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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Matthew 24

 

 

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Verse 1

1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

Ver. 1. Departed from the temple] Never to return more to it. In Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:22-23, God departs by degrees, and still as he goes out, some judgment comes in; and when he was quite gone, then followed the fatal calamity in the utter ruin of the city and temple. So it was then, and so it was now, according to that Hosea 9:12; "Woe also to them when I depart from them." So Jeremiah 6:8; "Be instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul be disjointed from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited." Whatever therefore we do, let us retain Christ with us; lay hold on him, as Magdalene did, take him by the feet, as the Shunamite did the prophet, as the Shulamite held her spouse; constrain him to stay with us, as the two disciples going to Emmaus; cry

" Vespera iam venit, nobiscum Christe maneto:

Extingui lucem ne patiare tuam."

To show him the buildings of the temple] As thinking by that goodly sight, haply, he might be moved to moderate the severity of that former sentence of leaving their house desolate unto them, Matthew 23:38. True it is, that Herod (to get the people’s good will, which yet he could never do) had been at a wonderful charge in building and beautifying the temple. Josephus the Jew (Antiq. xv. 14) tells us that for eight whole years together he kept 10,000 men at work building it; and that for magnificence and stateliness, it exceeded Solomon’s temple, if his words exceed not the truth of the matter. This the disciples fondly thought would work upon our Saviour to reverse his former sentence, as above said; but his thoughts were not as their thoughts. Animo magno nihil magnum, With great spirits, nothing is great, saith Seneca. The bramble reckoned it a great matter to reign over the trees; not so the vine and olive, 9:15.


Verse 2

2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Ver. 2. There shall not be left here, &c.] This was afterwards fulfilled, when the temple was so set on fire by Titus’ soldiers, that it could not be quenched by the industry of man. Titus (it is said) would have preserved the temple, as one of the world’s wonders, from being burnt, but could not; such was the fury of the soldiers, set to work by God doubtless. And when, upon the taking of the city and temple, the army saluted him emperor, and many others by way of congratulation sent him crowns and garlands, he, by a memorable example of modesty, refused them, saying, that he had done nothing more than lent his hands and help to God, who declared his fierce wrath against that sinful people. Non sese illa fecisse, sed Deo iram suam declaranti manus suas commodasse. (Pareus.) And when Julian the apostate, to spite the Christians, permitted and encouraged the Jews to rebuild their temple at his charge, and they attempted it accordingly, they were hindered from heaven by a mighty earthquake, together with balls of fire issuing out of the ground works, and consuming the builders. There are those who say, that at the same time the temple at Delphi was utterly overthrown by earthquakes and thunderbolts, and could never since be repaired. When Phocas the murderer sought to secure himself by building high walls, he heard a voice from heaven telling him that though he built his bulwarks never so high, yet sin within would soon undermine all. {a} We may say the same to the Jesuits, telling us so often in their writings de magnitudine Ecclesiae Romanae, that be they never so high set, God, for their abominations, will abase them. It is observed of Rome, that since it became the pope’s seat, it was never besieged by any, but it was sacked and ransacked. See its destiny elegantly and emphatically set forth, Revelation 18:21.

{a} εαν υψοις τα τειχη εως ουρανου ενδον το κακον ευαλωτος η πολις. Cur.


Verse 3

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Ver. 3. Came unto him privately, saying] Because it was dangerous to speak publicly of the destruction of the temple, as the examples of Jeremiah and Stephen show. Howbeit, Micah the Morashite prophecied in the days of Hezekiah, saying, "Zion shall be ploughed, &c., and the mountain of this house shall be as the high places of a forest," Jeremiah 26:18. And God stirred up many faithful witnesses to cry out against Rome in her ruff (pride), and to foretell her ruin. In the year 1159 lived Johannes Sarisburiensis, who reproved the pope to his face, and wrote his Polycraticon, wherein he freely taxeth all the Romish hierarchy. Bernard also told the bishops of his time, that they were not teachers, but seducers, not pastors, but impostors, not prelates, but Pilates, &c. And a certain painter, blamed by a cardinal for colouring the visages of Peter and Paul too red, tartly but fitly replied, that he painted them so, as blushing at the lives of their successors.

The sign of thy coming] viz. To destroy the temple.

And of the end of the world] Which they thought could not possibly outlast the temple. As they were wont to say in the primitive Church, Absque stationibus non staret mundus (Tertul.), the world could not stand if God’s people did not stand before him in prayer. Semen sanctum statumen terrae, as Tremellius reads Isaiah 6:13.


Verse 4

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

Ver. 4. Take heed that no man deceive you] Try the spirits, and turn from false doctrines, as you would do from a serpent in your way, or from poison in your meats. Deceivers are sly and subtle, and that old serpent, more subtle than them all, catcheth the deceived by the deceiver, as the fisher doth one fish by another, that he may make a prey of them both. These, as harpies, {a} have virgins’ faces, vultures’ talons; they are ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, &c. Shun them therefore, for they will increase to more ungodliness, and their words will eat as doth a gangrene, 2 Timothy 2:16-17. Theodosius tore the writings of the Arians that were presented to him; {a} and when he desired to confer with Eunomius, his empress Placilla dissuaded him very earnestly, lest being perverted by his speeches he might fall into heresy.

{a} Gr. and Lat. Myth. A fabulous monster, rapacious and filthy, having a woman’s face and body and a bird’s wings and claws, and supposed to act as a minister of divine vengeance. ŒD

{b} Theod. Imp. laceravit scripta Arianorum pugnantia cum testimoniis divinis. Selnec., Sozom. vii. 7.


Verse 5

5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Ver. 5. Shall come in my name] Or, under my name, saying, I am Christ, as Theudas the Egyptian, Judas the Galilean, Acts 5:36-37. Barhocab, and others of old, who were miserably slain by the Romans. (Joseph. Antiq. xvii. 12, xviii. 20; B. J. ii. 12.) So one Moor in King Edward VI’s time, took upon him to be Christ. So did Hacket in Queen Elizabeth’s time; David George likewise and others in Germany. Here in England, at the Convocation held at Oseney under Stephen Langton, 1206, a certain young man professed himself to be Jesus Christ; showing marks of wounds in his hands, feet, and sides. He brought also two women with him, whereof one took upon her to be our Lady, and the other Mary Magdalene. This counterfeit Christ for his labour was worthily crucified. That I say nothing here of Papists, who desperately deny the Lord that bought them, and wickedly set up Antichrist in his stead (as were easy to prove), who opposeth him not so much in his nature or person, as in his unction and function, and thence also hath his name, αντιχριστος, non αθεος, non αντιθεος.


Verse 6

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Ver. 6. See that you be not troubled] μη θροεισθε, or frighted, as soldiers are by sudden alarm. Quid timet hominem homo in sinu dei positus? David was undaunted, Psalms 3:6; Psalms 27:3. He looked not downward on the rushing and roaring streams of dangers that run so swiftly under him, for that would have made him giddy: but steadfastly fastened on the power and promise of God all-sufficient, and was safe. So at the sack of Ziglag, 1 Samuel 30:6.


Verse 7

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

Ver. 7. For nation shall rise, &c.] See here the woeful effects of refusing God’s free offers of grace. They that would have none of the gospel of peace shall have the miseries of war. They that loathed the heavenly manna shall be hungerstarved. They that despised the only medicine of their souls shall be visited with the pestilence. They that would not suffer heart quake, shall suffer earthquake. Or as Bradford the martyr expresseth it, they that trembled not in hearing, shall be crushed to pieces in feeling. As they heap up sin, so they treasure up wrath; as there hath been a conjuncture of offences, so there shall be of their miseries. The black horse is at the heels of the red, and the pale of the black, Revelation 6:4. God left not Pharaoh, that sturdy rebel, till he had beaten the breath out of his body, nor will he cease pursuing men with his plagues, one in the neck of another, till they throw the traitor’s head over the wall.


Verse 8

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Ver. 8. All these are the beginning, &c.] q.d. There yet remain far worse matters than war, -famine, pestilence, earthquakes. Adhuc restant gravissimi partus cruciatus. And yet war is as a fire that feeds upon the people, Isaiah 9:19-20. Famine is far worse than that, Lamentations 4:9. Pestilence is God’s evil angel, Psalms 78:49-50. Earthquakes are wondrous terrible, and destructive to whole cities, as to Antioch of old, and to Pleurs in Italy of late, where fifteen hundred men perished together. A conflux of all these abides the condemners of Christ’s gospel. The holy martyrs, as Saunders, Bradford, Philpot, &c.; the confessors also that fled for religion in Queen Mary’s days acknowledged (as Ursinus relates) that that great inundation of misery came justly upon them, for their unprofitableness under the means of grace which they had enjoyed in King Edward’s days. "When I first came to be pastor at Clavenne," saith Zanchy, "there happened a grievous pestilence, that in seven months’ time consumed 1200 persons." Their former pastor, Mainardus, that man of God, had often foretold such a calamity for their popery and profaneness: but he could never be believed, till the plague had proven him a true prophet; and then they remembered his words, and wished they had been warned by him. When the Protestants of France began to grow wanton of their peace and prosperity, to jangle among themselves about discipline, and to affect a vain frothy way of preaching, then came the cruel massacre upon them. (Melch. Adam. in Vita Bulling.)


Verse 9

9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

Ver. 9. And shall kill you] Besides the butchcries at Jerusalem, that slaughter house of the saints, Nero orientem fidem primus Romae cruentacit, " Nero was the first Roman persecutor," saith Tertullian, who therefore calleth him Dedicator damnationis Christianorum, the dedicater of the condemnation of Christians. He is said to have made such a bloody decree as this, Quisquis Christianum se esse confitetur, is tanquam generis humani convictus hostis, sine ulteriori sui defensione capite plectitur, Whoso confesseth himself a Christian, let him be put to death without any more ado, as a convicted enemy of mankind.


Verse 10

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Ver. 10. And then shall many be offended] As not willing to suffer. How many revolted for fear in the primitive times, were abjured here in Queen Mary’s reign, fell to Popery in the Palatinate, and other places in Germany, since the troubles there, as fast as leaves fall in autumn! Somewhat men will do for Christ, but suffer nothing.


Verse 11

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Ver. 11. And shall deceive many] Witness the Eastern and Western Antichrist, those deceitful workers, that have drawn millions of souls into hell by their grand impostures. The world went wondering after those two beasts, which, as the panther, hid their horrid heads, that they might take men with their flesh pleasing superstitions. And (as the serpent scytale) when they cannot otherwise overtake the flying passenger, they so bewitch him with their beauty and bravery, that he hath no power to pass away.


Verse 12

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Ver. 12. And because iniquity shall abound] In these last and worst times, as Bernard yoketh them, and as the Scripture often describeth them. There was never but one Noah, that with two faces saw both before and behind him. But, lo, that ancient of days, to whom all times are present, hath told us that the last shall be the loosest, the dregs of time, the sink of sins of all former ages.

The love of many shall wax cold] Conversation with cold ones will cast a dampness, and will make one cold, as our Saviour here intimates; there is no small danger of defection, if not of infection by such; they are notable quench coals. This both David and Isaiah found, and therefore cried out each for himself, "Woe is me," Psalms 120:5; Isaiah 6:5. There is a compulsive power in company to do as they do, Galatians 2:14; "Why compellest thou," &c. It behoveth us therefore to beware upon whom the ends of the world are come, lest we suffer a decay, lest leaving our first love, and led away with the error of the wicked, we fall from our former steadfastness, Revelation 2:5; 2 Peter 3:17. The world, saith Ludolfus ( De Vita Christi, ii. 87), hath been once destroyed with water for the heat of lust, and shall be again with fire for the coldness of love. Latimer saw so much lack of love to God and goodness in his time, that he thought verily doomsday was then just at hand. What would he have thought had he lived in our age, wherein it were far easier to write a book of apostates than a book of martyrs?


Verse 13

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Ver. 13. But he that endureth] It is but a he, a single man, that holdeth out; when many lose their love, and therewith their reward, 2 John 1:8. Ecebolus, Aeneas, Sylvius, Baldwin, Pendleton, Shaxton, and many others, set forth gallantly, but tired ere they came to their journey’s end. Of them that verse was verified, Principium fervet, medium tepet, exitus alget. Beginning hot, middle warm, the end cold. Like the Galli Insubres, they showed all their valour in the first encounter. Like Charles VIII of France, of whom Guicciarden noteth, that in his expedition to Naples he came into the field like thunder and lightning, but went out like a snuff. Like Mandrobulus in Lucian, who the first year offered gold to his gods, the second year silver, the third nothing. Or, lastly, like the lions of Syria, which, as Aristotle reporteth, bring forth first five whelps, next time four, next three, and so on, till at length they become barren. So apostates come at last to nothing, and therefore must look for nothing better than to be cast off for ever; when they that hold out and hold on their way, passing from strength to strength, from faith to faith, &c., shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength; yea, they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, Matthew 13:43. Caleb was not discouraged by the giants, and therefore had Hebron, the place of the giants; so those that hold out in the way of heaven shall be sure to have heaven. Thomas San Paulins, at Paris, a young man of eighteen years, being in the fire, was plucked up again upon the gibbet, and asked whether he would turn. To whom he said that he was in his way toward God, and therefore desired them to let him go. That merchant of Paris, his case was nothing so comfortable, who, for jesting at the friars, was by them condemned to be hanged; but he, to save his life, was content to recant, and so he did. The friars, hearing of his recantation, commended him, saying, If he continued so he should be saved; and so, calling upon the officers, caused them to make haste to the gallows to hang him up, while he was yet in a good way, said they, lest he fall again.


Verse 14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Ver. 14. For a witness unto all nations] While, with Moses, it slayeth the Egyptian, sayeth the Israelite, is a savour of life to some, of death to others, who shall be left without excuse by the Gospel preached to them, as those that by their obstinacy have wilfully cut the throats of their own poor souls, refusing to be reformed, hating to be healed. Sure it is that the last sentence shall be but a more manifest declaration of that judgment which the Lord in this life, most an end, by his word hath passed upon people.


Verse 15

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Ver. 15. The abomination of desolation] That is, antichrist, say some interpreters; and hitherto may fitly be referred that of Baronius, who in his annals of the year 964, reckoning up some popes monstrously wicked, he calleth them "the abomination of desolation standing in God’s temple." Others understand it to be the Roman eagles or ensigns. Others of the Emperor Caligua’s statue, said by some to be set up in the sanctuary. As others again of Titus’ picture placed there, which haply was that one great sin that so troubled him upon his deathbed. {a} But they do best that understand the text of those abominable authors of desolation, the Roman armies, who laid waste that pleasant land, and destroyed the nation; as besides what Daniel foretold is set forth by Josephus at large in his sixth and seventh book, De bello Iudaico.

Spoken of by Daniel] Porphyry, that mad dog, running furiously at God and Christ, Amanuenses Spiritus sancti, Danielem et Matthaeum nefarie calumniatus est scripsisse falsa, blasphemed these two secretaries of the Holy Ghost, Daniel and Matthew, as writer of false things. This was contra solem mingere, urinate against the sun!

Whoso readeth, let him understand] Let him strive to do so by reading with utmost attention, diligence, and devotion, weeping as John did, till the sealed book was opened; digging deep in the mine of the Scriptures for the mind of God, 1 Corinthians 2:15, and holding it fast when he hath it, lest at any time he should let it slip, Hebrews 2:1. Admirable is that, and applicable to this purpose, which Philostratus relateth of the precious stone Pantarbe, of so orient, bright, and sweet a colour, that it both dazzleth and refresheth the eyes at once, drawing together heaps of other stones by its secret force (though far distant), as hives of bees, &c. But lest so costly a gift should grow cheap, nature hath not only hidden it in the innermost bowels of the earth, but also hath put a faculty into it of slipping out of the hands of those that hold it, unless they be very careful to prevent it. {b}

{a} Titus moriens se unius tantummodo rei poenitere dixit. Id autem quid esset non aperuit, nec quisquam certo novit, aliud aliis coniecientibus. Dio. in Vita Titi.

{b} In Vita Apollonii, l. iii. c. 4. Acervos lapidum non aliter ac apum examina pertrahit. Non mode occultis terrae visceribus abdidit, sed et facultatem indidit, qua ex captantium manibus effluerit, nisi provida ratione teneretur.


Verse 16

16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

Ver. 16. Flee into the mountains] As Lot at length did, for Zoar was too hot to hold him; so should Judea be for these, who were therefore to repair to Pella, beyond Jordan, where they were hidden until the indignation was overpast, as Eusebius hath it, in the third book and fifth chapter of his history. Such a receptacle of religious people was Geneva in the Marian persecution. And such (blessed be God our strength for his unspeakable favour) is at this present Warwick Castle, to myself writing these things, and to many others in these troublous times. So Bucer and many godly people were entertained and safe guarded by that noble Franciscus a Siekengen in the German wars.


Verse 17

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

Ver. 17. Not come down to take any thing] See here the miseries of war, which now, alas, we feel, and can seal to: being glad to flee for our lives with the loss of all, lest with Shimei, seeking to save our goods we lose life and all; glad if we may escape with the skin of our teeth. And how like are our present convulsions to end in a deadly consumption? War is called evil by a specialty, Isaiah 45:7. Sin, Satan, and war have all one name: evil is the best of them. The best of sin is deformity, of Satan enmity, of war misery. God yet offereth us mercy, as Alexander did those he warred against, while the lamp burned. Oh, let us break off our sins by repentance, and be abrupt in it, lest we should seem to come short, Hebrews 4:1.


Verse 18

18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

Ver. 18. Return back to take his clothes] The body is better than raiment; and although there is great use of clothes, in flight especially, to save us from the injury of wind and weather (for we carry the lamps of our lives in paper lanterns, as it were), yet life for a prey (though we have nothing else) in a common calamity is a singular mercy. "A living dog is better than a dead lion," saith Solomon. The Gibeonites, to save their lives, submitted to the meanest offices, of being hewers of wood, &c. "Skin for skin," &c., Job 2:4. We should be content to sacrifice all to the service of our lives.


Verse 19

19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

Ver. 19. Woe to them that are with child, &c.] By the laws of nations women with child, babes and sucklings, maids and old folk, should be spared. But the bloody sword often knows no difference, as Hosea 10:14, the another was dashed in pieces upon her children, Hosea 13:16; their infants were dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped up. So at the sack of Magdeburg by Charles V, and of Merindol in France by Minerius, where the paps of many women were cut off, and their children, looking for suck at their another’s breast, being dead before, died also for hunger. Many such barbarous butcheries have been acted lately in Ireland, and begin to be also now in England (poor England, now an Ireland!) as at Bolton in Lancashire lately. Help, Lord, or thy servant perisheth.


Verse 20

20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

Ver. 20. But pray ye] Christ saith not, Fight ye, but Pray ye. To fight it boots not; for God hath resolved the land’s ruin: but prayers are bombardae et instrumenta bellica Christianorum, as Luther hath it, the great guns and artillery of Christians, whereby they may batter heaven, and make a breach upon God himself. Flectitur iratus voce rogante Deus. Something God will yield to the prayers of his people, even when he seems most bitterly bent, and unchangeably resolved against them. Christ here bids them pray, that their flight fall not out "in the winter," when the days are short, ways foul, and all less fit for such a purpose. {a} "Nor on the Sabbath;" when though it were lawful enough, yet it would be so much the mere uncomfortable. This they were bidden to pray over thirty years before the city was besieged. Aud they had what they prayed for. Their flight was not in winter, for the siege began about Easter, and the city was taken in September. Neither was it on the Sabbath day, as we have cause to believe; for when Christ bids us pray for anything, it is sure he means to bestow it. As when we bid our children ask us this or that, it is because we mean to give it to them.

{a} χειμα παρα το χεειν. Hyems, παρα το υειν. Bruma, q. βραχυ ημα, i.e. ημαρ. Becman.


Verse 21

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Ver. 21. Tribulation, such as was not, &c.] Those very days "shall be affliction;" so Mark hath it, Mark 13:19, εσονται αι ημεραι εκειναι θλιψις. As if the very time were nothing else but affliction itself. He who can read the history of it without tears hath hardly the heart of a man in him. Besides those many that perished within the walls, Josephus tells us of 1,100,000 of them slain by the Romans, and 97,000 carried captive. Oh, see the severity of God and tremble! Romans 11:22. Alterius perditio tua sit cautio. Scipio wept when he saw Carthage on fire. And when Saguntum was taken, the Romans were as much affected as if Hannibal fuisset ad portas, the enemy had been beating upon the walls of the Capitol.


Verse 22

22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

Ver. 22. There should no flesh be saved] That is, no Jew left alive; the Roman soldiers had been so often beaten by them, that they desired nothing more than to rid the world of them, But God, for his covenant’ sake, preserved a remnant of them, as he ever softeneth the sword of his justice in the oil of his mercy, as Nicephorus hath it. {a} Josephus attributeth it to Titus’ clemency: but our Saviour here better, to God’s infinite mercy to his elect. These are the salt of the earth, that sprinkled here and there, preserve it from putrefying and perishing. God gave all the souls that were in the ship to Paul, and all that were in Zoar to Lot. If it were not for his elect in the world, he would make a "short work in the earth," Romans 9:28.

{a} Deus vindictae gladium oleo miserationis semper emollit.


Verse 23

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

Ver. 23. Then, if any man shall say] Here again our Saviour returns to the description of the last times, containing the rise, reign, and ruin of Antichrist, whose chief engine shall be to persuade Christ’s corporal presence here and there in certain places, and to tie his worship and service to such or such a city, country, temple, &c., where he may be seen, touched, eaten, &c., as they feign in the eucharist.


Verse 24

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Ver. 24. If it were possible, &c.] Fundamentally and finally the elect cannot possibly be deceived; because both "the deceived and the deceiver are with the Lord," Job 12:13; Job 12:16. In the Primitive Church, those capital heresies concerning the Trinity and the incarnation of our Saviour did so prevail, Ut ingeniosa res fuerit esse Christianum, saith Erasmus, that it was a witty thing to be a true Christian. Arianism had so overspread the world, that Athanasius seemed to be alone, as did Elias before him, and Luther after him. But God in worst times reserved a remnant, and at all times will not see nor suffer any of his to miscarry; but will reduce them from their wanderings, as he did Latimer, who was (as himself confesseth) as obstinate a Papist as any was in England, till converted by Bilney; and as he did Denckius, a learned Dutchman, but a pestilent heretic, till converted by Oecolampadius: and as he did Francis Junius, a desperate atheist, till converted by conference with a countryman of his not far from Florence.


Verse 25

25 Behold, I have told you before.

Ver. 25. Behold, I have told you before] See, therefore, that ye stand alway upon your watch; for, for this end have I warned you: prevision is the best means of prevention. Leo cassibus irretitus ait si praescivissem. To sin after warning is to fall with open eyes, which deserves no pity. Not to be warned, is both a just presage and desert of a downfall.


Verse 26

26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

Ver. 26. Behold, he is in the desert] In such a hermitage, or blind chapel, built in a by-place to the honour of such a saint, as our Lady of Loretto, Hall, or Sichem (Lipsius’ last dotages). "Behold, he is in the secret chambers," or conclaves, εν τοις ταμειοις (scil. of cardinals, &c.), or cupboards, as the breaden god borne up and down in a box, or on an altar, and worshipped by the common people. The rebels of Norfolk in Edward VI’s time, brought with them into the battle the pyx {a} under his canopy, as the Israelites brought the ark, 1 Samuel 4:3, and said it should save them. But as then the ark, so now the consecrated god, with all the trumpery about him, was taken in a cart, which was then instead of an altar, and there lay all in the dust. Believe them not therefore in any of these their fopperies and forgeries. "The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." {b} He is a slave to good reason, but not easily swayed by every new opinion.

{a} The vessel in which the host or consecrated bread of the sacrament is reserved. ŒD

{b} Fatuus, פתא faluellus. Lips. Proverbs 14:15.


Verse 27

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Ver. 27. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be] Clear and conspicuous, as the lightning cannot be hidden or hindered from being seen all the whole heaven over. Then shall all secret sins be made visible, as things written with the juice of lemons are legible when held to the fire; as visible shall they be, and legible too, as if written with the brightest lightning upon a wall of crystal.


Verse 28

28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

Ver. 28. For wheresoever the carcase is, &c.] That is, saith M. Lambert, martyr, wheresoever is declared by the course of the Scriptures, the benefits granted to us by Christ’s death, thither will men seek and flee, to know how they may enjoy the same. The sacrificed body of Christ (saith another) hath a most fragrant smell, inviting the saints (like birds of prey) to fly from far with marvellous swiftness to this dead but all quickening carcase. Some interpret it thus: Where the carcase is, that is, the body of the Jews, that had forsaken God and his truth, and so was a dead carcase, {confer Hosea 13:1} there will the Roman eagles and enemies be.

There will the eagles be gathered] The vulturine eagles especially, whereof read Job 39:29-30 : they follow armies, and feed on carcases. Eagles the saints are called, 1. For their delight in high flying. 2. For their sharp sightedness, and steadfast looking into the Sun of righteousness. 3. For their singular sagacity in smelling out Christ, and resenting things above, for the which they are said to have "a nose like the tower of Lebanon," Song of Solomon 7:4; Song of Solomon 4:1-16. For their feeding upon the bloody sacrifice of Christ, the true carcase. Briefly, this proverbial speech may be well understood, either of the conflux of the godly to the light and liberty of the gospel, or else of their indissoluble union with Christ to be perfectly enjoyed at the resurrection. For the sense of it is, that let the devil use what means soever he can by his emissaries, the false prophets, to divide, between Christ and his people, by telling them, There he is, or here he is, it will not be; for they will fly to him as a cloud, or as the doves to their windows, Isaiah 60:8. Nay, as the eagles to their carcase, with incredible swiftness; so forcible is the tie that is between them, that they will not be kept asunder. The Israelites removed their tents from Mithcah, which signifies sweetness, to Hashmonah, which signifies swiftness, Numbers 33:29. To teach us, saith a divine, that no sooner have the saints tasted Christ’s sweetness but presently they are carried after him with swiftness; they cannot rest till they are joined unto him whom their soul loveth. In reference to whom, Christ’s last supper is called by the ancients, Festum aquilarum, non graculorum, a feast for eagles, not for daws. {a}

{a} A silly fellow, simpleton, noodle, fool. ŒD


Verse 29

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

Ver. 29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days] After that the mystery of iniquity hath wrought effectually, and is come to an upshot: after that Antichrist hath had his full forth, as they say, and hath completed his sin, Christ shall suddenly come, as it were out of an engine.

Shall the sun be darkened, &c.] Stupendous eclipses shall precede the Lord’s coming, and other strange events both in heaven, earth, and sea, as Luke hath it. The frame of this whole universe shall shake, as houses give great cracks when ready to fall. See 2 Peter 3:10, and seek no further.


Verse 30

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Ver. 30. The sign of the Son of man] That is, either Christ himself (by a Hebraism), or the dreadful dissolution of the world’s fabric, or that cloud of heaven that was of old the sign of the Son of man in the wilderness, Exodus 13:21, or the scars of his wounds, or his cross, or something else that we cannot describe, and need not search into. Look how a king, when he would gather his forces into one, sets up his standard, or appoints his rendezvous; so such shall be the brightness of Christ’s coming, that all his shall be gathered unto him by that token, not to fight; but to triumph with him and divide the spoil, as it were, being more than conquerors; and what is that but triumphers? The expectation of this day must (as that did with David’s soldiers at Ziklag) digest all our sorrows.

And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn] This to prevent, we must judge ourselves, 1 Corinthians 11:31, and take unto us words against our sins, if we would not have Christ take unto him words against our souls, Hosea 14:3. Good men have been exceedingly affected at the hearing of God’s judgments against others, as Habakkuk 3:16.


Verse 31

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Ver. 31. And he shall send his angels] As his apparitors (heralds) and executioners. David went otherwise attended when he went against Nabal than when against Goliath; so Christ shall come, when he shall come again with his troops and trumpets.

With a great sound of a trumpet] Christ shall put forth his own mighty voice John 5:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, ministered by his angels, as in the text, and set forth by the sound of a trumpet, in allusion, belike, to Numbers 10:1-11, where the people were congregated and called together by the sound of a trumpet to the door of the tabernacle. "The lion of the tribe of Judah shall roar from above, and thrust out his voice from his holy habitation, when he entereth into judgment with all flesh," Jeremiah 25:30-31. As the lion roareth over his whelps, brought forth dead at first, and raiseth them from death to life, as Pliny reporteth.

And they shall gather together his elect] How shall they know them from reprobates? By God’s saving mark set fairly in their foreheads, Ezekiel 9:9. {a} And by their blithe and merry countenances, cleared and cheered in the apprehension and approach of their full redemption, now drawing nigh. Besides, as servants know their master’s harvest from another’s, and can easily discern the corn from the cockle, so can the good angels soon single out the elect, about whom they have been familiarly conversant here on earth, as ministering spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, ready pressed to any good office about them, Hebrews 1:14.

{a} Signo salutari. Tremel.


Verse 32

32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

Ver. 32. Ye know that summer is nigh] Which is so much the sweeter, because brought in and let out by winter: so will eternal life be to the saints, here tossed and turmoiled with variety of sufferings. Many sharp showers they must here pass through; "Light is sown for the righteous," &c., sown only; and seedtime we know is usually wet and showery. Howbeit, it is fair weather often times with God’s children when it is foulest with the wicked; as the sun rose upon Zoar when the fire fell upon Sodom. But if they should have never a good day in this world, yet heaven will make amends for all. And what is it for one to have a rainy day, who is going to take possession of a kingdom?


Verse 33

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

Ver. 33. Know that it is near, &c.] Some space then there shall be, it seems, between the foregoing signs and the coming of Christ. But though space be granted, yet grace is uncertain. Make sure work therefore betimes, lest ye come late, and be left without doors for your lingering.


Verse 34

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Ver. 34. This generation shall not pass] viz. That generation that immediately precedes the end of the world. That this is the sense, appears by the antithesis, Matthew 24:36; "But of that day and hour knoweth no man," q.d. the generation and age wherein Christ shall come ye may know by the signs that foreshow it, but the day and hour ye must not look to know, be you never so intelligent.


Verse 35

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Ver. 35. Heaven and earth shall pass, &c.] What God hath written he hath written. His word is established in heaven, saith David, Psalms 119:89; it endureth for ever, saith Peter, 1 Peter 1:25; it remaineth firm as Mount Sion, and shall stand inviolable when heaven shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth with its works shall be burnt up, 2 Peter 3:10, to the terror and confusion of those profane scoffers who deridingly demand, "Where is the promise of his coming?" &c. Matthew 24:4; that say, "Let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it," Isaiah 5:19; "Woe to you that thus desire the day of the Lord. To what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light," Amos 5:18. The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hasteth greatly. It is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, to them "that are settled on their lees, and that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil," Zephaniah 1:12-15.


Verse 36

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Ver. 36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man] That the Lord will come it is certo certius, not more sure, than what time he will come is to us most uncertain. Various guesses have been given about it by both ancient and modern writers; most of which time hath already refuted. In the year of grace 1533 there was one that foolishly foretold that the day of judgment should happen in October next ensuing. And this he gathered out of these words, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum. Likewise out of these, Videbunt in quem transfixerunt; the numerals of the former point to the year 1532, of the latter to 1533. Others there are who place the end of the world upon the year 1657. And for proof they make use of this chronogram, MVnDI Conf Lagrat Io; and further allege that the general deluge occured in the year of the world’s creation, 1657. The end of the world, saith another, will be in the year of Christ 1688, three jubilees and a half (or thereabouts) after the reformation of religion by Luther, &c. Joachimus Abbas had long since set the year 1258; Arnoldus de Villa Novo, the year 1345; Michael Stiphelius, St Luke’s day in the year 1533; Cyprianus Leonitius, the year 1583; Joannes Regiomontanus, the year 1588; Adelbertus Thermopedius, the year 1599, April 3; Nicolaus Cusanus, the year 1700; Cardanus, 1800; Picus Mirandula, 1905, &c. So great hath been the folly and sin of many learned men, who have thus childishly set their wits to play in so serious a business, as one well censureth it.

But my Father only] Ordine videlicet sciendi a se, non ab alio. The Son knoweth it not but from his Father; like as he neither subsisteth nor worketh but from the Father. The set time of the general judgment God hath hid from us: 1. For his own glory, Proverbs 25:2; Romans 11:36; Romans 2:1-29. For our good, that we may watch always, and not wax secure as we would do with the evil servant, Matthew 24:48, till the very day and hour, if we knew it. {a} The harlot in the Proverbs grew bold upon this, that her husband was gone forth for such a time, Proverbs 7:20.

{a} Ideo latet unus dies ut observentur omnes.


Verse 37

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Ver. 37. So shall the coming of the Son of man be] Sudden and unexpected. Luther observeth, that it was in the spring that the flood came, when everything was in its prime and pride, and nothing less looked for than a flood; men sinned securely, as if they had lived out of the reach of God’s rod, but he found them out. Security is the certain usher of destruction; as at Laish, Ziklag. Before an earthquake the air will be most quiet, and when the wind lies the great rain falls. Frequentissimum initium calamitatis securitas, Carelessness is most often the beginning of a catastrophy, saith the historian, Paterculus.


Verse 38

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

Ver. 38. They were eating and drinking] Wine, likely; because our Saviour hereupon bids his apostles take heed to themselves lest their hearts at any time should be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, &c., Luke 21:34. Like as some do not improbably conjecture, that Nadab and Abihu were in their drink when they offered strange fire, because after they were devoured by fire from the Lord. Aaron and the priests are charged to drink no wine nor strong drink when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they die, Leviticus 10:1-2; Leviticus 10:8-9. St Luke delivers the matter more roundly by an elegant asyndeton, "They ate, they drank, they married," &c., q.d. they passed without intermission from eating to drinking, from drinking to marrying, &c.; they followed it close, as if it had been their work, and they born for no other end. Of Ninius, second king of Assyrians, nephew haply to these antediluvian belly gods, it is said, that he was old excellent at eating and drinking. {a} And of Sardanapalus, one of the same line, Cicero tells us that his gut was his god. Summum bonum in ventre, aut sub ventre posuit; and Plutarch, that he hired men to devise new pleasures for him. See my Commonplace of Abstinence.

Until the day] They were set upon it, and would lose no time. Their destruction was foretold them to a day; they were nothing bettered by it; no more would wicked men, should they foreknow the very instant of Christ’s coming to judgment. Joseph had foretold the famine of Egypt and the time when it should come; but fulness bred forgetfulness, saturity, security; none observed or provided for it. Quod vel inviti norant, non agnoverant.

{a} αριστος ην εσθιειν και πινειν. Athenae Dipnosoph. ii.


Verse 39

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Ver. 39. And knew not] i.e. They took no knowledge of Noah’s predictions, or their own peril. Their wits they had buried in their guts, their brains in their bellies (as of the ass fish it is said (Arist. de Anim.) that contrary to all other living creatures, he hath his heart in his belly); "whoredom, wine, and new wine take away the heart," Hosea 4:11. Carnal sins disable nature, and so set men in a greater distance from grace, which is seated in the powers of nature. I read of some desperate wretches that drinking together, when one of them had drunk himself stark dead, the other, no wit warned by that fearful example of God’s wrath, poured his part of drink into the dead man’s belly, in quodam episcopatu potaverunt aliqui, &c. in which a certain bishop drank some. (John Manl.)

And took them all away] Men are never less safe than when they are most secure. Babylon bore itself bold upon the twenty years’ provision laid up beforehand, to stand out at siege. When it was nevertheless taken by Cyrus, some part of the city would not know or believe of three days after, that there was any such matter. (Herodot. lib. 1; Arist. Polit. lib. 3.)


Verse 40

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Ver. 40. The one shall be taken, the other left] The Flood took all away in a manner; but at Christ’s coming there shall be found a considerable company of such as shall be saved. He shall separate his saints with a wonderful separation, and make himself to be "admired in all them that believe," 2 Thessalonians 1:10. How carefully, then, should we work out our salvation, and ensure to ourselves our election by good works.


Verse 41

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Ver. 41. Two women shall be grinding at the mill] A poor trade, a hard task. God would have every man in his honest occupation to humble himself by just labour, and so to accept the punishment of their iniquity, Leviticus 26:41. But one of these two poor grinders at the mill is left by Christ for her pride and profaneness. Many are humbled, but not humble; low, but not lowly. To these Christ will say, Perdidistis utilitatem calamitatis, miserrimi facti estis, et pessimi permansistis, Misery hath no wit mended you; woe be to you. (Aug. C. D. i. 33.)


Verse 42

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

Ver. 42. Watch therefore, &c.] Laeti simus, non securi Let us be happy, not carefree. (Bernard). While Ishbosheth slept upon his bed at noon, Baanah and Rechab took away his head. "Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown from thee," Revelation 3:11. While the crocodile sleepeth with open mouth, the Indian rat gets into him and eateth his entrails. Satan works strongest on the fancy when the soul is drowsy. The spouse therefore promiseth to get up early, Song of Solomon 7:12, to shake off security, and not to be found henceforth supine and sluggish, but to stand upon her watch; as of Scanderbeg it is said, that from his first coming to Epirus, he never slept over two hours in a night, but with restless labour prosecuted his affairs. Aristotle and some others would not sleep but with brazen balls in their hands, which falling on vessels purposely set on their bedsides, the noise did dissuade immoderate sleep. Our Saviour pronounceth them three times happy that watch, Luke 12:37-38; Luke 12:43. {a} The blessed angels are called watchers, εγρηγοροι, Daniel 4:10.

For ye know not what hour your Lord, &c.] He may haply come upon you, as Epaminondas did upon his sentinel, whom finding asleep, he thrust through with his sword, and being chidden for so severe a fact, he replied, I left him but as I found him, Talem eum reliqui, qualem inveni.

{a} Terque quaterque beati. Virg. Faelices ter et amplius, Horat.


Verse 43

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

Ver. 43. He would not have suffered his house, &c.] And shall the children of this world be wiser for their houses than we for our souls? what are these earthly tabernacles, those clayey cottages, to our houses from heaven? All things here are temporial and abject, nec vera, nec vestra, neither true nor yours, subject to vanity and violence. Heaven only hath a foundation, Hebrews 11:10. Earth hath none, Job 26:7. And things are said to be in heaven, but on earth, as ready with the least shake to fall off, Colossians 1:20. There is nothing of any stability or solid consistency in the creature. It is but a surface, an outside, all the felicity of it is but skin deep. Seek, therefore, first God’s kingdom, &c.


Verse 44

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Ver. 44. Therefore be ye also ready] Suetonius tells us that it was a piece of Julius Caesar’s policy never to forewarn his soldiers of any set time of removal or onset, that he might ever have them in readiness to draw forth whithersoever he would. {a} Christ, in like manner, who is called the "Captain of our salvation," Hebrews 2:10. Our enemy is always ready to annoy us, should we not, therefore look to our stand, and be vigilant? Solomon’s wisdom, Lot’s integrity, and Noah’s sobriety, felt the smart of the serpent’s sting. The first was seduced, the second stumbled, and the third fell, while the eye of watchfulness was fallen asleep.

For in such an hour, &c.] Christ will soonest seize upon the secure, 1 Thessalonians 5:3; such shall sleep as Sisera, who ere he awaked had his head fastened to the ground, as if it had been now listening what was become of the soul. {See Trapp on "Matthew 24:42"}

{a} Scilicet ut paratum ot intentum momentis omnibus, quo vellet subito educeret.


Verse 45

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

Ver. 45. Who then is a faithful and wise servant] So every man ought to be, but ministers especially, who should so far surpass others in these good qualities, as Saul did the people, than whom he was higher by head and shoulders. They should be faithful in all God’s house as servants, as stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of God, to give to every man his portion, his due measure of food, { σιτομετριον, Luke 12:42} and that which is fit for him, not (as he in the emblem did) straw to the dog, and a bone to the ass, &c., but to every one his portion, 1 Corinthians 4:1.


Verse 46

46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Ver. 46. Blessed is that servant] It was Augustine’s wish, that Christ when he came might find him aut precantem, aut praedicantem, either praying or preaching. It was Latimer’s wish (and he had it) that he might shed his heart blood for Christ. It was Jewel’s wish that he might die preaching, and he did so, for presently after his last sermon at Lacock in Wiltshire, he was, by reason of sickness, forced to his bed, from whence he never came off till his translation to glory. {a} I have heard the like of Mr Lancaster, a precious man of God, some time pastor of Bloxham in Oxfordshire, a man very famous for his living by faith. Cushamerus, a dutch divine, and one of the first preachers of the Gospel at Erfurt in Germany, had his pulpit poisoned by the malicious Papists there, and so took his death in God’s work. {b} What, would you that the Lord when he comes should find me idle? said Calvin to his friends, who wished him to forbear studying awhile, for his health’ sake. {c} And such a like answer made Doctor Reynolds to his physician upon the like occasion. Elijah was going on and talking with Elisha (about heavenly things, no doubt) when the chariot of heaven came to fetch him. There can be no better posture or state for the messenger of our dissolution to find us in than in a diligent prosecution of our general or particular calling.

{a} Bishop Jewel’s Life by D. Humphrey.

{b} In suggestu veneno illito extinctus est. Scult. Annal. 80.

{c} Beza in Vita, An propter vitam vivendi perdere finem.


Verse 47

47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

Ver. 47. Verily I say unto you, &c.] A deep asseveration for our better assurance and encouragement. Christ is a liberal paymaster, and his retributions are more than bountiful. Abraham thought much that the steward of his house should be heir of his goods, Genesis 15:2-3. Not so the Lord Christ.


Verse 48

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

Ver. 48. But and if that evil servant] All places are full of such evil servants (and so is hell too), as future their repentance, and so fool away their salvation. Of such dust heaps we may find in every corner: this is a depth of the devil, brimfull with the blood of many souls, to persuade them that they have yet long to live, and many fair summers to see; that there is no such haste, but that hereafter may be time enough. In space comes grace, and a few good words at last will waft them to heaven.


Verse 49

49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

Ver. 49. To eat and drink with the drunken] Though he neither be drunk himself, not make others drunk, yet to be among wine bibbers and flesh mongers, as Solomon hath it, Proverbs 23:20, to company with such as a frequent and immoderate bibber, as Peter’s word ( εν ποτοις) importeth, 1 Peter 4:3; to drink ad numerum, as Bullinger expresseth it, though there follow not an utter alienation of mind, this is here threatened. Excessive drinking is drunkenness, {Ephesians 5:18} though men be strong to bear it, Isaiah 5:22.


Verse 50

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

Ver. 50. In a day when he looketh not, &c.] As he did to that rich fool ( Stultitiam patiuntur opes, Wealth creates folly. Martial), who made account he had much good laid up in store for many years; but heard ere morning, Stulte, hac nocte "Thou fool, this night," Luke 12:19-20. Then when like a jay he was pruning himself in the boughs, and thought least of death, he came tumbling down with the arrow in his side; his glass was run when he hoped it had been but new turned. Sic subito tollitur qui diu toleratur. So suddenly he destroys whom he endured for a long time. God shall shoot at such with an arrow suddenly, Psalms 64:7.


Verse 51

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Ver. 51. And shall cut him asunder] Gr. διχοτομησει, shall cut him in twain, that is, tear his soul from his body by main force, Job 27:8, throw him out of the world, as it were, by a firma eiectione, and hurl him into hell, there to undergo most exquisite torments, such as they did here that were sawn asunder, Hebrews 11:36-38; hewn in pieces, as Agag, 1 Samuel 15:33; torn limb from limb, as Daniel 3:29; 2 Samuel 12:31.

And appoint him his portion with hypocrites] Hypocrites then are the freeholders of hell; other sinners are but as tenants and inmates to them, μερος, id quod in divisione obtigit. Lorin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 24:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-24.html. 1865-1868.

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