The Pearl of Great Price
William Bacon Stevens, 1857
"Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
The difference between this parable and the one of "The Hidden Treasure" seems to lie in this: that in the latter, the man came upon the treasure unexpectedly, when he was neither thinking of nor looking for such a thing; while in the parable of the Pearl, the merchant is seeking after the pearls, and has made it his business and his care to secure the very articles which he most desires.
The two parables, therefore, furnish us with types of two different characters: The man who, Paul-like, is arrested by the Holy Spirit and made to discover the hid treasure when he was neither seeking nor expecting it.
And secondly, those who, Berean-like, are "searching the Scriptures daily," that they may gather thence the pearls of grace and truth.
The character of the first we have already considered, and we confine ourselves now to a brief delineation of the latter.
The "merchant" in the parable was "seeking fine pearls." That was the object of his daily care and labor. Ordinary pearls would not answer, they must be "fine pearls, of great value." These were the object of anxious pursuit, because upon obtaining them rested his reputation as a pearl dealer, as well as his profits from their sale. In his diligent search, he is rewarded by discovering one "of great value," and such was its size, and perfection, that to obtain it — he sold out all the fine ones hitherto collected, and embarked his whole fortune in this one pearl, knowing, from the estimation in which the pearl was held by oriental princes, and the enormous prices which were paid for large, round, smooth, and unclouded ones — that he would be able to command greater gains by the sale of this single pearl of great value, than from all the pearls of inferior value, however "fine" they might be.
We occasionally meet with people who have, like Timothy, been carefully instructed in the Scriptures "from a child;" or who, like Samuel, have early been impressed with Divine truth, and who, possessing earnest and inquiring minds, anxiously seek for that which will satisfy and comfort the soul. They deliberately set themselves to seek the truth; they are not careless and ignorant people — but of meditative minds, of tender consciences, of craving souls, who believe that there are "fine pearls" of grace to be found in God's Word, and who diligently seek them — while at the same time they have such defective views of the character of Christ as to make them rest short of that single-hearted faith in Him which alone secures salvation.
There is a moral twilight as well as a natural one; and many there are in this twilight state, who, like the man when half healed by Jesus of his blindness, "see men as trees walking." They have glimmerings of the truth — but have not got clear and distinct views of it; they see it looming up amidst partial darkness — but not standing out sharp and clear in outline against a noonday sky. Such people are apt, with a great deal that is true, to mix up deadly errors. They seek to augment their own righteousness; they bring in their own morality as a ground of salvation; they wish to do something which shall merit God's favor; they seek to blend their work with Christ's perfect and finished work, and thus make a joint stock of their redemption. They lean perhaps too heavily upon rites and ceremonies, upon sacraments and ordinances: all "pearls" in themselves — but not to be trusted or counted of value in comparison to the "one pearl of great price."
No matter, however, with what defective views a person comes to the Word of God, if he approaches it with a sincere desire to know God's will and do it; if there is a moral honesty about him, that will not let him rest until he find the truth — then God will meet him in His Word, and reveal Himself to his mind, and cause him to find in Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation that rests on His precious death and sacrifice, the "pearl of great price." For Christ declares, "He who does the will of God, shall know of the doctrine whether it is from God;" and the promise of God is, "You shall find me — when you seek me with all your heart."
When such people behold this pearl of great price — then are their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to behold its excellency and value. They are seized with a quenchless desire to possess it! Their former discoveries in truth, on theories of religion, in which, as "pearls," they long traded and delighted — now appear in their real worthlessness! And, willing to sell off that which they have hitherto obtained, they venture their eternal all upon this Pearl of great price. Nothing now will satisfy the soul of the true believer, but Christ! He must possess Christ! He must make Him his own by a living, personal, appropriating faith! Thus is he made to "put on Christ," to be "conformed to His image," and to rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
It matters not what pearls we may possess — pearls of morality, or virtue, or education, or fine culture — if we have not Christ, they are valueless for all the purposes of salvation; while he who has found Christ, has found that which swallows up all lesser pearls, in its priceless excellence and perfect beauty!
We are taught by these parables that we must make every sacrifice, in order to obtain the rich blessings that are found in the Lord Jesus. To this duty, we are urged by every consideration that can sway human conduct; and he is derelict to every duty to God and to his own soul who, when Christ is set before him as his Redeemer, fails to go to Him as such, and to secure from Him the pardon and the peace which He alone can bestow.
It is a matter of wonder and adoring gratitude, that God condescends to put within our reach, so unspeakable a gift. He was under no necessity to save us. But Christ loved us even when we were sinners, and by offering Himself to satisfy the demands of justice — was enabled to effect our ransom, and yet preserve unimpaired the attributes of the Most High God. For, on Calvary, "mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace embraced each other."
Since God then has given us this Pearl of Great Price, since Christ offers himself to us in all the fullness of His redeeming and mediatorial efficacy; since the Holy Spirit pleads with us to accept His overtures of grace, and "buy the truth and sell it not," buy it "without money and without price" — then ought not we, for whom this rich provision is made, to renounce everything on which we lean, or in which we trust, that we may obtain this hidden treasure of the Gospel, and possess for ourselves this Pearl of Great Price?