Matthew 13


Christ teaches the multitudes out of a ship, they standing on

the shore, 1, 2.

The parable of the sower, 3-9.

He gives his reasons for speaking in parables, 10-17.

Explains the parable of the sower, 18-23.

Parable of the tares and the wheat, 24-30.

Of the grain of mustard seed, 31, 32.

Of the leaven, 33.

The prophecy fulfilled by this mode of teaching, 34, 35.

He explains the parable of the tares and the wheat, 36-43.

Parable of the treasure hid in a field, 44.

Of the pearl-merchant, 45, 46.

Of the dragnet, 47-50.

His application of the whole, 51, 52.

He teaches in his own country, and his neighbours take offence,


Our Lord's observations on this, 57.

He works no miracle among them because of their unbelief. 58.


Verse 1. The same day] Our Lord scarcely ever appears to take

any rest: he is incessant in his labours, and instant in season

and out of season; and in this he has left all his successors in

the ministry an example, that they should follow his steps: for he

who wishes to save souls will find few opportunities to rest. As

Satan is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,

the messenger of God should imitate his diligence, that he may

counteract his work. The gospels are journals of our Lord's life.

Went Jesus out of the house] This was the house of Peter.

See Mt 17:24.

Sat by the sea side.] The sea of Galilee, on the borders of

which the city of Capernaum was situated.

Verse 2. Into a ship] τοπλοιον, THE vessel or boat. Mr.

Wakefield supposes (which is very likely) that a particular vessel

is uniformly specified, which seems to have been kept on the lake

for the use of Christ and his apostles: it probably belonged to

some of the fishermen, (see Mt 4:22,) who, he thinks,

occasionally, at least, followed their former occupation.

See Joh 21:3.

The thought of pious Quesnel on this verse should not be

neglected. We see here a representation of the Church, which

consists of the people united to their pastors. These, being more

exposed to violent tossings and storms, are, as it were, in a

ship, while those continue at ease on the shore.

Verse 3. He spake many things unto them in parables] Parable,

from παρα, near, and βαλλω, I cast, or put. A comparison

or similitude, in which one thing is compared with another,

especially spiritual things with natural, by which means these

spiritual things are better understood, and make a deeper

impression on an attentive mind. Or, a parable is a

representation of any matter accommodated, in the way of

similitude, to the real subject, in order to delineate it with the

greater force and perspicuity. See more on this subject at the

conclusion of this chapter. No scheme, says Dr. Lightfoot, of

Jewish rhetoric was more familiarly used than that of parables;

which, perhaps, creeping in from thence among the heathens, ended

in fables.

It is said in the tract Sotah, chap. 9. "From the time that

Rabbi Meri died, those that spake in parables ceased." Not that

this figure of rhetoric perished in the nation from that time; but

because he surpassed all others in these flowers, as the gloss

there from the tract Sanhedrin speaks. "A third part of his

discourses was tradition; a third part allegory; and a third part

parable." The Jewish books every where abound with these figures,

the nation inclining by a kind of natural genius to this kind of

rhetoric. Their very religion might be called parabolical, folded

up within the covering of ceremonies; and their oratory in their

sermons was like to it. But is it not indeed a wonder, that they

who were so much given to and delighted in parables, and so

dexterous in unfolding them, should stick in the outward shell of

ceremonies, and should not have brought out the parabolical and

spiritual sense of them? Our Saviour, who always spoke with the

common people, uses the same kind of speech, and very often the

same preface which they used, To what is it likened? See

Lightfoot in loco. Though we find the basis of many of our Lord's

parables in the Jewish writings, yet not one of them comes through

his hands without being astonishingly improved. In this respect

also, Surely never man spoke like this man.

Under the parable of the sower, our Lord intimates, 1. That of

all the multitudes then attending his ministry, few would bring

forth fruit to perfection. And 2. That this would be a general

case in preaching the Gospel among men.

Verse 4. Some seeds fell by the way side] The hard beaten path,

where no plough had broken up the ground.

Verse 5. Stony places] Where there was a thin surface of earth,

and a rock at the bottom.

Verse 7. Among thorns] Where the earth was ploughed up, but the

brambles and weeds had not been cleared away.

Verse 8. Good ground] Where the earth was deep, the field well

ploughed, and the brambles and weeds all removed.

See more on Mt 13:18, &c., and see on Lu 8:15.

Some a hundred-fold.] For the elucidation of this text, I beg

leave to introduce the following experiment. In 1816 I sowed, for

a third crop, a field with oats, at Millbrook, in Lancashire; the

grains weighed, on an average, 3/4 of a grain each. One grain

produced three stalks with three ears: the largest had 68 grains

in it, the second 26, and the third 25.

Whole number of grains 119, which together

weighed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 grs

The root separately, after washing and

drying, weighed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 1/2

The stalks and remaining leaves (for many

had perished in the wet season) . . . . . 630 1/2


Weight of the whole produce of one grain

of oats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 726 grs.

which was 725 times and one quarter more than the original weight.

The power of grain to multiply itself, even in the same year,

is a subject as much of curiosity and astonishment as of

importance and general utility. For the farther elucidation of

this text, I shall give the following example from a practice in

agriculture, or rural economy, which is termed filtering.

On the 2nd of June, 1766, Mr. C. Miller, of Cambridge, sowed

some grains of the common, red wheat; and on the 8th of August a

single plant was taken up, and separated into 18 parts, and each

planted separately: these plants having pushed out several side

shoots, about the middle of September some of them were taken up

and divided; and the rest between that time and October. This

second division produced 67 plants. These plants remained through

the winter, and another division of them, made between the middle

of March and the 12th of April, produced 500 plants. They were

divided no farther, but permitted to remain in the field. These

plants were in general stronger than any of the wheat in the

field. Some of them produced upwards of 100 ears from a single

root and many of the ears measured seven inches in length, and

contained between sixty and seventy grains. The whole number of

ears produced from the single plant was 21,109, which yielded

three pecks and three-quarters of clear corn, weighing 47lbs.

7oz., and, from a calculation made by counting the grains in an

ounce, the whole number of grains was about 576,840. Mr. Miller

thinks that, had he made a second division in the spring, the

number of plants would have amounted to 2000. Who can help

admiring the wisdom and providence of God in this single grain of

corn! He has, in some sort, impressed on it an idea of his own

infinity; and an idea which, like the subject to which it refers,

confounds our imagination and reason. How infinitely great is

God, even in his minor works.

Verse 9. Who hath ears to hear, &c.] Let every person who feels

the necessity of being instructed in the things which concern his

soul's welfare pay attention to what is spoken, and he shall

become wise unto salvation.

Verse 11. It is given unto you to know the mysteries, &c.] By

mysteries, here, we may understand not only things concerning the

scheme of salvation, which had not yet been revealed; but also the

prophetic declarations concerning the future state of the

Christian Church, expressed in the ensuing parables. It is not

given to them to know the purport and design of these things-they

are gross of heart, earthly and sensual, and do not improve the

light they have received: but to you it is given, because I have

appointed you not only to be the first preachers of my Gospel to

sinners, but also the persons who shall transmit accounts of all

these things to posterity. The knowledge of these mysteries, in

the first instance, can be given only to a few; but when these

faithfully write and publish what they have heard and seen,

unto the world, then the science of salvation is revealed and

addressed to all. From Mt 13:17, we learn, that many prophets

and righteous men had desired to see and hear these things, but

had not that privilege-to them it was not given; not because God

designed to exclude them from salvation, but because HE who knew

all things knew, either that they were not proper persons, or that

that was not the proper time: for the choice of the PERSONS by

whom, and the choice of the TIME in which it is most proper to

reveal Divine things, must ever rest with the all-wise God.

Verse 12. Whosoever hath, to him shall be given] This is an

allusion to a common custom in all countries: he who possesses

much or is rich, to such a person, presents are ordinarily given.

Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he

hath.] That is, the poor man: he that has little may be easily

made a prey of, and so lose his little. This is a proper sense of

the word εχειν in sacred and profane writers. In 1Co 11:22, τους

μηεχοντας, those who have not, means simply THE POOR: and

Aristophanes uses τουςεξοντας, those that have, for the RICH or

OPULENT. See a variety of pertinent examples in Kypke on

Lu 8:18.

There is one example in Juvenal, Sat. iii. l. 208, 209, that

expresses the whole of our Lords meaning, and is a beautiful

illustration of this apparently difficult passage. NIL habuit

Codrus: quis enim negat? et tamen illud Perdidit infelix TOTUM


"'Tis true, poor Codrus NOTHING had to boast,

And yet poor Codrus ALL that NOTHING lost."


Now what was this NOTHING which, the poet said, Codrus had and

lost? The five preceding lines tell you.

Lectus erat Codro Procula minor, urceoli sex,

Ornamentum abaci; necnon et parvulus infra

Cantharus, et recubans sub eodem marmore Chiron;

Jamque vetus Graecos servabat cista libellos,

Et divina Opici rodebant carmina mures.

He had one small bed, six little pitchers, the ornament of a

side-board; a small jug or tankard, the image of a centaur,

and an old chest with some Greek books in it, on which the mice

had already begun to make depredations. And all this he lost;

probably by continuing, in spite of his destiny, to be a poet. So

those who devote not the light and power which God has given them

to the purposes for which he has granted these gifts, from them

shall be taken away these unemployed or prostituted blessings.

This seems to have been a proverbial mode of speech, which our

Lord here uses to inform his disciples, that he who does not

improve the first operations of grace, howsoever small, is in

danger of losing not only all the possible product, but even the

principal; for God delights to heap benefits on those who properly

improve them. See Clarke on Lu 8:18.

Verse 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables] On this

account, viz. to lead them into a proper knowledge of God. I

speak to them in parables, natural representations of spiritual

truths, that they may be allured to inquire, and to find out the

spirit, which is hidden under the letter; because, seeing the

miracles which I have wrought, they see not, i.e. the end for

which I have wrought them; and hearing my doctrines, they hear

not, so as to profit by what is spoken; neither do they

understand, ουδεσυνιουσι, they do not lay their hearts to it. Is

not this obviously our Lord's meaning? Who can suppose that he

would employ his time in speaking enigmatically to them, on

purpose that they might not understand what was spoken? Could the

God of truth and sincerity act thus? If he had designed to act

otherwise, he might have saved his time and labour, and not spoken

at all, which would have answered the same end, viz. to leave them

in gross ignorance.

Verse 14. In them is fulfilled] αναπληρουται, Is AGAIN

fulfilled: this proper meaning of the Greek word has been

generally overlooked. The evangelist means, that as these words

were fulfilled in the Jews, in the time of the Prophet Isaiah, so

they are now again fulfilled in these their posterity, who exactly

copy their fathers example. These awful words may be again

fulfilled in us, if we take not warning by the things which these

disobedient people have suffered.

By hearing ye shall hear] Jesus Christ shall be sent to you, his

miracles ye shall fully see, and his doctrines ye shall distinctly

hear; but God will not force you to receive the salvation which is


Verse 15. Heart is waxed gross] επαχυνθη, is become

fat-inattentive stupid, insensible. They hear heavily with their

ears-are half asleep while the salvation of God is preached unto


Their eyes they have closed] Totally and obstinately resisted

the truth of God, and shut their eyes against the light.

Lest-they should see, &c.] Lest they should see their lost

estate, and be obliged to turn unto God, and seek his salvation.

His state is truly deplorable who is sick unto death, and yet is

afraid of being cured. The fault is here totally in the people,

and not at all in that God whose name is Mercy and whose nature is


Verse 16. But blessed are your eyes] Ye improve the light which

God has given you; and you receive an increase of heavenly wisdom

by every miracle and by every sermon.

Verse 17. Many prophets and righteous men] These lived by and

died in the faith of the promised Messiah: the fulness of the time

was not then come for his manifestation in the flesh. See also on

Mt 13:11.

Verse 19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom] Viz. the

preaching of the Gospel of Christ.

And understandeth it not] μησυνιεντος, perhaps more properly,

regardeth it not, does not lay his heart to it.

The wicked one] οπονηρος, from πονος, labour, toil, he

who distresses and torments the soul. Mark, Mr 4:15, calls him

οσατανας, the adversary or opposer, because he resists men

in all their purposes of amendment, and, to the utmost of his

power opposes, in order to frustrate, the influences of Divine

grace upon the heart. In the parallel place in Luke, Lu 8:12, he

is called οδιαβολος, the devil, from διαβαλλειν, to shoot,

or dart through. In allusion to this meaning of the name, St.

Paul, Eph 6:16,

speaks of the fiery DARTS of the wicked one. It is worthy of

remark, that the three evangelists should use each a different

appellative of this mortal enemy of mankind; probably to show that

the devil, with all his powers and properties, opposes every thing

that tends to the salvation of the soul.

Catcheth away] Makes the utmost haste to pick up the good seed,

lest it should take root in the heart.

A careless inattentive hearer is compared to the way side-his

heart is an open road, where evil affections, and foolish and

hurtful desires, continually pass and repass, without either

notice or restraint. "A heart where Satan has" (as one terms it)

"ingress, egress, regress, and progress: in a word, the devil's


Verse 20. But he that received the seed into stony places-is he]

That is, is a fit emblem of that man who, hearing the Gospel, is

affected with its beauty and excellency, and immediately receiveth

it with joy-is glad to hear what God has done to make man happy.

Verse 21. Yet hath he not root in himself] His soul is not

deeply convinced of its guilt and depravity; the fallow ground is

not properly ploughed up, nor the rock broken. When persecution,

&c., ariseth, which he did not expect, he is soon stumbled-seeks

some pretext to abandon both the doctrine and followers of Christ.

Having not felt his own sore, and the plague of his heart, he has

not properly discovered that this salvation is the only remedy for

his soul: thus he has no motive in his heart strong enough to

counteract the outward scandal of the cross; so he endureth only

for the time in which there is no difficulty to encounter, no

cross to bear.

Verse 22. He also that received seed among the thorns] In land

ploughed, but not properly cleared and seeded. Is he-

represents that person who heareth the word, but the cares, rather

the anxiety, ημεριμνα, the whole system of anxious carking cares.

Lexicographers derive the word μεριμνα from μεριζειντοννουν,

dividing, or distracting the mind. Thus a poet,

Tot me impediunt curae quae meum animum diverse


"So many cares hinder me which draw my mind

different ways." Terence.

The deceitfulness of riches] Which promise peace and pleasure,

but can never give them.

Choke the word] Or, together choke the word, συμπνιγει

meaning, either that these grow up together with the word,

overtop, and choke it; or that these united together, viz. carking

worldly cares, with the delusive hopes and promises of riches,

cause the man to abandon the great concerns of his soul, and seek,

in their place, what he shall eat, drink, and wherewithal he shall

be clothed. Dreadful stupidity of man, thus to barter spiritual

for temporal good-a heavenly inheritance for an earthly portion!

The seed of the kingdom can never produce much fruit in any heart,

till the thorns and thistles of vicious affections and impure

desires be plucked up by the roots and burned. The Persic

translator renders it [Persic] asle kalme-ra khube kund, chokes

the root of the word: for it appears the seed had taken root, and

that these cares, &c., choked it in the root, before even the

blade could show itself.

Verse 23. Good ground] That which had depth of mould, was well

ploughed, and well weeded.

Is he that heareth] Who diligently attends the ministry of the


And understandeth it] Lays the subject to heart, deeply

weighing its nature, design, and importance.

Which also beareth fruit] His fruitfulness being an almost

necessary consequence of his thus laying the Divine message to

heart. Let it be observed, that to hear, to understand, and to

bring forth fruit, are the three grand evidences of a genuine

believer. He who does not hear the word of wisdom cannot

understand what makes for his peace; and he who does not

understand what the Gospel requires him to be and to perform,

cannot bring forth fruit; and he who is not fruitful, very

fruitful, cannot be a disciple of Christ-see Joh 15:8; and he

who is not Christ's disciple cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

From the different portions of fruit produced by the good

ground, a hundred, sixty, and thirty, we may learn that all sound

believers are not equally fruitful; all hear, understand, and

bring forth fruit, but not in the same degrees-occasioned, partly,

by their situation and circumstances not allowing them such

extensive opportunities of receiving and doing good; and, partly,

by lack of mental capacity-for every mind is not equally


Let it be farther observed that the unfruitfulness of the

different lands was not owing to bad seed or an unskilful

sower-the same sower sows the same seed in all, and with the same

gracious design-but it is unfruitful in many because they are

careless, inattentive, and worldly-minded.

But is not the ground naturally bad in every heart? Undoubtedly.

And can any but God make it good? None. But it is your business,

when you hear of the justice and mercy of God, to implore him to

work in you that which is pleasing in his sight. No man shall be

condemned because he did not change his own heart, but because he

did not cry to God to change it, who gave him his Holy Spirit for

this very purpose, and which he, by his worldly-mindedness and

impiety, quenched. Whoso hath ears to hear let him hear: and may

the Lord save the reader from an impenitent and unfruitful heart!

Verse 24. The kingdom of heaven] God's method of managing the

affairs of the world, and the concerns of his Church.

Is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field] In

general, the world may be termed the field of God; and in

particular, those who profess to believe in God through Christ are

his field or farm; among whom God sows nothing but the pure

unadulterated word of his truth.

Verse 25. But while men slept] When the professors were

lukewarm, and the pastors indolent, his enemy came and sowed

tares, ζιζανια degenerate, or bastard wheat. The righteous

and the wicked are often mingled in the visible Church. Every

Christian society, how pure soever its principles may be, has its

bastard wheat-those who bear a resemblance to the good, but whose

hearts are not right with God. He who sows this bastard wheat

among God's people is here styled God's enemy; and he may be

considered also as a sower of them who permits them to be sown and

to spring up through his negligence. Wo to the indolent pastors,

who permit the souls under their care to be corrupted by error and

sin! This word does not, I believe, occur in any of the Greek

classics, nor in Dioscorides; but it may be seen in the Geoponica,

or Greek writers De Re Rustica: see the edition by Niclas, vol. i.

lib. ii. c. 43, where τοζιζανιον is said to be the same which the

Greeks call αιρα; and Florentinus, the author, says, τοζιζανιον


τουςεσθιοντας. "Zizanion, which is called αιρα, darnel, injures

the wheat; and, mixed in the bread, causes dimness of the eyes to

those who eat of it." And the author might have added vertigo

also. But this does not seem to be the grain to which our Lord


The word ζιζανια, zizania, which is here translated tares, and

which should rather be translated bastard or degenerate wheat, is

a Chaldee word; and its meaning must be sought in the rabbinical

writers. In a treatise in the Mishna called Kelayim, which treats

expressly on different kinds of seeds, the word zunim, or

zunin, is used for bastard or degenerated wheat; that

which was wholly a right seed in the beginning, but afterwards

became degenerate-the ear not being so large, nor the grains in

such quantity, as formerly, nor the corn so good in quality. In

Ps 144:13,

the words mizzan al zen, are translated all manner of

store; but they properly signify, from species to species: might

not the Chaldee word zunin, and the Greek word ζιζανια,

zizania, come from the psalmist's zanzan, which might have

signified a mixture of grain of any kind, and be here used to

point out the mixing bastard or degenerate wheat among good seed

wheat? The Persic translator renders it [Persic] telkh daneh,

bitter grain; but it seems to signify merely degenerate wheat.

This interpretation throws much light on the scope and design of

the whole passage. Christ seems to refer, first, to the origin of

evil. God sowed good seed in his field; made man in his own image

and likeness: but the enemy, the devil, (Mt 13:30,) corrupted

this good seed, and caused it to degenerate. Secondly, he seems

to refer to the state of the Jewish people: God had sowed them, at

first, wholly a right seed, but now they were become utterly

degenerate, and about to be plucked up and destroyed by the Roman

armies, which were the angels or messengers of God's justice, whom

he had commissioned to sweep these rebellious people from the face

of the land. Thirdly, he seems to refer also to the state in

which the world shall be found, when he comes to judge it. The

righteous and the wicked shall be permitted to grow together, till

God comes to make a full and final separation.

Verse 26. When the blade was sprung up-then appeared the tares

also.] Satan has a shoot of iniquity for every shoot of grace;

and, when God revives his work, Satan revives his also. No

marvel, therefore, if we find scandals arising suddenly to

discredit a work of grace, where God has begun to pour out his


Verse 27. So the servants-said unto him, Sir, didst not thou

sow] A faithful and vigilant minister of Christ fails not to

discover the evil, to lament it, and to address himself to God by

prayer, in order to find out the cause of it, and to receive from

him proper information how to behave on the occasion.

Verse 28. An enemy hath done this] It is the interest of Satan

to introduce hypocrites and wicked persons into religious

societies, in order to discredit the work of God, and to favour

his own designs.

Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?] A zeal which is

rash and precipitate is as much to be feared as the total lack of

strict discipline.

Verse 29. But he said, Nay] God judges quite otherwise than

men of this mixture of good and evil in the world; he knows the

good which he intends to produce from it, and how far his patience

towards the wicked should extend, in order to their conversion, or

the farther sanctification of the righteous. Men often persecute

a true Christian, while they intend only to prosecute an impious

person. "A zeal for the extirpation of heretics and wicked men,"

said a pious Papist, "not regulated by these words of our blessed

Saviour, allows no time for the one to grow strong in goodness, or

to the other to forsake their evil courses. They are of a spirit

very opposite to his, who care not if they root up the wheat,

provided they can but gather up the tares." The zeal which leads

persons to persecute others for religious opinions is not less a

seed of the devil than a bad opinion itself is.

Verse 30. Let both grow together] Though every minister of God

should separate from the Church of Christ every incorrigible

sinner, yet he should proceed no farther: the man is not to be

persecuted in his body or goods, because he is not sound in the

faith-GOD tolerates him; so should men. False doctrines are

against God-he alone is the judge and punisher of them-man has no

right to interfere in this matter. They who burnt Vanini for

atheism usurped the seat of judgment, and thus proved themselves

to be not less a diabolical seed than the person they thus,

without God's leave, hurried into eternity. MARY, Queen of

England, of execrable memory, and the inquisitorial tormentors she

employed, were all of this diabolical sowing. See more on this

parable at Mt 13:37, &c.

Verse 31. The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard

seed] This parable is a representation of the progress of the

Gospel in the world; and of the growth of grace in the soul. That

grace which leads the soul to the fulness of glory may begin, and

often does, in a single good desire-a wish to escape hell, or a

desire to enjoy God in heaven.

Verse 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds] That is, of

all those seeds which produce plants, whose stems and branches,

according to the saying of the botanists, are apt δενδριζειν,

arborescere, to grow into a ligneous or woody substance.

Becometh a tree] That is, it is not only the largest of plants

which are produced from such small seeds, but partakes, in its

substance, the close woody texture, especially in warm climates,

where we are informed it grows to an almost incredible size. The

Jerusalem Talmud, tract Peah. fol. 20, says, "There was a stalk of

mustard in Sichin, from which sprang out three boughs; one of

which, being broken off, served to cover the tent of a potter, and

produced three cabes of mustard seed. Rabbi Simeon ben Chalapha

said, A stalk of mustard seed was in my field, into which I was

want to climb, as men are wont to climb into a fig tree." See

Lightfoot and Schoettgen. This may appear to be extravagant; and

it is probable that, in the case of the three cabes of seed, there

is considerable exaggeration; but, if it had not been usual for

this plant to grow to a very large size, such relations as these

would not have appeared even in the Talmud; and the parable of our

Lord sufficiently attests the fact. Some soils being more

luxuriant than others, and the climate much warmer, raise the same

plant to a size and perfection far beyond what a poorer soil, or a

colder climate, can possibly do. Herodotus says, he has seen wheat

and barley in the country about Babylon which carried a blade full

four fingers-breadth: and that the millet and sesamum grew to an

incredible size. I have myself seen a field of common cabbages,

in one of the Norman isles, each of which was from seven to nine

feet in height; and one in the garden of a friend, which grew

beside an apple-tree, though the latitude of the place is only

about 48 deg. 13 min. north, was fifteen feet high, the stem of

which is yet remaining, (September, 1798.) These facts, and

several others which might be added, confirm fully the possibility

of what our Lord says of the mustard-tree, however incredible such

things may appear to those who are acquainted only with the

productions of northern regions and cold climates.

Verse 33. The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven] On the

nature and effects of leaven, see the note on Ex 12:8. As the

property of leaven is to change, or assimulate to its own nature,

the meal or dough with which it is mixed, so the property of the

grace of Christ is to change the whole soul into its own likeness;

and God intends that this principle should continue in the soul

till all is leavened-till the whole bear the image of the

heavenly, as it before bore the image of the earthly. Both these

parables are prophetic, and were intended to show, principally,

how, from very small beginnings, the Gospel of Christ should

pervade all the nations of the world, and fill them with

righteousness and true holiness.

Verse 34. All these things spoke Jesus-in parables] Christ

descends from Divine mysteries to parables, in order to excite us

to raise our minds, from and through natural things, to the great

God, and the operations of his grace and Spirit. Divine things

cannot be taught to man but through the medium of earthly things.

If God should speak to us in that language which is peculiar to

heaven, clothing those ideas which angelic minds form, how little

should we comprehend of the things thus described! How great is

our privilege in being thus taught! Heavenly things, in the

parables of Christ, assume to themselves a body, and thus render

themselves palpable.

Verse 35. By the prophet] As the quotation is taken from

Ps 78:2,

which is attributed to Asaph, he must be the prophet who is meant

in the text; and, indeed, he is expressly called a prophet,

1Ch 25:2.

Several MSS. have ησαιου, Isaiah; but this is a manifest error.

Jerome supposes that Asaph was first in the text, and that some

ignorant transcriber, not knowing who this Asaph was, inserted the

word Isaiah; and thus, by attempting to remove an imaginary error,

made a real one.

Verse 36. Jesus-went into the house: and his disciples came]

Circumstances of this kind should not pass unnoticed: they are

instructive and important. Those who attend only to the public

preaching of the Gospel of God are not likely to understand fully

the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. To understand clearly the

purport of the Divine message, a man must come to God by frequent,

fervent, secret prayer. It is thus that the word of God sinks

into the heart, is watered, and brings forth much fruit.

Declare (φρασον, explain) unto us the parable of the tares of

the field.] To what has already been spoken on this parable, the

following general exposition may be deemed a necessary appendage:-

I. What is the cause of EVIL in the world?

1. We must allow that God, who is infinite in holiness, purity,

and goodness, could not have done it. Nothing can produce what

is not in itself. This is a maxim which every man subscribes to:

God then could not have produced sin, forasmuch as his nature is

infinite goodness and holiness. He made man at first in his own

image, a transcript of his own purity: and, since sin entered

into the world, He has done every thing consistent with his own

perfections, and the freedom of the human mind, to drive it out,

and to make and keep man holy.

2. After a thousand volumes are written on the origin of evil,

we shall just know as much of it as Christ has told us here-An

enemy hath done it, and this enemy is the devil, Mt 13:39.

1. This enemy is represented as a deceitful enemy: a friend in

appearance, soliciting to sin, by pleasure, honour, riches, &c.

2. A vigilant enemy. While men sleep he watches, Mt 13:25.

3. A hidden or secret enemy. After having sown his seed, he

disappears, Mt 13:25.

Did he appear as himself, few would receive solicitations to

sin; but he is seldom discovered in evil thoughts, unholy

desires, flattering discourses, bad books, &c.

II. Why was evil permitted to enter into the world?

1. There are doubtless sufficient reasons in the Divine Mind

for its permission; which, connected with his infinite essence,

and extending to eternity, are not only unfathomable by us, but

also, from their nature, incommunicable to men.

2. But it may be justly said, that hereby many attributes of the

Divine Nature become manifest, which otherwise could not have

been known; such as mercy, compassion, long-suffering, &c. All

of which endear the Deity to men, and perfect the felicity of

those who are saved.

III. But why does he suffer this mixture of the good and bad

seed now?

1. Because of the necessary dependence of one part of the

creation on the other. Were the wicked all rooted up, society

must fail-the earth be nearly desolated-noxious things greatly

multiplied-and the small remnant of the godly, not being able to

stand against the onsets of wild beasts, &c., must soon be

extirpated; and then adieu to the economy of grace!

2. Did not the wicked exist, there would be no room for the

exercise of many of the graces of the Spirit, on which our

spiritual perfection greatly depends.

3. Nor could the grace of God be so manifest in supporting and

saving the righteous; and consequently could not have that

honour which now it justly claims.

4. Were not this evil tolerated, how could the wicked be

converted? The bastard wheat, by being transplanted to a better

soil, may become good wheat; so sinners may be engrafted in

Christ, and become sons of God through faith in his name; for

the longsuffering of God leads multitudes to repentance.

IV. Observe the end of the present state of things:

1. The wicked shall be punished, and the righteous rewarded.

The wicked are termed bastard-wheat-the children of the wicked

one, Mt 13:38, the very seed of the serpent.

Observe the place in which the wicked shall be punished,-a

FURNACE. The instrument of this punishment, FIRE. This is an

allusion to the punishment inflicted only on those supposed to be

the very worst of criminals. See Da 3:6. They were cast into a

burning fiery furnace. The effect of it, DESPAIR; weeping,

wailing, and gnashing of teeth, Mt 13:42.

2. Observe the character and state of the righteous:

1. They are the children of the kingdom, a seed of God's

sowing, Mt 13:38.

2. As to their persons, they shall be like the sun.

3. The place of their felicity shall be the kingdom of heaven:


4. The object of it, GOD In the relation of FATHER, Mt 13:43.

This is a reference to Da 12:2, 3.

Some learned men are of opinion that the whole of this parable

refers to the Jewish state and people; and that the words

συντελειατουαιωνος, which are commonly translated the end of

the world, should be rendered the end of the age, viz. the end of

the Jewish polity. That the words have this meaning in other

places there can be no doubt; and this may be their primary

meaning here; but there are other matters in the parable which

agree far better with the consummation of all things than with the

end of the Jewish dispensation and polity. See on Mr 4:29.

Verse 44. The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a

field] θησαυρωκεκρυμμενω, to a hidden treasure. We are not to

imagine that the treasure here mentioned, and to which the

Gospel salvation is likened, means a pot or chest of money hidden

in the field, but rather a gold or silver mine, which he who found

out could not get at, or work, without turning up the field, and

for this purpose he bought it. Mr. Wakefield's observation is

very just: "There is no sense in the purchase of a field for a pot

of money, which he might have carried away with him very readily,

and as honestly, too, as by overreaching the owner by an unjust


He hideth-i.e. he kept secret, told the discovery to no person,

till he had bought the field. From this view of the subject, the

translation of this verse, given above, will appear proper-a

hidden treasture, when applied to a rich mine, is more proper than

a treasure hid, which applies better to a pot of money deposited

there, which I suppose was our translators' opinion; and kept

secret, or concealed, will apply better to the subject of his

discovery till he made the purchase, than hideth, for which there

could be no occasion, when the pot was already hidden, and the

place known only to himself.

Our Lord's meaning seems to be this:-

The kingdom of heaven-the salvation provided by the Gospel-is

like a treasure-something of inestimable worth-hidden in a field;

it is a rich mine, the veins of which run in all directions in the

sacred Scriptures; therefore, the field must be dug up, the

records of salvation diligently and carefully turned over, and

searched. Which, when a man hath found-when a sinner is convinced

that the promise of life eternal is to him, he kept secret-pondered

the matter deeply in his heart; he examines the preciousness of the

treasure, and counts the cost of purchase; for joy thereof-finding

that this salvation is just what his needy soul requires, and what

will make him presently and eternally happy, went and sold all

that he had-renounces his sins, abandons his evil companions, and

relinquishes all hope of salvation through his own righteousness;

and purchased that field-not merely bought the book for the sake

of the salvation it described, but, by the blood of the covenant,

buys gold tried in the fire, white raiment, &c.; in a word, pardon

and purity, which he receives from God for the sake of Jesus. We

should consider the salvation of God, 1. As our only treasure, and

value it above all the riches in the world. 2. Search for it in

the Scriptures, till we fully understand its worth and excellence.

3. Deeply ponder it in the secret of our souls. 4. Part with all

we have in order to get it. 5. Place our whole joy and felicity

in it; and 6. Be always convinced that it must be bought, and that

no price is accepted for it but the blood of the covenant; the

sufferings and death of our only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Verse 45. A merchant man, seeking goodly pearls] A story very

like this is found in the Talmudical tract Shabbath: "Joseph, who

sanctified the Sabbath, had a very rich neighbour; the Chaldeans

said, All the riches of this man shall come to Joseph, who

sanctifies the Sabbath. To prevent this, the rich man went and

sold all that he had, and bought a pearl, and went aboard of a

ship; but the wind carried the pearl away, it fell into the sea,

and was swallowed by a fish. This fish was caught, and the day

before the Sabbath it was brought into the market, and they

proclaimed, Who wishes to buy this fish? The people said, Carry

it to Joseph, the sanctifier of the Sabbath, who is accustomed to

buy things of great value. They carried it to him, and he bought

it, and when he cut it up he found the pearl, and sold it for

thirteen pounds weight of golden denarii!" From some tradition of

this kind, our Lord might have borrowed the simile in this


The meaning of this parable is the same with the other; and both

were spoken to impress more forcibly this great truth on the souls

of the people:-eternal salvation from sin and its consequences is

the supreme good of man, should be sought after above all things,

and prized beyond all that God has made. Those merchants who

compass sea and land for temporal gain, condemn the slothfulness

of the majority of those called Christians, who, though they

confess that this salvation is the most certain and the most

excellent of all treasures, yet seek worldly possessions in

preference to it! Alas, for him who expects to find any thing

more amiable than God, more worthy to fill his heart, and more

capable of making him happy!

Verse 47. Is like unto a net] A drag-net. This is the proper

meaning of σαγηνη, which the Latins translate verriculum, a sweep

net; Quod in aquam jacitur ad pisces comprehendendos; imprimis,

cujus usus est extrahendis iis a fundo. MARTINIUS. "Which is cast

into the water to catch fish, and the particular use of which is

to drag them up from the bottom." As this is dragged along it

keeps gathering all in its way, both good and bad, small and

great; and, when it is brought to the shore, those which are

proper for use are preserved, and those which are not are either

destroyed or thrown back into the water.

By the net may be understood the preaching of the Gospel of the

kingdom, which keeps drawing men into the profession of

Christianity, and into the fellowship of the visible Church of

Christ. By the sea may be represented that abyss of sin, error,

ignorance, and wickedness in which men live, and out of which they

are drawn, by the truth and Spirit of God, who cordially close in

with the offers of salvation made to them in the preaching of the


By drawing to shore, may be represented the consummation of all

things, see Mt 13:49, when a proper distinction shall be made

between those who served God, and those who served him not; for

many shall doubtless be found who shall bear the name without the

nature of Christ. By picking out the good, and throwing away the

bad, Mt 13:48, is meant that separation which God shall make

between false and true professors, casting the former into hell,

and bringing the latter to heaven.

Instead of τακαλα the good, the Cod. Bezae, and five copies of

the old Antehieronymian, or Itala version, read τακαλλιστα,

the best, the very best. Every reader would naturally hope that

this is not the true reading, or that it is not to be understood

literally, as it seems to intimate that only the very best shall

be at last saved.

It is probable that this parable also refers, in its primary

meaning, to the Jewish state, and that, when Christ should come to

judge and destroy them by the Roman power, the genuine followers

of Christ only should escape, and the rest be overwhelmed by the

general destruction. See Mt 24:30, &c.

Verse 50. Into the furnace of fire] See the note on Mt 8:12.

Verse 51. Have ye understood all these things?] Divine truths

must not be lightly passed over.-Our Lord's question here shows

them to be matters of the utmost weight and importance; and that

they should be considered again and again, till they be thoroughly


Verse 52. Every scribe] Minister of Christ: who is

instructed-taught of God; in the kingdom of heaven-in the

mysteries of the Gospel of Christ: out of his treasury-his granary

or store-house; things new and old-a Jewish phrase for great

plenty. A small degree of knowledge is not sufficient for a

preacher of the Gospel. The sacred writings should be his

treasure, and he should properly understand them. His knowledge

does not consist in being furnished with a great variety of human

learning, (though of this he should acquire as much as he can;)

but his knowledge consists in being well instructed in the things

concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the art of conducting men

thither. Again, it is not enough for a man to have these

advantages in possession: he must bring them forth, and distribute

them abroad. A good pastor will not, like a miser, keep these

things to himself to please his fancy; nor, like a merchant,

traffic with them, to enrich himself; but, like a bountiful father

or householder, distribute them with a liberal through judicious

hand, for the comfort and support of the whole heavenly family.

A preacher whose mind is well stored with Divine truths, and who

has a sound judgment, will suit his discourses to the

circumstances and states of his hearers. He who preaches the same

sermon to every congregation, gives the fullest proof that,

however well he may speak, he is not a scribe who is instructed in

the kingdom of heaven. Some have thought that old and new things

here, which imply the produce of the past and the produce of the

present year, may also refer to the old and new covenants-a

proper knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and of the

doctrines of Christ as contained in the New. No man can properly

understand the Old Testament but through the medium of the New,

nor can the New be so forcibly or successfully applied to the

conscience of a sinner as through the medium of the Old. The law

is still a schoolmaster to lead men to Christ-by it is the

knowledge of sin, and, without it, there can be no conviction-

where it ends, the Gospel begins, as by the Gospel alone is

salvation from sin. See the whole of the comment on the


Verse 54. And when he was come into his own country] Probably

Nazareth, where his parents lived, and where he had continued till

his thirtieth year, though it appears he had a lodging in Peter's

house at Capernaum.

They were astonished] It appears, hence, that our blessed Lord

had lived in obscurity all the time above specified; for his

countrymen appear not to have heard his doctrines, nor seen his

miracles, until now. It is a melancholy truth, that those who

should know Christ best are often the most ignorant of himself,

the doctrines of his word, and the operations of his Spirit.

Verse 55. Is not this the carpenter's son?] Seven copies of the

old Itala have, Is not this the son of JOSEPH the carpenter? But

it is likely our Lord, during the thirty years of his abode at

Nazareth, wrought at the same trade with Joseph; and perhaps this

is what is intended, Lu 2:51.

He went down with them (his parents) to Nazareth, and was SUBJECT

unto them. An honest trade is no discredit to any man. He who

spends his time in idleness is fit for any business in which the

devil chooses to employ him.

Is not his mother-Mary, and his brethren, James, &c.] This

insulting question seems to intimate that our Lord's family was a

very obscure one; and that they were of small repute among their

neighbours, except for their piety.

It is possible that brethren and sisters may mean here near

relations, as the words are used among the Hebrews in this

latitude of meaning; but I confess it does not appear to me

likely. Why should the children of another family be brought in

here to share a reproach which it is evident was designed for

Joseph the carpenter, Mary his wife, Jesus their son, and

their other children? Prejudice apart, would not any person of

plain common sense suppose, from this account, that these were the

children of Joseph and Mary, and the brothers and sisters of our

Lord, according to the flesh? It seems odd that this should be

doubted; but, through an unaccountable prejudice, Papists and

Protestants are determined to maintain as a doctrine, that on

which the Scriptures are totally silent, viz. the perpetual

virginity of the mother of our Lord. See Mt 1:25.

Verse 57. And they were offended in him.] They took offence at

him, εσκανδαλιζοντοεναυτω, making the meanness of his family the

reason why they would not receive him as a prophet, though they

were astonished at his wisdom, and at his miracles, Mt 13:54. So

their pride and their envy were the causes of their destruction.

A prophet is not without honour] This seems to have been a

proverbial mode of speech, generally true, but not without some

exceptions. The apparent meanness of our Lord was one pretence why

they rejected him; and yet, God manifested in the flesh, humbling

himself to the condition of a servant, and to the death of the

cross, is the only foundation for the salvation of a lost world.

Perhaps our Lord means, by prophet, in this place, himself alone,

as if he had said, My ministry is more generally reputed, and my

doctrine better received, in any other part of the land than in my

own country, among my own relatives; because, knowing the

obscurity of my birth, they can scarcely suppose that I have these

things from heaven.

Verse 58. And he did not many mighty works there because of

their unbelief] δυναμεις, miracles. So the word is used,

Mt 7:22; 11:20; Ac 19:11; 1Co 12:28; Ga 3:5; Heb 2:4.

The Septuagint translates niphleoth el, the miraculous

works of God, by δυναμινκυριου.

Unbelief and contempt drive Christ out of the heart, as they did

out of his own country. Faith seems to put the almighty power of

God into the hands of men; whereas unbelief appears, to tie up

even the hands of the Almighty. A man, generally speaking, can do

but little good among his relatives, because it is difficult for

them to look with the eyes of faith upon one whom they have been

accustomed to behold with the eyes of the flesh.-QUESNEL.


See the notes at the beginning of this chapter. Mt 13:1

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