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Unable to bear cold, heat, the wind or the rain, as you did when you were poor? Are you not increasing in goods, laying up treasures on earth: instead of restoring to God in the poor, not so much, or so much, but all that you can spare? Surely "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 heaven!"
5. But why will ye still bring forth wild grapes? What excuse can ye make? Hath God been wanting on his part? Have ye not been warned over and over? Have ye not been fed with the sincere milk of the word? Hath not the whole word of God been delivered to you, and without any mixture of error? Were not the fundamental doctrines both of free, full, present justification delivered to you, as well as sanctification, both gradual and instantaneous ? Was not every branch both of inward and outward holiness clearly opened and earnestly applied, and that by preachers of every kind, young and old, learned and unlearned? But it is well if some of you did not despise the helps which God had prepared for you. Perhaps you would hear none but Clergymen; or, at least, none but men of learning. Will you not then give God leave to choose his own messengers? To send by whom he will send ? It is well if this bad wisdom was not one cause of your bringing forth wild grapes.
Have you not
6. Was not another cause of it your despising that excellent help, union with a Christian Society? read, "How can one be warm alone;" and, "Woe be unto him that is alone when he falleth?" "But you have companions enow." Perhaps more than enow; more than are helpful to your soul: but have you enow that are athirst for God, and that labour to make you so? Have you companions enow, that watch over your soul, as they that must give account; and that freely and faithfully warn you, if you take any false step, or are in danger of doing so? I fear, you have few of these companions, or else you would bring forth better fruit.
7. If you be a member of the Society, do you make a
full use of your privilege? Do you never fail to meet your class; and that not as a matter of form, but expecting that when you are met together in his Name, your Lord will be in the midst of you? Are you truly thankful for the amazing liberty of conscience, which is vouchsafed to you and your brethren: such as never was enjoyed before, by persons in your circumstances? circumstances? And are you thankful to the Giver of every good gift, for the general spread of true religion? Surely you can never praise God enough for all these blessings, so plentifully showered down upon you, till you praise him with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven.
MATTHEW XIX. 24.
"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.”
1. IN the preceding verses we have an account of a young man, who came running to our Lord, and kneeling down, not in hypocrisy, but in deep earnestness of soul, and said unto him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" "All the commandments,' saith he, "I have kept from my youth: what lack I yet?" Probably he had kept them in the literal sense; yet he still loved the world. And he who knew what was in man, knew that, in this particular case, (for this is by no means a general rule,) he could not be healed of that desperate disease, but by a desperate remedy. Therefore he answered, "Go and sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and come and follow me. But when he heard this, he went away sorrowing, for he had great possessions." So all the fair blossoms withered away! For he would not lay up treasure in heaven at so high a price! Jesus, observing this, "looked round about and said unto his disciples," Mark x. 23, &c. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 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! And they were astonished out of measure, and said among themselves, Who then can be saved?" if it is so difficult for rich men to be saved, who have so many and so great advantages, who are free from the cares of this world, and a thousand difficulties, to which the Poor are continually exposed!
2. It has indeed been supposed he partly retracts what he had said concerning the difficulty of rich men's being saved, by what is added in the tenth chapter of St. Mark. For after he had said, ver. 24, "How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God!" when the disciples were astonished at his words, Jesus answered again and said unto them, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" ver. 24. But observe, 1, Our Lord did not mean hereby, to retract what he had said before. So far from it that he immediately confirms it, by that awful declaration, "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." Observe, 2, Both one of these sentences and the other assert the very same thing. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for those that have riches not to trust in them.
3. Perceiving their astonishment at this hard saying, "Jesus looked upon them," undoubtedly with an air of inexpressible tenderness, to prevent their thinking the case of the rich desperate, and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
4. I apprehend, by a rich man here is meant, not only a man that has immense treasures, one that has heaped up gold as dust, and silver as the sand of the sea: but any one that possesses more than the necessaries and conveniences of life. One that has food and raiment sufficient for himself and his family, and something over, is rich. By the kingdom of God, or of heaven, exactly equivalent terms, I believe is meant, not the kingdom of glory, although that will without question follow, but the kingdom of heaven, that is, true religion upon earth. The meaning
then of our Lord's assertion is this, That it is absolutely impossible, unless by that power to which all things are possible, that a rich man should be a Christian, should have the mind that was in Christ, and walk as Christ walked. Such are the hindrances to holiness, as well as the temptations to sin, which surround him on every side.
I. First, Such are the hindrances to holiness, which surround him on every side. To enumerate all these would require a large volume: I would only touch upon a few of them.
1. The root of all religion is Faith, without which it is impossible to please God. Now whether you take this in its general acceptation, for an Evidence of things not seen, of the invisible and the eternal world, of God and the things of God: how natural a tendency have riches to darken this evidence, to prevent your attention to God and the things of God, and to things invisible and eternal! And if you take it in another sense, for a Confidence, what a tendency have riches to destroy this; to make you trust, either for happiness or defence, in themselves, not in the living GOD! Or if you take faith in the proper Christian sense, as a divine Confidence in a pardoning God, what a deadly, what an almost insuperable hindrance to this faith are riches! What, can a wealthy, and consequently an honourable man, come to God, as having nothing to pay? Can he lay all his greatness by, and come as a sinner, a mere sinner, the vilest of sinners; as on a level with those that feed the dogs of his flock; with that beggar who lies at his gate full of sores? Impossible, unless by the same power that made the heavens and the earth. Yet without doing this, he cannot in any sense enter into the kingdom of God.
2. What a hindrance are riches to the very first fruit of faith, namely, the Love of God! "If any man love the world," says the Apostle, "the love of the Father is not in him." But how is it possible for a man not to love the world, who is surrounded with all its allurements! How can it be, that he should then hear the still small voice, which