Mark 10The first verse of this chapter acquaints us with the great labour and pains our Saviour took in the exercise of his ministry, traveling from place to place, in an hot country, and on foot, to preach the gospel, when he was here upon earth; Teaching all persons, but especially ministers, by his example, to be willing to undergo pains and labour, even unto much weariness, in the service of God, and in the duties of their calling. For this is God's ordinance, that everyone should feel the burden of his calling, and painfulness of it.
But, Lord, how nice and delicate are some labourers in thy vineyard, who are willing to do nothing but what they can do with ease; they cannot endure to think of labouring unto weariness, but are sparing of their pains, for fear of shortening their days and hastening their ends! Whereas the lamp of our lives can never be better spent, or burnt out, than by the lighting others to heaven.
The following verses acquaints us with and ensnaring question which the Pharisees put to our Saviour concerning the matter of divorce; concluding, that they should entrap him in his answer, whatever it was; if he denied the lawfulness of divorce, then they would charge him with contradicting Moses who allowed it. If he affirmed it, then they would condemn him for contradicting his own doctrine Matt 5:32 for favouring men's lusts, and complying with the Jews, who, upon every slight and frivolous occasion, put away their wives from them. But such was the wisdom of our Saviour in all his answers to the ensnaring Pharisees: that neither their wit nor malice could lay hold on anything to entangle him in his talk.
Observe therefore, the piety and prudence of our Saviour's answer to the Pharisees; he refers them to the first institution of marriage, when God made husband and wife one flesh to the intent that matrimonial love might be both incommunicable and indissoluble; and accordingly asks them, What did Moses command you?
Thereby teaching us, That the best means for deciding all doubts, and resolving all controversies, about matters of religion, is to have recourse unto the scripture, or the written word of God: What did Moses command you?
Observe farther, How our Saviour, to confute the Pharisees and convince them of the unlawfulness of divorce, used by the Jews, lays down the first institution of marriage, and shews them, first the author, next the time, then the end of the institution. The author, God, What God has joined together &c.
Marriage is an ordinance of God's own appointment, as the ground and foundation of all sacred and civil society. The time of the institution was, in the beginning.
Marriage is almost as old as the world, as old as nature itself; there was no sooner one person, but God divided him into two; and no sooner were there two, but he united them in one. And the end of the institution of marriage, Christ declares was this, That there might be not only an intimacy and nearness, but also an inseparable union and oneness, by means of this endearing relation: the conjugal knot is tied so close, that the bonds of matrimonial love are stronger than those of nature. Stricter is the tie betwixt husband and wife, than that betwixt parent and child, according to God's own appointment. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. And whereas our Saviour adds, what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
Two things are hereby intimated to us,
1. That God is the author of the close and intimate union which is betwixt man and wife in the married condition.
2. That it is not in the power of man to untie or dissolve the union which God has mad betwixt man and his wife in the married state; yea, it is a great sin to advise unto, or endeavour after, the separation of them.
Observe, lastly, Our Saviour's private conference with the disciples, after his public disputation with the Pharisees, about this matter of divorce. He tells his disciples, and in them he tells all Christians to the end of the world, that it is utterly unlawful for man and wife to be separated by divorcement one from another, for any cause whatsoever, except only for the sin of adultery committed by either of them after the marriage.
Learn hence, That according to the word and will of God, nothing can violate the bonds of marriage, and justify a divorce betwixt man and wife, save only the defiling of the marriage-bed, by adultery and uncleanness. This is the only case in which man and wife may lawfully part; and being for this cause parted, whether they may afterwards marry again to other persons has been much disputed; but that the innocent and injured person, whether man or woman (for there is an equal right on both sides) may not marry again seems very unreasonable; for why should one suffer for another's fault?
Observe here, A solemn action performed: children are brought to Christ to be blessed by him.
Where note, 1. The persons brought: children, young children, sucking children, as the word imports, They brought them in their arms Luke 18:15, not led them by the hands.
2. The Person they are brought unto: Jesus Christ. But for what end? Not to baptize them, but to bless them: the parents looking upon Christ as a prophet, a great Prophet, the great Prophet, do bring their infants to him, that they might receive the benefit of his blessing and prayers.
Whence learn, 1. The infants are capable of benefit by Jesus Christ.
2. That it is the best office that parents can perform unto their children to bring them unto Christ, that they may be made partakers of that benefit.
3. If infants be capable of benefit by Christ, if capable of his blessings on earth and presence in heaven, if they be subjects of his kingdom of grace, and heirs of his kingdom of glory, then they may be baptized; for they that are in covenant, have a right to the seal of the covenant. If Christ denies not infants the kingdom of heaven, which is the greater, what reason have ministers to deny them the benefit of baptism, which is the less?
Observe here, 1. A person addressing himself to Christ with an important question in his mouth. This person was a young man, a rich man, and a ruler; a young man in the prime of his age, a rich man in the fulness of his wealth, and a ruler in the prime of his authority and power.
From whence learn, That for young men, rich men, especially noblemen, to enquire the way to salvation, is very commendable, but very rare.
Observe, 2. As the person addressing, so the manner of the address: he came running and kneeled to Christ.
Where observe, his voluntariness: he came of himself, not drawn by others; importunity, but drawn by his own personal affections. And his readiness: he came running. This showed his zeal and forwardness to meet with Christ, and be resolved by him.
And lastly, his humility: he kneeled to him, as an eminent prophet and teacher, not knowing him to be the Son of God.
Observe, 3. The address itself, What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Where note, 1. He believes the certainty of the future state.
2. He professes his desire of an eternal happiness in that state.
3. He declares his readiness to do some good thing, in order to the obtaining of that happiness.
Hence learn, That the light of nature, or natural religion, teaches men that good works are necessary to salvation: or that some good thing must be done by them, who at death expect eternal life. It is not talking well, and professing well, but doing well, that entitles us to heaven and eternal life.
As if Christ had said, Why callest thou me good, when thou dost not believe or own me to be God? for there is none good, that is, essentially and originally good, absolutely and immutably good, but God only; nor any derivatively good but he that receiveth his goodness from God also: there is no mere man that is absolutely and perfectly good of himself, but by participation and derivation from God only. See the note on Matt 19:17.
Observe here, That the duties which our Saviour instances in, are the duties of the second table, which hypocrites are most failing in. But nothing is better evidence of our unfeigned love to God than the sincere performance of our duty to our neighbours. Love to man is a fruit and testimony of our love to God; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 1John 4:20.
Learn hence, that such as are defective in the duties of the second table, charity and justice, do make but a counterfeit show of religion, though they pretend to the highest measures and degrees of love to God.
Here note, That there are two ways of injuring our neighbour, which ought to be avoided, namely,
1. By theft: and this either privately and clandestinely, without the knowledge of the owner; or openly and by force, against the consent of the owner; both these are forbidden in the eighth commandment.
2. By secret and cunning devises, where the law and a picture of right is made use of to cover the injury. This is forbidden in the tenth commandment, and here expressed by, Thou shalt not defraud. And surely all such endeavours to defraud, must show a very covetous mind, inclining a person, against the dictates of his own conscience, to defraud another of his right.
This assertion of the young man might be very true, according to the Pharisees' sense and interpretation of the law, which condemned only the gross outward act, not the inward lust and motion of the heart. An outside obedience to the law this young man had performed; this made him think well of himself, and conclude the goodness of his own condition.
Learn hence, How prone men are to think the best of themselves, and to have too high an opinion of their own goodness and righteousness before God: All these things have I kept from my youth. It is a natural corruption in men to think to well of themselves, and of their own goodness and righeousness before God; but it is very dangerous and fatal so to do.
Observe here, 1. Christ's compassion towards this young man. He loved him with a love of pity and compassion, with a love of courtesy and respect.
There may be some very amiable and lovely qualities in natural and unregenerate man; and goodness, in what kind or degree soever it is, doth attract and draw forth Christ's love towards a person. If Christ did love civility, what a respect has he for sincere sanctity!
Observe, 2. Our Lord's admonition: One thing thou lackest, which was, true self-denial, in renouncing the sin of covetousness, and the inordinate love of worldly wealth.
We ought, upon God's call to maintain such a readiness of mind, as to be willing to part with all for God's sake which is dear unto us in this world.
Observe, 3. Our Lord's injunction: Sell what thou hast, and give to the poor. This was not a common but a special precept, belonging particularly to this young man. It was a commandment of trial given to him, like that given to Abraham, Gen 22:1-24. to convince him of his corrupt confidence in his riches: yet it is thus far of general use to us all, to teach us so to contemn worldly possessions, as to be willing to part with them when they hinder our happiness and salvation.
It follows, And take up thy cross; an allusion to the Roman custom, when the malefactor was to be crucified, he bore his cross upon his shoulder, and carried it to the place of execution. It is not the taking, but the patient bearing, of the cross, which is our duty.
Learn, That all Christ's followers should prepare their shoulders for Christ's cross. To bear the cross, implies faithfulness and integrity without shifting, patience and submission without murmuring, joy and cheerfulness without fainting.
Observe, 4. The effect which our Saviour's admonition had upon this young person: He was sad and grieved at that saying.
Thence note, That carnal men are sad and exceeding sorrowful, when they cannot win heaven in their own way.
2. That such as are wedded to the world, will renounce Christ rather than the world, when the world and Christ stand in competition.
From this discourse of our holy Lord's concerning the danger of riches, and the difficulty that attends rich men in their way to heaven, we may collect and gather,
First, That rich men do certainly meet with more difficulties in their way to heaven than other men. It is difficult to withdraw their affections from riches, to place their supreme love upon God in the midst of their abundance. It is difficult to depend entirely upon God in a rich condition; for the rich man's wealth is his strong tower.
Secondly, That yet the fault lies not in riches, but in rich men: who by placing their trust, and reposing their confidence in riches do render themselves incapable of the kingdom of God.
Observe, 3. The proverbial speech which our Saviour makes use of to set forth the difficulty of a rich man's salvation: It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye. This was a proverb among the Jews, signifying a thing of great difficulty, next to an impossibility; and it implies thus much, that it is not only a very great difficulty, but an utter impossibility, for such as abound in worldly wealth, and place their confidence therein, to be saved, without an extraordinary grace and assistance from God. It is hard for God to make a rich man happy, because he thinks himself happy without God.
Observe, 4. The disciples are affected with wonder and admiration at this doctrine of our Saviour's, and cry out, Who then can be saved?
Learn thence, That such are the special and peculiar difficulties which lie in the rich man's way to salvation, that their getting to heaven is matter of wonder and admiration to the disciples of Christ.
Observe, 5. How our Saviour resolves this doubt, by telling his disciples, that what was impossible with men, was possible with God; implying, that is is impossible for any man, rich or poor by his own natural strength to get to heaven.
And, 2. That when we are discouraged with the sense of our own impotency, we should consider the power of God, and fix our faith upon it: With God all things are possible.
The apostles having heard our Saviour's command to sell all and give to the poor, St. Peter, in the name of the rest, tells Christ, that they had left all to follow him.
Where note, How St. Peter magnifies that little which he had left for Christ, and ushers it in with a note of admiration: Lo! we have left all.
Learn hence, That though it be very little that we suffer for Christ, and have to forsake upon his account, yet are we apt to magnify and extol it, as if it were some great matter: Behold, we have left all and followed thee.
Observe next, Our Lord's kind and gracious answer: that those that leave all to follow him shall be no losers by him. We may be losers for Christ, we shall never be losers by him; for whatever we part with in this world for the sake of Christ, houses or lands, brethren or sisters, we shall receive an hundred-fold now in this life. But how so? Non formaliter, sed eminenter; non in specie, sed in valore: "Not in kind, but in equivalency:" not an hundred brethren, sisters, or lands, in kind, but he shall enjoy that in God, which all creatures would be to him if they were multiplied an hundred times; and the gifts and graces, the comforts and consolations, of the Holy Spirit shall be an hundred times better portion than anything we can part with for the sake of Christ. For the sense of those words, The first shall be last, &c. see the note on Mr 9:35.
This is at least the third time that Christ had acquainted his disciples with his approaching sufferings. The first time he told his disciples of his death in general; the second time he declares the means, by treason; now he tells them the manner, by crucifying him: all this he did to prevent their dejection at his sufferings.
Learn hence, That it is highly necessary that the doctrine of the cross be often preached to us, that so being armed with expectations of sufferings before they come, we may be the less dismayed and disheartened when they come. Our Lord's forewarning his disciples so frequently of his death and sufferings, was to forearm them with expectations of his sufferings, and with preparation for their own.
Observe farther, Who were the persons that were the instrumental causes of our Saviour's death: they were both Jews and Gentiles: The Son of man shall be delivered to the chief priests, and they shall deliver him to the Gentiles. As both Jews and Gentiles had a hand in the death and sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, so are they by faith capable of an interest in the merit of his death, and in the virtue and efficacy of his sufferings. Christ offered up his blood to God on behalf of them that shed it.
Observe here, 1. The ambitious suit and request of the two apostles, James and John, for dignity and superiority; Grant that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory or in thy kingdom.
Where observe, That by Christ's kingdom and glory, they understood an earthly, temporal kingdom: for of that sort the Jews did expect the kingdom of the Messiah should be, and the disciples themselves were tainted with the common errors.
Learn hence, That ambition and an inordinate desire of worldly wealth and dignity, is a sin very natural and incident to the best of men. Who can wonder to see some sparks of ambition in the holiest of God's ministers, when Christ's own apostles were not free from aspiring thoughts, even when they lay in the bosom of our Saviour?
Observe, 2. Both the unseasonableness and unreasonableness of this request made by James and John: Christ speaks of his sufferings to them, and they sue for dignity and great places from him: In optimis non nihil est pessimi. The holiest, the wisest, and the best of men, are not wholly free from passionate infirmities. Who could have thought, that when our Saviour had been preaching the doctrine of the cross to his disciples, that they should at the same time be seeking and suing to him for secular dignity and honour, pre-eminence and power! But the best of men are but men; none are in a state of perfection on this side heaven.
Observe, 3. Our Saviour's answer to his disciples' ambitious request, and the course which he takes, to cool their ambition; he tells them, they must expect here, not crowns on their heads, but a cross on their backs; they must first taste of his sufferings, before they partake of his glory; and they that suffer most for Christ, shall partake of the highest dignity and glory from him.
Observe, 4. The presumptuous confidence which the apostles had of their own strength and ability for sufferings: Are ye able, says Christ, to drink of my cup? We are able, say the disciples. Alas, poor men, when it came to the trial, they all cowardly forsook him and fled. Those that are least acquainted with suffering are usually the most confident undertakers. See note on Matt 20:22-23.
To the end that our blessed Saviour might effectually quench those unhappy sparks of ambition which were kindled in his apostles' minds, he tells them, that supremacy and dominion belong to secular princes, not to gospel-ministers, who ought to carry themselves with humility and condescension one towards another. Not that Christ directs to a parity and equality amongst his ministers, but only condemns the affectation of superiority, and the love of pre-eminency.
Learn hence, 1. That the ministers of Christ ought to be so far from affecting a domination and superiority over their brethren that in imitation of their Lord and Master, they ought to account themselves fellow servants: The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
Observe, 2. That such ministers as do love and affect pre-eminence and superiority are most unfit for it; and they deserve it best who seek it least.
3. That the dignity and honour which the ministers of Christ should chiefly, yea only affect, is in another world; and the way to be greatest and highest there, is to be low and humble, mean in our own eyes, and little in our own esteem. See note on Matt 20:28.
This chapter concludes with the recital of a famous miracle wrought by our blessed Saviour upon blind Bartimeus, in the sight of a great multitude which followed him.
Where note, 1. The blind man's faith, in acknowledging Jesus to be the Messiah; for so much the title of the son of David signified.
2. His fervency, in crying so earnestly to Christ for mercy and healing: Have mercy upon me, thou son of David. A true sense of want will make the soul cry unto Christ with earnestness and importunity.
Observe, 3. The great compassion and condescension of Christ towards this poor blind man: he stood still, he called him and enlightened his eyes. A mighty instance of Christ's divine power! He that can open blind eyes with a touch of his finger, and that by his own power, is really God: his touch is an omnipotent touch.
Observe, 4. Although Christ well knew the condition of this blind man, yet, before he will restore his sight, he must sensibly complain of the want of sight, and cry unto him for help and healing. Christ knows all his creatures' wants, but takes no notice of them till they make them known to him by prayer.
Observe, 5. The way and course which the blind man takes to express his thankfulness to Christ for recovered sight: He rose, and followed Jesus. Mercy from Christ is then well improved, when it engages us to follow Christ. This should be the effect of all salvations wrought for us. He praiseth God best that serveth him most: the life of thankfulness consists in the thankfulness of the life.
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