« הקודםהמשך »
whom it is plain, from the Words immediately following, our Saviour had in his Eye; for they by their Doctrine and Example both, expounded away confiderable Parts of the Moral Law, as he proves by and by, by many Particular Instances. 3.
This was a more elegant Expression, considering the Punishment that here follows, of being called The least in the Kingdom of Heaven: for the two together, the breaking one of the least of the Commandments
, and the being called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, make an elegant Figure in Rhetorick, called Antanaclass: where the same Word is twice repeated, but in a different Sense.
II. We are to enquire what is meant by being called least, and called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. By the Kingdom of Heaven here, I understand the Christian Church, as very commonly it is taken in that Sense; not the true Believers, whom we call the Invisible Church; but thofe who profess the Christian Religion ; of whose Sincerity or Insincerity Christ is afterwards to pass Sentence. And this Sentence I take to be the judging or calling here spoke of. So that the Meaning of the whole Verse is, as if we should say in other Words ; “ That Christian who shall by his bad Life and loose Principles and Doc
trine, evacuate the Obligation of any Part of “ the Moral Law, when Christ comes to pass “ his righteous Sentence on Men according to “ their Deserts, shall be judged to be in the very “ lowest Form of all those who profess Christia
nity, even lower than Hypocrites themselves ; “ and be punished accordingly. Whereas, on “ the contrary, they who do their best both by their Life and Doctrine, to establish
good Morals in the World, Thall be ad
judged eminent Persons, that have done great « Service in the Christian Church, and be re•s warded accordingly.”
This Sense I think answers the Phrase of being called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, much better than if with some other Commentators, I should interpret the Kingdom of Heaven here, to be the Kingdom of Glory; and the Expression of Least in that Kingdom, to signifie to be totally excluded from it. For tho'they come much to the same Sense, the Words will bear the one without any Constraint; but not the other; for it is very easy to apprehend, how the lowest Rank of Christian Professors shall be excluded the Kingdom of Glory; but it is not so easy to apprehend how the lowest Rank of them, who are admitted to the Kingdom of Glory, shall be judged unworthy of it.
From the Words thus explained, there are two Things present themselves to our Confideration.
I. The Heinous Sin, and the grievous Punishment of breaking any of the Precepts of the Moral Law, and teaching Men so to do.
II. The commendable Practice of recommend ing a perfect Morality by our Example as well as Doctrine, and the glorious Reward attending it.
I. I go now upon the. Conideration of the heinous Sin of breaking any of the Precepts of the Moral Law, and teaching Men so to do : Or the Sin of teaching Immorality by Example and Doctrine. Whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments, and shall teach Men jó. This "Sin has in it these Four apparent Aggravations ;
1. In that an Error in Morals, is more dangerous than a mere Speculative Error.
2. In that the Corrupting of Others is an higher Pitch of Wickedness than only transgressing our selves.
3. In that scandalous Practice, which tends to the Corruption of others, is the most dangerous Sort of evil Practice.
4. In that the joining of vicious Counsel, and the propagating of wicked Principles by our Intereft, Skill, or Authority, is yet an higher Degree of Wickedness, than the doing it by evil Example alone.
1. First, I say this Sin is aggravated here, in so far as an Error in Morals is more dangerous than a meer Speculative Error. This Observation I think, doth fairly rise from the Words; for if we mind it, it is only the Practical Errors, the Transgressions of Morality, which our Saviour degrades into the lowest Rank. And I hend there may be very good Reasons for it, for Speculative Errors can neither be so dangerous, nor are they so easily known as practical ones.
(1) First I say, Speculative Errors, which have no Influence on the Life and Conversation, cannot be near so dangerous as those Errors which lead Men out of the Way of their Duty. As in a Voyage at Sea the Master, and Seamen, and Passengers may chance to see several Objects, and very friendly and innocently may differ in their Opinions about the Names and Natures, and Colours, and Shapes, and Properties of them ; and yet none of all these Opinions, the most True, or the most Erroneous, either furthers or hinders their Voyage ; but if they should be in an Error
And I appre
in using a bad Compass, or in not knowing the Tides and Currents, the Rocks and Shelves; if they should run rafhly on the Shore in the Night time, by not keeping a Right Reckoning, thinking themselves far enough from Land; these are Errors of fatal Consequence; such as may endanger the Ship and Voyage. Just so it is in Errors of Opinion, with Relation to Speculative and Practical Matters. The Speculative, such as have no Influence at all on Practice, are a very innocent Sort of Errors, in comparison of the other, which endanger our Voyage to Heaven. And of this last Sort are all Errors in Morals, by which we are apt both to seduce our felves and others; every the least Deviation in them leads by Degrees more and more out of the right Way, which, if unperceived or unminded, will carry us very far in a wrong Course; and therefore it is no wonder our Saviour pronounced fo emphatically in this Matter, that Whosoever shall break one of the leaft of these Commandments of the Moral Law, and shall teach Men so, be shall be accounted among the unworthiest of Christians.
(2) Practical Errors fall much more within our Knowledge and Cognizance than Speculative ones, and for that Reason are more Criminal ; whereas Speculative Errors are often mere Sins of Ignorance, and for that Reason have very little of our own Fault in them ; unless it be the Rashness of wading beyond our Depth, when we should have kept within our own shallow Line; and therefore we should weigh well what is, and what is not revealed ; and what falls within the Compass of our own Comprehenfron, and what doth not. Vol. II.
2. A Second Aggravation of this Sin in the Text is, that it includes in it the corrupting of others, as well as the doing ill Things our felves ; for these two are joined together, the breaking the Commandments, and Teaching Men fo; whatsoever way this teaching is, whether by Example, or Advice, and Doctrine. Now there cannot be a greater Aggravation of any Crime than this is, to feduce Mankind into sinful Courses; This is the very Work of the Devil, who delights in Mifchief; and this is the countermining our Blefsed Saviour, whose Contrivances were all for the Good and Salvation of Mankind. And therefore they whose Authority or Example have Influence in leading or misleading of others, had need to take a most particular Care of their Conduct, being a Thing of such mighty Consequence both to themselves and others. As in a Fleet of Ships, that Ship which carries the Light, and leads the rest, especially in any dangerous Passage, has a vast Care and Trust upon her; and if the strikes against the Rocks, all that follow her are in danger of perishing with her. And this leads the Way to the other two Aggravations of this Sin; namely,
3. That of all Sorts of evil Practice, that which tends to the seducing of others is the worst. While evil Actions are secret, and carefully hid, either under a Veil of Shame and Modesty, or under a Clcak of Hypocrisie, tho' they are always bad enough at beíts yet they are not near so Criminal or Dangerous, as when they are publick and avowa ed; and by the scandalous Example of them make as it were a Party for Wickedness, and draw in Abettors and Followers. For, as I take it, the