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1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
Ver. 1. And came into the coasts of Judea ] Upon the news of Lazarus his friend’s sickness, John 11:8 , with the hazard of his life, he came far on foot to the help of his friend. Much water cannot quench love. And this was our Saviour’s last journey toward Jerusalem, to the which he steeled his face with fortitude, and was even straitened, or pained, till it were accomplished. a So was that martyr, who (because he seemed at his lodging to be somewhat troubled, and was therefore asked by one how he did?) answered, In very deed I am in prison till I be in prison.
a το προσωπον αυτου εστηριξε , Luke 9:51 ; Luke 12:50 , συνεχομαι .
2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
Ver. 2. And great multitudes followed him ] Though he were then to die. For all that follows from this Matthew 19:1-30 ; Matthew 20:1-34 ; Matthew 21:1-46 ; Matthew 22:1-46 ; Matthew 23:1-39 ; Matthew 24:1-51 , seems to be a relation, of the acts of the last three months of his life. Follow God, was a moral precept of the heathen sages, τοις θεοις επου , who therein placed the safety and happiness of a man. Magnus est animas qui se Deo tradidit, Great is the spirit that surrenders himself to God, saith Seneca. He is a brave man that follows God through thick and thin, through whatsoever hardship.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Ver. 3. Is it lawful for a man, &c. ] A captious question, purposely to put him to shame or peril before the people. For if he liked divorce, the better sort would be offended and displeased; if he disliked it, the common sort (those that followed him), for denying them that liberty that Moses had allowed them. One thing that created Jeremiah so much trouble among the people of his time, was, that he persuaded them to the yielding up of the city to the Chaldeans, which Isaiah had so earnestly dissuaded them, not long before, in the days of King Hezekiah.
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
Ver. 4. And he answered and said unto them ] Our Saviour would not divide the inheritance, when required to it, Luke 12:13 , but he would decide controversies touching divorces; for in marriage matters many cases of conscience fall out fit to be determined by the minister, whose lips should both preserve and present knowledge to the people, whose house for this cause should be always open, as the Aediles’ house in Rome was to all comers.
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Ver. 5. And said, For this cause, &c. ] Dixit, duxit, benedixit He ordered, he commaned, he blessed these three things are said by Moses to have been done by God in the institution, and for the honour of marriage; to the which still (saith Bifield on 1Pe 3:2 ) God beareth so great respect, as that he is pleased to bear with, cover, and not impute the many frailties, follies, vanities, weaknesses, and wickednesses that are found between man and wife.
For this cause shall a man leave father ] viz., In regard of cohabitation, not of sustentation; Relinquet cubile patris et matris, as the Chaldee rightly interprets it, Genesis 2:24 . And this was the first prophecy that was ever uttered in the world (saith Tertullian and Beda), venerable therefore for its antiquity; like as is also that first hexameter, made by Phemonoe, in the year of the world 2580 (1424 BC).
Συμφερετε πτερατ οιωνοι κηρον τε μελισσαι .
And shall cleave to his wife ] Gr. Be glued to her, προσκολληθησεται . A table will often cleave in the whole wood, before it will part asunder where it is glued. A husband ought to be as firm to his wife as to himself. See Trapp on " Gen 2:24 "
And they twain shall be one flesh ] This is point blank against polygamy, which yet Anabaptists would bring in again, and Turks allow of. They learned it of Lamech, qui primus unam costam in duas divisit, who was the first polygamist, saith Jerome, but had soon enough of it. So had Jacob, Elkanah, and other holy men of old, who lived and died in this sin of polygamy, and merely through mistake, as it is thought, of that text, Leviticus 18:16 ; "Thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her," i.e. Thou shalt not superinduce one wife to another. Now the Fathers took the word (sister) for one so by blood, which was spoken of a sister by nation, as those clauses (to vex her) and (during her life) do evince.
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Ver. 6. They are no more twain ] A man’s wife is himself, εαυτον , Ephesians 5:28 ; (as is likewise a man’s country, Luke 4:23 , to cure his country is to cure himself), and they twain, saith our Saviour in the former verse, shall be εις σαρκα μιαν , into one flesh. The man misseth his rib, and the woman would be in her old place again, under the man’s arm or wing; hence no rest till they be re-united and concorporated. "My daughter," said Naomi to Ruth, "should I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" Ruth 3:1 . Why, then, should there be divorces for light matters? why should there be beating of wives, and laying upon them (as some) with their unmanly fists? Did ever any man "hate his own flesh," Ephesians 5:29 , or but hide his eyes from it? Isaiah 58:7 , how much less tear it with his teeth, and pull it away piecemeal, unless it were mad demoniacs and rash divorcers? Christ, the best husband, hates putting away, Malachi 2:16 ; yea, though never so much provoked to it,Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:1 ; Job 13:1 , he will not do it.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Ver. 7. Why did Moses then command, &c. ] Sophister-like they oppose Moses to God, scripture to scripture, as if God were against himself. This is still the guise of graceless heretics; as also to mingle and jumble together truths with falsehoods, that falsehoods may pass the more current. See it in these Pharisees. It was true that Moses commanded (for the honour of the woman, and disgrace of the man) that he should give her an abscessionale, a a bill of divorcement. But it was not true that Moses commanded to put her away. He permitted such a thing indeed as a civil magistrate by divine dispensation (better an inconvenience than a mischief), but that makes little for its lawfulness.
a A permission or command to depart. ŒD
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Ver. 8. Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts ] Ob duricordiam vestram, saith Tertullian. For the relief of the wife, questionless, was this permitted by Moses, not as a prophet, but as a lawgiver; so he suffered them to exercise usury upon strangers. And, at this day, they are, by the states where they live, permitted to strain up their usury to eighteen in the hundred (18%) upon the Christians. And so they are used, as the friars, to suck from the meanest, and to be sucked by the greatest. But what saith our statute? Forasmuch as all usury, being forbidden by the law of God, is a sin and detestable, &c. And what saith our homily book? Verily so many as increase themselves by usury-they have their goods of the devil’s gift, &c. And what saith blind nature? Aristotle in one page condemneth both τοκιστην and κυβευτην , the usurer and the gambler. And Agis, the Athenian general, set fire upon all the usurer’s books and bonds in the marketplace than which fire Agesilaus was wont to say, he never saw a fairer. But to return to the text: Moses noteth the hatred of a man’s wife to be the cause of much mischief,Deuteronomy 22:13-14; Deuteronomy 22:13-14 . Hence a divorce was allowed in that case, Deuteronomy 24:3 , lest the husband’s hatred should work the wife’s ruth or ruin, in case he should be compelled to keep her. He might put her away, therefore, but not without a double blur to himself. 1. By his writing of divorce, he should give testimony to her honesty, and that she was put away merely for his hard-heartedness toward her. 2. If she were again put away by a second husband, the first might not take her to wife again, as having once for ever judged himself unworthy of her further fellowship. Husbands should be gentle to their wives, because of their weakness: glasses are not hardly handled; a small knock soon breaks them. But there are a number of Nabals, a brood of Chaldeans, a bitter and furious nation, that have little growing in their furrows but wormwood; they have a true gall of bitterness in them, Colossians 3:20 , whereas the very heathens, at their weddings, pulled the gall out of all their good cheer, and cast it away; teaching thereby the married couples what to do ( την χολην εξελοντες, ερριψαν . Plut.). And God Almighty professeth that he hates putting away; threatening also to cut off such unkind husbands as by their harshness caused their wives, when they should have been cheerful in God’s services, to cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with crying out, so that he regarded not the offering any more, Malachi 2:13 . Picus est imago ingrati mariti, the saith Melancthon. The piannet (magpie) is an emblem of an unkind husband, for in autumn he casts off his mate, lest he should be forced to keep her in winter: afterwards, in the spring, he allures her to him again, and makes much of her. The Athenians were wont to put away their wives upon discontent, or hope of greater portions. Solon, their lawgiver (who permitted it), being asked whether he had given the best laws to the Athenians? answered, The best that they could handle.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
Ver. 9. Except it be for fornication ] This sin dissolves the marriage knot, and directly fights against human society. See Trapp on? " Mat 15:32 " See Trapp on " Joh 8:5 " The apostle adds the case of wilful desertion,1 Corinthians 7:15; 1 Corinthians 7:15 . The civil laws of the empire permitted divorce for various other causes. In Turkey the woman may sue a divorce only then, when her husband would abuse her against nature, which she doth, by taking off her shoe before the judges, and holding it the sole upward, but speaking nothing for the foulness of the fact. (Blount’s Voyage into the Levant.)
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
Ver. 10. If the case of a man be so with his wife ] viz. That he may not rid his hands of her when he will; better be married to a quartan ague than to a bad wife, said Simonides.
It is not good to marry ] It is not evil to marry, but good to be wary; to look ere one leap. Alioqui saliens antequam videat, casurus est antequam debeat, as Bernard hath it. Most men, as these disciples, look not to the commodities but discommodities of wedlock, and other things, and are discontented. But as there be two kinds of antidotes against poison, viz. hot and cold; so against the troubles of life, whether single or married, viz. prayer and patience, the one hot, the other cold, the one quenching, the other quickening.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
Ver. 11. All men cannot receive this saying ] Nor may we simply pray for the gift of continence, but with submission, since it is not simply necessary to salvation, but only of expedience: inasmuch as he that can keep himself unmarried, hath little else to care for but how he may please the Lord, and attend upon his work without distraction, sitting close at it (as the Greek word signifies) and not taken off by other business. a An instance whereof was clearly to be seen in George Prince of Anhault, whose family is said to have been ecclesia, academia, curia, a church, a university, and a court; whose sanctity and chastity in the single estate to his dying day was such, that Melancthon publicly delivered it of him, that he was the man, that of any then alive, might most certainly expect the promised reward of eternal life. b But this is not every man’s happiness; and where it is, the pride of virginity is no less foul a sin than impurity, saith Augustine. And Paphnutius, a single man, and a confessor in the primitive Church, said that the marriage bed undefiled was true chastity. c Those Popish votaries, that boasted so much of the gift of continence in themselves, and exacted it of others, have (for a punishment of their arrogance and violence) been often given up to notorious filthiness, as the Cardinal of Cremona, after his stout replying in the Council of London against priests’ marriage, was shamefully taken, the night following, with a notable whore. Lanfrancus, Archbishop of Canterbury, a great enemy to priests’ marriage, for all his gay show of monkish virginity and single life, had a son called Paulus Monachus Cadoneusis, whom he so gladly preferred to be Abbot of St Alban’s. Dr Weston (Prolocutor in the Disputation at Oxford against Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, who also passed sentence upon them, inveighing against Cranmer, for that he had been sometime a married man), was not long after taken in adultery, and for the same was by Cardinal Pole put from his spiritual livings.
Save they to whom it is given ] Maldonatus the Jesuit saith, it is given to any one that is but willing to have it, and asketh it of God; and that, because marriage is given to all that are willing to it. But this Isaiah 1:1-31 . False, for our Saviour excepts eunuchs. 2. Inconsequent, because the gift of marriage proceeds from a principle of nature, but continence from a special indulgence, 1 Corinthians 7:7 ; which they that have not are required to marry for a remedy. And yet Papists most injuriously forbid some to marry at any time, as their clergy, all at some times; and that, not as a precept of convenience, but necessity and holiness.
a 1 Corinthians 7:35 . ευπαρεδρον, απερισπαστως .
b Ex Bucholcero Melancthonis auditore hoc habeo. Scultet.
c Congressum cum legitima uxore castitatem esse dicebat. Hist. lib. i. cap. 11.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it , let him receive it .
Ver. 12. Which were so born ] Of a frigid constitution of body, and unapt for generation. This is not continence, but impotence, effeminacy, a defect in nature.
Which were made eunuchs of men ] Evirati, bereft of manhood, as in the court of Persia of old, and of Turkey at this day, where Christians’ children are not gelded only, but deprived of all their genitals, supplying the uses of nature with a silver quill; which inhuman custom was brought in among them by Selymus II out of jealousy lest his eunuchs were not so chaste as they should have been in keeping their ladies’ beds. For though made eunuchs by men, yet are they not without their fleshly concupiscences, yea, they are magni amatores mulierum, as she in Terence saith.
Which have made themselves eunuchs ] Not gelded themselves, as Origen and some others in the primitive times, by mistake of this text. (So Tertullian tells of Democritus, that he pulled out his own eyes, because he could not look upon women and not lust after them; wherein he did but publish his extreme folly to the whole city, saith he.) Nor yet tied themselves by vow to perpetual continence, out of a superstitious opinion of meriting heaven thereby, as the Essenes of old (Joseph. B. J. ii. 6), and the Popish clergy now; but live single, that they may serve God with more freedom, fighting against fleshly lusts (that fight against the soul) with those spiritual weapons, meditation, prayer, abstinence, &c., which are mighty through God to the pulling down of Satan’s strongholds set up in the heart. Hence the Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, and Arabic render this text, Qui castrarunt animam suam, which have gelded their souls. And the truth is, there they must begin, that will do anything in this kind to purpose. Incesta est, et sine stupro, quae stuprum cupit, saith Seneca. And St Paul’s virgin must "be holy both in body and in spirit," 1 Corinthians 7:34 .
13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
Ver. 13. Then were there brought unto him little ones ] By their parents, careful of their greatest good. We must also present ours, as we can, to Christ. And, 1. By praying for them before, at, and after their birth. 2. By timely bringing them to the ordinance of baptism with faith, and much joy in such a privilege. 3. By training them up in God’s holy fear; beseeching God to persuade their hearts, as Noah did for his son Japheth. We may speak persuasively, but God only persuades; as Rebekah might cook the venison, but it was Isaac only that gave the blessing.
And the disciples rebuked them ] They held it a business below their Lord to look upon little ones. But it is not with our God, as with their idol, that had no leisure to attend smaller matters:
" Non vacat exiguis rebus ad esse Iovi. "
Christian children are the Church’s nursery; the devil seeks to destroy them, as he did the babes of Bethlehem; but Christ hath a gracious respect unto them, and sets them on a rock that is higher than they.
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 14. For of such is the kingdom ] That is, all the blessings of heaven and earth comprised in the covenant belong both to these and such as these,Matthew 18:3; Matthew 18:3 . Let them, therefore, have free recourse to me, who will both own them and crown them with life eternal.
15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Ver. 15. And he laid his hands on them ] So putting upon them his father’s blessing, as Jacob did upon Joseph’s sons, whom by this symbol he adopted for his own. And albeit our Saviour baptized not these infants (as neither did he those that were larger), yet forasmuch as they were confessedly capable of Christ’s gifts, they were doubtless capable of the signs and seals of those gifts; if capable of imposition of Christ’s hands, of his benediction and kingdom, then capable also of baptism, which sayeth us, saith St Peter, in the time present, because the use thereof is permanent (though the act transient) so long as one liveth, 1 Peter 3:21 . Whensoever a sinner repents and believes on the promises, baptism (the seal thereof) is as powerful and effectual as if it were then presently administered. The Decrees and Book of Sentences say that confirmation is of more value than baptism, and gives the Holy Ghost more plentifully and effectually. And the Papists generally abuse this text, to establish their sacrament of confirmation, or bishoping of children. But, 1. These were little infants, not led, but brought in their mothers’ arms. 2. Confirmation, as they use it, was never commanded to Christ’s ministers, nor practised by his apostles.
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Ver. 16. And behold one came ] One of good rank, a ruler, Luke 18:18 , of good estate, for he was rich, and had great revenue ( χρηματα, saith Luke, κτηματα , saith Matthew,Matthew 19:22; Matthew 19:22 , he had a good title to that he had, and he lived not beside it). He was also a young man, in the prime and pride of his age, and had been well bred; both for point of civility, he came congeeing (bowing) to our Saviour, Mark 10:17 . a And for matter of piety, he was no Sadducee, for he inquires after eternal life, which they denied. And although but young, he hearkens after heaven: and though he were rich, he comes running to Christ through desire of information; whereas great men use not to run, but to walk leisurely, so to maintain their authority. Lastly, he knew much of God’s law, and had done much; so that he seemed to himself to want work, to be beforehand with God. Christ also looked upon him and loved him, as he was a tame creature, a moral man, and fit to live in a commonwealth.
What good thing shall I do? ] A most needful and difficult question, rarely moved, by rich men especially, whose hearts are usually upon their half-penny, as they say, whose mouths utter no other language but the horse leech’s, Give, give; Who will show us any good? &c.; A good purchase, a good penny’s worth? &c. Howbeit, by the manner of his expressing himself, this gallant seems to have been a Pharisee, and of that sort of Pharisees (for there were seven sorts of them, saith the Talmud) which was named, Quid debeo facere, et faciam illud, Tell me what I should do, and I will do it. They that know not Christ, would go to heaven by their good meanings and good doings; this is a piece of natural popery, that must be utterly abandoned ere eternal life can be obtained.
That I may have eternal life ] He had a good mind to heaven, and cheapens it, but was not willing to go to the price of it, that thorough sale of all. Good desires may be found in hell’s mouth, as in Balaam some short winded wishes at least. The spies praised the land as pleasant and plenteous, but they held the conquest impossible, and thereby discouraged the people. Many like well of Abraham’s bosom, but not so well of Dives’ door. They seek to Christ, but when he saith, "Take up the cross and follow me," they stumble at the cross, and fall backward. Their desires after heaven are lazy and sluggish, like the door that turns upon the hinges, but yet hangs still on them: so these wishers and woulders, for all their faint and weak desires after heaven, still hang fast on the hinges of their sins; they will not be wrought off from the things of this world, they will not part with their fatness and sweetness, though it be to reign for ever,Judges 9:11; Judges 9:11 . Theotimus in St Ambrose would rather lose his sight than his sin of intemperance ( Vale lumen amicum ), farewell bright friend, so many, their souls.
a γονυπετησας , genibus reverenter inflexis salutavit.
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is , God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Ver. 17. Why callest thou me good? ] And if I be not good, much less art thou, what good conceits soever thou hast of thyself. Here, then, our Saviour teaches this younker humility and self-annihilation. Phocion was surnamed Bonus Good, but what was his goodness more than a silver sin? Lacones neminem bonum fieri publicis literis columna incisis sanxerunt. Plut. in Quest. Graecis.
There is none good but one, that is God ] He both is good originally (others are good by participation only), and doth good abundantly, freely, constantly: "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive," saith David, Psalms 86:5 ; Psalms 119:68 ; "And let the power of my Lord be great," saith Moses, "in pardoning this rebellious people." In the original there is a letter greater than ordinary in the word jigdal (be great), to show, say the Hebrew doctors, that though the people should have tempted God, or murmured against him, ten times more than they did, yet their perverseness should not interrupt the course of his ever-flowing, over-flowing goodness, Numbers 14:17 . יגדל Hebrew Text Note Magnum iod quod valet decem, &c. Buxtorf. See Trapp on " Num 14:17 "
If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments ] That is, saith Luther, Morere, die out of hand; for there is no man lives that sins not. It is said of Charles IV, King of France, that being one time affected with the sense of his many and great sins, he fetched a deep sigh, and said to his wife, Now, by the help of God, I will so carry myself all my life long, that I will never offend him more; which word he had no sooner uttered, but he presently fell down and died. It is not our Saviour’s intent here to teach that heaven may be had or earned by keeping the law; for Adam in his innocence, if he had so continued, could not have merited heaven, neither do the angels, nor could Christ himself, had he been no more than a man. None but a proud Luciferian would have said, as Vega, the Popish perfectionary, did, Coelum gratis non accipiam, I will not go to heaven for nought, or on free cost. But our Saviour here shapes this young Pharisee an answer according to his question. He would needs be saved by doing, Christ sets him that to do which no man living can do, and so shows him his error. He sets him to school to the law, that hard schoolmaster, that sets us such lessons as we are never able to learn (unless Christ our elder brother teach us, and do our exercise for us), yea, bring us forth to God, as that schoolmaster in Livy did all his scholars (the flower of the Roman nobility) to Hannibal; who, if he had not been more merciful than otherwise, they had all perished.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Ver. 18. Thou shalt do no murder ] Our Saviour instanceth the commandments of the second table only, as presupposing those of the first, for the second table must be kept in the first; a and the whole law, say the schools, is but one copulative. The two tables of the law (saith a reverend divine) b are, in their object, answerable to the two natures of Christ, for God is the object of one man or the other. And as they meet together in the person of Christ, so must they be united in the affections and endeavours of a Christian.
a Primo praecepto reliquorum omnium observatio praecipitur. Luther.
b Mr Ley’s Pattern of Piety, p. 99.
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Ver. 19. Thou shall love thy neighbour, &c. ] Which because thou doest not (as appears, because thou wilt not part with thy possessions to relieve the poor), therefore much less doest thou love God, and therefore art not the man thou takest thyself for. Civil men overween a themselves, and boast of their moral righteousness; yet make no conscience of the lesser breaches of the second table, nor yet of contemplative wickedness, which yet angereth God,Genesis 6:6; Genesis 6:6 , and lets in the devil, 2Co 10:8-18 And these are the world’s very honest men, for lack of better, as a cab of doves’ dung was expensive food in the famine of Samaria, when better could not be had.
a To have too high expectations, or too high an opinion of oneself; to be conceited, arrogant, presumptuous, or too self-confident; to presume. ŒD
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Ver. 20. All these things have I kept ] Lie and all; as now the Popish Pharisees dream and brag that they can keep the law, and spare. a They can do more than any that ever went before them, Psalms 143:2 ; Job 15:14 ; James 3:2 . Oecolampadius saith that none of the patriarchs lived out a full thousand years (which is a number of perfection), to teach us that here is no perfection of piety. David’s heart smote him for doing that which Saul highly commended him for.
What lack I yet? ] Gr. "Wherein am I yet behind with God?" ( τι ετι υστερω ). He thought himself somewhat beforehand, and that God, likewise, was in his debt. Truly, many today grow crooked and aged with overly good opinions of themselves, and can hardly ever be set right again. They stand upon their comparisons-I am as good as thou; nay, upon their disparisons, "I am not as this publican." No, for thou art worse; yea, for this, because thou thinkest thyserf better. This arrogant youth makes good that of Aristotle, who, differencing between age and youth, makes it a property of young men to think they know all things, and to affirm lustily their own placits. b He secretly insults over our Saviour as a trivial teacher, and calls for a lecture beyond the law, worthy, therefore, to have been sent to Anticyra; surely, as when Drusius in his defenee against a nimble Jesuit, that called him heretic, alleged that heresy must be in fundamentis fidei, in the foundation of the faith, the Jesuit replied that even that assertion was heresy. So when this young man affirmed that he had ever kept the commandments, and asked, "What lack I yet?" Christ might well have said, "Thou art therefore guilty of the breach of all the commandments, because thou takest thyself to be keeper of all, and thou therefore lackest everything, because thou thinkest thou lackest nothing."
a Arrogantius mendaeium nemo hominum de se dixit. Pareus. Insignem hypocritam se gloriatur. Ib.
b παντα ειδεναι οιδσθαι και διοσχυριζεσθαι . Ethic. 1.
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Ver. 21. If thou wilt be perfect ] As thou boastest and aimest, and which never yet any man was, nor can be here. The misunderstanding of this text made some of the ancients count and call it consilium perfectionis, a counsel of perfection; such as whosoever did observe, should do something more than the law required, and so merit for themselves a higher degree of glory in heaven than others had. Hence Bernard writeth that this sentence of our Saviour filled the monasteries with monks and the deserts with anchorites. a
Go, sell all, &c. ] A personal command (for trial and discovery), as was that of God to Abraham, "Go, kill thy son Isaac." Christians may possess, but yet as if they possessed not; they must hang loose to all outward things, and be ready to forego them when called to lose them for Christ.
And give to the poor ] b So shall thou clear thyself from all suspicion of covetousness, which properly consists in pinching and saving; and so is distinguished by the apostle from extortion, which stands in immoderate getting, 1 Corinthians 6:10 ; 1 Timothy 3:3 .
And thou shalt have treasure in heaven ] Far beyond the treasures of Egypt, which yet is called Rahab,Psalms 89:10; Psalms 89:10 , because of the riches, power, and pride thereof. Oh! get a patriarch’s eye to see the wealth and worth of heaven, and then we shall soon make Moses’s choice. In the year of grace 759, certain Persian magicians c fell into that madness, that they persuaded themselves and various others that if they sold all they had and gave it to the poor, and then afterwards threw themselves naked from off the walls into the river, they should presently be admitted into heaven. Perierunt hac insania permulti, Very many perished by this madness, saith mine author. Many were cast away by this mad enterprise. How much better (if without superstition and opinion of merit) Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, who being asked by certain ambassadors that came to his court, what hounds he had, for they desired to see them, showed them the next day a pack of poor people feeding at his table, and said, These are the hounds wherewith I hunt after heaven. Hi sunt canes mei quos alo quotidie, quibus spero me coelestem gloriam venaturum. Funccius.
a A person who has withdrawn or secluded himself from the world; usually one who has done so for religious reasons, a recluse, a hermit. ŒD
b πρωχοις, απο ρου πρωσσειν , quod ad pedes divitum accidant. Such as beg from door to door.
c Magi quidam ex Maurophoris Persis.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Ver. 22. He went away sorrowful ] That Christ should require that which he was not willing to perform. If heaven can be obtained upon no other terms, Christ may keep his heaven to himself; he will have none. How many have we today that must be gainers by their religion, which must be another Diana to the craftsmasters? They are resolved, howsoever, to lose nothing, suffer nothing, but rather kick up all: Ieroboamo gravior iactura regionis quam religionis. The King of Navarre told Beza that in the cause of religion, he would launch no further into the sea than he might be sure to return safe to the haven. A number of such political professors we have that come to Christ (as this young man did) hastily, but depart heavily, when once it comes to a wholesale of all for Christ, which yet is the first lesson, the removens prohibens they cannot go back.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 23. A rich man shall hardly enter ] With that burden of thick clay, that camels bunch on his back. Heaven is a stately palace, with a narrow portal; there must he both stripping and straining ere one can get through this strait, gate. The greatest wealth is ordinarily tumoured up with the greatest swelth of rebellion against God
" Ardua res haec est opibus non tradere mores;
Et cum tot Croeses viceris, esse Numam. " Martial.
Vermis divitiarum est superbia, saith Augustine. Pride breeds in wealth as the worm doth in the apple, and he is a great rich man indeed, and greater than his riches, that doth not think himself great because he is rich. "Charge those that are rich, that they be not highminded" (for the devil will soon blow up such a blab in them, if they watch not), "and that they trust not in uncertain riches," 1 Timothy 6:17 , so as to make their gold their God, as all worldlings do, and worse, for could we but rip up such men’s hearts, we should find written in them, "The God of this present world." They that mind earthly things have destruction for their end, Philippians 3:19 . Have them we may, and use them too, but mind them we may not, nor love them, 1 John 2:15 ; that is spiritual harlotry, such as God’s soul hateth, and he "smiteth his hands at," Ezekiel 22:13 .
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Ver. 24. It is easier for a camel, &c. ] Or cable rope, as some render it, καμηλον, καμιλον funem nauticum. Either serves, for it is a proverbial speech, setting forth the difficulty of the thing. Difficile est, saith St Jerome, ut praesentibus bonis quis fruatur et futuris, ut hic ventrem istic mentem reficiat, ut de deliciis transeat, ut in coelo et in terra gloriosus appareat. Pope Adrian VI said that nothing befell him more unhappy in all his life than that he had been head of the Church and monarch of the Christian commonwealth. "When I first entered into orders," saith another pope (Plus Quintus), "I had some good hopes of my salvation; when I became a cardinal, I doubted it; but since I came to be a pope I do even almost despair." And well he might, as long as he sat in that chair of pestilence, being that man of sin, that son of perdition, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 . Ad hunc statum venit Romana Ecclesia, said Petrus Aliacus, long since, ut non esset digna regi nisi per reprobos (Cornel. a Lapide, Com. in Num 11:11 ). The popes, like the devils, are then thought to do well when they cease to do hurt, saith Johan. Sarisburiensis. They have had so much grace left, we see (some of them, however), as to acknowledge that their good and their blood rose together, that honours changed their manners, and that they were the worse men for their great wealth; and that as Shimei, seeking his servants, lost himself, so they, by reaching after riches and honours, lost their souls. Let rich men often ruminate this terrible text, and take heed. Let them untwist their cables, that is, their heart, by humiliation, James 5:1 ; James 1:10 , till it be made like small threads, as it must be, before they can enter into the eye of a needle, that is, eternal life.
25 When his disciples heard it , they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Ver. 25. They were exceedingly amazed ] Because they knew that all men either are or would be rich; and that of rich men, scarcely any but trusted in their riches. Therefore, though our Saviour told them, Mark 10:24 , that he meant it of those only that relied upon their riches, yet they remained as much unsatisfied as before, and held it a hard case that so many should miss heaven. We have much ado to make men believe that the way is half so hard as ministers make it.
26 But Jesus beheld them , and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Ver. 26. With men this is impossible ] Because rich men’s hearts are ordinarily so wedded and wedged to the world that they will not be loosened but by a powerful touch from the hand of Heaven. Think not, therefore, as many do, that there is no other hell but poverty, no better heaven than abundance. a Of rich men they say, What should such a man ail? The Irish ask, What they mean to die, &c. The gold ring and gay clothing carried it in St James’s time,James 2:2; James 2:2 . But he utterly disliked such partiality, and tells us that "God hath chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of his kingdom." In which respect he bids the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted in Christ.
But with God all things are possible ] He can quickly root out confidence in the creature, and rivet rich men to himself. He can do more than he will; but whatsoever he willeth, that he doth, without stop or hindrance. Men may lack their will for lack of power. Nature may be interrupted in her course, as it was at the time when the fire burned not the three worthies, the water drowned not Peter walking upon it, &c. Satan may be crossed and chained up; but who hath resisted the Almighty? who ever waxed fierce against God and prospered? Job 9:4 . Nature could say, all things are easy to God, and nothing impossible, ‘ Ραδια παντα θεω τελεσαι και ανηνυτον ουδεν (Linus Poeta). Howbeit for a finite creature to believe the infinite attributes of God, he is not able to do it thoroughly without supernatural grace.
a Luke 2:41 . Divitiae vocautur τα ενοντα , quia avari animo quasi insident. Beza.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
Ver. 27. Behold, we have forsaken all, &c. ] A great all, sure, a few broken boats, nets, household stuff ( Retia, navigia, reculas, Pareus). And Christ maintained them too; and yet they ask, what shall we have? Neither is it without an emphasis, that they begin with a Behold. "Behold, we have forsaken all," as if Christ were therefore greatly beholden to them, and if the young man were promised treasure in heaven, doing so-and-so, then they might challenge it; they might say with the prodigal, "Give me the portion that pertains unto me."
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Ver. 28. Ye which have followed me in the regeneration ] As if our Saviour should have said, to forsake all is not enough, unless ye be regenerate; so some sense it. Others by regeneration understand the estate of the gospel, called elsewhere a new heaven and a new earth, 2 Peter 3:13 ; the world to come, Hebrews 2:5 ; for God plants the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, that he may say to Zion, Thou art my people. There are those who understand by regeneration, the general resurrection (of which also some think Plato had heard, and therefore held, that in the revolution of so many years men should be just in the same estate wherein they were before). These that follow this latter sense, read the text thus, by an alteration of points, "Ye which have followed me, shall, in the regeneration (when the Son of man shall sit in his glory) sit upon twelve thrones," &c.
Ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones ] And so many kings. Kings they are here, but somewhat obscure ones, as Melchisedech was; but shall then appear with Christ in glory, far outshining the sun in his strength, higher than all the kings of the earth, Colossians 3:4 ; Psalms 89:27 . When Daniel had described the greatness and glory of all the four monarchies of the world, at last he comes to speak of a kingdom which is the greatest and mightiest under the whole heaven, and that is "the kingdom of the saints of the most high,"Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:18 . So glorious is their estate even here, what shall it be, then, at that great day? And if the saints (every one of them) shall judge the angels, what shall the apostles do? Surely as they absolved or condemned men in this world, so shall it fare with them at the general judgment.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Ver. 29. Shall receive an hundred fold ] In reference to Isaac’s hundred fold increase of his seed, Genesis 26:12 , or that best of grounds,Matthew 13:8; Matthew 13:8 . Those that do pillage us, they do but husband us, sow for us, when they make long furrows on our backs, Psalms 126:6 , and ride ever our heads, Psalms 66:12 . Gordius the martyr said, it is to my loss, if you bate me anything in my sufferings. Crudelitas vestra, nostra gloria, said they in Tertullian, your cruelty is our glory; and the harder we are put to it, the greater shall be our reward in heaven. Nay, on earth too: the saints shall have their losses for Christ recompensed, either in money or money’s worth, either in the same or a better thing, Maiora certamina maiora sequuntur praemia (Tertullian). Job had all doubled to him; Valentinian, for his tribuneship, the empire cast upon him, after Julian the apostate, who had put him out of office for his religion. a Queen Elizabeth (whose life for a long while had been like a ship in the midst of an Irish sea) after long restraint was exalted from misery to majesty, from a prisoner to a princess. Optanda nimirum est iactura quae lucro maiore pensatur, saith Agricola. It is doubtless a lovely loss that is made up with so great gain. Had Queen Elizabeth foreknown, while she was in prison, what a glorious reign she should have had for 44 years, she would never have wished herself a milk maid. So, did but the saints understand what great things abide them both here and hereafter, they would bear anything cheerfully. A hundred fold here, and eternal life hereafter: oh, who would not then turn spiritual purchaser? Well might St Paul say, "Godliness is profitable to all things." Well might the Psalmist say, "In doing (in suffering) thy will there is a great reward." Not for doing it only, but in doing it; for righteousness is its own reward. St Mark hath it thus: He that leaveth house, brethren, sisters, father, &c., shall receive the same in kind, house, brethren, sisters, father, &c. ThatIsaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 1:1-31 . He shall have communion with God and his consolations, which are better than them all; as Caleacius, that Italian marquis that left all for Christ, avowed them; and as Paulinus Nolanus, when his city was taken by the barbarians, prayed thus to God, Lord, let me not be troubled at the loss of my gold and silver, for thou art all in all unto me. Ne excrucier ob aurum et argentum; tu entre es mihi omnia. (Aug. C. D. i. 1.) Communion with Jesus Christ is praemium ante praemium, heaven beforehand, the anticipation of glory. 2. He many times gives his suffering servants here such supplies of their outward losses, in raising them up other friends and means, as do abundantly countervail what they have parted with. Thus, though David was driven from his wife, and she was given to another, God gave him a friend, Jonathan, whose love was beyond the love of women, 2 Samuel 1:26 . So though Naomi lost her husband and children, Boaz, Ruth, and Obed became to her instead of all. The apostles left their houses and household stuff to follow Christ, but then they had the houses of all godly people open to them, and free for them, and happy was that Lydia that could entertain them; so that having nothing, they yet possessed all things, 2 Corinthians 6:10 . They left a few friends, but they found far more wherever they came. Wherefore it was a senseless sarcasm of Julian the apostate, when reading this text, he jeeringly demanded, whether they should have a hundred wives also, for that one they had parted with? 3. God commonly exalts his people to the contrary good to that evil they suffer for him; as Joseph, of a slave, became a ruler; as Christ, that was judged by men, is Judge of all men. The first thing that Gaius did, after he came to the empire, was to prefer Agrippa, who had been imprisoned for wishing him emperor. Constantine embraced Paphnutius, and kissed his lost eye. The King of Poland sent Zelislaus, his general, who had lost his hand in his wars, a golden hand instead thereof. God is far more liberal to those that serve him, suffer for him. Can any son of Jesse do for us as he can?
a Qui pro Christi nomine amiserat tribunatum, retribuente Christo accepit imperium Oros.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Ver. 30. But many that are first, &c. ] Because Peter and the rest had called for their pay (almost before they had been at any pains for Christ), he therefore quickeneth them in these words; bidding them bestir themselves better, lest others, that are now hindermost, should get beyond them, and carry the crown. "Lay hold on eternal life," saith Paul, 1 Timothy 6:19 ; intimating that it is hanged on high, as a garland, so that we must reach after it, strain to it. So run that ye may obtain; look you to your work, God will take care of your wages; you need never trouble yourselves about the matter.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany