A Hopeful Youth Falling Short Of Heaven - Part I


Adapted from a Sermon By

Isaac Watts

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Mark 10:21

If we would know the person who was favoured with the love of Jesus, and come to know his character, we have to look at the whole story. We have already read the account in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel. We will read Mark’s account in chapter 10 from the 17th to the 23d verse.

Now if we consult and compare the account which the other evangelists give us of this transaction, we will find, in the gospel of Matthew, that the person was a young man ; (Matt. 19:20) and, as we have read in the gospel of Luke, a ruler among the Jews. (Luke 18:18). He was to some extent concerned about his future state, and came to Christ, as to a godly prophet, to ask about the way to heaven: But it is evident he thought very highly of his own righteousness, and at the same time he had an excessive love of money; he would gladly have become an heir of heaven, but he valued his inheritance on earth much more: he wished for the love of God, but wanted to enjoy and love this world too; and rather than renounce the pleasant things of this life, he would abandon his claims to a life to come; for he went away grieved and full of sadness, at the direction which our Savoir gave him, and would not venture the experiment. He forsook Christ and heaven, having great possessions on earth.

It is not necessary to our purpose, to know whether, in the following years of his life, he was brought to repentance and salvation, though it is most likely that he never was; for if he loved his estate and his money, so well in his younger years, that vice probably increased with his age. Besides, he stands in the history of the gospel, as an example of those men, who lose heaven for the love of money. But whatever came of him afterward, this is certain, that at that time he was in a state of sin and death; which is at the heart of the matter before us.

From the words of our text, set in this light, and compared with the outcome of the whole conversation between Christ and this young man, we may derive this doctrine:

DOCTRINE: Our Savior had some love for a person that preferred this world to heaven, and neglected his salvation.

In order to prove this thought we will consider the following four subjects.

I. What is meant by the love of our savior to this young man, and to persons of his character.

II. What was there in him that might attract our Savior’s love.

III. What remarks may be made upon the sin and folly of a person so lovely, and so beloved of Christ.

IV. Make an appeal to three sorts of persons, from the consideration of the character of the person in our text.

The first two we will consider this morning, and the last two, God willing, in the week after next.

First, what is meant by the love of our Savior to this young man, and how far may he be said to love a person who is void of true grace, and neglects salvation.

Here, as will become clear, we cannot look upon our Lord Jesus Christ as acting according to his divinity, but only in his human nature; because it is evident that Christ consider as God, did not love him in that sense in which the love of God is usually taken; since he had plain evidences of a worldly covetous mind, and so could not be the object of special divine love: Nor do we find that Christ loved him to the extent of communicating divine grace and salvation to him.

Now there may very well be some sort of love attributed to God, with relation to creatures of any kind which have anything valuable in them: So God loves all the works of his hands; so he loves the heavens and the earth, and all the parts of inanimate nature: that is, he approves his own workmanship, the effects of his own wisdom and power. God is also sometimes said to love those to whom he communicates temporal blessings, or makes the offer of eternal ones. So he loved the whole nation of the Jews, though he did not give all of them his saving grace.

But still it is much more natural to understand the words of our text concerning Christ as man; for there were some peculiar qualities in this youth, which were suited to attract the love of human nature; such qualities as a wise and perfect man could not but love: It was some such sort of love as our Lord expressed toward the apostle John, in a way of distinction from the rest; on this account, probably, he was called, the disciple that Jesus loved; (John 13:23) Therefore we may consider Christ as here exerting the innocent kind of affections of human nature towards a youth so agreeable and hopeful.

Now this love implies in it these five things:

1. A hearty approval of those good qualities which Christ saw in him: Since Christ, being perfect and wise, cannot but approve that which is excellent. He had a sharp eye, and great natural wisdom: With keen insight he could discern what was valuable; and must necessarily have a just esteem for everything in which his Father’s wisdom and power did eminently appear. Whatsoever God created at first, was good; (Gen 1:31) And whatever remains of that good workmanship of God, Christ, the Son of God, still approved, so far as it was untainted with sin, and considered in itself, set apart from the sinful circumstances that might surround it.

2. This love of Christ to the young man, implies a inward satisfaction in his person; a sort of human daylight in a fellow-creature that had several excellent properties; though the love of God, and powerful religion, were absent. If I read a book that has much good sense and it, and where the reasonings are well connected, I cannot but have a delight in reading, though the subject itself may be superficial, or the theme disagreeable. If I hear a well composed speech, with many skillful turns of thought and moving expressions; and although these pronounced with the various improvements of speech and gesture, I take pleasure in the performance, and may love the orator, though he insists upon sentiments quite contrary to my own. So I may be pleased with the learned conversation of a knowing and well-tempered man, and love them so far, though he may be my enemy, and perhaps, in his heart, an enemy to God also; for such was this young man, an idolater of gold, and therefore an enemy to God; (James 4:4) concerning whom it is written, that Jesus loved him.

3. Some natural good wishes for his welfare are implied in this love. There is in every wise and good man, a heartfelt desire of the happiness of his fellow-creatures; he loves them all in this sense, even the foolish and the wicked. Human nature that has any goodness in it, is ready to wish well to any though he be an utter stranger, and unknown; especially if he has some agreeable qualities. There may be an innocent inclination to see all men happy, though we know this will not be brought to pass; for the word of God declares that vast majority of men walk in the broad way, and will go down to hell. You know how passionately the apostle Paul longed for the salvation of all his country-men the Jew’s. This is called a love of benevolence; and it is evident by what followed in the account, that the Lord expressed this good will towards the young man in our text.

4. A bestowing of actual benefit or kindness, is implied in the love of Christ toward this youth; for he stood still and entertained him with friendly conversation: He endeavoured by proper methods to convince him of sin; he instructed him as to what he should do to obtain treasure in heaven; he called him to be his disciple and follower; and gave him a promise of everlasting riches, if he would have complied with his proposal. This is called a love of benevolence: And this our Lord Jesus practised abundantly, even to those whom he did not savingly enlighten and convert by his gospel; for it was his character, that he went about doing good. (Acts 10:38)

5. This love of Christ includes in it compassion for the young man, and some degree of sorrow to think that he should miss out on heaven; that he should be so hardened in self-confidence, so puffed up with a conceit of his own righteousness, and so hard to be convinced of his weakness and guilt, as to boldly insist, that he had kept all the commandments of God: and at last, that he should be so entangled with a love to money, as to despise the treasures of heaven, and to let Christ and salvation go.

Such a mournful pity did our Lord express to Jerusalem when he was on earth; O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34) And to this expression of love were mingled expressions of sorrow when he came near the gates, for the same evangelist tells us that when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. With this moving language, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (Luke 13:41, 42)

When we contemplate a beautiful palace, a well-conceived garden, an outstanding painting, “it is a shame, we cry, that such a building be reduced to ashes, such a garden overspread with desolation and disorder, or such a picture be all defaced.” We have a sort of pity for these inanimate beauties, and we are ready to mourn their danger or ruin. And the passion is innocent and appropriate: but the grief and the love rise higher still, when we see a living soul, a fellow-creature of our own rank, a man or a woman with so much potential, and yet hurrying on to wilful destruction. Such love and such grief are becoming for a wise and good man, and so they became our Saviour well. Blessed be the Lord! that ever his love should lay itself out on such objects, as would awaken his grief, and give him so painful a compassion! But this was only in the days of his flesh! he pities mankind now under their various wretchedness and folly, yet we cannot suppose his present exaltation and blessedness can allow for real sorrow, or admit any painful affliction; though in his humble state on earth, his human love expressed itself agreeably in such mournful compassion and tenderness.

II. We come to consider, what there was in this person that might attract our Savior’s love.

1. He probably had some natural qualities which were agreeable and pleasing. His youth is mentioned in the gospel of Matthew; Matt. 19:20. A young man, in the prime of his days, in the force and flower of his age, the beauty and vigour of his nature: and it is very likely, that he might have had simple, frank, and open appearance; for it is said, our Saviour beholding him, loved him. He fixed his eyes, and probably saw something in him delightful in his very aspect and appearance, which might partly induce him to those various expressions of love before mentioned, and to pity so lovely a youth, who was enslaved to riches, and bound to destruction in chains of gold.

2. He had a courteous and friendly disposition, which are apparent in several instances; for example, he kneeled before our Lord, and paid him great respect with the gesture of his body; he saluted him, good Master! which our Lord did not reprove, when he said, No one is good except God alone; but tested him to see whether he would own him to be God or not. He acknowledged Christ as his superior, though he was so much a stranger to him, and so much a poorer man than himself. By his whole behavior we find him a person of great civility; he knew how to pay the honours of his country well, to give titles to whom titles are due, and to do these things gracefully. A courteous, humble, and decent behaviour, without affectation or flattery, is so far from being reproved by Christ, that not only, in this place, our Lord seems to be pleased with it, but in many places of the New Testament it is recommended to make Christianity attractive: it is pleasing to human nature, and cannot but gain love and esteem with all wise and virtuous persons.

3. He was religiously educated even from his childhood, and had grown up in sobriety, perhaps, from his very cradle; for he was but a young man when he came to our Lord, and yet he says, concerning the commandments of moral duty, I have kept them all from my youth. He surely came from good parents; he had such instructions from them, and they such a jealous and watchful eye over him, that he was kept from gross sins, and was brought up in all the forms of godliness, and in the observance of the moral law. Now Christ, considered merely as a man, loved the law of God so well, that he could not but take pleasure in a person that performed it, so far as that obedience reached. Virtue, in the mere outward part of it, will command respect, even from the vile and the wicked; much more will the good and pious man pay honour to the practice of it. There is something amiable in sobriety, temperance, charity, justice, truth, and sincerity, though they may not proceed from the godly principle of love to God rooted in the heart.

4. He had shown some diligence in seeking after eternal life, and had a great concern about his soul. He came running to ask a question of the greatest importance, What must I do to inherit eternal life? He was convinced there was a heaven and a hell, and he was willing to do something here to obtain a future happiness. He did not come with the goal of putting curious and ensnaring questions, as the Sadducees did, (Matt. 22:23) but he seems to have an honest desire to know the way to heaven and happiness, for he went away sorrowful when he could not comply with the demands of Christ. Though he thought he had practised a great deal of religion, yet he was willing to receive further instructions; What do I yet lack? Is there any other precept to be performed, in order to entitle me to life eternal ? Now our Saviour loves to see conscience awakened, to see the springs of religion opened and begin to flow: A divine teacher conceives some hopes of a man that is willing to be taught, and really to learn, and therefore he loves him. This youth thought himself righteous, yet he did not think himself all-wise; and therefore submits to further instructions. Now it is a pleasure to communicate knowledge to those that long to receive it; and we pity them heartily when they do not comply with the necessary duties that are revealed to them, through the charms of some strong temptation.

5. Add to all this, that he had many civil advantages by reason of his riches, his authority, and his power. He was wealthy, and he was a ruler among the people; which things, though they cannot in themselves make any person amiable, yet when they are added to the former good qualities, they make them all more lovely and more valuable; and that because they are so seldom joined together. His concern about his soul, was not a sick-bed meditation, for he was in health; nor a troubled anxiety of old age, for he was young: nor was it the effect of his being discontented and out of favor with the world, for he was rich and prosperous. It is seldom that we see a man in the prime of his days, possessing large treasures and property in this world, that will seek after the things of another; or that will show due respect to his fellow-creatures, or practise so much as the form of godliness: that when all these meet together, as they did in this young man, they tend to make him lovely in the eyes of every beholder.

But here is the awful and sad outcome! this unhappy youth, furnished as he was with all these virtues, and these advantages, which our Lord beheld in him, and for which he loved him, yet he lost heaven for the love of this world. He refused to accept the proposals of Christ; he went away sorrowful, for he had large possessions.

And so, this morning, we have considered what is meant by the love of our savior to this young man, and to persons of his character. We have considered what was there in him that might attract our Savior’s love. The week following next, God willing, we will consider first, what may be said about the sin and folly of a person so lovely, and so beloved of Christ. And then close with an appeal to three sorts of persons, from what we will have seen of the character of the person in our text.