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Clement of Alexandria: ON THE SALVATION OF THE RICH MAN Complete

Translated by W. Wilson.

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Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved?

I. Those who bestow laudatory addresses on the rich [3838] appear to me to be rightly judged not only flatterers and base, in vehemently pretending that things which are disagreeable give them pleasure, but also godless and treacherous; godless, because neglecting to praise and glorify God, who is alone perfect and good, "of whom are all things, and by whom are all things, and for whom are all things," [3839] they invest [3840] with divine honours men wallowing in an execrable and abominable life, and, what is the principal thing, liable on this account to the judgment of God; and treacherous, because, although wealth is of itself sufficient to puff up and corrupt the souls of its possessors, and to turn them from the path by which salvation is to be attained, they stupefy them still more, by inflating the minds of the rich with the pleasures of extravagant praises, and by making them utterly despise all things except wealth, on account of which they are admired; bringing, as the saying is, fire to fire, pouring pride on pride, and adding conceit to wealth, a heavier burden to that which by nature is a weight, from which somewhat ought rather to be removed and taken away as being a dangerous and deadly disease. For to him who exalts and magnifies himself, the change and downfall to a low condition succeeds in turn, as the divine word teaches. For it appears to me to be far kinder, than basely to flatter the rich and praise them for what is bad, to aid them in working out their salvation in every possible way; asking this of God, who surely and sweetly bestows such things on His own children; and thus by the grace of the Saviour healing their souls, enlightening them and leading them to the attainment of the truth; and whosoever obtains this and distinguishes himself in good works shall gain the prize of everlasting life. Now prayer that runs its course till the last day of life needs a strong and tranquil soul; and the conduct of life needs a good and righteous disposition, reaching out towards all the commandments of the Saviour.

[3838] [The solemn words of our Lord about the perils of wealth and "the deceitfulness of riches" are much insisted on by Hermas, especially in the beautiful opening of the Similitudes (book iii.); and it seems remarkable, that, even in the age of martyrs and confessors, such warnings should have seemed needful. Clement is deeply impressed with the duty of enforcing such doctrine; and perhaps the germ of this very interesting essay is to be found in that eloquent passage in his Stromata (book ii. cap. 5, to which the reader may do well to recur, using it as a preface to the following pages.]

[3839] Rom. xi. 36.

[3840] This clause is defective in the ms. and is translated as supplemented by Fell from conjecture.

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