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THE REWARDS OF THE NEW CREATION.
“Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
IN these words we have a most gracious promise of the full and sure reward with which our Lord Jesus Christ will overpay all His true servants in the kingdom of the resurrection. They were drawn from Him by the shrinking back of the rich young man who had sought to enter into the kingdom of God. He had so lived from his youth up as to be not far from it; but in the last deciding trial he was found wanting. One thing he lacked, and that one thing was in what we should call his 160characteristic failing: he was rich, and he could not forsake all for Christ. He wanted nerve and faith enough to strike through the last bond which bound down his soul to earth; and this one thing wanting lost him all things. St. Peter then, who was standing by, and had heard and seen what had passed, took occasion to say, “Lo, we have left all and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” And our Lord promised a repayment, an over payment, an hundred-fold; and, as we read in St. Mark, He said, “now in this time;”3636 St. Mark x. 30. and in St. Luke, “in this present time, and in the world to come everlasting life.”3737 St. Luke xviii. 30.
First, then, our Lord meant that He would repay them for all things they gave up for His sake, in this world, after His resurrection. They who followed Him had been gathered out from Galilee and Judea, from Bethsaida and Jerusalem, one by one; and each several one had to make the same deliberate act of self-renunciation. They had to forsake all that earth holds dearest; not traffic, and gain, and ease alone, but the love of friends, and all that we gather together in our thoughts of home. All that was once fullest of life became to them as dead; all in the life of which they were wont to live was thenceforth as if it had never been: their choice of Christ for 161their Lord, and His kingdom for their portion, was a sharp and severing vow, which left them solitary in the throng of men who were friends before.
Such they made themselves for His sake before He suffered, and therefore He pledged His truth to them, that they should find again what they had lost for His service, after He was risen from the dead. And He made them the patriarchs of the “Israel of God;” they were made pastors and princes, fathers and bishops, ruling, from their apostolic thrones, the twelve mystical tribes of God’s elect. The whole Church was their ghostly family: they had sons, and brethren, and sisters, in all lands. All the whole earth was their home. All things were theirs, for “they had all things common.” So was His word fulfilled in the communion of saints. Even in this present time it was fulfilled, albeit with persecution: even when the powers of hell hung heaviest upon them, and shut them in on every side, what man can tell the hidden joy, the unutterable gladness, of His holy Church? When most likened in suffering to the passion of their Lord, there was, ever deep and full, a river of holy calm, making glad the city of God. And so unto this day, His most sure promise has had a like fulfilment. Never any man forsook any thing for his Master’s sake, but even in this life he hath found it in some unlooked-for compensation; not, 162it may be, alike in kind, but full of as deep a joy. The manifold wisdom of His eternal love attempers to His servants all their earthly being. Though their lot be most various, and most adverse to their self-choosing hopes, though it be ever changing, yet in every change it brings out some unknown and larger outline of ever-new reward for all they have forsaken in His service.
But there is yet a further and deeper fulfilment of this promise still to come.
Our Lord intended also, that He would reward them in His kingdom, after their own resurrection; that is, when the number of the regenerate is accomplished, and the end is come, and the new heaven and new earth are revealed. “In the regeneration” or restitution of all things, when He “shall sit on the throne of His glory,” then shall their reward be likewise made perfect. At that day, when the heavenly Jerusalem shall appear, and the fellowship of saints be gathered from the four winds of heaven, in that unnumbered company shall all the bonds and affections of all holy spirits be made eternal, and they shall receive an hundred-fold; brethren and sisters, and father and mother, and wife and children. What is here given in part, shall be there given in its fulness; and then shall be perfected the sympathy of all members of Christ’s body mystical, perpetuating 163all that earth has known of purity, and transfiguring all that is eternal with surpassing glory.
We see, then, in this promise, these great laws of Christ’s kingdom. First, that there shall be a manifold reward for those who shall in any way forego any thing for Christ’s sake, for all they do or suffer for His name—a reward, observe, not earned, but given; not wages, but a free gift. Once for all, let this be said: there is no connexion of idea between our meriting and His rewarding. The one is as much denied as the other is promised in holy Scripture. And, secondly, that there shall be a larger and distinguishing reward for those that have forsaken most for His service. There is promised in holy Writ, “the brightness of the firmament,” and the shining “as the stars for ever and ever;” there is “the righteous man’s reward,” and “the prophet’s reward;” there is a “right hand” and a “left hand” in His kingdom. Again: as are the orders of unseen spirits, so are the orders of saints. All are not angels, nor archangels, nor spirits of knowledge, nor spirits of love; nor have all the same degree, nor the same heavenly ministry, nor the same near approach to the Eternal throne; and so, doubtless, in the company of saints: as on earth, so in heaven there shall be patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, saints of all measures of glory, though all shall be absolutely blessed, and 164the principle of order shall be doubtless this: As it is the strength and energy of love to Christ that makes one man to differ from another here in this life, so without doubt the same shall there fix the rule and order of His kingdom. As some men are now holier, so shall some be then more glorious; as some are now more like their Lord, so shall some be then nearer to Him: all shall walk in white, but some shall be of a more dazzling splendour; all shall be crowned with gold, but some shall cast brighter rays.
Such is the meaning of this promise. See, then, brethren, whether you have a share in it. What shall they have who forego nothing, or but little for His sake? Must we then, in any sense, measure our share by our self-denials? This would be a fearful issue to which to bring our confident hopes. And yet most true it is, for He Himself has spoken it: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”3838 St. Luke xiv. 26.
Let us see, then:
1. First, what we are now giving up for His sake; what we are laying up in the kingdom of 165the resurrection. Where does your daily life exhibit any token of His cross? How should we be different, if He had never risen from the dead? Take away all that is exacted of us by fear of reproof, or interest, or love of reputation, or self-respect, or the customs of life, and the established order of our home, and the rules and maxims by which society is refined; and then what one thing would be found remaining? How different is the self-same act in two different men, when one man acts for some of these lower motives, and the other for the hope of the resurrection! Be not content, therefore, until you have searched out and found that the aim of your heart is single: this is what we have to ascertain. What are we casting on the water, that we may find it on the river of life? What power or effect has the kingdom of the resurrection on the works of every day; on that thronging multitude of thoughts and feelings and moral acts, which shape themselves, as the will inclines, into toil, and business, and study, and pleasure, and ease, and prayer? How are these affected by the promise of our Master? What token do they bear which bespeaks a yearning hope of His exceeding great reward? Do not our hearts witness against themselves, that all these daily actings of life are chiefly done for our own gain or pleasure? It is very hard to unravel 166motives—to separate the interweaving of higher and lower purposes, and to ascertain in what mea sure they each severally determine our will and practice. It is an ominous thing when a man’s interest is found always to fall in with his religion; when the bias of his common life is exactly coincident with his better aims; when the many things he seems to do, or to leave undone, for Christ’s sake, would be done or left undone also for other reasons; when the doing them or leaving them undone always turns to his advantage. I do not say, that he must therefore be necessarily acting on the inferior motive; far from it. Such is the manifold perfection of Christ’s service, that it will be found to take up into itself all good reasons of moral action, and often to be, even in a worldly sense, the best, safest, and most expedient way of life. But we have need to examine ourselves, and see whether the lower aims of our mind be not the more fixed and stedier, and therefore the real and dominant, though secret, reason of our habitual line of acting.
And next, consider in what you may forsake something for His service. I do not speak of sins which if a man do not forsake, he shall surely perish; for if he break them off, they are not for gone for his Lord’s sake, but for his own. An horrible dread of eternal death, and the gnawing 167of a selfish fear, make men first break off their sins. But that is not self-denial; nor are sins the matter in which to shew the entireness of our devotion.
Nor, again, is it in foregoing the needless superfluities of a luxurious life. They that give up only what they care not to retain, make but poor oblations. Rich and easy people seldom reach the point of real self-denial. It is in things lawful, and, as the world deems, necessary, but, in the severe judgment of a devoted mind, tending to relax the tone of our obedience, that we may prove the singleness of our purpose. For instance, in things harmless in themselves, but inexpedient for our own sake or for others; in narrowing the freedom we might ourselves enjoy, lest any other for whom Christ died should be misled by our example; in leaving unsaid and undone many things which may tend to irritation or questioning in uninstructed or prejudiced minds. Moreover, it is not only for the safety of others, but of ourselves, that we must needs limit our use even of lawful things. He is in great peril of judgment who never foregoes any thing that he might lawfully enjoy. He that lives on a dubious boundary-line, trusting his own stedfastness, is ever ready to slip over into a transgression. More men perish by exceeding in the measure of lawful things than in 168deliberate commission of things forbidden. It is a perilous footing on the giddy edge of a precipice. Again; a man may deny himself in things held by the world to be eligible and good, such as by custom are almost forced upon us, and in themselves are full of promise, and, it may be, of enjoyment, and yet are cumbrous, and hinder the devoting of ourselves to Christ. There was nothing of evil in Martha’s life; but Mary’s was the higher and more hallowed. Martha was careful about many things, yet all these things were innocent; Mary about only one, and that alone was needful. There is nothing evil in the possession of lands and riches, yet they bring much toil of heart, and over-burdening of care. They defraud a man of much of himself, and make him pay tribute of more than half of all his hopes, and fears, and thoughts, and hours of day and night—half, that is, of his whole earthly being; and, it may be, poverty in the world to come, as the cost or tax at which he buys the trouble of being rich. The very thought of being contented at any point short of the utmost gain, is lost from among men. They have no horizon to their aims for this world; and therefore “they have their reward.” It is a poor, palpable, proximate reward here on earth. The aim of most men falls short and terminates in something on this side of the resurrection; some phantasy of earthly happiness. 169It may be, then, that each one of us may find something which he may forego for the sake of the world to come; some possession, or purpose of life, or wish of heart; some of the permitted self-indulgences common to his rank and fortune: and this foregone., for the sake of living a life of larger charity, or of more abstracted devotion, that is, for the sake of making charity or devotion the great and governing aim of the whole life, and all other things as means and opportunities to it, shall not be forgotten where all self-denials are remembered: and so shall you have your lot with him who said, “Behold, we have left all things; what shall we have therefore?”
Remember, then, brethren, that in all these acts of self-restriction there must be the sincere in tent to do it for Christ’s sake; otherwise our acts are like inarticulate sounds, without emphasis or meaning. Many men seem to live a mortified life, and, as far as mere self-restraint, really do so, and yet not for Christ’s sake, but for some earthly end. Doubtless the rich young man denied himself for his great, possessions. None forsake and forfeit more than “they that will be rich.” But we know that the severest life without a conscious choice, is less than the least acts of self-impoverishment with a clear and single aim of foregoing something, that we may find it in His kingdom. Peter’s worldly 170all was a boat and a net; and the alabaster box of ointment had a great testimony of acceptance, be cause she had “done what she could.” They are oftentimes the little ministries of love that shew most devotion, and most intimate resolution of heart. And remember also, that, having chosen deliberately, a man must act boldly, not looking back. Half our difficulty in doing any thing worthy of our high calling, is the shrinking anticipation of its possible after-consequences. But if Peter had tarried, and cast up all that was to come, the poverty, and wandering, and solitude, and lonely old age, the outcast life, and chance of a fearful death, it may be he would have been neither an Apostle nor a Christian.
And, once more; whereinsoever you resolve to forsake any thing for Christ’s service, bear the trial patiently, and wait for the end. There must be some irksomeness, nay, some galling edge, some burden in our yoke, or we have need to look well lest we be carrying a mere mocking shadow of His cross. Be not afraid though your life be deemed singular and solitary; His was so; and theirs who at any time have followed Him, each in his way and kind, has been so likewise. When He promises you an hundred-fold, be not content with thirty-fold, nor with sixty-fold. You would be happy to have any reward in His blissful kingdom; 171but be not therefore slack in striving for it. True, He does not offer you the crowns of apostles; but He offers you more than you can ask or think, more than we are ever reaching after. Every day we might attain we know not what; every day, it may- be, loses or wins something of the brightness of the resurrection. All we do or leave undone has its counterpart in the unseen world. And what then is life, and what is the world, to that day, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory?
Forsake all, rather than forfeit your reward, rather than be set far off from Him when He cometh in to order the guests that are bidden to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
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