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cans, their fraudulent habits: the soldiers, their ferocity and love of plunder: the Ephesians, their deceitful though gainful practices: and all to follow those good ways, which "God has ordained that we should walk in them."
On the other hand, we read of some who, though they found the pearl of great price, yet never attained it, because they did not go and sell all that they had, for the sake of that pearl. Those, for instance, who though they believed that Jesus was the Christ, yet did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; "for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Those, again, who for a while believed, but "when temptation or persecution arose because of the word, fell away." 3 Those who allowed the word to be choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and brought no fruit to perfection. The "slothful servant," who instead of trading with the talent assigned him by his Lord, buried it in the ground, and so became "unprofitable." Those whom St. Paul mourns over, who though professing themselves Christians, were "enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, who mind earthly things." 6
All these would have been glad to possess the treasure, and perhaps some of them deceived themselves, and expected that it would be theirs at last; but they neglected the condition on which alone it can be secured; they did not sell all that they had,
2 John xii. 42.
4 Ib. iv. 18, 19.
6 Phil. iii. 18, 19.
3 Mark iv. 17.
5 Ch. xxv. 18--30.
and ought not to have kept, for the sake of it. Some would not give up the praise of men, the favour of their party dreaded the scorn of their companions. Others would not sell their worldly interests; preferred the wealth which they must leave behind, to the treasure which they might have laid up in heaven. Others would not part with their vanities and pleasures; others their sinful affections and desires. "Broad," alas, "is the gate that leadeth to destruction," and many are the ways which lead to it: many are the snares of this present world, which hinder men from seeking "that good part which shall not be taken from them :" from buying that pearl, which instead of perishing among earthly things, will shine in everlasting brightness, and be precious, when every thing else has lost all value.
These parables enable us to enter into ourselves, and prove our own souls. They show that the kingdom of heaven is not a treasure which will come to us, with no effort on our own part: that the pearl of great price, is not one on which we can expect to stumble, or pick up by chance as we pass along the beaten road, looking, perhaps, for nothing less. They show that he alone is the wise or prudent man, who is "seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." And if we are doing this, it can be no hidden thing or doubtful matter. If a man had sold all that he had, in order to obtain some treasure which he valued more than all, it could not fail to be manifest to himself and clear to others. So it ought to be evident concerning every one called Christian, that he counts all temporal things but
dross, for the sake of securing the things that are eternal. For these parables forbid us to believe, that whilst we are giving our heart and life to things below, we can make the treasure which is above
We cannot purchase heaven, by serving
THE GOSPEL COMPARED TO A NET CAST INTO THE SEA.
MATT. xiii. 47–52.
47. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind :
48. Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
This, like many which have preceded it, is a prophetic parable and shows that the circumstances of the future church were spread open as in a map before the mind of the Lord Jesus. He compares the preaching the gospel in the world, to the casting a net into the sea. That is, the apostles Peter, and John, and the rest, who had been used to cast their nets into the waters of Galilee, did a work of the like nature when they went throughout the land, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and baptiz
ing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The net cast into the lake, gathered of every kind; some which did, and some which did not reward the labour of the fishers. So is the kingdom of heaven. The gospel preached by the apostles, gathered of every kind: when "the word of the Lord increased, and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly:" when, as
at Antioch, "the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." These were all within the net; for they all professed to be disciples of Jesus Christ, desiring through him to escape the condemnation of sin, and be received among the people of God. They were all baptized in his name, and enrolled amongst the company of believers. We might have hoped that they would have been of one kind only; no bad mixed among the good. But the contrary too soon appeared, and the parable was too early explained. The gospel net, in which was Joses surnamed Barnabas, who having land, sold it, and gave up the price to the common use, enclosed also Ananias with his wife Sapphira, who desired to have the credit of liberality without the cost. 3 At Corinth, together with Aquila and Priscilla, devoted servants of God, the net gathered also "that wicked person," who brought a reproach upon the church, and whom St. Paul commanded the Corinthians to separate from the company of believers.* So likewise among the teachers there was the faithful Timothy, and the zealous Apollos: but there were also Hymeneus
1 Acts vi. 7.
2 Ib. xi. 21. 3 Acts iv. 36; v. 1—8. 4 Acts xviii. 2. 1 Cor. v. 1—13.
and Philetus, who "erred concerning the truth, and overthrew the faith of some." 5
And we know
It was thus in the early church. too well, that it is even thus in these later days. Amongst those who profess and call themselves Christians, are men of every kind: many who pervert the truth; many who hold the truth in unrighteousness many who set their affections on things of the earth together with those who "adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour," who "walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit," and give all diligence to "make their calling and election sure."
We might be inclined to say, as was said concerning the tares of the field; Cast out the bad at once, and let the good alone remain within the net. But what was answered in the one case, applies equally to the other; "Nay, lest whilst ye gather out the bad, ye cast out also the good with them." That both should remain together within the net, agrees with the purpose of the heavenly King. The bad "prove what is in the heart" of the good, by their example, their persuasion, their arts and means of temptation; sometimes by the persecution which they employ. And the good, by their better ways, by their advice, by their reproofs, may be made useful to the bad; who when they witness their integrity, their charity, their chaste and holy conversation, their preference of things eternal to things temporal-may be won over to a like practice; ma "repent and be converted," and "turn from dead works," to serve their Father which is in heaven.
5 2 Tim. ii. 17-18.