Ver. 1. On the same day Jesus left the house, in which he had performed the miracle, and delivered the preceding discourse, and sat himself down on the shore of the sea of Galilee, where multitudes crowded unto him.
Ver. 3. To them he spoke many things, from a ship, in parables; probably many more than are here recorded. By familiar and well-known objects, Jesus Christ would thus convey more pleasingly his divine instructions, and teach them to spiritualize their daily labours, and by natural things, which meet the senses, lead them to the knowledge of things divine, which we cannot naturally comprehend. A.
--- Several reasons may be assigned why our Lord made use of parables: 1st. The lively imagination of the Orientals made them relish these figurative expressions, which awaken the attention, and exercise the understanding. 2d. The indisposition of his hearers made him frequently veil his instructions under similitudes or parables; but in private, he expounded the meaning to his disciples, who were better disposed, and was ever ready to give every necessary and satisfactory explanation to as many as sincerely wished for it.
--- A third motive, given by S. Matthew, was the accomplishment of the prophecies; for one of the characteristics of the Messias was, that he would express himself in this parabolical manner; and Jesus Christ was pleased that the most minute circumstances should be fulfilled in his person, in order that the resemblance between him and the ancient prophets, in the mode of instructing, might induce the Jews to consider him as the great prophet, foretold by Moses. There are few Christians that do not dwell with delight and improvement on our Lord's parables. Their imagination, warmed with the singular beauty of the imagery, more easily retains them; and the greatest geniuses have ever esteemed them as very superior and striking lessons of morality and religion.
--- In his sermon on the mount, Jesus Christ does not make use of parables to convey his instructions to the Jews, for then his auditors were composed of a mixed multitude, and the major part of them illiterate people; but here, on the contrary, they are the Scribes and Pharisees, the doctors of the law. Chrys.
--- Jesus Christ speaks sometimes in plain, and sometimes in obscure terms, that, by what they understand, they may be led to the search of what they do not understand. S. Jerom.
Ver. 4. And whilst he soweth. S. Matthew and S. Mark subjoin the following parables to what goes before, but S. Luke places the parable of the sower immediately after the second journey through Galilee, which he anticipates. Jesus Christ successively proposed four parables to the people, and then dismissed them; and being now retired with his disciples, he unfolded to them the meaning of the parables when in the house. v. 36. S. Matthew, however, interrupts the course of the parables, and after the first, anticipates the request of the disciples to have it explained; but from S. Mark, we learn that this did not take place till Christ was alone in the house. Of the eight parables, all spoken by Jesus on the same day, the first five were addressed to the people assembled on the sea-shore, the other three were added by him when alone with the apostles in the house, and are in some measure explanations of the former. In the first, we see the different success of the word of God from the different dispositions of the hearers. And as we find that only one-fourth part of the seed produced fruit, we may thence infer how many and great are the obstacles in the way of salvation, and how few will be the number of the elect. A.
Ver. 5. Had no deepness of earth; and therefore the seed, not able to shoot downwards, shot upwards, and for want of necessary moisture and nutriment, was burned by the scorching heat of the sun.
Ver. 8. Some a hundred-fold. This difference of fruits is the difference of merits here, and of the rewards hereafter, according to the diversity of states, &c. S. Augustine, in his work, (de Virginitate, c. xliv, and seq.) saith, that the hundred-fold agreeth with professed virgins; the sixty-fold with religious widows; the thirty-fold with married persons. This old heretic, Jovinian, and many of modern date, deny, affirming that there is no difference of merits or rewards. S. Jer. l. ii. adv. Jovin. Amb. ep. lxxxii. Augustinus ep. lxxxii. B.
Ver. 9. He that hath ears to hear. By these words, we are exhorted to examine the meaning of the parables. S. Jer. See C. xi. 15.
--- We are also taught that not all, but only such as have had the sense of the Scriptures opened to their understanding from above, can properly understand them. The apostles themselves were in ignorance till Jesus Christ gave them the true meaning: aperuit illis sensum, ut intelligerent Scripturas: "he opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." S. Luke xxiv. 45. It is God who speaketh in the Scripture, and it is God who giveth us to understand what is therein delivered. His truths he conceals from the proud, while he reveals them to the little and humble. How can any persons pretend that the most mysterious, as well as the most sacred book in the world, is open to every understanding? S. Paul (Acts xiii. 26.) tells the Jews, that although the Scriptures were read to them every sabbath-day, their very rulers did not understand them; and S. Peter, in his 2d Ep. (iii. 17.) assures us, that there are many passage hard to be understood.
--- All comes from God. It is He who openeth our ears to hear, our heart to believe, and our mind to understand. Agar was near a well, and yet she wept, because she had no water to give her son to drink. God opened her eyes, and she saw the well that was close to her. Thus, says Origen, we may read the Scripture, and find no nourishment for the soul, unless God opens our mind, to see therein on what we are to nourish it. It contains salutary waters, but only those can be benefited by them, who see how to drink of the heavenly source. It is the Holy Ghost alone who can effectually open our eyes, to see these waters that spring up to life eternal; and this special grace we are to obtain by humble and fervent prayer. Knock, and it shall be opened to you.
Ver. 10. And his disciples came. How great was the concern of the apostles for the welfare of their countrymen. They did not say to Jesus, Why speakest thou thus to us; but, why speakest thou to them in parables? S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 11. To you it is given. The mysteries of the kingdom of God are not disclosed to the Scribes and Pharisees, who were unwilling to believe in him, (though it was the duty and occupation of the Scribes to expound the sacred oracles to others) but to those who adhered closely to Christ, and believed in him: let us therefore run in company with the apostles to Jesus Christ, that he may disclose to us the mysteries of his gospel. S. Thos. Aquin.
--- Can we then suppose, for a single moment, that the mere putting of a Bible into every man's hand, will convert the world. The command given to the apostles and their successors in the ministry is, Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, &c. teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world. S. Mat. xxviii. 20. There is not a single word to them about writing. During 2,500 years, from Adam to Moses, were the patriarchal families and other servants of God in a state of ignorance, concerning either the positive instructions of the Almighty respecting the sabbath-day, the rites of sacrifice, or their moral duties? Yet there was no Scripture during all that period. For more than 400 years after Jesus Christ, the canon of Scripture, as now generally received by Protestants, remained unsettled. Had the apostles and evangelists done nothing more than publish their writings, and disseminate them to every pagan country, not a single nation, not a single pagan, would have abandoned their gods to believe in a crucified Jesus.
--- To them it is not given; i.e. to such as are unworthy, and by hardening their hearts, have made themselves unworthy. Wi.
Ver. 12. But he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. We read again, (Matt. xxv. 29.) That also which he seemth to have, shall be taken away; and in S. Luke, (C. viii. 18.) That also which he thinketh he hath. One passage helps to expound another: so that each of these texts, with a little reflection, will be found true; and such a truth, as ought to be a subject of fear and apprehension to all that are negligent and indolent in the service of God. For, as S. Augustine observes, they who have received graces and favours from God, and have not made good use and profited by them, they may be said not to have them, although they are not yet take from them. And why? but because they make no more use of them, than if they had them not. See the parables of the talents, Matt. xxv, and Luke xix. Wi.
--- He that hath, to him shall be given the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. But such as are incredulous, and resist my words, like the Pharisees and other Jews, so far from being enriched with my spiritual gifts in my kingdom, shall even be deprived of the benefits they now possess. Thus the Jews were deprived of their temple, priesthood, kingdom, and even the true worship of God. S. Jer.
--- They rejected Jesus Christ, the fountain and corner-stone of virtue; all therefore they had acquired, or possessed, shall be taken from them, and given to the apostles. Idem.
--- Whoever has a desire of complying with the divine precepts, that desire shall not only be increased, but all other virtues shall be added unto him; but if he be devoid of this desire, the virtues he already possesses, or seems to possess, shall be taken from him, not that God will deprive him of these without cause, but he will render himself unworthy of them. S. Chrys.
Ver. 13. Because seeing they see not, &c. i.e. they see not as they might, and ought to do, by shutting their eyes against the lights given them.
--- Therefore do I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, &c. This passage, by which the prophet Isaias (vi. 9.) was ordered to foretell the obstinate blindness of the Jews, in refusing to receive and believe in their Messias, is cited six times in the New Testament; to wit, here in S. Matthew, also Mark iv. 14, Luke viii. 10, Jo. xii. 40, Acts xxviii. 26, and Rom. xi. 8. In all these places we must detest the false interpretation of those who, not without heresy and blasphemy, would have God to be the author and cause of sin. When it is said, (Isai. vi. 9.) blind the heart of this people, &c. the prophet is only commanded to foretell their blindness, of which, by their wilful obstinacy, they were the true cause. And when we read in S. Mark, that to those that are without, all things are done in parables, that seeing they may see, and not see, &c. the word that does not signify the cause, nor the end, but only the event, and the consequence of what would happen by the wilful blindness of the Jews, and by the just permission of God. S. Matthew here expounds to us the words of the prophet, by which it clearly appears that they were the cause of their own blindness; and that, by their obstinacy, they had made themselves unworthy of particular lights from God. For the heart of this people (v. 18.) is grown gross . . . . and their eyes they have shut, &c. The Jews therefore shut their own eyes, hardened their own hearts, which God only permitted. See Rom. ix. 18. &c. Wi.
--- If this blindness were natural, then indeed I would have opened their eyes to see and understand, but since this blindness is voluntary, he says, that seeing they see not, and hearing, they hear not; i.e. they have seen me cast out devils, and they said, in Beelzebub he casteth out devils; they heard I drew all to God, and they say, this man cometh not from God. Since, therefore, they assert the very contrary to what they both see and hear, the gift of seeing and hearing me shall be taken away from them.
Ver. 15. And should be converted. In this the prophet shews the atrocity of the Jewish wickedness, and the malice of their hearts, but that he may attach them to God, their Father, he immediately subjoins, lest being converted, I should heal them; and this he says, in order to manifest to them the goodness of God, if they would repent. S. Chrys. ex. D. Tho.
--- There is some difference between the text of Isaias, given by S. Matthew, and the original. But we have elsewhere observed, that the evangelists attend more to the sense than the words. The Septuagint have translated this text in the same manner. The prophecy here mentioned regarded the Jews in the time of Isaias, according to the strict letter, but still more particularly the Jews in the time of Christ. V.
--- They were authors of their own blindness, sin, damnation, and not Jesus Christ, as Calvin teaches. See also Acts of the Apostles, xxviii. and Rom. i. and ix. 18. &c. God is not the author of evil. B.
Ver. 16. But blessed are your eyes. As the eyes of such as see and will not believe are miserable, so, he says, blessed are your eyes; you see my miracles, you hear my heavenly doctrines, &c. Aquin.
--- Had we not read in a preceding part, that Christ exhorted his auditors to search after the knowledge of his words, we might perhaps have thought that Jesus here spoke of corporal eyes and ears; but the eyes here mentioned, seem to me to be those which can discern the mysteries of Christ. S. Jer. ex D. Thom. Aquin.
Ver. 17. Amen, I say to you. S. Jerom remarks, that these words of our Saviour seem to contradict another part of Scripture, where it is said, Abraham desired to see my days; he saw them, and rejoiced. But S. Jerom answers his own objection thus: Abraham indeed saw my days, but only in a dark manner, in enigma, but not in reality, whilst you have your Lord with you; you speak to him, and interrogate him at pleasure. Aquin.
--- Christ declares his disciples more blessed than the ancient patriarchs and prophets. . . . They saw him only by faith, but the disciples with their corporal eyes. S. Chrys.
Ver. 19. When any one heareth. This seed falleth upon four different kinds of soil, which represent four different sorts of persons. The 1st, such as continue obdurate in vice; the 2d, such as are unsteady and inconstant in their good resolutions; the 3d, such as are absorbed in the cares and pleasures of life; the 4th, such as have every proper disposition for receiving the word of God with fruit.
--- There cometh the wicked one, o ponhroV, the devil, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts, lest believing they should be saved. A.
Ver. 21. And suffers shipwreck in his faith. Maldon.
Ver. 24. Another parable he proposed. As in the preceding parable our Lord spoke of those who did not receive the word, so in this he speaks of those who receive the corrupted word; for it is a diabolical machination to confound error with truth. S. Chrys. ex D. Tho.
--- There are three things worthy of observation in this parable. 1st. That the Church of God on earth consists of both good and bad; the 2d. that God is not the author of evil; the 3d. that God does not always punish the wicked on the spot, but patiently bears with them. M.
Ver. 25. Were asleep. When the superiors or pastors of the Church were lulled asleep or negligent, or, when the apostles were dead, as S. Augustine expounds it, the devil spread the tares or error and sin amongst a great number of Christians. These falling from the state of grace, or becoming heretics, are yet mingled with the rest of the faithful in the same outward profession of Christianity, not unlike the good corn and cockle in the same field.
Ver. 27. Then the servants. S. Chrysostom observes, there are many circumstances in the parables that have no connexion with the instruction designed to be conveyed in the parables, and which are merely added to connect the different parts together.
Ver. 29. No, lest, &c. The prayers of repenting sinners are never despised. We are taught also by this example not to cut off too hastily a fallen brother; for, whatever he may be to-day, to-morrow perhaps he may see his error and embrace the truth. S. Jerom.
--- Jesus Christ exhorts us to bear with infidels and heretics, not on our own account only, as wicked men are frequently of use to the virtuous, but also on their account; for sometimes the persons who have been corrupted and perverted, will return to the paths of virtue and truth. Let, therefore, both grow until the harvest, i.e. to the day of judgment, when the power of rectifying another's error shall be no more. S. Aug. ex D. Tho.
--- When many are implicated in one misfortune, what remains but to bewail their condition. Let us then be willing to correct our brethren to the utmost of our power, but let it be always with mercy, charity and compassion; what we cannot correct, let us bear with patience, permitting what God permits, and interceding with him to move and convert their hearts. But when an opportunity offers, let us publicly advocate the truth, and condemn error. S. Jer.
--- S. Augustine affirms, that no one should be compelled by force to an unity of religious tenets: such as dissent for us must be persuaded by words, overcome by argumentation, and convinced by reason. S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 32. The least of all seeds. That is, it is one of the least seeds; but in hot countries it is observed to grow to a considerable height, and to become a bush or a little tree. Wi.
--- The gospel of Christ, compared in this verse to the grain of mustard seed, has indeed little show of grandeur and human greatness. S. Paul calls it a scandal to the Jew, and a stumbling block to the Gentile. But Jesus Christ here assures us, that when it has been spread and promulgated by his ambassadors, viz. the apostles, it shall surpass every other mode of instruction both in fame and extent. S. Amb. S. Jer. S. Aug.
Ver. 33. In three measures. Sata, the word here used, was a particular Hebrew measure, which corresponds not to any particular measure that we make use of, and therefore I have put measures, as it is in other English translations. See Walton de Ponderibus & mensuris, before his first tome, p. 42. Wi.
--- It was the Seah of the Jews, the third part of the Epha, and contained about ten pints, and appears to be the ordinary quantity they baked at a time. V.
--- By the woman here mentioned, S. Jerom understands the Church gathered from all nations; or the power and wisdom of God, according to S. Augustine.
Ver. 35. By the prophet. It is taken from Psalm lxxvii. 2. S. Jerom remarks that many copies have, Isaias, the prophet, but supposes that the evangelist wrote, Asaph, the prophet, to whom the title of this psalm seems to attribute it; but it was probably chanted by Asaph, and composed by David, who is simply characterized under the name of prophet, because he prophesied in composing his canticles. V.
Ver. 44. Like unto a treasure. This hidden treasure is the gospel of Christ, which conducts to the kingdom of heaven. Thus he who by the knowledge which the gospel affords, has found the kingdom of heaven, should purchase it at the expense of every thing most near and dear to him: he cannot pay too great a price for his purchase.
Ver. 46. This eternal kingdom faith opens to your view, but it does not put you in possession without good works. V.
Ver. 52. Every scribe; i.e. master or teacher. Wi.
--- Because you know how invaluable is the treasure, the pearl, the kingdom, here mentioned; you, who are scribes and teachers, should cultivate it yourselves, and communicate the same blessing to others. Thus imitating a father of a family, who draws from his treasure both new and old things, and distributes them to his children, according to their several wants and necessities. This was a proverbial expression with the Jews, to signify every thing useful or necessary for the provision of a family. Jer. Aug. Chrys. Bede, and Tirinus.
--- Thus also a pastor of souls throws light upon the mysteries of the New Testament, by the figures of the Old, and explains the workings of grace, by the operations of nature.
Ver. 55. Is not this the carpenter's son?† I find carpenter in all translations, though the Greek word signifies, in general, a workman or craftsman. The Latin is also a general word, which of itself signifies no more a carpenter than a smith. But the common belief of the faithful is, that S. Joseph was a carpenter, which may be confirmed by what Theodoret relates (l. iii. Hist. c. xviii.) of one Libanius, under Julian the apostate, who asking scornfully of a holy man, what the carpenter's son was doing at that time? the holy man made him this smart reply, that he was making a coffin for Julian; who was killed not long after. Wi.
— O! how truly astonishing is the stupidity of the Nazareans! They wonder whence wisdom itself possesses wisdom, and virtue itself virtue. The reason is evident: they only considered him as the son of a carpenter. S. Jer.
— Was not David the son of an husbandman, and Amos a shepherd? They should then have honoured our Lord, when they heard him speak in this manner. What wonderful mildness in Christ! Though calumniated and reviled, he still answers with the greatest humility and charity, a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. v. 57. S. Chrys. ex D. Tho. Aquin.
— His brethren. These were the children of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, sister of our blessed Lady; (Mat. xxviii. 56. John xix. 25.) and therefore, according to the usual style of the Scripture, they were called brethren, that is, near relations to our Saviour. Ch.
[†] Ver. 55. Fabri filius. tou tektonoV, artificis. S. Hilary (Can. or cap. xiv. in Matt. p. 678. Ed. Ben.) thought that S. Joseph wrought with fire and iron. We find in a manner the same in S. Amb. L. iii. in Luc. in initio. p. 52. See also S. Chrysologus. Serm. xlviii. S. Justin (Dialogo cum Tryphone, p.69) says, Christ made aratra and juga; and in the Greek edition, (Parisiis, an. 1551, p. 93) arotra kai zuga. Theodoret, (l. iii. Hist. c. xviii, p. 656) Sandalipam fabricat, glwssokomon . . . kataskeuazei.