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appears demonstrably from this circumstance, that when after the Reformation the Scriptures were translated into the several vernacular languages of Europe, and the real nature of the Christian Revelation became of course more generally known, the violence of persecution began to abate; and as the sacred writings were more and more studied, and their true sense better understood, the baneful spirit of intolerance lost ground every day, and the divine principle of Christian charity and benevolence has been continually gaining fresh strength; till at length, at the present moment, persecution by Christians on the score of religion only has almost entirely vanished from the face of the earth ;- and we may venture to indulge the hope, that wars of religion, strictly so called, will be heard of no
I now proceed to explain the verses immediately following that which we have been just considering
“ I am come, says our Lord, to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be those of his own household.”
This passage is a clear proof that the cala-' mities and miseries predicted in the preceding verse relate primarily and principally to the apostles themselves, because these words are almost a repetition of what our Lord applied to them in the 27th verse, “ The brother shall deliver
the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death *.”
Now as these cruelties were inflicted on the apostles, not by believers, but by unbelieving Jews and heathens, that is, by the enemies of the Gospel, it is evident, that when our Saviour says he came to set a man at variance against his father, and so on, he meant only
say, that the religion which he taught would meet with the most violent opposition from the world, and would expose his apostles and disciples to the most unjust and inhuman treatment, even sometimes from their nearest relations.
Our Lord then goes on to say, “ He that loveth father and mother more than
is not worthy of met." This has an evident refe* Maith. x. 21,
+ Matth. x. 37
rence to the two preceding verses; in which our Lord had declared, that amidst the various miseries that would be occasioned by the wickedness and barbarity of those who rejected and resisted the Christian religion, dissensions would arise even among those most nearly connected with each other, and the true Christian would sometimes find his bitterest enemies „even in the bosom of his own family. A father would perhaps persecute his own son, and a mother her daughter, on account of her religious opinion, and would by argument and by influence endeavour to persuade, or by authority and power to compel them to abjure their faith. In cases such as these our Lord here intimates, that when the choice is between renouncing our nearest relations and renouncing our religion, we must not hesitate a moment what part we are to take; we must, to obey God rather than man, we must give up all, and follow Christ*. “ He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son and daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.” That is, evidently, when the nearest and
* Acts v. 29. Mark x. 28.
dearest relations come in competition with our belief in Christ, and obedience to his commands, our affection for them and deference to their opinions must give place to love for our Redeemer and attachment to our Maker.
In the parallel place of St. Luke this precept is expressed in still stronger terms. “ If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple*" .
The mind of the reader is at the first view apt to revolt at the seeming harshness of this declaration; but it is evidently nothing more than a bolder and more figurative way' (according to a well-known Hebrew idiom) of conveying the very same sentiment that St. Matthew clothes in gentler language. It means nothing more than that we ought to entertain a more ardent affection for our heavenly Father than for our earthly parents; and that his commands must be preferred to theirs whenever they happen to interfere. And in the same manner several other apparently severe injunctions in the Gospel are to be explained and mitigated by others of the same import, but more perspicuously and more mildly expressed.
* Luke xiv, 26.
But we are not only enjoined to love Christ and his religion more than our nearest relations, where they happen to interfere, but even more than our own life. “ He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me*.” This plainly alludes to the custom of persons who were going to be crucified bearing their own cross; and the literal and primary meaning is, that we should be ready, if called upon, to undergo even that painful and ignominious death, rather than renounce our faith. This indeed is a most severe trial; but it is a trial which it is not only our duty but our interest to undergo, if reduced to the necessity either of forfeiting our life, or renouncing our allegiance to Christ. For we are told here by our Lord himself, that os he who findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for his sake shall find it." That is, whoever to save his life apostatizes, * Matth. x. 38.
+ Ibid. 39.