How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
The Scriptures represent wealth, when used aright, as a distinguished blessing. It may, and ought to, lead men nearer to God, instead of driving them far from Him.
I. THE PRIDE OF LIFE. The Scriptures speak of this as one of the most operative causes of human destruction. An inordinate and unreasonable self-esteem excludes God from the heart.
II. A STRONG IMPRESSION OF THEIR PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE. Though men are absolutely dependent on God, and to a great extent on one another, there is in all a natural feeling of independence. Nor will it be denied that wealth is very apt to foster this unseemly self-reliance, and this haughty contempt of God.
III. THEIR ATTACHMENT TO THIS WORLD. There is no room in the heart for God where it is preoccupied by the world.
IV. THEIR CARES AND PERPLEXITIES. Wherever you fired the greatest amount of secular care and solicitude, there, rest assured, is the greatest danger of losing the soul.
V. THE BEST MEANS OF GRACE ARE RARELY USED WITH THE RICH AND AFFLUENT. God has formed no purpose to save any man irrespective of the appointed means. From these views several reflections may naturally arise.
1. What melancholy evidence does this subject furnish of the strange depravity of the human heart.
2. Do not envy the rich.
3. Our subject then admonishes us to take care how we heap up riches.
4. Our subject affectionately addresses itself to the rich. Of all those who have hope towards God, the rich are most' in danger of losing the savour and usefulness of piety, and of being "scarcely saved." And that your riches may prove a blessing, mud not a curse, "set not your hearts upon them," "be not conformed to this world," "use this world as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passeth away." You are God's stewards, and must give an account of your stewardship. And to the rich who are not pious, let me say, is there not fearful reason to apprehend that you will never enter the kingdom of God? Everything is leagued against you.
5. Let me say to all, while you envy not the affluent study to do them good.
Riches neither further nor hinder salvation in themselves, but as they are used: as a cipher by itself is nothing, but a figure being set before it, it increaseth the sum. Wealth, if well used, is an ornament, an encouragement to duty, and an instrument of much good. All the danger lies in loving these things. Have them we may, and use them too, as a traveller doth his staff, to help him the sooner to his journey's end; but when we pass away our hearts to them, they become a mischief....Let not, therefore, the bramble be king: let not earthly things bear rule over thy affections. "fire will arise out of them, that will consume thy cedars," and emasculate all the powers of thy soul, as they did Solomon's, whose wealth did him more hurt than his wisdom good. How many have we nowadays who, when poor, could read, pray, etc., but who, now they have grown rich, resemble the moon, which, grown full, gets farthest off from the sun, never suffers eclipse but then, and that by earth's interposition! Let rich men therefore take heed how they handle their thorns: let them gird up the loins of their minds, lest their long garments hinder them in the way to heaven; let them see to it, that they be not tied to their abundance, as little Lentulus was said to have been to his long sword; that they be not held prisoners in those golden fetters, as the king of Armenia was by Anthony, and so sent by him as a present to Cleopatra; lest at length they send their mammon of unrighteousness, as Croesus did his fetters, for a present to the devil, who had deluded him with false hopes of victory.
How many can form any estimate as to whether it is best for them to be prosperous or not? If I should consult the wheat growing in spring in the field as to what was best for it, the wheat would say, "Let me alone. Let the rain feed me. Let the winds gently strengthen me. Let me grow to my full height and size." But ah! the land on which that wheat is sown is over-rich; and if the wheat grows to its full height and size, it will be so fag and heavy that it will break, and fall down, and be lost. So the farmer turns in his cattle, and they browse the wheat. They eat it down to the ground. And by and by, later, when it is allowed to grow, it has been so weakened by this cruel pasturage that it will not become so rank as to break down, but will stand erect, and carry its head up, and ripen its grain. Many men will bear browsing. They get too fat, and cannot carry themselves upright and firm, and they break and fall down; and the best of them lies in the dirt; and all that stands up is straw and stubble...Who knows what is best for him? Some men can endure prosperity, and some cannot; but who can discriminate between them?
Who almost is there whose heart does not swell with his bags? and whose thoughts do not follow the proportions of his condition? What difference has been seen in the same man poor and preferred? his mind, like a mushroom, has shot up in a night; his business is first to forget himself, and then his friends. When the sun shines, then the peacock displays his train.
When flowers are full of heaven-descended dews, they always hang their heads; but men hold theirs the higher, the more they receive — getting proud as they get full.
See yonder lake! The bigger the stream that runs into it — lying so beautiful and peaceful in the bosom of the shaggy mountain — the bigger the stream it discharges to water the plains, and, like the path of a Christian, wend its bright and blissful way on to its parent sea. But, in sad contrast with that, the more money some men gain, the less they give; in proportion as their wealth increases, their charities diminish. Have we not met it, mourned over it, and seen how a man, setting his heart on gold, and hasting to be rich, came to resemble a vessel with a narrow, contracted neck, out of which water flows less freely when it is full than when it is nearly empty? As there is a law in physics to explain that fact, there is a law in morals to explain this. So long as a man has no hope of becoming rich; so long as he has enough of bread to eat, of raiment to put on, of health and strength to do his work and fight his honest way on in the world, he has all man really needs — having that, he does not set his heart on riches; he is a noble, unselfish, generous, large-hearted, and, for his circumstances, an open-handed man. But by success in business or otherwise, let a fortune come within his reach, and he clutches at it — grasps it. Then what a change! His eye, and ear, and hand close; his sympathies grow dull and blunt; his heart contracts and petrifies. Strange to say, plenty in such cases feeds not poverty but penuriousness; and the ambition of riches opens a door to the meanest avarice.
How often have I thought of riches, when, intruding on their lone domain, I have seen a covey of wild fowl, from the reeds of the lake or the heather of the hillside, rise clamorous on the wing and fly away! Has not many a man who hasted to be rich, and made gold his god, lived to become a bankrupt and die a beggar! — buried among the ruins of his ambitious schemes.
It was as much as we could do to keep our feet upon the splendid mosaic floor of the Palace Giovanelli, at Venice; we found no such difficulty in the cottage of the poor glass blower in the rear. Is it one of the advantages of wealth to have one's abode polished till all comfort vanishes, and the very floor is as smooth and dangerous as a sheet of ice, or is this merely an accidental circumstance typical of the dangers of abundance? Observation shows us that there is a fascination in wealth which renders it extremely difficult for the possessors of it to maintain their equilibrium; and this is more especially the case where money is suddenly acquired; then, unless grace prevents, pride, affectation, and other mean vices stupify the brain with their sickening fumes, and he who was respectable in poverty, becomes despicable in prosperity. Pride may lurk under a threadbare cloak, but it prefers the comely broadcloth of the merchant's coat: moths will eat any of our garments, but they seem to fly first to the costly furs. It is so much the easier for men to fall when walking on wealth's sea of glass, because all men aid them to, do so. Flatterers haunt not cottages: the poor may hear an honest word from his neighbour, but etiquette forbids that the rich man should enjoy the like privilege; for is it not a maxim in Babylon, that rich men have no faults, or only such as their money, like charity, covereth with a mantle? What man can help slipping when everybody is intent upon greasing his ways, so that the smallest chance of standing may be denied him? The world's proverb is, "God help the poor, for the rich can help themselves"; but to our mind, it is just the rich who have most need of heaven's help. Dives in scarlet is worse off than Lazarus in rags, unless Divine love shall uphold him.
Christ does not speak of an impossibility, but of the difficulty of it and the rareness of it. Job unfolded the riddle, and got through the needle's eye with three thousand camels. But it is hard to be wealthy, and not wanton: too often are riches, like bird lime, hindering the soul in its flight towards heaven.
Plans of Sermons.I.
THE SNARES OF AFFLUENCE.
1. It begets on inordinate love of pleasure.
2. It banishes from the memory all considerations of God and religion.
3. It produces an insensibility to the attractions of the gospel.
II. THE PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS THAT ARE SUGGESTED BY THE SNARES OF AFFLUENCE.
1. Affluence is not a proof of a state of grace.
2. The loss of wealth may be a spiritual gain.
3. Both religion and happiness abound most in the middle region, between extreme wealth and extreme poverty.
4. The hope of heaven should reconcile us to present hardship.
Do not be over-anxious about riches. Get as much of true wisdom and goodness as you can, but be satisfied with a very moderate portion of this world's good. Riches may prove a curse as well as a blessing. I was walking through an orchard, looking about me, when I saw a low tree laden more heavily with fruit than the rest. On a nearer examination, it appeared that the tree had been dragged to the very earth, and broken by the weight of its treasures. "Oh!" said I, gazing on the tree, "here lies one who has been ruined by his riches." In another part of my walk I came up with a shepherd, who was lamenting the loss of a sheep that lay mangled and dead at his feet. On inquiry about the matter, he told me that a strange dog had attacked the flock; that the rest of the sheep had got away through a hole in the hedge, but that the ram now dead had more wool on his back than the rest, and the thorns of the hedge held him fast till the dog had worried him. "Here is another," said I, "ruined by his riches." At the close of my ramble I met a man hobbling along on two wooden legs, leaning on two sticks. "Tell me," said I, "my poor fellow, how you came to lose your legs?" "Why, sir," said he, "in my younger days I was a soldier. With a few comrades I attacked a party of the enemy, and overcame them, and we began to load ourselves with spoil. My comrades were satisfied with little, but I burdened myself with as much as I could carry. We were pursued; my companions escaped, but I was overtaken and so cruelly wounded that I only saved my life afterwards by losing my legs. It was a bad affair, sir; but it is too late to repent it now." "Ah, friend," thought I, "like the fruit tree and the mangled sheep, you may date your downfall to your possessions. It was your riches that ruined you." When I see so many rich people, as I do, caring so much for their bodies and so little for their souls, I pity them from the bottom of my heart, and sometimes think there are as many ruined by riches as by poverty. "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Timothy 6:9
). The prayer will suit you, perhaps, as well as it does me, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Proverbs 30:8, 9
The Interpreter takes them apart again, and has them first in a room where was a man that could lock no way but downwards, with a muck rake in his hand. There stood also One over his head, with a celestial crown in His hand, and proffered to give him that crown for his muck rake; but the man did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and the dust of the floor. Then said Christiana, "I persuade myself that I know somewhat the meaning of this; for this is a figure of a man of this world; is it not, good sir?" "Thou hast said the right," said the Interpreter; "and his muck rake doth show his carnal mind. And whereas thou seest him rather give heed to rake up straws and sticks, and the dust of the floor, than to what He says that calls to him from above, with the celestial crown in His hand, it is to show that heaven is but as a fable to some, and that things here are counted the only things substantial. Now, whereas it was also showed thee that the man could look no way but downwards, it is to let thee know that earthly things, when they are with power upon men's mind, quite carry their hearts away from God." Then said Christiana, "Oh, deliver me from this muck rake!" "That prayer," said the Interpreter, "has lain by till it is almost rusty. 'Give me not riches' (Proverbs 30:8
) is scarce the prayer of one of ten thousand. Straws and sticks and dust, with most, are the great things now looked after."
As a Christian man was passing out of church he met an old acquaintance whom he had not seen for several years. In the brief interview he seriously said to him, "I understand that you are in great danger." The remark was heard with surprise. The friend addressed was not aware of any danger, and eagerly inquired what was meant. The answer was, "I have been informed that you are getting rich." Men of this class are not accustomed to suspect danger from such a cause. They see none, and they see no reason why others should. And yet they are in peril; they are in great peril. They are in danger of making a god of mammon instead of the living God. They are in danger of seeking to lay up their treasures on the earth instead of in heaven, as the Saviour exhorts them to do. To His disciples He said, "Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of God." And Paul thus wrote: "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."
We keep ourselves in such a continual hurry and crowd of cares, thoughts, and employments about the things of the body, that we can find little time to be alone, communing with our own hearts about our great concernments in eternity. It is with many of us as it was with Archimedes, who was so intent upon drawing his mathematical schemes, that though all the city was in alarm, the enemy had taken it by storm, the streets filled with dead bodies, the soldiers come into his particular house, nay, entered his very study, and plucked him by the sleeve, before he took any notice of it. Even so, many men's hearts are so profoundly immersed and drowned in earthly cares, thoughts, projects, or pleasures, that death must come to their very houses, yea, and pull them by the sleeve, and tell them its errand, before they will begin to awake, and come to a serious consideration of things more important.
Two men have recently passed away, whose history, as one turns from their graves to sum it up, is at once a poem and a benediction. They were both men of large wealth and of inherited culture. They were both men with an intense love of life, and most human enjoyment of its pleasures. There have not lived in our generation two men who were more thoroughly alive, to their very finger ends, or who were more conspicuously exposed to the manifold dangers of the possession of great wealth. And yet who, in thinking of them, ever thought of their money? And when they died the other day, bereaving the two chief cities of our land with a sense of personal loss, who asked concerning either of them so beggarly a question as, "What did he leave?" What did they leave? They left each of them the fragrance of a good name, which is as ointment poured out. They left their image stamped in the hearts of thousands of men, women, and children, whose lives they had brightened and ennobled and blessed. Above all, they left a lesson to you and me of what men can be and do who say to wealth and the world, "You are my servant, not my master! I will not be slothful in business; I will be fervent in spirit, but it shall be always 'serving the Lord.'" They have taught two great communities that it is possible to be rich and not selfish, to have wealth and not be enslaved by it, to use the world as not abusing it. And today, William Welsh, in the Indian wigwam in Niobrara, among the boys of Girard College with whom he spent a part of every Sunday of his life, in the homes of the working men of Frankford whom he taught to love him as brother man; — and Theodore Roosevelt in the newsboy's lodging house, in the cripple's hospital, in the heart of the little Italian flower girl who brought her offering of grateful love to his door the day he died, have left behind them monuments the like of which mere wealth could never rear, and the proudest achievements of human genius never hope to win. They will be remembered when the men of great fortune who have filled the brief hour with the fame of their millions shall have vanished into merited oblivion. They may have been poorer than these, but the world is richer because they were in it, and the influence of their large-hearted and unselfish lives will be owned and honoured when the mere hoarders of the day have ceased to have any slightest interest or influence among men, save as subjects of the somewhat curious and somewhat contemptuous study of the moral anatomist.
Wealth is dangerous; and the worshipper of mammon, whether he dwell in a palace or a hovel, will find it equally hard to secure an entrance into the kingdom of God. But wealth, like other dangerous powers, may be subjected to a wise discipline and a resolute control. Lightning is dangerous, but men have mastered it and made it do their bidding. Master your meaner lust for gain, and then make it do your bidding in the service of your heavenly Master. It is not how many bonds you have in a bank vault, or how much plate on your sideboard, that God looks to see, but how many lives have been brightened and how many sorrows have been healed by the gifts of your love. The cause of Christ, the cause of truth, the cause of humanity, need your gifts. But none of them need them half as much as you yourself need the blessed and ennobling education of being permitted to give them.
Crossing the Col D'Obbia, the mule laden with our luggage sank in the snow, nor could it be recovered, until its load was removed; then, but not till then, it scrambled out of the hole it had made, and pursued its journey. It reminded us of mariners casting out the lading into the sea to save the vessel, and we were led to meditate on the dangers of Christians heavily laden with earthly possessions, and the wise way in which the gracious Father unloads them by their losses, that they may be enabled to pursue their journey to heaven, and no longer sink in the snow of carnal mindedness.
()In an interesting article in the Expositor (1st series, 3:375), Canon Farrar mentions that some modern travellers in the East state that houses are sometimes provided with smaller gates in or by the side of larger ones, and that the former are called Es summ el kayut, the hole, or eye, of the needle. He also gives the following extract from the letter of a correspondent: — "In the summer of 1835, when travelling in the western part of Africa (Morocco), I took up my abode for a time in the house of a Jew named Bendelak. The house was built quadrangular, having an open court, in which beautiful plants were flourishing, and where the family sat in the heat of the day beneath a large awning. High double gates faced the streets, not unlike our coach house doors, in one of which was a smaller door which served as an entrance to the court. Being seated one day in a balcony of the upper chamber, I suddenly heard the exclamation, 'Shut the needle's eye; shut the eye.' Looking down, I saw a stray camel trying to push through the little open doorway. Shortly afterwards I questioned the master of the house (a man whom I can never recall to mind without feelings of the utmost respect), and learnt from him that the double doors were always called 'the needle,' and the little door 'the needle's eye,' which explanation, of course, reminded me forcibly of the well-known passage in St. Matthew. Bendelak assured me that no camel would push through 'the eye' unless driven by stick or hunger and always without any back load. If the allusion of Christ be to this, it forcibly teaches the lesson that a rich man must strive and humble himself, must be willing to leave behind the load of his riches, must hunger for the bread of heaven, or he can never pass through the narrow way that leadeth unto life eternal."1.
In the first place comes, very naturally, the idea of the young, that riches, in and of themselves, create happiness. A man's happiness depends upon what he is. If his feelings are right, and he is capable of being happy, riches will make him happy; but if these conditions do not exist, then riches will not make him happy.
2. Then comes the idea that riches are a substitute for character in the eyes of men. There is an impression, if a man is only rich, he can do what he has a mind to, and that the world will accept his riches in lieu of excellence.
3. Passing to another great peril, riches and the pursuit of them are apt to absorb the life and time of men to a degree that shall harness them to mere external things, so that they have very little leisure and less disposition for self-culture.
4. Riches are apt to lift a man away from sympathy with common humanity; and that is always a sign of, and a step toward, deterioration.
5. Then there is a great tendency in riches to pamper a man's pride.
New, it is very true that riches are a power which, if rightly applied or used, may create happiness; but it is not true that riches, in and of themselves, ever do make men happy; and this indiscriminate notion, as an ideal on which they base their life, will be fatal to their happiness. If a man is prepared for happiness riches can make him happy. A man is an organ. I do not care if Beethoven is put before an organ that has not a pipe, and whose bellows is split, I do not care who plays on such an instrument as that, you will not get any music. And if the organ were perfect, and there was nobody that knew how to play, you would not get any music either. Where you get music you must have two things: a good instrument and a good performer on it. Now happiness, conducted on a great scale in life, requires that there should be a performer — and riches are the performer; but what does it play on? An empty case, a wind bag, a leathern pocket, an old iron chest, a rusty old miser. Do riches bring out anything in the way of happiness? Of themselves, no, they do not. The rich are not the happy folks in the world, as a rule. A great many of them are the most happy people on the globe; a man who has riches, and is otherwise rightly attuned, certainly can command as much happiness as any other man on the face of the earth; nobody can be any happier than he has the capacity of being. A man is happy according as he can generate sensibility of brain and nerve. Some men generate only five pounds, some generate fifteen pounds, and some generate twenty-five pounds. So some men can be happy a little bit, while others can be happy a great deal. Some men are not bigger than a daisy, and they can have only so much sunlight as can get into their disc. A man cannot be happy in one spot and miserable everywhere else, any more than he can have the toothache and feel well everywhere else but in his tooth. Happiness must have harmony in it. Where there is not harmony there is no happiness. If two-thirds of a man's nature is morbid and wrong, the other third is not going to rule them down, and compel happiness. I think that when a man has good manners, and is a gentleman, good clothes are very becoming and comfortable to him, and pleasant to everybody else; but good clothes do not make a gentleman, any more than riches make a man happy.
I do not object to a man's having a good deal of property; I do not object to his having beautiful grounds, and making them shine like a garden of Eden, if he can; I do not object to his building himself a magnificent mansion, and storing it with whatever art can give; I admire the grounds, I admire the house, I admire the furniture, and I justify them. But now let me see the man.
When a man has risen in wealth so that he can have fine grounds, a fine house and fine furniture, he ought to have something even grander in himself; and yet how many men are there that are like a monkey in an oriental palace, men that are ignorant, empty, narrow, conceited, poverty-stricken inside, but that outside glow like a rainbow! How many men there are that make the power of money in their hands simply picturesque, grotesque!
Who then can be saved?
Salvation! What so desirable and necessary? Why so difficult to obtain.
I. YOU KNOW WHAT SALVATION IS. Deliverance from condemnation, and placing us, pure and happy, in God's kingdom. We must take care that we do not mistake as to where the difficulty lies. It is not in God, not in Christ; milling and able "to save to the uttermost."
1. There is the difficulty arising out of the pride of our hearts — the difficulty of falling in with God's way of saving us. Salvation of grace troubles us.
2. There is the difficulty of complying with God's terms of salvation. We trace this to unbelief. The tidings of the gospel seem too good to be credited.
3. The difficulty of our seeking, or even accepting, such a salvation as God offers. It is a deliverance from the love and power of sin. We are by nature unholy, salvation crucifies all that nature delights in; hence difficulty.
II. WHAT THE DISCIPLES FELT AT THE PROSPECT OF THESE DIFFICULTIES.
1. Wonder. "They were astonished out of measure." There was a time when we considered salvation easy; God was regarded as merciful. No sooner did the Holy Spirit make us alive to our spiritual welfare, than wonder came as described in the text. They wondered at the patience of God, at His amazing grace, and the mountain of difficulties which lies between them and heaven.
2. The other feeling we discover in these men is despair — "Who then can be saved?" We must learn to look beyond our spiritual difficulties, if ever we would be carried over them.
III. OUR LORD'S JUDGMENT CONCERNING THIS MATTER. "You are right," He says, "up to a certain point; beyond that you are altogether wrong."
1. They were partially right. It is difficult for a man to overcome the difficulties between him and heaven. He is weak as well as sinful; must despair of his own power to attain salvation. Self-sufficiency, like self-righteousness, insurmountable obstacle in our journey heavenwards.
2. But these disciples were also wrong. He tells them that salvation was never intended to be man's work; but God's. What omnipotence undertakes can be carried through.
3. How compassionately He says this — "You have felt My power, difficulties have vanished."Apply:
1. Some of you know nothing at all of the difficulties of salvation.
2. Others of you, like those disciples, have just begun to see the difficulties that lie before you.
3. A few of you have been long accustomed to spiritual difficulties.
Let us notice mole particularly SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF SALVATION.
1. The truths to be believed are some of them very mysterious.
2. The sacrifices to be made are also in some degree painful.
3. The dispositions to be exercised are such as are contrary to the natural bias of our depraved hearts.
4. The duties to be performed.
5. The trouble and danger to which religion exposes its professors.
II. ATTEMPT TO ANSWER THE INQUIRY — "Who then can be saved?" Certainly not those who neglect the means of salvation; nor those who prefer other things before it; nor those who think to attain it in any other way than God has appointed.
1. Such shall be saved as are appointed to it.
2. Those shall be saved who are truly desirous of it.
3. Those who come to Christ for salvation shall be sure to obtain it.
4. Such as endure to the end shall be saved.
LinksMark 10:23 NIVMark 10:23 NLTMark 10:23 ESVMark 10:23 NASBMark 10:23 KJV
Mark 10:23 Bible AppsMark 10:23 ParallelMark 10:23 Biblia ParalelaMark 10:23 Chinese BibleMark 10:23 French BibleMark 10:23 German Bible
Mark 10:23 Commentaries