Page images

not on this occasion have declared that we must become children in disposition, before we can enter his kingdom, nor have recommended their temper as fit for his disciples to imitate, as we find him doing in another instance. Such a representation of the original state of human nature as I have just mentioned is in open variance with the language and conduct of our divine master: if we could suppose it to be true, it would also be a high reflection both upon

the wisdom and goodness of that Being who is the author of human nature, and have an unfavourable influence upon the happiness of society, by discouraging a benevolent attention to a tender age, which stands peculiarly in need of assistance. My brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit, in malice be ye children; but in understanding be men,

Matthew xix. 16. to the end.

16. And behold one came, and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? This

person was a young man, as we learn from the twentieth verse, and invested with some public authority: for Luke (xviii. 18.) calls him a ruler. Having heard Jesus speak in the plainest manner of a future life, which was taught only imperfectly by the Jewish doctors, he came to him, to enquire how he might obtain it. By giving him the appellation of good, we must suppose he meant best, most excellent; the positive degree being put for the superlative. This lan, guage, when accompanied with the action of kneeling, showed that he considered Christ as more than an or. dinary man.

17. And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God.

Why callest thou me the best of masters? this language is only applicable to God, who alone deserves to be called absolutely perfect: Having thus corrected the error into which the young man had fallen in his words and manner of address, he proceeds to answer his question.

But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

As to the relative duties, which are necessary to obtain eternal happiness, concerning which thou enquirest, and not concerning other doctrines, which lead to the way of salvation, thou canst learn nothing from me but what God has already taught thee. Christ had indeed explained the laws of morality more accurately and fully than had been done before; yet the rules of goodness and justice contained in the books of Moses and in the prophets were not abolished by the gospel; nor had he given any new precepts.

18. He saith unto him, Which ? As the law of Moses contained many coinmandments, he wished to know to which he was to pay particular attention, and the answer of Christ shews that the moral laws, containing the duties we owe to each other, and not the ceremonial, are to be principally regarded.

Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder: thou shalt not commit adultery : thou shalt not steal: thou shalt not bear false witness :

19. Honour, thy father and thy mother; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

This last is not found in the ten commandments, as the others are; yet it is found in the law of Moses.

20. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet ?

Having observed these precepts from the earliest part of life, he wished to know whether any thing further were necessary to complete his character.--When he gave this account of himself, he hoped to have been commended by Jesus.

21. Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go, and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, and follow me.

The duties which I have just mentioned are the indispensable condition of enjoying everlasting happiness; but if you wish to be perfect, and to do something of an excellent and extraordinary nature, sell your estate, and give all the produce of it to the poor; that, freeing your mind from all concern about worldly affairs, you may attend my instructions, and yourself become a preacher of the gospel. You will thus obtain an ample reward in heaven. Christ bids him sell his estate, not as a thing that was necessary to his salvation, but as a proof of the perfection of his character, and as what was at that time necessary, in order to his becoming a preacher of the gospel: for it was impossible to apply to this work with sufficient attention of mind, without being disencumbered of the world.

22. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

He hoped to have been directed to do something which he could have casily performed; but to give all his property to the poor, and to reduce himself to a distressed and afflicted condition, in the cause of truth and

for the benefit of mankind, was a sacrifice which he was not prepared to make: he was too fond of riches, or of the honours and dignities which they afford, to part with them so easily: if this be the only road to perfection; he cannot attain it; he goes away, therefore, disappointed and dejected.

23. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you that a rich man shall hardly enter, “ will hardly come,into the kingdom of heaven,

The kingdom of heaven here means, as in several other parts of the evangelists, the body of Christians. To come into this kingdom, therefore, is to become the disciple of Christ. Christ says that the rich -are unwilling to do this: riches generally corrupted the manners, and made men averse to the pure precepts of the gospel, as a yoke which they were not able to bear. This aversion was further strengthened by the losses to which men in those times were exposed, by assuming the name of Christians. Two instances are mentioned in the gospel of rich men becoming the disciples of Christ; the one is Joseph of Arimathea, and the other Nicodemus; but the difficulty which they felt in doing it is evident in both cases : for the former was a disciple of Christ secretly, for fear of the Jews; and the other, no doubt from the same motive, came to him by night: but the young ruler, of whom we have here an account, had not resolution to do either the onc thing or the other.

24.' 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 into the kingdom of God.

Some have supposed that instead of camel we ought to translate cable-rope, a signification which the word sometimes bears, and which seems more suitable


to the connection; but our common translation accords very well with the language not only of the Hebrews, but likewise of the Arabs, with whom this comparison was a common proverb, to express any thing which was extremely difficult.

25. When his disciples heard it they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved ?

What rich man can come into the kingdom of God, and enter upon the way which leads to eternal salvation? The disciples were not aware at this time whence the difficulty of rich men becoming Christians arose; because they had not hitherto been persecuted, and rather expected that all the rich and great would press in crowds into Christ's kingdom. They were, therefore, much surprised at this declaration of Christ.

26. But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

So many and powerful are the temptations to refuse to enter into my kingdom, and to reject the gospel, to which riches expose men, that to human apprehension it

appears impossible that they should not reject it; but God, who is able to do all things, can, from this gospel itself, or from any other source, furnish them with such strong motives to embrace it, as shall overcome all opposition, and induce some of the most wealthy of the human race to give up all they possess, for the sake of Christ and his religion.

27. Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee: what shall we have therefore ?

« PreviousContinue »