Verse 57. "A certain man" - He was a scribe. See on Matt. viii. 19-22. It is probable that this took place when Christ was at Capernaum, as Matthew represents it, and not on the way to Jerusalem through Samaria.
Verse 61. "Another also said" - This circumstance is not mentioned by any of the other evangelists; and Matthew alone mentions the former case, chap. ix. 57, 58.
"Let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home" - epitreyon moi apotaxasqai toiv eiv ton oikon mou-Permit me to set in order my affairs at home. Those who understand the Greek text will see at once that it will bear this translation well; and that this is the most natural. This person seems to have had in view the case of Elisha, who made a similar request to the Prophet Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 19, 20, which request was granted by the prophet; but our Lord, seeing that this person had too much attachment to the earth, and that his return to worldly employments, though for a short time, was likely to become the means of stifling the good desires which he now felt, refused to grant him that permission. That which we object to the execution of God's designs is sometimes the very thing from which we should immediately disengage ourselves.
,) 'it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a CHIEF CORNER STONE, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him' (ep∆ autw, on him, that is, on Jesus Christ, the only CHIEF CORNER STONE) 'shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe' (he) 'IS PRECIOUS,' (or, an honour; as rendered in the margin,) 'but unto them which be disobedient' (he is, de, also) 'the stone which the builders disallowed, the same' (outov, for there is no other person that can be entitled to this supreme distinction in the Church) 'is made the HEAD OF THE CORNER.' "From this whole argument of St. Peter, it is manifest that there cannot be any other true head of the Church than Christ himself; so that the pretense for setting up a vicarial head on earth, is not only contrary to St. Peter's instruction to the eastern Churches, long after Christ's ascent into heaven; but also (with respect to the inexpediency and impropriety of acknowledging such a vicar on earth as the Roman pretender) is equally contrary to our Lord's own instruction to his disciples (and, of course, also contrary to the faith of the true primitive catholic Church throughout the whole world) when he promised them, that, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name' (said our Lord JESUS, the true rock of the Church) 'there am I in the midst of them,' Matt. xviii. 20.
Verse 62. "Put his hand to the plough" - Can any person properly discharge the work of the ministry who is engaged in secular employments? A farmer and a minister of the Gospel are incompatible characters. As a person who holds the plough cannot keep on a straight furrow if he look behind him; so he who is employed in the work of the ministry cannot do the work of an evangelist, if he turn his desires to worldly profits. A good man has said: "He who thinks it necessary to cultivate the favour of the world is not far from betraying the interests of God and his Church." Such a person is not fit, euqetov, properly disposed, has not his mind properly directed towards the heavenly inheritance, and is not fit to show the way to others. In both these verses there is a plain reference to the call of Elisha. See 1 Kings xix. 19, &c.
1. CONSIDERING the life of mortification and self-denial which Christ and his disciples led, it is surprising to find that any one should voluntarily offer to be his disciple. But there is such an attractive influence in truth, and such a persuasive eloquence in the consistent steady conduct of a righteous man, that the first must have admirers, and the latter, imitators.
Christianity, as it is generally exhibited, has little attractive in it; and it is no wonder that the cross of Christ is not prized, as the blessings of it are not known; and they can be known and exhibited by him only who follows Christ fully.
2. It is natural for man to wish to do the work of God in his own spirit; hence he is ready to call down fire and brimstone from heaven against those who do not conform to his own views of things. A spirit of persecution is abominable. Had man the government of the world, in a short time, not only sects and parties, but even true religion itself, would be banished from the face of the earth. Meekness, long-suffering, and benevolence, become the followers of Christ; and his followers should ever consider that his work can never be done but in his own spirit.
Since the notes on Matthew were published, I have received from Granville Sharp, Esq., a short Treatise, entitled, Remarks on an important Text, (viz. Matt. xvi. 18,) which has long been perverted by the Church of Rome, IN SUPPORT OF HER VAIN AND BANEFUL PRETENSIONS TO A SUPERIORITY OR SUPREME DOMINION OVER ALL OTHER EPISCOPAL CHURCHES.
As I should feel it an honour to introduce the name of such a veteran in the cause of religion, liberty, and learning, into my work, so it gives me pleasure to insert the substance of his tract here, as forming a strong argument against a most Anti-christian doctrine.
"And I also say unto thee, That thou art PETER; and upon this ROCK I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matt. xvi. 18.
"The Greek word petrov (Petros or Peter) does not mean a rock, though it has, indeed, a relative meaning to the word petra, a rock; for it signifies only a little piece of a rock, or a stone, that has been dug out of a rock; whereby the dignity of the real foundation intended by our Lord, which he expressed by the prophetical figure of Petra, (a rock,) must necessarily be understood to bear a proportionable superiority of dignity and importance above the other preceding word, Petros; as petra, a real rock, is, comparatively, superior to a mere stone, or particle from the rock; because a rock is the regular figurative expression in Holy Scripture for a Divine Protector: y[lo hwhy Jehovah (is) my rock, (2 Sam. xxii. 2, and Psa. xviii. 2.) Again, yrwx yhla , my God (is) my rock; (2 Sam. xxii. 2, and Psa. xviii. 2;) and again, wnyhla yd[lbm rwx ymw , and who (is) a rock except our God? 2 Samuel xxii. 32.
"Many other examples may be found throughout the Holy Scriptures; but these six alone are surely sufficient to establish the true meaning of the figurative expression used by our Lord on this occasion; as they demonstrate that nothing of less importance was to be understood than that of our Lord's own Divine divinity, as declared by St. Pet. in the preceding context-'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!' "That our Lord really referred to this declaration of Peter, relating to his own Divine dignity, as being the true rock, on which he would build his Church, is established beyond contradiction by our Lord himself, in the clear distinction which he maintained between the stone (petrov, petros) and the rock, (petra, petra,) by the accurate grammatical terms in which both these words are expressly recorded. (For whatsoever may have been the language in which they were really spoken, perhaps in Chaldee or Syriac, yet in this point the Greek record is our only authoritative instructer.) The first word, petrov, being a masculine noun, signifies merely a stone; and the second word, petra, though it is a feminine noun, cannot signify any thing of less magnitude and importance than a rock, or strong mountain of defense. The true meaning of the name was at first declared by our Lord to be Cephas, a stone; and a learned commentator, Edward Leigh, Esq., asserts that petrov, doth always signify a STONE, never a rock. Critica Sacra, p. 325.
"With respect to the first.-The word petrov, petros, in its highest figurative sense of a stone, when applied to Peter, can represent only one true believer, or faithful member of Christ's Church, that is, one out of the great multitude of true believers in Christ, who, as figurative stones, form altogether the glorious spiritual building of Christ's Church, and not the foundation on which that Church is built; because that figurative character cannot, consistently with truth, be applied to any other person than to God, or to Christ alone, as I have already demonstrated by several undeniable texts of Holy Scripture. And though even Christ himself is sometimes, in Holy Scripture, called a stone, (loqov, but not petrov,) yet, whenever this figurative expression is applied to him, it is always with such a clear distinction of superiority over all other figurative stones as will not admit the least idea of any vicarial stone to be substituted in his place; as, for instance: He is called 'the head stone of the corner,' (Psa. cxviii. 22,) 'in Zion a precious corner stone,' (Isa. xxviii. 16,) by whom alone the other living stones of the spiritual house are rendered 'acceptable to God;' as St. Peter himself (previous to his citation of that text of Isaiah) has clearly declared in his address to the Churches dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; wherein he manifestly explains that very text of Isaiah, as follows:-'Ye also,' (says the apostle,) 'as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, BY' (or through) 'JESUS CHRIST.' (1 Pet. ii. 5.) Thus plainly acknowledging the true foundation, on which the other living stones of the primitive catholic Church were built, in order to render them 'acceptable to God,' as 'a holy priesthood.' And the apostle then proceeds (in the very next verse) to his citation of the above-mentioned text from Isaiah:-'Wherefore also,' (says he, 1 Pet. ii. 6
"So that the appointment of any 'vicar on earth,' to represent that rock or eternal head of the Church whose continual presence, even with the smallest congregations on earth, is so expressly promised, would be not only superfluous and vain, but must also be deemed a most ungrateful affront to the benevolent Promiser of his continual presence; such as must have been suggested by our spiritual enemies to promote an apostasy from the only sure foundation, on which the faith, hope, and confidence of the true catholic Church can be built and supported! "Thus, I trust that the true sense of the first noun, petrov, a stone, is here fairly stated; and also, its relative meaning to the second noun, petra, a rock, as far as it can reasonably be deemed applicable to the Apostle Peter.
"And a due consideration also of the second noun, petra, a rock, will produce exactly the same effect; that is, it will demonstrate that the supreme title of the rock, which, in other texts of Holy Scripture, is applied to Jehovah, or God, alone, (as I have already shown,) most certainly was not intended by our Lord to be understood as applicable to his disciple Peter; but only to that true testimony which St. Peter had just before declared, concerning the Divine dignity of the Messiah-'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' "I have already remarked that petra (a rock) is a feminine noun; and a clear distinction is maintained between petrov, the masculine noun, in this text, and the said feminine noun petra, the rock, by the grammatical terms in which the latter, in its relatives and articles, is expressed, which are all regularly feminine throughout the whole sentence; and thereby they demonstrate that our Lord did not intend that the new appellation, or nominal distinction, which he had just before given to Simon, (viz. petrov, the masculine noun in the beginning of the sentence,) should be construed as the character of which he spoke in the next part of the sentence; for, if he had really intended that construction, the same masculine noun, petrov, must necessarily have been repeated in the next part of the sentence with a masculine pronoun, viz. epi toutw tw petrw, instead of epi tauth th petra, the present text; wherein, on the contrary; not only the gender is changed from the masculine to the feminine, but also the figurative character itself, which is as much superior, in dignity, to the Apostle Simon, and also to his new appellative petrov, as a rock is superior to a mere stone. For the word petrov cannot signify any thing more than a stone; so that the popish application to Peter, (or petrov,) as the foundation of Christ's Church, is not only inconsistent with the real meaning of the appellative which Christ, at that very time, conferred upon him, and with the necessary grammatical construction of it, but also with the figurative importance of the other word, petra, the rock; epi tauth th petra, 'upon this rock;' the declared foundation of the Church, a title of dignity, which (as I have already shown by several texts of Scripture) is applicable only to God or to Christ.
"And be pleased to observe farther, that the application of this supreme title (the rock) to Peter, is inconsistent (above all) with the plain reference to the preceding CONTEXT; made by our Lord in the beginning of this very verse-'AND I ALSO say unto thee'-which manifestly points out (both by the copulative 'and,' and the connective adverb 'also') the inseparable connection of this verse with the previous declaration of Peter, concerning our Lord's Divine dignity in the preceding sentence-'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;' and thereby demonstrates that our Lord's immediate reply ('AND I ALSO SAY unto thee, &c.) did necessarily include this declaration of Peter, as being the principal object of the sentence-the true foundation, or rock, on which alone the catholic Church can be properly built; because our faith in Christ (that he is truly 'the Son of the living God') is unquestionably the only security or rock of our salvation.
"And Christ was also the rock even of the primitive Church of Israel; for St. Paul testifies, that 'they' (i.e. the hosts of Israel) 'did all drink of that spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual ROCK that followed them, and that ROCK was CHRIST,' 1 Cor. x. 4. And the apostle, in a preceding chapter, (1 Cor. iii. 11,) says, 'Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST.' "In the margin of our English version of 1 Cor. x. 4, instead of 'followed them,' we find, 'went with them;' which is not only the literal meaning of the Greek, 'followed them,' but it is also unquestionably true that Christ was, in a more particular manner, the ROCK of their defense, when he 'followed them,' than when he 'went before them,' as related in Exod. xiii. 21, 'And the Lord' (in the Hebrew, expressly, Jehovah) 'WENT BEFORE THEM by day in a pillar of a cloud to LEAD THEM the way, and by night in a pillar of fire,' &c. Yet, afterwards, a necessary change was made by the Protector of the hosts of Israel, in his military manoeuvres with the two marching armies, as we are informed in the next chapter, Exod. xiv. 19. For though, at first, 'he went BEFORE the camp of Israel,' yet he afterwards 'removed, and went BEHIND them; and the pillar of the cloud removed from before them, and stood' (or rather, was stationed in the order of marching) 'behind them.' Which is properly expressed by St. Paul (in the above-cited text, 1 Cor. x. 4) as 'the rock that followed them.' For Christ was more particularly 'a rock of defense to Israel,' by this changed manoeuvre in following them; because he thereby prevented the pursuit of their cruel enemies, the standing armies of the Egyptian tyrant.
"I must remark, however, that in the text, which is parallel to St. Paul's testimony that Christ was the ROCK which followed, viz. Exod. xiv. 19, 20, Christ is not mentioned under the supreme title of Jehovah, (as in the preceding chapter, Exod. xiii. 21,) but only as 'an angel of God.' But the angel appointed to this most gracious and merciful purpose of the Almighty was really of a supreme Divine dignity, infinitely superior to all other angels, For (in another parallel text on the same subject, wherein the title of angel is also given, viz. Exod. xxiii. 20-23,) God declared, saying, 'My name is in him,' (viz. the name Jehovah, signifying all time, past, present, and future, or the eternal Being.) 'Behold,' (said God to the hosts of Israel,) 'I send AN ANGEL' (or a messenger) 'before thee, to keep thee in the way,' (the object of intention before described,) 'and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him,' [or rather, watch, (thyself,) or be respectful before him, Żynpl or in his presence,] 'and obey his VOICE,' (i.e. the WORD of God, the true character of Christ, even before the creation;) 'provoke him not,' (or rather, murmur not, against him,) 'for he will not pardon your transgressions, for MY NAME IS IN HIM,' (not placed upon him, as the outward tokens of mere temporary authority are given, to be exhibited like the insignia of nobility, or robes of magistrates, but really 'in him,' wbrqb 'within him,' i.e. thoroughly included in his personal existence.) 'But if thou shalt indeed obey HIS VOICE,' (i.e. 'the word of God,' the true figurative character of the Son of God,) 'and shalt do all that I SPEAK,' (for it is Jehovah, the Lord God, that speaketh in Christ,) 'then I will be an enemy to thine enemies,' &c. It is therefore unquestionably evident, from the examination of all these texts, that Christ, whom St. Paul has declared to be 'the rock that followed' the Israelites, was also the Lord, or Jehovah, (as he is expressly called in the first text here cited, Exod. xiii. 21,) that 'went before' the Israelites 'by day,' in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in 'the way, and by night in a pillar of fire,' &c., as expressly declared in the first text cited in this note; and, therefore, an attempt to set up any mere mortal man, as the rock or foundation of the true catholic Church, must be attributed either to extreme ignorance of the Holy Scriptures, or to extreme wickedness; but certainly, also, to the delusions of spiritual enemies." That the power of the keys, or of binding and loosing, belonged equally to all the apostles, the author goes on to prove.
"But there is a testimony of high authority, which renders it unquestionable that this declaration of our Lord respecting the power of 'binding and loosing,' related 'to them,' (the other disciples,) 'as well as to him:'-even another declaration, made by our Lord himself, 'to his disciples,' respecting the same identical power, which our Lord attributed equally to all the disciples then present.
"The particular discourse of our Lord to which I now refer seems to have been made at Capernaum, after the miracle of the fish (bearing the tribute money in his mouth) which Peter was sent to catch; as related in the 17th chapter of St. Matthew. And in the beginning of the very next chapter we are informed as follows:-'At the SAME TIME came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' Our Lord's answer to this question (wherein he urges the necessity of a humiliation like that of little children, as the proper disposition to qualify mankind for the kingdom of heaven) is continued from the 2d verse to the 14th verse of this chapter; which shows that the disciples, in general, were still present, as they would certainly wait for the desired answer to their own question; and then our Lord immediately afterwards proceeded to instruct them (from the 15th to the 17th verse) in the general duty of behaviour towards a brother that has trespassed against us. After which our Lord added, (in the 18th verse,) 'Verily I say unto YOU, (umin, a plural pronoun, which must refer unto all the disciples that were then assembled,) 'Whatsoever YE SHALL BIND on earth,' (dhshte, a verb in the second person plural, plainly including all the disciples that were then present,) 'shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever YE SHALL LOOSE on earth,' (lushte, another plural verb,) 'shall be loosed in heaven.' "This is exactly the power of the keys, which the Church of Rome has, most absurdly, attributed to St. Peter alone, in order to invest the bishops of Rome (on the vain pretense of their being St. Peter's successors) with an exclusive claim to all these ecclesiastical privileges of binding and loosing, which our Lord manifestly, in this parallel text, attributed to all his faithful apostles, without any partial distinction.
"But the importance of examining, not only parallel texts, but also more particularly the context, of any difficult sentence in Holy Scripture, for a more easy comprehension of the true meaning, is clearly exemplified in the examination of the first text in question, viz. Matt. xvi. 18, 19; for we are informed in the very next verse, the 20th, that our Lord 'THEN charged his disciples,' (tote, then, that is, immediately after his discourse about the rock and keys,) 'that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ;' manifestly referring to the first circumstance of the context concerning himself, viz. the declaration of Peter, 'Thou art the Christ,' &c. (Matt. xvi. 16,) in answer to his own question to all the disciples-'Whom say ye that I am?' "That this question was not addressed to Peter alone is manifest by the plural pronoun and verb, (umeiv legete,) 'Whom say YE that I am?' And therefore St. Peter's answer must be considered as intended not merely for himself, but also for his brethren, the other faithful witnesses of Christ's miracles and doctrines; so that the substance of this answer- 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'-must necessarily be understood as the true foundation or rock of the Catholic Church, revealed to Peter by our heavenly Father, as stated in the 17th and 18th verses. "This declaration, therefore, that he was the Christ, was manifestly the subject of our Lord's charge to the disciples, that 'they should tell no man;' that is, not until after the time of his sufferings and death, which were the next topics in the continuation of his discourse. The declaration of Peter, therefore, demonstrated the true foundation, or rock, of the Church, which (as Christ himself testified) our heavenly Father had revealed to Peter. And it is also remarkable, that the very next discourse of our Lord to his disciples, recorded in the context, (Matt. xvi. 21,) should produce that severe censure against Peter, which still farther demonstrated that Peter could not be the rock on which Christ's Church was to be built.
(Matt. xvi. 21.) 'From that time forth' (apo tote) 'began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and SUFFER many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and BE KILLED,' (all the predicted consequences of his being the CHRIST, the character which Peter himself had declared,) 'and' (that he should) 'be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took him,' (Matt. xvi. 22,) 'and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord,' (or, rather, according to the Greek original, as rendered in the margin- 'Pity thyself, Lord')-'this shall not be unto thee.
But he' (Christ, Matt. xvi. 23) 'turned and said unto Peter,' [tw petrw, the same appellative (signifying a stone, or a small part of a rock) which was given to Peter by our Lord, in the 18th verse:-'Get thee behind me, Satan, (said our Lord,) thou art an offense unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God; but those that be of men.' "Thus a fair examination and comparison of the whole context, completely sets aside the vain supposition of the Romish Church, that Peter was the rock of Christ's Church. And I sincerely hope that a similar attention to this whole context may prevent any future attempts, that might otherwise be prompted by the prejudices of Roman Catholics, to bring forward again this long-disputed question, on which they have vainly set up the pretended supremacy of the Romish Church above all other episcopal Churches; and that it may be silenced, and set at rest, for ever hereafter."