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For, if a life of splendor, and pleasure, and sena. sual gratifications, is the portion of those who choose. to enjoy it; if it exposes us to so much woe and wrath hereafter, well might our blessed Saviour tell the rich man, that he lacked one thing, that he was to sell all that he had, and give to the poor.
If therefore this parable contains the doctrine that it first taught, if time has not worn away its meaning, it contains a doctrine that concerns all rich men, it speaks as home to them, and calls as loudly for a renunciation of all worldly indulgencies, as our Saviour did to the rich man.
So that there is no advantage got by considering our Saviour's command as a particular charge, and. given to a particular young man, since it appears by other express passages and parables, that the same is required of all other rich men, as they expect any other consolation than what is to be found in riches.
If we will here also appropriate this parable to: this particular rich man, we shall judge as reasonably, as if we should maintain, that the hell in which he was tormented, was made only for him, and is a state which no one else has any occasion to fear.
We must therefore, unless we will set aside the Gospel, and think ourselves not concerned in its doctrines, take this as an undeniable truth, that Christianity is still that same opposite state to the world that it was in our Saviour's days, that he speaks to us the same language that he spoke to the young man in the Gospel, that if we will not hear his voice, but indulge ourselves in the proud, sensual delights of riches and grandeur, our fate is taught us in the rich man in torments, and to us belongs that dreadful threatening, Woe unto you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
I know it has been said by some, that all that we are taught by the command given to the young
man to sell all, is this, that whenever we cannot keep our possessions without violating some essential duty of a Christian, that then, and not till then, need we think that we are called upon by Christ to quit all and follow him.
I have, in answer to this, already shown, that the thing required of this young man, was no particular duty, but that our Saviour pressed it upon all, and by a reason which made it equally conclusive for all people, namely, a treasure in heaven.
I have shown, that the same doctrine is taught in general, by comparing the kingdom of God to one pearl of great price, which the merchant could buy at no less price, than by selling all that he had; by the parable of the rich man in torments, on the account of his living in the state and pleasures of a fortune, and lastly, by a general woe that is threatened to all that are rich, as having received their consolation; so that this seems a full answer to this interpretation.
But I shall however consider it farther.
Now if this be all that is taught us as Christians, by the case of the young man in the Gospel, that we are to part with our enjoyments and possessions, when we cannot keep them without renouncing some great truth of our religion, and that till such a time happens, we may peacefully and pleasurably enjoy the delights of state and plenty.
If this be the case, I ask how a good Christian is to be assured, that this is a safe and just interpretation? How shall he be satisfied, that there is no danger in following it?
It is plainly an interpretation of our own making, it is not the open expressed sense of the words; it is an addition of something to them, for which we have no authority from the passage itself. So that it may well be asked, how we can be sure that such an interpretation may be safely complied with?
The text saith, Sell all that thou hast; this intera pretation saith, Ye need not sell yet, nay, that you need not sell at all; but that you may go on in the pleasurable enjoyment of your several estates, till such time as you cannot keep them without denying the faith.
So that the interpretation seems to have nothing to do with the text, and only teaches a doctrine, that might as weli be asserted without this text, as with it.
I ask, therefore, for what reason we allow this passage to teach us no more than this? Is there any other part of Scripture that requires us to make this interpretation? Does it better suit with the spirit and temper of the Christian religion? Is it more agreeable to its heavenly designs, its contempt of the world, than to take them in their apparent sense!
If this were true, then the first followers of Christ, who observed this doctrine in its literal sense, and renounced all, acted less suitably to the spirit of Christianity, than those who now enjoy their estates.
This absurdity is enough to expose any pretended necessity of this interpretation; which absurdity must be granted, if we say, that this new interpretation is more suitable to the spirit of Christianity, than to take the words as still obliging in their first sense.
But to cut off all pretence of any necessity from any other part of Scripture, I have made it plainly appear, that the same doctrine is certainly taught by many other express passages of Scripture.
This interpretation therefore is as contrary to many other parts of Scripture, as to this text; it is contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and is only brought in to soften the rigours of religion, that people may, with quiet consciences, enjoy the pleasures of plenty, and those who want it, spend their tinue in the ways and means of acquiring it.
If therefore there be not an entire change in the way to heaven; if the once straight gate be not now a wide and open passage to all full, fat, and stately Christians; if there is still any meaning in these words, Bltssed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God; the sober Christian may as well doubt of this allowance of enjoying the pleasures and plenty of his estate, till persecution for the faith drives him out of it, as if he was told, that he need not resist the devil, till such time as he tempted him to deny the faith, or give up some truth of his religion.
When our Saviour gave this command to the young man, and afterwards observed upon his refusal, that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, the apostles took that command to signify the common conditions of entering into Christianity, and immediately declared that they had left all and followed him.
And our Saviour answered them in such a manner, as showed, that the doctrine then delivered, related to all mankind in the same sense, and had nothing particular in it that related to one man, or one age of the church more than another.
Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left his house, or brethren, or sisters, Mark x. 29. or father, or mother or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake or the Gospel's, but he shall have an hundred-fold now in this present time, and in the world to come eternal life.
Let it now be considered, that supposing it was barely lawful to enjoy our estates; and, as the world says, live up to them; is this a state of any merit? Is there any reward annexed to it? If it is not our sin, it is at best a losing our time, and as unrewardable as sleeping:
But on the other side we are infallibly assured, that if we come up to the doctrine of the text, if we part with our worldly enjoyments and gratifications for the sake of Christ, that in this life we shall recive an hundred-fold, and in the world to come eternal life.
Now, if such persons as these are to be thus blessed in this life, and also so rewarded in the next; it is certain that they, who are not such persons, will not be so doubly blessed both in this life and that which, is to come.
But now what an interpretation must that be, which lead men from being an hundred times as happy as they might be in this life, and from such an height of reward in the next?
Is not this enough to show us, that the wisdom of this interpretation is not a wisdom from above, that it savoureth not the things that be of God?
For who can be so wise unto eternal life, who can make so much of his plenty, as by thus parting with it?
Who, that was governed by a wisdom from above, would seek for an evasion, where the open sense is not only safe, but entitled to so vast a recompense, both now and hereafter?
It is to me no small argument, that our Saviour meant no such allowance, as this interpretation has found out; because it is so contrary to the perfection of the soul, and is so disadvantageous to those that follow it.
Our blessed Saviour and his apostles, both in doctrine and practice, are on the side of renouncing the enjoyments of riches, and who is he that dare preach up a worldly peace and indulgence, without either text or precedent from Scripture, and such a peace as leads men from such high rewards, both in this life, and that which is to come?
When our Saviour told Peter of his sufferings, Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far fram thee, Lord, this shall not be unto thee. But Jesus turned, and said to Peter, get thee behind