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1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Ver. 1. Judge not, that ye be not judged ] Hoc verbum quandam indaginem involvit. The word a imports a kind of curious inquiry into other men’s faults, that we may the more severely censure and subject them to a sinister interpretation. It signifies sometimes no more, I grant, than to reprehend, asRomans 2:1; Romans 2:1 . But this, so it were wisely done, our Saviour would never have reprehended. "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart:" but (for prevention of such a mischief) thou shalt plainly (not perfunctorily, or in jest, bravery, form, derision) rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him, as some read it; lest thou suffer for his sin: or, as others, lift not up his sin over him as an ensign, b blaze it not abroad to his just grief and disgrace; but clap a plaister on the sore, and then cover it with thy hand, as surgeons, use to do, that the world may be never the wiser. This were charity, which hides with her mantle a multitude of sins; yea, prepares covers and cures for the infirmities of others as fast as they breed them, 1 Peter 4:8 . And the neglect hereof, the not giving vent to our hearts, by a wise and plain reproof, causeth estrangement of affection, dwelling suspicions, blind censures, a very habit of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of all things, till men grow rusty with rancour and malice, the poison whereof would be soon drawn out by a seasonable reproof: this, well and wisely done, were far better than judging and grudging one against another, since it is, "judge not, that ye be not judged," and "grudge not, that ye be not condemned," James 5:9 . The sins of others we should hear of with indignation, fearfully and unwillingly believe, acknowledge with grief, never speak of them but in an ordinance, rather hide them, as much as may be, with honest excuses, and make apology; as, that there are infirmities in the best, though we know them not; that, as good gold, they are haply of the lightest, may want a grain or two of their just weight; but give them their allowance, and they may pass for current, &c. Be not rash in rejecting or sour in censuring your fellow servant. c That saying is true, Three things are not subject to our judgments, the counsels of God, the Holy Scriptures, and the persons of men, Romans 14:10 . It is a good rule of the schoolmen concerning the judgment of our neighbour, Ut bona eius certa, meliora; certa mala, minora; dubia bona, certa; dubia mala nulla iudicemus: that we make the best of everything that we can with truth, and not aggravate small faults; exclaiming, with Momus, against the creaking of Venus’s pantofle.
That ye be not judged ] Judge we must ourselves, and God will not judge us. Step from the bar, where thou hast arraigned, accused, witnessed, and pleaded guilty against thyself, to the bench, and there pass sentence of condemnation, judging thyself worthy to be turned into hell torments. Thus judge yourselves and spare not. But judge not others; namely, rashly, sinisterly, finally, and peremptorily, "lest ye be judged;" both first of God, into whose chair ye leap, and whose children ye condemn, even the generation of the just; as David once did, and befooled himself well favouredly for it, when he had done. And secondly of men: good men must suspect you, bad men scorn you, and all men shun you, and desire to be rid of you, as unfit to live in a civil society. d Therefore judge nothing before the time, behold, the Judge standeth at the door. It is the office of angels to sever the sheep from the goats, the tares from the wheat, the elect from the reprobate. Those that undertake positively to determine of men’s final estate, they know not of what spirit they are, with those sons of Zebedee; they take too much upon them, with those sons of Levi; they understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, with those impostors in Timothy, Numbers 16:7 ; 1 Timothy 1:7 . Neither may they escape here uncensured, that for particular acts or petty failings take upon them rashly and harshly to censure their betters many times. Job and Jeremiah met with such as watched for their halting, and made them offenders for a word. These pry into every particular more narrowly than Laban did into Jacob’s stuff, waiting as a dog for a bone, for anything less beseeming the saints, that they may fasten upon with their fangs, that they may tear with their teeth, and swallow down with those open sepulchres, their throats, the good names of others; censuring them deeply for human frailties, unchurching and unbrothering them for unavoidable infirmities, e It is hard measuring of a man by his state and behaviour in a pelt, in a passion, which are violent, and have made the holiest, in their heat, little less than bestial,1 Samuel 25:22; 1 Samuel 25:22 ; Psalms 116:9 . The like may be said of sins strengthened by ancient custom, or natural inclination, or hereditary, the sins of our parents, or furthered by a multitude of temptations and enticements. Handle these gently in the judgment of charity, and joint them again in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself; lest thou also be tempted. f It is not to be liked, when men leap from the cradle of profession into the chair of censure, blinder than beetles at home, sharper than eagles abroad. Charity and humility would teach them to wink at small faults, as God doth, and to pitch upon that in another that is praiseworthy. Our Saviour is said to have loved the rich young Pharisee, for that little good he found in him; and Bucer never rejected any, though different in opinion, in whom he discerned aliquid Christi, anything of Christ. St Paul bids us consider one another, to whet on to love,Hebrews 10:24; Hebrews 10:24 , to pitch upon such good parts and properties as may engender love and sway us to a good opinion of our brethren. The wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, &c. But they shall have judgment without mercy that use no mercy in their judgings, James 3:17 . God shall bring home their own dealings to their own doors. "For with what judgment ye judge," &c. Only our Saviour is to be understood here of private and corrupt judgment passed upon others, out of sinful curiosity and ill-will, for Nemo curiosus quin malevolus, either to set up ourselves above them, or by condemning them to countenance our own evil courses. Magistrates may and must judge between the righteous and the wicked. Ministers must take out the precious from the vile, and say to the wicked, "It shall be ill with them, the reward of their hands shall be given unto them," Isaiah 3:11 ; "Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? yea, thou shalt show them all their abominations,"Ezekiel 22:2; Ezekiel 22:2 . How often doth our Saviour call the Pharisees hypocrites, serpents, vipers, &c. And how roundly dealt St Paul with the sorcerer, Acts 13:10 : and with the incestuous person, 1 Corinthians 5:13 . Lastly, though we may not be many masters, James 3:1 , supercilious and censorious, &c., yet we may all judge the tree by the fruit, call spade a spade, a drunkard a drunkard, &c., and leaving his final doom to the searcher of all hearts, judge and censure him, for the present to be God’s enemy, and in a most wretched estate. We both may and must condemn all six in ourselves and others. But it is a fault to be itchingly inquisitive after other men’s misdemeanours, to be an eavesdropper,Ecclesiastes 7:21; Ecclesiastes 7:21 , or to censure them, when they come to our knowledge, unmerciflfily and above the royal law. Let your επιεικεια , moderation of utmost right, be known to all men: the Lord is at hand Philippians 4:5 .
a κρινειν etiam significat interpretari, et plerunque de somniis dicitur. Novarin.
b Leviticus 19:17 . Ne eius peccatum luas. Ne tamen super cum peccatum tollas tanquam vexillum.
c Noli esse alienae vitae aut temerarius iudex, aut curiosus explorator. Bernard. The Hebrew word for prayer hath the first signification of judging, because thereto we must judge ourselves.
d Iupiter hunc coeli dignatus honore fuisset;
Censorem linguae sed timet ipse suae.
Sic. in Laur. Vallam, severum censorem scriptorum, quidam lusit. Trithem.
e Sunt quidem in Eccelesia Catholica plurimi mali, sed haereticis nullus est bonus. Bellarm. de not. Ecc 4:13
f καταρτιζετε , Galatians 6:1 . Aut sumus, aut fuimus, aut possumus esse quod hic est.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Ver. 2. For with what judgment ye judge, &c. ] Our Saviour sets forth what he had said before by these two proverbial sentences, as well known among them as those among us: "Ye shall sow as ye reap, drink as ye brew, be served with the same sauce," &c. a Compare herewith those divine proverbs,Isaiah 33:1; Isaiah 33:1 ; Proverbs 12:14 ; Proverbs 13:2 ; Proverbs 13:21 ; Proverbs 14:14 ; Proverbs 14:22 ; Proverbs 22:8 ; Job 6:8 ; Mark 6:24 . God delights to give men their own, as good as they brought, to pay them home in their own coin, or, as the text here and the Hebrew proverb hath it, to remit to them in their own measure, b Isaiah 3:10-11 ; with the merciful to show himself merciful, and with the froward to wrestle. He will be as froward as they for the hearts of them, beat them with their own weapons, overshoot them in their own bows, shape their estates according to their own patterns, and cause others to write after their copies, as it fared with Pharaoh, Adonibezek, Agag, &c. Sodom sinned in fulness of bread, and it is expressly noted that their victuals were taken from them by the four kings, Genesis 14:11 . Their eyes were full of uncleanness, and they were smitten with blindness; they burned with lust, and were burned with fire; they sinned against nature, and against the course of nature, fire descends and consumes them. Eglon, stabbed into the guts, finds his bane the same way with his sin. Sisera annoys God’s people with his iron chariots, and is slain by a nail of iron. Jezebel’s brains, that devised mischief against the innocent, are strewed upon the stones; by a letter to Jezreel she shed the blood of Naboth, and by a letter from Jezreel the blood of her sons is shed. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomen’s temple (that seven years’ work of so many thousands), therefore let him be turned a grazing, and seven seasons pass over him, saith the oracle,Daniel 4:16; Daniel 4:16 . The blasphemers in the Revelation "gnaw their tongues" through pain, and Dives (for like cause) was tormented in that part chiefly. c Apion scoffing at religion, and especially at circumcision, had an ulcer at the same time and in the same place. Phocas, a wild, drunken, bloody, adulterous tyrant, was worthily slaughtered by Heraclius, who cut off his hands and feet, and then his genitals by piecemeal. The Donatists, that cast the holy elements in the Lord’s supper to dogs, were themselves afterward devoured of dogs. John Martin of Briqueras, a mile from Angrogne, vaunted everywhere that he would slit the minister’s nose of Angrogne, but was himself assaulted by a wolf, which bit off his nose, whereof he died mad. Sir Ralph Elerker, Knight Marshal of Calais, in Queen Mary’s reign, being present at the death of Adam Damlip, martyr, bid the executioner despatch, saying that he would not away till he saw the traitor’s heart out. Shortly after this Sir Ralph was slain, among others, in a skirmish at Bullein, and his heart cut out of his body by the enemies, -a terrible example to all merciless and bloody men, &c.; for no cause was known why they should use such indignation against him more than the rest, but that it is written, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Bishop Ridley told Stephen Winchester that it was the hand of God that he was now in prison, because he had so troubled others in his time. And as he had inflamed so many good martyrs, so he died miserably of an inflammation, that caused him to thrust out his tongue all swollen and black, as Archbishop Arundel had died before him. The Archbishop of Tours made suit for the erection of a court, called Chambre Ardent, wherein to condenm the Protestants to the fire. He was afterwards stricken with a disease called "the fire of God," which began at his feet, and so ascended upward, that he caused one member after another to be cut off, and so died miserably. And there is mention made of one Christopher, an unmerciful courtier, who suffering a poor lazar d to die in a ditch by him, did afterwards perish himself in a ditch. To return to the present purpose: Laurentius Valla censured all that wrote before him; Erasmus comes after, and censures him as much; Beza finds as many faults with Erasmus, and not without cause, as appeareth by that one passage among many in his annotations on Romans 7:21 ; "I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me;" Erasmus Originem secutus, scripsit Paulum hoc Sermone balbutire, quum ipse potius ineptiat. Scaliger the hypercritic gives this absurd and unmannerly censure: Gothi belluae, Scoti non minus. Angli perfidi, inflati, feri, contemptores, stolidi, amentes, inertes, inhospitales, immanes. The Goths are beasts, so are the Scots. Englishmen are perfidious, proud, fierce, foolish, mad men, slow bellies, inhospitable, barbarous. Another comes after him, and saith, His bolt, you see, is soon shot, and so you may happily guess at the quality of the archer. Tacitus speaks reproachfully of both Jews and Christians; and is paid his own as well, both by Tertullian and Lipsius. e If men suffer in their good names, they may thank themselves, mostly. Contempt is a thing that man’s nature is most impatient of. Those that are given to slight and censure others, are punished with the common hatred of all. Imitation and retaliation are in all men naturally, as we may see in every child. And that of Solomon is in this sense found most rule, "As in water face answereth to face; so doth the heart of a man to a man." None are so shunned and censured as those that are most censorious. The places they live in groan for a vomit to spew them out.
a κριματος μετρον , Matthew 7:2 , est rigor iuris moderationi et mitigationi oppositus. Aret.
b See also Revelation 13:10 ; Revelation 18:6 ; Middah cenegedh middah. Psalms 18:26 .
c Quia lingua plus peccaverat.
d A poor and diseased person, usually one afflicted with a loathsome disease; esp. a leper. ŒD
e Taciturn Lipsius immemorem, secumque pugnantem; Tertullianus mendaciorum loquacissimum appellat.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Ver. 3. And why beholdest thou ] Here is the true method of preaching, by doctrine and use, explication and application. Ministers must (as our Saviour in his text) bring hammers with their nails, Jeremiah 23:29 , and drive them into the very head, yea, goad men to the quick, Ecclesiastes 12:11 ; that the people’s hearts may either break, as theirs,Acts 2:37; Acts 2:37 , or burst, as theirs,Acts 7:54; Acts 7:54 . A general doctrine, not applied, is as a sword without an edge, not in itself, but to us, through our singular fencelessness: or, as a whole loaf set before children, that will do them no good; the bellows will be burnt in the fire, but the dross remains still. A garment fitted for all bodies is fit for no body; and that which is spoken to all, is taken as spoken to none.
The mote that is in thy brother’s eye ] The mote or straw: the word "beam" seems rather to have reference to a straw than to a mote: a and this is an evil disease that I have seen under the sun, that men (and those of the better sort sometimes) bear nothing, talk of nothing, so willingly, as they do of other men’s faults; Psalms 50:20 ; "thou sittest and speakest against thy brother," &c. b There is no discourse that men will sit so long at and be so taken with as this. "The words of the talebearer are as flatteries, and they go down to the bowels of the belly," Proverbs 18:8 . Many are never well, longer than they are holding their fingers in other men’s sores, amplifying and aggravating their faults and failings, not only most severely, but almost tragically; not once mentioning their good parts and practices. These are like crows, that fasten only upon carrion, or the horsefly, that if he happen into a field that is never so full of sweet flowers, yet if there be but a little filthy dung in it his eye and scent is only to that, and upon that only will he light. c David compareth such as these to the asp, that is quick of hearing, but very ill-sighted (having his eyes not in his forehead, but in his temples), weak, but full of poison. Herein only is the difference. That poison that asps vent to the hurt of others, they keep within them without hurt unto themselves. d But the malicious censurer is his own worst enemy; for as he "sets his mouth against heaven, and his tongue walketh through the earth," Psalms 73:9 , so by misjudging (out of an inward hatred of another) all his actions and intentions, he pulls upon himself the hatred both of heaven and earth, for his trampling upon God’s jewels, because a little sullied. God doth unwillingly see the faults of his children, Numbers 6:21 ; Num 6:23 yea, he passeth by their iniquity, transgression, and sin, Micah 7:18 ; with one breath both these are reported: "The high places were not removed, yet nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect," &c. So1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 3:6 ; cf. Genesis 18:12 . Sarah’s whole sentence was vile and profane; not one good word in it, but this, that she called her husband Lord. God of his goodness takes notice of that word, and records it, by St Peter, to her eternal commendation. He spieth out and severeth gold, though but a dram, from a mass of dross; good grain, though but a handful, from a heap of chaff; cuts out that which is perished (as men do out of a rotten apple) and preserves the rest. Be ye therefore followers herein of God, as dear children; and walk in love, &c.,Ephesians 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2 . It thinketh not evil, but "believeth all things, hopeth all things," 1 Corinthians 13:5 ; strains to hold a good opinion where it hath least probability to induce it; rashly rejects none in whom it seeth signs of grace; according to that of our Saviour, "See that ye despise not one of these little ones," neither for error in judgment, Romans 14:3-10 , nor for slips and infirmities in life and conversation, and that because God despiseth them not, but guards them by his angels, and sayeth them by his Son, whom he sent for the purpose, Matthew 18:10-11 ; and1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ; "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God," viz. by your effectual faith, laborious love, patient hope, 1Th 1:3 although they were so compassed with infirmities, as he doubted lest the tempter had tempted them: and his labour had been in vain,1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ; he feared their utter apostasy. So,Hebrews 5:11; Hebrews 5:11 : he could not but be persuaded of them "better things, and such as accompany salvation," though he had justly and sharply reproved them for their dulness of hearing and slowness of proceeding yea, sets before their eyes that terror of the Lord upon apostates, to quicken their pace and excite them to proficiency. "I am black," saith the Church, "but comely as the tents of Kedar as the curtains of Solomon," Song of Solomon 1:5 . The Kedarites dwelt in tents and open fields, where all was exposed to the parching sun in the desert but in Arabia’s deserts, and they were very rich and glorious, see Ezekiel 27:21 ; Jeremiah 49:28 ; Jer 29:1-32 Isaiah 21:13 ; Isa 21:16-17 full of precious gems, gold, and pleasant odours. Arabia looked rudely yet by searching it regularly, there were to be found things of greatest price. So is it with many of God’s people, especially in the scorching heat of temptation, desertion, or outward affliction, &c. He that follows his own conjecture, may condemn a dear child of God, and approve a detestable heretic, as Philip did Simon Magus. If his eyes be too fast fixed either on the saints’ infirmities or the hypocrites’ fair pretences, they may bring forth, as Jacob’s shoe did, spotted fruits.
But considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye ] Most men’s minds are as ill set as the eyes; they can turn neither of them inwards. They tell us of a kind of witches, that stirring abroad would put on their eyes, but returning home, they boxed them up again. e The philosophers call upon us to look to the hinder part of the wallet. And St James saith, "Be not many masters" or teachers: and mark the reason, which he prescribeth as a remedy; "for in many things we sin all," James 3:1-2 . Now those that in the sense of their own sinfulness are poor in spirit, will soon be meek and merciful to their fellow sinners; they that have proved their own works, and found all to be (not good and very good, as God did his, but) naught and stark naught, as the figs in Jeremiah, Jer 24:2 will be content to bear one another’s burdens, and restore such as are overtaken in a fault with the spirit of meekness, considering themselves lest they also be tempted, Galatians 6:1-2 ; Galatians 6:4 . They will be as willing to lend mercy now, as they may have need to borrow mercy another time f And consciousness of their own corruptions will make them compassionate towards others in this kind. The Greek word that signifieth to censure, signifieth also, and in the first place, to be idle. g Whereunto agreeth that of St Paul (speaking of wanton widows), "they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house: and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy bodies, speaking of things that they ought not," 1 Timothy 5:13 . Those that travel not with their own hearts, have both leisure and list to be meddling with others.
a Generaliter significat quod siccum et leve est. Tertullianus stipulam vertit.
b Vituperant homines quam commendant promptius. Plaut.
c Vultures ad male olentla feruntur. Basil.
d Aspidi hebetes oculi dati, eosque non in fronte sed in temporibus habet. Pliny, 16. 14. Non est huic similis malitia, haec habentibus pessima est. Seneca.
e Lamiae apud Plinium.
f Erratis veniam poscenti reddere par est. Hor.
g Αργεω , arguo, proprie ferior, post, reprehendo. Becman.
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Ver. 4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, &c. ] How impudent are hypocritical find faults, that can say such things to others, when themselves are most obnoxious! whence is this, but either from a secret desire of purchasing an opinion of freedom from the faults they so boldly censure in others, or that they may thereby the sooner insinuate and ingratiate with them they deal with? The Vulgate translation reads here Frater sine, &c., a "Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye," &c. "Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross. When he speaketh fair, believe him not; for there are seven abominations in his heart," Proverbs 26:23 ; Proverbs 26:25 ; but there lies a great beam of hypocrisy between him and himself, that he cannot discern them. These are they that by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, as the serpent did Eve. b You would think by their smoothing, soothing honey words, they were wholly set upon seeking your good; when they merely serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies, as those Popish flesh flies. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (fair they are and pleasant, saith the Chaldee here), "but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful," Proverbs 27:6 , as were those of Joab to Amasa, and Judas to Christ. Καταφιλειν non est φιλειν , saith Philo. Love is not always in a kiss; there are those who kiss and kill. David would not taste of their dainties, nor endure that they should pour upon him the sweetest ointments (as at feasts it was the custom among that people, Luk 7:46 ). Indeed, if the righteous smite him, he would take it for a singular courtesy. "Let him reprove me," saith he, "it shall be an excellent oil," and shall soak into me, as soft oil doth into wooden vessels,Proverbs 26:6; Proverbs 26:6 ; Psalms 141:4-5 . It shall not break my head; my heart it may; and so make way for the oil of God’s grace which is not poured save only into broken vessels; for indeed whole vessels are full vessels, and so this precious liquor would run over and be spilt on the ground, as Bernard hath it.
a Frater, quasi fere alter. Gellius xiii. 10.
b Pertinax Imp. vulgo dictus est χρηστολογος , quod blandus esset magis quam benignus. Aurel. Victor.
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Ver. 5. Thou hypocrite ] This is a dull generation, and must be rebuked sharply or cuttingly, that they may be sound in the faith. a And ministers, by our Saviour’s example here, must learn so to instruct as to sharpen and set an edge upon the word, so as it may gore the crusty consciences of their hearers with smarting pain, that they may hear and fear, and God may heal them, Matthew 13:15 . Christ turns himself here to such, and bitterly inveighs against them, as elsewhere likewise he doth, Matthew 17:17 ; Matthew 3:7 ; Matthew 22:18 ; Luk 13:15 but especially Matthew 23:1-39 , of this Gospel, dragging them down to hell by a chain of eight woes, as so many links, and closing up all with that terrible thunderbolt, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnasion of hell?" Matthew 23:33 ; and all to show us how such kind of persons should be handled. As for those that are so proud and passionate that none dare declare their way to their face, God will lay them in the slimy valleys, where are many already like them, and more shall come after them; where hence also they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath,Job 21:30-33; Job 21:30-33 , and, will they nill they, hear Ite, maledicti, Go, ye cursed, &c.
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam, &c. ] St James telleth us that the wisdom from above is first pure and then peaceable, without judging, without hypocrisy. And these two last are set together to teach us that the greatest censurers are commonly the greatest hypocrites, b and as any one is more wise he is more sparing of his censures. Hence also St Peter, after he had said, "Lay aside all malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy," addeth, "and evil speakings;" to note, that censuring and all other evils of the tongue are gendered of any of the afore mentioned. For wicked men are apt to muse as they use; as the envious devil accused God to our first parents of envy; the covetous person thinks all the world to be made of covetousness. Caligula did not believe there was any chaste person upon earth. And Bonner said to Mr Hanks, the martyr, I dare say that Cranmer would recant if he might have his living again: so measuring him by himself. Those that have a blemish in their eye think the sky to be ever cloudy; and such as are troubled with the jaundice see all things yellow. So do those that are overgrown with malice and hypocrisy, think all like themselves. Contrarily, Mary Magdalene thought the gardener should have had as much good will to Christ as she had. Little did Jacob suspect that Rachel had stolen her father’s idols; or the disciples that Judas had harboured such a traitor in his heart, as treason against his Master. They rather suspected every man himself than Judas. And when our Saviour bade him, "What thou doest, do quickly," they thought he had meant of making provision, or giving something to the poor, John 13:26 . Also when the woman poured the precious ointment upon our Saviour, and Judas censured the fact as a waste, though he did it because he was a thief, and cared not a pin for the poor, yet all the disciples approved of what he said, and are therefore made authors of his speech by one of the evangelists; so little did they perceive his craft or his covetousness,Matthew 26:8; Matthew 26:8 . True goodness is not suspicious, censorious, quarrellous. It is for an Esau to complain of his father’s store, -Hast thou but one blessing? of his brother’s subtlety, -Was he not rightly called Jacob? The godly man casts the first stone at himself, and with Jacob cries out, I am not worthy, Lord, the least of thy lovingkindnesses. "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me," &c., 2Sa 24:17 said David, when he was come to himself; who before this, when he had defiled his conscience with the stain and sting of sin, both censured the fact of the cruel rich man (complained about by Nathan) with too much severity, even above the law; and shortly after tortured the miserable Ammonites without all mercy, putting them under saws, harrows, and axes of iron, and making them pass through the brickkiln, &c. This he did before his conscience was awakened out of that dead lethargy (whereinto Satan had cast him) by the trumpet of the law; before he was convinced of sin by the sanctifying Spirit, and purged thereby from those pollutions he had remorselessly wallowed in. But if God will but once more make him hear of joy and gladness, that his broken bones may rejoice; if he will but restore unto him the joy of his salvation, and establish him with his free spirit, then, instead of censuring, and setting against others, he will teach transgressors God’s ways, and sinners shall be converted unto him, Psalms 51:8 ; Psalms 51:12-13 . He will no longer insult, but in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them (as he had done him) repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may awake out of the snare of the devil, who (as the Ammonites were by David) are taken captive by him at his pleasure, 2 Timothy 2:26 ; "Put them in mind," saith Paul, "to speak evil of no man." And why? "For we ourselves also" (even I, Paul, and thou, Titus) "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived," &c.,Titus 3:2-3; Titus 3:2-3 , and have yet still a world of work within doors about the discovering and opposing, the mortifying and mourning over, our own unruly lusts and unchristian practices. A sincere heart is ever most censorious and severe against itself. But it is set here by our Saviour as a visible brand upon the face of the hypocrite, that as he is ever tampering and meddling with other men’s motes, so he never hath either leisure or pleasure to look into his own rotten heart and rebellions courses. Galileo used a telescope to discover mountains in the moon; so do these to find faults in those that are far better than themselves; they can pierce beyond the moon and spy the least mote in the sun, the smallest infirmity in the most glorious saint; yea, some errors and exorbitancies that never had any existence but in their imagination, detesting those sins in others that they flatter in themselves. Utimur perspicillis magis quam speculis, saith Seneca. Men are more apt to use spectacles than lookingglasses; spectacles to behold other men’s faults than lookingglasses to behold their own. But those that would approve themselves no hypocrites must do otherwise.
And then shalt thou see clearly, &c. ] There is in every godly man a holy bashfulness, an ingenuous modesty, that he would be foully ashamed to charge others with those crimes which he should allow in himself. Not so every profligate professor, frontless Pharisee, censorious hypocrite. These think, most likely, to bind up their own bleeding souls with a palliate cure, as they call it, by goring very bloodily into other men’s consciences, whereas they never yet purged their own. Thus dealt the priests and elders with our Saviour, the false apostles with Paul, Porphyry (and others of the same brand) with the primitive Christians, and the Papists with the Waldenses; whose freedom of speech in blaming and reproving the dissolute manners and actions of the clergy ( Effecit ut plures nefariae affingerentur iis opiniones a quibus omnino fuerant alieni, said Girardus) was the cause that they were reported to be Manichees, Catharists, what not? c And yet a certain Dominican was forced to confess that they were good in their lives, true in their speeches, full of brotherly love one towards another, but their faith, saith he, is incorrigible, and as bad as may be. d And why but because they maintained that the pope was Antichrist, that the court of Rome was intolerably corrupted, the clergy debauched, &c. Novum crimen Caie Caesar, &c. Fresh blood, Gaius Caesar. St Paul was become the Galatians’ enemy, because he told them the truth, and so were these, the pontificians. There was found a certain postiller, that meeting with this precious passage in St Augustine, "The whole life of unbelievers is sin; neither is there anything good without the chiefest good;" Crudelis est illa sententia, said he: this is a cruel sentence. e This was a sinful censure, say I, passed by a man that was never truly humbled with the sight and sense of his own wicked and wretched estate by nature and practice; a stranger to himself, and therefore so uncharitable to another. It is not evil to marry, saith one, but good to be wary. So, it is not amiss to reprove an offender, but let a man take heed he hear not, -"Physician, heal thyself. Hypocrite, first pull the beam out of thine own eye." f The apostle, after he had given rules for reproving,Ephesians 5:11-13; Ephesians 5:11-13 , subjoins, Ephesians 5:15 ; "See that ye walk circumspectly," or exactly, that none may justly blame or blemish you with any foul fault. Infirmities are found in the best, and will be, till they come to be "the spirits of just men made perfect," Hebrews 12:23 . And this is a means to make them warn the unruly with more feeling experience and compassion, Hebrews 2:17 . But say they be guilty of gross sins (as these Pharisees), though they should begin at home, and first cast out the beam of their own eye, yet if they speak according to God’s word, and the thing be so indeed, hear them hardly, Matthew 23:2-3 , and mend by them. An angel may speak in an ass, and God by Balaam,Numbers 22:22-28; Numbers 22:22-28 Deuteronomy 13:14 . The words do but pass through him (as when a man speaks through a trunk), they are not polluted by him, because not his.
a Hypocritis nihil stupidius. Titus 1:13 , αποτομως . Metaph. a chirurgis, quos misericordes esse non oportet. Celsus.
b It was said of Antony, he hated a tyrant, not tyranny. It may as truly be said of the hypocrite, he hates sinners, not sins. These he nourisheth, those he censureth. Dike.
c Eiusdem furfuris iisdem quibus Manichaei et Cathari commaculati credebantur erroribus. Ussier.
d In moribus et vita sunt boni veraces in sermone, in caritate fraterna unanimes: sed fides eorum est incorrigibilis et pessima. Jacob Lielensten.
e Omnis vita infldelium peccatum est, et nihil bonum sine aummo bono. Aug. de Vera Innocen. 56.
f Nihil turpius est, dixit non nemo, Peripatetico claudo, Curare debet omni vitio quantum fieri potest, qui in alterum paratus est dicere.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Ver. 6. Give not that which is holy to dogs, &c. ] Having shown how, here our Saviour shows whom a we should admonish. Give not holy things, wholesome counsels or rebukes (called elsewhere "reproofs of life,"Proverbs 15:31; Proverbs 15:31 , precious balms, excellent ointments, which may heal a wound but make none, Psa 141:1 ) to dogs, that will not be taken by the ears; or swine, that if they light upon such a pearl, will only grunt and go their ways. "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers,"Philippians 3:2; Philippians 3:2 , such especially as have wrought so hard, walked so far and so fast, that now they are set down to rest in the seat of the scornful. b Beware of such botches; there is no good to be done upon them, or to be gotten by them, but a great deal of danger. The Cynics admonished all they met; if men would not hearken, they counted it an easy loss to cast away a few words upon them. But our Saviour prescribeth us prudence and caution. He will not have holy speeches spent and spilt upon despisers, his pearls trampled on by swinish epicures. Mourn we may, with Jeremiah, Jer 9:1 for such mad dogs as furiously fly in the face of them that fairly tell them of their faults. Pray we must and pity such sensual swine, such sottish and scurrilous wretches, as grunt against goodness, and feed insatiably upon the garbage of carnal contentments. c As dogs and swine were unclean creatures and unfit for sacrifice, so are those for admonition that would entertain it with cruelty or scurrility. "Speak not in the ears of a fool," saith Solomon, "for he will despise the wisdom of thy words," Proverbs 23:9 . And again, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee," Proverbs 9:8 . David prays for a friendly reprover, Psalms 141:5 . Job cries, Job 13:23 "Make me to know my transgression and my sin." Hezekiah stormed not at that sharp and sad message, Isaiah 39:8 . Jonah, though testy enough, lays his hand upon his mouth, and seals up his prophecy with silence after God’s reprehension. Tacuit virgo licet publice perstricta. The Virgin Mary held her peace,John 2:4; John 2:4 , when her Son took her up so short for her forwardness, before all the company. So did St Peter, when St Paul took him up for halting at Antioch, Galatians 2:14 , and commendeth that epistle wherein St Paul had witnessed that reproof, among the rest,2 Peter 3:16; 2 Peter 3:16 . The two disciples going to Emmaus constrained that stranger that had chided them for their unbelief, to abide and eat with them, Luke 24:29 . And lukewarm Laodicea, so roundly reproved and sorely threatened with shameful spewing out, repented, and was reformed; as some ground and gather from that title our Saviour assumes in the preface to the epistle, "the beginning of the creation of God." Eusebius also testifieth that there was a flourishing Church there in his days. d Next to the not deserving of a reproof, is the well taking of it. No sugar can deprive a pill of its bitterness. None but the gracious can say, "Let the righteous smite me." Bees only pass by roses and violets, and sit upon thyme, which is hot and biting. Most men, when we seek to fetch them out of their sins, to awaken them out of the snare of the devil, they fret and snarl, as those that are wakened out of sleep are apt to do. They snuff and take scorn, are as horse and mule, untameable, untractable; the more you rub their galled backs the more they kick. These stray asses will not be brought home,Exodus 23:4-5; Exodus 23:4-5 . These old bottles will break with such new wine. The more you touch these toads, the more they swell; the more you meddle with these serpents, the more they gather poison to spit at you. Go about to cool them, you shall but add to their heat, as the smith’s forge fries when cold water is cast upon it; and as hot water if stirred casteth up the more fume. Joseph is for his good will in this kind hated of his brethren; Jonathan of Saul, who cast a javelin at him; Micaiah of Ahab, Amos of Amaziah, Jeremiah of his flagitious countrymen, Christ of the Jews, Paul of the Galatians, John Baptist of Herod. If John touch his white sin (and who will stand still to have his eyes picked out?) John must to prison. In other things he will dance after John’s pipe; but if his incest be meddled with, John must hop headless. Stay to wrest that string in tune, and it will snap and break upon you. Now for such scoffing Ishmaels and furious opposites, that refuse to be reformed, hate to be healed, let them read their doom, Psalms 50:21-22 , and see here their destiny. Every good man is bound in conscience to pass by them as incorrigible, irreformable, and not to afford them so much as a pull out of the fire, so much as a caveat to prevent those curses that are coming upon them. But he that is filthy must be filthy still; he must wallow as a swine, and perish in his own corruptions; he must rage as a mad dog, and run into the pit of hell, nobody must offer to stop or stay him in his career.
a Hinc illud monitum, Pythag. σιτιον εις αμισθα μη εμβαλλειν. Plut.
b Psalms 1:1 , εν καθεδρα των λοιμων . Sept.
c χοιρος , of χερας , filth. So porcus; quasi spurcus.
d Post tam gravem επιτιμιαν haud dubie resipuit. Pareus.
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
Ver. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you, &c. ] Whereas it might be objected, -These are hard lessons, neither know we how to quit ourselves in the discharge of them; our Saviour answers, as Isaiah did before him, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near," Isaiah 55:6 ; and as St James adviseth after him, Jam 1:5 "If any man want wisdom, let him ask it of God." "Ask," saith he, "and it shall be given you." Run to the great Doctor of the Church, as Agur did to Ithiel and Ucal, Proverbs 30:1 , and he will teach you; seek his face and favour, and ye shall surely find it; knock at the beautiful gate of heaven with the hand of faith, and it shall open unto you (as the iron gate did to Peter) of its own accord, Acts 12:10 . Elisha’s staff was laid (by his appointment) upon the dead child’s face, but there was neither voice nor hearing. He went therefore himself, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord, 2 Kings 4:31 ; 2 Kings 4:33 . This staff he knew was long enough to reach up to heaven, to knock at those gates, yea, to wrench them open. "Ask, therefore, that your joy may be full." "Hitherto ye have asked me nothing," saith Christ, disliking our dulness to this duty. Quid est cur nihil petis? pete ne privatus de me queraris, said Severus the emperor to his courtiers: What meanest thou to ask nothing of me? Ask, that thou mayest have no cause of complaint against me. And Pope Nicholas V (a great favourer of learning), when he was told of some in Rome that made good verses; "They cannot be good poets," said he, "and I not know them. Why come they not to me, if good, qui poetis etiam malis pateo, who am a friend to poets though not so good?" Christ soliciteth suitors, "and the Father seeketh such to worship him," John 4:23 ; not for anything he gets by it, but merely for our benefit; as the sun draws up vapours from the earth not for itself, but to moisten and fatten the earth therewith. And although he come not ever at first call, yet be not discouraged with silence or sad answers. He is nearest to such suitors as, with Mary, cannot see him for their tears and griefs; if, with her, they continue to seek him in humility; if they rest not rapping and bouncing at his gates, he will open unto them, for their importunity, Luke 18:5-7 . The saints sometimes have present audience, as Eliezer, Genesis 24:15 ; Daniel; Dan 9:23 the disciples, Acts 4:31 ; and Luther, who came leaping out of his closet with Vicimus, Vicimus We conquer, we conquer, in his mouth. But what if they have not? far be it from them to think that God is asleep or gone a journey, as the prophet jeereth at Baal; or that he wanteth ears, as the image of Jupiter did at Crete. ( Cretae Iovis est imago, auribus carens. ) The Creteans have an image of Jupiter without ears. Questionless he that bids us ask, meaneth to give; as when we bid our children say, "I pray you, father, give me such a thing," we do it not but when we mean to give it them. If he defer help let it humble us, as it did David, Psalms 22:2 ; "I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not," &c. "But thou art holy," &c. Others have prayed and sped: "Our fathers trusted in thee, they cried unto thee and were delivered: but I am a worm and no man, yet will I call upon him" (not only in my sinking, but) from the bottom of the deeps. Let it also quicken us to further fervency, as it did St Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:8 , and the Church, Psalms 80:3 ; Psalms 80:7-19 ; never giving over the suit (with the importunate widow, Luk 18:5 ) till we have obtained it. He that prayeth, moveth God, not as an orator moveth hearers, but as a child his father. The end of oratory is to speak persuasively, not always to persuade; but the end of prayer is to prevail and speed; ye which are God’s remembrancers, give him no rest till ye have what ye beg. a Ask, seek, knock; use an unwearied importunity; slip not any opportunity, pray without ceasing, pray continually; set aside all for prayer, wait upon it (as the word signifieth), Colossians 4:2 ; cf. Acts 10:7 . b But must we never leave praying, may some say, till we have our request granted? there are other things to be done. True, and you must give over the words of a prayer for a season, but never the suit of prayer. A beggar, for example, comes to a rich man’s gate, and cries for an alms, but none there answers him. He being a poor man hath something else to do than to beg; and therefore he sits him down and knits or knocks, or patches, &c., and between the times, begs and works, works and begs. So should we, follow our necessary business, and yet continue our suit for grace. And the rather because beggars hold out to ask, where yet they have no promise it shall be given them; nay, when (many times) they are frowned upon, threatened, punished for begging. And whereas beggars come no nearer the house than the porch or entry, and so know not whether the master of the house be providing for them an alms or a cudgel. All God’s petitioners, that call upon him in truth, are admitted into the parlour, as I may so say, into God’s special presence. "An hypocrite shall not come before him," Job 13:16 ; "but the upright shall dwell in his presence," Psalms 140:13 ; "He hideth not his face from such, but when they cry he heareth," Psalms 22:24 .
And it shall be given you ] It is not said what shall be given, because the gift is above all name, saith Austin. Like as Amos 4:12 ; "Thus will I do unto thee:" thus? how? Non nominat mala, ut omnia timeant, saith Ribera out of Jerome. No evil is named, that they may fear all.
a Isaiah 62:7 . It shows instantissimam necessitatem. Aug.
b τη προσευχη προσκαρτερειτε , Colossians 4:2 ; Romans 12:12 .
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Ver. 8. For every one that asketh receiveth, &c. ] And he is worthily miserable that will not be happy for asking. "Prayer," saith Lambert the martyr, "is in Scripture much commended, and many great and unmeasurable benefits are shown to ensue thereupon, that men should the more lustily give themselves thereunto." Thus Jacob wrestling with God, both by might and slight (as the word אבק signifieth), both by the strength of his body and force of his faith, he grounded his prayer upon God’s gracious promise, which he rolls as sugar in his mouth, and repeats it again and again, Genesis 32:9 ; Genesis 32:12 . See the same course taken, 2 Samuel 7:25 ; 1 Kings 8:25 , &c.; Daniel 9:2-3 Psa 12:5-7 Acts 4:25 , &c. Cast anchor of hope in the darkest desertion, wait for day, and pray, as those in the shipwreck,Acts 27:33-44; Acts 27:33-44 , pleading that precious promise, Isaiah 50:10 . This help if we use not, we shall either pray coldly, offer incense without fire; or as the Pharisees, proudly; or as the Thessalonians, as men without hope; which is to deny our own prayers. He cannot possibly be poor that can pray in faith, because God is rich to all such,Romans 10:12; Romans 10:12 , and giveth richly ( πλουσιως ) to such as so ask,James 1:5; James 1:5 . Never did the hand of faith knock in vain at God’s gate. The Aediles (or chamberlains) among the Romans had ever their doors standing open, for all that had occasion of request or complaint to have free access to them. God’s mercy doors are wide open to the prayers of his faithful people. The Persian kings held it a piece of their silly glory to deny an easy access to their greatest subjects. It was death to solicit them uncalled. Esther herself was afraid. But the King of heaven manifesteth himself to his people, John 14:21 , calls to his spouse with, "Let me see thy face, let me hear thy voice," Song of Solomon 2:14 ; and assigneth her negligence herein as the cause of her soul sickness. The door of the tabernacle was not of any hard or debarring matter, but a veil, which is easily penetrable. And whereas in the temple none came near to worship but only the high priests, others stood without in the outer court; God’s people are now a kingdom of priests, and are said to worship in the temple and at the altar, Revelation 11:1 ; "Let us therefore draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith;" "let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,"Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 10:22 ; Hebrews 4:16 .
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Ver. 9,10. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, &c. ] By an argument from the less to the greater. Our Saviour sweetly confirmeth what he had said, that we may "ask in faith, nothing wavering," or being at an uncertainty, or at variance with himself, doubting whether he should believe or not. a This is no less unpleasing to God than unprofitable to us. God is the Father of all mercies, and loveth his far more than any natural father doth his own child; than Abraham did Isaac, or David Absalom. And according to his affections such are his expressions; for as he knoweth their needs, so he gives them all things richly to enjoy, 1 Timothy 6:18 . He giveth them not as he doth the wicked, panem lapidosum, a stone for bread; he feeds them not (as we say) with a bit and a knock. b He puts not into their hands αντι περκης σκορπιον (as the Greek proverb hath it, whereunto our Saviour here alludeth), for a fish a scorpion; no, he feeds them with the finest wheat, Psalms 81:16 ; "and filleth them with fat things full of marrow," Isaiah 25:6 . He nourisheth them with the best, as Joseph did his father’s household in Egypt, according to the mouth of the little ones, or as so many little ones (saith the original), c tenderly and lovingly, without their care or labour. And whereas some natural parents have (monstrously) proven to be unnatural, Psalms 27:10 ; as Saul to Jonathan, and those αστοργοι , Romans 1:31 ; not so God: as himself is an everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6 , so is his love, Isaiah 49:14 ; John 13:1 . Men may hate their children whom they loved, but he "rests in his love," Zephaniah 3:17 ; they may cast out their babes, but he gathers them. Father Abraham may forget us and Israel disown us, Isaiah 63:16 ; "but thou, O Lord, art our never failing Father, our Redeemer," &c. The fathers and governors of the Church may (out of an overflow of their misguided zeal) cast us out, and for a pretence say, "Let the Lord be glorified. But then shall he appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed," Isaiah 66:5 . The fathers of our flesh chasten their children after their own pleasure, but "he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness," Hebrews 12:10 . He feeds his people sometimes with "the bread of adversity and the water of affliction," Jeremiah 30:20 ; or gives them (as it were) a thump on the back with a stone to drive them downwards, and makes them eat ashes for bread, as David, Psalms 102:9 ; their bread with quaking, as Ezekiel did; Eze 12:18 holds them to hard meat (some of the martyrs were fed with bread made, most part, with sawdust, and Ezekiel with bread prepared with cow dung, Eze 4:15 ). He chasteneth them also otherwise, not only with the rods of men, but with the severe discipline of scorpions, and this "seemeth not for the present to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are thereby exercised," Hebrews 12:11 . They shall sit down with Abraham, yea, in Abraham’s bosom (as they used to lean at feasts), in the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 8:11 ; and shall have (not a Benjamin’s mess only, but) a royal diet, as Jeconiah had, every day a portion, Jeremiah 52:34 . Then shall the Lord stand forth and say to those men of his hand, who had their portion here, and whose bellies he filled with his hidden treasure (the innkeeper gives the best bits to his guests, but reserves the patrimony for his children), "Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry," &c.,Isaiah 65:13; Isaiah 65:13 .
a James 1:6 , διακρονομενος . Alternantibus sententiis secum disceptans. Budaeus.
b Altera manu fert lapidem, altera panem ostentat. Plaut.
c Genesis 47:12 . εσιτομετρει , say the Septuagint; whereunto our Saviour seems to allude, Luke 12:42 .
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
Ver. 10. See Trapp on " Mat 7:9 "
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Ver. 11. If ye then being evil ] Even ye my disciples also; for by nature there is never a better of us. But as the historian said that there were many Marii in one Caesar, so there are many Cains and Judases in the best of us all. Homo est inversus decalogus, saith one: whole evil is in man, and whole man in evil; yea, in the devil, whose works (even in the best of his saints) Christ came to destroy, to dissolve the old frame, and to drive out the prince of darkness, who hath there intrenched himself. And although sin in the saints hath received its death’s wound, yet there are still in the best continual stirrings and spruntings thereof (as in dying creatures it useth to be), which (without God’s greater grace, and the counter motion of the Holy Spirit within them) would certainly produce most shameful evils. This put St Paul to that pitiful outcry, Romans 7:24 , and made him exhort Timothy (though he were a young man rarely mortified) to exhort the younger women with all pureness, or chastity; intimating, that through the corruption of his nature, even while he was exhorting them to chastity, some unchaste motions might steal upon him unawares. a A tree may have withered branches by reason of some deadly blow given to the root, and yet there may remain some sap within, which will bud and blossom forth again. Or as of some wild fig tree, saith a Father, that grows in the walls of a goodly building, and hides the beauty of it, the boughs and branches may be cut or broken off, but the root, which is wrapped into the stones of the building, cannot be taken away till the wall be thrown down and the stones cast one from another. So sin that dwelleth in us hath its roots so inwrapped and intertwined in our natures, that it can never be utterly extirpated; but pride will bud,Ezekiel 7:10; Ezekiel 7:10 , and the fruits of the flesh will be manifest,Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:19 , though we be daily lopping off the branches, and labouring also at the root. Sin is an inmate that will not leave, do what we can, till the house fall upon the head of it; a hereditary disease, and that which is bred in the bone, will never leave the flesh; a pestilent hydra, somewhat akin to those beasts in Daniel, that had "their dominion taken away, yet were their lives prolonged for a time and a season," Daniel 7:12 .
How much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things ] Give the Holy Spirit, saith St Luke; Luk 11:13 for nihil bonum sine summo bone, saith St Austin; when God gives his Spirit, he gives all good things, and that which is more than all besides. For it is a spirit of judgment and of burning, of grace and of deprecation, of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord, of strength and of might, enabling both to resist evil of sin, and to endure evil of sorrow,Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 4:4 ; Isaiah 11:2 ; Zechariah 12:10 . And for good things, temporal, to trample on them; spiritual, to reach after them. It is a free spirit, setting a man at liberty from the tyranny of sin and terror of wrath, 2 Corinthians 3:17 ; and oiling his joints, that he may be active and abundant in the Lord’s work. This Holy Spirit is signified by those two golden pipes, Zechariah 4:12 , through which the two olive branches, the ordinances, empty out of themselves the golden oils of all precious graces into the candlestick, the Church. And how great a favour it is to have the Holy Spirit our inhabitant, seeJoel 2:28-29; Joel 2:28-29 , where, after God had promised the former and latter rain, floors full of wheat, and vats full of wine and oil, a confidence of all outward comforts and contentments; he adds this as more than all the rest, "I will also pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,"Joel 2:23; Joel 2:23 ; Joel 2:28 . He will pour out, not drop down only sparingly and pinchingly, as some penny father, but pour out like a liberal householder, as it were, by pails or bucketfuls. And what? my Spirit, that noble Spirit, as David calleth it, that Comforter, Counsellor, conduct into the land of the living. And upon whom? upon all flesh: spirit upon flesh, so brave a thing upon so base a subject. b Next to the love of Christ indwelling in our nature, we may well wonder at the love of the Holy Ghost that will dwell in our defiled souls; that this Spirit of glory and of God, 1 Peter 4:14 , will deign to rest upon us, as the cloud did upon the tabernacle. How glad was Lot of the angels, Micah of the Levite, Elisabeth of the mother of her Lord, Lydia of Paul, Zaccheus of Christ, Obededom of the ark! And shall not we be as joyful and thankful for the Holy Spirit, whereby we are sealed (as merchants set their seals upon their wares) until the day of redemption? Ephesians 4:30 . If David for outward benefits brake out into, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"Psalms 8:4; Psalms 8:4 ; and Job Job 7:17 for fatherly chastisements, "What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him?" &c., how should this best gift of his Holy Spirit affect and ravish us! since thereby all mercies are seasoned and all crosses sanctified; neither can any man say (experimentally and savingly), "that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," 1 Corinthians 12:3 .
Give good things to them that ask him ] sc. If they ask in faith, bring honest hearts, and lawful petitions, and can wait God’s leisure. Let none say here, as the prophet in another case, "I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought," Isaiah 49:4 ; I have prayed and sped not, the more I pray the worse it is with me. "The manner of our usage here in prison doth change" (saith Bishop Ridley in a letter to Bradford) "as sour ale doth in summer;" and yet who doubts but they prayed earn and earnestly, when they were in Bocardo, that college of Quondams, when those bishops were there prisoners? God is neither unmindful nor unfaithful, but waits the fittest time to show mercy, and will surely "avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them,"Luke 18:7; Luke 18:7 . The seed must have a time to grow downward before it grows upward. And as that seed which is longest covered riseth the first, with most increase; so those prayers which seem lost, are laid up in heaven, and will prove the surest grain. The more we sow of them into God’s bosom, the more fruit and comfort we shall reap and receive in our greatest need.
a εν παση αγνεια , 1Ti 5:2
b Psalms 51:12 , Opponitur carni spiritus, i.e. res praestantissima rei plane fragili et caducae: quam tamen Dominus dignetur excellenti spiritus sui munere. Beza.
12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Ver. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would, &c. ] q.d. To wind up all in a word (for it would be too tedious to set down each particular duty), let this serve for a general rule of direction in common conversation, and mutual interdealings one with another: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the royal law, the standard of all equity in this kind, a sealed weight and rule, according to which we must converse with all men. Severus the emperor had this sentence of our Saviour often in his mouth; and commanded it to be proclaimed by the crier, whensoever he punished such of his soldiers as had offered injury to others. For there is no doubt (saith Mr Calvin upon this text) but that perfect right should rule among us, were we but as faithful disciples of active charity (if we may so speak) as we are acute doctors of passive charity did we but love our neighbour as ourself. Charity (it is true) begins at home in regard of order, but not in regard of time; for so soon as thou beginnest to love thyself, thou must love thy neighbour as thyself; neither may any man at any time hide his eyes from his own flesh, that is, from his neighbour of the same stock with himself, Isaiah 58:3 .
For this is the law and the prophets ] i.e. This is as much as either of them have said touching love to our neighbour. Yea, this is the sum of all that Christ and the apostles have spoken of it; for love (that seeketh not her own things, 1Co 13:5 ) is both the complement of the law and the supplement of the gospel, Romans 13:8 ; Romans 13:10 Galatians 5:14 ; John 15:12 ; Matthew 7:14 , Christ maketh love to our brethren the same with keeping the commandments. So Acts 15:20 . St James in that sacred synod gives this suffrage, to lay upon the believing Gentiles no greater burden than these necessary things; "that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, from things strangled, and from blood;" and in certain ancient manuscripts, as also by Irenaeus and Cyprian, it is added, And what thing soever ye would not that others should do to you, that ye do not the same to them. a Timothy naturally cared for the Philippians ( γνησιως ), which was rare, Philippians 2:20 ; Philippians 2:22 . So should all Christians one for another, Galatians 5:13 ; 1 Corinthians 10:24 ; Romans 15:1-2 . Self-lovers begin the black bead role,2 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:2 .
a Και οσα μη Θελωσιν αυτοις γινεσθαι, ετεροις μη πονειν . Beza.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Ver. 13. Enter ye in at the strait gate ] Our Saviour having hitherto pointed out the right way of well doing, and showed how to steer a straight course to the haven of happiness; now gives warning of certain dangerous rocks (against the which divers have dashed, to their utter destruction, and are therefore) carefully to be declined. Of these, the first he nameth is, the following of a multitude to do evil, the joining hand in hand with the rude rabble that are running apace toward the pit of perdition, which is but a little before them; the doing as most men do, which is to be utterly undone for ever. a The wicked (though never so many of them) go down to hell, and whole nations that forget God, Psalms 9:17 . Hence the gate thereto is grown so wide, and the way so well beaten. But none that go that way return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. "Enter therefore in at the strait gate," saith our Saviour. b Vive ut pauci, &c. Live as those few live that enter into life eternal, saith Cassianus; for if you will needs imitate the multitude, saith Austin, ye shall not be numbered among the living in Jerusalem, Isaiah 4:3-4 "Save yourselves from this untoward generation," saith St Peter; shine amidst them as lamps, saith St Paul, as Abraham’s lamp that shone out in the smoky furnace; as the wise men’s star, that showed itself in the midst of darkness; like the moon that holds on her course, though the dogs bark at her never so long, never so loud; like the sun that rejoiceth as a bridegroom to run his race, though the Atlantes (a certain people) curse him at his rising, because scorched with his heat; or rather like God himself, who then doth his best works when men are worst, overcoming our evil with his good, and not suffering men’s perverseness to interrupt the course of his goodness. Swim not down the stream of the times as dead fishes do; neither be carried along by the swing and sway of the place you dwell in. c Let not your lips be polluted by living among a people of polluted lips with Isaiah, swear not with Joseph, curse not with Peter, comply not with the common sort, learn not the manners of the mad multitude. d The worse they are, the better be you; the more outrageous they, the more courageous you, violent for heaven, and valiant for the truth; therefore walking exactly, and therefore "redeeming the time, because the days are evil," and most men walk at all adventures. To walk with God (saith Bishop Babington) is a precious praise, though none do it but myself; and to walk with man, with the world, with a town or parish, in wicked ways, is a deadly sin, though millions do it besides. And it matters not (saith Nicholas, Bishop of Rome) how small the number be, if godly, nor how great, if ungodly. e Noah condemned a world of wicked people by his contrary courses, "and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith," Hebrews 11:7 , while he continued righteous, even in his generation, and kept himself unspotted in so foul a season. The apostle telleth us that to live according to the common course of the world is no better than to be acted and agitated by the devil, Ephesians 2:2 . But God hath promised to take this unclean spirit out of the land,Zechariah 13:2; Zechariah 13:2 . Fiat, Fiat. Do it, Do it. And when Christ bids us enter in at the strait gate, we must know that his words are operative, to cause us to enter, as when he said, "Lazarus, come forth," and in the creation, "Let there be light." His word and Spirit go together. He works all our works for us, Isa 26:20-21
For wide is the gate ] It may fitly be called the dismal gate, as that porta scelerata gate of wickedness, in Rome, so named because 300 gentlemen going out thereby to fight with some neighbouring enemies, perished.
And broad is the way, &c. ] A dolorous way, as that way is at this day called, whereby our Saviour went bearing his cross to Calvary.
a Infernus ab inferendo dicitur, quia ita inferuntur et praecipitantur, ut nunquam ascensuri sint.
b Per viam publicam ne ingredere. Pythag. Si turbam imitari volueritis, inter paucos angustam viam ambulantes non eritis. Aug.
c Argumentum turpissimum est turba. Seneca.
d Isaiah 6:5 . Τι ως ζωντες εν κοσμω, δογματιζεσθε , Colossians 2:20 .
e Numerus, pusillus non obest, ubi abundat pietas, nec multiplex prodest, ubi abundat impietas.
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Ver. 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, &c. ] "In Lollards’ tower, passing through six or seven doors I came to my lodging" (saith Philpot, martyr) "through many straits; where I called to remembrance, that strait is the way to heaven." The old copies read, Oh, how strait is the gate! by way of admiration, q.d. It is wondrous strait. a Not of itself, for Christ’s yoke is easy, and his burden light; but we make it so hard and heavy to ourselves, by our singular peevishness and perverseness. Besides, the prince of darkness and his black guard favour this way, that is called holy, as little as the Philistine princes did David, yea, they persecute it to the death as Saul did, Acts 9:1-2 . Hence the way to heaven is an afflicted way, a perplexed, persecuted way, crushed close together with crosses (as the word importeth), b as was the Israelites’ way in the wilderness, or that of Jonathan and his armourbearer, that had a sharp rock on the one side and a sharp rock on the other. And, while they crept upon all fours, flinty stones were under them, briers and thorns on either hand of them, mountains, crags, and promontories over them, sic petitur coelum, so heaven is caught, by pains, by patience, by violence, affliction being our inseparable companion. "The crossway is the highway to heaven," said that martyr. And another, "If there be any way to heaven on horseback, it is by the cross." Queen Elizabeth is said to have swum to the crown through a sea of sorrows. They that will to heaven must sail by hell’s gates. They that will have knighthood, must kneel for it; and they that will get in at the strait gate, must crowd for it. "Strive to enter iu at the strait gate," saith our Saviour. Strive and strain even to an agony (as the word signifieth). Heaven is compared to a hill, Psalms 121:1 ; hell to a hole. To hell a man may go without a staff (as we say), the way thereto is easy, steep, strewed with roses. c It is but a yielding to Satan, a passing from sin to sin, from evil purposes to evil practices, from practice to custom, &c. Sed revocare gradum, but to turn short again, and make strait steps to our feet, that we may force through this strait gate (so strait, that as few can walk in it, so none can halt in it, but must needs go upright), hic labor, hoc opus est, onus non pulvinaris sed pulveris, this is a work of great pains, a duty of no small difficulty. "Many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter," but seeking serves not turn. Men must strive, and strive lawfully, run, and run lustily, tug and take pains till they sweat and faint, to get through this strait gate, this perplexed way; as unpleasant to nature as the way to Nineveh was to Jonah; as rough and rugged as that was to the Church, Hosea 2:6 ; as little traced and trod as the highways to Sion hill, which were overgrown with grass, because few or none came to the solemn feasts, Lamentations 1:4 .
And few there be that find it ] So hard is it to hit, and as dangerous to miss. Many byways there are (these are so many highways to hell), besides false guides and steep declines not a few, to divert us: the devil with his false directions leading men hoodwinked to hell, as Elijah did the Syrians to Samaria. The world with its allurements and affrightments, -oh, how hardly scape we through the corruptions that are in the world through lust! d Our own hearts, how heavy are they to be drawn this way! A bear comes not unwillingly to the stake. It goes hard with a man when he must peremptorily deny himself; when he must deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, as dear unto him as himself, and be tied to live holily, righteously, and soberly in this present world, Titus 2:12 ; making conscience of those duties which the most men’s hearts rise at, as to be hot in religion, fervent in spirit, precise in his whole course, conscientious and cautious of the least sin, &c. Heaven is a stately palace with a narrow portal, hence so few enter it. The proud man with his high looks cannot stoop to it. The ambitious with his aspiring thoughts cannot bend to it. The malicious is swollen too big for it. The covetous with his load of thick clay cannot get through it. The drunkard with his rotten lungs, the adulterer with his wasted loins, can have no admittance into it. There can in no wise enter anything filthy or loathsome, abominable or detestable, which a man would abhor for the ill-savour (as the word signifieth, Rev 21:27 ), e such as for the baseness thereof cannot be well named, it is so noisome to the senses. As soon may these men find fishes swimming in a wood, fruit trees growing in the sea, heaven in hell, as enter into the strait gate, not living strictly. Which because few can frame to, but deride those that do (counting and calling them, as the Spaniards are said to do the Portugals, poco y locos, few and foolish), therefore few are saved. Our Saviour calleth his flock a "little little flock," two diminutives,Luke 12:32; Luke 12:32 , standing (as that small army of Israel in Ahab’s time) "like two little flocks of kids," 1 Kings 20:27 , when the wicked (as those Syrians then) fill the country. Was it not so, when Jerome complained that the whole world was turned Arian, f and Basil cried out, An Ecclesias suas prorsus dereliquit Dominus? Hath God utterly forsaken his Church? &c. "The love of many shall wax cold, but he that endureth to the end," &c. It is but a "he," in the singular, that endureth to the end, the "many" fall away from their former steadfastness.
a Τι στενη , i.e. Βαβαι , saith Theophylact; לא saith the Syriac. Non quia dura, sed quia molles patimur.
b Τεθλιμμενη , pressa: res enim compressione fiunt aretiores. Beza. Manibus pedibusque obnixe omnia facere. Terent.
c ολιγη οδος, μαλα δ εγγυθι ναιει . Hes.
d Irritamenta, terriculamenta,2 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:7 .
e Βδελυγμα quod, propter foeditatem, nemo non aversatur. Βδεω , pedo.
f Ingemuit orbis, et miratus est se subito factum esse Arianum. Jerome.
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ver. 15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you, &c. ] This is another dangerous rock, that the less careful may easily split against. Take heed, therefore, lest while ye shun a shelf ye fall not into a whirlpool. By corrupt teachers Satan catcheth men, as a cunning fisher by one fish catcheth another, that he may feed upon both. He circuiteth the world, seeketh whom to devour, and usually beginneth with violence and cruelty. If this take not, then he puts off the frock of a wolf, and makes his next encounter in sheep’s clothing. Now what havoc he hath made by this means of silly souls laden with lusts, who knows not? The old Church was pestered with false prophets,Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 13:1 ; 2 Peter 2:1 . There were false prophets among the people, and there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, and many shall follow their pernicious ways. This was Peter’s prophecy; and Paul saith the same, Acts 20:30 : Grievous wolves shall enter in among you (in sheep’s clothing you must think), speaking perverse things (while they pervert the Scriptures to the defence of their own devices), to draw away ( αποσπαν ) disciples after them. The word signifieth to pull them limb meal, as wolves use to do the sheep they seize upon. A like expression there is, Deuteronomy 13:13 , where these naughty men are said to thrust or drive away folk from the true God, as Jeroboam is said to have driven Israel from following the Lord, 2 Kings 17:21 . This they do, not so much by cruelty as by craft, by force as by fraud; "deceitful workers," St Paul calls them, "transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ," and ministers of righteousness, "and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" and overly credulous,2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:13 ; Romans 16:18 . This they have learned of the devil, that grand magician, who can soon transform himself into an angel of light. St John in his First Epistle tells us of many petty antichrists, even then gone out, 1 John 4:1 , who professing Christ’s name did yet oppose his truth. And in his Revelation, that the beast, which is the great antichrist, hath two horns like the lamb’s, but speaks like the dragon, Revelation 13:11 . The locusts also, which are his limbs and agents, have faces like women, insinuative and flattering. Tertullian tells us that the Valentinian heretics had a trick to persuade before they taught, whereas the truth persuadeth by teaching, doth not teach by persuading. And how much hurt Julian the Apostate did by this art in the Church of God is better known than that I need here to relate it. a It was not therefore without good ground of reason that Placilla the empress, when Theodosius senior desired to confer with Eumonius the heretic, dissuaded her husband very earnestly; lest being perverted by his speeches, he might fall into heresy. She knew their cunning, and, as it were, cheaping at dice,Ephesians 4:14; Ephesians 4:14 , where the apostle compareth seducers to cheaters and false gamesters, who have a device, by cheating at dice, to deceive the unskilful; and further telleth us, that they are wittily wicked by methods and crafty conveyances, winding up and down, and turning every way, to get the greatest advantage. b Neither was that good empress ignorant how catching we are this way, and inclinable to the worse side. As the Israelites soon forgot their God, and called for a calf, as the ten tribes were easily prevailed with to go after the two golden calves, and as the whole world wondered and wandered after the beast. This to prevent, as much as may be, God in delivering the law is most large in the second and fourth commandments, which we are most apt to transgress; that by superstition, this by profaneness.
a Abduxit a fide plures Iuliani versutia, quam antecedentium omnium Ethnicorum praeceps saevitia.
b εν τη κυβεια , Quod verbum ductum est a lusu tesserarum. Erasm. την μεθοδειαν της πλανης , Ibid. Ingeniosi sunt methodici.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Ver. 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits ] That is, chiefly by their doctrines, which tend either to the infecting of the judgment with error or tainting of the life with uncleanness, or both; and commonly both, as those ancient heretics, whose pernicious, or, as other copies read, lascivious, ways many followed; by reason of whom the way of truth was evil spoken of ( ταις ασελγειαις ), 2 Peter 2:2 . St Austin observeth, that in the loose and lascivious heretics, many foul mouthed men met with matter of blaspheming the name of Christ, because they also would needs be held Christians. And Epiphanius adds, that for their sakes many heathens would not so much as have any conversation with Christians, or hear them speak. a Who hath not heard what a stumblingblock and obstacle to the conversion of the Jews, is the idolatry of the Papists and the blasphemies of other Christians? By their fruits they know such persons not to be of God, as their predecessors argued of our Saviour: "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day," John 9:16 . The proposition here was sound, had they not mistook themselves in the assumption, "He that keepeth not the sabbath is not of God." We may also safely reason in like sort. Such and such deny or question principles, as the Anti-trinitarians, Arians, Eutychians, and others not a few in the primitive Church, so pestered with arch-heretics, that it was then, as Erasmus hath it, a noble thing to be a Christian. Had these been of God, they would have hearkened to his word, John 8:47 , which is plain in principles, and commandeth to hate false heterodox opinions, Psalms 119:104 , and those that broach them, buzzing doubts in men’s heads, Romans 16:17 ; John 10:5 . That heretic confuted by Junius took an ungainly course for his own satisfaction, who confessed that he had spent two-and-twenty years in trying religions. He had been with Jews, Arians, Mahometans, and such sects; that at length he might find truth among them, which is, as he saith, Viam per avia quaerere, to seek truth by wandering through all sorts of errors. b But truth, 1. is divine, grounded upon the Scriptures; wherein we have a most sure word, as Peter hath it; and self-sufficient, saith Paul, for instruction in righteousness, to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. So that it is impossible God’s elect should be finally deceived,2 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 1:19 ; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ; though for a time they may be fearfully miscarried, as the young prophet was by the old Bethelite. and Barnabas by Peter, because they are all taught of God,Isaiah 30:21; Isaiah 30:21 ; they have an unction within them, Matthew 24:24 , the Holy Ghost that enlighteneth both the organ and the object, John 7:17 ; John 2:20 ; Job 22:28 ; and so teacheth them all things, that they understand the Scriptures, and grow to a certainty, Psalms 19:7 ; Proverbs 1:4 . All Christ’s sheep are rational, and will not follow a stranger, John 10:5 ; though they are simple to evil, yet they are wise to that which is good. If they be of any standing, and worth their years, as we say, they have a full assurance of understanding,Colossians 2:2; Colossians 2:2 ; Colossians 2:7 , and they are rooted and established in the faith, and in the present truth,2 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:12 . So that, though man or angel should object against it, yet they would not yield to him,Galatians 1:8-9; Galatians 1:8-9 . For he that is spiritual discerneth all things, as having the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16 ; a spirit of discerning, and senses exercised to differentiate good from evil,Hebrews 5:14; Hebrews 5:14 ; being able to give a reason of that he believeth, 1 Peter 3:15 , to perform a reasonable service, even the obedience of faith, Romans 12:1 ; Romans 16:26 ; whence floweth and followeth rest to his soul, Jeremiah 6:16 , and abundant consolation, Colossians 2:2 . Say he cannot answer all the cavils of an adversary, yet he can hold the conclusion; and though he cannot dispute, yet he can die, as that martyr said, in defence of the truth, whereof he is fully persuaded in his own mind,Romans 14:5; Romans 14:5 , bottomed upon Scriptures, and ballasted therewith, as St Ambrose saith the bee is with a little stone, that she be not blown away with the wind. c Secondly, truth is single, one and the same, at agreement with itself. But error is manifold, dissonant, and contradictory to itself. How often doth Bellarmine deny that in one place that he had affirmed in another! That the Scripture is the very word of God, saith he, can by no means be assured out of Scripture. But in another discourse, forgetting what he had said, he affirmeth, that among other arguments of the divinity of the Scriptures, there is sufficient proof to be had out of the Scriptures themselves. So he cannot bethink himself, if you will believe him, where in all holy writ there is any promise made of pardon of sins to such as confess them to God. d Again, he teacheth that the substance of the bread in the sacrament is not turned into the substance of Christ’s body productive, as one thing is made of another; but that the bread goes away, and Christ’s body cometh into the room of it adductive, as one thing succeeds into the place of another, the first being voided. And this, saith he, is the opinion of the Church of Rome, himself being reader of controversies at Rome. But Suarez, reader at Salamanca in Spain, confutes Bellarmine’s opinion, terming it translocation, not transubstantiation; and saith it is not the Church’s opinion. So the greatest Popish clerks cannot determine how the saints know our hearts and prayers; whether by hearing, or seeing, or presence everywhere, or by God’s relating or revealing men’s prayers and need unto them. All which ways some of them hold as possible or probable, and others deny them, and confute them as untrue. Thus these great master builders are confounded in their language, and thus hard it is to know what the Church malignant holdeth; her own dearest and learnedest sons know not, God having delivered them up to the efficacy of error, which frets as a gangrene, and spreads as leaven, scouring the whole lump,2 Thessalonians 2:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ; 2 Timothy 2:17 . Look how the heathens were at a mere uncertainty in their opinions and devotions; as the mariners in Jonah prayed to their several gods, and bade him do likewise. Others of them usually closed up their prayers with Diique, Deaeque, omnes, All gods and goddesses, lest haply they might mistake in any one. So are heretics. Having once stepped over the pale of truth, they know not where or when they shall stop or stay, but run on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:13 . Bertius and Barret, of Aminians became professed Papists; which differ no more, saith a learned man, than the Stoics of old did from the Cynics, by the wearing of their cloaks only. If the Lutherans admit to universal grace, the Huberians will thereupon bring in universal election, the Puccians natural faith, the Naturalists (as that Cistercian monster lately imprisoned at London did) will explode Christ and the Scriptures. A pestilent sect there was not long since in Arragon, whose founders were a hypocritical crew of their priests, who affecting in themselves and their followers a certain angelic purity, fell suddenly to the very counterpoint of justifying bestiality. These called themselves illuminati, as if they only had been in the light, and all the world besides in darkness. So besides the Gnostics, who held themselves to be the only knowing men, the Manichees derived their name of manna, because that whatsoever they taught was to be taken as food from heaven. Irenaeus tells us of some that counted their own writings to be gospels. And the family of love set out their Evangelium regni, Gospel of the kingdom. e Anabaptists brag much of their enthusiasms; and the Jesuits vaunt that the Church is the soul of the world, the clergy of the Church, and they of clergy; and yet for their wickedness, though a man, saith one, should declaim against them, till all the sand of the sea had run through his hour glass, he could not possibly want matter. Can there any grapes be gathered of these thorns, any figs of these thistles? f Our Saviour makes use of these common proverbs to prove that this is so plain a truth, that none can be ignorant of it, if he have but his eyes in his head, or do not wink wilfully, as those qui ut liberius peccent, libenter ignorant, who are willingly ignorant, that they may sin without control.
a Ne accedunt quidem nos ad communionem accipiendae doctrinae-nec aures admovent. Epiphanius.
b Mihi certe Auxentius nunquam aliud quam diabolus erit, quia Arianus, ait Hiliarius: qui etiam vocavit Constantium, Antichristum.
c Aeris motus suspectos habet et lapillis saepe sublatis per inania se librat nubila; ne leve alarum remigium praecipitent flabra ventorum. Ambr.
d Praeter argumenta alia, etiam habetur ex Seriptura ipsa. Promissio de remittendis peccatis eis qui confitentur Deo non videtur ulla extare in divinis literis. Bellarm. de Justif.
e Dixerunt in Anabaptistarum Ecclesia nullum impium inveniri, omnes sanctos esse. Scultet. Annul.
f The French have a berry which they name Uve de spine, the grape of a thorn. But this was a rare commodity. Ber.
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Ver. 17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ] i.e. All sound doctrine tends to good life, and rotten opinions to wretched practices. As, besides the old heretics, we see in the Papists (their priests especially), of whom the Lord Audely (Chancellor of England in King Henry VIII’s time) said to thirteen Calais men, prisoners for religion whom he discharged: "For God’s sake, sirs, beware how you deal with Popish priests; for I assure you, some of them be knaves all." a After the 1000th year of Christ, there was nowhere less piety than in those that dwelt nearest to Rome, as Machiavel himself observed, who yet was himself none of the best, as is well known; for he proposeth Caesar Borgia (notwithstanding all his villanies) as the only example for a prince to imitate. The Romish Pharisees, like the devils, are then thought to do well, when they cease to do hurt, saith Joannes Sarisburiensis. In popes (saith Papirius Massonius, a Papish writer, speaking of those popes that lived in the time of the Trent Council) no man today requireth holiness. They are thought to be very good, if not extreme evil; or anything better than the worse use to he. b The see of Rome, saith another, hath not merited lately to be ruled by any better than reprobates. Various popes have been necromancers, atheists, epicures, monsters, as Benno Cardinalis describes Hildebrand, c and Luitprandus reports of John XII, that he ordained priests in a stable among his horses, that he went in to his father’s concubines, that he drank a health to the devil, &c. Benedict XII had this epitaph set over him,
" Hic situs est Nero, laicis more, vipera clero;
Devius a vero, turba repleta mero. "
I am not ignorant what is the common putoff of Papists, when urged with these and the like histories; viz. Luitprandi illud non est, sed Anonymi cuiusdam, qui hoc historiae ipsius appenderit: Luitprandus never wrote any such thing, but some other nameless author, that hath pieced it to his history, saith Bellarmine and Baronius. But who this nameless author was, or when he lived, or how it may appear that it was so indeed, they say not a word. So if we cite Benno Cardinalis. Imo potius Lutheranus, on the contray, Luther is more preferred, saith Bellarmine and Florimund. How disdainfully they reject the Fathers when they make against them, I need not here recite. d I would sooner believe one pope than a thousand Augustines, saith a Jesuit. And yet, when they cannot be heard, they are ready straight to cry out, as that heretic Dioscorus did in the Council of Chalcedon, "I am cast out with the Fathers, I defend the doctrine of the Fathers, I transgress them not in any point." If we produce their own doctors and schoolmen as witnesses of the truth, these men, say they, are catholic authors, but they stand not recti in curia, correct in the council, they must be purged. e So witty are heretics rather to devise a thousand shifts to elude the truth than once to yield and acknowledge it. They will not receive the love of the truth (as the intemperate patient will not be ruled by the physician). And for this cause God delivers them up to strong delusions, vile affections, base and beastly practices; as committing and defending of sodomy, and such like abhorred filth, not once to be named among Christians. But some having put away a good conscience, as concerning faith have made shipwreck, saith the apostle. A good conscience is, as it were, a chest, wherein the doctrine of faith is to be kept safe; which will quickly be lost, if the chest be once broken. And they "that turn from the truth" will prove "abominable, disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,"Titus 1:14; Titus 1:14 ; Titus 1:16 . Matthew Paris, speaking of the court of Rome, saith, Huius foetor usque ad nubes furnum taeterrimum exhalabat. It put out bad stink from the offensive ovens right up to the clouds.
a εκουσιως καταπινων το πικρον . Justin Martyr.
b In pontificibus nemo hodie sanctitatem requirit. Optimi putantur, si vel leniter mali, &c.
c Fuisse homicidam, adulterum, necromanticum, schismaticum, haereticum.
d Inde probo hoc illius esse, illud non esse, quia hae pro me sonat, illud contra me. Faust.
e Bellarmine saith to Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Luther. I answer, Omnes manifesti haeretici sunt.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Ver. 18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, &c. ] Heretics, then, and heterodoxes are not good honest men, as the common people counts them, for all their pretended holiness and counterfeit humility, Colossians 2:18 . Were they humble men indeed, they would soon yield to the truth discovered unto them, and relinquish their erroneous opinions. Swenckfeldius could not be a good man, as Bucholcerus judged him, as long as he held fast his heresies, though he were much in the commendation of a new life, and detestation of an evil; though himself prayed much, and lived soberly. He bewitched many with those magnificent words and stately terms that he had much in his mouth, of illumination, revelation, deification, the inward and spiritual man, &c., but in the mean while he denied the human nature of Christ to be a creature, and called those that thought otherwise creaturists. He affirmed the Scripture to be but a dead letter; which they that held not, he called them scripturists. Faith, he said, was nothing but God dwelling in us, as Osiander after him. In a word, he was a leper in his head, and is therefore pronounced utterly unclean,Leviticus 14:44; Leviticus 14:44 . An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. That Popish inquisitor was quite out that said the Waldensian heretics may be discerned by their manners and words; for they are modest, true, grave, and full of brotherly love one towards another, but rank heretics. a This was somewhat like Pliny’s description of the Christians in that province where he was governor. And here I cannot omit, that when the Bishop of Worcester exhorted M. Philpot the martyr (being brought to his answer), before be began to speak, to pray to God for grace: "Nay, my Lord of Worcester," said Bonner, "you do not well to exhort him to make any prayer; for this is the thing they have a singular pride in. For in this point they are much like to certain arrant heretics, of whom Pliny maketh mention, that they sang antelucanos , hymns, psalms of praise, to God before break of day." But had Bonner and his fellow buzzards but observed the burning zeal, sweet assemblies, watchings, prayings, holiness of life, patience in death, &c., of those that served God after the way that they called heresy, they might well have seen and said as much as the centurion did of our Saviour, Matthew 27:54 , and they might have replied, as our Saviour did of himself, "I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me." "If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God," John 8:49 ; John 8:54 . Cenalis, Bishop of Auranches, wrote against the congregation of Paris, defending impudently that their assemblies were to maintain whoredom. How much better and with more ingenuity the Bishop of Aliff, who preaching at Trent in the time of that Council, A.D. 1563, spake of the faith and manners of the Catholics and heretics; and said, that as the faith of the Catholics was better, so the heretics exceeded them in good life; which gave much distaste, saith the historian. But Bellarmine (had he been then and there present) would not likely have been much offended: "For we," saith he, "although we believe that all the virtues are to be found in the Church, yet that any man may be absolutely said to be a member of the true Church described in the Scriptures, we do not think that any internal virtue is required of him; but only an internal profession of the faith, and such a partaking of the sacraments, as is perceived by the outward senses." b A pretty description and picture of a Papist; among whom if any be virtuous, it is by accident, and not as they are members of that Church. A Cicero wittily said of the Epicures, that if any of that sect proved good it was merely by the benefit of a better nature; for they taught all manner of looseness and libertinism. But for the most part, such as their doctrine is, such is also their practice. The friars (saith one that had seen it, and so could well avouch it) are a race of people always praying, but seldom with sign of devotion; vowing obedience, but still contentious; chastity, yet most luxurious; poverty, yet ever scraping and covetous. And generally the devotions of Papists, saith he, are prized more by tale than by weight of zeal; placed more in the weighty materiality of the outward work, than purity of the heart, from which they proceed. They hold integrity for little better than silliness and abjectness about Italy, and abuse the most honourable name of Christian, usually, to signify a fool, or a dolt, as is before noted out of Doctor Fulke. Are not these the fruits of a rotten religion, of trees specious without, but putrefied and worm eaten within (as the word our Saviour here useth properly signifieth), which appears at length by their rotten fruits? c The true Christian will not cease to bear good fruit, what weather soever come, Jeremiah 17:7 . The hypocrite will either bear only leaves, as the cypress tree, or apples of Sodom, grapes of Gomorrah. Of such we may say, as of Mount Gilboa, no good fruit grows on them; or as Stratonicus saith of the hill Haemus, that for eight months in the year it was very cold, and for the other four it was winter; or as the poet said of his country, that it was bad in winter, hard in summer, good at no time of the year. d Campian of St John’s in Oxford, Proctor of the University, A.D. 1568, dissembled the Protestants’ religion. So did Parsons in Baliol college, until he was for his dishonesty expelled with disgrace, and fled to the Papists; where coelum mutavit non animium, heaven changed no soul neither good egg nor good bird, as they say.
a Sunt in moribua compositi et modesti, superbiam in vestibus non habeat-sed fides eorum est incorrigibilis et pessima.
b Nos etiamsi credimus-tamen ut aliquis absolute dici posset pars verae ecclesiae non putamas requiri ullam internara virtutem, sed tantum externam professionem fidei, et sacramentorum communionem quae sensu ipso percipitur.
c σαπρος , of σηπω , to putrefy. Suidas. Pulchra ac sublimis est, sed fructu caret. It is beautiful and exulted but withoiut fruit. Plutarch.
d ’ Ασκρη χειμα κακη, θερος αργαλεη, ουδεποτ ’ εσθλη . Hesiod.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Ver. 19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, &c. ] Fruitless trees are cut down to the fire. Short shooting loseth many a game. The idle servant is delivered to the tormentors; and unsavoury salt is cast out to be trodden on, as Ecebolius was. The barren earth "is nigh to cursing, whose end is to be burned," Hebrews 6:8 . Pure gold discovers deadly poison. For there will sparkle out of the cup certain rainbows, as it were, and there will be heard, saith one, a fiery hissing of the gold thrusting out the poison. Whereby is signified, saith he, that God threateneth judgment and hell fire to those that corrupt and poison heavenly doctrine. See more of this above, Matthew 3:10 . Let us study and strive to resemble the tree of Paradise, that was fair to the eye and good to eat; and that tree of life, Revelation 22:2 , that bringeth forth every month, twelve manner of fruits, &c, And those trees, Psalms 92:13 , that being planted in the house of the Lord, bring forth best fruit in their old age. "I am like a green olive tree," saith David. Our bed is of green cedar, saith the spouse. Ephraim was like a green fir tree, fat and sappy, &c., Psalms 52:8 ; Son 1:16-17 Hosea 14:8 . Barrenness is no less a fault than ill fruit.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Ver. 20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them ] See Matthew 7:16 , where the self-same words are used. Lest any, under pretence of danger in hearing false prophets, should refuse to hear any, though they come with never so much evidence of truth, our Saviour wills and commands here, that examination and discretion go before both rejection of errors and receiving of truths. "Try all things; hold fast that which is good," 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . As the mouth tasteth meat, so the ear must try and taste words,Job 12:11; Job 12:11 ; Job 34:3 . He is a fool that believeth everything, nay, anything that tends to the cherishing of corruption and carnal liberty, or the advancing of corrupt nature, which is nothing else but a piece of proud flesh, and must be abased to the utmost. a Christians should abound in knowledge, and in every sense; so as readily to discern things that differ, Romans 14:5 ; and not to be wherried and whirled "about with every wind of doctrine," Ephesians 4:14 , as children, nor to be carried away as they are led, as Gentiles,1 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Corinthians 12:2 . He that will take for true and trusty whatsoever any impostor puts upon him, shall be as foully deceived as Jacob was by Laban. Search and see whereto they tend, and what they drive at. If they would drive us from God, as Moses expresseth it, and draw us from the doctrine of godliness, that is grounded upon the word, to the truth whereof we have found God’s Spirit persuading our hearts, and yielding us comfort in it, John 6:45 ; 1 John 2:27 ; abstain (or stand off) from all appearance of any such evil. Shun the familiarity of seducers, that discredit the truth; hear them not, their mouths should be stopped, Titus 1:11 ; Titus 3:10 . See how exceeding earnest the apostle is in this argument, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 ; he knew well the danger: so Romans 16:17 . The Pharisees and false apostles would only have brought in a Jewish rite or two; yet are said to subvert the gospel, Galatians 1:7 , and the apostle wisheth they were even cut off for it. Hymeneus and Philetus denied not the resurrection, but affirmed it only to be past already, and yet they are said to overthrow the faith of some, 2 Timothy 2:18 . And although we are wont to wonder at the absurdities of a contrary religion, and think a simple man may easily answer them; yet it is certain, the grossest adversaries of the truth are able to urge such reasons, and use such persuasions, as have in them great probability of truth, and may deceive the simple: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." Which to prevent, "Grow," saith the same apostle there, "in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Peter 3:17-18 . Exact of yourselves a growth in every grace, in humility, however growing downward at least, if ye cannot find so comfortable a growth upward. Humility is both a grace and a vessel to receive grace; for God will give grace to the humble, and teach the lowly minded, 1 Peter 5:5 ; Psalms 25:9 . Grow also in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; proving by experience in yourselves, what that good, that holy, and acceptable will of God is. Let your knowledge and practice run parallel, and be of equal extent. Study to live rather than to dispute, b to act rather than to contemplate: learn and labour to feel in yourselves the sweetness and goodness, the life and power, of what you know. The devil confessed Christ as well as Peter,Mark 5:7; Mark 5:7 ; Matthew 16:16-17 , -but the devil with a common knowledge, swimming in the brain, Peter with a saving knowledge, soaking to the heart root, and working upon the affections, those immediate springs of action. This is that knowledge, not apprehensive only, but affective too, that makes the mind good, full of incitations to good, glad of all occasions to do good, free from the stain and reign of former lusts, inclinable to serve God and our brethren by love, fearing the gospel more than the law, and God’s goodness more than his justice. Now to grow in these graces and in this knowledge, is the ready way to secure ourselves from seducers, to approve ourselves to have been conscionable hearers of a sound ministry, such as are founded upon a rock, and are therefore unmoveable, such as have gotten a knowledge so clean and certain as no heretic can draw from us. And lastly, to save ourselves from that untoward generation, Acts 2:40 , our Saviour speaketh next of, in the subsequent verses, that have no more to show or say for themselves than Lord, Lord, &c.
a Sub laudibus naturae latent inimici gratiae. Aug.
b Nos non eloquimur magna, sed vivimus.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Ver. 21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter, &c. ] Not every verbal professor or forward pretender to me and my truth, shall be saved. That son of perdition called Christ Lord, Lord, yet betrayed him with a kiss; and is gone to his place. How many Judases have we, that speak Christ fair, but by their loose and lawless lives deliver him up to the scoffs and buffetings of his enemies! that bow the knee to him, and bid "Hail, King of the Jews!" yet smite him on the face, and bid him prophesy who smote him; that put a reeden sceptre in his hand, and make him a titular Lord only; having no more than a form of knowledge,Romans 2:20; Romans 2:20 , a pretence of piety, 2 Timothy 3:5 , and a semblance of sanctimony,Luke 8:18; Luke 8:18 , contenting themselves with the name of Christians; as if many a ship had not been called Safe Guard or Good Speed, and yet fallen into the hands of pirates. These are blots of goodness, botches of the Church, as Augustus was used to term his three untoward children, tres vomicas, tria cariomata, mattery imposthumes, ulcerous sores. Epictetus complained that there were many would be philosophers, as far as a few good words would go; a but were nothing for practice. Socrates made no distinction between σοφια and σωφροσυνη , knowing and doing. So to know good as to practise it, and evil as to avoid it, this he esteemed the only wisdom. Such as say well and do well, are to be embraced, saith Aristotle: b but their very profession is to be suspected that second it not with a suitable practice. Nesciunt insani nesciunt, του καλου το καλον , qui non vivunt honeste, saith another. There are those who speak like angels, live like devils; that have Jacob’s smooth tongue, but Esau’s rough hands. Audi, nemo melius: specta, nemo peius: Loquitur hic ut Piso, vivit ut Gallonius. All men admire Cicero’s tongue, saith St Austin, not so his practice. c Seneca could give excellent counsel to others, which himself did not take. d He is much taxed for flattery, luxury, covetousness, &c., and something he confesseth hereof (though covertly) in that sentence of his, in his book de Tranquillitate, Nec aegroto, nec valeo, I am neither sick nor sound. Lilies are fair in show, but foul in scent. Coin is white in colour, but draws a black line after it. Glow worms seem to have both light and heat; but touch them only, and it will appear they have neither. Livy saith that the Athenians waged war against Philip of Macedon with letters and words. e So do many against the devil; they defy him with their mouths, but deify him in their lives; they spit at his name, but admit his suggestions; they call Christ Lord, Lord, but in truth, and upon the matter, the devil is their good lord; for his servants they are to whom they obey. They lean upon the Lord and say, "Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come unto us,"Micah 3:11; Micah 3:11 . But he shall shake them off with a discedite, depart ye. He likes not this court holy water, as they call it, these fair professions and deep protestations of love, when men’s hearts are not with him, when there is not the power of religion, the practice of godliness. The leaves of profession he dislikes not, for as they are of medicinable use,Ezekiel 47:12; Ezekiel 47:12 , so they are good inducements to force a necessity of more fruit. But he looks for more than leaves. He goes down to his garden to see how it comes forward, in righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost; in meekness, tender heartedness, love; in patience, humility, contentedness; in mortification of sin, moderation of passion, holy guidance of the tongue; in works of mercy, truth, and justice; in self-denial, love of enemies, life of faith; in heavenly mindedness, sweet communion with God, comfortable longing for the coming of Christ, &c. These be those fruits, and that doing of God’s will, without the which our Saviour here averreth there is no heaven to be had, no, though men profess largely, preach frequently, pray ardently, eat and drink at his table, dispossess devils in his name, &c. Judas did all this and was damned. f Shalt thou to heaven that doest no more? no, nor so much? Woe to all careless professors and carnal gospellers! The Lord will make all the Churches know that he searcheth the hearts, Revelation 2:23 , and will not be beguiled with the fig leaves of formality. And for those that carry it more cleanly, as they conceive, and can walk undiscovered, let them know that God (that he may make the name of the wicked to rot) many times so detects their guile, that their wickedness is shown to the whole congregation, Proverbs 26:26 . Or if not so, yet certainly he will do it at that general judgment, that great assize (as it follows in the next verse), when it shall be required of men, non quid legerint, sed quid egerint; non quid dixerint, sed quomodo vixerint, not how much they have talked of heaven, but how well they have walked in the way to heaven; not a proffering of words, but an offering of works, as Agapetus hath it. g The foolish virgins were found with their sic dicentes, such talking, but the good servants with their sic facientes such doing.
a ανευ του πραττειν μεχρι του λεγειν .
b Συναδοντων μεν τοις εργοις αποδεκτεον, διαφωνουντων δε λογους υποληπτεον . Ethic.
c Ciceronis linguam omnes fere mirantur, pectus non ita. Confess. iii. 4.
d In plerisque, contra facere visus est Seneca quam philosophabatur. Dio.
e Athenienses literis verbisque bellum adversus Philippum Persei patrem gesserunt.
f Cainistae sunt offerentes non personam, sed opus personae. Luther.
g ου ρηματων προφοραν αλλα πραγματων προσφοραν .
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Ver. 22. Many will say to me in that day, &c. ] That day of judgment, by an appellative proper called "that day," or at the day of death; for every man’s death’s day is his doom’s day, Hebrews 9:27 ; Then they shall come bouncing at heaven’s gates with "Lord, Lord, open unto us," and make no other reckoning but to enter with the first, which shows that a hypocrite may live and die in self-delusion, and miss heaven in the height of his hopes. He hanged them upon nothing (as God hath hanged the earth, Job 26:7 ); they prove unto him, therefore, as the giving up of the ghost, which is but cold comfort, and serve him no better than Absalom’s mule did her master in his greatest need. "What," saith Job, "is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained much, when God shall take away his soul? will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him?" Job 27:8-9 . Will his crying, Lord, Lord, rescue him in the day of wrath? No, no. God will pour upon him, and not spare, "fire and brimstone, storm and tempest; this shall be the portion of his cup." The just execution of that terrible commination,Revelation 3:16; Revelation 3:16 , shall certainly crush his heart with everlasting horror, confusion, and woe. Oh that this truth were thoroughly thought on and believed! but men are wondrously apt to deceive themselves in point of salvation. Therefore doth the apostle so often premise, "Be not deceived," When he reckoneth up reprobates, 1 Corinthians 6:9 ; Ephesians 5:6 , &c. Themselves they may deceive, and others, but "God is not mocked." Balaam seems, by his words and wishes, a friend to Israel; yet he is so far from inheriting with them, that he is destroyed by them. This will be the portion of hypocrites from the Lord. If their hearts be not upright with him, he will never give them his hand, no, though they follow him as close as Jehonadab did Jehu, 2 Kings 10:15 . Their hopes shall fail them when at highest; as Esau’s did, returning from his venison.
Have we not prophesied in thy name? ] A man may preach profitably to others, and yet himself be a castaway, 1 Corinthians 9:27 . Pendleton confirmed Saunders, and afterwards turned tippet himself. Harding, a little before King Edward VI died, was heard openly in his sermons in London to exhort the people with great vehemence after this sort, That if trouble came, they should never shrink from the true doctrine of the gospel which they had received, but take it rather for a trial sent by God to prove them whether they would abide by it or no. All which to be true, saith Mr Fox, they can testify that heard him, and are yet alive; who also foreseeing the plague to come, were then much confirmed by his words. In Queen Mary’s days he turned apostate, and so continued, notwithstanding an excellent letter of the Lady Jane Dudley, written to him while he was prisoner; wherein she stirs him up to "remember the horrible history of Julian of old, and the lamentable case of Spira of late, and so to return to Christ, who now stretcheth out (saith she) his arms to receive you, ready to fall upon your neck and kiss you, and last of all to feast you with the dainties and delicacies of his own precious blood: which undoubtedly, if it might stand with his determinate purpose, he would not let to shed again rather than you should be lost." And so she goes on most sweetly: sed surdo fabulam, she lost her sweet words. As likewise did William Wolsey, the martyr, upon Denton the smith of Wells in Cambridgeshire; and some others, upon Mr West, chaplain to Bishop Ridley, who refusing to die in Christ’s cause with his master, said mass against his conscience. Bishop Latimer, in a sermon before King Edward, tells of one who fell away from the known truth, and became a scorner of it, yet was afterward touched in conscience for the same. Beware of this sin, saith he, for I have known no more but this that repented. Joannes Speiserus, Doctor of Divinity, and preacher at Augsburg in Germany, A.D. 1523, began to teach the truth of the gospel, and did it so effectually, that various common harlots were converted, and betook themselves to a better course of life. (Scultet. Annul. p. 118.) But he afterwards revolted again to the Papists, and came to a miserable end. The like is reported of Brisonettus, Bishop of Melda, a town of France, 10 miles from Paris. And who doubts but Judas the traitor was a great preacher, a caster out of devils, and doer of many great works in Christ’s name, as well as other of the disciples Nicodemus was nothing to him. He (saith one) was a night professor only, but Judas in the sight of all. He was a slow scholar, Judas a forward preacher. Yet at last, when Judas betrayed Christ in the night, Nicodemus faithfully professed him in the day. Therefore will Christ confess him before God, angels, and men, when Judas shall hear, Avaunt, thou worker of iniquity, I know thee not. Neronis (Quantus artifex pereo?) quadrabit in te peritum et periturum. Secleat in labris suada, sed et fibris gratia; quae sola vere flexanima suada, et medulla suadae penetrantissima. Summopere cavendum divino praeconi, ne dicta, factis deficientibus, erubescant. Let not the preacher give himself the lie, by a life unsuitable to his sermons.
And in thy name have done many wonderful works ] By a faith of miracles, whereby a man may remove mountains, and yet miscarry, 1 Corinthians 13:2 . And here such as work wonders may deceive themselves in the main point of their own salvation; how much more may they deceive others in this or that particular point of doctrine? The coming of Antichrist is after the "working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish," 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 . Lying wonders they are called in regard not only of the end, which is to deceive, but of the substance; for the devil cannot do a true miracle, which is ever beside and against nature and second causes; such as whereof there can be no natural reason possibly rendered, no, though it be hidden from us. The devil, I say, cannot do a miracle. He may do magic and cast a mist. St Jerome writes, that a certain damsel was brought to Macarius by her father, who complained that his daughter was by witchcraft turned into a mare. Macarius answered, that he could see no such thing in her, nothing but human shape, and that their eyes, that thought and said so, were blinded by Satan, wherefore turning himself to prayer, he obtained, that the mist might be removed from the parents’ eyes, and then they saw their mistake. The like is reported of Mr Tyndale the martyr, that being at Antwerp among a company of merchants, he hindered, by his presence and prayers, a certain magician, that he could not play his feats; so that he was compelled openly to confess that there was some man there at supper that disturbed and hindered all his doings. So that a man even in the martyrs of these days (saith Mr Fox) cannot lack the miracles of true faith, if they were to be desired. O ye Papists (said Bainham, in the midst of the flame), behold, you look for miracles: here now you may see a miracle; for in this fire I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed of down; it is to me as a bed of roses. But the devil is ashamed (saith Gretser the Jesuit) to confirm Luther’s doctrine with miracles. a We could tell him and his fellows, of Myconius recovered out of a desperate disease by Luther’s prayers, which Myconius acknowledged for a miracle to his dying day. And of another young man of Wittenberg that had sold himself to the devil, body and soul, for money, and sealed the obligation with his own blood, but was delivered by Luther’s prayers out of the danger of the devil, who was compelled (saith Mr Fox) at last to throw in the obligation at the window, and bade the young man take it unto him again. But he that now requireth miracles for the confirmation of his faith, is himself a great miracle, saith Austin. b Manna ceased when they came into Canaan; as if it would say, Ye need no miracles now you have means. The wonderful preservation of Luther, that man of God, amidst so many potent enemies, the publishing and carrying of his doctrine, in the space of a month, throughout all Germany and some foreign countries, as it were upon angels’ wings, c the establishing of the Reformation to be done by so weak and simple means, yea, by casual and cross means, against the force of so puissant and public an adversary, this is that miracle which we are in these times to look for.
a Prudet diabolum Lutheri doctrinam miraculis confirmare. Melch. Adam. in Vita Lutheri.
b Qui adhue prodigia ut credat, inquirit, magnum est ipse prodigium. Aug.
c Evangelium tam celeri volatu ferebatur et quidem spatio menstruo per universam Germaniam, et aliquot regiones exteras, ut ipsi angeli cursores, &c. Melch. Adam. in Vita Myconii.
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Ver. 23. And then well I profess unto them, I never knew you ] No, not when you professed most love to me, and did me (to see to) greatest service. I knew you well enough for "black sheep," or rather for reprobate goats; I knew you for hirelings and hypocrites, but I never knew you with a special knowledge of love, delight, and complacency. I never acknowledged, approved, and accepted your persons and performances. See Psalms 1:6 ; Romans 11:2 . God’s sharp nose doth easily discern, and is offended with the stinking breath of the hypocrite’s rotten lungs, though his words be never so scented and perfumed, though his deeds be never so mantled and masked with shows of holiness. God utterly disowns and disavows all such, for if "any man have not the Spirit of God," saith Paul, the same "is none of his," Romans 8:9 ; be he whose he will be. And whereas he naturally delights in mercy, yet he will by no means clear the guilty; yea, he will "mock at their destruction, and laugh when their fear cometh." He will "spew them out of his mouth." Ah, he will ease him of his adversaries; and be as well paid thereof, as a man is that hath ridden his stomach of the surfeit or sick matter that clogged it, Proverbs 1:16 . Quod Deus loquitur cum risu, tu legas cum fletu. Aug. Revelation 3:16 ; Isaiah 1:24 .
Depart from me ] Oh direful and dreadful sentence! such as shall make their very heartstrings crack (not their ears tingle only), and their hearts fall asunder in their bosoms, like drops of water. a Surely if the gentle voice of God in the "cool of the day" ( in aura diei ), Genesis 3:8 , were so terrible to our first parents; and if his sweet voice in the preaching of the gospel of grace be so formidable to the wicked, that Felix trembled, and the stoutest are quailed, the edge of their fury is rebated, their hearts often ache and quake within them; what will they do when the Lion of the tribe of Judah shall roar out upon them this fearful Discedite Depoart, that breathes out nothing but fire and brimstone, stings and horrors, woe and, alas, seas of vengeance, and the worm that never dieth, torments without end, and past imagination? The desperate soldiers (that would not have dreaded to dare the devil to a duel) fell before him to the ground, when, in the state of his humility, he said but, "I am he;" how will the wicked stand before him in his majesty? If Gideon’s torches and trumpets so daunted the proud Midianites, how shall these abide the terror of the last day?
Ye workers of iniquity ] Ye that make it your trade and task, that do "wickedly with both hands earnestly," that are wittily wicked, and can act out iniquity; that dig in the devil’s mines, row in his galleys, grind in his mill, and are not wearied; that live by your sins, as the labourer doth by his trade; and esteem it as the means of a happy life. b Ye that, although ye cannot be charged with any crying crime, but have Lord, Lord, in your mouths, and a show of holiness in your lives, yet regard iniquity in your hearts; and when you seem most of all highflown, have a leering eye upon some beloved sin, as the eagle hath upon her prey below when she soareth highest. Your very preaching in Christ’s name (if not for his name) is with God a work of iniquity, and shall have the "wages of sin," which is death, when Christ comes to judgment. c Then they that would not obey those sweet commands, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy household," &c., shall have no other commandment left them to obey, but this horrible "Depart ye;" which imports an utter separation from the beatifical vision and fruition of God; and this is the very hell of hell, &c. Meanwhile, whereto serves the world’s Euge, well done, when they are sure of Christ’s Apage? be off.
a Dicetur reprobis, ite; venite, probis. It will be said to the wicked, Go, to the godly Come.
b Latini medicinam et argentariam facere dicunt. Beza.
c Our works must be works of God, wrought from God for God, in God, according to God, else they are but shining sins. Mr Harris at Paul’s Cross.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
Ver. 24. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, &c. ] Here we have the conclusion of this, if not first, yet certainly fullest, of our Saviour’s sermons; for matter most heavenly, and for order more than methodical. Most men think, if they sit out a sermon, it is sufficient; when the preacher hath once done they are done too. Away they go, and (for any practice) they leave the word where they found it, or depart sorrowful, as he in the Gospel, that Christ requireth such things as they are not willing to perform. Our Saviour had four sorts of hearers and but one good, that brought forth fruit with patience. When St Paul preached at Athens some mocked, others doubted, a few believed, Acts 17:32 , but no church was founded there as at other places, because "Christ crucified" was preached, "unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and to those Greeks foolishness;" while the Jews required a sign, and the Greeks sought after wisdom, 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 . But what saith the prophet? "Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?" Jeremiah 8:9 . He is a wise builder, a wise servant, a wise virgin, a wise merchant (if our Saviour may be judge), that heareth these sayings of his, and doeth them. "And behold" (saith Moses), "I have taught you statutes and judgments: keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom," &c. "A good understanding have all they that do thereafter,"Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 4:6 ; Psalms 111:10 . David hereby became wiser than his teachers, ancients, enemies; and Paul counted it his chief policy to keep a good conscience void of offence toward God and men ( πεπολιτευμαι ), Acts 23:1 , which cannot be until it may be said of a man, as Shaphan said of Josiah’s workmen, "All that was given in charge to thy servants, they do it," 2 Chronicles 34:16 . For not the hearers of the law, but the doers shall be justified, saith Paul, Romans 2:12 ; shall be blessed, saith our Saviour often, Luke 11:28 ; John 13:17 ; shall be made thereby the friends of Christ, John 15:14 , the kindred of Christ, Matthew 12:50 ; the glory of Christ, a royal diadem in the hand of Jehovah; yea, such as have the honour to set the crown royal upon Christ’s head in the day of his espousals,2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 8:23 ; Isaiah 62:3 ; Song of Solomon 3:11 ; "Be ye therefore doers of the word," saith St James, "and not hearers only," deceiving, or putting paralogisms ( παραλογιζομενοι ), James 1:22 , tricks and fallacies (sophistry like) upon your own souls. They that place religion in hearing, and go no further, will prove egregious and outstanding fools in the end. Which to prevent, look intently and accurately ( παρακυψας ), saith that apostle, stoop down, and pry heedfully into the "perfect law of liberty" (as the cherubims did into the propitiatory, as the angels do into the mystery of Christ, as the disciples did into the sepulchre of Christ, 1 Peter 1:12 ; Joh 20:5 ), "and continue therein," till ye be transformed thereinto; "not being forgetful hearers, but doers of the work:" so shall ye "be blessed in the deed." It is not enough to hear, "but take heed how you hear." Bring with you the loan of your former hearing. "For to him that hath shall be given, and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you." As ye measure to God in preparation and practice, he will measure to you in success and blessing: and every time that you hear, God will come to you in "the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of" peace, Romans 15:29 . See that ye shift not off ( παραιτησησθε ) him that speaketh, Hebrews 12:25 . Veniat, veniat verbum Domini, et submittemus illi, sexcenta si nobis essent colla, saith a notable Dutch divine: Let God speak, and we will yield, though it were to the loss of a thousand lives. The Macedonians delivered themselves up to God, and the Romans to the form of doctrine that was delivered unto them, 2 Corinthians 8:7 ; Romans 6:17 ; they took impression from it, as the metal doth from the mould, or as the wax doth from the seal. David lifted up his hands to God’s commandments,Psalms 119:48; Psalms 119:48 , he did "all the wills of God," Acts 13:35 , who had set him both his time and his task. He sets all his servants a work, and requireth their pains. Hosea 10:11 , Ephraim was a heifer used to dance and delight in the soft straw, and could not abide to plough, but the Lord will make him both bear and draw. Religion is not a name, saith one (Mr Harris at Paul’s Cross), goodness a word; it is active like fire, communicative like light. As the life of things stand in goodness, so the life of goodness in action. The chiefest goods are most active, the best good a mere act. And the more good we do, the more God-like and excellent we be, and the better provided against a rainy day.
Which built his house upon a rock ] This rock is Christ; and conscionable hearers are living stones built upon him, Eph 2:20 ; 1 Peter 2:5 . The conies are a people weak and wise, saith Solomon, Proverbs 30:26 ; and their wisdom herein appears, they work themselves holes and burrows in the bosom of the earth, in the roots of the rocks. Learn we to do the like, and be sure to dig deep enough (as St Luke hath it); which while the stony ground hearers did not, their blade was scorched up, and came to nothing,Luke 6:49; Luke 6:49 . ( Exoriuntur, sed exuruntur. ) Some flashing joy they had upon the hearing of the word, and many meltings (according to the nature of the doctrine delivered); but these sudden affections, being not well bottomed, nor having principles to maintain them, they were but like conduits running with wine at the coronation, or like a land flood, that seems to be a great sea, but is soon gone again.
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
Ver. 25. And the rain descended, and the floods came, &c. ] Many are the troubles of the righteous; they come commonly thick and threefold, one in the neck of another, as Job’s messengers. a "The clouds return after the rain," Ecclesiastes 12:2 . There is a continual succession of miseries and molestations from the devil, the world, and the flesh, to them that hear and do the words of Christ: like the weather in winter, when a shower or two do not clear the air, but though it rain much, yet the sky is still overcast with clouds, which are dissolved upon the saints, sometimes in lesser and lighter crosses, as the smaller rain, sometimes in pressing and piercing calamities, like storm and hail. b The rain falls, the floods rise, the wind blows, and many a sharp shower beats upon the Christian’s building; but, like Noah’s ark, it is pitched within and without; like Mount Sion, it abides for ever immovable, because founded upon the Rock of ages. Si nos ruemus, ruet Christus usa, ille regnator mundi, said that noble Luther: If we fall, Christ shall fall too, that Ruler of the world: and let him fall; I had rather fall with Christ, than stand with Caesar. The devil stirs up a tempest against God’s children, saith Ambrose, sed ipse naufragium facit, but himself maketh shipwreck. The Church, according to that Venetian motto, nec fluctu, nec flatu movetur: and yet Venice hath but one street (they say) that is not daily overflowed by the sea.
And it fell not ] Saving grace is incapable of being lost, though it may be impaired in the degrees, and may recoil to the root, as sap doth in winter. Christ lives in the hearts of all his saints, Galatians 2:20 , and can die no more, Romans 6:10 . Die he may as well at the right hand of his Father, as in the heart of a Christian.
A weak brother, for whom Christ died, may perish, 1 Corinthians 8:11 .
No thanks to us if he do not, who by scandalous courses offend and wound his conscience; but Christ will not lose him so. Destrut potest, ex parte, per interveniens scandalum; quod et verbum απολεω aliquo modo denotat, non distrahi penitus caula, &c.
There are those who deny the Lord that bought them, 2 Peter 2:1 .
Bought they were by Christ in their own conceit, and in the esteem of others, but it proved otherwise. Or, they were bought, that is, delivered, in a general sense (so the word here used often signifieth), from their superstition to the knowledge of salvation (I say not to saving knowledge), whereby they might preach to others, themselves being castaways. God hath charged Christ, as Mediator, to see to the keeping of the bodies and souls of all true believers, John 6:39-40 . And he faithfully performed it. "Those thou gavest me I have kept," saith he, "and none of them is lost," John 17:12 .
Christ makes exception of one that was lost, Ibid.
That shows he was never of his body; for can he be a Saviour of a son of perdition?
Why is he then excepted?
1. Because he seemed to be one of Christ’s, by reason of his office.
2. He speaketh there in particular of the twelve: and to be an apostle was, in itself, but an outward calling.
Christians may lose the things that they have wrought, 2 John 1:8 .
1. Temporaries may, and do; and of them it may be understood, Matthew 7:9 .
2. True Christians may:
1. In respect of the praise of men; all their former honour may be laid in the dust.
2. In regard of the inward sense and comfort, as David, Psa 32:1-11 Psalms 51:1-19 .
3. In respect of the fulness of the reward in heaven, their glory may be much lessened by their falls.
A righteous man may turn from his righteousness, and die, Ezekiel 18:24 .
From his righteousness imparted, or that of sanctification, he may turn in part, and for a time, and die a temporal death for his offence, as Josiah: not so from his righteousness imputed, or that of justification, so as to die eternally. Or the Holy Ghost may so speak, as of a thing impossible; as, If an angel from heaven should preach any other doctrine, &c., Galatians 1:8 , which cannot possibly be. So that this text concludes not categorically. The Comforter shall abide with us for ever, John 14:16 . It is called an earnest, not a pawn. A pawn is to be returned again; but an earnest is part and pledge of the whole sum.
What need then so many exhortations to perseverance?
1. True grace in itself is leesable, in respect of us, who should fall from it, as Adam; but we are kept by the power and promise of God to salvation; and we need Christ’s left hand to be under us, and his right hand over us, to clasp and hold us up. He keepeth the feet of the saints,1 Samuel 2:9; 1 Samuel 2:9 , and preserves us from all such evil, as may frustrate our perseverance, 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ; 1 John 5:18 .
2. By these exhortations, as means, God’s grace is promoted, and preserved in us.
3. We are but in part renewed, and are apt to backslide; if we row not hard, wind and tide will carry us back again. Heed therefore must be taken, that we look not back with Lot’s wife; that our Jacob’s ladder may reach to heaven; that our oil fail not, till the Bridegroom come; that our coat reach down to our heels, as Joseph’s and the high priest’s did; that we sacrifice the beast with the tail, Genesis 37:3 ; Exodus 28:4 ; Exodus 28:42 ; Exodus 29:22 ; that we keep in this fire of the sanctuary; or, if it slack, that we rake it out of the ashes, and blow it up again into a flame, αναζωπυρειν , 2 Timothy 1:6 ; that we turn not again, as we walk, with those living creatures, Ezekiel 1:12 ; nor be like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, that began in gold, and ended in clay, Daniel 2:33 ; that "we begin not in the Spirit and end in the flesh,"Galatians 3:3; Galatians 3:3 ; that we go not backward as Hezekiah’s sun, nor stand at a stay, as Joshua’s, but rejoice to run our race, as David’s,Psalms 19:4; Psalms 19:4 ; and go on to the perfect day, as Solomon’s, Proverbs 4:18 .
a Fluctus fluctum trudit. Πονος πονω πονον φερει - dolor et voluptas invicem cedunt, brevior voluptas. Sen.
b Calamitas est proprie calamorum comminutio a grandine seu tempestate. Sic cludes dicebantur surculorum detritio: strages a stratis arboribus. Becman. Scaliger. Et esto ruat: Malo ego cum Christo ruere, quam cum Caesare stare. Epist. ad Melch. Burton of Melancholy.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
Ver. 26. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, &c. ] Which is the greater number of hearers, for most men hear to hear, and not to practise, a Some hear merely of form, or for fashion’ sake, or to save the penalty of the statute, or to find some recipe to procure a sleep, or to still the clamours of their consciences, or to make amends and purchase dispensation for some beloved lust, as Herod; or expecting from the preacher some choice novelty, as Matthew 3:8 , some deep point, Matthew 12:37 , or dainty expressions, asEzekiel 33:32; Ezekiel 33:32 . Or they hear and jeer, Acts 17:32 ; hear and carp, as Doeg; hear and resist the Holy Ghost, Acts 7:51 . Or at least are no whit wrought upon, whether we pipe or lament to ThemMt 11:17. Or if they hear and admire, as those, Matthew 22:22 ; yet they amend nothing, or but for a season, as the stony ground, Matthew 13:20-21 ; they are hearers of forgetfulness ( ακροαται επιλησμονης ), James 1:25 ; like hour glasses, they are no sooner full, but running out again; like nets or sieves, they retain only the chaff or weeds, let go the pure water and good grain. The word runs through them, as water through a riven vessel (that is the apostle’s metaphor, Hebrews 2:1 , μηποτε παραρυωμεν ), or as that which is written upon moist paper, as others will have it. A general cause of our not practising what we hear is, that we put this spiritual treasure into broken bags, this precious liquor into leaking vessels. Whereas our souls should be as the ark, and our memories as the pot of manna, to retain what we have received, that we may have it ready for practice, as Saul had his cruse and his spear at his head, and David his scrip and stones ready by his side. A heavy ear is a singular judgment, Isaiah 6:10 ; but a slow heart and a heavy hand, to conceive and do what we hear, paves a way to remediless misery; besides the fool to boot which the judge here putteth upon him.
Shall be likened unto a foolish man ] And he is a fool indeed whom Christ calleth fool. Conscionable hearers are counted good men (God wot), but simple, silly, and of no parts. But "wisdom is justified of her children." To walk precisely, is to walk wisely, Ephesians 5:15 . And he that heareth and guideth his feet in the way, is wise,Proverbs 23:19; Proverbs 23:19 . And, "Who is a wise man among you, and endued with knowledge? Let him show out of a good conversation his works," &c., James 3:13 . All others are fools, because they fail in the main point of their salvation: they are troubled about many things, but neglect the one thing necessary; they trifle out their precious opportunities, and in hearing or other services they do worse than lose their labour, for they commit sin and heap up wrath. Their house will down, as the spider’s house doth, and all their building, ploughing, planting, sailing, come to nothing.
Which built his house upon the sand ] Wherefore it soon sinks and shatters, as having not the loose earth thrown up first, by the practice of mortification and self-denial. Men should first sit down, and cast what it would cost them to build the tower of godliness, or e’er they leap into profession. They should put their hearts often to those grand questions of abnegation. Can I (as all must that will be Christ’s disciples) deny myself in all my selves (for a man hath many selves within himself, and must utterly and absolutely deny them all), take up my daily cross (for omnis Christianus crucianus, every Christian is a Crucian or cross bearer, saith Luther; the rain will fall, the floods flow, the winds blow, and beat upon his building, he shall have many trials and temptations that looks towards heaven, troubles without, terrors within, his back burden of both), and follow Christ through thick and thin, by doing and suffering his whole will? Many will follow Christ in such duties as suit with their humours, and no farther, as the rusty hand of a dial; they will break the hedge of his law, to shun a piece of foul way: they follow Christ, as the dog follows his master, till he come by a carrion, and then he turns him up. Orpah made a fair proffer of going along with Naomi, but when she had better considered it, she turned again. Lot’s wife set fair out of Sodom, but looked back. So do many forward hearers set their hands to God’s plough, but (loth to plough up the fallow ground of their hearts, and to lay a good foundation in humiliation) they start aside like broken bows, and steal away like cowardly soldiers ( υποστειληται ), Hebrews 10:38 , and so judge themselves unworthy of eternal life, and unfit for God’s kingdom, Luke 9:62 . For the foolish shall not stand in his sight, he hateth all the workers of iniquity, Psalms 5:5 . Caleb was not discouraged by the giants, therefore he had Hebron given him, the place of the giants, when the spies and murmurers were never suffered to enter; no more shall they that hold not out to the death obtain the crown of life.
a Panaetios apud Scythiam esse ferunt tam diffasa aurium magnitudine, ut omne corus ex eis contegant. Isidore xi. 3.
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
Ver. 27. And the rain descended, &c. ] The old heart cannot possibly hold out the hardship of holiness, nor bear the brunt of persecution for well doing. Like a chestnut cast into the fire, if not broken first on the top, it leaps out again; or like a false jade in a team, which being put to a stress, turns tail and tramples. When the godly hearer holds on his way to heaven, through all disasters; as those two kine of the Philistines that bore home the ark, held on their way, though they had calves at home, that might have made them turn back.
And it fell ] The wise man’s and fool’s house come under a double difference. 1. In the foundation; this to see to, and above ground, is little discerned. The temple is said to be as low underground as it was high above. 2. In the building itself. The unprofitable hearer is not cemented to Christ by faith, but laid loose, as it were, upon a sandy foundation, and so slips beside the ground work in foul weather. He is not set into the stock as a scion, but only stuck into the ground as a stake, and is therefore easily pulled up. Whereas the true Christian is knit fast to Christ the rock by the ligament of a lively faith; and as a lively stone, is built up in a spiritual house,1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:5 , growing up in the mystical body with so much sweetness and evenness, as if the whole temple (like that of Solomon) were but one entire stone. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit," 1 Corinthians 6:17 . So that although, 1. Shakings and waverings in the very purpose of holy walking may befall a saint by violent temptations, Psalms 73:2 ; Psalms 73:13 ; yea, 2. Intermissions of the exercise of grace, as of life in a palsy or epilepsy; 3. Particular falls we are not exempted from, -Peter himself, though a pillar, fell from his former steadfastness, in part; -yet from intercision, prolapsion, from utter and irrecoverable falling away, they are freed, because founded upon a Rock, which can never be removed, he is both the "author and finisher of their faith," Hebrews 12:2 ; He hath prayed and procured that it utterly fail notLuke 22:32; Luke 22:32 .
And the fall thereof was great ] Great and grievous, because irreparable, irrebuildable, as Jericho and the temple at Jerusalem. God lays them aside like broken vessels, of which there is no further use; and since they will needs wallow again, as swine, in the filth of their former pollutions, he pronounceth upon them that fearful sentence, "Let him that is filthy be filthy still;" that unclean spirit entereth him again, and his dispositions to evil are seven times more inflamed than ever. He hath despised and despited the Spirit of Grace, and is in the ready road to the unpardonable sin, Hebrews 10:26 . The apostate cannot lightly choose unto himself a worse condition, Hebrews 10:26 . He casts himself into hell’s mouth, Hebrews 10:39 , where "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways," Proverbs 14:14 , and have the greater torment by how much he fell from greater hopes and possibilities of better; as Nebuchadnezzar from his monarchy, and as Cranmer from his high preferment to so low a condition, as that there was left him neither hope of better nor place of worse.
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
Ver. 28. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings ] All this then was but one sermon, though twice preached at various times, as some collect out of Luke. A long sermon it was, and yet the people staid it out. So did not those Capernaites, John 6:66 , and therefore fell away from Christ; so did not Judas, and therefore met the devil at the door,John 13:30; John 13:30 . It is a lamentable thing that a winter’s tale shall be heard with more patience and pleasure than a powerful sermon; that if a preacher exceed his time sometimes people sit at as little ease as if they were in a fit of an ague; and others profanely turn their backs upon the propitiatory, and depart without the blessing, Ezekiel 44:5 . In the Council of Agathon it was decreed that none should presume to go out before the minister had blessed the congregation. And in the fourth Council of Carthage, Let him that goes out of the auditory when the minister is speaking to the congregation, be excommunicated. Ite missa est, Go it has been sent. Αφεσις λαου , were the old forms of dismission. And although Zacharias was long ere he came forth, yet the people staid his coming, Luke 1:21 . But the word of the Lord is to the wicked a burden, Jeremiah 23:33-34 , cords and bonds, Psalms 2:3 , yokes and bonds, Jeremiah 5:5 . Hence they are so soon sated, and their attentions tired out and jaded, as it were.
The people were astonished at his doctrine ] They were strangely transported, and enraptured with an ecstasy of admiration and amazement. a They were at such a pass that they could neither say nor do, but stood amazed with their eyes set in their heads, as the word importeth. And surely the word never worketh so kindly as when it is received with admiration; yet may we not rest in that, as too many do; but get it mingled with faith in our hearts that works by love, "holding fast the faithful word," as Paul bids Timothy, that part of it especially that in hearing he is pleased to sweeten unto us by the taste of his special goodness.
a εξεπλησσοντο . Ubi animus quasi attonitus, nec loquitur, nec quicquam agit, sed apertis oculis aliquantisper quietus manet. Lvser.
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Ver. 29. For he taught them as one having authority ] Never man spake as he spake, said those catch poles that came to take him, but were taken by him. For matter, his doctrine was not his own, but his Father’s that sent him, John 7:16 . For manner, this prince of preachers had the tongue of the learned, Isaiah 50:4 ; yet without ostentation of learning he delivered himself so plainly that the simplest might conceive him, and so powerfully that his enemies could not but confess that he "was true, and taught the way of God truly," Matthew 22:14 . And for end, he seriously sought his Father’s glory in the salvation of men’s souls. A fair precedent for preachers; who should thus seek to get within the people, and to maintain the credit of their ministry, that their words may carry an authority and command attention.
And not as the Scribes ] Who, 1. Stuck in the bark of the law, and pierced not into the heart and sense of it. 2. Delivered "for doctrines the commandments of men" about washings, tithings, &c. 3. They sought not the glory of God, but praise of men; and were therefore mad at our Saviour, as one that bare away the bell from them for a powerful preacher. 4. They rejected publicans and sinners, though penitent: so did not Christ. 5. They taught coldly and carelessly; but he zealously and imperiously, as the lawgiver, and not as an interpreter only; as that "prophet like unto me," saith Moses; yea, far beyond him, or any other that ever spake with a tongue. For he could and did speak to the hearts of his hearers; together with his word "there went forth a power," as to heal the bodies of those, Luke 5:17 , so the souls of his elect; he was a minister of the spirit and not of the letter only. a
a Optimi ad vulgus hi sunt concionatores, dixit Lutherus, qui pueriliter, trivialiter, populariter, et simplicissime docent. Melch. Ad. in Vita. Γραμματεις ησαν δευτερωται του νομουγραμμα τικην τινα επιστημην εφηγουμενοι . Epiphan. lib. 1 Panarii. Scribarum doctrina erat torpida, elumbis, frigida. Hebrews 2:3 .
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 7". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20