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1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
Ver. 1. At that time, &c. ] When he was cast out by his countrymen, he was heard of at the court. The gospel, as the sea, what it loseth in one place, it getteth in another. But what? had not Herod heard of Christ till now? It is the misery of many good kings that they seldom hear the truth of things. Alphonsus king of Arragon bewailed it. And of Marcus Aurelius, one of the best Roman emperors, it is said, that he was even bought and sold by his court parasites. As for Herod, he may seem to have been of Gallio’s religion, even a mere irreligion. He lay melting in filthy pleasures, and minded not the things above. Whoredom, wine, and new wine had taken away his heart, Hosea 4:11 . St Luke, Luke 9:9 , adds that he desired to see Christ, but yet never stirred out of doors to go to him; good motions make but a thoroughfare of wicked men’s hearts; they pass away as a flash of lightning, that dazzleth the eyes only, and leaves more darkness behind it.
2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Ver. 2. And said unto his servants ] So seeking a diversion of his inward terrors and torments. Perplexed he was and could find no way out, as St Luke’s word Luk 9:7 importeth. ( Διηπορει , de iis dicitur qui ita perplexi, et impediti quasi in luto tenentur, ut πορον μη ευρισκουσι , exitum non inveniant, Beza.) Conscience will hamper a guilty person, and fill him often with unquestionable conviction and horror. As those that were condemned to be crucified, bare their cross, that should soon after bear them: so God hath laid upon evildoers the cross of their own consciences, that thereon they may suffer afore they suffer; and their greatest enemies need not wish them a greater mischief. For assuredly, a body is not so torn with stripes, as a mind with the remembrance of wicked actions. And here Cain runs to building of cities, Saul to the delight of music, Belshazzar to quaffing and carousing, Herod to his minions and catamites; a so to put by, if possible, that melancholy dumps and heartqualms, as they count and call inward terrors. But conscience will not be pacified by these sorry anodynes of the devil. Wicked men may skip and leap up and down for a while, as the wounded deer doth; sed haeret lateri lethalis arundo, the deadly dart sticks fast in their sides, and will do without true repentance, till it hath brought them, as it did Herod, to desperation and destruction, so that he laid violent hands upon himself at Lyons in France, whither he and his courtezan were banished by Augustus. b
This is John the Baptist ] Herod had thought to have hugged his Herodias without control when once the Baptist was beheaded; but it proved somewhat otherwise. Indeed so long as he played alone, he was sure to win all. But now conscience came in to play her part, Herod is in a worse case than ever; for he imagined still that he saw and heard that holy head shouting and crying out against him, staring him also in the face at every turn; as that tyrant thought he saw the head of Symmachus, whom he had basely slain, in the mouth of the fish that was set before him on the table. And as Judge Morgan, who gave the sentence of condenmation against the Lady Jane Grey, shortly after he had condemned her, fell mad, and in his raving cried out continually to have the Lady Jane taken away from him, and so ended his life.
a τοις παισιν αυτου , to his boys, which haply were his serious loves.
b Nam non multo post haec, secutum est tyranni exilium et exitium. Joseph. lib. 18, cap. 9.
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife.
Ver. 3. For Herod had laid hold on John ] If John touch Herod’s white sin (and who will stand still to have his eyes picked out?) John must to prison, without bail or mainprize; a and there not only be confined, but bound as a malefactor, as a stirrer up of sedition ( Unicum crimen eorum qui crimine vacabant, as Lipsius noteth upon Tacitus). Neither bound only, but beheaded without any law, right, or reason, as though God had known nothing at all of him, as that martyr expresseth it. All this befell the good Baptist, for telling the truth, Veritas odium parit. If conscience might but judge, how many of our hearers would be found to have a Herod’s heart towards their faithful ministers? Were there but a sword (of authority) in their hand, as he said to his ass, they would surely slay them, Numbers 22:29 . They would deal by them no better than Saul did by David, 1 Samuel 18:10 , while he was playing upon his harp to ease Saul’s distracted mind, he cast a spear at him. The most savoury salt (if they can do withal) must be cast out, and trodden underfoot; as Calvin and other faithful ministers were driven out of Geneva at the first; whereupon he uttered these gracious words: Truly, if I had served men, I had been ill rewarded, b but it is well for me that I have served him who never faileth his, but will approve himself a liberal paymaster, a rich rewarder.
And put him in prison ] Having first laid hold upon all the principles in his own head that might any way disturb his course in sin, and locked them up in restraint, according to that, Romans 1:18 , wicked men detain the truth, that is, the light of their own consciences (which is as another John Baptist, a prophet from God), this they imprison in unrighteousness, and become fugitives from their own hearts, as Austin hath it. c
For Herodias’ sake, his brother ] Quam vulpinando fratri eripuerat, as one phraseth it. d And he had her not only for his wife, but for his mistress; for she ruled him at her pleasure, as Jezebel did Ahab, of which wretched couple it is said, that Regina erat Rex, Rex vero Regina. The Queen was the king, and the king was truly the queen. But it never goes well when the hen crows. How many have we known, whose heads have been broken with their own rib? Satan hath found this bait to take so well, that he never changed it since he crept into Paradise. And it is remarkable, that in that first sentence against man, this cause is expressed, Because thou obeyedst the voice of thy wife,Genesis 3:17; Genesis 3:17 .
a The action of procuring the release of a prisoner by becoming surety (‘mainpernor’) for his appearance in court at a specified time. ŒD
b Certe si hominibus servivissem, male mihi merces persolveretur, &c. Beza in Vita Salv.
c Facti sunt a corde suo fugitivi.
d Pareus Eccles. Hist.
4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
Ver. 4. For John had said unto him, It is not lawful ] Others knew it to be so, but none dared tell him so but John. In like sort Elijah told Ahab that he had troubled israel (those times and these did very much suit; John was another Elias, Herod and Herodias answered to Ahab and Jezebel). So Latimer presented for a new year’s gift to King Henry VIII a New Testament, with a napkin, having this posy about it, Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. He also wrote a letter to the king, after the proclamation for abolishing English books; where we may see and marvel at his great boldness and stoutness, who as being yet no bishop, so freely and plainly dared to so mighty a prince, in such a dangerous case, against the king’s proclamation, set out in such a terrible time, take upon him to write and to admonish that which no counsellor dared once speak unto him, in defence of Christ’s gospel. King Asa, though a godly prince, imprisoned the prophet for dealing plainly with him. Archbishop Grindal lost Queen Elizabeth’s favour, and was confined, for favouring prophecies, &c., as it was pretended; but in truth, for condemning an unlawful marriage of Julio an Italian physician with another man’s wife, while Leicester in vain opposed against his proceedings therein. (Camd. Elizab.) God’s truth must be told, however it be taken, and not be betrayed (as it is too often) by a cowardly silence.
It is not lawful for thee to have her ] And yet the pope frequently dispenseth with such incestuous marriages, King Philip III of Spain, were he now alive, might call the Archduke Albert both brother, cousin, nephew, and son: for all this were he unto him, either by blood or affinity: being uncle to himself, first cousin to his father, husband to his sister, and father to his wife, and all by papal dispensation. Abhorred filth!
5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
Ver. 5. And when he would have put him to death ] Why, what had the good Baptist done, that he must die? The people must be made believe that he suffereth for practising against the king. But this was so thin a falsehood that it might be transparently seen through. a Therefore Herod dared not kill him, though he much desired to do it, lest the people should move to rebel. He knew himself hated by them already for his cruelty and other crimes. Now if he should exasperate them afresh by executing the Baptist, whom they highly honoured, who knew what they would do? Tyrants, how terrible soever, have their fears, that curb and keep them in, for a time at least, from many notorious outrages. In the beginning of Queen Mary’s reign, after the tumult at Bourn’s sermon at the Cross (where the people flung daggers, and were ready to pull him limb from limb out of the pulpit, for persuading them to Popery), the Lord Mayor and Aldermen were willed to call a common council, and to signify to the said assembly the Queen’s determination, sc. that albeit her Grace’s conscience is stayed in matter of religion, yet she graciously meant not to compel or strain other men’s consciences, otherwise than God shall, as she trusted, put in their hearts a persuasion of the truth that she is in, through the opening of the word unto them by godly, virtuous, and learned preachers.
a Tenue mendacium pellucet. Seneca.
6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
Ver. 6. But when Herod’s birthday was kept ] All this was a mere plot, as St Mark also intimateth, in those words of his, Matthew 6:21 ; "And when a convenient day was come." This birthday then was the day appointed long before by Herod and his harlot for the acting of this tragedy. a A great feast must be prepared, the states invited, the damosel must dance, the king swear, the Baptist thereupon be beheaded, that the Queen may be gratified. And this tragedy was new acted at Paris, A.D. 1572, when the French massacre was committed under pretence of a wedding royal. Cardinal Lorrain gave a great sum of money to him that brought the first news thereof to Rome, and the pope caused it to be painted in his palace.
The daughter of Herodlas danced ] Tripudiabat tripped on the toe in a most immodest manner, as they used to do in their bacchanals, as the word signifieth. b This old fornicator seemed to be taken and tickled with the sight, that like a madman he swears to give her her request, to the half of the kingdom, which yet was more than he could do, the kingdom being not his, but the Emperor of Rome’s, to dispose of. So as Robert, Duke of Normandy, passed through Falaise, he beheld among a company of young maids dancing, one Arlet, a tanner’s daughter, whose nimbleness in her dance so enamoured the Duke, that he took her for his concubine, and on her begat our William the Conqueror. Such and no better commonly are the effects of mixed dancings, which made Chrysostom say, Ubi est saltatio, ibi eat diabolus, Where dancing is, there the devil is. And another ancient calleth dancing a circle, whose centre is the devil, blowing up the fire of concupiscence in the hearts both of the actors and spectators. Augustine saith, Omnis motus et saltus petulantice est saltus in profundum cloacae, Every caper in the dance is a leap into a deep outhouse. No sober man doth dance, saith Cicero.
And pleased Herod ] Who was now well heated with wine as an oven, Proverbs 23:31 ; Proverbs 23:33 , for then his eyes were apt to behold strange women, and his heart to utter perverse things. Gula Veneris vestibulum: Et Venus in vinis ignis ut igne furit. The throat of Venus into the court, and Venus is the firey wine as wild by fire. But what a monstrous thing it is to behold green apples on a tree in winter, to find youthful lusts in old decrepit goats!
a Res tota ex composito gesta est. Par.
b ωρχησατο, απο των υρχων , a vinearum ordinibus. from a type of wine.
7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
Ver. 7. He promised with an oath ] He not only swore rashly, but confessed himself bound thereby to perform his oath (as the Greek word ωμολογησεν signifieth), to give her whatsoever she would ask; as Judah did Tamar, and as wantons use to do to their sweethearts. "Ask me never so much dowry and gift," saith Shechem, "and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife," Genesis 34:12 .
8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.
Ver. 8. And she being before instructed, &c. ] Partus sequitur ventrem, the birth follows the belly. Here was like mother like daughter, neither good bird nor good egg, as they say. Κακου κορακος κακον ωον . The mother and daughter both had an aching tooth at the Baptist, and sought an opportunity to be meet with him ( ενειχεν αυτω , Mar 6:19 ): which now having gotten, they pursued to the utmost. The damosel came with haste to the king, saith St Mark, Mark 6:25 , when once she had her lesson, as fearing, belike, she should come too late. Such another hussy as this was dame Alice Pierce, a concubine to our Edward III. For when as at a parliament in the fiftieth year of that king’s reign, it was petitioned that the Duke of Lancaster, the Lord Latimer, chamberlain, and this dame Alice might be removed from court, and the petition was vehemently urged by their speaker, Sir Peter la Mare; this knight afterwards at the suit of that impudent woman (working upon the king’s impotencies) was committed to perpetual imprisonment at Nottingham. And another such history we have of one Diana Valentina, mistress to Henry II, King of France, whom she had so subdued, that he gave her all the confiscations of goods made in the kingdom for cause of heresy. Whereupon many were burned in France for religion, as they said, but indeed to maintain the pride and satisfy the covetousness of that lewd woman. This was in the year 1554. And in the year 1559, Ann du Bourge, a counsellor of state, was burnt also for crime of heresy; not so much by the inclination of the judges as by the resolution of the queen, provoked against him: because, forsooth, the Lutherans gave out that the king had been slain, as he was running at tilt, by a wound in the eye, by the providence of God, for a punishment of his words used against Du Bourge, that he would see him burnt.
9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her .
Ver. 9. And the king was sorry ] John’s innocence might haply so triumph in Herod’s conscience, as to force some grief upon him at the thought of so foul a fact. But I rather think otherwise, that all was but in hypocrisy, Luke 13:31 . For lasciviousness usually sears up the conscience (till the time of reckoning for all comes) and brings men to that dead and dedolent disposition, Ephesians 4:19 . Only this fox feigns himself sorry for John, as his father feigned himself willing to worship the Lord Christ, Matthew 2:8 ; as Tiberius (Herod’s lord and master) would seem very sorry for those whom for his pleasure’s sake only, he put to death, Gallius Germanicus, Drusus, &c. a And as Andronicus the Greek Emperor, that deep dissembler, would weep over those whom he had for no cause caused to be executed, as if he had been the most sorrowful man alive, Dissimulat mentis suae malitiam artifex homicida. This cunning murderer craftily hides his malice, saith St Jerome, and seeming sad in the face is glad at heart to be rid of the importunate Baptist, that he may sin uncontrolled.
For the oath’s sake, and them which sat ] All this was but pretended to his villany, and that he might have somewhat to say to the people, whom he feared, in excuse for himself. As that he beheaded the Baptist indeed, but his guests would needs have it so, because he had promised the damosel her whole desire, and she would not otherwise be satisfied. Besides, it was his birthday, wherein it was not fit he should deny his nobles anything, who minded him of his oath, &c. But the oath was wicked, and therefore not obligatory. b He should have broken it, as David in like case did, 1 Samuel 25:33 , when he swore a great oath what he would do to Nabal. But Herod, for the avoiding of the sands, rusheth upon the rocks, prevents perjury by murder, not considering the rule, that no man is held so perplexed between two vices, but that he may find an issue without falling into a third. c
And them which sat with him at meat ] These he had more respect to than to God. A hypocrite’s care is all for the world’s approval and applause. They should have showed him his sin, and opposed his sentence. But that is not the guise of godless parasites, those Aiones et Negones aulici, qui omnia loquuntur ad gratiam, nihil ad veritatem. These court parasites and parrots know no other tune or tone, but what will please their masters, quorum etiam sputum lingunt, as one saith, soothing and smoothing, and smothering up many of their foul facts, that they thereby may the better ingratiate. d Principibus ideo amicus deest quia nihil deest: there is a wonderful sympathy between princes and parasites. But David would none of them,Psalms 101:7; Psalms 101:7 , and Sigismond, the emperor, cussed them out of his presence. And surely if wishing were anything (said Henricus Stephanus), like as the Thessalians once utterly overthrew the city called Flattery, so I could desire, that above all other malefactors, court parasites were utterly rooted out, as the most pestilent persons in the world.
a Commiserabatur cos in quos graviter animadvertebat. Dio.
b Iuramenta contra bonos mores facta non sunt obligatoria: est regula in utroque iure.
c Nemo ita perplexus tenetur inter duo vitia, quin exitus pateat absque tertio.
d Apud principes η ηκιστα η ηδιστα , ut sensit quidam Croesi conciliarius.
10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
Ver. 10. And he sent and beheaded John ] Put him to death secrecy, as the Papists did and do still (in the bloody Inquisition house especially) many of the martyrs. Stokesby, bishop of London, caused Mr John Hunne to be thrust in at the nose with hot burning needles, while he was in the prison, and then to be hanged there; and said he had hanged himself. Another bishop having in his prison an innocent man, because he could not overcome him by Scripture, caused him privily to be snarled, and his flesh to be torn and plucked away with pincers; and bringing him before the people, said the rats had eaten him. And I have heard of a certain bishop, saith Melancthon, that so starved ten good men whom he held in prison for religion, that before they died they devoured one another. Quis unquam hoc audivit in Phalaridis historia? saith he: who ever heard of such a cruelty? But it so pleaseth God, for excellent ends, to order that all things here come alike to all, yea, that none out of hell suffer more than the saints. This made Erasmus say, upon occasion of the burning of Berquin, a Dutch martyr, Damnari, dissecari, suspendi, exuri, decollari piis cum impiis sunt communia. Damnave, dissecare, in crucem agere, exurere, decollare, bonis iudicibus cum piratis ac tyrannis communia sunt. Varia sunt hominum iudicia; ille faelix, qui iudice Deo absolvitur. The Athenians were much offended at the fall of their general Nicias, discomfited and slain in Sicily; as seeing so good a man to have no better fortune. a But they knew not God, and therefore raged at him. But we must lay our hands upon our mouths when God’s hand is upon our backs or necks: and stand on tiptoes, with Paul, to see which way Christ may be most magnified in our bodies, whether by life or by death, Philippians 1:20 .
a Nec te tua plurima Pantheu Labentem texit pietas. Ανδρα ορωντες Θεοφιλη συδενος επιεικεστερα τυχη χρησθαι των κακιστων αποκαραδοκια .
11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
Ver. 11. And his head was brought, &c. ] This was merces mundi, the world’s wages to John for all his pains in seeking to save their souls. Surely as Caesar once said of Herod the Great (this man’s father), it were better to be Herod’s swine than his son; so (saith one) many ministers have, through the corruption of the time, cause to think, it were better to be Herod’s minstrel than minister, player than preacher, dancer than doctor.
And given to the damsel ] The Romans condemned it for a detestable cruelty in Quintus Flaminius, that to gratify his harlot Placentina he beheaded a certain prisoner in her presence at a feast. This Livy calleth facinus saevum atque atrox, a cursed and horrid act: and Cato the censor cast him out of the senate for it. Neither was it long ere this tyrant Herod had his payment from heaven. For Aretas, king of Arabia (offended with him for putting away his daughter, and taking to wife Herodias), came upon him with an army, and cut off all his forces. Which loss all men interpreted, saith Josephus, xviii. 7, as a just vengeance of God upon him, for his unjust usage of the Baptist. And within a while after, being accused at Rome by his brother Agrippa, and convicted that he had 70,000 arms in readiness against the emperor, he was banished into France (as is above said) together with his Herodias, where he became his own deathsman.
And she brought it to her mother ] As a most welcome present, and pleasant dish at this Thyestean supper. Whether it was carried about the table for a merry sight (as Aretius thinks), or whether she pricked his tongue with needles, as Josephus saith (as they did Cicero’s, setting up his head in the pleading place, ubi iis concionibus multorum capita servarat, as Seneca hath it), I have nothing to affirm. But we want not examples of some tigers and tigresses, that have taken pleasure in such unrighteousness; witness Hannibal’s O formosum spectaculum! O goodly bloody sight! when he saw a pit full of man’s blood; Valesas, his O rem regiam, when he had slain 300; Stokesly, his glorying on his death bed, that he had been the death of 50 herewigs, heretics he meant; Story, his vaunting that he tossed a faggot at Denly the martyr’s face, as he was singing a psalm, and set a wine bush of thorns under his feet, a little to prick him, &c. This he spake in the parliament in Queen Elizabeth’s days, whom he usually cursed in his grace before meat, and was therefore worthily hanged, drawn, and quartered. Whereunto we may add that queen (another Herodias) who, when she saw some of her Protestant subjects lying dead and stripped upon the earth, cried out, The goodliest tapestry that she ever beheld.
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
Ver. 12. And his disciples came and took ] A pious and courteous office, such as Joseph of Arimathea boldly performed to Christ, and these devout men to Stephen, making great lamentation over him, Acts 8:2 . Good blood will not belie itself: fire will not long be hidden. Sir Anthony Kingston came to Bishop Hooper a little before he was burnt, and said, I thank God that ever I knew you, &c. And another knight came to George Tankerfield when he was at the stake, and taking him by the hand, said, Good brother, be strong in Christ, &c. Oh, sir, said he, I thank you, I am so, I thank God. It is a high praise to Onesiphorus that he sought out Paul, the prisoner, and was not ashamed of his chain, 2 Timothy 1:16-17 ; and to David’s brethren, that they came down to him to the cave of Adullam, though to their great danger, 1 Samuel 22:1 ; to the good women in the Gospel, that they came to the sepulchre to embalm Christ’s body, though it were guarded by a band of soldiers; and to those Christians in Chrysostom’s time that could not be kept from visiting the confessors in prison, though it were straitly forbidden them, upon pain of many mulets and dangers. a
And went and told Jesus ] Whom should we tell of the sufferings of his servants and ourselves, but Jesus? Say to him of his labouring Church, as they did once of his friend Lazarus, Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick, or otherwise hardly dealt with. "Then will he soon be jealous for his land, and pity his people,"Joel 2:18; Joel 2:18 : he will play Phineas’s part, and thrust a spear through the loins of his enemies, that offer to force the queen also in the house. But it’s worth the noting that John’s disciples, who before had emulated Christ and joined with the Pharisees against him, now repair unto him, and inform him of their master’s death; being henceforth willing to become his disciples. Misery makes unity, and drives them to Christ, who, till then, had no such mind to him.
a Tametsi multis terroribus, minis, et periculis interdictum esset. Chrysost. Orat. de duob. Martyr.
13 When Jesus heard of it , he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof , they followed him on foot out of the cities.
Ver. 13. When Jesus heard of it, &c. ] Dangers must be declined, where they may be with a safe conscience. David and Peter (who had both paid for their learning) say both, What man is he that loveth life, and would see good (or quiet) days?Psalms 34:12; Psalms 34:12 ; 1 Peter 3:10 .
They followed him on foot ] Hotfoot, as they say. So the people resorted to Bishop Ridley’s sermons, swarming about him like bees, and coveting the sweet juice of his godly discourses. Whose diligence and devotion is check to our dulness and devotion: if Christ would set up a pulpit at the alehouse door, some would hear him oftener.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
Ver. 14. Was moved with compassion, and healed their sick ] Christ’s mercy was not a mouth mercy: such as was that of those in St James’s time, that said to their necessitous neighbours, Depart in peace, be warmed: but with what? with a fire of words. Be filled: but with what? with a mess of words. For they gave them not those things that were needful to the body, James 1:22-27 . But our Saviour, out of deep commiseration, both pitied the people, and healed them on both sides, within and without. Oh, how well may he be called a Saviour, which in the original is a word so full of emphasis, that other tongues can hardly find a fit word to express it by. a
a Sotera inscriptum vidi Syracusis. Hoc quantum est? Ita magnum, ut Latine uno verbo exprimi non possit. Cicero.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
Ver. 15. His disciples came to him ] Not the multitudes. They forgat their bodily necessities to attend upon Christ, to hang upon his honey lips, preferring his holy word before their necessary food, as did Job, Job 23:12 . Not only before his dainties and superfluities, but his substantial food, without which he could not long live and subsist. These hearers of our Saviour came out of their cities, where they had everything at full, into the desert, where they thought nothing was to be had, to hear him. I had rather live in hell, with the word, said Luther, than in paradise without it. Our forefathers gave five marks, some of them (which is more money than ten pounds is now), for a good book: and some others of them gave a load of hay for a few chapters of St Paul or St James in English. To hear a sermon they would go as many weary steps as those good souls did,Psalms 84:7; Psalms 84:7 , or as these in the text; and neglect or hazard their bodies, to save their souls. How far are they from this that will not put themselves to any pain or cost of heaven! and if held awhile beyond the hour at a sermon are as ill settled as if they were in the stocks, or in a fit of an ague: they go out of the church as out of a jail.
This is a desert place, &c. ] Christ knew all this, better than they could tell him; and to take upon them to tell him, was as if the ostrich should bid the storks be kind to her young ones, Ac si struthiocamelus ciconiam της στοργης admoneret. Cartuo.
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
Ver. 16. They need not depart ] Whither should they go from the great housekeeper of the world, the all-sufficient God? Habet certe omnia, qui habet habentem omnia. Augustine. Christ hath a cornucopia, a horn of salvation, plenteous redemption, &c. And if he give us a crown, will he deny us a crust? "The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof." He feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies. If meat be denied, he can take away our stomachs. He can feed us by a miracle, as he did Elias of old, and the Rochellers of late.
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
Ver. 17. And they say unto him, We have here ] And were therefore ready to say with Nicodemus, "How can this be?" Christ hath said, "Give ye them to eat," to try them only, as St John Joh 6:6 hath it. And upon trial, he found them full of dross, as appears by their answer. But the comfort is, he hath promised to try his people indeed, but not as silver, Isaiah 48:10 ; lest they should not bear any so exact a trial, as having more dross in them than good ore. And where he finds any the least grain of true grace, he cherisheth and enhanceth it, by a further partaking of his holiness. The disciples here were as yet very carnal, and spake as men, 1 Corinthians 3:3 . They were ready to limit the Holy One, and say with those of old, "Can he prepare a table in the wilderness?" They measured him by their model, and looked, as Naaman did, upon Jordan with Syrian eyes. This was their fault, and must be our warning; that when we think of God, we shut out Hagar and set up Sarah, silence our reason and exalt our faith; which killeth and quelleth distrustful fear, and believes against sense in things invisible, and against reason in things incredible.
But five loaves and two fishes ] Tyrabosco was hardly driven, when from these five loaves and two fishes he concluded seven sacraments: two, belike, of God’s making, and five of the baker’s. So Cenalis, Bishop of Auranches, would prove the Church of Rome the true Church, because it had bells by which their assemblies be ordinarily called together: but the Church of the Lutherans was reported to be congregated by claps of harquebuses a and pistols; and so makes a long antithesis, by the which he would make good, the bells are the makers of the true Church. As that bells do sound, the other crack: bells open heaven, the other hell, &c.
a The early type of portable gun, varying in size from a small cannon to a musket, which on account of its weight was, when used in the field, supported upon a tripod, trestle, or other ‘carriage’, and afterwards upon a forked ‘rest’. The name in German and Flemish meant literally ‘hook-gun’, from the hook cast along with the piece, ŒD
18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
Ver. 18. Bring them hither to me ] Bring we all we have and are to Christ, that he may take off the curse and add the blessing. What the apostle saith of meat and marriage, is true of the rest, "all things are sanctified by the word and prayer," 1 Timothy 4:3 . To teach the people this it was, that the fruit of the trees was not to be eaten till the trees were circumcised, Leviticus 19:23 .
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Ver. 19. And looking up to heaven, he blessed ] Heathens consecrated their cares before they tasted them, as appears by many passages in Homer and Virgil. Some say that the elephant, ere he eats his food, turns up with his trunk the first sprig towards heaven. The Scripture, we are sure, says, that "men eat to God when they give thanks," Romans 14:6 . To whom then do they eat that give none?
And the disciples, to the multitude ] They grudged not of their little to give others some, and it grew in their hands, as the widow’s oil did in the cruse. Not getting, but giving, is the way to thrive. Nothing was ever lost by liberality.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
Ver. 20. And were filled ] So David’s cup overflowed, Psalms 23:5 ; he had not only a sufficience but an affluence. So, at the marriage of Cana, Christ gave them wine enough for 150 guests, John 2:10 . Howbeit he hath not promised us superfluities. Having food and raiment, let us be content, 1 Timothy 6:8 . A little of the creature will serve to carry us through our pilgrimage.
And they took up of the fragments ] Thrift is a great revenue ( ingens vectigal parsimonia ), and good husbandry well pleasing to God, Proverbs 27:26-27 , so it degenerate not into niggardise.
Twelve baskets full ] If we consider what they are, we may wonder they left anything, as if, what they left, that they ate anything.
21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
Ver. 21. Were about five thousand ] Pythias is famous for that he was able, at his own charge, to entertain Xerxes’ whole army, consisting of ten hundred thousand men. But he grew so poor upon it, that he lacked bread before he died. Our Saviour fed five thousand, and his store not a jot diminished: but as it is said of a great mountain of salt in Spain, de quo quantum demus tantum accrescit; so is it here.
Besides women and children ] Which did very much add to the number, and so to the miracle. But they are not reckoned of here (not out of any base esteem of them, as the Jews at this day hold women to be of a lower creation than men, and made only for the propagation and pleasure of men, but), because they eat little in comparison to men.
22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
Ver. 22. Jesus constrained his disciples ] Who seem to have been full loth to leave his sweet company. The presence of friends (how much more of such a friend!) is so sweet, that death itself is called but a departure. Christ compelled them, which is no more than commanded them (say some), to get into a ship: 1. Lest they should take part with the rash many headed multitude, who would have made him a King, John 6:15 . Thus he many times prevents sin in his by removing occasions. 2. To inure them to the cross, and to teach them, as good soldiers, to suffer hardship, which the flesh takes heavily. 3. To give them proof of his power, now perfected in their weakness, when they were ready to be shipwrecked, and to teach them to pray to him absent, whom present they had not prized to the worth, as appears, Matthew 14:17 . When we cast our precious things at our heels, as children, our heavenly Father lays them out of the way another while, that we may know the worth by the want, and so grow wiser.
He sent the multitudes away ] That he might shun even the suspicion of sedition. We must not only look to our consciences, but to our credits. "Why should I be as one that turneth aside?"Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 1:7 , saith the Church, or as one that is veiled and covered, which was the habit of a harlot? Why should I seem to be so, though I be none such? We must shun appearance of evil, whatsoever is but evil favoured. Quicquid fecerit male coloratura. Bern.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
Ver. 23. He went up into a mountain apart to pray ] Secret prayer fats the soul, as secret morsels feed the body: therefore is it said to be the banquet of grace, where the soul may solace herself with God, as Esther did with Ahasuerus at the banquet of wine, and have whatsoever heart can wish or need require. Only (because anima dispersa sit minor ) get into such a corner, as where we may be most free to call upon God without distraction, remembering our own fickleness, and Satan’s restlessness.
When the evening was come, he was there alone ] Retire we must sometimes, and into fit places, to meet God, as Balaam did, Numbers 23:15 , but to better purpose; solacing ourselves and entertaining soliloquies with him, as Isaac did in the fields, Jacob upon the way, Ezekiel by the river Chebar, Peter upon the leads, Christ here upon the mountain. While the disciples were perilling, and well-nigh perishing, Christ was praying for them: so he is still for us, at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
Ver. 24. Tossed with waves ] So is the Church often therefore styled, "O thou afflicted and tossed with tempest, that hast no comfort,"Isaiah 54:11; Isaiah 54:11 . Jesus was absent all the while: so he seemeth to be from his darlings in their desertions; he leaveth them, as it were, in the suburbs of hell, and (which is worst of all) himself will not come at them. Howbeit as the eagle when she flieth highest of all from the nest, doth evermore cast a jealous eye upon her young; so doth this heavenly eagle.
For the wind was contrary ] So it is ever lightly to the Church: this world being like the Straits of Magellan, wherein which way soever a man bends his course, he is sure to have the wind sit cross to him. But the comfort is, that whether north or south blow, they both blow good to a Christian, Song of Solomon 4:16 .
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Ver. 25. And in the fourth watch, &c. ] Then, and not till then. His time is best, whatever we think of it: his help most sweet, because most seasonable: his hand commonly kept for a deadlift.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
Ver. 26. They were troubled ] Ere they were helped: things often go backward, before they come forward with us. Deus plagam sanaturus, graviorem infligit: he knows how to commend his mercies to us.
And they cried out for fear ] For fear of him, in whom was laid up all their comfort. But pessimus in dubiis augur, timor. -How often are we mistaken, and befooled by our fears!
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
Ver. 27. But straightway Jesus spake, &c. ] He waits to be gracious, Isaiah 30:18 . Our extremity is his opportunity. Cum duplicantur lateres venit Moses. God brings his people to the mount with Abraham, yea, to the very brow of the hill, till their feet slip, and then delivers them: when all is given up for lost, then comes he in, as out of an engine, εκ μηχανης .
It is I, fear not ] Quid timet homo in sinu Dei positus? A child that is in his father’s bosom fears no bugbears.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
Ver. 28. If it be thou, bid me come unto thee, &c. ] This fact of Peter some extol as an argument of his strong faith and love to Christ. But others of better judgment censure it as an effect of unbelief and rashness in him, requiring to be confirmed by a miracle; to the which, though our Saviour assented, yet we cannot say that he approved it. The other disciples believed Christ upon his bare word, but Peter must have a sign. He had it, but with a check, Matthew 14:31 .
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
Ver. 29. And he said, Come ] Had the Pharisees asked a sign, they should have gone without, and have heard, Wicked and bastardly brood, as Matthew 12:39 . But a Peter shall have it, rather than he shall halt between two, as the word is, Matthew 14:31 . a Christ condescends to his infirmity, and bids him come. And the like was his dealing with that virtuous gentlewoman, Mistress Honywood; who, doubting much of her salvation, was often counselled by a worthy minister to take heed of inquiries further than God’s word, &c. Yet still did the temptation grow upon her, insomuch that having a Venice glass in her hand, and the same minister sitting by her; "You have often told me," said she to him, "that I must seek no further than God’s word. But I have been long without comfort, and can endure no longer; therefore if I must be saved let this glass be kept from breaking;" and so she threw it against the walls. The glass rebounds again and comes safe to the ground; which the minister having gotten into his hands, saith, "Oh, repent of this sin, bless God for his mercy, and never distrust him more of his promise; for now you have his voice from heaven in a miracle, telling you plainly of your estate." "This was curiosity," saith my author, "and might have brought despair; yet it was the Lord’s mercy to remit the fault and grant an extraordinary confirmation of her faith."
a δια τι εδιστασας . Sic dubito non inepte explanari possit, quasi sit a duo et ito. Beem.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
Ver. 30. But when he saw the wind boisterous ] Every bird can sing in a sunny day; and it is easy to swim in a warm bath; but to believe in an angry God, as David; in a killing God, as Job; to stick to him in deepest desertion, as the Church, Psalms 44:17-18 ; to trust in his name, and stay upon his word, where there is darkness and no light, asIsaiah 50:10; Isaiah 50:10 ; to cast anchor even in the darkest night of temptation, when neither sun nor stars appear, as Paul and his company, Acts 27:20 , praying still for day, and waiting till it dawn, O quam hoc non est omnium! this is not in the power of every Peter, who yet shall be graciously supported that they faint not, neither sink under the heaviest burden of their light afflictions. It was not so much the strength of the wind, as the weakness of his faith, that put Peter into this fit of fear. Be we faithful in weakness, though weak in faith, and it shall go well with us. Be as a ship at anchor, which, though it move much, yet removes not at all.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Ver. 31. O thou of little faith, &c. ] Thou petty fidian, small faith; Christ chides Peter, and yet helps him. Involuntary failings, unavoidable infirmities, discard us not; as robberies done by pirates of either nation break not the league between princes; as lesser failings dissolve not the marriage knot. Christ knew us well before he took us, yet took us for better for worse. 2. He "hates putting away," Malachi 2:16 , and herein, as he is above law, so his mercy is matchless, Jeremiah 3:1 . Joshua the high priest, though he was ill-clothed, yet he stood before the angel, Zechariah 3:3 . Much will be so borne with, where the fault is of passion merely, or of incogitance and inadvertence, as here.
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Ver. 32. The wind ceased ] As if it had been weary of blowing so big, and now desired rest after hard labour; as the word here used importeth. Herodotus useth the same word in the same sense, where he speaks of a tempest layed by the magicians. a Rupertus calleth the winds the world’s besoms, which are used by God to sweep his great house and purge the air. b If the prince of the air make use of them to sweep God’s children, as he did Job’s children, out of the world, it cannot be said, as 1 Kings 19:11 , that God is not in that wind; for he numbereth their hairs, and counts their flittings; and being the great Aeolus, lays laws upon the winds and waves, which instantly obey him. No sooner was Christ in the ship but they were all at land.
a εκοπασεν . Pacatus fuit, quasi vir stando delassatus. Herod. in Polymnia.
b Scopus mundi. Rupert. Virgil, Aeneid, i. 65.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Ver. 33. Of a truth thou art the Son of God ] Not by creation, as Adam and the angels, Luke 3:38 ; Job 1:6 . Nor by adoption, as all believers, John 1:12 . But, 1. By eternal generation, Proverbs 8:22 ; Proverbs 2:1-22 . By personal union, Psalms 2:7 .
34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.
Ver. 34. They came into the land of Gennesaret ] Where he presently found some that observed him. When God sets up a fight in any place, a burning and a shining light, there is some work to be done. A husbandman would not send his servant with his sickle to reap thistles and nettles only. The ministry sent to a place, is an argument of some elect there, 2 Thessalonians 1:5 .
35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
Ver. 35. They sent out into all that country ] See their charity. The Philistines were not so ambitious of sending the plague, together with the ark, one to another, as these were of helping their neighbours to health, to heaven. We are born for the benefit of many, as Bucer’s physicians told him, Non sibi se, sed multorum utilitati esse natum. (Melch. Adam.) Public persons especially must have public spirits. Kings have in Greek their names from healing; a and rulers are called healers or binder up of wounds, Isaiah 3:7 .
a Αναξ ab ακος , Medela. Chirurgis et reip. Medicus rex.
36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
Ver. 36. And as many as touched, &c. ] Oh the matchless might and mercy of Christ our Saviour! He condescends to their infirmity, and heals them promiscuously, not once questioning their deserts. He giveth to all men liberally, and hitteth no man in the teeth with his former failings or present infirmities, James 1:5 . Be we also, by his example, ready to distribute, willing to communicate. This was the philosophical friendship of the Pythagoreans, the legal of the Essenes (a sect among the Jews, that had their names of healing), a and should be most of all the evangelical friendship of us Christians. "Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer," &c.,Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 58:12 : a gallant title, better than a thousand escutcheons. b
a Essenes from the Syriac אסא to heal; for besides the Bible they studied physic. Godw. Antiq. llebr.
b The shield or shield-shaped surface on which a coat of arms is depicted ŒD
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 14". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14