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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Matthew 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

Ver. 1. Great multitudes followed him] Many thousands, as Bodinius De Claritate Christi proveth out of ancient writers. This drew upon our Saviour the envy of the Pharisees, those cankered curls who, Sejanus-like, thought all lost that fell beside their own lips: as Nero, they spited all those whom the people applauded; and tiger-like, laid hold with their teeth on all the excellent spirits of their times, as it is said of Tiberius. {a}

{a} Quicquid non acquiritur damnum est. Sen. de Seiano. Nero omnium aemulus. Ammian.


Verse 2

2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Ver. 2. And, behold, there came a leper] This leprosy was most rife in our Saviour’s time; God so ordering that Judea was sickest when her Physician was nearest. The Jews are still a nasty people; and this kind of leprosy seems to have been proper to them, as Plica Polonica, Morbus Gallicus, Sudor Anglicus. No stranger in England was touched with this disease, and yet the English were chased therewith, not in England only, but in other countries abroad; which made them like tyrants, both feared and avoided wherever they came. So were these Jewish lepers. Hence that fable in Tacitus, that the Israelites were driven out of Egypt for that loathsome disease. This, said one malevolent heathen, is the cause why they rest every seventh day. Bodinus observes it for a special providence of God, that in Arabia (which bordereth upon Judea) there are no swine to be found, lest that most leprous creature, saith he, should more and more infest and infect that people, who are naturally subject to the leprosy. {a} And another good author is of the opinion that God did therefore forbid the Jews to eat either swine’s flesh or hare’s flesh, quod ista caro facile in male affectis corporibus putrescat, because in diseased bodies it easily corrupts and turns to ill humours.

And worshipped him] Which he would hardly ever have done, haply, had he not been a leper. Morbi sunt vlrtutum officina: diseases, saith St Ambrose, are the shop of virtues. King Alfred found himself ever best when he was worst; and therefore prayed God to send him always some sickness; Gehazi’s leprosy cured him, his white forehead made him a white soul.

If thou wilt, thou canst, &c.] So another came with, "If thou canst do anything, help us." We never doubt of Christ’s will to do us good (saith a great divine), but, in some degree, we doubt also his power. True faith doubts neither, but believes against sense in things invisible, and against reason in things incredible. Sense corrects imagination, reason corrects sense, but faith corrects both.

{a} Summa Dei bonitate id factum est, ne populos ad lepram proclives, animal leprosissimum magis, ac magis infestaret. Jo. Bodin.


Verse 3

3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Ver. 3. And Jesus put forth his hand, &c.] The law forbade contactum contagionis, non sanationis. The high priest might enter a leprous house, &c. "We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," Hebrews 4:15. Better might he say, than St Cyprian, Cum singulis pectus meum copulo, moeroris et funeris pondera luctuosa participo, cum plangentibus plango, cum deflentibus defleo, &c. Than St Paul, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is afflicted, and I burn not?" 2 Corinthians 11:29. It was held a great condescension in King Alphonsus to use his skill for the recovery of one of his sick subjects: what was it here in Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords?


Verse 4

4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Ver. 4. See thou tell no man] Christ despised popular applause, accounting it no other than a little stinking breath. Some do all for a name. But we have not so learned Christ. His treasures were hidden, Colossians 2:3. He sought not himself, but to set up him that sent him, John 8:50.

Show thyself to the priest] That they may see that I am He that should come, that Jehovah the physician, that "Sun of righteousness with health under his wings," &c.; that I came not to destroy the law, as they slanderously give out, but to fulfil it, that God may be glorified and the mouth of malice stopped.

Offer the gift, &c.] This is that peppercorn {a} we pay to God, who is content that we have the benefit of his favours, so he may have the glory of them. Not lepers only, but all sorts, after sickness, were bound to offer to God the ransom of their lives, Exodus 30:11-16. Hezekiah made a song and left it to posterity, for a seal of his thankfulness. Heathens in this case would consecrate something to their gods, to their Teraphim. The very word in Greek that signifies to heal (framed from Teraphim) signifies first to worship and serve God ( θεραπευειν), so showing us what they were wont to do in case of cure. But today sciopato il morbo, fraudato il santo, as the Italian proverb hath it. Sick men recovered, deal as shipwrecked men escaped; they promise God, as he in Erasmus’ Naufragium did the Virgin, a picture of wax as big as St Christopher, but when he came to shore would not give a tallow candle. This is a cursed kind of deception, Malachi 1:14.

{a} The dried berry of Black Pepper. Formerly often, and still sometimes, stipulated for as a quit-rent or nominal rent ŒD


Verse 5

5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

Ver. 5. There came unto him a centurion] Rarior est virtus veniens e corpore raro. Soldiers are commonly fierce and godless creatures. But this noble centurion might well have made a commander in that Thundering Legion, and might well have had his hand in that Victoria Halleluiatica (as it was called) obtained by the orthodox Britons against the Pelagian Piers and Saxons here, Victoria fide obtenta, non viribus, as the story tells us; a victory gotten by faith, and not by force, κεραυνοβολος D. Ussier, de Britann. Eccles. primord, p. 332.


Verse 6

6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

Ver. 6. Lord, my servant lieth at home, &c.] Not thrown out of doors, not cast sick into a corner, to sink or swim, for any care his master would take of him; no, nor left to be cured at his own charges. The good centurion was not a better man than a master. So was that renowned Sir Thomas Lucy, late of Charlecott in Warwickshire, to whose singular commendation it was in mine hearing preached at his funeral, and is now since published, by my much honoured friend Mr Robert Harris, that (among many others that would dearly miss him) a houseful of servants had lost not a master, but a physician who made their sickness his, and his cost and medicine theirs.

" Cui blanda in vultu gravitas, et mite serena

Fronte supercilium, sed pectus mitius ore."

Or (as mine Alter Ego) mine entirely beloved kinsman, Mr Thomas Dugard, expresseth it in his elegant epitaph: His servants’ sickness was his sympathy, and their recovery his cost. In quo viro ingenium pietas, artemque modestia vincit In which man, a holy nature and humility overcame skill.


Verse 7

7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

Ver. 7. I will come and heal him] Stupenda dignatio; a wonderful condescending that the Lord of lords should vouchsafe to visit a poor servant and restore him to health. {a} It was a great favour that Queen Elizabeth did Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor (who died nevertheless of grief of mind), that, when she had broken his heart with a harsh word, she was pleased to visit and comfort him, though it were all too late. What was it then for the Lord Christ in the shape of a servant to come down to the sick servant’s pallet! Hunniades, when he felt himself in danger of death, desired to receive the sacrament before his departure; and would in any case (sick as he was) be carried to the church to receive the same, saying that it was not fit that the Lord should come to the house of his servant, but the servant rather to go to the house of his Lord and Master.

{a} Ut coeli Dominus nequaquam dedignaretur centurionis servulum visitare, Ambros.


Verse 8

8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

Ver. 8. Lord, I am not worthy, &c.] Fidei mendica manus; faith is an emptying grace, and makes a man cry out with Pomeran: Etiamsi non sum dignus, nihilominus tamen sum indigens. Although I am not worthy, none the less I am yet needy. By faith we come to see him that is invisible. Now, the more a man seeth of God, the less he seeth by himself; the nearer he draweth to God, the more rottenness he feeleth in his bones. Lord, I am hell; but thou art heaven (said Mr Hooper, martyr, at his death); I am swill and a sink of sin, but thou art a gracious God, &c.

But speak the word only, &c.] The centurion’s humility was not more low than his faith lofty; that reached up unto heaven, and in the face of human weakness descries omnipotence.


Verse 9

9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Ver. 9. For I am a man] But thou, Lord, art more than a man; for the centurion here makes comparison with our Saviour, both in respect to his person and to his power, as to the less with the greater. For his person, he saith not, Nam et ego sum homo, ut tu, " For I also am a man such as thou art" (as the Vulgate here corruptly renders it); but, "I am a man," a mere man; thou art God also, very God. And for his power, though subject to another, have soldiers at my beck and check, how much more hast thou, who art over all, an absolute power over sickness and death! The palsy, or, as some say, the epilepsy, was anciently called Morbus sacer, or the holy disease; for the priests, to enrich themselves, persuaded the superstitious people that this disease, as being sudden, hidden, and for the most part incurable, was an immediate hand of God, and could be cured by none but priests. The medicines they gave were much like that of the French mountebank, {a} who was wont to give in writing to his patients, for curing all diseases, these following verses:

" Si vis curari de morbo nescio quali,

Accipias herbam, sed qualem nescio, nec quam:

Ponas nescio quo, curabere nescio quando."

They are thus Englished by one:

Your pain, I know not what, do not fore slow,

To cure with herbs, which whence I do not know.

Place them (well pounc’t) I know not where, and then

You shall be perfect whole, I know not, when.

And I say to this man, Go, and he goeth, &c.] King Ferdinand’s ambassadors, being conducted into the camp of the Turks, wondered at the perpetual and dumb silence of so great a multitude; the soldiers being so ready and attentive, that they were no otherwise commanded than by the beckoning of the hand or nod of their commanders. Tamerlane, that warlike Scythian, had his men at such great command that no danger was to them more dreadful than his displeasure.

And to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it] Such a servant is every saint to his God; at least in his desire and endeavour. Such a centurion also is he over his own heart, which he hath at his right hand, as Solomon saith; that is, ready pressed to obey God in all parts and points of duty. There were seven sorts of Pharisees; and one was Pharisaeus, Quid debeo facere, et faciam illud: so they would needs be called. But the true Christian only is such a one in good earnest as the Pharisee pretends to be.

{a} An itinerant quack who from an elevated platform appealed to his audience by means of stories, tricks, magic acts, and the like, in which he was often assisted by a professional clown or fool. ŒD


Verse 10

10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Ver. 10. He marvelled, and said, &c.] What can be so great a marvel as that Christ marvelleth? So he wondered at his own work in Nathanael, John 1:47, and at his own love to miserable mankind, when he calls himself "Wonderful, Counsellor," &c., Isaiah 9:6. He wondereth not, as the disciples did, at the magnificence of the temple; he was not a whit taken with all the beauty and bravery of the world set before him by the devil, as it were in a landscape; but at the centurion’s faith he much marvelled, it being a work of his own almighty power, which he puts not forth but for great purposes, Ephesians 1:19. Where is easy to observe in the original a sixfold gradation.


Verse 11

11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

Ver. 11. Many shall come from the east] They shall "fly as a cloud," saith Isaiah (speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles), and so flock to the Church, as if a whole flight of doves, driven by some hawk or tempest, should scour into the columbary, and rush into the windows, Isaiah 60:8. The Tyrians had a hand in building the temple. The molten sea stood upon twelve oxen, which looked towards east, west, north, and south. The New Jerusalem hath twelve gates, to show that there is every way access for all sorts to Christ, who is also fitly called the second Adam, the Greek letters of which name (as St Cyprian observeth) do severally signify all the quarters of the earth. {a} He was born in an inn, to show that he receives all comers ( πανδοχειον); his garments were divided into four parts, to show that out of what part of the world soever we come, if we be naked, Christ hath robes to clothe us; if we be harbourless, Christ hath room to lodge us. Jethor, an Ishmaelite, may become an Israelite, 1 Chronicles 7:17; cf. 2 Samuel 17:25, and Araunah the Jebusite may be made an exemplary proselyte, 2 Samuel 24:18; cf. Zechariah 9:7. Vide Junium in locum.

{a} α. ανατολη. δ. δυσις, α. αρκτος ΄. ΄εσημβρια.


Verse 12

12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Ver. 12. But the children of the kingdom] Those that had made a covenant with God by sacrifice, Psalms 50:5; and therefore held their heads on high, as already destined to the diadem. Lo, these, in the height of their hopes and expectancies, shall be excluded; a foul and fearful disappointment. Surely the tears of hell cannot sufficiently bewail the loss of heaven. John of Valois was son, brother, uncle, father to a king, yet himself never was a king; so here.

Into outer darkness] Into a darkness beyond a darkness; into a dungeon beyond and beneath the prison. In tenebras ex tenebris, infeliciter exclusi, infelicius excludendi, saith Augustine. God shall surely say to these unhappy children of the kingdom, when he casts them into condemnation, as Aulus Fulvius said to his traitorous son when he slew him with his own hands, Non Catiline te genui sed patriae. I begat you not to be a Catiline but a patriot. I called you not but to glory and virtue, neither to glory but by virtue, 2 Peter 1:3. As you liked not the latter, so never look for the former. Every man is either a king or a captive; and shall either reign with Christ, or rue it for ever with the devil. {a} Aut Caesar aut nullus, Either Caesar or nothing, as he said to his mother: and as those in the Turk’s court, that are born of the blood royal, but come not to the kingdom; they must die either by the sword or halter; so here.

{a} Omnis homo aut est cum Christo regnaturus, aut cum diabolo cruciandus. Aug.


Verse 13

13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Ver. 13. And as thou hast believed, &c.] Faith hath a happy hand; and never but speeds in one kind or other. It hath what it would, either in money or money’s worth. Apollonius, saith Sozomen, never asked anything of God in all his life, that he obtained not. This man, saith one concerning Luther, could have from God whatsoever he wished.


Verse 14

14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.

Ver. 14. He saw his wife’s mother laid, &c.] A wife, then, Peter had, and if a good wife, she might be a singular help to him in his ministry; as Nazianzen’s mother was to her husband, not a companion only, but in some respects a guide to godliness. {a} St Ambrose saith that all the apostles were married men, save John and Paul. And those pope holy hypocrites that will not hear of priests’ marriage, but hold it far better for them to have and keep at home many harlots than one wife {b} (as that carnal Cardinal Campeius defended); they might hear the contrary out of their own canon law, where it is written, Distinct. 29, Siquis discernit Presbyterum coniugatum, tanquam occasione nuptiarum offerre non debeat, anathema esto. And again, Distinct. 31, Siquis vituperat nuptia, et dormientem cum viro suo fidelem et religiosam detestatur, aut culpabilem aestimat, velut quae regnum Dei introire non possit, anathema esto. They might hearken to Paphnutius, a famous primitive confessor; who, though himself an unmarried man, mightily persuaded and prevailed with the Nicene Council, that they should not decree anything against priests’ marriage, alleging, that marriage was honourable in all, and that the bed undefiled was true chastity. They might hear Ignatius, scholar to St John the Evangelist, pronouncing all such as call marriage a defilement, to be inhabited by that old dragon the devil. {c} But there is a political reason that makes these men deaf to whatsoever can be said to them by whomsoever; and you shall have it in the words of him that wrote the History of the Council of Trent (a Council carried by the pope, with such infinite guile and craft, that the Jesuits, those connubisanctifugae, commeritricitegae, will even smile in the triumphs of their own wits, when they hear it but mentioned, as a master stratagem). The delegates in Trent Council (saith he) were blamed for suffering the article of priests’ marriage to be disputed, as dangerous; because it is plain that married priests will turn their affections and love to wife and children; and by consequence, to their house and country: so that the strict dependence with the clergy hath upon the apostolic see would cease; and to grant marriage to priests would destroy the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and make the Pope bishop of Rome only. (Hist. of Council of Trent.)

{a} ου συνεργος μονον αλλα και αρχηγος εγενετο. Naz.

{b} Honestius est pluribus occulte implicari, quam aperte cum una ligari.

{c} Siquis coinquinationem vocet commixtionem legitimam, habet inhabitatorem Draconem Apostatam. Ign. Epist. ad Philadelph.


Verse 15

15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.

Ver. 15. And he touched her hand] A speedy and easy cure of the fever, such as Hippocrates or Galen had never the skill of. They do it not but by many evacuations, long diet, &c.; besides that, much gold must be lavished out of the bag as it is, Isaiah 46:6, the poor patient crying often out, αι, αι, whence Aeger, as some think (Becman). Christ, by his word and touch only, doth the deed in an instant. As he can blow us to destruction, Job 4:9, nod us to destruction, Psalms 80:16; so, when Heman thinks himself "free among the dead," free of that company, and the "mourners begin to go about the streets," he can speak life unto us, and keep us that we go not down to the pit, Psalms 88:5; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Psalms 30:3.

She arose, and ministered unto them] Thereby to evince the truth of the miracle, and to evidence the truth of her thankfulness.


Verse 16

16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

Ver. 16. When the even was come] In the morning he sowed his seed, and in the evening he withheld not his hand, Ecclesiastes 11:6. It is good to be doing while it is day. Mr Bradford, martyr, held that hour not well spent wherein he did not some good, either with his tongue, pen, or hand.


Verse 17

17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

Ver. 17. Himself took our infirmities] The prophet speaketh of spiritual infirmities, the evangelist applieth it to corporal. And not unfitly; for these are the proper effects of those. We may thank our sins for our sicknesses, Revelation 2:22. She had stretched herself upon a bed of security, she shall be cast, another while, upon a bed of sickness. Asa had laid the prophet by the heels; and now God lays him by the heels, diseasing him in his feet, 2 Chronicles 16:12. Sin is a universal sickness, Isaiah 1:5-6; like those diseases which the physicians say are corruptio totius substantiae. And our lives are fuller of sins than the firmament of stars or the furnace of sparks. Hence all our bodily distempers, which when we groan and labour under, let us reflect and revenge upon sin as the mother of all misery. And when we are made whole, "sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon us."


Verse 18

18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

Ver. 18. To depart unto the other side] Either to retire or repose himself after much pains (for quod caret alterna requie, &c., the very birds, when building their nests, fly abroad sometimes from their work, for recreation’s sake); {a} or else the better to edge the people’s desires after him, now withdrawn. Luther gave this rule to preachers, for moderating their discourses: When thou seest thine hearers most attentive, then conclude; for so they will come again more cheerfully the next time. Cum vides attentissime audire populum, conclude: eo alacriores redibunt. (Luther.)

{a} Levandi laboris sui causa volucres passim ac libere volitant. Cicero, 2, de Orat.


Verse 19

19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

Ver. 19. Master, I will follow thee, &c.] As Samson followed his parents till he met with a honeycomb; or as a dog follows his master till he come by a carrion. Vix diligitur Iesus, propter Iesum. But, as Isaac loved Esau, for venison was his meat, Genesis 25:28, and as Judah’s rulers "loved with shame, Give ye," Hosea 4:18; so do hypocrites; they serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies, Romans 16:18; they have his person in admiration only for advantage, 1:16; they can bear the cross with Judas, so they may bear the bag and lick their own fingers. Ephraim is a heifer that loveth to tread out the grain, because while it treads it feeds, Hosea 10:11. But such delicate self-seekers are rejected, as here; when those that have honest aims and ends hear, "Come and see," John 1:46.


Verse 20

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Ver. 20. The foxes have holes, &c.] q.d. Exigua mihi sunt subsidia aut praesidia. Nudus opum, sed cui coelum terraque paterent, as Ennius said of Archimedes. The great Architect of the world had not a house to put his head in; but emptied himself of all, and became poor to make us rich, not in goods, but in grace, not in worldly wealth, but in the true treasure, εκενωσεν, Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 8:9. Say we with that Father, Christi paupertas meum est patrimonium: prefer the reproach of Christ before the treasures of Egypt, Hebrews 11:26; and if, besides and with Christ, we have food and raiment, let us therewith rest content, 1 Timothy 6:8. Say we have no house on earth, we have one in heaven not made with hands. Those good souls dwelt in "dens and caves of the earth," yea, "wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins," Hebrews 11:37-38, that might have rustled in their silks and velvets, that might (Nebuchadnezzar-like) have vaunted themselves on their stately turrets and palaces, if they would have let go Christ. But that, they knew well, had been to make a fool’s bargain.

But the Son of man, &c.] So he styles himself either to note the truth of his humanity or the depth of his abasement; the Son of God became the son of man, which was, as one said in a like case, to fall from the court to the cart, from a palace to a gallows. Among all the prophets, Ezekiel is most frequently styled the son of man, and that purposely; to keep him low amidst his many rare raptures and revelations. The heathen, when they would set forth a man miserable indeed, they called him πρισανθρωπον, thrice a man.

Hath not whereon to lay his head] That the Messiah when he cometh shall not have whereon to sit, where to rest his body, is affirmed by the Jewish Gemarists. Our Saviour may seem here to allude to such a tradition.


Verse 21

21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

Ver. 21. Lord, suffer me first to go and bury] Old men’s fear is (saith Plutarch, and that makes them so gripple) that they shall not have θρεψοντας και θαψοντας, those that will be careful to nourish them while alive, and to bury them decently when they are dead.


Verse 22

22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Ver. 22. Follow me] Let go things less necessary, and mind the main. Thy task is long, thy time is short; opportunities are headlong, and must be quickly caught, as the echo catcheth the voice. There is no use of after wit.

" Praecipitat tempus, mors atra impendet agenti."

(Sil. Italic.)

Let the dead bury their dead] The dead in sin, their dead in nature. Ungodly men are no better than breathing ghosts, walking sepulchres of themselves. Their bodies are but living coffins to carry a dead soul up and down in. The saints only are heirs of life, 1 Peter 3:7, and all others are dead, stark dead in sins and trespasses, as the wanton widow, 1 Timothy 5:6; as Terence saith the same: Sane hercle homo voluptati obsequens fuit dum vixit. And of such dead corpses (as once in Egypt, Exodus 12:30) there is no house wherein there is not one, nay, many.


Verse 23

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

Ver. 23. And when he was entered, &c.] Himself was first in the ship where they were to suffer. Like a good shepherd, he goes before his sheep, John 10:4. Like a good captain, he goes before his soldiers; and as it was said of Hannibal, {a} that he first entered the field and last went out of the field, so is it with Christ the Captain of our salvation. "Fear not," saith he, "for I am with thee: be not afraid, for I am thy God," Isaiah 41:10. Tua causa erit mea causa, Your problem will be my problem, as that emperor told Julius Pflugius, who had been much wronged by the Duke of Saxony, in the emperor’s employment.

{a} Princeps praelium inibat, ultimus, conferio praelto, excedebat. Liv.


Verse 24

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

Ver. 24. And, behold, there arose a great tempest] Stirred up, likely, by the devil, to drown Christ (that male child of the Church, Revelation 12:5) and his disciples; as he killed Job’s children with the fall of the house. This is still the endeavour of Satan aud his instruments: but to such we may, as Pope Plus II wrote to the great Turk,

" Niteris incassum Christi submergere navem:

Fluctuat, at nunquam mergitur, illa ratis."

And as the poet said of Troy, so may we of the Church,

" Victa tamen vinces, eversaque Troia resurges:

Obruit hostiles illa ruina domos." Ovid. Fast.

Ambrose hath a remarkable speech to this purpose: Diabolus contra sanctos tempestatem mover: sed ipse naufragium facit: The devil stirs up a tempest against the saints, but himself is sure to suffer shipwreck. The Church, as a bottle, may be dipped, not drowned; as the diamond, it may be cast into the fire, not burnt by it; as the crystal, it may be fouled, but not stained by the venom of a toad; as the palm tree in the emblem, which though it have many weights at top and snakes at the root, yet it saith still, Nec premor, nec perimor. Neither hard pressed nor destroy. Lastly, as the north pole, semper versatur, nunquam mergitur, always moving never out of sight, as St Jerome observeth.


Verse 25

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

Ver. 25. Master, save us, we perish] Troubles drive us to God (as bugbears do children into their mother’s bosom), who delighteth to help those that are forsaken of their hopes. In prosperity, either we pray not at all- Rarae fumant felicibus arae, or but faintly, yawningly, &c. Oratio sine malis, est ut avis sine alis. But in a stress, as here, our prayers, like strong streams in narrow straits, run mightily upon God, and will not go away without the thing they came for.


Verse 26

26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

Ver. 26. And he saith unto them] Christ first chides them, and then chides the winds and waves. Men are most malleable in time of misery, Job 33:23. Strike while the iron is hot. How forcible are right words! Those that are melted in the furnace of affliction will easily receive impression. Hamper Manasses, and he will hearken to you.

O ye of little faith] Ye petty fidians: He calleth them not nullifidians. Faith is faith, though never so little of it. Credo languida fide, sed tamen fide, said dying Cruciger. Our consolation lies much in the comparative degree; but our salvation is in the positive. Much faith will yield unto us here our heaven; and any faith, if true, will yield us heaven hereafter. Now for fear; that which is distrustful, faith quelleth and killeth it; as that which is awful and filial, it breedeth, feedeth, fostereth, and cherisheth.


Verse 27

27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Ver. 27. Even the winds and the sea obey him] He lays laws upon all creatures, which are his hosts. The winds and sea fought for us apparently in that

" Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus:" (Beza)

so that the blasphemous Spaniards said, Christ was turned Lutheran. The like was done by the winds for Theodosius, in that famous battle against Maximinus. The soldiers that were then present told us, saith St Augustine ( de Civ. Dei, v. 6), that the winds took their darts, as soon as they were out of their hands, and drove them violently upon the enemy. As for those that were cast at us by the enemy, they were with like violence carried back upon their own bodies. Hence sang Claudian the heathen poet in this sort concerning Theodosius,

" O nimium dilecte Deo, cui militat aether,

Et coniurati veniunt ad classica venti."


Verse 28

28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

Ver. 28. Coming out of the tombs] There the devil kept them, the more to terrify them with the fear of death all their lives long, Hebrews 2:15. Appius Claudius (as Capella witnesseth) could not abide to hear the Greek ζητα pronounced, because it represented the gnashing of the teeth of dying men. Chrysostom gives another reason hereof, that the devil hereby sought to persuade silly people that dead men’s souls were turned into devils, and walked (as they call it) especially about tombs and sepulchres. Thus he often appeared to people, in times of Popery, in the shape of some of their dead kindred, and haunted them till he had made them sing a mass for such and such a soul. Melancthon tells a story of an aunt of his, that had her hand burnt to a coal by the devil, appearing to her in the likeness of her deceased husband. And Pareus relates an example (much like this poor demoniac in the text) of a baker’s daughter in their country, possessed and pent up in a cave she had dug, as in a grave, to her dying day.


Verse 29

29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Ver. 29. What have we to do with thee] Horrible impudence. As if Christ were not concerned when his members are vexed. David felt his own coat cut and his own cheeks shaven in the coats and cheeks of his servants; and shall not Christ be as sensible of the abuses done to his? The sovereign suffers in the subject. Neither is it other than just, that the arraignment of mean malefactors runs in the style of wrong to the king’s crown and dignity.

Jesus, thou Son of God] The devil speaks Christ fair, but only to be rid of him. So deal many by Christ’s ministers, that rip up their consciences, and so put them into a hell above ground. St Mark tells us that they worshipped our Saviour; St Luke, that they adjured him. Satan, saith one, doth not always appear in one and the same fashion. At Lystra he appeared like a comedian, at Athens like a philosopher, at Ephesus like an artificer, and here like an exorcist; as to Saul he appeared like the old prophet, who could not have spoken more gravely, severely, divinely, than the fiend did. But as, when one commended the pope’s legate at the Council of Basil, Sigismund the emperor answered, Tamen Romanus est: Yet I am a Roman, so when the devil comes commended unto us under what name soever, let us cry out, Yet he is a devil; and remember still to resist him, steadfast in the faith, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Art thou come hither to torment us] To dispossess us. Lo, it is another hell to the devil to be idle, or otherwise than evil occupied. Should not we hold it our heaven to be well doing? {a} Learn for shame of the devil, saith father Latimer, to be busy about the salvation of your own and other men’s souls, which he so studiously seeks to destroy. Athanasius hath a conceit, that the devil may he driven out of a body by repeating the 68th Psalm. Origen saith of devils, no greater torment to them than to see men addicted to the Scriptures: In hoc eorum omnis flamma est, in hoc uruntur incendio. Chrysostom saith, we may lash and scourge the devil by fasting and prayer, which the prophet Isaiah calls a charm or enchantment, Isaiah 26:16; ( לחש).

Before the time] For they are respited and reprieved, as it were, in respect of full torment, and suffered, as free prisoners, to flutter in the air, and to course about the earth till that great day; which they tremble to think on, and which they that mock at, 2 Peter 3:3, or make light of, are worse than devils. {b}

{a} Tantum abest ut in oves Dei habeat potestatem.

{b} Ut iugulent homines, surgunt, &c. Horace.


Verse 30

30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

Ver. 30. A herd of many swine feeding] Suillo pecori anima pro sale data, saith Varro. Swinish epicures also have their souls but for salt to keep their bodies from putrifying. That was a rotten speech of Epicurus, that life eternal was nothing else but an eternal gormandizing, and swilling, and swallowing of nectar and ambrosia. {a} The kingdom of God is another manner of thing than meat and drink, Romans 14:17. The devil desired to enter into the swine, because of their greediness. Eat not greedily, for this is os porci habere, to have the mouth of a pig, as that pope is said to have. Drink not to drunkenness; for this sin robs a man of himself, and lays a swine in his room. No creature, besides man, will be drunk, but swine: and not swine either, but as they are conversant about men; for wild swine will not, they say.

{a} Epicuri de grege, porci, κραιπαλην και μεθην αιωνιον ωστε απαντα χρονον διαγειν μεθυοντας.


Verse 31

31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

Ver. 31. So the devils besought him] For threaten him they dared not, as little as the Gadarenes, Matthew 8:34, because they found themselves overpowered. At one time they had set upon our Saviour with utmost might and malice in the wilderness. The matter is well amended now. The same power, when he pleases, can change the note of the tempter to us. He will tread Satan under our feet shortly, Romans 16:20. That which Vegetius said of chariots armed with scythes and hooks will be applied to the devils; at first they were a terror, and after a scorn.

Suffer us to go into the herd of swine] Possumus dicere porcorum quoque setas fuisse apud Deum numeratas nedum sanctorum capillos. We may safely say, that the bristles of swine are numbered with God, saith Tertullian ( de Fuga), much more the hairs of saints; not one of them falls to the ground without their heavenly Father. Satan desired to have forth Peter to winnow, as Goliath desired to have an Israelite to combat with; he could not command him. He could not make lice, Exodus 8:18, fire a house, Job 1:19, drown a pig, without divine permission. Now we are of more price than many pigs before God, as that martyr well inferred. And if a legion of devils had not power over a herd of hogs, much less have they over Christ’s flock of sheep, saith Tertullian.


Verse 32

32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

Ver. 32. And he said unto them, Go] 1. To show his sovereignty over the creatures. He is the great proprietary of all, and may do with his own as he wisheth. 2. To punish their sensuality in feeding upon swine’s flesh, against the express letter of the law. Ex uno sue quinquaginta prope sapores excogitantur, saith Pliny. And there was a jolly pope (some kin, belike, to Pope Sergius, surnamed Os porci, the mouth of a pig) that being, for his gout, forbidden swine’s flesh by his physician, cried out to his steward, Bring me my pork, al dispito di dio, in despite of God. 3. To try whether was dearer to these filthy Gergesites, their swine, or their souls. They showed themselves to be of Cardinal Bourbon’s mind, who would not part with his part in Paris, for his part in Paradise.

They went into the herd of swine] That thereby Satan might win upon the souls of the citizens (wedded and wedged to their worldly substance), and he failed not in his purpose. A cunning fetch of an old quadruplator. Be not ignorant of his wiles. Divorce the world from the devil, and he can do us no hurt.

Ran violently down a steep place into the sea] Cornelius Agrippa, the magician, being at point of death, called unto him a dog (a familiar devil) that went about with him, and said, Abi a me perdita bestia quae me perdidisti, Get thee gone, thou cursed creature, thou hast undone me. Whereupon the dog presently departed, and cast himself headlong into the water.

And perished in the waters] So will detestable drunkards in the bottomless pit; those that, as swine their bellies, so they break their heads with filthy quaffing. These shall have a cup of fire and brimstone poured down their throats, Psalms 11:6, and not obtain one drop of water to cool their flaming tongues. For what reason? Drunkenness, saith one, is a vice so vile, so base, so beastly, as that it transforms the soul, deforms the body, bereaves the brain, betrays the strength, defiles the affection, and metamorphoseth the whole man; making the understanding ignorant, the strong staggering, the trusty trothless, the virtuous vicious, and the precisest person a panderer to the profanest sin. (Huge de Sancto Vict.)


Verse 33

33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.

Ver. 33. And they that kept them fled] So do parasitical pastors leave their forlorn flocks to danger and destruction; letting the devils hurry them to hell, and not caring whether they sink or swim. They that go down into this pit, or suffer others to go down by their default, cannot hope for God’s truth, Isaiah 38:18.


Verse 34

34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.

Ver. 34. They besought him to depart] This was as great madness, as to wish, because they had been scorched by the sun, they might see no more of it. And yet how many, alas, are there at this day that cry out of this madness, and yet imitate it! How many that prefer haram domesticam arae dominicae, as one long since complained, a swine sty before a sanctuary! (Petr. Blessensis.) We are now become Gergesites, said that martyr in Queen Mary’s days, that would rather lose Christ than our porkets. Take up your cross is a hard saying; therefore Christ must be prayed to be gone, lest all our pigs be drowned. The devil shall have his dwelling again in many men’s selves rather than in their pigs. Therefore to the devil shall they go and dwell with him, &c. Thus Mr Bradford. And oh how justly shall Christ regest one day upon all unworthy Gadarenes, Depart from me, ye wicked!

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-8.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13
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