Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 13, 1857, by
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich"2 Corinthians 8:9.
HE APOSTLE, in this chapter, was endeavoring to stir up the Corinthians to liberality. He desired them to contribute something for those who were the poor of the flock, that he might be able to minister to their necessities. He tells them, that the churches of Macedonia, though very much poorer than the church at Corinth, had done even beyond their means for the relief of the Lords family, and he exhorts the Corinthians to do the same. But suddenly recollecting that examples taken from inferiors seldom have a powerful effect, he lays aside his argument drawn from the church of Macedonia, and he holds before them a reason for liberality which the hardest heart can scarcely resist, if once that reason be applied by the Spirit. "My brethren," said he, "there is One above, by whom you hope you have been saved, One whom you call Master and Lord, now if you will but imitate him, you can not be ungenerous or illiberal. For, my brethren, I tell you a thing which is an old thing with you and an undisputed truth'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.' Let this constrain you to benevolence." O Christian, whenever thou art inclined to an avaricious withholding from the church of God, think of thy Saviour giving up all that he had to serve thee, and canst thou then, when thou beholdest self-denial so noble,canst thou then be selfish, and regard thyself, when the claims of the poor of the flock are pressed upon thee? Remember Jesus; think thou seest him look thee in the face and say to thee, "I gave myself for thee, and dost thou withhold thyself from me? For if thou dost so, thou knowest not my love in all its heights and depths and lengths and breadths."
Jesus, who is he that could look upon the brow of thy Majesty, who is he that could comprehend the strength of the arm of thy might? Thou art God, thou art infinite, and we poor finite things, are lost in thee. The insect of an hour can not comprehend thyself. We bow before thee, we adore thee; thou art God over all, blessed for ever. But as for the comprehension of thy boundless riches, as for being able to tell thy treasures, or to reckon up thy wealth, that were impossible. All we know is, that the wealth of God, that the treasures of the infinite, that the riches of eternity, were all thine own: thou wast rich beyond all thought.
II. The Lord Jesus Christ, then, was rich. We all believe that, though none of us can truly speak it forth. Oh, how surprised angels were, when they were first informed that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Light and Majesty, intended to shroud himself in clay and become a babe, and live and die! We know not how it was first mentioned to the angels, but when the rumor first began to get afloat among the sacred hosts, you may imagine what strange wonderment there was. What! was it true that he whose crown was all bedight with stars, would lay that crown aside? What! was it certain that he about whose shoulders was cast the purple of the universe, would become a man dressed in a peasants garment? Could it be true that he who was everlasting and immortal would one day be nailed to a cross? Oh! how their wonderment increased! They desired to look into it. And when he descended from on high, they followed him; for Jesus was "seen of angels," and seen in a special sense, for they looked upon him in rapturous amazement, wondering what it all could mean. "He for our sakes became poor." Do you see him as on that day of heaven's eclipse he did ungird his majesty? Oh, can ye conceive the yet increasing wonder of the heavenly hosts when the deed was actually done, when they saw the tiara taken off, when they saw him unbind his girdle of stars, and cast away his sandals of gold? Can ye conceive it, when he said to them, "I do not disdain the womb of the virgin; I am going down to earth to become a man?" Can ye picture them as they declared they would follow him! Yes, they followed him as near as the world would permit them. And when they came to earth they began to sing, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men." Nor would they go away till they had made the shepherds wonder, and till heaven had hung out new stars in honor of the new-born King. And now wonder, ye angels, the Infinite has become an infant; he, upon whose shoulders the universe doth hang, hangs at his mothers breast; he who created all things, and bears up the pillars of creation, hath now become so weak that he must be carried by a woman! And oh, wonder, ye that knew him in his riches, whilst ye admire his poverty! Where sleeps the new-born King? Had he the best room in Caesar's palace? hath a cradle of gold been prepared for him, and pillows of down, on which to rest his head? No, where the ox fed, in the dilapidated stable, in the manger, there the Saviour lies, swathed in the swaddling bands of the children of poverty! Nor there doth he rest long; on a sudden his mother must carry him to Egypt; he goeth there, and becometh a stranger in a strange land. When he comes back, see him that made the worlds handle the hammer and the nails, assisting his father in the trade of a carpenter! Mark him who has put the stars on high, and made them glisten in the night; mark him without one star of glory upon his browa simple child, as other children. Yet, leave for a while the scenes of his childhood and his earlier life; see him when he becomes a man, and now ye may say, indeed, that for our sakes he did become poor. Never was there a poorer man than Christ; he was the prince of poverty. He was the reverse of Croesushe might be on the top of the hill of riches, Christ stood in the lowest vale of poverty. Look at his dress, it is woven from the top through out, the garment of the poor! As for his food, he oftentimes did hunger; and always was dependent upon the charity of others for the relief of his wants! He who scattered the harvest o'er the broad acres of the world, had not sometimes wherewithal to stay the pangs of hunger? He who digged the springs of the ocean, sat upon a well and said to a Samaritan woman, "Give me to drink!" He rode in no chariot, he walked his weary way, foot sore, o'er the flints of Galilee! He had not where to lay his head. He looked upon the fox as it hurried to its burrow, and the fowl as it went to its resting-place, and he said, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but I, the Son of man, have not where to lay my head." He who had once been waited on by angels, becomes the servant of servants, takes a towel, girds himself, and washes his disciples' feet! He who was once honored with the hallelujahs of ages, is now spit upon and despised! He who was loved by his Father, and had abundance of the wealth of affection, could say, "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." Oh, for words to picture the humiliation of Christ! What leagues of distance between him that sat upon the throne, and him that died upon the cross! Oh, who can tell the mighty chasm between yon heights of glory, and the cross of deepest woe! Trace him, Christian, he has left thee his manger to show thee how God came down to man. He hath bequeathed thee his cross to show thee how man can ascend to God. Follow him, follow him, all his journey through; begin with him in the wilderness of temptation, see him fasting there, and hungering with the wild beasts around him; trace him along his weary way, as the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He is the byword of the drunkard, he is the song of the scorner, and he is hooted at by the malicious; see him as they point their finger at him, and call him "drunken man and wine-bibber!" Follow him along his via dolorosa, until at last you meet him among the olives of Gethsemane; see him sweating great drops of blood! Follow him to the pavement of Gabbatha; see him pouring out rivers of gore beneath the cruel whips of Roman soldiers! With weeping eye follow him to the cross of Calvary, see him nailed there! Mark his poverty, so poor that they have stripped him naked from head to foot, and exposed him to the face of the sun! So poor, that when he asked them for water they gave him vinegar to drink! So poor that his unpillowed head is girt with thorns in death! Oh, Son of Man, I know not which to admire most, thine height of glory, or thy depths of misery! Oh, Man, slain for us, shall we not exalt thee? God over all, blessed for ever, shall we not give thee the loudest song? "He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor." If I had a tale to tell you this day, of some king, who, out of love to some fair maiden, left his kingdom and became a peasant like herself, ye would stand and wonder, and would listen to the charming tale; but when I tell of God concealing his dignity to become our Saviour, our hearts are scarcely touched. Ah, my friends, we know the tale so well, we have heard it so often; and, alas, some of us tell it so badly that we cannot expect that you would be as interested in it as the subject doth demand. But surely, as it is said of some great works of architecture, that though they be seen every morning, there is always something fresh to wonder at; so we may say of Christ, that though we saw him every day, we should always see fresh reason to love, and wonder, and adore. "He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor."
I have thought that there is one peculiarity about the poverty of Christ, that ought not to be forgotten by us. Those who were nursed upon the lap of want feel less the woes of their condition. But I have met with others whose poverty I could pity. They were once rich; their very dress which now hangs about them in tatters, tells you that they once stood foremost in the ranks of life. You meet them amongst the poorest of the poor; you pity them more than those who have been born and bred to poverty, because they have known something better. Amongst all those who are poor, I have always found the greatest amount of suffering in those who had seen better days. I can remember, even now, the look of some who have said to me when they have received assistanceand I have given it as delicately as I could, lest it should look like charity"Ah, sir, I have known better days." And the tear stood in the eye, and the heart was smitten at bitter recollections. The least slight to such a person, or even too unmasked a kindness, becomes like a knife cutting the heart. "I have known better days," sounds like a knell over their joys. And verily our Lord Jesus might have said in all his sorrows, "I have known better days than these." Methinks when he was tempted of the devil in the wilderness, it must have been hard in him to have restrained himself from dashing the devil into pieces. If I had been the Son of God, methinks, feeling as I do now, if that devil had tempted me, I should have dashed him into the nethermost hell, in the twinkling of an eye! And then conceive the patience our Lord must have had, standing on the pinnacle of the temple, when the devil said, "Fall down and worship me." He would not touch him, the vile deceiver, but let him do what he pleased. Oh! what might of misery and love there must have been in the Saviour's heart when he was spit upon by the men he had created; when the eyes he himself had filled with vision looked on him with scorn, and when the tongues, to which he himself had given utterance, hissed and blasphemed him! Oh, my friends, if the Saviour had felt as we do, and I doubt not he did feel in some measure as we doonly by great patience he curbed himselfmethinks he ought have swept them all away; and, as they said, he might have come down from the cross, and delivered himself, and destroyed them utterly. It was mighty patience that could bear to tread this world beneath his feet, and not to crush it, when it so ill-treated its Redeemer. You marvel at the patience which restrained him; you marvel also at the poverty he must have felt, the poverty of spirit, when they rebuked him and he reviled them not again; when they scoffed him, and yet he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He had seen brighter days; that made his misery more bitter, and his poverty more poor.
III. Well, now we come to the third pointWHY DID THE SAVIOUR COME TO DIE AND BE POOR? Hear this, ye sons of Adamthe Scripture says, "For your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made rich." For your sakes. Now, when I address you as a great congregation, you will not feel the beauty of this expression, "For your sake." Husband and wife, walking in the fear of God, let me take you by the hand and look you in the face, let me repeat those words, "for your sakes he became poor." Young man, let a brother of thine own age, look on thee and repeat these words, "Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor." Gray-headed believer, let me look on you and say the same, "For your sake he became poor." Brethren, take the word home, and see if it does not melt you"Though he was rich, yet for my sake he became poor." Beg for the influences of the Spirit upon that truth, and it will make your heart devout and your spirit loving"I the chief of sinners am, yet for my sake he died." Come, let me hear you speak; let us bring the sinner here, and let him soliloquize"I cursed him, I blasphemed, and yet for my sake he was made poor; I scoffed at his ministers, I broke his Sabbath, yet for my sake was he made poor. What! Jesus, couldst thou die for one who was not worth thy having? Couldst thou shed thy blood for one who would have shed thy blood, if it had been in his power? What! couldst thou die for one so worthless, so vile?" "Yes, yes," says Jesus, "I shed that blood for thee." Now let the saint speak: "I," he may say, "have professed to love him, but how cold my love, how little have I served him! How far have I lived from him; I have not had sweet communion with him as I ought to have had. When have I been spending and spent in his service? And yet, my Lord thou dost say, 'for thy sake I was made poor.'" "Yes," saith Jesus, "see me in my miseries; see me in my agonies; see me in my deathall these I suffered for thy sake." Wilt thou not love him who loved thee to this great excess, and became poor for thy sake?
That, however, is not the point to which we wish to bring you, just now; the point is this, the reason why Christ died was, "that we through his poverty might be rich." He became poor from his riches, that our poverty might become rich out of his poverty. Brethren, we have now a joyful theme before usthose who are partakers of the Saviour's blood are rich. All those for whom the Saviour died, having believed in his name and given themselves to him, are this day rich. And yet I have some of you here who can not call a foot of land your own. You have nothing to call your own to-day, you know not how you will be supported through another week; you are poor, and yet if you be a child of God, I do know that Christ's end is answered in you; you are rich. No, I did not mock you when I said you were rich: I did not taunt youyou are. You are really rich; you are rich in possessions; you have in your possession now things more costly than gems, more valuable than gold and silver. Silver and gold, have I none, thou mayest say; but if thou canst say afterward, "Christ is all," thou hast outspoken all that the man can say who had piles of gold and silver. "But," thou sayest, "I have nothing." Man, thou hast all things. Knowest thou not what Paul said? He declares that "things present and things to come, and this world, and life and death, all are yours and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The great machinery of providence has no wheel which does not revolve for you. The great economy of grace with all its fullness, is yours. Remember that adoption, justification, sanctification, all are yours. Thou hast everything that heart can wish in spiritual things; and thou hast everything that is necessary for this life; for you know who hath said, "having food and raiment, let us therewith be content." You are rich; rich with true riches, and not with the riches of a dream. There are times when men by night do scrape gold and silver together, like shells upon the sea shore; but when they wake in the morning they find themselves penniless. But, yours are everlasting treasures; yours are solid riches. When the son of eternity shall have melted the rich man's gold away, yours shall endure. A rich man has a cistern full of riches, but a poor saint has got a fountain of mercy, and he is the richest who has a fountain. Now, if my neighbor be a rich man, he may have as much wealth as ever he pleases, it is only a cistern full, it will soon be exhausted; but a Christian has a fountain that ever flows, and let him draw, draw on forever, the fountain will still keep on flowing. However large may be the stagnant pool, if it be stagnant, it is but of little worth; but the flowing stream, though it seem to be but small, needs but time, and it will have produced an immense volume of precious water. Thou art never to have a great pool of riches, they are always to keep on flowing to thee; "Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure." As old William Huntingdon says, "The Christian has a hand-basket portion. Many a man, when his daughter marries, does not give her much, but he says to her, 'I shall send you a sack of flour one day, and so-and-so the next day, and now and then a sum of gold; and as long as I live I will always send you something." Says he, "She will get a great deal more than her sister, who has had a thousand pounds down. That is how my God deals with me; he gives to the rich man all at once, but to me day by day." Ah, Egypt, thou wert rich when thy granaries were full, but those granaries might be emptied; Israel was far richer when they could not see their granaries, but only saw the manna drop from heaven, day by day. Now, Christian, that is thy portionthe portion of the fountain always flowing, and not of the cistern-full, and soon to be emptied.
But remember, O saint, that thy wealth does not all lie in thy possession just now; remember thou art rich in promises. Let a man be never so poor as to the metal that he hath, let him have in his possession promissory notes from rich and true men, and he says, "I have no gold in my purse, but here is a note for such-and-such a sumI know the signatureI can trust the firmI am rich, though I have no metal in hand." And so the Christian can say, "If I have no riches in possession, I have the promise of them; my God hath said, ' No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly,'that is a promise that makes me rich. He has told me, 'My bread shall be given me, and my water shall be sure.' I can not doubt his signature, I know his word to be authentic; and as for his faithfulness, I would not so dishonor him as to think he would break his promise. No, the promise is as good as the thing itself. If it be God's promise, it is just as sure that I shall have it, as if I had it."
But then the Christian is very rich in reversion. When a certain old man dies that I know of, I believe that I shall be so immensely rich that I shall dwell in a place that is paved with gold, the walls of which are builded with precious stones. But, my friends, you have all got an old man to die, and when he is dead, if you are followers of Jesus, you will come in for your inheritance. You know who that old man is, he is very often spoken of in Scripture; may the old man in you die daily, and may the new man be strengthened in you. When that old man of corruption, your old nature, shall totter into its grave, then you will come in for your property. Christians are like heirs, they have not much in their minority, and they are minors now; but when they come of age, they shall have the whole of their estate. If I meet a minor, he says, "That is my property." "You can not sell it, sir; you can not lay hold of it." "No," says he, "I know I can not; but it is mine when I am one-and-twenty, I shall then have complete control; but at the same time, it is as really mine now as it ever will be. I have a legal right to it, and though my guardians take care of it for me, it is mine, not theirs." And now, Christian, in heaven there is a crown of gold which is thine to-day; it will be no more thine when thou hast it on thy head than it is now. I remember to have heard it reported that I once spoke a metaphor, and bade Christians look at all the crowns hanging in rows in heavenvery likely I did say itbut if not, I will say it now. Up, Christian, see the crowns all ready, and mark thine own; stand thou and wonder at it; see with what pearls it is bedight, and how heavy it is with gold! And that is for thy head, thy poor aching head; thy poor tortured brain shall yet have that crown for its arraying! And see that garment, it is stiff with gems, and white like snow; and that is for thee! When thy week-day garment shall be done with, this shall be the raiment of thy everlasting Sabbath. When thou hast worn out this poor body, there remaineth for thee, "A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Up to the summit, Christian, and survey thine inheritance; and when thou hast surveyed it all, when thou hast seen thy present possessions, thy promised possessions, thine entailed possessions, then remember that all these were bought by the poverty of thy Saviour! Look thou upon all thou hast, and say, "Christ bought them for me." Look thou on every promise, and see the bloodstains on it; yea, look too, on the harps and crowns of heaven, and read the bloody purchase! Remember, thou couldst never have been anything but a damned sinner, unless Christ had bought thee! Remember, if he had remained in heaven, thou wouldst for ever have remained in hell; unless he had shrouded and eclipsed his own honor, thou wouldst never have had a ray of light to shine upon thee. Therefore, bless his dear name, extol him, trace every stream to the fountain; and bless him who is the source, and the fountain of everything thou hast. Brethren, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
IV. I have not done, I have three things now to say, and shall say them as briefly as possible.
The first is a doctrine; the doctrine is this: If Christ in his poverty made us rich, what will he do now that he is glorified. If the Man of Sorrows saved my soul, will the man now exalted suffer it to perish? If the dying Saviour availed for our salvation, should not the living, interceding Saviour, abundantly secure it?
For ever interceding there;
What shall divide us from his love,
Or what shall sink us in despair?"
If when the nail was in thine hand, O Jesus, thou didst rout all hell, canst thou be defeated now that thou hast grasped the scepter? If, when the thorn crown was put about thy brow, thou didst prostrate the dragon, canst thou be overcome and conquered now that the acclamations of angels are ascending to thee? No, my brethren, we can trust the glorified Jesus; we can repose ourselves on his bosom; if he was so strong in poverty, what must he be in riches?
The next thing was a question, that question was a simple one. My hearer, hast thou been made rich by Christ's poverty? Thou sayest, "I am good enough without Christ; I want no Saviour." Ah, thou art like her of old, who said, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, whereas, saith the Lord, 'Thou art naked, and poor, and miserable.'" O ye that live by good works, and think that ye shall go to heaven because you are as good as others; all the merits you can ever earn yourselves, are good for nothing. All that human nature ever made, turns to a blot and a curse. If those are your riches, you are no saints. But can you say this morning, my hearers, "I am by nature without anything, and God has by the power of his Spirit taught me my nothingness."
My brother, my sister, hast than taken Christ to be thine all in all? Canst thou say this day, with an unfaltering tongue, "My Lord, my God, I have nothing; but thou art my all?" Come, I beseech thee, do not shirk the question. Thou art careless, heedless; answer it, then, in the negative. But when thou hast answered it, I beseech thee, beware of what thou hast said. Thou art sinful, thou feelest it. Come, I beseech thee, and lay hold on Jesus. Remember, Christ came to make those rich, that have nothing of their own. My Saviour is a physician; if you can heal yourself, he will have nothing to do with you. Remember, my Saviour came to clothe the naked. He will clothe you, if you have not a rag of your own; but unless you let him do it from head to foot, he will have nothing to do with you. Christ says he will never have a partner; he will do all, or none. Come then, hast thou given up all to Christ? Hast thou no reliance and trust save in the cross of Jesus? Then thou hast answered the question well. Be happy, be joyous; if death should surprise thee the next hour, thou art secure. Go on thy way, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
And now I close with the third thing, which was an exhortation. Sinner, dost thou this morning feel thy poverty? Then look to Christ's poverty. O ye that are to-day troubled on account of sinand there are many such hereGod has not let you alone; he has been plowing your heart with the sharp plowshare of conviction; you are this day saying, "What must I do to be saved?" You would give all you have, to have an interest in Jesus Christ. Your soul is this day sore broken and tormented. O sinner, if thou wouldst find salvation, thou must find it in the veins of Jesus. Now, wipe that tear from thine eye a moment, and look here. Dost thou see him high, where the cross rears its terrible tree? There he is. Dost see him? Mark his head. See the thorn-crown, and the beaded drops still standing on his temples. Mark his eyes; they are just closing in death. Canst see the lines of agony, so desperate in woe? Dost see his hands? See the streamlets of blood flowing down them. Hark, he is about to speak. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" Didst hear that, sinner? Pause a moment longer, take another survey of his person; how emaciated his body, and how sick his spirit! Look at him. But hark, he is about to speak again"It is finished." What means he by that? He means, that he has finished thy salvation. Look thou to him, and find salvation there. Remember, to be saved, all that God wants of a penitent, is to look to Jesus. My life for thisif you will risk your all on Christ, you shall be saved. I will be Christ's bondsman to-day, to be bound for ever, if he break his promise. He has said, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." It is not your hands that will save you; it must be your eyes. Look from those works whereby you hope to be saved. No longer strive to create a garment that will not hide your sin, throw away that shuttle; it is only filled with cobwebs. What garment can you weave with that? Look thou to him, and thou art saved. Never sinner looked, and was lost. Dost mark that eye there? One glance will save thee, one glance will set thee free. Dost thou say, "I am a guilty sinner?" Thy guilt is the reason why I bid thee look. Dost thou say, "I cannot look?" Oh, may God help thee to look now. Remember, Christ will not reject thee; thou mayest reject him. Remember now, there is the cup of mercy put to thy lip by the hand of Jesus. I know, if thou feelest thy need, Satan may tempt thee not to drink, but he will not prevail; thou wilt put thy lip feebly and faintly, perhaps, to it. But oh, do but sip it; and the first draught shall give thee bliss; and the deeper thou shalt drink, the more of heaven shalt thou know. Sinner, believe on Jesus Christ; hear the whole gospel preached to thee. It is written in God's Word, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Hear me translate itHe that believeth and is immersed shall be saved. Believe thou, trust thyself on the Saviour, make a profession of thy faith in baptism, and then thou mayest rejoice in Jesus, that he hath saved thee. But remember not to make a profession till thou hast believed: remember, baptism is nothing, until thou hast faith. Remember, it is a farce and a falsehood, until thou hast first believed; and afterwards, it is nothing but the profession of thy faith. Oh, believe that; cast thyself upon Christ, and thou art saved for ever! The Lord add his blessing, for the Saviour's sake. Amen.