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is cone astray? 13 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 which went not astray. 14 Even so, it is not the will of your Father which is iu heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Bae our Saviour continues his argument against giving offence to his children and members; he came into the world to redeem and save them; therefore none ought to scandalize and offend them. And to illustrate this, he compares himself to a good shepherd, who regards every one of his sheep; and if any wander or go astray, he seeks to recover it with desire and joy. Learn, 1. That the natural condition of mankind is like to that of wandering sheep; they err and go astray from God, their chief Good, and the Object of their complete happiness. 2. That it was the work and basmess, the care and concern, of Jesus Christ, to seek and recover lost souls, as the shepherd doth his lost sheep. 3. That the love and care of Christ towards his sheep, in seeking to save and to preserve them, is a forcible argument unto all not to scandalize and offend them, much less to pereecute and destroy them.
15 Moreover, if 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. 16 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. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
In these words our Saviour gives us an excellent rule for the duty of fraternal correction, orbrotherlyadmonition. Where note, 1. That brotherly reproof and admonition is a duty incumbent upon churchmembers. 2. That it may be administered successfully, it must be administered privately and prudently. 3. When private admonition prevails not, Christ has appointed church-governors to execute church-censures on the obstinate and irre
claimable. 4. Persons justly falling under the censures of the church, and rightly excommunicate, are to be looked upon as contumacious and stubborn offenders, and the members of the church to shun society and conversation with them: If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and as a publican was among the Jews: wholly neglected, and not thought fit to be conversed with.
19 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
That is, whomsoever the officers of my church shall justly excommunicate upon earth, shall, without repentance, be shut out of heaven; and whosoever upon their true repentance shall be absolved on earth, shall be absolved in heaven. Learn, That Christ will ratify in heaven whatsoever the church assembled doth in his name upon earth; whether to the censuring of the guilty, or the absolving of the penitent. This power of binding and loosing is by Christ committed to his church.
18 Again I say unto 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 which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Here we have a gracious promise made by Christ, of his presence with all his members in general, and with his ministers in special ; whenever they meet together in his name, that is, by his authority, in obedience to his command, and with an eye to his glory. Whenever they celebrate any sacred institution of his, or execute any church-censures, he will be in the midst of them to quicken their prayers, to guide their counsels, to ratify their sentence, to accept their endeavours. Learn, 1. That Christ will be graciously present with and amongst his people, whenever they assemble and meet together in his name, be it never so small a number. 2. That Christ will in a special manner be present with the guides and officers of his church, to direct their censures, and to confirm the sentence passed in his name, and pronounced by his authority, upon obstinate offenders.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and 1 forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times ; but, Until seventy times seven.
Here St. Peter puts a question to our Saviour, how often christians should forgive offences to their brethren professing repentance? Christ answers, that there should be no end of our mutual forgiving one another, but we are to multiply our pardon as our brother manifests his repentance. Not that we are hereby obliged to take the frequent offender into our bosom, and to make him our intimate; but to lay aside all malice, and all thoughts and desires of revenge, and to stand ready to do him any office of love and friendship. Learn, 1. That to fall often into the same offence against our brother, is a great aggravation of our offence. 2. That as the multiplication of sin is a great aggravation of sin, so the multiplication of forgiveness is a demonstration of a godlike temper in us. He that multiplies sin, doth, like Satan, sin abundantly; and he that multiplies pardon, doth, like God, pardon abundantly.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents: 25 But forasmuch 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. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants which owed him an hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me
that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, thev were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst ine: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay ail that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Our blessed Saviour to enforce the foregoing doctrine of mutual forgiveness, propounds a parable; the main scope of which. is to show, that unless we do actually forgive and pass by injuries done to us, we cut ourselves off from all interest in God's pardoning mercy, and must expect no forgiveness at the hands of God. From the whole, note, 1. That as we all stand in need of forgiveness from God, so likewise of forgiveness from one another. 2. That we all stand bound by the laws of our holy religion, to forbear and forgive one another. 3. That Almighty God has made the forgiving one another the certain and necessary condition of his forgiving us. 4. That such as are inexorable towards their brethren, shall find Almighty God hard to be entreated towards themselves. We may expect the same rigour and severity from God, which we show to men. 5. That the freeness of God's love in forgiving us, ought to be both an argument to excite us to forgive one another, and also a rule to direct us in the manner of forgiving each other. Doth God forgive us when he has power in his hand to punish us? So must we, when we have ability and opportunity for revenge. Doth God forgive universally all persons? So must we all provocations. Doth he
forgive freely and willingly, heartily and sincerely? So must we; we must be as forward in forgiving as they in provoking. Learn from the whole, The equity of unlimited forgiveness of our brother, because our God and Saviour forgives us more numerous and heinous sins than our brother is capable of committing against us. Let all unmerciful and unchristian creditors remember this text, who cast poor men into prison for debt, who have nothing to pay: surely he who hids us lend, looking for nothing again, will not allow us to imprison where nothing can be hoped for. It is to be feared, such will find but little mercy hereafter, who have showed no mercy here. For if at the great day such shall be condemned as did not visit christians in prison, what will their condemnation be, who cast them into prison?
CHAP. XIX. A ND it caine to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea, beyond Jordan: 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
The country of the Jews was divided into three provinces; namely Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. In Galilee, were the cities of Nazareth, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; here Christ dwelt and spent a considerable part of his time, preaching to them, and working miracles among them. But now comes the time in which our holy Lord takes his leave of this province of Galilee, and returned no more to it; woe to that people, whose unthankfulness for Christ's presence and ministry among them causes him finally to forsake them. Having left Galilee, our holy Lord passes through Samaria, (the Samaritans being prejudiced against him, and refusing w receive him,) and comes into the coasts of Judea, where multitudes of people flocked after him. But observe the qualities of his followers, not the great ones of the world, not many mighty, not many noble; but the poor and despised multitude, the sick and weak, the deaf and blind, the diseased and distressed. Thence observe, That none but such as find their need if Christ, will seek after him, and come unto him. None apply to him for help, till they feel themselves helpless. Great multitudes of the sick and diseased came unto him, and he healed them alt.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Observe here, 1. Thai wheresoever our blessed Saviour went, the Pharisees followed him: Mot out of a sincere intention, but with a design to ensnare him; and accordingly, they propound a question to him concerning divorce, Whether a man might put away his wife on any occasion, as the manner of the Jews was? concluding that they should entrap him in his answer, whatever it was. If he denied the lawfulness of divorce, then they would charge him with contradicting Moses, who allowed it. If he affirmed it, then they would condemn him for contradicting his own doctrine, chap. v. 32. for favouring men's lusts, and for complying with the wicked custom of the Jews, who, upon every slight and frivolous occasion, put away their wives from them. Learn thence, 1. That wheresoever our Lord went, as he had disciples and sincere followers, so the devil stirred him up hitter and malicious enemies, who sought to render his person unacceptable, and his doctrine unsuccessful. 2. That of all Christ's enemies, none had such a hitter hatred and enmity against his person, ministry, and miracles as the Pharisees: men of great knowledge, who rebelled against the light of their own consciences, and the clear convictions of their own mind. 3. That such was the wisdom of our Saviour in all his answers to his enemies, that neither their wit nor malice could lay hold upon any thing to ensnare him. But observe the piety and prudence of his answer to the Pharisees in the next words.
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that Ire which made them at the beginning, made them male and female; 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Observe here, Christ gives no direct answer to the Pharisees' ensnaring question, but refers them to the first institution of
marriage, when God made them one, to the intent that matrimonial love might be both incommunicable and indissoluble. Whence learn, 1. The sacred institution of marriage: it is an ordinance of God's own appointment, as the ground and foundation of all sacred and civil society: What God has joined together. Learn, 2. The antiquity of this institution, it was from the beginning: He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female. Marriage is almost as old as the world, as old as nature: there was no sooner one person, but God divided him into two; and no sooner was there two, but he united them into one. Learn hence, 3. The intimacy and nearness of this endeared and endearing relation; the conjugal knot is tied so close, that the bonds of matrimonial love are stronger than those of nature: stricter is the tie betwixt husband and wife, tlian that betwixt parent and children, according to God's own institution, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
Observe here, The Pharisees' demand, and our Saviour's reply. They demand, Why Moses commanded to put away the wife by a bill of divorce? Where note, The wicked abuse which the Pharisees put upon Moses, as if he had commanded them, whereas he only permitted to put them away. Moses suffered it for the hardness of their hearts, that is, he did not punish it; not allowing it as good, but winking at it as a lesser evil; because the Jews were so barbarously cruel to their wives, as to turn them away upon every disgust. Now our Saviour in his reply refers them again to the primitive institution of marriage, bidding them compare the precept and their practice together; for in
the beginning it was not so. Learn, that according to the word and will of God, nothing can violate the bonds of marriage, and justify a divorce between man and wife, but the defiling of the marriage-bed by adultery and uncleanness: this is the only case in which man and wife may lawfully part. Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, committeth adultery.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of a man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
That is, if a man be so strictly tied by marriage, it is best for him not to marry. A very rash saying of the disciples, discovering both their great carnality, and also the tyranny of a sinful practice grown up into custom. Learn, 1. That the best of men have their weaknesses and infirmities j and the flesh takes its turn to speak as well as the Spirit in them. All that the saints say is not gospel. Learn, 2. How impatient nature is of restraint, and how desirable of sinful liberty, and to be freed from the ties and bonds which the holy and wise laws of God put upon it.
11 But he said unto them, AH men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
As if our Lord had said, "You, my disciples, do not consider what you say. All men without sinning against God cannot abstain from marriage, but those only to whom God has given the gift of continency, and grace of chastity. Some indeed by nature or natural impotency are unfit for marriage. Others wickedly are made unfit by castration; others by religious mortification bring under their bodies, that being free from the incumbrances that attend a married state, they may give up themselves the better to the exercises of a holy life." Learn, 1. That Almighty God has given to divers persons diflerent tempers and constitutions: some can subdue their impure desires and
affections without the remedy of marriage; others cannot. 2. That connnency, or an ahility to live chastely, without the use of marriage, is the especial gift of God; not common to all, but bestowed only upon some. A gift it is, worthy of. our fervent prayers, worthy of our best endeavours. 3. That a vow of chastity is not in our power; to quench a natural affection requires a supernatural gift. All have not received: that is, all men cannot live single, and abstain from matrimony. From whence it follows, that men and women are not by monastical vows to be obliged to live a single life, which somi cannot perform without sin. Note farther, When Christ says, that some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake: the meaning is, that some have abstained from matrimony that they might be more expedite in preaching the gospel, if ministers, or more prompt, fit, and ready to regard only the things of the Lord, if private christians.
13 Then were there brought unto liim little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forhid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Observe here, A solemn action performed. Children are brought to Christ to be blest by him. Where note, 1. The persons brought, children, young children, suckling children, as the word imports: St. Luke xviii. 15. They brought them in their arms, not led them by the hand. 2. The person they are brought unto, Iesus Christ; but for what end? Not to baptize them, but to bless them: the parents looking upon Christ as a prophet, a great prophet, the great prophet, do bring their infants to him, that they may receive the benefit of his blessing and prayers. Whence learn, 1. That infants are subjects capable of benefit by Jesus Christ. 2. That it is the best office fha>. parents can perform unto their children, to bring them unto Christ, that they may be made partakers of that benefit. 3. If infants be capable of benefit by Christ; if capable of his blessing on earth, and preface in heaven, if they be subjects of his kingdom of grace, and heirs of his kingdom
of glory, then they may be baptized: for they that are in covenant have a right to the seal of the covenant. If Christ denies not infants the kingdom of heaven, which is the greater, what reason have his. ministers to deny them baptism, which is the less? But, say some, Christ did neither baptize them, nor command his disciples so to do } Answer, That is not to be wondered at, if we consider that they had already entered into covenant with God by circumcision, and christian baptism was not yet instituted: John's baptism was the baptism of repentance, of which infants were incapable.
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good things shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Observe here, A person addressing himself to Christ, and propounding an important question to him: namely, What he should do to gain eternal life? Where note, 1. He believes the certainty of a future state. 2. He professes his desire of an eternal happiness in that state. And, 3. He declares his readiness to do some good thing, that he may obtain that happiness. Learn, That the light of nature or natural religion, directs and teaches men, that good works are necessary to salvation, or that some good things must be done by men that at death expect eternal life. What good thing snail I do, that I may have eternal life? It is not talking well, and professing well, but doing well, and living well, that entitles us to eternal life.
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
The person thus addressing himself unto Christ, was either a Pharisee, or a disciple of the Pharisees, who did not own Christ to be God, or to come from God; but thought that eternal life was attainable, by fulfilling of the law in that imperfect sense which the Pharisees gave of it. And accordingly, 1. Christ reproves him for calling him good? Why callest thou me good .* when thou wilt neither own me to be God, nor to come from God: For there is-none good, that is, essentially and originally good, but God only; nor any derivatively good, but he that receives his goodness from God also. From this place the