The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







last stay of Jesus in Perea. the discussion concerning divorce. the children. the rich youth

(Mat 19:3-30; Mat 20:1-16. Mar 10:2-32. Luk 18:15-30. Joh 10:40-42)

The last season, in His earthly pilgrimage, in which the Lord had joy in His ministry, was assigned to Him in Perea. Here especially had John the Baptist prepared the way for Him; and it was now to be refreshingly shown how the spirit of that faithful servant of God, who in Perea had passed the festal time of his ministry, and in the same district had later closed his course,1 still continued to operate with rich blessings to the neighbourhood. On Jesus’ again making His public appearance there with the displays of His power, many flocked to Him, who were confirmed in their faith in Him by recollecting the utterances of John. ‘John’ (they said) ‘did, it is true, no miracle; but all that he said of this man has proved truth.’ It was only now that it became quite clear to them that the Baptist had, at least through the announcement of the Messiah, and through pointing them to Jesus, proved himself a prophet gifted with wonderful clearness of vision. They acknowledged how the life of John was being glorified by the life of Jesus, as on the other hand John’s announcement of the Messiah was helping them forward to decided faith in Jesus. Perea became a land greatly blessed. As the destruction of Jerusalem drew near, it became the Christians’ sanctuary. It is, however, to be remembered, that on this occasion Jesus did not go far into the country, but tarried in those very parts of it, on the Jordan, where John at the first had been baptizing.

But notwithstanding that the popular feeling was generally favourable to Him, Jesus had still even here to encounter hostile opposition. The Pharisees assumed a position of public antagonism, by asking His decision upon a moot question about divorce, which generally in the country of the Jews was a dangerous one, but especially in Perea, in the dominions of Herod Antipas, who had put away his first wife and married one divorced from his brother Philip.

As early as in the Sermon on the Mount had the Lord rejected the loose and mistaken treatment of the law of divorce which prevailed in His days among the doctors of the Jewish law.2 In this looseness, however, the Jewish schools were not all on the same level. The question related to the right interpretation of Deu 24:1, according to which it is allowed that the husband may separate from his wife, if she does not find favour in his eyes, on account of some disgust (Unlust), as Luther has translated it, or, which would be better, on account of some mark of desecration, or of some uncleanness, unsanctity (Unweih),3 which he finds in her. The school of Shammai explained this qualifying expression as meaning that the husband could only put away his wife on account of scandalous or unchaste words or things; while the school of Hillel ruled that he might send her away on account of any obnoxiousness,—Rabbi Akiba pushing this so far as to say, that he might dismiss her for no other reason than because he found another woman who pleased him better.4 Stier observes very properly, that neither school interpreted the passage rightly.5 He draws attention to the fact, that Shammai overlooked the more general enactment, that the husband might put away his wife if she no more found favour in his eyes (i.e., if he was no longer disposed to love and keep her). When, on the other hand, he observes that Hillel was right exegetically, but that he again committed the grievous error of disregarding that proper aversion to such capricious divorces which would naturally flow from the whole spirit of the divine law, it surely ought to be considered, that Hillel was as wrong in making the narrower enactment of the law (on account of some unconsecratedness) identical with the general one, as Shammai was in making the general permission identical with the closer limitation. Unquestionably in actual practice the result came to be this, that according to the law of Moses any man could divorce his wife for any occasion; for a feeling of decided disinclination could not fail generally to beget the required discovery of some unloveableness or ‘unconsecratedness’ on the part of the wife. Nevertheless Moses, in making the great concession which he did, had, however, hampered in some measure the proceeding: he had set a limitation which was designed continually to bring back the husband who was wishing for a divorce to the bar of his conscience, and to compel him to make it quite clear to his own mind, whether his subjective want of affection was also properly grounded in an objective ‘unconsecratedness’ on the part of his wife, and whether it was not rather the case that his own hardness of heart begat the want of affection, and that this last made him see in the wife a defect which was not really there. Thus it was provided, that the proper tendency of the Mosaic law of marriage should at bottom be such as to conduct men from the Old Testament, not into the Talmud or into heathen licentiousness, but into the consecration of Christian principle. It may, however, be easily conceived, that at the time of Christ, when the morality of marriage had generally among civilized nations fallen into great decay,6 the laxer view was beginning to gain the greatest scope even amongst the Jews. The Jews of that time were compelled by the customs which then prevailed to refrain from having many wives at once. But in this respect their forefathers seemed to have enjoyed what they might regard as enviable privileges: they therefore seemed desirous of indemnifying themselves by such a successive polygamy as resulted from accumulated divorces.

It was from this lax standing-point, then, which the school of Hillel advocated, that those Pharisees also started who now were tempting the Lord. They put the question thus: ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause’ (at his own discretion)? This question was at any rate intended to bring Him to a solemn declaration of His views. Perhaps they hoped, that in His lofty disregard of personal consequences, and His theocratic severity of feeling, He would speak some word which might prove ruinous to Him, as, before, the Baptist had brought ruin upon himself by the judgment which he had pronounced upon the illegal marriage of Herod. In any case, His decision might work Him mischief. If He declared Himself for the severer construction of the law of marriage, He might very likely compromise Himself with the frivolous populace: on the other hand, severer and more pious spirits would take umbrage at a laxer interpretation.

But the Lord was acquainted with another antithesis than that which was found between Shammai and Hillel, and which was only a proof how narrow and external were the principles on which the Jews, one and all, interpreted and misinterpreted the law. He brought forward the antithesis between the original ideal law of marriage and the Mosaic law, and that, too, as it is found exhibited in the Old Testament itself. We have already seen, on various occasions, how He qualified the Mosaic legislation by the original laws of Monotheism. So also on the present occasion. Though the position which He took with His opponents was still in the Old Testament, the authority of which they acknowledged, yet how high above their heads was He now suddenly seen standing, when making His reference to the primal record of the institution of marriage in paradise! ‘Have ye not read, that He who made them, made them from the beginning man and woman; and said, Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and shall be joined to His wife, and the two shall be one flesh? They are then not two, but one flesh. What then God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’

In these words Jesus set forth the original law of marriage—the rights of original, essential, ideal-real wedlock. The truth of marriage appears here in its origin, in its certainty, ideality, might, and indissolubleness. For what concerns the origin of it, man proceeds forth from God’s hand a wedded being. God has formed him man and woman, in the antithesis and mutual integration of the male and female natures.7 Of the certainty and ideality of the first marriage there could be no doubt; for the first human beings were alone and solitary in the world, the one indispensable to the other—the one, therefore, entirely for the other. Therewith was also at once declared the might and indissolubleness of their marriage tie. But since it was out of this marriage that the human race proceeded, it follows that a predisposition and appointment to a similar ideal-real marriage was transmitted likewise to the human race. Therefore also, generally, the rights and might of wedlock stand forth prominently in the world’s affairs, and especially in a man’s leaving his father and mother to be joined to his wife. The drawing of sexual love has the right to do away with the outward family tie which unites a man to the house of his father and mother. But an union which has the power to dissolve these holy bonds of domestic unity must itself be indissoluble. This indissolubleness the Lord expresses in the strongest terms: ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’

In reference to the marriage of the first beginning of time, this inference held good with perfect certainty. The Pharisees were not able to deny the validity of those divine maxims of God’s original law which Jesus had adduced. The fundamental principle, also, which Jesus added, was not to be overturned.

But it was yet to be inquired, whether He would wish to have this principle applied to marriage as it actually was, in all cases; whether He meant to say, that in every case of wedlock, as it actually subsisted, the parties were also inwardly and without qualification joined together by God, and that any sundering of them by men, though done in course of law, was null and void, and therefore done in opposition to the law of God. This is the sense they put upon His words. They, however, mean absolutely to deny what, according to this supposition, He has affirmed, betaking themselves again to the more definite marriage-law given by Moses. In alleging this law, they are guilty of a wrong citation, which betrays either confusedness of thought or else sophistical craft on their part. ‘Why then’ (they ask) ‘did Moses command to give a writ of divorcement, and to put her away?’ But whatever confusion of thought their position betrayed or was designed to produce, the Lord it could not confuse.

He found Himself now called to explain to them the relation of the Mosaic law of marriage to that of original Monotheism. He shows them that Moses could not contradict that original law. ‘On account of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.’ It was a great delusion of the Jews to derive divorce from Moses. Moses found divorce already existing as an old tradition.8 With the Fall had supervened with men a hardness of heart, which forthwith displayed itself in sinful forms of marriage, as, e.g., in those fatal mesalliances between the children of God and the children of men (Gen. 6), and in consequence, also in divorces. Marriage had ever more and more lost its ideal glory; and thus the permission of divorce was become inevitable. If Moses had regarded outward separation as absolutely immoral, he could not have admitted it as a matter for legal arrangement. But he saw clearly, that by the stiff maintenance itself of the indissolubleness of wedlock, as wedlock had now come to be, true wedlock might be broken in upon yet more and more: he therefore reduced divorce to a legal form such as should have the effect of restraining it in some degree, just as in like manner he legalized the avenging of blood.9 Under these circumstances everything depended, upon this, that the Jewish administrators and expounders of the law should rightly understand the spirit of his law,—that they should interpret his enactments, not under the notion of their being merely external civil regulations of the State, but viewing them in the light of theocratic morality.10 The task assigned them was to use their best endeavours to steer their course from the point at which they were, in the circumstances of their actual position, following the guidance of that ideal law of marriage which had held from the beginning. The actual circumstances around them they were to enlighten, judge, and sanctify, by applying the principle, that marriage was indissoluble. But they directly reversed the tendency of the Mosaic law of marriage, which would fain find its higher development in the New Testament law. With them the fundamental qualification of pure wedlock came to be divorce; whilst in truth it is just its indissolubleness.

On this disordered state of things Jesus now throws the clearest light, by setting up the first maxim of the New Testament law on the subject. ‘But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery; and whosoever marries a woman who has been put away, commits adultery.’ According to Mark, the same principle applies to the case of the woman who quits her husband and marries another Man11 This declaration of Christ may be briefly brought back to the following maxim: No one can pass from a former marriage into a later one without adultery being there. The clearest case is when one party dissolves the marriage by adultery of his own: in this case the marriage is ipso facto done away with, and the other party is set at liberty. But when this case does not occur, then the moment in which the adultery comes into outward manifestation and is perfected, is that of the effecting of a new marriage. But to what exact point the critical moment of the internal adultery is to be assigned,—this the eye of God alone can discern.12 It is to be carefully noticed that Jesus does not pronounce the simple act of divorce to be in itself complete adultery; but He does pronounce the divorce to be so when it passes on to a new marriage.13

In the judgment which He had pronounced, Christ had expressed Himself in general terms only. But if His adversaries were minded to apply it (e.g.) to Herod, then he had been doubly marked as an adulterer; first, because he had married again after being divorced; and next, because he had married a divorced woman. The Lord was not made uneasy by the possibility that they might go to Herod with the report of His judgment which He had pronounced.

But the decision of Jesus disturbed the minds of His disciples in another direction. They honestly confessed to Him that it seemed to them unadvisable to marry at all, if the marriage-law was to stand thus. Therefore Jesus made to them the mysterious answer: ‘All do not receive this word’ (the whole of what He had been saying on the subject), ‘but only they to whom it has been given.’ He then gave them the further explanation: ‘There are eunuchs’ (or celibates) ‘who from their mother’s womb have been born so: there are also eunuchs who have been made so’ (i.e., made celibates) ‘by men: there are also eunuchs who have made themselves so for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. Let him receive it who can receive it!’

This discourse of Christ is commonly understood as if Christ were speaking of outward states of celibacy, caused by various circumstances: that first He is speaking of certain who are born without the outward qualification for marriage; next, of such as are prevented from forming the marriage tie by being eunuchs, or through other outward impediments; and thirdly, of such as, also in an outward sense, renounce marriage for the kingdom of God’s sake. But it has been very properly remarked, that in this case what our Lord says would hardly be a satisfactory reply to the question of the disciples. Therefore Neander thinks himself at liberty to add the remark, that Matthew has put down here foreign matter, which treated of the same subject in some other altogether different relation. But the reply of Jesus shows itself one which solves all the difficulties by which the disciples were met, if we observe that the Lord is here speaking of celibacy in a higher sense. The words themselves furnish us with clear indications that this was meant.

If in the first and third cases He is speaking of eunuchs in a figurative, not in a literal sense, the same must hold good also of the second. By this term are here meant in general those who have some decided obstruction in respect to marriage. The kind of marriage intended corresponds to the higher form of their disqualification, and is marriage as it was from the beginning. Accordingly the obstructions are also predominantly spiritual, and of a threefold character. The first come immediately from God: there are some persons who from their birth, by means of their outward, or, much more, their internal organization, have no destination to marry. The next class of obstruction comes from men, or proceeds from human relations: there are some persons who have been made celibates by men. The third class of hindrances proceeds from the innermost sentiments which are distinctive of the spiritual life of believers: there are some persons who remain celibates, even in the ideal form of marriage remain celibates, in a spiritual sense for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, because they feel themselves, through their calling in the kingdom, bound to work and go abroad, to deny themselves and to wander; who therefore have wives as though they had them not.14

Christ then, as it should seem, is not speaking of individual celibates,—as, for example, of the condition of individuals of an imperfect organization, and of individuals who have been subjected to violence, and of individual ascetics, or, as some will even have it, monks, and those who have bound themselves by vows of celibacy,15but of a general spiritual celibacy which begins with His kingdom of heaven, and puts an end, root and branch, to all the perplexity and curse and grief which is connected with marriage. Just as in general man cannot get free from the curse of the law by the way of works and of the law, of rights and of sentences of judgment, so neither can he from the curse of sins against the law of marriage. And as in general he gets free from the Old Testament law in its outward form by receiving the spirit of the same into his inner life, so also does he get free from this particular law by the way of pure New Testament self-devotion to God, whereby he enters into a state of spiritual celibacy and priestly elevation of life. And the mark of this deliverance from the law is seen in this, that the law, in its sphere, not only remains in its full validity; but also that in this validity it is with especial strictness kept holy,—as a discipline to the soul, as a sanctifying of society, and as a symbol of the essential relations of the kingdom of God. This holds good likewise of marriage as it exists in the domain of Christian life. Thus our Lord shows to His disciples the way by which, out of the old world of unlovingness and unloveliness, out of that labyrinth of marriage-guiltinesses which had dismayed them, they were to pass over into the world of grace and of liberty; and how they were here, through the spirit of self-renunciation and spiritual celibacy, to offer up, purify, sanctify marriage itself, and thus transfigure it into a life of superior elevation and freedom.

There is much significance in the way in which the Evangelists Matthew and Mark link on to this discussion of Jesus the narrative of an incident which probably took place somewhat later—how they brought children to Jesus that He might bless them. The discussion of the sorrow and curse connected with wedlock is broken off by the coming forward into view, in all the freshness of life, of the blessing of wedlock-children, on whose behalf the blessing of Jesus is sought. Thus in a fine contrast is exhibited, how, over against those whom we call marriage-fiends,16 the demons of ungraciousness, children stand forth in triumph as the genii of what is loving in marriage. The dark problems of wedded life find their chief solution in the appearance of children, those little ones beloved of God, for whom the kingdom of heaven is destined.

As we above indicated, it was, as we may believe, about the time when Jesus was soon to leave Perea that people ‘began to bring to Him also their children, that He might bless them.’ This circumstance leads to the inference, that there was a noble state of feeling existing in many families in Perea. They desired to gain His blessing for their children before they saw Him take His leave of them for ever. The feeling out of which this desire proceeded may be, in fact, regarded as an anticipation and defence of infant baptism. The believers in Perea were already Christians of delicate sensibility, who knew that Christ was able to bless even ‘little children’ (βρέφη according to Luke), and that little children were capable of receiving a blessing from Him. In this particular, however, the disciples were still in a measure rigorists,—we might say, even a little after the fashion of Baptists, in their tone of feeling. They regarded the wish of these parents as an ill-timed interruption of their important discussions on behalf of mere babes; perhaps as an act altogether of indiscreet over-haste: they accordingly offered to bid them away with stern rebuke. But with holy displeasure Jesus took the dim faith of those mothers, and the yet dimmer, unconscious faith of the children, under His wing, against those rigid protectors of His dignity, and in correction of their error said, ‘Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever doth not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.’17 His tone of mind, however, was not on this occasion made stern by the necessity of administering rebuke, as indeed it never was. He forthwith turned His whole attention to the little ones: ‘He took them up into His arms and embraced them: He put His hands upon them and blessed them.’ Thus in a threefold way He consecrated them for the kingdom of heaven.

Upon this He addressed Himself to leave the country. He had already commenced the journey, when a man came up in haste, threw himself down on his knees on the road before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Master,’ what must I do to inherit eternal life? The questioner was a youth, a man of wealth and station, probably a ruler of the synagogue (ἄρχων). He seems to have delayed to the present hour to make use of the opportunity of approaching the Lord in Perea. Now, however, a strong feeling appears of a sudden to have woke up in him; and it was as if he had pursued after Jesus as He was now vanishing from his horizon, for the purpose of yet coming to an interview with Him. The way in which he hastened thither, and threw himself down in the road before Him, attracted attention (καὶ ἰδού). In this conversion, however, apparently complete as it was, there seemed to be a floating element of enthusiasm and excitement, qualified by self-love, which the Lord was the more desirous of fixing in proportion as it wore so fair an appearance.18 He probably discovered the expression of this at once in the manner in which he addressed Him, and in his question, ‘Good Master, what good thing must I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ At least Jesus wished to bring him back from this state of excited feeling to solid reflection, by answering, ‘Why callest thou Me good?19 No one is good, except only one, God.’ Those who think that they find here a word in which Christ marks Himself as imperfect, may be undeceived by the consideration that He had shortly before declared, I and My Father are one. He is one with the Father, and therefore He must be one with Him in being perfectly good. He must therefore be far from denying that He is good. Nevertheless He feels it necessary to show the young man that he is talking of the good with enthusiastic superficialness, without any deep reflection; that in spite of his animated display of respect, he is addressing Him thoughtlessly in giving Him the title of Good Master; that he believes respecting the good, that eternal gift of God, that it may be done, yea, produced by man, in the shape of a service of external works; and that he even implies that he had himself already made great progress therein. The young man seems actually to think that he too is already well-nigh perfect; that it was in general easy for people of his description to become perfectly good. In the presence of such presumption, Jesus seems as if, before His Father, from whom even He derived the goodness which He possessed, He blushed at such proud self-righteousness on the part of men: with a lofty humility, His consciousness retires back into God with the declaration, None is good but God only. If the young man will call Him truly good, let him know that His goodness, as well as His whole life, He has from the Father and finds in the Father. As He will not have Himself called Messiah in the wrong, or at least easily misinterpreted, sense in which the word was then often used, so neither Good Master. By this means occasion is given to the young man to reflect on the divine depth of goodness which resided in this ‘Good Master’ of his.

That this is Jesus’ object, and not to decline the praise, He also shows by forthwith taking up his question. ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments!’ The young man, with a feeling of being himself in a secure position, asks, ‘Which?’ Jesus specifies the commandments, but in a peculiar order. The prohibitions of unlovingness He puts first: ‘Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness.’ The particular command of positive love, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother,’ and the general one, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ He puts after. The young man utters the reply, which betokens alike his extraordinary pride and also his great blindness: ‘All this have I kept from my youth up: what is yet to be done? what lack I yet?’ In that short word there can be no doubt that our Lord caught that peculiar accent of pain, which called forth in His bosom the tone of feeling of which Mark makes mention: ‘He beheld him and loved him.’ For of that general compassion and loving sympathy with which Jesus regarded all men in general, this cannot be understood. He was touched by the candour with which the young man, perhaps with a peculiar expression of pain in his look or tone of voice, showed that he felt that something was still wanting to him; that, in spite of his zeal in legal religiousness, he had still been impelled by a dim feeling of great oppression and want to go forth in pursuit of Jesus. It was a noble feeling of pain which was stirring in this man’s heart; one which appeared all the more touching, that it sought to break through the veil of an ignorant Jewish self-righteousness, and manifested itself by a burst of noble enthusiasm. Nevertheless he was wanting at bottom in deep, decided earnestness; and therefore his feelings evaporated in words. And herein lay the necessity for him that he should be brought to self-knowledge and wholeheartedness by having a great problem of practical obedience to solve. This was the Lord’s aim in the words: ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast and give it to the poor: so shalt thou have a treasure in heaven: then come and follow me.’ The task which Jesus assigned him was in perfect accordance with the young man’s declaration concerning himself. Jesus took him at his word. If he really had fulfilled the law, he must of necessity be standing very near to Christ, and be quite ready to go along with Him. But if he still found that something was lacking to him, it could only be due to the circumstance that his possession of property would fain keep him back from following Jesus. This contradiction, between his thinking on the one hand that he had completely fulfilled the law, and his feeling on the other that still something was wanting to him, he could only fully understand by means of the advice which Jesus gave him. Now for the first time occasion was given him for looking down to the bottom of his soul. ‘He was very much disheartened on hearing what Jesus said, and went away sorrowing.’ It is not said that he went back into a state of final impenitency, although there certainly was now beginning for him a crisis of great danger, though inevitable. We may be sure that the Lord did not aim at making him yet more completely an enthusiastic doer of works of self-righteousness. His wish was to put him in the way of self-knowledge and repentance; and the word of Jesus may possibly have been blessed for the accomplishment of this end. By this word it was being brought home to his consciousness that he was in bondage to his property, and therefore condemned by the law in its very first commandment, which forbids having other gods than the LORD.

Jesus felt for the distress and spiritual danger of the young man who was going away from Him; but He was also desirous of bringing His disciples into a right frame of mind. ‘They ought to have compassion for those who were rich, nay, learn in this example to examine their own selves, instead of pronouncing sentence of utter condemnation upon this wealthy youth, as hundreds of people still unreflectingly do. He therefore looked round upon them in a significant manner, saying, ‘ How hard it is for the rich’ (those who lave this world’s property) ‘to enter into the kingdom of God!’ This word was so new and strange to the disciples, that it struck them with amazement. It seemed to them so opposed to what the Old Testament would lead them to expect ; to the high character of the New Covenant blessing ; to their hopes with reference to the glory of the new kingdom ; nay, to their own experience itself, of their Lord having some rich people among His disciples. Their surprise led Him to express Himself with greater distinctness, but also with still greater force, ‘Children’—so He expressed Himself according to Mark,—‘ how hard it is for those who trust in this world’s property to enter into the kingdom of God!’ This assurance might calm their minds, showing them that He did not account the possession of property to be in itself ruinous or reprehensible;20 that He had no wish, for example, to make Essene-Christians (Ebionites) out of them, as some of them might begin to fear, It is trusting in worldly property which makes it so very hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God. Nevertheless this explanation does not convert the solemn word into an easygoing one. Rather, from the way in which our Lord immediately after again speaks of rich people in general, He leads us to conclude that, as a rule, these do with difficulty get free from that trusting in riches which is so fatal. He now gives a graphic idea of the difficulty which He has indicated. ‘It is easier,’ He said, ‘for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ A camel with its high and heavy build, and with its pack on its back, would find it impossible to enter through the door of a city of little elves or minute fairies, which might be no larger than the eye of a needle. So gigantic in size, and so laden into the bargain, comes the rich man, whose heart is grown large with his riches, before the small, fine portal of the spirit-city of the kingdom of heaven. He does not see it or find it, .to say nothing of his being able to get through. In his present form he belongs to the world of externalization, the world of objects gross, coarse, over-bulky ; into the world of the kingdom of heaven, so infinitely fine, delicate, incorporeal,—a world which vanishes in the nothingness of a point of the sensuous world, but unfolds itself great and wide in the vast All of the spirit,—into this world it is impossible for him to enter. This explanation of Jesus astonished the disciples yet more. ‘Who then can be saved ?’ they exclaimed. It is observable that they do not say, for example, ‘Then no rich man can be saved.’ In fact, it was impossible all along that they should take our Lord's words in the outward sense in which many commentators of the present day do. They were well aware that the heart of rich people, the inclination to acquire and possess, is not only to be found in those who have the accident of possessing wealth, but in all men in general ; and they therefore very properly concluded, that if the rich, by reason of the eagerness and anxiety with which they possess their property, are disqualified from entering into the kingdom of heaven, then the way is cut off from all men without distinction, even the very poorest. Jesus cast upon them a significant glance;—perhaps what His look meant to express was this, ‘Well do ye say the truth! As ye now are, ye cannot yet enter into the kingdom of God. Certain measures must first be taken before that end can be gained!’ And then He said, ‘With men this is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’

In speaking these words, it no doubt stood clearly before His soul, how those disciples of His, who at present were neither qualified to enter into the kingdom of God, nor able of themselves to make themselves fit—these, God from high heaven above would soon, by means of the tempest of the cross which was to burst upon their heads, and through the working of His Holy Spirit, make so poor in spirit that they should then be capable of entering into the kingdom of God, and at the same time should come to see how God in general is able in ten thousand ways to make rich men poor, that thus they may be disposed to receive the blessings of His kingdom. A man is standing like a beast of burden, gross and bulky before the small, hidden spirit-gate of humility and faith, unable to find his way in: that man God is able by His visitations to make so free from his burdens and corporeal bulk, that, like a spiritual essence brought near to the nothingness of a point, and thrust over into the realm of invisible objects, and thus saved, he succeeds in making his way through the minute portal of most retired inwardness, of innermost self-devotion to Him, into the blessed kingdom of His children.

The disciples could not fail to observe that Jesus had here aimed His words at themselves, at their own particular state of mind. They felt that He meant to tell them that they were not right on this point, and that He wished to make matters quite clear between them and Himself in respect to it. Therefore it was an ‘answer,ʼ a ‘beginning to speak,ʼ a penitent acknowledgment of the truth of what He said,21 when Peter now took up the word, saying, ‘See, we have left all and have followed Thee !’

So far they seemed quite free from censure: they had given up all to follow Him. But the apostle had not yet said all he meant to say; he added, ‘ What then shall we have?ʼ Mark and Luke do not mention this last sentence; nevertheless, by what Jesus, according to their account, went on to say, they give their readers to feel that something of this sort had been said. Matthew makes the apostle only (so to speak) breathe out the word in the faintest form of expression, It is surely somewhat coarsely translated if put thus: ‘ What shall we have in return ?’ and then again somewhat coarsely explained, by taking the word as a downright expression of seeking for a reward, Various is the commenting on this passage given forth by the philosophical moralist, who out of the maxim, that we must love Virtue for her own sake, takes delight in drawing the mistaken inference, that the union of a man with Virtue is therefore a marriage of spiritualizing beggary; that Virtue is a cold, pale bride, without life or light, without joy or glorious reality. Or, else, the disciple before us is lectured by those who will fain misunderstand the Christian's hope of a recompense of rich grace, as if it were a feeling of mercenary selfishness.22 It is (we grant) impossible not to perceive that the disciple is not yet standing on the position afforded by the kingdom of God; for if he were, how could he afterwards become the denier of his Lord? ‘There does then breathe an air of mercenary feeling in conjunction with his other sentiments; and this expresses itself in the reserved and suppressed manner in which he speaks. Nevertheless, there is also an element of the eternal world in his question, a pure sentiment which holds God and Christ not as poor Beings with whom one loses everything, but Lords of an infinitely rich inheritance, with whom one gains back all that has been surrendered, and more. And this pure flame of life which is found in his question the Lord regards in His answer, more than the vapour of worldliness which invests it. ‘Verily, I say unto you (He said), because ye are they who have followed Me; in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. (See Luke 22:28-30.) The regeneration (palingenesia) is plainly our redemption and renewal consummated with the resurrection; a second, spiritual form of the renewed world of men which issues forth from the spiritual regeneration of individuals; the transfiguration of that world out of the Æon of symbolical appearances into the spiritual life of essential realities.23 The token of this consummation will be the becoming manifest to this whole creation of Him who is the centre of this new world,—the Son of man, revealed in the full glory of His appearing as Prince and Lord of Life. In conjunction with Him will then come forth into complete manifestation in the power of spiritual life all the essential characteristics of this world of ours ; and amongst them, the sovereignty also of His apostles, as the princely organs of His power, over the twelve tribes, i.e., over the manifold variety of all those classes of human spirits which belong to the kingdom of God, which are symbolically represented by the twelve tribes of Israel. (See Rev. 21:12.)

But as the Lord in this promise of His takes forethought for the apostles, so also for all His followers. ‘There is no one,’ He adds, ‘who leaves house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, and for the Gospel’s sake’ (according to Luke, ‘for the kingdom of God's sake’), ‘who shall not gain back again all a hundredfold even now in this very life; namely, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, amid (all) persecutions; and in the world to come, everlasting life.’ Thus the Christian gains back again already in this world, in the higher form of real spiritual essence, whatever in the physical and symbolical form of his life he has forfeited: houses enough, in the entertainment afforded him by his spiritual associates who receive him; brothers and sisters, in the highest sense of the term; mothers, who bless and tend the life of his soul; children, of his spirit ; lands, of his activity, of his higher enjoyment of nature, of his delights ; and all this ever purer, ever richer, as an unfolding of that eternal inheritance, of which it is said, ‘All things are yours;’ in spite of whatever persecutions of the world dim the glory of these things.24 In several particulars of detail we can trace an especial nicety in the promises here given. We may perhaps leave our house in the old world for the Lord’s sake:25 in the new world we gain back in return, houses. We leave a mother; we gain back in return, mothers. This is conformable to the character of the kingdom of the Spirit: there, one can have many houses, many mothers. On the other hand, it is not said that in place of a father one gets fathers: quite in conformity with the word of Jesus, ‘Ye shall call no one father upon earth’ (in this higher spiritual sense). Neither is the wife whom one forsakes replaced by wives. So far the word of Jesus was exactly adapted to meet what was pure and holy in Peter’s question. But when again He spoke the solemn word, ‘But many who are first shall be last, and the last first,’ He beat down to the earth every calculation of mercenary feeling. For He thereby expressed in the strongest manner, that in the kingdom of God grace reigns in the most absolute freedom, and that too upon principles according to which those who, through any fancied claims of a meritorious character, deemed themselves the first, might easily prove to be last, and vice versa. This was of itself an intimation how very much the kingdom of God was a kingdom of inward sentiment, dwelling in the spirit, and animated by unslavish love. With this view He then, in conclusion, spoke the parable of the householder, who at different hours of the day sent labourers into his vineyard, but in the evening paid them all alike. ‘This parable, as we have seen, had for its entire object the aim of bringing the disciples away from the region of mercenary feeling into that of disinterested affection.



1. The relation of the Mosaic law of marriage to the Christian may be briefly stated as follows:—Both Moses and Christ proceed from the principle that true marriage is indissoluble ; both in their appointments aim at making this marriage a real fact. Moses, in conformity with his position, seeks to compass this aim by the method of external legal enactment, ordering that divorce should be made matter of legal action before a magistrate, and hampering it by difficulties of a moral kind. Christ, on the other hand, seeks the end by adopting a course better adapted to the inward character which marks the Gospel, in conformity with the spirituality of His institution, which deals with essence rather than with form. He does not, it is true, forbid outward divorce in that Mosaic sphere of life, which is one of a political and legal character in preparation for a higher sphere of life; but He makes divorce difficult for His disciples in their own sphere of life, by pronouncing with the most emphatic severity the sentence, that the transition from a dissolved marriage into a new union can never take place without the intervention of adultery, and by determining that Christian legislators shall not sunder any marriage by authorizing a new union, which has not been already completely sundered or broken by adultery. On the other hand, He opens up to His disciples the path of inward emancipation, by marking out a general exemption from marriage bonds arising in the communion of His kingdom from the operation of three several classes of motives. ‘This is that career of priestly dignity, along which He leads His people in all their relations in life, in that of marriage as well as others, in order that He may conduct them to an ideal state of things in all respects, in those of marriage as well. Hereby external marriage, no doubt, assumes as such the character of a relation more or less symbolical ; but only in the same way as all relations in life belonging to the old Æon assume, as over against the eternal, essential relations of Christianity and the kingdom of God, a symbolical form; e.g., the relation of parents and children, of princes and subjects, of masters and servants, of possessors of property and poor people. ‘Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichniss:’ all that is perishable is only a parable.

2. The blessing which Christ gave to little children, and the words in which He eulogizes them, by declaring, that whoever would fain receive the kingdom of God must be converted and become a child, is very far from affording ground to the rationalizing notion that He pronounced children free from original sin. Rather, there results from Christ's action towards children itself the conclusion, that Christ supposes a susceptibility for moral and religious impressions existing in human nature, which by a vast interval precedes the waking up of human consciousness. If the newly born child can receive forthwith impressions of blessing, there is no reason for denying that he may also, even before his birth, be subject to such impressions. But as, on the one side, he is capable of receiving impressions of blessing in that unconscious state in which he was when coming into being, so also, on the other side also, he is capable of receiving impressions of cursing. The man is man from the first period of His coming into being, i.e., susceptible all along of human influences, and not a mere animal till the awaking of his consciousness. This truth is misapprehended alike by Rationalists and by Baptists: both regard the man, in his pre-historic (unconscious) period of existence, as a young thing with all the unsusceptibility of a mere animal; the former by denying the hereditary curse, the latter the hereditary blessing. They misconceive the infinitely delicate sensibility and soft susceptibility which a human form possesses, at its coming into being, for human impressions and qualifications of character ; and in particular, that of a newly born child, for human voices and looks. With the disposition which belongs to flat views of life to entertain mean thoughts of the individual man at his origin, is intimately connected the disposition to entertain mean thoughts also of humanity in its pre-historic antiquity.



1) Concerning the castle of Machærus, in which John died, see Sepp, ii. p. 401.

2) See above, Part IV. sec. 12

3) עֶרוַת דָּבָר The meanings of this expression appear in different places to be very different (comp. Deut. xxiii. 15, xxiv. 1). The general notion, however, seems to be that of some stain which deprives the object of the ideal character or consecration which answers to its proper conception. Whatever robs the camp of God s people in the eyes of Jehovah, whatever robs the wife in the eyes of her husband, of the brightness of its or her ideality, is עֶרוַת דָּבָר a mark of prostitution or of desecration, a pollution. The word עֶרְוָה has of itself a kindred meaning tending in the same direction. Comp. Gen. ix. 22, xlii. 9, 12 ; Lev. xx.

4) See Sepp, iii. 111.

5) Sepp, ii. 302.

6) See Sepp, iii. 109.

7) Stier (iii. 6) very properly draws attention to the circumstance, that we have in the text that He made them, not ἄνδρα. καὶ γυναῖκα, but ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ. But that this statement has a yet greater importance in relation to the idea of marriage than it has in relation to the mystery (say) that the man had ‘at first the woman still in his being,’ is not properly estimated by Stier, when (iii, 7) he asserts, in opposition to Olshausen, ‘Corporeal fellowship is not only the foundation, but also the alone essential of marriage.’ For at that rate in wedlock nothing more would be required than the presence of an ἀνὴρ and a γυνή. Not exactly does ‘fanaticism of love’ attach to making the true bridal affeetion, which is a type of the relation of Christ to the Church, a fundamental qualification for perfect marriage. But that ‘corporeal fellowship,’ having the blessing of the Church and the sanction of the law, is in this world the criterion and law of marriage, surely Olshausen had no intention of denying, when he required the union of the whole human being, and therefore required the ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ; although he certainly expresses himself wrongly when he says, that where oneness of spirit is wanting, the external union is only in appearance: he has not sufficiently considered the reflex operation of what is corporeal and of the outward arrangements of life upon the psychical, nor the sanctity of law.

8) Stier observes (iii, 10): ‘If we read the original passage in Deut. xxiv. accurately, we shall see that vers. 1-3 contain the premises which lay down the relations and proceedings which are presupposed and accepted as they are, and that ver. 4 alone contains the conclusion—the enactment based upon these premises.’

9) Even in the avenging of blood there is a moral element, without which the Prophet of the Decalogue could never have tolerated it, nor brought it under a discipline designed to train men for better things. What was simply and absolutely wrong, he could in no ease allow. Consequently also, by the legalizing of divorce, he expressed the divergence between real marriage and marriage which was merely external.

10) Neander observes on this passage: ‘ Both schools were wrong in this, that they did not mark the distinction between the position of mere State law and that of pure morality.’ This distinction, however, was hardly to be found in the Old Testament, position. The theocratic position was the oneness of that antithesis. But where they did err was in this, that they let the purely moral element drop altogether, and held only by that of mere State law.

11) For examples of the latter kind, see Stier, iii. 13.

12) Stier (iii. 9) quotes as follows from the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung: ‘Is profaning the Church's blessing at a wedding of persons divorced in opposition to church-rules, amore culpable than for a clergyman, without any demur, to pronounce the blessing over persons, in respect to whom he feels convinced that in their heart they are adulterously violating the marriage tie at the very moment in which they are contracting it?ʼ

13) It is a subject of great perplexity, that the judicial sentence of divorce has got to have the meaning of giving the parties divorced the right of contracting new marriages. The courts should decide upon the adultery, whether it has taken place or not. But whether the adulterer who in the eyes of the law has forfeited his marriage rights, is to partake of these rights afresh from regard to mitigating circumstances, is a question on which law cannot decide, but only grace, that is, no court of justice, but the throne or the magistrate of the land.

14) See 1 Cor. vii. This chapter, in fact, is in general only to be understood by being viewed in connection with the passage now under consideration, In modern times some have fancied that they have found therein a view of marriage in several respects too low; whilst, in fact, they have misunderstood the chapter, precisely because it proceeds upon the highest view of that relation.

15) Sepp (iii, 117) believes that he finds in this passage the institution of the celibacy of the clergy. He makes occasion here, as he does in other cases, to taunt with the grossest fanaticism the Evangelical Church, of whose elevated character he has not the slightest conception. ‘It appears, then, that the so-called Reformation, viewed in relation to the threefold nature of man, is no other than, in the domain of the intellect, an apostacy of science from faith; in that of morals, the betrayal of the Church to the State; and lastly, in his corporeal being, the giving over of the spirit to the flesh.’

16) [Ehc-tcufcln. The term marriage-fiend in German is used to denote either the husband or the wife who mars the happiness of a marriage by ill-temper.— ED.]

17) Stier very properly quotes a significant word of Richter's: ʻIt is not that children must become like you, but the reverse; ye must become like children.ʼ

18) [Our Lord's looking on this young man with special love, encourages us to judge him charitably, Clement of Alexandria says of him, that he comes to Jesus ‘in the persuasion that, though he lacked nothing in the way of righteousness, he lacked everything in the way of life ; and therefore begs it of Him who alone can give it.ʼ See “his eloquent tract, Quis Dives salvetur, which is an exposition of the passage under consideration,—ED.]

19) As the reading which Lachmann prefers in Matthew, τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστὶν ὀ ἁγαθός, is not only opposed by the texts of Mark and Luke, but also by MSS. of Matthew agreeing with the other Evangelists, we must acquiesce in the common reading, Yet the reading referred to has the value of being an explanation of the original text. If he is seeking from Jesus information in reference to what is good, then he should in partieular refleet, that the good is one with God, and God the only source of the goad; that he must therefore know that he is approaching the lips of Godhead, if he is seeking from Him perfect satisfaction concerning the good.

20) [ʻΟ πλοῦτος ὄργανόν ἐστι, is the key-note of the above-cited tract of Clement, and his aim throughout to show that what our Lord requires is not the casting away of riches but the extirpation of those passions of the soul which misuse them. See ‘especially c. 14.—ED.]

21) Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὀ Πέτρος, in Matt.; ἤρξατο ὁ Πέτρος λέγειν, in Mark.

22) [This objection is disposed of in a single sentence by the Hon. Robert Boyle in his Scraphic Love, see. 19: ‘To forego readily (for such rewards as Christ offers) all the pleasures of the senses, and undergo cheerfully all the hardships and dangers that are wont to attend a holy life, is such a kind of mercenariness, as none but a resigned, noble, and believing soul is likely to be guilty of.’—ED.]


ʻAlles Vergiingliche
1st nur ein Gleichniss,
Das Unzulangliche
Hier wird's Ereigniss.ʼ—Göthe.

24) Novalis sings:—

ʻWo ich ihn nur babe,
Ist mein Vaterland;
Und es fiillt mir jede gabe
Wie ein Erbtheil in die Hand:
Längst vermisste Brüder
Find ich nun in seinen Jüngern wieder.ʼ

[These lines may be partly represented to the English reader by Keble s Hymn for Monday before Easter, or by the beautiful lines of Madame Guyon, translated by Cowper:—

ʻTo me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in ev'ry clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.
My country, Lord, art Thou alone:
Nor other can I claim or own.ʼ—ED.]

25)  According to the reading of Mark and Luke. Matthew reads houses.