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Christ sendeth out his twelve apostles, enabling them to do miracles; giveth them their charge, teacheth them, comforteth them against persecutions, and promiseth a blessing to those that receive them.
Anno Domini 30.
Matthew 10:1. And when he had called unto him— The distinction of the sacred writings into chapters and verses, which is a modern invention to facilitate references, has with that advantage many inconveniencies, because it often breaks that thread of discourse, which is the proper clue to lead us into the meaning of what follows. It will be seen how reasonable this reflection is, if we look back to the 36th verse, &c. of the preceding chapter, where we read that Jesus, beholding the multitudes (in their spiritual capacities, which were ever the principal object of his regard), had compassion on them, because they were tired and lay down, as sheep that had no shepherd; Then saith he, &c. After this, as he himself was ever foremost, on all proper occasions, to do what he commanded others, he passed the following night in prayer; see Luke 6:12-13.: and the next morning chose twelve from among his disciples, whom he constituted apostles; persons sent, that is to say, especial messengers, and sent them forth with a peculiar commission, as shepherds, to raise and guide those dejected forlorn sheep, who had moved his compassion; and as labourers, to be employed in the harvest which was now mature, and fit for the threshing-floor. The language is figurative, and there is an absolute necessity that it should be so; because the mental dispositions here spoken of have no proper names in human language, which consists only of terms, that in their first signification all belong to the objects of sense. The language is therefore figurative; andeven different figures are here made use of to express the same object; which also cannot sometimes be avoided: for every similitude is defective, and can shew but a part. Therefore, where one similitude falls short, another may aptly supply its deficiency, and represent, by new images, the whole of what was intended. Thus, in the passage now under consideration, the same mental disposition is expressed by two metaphors, both highly instructive, yet in different respects, for each gives a different lesson. The first shews what kind of persons are rightly disposed to be admitted into that last and peculiar dispensation, which is called the kingdom of heaven; and the second intimates to those who are to be admitted, what kind of treatment they are to expect there. See Heylin, the note on Matthew 10:6., and on ch. Matthew 3:7. It appears from the present verse, that Jesus had already chosen from among his disciples those whom he afterwards honoured with the name of Apostles. Compare Mark 3:14.Luke 6:13; Luke 6:13. It is probable that he chose twelve, in reference to the twelve tribes of Israel (see ch. Matthew 19:28. Luke 22:30. Revelation 21:12; Rev 21:14 and compare Exodus 24:4.Deuteronomy 1:23; Deuteronomy 1:23.Joshua 4:2-3; Joshua 4:2-3.); and therefore care was taken, on the death of Judas, to choose another to make up the number; which seems to have been a mark of respect paid to the Jews, previous to the grand offer of the Gospel to them: whereas, when they had generally rejected it, Paul was added to the Apostles, without any regard to the particular number of twelve.
Matthew 10:2. Now the names, &c.— In the catalogue of the apostles, Simon and Andrew, the sons of Jonah, are named first; not because they were greater in dignity than their brethren of the apostolical college, but because they had become Christ's disciples before them. With respect to Andrew, this is plain from John 1:40-41.; and as for Peter, he may have been the second disciple, not withstanding it was another person who accompanied Andrew when he first conversed with Jesus. That person is supposed to have been John, the son of Zebedee; and the author of the Gospel, because he is spoken of in the manner in which John usually speaks of himself. But whoever he was, Peter may have been a disciple before him, because it by no means follows from Andrew's being convinced, that his companion was convinced also. The foundation of his faith may have been laid at that meeting, though he did not acknowledge Christ's mission till afterwards. Now, as some one of his disciples was to have the first place in the catalogue, the earliness of Peter's faith might be a reason for conferring that honour on him. But he takes place even of his brother Andrew, who was converted before him, perhaps because propriety called for it, he being, as is generally believed, his elder brother. In like manner, James the son of Zebedee, being elder than John his brother, is mentioned before him, though it is probable he was the younger disciple. In the catalogue of apostles, Simon, the brother of Andrew, is distinguished from the other Simon by the surname of Peter, which had been conferred on him when he first became acquainted with Jesus at Jordan. The reason of the name, however, was not assigned till long after that, viz. when Simon declared his faith inJesus as the Messiah, Mat 16:17-18 for it was then that Jesus told him he was called Cephas, and Peter (which by interpretation is a rock), on account of the fortitude wherewith he was to preach the gospel. Simon and Andrew were originally fishermen, and inhabitants of Bethsaida, a town situated on the north shore of the lake of Gennesareth; but after Peter was married, he and his brother settled in Capernaum, perhaps because his wife lived there. Before they became acquainted with Christ, they were disciples of the Baptist, who pointed him out to them as the Messiah. Andrew has left no writings, for which reason we are at a loss to judge of his literary endowments; but Peter was the author of the two epistles which bear his name.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also fishermen; they dwelt in Capernaum, and seem to have been in rather better circumstances than Peter and Andrew; for the Gospel speaks of their having hired servants to assist them in their business. John is thought to have been the youngest of all the apostles; yet he was old enough to have been a follower of John the Baptist before he came to Christ. On this, or on some other occasion, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, obtained the surname of Boanerges, that is to say, the sons of thunder; perhaps because of the natural vehemency and impetuosity of their tempers. Accordingly their spirit shewed itself in the desire they expressed to have the Samaritans destroyed by fire from heaven, because they refused to lodge Jesus in his way to Jerusalem. It appeared also in their ambition to become the great officers of state in their Master's kingdom, which they supposed would be a secular one. Besides, John's writings shew that he was a man of a very affectionate turn of mind. This affectionate turn of his mind gave him a singular fitness for friendship, in which he was not only peculiarly amiable, but peculiarly privileged, as it rendered him the object of Christ's peculiar love; a love which will do him honour to the end of the world. As for James, his being put to death by Herod is a proof that his zeal was uncommon, and that it moved him to be eminently active andbold in the work of the Gospel. Had it been otherwise, he would not have become the object either of Herod's jealousy or of his resentment. Some indeed are of opinion, that the epithet sons of thunder was not expressive of the dispositions of the two brothers, but of the force and success with which they should preach the Gospel: yet if that had been the reason of the surname, it was equally applicable to all the apostles. Philip is said to have been a native of Bethsaida, the town of Peter and Andrew. He was originally a disciple of theBaptist, but he left him, to follow Jesus, as soon as he became acquainted with him at Jordan. John 1:44. Bartholomew is supposed to have been the disciple called Nathanael, whose conversion is related, John 1:45; John 1:51. The Ancients tell us he was a native of Cana, and was skilled in the law. Matthew was a rich publican of Capernaum: he was otherwise named Levi, and left his gainful employment for the sake of Christ. He wrote the Gospel to which his name is prefixed, and was the son of one Alpheus, of whom we know nothing but the name. There is nothing said of Thomas before his conversion: however, it is conjectured that, like the rest, he was of mean extraction; and because he is mentioned among those who went a fishing, Joh 21:2-3 it is supposed that he was a fisherman by occupation. He obtained the surname of Didymus, probably because he was a twin, and made himself remarkable by continuing longer than his brethren to doubt of Christ's resurrection. In the college of Apostles, besides James the son of Zebedee and brother of John, Judas Iscariot who betrayed his master, and Simon surnamed Peter, we find James surnamed the Less, or Younger (see Mark 15:40.), to distinguish him from the other James, the son of Zebedee, who was elder than he: also Judas surnamed Thaddeus (Mark, iii 18.) and Lebbeus, the brother of James the Less, and Simon surnamed Zelotes. James the Less, Judas Thaddeus, and Simon Zelotes, were brothers, and sons of one Alpheus or Cleophas, who was likewise a disciple, being one of the two to whom our Lord appeared on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. They were called Christ's brethren (Matthew 13:55.), that is, his cousins; in which sense the word is used, Leviticus 10:4. It seems their mother Mary was sister to Mary our Lord's mother; for it was no unusual thing among the Jews to have more children than one of a family called by the same name. The three apostles, therefore, who go by the name of our Lord's brethren, were really his cousins-german: James the Less and Judas Thaddeus wrote the epistles which bear their names. This James was a person of great authority among the apostles; for in the council which met at Jerusalem to decide the dispute about the necessityof circumcision, we find him, as president of the meeting, summing up the debate, and wording the decree. Simon, the cousin of our Lord, is called by Matthew and Mark the Canaanite; but from the above account of his relations it is plain, that the epithet does not express his descent, otherwise his brothers James and Judas ought to have been termed Canaanites likewise. Luke calls him Simon Zelotes, which seems to be the Greek translation of the Hebrew appellation given him by Matthew and Mark. From קנא [kena] zelotyphus fuit,—he was jealous,—comes the Chaldaic word קנן [kenen] zelotes,—a zealot. See Buxtorff on the word. Put the Greek termination to this Chaldaic word, and it becomes κανανιτης, the Canaanite: wherefore the appellation of Canaanite, given to Simon here and in Mark, and the epithet Zelotes which he bears in Luke, are as perfectly the same as Cephas and Petros, Tabitha and Dorcas. The Zealots were a particular sect or section among the Jews, who in later times, under colour of zeal for God, committed all the disorders imaginable. They pretended to imitate the zeal which Phinehas, Elijah, and the Maccabees expressed, in their manner of punishing offenders; but they acted from blind fury, or from worse principles, without regard either to the laws of God, or to the dictates of reason. Some are ofopinion, that Simon the Apostle had formerly been one of this pestilent faction; but, as there is no mention made of it till a little before the destruction of Jerusalem (Joseph. Bell. lib. iv. c. 3), we may rather suppose that the surname of Zelotes was given him on account of his uncommon zeal in matters of true piety and religion. Judas the traitor was the son of one Simon: he had the surname of Iscariot given him, to distinguish him from Judas Thaddeus, our Lord's cousin. The literal meaning of Iscariot is, a man of Cariot or Kerioth, which was a town in the tribe of Judah. Joshua 15:25. In all probability, therefore, this surname denotes the place of the traitor's nativity. Some pretend, that among the Jews no person was surnamed by theplace of his birth, but such as were illustrious on account of their station; and so would have us believe, that Judas was a person of some distinction. They think his being entrusted with the bag, or common stock purse, preferablyto all the rest, is a confirmation of this; but as the other apostles were men of mean condition, these arguments are too trivial to prove that Judas was distinguished from them in that particular.
Thus were thefoundations of the church laid in twelve illiterate Galileans, who, being at first utterly ignorant of the nature and end of their office, and destitute of the qualifications necessary to discharge the duties of it, integrity excepted, were the most unlikelypersons in the world to confound the wisdomof the wise, to baffle the power of the mighty, to overturn the many false religions which then flourished everywhere under the protection of civil government, and, in a word, to reform the universally-corrupted manners of mankind. Had human prudence been to make choice of instruments for so grand an undertaking, doubtless such as were remarkable for deep science, strong reasoning, and prevailing eloquence, would have been pitched upon; and these endowments probably would have been set off with the external advantages of wealth and power. But, lo! the wisdom of God, infinitely superior to that of men, acted quite differently in this matter: for the treasure of the Gospel was committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of its power might in all countries be seen to be of God. Accordingly, the religion which these Galileans taught through the world, without having at all applied themselves to letters, exhibited a far juster notion of things than the Grecian or Roman philosophers were able to attain, though their lives were spent in contemplation and study. Hence, by its own intrinsic splendour, as well as by the external glory of the miracles which accompanied it, this religion shewed itself to be altogether of divine original. Besides, it was attended with a success answerable to its dignity and truth. It was received everywherewiththehighestapplause,as something which mankind had hitherto been seeking in vain; while the maxims and precepts of the philosophers never spread themselvesmuch farther than their particular schools. It was therefore with the highest wisdom that the foundations of the churchwere thus laid in the labours of a few weak illiterate fishermen: for with irresistible evidence it demonstrated that the immense fabric was at first raised, and is still sustained, not by the arm of flesh, but purely by the hand of Almighty God. See Macknight.
Matthew 10:5. Go not into the way, &c.— It may seem strange that our Lord neither preached himself to the Gentiles in general, nor allowed his disciples to preach among them, during his own lifetime; especially when it is evident that he came into the world on purpose to destroy the polytheism of the heathens, their idol mediators, and their idolatrous worship, and to establish the knowledge of the true and triune God, and of the only Mediator between God and man, and of the right method of attaining his favour: but our wonder will cease, when the reason of his conduct is understood. As the Jews were the only people in the world who believed in the one true God, before his messengers attempted to preach him to the heathens, it was fit that they should prove their mission, to the conviction of the Jews; instruct them more fully in the fundamental doctrines of religion, and correct what errors had crept into their faith. Besides, Christianity was to be propagated through the world, not only by the force of its own intrinsic excellence, and by the miracles wherewith it was accomplished, but it was to make its way also by the evidence which it derived from the Jewish prophecies, and by the light thrown upon it, considered as the perfection of that grand scheme which was begun in the first ages, and carried on under various dispensations from time to time, till it obtained a more complete and lasting form under the Jewish economy. It was highly expedient, therefore, that a competent numberof Jews should be converted to Christianity, who might publish it to the rest of the world, with all the evidence which was proper to be offered: but if, on account of the former revelation made to the Jews, it was absolutely fit that the new revelation should be preached by them to the rest of the world, it was necessary that the Gospel, at the first, should be confined to them; because, had it been preached to the Gentiles, that circumstance alone would have made the Jews reject it universally. It is well known how high the prejudices of the Apostles themselves ran on this head, even after they had received the gifts of the Spirit; being excessively offended with Peter, one of their number, who, by a vision from heaven, had with difficulty been prevailed upon to preach to Cornelius the centurion. Nay, they were hardly brought to believe that God intended to bestow the Gospel on the Gentiles, when they saw them receive the greatest of its privileges themselves, even the gifts of the Spirit; and though after this they preached to the Gentiles, yet, wherever they came, their custom was to begin at the Jews, if there were any in the place, that all offence might be prevented; and, on the Jews rejecting the Gospel, they turned to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46. Thus, as the Apostle tells us, Romans 15:8. Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promise made unto the fathers, namely, concerning the conversion of the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles might glorify God on account of his mercy; the mercy of the Gospel Dispensation, which they enjoyed by their conversion to Christianity. Had Jesus Christ been a minister of the uncircumcision, that is to say, had he preached the Gospel to all the Gentiles, the Jews would have rejected it; so that the proselytes, and such as held the faith of the proselytes, which many of the best sort of Gentiles seem to have done, would not have become Christ's disciples with such ease and readiness. The reason was, the evidence of the Gospel being greatly weakened by the universal unbelief of the Jews, the converts among the Gentiles would have been few in comparison, and, by that means, the promises made to the fathers, that in Christ all nations should be blessed, would not have been confirmed, or at least not so fully accomplished as it is by the scheme which Providence has actually chosen. See Macknight. When our Saviour says, Enter not into any city of the Samaritans, he means, "Enter not with a design to preach." It is true, in the beginning of his ministry, our Lord himself preached to the Samaritans with great success, Joh 4:41-42 and therefore, had he sent his apostles among them, numbers in all probability would have become members of the Christian dispensation; but the inveterate enmity which the Jews bore to the Samaritans, made the conversion of the latter to Christianity improper at this time, for the reasons mentioned above.
Matthew 10:6. But go rather to the lost sheep, &c.— See what has been said concerning the metaphors of sheep and harvest, in the note on Matthew 10:1. With respect to the first, it should be remembered, that in the note on ch. Mat 3:7 it was observed, that men, as animals, have each of them a peculiar resemblance to some particular species of other animals; which we exemplified in the term lamb, sheep, wolves, dogs, &c. We now farther add, that those appellations are upon no account to be taken for indelible characters; but those to whom they are applicable at any given time, may in the future course of life, through the converting and sanctifying grace of God, be enabled so far to control their wrong propensities by a steady practice of the contrary graces and virtues, as to afford to the church and to the world a quite opposite character. To effect this is the proper work of grace, producing repentance in the soul, and then genuine conversion, including a change of mental disposition, whereby the crafty, rapacious, mischievous, stubborn, or other savage temper, may be transmuted into that simplicity, meekness, harmlessness, and ductility, which constitute the character of sheep, or, what is an infinitely more honourable title, members of Christ's mystical body. When our Lord is said to behold the multitudes, tired, lying down, and without a shepherd;—when, in consequence of this view, he directs his apostles to go in quest of them, he calls them the lost sheep; not that they had gone astray from their shepherd, for they wanted one; but lost here imports, that they were quite at a loss how to proceed, and actually perishing for want of a guide. Such were the persons who had moved the compassion of our Lord, and for whose sake he had sent forth his apostles to publish the glad tidings of his kingdom, with assurances that divine power was at hand to take them under his immediate regency. And as that kingdom was mental, and therefore not obvious to sense, the apostles were at the same time sent to give visible proofs of its reality, by healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, and casting out demons. These miraculous testimonies were to those who were, by the grace of repentance, rightly disposed, a sure ground of faith in Christ; and, when concurring with the attractions of still superior degrees of grace, would induce them in simple faith to resign themselves, with an implicit submission, to the conduct of his Spirit, the fulness of which dwelt without measure in the incarnate Jesus, and was communicated in the power of converting grace to those whose repentant hearts were prepared to receive it.
Matthew 10:7. Preach, saying, &c.— The original word is Κηρυσσετε, which is derived from κηρυξ a herald, and signifies "proclaim, with that ardour and zeal which becomes my heralds." Probably they were to make this proclamation with a loud voice, as they passed through the streets of the towns which they visited, as Jonah declared his message to Nineveh. See Jon 3:4 and Doddridge.
Matthew 10:8. Raise the dead— In several copies this clause is wanting; for which reason, and because the disciples did not raise any person from the dead whom we read of, till after Christ's ascension, Dr. Mill takes it for an interpolation. But his opinion is ill-founded; as it is certain that this, with several other articles in the apostles' first commission, have a direct relation to the period comprehended under that more extensive commission which they received after their Master's resurrection. See Matthew 10:18; Matthew 10:21; Matthew 10:23. Whitby and Wetstein. That the direction at the end of this verse, Freely, or gratis ye have received, freely give, relates to the miraculous cures which the apostles were empowered to perform, and not to the stated offices of the apostolical function, is evident from Luk 10:7 where our Lord, in giving a like commission to the Seventy, bids them eat and drink what was set before them, because the labourer was worthy of his hire; nay, in this very charge, no sooner did he order the apostles to give freely, than he forbade them to provide gold, &c. because the workman is worthy of his meat; [deserves his maintenance; Heylin;] plainly intimating, that while they were preaching, they had a right to maintenance from those who enjoyed the benefit of their labours, and should, in the course of divine providence, be supplied with all things necessary. Accordingly, we find the apostles receiving such maintenance, and insisting upon it as their due, 1 Corinthians 9:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:14.Galatians 6:6; Galatians 6:6. See Macknight.
Matthew 10:9. Brass in your purses— The Greek word κτησησθε, which signifies to possess, signifies also to get, to furnish oneself with; which is the meaning of it here. The stress seems to lie on this word: they might use what they had already, but they might not delay at all to provide any thing more, nor take any thought about it. Nor indeed were they to take any thing with them, more than was strictly necessary; lest it should retard them, and because they were to learn hereby to trust God in all future exigencies. In your purses, in the Greek is ζωνας , girdles. The Eastern girdles being doubled, and sewed along the edges, were more convenient for carrying a quantity of money than purses, because money, being distributed round the body in the fobs of the girdle, the weight of it was not so much felt. By money, therefore, in their girdles, is to be understood a considerable sum. See Calmet, Beausobre and Lenfant, and Shaw's Travels, p. 227.
Matthew 10:10. Nor scrip for your journey— The scrip, Πηρα, was a sort of large bag, in which shepherds, and those who journeyed, carried their provisions. See on Luke 10:34. Thus the bag into which David put the smooth stones, wherewith he smote Goliah, is called both a scrip and a shepherd's bag, In the account in which St. Mark gives the repetition of these instructions, immediatelybefore the disciples took their journey, he says, they were permitted to be shod with sandals, ch. Matthew 6:9. The sandal was a piece of strong leather, or wood, fastened to the sole of the foot with strings, which they tied round the foot and ancle; but the shoe was a kind of short boot, that covered the foot and a part of the leg, and was a more delicate piece of dress than the sandals. See Calmet on the word sandals, and Lightfoot. St. Mark says, Mar 6:8 that they were allowed to take a staff; which Calmet observes may be reconciled with St. Matthew, by attending to the ambiguity of the Hebrew word שׁבח shabet, answering to the Greek word ραβδος : for, as the Hebrew signifies any sort of rod, whether club, staff, sceptre, or pole, he thinks the staff, which, according to St. Matthew, the disciples were prohibited to use, may have been a pole for carrying a burden on; an accoutrement which was useless, as they were not allowed to carry any provisions with them, nor any spare clothes; whereas the staff, which by St. Mark's account he permitted them to take, was a walking-staff, very proper for those who were to perform a journey with expedition. Heinsius labours to prove, that ει μη, the exceptive particle in Mark, may signify no not; and so would have the clause ει μη ραβδον μονον, translated no, not a single staff. But the more probable solution of the difficulty seems to be, that such of the apostles as had staffs in their hands might take them: as for those who were walking without them, they were not to provide them; for as the providence of God was to supply them with all necessaries, to have made the least preparation for their journey would have implied a disbelief of their Master's promise.
Matthew 10:11. Inquire who in it is worthy— Anciently they had no houses of entertainment for the accommodation of travellers, but only houses for lodging them, called in modern language caravanseras, into which travellers brought their own provisions and accommodated themselves in the best manner they could; but it was common for persons of humane dispositions, such as our Lord here calls αξιοι, worthy persons, to entertain strangers according to their ability. See Judges 19:15; Judges 19:21.
Matthew 10:12-13. When ye come, &c.— The Vulgate, and many manuscripts, add to the end of the 12th verse,—saying, Peace be to this house; words which we find in the parallel place, Luk 10:5 and which serve to explain the verse following; for they shew that this salutation was no formal compliment in the mouths of the apostles, but efficacious to minds rightly disposed. A calm and composed spirit is necessary for hearing the word of God profitably. See Heylin.
Matthew 10:14. Whosoever shall not receive you— In Scripture, to receive one signifies to allow him the benefit of our company, to converse familiarly with him, and to do him good offices. See Luke 15:2. It signifies also to entertain one hospitably, being applied twice to Rahab's entertaining the spies, Hebrews 11:31.James 2:25; James 2:25. The Jews thought there was something of so peculiar a holiness in the land of Israel, that when they came home from any heathen country, they stopped at its borders, and wiped the dust of it from their shoes, that the sacred inheritance might not be polluted with it: nor would they permit herbs to be brought to them from their neighbours, lest they should bring any of the dust of their land upon them. So that the action here enjoined to the apostles of shaking off the dust was a lively intimation, that when the Jews had rejected the Gospel, they were no longer to be regarded as the people of God, but were on a level with heathens and idolaters.See Fleming's Christology, vol. 2: p. 160. Doddridge, and Calmet.
Matthew 10:16. Behold, I send you forth as sheep, &c.— Considering the nature of the tidings which the apostles were now sent out to publish, namely, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, the number and variety of miraculous cures which they were enabled to perform in confirmation of their doctrine, and the greatness of the benefits that they were empowered to confer upon the families who should entertain them kindly, it is reasonable to think that they were flattering themselves with the hopes of great honour and acceptance wherever they came. In the mean time, the event was by no means to answer their expectation; they were everywhere to be despised, persecuted, delivered up into the hands of public justice, and punished as evil-doers. Our Lord, therefore, in the most fair and generous manner forewarned them of these things; made them large promises of the divine aid, and gave them directions with respect to their conduct in every circumstance. Behold, I send you forth, &c. "I send you forth weak and defenceless amongst a cruel and wicked people." Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. "On the one hand, be so prudent as not to irritate them unnecessarily by your behaviour or mode of speaking, ch. Matthew 7:6.; and on the other, let not your prudence degenerate into craft, lest it lead you to betray the truth, or to encourage men in their evil practices. Join prudence and harmlessnesstogether;renderingyourselvesremarkableforintegrityamidthegreatest temptations, and for meekness under the greatest provocation." The word rendered harmless, ακεραιοι, properly signifies pure and unmixed, or unwilling to do any harm. See Stockius. The simplicity recommended here, includes meekness and sincerity; and it is with these virtuous qualities that the Lord Jesus Christ tempers what might be pernicious in the serpents, whose prudence is commonly accompanied with a mischievous disposition. See Genesis 3:1. Our blessed Saviour has given remarkable instances of the prudence that he requires here in his disciples. Compare ch. Matthew 22:21, &c. Bishop Warburton observes, that the character of the Christian mission is denoted in these words, Behold, I send you forth as sheep; and the condition of an unbelieving world in the following,—I send you in the midst of wolves. Though the faith waits be propagated only by the mild measures of persuasion, yet even this would provoke the wolfish disposition of the power of darkness to put in use all the iniquitous contrivances of fraud and violence for its oppression. Their provident Master, therefore, delivers them a rule for the integrity and prudence of their own conduct; Be ye wise,&c.—a direction equally respecting their private andtheir public characters, whereby the first might correspond with the dignity of their office, and the other with the objects of their care. So that, as men, the human virtues, as missionaries the social, are recommended to their practice, and both under the familiar images of the serpent's wisdom, and the dove's innocence. What these human virtues are, the illusion in the figurative expression will discover; what the social, must be determined by the occasion of the precept, Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; a direction conveyed in two proverbial sayings, whose import the disciples perfectly understood. The first alludes to a vulgar supposition of the ancient world, which gave credit to certain artists, who pretended to the power of rendering serpents innoxious by the force of charms and incantations. The men who traded in this imposture, in order to hide their frequent miscarriages, made the people believe that some of these serpents had gotten a trick as good as their own, which was, to shut their ears to their enchantments. Hence the proverb of the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears, which refuseth to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely; by which moralists would infer the wisdom and safetyof abstaining from unlawful pleasures. The second, of beingharmless as doves, alludes to as ancient and as fanciful an error of the naturalists, that the dove is without a gall. The whole of this monition, therefore, to the disciples in their private character implies, that they should learn to abstain from all unlawful and intemperate pleasures, and to suppress in themselves all the sentiments of rage, envy, and revenge; the serpent's wisdom being directed against the concupiscible passions, as the dove's innocence is against the irascible; and both together make one good precept for the subjection [through the power of Almighty Grace] of our brutal nature to the rational, in which consists the exercise of the human virtues. Could any thing be more harmless than this method of propagating religion? Could any thing be more holy than the manners of its propagators? What regard to the rights of men, to the laws of society, was enjoined to the offerers of the Gospel! What neglect of the interests of flesh and blood was required of the receivers of it! Truth was the lasting foundation on which Jesus erected his church, and holiness and virtue the livingprinciples which were to actuate its members. Indeed, the purity of his intentions, and the rectitude of his measures, are so evident from theevangelic history of his life and death, that the most stubborn infidel is ready to clear him of fraudulent imposture, and to centre all his suspicionsinawell-meaning enthusiasm. This is the last miserable refuge of obstinate impiety.
Matthew 10:17-18. But beware of men— "Though I order you to be meek and patient under injuries, I do not mean that you should not be on your guard, and, as far as is consistent with conscience and duty, avoid them: no, the more circumspect you are, the better; for, after all,you will meet with many indignities, and often be in danger of death, even from the hand of public justice." They will deliver you up to the Sanhedrim, or consistories, and scourge you in their synagogues. Scourging is a sort of discipline which has long since been used in the synagogues, where they keep their courts. See Beausobre and Lenfant's introduction. And ye shall be brought before governors, &c. These things did not happen while the apostles were on their first mission, but after Christ's ascension. See Acts 4:6-7, &c. Acts 5:40; Acts 12:2-3, &c. &c.—For a testimony against them and the Gentiles, "All these things are ordered to befal you, that your integrity may appear, and that the truth of the Gospel may be demonstrated." Had the apostles never come before the supreme powers, nor defended their cause in the presence of kings and governors, it might have been said, that because Christianity could not bear a strict examination from able judges, it was preached to none but men of vulgar understandings, who were not capable of detecting it: but when persons of the highest distinction for birth, fortune, capacity, and learning, had the Gospel laid before them, in the defences which the apostles and first preachers of it were obliged to make at the public tribunals of every country, its standing such a tribunal was certainly a great confirmation of its truth. Wherefore, as Jesus here foretold, the bringing of his apostles before kings became a testimony of their integrity, and of the truth of the Gospel, and consequently an undeniable proof of the guilt of both Jews and Gentiles who neglected it. See Macknight, Clarke, and the histories of the first ages of the church.
Matthew 10:19-20. But when they deliver you up, take no thought— Be not solicitous. This direction was repeated on several occasions afterwards; see particularly Mark 13:11.Luke 12:11; Luke 12:11. The apostles, being illiterate men, and wholly unacquainted with the laws of the different countries whither they were to go, as well as with the forms of their courts, their Master foresaw that they might be in great perplexity when they appeared as criminals before persons of the first distinction.He foresaw likewise, that this circumstance would occur to themselves, and render them anxious to meditate beforehand by what apology they might best defend so noble a cause. More than once, therefore, he expressly forbad them to be in the least solicitous about the defences they were to make, or so much as to premeditate any part of them; promising to afford them, on all occasions, the aid of their Father's Spirit, who would inspire them to speak in a manner becoming the cause which they were to defend. Nothing surely could have been more suitable than the promise which our Lord here makes them; nor can one conceive any admonitions and declarations farther from the language of imposture and enthusiasm, than those before us in the present cha
Matthew 10:21. And the brother shall deliver up, &c.— "Such is the nature of the men among whom ye are going, and such the obstinacy with which they will oppose the Gospel, that, were it their brother, their father, or their son who preached it, they would make no scruple of being active in putting these nearest relationsto death. You may therefore expect the hottest persecution; but as you are to have great assistances, you need not be dismayed." See the next note.
Matthew 10:22. Ye shall be hated of all men— They who believed the testimony of the apostles, as multitudes did, could not but ardently love them, astheir fathers in Christ. See Galatians 4:15. This, therefore, is plainly one of those many scriptures, in which the universal term all is to be taken with great restrictions. Compare John 12:32.Philippians 2:21; Philippians 2:21. There is a peculiar emphasis in the words for my name's sake in this place. The apostles and first Christians set themselves in opposition both to the Jewish and Pagan religions, declaring the nullity of the former, and urging the renunciation of the latter in all its forms, as matter of indispensable necessity. On the most tremendous penalties, they required every man, without exception, to believe in Christ, and to submit implicitly to his authority; a demand most galling to the pride of their princes, priests, and philosophers. Moreover, having a lively sense of the importance of the things which they preached, they urged them not in a coldand indifferent manner, but with the utmost fervency. Need it be matter of wonder then, that in every country such a furious storm of persecution arose against them, and the religion which they taught, and that they were treated as the filth and off-scourings of the earth? Our Saviour adds, But he that endureth, &c.; he who perseveres, who bears constantly, and with invincible patience, these persecutions. The original word υπομεινας denotes both patience and constancy. Jesus gave this encouragement to his disciples likewise, when he spoke to them of the sufferings that they were to meet with about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. See ch. Matthew 24:13. We may therefore believe that he had those sufferings also now in view.
Matthew 10:23. But when they persecute you, &c.— "Let not the persecutions that you are to meet with, in any period of your ministry, discourage you: but when you are sore pressed in any one city, flee to another, where you will meet with an asylum: for I assure you, in spite of all opposition, your labours shall be attended with such success, that you shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come;" that is to say, according to the general interpretation, "before he comes to execute vengeance upon the Jews, by the destruction of their devoted city." The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is often called the coming of the son of man. See ch. Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:44.Luke 18:8; Luke 18:8. Macknight differs from this interpretation, and gives the following: "Before ye have carried the glad tidings of the Gospel to the several cities of Israel, my kingdom shall be established in many places; so that in the midst of the hottest persecution, you may always expect to find some who will befriend you." See Olearius, and Whitby.
Matthew 10:24-25. The disciple is not above his master, &c.— "That you may bear all with a becoming fortitude, consider that they have calumniated, traduced, and persecuted me your Master; for which cause you, my disciples, cannot think it hard ifthey calumniate and persecute you." This is a proverbial expression, which our Lord applies on different occasions. Here, and Joh 15:20 it relates to the persecutions that his disciples were to undergo. It is applied to another subject,John 13:16. Luke 6:40. Concerning Beelzebub, see the note on 2 Kings 1:2.
Matthew 10:26. Fear them not therefore, &c.— The meaning of this verse is, that the disciples ought not to conceal the truth which had been committed to them, notwithstanding all the contradictions that they might meet with in the course of their ministry; because the design of the Lord Jesus Christ was, that the gospel which he revealed to them in private, and which was a mystery to all the rest of mankind, should by them be published all over the world. Our blessed Saviour applies here a proverbial saying to the Gospel; see Mark 4:22.Luke 8:17; Luke 8:17; Luke 12:2. There is nothing covered, &c. This is a general rule, which may admit of several exceptions. Our Lord applies it to different subjects. Here he gives his disciples to understand, that it was his design that they should openly and courageously reveal to the world those truths, which the time and circumstances did not then permit him to disclose everywhere.
Matthew 10:27. What I tell you in darkness— That is, in private. In the light, means in public. In the next words our Lord alludes to a custom among the Jews, whose teachers were accustomed to have their interpreters, who received the dictates of their masters whispered in the ear, and then publicly proposed them to all. The last words, that preach ye upon the house-tops, refers to another custom of making things public, by proclaiming them on the flat roofs of the houses in the East. The Mollahs among the Turks at this day proclaim on the top of their mosques, that "God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet," as a signal for the people to come to public prayers. See on ch. Mat 24:17 and Wynne's new translation.
Matthew 10:28. And fear not them, &c.— This was a saying familiar to the Jews. See Wis 16:13-15 and compare Isaiah 51:7-8. Our Saviour most wisely cautions his disciples against the fear of man, since they were going to encounter all the powers of the world and of darkness, by promoting the gospel of purity, and of true holiness.
Dr. Doddridge observes very well, that these words contain a certain argument, to prove the existence of the soul in a separate state, and its perception of that existence, else the soul would be as properly killed as the body; and accordingly he paraphrases the words, "Fear not them who can only kill the mortal body, but cannot kill or hurt the immaterial soul, which will still survive in allits vigour, while its tabernacle lies in ruins." Our Saviour, instead of the word αποκτειναι, to kill, makes use of the word απολεσαι, to destroy, in the second clause, which carries with it the signification also of tormenting. See Grotius. What an awful verse is this before us! How fit is it that this eternal and almighty God should be the object of our humble fear, and that in compassion with him we should fear nothing else! All the terrors, and all the flatteries of the world, are disarmed by this:—an idea which in every state of life should engage us to be faithful to God; so shall we be most truly faithful to ourselves.
Matthew 10:29-31. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? &c.— Our Saviour here goes on to encourage his disciples, from the important consideration of God's particular providence. "You should consider that your enemies cannot touch even your bodies without your Father's permission; for the meanest of his creatures are under the protection of his providence; insomuch that nothing befalleth them without his direction or permission." The Greek word ασσαριου, rendered a farthing, denotes a very small piece of money, about the value of which Commentators are not agreed. Fall on the ground is a Hebrew phrase signifying to perish. See Joshua 23:14. 2Ki 10:10 and compare Luk 21:18 with Acts 27:34. The next verse is a proverbial expression, which gives a very noble and lively representation of the care God takes of the righteous. See 1Sa 14:45. 2 Samuel 14:11. 1 Kings 1:51-52. Than many sparrows, Matthew 10:31, means, "than all the sparrows in the world:" the word many is sometimes put for a great many, or for all. See Dan 12:2 and compare Romans 5:12; Romans 5:21. These verses contain a full proof of the universality of the divine providence; but the singular interpositions of it in favour of good men may, with still additional force, be argued from the prayers and promises offered in Scripture with regard to particular events, and the promises of temporal blessings made to those who fear and serve God. Nor are we much concerned to determine how far any of these are miraculous, and how far the result of general laws, settled in an exact congruity to the temper and conduct of every individual alleged by it, which an omniscient God foresaw, and for which his perfect schemes might easily provide, by methods to us unsearchable. It is plain that Homer thought divine Providence interested itself in the lives of brute animals. See Iliad, lib. 15. ver. 274 and we have a remarkable instance in the book of Jonah of God's care for all his creatures, small and great; for he urges his compassion to brute creatures as one of the reasons why he would not destroy Nineveh. See Jonah 4:11. Grotius, and Doddridge.
Matthew 10:32-33. Whosoever shall confess me,—will I confess, &c.— Acknowledge, &c. To confess, here signifies publicly to acknowledge Jesus Christ for the promised Messiah, and the Son of God. This confession extends to the receiving of his whole doctrines, and even the least of his commands. To deny Jesus Christ is, not to acknowledge, or to disown him; to renounce his doctrine, or be ashamed of the profession of it. There is an unspeakable majesty in this member of our Lord's discourse: though in the lowest state of humanity, he declared, that his confessing us before God is the greatest happiness, and his denying us the greatest misery, that can befal us.
Matthew 10:34-36. Think not that I am come, &c.— "Because the prophets have spoken glorious things of the peace and happiness which shall flourish under the Messiah, whom they have named, for that reason, the prince of peace; you may imagine that I am come to put the world into that happy state immediately: but this is far from being the case; for though the nature of my government be such as might produce abundant felicity, inasmuch as my religion breathes nothing but love, men will not lay aside their animosity, nor will they exercise a mutual friendship among themselves, as soon as the Gospel is preached to them. No; such is their weakness and wickedness, that they will make the Gospel itself an occasion of such bitter dissensions, that it will seem as if I came on purpose to sow the seeds of discord among the children of men. These bad consequences, however, are not to be considered as peculiar to Christianity; and therefore must not be imputed to it, but to the wickedness of men. The Deists indeed boldly affirm, that thediversity of opinions and worships, which prevailed among the heathens, never produced either bloodshed or disorder, nor disturbed the peace of mankind. But their assertion is false. It is true, we are not so well acquainted with the religious disputes of the heathens, as we are with our own: not because no such disputes were ever known, but because the historians of those times did not think them worthy of being transmitted to posterity. Some flagrant instances, however, are accidentally preserved, by which we may judge of the rest. Socrates, one of the best of the heathens, and the wisest and most learned of all the Greeks, was put to death bythe Athenians, for teaching the unity of God, and the spirituality of the worship due to him. Aristotle the philosopher was also impeached for his opinions, and obliged to fly from Athens, lest he should have incurred the fate of Socrates. Antiochus Epiphanes raised a most violent and bloody persecution against the Jews, in their own country, on account of religion, in which many thousands perished, for refusing to submit to the idolatrous worship which he had set up in the temple at Jerusalem. The emperor Claudius banished the Jews from Italy for their religion, pretending that they were seditious. The religious quarrels of the Egyptians, the fury with which they prosecuted them, and the disturbances that they occasioned, are well known. And, to name no more, was there ever any persecution raised by Christians, either against one another, or against infidels, more bloody, cruel, and extensive, than the ten persecutions carried on by the Roman emperors, at the instigation of the philosophers? It is to no purpose to reply, that these were persecutions of men, who set themselves to overturn the established religions of the countries where they lived: for while those men attacked them with the force of argument only, they ought to have been repelled by no other weapon; and if they could not be thus quelled, their adversaries, instead of persecuting them, ought to have yielded to truth. While the accounts of those persecutions stand on record, it must not be a little assurance which is able to bear the Deists out in affirming, that the ancient heathen religions never inspired their votaries with a spirit of persecution. Yet it will not reflect any dishonour on Christianity, though it should be allowed to have occasioned more disturbances than any other religion. On the contrary, it is rather a proof of its superior excellency; for if Christianity animates the persons who believe it with greater zeal for truth, it is because it approves itself better worth the contending for. Its evidence was clearer, and its tendencies better than those of any false religion, and therefore no wonder that men have espoused its interests more heartily. See Macknight, and Bishop Hoadley's sermons on the text.
Matthew 10:37. He that loveth father or mother, &c.— See Deu 33:9 to which our Saviour manifestly alludes. "He who preferreth the friendship of his nearest relations, though the sweetest of all earthly satisfactions, to my religion; renouncing it, that he may enjoy their goodwill; is not worthy of being my disciple; does not deserve to be called a Christian." Our Lord told them this with peculiar propriety, after having declared that their bitterest foes should be the members of their own families. Beausobre and Lenfant, and Macknight. See also the Reflections for a farther improvement of the subject.
Matthew 10:38. He that taketh not his cross— This alludes to the custom of criminals carrying the cross to which they were to be fastened; and was a strong intimation, that he should himself be crucified; and that none could be a sincere Christian without a willingness to bear even that shameful and cruel death for his sake, if he was called to it. He follows Christ, says Grotius, who leads his life, as much as possible, in conformity to Christ's life and precepts.
Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life, &c.— "He who makes shipwreck of faith and a good conscience to save his life, shall lose that which is really so,—his everlasting happiness; whereas he who maintains his integrity with the loss of life, and all its enjoyments, shall find what is infinitely better,—a blessed immortality." See ch. Matthew 16:24. There is in this sentence a kind of figure, whereby the same word is used in different senses, in such a manner as to convey the sentiment with greater energy to the attentive. "He who, by making a sacrifice of his duty, preserves temporal life, shall lose eternal life; and contrariwise." The like trope or figure our Lord employs in that expression, ch. Matthew 8:22. Let the dead bury their dead. Let the spiritually dead bury the naturally dead. See also ch. Matthew 13:12. In the present instance, the figure has a beauty in the original, which we cannot give in a version. See Campbell.
Matthew 10:40-42. He that receiveth, &c.— "As you shall be rewarded for perseverance in my faith, Mat 10:39 so in proportion shall they who entertain you for my sake. He who receiveth you, &c. that is to say, sheweth you kindness,—sheweth me kindness, and for the same reason sheweth my Father kindness, who hath sent me; and shall be rewarded accordingly." By a prophet is meant a minister of God in general. The word δεχομαι, rendered receive, plainly signifies here to entertain in a hospitable way, as it does likewise, Hebrews 11:31.James 2:25-26; James 2:25-26. Nor can the gradation in the following words be understood without such an interpretation. Our Lord styles those persons little ones, Mat 10:42 who were recommendable neither for their learning nord ignity; plain and well-meaning men, who, though they were illiterate, were of a teachable disposition, and entertained a great love of truth, and enjoyed the love of God in their hearts. See ch. Matthew 11:5; Mat 11:25 Matthew 18:6. Mark 9:42.Luke 17:2; Luke 17:2. By disciple in this verse is not to be understood one of the twelve apostles; for Jesus, observing here a gradation, descends from a prophet to a righteous man, that is to say, one who is eminent in holiness, a righteous man in the way of eminence; and from a righteous man to a disciple, that is to say, any genuine believer. See ch. Matthew 5:1 Matthew 18:6. We may first observe here, that what renders good works acceptable in the sight of God, and procures them a recompence from him through the blood of the covenant, is, their being done out of regard for him. By the rewards here promised, Le Clerc understands the happiness of heaven, nearly in these words: "He that sheweth kindness to a prophet on account of his mission and doctrine, or to a righteous man on account of his righteousness, especially if by so doing he exposes himself to persecution, shall be highly rewarded: nay, he who does any good office whatever in the meanest of my disciples, though it should be but the small service of handing a cup of cold water to them, shall not go unrewarded." Other commentators think it improper to interpret these promises of the rewards of the life to come, because the offices to which they are annexed may possibly be performed by very bad men, who on some occasionshonour and cherish the servants of Christ, as Herod did at one time John the Baptist. But Le Clerc has endeavoured to obviate this, by adding the circumstance of men's suffering persecution for such good offices; yet he adds it without warrant from the text. Besides, the promise thus understood would not have animated the disciples so powerfully in the discharge of their duty, under the difficulties that they were to meet with. Perhaps, therefore, it is more reasonable to understand these rewards actively of the temporal blessings which the Apostles, as prophets and righteous men, were empowered to confer on the families who shewed them hospitality. As prophets they could heal the sick in those families, and raise the dead: as righteous men, they could assist them in the management of their affairs, by giving them prudent advice in difficult cases; or they might keep them back from sin by their religious conversation and example: and in both capacities might draw down many blessings onthem by their prayers (see Matthew 10:13.). "You are to meet," said Christ, "with great opposition; but I will engage men to befriend you: for all who do you any kindness shall, even in this life, be so rewarded by your miracles and prayers, that theyshall be confirmed in their goodwill to you; and others, observing how God has blessed them, shall be excited to imitate their kindness." Calvin thinks this text teaches, that the rewards of the good offices here mentioned will bear a proportion to the dignity of the person in the church of God, who receives them. But whatever sense we put upon the passage, the declaration and promise here made, joined with Matthew 10:14-15., where our Lord threatens to punish those who should reject his messengers, were excellently calculated to comfort them under the prospect of the bad reception which he told them they were to meet with, while employed in preaching the Gospel. See Macknight. Dr. Campbell, instead of in the name of, reads because,—because he is a prophet,—because he is a righteous man,—because he is my disciple.
Inferences.—How gloriously confirmed is the Gospel of Christ by the various signs and wonders which were wrought by those who first preached it! This Gospel is to be published to all, and it will not be in vain, but be savingly received by many. What an encouragement is this to those that preach, and those who hear it! and how careful should we be to give it due entertainment! If we reject it, it is to our own perdition, which will be more terrible than what the worst of heathens will suffer who never heard it: but if we embrace it, and perseveringly cleave to it, it will be to our salvation and eternal glory. Though the ministers of this Gospel are not to seek great things in this world for or by their ministrations; yet their great Lord and Master has made it the duty, and will incline the hearts, of his believing people to provide for them: and as it is their exceeding joy to be owned and honoured by him, and made his instruments of gathering-in lost souls; so the least Christian affection or kindness shewn to any of his faithful servants or disciples, because they are such, shall be graciously accepted; and he will own it, as if it were done personally unto himself. Ah! what are the dearest friends and comforts of life, if put in the least competition with Christ! and why should any reproaches or troubles that we may meet with for his sake be a discouragement to us, since he has undergone them before us, will take care of us in the way, and, if faithful, publicly own and recommend us to his Father at the end! Needlessly to expose ourselves to sufferings is unwarrantable and imprudent: but to neglect any known duty, or commit any known sin to avoid them, is in its degree a kind of apostacy; it is fearing men, who cannot kill our immortal spirits together with our mortal bodies, nor affect our truest interests; it is fearing them more than the great God, who will dreadfully resent it, and can destroy both soul and body for ever in hell. But whatever we are called to lose or suffer for Christ and his cause, we shall never lose by him, while with faith and patience, with meekness and holy courage, we commit ourselves to Him that judgeth righteously, and has all our affairs under his eye and government: for he that endures to the end shall be saved.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Those whom our Lord intended to be his ministers and ambassadors, he had before called to be his attendants, that they might learn from his divine instructions the truths that they must preach to others, and imitate his bright example which they beheld. None can possibly be fit for the ministry, or be called of God to take that office upon them, who have not first been taught of Christ by communion with him, and acquaintance with his word, the blessed truths which they are to declare to others, and been furnished with gifts as well as graces for that arduous employment. It is the scandal of any church, and must be the ruin of the people's souls, when such are sent forth as ministers who are themselves ignorant, careless, and unacquainted with the glorious truths of God, and merely take up the ministry as a maintenance; and they who send them shall share their guilt.
1. Christ called them unto him in private, from the rest of the disciples, and, with their commission to preach his Gospel, invested them with authority over the unclean spirits and diseases of every kind, that by their miracles they might confirm their mission. Note; (1.) A particular call is needful for the ministry, besides the general one to be Christ's disciple; and we must see this clear before we presume to run. (2.) The great design of the gospel-ministry is, to oppose and destroy Satan's power over the hearts of men. Though bodily possessions may be less frequent, his empire over men's souls is still mighty; and nothing but the power of the Gospel can effectually cast out the unclean spirit from the fallen heart. (3.) In the grace of Jesus there is a cure for every sickness; none of our spiritual maladies are so inveterate, but there is in his word medicine which can heal the disease.
2. The number and names of the apostles are recorded. They were twelve in number, according to the tribes of Israel, to whom they were sent. They are mentioned in pairs, being sent forth by two and two, as mutual helps to each other; and some of them were brethren in blood, as well as apostleship; and happy it is where relations are thus by grace doubly united. Peter is placed first, not as invested with superior power over his fellow-labourers, but as among those who were first called, and appeared ever most zealous in the cause. Matthew, the writer of this Gospel, humbly sets Thomas before himself, though the other Evangelists place him after Matthew; and he adds his former occupation, the publican, as a foil to set off the distinguished grace of Jesus to him, and to keep him lowly in his own eyes, remembering whence he was taken. Simon, another of the same name with Peter, is distinguished from him by being called the Canaanite, either from his city Cana of Galilee, or, as the name signifies, he was of the Zealots, Luke 6:15 a sect among the Jews, who in imitation of Phinehas, out of pretended zeal for God's glory, executed vengeance on offenders, without any process before the magistrates. Judas the traitor is the last. The purest societies will have some such among them; he is called Iscariot, concerning which name there are many conjectures; the most probable seems to be, that it was given him from the place of his nativity, and to distinguish him from the other Judas or Jude, the brother of James. See the Critical Notes.
2nd, Christ, having given the apostles their commission, directs them how to discharge it aright.
1. Their ministry must be confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel alone, and therefore they are forbidden to visit any city of the Gentiles or Samaritans. The Mosiac dispensation had not yet ceased: it was needful, therefore, according to the divine plan, that the Gospel should first be preached in the Jews; that the faithful among them might enjoy all the high privileges of the new dispensation, and the rest be left inexcusable in their infidelity.
2. The subject of their preaching must be the same which John at first, and Jesus himself, had inculcated; that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and therefore they were to urge all men to repent and turn to God, as became the true members of the Messiah's kingdom. Note; (1.) Truth is uniform. Novel doctrines carry their own confutation along with them. (2.) The nearness of Christ's coming in his kingdom should quicken our diligence to prepare to meet him.
3. They are directed to work miracles in confirmation of their mission, and to engage the readier attention to their doctrine: in the name of Jesus they shall be enabled to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise even the dead, and cast out devils from the possessed; evidences these of divine power, which none who were not wilfully obstinate could withstand; and for these acts of benevolence they must neither desire nor receive the least reward, shewing their disinterested zeal and charity, and giving as freely as they had received. Note; Nothing more evidently characterises the faithful ministers of Christ, than their disinterested labours, not seeking gain for themselves, but the good of mankind.
4. They need not be at all solicitous about a provision in their journey; nor should they take either money in their purse, or meat in their scrip, or change of garments, or any other than the clothes they had on, the sandals on their feet, and the staff in their hands: he who employed them in their work, will take care that they shall not want. Though they may not desire to enrich themselves by their labours, they justly deserved their maintenance. Note; Though the ministers of the gospel must not seek filthy lucre, they have a right to a subsistence; and they who preach the gospel shall live by the gospel.
5. As they were going into places where they were utterly unknown, their first inquiry must be who was worthy in the place (not of the gospel or the grace of God; but who was most noted for hospitality, and the entertainment of strangers), and abide in their house during their stay, if they found a welcome. In which case, entering with kindest wishes of every blessing, they should salute the master and his household; and if they received a courteous and hearty entertainment, then the blessings they wished for should descend upon that house: but if their salute was returned with coldness or incivility, then their good wishes should not be lost; but, instead of descending on that family, should return with blessings upon their own souls. But woe to that house or city that should, by their unkind behaviour, compel them to depart! they are commanded to shake off the dust of their feet against them, either as testifying their abhorrence of their wickedness in thrusting the gospel from them, or as a testimony against them in the day of judgment; at which aweful season even Sodom and Gomorrah would not meet with so heavy a doom, as these who rejected the counsel of God against their own souls. Note; (1.) Religion is never a plea for rudeness or moroseness; to be courteous is a gospel duty. (2.) No good wishes are ever in vain; the prayers offered for the evil and unthankful will bring a blessing to us, if they procure none for them. (3.) Nothing is lost by being employed in God's service, and the support of the gospel; no money laid out in any way will bring richer returns than this. (4.) They who reject God's ministers, reject him, whose ambassadors they are; so he will interpret it, and avenge their quarrel. (5.) When any place or people slight the gospel, justly does God take it from them. (6.) There is a day of judgment at hand, when among the various degrees of punishment which will be inflicted on sinners, none will endure so heavy vengeance as those against whom the dust of a slighted and rejected gospel shall rise up for a testimony.
3rdly, As they were now beginning the work of their ministry, our Lord informs them of the troubles and persecutions to which they would be hereafter exposed in the exercise of their office; that when they came, they might not think some strange thing had happened to them as they might otherwise do, if they were buoyed up with the hopes of a temporal kingdom. And that they may not be at a loss in these seasons of trial, they have gracious encouragements to support them, and directions for their conduct in such emergencies.
1. They must expect to meet with many difficulties and much suffering. They were harmless and defenceless as sheep, and were going forth into a world where they would be worried by wicked men, fierce and savage as wolves: for Christ's name's sake, and for their fidelity to him, they would be hated; the natural heart being full of enmity against God and his image, and this being at the root of all persecution, with whatever specious pretences the wicked seek to cloak their animosity. They would be arrested as criminals, and brought to the bar; the arm of justice which should be stretched forth to protect the innocent, having in all ages, through false misrepresentations and partial judges, been made the means of the most cruel oppressions of God's people. They would be exposed to suffer in their persons, even unto death; so far will the inveterate malice of their enemies go: not content with scourging them, and putting them to shame, they will persecute some even unto blood, and with all the ignominy of a public execution take away their lives. To give a pretext for such cruelties, they will be branded with every opprobrious name, and their characters be blackened, as if they were very fiends of hell; this being the practice of persecutors in every age, to misrepresent the people of God, and dress them up in the most odious colours, the more easily to destroy them. So far, therefore, from that outward peace and prosperity which the Jews fancied would attend the Messiah's kingdom, they must look for the sword of persecution, and a state of constant variance and warfare with the world which lieth in wickedness. That gospel of peace, which in itself breathes such charity and good-will to men, through the perverseness of the natural heart, would give occasion to the most implacable feuds; difference of religion being the ground of the most cruel persecutions. Now these things they are warned of, that they may count the cost, and, knowing the consequences, their choice may be deliberate and fixed. These trials also would be the more severe, considering the persons from whom they would come,—from men, even those of their own nation; from the very persons to whom they preached, and for whose souls they laboured,—from all men, men of all ranks and degrees, and from the world in general which lieth in wickedness; few of whom would receive their testimony, and the rest would not be only hardened, but exasperated against them,—from the great men, the kings and governors of the earth, who would employ their power in oppressing and opposing them; for the gospel seldom meets with friends among the great,—yea, from those who made a shew of religion; even in the synagogues they would find the most inveterate foes, who would even count God honoured in the punishment that they inflicted on them, and place their bitterest malice to the account of zeal for his glory: and such persecutors on principle are the worst of persecutors. And finally, what would be of all others the most irksome to be borne, from their nearest and dearest relations the most unnatural enmity may be expected. The nearest ties of blood shall be dissolved; even brothers shall lose all fraternal affection, and parents themselves turn unnatural to their own offspring, and children forget all duty and regard. Even daughters shall rise up against their mothers, and the daughter-in-law, who before lived peaceably with her mother-in-law, will now entertain the deadliest animosity, inflamed with blind zeal and bigotry, as if from the moment their dearest relations embraced the gospel of Jesus, no affection or respect was henceforward due to them, no measures to be kept with them; but that with implacable enmity they must be persecuted, accused, or murdered: so that a man's bitterest foes shall be those of his own household: and this has been grievously verified by the experience of past ages; and more or less, as our good conversation in Christ exhibits the strongest contrast to the ways of a world which lieth in wickedness, will be the case till the universal reign of Christ be established.
2. Christ gives them counsel and encouragement how to bear up under these heavy trials. His counsel is,
(1.) Be wise as serpents. When we have crafty enemies to deal with, we are bound to use every prudential means for our own preservation, and, as far as may be, to counteract their mischievous designs, and not unnecessarily expose ourselves to danger: notwithstanding which, in the clear way of duty, we should be bold as lions.
(2.) Be harmless as doves; give no needless provocation; shew no rancour or ill-will in return for any injuries; manifest that genuine simplicity and harmlessness of conduct, which may cut off occasion from those who desire occasion; and then the subtlety of the serpent is laudable, when thus joined with the innocence of the dove.
(3.) Beware of men. Be cautious whom you trust, and with whom you are connected. In this false and wicked world, we must not hastily believe every word, or be open to every plausible professor: prudent reserve often keeps us from fruitless repentance.
(4.) When they persecute you in one city, flee into another. In cases where life is in danger, or virulent opposition prevents all opportunity of exercising our ministry, then to fly is duty, provided no unlawful means are used to escape; and that we follow the leadings of Providence, not deserting our post through fear, but maintaining our zeal and integrity unshaken.
(5.) Fear not them who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; this mortal life is the utmost to which their rage can extend: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The soul is the valuable part of man, the body is but dust; and however great the terrors of the persecutors may be, the terrors of the Lord are greater; the everlasting burnings of hell, the wrath of the eternal God, and the sufferings both of soul and body in torment, without measure and without end, must be remembered as an antidote against the fear of man, when he comes armed with every instrument of torture, racks, gibbets, fire, or sword. How much better is it bravely to endure a momentary pang, and in an instant be gone beyond all the malice of persecutors, than by base compliance provoke God, from whose hands none can deliver us, and whose wrath will be for ever wrath to come!
(6.) What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light. Let nothing intimidate you from a bold and open profession and ministration of the gospel; and what ye hear in the ear, of my secrets communicated to you as your friend, or master (it being the custom of the Jewish doctors to whisper in their disciples' ears), that preach ye upon the housetops; which being low and flat-roofed, a person might be heard in the streets from them distinctly; and this intimates, that in the most public places of concourse, they must deliver their message without fear or shame. Christ's gospel seeks no covert, nor must his ministers conceal from their hearers any thing of the whole counsel of God.
4thly, The encouragement proposed to them, boldly to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, is as great, as the dangers which they had to grapple with were intimidating.
1. Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over; or finished, the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Before they could finish their testimony, they would see the kingdom of heaven, which they preached, come with power; when, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the effusion of the Holy Ghost upon them, they should be endued with greater powers, and see the most wonderful effects of their ministry; the prospect of which should quicken them in their present labours.
2. They need not be under any concern about what they should say when brought before their superiors, and accused by their enemies; for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak; being under a divine guidance they should never be at a loss, but should be enabled to vindicate the truth with the most powerful arguments, and to deliver themselves with the greatest propriety, to the astonishment of their adversaries; endued with wisdom and power more than human, which the most subtle of their foes shall not be able either to gainsay or resist; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in, or by you: and when on emergencies we are suddenly called forth to speak for Christ, if his glory be our single aim, we shall still in our measure and degree find the same teaching and strength, and may comfortably trust him for assistance.
3. Their very sufferings should tend to propagate the gospel that they preached, and be for a testimony against Jews and Gentiles, before whose tribunal, when brought as criminals, they would have a more public opportunity of bearing witness to the glorious truths of God; and if they sealed them with their blood, as martyrs, this would be a stronger confirmation of the truth of their mission, and leave those who rejected their testimony inexcusable.
4. He that endureth to the end shall be saved. These light afflictions are but for a moment; their end is near, death at the worst shall put a period to them; a little patience and perseverance will make them more than conquerors; and the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory will infinitely overpay all the sufferings of this present time.
5. They could never be treated worse than their Master had been before them. Whatever persecution or reproach they might endure, He, who was so greatly their superior, had suffered, or would suffer, the same. They had called him Beelzebub, a devil, the prince of the devils, and treated him with every imaginable ignominy; and this contradiction of sinners he patiently endured. Having therefore so glorious an example before them, they might well be content to bear his reproach, and count it their honour to be made like their Lord and Master. Who of us should start at shame, insult, or suffering, when we look to Jesus, and see what he endured?
6. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed and hid that shall not be known. However their enemies might seek to suppress the word of truth, it should blaze forth in spite of all opposition; and their characters, though blackened by the most malignant calumnies, should quickly be vindicated, their innocence proved, their integrity demonstrated either in this world, or at farthest, if faithful, at that great day, when every man's work shall be tried of what sort it is; and they be declared righteous, and exalted to glory in the sight of men and angels. Little need we then regard the revilings of men, when our judgment is with our God, and he shall soon bring forth our righteousness as the light.
7. They shall be under the peculiar care of Providence, and therefore might comfortably and confidently trust, and not be afraid. If a sparrow falls not to the ground, poor and worthless as it is, without the cognizance, and only according to the appointing, permissive, or suffering will of God, whose Providence extends to the very least and lowest creatures that he has made; nay, if the very hairs of their head are numbered, and not one of them can fall unknown or unnoticed; how little need they fear death or danger! their enemies, however inveterate, can have no power over them, except it be given them or permitted from above; and they may be assured the least evil cannot reach them without the divine sufferance. They are of more value than many sparrows; and therefore, not only as men, but as disciples dear to Jesus, may expect his peculiar care and protection. Note; True faith in God's providence will silence all our fears, and shew them as fruitless as they are sinful; since the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
8. According as they are faithful, they will be owned or rejected by Jesus, at the great day of his appearing and glory. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. Whatever reproach or danger a bold, open, and constant profession of Jesus may expose us to, it will redound to our distinguishing honour in the day of Christ, when the great Judge and Lord of all shall testify his approbation of our conduct before men and angels, and present us before the throne of God, as proved and found faithful; and then shall all such be advanced to glory, honour, and immortality. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven: whoever, through coward fear or shame, starts back in the day of trial, and hides or denies his profession before men, he shall be disowned by me in the great day, rejected with abhorrence, and exposed to everlasting shame and contempt for such base apostacy. Every motive, therefore, of fear or hope urges us to be faithful.
9. Whatever their losses may be for Christ, they shall be abundantly gainers in the end. It is true, they may be called upon to part with every thing near and dear to them, and must love the Lord Jesus and his service above all besides, ready to sacrifice every thing for him when it stands in competition with his glory. Neither father, mother, son, nor daughter, must rival him in our hearts; nay, our very lives must not be dear unto us, when for his sake called to lay them down. Whatever cross the Lord Jesus calls us to endure, whatever commands he is pleased to lay upon us, we are not worthy of a name among his disciples, unless we cheerfully take it up, and obediently follow him: and indeed in so doing, we most effectually consult our own advantage and safety. For he that findeth his life, preserveth it at the expence of some base compliance or unfaithful conduct, shall lose it; all the comforts of it shall be embittered to him here, and he shall perish eternally; so that in the issue he shall see his folly great as his sin: while he that loses his life for my sake, ready to lay it down when called for, rather than take one step out of the path of duty, he shall find it at the resurrection of the just, with most ample compensation for all his losses, in the eternal blessedness of body and soul with God in glory.
Lastly, Though they would find many enemies, they would meet also with faithful friends; whom, for their kindness to his disciples, he would abundantly reward: he would regard every instance of respect and affection shewn to them, as done to himself; and God the Father will assuredly repay it. Whoever therefore should receive their word, or the word of those who should succeed them, and shew their kindness to their persons as the ministers and prophets of the Lord, he shall receive a prophet's reward, blessed by his labours, and, if faithful, sharing with him in the promise of eternal happiness. And in like manner, he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, loving and kind to him, not for any worldly, personal, or private considerations, but purely on account of him whose image he bears, he shall receive a righteous man's reward, rewarded in this life, and, if he embrace and cleave to the gospel, partaking with him that life and glory which is the gift of God in Jesus Christ, the reward, not of debt, but of grace. Nay, the very least and most inconsiderable favours shewn to the very meanest disciple, if but a cup of cold water, shall be remembered and recompensed. Considerations these, admirably suited to comfort them under all their trials and afflictions, and embolden them with fidelity to persevere. And we are alike interested in these things, and should be comforted and encouraged under all our troubles for the gospel's sake, with the same reviving expectations. See the Annotations.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 10". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24