Ver. 2-4. Mark saith, Mar_9:35-37, And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, &c. Luke saith only, that he took the child, and set him by him, Luk_9:47; and adds, Luk_9:48, he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. How easy a thing had it been for our Saviour, had the intended any such primacy in the church as the papists contend for, to have said, Peter shall be the greatest! Here was a very fair opportunity for him, if he had pleased, so to have declared his will; but here is not a word of such tendency. Mark saith our Saviour,
1. Sat down, as the manner of their teachers was, when they taught, to denote their authority.
2. He called the twelve, to let them know that what he was about to speak was a grave matter not of a particular but universal concern for them to learn, that, they might teach others.
He said unto them, ( saith Mark), If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all; and (which Luke adds) he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. You would know (saith he) who shall be greatest he that doth not desire to be first; he who is most remote from pride and ambition; he that most contemneth the world, and the priorities and superiorities of it. The proud and ambitious man, he that seeketh great things for himself, shall be of least esteem in my kingdom; he is really least in grace, and ought to be of least esteem and repute among Christians, and he will be the last in the kingdom of glory.
Then he calleth to him a little child: the word doth not always signify a very young child; here it doth, for,
1. He took him in his arms (saith Mark).
2. A young child was the fittest pattern to commend humility to them.
This was an ancient and usual way of teaching, by types, as it were, or patterns: see Jer_19:10 27:2. He reads this lecture upon the child, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, &c. The prefixing Verily adds much to the authority of this saying. Converted here, stra-fhte, doth not signify the change or conversion of a soul from a state of sin unto God, (so the apostles were already converted), but the turning of their souls from a particular lust or error, into the opposite right way of truth and holiness: except ye repent of your pride and ambition, ye cannot be saved. The next words expound it, and become as little children: not as little children in all things, (which was the Anabaptists’ dream in Germany, upon which they would run about the streets playing with rattles, &c.), but, Mat_18:4, humbling yourselves as little children.
1. Little children know not what dominion means, and therefore affect it not, are not ambitious.
2. They are not given to boast and glory, and to prefer themselves before others.
3. They are ready to be taught and instructed.
4. They live upon their fathers’ providence, and are not over solicitous.
5. They are not malicious and vindictive. In malice (saith the apostle) be ye children.
The three first are principally here intended. If ye be not thus like little children, ye will be so far from being greatest in the kingdom of God, that you will never come here at all. So as this text teacheth us all,
1. The necessity of humility in order to salvation.
2. That even converted souls have need of a daily conversion. Repentance is a work which will never be perfected till we come to die.
3. How abominable in the eyes of God ambition and pride are in any, especially in ministers of the gospel.
4. That in the church the way to be great is to be humble.
5. That true humility lieth in a mean opinion of ourselves, not minding high things, condescending to men of low estate, not being wise in our own conceits, Rom_12:16; in honour preferring one another, Rom_12:10.