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· 47-50. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, &c. This parable does not differ in meaning from that of the tares. The Gospel is compared to a net, dragging along on the bottom of the lake, and collecting all-good and bad. But in the end of the world, when the net is drawn in, the bad will be separated from the good: the one will be lost, and the other saved. Our Saviour never fails to keep before our minds the great truth of future judgment, and the final separation of the good and evil. 51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say
unto him, Yea, Lord. 52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
9 Cant, vii. 13.
51, 52. Jesus kindly asked them whether they had understood these things. If not, he was still willing to teach them. He enjoined on them their duty to make a proper use of this knowledge, by speaking another parable. 9 Every seribe-instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. That is, every man that is acquainted with the Gospel, or with the truth. A scribe was a leamed man. the disciples had said that they had understood the truth, he says that it should not be unemployed. They should bring it forth in due time, like a householder bringing out of his treasury, or place of deposit, what had been laid up there at any time, as it was needed. ? Bringeth forth. As occasion demands; as sickness, or calamity, or the wants of his family, or the poor require. 9 Treasure. The word treasure here means a place of deposit, not for money merely, but for any thing necessary for the comforts of a family. It is the same as treasury, or a place of deposit
. Things new and old. Things lately acquired, or things that had been laid up for a long time. The truth, new or old, which you have gained, keep it not laid up and hid, but bring it forth, in due season, and on proper occasions, to benefit others. Every preacher should be properly instructed. Christ for three years gave instructions to the apostles; and they who preach should be able to understand the Gospel, to defend it, and to communicate its truths to others. Human learning alone is indeed of no value to a minister; but all learning that will enable him better to understand the Bible, and to communicate its truths, is valuable, and should, if possible, be gained. A minister should be like the father of a family-distributing to the Church as it needs; and out of his treasures bringing forth truth to confirm the feeble, enlighten the ignorant, and guide those in danger of falling. 53 | And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he
departed thence. 54 *And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Chap. If. 23; Mark vi. 1; Luke iv. 16, 23.
54. Into his own country. That is, into Nazareth. It was common for our Saviour to speak in the synagogues. Any Jew had a right to address the people, if called on by the minister ; and our Saviour often availed himself of the right to instruct the people, and declared his doctrines. See Matt. iv, 23. 55 "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and this
brethren, "James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things ? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, 'A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Mark xv. 40.
# Chap. xi. 6; Mark vi. 3, 4.
. Isa. xlix. 7; Mark vi. 3; Luke iit. 23; John yi. 42. 1 Chap. xii. 46.
y Luke v. 24; John iv. 44.
57. They were offended in him, &c. That is, they took offence at his humble birth, and at the indigent circumstances of his family. They were too proud to be taught by one who, in family connections, they took to be their equal or inferior. Men always look with envy on those of their own rank who possess uncommon wisdom or superior power. 9 A prophet is not without honour, ko. This seems to be a proverbial expression. Our Saviour advances it as a general truth. There might be some exceptions to it, but he was not an exception. Everywhere else he had been more honoured than at home. There they were intimately acquainted with the circumstances of his family, knew the obscure conditions of his humble life, and had been his companions in youth. Though they had listened to his divine discourse, and witnessed his acts of mighty power, yet, manifesting the depravity of the unrenewed heart, instead of allowing their minds to be opened to conviction, they railed upon him, and calumniated him.
58 And ’he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
z Mark vi. 5, 6.
58. Did not many mighty works. Miracles. This implies that he performed some miracles. Mark tells us what they were. He laid his hands on some sick folk, and healed them. I Because of their unbelief. That is, it would not have served the great purposes of his mission to have worked many miracles there. We are not to suppose that the power of our Saviour was limited by the belief, or unbelief, of men. But they were so prejudiced, so set against him, that they were not in a condition to judge of evidence, and to be convinced. Whatever works of Divine power he might have wrought there, in proof of his Messiahship, they would have resisted them, and by their stubborn perversity, have prevented them from doing their proper work upon their minds, for when men are, with determinate purpose, set against the truth, they find abundance of excuses (all of them, no doubt, utterly groundless, and such as shall aggravate their condemnation), wherewith to justify themselves. By working some miracles in this place, our Saviour afforded them sufficient proof of his mission, and left them in their chosen unbelief, without excuse. It is also true, in spiritual things, that the unbelief of a people prevents the influences of the Holy Spirit from being sent down to bless them. God requires faith. He hears only the prayers of faith. And when there is little true belief, and prayer is cold and formal, there the people sleep in spiritual death, and are unblessed.
Hitherto our Lord, in dealing with sinners, -opening up to them his mission, and unfolding the doctrines of salvation,-had spoken in plain words; now, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, and for other reasons stated in the chapter, he makes use of parables,-a method of teaching common enough at the time. This chapter contains no fewer than seven of these parables of our Lord; each of them full of instruction. The kingdom of heaven—the great and vital doctrines of the Gospel-forms the subject of them all. In each of them, some one all-important truth is put in an impressive manner. In the parable of “ The sower," the preaching of the Gospel and the reception it meets with are described. The sower is the preacher; the seed, the Gospel; the ground that receives the seed, the hearers of the Gospel. Of the four classes of hearers, who listen to the same truths, and to whom these truths are addressed in the same way—with equal clearness of statement, cogency of argument, and earnestness of application-one only receives it in such a way as to profit by it, and allow it to have its proper work upon them. Some are so light and vain—so much do they regard the waiting upon the ordinances of religion as a matter of mere sensuous gratification, a sort of pastime—that the most solemn truths make no impression upon them which is not immediately blotted out, or driven along in the incessant whirl of ideas which pass through their giddy minds. The preaching of the Gospel to them, is like scattering seed upon the wayside. The birds of the air will not be long of picking it up, nor the devil of plucking the Word out of the minds of such graceless hearers ; not, to be sure, to his own advantage, but to their ruin. To others, the Gospel message is as a very "pleasant song." Mightily are they pleased with the comfortable tidings it brings; they cannot sufficiently admire the excellent things that are spoken of the “rest that remaineth for the people of God.” Their imagination is excited, and what of enthusiasm they possess kindles to the highest point. Their religion is that of sentiment. The truth bas not a hold of their whole nature. It has the slightest (and indeed no) hold of that portion of it to which it is chiefly addressed, and until it obtains a power over which, no good result can be expected. So long as the sun shines, and the weather is fair, all seems well; none are more stout in their affirmations, no fairer professions are any where made. But what should be expected, but that they should one day fall off with whom religion had never the strength of a principle? Tribulation comes-persecution arises. They must give up their worldly comforts—their substance-perhaps their lives-or their profession. Has it come to this ?—think they. Are these the promises of present happiness and future glory which have all along been held out to us? This is no smooth sailing, but a very tempest : out of it we must,-the sooner, and by the shortest road, the better. As the sun scorches and
up the seed fallen upon stony places, where there is not much earth-so, those sapless hearers of the Word fall away before the rebuke of wicked men, doing the work of Satan, and carrying it with a high hand over the household of faith. The question is,—How shall they stand the rebuke of God, when he calls them to account ?-It is in vain to expect to reap a good harvest on that field wholly overgrown with thorns; but not more in vain, than to suppose that the Gospel will bring forth its precious fruits in our souls, if they be set upon the world. Between God and Mammon we must choose and decide: we cannot serve both. A man cannot balance his affections so as to poise them equally between these two. Where the love of God really exists, it will overcome the world; but where it only is in appearance, the world will as certainly overcome it. In preferring the world, an awful sacrifice is made; it is time set over against eternity—or, as we should rather say, eternal perdition (for in this the world lands its votaries) preferred to everlasting glory. With what anguish of soul are the hearers of that description who listened to our Saviour, and died impenitent, bemoaning themselves, and cursing the hold which they allowed “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,” to obtain and possess over them !– What diligence of self-examination should all hearers of the Gospel use to ascertain to what class they belong! Considering the priceless salvation which God now offers them, now urges them to accept of, and the wrath to be revealed hereafter against the impenitent, how ought the “wayside, the stony, and the thorny ground hearers,” to labour in prayer, that the Word may find an entrance into their hearts ! that as the husbandman breaks up and purifies the soil, so the Divine Spirit may prepare their souls by his powerful operations ! The Word being received into the heart, produces different results in different cases.
It always comes to fruit; but in different degrees of abundance. Might it not be equally productive in every case? When the harvest is small
, is it not owing to some perversity on our part obstructing its growth? And is it not incumbent upon us to labour diligently that all such obstacles
may be removed, that so the Word may have free course, and be glorified ? Those who neglect the opportunities of divine enlightenment which they possess; who make no exertion to become informed in the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; who, in the concerns of religion, make no industrious use of the faculties with which God has endowed them; who live in carelessness, and think that it is enough to procure them salvation, to cry out, at any time when it best answers their convenience, “ God be merciful!”—such persons, so long as they continue in this way of thinking and acting, shall remain, so far as knowledge is concerned, in profound ignorance of the truth. So far as their knowledge is conce
cerned, it is the same with them as it would have been suppose there had been no revelation at all, or as if they had never heard of it. Their responsibility is another matter, and is indefinitely increased by the fact of their enjoying the means of grace. But the man who prayerfully uses the means he enjoys—who is in earnest about the great concerns of salvation-shall not be left in darkness; light shall arise upon him, and he shall be led, in ways he knows not of, to a good understanding of all that touches his salvation.-Ed.
1 Herod's opinion of Christ. 3 Wherefore John Baptist was beheaded. 13 Jesus departeth
into a desert place : 15 where he feedeth five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes : 22 he walketh on the sea to his disciples : 34 and landing at Gennesaret, healeth the sick by the touch of the hem of his garment.
T that ||time “Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
Ver. 1. Herod the Tetrarch. See also Mark vi. 14-16; Luke ix. 7-9. This was a son of Herod the Great. Herod the Great died probably in the first year after the birth of Christ, and left his kingdom to his three sons, of whom this Herod Antipas was one. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. The title tetrarch literally denotes one who rules over a fourth part of any country. In a remote signification, it means one who rules over a third, or even a half of a nation. I Heard of the fame of Jesus. Jesus had then been a considerable time engaged in the work of his public ministry, and it may seem remarkable that he had not before heard of him. Herod might have, however, been absent on some expedition to a remote part of the country. It is to be remembered, also, that he was a man of much dissoluteness of morals ; and that he paid little attention to the affairs of the people, and none to religion. He might have heard of Jesus before, but it had not arrested his attention. He did not think it a matter worthy of regard.
2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from
the dead; and therefore mighty works || do shew forth themselves in him.
1 Or, are wrought by him.
2. This is John the Baptist. Herod feared John. His conscience smote him for his crimes. He remembered that he had wickedly put him to death. He knew him to be a distinguished prophet; and he concluded that no other one was capable of working such miracles, and, therefore, that this must be none other than the Baptist returned to life. The alarm in his court was general, Herod's conscience suggested that this was John. Others thought that it might be the expected Elijah, or one of the old prophets. Mark vi. 15. 39 bll For Herod laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison
for IIerodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, “because they counted him as a prophet.
d Chap. xxi. 26; Luke xx. 6. 3–5. For Herod had laid hold on John, &c. See Mark vi. 17–20; Luke iii. 19, 20. This Herodias was a granddaughter of Herod the Great. She was first married to Herod Philip, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, probably the one that danced and pleased Herod. Josephus says that this marriage of Herod Antipas with Herodias took place while he was on a journey to Rome. He stopped at his brother's ; fell in love with his wife; agreed to put away his own wife, the daughter of Arteas, king of Petræa : and Herodias agreed to leave her own husband, and live with him. They were living, therefore, in adultery; and John in faithfulness, though at the risk of his life, had reproved them for their crimes. 6 But when Herod's birtlidlay was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced
+ before them, and pleased Herod.
b Mark vi. 17: Luke iii. 19, 20.
IA. D. 30.
c Lev. xviii. 16, xx. 21.
| Gr. in the midst.
6. But when Herod's birthday was come. Kings were accustomed to observe the day of their birth with much pomp, and commonly also by giving a feast to their principal nobility. Mark adds, that this birthday was kept by making a supper to his “lords, high captains, and chief estates in Galilee.” That is to the chief men in office. 1 The daughter of Herodias. That is, Salome, her daughter by her former husband. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
7. He promised with an oath. This was a wicked oath. To please a wanton girl, the monarch called the eternal God to witness his willingness to give her half of his kingdom. It seems also that he was willing to shed the holiest blood it contained. An oath like this it was not lawful to make, and it should have been broken. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John
Baptist's head in a charger. 8. Being before instructed of her mother. Not before she danced, but afterwards; and before she made the request of Herod. See Mark vi. 24. The only appearance of what was right in the whole transaction, was her honouring her mother, by consulting her; and in this she only intended to accomplish the purposes of wickedness more effectually: į In a charger. The original word means a large platter. We should have supposed that she would have been struck with abhorrence at such a direction. But she seems to have been gratified. John, by his faithfulness, had offended the whole family; and here was a good opportunity for a wicked mother and dissolute child to gratify their resentment. It was customary for princes to require the heads of persons ordered for execution to be brought to them. For this there were two reasons : 1. To gratify their resentment. 2. To ascertain the fact that the sentence had been executed. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which
sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
9. And the king was sorry. There might have been several reasons for this:-1. Herod had a high respect for John, and feared him. He knew that he was a holy man, and had “observed him;" that is, regarded him with respect and veneration. He had done some things in obedience to John's precepts. Mark vi. 20. 2. John was in high repute among the people, and Herod might have been afraid that his murder might excite commotion. 3. Herod, though a wicked man, does not appear to have been insensible to some of the common principles of human nature. Here was a great and most manifest crime proposed— no less than the murder of an acknowledged prophet of the Lord. It was deliberate. It was to gratify the malice of a wicked woman. It was the price of a few moments' entertainment. His conscience, though in feeble and dying accents, checked him : he would have preferred a request not so manifestly wicked, and that would not have involved him in so much difficulty. I For the oath's sake. Herod felt that he was bound by this oath. But he was not. The oath should not have been taken; but being taken, he could not be bound by it. No oath could justify a man in committing murder. Herod was bound by a prior obligation, by the law of God, not to commit murder; and no act of his, be it an oath, or any thing else, could free him from the obligation. 1 And them which sat with him at meat. This was the consideration that had greatest weight with Herod in the murder of the Baptist. He had not firmness enough to obey the law of God, and to follow the dictates of conscience, against the opinions of wicked men. He was afraid of the charge of cowardice, and want of spirit; afraid of ridicule, and the contempt of the wicked. This is the principle of what are called the laws of honour. This is the foundation of duelling. It is not so much for his own sake that one man murders another in a duel, for the offence is often a mere trifle. It is because the men of honour, as they call themselves, his companions, would consider him a coward, and laugh at him. Those companions may be unprincipled contemners of the laws of God and man; and yet the duellist, against his own conscience, against the laws of God, against the good opinions of the virtuous part of the world, and against the laws of his country, seeks, by deadly aim, to murder another, merely to gratify his dissolute companions. It should be added, that this fear of man is the source of much youthful guilt. We are led along by others—we have not firmness enough to follow the teachings of a father, and of the law of God. Young men are afraid of being called mean and cowardly by the wicked; and give themselves up to wicked courses at the suggestion of wicked companions. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was
brought in a charger, and given to the damsel : and she brought it to
her mother. 10. And he sent and beheaded him. For the sake of these wicked men, the head of the prophet was brought and given as the reward to the daughter and mother. What an offering to a woman! Josephus says of her, that “she was a woman full of ambition and envy, having a mighty influence over Herod, and able to persuade him tu things which he was not at all inclined to." 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went
and told Jesus. 2. And his disciples, &c. The head was with Herodias. The body, with pious care, they buried. And went and told Jesus. This was done probably for the following reasons :—1. It was an important event, and one particularly connected with the work of Jesus. John was the forerunner, and it was important that he should be made acquainted with his death. 2. It is not unreasonable to suppose, that in their affliction they came to him for consolation; in our affliction we should follow their example, and go and tell Jesus, who is ever ready to listen to his people's complaints-heal their sorrows—and bestow upon them all blessings in heavenly places. 13 | || When °Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert
place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
e Chap. x. 23, xii. 15; Mark vi. 32; Luke ix. 10; John vi. 1, 2. 13. A full narrative of the feeding the five thousand is given in each of the other evangelists, in Mark vi. 32-44; in Luke ix. 10-17; in John vi. 1-14. 1 And when Jesus heard of it he departed. His hour was not yet come. 1 By a ship into a desert place. That is, he crossed the sea of Galilee. He went to the country east of the sea, into a place little inhabited. On the east of the sea of Galilee there was a large tract of country of this description-rơugh, uncultivated, and chiefly used to pasture flocks.
| A.D. 32.