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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, we have an account of several miraculous cures performed by our Lord in Judea, whither He had come from Galilee, on His last journey to Jerusalem, at the approach of His sacred Passion (1–2). In reply to the captious questions of the Pharisees on the question of divorce, then so warmly debated by their rival schools, He points out the imperfection of the Mosaic Law, which was, of necessity, accommodated, for the avoidance of greater evils, to their hard-heartedness, and He perfects the Old Law on this subject, by establishing the indissolubility of the marriage tie, in every case, of marriage among Christian parties, once consummated (3–9). He shows a preference for continence, which is practicable, by the aid of God’s grace (10–12). He imposes hands on little children presented to Him, and blesses them (13–15). He recommends a young man, who consults Him, to practise the counsels of Evangelical perfection, and takes occasion to point out the difficulty, on the part of the rich, to attain salvation, which, however difficult or impossible, considering human frailty, is still possible, with the grace and assistance of God (16–23). He points out the great reward and special privileges in store for such as renounce this world, for His sake, and the precedence to be awarded them in God’s kingdom (27–30).

1. “He departed from Galilee,” probably, for the last time. Our Redeemer had often before gone up to Jerusalem, on festival days, as appears from St. John, but this journey is mentioned here specially, as it was His last before He prepared for His sacred Passion. “And came into the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan,” thus verifying His promise (16:21). He is preparing for His approaching death, which the Jews were planning (John 7:1). Matthew and Mark omit here a good deal of what our Redeemer did and said, which are recorded. (John 7:1, &c.) “Beyond the Jordan.” Judea and Galilee were both “this side of the Jordan” (“cis Jordanem”), relatively to Jerusalem. But the Jews spoke of Judea, as “beyond the Jordan” (“trans Jordanem”), retaining the form of speech used by them when coming up from Egypt. To one coming up from Egypt, Judea was, “trans Jordanem,” the other side of the Jordan. Or, more likely, here, our Redeemer went from Capharnaum to Jerusalem, not directly, but through Perea, which was beyond the Jordan. This route He took, from motives of privacy, to escape public observation. The words, “He came,” are to be construed, as is clear from the Greek of St. Mark (10:1), not with “the coasts of Judea,” but with “beyond the Jordan,” which, in the Greek of Mark (δια ποῦ περαν ποῦ Ἰορδανου) means, “through the (country) beyond the Jordan.”

It is most likely that the three other Evangelists who record this departure from Galilee, on His way to Jerusalem (Mark 10:1–32), follow the same order, and employ almost the same words as St. Matthew. St. Luke (9:51), says, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,” through Samaria; and this, towards the close of His mortal career, when His Ascension was nigh; that is to say, “when the days of His Assumption were accomplishing.” St. John (7), refers to His final departure from Galilee for Judea. While, on former occasions, he mentions His return to Galilee from Judea, he makes no mention whatever of it now. According to St. John, our Redeemer privately ascended to Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles (in the month of September). He afterwards remained in Judea, and proceeded to the parts beyond the Jordan, as Matthew and Mark relate—and finally, six months after, in the month of March, He entered Jerusalem in triumph, immediately before His Passion. The three Evangelists say, our Redeemer left Galilee for Judea. When? They omit mentioning. St. John says, it was at the Feast of Tabernacles. It was to celebrate that feast He came to Jerusalem. After this, He left Jerusalem; and coming to the extreme confines of Judea, He crossed the Jordan, where great multitudes followed Him.

2. When His arrival at any place became known, crowds flocked around Him, to receive instruction, and obtain the cure of such as were infirm.

And He healed them there,” that is, where they met Him, or, rather, beyond the Jordan. St. Mark adds—“And He taught them again, as He was accustomed to do.” It was usual with our Redeemer, on performing a miracle, to deliver some point of doctrine, to which the miracle would give greater weight with the people, thus proving to them that such doctrine was of Divine origin.

3. While others were cured of their bodily distempers, and their minds enlightened by His heavenly doctrines, the Pharisees, filled with rage and envy at the glorious works and heavenly teachings of our Blessed Lord, alone remained blind and incurable. Hence, they come to Him, not for the purpose of receiving instruction; but, of “tempting Him,” that is, involving Him, by their captious questions, with the people, or the authorities. They, therefore, propose a question much discussed at the time, viz., “Is it lawful for a man?” &c. If He answered in the affirmative, they would charge Him with contradicting His own teaching on the subject (c. 5:32), and bring Him into odium with the female portion of the community, for sanctioning and perpetuating the odious law of divorce; and besides, they would cast discredit on His law, as imperfect, and injurious to the stability of the marriage contract. If He answered in the negative, they would arraign Him as opposing the law of Moses, which allowed the husband to put away his wife “for some uncleanness” (Deut. 24:1, &c.); and, moreover, it would bring Him into disfavour with many among the rich and carnal Jews, whose unrestrained licence He would confine within just bounds. Forgetting the many times our Redeemer had put them to shame on former occasions, by turning their captious questions against themselves, and made them retire in confusion, they now propose the question so much agitated among the Jews regarding the lawfulness of divorce, and the nature of the causes which would justify it. “For every cause.” They do not ask, was it lawful for a man to put away his wife, for some grave reason. This, it would seem, was not questioned by any party among the Jews. But the question then warmly agitated between the rival schools of Hillel and Schamai was, whether any cause, be it ever so trifling, if the wife did not please her husband, would warrant the husband to do so; or, whether a just and lawful cause, which could be no other than adultery, was required. The school of Hillel maintained the former opinion, relying on the words of the law, “if she hath not found favour in his eyes” (Deut. 24:1). The school of Schamai held the latter, relying on the words “propter aliquam fœditatem,” which they interpreted of adultery (see Dixon’s “Introduction,” vol. ii. p. 295).

4. Our Redeemer, in order to avoid the dilemma, in which they wished to involve Him, referred them to the law of Moses for an answer, or a decision of their case, His object being to explain to them the law touching divorce, which they had so strangely perverted from its original purpose. “Have ye not read?” &c. The reply of our Redeemer is recorded differently by St. Mark (10:3). According to him, our Redeemer at once asks, what was the ordinance of Moses on the subject: “What did Moses command you?” and after their reply, He assigned the cause of this precept, and recalled marriage to its original institution. Here, according to St. Matthew, He first shows the indissolubility of marriage from its primeval institution; and, then, after the reply of the Pharisees regarding the ordinance of Moses, assigns the cause of that ordinance (v. 8). However, there is no real difference; since, it is quite usual with one Evangelist to narrate what was omitted by another; and the order of narrative may be different from the order in which things were done or spoken, without any detriment to the truthful accuracy of the Evangelists. St. Mark records our Redeemer’s question touching the ordinance of Moses, which St. Matthew omitted; and, on the other hand, St. Matthew records the Pharisees’ interrogative on the same point, which St. Mark omitted. The most probable arrangement of what occurred on this occasion would be, to place first the question proposed by our Redeemer (Mark 10:3), “What did Moses command you?” Then, after their answer (Mark 10:4), our Redeemer quotes an ordinance still more ancient than that of Moses, on which they so much relied—an ordinance made by God Himself from creation (Matt. 19:4, &c.); and after this they asked Him in turn (v. 7), “Why did Moses command to give a bill?” &c. So, that the order of the narrative, or of events, as given in St. Matthew is to be followed, except that the question of our Redeemer (Mark 10:3), and the reply to it (v. 4), are to be prefixed to verse 4 of this chapter. It is deserving of remark, that when our Redeemer interrogates the Pharisees (Mark 10:3), He uses the word, “command,” while they, in reply, use the word, “permit” (v. 4); while in this chapter they, in their question, employ the word, “command” (v. 7), and He, in reply, uses the word, “permit.” In the questions on both sides, “command” is used, In the answers on both sides, “permit” is used. “Command” and “permit” are used thus indiscriminately, because, the ordinance relating to divorce contained a “command” and a “permission.” It permitted the husbands to divorce their wives on certain conditions; but it commanded them, in case they availed themselves of this permission, to grant a bill of divorce. The permission entailed the command; and the command involved the permission.

When the Pharisees quoted the ordinance of Moses (Mark 10:4), on which the custom of divorcing their wives was grounded, for this custom they could assign no cause whatever. Our Redeemer condemns this vague liberty, on several grounds. The first is founded on the designs of God, in the creation of human nature, and on the original institution of marriage. Among the faithful followers of Christ, things should be recalled to their original and perfect pattern, set before them by God Himself from the beginning. Now, the Pharisees, who boasted so much of their knowledge of SS. Scriptures, should know, that from the very creation, God made only one woman, and not more than one woman, and one man, in order to show ns by this act, that it was not His design that man should unite to himself, either simultaneously or successively, by divorce, more than one woman; and that the marriage tie was, therefore, intended to be indissoluble. He thus proposes an older ordinance, of God Himself, to which the Mosaic ordinances should yield. “Have you not read, that He who made man?” “Man,” is not in the original Greek, which is, ὅ ποιησας (Vatican MS., ὅ, κτισας, the Creator of all things). “From the beginning made them male and female.” The words, “from the beginning,” are to be construed with, “made them male and female,” as in Mark (10:6), “from the beginning of the creation, God made them a male and a female.”

And he said.” “He,” may refer to God or to Adam, speaking under the influence of inspiration, whose words thus spoken are the words of God.

5. “For this cause,” &c. This quotation contains another reason, condemnatory of the vague, unrestrained license, with which the Jews practised divorce, founded on the strict, indissoluble union, which exists between a man and his wife, a union far more strict than any other that exists between parties, however near or dear to one another. “She is bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh” (Gen. 2:23). “Therefore, shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” “Shall cleave,” that is, be most intimately united. “And they two shall be in one flesh.” (In the Greek, εις σαρκα μιαν, “into one flesh”), or, become “one flesh,” just as we say, “Adam was made into a living soul,” that is, “made a living soul.” “One flesh,” one person, by love and carnal union—in which latter sense, St. Paul says (1 Cor. 6:16), “he that is joined to a harlot, is made one body”—and by the right they mutually acquire to each other’s person (1 Cor. 7:4).

6. “Therefore, now they are not two, but one flesh.” These words show, that the phrase in the preceding verse, “in one flesh,” means, they become one, and only one flesh. It is a conclusion derived by our Redeemer from the foregoing, wherein He indirectly insinuates the pertinent conclusion, that, looking to the original institution of marriage, it is against nature itself to cause a division, or separation, in that which is one.

What, therefore, God hath joined together,” &c. This is a second conclusion, directly bearing on the subject in hand, showing that divorce was not only against nature, as indirectly shown in the preceding; but, also against the positive law and ordinance of God.

What God hath joined together.” “What,” to show they were joined together in one. “Let not man put asunder.” This, of course, refers to the cases of marriage established by the ordinance of God, and embraces marriage entered into in a state of sin, no less than those contracted in a state of justice, since the reason of the Divine ordinance applies equally to both. The conclusion, however, does not militate against cases not contemplated here by our Redeemer, wherein God Himself dispenses, or establishes an exception, such as the case of the Apostle (1 Cor. 7:7), “if the unbeliever depart, let him depart” (see Commentary on), or the case of entering into religion, “religionis ingressus ante consummatum matrimonium”.

It may be, that in verses 4, 5, our Redeemer does not mean to introduce any argument against divorce, and in favour of the indissolubility of marriage; and that He merely refers to the creation of the first man and woman, and to the original institution of marriage, quoting the Scriptures having reference thereto, only with the view of pointing out the Divine origin of marriage, and the primeval ordinance regarding it, in order to serve as the basis of the twofold argument, or conclusion, established in this verse—one derived from the opposition of divorce to nature itself, in dividing, or making two of what is one; and the other, from its opposition to the original ordinance of the Creator; the former, founded on the words, “they shall be two,” &c.; the other, on the words, “a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife,” a union which God establishes, and which, therefore, man should not attempt to abolish, or put asunder.

7. The Pharisees, finding themselves unable to reply to the arguments of our Blessed Lord, derived, on the authority of SS. Scripture, from the laws of Nature and God, shelter themselves under the authority of Moses. If marriage be thus indissoluble, what sayest Thou to the ordinance of Moses, who “commands to give a bill of divorce, and put away?” This they object, in the hope that He would have no reply to give; or, that He might speak against Moses, and thus expose Himself to the fury of the people. The question was also a captious one, since the ordinance of Moses did not command, but only permitted, the sending away of one’s wife. The only thing it commanded was, to give a bill of divorce, in case of sending her away; and this Moses did, in order to afford the repudiating husband time for deliberation, and by the difficulties and formalities which the act of repudiation, or the bill of divorce would involve, to deter men altogether from resorting to it. But, the Pharisees, who before employ the word, “permitted” (Mark 10:4), now use the word, “command,” to render their objection more forcible, as if Moses could have commanded anything against the law of God, which our Redeemer’s argument, according to them, would imply. The Pharisees confound two things, which were contained in the act of divorce; the one was the sending away one’s wife. This was not commanded, but permitted. The other was the giving of a written deed, or act of repudiation, a bill of divorce. This was commanded; it was in favour of the repudiated wife, and was an obstacle to divorce.

8. Our Redeemer carefully distinguishes these two things. Moses only “permitted” (not commanded) them to put away their wives, nor did he ever grant this permission freely and voluntarily; He did it from a kind of necessity, “because of the hardness of their hearts.” He did it in condescension to the well-known obstinacy and stiff-necked perversity which would impel them to disobey, if this relaxation were not granted them, and would hurry them on to the greater excesses of either apostatizing or maltreating and killing their wives. For the prevention, then, of these greater evils, Moses permitted them to separate from their wives. “Hardness of heart” (σκληροκαρδια), is a mental obstinacy, whereby men are prevented from believing another, when suggesting what is true, or obeying him when inculcating what is good. The Jewish people were often reproached on this head. (Ezech. 3:7; Exod. 32:9, &c.) Moses, therefore, could not be quoted in favour of a practice which he merely tolerated, or permitted, being, as is assorted by many, in existence before his time, and this out of condescension to their obstinacy, knowing, in case it were not permitted, greater evils would be the consequence. But this permission was not in accordance with the original institution of marriage, or with what took place “from the beginning,” when men’s minds were not perverted by passion, “ab initio non fuit sic.” Hence, they should look rather to the primeval ordination of God, than to the forced permission, on the part of Moses. It was not permitted to Adam, nor to his children, to repudiate their wives. According to the account left by Moses, in Genesis (2), the tie of marriage was most binding; and if Moses afterwards referred to divorce, it was as a matter of necessity, and as a mere permission. By His prudent reply, our Redeemer eluded all the captious snares of His enemies. They hoped that, by quoting the ordinance of Moses, He would be forced either to make some admission, at variance with the perfection of His law, and His former teaching on the subject of divorce, or to disregard the authority of this great legislator, and censure him. He, on the other hand, vindicates the authority of His law, and His former teaching, by referring to the original law of God, as proposed in the SS. Scriptures; and, far from censuring or condemning Moses, He excuses him, and commends his prudence, and says that any fault or blame that could attach to his legislation, was imputable to the Jews themselves.

9. “And I say to you.” “I,” the Legislator of the New Law, who wishes to establish marriage in its original perfection, and to recall it to the condition it had been in “from the beginning” (v. 8), “that whosoever putteth away his wife (except it be for fornication), and shall marry another,” &c. The words of this verse are often misquoted by modern infidels, against the doctrine of the Catholic Church, on the subject of the indissolubility of the marriage tie between Christians, once their marriage is consummated. It is taught by the Council of Trent (§§ xxiv. Can. vii.), and it has been the teaching, at all times, in the Church, from the beginning, that the marriage of Christians, once consummated, cannot be dissolved, save by the death of either party. This is most clearly laid down in SS. Scripture. St. Mark (10:11), St. Luke (16:18), declare this, in the most express terms, without any exception whatever. St. Paul, referring to a case where a wife goes away for just reasons, gives her no option, but to remain unmarried, or be reconciled, and return to her husband (1 Cor. 7:11). Hence, he supposes the vinculum of marriage to subsist in this case (see Commentary on). The same Apostle (Rom. 7:3) declares the woman to be an adulteress who marries another while her husband is alive; and this, without any exception. This would not be true, if the vinculum, or tie, of marriage could, in any case, be dissolved. For, though an unmarried party might sin, still, it would not be the sin of adultery. Equally explicit are his words on the same subject (1 Cor. 7:39), “A woman is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth: but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will: only in the Lord.” In these words, the Apostle clearly establishes, in the most formal manner, the indissolubility of the consummated marriage of Christians, in reply, it would seem, to the question of the Corinthians on the subject.

The same is clear from the teaching of our Redeemer in this passage. The Pharisees ask Him, if “any cause,” light or heavy, would justify a man to send away or divorce his wife. In reply, after reminding them of the law of marriage, as it existed “from the beginning,” and recalling it to its original perfection in His more perfect evangelical dispensation, and abolishing the practice of divorce, as it existed by Divine permission, and temporary dispensation among the Jews, He carefully distinguishes between the two things involved in the divorce among the Jews, viz., the putting away of one’s wife, and the marrying another; the latter, viz., remarrying, He declares to be, in His new dispensation, allowable in no case whatsoever; the former, viz., putting away one’s wife, He allows only in one case, viz., that of fornication, or rather of adultery, since there is question of a carnal sin committed by a married person, on which account the Greek word, πορνεια (fornication), is commonly understood to mean, adultery. “And I say to you.” “I”—the Legislator, for a more perfect and ever enduring dispensation—“say to you,” in reference to the dispensation or covenant I mean to establish, whatever may have been the practice hitherto sanctioned among the Jews, or tolerated, which I now mean to displace, “that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,” that is to say, this putting away of one’s wife is not allowed, except in case of fornication; or, if we take the phrase, “except it be for fornication,” not exceptively, but negatively, after St. Augustine (de Adulterinis Conjug., Lib. 1, c. ix.), it will run thus: Whosoever shall put away his wife, when she is not guilty of adultery, nothing being affirmed or implied in regard to putting away an adulterous wife, “and shall marry another, committeth adultery,” which shows the marriage tie to be still subsisting otherwise, by marrying another, whatsoever sin he might be guilty of by so doing, he would not be guilty of adultery. But, what renders the argument still stronger, is the following assertion, “and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” Here, there is no exception whatever placed, any more than in Mark (10:2), Luke (16:18), regarding re-marriage, either of wife or husband. Our Redeemer, in the most general and unrestricted terms, declares, that the man who marries a woman put away from her husband, is guilty of adultery, which proves the marriage tie to be indissoluble. The exception, “unless it be for fornication,” if exception it be, cannot apply to the second member of the sentence, regarding re-marriage; for, if so, apart from the stimulus this would furnish to discontented parties to commit adultery, in order to re-marriage, the condition of the adulterous would be far better than that of the innocent, guiltless party; since, the latter would be deprived of the privilege of marrying again, which would be granted, in the supposition made, to the former. This has been very pointedly put by a modern writer (Quarterly Review, July 1857), who observes, “The re-marriages of those divorced for adulteries have been innocent; but, the re-marriages of those who had been innocent, have been adulteries.” The same writer, by a very striking example, shows the utter absurdity, on syntactic or grammatical grounds, of making the exceptive clause, “except it be for fornication,” affect the second member of the sentence: “Whosoever shall flog his son, except it be for disobedience, and put him to death, shall be punishable by law.” What should we think of the interpreter who founded on this sentence the position that a father might, for disobedience, flog his son to death? If he meant to convey that, he would have said, “except it be for disobedience, whosoever shall flog his son, and put him to death,” &c.; or, “whosoever shall flog his son, and put him to death, except it be for disobedience, shall be punishable,” &c. St. Matthew, in both passages, where he employs the exceptive clause, would be guilty of the same absurdity, if he meant this exception, as it stands, to affect the second clause relative to re-marriage. In the Catholic interpretation of the passage, which gives permission to put away the wife in case of adultery, but not to re-marry, every difficulty is removed, and the apparent contradiction between the three Evangelists at once solved and reconciled. I said in the preceding, if exception it be, because the words, ει μη επι πορνεια, “except it be for fornication” (which, in the Vatican MS., and in the reading adopted by Lachman, is, παρεκτος λογου πορνειας—outside the case of fornication), are understood by some, not exceptively, so that, according to logical strictness, the attribute of the excepted individual case would be the contradictory of the attribute of the general rule or proposition; but negatively, so to speak, in an abstracted sense, so as to mean, apart from, or, without reference to the case of fornication. It is thus understood by St. Augustine (Lib. 1, c. 9, de Adulterinis Conjugiis). Then the words would mean: I say, in reply to your question, it is not lawful to send away one’s wife in every case. It is not lawful to send away a wife not guilty of adultery. But whether it be lawful to send even her away in case of adultery, on this case I say nothing; from this question I altogether abstract at present. In answering thus, our Redeemer would have acted very prudently. He would have fully answered their question, whether it was lawful to send away one’s wife for any cause, by saying, it was not lawful to send her away, if she were not guilty of adultery, but whether it was, even in that case. He does not say. They were not in a position to profit by a full exposition of His doctrine on this subject; and when His hearers were not disposed, our Redeemer often refrains from a full explanation of His doctrine. Although, from what He said regarding the primeval institution of marriage, they might have inferred, that in no case was it lawful to send away one’s wife, and marry another; still, He did not wish to furnish them with a pretest for calumniating Him, by saying so expressly. But, when alone, and interrogated by the Apostles privately, He makes no exception as to divorce or re-marriage (Mark 10:11, 12).

But, it may be said, if the clause be taken in a strictly exceptive sense, does not the permission to send away one’s wife for adultery, by implication, contain a permission to re-marry? By no means. St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:10, 11) expressly commands a woman who departed from her husband, no doubt for just cause, such as adultery on his part, either to remain unmarried, or become reconciled to him. In no case does he allow her to marry again; and the Apostle says expressly in the same chapter, that in reference to the marriage rights, the husband and wife are placed on an equality in the Christian dispensation; so that, what he says of the wife equally applies to the husband regarding re-marriage.

As regards the word, πορνεια, which, strictly speaking, means fornication (the Greek word for adultery is, μοιχεια), it is commonly interpreted to mean, adultery, as there is question of the carnal sin of a married party. Some interpreters understand the word, of spiritual fornication, or heathenism, or apostasy from God, a sense the word bears (Apoc. 2:22), μοιχευοντας μετ αυτης. This interpretation would involve the case referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:10, 11), which is made an exception to the law of indissolubility here promulgated, commonly termed casus Apostoli (see Commentary on).

The perfect agreement between the three Evangelists, as to the adultery of which either of the married parties would be guilty by re-marriage, which they express, without doubt or ambiguity, clearly establishes the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of the marriage tie, while either of the parties is alive. The same is expressed with equal clearness by St. Paul (Rom. 7:2). The words of St. Mark and St. Luke must be true, independently of any restriction or extension from the words of St. Matthew. The three Evangelists wrote at different times, and for different classes of persons. Even the language used by St. Matthew, viz., the Syro-Chaldaic, was different from that employed by the two other Evangelists. We have no evidence that the Gospel of St. Matthew was known to those who first used the Gospels of the two others. Most likely it was not. Hence, it is, that any positive proposition or assertion, absolutely put forward by either of them, must be absolutely true. Although the Evangelists may differ in their narrative, one omitting what the other asserts, and vice versa, still, they cannot assert anything which is not true, or which could lead to error. Then, as St. Mark and St. Luke absolutely assert, the indissolubility of the marriage tie, in every case, without exception, or giving us any clue to any such exception, and the exceptive clause mentioned by St. Matthew, is at best, but of doubtful construction (nor is it even that); the only conclusion, which common sense and common fairness would force on us is, to adhere to the doctrine unexceptionally propounded by St. Mark and St. Luke. In truth, there is no contradiction between the three Evangelists. The Catholic interpretation renders them perfectly consentient. St. Matthew alone in his narrative states, the question as to the sending away of one’s wife “for any cause.” Hence, he alone records our Lord’s reply regarding fornication, it is the only cause for divorce, quoad mensam et cohabitationem, that directly affects the marriage contract, the only cause that is permanent in its effects. The other causes commonly assigned for such separation, are common to marriage with other contracts. They are but temporary, and warrant a separation of the parties only while they last; while adultery, even if repented of, gives permanent ground for separation. The innocent party need not receive back the adulterous party, no matter how reformed, if he be so minded.

A question is sometimes raised in connexion with the subject of divorce, as existing among the Jews, viz., whether the giving a bill of divorce dissolved the former marriage, not only in foro externo, about which there is no question; but also, in foro interno, et coram Deo. There is no difficulty whatever as regards the external dissolution of marriage in the eyes of the Mosaic Law; for, the law supposes that the repudiated wife can marry another, and in Levit. 21:7, it is declared to be unlawful for the priests to marry one that was divorced, which implies, that it was lawful for others. In order to render the practice of divorce more difficult, the former husband could not again marry her whom he sent away, if she married again, which supposes the former marriage to be dissolved, and the repudiated wife contracted legal uncleanness in regard to her former husband. As regards the question referred to, it seems the more probable opinion, that a bill of divorce did actually dissolve the tie of the former marriage, Coram Deo. It would sound very harsh to say, after the clear and ample permission granted the Jews by God, of repudiating their wives, and of marrying again, that they committed sin in so doing, especially as it is very doubtful, before the teaching of our Lord on this subject, whether divorce was merely a permission or a precept; and even, if a mere permission, it was by no means clear that it regarded a thing in itself evil (Maldonatus). Moreover, while the Prophets often reproached the Jewish people with crimes of lesser magnitude, they never reproached them for these second marriages, of frequent occurrence among them, which would be adulterous, unless the marriage tie was dissolved.

10. His disciples, as we learn from St. Mark (10:10), again questioned our Redeemer privately at home about this subject of divorce; and then, our Redeemer, in the clearest and most unrestricted terms declares, that, in no case, is it lawful for a man, after dismissing his wife, to marry another woman, or for the repudiated woman to marry another man. The disciples then say, “If the case of a man,” &c., if the relations of a man with his wife be so strict, that in no case can he again marry; if he be placed in the painful position of living with a wife who may prove disagreeable to him and make his life unhappy, or of having no one else; if the yoke of matrimony be so pressing and so heavy, as we know it is, since Thou hast so ordained and so declared it—the particle, “if,” does not imply any doubt of what our Redeemer says; it means, “whereas, since.” “It is not expedient to marry,” it is better not to engage in a state entailing such an intolerable burthen The disciples tacitly convey, that such a course would be opposed to the designs of God regarding the propagation of the human race.

11. Our Redeemer so prudently tempers His reply, that without condemning matrimony, as entailing the inconveniences implied by the disciples in their question, He at the same time gives the preference, absolutely speaking, to continence as a state. He says, no such inconvenience is to be apprehended, because “all men take not this word.” The word, “take” (χωρουσι), denotes capacity, like that of a vessel to contain liquor. The words are thus interpreted by some: All do not understand or comprehend, practically, this saying, viz., “that it is not expedient to marry;” others, all men do not embrace, or approve and relish taking upon themselves so arduous a thing as perpetual continence, but those alone do so to whom this gift is granted by God. It is a wrong rendering of the words to say, “all CANNOT take this word.” The Greek will not admit of it, and, moreover, it is false, in a certain sense; for, all can, if they only pray fervently for this gift; as in the case of just men, all of them have not the gift of actual perseverance, whereby they actually do persevere in justice; but all have the gift of perseverance, in the sense that they may persevere if they wish. In like manner, all men have not the actual gift of continence, but they have it in actu primo, whereby they may be continent, if they sincerely wish it, by having recourse to fervent, constant prayer, mortification, flight of occasions, unceasing labour, &c. Our Redeemer here, as well as St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:7), counsels continence to all, but they would counsel nothing which was not in man’s power, with the grace of God, which He prepares and offers to every one who asks it of Him (A. Lapide).

12. In order to show, that there are some to whom is given this gift of continence, which cannot, therefore, be beyond human strength, aided by God’s grace, He refers to three classes of men who practise continence; and to give us an idea of who they are to whom it is given, “to take this word,” and what is meant by this gift, He instances three classes of men, to the latter of whom only the words just quoted refer; and by referring to the two former classes, who are continent from necessity, He wishes to show what is the nature of continency practised by the third, which alone is a source of merit. “For, there are eunuchs,” &c., as if He said, there are persons to whom it is given to receive this word, viz., not those who, from nature, are incapable of coition; nor those who have been deprived of the faculty of doing so, by men; but those, who, like the former, are continent, and are such by their own free will and choice; and it is in thus voluntarily renouncing all sensual indulgence in “making themselves eunuchs,” that they reduce to practice this gift which comes from God alone, “For the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” This points out the motives of voluntary continence, which are not precisely to avoid the temporal inconveniences of matrimony, or other motives equally low, such as, vain glory, human applause, as in the case of the philosophers, vestal virgins, &c., but the more easily to serve God with undivided heart (1 Cor. 7); and, thus, the more easily to secure the possession of the kingdom of heaven. This is the meaning attached by the holy Fathers to the words, “kingdom of heaven.” It is the meaning contained in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 7), who says, an unmarried person can devote his exclusive and undivided attention to the things of God, and his own salvation. The Apostles, in their question to our Divine Redeemer, considered the abstinence from marriage, expedient on the grounds of the heavy obligation the marriage state entailed. He proposes a still higher and more exalted spiritual motive, viz., the more easy attainment of the kingdom of heaven. Of course the words of this verse can never be taken literally. The act of Origen mutilating himself in order to preserve chastity, has been condemned, and justly so. He uses the past tense castraverunt, made themselves eunuchs,” to convey to us, that he refers to those who, by one act, the act of vowing their chastity to God, become eunuchs of the King of heaven, as by one act of violence, others are made eunuchs of earthly masters, who thus have them mutilated for prudential reasons.

He that can receive it, let him receive,” i.e., He refers not to absolute power; for, every one that pleases and sincerely and determinedly wishes for the gift of continence, can receive it by fervent prayer, &c. The words here mean: whosoever, free from previous matrimonial engagements, which give each party conjugal rights, wishes to practise continence, to adopt the means necessary thereunto, and after maturely considering his own strength, can prudently judge that he can practise it, after the example of this class of voluntary eunuchs whom He commends, let him do so. These words show us, that no one can practise this virtue unless God gives it, and that it is not a matter of precept, but of counsel, to such as can embrace it. These words evidently contain a counsel and encouragement to the practice of continency. St. Jerome (contra Jovin. Lib. 1), writes, “The Master of the games (agonothetes), holds forth the reward, invites us to the course, holds in hand the prize of virginity,” &c. The man who can dilate and open wide his heart, and embrace this great virtue of virginity, ὁ δυναμενος χωρειν, χωρειτω. This is the voice of the Lord, encouraging His soldiers, and inviting them to the contest. The words, “qui potest,” show that, aided by God’s grace, celibacy is in every one’s power. They denote, that celibacy is arduous, and that whosoever wishes generously to offer violence to himself, should do so and embrace it. Thus the word, “can,” means, not the absolute, but the immediate power and will, just as a person asked to do something very arduous, would say, I cannot, i.e., I do not wish or desire to do so.

13. “Then, were little children presented to Him.” When this occurred is a matter of dispute. Some say, it occurred after the discourse regarding continency. But, as it would seem from St. Mark (10), that this discourse was delivered in private, hence, others say the time cannot be precisely defined, and that, “then,” means, at that time, or when He was engaged in the Gospel ministry.

Little children.” St. Luke says, “infants,” but the period of infancy might last for six or seven years; and so, both accounts perfectly agree. It may be, that among these “little children,” infants, too, were presented. “That He should lay His hands upon them and pray.” The parents or nurses of these children, seeing the blessings that were conferred on all who came in contact with our Blessed Redeemer, the several cures He was pleased to perform by expelling demons, &c., were desirous of presenting their children to Him, in order that they might be freed from all harm, and from the power of evil spirits, by the imposition of His hands, and by His prayers and benediction. It was customary with the Jews to present their little children to holy men for their blessing, which they bestowed by extending their hands over them, as we see in the case of Jacob extending his hands over the children of Joseph, and blessing them. (Gen. 48:14, &c.)

And the disciples rebuked them.” They did so, from a feeling of false zeal and respect for their Master’s honour, regarding it as beneath the dignity of so great a Prophet to descend from the lofty eminence of preaching the Gospel, and accommodate Himself to the trifles of children. On this account it was, that they rebuked the parents of the children, as trifling with the dignity, and unseasonably obtruding on the time of their Divine Master.

14. “But Jesus said to them.” St. Mark (10:14), says, “He was much displeased” at the conduct of His disciples, “and said to them: Suffer the little children to come to Me, and forbid them not.” Here St. Matthew adds, “and forbid them not to come to Me, for the kingdom of heaven is for such,” i.e., destined for little children only, and adults who are like them, in innocence and humility of heart. Similar are the words (18), “unless you be concerted and become as little children,” &c.

St. Mark says, our Redeemer added on this occasion (10:15), “Amen, I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it,” i.e., whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God, or, rather, the means conducting thereto, such as the preaching of Gospel, grace, &c., with the humility of a little child, by reducing his intellect to captivity, unto the obedience of Christ, shall never enter the kingdom of God’s glory. The interpretation of others (Bede), who by “the kingdom of heaven,” understand, the preaching of the Gospel, comes to the same. The idea is the same as that conveyed (18:3). The Redeemer was displeased with the false zeal of His Apostles for His honour, and He wishes to inculcate a lesson of humility.

15. “When He had laid His hands on them,” thus blessing them, and most likely, He prayed for them, “He departed,” &c. Our Redeemer, in thus blessing these little children, the fruit of lawful wedlock, showed that, while He preferred continency, He did not condemn marriage. No doubt, this imposition of our Redeemer’s hands, was replete with all spiritual and temporal benedictions, and it is to be presumed, all those little children, who were thus singularly favoured, became men eminent for sanctity. Nicephorus relates that St. Ignatius Martyr, afterwards the celebrated Bishop of Antioch, was one of these little children. This condescension and paternal kindness of our Blessed Lord, to these innocent little children, shows the great care we should bestow on the young; since, upon the early education of children, will depend, in a great measure, their future conduct in life. According as the twig is bent, will it grow. “A young man, according to his way, even when he grows old, shall not depart therefrom” (Proverbs 22:6).

16. “And behold one came and said to Him.” St. Mark (10:17), tells us, this happened when “He was gone forth into the way,” from which it may be fairly inferred, that the children were blessed by Him in the house. This man, it would seem, was a man of position and of some consideration among the Jews. St. Luke (18:18), calls him “a ruler”—princeps (αρχων). He was also exceedingly rich (v. 22). From St. Mark, it would also appear that he came up to our Redeemer in the most respectful way, “kneeling before Him,” from which circumstance, as also from the fact, that “he went away sad,” (v. 22), after hearing our Redeemer’s teaching, it is clearly inferred, that he did not come to tempt our Lord; the same is inferred from its being said, that our Redeemer “loved him” (Mark 10:21), owing to his candour and innocence, so different from the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, whom He hated. Hence, he is not to be confounded with the lawyer (Luke 10:25), who proposed a similar question for the purpose of tempting Him. Moreover, St. Luke himself describes them as different persons; for, he speaks of this man in chapter 18; of the lawyer, in chapter 10.

Good Master.” He employs this respectful form of address, in order to gain our Saviour’s good-will. He approached our Redeemer as a great Prophet, who delivered holy instructions to the people, and cured their many diseases. Hence, he calls Him “Master,” who had been distinguished for doing good.

What good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” Moses proposed to us as the reward of obeying the Commandments, long life and temporal advantages, “qui fecerit ea vivet in eis.” Thou proposest constantly, not earthly, but heavenly blessings—not a temporal, but everlasting life. What, then, am I to do in order to gain that life?

17. Our Redeemer, seeing that this young man, however respectful and well disposed, was rather weak in faith, or, rather, had addressed Him as a mere man, distinguished for goodness and sanctity, wishes to bring him to a knowledge and faith in his Divinity, and turning the word, “good,” to His purpose, by employing it in a different and a more exalted signification, and giving it a meaning different from that which the young man intended—a thing not unusual with Him, as in the phrase, “sinite mortuos sepelire mortuos”—He says, “Why askest thou Me concerning good? One is good, God,” that is, God ALONE is “good,” of Himself essentially good, the source of all goodness in creatures, “non respuens bonitatis nomen si sibi hoc, tanquam Deo, deputaretur” (St. Hilary de Trin. Lib. 9, n. 16). Our Redeemer wishes to intimate to this young man, that, in addressing Himself as “good,” he merely regarded Him as good in a limited sense; whereas, he should consider Him as essentially good, possessing, as God, that attribute of essential goodness, which belongs to God alone; that he should either believe Him to be God, or cease addressing Him by the title of “good,” since goodness could not be attributed to Him in any sense inferior to that applied to God. In a word, having addressed our Redeemer, as good in a human, limited, participated sense, our Lord corrects him, and wishes him to regard Himself as good in a different sense, viz., possessing essential goodness, as an attribute belonging to Him as “true God.” The Greek for good” (ὅ αγαθος), means, “the good BEING,” one essentially good. The ordinary Greek has, “Why callest thou Me good?” Similar is the question (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19), and the answer, “one is good,” &c., for which the other Evangelists have, “none is good, but God,” better suits this reading. The likelihood is that both readings are correct; that our Redeemer replied, “Why callest thou Me good?” and “Why asked thou Me concerning good?” The young man called Him, “Good Master,” and asked, “what good?” &c., to which a twofold appropriate reply is given here. In this reply, our Redeemer teaches us, that, whenever we are commended for any good, we should refer the glory of all to God, the source of all good, in whom alone we should glory; and again, after performing the best and most deserving works, like the young man in question, we should refer them all to God. It may be, that our Redeemer wishes to remind this young man, who observed the Commandments, that he still needed faith, whereby he believed God alone to be true and good; and every man to be a liar. (Jan. Gan.)

But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments.” This is the reply to the question, “Quid boni faciam.” The good he must do in order to gain life eternal is, to observe God’s Commandments. It is remarked, that our Redeemer says, not, “life everlasting;” but, “life,” as if to convey to us, that eternal life could alone be properly called, “life,” the life, compared with which every temporary existence is but a kind of death. Moreover, it alone is the life, or the term for which we are all destined. The words of this verse contain a most satisfactory refutation of the doctrine of justification by faith only; since, good works, consisting in the observance of God’s Commandments, in avoiding evil and doing good, of which the several applications and instances are contained in the Decalogue, are here declared by our Divine Redeemer, as necessary for obtaining eternal life.

18. And he said to Him: Which?” This young man, who, it is clear, from all the circumstances already referred to, approached our Redeemer, not in a captious, overbearing spirit; but, in a mild, humble manner, imagining that something new, beyond what was prescribed by the law of Moses, would be required and commanded by the New Legislator, for obtaining life eternal, asks, “which” Commandments did He refer to? Our Redeemer at once quotes the precepts of the second table of the Decalogue, not in order, but in such a way as to intimate to this young man, who was versed in SS. Scripture, that He referred to the moral precepts of the law of Moses. He quotes the precepts of the second table, relating to our neighbour; because, their observance, from the proper motives, involves the observance of those that regard God, “plenitudo ergo legis est dilectio,” (Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14). Moreover, the observance of the second table is for us more easy and natural; hence, our Redeemer and the Apostle conduct us from the second table of the law as more easy and natural of observance, to the first table, which is the more difficult. St. Mark adds to the negative precepts contained in this verse, “do no fraud” (10:19), μὴ αποστερησης. This may refer to the last precept of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house,” &c. (Exod. 20:17); or, it may have been taken from Leviticus (19:13), where, instead of “thou shalt not oppress thy neighbour by violence;” the Hebrew means, thou shalt not plunder. The Septuagint has, μηδε αρπασεις. From the same chapter, 5:18, are taken, the words of the next verse “thou shalt love thy friend (that is to say, neighbour), as thyself.”

19. To the several negative precepts is added, the positive one, “Honour thy father,” &c., under which is contained the precept of obeying and honouring all lawful superiors, of obeying the laws and ordinances of the Church, and of civil rulers, when in accordance with natural justice. And then, is finally, given the general precept, “love thy neighbour as thyself,” in which, according to St. Paul (Gal. 5:14), are recapitulated and summed up, all the precepts relating to our neighbour.

20. “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Some of the holy Fathers think, he told a lie, as it is clear he did not love his neighbour as himself, since he did not wish to part with his numerous possessions (St. Jerome); others think he was guilty of arrogance (St. Augustine). However, from our Redeemer’s loving him, owing to the candour of his inquiries, and the sincere desire he manifested of saving his soul, as evidenced by his question, “What yet is wanting to me?” it is likely he observed this Commandment, as far is Jewish perfection required it, by not injuring his neighbour in any way; but not in the perfect way which Christianity required, in relieving his neighbour’s wants; or, it may be said, that the fact of his having possessions (v. 22), proves nothing against him, since he might have extensive possessions, as had Abraham, and other holy men; and, still, he might observe this general precept regarding the love of his neighbour.

21. “If thou wilt be perfect.” In these words, our Redeemer invites him from the imperfection of legal justice, to the highest degree of Christian justice attainable in this life. He does not say, “if thou wilt enter into life, go, sell,” &c., because, for eternal life, the observance of the Commandments sufficed. But, as the young man, by his question, seemed to insinuate, that he was prepared for more than the observance of the Commandments, “what still is wanting to me?” Hence it is, that our Redeemer proposes to Him the observance of the Evangelical counsel of poverty; and tells him, that if he wished to secure eternal life with greater certainty and facility, and to be in a position to observe the Commandments more readily, he should superadd the Evangelical counsels, “go, sell,” &c. It might be also said, that in reference to this young man, whose heart was evidently attached inordinately to riches, our Redeemer counselled this selling of his goods, as the most effectual means of detaching him from this inordinate love of riches. It may be objected, whereas the greatest perfection of this life is charity, embracing the love of God and of our neighbour, which will securely lead us to the end of our being, viz., eternal life, what more perfection then, can be required? No doubt, charity is the perfection of every one here below; but, the observance of the Evangelical counsels is the surest and most efficacious means towards obtaining this charity in the most perfect degree here, and for obtaining degrees of glory hereafter, proportioned to our charity and merits in this life. According to St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Quest. 184, Article 3), perfection consists essentially in the observance of the two precepts of charity; but, it consists, secondarily and instrumentally, in the observance of the Gospel counsels, because, these help us most securely to observe the precepts of charity, and to remove all opposing obstacles and incumbrances which may be in our way, in observing God’s Commandments.

Go, sell what thou hast.” This is a counsel, not a precept. From the words of this verse, St. Augustine refutes certain Pelagian heretics, who maintained, that men were bound to sell all their property and give it to the poor. For, here, this is left optional, “si vis perfectus esse.” It is not required for eternal life, but for Evangelical perfection. The same is also clear from St. Paul (1 Tim. 6), who in treating of the duties of the rich, does not prescribe selling off their goods.

And give to the poor.” Get rid of your riches at once, and become free from all the cares and solicitudes they entail, and distribute them, not among your relatives, as such, or rich friends—this could not be reputed an act of virtue, or perfect renunciation of riches—but, among the poor, one’s poor relatives included, who will consume them without any prospect of temporal retribution.

And thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” The word, “treasure,” shows the exceeding great reward in store for them. By these words, our Redeemer encourages the young man to comply with the counsel He gives, assuring him that, far from losing, he shall be a gainer of riches, in superabundance. “A treasure,” as far exceeding worldly possessions, be they ever so great, as the heavens are exalted above the earth. “He that hath mercy on the poor, lends to the Lord” (Prov. 19:17). “In heaven,” shows the security of these possessions; “where thieves cannot break through nor steal,” as also their stability and incorruptibility (St. Chrysostom in Matth. Hom. 64).

And come, follow Me.” This He adds, for fear it might be imagined, that the mere giving up of riches, would entitle one to a heavenly treasure. For many, says St. Jerome (in hunc locum), give up riches and follow not our Lord. The perfection, of which our Lord speaks here, consists, not in giving up riches, but in the humble following unto death and imitation of Christ, “walking as He walked” (1 John 2:6), practising the virtues He practised and in the perfect union of our will with His. The renunciation of earthly goods is a very secure way, and a sure means of arriving at the perfection referred to. In this chapter, our Redeemer proposes the three principal Evangelical counsels, viz., chastity (v. 12), poverty (v. 21), and obedience, in the words, “follow Me,” that is, be obedient to Me and My ordinances unto death.

22. Hearing the counsel given him by our Divine Redeemer, this young man, who approached with the best dispositions, and whom our Lord Himself loved for his candour and innocence, finding this counsel too arduous, because of the thorns of riches which entangled him, in consequence of his inordinate attachment to them, he gave up his good desires, and “went away sad.” The abundance and love of riches did not permit him to embrace the state of perfection recommended to him by our Divine Redeemer. The more we possess of them, the more does the love of them increase. “He had great possessions,” to which he was inordinately attached; hence, the seed which our Blessed Lord had cast into his heart, was choked up by them (St. Jerome). Avarice tyrannizes most over those who possess most. The curse of riches is, that cupidity is inflamed in proportion to what we possess, so that the richer we are, the poorer we become, and the more our wants are increased and our desires unsatisfied.

23. “Then Jesus said,” &c. We are informed by St. Mark (10:23), that, seeing the young man depart sorrowful, our Redeemer, looking around, addressed Himself to His disciples; and, lest they should regret their having voluntarily embraced poverty, “ecce reliquimus omnia,” &c., He availed Himself of the example of this young man, so good in every other respect, whom attachment to wealth had turned aside from the path of perfection, for which he seemed disposed, to show the danger of riches in general, and how much more secure was the state of poverty for gaining heaven. For, if this young man, who led a life of innocence, was drawn away by riches from the path of perfection, for which his former life, aided by God’s grace, fitted him, what must be the difficulty for the rich in general to enter heaven, since they are not so anxious for eternal life, as this young man seemed to be for Christian perfection.

He prefixes “Amen,” to show the importance of what He was about to assert; “a rich man,” abounding in wealth and earthly possessions. SS. Mark and Luke say, “they that have riches,” “will hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven,” i.e., they shall experience much difficulty, and meet with many obstacles, arising from riches, in endeavouring to gain heaven, from which the poor are exempt.

24. We are told by St. Mark (10:24), that the disciples showed astonishment at this expression of our Redeemer, regarding the difficulty of salvation for the rich, and that our Redeemer again said, “how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God,” thereby pointing out, that it was not riches, as such, that caused this great difficulty—since, among the Saints were to be found many who possessed riches, as if they possessed them not, and placed not “their trust” in them—but the placing one’s trust in them. But, generally speaking, there are but few rich, who do not place their trust in riches, and indulge in the vices attendant on wealth, to the neglect of God, and the imperishable concerns of eternity. Therefore it is, that St. Paul (1 Tim. 6:17), “charges the rich of this world, not to trust in the uncertainty of riches,” since one of the great evils, attendant on the possession of wealth, is to cause men to place all their hopes in this fleeting, uncertain world, to withdraw them from God, and make them undervalue the imperishable riches of His heavenly kingdom.

It is easier for a camel,” &c. From the utter impossibility of an animal like a camel, passing through the eye of a needle, and the seeming absurdity of the phrase, that anything can be “easier” than an impossibility, some commentators say, the word, “camel,” means, a cable or ship rope. But the Greek word for cable is, not χαμηλος, as here, but χαμιλος. Others understand it, of a small gate in Jerusalem, called “the needle’s eye,” through which a camel could pass only by stooping down, after having laid aside its burden. There is no reliable authority for asserting there was any such gate in Jerusalem. Hence, the more probable opinion is, that the word, “camel,” should be taken literally for the humpy animal of that name—an apt type of the rich, who are burdened with the heavy load of riches, which they must lay aside, in order to pass through the narrow gate, that leads to life; and, like the humpy animal in question, are deformed before God, when they love and place their hopes in riches. And, then, the words simply express, an adage or proverb, quite common in the East. They convey a hyperbole, or exaggeration, signifying extreme difficulty, amounting, almost, to an impossibility, in accomplishing a thing. Similar forms of expression are frequent in SS. Scripture. “Sand and salt, and a mass of iron is easier to bear than a man without sense” (Eccles 22:18). This only expresses the extreme difficulty of bearing with such a man. “It is better to meet a bear robbed of her whelps, than a fool trusting in his own folly” (Prov. 17:12). In like manner, “If the Ethiopian can change his skin … you may also do well,” &c. (Jer. 13:23). All these are exaggerative forms of expression, denoting a thing to be very difficult. So it is here. The phrase denotes great difficulty, but not, strictly speaking, impossibility; for, after saying (Mark 10:24; Luke 18:25), that it was very difficult for the rich, who trust in riches, to enter heaven, He gives, as a proof of this great difficulty, the words, “It is easier for a camel,” &c. If the words be taken to express impossibility, then it may be said to be impossible in this sense, that, as long as the rich man continues to confide in his riches—and the rich, in general, do confide in them—he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; and it is not by any power, or natural strength of his own, but, solely, by God’s grace, he can be weaned from the love of riches, and from confidence in them, so as to be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven. Although the indulgence in other vices, lust, anger, ambition, &c., may serve as an obstacle to entering heaven; still, confiding in riches, is the vice on which our Lord dwells here, because, this is a very common vice. “From the least even to the greatest, all are given to covetousness” (Jer. 6:13); “every one is turned aside after his own gain” (Isaias 56:11); “omnes, quæ sua sunt quærunt” (Philip. 2:21). And, although salvation is difficult of attainment for all, poor as well as rich, just as well as sinners, for “scarcely shall the just man be saved” (1 Peter 4:18); still, He refers, in a special way, to the rich, owing to the peculiar difficulties incident to riches, in regard to salvation, arising not from riches, as such—since they are given to us by God to enable us to gain heaven, by “making to ourselves friends out of the mammon of iniquity,” and, by liberality to the poor, to lay up for ourselves a good foundation, against the time to come, and “lay hold on the true life” (1 Tim 6:19)—but from the corrupt, and inordinate attachment to them, on which account, men hardly love God, or their neighbour, as they ought; and, moreover, the rich become immersed in pleasures and enjoyments, at variance with the law of God, placing all their hopes in this world.

25. “The disciples wondered very much, saying”—to which St. Mark adds—“among themselves.” Although, they were themselves poor and free from the incumbrances of riches, still, they trembled for the salvation of the world, who, if they were not all rich, still had a hankering after riches; and it was their love for riches, rather than their actual possession, that made the salvation of the rich so difficult.

If, then, there be such difficulty in the way of the rich, “Who then can be saved?” since, there are but very few who do not covet riches, or, do not indulge in other vices, such as lust, ambition, &c.

26. In order to assuage their sorrow, our Redeemer, first, regarding them with a look of pity, and compassion (Mark 10:27), referring to the omnipotent power of God, tells them that, “with men, this is impossible; but, with God all things are possible.” In other words, left to his own unaided, weak, corrupt nature, it is as impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, as it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; but that is not impossible for him, aided by God, since God can do all things, that can be done; and, hence, He can bring a camel through a needle’s eye, by divesting him of the properties of grossness and continuous quantity, as He does in regard to the adorable body of Christ, which, in its sacramental form, is really, truly, and substantially present, in the smallest particle of the Sacred Host; which, also, after His glorious resurrection, passed through the door of the chamber, wherein the Apostles were assembled. So, in like manner, He can save the rich man; not by opening heaven to him, while continuing attached to riches, and indulging in the vices usually attendant on them; but by changing his affections, and by making him become “poor in spirit,” humble, charitable, detached in heart and soul. In these words, our Lord tempers the severity of the foregoing expressions, by teaching His disciples, that while they can do nothing of themselves towards attaining salvation, they should not measure their hopes of obtaining it by human infirmity, but by the power of God, on which, relying on His grace alone, they should repose all their hopes. In this passage, our Redeemer wishes to stimulate us to greater ardour and exertions, in attaining our salvation. Far from becoming despondent at the prospect before us, and the exceeding great difficulty of the work, we should rather strive, with greater eagerness, to attain it, and fly to the Divine benignity, for that aid, which alone can render its attainment possible for us.

It may be asked, if by the impossibility in which the rich are placed, of attaining heaven, is meant the impossibility, considering the natural powers of man, is not the same true of the poor as well, and mankind in general; since it is only by God’s grace and assistance any one can enter heaven? True. But this is, in a particular manner, applicable to the rich, owing to the peculiar obstacles to salvation, which riches cast in their way, and the still more powerful grace of God which they, in a special manner, require, in order to surmount these obstacles; so that greater, more abundant, and more efficacious graces are required for the salvation of the rich, than for that of the poor.

27. “Then Peter answering, said.” “Answering,” is frequently used to denote, entering on, or, commencing some discourse or conversation; this is its meaning here. “Behold we have left all, and followed Thee, what therefore shall we have?” Some commentators say, the cause of this interrogation was; as our Redeemer had told the young man, who consulted Him, that, in order to have a treasure in heaven, he should sell all, and give it to the poor, and then follow Himself; seeing that the Apostles left all and followed Christ, without giving it to the poor, Peter wishes to know what reward was in store for the Apostles, for having given up all, and following Christ, without, however, giving it to the poor. (Jansenius Gandav., &c.) But it is more likely, as St. Jerome and others understand the passage, that Peter, on hearing the words of our Redeemer, confident that he had complied with His counsel, relative to voluntary poverty, wishes, by this question, to gladden his fellow-Apostles, and to confirm them in their holy resolution, by the prospect of the special rewards and treasure in store for them. Nor is the silence of Peter, regarding their having sold all their possessions, and given them to the poor, any proof that they did not do so. For, it is perfectly conformable to our ideas of the virtue and perfection of the Apostles, that they did give all their effects to the poor, or to their relatives, who were poor, and in want; and this may be fairly inferred from the words of St. Peter, “Behold, we have left all things;” for, although, he does not say, we sold them, and gave them to the poor, still, it may be inferred, they did so, just as in our Redeemer’s reply, no mention is made of their “having left all,” but only of their “having followed Him,” although the former is clearly implied. What the Apostles left, was indeed trifling in itself; but, in this matter, it was the feeling of love and self-denial, with which they gave up that little, and which would influence them to give up great possessions, that God regarded. It is the heart God chiefly looks to in this matter. They are pronounced blessed, who are “poor in spirit,” whether, in reality, rich or poor, as regards the possession of wealth. They gave up, with what they possessed, the desire of possessing more. “Multum reliquit,” says St. Gregory (Hom. 5 in Evang.), “qui sibi nihil retinuit; multum reliquit, qui quantum libet parum totum deseruit.” “Totum mundum dimittit,” says St. Augustine, “qui et illud quod habet et quod habere optat, dimittit.”

And followed Thee.” Without this, giving up riches would avail nothing, since many philosophers did so. But it is the giving up of riches, with a view of following Christ, corporally, as did the Apostles; and, spiritually, by an imitation of His virtues. This it is, that entitles us to a reward. “Secuti estis me,” says St. Jerome, “proprium est Apostolorum atque credentium.”

28. “You who have followed Me.” He does not say, you who have left all, because this being the lesser, is contained in the greater act; “who follow Me,” says St. Jerome.

In the regeneration, when the Son of man,” &c. The words, “in the regeneration,” are to be connected with what follows. They denote, according to the most probable opinion, the final judgment and resurrection, when the body of man shall be regenerated, and shall assume a new and glorified form, as his soul was regenerated and born anew at baptism; then, there shall be “a new heaven and a new earth,” and all things made new, “ecce nova facio omnia.”

When the Son of man shall sit,” &c. When the Sovereign Judge shall come in glory, seated on the clouds of heaven, which shall be refulgent and beaming with heavenly glory and brightness. For, we are assured, the Son of God will come to judgment, seated on the clouds of heaven (24:30; 26:64; Apoc. 1:7). He is said to be “seated,” this being the attitude suited to one pronouncing judgment. The word also designates, the superior majesty of the Sovereign Judge (25:31).

You also shall sit on twelve seats,” probably on bright clouds, resembling that in which the Sovereign Judge will appear, sedebitis et vos, implying, similar thrones to that of the Sovereign Judge.

Twelve thrones,” one for each of the twelve Apostles. Our Redeemer speaks on the supposition that they shall persevere. Hence, as Judas did not persevere, the promise is not falsified in His case. Moreover, Matthias, who succeeded him in the Apostleship, succeeded also to the promise here made. Nor, is the promise confined to the twelve: those who, like the Apostles, have left all and followed Christ, shall enjoy a like privilege; but, He employs the number, twelve, because He addresses His Apostles, to whom His words were applicable, and who were at that time, twelve in number.

Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” “Judging,” is understood by some to mean, a judgment of condemnation by contrast, as the Jewish exorcists and the Queen of the South shall condemn the unbelieving Jews (12:40, 41). Others say, this judgment shall consist in approving of the sentence of the Sovereign Judge. These, however, are improbable interpretations; for, the former mode of judgment is common to the very reprobate, who shall, by contrast, condemn others; and the latter is common to all Christians. (1 Cor. 6) Hence, the most probable meaning would seem to be, that which understands it of sitting as assessors next the throne of our Lord. Seated on refulgent thrones, they shall judge of the merits and demerits of each case, and at the instance of the Sovereign Judge, they shall pass sentence, which, by His supreme inherent authority, He shall ratify. Hence, they shall judge, not only by a sentence of approbation, which all the elect shall do, but with a certain power and authority given them by the Sovereign Judge, as the princes and chief administrators, next to Himself, in the government of His kingdom. Whether this shall be extended to others, who come after them, is not quite so clear, though by no means improbable. That it shall be granted to St. Paul, who was an Apostle, and laboured more than any other, and to St. Barnabas, seems to be generally agreed upon among commentators. In truth, by referring to twelve, He meant all the Apostles, among whom Paul and Barnabas are reckoned.

The twelve tribes of Israel,” refers to the entire Church, the true spiritual Israel of God, who succeeds to the inheritance which was first proffered to carnal Israel. Our Redeemer’s mission had been confined to the Jewish people; and hence, in allusion to those to whom He preached, He speaks, under the figure of them, of the entire Church, or spiritual Israel, scattered all over the earth, embracing Gentiles as well as Jews—the duodecim millia signati, out of each tribe.

Some commentators understand, “the regeneration,” not only of their judging as assessors on the last day; but also of the privileges granted them, in their own lifetime, when they are appointed princes over the entire earth, “constitues vos principes super omnes terram.” (Psa. 44:17) And, after His resurrection, which is a kind of new generation of the Eternal Son of God, “ego hodie genui te,” or after the regeneration of the world in baptism, when He shall ascend into heaven, and sit at His Father’s right hand in glory, then, they, too, shall be appointed princes of the world, seated on twelve thrones, with judicial authority, to teach and judge the entire Church, signified by “the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Speaking of the twelve Apostles and twelve tribes, our Redeemer spoke in accommodation to those whom He was addressing, and among whom He was engaged. He was addressing His Apostles, who were in number “twelve,” and He lived and preached among the Jews, who were reckoned by twelve tribes. And, moreover, the faithful of the New Law succeeded the Jews in their privilege as people of God; they were ingrafted as “wild olives on Jewish trunks.”

The twelve tribes,” &c. He does not speak of the infidels; for, they are already judged, “qui non credit, jam judicatus est,” although they shall appear at judgment to receive the sentence of condemnation due to their demerits and crimes.

29. Some expositors are of opinion, that this is but a repetition of the preceding promise, extended to every one, as well as to the Apostles, who shall have given up all he may prize, whether “house or brethren,” &c. Others, with Origen, St. Jerome, &c., think that our Redeemer speaks of a less perfect class of men, who do not give up all, as the Apostles did, but only some of the things which men prize, whether it be “house, or brethren, or sisters,” &c. The disjunctive, or, renders this opinion the more probable. “Whosoever will give up any of these for His name’s sake,” or, as St. Mark (10:29), has it, “for His sake and for the Gospel.” The words, “for the Gospel,” are added, to show, that no one can act from the love of Christ, unless he fulfils the precepts of the Gospel. Therefore, reference is made to those who, rather than desert the service of Christ, and give up the practice of the Gospel precepts, shall deprive themselves of any of the things mentioned here. The giving up of one’s “wife,” does not imply that the marriage tie may be dissolved, or that a man may voluntarily leave his wife, without her consent; or, that a child can voluntarily leave his parents, if they require his aid. All that is conveyed is, that if they be to us a cause of deserting the Gospel, or the occasion of sin, and of the loss of our soul; then, we can, and ought, to give them up.

Shall receive an hundred fold.” What this means is disputed. From St. Mark (10:30), “Shall receive an hundred fold now in this time;” and Luke (18:30), “Shall receive much more in this present time,” it would seem to refer to the present life. The same would appear from the contrast with “life everlasting,” which in Luke is, “and in the world to come, life everlasting.” St. Jerome (Hom. Lib. 3, c. 19) understands it, of spiritual blessings, which, in point of merit, and in comparison with temporal blessings, shall—“ut si parvo numero, centenarius numerus comparetur”—so far exceed them, as an hundred exceeds one. Against this, we have St. Mark (10:30), saying, they “shall receive an hundred times as much now in this time, houses and brethren,” &c. Hence, the words may be taken literally to signify, that those who give up all for Christ, shall receive an hundred for one; for the one house, Christian charity shall provide them with an hundred houses of the faithful; for the one field, the fields of hundreds shall minister to their support; for one father and mother, they shall receive an hundred fathers and mothers, who will show spiritual affection for them; wives, who, with chaste love, shall tend them, &c. Is not this verified literally in the case of religious souls, as seen from daily experience? “Fideli,” says St. Augustine (Ep. 89, q. 4), “totus mundus divitiarum est.” All that any one can enjoy of his possessions is what will supply his wants, and these are supplied by Christian charity. Our Lord adds this promise, to show that those who give up all for Him, need not be unduly solicitous about their temporal wants. St. Mark adds (10:30), “with persecutions,” which is understood by some to mean, you shall receive all the foregoing blessings, in the midst of persecutions, while tyrants are persecuting you—a circumstance calculated to beget wonder—or, the words may mean, in addition to the foregoing, you shall be blessed with persecutions, and accounted worthy to suffer for Christ (Philip 1:29; Acts 5:41; 2 Tim. 3:12). Probably, our Lord alluded to persecutions, lest we might think He promised temporal felicity or sensual delights. He promises, rather, interior consolation, peace of a good conscience, spiritual gifts, far more valuable than any temporal advantages whatsoever. Apostolic men have, then, the entire world for their possessions, “nihil habentes, omnia possidentes.” (1 Cor. 7)

Others, by “hundred fold,” understand God Himself, who shall be to them a father and mother, &c. (12:49) Others interpret it thus: that, should they be bereft of everything which this world values, still, God will bestow upon them an hundred times more peace, contentment, and happiness, than when they possessed the abundance of all things.

And shall possess everlasting life;” “in the world to come” (Mark 10:30). Such a one shall receive “everlasting life” as an inheritance. No doubt, every one who shall observe God’s commandments, shall gain this. But, as it is difficult to observe the commandments without the Evangelical counsels, our Redeemer, therefore, here confines the promise of eternal life to those who observe the counsels, and implies, that it shall be granted to them, in a greater and more glorious degree.

30. “But many that are first shall be last,” &c. Our Redeemer appropriately connects this with the foregoing. For, having opposed Himself and His doctrine to the Pharisees and to their expositions of the Old Law, He now contrasts His reward with that received in the Old Law. In this verse, he meets a tacit objection which might arise in the minds of the Apostles against His doctrine regarding the judiciary powers and exalted pre-eminence promised them, viz.: How could it be supposed that ignorant, illiterate fishermen, could be appointed judges over the great, the learned, and wise of this world, such as the Scribes and Pharisees, and the young man who went away possessing much riches? He says, those who are reputed as of no consideration in this world, shall then be the first and most honoured; and those who seem to be great in their own estimation, “shall be last” in the kingdom of heaven. The word, “last,” might be understood, as excluding them altogether. They would not be there at all, just as He said of him, who would be called “the least in the kingdom of heaven” (c. 5:19). The words, “the last shall be first,” in a special manner apply to the Apostles, and to such as become poor and humble, like them, for Christ’s sake. He says, “many that are first,” &c., not all, because some who occupy and fill high stations here, shall also be among the first, and shall occupy the highest place in heaven; and, on the other hand, many who are of no consideration here, shall also be amongst the last in heaven, or altogether excluded from it, for their sins. Some understand the passage, of the reprobation of the Jews, the first, both as to vocation and the promise of the Messiah to be born of their race, and the other privileges specially enjoyed by them (see Rom. 9:4, &c.); and of the conversion of the Gentiles, “the last” called to the faith, with which they were favoured only after the Jews refused and rejected it, who were in turn reprobated by God for their crimes, and above all, for the murder of the Son of God. In their place, the Gentiles were substituted, who thus became first, and Jews last. This will apply, in a special manner, to the Pharisees, who, being first, both in quality of Jews, and among them reputed first, on account of their more accurate observance of the law, were rejected for their stubbornness, and the publicans and sinners preferred.








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