Page images

agreeable to the doetrines of Christ? Is it because we must value our lives at no higher rate than they valued theirs ? Is it because suffering for the faith is always that same excellent temper, and always entitled to the same reward ?

If these are the reasons, as undoubtedly they are, why we must suffer as they did, if we fall into such a state of the church as they were in; do not all the same reasons equally prove that we must use the world as they did, because we are in the same world · that they were in?

For let us here put all the same questions in relation to their self-denials and renunciations of riches; was not what they did in this respect right and fit to be done? Is not their example safe and agreeable to the doctrines of Christ? Are we to value our worldly goods more than they valued theirs? Is not the renouncing earthly enjoyments for the sake of Christ, always that same excellent temper, and always entitled to the same reward ?

Thus we see that every reason for suffering as the first disciples of Christ did, when we fall into the same state of persecution that they were in, is as strong and necessary a reason for our contemning and forsaking the world as they did, because we are still in the same world that they were in.

If it can be shown that the world is changed, that its enjoyments have not that contrariety to the spirit of Christianity that they had in the apostles day, there may be some grounds for us Christians to take other methods than they did. But if the world is the same enemy it was at the first, if its wisdom is still foolishness, its friendship still enmity with God, we are as much obliged to treat this enemy as the first disciples of Christ did, as we are obliged to imitate their behaviour towards any other enemies and persecutors of the common Christianity.

And it would be very absurd to suppose that we

were to follow the doctrines of Christ in renouncing the flesh and the devil, but might abate of their enmity in regard to the world, when it is by our use of worldly goods that both the flesh and the devil gain almost all their power over us.

Having said thus much to show that the Gospel belongs to us in all its doctrines of holiness and piety, I shall proceed to enquire what heavenly affection, what renunciation of the world, and devotion to God, is required of Christians in the Holy Scriptures.

We find in the passage already quoted, with several others to the like purpose, that our Saviour saith, as a common term of Christianity, that whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

St. Mark tells us, There came one running and kneeled to him, and asked him, good Master, What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear

Chap. x. 17. false witness, defraud not, honour thy father and mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these hare I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest, go thy way, and sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come take up the cross, and follow me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.

In St. Matthew it is thus, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, &c.

Some have imagined, that from our Saviour's using the expression, If thou wilt be perfect, that this was only a condition of some high uncommon perfection, which Christians, as such, were not

obliged to aspire after; But the weakness of this imagination will soon appear, if it be considered, that the young man's question plainly showed what perfection it was that he aimed at; he only asked what he should do that he might inherit eternal life: and it was in answer to this question that our Saviour told him, that though he had kept the commandments, yet one thing he lacked.

So that when our Saviour saith, if thou wilt be perfect, it is the same thing as when he said, if thou wilt not be lacking in one thing, that is, if thou wilt practise all that duty which will make thee inherit eternal life, thou must not only keep the commandments but sell that thou hast, and give to the

poor. It plainly, therefore, appears, that what is here commanded, is not in order to some exalted uncommon height of perfection, but as a condition of his being a Christian, and securing an inheritance of eternal life.

This same thing is farther proved from our Saviour's general remark upon it; How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God ?

By which it appears, that it was the bare entering into the state of Christianity, and not any extraordinary height of perfection, that was the matter in question.

This remark, and the other following one, where our Saviour saith, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, undeniably show us thus much, that what is here required of this young man is also required of all rich men in all ages of the church, in order to their being true members of the kingdom of God.

For how could this be said of rich men, that they can hardly, and with more difficulty, enter into the kingdom of God, if they were not obliged to the same that this rich man was obliged to.

For if they may enjoy their estates, and yet enter into the kingdom of God, the difficulty is vanished, and they may enter with ease, though this young man was put upon much harder terms.

If, therefore, we will but use common sense in understanding these words of our Saviour, we must allow that they relate to all rich men; and that the same renunciation of all self-enjoyment is required of them, that was required of this young man.

His disciples plainly understood him in this sense, by their saying, Who then can be saved ? And it appears by our Saviour's answer, that he did not think they understood him amiss, for he seems to allow their remark upon the difficulty of the thing, and only answers, That with God all things are possible; implying, that it was possible for the grace of God to work this great change in the hearts of men..

Those who will still be fancying, for there is nothing but fancy to support it, that this command related only to this young man, ought to observe, that this young man was very virtuous; that he was so eager after eternal life, as to run to our Saviour, and put the question to him upon his knees; and that for these things our Saviour loved him.

Now can it be imagined, that our Saviour would make salvation more difficult to one who was thus disposed than to others ?

That he would impose particularly hard terms upon one whose virtues had already gained his love.

And such hard terms as for their difficulty might justly be compared to a camel going through the eye of a needle. Would he make him lacking in one thing, which other men might lack in all ages, without any hinderance of their salvation? Would he send him away sorrowful on the account of such

terms, as are no longer terms to the Christian world.

As this cannot be supposed, we must allow what our Saviour required of that young man, was vot upon any particular account, or to show his authority of demanding what he pleased; but that he required this of the young man for the sake of the excellency of the duty, because it was a temper necessary for Christianity, and always to be required of all Christians, it being as easy to conceive that our Saviour should allow of less restitution and repentance in some sinners than in others, as that he should make more denial of the world, more affections for heaven, necessary to some than to others.

I suppose it cannot be denied, that an obedience to this doctrine had shown an excellent temper, that it was one of the most noble virtues of the soul, that it was a right judgment of the vanity of earthly riches, that it was a right judgment of the value of heavenly treasures, that it was a proper instance of true devotion to God.

But if this was a temper so absolutely, so excel. lently right, then I desire to know why it has not the same degree of excellency still?

Hath heaven or earth suffered any change since that time? Is the world become now more worth our notice, or heavenly treasure of less value, that it was in our Saviour's time? Have we had another Saviour since, that has compounded things with this world, and helped us to an easier way to the next?

Farther, it ought to be observed, that when our Saviour commandeth the young man to sell all and give to the poor; he gives this reason for it, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.

This manifestly extends the duty to all rich men, since the reason that is given for it, either equally obliges all, or obliges none, unless a treasure in

« PreviousContinue »