Keeping Back Part of the Price
by James Smith, 1860
When the Spirit was poured out at the Pentecost, the disciples were of one heart and of one soul, they were full of joy, and of the Holy Spirit, and great grace was upon them all. They were like a body animated by one soul, all were members one of another; and so great was their love, that no one said that anything that he possessed was his own — but they had all things common. Those who had houses or lands sold them, and brought the price of them, and laid it at the Apostles' feet, and distribution was made unto every man, according to his need. But even then pretenders crept in, some who wished to be thought a great deal better than they really were. Covetous people, who wanted to be thought liberal — Ananias and Sapphira, agreed to sell their land, bring a part and give it to the church, pretending that they had given the whole — for which they were punished with immediate death, in the presence of the multitude, and against them it stands recorded, that "they kept back part of the price." Acts 5:2.
Now, I am not about to bring a charge against professors of the present day, of committing the same sin to the same extent, or from the same motive exactly, or in the same way; and yet it appears to me, that we do, and have done something very much like it. At our profession of Christ, did we not profess to make a full surrender, and to give him all? Now, have we acted as though we believed that we were entirely the Lord's, and as if our property were the Lord's too? Have we kept back no talent from his service? Have we never withheld the heart, or the head, or the hand — from God? Have we lived, and loved, and purposed, and acted — as consecrated people? We have professed that both we and ours were entirely the Lord's. Are we not guilty of keeping back part of the price?
Again, did we not profess to be prepared to part with all for the Lord, to take up his cross, and follow him wherever he goes? Did he not require us to hate all our relatives, in comparison with himself, and did we not consent to do so? Did he not tell us that if we were not ready to part with all, even our own lives for him — that we were not worthy of him, and that we could not be his disciples? And did we not agree to this? Was not our profession this, "I give myself wholly to the Lord — I prefer him to all, and everything beside — and I will give up everything for him, and to him?" But what does our conduct say? Does it not bear witness that "we have kept back part of the price?"
Once more, did we not profess that we would use all we have as the Lord's, in his work, and for his glory? Was not his honor and glory to be the grand aim of our lives? Did we not engage, that if we lived, we would live unto the Lord; or if we died, we would die unto the Lord? Did we not agree that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do — that we would do all to the glory of God? Was not this a solemn covenant between the Lord and our souls, and is not our witness in heaven, and our record on high? But have we done so? Have we eaten and drank, dressed and enjoyed pleasure — with a view to the glory of God? Have we conducted our business, made our engagements, and discharged our obligations — in order to glorify God? Has the glory of God been kept before our eyes, and have we valued that, and aimed at that — more than anything, more than everything beside? If we have not, have we been honest? Have we carried out our profession? Can we be guiltless? Have we not kept back part of the price?
Mothers, have you kept back a child from God — when it was required for his service? Fathers, have you thought more of wealth, respectability, and station, when arranging for the settlement of your sons — than of God's glory, or of Christ's cause? Rich man, have you been more concerned to keep pace with the times, or to keep rank with the world, to make money, invest money, or spend money for your own gratification, than for the honor of Christ? Poor Christian, have you repined at poverty, though your Savior chose the poor man's lot, and have you sought to please your employers, more than to please God? If so, in either case, or in all the cases — have you not kept back part of the price?
Look at Stephen — he carried out his profession, and laid down his life for his Lord. Look at Paul — he suffered the loss of all things, neither did he count his life dear unto him — but lived in a state of readiness to die for the Lord Jesus. Look at the Church at Jerusalem as a whole, and its members made God's glory the object of their lives. Look at the Macedonians, in deep poverty — yet out of love to Christ, they made even Paul to wonder at the riches of their liberality. Look at the Hebrew believers, they took joyfully the confiscation of their goods for Christ's sake, knowing in themselves, that they had in heaven a better and enduring substance.
There have in every age been some noble spirits, who have held all they had — as Christ's; who have used all they had — for Christ; and who have done all they did — as for Christ. These are our examples. Such reprove us. O how selfish, how carnal, how worldly we have been! How much we have kept for ourselves, and how little we have given to Christ — how generally we have lived to ourselves, and how seldom we have lived to Christ. Yes, Lord, with shame and confusion of face — we must confess that we have too often kept back part of the price!