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to the precepts of that religion in which he was born and educated, the religion of Moses; 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 disposition, also, we must conclude to have been an amiable one; for we are told that Jesus loved him, 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 Master, what good thing shall I do that I have eternal life ?"
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 false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." In this enumeration, it is observable that our Lord does not recite all the ten commandments, but only five out of those that compose what is called the second table. Now we cannot imagine that Jesus meant to say that the observation of a
few of God's commands would put the young man in possession of eternal life. His intention unquestionably was, by a very common figure of speech, to make a part stand for the whole; and instead of enumerating all the commandments, to specify only a few, 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 Moses; for he mentions one which is not to be found in the ten commandments; neighbour as thyself."
out to the young man
Thou shalt love thy
This therefore points
his obligation to ob
serve all the other moral precepts of the law. "The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?" The probability is, that he flattered himself he lacked nothing; that his obedience to the moral law rendered him perfect, qualified him to become a disciple and follower of Christ here, and gave him a claim to a superior degree of felicity 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 perfect, 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 cross and follow me." 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 perfect; and that this perfect obedience gives you a right or claim to eternal life; much less to a superior degree of reward in heaven; far from it. To convince
you how far you fall short of perfection, I will
put your obedience to the test, in a trying instance, and you shall then judge whether you are so perfect as you suppose yourself. You say that you have from your youth kept the moral laws delivered to you by Moses. Now one of those 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 perfection, you must observe this law as well as all the rest, and consequently you must prefer his favour to every thing else; you must be ready to sacrifice 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 sell 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 to perfection, his hopes of an extraordinary reward, vanish at once. He was not disposed to purchase even treasures in heaven at the price of all he possessed on earth. He therefore went away silent and sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
There is a question which I suppose 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 general, and are we all of us, without exception, bound to sell all that we have and give to the poor, as a necessary condition of obtaining
obtaining treasure in heaven? The answer is, most assuredly not. Our Lord's command refers 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 perfect obedience to the laws of Moses, to convince him that he was very far from that exalted state of piety and virtue to which he pretended, and that if he was rewarded with eternal life, it must be not in consequence of his own righteousness, but of the mercy of God, and the merits of a Redeemer, as yet unknown to him.
But besides this, it 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 so perilous an undertaking, did it at the risque not only of his property,