Mark 10:20

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 - .


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.


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.

Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?
One of the most pathetic incidents found in the narrative of one of the arctic explorations, is that of the attempt made to induce a native of that terribly inhospitable region to journey away with the returning navigators to a more sunny clime. Won by the enthusiastic descriptions of a land of orchards and meadows, of purling brooks and singing birds, he did indeed surrender himself to go. But hardly were they on the way out from among those mountain bergs of ice and dismal fields of snow, directing their course towards the latitudes where the blue tops of distant hills told of freshening verdure, before they missed their simple-hearted comrade. He had gone back clandestinely to the cheerless scenes of his former life. Cold and uninviting to a stranger, those northern solitudes were welcome to him because they had been his home ever since he was born. We smile at his simplicity, but how quickly, after all, do we give him our sympathy in the feeling! We love our homes unaffectedly and almost illogically at times; not because they in every case are better than others, but because they are ours.

I. The family is a DIVINE INSTITUTION. We are not left to look upon it as a chance arrangement of individuals of the human species; it is a definitely fixed form of association.

1. It was ordained by the Creator himself when the race began (see Mark 10:6; Genesis 2:18-25). This order therefore cannot be changed irreverently, nor disturbed without peril.

2. It has been recognized all along the ages by the providence of God. When David (Psalm 68:6) says: "God setteth the solitary in families," a more literal and more pertinent translation would give us this: "God maketh the lonely to dwell in a home." The all-wise Creator has provided in the wide adaptations of nature for an abode of its own sort for every creature of His hand. He has set the coney in the rock, the ant in the sand, the fish in the river, and the whale in the sea; but to no one of them all has He given a home but to man.

3. It has been sanctioned by God in His Word (see Mark 10:7-9).

4. It has been symbolized and spiritualized in the Church (see Ephesians 3:15). And the relation between Christ and His people is like that between a husband and wife (see Ephesians 5:22-32). John saw the Church, "the bride, the Lamb's wife," descending out of heaven, "having the glory of God" (Revelation 21:9, 10).

II. The family is A RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION. That is to say, it has a distinct and valuable purpose to serve in aiding men to glorify God and enjoy Him forever as their chief end.

1. It is designed to perfect Christian character. The relations of a believer to his Saviour are essentially filial. The saints are the children of God. The Almighty Father, taking upon Himself the three obligations of a parent — government, education, and support — calls upon each Christian for the three duties of a son — subordination, studiousness, and grateful love. Hence, all our celestial connections with God are most perfectly and easily taught through our earthly connections with each other in a well-ordered home.

2. Again: the family relation is designed to concentrate Christian power. For it is the earliest outflow into practical use of the principle that in union there is strength.

3. In the third place, the family relation is designed to cultivate the Christian spirit. There ought to be in all organizations which are worth anything what the French people call esprit de corps; a peculiar, pervading tone of public sentiment and opinion, full of a generous confidence and pride, running through all its members. Each soldier feels his connection with the company to which he owes allegiance, thence with the regiment, and so with the entire corps. He is jealous of its honour, he is zealous for its name.

4. Once more: the family relation is designed to increase the Christian census. Children belong to the kingdom of God (see Mark 10:14).

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

I. THE NATURE OF THIS CONTRACT. It is for life, and dissoluble only for one sin. It is subject to Divine laws. It is mutual. It must be based upon affection. It implies the surrender of various rights, but not of all, i.e. conscience. In case of difference of opinion, and within proper limits, the authority is with the husband.

II. THE DUTIES IMPOSED BY THIS RELATION UPON BOTH IS IMPOSED CHASTITY. Likewise mutual affection. Also the duty of mutual assistance. The husband made by Scripture and by law the head of the domestic society; hence the duty of submission. Virtue and dignity of submission.

(Dr. Wayland.)

We are here taught that marriage, being an institution of God, is subject to His laws alone, and not to the laws of man. Hence the civil law is binding upon the conscience only in so far as it corresponds to the law of God.

(Dr. Wayland.)

There was a company of rough men together at one o'clock one night, and a man says: "My wife is a Christian, and if I should go home at this hour, and order her to get us an entertainment, she would get it with good cheer, and without one word of censure." They laughed at him, and said she would not. They laid a wager, and started for his home, and they knocked at one or two o'clock in the morning. The Christian wife came to the door, and her husband said: "Get us something to eat! get it right away!" She said: "What shall I get?" And he ordered the bill of fare, and it was provided without one word of censure. After his roystering companions had gone out of the house, he knelt down and said: "Oh! forgive me! I am wicked! I am most wicked! Get down and pray for me!" and before the morning dawned on the earth, the pardon of Christ had dawned on that man. Why? His wife was a thorough Christian. He could not resist the power of her Christian influence.

(Dr. Talmage.)

The special duties belonging to marriage are love and affection. Love is the marriage of the affections. There is, as it were, but one heart in two bodies. Love lines the yoke and makes it easy; it perfumes the marriage relation. Like two poisons in one stomach, one is ever sick of the other. In marriage there is mutual promise of living together faithfully according to God's holy ordinance. Among the Romans, on the day of marriage, the woman presented to her husband fire and water: signifying, that as fire refines, and water cleanses, she would live with her husband in chastity and sincerity.

(Thomas Watson.)

A gentlemen who did not live very happily with his wife decided to procure a divorce, and took advice on the subject from an intimate friend — a man of high social standing. "Go home and court your wife for a year," said this wise adviser, "and then tell me the result." They bowed in prayer, and separated. When a year passed away, the once-complaining husband called again to see his friend, and said: "I have called to thank you for the good advice you gave me, and to tell you that my wife and I are as happy as when first we were married. I cannot be grateful enough for your good counsel." "I am glad to hear it, dear sir," said the other, "and I hope you will continue to court your wife as long as you live."

The sacred institution of marriage has been fiercely assailed. The attempt is to shake off the authority of the great God who made and rules all things. Thus with regard to marriage, men tell us it is simply an agreement between two persons, which the State takes notice of only for the sake of public convenience, like it does of the lease of a house. This leaves out of view the most powerful part of matrimony — the religious. True, it is a legal engagement; but it is also a solemn engagement before God. "Whom God hath joined together," etc. See, the golden links of matrimony are of heavenly temper. What hand can be so impious as to try to burst them asunder? The law of God has been transgressed of late years by the doctrine of polygamy as boldly proclaimed by the Mormon blasphemy. Everywhere Christ and His apostles speak of one wife; as the great God only created one man and one woman. It is a solemn moment when two immortal beings venture out on life's stormy sea in the bark of matrimony, with no aid but their own to help them. A mistake in matrimony is a mistake for life. Do not Christians find it important to avoid the friendship of the irreligious; what then is likely to be the effect of marriage with the ungodly? Married life is a detector of the real character. After marriage, faults are discovered, perhaps, to be greater than was expected, and excellences less. Disappointment springs up; contempt follows. Do you find much you did not expect? Remember you also are showing much that was not expected, and as you do not like in consequence of your faults to cease to be loved, so also do not let the faults you see kill your own love. Do not gloomily meditate on each other's failings, for that will make them seem greater than they are. If you would see your life partner's faults amended, you should set the example by amending your own. Gentleness, firmness, forbearance, cheerfulness, openness, must be the chains with which husband and wife try to keep marriage love from escaping.

1. The want of experience is often a great hindrance to the happiness of married life; hence it frequently happens that the first years of married life are not the happiest.

2. The married life is often disturbed by the extravagance and folly of the husband or wife; for difficulties arise therefrom, and much bitterness is likely to spring up. Love is the universal law of marriage. Love will not easily find fault or rashly give offence. Poverty cannot quench it. The Christian rule for all applies doubly to man and wife — "weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice." Different dispositions and tastes may sometimes make mutual sympathy difficult. The sympathy of love and the sympathy of taste are distinct things. A source of unhappiness in married life is the habit of dwelling on individual right instead of remembering that love should not measure the service it bestows, nor that it receives. If difference of opinion does arise, the Christian duty is for the wife to yield. The marriage life was intended to promote human happiness; but it brings with it peculiar duties, and the happiness marriage was intended to impart will be wanting, if the duties of the married life are neglected.

(A. Bibby, M. A.)

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