Ourselves.—Dominie Scattergood, why did Christ tell the man inquiring about his soul to sell all he had and give everything to the poor? Is it necessary for one to impoverish himself in order to be a Christian?
The Dominie.—You mistake the purport of Christ’s remark. He was not here teaching the importance of benevolence, but the duty of self-conquest. That young man had an all absorbing love of wealth. Money was his god, and Christ is not willing to occupy the throne conjointly with any other deity. This was a case for what the doctors call heroic treatment. If a physician meet a case of unimportant sickness, he prescribes a mild curative, but sometimes he comes to a room where the case is almost desperate; ordinary medicine would not touch it. It is “kill or cure,” and he treats accordingly. This young man that Christ was medicating was such a case. There did not seem much prospect, and He gives him this powerful dose, “Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor!”
It does not follow that we must all do the same, any more than because belladonna or arsenic is administered in one case of illness we should therefore all go to taking belladonna or arsenic. Because one man in the hospital must have his arm amputated all the patients need not expect amputation. The silliest thing that business-men could do would be to give all their property away and turn their families into the street. The most Christian thing for you to do is to invest your money in the best way possible, and out of your business, industriously carried on, to contribute the largest possible percentage to the kingdom of God.
Still, we must admire the manner in which the Great Physician took the diagnosis of this man’s case and grappled it. We all need heroic spiritual treatment. We do not get well of sin because we do not realize what a dire disease it is, and that we cannot cure it with a spiritual panacea, a gentle antidote, a few grains of spiritual morphine, a mild moral corrective or a few drops of peppermint on white sugar.
We want our pride killed, and we read an essay on that sweet grace of humility, and we go on as proud as ever. The pleasant lozenge does not do the work. Rather let us set ourselves to do that for Christ which is most oppugnant to our natural feelings. You do not take part in prayer-meeting because you cannot pray like Edward Payson, or exhort like John Summerfield. If you want to crush your pride, get up anyhow, though your knees knock together, and your tongue catches fast, and you see some godless hearer in prayer-meeting laughing as though she would burst.
Deal with your avarice in the same heroic style. Having heard the charitable cause presented, at the first right impulse thrust your hand in your pocket where the money is, and pull it out though it half kills you. Pull till it comes. Put it on the plate with an emphasis, and turn your face away before you are tempted to take it back again. All your sweet contemplation about benevolence will not touch your case. Heroic treatment or nothing!