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BY JOSEPH PARKER LUKE 18:24 ''How hardly shall they that have riches eater into the kingdom of God."
IS it easy then for poor people to enter into the kingdom of God ? Jesus Christ does not say so. It is always difficult to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is not entered by wealth, nor is it entered by poverty ; for wealth and poverty are incidental and external circumstances. Let us fix our attention upon the fact that this was probably the first rich applicant at the door of the kingdom of Christ There have been many since ; familiarity may have made some processes in their external relations easy enough : but this young man was in all probability the first rich applicant Did he think he would add something to what he already had? Was the kingdom of God, or, as he termed it, eternal life, a kind of annexe to the property which he already had? and did he suppose that he might on the whole as well have eternal life as not ? it would cost nothing, it would entail no heavy responsibility ; it might invest the young man himself with the dignity of novel thought and speculative enterprise, and give a kind of sparkling accent to his general situation. We cannot enter into the reasoning of the young man's mind ; we should be foolish to condemn the young man : Jesus Christ loved him, was struck either by his personal beauty, or by his modesty, or by something bewitching in his geniality; he looked upon him as the young man had never been looked upon before, and loved him. If he could have saved him he would ; if he could have made the gate of the kingdom a little wider he would : but the kingdom has its laws. Jesus Christ represented those laws, obeyed them, and insisted upon them, and therefore the comeliest young man of to-day would not be allowed to take in with him all his burden. 363
364 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [Luke xviii. 24,
It was a critical moment for Jesus Christ himself. He had to set precedents in his own Church, he had to create examples by which all succeeding Christian ages and Christian institutions should regulate their policy. Was it no temptation to the Lord ? Was it no temptation to attach a millionaire to the cause that elicited social contempt? Might not one rich man act as a decoy and bring a thousand other rich men, and so might not a fashion be created ? There can be no fashion in crucifixion. Calvary can never be popular. The Cross can never be a custom of the day. That is the spirit of Christianity, these are the conditions upon which alone eternal life can be realised ; we do not enter by money, by wit, by genius, learning, pedigree, or aught that is incidental and external : only by way of the Cross do men pass into the kingdom. The disciples were troubled; they thought that an opportunity had been lost ; they started the proposition that if this were to be the policy of the Master, salvation was simply impossible. How could the kingdom get on without such people as this young man ? " Who, then, can be saved ?" But Jesus Christ explained the whole occasion by saying, " them that trust in riches." There is no harm in riches themselves, they may be instruments of the greatest possible good, in right hands they are well administered, and the world is better for a Christian administration of wealth. The Lord is not abusing riches or condemning riches ; he is pointing out that men may trust in riches, men may idolise their own wealth, their own possessions, and may be unwilling to take the step between the material and the spiritual. He did not say it was impossible, he said it was '' hard." There was a touch of agony in the process ; there was a conscious wrench in making the change — ^Ye must be born again — and admission into the greater kingdoms, all morning and all summer as they are, must be an admission through the gate of pain. Jesus Christ oflen calls us to do the impossible that he may stimulate us to do the difficult. Christianity is the great impossibility of the world. In all its higher ranges it is not within our reach; but its loftiness is an encouragement to those who otherwise would succumb to difficulty, and yield the field to the enemy. Jesus Christ calls us to climb the clouds in the air that he may tempt us a little way up the solid hill
Luke xviii 24.] THE DA GER OF RICHES. 365 Christianity will never be easy ; it can never be thrown in with something else ; it is not a supplement, it is the integral and dominating quantity. There are those who wear their Chris-
tianity as they wear their garments newly bought and much valued for the moment : but Christianity is not to be worn, it is a robe of the hearty it is the clothing of the soul. Hence Jesus Christ calls us to do things that mortal man cannot do, in order that we may be stirred to nobler aspiration and purpose. o man, being smitten on the one cheek, can turn the other also ; yet we could not do without that impossibility in the divine vocation. It makes our best endeavours look poor ; it humbles our virtue into prayer The spirit, not the letter, reaches the discipline of Christ in the soul. or must we think of riches as referring to mere money. There are riches of many kinds — centres of pride, centres of vanity, centres of self-trust and idolatry, and the whole fabric must be shaken to its base, and torn up by its foundations before Christ can begin to build. There are those who are proud of things they have no concern in. You remember the titled lady, whose name we have ungratefully forgotten, who called upon a distinguished artist, and on being shown into a drawing-room was perfectly wonderstruck. When the painter appeared the lady said, "I am seeking Thrift, the painter." "Well," said the gentleman, " that is my name." And looking round at the beauty of the place, she said, " Is this your house ? " " Yes," he said. She thought a painter lived in a garret, and had a portmanteau for a wardrobe and a three-cornered cupboard for a larder. A painter with all these nick-nacks and curios and little touches of refinement about him — what right had a painter to such environment ? — as if a painter were not a greater man than a king that sits upon a throne he never worked for and never deserved ! People are very fond of talking about the aristocracy of the body : they never know that there is a spiritual aristocracy, that many a man who has no money and no title and no pedigree that can be written down in plain ink, is related to Aristotle, and traces his progeny beyond the Plantagenets even to the great thinkers that have ruled the world by the energy and splendour of their genius. All this rubbish must be cleared out of the way
366 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [Lukexviii. ubefore spirit can rule, and genius be invested with its divinest influence. otice the deceitfulness of all kinds of riches. Riches may corrupt the very simplest of you — take care ! How many men have we seen go to the gallows and hang themselves just through
the deceitfulness of riches I How delightful it would be to trace the life of many a man and see how he died in the bank — ^that great mortuary. The man began simply, and was a right genial soul ; he brought with him morning light and fresh air wherever he came, and as to cases of poverty his hand knew the way to his pocket so well that he could find that pocket in the dark ; as for religious services he was there before the door was open; he never thought the Sabbath too long, he loved the sanctuary, and was impatient to be there; he even went to the week evening service, but then he was only a working man, and only working men should go out in the night air — what does it matter about a few working men being killed off by the east wind I The man whose course we are tracing doubled his income and multiplied it by Ave, and then doubled it again, and then found that he must give up the prayer meeting. Certainly! Then he proceeded to double his income again, and then he gave up the Sunday service — there was a draught near w here he sat, or there was some person in the third pew from his, the appearance of whom he could not bear. How dainty my lord is becoming I Oh, what a nostril he has for evil savours ! He will leave altogether presently. He will not abruptly leave : he will simply not come back again, which really amounts to the same thing. He will attend in the morning, and congratulate the poor miserable preacher on the brevity of the service. Did he mean to do this when he began to get a little wealthier? ot he. Is he the same man he used to be ? o. Is he nearer Christ ? He is universes away from the Cross. He is killed by wealth, trusted in, misunderstood, misapplied. It is not the wealth that has ruined him, but his misconception of the possible uses of wealth ; he might have been a leader of the Church. How is it that Jesus Christ does not attract more poor people to his Church? Because the Church has ceased in some degree
Luke xviii. 24.] THE DA GER OF RICHES. 367 to be Jesus Christ's at all. Jesus Christ is as fond of the weak and the poor and the blind and the halt as he ever was ; he is just as tender and beneficent to lepers as he ever was in his earthly ministry ; but we have changed the whole situation : now the masses go to the socialists, and the classes go to scientists, and they can treat them better than we can do. The Church has lost its Lord. They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. But was not Jesus Christ crucified in the days of his flesh ? Yes, and he would be crucified
if he came back again ; the first thing we should do with the Christ of God would be to stone him and then to slay him. It must be so : this is the necessary treatment of the infinite by the finite, the pure by the impure, the ineffably holy by the unspeakably corrupt. There are those who in the midst of the greatest splendour remember the. days of their poverty. Blessed be God for such men, so sweet of soul, so unpresumptuous, so ready to help. The more wealth they have the better am I pleased, because the better is the world, the better is the Church provided for. " I want," said the late Emperor of Germany, the last but one, the great William, '' I want a lamp such as so-and-so has " — naming some distinguished member of the court. A lamp was provided according to the very pattern, but his majesty complained on returning to his study after withdrawment that he could not bear the savour of the room, the lamp was emitting smoke, and it was altogether intolerable. One of the secondary servants knew the reason, but dare not name it to his majesty ; one of the higher servants learned the cause and brought it under his majesty's attention — " It is because your majesty turns down the light when you leave the study, that occasions the emission of smoke and vapour, and if you will cease to do that, all will be well." "Ah," said the good old patriot of his nation, "I know how that is ; I learned that in the days of our poverty : after the battle of Jena we were very poor, and my mother never allowed us to leave a room at night without turning down the light, and I continue to turn down the light in memory of my mother." A beautiful economy I a tender domestic story that I Here is a man who could have had a thousand lamps, and yet in memory of the days of his poverty, when his mother taught him the uses of money, he kept turning down the light, saying, '' Sacred to the
368 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [Luke xvm. 24. memory of my mother." There are men to-day who are practically doing the same thing : — In memory of the days when we struggled, here is our gift ; in memory of the time when we had nothing but hard work to do, here is a token of goodwill to those who are carrying heavy burdens up steep hills. The Lord multiply your wealth a thousandfold ; you are the trustees of God, you are the stewards of heaven. With regard to the whole surrounding of the Church, we should lose heart altogether if we did not hold on to Christ himself. We must come back to the living Lord. If any man were to ask me, as I have recently been asked, to discuss the present position
and action of Christianity, I should decline to debate because the man would silence me ; I should have no answer to his poignant eloquence. If I endeavoured as a special pleader to make a show on the other side, my own soul would blush for shame whilst I heard my own hollow words and pleas. Because Christianity is now ecclesiasticised, it is an ecclesiastical institution, and I will not defend it. Because Christianity is now a formulated creed, the separate clauses of which are all duly and arithmetically enumerated ; and the clauses run into tens and twenties, and only trained intellects and self-deceived metaphysicians can even begin to understand the unintelligible farrago. Because Christianity is now turned to the uses of selfishness I will not defend it. I have challenges from men of various grades, and I decline them one and all, because the challenges are all directed to a vindication of ecclesiasticisms, credal formularies, controversial dogmas, and I renounce them all. If any man will discuss with me the Christ of God, his personality, his claims, his propositions, his life, his priesthood, the Lord that has delivered me all my lifetime will deliver me from any assailant who would lay violent hands on the Son of God ; there I will debate and contend vehemently and zealously, because I know the Saviour Christ to be the one Saviour of the world, the one Saviour of my sinning soul — " His blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.'' Ecclesiasticisms, institutions based upon narrow conceptions, controversial propositions, man-made creeds, are all doomed. Blessed be God 1 I will be present if I can when a great bonfire is made of the whole of them, and if anybody wants any quarter
Luke xvui. 24.] THE DA GER OF RICHES, 369 of that great pile lighted I shall be willing to lend both hands on the occasion. You can burn down everything but the Cross. That cannot be burned : it is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever : grim, bleak, bare symbol of agony, type of suffering, consummation of woe. And yet it is breaking out like a tree in the springtime, there are little glints of green, forthputtings • of power. There is every assurance that the Cross will be the tree of life, the most beautiful tree in the gardens of the universe, eveiy leaf designed to heal the wounds of the heart. You cannot bring your riches with you into the kingdom, if you are going to trust in them : if you are going to offer them to Christ and sanctify them to his use, bring them all You cannot bring your intellectual pride with you : if you are going to consecrate your intellect to the study of the profoundest mysteries,
if you are going to cultivate a childlike spirit, if the greater the genius the greater the modesty, bring it all. You can bring with you nothing of the nature of patronage to Christ It b because he has so little he has so much : because he is so weak he is so strong. You cannot compliment him : he lies beyond the range of eulogy: we reach him by his own way of sacrifice, selfimmolation, transformation, — a great mystery outside of words and all their crafty uses, but a blessed conscious spiritual experience. Blessed are those to whom that experience is a realitj.
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