1. And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to
pray, and not to faint;
[And not to faint.] The discourse is continued still; and this parable hath its
connexion with chapter 17, concerning Christ's coming to avenge himself upon Jerusalem;
which if we keep our eye upon, it may help us to an easier understanding of some more
obscure passages that occur in the application of this parable. And to this doth the
expression not to faint, seem to have relation; viz. that they might not suffer
their hopes and courage to languish and droop, upon the prospect of some afflictions they
were likely to grapple with, but that they would give themselves to continual prayer.
2. Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
[There was a certain judge, &c.] If the scene of this parabolical history
must be supposed to have been amongst the Jews, then there would some questions arise upon
it: 1. Whether this judge were any way distinguished from an elder or presbyter:
for the doctors are forced to such a distinction from those words in Deuteronomy 21:2, thy
elders and thy judges: if a judge, be the same with an elder, which the
Babylonian Sotah approve of, then might it be inquired, whether it was lawful for
one elder to sit in judgment; which the Sanhedrim deny. But I let these things pass.
The parable propounded is of that rank or order that commonly amongst the Jews is
argued from the less to the greater: "If that judge, the wickedest of men,
being overcome by the endless importunity of the widow, judged her cause, will not a just,
merciful, and good God appear for his own much more, who continually solicit him?"
[Who feared not God, &c.] How widely distant is this wretch from the
character of a just judge! "Although in the triumviral court all things are not
expected there which are requisite in the Sanhedrim, yet is it necessary, that in every
one of that court there should be this sevenfold qualification; prudence, gentleness,
piety, hatred of mammon, love of truth, that they be beloved themselves, and of good
7. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though
he bear long with them?
[Though he bear long with them.] So 2 Peter 3:9, is longsuffering to us-ward.
In both places the discourse is concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and the times
immediately preceding it; in which the Lord exercised infinite patience towards his elect.
For in that slippery and unsteady state of theirs, when apostasy prevailed beyond measure,
and it was a hard thing to abandon Judaism, people were very difficultly gained over to
the faith, and as difficultly retained in it, when they had once embraced it. And yet,
after all this longsuffering and patience, shall he find faith on earth?
12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
[I fast twice in the week.] I. There were fasts of the congregation, and fasts
of this or that single person. And both principally upon the account of afflictions
or straits. "These are the calamities of the congregation for which they fast.
Being besieged by enemies, the sword, pestilence, a hurtful beast, locusts, the
caterpillar, mildew, blasting, abortions, diseases, scarcity of bread, drought."
"As the congregation fasts upon the occasion of general calamities, so does
this or that person for his particular afflictions. If any that belong to him be sick, or
lost in the wilderness, or kept in prison, he is bound to fast in his behalf,"
II. "The fasts appointed by the congregation by reason of general
calamities, are not from day to day, because there are few that could hold out in such a fast,
but on the second and fifth days of the week." On those days they assembled in
their synagogues to public prayers: and to this I would refer that of Acts 13:2, as
they ministered before the Lord and fasted; much rather than to the celebration of the
mass, which some would be wresting it to.
III. It was very usual for the single person, to devote himself to stated and
repeated fasts for religion's sake, even when there was no affliction or calamity
of life to urge them to it. And those that did so chose to themselves those very days
which the congregation was wont to do; viz. the second and the fifth days of
the week. The single person that taketh upon him to fast on the second and fifth days,
and the second day throughout the whole year, &c.
Let me add this one thing further about these fasts: "R. Chasda saith, The fast
upon which the sun sets is not to be called a fast." And yet they take very
good care that they be not starved by fasting, for they are allowed to eat and
drink the whole night before the fast. "It is a tradition. Rabbi saith, It is
lawful to eat till day-light."
[I give tithes of all that I possess.] This Pharisee in the profession he maketh
of himself, imitates the profession which he was to make that offered the firstfruits:
"I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house and given them to the
Levite and to the stranger, to the fatherless and to the widow," &c.
But tell me, O thou Pharisee, dost thou thus strictly give tithes of all things out of
an honest mind and pure justice, viz., that the priest and Levite and poor may have every
one their own? and not rather out of mere fear and dread, because of that rule, "He
that eateth of things that are not tithed is worthy of death?"
13. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his
eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
[And the publican, standing afar off, &c.] I. That the Israelites, when they
went into the Temple to put up their own private prayers, went beyond the outward court,
or the Court of the Gentiles, into the Court of the Women; this, amongst other things,
makes it evident, viz., that in that court were placed thirteen eleemosynary chests,
into which they threw in their voluntary oblations: which was done by the widow with her
two mites in that place.
II. It is a question whether any person for his private praying might come as far as
the gate of Nicanor, or the Court of Israel; much less into the Court of the Priests,
unless the priests only. We read of our Saviour's being in the Court of the Gentiles,
viz., in Solomon's Porch, and that he was in the treasury, or the Court of the Women; but
you will hardly find him at any time in the Court of Israel. And the negative upon their
entrance into that court is confirmed, at least if that rule avail any thing which we meet
with in Hieros. Beracoth: "R. Joshua Ben Levi saith, 'He that stands to pray,
it is necessary that he first sit down, because it is said, Blessed are they that
"sit" in thy house.'" Now it was lawful for no person to sit down in
that court but the king only.
III. That therefore this publican stood so much further off while he prayed than
the Pharisee, was probably more from his humility than any necessity that lay upon him so
to do. For though the heathen and publican go together in those words of our Saviour,
"Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican," yet it is a question
whether the publicans, if they were Jews, were bounded to the outward court only, as the
[He would not lift so much as his eyes unto heaven.] What needed this to have
been added, when this was the very rule of praying, "Let him that prayeth cover his
head and look downward." "The disciple of the wise men, when he stands praying,
let him look downward." But were those of the laity or of the common people to do
thus? If not, our question is answered, that this man (otherwise than the vulgar was wont)
in deep humility and a conscience of his own vileness, would not lift up his eyes. But if
this was the usage of all in common, that whilst they were actually praying they must look
downward; yet probably in the time that they were composing themselves to prayer, they
might be a little lifting up their eyes towards heaven. "If they pray in the Temple,
they turn their faces towards the holy of holies; if elsewhere, then towards
Jerusalem." And it would be a strange thing if they were not to have their eyes
towards heaven at all: indeed, when they began to pray, then they looked downward.
15. And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his
disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
[But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.] "Wicked Israelites'
little ones shall not come into the world to come: wicked heathen's little ones all men
confess they shall not come into the world to come. From what time is a little child
capable of the world to come? R. Chaijah and R. Simeon Bar Rabbi; one of them saith, From
the time wherein he is born. The other saith, From the time that he can speak.
Rabbona saith, From the time it is begot. Rabh Nachman Bar Isaac saith, From the
time he is circumcised: R. Meir saith, From the time that he can answer, Amen."
Whether this question was handled in the schools or no in the times of the apostles, it
is very probable they took this bringing of little children to Christ ill, because (if
they might be judges) they were not capable of the kingdom of heaven. And indeed our
Saviour's answer to them seems to favour this conjecture of ours: "Is it so indeed,
that you suppose such as these unfit and incapable? I tell you, that of such is the
kingdom of God."
19. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save
one, that is, God.
[Why callest thou me good?] I. For the better understanding our Saviour's sense
and meaning in these and the following words, I would affirm, (and who can argue it to the
contrary?) that this man acknowledged Jesus for the true Messiah.
1. This several others did also, who, as yet, were not his disciples; so those blind
men, when they call him 'the Son of David,' Matthew 20:30: not to mention others. And what
reason can there be for the negative upon this man? Especially when he appears to be a
person of more than ordinary parts and accomplishments, not only from what he tells us of
himself, but from that kind and affectionate reception he met with from Christ.
2. This was no vulgar or ordinary question he put here, "What shall I do, that I
may inherit eternal life?" For it seems plain that he was not satisfied in the
doctrine of their schools, about the merit of good works, and justification by the law:
but he thinks there is something more requisite towards the obtaining salvation, because,
after he had (as he tells us) performed this law from his youth up, he yet inquireth
further, "What shall I do," &c.; in which that he was in earnest, our
Saviour's behaviour towards him sufficiently testified; as also that he came to Jesus, as
to no ordinary teacher, to be instructed in this affair.
3. It was very unusual to salute the Rabbins of that nation with this title. For
however they were wont to adorn (not to say load) either the dead or absent
with very splendid epithets, yet if they spoke to them while present, they gave them no
other title than either Rabbi, or Mar, or Mari. If you turn over both
the Talmuds, I am deceived if you once find either Good Rabbi, or Good Mar.
II. So far, therefore, is our Lord in these words from denying his Godhead, that he
rather doth, as it were, draw this person in to own and acknowledge it: "Thou seemest
in thy very address to me, and the compellation thou gavest me, to own me for the Messias:
and dost thou take me for God too as well as man, when thou callest me good, seeing
there is none good but God only?" Certainly he saw something that was not ordinary in
this man, when it is said of him that he loved him, Mark 10:21: i.e. he spoke
kindly to him, and exhorted him, &c. See 2 Chronicles 18:2; Psalm 78:36: they
flattered him with their mouth. Nor is it an ordinary affection this young man seemed
to have for the blessed Jesus, in that he departs sorrowful from the counsel that
had been given him; and that he had the person that had counselled him in very high
esteem, appears in that he could not without infinite grief reject the counsel he gave
31. Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to
Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall
[He took unto him the twelve.] This falls in with that of John 11:7, "Let
us go into Judea." What! say they, into Judea again, where thou wast lately in so
much danger? However, he comes out and goes on, his disciples following him wondering, and
fearing the effects of it, Mark 10:32. He mentioned only at present his journey into
Judea, to see Lazarus: but, as they were going, he foretells his progress to Jerusalem,
and what was to be done with him there. It is probable he was at Bethabarah when the
message came to him that Lazarus was sick; and from thence, his way lying conveniently
over the Scythopolitan bridge, and so through part of Samaria, he chooseth the
transjordanine way to the fords of Jericho.