J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
The great principle which now set aside the Jewish economy which had not recognised its Messiah, the Son of God, and introduced eternal life, was plain enough, but in the breaking down of what sustained the flesh, and was adapted to the flesh, and the introduction of what rested on the Spirit, and on a faith which never recognised the flesh, and which knows no present support, but rests on God only, and the flesh of course in a position such as this feels all to be against it - it which needs support - offences would come. This was for the disciples. The world to come was let in upon the conduct and faith of the disciples in this, and no man could serve two masters. But among those who made profession to follow Christ and His glory, on the principles of faith, alas! there would be many scandals. It is not in a reign of power when He will gather out of His kingdom all scandals, and them which do iniquity. Satan's power is permitted. The exercise of faith is permitted - a time of trial, and of the proving, by the prevalence of evil, of what lasts because of God. As the apostle, speaking of the full dispensation of the Spirit: "There must needs be heresies that they which are approved may be made manifest." Offences must come. Grace and truth present the perfect simplicity of the service and walk which belongs to the kingdom, which grace and truth have revealed, and into which grace and truth introduce us. But they have introduced it as truth into a world of evil where the flesh, its race, and its reasonings, and its falsehood are in the scene of their natural development, and where Satan is prince to introduce the evil with a subtlety of which the flesh suspects nothing at all, and into which, when not walking in the Spirit, we fall without hindrance, when the Lord of the vineyard permits this exercise. Thus the Lord permits and uses it for a chastening. They are, however, stumbling-blocks of the enemy, and "Woe unto him by whom they come"; he is really an instrument of Satan. And the Lord loves His little ones. "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones," despised of men but treasured of God. The Church has to be guarded from these things in the midst of all.
265 The Saviour proceeds to apply the principle, or to show how the saints should act, seeing that the flesh in them may give occasion to these things, they not being really slaves of Satan in their will, but the flesh is always slave of Satan, and acts in his sense. "Take heed," therefore adds the Lord, "to yourselves," both as to not giving occasion of stumbling (see Romans 14, especially verse 13, but the whole chapter) and besides not to stumble when the occasion is presented, keeping his soul in patience and in communion. "Take heed to yourselves" is the great command as to the danger, and the offences in the liability of which we all stand in Satan's kingdom of this world as regards others' forgiveness, "Take heed to yourselves," jealous and judging yourselves. But, on the other hand, "If he trespass against thee, rebuke him; tell him his fault, and if he repent forgive him" ever so often. Keep the body sound in the presence of the enemy. It is the energy of the unity and holiness of the body which is the realisation of the energy of the Spirit, unbroken in the land of faith. Watch incessantly yourselves, and that the Spirit of love, the power of unity, and the bond of perfectness be not broken, so that the enemy can enter, nor of holiness so that the peace may not be false, nor any grudge or ill-feeling remain in your own heart, but that all may be unfeignedly smooth and in energy. Tell your neighbour his fault; do not keep it for his sake and for yours; and if he confess, if he turn and repent of it, the heart is gained, the enemy driven out. He honours the Lord and the truth. That will be your object in charity, acting according to the love of God into which you have been introduced in this new kingdom by the rejection of the Son of man, and forgive him, and so will be unassailable by the enemy either in conscience or in grace, Blessed path! What condescension to the weakness and evil in the introduction of the perfectness of what is good!
266 On the other hand, in such a position there would be need of faith and great energy. The disciples, under the direction of God, in their minds led perhaps by a petty part of the difficulty as of always forgiving, and a confused sense of the new position the Lord was placing them in, pray for an increase of faith. The Lord replies as to the fulness of its energy, because faith realises a power which is not in the person when it is realised, and thus acts without limit. The Lord applies it also, though in general terms, to the removing of the obstacle of a system which presented the form of good but was fruitless. When God is honoured, He displays, in a certain sense necessarily, His power - they sent into the position in which the exercise of that power glorifies Him. This is the principle of it all, indeed to act otherwise was what Satan tempted in vain the Lord to. Yet the great principle remains true, that in all need we may draw upon God. All consists in looking simply to Him. All things are possible to him that believeth, for it is God accomplishing His will, and He has willed to accomplish it by Man, and to honour Man, and Himself in Man, where He by and in man has been dishonoured by Satan. But this in faith according to His will till the Lord Jesus returns in power. Thus all the energy for the glorifying of the Lord was given them. If they had not the faith to place them in the position in which power would be glorified, they were not in the need which called forth the exercise of the power, and it could not be in exercise on God by the Holy Ghost, for this is the Holy Ghost's mind in the circumstances where the Church is placed. It is all-powerful and yet perfectly measured here, for faith puts all in its place (morally and) in power, for it brings God in according to the energy which has let in the world to come, the world of His truth and power into this, in the midst of those who are of Him, through the rejection of Him through whom the world is judged here, and we are admitted into it there. God acts in this, but in us in the midst of the weakness. Faith thus is mighty and perfect always, but never carries, nor can, beyond duty, and therefore never exalts nor displaces the relationship of responsibility and obedience. How blessed, perfect, ordered, and powerful are God's ways! What energy it gives to man in making God so much to him as to make nothing of him, so that he has no need of others, though servant by it of all in God's behalf! The Lord make us thus wait on Him in simplicity, because as seeing Him. It is of energy to remove everything by which Satan can deceive man, and thus withal only enter into the simple-hearted happy position, loving position of unhindered obedience. Lord, make us thus to realise His grace, and presence, and power, in mercy in the secret of Thy will!
267 We have, in the history which follows, a singular concatenation of facts - a faith, operating of God, or rather operated of God in the heart, sets free from all the subsidiary forces which God had thrown round His will in the economy part, and the principle, which recognised God in Jesus, carries us by this recognition beyond the law of a carnal commandment, associating us with Him in whom is the power of an endless life, which occupying us with His Person who is above, and the power of all these things, plants us not in dishonour of the law past, but in the liberty of the Saviour present. In this sense, by virtue of His presence, who once gave, and then fulfilled it, and bore its curse against us, in forgetfulness of it sealed by this word to him who recognised God in this: "Go thy way, thy faith hath saved thee." The word of Jesus was a word of divine power. He who healed lepers under the Law (and it was a remarkable type) was He who gave the Law. But here Jesus came as a Servant, and submits Himself entirely to the subsisting ordinances, and to their obligation to them in the act which expressed the divine power towards them: "Go, shew thyself to the priest" was a word which at once recognised the law, and manifested the Jehovah that gave it. The ten received the benefit; they acted on the word of Jesus, and so, thus far, in faith. The one perceived and recognised the glory of God in it. Less preoccupied with the form and power of institutions, he returns to the Source instead of merely enjoying the benefit, for the flesh uses institutions to hide God. Evil had levelled the Jew and the Samaritan, alike cast out of the presence of divine communion by the leprosy, the evil which afflicted them. They had a common lot by sin. Misery and equal exclusion had merged the difference, and made them fellows. The Lord here below, however, recognises the authority of the divine ordinances, makes Himself a Servant, yet therein to faith really, as we have seen, presents Himself as Jehovah. But the gratitude of faith was a readier reasoner than the instruction of the Law, and the blessing afforded by the presence and work of Jesus was, to one the aliment of Jewish distinction, to the other the evidence and comfort of divine presence and goodness. To him, therefore, there was complete deliverance, for he was by faith arrived in grace at the Source from which the Law itself proceeded, and was let go in peace, saved by faith, simply, blessedly, and freely, having liberty from God and with God, and in the presence of God Himself with thanksgiving. It is a sad stupidity of the flesh to be put by mercy under the Law.
268 Note, as the Lord had not yet declared and manifested His glory outwardly, and put an end to the economy, but that it only broke through, in the power in blessing of His acts, He sends the Samaritan, obedient and subject to God, instead of in pride of rebellion as the Samaritans were really, to the priests, so that indeed there was a ready and holy obedience here to the will of Jesus, to God; for the conviction of sin produces obedience, and is the root of it. The Lord sustains this, for it was yet God's way; salvation was of the Jews. The Samaritan, united, as we have seen, by his evil state with the outcasts by the Law, is ready at Jesus' word, of which they claimed help, to go and submit to the priests, God's ordinance therefore, but which supposed entire conviction of the power of His word, for it was the clean who had to present themselves. Thus full subjection is produced. But finding himself cleansed, he returns back to the Source, glorifying God and thanking Jesus. He was a Samaritan, by the knowledge of the Lord above and beyond the Law, cleansed, comforted, and free, by the knowledge of Jesus. He was not sent to the priests then. Faith had transpierced the veil, and rested on Jesus. One word stated his case: "Thy faith hath saved thee." He was a stranger in the house of God, admitted, as knowing the Master, with Jesus Himself. He was beyond the temple, and with One greater than it - no need to send him back to it. The rest went their way, cleansed, to be under the Law, and left, in their stupidity, the Jesus that had blessed them. They did not return to glorify God, their heart was stupefied by Judaism. This, at the point where we are now arrived of this Evangel, is an instruction full of importance and clearness. It was another light thrown on the passing away of the Law and that dispensation. The power was amongst them, though unrecognised, on which hung all, and which, being rejected, removed them from their place in recognising the sanctity withal of all that itself had instituted, and that too in faithful obedience as a Servant. This question was actually raised, i.e., of the presence of the kingdom of God, and the Spirit of God presents it to us here in this question of the Pharisees. And there is a remarkable instance of the distinction of responsibility, and the revelation of the secret of His will and power, before the accomplishment of which suffering goes necessarily, the world having rejected Jesus who was in it, the ground of this responsibility.
269 How many reasons might have been pleaded for going on! How might the nicer Jews have said: 'You are ordered to go to the priest.' But faith goes right to the heart of God. The sense of grace, producing thankfulness, goes at once to the source and fountain of grace, and there finds all grace, and a dismissal in the perfect liberty of grace, because there is nothing else than that, returning to Jesus with thanks. The Law and all was left behind, for Jesus must be what Jesus was. He had found the power of God. He glorified God, and was passed into another system by faith, as ever where God was in grace, faith having in its simplicity recognised goodness in the Source and Author of it. But it was really He who had given the Law, but now stood to faith in quite another and separate relation - that of grace, and there he was necessarily placed, for thanks to the Author carried him to Jesus, and that was what He was - He could not deny Himself, He was come, on the contrary, for this, despise Him how might the Jews. He recognised God as God really was - good, and was necessarily placed on this footing, and to eternity would have found Him nothing else. "Go in peace," says the Saviour, "thy faith hath saved." No question of going to priests now, and this bondage. He was come to Jesus, glorified God in principle, understood God, and God was that to him. So the poor Syro-phoenician woman; dog she might be, but God was good - good to dogs, they eat the crumbs. Humbleness which bows as worthless to all His ways, and therefore finds all His goodness. It is a great point always to be kept in this littleness, that we may always enjoy this fulness of love, and understand it, for grace, and knowledge, and all outward experience, and action in the Church, even faithful service by the Spirit externally, all but communion destroy, i.e., tend to destroy it. Communion and the presence of Jesus always keep us little, and happy in the fulness of God. Blessed for ever be His Name and glory!
270 Remark too that this man glorified God. It is this way alone that glorifies God, though men may plead in form the commandments of the Law, and the precepts of Jesus. He who owns His goodness most fully, necessarily does, and finds liberty and the joy of God. "Not only so, but we joy in God through Jesus, by whom we have received" (not the Law, but) "the reconciliation." And they who believe are reconciled. The great secret is to present Jesus, and we have all - Him and all that God is in Him, and the Father to Him for us.
- 20. The Pharisees asked the Lord when the kingdom of God should come. The Lord places them on their then plain responsibility. "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." It is not the coming of a magnificent ceremony to you His people owned and accepted, honoured as those who are to be the subjects (objects) of it. Neither shall they say, "Lo here, or Lo there" (the enemy would well say it, when the King was far, to deceive, when they had rejected Him, or, on the other hand, to dazzle and bewilder them, so that they should fall into the hands of Antichrist), but it should not be so said of the kingdom really as presented to the nation. It WAS presented, for the kingdom of God was then there amongst them. Jesus the King was speaking to them. Ought they not to have known Him? Because He came in grace, was that a reason for not knowing Him - for nothing in the heart of man? Because He had humbled Himself that He might know their sorrows, was that a reason for not discerning His greatness manifested in ten thousand ways, and above all in His infinite condescension, the perfection of His moral ways? His holy grace to the poor and guilty proved plain enough who was there, if the heart of man had not been opposed to all that was worth the delight of God in the kingdom, if it had not been blind and incapable to all that was lovely and of good report, and that in power in what He did. For the lowlier He was, the more wonderful His works. To His disciples He had other things to tell. They had received Him. He was rejected; leaving them, suffering and temptation would beset them, through the violence and the pretences of Satan, when they were thus left. Trying as their position was then, and rejected as He might be, the days would come when they would long for one of the days of the Son of man, and would not see it. He speaks of Himself to them as Son of man, not as one who brought in the kingdom, for the secret of that glory was not yet brought out, as for them, but such as they had had with Him, blessed and sweet intercourse in His walks through the world that knew Him not, with these, the companions (ignorant it might be) of His pilgrimage, but on whom He poured forth all His love, all He could of His heart, using them as His friends, telling them what He had in communion with His Father, as they were able in a world He loved, and had created, ignorant as it was of Him, in which He, even He, had so clothed the grass, sustained, consoled, if rejected of the world, the companions of the thoughts, and the kindness, which shut up by the rejection of the world, found its vent in a deeper love, marked and softened by sorrow, but which came therefore more sweet and touching to those on whom it could find vent. "Ye are they," said the weary but perfect Saviour, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint you a kingdom." Poor companions, yet comfort to the Saviour in this, that He could vent His holy sorrow, not indeed as though they were wise to receive it, but according to the estimate of His love towards them, and the place in which that love, the divine knowledge of that love placed them (most sweet it was surely) does He now do this, trust us with his sorrow, yea, much more now that He is exalted, giving us by the Spirit a part in the sorrow and activity of His love. But as to all present circumstances, He now kept them in His Father's name. They would, as Jews in the kingdom and in the land, feel the difference. Then, though the Lord would not say it to the nation, and had not said it of the true Messiah, but had presented what He was, the Son of God and Son of man to conscience, Satan would say to the disciples to allure and deceive them in that evil day: "Lo here, and Lo there." They were not to go after, nor follow them. Israel was judged; there was no hope for the nation, and as the lightning flashed from heaven to heaven, so would the Son of man be in His day. But first He was to suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation as Son of man. That was a casualty, and necessary as Messiah. It was the total ruin of the whole nation as in themselves. When I say 'casualty,' I mean that He was nothing less Son of man, though in another form, just accomplishing His work as such, but as to the link between Him as their Messiah in the flesh, it was broken and gone.
272 It is evident that while the Lord takes this name of Son of man to His disciples, as revealing of this higher and wider truth, the whole of this is Jewish, and shall find its accomplishment properly in Jewish disciples in the latter day. The generation are left there, and will take their place in the land again in the latter day, where alone they can properly be reckoned as such, and these circumstances arrive.
There are three great points presented. Jesus was to come in His day, and the subject here evidently is the Jews, the day of judgment of the dead. There is no question of "Lo here, and Lo there," and not to go after them. It is an earthly judgment acting on the circumstances in which they were placed, and Jewish distress, when the disciples would be in Jewish distress, and desire one of the days of the Son of man. The Son of man would be revealed in an unexpected moment, as the lightning, but first be rejected of the Jews and suffer. Verse 31 shows its clearly Jewish and local character. The unbelieving people would continue in a state of carnal security, resting on the continuance of things as they were, i.e., acting on it, for man does in the midst of many miseries. In the cases the Lord refers to, the judgment came on the earth, and those left were the spared ones. Thus should it be when the Son of man was revealed.
Note, the judgment would fall specially on the city, for they were not to return into the house, and if in the field not to turn back. Yet the great object of the Lord is the character of the judgment, so as to separate the hearts of His disciples. When they ask therefore when, He replies, "Where the carcase is the eagles will be." Where the dead object of judgment is, there the judgment will be, swift, terrible, unlooked-for, and certain. But there are some points here to be remarked. Suddenness of judgment is its general character. Israel, awful thought! would be in the case of Sodom, or of the world before the flood. It is evident that they are temporal judgments on a temporal people, something which, though sudden and unexpected, gave opportunity to turn back from the field to the house. With the end of the world it has nothing to do. With the apparition of the Son of man it has to do, but yet so associated with Jerusalem and the land as to raise these questions dependent on wars, human attack or premonition. For the Lord Himself once come as lightning, if that were it, returning from the field would be ill in place. There are also human circumstances capable of acting on and leaving room for human motives and conduct, though the Lord be so there as to warn them against them. It was a case where no human motive was of avail, for the Lord was interfering in it. No time for concession, no time to spare the life in fruitless concession to evil because judgment was as there. Faithfulness to the Lord and His testimony, who was at hand, was the real wisdom. He who saved his life would lose it, and he who lost it would really gain it. The Lord does not give the reason farther here than that His day was immediately in question in judgment, and that deceivers, and exceeding distress were then among a people, a generation who had rejected Him, and made Him suffer, and He was coming to judge. Besides, in the judgment, though man awake to the danger was to act with entire separation from the thought of this world, for human thoughts were vain when the Lord was judging like the suddenness of the lightning, there would be a perfect separation by the judgment. Their efforts to save life would be vain. How save it by joining or acquiescing in evil, when the Lord was coming to judge the evil? That was the thought which should possess them. But the Lord Himself, with discerning perfectness which knows all things, would spare in the same bed the faithful when the unfaithful was seized by the inevitable and sure judgment of God Himself. Although the testimony should act upon the conscience of man, the discernment of God was sure - in a bed, at the mill, one taken the other left, as we have said, where the corpse for judgment was, the judgment would be sure to come. Thus guarding against seductive spirits, a sudden station of the Lord in judgment was revealed to the disciples - a judgment which, like that of Noe and Sodom, would take the wicked and leave the just, would be a judgment on man here below, who looked no way for it. The righteous would be preserved. It would be sudden and terrible. The Son of man in His day.
273 Luke 18
It is evident to me that the parable which follows applies itself to the faithful Remnant of the Jews in the latter day. The widow in that city in the presence of her adversary appears to have no refuge or answer in God Himself, for indeed waters of a full cup have to be wrung out to them. The cry of faith is forced from them by distress, long silent in them, in the patience and long-suffering of God. But in the midst of the trial and distress preceding the Lord's coming - of that day under the adversary, the Antichrist, when the throne of iniquity and oppression of God's name and people seems established for a law, this shall be the resource and character of the elect - they cry day and night. This is addressed to the disciples, even at this period viewed (i.e., before the resurrection) as Jews, Jewish disciples on the rejection of the Son of man, liable to the consequences of Jewish infidelity till the Lord Himself appeared to take up the Remnant, and glorify Himself in His own strength. It is not "men ought always" (pros to dein anthropous). I do not say that we cannot apply a principle of God's conduct, but the subject is put as a principle "ought" (pros to dein). The direct application here is to the circumstances of the Jews in the latter day - that poor widow and desolate. As the mammon of unrighteousness before, so the judge of unrighteousness now. Further, the elect among them are noticed. Surely God will do as much for His own elect, as the unjust judge for the helpless. As the Lord taught the disciples to give their life, sooner than save it, in such times (for indeed provision is made for that), so here He encourages them with the certainty of the answer of God to the cry of His in that day of distress in speedy deliverance. Further, we have in fact their character and circumstances. They are in deep distress, entirely helpless, with an adversary who wrongs them sore. They cry day and night, though not in circumstances so accomplished. In spirit this should be our position, and the blessing would come for need and deliverance, for God, the God of faithfulness and grace, and of His people, is always the same. There is an adversary, but there is a cry He hears, and will certainly avenge. Thus shall it be with His beloved, and because beloved disciplined Remnant in that day; see Isaiah 65 and 66. "Night and day" the distress was urgent, and but One to help after all. Blessed position, though humbling!
274 But the Son of man, when He comes, will He find faith on the earth? Alas! but little. But this passage applies to those days, to the time spoken of, and the expectation and confidence in His power who shall come when this evil and distress prevails. God will avenge speedily, but will man be found in faith? Will He find faith in the earth? It is a dark one, of the darkest shade, because applied to the elect cast on this time of trouble, and on man's heart. It is His coming to the earth, not to fetch the Church. All this shows clearly the application of the parable to the Jewish Remnant in the latter days. The faith here spoken of is a faith which attends deliverance, which reckons knowing the Eternal's love for Israel, on the deliverance of Messiah according to His word, and so by faith brings Him in, for the cry of faith is always heard. But the fidelity of the Lord is better than our faith, and thus the full needful exercise and purging process is carried on, and He comes to bless when blessing comes aright, always perfect and good. "By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin"; when the Lord shall have purged all the filth of the daughters of Zion with the Spirit of judgment, and the Spirit of burning; see also Isaiah 64:7. The first part of the chapter is connected with the preceding. The Remnant would have to cry to God to deliver them from their adversary; perseverance in spite of all being against them, because they counted on God, showing knowledge of Himself, and that He was the ground of their confidence. This real knowledge of God was the whole matter in such case, but would Christ find such faith when He came? i.e., faith reckoning on deliverance, whatever the condition. Still it is a general principle; men ought always to pray and not to faint.
275 The Lord having thus closed what related to the kingdom at His coming, and on principles universally applicable, speaks of the spirit suited to the kingdom now in connection with His rejection. The new thing morally as to what suited man's introduction to it, such as he was, the renewal of relationship between God and man. The humility connected with the sense of sin, and reference of heart to God. The humility connected with the sense of one's own nothingness, and confidence in God, not man pretending to be just with God, which was ignorance and pride, but God merciful (not indifferent) to man a sinner - the spirit of a child. The first Adam exalts, the Second humbles Himself. But there the root is reached. All human advantages are only hindrances, they nourish the old Adam. Who then can be saved? Impossible with man, but all things are possible with God. Then the advantages of the kingdom now and hereafter. And then the doctrine of the cross closes and crowns the whole, the resurrection leading into the new scene and world.
276 - 9. The Lord returns to the present character of the kingdom, and in three points shows man's point of entrance in nothingness, emptiness of everything, a sinner to receive justification, a child to receive instruction, empty and poor to receive true heavenly and eternal riches, and that mere human righteousness, human wisdom or man's thoughts, human position and riches were just so many hindrances to the kingdom of God. One must be despoiled of all really to enter there also may we say, though in a certain sense these things may be sanctified, as we have seen, chapter 16. Yet so far as even in the Christian these things operate, they are so much that spoil the power and character of the kingdom in us, and therefore of the Church also in the world. All these things partake of or lead to this character "trusted in themselves" (pepoithotas eph' heautous), and therefore set aside the Holy Spirit, and by consequence the detection of the flesh, and all contrary to the power of the kingdom in us. There is another effect or trait of this state, despising others - a state of sin most thoroughly sinful and opposed to all that God is in Himself, and all that we ought to be either by the Law or in grace before Him, for God is mighty, and despiseth not any. And He is love, and therefore regards specially the poor and needy, for He wants not anything, but loves others. But pride is always necessitous. What a contrast between this Pharisee, and Paul before Festus and Agrippa, even in the confidence that he has. There we find the poor prisoner full of confidence, but what says he? "Would to God that all that hear me were altogether such as I am." It is not: "I thank Thee I am not as other men are" - the pride which results from comparison with man, and is proud of the external difference, but which, having tasted the perfect grace of God towards himself, and being perfectly satisfied, and resting, and joying in, and blessing God for it, his soul filled therewith, with grace necessarily, by the abounding of this grace and love shed abroad in his soul by the Holy Ghost, can desire, in the unfeigned love of his heart, that all were only like himself possessed of the same knowledge and consciousness of the grace of God, the same riches of Christ as he the chief of sinners had and tasted. A sufferer and a prisoner, he longs for all to be with him, save his bonds, instead of standing alone, glad he is not as they. What a contrast! Contrast with the grace of God in man, in Jesus, in His servants, and with the God of grace. We find both in Jesus. He made Himself as others, as to their need, entering into their sorrows, sharing the effect of their sins. If He was separate from all sin in Himself, and the Holy One, He was the Holy One in love to sinners. Such is our position as co-workers with God.
277 In detail there is this to remark in the Pharisee, that he by no means in form attributed the good to himself. He recognised nominally God and God's goodness in it. His first thought apparently was God, and that with thanks, "God, I thank thee." But then it is, "God, I thank thee that I," not "O God, I thank thee that thou," etc. He compared himself with the rest of men, not with God. Avoiding outward crimes, and fulfilling outward ceremonies, he substituted for crimes pride, and hatred, and contempt, the principles most opposed to God in Christ, and rested on a character before men instead of humbleness and conscience before God. The publican, on the contrary, knew God, imperfectly perhaps, but he knew Him and himself - a knowledge (which is everything) of which the Pharisee had nothing. It is the knowledge of God which really humbles. He who humbles himself shall be exalted, and he who exalts himself shall be abased. And how attractive this lowliness really is! It savours of the presence of God known and felt. The spirit of simplicity, docility, and nothingness, next the Lord notices as characterising the kingdom; he who does not receive it as a little child cannot enter therein. It is essential. Wisdom, learning, exalted circumstances, reputation, authority, all must bow and be absolutely laid low; none of them are in a little child. Of such is the kingdom, and on no other ground can one enter.
- 14. Note, righteousness by faith, or justification before God is not spoken of but by Paul, if we except the publican in this passage which is not really an exception. Then we get the counterpart, as is known, in James. We have often just, righteous practically or in character, and righteousness too.
- 18. There must be renunciation of self in righteousness, of self in the powers, and faculties, and acquisitions of man, self characteristically, and of the world, self in our external relations, to enter the kingdom. This is the case now put with everything naturally amiable and upright, but which only ministered to self, and hid the heart from itself, from the conscience, these screens that are between. For the effect of the operation of the Spirit of God, quoad hoc, is to put everything that is in the heart into the conscience. The young man rested on the goodness of human nature. The Lord proves it bad, really bad and miserable, whatever the outward form of amiableness might be, and He lets the whole of this fully appear, as far as it could be under the Law, that the root of bitterness which this left there untouched, might be manifested notwithstanding. For we must stand in the truth before God. If grace came by Jesus Christ, so did truth. It might have been some Paul, if indeed it were not one yet more amiable and attractive in his natural character. These worldly advantages draw the most emphatic declaration of difficulty from the Saviour. The young man was attracted by the Saviour's character of wisdom, goodness, and power, specially goodness, for he seems to be singularly amiable, and says to Him: "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" One would say, good desires seeking in the best direction for direction in conduct which should be approved. But, alas! there was no link between God and the heart; it was entirely unbroken before Him, untouched, no light whatever. Approved conduct he desired, good authority to direct him in it, but though nominally according to God, the sanction and approbation of man and of self was at the bottom, though perhaps his state of ignorance hindered also this from resting on his conscience, though it is never really ignorant of what we do seek though quite of Him we ought. "There is none that understandeth." The principle of the young man's approach was very clear. Good disposition. Goodness in man capable on direction of doing that which led to eternal life. There all the fairest form of man's religion, when even the Word of God is admitted as direction, begins, for by habit and education Christ's words are admitted as direction. But there is a principle essentially false, that there is any goodness in man at all. All religion begins with God in the discovery of man's state, that there is no good in him at all, but there is in God. Here the Lord meets him at once, as Nicodemus on a similar occasion. "Why dost thou call me good?" For He ranked Himself as in the mind of the young man here, to meet him where he was, under the Law, not as a Saviour but as a true Teacher. "There is none good but One, that is God." Blessed and perfect word! "Thou knowest the commandments," for they were hypothetically the rule of life to man in the flesh.
278 The Lord having given him credit for what he had, now proceeds to let in, as we have seen in another case, the light of the kingdom of heaven upon his heart, the relinquishment, total relinquishment of this world as a good, which had now rejected Christ, and thus showed itself incapable of moral good, the goodness of God. It was a different principle and line of goodness, not man but God. Not however till, by the presenting of Christ in every form, the goodness of God, they had proved there was no goodness, and no capacity for goodness in man. In this case, the possession of much that attached to this world was evidently a great hindrance, a vast, and, to man, insuperable impediment, for his heart was there. But if he reasoned, the heart of those who heard, who had so much opportunity of doing good, the disciples indeed, as to judgment (not by grace) they were where the young ruler was, could hardly enter into the kingdom of God. Who is to be saved? No one upon this ground. But what was impossible with men was possible with God. He only was good. Man's heart was elsewhere, but He who was good could save, and give new life. The hearers use the word "save," for there is always a vague consciousness of something wrong when we seek eternal life, but the natural heart always confounds it all together, and begins its religion from itself where God is not, and therefore ends it with itself also, using it to exclude God more effectually by pride and self-complacency.
279 Grace was the only resource, and divine power. It was well proved in the presenting of Jesus. Then, on the other hand, the question arose of the consequence of acting on this word. Abstractedly, perhaps, man might say the love of Christ is the sufficient motive. It is the only motive. It constrains. It divinely constrained Christ to come down and seek us here. But this love plunges us in not only sacrifices, but trials and difficulties, dangers and opposition, and, when we have left all, the Lord proposes a glorious reward to encourage, support, and animate us. It was the same with Him. Love, love to us, miserable sinners, and the accomplishment of the divine good pleasure brought Him down, but for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame. Moses also endured, having respect to the recompense of the reward. If I say: 'I will go there for the reward,' there is no grace, no love of God working in us, no participation in divine nature, but He who knows us and was one of us, gives the exceeding great recompense of reward, and assures the heart of him who sees the sacrifice in his way of self-denial. It is: "We have left all," which is the ground of the enquiry. They had left all through love to Jesus, and in obedience to His call, and now, when all was smitten from under them in the world, when enquired of thus, all, and all dignity, and all honour in the world entirely swept away, then the Lord presents another and a surer hope, a portion with Him, indeed here in rejection, but a portion with Him also in the glory which was His. Second Adam in another world in the age to come - the great hope into which the rejection of Jesus by the counsels of God set those who had a portion with Him. They are left on account of the kingdom of God. The Lord enlarges the thought in His humble and holy grace. It was everything to leave all for Him, but the Spring, and Centre, and Source of the whole kingdom of God was there, and puts this in grace before the disciples in truth; though the spring and seed of life was in them, it was mixed with many carnal thoughts, affection for Him, very little enlightened. Peter casts it as a sort of responsibility on Christ. "We have left all for thee, what shall we have?" There was an ugly spirit mixed with the question. They had done a great deal for Him; what were they to get? The Lord's answer enlarges infinitely the sphere of grace in them, and corrects the carnality that attached itself to it by the same word. It was not for an individual who held out great hopes, not for personal affection, or excitement disguised under the name of Messiah, but the moral power of truth in the soul. They had left it for the kingdom of God. This gave the real scope for what was true (Jesus hiding Himself) and corrected and made naught what was carnal. At the same time this expression makes it good for all who, in thankfulness of heart, leave all for the kingdom of God. In their after times it was not following Jesus in Person, though that was clearly the proof of it then, but leaving all for the kingdom of God, which the Lord owns. That can be done now through grace. Having thus presented the blessed and glorious consequences of giving up all for Christ, so that they should understand the end of these things, the Lord presents to them the extent of the position in which they were placed in following Him, what should happen to Himself, and how the introduction into this new world of blessing had its accomplishment by (death and) resurrection. But they understood it not, and the saying was hid from them.
281 Now the Lord, going up to Jerusalem, follows His career as Messiah, Son of David, presenting Himself as such to the people of the Jews. He was nigh Jericho, that ancient place of Israel's entry, but sign also of Israel's sin. There sat a blind man begging. Hearing the multitude, who tell him it is Jesus of Nazareth, he founds his cry on the title "Son of David," recognises His Jewish royal title. Jesus stood, as he persevered when rebuked, thus exercised in faith, and commanded him to be brought. Owning His title thus going up to the royal city, He will do all demanded of Him in this title. For from this out He presents Himself such, but it is, however, the LORD Himself who presents Himself as Son of David here. And in all these latter interviews I see these two characters united. In truth, the whole power of the counsel of God, and the wondrous blessedness of the presentation of Jesus by Himself to the Jews, which yet occasioned the scandal, was that, that it was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, He who had led them by Moses, He who had guided and conducted them all the way with His glorious arm, who now presented Himself as their lowly because Saviour King - their king in grace. For at verse 35, there is a very formal division of the subject of the gospel.
- 35. Chapter 19 should begin here. This is His present presentation to Jerusalem, in view of the kingdom; He is going up there. The character and ways of the kingdom morally, the principles for men, sinners, Jews viewed in their need as sinners, or Gentiles, of service above economy because flowing from the character of God, accomplished in Christ - this rejected by the world, and indeed the opposition of the world to the revelation of the character of God morally in Christ. These great and fundamental truths had been presented, and the Lord now returns to His actual personal mission, the great result of which was to be accomplished economically by the relation in which He stood with the Jews. Here, therefore, with the cortège of Israel, the multitude, He begins His entry by Jericho to visit His royal city, the city of His love, where He had placed His name of old, and that He visited now. He deals now with Israel, but with Israel according to His own character in judgment and in grace respectively. Here the blind in their necessity have more intelligence than the guides of Israel, and cry out, herald through their need of His power, "Son of David have mercy upon me." Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of David to him, for He was come that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. Need, personal need made him persevering, and the Son of David was come for the need of Israel. And though a troublesome interruption to the crowd, to this poor beggar, and little assorted to their ideas of the Son of David, the Son of David in mercy gave all heed, as indeed it was in His heart and His blessed glory to do - the Jehovah, Saviour and Companion of the distress of His people; for our poverty also is the herald of His grace, and seizes it through grace in its true character, for thus it was at this moment with this poor man. Thus announced, the Lord stops, and while the Servant of his poverty and distress which, through faith, found its resource in the riches of Christ, He, who was owned as David's Son, shows Himself the Jehovah-Saviour of Israel to do what the poor man would. It was in His power to do it, and willing to answer even the need of faith. Picture of Israel! his need was to see; he saw and glorified God, as all the people, when they saw it, "gave praise unto God."