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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

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Verse 1

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

At the same time — When he by paying tribute had been teaching them humility and modesty, they most unseasonably discover their folly and ambition: so another time, after he had been washing their feet, and giving them the sacrament, Luke 22:15-20 See in them the depravity, the canker of our natures, and what cause God had to complain,Hosea 7:1; Hosea 7:1 ; "When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered," as if it had been on purpose to spite me, and spit venom in my face.

Came the disciples — Peter also with the rest, Matthew 18:21 , though Bellarmine will needs have it otherwise (as if he were now at sea), because he shall bear no part of the blame: take heed of that that were sin,Hosea 12:8; Hosea 12:8 .

Who is the greatestQuaerunt non quaerenda, saith Aretius: they should rather have inquired how to get into heaven than who should be highest in heaven. Ridiculum illud est, initia ignorare, et ultima rimari. But they dreamed of a distribution of honours and offices (as once in the days of David and Solomon), a worldly monarchy, like the kingdoms of the earth; as afterwards the Church was, and still is, transformed by antichrist into the image of the beast, that is, of the Roman Empire: yet they call it the kingdom of heaven, because they had heard Christ many times call it so.

In the kingdom of heaveni.e. In the state and condition of the Church Christian. So to this day among the Jews the kingdom of the Messiah is called Malcuth hashamajim, the kingdom of heaven; and rightly so: for, 1. The King is heavenly. 2. He hath heaven for his throne, whence he puts forth his power. 3. His subjects are heavenly minded, and trade for heavenly commodities. 4. Their country is heaven though their commoration be a while upon earth, where they are pilgrims and strangers. 5. The government of this kingdom is wholly heavenly and spiritual. (Cameron.)

Verse 2

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

And Jesus called a little child — Nicephorus saith this was Ignatius, who was afterwards Bishop of Antioch; but I am not bound to believe him. It is well known that he is full of fictions. Christ calling for a little child, who neither thinks great things of himself nor seeks great things for himself, rightly and really confutes their preposterous ambition and affectation of primacy, and gives them such a dumb answer as Tarquin did his son, when walking in the garden he struck off the heads of the poppies in the sight of the messenger: and as Periander the Corinthian did Thrasybulus the tyrant of Athens, when pulling off the upper ears of grain, he made all the standing grain equal, intimating thereby what a tyrant must do that would live safely and quietly.

Verse 3

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Except ye be convertedi.e. Except ye turn over a new leaf, and cast away these fond conceits and crotchets, A whimsical fancy; a perverse conceit; a peculiar notion on some point (usually considered unimportant) held by an individual in opposition to common opinion. ŒD these golden dreams of an earthly kingdom, and your high preferments therein, which like bullets of lead fastened to the eyelids of your minds, make you that you cannot look upwards.

And become as little children — In simplicity, humility, innocence, ignoscence, …, not in childishness, peevishness, pragmaticalness, talkativeness, open heartedness, … Non praecipitur Apostolis ut habeant aetatem parvulorum, sed ut innocentiam, … (Jerome.) How absurd was that Anabaptist Aurifaber, who understanding this text Nicodemically, as one saith, stirreth up people wherever he came to carry themselves childishly, if ever they would have heaven. (Scultet. Annal.) Upon whose persuasion you might have seen ridiculous imitations of boys and girls; women especially, skipping up and down, clapping their hands together, sitting naked on the ground, tickling, toying, apishly imitating one while Christ, another while antichrist, …, pretending this text for their authority. So did Massaeus the Franciscan, who is famous among his fellow friars, for that, at the command of his superior, St Francis, he wallowed on the ground as a little one, and showed all, in obedience to this text, as Sedulius testifieth, Ridiculum caput, a laughable person! Many such like examples may be met with in the legends of the Fathers, of such as were voluntaries in humility (as the apostle styles them), or rather in hypocrisy, Colossians 2:18 , θελων εν ταπεινοφροσυνη . For, huius virtutis postea homines Christiani adeo studiosi et aemuli fuere, ut tota in hypocrisin vere abierit, saith Aretius, here. Humility in many of the ancients degenerated into hypocrisy.

Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven — One sin allowed excludes out of the kingdom, be it but ambition or some such inward evil, such as the world takes no notice of, makes no matter of. Inward bleeding killeth many times, and God by killing Jezebel’s children with death ( i.e. throwing them to hell) will make all the Churches know that he searcheth the inwards, Revelation 2:23 .

Verse 4

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble, … — Children are not lifted up with pride, for the great things they are born to, neither mind they high places: but the child of a prince will play with the poorest, and make him his mate. Christians should not mind high things, but condescend to the meanest, and be carried by them, as the word signifieth ( συναπαγομενοι ) Romans 12:16 ; especially since we are all born again by the same seed, there is no difference at all in our birth or inheritance. Why then look we so big one upon another? Why do we slight or browbeat any? Have we not all one Father?

The same is greatest in the kingdom — He that can most vilify and nullify himself, shall be highest in heaven. When had David the kingdom given him in possession, but when he was as a weaned child? When was Mephibosheth advanced to David’s table, but when he made himself a dog, and therefore fit only to lie under the table, yea, a dead dog, and therefore fit only for the ditch? He that is in the low pits and caves of the earth, sees the stars in the firmament; when they who are on the tops of the mountains discern them not. He that is most humble seeth most of heaven, and shall have most of it: for the lower the ebb, the higher the tide, and the lower the foundation of virtue is laid, the higher shall the roof of glory be overlaid.

Verse 5

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

And whoso shall receive one such, … — St Luke Luke 9:48 hath it, "whosoever shall receive this child in my name." Meaneth our Saviour the child, or those that were humble as that child? Both surely. See here how highly Christ regards and rewards humility, even the picture of it in little ones. Now, if the shadow of this grace have such a healing virtue, what then hath the body? If the leaves be so sovereign, what then the fruit?

Verse 6

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

But whoso shall offend, … — By false doctrine, or loose life, or making a prey of their simplicity and humility, which many times draws on injury. A crow will stand upon a sheep’s back, pulling off wool from her side. She dare not do so to a wolf or a mastiff. a

That a millstone were hanged, … — The nether millstone, called in Greek the ass, either because it is the larger and thicker of the two; or because the millstone was drawn about by the help of the ass, μυλος ονικος . This kind of punishment the greatest malefactors among the Jews were in those days put to, as saith St Jerome. And hereby is set forth the heaviest of hell torments. Thus the beast of Rome (that grand offender of Christ’s little ones, whom he worrieth and maketh havoc of) is threatened (by a like kind of punishment) to be cast alive into the burning lake,Revelation 19:20; Revelation 19:20 . And for his city Babylon, a mighty angel is seen to take up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." This, by an elegant and emphatic gradation, notably sets forth the remediless ruin of Rome; in that an angel, a strong angel, taketh a stone, and a great stone, even a millstone, which he letteth not barely fall, but casteth, and with impetuous force thrusteth, into the bottom of the sea, whence nothing ordinarily is recovered, much less a millstone, thrust from such a hand with such a force.

Drowned in the depth of the sea — In that part of the sea that is farthest off from the shore: q.d. he is a brat of fathomless perdition, he shall be desperately drowned in destruction, ita ut in aquae summitate rursus non ebulliat, so that he would not bubble again to the surface of the water. So the Romans served their parricides, and the Grecians other grievous malefactors: they wrapped them up in lead, and cast them into the deep.

Verse 7

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

Woe to the world, because of offences — Σκανδαλον , proprie tendicula, hoc est, lignum illud curvum, quo moto decipula clauditur. The world, besides the offences they give to the saints, they give and take much hurt one from another, and so heap up wrath; while, besides their own, they bring upon themselves their other men’s sins to answer for. I have read of a woman, who living in professed doubt of the Godhead, after better illumination and repentance, did often protest that the vicious life of a great scholar in that town did conjure up those damnable doubts in her soul. When therefore corruption boils, and thou art ready to run into some reproachful evil, think the name of Christ and thy poor brother’s soul lie prostrate before thee. And wilt thou trample upon that and throttle this?

It must needs be that offences come — By God’s permission, Satan’s malice, and man’s wickedness: Venenum aliquando pro remedio fuit (Senec. de Benef.). God often draws good out of evil, as wine draws a nourishing virtue from the flesh of serpents: as the skilful apothecary, of the poisonful viper, maketh a wholesome triacle, 1 Corinthians 11:10 .

Verse 8

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

If thy hand or foot offend thee, …Matthew 5:29-30 , our Saviour forbids all his to defile themselves with the filth of sin; here, to offend others thereby. See Trapp on " Matthew 5:29 " See Trapp on " Matthew 5:30 "

Verse 9

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Pluck it out — This is the circumcision of the heart, the mortification of earthly members, which is no less hard to be done than for a man with one hand to cut off the other, or to pull out his own eyes, and then rake in the holes where they grew. And yet, hard or not hard, it must be done; for otherwise we are utterly undone for ever. Hypocrites, as artificial magicians, seem to wound themselves, but do not: as stage players, they seem to thrust themselves through their bodies, whereas the sword passeth only through their clothes. But the truly religious lets out the life blood of his beloved lusts, lays them all dead at his feet, and burns their bones to lime, as the king of Moab did the king of Edom,Amos 2:1; Amos 2:1 . As Joshua put down all the Canaanites, so doth grace all corruptions. As Asa deposed his own mother, so doth this, the mother of sin. It destroys them not by halves, as Saul, but hews them in pieces before the Lord, as Samuel.

Verse 10

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Take heed that ye despise not, … — Gr. Look to it if you do, a foul mischief is towards you. ορατε Districte praecipientis verbum. Look to it as you tender your own safety here or salvation hereafter. Cast not the least contempt upon Christ’s little ones. As little as they are, they have a great Champion, Isaiah 37:22-23 , and so many angels to right them and fight for them, that a man had better anger all the witches in the world than one of these little ones. I tell you, some great ones have been fain to humble themselves, and to lick the very dust of their feet sometimes, that they might be reconciled to them, Isaiah 60:14 . If Cain do but lower upon Abel, God will arraign him for it, Genesis 4:6 . Why is thy countenance cast down? Why dost look so doggedly? If Miriam do but mutter against Moses, God will spit in her face,Numbers 12:14; Numbers 12:14: and if Aaron had not made the more haste to make his peace by repentance, he also had tasted of the same sauce.

Their angels do always behold the face — Angels in the Syriac are named àôðéí of the face, because it is their office and honour to look always on God’s face. They are sent about God’s messages to this earth, yet are never out of their heaven, never out of the vision of their Maker. No more are godly men, when busied in their callings. And howsoever slighted in the world, yet angels are sent forth for their safeguard and service, Hebrews 1:14 , yea, for the accomplishment of all designs for the saints’ good, they stand alway looking God full in the face, to receive commandments.

Verse 11

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

For the Son of man came, … — Therefore angels are so active and officious about them. This the reprobate angels could not bring their hearts to yield to, and therefore fell through envy from their first estate: and whereas the society of angels was much maimed by their fall, their room, say some, is supplied by the saints, whom therefore they take such care of and content in.

Verse 12

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

Doth he not leave the ninety and nine — I am not, saith a divine, of their fond opinion that think the angels are here meant by the ninety-nine sheep, as if they were so infinite in number beyond the number of mankind: Theophrastus, 99 oves vult esse angelos qui non erraverunt, unam perditam, genus humanum. yet, without question, they are exceeding many, and that number cannot be known of us in this world, Daniel 7:10 ; Psalms 68:17 ; "The chariots of God are 20,000, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai," …, that is, those myriads of angels made Sion as dreadful to all her enemies as those angels made Sinai at the delivery of the law. But the application of this parable makes it plain, that the hundred sheep are God’s elect little ones; all which are set safe by Christ upon the everlasting mountains, and not one of them lost, John 10:27-29 Matthew 24:31 ; Matthew 24:36-41

Verse 13

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep , than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

And if so be that he find it — As he will most surely, for none can take them out of his hands; nor can he discharge his trust, should he suffer any one of them to wander and perish, as they will do undoubtedly, if left to themselves, such is their sheepish simplicity, Isaiah 53:6 . God hath charged Christ to see to the safekeeping of every true sheep, John 6:39-40 , and he performed it to the full, John 17:12 . As for that son of perdition there excepted, he was never of Christ’s body, yet is excepted, because he seemed to be, by reason of his office.

Verse 14

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

It is not the will of your Father — Happy for us, that we are kept by the power of God to salvation, 1 Peter 1:5 , for else it were possible for us to fall away and perish: an intercision there might be, nay, an utter excision from Christ, were not his left hand under us, and his right hand over us, Song of Solomon 2:6 , and both his hands about us, to clasp and hold us fast to himself. But his right hand is our Jachin, and his left hand our Boaz, 1 Kings 7:21 . Both which pillars in the porch of Solomon’s temple did show, not only by the matter whereof they were made, but also by the names whereby they were called, what stedfastness the elect stand in before God, both for present and future. For present they have strength in themselves; for future, God will so establish them with his grace, that they shall never wholly depart from him. As for reprobates, God saith of them, that that will die, let it die; they shall die in their sins, as the Lord threateneth the Jews; which is a thousand times worse than to die in a ditch or in a dungeon.

Verse 15

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

If thy brother shall trespass — As trespass he will, "for it must needs be that offences come," Matthew 18:7 , such is human frailty. Two flints may as soon smite together, and not fire come out, as two or more men converse together and not trespasses in one kind or other fall out. A heathen could say, Non amo quenquam nisl offendam: for so, I shall know whether he love me or no, by his forbearing of me. And Augustine saith, Qui desinit sustinere, desinit amare, He that ceaseth to bear with me, ceaseth to love me. Here therefore our Saviour, after he had deterred his from doing wrong, instructeth them how to suffer wrong. If it be not considerable, it must be dissembled. As if it be,

Go and tell him — υπαγε , Get thee gone to him presently, lest else the sore rankle, and thou hate him in thy heart, Leviticus 19:17: say not, he should come to me, …, but get thee to him with speed. Lech lecha, as God said to Abraham, up and be packing; stand not to strain courtesy with him when both have haste; but seek peace and ensue it; it is best to be first in a good matter. Remember, said Aristippus to Aeschines (with whom he was fallen out), that though I were the elder man, yet I first sought to thee. Verily, said Aeschines, thou art not only an elder, but a better man than I; for I was first in the quarrel; but thou art first in seeking reconciliation. Nae tu profecto vir me longe melior es, … Plutarch.

Tell him his fault — God’s little ones are so to be loved, as not to be let alone in their trespasses; but freely and friendly admonished, that they may see their sin and amend their way, as Denkius did when admonished by Oecolampadius. Vir fuit doctus, demissi animi, Hebraicae linguae peritus, … Resipuit tandem conversus ab Oecolamp. Scultet. Annal. He being a learned man held this heresy, that no man or devil should be damned eternally, but all saved at last, … But being also a humble man, he repented; being converted by Oecolampadius, in whose presence he died at Basil of the plague, but piously, A.D. 1528.

Thou hast gained thy brother — To God and thyself, and if to God, to thyself surely for ever, as Philemon (how much more Onesimus!) to Paul, to whom they therefore owed themselves also. Sir Anthony Kingston thus spake to Mr Hooper a little before his martyrdom: I thank God that ever I knew you, for God did appoint you to call me, being a lost child. For by your good admonitions and wholesome reproofs, whereas I was before both an adulterer and fornicator, God hath brought me to forsake and detest the same.

Verse 16

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Then take with thee one or two more — Such as are faithful, and able both to keep counsel and to give counsel; that so, if we cannot lead him by the hand to Christ, we may bear him in his bed, as they did the palsyman, and so bring him to Christ by the help of friends.

That in the mouth of two or three — To blame then are they that proceed upon every idle supposition, suspicion, report, or rumour. Three manner of persons (said Father Latimer) can make no credible information. 1. Adversaries, for evil will doth never speak well. 2. Ignorant men, and those without judgment. 3. Whisperers and blowers in men’s ears, which will spew out in hugger mugger more than they dare avow openly. To all such we must turn the deaf ear: the talebearer and tale-hearer are both of them abominable, and shut out of heaven, Psalms 15:3 .

Verse 17

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Tell it unto the church — That is, unto the church governors, the church representatives, as some think. Not the pope, whom Papists make the church virtual, and who, like a wasp, is no sooner angry but out comes a sting; which being out, is like a fool’s dagger, rattling and snapping without an edge. Hence in the year 833, when Pope Gregory IV offered to excommunicate Ludovicus Pius, the emperor, with his followers, the bishops that stood for the emperor affirmed, that they would by no means yield to the pope’s pleasure therein, sed si exeommunicaturus veniret, excommunicatus abiret cum aliter se habeat antiquorum canonum authoritas. Ussier, de Christianae Eccl. statu et successione. And in the year 1260, Leonard, an English doctor, answered the pope’s envoy, who pleaded that all churches were the pope’s; that they were his indeed (so it went then for current, but) tuitione non fruitione, defensione non dissipatione. If he should cast out Jonah and keep Ham in the ark, they would decline and disclaim his censures. Jac. Revius. Hist. Pontiff

Let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publicani.e. Neither meddle nor make with him; have thou neither sacred nor civil society with him. The Jews hated the presence, the fire, the fashion, the books of a heathen: as now a Papist may not join with a Protestant in any holy action, no, not in saying over the Lord’s prayer, or saying grace at table. Howbeit of old a Jew might eat at the same table with a heathen, Leviticus 25:44 , and come to the same temple with publicans, so they were proselytes, Luke 18:9-14 But they might do neither of these to an obstinate excommunicate, no more may we. Rebellion is as witchcraft, and obstinacy as bad as idolatry, 1 Samuel 15:23 .

Verse 18

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Whatsoever ye shall bind — Let no man despise your censure, for I will ratify it. Whatever you bind, i.e. forbid, prohibit, … As whatever ye loose, that is, command, permit, shall be seconded and settled by me in heaven, so that your word shall surely stand. Further, to bind, saith Cameron, is to pronounce a thing profane; to loose is to pronounce it lawful; as when the Jews say that David and Ezekiel bound nothing that was not bound in the law.

Verse 19

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

If two of you shall agree — How much more then a whole church full of you! Great is the power of joint prayer, Acts 12:12 ; Daniel 2:18 . Those in the Revelation whose prayers went up as a pillar of incense, and came before the Lord as the sound of many waters; the thundering legion, the Christians in Tertullian’s time, that came, an army of them, not more to beseech than to besiege God by their prayers. This made Henry III, King of France, forbid the Protestant householders in his dominions to pray with their families. And a great queen said, that she feared more the prayers of John Knox and his complices than an army of 30,000 men. The house shook where the disciples were praying, Acts 4:31 . The devil was forced to throw in the obligation to Luther and some others that were praying for a young man that had yielded himself body and soul to the devil for money, and had written the bond with his own blood. The Popish soldiers that went against the Angrognians in France, said that the ministers of that town with their prayers conjured and bewitched them, that they could not fight. While Moses, Aaron, and Hur lift up their hands and minds together in the mount, Joshua beats Amalek in the valley. He prevailed precando, more than he did proeliando. Now for the fruit of prayer, said those brave spirits at Edgehill battle, where there was never less seen of man and more of God, as the noble general thankfully acknowledged.

Verse 20

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

There am I in the midst — As to eye their behaviour, so to hear their suits. All that he requireth is, that they bring lawful petitions and honest hearts; and then they shall be sure to receive whatsoever heart can wish or need require. A courtier that is a favourite, gets more of his prince by one suit many times than a tradesman or husbandman haply doth with 20 years’ labour: so doth a praying Christian get much goods at God’s hands, as having the royalty of his ear and the command of whatsoever God can do for him. Isaiah 45:11 ; "Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me." Hence that transcendent rapture of Luther in a certain prayer of his, Fiat voluntas mea, Domine. Lord, do my pleasure. And hence that request of St Bernard to a certain friend of his to whom he had given divers directions for strictness and purity, Et cum talis fueris, saith he, memento mei: when thou art become such a one, think on me in thy prayers.

Verse 21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

And I forgive him? till seven times — How many good people even at this day think if they forgive an offending brother some few times, that they have supererogated, To do more than is commanded or required; spec. to perform a work or works of supererogation.? ŒD and deserved to be chronicled, yea, canonized! it was a fault in Peter to presume to prescribe to Christ how often he should enjoin him to forgive. Peter is still the same; ever too forwardly and forthputting.

Verse 22

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Until seventy times seveni.e. Infinities, toties quoties. God multiplieth pardons, Isaiah 55:7 ; so should we. "Love covereth all sins," Proverbs 10:12 , so large is the skirt of love’s mantle. Between God and us the distance is infinite, and if it were possible, our love to him, and to our friends in him, our foes for him, should fill up that distance, and extend itself to infiniteness. We may without sin be sensible of injuries (a sheep is as sensible of a bite as a swine), but it must be with the silence of a sheep, or at utmost the mourning of a dove, not the roaring of a bear, or bellowing of a bull, when baited. All desire of revenge must be carefully cast out; and if the wrong doer say, I repent, you must say, I remit, and that from the heart; being herein like that king of England, of whom it is said that he never forgot anything but injuries. Every Christian should keep a continual jubilee, nexus solvendo et nexas remittendo, by loosing bonds and remitting wrongs, εορταζωμεν , 1 Corinthians 5:8 .

Verse 23

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

Which would take account of his servants — This God doth daily. 1. In the preaching of the law with its direction or correction, which he that trembleth not in hearing, saith that martyr, shall be crushed to pieces in feeling. 2. In trouble of conscience, which when open, tells us all we have done, and writes bitter things against us, though they be legible only (as things written with the juice of lemons) when held to the light fire of God’s fierce wrath. 3. In the hour of death; for every man’s death’s day is his particular doom’s day. 4. At the day of judgment, when we shall appear to give an account, 2 Corinthians 5:10 . Good therefore is the counsel of Cicero, 4 in Verr., Ita vivamus ut rationem nobis reddendam arbitremur, Let us so live, as that we forget not our last reckoning. Rationem cum domino crebro putet Villicus, Let the steward often reckon with his master, saith Cato.

Verse 24

And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

Which owed him ten thousand talents — A talent is said to be 600 crowns; 10,000 talents are well nigh 12 tons of gold. As often therefore as thy brother offends thee, think with thyself what a price is put into thy hands, what an opportunity is offered thee of gaining so great a prize, of gathering in so rich a harvest.

Verse 25

But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

His lord commanded him to be sold — Those that sell themselves to do wickedly with Ahab, will sure repent them sore of their bargain, when God shall sell them off to the devil; who when he hath well fed them (as they do their slaves in some countries for like purpose) will broach them and eat them, saith Mr Bradford, chaw them and champ them, world without end in eternal woe and misery. One reason why the wicked are eternally tormented, is, because being worthless, they cannot satisfy God’s justice in any time; and he will be no loser by them.

Verse 26

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

The servant therefore fell down — This was the ready way to disarm his master’s indignation, and procure his own peace, viz., to submit to justice and implore mercy. Thus Abigail pacified David; the prodigal, his father; nay, Benhadad, Ahab, that non-such, as the Scripture describes him. The very Turks at this day, though remorseless to those that bear up, yet receive humiliation with much sweetness. Humble yourselves under God’s great hand, saith St James, and he will lift you up, James 4:10 . The Lion of Judah rends not the prostrate prey.

Verse 27

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Loosed him and forgave him the debt — Every sin is a debt; and the breach of the ten commandments set us in debt to God ten thousand talents. He requires no more but to acknowledge the debt, and to come before him with a Non sum solvendo, tendering him his Son our all-sufficient surety, and he will presently cancel the handwriting that was against us: he will cross the black lines of our sins with the red lines of Christ’s blood, and we shall be acquitted for ever.

Verse 28

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

And he laid hands on him, and took him, … — Had he truly apprehended the pardon of his own sins, he would not have been so cruel to others. Had he thoroughly dyed his thoughts in the rich mercies of God, he would have shown more mercy to men. Therefore the apostles (when our Saviour had bidden them forgive, though it were often in the same day) said unto the Lord, "Increase our faith." As who should say, The more we can believe thy love and mercy to us, the readier shall we be to do all good offices to men. But how rigid and cruel was David to the Ammonites, while he lay in his sin, and before he had renewed his faith, 2 Samuel 12:30-31 .

Verse 29

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And his fellow servant fell down — This had been sufficient to have broken the heart of a better man than he was any. The more manly and valiant any are, the more gentle and mild to the submissive, as was Alexander and Julius Caesar; and on the contrary, the more base and cowardly, the more hard-hearted and bloody, as Minerius, the pope’s champion, who at the destruction of Mernidol, in France, being entreated for a few poor souls that had escaped his all-devouring sword, although they had no more but their shirts to cover their nakedness, he sternly answered, I know what I have to do; not one of them shall escape my hands, I will send them to dwell in hell among the devils. But what came of it? his raging fury ceased not to proceed, till the Lord shortly after brought him, by a horrible disease (his guts by little and little rotting within him) to the torments of death and terrors of hell.

Verse 30

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

And he would not, but went, … — The true portraiture of an ungrateful and cruel man, that plucketh up the bridge before others, whereby himself had passed over. He that will lend no mercy, how doth he think to borrow any?

Verse 31

So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

So when his fellow servants — The angels, say some, who when they see us backward to business of this nature, are sorry, and say our errand to their and our common Lord, Angeli vident, dolent, et Domino omnia referunt (Aret.). The angels see, are grieved and refer all matters to God. Or the saints on earth groan out their discontents, against the unmerciful, to God, who soon hears them, for he is gracious,Exodus 22:27; Exodus 22:27 ; yea, the cries of the poor oppressed do even "enter into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth," James 5:4 .

Verse 32

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

O thou wicked servant — Wicked with a witness, as that wicked Haman, so Esther called him, Ezra 2:6 , who never till then had heard his true title. God will have a time to tell every man his own; and for those that are now so haughty and passionate, that none dare declare their way to their face, God will lay them low enough in the slimy valley, where are many already like them, and more shall come after them, Job 21:31-32 .

Verse 33

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

Shouldst not thou also, … — Which because he did not, his patent was called in again into the pardoning office, and he deservedly turned over to the tormentor. God will set off his own and all hearts else, from a merciless man, from a griping oppressor, as he did from Haman; not a man opened his mouth to intercede for him, when he fell before that Jewess, the queen. "For he shall have judgment without mercy," saith St James, "that hath showed no mercy;" whereas "mercy rejoiceth against judgment," as a man doth against his adversary, whom he hath subdued, James 2:13 .

Verse 34

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

And his lord was wroth — So God is said to be, when he chides and smites for sin, as men used to do in their anger; but somewhat worse than they, for his anger "burneth to the lowest hell,"Deuteronomy 32:22; Deuteronomy 32:22 .

Verse 35

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

If ye from your hearts forgive not — Forget as well as forgive, which some protest they will never do, neither think they that any do. But what saith the heathen orator to this unchristian censure? If any think that we, that have been once out, can never heartily forgive, and love one another again, he proveth not our false heartedness, but showeth his own. Siqui sest qui neminem in gratiam putat redire posse, non nostram is perfidiam arguit, sed indicat suam. Cicer. eph 37 , lib. 2.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/matthew-18.html. 1865-1868.
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