ŌBy faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of PharaohÕs daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.Ķ Hebrews 11:24-26.
Here the Holy Ghost comes to the commendation of MosesÕ faith, and in these three verses propounds a most notable example hereof.
By MosesÕ faith in this place we must understand saving faith; which is nothing else but a gift of God, whereby Moses received the promise of God touching salvation by the Messiah, and of the promised land, made to Abraham and to his seed after him, and applied the same unto himself particularly.
Now in the first entrance of this example, the Holy Ghost setteth down a wonderful thing of Moses; namely, that Moses had faith; and by it did this great work. This (I say) is strange, because he was brought up by PharaohÕs daughter in the court of Pharaoh, where was no knowledge of the true God, and indeed nothing but idolatry, wantonness and profaneness. And yet here it is testified of him, by the spirit of God which cannot lie, that he had faith; which is a wonderful thing. And the like is recorded of others in the Word of God; as in AhabÕs court (who was a king that had sold himself to work wickedness), yet the Spirit of God testifieth that even there was good Obadiah, a man that feared God greatly. And Herod was a most deadly enemy to Christ, and yet Joanna the wife of Chuza, HerodÕs friend, ministered of her goods unto Christ. And Paul saith, The saints which are of CaesarÕs household salute you (Phil. 4:22); where, by CaesarÕs house is meant the court of Nero, who was a most bloody man, and a wicked persecutor; and yet in his house were the professors of ChristÕs gospel. By these examples we learn that Christ hath his children and servants in the midst of his enemies; for these three courts: of Pharaoh, Herod and Nero, may be called a kind of hell; and yet there were some of GodÕs servants in them all. Which sheweth us clearly the truth of GodÕs Word, which saith of Christ, that He reigneth in the middle amongst His enemies (Psa. 110:2). Howsoever they rage and seek to blot out His name and root out His kingdom, yet in spite of their throats, He will rule in the middle of their kingdoms, and have those which truly serve Him and fear His name (Rev. 2:13). God had His church in Pergamos, where SatanÕs throne was.
Again, this fact of Moses serves to check many a man in this age, that is brought up in the church of God and under godly parents and governors, and yet is a hater and mocker of the religion of Christ. Surely Moses in the day of judgment shall stand up against all such, and condemn them. For he had faith, though he were brought up in a most profane place; and they are void of faith, nay, enemies unto it, though they live in the bosom of the church.
But let us come to the strange act which Moses did, for which his faith is commended. The text saith of him first of all, When he was come to age, he refused to be called the son of PharaohÕs daughter. How Moses became her son, we may read at large in Exodus 2, where it is said that having found Moses in the basket, she preserved him alive, and brought him up as her own child, purposing to make him her own son and heir. But this honour of hers he would not accept; this he refused by faith, and this is that notable and famous act for which his faith is here commended unto us.
But some will say: This fact of Moses may seem rather worthy of blame than praise, as being a practice of great rudeness and ingratitude; for she preserved his life from death, and brought him up as her own child, and vouchsafed him this special favour, to make him her heir; and therefore Moses should not thus have condemned her favour. Answer: Indeed it had been MosesÕ part to have shewed himself thankful in accepting this favour at her hands, and also enjoying the same, if he might have done it with the fear of God, and keeping a good conscience. But that he could not do; for if he had dwelt still with her, and been her son and heir, he should have been undutiful unto God. Now this is a rule to be remembered and practiced always; that in duties of like nature, the commandments of the second table do bind us no further than out obedience thereto may stand with obedience unto the commandments of the first table; and when these two cannot stand together, then we are freed from obedience unto the second table; as for performing honour and thankfulness unto men, when we cannot therewithal perform obedience and service unto God. And this was MosesÕ case; because he could not both serve God and continue his thankfulness to PharaohÕs daughter (for in staying with her, he should have made shipwreck of true religion), therefore he forsaketh her favour and honour; and for this cause is here commended unto us. The like did our Saviour Christ; for when the people would have made Him king, he refused it, and fled from among them (John 6:15), because it would not stand with that calling for which he was sanctified and sent into the world. Therefore MosesÕ act was commendable, and doth greatly set forth unto us his holy faith.
I. In this act of Moses thus generally considered, observe a notable fruit of true faith: It maketh a man esteem more of the state of adoption to be the child of God, than to be the child or heir of an earthly prince. This is plain in Moses in this place. And the like we may see in David; for though he were king, yet he set all his royalty and majesty at naught, in regard of GodÕs blessing of adoption; and therefore he saith, The Lord (not the kingdom of Israel) is my portion (Psa. 73:26). And again, when he was kept from the LordÕs tabernacle and the company of GodÕs saints through persecution, he saith that the sparrows and the swallows were more happy than he (Psa. 84:3), because they had nests where they might keep their young, and sit and sing; but he could not come near the LordÕs altar. And yet more fully to express the earnestness of his affection this way, he saith that he had rather be a man of base office, even a doorkeeper in the house of God, than a man of renown in the tents of wickedness (v.10). But howsoever, these men were of one mind herein, yet come to our age, and seek in town, country and people, and we shall see this fruit of faith is rare to be found; for generally (though I will not say all) the most of those that are born of good parentage, as the sons of knights or squires, and especially of nobles, are so bewitched with the pride of their earthly parentage, that they have scarce a thought after adoption in Christ. GodÕs heavenly graces will take no place in their hearts, but they utterly condemn all other estates of life in regard of their own. And this is the common sin of the whole world; for at earthly preferments, men will stand amazed; but seldom shall you find a man that is ravished with joy in this: that he is a child of God, as Moses was. But this practice must be a precedent for us to follow. We must learn to have more joy in being the sons of God than to be heirs of any worldly kingdoms; and to take more delight in the grace of adoption through Jesus Christ, than in the sonship of any earthly prince.
It is a great prerogative to be heir to a king or emperor, but yet to be the child of God goes far beyond it, even above comparison. For the son of the greatest potentate may be the child of wrath; but the child of God by grace, hath Christ Jesus to be his eldest brother, with whom he is fellow heir in heaven; he hath the Holy Ghost also for his Comforter, and the kingdom of heaven for his everlasting inheritance. And therefore we must learn of Moses, from the bottom of our hearts, to prefer this one thing: to be the child of God, before all earthly things, either pleasures, riches, or any other prerogatives whatsoever.
Now more particularly in this act of Moses, note two circumstances: 1. The manner how; and 2. The time when he refused to be called the son of PharaohÕs daughter.
1. For the first, his refusal was not in word, but in deed; for if we read the whole history of Moses, we shall not find that either he spake to Pharaoh or to his daughter, or to any other to this effect, that he would not be her heir, nor be called her son; but we find that he did it indeed; for when he came to age, he left the court oftentimes, and went to visit his brethren, to comfort them, to defend them, and to take part with them. And hence we must learn, not so much to give ourselves to know and to talk of matters of religion, as to do and practice the same both before God and men. This did Moses. It is the common fault of our age that we can be content to hear the doctrine of religion taught unto us; yea, many will learn it, and often speak thereof; but few there be that make conscience to do the things they hear and speak of. But let us learn of Moses to put those things into practice which we learn and profess, and in silence do them; for the fewer words the better, unless our deeds be answerable. If any of us were to walk upon the top of some high mountain, we would leave off talking and look unto our steps for fear of falling. Behold, when we enter the profession of Christianity, we are set upon an high mountain; for the way of life is on high; and Christianity is the high calling of God. We therefore must be wise, as Solomon saith (Prov. 15:24), and look well to our conversation, having a strait watch over all our ways through the whole course of our lives, even to the end of our days, and not stand so much on speaking and talking as on doing, for the doer of his work shall be blessed in his deed (Jam. 1:25). This is the thing we must look unto, as the only ornament of our profession, declaring that we have the power of godliness; but if deeds be wanting, our religion is vain, we are like the fig tree which Christ cursed, having leaves and no fruit (Matt. 21:19).
2. The second circumstance to be considered is the time when he refused this honour, namely, when he came to be a man of years and discretion. A man in common reason would judge thus of MosesÕ act: Moses hath rare fortune offered him, he might have been son and heir to a princess. Surely this is a rash act of his, and void of consideration, to refuse it; undoubtedly, he far overshot himself herein, either through rashness or ignorance. But to prevent such carnal surmises, the Spirit of God sets down this circumstance of time; saying that he did not refuse it in his youth, but when he was come to age, that is, to perfect years of discretion; and by reason thereof, must needs have consideration and judgment to know what he did; then did he refuses this honour, to be PharaohÕs daughterÕs son and heir. In Acts 7, we shall see that he was forty years old when he did this. And therefore this is true which is here said that when he was come to age and staidness, then he refused this honour; for forty years is a time, not only of ripeness for strength, but of staidness in judgment and discretion.
Out of this circumstance we learn two points:
(1) That it is a common fault of young years, to be subject to inconsideration and rashness; for Moses did not refuse the honour of PharaohÕs daughter when he was young, lest it should seem to be a point of rashness; but when he was come to age (as the text saith); insinuating that if he had done it when he was young, it might have been esteemed to have been a rash part, and done in some hasty passion of youth. Every age of man hath his faults; and this is the fault of youth, to be heady and rash in their affairs, for want of consideration and experience. And therefore all young persons must have care of the sins of youth, and watch the more against them, because they are so incident to their years. Now the way to avoid them is to follow ChristÕs example (Luke 2:52), to labour to grow as in years, so in wisdom and grace; and to obey the counsel of Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22), to flee the lusts of youth, following after justice, faith, charity and peace, with all that call upon the name of the Lord with a pure heart.
(2) Secondly, this circumstance of time, noting MosesÕ deliberate staidness in the act, doth plainly advertise to us what is or should be the virtue of old age, and the ornament of years; namely, staidness and discretion; whereby I mean, not only that natural temper of affection which old age bringeth with it; but such religious discretion whereby men of years do all things in faith, so as their works may be pleasing and acceptable unto God. For when a man is grown in years, and hath had experience and observation in the church of God, he must not only have a general knowledge and wisdom, but a particular wisdom; whereby he may do in faith whatsoever he takes in hand, and therein please God. But alas, this may be spoken of old men in these days, that in regards of this wisdom they are very babes; a thing greatly disgraceful to their condition; for Paul bids the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:20), that they should not be children in understanding, but of ripe age; yea, and he forbids the Ephesians (Eph. 4:14) to be children still, wavering and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Whereby we may see that aged persons do quite degenerate from what they ought to be when they are babes in knowledge, void of spiritual wisdom. Indeed we must grant that our aged persons are worldly wise; and he must have a cunning head, and (as we say) rise early, that herein goes beyond them; but bring them to the books of God, and to give a reason for their actions, that they are done in faith; herein they are mere babes, and ignorant; neither can they tell what it is to do a thing in faith, so as it may be acceptable to God. Herein, many that are young in years do quite outstrip them. What would we think or say of a child that, being set to a good school, should still be in the lowest form, though he had long continued at it? Surely we should judge him either exceeding negligent, or destitute of ordinary capacity.
Behold the church of God is the school of Christ; and if a man have lived long therein (as twenty, or forty years), and yet be no wiser in religion than a young child, is it not a shame unto him? And shall we not condemn him of great negligence? Wherefore let all aged persons here learn their duty; which is, to grow to ripeness in spiritual wisdom, that so their age may be to them a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness (Prov. 16:31).
Ōchoosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a seasonĶ Hebrews 11:25.
The meaning of these words is this: Moses cast with himself that if he should yield to become heir to PharaohÕs daughter, he must live with her, and please her in all things, and so altogether leave GodÕs church and people, and GodÕs holy religion, which thing to do he abhorred in his heart; and with all, he must leave and lose the eternal blessedness of GodÕs children, for the honours and sinful pleasures of the court, which were but momentary. These things considered, he chooseth rather to be in affliction and misery with the people of God, than upon these conditions to live in PharaohÕs court, and to become his daughterÕs son and heir.
And because this may seem a strange choice, the Holy Ghost doth afterward render a reason hereof, which is this; because Moses liked rather to enjoy the prerogatives of GodÕs church (though it were in misery) than to enjoy any honour in a wicked court, such as indeed PharaohÕs was.
II. In this verse therefore, we are to note a second fruit of MosesÕ faith, to wit, that he preferred the fellowship and communion of GodÕs saints, before all other societies in the world.
This fruit of MosesÕ faith doth discover unto us a grievous fault which reigneth in this age; to wit, the neglect and contempt of the communion and society of saints. There is a society and fellowship that is loved and magnified among us; but what manner of society is that? Surely of such as give themselves to drinking, jesting, scoffing, riot mirth and gaming. This is the common and general good fellowship; through which God is greatly dishonoured. For most men set their delight therein, and are never merry but in such company, wherein indeed they delight themselves in their sensuality. True it is, men plead that this good fellowship is a virtue. But then was Moses far overseen; for in PharaohÕs court he might have had all kinds of such good fellowship and company; yet he likes it not, but rather chooseth affliction and misery with the people of God than to enjoy such fellowship in PharaohÕs court. And as for the goodness of it, it is neither so esteemed, nor called by any, but by them that call good evil, and evil good. We see Moses a man of wisdom and learning (Acts 7:22), no child, but a man of forty years old, hates and abhors this good fellowship, as the worst estate in the world; rather choosing the society of a miserable and persecuted church, than the best of that fellowship which a kingÕs court could yield. Let us therefore learn more wisdom out of his practice. Some say this good fellowship is harmless; and such men who thus merrily pass their times, do no such harm as many others do. But I answer, men are born to do good. Again, to misspend time, wealth and wit; are not these evil and harmful, both in themselves and in their example? And which is worst of all, it is no fellowship with God, nor any part of the communion of saints, but rather a fellowship with Satan; therefore let all that will, like true Christians, have true comfort in that article of their creed, the communion of saints, esteem the fellowship of good and holy men above all other. For by this communion with GodÕs saints, a man reaps great profit, whenas the other brings to a man the ruin both of his body and soul. By the society of the godly, we are first made partaker of their gifts and holy graces; and secondly, of their prayers, and the blessings of God upon them; which things, if there were no other, might move us to embrace this blessed society before all other. And yet further, by being of this society, a man avoids many of GodÕs judgments; if there had been ten righteous men in Sodom, they had all been spared from destruction. Wherein we may see that they that cleave to such as fear the Lord indeed, never receive harm, but rather much good; for, for the elects sake it is, that the world yet standeth; and if they were gathered, heaven and earth would go together; but for the calling of the elect, the hand of God is yet stayed. Why then should not MosesÕ example be our rule, above all worldly pleasure to rejoice in the society of GodÕs saints.
Thus much in general. Now in the particular words are many notable points of doctrine, which we will touch in their order.
And chose rather &c.
Mark here a rare and strange choice as ever we shall read of. There are two things propounded to Moses: The first is honour and preferment in PharaohÕs court; to be son and heir to PharaohÕs daughter; wherewith he might have enjoyed all earthly pleasures and delights. The second is the miserable afflicted condition of GodÕs church and people.
And of these two, Moses must needs choose the one. Well, what chooseth he? Surely he refuseth the prerogatives and dignity that he might have had in PharaohÕs court, and makes choice of the misery and affliction of GodÕs people in adversity; that so he may enjoy the privileges of GodÕs church. A wonderful choice, for which his faith is here commended and he renowned to all posterity. The same choice hath God set before all men in all ages. In former times, God set before Esau two things: a mess of red broth and his birthright; but profane Esau chose the worse; he forgoes his birthright, so he may have the broth. But far worse did the Gadarenes; there was set before them Christ Jesus the Lord of life, and their hogs and cattle. Now they preferred their hogs before Christ; a most miserable and senseless choice. And is it not as ill with us? There is set before us on the one side heaven, and on the other side hell; but men for the most part choose hell and forsake heaven. Civil, worldly men, whose delight is in all riches, they prefer earth before heaven; the service of sin, which is the greatest slavery, before the service of God, which is perfect freedom and glorious liberty of the saints in light; and thus do all men without GodÕs special grace. Whereupon Paul prays in his epistles for the churches, that God would give unto them the spirit of wisdom, that they may be able to judge between things that differ. And this wisdom we must labour for, that when these different things are set before us, we may make a wise choice; otherwise we shew ourselves to be like brute beasts without understanding, and do quite overturn our own salvation. In the ministry of the Word we have life and death, good and evil set before us, as Moses said to the people (Deut. 30:15,19). Let us therefore endeavour ourselves to choose life, by embracing and obeying the Word of God; and so shall we follow both his precept and practice.
To suffer adversity with the people of God.
Here we may observe what is the ordinary state and condition of GodÕs church and people in this world, namely, to be in affliction and under the cross. Hence Paul saith, that we must come to heaven through manifold afflictions (Acts 14:22). The Lord knoweth what is best for His servants and children; and therefore He hath set down this for a ground, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).
Thus the Lord dealeth with His children for special causes, for:
(1) First, all crosses, as loss of goods, friends, liberty or good name, they are means to stir up and awake GodÕs people out of the slumbering fit of sin; for the godly are many times overtaken this way. The wise virgins sleep, as well as the foolish; now, afflictions rouse them out of the sleep of security. See this in JosephÕs brethren; who went on a long time without any remorse for selling their brother; but when they were stayed in Egypt, then they are roused up, and can say (Gen. 42:21), This trouble is come upon us for selling our brother.
(2) Secondly, afflictions serve to humble GodÕs children (Lev. 26:41). So the church of God speaketh, I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him (Mic. 7:9).
(3) Thirdly, they serve to wean the people of God, and to drive them from the love of this world; for if men might always live in ease, they would make their heaven upon earth; which may not be. And herein God dealeth with His children like a nurse; when she will wean her child, she lays some bitter thing upon the paps head, to make the child to loathe the pap; so the Lord, to draw our hearts from the world, and to cause us to love and seek after heaven and heavenly things, He makes us to taste of the bitterness of affliction in this world.
(4) Fourthly, affliction serves to make GodÕs children to go out of themselves to seek sincerely unto God, and to rely only upon Him, which in prosperity they will not do. This Paul confesseth of himself and others: We (saith he) received the sentence of death in ourselves, because we should not trust in ourselves, but in God (2 Cor. 1:9). So good king Jehosaphat, when he was compassed of his enemies, he cried to the Lord, and said: Lord we know not what to do; but our eyes are towards thee (2 Chr. 20:12). Yea, the rebellious Jews are hereby driven to seek the Lord, whom in prosperity they forsook; as we may see at large Psa. 107:6,12,13,19.
(5) Lastly, afflictions serve to make manifest the graces of God in His children. The Lord (saith Job) knoweth my way and trieth me (Job 23:10). Remember all the way (saith Moses to the Israelites (Deut. 8:2)) which the Lord thy God led thee this forty years, for to prove thee and to know what was in thine heart. Hence James calleth temptations, the trial of faith (Jam. 1:2,3). And Paul makes patience the fruit of tribulation (Rom. 5:3). For look as the showers in the springtime cause the buds to appear, so do afflictions make manifest GodÕs graces in His children. Patience, hope and other virtues lie close in the heart in the day of peace; but when tribulation comes, then they break forth and shew themselves.
Hence we learn that it is not always a token of GodÕs wrath to suffer affliction. If any man or people be laden with crosses, it is no argument that therefore they are not children of God; for as Peter saith (1 Pet. 4:17), Judgments begin at GodÕs house, and any cross upon a people, family or particular persons, if it bring forth the fruit of grace in them, is a true sign that they belong to God. Yea, when men wander from God by an evil way, these afflictions are means to call them home to God (Psa. 119:67), Before I was afflicted, I went astray. And they that forsake their sin, and return to God in time of affliction, are certainly GodÕs people; for the wicked man fretteth and murmureth against God when a cross cometh, and he cannot abide it. But the godly man is humbled thereby, and it makes him more obedient in all duties unto God.
This we should consider; for by an outward profession, we bear the world in hand that we are GodÕs children, and therefore we come to hear GodÕs Word, and to learn how to behave ourselves as beseemeth His children. But if we would be known to be GodÕs children indeed, then when any of GodÕs judgments do befall us, we must make this use of them; namely, labour thereby to be humbled for our sins, and to forsake our sins, and to make conscience of all bad ways for ever afterward; and then we shew ourselves to be GodÕs children indeed. But if under the cross, or after the cross, we be as dissolute as ever we were, and still follow our old sins, then we cannot be judged to be GodÕs people and children, but rather a wicked and stubborn generation, which the more they are corrected, the worse they are; like a forge, the more it is beaten, the harder it is. Let us therefore by the use of GodÕs judgments, shew ourselves to be GodÕs children; so shall we say with David, with much joy and comfort, It is good for us that we have been in trouble (Psa. 119:71).
Thus we see MosesÕ choice; now come we to the things he refused:
To enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
By pleasures of sin, we must understand the riches and dignity that Moses might have had in PharaohÕs court and kingdom. Which are called the pleasures of sin, not because they were so in themselves, for so they were the good gifts of God; but because Moses could not enjoy them in PharaohÕs court without living in sin; for he must have refused the society of GodÕs church and people, and so have been a stranger from the covenant which God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and with their seed after them, if he would have been son to PharaohÕs daughter.
Here then the Holy Ghost setteth down two notable reasons which induced Moses to refuse these honours and dignities: first, because they were the pleasures of sin; and secondly, because he should enjoy them but for a season.
1. The first reason affordeth us many notable points worthy of our consideration:
(1) Here we learn that riches, honour and dignity severed from true religion, are nothing but the pleasures and profits of sin. This was MosesÕ judgment, as the Holy Ghost here testifieth; and it is the plain truth of God, as Solomon after lamentable experience disputeth and proveth at large; concluding of riches, honour and pleasures, and all earthly things separated from the fear of God, they are nothing else but mere vanity and vexation of spirit (Eccl. 1:14). And Paul saith, to the impure, all things are impure (Tit. 1:15); his meat, drink and apparel, which in themselves are otherwise the good gifts of God.
The consideration hereof is of great use, for:
(i) First, it lets us see what is the state of these men which lay aside religion and good conscience, and betake themselves wholly to the world, to get riches and preferment. Most men are of this disposition, and such indeed are only counted wise. For let there be speech tending to a manÕs commendation, usually this is the first matter of his praise, that he is a substantial wealthy man and one that looks well to himself; as though riches or honour were a manÕs chief happiness. But howsoever the world judgeth of these men, yet hereby we may see and know that their case is miserable. For without religion and the fear of God, their riches and honours are but the pleasures and profits of sin; and therefore the more they heap up riches after this sort, not regarding Christ, nor His gospel; the more they heap up to themselves the treasures of sin, and consequently the greater condemnation; for worldly treasures severed from religion are but the mammon of iniquity, which causeth damnation. Hence Christ said unto His disciples (upon occasion of the rich young man) that it was as easy for a great camel to get through the eye of a needle, as for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:24); that is, such a rich man as sets his heart to get riches and honour, not regarding the religion of Christ. Whence also in another place He pronounceth this fearful sentence against them: Woe be to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation (Luke 6:24). They therefore that lay aside religion and give themselves wholly to seek gain and honour, are before God most wretched and miserable; and the longer they continue in this course, the more miserable they are; for the more sin they heap up, and so the deeper shall be their condemnation. Wherefore if any of us have been thus minded heretofore, let us now leave this course as most dangerous to our souls; for what will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul? (Mark 8:36).
(ii) Hence we must all learn, especially they that have any measure of wealth more or less, to join with the use of our riches the fear of God, and the practice of true religion; for sever these asunder, and riches are nothing else but sinful pleasures. It is a good conscience which rectifieth the owner in the right use of his honour and treasures; but without that, he pollutes the blessings of God which he enjoys, and they being polluted shall turn to his greater woe. A man would have thought that king Belshazzar had been an happy man, when he kept his royal feast and drank wine in golden bowls before a thousand princes that were under him, and before his concubines; but the end of all that his jollity may shew us the nature of such prosperity. For as soon as he saw the fingers of a manÕs hand, writing upon the wall, he became quite confounded in himself; his countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him; so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other (Dan. 5:6). What comfort had he now from all his riches and pleasures? So Dives, while he lived, might seem for his wealth and riches to be happy; yet all this did him little good; for he had but his pleasure for his lifetime (Luke 16:25), and after this life, his soul went down to hell. A worldly man would judge the rich man in the gospel, a most happy man, that said to his soul by reason of his great abundance of outward wealth (Luke 12:19), Soul, soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, live at ease, eat, drink, and take thy fill; yet because herewith he wanted religion, a good conscience, and the fear of God, this sentence was denounced against him: Oh fool, this night will they fetch away thy soul; then whose shall these things be? Wherefore unless we will wilfully cast away our own souls, let us sanctify our interest in all earthly blessings by a sincere endeavour in all things, to shew forth the fear of God, with the keeping of faith and a good conscience; and let us begin with this, as Christ saith, First seek GodÕs kingdom, and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Let us thereby seek to have our hearts acceptable unto God; and then all things shall be clean unto us.
(iii) Thirdly, are riches and honour, being severed from true religion, but the pleasures of sin? Then undoubtedly, all recreations, all sports and pastimes, severed from religion and a good conscience, are much more the pleasures of sin. This Solomon knew well; for speaking of such mirth, he calls laughter, madness; and to joy (he saith), what is that thou doest? (Eccl. 2:2). Oh, then, how manifold be the sins of all sorts of men? For who almost doth not neglect religious duties for matters of sport and pleasure? Wherefore if we desire joy indeed in any worldly things, let us first lay the foundation in our own hearts, by getting and keeping true faith and a good conscience.
Secondly, whereas Moses refuseth dignity and honour only for this: because they would be unto him the pleasures of sin; here we are taught in what manner and order we ought to enjoy worldly riches and honour. MosesÕ practice here must be our direction; we must enjoy them and use them with thankfulness to God, so far forth as they will further us in the course of religion and true godliness. But if the case stand thus, that we cannot enjoy them both together, then we must follow MosesÕ example; choose religion and a good conscience, and let honour and preferment go. This is MosesÕ practice; and we may resolve ourselves that if he might have enjoyed them together, he would have refused neither; but because he could not have them both, therefore he preferreth the religion of Christ with a good conscience before the honour and wealth of Egypt.
Thirdly, note this: Moses doth not only refuse the riches and pleasures of Egypt, when they would become unto him the pleasures of sin; but rather than he will enjoy them, he is content to suffer great misery and adversity with GodÕs people. Where, behold a singular virtue in Moses: He judgeth it to be the greater misery to live in sin; and therefore he chooseth rather to suffer any adversity and reproach in this world, than to live and lie in sin; because thereby he should displease God, his most loving Father in Christ. A most notable virtue in this servant of God; and the like mind bear all those that have the same graces of saving faith and true repentance that Moses had. St Paul esteemed the temptations unto sin, which Satan suggested to his mind, to be as beatings and buffetings, and as pricks and thorns in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). And David saith (Psa. 119:136), His eyes gush out rivers of waters, because men break GodÕs commandments. Was David thus grieved for other mensÕ sins? Oh! Then what a grief did he suffer, when he himself brake GodÕs commandments, and thereby displeased God.
Now look how these servants of God were affected, so must every one of us that profess the faith and religion of Christ, labour to be affected towards sin. We must judge it the greatest misery and torment in the world to do anything that shall displease God. But alas, come to our days, and the case is far otherwise; for to most men, it is meat and drink unto them to commit sin; so far are they from counting it a misery. Yea, if a man be ordinarily addicted to some special sin, you then may as soon take away his life, as bereave him of his sin; he will adventure the loss of heaven for ever, for the pleasure of sin for a time. But all such, are far unlike these holy servants of God; for they counted it the greatest cross and misery that could be, to do anything that displeased God, and did check and break the peace of good conscience. And if we look to enjoy the like peace and comfort with them, we must strive against our own corrupt disposition, and labour to find sin our greatest sorrow. Worldly miseries may affect us; but in respect of sorrow for sin, all worldly grief should be light unto us. Indeed, we are otherwise minded naturally, but herein we must shew the power and truth of grace, that to displease God by any sin is our greatest grief.
2. The second reason that moved Moses to refuse the honours and pleasures of PharaohÕs court, was because he should have enjoyed them but for a time; for the time of his natural life was the longest that possibly he could have enjoyed them. And the same reason must move every one of us to use this world, and all things herein (even all temporal benefits), as though we used them not; being always willing and ready to leave them whensoever God shall call. This same reason doth Paul render when he persuades the Corinthians to the same duty (1 Cor. 7:31), Use this world (he saith) as though you used it not; for the fashion of this world goeth away. As if he should say: All things in the world last but for a time, and if a man would never so fain, he could but enjoy them to the end of his life; and therefore use them as though you used them not. But pity it is to see how far men are from the practice of this duty; for they set their whole heart upon the world; and to get riches is their delight, and their god. This ought not so to be. God hath not laid down these precepts and examples in vain. Undoubtedly, if they draw us not to the like practice, they shall rise up in judgment against us at the last day. And thus much of MosesÕ choice, and refusal.
Moses (as we have heard) refused the honour and wealth of Egypt, and chose to live in affliction with GodÕs people. Now, because this might seem to be a strange choice, and a natural man would soon condemn him of folly for his labour; therefore here the Holy Ghost lays down a reason that moved Moses thus to do; to wit, Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with GodÕs people than to enjoy the pleasures and honour of Egypt, because he was persuaded that reproach for ChristÕs sake was greater riches than all the wealth in Egypt. So that he refused not absolutely riches, honour and other comforts; but chose the best riches and honour, and left the worse upon a sound judgment between things that differ.
Hereby we may observe in general, how needful a thing it is for every Christian to have sound knowledge and understanding in the Word of God. For he that would walk uprightly, and approved of God, must be able to judge between things that differ; not only between good and evil, but between good and good, which is the better; and so of evils, which is the worse. Which no man can do, but he that hath a sound and right judgment in the Word of God; for therein is attained the spirit of discerning. Many there be that by the course of their lives choose hell, and refuse heaven; which undoubtedly comes from their ignorance of the Word. But ignorance will excuse none. He that will come to heaven must be able to discern good from evil; and accordingly to choose the good, and to refuse that which is evil, which, without divine and supernatural knowledge, no man can do. And therefore all ignorant persons, and all such as are blinded through the deceitfulness of sin, must shake off their security, and get sound knowledge in Scripture, with a good conscience; that when things which do differ are set before them, they may, with Moses, choose the better.
But let us come to MosesÕ judgment more particularly.
He esteemed the rebuke of Christ &c.
That is, he was firmly resolved that reproach and contempt for ChristÕs sake, was greater riches unto him than the treasures of a whole kingdom. But some will say, This is a very strange judgment; can it possibly be true and good? Answer: Yes, undoubtedly, it is most sound judgment, and worthy of eternal remembrance in every one of us; that to suffer reproach for ChristÕs sake, is greater riches than all worldly wealth. The truth hereof is proved by many reasons out of GodÕs Word:
1. God hath made a promise of blessedness to those which suffer for ChristÕs sake. Blessed are you (saith Christ) when men revile you, and speak all manner of evil sayings against you for my nameÕs sake (Matt. 5:11). And St Peter saith, If ye be railed upon for my nameÕs sake, blessed are ye (1 Pet. 4:14). And lest any should doubt how this can be, Christ shews wherein this blessedness consists, saying; He that forsaketh house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my nameÕs sake; shall receive an hundredfold more, and shall inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29). A most worthy promise, assuring us that no man loseth by suffering for ChristÕs sake; for he shall be rewarded an hundredfold over. Instead of earthly friends and worldly comforts, he shall have the love and favour of God shed abroad in his heart, which will be an overflowing fountain of comfort for soul and body for ever, far more worth than the wealth and treasures of all the kingdoms in the world. A small springing fountain (we know) is better to an house than an hundred cisterns full; because of continual supply from the springing fountain, when the cisterns will be spent. Behold the love of God in Christ, with other spiritual graces, shall be in all that suffer for the name of Christ, as living streams flowing unto life eternal; whenas the cisterns of all worldly pleasures and treasures shall be spent and dried up.
2. By suffering affliction for ChristÕs sake, we are made conformable unto Him in His humility; that so we may be made like unto Him after this life in glory. So Paul saith, our light affliction worketh in us an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). And again, it is a true saying, If we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall all reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:11,12). This assurance can no worldly riches give; and therefore we may boldly say that the suffering or reproach for ChristÕs sake is greater riches than the treasures of a whole kingdom.
3. To suffer for ChristÕs sake is a token of GodÕs special love; and therefore St Paul bids the Phillippians not to fear their adversaries, which is a token of salvation unto them, and that of God; because it is given to you (saith he) for Christ, that you should not only believe, but suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29). Wherefore if suffering for Christ has a promise of blessedness; if it makes us conformable to Christ, and be a sign of GodÕs special love; then it is to be esteemed above the riches and honours of the whole world.
Are afflictions of Christ to be esteemed above the treasures of a kingdom? Then we must all learn to rejoice in the troubles and wrongs we suffer for ChristÕs sake. So did the apostles (Acts 5:41), They departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer affliction for His name. And St Paul brags thereof greatly, saying, I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17). And look, as these servants of God rejoiced in their sufferings for Christ; so likewise must we labour for the same heart and affections in the like case; for who would not rejoice to be made partaker and possessor of the treasures of a kingdom? Well, the rebuke of Christ is greater riches than the treasures of a kingdom.
This lesson is of great use, for:
1. Howsoever many among us come to hear GodÕs Word, yet there be many also that scoff and mock at religion, and at the gospel of Christ, and the professor thereof; whereby the most are hindered in profession and many daunted, and quite driven back. But we must here learn not to be discouraged by these mocks. Indeed we must take heed that we give them no just occasion to mock us; and then if we be scoffed at, we shall never be hurt by it; nay (though that be far from their intent) yet in mocking us, they do us great honour. For the Word of God that cannot lie, is this, that to suffer affliction for ChristÕs sake is greater honour and riches than the treasures of a kingdom. And if MosesÕ judgment be good, which God Himself doth here commend; then we are happy and blessed in enduring these mocks and scoffs for Christ.
2. Secondly, we must here learn instruction for the time to come. We have for a long time, through the great goodness of God, enjoyed peace and wealth with the gospel of Christ; but undoubtedly, these days of peace will have an end, they cannot last always; GodÕs people must pass through the fiery furnace of affliction. Well, when this is come upon us, how shall we be able to bear it? Surely, we must now learn to be of this opinion that Moses was of; we must judge it to be the greatest honour and riches that can be, to suffer affliction for ChristÕs sake; and this will be the ground of all constancy, courage and Christian boldness in the day of trial. For he that is of this mind will never fear affliction, nor reproach for ChristÕs sake; nay, he will be so far from fearing it, that he will rejoice and triumph therein.
3. Further, where it is said, Esteeming the rebuke of Christ; here mark that the rebuke of GodÕs church and people is called the rebuke of Christ. The people of God in Egypt were laden with reproaches and rebukes; and behold, Christ accounts it His rebuke, and the Holy Ghost so calls it. Whereby learn this, that Christ esteemeth the reproach and affliction of His church, as His own affliction. When Saul went to persecute the brethren at Damascus (Acts 9:2-4), Christ Jesus calls to him from heaven, saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Saul went to persecute the Christians, and yet our Saviour Christ taketh it unto Himself. And after his conversion he saith (2 Cor. 4:10), Every way we bear about in our bodies, the dying of the Lord Jesus. And again, Let no man put me to business, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17). This is a point of special use.
(1) First, hence we learn, that Christ hath a special care of His church and children, in that He judgeth their afflictions to be His own afflictions; and therefore He can no more forget, or leave off to help them in distress, than deny Himself.
(2) Secondly, here is a special comfort for GodÕs children that be in affliction: their afflictions are not their own alone, but ChristÕs also; He is their partner and fellow sufferer. This may seem strange, but is most true; Christ puts (as it were) His shoulders under our afflictions, and takes them to Himself, as though they were His own; than which what can be more comfortable? For though thou thyself cannot bear it, yet trust undoubtedly that Christ who bears it with thee, will give thee strength to undergo it unto victory.
(3) Thirdly, if the affliction of a Christian be the afflictions of Christ; then it is a fearful sin for any man to mock or reproach his brother, in regard of his profession and religion, for mocking is persecution (Gal. 4:29 with Gen. 21:9). And that reproach which is cast upon a Christian, is cast upon Christ; and Christ takes it as done to Himself; the persecutor wounds Christ Jesus through the sides of a poor Christian; which is a fearful thing. For in so doing, he sets himself against the Lord Jesus, he kicks against the pricks; and if he so continue, he must needs look for some fearful end; for who hath ever been fierce against the Lord, and hath prospered? (Job 9:4). Wherefore if any of us be guilty of any sin in this kind, let us repent; for unless we turn, our condemnation will be remediless.
(4) Again, the afflictions of the Israelites are here said to be their sufferings for Christ; where note, that though ChristÕs coming was then afar off, yet the Israelites then knew of Christ; for else they could not suffer for Him.
This confuteth those which hold that every man may be saved by his own religion, whatever it be, if he live civilly and uprightly therein. Their reason is taken from the Jews, who (they say) had only the knowledge of outward ceremonies, and so were saved. But that opinion is here disproved; for the Jews knew Christ, and professed Him, or else they would never suffer for Him; and therefore they were saved by Him, and not by their obedience to outward ceremonies. And thus much of the reason which moved Moses to make such a choice as he did.
Now in the end of this verse is added a reason why Moses was of this strange judgment, to think the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; namely,
Because he had respect to the recompense of reward.
That is, he often set his eyes to behold, and his heart to consider, how God had made a promise of life everlasting after this life, unto all those that obeyed Him and trusted in Him after this life; for the enjoying whereof, he preferred that estate wherein he might live in the fear of God, though it were a state of reproach, before all other whatsoever. Where we see what it is that will bring a man to esteem affliction, with the fear of God, better than the treasures and pleasures of an earthly kingdom; namely, as we see the bodily eye to behold the salvation; so we must lift up the eye of the mind by faith, to behold the recompense of reward; that is, the state of glory in heaven prepared for GodÕs children. This did the Christian Hebrews in the primitive church (Heb. 10:34), they suffered with joy the spoiling of their goods; a very hard things, but yet most true, for it is the Word of God. And the reason in rendered: They knew in themselves how that they had in heaven a better and more enduring substance. And our Saviour Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before him (Heb. 12:2), that is, in consideration of that joy in glory whereto He should be advanced Himself, and bring all His members. This we must make use of; for if we will live godly in Christ Jesus, we must suffer affliction. This, flesh and blood will not yield unto; and therefore, to persuade us to suffer with joy, we must with Moses have respect to the recompense of reward. We must say thus to our souls: The day will come wherein we shall have life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven, if we now serve and fear Him. Shall not we then for His sake be content to suffer a short affliction, seeing the greatest of them are not worthy of the glory that shall be revealed? (Rom. 8:18).
Question. But why doth the Holy Ghost call everlasting life a reward? Answer: It is not so called because Moses did procure it, and deserve it at GodÕs hand by the dignity of his works in suffering; for sure, no man can merit anything at GodÕs hands. The case is plain; for Christ as He is man (consider His manhood apart from His Godhead) could not merit anything at GodÕs hands; for He that would merit of God by any work must do three things: 1. He must do the work of himself, and by himself; or if he do it by another, the other meriteth, and must have the reward and praise of the work. 2. Secondly, he must do it of mere good will, and not of duty; for that which is of duty cannot merit, because a man is bound to do it. 3. The work done to merit must be of that price and dignity that it may be proportionable to life everlasting, which is the reward. Now, though Christ, as He is man, be above all men and all angels in grace and dignity; yet consider His manhood apart from His Godhead, and He could not do a work with these three properties, for: first, the works done of the manhood were not done of itself, but from that fulness of the Spirit wherewith He was endued. Secondly, Christ as man is a creature; and so considered, His works are of duty to the Creator, and so cannot merit. Thirdly, ChristÕs works, as a man simply considered, are finite, and so could not merit infinite glory.
Question: How then did Christ merit at GodÕs hands? Answer: Partly by means of GodÕs promise made in the Law, whch was this: Do this and thou shalt live; but properly and chiefly, because he was not a mere man only, but (withal) true and very God; for because His obedience both in His life and death (though performed in His manhood) was the obedience of Him that was God and man, even from the infinite excellency of the person whose it is, it becomes meritorious. In His manhood He observed the Law, and suffered for our sins; but the dignity thereof came from the Godhead; for He that did those works for us, was both God and man.
Now, if Christ considered as man only cannot merit; then much less can any other man merit at GodÕs hands. And therefore Moses though he were a worthy man, yet because he was but a man, and a sinful man also, he could not by any work deserve life everlasting at GodÕs hands.
But life everlasting is called a reward in the Scripture, because it is the free gift of God, promised by God to His children in Christ; for this end, to assure and draw them on in obedience. And it must not seem strange that we say a reward is a free gift; for so it may be, as we shall see by comparing two places of Scripture together; to wit Matt. 5:44 with Luke 6:32. For whereas Matthew saith, if you love them that love you, what reward have you; St Luke, repeating the same thing, saith, What thanks have you, or (as the word signifies) what favour or free gift have you? Secondly, there may be another cause rendered why everlasting life is called a reward, to wit, not in regard of the work done, but in regard of the worker considered in Christ; for ChristÕs merit makes life everlasting to be a reward. Now, every true believer that endeavours to do the will of God, is in Christ; and so ChristÕs righteousness with the merit thereof, is his, so far forth as serves to make his person acceptable to God. Whereupon he hath a promise of reward made unto him upon his obedience, yet not for his work, but for the work of ChristÕs obedience in whom he is; and so must these words here be understood:
1. The consideration of this reward of life eternal through Christ, to those that suffer for His sake, may make us joyful and patient in our afflictions for righteousness sake. A natural man will endure much for a good recompense in the end. Now Christ saith, Great is your reward. And let us rejoice in suffering for Christ; holding fast our confidence which hath so great recompense of reward.
2. Secondly, is life everlasting a recompense, that is, a giving of a reward? Then here is condemned the desperate practice of many a one, who spend their whole life in a greedy pursuit after the profits and pleasures of the world; as it were running themselves out of breath in the way to hell, without all regard of their souls till death come; thinking, that if at the last gasp they can cry GodÕs mercy, and commend their souls to God, all is well. But all such persons for the most part deceive their own souls, not considering that life everlasting is given as a reward. Now we know that no reward is given to any man till the work be done which he is set about; he must come work in the vineyard some part of the day, that would have his penny at night; as for those that neither stir hand nor foot to do the work, what reward can they look for? And yet this is the state of carnal livers, they addict themselves wholly to earthly things. But if we look for any reward at the day of death, we must labour in the works of godliness all the days of our life; for therefore we were redeemed (Luke 1:74,75).
In the whole book of God, we find but one man that lived wickedly, and repented at his end; that is, the thief upon the cross. Which shews that it is a most rare thing for a man to have the reward of life everlasting after this life, that labours not in the works of godliness in this life.
3. Thirdly, the consideration of this reward, must stir up all GodÕs children unto all diligence in the duties of godliness, and that with cheerfulness, through the whole course of their lives. When we shall die, we will look earnestly for this reward; and therefore while we live, we must diligently do the works that God commandeth; and then when death comes, we may assure ourselves that God will give us this reward; not because we did deserve it by our works, but because He hath promised it in Christ, upon our endeavour and obedience and true repentance. And thus much for the reason of MosesÕ choice.