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John sendeth his disciples to Christ. Christ's testimony concerning John. The opinion of the people both concerning John and Christ. Christ upbraideth the unthankfulness and impenitence of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum: and, praising his Father's wisdom in revealing the gospel to the simple, he calleth to him such as feel the burden of their sins.
Anno Domini 31.
Matthew 11:1. Had made an end of commanding— Had finished his instructions to, &c. Heylin. In their cities—means "in the other cities of the Jews;" for the pronoun is often put without having a noun going before, to which it refers. Compare Luke 4:15; Luke 5:17.: or else, by the cities here mentioned, we may understand those cities of Galilee, of which the apostles were; see Acts 2:7. The attentive reader will observe, that the chapters are again here very ill divided, as this verseshould certainly close the last chapter. See Bengelius's Greek Testament, the divisions whereof are the most judicious that I have met with.
Matthew 11:2. Now when John had heard, &c.— Beausobre and Lenfant, with some others, think, that John was so discouraged by his own long imprisonment, that he began himself to doubt whether Jesus was himself the Messiah; and agreeably to this he supposes, that when our Lord says, happy is he that is not offended in me, he meant it as a caution to John that he should be upon his guard against so dangerous a temptation. But, considering what clear evidence John had before received by a miraculous sign from heaven, and what express and repeated testimonies he himself had borne to Jesus, I cannot imagine this to have been possible; especially as he foresaw and foretold that he must himself quickly be laid aside. John 3:30. But his disciples might very probably be offended at this circumstance, as well as at the freedom of Christ's conversation, so different from the austerity used among them; and, therefore, he might think it necessary to put them in the way of farther satisfaction; not to saythat John might have been uneasy at the reserve which Christ maintained, and that he might imagine it agreeable to the good design of his own office thus to urge a more express declaration. This appears an easy and natural solution of the difficulty arising from this event. Some writers, however,and those of distinction, are of different sentiments. Mr. Bell, in his treatise on the divine mission of John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Christ, part 3: sect. 8 has shewn, that this remarkable message, viewed in every light, supplies us with one of the most satisfactory circumstantial proofs of the integrity and divine character of the Lord Jesus, and of the truth of the Baptist's mission, which the gospel affords: and whether we can point out the particular motives which actually induced the true Elias to send his disciples with such a message to the true Messiah, or not, is an inquiry of no real importance at all, however it might gratify our curiosity to be able to solve the question; since in the mean time it appears abundantly plain, that no such message could on any account have been sent from John to Jesus, had they in reality been no better than imposters. See the note on Matthew 11:4. The reader will find more onthis subject in Jortin's Discourses, p. 196. Bishop Atterbury's, vol. 3: p. 35 and Archbishop Tillotson's Serm. 11
Matthew 11:3. Art thou he that should come— It seems that by their speaking of the Messiah in the phrase he that cometh, or he that is coming, ('Ο ερχομενος, ) the pious Jews in the most lively manner expressed their confident expectation of him, and their eager longing for his appearance, as the greatest, most welcome, and most desirable person that ever did or should come into the world. See Mar 11:9-10 and compare Daniel 7:13; Daniel 7:28. Bishop Pearson justly observes, that this, among many other arguments, proves that the notion of two Messiahs, the one suffering, the other triumphant, is a vain dream of the modern Jews, altogether unknown to the ancients. See Chandler's Defence, p. 7 and Pearson on the Creed, p. 183.
Matthew 11:4. Go, and shew John, &c.— This answer is a clear reference to a signal prophesy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah; and therefore it is manifest that Jesus referred the inquirers for conviction at once to the evidence of prophesies and miracles. The finger of God is manifest in the whole occurrence. It could not be by chance that John sent his disciples to propose this important question to our Lord, at the very time when he was enabled to give the fullest satisfaction to it, and to confirm in so remarkable a manner the testimony of the Baptist. It could not be by chance, that inquiry was made after his divine character, at that critical period when he was displaying the strongest marks of it; in the same hour when he was engaged in curing many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and in giving sight to those who had been born blind, (See Luke 7:22.) We see then the propriety of this inquiry, without deducing it from any supposed doubts ordiscontents in the mind of the Baptist himself, or even any incredulity in his disciples. John had frequently declared our Lord to be the Messiah, which was indeed the grand purpose of his own mission.Butwithouthisdoubting,orhisdisciplesdisbelievingthistestimony,theymust all alike have been sensible that this testimony could not have its full force, till it should be confirmed by the event, and till our Lord should prove himself to be what John asserted him to be. The prophets had described the Messiah: John had pointed out our Saviour to the world, as the person by them described. His testimony, therefore, must have been overthrown, had it not afterwards appeared that all things which John spake of this man were true. Hence it was natural, nay, it was necessary, that he should send his disciples to our Lord, that they might see the prophetical descriptions of the Messiah, and the testimony of their Master verified in him. And when the business of his own mission was accomplished, when his doctrine and his testimony of our Lord's divine character had made the due impressions upon the people; when the report of the mighty works of Christhad reached him in person, and he perceived that our Saviour began to display that divine power which the prophets had ascribed to the Messiah; he then saw that it was the season pointed out to him by Providence for sending his disciples to make this inquiry. See Rotheram on the Origin of Faith.
Matthew 11:5. The blind receive their sight— Nothing can be more apposite, natural, and convincing, than such an answer as this; which took its rise from what Christ was then doing, and rested on the most apparent testimony of God himself, in astonishing miracles, to which they knew their master made no pretences: (See John 10:41.) miracles of so beneficent a nature, that no austerities of a retired life were by any means comparable to them; and miracles receiving an additional lustre, from their being foretold by a prophet many ages before; even by Isaiah the prophet, by whom the Baptist was so particularly described, that as he himself had frequently referred to him (Matthew 3:3.Luke 3:4-42.3.6; Luke 3:4-42.3.6. John 1:23.), so his disciples must, no doubt, have made themselves peculiarly familiar with his writings. These and many other particulars are set in the most beautiful light by the masterly hand of Bishop Atterbury, in his Posthumous Sermons, vol. 1: p. 41-50. Archbishop Tillotson also has largely shewn the correspondence between the prophesies and events here referred to. See his 117th sermon, and Dr. Thomas Jackson's Works, vol. 2: p. 470. The last circumstance mentioned in this verse, The poor, &c. distinguished the Messiah from all the heathen philosophers and priests; for whereas they concealed the mysteries or depths of their doctrines from the poor and those who were not initiated, he opened his to every one, without distinction; to the poor as well as the rich, to the unlearned as well as the learned. It distinguished him likewise from the prophets who went before him, they being chiefly sent to monarchs; whereas Christ discovered the treasures of life to the illiterate. It distinguished him from the Scribes and doctors of the Jews, who taught none but the rich, and charged very highly for their instruction, despising and neglecting the poor, who were styled the offscouring of the earth, and holding it as a maxim, that the spirit rested upon the rich only. It might have convinced the Jews, that their ideas of the Messiah were false: they looked upon the Messiah as a temporal prince, who should subdue the world to his yoke: but he placed his glory in subduing sin, and in overcoming iniquity. It might have served to convince the Jews that he was disinterested: instead of paying his court to the great, he applied himself to the distressed; and instead of engaging the priests and Scribes for his disciples, he preached to the lower people, and chose twelve illiterate and poor men to be the propagators of his doctrine. To speak the blind to sight, to command the lame to walk, to restore the deaf to hearing by a single word, and to call the dead to life, were such miracles as plainly shewed him to be the Messiah. But these cures were only the cures of bodily diseases: his office was likewise to include in it the cure of our mental distempers;andthereforeourblessedLordadds,astheheighteningand distinguishing criterion of his character, that he preached the gospel to the poor. Others put a differentsense upon the clause Πτωχοι ευαγγελιζονται, translating it actively, the poor preach the gospel, as if Jesus intended to insinuate, that the Baptist had no reason to be displeased with the election of twelve illiterate fishermen to preach the gospel, while he, whose gifts were far superior to theirs, was suffered to lie useless in prison,—because this also was one of the characters of the Messiah's reign, mentioned byIsaiah. According to this interpretation, our Lord's meaning was, "Go, and tell your master, that the miracles which you have seen me perform, are the very miracles which Isaiah long ago predicted that the Messiah should perform; and that the persons I have chosen to assist me in preaching the gospel, are such as the same prophet had pointed out for that work." See Macknight and Sherlock.
Matthew 11:6. Blessed is he whosoever, &c.— See the note on chap. Matthew 5:29. It was foretold of the Messiah, that the world should be offended at him, Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 53:1-23.53.3. Thisisintimatedinthepresentwords;whereinourSaviourhints,thatnotwithstanding the great works which he did among them, which testified of him that he came from God; notwithstanding the predictions of the prophets concerning the Messiah were so clearly and punctually accomplished in him; notwithstanding all this, they would take offence at his doctrine: but even this,—that they rejected him, and would not own him for the Messiah, was another sign and evidence that he was the true Messiah foretold by the prophets; for, among other things, this was expressly predicted concerning him, that he should be despised and rejected of men. See Archbishop Tillotson.
Matthew 11:7-40.11.8. What went ye out, &c.— These, and the following questions, are in the style of the Hebrews; and according to the idiom of their language, imply a strong negation. The reader by recurring to the book of Job will meet many passages to confirm this observation; so that, according to this interpretation, the meaning is, "When ye went into the wilderness to John, with what design did you go?—Not to see the reeds waving on the banks of Jordan;—nor because he made a magnificent appearance, &c." They went not to see a reed shaken with the wind; that is to say, no trifling, mean, wavering, or inconstant object, but one employed on a message of great importance; steady, upright, and consistent in his testimony. In this question the courage and constancy of the Baptist are applauded. By soft raiment, Mat 11:8 is meant such as is made of silk; which was so scarce and valuable in those early ages, that it was sold for its weight in gold. It was not to gaze at the splendid appearance of such as frequent the courts of princes, that they went into the wilderness to hear and contemplate the message of a man, plain indeed in his appearance, but who by the austerity of his life, sanctity of his manners, and diligence in performing the commission which he had received from above, drew the regard of the whole people. In this question, the austere mortified life of the Baptist is praised, and the spiritual nature of the Messiah's kingdom insinuated. His forerunner did not resemble any of the officers who attended the courts of earthly princes; and consequently he himself was in no respect like an earthly prince. See Heylin, Grotius, and Macknight.
Matthew 11:10. This is he, of whom it is written— See the note on Malachi 3:1. Dr. Hammond observes, that what is here before thy face, is in Malachi before my face, or before me. Hence it appears, that Christ, here referred to by the word thy, is there the same with God; or, yet farther, that the face of God, signifying often his coming or presence; and the sending before his face, the sending a harbinger or fore-runner in a journey (Luke 9:52.). This coming of Christ into the world, is the coming of God himself; this presence of his on the earth, the presence of God himself; and so the ιλαστηριον, or covering of the ark, noting the presence of God, appears to have been meant as a type of Christ, Romans 3:25.
Matthew 11:11. Among them that are born of women— "As he is, with regard to his moral and religious character, one of the best men, so he has some peculiar honours superior to any prophet of former generations: Nevertheless, there is a sense in which he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, not only in its final glories, but even here on earth, is greater than he. For my ministers, and people in general, shall receive superior supplies of the spirit, and know many important truths relating to my Gospel, which have not been revealed to John himself." By the least in the kingdom of heaven, is not meant the same as chap. Matthew 5:19. What is expressed by least, μικροτερος, might have been rendered less; that is to say, in appearance more abject; yet, by being a member of the kingdom of heaven, he has thereby an advantage over John, whose commission was superseded by our Saviour's ministry; for John himself says, he must increase, but I must decrease. The kingdom of heaven was declared to be at hand, when the first messenger came preaching in the wilderness; and after the descent of the holy spirit upon the apostles, the information of the inspired Christian must have exceeded his who was to discern the great person of whom he was to bear record, by the descent and residence of the spirit of God upon him. The ministry of John was preparatory to that of Jesus. He was to lead our feet into the way of peace; to proclaim the kingdom of heaven; and therefore he, who was inferior in other respects to John, must have advanced beyond him, and so have been greater than he, if a member of the kingdom of heaven. But this may perhaps be set in a stronger light: our Lord honoured the Baptist with the magnificent title of one that was more than a prophet, (Matthew 11:9.) for four reasons; 1. He was the subject of ancient prophesies, and had long been expected by the people of God under the idea of Elias, a name given him by Malachi, because he was to possess the spirit and power of Elias: 2. His conception and birth had been accompanied by miracles: 3. When the season of his inspiration came, he was favoured with a clearer revelation of the Messiah, than had been enjoyed by many of the prophets under the law: 4. By his sermons he prepared the Jews for receiving the gospel, and consequently began that more excellent dispensation. But though the Baptist thus excelled all the preceding prophets, the least inspired person in the kingdom of heaven, the least apostle or preacher of the gospel, was greater than he; because byconstantly attending on Jesus, they were much better acquainted with his character, disposition, and doctrine, than the Baptist who had seen him only transiently: wherefore, in respect of their personal knowledge of the Messiah, the Apostles greatlyexcelled the Baptist. Further, they were employed, not in making preparation for, but in erecting the Messiah's kingdom. Hence they were greater than the Baptist in respect to the dignity of their office: moreover, having giftsbestowed on them to fit them for that office, far superior to his, they were greater in respect of their illumination; they had the spirit so dwelling in them, that on all due occasions they could declare the will of God infallibly, being as it were living oracles. To conclude, as they had been likewise the subject of ancient oracles, Acts 2:16., &c. they had been long expected by the people of God. See Macknight and Sharpe's second Argument. Greater, says Wetstein, is the dignity of a companion of Christ, than of an harbinger; as much as John excelled the prophets, so much do the disciples of Christ excel John. The time of the prophets was the night; in the time of John the morning began to appear; the disciples of Christ were illuminated with the brightest rays of the sun. See Olearius's 33rd and following Observations.
Matthew 11:12-40.11.13. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence— Is violently invaded. Dr. Heylin reads it, The kingdom of heaven is entered by force, and they who strive with all their might take it, as by violence. The kingdom of heaven was indeed the inheritance both of Jews and Gentiles; but the Jews esteemed all those who knew not the law accursed. However, they neglected to accept the gracious terms of the Gospel, while the publicans and sinners, complying with these terms, entered into that inheritance which the Jews thought they had no legal claim to. Hence they are styled the violent, because he who is obliged to make use of violence to secure any thing cannot be supposed to have a legal claim to that thing. By referring to a parallel place, Luk 7:29 the meaning of the present verses will more evidently appear: And all the people who heard him [that is to say, John], says our Lord, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with his baptism. The meaning is, that whileJohn executed his ministry, the people, particularly the publicans, justified God, by receiving his baptism; or, to express the matter differently, by believing on John, they declared the Son of God's righteousness, and vindicated the divine wisdom in sending him. Hence we see the reason why faith is so absolutely required, and so highly commanded in the Scripture; for, can there be a more sacred duty than to attribute to God the glory of his righteousness, by believing what he has revealed; or a more heinous blasphemy than to rob him of his veracity, by rejecting the doctrine which comes from him? The sense we have given of this verse of St. Luke is confirmed by the passage before us, where our Lord expresses himself somewhat differently, but to the same purpose: the general import whereof is, "The tax-gatherers, soldiers, harlots, and others of the same stamp, persons of the most abandoned characters, whom ye look upon as having no right to become members of the Messiah's kingdom, enter into it; and this you think a violence done to the kingdom of heaven; but in reality it is not so, because the law and the prophets, the dispensation which makes a distinction between men, was virtually set aside at the coming of John, in whose ministry the kingdom of heaven began,—that dispensation which admits all persons equally to the enjoyment of its privileges upon their repentance and faith: for, if ye will believe it, he is the Messiah's forerunner, whom Malachi predicted under the name of Elijah." Dr. Heylin, upon the 13th verse, observes, that to prophesy, in Scripture language, is (frequently) the same as to preach; and the sense is, "The prophets and the law were your guides and instructors till John came; now God gives you another Master in me, and John is that Elias who was to prepare the way before me;" or, in other words, "Repentance, such as John taught and practised, is the necessary preparation for that kingdom of God which I came to establish in the hearts of men." St. Austin observes upon this verse, "God hath so ordained, that it is in every man's power to be happy: the kingdom of heaven suffers violence; to desire, to resolve, to endeavour, to strive, is to be qualified; and no man ever failed in his attempt who was willing to take it by force." See the Reflections.
Matthew 11:14. And if ye will receive it— There is nothing for the particle it in the original; therefore Dr. Heylin reads him; and if this be the proper supplement, says he, we must understand that total perfect repentance which constitutes the common character both of him and Elias. For more on this subject we refer the reader to Mal 4:5-6 and Bullock on Prophesy, pref. p. 50.
Matthew 11:15. He that hath ears to hear, &c.— In the prophetic style of writing in general, there are two senses exhibited to the reader; first the literal, and then the figurative; for, as the words are intended to be the vehicle of the literal sense, so the literal sense is intended to be the vehicle of the figurative, to the man whose understanding is exercised "to discern the things of the Spirit." It is such therefore, in a particular manner, that whatever is written in the symbolic style in the New Testament is addressed. OurLord, to distinguish such from the unthinking multitude, calls them those who have ears to ear. Whoso hath ears to hear, let him hear. The same expression is also used in the Apocalypse, a book of prophesies. And it deserves to be attended to, that the Lord Jesus Christ never employs these words in the introduction or the conclusion of anyplain moral instructions, but always after some parable or prophetic declarations figuratively expressed. For this also holds in respect to allegory, apologue, and parable. Campbell.
Matthew 11:16-40.11.17. But whereunto shall I liken, &c.— For the better understanding of our Saviour in this place, see Luke 7:29-42.7.35. To shew the Pharisees more plainly the perverseness of their disposition, our Saviour told them they were like children at play, who never do what their companions desire them; peevish and froward, and displeased with every thing. The phrase it is like,in St. Matthew's style, often signifies only, in general, that the thing spoken of may be illustrated by the following similitude. Compare ch. Matthew 13:24; Matthew 13:45 Mat 18:23 Mat 20:1 Matthew 22:2. In Judaea, when the people were grown very luxurious and wanton, it was usual, at feasts, to have music of an airy kind, accompanied with dancing; and at funerals they had melancholy airs, to which were joined the lamentations of persons hired for the purpose. See ch. Matthew 9:23. The children therefore of that country, imitating these things in their diversions, while one band of them performed the musical part, if the other happened to be froward, and would not answer or lament as the game directed, it naturally gave occasion to the complaint, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced, &c. which at length was turned into a proverb; and we find it frequently quoted both in Jewish and heathen writers. The mourning airs here spoken of are used to represent the severity of the Baptist's manners, and the mournful doctrine of mortification and repentance which he preached: on the other hand, the cheerful airs are intended to represent our Lord's sweet disposition, affable condescension, and engaging method of giving instruction; so that everything was tried which could possibly have influence, to bring the Jews to repentance. See Grotius and Wetstein.
Matthew 11:18-40.11.19. For John came neither eating, &c.— Our Lord justifies the application of the proverb in the preceding verse to the Pharisees, by observing, that the divine Wisdom had tried every method proper for converting them, but in vain; for, first of all, the Baptist was sent unto them, in the stern dignity of their ancient prophets, so that it was natural to think they would have reverenced him; nevertheless they rejected him altogether. Such, it seems, was the pride and malice of the Pharisees, that when theyfound their own ostentatious and hypocritical mortifications utterly eclipsed by the real austerities of this holy man's life, they impudently affirmed, that his living in deserts, his shunning the company of men, the coarseness of his clothing, the abstemiousness of his diet, with the other severities which he practised, were all the effects of madness, religious melancholy, and diabolical agency: John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine (see Luke 7:24; Luke 7:50.), and they say he hath a devil; literally, he hath a demon. This method of converting the Pharisees proving unsuccessful, God sent his only Son in a more familiar manner, Matthew 11:19. Jesus did not practise those mortifications which rendered the Baptist remarkable: he in general fared like other men, and went into mixed companies, not avoiding the company of publicans and sinners. But neither would they hear him: for notwithstanding he maintained the strictest temperance himself, and never encouraged the vices of others, either by dissimulation or example, they attributed that easy but temperate way of living to a certain looseness of disposition; but Wisdom is justified by her children. These words appear to be a Jewish proverb. See Isaiah 45:25.Luke 7:29; Luke 7:29. Wisdom here implies the method which God followed in bringing the Jews to Christianity. The children of Wisdom mean the truly wise, the disciples of wisdom: they are the babes mentioned in the 25th verse of this chapter. The clause may be paraphrased, "They who are truly wise and religious must needs approve this beautiful variety in the conduct of Providence, and see that the difference in our mode of living suits the purposes of our respective appearances, and is adapted to promote the general design of God's glory, and man's salvation."
Matthew 11:20-40.11.24. Then began he to upbraid the cities— After reproving the Pharisees, Jesus pronounced heavy judgments against Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, cities which he had often blessed with his presence; for though they had heard him preach many awakening sermons, and seen him perform many astonishing miracles, such as would have converted Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, cities infamous for their impiety, contempt of religion, pride, luxury, and debauchery; yet so great was their obstinacy, that they persisted in their wickedness, notwithstanding all that he had done to reclaim them. The words woe unto thee, do not contain an imprecation against those cities, but only a denunciation of the judgments which they were bringing down upon themselves by their impenitence. The expression long ago, or long since, Matthew 11:21., seems to refer to the time when Ezekiel reproved the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon for their enormous crimes; and intimates, that if Ezekiel had enforced his remonstrances by the aid of such miracles as he himself had wrought in the cities of Judaea, they would have been as exemplary for their penitence as the Ninevites were. See Jonah 3:5; Jonah 3:10. Hence our Lord infers the guilt of those who rejected his doctrine, although it was supported by such miraculous powers. But though the obduracyof the Tyrians and Sidonians in the time of Ezekiel was not comparable with the Galileans in the time of Christ, their punishment was nevertheless just and equitable; for they violated every principle of morality and humanity. In their commerce they were guilty of the greatest frauds, and insulted the Jews, their confederates and allies, in their distresses, when subdued by the Chaldeans. Their nearnessto Judaea, their common language, their daily commerce, could not but bring them acquainted with the worship of the true God, especially as prophets were raised to correct their faults. These and other advantages were sufficient to have converted the Phoenicians, if they would have yielded to the grace of God; and, on the other hand,weresufficient to manifest their obduracy, if they disregarded them, though they had not the benefit of those extraordinary miracles which infinite Wisdom had reserved for the times of the Messiah. See Grotius's excellent note. By the day of judgment, Matthew 11:22., Dr. Hammond understands the temporal calamities to be brought on the places by the Romans, who didindeed shortly after overrun the whole country, and make dreadful ravages in some of these cities; but there is no evidence that the destruction of these Jewish cities was more dreadful than that of Tyre and Sidon, and it certainly was less so than that of Sodom and Gomorrah: besides, our Lord plainly speaks of a judgment which was yet to come on all these places before mentioned. Capernaum, Matthew 11:23., was famous for its fishery, commerce, and every other advantage of a maritime situation. Here our Lord had fixed his abode for some time, and frequently conversed with its inhabitants. It was in the most flourishing condition, and exalted to a very high pitch of earthly glory, as the phrase which art exalted to heaven implies. Compare Daniel 4:22. Brought down to hell is a scripture phrase, used to denote an utter destruction, a total overthrow. See Isaiah 14:13; Isaiah 14:15; Isaiah 57:9. 1 Samuel 2:6. Dr. Heylin renders it, shalt be brought to utter destruction. "This prophesy has been so exactly fulfilled, say Beausobre and Lenfant, in the destruction of Capernaum, that, according to the relation of travellers, there are not now above eight cottages where it stood." The word hell, αδης, does not signify here the place of the damned, but only the condition and place of the dead; the sepulchre. See Ephesians 4:9. In sackcloth and ashes means the deepest contrition and sorrow. Sackcloth and ashes were the outward signs of penitence in those days.
Matthew 11:25. At that time Jesus answered and said— Dr. Doddridge reads this, Jesus took occasion to say; and when the words so introduced, says he, are not a reply to any preceding speech, I apprehend the version here given expresses the sense of them with greater exactness. Dr. Heylin renders it, Jesus continuing his discourse, said; and Mr. Pilkington, in his remarks, observes, after the generality of commentators, that this phrase is derived from the Hebrew, which not only signifies to answer, but likewise to utter a sentence, or begin a discourse; and thus the Hebrew word, Job 3:2 is not answered, but spoke or said. We make this observation once for all, and it removes any little objection against the propriety of the writings of the New Testament, because the word answered is sometimes made use of where there is no previous question. Instead of I thank thee, Heylin reads, I praise thee; literally, I confess or acknowledge thee.
Because thou hast hid— God is often said in Scripture to do those things, which he determines to permit, and which he foresees will be in fact the consequences of those circumstances in which his creatures are placed, though their wills are laid under no constraint. See on Exodus 9:34-2.9.35. 2 Samuel 12:11-10.12.12; 2 Samuel 24:1. 1 Kings 22:22-11.22.23. In this sense alone could God be said to hide those things from the learned men of that age, which he revealed so plainly, that honest and well-disposed persons, though children in understanding, might come to the knowledge of them through his grace. See ch. Matthew 10:34-40.10.35. It seems they were but a few, and those generally of the lower sort of people, who embraced the doctrine of Christ, and assisted him in erecting his kingdom; circumstances which, in the eyes of common wisdom, were melancholy and mortifying; but our Lord foresaw that, by divine direction, these very circumstances would become the noblest demonstrations of his personal dignity, the clearest proofs of the excellency of his religion, and the most stupendous instances of his power, who, bysuch weak instruments, established his religion in every part of the habitable world, against the policy, power, and malice of devils and men combined to oppose him. Besides, had the great rulers and learned scribes, and nobles, the wits, and geniuses been converted, it must have been prejudicial to the Gospel in several respects, as such converts and teachers might probably have made the Gentiles look upon it as a trick of state: perhaps also they would have mixed it with things foreign to its nature: our Lord, therefore, most wisely made the rejection of the Gospel by the great men of the nation, and the reception of it by persons in lower stations, matter of especial thanksgiving. See Luke 10:21. Babes, νηπιοι, in scripture language, are persons whose faculties are not improved by learning; but who, to that sagacity and understanding which is purely natural, join, through the grace of God, the best dispositions of heart, such as meekness, modesty, honesty, humility, docility, and all the other engaging qualities which are in a carnal sense to be observed in children. This is plain from ch. Matthew 18:3. Babes therefore stand in opposition, not to men of sound judgment and reason, but to proud politicians, and men of learning, who are so full of themselves, that they disdain to receive instructions from others, and who make all their abilities subservient to their advancement in this world. See Macknight, Beausobre and Lenfant, and Stockius.
Matthew 11:26. Even so, Father— The Prussian editors render this verse, Thus it is, O Father, because such was thy will; and Mr. Wynne observes, that possibly the Greek would be more properly rendered, Be it so, O Father, since such has been thy pleasure.
Matthew 11:27. And things are delivered, &c.— "Every thing relating to the salvation of the world is committed by my Father to my care as Mediator." And no one knoweth, &c.—"Knoweth his nature and dignity, what he hath done, and what he is yet to do, for the salvation of the world." Neither knoweth any one the Father, but the Son, &c. "None but the Son and his genuine disciples know the perfections and counsels of the Father." It is evident from this verse, that there is something inexplicably mysterious in the nature of the person of Christ, which indeed appears in the most convincing manner from the account elsewhere given of his Supreme Divinity in Scripture. See Doddridge, and Hammond, who interprets the verse differently. Our Lord, here addressing himself to his disciples, shews why men, wise and understanding in other things, do not know this; namely, because none can know it by mere natural reason; none but those to whom he revealeth it; and the wise in the flesh reject it and despise it with the utmost scorn, and therefore in that spirit cannot possibly receive it.
Matthew 11:28. Come unto me, &c.— Our Saviour here shews to whom he is pleased to reveal these things. Warmed with the most ardent love to men, he graciously invites all who are weary of the slavery of sin, and desire to be in a state of reconciliation with God, to come unto him or to believe in him: not because he expected any advantage from them, but because he both knew how to give them relief, and was willing to do it, upon no other motive whatever, but merely to satisfy the immense desire he had to do them good. In this invitation our Lord seems to have had his eye on Isa 50:4 where the Messiah is introduced, saying, The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary, for, his having all things delivered to him of the Father, is parallel to the Lord's giving him the tongue of the learned; and his inviting all who labour and are heavy laden, is the end mentioned by the prophet for which the tongue of the learned was given him; and this, possibly, is the reason why many critics, by rest offered in this invitation, understand that freedom from the burdensome services of the law which Christ has granted to men, through the promulgation of the gospel, termed in the prophesy speaking a word in season to him that is weary; and it must be owned that this interpretation is favoured by the subsequent clause, in which men are invited to take on them Christ's yoke, from the consideration that it is easy, in comparison of Moses's yoke; and his burden, from the consideration that it is light, in comparison of the ceremonial precepts of the law. There is no reason, however, for confining the rest of the soul here offered, to that particular privilege of the Christian religion; it is more natural to think that it comprehends therewith all the blessings whatsoever of the gospel. Dr. Doddridge has well paraphrased it, "All ye that labour and are heavy-burdened, whether with the distresses of life, or with the sense of guilt, (See Psalms 32:4.) or with the load of ceremonial observances." It has been well observed, that Christianity, accompanied with the power of divine grace, gives rest to the soul, because, 1st, it clearly informs the judgment concerning the most important points, removing all doubts concerning them; because 2nd, it settles the will in the choice of what is for its happiness; because 3rdly, it directs the passions aright, and so keeps them under good government. See the Reflection
Matthew 11:29-40.11.30. Take my yoke upon you— The word yoke is used even by the heathen philosophers, to signify doctrine and precepts. St. John interpreting this passage in his first Epistle, 1Jn 1:3 substitutes the word commandments instead of yoke. The meaning is, "My doctrine and precepts are easy and pleasant; in which respect they are distinguished from the Mosaical ceremonies, and also from the traditionary precepts of your doctors, who bind up heavy loads of duty, and lay them upon men's shoulders." Some have apprehended, says Dr. Doddridge, that when our Lord says, I am meek, and lowly in heart, he intends peculiarly to recommend the imitation of his humility and meekness, as what would especially conduce, in the natural consequence of things, to promote the repose and tranquillity of their minds. But I apprehend that our Lord chiefly means to remind them of the general lenity of his temper;whichwouldengagehimtodeclineallgrievous impositions, and unnecessary burdens, and tenderly to instruct them in the way of pardon and life. See chap. Matthew 12:19-40.12.20. Dr. Heylin reads this, For I am a mild and condescending master. The original word 'Ελαφρον, Mat 11:30 properly signifies both light and pleasant; and the other χρηστος, easy, may be also rendered good, gentle, and agreeable; and so with great propriety may express that true pleasure and cheerfulness, which are the genuine result of a sincere subjection to Christ's government. That Christ's yoke is easy and his burden light, must be acknowledged, because all his affirmative precepts are as necessary in the souls of men, as food is to their bodies; and for his negative injunctions, abstinence fromdrink is not more expedient for persons swelled with the dropsy, than they are to all who would preserve the health and vigour of their souls. The obedience therefore which he required, is such a reasonable obedience as every gracious and well-informed mind must rejoice in; and the pleasures which he promises are the pleasures of goodness, the most extensive, satisfying, and durable of all pleasures, being to the mind a delicious and continual feast. See Macknight and Hammond.
Inferences.—Whatever were the motives which inclined the Baptist to send his disciples to Jesus, which we cannot doubt were the best, we certainly should be thankful for the inquiry; as thence we derive a convincing testimony of the truth of that Gospel, which is strongly supported by the evidence of prophesy and of miracles. If at any time tempted to doubt the truth of Christianity, we should recollect the veracity and unanswerable proofs of it which are contained in the comprehensive words of our Redeemer, Matthew 11:4-40.11.6.—Proofs arising from the miracles, and from the prophetic testimony which was borne to him. Our Lord pronounces a blessing upon those who shall not be offended in him. It is our wisdom and our duty to consider what those things are in the doctrine or circumstances of Christ, which have proved the most dangerous stumbling-blocks, and endeavour, in constant dependence on divine grace, to fortify our souls against those temptations which may arise from them: so the trial of that faith, which is a much more valuable treasure than gold which perisheth, though tried in the fire may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory.
How happy would it be, if we could learn, through the grace of God, to correct the natural inconsistencies of our tempers and conduct by wise reflections! how much more improving would our attendance on the ministrations of God's servants be, were we seriously to ask ourselves to what purpose we attend! What went ye out for to see? Matthew 11:7-40.11.9. It ought surely to be followed with such considerations, since it is intended to lead us to the kingdom of heaven;—a glorious prize, too glorious to be obtained by faint wishes and inactive desires! There is a sense in which it still suffers violence (Matthew 11:12.): and how sad is the degeneracy of our nature, that we should exert so little warmth in such a pursuit, and to much for every trifle!
Instead of that holy ardour with which men should press into it, they fold their hands in their bosoms, and lose themselves in soft luxurious dreams, till the precious opportunity is for ever gone. How eager then should we be, to press into that heavenly city, where our home and our privileges are! where we are free denizens, and may have our names enrolled in the book of God!
Whatever measures good men take, they will never escape the censures of the world: however contrary in their manners the Baptist and the holy Jesus, they were equally reproached by the Pharisees. The most unspotted innocence, and the most unparalleled excellence, did not prove a defence against the reproach of tongues. A man's best gifts, and best actions, which are both well intended, and well calculated for edification, may be made the matter of his reproach. It is true, in some sense, that Christ was a friend of publicans and sinners (Matthew 11:19.), the best friend they ever had; for he came into the world to save sinners, great sinners, even the chief. So he said very feelingly, who had been himself, not a publican and sinner, but a pharisee and a sinner: but this is, and will be Christ's praise to eternity; and they forfeited the benefit of it, who thus turned it to his reproach. For ourselves, we shall discover in all things sufficient cause to adore the wisdom and goodness of God, when, happily, we are of the number of the true children of this incarnate Wisdom.
What can we imagine more dreadful than the guilt and condemnation of those, who hear the gospel only to despise it? How can we read the doom of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, (Matthew 11:21-40.11.24.) without trembling for ourselves, lest we should incur the like terrible sentence?—We (who have now the written word in our hands, the gospel preached, and gospel ordinances administered to us, and who live under the dispensation of the spirit,) have advantages not inferior to those of these ungrateful cities; and our account in the last day will be accordingly. The professors, therefore, of this age, whether they go to heaven, or to hell, will be the greater debtors in either of these places: If to heaven, the greatest debtors to divine mercy, for those rich means which brought them thither: If to hell, the greatest debtors to divine justice, for those rich means which would have kept them thence!
Still we see the gospel hidden from many, who are esteemed the wisest and most sensible of mankind (Matthew 11:25.); and, blessed be God, we shall see it revealed to some, who, in comparison of them, are but babes. Let not this offend us: but rather, taking our notions from the word of God, let us learn to honour those babes, as possessed of the truest wisdom, and adore the riches of divine grace, if we are in their number, while many of superior capacities, but enemies to the work of grace, are left to stumble at this stone, till they fall into final ruin.
How solemn a truth have we in the words of Christ, Matthew 11:27. All things are delivered unto me, &c.! Christ is the sovereign dispenser of salvation, and the Lord of all things, even in his mediatorial office, by the donation of his father; as well as in his divine nature God over all, blessed for evermore. All the springs, and the whole dispensation of the divine favours, are in the hands of Christ; as Priest and Sacrifice, as Saviour and Mediator, Head and Pattern, Pastor and sovereign Judge of men. There is no knowledge of the Father and the Son, no belief of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but what is a gift of God, by Jesus Christ. How lovely is this dependence! blessed Lord! we accept it with joy; we desire to depend on thee! Make us to know the father; make thyself known to us: but let the love in us be yet greater than the knowledge!
Under all our troubles and afflictions, after our miscarriages, in our temptations, and in our inability to do good, our only remedy is, to have recourse to Christ; and how sweet is it to be able to fly to a Redeemer, who comes to meet us, in order to solicit us to come to him! Matthew 11:28. Sinners, wearied in the ways of iniquity, throw yourselves into the bosom of this amiable Shepherd, who, while on earth, took so much pains to seek you, and to bring you back to his fold. Penitents, humbled under the weight of your crimes, unite yourselves to this sanctifying Victim, who bore your sins on the cross. Christians, overburdened with the multitude of your defects, and with the greatness of your duties, lift up yourselves to this eternal High-priest, who is at the right hand of God his father, continually making intercession for you. The blessed Jesus excepts none; all are invited, all are urged to come to him. None shall seek, and not find: none shall go to Christ, without receiving rest. He himself promises, and shall we not believe?
Jesus Christ is the great teacher of humility, Matthew 11:29. Learn of ME, says the blessed Saviour, with great and peculiar propriety; for it was a lecture of philosophy until then but little known in the world. Humility was a virtue, which had not so much as a name among the Gentiles before Christianity. But, supposing it had been known to the world before our Saviour, yet no mere mortal was fitted to teach it in perfection; and therefore it was a doctrine and a discovery reserved for and peculiarly adapted to the character and contrition of the Lord Jesus Christ; who not only humbled himself to the meanness of our nature, but vouchsafed to assume one of the lowest conditions of life, to teach us perfect humility in all its parts and circumstances; that humility, without which we can find no rest to our souls. Pride is the source of a thousand disquietudes.
It is not sufficient to go to Christ by faith; we must through his divine grace take upon us the yoke of his law and gospel, that we may conform our lives thereto, and study his disposition and behaviour, in order to imitate them. In the schools of the world, some study philosophy, others physic, law, &c.; in the school of Christ, every one must study meekness and humility: for to these two the whole science of Christianity may be reduced; the meekness of love, calm and sedate in the midst of wrongs, injuries, affronts, persecutions; without envy, without malice, without revenge: humility of heart, remote from all inordinate and worldly desires, by which pride is nourished; ascribing nothing to itself, and desiring nothing; ready to part with all things, to be placed below all men, to remain in silence and oblivion. Lord, vouchsafe to teach us this science, writing it in our hearts by thy love!
How easy and sweet it is to serve Christ, even bearing his cross! how hard and painful is the slavery of the world, of sin, and of our own passions, even with all their false pleasures! That satisfaction, peace and comfort, which grace gives here below, and that which hope encourages us to expect in heaven, make a Christian full amends for all his pains in subduing his passions through the power of grace, and in opposing the world.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Having finished his instructions to his disciples whom he sent forth, our Lord did not devolve the work to them and sit down idle himself, but departed thence to teach and preach in their cities; and in this blessed work the disciples sent from John found him employed. We are told,
1. Where John was; in prison, for his fidelity in reproving Herod the king. Such reward may the zealous ministers of God sometimes expect to meet. But the fame of Jesus reached him even there: and now, no doubt, with joy he heard of his labours and success. If we be disabled, it is still a most reviving cordial to hear that the work of God prospers.
2. The question that he put to Jesus by the disciples whom he sent; Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? art thou the promised Messiah, or not? Some have supposed John was himself in doubt, and either discouraged by his long confinement, or, like the rest of his countrymen, prepossessed with the notions of a temporal Messiah; though it seems much more reasonable, from the testimony which John had borne to him, to suppose, that not for his own sake he sent this message, but for the sake of his disciples; whom, though they had cleaved to John hitherto, yet, he being shortly to leave them and to be cut off, he introduces to Jesus, that they might receive him from the fullest conviction of his character, and hence-forward commence his disciples. Note; (1.) God will not leave his people destitute: if one able minister be removed, another is raised up. (2.) It is the duty of faithful ministers to lead their hearers off from all attachment to men, even themselves, and to direct them simply to Jesus. (3.) Where the matters of our eternal salvation are concerned, it becomes us to be inquisitive, and to see that our faith be built on sure grounds.
3. The answer of Christ returned to their inquiries. He refers them to the facts which they beheld, as the most satisfactory proofs of his being that Messiah who should come into the world. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, &c. full evidences these of a divine mission, and a clear fulfilment of the prophesies which went before concerning him. Isaiah 35:5-23.35.6; Isaiah 61:1. And the poor have the gospel preached to them; those whom the Scribes and Pharisees despised, he received kindly, and acquainted them with the glad tidings of his grace, which many of them willingly received: or the poor preach the gospel; mean and illiterate men are endued with great gifts and abilities to propagate the doctrines of the gospel: and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me; not prejudiced against him because of his poverty; the meanness of his station, and the despicable followers who attended him; but, looking above all these things, beholds in his works and words his divine character, and gives him the glory due unto his name. Note; (1.) Many treat the poor with contempt; but Christ hath taught us a different lesson; of such his church is chiefly composed, and this adds abundant honour to them. (2.) There are many things in Christ's character and gospel which minister occasion of offence to the proud and self-righteous; but faith admires the condescensions of Jesus, and adores him for that at which others stumble and fall.
2nd, When John's disciples were gone, Jesus took this opportunity of passing a high encomium on his character and ministry. He would not say it in their hearing, lest it should seem flattery; nor would have it reported to John, for he well knew how ill the best can bear even deserved praise.
1. He addresses a question to the multitude around him, many of whom had been John's hearers. What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken with the wind? was it mere curiosity; or did you suppose him a man unsteady and wavering? It was John's honour that he was uniform and steady in his preaching and labours: and an intimation is contained in this question, that they who had gone so far to hear him should well consider what he had said, and inquire what profit they got by their attendance. Note; Many go a great way to hear ministers from curiosity, who soon forget all that they hear as a dream. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? No. His garb bespoke his deadness to the world. He neither spoke nor dressed like a courtier. His reproofs were plain and rough as his appearance: the case of those to whom he addressed himself required it. Behold, they that wear soft clothing, and live delicately, are in kings houses; and he was utterly unlike those; his manners austere, his conduct steady. Note; (1.) In the work of the ministry, unshaken resolution is needful, which is alike unmoved by frowns or smiles. (2.) They who have heard and seen God's ministers, should often inquire what they have gained thereby, or what end they purposed by their attendance. (3.) Our dress should be according to our station. It is no evil in those who are in kings' courts to put on soft clothing; though it would be sinful in others to imitate them in expensive apparel which they cannot afford, or which is unbecoming their situation or character in life.
2. He tells them plainly the distinguished honour of this eminent teacher. But what went ye out for to see? a prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. In general all held John for a prophet, and yet they understood not that peculiar distinction which he enjoyed above all who went before him.
[1.] He was the person foretold, Mal 3:1 as the forerunner of the Messiah, who should more immediately prepare his way, and usher him into the world. The other prophets saw him at a distance, and only spoke of him as to appear in the fulness of time. John beheld him face to face, and pointed him out as present: behold the Lamb of God!
[2.] Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Not only his miraculous birth, his being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, his exemplary life, rendered him singular; but, above all, the clear revelation that he had of the Messiah, his baptizing him in the Jordan, seeing the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descending upon him, and the testimony he bore to him on that occasion,—these made John far superior to all his predecessors. Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he; the least of the ministers and apostles of Christ, or the meanest believer in him, would in clearness of gospel light, and knowledge of Jesus, be able to see farther, and to speak more distinctly of his sufferings, death, grace, and glory, and of the spiritual nature of his kingdom, than even the most eminent saints and prophets of old. Note; (1.) True greatness is not to be measured by outward splendour, but by the gifts and graces of God's spirit, and the manifestations which Jesus makes of himself to the soul. (2.) If we enjoy greater advantages than others, our condemnation will be the greater if we do not profit under them.
[3.] By John the gospel of the kingdom began to be preached, and God owned his ministry with eminent success; for from the days of John the Baptist until now, a space of little more than two years, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force; the publicans and harlots, who by the Scribes and Pharisees would be reckoned intruders, convinced now of their guilt, and turned to the Lord, eagerly pressed for a place in the Messiah's kingdom; and multitudes of others, awakened to a discovery of their sin and danger, eagerly embraced the declarations of grace, and with a holy violence strove to enter in at the strait gate. Note; (1.) Wherever divine grace has quickened the soul, there salvation will be made the great concern, and eager diligence used to make our calling and election sure. (2.) It is a distinguished honour conferred on any minister of the gospel, when God is pleased to make him eminently instrumental in calling sinners to fly from the wrath to come. (3.) Sluggish and negligent triflers in religion may never hope for admission into the kingdom of God. See the Annotations.
[4.] In the ministry of John the Old Testament dispensation closed, and the New began. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; in types and predictions they pointed to the future Messiah, all the ritual service of the temple being designed to direct the worshippers to him; and, viewed in this light, it appears truly glorious: but now he was come, in whom all these were to be fulfilled. And if ye will receive it, and can credit my assertion, this is Elias which was for to come; not Elijah personally, but he who was spoken of, Mal 4:5 and who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, like him in dress and manners, and imitating his zeal. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; which intimates that these were things that deserved attentively to be weighed, and, though dark and difficult to be believed, were truths of great importance. Note; (1.) The word of God must be examined with serious concern: it is not a slight and cursory perusal which will be sufficient to let us into the meaning; deep meditation, fervent prayer, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual, being necessary to a right understanding of the mysteries of grace. (2.) It is not hearing, but receiving the truth in the light and love of it, which can make us wise unto salvation.
3rdly, Having spoken of the excellence of John's ministry, he cannot but reflect upon the inexcusable perverseness and stubbornness of that generation, which had for the most part continued in their impenitence, notwithstanding John's preaching, and in opposition to all the miracles and means of grace which they had enjoyed under his own ministry and that of his apostles. For which an aweful reckoning remained.
1. He seems at a loss for a similitude whereunto he shall liken the men of that generation, they acted so contradictorily and absurdly; like sullen and froward children, who, when their playfellows use every little art to engage them, mimicking a wedding or a funeral, and inviting them to dance with them, or in mournful responses to answer them, morose and ill-natured they will join in neither. Such was the temper of the Scribes and Pharisees, with their disciples, respecting the ministry of Christ and his fore-runner; who used different means, but neither could prevail. John called to mourning, preaching repentance and humiliation, and in his own abstemious and self-denying conduct set them an example of mortification; and, so far from being affected thereby, they treated him as melancholy, and possessed by a devil. The son of man, with the sweetest music of gospel grace, sought to engage their minds; and by every kind word and deed endeavoured to insinuate himself into their affections; free and open in his manners, affable to all, joining with them in partaking the innocent refreshments of nature, and ready to converse with the chief of sinners for their good; and immediately they brand him as a glutton, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, an encourager and a partaker with them in their immoralities. But wisdom is justified of her children. They who are through grace made acquainted with the truth, will approve all the means and methods which God is pleased to use, though others reject and despise them: or Christ, the wisdom of God, will be acquitted of all these malicious accusations of wicked men, by all who truly become the children of God, and are enlightened to know his true character. They will admire and adore him for what others revile and malign him. Note; (1.) there is nothing so absurd or contradictory which the enemies of the gospel will not say and do, in order to vent their malice against the ministers and truths of God. (2.) God uses every means with sinners, declaring the terrors of his law and the comforts of his gospel, sending them, by turns, mercies and judgments, and all to work on their obdurate hearts, or to leave them inexcusable in their impenitence. (3.) Different ministers have different manners of address, and are more particularly suited to the dispositions and tempers of some than of others: some are struck with a Boanerges, some melted under a Barnabas, a son of consolation; some are affected with the more austere manners of one like John the Baptist, others engaged by the sweetness and affability of Jesus. Every one has his gift, and all for the edification of the body of Christ, and for bringing sinners into his fold. (4.) The most powerful and engaging ministrations are not always crowned with success: but, when we have discharged our souls, and men refuse to hear the voice of truth, of reason, of conscience, neither drawn by the bonds of love, nor driven to God by all the terrors of wrath to come, then their blood is on their own heads; we are free. (5.) The greatest, the best of men, even he that was more than man, have been reviled as mad or libertines, as preaching doctrines of despair or licentiousness. Let it not seem strange if the same things be said of us, and if what is our highest honour in God's sight be made matter of severest reproach. He is near who will justify us. (6.) Though the gospel and the ministers of it in general be slighted and reviled of men, to some their word will be a savour of life, and they will justify God in all his ways, being themselves living instances of the efficacy of the methods that he has taken to bring poor sinners to himself.
2. As he had reproached the obstinacy of that generation in general, he particularly upbraids the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not; for to lead them thereunto was the great end of all his miracles and preaching; but it had been in vain: and how shall they escape who neglect so great a salvation? They must needs perish who reject the only remedy which can cure them: and such wilful obstinacy must bring down greater damnation.
3. Two instances are particularly brought, of cities which had enjoyed the greatest means and mercies, and yet were more hardened than even the vilest of the heathen.
[1.] Woe unto thee Chorazin! wo unto thee Bethsaida! places in Galilee peculiarly favoured with Christ's miracles and preaching; and yet the generality of the inhabitants persisted in their impenitence; though, had the like mighty works been done even in Tyre and Sidon, abandoned to wickedness as they were, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, and humbled themselves to prevent the impending ruin. Therefore at the judgment-day their doom shall be more tolerable than that of those cities which, by rejecting the gospel, fall under the most aggravated guilt. Note; An awful day is near, when the eternal states of all must be determined; when all the means of grace and mercies that we have enjoyed, must be accounted for; and none will receive so great damnation as those who, in opposition to the clearest light of the gospel, have persisted in the darkness of error and sin.
[2.] Capernaum, with peculiar emphasis, is threatened. Thou most dignified by the residence of Jesus, and distinguished with singular advantages above all other cities, which art exalted to heaven in outward privileges, shalt be brought down to hell, to utter destruction; and fall deeper into eternal misery from the heights of abused mercy. For even Sodom's doom will be more tolerable than hers; for if the like miracles and long-continued ministry of Jesus had been vouchsafed to that city, her ruin would have been averted: but if Sodom was not spared with less guilt, Capernaum, with greater, must needs sink under more aggravated ruin. Note; Many of this day seldom think of the inestimable talent committed to them in the oracles of God and the gospel of his Son; but for these things a solemn account must soon be given; and woe to the sinner whose profiting at that day shall not appear.
4thly, Though in general the perverseness of the many afforded the most melancholy prospect of their destruction, yet did not the gospel word return in vain.
1. Our blessed Lord offers up his thanks to God the Father for those who had already yielded to be saved by grace through his sacred ministry; who, though few, and in the eyes of men despicable, poor, and illiterate, yet were precious to Jesus, and were the travail of his soul.
[1.] He addresses God as his Father, in whose love he had the most assured interest, and as the Lord of heaven and earth, the sovereign disposer of all things, able to do whatever he pleased according to the counsels of his own will. Note; Prayer is then a pleasing service, when we can call God Father, approach him with confidence, and, persuaded of his all-sufficiency to supply our wants, can quietly cast our care upon him.
[2.] He adores his divine will in being pleased to hide the glorious truths of gospel grace from the worldly-wise and carnally prudent, and revealing them to such as, comparatively speaking, respecting natural abilities, learning, and human accomplishments, were vastly their inferiors. Note; (1.) It is a mortifying truth, and of hardest digestion to the proud heart of man, that those whom the world admires as great, learned, and wise, the deepest scholars, the most profound statesmen, the most reverend doctors, and acute metaphysicians, in general are not, through the indulgence of their pride and their unwillingness to stoop to the humiliating terms of the gospel, even on a level with the meanest clown, respecting the knowledge that maketh wise unto salvation; but for the most part farther removed from it, and, through the self-confidence of their own hearts, given up to learned ignorance, and left to the spiritual blindness of their fallen spirits. (2.) The major part of those who embrace the gospel in its power, are such as the great and wise in the flesh despise, poor in every respect but grace, poor in station, abilities, human literature, and all that a foolish world admires. Some few indeed are found of the wise, mighty, and noble, but not many; and this will ever be, till the latter day's glory arrives, as it was from the beginning, a stone of stumbling and rock of offence: Have any of the rulers and Pharisees believed?
2. Christ invites every mourning soul to come to him, with kindest assurances both of his power and willingness to help and save them.
[1.] He declares the plenitude of power with which he is invested for the comfort of all who should apply to him for refuge: All things are delivered unto me of my Father. As Mediator, he hath received a delegated authority, distinct from that which he essentially possesses as God over all, blessed for ever. The work of reconciliation, and all the blessings of grace and glory, are lodged in his hands. And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. It is not the effort of man's natural skill and labour, but a divine revelation which alone can make known to us the true character of God, his triune existence and perfections, together with the designs of his grace. And as there is a mutual consciousness between the divine Persons in the undivided Godhead, he, who from eternity lay in the bosom of the Father, is alone able to make him known, being invested with his mediatorial character for this very purpose. Note; (1.) There is no true knowledge of God, or intercourse to be maintained with him, but in and by Jesus Christ. (2.) To all those who will embrace Christ as their Saviour, he manifests himself as he doth not unto the world, John 14:22-43.14.23.
[2.] He declares his readiness to receive every poor sinner who comes to him weary and heavy laden; and invites them to lay down their burdens of sin and sorrow at his feet, that they may find rest unto their souls. Note; (1.) The persons invited are all that labour and are heavy laden; those who are convinced of their guilt and danger feel the insupportable burthen of sin, and are weary not merely of the burthensome rites of the ceremonial law, but of the bondage of corruption. And all, without distinction of nation, or difference in the measure of their guilt and sinfulness, are invited. Jesus rejects none because of the depth of their miseries, who do not themselves reject his mercies. (2.) The invitation is, Come to me, willing to receive, and able to relieve, all the wants of the miserable and the desperate, who by faith cast their care upon me, renouncing every other hope and dependence, placing their trust on me alone as their Saviour to the uttermost, and taking me henceforward for their Lord and Master. (3.) The promise made to such is, I will give you rest; pardon and peace of conscience to silence the accusations of guilt, power against sin to deliver you from the wearisome bondage of corruption, setting the soul at liberty from all terrifying fears, and enabling you on sure foundations to expect a part in the eternal rest which remaineth for the people of God. (4.) The dutiful returns for such mercies are here prescribed: Take my yoke upon you. We must receive Christ in all his offices; as the King to rule in and over us, as well as the Prophet to teach, and the Priest to atone for us. Obedience to his gospel must follow faith in his promises; and he asks nothing from us but that we should copy his example and be like him, that we may be meet for the enjoyment of him. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; tempers which must ever characterise the disciples of Jesus, in opposition to that pride, perverseness, passion, and, self-will, which are natural to the fallen mind. He was meek under every provocation, patient towards the dulness of his scholars; lowly in heart, condescending to the meanest, and submitting for our sakes to every abasement; and when we learn to be like him, we shall find rest to our souls; such divine dispositions will bring a present heaven to the soul, and enable us to enter into rest here below, happy in communion with Jesus, and stamped with his image. Nor may we think that his yoke implies any thing grievous. No: his yoke is easy, and his burden light: his service is perfect freedom. Even the afflictions, temptations, and difficulties that we may meet with, are to be counted all joy; since so powerful will be the assistance of his grace, so abundant his consolations, and so blessed the issue, that we have reason continually to go on our way rejoicing, and to own to his eternal praise, and for the encouragement of others, that his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent