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and Pharisees and Sadducees among the Jews too generally “rejected the counsel of God against themselves," and the effect produced upon their minds was not a salutary change, but worse corruption. Enmity and malice were added to their former hypocrisy and pride.
« The last state was worse than the first
Nevertheless “ of this be sure," said our Lord, “ the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But they “put it from them, and counted themselves unworthy of eternal life.” And so the leaven of Christian truth which is spread throughout a land, must be received into “an honest and good heart,” that it may profit. That which is hidden in the Scriptures, and distributed by the ministry of the Church, must be introduced into the individual heart, change its unsalutary qualities for the graces of the spirit, and so work its perfect work, till the whole is leavened. Then the purpose of the Author of this salvation is answered; who was now dropping the words of eternal life into the ears of a few despised followers, as silently and unobservedly as a woman who takes leaven, and hides it in three measures of meal. 34. “ All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in
parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them : 35. “ That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PRECIOUS PEARL.
MATT. xiii. 44-46.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field ; the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goeth and selleth all that he
hath, and buyeth that field. 45.“ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a mer
chantman, seeking goodly pearls : 46. “ Who, when he had found one pearl of great price,
went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” These two parables have one and the same argument: and teach us to judge of what we are doing for heaven, by what we know of earth. We are all aware how a man acts who is determined to make a fortune, and sees before him
a the means of acquiring it. We all know how a man would labour to obtain a field, which had in it a mine of gold: how long a journey he would undertake to procure a jewel, which when secured would prove a treasure to him. The parables teach us to judge by this rule, whether we are seeking the treasure of heaven, the jewel of eternal life, with real earnestness. That treasure, that jewel, is found in the Gospel: which assures us that “God hath given to us ete al life, and this life is in His Son.” So that as he who had bought the field, possessed also the treasure hid in the field : so he that hath the
Son, hath eternal life, for it “is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ.” 1
He, then, to whom this truth is revealed, that Jesus Christ “is the author of eternal life to all them that obey Him,” is the man who has found where the treasure is concealed : is the merchantman who, when he had found the pearl of great price, sees it to be his interest to sell all that he has, and buy it.
For he has not obtained the pearl, because he has discovered where it lies; he is not in possession of the treasure, because he knows the field where it is hid. To get possession, is now his great concern: for joy thereof he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
The Apostles did this in literal truth. “Lo,” they said to their Lord, “We have left all, and followed Thee.” Many of the early Christians did the same.
“ As many as were possessors of lands and houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet.” 3
This was their duty, but is not ordinary duty. It showed the power of their faith ; but it is not the way in which faith is commonly to be shown. In ordinary circumstances, a man selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field, when he sets aside whatever stands between him and it, re. nounces all that would hinder his acquiring it.
1. What he has first to give up, is his self"1 John v. 12. Rom. vi. 23.
Mark x. 28. 8 Acts iii. 45. iv. 34–37.
confidence, self-righteousness. This might seem an easy sacrifice, but experience shows the contrary. The human heart rebels against the doctrine, that “ by grace are we saved, through faith ; not of works, lest any man should boast.” St. Paul found constant need to warn his disciples against trusting in something which they had, or something which they could do, instead of committing themselves entirely to Him who died for their sins, and rose again for their justification. The Church of Laodicea is rebuked ;5 “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked ; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed."
Whereas concerning himself St. Paul says,“What things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ.” 6 I gave up everything on which I had once been accustomed to rely, that I might at last “be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” For that which he was seeking, and desirous of, was to be accepted of God; and what should it profit him, to have only that which will not gain acceptance; to which the promise is not made ? This is the first surrender to which a man Eph. ii. 8. Rev. iii. 17. 6 Phil. iii. 7.
is called, who has found eternal life in the gospel, and is seeking to obtain it. It is his FAITH.
2. But he is called also to repentance, i. e., OBEDIENCE: to give up whatever is contrary to the will of God, and prevents His service from being the main object of his life. " For this was the Son of God manifested,” “that he might redeem anto Himself a peculiar people, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." ; Accordingly we read that Zaccheus had no sooner found the pearl of great price, than he entered at once upon a new and different course of life; renounced all extortion, practised righteousness and charity. John the Baptist gave the same directions. “The people asked him, What shall we do then?' He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none: and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than is appointed to you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, and be content with your wages. Again, in the city of Ephesus, where, through the preaching of Paul, “ The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, many that believed came and confessed and * Tit, ii. 11-13. 8 Luke xix. 8. 9 Luke iii. 10-14.