"Truly I tell you," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God
the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom? This young ruler shrank from parting with his property, but Jesus Christ does not ordinarily ask men of wealth to "sell all that they have and give to the poor." His difficulty, therefore, is not the common one.
1. It is not that the rich man is not as welcome to the friendship of Christ as the poor man. He does not make distinctions in his invitation, or in his desire that men should come to him. In him in whom is neither male nor female, bond nor free, there is neither rich nor poor. The poor as much as the rich, and also the rich as much as the poor, are the objects of his love and of his seeking. The Lord of our nature regards us, and concerns himself for us, not on account of our circumstances, but because he knows the value of our souls.
2. Not because the rich man cannot illustrate the distinctive graces of Christianity. The sale and distribution of property in apostolic times was an expedient which was adopted for the occasion; but it was not insisted upon as necessary even then (Acts 5:4), and it was very soon abandoned. Paul, writing to Timothy, wrote on the supposition that the Christian Church included many wealthy men (1 Timothy 6.). Every age and every country has witnessed the lives of wealthy Christian men, who have illustrated every grace that the great Teacher has commended. It is clear that a rich man map be as humble, as generous, as temperate, as pure, as devout, as any poor man can be; and he sometimes is so. The explanation of our Lord's language is found in the fact that riches are apt to put a serious obstacle in the way of entrance into the kingdom. If we would find our way into that holy and blessed kingdom, it is necessary that we should have a sense of our personal emptiness and need. We come to Christ to be filled with his fulness, to be enriched by his grace and love. He is a Physician, and it is they who feel that they are sick that are likely to apply for his healing power. He is the Divine Source of all wealth and enrichment (Revelation 3:18), and they must know themselves to be poor who come to buy of him gold that they may become rich. Hence the difficulty. It is for this reason that -
I. A MAN WHOSE MIND IS FULL OF KNOWLEDGE finds it hard to receive distinctive Christian truth. He is rich, as compared with his fellows, in the acquisition of knowledge. He is proud of this possession of his, and is bent on making the most of it. Jesus Christ comes to him, and says that he must lay aside his own views and notions, and sit at his feet and receive the truth he brings to him from God. Then the "rich" man has to sacrifice his favourite theories, has to make nothing of his learning, that he may admit to his mind the wisdom that is from above; and he finds it very "hard" to do this.
II. A MAN WHO IS CLOTHED WITH HONOUR finds it hard to take a very humble view of himself. For honour is an order of wealth, and one that is highly prized. But the natural and common effect of it is to lead those who are the objects of it to form a flattering view of themselves; it is hard to get them to believe that in God's sight they may be as sinful as those held in very much less regard by their fellow-men. But the ground on which human souls must come to Christ is that of humility. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
III. A MAN WHOSE CHAMBERS ARE FULL OF TREASURE is tempted to seek his satisfaction in the lower good. We have to make our choice, as Divine truth is presented to us, whether we will live for the service of Christ or for our own personal enjoyment and aggrandizement. To the poor, to the afflicted, to the suffering, to those who know they have not long to live, the temptation to live for this present world is not so strong; on their ear the overtures of the gospel of grace fall as that very thing they need for theft comfort and their peace; they have little to surrender, they have much to gain. But to those to whom every avenue of enjoyment is open; to those who may look hopefully, perhaps confidently, for place, for power, for society, for pleasure, for honour, - the inducement is very strong and urgent to cast in their lot with those "whose portion is in this life." Many voices very close to their ear, very clear and convincing, call for their strength to be given to the material rather than the spiritual, to the temporal rather than the eternal, to the human rather than the Divine; and it is "hard" for them to resist and to overcome.
1. Let poverty find its ample consolation in the accessibility of the riches that always satisfy and never flee.
2. Let those who know neither poverty nor riches thank God for the happy mean in which his providence has placed them - not subjecting them to the temptations of either.
3. Let wealth beware lest it make a sad, a supreme, mistake; lest, in the great spiritual strife, it -
"Clutch the tinsel gilding, and let go the crown of life." C.
Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?I. THE FAVOURABLE TRAITS OF CHARACTER EXHIBITED IN THE QUESTION PROPOSED BY THIS YOUNG MAN.
1. The question itself was of supreme importance.
2. The question was a personal one.
3. The question was put at an interesting period of life.
4. The question was put by one who possessed an abundance of riches.
5. The question was put with feelings of great modesty and respect.
6. The question was put with great sincerity and earnestness of spirit.
II. THE DEFECTS WHICH WERE ELICITED BY THE SAVIOUR.
1. He evidently expected salvation by the works of the law.
2. He was held in bondage by one reigning idol.
3. He was unwilling to yield to the extensive requirements of the Saviour.
III. THE LESSONS WHICH HIS HISTORY FURNISHES.
1. The exceeding deceitfulness of earthly riches.
2. That we may go far in religious practices, and yet not be saved.
3. We are in great danger from spiritual deception.
4. Religion requires a total surrender of ourselves to God.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
Thou knowest the commandmentsI. INQUIRE INTO THE DESIGN WITH WHICH OUR SAVIOUR SPOKE THESE WORDS. His aim was to expose ignorance, self-righteousness, and insincerity, in one whom the spectators were doubtless admiring for his apparent devotion.
1. The man was ignorant of Christ's real character.
2. He expected life as the reward of his own merit.
3. He was not sincerely willing to sacrifice anything for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
II. ENDEAVOUR TO PROMOTE A SIMILAR DESIGN BY A FAITHFUL APPLICATION OF THEM TO OURSELVES. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." These words, duly considered, may —
1. Convince us of sin. There is no doubt, that we ought to keep the commandments. But, have we done so?
2. Drive us to Christ as a Refuge.
3. Guide the steps of the justified believer. The curse of the law it at an end — not its obligation.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
Yet lackest thou one thing
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
How hardly shall they that have riches enter
2. Then it is another exceeding peril of riches and ease that they may tend to make us forget that here is not our home, Men on a journey through a stranger's, much more an enemy's, and linger not. Their hearts are in their home; thither are their eyes set; they love the winds which have blown over it; they love the very hills which look upon it, even while they hide it; days, hours, and minutes pass quickly or slowly as they seem to bring them near to it; distance, time, weariness, strength, all are counted only with a view to this, "are they nearer to the faces they love? can they, when shall they reach it?" What then, my brethren, if our eyes are not set upon the everlasting "hills, whence cometh our help"? what if we cherish not those inward breathings which come to us from our heavenly home, hushing, refreshing, restoring, lifting up our hearts, and bidding us flee away and be at rest? What if we are wholly satisfied, and intent on things present? can we be longing for the face of God? or can we love Him whom we long not for? or do we long for Him, if we say not daily, "When shall I come and appear before the presence of God?"
3. Truly there is not one part of the Christian character which riches, in themselves, do not tend to impair. Our Lord placed at the head of evangelic blessings, poverty of spirit, and, as a help to it and image of it, the outward body of the soul of true poverty, poverty of substance too. The only "riches" spoken of in the New Testament, except as a woe, are the unsearchable riches of the glory and grace of Christ, the riches of the goodness of God, the depth of the riches of His wisdom, or the riches of liberality, whereto deep poverty abounded.
4. Poverty is, at least, a fostering nurse of humility, meekness, patience, trust in God, simplicity, sympathy with the sufferings of our Lord or of its fellow (for it knows the heart of those who suffer). What when riches, in themselves, hinder the very grace of mercifulness which seems their especial grace, of which they are the very means? What wonder that they cherish that brood of snakes, pride, arrogance, self-pleasing, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, trust in self, forgetfulness of God, sensuality, luxury, spiritual sloth, when they deaden the heart to the very sorrows they should relieve? And yet it is difficult, unless, through self-discipline, we feel some suffering, to sympathize with those who suffer. Fulness of bread deadens love. As a rule, the poor show more mercy to the poor out of their poverty, than the rich out of their abundance. But if it be a peril to have riches, much more is it to seek them. To have them is a trial allotted to any of us by God; to seek them is our own. Through trials which He has given us He will guide us; but where has He promised to help us in what we bring upon ourselves? In all this I have not spoken of any grosser sins to which the love of money gives birth: of what all fair men would condemn, yet which, in some shape or other, so many practise. Such are, hardness to the poor or to dependents; using a brother's services for almost nought, in order to have more to spend in luxury; petty or more grievous frauds; falsehood, hard dealing, taking advantage one of another, speaking evil of one another, envying one another, forgetting natural affection. And yet in this Christian land many of these are very common. Holy Scripture warns us all not to think ourselves out of danger of them.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. LET US NOTICE MORE PARTICULARLY SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF OUR SALVATION.
1. The truths to be believed are some of them very mysterious, and, as Peter says, "Hard to be understood."
2. The sacrifices to be made are also in some degree painful. That which cost our Saviour so much must surely cost us something.
3. The dispositions to be exercised are such as are contrary to the natural bias of our depraved hearts.
4. The duties to be performed. Is there no difficulty more especially in renouncing a customary or constitutional evil, and keeping ourselves from our own iniquity?
5. The trouble and danger to which religion exposes its professors.
II. ATTEMPT TO ANSWER THE INQUIRY IN OUR TEXT. "Who, then, can be saved?" If men were left to themselves, either in a natural or renewed state, and if God were not to work, or to withhold His hand after He had begun to work, none would be saved, no, not one.
1. Such shall be saved as are appointed to it. Of some it is said, "God hath chosen them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth."
2. Those shall be saved who are truly desirous of it.
3. Those who come to Christ for salvation shall be sure to obtain it.
4. Such as endure to the end shall be saved.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
Lo, we have left all and followed TheeI. SELF-DENIAL IS TO BE EXPLAINED.
1. In the first place, it does not consist in giving up one temporal and personal good for a greater temporal and personal good. For this is self-gratifying instead of self-denying. Any entirely selfish person would be willing to do this. One man will sacrifice his property to gratify his ambition, which he esteems a greater good. Another man will sacrifice his property to gratify his appetite, which he esteems a greater good. Another will sacrifice his property to gratify his revenge, which he esteems a greater good. But none of these persons, in these cases, exercise the least self-denial.
2. Nor, secondly, does self-denial consist in giving up a less temporal and personal good for a greater personal and eternal good. The most corrupt and selfish men in the world are willing to give up any or all their temporal and personal interests for the sake of obtaining future and eternal happiness.
3. But, thirdly and positively, self-denial consists in giving up our own good for the good of others. Such self-denial stands in direct contrariety to selfishness.
II. TRUE SELF-DENIAL IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE HIGHEST PRESENT AND FUTURE HAPPINESS. This will appear if we consider —
1. The nature of true self-denial. It consists, as we have seen, in giving up a less private or personal good for a greater public good; or in giving up our own good for the greater good of others. And this necessarily implies disinterested benevolence, which is placing our own happiness in the greater happiness of others. When a man gives up his own happiness to promote the greater happiness of another, he does it freely and voluntarily, because he takes more pleasure in the greater good of another than in a less good of his own.
2. Those who have denied themselves the most have found the greatest happiness resulting from their self. denial.
3. The great and precious promises which are expressly made to self. denial by Christ Himself.Conclusion:
1. It appears, then, that self-denial is necessarily a term or condition of salvation.
2. It appears, also, that the doctrine cannot be carried too far.
3. If Christianity requires men to exercise true self. denial, then the Christian religion is not a gloomy, but a joyful, religion. It affords a hundredfold more happiness than any other religion can afford.
4. It appears from the nature of that self-denial which the gospel requires that the more sinners become acquainted with the gospel, the more they are disposed to hate it and reject it. All sinners are lovers of their own selves, and regard their own good supremely and solely, and the good of others only so far as it tends to promote their own private, personal, and selfish good.
5. It appears from the nature of that self-denial which the gospel requires why sinners are more willing to embrace any false scheme of religion than the true.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)I. TO BE THE FOLLOWERS OF THE SAVIOUR, IS TO SUSTAIN A CHARACTER OF HIGH AND ESSENTIAL IMPORTANCE.
1. We cannot hold this relationship to the Son of God without believing the testimony given concerning Him, in the Scriptures.
2. Believing in Christ, we must be excited to a practical obedience to His commands, and an imitation of the excellences displayed as an example to man.
3. That same principle of faith will excite also to public profession of the Saviour's name, and active exertion in His cause.
4. Combine in your own characters the principles and the conduct to which we have now adverted. Believe on the Son of God; give an obedience to His perceptive will, and imitate the excellences He displayed; profess publicly that you will be His, and be active and zealous in the promotion of His designs; and then will you indeed and honourably be among those who "follow Him."
II. THAT IN SUSTAINING THIS CHARACTER, PAINFUL SACRIFICES MUST OFTEN BE MADE. Sacrifices for the name's sake of the Son of God are justified and called for, by reasons which might be expanded in very extensive illustration. Remember for whom they are made. For whom? For Him who built the fabric of the universe, and over whose wondrous creation the "morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." For whom? For Him who is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person," in whom "dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." For whom? For Him who "was rich, but for your sakes became poor," etc. Remember for what these sacrifices are made. They are made for the enjoyment of peace of conscience. They are made for a restoration to the image and the friendship of God. They are made for the refinement and ennobling of the nature. It is to be observed again —
III. THAT PRESENT SACRIFICES IN THE CAUSE, AND AS THE FOLLOWERS OF THE SAVIOUR, ARE TO ISSUE IN A GLORIOUS REWARD.
1. The Saviour promises advantage to be possessed in the present life. In following Christ, we are blessed with repose of conscience; we are exalted to fellowship with God; we are endowed with capacities for improving in the knowledge of mysteries, identified with the highest welfare of our being; we become the companions of the excellent of the earth, and the innumerable company of angels; we are urged to a rapid increase in the graces which dignify the character, and are a pledge of the sublimity of the final destiny; we are supplied with strong consolation for sorrow, and firm support for death; and prospects are opened which stretch away to the immensities of immortality. Are not these "a hundredfold"? Here is the "pearl of great price": and well may we resolve to be as the merchant, and "sell" or "forsake" all we have, and buy it!
2. The Saviour promises advantage to be possessed in the life to come. It is a wise regulation in the decisions of Providence, that our chief reward is reserved for another state of existence. The Almighty intends that, in this world, our lives shall be those of trial; and that the stability of our graces should be proved, by the rigid and sometimes painful discipline to which we are exposed.
(M. F. Sadler.)
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