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MARK X. 24.
And the disciples were astonished at his words. But
Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
last discourse, I endeavoured to point out the peculiar advantages, which the preaching of the Gospel was designed to bring to the poor,
and which have in fact, in a great degree resulted to them from it. I have now to enter upon a less pleasing theme, to exhibit in some measure the reverse of the former picture—to describe the dangers which the same Gospel declares to be attendant upon riches, and to establish the same conclusion from both these premises : that the real happiness of all classes of Christians, both here and hereafter, can only be secured by a practical, and conscien
tious adherence to the doctrines of our Saviour upon these important topics, for the application of which, we have almost daily and hourly opportunity. In discussing this subject, it will be difficult to avoid making some observations, which may not be agreeable to all who may hear them. This I should be sincerely disposed at all times to lament. But the paramount duty of this place, above all others, is to declare the truth. We are not (to use the words of Isaiah) to speak smooth things, to prophesy deceits. Nor are we on the other hand to forget, that we are as much the subjects of our own exhortations, as any of those whom we address. And if we suffer any unguarded expressions or exaggerated statements to escape from us, they will not only fall unprofitably upon our hearers, but recoil with severity upon ourselves. But we have at least the consolation of knowing, that whatever we utter must be understood as spoken generally. For as we seldom can have the means of applying it personally, so I trust we have never the inclination to do so. If it should happen that none are present, to whom what I shall have to offer has any immediate reference, none who stand in need of such cautions, as the text must naturally suggest ; they will have great reason to rejoice in such their happy condition. But if on the other hand (as I fear is too probable) there should be many here, who are conscious that our Saviour's reflection touches them nearly, that they do indeed trust too much in their riches, and are too little solicitous about making that use of them, which both reason and religion require: I am sure they will receive such observations as it will be my duty to make, with a true Christian temper, with charitable indulgence, even if they should appear to be not fully warranted by a sound and reasonable interpretation of Scripture, but with a firm resolution to act upon them if they are.
Called upon as we are at this time by the highest authority in this kingdom, to urge
all persons to a more than usual exertion of their liberality, for the relief of the almost unprecedented distresses of large portions of their fellow-subjects, and required as we are at all times, as faithful ministers of the Gospel, to stimulate the rich to the due performance of this their peculiar duty, I have still felt it necessary to premise these few remarks, both on account of the delicacy, as well as the
difficulty of the subject. It is a matter of great delicacy, to appear to suppose
any who are present can need to be reminded of their duty in this respect, and warned of the consequences of neglecting it. It is still more so, to be thought to urge any persons to go beyond what their ability will fairly enable them to perform. But it is no breach of
propriety, strenuously to exhort the rich, to a cheerful and ample discharge of the obligations, imposed upon them by their affluent condition. It is, on the contrary, imperative upon us, even for their own sakes, still more than for those of the indigent, to lay the matter before them in all its plenitude of interest, to exhibit it in every point of view of which it is susceptible, to shew its reasonableness and necessity, and to persuade men to attend to it, both by the display of the glorious rewards annexed to their obedience, and the dreadful punishment denounced against their neglect of it.
But the subject is not only one of delicacy, but also of considerable difficulty. And this arises from the strong and unqualified terms, in which it is set forth in Scripture: which have (I apprehend) frequently operated, rather
to diminish than encrease that beneficence, which they are designed to excite (when
properly understood) in the highest practicable degree. Precepts so apparently unreasonable as some of them are, may have been thought to have no serious obligation. I grant that some of them as applied to ourselves, must be understood with much limitation, as requiring to be obeyed rather in their spirit, than in their letter. When our Saviour charged a certain ruler to sell all that he had, and distribute to the poor, and that he should have treasure in heaven-he added these words and come follow me.
Conduct which under such circumstances would be manifestly proper and practicable, in the totally different circumstances in which we are placed, would be quite the reverse: and can only be proposed for our imitation, with a due regard to our actual condition. Almost all our Saviour's rules are expressed in the strongest terms, and possibly he contemplated the existence of a state of society, when they might be all strictly obeyed, and when the exact performance of some of them would facilitate that of the rest. But we are at present far from such a state of things, and must content