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Let it also be considered, that this use of worldly things is not only commanded, as suitable to the graces and virtues of the Christian life, but that the case of the rich man in torments, with the other passages above mentioned, are so many express threatenings against our disobedience.
So that it must be affirmed, that we are as much obliged to labour after the same degrees of faith, hope, heavenly affection, and disregard of the world, as after the same degrees of humility, charity, and repentance, that ever was required of any Christians.
Let it be also considered, that the command of selling all, is only particular in the expression ; but that the thing required is the general temper of Christianity; as is expressed by being dead to the world, having our conversation in heaven, being born of God, and having overcome the world; these expressions have no proper meaning, if they do not imply all that heavenly affection, and disregard of riches to which our Saviour exhorted the young man.
God forbid, saith St. Paul, that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Gal. vi. 14. Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Now I desire to know why any Christian should think it less dreadful not to be crucified and dead to the world, than St. Paul thought it? Is not the temper and spirit which the apostle shows here, as much to be aspired after, as in any other part of Scripture?
But can those who spend their estates in their own indulgencies, who live in the pomp and pieasures of riches, can they without profaneness say that of themselves, which the apostle here saith of himself?
Or, can they be said to have the Spirit of Christ, who are directed by a spirit so contrary to that of the apostle? Yet the Scripture says expressly, that if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is none
Thus we see, that this renunciation of the world, which is thought too great an extreme, to be taken from the command given to the young man in the Gospel, is the common temper of Christianity, and a doctrine the most universally taught of any other. It is indeed the very heart and soul of Christian piety, it is the natural soil, the proper stock from whence all the graces of a Christian naturally grow forth; it is a disposition of all others the most necessary and most productive of virtue. And if we might now be more earthly, than in the days of Christ, we must of necessity be proportionably wanting in all other virtues. For heavenly affection enters so far into the being of all Christian virtues, that an abatement in that, is like an alteration in the first wheel that gives motion to all the rest.
I will now a little appeal to the imagination of the reader.
Let it be supposed, that rich men are now enjoying their riches, and taking all the common usual delights of plenty; that they are labouring for the meat that perisheth, projecting and contriving scenes of pleasure, and spending their estates in proud expenses.
After this supposition, let it be imagined, that we saw the holy Jesus, who had not where to lay his head, with his twelve apostles, that had left all to follow him; let us imagine that we heard him call all the world to take up the cross and follow him, promising a treasure in heaven to such as would quit all for his sake, and rejecting all that would not comply with such terms; denouncing woe, and eternal death, to all that lived in fulness, pomp, and worldly delights: let it be imagined that we heard him commanding his disciples to take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed: and giving
this reason for it, because after all these things do che Gentiles seek.
Let it be imagined, that we saw the first Christians taking up the cross, renouncing the world, and counting all but dung, that they might gain Christ.
I do not now appeal to the judgment or reason of the reader, I leave it with his imagination, that wild faculty, to determine whether it be possible for these two different sorts of men to be true disciples of the same Lord.
Let us suppose that a rich man was to put up such a prayer as this to God;
“O Lord, I thy sinful creature, who am born * again to a lively hope of glory in Christ Jesus, beg of thee, to grant me a thousand
imes more “ riches than I need, that I may be able to gratify
myself and family in the delights of eating and “ drinking, state and grandeur; grant, that as the " little span of life wears out, I may still abound
more and more in wealth, and that I may see and “ perceive all the best and surest ways of growing “ richer than any of my neighbours; this I humbly " and fervently beg in the name, &c.”
Such a prayer as this should have had no place in this treatise, but that I have reason to hope, that, in proportion as it offends the ear, it will amend the heart.
There is no one, I believe, but would be ashamed to put up such a prayer as this to God, yet let it be well observed, that all are of the temper of this prayer, but those who have overcome the world.
We need not go amongst villains, and people of scandalous characters, to find out those who desire a thousand times more than they want; who have an eagerness to be every day richer and richer; who satch at all ways of gain that are not scandalous,
and who hardly think any thing enough, except it equals or exceeds the estate of their neighbours.
I beg of such, that they would heartily condemn the profane and unchristian spirit of the foregoing prayer, and that they would satisfy themselves, that nothing can be more odious and contrary to religion than such petitions.
But then let them be assured also of this, that the same things which make an unchristian prayer, make an unchristian life.
For the reason why these things appear so odions in a prayer, is because they are so contrary to the spirit of religion. But is it not as bad to live and act contrary to the spirit of religion, as to pray contrary to it?
At least, must not that manner of life be very blameable, very contrary to piety, which is so shocking, when put into the form of a prayer?
But indeed, whatever we may think, as we live, 80 we really pray; for as Christ saith, where our treasure is, there will our heart be also ; so as the manner of our life is, so is our heart also; it is continually praying what our life is acting, though not. in any express form of words.
To pursue this argument a little; Is this prayer too shocking? Dare we not approach God with such a spirit? How dare we then think of approaching him with such a life?
Need we any other conviction, that this manner of life is contrary to the spirit of Christianity, than this, that the praying according to it in Christ's name, comes near to blasphemy?
Does not this also sufficiently convince us of the reasonableness of Christ's command, to forsake the fulness, the indulgence, and pride of estates; since it is a state of life that our reason dare not ask God to give us ?
Let it be considered how we should abominate a person whom we knew to use such a prayer, and let that teach us how abominable a life that is like it must make us to appear in the eyes of God, and with this addition of folly joined to it, that we call the prayer profane, but think the life that answers to it to be Christian.
Perhaps there cannot be a better way of judging of what manner of spirit we are of, than to see whether the actions of our life are such as we may safely commend them to God in our prayers.
For it is undeniable, that if they are such as we dare not mention to God in our prayers, we ought in all reason to be as fearful of acting them in his presence.
We may indeed do several innocent things which, on account of their littleness, are unfit to be put into our devotions; but if the chief and main actions of our life are not such, as we may justly beg the assistance of God's Holy Spirit in the performance of them, we may be assured that such actions make our lives as unholy as such petitions would make our prayers.
From all that has been above observed, I think it is sufficiently plain, that the present disciples of Jesus Christ are to have no more to do with worldly enjoyments than those that he chose whilst he himself was on earth; and that he expects as much devotion to God, and heavenly affection from us, as from any that he conversed with, and speaks the same language, and gives the same commands to all rich men now that he gave to the rich young man in the Gospel.