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§ 227. The Danger of Wealth. (Matt., xix., 22, seq.; Mark, x., 22, seq.; Luke, xviii., 23, seq.)

The rich man, incapable of the sacrifice demanded of him, went away in perplexity; and Christ said to the disciples, “By this example you may see how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven;” and then he employed a figure by which, indeed, it appears to be impossible: “It is easier for a camel,” &c. Nor is this to be interpreted as a hyperbole; the words of v. 26, “With men this is impossible (i. e., to unassisted human nature); but with God all things are possible,” show that Christ meant to say that it is impossible to the unaided powers of man, before he has partaken of that higher life which alone can destroy the love of self and of the world. Some of the hearers were amazed at Christ’s saying, and exclaimed, in alarm, “Who, then, can be saved?

If this exclamation were made by any of the Apostles, it must appear strange; they had no wealth to absorb their affections; and had, in fact, made the very sacrifice demanded. But if we suppose that they did make it, they probably took Christ’s words in a general sense—in which they would be as applicable to the poor as to the rich—as implying 335total renunciation of earthly things. Yet Peter’s question, v. 27, does not accord very well with this supposition. It is also very possible that the persons referred to in the passage did not belong to the number of the Apostles.616616   Luke, xviii., 26, supports this.

The things,” said Christ, “which are impossible with men are possible with God.” What man cannot do by his unaided powers, he can accomplish by the power of God. By enunciating this truth as the result of his whole course of remark, he showed its point of departure and its aim. While the rest stood, as it were, stupified, Peter ventured to say, “Does what you have said apply to us? Lo, we have left all and followed thee.”617617   The form of the question of Peter given by Matthew (xix., 27) implies a looking for reward on his part. But had this been his object in putting it, Christ would have more emphatically reproved it. Then uttered the Saviour those words, so full of consoling promise: “There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” The first part of the promise (referring to this life) was enough to show even those whose minds were filled with carnal and Chiliastic expectations, that the whole was to be taken, not literally, but spiritually; Christians were to receive back all that they had sacrificed, increased and glorified, in the communion of the higher life on earth. The second part expressed the common inheritance of believers—everlasting life in heaven.

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