread. Nor did Bartimaeus know, as we do, God's love in Christ. He had not the assurance that "all things work together for good." He had not seen the cross which sanctifies sadness to each believer. In his darkness he cried to the Light of the world, and not in vain. The pity of the Lord always surpassed infinitely that of those around him. The disciples rebuked the children, but Jesus said, "Suffer them to come." Simon the Pharisee condemned the sinful woman, but Jesus let her bathe his feet with her tears. Judas blamed the waste of the ointment, but the Lord said, "She hath wrought a good work on me." The crowd said, "Hold thy peace," but the Lord said, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"
III. THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. A crisis had come in the life of Bartimaeus, when a single resolve would make all the difference to his future. Jesus was "passing," and therefore was within reach; but he was "passing by," and therefore would soon be beyond reach. Such crises appear unexpected to us; but he who knows the heart sees that they are not really so. Bartimaeus had heard of the words and works of Jesus before this, and, shut up to his own thoughts, he had pondered them in the dark; so he was ready now to salute Jesus as "the Son of David." Similar preparation has been going on in your heart. A trouble has solemnized your thoughts; a tender touch at home has aroused new sensibility; a word has startled you to consideration; and now you are nearer Christ than before. "Jesus is passing by." Unseen, as by Bartimaeus, yet able to hear the believing prayer for mercy. See to it that the world's "Hold thy peace!" does not stifle the cry for help. - A.R.
I. ON THE TRUE METHOD OF PRAYER.
II. OH THE SPIRIT OF HIM TO WHOM PRAYER IS ADDRESSED. Prayer springs from a sense of need, and it must express the sincere desire of him who prays. Words thrown into the form of a petition do not of themselves constitute prayer; without the heart of him who utters them they are dead, being alone. He who asks with his lips only cannot expect him in hear who looketh on the heart. Prayer must needs be offered to One who it is believed is able to answer. Jesus laid down the clear and definite rule in his demand," Believe ye that I am able to do this?" "The prayer of faith" is the true prayer, though the patient Lord will "forgive" even the "unbelief" of timidity. Nevertheless, the Lord declares the immediate cause of the answering cure in this case: "Thy faith hath made thee whole." Prayer must be prepared to push its way through surrounding discouragements and opposition; nor will it exceed propriety if it the more fervently plead by how much it is hindered and impeded. Prayer must, moreover, have respect to proper objects. Here one imperfectness in the life called forth the one petition when the "What wilt thou that I should do?" opened wide the permission to ask many things. Surely to him who came to redeem life, it was a perfectly right subject of petition: "That I may receive my sight." Thus we learn that for the freeing of the life from its incumbent evils, and for whatever will lead that life on to perfectness, we may ask, and ask in the full assurance of faith, in the readiness and ability of the Lord of life to hear and to answer. Happy the man who has learned thus to pray. - G.
I. THE OPENING OF THE EYES OF THE BLIND IS THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY. If the physical boon be great, let it express for us the far greater spiritual boon. Ignorance is painfully felt by large numbers. Few who have not received a good education but bitterly feel the lack at some period or other of their life. In spreading knowledge freely we follow the example of Christ.
II. THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY IS PECULIARLY TO THE LOWLY AND THE MEAN. It is easier to be kind to our inferiors than to avoid jealousy among our equals. The gifts that bless beth giver and receiver the most are worth much, though they cost little. From the side of Bartimaeus we may reflect -
III. LONG SITTING IN DARKNESS MAY PREPARE FOR THE WELCOMING OF THE LIGHT. Yet in the darkness the lamp of hope may be kept burning, as did Bartimaeus. "In our griefs we find reliefs." As every night gives place to morning, so the very constitution of nature prophesies the deliverance of mankind and of the individual. The memories of the dark hours of life mingle with attained joys. Life would not have its full significance without these mingled threads in the texture.
IV. PERSEVERANCE IS EVER REWARDED. Faith proves itself by constancy, and is in fact the perseverance of the whole man towards his hope, the realization of his life in God. In the change of events, things will change for the better to him who endures. "All things come round to him who waits." "Yet a little while, and he who is on the way shall come." The tarrying of God is in our imagination. To gain one sight, to see God and the world in God, - this compensates for an age of waiting and watching, suffering and toil of the spirit. - J.
I. BLIND BARTIMAEUS.
1. His condition was blind; he was deprived of that most valuable sense of sight. He was a strange
I. NOT ONE OF SEVERAL KINDS OF FAITH, BUT SIMPLY FAITH PROPERLY DIRECTED, AND PRACTICALLY TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHRIST'S POWER. Much confusion on this subject. Theologians have spoken of different sorts of faith, as speculative, practical, historical, realizing, and saving. There is but one faith, a faculty of the soul. What is needed is not the faculty, which already exists, but the proper direction or destination of it. That is a true faith by which I see and appropriate the truth; that a saving faith by which salvation is seen and received.
II. FAITH DOES NOT SAVE THROUGH ITS OWN VIRTUE OR POWER, BUT BY BRINGING THE SOUL INTO CONTACT WITH THE VIRTUE AND POWER - THE SALVATION OF CHRIST. It is not the cause of salvation, but the condition. The only Savior is Christ, but he saves us through our having faith towards him. By our having faith towards Christ what is his becomes ours; we enter into union and fellowship with him. His life, righteousness, spirit, become ours; and we are identified with him in his sacrifice for sin.
III. SO ALSO OUR FAITH IS THE MEASURE OF THE SAYING GRACE WE RECEIVE. St. Matthew puts it thus: "According to your faith be it unto you." Bartimaeus's faith was strong and practical, and it saved him, by uniting him to the power and holiness of Christ. A weak faith will ever entail spiritual weakness. To be "made whole" we must believe with our whole heart. - M.