The Pearl Of Great Value.

Adapted From A Sermon By George Burder

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

(Matthew 13:45-46)

Our text this morning is Matthew 13:45-46: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

The true nature of the Christian religion may 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 correct this 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 “in ways that can be observed,”{Luke 17:20} or with outward show and splendor, like the kingdoms of this world, but which should be of an internal kind, and consist in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”{Romans 14:17}

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 Savior is compared to a pearl, extremely valuable and precious, which a merchant, who was in quest of fine pearls, having found, sells all his property in order to purchase it.

We can express the principal intent 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---a merchant---a dealer in jewels---accustomed to travel from one country to another, in search of such valuable articles, in order to make a living by their purchase and sale. This is a good picture of the man (indeed every man) who is searching for happiness, good, or pleasure; whose language is, “Who will show me some good?”{Psalm 4:6} 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 sensual pleasures, or the gratification of the mind.

It is in the low and base enjoyment of sensual pleasure that the bulk of mankind seek delight---to eat, to drink, to sleep; to be easy, carefree, 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 diligently seeking to possess, which few are able to obtain, and which, if obtained, are far from making the possessor happy. Solomon, by his own account, played this part---he sailed round the world to obtain this jewel---happiness, and returned, after a tedious voyage, empty. Hear his own confession, as recorded in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”{Ecclesiastes 1:2} He tells us what he had tried; he had tried merriment, and costly entertainments, and rich amusements, and after all, Vanity was the total sum; indeed, such was his vexation too, in consequence of repeated disappointments, that he says, “I hated life.”{Ecclesiastes 2:17} 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 deathbed, 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 do not know the Lord, and have never discovered from the Gospel his infinite 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 exists, some adoration is paid to Deity, there is a dread of his anger, and a desire of his favor. 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 overt atheists or brutish to perform some religious ceremonies, in hope of the divine favor, and frequently to obtain the applause of their fellow-men.

But it is truly pitiable to think how many, “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking,” as the apostle Paul said to the Jews, “to establish their own, do not submit to God's righteousness,”{Romans 10:3} as revealed in the Gospel. Many will repeat a prodigious number of prayers; keep many fasts; submit to irksome duties; shut themselves up for life in monasteries and nunneries; and others will undertake tedious pilgrimages for hundreds of miles; indeed, 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, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”{Micah 6:6-7}

Here is a person represented as highly valuing eternal life, and willing to obtain it at the greatest expense,---but it is the language of one who as yet is ignorant of Christ. And how many persons, among ourselves, for lack 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 the Holy Spirit once brings the inquirer, by the Gospel, to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as an all-sufficient Savior, 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 forever justified,---and if brought to see that all the blessings of his great salvation are perfectly free, “without money and without price”{Isaiah 55:1}---without any meritorious qualifications whatever---then is he like the merchant in the text, who, in the course of his journeys and inquiries, 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 insure 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 will become an unspeakable gainer.

By this striking picture, our Lord here represents 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---supremely excellent; he feels an intense desire to be interested in him, and is ready, willingly, indeed, most gladly, to part with everything for his sake. You will clearly see how wisely he thinks and acts, if you will consider for a moment in what this superior excellency of Christ consists.

Consider his personal dignity and glory. “Who is he, that we may believe in him?”{John 9:36} his name is “Immanuel,” “God with us.”{Matthew 1:23} He is the Son of God; the only-begotten of the Father; “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature;”{Hebrews 1:3}

In him are combined all the glorious perfections of Deity, and all the unsullied excellencies of humanity. “Great,” indeed, and without controversy,---“Great indeed is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh.”{1 Timothy 3:16} And, beholding his glory, the believer may well exclaim with Thomas, “My Lord! and my God!”{John 20:28}

Behold him in the character of Mediator; one, the only one, qualified to interpose between parties so remote from each other, as the holy Jehovah and guilty men. He is fully qualified, inclined, and authorized, to bridge the separation. Indeed, 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 holds, and which make him to be precisely what we need to make us happy. We are ignorant; he is the great Instructor; “he teaches to profit,”{Isaiah 48:17} and “who is a teacher like him?”{Job 36:22} We are guilty; his blood cleanses us from all sin; and washed in that blessed fountain, we are “whiter than snow.”{Psalm 51:7} We are rebellious creatures; he brings us back to God, makes us willing in the day of his power, and we become his humble and faithful subjects. He is a prince, to govern and protect us from all our crafty and powerful enemies, who lie in wait to destroy. We need a Friend---Jesus is that friend---a friend that sticks closer than a brother,{Proverbs 18:24} whose compassion and fidelity make him the best friend we can possibly find. We need a Counselor:---He is our advocate, and will be our guide in every difficulty---for he has promised, that if we acknowledge him in all our ways, he will direct our paths. We are diseased, and ready to die. He is the great Physician, who is ready and able to restore us to health. We are poor---He “counsels us to buy gold of him,”{Revelation 3:18} and then we are rich indeed, rich towards God, and rich forever.

Jewels are prized by vain mortals as ornaments. Wearing them is a mark of distinction; for inferior people cannot obtain them; and so the wearer excites notice and admiration in the merry circles of the great. This may be thought a pitiable weakness; when poor vain mortals value themselves on a profusion of sparkling stones---but he who possesses the pearl of great price is well indeed; he that “puts on the Lord Jesus Christ”{Romans 13:14} surpasses an angel in splendor; like the church, in the vision of the apostle John, he may be said to be “clothed with the sun;”{Revelation 12:1} and those become honorable---for “to them that believe he is precious,” or, “an honor.”{1 Peter 2:7 NKJV} Dignified indeed, beyond expression, is he who possesses this pearl of great price.

In superstitious days, precious stones were worn as amulets, or charms, to protect the wearer from divers diseases and misfortunes. We know of no such virtue in earthly jewels; but we assert that Christ is the true Amulet; and if we are “carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,”{2 Corinthians 4:10} nothing will by any means hurt us;

Now, if Jesus Christ possesses all these excellencies, (and the one half has not been told you) and if the soul that obtains an interest in him will be thus benefited, it is no wonder that the wise merchant, discovering his inestimable worth, should be willing to sell all that he had, for his sake.

He is found: and blessed is he who has found him. In the parable of “the treasure,” which precedes our text, it is represented as “hid in a field;” not obvious to the eye of the careless and inattentive traveler: and pearls are generally harvested from the bottom of the ocean; so that he who finds the one must dig for it; and he who gets the other must dive for them. The blessings of salvation escape the notice of the careless and carnal; but “he who seeks finds.”{Matthew 7:8}---Here, then, in the word of the gospel, is this mighty treasure to be found. It is the business of the minister of the Gospel to display this treasure, to proclaim its value, and to invite his hearers to urgently seek it; but it is the office of the Holy Spirit alone, to lead the seeking soul to obtain the prize; it is his gracious business to glorify Christ, and this he does by taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to men.{John 14:26}

When this discovery is once made, then holy and earnest desires will rise in the soul, or rather this desire---this one desire, swallowing up, as it were, all the rest; so that he, who once was used to say, “Who will show me any good?” now cries, “lift up the light of your face upon me, O Lord.”{Psalm 4:6} He who once was used to say, “I see no form nor beauty in him, that I should desire him,”{Isaiah 53:2} now exclaims, He “is radiant, distinguished among ten thousand.”{Song of Solomon 5:10} He, who when formerly invited to the gospel feast, “desired to be excused,”{Luke 14:18, 19} now “hungers and thirsts for righteousness.”{Matthew 5:6} “Indeed,” says the believer, with holy Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”{Philippians 3:8-9}

But how is this pearl to be obtained? It is to be bought,---“he goes and sells all that he has, and buys it.” We are not to strain the metaphor, as if it were to imply that we can in any way merit this inestimable treasure; the meaning is, that the Christian gives such a heartfelt and decided preference to Christ, above all worldly things whatever, as to be willing, if need be, to part with them all, should they stand in the way of obtaining his grace, his righteousness, and his salvation.

And, indeed, to say the truth, there are some things which must be parted with. That good opinion, for instance, of ourselves, which we are too prone to entertain; that dependence we are prone to place upon a religious education, upon freedom from gross vices, upon our goodness, virtue, sincerity, generosity---all must be parted with. Our own righteousness must be accounted as filthy rags, if we would wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Sinful indulgences, of whatever description they may be, must also be given up.

This splendid jewel would clash on a person who is covered with the dirt of sinful practices; and however dear these indulgences may be, and though the parting with them may be painful, as the plucking out the right eye, or cutting off the right hand, it must be done. We must “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires;”{Galatians 5:24} and those who are Christ's are willing so to do.

Our reputation must often suffer, in consequence of our attachment to Christ, his cause and his people. If we are devoted to Christ as we ought, we must separate ourselves from the world; and if we do so, we will find by experience the truth of our Lord's saying, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”{John 15:18-19}---Protected, as we happily are by the laws of our country, from the hand of violence on account of our religion; yet, there is no power on earth that can screen us from the reproach of the cross. Men will “utter all kinds of evil against you;” {Matthew 5:11} but let it be falsely, and for Christ's sake.

And will we not be willing to bear reproach for him who “emptied himself,”{Philippians 2:7} for us? Will we not readily part with our reputation and “go to him outside the camp,”{Hebrews 13:13} bearing his reproach? Do not fear this; it should rather be esteemed a jewel that adorns us. The cross of Jesus is our best ornament; God forbid we should glory in anything except in that cross.

In times of persecution, not character only, but liberty, and life itself were forfeited. Our Lord most candidly told his disciples, on what terms they must become such,---that they must be willing to part with father and mother, wife and children, houses and lands, and to be hated and persecuted by all; and to take up their cross and follow him, or else they could not be his disciples. Nor did they think the purchase too dear. Did they refuse the terms? By no means. Like Moses of old, they “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.”{Hebrews 11:26} The Apostles of our Lord, when faced with evil ultimatums, “left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name”{Acts 5:41} of Christ and they “joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, since they knew that they themselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”{Hebrews 10:34}


In closing---You have heard the character of the wise merchant, and do you approve of it? Did he not act wisely? Is not gain the proper object of a tradesman? and who blames a man for making a good bargain!---Now, examine yourself, Is this your character! What is your main object---the object of your warmest desires and that for which you are ready to part with all? Is it the World? Sadly! it is vain! Do not make it your portion; it will deceive and disappoint you. Even now, it does not give you real satisfaction; but think, O think, of the solemnities of a dying hour. Think of that awful moment, when you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.---I ask, What then will profit you? what but Christ? Then, every soul will be ready to say with the Martyr, “None but Christ, none but Christ.”

Why do you not say so now? Why should that not be the language of your hearts now; not waiting until the horrors of death and the dread of judgment will extort it? Will you not be persuaded, even now, to turn your eyes away from beholding vanity which is what all earthly objects prove.

Behold this great and glorious object, Jesus, with his great and eternal salvation, is set before you. How are you disposed towards it? Perhaps this may be the last time that ever this gracious Savior may be presented to you, or that you may be affectionately invited to come and receive him. If you reject him now, perhaps he will be forever rejected. How then will you decide! Do you esteem him or not? I can almost see angels pausing to witness your answer, and report it in heaven. Be persuaded to take the advice of Jesus---especially you who are young---“seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (needful for life and for godliness) will be added to you.”{Matthew 6:33}

It may be that you are seeking; and perhaps, you may be seeking in sorrow: but, fear not, the Lord has said, “everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds,”{Matthew 7:8} and the wise man, Solomon, who not only knew the vanity of the world, but also the excellency of true wisdom, says, “If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”{Proverbs 2:3-6}---The Lord gives wisdom, he has promised to give it to them who ask it, and that generously. And are you really willing to part with anything, to part with everything, that stands in the way of your enjoyment of Christ? If you were allowed to hold on to only one thing in the world, what would that one thing be? I can readily answer for every true believer---It would be Christ. Let everything else go he would say, give me Christ, and that is enough.

But perhaps you are discouraged at the terms proposed. The text directs you to make a purchase; and when you contemplate the infinite value of the pearl in question, you say, I can offer nothing in the least degree valuable. I have nothing. I am nothing. I can do nothing. How can I presume to purchase the pearl of great price? What you say is true. You have indeed, as was before observed, nothing valuable to offer. But do not let this discourage you. In another Scripture, resembling this, in which the blessings of the Gospel are compared to food and drink of the richest quality, and sinners are invited to come and purchase them, the terms are these---“And he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price,”{Isaiah 55:1} which is as much as to say, You will be welcome to these great benefits, though utterly unworthy of them. Accept them as God's free gifts, and be content to be forever indebted to grace---only saying, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”{2 Corinthians 9:15}

Finally---How rich and how happy is the believer in Jesus!---We congratulate our friends when they have made a prosperous voyage; or when, in the course of providence, an addition is made to their wealth; but O how much rather is a child of God to be congratulated!--- “I know your poverty,” said Jesus Christ to the Church of Smyrna, “I know your poverty but you are rich;”{Revelation 2:9}---they were poor in this world, but they were rich in faith; rich towards God; and if thus rich now, how will the glorified believer be enriched!

This jewel will retain its value and its luster beyond the grave, and will enrich and adorn the soul forever and ever; indeed a brilliant crown of glory awaits every believer in Jesus.