Adam Clarke Commentary
Christ heals a paralytic person at Capernaum, Matthew 9:1-8. Calls Matthew, Matthew 9:9-10. Eats with publicans and sinners, at which the Pharisees are offended, and he vindicates his conduct, Matthew 9:11, Matthew 9:12. The disciples of John come to him and inquire about fasting, Matthew 9:14-17. A ruler requests him to heal his daughter, Matthew 9:18, Matthew 9:19. On his road to the ruler's house, he heals a diseased woman, Matthew 9:20-22. Arriving at the ruler's house, he restores the young woman to life, Matthew 9:23-26. Heals two blind men, Matthew 9:27-31. Casts out a dumb demon, Matthew 9:32-34. Preaches and works miracles in all the cities and villages, Matthew 9:35. Is greatly affected at the desolate and dark state of the Jewish people, Matthew 9:36. Exhorts his disciples to pray to God to send them proper instructers, Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38.
He came into his own city - Viz. Capernaum, where he seems to have had his common residence at the house of Peter. See Matthew 4:13, and Matthew 8:14. This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter.
Sick of the palsy - See Matthew 4:24.
Lying on a bed - Κλινης, a couch or sofa, such as they reclined on at meals.
Seeing their faith - The faith of the paralytic person, and the faith of those who brought him; see on Mark 2:4; (note).
Be of good cheer - Θαρσει τεκνον, Son, take courage! Probably he began to despond, and Christ spoke thus to support his faith.
Thy sins be forgiven thee - Moral evil has been the cause of all the natural evil in the world. Christ goes to the source of the malady, which is sin; and to that as the procuring cause we should refer in all our afflictions. It is probable that this paralytic person had, in the earnest desires of his heart, entreated the cure of his soul, leaving his body to the care of others, as the first miracle of healing is wrought on his soul. In a state of helplessness, when we seek above all things to please God, by giving him our hearts, he often inspires others with the care of our temporal necessities. It may be necessary to be observed, that it was a maxim among the Jews that no diseased person could be healed till all his sins were blotted out. See Nedarim, fol. 41. Hence our Lord first forgives the sins, and then heals the body of the paralytic person. This appears to have been founded on Psalm 103:3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases. Here pardon precedes health. See also Psalm 41:3, Psalm 41:4. It may be observed, also, that most people are more in earnest about their souls when in sickness than in health, and therefore are more earnest in prayer for salvation.
This man blasphemeth - Βλασφημεω comes either from βλαπτειν την φημην, to hurt or blast the reputation or credit of another, or from βαλλειν ταις φημαις, to smite with reports. Whenever it is used in reference to God, it simply signifies, to speak impiously of his nature, or attributes, or works. Injurious speaking is its proper translation when referred to man.
The scribes were the literati of that time; and their learning, because not used in dependence on God, rendered them proud, envious, and obstinate. Unsanctified knowledge has still the same effect: that light serves only to blind and lead men out of the way which is not joined with uprightness of heart. The most sacred truths often become an occasion of delusion, where men are under the government of their evil passions.
Jesus knowing (ιδων seeing) their thoughts - In telling them what the thoughts of their hearts were, (for they had expressed nothing publicly), he gave them the fullest proof of his power to forgive sins; because God only can forgive sins, and God only can search and know the heart. Jesus pronounced the man's sins forgiven; and gave the scribes the fullest proof of his power to do so, by telling them what, in the secret of their souls, they thought on the subject.
God sounds the secrets of all hearts - no sin escapes his notice; how senseless then is the sinner to think he sins securely when unseen by men! Let us take heed to our hearts, as well as to our conduct, for God searches out and condemns all that does not spring from, and leads not to himself.
For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? - Both are equally easy, and equally difficult; for both require unlimited power to produce them. And every thing is equally easy to that power which is unlimited. A universe can be as easily produced by a single act of the Divine will as the smallest elementary part of matter.
The common punctuation of the above passage almost destroys the sense: the comma should be placed after easier, and to say, made the first part of the question.
But that ye may know, etc. - External miracles are the proofs of internal ones. Three miracles are wrought in this case. (I mean, by miracle, something produced or known that no power is capable of but that which is omnipotent, and no knowledge adequate to but that which is omniscient). The miracles are these:
Arise, take up thy bed - Being enabled to obey this command was the public proof that the man was made whole. Such a circumstance should not pass without improvement. A man gives proof of his conversion from sin to God who imitates this paralytic person. He who does not rise and stand upright, but either continues grovelling on the earth, or falls back as soon as he is got up, is not yet cured of his spiritual palsy. When we see a penitent enabled to rejoice in hope of God's glory, and to walk in the way of his commandments, he affords us all the proof which we can reasonably require, that his conversion is real: the proof sufficient to satisfy himself is the witness of the Holy Spirit in his own heart; but this is a matter of which those who are without cannot judge: they must form their opinion from his conduct, and judge of the tree by its fruits.
When the multitudes saw it, they marveled - Instead of εθαυμασαν, wondered, the Codex Vatic. and Cod. Bezae, with several other MSS. and versions, have εφοβηθησαν, feared. In the Gothic, and one copy of the Itala, both readings are conjoined, thus: And the multitudes seeing it, wondered and feared, and glorified God. Wondered at the miracle; feared to offend against such power and goodness; and glorified God for the works of mercy which he had wrought.
That which to the doctors of the law, the worldly-wise and prudent, is a matter of scandal, is to the humble an occasion of glorifying the Most High. Divine things make a deeper impression on the hearts of the simple multitude than on those of the doctors, who, puffed up with a sense of their own wisdom, refuse to receive the truth as it is in Jesus. The conversion of one rebellious soul is a greater miracle, and more to be admired than all that can be wrought on inanimate creatures. He who sees a sinner converted from the error of his way sees a miracle wrought by eternal power and goodness. May such miracles be multiplied!
Named Matthew - Generally supposed to be the same who wrote this history of our blessed Lord. Mathai signifies a gift in Syriac; probably so named by his parents as implying a gift from God.
The receipt of custom - The custom-house, τελωνιον - the place where the taxes levied by the Romans of the Jews, were collected.
Follow me - That is, become my disciple.
And he arose, and followed him - How blessed it is to be obedient to the first call of Christ - how much happiness and glory are lost by delays, though conversion at last may have taken place!
Sat at meat in the house - Viz. of Matthew, who it appears, from Luke 5:29, made a great feast on the occasion, thus testifying his gratitude for the honor done him; and that his friends and acquaintances might profit by the teaching of his new master, he invites them to the entertainment that was honored by the presence of Christ. His companions, it appears, were not of the most creditable kind. They were tax-gatherers (see Matthew 5:46;) and sinners, αμαρτωλοι, a word which I believe in general signifies heathens, throughout the Gospels, and in several other parts of the New Testament. See, among others, Matthew 11:19; (note); Matthew 26:45; (note); Mark 2:15-17; (note); Mark 14:41; Luke 5:30-32; (note); Luke 6:32-34; (note); Luke 7:34, Luke 7:37, (note); Luke 7:39; Luke 15:1, Luke 15:2, Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10; (note); Luke 19:7; (note); Luke 24:7; (note); John 9:16, John 9:24, John 9:25, John 9:31; (note); Romans 5:8; (note); Galatians 2:15; (note); Hebrews 7:26; (note); 1 Peter 4:18; (note); in most, if not all of which places, it evidently refers to the character or state of a Gentile, or Heathen. See also the notes on these passages.
When the Pharisees saw it - He who, like a Pharisee, never felt himself indebted to infinite mercy for his own salvation, is rarely solicitous about the salvation of others. The grace of Christ alone inspires the soul with true benevolence. The self-righteous Pharisees considered it equal to legal defilement to sit in company with tax-gatherers and heathens. It is certain that those who fear God should not associate, through choice, with the workers of iniquity, and should only be found with them when transacting their secular business requires it, or when they have the prospect of doing good to their souls.
They that be whole need not a physician - A common proverb, which none could either misunderstand or misapply. Of it the reader may make the following use: -
I will have mercy, and not sacrifice - Quoted from 1 Samuel 15:22. These are remarkable words. We may understand them as implying,
2dly. That the whole sacrificial system was intended only to point out the infinite mercy of God to fallen man, in his redemption by the blood of the new covenant. And
3dly. That we should not rest in the sacrifices, but look for the mercy and salvation prefigured by them. This saying was nervously translated by our ancestors, I will mild-heartedness, and not sacrifice.
I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners - Most of the common editions add, εις μετανοιαν, unto repentance; but this is omitted in the Codex Vatic. and Bezae, sixteen others, both the Syriac, both the Persic, Ethiop. Armen. Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, all the Itala except three, the Vulgate, Clemens Roman, Origen, Basil, Jerome, Augustin, Ambrose, and Barnabas. The omission is approved by Mill and Bengel. Griesbach leaves it out of the text.
Thy disciples fast not? - Probably meaning that they did not fast so frequently as the others did, or for the same purposes, which is very likely, for the Pharisees had many superstitious fasts. They fasted in order to have lucky dreams, to obtain the interpretation of a dream, or to avert the evil import of a dream. They also fasted often, in order to obtain the things they wished for. The tract, Taanith is full of these fasts, and of the wonders performed thus by the Jewish doctors.
Can the children of the bride-chamber - Νυμφωνος . Or, νυμφιου, bridegroom, as the Cod. Bezae and several versions have it. These persons were the companions of the bridegroom, who accompanied him to the house of his father-in-law when he went to bring the bride to his own home. The marriage-feast among the Jews lasted seven days; but the new married woman was considered to be a bride for thirty days. Marriage feasts were times of extraordinary festivity, and even of riot, among several people of the east.
When the bridegroom shall be taken from them, etc. - There was one annual fast observed in the primitive Church, called by our ancestors the spring fast, and, by us, Lent; by the Greeks τεσσερακοϚη, and by the Latins, Quadrigessima. This fast is pretended to be kept by many, in the present day, in commemoration of our Lord's forty days' fast in the wilderness; but it does not appear that, in the purest ages of the primitive Church, genuine Christians ever pretended that their quadrigessimal fast was kept for the above purpose. Their fast was kept merely to commemorate the time during which Jesus Christ lay under the power of death, which was about Forty Hours; and it was in this sense they understood the words of this text: the days will come, etc. With them, the bridegroom meant Christ: the time in which he was taken away, his crucifixion, death, and the time he lay in the grave. Suppose him dying about twelve o'clock on what is called Friday, and that he rose about four on the morning of his own day, (St. John says, Early, while it was yet dark, Matthew 20:1;), the interim makes forty hours, which was the true primitive Lent, or quadrigessimal fast. It is true that many in the primitive Church were not agreed on this subject, as Socrates, in his Church History, book v. chap. 22, says, "Some thought they should fast one day; others two; others more." Different Churches also were divided concerning the length of the time, some keeping it three, others five, and others seven weeks; and the historian himself is puzzled to know why they all agreed in calling these fasts, differing so much in their duration, by the name of Quadrigessima, or forty days' fast: the plain obvious reason appears to me to have been simply this: They put Days in the place of Hours; and this absurdity continues in some Christian Churches to the present day. For more on fasting, see Matthew 6:16.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth - Ουδεις δε επιβαλλει επιβλημα ρακους αγναφου επι ιματιω παλαιω . No man putteth a patch of unscoured cloth upon an old garment. This is the most literal translation I can give of this verse, to convey its meaning to those who cannot consult the original. Ρακος αγναφον is that cloth which has not been scoured, or which has not passed under the hand of the fuller, who is called γναφευς in Greek: and επιβλημα signifies a piece put on, or what we commonly term a patch.
It - taketh from the garment - Instead of closing up the rent, it makes a larger, by tearing away with it the whole breadth of the cloth over which it was laid; αιρει γαρ το πληρωμα αυτου - it taketh its fullness or whole breadth from the garment; this I am persuaded is the meaning of the original, well expressed by the Latin, or Itala of the C. Bezae, Tollit enim plenitudo ejus de vestimento. "It takes away its fullness from the garment."
New wine into old bottles - It is still the custom, in the eastern countries, to make their bottles of goat skins: if these happened to be old, and new wine were put into them, the violence of the fermentation must necessarily burst them; and therefore newly made bottles were employed for the purpose of putting that wine in which had not yet gone through its state of fermentation. The institutes of Christ, and those of the Pharisees, could never be brought to accord: an attempt to combine the two systems would be as absurd as it would be destructive. The old covenant made way for the new, which was its completion and its end; but with that old covenant the new cannot be incorporated.
Christian prudence requires that the weak, and newly converted, should be managed with care and tenderness. To impose such duties and mortifications as are not absolutely necessary to salvation, before God has properly prepared the heart by his grace for them, is a conduct as absurd and ruinous as putting a piece of raw, unscoured cloth on an old garment; it is, in a word, requiring the person to do the work of a man, while as yet he is but a little child. Preachers of the Gospel, and especially those who are instruments in God's hand of many conversions, have need of much heavenly wisdom, that they may know to watch over, guide, and advise those who are brought to a sense of their sin and danger. How many auspicious beginnings have been ruined by men's proceeding too hastily, endeavoring to make their own designs take place, and to have the honor of that success themselves which is due only to God.
A certain ruler - There were two officers in the synagogue, הכנסת חזן chazan ha -ceneseth, the bishop or overseer of the congregation; and הכנסת ראש rosh ha -ceneseth, the head or ruler of the congregation. The chazan takes the book of the Law, and gives it to the rosh, or ruler; and he appoints who shall read the different sections, etc. Jairus, who is the person intended here, was, in this latter sense, the ruler or governor of one of the synagogues, probably at Capernaum. See Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41.
My daughter is even now dead - Or, my daughter was just now dying; αρτι ετελευτησεν, or, is by this time dead: i.e. as Mr. Wakefield properly observes, She was so ill when I left home that she must be dead by this time. This turn of the expression reconciles the account given here with that in Mark and Luke. Michaelis conjectures that, in the Hebrew original, the words must have stood thus, מתה עתה atah matah, which, without the points, may signify either, She is dead, or She is dying.
To be successful in our applications to God by prayer, four things are requisite; and this ruler teaches us what they are.
Thirdly, He should lay open his wants with a holy earnestness - he besought him greatly. Mark 5:23.
Jesus arose, and followed him - Our blessed Lord could have acted as well at a distance as present; but he goes to the place, to teach his ministers not to spare either their steps or their pains when the salvation of a soul is in question. Let them not think it sufficient to pray for the sick in their closets; but let them go to their bed-sides, that they may instruct and comfort them. He can have little unction in private, who does not also give himself up to public duties.
A woman which was diseased with an issue of blood - Γυνη αἱμοῤῥουσα . Mulier sanguinis profluvio laborans. Significatur hoc loco, fluxus muliebris, in Sanis, menstruus; in Hac perpetuus. It would be easy to explain the nature and properties of the disease here mentioned; but, when it is said that prudence forbids it, the intimation itself may be thought sufficiently explanatory of the disorder in question. There are some remarkable circumstances relative to this case mentioned by St. Mark, Mark 5:25, etc., which shall be properly noticed in the notes on that place.
The hem of his garment - The ציצית tsitsith, or fringes, which the Jews were commanded to wear on their garments. See Numbers 15:38, and the note there.
She said within herself, If I may but touch his garment - Her disorder was of that delicate nature that modesty forbade her to make any public acknowledgment of it; and therefore she endeavored to transact the whole business in private. Besides, the touch of such a person was by the law reputed unclean. By faith in Christ Jesus, little things are often rendered efficacious to our salvation. What more simple than a morsel of bread, and a few drops of wine, in the Lord's Supper! And yet, they who receive them by faith in the sacrifice they represent, are made partakers of the blessings purchased by the crucified body and spilled blood of the Lord Jesus!
Daughter, be of good comfort - Θαρσει θυγατερ, Take courage, daughter. See on Matthew 9:2; (note). The reason of this kind speech was - Jesus, finding that virtue had proceeded from him; made inquiry who had touched him. The woman, finding that she could not be hid, came fearing and trembling, ( Mark 5:33;), and confessed the truth: to dispel these fears and to comfort her mind, Jesus said, Daughter, take courage.
Thy faith hath made thee whole - Η πιστις σου σεσωκε σε, This thy faith hath saved thee: i.e. thy faith in my power has interested that power in thy behalf, so that thou art saved from thy disorder, and from all its consequences. See on Luke 8:46; (note).
Saw the minstrels and the people making a noise - Αυλητας, pipers; Anglo-Saxon the whistlers; Gothic, haurngans haurngandans, the horn-blowers blowing with their horns. Nearly the same as the pipublasara, pipe-blowers of the Islandic: for among all those nations funeral lamentations accompanied with such rude instruments, were made at the death of relatives. That pipes were in use among the Jews, in times of calamity or death, is evident from Jeremiah 48:36. And among the Greeks, and Romans, as well as among the Jews, persons were hired on purpose to follow the funeral processions with lamentations. See Jeremiah 9:17-21; Amos 5:16. Even the poorest among the Jews were required to have two pipers, and one mourning woman. At these funeral solemnities it was usual with them to drink considerably; even ten cups of wine each, where it could be got. See Lightfoot. This custom is observed among the native Irish to this day, in what is called their Caoinan. The body of the deceased, dressed in grave-clothes and ornamented with flowers, is placed in some eminent place; the relations and caoiners range themselves in two divisions, one at the head and the other at the feet of the corpse. Anciently, where the deceased was a great personage, the bards and croteries prepared the caoinan. The chief bard of the head chorus began by singing the first stanza in a low doleful tone; which was softly accompanied by the harp. At the conclusion, the foot semichorus began the lamentation, or Ullaloo, from the final note of the preceding stanza, in which they were answered by the head semichorus; then both united in one general chorus.
The chorus of the first stanza being ended, the chief bard of the foot semichorus sung the second stanza, the strain of which was taken from the concluding note of the preceding chorus, which ended, the head semichorus began the Gol, or lamentation, in which they were answered by that of the foot, and then, as before, both united in the general full chorus. Thus alternately were the song and choruses performed during the night. I have seen a number of women, sometimes fourteen, twenty-four, or more, accompany the deceased from his late house to the grave-yard, divided into two parties on each side the corpse, singing the Ullaloo, alternately, all the way. That drinking, in what is called the wake, or watching with the body of the deceased, is practised, and often carried to a shameful excess, needs little proof. This kind of intemperance proceeded to such great lengths among the Jews that the Sanhedrin were obliged to make a decree, to restrain the drinking to ten cups each. I mention these things more particularly, because I have often observed that the customs of the aboriginal Irish bear, a very striking resemblance to those of the ancient Jews, and other Asiatic nations. The application of these observations I leave to others.
It was a custom with the Greeks to make a great noise with brazen vessels; and the Romans made a general outcry, called conclamatio, hoping either to stop the soul which was now taking its flight, or to awaken the person, if only in a state of torpor. This they did for eight days together, calling the person incessantly by his name; at the expiration of which term the phrase, Conclamatum est - all is over - there is no hope - was used. See the words used in this sense by Terence, Eun. l. 347. In all probability this was the θορυβουμενον, the making a violent outcry, mentioned here by the evangelist. How often, on the death of relatives, do men incumber and perplex themselves with vain, worldly, and tumultuous ceremonies, instead of making profitable reflections on death!
The maid is not dead, but sleepeth - That is, she is not dead so as to continue under the power of death; but shall be raised from it as a, person is from natural sleep.
They laughed him to scorn - Κατεγελων αυτον, they ridiculed him; from κατα, intensive, and γελαω, I laugh: - they grinned a ghastly smile, expressive of the contempt they felt for his person and knowledge. People of the world generally ridicule those truths which they neither comprehend nor love, and deride those who publish them; but a faithful minister of God, (copying the example of Christ), keeps on his way, and does the work of his Lord and Master.
He - took her by the hand, and the maid arose - The fountain of life thus communicating its vital energy to the dead body. Where death has already taken place, no power but that of the great God can restore to life; in such a case, vain is the help of man. So the soul that is dead in trespasses and sins - that is, sentenced to death because of transgression - and is thus dead in law, can only be restored to spiritual life by the mighty power of the Lord Jesus; because He alone has made the atonement, and He alone can pardon transgression. If the spiritually dead person be utterly unconcerned about the state and fate of his soul, let a converted relative either bring him to Christ by leading him to hear the unadulterated Gospel of the kingdom; or bring Christ to him by fervent, faithful, and persevering prayer.
And the fame hereof went abroad - In this business Jesus himself scarcely appears, but the work effected by his sovereign power is fully manifested; to teach us that it is the business of a successful preacher of the Gospel to conceal himself as much as possible, that God alone may have the glory of his own grace. This is a proper miracle, and a full exemplification of the unlimited power of Christ.
Son of David - This was the same as if they had called him Messiah. Two things here are worthy of remark:
Have mercy on us - That man has already a measure of heavenly light who knows that he has no merit; that his cry should be a cry for mercy; that he must be fervent, and that in praying he must follow Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, the son of David, expected from heaven.
When he was come unto the house - That is, the house of Peter at Capernaum, where he ordinarily lodged.
Believe ye that I am able to do this? - Without faith Jesus does nothing to men's souls now, no more than he did to their bodies in the days of his flesh.
They said unto him, Yea, Lord - Under a sense of our spiritual blindness we should have,
3dly. A proper view of his incarnation, because it is through his union with our nature, and by his sufferings and death, we are to expect salvation.
Straitly charged them - He charged them severely, from ενεβριμησατο, from εν, and βριμαομαι, to roar or storm with anger; he charged them, on pain of his displeasure, not to make it as yet public. See the reasons, Matthew 8:4.
But they - spread abroad his fame - They should have held their peace; for to obey is better than sacrifice, 1 Samuel 15:22; but man must always be wiser than God, however, it may be profitable to remark,
A dumb man possessed with a devil - Some demons rendered the persons they possessed paralytic, some blind, others dumb, etc. It was the interest of Satan to hide his influences under the appearance of natural disorders. A man who does not acknowledge his sin to God, who prays not for salvation, who returns no praises for the mercies he is continually receiving, may well be said to be possessed with a dumb demon.
And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake - The very miracle which was now wrought was to be the demonstrative proof of the Messiah's being manifested in the flesh. See Isaiah 35:5, Isaiah 35:6.
It was never so seen in Israel - The greatest of the prophets has never been able to do such miracles as these. This was the remark of the people; and thus we find that the poor and the simple were more ready to acknowledge the hand of God than the rich and the learned. Many miracles had been wrought in the course of this one day, and this excited their surprise.
He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils - This verse is wanting in both the Greek and Latin of the C. Bezae, in another copy of the Itala, and in Hilary and Juvencus. But see on Matthew 12:24; (note).
It is a consummate piece of malice to attribute the works of God to the devil. Envy cannot suffer the approbation which is given to the excellencies of others. Those whose hearts are possessed by this vice speak the very language of the devil. Calumny is but a little distance from envy. Though all persons may not have as much envy as the Pharisees, yet they should fear having some degree of it, as all have the principle from whence it proceeds, viz. sin.
Jesus went about all the cities and villages - Of Galilee. See on Matthew 4:23, Matthew 4:24; (note). A real minister of Jesus Christ, after his example, is neither detained in one place by a comfortable provision made by some, nor discouraged from pursuing his work by the calumny and persecution of others. It is proper to remark, that, wherever Christ comes, the proofs of his presence evidently appear: he works none but salutary and beneficial miracles, because his ministry is a ministry of salvation.
Among the people - Εν τω λαω . This clause is omitted by about fifty MSS., several of them of the first antiquity and authority; by the Complutensian, and by Bengel; by both the Syriac, both the Arabic, both the Persic; the Ethiopic, Gothic, Saxon, and all the Itala, except four. Griesbach has left it out of the text.
Moved with compassion - Εσπλαγχνισθη, from σπλαγχνον, a bowel. The Jews esteemed the bowels to be the seat of sympathy and the tender passions, and so applied the organ to the sense.
Επλαγχνιζομαι signifies, says Mintert, "to be moved with pity from the very inmost bowels. It is an emphatic word, signifying a vehement affection of commiseration, by which the bowels and especially the heart is moved." Both this verb and the noun seem to be derived from σπαω, to draw; the whole intestinal canal, in the peristaltic motion of the bowels, being drawn, affected, and agitated with the sight of a distressed or miserable object. Pity increases this motion of the bowels, and produces considerable pain: hence σπλαγχνιζομαι, to have the bowels moved, signifies to feel pity or compassion at seeing the miseries of others.
They fainted - Instead of εκλελυμενοι, fainted, all the best MSS., versions, and fathers, read εσκυλμενοι, grieved and melancholy. Kypke says σκυλλειν properly signifies, to pluck off the hair, as persons do in extreme sorrow or distress. The margin says, They were tired and lay down.
And were scattered abroad - Ερριμμενοι, thrown down, or, all along. They were utterly neglected as to the interests of their souls, and rejected by the proud and disdained Pharisees. This people (οχλος, this mob) that knoweth not the law, is accursed, John 7:49. Thus those execrable men spoke of the souls that God had made, and of whom they should have been the instructors.
Those teachers, in name, have left their successors behind them; but, as in the days of Christ, so now, God has in his mercy rescued the flock out of the hands of those who only fed upon their flesh, and clothed themselves with their wool. The days in which a man was obliged to give his property to what was called The Church, for the salvation of his soul, Christ being left out of the question, are, thank God, nearly over and gone. Jesus is the true Shepherd; without him there is nothing but fainting, fatigue, vexation, and dispersion. O that we may be led out and in by him, and find pasture!
The harvest - The souls who are ready to receive the truth are very numerous; but the laborers are few. There are multitudes of scribes, Pharisees, and priests, of reverend and right reverend men; but there are few that work. Jesus wishes for laborers, not gentlemen, who are either idle drones, or slaves to pleasure and sin, and nati consumere fruges. "Born to consume the produce of the soil."
It was customary with the Jews to call their rabbins and students reapers; and their work of instruction, the harvest. So in Idra Rabba, s. 2. "The days are few; the creditor is urgent; the crier calls out incessantly; and the reapers are few." And in Pirkey Aboth: "The day is short, the work great, the workmen idle, the reward abundant, and the master of the household is urgent." In all worldly concerns, if there be the prospect of much gain, most men are willing enough to labor; but if it be to save their own souls, or the souls of others, what indolence, backwardness, and carelessness! While their adversary, the devil, is going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and a careless soul, and especially a careless minister is his especial prey.
The place of the harvest is the whole earth: it signifies little where a man works, provided it be by the appointment, in the Spirit, and with the blessing of God.
That he will send forth laborers - Οπως εκβαλλη εργατας, that he would thrust forth laborers. Those who are fittest for the work are generally most backward to the employment. The man who is forward to become a preacher knows little of God, of human nature, or of his own heart. It is, God's province to thrust out such preachers as shall labor; and it is our duty to entreat him to do so. A minister of Christ is represented as a day-laborer: he comes into the harvest, not to become lord of it, not to live on the labor of others, but to work, and to labor his day. Though the work may be very severe, yet, to use a familiar expression, there is good wages in the harvest-home; and the day, though hot, is but a short one.
How earnestly should the flock of Christ pray to the good Shepherd to send them pastors after his own heart, who will feed them with knowledge, and who shall be the means of spreading the knowledge of his truth and the savor of his grace over the face of the whole earth!
The subject of fasting, already slightly noticed in the preceding notes, should be farther considered.
In all countries, and under all religions, fasting has not only been considered a duty, but also of extraordinary virtue to procure blessings, and to avert evils. Hence it has often been practised with extraordinary rigour, and abused to the most superstitious purposes. There are twelve kinds of fasts among the Hindoos: -
Fasting is considered by the Mohammedans as an essential part of piety. Their orthodox divines term it the gate of religion. With them, it is of two kinds, voluntary and incumbent; and is distinguished by the Mosliman doctors into three degrees:
It is worthy of remark, that these children of the Bridegroom, the disciples, did not mourn, were exposed to no persecution, while the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, was with them, but after he had been taken from them, by death and his ascension, they did fast and mourn; they were exposed to all manner of hardships, persecutions, and even death itself, in some of its worst forms.
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