For there are some eunuchs
Our Lord here distinguishes the various sorts of persons, that can and do live in a single state with content: some by nature, and others by violence offered to them, are rendered incapable of entering into a marriage state; and others, through the gift of God, and under the influence of his grace, abstain from marriage cheerfully and contentedly, in order to be more useful in the interest of religion; but the number of either of these is but few, in comparison of such who choose a conjugal state, and with whom it is right to enter into it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may attend it. Some men are eunuchs, and of these there are different sorts; there are some,
which were so born from their mother's womb;
meaning, not such who, through a natural temper and inclination of mind, could easily abstain from marriage, and chose to live single; but such who had such defects in nature that they were impotent, unfit for, and unable to perform the duties of a marriage state; who, as some are born without hands or feet, these were born without proper and perfect organs of generation; and such an one was, by the Jews, frequently called, (hmh oyro) , "an eunuch of the sun F14": that is, as their doctors F15 explain it, one that from his mother's womb never saw the sun but as an eunuch; that is, one that is born so; and that such an one is here intended, ought not to be doubted. The signs of such an eunuch, are given by the Jewish F16 writers, which may be consulted by those, that have ability and leisure. This sort is sometimes F17 called (Mymv ydyb oyro) "an eunuch by the hands of heaven", or God, in distinction from those who are so by the hands, or means of men, and are next mentioned:
and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men:
as among the Romans formerly, and which Domitian the emperor forbid by a law F18; and more especially in the eastern countries, and to this day among the Turks, that they may the more safely be entrusted with the custody of their women; and this sort the Jews call (Mda oyro) , "an eunuch of men", or (Mda ydyb) , "by the hands of men". The distinction between an "eunuch of the sun", and an "eunuch of men", is so frequent with the Jews F19, and so well known to them, that a question need not be made of our Lord's referring to it:
and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs;
not in a literal sense, in which the words are not to be taken, as they were by Origen; who though otherwise too much pursued the allegorical way of interpreting Scripture, here took it literally, and castrated himself F20; as did also a sort of heretics, called Valesians F21, from one Valens an Arabian; and which practice is recommended by Philo the Jew F23, and by Heathen philosophers F24, for the sake of chastity. But here it means such, who having the gift of continency without mutilating their bodies, or indulging any unnatural lusts, can live chastely without the use of women, and choose celibacy:
for the kingdom of heaven's sake;
not in order, by their chaste and single life, to merit and obtain the kingdom of glory; but that they might be more at leisure, being free from the incumbrances of a marriage state, to attend the worship and service of God, the ordinances of the Gospel church state, to minister in, and preach the Gospel of Christ, and be a means of spreading it in the world, and of enlarging his kingdom and interest.
He that is able to receive it, let him receive it:
whoever is able to receive cordially, and embrace heartily, the above saying concerning the expediency and goodness of a single life, and having the gift of continency, can live according to it; let him take it, and hold it fast, and act up to it; he may have less of worldly trouble, and be more useful for God in the Gospel of Christ, and to the interest of religion; but this should be a voluntary thing: no man should be forced into it; and he that goes into it, ought to consider well whether he is able to contain, or not.
F14 T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 75. 1. 79. 2. & 80. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 2. sect. 14.
F15 Maimon & Bartenora in Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 4.
F16 Bartenora, ibid. & Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, ut supra.
F17 T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 80. 2.
F18 Philostrat. vit. Apollon. l. 6. c. 17.
F19 Misn. Yebamot, c. 8. sect. 4. Zabim, c. 2. sect. 1. T. Hieros. Yebamot, fol. 9. 4. Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 2. sect. 26. & 4. 18. Mechosre Caphara, c. 3. sect. 6. Mishcabumoshab, c. l. sect. 5.
F20 Euseb. Ecel. Hist. l. 6. c. 8.
F21 Augustin de Haeres. c. 37. & Danaeus in ib.
F23 Lib. quod deterius, p. 186.
F24 Sexti Pythag. Sent. p. 8.