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tuous harlot, and made a scorn to the drunken eyes of Herod's guests! From the whole learn, 1. That neither the holiest of prophets, nor the best of men, are more secure from violence than from natural death. He that was sanctified in the womb, conceived and born with so much miracle, lived with so much reverence and observation, is now at midnight obscurely murdered in a close prison. Learn, 2. That it is as true a martyrdom to suffer for duty, as for faith: he dies as truly a martyr that dies for doing his duty, as he that dies for professing the faith and bearing witness to the truth.
12 And his disciples came and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 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.
The disciples of Jolin hearing that their holy master was thus basely and barbarously murdered, took up his dead body and buried it . Whence we learn, That the faithful servants of God are not ashamed of the sufferings of the saints, but will testify their respect unto them both living and dead. Observe farther, How our blessed Saviour, upon the notice of John'sdeath, flies into the desert for the preservation of his own life. Jesus knew that his hour was not yet come, and therefore he keeps out of Herod's way. It is no cowardice to fly from persecutors, when Christ our Captain both practises it himself, and directs us to it, saying, When they persecute you in one city,Jice, Sec.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
Observe here, 1. With what condolency and tender sympathy the compassionate Jesus exercised acts of mercy and compassion towards the miserable and distressed; He was moved with compassion; that is, touched with an inward sense and feeling of their sorrow: And he healed their sick. Those that came to Christ for healing, found three advantages of cure, above the power and performance of any earthly physician j to wit, certainty, bounty, and ease. Certainty, in that all comers were infallibly cured; lounly, in that they were freely
cured, without charge; and case, in that they were cured without pain.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
Note here, 1. The disciples' pity towards the multitude that had long attended upon Christ's ministry in the desert: they, presuming the people hungry, having fasted all the day, request our Saviour to dismiss them, that they may procure some bodily refreshment. Learn hence, That it well becomes the ministers of Christ to respect the bodily necessities, as well as to regard the spiritual wants, of their people. As the bodily father must take care of the soul of his child, so must the spiritual father have respect to the bodily necessities of his children. Observe, 2. The motion which the disciples make on the behalf of the multitude: Send them away, that they may buy victuals. Here was a strong charity, but a weak faith. A strong charity, in that they desired the people's relief; but a weak faith, in that they suppose they could not otherwise be relieved, but by sending them away to buy victuals; forgetting that Christ, who had healed the multitude miraculously, could as easily feed them miraculously, if he pleased; all things being equally easy to Omnipotence.
10 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to cat.
Observe here, 1. Our Saviour's strange answer to the disciples' motion: They need not depart, says Christ . Need not! Why, the people must either feed or famish. Victuals they must have, and this being a desert place, there was none to be had. Surely then there was need enough. But, 2. Christ's command was more strange than his assertion: Give ye them to cat, Alas, poor disciples! they had nothing for themselves to eat: how then should they give the multitude to eat > When Christ requires of us what of ourselves we are unable to perform, it is to show us our impotency and weakness, and to provoke us to look to him that workcth all our works in us and for us.
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
Note here, What a poor and slender provision the Lord of the whole earth has for his household and family; five loaves, and those barley: two fishes, and they small: teaching us, that these bodies of ours must be fed, but not pampered. Our belly must not be our master, much less our god. We read but twice that Christ made any entertainments, and both times his guests were fed with loaves and fishes; plain fare and homely diet. The end of food is to sustain nature, we stifle it with a gluttonous variety: meat was ordained for the belly, the belly for the body, the body for the soul, and the soul for God. Observe farther, As the quality of the victuals was plain and coarse, so the quantity of it was small and little: five loaves and two fishes. Well might the disciples say, What are these among so many? The eye of sense and reason sees an impossibility of those effects which faith can easily apprehend, and divine power more easily produce.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass; and took the five loaves and the two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake; and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Observe, 1. How the Master of the feast marshals his guests, he commands them all to sit down; none of them reply, " Sit down! but to what? Here are the mouths, but where is the meat? We can soon be set, but whence shall we be served?" Nothing of this: but they obey and expect. O how easy is it to trust God, and rely upon Providence, when there is corn in the barn and bread in the cupboard! But when our stores are all empty, and nothing before us, then to depend upon an invisible bounty is a true and noble act of faith. Observe, 2. The actions performed by our blessed Saviour, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and they to the multitude. 1. He blessed, teaching us, by his example, in all our wants to look up to heaven for a supply, to wait upon God for his blessing, and not to sit down to our food as a beast to his forage. 2. He brake the loaves. He could have multiplied them whole; why would he rather do it in the breaking? Perhaps to teach us, that we are to expect his blessings in the distribution, rather than in the
reservation, of what he gives us. Scattering is the way to increasing. Not grain hoarded up in the granary, but scattered in the furrows of the field, yields increase. Liberality is the way to riches, and penuriousness the road to poverty. 3. Christ gave the bread thus broken to his disciples, that they might distribute it to the multitude. But why did not our Lord distribute it with his own hand, but by the hands of his disciples? Doubtless to win respect to his disciples from the people. The same course did our Lord take in spiritual distributions. He that could feed the world by his immediate hand, chooses rather by the hands of his ministers to divide the bread of life to all hearers.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
They did all eat, not a crumb or a bit, but to satiety and fulness: they did eat, and were filled, yet twelve baskets remained: more is left than was at first set on. So many bellies, and yet so many baskets, filled. The miracle was doubled by an act of boundless omnipotency. It is hard to say, which was the greater miracle, the miraculous eating, or the miraculous leaving. If we consider what they ate, we may justly wonder that they left any thing; if what they left, that they ate any thing. Observe farther, These fragments, though of barley-bread and fish-bones, must not be lost; but by our Saviour's command gathered up. The liberal Housekeeper of the world will not allow the loss of his orts. O how fearful then will the account of those be, who have large and plentiful estates to answer for as lost, being spent upon their lusts in riot and excess!
22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
Jesus constrained them; that is, he commanded them to go away before him. No doubt they were very loath to leave him, and to go without him; both out of the love which they bare to him and themselves. Such as have once tasted the sweetness of Christ, are hardly drawn away from him: however, as desirous as the disciples were to
stay with Christ, yet at his word of command they depart from liirn. Where Christ has a will to command, his disciples and followers must have a will to obey.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
Observe here, 1. Christ dismisses the multitude, and then retires to pray; teaching us, by his example, when we have to do with God, to dismiss the multitude of our affairs and employments, of our cares and thoughts. O how unseemly it is to have our tongues talking to God, and our thoughts taken up with the world! Observe, 2. The place Christ retires to for prayer, a solitary mountain; not so much for his own need, for he could be alone when he was in company, but to teach us, that when we address ourselves to God in duty, we are to take all the helps, furtherances, and advantages we can, for the doing of it. When we converse with God in duty, O how good is it to get upon a mountain, to get our hearts above the world, above worldly employments and worldly cogitations! Observe, 3. The occasion of Christ's prayer; he had sent the disciples to sea, he foresaw the storm arising, and now he gets into a mountain to pray for them, that their faith might not fail them when their troubles were upon them. Leam hence, That it is the singular comfort of the church of God, that in all her difficulties and distresses Clirist is interceding for ber; when she is on the sea conflicting with the waves, Christ is upon the mountain praying for her preservation.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
Note here, The great danger the disciples were in, and the great difficulties they had to encounter with: they were in the midst of the sea, they were tossed with the waves, the wind was contrary, and Christ was absent. The wisdom of God often suffers his church to be tossed upon the waves of affliction and persecution, but it shall not be swallowed up by them: often is this ark of the church upon the waters; seldom off them; but never drowned.
25 And in the fourth watch of fhe night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Christ having seen the distress of his disciples on the shore, he hastens to them on the sea. It was not a stormy and tempestuous sea, that could separate betwixt him and them; he that waded through a sea of blood, and through a sea of wrath, to save his people, will walk upon a sea of water to succour and relieve them. But observe, The time when Christ came to help them, not till the fourth watch, a little before the morning. They had been many hours upon the waters, conflicting with the waves, with their fears and dangers. God oft-times lengthens out the troubles of his children before he delivers them; but when they are come to an extremity, that is the season of his succours. As God suffers his church to be brought into extremities before he helps her, so he will help her in extremity. In the fourth watch Jesus came, Sec.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
Sec how the disciples take their Deliverer to be a destroyer: their fears were highest when their Deliverer and deliverance were nearest. God may be coming with salvation and deliverance for his church, when she for the present cannot discern him.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
Observe, When the disciples were in the saddest condition, how one word from Christ revives them! It is a sufficient support in all our afflictions to hear Christ's voice speaking to us, and to enjoy his favourable presence with us. Say but, O Saviour, It is I; and then little evils do their worst: that one word, It is I, is enough to lay all storms, and to calm all tempests.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, hid mc come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked, on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me!
Observe here, 1. The mixture of Peter's faith and distrust; it was faith that said, Master; it was distrust that said, if it be thou ; it was faith that said, bid me come to thee; it was faith that enabled him to step down on the watery pavement; it was faith that said, Lord, save me ; but it was distrust that made him sink. O the imperfect composition of faith and fear in the best of saints here on earth! sincerity of grace is found with the saints here on earth; perfection of grace with the saints in heaven. Here the saints look forth, fair as the moon, which has some spots in her greatest beauties: hereafter they shall be clear as the sun, whose face is all bright and glorious. Observe, 2. That whilst Peter Believes, the sea is as firm as brass under him; when he begins to fear, then he begins to sink. Two hands upheld Peter; the hand of Christ's power, and the hand of his own faith. The hand of Christ's power laid hold on Peter, and the hand of Peter's faith laid hold on the power of Christ. If we let go our hold on Christ, we sink ; if he lets go his hold on us, we drown. Now Peter answered his name Cephas, and sunk like a stone.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Observe here, 1. The mercy of Christ is no sooner sought, but found: Immediate!ir Jesus put forth his hand and caught him. O with what speed, and with what assurance, should we flee to that sovereign bounty, from whence never any suitor was sent away empty! Observe, 2. Though Christ gaye Peter his hand, yet with his hand he gave him a check: O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Though Christ likes believing, yet he dislikes doubting. A person may be truly believing, who nevertheless is sometimes doubting; but his doubting eclipses the beauty of his believing.
34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought
unto him all that were diseased; 36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
Observe, 1. Our Saviour's unwearied diligence in going about to do good: he no sooner Tandeth, but he goeth to Gennesaret, and healeth their sick. Observe, 2. The people's charity to their sick neighbours, in sending abroad to let all the country know that Christ the great Physician was come amongst them. Observe, 3. Where lay the healing virtue; not in their finger, but in their faith; or rather in Christ, whom their faith apprehended.
CHAP. XV. PT^HEN came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
The former part of this chapter acquaints us with a great contest between our Saviour and the Pharisees about their traditions and old customs, which they valued more than the commandments of God: they accused thedisciples for eating bread with unwashed hands, which though it were in itself but a decent custom, the Pharisees made it a religious rite; for which reason our Saviour and his disciples would not observe it. Whence we learn, That what is in itself and may without offence be done as a civil custom, ought to be discountenanced and opposed when men require it of us as a religious act, or place religion in it . The Pharisees placed so much religion in washing their hands before meat, that they looked upon it as highly criminal to neglect it as to lie with a whore. One of them being in prison, and not having water enough to drink and to wash his hands too, chose rather to die with thirst than to transgress the tradition of the elders.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Observe here, 1. The heavy charge which our Saviour brings in against the Pharisees; namely, for violating an express command of God, and preferring their own traditions before it: you make void the commandments of God by your traditions. Observe, 2. The command which our Saviour instances in, as violated by them; it is the fifth commandment, which requires children to relieve their parents in their necessity. Now though the Pharisees did not deny this in plain terms, yet they made an exception from it, which, if children had a mind, rendered it void and useless. For the Pharisees taught that in case any would give a gift to the temple, which gift they called Corban, and of which they themselves had a great share; that then children were discharged from making any farther provision for their poor, aged, or impotent parents; and might say unto them after this manner, That which thou askest for thy supply, is given to God, and therefore I cannot relieve thee. So that covetous and graceless children looked upon it as the most frugal way, once for all to fine to the temple, rather than pay the constant rent of daily relief to their poor parents. Leam, That no duty, gift, or offering to God is accepted, where the duty of charity is neglected. It ismore acceptable to God, to refresh the bowels of his saints, who are the living temples of the Holy Ghost, than to adorn material temples with gold and silver.
7 Ye hypocrites! well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with lAeir lips: but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Our Saviour reproves the hypocritical Pharisees for these things: 1. That they preferred human traditions before the divine precepts. 2. That by their human traditions they made void the worship of God. It is God's undoubted prerogative to prescribe all the parts of his own worship; and
whosoever presumes to add thereunto, they worship him in vain. Our Saviour farther shows, that all this proceeded from the insincerity of their hearts: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Whence learn, 1. That the removing of the heart far from God in worship is a great sin, and an high degree of hypocrisy. 2. That whatever outward show and profession of religion men make, if their hearts be not right with God, and what they do proceed not from an inward principle of love and obedience to God, they are under the reign and power of hypocrisy: Ye hypocrites, in vain do you worship me. Learn, 3. That we must not be forward, from Christ's example, to pronounce men hypocrites; because we have neither that authority nor knowledge of the heart which Christ had, to authorize us so to do. Christ here called the Pharisees hypocrites; 1. Because they placed holiness and religion in ceremonies of human invention. 2. Because, being so superstitiousI y careful to avoid bodily pollutions, they left their hearts within full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Our blessed Saviour, leaving the Pharisees with some dislike, applies himself to the multitude, and shows them the true spring and original fountain of all spiritual pollution and uncleanness; namely, the filthiness and impurity of man's heart and nature; when boiling in the heart, the scum runs out at the mouth: whereby informing the multitude, that not that which is eaten, but that which is spoken, defiles a man: not the meat eaten with the mouth, but the wickedness of the heart vented by the mouth, pollutes a person in God's account.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead