But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them,
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
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Therefore, having first beheld them, He said unto them, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God. For with a mild and meek look, having soothed their shuddering mind, and having put an end to their distress (for this the evangelist signified by saying, He beheld them), then by His words also He relieves them, bringing before them God's power, and so making them feel confidence.
But if you will learn the manner of it likewise, and how what is impossible may become possible, hear. Born either for this end did He say, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God, that you should give it up, and abstain, as from things impossible; but that having considered the greatness of the good work, you should hasten to it readily, and having besought God to assist you in these noble contests, should attain unto life.
How then should this become possible? If you cast away what you have, if you empty yourself of your wealth, if you refrain from the wicked desire. For in proof that He does not refer it to God alone, but that to this end He said it, that you should know the vastness of the good work, hear what follows. For when Peter had said, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed You, and had asked, What shall we have therefore? having appointed the reward for them; He added, And every one who has forsaken houses, or lands, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life. Thus that which is impossible becomes possible. But how may this very thing be done, one may say, to forsake these? How is it possible for him that is once sunk in such lust of wealth, to recover himself? If he begin to empty himself of his possessions, and cut off what are superfluous. For so shall he both advance further, and shall run on his course more easily afterwards.
Do not then seek all at once, but gently, and little by little, ascend this ladder, that leads you up to Heaven. For like as those in fevers having acrid bile abounding within them, when they cast in thereon meats and drinks, so far from quenching their thirst, do even kindle the flame; so also the covetous, when they cast in their wealth upon this wicked lust more acrid than that bile, do rather inflame it. For nothing so stays it as to refrain for a time from the lust of gain, like as acrid bile is stayed by abstinence and evacuations.
But this itself, by what means will it be done? One may say. If you consider, that while rich, you will never cease thirsting, and pining with the lust of more; but being freed from your possessions, you will be able also to stay this disease. Do not then encompass yourself with more, lest you follow after things unattainable, and be incurable, and be more miserable than all, being thus frantic.
For answer me, whom shall we affirm to be tormented and pained? Him that longs after costly meats and drinks, and is not able to enjoy them as he will, or him that has not such a desire? It is quite clear one must say, him that desires, but cannot obtain what he desires. For this is so painful, to desire and not to enjoy, to thirst and not to drink, that Christ desiring to describe hell to us, described it in this way, and introduced the rich man thus tormented. For longing for a drop of water, and not enjoying it, this was his punishment. So then he that despises wealth quiets the desire, but he that desires to be rich has inflamed it more, and not yet does he stay; but though he have got ten thousand talents, he desires as much more; though he obtain these, again he aims at twice as much more, and going on he desires even the mountains, and the earth, and the sea, and all to become gold for him, being mad with a kind of new and fearful madness, and one that can never thus be extinguished.
And that you might learn, that not by addition but by taking away this evil is stayed; if you had ever had an absurd desire to fly and to be borne through the air, how would you extinguish this unreasonable desire? By fashioning wings, and preparing other instruments, or by convincing the mind that it is desiring things impossible, and that one should attempt none of these things? It is quite plain, that by convincing the mind. But that, you may say, is impossible. But this again is more impossible, to find a limit for this desire. For indeed it is more easy for men to fly, than to make this lust cease by an addition of more. For when the objects of desire are possible, one may be soothed by the enjoyment of them, but when they are impossible, one must labor for one thing, to draw ourselves off from the desire, as otherwise at least it is not possible to recover the soul.
Therefore that we may not have superfluous sorrows, let us forsake the love of money that is ever paining, and never endures to hold its peace, and let us remove ourselves to another love, which both makes us happy, and has great facility, and let us long after the treasures above. For neither is the labor here so great, and the gain is unspeakable, and it is not possible for him to fail of them who is but in any wise watchful and sober, and despises the things present; even as on the other hand, as to him that is a slave to these last, and is utterly given up to them, it as altogether of necessity that he fail of those better riches.
Considering then all these things, put away the wicked desire of wealth. For neither couldest thou say this, that it gives the things present, though it deprive us of the things to come, albeit even if this were so, this were extreme punishment, and vengeance. But now not even this may be. For besides hell, and before that hell, even here it casts you into a more grievous punishment. For many houses has this lust overthrown, and fierce wars has it stirred up, and compelled men to end their lives by a violent death; and before these dangers it ruins the nobleness of the soul, and is wont often to make him that has it cowardly, and unmanly, and rash, and false, and calumnious, and ravenous, and over-reaching, and all the worst things.
But seeing perhaps the brightness of the silver, and the multitude of the servants, and the beauty of the buildings, the court paid in the market-place, are you bewitched thereby? What remedy then may there be for this evil wound? If you consider how these things affect your soul, how dark, and desolate, and foul they render it, and how ugly; if you reckon with how many evils these things were acquired, with how many labors they are kept, with how many dangers: or rather they are not kept unto the end, but when you have escaped the attempts of all, death coming on you is often wont to remove these things into the hand of your enemies, and goes and takes you with him destitute, drawing after you none of these things, save the wounds and the sores only, which the soul received from these, before its departing. When then you see any one resplendent outwardly with raiment and large attendance, lay open his conscience, and you shall see many a cobweb within, and much dust. Consider Paul, Peter. Consider John, Elias, or rather the Son of God Himself, who has not where to lay His head. Be an imitator of Him, and of His servants, and imagine to yourself the unspeakable riches of these.
But if having obtained a little sight by these, you should be darkened again, as in any shipwreck when a storm has come on, hear the declaration of Christ, which affirms, that it is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And against this declaration set the mountains, and the earth, and the sea; and all things, if you will, suppose to be gold; for you shall see nothing equal to the loss arising to you from thence. And thou indeed makest mention of acres of land, so many and so many, and of houses ten or twenty or even more, and of baths as many, and of slaves a thousand, or twice as many, and of chariots fastened with silver and overlaid with gold; but I say this, that if each one of you that are rich were to leave this poverty (for these things are poverty compared with what I am about to say), and were possessed of a whole world, and each of them had as many men as are now everywhere on land and sea, and each a world both sea and land, and everywhere buildings, and cities, and nations, and from every side instead of water, instead of fountains, gold flowed up for him, I would not say those who are thus rich are worth three farthings, when they are cast out of the kingdom.
For if now aiming at riches that perish, when they miss them, they are tormented, if they should obtain a perception of those unspeakable blessings, what then will suffice for consolation for them? There is nothing. Tell me not then of the abundance of their possessions, but consider how great loss the lovers of this abundance undergo in consequence thereof, for these things losing Heaven, and being in the same state, as if any one after being cast out of the highest honor in kings' courts, having a dung heap, were to pride himself on that. For the storing up of money differs nothing from that, or rather that is even the better. For that is serviceable both for husbandry, and for heating a bath, and for other such uses, but the buried gold for none of these things. And would it were merely useless; but as it is, it kindles moreover many furnaces for him that has it, unless he use it rightly; countess evils at least spring therefrom.
Therefore they that are without used to call the love of money the citadel of evils; but the blessed Paul spoke much better and more vividly, pronouncing it the root of all evils.
Considering then all these things, let us emulate the things worthy of emulation, not gorgeous buildings not costly estates, but the men that have much confidence towards God, those that have riches in Heaven, the owners of those treasures, them that are really rich, them that are poor for Christ's sake, that we may attain unto the good things of eternity by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always and world without end. Amen.