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disciples principally consisted, and we are expressly told that it was the common people chiefly that heard him gladly; and even after his death St. Paul asserts that not many mighty, not many noble, were called. It should seem then, that the primary objects of this declaration were those rich men to whom the Gospel was then offered, and of whom very few embraced it. And as no penal law ought to be stretched beyond its strict and literal sense,
I do not conceive that we are authorized to apply this severe sentence to those opulent persons who now profess themselves Christians, and to say of them that it is easier for a camel to go through the
of a needle, than for a rich man to inherit the rewards of heaven. Still however, as the words themselves will perhaps bear such an application, it is not improbable that our Lord might have an eye to rich men in future professing Christianity, as well as to the rich men of those days, who were either Jews or Heathens. But if it does relate to rich Christians at all, I hàve no difficulty in saying, that it must be in a very qualified and mitigated sense of the words, such as shall not bar
up the gates of heaven against any true believers in Christ, or inspirę
terror and despair, where friendly admonition was only meant. ?" The first thing then to be remarked is, that although the similitude here made use of, that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, implies absolute impossibility, yet according to every rule of interpreting oriental proverbs (for such this is) it means only, in its application, great difficulty. And in this sense it was actually used both by the Jews and the Arabians; and it is plainly so interpreted by our Lord, when he
that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
But even in this sense the words do not apply to all rich men without distinction. For in the parallel place of St. Mark*, upon the disciples expressing their astonishment at our Lord's declaration, he immediately explains himself by saying, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven;, and it is after this explanation, that the proverbial passage follows, “ 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.” 1
Mark X. 24. ^)! HII,
: و او ناروا
* We see then that those rich men only are meant, who trust in their riches, who place their whole dependence upon them; whose. views and hopes are centered in them and them only; who place their whole happiness, not in relieving the distresses of the poor, and soothing the sorrows of the afflicted; not in acts of worship and adoration, and thanksgiving to hin from whose bounty they derive every blessing they enjoy; not in giving him their hearts, and dedicating their wealth to his glory and his service, but in amassing it without end, or 'squandering it without any benefit to mankind, in making it the instrument of pleasure, of luxury, of dissipa. tion, of vice, and the means of gratifying every irregular appetite and passion without controul. These are the rich men, whose salvation is represented by our Saviour to be almost impossible; and yet even with respect to these he adds, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible; that is, although if we look to human means, to himan strength alone, it seems utterly impossis ble that such men as these should ever repent and be saved; yet to the power of God, to
the over-ruling influences of the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible. His grace shed abroad in the heart may touch it with compunction and remorse, may awaken it to penitence, may heal all its corruptions, may illuminate, may purify, may sanctify it, may bring the most worldly-minded man to a sense of his condition, and make him transfer his trust from riches to the LIVING GOD.
It is then to those that trust in riches that this denunciation of our Lord peculiarly applies ; but even to all rich men in general it holds out this most important admonition, that their situation is at the best à situation of difficulty and danger; that their riches furnish them with so many opportunities of indulging every wayward wish, every corrupt propensíty of their hearts, and spread before them so many temptations, so many incitements, so many provocations to luxury, intemperance, sensuality, pride, forgetfulness of God, and contempt of every thing serious and saw' cred, 'that it is sometimes too much for human nature to bear; that they have there fore peculiar need to take heed to their ways, to watch incessantly over their own conduet, VOL. II.
to keep their hearts with all diligence, to guard
This striking charge to the rich is pregnant with most important and wholesome counsel,
* 1 Tim. vi, 17 19.