Mark repeats it thus, Mar_10:21, Then Jesusbeholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thoulackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to thepoor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take upthe cross, and follow me. Luke, Luk_18:22, repeats it as Matthew, only he begins it with, Yet lackest thou one thing. Mark saith, that Jesus beholding him loved him: not with a special saving love, for he sent him away sad; upon his going he tells his disciples, that it was a very hard thing for a rich man to come to heaven; he tells him one thing was wanting to him: but he loved him with such a common love as he loveth all his creatures with, and more especially such as are better than others. All that can be concluded from hence is, that acts of moral righteousness are pleasing to God. He saith to him, If thou wilt be perfect, that is, in keeping the commandments of God. The papists make a great deal of stir to found upon this text their counsels of perfection; as if Christ here were advising only the young man to do something beyond what the law strictly required, in order to a more perfect state than others. But that this cannot be the sense of the words will appear to him who will diligently consider;
1. That this had been needless, for our Saviour, in directing the young man to keep the commandments in order to his obtaining everlasting life, had sufficiently declared that the keeping of the commandments was perfection enough.
2. He says, One thing is wanting to thee, that is, in order to thy obtaining everlasting life, which had not been true if our Saviour had granted him to have kept all the commandments, for he had before let him know that the keeping them was sufficient. Our Saviour therefore, by this speech, only endeavours to convince him that he had not kept all the commandments.
But it may be objected, How could that be, for there was no commandment that obliged him to go sell all that he had, and give to the poor? I answer, there was a commandment that he should love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and strength, which he could not do unless he had a heart ready to obey any command God should lay upon him, which our Saviour puts upon the trial by this special precept:
3. There was a commandment of God that he should love his neighbour as himself, and that he should not covet. Now not to be ready at the commandment of God liberally to relieve the poor members of Christ, argued a covetous mind, more in love with his estate than with God; so as though this was not before specially commanded, yet it was commanded generally, and that he would have understood had he rightly understood the law of God; especially having such a promise annexed as thou shalt have treasure in heaven.
4. Nor must all the command be taken to be included in those Go sellthat thou hast, and give to the poor; but the following words must also be taken in, and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Perfection here is not made to lie in a voluntary poverty only, but in coming after and following of Christ, with a free taking up of the cross.
In short, no man can be perfect in keeping the commandments of God, that doth not love God with all his heart, soul, and strength; nor can any man pretend to this, that hath not a heart ready to obey God in all things, whether more generally or more specially commanded. Nor can any man fulfil the duties of the second table, without first fulfil the duties of the first: for if our love to our neighbour flow not from a love to God, it is no act of obedience, and consequently no fulfilling of the law; which is not fulfilled by mere doing the external duty of it, but by doing what is required in it out of an obedience unto God, which cannot be without a first loving God.