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SERMON LXX

THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.

Matthew xii. 45, 46. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

THE true nature of the christian religion may

1 be easily learned from the parables of Christ. It was well known that whenever the Messiah should make his appearance, he would set up a new kingdom in the world; but the nature of that kingdom was miserably mistaken by the Jews; to remedy whose mistake our Lord gives us many parables, especially in this chapter, which plainly describe its true nature, as a spiritual kingdom ; not one that should come with observation," or, outward shew and splendour, like the kingdoms of this world, but which should be of an internal kind, and consist in “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

This parable, as well as that which precedes it, seems intended to point out the excellency of Christ and his great salvation, in the esteem of all true Christians. In the former parable, he is compared to treasure hid in a field, which a man having discovered, parts with all his possessions in order to purchase the field, and so make the hidden treasure his own. In this parable, our Saviour is compared to a pearl, extremely valuable and precious, which a

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merchant, who was in quest of fine pearls, having met with, sells all his property in order to pur. chase it.

We may express the principal design of these words in the following observation.

Those persons who know the value of Christ, will prize an interest in him above all things.

The person represented in this parable as having found a pearl of great value, was in quest of precious jewels-amerchant-adealer in jewels-accustomed to travel from one country to another, in search of such valuable articles, in order to obtain wealth by their purchase and sale. This fitly represents the man (indeed every man) who is searching for happiness, good, or pleasure ; whose language is " Who will shew me any good.?” The pursuits of men are various; but their principal object is the same ; it is certainly happiness-happiness under some form or other ; whether in the pleasures of sense, or the gratification of the mind. It is in the low and mean enjoyment of sensual pleasure that the bulk of mankind seek delight-to eat, to drink, to sleep; to be easy, gay, and merry, is all that the multitude seek.. Others, more refined, direct their attention to arts or arms; they long to shine in courts or camps; to get a great name, and make a great figure in the world, and to obtain titles, and wealth, and distinction. These are the pearls which worldly men are seeking with great assiduity to possess, which few are able to obtain, and which if obtained are far from making the possessor happy. May I not say that Solomon was a merchant of this description that he sailed round the world to obtain this jewel-happiness, and returned after a tedious voyage with his vessel empty? Hear his own confession as recorded in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes : “ Vanity of vanities,” saith the Preacher,

vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” He tells us what he had tried; he had tried mirth, and costly entertainments, and gay amusements, and after all Vanity was the total sum; yea, such was his vexation too, in consequence of repeated disappointments, that he says, “ I hated life.” Vexation at his failure made life a burden to him. Some worldly men are honest enough to make the same confession, and many of them do so when on a dying bed, and in the prospect of a vast eternity ; and such must all men make when they come to die, who have not been happy enough to find this pearl of great price.

But we may consider, not only the man who is in pursuit of worldly good as the merchant, but those persons also who are religiously disposed, who wish to be virtuous and good; but who as yet know not the Lord, and have never discovered from the gospel his inestimable worth. Man has been called, by some philosophers, “ A religious animal ;” and indeed it is wonderful to observe that in almost all countries, some sense of religion prevails, some adoration is paid to a Deity, there is a dread of his anger, and a desire of his favour. A consciousness of guilt, and an apprehension of death, judgment, and eternity, strengthened by the customs of their forefathers, the laws of their country, and the example of the multitude, induce those who are not atheistical or brutish to perform some religious ceremonies, in hope of the divine favour, and frequently to obtain the applause of their fellow men.

But it is truly pitiable to think how many, “being ignorant of God's righteousness, go about,” as St. Paul said to the Jews, “ to establish their own righteousness, not submitting to the righteousness of God," as revealed in the gospel. Many will repeat a prodigious number of prayers ; keep many fasts ; submit to irksome penances; shut themselves up for life in monasteries and nunneries ; and others will go tedious pilgrimages for hundreds of miles ; yea, some will undergo bodily torments, and death itself, to secure eternal happiness. And this is the language of the person introduced by the prophet Micah, (chapter vi. 6.) “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old ? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul!" Here is a person represented as bidding high indeed for eternal life, and willing to obtain it at the greatest cxpense,-but it is the language of one who as yet is ignorant of Christ. And how many persons, among ourselves, for want of better information, profess a cold and comfortless religion -a system of painful restraints, and drudgery in duties ; having no settled peace nor joy, but serving God with the spirit of a slave. But if it please him to bring the enquirer, by the gospel, to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as an all-sufficient Sa. viour, full of grace and truth ; who, by his obedience and his sufferings, has brought in an everlasting righteousness, by which every believer is fully and for ever justified, and if brought to see that all the blessings of his great salvation, are perfectly free, “ without money and without price”without any meritorious qualifications whateverthen is he, like the merchant in the text, who, in the course of his journies and enquiries, meets at last with a jewel of such extraordinary magnitude, beauty, and perfection, as infinitely to exceed all he had ever seen, or heard of before; and finding that it is possible to make it his own, and that, by making it his own, he will ensure an immense fortune, he is glad to obtain it by any means ; most willingly he parts with all he has, well knowing it is worth more than all, and that by the loss of all, he shall become an unspeakable gainer.

By this striking similitude, our Lord here repre. sents the true convert, the real Christian. He discovers, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in the use of the gospel, that Jesus Christ is truly excellent-superlatively excellent; he feels a vehement desire to be interested in him, and is ready, wil. lingly, yea, most gladly, to part with every thing for his sake. You will clearly see how wisely he thinks and acts, if you will consider for a moment, wherein this superior excellency of Christ consists,

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Consider his Personal dignity and glory. “Who is he, that we may believe in him ?” his name is “ Immanuel,“God with us." He is the Son of God; the only begotten of the Father; the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person;"

" All human beauties--all divine,

• In our Beloved meet and shine." · In him are combined all the glorious perfections of Deity, and all the unsullied excellencies of humanity. “Great,” indeed, and without controversy,

"Great is this mystery of godliness-God was manifest in the flesh.” And, beholding his glory, the believer may well exclaim, with Thomas, " My Lord! and my God!”

Behold him in the character of Mediator ; one, the only one, qualified to interpose between parties so remote froin each other, as the Holy Jehovah and guilty men. He is fully qualified, inclined, and authorized, to make up the breach. Yea, he has actually made reconciliation for iniquity, by the sacrifice of himself; for with his righteousness God is well pleased ; and through him pardon and eternal life are freely proclaimed, and the chief of sinners are invited to receive them.

Consider, likewise, the gracious offices and characters which he sustains, and which render him precisely what we want to make us happy. We are ignorant; he is the great Instructor ; "he teacheth to profit,” and “none teacheth like him." We are guilty ; his blood cleanseth us from all sin ; and washed in that blessed fountain, we are “whiter than snow.” We are rebellious creatures ; he brings us back to God, makes us willing in the day

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