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no enmities rankling in thy bosom from day to day, every one of which is murder in embryo; nor let any conduct of thine be the cause of their rankling in the bosom of another. The best means of preventing both, is to examine thyself in thy most solemn approaches to God : for then if ever the conscience is tender, and likely to bring to remembrance what is wrong between thee and thy brother.' What must I do, say you, who have offended my brother? Must I not worship God nevertheless ? No, not in that state ; fur God will not accept of thy gift. What then, must I keep away? No; but go immediately to thy brother, and ackoowledge thy fault; or if no offence were intended, explain matters to him, and thus being reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift.' If the door of God's house were shut against every one who refused to comply with this direction, it would make many feel : yet the door of mercy, or divine acceptance is shut: which is of far greater account. It is observable, that the exhortation is given to the offender, and the term reconciled is not expressive of a conciliatory spirit on his part, but of its effect upon bis brother. The meaning of it is, Be restored to thy brother's favour. And this is the sense in which the word is sometimes used on a higher subject, namely, that of reconciliation to God. We are often told by the adversaries of the atonement, that God is never said to be reconciled to us by the death of Christ, but to haye reconciled us to himself by it. This is true ; but the term in this connexion does not mean his appeasing our anger by offering us mercy through Christ; but his making his soul an offering for sin, and thereby restoring us to his favour. Hence God's hay. ing reconciled us to himself by Christ, is alleged as a motive to our being as to the state of our minds reconciled to him. 2. Cor. y. 18- 20.
Ver. 25. From the case of an offended brother, he proceeds to that of an adversary, recommending a speedy agreement with bim also. The law of love, if, truly complied with, would promote universal peace, But a small difference, where there is little or no love to counteract it, often terminates in mutual and settled dislike ; and being accompanied with a proud reluctance to concension, litigations and contentions frequently follow, to which
death only puts a period. But what is this? It is murder ! And wouldest thou wash thy bands in thy neighbour's blood ? Go then, and be at peace with him! Human prudence would recommend a timely agreement for thinę own sake: let religion, let benevolence, even to thine adversary, recommend it for bis. Say not, our differences shall be tried by legal judges, whatever be the consequences : but offer just and generous terms whilst thou art in the way with him, that if the breach can be healed it may, or if not, that the fault may not lie at thy door.' It were desirable that there were no strife among us, and if we loved one another as God's law requires, there would be none: but seeing it is otherwise, the same principle which in innocent creatures would operate to prevent it, must in guilty creatures operate to heal it.
Ver. 27, 28. Having taken an example from the sixth commandment, and reproved the pharisaical system with respect to sios of the mind, our Lord proceeds to the seventh, and detects the sins of the flesh. They had heard that it was said to them of old time, THOUSHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY ; and they had heard the truth : but the pharisaical glosses would confine its meaning, as in the former instance, to outward actions ; wbereas in its true intent, it comprehended the inward affections of the mind, censuring the wanton look, and the impure desire. The pharisees were worldly men, and the religion of such men is merely political : so far as good and evil affect society, they feel in some degree ; but as to the honour of God, they have no concern about it
Ver. 29, 30. As Christ had turned his former decision to prac-tical use, so he does the present one. If thy right eye offend thee,
pluck it out, or if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, &c. The word rendered offend, in this and several other passages in the New Testament, does not mean to displease, but to cause to offend, and so it is rendered in the margin. The meaning is not, If they displease thee ; but, If, by becoming a stumbling-block or snare to thy soul, they cause thee to offend God, &c. Neither was it our Lord's design that we should literally go about to maim our bodies ; but he hereby teaches us, either that we had hetter be without eyes or hands, than to employ them in wantonness ; or that we Vol. VIII.
must on pain of eternal damnation, give up those companions, sitvations, or pursuits, though dear to us as right eyes, or right bands, which prove a spare to our souls.
The tremendous consequences held up to induce such sacrifices, teach us that a single lust, persisted in, will issue in eternal ruin; and that it is necessary even for those whom the Lord may know to be the heirs of salvation, in certain situations, to be threatened with damnation, as the means of preserving them from it.
Ver. 31, 32. Under the head of adultery there occurred another case, namely, that of divorce; in which the pharisaical doctrine had greatly courrupted the law. In this case our Saviour may seem to depart from the law of Moses, rather than to expound it; and true it is, that he took for his standard, in this instance, the original law of creation, to which it was his design, under the gospel dispensation, to bring his followers. This law, however, as well as the other, was given by Moses; and the difference between them he elsewhere accounts for, by alleging that Moses rather suffered divorce than required it, and that because of the bardness of their hearts. In what he now taught, therefore, he was not against the mind of Moses or of God, neither of whom approved of divorce, except in case of fornication ; but barely permitted it to prevent a greater evil. And though the law respecting marriage, as given to Israel, was less pure than the original law of creation, yet it was much purer than it had since become in the hands of pharisaic expositors, through whom divorces were become so common as, in a manner, to deluge the land with adultery.
Matt. v. 33-37.
What our Lord says of swearing may have respect to the third commandment, in which we are forbidden to take the name of the Lord our God in vain. It had also been said, Thou shalt not swear by my name falsely ; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God. And again, If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. To these passages, and to the construction which had been put upon them, our Lord seems to have alluded in what he here teaches.
Many have supposed that oaths of every kind are here forbidden, and therefore refuse, in any form, or ou any occasion, to take them. To determine this question, we must have recourse to the principles laid down at the outset of the sermon, Think not that I am come to DESTROY THE LAW or the prophets ; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you,. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law tili all be fulfilled. Ver. 17, 18. The question is then, whether oaths of any kind belonged to the law, or whether they arose from the false glosses of the elders? If the former, it was not Christ's design to destroy them ; but if the latter, it was. That they were a part of the divine law, and not of merely human authority, is sufficiently manifest from Deut. vi. 13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt SWEAR BY HIS NAME. Consequently, it was not our Lord's design to destroy them.
If it be objected, that though Christ did not destroy the moral law, yet there were various precepts pertaining to the ceremonial and judicial laws of Israel, which on his appearance ceased to be binding, and that oaths might be of this descripiion--I answer, In abolishing things which had been of divine authority, he is never known to have cast reproach on them, or to have imputed the observance of them to evil. He could not therefore be said to have destroyed even the ceremonial law, but rather to have fulfilled it. But the oaths against which he inveighs, are expressly said to come of evil; and therefore could never have been of divine authority.
To that may be added, If all oaths be unlawful under the gospel dispensation, some of the most solemn and impressive passages in the epistles of Paul must be utterly wrong. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not—God is my witness, whom I serve in the gospel of his Son. Each of these are oaths, and that of the most solemn kind; yet who ever thought of accusing the apostle of violating his Lord's precept?
The truth appears to be this : The Jews had construed the commandment merely as a prohibition of perjury; accounting that if they did but swear truly as to matters of fact, or perform their oaths in case of promise, all was right. They seem to have had no idea, or at most but a very faint one, of sinning by swearing lightly. But for an oath to be lawful, it required not only that the affirmation were true, or the vow performed, but that such a mode of affirming or vowing were necessary. This is evident from the words of the divine precept, Thou shall not swear by my name falsely, NEITHER SHALT THOU PROFANE THE NAME OF THy God. Thousands of things are true, which yet it would be profaning the name of God to swear to. Here lay the sin which it was the design of Christ to reprove. He did not censure his countrymen for what was said before a magistrate to put an end to strife; but for what passed in their ordinary communications, (ver. 37,) that is, for light and unnecessary oaths, by which the name of God was profaned. This was a sin so prevalent among the Jews, that even Christians who were called from among them, stood in need of being warned against it. James v. 12.
It may appear rather extraordinary, that any person who fears God should stand in need of these warnings; and if profane swearjng were confined to expressly naming the name of God, they might be in general unnecessary among persons who had any claim to seriousness of character. But as both Jews and Christians have