1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
1 CHAPTER XIII.
NOTES ON CHAP. XIII.
Verse 1. The same day] Our Lord scarcely ever appears to take
any rest: he is incessant in his labours, and instant in season
and out of season; and in this he has left all his successors in
the ministry an example, that they should follow his steps: for he
who wishes to save souls will find few opportunities to rest. As
Satan is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,
the messenger of God should imitate his diligence, that he may
counteract his work. The gospels are journals of our Lord's life.
Went Jesus out of the house] This was the house of Peter.
Sat by the sea side.] The sea of Galilee, on the borders of
which the city of Capernaum was situated.
2And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
2 Verse 2. Into a ship] τοπλοιον, THE vessel or boat. Mr.
Wakefield supposes (which is very likely) that a particular vessel
is uniformly specified, which seems to have been kept on the lake
for the use of Christ and his apostles: it probably belonged to
some of the fishermen, (see ,) who, he thinks,
occasionally, at least, followed their former occupation.
The thought of pious Quesnel on this verse should not be
neglected. We see here a representation of the Church, which
consists of the people united to their pastors. These, being more
exposed to violent tossings and storms, are, as it were, in a
ship, while those continue at ease on the shore.
3And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
3 Verse 3. He spake many things unto them in parables] Parable,
from παρα, near, and βαλλω, I cast, or put. A comparison
or similitude, in which one thing is compared with another,
especially spiritual things with natural, by which means these
spiritual things are better understood, and make a deeper
impression on an attentive mind. Or, a parable is a
representation of any matter accommodated, in the way of
similitude, to the real subject, in order to delineate it with the
greater force and perspicuity. See more on this subject at the
conclusion of this chapter. No scheme, says Dr. Lightfoot, of
Jewish rhetoric was more familiarly used than that of parables;
which, perhaps, creeping in from thence among the heathens, ended
It is said in the tract Sotah, chap. 9. "From the time that
Rabbi Meri died, those that spake in parables ceased." Not that
this figure of rhetoric perished in the nation from that time; but
because he surpassed all others in these flowers, as the gloss
there from the tract Sanhedrin speaks. "A third part of his
discourses was tradition; a third part allegory; and a third part
parable." The Jewish books every where abound with these figures,
the nation inclining by a kind of natural genius to this kind of
rhetoric. Their very religion might be called parabolical, folded
up within the covering of ceremonies; and their oratory in their
sermons was like to it. But is it not indeed a wonder, that they
who were so much given to and delighted in parables, and so
dexterous in unfolding them, should stick in the outward shell of
ceremonies, and should not have brought out the parabolical and
spiritual sense of them? Our Saviour, who always spoke with the
common people, uses the same kind of speech, and very often the
same preface which they used, To what is it likened? See
Lightfoot in loco. Though we find the basis of many of our Lord's
parables in the Jewish writings, yet not one of them comes through
his hands without being astonishingly improved. In this respect
also, Surely never man spoke like this man.
Under the parable of the sower, our Lord intimates, 1. That of
all the multitudes then attending his ministry, few would bring
forth fruit to perfection. And 2. That this would be a general
case in preaching the Gospel among men.
4And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
4 Verse 4. Some seeds fell by the way side] The hard beaten path,
where no plough had broken up the ground.
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
5 Verse 5. Stony places] Where there was a thin surface of earth,
and a rock at the bottom.
6And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
7 Verse 7. Among thorns] Where the earth was ploughed up, but the
brambles and weeds had not been cleared away.
8But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
8 Verse 8. Good ground] Where the earth was deep, the field well
ploughed, and the brambles and weeds all removed.
See more on , &c., and see on .
Some a hundred-fold.] For the elucidation of this text, I beg
leave to introduce the following experiment. In 1816 I sowed, for
a third crop, a field with oats, at Millbrook, in Lancashire; the
grains weighed, on an average, 3/4 of a grain each. One grain
produced three stalks with three ears: the largest had 68 grains
in it, the second 26, and the third 25.
which was 725 times and one quarter more than the original weight.
The power of grain to multiply itself, even in the same year,
is a subject as much of curiosity and astonishment as of
importance and general utility. For the farther elucidation of
this text, I shall give the following example from a practice in
agriculture, or rural economy, which is termed filtering.
On the 2nd of June, 1766, Mr. C. Miller, of Cambridge, sowed
some grains of the common, red wheat; and on the 8th of August a
single plant was taken up, and separated into 18 parts, and each
planted separately: these plants having pushed out several side
shoots, about the middle of September some of them were taken up
and divided; and the rest between that time and October. This
second division produced 67 plants. These plants remained through
the winter, and another division of them, made between the middle
of March and the 12th of April, produced 500 plants. They were
divided no farther, but permitted to remain in the field. These
plants were in general stronger than any of the wheat in the
field. Some of them produced upwards of 100 ears from a single
root and many of the ears measured seven inches in length, and
contained between sixty and seventy grains. The whole number of
ears produced from the single plant was 21,109, which yielded
three pecks and three-quarters of clear corn, weighing 47lbs.
7oz., and, from a calculation made by counting the grains in an
ounce, the whole number of grains was about 576,840. Mr. Miller
thinks that, had he made a second division in the spring, the
number of plants would have amounted to 2000. Who can help
admiring the wisdom and providence of God in this single grain of
corn! He has, in some sort, impressed on it an idea of his own
infinity; and an idea which, like the subject to which it refers,
confounds our imagination and reason. How infinitely great is
God, even in his minor works.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 Verse 9. Who hath ears to hear, &c.] Let every person who feels
the necessity of being instructed in the things which concern his
soul's welfare pay attention to what is spoken, and he shall
become wise unto salvation.
10And 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.
11 Verse 11. It is given unto you to know the mysteries, &c.] By
mysteries, here, we may understand not only things concerning the
scheme of salvation, which had not yet been revealed; but also the
prophetic declarations concerning the future state of the
Christian Church, expressed in the ensuing parables. It is not
given to them to know the purport and design of these things-they
are gross of heart, earthly and sensual, and do not improve the
light they have received: but to you it is given, because I have
appointed you not only to be the first preachers of my Gospel to
sinners, but also the persons who shall transmit accounts of all
these things to posterity. The knowledge of these mysteries, in
the first instance, can be given only to a few; but when these
faithfully write and publish what they have heard and seen,
unto the world, then the science of salvation is revealed and
addressed to all. From , we learn, that many prophets
and righteous men had desired to see and hear these things, but
had not that privilege-to them it was not given; not because God
designed to exclude them from salvation, but because HE who knew
all things knew, either that they were not proper persons, or that
that was not the proper time: for the choice of the PERSONS by
whom, and the choice of the TIME in which it is most proper to
reveal Divine things, must ever rest with the all-wise God.
12For 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.
12 Verse 12. Whosoever hath, to him shall be given] This is an
allusion to a common custom in all countries: he who possesses
much or is rich, to such a person, presents are ordinarily given.
Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he
hath.] That is, the poor man: he that has little may be easily
made a prey of, and so lose his little. This is a proper sense of
the word εχειν in sacred and profane writers. In , τους
μηεχοντας, those who have not, means simply THE POOR: and
Aristophanes uses τουςεξοντας, those that have, for the RICH or
OPULENT. See a variety of pertinent examples in Kypke on
There is one example in Juvenal, Sat. iii. l. 208, 209, that
expresses the whole of our Lords meaning, and is a beautiful
illustration of this apparently difficult passage. NIL habuit
Codrus: quis enim negat? et tamen illud Perdidit infelix TOTUM
Now what was this NOTHING which, the poet said, Codrus had and
lost? The five preceding lines tell you.
He had one small bed, six little pitchers, the ornament of a
side-board; a small jug or tankard, the image of a centaur,
and an old chest with some Greek books in it, on which the mice
had already begun to make depredations. And all this he lost;
probably by continuing, in spite of his destiny, to be a poet. So
those who devote not the light and power which God has given them
to the purposes for which he has granted these gifts, from them
shall be taken away these unemployed or prostituted blessings.
This seems to have been a proverbial mode of speech, which our
Lord here uses to inform his disciples, that he who does not
improve the first operations of grace, howsoever small, is in
danger of losing not only all the possible product, but even the
principal; for God delights to heap benefits on those who properly
improve them. .
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
13 Verse 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables] On this
account, viz. to lead them into a proper knowledge of God. I
speak to them in parables, natural representations of spiritual
truths, that they may be allured to inquire, and to find out the
spirit, which is hidden under the letter; because, seeing the
miracles which I have wrought, they see not, i.e. the end for
which I have wrought them; and hearing my doctrines, they hear
not, so as to profit by what is spoken; neither do they
understand, ουδεσυνιουσι, they do not lay their hearts to it. Is
not this obviously our Lord's meaning? Who can suppose that he
would employ his time in speaking enigmatically to them, on
purpose that they might not understand what was spoken? Could the
God of truth and sincerity act thus? If he had designed to act
otherwise, he might have saved his time and labour, and not spoken
at all, which would have answered the same end, viz. to leave them
in gross ignorance.
14And 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:
14 Verse 14. In them is fulfilled] αναπληρουται, Is AGAIN
fulfilled: this proper meaning of the Greek word has been
generally overlooked. The evangelist means, that as these words
were fulfilled in the Jews, in the time of the Prophet Isaiah, so
they are now again fulfilled in these their posterity, who exactly
copy their fathers example. These awful words may be again
fulfilled in us, if we take not warning by the things which these
disobedient people have suffered.
By hearing ye shall hear] Jesus Christ shall be sent to you, his
miracles ye shall fully see, and his doctrines ye shall distinctly
hear; but God will not force you to receive the salvation which is
15For 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.
15 Verse 15. Heart is waxed gross] επαχυνθη, is become
fat-inattentive stupid, insensible. They hear heavily with their
ears-are half asleep while the salvation of God is preached unto
Their eyes they have closed] Totally and obstinately resisted
the truth of God, and shut their eyes against the light.
Lest-they should see, &c.] Lest they should see their lost
estate, and be obliged to turn unto God, and seek his salvation.
His state is truly deplorable who is sick unto death, and yet is
afraid of being cured. The fault is here totally in the people,
and not at all in that God whose name is Mercy and whose nature is
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
16 Verse 16. But blessed are your eyes] Ye improve the light which
God has given you; and you receive an increase of heavenly wisdom
by every miracle and by every sermon.
17For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
17 Verse 17. Many prophets and righteous men] These lived by and
died in the faith of the promised Messiah: the fulness of the time
was not then come for his manifestation in the flesh. See also on
18 ¶ Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
19 Verse 19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom] Viz. the
preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
And understandeth it not] μησυνιεντος, perhaps more properly,
regardeth it not, does not lay his heart to it.
The wicked one] οπονηρος, from πονος, labour, toil, he
who distresses and torments the soul. Mark, , calls him
οσατανας, the adversary or opposer, because he resists men
in all their purposes of amendment, and, to the utmost of his
power opposes, in order to frustrate, the influences of Divine
grace upon the heart. In the parallel place in Luke, , he
is called οδιαβολος, the devil, from διαβαλλειν, to shoot,
or dart through. In allusion to this meaning of the name, St.
speaks of the fiery DARTS of the wicked one. It is worthy of
remark, that the three evangelists should use each a different
appellative of this mortal enemy of mankind; probably to show that
the devil, with all his powers and properties, opposes every thing
that tends to the salvation of the soul.
Catcheth away] Makes the utmost haste to pick up the good seed,
lest it should take root in the heart.
A careless inattentive hearer is compared to the way side-his
heart is an open road, where evil affections, and foolish and
hurtful desires, continually pass and repass, without either
notice or restraint. "A heart where Satan has" (as one terms it)
"ingress, egress, regress, and progress: in a word, the devil's
20But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
20 Verse 20. But he that received the seed into stony places-is he]
That is, is a fit emblem of that man who, hearing the Gospel, is
affected with its beauty and excellency, and immediately receiveth
it with joy-is glad to hear what God has done to make man happy.
21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
21 Verse 21. Yet hath he not root in himself] His soul is not
deeply convinced of its guilt and depravity; the fallow ground is
not properly ploughed up, nor the rock broken. When persecution,
&c., ariseth, which he did not expect, he is soon stumbled-seeks
some pretext to abandon both the doctrine and followers of Christ.
Having not felt his own sore, and the plague of his heart, he has
not properly discovered that this salvation is the only remedy for
his soul: thus he has no motive in his heart strong enough to
counteract the outward scandal of the cross; so he endureth only
for the time in which there is no difficulty to encounter, no
cross to bear.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
22 Verse 22. He also that received seed among the thorns] In land
ploughed, but not properly cleared and seeded. Is he-
represents that person who heareth the word, but the cares, rather
the anxiety, ημεριμνα, the whole system of anxious carking cares.
Lexicographers derive the word μεριμνα from μεριζειντοννουν,
dividing, or distracting the mind. Thus a poet,
The deceitfulness of riches] Which promise peace and pleasure,
but can never give them.
Choke the word] Or, together choke the word, συμπνιγει
meaning, either that these grow up together with the word,
overtop, and choke it; or that these united together, viz. carking
worldly cares, with the delusive hopes and promises of riches,
cause the man to abandon the great concerns of his soul, and seek,
in their place, what he shall eat, drink, and wherewithal he shall
be clothed. Dreadful stupidity of man, thus to barter spiritual
for temporal good-a heavenly inheritance for an earthly portion!
The seed of the kingdom can never produce much fruit in any heart,
till the thorns and thistles of vicious affections and impure
desires be plucked up by the roots and burned. The Persic
translator renders it [Persic] asle kalme-ra khube kund, chokes
the root of the word: for it appears the seed had taken root, and
that these cares, &c., choked it in the root, before even the
blade could show itself.
23But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
23 Verse 23. Good ground] That which had depth of mould, was well
ploughed, and well weeded.
Is he that heareth] Who diligently attends the ministry of the
And understandeth it] Lays the subject to heart, deeply
weighing its nature, design, and importance.
Which also beareth fruit] His fruitfulness being an almost
necessary consequence of his thus laying the Divine message to
heart. Let it be observed, that to hear, to understand, and to
bring forth fruit, are the three grand evidences of a genuine
believer. He who does not hear the word of wisdom cannot
understand what makes for his peace; and he who does not
understand what the Gospel requires him to be and to perform,
cannot bring forth fruit; and he who is not fruitful, very
fruitful, cannot be a disciple of Christ-see ; and he
who is not Christ's disciple cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
From the different portions of fruit produced by the good
ground, a hundred, sixty, and thirty, we may learn that all sound
believers are not equally fruitful; all hear, understand, and
bring forth fruit, but not in the same degrees-occasioned, partly,
by their situation and circumstances not allowing them such
extensive opportunities of receiving and doing good; and, partly,
by lack of mental capacity-for every mind is not equally
Let it be farther observed that the unfruitfulness of the
different lands was not owing to bad seed or an unskilful
sower-the same sower sows the same seed in all, and with the same
gracious design-but it is unfruitful in many because they are
careless, inattentive, and worldly-minded.
But is not the ground naturally bad in every heart? Undoubtedly.
And can any but God make it good? None. But it is your business,
when you hear of the justice and mercy of God, to implore him to
work in you that which is pleasing in his sight. No man shall be
condemned because he did not change his own heart, but because he
did not cry to God to change it, who gave him his Holy Spirit for
this very purpose, and which he, by his worldly-mindedness and
impiety, quenched. Whoso hath ears to hear let him hear: and may
the Lord save the reader from an impenitent and unfruitful heart!
24 ¶ Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
24 Verse 24. The kingdom of heaven] God's method of managing the
affairs of the world, and the concerns of his Church.
Is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field] In
general, the world may be termed the field of God; and in
particular, those who profess to believe in God through Christ are
his field or farm; among whom God sows nothing but the pure
unadulterated word of his truth.
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
25 Verse 25. But while men slept] When the professors were
lukewarm, and the pastors indolent, his enemy came and sowed
tares, ζιζανια degenerate, or bastard wheat. The righteous
and the wicked are often mingled in the visible Church. Every
Christian society, how pure soever its principles may be, has its
bastard wheat-those who bear a resemblance to the good, but whose
hearts are not right with God. He who sows this bastard wheat
among God's people is here styled God's enemy; and he may be
considered also as a sower of them who permits them to be sown and
to spring up through his negligence. Wo to the indolent pastors,
who permit the souls under their care to be corrupted by error and
sin! This word does not, I believe, occur in any of the Greek
classics, nor in Dioscorides; but it may be seen in the Geoponica,
or Greek writers De Re Rustica: see the edition by Niclas, vol. i.
lib. ii. c. 43, where τοζιζανιον is said to be the same which the
Greeks call αιρα; and Florentinus, the author, says, τοζιζανιον
τουςεσθιοντας. "Zizanion, which is called αιρα, darnel, injures
the wheat; and, mixed in the bread, causes dimness of the eyes to
those who eat of it." And the author might have added vertigo
also. But this does not seem to be the grain to which our Lord
The word ζιζανια, zizania, which is here translated tares, and
which should rather be translated bastard or degenerate wheat, is
a Chaldee word; and its meaning must be sought in the rabbinical
writers. In a treatise in the Mishna called Kelayim, which treats
expressly on different kinds of seeds, the word zunim, or
zunin, is used for bastard or degenerated wheat; that
which was wholly a right seed in the beginning, but afterwards
became degenerate-the ear not being so large, nor the grains in
such quantity, as formerly, nor the corn so good in quality. In
the words mizzan al zen, are translated all manner of
store; but they properly signify, from species to species: might
not the Chaldee word zunin, and the Greek word ζιζανια,
zizania, come from the psalmist's zanzan, which might have
signified a mixture of grain of any kind, and be here used to
point out the mixing bastard or degenerate wheat among good seed
wheat? The Persic translator renders it [Persic] telkh daneh,
bitter grain; but it seems to signify merely degenerate wheat.
This interpretation throws much light on the scope and design of
the whole passage. Christ seems to refer, first, to the origin of
evil. God sowed good seed in his field; made man in his own image
and likeness: but the enemy, the devil, (,) corrupted
this good seed, and caused it to degenerate. Secondly, he seems
to refer to the state of the Jewish people: God had sowed them, at
first, wholly a right seed, but now they were become utterly
degenerate, and about to be plucked up and destroyed by the Roman
armies, which were the angels or messengers of God's justice, whom
he had commissioned to sweep these rebellious people from the face
of the land. Thirdly, he seems to refer also to the state in
which the world shall be found, when he comes to judge it. The
righteous and the wicked shall be permitted to grow together, till
God comes to make a full and final separation.
26But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
26 Verse 26. When the blade was sprung up-then appeared the tares
also.] Satan has a shoot of iniquity for every shoot of grace;
and, when God revives his work, Satan revives his also. No
marvel, therefore, if we find scandals arising suddenly to
discredit a work of grace, where God has begun to pour out his
27So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
27 Verse 27. So the servants-said unto him, Sir, didst not thou
sow] A faithful and vigilant minister of Christ fails not to
discover the evil, to lament it, and to address himself to God by
prayer, in order to find out the cause of it, and to receive from
him proper information how to behave on the occasion.
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
28 Verse 28. An enemy hath done this] It is the interest of Satan
to introduce hypocrites and wicked persons into religious
societies, in order to discredit the work of God, and to favour
his own designs.
Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?] A zeal which is
rash and precipitate is as much to be feared as the total lack of
29But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
29 Verse 29. But he said, Nay] God judges quite otherwise than
men of this mixture of good and evil in the world; he knows the
good which he intends to produce from it, and how far his patience
towards the wicked should extend, in order to their conversion, or
the farther sanctification of the righteous. Men often persecute
a true Christian, while they intend only to prosecute an impious
person. "A zeal for the extirpation of heretics and wicked men,"
said a pious Papist, "not regulated by these words of our blessed
Saviour, allows no time for the one to grow strong in goodness, or
to the other to forsake their evil courses. They are of a spirit
very opposite to his, who care not if they root up the wheat,
provided they can but gather up the tares." The zeal which leads
persons to persecute others for religious opinions is not less a
seed of the devil than a bad opinion itself is.
30Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
30 Verse 30. Let both grow together] Though every minister of God
should separate from the Church of Christ every incorrigible
sinner, yet he should proceed no farther: the man is not to be
persecuted in his body or goods, because he is not sound in the
faith-GOD tolerates him; so should men. False doctrines are
against God-he alone is the judge and punisher of them-man has no
right to interfere in this matter. They who burnt Vanini for
atheism usurped the seat of judgment, and thus proved themselves
to be not less a diabolical seed than the person they thus,
without God's leave, hurried into eternity. MARY, Queen of
England, of execrable memory, and the inquisitorial tormentors she
employed, were all of this diabolical sowing. See more on this
parable at , &c.
31 ¶ Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
31 Verse 31. The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard
seed] This parable is a representation of the progress of the
Gospel in the world; and of the growth of grace in the soul. That
grace which leads the soul to the fulness of glory may begin, and
often does, in a single good desire-a wish to escape hell, or a
desire to enjoy God in heaven.
32Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
32 Verse 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds] That is, of
all those seeds which produce plants, whose stems and branches,
according to the saying of the botanists, are apt δενδριζειν,
arborescere, to grow into a ligneous or woody substance.
Becometh a tree] That is, it is not only the largest of plants
which are produced from such small seeds, but partakes, in its
substance, the close woody texture, especially in warm climates,
where we are informed it grows to an almost incredible size. The
Jerusalem Talmud, tract Peah. fol. 20, says, "There was a stalk of
mustard in Sichin, from which sprang out three boughs; one of
which, being broken off, served to cover the tent of a potter, and
produced three cabes of mustard seed. Rabbi Simeon ben Chalapha
said, A stalk of mustard seed was in my field, into which I was
want to climb, as men are wont to climb into a fig tree." See
Lightfoot and Schoettgen. This may appear to be extravagant; and
it is probable that, in the case of the three cabes of seed, there
is considerable exaggeration; but, if it had not been usual for
this plant to grow to a very large size, such relations as these
would not have appeared even in the Talmud; and the parable of our
Lord sufficiently attests the fact. Some soils being more
luxuriant than others, and the climate much warmer, raise the same
plant to a size and perfection far beyond what a poorer soil, or a
colder climate, can possibly do. Herodotus says, he has seen wheat
and barley in the country about Babylon which carried a blade full
four fingers-breadth: and that the millet and sesamum grew to an
incredible size. I have myself seen a field of common cabbages,
in one of the Norman isles, each of which was from seven to nine
feet in height; and one in the garden of a friend, which grew
beside an apple-tree, though the latitude of the place is only
about 48 deg. 13 min. north, was fifteen feet high, the stem of
which is yet remaining, (September, 1798.) These facts, and
several others which might be added, confirm fully the possibility
of what our Lord says of the mustard-tree, however incredible such
things may appear to those who are acquainted only with the
productions of northern regions and cold climates.
33 ¶ Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
33 Verse 33. The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven] On the
nature and effects of leaven, see the note on . As the
property of leaven is to change, or assimulate to its own nature,
the meal or dough with which it is mixed, so the property of the
grace of Christ is to change the whole soul into its own likeness;
and God intends that this principle should continue in the soul
till all is leavened-till the whole bear the image of the
heavenly, as it before bore the image of the earthly. Both these
parables are prophetic, and were intended to show, principally,
how, from very small beginnings, the Gospel of Christ should
pervade all the nations of the world, and fill them with
righteousness and true holiness.
34All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
34 Verse 34. All these things spoke Jesus-in parables] Christ
descends from Divine mysteries to parables, in order to excite us
to raise our minds, from and through natural things, to the great
God, and the operations of his grace and Spirit. Divine things
cannot be taught to man but through the medium of earthly things.
If God should speak to us in that language which is peculiar to
heaven, clothing those ideas which angelic minds form, how little
should we comprehend of the things thus described! How great is
our privilege in being thus taught! Heavenly things, in the
parables of Christ, assume to themselves a body, and thus render
35That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
35 Verse 35. By the prophet] As the quotation is taken from
which is attributed to Asaph, he must be the prophet who is meant
in the text; and, indeed, he is expressly called a prophet,
Several MSS. have ησαιου, Isaiah; but this is a manifest error.
Jerome supposes that Asaph was first in the text, and that some
ignorant transcriber, not knowing who this Asaph was, inserted the
word Isaiah; and thus, by attempting to remove an imaginary error,
made a real one.
36Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
36 Verse 36. Jesus-went into the house: and his disciples came]
Circumstances of this kind should not pass unnoticed: they are
instructive and important. Those who attend only to the public
preaching of the Gospel of God are not likely to understand fully
the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. To understand clearly the
purport of the Divine message, a man must come to God by frequent,
fervent, secret prayer. It is thus that the word of God sinks
into the heart, is watered, and brings forth much fruit.
Declare (φρασον, explain) unto us the parable of the tares of
the field.] To what has already been spoken on this parable, the
following general exposition may be deemed a necessary appendage:-
I. What is the cause of EVIL in the world?
1. We must allow that God, who is infinite in holiness, purity,
and goodness, could not have done it. Nothing can produce what
is not in itself. This is a maxim which every man subscribes to:
God then could not have produced sin, forasmuch as his nature is
infinite goodness and holiness. He made man at first in his own
image, a transcript of his own purity: and, since sin entered
into the world, He has done every thing consistent with his own
perfections, and the freedom of the human mind, to drive it out,
and to make and keep man holy.
2. After a thousand volumes are written on the origin of evil,
we shall just know as much of it as Christ has told us here-An
enemy hath done it, and this enemy is the devil, .
1. This enemy is represented as a deceitful enemy: a friend in
appearance, soliciting to sin, by pleasure, honour, riches, &c.
2. A vigilant enemy. While men sleep he watches, .
3. A hidden or secret enemy. After having sown his seed, he
Did he appear as himself, few would receive solicitations to
sin; but he is seldom discovered in evil thoughts, unholy
desires, flattering discourses, bad books, &c.
II. Why was evil permitted to enter into the world?
1. There are doubtless sufficient reasons in the Divine Mind
for its permission; which, connected with his infinite essence,
and extending to eternity, are not only unfathomable by us, but
also, from their nature, incommunicable to men.
2. But it may be justly said, that hereby many attributes of the
Divine Nature become manifest, which otherwise could not have
been known; such as mercy, compassion, long-suffering, &c. All
of which endear the Deity to men, and perfect the felicity of
those who are saved.
III. But why does he suffer this mixture of the good and bad
1. Because of the necessary dependence of one part of the
creation on the other. Were the wicked all rooted up, society
must fail-the earth be nearly desolated-noxious things greatly
multiplied-and the small remnant of the godly, not being able to
stand against the onsets of wild beasts, &c., must soon be
extirpated; and then adieu to the economy of grace!
2. Did not the wicked exist, there would be no room for the
exercise of many of the graces of the Spirit, on which our
spiritual perfection greatly depends.
3. Nor could the grace of God be so manifest in supporting and
saving the righteous; and consequently could not have that
honour which now it justly claims.
4. Were not this evil tolerated, how could the wicked be
converted? The bastard wheat, by being transplanted to a better
soil, may become good wheat; so sinners may be engrafted in
Christ, and become sons of God through faith in his name; for
the longsuffering of God leads multitudes to repentance.
IV. Observe the end of the present state of things:
1. The wicked shall be punished, and the righteous rewarded.
The wicked are termed bastard-wheat-the children of the wicked
one, , the very seed of the serpent.
Observe the place in which the wicked shall be punished,-a
FURNACE. The instrument of this punishment, FIRE. This is an
allusion to the punishment inflicted only on those supposed to be
the very worst of criminals. See . They were cast into a
burning fiery furnace. The effect of it, DESPAIR; weeping,
wailing, and gnashing of teeth, .
2. Observe the character and state of the righteous:
1. They are the children of the kingdom, a seed of God's
2. As to their persons, they shall be like the sun.
3. The place of their felicity shall be the kingdom of heaven:
4. The object of it, GOD In the relation of FATHER, .
This is a reference to .
Some learned men are of opinion that the whole of this parable
refers to the Jewish state and people; and that the words
συντελειατουαιωνος, which are commonly translated the end of
the world, should be rendered the end of the age, viz. the end of
the Jewish polity. That the words have this meaning in other
places there can be no doubt; and this may be their primary
meaning here; but there are other matters in the parable which
agree far better with the consummation of all things than with the
end of the Jewish dispensation and polity. See on .
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
44 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
44 Verse 44. The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a
field] θησαυρωκεκρυμμενω, to a hidden treasure. We are not to
imagine that the treasure here mentioned, and to which the
Gospel salvation is likened, means a pot or chest of money hidden
in the field, but rather a gold or silver mine, which he who found
out could not get at, or work, without turning up the field, and
for this purpose he bought it. Mr. Wakefield's observation is
very just: "There is no sense in the purchase of a field for a pot
of money, which he might have carried away with him very readily,
and as honestly, too, as by overreaching the owner by an unjust
He hideth-i.e. he kept secret, told the discovery to no person,
till he had bought the field. From this view of the subject, the
translation of this verse, given above, will appear proper-a
hidden treasture, when applied to a rich mine, is more proper than
a treasure hid, which applies better to a pot of money deposited
there, which I suppose was our translators' opinion; and kept
secret, or concealed, will apply better to the subject of his
discovery till he made the purchase, than hideth, for which there
could be no occasion, when the pot was already hidden, and the
place known only to himself.
Our Lord's meaning seems to be this:-
The kingdom of heaven-the salvation provided by the Gospel-is
like a treasure-something of inestimable worth-hidden in a field;
it is a rich mine, the veins of which run in all directions in the
sacred Scriptures; therefore, the field must be dug up, the
records of salvation diligently and carefully turned over, and
searched. Which, when a man hath found-when a sinner is convinced
that the promise of life eternal is to him, he kept secret-pondered
the matter deeply in his heart; he examines the preciousness of the
treasure, and counts the cost of purchase; for joy thereof-finding
that this salvation is just what his needy soul requires, and what
will make him presently and eternally happy, went and sold all
that he had-renounces his sins, abandons his evil companions, and
relinquishes all hope of salvation through his own righteousness;
and purchased that field-not merely bought the book for the sake
of the salvation it described, but, by the blood of the covenant,
buys gold tried in the fire, white raiment, &c.; in a word, pardon
and purity, which he receives from God for the sake of Jesus. We
should consider the salvation of God, 1. As our only treasure, and
value it above all the riches in the world. 2. Search for it in
the Scriptures, till we fully understand its worth and excellence.
3. Deeply ponder it in the secret of our souls. 4. Part with all
we have in order to get it. 5. Place our whole joy and felicity
in it; and 6. Be always convinced that it must be bought, and that
no price is accepted for it but the blood of the covenant; the
sufferings and death of our only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
45 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
45 Verse 45. A merchant man, seeking goodly pearls] A story very
like this is found in the Talmudical tract Shabbath: "Joseph, who
sanctified the Sabbath, had a very rich neighbour; the Chaldeans
said, All the riches of this man shall come to Joseph, who
sanctifies the Sabbath. To prevent this, the rich man went and
sold all that he had, and bought a pearl, and went aboard of a
ship; but the wind carried the pearl away, it fell into the sea,
and was swallowed by a fish. This fish was caught, and the day
before the Sabbath it was brought into the market, and they
proclaimed, Who wishes to buy this fish? The people said, Carry
it to Joseph, the sanctifier of the Sabbath, who is accustomed to
buy things of great value. They carried it to him, and he bought
it, and when he cut it up he found the pearl, and sold it for
thirteen pounds weight of golden denarii!" From some tradition of
this kind, our Lord might have borrowed the simile in this
The meaning of this parable is the same with the other; and both
were spoken to impress more forcibly this great truth on the souls
of the people:-eternal salvation from sin and its consequences is
the supreme good of man, should be sought after above all things,
and prized beyond all that God has made. Those merchants who
compass sea and land for temporal gain, condemn the slothfulness
of the majority of those called Christians, who, though they
confess that this salvation is the most certain and the most
excellent of all treasures, yet seek worldly possessions in
preference to it! Alas, for him who expects to find any thing
more amiable than God, more worthy to fill his heart, and more
capable of making him happy!
46Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
47 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
47 Verse 47. Is like unto a net] A drag-net. This is the proper
meaning of σαγηνη, which the Latins translate verriculum, a sweep
net; Quod in aquam jacitur ad pisces comprehendendos; imprimis,
cujus usus est extrahendis iis a fundo. MARTINIUS. "Which is cast
into the water to catch fish, and the particular use of which is
to drag them up from the bottom." As this is dragged along it
keeps gathering all in its way, both good and bad, small and
great; and, when it is brought to the shore, those which are
proper for use are preserved, and those which are not are either
destroyed or thrown back into the water.
By the net may be understood the preaching of the Gospel of the
kingdom, which keeps drawing men into the profession of
Christianity, and into the fellowship of the visible Church of
Christ. By the sea may be represented that abyss of sin, error,
ignorance, and wickedness in which men live, and out of which they
are drawn, by the truth and Spirit of God, who cordially close in
with the offers of salvation made to them in the preaching of the
By drawing to shore, may be represented the consummation of all
things, see , when a proper distinction shall be made
between those who served God, and those who served him not; for
many shall doubtless be found who shall bear the name without the
nature of Christ. By picking out the good, and throwing away the
bad, , is meant that separation which God shall make
between false and true professors, casting the former into hell,
and bringing the latter to heaven.
Instead of τακαλα the good, the Cod. Bezae, and five copies of
the old Antehieronymian, or Itala version, read τακαλλιστα,
the best, the very best. Every reader would naturally hope that
this is not the true reading, or that it is not to be understood
literally, as it seems to intimate that only the very best shall
be at last saved.
It is probable that this parable also refers, in its primary
meaning, to the Jewish state, and that, when Christ should come to
judge and destroy them by the Roman power, the genuine followers
of Christ only should escape, and the rest be overwhelmed by the
general destruction. See , &c.
48Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
49So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
50And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
50 Verse 50. Into the furnace of fire] See the note on .
51Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
51 Verse 51. Have ye understood all these things?] Divine truths
must not be lightly passed over.-Our Lord's question here shows
them to be matters of the utmost weight and importance; and that
they should be considered again and again, till they be thoroughly
52Then 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.
52 Verse 52. Every scribe] Minister of Christ: who is
instructed-taught of God; in the kingdom of heaven-in the
mysteries of the Gospel of Christ: out of his treasury-his granary
or store-house; things new and old-a Jewish phrase for great
plenty. A small degree of knowledge is not sufficient for a
preacher of the Gospel. The sacred writings should be his
treasure, and he should properly understand them. His knowledge
does not consist in being furnished with a great variety of human
learning, (though of this he should acquire as much as he can;)
but his knowledge consists in being well instructed in the things
concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the art of conducting men
thither. Again, it is not enough for a man to have these
advantages in possession: he must bring them forth, and distribute
them abroad. A good pastor will not, like a miser, keep these
things to himself to please his fancy; nor, like a merchant,
traffic with them, to enrich himself; but, like a bountiful father
or householder, distribute them with a liberal through judicious
hand, for the comfort and support of the whole heavenly family.
A preacher whose mind is well stored with Divine truths, and who
has a sound judgment, will suit his discourses to the
circumstances and states of his hearers. He who preaches the same
sermon to every congregation, gives the fullest proof that,
however well he may speak, he is not a scribe who is instructed in
the kingdom of heaven. Some have thought that old and new things
here, which imply the produce of the past and the produce of the
present year, may also refer to the old and new covenants-a
proper knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and of the
doctrines of Christ as contained in the New. No man can properly
understand the Old Testament but through the medium of the New,
nor can the New be so forcibly or successfully applied to the
conscience of a sinner as through the medium of the Old. The law
is still a schoolmaster to lead men to Christ-by it is the
knowledge of sin, and, without it, there can be no conviction-
where it ends, the Gospel begins, as by the Gospel alone is
salvation from sin. See the whole of the comment on the
53 ¶ And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.
54And 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?
54 Verse 54. And when he was come into his own country] Probably
Nazareth, where his parents lived, and where he had continued till
his thirtieth year, though it appears he had a lodging in Peter's
house at Capernaum.
They were astonished] It appears, hence, that our blessed Lord
had lived in obscurity all the time above specified; for his
countrymen appear not to have heard his doctrines, nor seen his
miracles, until now. It is a melancholy truth, that those who
should know Christ best are often the most ignorant of himself,
the doctrines of his word, and the operations of his Spirit.
55Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
55 Verse 55. Is not this the carpenter's son?] Seven copies of the
old Itala have, Is not this the son of JOSEPH the carpenter? But
it is likely our Lord, during the thirty years of his abode at
Nazareth, wrought at the same trade with Joseph; and perhaps this
is what is intended, .
He went down with them (his parents) to Nazareth, and was SUBJECT
unto them. An honest trade is no discredit to any man. He who
spends his time in idleness is fit for any business in which the
devil chooses to employ him.
Is not his mother-Mary, and his brethren, James, &c.] This
insulting question seems to intimate that our Lord's family was a
very obscure one; and that they were of small repute among their
neighbours, except for their piety.
It is possible that brethren and sisters may mean here near
relations, as the words are used among the Hebrews in this
latitude of meaning; but I confess it does not appear to me
likely. Why should the children of another family be brought in
here to share a reproach which it is evident was designed for
Joseph the carpenter, Mary his wife, Jesus their son, and
their other children? Prejudice apart, would not any person of
plain common sense suppose, from this account, that these were the
children of Joseph and Mary, and the brothers and sisters of our
Lord, according to the flesh? It seems odd that this should be
doubted; but, through an unaccountable prejudice, Papists and
Protestants are determined to maintain as a doctrine, that on
which the Scriptures are totally silent, viz. the perpetual
virginity of the mother of our Lord. See .
56And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
57And 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.
57 Verse 57. And they were offended in him.] They took offence at
him, εσκανδαλιζοντοεναυτω, making the meanness of his family the
reason why they would not receive him as a prophet, though they
were astonished at his wisdom, and at his miracles, . So
their pride and their envy were the causes of their destruction.
A prophet is not without honour] This seems to have been a
proverbial mode of speech, generally true, but not without some
exceptions. The apparent meanness of our Lord was one pretence why
they rejected him; and yet, God manifested in the flesh, humbling
himself to the condition of a servant, and to the death of the
cross, is the only foundation for the salvation of a lost world.
Perhaps our Lord means, by prophet, in this place, himself alone,
as if he had said, My ministry is more generally reputed, and my
doctrine better received, in any other part of the land than in my
own country, among my own relatives; because, knowing the
obscurity of my birth, they can scarcely suppose that I have these
things from heaven.
58And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
58 Verse 58. And he did not many mighty works there because of
their unbelief] δυναμεις, miracles. So the word is used,
; ; ; ; .
The Septuagint translates niphleoth el, the miraculous
works of God, by δυναμινκυριου.
Unbelief and contempt drive Christ out of the heart, as they did
out of his own country. Faith seems to put the almighty power of
God into the hands of men; whereas unbelief appears, to tie up
even the hands of the Almighty. A man, generally speaking, can do
but little good among his relatives, because it is difficult for
them to look with the eyes of faith upon one whom they have been
accustomed to behold with the eyes of the flesh.-QUESNEL.
A DISSERTATION ON THE NATURE AND USE OF PARABOLICAL WRITINGS.
See the notes at the beginning of this chapter.