Mark 10:17
This seems a better title for the subject than "The Great Decision," as we have no reason to believe that the decision come to was a final one. But the reference to "eternal life" proves how momentous the occasion was to him who inquired. Such a time comes but seldom yet it comes to every man, when he feels that everything else dwindles into insignificance in comparison with "life." As to this inquiry, notice - .

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.







Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
I. We have here an INQUIRER. There are many things about him which awaken interest. He was young, thoughtful, an inquirer after the most momentous matter that can engage the attention of a man; not after methods of worldly success, speculative or antiquarian subjects.

II. HOW JESUS DEALT WITH THE YOUNG MAN. Christ "knew what was in man." He varied His treatment of inquirers so as to meet the character, history, and disposition of each. He touched the conscience always in the quick. To Nicodemus: woman at the well. This young man had a narrow view of the commandments; he did not love God with all his heart. Christ put before him the same alternative which, in many different forms, He puts before some of His people yet in the dispensation of His providence. The one thing needful is always entire self-surrender to God.

III. THE CONVERSATIONAL COMMENT OF THE SAVIOUR ON THE YOUNG MAN'S DECISION. "How hardly shall they that have riches," etc. He does not mean to say that wealth is a bad thing. Intrinsically riches have no moral character; all depends upon the use. Our Lord does not mean to say that it is an absolutely easy thing for a man that has no riches to enter the kingdom of God. Poverty has spiritual perils. It is not the amount of a man's possessions, but the view which he entertains regarding them, that determines whether he will, or not, enter the kingdom of God. Salvation is a supernatural work. "With God all things are possible."

1. That the whole battle of conversion has to be fought over that which is dearest to the heart.

2. We may see here how an experience like this youth's takes the attraction even out of that which the heart prefers to Christ. "He went away grieved." He had discovered his slavery, and such gladness as he had formerly known even in his possessions dropped in a large measure out of his heart. In that one interview with Christ he had seen, as never before, the world's power over him; and even while he yielded to it, he loathed it. His property had a fascination for him, yet it seemed, even as he clung to it, the very price for which he had sold eternal life; and he could neither give it up, nor regard it with as much complacency as before. Just as the drunkard in his inmost soul loathes his slavery, even while he is draining the bottle to its dregs, and has no more such enjoyment in its stimulus as he had at first, because that which was then a delight has now become a bondage; so this youth, now that he saw that his property owned him, rather than ha his property, had no longer the same delight in it as of yore.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The chemical analyst has different tests for different poisons. If he suspect the presence of arsenic, he will use one thing to detect that; if he is looking for antimony, he will take another to discover that; if he is trying for strychnine, he will employ quite another to bring that to light. The test that will reveal one poison may altogether fail to make manifest another. Now it is quite similar with the moral poisons which destroy the soul. Each has its own appropriate test, and that which would reveal the presence of one would be impotent to detect another. Hence, like a skilful analyst as He was, the Lord in dealing with this young man used those means which He knew would be most effectual in revealing him to himself. He did not need to use any measures for the purpose of satisfying Himself. He wanted rather to do for the youth what the woman at the well said He had dons for her when she affirmed "He told me all things that ever I did."

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

What was the idea of eternal life which this young man had? Sores understand heaven; to others it means a particular kind of life, which even now fills the soul. In order to know what a man means by the words you require to know more about him and his modes of thinking. Which of these was the young man thinking of? What was the view of eternal life which Jesus Christ had in mind? The eternal life was the life that was in Him. You gather an idea of the life which is spoken of, in any case, from the specimen of it which is adduced. You speak of the life of poetry as seen in one man, of the life of science as seen in another, of the practical life of industry or benevolence as seen in a third; and when you read of the eternal life in Christ, you must consider His history and see what His life was. It was not a life of ease or quiet, or one free from trouble and suffering and care. But it was a life always manifested; a life visible in defeat as well as in power, in weakness as really as in honour; a life of absolute submission to the will of His Father; and a life which was full of wisdom, purity, gentleness, truth, Whatever was in the mind of Christ, the thoughts of the young ruler had not been quite so high as this. Possibly he could not have explained the thought to himself. Christ shows him his deficiency like a skilful physician. He has come up to the very gate of heaven, but cannot take the last step. There was a like crisis in the life of St. Paul. He was in search of eternal life, questioning what good thing he should do. He learned that it could not be won by good works. "Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor." Must not explain these words away; nor must we apply to every case alike, or make the gospel, what it is not, a system of communism, or of purchase with certain outlays. To lose everything is a calamity which thousands have borne with courage. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." They have entered the kingdom through losses and sufferings, not of property only, but of possession more precious. What is that state of mind which riches may injure. A comparatively poor man may be hurt by his wealth because of the place it has in his mind. We dare not direct men to outward acts in order to obtain eternal life, or to give up their property to religious uses. You may gain in material results, but lose in spiritual. Fellowship and sympathy with God, the mind that was in Christ — this is the highest possession. And if there is a hindrance to this — avarice or anything else — let us part with it at once, rather than obstruct the growth of our souls.

(A. Watson, D. D.)

"What lack I yet? "he said, sincerely wishing to know wherein he might approach nearer to the standard of perfection, and thus attain the eternal life of which he was in search. And the answer of Christ shows that He discerns at once where the fault lies. It reminds one of a skilful physician who listens to the complaint of a patient telling him of some weakness and want of proper energy, but not knowing from what it springs; and at once the physician touches some muscle, puts his finger on a tender spot which had been unsuspected, presses it, and says, "Your disease is there." The patient starts: he had never felt pain there — never until it was touched by that hand; but at once he knows that the physician is right, that he has all along been living in ignorance of the nature of his malady, and perhaps by his habits he has been feeding it. So this young ruler feels at once that Christ is right, but he cannot all at once make up his mind to the consequences. He has power to do much — power to part with much, power to restrain his hand and his heart from much; but here is a tenderness he had never dreamt of, a diseased organ which hinders the current of his life, and he cannot suffer it to be removed He has come up to the very gate of the kingdom, but he cannot take the last step and enter in.

(A. Watson, D. D.)

There was a strange inconsistency in this young man's question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Inheritances are not earned by services. They are gifts, not wages. I have read somewhere the story of a poor woman who looked longingly at the flowers which grew in the king's garden, wishing to buy some for her sick daughter. The king's gardener angrily repelled her. "The king's flowers are not for sale," he said, rudely. But the king, chancing to come by, plucked a bouquet and gave it to the wistful woman, remarking at the same time, "It is true the king does not sell his flowers, but he gives them away." So, too, the Great King does not sell eternal life. He gives it.

(Lyman Abbot, D. D.)

"One thing thou lackest."

1. The element of happiness. Happiness does not depend upon physical conditions. Some of the happiest people I have known have been those who have been wrapped in consumption. There is no happiness outside Christ; there is joy in His service. You lack —

2. The element of usefulness. You have not yet commenced the real service of life. You lack —

3. The element of personal safety. There is only safety in religion.

(Dr. Talmage.)

I. IN ALL GOD'S DEALING WITH MEN, THERE IS ONE ELEMENT OF RELIGIOUS CHARACTER FOR WHICH HE INVARIABLY LOOKS. Men are influenced by a showy exterior; God sees the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:6, 7).

1. What is this element? A comparison of the different parts of this story will answer the question. "A little child" has a single peculiarity as its controlling characteristic: it loves, trusts, and obeys its parent, its motive of life is sincere affection for him, above anything else. This is what God demands of His children: a full, filial regard for His honour, His commandments, and His affectionate approval (Malachi 1:6).

2. How do we know the young ruler did not possess this? He certainly seems like a thoughtful, amiable, virtuous person. But he owned that he still lacked something (see Matthew 19:20).

II. Let us take up a second lesson: NO OTHER QUALITY OF MIND AND HEART, NO OTHER CHARACTERISTIC, NO OTHER GROUPING OF ELEMENTS OF CHARACTER, CAN ATONE FOR THE LACK OF JUST THIS ONE.

1. Piety is the significant disposition which registers the value of everything else. Take any amount of ciphers, and arrange them carefully in a line; they will represent nothing, till you place a numeral figure at their head. We call that a "significant" figure; it gives reckoning of value to all the others. Now, with it at the head, each one of the ciphers increases it tenfold, while without it ten times as many ciphers would go for naught. The wiser a man is, the more distinguished a man is, the more wealthy a man is, the more lovely a man is — provided the consecration of his entire heart is rendered — the more helpful and useful he is as a Christian. But, the moment this consecration disappears, all these advantages are turned suddenly into dangers, for they work on the adverse side. Satan's gifts helped him to be a worse devil.

2. We recognize the same principle in ordinary life. Suppose a journeyman, wilful and self-satisfied, comes to one of us, and asks for employment. We go to a master mechanic seeking work for him in his poverty. Each one in turn says he is well acquainted with the man, but will have nothing to do with him. Now we begin to expostulate: "Is he not skilful? is he not industrious; is he not honest? is he not a kind neighbour? is he not sober?" All this is true, comes the reply: "but the man will not obey orders." The prime quality of a workman is gone; that lack vitiates all the rest; he breeds insubordination wherever he goes. His excellences simply render him dangerous.

3. The worst is, that God Himself gives all these characteristics on which moral men pride themselves, and they wickedly turn them against Him. It has happened that one man has interfered sometimes to reconcile another man with his disinherited son. For many years under the home roof he was unfilial, abusive, alienated from all who loved him there. The father admits that he has rejected him at last. The neighbour inquires, "Is he not educated, so as to be an honour to you? is he not a most agreeable companion? are not his manners gentlemanly? is he not the very likeness of yourself in form and mien? how can you keep him away from your heart?" And the father answers in sad sincerity of pity and love: All that you say is true; and it was myself who gave him these accomplishments: I educated my boys all alike, but this one turned against me; I love him, but he hates me; no matter how courteous he is to strangers, he vilifies me here before the others: till he changes from a prodigal to a son, he is only a peril and a disturbance in the house: he is all the worse, in that he knows so well how to be better."

III. So we reach, as our third lesson this: such A DEFECTIVE CHARACTER AS IS HERE PICTURED HAS TO BE RECKONED ACCORDING TO ITS DEFECT, TO THE EXCLUSION OF ITS EXCELLENCES.

1. There may be a very showy morality without any true religion. Here was a man of great prominence and promise. He said he had kept the law (Mark 10:18-20).

2. There may be a very splendid manhood without any true religion.

3. There may be an unquestionable orthodoxy without any true religion.

4. There may be deep conviction of need in the soul without any true religion. Never forget the errand of this young man, nor the manner in which he discharged it (Mark 10:17). See his zeal: he came to Jesus. See his haste: he came running, See his courage: he was out in the highway conspicuous to all. See his humility: he kneeled at Jesus' feet. See his anxiety: he waited for no circumlocution, but pushed his question straight towards the "eternal life" he longed for.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. THE OPINION OF GAINING ETERNAL LIFE BY THE OUTWARD OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW, WILL APPEAR VERY UNSATISFACTORY TO AN INQUISITIVE CONSCIENCE. This young man had not any full satisfaction in his own conscience, etc. He comes to Christ to receive instructions for the piecing up whatever was defective. Whosoever will consider the nature of God, and the relation of a creature cannot with reason think that eternal life was of itself due from God as a recompense to Adam, had he continued in a state of innocence. Who can think so great a reward due for having performed that which a creature in that relation was obliged to do? And if it were not to be expected in the integrity of nature, but only from the goodness of God, how can it be expected since the revolt of man, and the universal deluge of natural corruption? God owes nothing to the holiest creature; what He gives is a present from His bounty, not the reward of the creature's merit (Romans 11:35).

II. IT IS THE DISEASE OF HUMAN NATURE, SINCE ITS CORRUPTION, TO HOPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE BY THE TENOR OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS (ver. 17). Cain thought to be accepted for the sake of his sacrifice. All men set too high a value upon their own services (Luke 19:12; Philippians 3:7). The whole nation of the Jews affected it, compassing sea and land to make out a righteousness of their own, as the Pharisees did to make proselytes. Man foolishly thinks he hath enough to set up himself after he hath proved bankrupt, and lost all his estate.

III. HOW INSUFFICIENT ARE SOME ASSENTS TO DIVINE TRUTH, AND SOME EXPRESSIONS OF AFFECTION TO CHRIST, WITHOUT THE PRACTICE OF CHRISTIAN PRECEPTS.

IV. WE SHOULD NEVER ADMIT ANYTHING TO BE ASCRIBED TO YE, WHICH IS PROPER TO GOD. If you do not acknowledge Me God, ascribe not to Me the title of good, etc. God is jealous of His own honour; He will not have the creature share with Him in His royal titles.

(S. Charnocke, B. D.)

A great gain was offered him, but a great loss was its condition.

(T. T. Lynch.)

As thou once camest glad and wentest away grieved, didst thou ever come grieved and go away glad?

(T. T. Lynch.)

Have compassion on the privileged; for their advantage is their trial, and may be their ruin.

(T. T. Lynch.)

And if we cannot merit heaven, we cannot have heaven without merit.

(T. T. Lynch.)

The ebb of this man's wealth would have been the flood of his prosperity.

(T. T. Lynch.)

Why did He love him? Because He saw him as he was — pure, enthusiastic, unspoiled though unproved. It is a false and forlorn view to take of man, that there is nothing beautiful in him before he becomes saintly. The very attractiveness of an unredeemed soul makes us the more keenly desirous to redeem it. But often, as a cultured tree knows nothing of the husbandries which beautified the stock from which it sprang, and thus caused its beauty, so youths know nothing of the spiritual husbandries of past days, to which they are indebted for the moral attractiveness they have to others, and the moral strength which they themselves deem sufficient. The children of Christians, not yet Christian themselves, have by nature an advantage. Often they are more loveable than others. But they must not trust a "nature" in themselves that would never have been so lovely but for the "grace" that was in their parents. There is much in common, and even in perverted, men that has a rude native grace. There is yet more in the sons and daughters of the sincerely pious that has a natural hopeful bloom about it. God loves this, and so may we. But God may love a man whom He cannot yet trust; He may love a man who does not yet truly know, and cannot yet deeply love, Himself.

(T. T. Lynch.)

He hardly knew how much of his happiness as a virtuous man depended upon his being a rich one. People are often happy in their religion because they are happy in their circumstances. They do well because they are well to do. These are good people, but they are not the best sort of good people. They do honour to religion as their very good master, and to themselves as his very good scholars; but they are but dry pools when the rain ceases, for no inner fountain feeds them. They know not how much Christ can do for them without the world, but how much he can do with the world, to help Him. All such goodness is only hopefully good as it learns that, without trial, it cannot know that it is lastingly good.

(T. T. Lynch.)

Life is enjoyed in keeping the commandments, in doing as God would have us His creatures do. But they can only be kept as we attain the living ability to keep them. Thus, an adult man's privileges are enjoyed by doing as an adult man does: but a child cannot enjoy these privileges because his ability is not mature; nor an invalided adult because, though fully grown, he has not the powers of maturity. So an uneducated, uncivilized man cannot have the life of culture, because the "commandments," the ordinances of that life, though suitable to him as a man, are beyond his ability as such a man. The way to keep God's commandments in future is, first of all, to learn that you have never fully kept them yet. This young man really had kept God's law according to his understanding of it; and he could only be blessed as his comprehension of the law and his disposition to fulfil it were advanced. But in him there was no capacity to become a chief example of obedience to the chief laws, as there was in Christ.

(T. T. Lynch.)

I. PERSONS OF THIS DESCRIPTION ARE NOT QUALIFIED FOR DISCHARGING ARIGHT MANY DUTIES TO WHICH THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE MAY CALL THEM. Mildness and gentleness alone are not sufficient. This is but plastic clay to be shaped either for good or bad.

II. THESE PERSONS ARE ALSO ILL-FITTED FOR RESISTING THE COMMON TEMPTATIONS TO VICE. A constant desire to please is a poor bulwark against the persuasions of wicked men.

III. THEY ARE ALSO UNPREPARED FOR SUSTAINING THE DISTRESSES TO WHICH OUR STATE IS LIABLE. Learn:

1. That fair appearances alone are not to be trusted.

2. Piety is the only safe foundation of character.

3. Discipline must also be practised.

4. Watchfulness is also needed.

(Hugh Blair, D. D.)

I. Consider HIS PROFESSION. He had not only made the law of God his study, but practice.

1. His obedience was early — "From my youth up."

2. His obedience was universal — "All these."

3. It was constant and persevering.Here we remark —

1. How much the conduct of this young man condemns that of the generality of mankind, who, so far from having anything of true religion, have not even the shadow of it.

2. Those who have been preserved from such evils, and have attained a high degree of moral excellence, are apt to think better of their case than it really deserves.

II. HIS INQUIRY — "What lack I yet?"

1. He lacked the true grace of God, or an inward principle of faith and holiness. He was like a spreading tree without a root.

2. He was deficient in the knowledge of himself and of that misery in which sin had involved him.

3. He lacked a justifying righteousness in which to appear before God.

4. With all his professions he was not weaned from earthly objects.Conclude:

1. We see that though grace puts sinners on the inquiry about salvation, yet all inquirers are not truly gracious; many ask the way to Zion whose faces are not thitherward.

2. Mistakes with respect to the spiritual state of men are more common than most people imagine.

3. We here see what is the right use of the Divine law: by it is the knowledge of sin.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

The words are part of a reply of our Saviour to the young man's petition to Him.

1. God only is originally good, good of Himself. All created goodness is an outlet from this fountain, but Divine goodness hath no spring; God depends upon no other for His goodness: He hath it in, and of, Himself.

2. God only is infinitely good — a boundless goodness that knows no limits.

3. God only is perfectly good because only infinitely good. He is good without indigence, because He hath the whole nature of goodness, not only some beams that may admit of increase of degree.

4. God only is immutably good. There is not such a perpetual light in the sun as there is a fulness of goodness in God (James 1:17).

5. All nations have acknowledged God good.

6. The notion of goodness is inseparable from the notion of a God (Romans 1:20; Psalm 145:6, 7).

I. WHAT THIS GOODNESS IS.

1. We mean not the goodness of His essence, or the perfection of His nature. God is thus good because His nature is infinitely perfect.

2. Nor is it the same with the blessedness of God, but something flowing from His blessedness.

3. Nor is it the same with the holiness of God.

4. Or with the mercy of God.

5. By goodness is meant the bounty of God — His inclination to deal well and bountifully with His creatures. This is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature.

6. Comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effluxes of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the "object it is exercised about. As the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washeth and beats upon (Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 145:7, 8).

II. SOME PROPOSITIONS TO EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF THIS GOODNESS.

1. He is good by His own essence — not by participation from another. Not a quality in Him, but a nature; not a habit added to His essence, but His essence itself.

2. God is the prime and chief goodness to whom all goodness whatsoever must be referred, as the final cause of all good.

3. His goodness is communicative, diffusive, without which He would cease to be good (Psalm 119:68.) God is more prone to communicate Himself than the sun to spread its beams, or the earth to mount up its fruits, or the water to multiply living creatures.

4. God is necessarily good — inseparable from His nature as holiness.

5. God is freely good. The necessity of the goodness of His nature hinders not the liberty of His actions: the matter of His acting is not at all necessary, but the manner of His acting in a good and bountiful way is necessary as well as free.

6. Communicative with the greatest pleasure. What God gives out of goodness He gives with joy and gladness. He is as much delighted with petitions for His liberality in bestowing His best goodness as princes are weary of the craving of their subjects.

7. Its display was the motive and end of all His works of creation and providence.

III. GOD IS GOOD.

1. The more excellent anything is in nature the more of goodness and kindness it hath.

2. He is the cause of all created goodness.(1) Is not impaired by suffering sin to enter into the world, and man to fall thereby. It is rather a testimony of God's goodness, that He gave man an ability to be happy, than any charge against His goodness, that He settled man in a capacity to be evil. God was first a benefactor to man before man could be a rebel against God.(2) Is not prejudiced by not making all things the equal subjects of it. Is any creature destitute of the open marks of His goodness, though all are not enriched with those signal characters which He vouchsafes to others (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)?(3) Is not violated by the severe punishment of offenders, and the inflictions He inflicts upon His servants.(a) God's justice is part of the goodness of His nature. Is it not a part of the goodness of God to make laws and annex threatenings? and shall it be an impeachment of His goodness to support them? Not to punish evil would be a want of goodness.(b) Sometimes God afflicts men for the temporal and eternal good (1 Corinthians 11:32; Psalm 89:33; Hebrews 12:10).

IV. THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GOODNESS.

1. In creation of man — his being and nature; the conveniences He provided for, and gave to man; the world was made and furnished for man; the laws He hath given to man — fitted to his nature and happiness.

2. In redemption.(1) Goodness was its spring. He was under no obligation to pity our misery, etc.(2) Exceeds His goodness in creation: in regard to the difficulty of effecting it; its cost; man's desert of the contrary. Greater goodness than was expressed towards the angels — standing or fallen. Greater than was for a time manifested to Christ Himself. He so loved the world that He seemed for a time not to love His Son in comparison of it, or equal with it (John 3:16). The first resolution to redeem, and the means appointed for redemption, could have no other inducement but Divine goodness. In God's giving Christ to be our Redeemer, He gave the highest gift that it was possible for Divine goodness to bestow — greater than worlds or all things purchased by Him: greater because it was His Own Son, not an angel; and this Son given to rescue us by His death.(3) This goodness is enhanced by considering the state of man in the first transgression, and since: nothing in fallen man to allure God to the expression of His goodness; man was reduced to the lowest condition; every age multiplied provocations; man was utterly impotent; the high advancement of our nature, after it had so highly offended; the covenant of grace made with us, whereby we are freed from the rigour of that of works — its nature and tenor, its confirmation (Hebrews 6:17, 18), its easy, reasonable, and necessary condition; His affectionate method of treating with man to embrace this covenant; the sacraments He hath affixed to this covenant, especially in the Lord's Supper.(4) By this redemption God restores us to a more excellent condition than Adam had in innocence (John 10:10).

3. In His government — in preserving all things; in the preservation of human society; prescribing rules for it, restraining the passions of men, etc.; in providing Scripture as a rule to guide us, and continuing it in the world; in the conversion of men; in answering prayers; in bearing with the infirmities of His people; in afflictions and persecutions (Psalm 119:71); in temptations.

V. USE.

1. Of instruction. If God be so good —

(1)How unworthy is the contempt or abuse of His goodness.

(2)It is a certain argument that man is fallen from his original state.

(3)There can be no just complaint against God, if men be punished for abusing His goodness.

(4)Here is a certain argument, both for God's fitness to govern the world, and His actual government of it.

(5)The ground of all religion is this perfection of goodness.

(6)Renders God amiable — to Himself, to us.

(7)Renders Him a fit object of trust and confidence.

(8)Renders God worthy to be obeyed and honoured.

2. Of comfort.

(1)In our addresses to Him.

(2)In afflictions.

(3)Ground of assurance of happiness.

(4)Of comfort in the midst of public dangers.

3. Of exhortation.

(1)How should we endeavour after the enjoyment of a God so good!

(2)Often meditate on the goodness of God.

(3)Be thankful for.

(4)Imitate — in relieving and assisting others in distress, etc.

(Stephen Charnocke, B. D.)I shall show what was commendable in this young man. First — The question asked — What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

I. It is not a question about another man, but himself. Many do not look inward, and are busy about the concernments of others; but here it is not, What shall they do, or what shall others do? but, Good Master, what is my duty? What shall I do to be saved?

II. It is not a curious question, or the proposal of some intricate doubt and nice debate (Titus 3:9 — "Avoid foolish questions").

III. It is not about the body, but the soul.

IV. About his soul. And certainly such a question as this discovers a good spirit.

1. That he was no Sadducee, for he inquires after eternal life, which they denied.

2. It discovers some thoughtfulness about it; his thoughts were more upon the kingdom of heaven than upon a temporal reign.

3. It discovered that he was very sensible of the connection that is between the end and the means, that something must be done in order to eternal life. There are some men who would have heaven and happiness, but are loathe to be at the cost.

4. This question so put discovers that he was sensible that a slight thing would not serve the turn, not a little saying and outward profession.

5. This was the errand and great thing that brought him to Christ to find the way to heaven and true happiness.

V. This question was seriously put: he did not ask it in jest, but in the greatest earnest.Secondly. Let us consider the person by whom it was put.

I. We find him to be a young man. God demands His right of the young man, that his heart be seasoned betimes with grace.

1. Consider how convenient and reasonable it is that God should have our first and best. The flower and best of our days is due to God, who is the best of beings. Under the law the first fruits were God's; the sacrifices were all offered young, and in their strength (Leviticus 2:14). When wit is dulled, ears heavy, body weak, affections spent, is this a fit sacrifice for God? If a man has a great way to go, it is good rising early, in the morning; many set out too late, never any too soon. And for the convenience of it, young men are most capable of doing God service; the faculties of their souls are most vigorous, and the members of their bodies most active. It is not fit to lay the greatest load on the weakest horse; the weak shoulders of old men are not fit for the burden of religion.

2. Consider how necessary it is, because the lusts of youth being boiling hot need the correction of more severe discipline. As the boiling pot sendeth up most steam, so in the fervours of youth there are the strongest inclinations to intemperance and uncleanness.

3. Consider the profit of it.(1) The work is more easy the sooner it is taken in hand: whereas the longer it is delayed, the more difficult. A twig is easily bowed, but when it is grown into a tree it is not moved. When the disease groweth inveterate, medicines do little good.(2) You hereby provide for the comfort of old age. If you serve God in your good days, He will help you the better over those evil days wherein there is no pleasure. It will then be no grief of heart to you when old that you were acquainted with God young: whereas, on the other side, the vanities of youth will be the burden of age.(3) Our great work, that must be once done, is put out of hazard when we think of heaven seriously while we are young. Life is most uncertain, and such a weighty business as this should not be left at peradventures.

II. This man was a rich man, one who had great possessions. This man, though he had enough to live happily in the present world, yet he thinks of the world to come. This is a question rarely moved by men of that sort. They think heaven is a fit notion to entertain the fancies of the poor and afflicted withal, a pleasant thought wherewith to comfort and relieve their sorrows; but this rich man, though he had great possessions, yet he hath his trouble upon him about his salvation.

III. He was a ruler, not a vulgar and obscure plebeian, but a man of eminence and authority, a nobleman (to speak in the English language), or the chief of his family. Thirdly. Here is the manner of his address, and thence you may observe —

1. The voluntariness of it.

2. The earnestness and fervour of his coming — "He came running."

3. Consider his humility and reverence to Christ: he kneeled to him, in token of civil honour and reverence to Him, as an eminent teacher and prophet.

I. But where was his defect?

1. His fault was that he asked in the Pharisee's sense, what good thing he should do. Now the Pharisee's error was double; he thought that men should be saved by their own works, and that those works were in their own power. They were confident of their own merit and strength.

II. His next fault was his love of riches and worldly things, which is a dangerous obstruction and a let to salvation. First: This may serve to humble us. It were a blessed thing for the world if all men went so far as this young man, so as —

1. To have their thoughts taken up about eternal life. The most part of the world never consider whence they are nor whither they go, nor what shall become of them to all eternity. Should a man's thoughts be taken up about furnishing his inn where he tarries but a night and neglect his home?

2. To be sensible, it is no slight matter to have an interest in the world to come. Most men think they shall do well enough for heaven; a small matter will serve the turn for that.

3. To have such a sense as to choose fit means. Many keep up teachers to please their own lusts.

4. To be so concerned as to be in earnest in the means. "Be swift to hear" (St. James 1:19). But we are cold, slack, and negligent.Secondly: To caution us: do not rest in a common work.

1. In a desire of heaven is your only happiness.

2. Do not rest barely in a desire that moveth us to the use of some means, unless it bring us to a perfect resignation to God. This man had a good mind to heaven; he cheapens it, but is not willing to go through with the price.

3. If we would not rest in a common work, there are two things we must take care of, which are opposite to the double defect of this young man — brokenness of heart, and unbounded resignation of ourselves to the will of God; bring yourselves to that, and the thing is done.(1) Brokenness of heart.(2) Resignation of yourselves to God's will. He that starves as well as he that surfeits hath his difficulties in the way to heaven. Every man hath a tender part of soul, some carnal affection that he doth allow, reserve, and is loath should be touched; therefore, till there be an unbounded resignation, and we fully throw ourselves at Christ's feet, it is impossible ever we should come to the kingdom of heaven.No; we should be glad to accept of mercy on any terms, and take heaven at God's price.

1. This unbounded resolution must be seriously made (St. Luke 14:26).

2. It must be faithfully performed. There are four points of great weight and moment, which should ever be remembered by them that would make out their gospel qualifications or new covenant plea of sincerity.(1) That any allowed evil habit of soul or reigning sin is inconsistent with that faith that worketh by love, and only maketh us capable of the great privileges of the gospel.(2) That the usual bait of reigning sin is the world. The great difficulty of salvation lies in a man's addictedness to worldly things of temporal satisfaction.(3) That our inclinations to worldly things is various, according to our temper and constitution of men — "As the channel is cut so the river runs" (Isaiah 53:6).(4) That many times, when pretences are fair, there is a secret reserve in our hearts. The devil seeketh to deceive men with a superficial change and half reformation, and moveth them to take on the profession of religion, and yet secure their fleshly and worldly interest.

(T. Manton, D. D.)We have seen the young man's question: here is Christ's answer; in which observe two things.

1. His expostulation with him — "Why callest thou Me good?"

2. His instruction of him — "There is none good but One, that is God."First: For the expostulation. He doth not simply blame him for giving Him this title, but argueth with him about it.

1. To show He loves no compliment or fair words which proceed not from sound faith and love to Him. As elsewhere (St. Luke 6:46) — "Why Call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" It is a mockery to give titles to anyone when we do not answer it with suitable endeavours.

2. He takes occasion to draw him from his error of conceiving Him as a mere man. The attribute of good belongeth truly and properly to none but God.

3. Our Lord would teach us by His own example to cast all the honour we receive upon God. This is a common sin, that when God doth any good by His creatures the minds of men stick in the creatures, and never look up to God; and from thence comes idolatry.

4. I suppose the chief reason was to beat down this pharisaical conceit.Secondly: I come to Christ's instruction of him. There is none good but God. And there you have two propositions.

1. That in some sense there is no man good

2. That God only is good.

Doctrine 1: There is no mere man that is absolutely and perfectly good. I shall explain this negatively and affirmatively. First: For the negative part.

1. It is not to be so understood as if in no sense man were good, for it is said in St. Luke 6:45, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart"; and it is said of St. Barnabas (Acts 11:24) and of Joseph of Aramathea (St. Luke 23:50).

2. This is not so to be understood as if there were no distinction between men, but they were all equal in sin.

3. It is not so to be understood as if it were unlawful wholly to acknowledge that goodness that is in others.Secondly: Positively. How is it then true that no man is good?

1. No man is of himself good, but only by participation of God's goodness. As all the stars derive their light from the sun, so do we derive our poor weak ray wherewith we shine from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17). All the tribute we pay Him we have out of His own exchequer.

The young man's answer was good if it were true. First. It is good in the first respect, as an universality of obedience is pretended; and I drop this note — Doct. They that would keep the commandments must observe not only one but all. It is true of the law of God, as it belongeth to the covenant of works, or to the covenant of grace.

1. As it belongeth to the covenant of works (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). As one condition not observed forfeits the whole lease, therefore it concerns this legalist to make good his plea and conceit of perfection by the law, to say," all these things have I done."

2. But is not the covenant of grace more favourable? No; it gives not allowance to the least failings, but binds us to make conscience of all as well as of some.(1) Because the authority is the same (Exodus 20:1). "God spake," not one or two, but "all these words."(2) The heart can never be sincere when we can dispense with anything which God hath commanded; and you cannot have the testimony of a good conscience approving your sincerity when you allow yourselves in the least failing (Psalm 119:6; Luke 1:6; Psalm 66:18).(3) God giveth grace to all. Wherever He renews and sanctifies is throughout. He fills the soul with the seeds of all grace, so as to dispose and incline us to every duty, whether to God or man, the world or our fellow creatures (2 Peter 1:7). Use. To reprove those that would keep some commandments, but not all. There is such an union betwixt all the parts of the law of God, that one cannot be violated without a breach of all the rest; therefore take heed of obeying God by halves. Secondly: There is another thing that is good in the reply the young man maketh, that is his early beginning — "I have kept all from my youth."

1. Because it will be a help to us all our lives afterwards, before affections are forestalled and pre-engaged, to begin with God, and to have the inclinations of youth set right by a good education, to be restrained from our own will, and to be trained up in a way of abstinence from bodily pleasures. When men are well principled and seasoned in youth, it sticketh by them; the vessel is seasoned already.

2. While parents and governors are careful to season those tender vessels, the Lord is pleased many times to replenish them with grace from above, and to give us His blessing upon their education, and many have been converted that way. You will bewail any natural defect of your children, and seek to cure it while they are young, if they have a stammering tongue, a deaf ear, or a lame leg; certainly you ought much more bewail the want of grace. Dye the cloth in the wool, and not in the web, and the colour is more durable. God works strangely in children, and many notable things have been found in them beyond expectation.

3. It prevents many sins which afterwards would be a trouble to us when we are old. The sins of youth trouble many a conscience in age; witness David (Psalm 25:7; Job 13:26).New afflictions may awaken the sense of old sins, as old bruises may trouble us long after, upon every change of weather. Alas I we cannot say "all these have we kept from our youth," but when we come to look to the commands of God, we may say "all these have we broken from our youth." But was it true?

1. It was true in regard of outward conformity. If there be light in the lantern, it will shine forth. If there be grace in the heart, it will appear.

2. It was not true in regard of that perfect obedience which the law requireth, and so he ignorantly and falsely supposed that he had kept the law well enough, and done those things from his youth. The falsity and presumption of this answer will appear by considering —(1) What the Scripture saith of the state of man by nature (Genesis 8:21).(2) The falsity of it appears by the sense of the commandment produced.(3) The falsity of it will appear by comparing him with other holy men of God; how differently do they express themselves from this man that was so full of confidence. Compare him first with Josiah, who, when he heard the law read, rent his clothes (2 Kings 22:11). A tender conscience is all in an agony when it hears the law, and will smite for the least failing, as David's heart smote him for cutting off the lap of Saul's garment. But what is the cause that men are so apt to overrate their own righteousness and goodness before God?First. Ignorance.

1. Ignorant of the spiritual meaning of the law. A man that keeps the law only outwardly can no more be said to keep the law than he that hath undertaken to carry a tree, and only taken up a little piece of the bark.

2. They are ignorant of gospel righteousness, which consists in the remission of sins, and imputation of Christ's righteousness applied by true faith. Ignorance, then, is one great cause of this disposition in men to justify themselves, ignorance of the legal and gospel covenant; they are ignorant of the nature, merit, and influence of sin, and of the severity of God's justice.Secondly. Another cause is error.

1. That they live in good order and are of a civil, harmless life, and are better than others, or better than themselves have been heretofore, and therefore are in good condition before God, and yet a man may be carnal for all this. A man may not be as bad as others, and yet not as good as God requireth (Galatians 6:4). What is short of regeneration is short of salvation.

2. Here is another of their errors: they are born and bred up in the bosom of the Church, and true religion: and because they are baptized, and profess the faith of Christ, therefore they think they ever had faith and a good heart towards God, and do not see why or from what they should be converted.

3. They know no difference between a state of nature and a state of grace; they know no such thing as passing from death to life, and therefore are never troubled about it. As if all were of one lump, and all should fare alike, and therefore think themselves as good as the best.

4. That those that are blameless before men, and well spoken of in the world, need not doubt of their acceptance with God.

5. Another sottish maxim is, that petty sins are not to be stood upon. Thirdly: Self-love is the reason of it (Proverbs 16:2). A man is very blind and partial in his own cause, and will not own any opinion and conceit against himself.Fourthly. Negligence and want of searching, and taking the course whereby we may be undeceived. Fifthly. Security. As they will not search, so they will not know themselves when they are searched, and cannot endure thoroughly to be discovered to themselves.

1. They cannot endure to be searched by the Word (St. John 3:20).

2. When God searcheth them by affliction; when they do not judge themselves, they are judged by the Lord.And that you may not be besotted with a dream of your own righteousness, consider —

1. How light every one of us shall be found when we are put in the balance of the sanctuary (Proverbs 16:2).

2. Consider how different the judgment of God and men will be (St. Luke 16:15).

3. Consider that self is an incompetent judge in its own case; and therefore you, that are to endure God's judgment, should not stand merely to the judgment of self.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

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