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1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
Ver. 1. And seeing the multitudes ] As sheep without a shepherd, or as grain ripe and ready, falling, as it were, into the hands of the harvest man. The "children cried for bread, and there was none to break it," Lamentations 4:4 . His eye therefore affected his heart, and out of deep commiseration,
He went up into a mountain ] This mount was his pulpit, as the whole law was his text. It is said to be in the tribe of Naphtali, and called Christ’s mount to this day. As Moses went up into a mount to receive the law, so did the Messiah to expound it, and so must we to contemplate it. Sursum corda. Wind we up our hearts, which naturally bear downward, as the poise of a clock.
And when he was set ] Either as being weary, or as intending a longer sermon. This at his first onset upon his office, and that at his last (when he left the world and went to his Father, Joh 14:15-17 ), being the longest and liveliest that are recorded in the Gospels. He preached, no doubt, many times many hours together. But as his miracles, so his oracles, are no more of them written than might suffice to make us believe, and live through his name, John 20:31 . As the prophets of old, after they had preached to the people, set down the sum of their sermons, the heads only, for the use of the Church in all ages, so did the apostles record in their diaries the chief things in our Saviour’s sermons, out of which they afterwards (by the instinct and guidance of the Spirit of God) framed this holy history. (Scultet. Annal. epist, dedic.)
His disciples came unto him ] To sit at his feet and hear his word. Among the Jews the Rabbi sat, termed יושב or the sitter; the scholar, מתאבק or one that lieth along in the dust, a token of the scholar’s humility, subjecting himself even to the feet of his teacher. Thus Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word, Luke 10:39 . Thus all God’s saints are said to "sit at his feet, every one to receive his word," Deuteronomy 33:3 . Thus Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a great doctor in Israel, Acts 22:3 . And this custom it is thought St Paul laboured to bring into the Christian Church, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 .
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Ver. 2. And he opened his mouth ] This phrase is not superfluous (as some may conceit), but betokeneth free and full discourse, Ephesians 6:19 , of some weighty and important matter, Psalms 78:2 , uttered with great alacrity of spirit and vehemency of speech.
And taught them, saying ] He taught them sometimes (saith Theodoret) when he opened not his mouth, sc. δια του βιου και θαυματων , by his holy life and wondrous works. A mirror for ministers, who as they should open their mouths with wisdom (heaven never opened in the Revelation, but some great matter followed), so their lives should be consonant to the tenor of their teaching, a very visible comment on the audible word. Timothy must be a stamp, a standard, a pattern, a precedent to the believers, both in word and conversation ( τυπος ), 1 Timothy 4:12 . Aaron must have both bells and pomegranates on his vesture. And ministers should (as Gideon’s soldiers) carry trumpets of sound doctrine in one hand and lamps of good living in the other. There should be a happy harmony, a constant consent between their lips and their lives, ινα συνδραμοι ο βιος τω λογω , that their doctrine and conversation may run parallel, as Isidore saith in one place; or (as he hath it more emphatically in another), ινα ο λογος η υπο της πραξεως εμψυχωμενος , that their preaching may have life put into it by their practice. Nolite, saith one, magis eloqui magna, quam vivere. Vivite concionibus, concionamini moribus: Ορθοτομειτε, ορθοποδειτε: λεγοντες πρακτικως πραττοντες λογικως: Sic vocalissimi eritis praecones, etiam cum tacetis. Speak not, but live sermons, preach by your practice: the life of teaching is the life of the teacher.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 3. Blessed ] The word signifieth such as are set out of the reach of evil, in a most joyous condition, having just cause to be everlastingly merry, as being beati re et spe, blessed in hand and in hope, and such as shall shortly transire a spe ad speciem, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." They are already possessed of it, as by turf and twig. There were eighty opinions among heathens about man’s blessedness. These did but beat the bush: God hath given us the bird in this golden sermon, μακαριοι, quasi μη κηρι υποκειμενοι ; vel απο του μαλιστα χαιρειν . (Aristot.)
Are the poor in spirit ] Beggars in spirit ( Mendici spiritu. Tertul. Qui suarum virium agnoscunt ουδενειαν , hi pauperes spiritu ): such as have nothing at all of their own to support them, but being nittily needy, and not having (as we say) a cross wherewith to bless themselves, get their living by begging, and subsist merely upon alms. Such beggars God hath always about him, Matthew 26:11 . And this the poets hammered at, when they feigned that litae or prayers were the daughters of Jupiter, and stood always in his presence. (Homer.) Lord, I am hell, but thou art heaven, said Hooper. I am a most hypocritical wretch, not worthy that the earth should bear me, said Bradford. I am the most unfit man for this high office of suffering for Christ that ever was appointed to it, said sincere Saunders. Oh that my life, and a thousand such wretches’ lives more (saith John Careless, martyr, in a letter to Mr Bradford), might go for yours! Oh! why doth God suffer me and such other caterpillars to live, that can do nothing but consume the alms of the Church, and take away you so worthy a workman and labourer in the Lord’s vineyard? But woe be to our sins and great unthankfulhess, &c. (Acts and Mon.) These were excellent patterns of this spiritual poverty, which our Saviour here maketh the first; and is indeed the first, second, and third of Christianity, as that which teacheth men to find out the best in God and the worst in themselves. This Christ lays as the foundation of all the following virtues. Christianity is a frame for eternity, and must therefore have a good foundation; since an error there can hardly be mended in the fabric.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven ] Heaven is that true Macaria, or the blessed kingdom. So the island of Cyprus was anciently called for the abundance of commodities that it sendeth forth to other countries, of whom it craveth no help again. Marcellinus, to show the fertility thereof, saith, that Cyprus aboundeth with such plenty of all things, that, without the help of any other foreign country, it is of itself able to build a tall ship, from the keel to the topsail, and so put it to sea, furnished of all things needful. And Sextus Rufus writing thereof, saith, Cyprus famosa divitiis, paupertatem Populi Rom. ut occuparetur, sollicitavit: Cyprus, famous for riches, tempted the poor people of Rome to seize upon it. What marvel then if this kingdom of heaven solicit these poor in spirit to offer violence to it, and to take it by force, since it is all made of gold? Revelation 21:21 ; yea, search is made there through all the bowels of the earth to find out all the precious treasures that could be had, gold, pearls, and precious stones of all sorts. And what can these serve to? only to shadow out the glory of the walls of the New Jerusalem, and the gates, and to pave the streets of that city.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Ver. 4. Blessed are they that mourn ] For sin, with a funeral sorrow (as the word signifieth), such as is expressed by crying and weeping, Luke 6:25 , such as was that at Megiddo, for the loss of good Josiah; or as when a man mourns for his only son, Zechariah 12:10 . ( πενθος, luctus ex morte amicorum. Steph. As the widow of Nain; as Jacob for Joseph; as David for his Absalom.) This is the work of the Spirit of grace and of supplication: for till the winds do blow these waters cannot flow, Psalms 147:18 . He convinceth the heart of sin, and makes it to become a very Hadadrimmon for deep soaking sorrow, upon the sight of him whom they have pierced, Zechariah 12:10 . When a man shall look upon his sins, as the weapons, and himself as the traitor, that put to death the Lord of life, this causeth that sorrow according to God, that worketh repentance never to be repented of, 2 Corinthians 7:10 .
For they shall be comforted ] Besides the comfort they find in their very sorrow (for it is a sweet sign of a sanctified soul, and seals a man up to the day of redemption, Eze 9:4 ), they lay up for themselves thereby in store a good foundation of comfort "against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life," as the apostle speaketh in another case, 1 Timothy 6:19 . These April showers bring on May flowers. They that here "sow in tears shall reap in joy;" they that find Christ’s feet a fountain to wash in, may expect his side a fountain to bathe in. Oh, how sweet a thing is it to stand weeping at the wounded feet of Jesus, as that good woman did! to water them with tears, to dry them with sighs, and to kiss them with our mouths! None, but those who have felt it can tell the comfort of it. The stranger meddleth not with this joy. When our merry Greeks, that laugh themselves fat, and light a candle at the devil for lightsomeness of heart, hunting after it to hell, and haunting for it ale houses, conventicles of goodfellowship, sinful and unseasonable sports, vain and waterish fooleries, &c., when these mirthmongers, I say, that take pleasure in pleasure, and jeer when they should fear, with Lot’s sons-in-law, shall be at a foul stand, and not have where to turn them, Isaiah 22:13 ; Isaiah 23:14 ; God’s mourners shall be able to "dwell with devouring fire, with everlasting burnings," to stand before the Son of man at his second coming. Yea, as the lower the ebb, the higher the tide; so the lower any hath descended in humiliation, the higher shall he ascend then in his exaltation. Those that have helped to fill Christ’s bottle with tears, Christ shall then fill their bottle (as once he did Hagar’s) with the water of life. He looked back upon the weeping women, and comforted them, that would not vouchsafe a loving look or a word to Pilate or the priests. Not long before that, he told his disciples, "Ye shall indeed be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy," John 16:20-21 . And further addeth, "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow," &c., comparing sorrow for sin to that of a travailing woman: 1. For bitterness and sharpness for the time, throes of the new birth. 2. For utility and benefit, it tendeth to the bringing a man child forth into the world. 3. For the hope and expectation that is in it not only of an end, but also of fruit; this makes joy in the midst of sorrows. 4. There is a certain time set for both, and a sure succession, as of day after night, and of fair weather after foul. Mourning lasteth but till morning, Psalms 30:5 . Though "I fall, I shall arise;" though "I sit in darkness, the Lord shall give me light," saith the Church, Micah 7:8 . Jabez was more honourable than his brethren, saith the text, for his mother bare him with sorrow, and called his name Jabez, that is, sorrowful. But when he called upon the God of Israel, and said, "Oh that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast," &c., "God granted him that which he requested," 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 . And so he will all such Israelites indeed, as "ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward," going and weeping as they go, to seek the Lord their God, Jeremiah 50:4-5 ; he shall wipe all tears from their eyes (as nurses do from their babes that cry after them), and enlarge, not their coasts (as Jabez), but their hearts (which is better); yea, he shall grant them their requests, as him. So that as Hannah, when she had prayed, and Eli for her, she looked no more sad, 1 Samuel 1:18 ; David, when he came before God in a "woeful case" many times, yet when he had poured forth his sorrowful complaint there, he rose up triumphing, as Psalms 6:8-10 &c.; so shall it be with such. They go forth and weep, bearing precious seed, but shall surely return with rejoicing, and bring their sheaves with them, Psalms 126:6 ; grapes of gladness (said that martyr, Philpot) when Abraham the good householder shall fill his bosom with them, in the kingdom of heaven. Then as one hour changed Joseph’s fetters into a chain of gold, his rags into robes, his stocks into a chariot, his prison into a palace, his brown bread and water into manchet and wine, -so shall God turn all his people’s sadness into gladness, all their sighing into singing, all their musing into music, all their tears into triumphs. Luctus in laetitiam convertetur, lachrymae in risum, saccus in sericum, cineres in corollas et unguentum, ieiunium in epulum, manuum retortio in applausum. He that will rejoice with this joy unspeakable, must stir up sighs that are unutterable.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Ver. 5. Blessed are the meek ] Meekness is the fruit of mourning for sin, and is therefore fitly set next after it. He that can kindly melt in God’s presence, will be made thereby as meek as a lamb: and if God will forgive him his ten thousand talents, he will not think much to forgive his brother a few farthings. ( Πραος quasi ραος , quod mites omnibus, scil. faciles ac placidos reddant. Becman.) Hence the wisdom from above is, first, pure, and then "peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated," &c., James 3:17 . And love is said to proceed out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned, 1 Timothy 1:5 . And when our Saviour told his disciples they must forgive till seventy times seven times, "Lord, increase our faith," said they, Luke 17:4-5 . Give us such a measure of godly mourning, as that we may be bold to believe that thou hast freely forgiven us, and we shall soon forgive our enemies. David was never so rigid as when he had sinned by adultery and murder; and not yet mourned in good earnest for his sin. He put the Ammonites’ under saws and harrows of iron, and caused them to pass through the brickkiln, &c., which was a strange execution, and happened while he lay yet in sin. Afterward we find him in a better frame, and more meekened and mollified in his dealings with Shimei and others, when he had soundly soaked himself in godly sorrow. True it is, that he was then under the rod, and that is a main means to make men meek. The Hebrew words that signify afflicted and meek, grow both upon the same root, and are of so great affinity, that they are sometimes by the Septuagint rendered the one for the other, as Psalms 37:11 . ענו עני . Adversa enim hominem mansuetum reddunt, saith Chemnitius. And, however it go with the outward man, the meek shall find rest to their souls, Matthew 11:29 . Yea, the meek in the Lord shall increase their joy, Isaiah 29:19 . And for outward respects, meek Moses complains not of Miriam’s murmurings, but God strikes in for him the more. And he that said, "I seek not mine own glory," adds, "But there is one that seeketh it, and judgeth," John 8:50 . God takes his part ever that fights not for himself, and is champion to him that strives not, but, for peace’ sake, parteth with his own right, otherwise.
For they shall inherit the earth ] One would think that meek men, that bear and forbear, that put and forgive, committing their cause "to him that judgeth righteously," 1 Peter 2:23 ; (as Christ did), should be soon baffled, and outsworn out of their patrimony, with honest Naboth. But there is nothing lost by meekness and yieldance. Abraham yields over his right of choice: Lot taketh it; and, behold, Lot is crossed in that which he chose, Abraham blessed in that which was left him. God never suffers any man to lose by a humble remission of right, in a desire of peace. "The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth hath he given to the children of men," Psalms 115:16 : yet with this proviso, that as heaven is taken by violence, so is earth by meekness; and God (the true Proprietary) loves no tenants better, nor grants longer leases to any, than to the meek. They shall inherit, that is, peaceably enjoy what they have, and transfer it to posterity, they shall give inheritance to their children’s children, Proverbs 13:22 . As, on the other side, frowardness forfeits all into the Lord’s hands, and he many times taketh the forfeiture, and outs such persons, comes upon them with a firma eiectione, as upon Amalek, Abimelech, and others. Αυθαδειας συνοικος ερημια , said Plato. The Lord Treasurer Burleigh was wont to say, that he overcame envy and ill-will more by patience than pertinace. His private estate he managed with that integrity, that he never sued any man, no man ever sued him. He was in the number of those few (said Mr Camden) that lived and died with glory. For as lowliness of heart shall make you high with God; even so meekness of spirit and of speech shall make you sink into the hearts of men, said Mr Tyndale in a letter of his to John Frith, afterwards his fellow martyr. (Acts and Mon.)
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Ver. 6. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness ] The righteousness of Christ both imputed and imparted ( iustitia imputata, impertita ). This is in Christ for us, being wrought by his value and merit, and is called the righteousness of justification. This is in us from Christ, being wrought by his virtue and spirit, and is called the righteousness of sanctification. Both these the blessed must hunger and thirst after, that is, earnestly, and afflictim desire, as Rachel did for children, she must prevail or perish; as David did after the water of the well of Bethlehem, to the jeopardy of the lives of his three mightiest, 1 Chronicles 11:18 ; as the hunted hart (or, as the Septuagint readeth it, η ελαφος , hind) brayeth after the water brooks. The philosophers observe of the hart or hind, that being a beast thirsty by nature, when she is pursued by dogs, by reason of heat and loss of breath, her thirst is increased. (Aristot., Lucret., Oppian., Psa 42:1 ) And in females the passions are stronger than in males; so that she breathes and brays after the brooks with utmost desire: so panteth the good soul after Christ, it panteth and fainteth, it breatheth and breaketh for the longing that it hath unto his righteousness at all times, Psalms 119:20 . She fainteth with Jonathan, swooneth and is sick with the Spouse, yea, almost dead with that poor affamished Amalekite, 1 Samuel 30:12 . And this spiritual appetite add affection ariseth from a deep and due sense and feeling of our want of Christ, whole Christ, and that there is an absolute necessity of every drop of his blood. There must be a sad and serious consideration of man’s misery and God’s mercy. Whence will arise (as in hunger and thirst), 1. A sense of pain in the stomach. 2. A want and emptiness. 3. An eager desire of supply from Christ, who is the true bread of life, and heavenly manna; the rock flowing with honey, and fountain of living water, that reviveth the fainting spirits of every true Jonathan and Samson, and makes them never to thirst again after the world’s tasteless fooleries: like as his mouth will not water after homely provision that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance.
They shall be satisfied ] Because true desires are the breathings of a broken heart, which God will not despise, Psalms 51:17 . He poureth not the oil of his grace but into broken vessels. For indeed, whole vessels are full vessels, and so this precious liquor would run over and be spilt on the ground. There may be some faint desires (as of wishers and woulders) even in hell’s mouth; as Balaam desired to die the death of the righteous, but liked not to live their life; Pilate desired to know what is truth, but stayed not to know it; that faint merchant in the Gospel, that cheapened heaven of our Saviour, but was loth to go to the price of it. "The desire of the slothful killeth him," Proverbs 21:25 ; Matthew 19:22 . These were but fits and flashes, and they came to nothing. Carnal men care not to seek, whom yet they desire to find, saith Bernard ( Carnales non curant quaerere, quem tamen desiderant invenire; cupientes consequi, sed non et sequi ); fain they would have Christ, but care not to make after him: as Herod had of a long time desired to see our Saviour, but never stirred out of doors to come where he was, Luke 23:8 . But now, the desire of the righteous, that shall be satisfied, as Solomon hath it, that shall be well filled, as beasts are after a good bait (as our Saviour’s word here signifieth). χορτασθησονται hoc proprie dicitur de armentis. Nam χορτον est gramen aut pabulum. Desires, as they must be ardent and violent, such as will take no nay, or be set down with silence or sad answers (whence it is that desire and zeal go together, 2Co 7:11 ), so if they be right, they are ever seconded with endeavour after the thing desired. Hence the apostle contents not himself to say, "that if there be first a willing mind," God accepts, &c., 2 Corinthians 8:12 , but presently adds, "Now perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also;" that is, a sincere endeavour to perform: as a thirsty man will not long for drink only, but labour after it; or a covetous man wish for wealth, but strive to compass it. And thus to run is to attain; thus to will is to work; thus to desire is to do the will of our heavenly Father, who accepts pence for pounds, mites for millions, and accounts us as good as we wish to be. He hath also promised to fill the hungry with good things, to rain down righteousness on the dry and parched ground, to fulfil the desires of them that fear him. So that it is but our asking and his giving; our opening the mouth and he will fill it; our hungering and his feeding; our thirsting and his watering; our open hand and his open heart. The oil failed not till the vessels failed: neither are we straitened in God till in our own bowels, 2 Corinthians 6:12 ; "Dear wife" (saith Lawrence Saunders the martyr), "riches have I none to leave behind, wherewith to endow you after the worldly manner; but that treasure of tasting how sweet Christ is to hungry consciences (whereof, I thank my Christ, I do feel part, and would feel more), that I bequeath unto you, and to the rest of my beloved in Christ, to retain the same in sense of heart always. Pray, pray: I am merry, and I trust I shall be, maugre the teeth of all the devils in hell. I utterly refuse myself, and resign me to my Christ, in whom I know I shall be strong, as he seeth needful." (Acts and Mon.)
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Ver. 7. Blessed are the merciful, ελεημονες ] They that from a compassionate heart (melting with sense of God’s everlasting mercy to itself, and yearning over the miseries of others) extend and exercise spiritual and corporal mercy. The former, which teacheth a man to warn the unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men, &c., 1 Thessalonians 5:14 . The schoolmen thus, Consule, castiga, solare, remitte, fer, ora, usually excel and exceed the latter, which stirs a man up to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, &c., Matthew 25:35-36 .
" Visito, poto, cibo, redimo, tego, colligo, condo. "
1. In the nature of the gift, which is more noble. 2. In the object (the soul), which is more illustrious. 3. In the manner, which is transcendent, as being spiritual. 4. In the kind, which is more heavenly, as that which aims at our brothers’ endless salvation. And this way the poorest may be plentiful, and enrich the richest with spiritual alms. As also the other way, something must be done by all the candidates of true blessedness. They that labour with their hands must have something to give to him that needeth, Ephesians 4:28 ; be it but two mites, nay, a cup of cold water, it shall be graciously accepted from a sincere heart, and certainly rewarded. And here the poor Macedonians may shame (and many times do) the rich Corinthians, that have a price in their hands but not a heart to use it; for it is the love, and not the lack, of money that makes men churls and misers. (Money hoarders have no quicksilver, no current coin. Ward.) And hence it is that the richer men are many times the harder, as Dives: being herein like children, who when they have their mouths full, and both hands full. yet will rather spoil all than give any away. But do men give to God’s poor or, do they not rather lend it to the Lord, who turns pay master to such? Do they not lay it out for him, or rather lay it up for themselves? The safest chest is the poor man’s box. Make you friends with the mammon of unrighteousness (God hath purposely branded riches with that infamous adjunct, that we might not overlove them), "that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations," Luke 16:9 , that is, either the angels, or the poor, or thy well employed wealth, shall let thee into heaven. Only thou must draw forth not thy sheaf alone, but thy soul also to the hungry, Isaiah 38:10 : show bowels of mercy, as our Saviour did, σπλαγχνιζομαι , Matthew 15:32 , to bleed in other men’s wounds, and be deeply and tenderly affected in other men’s miseries. This is better than alms; for when one gives an alms, he gives something without himself; but by compassion we relieve another by somewhat within and from ourselves. And this is properly the mercy to which mercy is here promised, and blessedness to boot.
For they shall obtain mercy ] Misericordiam, non mercedem, Mercy, not wages: it being a mercy (and not a duty) in God, to render unto every man according to his works, Psalms 62:12 . How much more according to his own works in us! But mercy he shall be sure of, that showeth mercy to those in misery. His soul shall be like a watered garden. "The liberal soul shall be made fat," saith Solomon; "and he that watereth shall be watered also himself," Proverbs 11:25 ; or (as Kimchi expounds it), He shall be a sweet and seasonable shower to himself and others. ( Etiam ipse pluvia erit, iuxta Kimchi. Insignis hyperbole. Merc.) His body also shall be fat and fair-liking. Thy health shall spring forth speedily, and thy bones shall be made fat, Isaiah 58:10-11 . Or if he be sick, the Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, Psalms 41:3 ; he will make all his bed in his sickness; as he did for that faithful and painful preacher of God’s word (while he lived) Master William Whately, Pastor of Banbury (whom for honour’s sake I here name), the most bountiful minister to the poor, I think (saith a learned gentleman that knew him thoroughly), in England, of his means. He abounded in works of mercy (saith another grave divine, that wrote his life), he set apart, and expended, for the space of many years, for good uses, the tenth part of his yearly comings in, both out of his temporal and ecclesiastical means of maintenance. (Edw. Leigh, Hen. Scudder.) A rare example: and God was not behind-hand with him; for in his sickness he could comfort himself with that precious promise, Psalms 41:1 ; Psalms 41:3 "Blessed is he that considereth the poor" ( Qui praeoccupat vocem petituri, saith Austin, in Psa 103:1-22 ); that prevents the poor man’s cry; as he did, for he devised liberal things, seeking out to find objects of his mercy, and not staying many times till they were offered. Therefore by liberal things he stood, as God had promised; his estate (as himself often testified) prospered the better after he took that course above mentioned. For, in the next place, not getting, but giving is the way to wealth, as the Sareptan found it, whose barrel had no bottom; and as Solomon assureth it, Ecclesiastes 11:1 . The mercy of God crowneth our beneficence with the blessing of store. Thine horn shall be exalted with honour, and thou shalt not want, Psalms 112:9 ; Proverbs 28:27 . Say not then how shall our own do hereafter? Is not mercy as sure a gain as vanity? Is God like to break? Is not your Creator your creditor? Hath not he undertaken for you and yours? How sped Mephibosheth and Chimham for the kindness their fathers showed to distressed David? Were they not plentifully provided for? And did not the Kenites, that were born many ages after Jethro’s death, receive life from his dust, and favour from his hospitality? 1 Samuel 15:6 .
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Ver. 8. Blessed are the pure in heart ] That wash their hearts from wickedness, that they may be saved, Jeremiah 4:14 . Not their hands only, with Pilate, but their inwards, as there; "How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" בקרבף These, however the world censure them (for every fool hath a bolt to shoot at that purity, which yet they profess and pray for), are the Lord’s darlings, that purify themselves (in some truth of resemblance) as God is pure.
" Pura Deus mens est, pura vult mente vocari:
Et puras iussit pondus habere preces. "
He will take up in a poor, but it must be a pure heart; in a homely, but it must be a cleanly house; in a low, but not in a loathsome lodging. God’s Spirit loves to lie clean. Now the heart of man is the most unclean and loathsome thing in the world, a den of dragons, a dungeon of darkness, a sty and stable of all foul lusts, a cage of unclean and ravenous birds. The ambassadors of the Council of Constance, being sent to Pope Benedict XI ( In Hist. Concil. Constant. ), when he, laying his hand upon his heart, said Hic est Arca Noae, Here is Noah’s ark; they tartly and truly replied, In Noah’s ark were few men, but many beasts; intimating, that there were seven abominations in that heart, wherein, he would have them to believe, were lodged all the laws of right and religion. This is true of every mother’s child of us. The natural heart is Satan’s throne, he filleth it from corner to corner, Acts 5:3 , he sits abrood upon it, and hatcheth all noisome and loathsome lusts, Ephesians 2:2 . There (as in the sea) is that Leviathan, and there are creeping things innumerable, crawling bugs and baggage vermin, Psalms 104:25-26 . Now as many as shall see God to their comfort, must cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1 . This is the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, which therefore we must pray and strive for; beseeching God to break the heavens and come down, Isaiah 64:1 , yea, to break open the prison doors of our hearts by his Spirit, and to cleanse this Augaean stable. He comes as a mighty rushing wind, and blows away those litters of lusts, as once the east wind of God did all the locusts of Egypt into the Red Sea. And this done, he blows upon God’s garden, the heart, and causeth the spices thereof so to flow forth that Christ saith, "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice," Song of Solomon 4:16 ; Song of Solomon 5:1 .
For they shall see God ] Here in a measure, and as they are able; hereafter in all fulness and perfection: they shall see as they are seen. Here, as in a glass obscurely, or as an old man through spectacles, 1 Corinthians 13:12 , εν αινιγματι , but there face to face. Happier herein than Solomon’s servants, for a greater than Solomon is here. A good man is like a good angel, ever beholding the face of God. He looketh upon them with singular complacency, and they upon him to their infinite comfort: He seeth no iniquity in them, they no indignation in him. He looketh upon them in the face of Christ; and although no man hath seen God at any time, John 1:18 , yet God, "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts," saith the apostle, "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Corinthians 4:6 . Pure glass or crystal hath light coming through: not so stone, iron, or other grosser bodies. In like sort, the pure in heart see God, he shines through them: and as the pearl by the beams of the sun becomes bright and radiant as the sun itself, so "we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord," 2 Corinthians 3:18 .
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Ver. 9. Blessed are the peacemakers ] There are those who, like salamanders, live always in the fire, and, like trouts, love to swim against the stream; that, with Phocion, think it a goodly thing to dissent from others; and, like Samson’s foxes, or Solomon’s fool, carry about and cast abroad firebrands, as if the world were made of nothing but discords, as Democritus imagined. But as St. John speaks in another case, these are "not of the Father, but of the world," 1 John 2:16 . He maketh great reckoning of a meek and quiet mind, 1 Peter 3:4 , because it is like to his own mind, which is never stirred nor moved, but remaineth still the same to all eternity. He loves those that keep the staff of binders unbroken, Zechariah 11:7 ; Zechariah 11:14 ; that hold the "unity of the Spirit," and advance the bond of peace among others as much as may be, Ephesians 4:3 . The wicked are apt (as dogs) to intertear and worry one another: and although there be not a disagreement in hell (being but the place of retribution, and not of action), yet on earth there is no peace among the workers of iniquity, that are trotting apace towards hell by their contentions, Romans 2:8 . But what pity is it that Abraham and Lot should fall out! that two Israelites should be at strife amid the Egyptians! that John’s disciples should join with Pharisees against Jesus! Matthew 9:14 ; that Corinthians (for their contentions) should "be as carnal, and walk as men!" 1 Corinthians 3:3 ; that Lutherans and Calvinists should be at such deadly feud! Still Satan is thus busy, and Christians are thus malicious, that, as if they wanted enemies, they fly in one another’s faces. There was no noise heard in setting up the temple: in Lebanon there was, but not in Zion. Whatever tumults there are abroad, it is fit there should be all quietness and concord in the Church. Now therefore, although it be, for the most part, a thankless office (with men) to interpose, and seek to take up strife, to piece those again that are gone aside and asunder, and to sound an irenicum; yet do it for God’s sake, and that ye may (as ye shall be after awhile) be called and counted, not meddlers and busybodies, but the sons of God. Tell them that jar and jangle (upon mistakes for most part, or matters of no great moment) that it is the glory of a man to pass by an infirmity, and that in these ignoble quarrels every man should be a law to himself, as the Thracians were ( αντονομοι ), and not brother to go to law with brother because he treads upon his grass, or some such poor business, ubi et vincere inglorium est, el atteri sordidum. (Tacit.) Now "therefore there is utterly a fault ( ηττημα ) among you, because ye go to law one with another," saith the apostle, 1 Corinthians 6:7 . Not but that the course is lawful, where the occasion is weighty and the mind not vindictive. But the apostle disgraceth (in that text) revenge of injuries, by a word that signifieth disgrace or loss of victory. And a little before, "I speak to your shame," saith he; "is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?" no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren and compromise the quarrel? Servius Sulpitius (that heathen lawyer) shall rise up in judgment against us, Quippe qui ad facilitatem, aequitatemque omnia contulit, neque constituere litium actiones, quam controversias tollere maluit, as Cicero testifieth. (Cicer. Philippic. 9.) Concedamus de iure, saith one, ut careamus lite: and, ut habeas quietum tempus, perde aliquid. Lose something for a quiet life, was a common proverb, as now among us so of old among the Carthaginians, as St Austin showeth. It were happy surely, if now, as of old, the multitude of believers were η καρδια, και η ψυχη μια , of one heart and of one soul, Acts 4:32 . And, as in one very ancient Greek copy it is added, that there was not one controversy or contention found among them, και ουκ ην εν αυτοις διακρισος ουδεμια. (Beza ex Beds.)
For they shall be called the children of God ] They shall both be, and be said to be, both counted and called, have both the name and the note, the comfort and the credit of the children of God. And if any atheist shall object: What so great honour is that? "Behold," saith St John, "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John 3:1 . It was something to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Hebrews 11:24 , to be son-in-law to the king, with David, to be heir to the crown, with Solomon: but far more, that God should say of him, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my son; and I will establish his kingdom," 2 Samuel 7:14 . This is the happy effect of faith; for to them that believe on his name, gave he power and privilege to become the sons of God ( εξουσιαν ), John 1:12 . Now, faith ever works by love, and love covereth a multitude of sins, 1 Peter 4:8 , not by any merit or expiation with God, but by seeking and settling peace among men. And this is as sure and as sweet a sign of a son of the God of peace, as the party coloured coats were anciently of the king’s children, 2 Samuel 13:18 .
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 10. Blessed are they that are persecuted ] To be persecuted (as simply considered) is no blessed thing; for then it were to be desired and prayed for. But let a man love a quiet life, and labour to see good days, said those two great champions, David and Peter, Psalms 34:12 ; 1 Peter 3:10 , who themselves had endured a world of persecution, and paid for their learning. The like counsel gives St Paul and the author to the Hebrews, 1Ti 2:2 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ; Hebrews 12:11 ; for they felt by experience how unable they were to bear crosses when they fell upon them. It was this Peter that denied his Master upon the sight of a silly wench that questioned him; and this David that changed his behaviour before Abimelech, and thereupon gave this advice to all that should come after him.
For righteousness’ sake ] This it is that makes the martyr a good cause and a good conscience. Martyrem facit causa, non supplicium, saith Augustine: not the suffering, but the cause makes a martyr. And Multum interest, et qualia quis, et qualis quisque patiatur, saith Gregory: it greatly skilleth, both what it is a man suffereth, and what a one he is that suffereth. If he suffer as an evildoer, he hath his mends in his own hands, Talia quisque luat, qualia quisque facit; but if for righteousness’ sake, as here, and if men say and do all manner of evil against you (falsely and lyingly, ψευδομενοι ) for my sake, as in the next verse, and for the gospel’s sake, as Mark hath it, this is no bar to blessedness: nay, it is a high preferment on earth, Philippians 1:20 , and hath a crown abiding it in heaven, beyond the which mortal men’s wishes cannot extend. Ultra cuius excellentiam mortalium vota non extenduntur. (Scult.) But let all that will have share in these comforts, see that they be able to say with the Church, Psalms 44:21-22 "Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of the hearts, that for thy sake we are slain continually." Upon which words excellently St Austin, Quid est, inquit, novit occulta? quae occulta, &c. What secrets of the heart, saith he, are those that God is here said to know? Surely these, that for thy sake are we slain, &c.; slain thou mayest see a man, but wherefore or for whose sake he is slain, thou knowest not, God only knoweth. Potes videre hominem morte affici; quare mortificctur nescis, Res in occulto est. Sunt qui causa humanae gloriae paterentur, as that Father goeth on. There want not those that would suffer death (and seemingly for rightousness’ sake) only for applause of the world and vain glory: as Lucian telleth of Peregrinus the philosopher, that merely for the glory of it he would have been made a martyr. ως επι τουτω δοξαν απολιποι , et propterea ab Asiae proconsule dimissus est, tanquam ea gloria indignus. The Circumcelliones (a most pernicious branch of the heresy of the Donatists) were so desirous to obtain (by suffering) the praise of martyrdom, that they would seem to throw themselves down headlong from high places, or cast themselves into fire or water. Alexander the coppersmith was near martyrdom, Acts 19:33 , who yet afterward made shipwreck of the faith, and became a bitter enemy to the truth that he had professed, 1 Timothy 1:19-20 ; 1 Timothy 4:14-15 . Felix Mauzius, an Anabaptist of Helvetia, being put to death for his obstinace and ill practices at Tigere, praised God that had called him to the sealing up of his truth with his blood, was animated to constancy by his mother and brother, and ended his life with these words, "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit." What could any hearty Hooper, trusty Taylor, or sincere Saunders have said or done more in such a case? It is not then the suffering, but the suffering for righteousness’ sake, that proverb a man blessed and entitleth him to heaven. The Philistines died by the fall of the house, as well as Samson; sed diverso fine, ac fato, as Bucholcer saith. Christ and the thieves were in the same condemnation. Similis poena, sed dissimilis causa, saith Austin: their punishment was all alike, but not their cause. Baltasar Gerardus the Burgundian that slew the Prince of Orange, June 30th, 1584, endured very grievous torments: but it was pertinace in him rather than patience; stupidity of sense, not a solidity of faith; a reckless disposition, not a confident resolution. Therefore no heaven followed upon it, because he suffered not as a martyr, but as a malefactor.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven ] "Surely if there be any way to heaven on horseback, it is by the cross," said that martyr, Bradford, that was hasting thither in a fiery chariot. The Turks account all them whom the Christians kill in battle, Mahometan saints and martyrs; assigning them a very high place in Paradise. In some parts of the West Indies there is an opinion in gross, that the soul is immortal, and that there is a life after this life, where beyond certain hills (they know not where) those that died in defence of their country should remain after death in much blessedness; which opinion made them very valiant in their fights. Should not the assurance of heaven make us valiant for the truth? Jeremiah 9:3 ; should we not suffer with joy the spoiling of our goods, Hebrews 10:34 , yea, the loss of our lives for life eternal? should we not look up to the recompense of reward? to Christ the author and finisher of our faith, who stands over us in the encounter, as once over Stephen, with a crown on his head, and another in his hand, and saith, Vincenti dabo, to him that overcometh will I give this, Acts 7:56 ; Revelation 3:11 . Surely this Son of David will shortly remove us from the ashes of our forlorn Ziklag, to the Hebron of our peace and glory, 1 Samuel 30:26 ; 1 Samuel 30:31 . This Son of Jesse will give every one of us, not fields and vineyards, but crowns, sceptres, kingdoms, glories, beauties, &c. The expectation of this blessed day, this nightless day (as one calleth it, ανεσπερος ημερα . Naz.), must (as it did with David’s soldiers all the time of their banishment) digest all our sorrows, and make us in the midst of miseries for Christ to over abound exceedingly with joy, as Paul did. υπερπερισσευομαι τη χαρα , 2 Corinthians 7:4 . Queen Elizabeth’s government was so much the more happy and welcome, because it ensued upon the stormy times of Queen Mary. She came as a fresh spring after a sharp winter; and brought the ship of England from a troublous and tempestuous sea to a safe and quiet harbour. So will the Lord Christ do for all his persecuted people. "Ye see" (said Bilney the martyr, and they were his last words, to one that exhorted him to be constant and take his death patiently)-"ye see," saith he, "when the mariner is entered his ship to sail on the troublous sea, how he, for a while, is tossed in the billows of the same; but yet in hope that he shall once come to the quiet haven, he beareth in better comfort the troubles that he feeleth. So am I now towards this failing: and whatsoever storms I shall feel, yet shortly after shall my ship be in the haven, as I doubt not thereof by the grace of God," &c. Lo, this was that which held the good man’s head above water-the hope of heaven. And so it did many others, whom it were easy to instance. Elizabeth Cooper, martyr, being condemned, and at the stake with Simon Miller, when the fire came unto her, she a little shrank thereat, crying once, Ha. When Simon heard the same, he put his hand behind him toward her, and willed her to be strong and of good cheer. "For, good sister," said he, "we shall have a joyful and sweet supper." Whereat she being strengthened, stood as still and as quiet as one most glad to finish that good course. "Now I take my leave of you" (writeth William Tims, martyr, in a letter to a friend of his, a little before his death) "till we meet in heaven: and hie you after. I have tarried a great while for you; and seeing you be so long in making ready, I will tarry no longer for you. You shall find me merrily singing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth,’ at my journey’s end," &c. (Acts and Mon.) And I cannot here let slip that golden paraclesis, wherewith those forty martyrs (mentioned by St Basil) comforted one another, when they were cast out naked all night in the winter and were to be burned the next morrow: "Sharp is the winter," said they, "but sweet is paradise; painful is the frost, but joyful the fruition that followeth it. Wait but a while, and the patriarch’s bosom shall cherish us. After one night we shall lay hold upon eternal life. Let our feet feel the fire for a season, that we may for ever walk arm in arm with angels. Let our hands fall off, that they may for ever be lifted up to the praise of the Almighty," &c. Δριμυς χειμων, αλλα γλυκυς ο παραδεισος, αλγεινη η πηξις, αλλ ’ ηδεια η απολαυσις μικρον αναμενωμεν, και ο κολπος ημας θαλψει του πατραιρχου μιας νυκτος ολον τον αιωνα ανταλλαξωμεθα ..
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you , and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Ver. 11. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake ] There are tongue-smiters, as well as hand-smiters; such as malign and molest God’s dearest children, as well with their virulent tongues as violent hands: "Such as will revile you," saith our Saviour, twit and upbraid you with your profession, bit you in the teeth with your God (as they dealt by David, and that went as a murdering weapon to his soul), and lay your preciseness and conscientiousness in your dish. This is the force of the first word. (Basil εις τους μαρτυρας ονειδισωσιν , Psa 2:10 ) Further, "they shall persecute you," eagerly pursue and follow you hot-foot, as the hunter doth his prey. ( Διωκειν est more venatorum persequi proedam. Aretius.) The word betokeneth a keen and eager pursuit of any other, whether by law or by the sword, whether by word or deed. For scoffers also are persecutors, as Ishmael, Galatians 4:29 , and for such shall be arraigned, Judges 1:15 . And cruel mockings and scourgings are set together by the author to the Hebrews, as much of a kind, Hebrews 11:36 ; especially when (as it follows in the text) they "shall say all manner of evil against you," call you all to pieces, and think the worst word in their bellies too good for you. This is collateral blasphemy, blasphemy in the second table, and so it is often called in the New Testament. God, for the honour he beareth to his people, is pleased to afford the name of blasphemy to their reproaches, as importing that he taketh it as if himself were reproached, Ephesians 4:31 ; Titus 3:2 ; Colossians 3:8 ; 1 Peter 4:4 ; 2 Peter 2:10 . Thus the Israelites were of old called by the profane heathens, Apellae ( Credat Iudaeus Apella. Hor.), and Asinarii, as if they worshipped a golden asshead, and in derision of their circumcision; as afterward they called the primitive Christians, murderers, church robbers, incestuous, traitors to the state, &c.; and if inundations, famine, or other public calamities occured, they presently cried out, Christianos ad leones. To the Lions Christians. (Tertul. Apolog. Si Tiberis ascendit, si terra movit, si fames, si lues. ) So, in after times, the Arians called the orthodox Christians, Ambrosians, Athanasians, Homousians, what not? The pseudo-catholics, "speaking evil of that which they knew not," Judges 1:10 , disgraced the professors of the truth by the names of Wyclevists, Waldenses, Huguenots, poor men of Lyons, &c. Thus of old, as of late, Heretics, New-Gospellers, Puritans, all manner of evil they speak against us, but "falsely," that is our comfort; not earing what they speak, nor whereof they affirm, so they may promote their catholic cause and the devil’s kingdom, which as it began in a lie, so by lies do they maintain it. A friar a liar, was anciently a sound argument in any man’s mouth (saith Thomas Walsingham), tenens tam de forma, quam de materia. Hic est frater, ergo mendax; sicut et illud, Hoc est album, ergo coloratum. But the Jesuits have won the whetstone from all that went before them, for frontals and prodigious lies and slanders. Eudaemon Joannes, that demoniac, blusheth not to affirm that these are our decrees and doctrines, that no God is to be worshipped, that we must shape our religion according to the times, that gain is godliness, that we may make the public cause a pretence to our private lusts, that a man may break his word whensoever he thinketh good, cover his hatred with fair flatteries, confirm tyranny by shedding innocent blood. Salmeron the Jesuit hath published to the world in his Comment upon the Gospels, that the Lutherans now make fornication to be no sin at all. And a little before the massacre of Paris, the monks slanderously reported that the Huguenots met together for no other purpose than that (after they had fed themselves to the full) they might put out the lights and go together promiscuously, as brute beasts. Cenalis, Bishop of Auranches, wrote against the congregations of Christians at Paris, defending impudently that their assemblies were to maintain whoredom. The lives of Calvin and Beza were (at the request of the Popish side) written by Bolsecus, a renagde friar, their sworn enemy; and though so many lines, so many lies, yet are they in all their writings alleged as canonical. (Acts and Mon.) Wycliffe disallowed the invocation of saints, whom he called servants, not gods. For the word knave, which he used, signified in those days a child or a servant; not as it doth in our days, a wicked varlet, a as his enemies maliciously interpret it; -Bellarmine for one, a man utterly ignorant of the English tongue. (Genebrard basely reporteth that Luther and Bucer died of drunkenness.) Hereupon the people are taught to believe that the Protestants are blasphemers of God and all his saints; that in England churches are turned into stables, the people are grown barbarous, and eat young children; that they are as black as devils, ever since they were blasted and thunderstruck with the pope’s excommunication ( contraxisse amorem diabolicum, Prid.); that Geneva is a professed sanctuary of roguery, &c.; that the fall of Blackfriars (where besides a hundred of his hearers slain, Drury the priest had his sermon and brains knocked out of his head together) was caused by the Puritans, who had secretly sawed in two the beams and other timber. With like honesty they would have fathered the Gunpowder Plot upon the Puritans, by their proclamations, which they had ready to be sent abroad immediately, had Fawkes but fired the powder. And a certian Spanish author hath taken the boldness, since, to aver that they were the authors of that hellish conspiracy. Puritanos eosdem tradit coniurationis sulphurariae authores fuisse. (Author quidam Hispanicus, Dr Prideaux.) There is a book recently published, and commonly sold in Italy and France, containing a relation of God’s judgments shown on a sort of Protestant heretics by the fall of a house in Blackfriars, London, in which they were assembled to hear a Geneva lecture, October 26, 1623. And Dr Weston doubted not to make his boasts to a nobleman of England, that at the recent conference and disputation between Fisher and Featly (with certain others of both sides), our doctors were confounded, and theirs trimuphed and had the day; insomuch that two earls and a hundred others were converted to the Roman Carbolic faith. Whereas he, to whom this tale was told, was himself one of the two earls, continuing sound and orthodox, and knew full well that there were not a hundred Papists and Protestants (taken together) present at that disputation. But this was one of their piae fraudes, holy deceits, doubtless; much like their legend of miracles of their saints, which the Jesuit confessed to myself, saith Dr Prideaux, to be for the most part false and foolish; but it was made for good intention; and that it was lawful and meritorious to lie and write such things, to the end the common people might with greater zeal serve God and his saints. (Spanish Pilg.) So long since, because freedom of speech was used by the Waldenses, in blaming and reproving the dissolute life and debauched manners of the Popish clergy, Plures nefariae affingebantur iis opiniones, a quibus omnino fuerant alieni, saith Girardus: they were cried out upon for odious heretics and apostates. Manichees they were said to be, and to make two first beginnings of things, viz. God and the devil. (Field of the Church.) And why? because they preached and maintained that the emperor depended not upon the pope. Moreover, they were Arians too, and denied Christ to be the Son of God, because, forsooth, they denied a crust to be transubstantiated into Christ, as one speaketh, Crustam in Christum fuisse transubstantiatam. But blessed be God, that although they have in all ages spoken all manner of evil against us, yet they have done it falsely, and for Christ’s sake; wherefore we may take up their books written against us, and "wear them as a crown." "Do well and bear it, is written upon heaven’s gates," said that martyr, Bradford. "Christ himself," saith Father Latimer, "was misreported, and falsely accused, both as touching his words and meaning also." Count it not strange to be traduced, disgraced, scandalized. Austere John hath a devil; sociable Christ is a wine bibber, and the scribes and Pharisees (whose words carry such credit) say as much. Contra sycophantae morsum non est remedinm. It is but a vain persuasion for any child of God to think, by any discretion, wholly to still the clamours and hates of wicked men, who when they think well, will learn to report well. In the mean time, let our lives give them the lie-confute them by a real apology.
a A person of a low, mean, or knavish disposition; a knave, rogue, rascal. ŒD
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ver. 12. Rejoice and be exceeding glad ] Leap and skip for joy, as frolicing young cattle use to do in the spring, when everything is in its prime and pride. ( σκιρταω , Heb. רקד et Psal. cxliv. Significat proprie saltum animalium prae luxu. Lorin. Dicuntur lascivientes pecudes σκιρταν . Beza. Neh 8:10 ) Thus George Roper, at his coming to the stake, let a great leap. So soon as the flame was about him, he put out both his arms from his body, like a rood, and so stood steadfast, "the joy of the Lord being his strength," not plucking his arms in till the fire had consumed and burnt them off. So Doctor Taylor going toward his death, and coming within a mile or two of Hadley (where he was to suffer), he leapt and fetched a frisk or twain, as men commonly do in dancing. "Why, Master Doctor," quoth the sheriff, "how do you now?" He answered, "Well, God be praised, good Master Sheriff, never better; for now I know I am almost at home. I lack not past two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father’s house." Likewise Rawlins White, going to the stake, whereas before he was wont to go stooping, or rathed crooked, through infirmity of age, having a sad countenance, and a very feeble complexion, and also very soft in speech and gesture, -now he went and stretched up himself bolt upright, and bare also a most pleasant and comfortable countenance, not without great courage and audacity, both in speech and behaviour. (Acts and Mon.) It were easy to instance the exceeding great joy of the apostles, Acts 5:41 , who went from the council rejoicing that they were so far honoured as to be dishonoured for the name of Jesus; which Casaudon calleth Elegantissimum oxymoron. So Bradford: "God forgive me," saith he, "mine unthankfulness for this exceeding great mercy, that, among so many thousands, he chooseth me to be one in whom he will suffer." And in a letter to his mother: "For Christ’s sake I suffer," saith he, "and therefore should be merry and glad; and indeed, good mother, so I am, as ever I was; yea, never so merry and glad was I as now I should be, if I could get you to be merry with me, to thank God for me, and to pray on this sort: Ah, good Father, that dost vouchsafe that my son, being a grievous sinner in thy sight, should find this favour with thee, to be one of thy Son’s captains and men of war, to fight and suffer for his Gospel’s sake; I thank thee, and pray thee in Christ’s name, that thou wouldst forgive him his sins and unthankfulness, and make him worthy to suffer, not only imprisonment, but even very death for thy truth, religion, and gospel’s sake," &c. Whether Bradford’s mother did thus or no, I know not; but William Hunter’s mother (that suffered under Bonnet) told him that she was glad that ever she was so happy as to bear such a child, as could find in his heart to lose his life for Christ’s name’s sake. Then William said to his mother, "For my little pain which I shall suffer, which is but for a little braid, Christ hath promised me a crown of joy. May not you be glad of that, mother?" With that his mother kneeled down on her knees, saying, "I pray God strengthen thee, my son, to the end; yea, I think thee as well bestowed as any child that ever I bare." "For, indeed," as Mr Philpot the martyr said, "to die for Christ is the greatest promotion that God can bring any in this vale of misery unto; yea, so great an honour, as the greatest angel in heaven is not permitted to have." This made John Clerk’s mother, of Melda in Germany (when she saw her son whipped and branded in the forehead for opposing the pope’s indulgences, and calling him Antichrist), to hearten her son, and cried out, Vivat Christus eiusque insignia: "Blessed be Christ, and welcome to these marks of his." (Scultet. Annal.) Constantinus, a citizen of Rome (with three other), being, for defence of the gospel, condemned to be burned, were put into a dungcart, who thereat rejoicing, said that they were reputed here the excrements of the world, but yet their death was a sweet odour to God. When the chain was put about Alice Driver’s neck: "Oh," said she, "here is a goodly neckerchief, blessed be God for it." Algerius, Christ’s prisoner, thus dated his letter, "from the Delectable Orchard of the Leonine prison." "And I am in prison till I be in prison," said Saunders. (Acts and Mon.) "And, indeed," said Bradford, "I thank God more for this prison than of any parlour, yea, than of any pleasure that ever I had, for in it I find God my most sweet God always." "After I came into prison" (saith Robert Glover, martyr, in a letter to his wife), "and had reposed myself there awhile, I wept for joy and gladness, my belly full, musing much of the great mercies of God; and as it were, thus saying to myself, Lord, who am I, on whom thou shouldst bestow this great mercy, to be numbered among the saints that suffer for thy gospel sake?" "And I was carried to the coal house," saith Mr Philpot, "where I and my six fellows do rouse together in the straw as cheerfully, we thank God, as others do in their beds of down." And in another letter to the Lady Vane: "I am now in the coal house, a dark and ugly prison as any is about London; but my dark body of sin hath well deserved the same, &c. And I thank the Lord, I am not alone, but have six other faithful companions, who, in our darkness, do cheerfully sing hymns and praises to God for his great goodness. We are so joyful, that I wish you part of my joy," &c. "Good brethren," said William Tims, martyr, "I am kept alone, and yet I thank God, he comforteth me past all the comfort of any man; for I was never merrier in Christ." "You shall be whipped and burned for this gear, I think," said one Mr Foster to John Fortune, martyr. To whom he replied, "If you knew how these words rejoice mine heart, you would not have spoken them." "Why," quoth Foster, "thou fool, dost thou rejoice in whipping?" "Yea," said Fortune, "for it is written in the Scriptures, and Christ saith, ‘Ye shall be whipped for my name’s sake.’ And since the time that the sword of tyranny came into your hand, I heard of none that was whipped: happy were I if I had the maiden head of this persecution." William Walsey was so desirous to glorify God with his suffering, that being wonderful sore tormented in prison with toothache, he feared nothing more than that he should depart before the day of his execution (which he called his glad day) were come. Anthony Person, with a cheerful countenance, embraced the stake whereat he was to be burned, and kissing it, said, "Now welcome, mine own sweet wife, for this day shall thou and I be married together in the love and peace of God." Lawrence Saunders took the stake to which he should be chained in his arms, and kissed it, saying, "Welcome the cross of Christ; welcome everlasting life." Walter Mill, Scot, being put to the stake, ascended gladly, saying, " Introibo altare Dei I will go to rise to God." John Noyes, martyr, took up a fagot at the fire, and kissed it, and said, "Blessed be the time that ever I was born to come to this." Denly sang in the fire at Uxbridge: so did George Carpenter, the Bavarian martyr: so did Wolfgangus Schuh, a German; when he entered into the place heaped up with fagots and wood, he sang, " Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi, In domum Domini ibimus. " "I have rejoiced in this passage which said to me, I will go to the house of the Lord." (Scultet. Annal.) Two Austin monks at Bruxelles, A. D. 1523 (the first among the Lutherans that suffered for religion), being fastened to the stake to be burnt, sang Te Deum and the Creed. Others clapped their hands in the flames in token of triumph; as Hawks and Smith, and five martyrs burnt together by Bonner. Bainham at the stake, and in the midst of the flame (which had half consumed his arms and his legs), spake these words, "O ye Papists, behold, ye look for miracles: here you may see a miracle: for in this fire I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed of down; but it is to me as a bed of roses." (Acts and Mon.) Now what was it else whereby those worthies (of whom the world was not worthy) quenched the violence of the fire, and out of weakness were made strong? Was it not by their heroic and impregnable faith causing them to endure, as seeing him that is invisible, and having respect, as Moses, to the recompence of reward! Hebrews 11:26-27 .
For great is your reward in heaven ] God is a liberal paymaster, and no small things can fall from so great a hand as his. "Oh that joy! O my God, when shall I be with thee?" said a dying peer of this realm (the Lord Harrington). So great is that joy, that we are said to enter into it, it is too full to enter into us, Matthew 25:21 . Elias, when he was to enter into it, feared not the fiery chariots that came to fetch him, but through desire of those heavenly happinesses, waxed bold against those terrible things, Atque hoc in carne adhuc vivens (it is St Basil’s observation); and this he did while he was as yet in the flesh. Contra horrenda audax fuit, et cum gaudio flammeos currus inscendit. (Basil.) For he had oculum in metam (which was Ludovicus Vives his motto), his eye upon the mark; he pressed forward toward the high prize, with Paul, Philippians 3:14 ; and looking through the terror of the fire, saw heaven beyond it; and this made him so valiant, so violent for the kingdom. A Dutch martyr, feeling the flame to come to his beard: "Ah," said he, "what a small pain is this to be compared to the glory to come." Hellen Stirk, a Scotch woman, to her husband at the place of execution spoke thus, "Husband, rejoice; for we have lived together many joyful days, but this day in which we must die ought to be most joyful to us both, because we must have joy for ever; therefore I will not bid you good night, for we shall suddenly meet within the kingdom of heaven." The subscription of Mistress Ann Askew to her confession was this, "Written by me, Ann Askew, that neither wisheth for death nor feareth his might, and as merry as one that is bound toward heaven." "Oh, how my heart leapeth for joy," said Mr Philpot, "that I am so near the apprehension of eternal life. God forgive me mine unthankfulness and unworthiness of so great glory. I have so much joy of the reward prepared for me, most wretched sinner, that though I be in place of darkness and mourning, yet I cannot lament; but both night and day am so joyful, as though under no cross at all; yea, in all the days of my life I was never so merry, the name of the Lord be praised therefore for ever and ever; and he pardon mine unthankfulness. The Lord wondereth," saith he in another place, "how we can be so merry in such extreme misery: but our God is omnipotent, which turneth misery into felicity. Believe me, there is no such joy in the world as the people of Christ have under the cross. I speak by experience, &c. To this joy all other being compared, are but mournings, all delight sorrows, all sweetness sour, all beauty filth, and, finally, all things counted pleasant are tediousness." Great, then, we see, is their reward in earth that suffer for Christ: they have heaven beforehand, they rejoice in tribulation, with joy unspeakable and glorious, 1 Peter 1:8 ; they have an exuberancy of joy, such as no good can match, no evil overly match. "For though I tell you," said Mr Philpot in a letter to the congregation, "that I am in hell, in the judgment of this world, yet assuredly I feel in the same the consolation of heaven. And this loathsome and horrible prison is as pleasant to me as the walks in the garden in the King’s Bench." (Acts and Mon.) What will it be, then, when they shall have crowns on their heads and palms in their hands; when they shall come to that general assembly ( πανηγυρις ), Hebrews 12:23 , and have all the court of heaven to meet and entertain them; when they shall "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth," Revelation 14:4 , and have places given them to walk among those that stand by, Zechariah 3:7 ; (that is, among the seraphim, as the Chaldee paraphrast expoundeth it), among the angels of Heaven? (Allusively, to the walks and galleries that were about the temple.) Maiora certamina, maiora sequuntur praemia, saith Tertullian. Quisquis volens detrahit famae meae, nolens addit mercedi meae, saith Augustine. The more we suffer with and for Christ, the more glory we shall have with and from Christ. Luther was wont to say, when any man spake evil of him, This will be accounted to my reckoning at the last day. Mihi maxime prosunt, saith he, qui mei pessime meminerunt. They are my best friends who speak worst of me. (Luther, Epist. ad Spalatin.)
For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you ] Your betters sped no better: strange not therefore at it, start not for it. Optimum solatium sodalitium. Persecution hath ever been the saints’ portion. How early did martyrdom come into the world! The first man that died died for religion. And although Cain is gone to his place, Acts 1:25 , yet I would he were not still alive in his sons and successors, who hate their brethren, because they are more righteous, Et clavam eius sanguine Abelis rubentern cireumferunt, as Bucholcer speaketh. But that is not to be wished; or, at least, it is magis optabile quam opinabile, more desirable than imaginable that ever a prophet shall want a persecutor while there is a busy devil and a malicious world. The leopard is said so to hate man, that he flies upon his very picture, and teareth it: so doth the devil and his imps, God and his image. The tiger is said to be enraged with the smell of sweet odours; so are the wicked of the world with the fragrance of God’s graces. Noah rose up and condemned them by his contrary courses, and therefore underwent a world of calamities. Puritan Lot was an eyesore to the sinful Sodomites, and is cast out, as it were, by an ostracism. His father Haran, the brother of Abraham, died before his father Terah in Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 11:28 . The Hebrews tell us that he was cruelly burnt by the Chaldees, because he would not worship the fire which they had made their god. Sicut Persae suum Orimasdam. How often was Moses made (as Cato among the Romans) to plead for his life! And although David’s innocence triumphed in Saul’s conscience, yet could he not be safe, but carried his life in his hand continually, as he complaineth in Psalms 119:109 , which was made, as is thought, in the midst of those troubles, out of his own observations and experiments. As for the prophets that came after, which of them have not your fathers slain? saith our Saviour to the Pharisees, whom he bids (by an irony) to fill up the measure of their fathers, Matthew 23:32-34 ; and foretelling that they shall deal so by the apostles (whom he there calleth, according to the custom of that country, prophets, wise men, and scribes), he demandeth of those serpents and brood of vipers how they can escape those treasures and hoards of wrath they have been so long in heaping? They had a little before delivered up John Baptist to Herod, and did unto him whatever they would, Matthew 17:11-12 . Thereupon our Saviour departed out of Judea into Galilee, as John the Evangelist hath it, lest he should suffer the same things from them. For though Herod were tetrarch of Galilee, and therefore it might seem a safer way for our Saviour to keep from thence (after John was beheaded) and to continue in Judea; yet forasmuch as he was but their slaughter slave (as Bonner was to the rest of the bishops of those days), Christ knew that if he did decline their fury, there was no such cause to fear Herod. Therefore when some of the Pharisees, pretending goodwill to him, bade him leave there, for else Herod would kill him, he replied, Go tell that fox, that I know both my time and my task, which he would be doing at today and tomorrow, that is, as long as he wished, without his leave, Luke 13:31-33 . τελειουμαι: τελειωθεντες . Absolute vocantur, qui pro Christo sanguinem fuderunt. (Beza.) And the third day, when his hour was once come, he should be sacrificed; but it must be in Jerusalem, and by the Pharisees, for it befell not a prophet to perish out of Jerusalem. There it was that Stephen was stoned, James slain with the sword, Peter imprisoned and destined to destruction, Paul whipped and bound, many of the saints punished often in every synagogue, and compelled by the high priest’s authority either to blaspheme or flee to strange cities, as appeareth in many places of the Acts, or rather Passions, of the apostles: for none (out of hell) ever suffered harder and heavier things than they. See what St Paul witnesseth of himself, and think the like of the rest, 2 Corinthians 6:5 .
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ver. 13. Ye are the salt of the earth ] As salt keepeth flesh from putrefying, so do the saints the world: and are therefore sprinkled up and down (here one and there one) to keep the rest from rotting. Suillo pecori anima pro sale data, quae carnem servaret, ne putresceret, saith Varro. Swine and swinish persons have their souls for salt only, to keep their bodies from stinking above ground. Christ and his people are somewhere called the soul of the world. The saints are called all things; the Church, every creature, Mark 16:15 ; Tabor and Hermon are put for east and west, Psalms 89:12 ; for God accounts for the world by the Church, and upholds the world for the Church’s sake. Look how he gave Zoar to Lot, and all the souls in the ship to Paul, Acts 27:24 ; so he doth the rest of mankind to the righteous. Were it not for such Jehoshaphats, "I would not look toward thee, nor see thee," said Elijah to Jehoram, saith God to the wicked, 2 Kings 3:14 . The holy seed is statumen terrae, saith one prophet: the earth’s substance or settlement, Isaiah 6:13 . (Junius.) The righteous are fundamentum mundi, the world’s foundation, saith another, Proverbs 10:25 . ( Quia propter probes stabilis est mundus. because on account you may make the earth firm. Merc.) I bear up the pillars of it, saith David, Psalms 75:3 . And it became a common proverb in the primitive times, Absque stationibus non stare mundus: but for the piety and prayers of Christians, the world could not subsist. It is a good conclusion of Philo, therefore, Oremus, ut tanquam columna in domo vir iustus permaneat, ad calamitatum remedium. Let us pray that the righteous may remain with us, for a preservative, as a pillar in the house, as the salt of the earth. But as all good people, so good ministers especially are here said, for their doctrine, to be the salt of the earth; and for their lives, the light of the world. ( Doctrina salis est; vita lucis. Aret.) Ye are salt, not honey, which is bitter to wounds. Ye are light, which is also offensive to sore eyes. Salt hath two things in it, Acorem et saporem, sharpness and savouriness. Ministers must reprove men sharply, that they may be "sound in the faith," Titus 1:13 , and a sweet savour to God; savoury meat, as that of Rebekah, a sweet meat offering, meet for the master’s tooth, that he may eat and bless them. Cast they must their cruses full of this holy salt into the unwholesome waters, and upon the barren grounds of men’s hearts (as Elisha once of Jericho), so shall God say the word that all be whole, and it shall be done. No thought can pass between the receipt and the remedy.
But if the salt have lost his savour, &c. ] A loose or lazy minister is the worst creature upon earth, so fit for no place as for hell, -as unsavoury salt is not fit for the dunghill, but makes the very ground barren whereupon it is cast. Who are now devils but they which once were angels of light? Corruptio optimi pessima, as the sweetest wine makes the sourest vinegar, and the finest flesh is resolved into the vilest earth. Woe to those dehonestamenta cleri, disgraceful ministers that, with Eli’s sons, cover foul sins under a white ephod: that neither spin nor labour, Matthew 6:28 , with the lilies, unless it be in their own vineyards, little in God’s; that want either art or heart, will or skill, to the work; being not able or not apt to teach, and so give occasion to those blackmouthed Campians to cry out, Ministris eorum nihil villus: their ministers are the vilest fellows upon earth. (Campian in Rationibus. ) God commonly casteth off such as incorrigible; for wherewithal shall it be salted? there is nothing in nature that can restore unsavoury salt to its former nature. He will not only lay such by, as broken vessels, boring out their right eyes and drying up their right arms, Zechariah 11:17 ; i.e. bereaving them of their former abilities; but also he will cast dung upon their faces, Malachi 2:3 ; so that, as dung, men shall tread upon them (which is a thing not only calamitous, but extremely ignominious), as they did upon the Popish clergy; and the devil shall thank them when he hath them in hell, for sending him so many souls: as Matthew Paris telleth us he did those in the days of Hildebrand. Literas ex inferno missas commenti sunt quidam, in quibus Satanas omni Ecclesiastico coetui gratias emisit. As for themselves, it grew into a proverb, Pavimentum inferni rasis sacrificulorum verticibus, et magnatum galeis stratum esse: that hell was paved with the shaved crowns of priests and great men’s head pieces. God threatens to feed such with gall and wormwood, Jeremiah 23:15 .
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Ver. 14. Ye are the light of the world ] And must therefore lead convincing lives, though ye incur never so much hatred of those Lucifugae, those Tenebriones of the world, that are ill afraid so much light should be diffused. But be ye blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (as the Baptist was), among whom ye shine as lights in the world; as those great lights ( φωστηρις , luminaria, Php 2:15 ), the sun and moon (so the word signifieth), so that they that speak evil of you may be judged as absurd as those Atlantes that curse the rising sun because it scorcheth them. Be as the stars at least; which are said to affect these inferior bodies by their influences, motion, and light. (Pliny.) So good ministers (as fixed stars in the Church’s firmament) by the influence of their lips, feed; by the regular motion of their lives, confirm; and by the light of both, enlighten many. And with such orient stars this Church of ours, blessed be God, like a bright sky in a clear evening, sparkleth and is bespangled, though not in every part, yet in every zone and quarter of it.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid ] As that city that is mounted on seven hills, Revelation 17:9 ; ( Roma Radix Omnium Malorum ), Rome the root of all evils and cannot be hid, but is apparently discerned and descried to be that great city Babylon: so Augustine and other writers call it: so Bellarmine and Ribera the Jesuit yield it. ( Roma; nec inficiantur Iesuitae, Rev 18:2 ) Joannes de Columna in his Mare Historiarum telleth us that Otho the emperor was once in a mind to make Rome the seat of his empire, as of old it had been. And having built a stately palace there, where formerly had stood the palace of Julian the Apostate (the Romans being much against it), he gave up the work. Theophanes, Zonaras, and Cedrenus report the like of Constans, nephew to Heraclitus, 340 years before Otho. Now that these and the like attempts took not effect, Genebrard saith it was a special providence of God, to the end that the kingdom of the Church foretold by Daniel might have Rome for its seat. If he had said, the kingdom of antichrist foretold by St Paul, and likewise by John the divine, he had divined aright. But to return from whence we are digressed:-a minister while he lived a private person, stood in the crowd, as it were: but no sooner entered into his office, than he is set up on the stage: all eyes are upon him, as they were upon Saul, who was higher by head and shoulders than the rest of the people. In him (as in a picture in a glass window) every little blemish will be soon seen: and, as in the celestial bodies, every small aberration will be quickly noted and noticed. Now therefore as the tree of life was sweet to the taste and fair to the eye; and as in Absalom there was no blemish from head to foot; so should it be with God’s ministers. Singular holiness is required of such; as those that quarter arms with the Lord Christ, whom they serve in the gospel. The priests of the law were to be neither deformed nor defective. And the ministers of the gospel (for the word priest is never used for such by the apostles, no, not by the most ancient Fathers, as Bellarmine himself confesseth) must be τυποι , stamps amd patterns to the believers in word and conversation; everything in them is eminent and exemplary. The world (though unjustly) looks for angelical perfection in them: and as the least deviation in a star is soon noted, so is it in such. Thrice happy he that (with Samuel, Daniel, Paul, and others) can be acquitted and approved by himself in private, in public by others, in both by God; that can by his spotless conversation slaughter envy, stop an open mouth, and draw testimony, if not from the mouths, yet from the consciences of the adversaries, of his integrity and uprightness. Mr Bradford the martyr was had in so great reverence and admiration with all good men, that a multitude, which never knew him but by fame, greatly lamented his death; yea, and a number also of Papists themselves wished heartily his life. (Acts and Mon.) And of Mr Bucer it is reported that he brought all men with such admiration of him, that neither his friends could sufficiently praise him, nor his enemies in any point find fault with his singular life and sincere doctrine. Bishop Hooper’s life was so good, that no kind of slander (although various went about to reprove it) could fasten any fault upon him. And the man’s life, saith Erasmus concerning Luther, whom he greatly loved not, is approved of all men; neither is this any small prejudice to his enemies, that they can tax him for nothing. Tantam esse morum integritatem, ut nec hostes reperiant quod calumnientur. (Erasmus.)
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Ver. 15. Neither do men light a candle to put it under a bushel, &c. ] Nor doth God set up a minister, and so light a link or torch, as the word λυχνος here signifieth, among a people, but for the disusing of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6 . The heavenly bodies enlighten not their own orbs only, but send forth their beams far and near. The grace of God (that is, the doctrine of grace) that bringeth salvation hath appeared, or shone forth, as a candle on a candlestick; or as a beacon on a hill, teaching us to deny ungodliness, &c. ( επεφανη ), Titus 2:11-12 . Dicuntur εποφαινεσθαι quae repente conspectaculos omnium in se convertunt. (Chrysost. in 2 Tim.) The priest’s lips must not only preserve knowledge, but also present it to the people, who shall seek it at his mouth. And John Baptist (that burning and shining light) was to give the knowledge of salvation, not by way of infusion, for so God only, but by way of instruction, Luke 1:77 . The same word, in the holy tongue, that signifieth to understand, signifieth also to instruct and to prosper, they that teach others what they know themselves (as Abraham did those of his familiarity and family) shall know more of God’s mind, yea, they shall be, as Abraham was, both of his court and council, Genesis 18:19 . But the Lord likes not such empty vines as (with Ephraim) bear fruit to themselves, Hosea 10:1 ; such idle servants as thrust their hands into their bosoms, dig their talents into the earth, hide their candles under a bed or bushel; living and lording it as if their lips were their own; barrelling and hoarding up their gifts, as rich cormorants do their grain; refusing to give down their milk, as curst kine; or resolving to speak no more than what may breed applause and admiration of their worth and wisdom, as proud self-seekers. The manifestation of the spirit was given to profit also; and the Philippians were all partakers, or compartners of St Paul’s grace; which he elsewhere calleth the gift bestowed on us, for many, that we may serve one another in love; yea, make ourselves servants to all, that we may edify some, 1 Corinthians 12:7 ; ( συγκοινωνοι ), Philippians 1:7 , 2 Corinthians 1:11 ; Gal 5:13 ; 1 Corinthians 9:19 . Certainly the gifts of such shall not perish in the use, or be the worse for wearing, but the better and brighter; as the torch by tapping; they shall grow in their hands, as the loaves in our Saviour’s, as the widow’s oil, as that great mountain of salt in Spain, de quo quantum demas, tantum accrescit, which the more you take from it, the more it increaseth; or, lastly, as the fountains or wells, which, by much drawing, are made better and sweeter, as St Basil observeth, and common experience confirmeth. και γαρ τα φρεατα φασιν, αντλουμενα, βελτιω γινεσθαι . Epist. 81.
And it giveth light to all that are in the house ] He that alloweth his servants a great candle, or two or three lesser lights, looks for more work. God sets up his ministers, as candles on the candlestick of his Church, to waste themselves, wax and wick, for the lighting of men into life eternal. Let them therefore see to it, that they work hard while the light lasteth, lest their candlestick be removed, lest the night surprise them on the sudden, when none can work, Revelation 2:5 ; John 9:4-5 ; lest they pay dear for those precious graces of his Spirit, in his faithful ministers, spent, or rather spilt upon them; lest God cause the sun to go down at noon, and darken the earth in the clear day, Amos 8:9 .
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Ver. 16. Let your light so shine before men ] We use to hang the picture of a dear friend in a conspicuous place, that it may appear we rejoice in it, as an ornament to us: so should we the image of Christ, and his graces. And as pearls, though formed and found in the water, are like the heavens in clearness, so should all, but especially ministers: their faces should shine, as Moses when he came from the mount; their feet should be beautiful, Romans 10:15 ; their mouths (as heaven in the Revelation) should never open, but some great matter should follow; their lives should be, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, coelum quoddam lucidissimis virtulum stellis exornatum, a very heaven sparkling with variety of virtues, as with so many bright stars. (Bucholcer.) The high priest of the law came forth to the people in habit more like a god than a man. Os humerosque Deo similis. (Virgil.) And Alexander the Great took him for no less, but fell at his feet, meeting him upon his way to Jerusalem. There are those who hold, that by his linen he was taught purity; by his shash, discretion; by his embroidered coat, heavenly conversation; by his golden bells, sound doctrine; by his ponmgranates, fruitfulness in good works; by his shoulder pieces, patience in bearing other men’s infirmities; by his breastplate, continual care of the Church; by his mitre, a right intention; and by the golden plate upon it, a bold and wise profession of "Holiness to the Lord." The apostle also is exact in forming a minister of the gospel, 1 Timothy 3:2-4 : for he must be, 1. "Blameless" ( αντπιληπτος ), such as against whom no just exception can be laid. 2. "Vigilant" ( νηφαλεος ), pale and wan again with watching and working. 3. "Sober" ( σωφρων ), or temperate, one that can contain his passions, master his own heart, and keep a mean. 4. "Modest" ( κοσμιος ), neat and comely in his bodily attire, neither curious nor careless thereof, but venerable in all his behaviour; and one that keepeth a fit decorum in all things. 5. "Hospitable" ( φιλοξενος ), and harbourous. Quicquid habent Clerici, pauperum est, saith Jerome. 6. "Able and apt to teach" ( διδακτικος ), as Bishop Ridley, Dr Taylor, and Mr Bradford, who preached every Sunday and holiday ordinarily; and as Chrysostom, Origen, and some others, who preached every day in the week. 7. "Not given to wine" ( παροινος ), no ale stake, as those drunken priests, the two sons of Aaron, who died by the fire of God, for coming before him with strange fire, Leviticus 10:2-20 . "No striker" ( πληκτης ), neither with hand nor tongue, to the just grief or disgrace of any. 9. "Not greedy of filthy lucre" ( αισχροκερδης ), so as to get gain by evil arts; but honest, plain dealing; and (as it follows in the text) pae tient, or equanimous, easily parting with his right for peace’ sake ( επιεικης , Arist. Ethic. 5. 10), and ever preferring equity before extremity of law. 10. "Not a brawler" ( αμαχος ), or connnon barrator, a wrangler, as Ishmael. 11. "Not covetous," not doting on his wealth, or trusting to his wedge. Not without money, but without the love of money. The apostle here distinguisheth, "greedy of filthy lucre" ( αφιλαργυρος ), which is in getting, from covetousness, which consists in pinching and saving. 12. "One that ruleth well in his own house," &c. For the children’s faults reflect upon the parents, and the servant’s sin is the master’s shame. Besides, every man is that in religion that he is relatively; and so much true goodness he hath as he showeth at home. 13. "Not a novice" ( νεοφυτος ), a young scholar, rude and ungrounded; or a tender young plant in Christianity, as the word signifieth, that may be bent any way, but a well grown oak, stable and steady. 14. Lastly, "he must have a good report of them which are without;" which he cannot but have, if qualified as above said, 1 Timothy 3:7 . The same God which did at first put an awe of man in the fiercest creatures, hath stamped in the cruelest hearts an awful respect to his faithful ministers: so as even they that hate them cannot choose but honour them, as Saul did Samuel, Darius Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar the three worthies. Natural conscience cannot but stoop and do homage to God’s image fairly stamped upon the natures and works of his people. So that when men see in such that which is above the ordinary strain and their own expectation, their hearts ache within them many times; and they stand much amazed at the height of their spirits and the majesty that shines in their faces. Either they are convinced, as Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Diocletian, who laid down the empire out of a deep discontent and despair of ever conquering the constancy of Christians by any bloody persecution; or, which is better, they are converted, and seeing such good works, they glorify God our heavenly Father, as Justin Martyr, who confesseth of himself, that by beholding the Christians’ piety in life and patience in death ( ορων δε αφοβους προς θανατον ), he gathered their doctrine to be the truth, and glorified God in the day of his visitation. For there is no Christian, saith Athenagoras in his Apology to the Heathens, that is not good, unless he be a hypocrite, and a pretender only to religion. ( ουδεις χριστιανος πονηρος, ει μη υποκρινηται τον λογον .) Vere magnus est Deus Christianorum, said one Calocerius, a heathen, beholding the sufferings of the primitive martyrs. And it is reported of one Cecilia, a virgin, that by her constance and exhortations before and at her martyrdom, four hundred were converted Chrysostom calls good works unanswerable syllogisms, invincible demonstrations to confute and convert pagans. Julian the Apostate could not but confess, Quod Christiana religio propter Christianorum erga omnes beneficentiam propagata est: Christian religion spread by the holiness of those who professed it. Bede mentioneth one Alban, who receiving a poor persecuted Christian into his house, and seeing his holy and devout carriage, was so much affected therewith, as that he became an earnest professor of the faith, and in the end a glorious martyr for the faith.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Ver. 17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law ] As the Pharisees slandered him only to bring him into hatred with the people; and as to this day they maliciously traduce him in their writings. Rabbi Maimonides, in his Mishna, hath a whole chapter concerning the punishment of the false prophet, that teacheth that he came to destroy the law. Calumniare audacter: aliquid saltem adhaerebit, said Machiavel. A depraver, saith Plato, is mus nominis; a devil, saith Paul, 2 Timothy 3:3 . It is the property of defamations to leave a kind of lower estimation, many times, even where they are not believed.
I am not come to destroy ] Gr. to loose, dissolve, or untie the law ( καταλυσαι ), as those rebels, Psalms 2:3 , sought to do, but with ill success. For it tieth and hampereth men with an Aut faciendum, aut patiendum, either you must have the direction of the law, or the correction; either do it, or die for it. Thus the "law is a schoolmaster," Galatians 3:24 , and such a one as that which Livy and Florus speak of in Italy, that brought forth his scholars to Hannibal, who had he not been more merciful than otherwise, they had all perished. The comfort is, that it is a schoolmaster to Christ, who became bond to the law to redeem us that were under the law, from the rigour, bondage, irritation, and condemnation thereof. So that the use that now we have of it is only to be as Paul’s sister’s son, to show us our danger, and to send us to the chief Captain of our salvation, who came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.
But to fulfil it ] To complete and accomplish it ( πληρωσαι ), for he fulfilled all righteousness, and finished the work that was given him to do, John 17:4 . A new commandment also gave be unto us, that we love one another; which love is the complement of the law and the supplement of the gospel. Besides, "Christ is the end of the law to every one that believeth," and commandeth us no more than he causeth us to do, Romans 10:4 ; Ezekiel 18:31 ; yea, he doth all his works in us, and for us, saith the Church, Isaiah 26:12 . Thus Christ still fulfils the law in his people; into whose hearts he putteth a disposition answerable to the outward law in all things, as in the wax is the same impression that was upon the seal. This is called the "law of the mind," Romans 7:25 , and answereth the law of God without, as lead answers the mould, as tally answereth tally, as indenture indenture, Heb 8:8-10 cf. 2Co 3:2-3 Romans 6:17 .
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Ver. 18. For verily I say unto you ] This is his ordinary asseveration, which he useth in matters of weight only. For a vain protestation comes to as much, for aught I know, saith a worthy divine, as a vain oath. (Capel on Temptation.)
Till heaven and earth pass ] And pass they must. The visible heavens being defiled with our sins that are even glued unto them ( εκολληθησαν . Quasi bitumine ferruminata ), as Babylon’s sins are said to be, Revelation 18:5 , shall be purged with the fire of the last day, as the vessels of the sanctuary were that held the sin offering. "The earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up," 2 Peter 3:10 . And this the heathens had heard of, and hammered at, that the world should at length be consumed with fire, as Ovid hath it ( Esse quoque in fatis meminit, &c., Metam., lib. i.), and Lucretius disputeth it according to the natural causes. But Ludolfus of the life of Christ doth better, when he tells us that of those two destructions of the world, the former was by water, for the heat of their lust, and the latter shall be by fire, for the coldness of their love. Aqua, propter ardorem libidihis; igni, propter teporem charitatis, ii. 87.
One jot ] Which is the least letter in the alphabet. Irenaeus calls it a half-letter; and Luther rendereth this text, Ne minima quidem litera, not so much as the least letter. The Jews fain that jod was added to the beginning of a masculine name, as in Jacob, Israel, &c., because it was taken from the end of a feminine, Sarai; solicitous lest the law shouldt lose one iota. ( Nescit Scripturae vel breve iota sacrae. Prov.) But what meant the Popish glossator to say, that the writings of the Fathers are authentic, et tenenda omnia usque ad ultimum iota? Shall the Fathers be put in equal balance with the Holy Scriptures?
Or one tittle ] Not a hair-stroke, an accent on the top of a Hebrew letter, the bending or bowing thereof, as a little bit on the top of a horn. The Masorites have summed up all the letters in the Bible, to show that one hair of that sacred head is not perished.
Shall in no wise pass from the law ] The ceremonial law was "a shadow of good things to come," saith the apostle, Hebrews 10:1 . This good thing was Christ. When the sun is behind, the shadow is before; when the sun is before, the shadow is behind. So was it in Christ to them of old (saith one). This sun was behind, and therefore the law or shadow was before. To us under the gospel, the sun is before, and so now the ceremonies of the law (those shadows) are behind, yea, vanished away. Before the passion of Christ (wherein they all determined) the ceremonies of the law were neither dead nor deadly: nec mortiferae, nec mortuae, saith Aquinas. After the passion, till such time as the gospel was preached up and down by the apostles, though dead, yet (for the time) they were not deadly. Non mortiferae, utcunque mortuae. But since that they are not only dead, but deadly to them that use them, as the Jews to this day Et mortuae, et mortiferae. As for the moral law, it is eternal, and abideth for ever in heaven. saith David, Psalms 119:89 . And albeit some special duties of certain commandments shall cease when we come to heaven, yet the substance of every one remaineth. We live by the same law (in effect) as the saints above do; and do God’s will on earth as they in heaven. God himself cannot dispense with the breach of those laws that be moral in themselves (because he hateth sin by nature, not by precept only); such are all the ten commandments but the fourth. The fourth commandment (say divines) is moral by precept, not by nature; and so, the Lord of the saboath may dispense with the literal breach of the sabbath. Of all the moral law, it is the opinion of some of our best divines (Zanchius, Prideaux), that since the coming of Christ it bindeth us not, out of any foregoing institution, as delivered to Moses in the mount; but as it is agreeable to the law of nature, which is common to Jews and Gentiles; and as it was explained and confirmed by our Saviour Christ in the Gospel. To conclude, the ministerials of this law shall pass away together with this life; the substantials shall pass into our glorified natures and shine therein, as in a mirror for ever.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them , the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments ] So the Pharisees called and counted these weightier things of the law in comparison to their tithings, Matthew 23:23 , and traditions, Matthew 15:3 . They deemed it as great a sin to eat with unwashed hands as to commit fornication. Dicunt Iesuitae quaedam peccata adeo esse in se et per se levia, ut factores, nec sordidos, nec malos, nec impios, nec Deo exosos reddant. (Chemnitius.) But albeit some commandments are greater than some, as those of the first table (in meet comparison) than those of the second; yet that pharisaical diminution of commandments, that idle distinction of sins into gnats and camels, venial and mortal, motes and mountains, is by no means to be admitted. The least sin is contrary to charity, as the least drop of water is to fire. The least missing of the mark is an error as well as the greatest; and both alike for kind though not for degrees. חטאה αυαρτια , a missing of the mark, or swerving from the rule. Hence lesser sins are reproached by the name of the greater; malice is called murder; lustful looks, adultery; sitting at idolatrous feasts (though without all intent of worship), idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:14 . See Job 31:27-28 . Disobedience in never so small a matter (as eating a forbidden apple, gathering a few sticks on the sabbath day, looking into or touching the ark) hath been severely punished. Though the matter seem small, yet thy malice and presumption is great, that wilt in so small a thing incur the Lord’s so high displeasure. What could be a less commandment than to abstain from blood? Yet is their obedience herein urged with many words, and that with this reason, as ever they will have God to do anything for them or theirs, Deuteronomy 12:22 . The whole law is (say the schoolmen) but one copulative. Any condition not observed forfeits the whole lease; and any commandment not obeyed subjects a man to the curse, Deuteronomy 27:26 ; Galatians 3:10 . And so some one good action hath blessedness ascribed and assured to it, as peacemaking, Matthew 5:9 ; so he that shall "keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," James 2:10 . When some of the Israelites had broken the fourth commandment, God challengeth them for all, Exodus 16:28 . Where, then, will they appear that plead for this Zoar, for that Rimmon?-a merry lie, a petty oath, an idle errand on the Lord’s day, &c. Sick bodies love to be gratified with some little bit that favoureth the disease. But meddle not with the murdering morsels of sin; there will be bitterness in the end. Jonathan had no sooner tasted of the honey with the tip of his rod only, but his head was forfeited. There is a deceitfulness in sin, a lie in these vanities, Hebrews 3:13 ; John 2:23 ; "give them an inch, they’ll take an ell." Let the serpent but get in his head, he will shortly wind in his whole body. He plays no small game, but meaneth us much hurt, how modest soever he seemeth to be. It is no less than the kingdom that he seeketh, by his maidenly insinuations, as Adonijah. As therefore we must submit to God, so we must resist the devil, without expostulation, 1 Peter 5:7-9 ; throw water on the fire of temptation, though but to some smaller sin, and stamp on it too. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth," saith St James. Jam 3:5 A little poison in a cup, a little leak in a ship, or breach in a wall, may ruin all. A little wound at the heart and a little sin in the soul may hide God’s face from us, as a cloud, Lamentations 3:44 . Therefore as the prophet, when a cloud as big as a man’s hand only appeared, knew that the whole heaven would be overly covered, and willed the king to betake himself to his chariot; so let us to our shelter, for a company comes, as she said, when she bore her son Gad. After Jonathan and his armourbearer came the whole host; and when Delilah had prevailed, came the lords of the Philistines. He that is fallen from the top of a ladder cannot stop at the second round. Every sin hardeneth the heart, and gradually disposeth it to greater offences; as lesser wedges make way for bigger. After Ahaz had made his wicked altar and offered on it, he brought it into the temple; first setting it on the brazen altar, afterwards bringing it into the house, and then, lastly, setting it on the north side of God’s altar, 2 Kings 16:12-14 . Withstand sin therefore at first, and live by Solomon’s rule, "Give not water passage, no, not a little." Silence sin as our Saviour did the devil, and suffer it not to solicit thee. If it be importunate, answer it not a word, as Hezekiah would not Rabshakeh; or give it a short and sharp answer, yea, the blue eye that St Paul did ( υπωπαιζω ), 1 Corinthians 9:27 . Lividum reddo corpus meum. (Aug.) This shall be "no grief unto thee hereafter, nor offence of heart," as she told David; the contrary may, 1 Samuel 25:31 . It repented St Austin of his very excuses made to his parents, being a child, and to his schoolmaster, being a boy. He retracts his ironies, because they had the appearance of a lie, because they looked ill-favouredly. (Confess. i. 19; Retract. i. 1.) Bishop Ridley repents of his playing at chess, as wasting too much time. Bradford bewaileth his dulness and unthankfulness. (Acts and Mon.) David’s heart smote him for cutting the lap of Saul’s coat only; and that for none other intent than to clear his own innocence; that in which Saul commended him for his moderation. There are some that would shrink up sin into a narrow scantling, and bring it to this, if they could, that none do evil but they that are in jails. But David approves his sincerity by his respect to all God’s comandments, and hath this commendation, that he did all the wills of God ( θεληματα ), Psa 18:21-22 Acts 13:36 . Solomon also bids "count nothing little that God commandeth, but keep God’s precepts as the sight of the eye," Proverbs 7:2 . Those venturous spirits, that dare live in any known sin, aspire not to immortality, Philippians 2:12 ; they shall be least, that is, nothing at all, in the kingdom of heaven.
And teacheth men so ] As the Pharisees did, and all the old and modern heresiarchs. In the year 1559 it was maintained by one David George (that arch-heretic) that good works were pernicious and destructory to the soul. Prodiit paradoxon, quod bona opera sint perniciosa ad salutem. (Bucholc. Ind. Chron.) The Anabaptists and Socinians have broached many doctrines of devils, not fit to be once named among Christians. The Pneumatomachi of old set forth a base book of the Trinity, under St Cyprian’s name, and sold it at a very cheap rate, that the poorest might be able to reach it and read it, as Ruffinus complaineth. In those primitive times, those capital heresies (concerning the Trinity and Christ’s incarnation) were so generally held, that it was a witty thing then to be a right believer, as Erasmus phraseth it, Ingeniosa res fuit, esse Christianum. All the world, in a manner, was turned Arian, as St Jerome hath it, Ingemuit orbis, et miratus est se factum esse. (Arianum.) Orosius telleth us that the Goths, being desirous to be instructed in the Christian religion, requested of Valens the emperor to send them some to preach the faith unto them. He being himself an Arian, sent them Arian doctors, who set up that heresy among them. By the just judgment of God, therefore, the same Valens being overthrown in the battle by the Goths, was also burnt by them in a poor cottage, whither he had fled for shelter. Iusto itaque Dei iudicio Valens a Gothis crematus est, quorum ille animis pestiferum errorum virus in fuderat. (Tertullian.) Heretics have an art of Pythanology, whereby they cunningly insinuate into men’s affections, and many times persuade before they teach, as it is said of the Valentinians. It was therefore well and wisely done of Placilla the empress, when her husband Theodosius, senior, desired to confer with Eunomius, she earnestly dissuaded him; lest being perverted by his speeches, he might fall into his heresy. (Sozom. vii. 6, 7.)
Shall be least in the kingdom of heaven ] That is, nothing at all there; as Matthew 20:16 . Either of these two sins here mentioned exclude out of heaven; how much more both? If single sinners that break God’s commandments, and no more, shall be damned, those that teach men so shall be doubly damned: if God will be avenged on the former seven-fold, surely he will on the latter seventy-fold seven-fold. When the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies shall be gathered together (toward the end of the world) to make war against Christ, the multitude shall be slain with the sword, the poor seduced people that were carried along, many of them (as those two hundred that followed Absalom out of Jerusalem) in the simplicity of their hearts, and understood not the matter, shall have an easier judgment, 2 Samuel 15:11 . But the beast was taken, and the false prophet, and were both cast alive (not slain with the sword, and so cast to the infernal vultures to be devoured by them as a prey; but cast alive), that they may feel those most exquisite pains, into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20-21 , wherewith they are encompassed, as fish cast into a pond are with water. a
But whosoever shall do, and teach them ] First do, and thereby prove what that good, holy, and acceptable will of God is, Romans 12:2 ; and then teach others what himself hath felt and found good by experience. Come, and I will tell you what God hath done for my soul. "Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee," Psalms 66:16 ; Psalms 34:11 ; Psalms 51:13 . Charity is no churl, Psalms 32:8 ; but cries, I would to God that all that hear me this day were as I am. Andrew calleth Simon; and Philip, Nathanael; the Samaritaness, her neighbours; and those good souls, one another, Hosea 6:1 . The love of Christ constrained the apostles, 2 Corinthians 5:11 ; they could not but speak the things they had heard and felt; as little as the holy Virgin could conceal the joy she had conceived upon the conception of God her Saviour. They could not but be as busy in building staircases for heaven as these Pharisees were in digging descents to hell. Blind guides they were of the blind, and both fell into the ditch, but the guides fell undermost. By corrupt teachers Satan catcheth men, as a cunning fisher by one fish catcheth another, that he may feed upon both. Here they corrupted the law by their false glosses, as our Saviour sets forth. But where they kept Moses’ chair warm, sat close and said sooth; all that they bid you observe, that observe and do, saith he, Matthew 23:2-3 ; for a bad man may cry a good commodity, and a stinking breath sound a trumpet with great commendation. Balaam, Satan’s boggey man, may be (for the time) Christ’s spokesman, and preach profitably to others, though himself be a castaway, 1 Corinthians 9:27 ; as water, when it hath cleansed other things, is cast into the sink. Hear such therefore, saith our Saviour, but do not after their works, for they say and do not; they speak by the talent, but work by the ounce; their tongues are larger than their hands; their lives give the lie to their lips; b they shun the way themselves (with that priest and Levite) which they showed to others, when mercy should be showed to the wounded man. Out of their own mouths therefore will God condemn them; and it is a fearful thing to fall into the punishing hands of the living God. As for those burning and shining lights, that have Urim and Thummim, bells and pomegranates, trumpets of sound doctrine in one hand and lamps of good life in the other, as Gideon’s soldiers; they shall be great in the kingdom of heaven. He that holdeth them in his right hand here, Revelation 1:20 , shall set them at his right hand hereafter, and give them to hear, as Ezekiel did, the noise "of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord," Ezekiel 3:12 .
a Dirissimum exitii genus quo hiatu prae reliquis devovebuntur. Parcus.
b Odi homines ignava opera, philosophia, sententia. Ennius. Συναδοντων μεν τοις εργοις αποδεκτεον, διαφωνουντων δε λογους υποληπτεον. Arist.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 20. Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees ] And yet they went far: 1. In works of piety, for they made long prayers, &c. 2. In works of charity, for they gave much alms. 3. In works of equity, for they tithed mint, anise, and cummin. 4. In works of courtesy, for they invited Christ often, &c. They were the most exact and accurate sect of that religion, as St Paul (who once was one of them) beareth them witness; a and so carried away the heart of the people, that there was no holy man that was not termed a Pharisee: and therefore among the seven kinds of Pharisees in their Talmud (whereof one sort was Pharisaeus: Quid debeo facere, et faciam illud, such a one was he, Luk 18:18 ); they make Abraham a Pharisee of love, Job a Pharisee of fear, &c. Yea, it was commonly conceited among the Jews, that if but two of all the world were to go to heaven, the one should be a scribe and the other a Pharisee. And what high opinions they nourished of themselves may be seen in that proud Pharisee, Luke 18:11-12 . Like unto whom, how many civil justiciaries are there among us? who if they can keep their church, give an alms, bow their knee, say their prayers, pay their tithes, and once a year receive the sacrament (it matters not how corrupt hearts, how filthy tongues, how false hands they bear), can thank God for their good estate to Godward, and take up their seats, as it were, in heaven beforehand. But our Saviour says nay to it in this text; yea, sets a double bolt upon heaven’s gates to keep out such. And when they shall come knocking and bouncing, with "Lord, Lord, open unto us," he shall say, Discedite, Depart ye; or as once he did to their fellow Pharisees, Ye are they which justified yourselves before men, but God knew your hearts. And you shall now know (to your small comfort) that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God, Luke 16:15 . Civility rested in, is but a beautiful abomination, a smooth way to hell. The world highly applauds it, because somewhat better than outrageous wickedness: as a cab of dove’s dung was sold in Samaria’s famine at a very dear rate, &c.
a αρκιβεστατη αιρεσις, Acts 26:5 . In hac haeresi sum: i.e. sic sentio.
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
Ver. 21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old ] Antiquity is venerable: and of witnesses, Aristotle witnesseth, that the more ancient they are, the more to be credited, as less corrupt. New things are vain things, saith the Greek proverb. And the historian condemneth his countrymen, as despisers of old customs, and carried after new. a But as old age is a crown, if it be found in the way of righteousness, Proverbs 16:31 , and not otherwise; so may it be said of these Kadmonim or the old Rabbis, later than Ezra, whom our Saviour here confuteth. Much might have been attributed to their authority, had they not rested upon the bare letter of the law, and wrested it sometimes to another meaning. Antiquity disjoined from verity is but filthy hoariness; and deserveth no more reverence than an old lecher, which is so much the more odious, because old. And as manna, the longer it was kept against the command of God the more it stank; so do errors and enormities. Laban pretendeth antiquity for his God, in his oath to Jacob: The God of Abraham, saith he, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us, Genesis 31:53 . But Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. He riseth not higher than his father, and yet doubts not but he worshipped God aright. εμοι αρχαια Ιησου ο Χριστος . (Ignat.) It is no good rule to say, We’ll be of the same religion with our forefathers, unless we can approve it right by the Holy Scriptures. Plus valet malum inolitum quam bonum insolitum: and that, Tyrannus, trium literatum mos, too often carries it against truth. The image that fell down from Jupiter (for which there was so much ado at Ephesus, του Διοπετους, Act 19:35 ) is said by the town clerk to be such as could not be spoken against with any reason. And why? because it was wonderfully ancient (as Pliny telleth us). For whereas the temple of Diana had been seven different times rebuilt, this image was never changed; b and thence grew the so great superstition, by the covetousness of the priests. As likewise the Ancilia among the Romans; and Pessinuntium among the Asians. But what saith a noble writer, Antiquity must have no more authority than what it can maintain. Did not our predecessors hold the torrid zone uninhabitable? did they not confine the world in the ark of Europe, Asia, and Africa, till Noah’s dove, Columbus, discovered land? &c.
Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever killeth shall be in danger of judgment ] That is, it shall be questioned whether it be fit he be put to death or not. Thus as Eve dallied with the command, saying, Ye shall not eat thereof, lest ye die (when God had said, Ye shall surely die whensoever ye eat), and so fell into the devil’s danger; in like sort, these Jewish doctors had corrupted the very letter of the law, and made doubtful and questionable what God had plainly and peremptorily pronounced to be present death. Before the Flood, indeed, some do guess and gather out of Gen 9:5-6 that the punishment of murder, and such like heinous offences, was only excommunication from the holy assemblies, and exclusion out of their fathers’ families, as Cain was cast out from the presence of the Lord; that is, from his father’s house, where God was sincerely served. Sure it is, that no sooner was the world repaired, than this law was established, "Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed;" and this reason is rendered, "for in the image of God made he him," Genesis 9:6 . That image (it is true) is by the Fall defaced and abolished; yet are there some relics thereof still abiding, which God will not have destroyed. If any object, Why then should the murderer be destroyed, since he also is made in the image of God? the answer is easy, because the murderer hath destroyed the image of God in his neighbour, and turned himself into the image of the devil. Besides, God hath indispensably and peremptorily commanded it: He that sheddeth the blood of any person, hasteneth to the grave, let no man hinder him, Proverbs 28:17 . Say he escape the stroke of human justice, yet the barbarians could say (as of Paul, whom they took for a murderer) that divine vengeance will not suffer him to live, Acts 28:4 ; "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days," Psalms 55:23 . Usually either God executeth them with his own immediate hand, as it might be easy to instance in many bloody persecutors and others; or he maketh them their own deathsmen, as Pilate; or setteth some others to work to do it for them. As (among other examples of God’s dealings in this kind) A. D. 1586, Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, in Ireland, a man of honest life, with his two servants, were stabbed to death by one Dulland, an Irish old soldier, while he gravely admonished him of his foul adulteries; and the wicked murderer escaped away, who had now committed 45 murders with his own hand. At length revenge pursuing him, he was by another bloody fellow, Donald Spaman, shortly after slain himself, and his head presented to the Lord Deputy. Neither can I here omit (that which I had almost forgotten) the just hand of God upon that villanous parricide, Alphonsus Diazius, the Spaniard, who (after he had, like another Cain, 1 John 3:12 , killed his own natural brother, John Diazius, merely because he had renounced Popery and became a professor of the reformed religion, and was not only not punished, but highly commended of the Romanists for his heroic achievements) desperately hanged himself at Trent, upon the neck of his own mule, being haunted and hunted by the furies of his own conscience. Senarclaeus de morte Ioan. Diazii, A.D. 1551. Seipsum desperabundus Tridenti de collo mulae suae suspendit.
a πιστοτατειοιπαλαιοι αδιαφθοροι γαρ . Rhet. lib. i. τα καινα κενα . Thucydides. Athenienses suos υπεροπτας των ειωθοτων, non sine probro appellitat. Cor Princorum fuit sicut porta porticus templi, at cor posterorum sicut forameniacus. Talmud Erublin. Papists boast much of antiquity, as once the Gibeonites did of old shoes and mouldy bread.
b Virgineum fuit simulachrum longe antiquissimum, nunquam mutatum, septies restituto templo.
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Ver. 22. But I say unto you ] This is his teaching with authority, and not as the scribes. To their false glosses he opposeth his own sole and single authority. He delivers himself like a lawgiver: "but I say unto you," and you shall take it on my bare word, without any further pawn or pledge. He that is αυταυτος , is likewise αυτοπιστος . The Pharisees’ phylacteries were not so broad but their expositions of the law were as narrow; which therefore our Saviour letteth out and rectifieth, by taking away their viperine a glosses that did eat out the bowels of the text: and here observe with me, that Christ taketh not upon him to be a new lawgiver, but to be an interpreter of the old law by Moses. He maketh not new commands or counsels (as Popish expositors dream), but throws away all that earth that the Philistines had tumbled into that spring.
That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause ] Rashly giving way to unruly passion, and not taking reason into counsel, as the word here signifieth. b This is a degree of murder that the Pharisees dreamt not of, and a mortal sin, though the Papists conclude it venial from this very text, because not threatened (as calling fool) with hell fire. But judgment, counsel, and Gehenna, note not here different punishments, but only various degrees of the damnation of hell, which is the just hire of the least sin. There is a lawful anger, as that of our Saviour, Mark 3:5 ; Matthew 16:22 . And we are bidden to "be angry, and sin not," Ephesians 4:26 ; Daniel 3:19 . Now he that would be angry and not sin must (for the matter) be angry at nothing but sin, and that not so much as it is an injury to us as an offence to God. Next, for the measure, he must not be so transported with anger, as to be unfitted and indisposed thereby either for prayer to God or pity to men. Moses was very angry at the sight of the golden calf, yet could pray, Exodus 32:19 ; Exodus 32:31 . Our Saviour was heartily angry at the Pharisees, but also grieved at the hardness of their hearts ( συλλυπουμενος ), Mark 3:5 . Jonah on the other side, through anger, thought to have prayed, but fell into a brawl with God, quarreled with him for his kindness; and had little pity on so many poor Ninevites; though afterwards he yielded to better reason, and showed his submission by laying his hand upon his mouth, and saying no more, John 4:1-11 . Anger is a tender virtue (saith one), and such as, by reason of our unskilfulness, may be easily corrupted and made dangerous. The wrath of man (usually) worketh not the righteousness of God: nay, it lets in the devil, that old manslayer, and is the murder of the heart (as here), making way to the murder of the tongue and hand, James 1:20 ; Ephesians 4:26 . It is the match to receive the fire of contention, and the bellows to blow it up, Proverbs 15:18 . Now where strife is, there is confusion and every evil work, not murder excepted, James 3:16 .
And whosoever shall say unto his brother, Raca ] c Anger (as fire), if smothered, will languish; but let out, will flame into further mischief. Cease from anger, saith David, for else thou wilt fret thyself to do evil, Psalms 37:8 ; Proverbs 20:22-23 . (Mercer.) And if thou hast done evil (or played the fool, as others read it), saith Agur, in lifting up thyself, and puffing against thy brother, against whom in thine anger thou hast devised some mischief, if thou hast thought evil against him, yet lay thy hand upon thy mouth: say not so much as Raca, utter not any so much as an inarticulate voice, snuff not, snort not, spit not, as he, Deuteronomy 25:9 ; stamp not with clapping of the hands, as Balak, Numbers 24:10 ; say not so much as fie to thine offending brother, saith Theophylact; Thou him not, saith Chrysostom; call him not silly or shallow, one that wants brains, saith Irenaeus, qui expuit cerebrum, as the word signifieth, if it signify anything. d Surely (saith Agur, setting forth the reason of his former precept by a double similitude) the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath (the giving it its forth and full scope, and not suppressing it when it first begins to boil in a man’s breast) bringeth forth strife. Let therefore the first heat of passion settle, and that darkness pass that hath clouded the mind. Ut fragilis glacies, occidat ira mora. Walk into the garden with Ahasuerus, into the field with Jonathan, 1 Samuel 20:11 , when his father had provoked him to wrath, Ephesians 6:4 ; (against the apostle’s precept). Divert to some other company, place, business, about something thou canst be most earnest at. Give not place to wrath, no, not a little; set God before thy tumultuating passions, and so silence them, else worse will follow. Say not with the civilian, De minutis non curat lex: the law takes not notice of small faults. God’s law is spiritual, and reacheth to a raca, to a sirrah, &c. Romans 7:1-25 .
But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, &c. ] How much more, rogue, bastard, devil, and other such foul and opprobrious terms, not fit to be mentioned among saints, yet common with many such as would be counted so. What makest thou here, thou archdevil, troubling our city? said the Bishop of Geneva to Farellus, seeking to set up the reformed religion. e And a Spanish Jesuit disputing with us about the Eucharist (saith Beza) called us vulpes, serpentes, et simias, foxes, serpents, and jackanapes. Contrarily, it is observed of Archbishop Cranmer, that he never raged so far with any of his household servants, as once to call the meanest of them varlet or knave in anger, much less to reprove a stranger with any reproachful word; least of all did he deal blows among them, as Bishop Bonner: who in his visitation, because the bells rung not at his coming into Hadham, nor the church was dressed up as it should, called Dr Bricket knave and heretic; and therewithal, whether thrusting or striking at him, so it was, that he gave Sir Thomas Josselin, Knight (who then stood next to the Bishop), a good blow upon the upper part of the neck, even under his ear; whereat he was somewhat astonishied at the suddenness of the quarrel for that time. At last he spake and said, What meaneth your lordship? have you been trained up in Will Sommers’s school, to strike him who standeth next you? The Bishop, still in a rage, either heard not, or would not hear. When Mr Fecknam would have excused him by his long imprisonment in the Marshalsea, whereby he was grown testy, &c., he replied merrily, So it seems, Mr Fecknam; for now that he is come forth of the Marshalsea he is ready to go to Bedlam. Our Saviour here threateneth a worse place, tormenting Tophet, the Gehenna of fire, to that unruly evil, the tongue, that being set on fire of hell, fetcheth words as far as hell to set on fire the whole coarse of nature, James 3:6 .
Shall be in danger of hell fire ] Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, was reputed a contemptible place, without the city, in the which they burnt (by means of a fire continually kept there) the carcases, filth, and garbage of the city, so that by the fire of Gehenna here is intimated both the restless torments of hell ( sc. by the bitter cries and ejaculations of poor infants there burnt to Moloch), and also the perpetuity and endlessness of them. The idol Moloch or Saturn was represented by a man-like brazen body, with the head of a calf. The children offered were inclosed within the arms of this idol; and as the fire increased about it, the sacrifice with the noise of drums and other instruments filled the air, that the pitiful cries of the children might not be heard.
a In allusion to the supposition that the female viper was killed by her young eating their way out at birth. ŒD
b εικη from εικω , cedo; qui cedit affectibus, adeo ut rationem in consilium non adhibeat. Piscat. in Romans 13:4 .
c Vox convitii levioris.
d καταπτυστος . Chrysost. vit. Syros hoc nomine uti pro το κενος . Hesych.
e Quid tu, diabole nequissime, ad hanc civitatem perturbandam accessisti? dicit Episcopus Genevensis.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Ver. 23. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar ] To anger our Saviour here opposeth charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Charity envieth not, nor is rash, &c.; but beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Strangers we must love as ourselves, Luke 10:27-28 ; but brethren, as Christ loved us, with a preventing constant love, John 15:15 , notwithstanding provocations to the contrary.
That thy brother hath aught against thee ] As justly offended by thee: see the like phrase, Luke 7:39 ; Revelation 2:4 . If either thou have given offence carelessly, or taken offence causelessly. And two flints may as soon smite together, and not fire come out, as people converse together, and not offences happen. Now, if it be a great offence, a considerable injury, to the just grief or disgrace of another, satisfaction must be given, and reconciliation sought (at least), ere the service can be accepted. For how can we look our Father in the face, or ask him blessing, when we know that he knows there is hatred or heart burning between us and our brethren?
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Ver. 24. Leave there thy gift ] The fountain of love will not be laded at with uncharitable hands. God appeared not to Abraham till Lot and he were agreed. Jacob reconciled to his brother, first builds an altar, &c.
And go thy way, first be reconciled ] Unless thou wilt lose thy labour, and worse, as Saul and Judas did. God proffers mercy before sacrifice, and is content his own immediate service should be intermitted, rather than reconciliation be omitted. Confess your trespasses ( παραπτωματα ) one to another, saith St James, Jam 5:16 your lapses and offences one against another, and then pray one for another, that ye may be healed; as Abraham, after reconciliation, prayed for Abimelech, and the Lord healed him. St Peter would have husbands and wives live lovingly together; or, if some household words occur between them at any time, to peace again that their prayers be not hindered, as else they will be, 1 Peter 3:7 . Dissension and ill will will lie at the wellhead and stop the current. The spirit of grace and supplication will be grieved by bitterness, anger, clamour; yea, made thereby to stir with discontent, and to withdraw, as loathing his lodging, Ephesians 4:30-31 . Si quis est qui neminem in gratiam putat redire posse, non nostram is perfidiam arguit, sed indicat suam. (Cic. Epist. lib. 2. eph 17.) Menander tamen dicit, reconciliationes esse lupinas amicitias.
First be reconciled to thy brother ] And, as a bone once broken is stronger after well setting, so let love be after reconciliation; that if it be possible, as much as in us lieth, we may live peaceably with all men. Let it not stick on our part howsoever, but seek peace and ensue it. Though it flee from thee, follow after it, and account it an honour to be first in so good a matter. I do not see (saith one) the Levite’s father-in-law make any means for reconciliation; but when remission come to his doors, no man entertaineth it more thankfully. The nature of many men is forward to accept and negligent to sue for; they can spend secret wishes upon, that which shall cost them no endeavour. But why should men be so backward to a business of this nature? Almighty God beseecheth sinners to be reconciled unto him, 2 Corinthians 5:20 . And, as when a man goes from the sun, yet the sunbeams follow him, shine on him, warm him; so doth the mercy of God follow us all the days of our lives, Psalms 23:6 . Our Saviour first sent to Peter that had denied him, and went to the rest that had forsaken him. Aristippus (though but a heathen) went of his own accord to Aeschines, his enemy, and said, Shall we not be reconciled till we become a table talk to all the country? And when Aeschines answered he would most gladly be at peace with him: Remember, therefore, said Aristippus, that although I were the elder and better man, yet I sought first unto thee. Thou art indeed, said Aeschines, a far better man than I, for I began the quarrel, but thou the reconcilement. (Laert. lib. 2.) Guiltiness is commonly clamorous and implacable, and none so averse to reconciliation as they that are most injurious; as he that wronged his brother, thrust away Moses, saying, "Who made thee a ruler?" &c. "Wilt thou kill me?" &c. Acts 7:27-28 .
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Ver. 25. Agree with thine adversary quickly ] Habent aulae suum Cito, cito. God’s work also must be done with expedition; opportunities are headlong, delays dangerous. Let not therefore the sun go down upon your wrath, lest it grow inveterate, as it proves in many, who not only let the sun go down once or twice, but run his whole race, ere they can find hearts and means to be reconciled. a "Cursed be their wrath, for it is deadly. O my soul, come not thou into their secret," Genesis 49:6-7 . It were much to he wished, that, as Livy hath it, Amicitiae immortales, inimicitiae mortales essent, enmities were mortal among us, amities immortal.
Lest thine adversary deliver thee to the judge ] By his groans and moans to God, who is gracious (though thou art stiff), and will pay thee for thy pertinacy, Exodus 22:26 ; (and him for his patience), with extremity of law. Compound, therefore, and take up the suit before it come to execution and judgment. Suffer it not, as ill husbands do, to run on, and charges to grow from term to term, lest we pay not only the main debt, but the arrears too, the time of God’s patience, &c.
Thou be cast into prison ] Into hell, worse than any prison. Of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, the second man from King Stephen, it is reported, that he was so tortured in prison with hunger and other calamities accompanying such men, ut vivere noluerit, mori nescieret, live he would not, die he could not. This and much worse is the case of those that are cast into hell; they seek death, but find it not; they desire it, but it fleeth from them, Revelation 9:6 .
a Si quid benefeceris, levius pluma est: at si offenderis, plumbeas iras gerunt. Plaut.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Ver. 26. Thou shalt by no means come out thence till, &c. ] i.e. Never come ont. Let our merit mongers first go to hell for their sins, and stay all eternity there; then afterward, if God will create another eternity, they may have liberty to relate their good works, and call for their wages. But the curse of the law will first be served of such, as, seeking to be Saved by the works of the law, are fallen from Christ; these shall never come out till they have paid the utmost farthing. And when will that be? We read of a miserable malefactor (John Chambone by name) who had lain in the dungeon at Lyons the duration of seven or eight months. This thief, for pain and torment, cried out of God, and cursed his parents that begat him, being almost eaten up with lice, and ready to eat his own flesh for hunger; being fed with such bread as dogs and horses had refused to eat. So it pleased the goodness of Almighty God, that Petrus Bergerius, a French martyr, was cast into the same dungeon; through whose preaching and prayers he was brought to repentance, learning much comfort and patience by the word of the gospel preached unto him. Touching his conversion he wrote a very sweet letter out of his bonds, declaring therein, that the next day after that he had taken held of the gospel, and framed himself to patience according to the same, his lice (which he could pluck out before by twenty at once between his fingers) now were so gone from him that he had not one. Furthermore, so the alms of good people were extended towards him, that he was fed with white bread, and that which was very good. His imprisonment, at utmost, lasted but while life; death as a jailer knocked off his shackles, and set him into the glorious liberty of the saints above. So the penitent thief in the Gospel; and so that Robert Samuel, martyr, above mentioned. But not so those that are clapt up in the dark dungeon of hell. Their misery is as endless as easeless. A river of brimstone is not consumed by burning; the smoke of that pit ascendeth for ever. A child with a spoon may sooner empty the sea than the damned in hell accomplish their misery. All that wicked men suffer here is but a paying the usury money required for that dreadful debt, that must be paid at last by all that make not timely composition.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
Ver. 27. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, Thou shalt not commit adultery ] This they corruptly restrained to the gross act, and made nothing of contemplative filthiness, hearts full of harlotry, hot as an oven with scalding lusts, Hosea 7:6 , very stews and brothel houses, cages of unclean birds; besides eyes full of adultery, hands defiled with dalliance, tongues taught to talk obscenities and ribaldries. Spurcitias Veneris eliminantes. But Seneca could say, Incesta est, et sine stupro, quae stuprum cupit: she is a whore that would be so had she but opportunity; and the Romans put to death a vestal virgin for singing this verse only.
" Faelices nuptae! moriar ni nubere dulce est. "
St Paul’s virgin is holy, not in body only, but in spirit also, 1 Corinthians 7:34 . Quae quia non licuit non facit, illa facit. a And for the avoiding of fornications, δια τας πορνειας , 1 Corinthians 7:2 ; (in the plural number, inward burnings as well as outward pollutions), let every man have his own wife, &c. Fecit quisque quantam voluit, saith Seneca. Every one doeth as he desireth to do. And Polybius attributeth the death of Antiochus to sacrilege only in his purpose and will. Josephus indeed derideth Polybius for so saying; but with as little reason, as his countryman Kimchi (soured with the leaven of the Pharisees) sets this strange sense upon Psalms 66:18 : If I regard iniquity only in my heart, so that it break not forth into outward act, the Lord will not hear me, that is (saith he) so as to impute it, or account it a sin.
a Has patitur poenas peccandi sola voluntas. Juv. Sat. 13.
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Ver. 28. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her ] Lusting is often the fruit of looking; as in Joseph’s mistress, who set her eyes upon Joseph; a and David, who saw Bathsheba bathing. Lust is quicksighted. How much better Job, who would not look, lest he should think upon a maid! and Nazianzen, who had learned (and he glories in it) to keep in his eyes front roving to wanton prospects! τους οφθαλμους σωφρονισαι . And the like is reported of that heavenly spark, the young Lord Harrington; whereas those that have eyes full of adultery cannot cease to sin, saith St Peter. 2 Peter 2:14 , μοιχαλιδος , full of the whore, as if she sat in the adulterer’s eye. And facti crimina lumen habet, saith another. Samson’s eyes were the first offenders that betrayed him to lust, therefore are they first pulled out, and he led a blind captive to Gaza where before he had lustfully gazed on his Delilah. It is true, the blindness of his body opened the eyes of his mind. But how many thousands are there that die of the wound in the eye! Physicians reckon 200 diseases that belong to it; but none like this. For, by these loop-holes of lust and windows of wickedness, the devil windeth himself into the soul. Death entereth in by these windows, as the fathers apply that text in Jeremiah. The eye is the light of the body, saith our Saviour, and yet by our abuse, this most lightsome part of the body draweth many times the whole soul into utter darkness. Nothing, I dare say, so much enricheth hell as beautiful faces; while a man’s eye-beams, beating upon that beauty, reflect with anew heat upon himself. Ut vidi, ut perii! (Propert.) Looking and lusting differ (in Greek) but in one letter ( εκ του οραν γινεται το εραν ). When one seemed to pity a one-eyed man, he told him he had lost one of his enemies, a very thief, that would have stolen away his heart. Democritus (but in that no wise man) pulled out his eyes; and the Pharisee (little wiser) would shut his eyes when he walked abroad, to avoid the sight of women; insomuch that he often dashed his head against the walls, that the blood gushed out, and was therefore called Pharisoeus impingens, b How much better, and with greater commendation had these men taken our Saviour’s counsel in the following verses!
a Coniecit in eum oculos, Gen. xxxix. Non dicit Moses, vidit, aspexit: sed hic fuit aspectus impudicus. Pareus.
b Democritus oculos sibi eruit, quod mulieres sine concupiscentia adspicere non possit. Sed nihil aliud fecit quam quod fatuitatem suam urbi manifestam fecit. Tertullian in Apologet. Voluptatem vicisse voluptas est maxima, nec ulla maior est victoria, quam ea quae a cupiditatibus refertur. Cypr. de Bon. Pud.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Ver. 29. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out ] That is, if it be either so natural or habitual to thee to go after the sight of thine eyes (which Solomon assigneth for the source of all youthful outrages, Ecc 11:9 ) that thou hadst as dear to me lose thy right eye as not look at liberty; out with such an eye (though a right eye): pull it out, and rake in the hole where it grew, rather than that any filth should remain there. Pluck it out of the old Adam, and set it into the new man. Get that oculum irretortum, that may look forth right upon the mark, without idle or curious prying into, or poring upon, forbidden beauties, Proverbs 4:25 . A praetor (said the heathen) should have continent eyes as well as hands. And the Greek orator wittily and worthily upbraided a certain wanton, that he had not pupils but punks in his eyes. a And Archesilaus the philosopher, observing one to have wanton eyes, told him that the difference was not great, whether he played the naughty pack with his upper parts or his nether. Lot might not look toward Sodom. And Peter Martyr observeth out of Nathan’s parable, that lust, though it once prevailed over David, yet it was but a stranger to him; he had enough of that once, for it cost him hot water. His eye became a fountain, he washed his bed which he had defiled (yea, his pallet, or underbedding) with tears. b So did Mary Magdalen, once a strumpet: her hands were bands, her words were cords, her eyes as glasses whereinto while silly larks gazed they were taken as in a clap net. She therefore made those eyes a fountain to bathe Christ’s feet in, and had his blood a fountain to bathe her soul in, Zechariah 13:1 . To conclude, the sight is a deceitful sense, therefore bind it to the good abearance; call it from its straying, check it, and lay God’s charge upon it for the future. Chaste Joseph would not once look on his immodest mistress; she looked, and caught hold on him, and that when she was in bed; but her temptation fell like fire upon wet tinder, and took not. c It must be our constant care that no sparkle of the eye flee out to consume the whole by a flame of lust: but upon offer of wanton glances from others beat them back as the north wind driveth away rain, Proverbs 25:23 . A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment (and so any other man that sets seriously upon this practice of mortification) scattereth away all evil with his eyes, Proverbs 20:8 . And this is to pluck out and cast away the right eye that offendeth us, as being an occasion of offence unto us. He that shall see God to his comfort, shuts his eyes from seeing of evil. For wanton and wandering eyes (like spiders) gather poison out of the fairest flowers: and (like Jacob’s sheep) being too firmly fixed on beautiful objects, they make the affections often times bring forth spotted fruits, Isaiah 33:14-15 .
For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members perish ] An eye is better lost than a soul. For every (unmortified) one shall be salted with fire, pickled up, as it were, and preserved for eternal torment: and every sacrifice (acceptable to God) shall be salted with salt of mortification and self-denial, Mark 9:49 .
And not that thy whole body should be cast into hell ] As otherwise it will be: "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die," &c., Romans 8:13 . In Barbary, it is present death for any man to see one of the Zeriff’s concubines; and for them too, if when they see a man, though but through a casement, they do not suddenly screech out. So here, a loose and lewd eye hazards the whole to hell fire. And is it nothing to lose an immortal soul? to purchase an everliving death? A man would be loth to fetch gold out of a fiery crucible, because he knows it will burn him. Did we as truly believe the everlasting burning of that infernal fire we dare not offer to fetch either pleasures or profits out of those flames. d Bellarmine is of the opinion that one glimpse of hell’s horror were enough to make a man not only turn Christian and sober, but anchorite e and monk, to live after the strictest rule that can be. And there is a story of one, that being vexed with fleshly lusts, laid his hands upon hot burning coals to mind himself of hell fire that followeth upon fleshly courses.
a ου κορας, αλλα πορνας. Κορη puellam et pupillam oculi significat. Plut.
b In 2 Samuel 12:4 , there came a traveller to the rich man, &c., עין signifies both an eye and a fountain: as it is the spring of sin, let it be of tears.
c Iisdem quibus videmus oculis flemus. Josephus saith that Potiphar and his servants were at a feast; she was at home as feigning herself sick.
d Apuleius cum amicam dissuaviaretur, ab illa hoc modo monitus est: heus tu scholastice, dulce et amarum gustulam carpis: cave ne nimia mellis dulcedine diutinam bilis amaritudinem trahas. Lascivis contrectationibus animi adulterium saepe contrahitur. The archers shot at Joseph, but his bow abode in strength, Genesis 49:24 . Castus erat, non solum continens, ut Bellerophon.
e 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
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Ver. 30. And if thy right hand offend thee, &c. ] By wanton touches, by unclean dalliance; a further degree of this sin, and a greater incentive to lust; as we see in Joseph’s mistress; when she not only cast her eyes, but proceeded to lay hand upon him, she became much more inflamed towards him; and had not his heart been seasoned with the true fear of God, there was so much the greater danger of his being drawn thereby to commit, not that trick of youth, as the world excuseth it, but that great wickedness, as he there counts and calls it. a Visas, colloquium, contactus, osculum, concubitus, They see, they talk, they touch, they kiss, they lie together, are the whoremonger’s five descents into the chambers of death. Off therefore with such a hand by all means; cry out of it, as Cranmer did of his unworthy right hand wherewith he had subscribed; and as John Stubbes of Lincoln’s Inn, having his right hand cut off in Queen Elizabeth’s time with a cleaver driven through the wrist with the force of a beetle (for writing a book against the marriage with the Duke of Anjou, entitled, The gulf wherein England will be swallowed by the French match, &c.), he put off his hat with his left hand, and said with a loud voice, God save the Queen. So when God strikes a parting blow between us and our dilecta delicta, our right hand sins, let us see a mercy in it, and be thankful: let us say to these idols, Get thee hence, what have I to do any more with idols? Isaiah 30:22 ; that God may say, as there, "I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found," Hosea 14:8 ; when he shall see thee pollute those idols that thou wast wont to perfume, Isaiah 30:22 .
And not that thy whole body be cast into hell ] Our Saviour is much in speaking of hell. And it were much to be wished (saith St Chrysostom) that men’s thoughts and tongues would run much upon this subject, there being no likelier way of escaping hell than by taking ever and anon a turn or two in hell by our meditations. b A certain hermit is said to have learned three leaves, a black, red, and white one; that is, he daily meditated upon the horror of hell, the passion of Christ, the happiness of heaven.
" Mors tua, mors Christi, flos mundi, gloria coeli,
Et dolor inferni sunt meditanda tibi. "
a Principiam dulce est, at finis amoris amarus.
Laeta venire Venus, tristis abire solet.
b Utinam ubique de gehenna disseretur. Non enim sinit iam gehennam incidere gehennae miminisse
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
Ver. 31. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, &c. ] This Moses permitted, as a law maker, not as a prophet; as a civil magistrate, not as a man of God; merely for the hardness of the men’s hearts, and for the relief of the women, who else might have been misused and mischiefed by their unmannerly and unnatural husbands, Malachi 2:13 . Those hard hearted Jews caused their wives, when they should have been cheerful in God’s service, to cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, so that he regarded not the offering any more. A number of such Nabals there are today, that tyrannize over and trample upon their wives, as if they were not their fellows, but their footstools, not their companions and co-mates, but their slaves and vassals. "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them," Colossians 3:16 . He saith not (as it might seem he should with respect to the former verse), Rule over them, and show your authority over those that are bound to submit unto you; but, love them, that their subjection may be free and ingenuous. Live not, as Lamech, like lions in your houses, quarrelsome, austere, discourteous, violent, with high words and hard blows, such are fitter to live in Bedlam than in a civil society. The apostle requires "that all bitterness be put away," all, and in all persons; how much more in married couples! The heathens, when they sacrificed at their marriage feasts, used to cast the gall of the beast sacrificed out of doors. την χολην εξελοντος ερριψαν . (Plutarch.) Vipera virus ob venerationem nuptiarum evomit; et tu duritiem animi, tu feritatem, tu crudelitatem ob unionis reverentiam non deponis? saith Basil. I confess it were better be married to a quartan ague than to a bad wife (so saith Simonides), for there be two good days for one bad with the one, not one with the other; febris hectica uxor mala, et non nisi morte avellenda. (Scalig.) But that should have been looked to beforehand. A hard adventure it is to yoke one’s self with any untamed heifer, that beareth not the yoke of Christ. And as grace, so good nature, a courteous disposition, is a thing to be especially looked at in a wife, which Eleazar, Abraham’s servant, understood, and therefore singled out as a token of a meet mate for his son. "Let her offer me drink, and my camels also," saith he, Genesis 24:14 . But what if it prove otherwise, and men by leaping unadvisedly into the marriage estate, have drawn much misery upon themselves? Quid si pro coniugio coniurgium contraxerint? Varro answereth, Uxoris vitium aut tollendum aut tolerandum est. A wife’s faults must be either cured or covered; mended, if we can; made the best of, if we cannot. If the first, she is made better; if the second, we. Qui tollit hanc sibi commodiorem praestat: qui tolerat, ipse se meliorem reddit. (Gellius.) Aurelii vox est, uxor admonenda persaepe, reprehendenda raro, verberanda nunquam.
" Coniugium humanae divina Academia vitae est. "
And hence it cometh to pass, that,
" Quae modo pugnarant, iungant sua rostra columbae:
Quarum blanditias verbaque, murmur habet. "
As on the other side, where this meekness of wisdom is not made use of by married folk, they are together in the house no otherwise than as two poisons in the stomach, as live eels in the pot, as two spaniels in a chain; their houses are more like kennels of hounds than families of Christians: or as so many fencing schools, wherein the two sexes seem to have met together for nothing but to play their prizes and to try masteries. Job was not more weary of his boils than they are of their bed fellows, cursing their wedding day as much as he did his birthday; and thirsting after a divorce as he did after death; which, because it cannot be had, their lives prove like the sojourning of Israel in Marah, where almost nothing could be heard but murmuring, mourning, conjuring, and complaining. Leo cassibus irretitus dixit, si praescivissem.
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Ver. 32. Saving for the cause of fornication ] Taken in the largest sense for adultery also. Adulteriam est quasi ad alterum, aut alterius locum. (Becman de Originibus.) This sill strikes at the very sinew, heart, and life of the marriage knot, and dissolves it. Further, it directly lights against human society, which the law mainly respects, and was therefore to be punished with death, as a most notorious theft. "Master," say they, "this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act." In the very theft, saith the original ( ετ αιτπφωρω , Joh 8:4 ), to intimate, belike, the great theft that is in adultery, while the child of a stranger carries away the goods or lands of the family. Neither may any conclude from our Saviour’s words to that woman, Joh 8:11 "Neither do I condemn thee," that adultery is not to be punished; any more than he may, that inheritances are not to be divided, because Christ, who was no magistrate, would not divide them, Luke 12:14 . The marriage bed is honourable, and should be kept inviolable; society and the purity of posterity cannot otherwise continue among men; which is well observed by divines to be the reason why adultery is named in the commandment, under it all uncleanness being forbidden; when yet other violations are more heinous, as sodomy and bestiality.
Causeth her to commit adultery ] Because it is God that both maketh and keepeth the bonds of wedlock, which is therefore called, "the covenant of God," Proverbs 2:17 . Covenants are either, 1. Religious, as when a man tieth himself by vow to God, to shun such a sin or do such a duty. 2. Civil, between man and man, as in our common contracts, bargains, and businesses. Or, 3. Mixed, that are made partly with God and partly with man. And of this sort is the marriage covenant, the parties thereby tie themselves first to God and then to one another. Hence it is that the knot is indissoluble, and cannot be undone or recalled at the pleasure of the parties that make it, because there is a third person engaged in the business, and that is God, to whom the bond is made; and if afterward they break, he will take the forfeiture. This David understood, and therefore upon his adultery cried out, "Against thee, thee only" (that is, chiefly) "have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," Psalms 51:4 . A sin it is against the Father, whose covenant is broken; against the Son, whose members are made the members of a harlot; and against the Holy Ghost, whose temple is defiled, 1 Corinthians 6:19 .
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
Ver. 33. Thou shalt not forswear thyself ] An oath is ορκος quasi ερκος , a hedge which a man may not break. It must not be taken without necessity. Hence the Hebrew נשבע nishbang, is a passive, and signifieth to Be sworn, rather than to swear. For if the doubt or question may be assoiled, or ended by verily or truly, or such naked asseverations, we are, by the example of our Saviour, to forbear an oath. But having sworn, though to his hurt, a man must not change, Psalms 15:4 , upon pain of a curse, yea, a book full of curses, Zechariah 5:3-4 . It is not for men to play with oaths as children do with nuts; to slip them at pleasure, as monkeys do their collars; to snap them asunder, as Samson did his cords. It was an impious and blasphenmus speech of him that said, "My tongue hath sworn, but my mind is unsworn." η γλωσς ομωμοχ, η δε φρην ανωμοτος . (Euripides.) And who can but detest that abominable doctrine of the Priscillianists of old, and their heirs the Jesuits of late:
" Iura, periura, secretum prodere noli. "
God will be a swift witness against perjured persons, Malachi 3:5 , as those that villanously abuse his majesty, making him an accessory, yea, a partner in their sin, thinking him like themselves, and therefore calling him to justify their untruths. Had Shimei peace, that brake his oath to Solomon? Or Zedekiah, that kept not touch with the king of Babylon? Or Ananias and Sapphira, that but uttered an untruth, swore it not? God punisheth perjury with destruction, man with disgrace, saith a fragment of the Twelve Tables in Rome; periurii poena divina exitium, humana dedecus. The Egyptians and Scythians punished it with death. So did Philip, Earl of Flanders, and others. But where men have not done it, God hath hanged up such with his own hands, as it were, as our Earl Godwin; Rodolphus, Duke of Suabia, that rebelled against his master Henry, Emperor of Germany, to whom he had sworn allegiance; Ladislaus, King of Bohemia, at the great battle of Varna, where the raging Turk, provoked by his perjury, appealed to Christ; Michael Paleologus, Emperor of Constantinople, who for his perjury, and other his foul and faithless dealings, lieth obscurely shrouded in the sheet of defame, saith the history. Richard Long, soldier at Calais, deposing falsely against William Smith, curate of Calais, shortly after, upon a displeasure of his wife, desperately drowned himself. And within the memory of man, Feb. 11, 1575, Ann Averies forswore herself at a shop in Wood Street, London, and praying God she might sink where she stood if she had not paid for the wares she took, fell down speechless, and with a horrible stink died soon after. Thus God hangeth up evildoers in gibbets, as it were, that others may hear and fear, and do no more so. Alterius perditio tua cautio.
But shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths ] As David, "I have sworn, and I will perform," &c., Psalms 119:106 . And yet David was not always as good as his oath, as in the case of Mephibosheth, &c. Nor did Jacob for a long time perform his vow, Genesis 28:21 , though once, at least, admonished, Genesis 31:13 , till he was frightfully aroused by the slaughter of the Shechemites, and his own apparent danger, to go up to Bethel and do as he had promised. a The font in baptism is Beersheha, the well of an oath, there we solemnly swear ourselves to God, which St Peter calleth the stipulation of a good conscience, 1 Peter 3:21 . This oath we renew when we come to the other sacrament; and often besides, when the Lord layeth siege to us by some disease or other distress, what promises and protestations make we, as Pharaoh and those votaries! Psa 78:43-51 But sciapato il morbo, fraudato il Dio, as the Italian proverb hath it; the disease or danger once over, God is defrauded of his due. See it in those, Jeremiah 34:8-22 , who forfeited their fidelity, though they had cut the calf in twain, and passed through the parts thereof (a most solemn way of sealing up covenants), and are sorely threatened for it, that Ged would in like sort cut them in twain and destroy them, which was the import of that ceremony. Virgil viii.
a Iacob pater votorum nuncupatur. Pareus.
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
Ver. 34. Swear not at all ] Not at all by the creatures. a (which the Pharisees held no fault), nor yet by the name of God in common talk, lightly, rashly, and irreverently; for such vain oaths the land mourneth. Oaths, alas, are become very interjections of speech to the common people, and phrases of gallantry to the braver. He that cannot swear with a grace, wanteth his tropes and his figures befitting a gentleman. Not to speak of those civilized complements of faith and loyalty (which are counted light matters), who hears not how ordinarily and openly ruffianly oaths and abhorred blasphemies are darted up with hellish mouths, against God and our Saviour, whom they can swear all over, and seldom name, but in an oath? How can these pray, "Hallowed be that Name," that they so daily dishallow? b Some cannot utter a sentence without an oath, yea, a fearful one, an oath of sound, if enraged especially. Oh the tragedies, the blusters, the terrible thunder cracks or fierce and furious language, interlaced with oaths, enough to make the very stones crack under them! Yea, to such a height and habitual practice hereof are some grown, that they swear and foam out a great deal of filth, and perceive it not. Had these men such distemper of body as that their excrements came from them when they knew not of it, it would trouble them. So it would, I dare say, did they believe the Holy Scriptures, threatening so many woes to them, yea, telling them of a large roll, ten yards long and five yards broad, full of curses against the swearer, yea, resting upon his house, where he thinks himself most secure, Zechariah 5:2-3 "Brimstone is scattered upon the house of the wicked," saith Job, Job 18:15 as ready to take fire if God but lighten upon it. They walk, as it were, upon a mine of gunpowder, and it may be just in God they should be blown up, when their hearts are full of hell, and their mouths even big with hellish blasphemies. Surely their damnation sleepeth not; God hath vowed he will not hold them guiltless, sworn these swearers shall never enter into his rest, Exodus 20:7 ; Psalms 95:11 . And for men, those that have but any ingenuity abhor and shun their company. The very Turks have the Christians blaspheming Christ in execration, and will punish their prisoners sorely, when as through impatience or desperateness they burst out into them. Yea, the Jews, as their conversion is much hindered by the blasphemies of the Italians (who blaspheme oftener than swear), so in their speculations of the causes of the strange success of the affairs of the world, they assign the reason of the Turks prevailing so against the Christians, to be their oaths and blasphemies, which wound the ears of the very heavens. They can tell that swearing is one of those sins for the which God hath a controversy with a land, Hosea 4:2 ; Jeremiah 23:10 . And I can tell what a great divine hath observed, that the stones in the wall of Aphek shall sooner turn executioners than a blasphemous Aramite shall escape unrevenged. So much doth a jealous God hate to be robbed of his glory, or wronged in his name, even by ignorant pagans (how much more by professed Christians!) whose tongues might seem no slander. Those that abuse earthly princes in their name and titles are imprisoned, banished, or hanged as traitors. And shall these go altogether unpunished? Hell gapes for such miscreants, &c.
Neither by heaven ] As the Manichees and Pharisees did, and held it no sin. But God only is the proper object of an oath, Isaiah 65:16 ; Jeremiah 12:6 . The name of the creature, say some, may be inferred, the attestation referred to God alone. But they say better that tell us that the form of an oath is not at all to be indirect or oblique, in the name of the creature. Albeit I doubt not but he that sweareth by heaven sweareth by him that dwelleth in heaven, &c. And forasmuch as God clotheth himself with the creatures, Psalms 104:1-2 , is it fit for us to spit upon the king’s royal robes, especially when they are upon his back? But forasmuch as we must shun and be shy of the very show and shadow of sin, they do best and safest that abstain from all oaths of this nature, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 . They do very ill that swear by this light, bread, hand, fire (which they absurdly call God’s angel), by St Ann, St George, by our Lady, &c., by the parts of Christ, which they substitute in the room of God. The barbarous soldiers would not break his bones, but these miscreants with their carrion mouths rend and tear (oh cause for tears!) his heart, hands, head, feet, and all his members asunder. Let all such consider, that, as light a matter as they make of it, this swearing by the creature is a "forsaking of God," Jeremiah 5:7 , a provocation little less than unpardonable; an exposing God’s honour to the spoil of the creatures, which was the heathen’s sin, Romans 1:23 ; and abasing themselves below the meanest creatures, "for men verily swear by the greater," Hebrews 6:16 . And the viler the thing is they swear by, the greater is the oath, because they ascribe thereto omniscience, power to punish, justice, &c., Amos 8:14 ; Zephaniah 1:3-5 ; besides a heavy doom of unavoidable destruction denounced against such. They that speak in favour of this sin allege 1 Corinthians 15:31 . But that is not an oath, but an obtestation; q.d. my sorrows and sufferings for Christ would testify, if they could speak, that I die daily. And that, Song of Solomon 3:5 , where Christ seemeth to swear "by the toes and hinds of the field." But that is not an oath either, but an adjuration: for he chargeth them not to trouble his Church; or if they do, the roes and hinds shall testify against them, because they do what those would not, had they reason as they have. In like sort Moses attesteth heaven and earth, Deuteronomy 32:1 ; and so doth God himself, Isaiah 1:2 . And for those phrases, "As Pharaoh liveth," "As thy soul liveth," &c., they are rather earnest vouchings of things than oaths. c And yet that phrase of gallantry now so common, "As true as I live," is judged to be no better than an oath by the creature, Numbers 14:21 ; cf. Psalms 95:11 . And we may not swear in jest, but in judgment, Jeremiah 4:2 .
For it is God’s throne ] We must not conceive that God is commensurable by a place, as if he were partly here and partly there, but he is everywhere all-present. The heavens have a large place, yet have they one part here and another there, but the Lord is totally present wheresoever present. Heaven therefore is said to be his throne, and he is said to inhabit it, Isaiah 66:1 , not as if he were confined to it, as Aristotle and those atheists in Job conceited it; d but because there he is pleased to manifest the most glorious and visible signs of his presence, and there in a special manner he is enjoyed and worshipped by the crowned saints and glorious angels, &c. Here we see but as in a glass obscurely, his toe, train, hind parts, footstool. No man can see more and live; no man need see more here, that he may live for ever. But "there we shall see as we are seen, know as we are known," see him face to face, Isaiah 6:1 ; Isaiah 60:13 ; Isaiah 66:1 ; Exodus 33:23 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12 . Oh how should this fire up our dull hearts, with all earnestness and intention of endeared affection to long, lust, pant, faint after the beatifical vision! How should we daily lift up our hearts and hands to God in the heavens, that he would send from heaven and save us; send his law, and command deliverance out of Sion; yea, that himself would break the heavens and come down, and fetch us home upon the clouds of heaven, as himself ascended, that when we awake we may be full of his image, and as we have borne the image of the earthly, so we may bear the image of the heavenly! St Paul, after he had once seen God in his throne, being rapped up into the third heaven (like the bird of Paradise), he never left groaning out, Cupio dissolvi, " I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, which is far far the better." e And Pareus, a little before his death, uttered this swan song,
" Discupio solvi, tecumque, o Christe, manere:
Portio fac regni sim quotacunque tui. "
Oh that I were in heaven! Oh that I might
Be ever with the Lord! Oh blissful plight!
Thus must our broken spirits even spend and exhale themselves in continual sallies, as it were, and egressions of thoughts, wishings, and longings after God, affecting not only a union, but a unity with him. f St Austin wished that he might have seen three things, Romam in flore, Paulum in ore, et Christum in corpore: Rome flourishing, Paul discoursing, and Christ living upon the earth. But I had rather wish, with venerable Bede, "My soul desireth to see Christ my King upon his throne, and in his majesty." g
a Deiurando per creaturas, contra Lyram, et de iuramenti usu, contra Anabapt. videbis Pareum in Jacob, v. 12.
b Sunt qui altius linguas suas in Christi sanguine demergunt, quam illi olim manus.
c Non est forma iuramenti, sed asseverationis seriae, et obtestationis domesticae; q.d. quam vere vivit Pharao, &c. Alsted.
d Job 22:14 . Docuit Aristoteles providentiam Dei ad coelum lutae usque protendi, non ultra.
e πολλω μαλλον κρεισσον . A transcendant expression, like that 2 Corinthians 4:17 .
f Mi sine nocte diem, vitam sine morte quietam,
Dei sine fine dies. Vita, quiesque Deus.
g Anima mea desiderat Christum regem meum videre in decore suo. Beda.
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Ver. 35. Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool ] A fault so common among this people, that St James saw cause to warn the believing Jews of it, to whom he wrote. They had taken up such a custom of swearing by the creatures, that after conversion they could not easily leave it. It is a poor plea to say, "I have gotten a custom of swearing, and must therefore be borne with." For who is it but the devil that saith to such, as the Jews to Pilate, "Do as thou hast ever done?" Mark 15:8 . The Cretians, when they wished worst to any one, they wished that he might take delight in an evil custom. a Break off, therefore, this ill use by repentance; and though you cannot suddenly turn the stream, yet swim against it, bite in thine oaths, and with bitterness bewail them; swear to God, as David did, thou wilt swear no more, and by degrees outgrow this ill custom.
For it is his footstool ] And should be ours. For he hath "put all things under our feet," Psalms 8:6 . He saith not, under our hands, but under our feet, that we might trample upon them in a holy contempt, as the Church is said to tread upon the moon, Revelation 12:1 ; and the way of the righteous is said to be on high, to depart from hell below, Proverbs 15:24 . It is a wonder, surely, that treading upon these minerals, gold, silver, precious stones, &c. (which are but the guts and garbage of the earth), we should so admire them. God hath hid them in the bowels of the earth, and in those parts that are farthest off from the Church. Where they grow, little else grows that is aught; no more doth grace in an earthly heart. But to return from whence we are digressed: earth is God’s footstool. How ought we then to walk circumspectly, that we provoke not the eyes of his glory! there is an honour due even to the footstools of princes, when they are on the throne especially. Oh, "be thou in the fear of the Lord all day long," saith Solomon, walk in the sense of his presence and light of his countenance, Proverbs 23:17 ; "He is not very far from any one of us," saith the apostle, not so far as the bark from the tree, or the flesh from the bones, Acts 17:27 . This one God and Father of all is not only above all, and from his throne beholdeth all that is done here below, but "also through all, and in you all," Ephesians 4:6 . Therefore no corner can secrete us, no cranny of the heart can escape his eye; all things are (for the outside) naked and (for the inside) open, dissected, quartered, and, as it were, cleft through the backbone, as the word signifieth, before the eyes of him with whom we deal ( γυμνα, τετραχηλισμενα ), Hebrews 4:13 .
Neither by Jerusalem: for it is the city of the great King ] The place of his rest, the seat of his empire, and they the people of his praise and of his purchase ( λαος της περιποιησεως , Sept.), Exodus 19:5 . Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God. There was "the adoption, and the glory, the covenants, and the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises," &c., Romans 9:4 . Constantinople was acknowledged by Tamerlane to be, for her situation, an imperial city, and such as was made to command the world. Strasburg in Germany is called by some compendium orbis, an abridgment of the world. But Jerusalem, by a better author, is styled princess of provinces, the joy of the whole earth, the pleasant land, &c. Lamentations 1:1 ; Psalms 48:2 ; Daniel 8:9 . It must needs be pleasant where God himself was resident. But how is the faithful city become a harlot! It was full of judgment, righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers. Her silver is become dross, her wine mixed with water, Isaiah 1:21-22 . Bethel is become Bethaven, and Jerusalem turned into Jerushkaker. It fell again into the power of the Turks and Infidels, A. D. 1234 (after that the most warlike soldiers of Europe had there, as it were, one common sepulchre, but an eternal monument of their misguided valour), and so remaineth still, a poor ruinous city, governed by one of the Turk’s Sanzacks, and for nothing now more famous than for the sepulchre of our Saviour, again repaired and much visited by the Christians, and not unreverenced by the Turks themselves. There are not to be found there at this time 100 households of Jews, and yet there are ten or more churches of Christians there.
Of the great King ] The Jews much admired the greatness of Herod, and especially of the Romans, whose tributaries they were at this time. b Our Saviour mindeth them of a greater than these, one that is greater, greatest, greatness itself. Nebuchadnezzar styleth himself the great king, and brags of his Babel. The rich miser thinks himself no small thing, because of his country of grain. c Ahasuerus taketh state upon him, because he reigned from India to Ethiopia. Darius’s flatterers held it meet that no man should ask a petition of any god or man, for thirty days, save of him. Diocletian would needs be worshipped as a god, and was the first that held forth his feet to be kissed, after Caligula. Amurath III, Emperor of the Turks, styled himself god of the earth, governor of the whole world, the messenger of God, and faithful servant of the great prophet. And the great Cham of Tartary is called by the simple common people, the shadow of spirits, and son of the immortal God; and by himself he is reputed to be the monarch of the whole world. For which cause every day (if all is true that is reported of him) as soon as he hath dined, he causeth his trumpets to be sounded, by that sign giving leave to other kings and princes to go to dinner. These be the grandees of the earth, and think no mean things of themselves. But compare them with the great King here mentioned, and what becometh of all their supposed greatness "All nations before him are but as the dust of the balance or drop of a bucket." Quantilla ergo es tu istius guttae particula? saith a Father: if all nations are to God but as the drop of a bucket, oh, what a small pittance must thou needs be, how great soever, of that little drop? d And as he is great, so he looketh to be praised and served according to his excellent greatness. We should, if it were possible, fill up that vast distance and disproportion that is between him and us, by the greatness of our praises, and sincerity, at least, of our services, in presenting him with the best. "For I am a great King," saith God, Malachi 1:14 ; and he stands upon his seniority: offer it now to thy prince, will he accept thy refuse breadstuff? &c. It is verily a most sweet meditation of St Bernard, whensoever we come before God in any duty, we should conceive ourselves to be entering into the court of heaven wherein the King of kings sitteth in a stately throne, surrounded with a host of glorious angels and crowned saints. With how great humility, therefore, reverence, and godly fear, ought a poor worm crawling out of his hole, a vile frog creeping out of his mud, draw nigh to such a Majesty! e The seraphims clap their wings on their faces when they stand before God, Isaiah 6:2-3 , as men are wont to do their hands when the lightning flasheth in their faces; the nearer any man draws to God, the more rottenness he findeth in his bones, Habakkuk 3:16 . Abraham is dust and ashes; Job abhorreth himself in dust and ashes; Isaiah cries, Woe is me, for I am undone; Peter, Depart from me, I am a sinful man. All these had right conceptions of God’s greatness, and this is that which is required so often in Scripture under the term of magnifying God; when we get him into our hearts in his own likeness, and enlarge his room there; when we take him into our thoughts under the notion of a great King, when we get so far as to conceive of him above all creatures, far above all the glory that can be found in earthly princes and potentates. Think of God as one not to be thought of, and when you have thought your utmost, as Cicero affirmeth concerning Socrates described by Plato, and desireth of his readers concerning Lucius Crassus, that they would imagine far greater things of them than they find written, f so assure yourselves, your highest apprehensions of God fall infinitely short of his incomparable and incomprehensible greatness. And if he could add, if any think me overly lavish in their commendation, it is because he never heard them, or cannot judge of them, g how much more may we say the same of this "blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15-16 .
a Cretenses cure acerbissima exceratione adversus eos quos oderunt uti volunt, ut mala consueludine delectentur optant; modestoque voti genere efficacissimum ultionis eventum reperiunt. Val. Maximus.
b Si animalibus (dixit Xenophanes) pingere daretur Deum proculdubio sibi similem fingerent, quia scilicet nihil animal animali superius cogitat. Sic et homo animalis, 1 Corinthians 2:14 .
c Luke 12:16 . ευφορησεν η χωρα. regio, non χωριον , ager.
d Sol reliqua sidera occultat, quibus lumen suum faenerat. Plin. lib. ii. c. 6. So doth the God of glory. Acts 7:2 .
e Quanta ergo cum humilitate accedere debet e palude sua procedens et repens vilis ranuneula? Bern.
f Ut maius quiddam de iis, quam quae scripta sunt, suspicarentur. Cicero, De Oratore.
g Intelligat se ex iis esse, qui aut illos non audierint, aut iudicare non possint. Ibid.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
Ver. 36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head ] That is, by thy health, which is the life of our lives, say some: by thy life, say others, which is a sweet blessing; a for a living dog is better than a dead lion; yea, though full of crosses, yet why is living man sorrowful? q.d. it is a mercy that amidst all his crosses he is yet alive. "Joseph is yet alive, I have enough," saith Jacob. They told him of his honour, he speaks of his life. Life is better than honour, and is not therefore to be laid to pawn upon every light occasion, as they that so often use, As I live, and As true as I live: whereof something before.
Because thou canst not make one hair, &c. ] God is great in great things, saith St Augustine, and not little in the smallest. ( Magnus in magnis, nec parvus in minimis. ) What less than a hair? yet in making a hair white or black, God’s power appeareth. The devil can as little create a hair of the head as he could of old a louse in the land of Egypt, Exodus 8:18 . There are miracles enough in man’s body to fill a volume. It is the image of God and a little world ( μικροκοσμος ), an epitome of the visible world, as his soul is of the invisible. The idea or example of the great world, which was in God from all eternity, is, as it were, briefly and summarily exprest by God in man. Hence man is called every creature; "Go preach the gospel to every creature," Mark 16:15 , as if there were none to him, none besides him. A philosopher could say, "there is nothing great in earth besides man." And an orator, "the greatest thing in the least room is a good soul in a man’s body." Man, saith the poet, is the masterpiece of the wisest workman; he is, saith the historian, the fairest piece of the chiefest architect; the very miracle of daring nature, saith Trismegist. b Galen, a profane physician, after he had described the nature and parts of man’s body, was forced to sing a hymn to that God that he knew not. And St Augustine complaineth, that men can admire the height of the hills, the hugeness of the waves, the compass of the ocean, and the circumvolution of the stars, and yet not once mark nor admire the power and goodness of God shining in their own souls and bodies, as in a mirror. c "Fearfully and wonderfully am I made," saith David; "yea, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth;" that is, in my mother’s womb, Psalms 139:13-15 . A counsel was called in heaven when man was to be formed: "Let us make man," Genesis 1:26 . And were not the birth of a child so common, should it happen but once in an age, people would run together to see it, as to a miracle. Pliny wondereth at the gnat, so small a creature, yet making so great a buzzing; and so also at the butterfly. He also maketh mention of one that spent 58 years in searching out the nature of the bee, and could not in all that time attain to the full of it. What a shame is it for us, not to see God in every creature, in ourselves especially, and even the least part of us! There is not a hair upon our heads, white or black, but hath God for the maker and God for the master too. Let those that pride themselves in their hair, think what a heavy account Absalom made to God for that sin. Absolon Marte furens, pensilis arbore, obit. Long hair in women is a token of modesty. But modesty grows short in men, as their hair grows long, saith one. And Seneca, speaking of the curled and crisped youths of his time, telleth us that they had more care of their locks than of their limbs, and had rather the commonwealth should be disturbed than their frizzled tresses disheveled. d Pompey was taxed for this neat nicety: Unico digitulo caput scalpit. And of Helen, too curious of her hair at her mother’s funeral, the poet bringeth in one that saith, εστιν η παλαι γυνη : This is old Helen still, no changeling in all this time. The holy women of old dared not adorn themselves with plaited or braided hair, as St Peter testifieth, but trusted in God, and decked themselves with a meek and quiet spirit, 1 Peter 3:3-5 . And "doth not nature itself teach us," saith St Paul, "that it is a shame to a man to wear long hair?" It is objected, that the apostle intends such hair as is as long as women’s. But it is answered, that Homer useth the same word of the Greeks, calling them καρηκομοωντας Αχαιους , and yet they did not wear their hair as long as women’s. But as it is a shame to wear it, so it is a sin to swear by it, whether long or short, white or black. Neither helps it to say, The matter is but small we swear by. For, first, it is a forsaking of God; and count you that a small matter? Compare Jeremiah 5:7 ; cf. Jeremiah 2:12-13 . Secondly, the more base and vile the thing is a man sweareth by, the greater is the oath, because he ascribeth that to a vile creature which is proper to God only, sc. to know the heart, to be a discerner of secrets, and an avenger, of falsehood. And if a man may not swear by his hair, much less by his faith and loyalty, that are much more precious; and to swear by them so often and ordinary, what doth it argue but that we are low brought and hardly driven? For who but a bankrupt will lay the best jewel in his house to pledge for every trifle? Besides, they are not ours to pledge; for we have plighted them already to God. Lastly, he that pawneth them so often, will easily forfeit them at length, as the pitcher doeth not so often to the well but at last it comes broken home. A man may soon swear away his faith and loyalty and it is a marvel if he that often sweareth doth not too often forswear, and so forfeit all. Swear not therefore at all in this sort. These petty oaths (as they count them) are great faults, and to be refused in our talk as poison in our meat. e The dishonour of them redounds to God, though he be not named in them. But of this see more. See trapp on " Mat 5:35 "
a Vita non est vivere, sed valere. Sen. Felix dicitur ab ηλιξ, ηλικια . Becman.
b Nihil in terra magnum praeter hominem. Favorinus. Μεγιστον εν ελαχιστω , &c. Isocr. Σοφου τεκτονος καλον ποικιλμα . Eurip. τεχνημα σοφουντος δημιουργου . Xenophon. Τολμηροτατης της φυσεως αγαλμα .
c Eunt homines mirari alta montium, ingentes fluctus maris, oceani ambitum, et gyros syderum, et relinquunt seipsos, nec mirantur. Aug.
d Rempub. turbari malunt quam comam.
Pulchra coma est pulchro digestaeque ordine frondes.
Sed fructus nullos haec coma pulchra gerit.
e Leviter volant, non leviter vulnerant.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Ver. 37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay ] That is, as St Basil interpreteth it, yea in speech and yea in heart; nay in speech and nay in heart: or thus, let your common communication be plain, true, and sincere, that your bare word may be taken, without any further asseveration. Not but that asseverations may be lawfully used, as verily, truly, indeed, &c. Sed, parcius ista tamen, not frequently or slightly, but advisedly and seriously, as our Saviour. a If thou be a creditable person and hast made faith of thy fidelity, with Quod dixi, dixi, thy word will be taken. Or if it will not, that credit is dearly bought that is gotten by sin. Christ must be obeyed, though no man will believe us. But a good man’s oath is needless, a bad man’s bootless; for he that feareth not an oath, neither will he scruple a lie, but credit will follow honesty. b While therefore the communication is ours (as Christ here speaketh), that is, in our own power and of our own accord, "let our yea be yea, and nay, nay;" and let it appear that ordinarily and in common conversation our word is as soon to be taken as our oath. But when for the glory of God and clearing of the truth, an oath is required of us, then it is not our communication, but another’s. And in this case, for the manifestation or confirmation of a needful but doubtful truth, an oath may be safely and boldly taken, for an end of controversies and satisfaction of neighbours, Hebrews 6:16 ; yea, we may lay it up among our best services, and expect a blessing upon it (if rightly taken, according to Jer 4:2 ) as well as upon hearing or reading, because it is an ordinance of God, Deuteronomy 10:20 ; Isaiah 65:16 , &c. Some of the ancients, I confess, as Jerome, Theophylact, Chrysostom, were in the error, that the Lord did only permit swearing in the Old Testament (as he did divorcement that he approved not), and that in this text our Saviour did quite take it away. But Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. God’s holy name is still to be sanctified by taking a religious oath, upon just occasion, sc. when either the magistrate imposeth it, or when some private person will not believe a necessary truth without an oath, and we cannot otherwise demonstrate it. Thus Jacob sware to Laban, Boaz to Ruth, Jonathan to David. And if it be lawful in private between two or more to admit God as a judge, why may he not as well be called as a witness? provided ever, that this be done warily and sparingly, using it not as food, but as physic, to help the truth in necessity. Our King Henry VI was never heard to swear an oath; his greatest asseveration being, Forsooth, forsooth, verily, verily. I myself have used, saith Latimer, in mine earnest matters, to say, Yea, St Mary, which indeed is naught. Among the very heathens, Ex animi sui sententia, In very deed, was instead of an oath.
For whatsoever is more cometh of evil ] That is, of the devil. c That which St Matthew calleth the wicked one, Matthew 13:38 ; (the self-same word with that in this text), St Mark calleth Satan, and St Luke the devil. Now can any good come out of such a Nazareth? Swearing is the devil’s drivel, and swearers the devil’s drudges, acted and agitated by that foul fiend: and though they be not always drunk when they swear, yet they are not their own men. "For know ye not," saith that great apostle, "that his servants ye are to whom ye obey?" His work swearers do (as those Jews did in the Gospel, Joh 8:34 ), and his wages they shall receive, for they fall hereby into hypocrisy, as some copies have it ( μη εις υποκρισιν ), James 5:12 , while they daily pray, But deliver us from that evil one, and yet entertain him by this sin: or rather, as other copies in our translation have it, they fall into condemnation. And at the last day, when the Master of the harvest shall gather out of his kingdom all such botches and scandals ( τα ακανδαλα ), Matthew 13:41 ; Matthew 13:50 , he will say to the reapers, "Gather ye first the tares, and bind them in bundles" (swearers with swearers, drunkards with drunkards, &c., sinners of a kind with their fellow sinners), "and cast them into the fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Good, therefore, is the counsel of St James, "Above all things, my brethren, swear not;" whatever ye do, look to that: it is a senseless sin, and that which maketh the tongue to become, not a city, not a country, but a world of iniquity, James 3:6 . It is the devil’s hook without a bait, as having neither profit nor pleasure (many times) to draw to it, and that is no small aggravation. The devils fell without a tempter, and are therefore left without a Saviour. Other sinners usually kill not till provoked, steal not till forced, whore not till enticed. But what hath God done to these monstrous men, that they should thus fly in his face, chop (as much as they may) his heart in pieces, and upon every small occasion shoot such chain shot, as if they would make the windows of heaven to shake and totter? When Naboth was said to have blasphemed, Jezebel proclaimed a fast. When our Saviour was accused of that sin, the high priest rent his garments. When Rabshakeh had done it indeed, Hezekiah fell to his prayers, and humbled himself before God. Did these do thus for others, and wilt not thou do as much for thyself? God hath against thee, and is coming out armed with plagues and power. Oh, meet him upon the way, with entreaties of peace, as Abigail did David; as Jacob did Esau: quench his flames with floods of tears. Learn of Shimei (when he had reproached David, and knew himself obnoxious) to be with God with the first, as he was with the king, 2 Samuel 19:18-20 ; and as Joseph’s brethren supplicated him for grace, whom they had reviled and misused, Genesis 50:17 , do you the like. This do or you are undone for ever. This do, and do it seriously, and God must either forswear himself, or forgive thee thy swearing, if thou forego it.
a Gemina potius affirmatione et negatione utamur, quam Dei nomen usurpemus.
b Non ideo negare volo, ne peream, sed ideo mentiri nolo ne peccem; dixit femina quaedam in equuleo, apud Jerome.
c ’ Ο πονηρος , that troublesome one, the troubler of the saints: qui negotium nobis facessit, a πενομαι πονος, πονηρος , malignus.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Ver. 38. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, &c. ] This law of like for like (which also was in use among the ancient Romans) the scribes and Pharisees had abused and distorted from its proper sense of public justice to private revenge; teaching the people to render evil for evil, to pay their enemies in their own coin, and to give them as good as they brought. a This is a dictate of corrupt nature, and her chief secretary Aristotle proclaimeth it. To be avenged of our enemies is held better in point of honour than to be reconciled unto them. b Flesh and blood suggesteth that it is matter of good mettle to be quick of touch, as forward in returning as others are in offering wrong. "For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?" said Saul, 1 Samuel 24:19 . This is quite against the principles of nature and common policy. To turn again and revenge is counted courage; which yet the word of God calleth cowardliness, disgrace, and loss of victory ( ηττημα ), 1 Corinthians 6:7 . It is not manliness, but foolishness, Ecclesiastes 7:9 . It is brutishness. Anger a dog, and he will fly in your face: touch an ass, and he will kick and wince. It is baseness so to be led by our passions as to be able to bear nothing, as Simeon and Levi, brethren in iniquity, that in their anger slew a man, and in their self-will digged down a wall, Genesis 49:6 . Their father Jacob heard that Dinah was defiled, and held his peace, Genesis 34:5 ; he reined in his passions, by setting God before them; and so that divine proverb was made good in him, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit (as Jacob) than he that taketh a city" (as his sons), Proverbs 16:32 . It is a godly man’s part, at some times and in some places, to be deaf and dumb, as if he understood not; or as men in whose mouths are no reproof. c Which as David could skill of at some times, Psalms 38:14 , and in his carriage towards Shimei, so at other times (when the flesh prevailed) he could not, Psalms 39:2-3 , and in his expedition against Nabal. But Peter must put up his sword, if he mean to be Christ’s disciple. And Christians must not so much as grudge one against another, unless they will be condemned: for behold, the Judge standeth before the door, as ready to right us, James 5:9 . As if we retaliate we leave him nothing to do, unless it be to turn his wrath from our enemy, on whom we have been avenged already, upon ourselves, for our sin of self-revenge, Proverbs 24:17-18 . We use to say, if the magistrate be not present, we may offend another, to defend ourselves: but if the magistrate be present, there is no excuse. Now here the Judge standeth before the door, and crieth out unto ns with a loud voice: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather keep the king’s peace, and so give place to wrath, Romans 12:19 : that is, to the wrath of God ready to seize upon thine adversary, if thou prevent it not by art overly hasty revenge of the wrongs offered thee: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, mine office and royalty, Psalms 94:1-2 . Is it safe to invade his part? to jostle the chief justice out of his seat? or is it fit that the same party should be both accuser and judge? pope in his own cause? depose the magistrate? at least appeal from God to himself, as if he would not sufficiently do his office? "Shall not God avenge his own, that cry night and day unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily," saith our Saviour, Luke 18:7-8 "I will repay it," saith the Lord; but upon this condition, that we wait his leisure, and pre-occupate not his executions, saith St Augustine. Joseph, accused by his lewd mistress, either pleads not, or is not heard. He knew that though he suffered for a season, God would find a time to clear his innocence, and he was not deceived. Moses complained not, but was silent, when wronged by Aaron and Miriam; God therefore struck in for him, and struck Miriam with leprosy: Aaron escaped by his repentance. God is their champion that strive not for themselves. d "I seek not mine own glory, but there is one that seeketh it," saith Christ, John 8:50 ; "He, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously," and giveth to every transgression and trespass a just recompence of reward, 1 Peter 2:23 ; Hebrews 2:2 . St Paul could not have wished worse to Alexander the coppersmith than "the Lord reward him according to his works," 2 Timothy 4:14 . This was not (saith an ancient author) a cursing or a reviling of him, but a prediction befitting an apostle, that revenged not himself, but gave place to wrath, and delivered up his enemy to God, e as David did his adversaries, as Simon Peter did Simon Magus, and the primitive Church did Julian the Apostate. And surely it is a fearful thing, when the saints shall say to God, concerning those that malign or molest them, as David sometimes said to Solomon, Thou knowest what Joab and Shimei did unto me: "do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not their hoar heads go down to the grave in peace," 1 Kings 2:6 . If any hurt God’s zealous witnesses, there goeth a fire out of their mouths to devour them, as the fire from heaven did the first and second captain sent for Elisha, Revelation 11:5 ; better anger all the witches in the world than such, because God is for them. Little thought the Gibeonites in David’s time, that the Lord had so taken to heart their wrongs, that for their sakes all Israel should suffer. Even when we think not of it, is the righteous Judge avenging our unrighteous vexations.
a Neminem laede, nisi lacessitus et iniuria affectus. Cicero.
b Inimicos ulcisci, potius quam iis reconciliari honestum censetur. Arist. Rhet.
c Tu quidem nihil praetermittis ut ego te interfici iubeam: εγω δε κυνα υλακτευοντα ου φονευω . Sic Demetrio Cynico Vespasianus apud Dionem.
d Convitium convitio regerere quid aliud est quam lutum luto purgare?
e ουκ εστι καταρα, η λοιδαρια αλλα προροεσις πρεπουσα ανδρι αποστολω μη εκδικουντι εαυτον, αλλα διδοντι τοπον τη οργη .
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Ver. 39. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil ] For here to resist is to be overcome, saith St Paul, Romans 12:21 . And in a matter of strife or disagreement, he hath the worst that carries it, saith St Basil. Yea, Aristotle himself yieldeth, that of the twain it is better to suffer the greatest wrong than to do the least. a And it was a heavy challenge and charge upon those carnal Corinthians, that had strife, divisions, and lawsuits among them; "Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren," 1 Corinthians 6:7-8 . But be not deceived, saith he, to wit, with vain hope of impunity, for God is the avenger of all such as, like the angry bee, care not to sting another, though it be to the loss of their own lives. b Besides that, in resisting evil, we give place to the devil, whom if by patience and forbearance we could resist, he would flee from us. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood" (as we think we do, when we conflict with men like ourselves, that have done us injury), "but against principalities and powers," Ephesians 6:12 ; q.d. while we are busy in breaking those darts that men shoot from afar against us; we are oppressed by the devil near at hand to us, Ephesians 4:26 . c Here, by the way, magistrates must be admonished to take heed how they aggravate punishment upon a malefactor out of private grudge; parents also and masters, how they correct in a rage and fury. For although they be public persons, yet to give correction in a choleric mood is to ease their heart by way of revenge, it is a degree of resisting evil. The tyrant saith, εξεστι μοι, it is in my power to do it; the good governor saith, καθηκει μοι . It concerneth me to do it in point of duty, quoth a philosopher.
But whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek ] Socrates, a heathen, when he had received a box on the ear, answered, What an ill thing is it that men cannot foresee when they should put on a helmet, before they go abroad? d And when he was kicked by another, If an ass should kick me, said he, should I spurn him again? But we have those, that professing to be Christians, lest they should seem to he Anabaptists in taking two blows for one, will give two blows for one, yea, for none, sometimes: it is but a word and a blow with them, as it was with Cain, Lamech, Esau, who said, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand, then I will slay my brother Jacob," Genesis 27:41 . In which words he either threateneth his father (as Luther thinketh) for blessing his brother, q.d. I will be the death of my brother, and so cause my father to mourn: or else he threateneth his brother (as most interpreters sense it) after his father’s head is once laid, without any respect at all to his mother, whom he not so much as mentioneth. He took no great care how she would take it; and his deferring till his father’s death was more out of fear of a curse than conscience of a duty. There are those who read the words by way of a wish, Let the days of mourning for my father draw nigh, &c. And then it is a double parricide. Sure we are, that as concerneth his brother he comforted himself, purposing to kill him. He threatened him, saith the Septuagint ( απειλει ), Genesis 27:42 , q.d. I will sit upon his skirts, and be even with him. The nature of ungodly men is vindictive, and rejoicing in other men’s hurt (which is the devil’s disease), especially if provoked by any injury or indignity, as smiting on the cheek. e But God will smite them on the cheek bone so hard, as that he will break the teeth of the ungodly; smite them in the hinder parts, where we use to whip froward children, and so put them to a perpetual reproach, Psalms 3:7 ; Psalms 78:66 . Neither only will he smite upon their loins, but through them, yea, he will crack their crowns, cleave their skulls, wound their hairy scalps, be their locks never so bushy, f their looks never so lofty and terrible, that count it courage to turn again and revenge, which every Turk and heathen, nay, every bull and boar, can do. The Lamb of God gave his cheeks to the smiters: so did Michaiah the meek, Job the just, and Paul the patient, Isaiah 50:6 ; John 18:23 ; 1 Kings 22:24 ; Job 16:10 ; Acts 23:2-3 ; yet not so patient, but he could set forth his privilege, when he was to be scourged, and clear his innocence with meekness of wisdom; and so may we, yea, we may safely decline a likely danger, in some cases especially, as our Saviour did. Apud Mahometanos ferunt paucas brevesque lites esse, quod temere litigantes publiae flagellis caedantur.
a In rixa, is inferior est qui victor est. α δικεισθαι η αδικειν αυεινον .
b Non minus mali est referre iniuriam, quam inferre. Lactant.
c Cur adeo laboramus ulciscendis infirmissimorum hominum iniuriis? Dum haec tela eminus proiecta frangimus, a diabolo opprimimur. Roloc. in locum.
d Quam molestum est nescire homines quando prodire debeant cum galca?
e καν με φαγης επι ριζαν ομως ετι καρποφορησω, οσχον επισπεισαι σοι, τραγε, θυομενω , dixit vitis hirco cum ab eo roderetur. Aesop.
f Lacones comam nutriebant ad terrorem.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
Ver. 40. And if any man sue thee at the law and lake away thy coat ] Rather remit of thy right, and sit down by the loss, than suffer the trouble of a vexatious lawsuit: quiet is to be sought above profit: therefore Isaac removed his dwelling so often, when the spiteful Philistines strove with him about the wells he had digged. Not but that we may take the benefit of the law, and crave the help of the magistrate, for preventing or punishing of wrong done us; as Paul sent to the chief captain, and appealed to Caesar, Acts 23:17 ; Acts 25:10 .
" Lis legem genuit, legum lis filia; vivi
Nec sine lite solet, nec sine lege potest. "
But this must be done neither with a vindictive nor a covetous mind, as the manner is. Therefore after, "Who made me a judge?" our Saviour presently addeth, "Take heed of covetousness." He that complaineth of another to the magistrate, must, 1. Love his enemies. 2. Prosecure with continual respect to God’s glory and the public good. 3. Use the benefit of the law with charity and mercy, without cruelty and extremity. 4. Use it as an utmost remedy, when it cannot otherwise be; lest strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a lawyer, and thou mourn at last (with Solomon’s fool) when thine estate is consumed upon him: there being but few such as Servius Sulpitius, of whom Cicero reports, that he was not more a lawyer than a peace maker, referring all things to moderation and equity, and not stirring up suits, but composing them. Sordida poscimus; nummia quidam haud inepte quosdam iurisconsultos vocat; latrocinia intra moenia exercent. Columella. Legulatorum faeces praesertim decem drachmariae. Philip. ix.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Ver. 41. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile ] Under colour of the magistrate’s authority, which he abuseth; rather than by resisting thou shouldest revenge thyself, go with him two miles, yea, as far as the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace can carry thee. In the course of a man’s life many wrongs are to be put up, which whoso cannot frame to, let him make up his pack, and be gone out of the world; for here is no being for him. a Many pills are to be swallowed down whole, which if we should chew them would stick in our teeth and prove very bitter. Patience is of continual use to us at every turn; it is as bread or salt, which we cannot make one good meal without. It is a cloak, to keep off all storms; a helmet, to bear off all blows; a paring knife, that cuts the cross less and less, till it comes to nothing. As there be two kinds of antidotes against poison, viz. hot and cold, so against tribulation and temptation, prayer, and patience; the one, hot; the other, cold; the one, quenching; the other, quickening, Daniel 6:20 . The king cried unto Daniel with a lamentable voice, Matthew 5:21 . Then Daniel talked with the king, &c., with a voice not distressed, as that of the king was: for as by faith he stopped the mouths of the lions, Hebrews 11:33 , so by patience he possessed his own soul, Luke 21:19 ; he became master of himself, which is the only true manhood. So patience had her perfect work in Joseph; therefore he became, as St James hath it, "perfect and entire, wanting nothing," James 1:4 . Julius Caesar, beholding the picture of Alexander in Hercules’ temple at Gades, lamented that he had done no worthy exploit at those years, wherein Alexander had conquered the whole world. Joseph at thirty showed more true virtue, valour, piety, patience, purity, policy, knowledge of secrets, skill in government, &c., than either of them. Giles of Brussels, a Dutch martyr, when the friars at any time did miscall him, he ever held his peace at such private injuries, insomuch that those blasphemers would say abroad that he had a dumb devil in him. And Cassianus reporteth, that when a Christian was held captive by infidels, and tormented with various pains and ignominious taunts, being demanded by way of scorn, Tell us what miracle thy Christ hath done? he answered, He hath done what you see, that I am not moved at all by the cruelties and contumelies you cast upon me. Godly people can bear wrongs best of any; and although corrupt nature in them bustles again, and bestirs itself, yet they soon club it down, they reason themselves patient, as David, and pray down their distempers, as Paul, Psa 43:1 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9 . And albeit, with those two sons of thunder, they could find in their hearts to call for fire from heaven upon their adversaries, yet they will do nothing without leave. As they came to Christ, and said, "Wilt thou that we command fire from heaven?" &c., which when Christ disliked and denied, they were soon satisfied, Luke 9:54 . We must take up our crosses, and when God bids us yoke, he is the wisest man that yields his neck most willingly. Our Saviour gave Judas his mouth to be kissed when he came to betray him, leaving us a pattern of like equanimity and patience.
a Αγγαροι Persis dicebantur quos hodie postas vocamus. Ephesians 6:15 . Qui nescit dissimulate, nescit vivere; ut Saul, 1 Samuel 10:27 . Levius fit patientia quicquid corrigere est nefas. Cedamus, leve sit quod bene fertur onus. Pondus ipsa iactatione incommodius fit. Sen.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ver. 42. Give to him that asketh thee ] Yet with discretion and choice of a fit object. a Which having met with be not weary of well doing; for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not, Galatians 6:9 . Giving is compared to sowing, which, in good ground, is usually with increase. Therefore a worthy minister, upon occasion, asking his wife whether there were any money in the house, she answered, that she knew but of one three pence; well, saith he, we must go sow, that is, give something to the poor, knowing that to be the way of bringing in, Proverbs 11:24-25 Deuteronomy 15:10 . The mercy of God crowns our beneficence with the blessing of store. b Happy was the Sareptan that she was no niggard of her last handful. The more we give, the more we have: it increaseth in the giving, as the loaves in our Saviour’s hands did. Never did a charitable act go away without the retribution of a blessing. How improvident therefore are we, that will not offer a sacrifice of alms when God sets up an altar before us! It were an excellent course, surely, if Christians now, as they of old at Corinth, would lay up weekly a part of their gettings for pious and charitable uses; and that men would abound in this work of the Lord, as knowing that their labour is not in vain in the Lord (I speak of them that are able, for we may not stretch beyond our staple, and so spoil all). We read of a bishop of Lincoln, that never thought he had that thing that he did not give; and of one bishop of Rome (though that is a rare thing) that was so liberal to the poor, that when he was asked by certain ambassadors whether he had any hunting dogs to show them, he answered, Yes. And bringing them to a great sort of poor people, whom he daily relieved at his table, These are the dogs, saith he, wherewith I hunt after heaven. c Bishop Hooper, also, had his board of beggars. Twice I was (saith Mr Fox) in his house at Worcester: where in his common hall, I saw a table spread with good store of food, and beset full of beggars and poor folk. And this was his daily custom. And when they were served and catechised, then he himself sat down to dinner, and not before. Queen Anna Boleyn carried ever about her a certain little purse, out of which she was wont daily to scatter some alms to the needy: thinking no day well spent wherein some man had not fared the better by some benefit at her hands. The Savoy, Bridewell, and another hospital, founded by King Edward VI, upon a sermon of Bp Ridley’s, do speak and testify both his tender heart and his bountiful hand. Bonfinius relateth of Stephen, King of Hungary (and the same thing is reported of Oswald, King of England), that his right hand rotted not for a long time after he was dead. And well it might be so (saith he) that that hand should he kept from corruption, that never suffered any to beg, to hunger, to lie in captivity, or any other misery. d But these, alas, are the last and worst days, wherein love is waxen cold: men’s hearts are frozen, and their hands withered up. A great deal of mouth mercy there is, as in St James’s time, Go thy ways and be fed, clothed, and warmed: but with what? with a mess of words, a suit of words, a fire of words: these are good cheap: but a little handful were better than a great many such mouthfuls. We may today wait for some good Samaritan to come and prove himself a neighbour; and after all complain, There is no mercy in the land, Hosea 4:1 ; "Merciful men are taken away, the liberal man faileth from among the children of men," Isaiah 57:1 ; Psalms 12:1 . Elias lacketh his hostess of Sarepta, and Elisha the Shunammite. Paul cannot find the purpurisse, e nor Peter the currier. f Abraham we have not, and Job we find not. Captain Cornelius is a black swan in this generation, that gave to him that asked, and from him that would borrow of him, turned not away, &c.
And from him that would borrow of thee, turn not away ] Some were ashamed to beg and take alms, who yet, being pressed with great necessity, could be glad to borrow. And a greater kindness it might be to lend them a larger sum than to give them a lesser. Here therefore a good man is merciful and lendeth, he will lend, looking for nothing again, Psalms 112:5 : not looking that a poor neighbour should earn it out, or do as much for him some other way. Nay, we ought not in this case so to look for our own again, as that which is the chief thing we aim at, but to obey Christ, and to do a poor man a pleasure. And what if "the wicked borroweth, and payeth not again," Psalms 37:21 ; let not others fare the worse for their fault. The godly make great conscience of paying that which they owe, as the son of the prophets that was so sorry for the loss of the axe, "Alas, master! it was but borrowed," 2 Kings 6:5 . And Elisha bade the widow first pay her debts with her oil, and then live off of the rest. Now from such borrowers turn not away: plead not excuse, make not delays when it is in thy hand to help them presently. "He that hideth his eyes (in this case) shall have many a curse," Proverbs 28:27 . Not to do good (in this kind) is to do harm; not to save a life, or uphold a poor man’s declining estate, is to destroy it, Luke 6:6 ; Mark 3:4 . Carnal reason will here stand up and plead, as Nabal did, Shall I take my bread and my flesh, that I have provided for my shearers, and give it to strangers? 1 Samuel 25:11 . So, shall I take my money or my means, which I have provided for my children, and give it or lend it to such and such? Here then you must silence your reason and exalt your faith. Consider how great an honour it is to be almoner to the King of heaven; that by laying out upon such, you lay hold upon eternal life; that the apostle, 2 Corinthians 8:2 , setteth out liberality by a word that signifieth simplicity, απλοτης , in opposition to that crafty wiliness that is in the covetous, to defend themselves from the danger (as they think) of liberality: that the liberal man deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things he shall stand. When a man would think he should fall, rather he takes a right course to stand and thrive: he lays up for himself a sure foundation.
a Give such before they ask, Psalms 41:1 . Qui praeoccupat vocem petituri. Aug.
b Pauperum manus Christi est gazophylacium. Iulius Caesar dicere solitus est, se vel tum imprimis ditescere, cure bene merentes aliquo munere prosequeretur; quanto magis egenos?
Nunquam deficiunt charitates, cum dantur, habentur;
Cumque absumuntur, multiplicantur opes.
c Hi sunt canes quos alo quotidie, quibus spero me coelestem gloriam venaturum. Iam vero longe aliter, pauperibus sua dat gratis, nec munera curat.
d Merito manus illa corruptionis expers esse debuit, quae neminem mendicare, esurire, et in captivitate, aut quavis miseria iacere, perpessa est.
e A kind of red or purple colouring matter, used by the ancients. ŒD
f One whose trade is the dressing and colouring of leather after it is tanned. ŒD
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Ver. 43. Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy ] This latter they drew as an inference from the former, by the rule of contraries. But logic, being the rule of reason, which now is corrupt, is itself in some respects corrupt also. Sure we are, be it what logic it will, it is but carnal divinity. Suitable it is to our nature, but so much the more suspicious. The Pharisees taught it, and were applauded. The Papists also little better (for the Pharisees are fled and hid in the Papists, as one saith the ancient heretics are in the monks): they teach, that in two cases only we are bound to help our enemies-in the case of extremity and of scandal. For other things, to love them, to pray for them, or do them good in other cases, it is but a counsel our Saviour gives, and no commandment. If men can do it, it is well; but if they cannot, it is not required. Thus say they, but what saith Christ, the law maker, and so the truest interpreter thereof?
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Ver. 44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies ] A hard task, I must needs say, but, hard or not hard, it must be done, be it never so contrary to our foul nature and former practice. "The spirit that is in us lusteth after envy, but the Scripture teacheth better things," James 4:5-6 . And what are those? To go no further than the present text: 1. "Love your enemies," for the inside, be tenderly affected toward them as heartily wishing their good every way; being glad of their welfare, and grieved when it happens otherwise. Thus David was a sorrowful man when his enemies were in affliction, and put on sackcloth ( αγαπατε, quasi αγαν πενεσθε, Psa 35:13 ). 2. Seal up our love to them by all good expressions, which are here referred to these three heads. 2a. Bless them ( ευλογειτε ), that is, speak kindly to them, and of them, let them have your good word. 2b. Do good, that is, be ready to help them and relieve them at all essays. 3. Pray for them, that God would pardon their sins and turn their hearts. This is our Saviour’s precept, and this was his practice. He melted over Jerusalem (the slaughterhouse of his saints and himself), and was grieved at the hardness of their hearts, Mark 6:3-4 . Next (for words) he called Judas, friend, not devil; and prayed, "Father, forgive them." And (for deeds) he not only not called for fire from heaven, or legions of angels against them, but did them all good for bodies and souls; for he healed Malchus’ ear, washed Judas’ feet, &c.; like that good Samaritan, he was at pains and cost with them, instructing them with patience, and proving if at any time he might pull them out of the snare of the devil, by whom they were taken alive at his pleasure. a Which also he did. For he converted the thief on the cross, who at first had reviled him, and graciously received those three thousand souls that had imbrued their villanous hands in his innocent blood, Acts 2:22-23 ; Act 2:37-41 Thus our Saviour, full of grace and truth. And of his fulness (of redundance, of his over measure) we have all received, and grace for grace, as the child receiveth from the father limb for limb, part for part, &c., John 1:16 . He is the father of eternity; and all his children, in all ages of the Church, have resembled him somewhat in this sweet property, Isaiah 9:6 . Abraham rescueth his nephew Lot, that had dealt so discourteously with him. Isaac expostulates the wrong done him by Abimelech and his servants, and forgiveth and feasteth them. Absalom inviteth Amnon to a feast, and Alexander, Philotas, to kill them thereat; but good Isaac doth it, to show there was no grudge or purpose of revenge. Jacob was faithful to Laban, who changed his wages ten times, and ever for the worse. Joseph entertained his malicious brethren at his house. And whereas their guilty hearts misgave them, that he "rolled himself upon them thereby," he feasted them on purpose to be reconciled unto them. As the Romans had their χαρισθια , to the which were invited none but kinsfolks to continue love and to seek reconciliation, if there had been any breach. (Val. Max. ii. 1.) But to speak forward. Moses stands up in the gap for them that had so soon forgotten him. Joshua marcheth all night and fighteth all day for the Gibeonites that had deceived him. Samuel prayeth (and God forbid he should do otherwise) for an ungrateful people that had rejected him. David put on sackcloth, he wept and fasted, when his enemies were afflicted; he spared Saul’s life, and afterwards Shimei’s, when Abishai’s fingers even itched to be taking off their heads, Psalms 7:5 . Elisha set bread and water before the Syrians that came to surprise him; and provided a table for them that had provided a grave for him. The disciples were solicitous of the salvation of the Pharisees that had accused them at the same time to our Saviour, Matthew 15:12 . b Stephen prays heartily for his persecutors, and prevailed (as St Austin thinketh) for Paul’s conversion. And being reviled, saith he, we bless; being defamed, we pray, 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 . Do my lord of Canterbury a shrewd turn, and then you may be sure to have him your friend while he liveth. This was grown to a common proverb concerning Archbishop Cranmer. And Lawrence Saunders, the martyr, being sent to prison by Stephen Gardner, Bishop of Winchester (who bade carry away this frensy fool, &c.), praised God for a place of rest and quiet, where to pray for the bishop’s conversion. In the year of grace 1541, Robert Holgat obtained a benefice in a place where one Sir Francis Askew, of Lincolnshire, dwelt, by whom he was much troubled and molested in law. Upon occasion of these suits, he was fain to repair to London, where being he found means to become the king’s chaplain, and by him was made Archbishop of York and President of the King’s Council for the North. The knight before mentioned happened to have a suit before the council there, and doubted much of hard measure from the Archbishop, whose adversary he had been; but he, remembering this rule of our Saviour, "Do good to them that hate you," &c., yielded him all favour that with justice he might, saying afterward merrily to his friends, he was much beholden to Sir Francis Askew, &c. This bishop, in the beginning of Queen Mary, was committed to the Tower, where he lay a year and half, and was at last deprived.
a 2 Timothy 2:25-26 . εζωγρημενοι , taken alive, and in hunting by that hellish Nimrod.
b Charitatis hoc fuit. Suos vituperatores in veritate informari cupiunt, &c. Cart.
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Ver. 45. That ye may be the children of your Father ] That ye may appear to be, and will approve yourselves to be, the sons of God without rebuke amidst a perverse and crooked nation, Philippians 3:15 ; while we resemble him, not in outward lineaments only, as an image doth a man, but in nature and disposition, as a child doth his father. Now God, to make known his power and patience, endureth with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, Romans 9:21 ; such incarnate devils as march up and down the earth, with heart and hands as full as hell with all manner of mischief, lewdness, and rebellion. Neither doth he bear with them only, but gives them the gospel to call them to repentance, and strives with them by his Spirit, which they desperately resist, yea, despite, hardening their hearts as the nether millstone, Job 41:24 , refusing to be reformed, hating to be healed; till at length they lose all passive power also of escaping the damnation of hell, which is a conformity to the very devils. This is his dealing with rebels and reprobates. Neither so only, but that he might make known the "riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared to glory," Romans 9:23 . He loved his elect not yet existing, nay, resisting, and effectually called them, not only not deserving, but not so much as desiring it. "For when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son," Romans 5:10 . God so loved the world, the wicked and wayward world, "that he sent his only begotten Son," &c. Now, Qui misit Unigenitum, immisit Spiritum, promisit vultum; quid tandem tibi negaturus est? He that sent thee his Son, imparted unto thee of his Spirit, promised thee his favour; what will he deny thee? how shall he not with his Son give thee all things also? Romans 8:32 . a Oh let his patience be our pattern, his goodness our precedent, to love and show kindness to oar greatest enemies. So shall we force a testimony, if not from the mouths, yet at least the consciences of all, even the worst, that we are born of God, and do love him better than ourselves, when to please him we can so much cross ourselves in the practice of this most difficult duty.
For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil ] A sweet mercy, but not prized, because ordinary; as manna was counted a light meat, because lightly come by. But should we be left in palpable darkness, as were the Egyptians for three days together, so that no man stirred off the stool he sat on, this common benefit would be better set by. The sun is, as it were, a vessel whereinto the Lord gathered the light, which, till then, was scattered in the whole body of the heavens. This David beheld with admiration, Psalms 8:3 , not with adoration, as those idolaters that worshipped the queen of heaven, Jeremiah 44:17 ; (not so Job, Job 31:26-27 ). Truly, saith Solomon, the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun, Ecclesiastes 11:7 ; and St Chrysostom wondereth at this, that whereas all fire naturally ascendeth, God hath turned the beams of the sun towards the earth, made the light thereof to stream downwards. b It is for our sakes and service doubtless, whence also the sun hath his name in the Hebrew tongue (shemesh), a servant, as being the servant general of mankind; while he shines indifferently upon the evil and the good, and to both imparteth light and heat.
And his rain to fall ] Not only upon flowers and fruit trees, but also upon the briars and brambles of the wilderness. Those bottles of rain, the clouds, are vessels (saith one) as thin as the liquor which is contained in them; there they hang and move, though weighty with their burden; but how they are upheld, and why they fall here and now, we know not, and wonder. This we know (and may well wonder), that God maketh his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the evil and unjust also. What so great matter is it, then, if we light up our candle to such, or let down our pitcher that they may drink? This is our Saviour’s inference here. The dew we see falleth as well upon the daisy and thistle as upon the rose and violet, Ingens multitudo hominum et pecorum decidentibus subito nubibus, ac effusis consertim aquis, submersa est, &c. Bartholin. Idem in cataclysmo universali contigit. Pareus.
On the just, and on the unjust ] Those whom St Matthew calleth unjust, St Luke calleth unthankful, Luke 6:35 . Ingratitude is a high degree of injustice. God is content we have the benefit of his creatures and comforts, so he may have the praise of them. This is all the rent he looks for, and this he stands upon; he indents with us for it, Psalms 50:15 , and God’s servants, knowing how he expects and accepts it, do usually oblige themselves to it, as that which pleaseth him better than "an ox that hath horns and hoofs," Psalms 69:31 ; And they have been careful to return it, as the solid bodies that reflect the heat they receive from the sunbeams upon the sun again. But most men are like the moon, which the fuller it is of light, the farther it gets off the sun from whom it receiveth light: like springs of water, that are coldest when the sun shineth hottest upon them: like the Thracian flint, that burns with water, is quenched with oil; or the Dead Sea, that swalloweth the silver streams of sweet Jordan, and yet grows thereby neither greater nor sweeter. "Do ye thus requite the Lord, O ye foolish people and unwise?" Deuteronomy 32:6 . Do ye thus rob him of his praise, and so run away with his rent? Is this the best return we make him for his many matchless mercies and miraculous deliverances? Out upon our unthankfulness and unrighteous dealing! that can devour God’s blessings as beasts do their prey, swallow them as swine their swill, bury them as the barren earth the seed; use them as homely as Rachel did her fathers’ gods, yea, abuse them to his dishonour, as if he had hired us to be wicked; and fight against him with his own weapons, as Jehu did against Jehoram with his own men, as David against Goliath with his own sword, as Benhadad against Ahab with that life that he had given him. The injurious usage at the hands of the sons of men was that which caused God to make a world and unmake it again, to promise them 120 years’ respite, and to repent him, so that he cut them short 20 years of the former number; yea, to perform the promised mercy and to repent him of it when he hath done, as David did of the kindness he had shown unworthy Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:21 . Will not God take his own from such, and be gone, Hosea 4:9 , turn their glory into shame, Hosea 4:7 , blast their blessings, Malachi 2:2 , destroy them after he hath done them good, Joshua 24:20 , cause them to serve their enemies in the want of all things, that would not serve so good a master in the abundance of all things? Deuteronomy 28:47 ; What should a prince do, but take a sword from a rebel? what should a mother do, but snatch away the meat from the child that mars it? And what can the wise and just Lord do less than cut off the meat from the mouths, and take away his corn and his wine, his wool and his flax, from such as not only not own him to it, but go after other sweethearts with it, paying their rents to a wrong landlord? ( Amasios suos. Hos 2:5 ) Thus he dealt by his unfruitful vineyard, Isaiah 5:5 , by the unprofitable servant, Matthew 25:28 , by the foolish philosophers (for, as the chronicler speaketh of Sir Thomas Moore, "I know not whether to call them foolish wise men, or wise foolish men"), that imprisoned ( κατεχοντες ) the truth in unrighteousness; and made not the best of that little light they had: God not only made fools of them, but "delivered them up to a reprobate sense," Romans 1:28 , and only for their unthankfulness, which is robbing God of his due. O therefore what will become of us, that so ordinarily abuse to his daily dishonour our health, wealth, wit, prosperity, plenty, peace, friends, means, marriage, day, night, all comforts and creatures, our times, our talents; yea, the very Scriptures, the gospel of truth, the rich offers of grace, and our golden opportunities? Is not religion turned by many into a mere formality and policy? our ancient fervour and forwardness, into a general lukewarmness and unzealousness? and (besides the love of many waxen cold) doth not iniquity abound in every quarter and corner of the land? which therefore even groaneth under our burden, and longeth for a vomit to spue us out, as the most unthankful and unworthy people that ever God’s sun shone upon and God’s rain fell upon (the sun of Christ’s gospel especially, and the rain of his grace) so fair and so long together? If there be any unpardonable sin in the world, it is ingratitude, said that peerless Queen Elizabeth in a message to Henry IV, King of France. The very heathens judged it to be the epitome of all evil: call me unthankful, saith one, you call me all that naught is. c Lycurgus would make no law against it, because he thought no man would fall so far below reason as not thankfully to acknowledge a benefit. d Thus nature itself abhors ingratitude; which therefore carrieth so much the more detestation, as it is more odious even to them that have blotted out the image of God. e Some vices are such as nature smileth upon, though frowned at by divine justice: not so this. "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?" Genesis 44:4 .
a Nihil tandem ei negasse credendum est qui ad vituli hortatur esum. Jerome.
b Hom. vii. ad Pop. Antioch. So the earth is not covered with water, that man may inhabit it. Sailors observe that their ships flee faster to the shore than from it; whereof no reason can be given, but the height of the water above the land.
c Ingratum dixeris, omnia dixeris.
d Quod prodigiosa res esset beneficium non agnoscere.
e Ingratitudine nihil foedius etiam inter barbaros. Pareas
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Ver. 46. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have you? ] The Greek and Latin word (say the Rhemists) signifieth very wages or hire due for work; and so presupposeth a meritorious deed. But what will they say to St Luke, who calleth that χαρις , or grace, which St Matthew here called μισθος , a reward? It is a reward, but of mere grace, see Rom 4:4 that God will give to them that love their enemies. a "If thine enemy be hungry, feed him, &c. For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee," saith Solomon, Proverbs 25:21-22 . A double encouragement, and all little enough. 1. Thou shalt heap coals on his head; those coals are (as Austin interprets it) urentes poenitentiae gemitus, the scorching sighs of true repentance: q.d. thou shalt melt these Beza in Matt. vi. hardest metals (as many of the martyrs did their persecutors), thou shalt meeken their rancour, overcome their malice, cause them to turn short again upon themselves and upon sight of their sin, shame themselves, and justify thee, as Saul did David. 2. "The Lord shall reward thee" (and all his retributions are more than bountiful), yet not of merit (for what proportion between the work and wages? but first of mercy; -reward and mercy are joined together in the second commandment and Psalms 62:12 ; secondly, of promise, for our encouragement), since our labour is not in vain in the Lord. Briefly, it is called a reward, not properly, but by similitude, because it is given after the work done. Next, it is a reward, not legal, but evangelical; promised in mercy, and in like mercy performed. Whence it is also called the "reward of inheritance," Colossians 3:24 . Now an inheritance is not merited, but freely descendeth on sons, because they are sons. Let no man say, with profane Esau, What is this birthright to me? or with the prodigal in the gospel, Give me here the portion that belongeth unto me (such are those that love their friends only, here they have love for love, and that is all they are to look for); but look up to the recompense of reward, with Moses: and answer as Naboth, God forbid that I should so far gratify the devil and mine own evil heart, as to part with my patrimony, my hope of reward, for a little revenge, or whatsoever coin bearing Satan’s superscription.
a Praemium, sed gratuitum.
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans so?
Ver. 47. What do ye more than others? ] Singular things are expected and required of such as have received singular grace and mercy. As to be eminent in good works, to get above others, to have our feet where other men’s heads are. a The way of the righteous is on high, saith Solomon: he goes a higher way to work than ordinary, and walks ακριβως , accurately, exactly; b he gets even to the very top of godliness, as the word importeth. He knows that more than the common stint is required of him, and that he must do that which the world will never do: as to be hot in religion, Revelation 3:16 . The carnal gospeller saith, Religiosum oportet esse, non religantem, it is fit to be religious, but not so conscientious. So, to be zealous of good works, Titus 2:14 , but with discretion, saith the worldling. The King of Navarre told Beza he would launch no further into the sea than he might be sure to return safe to the haven. c Though he showed some countenance to religion, yet he would be sure to save himself. So, to abound in God’s work, to have a heart full of goodness, as those Romans, Romans 15:14 ; a life full of good works, as Tabitha, Acts 9:33 . But this is to be wise overly much, saith the flesh, Ecclesiastes 7:16 . Philosophandum, sed paucis. Philosophize but little. Cicero. What need this waste? said Judas. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem to worship, said Jeroboam to the people, take a shorter cut rather to the golden calves. "They are idle, they are idle," said Pharaoh of God’s busiest servants. So, God would have his to walk precisely, Ephesians 5:15 . This the mad world mocks at. To pluck out their right eyes, this is a hard saying, saith the sensualist, Matthew 5:29 . To offer violence to God’s kingdom: "fair and softly goes far;" and it is good keeping on the warm side of the hedge, saith the politician. To keep God’s command ment as the apple of thine eyes; but how few are there that will not break the hedge of any commandment, so they may shun a piece of foul way? Lastly, to love an enemy, do good to them that hate us, &c.; but this seems to be the most unreasonable and impossible. What? love those that hate and hurt them, that daily rage and rail at them, with such bitterness, as if they had been as far as hell for every word that tumbleth out of their mouths against them? &c. Love this man? Nay, then, love the devil himself. They will rather die a thousand deaths than endure such a one: if they could love him, yet they would not. They are prime Christians in these men’s opinions that ascend to Saul’s measure, "I will do thee no hurt, my son David." If they pass him by when he is in their power, as the priest and the Levite did the wounded man; if they fall not foul upon him with recriminations, and retaliate injuries, they have gone far and done fair: and such a measure of charity they hold little less than angelic, hardly here attainable. This is the voice and guise of flesh and blood. "The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy," and prompteth us to requite taunt with taunt, suit with suit, blow with blow, and holds them fools that do not. But this is the wisdom from beneath, and is earthly, sensual, devilish: James 3:15 , expounded whereas that "from above is first pure, and then peaceable," (well assured of pardon of sin and peace with God, and thence) gentle or equable to men ( επιεικης ), and easily persuaded, full of mercy (to an offending brother) and good fruits (friendly expressions), without wrangling or lawing ( αδιακριτος ), and without hypocrisy: such as can be heartily reconciled, and love again without dissimulation, "not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth," Rom 12:9 ; 1 John 3:18 ; not covering a potsherd with silver dross, a wicked heart with burning lips. Seven abominations are in such a heart, and his wickedness shall be shown before the whole congregation, as Absalom’s usage of Amnon, Proverbs 14:20 ; Proverbs 19:7 ; Proverbs 26:23-26 . A godly man carries neither cruel hatred, a desire to hurt whom he hates, as Esau, nor simple hatred, where there is no desire to hurt, but a disdain to help: he forgives not only, but forgets, as Joseph, Genesis 50:20 . (For injuries remembered are hardly remitted.) And although he loves not his enemies’ sins, yet he doth their persons: striving to seal up his love by all loving usage both in word and deed. And herein he doth more than others; that which is singular, and in the world’s account, seraphical: that which (in truth) is extraordinary and above common possibility, it is a high point of Christian perfection: and let as many as are perfect be thus minded. Benaiah was honourable among thirty, but he attained not to the first three. A natural man may be renowned for his patience and beneficence; but the child of God must herein go before all the wicked men in the world, and strive to be conformed to the first three, the blessed Trinity.
a των καλων εργων προιστασθαι , Titus 3:14 .
b Ephesians 5:15 , ακριβως το εις ακρον βαινειν . Gellius.
c Pelago se non ita commissuru esset, quin quando liberet, pedem referre posset.
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Ver. 48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, &c. ] The child (saith one) is the father multiplied, the father of a second edition. Of Constantine’s sons Eusebius reporteth, that they "put on their father’s fashions, and did exactly resemble him." a And of Irenaeus, the same author telleth us that he expressed to the life the learning and virtues of his master Polycarp. It were happy for us (and we must labour it) if we could pass into the likeness of the heavenly pattern. Our summum bonum consists in communion with God and conformity to him; in keeping inward peace with God, that he "abhor us not because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters," Deuteronomy 32:19 ; and in seeking and keeping (as much as may be) peace with all men and holiness; purifying ourselves as he is pure, 1 John 3:3 ; (in quality, though we cannot in an equality), from the love of every lust (the ground of all our wranglings, Jam 4:1 ), but especially from the passions and perturbations of the heart, possessing ourselves in patience. For if patience have her perfect work we shall be perfect and entire, wanting nothing, James 1:4 . For "perfect" St Luke hath it, "Be merciful," &c., Luke 6:36 .
a ολον ενεδυσαντο τον κονσταντινον εμπρεποντες τπος του πατρος καλλωπισμασιν . Eusebius.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29