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Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. IN this chapter and the one pre- do it with an assumed gravity and count of our Lord's conversation ion! But, Jesus, who knew what with some of his most intelligent, was in man, perceived the design subtle and bitter opposers. While of these canting impostors, and walking in the temple, as was his defeated it in such a manner, that custom, there came to him, first, they marvelled at him. Then the chief Priests, Scribes and El- came the Sadducees, a kind of freeders of the nation, and undertook to thinkers and atheists, who denied call in question his authority to teach the resurrection, and the existence and do as he had done. When these of invisible spirits, and laboured were silenced by a question re- to puzzle him with the case of the specting the baptism of John, and woman and her seven husbands. severely reproved by the parable of After the error of these had been the husbandmen; there were next fully exposed, and all the cavillers, sent to him some of the Pharisees who had attacked the Divine and Herodians, men of boasted Teacher, had been put to silence learning and acuteness, to catch and confounded, there came to him in his words. Their object him a man of a different characwas, to get hold of some unguard- ter, a Scribe indeed, but not like ed expression, by which they might the others. The short account represent him as unfriendly to given of him in the verses precedgovernment. This is an artifice ing my text, is as follows: " And frequently practised by the ene- one of the Scribes came, and havmies of true religion. These ing heard them reasoning togethPharisees and Herodians came er, and perceiving that he had anwith a serious face, and said, swered them well, asked him, “ Master, we know that thou art | Which is the first commandment true, and carest for no man: for of all? and Jesus answered him, thou regardest not the person of The first of all the commandments men, but teachest the way of God is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our in truth : Is it lawful to give tri- | God is one Lord: And thou shalt bute to Cæsar, or not?” How nat- love the Lord thy God with all thy ural it is for those, who would ac- | heart, and with all thy soul, and cuse Christ, or his servants, of be- , with all thy mind, and with all thy ing unfriendly to government, to strength. This is the first com'mandment. And the second is heart." These explanations of the like, namely this, Thou shalt love words under consideration, howthy neighbour as thyself. There is ever generally they may be receisnone other commandment greater ed, and by whatever great pames than these. And the Scribe said they may be sanctioned, are beunto him, Well, Master, thou hast lieved to be erroneous. But, withsaid the truth: For there is one out attempting a direct refutation God; and there is none other but of the comments of others, I will he: and to love him with all the endeavour to illustrate the passage heart, and with all the understand before us, by answering the following, and with all the soul, and with ing questions: all the strength, and to love his 1. What did our Lord mean by neighbour as himself, is more than saying to the Scribe, “ Thou art all whole burnt offerings and sac- not far from the kingdom of God?" rifices. And when Jesus saw that And, he answered discreetly, he said II. What reason had he for thus unto him, THOU ART NOT FAR FROM saying to this Jewish Lawyer? THE KINGDOM OF God."
1. What did our Lord mean by This peculiar and remarkable saying to the Scribe, “ Thou art expression of our Lord, it is ap- not far from the kingdom of God?” prehended, has been misunder
In answer to this question, let stood, and so explained, as to lead me observe, to inferences, false in themselves, 1. That the phrase, kingdom of and subversive of some of the es- God, which occurs as much as sixsential truths of the gospel. Mr. ty times in the New Testament, Burkitt, in his exposition of the generally means the church of passage, writes, “As some per Christ, under the last or Christian
sons may be said to be far from dispensation. This, it is believed, the kingdom of God, so are there will be apparent to any one, who others, who may be said, not to be will take the pains to examine all far; such who have escaped the the passages, in which the phrase pollutions of the world, abstained
I will quote two or three, and scandalous sins, are as a specimen: Mark, i. 14, 15, less wicked than the multitude “ Now after that John was put in are, but are strangers to an in- prison, Jesus came into Gallilee, ward, thorough and prevailing preaching the gospel of the kingchange in the frame of their hearts, dom of God, and saying, The time and course of their lives ; they is fulfilled, and the kingdom of have often said, I would be, but God is at hand; repent ye, and bethey never said, I will be the lieve the gospel." Mark ix. 1, Lord's. When the work of re- “ And he said unto them, Verily, generation is brought to the birth, I say unto you, that there be some after all it proves an abortion.”. of them that stand here, who shall Similar to this is the paraphrase of not taste of death, till they have that able, and generally correct seen the kingdom of God come expositor, Dr. Guise. His words with power." Luke xviii. 16, are, 6 And when Jesus observed “ Jesus said, Suffer little children with what good humour and judg- to come unto me, and forbid them ment the Scribe received his an- not: For of such is the kingdom swer and replied to it, he express of God.” The phrase, kingdom ed his approbation, saying, These of heaven, is of the same import. sentiments and dispositions are The kingdom of God, or the kingnear approaches to a real change of | dom of heaven, is the church of
Christ, which began, when the sentiments which you express, and Mosaic economy ended, and will the spirit which you manifest, that continue forever. This kingdom, you are prepared to embrace the at first, consisted of the few, who truths of my gospel, as soon as embraced Jesus of Nazareth as you shall be made acquainted with the Christ; but it will, finally, em- them, and that you will, ere long, brace all the redeemed from among unite with my disciples, and bemen.
a member of the visible 2. The kingdom of God, or Christian church, the kingdom of church of Christ, as it exists up. God upon earth.' on earth, has a visible appearance,
It remains to enquire, and may be considered as includ- II. What reason Christ might ing all those, who own Christ behave, for thus speaking to the Jewfore men, and furnish evidence, ish Lawyer? that they are his true disciples.- An answer to this question, may None, however, are really mem- be gathered from the preceding bers of the kingdom of God, but context, which has just been such as have been born of the read. And, spirit, and cordially embrace the 1. Christ perceived, that this truth as it is in Jesus. In order Scribe possessed a truly candid to be properly a member of the mind. He came to the Teacher kingdom of God upon earth, nei- sent from God, not to cavil, but
, ther a profession without faith, nor to learn. Instead of manifesting faith without a profession, is suffic- a wish, like the Pharisees and ient; but one must both confess Sadducees, to entangle Christ in with the mouth, and believe with his talk, he appeared desirous to the heart. None but saints have hear the gracious words, which a right to offer themselves to be- flowed from the lips of him, who come members of a church of spake as never man spake. There Christ; nor has a church of Christ was nothing captious in the quesa right to admit any as members, tion, which he put to our Lord. It except such as appear to be real was a serious and truly important saints. Hence,
question, which evinced a sincere 3. To be near the kingdom of desire to know the truth respectGod, is to be about to become a ing his duty to God. true and living member of the 2. Christ perceived, that this church of Christ. At the time of Scribe had correct views of the our Lord's conversation with the Divine Law. He readily assented Scribe, the Mosaic ritual had wax- to the answer, which our Lord en old, and was about to vanish gave to his question; and, in his away. The kingdom of heaven remarks upon it, made it evident, was at hand. The church of God that he had just apprehensions of was about to be purged of its un- the spirituality and extent of the sound members, and to assume a law of God, and of the superior new form, under the Christian dis- value of obedience to it, when pensation. The olive-tree was compared with the performance of shedding its dry and barren sacrificial rites and ceremonies.branches, to be grafted with fruit. In this respect, he differed widely ful scions. When, therefore, our from the Pharisees and other DocLord said to the Scribe, - Thou tors of the law, who perverted the art not far from the kingdom of words of Moses and the Prophets, God,” his meaning was, as if he and made void the commandments had said, • I perceive, from the l of God by their traditions,
3. Christ perceived, that this honest and good heart, and would, Scribe not only understood, but therefore, not only hear the word really loved the Divine Law. He with joy, but keep it, and bring answered discreetly, and in such forth fruit with patience. terms and with such an air, as Since such was the character of manifested a cordial and warm at- the Scribe, our Lord knew that he tachment to the Law of God, in should soon be precious to him, as its true import and spirituality.-- the true Messiah and Saviour of Christ looked through his heart; Israel, and that he would soon forand had he perceived that his pro- sake all that he had, and take up fessions were hollow, and his show the cross and follow him. And of regard to the Divine Law, hypo- hence, with the greatest truth and critical and false, it is not to be propriety, he closed his conversasupposed that he would have flat- tion with him, by declaring, in the tered his iniquity with an expres- hearing of the multitude, " Thou sion of his approbation. Without art not far from the kingdom of doubt, the Searcher of hearts saw
God.” him to be sincere, and a real lov
IMPROVEMENT. er of the holy, just and good Law 1. It is natural to conclude, from of the Lord. Hence,
what has been said, that all the 4. Christ perceived, that this sound members of the Jewish Scribe was a sound member of the church, in the days of our Saviour true church of God. The Jewish and his apostles, cordially emchurch, was, at that time, the on- braced the gospel. Thus the Scribe ly true church of God upon earth. was prepared to do, as soon as he To this church the whole Jewish was made acquainted with the nation professedly belonged. Ve- character of Christ, the evidences ry many of them, however, were of his Divine mission, and the nabut Jews outwardly, being stiff- ture of his doctrine and requirenecked and uncircumcised in ments. And thus all were preheart. But those, who were sound pared to do, who were, what all members of this true church of the members of the Jewish church the living God, were real saints, professed to be, friends of God, who actually loved the Lord their and lovers of his holy, just and God with all the heart, soul, mind good law. There was nothing to and strength, and their neighbours hinder such from receiving the as themselves. Such was the Lord Jesus, as their Prophet, Scribe. And hence,
Priest and King. The prophecies 5. Christ perceived, that this attested the Divinity of his miscandid, sincere, and upright Scribe sion, his works manifested the Di. was prepared to embrace the gos- vinity of his person, and all his pel, as soon as he should hear it, words and actions exhibited the and to join the Christian church, purity and benevolence of his as soon as it should be formed. character. Those members of the The moral obstacle in the way of ancient church, therefore, who his embracing the gospel and be- could see no form nor comeliness coming the disciple of Christ, had in him, nor any thing for which been removed by Divine grace; they should desire him,' were and every natural obstacle was morally blind, loving darkness soon to be removed by the light of rather than light, because their evangelical truth, which was break-deeds were evil. Hence Christ ing in upon his mind. He had an said, “ Ye believe not, because ye
are not of my sheep. Every one scriptural sentiment, in the words that hath heard and learned of the of our text. The Scribe, who was Father, cometh unto me." Those, not far from the kingdom of God, who were broken off from the was not a good, impenitent singood olive, because of their unbe- ner, but a penitent, humble saint. lief and rejection of Christ, were He loved the law of God, which dever sound members of the Jew- all impenitent sinners hate. He ish church. He, who knew what desired to know, that he might do was in man, pronounced them the will of his heavenly Father; hypocrites, and compared them to while all impenitent sinners say whited sepulchres.
unto God, Depart from us, for we 2. We may infer from this sub- desire not the knowledge of thy - ject, that those, who are really ways. As there is but one kind of
friendly to the Divine law, will sin; so there is, essentially, but not reject the gospel of Christ. -- one sort of sinners. The differThough the law and the gospel are ence between unrenewed men is distinct, yet they are not opposite. merely circumstantial. They all The law lies at the foundation of possess the carnal mind, or evil the gospel; and the gospel estab- heart, which is enmity against
lishes the law. It requires pre- God, and are alike children of e cisely the same feelings of heart, wrath, being dead in trespasses
to approve of the one, as to ap- and sing. There is none that doprove of the other. Those, who eth good; no, not one. Nothing love the Divine law, receive the is more absurd, than to suppose, gospel, as worthy of all accepta- that there is a class of seeking sintion; and those, who embrace and ners, who are daily growing betobey the gospel, are such as have ter, and are already near to the been born of God, have become kingdom of God. Impenitent sinreconciled to the Divine character ners are always far from God and and government, and delight in holiness, and are constantly growthe law of God after the innering worse, in proportion to the man. Under the light of the gos- light and advantages which they pel, all, who love God, repent of enjoy. They are never so bad as sin; and all, who repent of sin, when most thoroughly awakened receive Christ, as the Lord their and convinced of sin, and most righteousness. There is not a deeply sensible of their guilt and friend of God upon earth, who re- danger. And hence it is easy to jects the gospel of Jesus Christ. see, what direction it is proper to
3. We may infer, from what give enquiring sinners. The probas been said, that our text lends per direction is not, Go on, seek no countenance to the popular sen- and strive, and pray, with such timent, that there are two sorts of hearts as you have: For they are sinpers, the one very bad, and the in the way to death. But the proother negatively, if not positively per and scriptural direction is, good; the one stout-hearted and Turn ye, turn ye; for why will far from righteousness, and the you die. Cast away from you all other tender-hearted and near to your transgressions, whereby ye holiness. This, moral sinners have transgressed; and make you would feign believe; and this, a new heart and a new spiritsome, whose duty it is to teach ; Repent and believe the gospelthem better, encourage them to be- Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, lieve. But the Divine Teacher and thou shalt be saved. advanced no such absurd and un- Wherefore, “Let the wicked,