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of second-table duties, were overlooked. Chap. xxiii. 23. Their preaching ran out all in rituals, and nothing in morals; and therefore Christ pressed that most, which they least insisted on.
As one truth, so one duty, must not jostle about another, but each must know its place, and be kept in it; but equity requires that that be helped up, which is most in danger of being thrust out. Though a mere moral man comes short of being a complete Christian, yet an immoral man is certainly no true Christian; for the grace of God teaches us to live soberly and righteously, as well as godly. Nay, though first-table duties have in them more of the essence of religion, yet second-table duties have in them more of the evidence of it. Our light burns in love to God, but it shines in love to our neighbour.
Though the young man in the text promised well, yet he came short. He failed in two things, By pride and a vain conceit of his own merit and strength. This is the ruin of thousands, who keep themselves miserable by fancying themselves happy. When Christ told him what commandments he must keep, he answered very scornfully, All these things have I kept from my youth up. Ver. 20. According as he understood the law, as prohibiting only the outward acts of sin, I am apt to think that he said true, and Christ knew it, for he did not contradict him; nay, it is said in Mark, He loved him ; so far he was very good and pleasing to Christ. A man may be free from gross sin, and yet come short of grace and glory. His hands may be clean from external pollutions, and yet he may perish eternally in his heart-wickedness. It was commendable also, that he desired to know farther what his duty was— What lack I yet? He was convinced that he wanted something to fill up his works before God, and was therefore desirous to know it, because, if he was not mistaken in himself, he was willing to do it. Having not yet attained, he thus seemed to press forward. And he applied himself to Christ, whose doctrine was supposed to improve and perfect the Mosaic institution. He desired to know what were the peculiar precepts of his religion, that he might have all that was in them to polish and accomplish him. Who could bid fairer ?
But, even in this that he said, he discovered his ignorance and folly: Taking the law in its spiritual sense, as Christ expounded it, no doubt in many things he had offended against all these commands. Had he been acquainted with the extent and spiritual ineaning of the law, instead of saying, All these have I kept; what lack I yet? he would have said, with shame and sorrow, “ All these have I broken ; what shall I do get my sins pardoned ?" Take it how you will, what he said savoured of pride and vain-glory, and had in it too much of that boasting which is excluded by the law of faith (Rom. iii. 27), and which excludes from justification (Luke xviii. 11, 14). He also came short by an inordinate love of the world, and his enjoyments in it. This was the fatal rock on which he split. Observe,–How he was tried in this matter (ver. 21)—Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast. Christ waived the matter of his boasted obedience to the law, and let that drop, because this would be a more effectual way of discovering him than a dispute of the extent of the law. “ Come,” saith Christ, “ if thou wilt be perfect—if thou wilt approve thyself sincere in thine obedience” (for sincerity is our Gospel perfection)
-“ if thou wilt come up to that which Christ has added to the law of Moses—if thou wilt be perfect-if thou wilt enter into life, and so be perfectly happy;" for that which Christ here prescribes, is not a thing of supererogation, or a perfection we may be saved without; but, in the main scope and intendment of it, it is our necessary and indispensable duty. What Christ said to him, he thus far said to us all, that, if we would approve ourselves Christians indeed, and would be found at last the heirs of eternal life, we must practically prefer the heavenly treasures before all the wealth and riches in this world. That glory must have the pre-eminence in our judgment and esteem before this glory. No thanks to us to prefer heaven before hell. The worst man in the world would be glad of that Jerusalem for a refuge when he can stay no longer here, and to have it in reserve; but to make it our choice, and to prefer it before this death—that is to be a Christian indeed. Now, as an evidence of this, we must dispose of what we have in this world, for the honour of God and in his service—“ Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor. If the occasions of charity be very pressing, sell thy possessions, that thou mayest have to give to them that need; as the first Christians did, with an eye to this precept. Acts iv. 34. Sell what thou canst spare for pious uses-all thy superfluities; if thou canst not otherwise do good with it, sell it. Sit loose to it; be willing to part with it, for the honour of God and the relief of the poor.” A gracious contempt of the world, and compassion of the poor and afflicted ones in it, are in all a necessary condition of salvation; and in those that have wherewithal
, giving of almş is as necessary an evidence of that contempt of the world and compassion to our brethren. By this the trial will be at the great day. Chap. xxv. 35. Though many that call themselves Christians do not act as if they believed it, it is certain that, when we embrace Christ, we must let go the world; for we cannot serve God and mammon,
We must devote ourselves entirely to the conduct and government of our Lord Jesus—Come, and follow me. Of us it is required that we follow Christ, that we duly attend upon his ordinances, strictly conform to his pattern, and cheerfully submit to his disposals, and by upright and universal obedience observe his statutes, and keep his laws; and all this from a principle of love to him, and dependence on him, and with a holy contempt of every thing else in comparison of him, and much more in competition with him.
The young ruler was a rich man, and loved his riches, and therefore went away. He did not like eternal life upon these terms. Those who have much in the world are in the greatest temptation to love it, and to set their hearts upon it. Such is the bewitching nature of worldly wealth, that those who want it least desire it most; when riches increase, then is the danger of setting the heart upon them. Psal. lxii. 10. If he had had but two mites in all the world, and had been commanded to give them to the poor, or but one handful of meal in the barrel, and a little oil in the cruise, and had been bidden to make a cake of that for a prophet, the trial, one would think, had been much greater; and yet those trials have been overcome (Luke xxi. 4; 1 Kings xvii. 14), which shows that the love of the world draws stronger than the most pressing necessities. Secondly, The reigning love of this world keeps many from Christ, who seem to have some good desires toward him. A great estate, as to those who are got above it, is a great furtherance, so to those who are entangled in the love of it, it is a great hindrance, in the way of heaven.
Yet something of honesty there was in it, that, when he did not like the terms, he went away, and would not pretend to that, which he could not find in his heart to come up to the strictness of. Better so than do as Demas did, who, having known the way of righteousness, afterward turned aside, out of love to this present world, to the greater scandal of his profession. Since he could not be a complete Christian, he would not be a hypocrite.
Yet he was a thinking man, and well-inclined, and therefore went away sorrowful. He had a leaning toward Christ, and was loth to part with him. Note, Many a one is ruined by the sin he commits with reluctance ; leaves Christ sorrowfully, and yet is never truly sorrow for leaving him, for, if he were, he would return to him. Thus, this man's wealth was a vexation of spirit to him, at the time when it was his temptation. What, then, would the sorrow be afterward, when his possessions would be gone, and all hopes of eternal life gone too 23 | Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That 'a rich
man shall hardly enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved ? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but "with God all things are possible. 27 9 *Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, 'we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ’ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 «And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
t Chap. xiii. 22; Mark x. 24; I Cor. i. 26; 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10. u Gen. xviii. 14.; Job xlii. 2; Jer. xxxii. 17; Zech. viii. 6; Luke 1. 37, xviii. 27. Mark x. 28; Luke xviii. 28. y Deut. xxxiii. 9; Chap. iv. 20; Luke v. 11. z Chap. XX. 21 : Luke xxii. 28-30; I Cor. vi. 2, 3; Rev. ii. 26. a Mark x. 29, 30; Luke xviii. 29, 30. b Chap. xx. 16, xxi. 31, 32; Mark x. 31 Luke xiii. 30.
He saith that it is a hard thing for a rich man to be a good Christian, and to be saved ; to enter into the kingdom of heaven, either here or hereafter. The way to heaven is to all a narrow way, and the gate that leads into it, a strait gate; but it is particularly so to rich people. More duties are expected from them than from others, which they can hardly do ; and more sins do easily beset them, which they can hardly avoid. Rich people have great temptations to resist, and such as are very insinuating; it is hard not be charmed with a smiling world ; very hard, when we are tilled with these hid treasures, not to take up with them for a portion.
He saith that the conversion and salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, ver. 24. This is a proverbial expression, denoting a difficulty altogether unconquerable by the art and power of man; nothing less than the almighty grace of God will enable a rich man to get over this difficulty. This truth is very much wondered at, and scarcely credited by the disciples (ver. 25); They were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved ? Many surprising truths Christ told them, which they were astonished at, and knew not what to make of; this was one, but their weakness was the cause of their wonder. It was not in contradiction to Christ, but for awakening to themselves, that they said, Who then can be saved? Considering the many difficulties that are in the way of salvation, it is really strange that any are saved. When we think how good God is, it may seem a wonder that so few are his; but when we think how bad man is, it is more a wonder that so many are.
And he said unto them, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. This is a great truth in general, that God is able to do that which quite exceeds all created power; that nothing is too hard for God. Gen. xviii. 14; Numb. xi. 23. When men are at a loss, God is not, for his power is infinite and irresistible; but this truth is here applied, to the salvation of any. Who can be saved ? say the disciples. None, saith Christ, by any created power. With men this is impossible. No creature can work the change that is necessary to the salvation of a soul, either in itself or in any one else. With men it is impossible that so strong a stream should be turned, so hard a heart softened, so stubborn a will bowed. It is a creation, it is a resurrection, and with men this is impossible ; it can never be done by philosophy, medicine, or politics; but with God all things are possible. The beginning, progress, and perfection, of the work of salvation, depend entirely upon the almighty power of God, to which all things are possible. Faith is wrought by that power (Eph. i. 19), and is kept by it, 1 Pet. i. 5. It is also applied to the salvation of rich people especially; it is impossible with men that such should be saved, but with God even this is possible ; not that rich people should be saved in their worldliness, but that they should be saved from it. The sanctification and salvation of such as are surrounded with the temptations of this world are not to be despaired of; it is possible, it may be brought about by the all-sufficiency of the divine grace; and, when such are brought to heaven, they will be there everlasting monuments of the power of God.
From what Christ said, Peter took occasion to inquire what they should get by it, who had left all to follow him, ver 27, &c.
Lord, saith Peter, we have forsaken all. Alas! it was a poor all that they had forsaken; one of them had indeed quitted a place in the custom-house, but Peter and the most of them had only left a few boats and nets, and a poor fishing trade; and yet observe how Peter there speaks of it as if it had been some mighty thing; Behold we have forsaken all. We are too apt to make the most of our services and sufferings, our expenses and losses, for Christ, and to think we have made him much our debtor. However, Christ does not upbraid them with this; though it was but little that they had forsaken, yet it was their all, like the widow's two mites, and was as dear to them as if it had been more, and therefore Christ took it kindly that they left it to follow him ; for he accepts according to what a man hath.
Whether therefore they might expect that treasure which the young man shall have if he will sell all. “Lord,” saith Peter, “ shall we have it, who have left all ?” All people are for what they can get; and Christ's followers are allowed to consult their own true interest, and to ask, What shall we have ? Christ “ looked at the joy set before him," and Moses “at the recompense of reward." For this end it is set before us, that by a patient continuance in well-doing we may seek for it. As it is the language of an obediential faith to ask, “What shall we do ?” with an eye to the precepts ; so it is of a hoping, trusting faith to ask, “What shall we have ? ” with an eye to the promises. But observe, The disciples had long since left all to engage themselves in the service of Christ, and yet never till now asked, What shall we have? Though there was no visible prospect of advantage by it, they were so well assured of his goodness, that they knew they should not lose by him at last, and therefore referred themselves to him, in what way he would make up their losses to them; minded their work, and asked not what should be their wages.
We have next Christ's promises to them, and to all others that tread in the steps of their faith and obedience. What there was either of vain glory or of vain hopes in that which Peter said, Christ overlooks, and is not extreme to mark it, but takes this occasion to give the bond of a promise. Ye which have followed me in the regeneration shall sit upon twelve thrones. The time of Christ's appearing in this world was a time of regeneration, of reformation (Heb. ix. 10), when old things began to pass away, and all things to look new. The disciples had fòllowed Christ when the church was yet in the embryo state, when the gospel temple was but in the framing, when they had more o. the work and service of apostles than of the dignity and power that belonged to their office, Now they followed Christ with constant fatigue, when few did; and therefore on them he will put particular marks of honour. Christ hath special favour for those who begin with him, who trust him further than they can see him.
Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. It is hard to determine the particular sense of this promise, and whether it was not to have many accomplishments, which I see no harm in admitting. But the general intendment of it is, to show the glory and dignity reserved for the saints in heaven, which will be an abundant recompense for the disgrace they suffered here in Christ's cause. There are higher degrees of glory for those that have done and suffered most. The apostles in this world were hurried and tossed, there they shall sit down at rest and ease; here bonds, and afflictions, and deaths, did abide them, but there they “ shall sit on thrones of glory;" here they were dragged to the bar, there they shall be advanced to the bench; here the twelve tribes of Israel trampled upon them, there they shall tremble before them. And will not this be recompense enough to make up all their losses and expenses for Christ? Luke xxii. 29.
It was not peculiar to the apostles to be thus preferred, but this honour have all his saints. Christ will take care they shall none of them lose by bim (ver. 29); Every one that hath forsaken any thing for Christ, shall receive : First, “ A hundred-fold in this life;" sometimes in kind, in the things themselves which they have parted with. God will raise up for his suffering servants more friends, that will be so to them for Christ's sake, when they have left that were so for their own sakes. The apostles, wherever they came, met with those that were kind to them, and entertained them, and opened their hearts and doors to them. However, they “shall receive a hundred-fold,” in kindness, in those things that are abundantly better and more valuable. Their graces shall increase, their comforts abound, they shall have tokens of God's love, more free communion with him, more full communications from him, clearer foresights, and sweeter foretastes, of the glory to be revealed. Secondly, “ Eternal life at last." The former is reward enough, if there were no
But this comes in over and above, as it were, into the bargain. The life here promised includes in it all the comforts of life in the highest degree, and all eternal. Now if we could but mix faith with the promise, and trust Christ for the performance of it, surely we should think nothing too much to do, nothing to hard to suffer, nothing too dear to part with, for him.
Our Saviour, in the last verse, ohviates a mistake of some, as if pre-eminence in glory went by precedence in time, rather than the measure and degree of grace. No ; “ Many that are first shall be last, and the last first,” ver. 30. God will cross hands; will reveal that to babes, which he hid from the wise men and prudent; will reject unbelieving Jews and receive believing Gentiles
. The heavenly inheritance is not given as earthly inheritances commonly are, by seniority of age, and priority of birth, but according to God's pleasure. This is the text of another sermon, which we shall meet with in the next chapter.
CHAPTER XX. 1 Christ, by the similitude of the labourers in the vineyard, showeth that God is debtor unto no
man: 17 foretelleth his passion : 20 by answering the mother of Zebedee's children teacheth
his disciples to be lowly : 30 and giveth two blind men their sight. FOR
OR the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a || penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market-place, 4 And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle ? » They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. 8 So when even The Roman penny is the eighth part of an ounce, which, after five shillings the ounce, is sevenpence halfpenny. Chap. xviii. 29. was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, “ Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last || have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 a Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good ? 16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last : for many be called, but
few chosen. | Or, have continued one hour only. a Rom. ix. 21. b Deut. xv.9; Prov. xxv. 6; Chap. vi. 23. c Chap. xix. 30. d Chap. xxii. 14.
This parable of the labourers in the vineyard is intended to represent to us the kingdom of heaven (ver 1), that is, the way and method of the gospel dispensation; and, in particular, to represent to us that concerning the kingdom of heaven, which he had said in the close of the foregoing chapter, that“ many that are first shall be last, and the last first;" this truth, having in it a seeming contradiction, needed farther explication.
Nothing was more a mystery in the Gospel dispensation than the rejection of the Jews, and the calling in of the Gentiles; so the apostle speaks of it (Eph. iii. 3-6); that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs : nor was any thing more provoking to the Jews than the intimation of it. Now, this seems to be the principal scope of this parable, to show that the Jews should be first called into the vineyard, and many of them should come at the call; but, at length, the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should receive it, and be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews; should be “ fellow-citizens with the saints,” which the Jews, even those of them that believed, would be very much disgusted at, but without reason.
But the parable may be applied more generally, and show us, 1. That God is dehtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at greater attainments in knowledge, grace, and usefulness, than others whose entrance was more early, and who promised fairer.
We have two things in the parable ; the agreement with the labourers, and the account with them. The agreement made with the labourers (ver. 1-7;) and here it will be asked,
Who hires them ? A man that is a householder. God is the great householder, “whose we are, and whom we serve;" as a householder, he has work that he will have to be done, and servants that he will have to be doing; he has a great family in heaven and earth, which is named from Jesus Christ (Eph. iii. 15), which he is owner and ruler of. God hires labourers, not because he needs them or their services (for, if we be righteous, what do we unto him ?) but as some charitable generous householders keep poor men to work, in kindness to them, to save them from idleness and
pay them for working for themselves. Whence they are hired? Out of the marketplace, where, till they are hired into God's service, they stand idle (ver. 3), all the day idle (ver. 6). The soul of man stands ready to be hired into some service or other; it was (as all the creatures were) created to work, and is either a servant to iniquity, or a servant to righteousness. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle ; a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may really be called a state of idleness ; sinners are doing nothing, nothing to the purpose, nothing of the great work they were sent into the world about, nothing that will pass well in the account. The Gospel call is given to those that stand idle in the market-place. The market-place is a place of concourse, and there Wisdom cries (Prov. i. 20, 21); it is a place of sport, there the children are playing (chap. xi. 16); and the Gospel calls us from vanity to seriousness; it is a place of business, of noise and hurry; and from that we are called to retire, “Come, come from this market-place.”. What are they hired to do?. To labour in his vineyard. The church is God's vineyard,—it is of his planting, watering, and fencing; and the fruits of it must be to his honour and praise. We are all called upon to be labourers in this vineyard. The work of religion is vineyard-work, pruning, dressing, digging, watering, fencing, weeding. We have each