16. Hence there follows most justly the statement, “Ye are the salt of the earth;” showing that those parties are to be judged insipid, who, either in the eager pursuit after abundance of earthly blessings, or through the dread of want, lose the eternal things which can neither be given nor taken away by men. “But 53 if the salt have lost 54 its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” i.e., If ye, by means of whom the nations in a measure are to be preserved [from corruption], through the dread of temporal persecutions shall lose the kingdom of heaven, where will be the men through whom error may be removed from you, since God has chosen you, in order that through you He might remove the error of others? Hence the savourless salt is “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men.” It is not therefore he who suffers persecution, but he who is rendered savourless by the fear of persecution, that is trodden under foot of men. For it is only one who is undermost that can be trodden under foot; but he is not undermost, who, however many things he may suffer in his body on the earth, yet has his heart fixed in heaven. 55
17. “Ye are the light 56 of the world.” In the same way as He said above, “the salt of the p. 9 earth,” so now He says, “the light of the world.” For in the former case that earth is not to be understood which we tread with our bodily feet, but the men who dwell upon the earth, or even the sinners, for the preserving of whom and for the extinguishing of whose corruptions the Lord sent the apostolic salt. And here, by the world must be understood not the heavens and the earth, but the men who are in the world or love the world, for the enlightening of whom the apostles were sent. 57 “A city that is set on 58 an hill cannot be hid,” i.e. [a city] founded upon great and distinguished righteousness, which is also the meaning of the mountain itself on which our Lord is discoursing. “Neither do men light a candle 59 and put it under a bushel measure.” 60 What view are we to take? That the expression “under a bushel measure” is so used that only the concealment of the candle is to be understood, as if He were saying, No one lights a candle and conceals it? Or does the bushel measure also mean something, so that to place a candle under a bushel is this, to place the comforts of the body higher than the preaching of the truth; so that one does not preach the truth so long as he is afraid of suffering any annoyance in corporeal and temporal things? And it is well said a bushel measure, whether on account of the recompense of measure, for each one receives the things done in his body,—“that every one,” says the apostle, “may there receive 61 the things done in his body;” and it is said in another place, as if of this bushel measure of the body, “For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again:” 62 —or because temporal good things, which are carried to completion in the body, are both begun and come to an end in a certain definite number of days, which is perhaps meant by the “bushel measure;” while eternal and spiritual things are confined within no such limit, “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” 63 Every one, therefore, who obscures and covers up the light of good doctrine by means of temporal comforts, places his candle under a bushel measure. “But on a candlestick.” 64 Now it is placed on a candlestick by him who subordinates his body to the service of God, so that the preaching of the truth is the higher, and the serving of the body the lower; yet by means even of the service of the body the doctrine shines more conspicuously, inasmuch as it is insinuated into those who learn by means of bodily functions, i.e. by means of the voice and tongue, and the other movements of the body in good works. The apostle therefore puts his candle on a candlestick, when he says, “So fight I, not as one that beateth 65 the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I preach to others, I myself should be found a castaway.” 66 When He says, however, “that it may give light to all who are in the house,” I am of opinion that it is the abode of men which is called a house, i.e. the world itself, on account of what He says before, “Ye are the light of the world;” or if any one chooses to understand the house as being the Church, this, too, is not out of place.
“A warning against pride” (Schaff).8:54
Infatuatum fuerit; Vulgate, evanuerit.8:55
Others follow Augustin in regarding the connection of this verse and the next with the preceding one as very close. All the more must they refuse to yield to persecution, as they have a function in the world which is well represented by salt and light (Weizsäcker, Meyer, etc.). The function of salt is to preserve and to season. With it Elisha healed the unwholesome water (2 Kings ii. 21). The use of salt in the sacrifices is, no doubt, alluded to (Tholuck). It becomes savourless. Dr. Thomson says (Land and Book, ii. 43), “It is a well-known fact that the salt in this country (gathered from the marshes in dry weather), when in contact with the ground, or exposed to air and sun, does become insipid and useless.” The disciples are appointed to communicate the truth and moral grace, before spoken of in the Beatitudes, to counteract the error and corruption in the earth. “Earth” not to be confined to “society as then existing, the definite form the world then presented” (Lange), but to mankind in general, as Augustin below. “Wherewith shall it be salted” does not imply that those who have once fallen cannot be reclaimed (Alford). The comment of Grotius is good: “Ipsi emendare alios debebent, non autem exspectare ut ab aliis ipsi emendarentur” (“They ought to improve others, not expect to be themselves improved by others”).8:56
Lumen, also used for a luminary; Vulgate, lux. In a lower and derivative sense are the disciples “the light,” etc. (Alford), deriving their light-giving quality from Him who is the “Light of the world” (John viii. 12), so that they become “lights in the world” (Phil. ii. 15). Augustin (Sermon, ccclxxx.): Johannes lumen illuminatum, Christus lumen illuminans.9:57
“The influence of salt is internal, of light external: hence the element in which they work, the earth and the world, both referring to mankind; the latter more to its organized external form” (Schaff).9:58
Constituta; Vulgate, posita. The city was probably visible. Some have thought of the village on Mount Tabor, others of an ancient fortress, predecessor of the present Safed (Dean Stanley, Thomson); certainly not Jerusalem (Weizsäcker).9:59
The Greek has the definite article τὸν μόδιον.9:61
2 Cor. v. 10. Recipiat unusquisque quæ gessit in corpore. Vulgate, referat unusquisque propria corporis, prout gessit, etc.9:62
Matt. vii. 2.9:63
John iii. 34; which words, however, are, as Augustin subsequently observed (Retract. I. xix. 3), applicable only to Christ.9:64
Cædens; Vulgate, verberans.9:66
1 Cor. 9:26, 27. Ne forte aliis predicans…invenir. Vulgate, Ne forte cum aliis prædicaverim…efficir.