Luke 6:24
Using the word 'martyrdom' in its broader sense, we have to consider the Lord's saying respecting it. It certainly is paradoxical enough. Yet his meaning is to be found for the looking. It is, indeed, true -

I. THAT THE ENMITY OF OTHERS IS A SORE TRIAL TO OUR SPIRIT. Other things bruise us beside bludgeons, and other things cut us beside whipcord. The manifest hatred of other hearts, the cruel reproaches of unsparing lips, banishment from the society of our fellow-men as being unworthy to remain, blighting a fair fame with unjust aspersions, - these things cut deep into the human soul, they bruise almost to breaking tender and sensitive spirits. Some, indeed, are so constituted that the roughest treatment on the part of others will not hurt them; they can throw it off, can cast it aside with indifference; it is to them "as the idle wind which they regard not." But these are the exception, and not the rule among men. God meant us to be affected by the judgment of our brethren and sisters, to be encouraged and sustained by their approval, to be discouraged and checked by their censure. It is a part of our humanity that, upon the whole, works for righteousness. But only too often its effect is evil; only too often the pure are pelted with reproaches, the faithful are condemned for their fidelity, the holy are exposed to the hatred and ribaldry of the profane. Then there is suffering which God never intended his children to endure, - that of the faithful witness to the truth, that of the brave, unyielding martyr to the cause of Jesus Christ. And many are they who would more readily welcome and more easily endure blows or imprisonment than bitter malignity of heart and cold severity of speech. But then it is also true -

II. THAT CHRISTIAN CONSIDERATIONS TRIUMPH OVER ALL. Our Master and Teacher would have our hearts to be so filled with the other and opposite aspect of the case, that our natural inclination to be saddened and stricken in spirit will be completely overborne, and that, instead of sorrow, there will be joy. "Our reward is great in heaven;" so great that we who are reproached for Christ's sake are "blessed; ' we are, indeed, to "leap for joy." What, then, are these balancing, these overbalancing considerations?

1. That we are taking rank with the very noblest men: "In like manner... unto the prophets." We stand, then, on the same level with Moses, with Samuel, with Elijah, with Isaiah, with Jeremiah; with a noble company of men and women who, long since their day and their dispensation, have "gone without the camp, bearing his reproach;" men and women were these "of whom the world was not worthy," to be classed with whom is the highest honour we can enjoy.

2. That we take rank with One who was nobler than all; for did not he, our Lord himself, bear shame and obloquy? was not he crowned with the crown of thorns, because he was here "bearing witness unto the truth" (John 18:37)?

3. That we are serving our self-sacrificing Saviour. A modern missionary relates that when he and another were assaulted by a Chinese crowd, and when, putting his hand to his head where he had been hit, he found it moist with his blood, he felt a strange thrill of exceeding joy as he realized that he had been permitted to shed his blood for that Divine Saviour who had poured out his life for him.

4. That we are truly serving our race; for the truth to which we bear a rejected testimony to-day will, and partly as the result of our suffering witness, be accepted further on, and become the nourishment of the people.

5. That we are on our way to the highest heavenly honour. They who suffer shame "for the Son of man's sake" now shall one day be exalted in the presence of the holy angels. Great will be their reward in the heavenly kingdom. - C.

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Unless we were accustomed to read the New Testament from our childhood, I think we should be very much struck with the warnings it contains, not only against the love of riches, but the very possession of them. That our Lord meant to speak of riches as being in some sense a calamity to the Christian is plain from His praises and recommendations of poverty.

1. The most obvious danger which worldly possessions present to our spiritual welfare is that they become practically a substitute in our hearts for that one object to which our supreme devotion is due. They are present; God is unseen. They are means at hand of effecting what we want; whether God will hear our petitions for these wants is uncertain. Thus they minister to the corrupt inclinations of our nature.

2. This, then, was some part of our Saviour's meaning, when He connects together the having with the trusting in riches.

3. The danger of possessing riches is the carnal security to which they lead; that of desiring or pursuing them is that an object of this world is thus set before us as the end and aim of life. It is a part of Christian caution to see to it that our engagements do not become pursuits. Engagements are oar portion, but pursuits are for the most part of our own choosing.

4. Money is a sort of creation, and gives the acquirer, even more than the possessor, an imagination of his own power; and tends to make him idolize self. And if such be the result of gain on an individual, doubtless it will be the same on a nation; and if the peril be so great in the one case, why should it be less in the other?

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

1. One of the principal perils of rich men arises from their very exemption from many temptations to gross sin. Hence they are apt to think too well of themselves.

2. The rich man finds it very easy to do many kindly acts. It is very natural, therefore, that he should regard his own character and life complacently, and that he should think severely of the selfishness of these less fortunate than himself.

3. The rich man's Bible, with its morocco binding and gilt edges, has very much less in it than the poor man's Bible, bound in sheep. Pages which are read and re-read, which are marked, and scored, and thumbed in the one, are virtually mere blank paper in the other.

4. As the rich man loses many of the revelations of God's sympathy, compassion, and care, which inspire the poor with intense and passionate gratitude, so he loses some of the most urgent motives to communion with God, which often make the poor man devout.

(R. IV. Dale, LL. D.)

— A holy woman was wont to say of the rich: " They are hemmed round with no common misery; they go down to hell without thinking of it, because their staircase thither is of gold and porphyry."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

To the love of money we trace the melancholy apostasy of Demas, the awful perfidity of Judas, the fatal lie of Ananias and Sapphira — all, and some of them distinguished, professors of religion. Be on your guard. Watch and pray. Their history is written for our instruction. Nor need any of His people who allow the love of money to entwine itself around their hearts, expect that in saving them God will do otherwise than the woodman, who, seeking to save a tree, applies his knife to the canker thai eats into its heart, or the ivy that has climbed its trunk and is choking it in its close embraces.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Many of you are in imminent peril God is multiplying the sources of your power. Your resources are becoming numerous as the sands of the sea. I am not sorry, I am glad; but I am anxious that you should rise up in the midst of these things, and show yourselves greater than prosperity, and stronger and better on account of it. I dread to see a man smothered under his wealth. When a man, driving from the meadow, sits and sings cheerily upon his vast load of fragrant hay, how every one, looking upon him, thinks of his happiness and content l But by and by, at an unlucky jog, down goes the wheel and over goes the load, and the man is at the bottom, with all the hay upon him. Just in that way rich men are in danger of being smothered. The whole wain of your prosperity may capsize, and the superincumbent mass may hide from you the air and the sun of a true life.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Let the full force of the word " consolation" be observed. It is used by way of contrast to the comfort which is promised to the Christian in the Beatitudes. Comfort, in the fulness of that word, as including help, guidance, encouragement, and support, is the peculiar promise of the gospel. There is then something very fearful in the intimation of the text, that those who have riches thereby receive their portion, such as it is, in full, instead of the heavenly gift of the gospel. The same doctrine is implied in our Lord's words in the parable of Dives and Lazarus: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented."

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

We will therefore show —

I. In what conjunction these two, woe and riches, do stand.

II. How they may be sundered: find out why riches are so dangerous to receive, and how we may receive them without any danger. And with these we shall exercise your devotion at this time. "Woe to rich men"; which cannot be literally and generally true: for all rich men are not accursed. But it is the safest way to remove men as far from danger as may be. It is safest for some men to conceive feasting unlawful, that they may avoid gluttony; or sports unlawful, that they may not be wantons; to be afraid of an oath, that they may not be perjured; not to flatter themselves too much in the lawfulness of war, that they delight not in blood, but rather remember the lesson of Moses, or indeed of God: "When thou goest out with the host against thine enemies, then keep thee from all wickedness" (Deuteronomy 23:9).

1. But so far is the world from having that opinion of riches, that they have goodly and glorious titles bestowed upon them. They commend themselves unto us under the honest names of "thrift," and "frugality," and "wisdom." What poor glass is a diamond, to him that is familiar with virtue! What trash is riches, to him who is filled with grace! What nicknames are the empty titles of secular honours, to him that knoweth the glory of a saint l What a nothing is the world, to him that hath studied heaven!

2. Further yet: Riches are accounted as necessaries, and as ornaments of virtue; and under that name we receive and entertain them.

3. Again: Riches are not only not necessary to religion and virtue, but rather a "hindrance." They take us down from our third heaven, and take us off from "the contemplation" of future happiness, and bind our thoughts to the vanities of the earth, which so press them down and weary them that they cannot aspire. They are retinacula spei, "fetters of our hope." For "now where is our hope?" (Job 17:15.) Even in the bowels of the earth. They are degraders of our faith. For whilst we walk in this vain shadow, how many degrees doth our faith fall back! The more we "trust in uncertain riches" the less we trust in God (1 Timothy 6:17). They are coolers and abaters of our charity: for, they make us ungrateful to God, severe to ourselves, and cruel to our brethren.

4. Further yet: As riches are a hindrance and obstacle to good, so are they instrumental to evil. They facilitate and help it forward, and are as the midwife to bring it to its birth, which otherwise peradventure had died in the womb, in the thought, and never seen the sun. If sin make "our members the weapons of unrighteousness," riches are the handle without which they cannot well be managed. Every man cannot grind the face of the poor, every man cannot take his brother by the throat, every man cannot go into the foolish woman's house, every man cannot bribe a judge, every man cannot be as wicked as he would. And it may seem to be a part of God's restraining grace, to take riches from some men, as he took off the wheels of Pharaoh's chariots, that they may not pursue their brethren. But when the purse is full, the heart will more easily vent all the poison it hath, in a reproach, in contempt, in a blow, in an injury, in oppression.

II. You have seen the rich and woe in a sad conjunction, a most malignant one as any astrology hath discovered. I am unwilling to leave them so; and therefore, in the last place, I must find out some means to put them asunder, that we may receive riches without danger; which is indeed "to lead the camel through the needle's eye."

1. We must bring riches into a subordination, nay, into a subjection, to Christianity. We may be rich, if we can be poor.

2. That the mind may be rightly affected, we must root out of it all love of riches. For if we set our hearts upon them, the love of them will estrange us from Christ, and make us idolaters.

3. I must bring you yet further, from not loving, not desiring riches, to contemning of them. For though I have emptied my store, and cast it before the wind, yet till I have made riches the object of my fear, till I can say within myself, "This lordship may undo me," "These riches may beggar me," "This money may destroy me" — till in this respect I make it the object of my contempt, and look upon it as a bait of Satan, I am not so far removed but that still the woe hangeth over me. For as, when a man taketh a wedge of lead upon his shoulders, it presseth and boweth his body to the earth; but if he put it under his feet, it will lift and keep him from the ground: so, when we place riches above us, and look upon them as upon our heaven; when we prefer them before salvation, and make gain our godliness; it must needs be that they will press us down to hell: but if we keep them below as slaves, and tread them under our feet, and contemn them as dung in comparison of Christ, they will then lift us up as high as heaven.

4. Therefore, in the last place, let me commend unto you a godly jealousy of yourselves. Suspicion in such a case as this is very useful.

5. I am unwilling to leave the rich and the woe so near together, but would set them at that distance that they may never meet. To conclude then: Let us not be too familiar with riches, lest whilst we embrace them we take the plague, and the woe enter into our very bowels. The love of the world is a catching disease, and it is drawn on with dallying, with a very look. We do not traffic for gold where there are no mines: nor can we find God in the world. He that maketh Him his purchase, will find business enough to take up his thoughts, and little time left for conference and commerce in the world, scarce any time to look upon it, but by the by and in the passage, as we use to look upon a stranger. A look is dangerous; a look of liking is too much: but a look Of love will bury us in the world, where we are sown in power, but are raised in weakness; sown in glory, but are raised in dishonour. We rest and sleep in this dust; and when we awake, the woe which hung over our heads falleth upon us.

(A. Farindon, D. D.)

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