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REFLECTIONS. How slow and untractable were the minds of the apostles, who una derstood not these plain things when thus inculcated again and again! But, on the other hand, how much integrity does it shew in the historian to record what seemed so little to the honour of himself and his brethren! In this respect, and many others, surely credit rises to the gospel, even by occasion of the infirmities of those to whom it was committed, and out of weakness they are made strong.--The lenity of our blessed Lord was truly admirable, that he should bear with such stupidity in his disciples with so much gentleness and patience, and should, with so much earnestness, go on to renew his instructions to them. Let us, however, learn to be upon our guard against the prejudices of worldly interest, since, as we see, they may take such strong hold of minds, in the main upright and pious. And therefore let us earnestly pray that God would give us a greater relish for spiritual and eternal blessings.
It cannot surely become us to seek the grandeur and riches of this world, when our blessed Master was so poor, that he could not pay this little tribute without having recourse to a miracle. Yet this he chooses, rather than to give offence by a refusal, how justly soever he might have pleaded an exemption from it. Let us learn from hence that meekness of wisdom which will teach us to seek the interest of others rather than our own; and to consider how we may edify others by the abundance of our good works, rather than how we may excuse ourselves in the omission of any. That extent of knowledge and power which our Lord displayed on this occasion, can never be at a loss for . means to repay whatever we may thus sacrifice for his sake.
Christ reproves his apostles for their contention who should be greatest;
and recommends to them humility and mortification. Mark ix. 33–37, 42, &c. Matt. xviii. 1-9. LUKE ix. 46–48.
THEN Peter had paid the tribute money, our Lord, from a late VV occurrence which he had observed, took occasion to recommend humility to his disciples. And being in the house with them, he asked them, About what were you disputing with each other on the way? But they were silent ; for as they were on the way, a controversy arose among them, and they debated one with another, which of them should be greatest in that temporal monarchy which they expected Jesus as the Messiah to erect. And Jesus perceiving the ambitious thought of their heart, when he was sat down called all the twelve, and says unto them, If any one would be Chief, let him be as the last of all, and the servant of all.
Now at the same time, the disciples came to Jesus, and, finding that he knew the subject of their debate, asked him saying, Who is intended to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven* ? And Jesus hay
* Matthew's narrative of this story begins here. Perhaps this question would more naturally be inserted previous to our Lord's advice in the foregoing words. ED.
ing called to him a little child, took and set him in the midst of them. And then taking him in his arms, he said unto them, I assuredly declare unto you, that except ye be converted, and become like little children, ye shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whosoever shall entertain this child, or one of such little children in my name, entertaineth ME; and whosoever shall entertain me, entertains not me alone, but him that sent me* ; for he that by such condescension is the least among you all, He shall be eminently great. But whoever shall offend (or occasion the fall of) one of these little ones, who believe in me, or any disciple of mine, though weak as this infant, it were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged about his neck, and he should be thrown into the sea, and drowned in the depth of it.
Wo unto the world because of offences ; for it is necessary that offences come, but wo to that man by whom the offence cometh, Wherefore, if thy hand offend theet cut it off and cast it from thee, for it is better for thee to enter maimed into eternal life, than having two hands to go into hell, even into that fire which shall never be extinguished; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off ; it is better for thee to enter Jame into life, than having two feet to be cast into the inextinguishable fire of hell ; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, tear it out and cast it away from thee ; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, or into everlasting life, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one of those victims of divine justice, shall be as it were salted with fire ; and every acceptable sacrifice shall be seasoned with saltt, even that of divine grace.-Salt is good : but if the salt be grown insipid, with what will you season it? Have therefore this excellent salt in yourselves, and maintain peace with each other.
REFLECTIONS. How deeply is pride rooted in the heart of fallen men ; when neither the daily instructions, nor edifying example, of the humble Jesus could prevent it from appearing, even among the apostles themselves, in so mean and unworthy a manner ! Still did worldly interest and grandeur so intoxicate their minds, that they seemed even against hope to have hoped for it, and to have found out a strange kind of method of grafting these expectations, even on the very cross of Christ, which was intended to destroy them.
How edifying and affecting are these lessons which the meek and lowly Redeemer gave us, with this little child in his arms, whose example we are required to copy ! Lord, give us of thy regenerating grace, that we may do it ; that we may be converted, and become as little children,
* Here Christ was interrupted by a speech of John, related Mark ix. 38– 41. for which see 96.
† See on Matt. v. 30, S 39.
free from avarice and ambition, malice and prejudice ! How melancholy is it to think that many, who have by their office been employed to read and explain this lesson to others, and who have not been children in understanding, seem to have learnt so little of it themselves ; as if it had never been at all intended for that order of men to whom indeed it was immediately addressed ! If there be any such thing yet remaining in the Christian ministry, let them seriously weigh the wo denounced on that man by whom the offence cometh. May the infinite mercies of God be extended to all professing Christians who give themselves up to worldly pursuits and projects; and especially to those who make the church of Christ only a kind of porch to the temple of Mammon, and the sacred office itself merely a convenient vehicle for swallowing down riches and honours! May divine grace deliver us from such fatal snares, and form us to that self-denial and mortification, without which we cannot be the true disciples of Christ ; but, after having pierced ourselves through with many unnecessary sor. rows here, shall plunge ourselves deep into eternal perdition !
May these repeated and dreadful representations of future misery, which we have now been reading, impress our souls in a becoming manner! Blessed Jesus ! thou bringest good tiding: ; yet which of the prophets under the legal dispensation ever represented the terrors of the Lord in so awful a light as that in which thou hast placed them ! Let none of thy ministers be afraid to imitate thee therein ! nor let any of thy followers'presume to censure them for it! May we all be ellectually warned to flee from the wrath to come ; and, as we would not another day be salted with fire, may our hearts now be seasoned with thy grace ! and may we, by a modest and peaceful, a benevolent and useful life, be daily bearing a testimony to it, and, as the salt of the earth, may we be labouring to cure the growing corruption of the world about us !
Our Lord further enforces condescension and humility, and gives rules
for the accommodation of disputes and offences among Christians. Matt. xviii. 10—20.
10 TESUS proceeded with the discourse which he began with the
a child in his arms, and said ; Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that their angels in heaven do incessantly behold the face of my heavenly Father. And
you have a much greater instance of condescension continually before Il you; for the Son of man himself came to save that which was lost.12 What do you think, if a man had an hundred sheep, and one of
them should wander ? would he not leave the ninety-nine on the 13 mountains, and go out to seek that which is gone astray ? And if
he happen to find it, I assuredly say unto you, that it will give him
a more sensible joy than the safety of the ninety-nine which had 14 not wandered. Even so it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones should be lost.
15 Moreover if thy brother sin against thee, go and reprove him
in the most convincing* manner thou canst, and let it be done between
thee and him alone. If he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy 16 brother. But if he will not hearken to thee, take with thee one
or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every 17 word may be established. (Deut. xix. 15.) But if he disregard
them, tell it to the churchf; and if he disregard the church, let 18 him be to thee as an heathen and a publicant. Verily I say unto
you, Such shall be the authority of your decisions, that whatsoever
you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever 19 you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Further I say
unto you, That if any two of you shall agree together on earth concerning any thing which they shall ask in prayer for the mira
culous confirmation of their determinations, it shall be done for them 20 by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are assembled
in my name, with a regard to my authority and my glory, I am there in the midst. of them.
REFLECTIONS. Thus happy are the meanest servants of Christ, in the care and fafour of their heavenly Master, and in the angelic guard which, by his high command, are continually attending even the lambs of his flock. So condescending are the blessed spirits above, that even the greatest of them do not disdain to minister unto the heirs of salvation. Let not the wisest and greatest men despise those whom angels honour with their guardianship and care ; especially since the Son of man, that merciful Shepherd, has come forth into this wilderness to save that which was lost, and even to seek and recover us when we were gone astray, and should otherwise have wandered to our eternal ruin.
What could have been more happy for the church of Christ than the observation of this plain and easy rule, which he has given for ending disputes among his followers! And yet who, that sees the conduct of the generality of Christians, would imagine they had ever heard of such a rule? Instead of this private expostulation, which might often bring a debate to a speedy and amicable conclusion, what public charges! what passionate complaints! what frequent and laboured attempts to take, if the least scandalous, yet not the least pernicious kind of revenge, by wounding the characters of those whom we imagine to have injured us! As for church censures, how lamentable is it that they bave been so little conformable to this rule, and in many instances so contrary to it, in almost every christian nation under heaven! Is this the form in which ecclesiastical judgments do appear in the Popish or even in the Protestant world? Are these the maxims by which they have been, or by which they are determined, even by those who claim the largest share in the promises made to
* The word Exeyžov signifies to convince as well as admonish. t. The old English editions render it, the congregation, and I think properly. The word signifies in general an assembly. Acts xix. 32, 39. It is communiy used for a particular assembly. Acts xiv. 23. 1 Cor. iv. 17, &c.
# That text Titus ii. 10, relating to Heretics, may be much illustrated by this passage.
the apostles, and boast with the greatest confidence of the presence and authority of Christ with them, to confirm their sentences, and to sanctify perhaps rapine and murder ? Vain, wretched confidence ! Let us earnestly pray that this dishonour to the christian name niay every where be wiped away ; and that true religion, and even common humanity, may not with such solemn mockery be destroyed in the name of the Lord. · Let humble submission be always paid to apostolical decisions in every difficulty ; and let the promises made to these leaders in the christian church be some encouragement even to us, on whom the ends of the world are come. None but an omnipresent, and consequently a divine person, could say, Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. His power and his goodness can never be impaired ; let it therefore be an encouragemrrent to social prayer : and let the remembrance of our Redeemer's continued presence and inspection, engage us to behave ourselves agreeably to the relation that we claim to him, and to those expectations from bim which we profess.
The parable of the unmerciful servant. MATT. xviii. 21, &c.
21 TWEN when Jesus had given this advice for the accommodation of
differences, Peter came to him and said, Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he offend against me ?- until seven times ? 22 Jesus says to him, I do not say to thee, Till seven times, but til ] 23 seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may
be likened to, or illustrated by, a certain king, who determined 24 to settle an account with his servants. And when he began to
reckon with them, there was brought to him one who owed him 25 ten thousand talents. And as he had nothing to pay, his lord com
manded him to be sold for a slave, and his wife and children, and 26 all that he had, and payment to be made with the price. The ser
vant therefore falling down, prostrated himself at his feet, and 27 said, lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee ail. Then
the lord of that servant being melted with compassion, dischar23 ged him, and forgave him the debt. But as that servant went
out, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him an hundred
pence ; and laying hold of him by the throat, he said, Pay me 29 that which thou owest me. And his fellow-servant fell down at
his feet, and entreated him saying, Have patience with me, and 30 I will pay thee all. And he would not; but cast him into prison
till he should pay the debt. 31 And when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were
exceedingly grieved, and came and gave their lord an exact ac32 count of the whole matter. Then his lord, having called him
again, said unto him, Thou wicked slave ! I forgave thee all that 33 debt because thou didst entreat my pity : Shouldst not thou also
have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had com