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sermon on the mount with reference to the crime of adultery; and the meaning is this:
The heinous sin, against which I have been here cautioning you, that of offending your Christian brethren, of causing them by your misconduct to renounce their faith in me or to desert the paths of virtue, has its origin in your depraved appetites and passions; as in the present instance it is your ambition, your eagerness after worldly honours and distinctions, which it is to be feared will give offence and scandal to those that observe it, and may impress them with an unfavourable idea of that religion which seems to inspire such sentiments. You must therefore go at once to the root of the evil, you must extirpate those corrupt passions and propensities that have taken possession of your hearts, though it may be as difficult for you to part with them as it would be to pluck out an eye, or tear off a limb from the body. For it is better. that you should renounce what is most dear to you in this life, than that you should suffer those dreadful punishments in the next, which I have told you will assuredly be ina ficted on, all impenitent offenders, and more
particularly on those who offend in the way here specified... ..
He then returns to the main subject of his exhortation ::“ take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven." That is, I again repeat to you, take heed that ye' treat not with scorn and contempt such little children as you now see before you, or those believers in me who resemble these children in docílity, meekness, humility, and indifference to all that the world calls great and honourable. Take care that you do not consider their welfare, their salvation, as below your notice and regard, and wantonly endanger both by giving way to your own irregular desires ; for I say unto you, that howa ever contemptibly you may think of them, your heavenly Father regards them with a more favourable eye. He even condescends to take them under his protection, he sends his most favoured angels, those ministers of his that do his pleasure, and stand always in his presence ready to execute his commands, even these he deputes to «guard and watch over V VOE! II.
these little children and those humble Christians, who are like them in purity and innocence of mind. :
From this passage some have inferred, that every child, and every faithful servant of Christ, has an angel constantly attached to his person, to superintend, direct, and protect him; and this is the opinion of the learned Grotius himself; whilst others only suppose that those celestial spirits, who (as we are told of Gabriel) stand before God, are occasionally sent to assist . the pious Christian in imminent danger, in severe trials, or great emergencies. And hence perhaps the favourite and popular doctrine of guardian angels ; a doctrine which has prevailed more or less in every age of the church, which is without question most soothing and consolatory to human nature, and is certainly countenanced by this and several other passages of holy writ, as well as by the authority of Origen, Tertullian, and other ancient fathers and commentators. In the Psalms it is said, “ The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them *.” And in the Epistle to the Hebrewst. * Psal. xxxiv. 7. + Chap. i. 14.
we are told, “ that the angels are all ministere ing spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” No one therefore that cherishes this notion can be charged with weakness or superstition ; and if it should be at last an error, it is, as Cicero says of the immortality of the soul, so delightful an error, that we cannot easily suffer it to be wrested from us *. But whatever may be the decision of learned men on this point, there is one thing most clearly proved by the text now before us, and confirmed by a multitude of others, and that is, the doctrine not only of a general but of a particular providence, which in one way or other, whether by ministering angels, òr by the all-comprehending and omnipresent eye of God himself, watches over those true disciples of Christ, who, in their tempers, dispositions, and manners, approach nearest to the humility, the meekness, the innocence, and the simplicity of a child.
* The excellent Bishop Andrews has, in one of his animated prayers, a pássage which plainly shews that he believed this doctrine. It is as follows: “ That the angel of peace, the holy guide of thy children, the faithful guard set by thee over their souls and bodies, may encamp round about me, and continually suggest to my mind such things as conduce to thy glory, grant O good Lord !" G2
This doctrine is indeed so distinctly and explicitly asserted in various parts of scripture, that it stands in no need of any confirmation from this particular passage; but every additional proof of so material a support under the afflictions and calamities of life, must be grate- ful to every heart that has known what affliction is.
The verse that comes next in order is this: ..^ For the Son of man is come to save that
which is lost.” The connexion of this verse with the preceding one is somewhat obscure, but seems to be as follows: You may think, perhaps, that man is too mean, too insignificant a being, to be worthy of the ministration and guardianship of celestial spirits. But how can you entertain this imagination, when you know that for this creature man, for fallen and sinful man, did the Son of God condescend to offer himself up a sacrifice on the cross, and came to save that which was lost ? Well then may the angels of heaven be proud to guard what their Lord and Master came to save. Jesus then goes on to exemplify, by a familiar similitude, his paternal tenderness to the sons of men. “How think ye, if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone