But the man was saddened by these words and went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.
the indiscriminate judgment which leads us to condemn a whole nation or sect as being outside the bounds of Christian charity. He was, and still is, gracious to one seeker, even though he dwells among the heathen; and hears any prayer, though it rises from a godless home. We notice here also our Lord's freedom from the pandering to popular passion, which has often been the snare of statecraft, and sometimes of the Christian Church. We naturally bend before an adverse current of opinion, and count it good policy to withhold the advocacy of our opinions for a season. But here was a crisis in Christ's ministry which would lead to his reception or rejection, when the decision of each one would make a weight in the scale of popular judgment. Judicious hedging just then might avert hatred or win a convert. Here was a ruler of the synagogue - a man of wealth, position, and good repute - who was willing to become a disciple; but he was met with words of discouragement, and the great Teacher put his claims before him in the strongest form. The fact is, that he thought more of the suppliant than of himself. He would rather bring him to deep repentance than have his showy following. With all his estimable qualities, the young ruler had spiritual deficiencies, which were seen by the Searcher of hearts, and revealed to himself by the test applied to him. What were these?
I. HE WAS MISTAKEN AS TO THE NATURE OF "GOODNESS." "Good Master, what good thing shall I do?" asked he. Christ at once put him in the way of discovering his mistake by answering, "Why callest thou me good?" etc. He did not decline the appellation, but repelled it when used in this superficial sense. He wanted him to weigh his words, to know what they implied, to say exactly what he meant; and this he requires of us. He reminded him that God was the Source of all goodness, because he would not have him regard any good act or good person as isolated or independent, but in connection with the God of goodness. He was himself "good;" but why? Because he was one with God. The young man might do a "good thing; "but how? Not as an isolated acts but by loving God supremely, and living in him. He enumerated the commandments as declarations of the will and character of the good One, which could only be obeyed in fullness When supreme love to God was the master passion of the soul; the duties to his fellows being mentioned because these constituted the easiest test of obedience.
III. HIS GREAT DEFICIENCY WAS AN ABSENCE OF COMPLETE SELF-SURRENDER. When told to sell all that he had, this was not the special "good thing" which would gain eternal life; but the command was given because the attempt to obey it would reveal the fact that he did not love the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength. This is the one important thing so often lacking, short of which so many halt, but which is essential to the righting of life. If we set clown a series of noughts we may say they only want one figure to make them millions; but that one figure is all-important. So is it with "the one thing" lacking to many a moral life, namely, the consecration to God, of which prayer is the natural expression.
III. HE BROKE DOWN UNDER THE TEST APPLIED. The command, "Sell whatsoever thou hast," was to be obeyed literally by him, but not by all. Christ came in contact with other rich men, and did not call upon them to do this. But it was the best thing to teach this man the special lesson he needed. The test our Lord applies to those who come to him varies greatly, but in some form it comes to all such. It may appear to be so trifling a thing as the giving up of an amusement or pursuit, or so peculiar a thing that no one has previously been asked to do it. But it is the test of character to that one, and the trifle is fraught with future destiny. That which is not a source of peril to some may be disastrous to others. A blessing in some circumstances may prove a curse in others. The lighted candle, which is useful in the home, may be a destroyer in a mine. Anything which seems a source of danger must be abjured for Christ's sake. The young ruler did not make the required sacrifice when it was called for. He went away sad; and if he went away for ever, it was to far deeper sadness, for he left the Savior of the world - the King of heaven. Dante says that in his journey through hell he saw him "who with ignoble spirit made the great refusal." But was the refusal final? We hesitate to believe it. We hope that this inquirer, who was so sincere, earnest, and humble, only went away to consider the question, not in the excitement of the moment, but alone, on his knees, and that then and there he gave himself up, to be Christ's consecrated servant for evermore. - A.R.
Then Jesus beholding him, loved him.I. Let us INQUIRE INTO THE NATURE OF OUR LORD'S REGARD FOR THE YOUNG RULER. "Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him." There are those who think that ardent love for an unconverted friend is a misplaced affection; that we should only love what God loves. But the love of God must be different from the love of the creature. When God loves He loves the whole man, not for his moral qualities, but in spite of them. The love of man is partial in its object, for we can admire one part of a man's character whilst we dislike another. Our attachments also in their present form must be of limited duration. What is implied in this love?
1. There is a sincere desire for such a person's welfare and an anxious wish to do him good.
2. There is a feeling of mournful pity, that one endowed with such high and hopeful qualities should fall short of heaven at last.
II. WHAT WERE THE QUALITIES WHICH KINDLED OUR LORD'S REGARD FOR THE YOUNG RULER?
1. A real concern on the part of the young man for the safety of his soul.
2. Our Lord would be pleased with the young man's desire for religious knowledge.
3. The excellence of his moral character.
III. Having seen the nature of our Lord's regard, and the qualities of the young man which seem most likely to have kindled it, let us conclude with a few practical reflections on THE SAD COMPATIBILITY OF BOTH WITH THE FINAL LOSS OF HEAVEN.
1. How many amiable qualities are here spoiled at once by the love of this world.
2. What is the precise value of any combination of amiable qualities towards the securing of this rich inheritance? However the world may applaud noble qualities, they will not save in the day of judgment. There must be repentance and faith.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
1. — There may be some amiable and good qualities in unregenerate men.
1. All are created with some inclination to good, though not to good spiritual, yet to good, natural and moral. In our decayed condition there are some remainders of right reason, some impressions of equity, some principles of common honesty, still left and preserved in us, though as to spiritual endowments, "we are altogether become filthy and abominable" (Psalm 14:2). As in a rifled palace, though the rich furniture be gone, the plate and the jewels, and though the fashion of it be much spoiled, yet some of the fabric is left still standing to show what a magnificent structure it once was.
2. For the good of mankind. God is the patron of human society, and delights in the welfare and preservation of it. Now there would be no such thing as human society, if there were not sweetness of nature and moral dispositions yet left in us.
3. There are other things besides renewing grace that might cause these amiable qualities.(1) Bodily temper may incline men to some good.(2) The increase of one sin may cause others to decrease, as a wen that grows big and monstrous defrauds other parts of their nourishment. Though all sin he kindly to a natural heart, yet some sins are more apt to take the throne, and other lusts are starved to feed that A prodigal man is not covetous, and so more prone to be liberal and free-hearted. Thus as weeds destroy one another, so do many vices; so many vices occasion something that is amiable. Ambition makes men diligent, sober, and vigilant to improve their opportunities.(3) It may be occasioned partly by discipline and strict education, or else the miseries and calamities of the present life; for these things, though they do not mortify sin, yet they may much weaken and hinder the discovery of it.(4) By politic government and laws, which keep men within the bounds of their duty, so that they are orderly by constraint, and for fear of penalty, which, if they should follow their pleasure in sinning, they would be exposed to. Austin compares laws to brooms, which, though they cannot make corn of weeds or of chaff, yet they serve to sweep in the corn and keep it within the floor. Laws may make men good subjects, though not good men.(5) Unregenerate men may be translated from the grammar school of nature to the university of grace; and though they never commence there, and took the degree of true sanctification, yet they may come very near to it by common grace, and may not be far from the kingdom of God.Use 1. It shows us how inexcusable they are in the sight of God, and how just their condemnation will be, that have nothing lovely in them.Use 2. If there may be amiable qualities in unregenerate men, then do not rest in these things (St. Matthew 5:46). A good nature without grace makes a fair show with the world, but it is of little respect with God as to your salvation. All this may be from temper and awe of men. How may a man mistake a still nature for meekness, firmness and height of spirits for zeal, want of affection to holy things for discretion, stupidity for patience, obstinacy for constancy! But God knows how to distinguish. Will complexion and temper ever pass for grace in God's account? And usually if a natural man hath one good quality, he hath another bad one to match it. Nay, a good nature once corrupted doth prove the worst of all others, as the sweetest wine makes the tartest vinegar — all their parts and excellences are but like a sword in a curler's shop, as ready for the thief as the true man to purchase.Doctrine 2. That in some respect Christ loves those that are orderly and civil, and do but outwardly carry themselves according to God's commands.
1. The thing is good in itself, though the resting in it makes it useless as to the salvation of the person that goes no further (Micah 6:8).
2. Because our Lord Jesus Christ is willing and ready to own the least good in us, that He might draw us on to more (St. Matthew 12:20).
3. Because these things tend to the profit of mankind, and Jesus Christ's heart is much set upon the good of mankind. Use. Now let us see what use we may make of this.
1. We cannot make this use of it as if Christ did love moral virtues as meritorious of grace; they are not such things upon which God hath bound Himself to give the grace of conversion.
2. We must not so take this as that He doth love good qualities so as to make them equal with Christian virtues or the graces of the Spirit. Morality is good, but we must not lift it up beyond its place. There is something better, and that is grace (Hebrews 6:9). Loose professors dishonour their religion, but the sound grapes in the cluster must not be judged of by the rotten ones, nor is the beauty of a street to be measured by the filthiness of the sink and kennel. Those that are the sink and disgrace of Christianity are unfit to show forth the virtue of it. So that if you compare these things, their morality is but like a field flower to a garden flower, or wild fruits to orchard fruits; it is a wild thing in comparison of grace, and not in any way comes up to the height of it.
3. We must not from hence make this use, that we should think ourselves to be in a good condition because of moral qualifications. Men may be viceless, but yet if they be Christless and graceless, and never brought to brokenness of heart (for certainly that is necessary to prepare men for faith, and for pardon of sins) they may perish for evermore.
II. Positively. What use may we make of this, that Jesus loved this young man?
1. If Christ did love civility, much more will He love true grace in any of His, though mingled with much weakness. Certainly He that delights in the obscure shadow of His image will much more delight in the lively picture and impression of it upon the souls of His people, though we have our weaknesses.
2. We learn by Christ's example to honour others for their common gifts.
3. Thus we may learn children, young men, and others, all may know how to get Christ's love if they be tractable. By the rule of contraries, if He loves conformity to the law of God in externals, He hates those that walk contrary to His laws.
4. It condemns those that will pretend to the peculiar love of Christ, when they are not moral, but forward, undutiful in their relations, unconscionable in their dealing, and have not learned to be sober, to possess their vessels in sanctification and honour. What I do you talk of being Christians, when you are not as good as heathens?Object: What love doth Christ show now upon earth to those that are moral?
1. Moral virtues will at least procure a temporal reward.
2. There will be some serenity of mind resulting from the rectitude of your actions.
3. It is some advantage to grace; it is like the priming the post, that maketh it receptive of better colours.
4. As to their eternal state, it will be more tolerable for such than for others.
(T. Manton, D. D.)
(H. W. Burrows.)
One thing thou lackest.
1. Corporeal beauty — comeliness of feature, freshness of complexion, symmetry of form, gracefulness of movement; but how terrible if united with depraved and deformed soul, if no Divine light within, no love of God reigning in the heart.
2. Tender sensibilities, ever apt to awake at sight of distress. And yet in same heart there may be no sense of sin, no repentance toward God, no regard for Christ, no graces of the Spirit.
3. Mental ability — strong memory, ready judgment, shrewd observation, lively fancy; and yet an understanding blind in reference to the things of God, e.g., Balaam, Ahitophel.
4. Docility — readiness to devote energies to this or that pursuit, but neglecting the greatest study of all. He who has been learning all other sciences, but will not learn of Jesus, has left out of his study that very science which alone can "enlighten him with the light of the living."
5. Religious assiduity — attention to outward rites. It is possible to know the truth and not love it; to hear the gospel and not believe it.
6. Active benevolence. Kindness may be done from motives of self-interest. They may also proceed merely from natural instinct, and not from love to God.
7. Ardent friendship, without any concern about the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother.
(John Mitchell, D. D.)
1. This test is much needed; for, although so dangerous, riches are not avoided like a haunted house. Very few fancy that they are rich, therefore the warning passes by them unheeded. But, whether we possess much or little, we may be clinging to what we have, and that is the danger.
2. If there remains one thing wanting, we cannot know satisfaction. No matter what our earthly possessions may be, still we shall be disappointed. The desires of an immortal spirit can be satisfied with nothing less than immortality.
3. Christ alone can satisfy all our wants. If we take up our cross and follow Him, we shall discover treasure laid up for us in heaven. With Christ as our guide and our hope, we shall be able to despise the riches of this world as so much glittering dross. Our course will be forward, our hope consistent, and heaven's pure treasures our everlasting portion.
(G. C. Tomlinson.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(Lyman Abbot, D. D.)
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. That no outward respect, however exact, or however long, to God's law, can give us a title to eternal life.
1. It is not enough that there should be wishes after heaven: and even a willingness to do many things, so that we may obtain the crown and the glory which are there laid up.
2. It is not enough either that our hearts should be tender, and our temper amiable. For after all, delightful as is this frame of mind to those among whom we live, and on whom it sends forth a perpetual sunshine, it is the gift of God to us. It is not our own, but His, and, in many cases, we can no more help this sweetness of disposition, than the flowers of the field can help being fragrant and beautiful. It is their nature to be sweet, and ours, perhaps, to be amiable. But is it any excuse for not loving God, that we love everything and everybody else?
3. It is a mere wilful murdering of our own souls, to whisper to ourselves that the greatness of a sacrifice will plead before God in excuse for our not making it. Had the young man in the text prayed to God to help him in his strait, to conquer his carnal weakness, to support his fainting courage, and to gird up his soul with a triumphant faith, he would have prevailed; and so shall we. Faith, faith, faith — here is the want!
(J. Garbett.)I. WHAT IS THERE IN THE SCALE THAT IS FAVOURABLE TO YOU?
1. There are many of the qualities of youth which are favourable to religion, and as such Christ regards them. Courage, warm affections, retentive memory. These favourable to piety.
2. There are words in Scripture that are peculiarly favourable to you, and should inspire your hope, "They that seek Me early shall find Me."
3. So the works of God — His works of grace — confirm those things that are said, so earnestly, to encourage you. Perhaps not one in forty is convinced after the age of forty.
II. WHAT IS THERE IN THE SCALE THAT IS AGAINST YOU? "One thing thou lackest," etc.
1. All that is merely amiable and hopeful in nature is not grace, nor is it at all really valuable in God's sight. It is not holiness.
2. All those things that may appear amiable and lovely, if they are not sanctified by religion, will become hostile. The readiness of mind that receives a report may render your mind the storehouse of all impurity.
3. That if the grace of God prevent not, all the promises of youth may perish in everlasting despair.Now let me entreat you to take the following counsels.
1. Never think you are too young to be converted, and forgiven, and saved.
2. Never take up with anything short of true religion.
3. Never be satisfied with having religion — seek to abound in it.
4. Let me remind you that for this purpose you should study your own easily besetting sin, especially the sins of your youth.
5. For this purpose form a rule, lay down a plan for life, laying out every day as it ought to be spent, and as you will wish you had spent it when you come to die; for this purpose read daily the Holy Scriptures — consult aged and experienced Christians, and ask them how they would advise you to conduct yourself before God.
6. Lastly, seek to live not for yourselves, but to live usefully as well as safely.
(J. Bennett, D. D.)
1. Because it would have been tedious to convince him of all his defects, Christ would take the more compendious way, and insist but upon one thing, which was enough to show that he was not perfect, as he vainly dreamed. If a man brag that he is able to pay one hundred pounds, you convince him of his penury when you press him to pay one penny, and he cannot.
2. This one thing was sure, and would strike home; for our Lord knew his heart, and therefore was resolved to touch his privy sore, and doth propose such a precept as would cross his darling sin; and therefore he would only come with one thing, which would try him to the purpose.
3. That one thing which he lacked was the main thing, the principal thing of the law, which was loving God above all things; the sum of the law is to love God above all, and our neighbours as ourselves.
4. Because the young man erred out of ignorance, Christ would not deal roughly with him, or by way of sharp reproof; He doth not rate him.(1) We learn — That proud sinners must not be soothed up in their self-conceit, but convinced of their defects.(2) That the way to convince them is by representing their principal and chief faults, some one sin; as Christ dealt with this young man: and so He deals with the woman of Samaria, convincing her of her sin.(3) The more our failings strike deep upon the main articles of our obedience to God, the greater our conviction, and the more sense we should have of our condition before God. Secondly: We come to Christ's precept, command, and injunction. First: "Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Not applicable to all, in all circumstances.But yet still in some cases we are to forsake all.
1. When God by His providence reduceth us to a poor condition.
2. When we cannot obey any particular precept of God without danger of being undone by it. The reasons why we must do so.(1) God hath an absolute right to all that we have by His own eminency and prerogative.(2) Because it is impossible we should be Christians, if we come not to Christ with this mind and resolution to forsake all for our duty to Him (Luke 14:33).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
(T. J. Holmes.)
Sell whatsoever thou hast.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. Christ-following involves self-abnegation. You cannot have a little of Christ, and a little of self. All or none.
II. Christ-following must be the expression of the soul's supreme love. You must not make Christ a mere convenience.
III. Christ-following means self-giving. Christ was the Giver, and men are like Him in proportion as they give. Giving is not yet understood as a test of discipleship. Giving is understood as a patronage, but not as a self-sacrifice. Giving means different things to different people. There are men who give a thousand guineas at once, yet is their gift without value. If certain rich merchants, whose purses are always accessible, would but utter two sentences distinctly in favour of Christ as their personal Saviour, that would be worth more to the Christian cause than all the gold they lavish on it.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(Lyman Abbot, D. D.)
(Archdeacon Farrar.)The Dry Goods Chronicle says that the late Mr. Nathaniel Ripley Cobb, of Boston, was generous-hearted and conscientious in the highest degree. In November, 1821, he drew up the following document: — "By the grace of God, I will never be worth more than 50,000 dollars. By the grace of God, I will give one-fourth of the net profits of my business to charitable and religions uses. If I am even worth 20,000 dollars, I will give one-half my net profits, and if I am ever worth 30,000 dollars, I will give three-fourths, and the whole after my fiftieth thousand. So help me God, or give to a more faithful steward and set me aside. November, 1821." He adhered to this covenant, it is stated, with the strictest fidelity.
Take up the crossI. THE CHRISTIAN'S CROSS — What is it? It is something painful and humiliating. No death inflicted by the Romans was so agonizing as crucifixion; no death so ignominious. The Christian's cross is that portion of pain and humiliation and suffering which the wisdom of God may allot to him in the way to heaven. It comes on us in different forms; the world's hatred; domestic sickness; in himself. One man's cross is visible — all can see it; another man's may be secret. Our crosses may be changed; my neighbour's today may be mine tomorrow.
II. BUT WE ARE TO TAKE UP OUR CROSS. What is meant by this?
1. There are some things it seems to forbid. We are not to make crosses for ourselves; this is to invade God's province. He will order our afflictions for us. We are to take those He lays down, not to aggravate or increase them. Not to wish to choose what crosses the Lord shall make for us. We often want other men's crosses just as we want their comforts. We must let the Physician prescribe for our disease. The cross sent is that from which we would most like to be exempt; the man of strong affections is wounded in his affections. The text forbids stepping out of the way to avoid our cross; this is choosing sin rather than affliction. God can meet us with crosses in sinful ways as well as in righteous, heavier than those turned from.
2. We have seen what this taking up of the cross forbids: let us now see what it enjoins. To take our cross as Christ did His. We are to carry it patiently — voluntarily — cheerfully.
III. LOOK NOW AT THE COMMAND OUR LORD GIVES US TO DO THIS. "Come, take up the cross, and follow Me." Be careful not to mistake. Suffering cannot expiate sin. Christ has done this completely. What will you say when you lay your cross down at the gate of heaven?
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
1. Because He is a pattern of holiness set up in our nature.
2. Because there are many advantages by this pattern in our nature; as(1) our pattern is more complete than if God had been our pattern. There are some graces wherein we cannot be said to resemble God, and therefore we must look for a pattern elsewhere, as humility, faith, fear, hope, reverence, obedience; none of these things are in God, for He hath no superior, and these things imply inferiority and subjection.(2) It is an engaging pattern. We are engaged by the rule of our obedience, but much more by Christ's example.(3) It is an encouraging pattern, partly as there is an efficacy in this pattern; as with the gospel or law of Christ, there goeth along the ministration of the Spirit, so also with the consideration of His example.Use. To persuade us to follow Christ.
1. Our general profession of being Christians doth oblige us to be like Him; head and members should be all of one piece — oh! what an affront is it to Christ to put His name to the picture and image of the devil.
2. We shall never be like Him in glory unless we be like Him in grace also (Romans 8:29).But wherein should we follow Christ?
1. In His self-denial (2 Corinthians 8:9).
2. In His humility (St. Matthew 20:28).
3. In His love to the saints (St. John 13:34).
4. In His usefulness and profitableness, and of this the whole Gospel is a narrative and history.
5. In His piety towards God.
6. In His spirituality add heavenly-mindedness.
7. In His obedience to His mean earthly parents.
8. In the sweetness and beauty of His conversation, and yet in a strict and winning way.
9. In the holiness and purity of His life.
10. In His wonderful patience and meekness.
11. In love to His enemies (Romans 5:10).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
And went away grievedI. HE WENT AWAY FROM CHRIST, THOUGH GOOD. Alas that the moral should ever be separate from the holy.
II. HE THOUGHT SO HIGHLY OF CHRIST AND YET WENT AWAY FROM HIM.
III. HE HAD PURE AND LOFTY ASPIRATIONS AND YET HE WENT AWAY. Contentment in good is a sign of a poor aim, rather than a great achievement. His aspiration was weak, though pure. He was only partially prepared to do "the good thing." He had imagined performance rather than sacrifice. He looked to receive a lesson, not to enter a school. Like one who would gladly gain health and soundness at any cost, and then shrinks from the medicine and the knife — like one who feels quite strong and vigorous on the couch, and falls when he attempts to walk. Men may be dissatisfied with their spiritual condition. This comes to naught. They want instruction to go on; they receive instructions to begin anew. Instead of being improved, they haw to be detected.
IV. HE WENT AWAY, THOUGH JESUS LOVED HIM. Jesus always is pleased with justice, goodness, truth; as far as they go, they are like Himself, and give Him joy. Jesus loved him: but He loved something more. Jesus may love you, and yet you may not attain to His righteousness and blessing. There is a point beyond which He cannot go with sinners, beyond which it would not be saving men, but forcing machines.
V. HE WENT AWAY, ALTHOUGH HE DID IT SORROWFULLY. The sadness of loss — of disappointment — of self-conviction. "Ah! He is right." The sadness of shame. "He has seen through me — I have left Him. But the sorrow did not prevent his going. Jesus may but baptize you for the dead. You may die and yet mourn the loss of heaven. There are special times when we may be said to leave Christ. Such a time is that of deep religious conviction; when we are obliged by outward circumstances to take a stand. In leaving Christ we leave all. Let those who are following Him cleave to Him with full purpose of heart."
(A. J. Morris.)
(A. J. Morris.)
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