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youth kept the moral laws delivered to you by Moses. Now one of those laws is this, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might." If therefore you pretend to perfection, you must observe this law as well as all the rest, and consequently you must prefer his favour to every thing else; you must be ready to sacrifice to his commands every thing that is most valuable to you in this world. I now therefore as a teacher sent from God, require you to sell all you have, and give to the poor, and follow me, and you shall then have treasure in heaven. The young man made no reply. He could not. He saw all his pretensions to perfection, his hopes of an extraordinary reward, vanish at once. He was not disposed to purchase even treasures in heaven at the price of all he possessed on earth. He therefore went away silent and sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
There is a question which I suppose naturally arises in every man's mind, on reading this conversation between the young ruler and Jesus. Does the injunction here given to the young man by Jesus relate to all Christians in general, and are we all of us, without exception, bound to sell all that we have and give to the poor, as a necessary condition of obtaining treasure in heaven? The answer is, most assuredly not. Our Lord's command refers solely to the individual person to whom he addressed himself, or at the most to those who at that time became disciples of Christ. I have already shewn that our Saviour's object, in giving this command to the young man, was probably to lower the high opinion he seemed to entertain of his perfect obedience to the laws of Moses, to convince him that he was very far from that exalted state of piety and virtue to which he pretended, and that if he was rewarded with eternal life, it must be not in consequence of his own righteousness, but of the mercy of God, and the merits of a Redeemer, as yet unknown to him.
But besides this, it is not improbable that the young ruler was ambitious to enlist under the banners of Christ, and to become one of his disciples and follow
And at that time no one could do this whose time and thoughts were engaged in worldly concerns, and in the care and management and attendant luxuries of a large fortune. Nor was this all; every man that embarked in so perilous an undertaking, did it at the risque not only of his property, but even of life itself, from the persecuting spirit of the Jewish rulers. When, therefore, our Saviour says to the young man, if thou wilt be perfect, that is, if thou art desirous to profess the more perfect religion of the Gospel, and to become one of my followers, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and take up the cross and follow me; he only prepares him for the great hardships and dangers to which every follower of Christ was then exposed, and the necessity there was for him to sit loose to every. thing most valuable in the present life.
This command, therefore, does not in its primary meaning relate to Christians of the present times; nor indeed to Christians at all, properly speaking, but to those who were at that time desirous of becoming so.
But though in a strict and literal sense it cannot be applied to ourselves, yet in its principle and in its general import, it conveys a most useful and most important lesson to Christians in every age and in every nation; it is an admonition to them not to pique themselves too much on their exact obedience to all the divine commands, not to assume to themselves so much perfection, as to found upon a right and a claim to eternal life; not to rely solely on their own righteousness, but on the merits of their Redeemer, for acceptance and salvation. It reminds them also, that they ought always to be prepared to yield an implicit obedience to the commands of their Maker; and that if their duty to him should at any time require it, they should not hesitate to renounce their dearest interests and most favourite pleasures; to part with fame, with fortune, and even life itself; and, under all circumstances, to consider in the first place what it is that God requires at their hands, and to submit to it, whatever it may cost them, without a murmur,
After this conversation with the young ruler, follows the observation made by our Lord on this remarkable incident. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, " Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, 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." When his disciples heard it they were amazed, saying, "who then can be saved?" But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This sentence passed upon the rich is a declaration, which if understood literally, and as applying to all Christians of the present day who may justly be called rich, would be truly terrifying and alarming to a very large description of men, a much larger than may at first perhaps be imagined. For by rich men must be understood, not only those of high rank and large possessions, but those in every rank of life, who have any superfluity beyond what is necessary for the decent and comfortable support of themselves and their families. These are all to be considered as rich in a greater or less degree, and this of course must comprehend a very large part of the Christian world. Does then our Lord mean to say, that it is scarce possible for such vast numbers of Christians to be saved? This does certainly at the first view seem to be implied in that very strong expression, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But it may fairly be presumed, that it was not our Lord's intention to pronounce so very severe and discouraging a sentence as this, and to render the way to heaven almost inaccessible to so very considerable a number of his disciples. And in fact on a careful consideration of this passage, of the limitation and abatements necessary to be made in proverbial expressions and oriental idioms, and of the explantions given of it in other parts of Scripture, and even by our Lord himself, it will appear that there is nothing in it which ought to inspire terror
and dismay into the heart of any sincere and real Christian, be his situation ever so exalted or affluent.
It must be observed then in the first place, what is exceedingly important in this enquiry, that in its original application, this passage does not seem to have attached upon those who were then actually disciples of Christ, but upon those only who were desirous of becoming so; for consider only the occasion which gave rise to this reflection. It was that very incident on which we have just been commenting; that of the young rich ruler whom our Saviour exhorted to sell all that he had and take up his cross and follow him. The young man not relishing these conditions, instead of following Jesus, went away sorrowful, because he had great possessions. He therefore never was, as far as we know, a disciple of Christ; and it was upon this that Jesus immediately declared, that "a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven;" that is, shall hardly be induced to embrace the Christian religion; for that is frequently the signification of the kingdom of heaven, in Scripture. What then our Lord affirmed was this, that it was extremely difficult at that time, at the first preaching of the Gospel, for any rich man to become a convert to Christianity. And this we may easily believe; for those who were enjoying all the comforts and elegancies, and luxuries of life, would not be very ready to sacrifice these, and submit to poverty, hardships, persecutions, and even death itself, to which the first converts to Christianity were frequently exposed., They would therefore generally follow the example of the rich man before us: would turn their backs on the kingdom of heaven, and go away to the world and its en. joyments. And this in fact we know to have been the case. For it was of the lower ranks of men that our Lord's disciples principally consisted, and we are expressly told that it was the common people chiefly that heard him gladly; and even after his death, St. Paul asserts that not many mighty, not many noble, were called. It should seem then, that the primary objects of this declaration were those rich men to whom the Gospel was then offered, and of whom very few embraced it.
And as no penal law ought to be stretched beyond its strict and literal sense, I do not conceive that we are authorised to apply this severe sentence to those opulent persons who now profess themselves Christians, and to say of them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to inherit the rewards of heaven. Still however, as the words themselves will perhaps bear such an application, it is not improbable that our Lord might have an eye, to rich men in future professing Christianity, as well as to the rich men of those days, who were either Jews or Heathens. But if it does relate to rich Christians at all, I have no difficulty in saying, that it must be in a very qualified and mitigated sense of the words, such as shall not bar up the gates of heaven against any true believers in Christ, or inspire terror and despair, where friendly admonition was only meant.
The first thing then to be remarked is, that although the similitude here made use of, that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, implies absolute impossibility, yet according to every rule of interpreting oriental proverbs (for such this is) it means only, in its application, great difficulty. And in this sense it was actually used both by the Jews and the Arabians; and is plainly so interpreted by our Lord, when he says that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
But even in this sense the words do not apply to all rich men without distinction. For in the parallel place of St. Mark,* upon the disciples expressing their astonishment at our Lord's declaration, he immediately explains himself by saying, how hard is it for them that trust in richss to enter into the kingdom of heaven; and it is after this explanation, that the proverbial passage follows, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven."
We see then that those rich men only are meant, who trust in their riches, who place their whole dependence upon them; whose views and hopes are centered