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is so clear and forcible, that he who runs may read and understand.
A man of the world, who has little to do with conscience, except so far as it may be impressed by the laws of the land, may feel perfectly satisfied with the legal decisions relative to bankruptcy; and when he is safe from the arrests of creditors, may consider himself equally so from the demands of Justice: but a Christian, who is taught in a higher school, and whose proficiency should not only appear in the sublimity of his senti. ments and hopes, but in the tenderness of his conscience and rectitude of his actions, should ever consider the law of God as his primary authority and rule. Its plain and positive precepts cannot be diminished in their importance, by the allowances which human laws make for the unsuccessful in secular occupations.
It should also be remembered, that the Bankrupt Laws were instituted for the relief of the truly unfortunate; and were not intended to acquit persons of the real and intrinsic claims of right. Coincident with which idea is the opinion of Dr. Paley, who, speaking of a debtor, says, “But when he refuses to pay a debt, of the reality of which he is conscious, he cannot plead the intention of the statute, and the supreme authority of the law, unless he could shew that the law intended to interpose its supreme authority to acquit men of debts, of the existence and justice of which they were themselves sensible.” And, doubtless, it is the occasion of deep regret to those who “hold fast their integrity," that what was originally designed as the asylum of the distressed, proves, too often, the refuge of the indolent, extravagant, and unprincipled.
The subsequent part of the Query, “May he retire from business without making up his dividend,” &c. derives its answer from the solution of the first.
If he possess a sufficiency to support himself and family, besides what will discharge his debts, he is warranted in retiring; if not, he cannot relinquish his occupation without being in danger of falling under that censure, "If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” How far that Christian can be honorable who neglects obedience to a clear command, even in circumstances which favor its obsery. ance, may be safely left with common sense to decide; and how far such a person can be eligible to office in the church, who "returns not to the owner his right,” when in his power to do it, those cutting questions may perhaps determine: “Thou, therefore, that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?”
EXPLANATION OF 1 TIM. 1. 20.
REQUESTED BY A CORRESPONDENT.
Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have de
livered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
St. Paul is here animating the evangelist Timothy to maintain the truth of the Gospel at Ephesus, in opposition to some false teachers who had crept in there, and who taught differently from the inspired apostles of Christ. Instead of inculcating the “ove” of God and man, pro
ceeding from "a pure heart," directed by “a good conscience,”and nourished by an "unfeigned faith" in gospel doctrine,* they had insisted upon, “fabulous traditions,” invented to prove that men could not be saved unless they obeyed the law of Moses; and they had dwelt on uncertain genealogies," which occasioned “disputes" and prevented “edification.” Of this description were two members of the church at Ephesus, who had set up themselves as teachers,t viz. Hymeneus and Alexander,f whom, on account of their obstinate persistence in wilfully corrupting the gospel, the apostle, by virtue of his authority from Christ, had “delivered to Satan;" that is, had delivered up to the power of Satan, who was permitted to inflict upon them bodily pains and diseases, that, by so severe a discipline, they "might be taught” (aideulwer taught by chastisement) "not to blaspheme, not to revile Christ, or his doctrine concerning the salvation of the Gentiles: by feeling the dreadful consequences of their crimes, they might desist from their pernicious tenets.
We have a similar phrase in 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered
* Ver. 5.
f Ver. 7, # Hymeneus was probably the same person mentioned by St. Paul in his second epistle to Timothy, (ii. 17) who affirmed, that “the res. urrection had already taken place," meaning a spiritual resurrection; and that no other was to be expected; and Alexander was probably “the coppersmith,' complained of in 2 Tim. iv. 14, who "had done many ill offices" to the apostle, by stirring up others against hiin. There is reason to fear that he continued an incorrigible enemy to the gospel; for St, Paul adds, "The Lord reward him," or “The Lord will reward him, according to his works.” This wicked man seenis to have taken an active part in the riot at Ephesus, in which the apostle's life was so much endangered.
together, and my spirit; with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one (as the incestuous Corinthian) unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This must be understood of the act of excommunication, performed by the whole church, according to the authority of Christ, and agreeably to the direction of the apostle, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give the order for it. This offender was to be “delivered unto Satan;" that is, expelled from the family or kingdom of God, of which he was unworthy, and sent back, by this exclusion, into the family or kingdom of Satan, to share in all the miseries of his usurped dominion. The excluded person, is thus deprived of all the advantages of church communion (by which men are, instrumentally, defended from the snares of the devil) and given over to the enemy. By “the destruction of the flesh,” many of the fathers understood the weakening or wasting of the body by some painful disease;* but Beza and many others think that the destruction of the offender's pride, lust, and other fleshly passions is to be understood. In whichever way, however, it is taken, the design was corrective, “that the spirit might be saved in the day of judgment."
But when St. Paul says of Hymeneus and Alexander, “I have delivered them unto Satan," we are not to consider it as the ordinary act of excommunication, which, according to 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, must be the act of the church, assembled in the name of the Lord Christ; but as the act of the apostle himself, by the authority and under
* See 1 Cor. xi. 30, 32.
the immediate direction of the Lord, for it was done without the knowledge or concurrence of the church at Ephesus, who were probably first informed of it, through Timothy, to whom this epistle is addressed.
These passages serve to shew us the great importance both of gospel-truth and gospel-holiness; and that those who obstinately and grossly depart from either are not fit members of a gospel-church.
EXPLANATION OF NUMBERS xxiv. 17.
I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not
nigh. BALAAM was a true prophet, but a bad man: "he loved the wages of unrighteousness, and was rebuked for his iniquity."* He would gladly have cursed Israel to please his royal employer Balak; but was constrained, against his inclination, to bless them altogether.
The words in question are introduced with peculiar solemnity: “Balaam, the son of Beor, hath said, -and the man whose eye was shut, falling, and his eyes were opened,”+ alluding to what happened in the way; to his falling with his fallen ass, and then having his eyes opened. This man, so remarkably circumstanced, hath said, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh.” The illustrious person of whom he speaks, is the star which should come out of Jacob; and the SCEPTRE which should rise out of Israel, and which
* 2 Peter ii. 15, 16. † So the words may be rendered; and Bp. Newton prefers this translation. See Dissertation on the Prophecies, Vol. i.