Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;Matthew 19:1-2 Christ healeth the sick,
Matthew 19:3-12 answereth the question of the Pharisees concerning
divorce, and the objection of his disciples to the
expediency of marriage,
Matthew 19:13-15 receiveth little children with tenderness,
Matthew 19:16-22 instructs a young man how to attain eternal life, and
how to become perfect,
Matthew 19:23-26 showeth how hard it is for a rich man to enter into
the kingdom of God,
Matthew 19:27-30 and promises great rewards to his disciples, and to
all who have forsaken aught to follow him.
See Poole on "Matthew 19:2".
And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.Ver. 1,2. Most interpreters agree that both Mark, Mark 10:1, and Luke 9:51, make mention of the same motion of our Saviour out of Galilee into the province of Judea which is here expressed, though Luke and John mention, something largely, some things done in the way, of which Matthew speaketh not. He departed from Galilee. Our Saviour had hitherto spent his time mostly in Galilee. The country of the Jews was divided into three provinces, Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Galilee was the more northerly part of the country, and was divided into the Upper Galilee, which is also called Galilee of the Gentiles, Matthew 4:15, and the Lower Galilee, which was contiguous to it, but lay more southerly, and adjoined to Samaria. Our Saviour dwelt at Nazareth a long time. Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, were all cities of Galilee. He is now taking his leave of this province, into which he never returned more. His next way into Judea lay through Samaria, (for Samaria lay in the middle between Galilee and Judea), and through part of it he did go, for, Luke 9:52,53, some inhabitants of a village belonging to the Samaritans refused to receive him.
And came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. This phrase hath caused some difficulty to interpreters, because Judea was bounded by Jordan, and had no coasts beyond it. Some say that the term beyond Jordan must be applied to he came, he came beyond Jordan to the coasts of Judea. Others say, that as men came out of Egypt, the coasts of Judea were beyond Jordan, Matthew 4:15. But some think it should be there translated, by Jordan: the word peran signifies any border, or side of a border.
Beyond Jordan, therefore, is on the border of Jordan, and possibly were better translated so, seeing the word will bear it, and there were no coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. It is probable that our Saviour, coming out of Galilee into Samaria, kept on the left hand near to Jordan, till he came into Judea, which also bordered on that river. Wherever he went
great multitudes followed him, but more for healing their bodies, or for the loaves, than for the feeding or healing of their souls; so different is most people’s sense of their bodily and spiritual wants.
He healed them, the text saith; but it saith not, they believed in him.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?Our Saviour, though yet at some distance from Jerusalem, was come into that province where the Pharisees had the greatest power, and were in greater numbers: now they come to him,
tempting him; where the word tempting rather signifies, generally, making a trial of him, than strictly, soliciting him to sin; they came (as appeareth by their question) to make a trial whether they could entrap him, and get any determination from him of a point for which they might accuse him. The question they propound to him is,
Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? The word here translated cause, signifieth not cause, or occasion, but crime also. So it may be translated crime; but they did not only put away their wives for crimes, but upon any occasion, in abuse of that text, Deu 24:1, When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her; which the Pharisees had interpreted of any kind of deformity, or natural infirmity, not merely of moral uncleanness. Had our Saviour now answered Yes, he had contradicted what he had formerly delivered, Matthew 5:32; had he denied, they had trapped him as contradicting the law of Moses, Deu 24:1, according to their interpretation of it. So they had whereof to accuse him.
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,See Poole on "Matthew 19:6".
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?See Poole on "Matthew 19:6".
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.Ver. 4-6. Mark, Mark 10:2-9, giveth us the same history of this discourse, differing a little in the order of the words, but nothing as to the substance of his discourse. Our Saviour answereth neither Yea nor Nay to their discourse, but gives them a fair occasion to answer themselves, and tacitly charges them with ignorance and corruption of the law of God. He refers them to the first institution of marriage, and for that to the book of Genesis, Genesis 1:27 2:24. It is as much as if our Lord had said, You own the book of Genesis, as well as the book of Deuteronomy. In the book of Genesis you read the first institution of marriage: it was instituted by God himself; he made male and female, Genesis 1:27; he made the law of marriage, Genesis 2:24, that a man (should) leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they (should) be one flesh; from whence he concludes that the man and wife are one flesh in God’s account. From hence he leaves them to conclude, whether it was probable that Moses, whom they so reverenced, and who was so faithful in the house of God as a servant, would license them to put asunder whom God had put together; or whether they had not put an interpretation upon the law of Moses which it could not bear in consistency with the law of God. For the sense of those words, Genesis 1:27 2:24, see the notes on those places. See Poole on "Genesis 1:27". See Poole on "Genesis 2:24".
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?See Poole on "Matthew 19:8".
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.Ver. 7,8. Mark reports this a little differently, Mark 10:3 &c., as if Christ had first said unto them. What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept, & c. The substance of our Saviour’s answer seemeth to be this: Moses gave you no positive command in the case, he could not make a law directly opposite to the law of my Father; but Moses saw the wantonness and wickedness of your hearts, that you would turn away your wives without any just and warrantable cause; and to restrain your extravagances of cruelty to your wives, or disorderly turning them off upon any occasion, he made a law that none should put away his wife but upon a legal cognizance of the cause, and giving her a bill of divorce. Indeed possibly this bill of divorce was sometimes judicially granted upon irregular causes, and Moses might connive at it for the preventing of greater evils, because you were always a hard hearted and stiff necked people; and you by your traditions have expounded that law beyond Moses’s intention, and made a bill of divorce grantable in cases which he never thought of, nor intended in that law. But the measures of lawfulness are neither to be taken from Moses’s temporary toleration and connivance, nor much less from your traditions and expositions of the law of Moses, but from the original institution of marriage, and from God’s original law relating to it: now God at first made but one woman for one man, and so united them that he styled them one flesh; so as he who puts away his wife, doth as it were divide and tear his own flesh piece from piece, which is barbarous, inhuman, and unnatural. And the law of God was not, that a man should forsake his wife whenever he had a mind to it, but that he should rather forsake his father and mother than his wife; that he should cleave to his wife, living and dwelling with her, as a man of knowledge; not hating his own flesh; loving his wife as his own body, loving and cherishing her, Ephesians 5:28,29. Now how can this possibly consist with a man’s putting away his wife upon every little and trivial cause of offence or dislike unto her.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.We met with the like determination of our Lord’s upon this question Matthew 5:32, only there it was (instead of committeth adultery) causeth her to commit adultery, that is, in case she married again. Here our Lord saith the like of the husband: we have the same, Mark 10:11 Luke 16:18. The reason is this: Because nothing but adultery dissolves the knot and band of marriage, though they be thus illegally separated, yet according to the law of God, they are still man and wife. Some have upon these words made a question whether it be lawful for the husband or the wife separated for adultery to marry again while each other liveth. As to the party offending, it may be a question; but as to the innocent person offended, it is no question, for the adultery of the person offending hath dissolved the knot of marriage by the Divine law. It is true that the knot cannot be dissolved without the freedom of both persons each from another, but yet it seemeth against reason that both persons should have the like liberty to a second marriage. For,
1. The adulteress is by God’s law a dead woman, and so in no capacity to a second marriage.
2. It is unreasonable that she should make an advantage of her own sin and error.
3. This might be the occasion of adultery, to give a wicked person a legal liberty to satisfy an extravagant lust.
But for the innocent person, it is as unreasonable that he or she should be punished for the sin of another. But what our Saviour saith here, and in the other parallel texts, is undoubtedly to be understood of husbands and wives put away not for adultery, but for other light and trivial causes, for which by the law of God no divorce is allowed.
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.This is a very strange saying, and discovers to us both the imperfect state of Christ’s disciples, and also the tyranny of a sinful practice grown up into a custom. The Jews had assumed a liberty of turning their wives out of doors upon every light and trivial offence or dislike; the disciples think, if this licentiousness may not be allowed it is not good to marry. So a holy institution of God, ordained for the propagation of mankind, for the restraint of extravagant lust, and for the solace and comfort of man’s life, should be despised, rather than those unquiet lusts and corruptions mortified, the mortification of which would have made those irregular separations both needless and undesirable. Surely they should rather have said, If the case of a man be so with his wife, then both husbands and wives had need to learn to deny themselves, to comply each with another, to silence their brutish and boisterous passions, that, being the same flesh, they might also have one and the same spirit, and not be like a diseased piece of flesh, where humours so quarrel that one piece need be cut off to preserve the other. But the best of men have their infirmities; and, as the Hebrews said, Spiritus Dei non semper tangit corda prophetarum, The Spirit of God was not always upon the hearts of the prophets; so it is as true, Spiritius Dei non semper et ubique tangit corda fidelium, All that the saints say is not gospel. Their flesh hath its turn to speak, as well as the Spirit in them. A sinful liberty conceded, indulged, or connived at, by the laws, or by the rulers of a church or place where we live, for a long time, is not easily restrained, and even good men may for a time be carried away with the error of it, so as they cannot discern it, be convinced of it, or be brought clear of it to a conformity to the will of God.
But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.See Poole on "Matthew 19:12".
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.Ver. 11,12. Our Saviour, knowing the sinful custom and practice of the Jewish nation now for many years, and giving some allowance for that, and his disciples’ infirmities; so he doth not answer them severely, as what they said might deserve, but reproves them gently. What he saith amounts to thus much: You do not consider what you say.
All men, without sinning against God, cannot abstain from marriage. An ability to live chastely without the use of marriage is a peculiar gift of God, and your saying hath no place in persons to whom God hath not given that gift, for it is better to marry than to burn. There are some whom God by nature hath made unfit for marriage. There are others whom men (wickedly) make unfit for it, that they may gratify their own jealousy. (Thus several courtiers were made eunuchs, and so entrusted with the care of princes’ wives and concubines). And there are some who have made themselves eunuchs, not castrating themselves, (that is wickedness), but abstaining from marriage, and yet living chastely, (having mortified their lusts, and brought under their body), that they might be less encumbered with the cares of the world, and be more free for the work of the ministry, or be able more to give up themselves to a holy life and spiritual conversation. But God, who by his ordinance of marriage designed to people and continue the world, hath given to persons different tempers and constitutions; so as possibly the most of men and women cannot without making use of marriage govern their lusts. As to these, marriage is not a matter of choice and deliberation, and they may and ought to use it as an appointment of God, for the ends for which he hath instituted it. If there be any who can receive this saying, who can without marriage bridle his lust, and so live in a solute and single state as not to sin against God by any extravagance of lusts, and impure desires and affections, and desire, and shall do so, that he may be more spiritual, and serve God with less distraction, and be a more fit instrument to promote the kingdom of God in the world, let him do it.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.Mark saith, Mark 10:13, and Luke saith, Luke 18:15, they were brought that he should touch them. A doubt may from this text arise in the reader’s mind, for what purpose the parents or nurses did bring these young children to Christ. It was not for baptism, for he baptized none himself, John 4:2. It is not likely it was for healing; for though our Saviour in such cases did sometimes touch or lay his hand upon the sick persons, yet it is not likely that in that case the disciples would have rebuked them, knowing that their Master used to heal such as were brought to him. It must therefore unquestionably be, that he might bless them. Matthew here saith,
that he should put his hands on them, and pray. The putting of hands upon persons when they blessed them, or prayed for a blessing on persons, was a very usual rite and custom amongst the Jews.
Without all contradiction (saith the apostle, Hebrews 7:7) the less is blessed of the better. It was a custom amongst the Jews to bring persons to those whom they looked upon as excelling in holiness, to be blessed and commended to God by their prayers, Genesis 27:4 48:14. The parents or nurses of these children by this act declared that they looked upon Christ as some great Prophet in favour with God, and whose prayers could prevail with God, and whose blessing was considerable as to these little ones.
The disciples rebuked them, as thinking they were too troublesome to their Master, and not understanding what children in health had to do with their Master, nor perhaps having before seen such a precedent.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.See poole on "Matthew 19:15".
And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.Ver. 14,15. Both Mark and Luke add something to this story. Mark saith, Mark 10:14-16, When Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. Luke saith the same, Luke 18:16, only he saith, he called them unto him, and leaves out what Mark hath, Mark 10:16 of Christ taking them up in his arms, putting his hands upon them, and blessing them. From this text divines will prove the baptism of children, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven; which whether we understand of the church, and the dispensation of the grace of Christ under the gospel, viz. that the gospel church is made up of infants as well as more adult persons, or that the grace of Christ under the gospel, viz. remission of sins through the blood of Christ, doth belong to some children, as well as to grown persons; or of the kingdom of glory, viz. children shall go to heaven as well as grown persons; the argument is well drawn from this text, Those who have a right to a membership in the church are to be baptized; or, Those who have a right to the kingdom of glory may be baptized. But one or both of these are affirmed in this text. We must take heed we do not found infant baptism upon the example of Christ in this text, for it is certain that he did not baptize these children; Mark only saith, he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. The argument for infant baptism from this text is founded upon his words, uttered on this occasion, not upon his practice. Mark addeth, that our Saviour told them, that unless a man received the kingdom of God as a little child, he could not enter into it. But we opened those words before, Matthew 18:3, where we met with the same in effect.
See Poole on "Matthew 18:3".
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?This history is reported by Mark, Mark 10:17-23 and by Luke, Luke 18:18-25. Mark saith, When he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life? Luke saith, A certain ruler asked him. Our Lord was now in his way from Galilee to Judea and to Jerusalem. There cometh a person, a ruler, whether of some of the synagogues, or in some place of civil magistracy, the Scripture saith not. He runs, he kneels to him, (paying him at least a civil homage, as to his superior), he salutes him with the ordinary title they gave to their teachers, Master, Good Master; he propounds a grave question to him, what he should do that he might get to heaven; but yet he doth not propound the question in those terms, but,
What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? It appeareth by his respect showed to Christ at his coming, and by the question proposed, and by his going away sorrowful when our Saviour’s answer did not satisfy him, that he did not come upon any captious design to entrap our Saviour, but out of a desire to learn; but yet it appeareth plainly that he was a Pharisee, or a disciple of the Pharisees; and thought his life was in his own hands, that he had a power in himself to do some good thing by which he might merit eternal life, or upon the doing of which he might at least obtain everlasting life, though not as a strict reward for his work, without any consideration of a Messias. He grants an eternal state, he declares his desire of an eternal happiness, he declares his readiness to do some good thing that he might obtain it.
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.Mark omits the latter clause, and only saith, Thou knowest the commandments; so saith Luke, Luke 18:19,20. Our Saviour’s design here was, not to show this young man by this answer the way by which it was possible that he or any other might come to heaven, but only to convince him of the errors of the Pharisaical doctrine. They would not own Christ to be God, nor to be come forth from God; they taught eternal life to be obtainable by the works of the law, and by a fulfilling of the law, according to that imperfect sense which they gave of it, of which we heard much, in Matthew 5:1-48. Now, saith our Saviour, seeing you will not own me to be God, nor yet to have come from God,
why callest thou me good? There is none originally, essentially, and absolutely good, but God: there is none derivatively good, but he derives his goodness from God. How callest thou me good, whom thou wilt neither own to be God, nor to derive from God?
But if thou will enter into life, keep the commandments. This was the doctrine of the Pharisees, That men might keep the commandments. Saith our Saviour, The way to eternal life, according to your doctrine, is plain before thee. You say, men may perfectly keep the commandments of God. He that doth so shall be saved. Therefore
keep the commandments. Not that our Saviour thought he could do it, or that there did lie a passable road to heaven that way, but that he might convince him of his error, and the need he had of a Saviour.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,See Poole on "Matthew 19:19".
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.Ver. 18,19. Mark addeth, defraud not, Mark 10:19, but Luke doth not put it in, Luke 18:20. Three things we may observe:
1. There are no commandments mentioned but those of the second table.
2. Nor are they reckoned up in order.
3. The tenth commandment is expressed by, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; which elsewhere our Saviour calls the second great commandment, and makes comprehensive of all the commandments of the second table.
We must not from our Saviour’s order here, in the enumeration of the commandments, either conclude that the precepts of the second table are greater than those of the first, or that it is enough to keep them in order to eternal life: nor yet, that the fifth commandment is lesser than the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, because it is put after them. But;
1. Our Saviour had reckoned up commandments enough to convince this man that he could not by keeping the commandments hope for eternal life.
2. He had reckoned those, by some of which he intended by and by to convince him that he had not kept the commandments.
3. And those of the non observation of which it was most easy to convince him.
4. The Pharisees looked upon these as the most vulgar and easy commandments.
5. Because love to our neighbour is an excellent evidence of our love to God.
As concerning the order in which they are enumerated, it was not our Saviour’s business here to show which was the greatest commandment; that he hath elsewhere determined, calling, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c., the first and great commandment: here he is not solicitous about the order.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?Those words, what lack I yet? are not in Mark or Luke. The young man understood these commandments according to the Pharisees’ interpretation of them, who, as we heard, Matthew 5:1-48, interpreted them only as prohibiting the overt acts, not the inward lusts and motions of the heart, together with the means or occasions leading to such acts. Paul saith, he had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet, Romans 7:7. Men that deceive themselves with false glosses and interpretations may think they keep the commandments of God, and be very confident of a righteousness in themselves; but it is impossible others should be so. What lack I yet? He expected Christ should have set him some new task, and was not aware that he only wanted a better knowledge and understanding of the law to convince him of his mistake.
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.Mark repeats it thus, Mark 10:21, Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Luke, Luke 18:22, repeats it as Matthew, only he begins it with, Yet lackest thou one thing. Mark saith, that Jesus beholding him loved him: not with a special saving love, for he sent him away sad; upon his going he tells his disciples, that it was a very hard thing for a rich man to come to heaven; he tells him one thing was wanting to him: but he loved him with such a common love as he loveth all his creatures with, and more especially such as are better than others. All that can be concluded from hence is, that acts of moral righteousness are pleasing to God. He saith to him, If thou wilt be perfect, that is, in keeping the commandments of God. The papists make a great deal of stir to found upon this text their counsels of perfection; as if Christ here were advising only the young man to do something beyond what the law strictly required, in order to a more perfect state than others. But that this cannot be the sense of the words will appear to him who will diligently consider;
1. That this had been needless, for our Saviour, in directing the young man to keep the commandments in order to his obtaining everlasting life, had sufficiently declared that the keeping of the commandments was perfection enough.
2. He says, One thing is wanting to thee, that is, in order to thy obtaining everlasting life, which had not been true if our Saviour had granted him to have kept all the commandments, for he had before let him know that the keeping them was sufficient. Our Saviour therefore, by this speech, only endeavours to convince him that he had not kept all the commandments.
But it may be objected, How could that be, for there was no commandment that obliged him to go sell all that he had, and give to the poor? I answer, there was a commandment that he should love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and strength, which he could not do unless he had a heart ready to obey any command God should lay upon him, which our Saviour puts upon the trial by this special precept:
3. There was a commandment of God that he should love his neighbour as himself, and that he should not covet. Now not to be ready at the commandment of God liberally to relieve the poor members of Christ, argued a covetous mind, more in love with his estate than with God; so as though this was not before specially commanded, yet it was commanded generally, and that he would have understood had he rightly understood the law of God; especially having such a promise annexed as thou shalt have treasure in heaven.
4. Nor must all the command be taken to be included in those Go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; but the following words must also be taken in, and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Perfection here is not made to lie in a voluntary poverty only, but in coming after and following of Christ, with a free taking up of the cross.
In short, no man can be perfect in keeping the commandments of God, that doth not love God with all his heart, soul, and strength; nor can any man pretend to this, that hath not a heart ready to obey God in all things, whether more generally or more specially commanded. Nor can any man fulfil the duties of the second table, without first fulfil the duties of the first: for if our love to our neighbour flow not from a love to God, it is no act of obedience, and consequently no fulfilling of the law; which is not fulfilled by mere doing the external duty of it, but by doing what is required in it out of an obedience unto God, which cannot be without a first loving God.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.Mark saith the same, Mark 10:22; so doth Luke, Luke 18:23. He was sorry that he had ever propounded the question, or that the terms were such as his covetous heart could not comply with. He would have had heaven if he could have had it cheap; or, it may be, he would have parted with something for it; but to sell all was a hard saying! Or he was sorry to see himself so confuted, and convinced that, whatsoever he dreamed, he had not kept the commandments, and had not a heart prepared to obey God in one thing. It is not said, because he loved his great possessions, but,
for he had great possessions; yet the first is intended. It is a hard thing for us to have a great concern in the world, and not to love it more than God.
He went away; he would hear no more of that discourse. How many would have heaven if they might have it upon their own terms! How few are willing to come up to God’s terms! How false and deceitful are our hearts! They will persuade us we have done all, when indeed we have done nothing, nor are prepared to do any thing in truth and sincerity. We are not perfect, something is wanting to us, till to will to do whatsoever God requireth of us be present with us, though, when it comes to, we may want strength to perform.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.See Poole on "Matthew 19:24".
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.Ver. 23,24. Mark saith, Mark 10:23-25, And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Luke saith, Luke 18:24,25, And when Jesus saw that he was sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Our Lord, seeing the young man that came to him so briskly, with such a zeal for his soul, and appearing warmth of desire to be instructed in the right way to heaven, and asking for a task to be set him; first, what good thing he should do in order to that end, then calling for more; when our Saviour had reckoned up some commandments to be observed, What lack I yet? saith he; go away quite damped and sorrowful when our Saviour said not to him, Give thy body to be burned; no, nor yet, Cut off a right hand or foot, or pluck out a right eye; only part with some of thy circumstances, Sell that thou hast and give to the poor; a thing he might have done, and have been a man still perfect, both as to his essential and integral parts: he hence takes occasion to discourse with his disciples the danger of riches, and the ill influence they have upon men’s souls, with relation to their eternal welfare. Luke and Mark say he spake it by way of question, How hardly? Matthew delivereth it as spoken positively,
A rich man shall hardly enter, & c. The sense is the same, only the interrogation seems to aggravate the difficulty, and to fortify, the affirmation, as much as to say, A rich man shall very hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The disciples were astonished at this, (saith Mark), which made our Saviour say it over again, with a little exposition, How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! Which exposition is so far from a correction or abatement of the severity of his former speech, that some judge it rather a confirmation of it, for he goes on with saying,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But why should this astonish the disciples, who had no reason upon this account to fear for themselves, who had forsaken all to follow Christ? Possibly, because it was so contrary to the common opinion of the world, who did not only, as in Malachi’s time, call the proud happy, but thought God had scarce any favour for any but the rich; in opposition to which Christ, Luke 6:20,24, blesseth the poor, and pronounces woes to the rich, as having received their consolation. As to the words themselves, the design of our Saviour in them was not to condemn riches, as in themselves damnable; nor yet to deny salvation to all rich persons: our Lord knew that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, were all rich persons, and yet in heaven; so was David and Solomon, &c. He also knew that riches are the gifts of God, good things, not in themselves pernicious. His design was only to show that they are dangerous temptations, soliciting and enticing our hearts into so great a love of them, and affection to them, as is not consistent with our duty with reference to God; and giving the heart of man such advantages for the lusts of pride, covetousness, ambition, oppression, luxury, (some or other of which are predominant in all souls), that it is very hard for a rich man so far to deny himself, as to do what he must do if ever he will be saved. For those words in Mark, them that trust in riches, I take them rather to give the reason of the difficulty, than to be an abatement of what he had before said; for to trust in riches, is to place a happiness in them, to promise ourselves a security from them, so as to be careless of a further happiness, Psalm 49:6 52:7 1 Timothy 6:17. That which makes it so hard for a rich man to be saved, is the difficulty of having riches and not placing our felicity in them, being secure because of them, and having our hearts cleave unto them, so as we cannot deny ourselves in them to obey any command of God; and the suffering them to be temptations to us to pride, luxury ambition, oppression, contempt and despising of others, covetousness, &c. Upon these accounts our Saviour goeth on and saith, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Which doubtless was a proverbial expression, in use then amongst the Jews, to signify a thing of great difficulty, by terms importing impossibility: or else the phrase may signify an impossibility without the extraordinary influence of Divine grace, as our Saviour seemeth to expound it in the next verses.
When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?See Poole on "Matthew 19:26".
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.Ver. 25,26. Mark saith, They were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, & c. All three evangelists agree in the same substance of the other words. But why are the disciples amazed? or why do they say, Who then can be saved? Are there not in all places more poor than rich persons? The disciples might reasonably conclude, that poor persons were by their poverty also exposed to many great and dangerous temptations; that even they, though they had not riches, yet might too much place felicity in them, and covet what they had not; and from hence collect a difficulty for any to get to heaven. Our Saviour saith unto them,
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. If men indeed were left all to themselves, none would be saved; the blackamoor cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots; but God can bring men to heaven by the mighty power of his grace: he can change a rich man’s heart, and take it off from too much love of riches, and make him to despise and contemn his wealth, and to put his trust in the living God; or a poor man’s heart, and make him also poor in spirit and rich in grace.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?See Poole on "Matthew 19:28".
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.Ver. 27,28. Mark and Luke repeateth the words of Peter in part, but neither of them have this part of our Lord’s answer, particularly respecting his apostles. We heard before, Matthew 4:18-22, of Peter, and Andrew, and James, and John, forsaking all and following of Christ, when he called them; the others doubtless did the same. Peter observing that our Saviour laid not the stress of men’s salvation either upon riches or poverty, but upon the frame of men’s spirits, their humility, self-denial, their obedience to and readiness to follow him; rejoins these words, and saith,
We have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have? Some think that he had an expectation of something in this life, according to the notion which the other Jews had, and it is apparent the disciples had some tincture of a secular kingdom, which the Messias should exercise. But considering our Lord’s former discourse could not be so interpreted, and the disciples question, Who then can be saved? I cannot agree that. And for the same reason I cannot agree, that the coming of the Son of man in his glory, mentioned Matthew 19:28, should be understood of his coming in his mediatory kingdom, (as some would have it), but of his last coming, which is most properly called the coming of the Son of man in his glory, mentioned 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 Judges 1:14; and that the thing here promised to the apostles, is not a preference in the church, but a further degree of honour and glory in the day of judgment.
Ye which have followed me in the regeneration; that is, at this time, while I have been by my doctrine reforming the word; in the regeneration of my church, while I have been putting it into a new state. Some make those words, in the regeneration, to refer to the next words.
In the regeneration; that is, in the day of judgment, when Christ shall come in his glory. The apostle indeed, Acts 3:21, calleth that day, the times of restitution of all things. And the prophet speaks of it as the time of the new heavens and new earth, Isaiah 66:22. So doth the apostle, 2 Peter 3:13; and John, in Revelation 21:1. It is not much material to which part we apply the term.
Ye which have followed me; that is, who have followed and shall go on and follow me, for this promise cannot belong to Judas, the son of perdition.
Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones. Judges and princes use to have assessors, that sit with them in judgment. He mentions twelve thrones, because he had now twelve disciples, his apostles; and though afterward Judas fell away, yet Matthias succeeded, Acts 1:26; so as the twelve thrones shall not be empty, but filled up with twelve that followed Christ, for such a one was Matthias, Acts 1:21.
Judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Though the tribes were thirteen, yet they usually went under the notion of twelve, because Levi was not counted, as having no particular possession. That is, judging the Jews for their unbelief, and not reception of me: judging others also; but judgment shall begin at the house of God. Doubtless this promise imports, that the apostles shall have a higher place in glory at the great day than ordinary believers: yet the apostle saith the saints shall judge the world, 1 Corinthians 6:2.
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.Mark saith, Mark 10:29,30, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. Luke saith, Luke 18:29,30, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. The words are a liberal promise, and we must consider,
1. To whom it is made.
2. Of what it is.
The former promise respected the apostles, and was special, as appears by the number of twelve thrones. This respecteth all those that should forsake any thing, houses, brethren, lands, sisters, fathers, mothers, wife, children, for Christ; which is expressed by three phrases (for my name’s sake, for the gospel’s sake, for the kingdom of God’s sake) all of the same import; rather than they will forsake me, and the profession of my gospel; rather than they will sin against God. The promise is,
1. Of an hundredfold in this time.
2. Of eternal life.
We must not understand of an hundredfold in specie, but in value. Therefore Mark saith, he shall receive what he hath in this life with persecutions. What is therefore this hundredfold in this life?
1. Joy in the Holy Ghost, peace of conscience, the sense of God’s love; so as, with the apostles, they shall rejoice that they are thought worthy to suffer any thing for the name of Christ, Acts 5:41. They shall, with Paul and Silas, Acts 16:25, sing in the prison; with those, Hebrews 10:34, take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. This inward joy and peace shall be a hundredfold more than fathers and mothers, or brethren, or sisters.
2. Contentment. They shall have a contented frame of spirit with the little that is left; though they have not so much to drink as they had, yet they shall have less thirst, Philippians 4:11,12.
3. God will stir up the hearts of others to supply their wants, and that supply shall be sweeter to them than their abundance was.
4. God sometimes repays them in this life, as he restored Job after his trial to greater riches. But they shall have a certain reward in another world, eternal happiness.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.So saith Mark, Mark 10:31. We have much the same sentence, Luke 13:30 Matthew 20:16. The Jews that are counted now the first, nearest to the kingdom of heaven, shall have no place there; and the Gentiles, looked upon as most remote from it, shall be admitted into it. The Pharisees and great doctors, who think themselves first, that is, nearest the kingdom of heaven, shall be last; and those whom they count last, such as shall have nothing to do with heaven, shall be counted the first, shall have the preference, the chiefest place in heaven. It is a general sentence, and may be applied variously. But if we consider what discourse follows, we shall see reason to interpret it as an awakening sentence to the best of men. It is the apostles, those who had forsaken all to follow him, to whom he here saith,
But many that are first shall be last, & c. As much as if he had said, You have forsaken all and followed me, but you had need look, and consider, from what principle, with what love, and to what end you have done it; you had need keep a watch upon yourselves, and see that you hold on, and that you have no confidence in yourselves. For many that are first in, profession, first in the opinion of others, first in their own opinion and confidence, at the day of judgment will be found to be last in mine and my Father’s esteem and reckoning: and many who make not so great a noise, nor have so great a name and repute in the world, and who have the lowest and meanest opinion of themselves, will be found first, and highest in my favour. The day of judgment will frustrate many expectations.