"There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart,
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."

"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow Me', Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him." Luke 5:27, 28; Matthew 9:9, 10; Mark 2:14

We cannot be sure what precise chronological place among the Memories of Gennesaret the calling of Matthew should occupy. But we cannot be far wrong in considering it as having occurred in immediate connection with the incidents on which we have been recently dwelling.

Of the previous personal history of the future Evangelist we know nothing. But a flood of light is thrown upon his character, and the position he occupied in Capernaum, by the worldly profession from which he was taken to be a Follower and Apostle of Jesus.

If any one name or class was more hated than another among the Jews, it was that of the Publicans. These, as is well known, were the collectors of the tax laid on the Jewish nation by the foreign power by which they were subjugated. The impatience of the Hebrews under the Roman yoke rendered taxation in any shape peculiarly offensive. The odium of the public burdens themselves, came to be shared by the officers who exacted them, so much so, that it was only the more degraded among their countrymen who could be found willing to accept pay and place, reckoned at once servile and degrading. It was written in their law (Deut. 17:15), "You may not set a stranger over you who is not your brother." The Hebrew that would stoop to collect these revenues (badges of national dishonor), was considered guilty of an infraction of their sacred code—denounced as having done homage to an alien and heathen master.

There are never lacking, however, in any community, mean-souled, covetous men—men of iron will by nature, and that indurated by practice, who will venture, at any risk, to brave public opinion, and stoop to have their mammon-spirit gratified. The office of Publican was an easy road to wealth; and a man destitute of self respect, who was heedless about losing his character, or rather who had no character to lose, would not be scrupulous in accepting this lucrative office under Caesar. The collecting of these taxes, moreover, afforded the publicans additional opportunities for indulging in tyrannical exaction and fraud. Any appeal from their overcharges was carried to a Roman tribunal, where the case was often pre-judged, and the chance of reimbursement rendered nearly hopeless. The civil rulers never deemed it diplomatic to encourage resistance to their subordinate officers. Thus, Might too often triumphed over Right; while the petitioners, in anticipation of an adverse decision, could readily disarm the hostility of the tax-gatherer by means of a secret bribe.

The code of morality among the Publicans, you can thus see at once, was that of the lowest description. We cease to wonder at the disgust in which they were held by the rest of the population. The severest thing a proud Pharisee could say was, "God, I thank you I am not as this Publican!" The daughters of Israel scorned alliance with them in marriage. Their testimony was not received at Jewish tribunals. It was a common saying among the Jews, "that vows made to thieves, murderers, and publicans, might be broken," and when our Lord himself spoke of an incorrigible offender, one who, from persistence in wrongdoing, was to be excommunicated from the Church, He says, "Let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican."

There may have been exceptions, indeed, among the class we are speaking of—individuals of nobler parts, who were not so unscrupulous and dishonest as others. We have nothing, however, to entitle us to consider Levi (or Matthew) in any more favorable light than as an average specimen of his calling. His post for "receipt of custom" seems to have been at the port of Capernaum. There he was seated when Jesus met him, receiving dues. The question is one of no great importance whether the calling and conversion of the first Evangelist was sudden, or whether it had been preceded by processes of anxious thought—severe mental and spiritual struggles.

Most probably the latter. Though we never dare limit the omnipotence and sovereignty of Divine grace, it seems more in accordance with God's usual dealings, and the analogy in His other works, to connect the great moral change known as conversion, with certain means and instrumentality; not making it the offspring of blind, unreasoning impulse. Who can tell, that, though unknown to his fellow tax-gatherers or to the thronging crowds which crudely jostled and wrangled around his place of business, there had been for a long time, a silent, secret, unnoticed spiritual work going on in that man's soul! For days—for weeks—conscience may have been speaking; the thought of a debased moral nature, grasping avarice, illicit gains, may have been disturbing his peace by day, and his dreams by night.

He may, long before this, have been an hearer of the discourses of the Great Prophet, and a witness of His miracles. He may have listened to some of those Divine lessons in which a lofty morality had been inculcated, to which he, alas! had long been a stranger. How terribly would his whole life stand rebuked by the utterance of these golden words—they may have gone like a barbed arrow into his soul—"Do to others as you would that they should do unto you." "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and you shall be the children of the Highest." As another Publican, at a later date, swung himself on the branch of a sycamore tree to attract the notice of the Holy Teacher, so may this officer of Capernaum have followed the crowd of stragglers to the Mount of Beatitudes, or heard, amid the pauses of traffic, some gracious words which sank into his soul, and stirred the depths of his being.

Who can picture the conflict that may have ensued between nature and grace, principle and conscience, mammon and God? He may have long felt the heavenly impulse before he dared to publicly avow it—a desire to renounce his sinful and fraudulent ways; but the old arguments, "My subsistence, my gains, my family," crushed and smothered better thoughts. He may have been for long what the old writers call "a Borderer," wavering and hovering on the confines of light and darkness; the pendulum vibrating between two worlds! But Incarnate Truth confronts him, and the whole lie of his former being melts before the rays of that Glorious Sun. Jesus comes, sees him, and by an omnipotent word and look, conquers! Joined to the Son of God and Savior of the world by this outward act and inward principle of life and love, he has become "a new creature"—"All old things have passed away, and all things have become new."

The same great change must take place with regard to all of us before we can enter the kingdom of God. There must be a leaving behind us of all that is of the earth earthy, and a cleaving with full purpose of heart to the Lord who died for us. Let us not deceive ourselves with the thought that some external profession—acting up to some conventional standard of religion recognized by the community in which we dwell—Sabbath forms of devotion, and weekly worldliness—will save us, instead of saving conversion. Much less, that some fond dreams of future amendment will exempt us from the need of present repentance and crucifixion of sin in the heart and life. Let us remember the words of Him who never made one hard exaction, or imposed one unnecessary burden—"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." If any are disposed to feel that such denial is unreasonable, if not impossible, come with us to the Port of Capernaum and as we gaze on that scene of worldly business, and hear a voice in the midst of it, saying, "Follow Me," let us endeavor to weigh well all that is comprehended in the willing response—when Matthew "left all, rose up, and followed Jesus."

We might examine the conduct of Matthew from many points of view, but we shall illustrate it, at present, under one aspect, (an aspect which the Church in modern times may do well to ponder), that is, as a life of sacrifice.

I. The conversion of Matthew involved A SACRIFICE OF THE WORLD.

A financial sacrifice is all the greater if the man who makes it is naturally avaricious and covetous. We can quite well imagine an individual who is happily exempt from the passion of money-making, counting it no great hardship to take some step involving a reduction in earthly gain. But it is no small struggle with him who has, from youth up been a cringing worshiper of mammon, to cast the hoarded treasure from his grasp, and throw himself penniless into the world.

Such was the case with Matthew. If he had not been naturally a covetous man, the chances are all against his being ever found seated at the custom-house of Capernaum. Moreover, that this particular "receipt of custom" was a lucrative one, is further evinced by the fact that he was able on quitting it forever, to make a sumptuous feast for his friends and former associates. It was different with him in this respect from the other apostles. Fishermen on the lake—their sole riches consisted in a joint fishing vessel with its tackle, and the precarious gains of their daily toil. What a test of his sincerity—that he was swayed by some mighty principle superior to nature—that in one moment he was able to surrender at his Lord's bidding his golden prize, and cast in his lot with the despised and homeless Savior of Galilee.

Yes; the world might not have wondered that he thus left his original calling had there been some carnal and lucrative equivalent held out in the other. But it was all the reverse. That Savior had taken care to undeceive every adherent who clung to hopes of worldly advancement—"The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head." Yet, with this prospect of poverty, disgrace, and contempt—the Publican willingly renounced his earthly all. At the very moment his coffers are filling, behind the pressing crowd around his tribute table, he sees a Divine countenance, and listens to a Divine call. The glittering coin—the idol of his life—was in a moment forsaken; that loving look, that convincing word, are more to him than "thousands of gold and silver," and waiting not to count the cost, or debate the expediency, he threw in his lot with the Prophet of Nazareth.

What an example for us! Are we willing to make similar sacrifices for the glory of God's name? Ah! rather, how poor, and feeble, and inadequate are our most self-denying efforts when compared with those of this Hebrew tax-gatherer. He left his all—he gave God his best, and kept the remnants to himself. We give God our remnants, and keep our best to ourselves. He left his worldly gain at Christ's bidding—what have we left? what have we sacrificed? What 'pennies' have we thrown into His treasury! Often only the crumbs and sweepings of guilty extravagance! O that every believer—every member of the Christian priesthood—would come to consider his possessions, his houses and lands, his wealth, his money, not as a mere property to be selfishly used, but as a talent to be employed for the good of man and the glory of God—a trust committed to his charge by God and for God, and in respect of which his stewardship will at last be rigidly scrutinized.

It may seem to the carnal, worldly-mind a hard saying—who can bear it?—to leave ALL and follow the Savior. But who that has pondered the story of Redeeming love, can call anything unreasonable that Lord requires? Glance upwards to Him who thus demands the surrender, and remember how willingly and cheerfully He left His all for us! The noblest instance of renunciation on the part of His people is but a mere shadow—dust in the balance—in comparison with that self-sacrificing love which exchanged a Throne for a manger—a Crown for a cross. How does that noble appeal of the Great Apostle make all the sacrifices of man pale into nothingness like the rushlight before the sun—"you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, who, though He were rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be made rich."

II. We have just now spoken of Matthew's sacrifice of the WORLD; there was another still greater sacrifice he proved by his deeds he was willing to make—THE SACRIFICE OF SELF.

The unpretentious, unboastful, unostentatious spirit of this Israelite is beautifully exemplified by one or two almost unnoticed touches in the inspired records. As if covered with shame and confusion at the remembrance of the past, he seems anxious to utter no word which would go to magnify himself, or exalt his own character and doings.

While other Evangelists speak of a "Great Feast" he made, and to which he invited Jesus, he says nothing as to its greatness in his own Gospel—all the reference he makes to it is, "Jesus was having dinner in the house." While Luke speaks of it as his own house, Matthew leaves the particular house indefinite.

Again, in speaking of forsaking his calling at the bidding of his Savior, while Luke speaks of him as leaving "all" and following, he himself omits the words "Left ALL." But for the fidelity of his brother Evangelist the amount of his self-sacrifice would have been left unrecorded. He is content with the more modest entry, "He rose and followed."

The other Evangelists, in classifying the Apostles, two by two, give him the precedence of Thomas; he reverses the order, Thomas first, himself last.

While the others put a enhancing veil over his former life by inserting his other name (Levi), he has no such scruple, but adopts the old title with the unenviable notoriety it had on the shores of Gennesaret. And more, if you consult his list of the apostleship, and compare it with the others, he would seem desirous to hide from view all in himself that was praiseworthy, and to magnify the grace of God in his conversion, by bringing into prominence all that was blameworthy. In the list of Apostles given by his fellow Evangelists there is no account given of their respective worldly callings, but he makes in his own case and name a strange exception—he styles and subscribes himself, "Matthew, the Publican."

Oh, how unlike self and self-love is all this! When a man has committed some great fault in his past life—when there is some scar in his history, how careful is he to hide it from the world, or if this he cannot do, to palliate and extenuate his conduct as best he can. A bankrupt cares not to speak of his insolvency. Whether it be his misfortune or his crime, it is an inhibited, and shunned, and forbidden theme. But Matthew, as a converted man, would have others to know what the grace of God had done in his behalf. As the lights of a picture have a value and strength given to them by the disposition of shadow, he brings into prominence the shades in his past spiritual life to give power to that light which had "shined into his heart," even "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

In writing his Gospel—that sacred record which was to be read by millions on millions—what an opportunity, had self been paramount, of displaying his own character to the best advantage. But the whole narrative of his conversion is there merely incidental. It is hidden among a crowd of other sacred facts. What of all he recorded could have made such an indelible impression on his own mind—what memory half so hallowed or momentous, as when his Lord, in ineffable love, stood confronting his custom-house, and gave that never-to-be-forgotten word, whose echoes to his last hour were ringing in his ears—the "Follow me"—which was henceforth to be his motto for all time?

Yet where would we discover, in reading the account in Matthew, that the narrator of the event was the veritable Publican at the Port of Gennesaret? He gives it no undue prominence. His passing reference to it is to exalt not himself, but Him who is "the chief among ten thousand." The selfish man, in rearing this monument to be read by future ages, would have done his utmost to magnify his own deeds, exalt his own sacrifices, and hide the dark blemishes in his previous life. But, when that inspired monument is reared—on the four sides of which each Evangelist inscribes the record of our Lord's ministry—see how the three others carefully obliterate all memory of their brother's former life, and seek to give due prominence to his generosity and self-sacrifice—while he himself, in giving his version of the great Gospel story, puts all his own goodness in the shade; and, as we seek the sculptor's name amid the letters he has chiseled, we find it thus entered amid the glorious company of Apostles—"Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the Publican!"

III. We have still another instance of sacrifice in the case of Matthew—the sacrifice of a class of feelings that had a more special reference to HIS RELATION TO OTHERS.

When one who has previously led a godless life comes under serious spiritual impressions—when the great Gospel change operates on his conscience, and he becomes a converted man—not the smallest part often of the struggle through which he passes, is the ridicule to which he has exposed himself at the hand of his former companions. "I would willingly," is the musing of many, "become religious—live a life of piety and prayer. But what would my associates think of me?—my companions in daily life—my brothers—my kinsmen—my neighbors in the counting-room—my assistants at the receipt of custom? I could bear anything, and put up with anything but these scoffing sneers. I would boldly make the avowal which conscience prompts; but I dare not breast that sweeping current of ridicule which I know too well must necessarily be encountered."

Or, to avoid this, how often do we see the newly awakened and regenerated soul adopting another alternative—(it was the unhappy expedient of Christians of the earlier ages)—rushing from the world into solitude—escaping cold, repulsive, unsympathizing looks and words from those with whom they formerly associated, by an unhealthy abandonment of life's duties and responsibilities. Now, at first sight, there may be something to admire in the apparent boldness and unworldliness of such resolves. An air of saintliness gathers around these hermit-spirits. They seem to have surrendered much for God and heaven. A spurious sentimental piety would speak of them as living and moving in another atmosphere than ours, and forbid us lightly to violate the sanctity of their religious seclusion.

"Those hermits blest and holy maids,
The nearest heaven on earth
Who talk with God in shadowy glades,
Free from crude care and mirth;
To whom some viewless teacher brings
The secret love of rural things,
The moral of each fleeting cloud and gale,
The whispers from above that haunt the twilight vale."

But, say as we will, this is the romance of religious life—not its reality. Far nobler—far more self-sacrificing—is the conduct of the man, who, like Matthew, after forming his resolution to leave all and follow a despised Master, will gather together at a great Feast his old companions—his fellows in trade—his former confederates in fraud—and disclosing to them boldly his own change of principles, seek to make them partakers of the same liberty with which he himself has been made free. We believe if Matthew had now acted as his own natural feelings would have dictated, he would have shut himself up in his dwelling, shunned his former associates, and waited anxiously for the next Passover, that he might follow his Lord to Jerusalem, and leave Galilee and Capernaum forever! But, with conduct worthy of a hero, he will not leave his post—he will not leave his city, until he takes a graceful method of bidding his acquaintances farewell, and of giving them an opportunity of hearing from the lips of his Lord those words which had spoken peace and joy to his own soul!

Yes, there was sacrifice here—the bold sacrifice of a man fearless of all possible misconceptions. If he had been the slave of the dread of these, he might have thought to himself—"Will not this fatally damage me in the eyes of my future companions?—will not Christ and his disciples, if they see me in such company, denounce me as worldly and inconsistent? Will they not say, That man pretends to be one of us—pretends to have made great sacrifices and renunciations, but his soul is clinging to the dust as before? He seemed to have forsaken all—but his house and halls are open, as ever they were, to the unworthy and depraved."

He heeded not such possible insinuations. He felt, before he left the city of his birth or his sojourn, that he owed a great duty to those who had been for years his friends and intimates. He was in future to be honored as an Apostle in carrying the Gospel message to distant tribes; but, in the true spirit of Christianity, he will first begin at home. All unkind and uncongenial though they now be in sentiment and feeling, he will impact and influence his old associates at Capernaum, before he goes forth, either by pen or voice, to evangelize the world. He was acting up to the injunction our Blessed Lord gave subsequently to another Apostle—"When you are converted, strengthen your brethren."

Are there any of us who, like Matthew, have been brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel? Have we still some old companions at our "receipt of custom," those with whom we have been long brought into contact, but who are still without God?—perhaps associates in our former guilt, ruined by our former example. We owe them a heavy debt of Christian love! It becomes us to strive to do what best we can, while we have opportunity, for their souls' salvation. It may be a hard matter; it may need a bold heart to do it; but what might not many a young man, many a youthful soldier of the cross, effect, with the glory of God as the great aim of his life; how much might he not effect at his place of business—on those seated with him at the same desk, or standing behind the same counter, or plying the same worldly calling—teaching them to sanctify and hallow their worldly work with great religious motives, and to interweave diligence in business with fervency of spirit, "serving the Lord!"

IV. The last illustration of the spirit of sacrifice on the part of Matthew (though not, of course, specified in any of the passages which head this chapter) was THE SACRIFICE OF LIFE.

We know little of the future of this Apostle, but what we do know, is all in accordance with the antecedents on which we have now been commenting. After spending eight years in Judea, during which time his memorable Gospel was written, he went (according to the statements of early ecclesiastical writers) on his apostolic mission and labors to Africa. Through him Ethiopia first "stretched out her hands unto God." But on that virgin soil too, the blood of this faithful Galilean was spilt—by a violent death for his blessed Master's sake, he set the most impressive of seals to his sincerity. The World, Self, Friends, Home, Country, and now Life itself, were freely surrendered at the bidding of his great Lord.

From first to last, indeed, his was a noble specimen of an entire and unqualified sacrifice. The other disciples seem, after entering on the apostleship, still to have retained their boats and nets. We still meet Peter and John, Andrew and James, as Fishermen on the Sea of Tiberias; but Matthew we never find again at his former calling. If we visit in thought the port of Capernaum, a new Collector is seated at the Tax Booth—a new tenant occupies the scene of the strange farewell feast. The Fishermen could go back with safety and impunity to their daily occupation, for it was a lawful one—rid of all temptation to fraud and unworthy dealing. But it was different with the Publican. Return to the old resort might have been perilous. The old fires of covetousness might have been rekindled; drawn within the perilous vortex he might have made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, and proved another Demas loving the present world and forsaking Christ. He seems purposely to shun Galilee; and even when the other disciples return to it for a season, he cleaves to his adopted home in Judea.

After the Savior's resurrection we have the names of the apostolic band enumerated only twice; on the first occasion, when Jesus met them on the shores of Gennesaret—the name of Matthew is NOT there; on the second, when they are gathered in "the upper room" in Jerusalem—Matthew IS mentioned! His voice is heard with the rest, engaged in earnest prayer for the coming of the Paraclete—"following" his Lord in thought to the glory to which He had ascended, and waiting for the promised baptism of fire. That Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Savior's word, is poured abundantly on Matthew, to qualify him alike to be an inspired Historian and a faithful Missionary.

As the Historian—He "guides him into all the truth," "brings all things to his remembrance," "shows him things to come." As the Missionary—He imbues him with supernatural gifts, in accordance with his Lord's parting declaration—"you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth!" Forth he went, on his great errand; ending A LIFE OF SACRIFICE on a martyr's cross, and inheriting, we doubt not, a martyr's crown.

In conclusion, Christ would speak to each of us in the words he addressed to this Publican—"FOLLOW ME!" Believers! He asks you to honor Him in your daily callings—in your everyday words and works. If, like the other fishermen-disciples, you are engaged in lawful occupations, leave them not, but ennoble and sanctify them with high Christian motives; and, as you reap in worldly gains, do not forget the God who is the Proprietor of your wealth, and looks to you to be the almoners of His bounty.

If, like the Publican at the Roman toll, yours is debatable ground—where principle is at stake—some desperate game at which conscience holds the dice with trembling hand—like Matthew forsake it. Leave it, and leave it forever; and take as your motto (with the Divine favor and blessing)—"The little that a just man has, is better than the riches of many wicked."

Oh! plead not your worldly duties, your business, your engagements, as an apology for living without God; as if the voice of Christ cannot find you there, and His grace cannot triumph over all obstacles. Remember it was amid the coarse jostlings of that crowd at the port of Capernaum—amid the shouts of bargemen—the ringing of hammers—the roll of wagons—that Matthew first heard (yes, and listened to) the call, "Follow me!"

One other thought still suggests itself. We have spoken of Matthew's life as a lowly yet splendid instance of Self-sacrifice; and yet, I would beg you to mark that, in the very midst of that Sacrifice there is an element of CHEERFULNESS. It is a striking thing to note, at the very moment when he has made renunciation of his worldly ALL—when his old associates and acquaintances are doubtless, speaking of him as a ruined man, the old publican makes a Feast—a joyous Banquet! He is cheerful, at the very moment when he must have been conscious that the world, by a voluntary act, was receding from his grasp, and that his, henceforth, is to be a simpler meal, a humbler abode, a more despised Master than the Roman Caesar!

But this is a true Picture of Christianity, and of the power of true Christianity on every heart. Religion is a Feast—Religion is gladness. Let others paint it, if they will, draped in sackcloth, with melancholy on the brow and a bunch of funereal cypress in the hand. That is a spurious religion; not the Religion of this Savior-God who sat with Matthew at his feast—honored him with His presence at this social gathering! Never did the soul of Matthew find true joy until now. He had it not before, in his bags of gold—his lordly bribes—his cursed robberies. But he had it now in "the peace of God which passes all understanding" "keeping his heart;" and even when he left that table, and bade farewell forever to a luxurious home, he could look up to the face of his Great Master and say, "You have put gladness into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."

If God is calling upon us to follow Him, and if that following demands the surrender of much that our hearts may fondly cling to, whether it be the world or self, or friends, or children, or home, or substance—at His bidding let us do it willingly—"The Lord loves a cheerful giver." The very surrendering, if it be for His glory, will have an accompanying blessedness. Oh! I repeat, what can we surrender for Him to be compared for a moment with what He surrendered for Us?"God Spared Not His Own Son!" What sacrifice can we count great, or unreasonable, or grievous, after this! Thus, being willing to honor Him as the Taker as well as the Giver, let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, "There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive manifold more in this present time; and in the world to come life everlasting."