Matthew 19:17-22. He said, Why callest thou me good? Whom thou regardest merely as a prophet sent from God, and therefore supposest to be only a man; there is none good Supremely, originally, essentially, but God. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments From a principle of loving faith. Believe, and thence love and obey. And this undoubtedly is the way to eternal life. Our Lord therefore does not answer ironically, which had been utterly beneath his character, but gives a plain, direct, serious answer to a serious question. The young man saith, All these have I kept from my childhood So he imagined, and perhaps he had, as to the letter, but not as to the spirit, which our Lord immediately shows. What lack I yet? Wherein am I deficient? What is further needful in order to my securing the glorious prize which I am pursuing? In answer to this inquiry, made by one evidently puffed up with a high opinion of his own righteousness, our Lord replies, If thou wilt be perfect That is, a real, thorough Christian, yet lackest thou one thing, (Luke,) namely, to be saved from the love of the world; from all undue esteem for, and inordinate affection to, earthly things. Therefore, go and sell that thou hast, (Luke, all that thou hast,) and give Distribute the money which arises from the sale thereof; to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven Infinitely more excellent and durable than that which thou renouncest on earth. And come, ( take up the cross, Mark,) and follow me Unite thyself to me as my constant attendant, though it should be even at the expense of thy life. He who reads the heart, saw that this young man’s bosom sin was the love of his worldly possessions; and that he could not be saved from it but by literally parting with them. To him, therefore, he gave this particular direction, which he never designed for a general rule to all his followers. For him this was necessary, not only, as some suppose, in order to his giving proof of exalted piety, but in order to his salvation. For him literally to sell all, was an absolute duty; for many to do this would be an absolute sin. And yet, though God does not in fact require every man to distribute all his goods to others, and so in effect to become one of the number of the poor relieved out of his own possessions, yet sincere piety and virtue require in all an habitual readiness not only to sacrifice their possessions, but their lives, at the command of God; and Providence has in fact, in all ages, called some out to trials as severe as this. And certainly an entire renunciation of the world, so far at least as to be willing to part with it whenever God should call them to it, was peculiarly necessary for all Christians in the first ages, when the profession of Christianity so generally exposed men to persecution and death. And when he heard this he went away sorrowful Not being willing to have salvation at so high a price; for he had great possessions Which he now plainly showed he valued more than eternal life: and it was with great wisdom that our Lord took this direct and convincing method of manifesting both to himself and others that secret insincerity and carnality of temper which prevailed under all these specious pretences and promising appearances.
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