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1 HE passage of Scripture which I propose to explain in the present Lecture, is a part of the 19th chapter of St. Matthew, beginning at the 16th verse.
** Behold," says the evangelist, "one came and said unto him (meaning Jesus) Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal lise ? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into lise, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear salse witness. Honour thy sather and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet ? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfeS, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowsul : for he had great possessions."
The conversation here related between the young ruler (for so he is called by St. Luke) and our blessed Lord, cannot but be extremely interesting to every sincere Christain, who is anxious about his own salvation. A young man of high rank, and of large possessions, came with great haste and eagerness; came running, as St. Mark expresses it, to Jesus; and throwing himself at his seet, propofed to him this most important question: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal lise I" This was not a question of mere curiofity, or an insidious one, as the questions put to our Lord (especially by the rulers) frequently were, but appears to have been dictated by a sincere and anxious wish to be instructed in the way to that everlasting lise, which he found Jesus held out to his disciples. His conduct had beerr conformable to the precepts of that religion in which he was born and educated, the religion of Mofes ; for when our Lord pointed out to him the commandments he was to keep, his answer was, "all these things have I kept from my youth up ;" and his dispofition also, we must conclude, to have been an amiable one i for we are told that Jesus. loved bim, beheld him with a certain degree of regard and affection. In this state of mind then he came to Jesus, and asked the question already stated; "Good VLafter, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal lise j"
Our Lord's answer was, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. The young man saith unto him, Which! Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear salse witness. Honor thy sather and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." la this enumeration, it is observable that our Lord does not recite all the ten commandments, but only sive out of thofe that compose what is called the second table. Now we cannot imagine that Jesus meant to say that the observation of a fou of God's commands would put the young man in possession of eternal lise. His intention unquestionably was, by a very common sigure of speech, to make a part stand for the whole; and instead of enumerating all the commandments, to specisy only a sew, which were to represent the rest. Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, and so of all the other commandments, to which my reasoning equally applies." Nor does he only include in his injunction the ten commandments, but all the moral commandments, of God contained in the law of Mofes; for he mentions one which is not to be found in the ten commandments: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This therefore points out to the young man his obligations to observe all the other moral precepts of the law. "The young man saith unto him, all these things have I kept from my youth up j what lack I yet ?> The probability is, that he flattered himself he lacked nothing; that his obedience to the moral law rendered him perfetl, qualisied him to become a disciple and follower of Christ here, and gave him a claim to a superior degree of selicity hereafter. It was to repress these imaginations, which Jesus saw rising in his mind, that he gave him the following answer; an answer which struck the young man with astonishment and grief, and which some have represented as more harsh and severe than his conduct merited. "If thou wilt be persect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." In the parallel place of St. Mark, it is, "Come and take up the crofs and follow me." The meaning is, although God is pleased to accept graciously your obedience to the moral law, yet you must not flatter yourself that your obedience is pet fed; and that this persect obedience gives you a right or claim to eternal lise; much less to a superior degree of reward in heaven; sar from it. To convince you how sar you sall short of perfection, I will put your obedience to the test, in a trying instance, and you shall then judge whether you are so persect as you suppofe yourself. You say that you have from your youth kept the moral laws delivered to you by Mofes. Now one of thofe 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 persection, you must observe this law as well as all the rest, and consequently you must preser his savor to every thing else; you must be ready to sacrisice 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 fell 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 toperfection, his hopes of an extraordinary reward, vanish at once. He was not dispofed to purchase even treasures in heaven at the price of all he possessed on earth. He therefore went away silent and sorrowsul, for he had great possessions.
There is a question which I suppofe 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 genera!, and are we all of us, without exception, bound to feu 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 resers 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 perfia obedience to the laws of Moses, to convince him that he Tery sar from that exalted state of piety and virtue to wh he pretended, and that if he was rewarded with lise, it must be not in consequence of his own rig but of the mercy of God, and the merits of a I as yet unknown to him.
But besides this, jt is not improbable that the young ruler was ambitious to enlist under the banners of Christ, and to become one of his disciples and followers. 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 sb perilous an undertaking, did it at the risque not only of his property, but even of lise itself, from the persecuting spirit of the Jewish rulers. When, therefore, our Saviour says to the young man, if thou wilt be perfeS, that is, if thou art desirous to prosess the more persect religion of the Gofpel, and to become one of my followers, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and take up the crofs and follow me; he only prepares him for the great hardships and dangers to which every follower of Christ was then expofed, and the necessity there was for him to sit loose to everything most valuable in the present lise.
This command, therefore, does not in its primary meaning relate to Christians of the present times j nor indeed to Christians at all, properly speaking, but to diofe who were at that time desirous of becoming so.