« PreviousContinue »
and diseased people of all kinds, and begging the relief of this heavenly physician, who from the be. very readily cured them all by a touch only, or the imposition of his hand. The next morning he retired very early into a private place, that, being free from the
noise and importunities of the multitude, he might have an opportunity to pray:
even in his solitude he was found out; and croud of attendants, he told his disciples, th
- But therefore, to disengage himself from such a hat the purport of his mission was to preach
the Gospel in other neighbouring cities; and therefore, leaving Capernaum, he made a progress into Galilee, preaching in their public synagogues, curing all kinds of distempers, and dispossessing all demoniacs that were brought to him.
In his progress through Galilee he met with a man overspread with a foul leprosy +
whom, upon his humble petition, with one touch f* he immediately healed, but at the same time to gave strict charge not to discover it to any one until he had presented
+ A leprosy was a distemper very common among the Jews. It proceeded from a general corruption of the blood and juices; rendered the person tainted with it extremely loathsome and deformed; and, in hot countries especially, was of all distempers the most spreading in the body, and the most contagious to others. But then, with regard to the notions of the Jews, and their law concerning it, it was still more detestable. It separated the person infected with it from all civil and religious communion. It distinguished him by all the outward significations of sorrow and shame. It was generally looked upon as a plague inflicted by God for some enormous crime. It was thought so far above the power of art, that the very attempt to cure it by medicine was esteemed an impious presumption. In short, it was dreaded as the highest of legal pollutions, and required a great variety of lustrations, before the patient could be restored to the privilege of a Jew, Levit. xiii. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii.
+* But how came our Saviour to run the hazard of making himself unclean, Levit. v. 3, by touching one that was manifestly so 2 Now, whatever the law concerning the leper's uncleanness might be, it seems as if the priest that officiated about him was not affected by it, because we find him directed to make so near an examination and inspection into his distemper, Levit. xiii. 14, &c. Aaron, we may observe, though he of. ficiated about his sister Miriam in her leprosy, is not said to have contracted any pollution by it; and therefore well might a much greater high priest than Aaron, in virtue of his office, claim the same immunity. But then, in virtue of his divinity, it was impossible for him to incur any legal uncleanness: As therefore the effect wrought upon this leper was a plain demonstration that the finger of God was in it, and he consequently approved of the action; so the Jews make it a received rule, that a prophet might vary from and even change the ritual law: And from hence we may infer, that as Elijah and Elisha both might touch the dead children whom they raised to life again, without imputation of uncleanness, 1 Kings xvii. 19. and 2 Kings iv. 34, so might our Saviour touch this leper; though the opinion of some is, that he did not properly touch him as a leper, because the moment that he stretched out his hand the leprosy was cured: But if it were not, the observation of
Theophylact (in Luc. vii. 13.) still stands good, viz. “That our Lord might touch the leper, in order to shew that it was not necessary to observe those lesser matters of the law; that touching an unclean person did not defile one that was pure himself; and that the only thing indeed that did defile was the leprosy of the soul.” Calmet's Commentary, and Whitby's AnIn Otations.
t? If it be asked, why our Saviour should so often command the concealing his miracles? we may as. sign for reasons, not only his modesty and great humility, that there might be no appearance of osten. tation in him, and that the Jews might have no pretence to accuse him of seeking his own glory, Matth. xii. 16, but because at this time it was not proper to irritate the Scribes and Pharisees (who had already made him quit Judea) too much. He knew, that in such a determinate space they would bring about what God in his counsel had decreed. In the mean time, “he was to work the works of him that sent him, while it was day,” John ix. 4. and to propagate his Gospel, as much as possibly he could, both among the Jews and Gentiles; which could not have been so conveniently done, if the greatness of his miracles had once provoked the malice and envy of his enemies to make their utmost opposition against him. He knew likewise the mad and capricious humour of the multitude, and had reason to apprehend, “that they might come and take him away by force, and make him a king,” John vi. 15. if all his miracles had been blazed abroad, before he had sufficiently instructed them in the spiritual nature of his kingdom. As therefore he was far from being a friend to popularity or sedition, he desired that several of his miracles might be suppressed, lest any bad consequences should attend the publication of them, until his own resurrection from the dead should be an undeniable proof and confirmation of all the rest. And this I take to be the reason of his referring the Pharisees, when they came to demand a sign of him, to that of the prophet Jonah, Matth. xii. 39. whereby he implied, that he would use no more means for their conviction, until, by the miracle of his resurrection, his Divine power, and the completion of the ancient types and prophecies, should be so clearly manifested as to leave them without all excuse. 3. Commentary, Beausobre's and Hammona’s Annotations.
ginning of the
+ himself before the priest, and offered the sacrifice that was appointed for a testimony
+ The priesthood, at this time, was much degene
rated from its primitive institution, and many human
into the city, and by degrees into the temple, whither
he should bring two clean birds of any kind (the mar-
, and to let down the sick man, bed and all, into the very room where he was
leprosy could only be cured by the finger of God.
Our Blessed Saviour, being not a little pleased with such an instance f of their from the befaith and reliance on his mercy, was resolved to cure the man; and accordingly in the
first place he gave him an absolution f° from his sins.
This provoked the indignation
of the Scribes and Pharisees, as deeming him guilty of blasphemy to, because none (as they imagined) could forgive sins but God alone. But he, knowing their secret thoughts, first reproved their censoriousness, and then, by curing the patient before them, plain
ly demonstrated what authority he had to forgive sins.
For though the power of heal
ing be much inferior to that of forgiving sins; yet because it is not so easy to impose a
even with the roof, when let down and shut, was re-
things, when he puts the question to the company,
“Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven
thee 3 or to say, Take up thy bed and walk 2" Mat.
,when we ascribe unto him such qualities as belong not
to him, or rob him of those that do; ascribe to him
to Grotius, and those that follow him, are of opinion, that the Levi mentioned Luke v. 27. is not the same with Matthew in Matth. ix. 9. because Matthew never calls himself Levi, nor does Mark or Luke ever call Levi Matthew. But the answer to this has long since been given by St Jerom, in Matth. ix. 9. viz. that the other two evangelists (as their charity and good nature became them) endeavour to cover the infamy of their brother's former way of life, and therefore never call him the publican, “ lest they should seem to reproach him with the remembrance of his former conversation,” but speak of him under his other name; though he, out of his great humility, in the Gospel written by himself, does not-only take the more commonly known name of Matthew, but adds that odious title likewise of Matthew the publican. Since then the custom of having more names
ginning of the
A. M. 4034, rich publican, sitting in his office, he asked him to be one of his disciples, who immediately *... ... + forsook his gainful employment, and afterwards became both an apostle and evangelist. Within a few days after his conversion, Matthew invited our Saviour and his
30, &c. Y"* * * disciples, and among others some of the profession which he had forsook, to a feast. The Scribes and Pharisees (who accounted all in a manner sinners besides themselves, but more especially these * publicans) began to expostulate with these disciples how it came to pass that their master, who set himself up for a preacher of righteousness, and a reformer of others, came to be so intimate with these lewd and lost wretches, as to sit and eat with them at the same table: but when our Saviour undertook the argument, he gave so fair an account of the reasons for his conversing with these people, as made the very objection f° become his apology. But all this would not content the Pharisees, and therefore joining with some of John's disciples that were then present, they came and demanded of him, why it was that his disciples observed no fasts, when # they and John's disciples were known to keep many 2 To which he replied, “That it was not the proper season for thef friends of the bridegroom to fast and afflict themselves, from the bewhile they had the bridegroom's company, but when they were deprived of it; and that of:" it would be as imprudent and preposterous a thing to impose rigorous austerities upon Main, i. s. his disciples, (who were but novices in religion, and inured to another way of life) as *.*.*. it would be to sew a piece of new cloth upon a rotten garment, which upon any stress — would make the rent worse, or to put new wine #4 into old leathern bottles; which upon the least fermentation would both burst the bottles and destroy the liquor;' for see the prevalence of custom, and how difficult it is to change an inveterate habit, for as
than one is known to have prevailed among the Jews; and as St Mark calls him Levi, the son of Alpheus, so Matthew, in all church history, is said to be the son of one of the same name; and since the history of the person, called Levi in Mark and Luke, agrees so exactly with what is said of him, who in the other evangelist is called Matthew, that there is not one circumstantial difference to be perceived, we cannot but conclude that this Matthew and Levi were one and the same person. Whitby's Annotations, and Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. iv. + The old enemies of our religion, Julian and Porphyry, accused Matthew of folly and inconsiderateness in following a man whom he knew nothing of But St Jerom's reply is, That he could not want a sufficient knowledge both of our Saviour's doctrine and miracles before his call. The publicans, we find, were great frequenters of the synagogues, and other places where our Saviour taught, and of all others expressed the greatest eagerness to be instructed by him ; and therefore, if Matthew was of the same disposition, he could not want opportunities of being acquainted with our Saviour's preaching, and of the wonderful works which he did every where, but more especially at Capernaum. It is very probable therefore, that Matthew, upon such conviction, was inclinable to become one of our Saviour's disciples even before he asked him : but if he was not, the lustre and majesty of the divinity hid under the manhood, but shining conspicuously in the face of Jesus Christ, was enough to attract every one that he cast his eyes upon ; at least that powerful impulse which he, to whom all hearts are open, knew how to inject into Matthew's breast, could not fail to do it: and from this supernatural movement doubtless it chiefly was, that so readily, and without the least hesitation, he left all and followed Christ. Calmet's Commentary. * Nor was it only among the Jews, but among the Heathens likewise, that the name of a publican was o For according to their writers, they were accounted no better than thieves and cheats: Free violence, and unpunished rapine, and shameless covetousness, were their public profession. IIavis, rix&was ravvis izi, *ways, was the saying of the poet; and it is said of Theocritus, that being asked, which was
the cruellest among the beasts: His reply was, that, “ of those in the mountains, the bear and the lion, but of those in the city, the publicans and sycophants. Whitby's and Hammond's Annotations. - f*The arguments which our Saviouruses to the Pharisees for his keeping company with publicans and sinners are these three: 1st, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are seek,” Matth. ix.12. by which he intimates to them, that in conversing with such sort of persons, he was about the discharge of his proper business; and that as a physician's profession did sometimes call him among patients that had the most virulent distempers; so he, whose office it was to heal souls, ought not to refuse his assistance to those whose circumstances most of all wanted his help and advice. 2d, God’s saying in the prophet Hosea, chap. vi. 6. “ that he would have mercy,” meaning thereby all the kind offices, whereby we promote our neighbour's advantage, “rather than sacrifice,” i. e. the rites and ordinances of the ceremonial law; whereby he taught them, that though these latter might, in their due place or season, be acceptable to God, yet charity to the souls of men (which was the highest act of mercy, and that wherein he was then employing himself) was much more esteemed by him. 3d, That “he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” or that the great design of his appearance in the world was, to change the corrupt manners and dispositions of men; a change which the righteous, standing less in need of it, should no more grudge the opportunities of to sinners, than the healthful ought to think-themselves disparaged when the physician forbears the visits to them which he makes to the sick. Some commentators however have observed in this last argument a severe irony, and thus they expound it; “I am not come to cure those that think themselves well, nor to save those that account themselves righteous, as you Pharisees seem to do ; but I am come to cure those who find themselves sick, and are sensible of the burden of their manifold iniquities, as these publicans seem to be.” Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. iv. and Calmet's Commentary. t Besides the public fasts appointed by the church’ the Pharisees in general did fast two days every week, and those of more strictness than ordinary, four. The disciples of John too, who was himself a man of such abstinence, that our Saviour says of him, he “came (comparatively) neither eating nor drinking, Matth. xi. 18. did no doubt, in a great measure, follow the example of their master; and now that he was confined in prison, might very probably double their fasts and their prayers to God for his deliverance. And if they and the Pharisees were able to do this, why should the disciples of Christ be deemed insufficient? Now, to this it may be answered, that among the Jews there were not only the sects of the Essenes and Pharisees, who led an austere life, but also schools of the prophets, many of whom were Nazarites, and consecrated to the service of God; and that besides these, the Jews had likewise academical and private schools, from whence might come disciples to John, and the Pharisees already trained up to fasting and penance, and other severe duties of religion. But now it is certain that the disciples of our Lord were chosen from their fishing trade, and so came to him wholly unacquainted with, and unfitted for these austerities, which to impose upon them now was not necessary, because his continuance among them was not to be long, and after his departure they would have occasion more than enough to exercise these, and many more painful duties, in the propagation of the gospel, and the persecutions which should attend it. Whitby's Annotations.
much as (a) none having drank old wine desireth new ; for he saith the old is better.”
* MEN that take matters upon content, and read histories without ever examining into them, may perhaps imagine that the evangelists have given us a fair and rational account of our Saviour's doctrine and miracles, without incurring any of the absurdities or inconsistences that are so manifest in other writers; but, if we take a nearer inspection of the books that have descended to us under their names, we shall find them relating such incredible stories, so frequently mistaken in matters of fact, so generally misapplying passages in the prophets, so inconsistent with themselves, and so contradictory to one another, that some of the objections which Jewish or heathen infidels have advanced against them, have not been thought groundless or insignificant.
+ The Baptist, in his discourse to his disciples, had compared our Saviour to a bridegroom, and himself to his friend or chief guest, John iii. 29.; and therefore, as our Saviour designedly makes use of the same allusion, his argument runs thus, “I am the bridegroom, and my church is my bride; as long as I am here, lasts the marriage-feast, and my disciples are the children or friends of the bridegroom, and so are not to mourn, but to rejoice with me while this time lasts: but at my death and departure, this bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then it will be time for them to fast and mourn.” Whitby's Annotations. +* The bottles which were in use in the east, and at this time are very common in other countries, were not made of glass as outs are, but were certain bags made of goats skins, being well pitched and sewed together. They are very good vessels to preserve wine, oil, or any:other liquor in ; and in this respect more cspecially very convenient to carry from place to place, because, fall they never so often, they will not break unless they be very old or decayed. In which sense, our Saviour compares his disciples, before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, to old bottles, because they were not capable either of comprehending or practising all that perfection which he came into the world to teach mankind. Calmet's Commentary.
(a) Luke v. 39.