In this chapter we have divers excellent discourses of our Saviour's
upon various occasions, many of which are to the same purport with what
we had in Matthew upon other the like occasions; for we may suppose
that our Lord Jesus preached the same doctrines, and pressed the same
duties, at several times, in several companies, and that one of the
evangelists took them as he delivered them at one time and another at
another time; and we need thus to have precept upon precept, line upon
I. Christ warns his disciples to take heed of hypocrisy, and of
cowardice in professing Christianity and preaching the gospel,
II. He gives a caution against covetousness, upon occasion of a
covetous motion made to him, and illustrates that caution by a parable
of a rich man suddenly cut off by death in the midst of his worldly
projects and hopes,
III. He encourages his disciples to cast all their care upon God, and
to live easy in a dependence upon his providence, and exhorts them to
make religion their main business,
IV. He stirs them up to watchfulness for their Master's coming, from
the consideration of the reward of those who are then found faithful,
and the punishment of those who are found unfaithful,
V. He bids them expect trouble and persecution,
VI. He warns the people to observe and improve the day of their
opportunities and to make their peace with God in time,
Christ's Charge to His Apostles.
1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an
innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one
upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all,
Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed;
neither hid, that shall not be known.
3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be
heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in
closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that
kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which
after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say
unto you, Fear him.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of
them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear
not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men,
him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the
angels of God.
10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it
shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the
Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto
magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye
shall answer, or what ye shall say:
12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye
ought to say.
We find here,
I. A vast auditory that was got together to hear Christ preach. The
scribes and Pharisees sought to accuse him, and do
him mischief; but the people, who were not under the bias of their
prejudices and jealousies, still admired him, attended on him,
and did him honour. In the mean time
while he was in the Pharisee's house, contending with them that sought
to ensnare him, the people got together for an afternoon sermon, a
sermon after dinner, after dinner with a Pharisee; and he would
not disappoint them. Though in the morning sermon, when they were
gathered thickly together
he had severely reproved them, as an evil generation that seek a
sign, yet they renewed their attendance on him; so much better
could the people bear their reproofs than the Pharisees
theirs. The more the Pharisees strove to drive the people from
Christ, the more flocking there was to him. Here was an innumerable
multitude of people gathered together, so that they trade one upon
another, in labouring to get foremost, and to come within hearing.
It is a good sight to see people thus forward to hear the word, and
venture upon inconvenience and danger rather than miss an opportunity
for their souls. Who are these that thus fly as the doves to their
When the net is cast where there is such a multitude of fish, it may be
hoped that some will be enclosed.
II. The instructions which he gave his followers, in the hearing of
1. He began with a caution against hypocrisy. This he said to
his disciples first of all; either to the twelve, or to the
seventy. These were his more peculiar charge, his family, his school,
and therefore he particularly warned them as his beloved
sons; they made more profession of religion than others and
hypocrisy in that was the sin they were most in danger of. They
were to preach to others; and, if they should prevaricate,
corrupt the word, and deal deceitfully, hypocrisy would be worse in
them than in others. Besides, there was a Judas among them, who was a
hypocrite, and Christ knew it, and would hereby startle him, or leave
him inexcusable. Christ's disciples were, for aught we know, the
best men then in the world, yet they needed to be cautioned
against hypocrisy. Christ said this to the disciples, in the
hearing of this great multitude, rather than privately when
he had them by themselves, to add the greater weight to the caution,
and to let the world know that he would not countenance hypocrisy, no,
not in his own disciples. Now observe,
(1.) The description of that sin which he warns them against: It is
the leaven of the Pharisees.
[1.] It is leaven; it is spreading as leaven,
insinuates itself into the whole man, and all that he does; it
is swelling and souring as leaven, for it puffs men up
with pride, embitters them with malice, and makes their service
unacceptable to God.
[2.] It is the leaven of the Pharisees: "It is the sin they are most of
them found in. Take heed of imitating them; be not you of their spirit;
do not dissemble in Christianity as they do in Judaism; make not
your religion a cloak of maliciousness, as they do
(2.) A good reason against it: "For there is nothing covered that
shall not be revealed,
It is to no purpose to dissemble, for, sooner or later, truth will come
out; and a lying tongue is but for a moment. If you speak in
darkness that which is unbecoming you, and is inconsistent with
your public professions, it shall be heard in the light; some
way or other it shall be discovered, a bird of the air shall carry
and your folly and falsehood will be made manifest." The
iniquity that is concealed with a show of piety will be discovered,
perhaps in this world, as Judas's was, and Simon Magus's, at furthest
in the great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be made
If men's religion prevail not to conquer and cure the wickedness of
their hearts, it shall not always serve for a cloak. The day is coming
when hypocrites will be stripped of their fig-leaves.
2. To this he added a charge to them to be faithful to the trust
reposed in them, and not to betray it, through cowardice or base fear.
to be a caution to them not to conceal those things which they
had been instructed in, and were employed to publish to
the world. "Whether men will hear, or whether they will
forbear, tell them the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth; what has been spoken to you, and you have
talked of among yourselves, privately, and in corners, that do
you preach publicly, whoever is offended; for, if you please
men, you are not Christ's servants, nor can you please him,"
But this was not the worst of it: it was likely to be a
suffering cause, though never a sinking one: let them
therefore arm themselves with courage; and divers arguments are
furnished here to steel them with a holy resolution in their work.
(1.) "The power of your enemies is a limited power
I say unto you, my friends" (Christ's disciples are his friends,
he calls them friends, and gives them this friendly
advice), "be not afraid, do not disquiet yourselves with
tormenting fears of the power and rage of men." Note, Those whom Christ
owns for his friends need not be afraid of any enemies. "Be
not afraid, no, not of them that kill the body, let it not
be in the power of scoffers, not even of murderers, to
drive you off from your work, for you that have learned to triumph over
death may say, even of them, Let them do their worst, after that
there is no more that they can do; the immortal soul lives, and is
happy, and enjoys itself and its God, and sets them all at defiance."
Note, Those can do Christ's disciples no real harm, and therefore ought
not to be dreaded, who can but kill the body; for they only send
that to its rest, and the soul to its joy, the sooner.
(2.) God is to be feared more than the most powerful men: "I will
forewarn you whom you shall fear
that you may fear man less, fear God more. Moses conquers his fear of
the wrath of the king, by having an eye to him that is
invisible. By owning Christ you may incur the wrath of men,
which can reach no further than to put you to death (and without
God's permission they cannot do that); but by denying Christ,
and disowning him, you will incur the wrath of God, which has power to
send you to hell, and there is no resisting it. Now of two evils
the less is to be chosen, and the greater is to be dreaded, and
therefore I say unto you, Fear him." "It is true," said that
blessed martyr, Bishop Hooper, "life is sweet, and death bitter; but
eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter."
(3.) The lives of good Christians and good ministers are the particular
care of divine Providence,
To encourage us in times of difficulty and danger, we must have
recourse to our first principles, and build upon them. Now a firm
belief of the doctrine of God's universal providence, and the extent of
it, will be satisfying to us when at any time we are in peril, and will
encourage us to trust God in the way of duty.
[1.] Providence takes cognizance of the meanest creatures, even
of the sparrows. "Though they are of such small account that
five of them are sold for two farthings, yet not one of
them is forgotten of God, but is provided for, and notice is
taken of its death. Now, you are of more value than many
sparrows, and therefore you may be sure you are not
forgotten, though imprisoned, though banished, though forgotten by
your friends; much more precious in the sight of the Lord is the
death of saints than the death of sparrows."
[2.] Providence takes cognizance of the meanest interest of the
disciples of Christ: "Even the very hairs of your head are all
much more are your sighs and tears numbered, and the drops of your
blood, which you shed for Christ's name's sake. An account is kept of
all your losses, that they may be, and without doubt they shall
be, recompensed unspeakably to your advantage."
(4.) "You will be owned or disowned by Christ, in the great day,
according as you now own or disown him,"
[1.] To engage us to confess Christ before men, whatever we may
lose or suffer for our constancy to him, and how dear soever it may
cost us, we are assured that they who confess Christ now shall
be owned by him in the great day before the angels of God, to
their everlasting comfort and honour. Jesus Christ will confess,
not only that he suffered for them, and that they are to have the
benefit of his sufferings, but that they suffered for
him, and that his kingdom and interest on earth were advanced by
their sufferings; and what greater honour can be done them?
[2.] To deter us from denying Christ, and a cowardly
deserting of his truths and ways, we are here assured that those
who deny Christ, and treacherously depart from him, whatever
they may save by it, though it were life itself, and whatever they may
gain by it, though it were a kingdom, will be vast losers at last, for
they shall be denied before the angels of God; Christ will not
know them, will not own them, will not show them any favour, which will
turn to their everlasting terror and contempt. By the stress here laid
upon their being confessed or denied before the angels of God,
it should seem to be a considerable part of the happiness of glorified
saints that they will not only stand right, but stand
high, in the esteem of the holy angels; they will love
them, and honour them, and own them, if they be Christ's servants; they
are their fellow-servants, and they will take them for their
companions. On the contrary, a considerable part of the misery of
damned sinners will be that the holy angels will abandon them, and will
be the pleased witnesses, not only of their disgrace, as here, but of
their misery, for they shall be tormented in the presence of the
who will give them no relief.
(5.) The errand they were shortly to be sent out upon was of the
highest and last importance to the children of men, to whom they were
Let them be bold in preaching the gospel, for a sorer and heavier doom
would attend those that rejected them (after the Spirit was poured upon
them, which was to be the last method of conviction) than those
that now rejected Christ himself, and opposed him: "Greater works
than those shall he do, and, consequently, greater will be the
punishment of those that blaspheme the gifts and operations of the Holy
Ghost in you. Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of
man, shall stumble at the meanness of his appearance, and speak
slightly and spitefully of him, it is capable of some
excuse: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
But unto him that blasphemes the Holy Ghost, that blasphemes the
Christian doctrine, and maliciously opposes it, after the pouring out
of the Spirit and his attestation of Christ's being glorified
the privilege of the forgiveness of sins shall be denied; he
shall have no benefit by Christ and his gospel. You may shake off the
dust of your feet against those that do so, and give them over as
incurable; they have forfeited that repentance and that
remission which Christ was exalted to give, and which you
are commissioned to preach." The sin, no doubt, was the more
daring, and consequently the case the more desperate, during the
continuance of the extraordinary gifts and operations of the
Spirit in the church, which were intended for a sign to them who
1 Corinthians 14:22.
There were hopes of those who, though not convinced by them at first,
yet admired them, but those who blasphemed them were given
(6.) Whatever trials they should be called out to, they should be
sufficiently furnished for them, and honourably brought through them,
The faithful martyr for Christ has not only sufferings to
undergo, but a testimony to bear, a good
confession to witness, and is concerned to do that
well, so that the cause of Christ may not suffer, though he
suffer for it; and, if this be his care, let him cast it upon God:
"When they bring you into the synagogues, before church-rulers,
before the Jewish courts, or before magistrates and powers,
Gentile rulers, rulers in the state, to be examined about your
doctrine, what it is, and what the proof of it, take no thought what
ye shall answer,"
[1.] "That you may save yourselves. Do not study by what art or
rhetoric to mollify your judges, or by what tricks in law to bring
yourselves off; if it be the will of God that you should come off, and
your time is not yet come, he will bring it about effectually."
[2.] "That you may serve your Master; aim at this, but do not
perplex yourselves about it, for the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of
wisdom, shall teach you what you ought to say, and how to say
it, so that it may be for the honour of God and his cause."
13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my
brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of
covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of
the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a
certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do,
because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and
build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid
up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul
shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be,
which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not
rich toward God.
We have in these verses,
I. The application that was made to Christ, very unseasonably, by one
of his hearers, desiring him to interpose between him and his
brother in a matter that concerned the estate of the family
"Master, speak to my brother; speak as a prophet, speak as a
king, speak with authority; he is one that will have regard to what
thou sayest; speak to him, that he divide the inheritance with
1. Some think that his brother did him wrong, and that he
appealed to Christ to right him, because he knew the law was
costly. His brother was such a one as the Jews called
Ben-hamesen--a son of violence, that took not only his
own part of the estate, but his brother's too, and forcibly detained it
from him. Such brethren there are in the world, who have no sense at
all either of natural equity or natural affection, who
make a prey of those whom they ought to patronize and protect. They who
are so wronged have God to go to, who will execute judgment and
justice for those that are oppressed.
2. Others think that he had a mind to do his brother wrong, and
would have Christ to assist him; that, whereas the law gave the
elder brother a double portion of the estate, and the father himself
could not dispose of what he had but by that rule
he would have Christ to alter that law, and oblige his brother,
who perhaps was a follower of Christ at large, to divide the
inheritance equally with him, in gavel-kind, share and share
alike, and to allot him as much as his elder brother. I suspect that
this was the case, because Christ takes occasion from it to warn
against covetousness, pleonexia--a desire of
having more, more than God in his providence has allotted us. It
was not a lawful desire of getting his own, but a sinful desire
of getting more than his own.
II. Christ's refusal to interpose in this matter
Man, who made me a judge or divider over you? In matters of this
nature, Christ will not assume either a legislative power to
alter the settled rule of inheritances, or a judicial power to
determine controversies concerning them. He could have done the judge's
part, and the lawyer's, as well as he did the physician's, and have
ended suits at law as happily as he did diseases; but he would not, for
it was not in his commission: Who made me a judge? Probably he
refers to the indignity done to Moses by his brethren in Egypt, with
which Stephen upbraided the Jews,
"If I should offer to do this, you would taunt me as you did Moses,
Who made thee a judge or a divider?" He corrects the man's
mistake, will not admit his appeal (it was coram non judice--not
before the proper judge), and so dismisses his bill. If he
had come to him to desire him to assist his pursuit of the heavenly
inheritance, Christ would have given him his best help; but as to this
matter he has nothing to do: Who made me a judge? Note, Jesus
Christ was no usurper; he took no honour, no power, to himself, but
what was given him,
Whatever he did, he could tell by what authority he did it, and who
gave him that authority. Now this shows us what is the nature and
constitution of Christ's kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom, and not of
1. It does not interfere with civil powers, nor take the authority of
princes out of their hands. Christianity leaves the matter as it found
it, as to civil power.
2. It does not intermeddle with civil rights; it obliges all to do
justly, according to the settled rules of equity, but dominion is not
founded in grace.
3. It does not encourage our expectations of worldly
advantages by our religion. If this man will be a disciple of Christ,
and expects that in consideration of this Christ should give him his
brother's estate, he is mistaken; the rewards of Christ's disciples are
of another nature.
4. It does not encourage our contests with our brethren,
and our being rigorous and high in our demands, but rather, for peace'
sake, to recede from our right.
5. It does not allow ministers to entangle themselves in the
affairs of this life
(2 Timothy 2:4),
to leave the word of God to serve tables. There are those whose
business it is, let it be left to them, Tractent fabrilia
fabri--Each workman to his proper craft.
III. The necessary caution which Christ took occasion from this to give
to his hearers. Though he came not to be a divider of men's
estates, he came to be a director of their consciences about them, and
would have all take heed of harbouring that corrupt principle which
they saw to be in others the root of so much evil. Here
1. The caution itself
Take heed and beware of covetousness;
horate--"Observe yourselves, keep a jealous
eye upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles steal into them;
and phylassesthe--preserve yourselves, keep a
strict band upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles rule
and give law in them." Covetousness is a sin which we have need
constantly to watch against, and therefore frequently to be
2. The reason of it, or an argument to enforce this caution: For a
man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he
possesseth; that is, "our happiness and comfort do not depend upon
our having a great deal of the wealth of this world."
(1.) The life of the soul, undoubtedly, does not depend upon it,
and the soul is the man. The things of the world will not suit the
nature of a soul, nor supply its needs, nor satisfy its desires, nor
last so long as it will last. Nay,
(2.) Even the life of the body and the happiness of that do not consist
in an abundance of these things; for many live very contentedly
and easily, and get through the world very comfortably, who have but a
little of the wealth of it (a dinner of herbs with holy love is better
than a feast of fat things); and, on the other hand, many live
very miserably who have a great deal of the things of this world; they
possess abundance, and yet have no comfort of it; they bereave their
souls of good,
Many who have abundance are discontented and fretful, as Ahab and
Haman; and then what good does their abundance do them?
3. The illustration of this by a parable, the sum of which is to show
the folly of carnal worldlings while they live, and their misery when
they die, which is intended not only for a check to that man who came
to Christ with an address about his estate, while he was in no care
about his soul and another world, but for the enforcing of that
necessary caution to us all, to take heed of covetousness. The
parable gives us the life and death of a rich man, and leaves us
to judge whether he was a happy man.
(1.) Here is an account of his worldly wealth and abundance
The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully,
chora--regio--the country. He had a whole
country to himself, a lordship of his own; he was a little prince.
Observe, His wealth lay much in the fruits of the earth, for the
king himself is served by the field,
He had a great deal of ground, and his ground was fruitful; much
would have more, and he had more. Note, The fruitfulness
of the earth is a great blessing, but it is a blessing which God often
gives plentifully to wicked men, to whom it is a snare, that we may not
think to judge of his love or hatred by what is before us.
(2.) Here are the workings of his heart, in the midst of this
abundance. We are here told what he thought within himself,
Note, The God of heaven knows and observes whatever we think within
ourselves, and we are accountable to him for it. He is both a
discerner and judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We
mistake if we imagine that thoughts are hid and thoughts are
free. Let us here observe,
[1.] What his cares and concerns were. When he saw an
extraordinary crop upon his ground, instead of thanking God for
it, or rejoicing in the opportunity it would give him of doing the more
good, he afflicts himself with this thought, What shall I do,
because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? He speaks as one
at a loss, and full of perplexity. What shall I do now?
The poorest beggar in the country, that did not know where to get a
meal's meat, could not have said a more anxious word. Disquieting care
is the common fruit of an abundance of this world, and the common fault
of those that have abundance. The more men have, the more perplexity
they have with it, and the more solicitous they are to keep what they
have and to add to it, how to spare and how to spend; so that even the
abundance of the rich will not suffer them to sleep, for
thinking what they shall do with what they have and how they shall
dispose of it. The rich man seems to speak it with a sigh, What
shall I do? And if you ask, Why, what is the matter? Truly he had
abundance of wealth, and wants a place to put it in, that
[2.] What his projects and purposes were, which were the
result of his cares, and were indeed absurd and foolish like them
"This will I do, and it is the wisest course I can take, I
will pull down my barns, for they are too little, and I will
build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my
goods, and then I shall be at ease." Now here, First, It was
folly for him to call the fruits of the ground his fruits and
his goods. He seems to lay a pleasing emphasis upon that,
my fruits and my goods; whereas what we have is but
lent us for our use, the property is still in God; we are but
stewards of our Lord's goods, tenants at will of our Lord's
land. It is my corn (saith God) and my wine,
Secondly, It was folly for him to hoard up what he had,
and then to think it well bestowed. There will I bestow it
all; as if none must be bestowed upon the poor, none upon his
family, none upon the Levite and the stranger, the fatherless
and the widow, but all in the great barn. Thirdly, It was
folly for him to let his mind rise with his condition;
when his ground brought forth more plentifully than usual, then to talk
of bigger barns, as if the next year must needs be as fruitful as this,
and much more abundant, whereas the barn might be as much too big the
next year as it was too little this. Years of famine commonly follow
years of plenty, as they did in Egypt; and therefore it were better to
stack some of his corn for this once. Fourthly, It was
folly for him to think to ease his care by building new barns, for the
building of them would but increase his care; those know this who know
any thing of the spirit of building. The way that God prescribes for
the cure of inordinate care is certainly successful, but the way of the
world does but increase it. Besides, when he had done this, there were
other cares that would still attend him; the greater the barns, still
the greater the cares,
Fifthly, It was folly for him to contrive and resolve all this
absolutely and without reserve. This I will do:
I will pull down my barns and will build greater, yea, that I
will; without so much as that necessary proviso, If the Lord
will, I shall live,
Peremptory projects are foolish projects; for our times are in God's
hand, and not in our own, and we do not so much as know what shall
be on the morrow.
[3.] What his pleasing hopes and expectations were, when
he should have made good these projects. "Then I will say to my
soul, upon the credit of this security, whether God say it or no,
Soul, mark what I say, thou hast much goods laid up for many
years in these barns; now take thine ease, enjoy thyself,
eat, drink, and be merry,"
Here also appears his folly, as much in the enjoyment of his wealth as
in the pursuit of it. First, It was folly for him to put off
his comfort in his abundance till he had compassed his projects
concerning it. When he has built bigger barns, and filled them (which
will be a work of time), then he will take his ease; and might
he not as well have done that now? Grotius here quotes the story
of Pyrrhus, who was projecting to make himself master of Sicily,
Africa, and other places, in the prosecution of his victories. Well,
says his friend Cyneas, and what must we do then? Postea
vivemus, says he, Then we will live; At hoc jam licet, says
Cyneas, We may live now if we please. Secondly, It was folly for
him to be confident that his goods were laid up for many years,
as if his bigger barns would be safer than those he had; whereas
in an hour's time they might be burnt to the ground and all that was
laid up in them, perhaps by lightning, against which there is no
defence. A few years may make a great change; moth and rust may
corrupt, or thieves break through and steal. Thirdly, It was folly
for him to count upon certain ease, when he had laid up
abundance of the wealth of this world, whereas there are many things
that may make people uneasy in the midst of their greatest abundance.
One dead fly may spoil a whole pot of precious ointment; and one thorn
a whole bed of down. Pain and sickness of body, disagreeableness of
relations, and especially a guilty conscience, may rob a man of his
ease, who has ever so much of the wealth of this world.
Fourthly, It was folly for him to think of making no other use
of his plenty than to eat and drink, and to be
merry; to indulge the flesh, and gratify the sensual appetite,
without any thought of doing good to others, and being put thereby into
a better capacity of serving God and his generation: as if we
lived to eat, and did not eat to live, and
the happiness of man consisted in nothing else but in having all the
gratifications of sense wound up to the height of pleasurableness.
Fifthly, It was the greatest folly of all to say all this to his
soul. if he had said, Body, take thine ease, for thou
hast goods laid up for many years, there had been sense in it; but
the soul, considered as an immortal spirit, separable from the body,
was no way interested in a barn full of corn or a bag full of gold. If
he had had the soul of a swine, he might have blessed it
with the satisfaction of eating and drinking; but what is
this to the soul of a man, that has exigencies and desires which
these things will be no ways suited to? It is the great absurdity which
the children of this world are guilty of that they portion their souls
in the wealth of the world and the pleasures of sense.
(3.) Here is God's sentence upon all this; and we are sure that his
judgment is according to truth. He said to himself, said to his soul,
Take thine ease. If God had said so too, the man had been happy,
as his Spirit witnesses with the spirit of believers to make them easy.
But God said quite otherwise; and by his judgment of us we must
stand or fall, not by ours of ourselves,
1 Corinthians 4:3,4.
His neighbours blessed him
praised him as doing well for himself
but God said he did ill for himself: Thou fool, this night thy soul
shall be required of thee,
God said to him, that is, decreed this concerning him, and let
him know it, either by his conscience or by some awakening providence,
or rather by both together. This was said when he was in the
fulness of his sufficiency
when his eyes were held waking upon his bed with his cares and
contrivances about enlarging his barns, not by adding a bay or two more
of building to them, which might serve to answer the end, but by
pulling them down and building greater, which was requisite to please
his fancy. When he was forecasting this, and had brought it to an
issue, and then lulled himself asleep again with a pleasing dream of
many years' enjoyment of his present improvements, then God said
this to him. Thus Belshazzar was struck with terror by the hand-writing
on the wall, in the midst of his jollity. Now observe what God
[1.] The character he gave him: Thou fool, thou Nabal,
alluding to the story of Nabal, that fool (Nabal is his name,
and folly is with him) whose heart was struck dead as a stone
while he was regaling himself in the abundance of his provision for his
sheep-shearers. Note, Carnal worldlings are fools, and the day is
coming when God will call them by their own name, Thou fool, and
they will call themselves so.
[2.] The sentence he passed upon him, a sentence of death: This
night thy soul shall be required of thee; they shall require thy
soul (so the words are), and then whose shall those things be
which thou hast provided? He thought he had goods that should be
his for many years, but he must part from them this night; he
thought he should enjoy them himself, but he must leave them to he
knows not who. Note, The death of carnal worldlings is miserable in
itself and terrible to them.
First, It is a force, an arrest; it is the
requiring of the soul, that soul that thou art making such a
fool of; what hast thou to do with a soul, who canst use it no better?
Thy soul shall be required; this intimates that he is loth to
part with it. A good man, who has taken his heart off from this world,
cheerfully resigns his soul at death, and gives it up; but a worldly
man has it torn from him with violence; it is a terror to him to
think of leaving this world. They shall require thy soul. God
shall require it; he shall require an account of it. "Man, woman, what
hast thou done with thy soul. Give an account of that stewardship."
They shall; that is, evil angels as the messengers of God's
justice. As good angels receive gracious souls to carry them to their
joy, so evil angels receive wicked souls to carry them to the place of
torment; they shall require it as a guilty soul to be punished.
The devil requires thy soul as his own, for it did, in effect, give
itself to him.
Secondly, It is a surprize, an unexpected force.
It is in the night, and terrors in the night are most terrible.
The time of death is day-time to a good man; it is his morning. But it
is night to a worldling, a dark night; he lies down in sorrow.
It is this night, this present night, without delay;
there is no giving bail, or begging a day. This pleasant night,
when thou art promising thyself many years to come, now thou must die,
and go to judgment. Thou art entertaining thyself with the fancy of
many a merry day, and merry night, and merry feast; but, in the midst
of all, here is an end of all,
Thirdly, It is the leaving of all those things behind
which they have provided, which they have laboured for, and
prepared for hereafter, with abundance of toil and care. All that which
they have placed their happiness in, and built their hope upon, and
raised their expectations from, they must leave behind. Their pomp
shall not descend after them
but they shall go as naked out of the world as they came into it, and
they shall have no benefit at all by what they have hoarded up either
in death, in judgment, or in their everlasting state.
Fourthly, It is leaving them to they know not who: "Then
whose shall those things be? Not thine to be sure, and
thou knowest not what they will prove for whom thou didst design
them, thy children and relations, whether they will be wise or
whether such as will bless thy memory or curse it, be a credit to thy
family or a blemish, do good or hurt with what thou leavest them, keep
it or spend it; nay, thou knowest not but those for whom thou dost
design it may be prevented from the enjoyment of it, and it may be
turned to somebody else thou little thinkest of; nay, though thou
knowest to whom thou leavest it, thou knowest not to whom they will
leave it, or into whose hand it will come at last." If many a man could
have foreseen to whom his house would have come after his death, he
would rather have burned it than beautified it.
Fifthly, It is a demonstration of his folly. Carnal worldlings
are fools while they live: this their way is their folly
but their folly is made most evident when they die: at his end he
shall be a fool
for then it will appear that he took pains to lay up treasure in a
world he was hastening from, but took no care to lay it up in the world
he was hastening to.
Lastly, Here is the application of this parable
So is he, such a fool, a fool in God's judgment, a fool upon
record, that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards
God. This is the way and this is the end of such a man. Observe
1. The description of a worldly man: He lays up treasure for
himself, for the body, for the world, for himself in
opposition to God, for that self that is to be denied.
(1.) It is his error that he counts his flesh himself, as if the
body were the man. If self be rightly stated and
understood, it is only the true Christian that lays up treasure for
himself, and is wise for himself,
(2.) It is his error that he makes it his business to lay up for the
flesh, which he calls laying up for himself. All his labour
is for his mouth
making provision for the flesh.
(3.) It is his error that he counts those things his treasure
which are thus laid up for the world, and the body, and the life
that now is; they are the wealth he trusts to, and spends upon, and
lets out his affections toward.
(4.) The greatest error of all is that he is in no care to be rich
towards God, rich in the account of God, whose accounting us
rich makes us so
rich in the things of God, rich in faith
rich in good works, in the fruits of righteousness
(1 Timothy 6:18),
rich in graces, and comforts, and spiritual gifts. Many who have
abundance of this world are wholly destitute of that which will enrich
their souls, which will make them rich towards God, rich for
2. The folly and misery of a worldly man: So is he. Our Lord
Jesus Christ, who knows what the end of things will be, has here told
us what his end will be. Note, It is the unspeakable folly of the most
of men to mind and pursue the wealth of this world more than the wealth
of the other world, that which is merely for the body and for time,
more than that which is for the soul and eternity.
Inordinate Care Reproved.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you,
Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the
body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which
neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much
more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why
take ye thought for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin
not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was
not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the
field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will
he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink,
neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after:
and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things
shall be added unto you.
32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good
pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags
which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not,
where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord,
when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and
knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh
shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird
himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth
and serve them.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the
third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known
what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not
have suffered his house to be broken through.
40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an
hour when ye think not.
Our Lord Jesus is here inculcating some needful useful lessons upon his
disciples, which he had before taught them, and had occasion afterwards
to press upon them; for they need to have precept upon precept, and
line upon line: "Therefore, because there are so many that are
ruined by covetousness, and an inordinate affection to the wealth of
this world, I say unto you, my disciples, take heed of it."
Thou, O man of God, flee these things, as well as thou, O man of
1 Timothy 6:11.
I. He charges them not to afflict themselves with disquieting
perplexing cares about the necessary supports of life: Take no
thought for your life,
In the foregoing parable he had given us warning against that branch of
covetousness of which rich people are most in danger; and that is, a
sensual complacency in the abundance of this world's goods. Now
his disciples might think they were in no danger of this, for they had
no plenty or variety to glory in; and therefore he here warns them
against another branch of covetousness, which they are most in
temptation to that have but a little of this world, which was the case
of the disciples at best and much more now that they had left all to
follow Christ, and that was, an anxious solicitude about the
necessary supports of life: "Take no thought for your life,
either for the preservation of it, if it be in danger, or for the
provision that is to be made for it, either of food or clothing,
what ye shall eat or what ye shall put on." This is the
caution he had largely insisted upon,
&c.; and the arguments here used are much the same, designed for our
encouragement to cast all our care upon God, which is the right
way to ease ourselves of it. Consider then,
1. God, who has done the greater for us, may be depended upon to do the
less. He has, without any care or forecast of our own, given us
life and a body, and therefore we may cheerfully leave it
to him to provide meat for the support of that life, and
raiment for the defence of that body.
2. God, who provides for the inferior creatures, may be depended upon
to provide for good Christians. "Trust God for meat, for he
feeds the ravens
they neither sow nor reap, they take neither care nor pains
beforehand to provide for themselves, and yet they are fed, and
never perish for want. Now consider how much better ye are than the
fowls, than the ravens. Trust God for clothing, for he clothes the
they make no preparation for their own clothing, they toil not,
they spin not, the root in the ground is a naked thing, and
without ornament, and yet, as the flower grows up, it appears
wonderfully beautified. Now, if God has so clothed the flowers,
which are fading perishing things, shall he not much more clothe
you with such clothing as is fit for you, and with clothing suited to
your nature, as theirs is?" When God fed Israel with manna in
the wilderness, he also took care for their clothing; for though he did
not furnish them with new clothes, yet (which came all to one) he
provided that those they had should not wax old upon them,
Thus will he clothe his spiritual Israel; but then let them not be
of little faith. Note, Our inordinate cares are owing to the
weakness of our faith; for a powerful practical belief of the
all-sufficiency of God, his covenant-relation to us as a Father, and
especially his precious promises, relating both to this life and that
to come, would be mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the
strong holds of these disquieting perplexing imaginations.
3. Our cares are fruitless, vain, and insignificant, and therefore it
is folly to indulge them. They will not gain us our wishes, and
therefore ought not to hinder our repose
"Which of you by taking thought can add to his stature one
cubit, or one inch, can add to his age one year or one hour?
Now if ye be not able to do that which is least, if it be not in
your power to alter your statures, why should you perplex yourselves
about other things, which are as much out of your power, and about
which it is necessary that we refer ourselves to the providence of
God?" Note, As in our stature, so in our state, it is our
wisdom to take it as it is, and make the best of it; for
fretting and vexing, carping and caring, will not mend it.
4. An inordinate anxious pursuit of the things of this world, even
necessary things, very ill becomes the disciples of Christ
"Whatever others do, seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall
drink; do not you afflict yourselves with perplexing cares, nor
weary yourselves with constant toils; do not hurry hither and thither
with enquiries what you shall eat or drink, as David's enemies,
that wandered up and down for meat
or as the eagle that seeks the prey afar off,
Let not the disciples of Christ thus seek their food, but ask it
of God day by day; let them not be of doubtful mind; me
meteorizesthe--Be not as meteors in the air, that are
blown hither and thither with every wind; do not, like them,
rise and fall, but maintain a consistency with
yourselves; be even and steady, and have your hearts fixed; live not
in careful suspense; let not your minds be continually perplexed
between hope and fear, ever upon the rack." Let not the children of God
make themselves uneasy; for,
(1.) This is to make themselves like the children of this world:
"All these things do the nations of the world seek after,
They that take care for the body only, and not for the soul, for this
world only, and not for the other, look no further than what they shall
eat and drink; and, having no all-sufficient God to seek
to and confide in, they burden themselves with anxious cares about
those things. But it ill becomes you to do so. You, who are called out
of the world, ought not to be thus conformed to the world, and to
walk in the way of this people,"
When inordinate cares prevail over us, we should think, "What am I, a
Christian or a heathen? Baptized or not baptized? If a Christian, if
baptized, shall I rank myself with Gentiles, and join with them in
(2.) It is needless for them to disquiet themselves with care about the
necessary supports of life; for they have a Father in heaven who does
and will take care for them: "Your Father knows that you have need
of these things, and considers it, and will supply your needs
according to his riches in glory; for he is your Father,
who made you subject to these necessities, and therefore will
suit his compassions to them: your Father, who maintains
you, educates you, and designs an inheritance for you, and therefore
will take care that you want no good thing."
(3.) They have better things to mind and pursue
"But rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and mind this, you, my
disciples, who are to preach the kingdom of God; let your hearts
be upon your work, and your great care how to do that well, and this
will effectually divert your thoughts from inordinate care about things
of the world. And let all that have souls to save seek the kingdom
of God, in which only they can be safe. Seek admission into
it, seek advancement in it; seek the kingdom of grace, to be
subjects in that; the kingdom of glory, to be princes in that;
and then all these things shall be added to you. Mind the
affairs of your souls with diligence and care, and then trust God with
all your other affairs."
(4.) They have better things to expect and hope for: Fear not,
For the banishing of inordinate cares, it is necessary that fears
should be suppressed. When we frighten ourselves with an apprehension
of evil to come, we put ourselves upon the stretch of care how to avoid
it, when after all perhaps it is but the creature of our own
imagination. Therefore fear not, little flock, but hope to
the end; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the
kingdom. This comfortable word we had not in Matthew. Note,
[1.] Christ's flock in this world is a little flock; his sheep
are but few and feeble. The church is a vineyard, a garden, a small
spot, compared with the wilderness of this world; as Israel
(1 Kings 20:27),
who were like two little flocks of kids, when the Syrians filled the
[2.] Though it be a little flock, quite over-numbered, and
therefore in danger of being overpowered, by its enemies, yet it
is the will of Christ that they should not be afraid: "Fear not,
little flock, but see yourselves safe under the protection and
conduct of the great and good Shepherd, and lie easy."
[3.] God has a kingdom in store for all that belong to Christ's
little flock, a crown of glory
(1 Peter 5:4),
a throne of power
unsearchable riches, far exceeding the peculiar treasures of kings
and provinces. The sheep on the right hand are called to
come and inherit the kingdom; it is theirs for ever; a
kingdom for each.
[4.] The kingdom is given according to the good pleasure of the
Father; It is your Father's good pleasure; it is given not of
debt, but of grace, free grace, sovereign grace; even so, Father,
because it seemed good unto thee. The kingdom is his; and may he
not do what he will with his own?
[5.] The believing hopes and prospects of the kingdom should
silence and suppress the fears of Christ's little flock in this world.
"Fear no trouble; for, though it should come, it shall not come between
you and the kingdom, that is sure, it is near." (That is not an evil
worth trembling at the thought of which cannot separate us from the
love of God). "Fear not the want of any thing that is good for
you; for, if it be your Father's good pleasure to give you the
kingdom, you need not question but he will bear your charges
II. He charged them to make sure work for their souls, by laying up
their treasure in heaven,
Those who have done this may be very easy as to all the events of
1. "Sit loose to this world, and to all your possessions in it:
Sell that ye have, and give alms," that is, "rather than
want wherewith to relieve those that are truly necessitous, sell
what you have that is superfluous, all that you can spare from
the support of yourselves and families, and give it to the poor.
Sell what you have, if you find it a hindrance from, or incumbrance
in, the service of Christ. Do not think yourselves undone, if by being
fined, imprisoned, or banished, for the testimony of Jesus, you be
forced to sell your estates, thought they be the inheritance of your
fathers. Do not sell to hoard up the money, or because you
can make more of it by usury, but sell and give alms; what is
given in alms, in a right manner, is put out to the best
interest, upon the best security."
2. "Set your hearts upon the other world, and your expectations
from that world. Provide yourselves bags that wax not old, that
wax not empty, not of gold, but of grace in the heart and good works in
the life; these are the bags that will last." Grace will go with
us into another world, for it is woven in the soul; and our
good works will follow us, for God is not unrighteous to
forget them. These will be treasures in heaven, that will
enrich us to eternity.
(1.) It is treasure that will not be exhausted; we may spend
upon it to eternity, and it will not be at all the less; there is no
danger of seeing the bottom of it.
(2.) It is treasure that we are in no danger of being robbed of, for
no thief approaches near it; what is laid up in heaven is out of
reach of enemies.
(3.) It is treasure that will not spoil with keeping, any
more than it will waste with spending; the moth
does not corrupt it, as it does our garments which we now wear.
Now by this it appears that we have laid up our treasure in
heaven if our hearts be there while we are here
if we think much of heaven and keep our eye upon it, if we quicken
ourselves with the hopes of it and keep ourselves in awe with the fear
of falling short of it. But, if your hearts be set upon the earth and
the things of it, it is to be feared that you have your treasure and
portion in it, and are undone when you leave it.
III. He charges them to get ready, and to keep in a readiness for
Christ's coming, when all those who have laid up their treasure in
heaven shall enter upon the enjoyment of it,
1. Christ is our Master, and we are his servants, not
only working servants, but waiting servants, servants
that are to do him honour, in waiting on him, and attending his
motions: If any man serve me, let him follow me. Follow the Lamb
whithersoever he goes. But that is not all: they must do him honour
in waiting for him, and expecting his return. We must be as men
that wait for their Lord, that sit up late while he stays out
late, to be ready to receive him.
2. Christ our Master, though now gone from us, will return
again, return from the wedding, from solemnizing the
nuptials abroad, to complete them at home. Christ's servants are
now in a state of expectation, looking for their Master's glorious
appearing, and doing every thing with an eye to that, and in
order to that. He will come to take cognizance of his
servants, and, that being a critical day, they shall either stay
with him or be turned out of doors, according as they are found in that
3. The time of our Master's return is uncertain; it will be in the
night, it will be far in the night, when he has long
deferred his coming, and when many have done looking for him; in
the second watch, just before midnight, or in the third
watch, next after midnight,
His coming to us, at our death, is uncertain, and to many it will be a
great surprise; for the Son of Man cometh at an hour that ye think
without giving notice beforehand. This bespeaks not only the
uncertainty of the time of his coming, but the prevailing security of
the greatest part of men, who are unthinking, and altogether
regardless of the notices given them, so that, whenever he comes, it is
in an hour that they think not.
4. That which he expects and requires from his servants is that they be
ready to open to him immediately, whenever he comes
that is, that they be in a frame fit to receive him, or rather to be
received by him; that they be found as his servants, in the
posture that becomes them, with their loins girded about,
alluding to the servants that are ready to go whither their master
sends them, and do what their master bids them, having their long
garments tucked up (which otherwise would hang about them, and hinder
them), and their lights burning, with which to light their
master into the house, and up to his chamber.
5. Those servants will be happy who shall be found ready, and in a good
frame, when their Lord shall come
Blessed are those servants who, after having waited long,
continue in a waiting frame, until the hour that their Lord comes, and
are then found awake and aware of his first approach, of his first
knock; and again
Blessed are those servants, for then will be the time of their
preferment. Here is such an instance of honour done them as is scarcely
to be found among men: He will make them sit down to meat, and will
serve them. For the bridegroom to wait upon his bride at table is
not uncommon, but to wait upon his servants is not the manner of
men; yet Jesus Christ was among his disciples as one that
served, and did once, to show his condescension, gird
himself, and serve them, when he washed their feet
it signified the joy with which they shall be received into the other
world by the Lord Jesus, who is gone before, to prepare for them, and
has told them that his Father will honour them,
6. We are therefore kept at uncertainty concerning the precise
time of his coming that we may be always ready; for it is no thanks to
a man to be ready for an attack, if he know beforehand just the time
when it will be made: The good man of the house, if he had known
what hour the thief would have come, though he were ever so
careless a man, would yet have watched, and have
frightened away the thieves,
But we do not know at what hour the alarm will be given us, and
therefore are concerned to watch at all tines, and never to be off our
guard. Or this may intimate the miserable case of those who are
careless and unbelieving in this great matter. If the good man of
the house had had notice of his danger of being robbed such a
night, he would have sat up, and saved his house; but we have notice of
the day of the Lord's coming, as a thief in the night, to the
confusion and ruin of all secure sinners, and yet do not thus
watch. If men will take such care of their houses, O let us be
thus wise for our souls: Be ye therefore ready also, as ready as
the good man of the house would be if he knew what hour the thief
Vigilance and Exertion Inculcated.
41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable
unto us, or even to all?
42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise
steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to
give them their portion of meat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh
shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over
all that he hath.
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth
his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens,
and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh
not for him, and at a hour when he is not aware, and will cut
him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the
47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared
not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten
with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of
stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever
much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men
have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
49 I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it
be already kindled?
50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I
straitened till it be accomplished!
51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell
you, Nay; but rather division:
52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house
divided, three against two, and two against three.
53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son
against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the
daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her
daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in
I. Peter's question, which he put to Christ upon occasion of the
"Lord, speakest thou this parable to us that are thy constant
followers, to us that are ministers, or also to all that come to
be taught by thee, to all the hearers, and in them to all Christians?"
Peter was now, as often, spokesman for the disciples. We have reason to
bless God that there are some such forward men, that have a gift of
utterance; let those that are such take heed of being proud. Now Peter
desires Christ to explain himself, and to direct the arrow of the
foregoing parable to the mark he intended. He calls it a
parable, because it was not only figurative, but weighty, solid,
and instructive. Lord, said Peter, was it intended for us, or
for all? To this Christ gives a direct answer
What I say unto you, I say unto all. Yet here he seems to show
that the apostles were primarily concerned in it. Note, We are all
concerned to take to ourselves what Christ in his word designs for us,
and to enquire accordingly concerning it: Speakest thou this to
us? To me? Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears. Doth this word
belong to me? Speak it to my heart.
II. Christ's reply to this question, directed to Peter and the rest of
the disciples. If what Christ had said before did not so peculiarly
concern them, but in common with other Christians, who must all watch
and pray for Christ's coming, as his servants, yet this that
follows is peculiarly adapted to ministers, who are the stewards
in Christ's house. Now our Lord Jesus here tells them,
1. What was their duty as stewards, and what the trust
committed to them.
(1.) They are made rulers of God's household, under Christ,
whose own the house is; ministers derive an authority from Christ to
preach the gospel, and to administer the ordinances of Christ, and
apply the seals of the covenant of grace.
(2.) Their business is to give God's children and servants their
portion of meat, that which is proper for them and allotted to
them; convictions and comfort to those to whom they respectively
belong. Suum cuique--to every one his own. This is
rightly to divide the word of truth,
2 Timothy 2:15.
(3.) To give it to them in due season, at that time and in that
way which are most suitable to the temper and condition of those that
are to be fed; a word in season to him that is weary.
(4.) Herein they must approve themselves faithful and wise;
faithful to their Master, by whom this great trust is reposed in
them, and faithful to their fellow-servants, for whose benefit they are
put in trust; and wise to improve an opportunity of doing honour
to their Master, and service in the family. Ministers must be both
skilful and faithful.
2. What would be their happiness if they approved themselves faithful
Blessed is that servant,
(1.) That is doing, and is not idle, nor indulgent of his ease;
even the rulers of the household must be doing, and make
themselves servants of all.
(2.) That is so doing, doing as he should be, giving them their
portion of meat, by public preaching and personal application.
(3.) That is found so doing when his Lord comes; that perseveres
to the end, notwithstanding the difficulties he may meet with in the
way. Now his happiness is illustrated by the preferment of a steward
that has approved himself within a lower and narrower degree of
service; he shall be preferred to a larger and higher
He will make him ruler over all that he has, which was Joseph's
preferment in Pharaoh's court. Note, Ministers that obtain mercy of the
Lord to be faithful shall obtain further mercy to be abundantly
rewarded for their faithfulness in the day of the Lord.
3. What a dreadful reckoning there would be if they were treacherous
If that servant begin to be quarrelsome and profane, he shall be called
to an account, and severely punished. We had all this before in
Matthew, and therefore shall here only observe,
(1.) Our looking upon Christ's second coming as a thing at a distance
is the cause of all those irregularities which render the thought of it
terrible to us: He saith in his heart, My Lord delays his
coming. Christ's patience is very often misinterpreted his
delay, to the discouragement of his people, and the
encouragement of his enemies.
(2.) The persecutors of God's people are commonly abandoned to security
and sensuality; they beat their fellow-servants, and then eat
and drink with the drunken, altogether unconcerned either at their
own sin or their brethren's sufferings, as the king and Haman, who
sat down to drink when the city Shushan was perplexed. Thus they
drink, to drown the clamours of their own consciences, and baffle them,
which would otherwise fly in their faces.
(3.) Death and judgment will be very terrible to all wicked people, but
especially to wicked ministers. It will be a surprise to them: At an
hour when they are not aware. It will be the determining of them to
endless misery; they shall be cut in sunder, and have their portion
assigned them with the unbelievers.
4. What an aggravation it would be of their sin and punishment that
they knew their duty, and did not do it
That servant that knew his lord's will, and did it not, shall be
beaten with many stripes, shall fall under a sorer punishment; and
he that knew not shall be beaten with few stripes, his
punishment shall, in consideration of this, be mitigated. Here seems to
be an allusion to the law, which made a distinction between sins
committed through ignorance, and presumptuous sins
Num. xv. 29, 30),
as also to another law concerning the number of stripes given to a
malefactor, to be according to the nature of the crime,
(1.) Ignorance of our duty is an extenuation of sin. He that knew
not his lord's will, through carelessness and neglect, and his not
having such opportunities as some others had of coming to the knowledge
of it, and did things worthy of stripes, he shall be
beaten, because he might have known his duty better, but with
few stripes; his ignorance excuses in part, but not wholly. Thus
through ignorance the Jews put Christ to death
and Christ pleaded that ignorance in their excuse: They know not
what they do.
(2.) The knowledge of our duty is an aggravation of our sin: That
servant that knew his lord's will, and yet did his own will, shall
be beaten with many stripes. God will justly inflict more upon
him for abusing the means of knowledge he afforded him, which others
would have made a better use of, because it argues a great degree of
wilfulness and contempt to sin against knowledge; of how much sorer
punishment then shall they be thought worthy, besides the many stripes
that their own consciences will give them! Son, remember. Here is a
good reason for this added: To whomsoever much is given, of him
shall be much required, especially when it is committed as a
trust he is to account for. Those have greater capacities of mind than
others, more knowledge and learning, more acquaintance and converse
with the scriptures, to them much is given, and their account
will be accordingly.
III. A further discourse concerning his own sufferings, which he
expected, and concerning the sufferings of his followers, which he
would have them also to live in expectation of. In general
I am come to send fire on the earth. By this some understand the
preaching of the gospel, and the pouring out of the Spirit, holy fire;
this Christ came to send with a commission to refine the world, to
purge away its dross, to burn up its chaff, and it was already
kindled. The gospel was begun to be preached; some prefaces there
were to the pouring out of the Spirit. Christ baptized with the Holy
Ghost and with fire; this Spirit descended in fiery tongues. But, by
what follows, it seems rather to be understood of the fire of
persecution. Christ is not the Author of it, as it is the sin of
the incendiaries, the persecutors; but he permits it,
nay, he commissions it, as a refining fire for the
trial of the persecuted. This fire was already
kindled in the enmity of the carnal Jews to Christ and his
followers. "What will I that it may presently be kindled? What thou
doest, do quickly. If it be already kindled, what will I? Shall I
wait the quenching of it? No, for it must fasten upon myself,
and upon all, and glory will redound to God from it."
1. He must himself suffer many things; he must pass through this fire
that was already kindled
I have a baptism to be baptized with. Afflictions are compared
both to fire and water,
Christ's sufferings were both. He calls them a baptism
for he was watered or sprinkled with them, as Israel was baptized in
the cloud, and dipped into them, as Israel was baptized in the
1 Corinthians 10:2.
He must be sprinkled with his own blood, and with the blood of his
(1.) Christ's foresight of his sufferings; he knew what he was
to undergo, and the necessity of undergoing it: I am to be baptized
with a baptism. He calls his sufferings by a name that
mitigates them; it is a baptism, not a deluge; I must be
dipped in them, not drowned in them; and by a name that
sanctifies them, for baptism is a name that sanctifies
them, for baptism is a sacred rite. Christ in his sufferings
devoted himself to his Father's honour, and consecrated
himself a priest for evermore,
(2.) Christ's forwardness to his sufferings: How am I
straitened till it be accomplished! He longed for the time when he
should suffer and die, having an eye to the glorious issue of his
sufferings. It is an allusion to a woman in travail, that is pained
to be delivered, and welcomes her pains, because they hasten the
birth of the child, and wishes them sharp and strong, that the
work may be cut short. Christ's sufferings were the
travail of his soul, which he cheerfully underwent, in hope that
he should by them see his seed,
So much was his heart set upon the redemption and salvation of man.
2. He tells those about him that they also must bear with hardships and
"Suppose ye that I came to give peace on earth, to give you a
peaceable possession of the earth, and outward prosperity on the
earth?" It is intimated that they were ready to entertain such a
thought as this, nay, that they went upon this supposition, that the
gospel would meet with a universal welcome, that people
unanimously embrace it, and would therefore study to make the
preachers of it easy and great, that Christ, if he did
not give them pomp and power, would at least give them
peace; and herein they were encouraged by divers passages of the
Old Testament, which speak of the peace of the Messiah's kingdom, which
they were willing to understand of external peace. "But," saith Christ,
"you will be mistaken, the event will declare the contrary, and
therefore do not flatter yourselves into a fool's paradise. You will
(1.) "That the effect of the preaching of the gospel will be
division." Not but that the design of the gospel and its proper
tendency are to unite the children of men to one another, to knit them
together in holy love, and, if all would receive it, this would be the
effect of it; but there being multitudes that not only will not receive
it, but oppose it, and have their corruptions exasperated by it, and
are enraged at those that do receive it, it proves, though not the
cause yet the occasion of division. While the
strong man armed kept his palace, in the Gentile world, his
goods were at peace; all was quiet, for all went one way, the sects
of philosophers agreed well enough, so did the worshippers of different
deities; but when the gospel was preached, and many were enlightened by
it, and turned from the power of Satan to God, then there was a
disturbance, a noise and a shaking,
Some distinguished themselves by embracing the gospel, and
others were angry that they did so. Yea, and among them that received
the gospel there would be different sentiments in minor things, which
would occasion division; and Christ permits it for holy ends
(1 Corinthians 11:18),
that Christians may learn and practise mutual forbearance,
(2.) "That this division will reach into private families, and
the preaching of the gospel will give occasion for discord among the
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the
father, when the one turns Christian and the other does not; for
the one that does turn Christian will be zealous by arguments and
endearments to turn the other too,
1 Corinthians 7:16.
As soon as ever Paul was converted, he disputed,
The one that continues in unbelief will be provoked, and will hate and
persecute the one that by his faith and obedience witnesses against,
and condemns, his unbelief and disobedience. A spirit of bigotry and
persecution will break through the strongest bonds of relation and
natural affection; see
Even mothers and daughters fall out about religion; and
those that believe not are so violent and outrageous that they are
ready to deliver up into the hands of the bloody persecutors those that
believe, though otherwise very near and dear to them. We find in the
Acts that, wherever the gospel came, persecution was
stirred up; it was every where spoken against, and there
was no small stir about that way. Therefore let not the
disciples of Christ promise themselves peace upon earth, for
they are sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Reconciliation to God.
54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out
of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it
55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be
heat; and it cometh to pass.
56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of
the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as
thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be
delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge
deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into
59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast
paid the very last mite.
Having given his disciples their lesson in the foregoing verses,
here Christ turns to the people, and gives them theirs,
He said also to the people: he preached ad populum--to the
people, as well as ad clerum--to the clergy. In general, he
would have them be as wise in the affairs of their souls as they are in
their outward affairs. Two things he specifies:--
I. Let them learn to discern the way of God towards them, that
they may prepare accordingly. They were weather-wise, and
by observing the winds and clouds could foresee when there would be
rain and when there would be hot weather
and, according as they foresaw the weather would be, they either housed
their hay and corn, or threw it abroad, and equipped themselves for a
journey? Even in regard to changes of the weather God gives warning to
us what is coming, and art has improved the notices of nature in
weather-glasses. The prognostications here referred to had their origin
in repeated observations upon the chain of causes: from what has
been we conjecture what will be. See the benefit of
experience; by taking notice we may come to give notice.
Whose is wise will observe and learn. See now.
1. The particulars of the presages: "When you see a cloud arising
out of the west" (the Hebrew would say, out of the sea),
"perhaps it is at first no bigger than a man's hand
(1 Kings 18:44),
but you say, There is a shower in the womb of it, and it proves so.
When you observe the south wind blow, you say, There
will be heat" (for the hot countries of Africa lay not far south
from Judea), "and it usually comes to pass;" yet nature has not
ties itself to such a track but that sometimes we are mistaken
in our prognostics.
2. The inferences from them
"Ye hypocrites, who pretend to be wise, but really are not so,
who pretend to expect the Messiah and his kingdom" (for so the
generality of the Jews did) "and yet are no way disposed to receive and
entertain it, how is it that you do not discern this time, that
you do not discern that now is the time, according to the indications
given in the Old-Testament prophecies, for the Messiah to appear, and
that, according to the marks given of him, I am he? Why are you not
aware that you have now an opportunity which you will not have
long, and which you may never have again, of securing to
yourselves an interest in the kingdom of God and the privileges of that
kingdom?" Now is the accepted time, now or never. It is the
folly and misery of man that he knows not his time,
This was the ruin of the men of that generation, that they knew not
the day of their visitation,
But a wise man's heart discerns time and judgment; such was the
wisdom of the men of Issachar, who had understanding of the
1 Chronicles 12:32.
He adds, "Yea, and why even of yourselves, though ye had not
these loud alarms given you, judge ye not what is right?
You are not only stupid and regardless in matters that are purely of
divine revelation, and take not the hints which that gives you, but you
are so even in the dictates of the very light and law of nature."
Christianity has reason and natural conscience on its side; and, if men
would allow themselves the liberty of judging what is right,
they would soon find that all Christ's precepts concerning all things
are right, and that there is nothing more equitable in itself, nor
better becoming us, than to submit to them and be ruled by them.
II. Let them hasten to make their peace with God in time, before
it be too late,
This we had upon another occasion,
1. We reckon it our wisdom in our temporal affairs to compound
with those with whom we cannot contend, to agree with our
adversary upon the best terms we can, before the equity be
foreclosed, and we be left to the rigour of the law: "When
thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, to whom the
appeal is made, and knowest that he has an advantage against thee, and
thou art in danger of being cast, thou knowest it is the most prudent
course to make the matter up between yourselves; as thou art in the
way, give diligence to be delivered from him, to get a discharge,
lest judgment be given, and execution awarded according to law." Wise
men will not let their quarrels go to an extremity, but accommodate
them in time.
2. Let us do thus in the affairs of our souls. We have by sin made God
our adversary, have provoked his displeasure against us, and he
has both right and might on his side; so that it is to no
purpose to think of carrying on the controversy with him either at
bar or in battle. Christ, to whom all judgment is
committed, is the magistrate before whom we are hastening to appear: if
we stand a trial before him, and insist upon our own justification, the
cause will certainly go against us, the Judge will
deliver us to the officer, the ministers of his justice,
and we shall be cast into the prison of hell, and the
debt will be exacted to the utmost; though we cannot make a full
satisfaction for it, it will be continually demanded, till the last
mite be paid, which will not be to all eternity. Christ's
sufferings were short, yet the value of them made them fully
satisfactory. In the sufferings of damned sinners what is wanting in
value must be made up in an endless duration. Now, in consideration of
this, let us give diligence to be delivered out of the hands of
God as an adversary, into his hands as a Father, and this as we are
in the way, which has the chief stress laid upon it here. While we
are alive, we are in the way; and now is our time,
by repentance and faith through Christ (who is the Mediator as well as
the magistrate), to get the quarrel made up, while it may be done,
before it be too late. Thus was God in Christ reconciling the world
to himself, beseeching us to be reconciled. Let us take hold on the
arm of the Lord stretched out in this gracious offer, that we may make
peace, and we shall make peace
for we cannot walk together till we be agreed.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Luke' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".