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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, our Redeemer conveys, under the figure of a royal nuptial feast—to which, those who were invited in the first instance, refused to come, nay, even maltreated and abused the king’s messengers sent to repeat them—the rejection of the Jews, their utter and irreparable ruin, and the vocation of the Gentiles, represented by those who, in crowds, obeyed the invitation and filled the banquet hall. He next represents to us, the holy fear with which even those of His Church should work out their salvation, in the sad punishment of the man who, though within the banquet hall, was found not to have the nuptial garment of charity and persevering grace to the end (1–14). We have next an account of our Lord’s consummate prudence in His reply to the captious and insidious question of the Pharisees, touching the lawfulness of giving tribute to Cæsar, thus utterly crushing them and reducing them to silence (15–22). He next, in reply to an objection of the Sadducees against the doctrine of the Resurrection, founded on a case warranted by the Law of Moses, which, in their minds, would prove the utter absurdity of this doctrine, shows their objection to arise from the ignorance of the power of God, and the Sacred Scriptures; and He then proves the doctrine of the Resurrection (23–34). In reply to the question of a Pharisee, “a Doctor of the Law,” who came to tempt Him, He says, that the great commandments of the law, which are an abstract of all the duties it prescribes are, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour (34–40). Our Lord, in turn, becomes interrogator. He questions the assembled Pharisees, in presence of the people, whom He means to instruct regarding the Divinity of their Messiah, and shows, from the Psalms of David, the utter absurdity of regarding Him in any other light than that of being God. While He was David’s Son, He was infinitely David’s superior. The utter confusion which His question caused the Pharisees, saved Him from any further captious questions in public (41–46).

1. “And Jesus answering.” The word, “answer,” by a Hebrew idiom, means, to commence speaking; to continue a discourse, introducing something new. It does not always suppose a preceding question calling for a reply. Here, it conveys, that no way daunted by the well-known designs of the Pharisees, our Redeemer continues to speak to them, and takes occasion, from their feelings, which He well knew, to point out, in the following parable, the rejection of the Jews, the call of the Gentiles, and the final reprobation of the evil doers, who, although of the Church, persevere in bad works to the end. It might be said, too, that He “answered,” to the latent thoughts of the Pharisees, “in parables.” It is disputed whether the following parable is the same as that mentioned (Luke 14:15, &c.), there being several circumstances in which they agree; and several, in which they differ. Some commentators, among whom are St. Augustine, St. Gregory, Jansenius, &c., say, they are quite different; that they were uttered under different circumstances. The parable referred to in St. Luke, was spoken when our Redeemer had been at table in the house of one of the Pharisees, and spoken on occasion of an observation made by one of the guests; whereas, the parable here, was spoken in different circumstances. Moreover, the characters referred to are quite different; the messengers despatched in the two parables, quite different, &c. Others, with St. Irenæus, &c., whose opinion is held by Maldonatus, say, there is reference to the same parable in St. Luke and here. The substance and scope in both are the same; and the circumstances in which they differ, so trivial, that they merit no consideration. The difference of circumstance of time and place, is accounted for in this way: St. Luke records facts accurately; whereas, St. Matthew, although remarkable for quoting our Redeemer’s words more fully than the other Evangelists, is not very particular in detailing the order of events; and hence, often anticipates or postpones events in his narrative, being more desirous of fully recording our Redeemer’s words. Here, then, he quotes this parable, although uttered under other circumstances; because, it suited those whom our Redeemer was now addressing.

2. “The kingdom of heaven,” viz., the Church of Christ, which is the long expected kingdom of the Messiah, in which He reigns over angels and men, subject and obedient to His spiritual rule. Hitherto, men were in servitude; but, now, the faithful are gifted with true spiritual liberty, under the sway of a spiritual King. It is also called “heavenly;” because all its ordinances, gifts, privileges, are from heaven; its destination, and the end to which it tends, is heaven.

Is like to a king.” It is not the kingdom, but, rather, the King of heaven, that is like a king. Hence, the words mean: something occurs in the founding and extension of the Church, like unto what is represented in the following parable of the king and the marriage feast.

The literal meaning of the parable needs no explanation. Hence, we have only to point out its application. The king who instituted the marriage feast, refers to the Heavenly Father, whose eternal “Son,” Jesus Christ, in the fulness of time, being born of the Father from eternity, was born as man, of the Virgin, in time, and united to Himself the nature of man.

The marriage,” refers, not to the nuptial union, but to the marriage feast (v. 4, &c.), to the graces, the Sacraments of the Church; above all, to the Sacrament of the adorable Eucharist; to the Word of God, by which the soul is nourished, all of which will lead to the enjoyment of those delights in store for the sons of God, who shall be inebriated with the abundance of God’s house, and for ever drink of the torrent of His delights (Psa. 35:9). By His assuming human nature, and afterwards redeeming us by His death, our Redeemer espoused His Church, and united her to Him by Faith, Hope, and Charity, here; which is to be followed by a closer union in the fruition of bliss, hereafter. The feast consequent on this nuptial union of Christ, comprises all the blessings of soul and body resulting therefrom, both in this life and in the next. It is quite usual, in SS. Scripture, to represent the covenant of God with man, under the figure of a marriage feast. (Isa. 54:6; Jer. 3:8; Matt. 25:5; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2, &c.) The allusion here to the mystical union of Christ with His Church, supposes a magnificent feast, such as marriage feasts, of kings, were amongst the ancients.

3. The “invited,” most likely, refers to the Jews, who had long since been invited by their Prophets and the Law of Moses, to prepare for the rich banquet, which in the time of the New Law, was to follow the Incarnation of the Son of God. The servants sent to call in those who were already invited, most probably refer to John the Baptist, and the Apostles, who, before the death of our Redeemer, invited the Jews to do penance, as “the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” St. Jerome reads, servant, in the singular. But, as it was most likely taken from St. Luke (14:17), the reading here is the more probable. The phrase, calling “those who were invited,” is allusive to a custom very prevalent, of issuing a more precise invitation, on the eve of a marriage, to the friends, who were before informed, in a more general way, of the event to take place at some period not then defined. “And they would not come.” The Jewish people resisted these gracious calls and invitations. As the king is said (v. 4), to send out “other servants” a second time, which are generally understood to refer to the Apostles; hence, some commentators understand, by the servants referred to in this verse (3), John the Baptist, and our Redeemer Himself, who was a servant, according to human nature. As, however, the servants sent on both occasions would seem to be different from the king’s son, of whose marriage there is question, it is better to adopt the former interpretation; for, the same Apostles may be regarded as other servants, inasmuch as they were sent on another and different occasion. Moreover, they were different men after the descent of the Holy Ghost, and they had associated to them parties who did not preach before the death of Christ, viz., Paul and Barnabas.

St. Chrysostom understands the servants, to refer to the latter Prophets; and John the Baptist, who pointed out Christ as already come, and His kingdom now arrived. Our Redeemer Himself, may perhaps, be included, since, in one respect, He was a servant, and He personally invited all: “Come to Me all ye that labour,” &c.; and also, when He commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which is the most precious banquet ever destined by God for man.

4. “Other servants.” This, most probably, refers to the period after the death of Christ, when He sent His Apostles and Apostolic men to invite the Jews again to the banquet. St. Chrysostom comments on the folly of the Jews, whose refusal necessitated this second mission of the king’s servants. After having slain his son and heir; after having spurned and refused the invitation of a king, and that to a banquet, which refusal was calculated to enrage him; still, such is the goodness of this Heavenly King, that He repeats His invitation, telling them, “all things are ready.” The invitation is not to sufferings, crosses, and afflictions; but, to pleasures and delights, at the very time they deserved punishment for the murder of His Son. No doubt, all who will take on them the yoke of Christ, will have to suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12); still, our Redeemer Himself declares, that His “yoke is sweet, and His burden light;” and the Psalmist invites all to “taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”

The “fatlings and beeves,” refer to the precious viands prepared in a style of royal magnificence for the numerous guests invited to the royal marriage; for more than one many “fatlings are killed.” This, may refer, in a special manner, to the death of Christ, and the institution of the adorable Eucharist, which took place between the first and second sending out of His servants. “All things are ready,” refers to the manifold and superabundant spiritual effects of the death of Christ, in the removal of obstacles, by His victory over the devil; in His throwing open the gates of heaven; and in the abundant graces now dispensed, of which the Holy Ghost plentifully dispensed by the Apostles, was a sure earnest and foretaste.

Come ye to the marriage.” What infinite goodness and condescension on the part of our good God, whose happiness was no way affected by their coming or staying away.

5. The neglect and indifference with which they treated the invitation of the king, not heeding it, but merely attending to their ordinary business, clearly exhibit, the dispositions of the Jews in regard to embracing the faith of Jesus Christ, after He had shed His blood for them. Plunged in earthly cares, and grovelling in their attachment to temporal concerns—which is a distinguishing characteristic of that unhappy race even to the present day—they undervalued the price of Redemption, and preferred frivolous and passing pleasures, to the solid and permanent joys of a celestial banquet.

6. Some of them went so far as to maltreat and abuse the kind’s messengers. This exhibits the ingratitude of the Jews in a still clearer light, inasmuch as, having been invited long beforehand, and having promised to come to the nuptials, now, when everything is prepared, at immense sacrifice and cost, they kill the servants sent to call them.

The bad treatment received by the Apostles at the hands of the Jews, is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They show still greater brutality than those did, who are referred to in the parable of the vineyard; for, these slew only the men who demanded the fruit of the vineyard, whereas, the others slew those who demanded nothing of them, but merely invited them to partake of the greatest enjoyments and delights.

How often do we not act similarly, crucifying again the Son of God by our sins, and exposing Him to mockery, refusing to enjoy His heavenly banquet. This, in a special manner, applies to those Christians, who refuse to approach Holy Communion; engrossed in worldly business and the distracting cares of temporal interests, or, indulging in illicit pleasures, they crucify again the Son of God; and we should tremble the more, as we have not the excuse the Jews had, viz., the folly and scandal of the Cross of Christ, to estrange and deter us.

For, we know, that He has triumphed by His Cross; and having been crucified according to the weakness of the flesh. He now lives by the power of God, seated at His right hand.

7. “When the king had heard of it” This is spoken conformably to the parable; as also are the words, “He was angry;” since the supreme King, knew of Himself, in virtue of His omniscience, all that happens; nor is He ever changed or moved to anger, save in the sense of inflicting punishment, as is done by an angry man.

And sending His armies,” &c. This has evident reference to the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after, by the Romans under Titus and Vespasian. They are called “His armies;” because, they were mere instruments in the hands of God, to execute His judgments. (See Isa. 13:4, 5, &c.; Jer. 25:9, &c.) It was “He sent” these armies. It was He destroyed, by their instrumentality, without their knowing it, “those murderers, and burnt their city.” Josephus, describing the fearful miseries endured by the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem, tells us, 1,100,000 persons were destroyed, and the city utterly ruined (Lib. 6, c. 9, de Bello Judaico). This might be regarded as a prophetic parable, which was fulfilled to the letter. The temporal punishment inflicted on the unhappy Jerusalem, is but a type of the excruciating tortures which, in the next life, the enemies of God are doomed to suffer for ever in hell.

8. “Then,” after the Jews, who were invited first, had rejected and spurned the grace of the Gospel, “He saith to His servants,” the Apostles, whose invitation the Jews had rejected.

Were not worthy,” implies more than is expressed. It means, that they rendered themselves positively unworthy, by their incredulity and resistance to grace. For, the Gentiles who were admitted into the Church, were not worthy; but, they did not place such obstacles to grace as did the Jews. (Rom. 9:30, &c.) The mysterious economy of God in calling the Gentiles only, when the Jews had rejected the Gospel, and in making their fall the occasion of the call of the others, is fully explained by St. Paul (Rom. 11, &c.); and, also, Acts 13:45, &c.

9. But, although the first invited refused coming, still, the banquet would not be left unattended. “Highways” (“exitus viarum,” Vulgate), are understood by some, to mean the places where many roads meet, and whence many roads branch off. These are generally the places most crowded—places of public resort. Others understand by them, the outlets of the main streets from the city into the country. In the parable, the words refer to the most distant and remote nations of the Gentiles, “in omnem terram,” &c. (Psa. 17) “Eritis mihi testes,” &c. (Acts 1:8).

And as many as you shall find.” No exception, no distinction—Jews or Gentiles, Greeks or barbarians. To all they are debtors. To all they owe it, to invite them to the king’s banquet.

10. They invited them, without distinction or exception—“good and bad.” Since all are “bad,” before their call, the words mean, they invited all, without distinction, from every class and rank of life, from every tribe, tongue, people, nation, sex, and profession. Or, the words may refer to the different degrees of moral character, which exist among Pagans themselves. For, among Pagans, some may be morally good, v.g., Cornelius the centurion, and others, “who by nature, do those things that are of the law” (Rom. 2:14); or, at least, there are “good and bad” among them, according to their own notions and opinions. The words may also refer to the condition they were in after their vocation and aggregation to the Church; and thus would show, that there are wicked men even in the Church, as is expressed, verse 11.

And the marriage was filled with guests,” refers to the fulness of the Gentiles, who entered the Church after the Jews had refused entering, whose incredulity was made the occasion of the call of the former.

11. The entrance of the king “to see the guests,” is literally allusive to the usage observed by exalted personages, when they give splendid entertainments, of going in to see how all things appear, how it fares with their guests, and whether all things are conducted in a way worthy of such an occasion. In the application, it refers to the judgment of God, whether particular, at death; or, general, at the end of the world, as appears from the punishment (v. 13). Our Redeemer introduces this, to prevent any false feelings of foolish confidence on the part of the Gentiles, who were introduced after the Jews were rejected; since, it will not suffice to be in the Church to gain salvation. Many of the children of the Church may be reprobates and lost.

And He there saw a man,” a certain person sitting down with the other guests.

Wedding garment,” cannot refer to faith; since, he could not be there without it. By faith, and the sacraments of faith, he entered the Church. To come to the feast is, to believe, as those who did not come did so, because they did not believe. Hence, the word means, charity, which was the disposition in which Christ Himself united to Him His Church; and, therefore, the corresponding disposition which each one should carry with him. Charity it is, that “that covers a multitude of sins.” Charity it is, with the want of which St. John charges the Bishop of Ephesus, and the want of which rendered displeasing to God, the Bishop of Laodicea. It is charity that renders us beautiful in the eyes of God.

Others understand by it, a spotless, holy life, free from gross sins, adorned with all virtues and good works. This it is, that constitutes the putting on of Christ (Rom. 13:14; Coloss. 3:12); the putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:14); the newness of life (Rom. 6:4); the new creature (Gal. 6:15). This, however, comes to the same as the preceding interpretation, since charity cannot exist without a good life and meritorious good works; nor can these exist, in the sense now referred to, without charity. Hence, “the nuptial garment,” embraces all, viz., charity, good works, and a truly Christian life. This shows, that faith alone, without good works, will not suffice for salvation.

12. “Friend, how earnest thou hither?” This form of address, shows the reproach Almighty God will make to the members of His Church, who, having abused the friendship shown them, and having insulted Him after all the marks of friendship and love exhibited by Him, deserve hell. It also shows, that God punishes them, from a sense of justice, rather than from a feeling of hatred.

He was silent,” conveys to us, that at the hour of death, or on the Day of Judgment, the light of God’s justice shall so dazzle the reprobate, and place the crimes they concealed from man in so manifest a light, that they cannot either deny or palliate them. The angels and men at judgment, shall be witnesses, says St. Jerome, of the sins of those whom the Divine justice will condemn: “nec negandi erit facultas, cum omnes Angeli et mundus ipse sit testes peccatorum. Illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum et manifestabit consilia cordium”

13. “The waiters,” the Angels, who are to execute the decrees of Divine justice.

The “binding of hands and feet,” denotes the inevitable punishment in store for them, in “exterior darkness,” &c., which refers to the eternal torments of hell, where they shall be for ever shut out from the sight of God, and the brilliant light of the supper hall; and consigned in a darksome dungeon to excruciating tortures, denoted by “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In speaking of “exterior darkness, weeping,” &c., our Redeemer passes, as sometimes is His wont, from the parabolical form of expression, to the thing denoted by the parable.

14. “For, many are called, but few are chosen.” This is the conclusion which our Redeemer draws from the foregoing parable. At first sight, one would imagine the conclusion, from the rejection of only one out of so many guests, ought to be, although many are called, only FEW are rejected. Some expositors, among them, St. Augustine, say, that this one who was rejected, was a type, and representative of those who are rejected, who are many, and more numerous than those who are saved, since, “broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter thereat;” whereas, but few enter the narrow gate. The scope of the parable, according to this, is to show that, besides the many who altogether refuse entering the Church, even of those who enter, some are lost. That our Redeemer designed to make the man in question, a representative of those many, who, being called, are still rejected, appears from the general conclusion He draws from the parable.

Others assert, that the conclusion is drawn from the entire foregoing passage, and comprises both the vast multitudes, who refuse entering the Church, and those who, being in the Church, do not lead lives worthy of their vocation, nor persevere to the end, and are thus rejected. Then in this interpretation, both the justness, and truth of the general conclusion are quite evident, since, if we include among those called, all who remain outside the Church, Jews and Pagans, and all who, being in the Church, do not lead edifying lives, it is clear, the damned are many, and the saved comparatively few. Others say, that the conclusion, as well as the entire parable, refers to the Jews, of whom many were called, but few embraced the faith at the preaching of the Apostles; and our Redeemer casually introduces, at the end of the parable, verse 11, the case of one of those who entered the Church, and was still lost, to show those who are members of the Church, and the Gentiles, who are called, that they had no reason to glory against the Jews; since, not all that are called and enter the Church are saved, which is sufficiently verified and exhibited by the fate of only one, in the Church, because he had not “the wedding garment,” was not clothed with the robe of charity and sanctifying grace.

15. “Then the Pharisees consulting,” &c. From the other Evangelists it would seem it was those whom He had been addressing previously, viz., the Chief Priests and ancients (21:23), that did so. However, the Pharisees were included in the others, and especially under the term, “Scribes.” But the Pharisees are in a special manner said to be the instigators or concocters of this scheme, to insnare our Redeemer, both, because they were most hostile to Him, and among them, especially the following captious question was agitated. Instead of being struck with feelings of dread at the punishment menaced by our Redeemer, and conceiving feelings of true sorrow, they become more hardened in their iniquity, and endeavour to insnare Him.

16. “They sent their disciples”—St. Mark, “some of the Pharisees” (12:13); St. Luke calls them, “spies” (20:20). They do not question Him themselves, as they were well known to Him, and their object would be at once seen through. They join with these some of their own disciples, whom they supposed to be unknown to our Redeemer. “The Herodians.” Who these were, cannot be known for certain. Some say, they refer to that class among the Jews, who were in favour of paying tribute to Cæsar, and they were called “Herodians,” after Herod, who, being the creature of the Romans, favoured their cause, and promoted it by all possible means. These the Pharisees bring with them to consult our Redeemer on this delicate and agitated question, in order to insure His denunciation to the Roman authorities, in case He expressed on opinion against the payment of taxes (Luke 20:20). Others say, they were the soldiers and domestics of Herod Antipas, who was then at Jerusalem, on the occasion of the celebration of the Pasch. Others say, they were the public officers, appointed by Herod, to collect the Roman tribute in Judea. Others maintain, that they belonged to the sect of the Sadducees, whose doctrines were embraced by Herod. Finally, it is maintained by others, that they formed a peculiar religious sect among the Jews, who maintained, that Herod the Great was the Messias, the sceptre having in his time passed from the tribe of Juda (Gen. 49:10) Herod favoured this class very much. In order to uphold these false notions, he slew the holy Innocents, and built a magnificent temple, rivalling that of Solomon.

Master,” &c. Full of deceit and dissimulation, they approach our Redeemer with affected feelings of the greatest respect, and they address to Him the language of the grossest flattery, thus hoping to throw Him off his guard, and to elicit from Him the desired answer, unfavourable to the payment of tribute. “Master,” signifies not only a teacher of the law, but a lending personage vested with authority. “True,” i.e., sincere, candid, “speaker.” “The way of God,” that is, the will, the law of God, which conducts us to God, to grace, and glory. “In truth,” without any admixture of error. “Neither carest Thou for any one,” &c., that is, Thou art not afraid of any one, however powerful, so as to be deterred from courageously announcing the truth. In this it is insinuated, that others were deterred, by the fear of Cæsar, from giving utterance to their real sentiments, on the subject of paying tribute to the Romans.

Not regard the person of men.” For the meaning of having “respect of persons” (see Rom. 2:11), where it is shown, that in His dealing with men, God can never be liable to this charge. In these hollow, hypocritical praises, bestowed by the Pharisees on our Divine Redeemer, they pronounced their own condemnation; for, if He were such as they affected to believe, why reject His teaching.

17. The question proposed by the Pharisees was a most captious one, and calculated to involve our Redeemer in a dilemma, whichever answer He would give. If He answered in the negative, that it was not lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, then, the Herodians were present to give evidence against Him to the Governor (Luke 20:20), and charge Him with preaching sedition and disaffection to the reigning authorities (Luke 23:5). If He replied in the affirmative, then they would render Him odious with the people, who hated the rule of the Romans, and regarded it as unbecoming in the people of God, to be subject, or pay tribute to infidels and unbelievers. They would thus damage His ministry, by bringing it into disrepute; and by charging Him with favouring the hated dominion of the Romans, they would endeavour to show, that He was indifferent in regard to the spiritual interests and exalted privileges of the people of God; that, far from having any claim to be considered their true King, their long-expected Messias, He was only a false Messias, the enemy of the Jewish people. The discussion about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar, originated about thirty years before this, with a certain Judas of Galilee. History clearly attests the cause that gave rise to the subjection of the Jews to the Romans, and the consequent payment of tribute to them. The disputes for the office of High Priest, between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, the nephews of Simon, the High Priest, who was brother to Judas Machabeus, caused them to solicit the mediation of Pompey, then at the head of the Roman armies in the East. Pompey having adjudicated in favour of Hyrcanus, the elder of the two brothers, Aristobulus resisted both Hyrcanus and Pompey. The consequence was, that Hyreanus, being of himself unable to maintain his power, handed it over to the Romans, and this cession was ratified by the chief men among the Jews, such a course being, in their minds, the only safeguard against anarchy and bloodshed Pompey imposed a tax, which, although not a fixed annual one, was to be paid occasionally, according to the wants of the Republic, whenever it was exacted by the Romans. It was only in the time of Augustus, after the enrolment under Cyrinus, about the period of our Redeemer’s birth, that this casual taxation was changed into a fixed annual tax, levied by capitation, to be paid in coin, bearing the name and image of the reigning Emperor. The imposition of this tax, in connexion with subjection to the Romans, was by no means relished by the Jewish nation. Hence, in the time of Augustus, about thirty years before this, a certain Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37; Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq.), raised the standard of revolt. He asserted, that it was unworthy of the people of God, the true sons of the faithful Abraham, who owed tribute to God alone, to be subject, or pay taxes to infidels and idolatrous Gentiles. Both himself and his followers all perished, at the hands of the Romans. However, the spirit he evoked had, to some extent, survived him, and no question was more fiercely agitated among the Jews, than whether or not, it was lawful to give tribute to Cæsar. The Pharisees and the bulk of the people, held the unlawfulness, as far as they could securely do so. The Herodians and the followers of the Romans, on the other hand, maintained its lawfulness. This sect of Galileans, followers of Judas, had raised several tumults in Judea, and provoked the chastisement of the ruling powers. It is to them, most likely, allusion is made (Luke 13:1). It was in vindication of their false and erroneous principles, that, after this, they rose in rebellion against the Romans, which ended in the utter ruin of their chief city, and the irreparable destruction and dispersion of the Jewish race, under Titus and Vespasian. Our Redeemer and His Apostles, being Galileans, might readily be suspected of favouring the false principles of this Judas. Hence, our Redeemer, by His own example, and the teaching of His Apostles, inculcates so clearly the obedience due to temporal powers (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:13).

18. “But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said,” &c. Our Redeemer shows Himself superior to the artifices whereby it was sought to entrap Him. They thought to insnare Him by their false, hollow professions of respect, and by captious questions. On the other hand, He exposes their hypocrisy, while, in affecting to exhibit respect for Him, and to ascertain the truth, they only wished to lay snares for Him. They were thus quite different from what they pretended to be. “Ye hypocrites.” Hence, showing His omniscience, He exposes their inmost thoughts, and proves that He Himself was, in reality, what they affected to believe Him to be—a truthful, fearless teacher, who is not deterred by any persons from announcing the truth, as He does here in regard to them.

Why do ye tempt Me?” to give utterance to sentiments opposed to the submission due to the ruling powers in the State; or, rather, why desire to catch Me in My words, while affecting respect for Me, and a desire of knowing the truth?

19. “Show me the coin of tribute,” that is, the coin which Cæsar exacts in tribute from each person. The other Evangelists (Mark 12:15; Luke 20:24), say, He told them to bring Him “a penny;” but, probably, these Evangelists expressed themselves thus, because a penny, or denarius, was the coin showed to our Redeemer; although, most likely, He expressed Himself, as is here described by St. Matthew. “The coin of tribute” was a certain description of money which the Roman Emperors got struck off, as the coin to be paid in tribute. It was a penny, a Roman denarius, and, most likely, it was of a larger or smaller size, according to the amount levied on each individual. This coin must have come from the Roman mint, inasmuch as the Jews would not have impressed the image of any man, according to their law, much less of a Pagan and idolater, on any of their coins. It was silver; for, we are informed by Pliny (Lib. 33, c. 3), that the Romans exacted tribute in silver, not in gold. The value of this denarius, in our currency, is not easily ascertained. Those who hold that in (c. 17:23) there is question of a tax paid to the Romans, say, that the didrachma, being nearly equivalent to two denarii, the tax demanded of each was a penny or denarius doubled, or two denarii, unless we say, that the size and value of each denarius varied, according to circumstances, and that Tiberius got struck off denarii, to be paid by the Jews, of a size equalling two drachmæ each. So that, according to the increase or decrease of the tribute, denarii were struck off, of lesser or greater size and value. But, as we maintained, that in c. 17, there is question of quite a different tax, the question does not concern us.

20. The image of the reigning princes was usually stamped on the current coins of their respective realms, as we find to be now the universal practice. Our Redeemer, although He already know whose image was impressed, now asks the question, partly with a view of having them solve their own question, by the answer He would elicit from them; and partly, to show that earthly wealth was of no concern to Him.

21. “Cæsar’s.” Tiberius Cæsar, who was then in the eighteenth year of his reign.

Render, therefore, to Cæsar, the things that are Cæsar’s,” &c. This would seem to be a conclusion suggested by the exhibition of tax money bearing, impressed on it, the image of Cæsar; a conclusion evidently insinuating, although not expressing it, that tribute might lawfully be paid to Cæsar; for, their question was not, whether it was their bounden duty, or whether it was an obligation on them to pay tribute to Cæsar. Hence, in His answer, He altogether abstracts from the fact, whether the Romans were their lawful sovereigns, or had acquired a just, legitimate dominion over them or not. The question was, whether the Jews, the chosen people of God, were justified in paying tribute to infidels and idolaters. It arose out of the heresy propounded by Judas and his followers, regarding the privileges of the Jews, and their exemption from earthly sovereignty, as the chosen people of God. Hence, they ask, is it “lawful to give?” &c. Our Redeemer’s answer embraces the question expressed, and its implied reason, and, without directly answering their question, He so frames His reply, as to utterly baffle them, and confound their malice.

Some say, that our Redeemer’s answer means, that it was lawful to pay this tribute. “Give to Cæsar.” No doubt, this is implied, and easily inferred; but, still, the admiration which His answer elicited (v. 22), evidently shows, the Pharisees, &c., did not regard Him as expressly saying so; for, He would have thus fallen into the snare they laid for Him, and incurred the odious alternative, intended by them, of rendering Himself obnoxious to the people.

The connexion of our Redeemer’s conclusion, “Render, therefore, unto Cæsar,” &c., and the mode in which it is deduced from the foregoing is differently explained. According to some, by the very fact of the Jews using the money, stamped with the Emperor’s image, and this for the purpose of paying tribute, “numisma census,” they acknowledged themselves to be Cæsar’s subjects; and, hence, they should pay him tribute. This reasoning does not seem conclusive to others (although there is some force in the words, numisma census”) inasmuch as one nation may, for commercial purposes, use the money coined under the sovereign of a different State, as the Jews, most likely, used Roman as well as Greek coin, before their subjection to the Romans. Hence, they explain it thus: As the money they used was Roman coin, there can be nothing unlawful, or opposed to the law of God, in giving back, “rendering” “reddite Cæsari,” &c., to the Romans, Roman coin. The question proposed, regarded not the claim of Cæsar to receive tribute, but the lawfulness of giving it to him, on the part of the Jews.

Our Redeemer, at the same time, in order to meet the charge of neglecting the interests of God’s people, to which the foregoing answer might render Him liable, adds, “and unto God the things that are God’s,” in which He would seem tacitly to hint, that the Pharisees were quite indifferent about the interests of God, the paying Him tithes, &c., rendering honour and reverence, which seemed to cause them so much anxiety, and in defence of which they affected to have some scruples about paying tribute to Cæsar.

Others (among the rest, Jansenius Iprensis), hold, that no inference can be drawn from our Redeemer’s answer, as to whether tribute was to be paid to Cæsar or not.

As the Pharisees insidiously proposed to Him a captious question, with a view of insnaring Him, He, therefore, avoids giving them any definite answer; and He so shapes His reply, that they could not infer what the things were which they should pay unto Cæsar, whether it was tribute, or honour, or obedience; at the same time, He propounds Cæsar’s rights, whatever they were; and thus, without involving Himself with the Jews, or running counter to their prejudices on the subject of paying tribute (for in the words, “the things that are Cæsar’s,” He makes no mention of tribute), He avoids coming in collision with the temporal authorities. Neither can they deduce anything definite from His answer to the second part, “and unto God,” &c.

One conclusion, however, is clearly deducible from our Redeemer’s words, viz., that the discharge of the obligations, due to temporal authority, is by no means inconsistent with those we owe Almighty God, or His Church, which is His direct, immediate, and supernaturally constituted representative on this earth, and vice versa. All Christians, of whatever rank, order, or degree, who are not themselves the occupants of supreme power, owe, without exception, civil allegiance to secular authority, and are bound to discharge the duties which it entails, be the occupants of power, Pagan or Christian, Protestant or Catholic; and this, not only from fear of punishment, but also from motives of conscience. However, this duty of obedience, which is entailed by civil allegiance, has its limits. (See Rom. 13; Titus 3; 1 Peter 2:13; Commentary on.) Circumstances may also arise where, under certain conditions, resistance to civil authority, and, if necessary, the deposition of unjust, tyrannical rulers, even of these legitimately established, is allowable. (See Murray, “Annual Miscellany,” vol. ii.) These conditions, it is generally agreed upon, are—1. If the tyranny be excessive and intolerable. 2. If it be manifest to men of probity and good sense. 3. If the evils actually endured exceed those that would ensue from resisting and deposing a tyrant. 4. If resistance be the only available means to get rid of tyranny and its evils. 5. If there be a moral certainty of success. But, as these conditions are seldom found to concur; hence, practically, it is but very rarely allowable to have recourse to the extreme remedy of resistance to legitimately constituted authority, even when acting tyrannically. (See St. Thomas, Lib. 1, do regimine Principum; also 2da 2dæ Quest. 42, Art. 2, ad 3m; St. Augustine, Lib. 17; de civitate Dei, et de Unit. Eeclesiæ, c. 21; Suarez, De. fid. Lib. 6, c. 4, &c.)

The Church, the Divine spouse of Christ, united to her Divinely-appointed head, who is the vicegerent of Christ on earth, on whom has been bestowed the full power of binding and loosing, and the exceptional privilege of infallibly deciding questions of faith and morals, should be regarded as the direct guardian of the interests of God. From him she derives, directly and immediately, all the powers and privileges which He supernaturally bestowed on her. The duty of obedience we owe her, as the immediate representative of God, belongs to another order, and is different from that which we owe temporal authority. The civil authority of the State, and the spiritual authority of the Church, are independent in their respective spheres; confined to their proper bounds, they can never clash. Both come from God, who assigns to each its proper limits, its distinct rights and prerogatives. In the words, “render unto God the things that are God’s,” temporal rulers and governors are restrained from intermeddling in the spiritual concerns of God and His Church. If they do, they are to be regarded as detestable tyrants; and their ordinances, particularly if they enjoin anything opposed to the law of God, and the inalienable independence of His Church, are to be disobeyed as a matter of duty, and resisted, at the sacrifice of personal liberty, of all the goods of fortune, nay, even of life itself. Of this, the history of the Church in all ages, furnishes us with the most edifying examples, in the persons of those fearless champions, who regarded life itself of little value, when the defence of the liberties of the Church, and the interests of religion, were in question. At this very moment, is not the entire Church edified by the fearless intrepidity exhibited by the aged prisoner of the Vatican, whose unchanging reply to every insidious overture that might compromise the liberties of the Church, and the rights of the Holy See, is “non possumus;” and of those holy confessors, the victims of German despotism, who, from the depths of their prison cells, bear testimony to the truth?

The words, “render unto God the things that are God’s,” forcibly remind each individual of his obligation to observe the Commandments, and execute the holy will of God, so as to render his soul agreeable in His sight, and so to cultivate all its faculties as to promote, in all things, the greater glory of God. As “the coin of the tribute” was stamped with the image of Cæsar, which showed his claim to the payment of tribute; so, have our souls impressed upon them God’s image and likeness, assimilated to Him in their spiritual power, and reflecting Him in the triple faculty of memory, understanding, and will. All the faculties, therefore, of our souls, all their operations, should tend to God, in whom alone, after all the sorrows, and turmoil, and warfare of this life, they are ultimately to find eternal rest, peace, and happiness. Have we so disposed all our thoughts, words, and actions, as to render them subservient to God’s greater glory? Have we rendered unto God, in the several circumstances of life, all that are “His?” All things that we have are from Him, therefore, all that we have or are, should be, in turn, referred back to Him.

22. “They wondered,” at the wisdom He displayed in fully answering their question, while He, at the same time, escaped the snares laid for Him, and the consequences of the dilemma in which they meant to involve Him, thus verifying the words of Scriptures, there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30); “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,” &c. (1 Cor. 1:19); “Their foot hath been taken in the very snare which they hid” (Psa. 9:16).

23. The Sadducees, far from profiting by the discomfiture which the Pharisees suffered at our Redeemer’s hands, endeavoured to involve Him in a difficulty. The history and doctrines of this sect have been already explained (3:7). They were a sort of free thinkers, sensual materialists in matters of religion. They denied the immortality of the soul, and, consequently, the resurrection of the body (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 2). They denied the existence of angels and of spirits (Acts 23:8). They could conceive no other state save that of sensual, carnal indulgence. As the Pharisees inclined to the tenets of the Platonists and Pythagoreans; so did the Sadducees, to those of the Epicureans. They were thought less of by the people than were the Pharisees, to whom they were opposed. Though hostile to the Pharisees, they still join them in opposing our Divine Redeemer. Their wicked example in this, has been too faithfully copied by heretics in every age, who, while tearing each other in pieces, are sure to unite in opposing the Church of God. Having heard our Redeemer preach the doctrine of the Resurrection, and inculcate penance and sanctity of life, as necessary to enjoy promised happiness in the world to come, they now cite a case, either real or fictitious, which, in their minds, clearly demonstrated the absurdity of the doctrine of the Resurrection.

24. “Moses said” (Deut. 25:5), “if a man die,” &c. This custom existed even before the time of Moses, as is clear from the case of Thamar, the daughter-in-law of Juda. (Genesis 38) The motive of this law was, to console the dying, by satisfying the desire natural to all, of leaving a representative after them; or, in other words, of living in the persons of their sons, and of retaining their inheritance without confusion. This law was not to be confined to brethren only; it extended to very near relations, as appears from the Book of Ruth.

And raise up issue to his brother.” The first-born son was to be called by the name of the deceased brother, and to be regarded as his heir and representative, “that his name be not abolished out of Israel” (Deut. 25:6).

25–27. This may have really happened, or it may be only imaginary. In any case it would answer the intended purpose just as well.

28 “In the resurrection.” At the resurrection of the dead, when the seven brothers and their wife shall, according to our Redeemer’s teaching, rise again, and during the eternity which is to succeed.

Whose wife shall she be of the seven?” &c. The Sadducees thought to confound our Redeemer by this question; whatever answer He gave, they supposed, would show the absurdity of the doctrine of the Resurrection. If He said, she should be adjudged to only one; then, the others who married her in succession, would be wronged. Such a decision would be the source of discord and divisions, and envy, on the part of the six others, each of whom would seem to have an equal right to her, in the other life. For, the carnal and sensual Sadducees supposed that, after the Resurrection, men lived with their wives, as in the present life. If He said, she belonged equally to all, then our Redeemer’s doctrine would savour of the most incestuous and unnatural concession.

Or, if He said, she would belong to neither, then, they would suppose it a great hardship that these seven men, who acted in obedience to the law in espousing this woman, should lead single lives, while others were allowed to live with their wives, in the life to come.

29. St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer, in His reply, does not reproach the Sadducees, as He did the Pharisees (v. 18), because, although they were, to some extent, influenced by malice; still, ignorance, on this subject, was their predominant failing. Hence, He charges them with error, not with hypocrisy, and merely says, “You err,” in denying the Resurrection, and in being ignorant of the manner of its accomplishment; since, they supposed that things would be there just as they exist here. Hence, they denied it altogether. Their error arose from a two-fold source, viz., from their ignorance of “the Scriptures,” from which they quote so flippantly, and which clearly establish the doctrine of the Resurrection; and from not knowing “the power of God,” since, being unable to conceive how the same bodies could be resuscitated after putrefaction, looking merely to natural causes, ignoring God’s Providence and Almighty Power, they looked upon the effects of God’s power as no greater than those produced by the ordinary laws of nature. Hence, they understood the doctrine of the Resurrection, in a metaphorical sense, like those heretics referred to by St. Paul (2 Tim. 2:17).

30. He first treats of the latter source of error, and answers their chief ground of objection, by a reference to the state of things different from the present, brought about by the power of God, which will effect, that, although the same bodies, the same flesh, as to substance, shall be resuscitated; still, these bodies shall be endowed with glorious qualities, as is described by St. Paul. (1 Cor. 15) Although they shall have the same members, the same flesh; still, these members and this flesh shall be freed from the baneful consequences of sin. They shall be freed from animal wants and inclinations. Everything in these bodies shall be subject to the soul, and the soul shall be subject to God, and ingulfed in the excess of His boundless bliss. They shall be partakers of the sovereign beatitude, in a manner so admirable, that our Redeemer compares them to “the Angels of God in heaven.” This is what He wishes to convey to the Sadducees, when He says, “they know not the power of God.”

Marry nor he given in marriage,” refers to both sexes. The men shall not “marry” women; nor shall the women “be given in marriage” to men. The propriety of the Latin language is not strictly observed in the Vulgate, in the translation from the Greek. For, although γαμουσι applies to men as well as women, still, “nubent,” is generally applied to women; we are told, however, by Nonius Marcellus, that “nubo,” applied indifferently to men and women. The true meaning of the phrase is that now given. St. Luke (20:36), adds, as a reason, “for they cannot die any more,” in allusion to the reason of the ordinance of Moses (Deut. 25), which had for object, to succour human mortality, and repair the losses occasioned by it. When death shall be swallowed up in victory, then, shall the object of marriage cease.

But shall be as the Angels of God in heaven,” as regards immortality, perfect beatitude, purity and freedom from all the passions, appetites, wants, and desires of animal life; but, not so in every respect, or, as regards the possession of flesh or bodies, since the just shall have the same bodies, but with quite different qualities and attributes; whereas, the Angels have no bodies at all. The comparison is confined to the point at issue, regarding marriage, and carnal gratification in the life to come. St. Luke adds, “they are children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (20:36), and, as such, free from all passions, sure of a blessed immortality, which shall render marriage altogether unnecessary.

31. “And concerning the Resurrection,” &c. In proof of the Resurrection, or, that the dead shall be raised again, “have you not read that which was spoken by God?” (Exod. 3:6–16.) Having refuted their objection to the Resurrection, founded on the gross error they wore in regarding the state of things after it, caused by their depreciation of, or rather, disbelief in the power of God, our Redeemer now undertakes to prove the doctrine of the Resurrection from the same portion of SS. Scripture, the writings of Moses, on which the perplexing case already quoted, was founded, and shows, that they were ignorant of the Scriptures, from their boasted knowledge of which they derived their objection against this fundamental doctrine.

32. “I am the God,” &c., that is, the protector and bountiful rewarder “of Abraham,” &c., the celebrated ancestors of the Hebrews, whom I now commission you to liberate (Exod. 3:6).

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The common Greek is, “GOD is not the God of the dead,” &c. The reasoning of our Divine Redeemer is this: In addressing Moses, and vesting him with authority, to lead the Hebrews out of the Egyptian bondage (Exod. 3:6), God declares Himself to be, at the time He spoke “to Moses, at the bush” (Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37), the God of Abraham, Isaac, &c., although they had died long before then. He does not say, “I WAS the God,” &c.; but, “I AM the God” (for, this is implied in the original Hebrew, where the personal verb is wanting), to denote eternity and undying existence. Now, “God is not the God of the dead,” &c. Therefore, Abraham, &c., are still alive with God—“for, all live to Him” (Luke 20:38)—since, the relations of protection and remuneration existing between them and God, which is the meaning of the words, “I am the God of Abraham,” &c., could not subsist if they were not existing. Hence, they must now exist, and consequently rise again. For, their existence as to their souls would be only a half, or imperfect existence, inconsistent with the protection and remuneration which God, whose works are perfect, extends to them, when, He calls Himself their “God.” Now, if they rise again, the same must apply to all others Their resurrection shows, the existence of a future state. Objection—But, even supposing that the Patriarchs would never rise again, might they not, still, be said to be “living,” as to their souls? Hence, He might be called their God.

The answer is twofold (Jansenius Iprensis)—1st. When it is said, He is “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” by Abraham, &c., are meant, not mere disembodied souls, existing separately; but, men, composed of soul and body. Hence, they exist, both as to soul and body, before God. For, supposing the decree of God to reanimate their bodies, as the interval between their death and resurrection is so short, that it might be called a mere sleep, which is often said of death in the SS. Scriptures (Matt. 9:25; John 11:11), their bodies, although dead to us, may be said to live before God. Hence, St. Luke (20:38) says, “they all live to Him,” just as Adam, after God’s decree of death was pronounced against him, might be said to be dead, before God, since his dissolution was soon to take place. In this sense, our Redeemer would immediately prove the resurrection of the body, taking the words, “Abraham, Isaac,” &c., to designate their persons, composed of soul and body. Our Redeemer, by the word, “living,” means, full, perfect life of the entire man; full, perfect life, worthy of God, the great author of life and source of happiness, whose works are complete, and whose rewards exceed all merit. Now, God in calling Himself “the God of Abraham,” &c., conveys, He was their bountiful rewarder, and would make them perfectly happy. But, this perfect happiness implies perfect, entire life, of soul and body. For, a man existing only as to his soul, could only be said to be half existing. Hence, to insure perfect happiness and full existence, worthy of God, the body must again be resuscitated and united to the soul.

2ndly. Others reply thus: They say, our Redeemer employs an argument founded on the teaching and tenets of the Sadducees, who denied the immortality of the soul. According to them, the sold became extinct with the body (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 2). Now, as our Redeemer establishes the existence of the souls of Abraham, &c., because, God calls Himself their God; hence follows the resurrection of their bodies, the form of their souls, which would be ever kept in a violent state without their bodies. The Sadducees and the Philosophers, who denied the resurrection of the body, denied the immortality of the soul; while, on the other hand, those who admitted the immortality of the soul, admitted the resurrection of the body. Hence, from the denial of the resurrection of the body, St. Paul (1 Cor. 15) infers, the annihilation of the soul; and the Holy Spirit (2 Machabees 12:44), infers, that prayers for the departed would be of no use unless the dead rose again.

Whatever interpretation may be put upon the passage, matters but little; or, rather, in whatever way we may endeavour to explain the reasoning and deduction of our Divine Redeemer, matters but little, so far as our accepting His conclusion is concerned. He says that the words of God to Moses prove the resurrection of the body. That is enough for us. He might have adduced other texts, in which the resurrection would seem to be more clearly referred to. (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2, &c.) But, most likely, He preferred quoting from Moses, as it was from Moses the Sadducees sought to confound Him. Some, moreover, say, that the Sadducees admitted the Books of Moses only. This is denied by others, nor is there any clear evidence on record, that they rejected the other books; as, in that case, they would have been clearly heretics, and treated as such by the Jews, and excluded from the synagogue, where the Psalms of David were sung and the Books of the Prophets read (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15); whereas, we find some men of that sect occupying the highest spiritual offices among the Jews. Ananias, the High Priest, was a Sadducee (Acts 22:12). So were other High Priests too.

33. “When the multitude heard this,” that is, His answer to the Sadducees, “they were in admiration of His doctrine,” His solid, ready, and prudent reply to these questions which caused others such perplexity. They admired His use of Scriptural quotations in proof of His teaching, and also His doctrine concerning: the future state of the resuscitated, regarding which they, most likely, were imbued with erroneous notions. For, though maintaining the doctrine of the Resurrection, the Pharisees, probably, misunderstood the manner of existence that followed it, which they supposed to be carnal; whereas, our Redeemer shows it to be a state exempt from all the necessities of animal life, and free from all carnal indulgence, like unto that of the Angels in heaven. St. Luke (20:39) says, “some of the Scribes” commended our Redeemer’s answer to the Sadducees. St. Mark (12:32) says, one of them commended His teaching, after He had replied to the following question regarding the love of God. This St. Luke omits, as he had recorded a similar question and its answer (10:25). The words of St. Luke (20:40), “after that they durst not ash Him,” &c., may either refer to the Sadducees, or, if it refer to all, it has reference to the period subsequent to His answer to the following question.

34. “Silenced.” The original word, “εφιμωσε,” literally signifies, “to put a muzzle on their lips.”

The Pharisees had heard that He silenced the Sadducees. From this, St. Matthew leaves us to inter, that although the Pharisees were glad of the discomfiture of their opponents, the Sadducees, still, they did not imitate the people in their admiration of our Redeemer; on the contrary, stung with envy at His success, and forgetful of their own shameful defeat on the question of the tribute, they hope to confound Him by their subtle questions, and to lower Him with the multitude. “They came together,” to deliberate about the question they, in their turn, would propose, as the Sadducees had done already.

35. “And,” at their instigation, “one of them (the Pharisees) a doctor of the law.” whose occupation it was to expound the law. St. Mark (12:28) says, He was “a Scribe.” Hence, a Pharisee might sometimes be a Scribe. “Asked Him, tempting Him,” that is, making an experiment whether He would answer his question on the practical precepts of the law, as well as He had answered the Sadducees on a speculative point; for, “He had heard them,” our Redeemer and the Sadducees, “reasoning together” (Mark 12:28). Most likely, he interrogated our Redeemer, not so much in a captious spirit, as with a view of obtaining information, “seeing that He had answered them (the Sadducees) well.” Hence, our Redeemer says of him (Mark 12:34), “thou art not far off from the kingdom of God.” Others think, he commenced in an evil, captious spirit. Hence, they take “tempting,” in a bad sense; but, that he left better disposed (St. Chrysos. in Matth. Hom. 72).

36. “The great commandment,” that is, the greatest commandment among those propounded by Moses, compared with which others are not great, the commandment whose fulfilment is most agreeable to God. The Hebrew has no superlative; hence, the Greek phrase here partakes of the Hebrew idiom. The interpreter (v. 38) renders it, the greatest. It is observed by Von. Bede (in Matth. 12), that it was a question much debated among the Scribes and Pharisees, which was the greatest commandment among those delivered by Moses, some giving a preference to those which related to the offering of gifts and sacrifices. Hence, they placed them before those that related to honouring our parents (15:4, 5, &c.). Others gave the preference to the precepts, which had immediately for object, the love of God and of our neighbour. Hence, the Scribe praises our Lord’s answer on the subject (Mark 12:32–34).

37. “Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord,” &c. In Mark (12:29), our Redeemer quotes, in substance, from Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God.” (In Deut. it is, “the Lord our God is one Lord”), as if to convey, that the faith in God, as Lord of all things, would lead us to love Him above all things; and as “ONE God,” would show, He alone was to be loved in this supreme way. Hence, to be loved “with our whole (undivided) heart.” This oneness has reference to the Divine nature. The word, for “Lord,” is Jehovah, derived from the verb, to be. It has, therefore, reference to the Divine nature. The plurality of persons is insinuated in the triple repetition—1st, “the Lord;” 2nd, “thy God;” 3rd, “is one God.” Similar are the words of the Psalmist, “Benedicat nos Deus, Deus noster, benedicat nos Deus.” “Deus noster,” is put in the second place, because by His Incarnation, the Second Person is peculiarly our God. The same is observed in the words of Deuteronomy (6:4), “the Lord (1) our God (2) is one Lord” (3).

Thou shall love,” is the same as an imperative form, love thou. “With thy whole heart,” &c. In Deuteronomy (6:5) it is, “with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.” The words, “with thy whole mind,” are omitted. In Mark (12:30), Luke (10:27), four members are expressed—“thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, thy whole strength.” Some expositors distinguish these several members, and endeavour to assign to them a distinct meaning. St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Article 4), by the heart, understands the will; and by the three others, the principles of action, which are moved by the will, viz., the intellect, signified by the “mind;” the inferior appetite, expressed by “soul” (ψυχη); and the external power of action, denoted by “strength.” Hence, God is to be so loved by us, that our entire intention should be borne towards Him (ex corde); our intellect subject to Him; our sensual appetite regulated according to Him; our entire external course of action obedient to Him, and rendered conformable to His will and precepts. Others give different significations to the several members of the sentence; but, the general and more commonly received opinion is, that it matters but little whether there be four or only three members in the sentence; that there is no use in seeking for a distinct meaning for each, since they all signify the same as the words, “with thy whole heart.” They are added, and the same idea conveyed in different words, to intensify the sense For, that in the words, “with thy whole heart,” all the others are included, appears clear from this, that in SS. Scripture, at times, the words, “with thy whole heart,” alone are employed to express the great love of God; at times, a second member only is added, “from thy whole soul,” to express the same thing; and sometimes a third member, “with thy whole strength.” Thus, David is said to have followed the Lord “with his whole heart.” (3 Kings 1) Josias (4 Kings 23:3) made a covenant for the people, that they would keep His commandments, “with all their heart, and with all their soul;” and he himself is said (verse 25), to have “returned to the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength.” Hence, these several words are used, or rather, the same idea is expressed in different words, for greater emphasis’ sake. For, the word, “heart,” embraces the affections, expressed by “soul;” and intellect, expressed by “mind” (διανοια); and, moreover, in order that a man could be said to do a thing “with all his heart,” he should use his utmost exertions, as far as his strength would allow. Hence, is added, “with all thy strength.” The whole precept may be, then, summed up briefly, in the words, “thou shalt love the Lord … with thy whole heart.” The question next is, what these words mean. They certainly cannot refer to our actually and constantly loving God with all the energies of our soul, so that we should be constantly engaged in acts of love, that we should love nothing but Him, and love Him as much as He deserves to be loved. In this sense, the precept can only be fulfilled in the life to come. In this sense, we can only hope to arrive at the love of God, as the term of our fruition in heaven. In this sense, it might be suited to the angels; but, it would be impossible for us, poor weak mortals here on earth. It is in this sense, that St. Augustine, speaking in certain portions of his works, both of this precept of loving God, and of the precept, “thou shalt not covet,” says, they are not accomplished in this life, but only to be fulfilled in the life to come. The most probable meaning of them, then, is, that our love of God should be comparatively supreme; that we should be so habitually disposed, that we would bestow our love on no object opposed to God; that we would share His love with no other being, but love every one else for Him; that we should love Him, not merely with our lips, but with our hearts, unlike those who loved Him with their mouth, but their heart was not right with Him. (Psa. 77:36, 37.) We should, then, love Him from our heart, and our entire heart, not coldly nor remissly, nor with a divided affection. 2ndly. It should be finally supreme. In other words, God should be the ultimate end of our actions, so that we should observe all His ordinances, and refer all we do to His honour and glory. Hence, we should love what He loves; love whatever tends to His honour, and hate and detest whatever is an obstacle to His glory, whatever derogates from it, whatever offends Him. 3rdly. It should be appreciatively, not intensitively supreme. In other words, we should not appreciate or value anything else in creation, so much as God. We should be prepared to make any sacrifice, be it of life, fortune, friends, &c., sooner than do anything opposed to His love. This may be regarded as a general precept, prescribing not only internal acts of love, to be exercised now and then, but habitual love, and external acts as well; the same as is conveyed in the second precept regarding our neighbour, whom we are to love in “work and truth.” For, on these two, our Lord says, “dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets;” so that a man may be said to fulfil the precept when He retains habitual love in all his actions, wishes for, and does nothing contrary to, the love of God.

38. “The greatest.” In the Greek it is, ἡ μεγάλη … εντολη—“the great … commandment.” But the interpreter conveyed the sense; since, the love of God “with our whole heart” has, for object, the most important and noblest virtue—the end of the entire law. From it spring the virtue of religion, and all the moral virtues. It is also the “first,” the most exalted in dignity and excellence; since, its object is God Himself, the first and supreme Good.

39. “The second,” not in order of legislation—for many other precepts were issued before it by God—but, in point of importance and dignity, “is like to this.” He does not say, equal to it; but, like to it in its object, which is, love; in point of dignity; in its mode of accomplishment; in its comprehensiveness, being a practical compendium of the precepts of the second table of the law, as the love of God, with our whole heart, is of those of the first. Our Redeemer answers more than He was questioned about. He not only tells what is “the great commandment,” but, in order to deliver the entire doctrine, in a brief form, regarding the greatest commandments, one of which depended on the other, one of which cannot be observed without observing the other; and, moreover, in order to show them, that they could not rest satisfied with loving God, and indulge in excessive love of self, while, at the same time, they neglected their neighbour—He thus meant to cure their inordinate self-love—nay, to show the grievousness of the hatred they bore His own Divine person, He adds, what is the next commandment in point of dignity As in the foregoing precept, of loving God, He points out two things as requisite, viz., the love of God, and its mode (ex toto corde, &c.), so, also, in this, which is found in Leviticus (19:18), He prescribes the love of our neighbour; and again, its mode, viz., as we love ourselves. He does not command us to love him as much as we love ourselves, or to the same degree, but, in the same manner. St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Quest. 44, Art. 7) says, this mode is, to love him, sancte, that is, for God’s sake, as we ought to love ourselves for God’s sake; juste, that is, we ought to love him in what is good, not loving him in reference to evil things; vere, for our neighbour’s sake, and not for our own. The mode of loving our neighbour “as ourselves,” may be said to consist in this, that, as we love ourselves, following the dictates and judgment of right reason, in such a way as to wish for all that would really promote our good, and tend to our final happiness, and would wish to remove from ourselves, and avert the evils that would obstruct these ends and objects; so, in like manner, we should also wish to promote our neighbour’s good, and avert from him the evils that would really injure him, and obstruct his present natural enjoyment and future happiness. This is clearly expressed in a positive form by our Redeemer (Matt. 7:12), “all things whatsoever you would that men would do to you,” &c. In this He explains, in what the precept of loving our neighbour consists, “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” Similar are His words here (verse 40), “On these two commandments dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.” Similar are the words of St. Paul (Rom. 13:8). The same precept of loving our neighbour, or rather, the mode of its fulfilment, is conveyed in a negative form by Tobias (4:16), “See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another.”

It is supposed here by our Redeemer, that our love of ourselves is within due bounds, not excessive, nor tending to objects which might be unlawful or finally ruinous; for, He first supposes we love God as we ought, in which love of God is contained the love of ourselves. This latter, our Redeemer does not here prescribe, but pre-supposes. For, if we love not God, or love ourselves otherwise than for God, we hate ourselves; as it is, on the other hand, in the love of Him that the greatest and most perfect love of ourselves consists. Hence, our Redeemer calls the love of our neighbour the “second,” and not the third, commandment; since, the love of ourselves, which He supposes, is contained in the love of God. The inordinate, excessive love of ourselves, is guarded against in the first precept, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God,” &c. In this the proper love of ourselves, which is the model of the love of our neighbour, is supposed. As the words, “thou shalt love,” &c., in the precept, relating to God, implies, not merely acts of love at times, and habitual feelings of love at all times, with the exclusion of all feelings opposed to this love; but also, its practical manifestation by good works; so the same applies to the words, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” &c. They convey to us, that we are not merely to elicit acts of love of our neighbour at times, and entertain habitual feelings of love for him at all times, exclusive of hatred or any feelings opposed to the love of him; but also, that we should practically manifest the sincerity of this love in our actions, since it is thus we love ourselves. We should endeavour to promote whatever advances his temporal or spiritual interests, and remove whatever would obstruct them. As the love of God is shown by keeping the Commandments; so, is the love of our neighbour tested and manifested by works—“Let us love, not in word or in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In a word, the love of our neighbour, like unto that which we bear ourselves, should be such, that we would do, in his regard, whatever we should reasonably expect to be done to us, and treat him as we would reasonably expect to be treated by him, in the same circumstances.

40. “On these two commandments dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.” By “the Law and the Prophets,” are meant, the contents of the entire Old Testament. The Jews understood, by “the Law,” the Books of Moses, and by “the Prophets,” all the other books, viz., Kings, Paralipomenon, Psalms, &c. The meaning of the words is, that in these two precepts, of loving God and our neighbour, are contained, summarily, as conclusions in principles or in their premises, all the precepts given by God to man, which are briefly summed up in the Decalogue. These two precepts are the epitome, and brief compendious summary, of the whole Scriptures, of all the other precepts of God, whether positive or negative. The precepts regarding God are contained in the love of God; hence, to this the first three precepts of the Decalogue, contained in the first table of the Commandments, have reference. The precepts regarding our neighbour, whether positive or negative, are contained in loving our neighbour as ourselves. To it the several precepts of the second table of the Decalogue have reference. Hence, St. Paul says on this subject, that “love (of our neighbour) is the fulfilling of the Law” (Rom. 13:10).

On these two precepts all the others “depend.” They hang from them, as branches from the main trunk of a tree. All the works of mercy, and the precepts of the other virtues, natural and supernatural, are referred to these two precepts, of the love of God and our neighbour. The precepts of faith, hope, charity, and religion, are contained in the precept of the love of God. The precepts of justice, truth, fidelity, mercy, gratitude, &c., are contained in the precept of the love of our neighbour (A. Lapide). Our Redeemer here intimates to us, that we should always keep these precepts before our eyes, and that to them we should refer, and by them regulate and guide all our thoughts, words, and actions. In Deuteronomy (6:5–9), the same is expressly enjoined in reference to the great precept of loving God.

41. “The Pharisees being gathered together” (see verse 34, where the object of their assembling is expressed). From St. Mark (12:35), it appears it was in the temple, where Jesus was teaching, this occurred. “Jesus asked them,” viz., the Pharisees, who boasted so much of their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. After they had exhausted all their useless, captious questions, our Redeemer, now seeing them assembled before Him, becomes interrogator in turn; but, His question, far from being captious or useless, had for object, to instruct the entire people in the necessary, saving faith, in His own Divinity, without which it would be impossible to please God, or be justified. As He had in His answer to their question, pointed out the rule of conduct they should follow; so here, He proposes, what they should believe. The Pharisees had repeatedly made it a subject of accusation against Him, that He made Himself the Son of God, notwithstanding the clearest evidence of miracles adduced by Him in proof of this fundamental truth (John 5:18; 10:33; 19:7; 8:58). Our Redeemer now proves, from SS. Scripture, that the Messiah was not merely a man, or a mere earthly conqueror, who would extend the kingdom of Israel to the ends of the earth, and raise it to a state of earthly grandeur, magnificence, and glory, of which its condition, under Solomon, was a mere shadow, as the Jews believed and expected; but, that He would be God also.

42. “What think you of Christ?” &c. In Mark (12:35), Luke (20:41), the question is proposed in a different way, as if our Redeemer asked, not in the second person, as here, “What think you of Christ?” but in the third person, “How do the Scribes (Luke, ‘they’) say, that Christ is the son of David?” But, there is no difference in sense. Most likely, St. Matthew gives the precise mode in which the question was put to them in the second person; but the other Evangelists, without precisely giving the identical words, give the sense; for, many of the Pharisees were Scribes, or, at least, they answered according to the teachings and opinions of the Scribes. Or, it may be said, that our Redeemer, having asked the Pharisees, as here, “what think you … whose son is He?” They answered, the Scribes or Doctors of the Law say, He is the son of David; and then our Redeemer asked, as in Mark, “How do the Scribes say, that Christ is the son of David?” The answer is ascribed to the Scribes, the Doctors of the Law and expounders of the SS. Scripture; since, it was not clearly or expressly stated in SS. Scripture that He was the son of David, but only implied and deduced from Scripture by reasoning. In Isaias (8) it is said, He was to sit on the throne of David. In Micheas (5) it is said, He was to be born in Bethlehem, &c. Our Redeemer’s object in proposing this question was, to confute the opinion of the Scribes regarding the paternity of Christ. For, although He was really, according to the flesh, the son of David; still, He was not exclusively so, as they imagined. He wishes to enlighten them on His Divine nature and eternal generation; and from the very SS. Scriptures which they themselves admitted, He proves that He must be more than mere man; more than the mere son of David. For, as such, He would not be David’s superior or “Lord.” No son, as such, is the superior of his own father. From the fact of David calling Him his “Lord,” it is inferred, He was something more than the “son of David.” He proposes the same question to His Apostles, distinctly referring to Himself, “quem vos dicitis me esse;” but, here, He refrains from putting the question in this form, as the Pharisees would, undoubtedly, blaspheme, and say He was a seducer, an enemy of God.

43. “He saith to them,” in presence of the entire people, whom He wished to instruct on this important fundamental point of faith.

How then doth David in spirit?” &c. He shows, that their answer was quite an inadequate reply; and that, if they adhered to it exclusively and conceived nothing of Christ more elevated than that He was mere man, they could not understand of account for the words which were uttered by David, in the Psalms; uttered by him, under the influence of inspiration and the dictation of God’s “Spirit,” which, therefore, were perfectly true. The words, “David in spirit,” are very emphatic, as they imply, that it was the “Spirit” who possessed David, rather than David himself, that spoke.

44. “The Lord said to my Lord,” &c. The words mean, “the Lord (God the Father) said to my Lord,” viz, Christ, His eternal Son. “Sit on my right hand,” after having vanquished all Thine enemies, death, and the devil, by Thy death, by Thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension. Then, His Father placed Him “above all principality, and power … and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21).

Until I make Thy enemies.” “Until,” does not imply that after that time, He would cease to sit at His right hand. It only signifies, that the event of putting His enemies under His feet, was most certainly to happen, which is clearly expressed by St. Paul (Heb. 10:13), “From henceforth expecting, till His enemies be made His footstool.” The word, “until,” has the meaning of, “even until,” and implies, a continual, uninterrupted reign, even at the time when there might be a doubt as to His sitting at the right hand of God, viz., before all His enemies were utterly prostrated. For after this period, there could be no doubt of His reigning. So, the words mean, “Sit at My right hand,” even during the period which may elapse, before I utterly subject all Thine enemies. For, afterwards, there can be no doubt of your reigning.

Thy footstool,” implies, the utmost humiliation and prostration. The idea is borrowed from a cruel custom sometimes resorted to by conquerors, of putting their foot on the neck of the vanquished, as a mark of utter subjugation. It is recorded of some fierce conquerors, that they made their royal captives footstools when about to mount on horseback. Sapor treated the Emperor Aurelian thus; and Tamerlane, the haughty Tartar Emperor, treated Bajazet, the Emperor of the Turks, in the same way.

This will be fulfilled in regard to Christ, in the Day of Judgment. (1 Cor. 15:24, &c.) Our Redeemer quotes these latter words, “until I make Thine enemies,” &c., which did not immediately concern the answer to His question, for the purpose of conveying to His enemies the utter discomfiture, humiliation, and eternal misery they would one day have to endure, as the result of their opposition to Himself.

46. “And no man was able to answer Him,” &c. His objection so utterly disconcerted them, that they were reduced to silence. The silence of the Pharisees shows, how utterly absurd it is to understand Psalm 109, of any other than our Divine Lord. The Pharisees, at the time, understood it of Him. So did the whole Jewish Church; otherwise, they would have replied, that David did not refer to Him at all; and hence, that it was not necessary to understand the words, “my Lord,” of Him. Moreover, it is of Him alone, certain passages of the same Psalm could be understood v.g., “Thou art a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.” Hence, the absurdity of understanding the Psalm of either David, or Melchisedech, or Eleazar, &c., as some modern Jews do. The force of our Redeemer’s argument is not precisely, that He is called, “my Lord,” since, these words might be applied to one who is not God. Thus, David calls Saul “his lord” (1 Kings 26); but, in this, that David calls his own son “his Lord,” which implies, that He must be David’s superior and master, which would be verified only in the supposition, that He was more than man. Thus, for instance, Philip of Macedon, would not call Alexander the Great, who was far more powerful than his father, “his lord,” because, Philip was not subject to Alexander. Now, David, on whose throne Christ was to sit, and this, at a distant day, calls Him “his Lord,” which, of course, refers to His being his Saviour, as God-man.

Neither durst any man,” &c., of the class who were silenced by Him. “Ask Him any more questions,” of a captious nature, as they were in the habit of doing. “From that day forth,” during His public ministry. From this, it is clear, He taught publicly afterwards. For if He did not publicly teach later on, what wonder, if no one put to Him questions under the circumstances referred to? His disciples, after this, asked Him some questions, and He was questioned privately, in the house of Caiphas, on some points, by His enemies.

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