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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Matthew 12

 

 

Verse 1

1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

Ver. 1. Jesus went on the Sabbath day] St Luke calleth it "the second Sabbath after the first," Matthew 6:1, that is, the second anniversary or solemn feast from the first ( δευτεροπρωτον), to wit, from the passover Sabbath, and this was Pentecost.

And his disciples were an hungred] Hereby he hardened and inured them to further and future trials: teaching them also to depend upon God’s good providence for their necessary maintenance. The martyrs had their bread made of meal half mixed with sawdust.

To pluck the ears of corn and to eat] This was their best Sabbath day’s dinner: may not we be glad of mean fare on any day, when our betters fared no better on so high a day? See my Common Place of Abstinence.


Verse 2

2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

Ver. 2. Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful] This was as the proverb is, Sus Minervam, a pig is Minerva, when blind Pharisees will be teaching Christ how the Sabbath is to be sanctified. Not Hebrews only, but also Greeks and barbarians rested from work on the seventh day: witness Josephus, Clement Alexander, and Eusebius. Howbeit, to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai, God, for a special favour, made known his holy Sabbath, Nehemiah 9:14, commanding them to do no servile work therein, Leviticus 23:7-8. This excludes not works of piety, charity, and necessity, such as was this of the disciples in the text. The Jews in their superstition would not fight on the Sabbath, and therefore lost their chief city to the Romans, under the command of Pompey, who took the advantage of the day to do his utmost then against them. {a} In later times they grew more rigid in this point: for on the Sabbath they would not spit, ease nature, get out of an outhouse, if by mishap they had fallen into it, as that Jew of Tewkesbury. This ever was and is the guise of hypocrites, to strain at gnats and swallow camels. Witness our modern Pharisees, the monks and Jesuits, who stumble at straws and leap over mountains. Their schoolmen determined that it was a less crime to kill a thousand men than for a poor man to mend his shoe on the Sabbath day. {b}

{a} Romani quoties dies huiusmodi rediissent fortissime percutiebant.

{b} Levius esse crimen mille homines iugulare, quam semel die Dominico pauperi calceum consuere. Pareus in loc.


Verse 3

3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;

Ver. 3. But he said unto them] They had not proved a breach of the Sabbath, neither could they. A breach it had been, had not the disciples been hungry, and he denies it not, but confutes their present cavils by clear syllogisms, one in the neck of another, such as they could not answer, nor abide, {a} and therefore sought to destroy him, Matthew 12:14. See here the lawful use of logic in divinity, and mistake not St Jerome, Qui syllogizandi artem, applicatam Theologiae, comparat plagis Aegypti: understand him of that false sophistry, which the apostle calleth vain philosophy, Col. ii.

David did when he was an hungred] Note here, that our Saviour excuseth David from his necessity, not from his dignity, which in point of sin God regards not; Potentes potenter torquebuntur. And yet how many are there who think, that when they have gotten an office, they may oppress at pleasure, swear by authority, drink and swill without control? But height of place ever adds two wings to sin, example and scandal. And ill accidents ever attend such great ones, as, being absolute in power, will be too resolute in will and dissolute in life. Queen Elizabeth said that princes owe a double duty to God: 1. As men. 2. As princes. Sedes prima et vita ima, is as unsuitable as for those that are clothed in scarlet to embrace the dunghill, Lamentations 4:5.

{a} Manifestis syllogismis adversarios redarguit. Gualt.


Verse 4

4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

Ver. 4. And did eat the shewbread] The bread of proposition, {a} as the Greek text hath it; the face bread, as the Septuagint call it; or that which was daily set before the Lord, to remind him, as it were, of the twelve tribes by those twelve loaves; and to teach us to labour every day in the week (and not on the Sabbath only) for the bread that endureth to everlasting life; which the Son of man will give to every hungry David, John 6:27.

{a} αρτους προθεσεως, ενωπιους προκειμενους.


Verse 5

5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

Ver. 5. Profane the Sabbath] As ye count profaning of it: or they profane it by divine dispensation, while they do servile works in slaying sacrifices, and other things tending to the service of God, such as is now the ringing of the sermon bell among us, as among the Protestants in France the letting off of a harquebus {a} or pistol, whereby they congregate.

{a} The early type of portable gun, varying in size from a small cannon to a musket, which on account of its weight was, when used in the field, supported upon a tripod, trestle, or other ‘carriage’, and afterwards upon a forked ‘rest’. The name in German and Flemish meant literally ‘hook-gun’, from the hook cast along with the piece, by which it was fastened to the ‘carriage’; but the name became generic for portable fire-arms generally in the 16th century, so that the type with the hook was subsequently distinguished as arquebuse à croc. ŒD


Verse 6

6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Ver. 6. But I say unto you] q.d. Whereas you will here object, that that was done in the temple; I tell you I am greater than the temple: for in me the Godhead dwelleth bodily, Colossians 1:19; as in the temple was the ark, where the glory of God appeared, so that it filled the temple sometimes. Take notice here, by the way, how good it is to have some grave and godly man to be a beholder and judge of our actions, to whom we may approve them, whatever other ill-affected think of them- Equitem mihi plaudere curo, saith the heathen poet. And Libanius (though an atheist) could say, βασιλειου με επαινησαντος κατα παντων εχω τα νικητηρια (ad Basil). If Basil commend me, I care not what all others say of me. Christ’s white stone will comfort a Christian against the black coals of the world’s censures. If Demetrius have a good report of the truth, and such a one as St John to bear record for him, he need not care though Diotrephes prate as fast against them both with malicious words, 3 John 1:9-12, as the Pharisees did here against the disciples, when Christ defended them.


Verse 7

7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Ver. 7. But if ye had known] And it was a foul shame for them not to know. "Who is blind as my servant?" &c., Isaiah 42:19. Varro justly upbraided the Roman priests, that there were many matters in their own rites and religions that they understand not. {a} What kind of men they were, Cicero (2, de Finib.) gives us to know in these words of his, Ut maiores nostri Cincinnatum illum ab aratro abduxerunt, ut Dictator esset, sic vos de Pelasgis omnibus colligitis bonos illos quidem viros, sed certe non pereruditos, good honest men, but not guilty of much learning.

I will have mercy, and not sacrifice] q.d. I prefer the marrow and pith of the second table before the ceremony and surface of the first. {See Trapp on "Matthew 9:14"}

Ye would not have condemned the guiltless] Ignorance is the mother of misprision: the wisdom from above is without judging, James 3:17. And as any man is more wise, he is more sparing of his censures. Zanchy wonders that Lutherans, who profess to eat Christ corporally, should censure so bitterly. {b}

{a} Aug. Civit. Dei, iv, 1.

{b} Mirabar qui fieret, ut hoc hominum genus qui corpus Christi tam mitis modesti atque humani oraliter comedunt, &c.


Verse 8

8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Ver. 8. The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath] q.d. Say they were not innocent, yet have you no cause to condemn them for Sabbath breach; since I am Lord of the Sabbath, and may do with mine own as to me seems best. True it is that Christ hates sin by nature, not by precept only; and therefore cannot dispense with the breach of his own laws, those that be moral in themselves, such as are all the ten, but the fourth. The fourth commandment is moral, not by nature, but by precept, saith one, and so the Lord of the Sabbath may dispense with the literal breach of the Sabbath.


Verse 9

9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:

Ver. 9. He went into their synagogue] These were chapels of ease to the temple, of ancient use, Acts 15:21, and Divine authority, Psalms 74:8. This here is called the Pharisees’ synagogue, because they did Dominari in concionibus, lead in the gatherings, Romans 2:19-20, and are for their skill called princes, 1 Corinthians 2:8.


Verse 10

10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

Ver. 10. Which had his hand withered] So have all covetous caitiffs, who may well be said, amidst all their hoards, to have no current coin, no quick silver. They sit abrood upon what they have got, as Euclio in the Comedian: and when, by laying out their money, they might "lay hold on eternal life," they will not he drawn to it. But as Alphonsus, king of Spain, when he stood to be king of the Romans, was prevented by his hopes, because he, being a great mathematician, was drawing lines (saith the chronicler) when he should have drawn out his purse; so here.


Verse 11

11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

Ver. 11. What man shall there be, &c.] If a sheep slipped into a slough must be relieved, how much more Christ’s reasonable sheep, all which bear golden fleeces, and everything about whom is good either ad esum, for eating, or ad usum, for use?


Verse 12

12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Ver. 12. It is lawful to do well] Nay, it is needful, since not to do well is to do ill, and not to save a life, or a soul, is to destroy it, Mark 3:4. Not to do justice is injustice, and not to show mercy is no better than cruelty, non faciendo nocens, sed patiendo fuit. Aul. de Claud.


Verse 13

13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

Ver. 13. And he stretched it forth] So would our hold fasts stretch out their hands to the poor, would they but come to Christ, and hear his voice, as this man did. But till then they will as easily part with their blood as with their good. All their strife is, who (like the toad) shall fall asleep with most earth in his paws: as when they die, nothing grieves them more than that they must leave that which they have so dearly loved while alive. I read of one wretch, who being at point of death, clapped a piece of gold in his own mouth, and said, Some wiser than some, I mean to have this with me however.


Verse 14

14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

Ver. 14. How they might destroy him] All envy is bloody. Men wish him out of the world whom they cannot abide; and would rather the sun should be extinguished than their candle obscured. David dared never trust Saul’s protestations, because he knew him to be an envious person. Nero put Traseas to death for no other cause but for that it was not expedient for Nero that so worthy a man as he should live by him.


Verse 15

15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

Ver. 15. Great multitudes followed him] Maugre the malice of earth and hell. They lose their labour that seek to quell Christ, and subvert his kingdom: "Yet have I set my king upon mine holy hill of Sion," Psalms 2:6; "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence," Matthew 11:12. Or (as Melancthon rendereth that text), Vi erumpit, procedit, enititur: vi scilicet spirituali, ut sol enititur per nubes: ergo irriti hostium conatus. It bursts through all, βιαζεται.


Verse 16

16 And charged them that they should not make him known:

Ver. 16. That they should not make him known] This, his ambitious kinsmen, who sought to get credit and glory among men by his worthy works, upbraid him with, John 7:4; "If thou do these things, show thyself to the world," say they; and so proclaim that they believed not in him, John 7:7; cf John 5:44; John 12:43.


Verse 17

17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

Ver. 17. That it might be fulfilled] The Old Testament is the New foretold; the New Testament is the Old fulfilled. Ezekiel saw a wheel within a wheel. This is, saith Bonaventure, the one Testament in the other.


Verse 18

18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

Ver. 18. Behold my servant] My servant the Messias, as the Chaldee Paraphrast renders and expounds it. The Septuagint somewhat obscure the text by adding to it, "Behold my servant Jacob, and mine elect Israel." They are said to have translated against their wills; no wonder then they deal not so faithfully. Sure it is, that they have perverted various clear prophecies concerning Christ; as this, for instance; which therefore our evangelist and the rest of the apostles allege not out of their translation but out of the Hebrew verity. The Latins drink of the puddles, the Greeks of the rivers, but the Hebrews of the fountains, said Johan. Reuchlin.

Whom I have chosen, my beloved, &c.] Ecce electum, dilectum. The Latins have a proverb, Deligas quem diligas. Choose for thy love, and then love for thy choice. God hath also chosen us in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6, that we should be the beloved of his soul, or as the Septuagint there emphatically render it, "his beloved soul," Jeremiah 12:7; εδωκα την ηγαπημενην ψυχην μου, Dilectam animam meam, Vulgate.

And he shall show judgment] That is the doctrine of the gospel (whereby is conveyed into the heart that spirit of judgment and of burning, Isaiah 4:4), or the sweet effect of it, true grace, which is called judgment, a little below, Matthew 12:20.


Verse 19

19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

Ver. 19. He shall not strive] To bear away the bell from others.

Nor cry] "Nor lift up his voice," saith the prophet, as loth to lie hidden, and therefore making an "O yes," as desirous of vain glory and popular applause. Laudes nec curat nec quaerit humanas. He despiseth it as a little stinking breath, or the slavering of men’s lips which he disdains to suck in.


Verse 20

20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

Ver. 20. A bruised reed shall he not break] A reed shaken with the wind is taken for a thing very contemptible at the best, how much more when bruised, Matthew 11:7. The wick of a candle is little worth; and yet less when it smokes, as yielding neither light nor heat, but only stench and annoyance. This men bear not with, but tread out: so doth not Christ, who yet hath a sharp nose, a singular sagacity, and soon resents our provocations. He hath also feet like burning brass to tread down all them that wickedly depart from his statutes, Psalms 119:118. But so do not any of his, and therefore he receiveth and cherisheth with much sweetness, not the strong oaks only of his people, but the bruised reeds too; nor the bright torches only, but the smoking wick: he despiseth not the day of small things. Smoke is of the same nature with flame; {a} for what else is flame, but smoke set on fire? So, a little grace may be true grace, as the filings of gold are as good gold (though nothing so much of it) as the whole wedge. The least spark of fire, if cherished, will endeavour to rise above the air, as well as the greatest; so the least degree of grace will be aspiring to more. Now those very pantings, inquietations, and unsatisfiableness, cannot but spring from truth of grace, which Christ makes high account of. That is a sweet saying of Brentius, Etiamsi fides tua, &c. Albeit thy faith be so small that it neither yields light to others, nor heat to thine own heart, yet Christ will not reject thee, Mode incrementum ores so be it thou pray for more faith.

Till he bring forth] Gr. Thrust forth with violence ( εως αν εκβαλη, Hebrews 12:3), the devil and the world in vain opposing the work of grace (called here judgment), which shall surely be perfected. He that is author, the same will be finisher of our faith; he doth not use to do his work to the halves, non est eiusdem invenire et perficere, we say. But that rule holds not here.

{a} τυφομενον. Sep. καπνιζομενον. Heb. בהם Caligans, obscure lucens.


Verse 21

21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

Ver. 21. Shall the Gentiles trust] This trust is here put for the whole service of God, it being the least, and yet the best we can render to him. And the more we know of his name, the more we shall trust in him, Psalms 9:10.


Verse 22

22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

Ver. 22. One possessed with a devil, blind and dumb] A heavy case, and yet that may be any man’s case. {a} Cuivis potest contingere, quod cuiquam potest. Every one that seeth another stricken, and himself spared, is to keep a passover for himself; and to say, "Thou hast punished me less than my sins have merited," Ezra 9:13. The devil had shut up from this man all passages to faith, saith Theophylact, by bereaving him of the use of his eyes, ears, and tongue. See a mercy in the use of our senses, &c. Multo plures sunt gratiae privativae quam positivae, saith Gerson.

{a} παν προσδοκαν δει ανθρωπον οντα. Xenophon.


Verse 23

23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?

Ver. 23. And all the people were amazed] Admiration bred philosophy, saith the heathen. It bred superstition, saith the Scripture, when the world went wondering after the beast. {a} We may say, too, that it bred piety in this people, and still we see the word never works kindly, till men hear and admire it. Let others censure with the Pharisees; let us wonder with the multitude.

{a} Admiratio peperit philosophiam, Revelation 13:3.


Verse 24

24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

Ver. 24. This fellow doth not cast out devils, &c.] The devil that was cast out of the demoniac’s body seems to have gotten into these men’s hearts. But he was not his master crafts: for what a senseless slander hear we? He should have acted it a little better, to have been believed. Tenue mendacium pellucet, saith Tacitus. This was such a lie as might be easily looked through. But envy never regards how true, but how mischievous. Witness the Popish Pharisees, who tell the poor misled and muzzled people in their sermons that the Protestants are blasphemers of God and all his saints; that the English are grown barbarous, and eat young children; that ever since the pope excommunicated us we are as black as devils; that the gunpowder treason was plotted, and should have been acted, by the Puritans; that the fall of Blackfriars in London likewise was wrought by the Puritans, who had loosened the rafters, &c. {a} That these are the opinions we hold and teach: 1. To worship no God. 2. To frame our religion to the times. 3. To account gain godliness. 4. To pretend public liberty to our private lusts. 5. To break our oaths, when it makes for our advantage. 6. To cover hatred with flattery. 7. To confirm tyranny with bloodshed, &c. These and the like, that Cacodaemon Joannes, the black mouthed Jesuit, tells the world in print are our tenets and practices. Now "the Lord rebuke thee, Satan." But what reward shall be given to thee, thou false tongue? Even sharp arrows, with hot burning coals; yea, those very coals of hell from whence thou wert enkindled.

{a} Ex dissolutis per Puritanos continationibus, &c. D. Prid. Lect.


Verse 25

25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

Ver. 25. And Jesus knew their thoughts] That they blasphemed in this sort, out of the devilish venom of their hearts fully possessed by Satan, who drew them into this unpardonable sin, which himself every day, nay, every moment, committeth. As one that had fallen into that sin, wished that his wife and children and all the world might be damned together with him; so doth the devil, out of his deep and desperate malice to mankind, draw some into this sin, that he may drown them in the same destruction with himself.

And said unto them] He could, as he did often, no doubt, have answered them with silence or punished them with contempt, committing his cause to him that judgeth righteously, he could have turned them off, as one did his railing adversary, with Tu linguae, ego aurium Dominus. (Tacitus, Seneca.) But, inasmuch as God’s glory was highly concerned, and his cause might have suffered if this cursed calmnny had not been confuted. Our Saviour makes a most grave apology in the behalf of his doctrine and miracles, which he maintains and makes good by many demonstrative arguments.

Every kingdom divided against itself] Divide et impera, saith Machiavel. Make division and get dominion. Every subdivision, saith another, is a strong weapon in the hand of the adverse party. "Where strife is" (saith James. James 3:16) "there is confusion;" as Castor and Pollux, if they appear not together, it presageth a storm. Si collidimur frangimur, If we clash we cleave, said the two earthen pots in the fable, that were swimming down the stream together. The daughter of division is dissolution, saith Nazianzen. {a} This the Jesuits know, and therefore do what they can to keep up the contentions between the Lutherans and the Calvinists. This the Turks know, and therefore pray to God to keep the Christians at variance. Discord was the destruction of our ancestors, as Tacitus testifieth, who was here in this island with his father-in-law Agricola, and saw it. And the Lord Rich in his speech to the Justices of England, in Edward VI’s reign, could say, Never foreign power could yet hurt, or in any part prevail in this realm, but by disobedience and disorder in themselves. This is the way wherewith God will plague us, if he mind to punish us. And so long as we do agree among ourselves and be obedient to our prince, and to his godly orders, we may be sure that God is with us, and that foreign power shall not prevail against us, nor hurt us.

{a} Omne divisibile est corruptibile, ait philosophus. Camer. Medit. Histor. cent. 2. cap. 23.


Verse 26

26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?

Ver. 26. He is divided against himself] But so he is not. There is a marvellous accordance even between evil spirits. Squamae Leviathan ira cohaerent, ut earum opere textili densato quasi loricatus incedat Satan et cataphractus, as Luther elegantly and truly phraseth it. The devils in the possessed person were many, yet they say, "My name" (not our name) "is Legion." Though many, they speak and act as one in the possession. That kingdom, we see, is not divided.


Verse 27

27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.

Ver. 27. By whom do your children, &c.] That is, your countrymen. Not the disciples (as Augustine, Civ. Dei, and other ancients would have it), but the Jewish exorcists, of whom see Mark 9:38; Acts 19:13. As if our Saviour should have said, Unless that be a blemish in me that you hold to be a beauty in others, why should you condemn me for a conjurer? Why doth your malice thus wilfully cross your consciences? Certain it is, saith Erasmus, that the selfsame things are condemned as heretical in Luther’s books, that in Augustine and Bernard’s works are read and regarded as pious and orthodox sentences. {a} So these passages were gathered as heresies out of Tyndale’s works. He is not a sinner in the sight of God that would be no sinner. He that would be delivered, hath his heart loose already. It is impossible that the word of the cross should be without affliction and persecution. The gospel is written for all persons and estates, prince, duke, pope, emperor. We cannot be without motions of evil desires, but we must mortify them in resisting them. God made us his children and heirs while we were his enemies, and before we knew him. Men should see that their children come to church to hear the sermon, &c. Were not these perilous heresies? {b} Saith not the Scripture the same in various places? Is not this to have the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons? James 2:1. So the greatest errors that Henry Voes and John Esch, martyrs, were accused of, were, that men ought to trust only in God; forsomuch as men are liars, and deceitful in all their words and deeds; and therefore there ought no trust or affiance to be put in them.

{a} Compertum est damnata ut haeretica in libris Lutheri, &c. Eras. Epist. ad Cardinal. Moguntin.

{b} Novum crimen C. Caesar, et antehoc tempus inauditum. Cic. pro Ligar.


Verse 28

28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Ver. 28. Then the kingdom of God is come unto you] A certain sign of the setting up whereof among you, is this casting out of devils "by the Spirit of God;" or as Luke hath it, "by the finger of God;" for the Holy Ghost is the essential power of the Father and the Son.


Verse 29

29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

Ver. 29. A strong man’s house, &c.] The devil is strong, but overpowered by Christ. He hath forcibly delivered us from the power of darkness, snatched us out of the Devil’s danger; { ερρυσατο, Colossians 1:13} so that, though he shake his chain at us, he cannot fasten his fangs in us. Stronger is he that is in the saints, than he that is in the world. Through Christ we shall overcome him, Romans 8:37.


Verse 30

30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Ver. 30. He that is not with me, is against me] "But the devil is not with me," saith Christ, "for all I do or suffer is to destroy his works." Let this sentence also be noted against neutals and Nicodemites, who stand halting betweem two, and will be sure to hold themselves on the warm side of the hedge howsoever. Such were of old the Samaritans, Nazarites, Ebionites, and those Corinthians that would neither "be of Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas, but of Christ," 1 Corinthians 1:12; that is, as some neutals say today, they are neither Cavaliers nor Roundheads, but good Protestants; others are neither Papists nor Protestants, but Christians, that is, just nothing, Atheists. Christ hates neutrality, and counts it enmity; he loathes lukewarmness, accepts not any excuse in that case, 5:16-17; Dan and Ephraim are passed by in the reckoning up of the tribes, Revelation 7:5-8, as if they were soldiers put out of pay, and cut out of the rolls. So are all testable indifferents, out of God’s book of remembrance, Malachi 3:16-17.


Verse 31

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Ver. 31. All manner of sin and blasphemy, &c.] All without exception, yea, though it be blasphemy, Isaiah 44:22. God blots out the thick cloud as well as the cloud, enormities as well as infirmities. Man cannot commit more than he can and will remit to the penitent. The sun by his force can scatter the greatest mist, as well as the least vapour; and the sea by its vastness drown mountains as well as mole hills. The grace of our Lord "abounds to flowing over," saith St Paul, υπερεπλεονασε, 1 Timothy 1:14; "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin," saith St John. {John 1:7} Ego admisi, unde tu damnare potes me, sed non amisisti unde tu salvare potes me, saith Augustine. And yet Novatus, the proud heretic, denied the possibility of pardon to them that had any whit fallen off in times of persecution, though they rose again by repentance. But God’s thoughts of mercy are not as man’s, Isaiah 55:8; he can and will pardon such sins as no god or man can do besides, Micah 7:18; "Who is a God like unto thee?" For what? "That pardoneth all sorts of sin," &c. This none can believe without supernatural grace. We are ready to measure God by our model.

But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, &c.] This is nothing else, saith John Diazius, to that butcher his brother, quam agnitam veritatem flagitiose insectari a malicious persecuting of the known truth. A sin it is of malice after strong conviction, expressed in words by a tongue set on fire by hell, and in actions coming from a venomous spirit, and tending to opposition and bitter persecution, if their malice be not greater than their power. This was committed by Saul, Julian, Latomus of Lovain, {a} Rockwood, a chief persecutor at Calice in Henry VIII’s days, who, to his last breath, staring and raging, cried that he was utterly damned, for that he had sought maliciously the deaths of a number of the most honest men in the town, &c. Stephen Gardiner said as much also in effect to himself, when he lay on his deathbed, and so both stinkingly and unrepentantly died, saith Mr Fox.

{a} Latomus confessus est inter horrendos mugitus, se contra conscientiam adversatum esse veritati. Melancth.


Verse 32

32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Ver. 32. And whosoever speaketh a word, &c.] As Peter did through infirmity, Paul through ignorance; those poor souls whom he haled to prison, and for fear of death compelled them to blaspheme Christ, Acts 26:11. Tertullian reports the like of Claudius Herminianus, a persecuter in Cappadocia, quod tormentu quosdam a proposito suo excidere fecerat, that for spite that his own wife was turned Christian, he forced many, by tormenting them, to reneague Christ. Pliny writes also to Trajan, the emperor, that where he was governor there came to his hands a book, containing the names of many that for fear of death professed themselves to be no Christians. And when, saith he, they had at my command called upon the gods, offered incense to the emperor’s image, and cursed Christ (which those that are Christians indeed will never be drawn to do), I thought good to dismiss them. {a}

But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost] Not his person or essence (for many Sabellian, Eunomian, Macedonian heretics did so of old, and repenting found mercy), but his grace and special operation, by the which God comes nearer to man than he is in nature or person. This sin is against the immediate effects, work, and office of the Holy Ghost, against that shining light kindled by God’s Spirit in man’s soul, and that sweetness and comfort felt in Christ, that taste of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come, Hebrews 6:4-6.

It shall not be forgiven him, &c.] And why? Not because it is greater than God’s mercy, or Christ’s merits; but first by a just judgment of God upon such sinners, for their hateful unthankfulness in despising his Spirit; whence follows an impossibility of repentance, Hebrews 6:6, and so of remission, Luke 13:3. Secondly, such a desperate fury invadeth these men, that they maliciously resist and repudiate the price of repentance, Acts 5:31, and the matter of remission, 1 John 1:7, viz. the precious blood of Jesus Christ, whereby if they might have mercy, yet they would not, but continue raving and raging against both medicine and physician, to their unavoidable ruth and ruin. How bold therefore is Bellarmine, who interpreteth this text of the difficulty and rarity only of remission, and not of an utter impossibility.

{a} Cum, praeunte me, Deos appellarent et imagini tuae, thure ac vino supplicarent, praeterea maledicerent Christo, &c.


Verse 33

33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

Ver. 33. Either make the tree good, &c.] q.d. Your blasphemy is therefore irremissible, because it is the fruit of so base a root of bitterness, as the desperate malice of your hearts, wilfully crossing your consciences; a wretched despising and despiting of God, and the work of his Spirit, out of revenge, Hebrews 10:29. Draw not therefore a fair glove over so foul a hand, but show yourselves in your own colours.


Verse 34

34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Ver. 34. How can ye, being evil, &c.] The stream riseth not higher its source; the bell is known of what metal by the clapper; what is in the well will be in the bucket; what in the warehouse will be in the shop; so what is in the heart will be in the mouth. {a}

" Aera puto nosci tinnitu; pectora verbis:

Sic est; namque id sunt utraque, quale sonant."

{a} Qualia sunt principia, talia et principiata.


Verse 35

35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

Ver. 35. Out of the good treasure, &c.] Out of his habit of heavenly mindedness, out of that law of grace in his heart, "his mouth speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talks of judgment," Psalms 37:30-31. Works not done from a principle of life within are dead works, saith the author to the Hebrews, be they for the matter never so good and praiseworthy. This moved Luther to say that good works make not men good; but good we must be first ere good can be done by us. {a} This moved Austin to say that Omnis vita infidelium peccatum est, the whole life of an unbeliever is sin, though Spira, the popish expositor, censure that saying for a cruel sentence; crudelis est illa sententia.

An evil man out of the evil treasure, &c.] Carnal hearts are stews of unclean thoughts, shambles of cruel and bloody thoughts, exchanges and shops of vain thoughts, a very forge and mint of false, political, undermining thoughts, yea, often a little hell of confused and black imaginations, as one well describeth them.

{a} Bona opera non faciunt bonos, sed prius oportet bonos esse quam faciamus bona. Luther.


Verse 36

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Ver. 36. That every idle word, &c.] Idle and waste words are to be accounted for; what then evil and wicked? Therefore "let thine own words grieve thee," as David somewhere hath it, thy frivolous and fruitless speeches; for among a thousand talents of common communication (saith Cassiodore), a man can scarcely find a hundred pence of spiritual speeches, imo nec decem quidem obolos, nay, not ten half-pence truly. It may be observed, saith another, that when men get into idle company (which, perhaps, they like not), the very compliment of discoursing extracteth idle if not evil speaking, to fill up the time. Plato and Xenophon thought it fit and profitable that men’s speeches at meals and such like meetings should be written. And if Christians should so do, what kind of books would they be?


Verse 37

37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Ver. 37. For by thy words thou shalt be justified] Our Saviour insists upon this subject because by words they had sinned against the Holy Ghost. A man’s most and worst sins be his words. St Paul, making the anatomy of a natural man, stands more on the organ of speech than all the other members, Romans 3:4; St James saith, "that the tongue is" not a city or country, but "a world of iniquity," James 3:6. It can run all the world over, and bite at everybody, when the devil fires it especially. Peraldus (tom. i. 264) reckons up twenty-four different sins of the tongue: he might have made them more. God hath set a double hedge before it, of teeth and lips, to keep it up; he hath also placed it between the head and the heart that it might take counsel of both. Children he will not suffer to speak till they have understanding and wit; and those that are deaf are also dumb, because they cannot hear instruction, nor learn wisdom, that they may speak advisedly.


Verse 38

38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

Ver. 38. Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees] Had not these, as one said of Nero, os ferreum, cor plumbeum, an iron face, a leaden heart, that could call for a sign after so many signs? But it is a sign from heaven they would have (as Moses called for manna from thence, Samuel for rain, Elijah for fire, &c.), and much the nearer they would have been should our Saviour have gratified them. But he never meant it. They were now so clearly convinced of their blasphemy that they had nothing to say for themselves, but fawningly to call him Master, whom before they had called Beelzebub; and to pretend themselves to be willing to learn, if they might see a sign. They could not see wood for trees, as they say. And who so blind as he that will not see? Sic fit, ubi homines maiorem vitae partem in tenebris agunt, ut novissime solem quasi supervacuum fastidiant, saith Seneca. Men that have lived long in the dark may think the sun superfluous.


Verse 39

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

Ver. 39. An evil and adulterous generation, &c.] Spuria soboles, a bastardly brood. So he calleth them, because utterly degenerate from their forefathers’ faith and holiness.

Seeking after a sign] επιζητει, summo studio efflagitat. Seeking with utmost earnestness, as if it were such a business as must be done or they were undone. It is the guise of hypocrites to be hot in a cold matter, to show great zeal in trifles, neglecting the main meanwhile.

But the sign of the prophet Jonas] Nor that neither, but for a further mischief to them; as their fathers had quails to choke them, a king to vex them, &c., and as Ahaz had a sign, whether he would or no, to render him the more inexcusable. Deus saepe dat iratus, quod negat propitius. God gives his enemies some giftless gifts ( αδωρα δωπα, Soph.), as Saul gave Michal to David, to be a snare to him; or as Christ gave Judas the bag, to discover the rottenness of his heart.


Verse 40

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Ver. 40. For as Jonas was three days, &c.] In the history of Jonah, Christ found the mystery of his death, burial, and resurrection; teaching us thereby to search the Scriptures-to search them to the bottom; as those that dig for gold content not themselves with the first or second ore that offers itself, but search on till they have all. This we should the rather do, because we need neither climb up to heaven with these Pharisees nor descend into the deep with Jonah, since "the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart," &c., Romans 10:7-8.

So shall the Son of man be three days, &c.] Taking a part for the whole. So Esther lasted three days and three nights, Ezra 4:16, and yet on the third day she went to the king, Ezra 5:1. So, then, the fast lasted not three whole days and nights, but two nights, one full day, and two pieces of days.


Verse 41

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Ver. 41. They repented at the preaching of Jonas] At one single sermon of a mere stranger, who sang so doleful a ditty to them as the destruction of their town, and yet they repented. What will become of us? Vae torpori nostro. Alas, our numbness. If Mr Bradford so complained of his own unprofitableness under means, in those dim days, what cause have we now much more! Here in London, saith he, be such godly, goodly, and learned sermons, which these uncircumcised ears of mine do hear, at the least thrice a week, which were able to burst any man’s heart to relent, to repent, to believe, to love and fear that omnipotent gracious Lord. But mine adamantine, obstinate, most unkind, unthankful heart, hearing my Lord so sweetly calling and crying unto me, now by his law, now by his gospel, now by all his creatures, to come, to come even to himself; I hide me with Adam; I play not only Samuel running to Eli, but I play Jonah running to the sea, and there I sleep upon the hatches until he please to raise up a tempest, to turn and look upon me as he did upon Peter, &c.


Verse 42

42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Ver. 42. The queen of the south, &c.] The Ethiopian chronicles call her Mackeda, and further tell us that she had a son by Solomon, whom she named David. Sure it is that she came from a far country to hear Solomon, and was so taken with his wisdom that she could have been content to have changed her throne for his footstool. Now our Saviour took it ill (and well he might) that men came not as far, and set not as high a price upon him and his doctrine as she did upon Solomon and his wisdom, how much more that these hard-hearted Jews esteemed it not, though brought home to their doors!


Verse 43

43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

Ver. 43. When the unclean spirit] Unclean the devil is called: 1. Affectione (saith Jacobus de Voragine), because he loveth uncleanness. 2. Persuasione, because he persuades men to it. 3. Habitatione, because he inhabits unclean hearts; he finds them foul, he makes them worse. Wheresoever the Great Turk sets his foot once, no grass grows, they say, ever after. Sure it is no grace grows where the devil dwells. Pura Deus mens est, saith one. And religion loves to lie clean, saith another. The Holy Spirit will be content to dwell in a poor but it must be a pure house. The devil, on the contrary, delights in spiritual sluttishness. Harpy-like, {a} he defileth all he toucheth; and camel-like, drinks not of that water that he hath not first fouled with his feet.

Is gone out of a man] In regard to inward illumination and outward reformation, 2 Peter 2:20; such as was found in Bishop Bonner, that breathing devil, who at first seemed to be a good man, a favourer of Luther’s doctrines, a hater of Popery, and was therefore advanced by the Lord Cromwell; to whom he thus wrote in a certain letter: "Stephen Gardiner, for malice and disdain, may be compared to the devil in hell, not giving place to him in pride at all. I mislike in him, that there is so great familiarity aud acquaintance, yea, and such mutual confidence, between him and M., as naughty a fellow, and as very a Papist, as any that I know, where he dare express it." Who can deny but that the devil was gone out of this man, for a time at least?

He walketh through dry places] Here the proverb holds true, Anima sicca sapientissima, sensual hearts are the fennish grounds that breed filthy venomous creatures. Job 40:21, Behemoth lieth in the fens. This, Gulielmus Parisiensis applieth to the devil in sensual hearts. {b} Contrariwise, the spirits of God’s saints, which burn with faith, hope, and charity, and have all evil humours dried up in them by that spirit of judgment and of burning, these the devil likes not. The tempter findeth nothing in them, though he seek it diligently. He striketh fire, but this tinder takes not. Cupid complained he could never fasten upon the Muses, because he could never find them idle. So here. Or thus, "he walketh through dry places;" i.e. he is discontented and restless (see the like, Jeremiah 17:5-6), for otherwise dry and wet is all one with him.

{a} A fabulous monster, rapacious and filthy, having a woman’s face and body and a bird’s wings and claws, and supposed to act as a minister of divine vengeance. ŒD

{b} In locis dormit humentibus, hoc est, in omnibus deliciis madentibus.


Verse 44

44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.

Ver. 44. He findeth it empty] That is, idle and secure, swept of grace, garnished with vice, the devil’s fairest furniture. Otia dant vitia.


Verse 45

45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Ver. 45. And taketh seven other spirits] As the jailor lays more load of irons on him that had escaped his hands, and is now recovered.

And they enter in and dwell there] So they never do in a heart once truly sanctified. Lust was but a stranger to David (no home dweller) as Peter Martyr observes out of that passage in Nathan’s parable, 2 Samuel 12:4; "And there came a traveller to the rich man," &c. Faith leaves never a slut’s corner, Acts 15:9.

And the last state of that man is worse] An apostate cannot choose unto himself a worse condition. It is with such, as in that case, Leviticus 13:18-20. If a man had a boil healed, and it afterwards broke out, it proved the plague of leprosy. These are called forsakers of the covenant, Daniel 11:30, and wicked doers against the covenant, Matthew 12:32. Renegade Christians prove the most desperate devotees to the devil. We see by experience, that none are worse than those that have been good and are naught; or those that might be good, and will be naught. Such as were these Jews in the text, to whom therefore our Saviour applies the parable in these words.

Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation] Their sins were not common sins (but as those of Korah and his accomplices), therefore they died not common deaths. As they pleased not God, but were contrary to all men, so wrath came upon them to the uttermost, 1 Thessalonians 2:16, as Josephus witnesseth. And Mr Fox relates of Bonner, that wicked apostate, that as he wretchedly died in his blind Popery (after he had been long time prisoner in the reign of Queen Elizabeth), so, as stinkingly and blindly at midnight was he brought out, and buried in the outside of all the city, among thieves and murderers. A place, saith he, right convenient with confusion and derision both of men and children, who, trampling upon his grave, well declared how he was hated both of God and man.


Verse 46

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

Ver. 46. Desiring to speak with him] Either out of curiosity or ambition, as Ambrose thinks; certain it is, at a most unseasonable time. Now as fish and flesh, so everything else is naught out of season.


Verse 47

47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

Ver. 47. Behold, thy mother and thy brethren] This was a weakness in his mother; though otherwise full of grace, yet not without, original sin, as the Sorbonists contend, but had need of a Saviour, as well as others, Luke 1:47. Scipio permits not a wise man so to do amiss once in his whole life, as to say, non putaram. How much better Crates, the philosopher, {a} who said that in every pomegranate there is at least one rotten kernel to be found; intimating thereby, that the best have their blemishes, their faults and follies.

{a} Omnibus malis punicis inest granum putre.


Verse 48

48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

Ver. 48. Who is my mother, and who, &c.] This meekest lamb was stirred with a holy indignation at so absurd an interruption, and sharps him up that delivers the message. Great is the honour that is due to a mother. Solomon set Bathsheba at his right hand, and promised her anything with reason. Nescitne Antipater unicam matris lacrimulam omnes istius criminationes posse delere? Knows not Antipater that one tear of my mother’s can easily blot out all his accusations against her? said Alexander the Great. Brethren also, or near allies (as these were to our Saviour), are dearly to be respected, and greatly gratified, as were Joseph’s brethren by him in his greatness. But when these relations, or their requests, come in competition with God’s work or glory, they must be neglected, nay, rejected and abominated. For is there any friend to God? or any foe like him? Men be they pleased or displeased, he must be obeyed, and his business despatched, be the contrary occasions never so urgent in show, the pretences never so specious and plausible.


Verse 49

49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

Ver. 49. Behold my mother and my brethren] Sanctior est copula cordis quam corporis. Spiritual kindred is better than carnal: "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother," Proverbs 18:24. Christ is endeared to his in all manner of nearest relations and engagements Oh, then, the dignity and safety of a saint! and oh, the danger and disaster of such as either by band or tongue malign or molest them! What! will they wrong Christ’s mother to his face? Will they force the queen also in the house? Ezra 7:8. If Jacob’s sons were so avenged for the indignity done to their sister Dinah, if Absalom for Tamer, what will Christ do, or rather what will he not do, for his dearest relations? How will this greater than Solomon arise off his throne, at the last day, to meet his mother half way, and to do her all the honour that may be in that great amphitheatre! 1 Kings 2:19. How sweetly will he accost his brethren that have been long absent from him in the flesh, though present ever in spirit, with δευτε, "Come, ye blessed," &c., q.d., where have you been all this while? They also shall be bold to say to him, as Ruth did to Boaz, Ruth 3:9, Spread thy skirt over us, for thou art our near kinsman, or, one that hath good right to redeem.


Verse 50

50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Ver. 50. For whosoever shall do the will] Lo, here is the right way of becoming akin to Christ; and can we better prefer ourselves? It was an honour to Mark, that he was Barnabas’s sister’s son. David dare not in modesty think of being son-in-law to a king. Elymas the sorcerer affected to be held allied to Christ, and therefore styled himself Barjesus: as Darius, in his proud embassy to Alexander, called himself king of kings, and cousin to the gods. But the right way to be ennobled indeed, and inrighted to Christ and his kingdom, is, to believe in his name, and obey his will. This, this is to become Christ’s brother, and sister, and mother. Sister is named, to show that no sex is excluded. And mother last mentioned, that the prerogative of the flesh may be set aside and disacknowledged.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-12.html. 1865-1868.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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