« AnteriorContinuar »
question, he wanted to establish more firmly, and substantiate more fully, his claim to eternal life, on the footing of his own obedience. Against this fatal error, the injunction of our Lord was strongly directed. It was an axe laid to the root of his selfrighteousness and self-dependence. It had a most powerful tendency to convince the youth, that all his hopes of heaven were built on a foundation of sand. It showed him that he had been trusting in a refuge of lies that would fail him in the trying day, and expose his defenceless soul to the devouring wrath of God. And if this refuge would not sustain him, it must fail all who put their trust in it. May God shake the sandy foundation of the selfrighteous, and make them sensibly feel its insecurity before it be everlastingly too late.
He further designed, in this injunction, to lead him to the salva. tion provided for him in the gospel
. Our Lord might have preached the gospel to him more clearly and more fully, and might have informed him that salvation was to be obtained only by faith in him, as the way, the truth, and the life. But the time, as yet, had not arrived for the full disclosure of gospel truth. Jesus Christ made known the great truths of the gospel by degrees, as the mind was prepared for their reception. The son of righteousness had not yet risen in his full glory; he merely gilded with his refulgence, the highest mountains, and the tallest trees, and shed but a faint and feeble light over the land of Judea. Besides, had our Lord plainly and clearly declared unto him the way of salvation, there is reason to think that the young man would either have rejected the truth without further inquiry, or would have embraced it without a due preparation of soul for its reception; and, in either case, he would miss the end which he was solicitous to attain. In leading him to salvation, it was the best way to show him, in the first place, his need of it. He would then enter upon this great work with an earnest zeal that would ensure success, and with a gratitude which was necessary to establish him in the true faith. Little can be af. fected in the great work of saving the soul, till the mind can be impressed with a deep sense of the evil of sin, and of its lost and helpless state without the divine interposition. When this can be truly and properly done, no sacrifice is deemed too great to make, no difficulties too hard to surmount, in order that we may obtain the pearl of great price.
III. But while we thus vindicate the injunction given to him, we cannot but lament, in the third place, the effect it produced upon him: And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions. The injunction of our Saviour produced a very different effect from what he intended. This was owing entirely to the state of mind in which the young man sought instruction. He was not an ardent and sincere inquirer after truth; he was not deeply and sensibly impressed with his lost and perishing condition ; for, had he been, he would have received the in
structions of the Saviour gladly. But, instead of rejoicing at having obtained a knowledge of the right way, he was filled with grief-He was sad at that saying. But what made him sad ? Was he grieved and ashamed on account of his backwardness to obey the injunctions given him ? No, no; that would have been a hopeful sign, and would probably have issued in his conversion to God. But, alas! he was grieved at the strictness of the precept. He had great possessions, and could not prevail upon him, self to part with them, though they might prove his eternal ruin. His riches were his idol; and of more value, in his estimation, than any treasure in heaven. Had he been called to sacrifice a part of his property, he would probably have complied with the injunction; but to bereave himself of all, to reduce himself to a state of poverty, to place himself in a condition of entire dependence, this was a requisition which he could not comply with, a command which he could not endure.
Such is the effect of the gospel upon many at the present time: they would gladly embrace it, and would make some sacrifices to obtain its blessings; but to renounce the world with all its riches, honors, and pleasure, to mortify the deeds of the body with the affections and lusts thereof, to turn their backs upon all that is pleasing and engaging to flesh and blood, and to bring upon themselves nothing but contempt and persecution from their dearest friends and relatives, appears to them too great a sacrifice, and they hope to get to heaven upon some easier terms. Such a doctrine appears to them to be absurd, such a command unreasonable, and they turn away from them sorrowful. Thus, the reforming efficacy of the gospel is frustrated ; and between a sense of their duty, and an aversion to perform it, its only effect is to render them unhappy.
But the injunction of our Lord, finally, determined him to forsake Christ altogether: He went away grieved. Much as he revered the Lord Jesus, and wished to partake of his salvation, he could not continue with him on such terms as these. The price which Jesus demanded for salvation was too great for him to pay, and he therefore turned his back upon him-He went away grieved ; and this is the last we hear of him. He, probably, from this time abandoned all idea of becoming a disciple of Christ. He chose rather to abide in his legal views and practices, and suffer the consequence, than to yield obedience to a demand so contrary to his views and feelings.
Unhappy youth! How much better had it been for him if he had been born in a low estate in the humble walks of life! The good things of this life, which God designed as a blessing, proved a curse to him ; his riches stood between him and the Saviour of the world ; they robbed him of the richest treasure, the most sparkling diamond heaven could bestow. Who is not ready to weep over the folly of this young man, when he reflects upon the fatal effects of his decision? Who, that sees this hopeful youth turning
his back upon his Lord and Teacher, giving up all hopes of heaven, and deliberately preferring a portion in this life to an inheritance in the life to come, does not tremble, lest he himself should be left to make the same wretched and foolish choice?
1. In the conclusion of our remarks on this subject, we shall offer a few reflections. What multitudes there are who think themselves entirely safe, yet, at the same time, they are on the very brink of ruin. Had we seen this youth approach Christ in the respectful manner here described, kneeling before him with the profoundest reverence, addressing him in manner and language as to intimate that he thought Jesus to be more than human; if we had seen him declaring confidently, that, to the best of his knowledge, he had persevered in the uniform obedience to all the commandments, and was ready to fulfil any duty that could be pointed out to him; above all, if we had seen Jesus himself, struck with his amiable deportment, and loving him for his excellent qualities; who amongst us would not have been disposed to envy that youth his prospects of a happy immortality? Yet, after all, this young man came short of heaven! There was one thing he lacked; and for that one thing, he perished forever. What a terrible thought ! My dear young friends, you are moral, you are amiable, you are lovely; but not more moral, amiable, and lovely, than was this young man ; but he turned his back upon his Saviour, and sunk down to hell in chains and rings of gold; he could not go to heaven, he lacked one thing; he was not willing to forsake all for Christ. And what multitudes there are in this city, who, like this young man, are rich, and moral, and amiable, and lovely, and yet lack one thing; they are unwilling to forsake all for Christ; they would sooner part with him, than part with all for his sake. They are willing to have a religion that requires no sacrifices, no crosses ; that admits of pomp and splendor, fashion and parade, pride and luxury; but a religion of humility, of selfdenial, of the mortification of sinful passions and appetites ; a religion that leads to a renunciation of the world, and to obey God in all things, they cannot endure, away with it. They are unwilling to purchase heaven at so great a price; they prefer present gratifications and indulgences to deeds of mortification and selfdenial ; they seek first the kingdom of this world and the glory thereof, and still flatter themselves that all is well. Deluded by a false hope, they go on anticipating the joys of heaven; and perhaps the illusion may not be dispelled, till they awake in all the horrors of despair. O, my young friends, let this matter be duly weighed by you; and never imagine yourselves in the true way to heaven, till you can count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus ; till you are willing to suffer the loss of all things, rather than part with Christ.
2. If the lack of one thing cuts a man off from a true hope of heaven, how awful is the condition of those who have no concern
for their souls! There are multitudes everywhere to be found, whose lives are far from being moral; who, instead of having kept all the commandments from their earliest infancy, have violated them in many flagrant instances; and who never came to Jesus with an unfeigned desire to receive instruction respecting the way to heaven. What, then, must be their state? I appeal to you yourselves, my young friends ; if this amiable youth was not saved, how can you imagine that salvation belongs to you, who have not done half so much for it as the perishing youth? Methinks this one example speaks more forcibly to you, than ten thousand arguments. You must be wilfully blind if you do not see how deplorable is your condition, and how certain your ruin, if you continue in your present state. Rest assured, it is not an easy matter to get to heaven. You must have a real concern about your souls ; there must be a deep conviction of the evil of sin ; there must be earnest and persevering struggles after holiness; the attainment of heaven must be paramount to every other consideration. If you would gain heaven at all, you must make religion the serious business of life ; you must lay aside every wait and the sin that so easily besets you; you must cultivate every Christian grace, and yield a ready and cheerful obedience to every requisition of the Saviour. If you would gain heaven, you must take it by the holy violence of faith and humble prayer.
3. Finally, how little to be desired are great riches, since it is so difficult to have riches, and not cleave to them instead of Christ. The reason assigned for the young man's forsaking Christ was, that he had great possessions ; and hence, our Lord's reflection on the almost insurmountable difficulties which riches interpose in our way to heaven. The fact is, that though every one is not called to renounce his riches precisely in the same way that this opulent ruler was, every one is required to sit loose to them, and to be willing to renounce them all, whenever they shall stand in competition with his duty to God. And every man is called to make some sacrifices for Christ. Now, a rich man's reputation is exceedingly dear to him, and his interest in the world appear to him of almost incalculable importance; and if he be called to renounce them all, the sacrifice appears too great to be endured. He hopes he shall find an easier way to heaven; and chooses, rather to risk the salvation of his soul, than to subject himself to such grievous trials in order to obtain it. And even should he taste the good word of life, and enjoy the sweetness of religion, yet still, like Demas, he is in danger of being turned aside from the path of duty by the love of this present evil world.
Regard it not, then, my young friends, a misfortune that your lot has been cast in the humble walks of life. If the rich have the advantage of you with respect to the present world, you have incomparably better prospects in regard to the world to come. You are comparatively free and unincumbered, and ready, as it were,
to run the race set before you; while they are impeded by their lusts as with flowiny garments, and have their feet ladened with thick clay. It must not, however, be imagined, that you will be saved because you are poor, and others damned because they are rich. All must run, if they would obtain the prize. He who regards the salvation of his soul as the one thing needful, shall be saved, whether rich or poor ; and he who does not, will perish. Neither the riches of the one, nor the poverty of the other, will avail him anything. The only grounds of distinction in the coming world will be, your several attainments in real piety. All other distinctions will be lost in death. Let us, then, seek to be rich in faith, rich in every spiritual grace, rich towards God. Lay up your treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal, for where the treasure is, there will the heart be also ; and soon you will go to possess and enjoy it forever.
“O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.”—Psalm Ixv., 2.
Ser your affection on things above, and not on things on earth. This is the language of a heart devoted to God—of a heart aspiring to be conformed to the divine image. True religion breaks off the affection from earth, and places it on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. It consists in devoutly admiring his greatness, reposing in his government, submitting to his authority, confiding in his goodness, and ardently desiring to form the temper and conduct after the example of Christ. Prayer holds such a distinguished place in religion, that the whole of religion is frequently described by it: This is the generation of them that seek thee, that seek thy face, O God of Jacob. The neglect of prayer is a most dangerous feeling in the soul. It springs from pride, and is a denial of that homage due to God. “A due preparation of heart for the reception of the mercy and grace of God, must precede the bestowment of these blessings. The hungry and thirsty relish meat and drink; the sick value health; and a sense of want will make us relish the blessings of salvation. It is painful to a minister of the gospel, who has labored many years among a people, to see a growing deficiency in this respect, and to be obliged to urge the importance and the necessity of prayer; but the depravity of the human heart urges this imposing duty upon every ambassador of heaven.