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in them and them only; who place their whole happiness, not in relieving the distresses of the poor, and soothing the sorrows of the afflicted; not in acts of worship and adoration, and thanksgiving to him from whose bounty they derive every blessing they enjoy ; not in giving him their hearts, and dedicating their wealth to his glory and his service, but in amassing it without end, or squandering it without any benefit to mankind, in making it the instrument of pleasure, of luxury, of dissipation, of vice, and the means of gratifying every irregular appetite and passion without controul. These are the rich men, whose salvation is represented by our Saviour to be almost impossible; and yet even with respect to these he adds; with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible ;that is, although if we look to human means, to human strength alone, it seems utterly impossible that such men as these should ever repent and be saved; yet to the power of God, to the overruling influences of the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible. His grace shed abroad in the heart may touch it with compunction and remorse, may awaken it to penitence, may heal all its corruptions, may illuminate, may purify, may sanctify it, may bring the most worldly-minded man to a sense of his condition, and make him transfer his trust from riches to the LIVING GOD.
It is then to those that trust in riches that this denunciation of our Lord peculiarly applies; but even to all rich men in general it holds out this most important admonition, that their situation is at the best a situation of difficulty and danger; that their riches furnish them with so many opportunities of indulging every wayward wish, every corrupt propensity of their hearts, and spread before them so many temptations, so many in citements, so many provocations to luxury, intempe. rance, sensuality, pride, forgetfulness of God, and contempt of every thing serious and sacred, that it is sometimes too much for human nature to bear; that they have therefore peculiar need to take heed to their ways,
*Mark x. 24.
to watch incessantly over their own conduct, to keep their hearts with all diligence, to guard the issues of life and death, and above all, to implore with unceasing earnestness and fervor, that help from above, those communications of divine grace, which can alone enable them, and which will effectually enable them to overcome the world, and to vanquish all the powerful enemies they have to contend with. They have in short their way plainly marked out to them in scripture, and the clearest directions given them how they are to conduct themselves, so as to become partakers of everlasting life. "Charge them, says St. Paul, that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."*
This striking charge to the rich is pregnant with most important and wholesome counsel, and is an admirable comment on that very passage which has so long engaged our attention. It seems indeed to allude and refer to it, and points out all those distinctions which tend to explain away its seeming harshness, and ascertain its true spirit and meaning.
It cautions the rich men of the world not to trust in uncertain riches: the very expression made use of by our Lord, and the very circumstance which renders it so hard for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are enjoined to place their trust in THE LIVING GOD. They are to be rich in a far brighter treasure than gold and silver, in faith and in good works; and if they are, they will lay a good foundation against the time to come, and will lay hold on eternal life."This entirely does away all the terror, all the dismay, which our Lord's denunciation might tend to produce in the minds of the wealthy and the great; it proves that the way to heaven is as open to them, as to all oth
Tim. vi. 17-19.
er ranks and conditions of men, and it points out to them the very means by which they may arrive there. These means are, trust in the living God, dedication of themselves to his service and his glory, zeal in every good work, and more particularly the appropriation of a large part of that very wealth, which constitutes their danger, to the purposes of piety, charity, and beneficence. These are the steps by which they must, thro' the merits of their Redeemer, ascend to heaven. Those riches which are their natural enemies, must be converted into allies and friends. They must, as the scripture expresses it, make to themselves" friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; "* they must be rich towards God; they must turn that wealth, which is too often the cause of their perdition, into an instrument of salvation, into an instrument by which they may lay hold, as the apostle expresses it, on eternal life.
Before I quit this interesting passage, it may be of use to observe, that while it furnishes a lesson of great caution, vigilance, and circumspection to the rich, it affords also no small degree of consolation to the poor.If they are less bountifully provided than the rich, with the materials of happiness for the present life, let them however be thankful to Providence that they have fewer difficulties to contend with, fewer temptations to combat, and fewer obstacles to surmount, in their way to the life which is to come. They have fortunately no means of indulging themselves in that luxury and dissipation, those extravagancies and excesses, which sometimes disgrace the wealthy and the great; and they are preserved from many follies, imprudences, and sins, equally injurious to present comfort and future happiIf they are destitute of all the elegancies and many of the conveniences and accommodations of life, they are also exempt from those cares and anxieties which frequently corrode the heart, and perhaps more than balance the enjoyments of their superiors. The inferiority of their condition secures them from all the dangers and all the torments of ambition and pride; it *Luke, xvi. 9.
produces in them generally that meekness and lowliness of mind, which is the chief constituent of a true evangelical temper, and one of the most essential qualifications for the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus having made these observations on the conduct of the young ruler, who refused to part with his wealth and follow him, Peter thought this a fair opportunity of asking our Lord what reward should be given to him, and the other apostles, who had actually done what the young ruler had not the courage and the virtue to do. Then answered Peter and said unto him, "Lo! we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore ?" It is true the apostles had no wealth to relinquish, but what little they had they cheerfully parted with; they gave up their all, they took up their cross and followed Christ. Surely after such a sacrifice they might well be allowed to ask what recompence they might expect, and nothing can be more natural and affecting than their appeal to their divine Master : Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore ?" Our Lord felt the force and the justice of this appeal, and immediately gave them this most gracious and consolatory answer :"Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel: and every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Our translators, by connecting the word regeneration with the preceding words, "ye which have followed me in the regeneration," evidently supposed that word to relate to the first preaching of the Gospel, when those who heard and received it were to be regenerated or made new creatures.
But most of the ancient fathers, as well as the best modern commentators, refer that expression to the words that follow it, "in the regeneration when the Son
of man shall sit in the throne of his glory;" by which is meant the day of judgment and of recompence, when all mankind shall be as it were regenerated or born again, by rising from their graves; and when, as St. Matthew tells us in the 27th chapter (making use of the very same phrase that he does here) the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory. At that solemn hour Jesus tells his apostles that they shall also sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.This is an allusion to the custom of princes having their great men ranged around them as assessors and advis ers when they sit in council or in judgment: or more probably to the Jewish sanhedrim, in which the high priest sat surrounded by the principal rulers, chief priests, and doctors of the law; and it was meant only to express, in these figurative terms, that the apostles should in the kingdom of heaven have a distinguished pre-eminence of glory and reward, and a place of hon or assigned them near the person of our Lord himself.
Jesus then goes on to say, "every one that bath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." It is plain, both from the construction of this verse, and from the express words of St. Mark in the parallel passage, that the reward here promised to the apostles, whatever it might be, was to be bestowed in the present world; besides which they were to inherit everlasting life.
What then, it may be asked, is this recompence, which was to take place in the present life, and was to be a hundred fold? It certainly cannot be a hundred fold of those worldly advantages which are supposed to be relinquished for the sake of Christ and his religion; for a multiplication of several of these things, instead of a reward, would have been an incumbrance. And we know in fact the apostles never did abound in worldly possessions, but were for the most part destitute and poor. The recompence then here promised must have been of a very different nature; it is that internal con