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1. When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
[When the morning was come, &c.] Let us trace a little the proceedings of this council:--
I. They spend the night in judging on a capital cause, which is expressly forbid by their own canon: They handle capital causes in the day time, and finish them by day. Money matters indeed that were begun by day might be ended in the night, which is asserted in that place; but capital causes were only to be handled by day: but here, in sitting upon the life and death of our Saviour, there is need of night and darkness. This judgment is begun in the night, and carried on all the night through in a manner.
II. This night was the evening of a feast day, namely, of the first day of the paschal week, at what time they were also forbid to sit in judgment: "They do not judge on a feast day." How the lawyers are divided on this point, I will not trouble you now with recounting. This very canon is sufficient ground for scruple, which we leave to them to clear, who, through rancour and hatred towards Christ, seem to slight and trample under feet their own canons.
III. When it was morning. This was the time of saying their phylacteries, namely, from the first daylight to the third hour...Another business that you had in hand (effectually to destroy Jesus), either robbed you of your prayers, or robbed your prayers of charity.
IV. Now appears, the first feast day of the Passover, when they used to present themselves in the Temple and offer their gifts, Exodus 23:15. But when and how was this performed by them today? They take heed of going into the judgment (or Praetor's) hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Chagigah, or Passover: but you will scarce find what time they allowed today for that purpose; nor indeed was it lawful for them to eat any thing on that day; it being provided by a canon, "That when the council shall have adjudged any one to die, let them not taste any thing that day."
[Took counsel to put him to death.] Let that be considered; "Cases of money are heard in the daytime, and may be determined in the night. Capital causes are tried in the day, and finished in the day. Judgment in cases of money is passed the same day, whether it be for fining or acquitting. Judgment in capital causes is passed the same day, if it be for acquitting: but if it be for condemning, it is passed the day after." The reason of this difference is given by the Gemarists; whom see. The reason of the latter is thus expressed: Blessed is the judge who leaveneth his judgment: that is, as the Gloss, "who delays his judgment, and lets it rest all night, that he may sift out the truth."
The difference between hear and determine is greater than the reader may perhaps think at first sight. By the word hear they signify the whole process of the trial, the examining of the plaintiff and defendant, and of the witnesses, the taking the votes of the council, and the entering of them by the scribes: determine signifies only the passing of judgment, or giving a definitive sentence. You may better perceive the difference from the Glossary on Babyl. Sanhedrin: in the text this is decried, Let them not judge on the eve of the sabbath, nor on the eve of a feast day; which is also repeated in other places. The reason of the prohibition is this, namely, that the trials which were begun on the eve of the sabbath, or a feast day, should not be finished on the sabbath or feast day. "Which indeed (saith the Gloss), is observed in pecuniary trials, and care is taken that there be no writing" (for it is forbid to write so much as a letter on the sabbath): "but in capital causes it takes not place upon that account; for the votes of those that acquitted or condemned were written the day before."
You see in the history of the gospel, 1. The trial concerning our Saviour's life, was not despatched at one and the same sitting. 2. And that too on a feast-day.
5. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
[Hanged himself.] Strangulatus est, was strangled: namely, by the devil, who had now been in him three days together. The words of Peter, Acts 1:18, do not suffer me to understand this of hanging himself. Falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst. Interpreters take a great deal of pains to make these words agree with his hanging himself; but indeed all will not do. I know the word is commonly applied to a man's hanging himself, but not to exclude some other way of strangling. And I cannot but take the story (with good leave of antiquity) in this sense: After Judas had thrown down the money, the price of his treason, in the Temple, and was now returning again to his mates, the devil, who dwelt in him, caught him up on high, strangled him, and threw him down headlong; so that dashing upon the ground, he burst in the midst, and his guts issued out, and the devil went out in so horrid an exit. This certainly agrees very well with the words of Peter now mentioned, and also with those that follow, "This was known to all that dwelt at Jerusalem." It agrees also very well with the deserts of the wicked wretch, and with the title of Iscariot. The wickedness he had committed was above all example, and the punishment he suffered was beyond all precedent. There had been many instances of persons who had hanged themselves; this would not so much have stirred up the people of Jerusalem to take notice of it, as such a strangling and throwing down headlong, which we suppose horrible above measure, and singular beyond example. See what we have said at the tenth chapter concerning the word Iscariot.
9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
[That which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet.] How much this place hath troubled interpreters, let the famous Beza, instead of many others, declare: "This knot hath hampered all the most ancient interpreters, in that the testimony here is taken out of Zechariah, and not from Jeremiah; so that it seem plainly to have been a failing of memory, as Augustine supposes in his third book, 'De consensu evagelistarum,' chapter the seventh; as also Eusebius in the twentieth book of demonstration. But if any one had rather impute this error to the transcribers, or (as I rather suppose) to the unskillfulness of some person, who put in the name of Jeremiah, when the evangelist had writ only, as he often doth in other places, by the prophet, yet we must confess that this error hath long since crept into the Holy Scriptures, as Jerome expressly affirms," &c.
But (with the leave of so great men) I do not only deny that so much as one letter is spurious, or crept in without the knowledge of the evangelist, but I do confidently assert that Matthew wrote Jeremy, as we read it, and that it was very readily understood and received by his countrymen. We will transcribe the following monument of antiquity out of the Talmudists, and then let the reader judge: "A tradition of the Rabbins. This is the order of the prophets. The Book of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve." And a little after: "But since Isaiah was before both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he ought to have been set before them: but since the Book of Kings ends with destruction, and all Jeremiah is about destruction, and since Ezekiel begins with destruction and ends with comfort; and all Isaiah is about comfort, they joined destruction with destruction, and comfort with comfort": that is, they placed these books together which treat of destruction, and those together which treat of comfort.
You have this tradition quoted by David Kimchi in his preface to Jeremiah. Whence it is very plain that Jeremiah of old had the first place among the prophets: and hereby he comes to be mentioned above all the rest, Matthew 16:14, because he stood first in the volume of the prophets, therefore he is first named. When, therefore, Matthew produceth a text of Zechariah under the name of Jeremy, he only cites the words of the volume of the prophets under his name who stood first in the volume of the prophets. Of which sort is that also of our Saviour, Luke 24:44; "All things must be fulfilled, which are written of me in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms." "In the Psalms"; that is, in the Book of Hagiographa, in which the Psalms were placed first.
16. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
[Barabbas.] Bar Abba, a very usual name in the Talmudists: "R. Samuel Barabba, and R. Nathan Barabba." Abba Bar Abba, In the Jerusalem dialect it is very often uttered Bar Ba: "Simeon Bar Ba." "R. Chaijah Bar Ba." This brings to my mind what Josephus relates to have been done in the besieging of the city, When huge stones were thrown against the city by the Roman slings, some persons sitting in the towers gave the citizens warning by a sign to take heed, crying out in the vulgar dialect, 'The Son cometh,' that is, Bar Ba. The Son of man indeed then came in the glory of his justice and his vengeance, as he had often foretold, to destroy that most wicked and profligate nation.
19. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
[Have thou nothing to do with that just man.] "When king Sapores went about to afflict Rabbah, his mother sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that Jew," &c.
26. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
[When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.] Such was the custom of the Romans towards those that were to be crucified: Whom after he had beaten with whips, he crucified. And a little after, To be whipped before the judgment seat, and to be nailed to the cross.
29. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
[A reed in his right hand.] See those fictions in Tanchum [fol. 59. 4.], concerning an angel that appeared in the shape of Solomon: In whose hand there was a reed: and whom they struck with a reed.
31. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
[Led him away to crucify him.] These things are delivered in Sanhedrim, of one that is guilty of stoning: "If there be no defence found for him, they lead him out to be stoned, and a crier went before, saying aloud thus, 'N. the son of N. comes out to be stoned, because he hath done so and so. The witnesses against him are N. and N.: whosoever can bring any thing in his defence, let him come forth and produce it.'" On which thus the Gemara of Babylon: "The tradition is, that on the evening of the Passover Jesus was hanged, and that a crier went before him for forty days making this proclamation, 'This man comes forth to be stoned, because he dealt in sorceries, and persuaded and seduced Israel; whosoever knows of any defence for him, let him come forth and produce it': but no defence could be found, therefore they hanged him on the evening of the Passover. Ulla saith, His case seemed not to admit of any defence, since he was a seducer, and of such God hath said, 'Thou shalt not spare him, neither shalt thou conceal him,'" Deuteronomy 13:8.
They led him that was to be stoned out of the city, Acts 7:58: so also him that was to be crucified: "The place of stoning was without the three camps; for at Jerusalem there were three camps," (namely, God's, the Levites', and the people's, as it was in the encamping in the wilderness:) "and in every city also where there was a council," (namely, of twenty-three,) "the place of stoning was without the city. For all cities that have walls bear a resemblance to the camp of Israel."
Because Jesus was judged at a heathen tribunal, therefore a death is inflicted on him not usual with the Jewish council, namely, crucifixion. In several things the circumstances and actions belonging to his death differed from the custom of the Jews in putting persons to death.
1. They never judge two on the same day. But here, besides Christ, are two thieves judged.
2. They never carried one that was to be hanged to hanging till near sunset: They stay till near sunset, and then they pass sentence, and execute him. And the reason is given by the Glosser; "They do not perfect his judgment, nor hang him in the morning, lest they should neglect his burial, and happen to forget themselves," and the malefactor should hang till after sunset; "but near sunsetting, so that they may bury him out of hand." But Christ was sentenced to death before noon; and at noon was nailed to the cross. For,
3. They first put the condemned person to death, and then hanged him upon a tree: but the custom of the (Roman) empire is first to hang them, and then to put them to death.
4. They did not openly lament for those that were led forth to be put to death; but for Jesus they did, Luke 23:27,28. The reason of this difference is not to be sought from the kind of the death, but from the persons: They did not bewail for a person led out to execution, but they lamented inwardly in their hearts. You will wonder at the reason which the Gloss thus gives you: "They did not openly bewail him, upon this account, that his being vilified" [when nobody openly lamented him] "might help to atone for him; but they sorrowed for him in their hearts; for this did not tend to his honour, nor lessen the atonement." Those were better instructed, who lamented for Christ both as to the thing and person.
33. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
[Golgotha.] Beza pretends that this is written amiss for Golgoltha, when yet it is found thus written in all copies. But the good man censures amiss; since such a leaving out of letters in many Syriac words is very usual: you have this word thus written without the second [l], by the Samaritan interpreter, in the first chapter of Numbers.
34. They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
[They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall.] "To those that were to be executed they gave a grain of myrrh infused in wine to drink, that their understanding might be disturbed," (that is, that they might lose their senses); "as it is said, 'Give strong drink to them that are ready to die, and wine to those that are of a sorrowful heart,' &c. And the tradition is, That some women of quality in Jerusalem allowed this freely of their own cost," &c.
But it makes a scruple that in Matthew it is vinegar with gall; in Mark wine mingled with myrrh. If wine, why is it called vinegar? If wine mingled with myrrh, why gall? Ans. The words of Mark seem to relate to the custom of the nation; those of Matthew, to the thing as it was really acted. I understand Mark thus, They gave him, according to the custom of the nation, that cup which used to be given to those that were led to execution; but (as Matthew has it) not the usual mixture; namely, wine and frankincense, or myrrh; but for the greater mockery, and out of more bitter rancour, vinegar and gall. So that we may suppose this cup not to have been prepared by those honourable women, compassionating those that were to die, but on purpose by the scribes, and the other persecutors of Christ, studying to heap upon him all kind of ignominy and vexation. In this cup they afterward dipped a sponge, as may be supposed: see the 48th verse.
35. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
[Parted my garments.] Of stoning, we have this account; "When he is now four cubits from the place of stoning, they strip him of his clothes; and if it be a man, they hang a cloth before him; if a woman, both before and behind. These are the words of R. Juda: but the wise say, A man is stoned naked, a woman not naked." So that it is plain enough he was crucified naked.
38. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
[Two thieves.] See, in Josephus, who they were that, at that time, were called thieves, and how much trouble and pains the governors of Judea were at to restrain and root out this cursed sort of men: "One Simon, straggling about with the robbers with whom he associated, burnt the palaces in Jericho." "[Felix] having caught the chief robber Eleazar, who for twenty years had wasted the country with fire and sword, sent him to Rome, and many others with him." "Another kind of robbers sprang up in Jerusalem, called sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city," &c.
There is a rule set down, and the art shewed, of discovering and apprehending robbers: "Go to the victualling-houses at the fourth hour" (the Gloss, "That was the hour of eating, and they went all to the victualling-houses to eat"); "and if you see there a man drinking wine, and holding the cup in his hand, and sleeping, &c., he is a thief; lay hold on him," &c.
Among the monsters of the Jewish routs, preceding the destruction of the city, the multitude of robbers, and the horrible slaughters committed by them, deservedly claim the first consideration; which, next to the just vengeance of God against that most wicked nation, you may justly ascribe to divers originals.
1. It is no wonder, if that nation abounded beyond measure with a vagabond, dissolute, and lewd sort of young men; since, by means of polygamy, and the divorces of their wives at pleasure, and the nation's unspeakable addictedness to lasciviousness and whoredoms, there could not but continually spring up bastards, and an offspring born only to beggary or rapine, as wanting both sustenance and ingenuous education.
2. The foolish and sinful indulgence of the council could not but nurse up all kind of broods of wicked men, while they scarce ever put any one to death, though never so wicked, as being an Israelite; who must not by any means be touched.
3. The opposition of the Zealots to the Roman yoke made them study only to mischief the Romans, and do all the mischief they could to those Jews that submitted to them.
4. The governors of Judea did often, out of policy, indulge a licentiousness to such kind of rapines, that they might humble that people they so much hated, and which was continually subject to insurrections, by beating them, as it were, with their own clubs; and sometimes getting a share in the booty. Thus Josephus concerning Florus: "He spoiled all the people, and he did in effect proclaim, that all might go out in the country to rob, that he might receive a share in the spoils." And thus a sword, that first came out of their own bowels, was sheathed in them.
39. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
[Wagging their heads.] To shake the head, with the Rabbins, signifies irreverence and lightness.
46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
[Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.] I. All the rout indeed and force of hell was let loose at that time against Christ, without either bridle or chain: he calls it himself, the power of darkness, Luke 22:53. God who had foretold of old, that the serpent should bruise the heel of the promised seed, and now that time is come, had slackened the devil's chain, which, in regard of men, the Divine Providence used to hold in his hand; so that all the power and all the rancour of hell might, freely and without restraint, assault Christ; and that all that malice that was in the devil against the whole elect of God, summed up and gathered together into one head, might at one stroke and onset be brandished against Christ without measure.
II. Our most blessed Saviour, therefore, feeling such torments as either hell itself, or the instruments of hell, men conspiring together in villainy and cruelty, could pour out upon him, cries out, under the sharpness of the present providence, "My God! my God! why hast thou delivered me up and left me to such assaults, such bitternesses, and such merciless hands?" The Talmudists bring in Esther using such an ejaculation, which is also cited in the Gloss on Joma: "Esther stood in the inner court of the palace. R. Levi saith, When she was now just come up to the idol-temple, the divine glory departed from her: therefore she said, Eli, Eli, lamma azabhtani."
47,49. Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
[This man calleth for Elias. Let us see whether Elias will come to save him.] That Christ here used the Syriac dialect, is plain from the word sabachthani: but the word Eli, Eli, is not so properly Syriac: and hence arose the error and misconstruction of the standers by. In Syriac he should have said, Mari, Mari: but Eli was strange to a Syrian ear: this deceived the standers-by, who, having heard more than enough of the apparitions of Elias from the Jewish fables, and being deceived by the double meaning of the word, supposed that Christ was tainted with the same folly and mistake, and called out to Elias for help; which it was no strange thing for that deluded people to expect.
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
[The veil of the Temple was rent in twain, &c.] Let us hear what the Fathers of the Traditions say concerning this catapetasm or veil: "The wall of the pronaon was five cubits, the pronaon itself eleven. The wall of the Temple was six, the Temple forty. The taraxis one cubit, and the entrance, twenty." What taraxis means, Maimonides will tell you; "In the first Temple there was a wall one cubit thick, separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies; but when they built the second Temple, it was doubted whether the thickness of that wall should be accounted to belong to the measure of the Holy, or to the measure of the Holy of Holies. Wherefore they made the Holy of Holies twenty cubits complete, and the Holy forty cubits complete; and they left a void cubit between the Holy and the Holy of Holies, but they did not build any wall there in the second Temple: only they made two hangings, one contiguous to the Holy of Holies, and the other to the Holy; between which there was a void cubit, according to the thickness of the wall that was in the first Temple; in which there was but one catapetasm [or veil] only."
"The high priest [on the day of atonement] goes forward in the Temple, till he comes to the two hangings that divide the Holy from the Holy of Holies, between which there was a cubit. R. Josi saith, There was but one hanging there; as it is said, 'And the hanging shall separate [to, or] between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.'" On which words thus the Gemara of Babylon: "R. Josi saith rightly to the Rabbins, and the Rabbins to thee: for he speaks of the tabernacle, and they, of the second Temple; in which since there was not a partition-wall, as there was in the first Temple, there was some doubt made of its holiness, namely, whether it should belong to the outward part of the Temple or to the inward; whereupon they made two hangings."
While, therefore, their minds were troubled about this affair, not knowing whether they should hang the veil at the Temple, or at the inmost recess of it, and whether the void space between of a cubit thick should belong to this or that; they called the place itself by the Greek word taraxis, that is, trouble, as Aruch plainly affirms, and they hung up two veils, that they might be sure to offend neither against this part nor that.
You will wonder, therefore, that Matthew doth not say veils, in the plural; or perhaps you will think that only one of these two veils was rent, not both. But it was enough for the evangelists Matthew and Mark, who speak of this miracle, to have shewed that that fence between, which hindered seeing into the Holy of Holies, and going into it, was cleft and broken. This is it they mean, not being solicitous in explaining particulars, but contented to have declared the thing itself. Perhaps the priest, who offered the incense that evening, was in the Temple at the very moment when this miracle happened: and when he went out amazed to the people, and should tell them, The veil of the Temple is rent it would easily be understood of a passage broken into the Holy of Holies by some astonishing and miraculous rending of the hangings. Compare Hebrews 10:19,20.
When the high priest went into the inmost recess of the Temple on the day of atonement, he went in by the south side of the outward hanging, and the north side of the inner. But now both are rent in the very middle, and that from the top to the bottom.
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
[And many bodies of saints which slept arose.] You can hardly impute the rending of the hangings to the earthquake, but it must be ascribed rather to another peculiar miracle; since it is more proper for an earthquake to break hard things than soft, and to rend rocks rather than curtains. Rocks were rent by it in those places where sepulchres had been built, so that now the gates of the resurrection were thrown open, the bonds of the grave were unloosed, and the bodies of dead men were made ready, as it were, for their rising again when Christ, the firstfruits, was raised. The Jews had a fancy that the kingdom of the Messias would begin with the resurrection of the dead, as we have noted before; vainly indeed, as to their sense of it; but not without some truth, as to the thing itself: for from the resurrection of Christ the glorious epoch of the kingdom of God took its beginning, as we said before (which he himself also signifieth in those words Matthew 26:29); and when he arose, not a few others arose with him. What they thought of the resurrection that was to be in the days of Messias, besides those things which we have already mentioned, you may see and smile at in this one example: "R. Jeremiah commanded, 'When you bury me, put shoes on my feet, and give me a staff in my hand, and lay me on one side; that when the Messias comes I may be ready.'"
54. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
[Truly this was the Son of God.] That is, "This was indeed the Messias." Howsoever the Jews deny the Son of God in that sense in which we own it, that is, as the second Person in the Holy Trinity, yet they acknowledge the Messias for the Son of God (not indeed by nature, but by adoption and deputation; see Matthew 26:63), from those places, 1 Chronicles 17:13; Psalm 2:12, 89:26,27, and such-like. The centurion had learned this from the people by conversing among them, and, seeing the miracles which accompanied the death of Christ, acknowledged him to be the Messias of whom he had heard so many and great things spoken by the Jews. In Luke we have these words spoken by him, "Certainly this was a righteous man": which, I suppose, were not the same with these words before us; but that both they and these were spoken by him, "Certainly this was a righteous man: truly this was the Messias, the Son of God." Such are the words of Nathanael, John 1:49, "Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." Peter, when he declared that "Christ was the Son of the living God," Matthew 16:16, spoke this in a more sublime sense than the Jews either owned or knew; as we have said at that place.
56. Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.
[Mary Magdalene.] That Magdalene was the same with Mary the sister of Lazarus Baronius proves at large; whom see. It is confirmed enough from this very place; for if Mary Magdalene was not the same with Mary the sister of Lazarus, then either Mary the sister of Lazarus was not present at the crucifixion of Christ, and at his burial, or else she is passed over in silence by the evangelists; both which are improbable. Whence she was called Magdalene, doth not so plainly appear; whether from Magdala, a town on the lake of Gennesaret, or from the word which signifies a plaiting or curling of the hair, a thing usual with harlots. Let us see what is spoken by the Talmudists concerning Mary Magdala, who, they say, was mother of Ben Satda:
"They stoned the son of Satda in Lydda, and they hanged him up on the evening of the Passover. Now this son of Satda was son of Pandira. Indeed, Rabh Chasda said, 'The husband [of his mother] was Satda; her husband was Pandira; her husband was Papus the son of Juda: but yet I say his mother was Satda, namely, Mary, the plaiter of women's hair; as they say in Pombeditha, she departed from her husband.'" These words are also repeated in Schabath: "Rabh Bibai, at a time when the angel of death was with him, said to his officer, Go, bring me Mary the plaiter of women's hair. He went and brought to him Mary, the plaiter of young men's hair," &c. The Gloss; "The angel of death reckoned up to him what he had done before: for this story of Mary, the plaiter of women's hair, was under the second Temple, for she was the mother of N., as it is said in Schabath." See the Gloss there at the place before quoted.
"There are some who find a fly in their cup, and take it out and will not drink; such was Papus Ben Judas, who locked the door upon his wife, and went out." Where the Glosser says thus; "Papus Ben Juda was the husband of Mary, the plaiter of women's hair; and when he went out of his house into the street, he locked his door upon his wife, that she might not speak with anybody; which, indeed, he ought not to have done: and hence sprang a difference between them, and she broke out into adulteries."
I pronounce 'Ben Satda,' not that I am ignorant that it is called 'Ben Stada' by very learned men. The reason of our thus pronouncing it we fetch from hence, that we find he was called Ben Sutdah by the Jerusalem Talmudists; to which the word Satda more agrees than Stada. By the like agreement of sounds they call the same town both Magdala, and Mugdala, as we have observed elsewhere.
As they contumeliously reflect upon the Lord Jesus under the name of Ben Satda, so there is a shrewd suspicion that, under the name of Mary Magdala, they also cast reproach upon Mary Magdalene. The title which they gave their Mary is so like this of ours, that you may with good reason doubt whether she was called Magdalene from the town Magdala, or from that word of the Talmudists, a plaiter of hair. We leave it to the learned to decide.
[Joses.] Josi; a very usual name in the Talmudists: "Five were called Be R. Josi, Ismael, Lazar, Menahem, Chelpatha, Abdimus." Also, "R. Jose Ben R. Chaninah," &c. One may well inquire why this Mary is called the mother of 'James and Joses,' and not also of 'Judas and Simon,' as Mark 6:3.
58. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
[Begged the body of Jesus.] It was not lawful to suffer a man to hang all night upon a tree, Deuteronomy 21:23: nay, nor to lie all night unburied: "Whosoever suffers a dead body to lie all night unburied violates a negative precept. But they that were put to death by the council were not to be buried in the sepulchres of their fathers; but two burying-places were appointed by the council, one for those that were slain by the sword and strangled, the other for those that were stoned [who also were hanged] and burnt." There, according to the custom, Jesus should have been buried, had not Joseph, with a pious boldness, begged of Pilate that he might be more honourably interred: which the fathers of the council, out of spite to him, would hardly have permitted, if they had been asked; and yet they did not use to deny the honour of a funeral to those whom they had put to death, if the meanness of the common burial would have been a disgrace to their family. As to the dead person himself, they thought it would be better for him to be treated dishonourably after death, and to be neither lamented nor buried; for this vilifying of him they fancied amounted to some atonement for him; as we have seen before. And yet, to avoid the disgrace of his family, they used, at the request of it, to allow the honour of a funeral.
1. In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
[In the end of the sabbath.] In the Jerusalem Talmudists it is in the coming forth of the sabbath; vulgarly, in the going out of the sabbath: On a certain eve of the sabbath, namely, when the sabbath began, "there was not wine to be found in all Samaria: but at the end of the sabbath there was found abundance, because the Aramites had brought it, and the Cuthites had received it"...
[Towards the first day of the week.] The Jews reckon the days of the week thus; One day (or the first day) of the sabbath: two (or the second day) of the sabbath: "Two witnesses come and say, The first of the sabbath this man stole, &c., and, on the second day of the sabbath, judgment passed on him."
The third of the sabbath: "A virgin is married on the fourth day of the week; for they provide for the feast the first day of the week. The second day of the week: and the third day of the week."
"On the fourth day of the week they set apart him who was to burn the red heifer."
On the fifth of the sabbath. "Ezra ordained that they should read the law publicly on the second and fifth days of the sabbath, &c. He appointed that judges should sit in the cities on the second and fifth days. Ezra also appointed that they should wash their clothes on the fifth day of the sabbath."
The sixth day they commonly called the eve of the sabbath: "To wash their clothes on the fifth day of the sabbath, and eat onions on the eve of the sabbath." On the fifth day of the sabbath [or week], and the eve of the sabbath, and the sabbath.
The first day of the week, which is now changed into the sabbath or Lord's day, the Talmudists call the Christians', or the Christian day: On the Christians' day it is always forbidden for a Jew to traffic with a Christian. Where the Gloss saith thus: A Nazarene or Christian is he who followeth the error of the man who commanded them "to make the first day of the week a festival day to him: and according to the words of Ismael, it is always unlawful to traffic with them three days before that day and three days after; that is, not at all the week through." We cannot here pass by the words of the Glossers on Babyl. Rosh hashanah; "The Baithusians desire that the first day of the Passover might be on the sabbath, so that the presenting of the sheaf might be on the first day of the week, and the feast of Pentecost on the first day of the week."
With good reason did our blessed Saviour remove the sabbath to this day, the day of his resurrection, the day which the Lord had made, Psalm 118:24, when now the stone which the builders refused was become the head stone of the corner. For,
I. When Christ was to make a new world, or a new creation, it was necessary for him to make a new sabbath. The sabbath of the old creation was not proper for the new.
II. The kingdom of Christ took its beginning principally from the resurrection of Christ: when he had now overcome death and hell. (The Jews themselves confess that the kingdom of the Messiah was to begin with the resurrection of the dead, and the renewing of the world.) Therefore it was very proper that that day from which Christ's kingdom took its beginning should pass into the sabbath, rather than the old sabbath, the memorial of the creation.
III. That old sabbath was not instituted till after the giving the promise of Christ, Genesis 3:15; and the rest of God on that seventh day was chiefly in having perfected the new creation in Christ; that also was the sabbatical rest of Adam. When therefore that was accomplished which was then promised, namely, the bruising of the serpent's head by the resurrection of Christ, and that was fulfilled which was typified and represented in the old sabbath, namely, the finishing of a new creation, the sabbath could not but justly be transferred to that day on which these things were done.
IV. It was necessary that the Christians should have a sabbath given them distinct from the sabbath of the Jews, that a Christian might be thereby distinguished from a Jew. For as the law took great care to provide that a Jew might be distinguished from a heathen; so it was provided by the gospel with the like care, that partly by the forsaking of those rites, partly by the bringing in of different manners and observances, a Christian might be distinguished from a Jew. The law was not more solicitous to mark out and separate a Jew from a heathen by circumcision than the gospel hath been that by the same circumcision a Christian should not Judaize. And the same care it hath deservedly taken about the sabbath: for since the Jews, among other marks of distinction, were made of a different colour, as it were, from all nations, by their keeping the sabbath, it was necessary, that by the bringing in of another sabbath (since of necessity a sabbath must be kept up), that Christians might be of a different colour from the Jews.
9. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
[All hail.] In the vulgar dialect of the Jews, "The Rabbins saw a certain holy man of Caphar Immi, and said All hail." How do they salute an Israelite? All hail.
[They held him by the feet.] This seems to have been done to kiss his feet. So 2 Kings 4:27. For this was not unusual: "As R. Janni and R. Jonathan were sitting together, a certain man came and kissed the feet of R. Jonathan." Compare the evangelists here, and you will find that this was done by Mary Magdalene only, who formerly had kissed Christ's feet, and who had gone twice to the sepulchre, however Matthew makes mention but of once going. The story, in short, is thus to be laid together: At the first dawning of the morning Christ arose, a great earthquake happening at that time. About the same time Magdalene and the other women left their houses to go to the sepulchre: while they met together and made all things ready, and took their journey to the tomb, the sun was up. When they were come, they are informed of his resurrection by the angels, and sent back to the disciples. The matter being told to the disciples, Peter and John run to the sepulchre; Magdalene also followed after them. They having seen the signs of the resurrection return to their company, but she stays there. Being ready to return back, Christ appears to her, she supposing him to be the gardener. As soon as she knew him, she worships him; and embracing his feet, kisseth them. And this is the history before us, which Matthew relates in the plural number, running it over briefly and compendiously, according to his manner.
19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
[Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them, &c.] I. The enclosure is now thrown down, whereby the apostles were kept in from preaching the gospel to all the Gentiles, Matthew 10:5. For, first, the Jews had now lost their privilege, nor were they henceforward to be counted a peculiar people; nay, they were now become "Lo-ammi." They had exceeded the heathens in sinning, they had slighted, trampled upon, and crucified the Creator himself, appearing visibly before their eyes in human flesh; while the heathens had only conceived amiss of the Creator, whom they neither had seen nor could see, and thereby fallen to worship the creature. Secondly, Christ had now by his blood paid a price for the heathens also. Thirdly, he had overcome Satan, who held them captive. Fourthly, he had taken away the wall of partition: and fifthly, had exhibited an infinite righteousness.
II. Make disciples. Bring them in by baptism, that they may be taught. They are very much out, who from these words cry down infant-baptism, and assert that it is necessary for those that are to be baptized to be taught before they are baptized. 1. Observe the words here, make disciples; and then after, teaching, in the twentieth verse. 2. Among the Jews, and also with us, and in all nations, those are made disciples that they may be taught. A certain heathen came to the great Hillel, and saith, Make me a proselyte, that thou mayest teach me. He was first to be proselyted, and then to be taught. Thus first, make them disciples by baptism; and then, teach them to observe all things, &c.
III. Baptizing. There are divers ends of baptism:--1. According to the nature of a sacrament it visibly teacheth invisible things, that is, the washing of us from all our pollutions by the blood of Christ, and by the cleansing of grace, Ezekiel 36:25. 1. According to the nature of a sacrament, it is a seal of divine truth. So circumcision is called, Romans 4:11; "And he received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith," &c. So the Jews, when they circumcised their children, gave this very title to circumcision. The words used when a child was circumcised you have in their Talmud. Among other things, he who is to bless the action saith thus, "Blessed be he who sanctified him that was beloved from the womb, and set a sign in his flesh, and sealed his children with the sign of the holy covenant," &c.
But in what sense are sacraments to be called seals? Not that they seal (or confirm) to the receiver his righteousness; but that they seal the divine truth of the covenant and promise. Thus the apostle calls circumcision 'the seal of the righteousness of faith': that is, it is the seal of this truth and doctrine, that 'justification is by faith,' which righteousness Abraham had when he was yet uncircumcised. And that is the way whereby sacraments confirm faith, namely, because they do doctrinally exhibit the invisible things of the covenant; and, like seals, do by divine appointment sign the doctrine and truth of the covenant. 3. According to the nature of a sacrament, it obligeth the receivers to the terms of the covenant: for as the covenant itself is of mutual obligation between God and man; so the sacraments, the seals of the covenant, are of like obligation. 4. According to its nature, it is an introductory into the visible church. And, 5. It is a distinguishing sign between a Christian and no Christian, namely, between those who acknowledge and profess Christ, and Jews, Turks, and Pagans, who do not acknowledge him. Disciple all nations, baptizing. When they are under baptism, they are no longer under heathenism; and this sacrament puts a difference between those who are under the discipleship of Christ, and those who are not. 6. Baptism also brings its privilege along with it, while it opens the way to a partaking of holy things in the church, and placeth the baptized within the church, over which God exerciseth a more singular providence than over those that are out of the church.
And now, from what hath been said, let us argue a little in behalf of infant-baptism. Omitting that argument which is commonly raised form the words before us, namely, that when Christ had commanded to baptize all nations, infants also are to be taken in as parts of the family, these few things may be observed:
I. Baptism, as a sacrament, is a seal of the covenant. And why, I pray, may not this seal be set on infants? The seal of divine truth hath sometimes been set upon inanimate things, and that by God's appointment. The bow in the cloud is a seal of the covenant: the law engraven on the altar, Joshua 8, was a seal of the covenant. The blood sprinkled on the twelve pillars that were set up to represent the twelve tribes was a seal and bond of the covenant, Exodus 24. And now tell me, why are not infants capable, in like manner, of such a sealing? They were capable heretofore of circumcision; and our infants have an equal capacity. The sacrament doth not lose this its end, through the indisposition of the receiver. Peter and Paul, apostles, were baptized: their baptism, according to its nature, sealed to them the truth of God in his promises concerning the washing away of sins, &c. And they, from this doctrinal virtue of the sacrament, received confirmation of their faith. So also Judas and Simon Magus, hypocrites, wicked men, were baptized: did not their baptism, according to the nature of it, seal this doctrine and truth, "that there as a washing away of sins?" It did not, indeed, seal the thing itself to them; nor was it at all a sign to them of the 'washing away' of theirs: but baptism doth in itself seal this doctrine. You will grant that this axiom is most true, "Abraham received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith." And is not this equally true? Esau, Ahab, Ahaz, received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith: is not circumcision the same to all? Did not circumcision, to whomsoever it was administered, sign and seal this truth, that there 'was a righteousness of faith'? The sacrament hath a sealing virtue in itself, that doth not depend on the disposition of the receiver.
II. Baptism, as a sacrament, is an obligation. But now infants are capable of being obliged. Heirs are sometimes obliged by their parents, though they are not yet born: see also Deuteronomy 29:11,15. For that to which any one is obliged obtains a right to oblige from the equity of the thing, and not from the apprehension of the person obliged. The law is imposed upon all under this penalty, "Cursed be every one that doth not continue in all," &c. It is ill arguing from hence, that a man hath power to perform the law; but the equity of the thing itself is very well argued hence. Our duty obligeth us to every thing which the law commands; but we cannot perform the least tittle of it.
III. An infant is capable of privileges, as well as an old man; and baptism is privilegial. An infant hath been crowned king in his cradle: an infant may be made free who is born a salve. The Gemarists speak very well in this matter; "Rabh Houna saith, They baptize an infant proselyte by the command of the bench." Upon what is this grounded? On this, that baptism becomes a privilege to him. And they may endow an absent person with a privilege: or they may bestow a privilege upon one, though he be ignorant of it. Tell me then, why an infant is not capable of being brought into the visible church, and of receiving the distinguishing sign between a Christian and a heathen, as well as a grown person.
IV. One may add, that an infant is part of his parent: upon this account, Genesis 17:14, an infant is to be cut off if he be not circumcised, when, indeed, the fault is his parents'; because thus the parents are punished in a part of themselves, by the cutting off of their child. And hence is that of Exodus 20:5, "Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children," because children are a part of their fathers, &c. From hence ariseth also a natural reason of infant-baptism: the infants of baptized parents are to be baptized, because they are part of them, and that the whole parents may be baptized. And upon this account they used of old, with good reason, to baptize the whole family, with the master of it.
[In the name of the Father, &c.] I. Christ commands them to go and baptize the nations; but how much time was past before such a journey was taken! And when the time was now come that this work should be begun, Peter doth not enter upon it without a previous admonition given him from heaven. And this was occasioned hereby, that, according to the command of Christ, the gospel was first to be preached to Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
II. He commands them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: but among the Jews they baptized only in the name of Jesus; which we have observed before, from Acts 2:38, 8:16, 19:5. For this reason, that thus the baptizers might assert, and the baptized confess, Jesus to be the true Messias; which was chiefly controverted by the Jews.
Of the same nature is that apostolic blessing, "Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." Where then is the Holy Ghost? He is not excluded, however he be not named. The Jews did more easily consent to the Spirit of the Messias, which they very much celebrate, than to the person of the Messias. Above all others, they deny and abjure Jesus of Nazareth. It belonged to the apostles, therefore, the more earnestly to assert Jesus (to be the Messias), by how much the more vehemently they opposed him: which being once cleared, the acknowledging of the Spirit of Christ would be introduced without delay or scruple. Moses (in Exodus 6:14) going about to reckon up all the tribes of Israel, goes no further than the tribe of Levi only; and takes up with that to which his business and story at that present related. In like manner the apostles, for the present, baptize in the name of Jesus, bless in the name of the Father and of Jesus, that thereby they might more firmly establish the doctrine of Jesus, which met with such sharp and virulent opposition; which doctrine being established among them, they would soon agree about the Holy Ghost.
III. Among the Jews, the controversy was about the true Messiah; among the Gentiles, about the true God; it was, therefore, proper among the Jews to baptize in the name of Jesus, that he might be vindicated to be the true Messias: among the Gentiles, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that they might be hereby instructed in the doctrine of the true God. Hear this, O Arian and Socinian!
IV. The Jews baptized proselytes into the name of the Father, that is, into the profession of God, whom they called by the name of Father. The apostles baptize the Jews into the name of Jesus, the Son: and the Gentiles, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
V. The Father hath revealed himself in the old covenant, the Son in the new; in human flesh, by his miracles, doctrine, resurrection, and ascension; the Holy Ghost, in his gifts and miracles. Thus the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity grew by degrees to full maturity: for the arriving at the acknowledgment of which it was incumbent upon all who professed the true God to be three in one to be baptized into his name.
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