Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of the reward.
There is no attempt at denying, in the account here given of Moses, that there was much to be endured and much to be given up, in order to the serving the Lord. And Moses is not represented as at all blind to the facts of the case; he rested his choice of future good on its immeasurable superiority to the present. And in so doing he left us an example, not merely of right decision, but of right decision reached by right steps. It will not do, constituted as men are, to enlarge to them abstractedly on the duty of holiness, and on the satisfaction derived from a conscience at rest. They are not to be persuaded that virtue is in any such sense its own reward, that it would be better for them to be self-denying than self-indulgent, even if nothing be brought into the account but the amount of actual enjoyment. They demand, with some show of justice, that we rigidly prove to them that they shall be gainers by doing that which we urge.
I. And here, let us first remind you, THAT MAN IS SO CONSTITUTED, THAT HE MUST HAVE AN OBJECT, A SOMETHING TO DESIRE, A SOMETHING TO PURSUE. The object which at some particular season fixes his attention may be trivial; but it is not by any demonstration of its worthlessness that you may look to turn him from it. You must show him a worthier, one which shall more commend itself to his esteem, and then will the stronger cast out the strong, and the "treasures in Egypt" be dispossessed by yet brighter wealth. We summon the man of pleasure to come with us. We will tell him of joys which distance imagination, of happiness without alloy and without end; and we will show him how he may have a share in a blessedness which he cannot exhaust, and of which he cannot grow weary. We say to the man whose passion is for wealth, Come with us; we have to place before you treasures not to be computed, whose lustre makes the brightest gold dim, and of which nothing can deprive you. We say to the man of ambition, Behold the loftiest of honours, crowns and thrones and sceptres — a place amid the nobles of creation. Ay, if you would all indeed but fix your gaze on the inheritance revealed by the gospel of Christ, you would all, as a necessary consequence, cease from unduly pursuing what is earthly. You will not be left without an object; that were unnatural, that were impossible. It is not a process of extinction, but simply a process of exchange, which you are to attempt. This, however, only touches the case of the comparison of one good with another; whereas the case commonly submitted in urging men to religion, is that of a present evil and a prospective advantage. This was the case with Moses; and our business is to see whether the principles which regulated his decision cannot still be applied in the urging men to a similar. Take the case of the young, who, with life just opening before them, and the attractions of the world soliciting their pursuit, are urged to the duty of remembering their Creator, and setting their affections on things that are above. We say to them, It is true you must renounce cherished gratifications; and we do not suppose you can go along with us in decrying those gratifications. You seek your wealth in earthly treasures, and your honours in earthly fame, and you are not prepared to disregard the treasures and to despise the fame. But at whose call, and at whose command, are you summoned to the sacrifice? Is it for the service of one who has nothing to bestow that we ask you to exchange the sonship of Pharaoh? Is it to make friendship with a being who has nothing good and nothing great at his disposal? On the contrary, we address you in the name of the living God, "whose is the earth, and the fulness thereof." We invite you to be reconciled to your Creator, who can supply your every want out of His riches in Christ. We offer you the favour of a Being who can impart a "peace which passeth all understanding," a " hope full of immortality," and a joy with which no stranger intermeddles. We propose to you the placing yourself under the guardianship of Him who hath spread out the heavens. And are we, then, to hear of the extent of the sacrifice, and to hear nothing of the wealth and the happiness secured by the surrender? Oh! it is to your zeal for your own welfare, to your love for your own selves, to your wish for riches, to your appetite for honours, to your longing for pleasures, that we make our appeal. If we ask the surrender of the corruptible, we offer the incorruptible; of the transitory, we offer the enduring; of the visionary, we offer the substantial. And now we go on to observe, that it is the apparent conflict between interest and duty which causes us in a variety of cases to disobey God, and withstand the pleadings of conscience. We speak of apparent conflict, because we deny altogether that interest and duty can ever be really opposed. It is but vindicating the righteousness of the moral government of God, to maintain, that whatever He has made it our duty, He has made it also our interest to do. Indeed, the world would cease to be a scene of probation, and there would no longer be any trial of obedience, were it always manifestly for our advantage to follow the course which God's law prescribes. It is only by carrying onward our calculation, bringing the future, as well as the present, into the account, that we reach the conclusion, that what is duty, is in the long run also interest. There is, therefore, no passage of Scripture more deserving than is our text, to be carried by all of you into the scenes of ordinary occupations; for there is nothing which you have more need to keep in mind, than what we have called the remunerating power of God, seeing that the life of a Christian must, in a great measure, be a life of surrender and of sacrifice. We need scarcely add, that our text should be a preservative, not only to those who may be tempted to the so engrossing themselves with business as to leave no time for religion, but to others who may be solicited to turn aside, be it ever so little, from rectitude and integrity. We would have you animate yourselves for the moral warfare, by considering what "recompense of reward" is promised to the faithful. Is the gold seducing you? are the precious stones dazzling you? Then think of that city whose streets are pure gold, and whose every gate is a costly pearl. Is earthly honour, the being Pharaoh's son, alluring you? Then think of that throne which the righteous are to ascend; of their being "heirs of God, yea, joint-heirs with Christ." Are "the pleasures of sin" themselves tempting you? Then think of pleasures so deep and overflowing, that they are spoken of as a "river of gladness," so unmeasured, that he who partakes thereof will be abundantly satisfied. It is now the appointment of God, as in early days, that through much tribulation you must enter into rest. Egypt is still to be forsaken, and the wilderness to be traversed, and the reproach to be endured. Oh! for the faith which ruled in the bosom of Moses!
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.