Mark 4
Calvin's Commentaries
And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

Matthew 13:1-17

Mark 4:1-12, 24-25

Luke 8:1-10, 18

1. And on the same day Jesus went out of the house, and sat down near the sea. 2. And great multitudes were gathered to him, so that he entered into a ship, and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the shore. 3. And he said many things to them by parables, saying, Lo, one who was sowing, some seeds fell near the road, and the birds came and devoured them. 5. And some fell on stony places, where they had not much earth, and immediately they sprang up, because they had not depth of earth. 6. But when the sun rose, they were burnt up, and because they had not a root, they withered away. 7. Others again fell on thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked them. 8. And others fell on good soil, and yielded fruit: some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. 9. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10. And the disciples approaching said to him, Why dost thou speak to them by parables? 11. But he answering, said to them, To you it is given to know the mysteries [168] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given, 12. For whosoever hath, it shall be given to him, and he shall be rendered more wealthy; [169] and whosoever hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken from him. 13. For this reason I speak to them in parables, because seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear nor understand. 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, With the ears you shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing, you shall see, and shall not perceive. 15. For the heart of this people hath become gross, and with their ears they have heard heavily, and their eyes they have shut, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with the heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. 16. But your eyes are blessed for they see; and your ears, for they hear. 17. Verily, I say to you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things which you hear, and have not heard them.

1. And again he began to teach near the sea, and a great multitude was gathered to him, so that, entering into a ship, he sat on the sea, and the whole multitude was near the sea on land. 2. And he taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine: 3. Hear, lo, a sower went out to sow. 4. And it happened while he was sowing, some fell closer to the road; and the fowls of heaven came and ate them up. 5. And some fell on stony places, where it had not much earth, and immediately it sprang up, because it had not depth of earth. 6. And when the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had not a root, it withered. 7. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew, and choked it, and it did not yield fruit. 8. And some fell on good soil, and yielded fruit springing up and growing, and produced some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred. 9. And he said to them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10. And when he began to be alone, those who were around him, with the twelve, asked him about the parable. 11. And he said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery [170] of the kingdom of God, but to those who are without all things are done by parables: 12. That seeing, they may see and may not perceive, and hearing, they may hear and may not understand, lest at any time they may be converted, and their sins may be forgiven them. -- (A little after,) 24. And he said to them, Observe what you hear: with what measure, the same admeasurement shall be made to you, and it shall be added to you who shall hear. 25. For to him who hath it shall be given; and he that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.

1. And it happened afterwards, and he was traveling through each city and village, [171] preaching and proclaiming the glad tidings of the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with him, 2. And likewise some women, who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases, Mary, who is called Magdalene, out of whom had gone seven devils, 3. And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who assisted him out of their property 4. And while a very great multitude was assembling, and while they were crowding to him out of each city, he said by a parable: 5. One who sowed went out to sow his seed, and while he was sowing, some fell near the road, and the fowls of heaven ate it up. 6. And some fell on a rock, and when it was sprung up, it withered, because it hath not moisture. 7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns springing up along with it, choked it. 8. And some fell on a good soil, and, springing up, produced fruit a hundred-fold. Saying these things, he exclaimed, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9. And his disciples asked him, saying, What was this parable? [172] 10. But he said, To you it is given to know the mysteries [173] of the kingdom of God, but to the rest by parables; that seeing, they may not see, and hearing, they may not understand. -- (A little after,) 18. Consider then how you hear. For whosoever hath, it shall be given to him; and whosoever hath not, even that which he thinketh that he hath shall be taken from him.

Luke 10:23-24.

23. And turning to his disciples, he said to them privately, Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. 24. For I say to you, That many prophets and kings have desired to see the things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things which you hear, and have not heard them.

What I have here introduced from Luke belongs, perhaps, to another time; but I saw no necessity for separating what he has placed in immediate connection. First, he says that the twelve apostles preached the kingdom of God along with Christ; from which we infer that, though the ordinary office of teaching had not yet been committed to them, they constantly attended as heralds to procure an audience for their Master; and, therefore, though they held an inferior rank, they are said to have been Christ's assistants. Next, he adds, that among those who accompanied Christ were certain women, who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases, such as Mary Magdalene, who had been tormented by seven devils To be associated with such persons might be thought dishonorable; for what could be more unworthy of the Son of God than to lead about with him women who were marked with infamy? But this enables us more clearly to perceive that the crimes with which we were loaded before we believed, are so far from diminishing the glory of Christ, that they tend rather to raise it to a higher pitch. And, certainly, it is not said, that the Church which he elected was found by him to be without spot and blemish, but that he cleansed it with his blood, and made it pure and fair.

The wretched and disgraceful condition of those women, now that they had been delivered from it, redounded greatly to the glory of Christ, by holding out public manifestations of his power and grace. At the same time, Luke applauds their gratitude in following their Deliverer, and disregarding the ridicule of the world. [174] Beyond all question, they were pointed at with the finger on every side, and the presence of Christ served for a platform to exhibit them; but they do not refuse to have their own shame made generally known, provided that the grace of Christ be not concealed. On the contrary, they willingly endure to be humbled, in order to become a mirror, by which he may be illustriously displayed.

In Mary, the boundless goodness of Christ was displayed in an astonishing manner. A woman, who had been possessed by seven devils, and might be said to have been the meanest slave of Satan, was not merely honored to be his disciple, but admitted to enjoy his society. Luke adds the surname Magdalene, to distinguish her from the sister of Martha, and other persons of the name of Mary, who are mentioned in other passages, (John 11:1; John 19:25.)

Luke 8:3. Joanna, the wife of Chuza It is uncertain whether or not Luke intended his statement to be applied to those women in the same manner as to Mary To me it appears probable that she is placed first in order, as a person in whom Christ had given a signal display of his power; and that the wife of Chuza, and Susanna, matrons of respectability and of spotless reputation, are mentioned afterwards, because they had only been cured of ordinary diseases. Those matrons being wealthy and of high rank, it reflects higher commendation on their pious zeal, that they supply Christ's expenses out of their own property, and, not satisfied with so doing, leave the care of their household affairs, and choose to follow him, attended by reproach and many other inconveniences, through various and uncertain habitations, instead of living quietly and at ease in their own houses. It is even possible, that Chuza, Herod's steward, being too like his master, was strongly opposed to what his wife did in this matter, but that the pious woman overcame this opposition by the ardor and constancy of her zeal.

Matthew 13:2. And great multitudes were gathered together to him. It is not without good reason that the Evangelists begin with informing us that, a vast multitude had assembled, and that when Christ beheld them, he was led to compare his doctrine to seed That multitude had been collected from various places: all were held in suspense; all were alike eager to hear, but not equally desirous to receive instruction. The design of the parable was to inform them, that the seed of doctrine, which is scattered far and wide, is not everywhere productive; because it does not always find a fertile and well cultivated soil. Christ declared that he was there in the capacity of a husbandman, who was going out to sow seed, but that many of his hearers resembled an uncultivated and parched soil, while others resembled a thorny soil; so that the labor and the very seed were thrown away. I forbear to make any farther inquiry into the meaning of the parable, till we come to the explanation of it; which, as we shall find, is shortly afterwards given by our Lord. It may only be necessary, for the present, to remind the reader, that if those who ran from distant places to Christ, like hungry persons, are compared to an unproductive and barren soil, we need not wonder if, in our own day, the Gospel does not yield fruit in many, of whom some are lazy and sluggish, others hear with indifference, and others are scarcely drawn even to hear.

9. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. These words were intended partly to show that all were not endued with true understanding to comprehend what he said, and partly to arouse his disciples to consider attentively that doctrine which is not readily and easily understood by all. Indeed, he makes a distinction among the hearers, by pronouncing some to have ears, and others to be deaf. If it is next inquired, how it comes to pass that the former have ears, Scripture testifies in other passages, that it is the Lord who pierces the ears, (Psalm 40:7,)and that no man obtains or accomplishes this by his own industry.

10. The disciples approaching said to him. From the words of Matthew it is evident, that the disciples did not merely look to themselves, but wished also to consult the benefit of others. Being unable to comprehend the parable, they concluded that it would be as little understood by the people; and, therefore, they complain that Christ employed language from which his hearers could derive no profit. Now though parables are generally found to illustrate the subject of which they treat, yet the uninterrupted course of a metaphor may lead to obscurity. [175] So then Christ, in delivering this parable, intended to wrap up, in an allegory, what he might have said more plainly and fully, without a figure. [176] But now that the exposition is added, the figurative discourse has greater energy and force than if it had been simple: by which is meant, that it is not only fitted to produce a more powerful impression on the mind, but is also more clear. So highly important is the manner in which any thing is said. [177]

11. To you it is given to know the mysteries [178] of the kingdom of heaven From this reply of Christ we learn, that the doctrine of salvation is proclaimed by God to men for various purposes; for Christ declares that he intentionally spoke obscurely, in order that his discourse might be a riddle to many, and might only strike their ears with a confused and doubtful sound. It will perhaps be objected, that this is inconsistent with that prophecy,

I have not spoken in secret, nor in a dark corner: I said not in vain to the seed of Jacob, Seek me,
(Isaiah 45:19;)

or with the commendations which David pronounces on the Law, that it

is a lamp to the feet, and that it giveth wisdom to little children (Psalm 119:105,130.)

But the answer is easy: the word of God, in its own nature, is always bright, [179] but its light is choked by the darkness of men. Though the Law was concealed, as it were, by a kind of veil, yet the truth, of God shone brightly in it, if the eyes of many had not been blinded. With respect to the Gospel, Paul affirms with truth, that it is hidden to none but to the reprobate, and to those who are devoted to destruction, whose minds Satan hath blinded, (2 Corinthians 4:3,4.) Besides, it ought to be understood, that the power of enlightening which David mentions, and the familiar manner of teaching which Isaiah predicts, refer exclusively to the elect people.

Still it remains a fixed principle, that the word of God is not obscure, except so far as the world darkens it by its own blindness. And yet the Lord conceals its mysteries, so that the perception of them may not reach the reprobate. [180] There are two ways in which he deprives them of the light of his doctrine. Sometimes he states, in a dark manner, what might be more clearly expressed; and sometimes he explains his mind fully, without ambiguity and without metaphor, but strikes their senses with dulness and their minds with stupidity, so that they are blind amidst bright sunshine.

Such is the import of those dreadful threatenings, in which Isaiah forewarns, that he will be to the people a barbarian, speaking in a foreign and unknown language; that the prophetical visions will be to the learned a shut and sealed book, in which they cannot read; and that when the book shall be opened, all will be unlearned, and will remain in amazement, through inability to read, (Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 29:11.) Now since Christ has purposely dispensed his doctrine in such a manner, that it might be profitable only to a small number, being firmly seated in their minds, and might hold others in suspense and perplexity, it follows that, by divine appointment, the doctrine of salvation is not proclaimed to all for the same end, but is so regulated by his wonderful purpose, that it is not less a savor of death to death to the reprobate than a life-giving savor to the elect, (2 Corinthians 2:15,16.) And that no one may dare to murmur, Paul declares, in that passage that whatever may be the effect of the Gospel, its savor, though deadly, is always a sweet savor to God.

To ascertain fully the meaning of the present passage, we must examine more closely the design of Christ, the reason why, and the purpose for which, these words were spoken. First, the comparison is undoubtedly intended by Christ to exhibit the magnitude of the grace bestowed on his disciples, in having specially received what was not given indiscriminately to all. If it is asked, why this privilege was peculiar to the apostles, [181] the reason certainly will not be found in themselves, and Christ, by declaring that it was given to them, excludes all merit. [182] Christ declares that there are certain and elect men, on whom God specially bestows this honor of revealing to them his secrets, and that others are deprived of this grace. No other reason will be found for this distinction, except that God calls to himself those whom he has gratuitously elected.

12. For whosoever hath, it shall be given to him. Christ pursues the subject which I have just mentioned; for he reminds his disciples how kindly God acts towards them, that they may more highly prize his grace, and may acknowledge themselves to be under deeper obligations to his kindness. The same words he afterwards repeats, but in a different sense, (Matthew 25:29;) for on that occasion the discourse relates to the lawful use of gifts. [183] But here he simply teaches, that more is given to the apostles than to the generality of men, because the heavenly Father is pleased to display in perfection his kindness towards them.

He does not forsake the work of his own hand,
(Psalm 138:8.)

Those whom he has once begun to form are continually polished more and more, till they are at length brought to the highest perfection. The multiplied favors which are continually flowing from him to us, and the joyful progress which we make, spring from God's contemplation of his own liberality, which prompts him to an uninterrupted course of bounty. And as his riches are inexhaustible, [184] so he is never wearied with enriching his children. Whenever he advances us to a higher degree, let us remember that every increase of the favors which we daily receive from him flows from this source, that it is his purpose to complete the work, of our salvation already commenced. On the other hand, Christ declares that the reprobate are continually proceeding from bad to worse, till, at length exhausted, they waste away in their own poverty.

And he that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken from him. This may appear to be a harsh expression; but instead of saying, that what the ungodly have not is taken from them, Luke softens the harshness and removes the ambiguity by a slight change of the words: and whosoever hath not, even that which he thinketh that he hath shall be taken from him. And indeed it frequently happens, that the reprobate are endued with eminent gifts, and appear to resemble the children of God: but there is nothing of real value about them; for their mind is destitute of piety, and has only the glitter of an empty show. Matthew is therefore justified in saying that they have nothing; for what they have is of no value in the sight of God, and has no permanency within. Equally appropriate is the statement of Luke, that the gifts, with which they have been endued, are corrupted by them, so that they shine only in the eyes of men, but have nothing more than splendor and empty display. Hence, also let us learn to aim at progress throughout our whole life; for God grants to us the taste of his heavenly doctrine on the express condition, that we feed on it abundantly from day to day, till we come to be fully satiated with it.

The manner in which Mark introduces this sentence has some appearance of confusion. Consider, says our Lord, what you hear; and then, if they make due progress, he holds out the expectation of more plentiful grace: it shall be added to you that hear Lastly, follows the clause which agrees with the words of Matthew, but is inserted in the middle of a sentence which I expounded under the seventh chapter of Matthew; [185] for it is not probable that they are here placed in their proper order. The Evangelists, as we have remarked on former occasions, were not very exact in arranging Christ's discourses, but frequently throw together a variety of sayings uttered by him. Luke mixes this sentence with other discourses of Christ spoken at different times, and likewise points out a different purpose for which Christ used these words. It was that they might be attentive to his doctrine, and not permit the seed of life to pass away unimproved, which ought to be cordially received, and take root in their minds. "Beware," he says, "lest what has been given be taken away from you, if it yield no fruit."

13. For this reason I speak by parables. He says that he speaks to the multitude in an obscure manner, because they are not partakers of the true light. And yet, while he declares that a veil is spread over the blind, that they may remain in their darkness, he does not ascribe the blame of this to themselves, but takes occasion to commend more highly the grace bestowed on the Apostles, because it is not equally communicated to all. He assigns no cause for it, except the secret purpose of God; for which, as we shall afterwards see more fully, there is a good reason, though it has been concealed from us. It is not the only design of a parable to state, in an obscure manner, what God is not pleased to reveal clearly; but we have said that the parable now under our consideration was delivered by Christ, in order that the form of an allegory might present a doubtful riddle.

14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. He confirms his statement by a prediction of Isaiah, that it is far from being a new thing, if many persons derive no advantage from the word of God, which was formerly appointed to the ancient people, for the purpose of inducing greater blindness. This passage of the Prophet is quoted, in a variety of ways, in the New Testament. Paul quotes it (Acts 28:26) to charge the Jews with obstinate malice, and says that they were blinded by the light of the Gospel, because they were bitter and rebellious against God. There he points out the immediate cause which appeared in the men themselves. But in the Epistle to the Romans (11:7) he draws the distinction from a deeper and more hidden source; for he tells us, that the remnant was saved according to the election of grace, and that the rest were blinded, according as it is written. The contrast must there be observed; for if it is the election of God, and an undeserved election, which alone saves any remnant of the people, it follows that all others perish by a hidden, though just, judgment of God. Who are the rest, whom Paul contrasts with the elect remnant, but those on whom God has not bestowed a special salvation?

Similar reasoning may be applied to the passage in John, (12:38;) for he says that many believed not, because no man believes, except he to whom God reveals his arm, and immediately adds, that they could not believe, because it is again written, Blind the heart of this people. Such, too is the object which Christ has in view, when he ascribes it to the secret purpose of God, that the truth of the Gospel is not revealed indiscriminately to all, but is exhibited at a distance under obscure forms, so as to have no other effect than to overspread the minds of the people with grosser darkness. [186] In all cases, I admit, those whom God blinds will be found to deserve this condemnation; but as the immediate cause is not always obvious in the persons of men, let it be held as a fixed principle, that God enlightens to salvation, and that by a peculiar gift, those whom He has freely chosen; and that all the reprobate are deprived of the light of life, whether God withholds his word from them, or keeps their eyes and ears closed, that they do not hear or see.

Hearing you shall hear. We now perceive the manner in which Christ applies the prediction of the prophet to the present occasion. He does not quote the prophet's words, nor was it necessary; for Christ reckoned it enough to show, that it was no new or uncommon occurrence, if many were hardened by the word of God. The words of the prophet were,

Go, blind their minds, and harden their hearts, (Isaiah 6:10.)

Matthew ascribes this to the hearers, that they may endure the blame of their own blindness and hardness; for the one cannot be separated from the other. All who have been given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28) do voluntarily, and from inward malice, blind and harden themselves. Nor can it be otherwise, wherever the Spirit of God does not reign, by whom the elect alone are governed. Let us, therefore, attend to this connection, that all whom God does not enlighten with the Spirit of adoption are men of unsound mind; and that, while they are more and more blinded by the word of God, the blame rests wholly on themselves, because this blindness is voluntary. Again, the ministers of the word ought to seek consolation from this passage, if the success of their labors does not always correspond to their wish. Many are so far from profiting by their instruction, that they are rendered worse by it. What has befallen them was experienced by a Prophet, [187] to whom they are not superior. It were, indeed, to be wished, that they should bring all under subjection to God; and they ought to labor and strive for that end. But let them not wonder if that judgment, which God anciently displayed through the ministration of the Prophet, is likewise fulfilled at the present day. At the same time, we ought to be extremely careful, that the fruit of the Gospel be not lost through our negligence.

Mark 4:12. That seeing, they may see, and not perceive. Here it may suffice to state briefly what has already been fully explained, that the doctrine is not, strictly speaking, or by itself, or in its own nature, but by accident, the cause of blindness. When persons of a weak sight come out into sunshine, their eyes become dimmer than before, and that defect is in no way attributed to the sun, but to their eyes. In like manner, when the word of God blinds and hardens the reprobate, as this takes place through their own depravity, it belongs truly and naturally to themselves, but is accidental, as respects the word.

Lest at any time they should be converted. This clause points out the advantage that is gained by seeing and understanding It is, that men, having been converted to God, are restored to his favor, and, being reconciled to him, enjoy prosperity and happiness. The true end for which

God desires that his word should be preached is, to reconcile men to himself by renewing their minds and hearts. With respect to the reprobate, on the other hand, Isaiah here declares that the stony hardness remains in them, so that they do not obtain mercy, and that the word fails to produce its effect upon them, so as to soften their minds to repentance.

Matthew 13:15. Lest I should heal them In the word healing, Matthew, as well as the Prophet, includes deliverance from every evil; for a people afflicted by the hand of God is metaphorically compared by them to a sick man. They say that healing is bestowed, [188] when the Lord releases from punishment. But as this healing depends on the pardon of sins, Mark describes appropriately and justly its cause and source, lest they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them For whence comes the mitigation of chastisements, but because God has been reconciled to us, and makes us the objects of his blessing? Sometimes, no doubt, after removing our guilt, he continues to punish us, either with the view of humbling us the more, or of making us more cautious for the future. And yet, not only does he show evidences of his favor by restoring us to life and health; but as punishments usually terminate when the guilt is removed, healing and forgiveness are properly introduced together. It must not, however, be concluded, that repentance is the cause of pardon, as if God received into his favor converted men, because they deserved it; [189] for conversion itself is a mark of God's free favor. Nothing more is expressed than such an order and connection, that God does not forgive the sins of any but those who are dissatisfied with themselves.

Matthew 13:16. But blessed are your eyes. Luke appears to represent this statement as having been spoken at another time; but this is easily explained, for in that passage he throws together a variety of our Lord's sayings, without attending to the order of dates. We shall, therefore, follow the text of Matthew, who explains more clearly the circumstances from which Christ took occasion to utter these words. Having formerly reminded them of the extraordinary favor which they had received, in being separated by our Lord from the common people, and familiarly admitted to the mysteries of his kingdom, he now magnifies that grace by another comparison, which is, that they excel ancient Prophets and holy Kings This is a far loftier distinction than to be preferred to an unbelieving multitude. Christ does not mean any kind of hearing, or the mere beholding of the flesh, but pronounces their eyes to be blessed, because they perceive in him a glory which is worthy of the only-begotten Son of God, so as to acknowledge him as the Redeemer; because they perceive shining in him the lively image of God, by which they obtain salvation and perfect happiness; and because in them is fulfilled what had been spoken by the Prophets, that those who have been truly and perfectly taught by the Lord (Isaiah 54:13) do not need to learn every man from his neighbor, (Jeremiah 31:34.)

This furnishes a reply to an objection that might be drawn from another saying of Christ, that

blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, (John 20:29;)

for there he describes that kind of seeing which Thomas desired in consequence of his gross apprehension. [190] But that seeing, of which Christ now speaks, has been enjoyed by believers in every age in common with the Apostles. We do not see Christ, and yet we see him; we do not hear Christ, and yet we hear him: for in the Gospel we behold him, as Paul says,

face to face, so as to be transformed into his image, (2 Corinthians 3:18;)

and the perfection of wisdom, righteousness, and life, which was formerly exhibited in him, shines there continually.

Luke 10:24. Many Prophets and Kings have desired to see. The condition of the Church, at the present day, is justly pronounced to be preferable to that of the holy fathers, who lived under the Law; because to them was exhibited, under shadows and figures only, what is now openly manifested in the shining face of Christ. The veil of the temple being rent, (Matthew 27:51,) we enter by faith into the heavenly sanctuary, and are freely permitted to approach to God. Although the fathers were satisfied with their lot, and enjoyed a blessed peace in their own minds, yet this did not prevent their desires from extending farther. Thus, Abraham saw the day of Christ afar off, and rejoice, (John 8:56,) and yet longed to enjoy a nearer view, but did not obtain his wish. Simeon spoke the sentiments of all, [191] when he said, Now thou sendest thy servant away in peace, (Luke 2:29.) And indeed it was impossible that, under the burden of that curse by which the human race is crushed, they should be otherwise than altogether inflamed with the desire of a promised deliverance. [192] Let us therefore learn, that they breathed after Christ, like hungry persons, and yet possessed a serene faith; so that they did not murmur against God, but kept their minds in patient expectation till the full time of revelation.


[168] "De cognoistre les secrets;" -- "to know the secrets."

[169] "Et en aura tant plus;" -- "and he shall have so much the more of it."

[170] "De cognoistre le secret;" -- "to know the secret."

[171] "Il alloit de ville en ville, et de village en village;" -- "he was going from town to town, and from village to village."

[172] "Et ses disciples l'interroguerent, dema, dans quelle estoit ceste similitude;" -- "and his disciples interrogated him, asking what was this parable."

[173] "De cognoistre les secrets;" -- "to know the secrets."

[174] "D'autant qu'elles ont suyvi leur Liberateur, nonobstant l'ignominie du monde qu'il leur faloit endurer en ce faisant;" -- "because they followed their Deliverer, notwithstanding the ignominy of the world which they must endure by so doing."

[175] "Si est-ce toutesfois qu'elles sont obscures et enveloppees, quand on continue tousiours la metaphore sans rien y entremesler;" -- "yet they are obscure and involved, when the metaphor is constantly pursued, without any thing being intermingled with it."

[176] "En usant de termes communs;" -- "by using ordinary terms."

[177] "Voyla comme il y a bien a regarder comment on couche ou on deduit un propos;" -- "this shows us the great attention that is due to the manner in which a discourse is expressed or conveyed."

[178] "De cognoistre les secrets;" -- "to know the secrets."

[179] "La parole de Dieu de sa nature est tousiours pleine de lumiere et clairte;" -- "the word of God in its own nature is always full of light and brightness."

[180] "Cependant neantmoins il ne laisse point d'estre vray, que le Seigneur tient ses secrets cachez, a fin que le goust et la fruition d'iceux ne parviene aux reprouvez;" -- "yet, nevertheless, it does not cease to be true, that the Lord keeps its secrets hidden, in order that the relish and enjoyment of them may not reach the reprobate."

[181] "Si on demande d'ou venoit un tel privilege et honneur aux Apostres plustost aux autres;" -- "if it is asked, whence came such a privilege and honor to the Apostles rather than to the others."

[182] "Exclud toute merite de sa part;" -- "excludes all merit on their part."

[183] "Car la le propos sera touchant le droict et legitime usage des dons de Dieu;" -- "for there the discourse will relate to the right and lawful use of the gifts of God."

[184] "Et comme ses richesses sont infinies, et ne se peuvent espuiser;"-- "and as his riches are infinite, and cannot be exhausted."

[185] Harmony, volume 1[[11]p. 345.

[186] "En sorte que c'estoit tousiours pour esblouir de plus en plus les yeux de l entendement du peuple;" -- "so that it was always to dazzle more and more the eyes of the understanding of the people."

[187] "Il leur advient ce que le Prophete Isaie a experimente;" -- "it happens to them what the Prophet Isaiah experienced."

[188] "Ils disent qu'il guarit, et remet en sante;" -- "they say that he heals, and restores to health."

[189] "Il ne faut pas conclurre par cela que la repentance, ou conversion, soit cause de nous faire avoir remission et pardon de nos pechez; comme si Dieu prenoit a merci ceux qui se convertissent, pource qu'ils en sont dignes, et le meritent;" -- "we must not therefore conclude, that repentance, or conversion, is the cause of making us have forgiveness and pardon of our sins; as if God exercised mercy towards those who are converted, because they are worthy of it, and deserve it."

[190] "Selon son apprehension carnale et grossiere;" -- "according to his carnal and gross apprehension."

[191] "Simeon disoit selon l'affection de tours les Peres;" -- "Simeon spoke according to the feeling of all the Fathers."

[192] "Et de faict, il ne se pouvoit faire que ces bons personnages ne fussent tous ravis, et comme enflambez d'un grand desir de la delivrance promise." -- "And indeed it was impossible that those good men should not be altogether transported, and as it were inflamed with a great desire of the promised deliverance."

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Matthew 13:18-23

Mark 4:13-20

Luke 8:11-15

18. Hear therefore the parable of the sower. 19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth not, that wicked one cometh, and taketh away what was sown in the heart. This is he who received seed near the road. 20. But he that received the seed thrown into stony places, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy: 21. But hath not root in himself, but is of short duration: when affliction or persecution ariseth on account of the word, immediately he is offended. 22. And he that received the seed among thorns is he that heareth the word, and the care of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 23. But he who receiveth seed into a good soil is he that heareth the word and understandeth it, and who afterwards yieldeth and produceth fruit, [193] some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, and some thirty-fold.

13. And he said to them, Know you not this parable? and how shall you know all parables? 14. The sower is he that soweth the word. 15. And there are some that (receive the seed) near the road, in whom the word is sown; and when they have heard, immediately Satan cometh, and taketh away the word which was sown in their hearts. 16. And in like manner there are others who receive the seed into stony places, who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17. And have not root in themselves, but are of short duration: afterwards, when affliction or persecution ariseth on account of the words, immediately they are offended. 18. And there are others who receive the seed among thorns: these are they that hear the word, 19. And the anxieties of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires of other things, entering in, choke the word, and it is rendered unfruitful. 20. There are others who have received the seed into a good soil, who hear the word, and receive it, and bear fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred.

11. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12. And they that (received the seed) near the road are those who hear: afterwards cometh the devil, and taketh the word out of their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. 13. For they that are on the rock are those who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy: but these have not roots, who for a time believe, and in the time of temptation fall away. 14. And what fell among thorns are those who have heard, and, going away, are choked by the anxieties, and riches, and pleasures of life, and do not yield fruit. 15. And what fell into a good soil are those who, with a good and upright heart, keep it, and yield fruit with patience.

According to Matthew and Luke, Christ explains the parable to his disciples simply, and unaccompanied by a reproof; but according to Mark, he indirectly blames them for being slow of apprehension, because those who were to be the teachers of all did not run before others. [194] The general truth conveyed is, that the doctrine of the Gospel, when it is scattered like seed, [195] is not everywhere fruitful; because it does not always meet with a fertile and well cultivated soil. He enumerates four kinds of hearers: the first of which do not receive the seed; [196] the second appear, indeed, to receive it, [197] but in such a manner that it does not take deep root; in the third, the corn is choked; [198] and so there remains a fourth part, which produces fruit. Not that one hearer only out of four, or ten out of forty, embrace the doctrine, and yield fruit; for Christ did not intend here to fix down an exact number, or to arrange the persons, of whom he speaks, in equal divisions; and, indeed, where the word is sown, the produce of faith is not always alike, but is sometimes more abundant, and at other times more scanty. He only intended to warn us, that, in many persons, the seed of life is lost on account of various defects, in consequence of which it is either destroyed immediately, or it withers, or it gradually degenerates. That we may derive the greater advantage from this warning, we ought to bear in mind, that he makes no mention of despisers who openly reject the word of God, but describes those only in whom there is some appearance of docility. But if the greater part of such men perish, what shall become of the rest of the world, by whom the doctrine of salvation is openly rejected? I now come down to each class.

Matthew 13:19. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not. He mentions, in the first place, the barren and uncultivated, who do not receive the seed within, because there is no preparation in their hearts. Such persons he compares to a stiff and dry soil, like what we find on a public road, which is trodden down, and becomes hard, like a pavement. I wish that we had not occasion to see so many of this class at the present day, who come forward to hear, but remain in a state of amazement, and acquire no relish for the word, and in the end differ little from blocks or stones. Need we wonder that they utterly vanish away?

That which was sown in their heart. This expression, which Christ employs, is not strictly accurate, and yet it is not without meaning; for the wickedness and depravity of men do not make the word to lose its own nature, or to cease to have the character of seed. This must be carefully observed, that we may not suppose the favors of God to cease to be what they are, though the good effect of them does not reach us. With respect to God, the word is sown in the hearts, but it is far from being true, that the hearts of all receive with meekness what is planted in them, as James (1:21) exhorts us to receive the word. So then the Gospel is always a fruitful seed as to its power, but not as to its produce. [199]

Luke adds, that the devil [200] taketh away the seed out of their heart, that they may not believe and be saved Hence we infer that, as hungry birds are wont to do at the time of sowing, this enemy of our salvation, as soon as the doctrine is delivered, watches and rushes forth to seize it, before it acquires moisture and springs up. It is no ordinary praise of the word, when it is pronounced to be the cause of our salvation.

20. But he that received the seed thrown into stony places. This class differs from the former; for temporary faith, being a sort of vegetation of the seed, [201] promises at first some fruit; but their hearts are not so properly and thoroughly subdued, as to have the softness necessary for their continued nourishment. [202] We see too many of this class in our own day, who eagerly embrace the Gospel, and shortly afterwards fall off; for they have not the lively affection that is necessary to give them firmness and perseverance. Let every one then examine himself thoroughly, that the alacrity which gives out a bright flame may not quickly go out, as the saying is, like a fire of tow; [203] for if the word does not fully penetrate the whole heart, and strike its roots deep, faith will want the supply of moisture that is necessary for perseverance. Great commendation is due, no doubt, to that promptitude, which receives the word of God with joy, and without delay, as soon as it is published; but let us learn, that nothing has been done, till faith acquires true firmness, that it may not wither in the first blade.

21. When affliction or persecution ariseth on account of the word. By way of example, Christ says that such persons are made uneasy by the offense of the cross. And certainly, as the heat of the sun discovers the barrenness of the soil, so persecution and the cross lay open the vanity of those, who are slightly influenced by I know not what desire, but are not actually moved by earnest feelings of piety. Such persons, according to Matthew and Mark, are temporary, [204] not only because, having professed, for a time, that they are the disciples of Christ, they afterwards fall away through temptation, but because they imagine that they have true faith. According to Luke, Christ says that they believe for a time; because that honor which they render to the Gospel resembles faith. [205] At the same time we ought to learn, that they are not truly regenerated by the incorruptible seed, which never fadeth, as Peter tells us, (1 Peter 1:4;) for he says that these words of Isaiah, The word of God endureth for ever, (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25,) are fulfilled in the hearts of believers, in whom the truth of God, once fixed, never passes away, but retains its vigor to the end. Still, those persons who take delight in the word of God, and cherish some reverence for it, do in some manner believe; for they are widely different from unbelievers, who give no credit to God when he speaks, or who reject his word. In a word, let us learn that none are partakers of true faith, except those who are scaled with the Spirit of adoption, and who sincerely call on God as their Father; and as that Spirit is never extinguished, so it is impossible that the faith, which he has once engraven on the hearts of the godly, shall pass away or be destroyed.

22. And he who received the seed among thorns. He places in the third class, those who would have been disposed to receive the seed within, if they had not permitted other things to corrupt and render it degenerate. Christ compares to thorns the pleasures of this life, or wicked desires, and covetousness, and the other anxieties of the flesh. Matthew mentions only the care of this life, along with covetousness, but the meaning is the same; for under that term he includes the allurements of pleasures, which Luke mentions, and every kind of desire. As corn, which otherwise might have been productive, no sooner rises into the stalk than it is choked by thorns and other matters injurious to its growth; so the sinful affections of the flesh prevail over the hearts of men, and overcome faith, and thus destroy the force of the heavenly doctrine, before it has reached maturity.

Now though sinful desires exert their power on the hearts of men, before the word of the Lord springs up into the blade, yet, at first, their influence is not perceived, and it is only when the corn has grown up, and given promise of fruit, that they gradually make their appearance. Each of us ought to endeavor to tear the thorns out of his heart, if we do not choose that the word of God should be choked; for there is not one of us whose heart is not filled with a vast quantity, and, as I may say, a thick forest, of thorns. And, indeed, we perceive how few there are that reach maturity; for there is scarcely one individual out of ten that labors, I do not say to root out, but even to cut down the thorns. Nay more, the very number of the thorns, which is so prodigious that it ought to shake off our sloth, is the reason why most people give themselves no trouble about them.

The deceitfulness of riches. Christ employs this phrase to denote covetousness He expressly says, that riches are imposing or deceitful, in order that men may be more desirous to guard against falling into their snares. Let us remember that the affections of our flesh, the number and variety of which are incalculable, are so many injurious influences to corrupt the seed of life.

23. But he that received the seed into a good soil. None are compared by Christ to a good and fertile soil, but those in whom the word of God not only strikes its roots deep and solid, but overcomes every obstacle that would prevent it from yielding fruit. Is it objected that it is impossible to find any one who is pure and free from thorns? It is easy to reply, that Christ does not now speak of the perfection of faith, but only points out those in whom the word of God yields fruit. Though the produce may not be great, yet every one who does not fall off from the sincere worship of God is reckoned a good and fertile soil We ought to labor, no doubt, to pull out the thorns; but as our utmost exertion will never succeed so well, but that there will always be some remaining behind, let each of us endeavor, at least, to deaden them, that they may not hinder the fruit of the word. This statement is confirmed by what immediately follows, when Christ informs us that all do not yield fruit in an equal degree.

Some a hundred-fold, and some sixty-fold, and some thirty-fold. Though the fertility of that soil, which yields a thirty-fold produce, is small, compared with that which yields a hundred-fold, yet we perceive that our Lord classes together all kinds of soil which do not entirely disappoint the labors and expectation of the husbandman. [206] Hence too we learn, that we have no right to despise those who occupy a lower degree of excellence; for the master of the house himself, though he gives to one the preference above another on account of more abundant produce, yet bestows the general designation, good, even on inferior soils. Those three gradations are absurdly tortured by Jerome, to denote virgins, widows, and married persons; as if that produce which the Lord demands from us belonged to celibacy alone, and as if the piety of married persons did not, in many cases, yield more abundantly every fruit of virtue. It must also be observed, in passing, that what Christ says about a hundred-fold produce is not hyperbolical; for such was at that time the fertility of some countries, as we learn from many historians, who give their report as eye-witnesses.


[193] "Celuy qui oit la Parole, et l'entend, a scavoir celuy qui porte et produit fruict;" -- "he who heareth the word, and understandeth it, that is he who beareth and produceth fruit."

[194] "Ne passent autrement les autres pour leur monstrer le chemin;"-- "did not go beyond others to show them the road."

[195] "Estant espandue ca et la comme le b1e qu'on iette en terre;"-- "being scattered here and there, like the corn which is thrown into the earth."

[196] "Desquels les premiers ne retienent pas la semence en leurs coeurs pour germer;" -- "the first of which do not retain the seed in their hearts so as to spring up."

[197] "Les seconds semblent bien l'avoir gardee iusques a venir a germer;" -- "the second appear to have kept it till it came to spring up."

[198] "Aux troisiemes, le ble estant en herbe est estouffe;" -- "in the third, the corn, while yet in the blade, is choked."

[199] "Mais non pas a ce qui s'accomplit es hommes;" -- "but not as to what is accomplished in men."

[200] "Le mauvais;" -- "the wicked one."

[201] "La foy temporelle, qui est comme le germe de la semence;"-- "temporary faith, which is as it were the germ of the seed."

[202] "Mais les coeurs ne sont point tellement cultivez et preparez, qu'ils ayant une douceur pour nourrir et entretenir ce qui est commence;" -- "but the hearts are not so cultivated and prepared, as to have a softness for nourishing and supporting what is begun."

[203] "De peur que ceste ardeur et alaigrete qui est de grand monstre pour le commencement, ne s'en aille bien tost en fumee comme un feu d'estouppes, ainsi que porte le proverbe commun;" -- "lest that ardor and alacrity, which makes a great show at the beginning, may soon vanish into smoke, like a fire of tow, as the common proverb goes."

[204] "Temporels, c'est a dire, de petite duree;" -- "temporary, that is to say, of short duration."

[205] "Ressemble aucunement a la foy;" -- "somewhat resembles faith."

[206] "Esquelles le laboureur ne perd pas du tout sa peine;" -- "in which the husbandman does not entirely lose his trouble."

The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

Matthew 10:26-31

Mark 4:22-23

Luke 8:17

26. Fear them not therefore: for nothing is covered that shall not be revealed, and nothing is hid that shall not be known. 27. What I say to you in darkness speak you in light: and what you hear in the ear proclaim on the housetops. 28. And fear not those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul: but rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in gehenna. 29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father? 30. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.

22. For nothing is hid which shall not be revealed; and nothing is secret that shall not come to light. 23. If any man have ears to hears, let him hear.

17. For there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed, and nothing concealed that shall not be known and come to light.

Luke 12:2-7

2. For nothing is covered which shall not be laid open, and nothing is hid wich shall not be known. 3. Therefore, those things which you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in light: and what you have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4. And I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5. And I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after that he hath killed, hath power to throw into gehenna: yea, I say to you, Fear him. 6. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered: fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:26. Fear them not therefore When the apostles saw the gospel so greatly despised, and recollected the small number of believers, they might be apt to throw away hope even for the future. Christ now meets this doubt, by declaring that the gospel would be widely spread, would at length rise superior to all the hindrances which might arise from men, and would become generally known. The saying, nothing is covered that shall not be revealed, has some appearance of being a proverb: but we restrict it in a special manner to the doctrine of salvation, which Christ promises will be victorious, whatsoever may be the contrivances of men to oppose it. Though he sometimes preached openly in the temple, yet, as his doctrine was rejected, it was still concealed in dark comers: but he declares that the time for proclaiming it will come; which, we know, happened shortly afterwards. In no part of the earth was there ever such thunder heard as the voice of the gospel, which resounded through the whole world. As this promise ought to fill them with courage, Christ exhorts them to devote themselves to it with boldness and perseverance, and not to be alarmed, though they see the gospel hitherto despised, but, on the contrary, to become its zealous preachers.

The passage which I have taken from Mark was, perhaps, spoken at a different time, and in a different sense: but as the sentences in that place are concise, I have followed the meaning which appeared to me the most probable. After having commanded the apostles to assemble burning lamps by sending out a bright light to a great distance, he immediately afterwards adds, nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed. Now the lamp of the gospel was kindled by the apostles, as it were in the midst of darkness, that by their agency it might be raised on high, and shine throughout the whole world. The passage in the eighth chapter of Luke's Gospel is precisely alike. As to the passage in the twelfth chapter, there is no room to doubt that it has the same meaning, though there is a difference in the words: for Christ there commands the apostles to bring to light what they had spoken in darkness. This means, that hitherto they had only spoken in whispers about the gospel, but that their future preaching would be so public, that it would spread to the most distant parts of the world.

28. And fear not those who kill the body To excite his disciples to despise death, Christ employs the very powerful argument, that this frail and perishing lift ought to be little regarded by men who have been created for a heavenly immortality. The statement amounts to this, that if believers will consider for what purpose they were born, and what is their condition, they will have no reason to be so earnest in desiring an earthly life. But the words have still a richer and fuller meaning: for we are here taught by Christ that the fear of God is dead in those men who, through dread of tyrants, fall from a confession of their faith, and that a brutish stupidity reigns in the hearts of those who, through dread of death, do not hesitate to abandon that confession.

We must attend to the distinction between the two opposite kinds of fear. If the fear of God is extinguished by the dread of men, is it not evident that we pay greater deference to them than to God himself? Hence it follows, that when we have abandoned the heavenly and eternal life, we reserve nothing more for ourselves than to be like the beasts that perish, (Psalm 49:12.) God alone has the power of bestowing eternal life, or of inflicting eternal death. We forget God, because we are hurried away by the dread of men. Is it not very evident that we set a higher value on the shadowy life of the body [595] than on the eternal condition of the soul; or rather, that the heavenly kingdom of God is of no estimation with us, in comparison of the fleeting and vanishing shadow of the present life?

These words of Christ ought therefore to be explained in this manner: "Acknowledge that you have received immortal souls, which are subject to the disposal of God alone, and do not come into the power of men. The consequence will be, that no terrors or alarms which men may employ will shake your faith. "For how comes it that the dread of men prevails in the struggle, but because the body is preferred to the soul, and immortality is less valued than a perishing life?"

Luke 12:5. Yea, I say to you, Fear Him This is an emphatic, [596] repetition of the statement. Christ must be viewed as saying, that when we give way to the dread of men, we pay no respect to God; and that if on the contrary we fear God, we have an easy victory in our hands, so that no efforts of men will draw us aside from our duty. The experience of every age shows the great necessity of this exhortation to the ministers of Christ, and likewise to all believers in general: for there never was a period when men did not rise furiously against God, and endeavor to overwhelm the Gospel. [597] All are not armed indeed with equal power to hold out to believers the dread of death, but the greater number are animated by that savage ferocity, which discovers itself as soon as an opportunity occurs. Frequently, too, Satan brings forward giants, in whose presence the servants of Christ would fall down lifeless, were it not that this doctrine fortifies them to maintain unshaken perseverance.

The two clauses being very closely related to each other, it is an incorrect view which some unskilful persons take, by reading separately this clause, Fear them not For Christ, (as we have already said,) in order to cure that wicked fear of men, which draws us aside from the right path contrasts with it a devout and holy fear of God: otherwise the consequence would not follow that, if we fear God, who is the Lord of body and soul, we have no reason to fear men, whose power goes no farther than the body. With regard to the statement that men have power to kill the body, Christ made it by way of concession. God allows wicked men to enjoy such a degree of liberty, that they are swelled with confidence in their own power, imagine that they may attempt any thing, and even succeed in terrifying weak minds, as if they could do whatever they pleased. Now the proud imaginations of wicked men, as if the life of the godly were placed at their disposal, is utterly unfounded: for God keeps them within limits, and restrains, whenever it pleases him, the cruelty and violence of their attacks. And yet they are said to have power to kill by his permission, for he often permits them to indulge their cruel rage. Besides, our Lord's discourse consists of two parts. First, in order to instruct us to bear with composure the loss of the bodily life, he bids us contemplate both eternal life and eternal death, and then arrives gradually at this point, that the protection of our life is in the hand of God.

Matthew 10:29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? Christ proceeds farther, as I have already hinted, and declares that tyrants, whatever may be their madness, have no power whatever even over the body: and that therefore it is improper in any persons to dread the cruelty of men, as if they were not under the protection of God. In the midst of dangers, therefore, let us remember this second consolation. As God is the guardian of our life, we may safely rely on his providence; nay, we do him injustice, if we do not entrust to him our life, which he is pleased to take under his charge. Christ takes a general view of the providence of God as extending to all creatures, and thus argues from the greater to the less, that we are upheld by his special protection. There is hardly any thing of less value than sparrows, (for two were then sold for a farthing, or, as Luke states it, five for two farthings,) and yet God has his eye upon them to protect them, so that nothing happens to them by chance. Would He who is careful about the sparrows disregard the life of men?

There are here two things to be observed. First, Christ gives a very different account of the providence of God from what is given by many who talk like the philosophers, and tell us that God governs the world, but yet imagine providence to be a confused sort of arrangement, as if God did not keep his eye on each of the creatures. Now, Christ declares that each of the creatures in particular is under his hand and protection, so that nothing is left to chance. Unquestionably, the will of God is contrasted with contingence or uncertainty [598] , And yet we must not be understood to uphold the fate of the Stoics, [599] for it is one thing to imagine a necessity which is involved in a complicated chain of causes, and quite another thing to believe that the world, and every part of it, is directed by the will of God. In the nature of things, I do acknowledge there is uncertainty: [600] but I maintain that nothing happens through a blind revolution of chance, for all is regulated by the will of God.

The second thing to be observed is, that we ought to contemplate Providence, not as curious and fickle persons are wont to do, but as a ground of confidence and excitement to prayer. When he informs us that the hairs of our head are all numbered, it is not to encourage trivial speculations, but to instruct us to depend on the fatherly care of God which is exercised over these frail bodies.

31. You are of more value This is true in general of all men, for the sparrows were created for their advantage. But this discourse relates peculiarly to the sons of God, who possess a far higher right than what they derive from creation. Now the rank which belongs to men arises solely from the undeserved kindness of God.


[595] "La vie de ce corps, laquelle n'est qu'une fumee;" -- "the life of this body, which is but a vapor," (James 4:14.)

[596] "Emporte poids;" -- "carries weight.

[597] "S'esforcans d'abattre et exterminer l'Evangile;" -- "laboring to destroy and exterminate the Gospel."

[598] "La volonte de Dieu est mise a l'opposite de ce que tels Philosophes appellent Contingence: par lequel mot ils signifient un accident qui vient de soy ?s choses, sans qu'il y ait une certaine conduite d'enhaut." -- "The will of God is contrasted with what such Philosophers call Contingence: a term by which they denote an accident which comes of its own accord in events, without any fixed direction of it from above."

[599] We have formerly adverted to a leading tenet of the Stoics, that the distinction between pleasure and pain is imaginary, and that consequently the highest wisdom consists in being utterly unmoved by the events of life. The present allusion is to their notion of Fate, a mysterious and irresistible necessity, over which those beings whom they blindly worshipped were supposed to have as little control as the inhabitants of the earth. Calvin demonstrates that the serenity of a Christian differs not more widely from Stoical apathy, than the doctrine of a special Providence which is here taught by our Savior differs from Stoical Fate; that the believer in Providence adores the high and lofty One that inhabiteth, eternity, (Isaiah 57:15,) who hath, prepared His throne in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all, (Psalm 103:19;) and, far from viewing the will of God as swayed by a higher power, traces every event to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, (Ephesians 1:11.) -- Ed

[600] "Je confesse bien que si on regarde la nature des choses en soy, on trouvera qu'il y a quelque Contingence;" -- "I readily acknowledge that, if the nature of things in itself be considered, it will be found that there is some uncertainty."

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

Matthew 7:1-5

Mark 4:24

Luke 6:37-42

1. Judge not, that you may not be judged. 2. For with what judgment you judge you shall be judged, and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again. 3. And why seest thou the straw, which is in thy brother's eye, and perceivest not the beam which is in thine eye? 4. Or how shall thou say to thy brother, Allow me to pull the straw out of thine eye, and, behold, a beam is in thine eye? 5. Hypocrites, cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou shall see clearly, that thou mayest pull out the straw from they brother's eye.

24 With what measure you measure, the same shall be measured to you.

37. Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you. 38. Give, and it shall be given to you. Good measure, and pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall they give into your bosom: for the same measure, with which you measure, shall be measured again to you. (Again.) 41. And why seest thou a straw in thy brother's eye, and perceivest not a beam which is in thine own eye? 42. Or how will thou be able to say to thy brother, Brother, allow me to pull out the straw which is in thine eye, while thou seest not the beam which is in thine eye? Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou shalt see clearly, that thou mayest cast out the straw which is in thy brother's eye.

Matthew 7:1. Judge not These words of Christ do not contain an absolute prohibition from judging, but are intended to cure a disease, which appears to be natural to us all. We see how all flatter themselves, and every man passes a severe censure on others. This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people's faults. All acknowledge, indeed, that it is an intolerable evil, that those who overlook their own vices are so inveterate against their brethren. The Heathens, too, in ancient times, condemned it in many proverbs. Yet it has existed in all ages, and exists, too, in the present day. Nay, it is accompanied by another and a worse plague: for the greater part of men think that, when they condemn others, they acquire a greater liberty of sinning.

This depraved eagerness for biting, censuring, and slandering, is restrained by Christ, when he says, Judge not. It is not necessary that believers should become blind, and perceive nothing, but only that they should refrain from an undue eagerness to judge: for otherwise the proper bounds of rigor will be exceeded by every man who desires to pass sentence on his brethren. There is a similar expression in the Apostle James, Be not many masters, (James 3:1.) for he does not discourage or withdraw believers from discharging the office of teachers, but forbids them to desire the honor from motives of ambition. To judge, therefore, means here, to be influenced by curiosity in inquiring into the actions of others. This disease, in the first place, draws continually along with it the injustice of condemning any trivial fault, as if it had been a very heinous crime; and next breaks out into the insolent presumption of looking disdainfully at every action, and passing an unfavourable judgment on it, even when it might be viewed in a good light.

We now see, that the design of Christ was to guard us against indulging excessive eagerness, or peevishness, or malignity, or even curiosity, in judging our neighbors. He who judges according to the word and law of the Lord, and forms his judgment by the rule of charity, always begins with subjecting himself to examination, and preserves a proper medium and order in his judgments. Hence it is evident, that this passage is altogether misapplied by those persons who would desire to make that moderation, which Christ recommends, a pretence for setting aside all distinction between good and evil. We are not only permitted, but are even bound, to condemn all sins; unless we choose to rebel against God himself, -- nay, to repeal his laws, to reverse his decisions, and to overturn his judgment-seat. It is his will that we should proclaim the sentence which he pronounces on the actions of men: only we must preserve such modesty towards each other, as to make it manifest that he is the only Lawgiver and Judge, (Isaiah 33:22.)

That you may not be judged He denounces a punishment against those severe judges, who take so much delight in sifting the faults of others. They will not be treated by others with greater kindness, but will experience, in their turn, the same severity which they had exercised towards others. As nothing is dearer or more valuable to us than our reputation, so nothing is more bitter than to be condemned, or to be exposed to the reproaches and infamy of men. And yet it is by our own fault that we draw upon ourselves that very thing which our nature so strongly detests, for which of us is there, who does not examine too severely the actions of others; who does not manifest undue rage against slight offenses; or who does not peevishly censure what was in itself indifferent? And what is this but deliberately to provoke God, as our avenger, to treat us in the same manner. Now, though it is a just judgment of God, that those who have judged others should be punished in their turn, yet the Lord executes this punishment by the instrumentality of men. Chrysostom and others limit this statement to the present life: but that is a forced interpretation. Isaiah threatens (33:1) that those who have spoiled others shall be spoiled. In like manner, our Lord means, that there will be no want of executioners to punish the injustice and slander of men with equal bitterness or severity. And if men shall fail to receive punishment in this world, those who have shown undue eagerness in condemning their brethren will not escape the judgment of God.

Luke 6:37, 38. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you. Give, and it shall be given to you. This promise, which is added by Luke, means, that the Lord will cause him, who is indulgent, kind, and just to his brethren, to experience the same gentleness from others, and to be treated by them in a generous and friendly manner. Yet it frequently happens, that the children of God receive the very worst reward, and are oppressed by many unjust slanders; and that, to when they have injured no man's reputation, and even spared the faults of brethren. But this is not inconsistent with what Christ says: for we know, that the promises which relate to the present life do not always hold, and are not without exceptions. Besides, though the Lord permits his people, when innocent, to be unjustly oppressed and almost overwhelmed, he fulfils what he says in another place, that "their uprightness shall break forth as the morning," [464] (Isaiah 58:8.) In this way, his blessing always rises above all unjust slanders. He subjects believers to unjust reproaches, that he may humble them, and that he may at length maintain the goodness of their cause. It ought also to be taken into the account, that believers themselves, though they endeavor to act justly towards their brethren, are sometimes carried away by excessive severity against brethren, who were either innocent, or not so greatly to be blamed, and thus, by their own fault, provoke against themselves a similar judgment. If they do not receive good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, though this is chargeable on the ingratitude of the world, yet they ought to acknowledge that it was partly deserved: for there is no man who is so kind and indulgent as he ought to be towards his brethren.

Matthew 7:3. And why seest thou the straw? He expressly touches upon a fault, which is usually found in hypocrites. While they are too quick-sighted in discerning the faults of others, and employ not only severe, but intentionally exaggerated, language in describing them, they throw their own sins behind their back, or are so ingenious in finding apologies for them, that they wish to be held excusable even in very gross offenses. Christ therefore reproves both evils: the excessive sagacity, which arises from a defect of charity, when we sift too closely the faults of brethren, and the indulgence by which we defend and cherish our own sins.


[464] In the French version our Author quotes a similar passage from the book of Psalms, (37:6;) "and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day " -- Ed

For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

Matthew 13:31-35

Mark 4:26-34

Luke 13:18-22

31. He delivered another parable to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard, which a man took and sowed in his field: 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown up, it is the largest among herbs, [220] and becometh a tree, so that the fowls of heaven come and make their nests among its branches. 33. He spake another parable to them: The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid among three measures of meal, till the whole was leavenened. 34. All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes, and without a parable he spoke nothing to them. 35. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, who saith, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been hidden from the foundation of the world.

26. And he said, The kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed into the ground, 27. And sleep, and rise by night and day, and the corn should spring and grow up, while knoweth not how. 28. For the earth yieldeth fruit of itself, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. 29. And when the fruit is matured, he immediately applieth the sickle, because the harvest is at hand. 30. And he said, To what shall we say that the kingdom of God is like? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31. As a grain of mustard, which, when it is sown in the earth, is smaller than all the seeds which are in the earth; 32. And when it is sown, it springs up, and is larger than all herbs, [221] and putteth forth great branches, so that the fowls of heaven can make their nests under its shadow. 33. And by such parables he spake the word to them, as they were able to bear it: 34. But without a parable he did not speak to them, but he explained all things to his disciples when they were apart.

18. Therefore he said, To what is the kingdom of God like? and to what shall I compare it? 19. It is like a grain of mustard, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew, and became a large tree, and the fowls of the air made their nests among its branches. 20. And again he said, To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21. It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 22. And he went through the cities and villages, teaching and journeying towards Jerusalem.

By these parables Christ encourages his disciples not to be offended and turn back on account of the mean beginnings of the Gospel. We see how haughtily profane men despise the Gospel, and even turn it into ridicule, because the ministers by whom it is preached are men of slender reputation and of low rank; because it is not instantly received with applause by the whole world; and because the few disciples whom it does obtain are, for the most part, men of no weight or consideration, and belong to the common people. This leads weak minds to despair of its success, which they are apt to estimate from the manner of its commencement. On the contrary, the Lord opens his reign with a feeble and despicable commencement, for the express purpose, that his power may be more fully illustrated by its unexpected progress. [222]

The kingdom of God is compared to a grain of mustard, which is the smallest among the seeds, but grows to such a height that it becomes a shrub, in which the birds build their nests. It is likewise compared to leaven, which, though it may be small in amount, spreads its influence in such a manner, as to impart its bitterness to a large quantity of meal. [223] If the aspect of Christ's kingdom be despicable in the eyes of the flesh, let us learn to raise our minds to the boundless and incalculable power of God, which at once created all things out of nothing, and every day raises up things that are not, (1 Corinthians 1:28,) in a manner which exceeds the capacity of the human senses. Let us leave to proud men their disdainful laugh, till the Lord, at an unexpected hour, shall strike them with amazement. Meanwhile, let us not despond, but rise by faith against the pride of the world, till the Lord give us that astonishing display of his power, [224] of which he speaks in this passage.

The word leaven is sometimes taken in a bad sense, as when Christ warns them to

beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, (Matthew 16:11;)

and when Paul says, that

a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,
(1 Corinthians 5:6.)

But here the term must be understood simply as applying to the present subject. As to the meaning of the phrase, the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven, we have spoken on former occasions.

Mark 4:26. So is the kingdom of God. Though this comparison has the same object with the two immediately preceding, yet Christ appears to direct his discourse purposely to the ministers of the word, that they may not grow indifferent about the discharge of their duty, because the fruit of their labor does not immediately appear. He holds out for their imitation the example of husbandmen, who throw seed into the ground with the expectation of reaping, and do not torment themselves with uneasiness and anxiety, but go to bed and rise again; or, in other words, pursue their ordinary and daily toil, till the corn arrive at maturity in due season. In like manner, though the seed of the word be concealed and choked for a time, Christ enjoins pious teachers to be of good courage, and not to allow their alacrity to be slackened through distrust.

Matthew 13:34. All these things Jesus spoke in parables. Though Mark expressly says, that Christ spoke the word to them as they were able to bear it, yet I think it probable that he continued to employ parables, not so much for the purpose of instruction, as to keep the attention of his hearers awake till a more convenient time. For why did he explain them familiarly to his disciples when they were apart? Was it because they were more slow of apprehension than the great body of the people? No; but because he wished to convey to them privately a knowledge of his meaning, and to allow others to remain in a state of suspense, till a fitter opportunity should arrive. These were only a sort of introduction to the Gospel, the full brightness and publication of which was delayed till the proper time.

There is an apparent contradiction between this statement of Matthew and the prediction of Isaiah, which was quoted a little before. But this is easily removed; for, though he withdrew the light of doctrine from the reprobate, yet this did not prevent him from accommodating himself to their capacity, so as to render them inexcusable. He therefore adopted a method of teaching which was proper and suitable to hearers, whom he knew to be not yet sufficiently prepared to receive instruction.

35. That it might be fulfilled Matthew does not mean, that the psalm, which he quotes, is a prediction which relates peculiarly to Christ, but that, as the majesty of the Spirit was displayed in the discourse of the Prophet, in the same manner was his power manifested in the discourse of Christ. The Prophet, when he is about to speak of God's covenant, by which he adopted the seed of Abraham, of the benefits which he continued to bestow upon his people, and of the whole government of the Church, introduces his subject in lofty terms, I will open my mouth in parables, (Psalm 78:2:) that is, "I will not speak of trifling matters, but will handle with becoming gravity subjects of the highest importance." When he adds, I will utter dark sayings, the meaning is the same; such repetitions being very frequent in the Psalms. The Hebrew word mslym, (Meshalim) signifies comparisons; and it came afterwards to be applied to "weighty sentences," because comparisons generally impart beauty and energy to a discourse. The word chydvt (Chidoth) sometimes denotes "riddles," and at other times, "short sayings."

Now though Matthew seems to allude to the word parable, he undoubtedly means, that Christ spoke figuratively, in order that his very style, being more brilliant than ordinary discourse, might carry more weight and dignity. In short, he says that what is contained in the psalm was fulfilled; because the use of allegories and figures tended to show, that Christ was treating of the hidden mysteries of God, and to prevent his doctrine from being despised. Hence, too, we infer, that there was no inconsistency in the various objects which Christ had in view, when he spoke to the people in a dark manner. Though he intended to conceal from the reprobate what he was saying, yet he labored to make them feel, even in the midst of their amazement, that there was something heavenly and divine in his language. [225]

Luke 13:22. Journeying towards Jerusalem. It is uncertain whether Luke speaks only of one journey, or means that, while Christ walked throughout Judea, and visited each part of it for the purpose of teaching, he was wont to go up to Jerusalem at the festivals. The former clause, certainly, appears to describe that course of life which Christ invariably pursued, from the time that he began to discharge the office which had been committed to him by the Father. To make the latter clause agree with this, the meaning will be, that, when the festivals were at hand, he attended, along with others, [226] the holy assemblies.


[220] "Il est plus grand que les autres herbes;" -- "it is larger than the other herbs."

[221] "Que toute autre herbe;" -- "than every other herb."

[222] "A fin que sa puissance soit tant mieux cognue, quand on verra les avancemens qu'on n'avoit iamais attendus;" -- "in order that his power may be so much the better known, when the progress, which had not been anticipated, shall be seen."

[223] "Qu'il fait aigrir et lever une grande quantite de paste;" -- "that it embitters and causes to rise a large quantity of paste."

[224] "Iuques a ce que le Seigneur nous face sentir l'effect de cette vertu incomprehensible;" -- "till the Lord make us feel the effect of that incomprehensible power."

[225] "Car combien qu'il voulust parler en telle sorte que les reprouvez n'y entendissent rien, il a toutesfois tellement modere son style, qu'en leur stupidite ils ont senti que son parler avoit quelque vertu celeste et Divine;" -- "for, though he intended to speak in such a manner, that the reprobate might understand nothing of it, yet he was so regulated in his style that, amidst their stupidity, they felt that his manner of speaking had some Divine and heavenly power."

[226] "Sa coustume estoit de se trouver;" -- "his custom was to be present."

And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

Matthew 8:23-27

Mark 4:35-41

Luke 8:22-25

23. And when he had entered into the ship, [535] his disciples followed him. 24. And, lo, there was a great swell in the sea, so that the ship was covered with the billows: and he was asleep. 25. And his disiples approached and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish. 26. And he saith to them, Why are you timid, O men of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea: and there was a great calm. 27. But the men wondered, saying, What sort of man is this: for the winds and the sea obey him?

35. And the same day, when it was evening, he said to them, Let us cross to the opposite side. 36. And having sent away the multitude, they take him even as he was, in the ship. But there were also other ships along with him. 37. Then ariseth a great storm of wind: and the billows dashed into the ship, so that it was now filled. 38. And he was at the stern, sleeping upon a pillow: and they awake him, and say to him, Master, hast thou no care that we perish? 39. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Silence, be still. And the wind was hushed, and there was a great calm. 40. And he said to them, Why are you so timid? How have you not confidence? 41. And they feared with a great fear, and said among themselves, Who is this: for even the wind and the sea obey him?

22. And it happened on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples. And he saith to them, Let us cross to the opposite side of the lake: and they set sail. 23. And while they were sailing, he fell asleep, and a tempest of wind arose in the lake, and they were filled with water, and were in danger. 24. And they approached and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. But he arose, and rebuked the wind and the tempest of the water; and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25. And he said to them, Where is your faith? And they were afraid, and wondered, saying among themselves, Who is this? for he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.

As we shall soon meet again with the mention of a lake, where it is said (Matthew 8:33) that the swine were carried into it with violence, it is not universally agreed whether one and the same lake is mentioned in both places. The waters of Gennesareth, all admit, [536] were pleasant and healthful to drink: but the Gadarene lake, Strabo tells us, was so unwholesome and pestilential, that the cattle which drank of it often lost their hair and their hoofs. There is therefore no doubt that there were two separate lakes, and that they were at a considerable distance from each other. There is as little doubt that the lake mentioned here was the lake of Gennesareth; and that Christ, having crossed it, came to the Gadarenes, whom Matthew calls Geresenes, (8:28.)

Those who infer, from the diversity of the names, that the narratives are different, through a desire to be thought very acute, fall under the charge of gross ignorance: for the country of the Gergesenes was also called Gadarene, from a celebrated city, Gadara. In the age of Jerome, the name was changed; and, therefore, in accordance with the prevailing custom, he calls them Geraseaes That it was the Gadarene lake into which the swine were thrown down by the devils, I have no hesitation in admitting: but when Christ says, let us cross to the other side, I cannot explain the reference as made to any other lake than that of Gennesareth.

It remains that we now inquire as to the time, which cannot be learned either from Matthew or from Luke. Mark alone mentions that it was the evening of that day on which Christ discoursed about the preaching of the gospel under the parable of the sower. Hence it is evident, that they did not attend to the order of time; and, indeed, this is expressly stated by Luke, when he says that it happened on a certain day: for these words show that he gives himself little concern as to the question which of the events was earlier or later.

Matthew 8:23. And when he had entered into a ship Mark says that other little ships crossed along with him: but that Christ entered into his own ship with his disciples Luke too quotes his words: Matthew is more concise. They agree, however, as to the leading fact, that Christ laid himself down to rest, and that, while he was asleep, a tempest suddenly arose. First, it is certain that the storm which agitated the lake was not accidental: for how would God have permitted his Son to be driven about at random by the violence of the waves? But on this occasion he intended to make known to the apostles how weak and inconsiderable their faith still was. Though Christ's sleep was natural, yet it served the additional purpose of making the disciples better acquainted with their weakness. I will not say, as many do, that Christ pretended sleep, in order to try them. On the contrary, I think that he was asleep in such a manner as the condition and necessity of human nature required.

And yet his divinity watched over him, so that the apostles had no reason to fear that consolation would not be immediately provided, or that assistance would not be obtained from heaven. Let us therefore conclude, that all this was arranged by the secret providence of God, -- that Christ was asleep, that a violent tempest arose, and that the waves covered the ship, which was in imminent danger of perishing. And let us learn hence that, whenever any adverse occurrence takes place, the Lord tries our faith. If the distresses grow to such a height as almost to overwhelm us, let us believe that God does it with the same design of exercising our patience, or of bringing to light in this way our hidden weakness; as we see that, when the apostles were covered by the billows, [537] their weakness, which formerly lay concealed, was discovered.

25. Lord, save us A pious prayer [538] , one would think: for what else had they to do when they were lost than to implore safety from Christ? But as Christ charges them with unbelief, we must inquire in what respect they sinned. Certainly, I have no doubt that they attached too much importance to the bodily presence of their Master: for, according to Mark, they do not merely pray, but expostulate with him, Master, hast thou no care that we perish? Luke describes also confusion and trembling: Master, Master, we perish They ought to have believed that the Divinity of Christ was not oppressed by carnal sleep, and to his Divinity they ought to have had recourse. But they do nothing till they are urged by extreme danger; and then they are overwhelmed with such unreasonable fear that they do not think they will be safe [539] till Christ is awakened. This is the reason why he accuses them of unbelief for their entreaty that he would assist them was rather a proof of their faith, if, in confident reliance on his divine power, they had calmly, and without so much alarm, expected the assistance which they asked.

And here we obtain an answer to a question which might be put, and which arises out of his reproof. Is every kind of fear sinful and contrary to faith? First, he does not blame them simply because they fear, but because they are timid Mark adds the word houto -- Why are you so timid? and by this term indicates that their alarm goes beyond proper bounds. Besides, he contrasts faith with their fear, and thus shows that he is speaking about immoderate dread, the tendency of which is not to exercise their faith, but to banish it from their minds. It is not every kind of fear that is opposed to faith. This is evident from the consideration that, if we fear nothing, an indolent and carnal security steals upon us; and thus faith languishes, the desire to pray becomes sluggish, and the remembrance of God is at length extinguished [540] Besides, those who are not affected by a sense of calamities, so as to fear, are rather insensible than firm.

Thus we see that fear, which awakens faith, is not in itself faulty till it go beyond bounds. [541] Its excess lies in disturbing or weakening the composure of faith, which ought to rest on the word of God. But as it never happens that believers exercise such restraint on themselves as to keep their faith from being injured, their fear is almost always attended by sin. Yet we ought to be aware that it is not every kind of fear which indicates a want of faith, but only that dread which disturbs the peace of the conscience in such a manner that it does not rest on the promise of God.

26. He rebuked the winds Mark relates also the words of Christ, by which, addressing the sea, he enjoins silence, (siopa,) that is, stillness not that the lake had any perception, but to show that the power of his voice reached the elements, which were devoid of feeling. And not only the sea and the winds, which are without feeling, but wicked men also, with all their obstinacy, obey the commands of God. For when God is pleased to allay the tumults of war, he does not always soften the fierce minds of men, and mould them to obedience, but even while their rage continues, makes the arms to drop from their hands: And thus is fulfilled that declaration,

He maketh wars to cease to the ends of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in pieces, and burneth the chariots in the fire, (Psalm 46:10.)

27. But the men wondered Mark and Luke appear to say this in reference to the apostles; for, after having stated that Christ reproved them, they add that they cried out with fear, Who is this? It applies, however, more properly to others, who had not yet known Christ. Whether we take the one or the other of these views, the result of the miracle appears in the display of the glory of Christ. If any one shall suppose that it is the apostles who speak, the meaning of the words will be, that his divine power was sufficiently proved by the fact that the wind and the sea obey him But as it is more probable that these words were spoken by others, the Evangelists show that the miracle made such an impression on their minds, as to produce a certain reverence for Christ which prepared them for believing on him.


[535] "La naselle," -- "to ploion."

[536] "C'est un poinct bien resolu entre tous ceux qui ont escrit;" -- "it is a point well agreed among all who have written."

[537] "Quand les Apostres se sont trouvez assaillis et quasi couvers des riots du lac;" -- "when the Apostles found themselves assaulted, and, as it were, covered by the waves of the lake."

[538] "Une priere bonne et sainte;" -- "a good and holy prayer.

[539] "En sorte qu'il ne leur semble oint qu'il y ait moyen de les sauver, sinon que Christ s'eveeile; -- so that they think there will be no way of saving them till Christ is awakened."

[540] "Et finalemeat la souvenance que chacun doit avoir de Dieu vient a s'esteindre;" -- and, finally, that remembrance of God which every one ought to have, comes to be extinguished."

[541] "Jusque ace qu'ellc passe mesurc, ct soit excessive;" -- "till it go beyond bounds, and become excessive."

And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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