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34, 35. O generation of vipers! Christ here applies the argument which he had suggested in the previous verse. They were a wicked race; like poisonous reptiles, with a corrupt and evil nature. They could not be expected to speak good things; that is, to speak favourably of him and his works. As the bad fruit of a tree was the proper effect of its nature, so were their words about him and his works the proper effect of their nature. The abundance or fulness of the heart produced the words of the lips. Vipers. These are a poisonous kind of serpents, sometimes about three feet long, and about an inch thick, having a flat head. The males have two large teeth, through which a most deadly poison is thrown into the wound made by the bite. They are an emblem of malignity and mischief. These were strong expressions to be used by the meek and lowly Jesus; but they were not the effect of anger and malice; they were a declaration of the true character of the men with whom he was conversing. Note, Matt. iii. 7.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
36. But I say unto you, &c. Christ closes this address to his malignant and wicked hearers by a solemn declaration, that for these things God will bring them into judgment. They, therefore, who had spoken so malignantly against him, could not escape. Idle word. This literally means a vain, thoughtless, useless word, that accomplishes no good. Here it means, evidently, wicked, injurious, false, and malicious; for such were the words which they had spoken.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
37. By thy words thou shalt be justified, &c. That is, words are the indication of the true principles of the heart; by words the heart shall be known, as the tree is by its fruit. If they are true, proper, chaste, instructive, pious, they prove that the heart is right. If false, envious, malignant, and impious, they prove that the heart is wrong, and will therefore be among the causes of condemnation. It is not meant that words will be the only thing that will condemn man; but that will be an important, part of the things for which he shall be condemned. See James iii. 3-12.
38¶Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 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: 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. 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. 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.
f Chap. xvi. 1; Mark viii. 11; Luke xi. 16, 29; John ii. 18; 1 Cor. i. 22. g Isa. lvii. 3; Chap. xvi. 4; Mark viii. 38; John iv. 48. h Jonah i. 17. i Luke xi. 32. k See Jer. iii. 11; Ezek. xvi. 51, 52; Rom. ii. 27. Jonah iii. 5. m 1 Kings x. 1; 2 Chron. ix. 1; Luke xi. 31.
sign commonly signifies a Luke adds, that this was
38-42. We would see a sign from thee. See Luke xi. 16, 29-32. A miracle; that is, a sign that God was with the person, or had sent him. done tempting him-trying him, doubting if he had the power to do it. If these persons had been present with him for any considerable time, they had already seen sufficient proofs that he was what he avowed himself to be. They might have been, however, those who had recently come; and then the emphasis must be laid on "we.' We, as well as the others, would see a proof that thou art the Christ. In either case it was a temptation. If they had not seen him work a miracle, yet they should have believed on the testimony of others who had. Comp. John xx. 29. ¶ An evil and adulterous generation. They were evil and unfaithful to the covenant of God, which is often sented as a marriage-contract existing between them and the Most High. There shall no sign be given to it, &c. They sought some direct miracle from heaven. He replied, that no such miracle
should be given. He did not say, that he would work no more miracles, or give no more evidence that he was the Christ; but he would give no such miracle as they required. He would give one that ought to be as satisfactory evidence to them that he was from God, as the miraculous preservation of Jonah was to the Ninevites that he was divinely commissioned. As Jonah was preserved three days by miracle, and then restored alive, so he would be raised from the dead after three days. As on the ground of this preservation the Ninevites believed Jonah and repented, so on the ground of his resurrection the men of an adulterous and wicked generation ought to repent, and believe that he was from God. "The sign of the prophet Jonas" means, the sign or evidence which was given to the people of Nineveh that he was from God-to wit, that he had been miraculously preserved, and was therefore divinely commissioned. The men of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. It was founded by Ashur. Gen. x. 11. It was situated on the banks of the river Tigris, to the north-east of Babylon. It is now so completely destroyed that geographers are unable to ascertain whether it was on the eastern or western bank. It was a city of vast extent, and of corresponding wickedness. It was 48 miles in circuit; its walls were 100 feet high, and 10 thick, and were defended by 1500 towers, each 200 feet in height. It contained in the time of Jonah, it is supposed, 600,000 inhabitants. The destruction of Nineveh, threatened by Jonah in 40 days, was suspended, by their repentance, 200 years. It was then overthrown by the Babylonians, about 600 years before Christ. During the siege, a mighty inundation of the river Tigris took place, which threw down a part of the walls, through which the enemy entered, and sacked and destroyed the city. This destruction had been foretold 115 years before, by Nahum (chap. i. 8), "But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof." And ii. 6, "The gates of the river shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved." Shall condemn it. That is, their conduct, in repenting at Jonah's prediction, shall condemn this generation. They, ignorant and wicked heathens, repented when threatened with temporal judgment by a mere man-Jonah; you, Jews, professing to be enlightened, though threatened for your great wickedness with eternal punishment by the Son of God-a far greater than Jonah-repent not, and must therefore meet with a far heavier condemnation. The queen of the South. That.is, the queen of Sheba. 1 Kings x. 1. Sheba was probably a city of Arabia, situated to the south of Judea. ¶ From the uttermost parts of the earth. This means simply, from the most distant parts of the habitable world then known. She came from a remote country; and she would condemn that generation, for she came to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and the Jews of that age would not listen to the wisdom of one much greater than Solomon, though present with them.
43 "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he sayeth, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: Pand the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
n Luke xi. 24. o Job i. 7; 1 Pet. v. 8. p Heb. vi. 4, x. 26; 2 Pet. ii. 20-22.
43-45. When the unclean spirit, &c. The Jews had asked a sign from heaven that should decisively prove that he was the Messiah, and satisfy their unbelief. He replies, that though he should give them such a sign as they desired; and though for a time they should profess to believe, and apparently reform; yet such was the obstinacy of their unbelief and wickedness, that they would soon return to them, and become worse and worse. He walketh through dry places. That is, through deserts-regions of country unwatered, sandy, barren, desolate. That our Saviour here speaks according to the ancient opinions of the Jews, that evil spirits had their abodes in those desolate, uninhabited regions, there can be no doubt. Seeking rest, and findeth none. Thus desolate and dry regions are represented as uncomfortable habitations; so much so, that the dissatisfied spirit, better pleased with a dwelling in the bosoms of men, as affording an opportunity of doing evil, seeks a return there. ¶Then he saith, I will return into my house, &c. The man is called his house, because he had been the place where the spirit had dwelt. He findeth it empty, &c. By the absence of the evil spirit, the house is represented as unoccupied, or empty, swept, and garnished; that is, while the evil spirit was away, the man was restored to his right mind-was freed from his wicked influence. ¶ Garnished. Adorned, put in order, furnished. Applied to the man, it means, that his mind was sane and regular when the evil spirit was gone; or, he had a lucid interval. Then he goeth, &c. Seeing the state of the man, dissatisfied with a lonely dwelling in
the desert where he could do no evil, envious of the happiness of the individual, and supremely bent on evil, he resolved to increase his power of malignant influences, and return. He is therefore represented as taking seven other spirits still worse, and returning to his former habitation. Seven denotes a large but indefinite number. It was a favourite number with the Jews, and was used to denote completeness, or perfection. Here it means a sufficient number completely to occupy and harass the soul. Even so shall it be with this generation. This was literally accomplished. After all the instructions and miracles of the Saviour and his apostles; after all that had been done for them by holy men and prophets, and by the judgments and mercies of God; and after all that their external temporary reformations,-like the temporary departure of an evil spirit from a man possessed, yet such was their love of wickedness, that the nation became worse and worse. They increased in crime, like the seven-fold misery and wretchedness of the man into whose bosom the seven additional evil spirits came. They rejected God's messengers, abused his mercies, crucified his Son; and God gave their temple, and capital, and nation, into the hands of the Romans, and thousands of the people to destruction.
46 While he yet talked to the people, "behold, his mother and 'his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For 'whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
q Mark iii. 31; Luke viii. 19-21.
Chap. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3; John ii. 12, vii. 3, 5; Acts i. 14; 1 Cor. ix. 5; Gal. i. 19. ✔ See John xv. 14; Gal. v. 6, vi. 15; Col. iii. 11; Heb. ii. 11.
46-50. See also Mark iii. 31-35; Luke viii. 19-21. His brethren. There has been some difference of opinion about the persons who were meant here; some supposing that they were children of Mary his mother; others, that they were the children of Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alpheus, his cousins, and called brethren according to the customs of the Jews. The natural and obvious meaning is, however, that they were the children of Mary his mother. See also Mark vi. 3. is my mother? &c. There was no want of affection or respect in Jesus towards his mother, as is proved by his whole life. See especially Luke ii. 51, John xix. 25-27. This question was asked to fix the attention of the hearers, and to prepare them for the answer; that is, to show them who sustained towards him the nearest and most tender relation. Dear and tender as were the ties which bound him to his mother and brethren, yet those which bound him to his disciples were more tender and sacred. How great was his love for his disciples, when it was more than even that for his mother! And what a bright illustration of his own doctrine, that we ought to forsake father, and mother, and friends, and houses, and lands, to be his followers!
1. Let the principle be acknowledged and acted upon, that "The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship; except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy," and there will be little need of discussion and casuistry as to minute points. All those modes of desecrating the Lord's day practised by ungodly men are rebuked by this principle. It also strikes against many things in which serious people allow themselves on that day. In regard to no department of duty, perhaps, is there greater reason for believers to review and reform their conduct than this of Sabbath observance; for, in the laxity of the times, no greater encroachment has been made on any other rule of practical godliness than on this. Considering the observance of the Lord's day not more as a duty than a spiritual privilege of inestimable value-the means of grace to which we have then access in their fulness the divine truths which form the objects of contemplation peculiar to that season of holy rest-it is wonderful that we can allow our minds to wander and revel at such a rate amongst worldly thoughts, when all the while, through the grace of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, ever ready to be communicated through the divinely appointed means, we might have "our
conversation in heaven;" the whole soul being taken up and delighted with a most precious and delectable foretaste of "the glory to be revealed." Nor would this serene frame of mind be disturbed by the doing of those works which it is lawful on the Lord's day to perform: the ministering to the needful wants of the body (not for the gratification of the sense, but the supply of exhausted nature), would sustain the soul in her high region of contemplation; the visiting of the sick and bereaved, for the purpose of spiritual edification, would do so no less, it being a main point not to conceal the treasure, but to bring it forth, like the profitable servant, to the end that the "Master's" goods be increased-and in nothing more does the believer sincerely rejoice, than in being instrumental in conveying spiritual blessings to others.
2. In the life of faith, the believer must lay his account to receive much scorn at the hands of sinners. It shall be no wonderful thing if his motives fall under suspicion, his works be upbraided, his character torn to pieces by slanderous tongues. None of Christ's disciples have ever been, or shall ever be, more rudely handled in these respects than Christ himself was. On no believer shall the tongue of the scorner ever vent a worse calumny, than that he is under the influence of Satan, and possessed with a devil. The contempt of men is hard to be borne. Every one is more or less affected by the opinion his neighbours have of him. The evil report which the true disciple has to endure, is one of the trials appointed him. It may seriously obstruct his usefulness-wound his peace-interfere with his worldly interests. Let him not be discouraged; far less, for the sake of ease, fall in, at the compromise of principle, with the world's ways. Let him not shun to lift up his testimony against its wickedness; and still more earnest let him be in lifting up his soul in supplication at the throne of grace, that the injuries he innocently sustains may be pardoned, and those who inflict them converted. He can well afford, if he but knew it, to endure such treatment, and take it all for joy. He is hedged round by the power of the Almighty. The eye of Christ is constantly upon him. And has he not within him the witness of the Holy Spirit that he is a child of God-an heir of heaven? How soon shall he be past suffering any inconvenience from worldly trials! How altered will his views of them shortly be, when, having entered upon "the inheritance of the saints in light," he reviews all the paths by which his heavenly Father led him through the pilgrimage of this world!-The strength of our Saviour's love to his disciples is shown at the end of the chapter; and those who are true disciples love their Master with a strong affection, and are ready to sacrifice all things, and even life itself, rather than to betray his cause, or to shrink from acknowledging him amongst men.-ED.
3 The parable of the sower and the seed: 18 the exposition of it. 24 The parable of the tares, 31 of the mustard seed, 33 of the leaven, 44, of the hidden treasure, 45, of the peril, 47, of the drawnet cast into the sea: 53, and how Christ is contemned of his own countrymen.
THE same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea-side.
2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Ver. 1, 2. The sea-side. This was the sea of Tiberias. The multitude stood on the shore near to him, so that he could be easily heard. He went into a ship (that is, a boat), and sat down to address them. Few spectacles could be more interesting than a vast crowd on the banks of a smooth and tranquil sea, and the Son of God addressing them on the great interests of eternity. 3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, "Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon
stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth
d Luke viii. 5.
fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 'Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
e Gen. xxvi. 12. f Chap. xi. 15; Mark iv. 9.
3-9. In parables. The word parable is derived from a Greek word signifying to compare together, and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object, to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject. The use of parables for the purposes of instruction may be stated as follows:-1. To convey truth in a more interesting manner to the mind; adding to the truth conveyed the beauty of a lovely image or narrative. 2. To teach spiritual truth so as to arrest the attention of ignorant people, making an appeal to them through the senses. 3. To convey some offensive truth, some pointed personal rebuke in such a way as to bring it home to the conscience. Of this kind was the parable which Nathan delivered to David (2 Sam. xii. 1-7), and many of our Saviour's parables addressed to the Jews. Our Saviour's parables are taken mostly from the affairs of common life, and intelligible, therefore, to all men. They contain much of himself, his doctrine, life, design in coming, and claims; and are therefore of importance to all men; and they are told in a style of native simplicity intelligible to the child, yet instructive to men of every rank and age. ¶ A sower went forth to sow. The image here is taken from an employment known to all men, and therefore intelligible to all: nor can there be a more striking illustration of preaching the Gospel, than placing the seed in the ground to spring up hereafter, and bear fruit. Sower. One who sows or scatters seed; a farmer. Some seeds fell by the way-side. That is, the hard path or headland, which the plough had not touched, and where there was no opportunity for it to sink into the earth. Stony places. Where there was little earth, but where it was hard and rocky, so that the roots could not strike down into the earth for sufficient moisture to support the plant. When the sun became hot, they of course withered away. They sprang up the sooner because there was little earth to cover them. ¶ Forthwith. Immediately. Not that they sprouted and grew any quicker or faster than the others, but they were not so long in reaching the surface. Among thorns. That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away, and not destroyed. They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it. Into good ground. The fertile and rich soil. In sowing, by far the largest proportion of seed will fall into the good soil; but Christ did not intend to teach that these proportions would be exactly the same among those who heard the Gospel. Parables are designed to teach some general truth; and the circumstances should not be pressed too much in explaining them. An hundredfold, &c. That is, a hundred, sixty, or thirty grains, for each one that was sowed; an increase by no means uncommon. Some grains of wheat will produce twelve or fifteen hundred grains. The usual proportion on a field sown, however, is not more than twenty, fifty, or sixty bushels for one. hath ears, &c. This is a proverbial expression, implying that it was every man's duty to pay attention to what was spoken.
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, 'By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 'But blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, "That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those
Chap. xi. 25, xvi. 17; Mark iv. 11; 1 Cor. ii. 10; 1 John ii. 27. h Chap. xxv. 29; Mark iv. 25; Luke viii. 18, xix. 26. Isa. vi. 9; Ezek. xii. 2; Mark iv. 12; Luke viii. 10; John xii. 40; Acts xxviii. 26, 27; Rom. xi. 8; 2 Cor. iii. 14, 15. * Heb. v. 11. Chap. xvi. 17; Luke x. 23, 24; John xx. 29. m Heb. xi. 13; 1 Pet. i. 10, 11.