And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
A Christian must be like a little child. There is very great cause why we should press this thought upon ourselves now. For we are fallen on most unchildlike days. The very children are not childlike. An age partially, but not entirely educated—rather, but not very, learned, an age of transition, an age proud of its science and its talent, a fast age, can never be a childlike age. Look at some of the features of the little child which we have to copy.
I. As respects faith. No one can have had much to do with a very young child without being struck with the particular character of its trust. The chief reason why a child's trust is so great is that it has nothing to do with the intellect: it is simply affection; it believes because it loves, and leans because it is fond. There is a great deal of true philosophy here. Faith is a feeling of the heart, and the more you love the more you will believe. Hence the large faith of a little child. You cannot know infinitely, but you can love infinitely. If the faith be in proportion to the knowledge, it can never be very great. If the faith be in proportion to the love, it will be exceedingly great.
II. Little children live in the present moment. They have few memories, and what future there is, is all sunny. A child's joy is always longer than a child's sorrow. I wish we could all do the same—have very few retrospects, and no dark anticipations, and no anxieties. Then what energy it would give, what ecstasy to today's duty, today's cross, today's pleasure, and how free the soul would be for the real tomorrow of eternity.
III. A child's mind has a wonderful power of realization. Whatever is said to it, it does more than picture it; it makes substance of it, and immediately it becomes a living thing to the child. And this is just what we ought to do about the invisible world. The unseen is really more than the seen. And yet, who treats what he cannot touch and see as he does the material world around him? To whom is heaven like an estate of which he has just got possession a little way off, who holds the protection of angels as if he saw an army about him? Who looks for the Advent as he expects the return of a friend?
IV. A little child is a thing new-born. So it must be with you. Ye must be born again.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 136.
References: Matthew 19:14.—L. D. Bevan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 280; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. iii., p. 154; W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 494.
Matthew 19:16Consider this story as giving us a lesson concerning the connection between the hope of eternal life, or everlasting happiness, and the performance of good works.
I. I suppose that the young man in the story thoroughly believed that the eternal life of which he spoke was the greatest blessing which he could obtain. Moreover, he did not think eternal life an easy thing to be obtained; he had realized to a considerable extent the truth that the way of life is narrow and the way of destruction broad, and he did not think that the question of his everlasting peace was one which might be safely left to take care of itself, and that if he did not grievously trample on the commandments he would at least fare as well as his neighbours. The Lord tells him of a path by following which he might ensure the end he had in view; it was a proposal to allow of a barter (so to speak) in this particular case, of present wealth and ease for the promised treasure of heaven. And the great moral of the story is this, that the young man would not make the exchange.
II. Let us take the story as a proof that it is possible for a man to have treasure in heaven promised to him on the condition of his making the sacrifice of all his earthly wealth, and of the offer being refused. And this fact may serve as an answer to those who have objected to the Christian religion, as letting down the character of virtue by assigning rewards for the practice of it. The fear of those being bribed into holiness by the same hope of gain in heaven who would otherwise have been content to lead unholy lives, is a fear which philosophers may talk about, but for which common life will not give any colour or ground.
III. We do need something more than the mere hope of reward to enable us to do any great Christian act, and the religion of Christ does supply such a motive, and the New Testament represents the Apostles as acting upon that motive. If you inquire what the principle was which made the Apostles what they were, you can have no doubt in giving as an answer that it was the "constraining love of Christ."
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 198.
References: Matthew 19:16.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 154. Matthew 19:16. to Matthew 20:16.—H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 401.
Matthew 19:16-22I. Consider that a single mote may hinder a man from becoming a true Christian. It is the things which are apparently the smallest that prevent the greatest results. A slight defect in the finest bell and it ceases to sound, a lost key and the richest money-chest is useless. The day of battle has arrived, the troops are admirably disposed, the despatches of the general fly here and there; suddenly the horse of the adjutant stumbles on a stone; he arrives a quarter of an hour too late, and the battle is lost. So it is in spiritual matters. Many a man who has got safely over the Rhine has been drowned in a little brook. Sin has no more dangerous delusion than to convince a man that he is safe if only he avoids the so-called flagrant transgressions. We see this in the case of the young man in the Gospel. He thinks he has kept all the commandments which the Lord names to him. He is evidently a youth of earnest and noble disposition. The question, "What good thing must I do, that I may have eternal life?" was no mere idle phrase, but a question of conscience. Otherwise, how differently our Lord would have regarded him! The very command, "Go and sell that which thou hast," rests on the assumption that he was no mere common miser. Our Lord points out to him that his heart is not yet fixed exclusively on God, that it is still divided between God and the good things of this world. And because of this mote, the door of eternal life, the latch of which is already in his hand, refuses to open.
II. Consider next why this is so. I answer, because if the mote is an unconscious sin, then, as in the case of this youth, repentance is lacking; if a conscious sin, the confidence of faith. Repentance and faith, these are the two parts of conversion, without which no man enters the kingdom of heaven. The young man was grieved. It was merely a mote which the Lord pointed out to him, but to a disposition like his it was enough. In that one evil speck he understands how it is with his heart as a whole.
III. How can this state of things be remedied? First, we must recognize that, if prayer and faith will not open the door, the reason cannot be in the door itself, for over it the words are written, "Come, ye weary and heavy-laden." Some sin must have thrust itself in and hindered our entrance. "Cut it off and cast it from thee." The motes conceal the secret of salvation from your eyes, and you shall find no rest of soul while you seek to serve two masters. Our Lord said, "Sell all that thou hast." And He allows the youth whom He so loved to depart, and we do not learn that he ever returned. We see then how earnest the Lord's meaning was when He said, "Cut it off and cast it from thee."
A. Tholuck, from the Gewissems-Glaubens und Gelegenheits Predigten, p. 193.
Matthew 19:17How are we sinners to be accepted by Almighty God? Doubtless the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the meritorious cause of our justification, and His Church is the ordained instrument of conveying it to us. But our present question relates to another subject, to our own part in appropriating it, and here I say Scripture makes two answers, saying sometimes, "Believe, and you shall be saved," and sometimes, "Keep the commandments, and you shall be saved." Let us consider whether these two modes of speech are not reconcilable with each other.
I. What is meant by faith? It is to feel in good earnest that we are creatures of God; it is a practical perception of the unseen world; it is to understand that this world is not enough for our happiness, to look beyond it on towards God, to realize His presence, to wait upon Him, to endeavour to learn and do His will, and to seek our good from Him. It is not a mere temporary strong act or impetuous feeling of the mind, an impression or a view coming upon it, but it is a habit, a state of mind lasting and consistent.
II. What is obedience? It is the obvious mode suggested by nature of a creature's conducting himself in God's sight, who fears him as his Maker, and knows that, as a sinner, he has a special cause for fearing Him. Under such circumstances he will do what he can to please Him, as the woman whom our Lord commended. And he will find nothing better as an offering, or as an evidence, than obedience to that holy law which conscience tells him has been given us by God Himself; that is, he will be delighted in doing his duty as far as he knows and can do it. Thus, as is evident, the two states of mind are altogether one and the same; it is quite indifferent whether we say a man seeks God in faith, or say he seeks Him by obedience; and whereas Almighty God has graciously declared that He will receive and bless all that seek Him, it is quite indifferent whether we say He accepts those who believe, or those who obey. To believe is to look beyond this world to God, and to obey is to look beyond this world to God; to believe is of the heart, and to obey is of the heart; to believe is not a solitary act, but a consistent habit of trust; and to obey is not a solitary act, but a consistent habit of doing our duty in all things.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iii., p. 77.
References: Matthew 19:17.—F. W. Farrar, Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 220; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 12; H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 195. Matthew 19:18.—E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 363. Matthew 19:19.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 61; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 145; J. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 157.
Matthew 19:20"What lack I yet?" This question is asked by various distinct classes of men.
I. The first class ask the question, but they understand it wrongly. Do we not all ask, What lack I yet? Who does not feel that something is lacking to him? All that makes our earthly life lovely and pleasant, the joys and possessions of life—these are what we lack. But is this an answer worthy of a human soul? No, the question must be taken in a moral sense. What lack I yet in my moral character? What is wanting to make my life truly worthy of a man? Thus the question gains a serious meaning which at first was absent from it.
II. There are others who know well where to look for the true standard for humanity; they seek in God, in whose image we are created, in Him alone, the holy, pure, and just. What was it that was lacking to this youth and to all who ask his question? The answer is not hard to find; a Redeemer is what humanity needs, such a Redeemer as has come into the world. Well for him who bends the knee before Him, and surrenders himself into the gracious hands of the Redeemer; for him the question is answered, he has what man requires, even eternal life.
III. Yet even this is not a full and perfect answer. Even those who believe Christ have a great and decisive step to take. "Sell that thou hast,... and come, follow Me." Deny thyself and thy worldly lusts, and believe in Jesus. Despise and cast away from thee all that is not Jesus, and that strives against Him. "Come, follow Me." What is this but a following to thorns and to the cross? What but a self-surrender in self-sacrificing, self-denying love? This is the goal to which Christ would have us attain; to be free altogether from self, to forget self altogether in love.
R. Rothe, Nachgelassene Predigten, p. 24.
References: Matthew 19:20.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 291; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 102; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 184. Matthew 19:21.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. vi., p. 229; G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, 2nd series, p, 1; W. T. Keay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 269; J. W. Thew, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 257.
Matthew 19:22I. Consider the young man's sorrow. It was not quite so simple as at first sight appears. No doubt partly he was sorry (1) at the thought of giving up those large possessions of which he was naturally fond. But sorrow is seldom a single principle. It scarcely admits of a question that the young ruler was also grieved (2) at the idea of losing heaven. There had opened upon his mind some of the difficulty which there always is in the attainment of everything which is really worth having. The eternal life, which his ardent feelings had pictured to him as something easy and near at hand, seemed to retire back from him behind the mountains of self-sacrifice which Christ laid across his path. (3) Part of his sorrow was the discovery which he was making at that moment of his own heart. He went away most sorrowful of all in the wretched sense he had of his own guilty hesitation and his own inexcusable weakness.
II. The heaviness, then, of that man's heart was, we believe, yet in the main a right heaviness. At least, there was some grace in it. Can we believe that ever any one on whom Jesus once looked lovingly finally perished? No; rather we confidently trust and hope that ere long that discipline to which Christ subjected his soul wrought its own purifying work, and that, weighing in truer balances, he learnt what is the real secret of power—to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
III. In every state of life the characteristic of a Christian is self-renunciation. Always lean towards the position that your Master took, and which your Master taught in this world. Always, in everything, cultivate simplicity; always combat selfishness; be always increasing your charities; be always loosening yourself from the things of sense and time; and be always sitting, free to follow Christ whenever He shall lead you up to a higher walk.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 20.
References: Matthew 19:22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 35. Matthew 19:24.—F. W. Farrar, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 369; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. iii., p. 164. Matthew 19:27-29—S. Cox, Expository Essays and Discourses, pp. 203, 228; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 262; Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 256. Matthew 19:27-30.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 23. Matthew 19:29.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,661.
Matthew 19:30The Weapons of Saints.
I. These words are fulfilled under the Gospel in many ways. In the context they embody a great principle, which we all, indeed, acknowledge, but are deficient in mastering. Under the dispensation of the Spirit all things were to become new, and to be reversed. Strength, numbers, wealth, philosophy, eloquence, craft, experience of life, knowledge of human nature, these are the means by which worldly men have ever gained the world. But in that kingdom which Christ has set up, all is contrariwise. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." What before was in honour has been dishonoured: what before was in dishonour has come to honour. Weakness has conquered strength, for the hidden strength of God "is made perfect in weakness." Spirit has conquered flesh, for that spirit is an inspiration from above.
II. Since Christ sent down gifts from on high, the saints are ever taking possession of the kingdom, and with the weapons of saints. The visible powers of the heavens—truth, meekness, and righteousness—are ever coming in upon the earth, ever pouring in, gathering, thronging, warring, triumphing, under the guidance of Him who is "alive and was dead, and is alive for evermore."
III. We have most of us by nature longings more or less and aspirations after something greater than this world can give. In early youth we stand by the side of the still waters, with our hearts beating high, with longings after our unknown good, and with a sort of contempt for the fashions of the world—with a contempt for the world, even though we engage in it. While our hearts are thus unsettled Christ comes to us, if we will receive Him, and promises to satisfy our great need—this hunger and thirst which wearies us. He says, You are seeking what you see not, I give it you; you desire to be great, I will make you so. But observe how—just in the reverse way to what you expect. The way to real glory is to become unknown and despised.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 313.
Perhaps there is hardly any person of reflection to whom the thought has not occurred at times of the final judgment turning out to be a great subversion of human estimates of men. Such an idea would not be without support from some of those characteristic prophetic sayings of our Lord, which, like the slanting strokes of the sun's rays across the clouds, throw forward a track of mysterious light athwart the darkness of the future. Such is that saying in which a shadow of the Eternal Judgment seems to come over us: "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
I. One source of mistake in human judgment is, that while the Gospel keeps to one point in its classification of men, namely, the motive by which alone it decides their character, the mass of men in fact find it difficult to do so. They have not that firm hold of the moral idea which prevents them from wandering from it; and being diverted by irrelevant considerations, they think of the spirituality of a man as belonging to the department to which he is attached, the profession he makes, the subject matter he works upon, the habitual language he has to use.
II. Nothing is easier, when we take gifts of the intellect and imagination in the abstract, than to see that these do not constitute moral goodness. This is indeed a mere truism; and yet, in the concrete, it is impossible not to see how nearly they border upon counting as such; to what advantage they set off any moral good there may be in a man; sometimes even supplying the absence of real good with what looks extremely like it. There enters thus unavoidably often into a great religious reputation a good deal which is not religion, but power.
III. On the other hand—while the open theatre of spiritual power and energy is so accessible to corrupt motives, which, though undermining its truthfulness, leave standing all the brilliance of its outer manifestation—let it be considered what a strength and power of goodness may be accumulating in unseen quarters. The way in which man bears temptation is what decides his character; yet how secret is the system of temptation! Some one who did not promise much comes out at a moment of trial strikingly and favourably. The act of the thief on the cross is a surprise. Up to the time when he was judged he was a thief, and from a thief he became a saint. For even in the dark labyrinth of evil there are unexpected outlets. Sin is established by habit in the man, but the good principle which is in him also, but kept down and suppressed, may be secretly growing too; it may be undermining it, and extracting the life and force from it. In this man, then, sin becomes more and more, though holding its place by custom, an outside and coating, just as virtue does in the deteriorating man, till at last, by a sudden effort, and the inspiration of an opportunity, the strong good casts off the weak crust of evil, and comes out free. We witness a conversion.
J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p. 72.
I. The parable of the labourers in the vineyard is a simple and natural one, and teaches that God regards only our availing ourselves of our opportunities, and using those opportunities aright which He has given us.
II. The contrast which presents itself at the end of the day is not between the sum paid the different classes, but between the spirit which has been gradually developed and cherished in them. Those who have had a whole day full of labour, and full of the hopeful confidence which full and honest labour should give—a day free from anxiety and despair—they are infinitely the worst characters in the end. So it often is—the first in opportunity are last in results; the last in opportunity are first in fitness for the kingdom.
T. T. Shore, The Life of the World to Come, p. 139.
References: Matthew 19:30.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 223; E. M. Goulburn, The Acts of the Deacons, p. 21; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 272; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 26; S. Cox, Expository Essays and Discourses, p. 239. Matt 19—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 60. Matthew 20:1.—W. Gresley, Parochial Sermons, p. 363; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 90; H. Melvill, Fenny Pulpit, No. 2,355. Matthew 20:1, Matthew 20:2.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 129. Matthew 20:1-3, Matthew 20:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 664. Matthew 20:1-8—T. Rowsell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 81.
And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
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.
When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
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.
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.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.