Men Made Rich by the Poverty of Christ
THINK 1 not that our Savior began to live when he was born of the Virgin Mary; imagine not that he dates his existence from the manger at Bethlehem; remember he is the Eternal, he is before all things, and by him all things consist. There was never a time in which there was not God. And just so there was never a period in which there was not Christ Jesus our Lord. He is self-existent, has no beginning of days, neither end of years; he is the immortal, invisible, the only wise God, our Savior. Now, in the past eternity which had elapsed before his mission to this world, we are told that Jesus Christ was rich; and to those of us who believe his glories and trust in his divinity it is not hard to see how he was so. Jesus was rich in possessions. Lift up thine eye, believer, and for a moment review the riches of my Lord Jesus before he condescended to become poor for thee. Behold him sitting upon his throne and declaring his own all-sufficiency. “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the cattle on a thousand hills are mine. Mine are the hidden treasures of gold; mine are the pearls that the diver can not reach; mine every precious thing that earth has seen.”
But he had, besides, that which makes men richer still. We have heard of kings in olden times who were fabulously rich, and when their riches were summed up we read in the old romances, “And this man was possessed of the philosopher’s stone, whereby he turned all things into gold.” Surely all the treasures that he had before were as nothing compared with this precious stone that brought up the rear. Now, whatever might be the wealth of Christ in things created, he had the power of creation, and therein lay his boundless wealth. If he had pleased he could have spoken worlds into existence; he had but to lift his finger, and a new universe as boundless as the present would have leaped into existence. At the will of his mind millions of angels would have stood before him, legions of bright spirits would have flashed into being. He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. He who said, “Light be,” and light was, had power to say to all things, “Be,” and they should “be.” Herein, lay his riches; this creating power was one of the brightest jewels of his crown.
We call men rich, too, who have honor, and tho men have never so much wealth, yet if they be in disgrace and shame they must not reckon themselves among the rich. But our Lord Jesus had honor, honor such as none but a divine being could receive. When he sat upon his throne, before he relinquished the glorious mantle of his sovereignty to become a man, all earth was filled with his glory. He could look both beneath and all around him, and the inscription, “Glory be unto God,” was written over all space; day and night the smoking incense of praise ascended before him from golden vials held by spirits who bowed in reverence; the harps of myriads of cherubim and seraphim continually thrilled with his praise, and the voices of all those mighty hosts were ever eloquent in adoration.
It may be that on set days the princes from the far-off realms, the kings, the mighty ones of his boundless realms, came to the court of Christ and brought each his annual revenue. Oh! who can tell but that in the vast eternity, at certain grand eras, the great bell was rung, and all the mighty hosts that were created gathered together in solemn review before his throne? Who can tell the high holiday that was kept in the court of heaven when these bright spirits bowed before his throne in joy and gladness, and, all united, raised their voices in shouts and hallelujahs such as mortal ear has never heard?
Oh! can ye tell the depths of the rivers of praise that flowed hard by the city of God? Can ye imagine to yourselves the sweetness of that harmony that perpetually poured into the ear of Jesus, Messiah, King, Eternal, equal with God his Father? No; at the thought of the glory of his kingdom, and the riches and majesty of his power, our souls are spent within us; our words fail; we can not utter the tithe of his glories.
Nor was he poor in any other sense. He that hath wealth on earth, and honor, too, is poor if he hath not love. I would rather be the pauper, dependent upon charity, and have love, than I would be the prince, despised and hated, whose death is looked for as a boon. Without love man is poor—give him all the diamonds, and pearls, and gold that mortal hath conceived.
But Jesus was not poor in love. When he came to earth, he did not come to get our love because his soul was solitary. Oh, no, his Father hath a full delight in him from all eternity! The heart of Jehovah, the first person of the Sacred Trinity, was divinely, immutably linked to him; he was beloved of the Father and of the Holy Spirit; the three persons took a sacred complacency and delight in each other. And besides that, how was he loved by those bright spirits who had not fallen! I can not tell what countless orders and creatures there are created who still stand fast in obedience to God. It is not possible for us to know whether there are, or not, as many races of created beings as we know there are created men on earth.
We can not tell but that in the boundless regions of space there are worlds inhabited by beings infinitely superior to us; but certain it is, there were the holy angels, and they loved our Savior; they stood day and night with wings outstretched, waiting for his commands, hearkening to the voice of his word; and when he bade them fly there was love in their countenance and joy in their hearts.
They loved to serve him, and it is not all fiction that when there was war in heaven, and when God cast out the devil and his legions, then the elect angels showed their love to him, being valiant in fight and strong in power. He wanted not our love to make him happy; he was rich enough in love without us.
What! was it true that he whose crown was all bedight with stars would lay that crown aside? What! was it certain that he about whose shoulders was cast the purple of the universe would become a man dressed in a peasant’s garment? Could it be true that he who was everlasting and immortal would one day be nailed to a cross? Oh, how their wonderment increased! They desired to look into it. And when he descended from on high they followed him; for Jesus was “seen of angels,” and seen in a special sense, for they looked upon him in rapturous amazement, wondering what it all could mean. “He for our sakes became poor.”
And now wonder, ye angels, the Infinite has become an infant; he, upon whose shoulders the universe does hang, hangs at his mother’s breast; he who created all things and bears up the pillars of creation hath now become so weak that he must be carried by a woman! And oh, wonder, ye that knew him in his riches, while ye admire his poverty!
Where sleeps the new-born King? Had he the best room in Cæsar’s palace? Hath a cradle of gold been prepared for him, and pillows of down on which to rest his head? No; where the ox fed, in the dilapidated stable, in the manger, there the Savior lies, swathed in the swaddling-bands of the children of poverty! Nor there doth he rest long; on a sudden mother must carry him to Egypt; he goeth there and becometh a stranger in a strange land. When he comes back, see him that made the worlds handle the hammer and the nails, assisting his father in the trade of a carpenter!
Never was there a poorer man than Christ; he was the prince of poverty. He was the reverse of Crœsus—he might be on top of the hill of riches, Christ stood in the lowest vale of poverty. Look at his dress; it is woven from the top throughout, the garment of the poor! As for his food, he oftentimes did hunger and always was dependent upon the charity of others for the relief of his wants! He who scattered the harvest o’er the broad acres of the world had not sometimes wherewithal to stay the pangs of hunger! He who digged the springs of the ocean sat upon a well and said to a Samaritan woman, “Give me to drink!”
He rode in no chariot, he walked his weary way, footsore, o’er the flints of Galilee! He had not where to lay his head. He looked upon the fox as it hurried to its burrow, and the fowl as it went to its resting place, and he said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but I, the Son of man, have not where to lay my head.”
He who had once been waited on by angels becomes the servant of servants, takes a towel, ‘girds himself, and washes his disciples’ feet! He who was once honored with the hallelujahs of ages is now spit upon and despised! He who was loved by his Father and had abundance of the wealth of affection could say, “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.”
Follow him along his via dolorosa until at last you meet him among the olives of Gethsemane; see him sweating great drops of blood! Follow him to the pavement of Gabbatha; see him pouring out rivers of gore beneath the cruel whips of Roman soldiers! With weeping eye follow him to the cross of Calvary, see him nailed there! Mark his poverty, so poor that they have stripped him naked from head to foot and exposed him to the face of the sun! So poor that when he asked them for water they gave him vinegar to drink! So poor that his unpillowed head is girt with thorns in death!
Methinks, when he was tempted of the devil in the wilderness, it must have been hard in him to have restrained himself from dashing the devil into pieces. If I had been the Son of God, methinks, feeling as I do now, if that devil had tempted me, I should have dashed him into the nethermost hell in the twinkling of an eye! And then conceive the patience our Lord must have had, standing on the pinnacle of the temple, when the devil said, “Fall down and worship me.” He would not touch him, the vile deceiver, but let him do what he pleased. Oh! what might of misery and love there must have been in the Savior’s heart when he was spit upon by the men he had created; when the eyes he himself had filled with vision looked on him with scorn, and when the tongues to which he himself had given utterance hissed and blasphemed him!
The reason why Christ died was “that we through his poverty might be rich.” He became poor from his riches, that our poverty might become rich out of his poverty. Brethren, we have now a joyful theme before us: those who are partakers of the Savior’s blood are rich. All those for whom the Savior died, having believed in his name and given themselves to him, are this day rich. And yet I have some of you here who can not call a foot of land your own. You have nothing to call your own to-day; you know not how you will be supported through another week; you are poor, and yet if you be a child of God I do know that Christ’s end is answered in you; you are rich. No, I did not mock you when I said you were rich: I did not taunt you—you are. You are really rich; you are rich in his possessions; you have in your possession now things more costly than gems, more valuable than gold and silver.
Ah, Egypt, thou wert rich when thy granaries were full, but those granaries might be emptied; Israel was far richer when they could not see their granaries, but only saw the manna drop from heaven day by day. Now, Christian, that is thy portion—the portion of the fountain always flowing, and not of the cisternful, and soon to be emptied.
But remember, O saint, that thy wealth does not all lie in thy possession just now; remember thou art rich in promises. Let a man be never so poor as the metal that he hath, let him have in his possession promissory notes from rich and true men, and he says, “I have no gold in my purse, but here is a note for such and such a sum—I know the signature—I can trust the firm—I am rich, tho I have no metal in hand.”
And now, Christian, in heaven there is a crown of gold which is thine to-day; it will be no more thine when thou hast it on thy head than it is now.
I remember to have heard it reported that I once spoke in metaphor, and bade Christians look at all the crowns hanging in rows in heaven—very likely I did say it, but if not, I will say it now. Up, Christian, see the crowns all ready, and mark thine own; stand thou and wonder at it; see with what pearls it is bedight, and how heavy it is with gold! And that is for thy head, thy poor aching head; thy poor tortured brain shall yet have that crown for its arraying!
And see that garment, it is stiff with gems, and white like snow; and that is for thee! When thy week-day garment shall be done with, this shall be the raiment of thy everlasting Sabbath. When thou hast worn out this poor body there remaineth for thee “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Up to the summit, Christian, and survey thine inheritance; and when thou hast surveyed it all, when thou hast seen thy present possessions, thy promised possessions, thine entailed possessions, then remember that all these were bought by the poverty of thy Savior! Look thou upon all thou hast and say, “Christ bought them for me.” Look thou on every promise and see the bloodstains on it; yea, look, too, on the harps and crowns of heaven and read the bloody purchase! Remember, thou couldst never have been anything but a damned sinner unless Christ had bought thee! Remember, if he had remained in heaven thou wouldst for ever have remained in hell; unless he had shrouded and eclipsed his own honor thou wouldst never have had a ray of light to shine upon thee.
Therefore bless his dear name, extol him, trace every stream to the fountain; and bless him who is the source and the fountain of everything thou hast. Brethren, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, tho he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Remember, Christ came to make those rich that have nothing of their own. My Savior is a physician; if you can heal yourself he will have nothing to do with you. Remember, my Savior came to clothe the naked. He will clothe you if you have not a rag of your own; but unless you let him do it from head to foot he will have nothing to do with you. Christ says he will never have a partner; he will do all or none. Come, then, hast thou given up all to Christ? Hast thou no reliance and trust save in the cross of Jesus? Then thou hast answered the question well. Be happy, be joyous; if death should surprise thee the next hour, thou art secure. Go on thy way and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Remember, Christ will not reject thee; thou mayest reject him. Remember now, there is the cup of mercy put to thy lip by the hand of Jesus. I know, if thou feelest thy need, Satan may tempt thee not to drink, but he will not prevail; thou wilt put thy lip feebly and faintly, perhaps, to it. But oh! do but sip it; and the first draught shall give thee bliss; and the deeper thou shalt drink the more heaven shalt thou know.
Sinner, believe on Jesus Christ; hear the whole gospel preached to thee. It is written in God’s Word, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Hear me translate it: He that believeth and is immersed shall be saved. Believe thou, trust thyself on the Savior, make a profession of thy faith in baptism, and then thou mayest rejoice in Jesus, that he hath saved thee. But remember not to make a profession till thou hast believed; remember, baptism is nothing until thou hast faith. Remember, it is a farce and a falsehood until thou hast first believed; and afterward it is nothing but the profession of thy faith.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–92)
Born in 1834, died in 1892; Pastor of a church new Cambridge in 1851; Pastor in London in 1853; removed to the new Tabernacle in 1861; founder of a pastors’ college as well as of schools, alms-houses, and an orphan asylum.
Note 1. From a sermon sometimes known under the title of “The Condescension of Christ.”