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MARK X. 21. THE JESUS, BEBOLDI O HIM, LOVED HIM, AUD SAID U TO HIM, O E THI G THOU LACKEST. Fsw passages of sacred history are more interesting, than the one from which our text is taken. A young man, distinguished for rank and for wealth, kneels before the Son of God, and earnestly inquires what he shall do to inherit eternal life. Jesus directs him in the way of life, and gives him a test to try the strength of his faith. He is found wanting. Though the world has not entirely engrossed his thoughts, yet it has too deeply engaged his affections. He cannot abandon all, and follow Christ. He hopes to obtain eternal life without supreme love to God. Though Jesus approves the virtues of this young man, he laments their imperfection. He cannot acknowledge him as his disciple ; and h^, who had approached the Saviour with so much zeal, departs from his presence with deep sorrow. He had hoped to purchase heaven by some external service. God demands not merely offerings from his substance, or ritual observances, but his heart. This he is not prepared to surrender. The world has engrossed his affections, and he is indisposed to abandon, even at the command of God, the objects of his highest love. Hence
THE YOU G RULEK. 1 85 the vpiritual reKgion of Jeras is neglected, and his posses* sions retained. Thus are eternal riches abandoned for those, which soon must fidl into other hands. Unhappy young man, who will not weep over thy infiituated choice ! Who will not lament, that, with so many virtues, thou
shouldst fiiil of entering into the kingdom of heaven ! But here let us pause, and gather up the instructions that may be drawn from this portion of sacred history. Let us seriously ask whether there are not among us many young men, and old men, who now ought to call forth our compassion, who demand our prayers, that they may not, like the young ruler of the Jews, when they shall appear before the bar of Jesus, be hurried from his presence, and consigned to unutterable sorrow. In treating the subject before us, I shall take for granted what I think will not be denied, that the young man who come to Jesus possessed a tail moral character, and that he was scrupulous in observing all the external forms of the religion, in which he was educated. The doctrine of the text then is, that, though Christ approves wid loves the moral virtues, yet a mere external observance of moral duties will not secure that inheritance, which he has promised to his true disciples. !• First, Jesus, beholding the young man, loved him. Many interesting qualities were united in his character. He was above the vices, which often degrade those of his age and station in life. He did not think rank and wealth the only valuable possessions. He had regarded the religion of his nation, and from his youth had been distinguished for a respectfol attention to sacred ordinances. ow that a new teacher appeared, who gave evidence of a divine commission, he hastens to him and bows in his presence. He appears with a serious mind, and with an inquiry of infinite moment. What an interesting spectacle was exhibited, while he conversed with the Saviour of sinners ! Jesus was not unmoved by the scene. He, whose mind 24
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perceived at a glance every moral excellence, and every promise of good, acknowledged his interest in this distinguished young man. His affections were moved. He looked upon him, and be loved him. Christians, look to your Master. You are placed in a world, where you behold a great diversity of character. You are surrounded by those, whom you cannot acknowledge as the true disciples of your glorious Redeemer. But remember, that, among these, are many of amiable tempers, of correct external deportment ; many who, in the different relations of life, are beloved for the general kindness of their dispositions, and for what they contribute to the promotion of the happiness of society. Cast them not away. Despise them not. Cherish a love of moral goodness ; and bestow willing praise on whatever deserves approbation. These persons have at least the appearance of some goodness ; and they are instrumental in doing some good. Love them for their good qualities. They are deficient in their goodness, so deficient, that, unless thoroughly reformed, they will fail of obtaining eternal life. They then are the objects of the tenderest compassion. You should labor for their good ; you should pray for their salvation. That you may labor effectually, you must feel interested for their happiness. Then you may hope to gain influence over their minds, and to be instrumental in opening their hearts to receive the truth as it is in Jesus. You may hope, by the blessing of God, to see the time, when those hearts, which have been divided by a thousand conflicting claims, will be entirely consecrated to him, who demands the heart of every rational being. Whereas, if you forget the example of Christ, and, with the spirit which dictated the Pharisee's prayer, say to this man and that, Stand fry thyself, come not into my society , for I am holier than thou, you will give a frightful representation of the genius of the gospel ; and, if you lose not your own souls, you will do nothing to-
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wards spreading the triumphs of the cross^ and advancing the everlasting happiness of those for whom Christ died. 2. We remark, secondly, that^ though Christ approves and loves every moral virtue, yet a mere external observance of moral duties will not secure that inheritance, which he has promised to confer upon all his true disciples. It is perfectly evident, that any course of conduct, which may be maintained without supreme love to God, cantiot of itself be proof of a state of preparation for heaven. ow external moraUty may be maintained without this principle, and many of the virtues, which give value to social life, may be practised, when- the religious principle is extremely weak. The moral duties are in themselves reasonable, and conducive to human happiness ; and they may in many instances be performed on the sole ground of expediency. Yet true piety is the only basis, which will support a consistent, uniform and exalted moral character ; for, where this is wanting, the principle of expediency, applied by a being of extremely limited views, will produce a degree of fickleness in pursuing the path of integrity. But still, what by the world is deemed a good moral character may exist where the love of God reigns not. A man may be honest, either because he is too proud to stoop to deception, or because he believes that his worldly interests * will be best promoted by securing the confidence of those with whom he has intercourse. He may be forward in maintaining institutions, designed to protect the morals and promote the improvement of society, because he considers his personal security and enjoyment, as intimately connected with the moral habits of the community of which he is a member. He may even be regular in the observance of . all the external duties of religion, not because he loves God, but because he would preserve a reputation for decency, and would not fail to present a good example. He may be distinguished for his sympathy with the sufferings of his fellow creatures, and by acts of
1 88 THE YOUMG RULUt kiodneBB do much io allemle Uma^ not beeame he feeb any attachment to the Being, who doeth good continually, or IB desirous of imitating him ; but becauBe he loves to be numbered among the benefiictoiB of mankind, or because he has received from the Author of his existence a heart, so easily moved by scenes of suffering, that he instinctively stretches forth his hand to afford succor to the afficted. Here then is a class of virtues, which may exist, where love to God is wanting, and where love to man is not cherished. They may be practised from a regard solely to present ease, emolument or reputation. We nbed no labored argument to prove this. Facts, known . to every man, may be collected in abundance for this purpose. Atheists have been what the world calls moral men. Those, who have made no pretensions to religious character, have been what are denominated good members of society. Are there none who instantly present themselves to your minds, who are regular in their moral deportment, whom even charity herself could not denominate religious men ? Where then is the man, who has for years been pursiiig his worldly schemes, who has at all times lived soberly and honestly in the world, and who yet has made gold his Grod ; who has never even to himself confessed, that he was engaged in laying up treasures in heaven ? Where is the youth, whose heart is alive to every earthly joy, who, in the gaiety of life, by his cheerfiilness and pleasantness, gains the affections of the social circle, who yet closes his mind against all impressions from the eternal world, who in all bis joys thinks not of the God of love, or of the Saviour of sinners ? Are there no such persons ? If there be such, then there are some, who, with the most OBtimable qualities, are destitute of a religious character. Yes, there may be what are called moral men, who are not religious men ; who are not prepared to inherit eternal life. We here use the word morality in the popular sense ; and, when we say that it may be practised by those, who love
not God supremely, we mean what men call by that name.
THE YOU G RULER. ^ 1 89 In the sight of Ood, that act alone is virtuous, which is connected with a motive f^hich he approves. In his view, no man is yirtuous, who is not influenced by a regard to his character and hws. But why need we pass beyond the passage of scripture before us, for proof of the proposition, which we are endeavoring to establish? Here is a decision made upon the subject by one, from whose author* ity there is no appeal. The young man, who came to Jesus, possessed a fair moral character. ot only so, but fae was not entirely destitute of the influence of religious principle. He had some desire to be guided in the way to heaven. In a religious point of view, his character is vastly higher, than that of most, who are not decidedly the friends of God. Yet he, who will judge the quick and dead, pronounced his character essentially deficient. Though he loved God, and was desirous of securing his favor, yet he loved the world more, and would forfeit heaven, if it could be secured only by the sacrifice of his earthly possessions. From the decision of Jesus with regard to the young Jewish ruler, what have those to anticipate, who either live without God in the world, or who, like him, are hesitating between their present possessions and the ever-living Jehovah ! But I must not dismiss this topic of discourse, before I have guarded it against a fatal perversion, to which it is exposed. It may be said, that if the practice of the moral duties be not evidence of religious faith, and of preparation for heaven, they may then be neglected, as of no worth in the sight of God. If an inference Hke this can be deduced I^itimately from the sentiments that have been advanced, •
then have I been laboring to counteract one of the most important purposes of the Christian ministry, and of the mediation of Jesus Christ. To make men holy, and thus to prepare them for happiness, was the great design of Christ's appearance on earth, and ought to be the purpose of every firiend of Jesus. But the holiness, which the gos-
190 THE YOU G RULER. pel would produce, is founded on love to God and love to man. These great principles are wrought into the heart of every true disciple of Christ ; and are the basis, on which the moral virtues rest. But is not the existence of these virtues some evidence of the existence of love to God and man ? It undoubtedly is, and, to a fallible judge of religious character, the principal, though not the only evidence. He, who loves God, will delight to honor him* He will obey that precept, which says, My son^ give me thy heart. Of course, he will be distinguished by piety. He will be a humble worshipper of Jehovah. He will have confidence in his government. When afflictions press upon him, he will be not only submissive, but thankful that he lives under the government of God. He will exhibit the fruits of his love in adversity, as well as in prosperity. His religion will sweeten his temper, compose his mind, cheer bis heart, give him wide views of the divine government and enable him to borrow light from heaven to disperse the darkness, that would otherwise rest on his earthly prospects. ot so with the merely moral man. He may be just and kind ; but he will not be devout. His benevolence will be the effect of mere excitement. It will want that uniformity, consistency and perseverance, which principle alone will give. Under the trials of life, his temper will be sour. He will be distrustful and unhappy. He will not be able, when trouble overtakes him, to maintain religious
gratitude, nor will he look forward to the happiness for which afflictions are designed to prepare him. In the prospect of death, though he may be firm, yet he will not be cheered by the hope of immortal joys. Then he will be conscious that he has never been pleased with holding communion with his God, and he will be unable to anticipate pleasure from being introduced to his presence. Darkness will brood over the valley of the shadow of death, and no ray of joy will shine upon it, to guide and cheer him
TH£ YOU G RULER. 191 • while passing to the unseen world. The great defect in his character is that he has not given himself to God. He has not delighted in his service. He has cultivated a narrow spirit, which has regarded merely present gratifications* The world has had his affections ; and, like the young Jew^ ish ruler, he is unwilling to resign the world, even when commanded by God. Hence he is unprepared for trials, and incapable of the happiness which is to be found in the heavenly world. Whatever he may be in the viewof man, in the sight of God he is an ungrateful sinner. To sum up briefly what we have said on this subject, a man, who is externally moral, and yet loves not God, cannot be *bappy in heaven. A man, who professes the most ardent zeal in the divine service, who prays and &sts, and yet is not moral in his conduct, either deceives himself or attempts to deceive others. He gives no evidence of Christian fiiith. Hence we conclude that moral duties, in order to give evidence qf a sanctified heart, must be grounded upon love to God ; and that piety, in order to be considered as genuine, must be fruitful in good works. Without supreme love to God, the moral man will never submit unreservedly to his authority. He will, like the young man in the day of trial, abandon his God. Then his religion will
die, he will turn from the Saviour of sinners, and prove himself unfit to inherit eternal life. On the other hand, the zealous professor, who abounds in expressions of piety, and yet is destitute < of moral goodness, demonstrates that he does not love God ; for he neither obeys his commands, nor imitates his character. They both must fall, when God shall judge the world in righteousness. We think then, that we do not degrade the moral virtues, when we say, that the mere external observance of moral duties, will not secure that inheritance, which is reserved for the true friends of Jesus. We wish to exalt these duties, by insisting that they must be virtues in reality as well as in appearance, that they must be virtues in the view of him who
192 THE YOU G RULER. searcbeth the heart. If they are virtues in his sight, they will be founded upon supreme love for his character ; and they will be more dignified in nature, and more constant in operation, than virtues founded upon mere worldly consid* erations, inasmuch as God is more exalted than man. I have only, in conclusion, to beg you to apply this subject to your own hearts. It is extremely important, that you deceive not yourselves, when all that is dear to an im« mortal soul may be lost by the deception. Professors of religion, you have bowed at the feet of Jesus, and ostensibly acknowledged him as your guide and Saviour. In making your profession, you have not been called to abandon your earthly comforts, or to meet the Ireptoaches, and to oppose the power of a world in arms against you. Were these things required of you, think you that you would still stand by the side of your Saviour, and for his sake sacrifice every earthly hope ? Or would you, like the young man, whose character we have been considering, turn from him, and embrace as your highest good the riches, pleasures and honors of the present world ?
You have frequent opportunities of testing your faith in this respect. You are not, indeed, called upon to sell all that you possess, and to give it to the poor ; but most Christians are obliged, during their earthly pilgrimage, to feel disappointments, and to make sacrifices. Their schemes are frequently thwarted ; their property is often diminished by the providence of God ; they are called upon to distribute to the necessities of the poor, and to witness the dissolution of their dearest earthly ties. Do you murmur when disappointed ? Does your gratitude die, when your wealth and temporal conveniences are diminished ? Do you give grudgingly, when the wants of suffering man call to you for assistance ? When jour friends die, do your religious feelings sleep with them ; and is your confidence in God weakened ? Then you have only a name to live, while you are dead. Yoo do not love God supremely;
THE TOU G RULER. 193 for you do not cbeerfolly gobmil to bis wise and benevolent government. Should Jesus say to you. Leave all and foU law me, you would not obey bim ; for you murmur, and are unhappy, when called to comparatively small sacrifices. If, on the other hand, you have good ground to believe that you have given yourselves entirely to God, and that you could cheerfully, under every difficulty, submit to his will, — be thankful for that grace, by which you are sanctified ; rejoice in that hope, whicb you are allowed to entertain* While you are thankful that the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts, remember that you are surrounded by thousands, who are living without God in the world. Despise not these unhappy men. Treat them not with contempt. God is doing them good. He is waiting to be gracious to them. Imitate bis kindness. Pray for them. Show them in your tempers and practice, that Christ is the fiiend of man ; that he lays deep the foundation of human happiness. It may be, that you will be made instrumental in bringing them to him, in delivering them from eternal
death, and introducing them to the joys of heaven. While such a hope is before you, be active in your Master's service. Let your light so shine, that others, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven. Let those, who have acquiesced in a character merely moral; without giving their hearts to God, reflect seriously upon the subject of thi» discourse. You have been industrious in the business of the world, you have been sober in your habits, and have scrupulously regarded the decencies of life. We praise you for your industry, for your sobriety, and for your integrity. We honor you for all that you have done to benefit society, and rejoice, that you have not given your influence to encourage prevalent iniquity. Thus far, you have consulted your temporal interests ; but I appeal to you to say, whether you have laid op for yourselves treasures in heaven. Has not the being, who gave you existence, and who has surrounded 25
194 THE YOU G RULER. you with blessings, a rightfiil claim to your highest love ? Has not the Saviour, who bled for you, a claim to your gratitude and obedience ? You have not honored God, nor have you been interested in the character and services of his Son. You are soon to be called from your earthly pursuits. Will it be sufficient in the hour of death, that you can say, that you have injured no man ? Then you will be obliged to look beyond the world ; and can you contemplate with hope your appearance before that God, whom you have never loved, and that Saviour, whom you have never honored ? Is there any thing in the habits of mind, which you have cherished, that can cheer the heart of a dying man ? O think upon these things. Learn to love God here, that in the hour of death you may have hope ; and that eternity may be passed in continuing the praises,
which you have commenced on earth. Our subject is particularly interesting to the young; especially t<5 those, whose minds are in some degree impressed with the importance of religious truth, and who yet have not devoted themlselves to God in Christ Jesus. My young friends, are not you similarly situated with the young man, who kneeled beforjs Jesus with the interesting inquiry. What shall I do to inherit eternal life? otwithstanding the importunity and apparent seriousness of this young man, he yet wandered from the path of life. Hia heart was divided between the world and God ; and the ^ world' prev|iiled. Is there not danger, that you may fall like him ? A thousand objects tempt you to forget your God. Perhaps ere this you would have forsaken every sin, and opened your hearts to the full influence of gospel grace, had not some earthly attachfnent bound you to the world, or some untamed passion opposed the holy influence of Jesus. Break this attachment ; cast your idols behind you ; pray to God, that your passions may be governed ; enter into an everlasting covenant with Christ. If you turn from him now, you may never find him more.
THE TOU G RULER. 195 till you are summoiied before his bar, and hear from him the awful sentence, Depart, ow, while your minds are in some degree interested in religious truth, is the time to improve the means of grace, and to make your peace with God. O turn not then from the messenger of his compassion. Give God your hearts, and «eek happiness in his favor. Let me say to all, who are in the morning of life, who are now partaking richly of all its blessings, and who are beloved for their innocence, their cheerfulness, and their ready sensibility to all earthly joys and sufferings : God demands your hearts. However innocent you may be in
the estimation of men, if you give not God your hearts, in his sight you are guilty creatures. The Christian loves you for all that is lovely in your characters. He would not blast your innocent pleasures. But he knows, that the joys of youth soon fade, and that its dangers are mapy ; and he would strengthen you to encounter danger, and would give you. joys that never die. Jesus is the friend of the young. He, if you submit to him, will take you by the hand, and guide you safely through the dangers of the world. He will introduce you to that happy society, where youth will never fade, where joys will never die. Make him your friend. Let it not be said, that you have every earthly accomplishment ; but that you are ungrateful to God. Let not the friends of piety^ while they are charmed with your intellectual and moral graces, mourn over you as destitute of the crowning grace of human nature, — religion. Be the children of God, and you are happy for eternity. Reject this counsel ; — all your accomplishments will perish, your bodies, which you now adorn with so much care, will soon make a part of the common earth, and your souls sink into everlasting ruin. We say to every person here present, who has not devoted himself to God, ow is the accepted time^ now is the day of salvation. ow give your hearts to him, who is
1 96 THE YOU G RULER. « loading you with his benefits ; now embrace that Savionr, who is interceding for you before the throne of mercy. Depart not hence, before you have resolved to break off your sins by repentance, and your iniquities by turning unto God. Lay not your heads upon your pillows, till you have penitently .confessed your transgressions, and implored pardon from the God of mercy. If you engage in this holy work, you will not engage alone. Ten thousand
prayers will ascend this night, from the altars of as many pious hearts, in different parts of the Christian world, that you may find mercy, and obtain the salvation of your souls. If you obey the commands of your Lord, you have every thing to hope. If you neglect him, you perish.
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