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astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go

into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray ? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety and nine that went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father that one of these little one's should perish.” We are not to infer from this similitude, that God sets more value, and looks with more complacency and approbation on one repenting sinner, than on ninety and nine righteous persons who have uniformly and devoutly served him. This can never be imagined; nor would it correspond with the illustration. The shepherd himself does not set a greater value upon the lost sheep than he does upon those that are safe; nor would he give up them to recover that which has strayed. But his joy for the moment, at the recovery of the lost sheep, is greater than he receives from all the rest, because he has regained that, and is sure of all the others. The whole, therefore, that was meant to be inculcated by this parable is, that God's parental tenderness extends to all, even to the sinner that goes astray, and that he rejoices at the conversion and recovery of the meanest indi

vidual,

G 3

66 If

vidual, and of the most grievous offender. This is the very conclusion, and the only one which our Lord himself draws from the parable. 66 Even so it is not the will of

your

Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Such then being the mercy

of the Almighty even to his sinful creatures, our Lord

goes on to intimate to his disciples, that they ought also to exercise a similar lenity and forbearance towards their offending brethren. thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone, If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses

every

word may

be established; and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican," In this passage

there are evident allusions to the laws and customs of the Jews, who, for the conviction of any offender, required the tes, timony of at least two witnesses*; and in the case of notorious and obstinate offenders, re* Deut. xix. 15,

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proved them publicly in their synagogues. But the obvious meaning in regard to ourselves is, that even against those who have il treated and injured us, we should not immediately proceed to extreme severity and rigour; but first try the effects of private and gentle and friendly admonition; if that fail, then call in two or three persons of character and reputation to add weight and authority to our remonstrances ; and if that has no effect, we are then justified in bringing the offender before the proper tribunal, to be censured or punished as he deserves, avoiding all · communication with him in future, except what common humanity may require even towards an enemy. These directions are evidently the dictates of that moderation, mildness, and benevolence, which characterize all our Saviour's precepts, and more particularly distinguish this chapter.

Verily I say unto you,” continues our Saviour, 66 whatsoever

ye

shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever

ye

shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I you, that if two of you shall

agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of

my

Father
G 4

which

say unto

which is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

: There is some difficulty and some difference of opinion with respect to the precise meaning of these verses; but they evidently have a reference to the case of the offender stated in the preceding verses; they are addressed exclusively to the apostles; and the most natural interpretation of them seems to be as follows: Whatever sentence of absolution or condemnation

you
shall in

your apostolical capacity pronounce on any offender, that sentence shall be confirmed in heaven: and whatever even two of you shall ask in prayer for direction and assistance from above, in forming your judicial determinations, it shall be granted you; for where only two or three of you are gathered together in my name, and are acting under my authority and for my glory in any case of great importance, there am I in the midst of you by my Holy Spirit, to guide, direct, and sanction your proceedings,

We now come to one of the most interesting and most affecting parables that is to be found either in scripture, or in any of the

most

most admired writings of antiquity. In consequence of what our Lord had said in the course of his instructions on the subject of injuries, Peter came to him, and said, “ Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him, till seven times ?” an allowance which he probably thought abundantly liberal. Jesus saith unto him, “ I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven;" that is, this duty of forgiving injuries has no limits. However frequently you are injured, if real penitence and contrition follow the offence, a Christian is always bound to forgive, To illustrate and confirm this important duty, our Lord subjóinš the following parable. “ Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a king, which would take account of his servants; and when he had began to reckon, one was brought to him which owed him ten thousand talents, (that is nearly two millions, some think more than two millions, of our money). But for as much as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made." This seems a most severe penalty for insol

yency;

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