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ON THE DANGER OF WORLDLY
ST. MARK, CHAPTER 10, VERSE 23.
“And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto His dis
ciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"
WHEN these words were spoken by our Lord, they excited the deepest astonishment in the minds of His disciples, not yet sufficiently instructed in the spirituality of that Gospel which they were themselves speedily to preach, with this same awful accompaniment. Well, then, may we receive them with fear and trembling; well may we ask, under the weaknesses of natural corruption and positive sin,
Who, then, can be saved ?”. The answer which silenced the first disciples of our Lord, is the only answer which can satisfy and comfort us : “The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God."* If ever there was a period in the history of mankind in which this text before us is more awfully applicable; if ever there was a people among the nations of the earth, by whom this text should be most especially considered, as involving their own great personal responsibility; it is the period in which we live, the people of whom we form a part. Living, as we do, in times when civilization hath brought together so many remedies for natural want, and so many incentives to artificial want, there are few among us who do not, in some way or other, possess many worldly comforts, however comparative deprivation, or the ill-adapted measurement of desire, may give a different construction to the terms, rich and poor, which, save only in their real excess, are only relative. Almost the poorest of this land are rich in the estimate of the more craving demands of absolute want, to which, in matters of personal comfort, the earlier periods of a nation's history are more likely to be exposed; and to which other nations, not advanced in civilization as we are, are still exposed. But, if we go a little further, and consider those who are said to be above want, people in the various branches of higher trades and callings, in what are called the middle and higher classes of society, there is manifestly such an accumulation of personal comfort around them, so many wants satisfied, so many advantages of every kind at hand, that the memory of the entrusted talent comes loaded with its heaviest responsibility. The matter is not strained when we consider every one so circumstanced, as standing in the very situation of that rich condition which makes it difficult to “enter into the kingdom of God.”
* St. Luke, xviii. 27.
Considering the words before us under this most general application of them to ourselves, let us shew why, in necessary consequence, our blessed Lord's declaration is so strictly true;
and then let us attend to such considerations as seem likely, through God's Most Holy Spirit, to render this awful condition of most of us spiritually profitable.
We must not suppose that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He spake the words of the text, condemned riches, that is, the abundance of this world's goods, as in themselves evil: for we are expressly told in Holy Scripture, that “God giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not,” and that from Him alone “cometh every good and perfect gift," whether it have respect to our well-doing in this life, or to our everlasting condition in the next. Earthly things, moreover, are the only instrument, in a great multitude of cases, of
good to others; and those who possess them, and use them so, become like unto an angel of God, for their brother's help.
It is then the abuse, not the fact of mere possession of wealth and earthly comforts, which our Lord hath condemned. Had the rich young man, (on whose lamented case these words of the text were grounded,) consented to what our Saviour proposed to him, as the test of his love to God, he would have made a noble use of his wealth, though it were to part with it all; and thus making friends of the “unrighteous mammon,” he would have been put into full and eternal possession of the true riches. But his heart was fixed upon the creature, and in retaining his trust in this world's goods, he necessarily fell away from God.
The case of this rich young man is an ex-, ample to every one of us. Fallen as we all are through original sin, and fallen still deeper through manifold transgressions of our own, we are ever prone to call evil good, and to turn good into evil; and in no one circumstance of our little span of existence on this side the grave so prone as in the possession and use of the riches and comforts of this present life. How exactly evidenced this is to our own experience, may safely be left to every one's conscience to determine,
who has made the slightest observation upon what passes in the world around him, and most especially, in what passes in the little world within himself.
We see honest labour and moderate care put forth at first, upon a truly Christian principle, for the moderate and lawful possession of that sufficient portion of this world's goods, which, in a willing remembrance that it all comes from God, shall be in faithful intention consecrated to His service, in the rightful appropriation of it for the good, first of the nearest ties of life, and then of every one who needs. But no sooner does the creature of this world's labours increase in our hands, than the great enemy of our souls tempts us to love, to trust in, to doat upon it; to say to the riches and comforts of this life “ Be ye my God.” The transition is rapid beyond alt belief of the suffering individual; the principle of saving is'enveloped with ten thousand dangers; and, unless guarded and mortified under the sanctions and discipline of religion, soon degenerates into a love of gain, a fear of losing, a habit of confirmed and fatal parsimony. So lost is then the purity of the principle whith first hallowed the motive and the end, that' the very practice, thus degenerated, is justified even upon that original principle, whose only genuine character has