Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

me Satan, thou art an offence unto me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

But after all, this enjoyment of worldly riches which this interpretation pleads for, cannot be shown to be barely lawful; this, I say, cannot be shown, without showing at the same time, that this passage, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, thun for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, is so old as to be of no sizniticancy now; for if the difficulty still continues, the rich man must have as much to part with now as he had then.

The same must be said of all those other passages above-mentioned, concerning the kingdom being compared to one greal pearl, the case of the rich man in torments, and the general woe that is is denounced against such as are rich, as having. received their consolation; ail titse, with a great variety of other texts, must have quite lost their first natural meaning, if this interpretation be admitted as barely lawful.

So that it is an interpretation that runs away from the plain open sense of the words, and leads from those great rewaras that belong to it; it is an interpretation made without any necessity, not supported by any doctrine or practice of scripture, contrary to the practices of the first Christians, contrary to the heaveniy spirit of our religion, and so contrary to various plain passages of Scripture, that they must have lost their true meaning if this interpretation be admitted.

Lastly, If all that can be concluded from this command of our Saviour is only this, that we are obliged to part with our estates when we cannot keep them, without selling the truth; if sell all thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt hare treasure in heaven only means, when applied to us, thou mayet keep and enjoy thy estate, till some

wicked terms of keeping it are imposed upon thee; this is no higher a perfection, no greater degree of heavenly-mindedness, or disregard to the worid, than a Jew or honest heathen would maintain.

For who does not know that it is better to be just and faithful, than to be rich; and that a man is rather to part with his estate than to keep it at the expense of his virtue and integrity ? this is only the virtue of choosing rather to be poor than a thief.

but if Christians can think that this is the highest renunciation of the world, the highest degree of heavenly atlection to which they are called ; it they can think that this is ail that is nieant by their being crucified and dead to the world, by their being in Christ new creatures, by their being born of Gud, and huving orercome the world, they may be justly said to treat the Scriptures as the Jews treated our Saviour, when they said, We will not hare this man to reign over us.

I have, I think, sufficiently shown that our Saviour required an entire renunciation of the word, a forsaking alı its enjoynents, in order to be his true dis: iples; and that the same is as certainly required of us, as he is the same Christ, and we heirs of the same glory.

It will now therefore, I know, be asked, whether all Christians are obiized to sell their estates, and give to the poor, in order to inherit eternal sité ?

The al surdity and ridiculousnes of such a thing, and the disorder it must occasion in life, will be thought suth.cient to expose aud confute all the fore going doctrine.

As to the absurdity and ridiculousness of this doctrine in the eyes of worldly wisdom, that is far from being any objection against it; since we are assured by Cod hin.self, that the wisdom of this world is oolishness with God, and that the spirit of Christianity, and the spirit of the world, are as

contrary to one another as the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness.

What can be more contrary to worldly greatness and wisdom than the doctrine of the cross, a crucified Saviour? Which way could any one expose himself to more jest and ridicule than by being too meek and humble to resent an affront, and accept a challenge?

Not only rakes and libertines, but the grave, the religious part of the worid, talk of the necessity of defending their honour, and reckon it a shame not to resent and tight when the affront is given.

This makes the spirit of the world; trough it be as consistent with Our religion to honour the memory of Cain for killing his brother, as to make it a part of honour to give, or accept a challenge. This

may serve to snow us, that we must disre. gard the maxinis and wisdom of this world, and not form our judgment of Christian virtues with any regard to it; since by it, patience and meekness may be reckoned shameful, and revenge and murder as instances of honour.

But I give now a direct answer to the foregoing question, and venture to affirm, upon the proots I have already produced, that all Christians are really and effectually obliged to do that which our Saviour required of the young man.

Our Saviour bid him sell all that he had, and give to the poor, that he might have treasure in heaven; that is, he required him to renounce the self-enjoyment of his estat, to live no longer in the gratitication of his plenty, but otier it all to God in works of charity, and relief to others.

Now the selling all, is only a circumstance of parting with the enjoyment of his riches from himself, to all such objects and uses as are worthy of it in the sight of God.

If our Saviour had told sinners that they must repent in sackcloth and ashes, I should have thought that sackcloth and ashes was only mentioned as a particular way of expressing a general duty, and that though the circumstance of sackcloth and ashes might be omitted, yet the thing intended, the degree of humiliation and sorrow, was always to be performed in the same degree.

I take it to be the same in the case before us. It is. not necessary that a man should sell all that he hath, because that was the expression used to the young man, but it is necessary that he comply with the thing signified, and practise all that disregard of the worid, and heavenly atiection which is there taught.

He sufficiently selleth all who parteth with the self-enjoynient of it, and maketh it the support of those that want it.

This seems to me to be the true and plain meaning of the passage. The words, seil ail, are only used as a form of speech, as a general way of expressing the parting with the enjoyment of an estate, as sackcloth and ashes were a general way of expressing repentance; and not as laying any direct obiization of parting with an estate in that particular way, any more than sackcloth is always necesssary to a true repentance.

A person that was to give away his estate would surely comply with the doctrine of the text, which shows, that it is the thing signitied, and not the particuiar manner of doing it, that is required.

Yet it is the keeping to this literal sense of the words, as if the selling ail was the particular thing enjoined, that has taught people to excuse themseives from the doctrine there delivered.

For there was some pretence to think that so particular an action as the selling all could only relate to him, to whom it was enjoined.

But if men would consider that this selling all is only a circumstance of the thing, as sackcloth is a circumstance of repentance; and that the thing

required is heavenly affection and devotion to God, they would find themselves as much concerned in the doctrine there delivered, as in any other doctrine of Scripture.

When our Saviour related the good Samaritan's charity, and said unto the man that talked with him, Go, and do thou likewise, he is not exhorted to stay for an opportunity of doing the same action, but to do the same thing which was implied by that action.

Taking therefore the words in this plain sense, as an exhortation to such a degree of heavenly affection, and disclaiming all self-enjoyment of riches, and not as to any particular action of selling all, it must be affirmed that they equally concern all rich men to the end of the world, as that young man to whom they were spoken.

For as he was called to that temper of mind, because it was a right temper for a Christian, a proper instance of his faith and hope, and devotion to God, and a right way of using the things of this world; how can it be thought, that the same temper is not equally right and Christian in every rich man now? Or how can it be thought that the rich men of this age, are not equally obliged to act conformably to the temper and spirit of religion now, as well as in the days of Christ?

Are not humility and meekness to be practised in the same fulness that they were in our Saviour's time? But if they are, it will be impossible to show, why any other virtues should admit of any abatements.

Or can any one show a better instance of humility and meekness, than in departing from the splendid enjoyments of his fortune, to make it the support and relief of poor and distressed people. It ought also to be considered, whether it is not impossible to show that meekness and humility which was then required, unless he practises them in these instances,


« PreviousContinue »