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He was, therefore, a well-meaning inquirer; he neither came out of malice, nor idle curiosity, but he kneeled before Jesus and gave him a title of respect, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
It seems probable, for the same reason, that where he says of the commandments, Master, all these have I observed from my youth, he did not mean to make a self-righteous boast, but to say that he knew the will of God as contained in the law, and that he had directed his life generally according to that law. Otherwise, we should hardly be told that Jesus beholding him, loved him, except as he loves all mankind :-he would hardly have felt a special interest in him.
He loved him, and would have made him his disciple. One thing thou lackest. God is making a further revelation to his people. He is accomplishing the promise made to your forefathers. “ You believe in God, believe also in me;" “in him whom he hath sent.” Go, part with thy worldly possessions ; distribute the produce to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
This, however, was a sacrifice for which he was not prepared. He was sad at that saying, when he found that he could not inherit eternal life on easier terms; and he went away grieved, for he had great possessions.
This gives occasion to point out the danger of worldly advantages : the danger of riches, because they open the way to those earthly enjoyments, by which the heart is too likely to be ensnared.
23. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24. And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hurd is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25. 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.
How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Not because riches exclude them. “Charge them that be rich in this world, that they be rich in good works, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come. But because it is hard to have riches, and not to trust in riches : not to be attached to what they will procure; and so attached, that they, and not the kingdom of God, shall be sought in the first place, and treated as the “one thing needful.”
Great indeed must be the power of divine grace, when it breaks through the net of these allurements, and enables those who may have the full enjoyment of things temporal, to set their affections on things eternal.
26. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved ?
27. And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God : for with God all things are possible.
31 Tim, vi. 17.
28. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
30. But he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, und lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
31. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
One sign of the extraordinary wisdom with which the Scriptures are written, is found in this; that they show us real characters, characters of men of like passions and circumstances with ourselves. . We see how these have acted ; and we see the consequences of their conduct; and we are thus enabled to judge, with more accuracy and effect than would otherwise be possible, whose example is to be imitated and whose avoided.
In this history, for instance, we see a man who refused the advice of the Redeemer, when he invited him to take up the cross, and follow him, and he should have treasure in heaven. And we see others who did not refuse; who did leave all, and follow him. Which made the choice of wisdom?
Without doubt, at the time, the choice of this young man would have been thought wisest by those around him. Had he sold all that he had, and divided it among the poor, and become a disciple of Jesus, his relations and friends would surely have wondered at his folly.
We however, looking back, are able to form a more just opinion. Our Lord offered him treasure in heaven, if he would leave all, and follow him. He chose to retain his earthly treasure, and to refuse the offer of treasure in heaven. This happened eighteen hundred years ago. What is now become of his great possessions? What can they profit him ? Can they confer happiness on his soul, or prevent its misery?
If, indeed, he could have kept his possessions eighteen hundred years, it might appear something: it is a long period of time, except when compared with eternity. But we know that he could not have enjoyed his earthly treasure more than twenty or thirty years. That is the longest expectation which the average of human life allows.
Whereas, had he obeyed the invitation of our Lord, whenever he departed, he would have been “ with Christ;" he would already have been in the enjoyment of happiness unspeakable, and he would possess the sure and certain prospect of still greater happiness, when the soul shall be re-united to the body, and received into the kingdom "prepared for the righteous from the foundation of the world." Could he be permitted to choose again, can we now doubt what his choice would be ?
Suffer then, his experience to determine you. What would have been good for him, is good for all. What he forfeited, you will forfeit too, if
you allow any one worldly good to keep you back in your pursuit of heaven. Worldly possessions are valuable : they provide the means of many comforts, they afford the opportunity of being useful to our fellow-creatures. But they perish with us : therefore they are not worth the risk of what is to last for ever. Worldly pleasures are good, when they are innocent, and those that are innocent are the truest ; but whether innocent or guilty, they come to an end ; therefore they are not worth the risk of what is to last for ever. The favour and the praise of man is good; it is pleasant to be spoken well of, and painful to be reproached; but the praise and favour of God will be of real value, when those who now speak either well or evil of us, have learnt a better rule to judge by, than this world affords. Do not then, for the sake of any of these things; for the sake of a little more gain, or a little more amusement, or a little more of men's good word, do not act the part of this unhappy young man, and go away from your Redeemer. . Do any thing, leave any thing, suffer any thing, rather than fail to “make your calling and election sure.” So shall you receive an hundred fold now in this time. In a just hope of acceptance with God, in conscious dependence upon your Saviour, in the support of his Spirit, in the progressive sanctification of your souls, in the friendship of those whose favour is most truly valuable, you shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.