Ver. 14,15. These words of the prophet are not less than five times found in the New Testament (besides by Matthew in these verses) applied to the Jews. They are taken out of Isaiah, Isa_6:9,10: And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. It is quoted Mar_4:12Luk_8:10, where the sense of the words only is quoted more shortly; Joh_12:40Act_28:26,27 Ro 9:8, more largely, yet with some more difference of phrase from that of the prophet. By all of them it appeareth, either that God spake those words to the prophet, as well with reference to those Jews that were to live in the time of Christ, as to those Jews who were living when Isaiah prophesied; or at least, that the words were as true of these Jews as they were of those, so the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in them. But the words are so differently related, that the prophet, and St. John, Joh_12:39,40, seem to make God the cause of the fatness of this people’s hearts, the heaviness of their ears, and the blindness of their eyes: Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. So also Paul speaketh, Rom_11:8, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear. Matthew saith,
This people’s heart is waxed gross. Matthew seemeth to speak of the more proximate cause; Isaiah, Luke, John, and Paul of the higher but remoter cause. Matthew, of their sinful act preceding; John, Luke, Paul, and Isaiah, of the judicial act of God, consequent to their sinful act. God first sent them Moses and the prophets, by whom they might have seen and known his will: they would not see, nor hear, nor understand, nor convert, nor be healed. God at last did leave them to the reprobacy of their own mind: he willed indeed the prophet to go and preach, But, saith he, this shall be all the fruit of thy ministry, it shall but make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, they shall more and more shut their eyes: their time of conversion and healing is past; it is now too late, I will not convert, I will not heal them. Now (saith our Saviour) what was applicable to the Jews in the time of Isaiah, is in like manner applicable to you, and the prophet Isaiah did foretell what I should meet with. The generality of the people are a people that have so despised the grace of God, that their day of grace is over; God is resolved he will not convert nor heal them. They have had light, they have seen me and my works, they have heard my sermons and John Baptist’s; in seeing they would not see, in hearing they would not hear nor understand. So they are fallen under a judicial hardness and blindness. They shall not now have the light as they have had: my Spirit shall no longer strive with them; neither shall they have a heart to make a due use of the means they have. This is doubtless the meaning of these words. And so they give a just reason why he spake to them in parables. And thus undoubtedly God doth to this day; when a people have a long time sat under a good and profitable ministry, wherein their souls have been dealt with plainly and faithfully, and they remain still ignorant, debauched, and unbelieving, God in a righteous judgment gives them over to the blindness of mind and hardness of heart under the ministry, that though it continue never so good amongst them, yet they are not affected with the word, but sleep and harden under it. Sometimes he by his providence suffers such a minister to come amongst them as speaketh nothing but parables, things which they understand not; or smooth things, fit to smooth them up in their sinful courses, and harden them in their prejudices against Christ and holiness. A most tremendous judgment of God. When God, antecedently to this contempt, by his providence sends such a ministry as may declare his willingness they should be saved and come to the knowledge of his truth; and consequently to this contempt, and despising of his grace, so dealeth with them by his providence, either suffering their first seeming affections and edge to abate, (as the Jews are said for a while to have rejoiced in the light John brought), or suffering such a ministry to come amongst them, as one would think God sent lest men should convert and be healed. In the mean time Christ in this text excellently sets out God’s method in his dealing with souls:
1. He bringeth them to hear and see.
2. Then he makes them to understand and believe.
3. Then he converts them, renews and changes their hearts.
4. Then he healeth them, pardoneth their sins, and accepts their persons, not because they are converted, but at the same time when he works faith in them, and giveth them a heart to repent.