Mark 12:34
When Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely, He said, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to question Him any further.
Critical HoursH. W. Beecher.Mark 12:34
Crossing the LineJohn Ker, D. D.Mark 12:34
Danger of This StateC. H. Spurgeon.Mark 12:34
For the Candid and ThoughtfulC. H. Spurgeon.Mark 12:34
Indecision DangerousJ. Thornton.Mark 12:34
Lost Within Sight of HomeMark 12:34
Mark Xii. 34Thomas ArnoldMark 12:34
Mere Morality Alone is Remote from the Kingdom of GodT. Horton, D. D.Mark 12:34
Near But not SecureT. Horton, D. D.Mark 12:34
Nearly a ChristianT. De Witt Talmage, D. D.Mark 12:34
Nearness not PossessionJ. S. Swan.Mark 12:34
Need of Self-ExaminationG. Petter.Mark 12:34
Not Far and not InAlexander MaclarenMark 12:34
Not Far from God's KingdomJ. N. Norton, D. D.Mark 12:34
Not Far from the KingdomJ. Vaughan, M. A.Mark 12:34
Not Far from the Kingdom of GodJohn Ker, D. D.Mark 12:34
Not Far from the Kingdom of GodA.F. Muir Mark 12:34
Not Far OffSeeds and Saplings.Mark 12:34
Not Quite in TimeJ. N. Norton, D. D.Mark 12:34
Not Quite Saved is LostT. De Witt Talmage, D. D.Mark 12:34
Obedience to God the Way to Faith in ChristJohn Henry NewmanMark 12:34
On the Verge of the KingdomD. Moore, M. A.Mark 12:34
Pharisaical Righteousness to be ExceededT. Horton, D. D.Mark 12:34
Reasons Why a Man Who is Near the Kingdom Should Strive to Enter ItJohn Ker, D. D.Mark 12:34
So NearC. H. Spurgeon.Mark 12:34
Some are in the Suburbs of the City of RefugeMark 12:34
Question About the Greatest CommandmentJ.J. Given Mark 12:28-34
The Essence of ReligionE. Johnson Mark 12:28-34
The Great CommandR. Green Mark 12:28- 34
The Law Akin to the Gospel, But Inferior to itA.F. Muir Mark 12:28-34




1. To stop there is to stultify our highest spiritual instincts and tendencies.

2. To stop there is to fail of salvation.

3. To stop there is to aggravate our misery and sin. - M.

Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
There is great cause for every one of us diligently to try and examine our knowledge and faith in Christ, whether it be true, sound, and sincere; or whether it be an hypocritical and counterfeit faith, seeing one may be "not far from the kingdom," and yet not in it. The rather, because so many deceive themselves with a vain persuasion and opinion of faith, thinking they have true faith in Christ, when it is not so. We are to try our faith by those marks of it, which are taught in the Word of God.

1. By the object of it. True faith believes and applies not only the promises of the gospel touching forgiveness of sins and salvation in Christ, but also all other parts of God's Word, as the precepts and commandments of it forbidding sin and commanding holy duties, also the reproofs and threatenings denounced against sin and sinners.

2. By the means by which we attained to it, and by which it is daily nourished in us.

3. By the contrary sin of unbelief. Look whether thou feel and complain of thy unbelief, and doubtings of God's mercy and forgiveness of thy sins in Christ, and whether thou daily pray and strive against such doubtings.

4. By the fruits and effects of it, especially by our hatred of sin, and care to avoid it, and to live holily.

(G. Petter.)

Among those who have turned out to be the most determined enemies of the gospel are many who once were so near conversion that it was a wonder they avoided it. Such persons seem ever after to take vengeance upon the holy influence which had almost proved too much for them. Hence our fear for persons under gracious impressions; for, if they do not now decide for God, they will become the more desperate in sin. That which is set in the sun, if it be not softened, will be hardened. I remember well a man who, under the influence of an earnest revivalist, was brought to his knees, to cry for mercy, in the presence of his wife and others; but never afterwards would he enter a place of worship, or pay attention to religious conversation. He declared that his escape was so narrow, that he would never run the risk again. Alas, that one should graze the gate of heaven, and yet drive on to hell!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

After being twelve days on shipboard, I awakened in the morning and saw the American coast. The headlands seemed beautiful; even Sandy Hook seemed attractive. I was impatient to get on shore. It seemed as if we never would get free from quarantine, or get up the Narrows, or come to our friends who stood on the wharf waiting for us. I think that the most tedious part of a voyage is the last two or three hours. Well, there are many before me who are in the position I have described myself as once having been in. You have been voyaging on towards Christian life; you have found it a rough passage; a hurricane from Mount Sinai has smitten you, but now you see lighthouses, and you see buoys, and the great headlands of God's mercy stretching out into the ocean of your transgression. You are almost ashore. I have come here tonight to see you land. You are very near being a Christian — "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." O that this might be the hour for your emancipation.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

A Christian minister says: "When after safely circumnavigating the globe, the Royal Charter went to pieces in Moelfra Bay, on the coast of Wales, it was my melancholy duty to visit and seek to comfort the wife of the first officer, made by that calamity a widow. The ship had been telegraphed from Queenstown, and the lady was sitting in the parlour expecting her husband, with the table spread for his evening meal, when the messenger came to tell her he was drowned. Never can I forget the grief, so stricken and tearless, with which she wrung my hand, as she said, 'So near home, and yet lost!' That seemed to me the most terrible of sorrow. But, ah! that is nothing to the anguish which must wring the soul which is compelled to say at last, 'Once I was at the very gate of heaven, and had almost entered in, but now I am in hell!'"

Suppose you stop where you are, and go no further? Suppose you perish at the gate? Suppose I tell you that multitudes have come just where you are, and got no further? Do you know that to be almost saved is not to be saved at all? Suppose a man is going up a ladder and he slip, from what round had he better slip? If he slip from the bottom rung it is not half so perilous as if from the top. Suppose you are making an effort for eternal life, and you have come almost to the kingdom of heaven, and you fall — not quite saved, almost saved, very near the kingdom of God, not quite — but lost! A vessel came near the Long Island coast, and was split amid the breakers in a violent storm. They were within a stone's throw of being saved, when a violent wave took the boat and capsized it, and they perished — almost ashore, but not quite. And there are men who are pulling away towards the shore of safety. Nearer and nearer they are coming. I can say to them tonight: Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. But you have not quite reached it. Alas! if you stop where you are, or if a wave of worldliness capsizes your soul, and you perish almost within arm's reach of the kingdom! O do not stop where you are. Having come so near the kingdom of God, push on! push up! Will you tantalize your soul by stopping so near the kingdom of God? Will you come to look over the fence into the heavenly orchard, when you might go in and pluck the fruit? Will you sit down in front of the well curb, when a few more turns of the windlass might bring up the brimming buckets of everlasting life?

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

The man to whom these words were addressed was a candid inquirer.


1. They may possess considerable knowledge of Scripture.

2. They may make a candid confession of their belief.

3. They may have strong convictions of sin.

4. They may have a desire to amend their lives.

5. They may have partially reformed. They only need repentance and faith.


1. Difficulties in the way.

2. Advantages in a middle course.

3. Belief that they are Christians already.

4. Reluctance to observe the needful conditions.


1. The blessedness of those who do.

2. The misery of those who do not.

(Seeds and Saplings.)


1. Truthfulness of spirit.

2. Spiritual perception.

3. Acquaintance with the law.

4. Teachableness.

5. A sense of need of Christ.

6. A horror of wrongdoing.

7. A high regard for holy things.

8. Diligent attention to the means of grace.

II. WHAT ARE ITS DANGERS? There is danger —

1. Lest you slip back from this hopefulness.

2. Lest you rest content to stop where you are.

3. Lest you grow proud and self-righteous.

4. Lest instead of candid you become indifferent.

5. Lest you die ere the decisive step is taken.


1. Thank God for dealing so mercifully with you.

2. Admit with deep sincerity that you need supernatural help for entrance into the kingdom.

3. Tremble lest the decisive step be never taken.

4. Decide at once, through Divine grace.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. He possessed candour.

2. He possessed spiritual knowledge.

3. He knew the superiority of an inward religion over that which is external.

4. He saw the supremacy of God over the whole of our manhood.

5. Yet he did not despise outward religion so far as it was commanded of God.

II. THE QUESTION WHICH IS HERE SUGGESTED. This man came so near to the kingdom; did he ever enter it?

1. There is no reason why he should not have done so.

(1)His knowledge of the law might have taught him his inability to obey it.

(2)The presence of Christ might have drawn forth his love.

(3)His knowledge of sacrifices might have taught him their spiritual import.

(4)The Holy Spirit may have changed his heart.

2. But perhaps he never did enter the kingdom. If he did not enter, one of the reasons, no doubt, would be — that he was afraid of his fellow men.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. We find many excellent people whose GOODNESS IS OF A NEGATIVE KIND. By judicious management and advice of parents and teachers, they have grown up free from the grossest sins.

II. Another class of persons are fitted by the character of their minds, and the nature of their studies, TO TAKE AN INTEREST IN CHRISTIANITY AND THE CHURCH FROM AN INTELLECTUAL POINT OF VIEW. But let such remember that religion is something more than correctness of intellect; it is a life-giving principle, regulating the will, as well as directing the creed.

III. A third class who, in disposition and habits are not far from the kingdom of God, may be described as THE AMIABLE.

IV. One other class which I shall speak of, as embracing many "not far from the kingdom of God," is that of THE GENEROUS AND LIBERAL SPIRITED.

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

To see a friend riding briskly away, by the time we have reached the door to deliver a parting message; to have the boat pushed off from the dock, while we are hurrying down to get on board. These small disappointments will serve as illustrations in greater things.

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

I. Are there not many bearing the Christian name who, though not far from the kingdom of God, HAVE NEVER YET PASSED THE BOUNDARY WHICH SEPARATES THEM FROM THE WORLD

1. In this state there are those who have correct views of doctrinal truth without a spirit of devotion.

2. They are not far from the kingdom, but do not belong to that kingdom, who are the subjects of frequent and powerful convictions, yet have never been converted to God.

3. They are not far from the kingdom, but do not belong to it, who cultivate amiable tempers and agreeable manners, and yet are strangers to the influence and grace of the Divine Spirit.


1. Your hovering still round the outer borders of the kingdom of God must be ascribed to a want of firm decision of mind.

2. It must be ascribed to a want of warm and loyal attachment to the blessed Immanuel, the Prince of life.

3. It must be ascribed to a want of true faith and humility.

III. While you continue without the boundary of the kingdom of God, at whatever point of nearness, is not your state A STATE OF AWFUL DANCER? You are more liable to self-deception than vile profligates; you are commanded; you are in danger of attaching too much consequence to the soundness of your creed and strictness of your morals. Do not expect to glide into the kingdom without effort or hindrance.

1. You must press into the kingdom by casting off every incumbrance, and by forsaking every prejudice and passion which has a tendency to entangle and obstruct your progress.

2. You must press into the kingdom through all possible resistance.

(J. Thornton.)

True praise never does harm; it softens and humbles. Yet this man belonged to a class which had no right to expect any indulgence at Christ's hand. Christ sees the good points of the scribe. There is a "kingdom of God" in this world, and it has distinct boundary lines. What was there in the man which made Christ speak of him as "near to the kingdom"?

I. That the scribe spoke practically and sensibly, and without prejudice — as Christ expresses it, "discreetly." Such a mind will always be approximating to the kingdom of truth.

II. There were further indications, in the particular thoughts which were in the scribe's mind, that he was nearing the shores of truth. It is plain that he saw before his eyes the true, relative value of the types and ceremonies of the Jewish church. He recognized them as inferior to the great principles of truth and love. His mind had travelled so far as to see that the sum of all true religion is love to God and man. How is that love of God implanted in a man's breast? Will the beauties of nature do it? Will the kindnesses of Providence do it? Will the natural instincts of gratitude do it? I think not. There must be the sense of forgiveness. Within this he distinguished and magnified the unity of God. "For there is one God," etc. The unity of God the argument for a unity of service.

III. And perhaps, still more than all, that enlightened Jew had been drawn near to the Person of Christ. Consequently he consulted Him as a Teacher. Do we not know that Christ is the kingdom of God, and that we are all in or out of that kingdom just according to what Christ is to us? To be indifferent to Him is to be very "far off;" to feel the need of Him is to be "near."

IV. The most affecting of all possible conditions is a nearness which never enters. If I had to select the most awful passage in history, I should select the Israelites on the Canaanitish boundary — they saw, they heard, they tasted, they were on the eve to pass; — they disbelieved, they did not go in, they were sent back, and they never came near again; but their carcasses fell in the wilderness. It will be an unutterably solemn thing if Christ shall, at the last, say to any of us, "Thou wast not far from the kingdom of God."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The kingdom of heaven is a certain condition of the human soul. Christ stands contrasted with the condition of selfishness, vulgarity, animalism. See how it comes directly out of the controversy here: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." The superior love of God is what we mean by spirituality — the fulness of thought, imagination, and feeling in the direction of the Infinite. We know how men divide themselves up, and live under the dominant influence of certain parts or faculties of their nature. One man lives under the dominion of his passions; another class of men build themselves into a power in which property and collateral influences shall be central. These dominant states in which men dwell will give us an idea of what it is to be in that condition in which Christ says men are not far from the kingdom of heaven. When a man has attained the higher spiritual state, then he is in the kingdom of God. Then his mind becomes luminous. The man comes into union with God, and discerns truths which in his lower state he never could discern. When, therefore, a man is said to be not far from the kingdom of God, he is where he can easily enter into these higher perceptions and conditions. There are a great many persons who are bordering on the kingdom of heaven even in this life. There are luminous hours given to most men, and especially to men of large brain and intelligence. Persons in vulgar conditions of life have certain hours given to them which they do not understand, but which render them susceptible of being drawn into the kingdom of heaven.

1. There are hours of vision in which men are under the direct stimulus of the preached truth.

2. Sometimes the same result is produced because they have seen the truth embodied somewhere. A man goes to a funeral, and comes home and says, "That was a great man; I wish I were like him. I wish I were living on a higher plane."

3. There are times of awakening that are the result of great sorrows and affliction in some natures. When men see how uncertain is everything that pertains to life, they say, "I ought to have an anchor within the veil."

4. When men are in great distress in their social relations there is oftentimes a luminous hour. I do not say that if men neglect the first impulse to change their course they will never have another; the mercy of God calls a great many times; but very likely they will not have another that is so influential. If, however, in such hours of disclosure, hours of influence, hours in which everything urges him toward a nobler and a better life, a man would ratify his impulse to go forward, even though at first he stagger on the journey, he would not be far from the kingdom of God; but if he waits, you may be sure that these hours will pass away and be submerged. That is where the real force comes in. All the civilized world sent out men to take an observation of the transit of Venus; and when the conjunction came it was indispensably necessary to the success of the undertaking that the very first contact should be observed. An astronomer who had devoted six months to preparation, and has gone out to take this observation, eats a heavy dinner and takes copious draughts of liquid to wash it down, and lies down, saying, "Call me at the proper time," and goes to sleep; and by and by he is waked up and is told, "The planet approaches," and, half conscious, he turns over and says, "Yes, yes, yes, I will attend to it; but I must finish my nap first;" and before he is aware of it the thing is all over, and he has thrown away the pains he has taken to prepare himself. It was important that he should be on hand to take the observation on the second; and the whole failed, so far as he was concerned, for want of precise accuracy. A little girl sickened and died. She might have recovered; for the nature of the disease was such that if it had been watched, and if stimulants had been applied at the critical moment, they would have been like oil in a half or wholly exhausted lamp. But this was not known, and the child slept, and the caretaker thought the sleep was all right, and it slept itself out of life. The child might have been alive, walking and talking with us today, if it had not been for that. There are such critical moments as those, and they are occurring in human experience everywhere — in health, in sickness, in business, in pleasure, in love, in political affairs, in all the congeries of circumstances in which men live and move.

(H. W. Beecher.)



1. In regard of the means(1) absolute: Such as are wholly and universally deprived of all the ordinances of religion, as are the heathen (Ephesians 2:13).(2) Comparative remoteness, which we may notice of such as live within the bounds of the church and compass of the Christian commonwealth, and yet have little of the gospel sounding in their ears; they live in some dark corner of the land.(3) Besides all this there is a remoteness voluntary and contracted in those which are, near the means, and yet never the nearer, who put the Word of God from them.

2. In regard of the terms: Namely, the state in which they are at present, compared with the state which they stand in opposition unto. They are far from the kingdom of God as being destitute of those personal qualifications in order to it. Their principles and life are remote. The notoriously wicked (Ephesians 5:5; Romans 21:8; Revelation 22:15). Hypocrites or secret enemies. All such as are formal but not pious.

3. In regard of the event. In regard of God's purpose and degree concerning them. This was the case of Paul. He was far from God's kingdom in regard of the terms and his personal qualification; yet, in regard of the event, was very near. Sometimes the most notorious offenders are nearer conversion than civil persons. Let us look more minutely at the text.

III. IT IS A WORD OF COMMENDATION: an acknowledgment of that reality of goodness which was in the Scribe, and so encouraging him in it. If we see beginnings of good in any, to cherish them. We should not break the bruised reed, etc., nor nip the sproutings of grace.

1. This does honour God Himself in the bestowing of His graces. He that takes notice of the streams acknowledges the fountain whence they proceed.

2. We draw men on further and make them more willing to improve; it is the whetstone of virtue.

3. By this course we occasionally work upon others who are much moved by such examples.

IV. IT IS ALSO A WORD OF DIMINUTION. Thou art not quite at home; you must go further; an excitement. We must not flatter so as to make beginners satisfied with less grace, but urge them forward. The speech of our Lord was effectual to him hereunto in sundry respects.

1. It showed him his defects and imperfections, for which he had need to go further. There is no greater hindrance to improvement than a conceit of perfection: when men think they are at their journey's end, they will not step any further; but when they are persuaded that they are not at home, they will set them upon going (Philippians 3:12, 13).

2. It showed him also his hopes and possibilities: that is another excitement to endeavour. There is hope of coming hither, for you are almost there.

3. It showed him also his engagements, from what he had done already, to proceed. You have already made some endeavour, do not decline and grow worse. We should imitate Christ in helping others forward in religion, as Aquila and Priscilla did Apollos. Consider these words as reflectively, as coming from Christ the speaker of them. We should discern and distinguish persons. He discerned the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees in the foregoing part of the chapter; now He discerns the sincerity of the Scribe.

V. THE OCCASION WHEREUPON HIS CENSURE WAS PASSED. "When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly." This includes those things.

1. Distinctly as to the matter of his answer. He was right in the notion and in the thing itself. He who knows anything of religion knows that it does not lie in outside duties, but in a gracious soul; yet he does not take away the forms. Those which are above ordinances are below heaven; and they which hate instruction shall never partake of salvation.

2. He answered intelligently as to the principle from whence he answered. He did not speak by rote, but he was able to give a rational account of his religion. We must believe more than we can understand, and yet we must also understand why we believe.

3. He was hearty and serious in it. He spoke as a man that had some savour of that which he spoke. A man may be an orthodox divine, and yet but a sorry Christian.

4. He answered discreetly; that is prudently, as to the manner of it. It was with humility, teachableness, and submission to Christ.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

He perishes for want of that remedy which otherwise might be supplied withal. As it is sometimes in the body; those which have great sicknesses, they many times get up and recover, whilst those which have some smaller distemper, do perhaps die under it. What's the reason of it, and how comes it about? Why, the one, thinking himself to be in danger, goes to the physician; the other, being more secure, neglects him, and looks not after him. Thus it is with men also in religion; civility trusted in is further off from conversion than profaneness in the effects and consequents of it. This was the case of the Jews in comparison of the Gentiles.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

Civility left alone to itself would never be grace, nor attain to the consequents of it. These two are at a very wide distance one from the other, and left alone, would never meet together. Though mere civility be not so far from the kingdom of God as absolute profaneness, yet it will never come thither, no more than profaneness itself. A mere civil man is as truly excluded from heaven as a profane man. I say as truly, though not in so great a degree. To explain it to you by an easy and familiar resemblance: Dover (for example) is not so far from Calais as London, yet he that goes no further than Dover shall never come to Calais, no more than be that stays at London. So here, a mere moral or civil person is not so remote from salvation as a debauched; but yet if he goes no further than morality, he will come short of it as well as the other.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

A man may be almost in possession of a fortune; but that adds not to his credit at the bank. A man may be almost honest, or almost sober; but that will be no recommendation to a position of trust and responsibility. And as with these, so with the kingdoms of mental force, health, and social influence; nearness is not sufficient. How near it is possible to be to the kingdom of God without being in, we know not. Nor do we know how it is possible to remain near without entering; unless it be that those who are near mistake nearness for, possession. Notice:(1) A man is not necessarily in the kingdom of God because an intelligent inquirer. Distinguish between questioning with a view to information, and questioning with a view to disputation.(2) A man is not necessarily in the kingdom of God because he knows truth when he hears it. We may assent to all Christ's utterances, and yet have no affection for Him as Saviour. It is possible to make a false god of orthodoxy. A man may be a capital judge of the soundness of a sermon, an adept as regards scripture knowledge, and yet only "not far from the kingdom."(3) A man is not necessarily in the kingdom because he can answer questions on Christianity. You may know the creed without knowing the Christ. Mere knowledge is not enough. You must repent, confess, believe, serve.

(J. S. Swan.)

There are, then, different degrees of approximation to the light. Let us consider —

I. SOME OF THOSE THINGS WHICH BRING A MAN NEAR THE KINGDOM OF GOD.(1) A life associated with some of its members and privileges. We have all known many whose lives proved that they were true disciples of Christ; we have observed the deepening earnestness of their character, and seen it growing up into a purpose and consistency unknown before. How have we been affected by this connection?(2) A spirit of reverence and candour towards Christ. Few things short of positive immorality so deaden the spiritual perception as does habitual flippancy. It is, therefore, a hopeful sign in a man, if he is not ashamed to own that he considers some things too sacred to be sported with.(3) Kindliness and amiability of nature. Christ never cast a chilling look on anything that is beautiful in human nature. He acknowledged it to be good as far as it went, and sought to gain it for the Divine and eternal. All kindly and generous impulses are wild flowers of nature, which, with the enclosure of Christ's garden and the hand of Divine culture, would put on a rare beauty.(4) A desire to conform to God's law as far as he knows it. If conscience be at work in any man, if it is keeping him from doing what he believes to be sin, and leading him to aim at the true and right, he is to be commended. And if there be any measure of humility and charity with it, that man is certainly nearer the kingdom than he who is going on in known sin, searing his conscience, hardening his heart, and building up obstacles against his return to God.(5) An interest in the spiritual side of things. We meet with so much indifference and materialism among the unconverted, that it is refreshing to light upon one who rises above such a chilling element, and who gives evidence that he believes there is a God, and a soul, and a spiritual law laid down for man's guidance — to see him not only listening, but putting intelligent questions, and avowing, with honest conviction, how far he goes, though it may not be so far as we desire. If we meet such a man in a kindly, candid spirit, we may win him to the kingdom of Him whose heart yearns over the most distant wanderers, but who cherishes a peculiar interest in those whose souls are feeling their way, however faintly, to the eternally true and good.

II. WHAT IS NEEDED TO MAKE A MAN DECIDEDLY BELONG TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Our Lord's words imply that, with all that is favourable in this man, there is still something wanting. He perceived the claim of God's law, and admitted it to be spiritual; but, so far as we can see, he had no conviction of that hopeless violation of it which only a Divine deliverer like Christ could meet. Then, too, while admiring Christ's teaching, he gave no sign of his soul bowing before Him as a teacher sent from God, still less of his being ready to follow Him as his spiritual leader, to cast in his lot with Him, to walk in His steps and do His will. He lacked

(1)the new birth.

(2)The new life.

(John Ker, D. D.)


1. Religious knowledge. You may have an accurate creed, an extensive acquaintance with the Bible, a power to discuss with clearness and precision controverted points, without the will being influenced, the affections purified, the life and conversation regulated.

2. A life of blameless uprightness and integrity. Many things may tend to preserve you from the commission of great sins, besides real love for God, e.g., a prudent regard to your own well-being and well-doing in the world.

3. Strong convictions of sin, and even consequent amendment. You may, like Herod, do "many things," and yet neglect "the one thing needful." Outward reformation is not necessarily the result of an inward moral change.

4. Carefully maintained habits of public and private devotion. The form may be kept up long after the spirit has vanished.


1. A want of real and heartfelt love to God. We must give God and the things of God not only a place, but the first place in our heart. The service He requires is that which springs from a real preference of Himself.

2. If God is not loved, something else must be receiving an undue share of the affections; for man must bestow them somewhere, whether in the attractions of his calling and profession, or in the cultivation of refined and intellectual tastes, or in an idolatrous fondness for the comforts of social and domestic life. The more naturally amiable a man is, the more beloved, the more honoured, the more respected for his social and moral worth, for the largeness of his charities, for the constancy of his friendships, for the kindness of his heart, and for the blameless purity of his life, the greater danger there is lest that man should be ensnared by mere human approbation, and close his eyes to the danger he is in of falling short of the kingdom of God.

III. NOW, WHAT IS THE MORAL VALUE OF THE STATE HERE DESCRIBED? If a long journey were set before me, it would be some comfort to have one to say, "Thou art not far from thy journey's end." If all through life I had been proposing to myself the accomplishment of some great object, it would be some comfort to know I was not far from attaining the object of my ambition. This is on the supposition of continual progress, constant advancement towards that object. But the spiritual condition we have been considering is that of a person who is standing still — continuing year after year in the same state of dead, motionless, unadvancing formalism, ever seeking, but never striving to enter in at the strait gate, ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. What, then, is the moral value of being, and continuing, not far from the kingdom? There is a door. We must be on one side of it, or the ether. There is no paradise of mediocrity. How sad to be overtaken by the avenger, when close by the city of refuge — to have made shipwreck of our souls, when just within sight of the harbour!

(D. Moore, M. A.)

If there are some so far away that they at times fall into a despair of ever reaching it, there are a greater number so near that they sink into an apathetic contentment with being almost Christians. Those who are far off may come to be nigh, when the children of the kingdom are cast out.

1. Though the distance may not seem great, there is momentous importance in it. A great deal depends on being a Christian, and to be a Christian needs something more than a decent arrangement of the natural life. The end of man's soul can only be found in looking to God, and learning to stand right with Him. Otherwise, it is to let a plant cling to the earth that was made to climb, and that can bring forth its best flowers and fruits only when it ascends; as if a palace were tenanted in its dungeons and lower rooms, while the higher apartments, commanding infinitely the best view, were left desolate; or as if a city had its streets crowded with traffic, and filled with the labour and din of busy life, while the temples, which tell of man's dignity by pointing him to God, remained in untrodden silence, and became the homes only of the dead. Can a man, who has a soul, feel that it is well with him in such a state? And yet thus he stands while he refuses to admit God to His rightful place.

2. The harmful effect of this position upon others. When there is a nature which has so much of the beautiful and attractive outside the proper Christian sphere, it is apt to give shallow-minded persons the idea that the gospel is not so necessary as the Bible declares.

3. The only security for permanence in what is naturally attractive in man, consists in connecting it with God. The brightest and most beautiful things of the heart lie all unshielded if God's shadow be not over them. The conflicts of life, the assaults of passion, the irritations of care and ill-success, and the resentments against man's injustice, will corrode and canker the finest heart if it be not constantly drawing the corrective from a Divine source. Even without these trials, whatever has not God in it is smitten with the inevitable law of decay.

(John Ker, D. D.)

It is as if a man were standing on the snore, close to where a ship is moored. There is but a line between, and a step may cross it. But the one is fixed, the other moves, and all the future of existence depends upon that step, — new lands, a new life, and God's great wide world. In the spiritual sphere to stand still is to fall away, to be left on that shore, doomed to decay and death. To pass into God's kingdom is to move with it, not only up to the grandeur of His universe, but into the heritage of Himself.

(John Ker, D. D.)

I warn you against staying there. Oh, what pity is it that any should perish at the gates of salvation for want of another step!

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