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his Brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the Judgment 5 that is, not only of future Judgment, but of a present Judgment here in this World: which in this place is meant of incurring the Censure and Sentence of the Sanhedrim, »f which there were two Courts among the Jews, call'd the lesser and the greater Sanhedrim, the one consisting of 23 Judges, the other of 71 ', and both had the cognizance of criminal Causes, and could pass Sentence on Malefactors, tho not equally and alike, there lying an Appeal from the one to the other. And thg Judgment here threatned to, causeless Anger, is that of the first and inferiour Court, of whose Sentence it was in danger.
(2.) Another Sin forbidden here as an Occasion of Murder, is contumelious and reviling Language: arid this is art Effect or Consequent of the former j for where rash Anger is kindled and flames in the Breast, there it breaks out in the Tongue by Contumelies and Reproaches, and vents it self in violent and virulent Speeches: two of which are here mention'd.
1. The calling his Brother Racha, which is an Hebrew or Syriack Wora, and signifies a vain, witless, and worthless Fellow- , a Term of great Derision and Reproach, and is indeed a setting at nought our Brother: which naturally incenses and creates those Feuds and Quarrels, that often end in Slaughter and Bloodshed; Now this being a farther step to Murder, has a higher degree of Punishment assign'd to it ., and that is, to be in danger of the Council : which was to be summon'd before the higher Court of Sanhedrim., who had a power of inflicting greater Punishments on such capital Offenders; Not that every calling our Brother Racka, from a just Rebuke of some Misunderstanding or Miscarriage^ fell under their heavy Sentence *, for St. James thus call'd his Brother Racha, Chap; 2. 20. Wilt thou know, O <vain Man, in the Hebrew Racha, that Faith without Works is deads But'tis only the calling him so out of an evil and malicious Intention, with a design to undervalue and affront him, that incurs this Penalty:
a. The faying to our Brother, Thou Fool, is yet a higher Provocation, and not easily borne ^ for 'tis the greatest Reflection upon Mdns Understanding and Credit, of both Which Men generally are and ought to be very tender: 'Tis the calling him rids only a witless, but a wicked Fellow - , which deeply wdurids his Reputation^ and arraigns his whole Life » arid this occasions very great Resentments^ which frequently lead Men to Outrage and Violence. And therefore a greater Punishment is annex'd to this, than any of the former j arid that is, to be in danger of Hell-fire: which signifies not only the incurring of the temporal Punishments of this Life, but the eternal Torments hereafter in Hell, represented by the Fire of Tophet in the Val. ley of Hinnom. But here we may note again, that 'tis not every calling another Fool, that brings Men into this danger i for Solomon calls the wicked Man Fool throughout the whole Book of Proverbs; and St. Paul faid to him that doubted sof the Resurrection, Thou Fool, that which thou sowest is not quicken d except it die, 1 Cor. 15. 36. And he elsewhere rebuk'd the Galatians, laying, Ofoolijb Galatians, asking, who had bewitch'd them, that they should not obey the Truth f Gal. 3.1. But the faying Thou Foci here, is with a desire or design of vilifying, deriding, or scoffing at another; which moves to Vindication and Revenge, and is many times an Occasion of Murder: for which reason our Saviour interprets it as forbidden in this .sixth Commandment, that fays, Thou shalt not kill.
And therefore our blessed Saviour, to prevent all these Dangers and mischievous Consequents, exhorts Christians to consider and remove all these Occasions, especially before they enter upon the facred Acts and Duties of Religion , ftying in the next words, Therefore if thou bring thy Gift to the Altar, and there remembrest that thy Brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy Gift before the Altar, and go thy way; first be reconcil'd to thy Brother, and then come anifrofftr thy Gift. Where the bringing the Gift to the Altar, relates to all the Offerings and Sacrifices under the Law, which were requir'd to be offer'd on the Altar, either for the Atonement of Sin, or the Commemoration of Mercies receiv'd: such were the Sin-Offering, the Peace-Offering, the Freewill-Offering, together with the daily and yearly Sacrifices v all which tho requir'd as Duties, yet were call'd and accepted as Gifts. Such likewise are the Christian Sacrifices and Oblations requir'd now under the Gospel, as Prayers, Praises, Fastings, Thanksgivings, hearing the Word, and especially receiving the holy Sacrament- , all . which when we offer up in the Church, or at the holy Table, we are faid to bring our Gift to the Altar.
And when we do so, and there call to mind, that our Brother hath ought against m. ^ that is, that we have been angry with him without a cause, or that we have,abus'd or
shnder'd him, or fix'd any ill Titles or Characters upon him, or any way hurted him in Body, Goods, or Name what then? Why, leave there thy Gist (faith our Saviour) before the Altar, and go thy way, first be reconcil'd to thy Brother^ and then come and. offer thy Gift: that is, betake thy self with all speed to the Person thou hast thus injur'd, and use all means to obtain his Pardon, by acknowledging thy Fault, and making all possible Reparation, that he may be friends with thee, and so be perfectly reconcil'd to each other. Till this be done, God will accept of no Gift at thy hands; and when thou hast thus done, then come and offer thy Gift: not that thou art to leave the Duty undone, or make this an Excuse for thy not offering the Gift at all ^ for that would be to excuse one Fault with another, which would not extenuate, but enhance the Guilt of both: but thou art rather to hasten the doing of the one, that thou may ft be the better fitted for the doing of the other: for he that is not yet reconcil'd, must not carry away his Gift, but leave it before the Altar, and go and be reconcil'd, and then come and offer his Gift :, then may he compleat his intended Sacrifice, and the Oblation shall not only find Acceptance, but come up with a sweetsmelling Savour. So that the Sense of this Advice is? that before we enter upon any Religious Duty, we are to enter into our selves, and see how we stand affected towards our Neighbour; and if we find any thing amiss, we are to empty our Souls of all Grudges, Prejudices, and Surmises, and in all our Addresses unto God to come with Hearts fill'd with Love, Peace, and Reconciliation with all Men..
And this is to be done out of hand, without delay, which as in most cafes, so more especially in this is very dangerous; and therefore we should not defer a matter of so great weight and necessity, upon which all our Acceptance with God depends, but set about it presently, before it be too late. So we are exhorted in the next words;
Agree with thine Adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest at anytime the Adversary deliver thee to the Judg, and the Judg deliver thee to the. Officer, and thou, be cast into Prison: verily I Jay tfnto thee, thou staff by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost Farthing. Where the guilty Person in this kind is represented under the Notion of a Debtor, both to God and Man ; to God by breaking his Law, to Man by invading his Proper
O 3 ry. ty. Now Debtors being still expos'd to great Dangers, all such Offenders are here advis'd to agree and compose their n^atters with God and Man, both whom they have made their Adverfaries; with God by Repentance, with Man by Restitution. And because the deferring of these things will increase both the Danger and the Disficulty, they are here Call'd upon to do it quickly, while they are in the way, and Terms of Accommodation and Agreement may be had, lest by delays they be, before they are aware, brought before the great Judg of Heaven and Earth, and he deliver them over to the Sergeant or Officer, that is, to Death or the Devil, to be cast into the Prison of Hell ., where their Torment will be endless, eafeless,, and remediless, not being able to be releas'd or come out thence, till they have paid to Divine Justice the utmost Farthing: which being never able to do, they must for ever suffer, because they can never fatisfy. This will be the Cafe of all that har^ bour any Malice or Hatred in their Heart, and therefore iet us not put off this great business of reconciling our selves to. God and Man: now is the time allotted us for that purpose, the present time is all that we can call our own.- , and if we neglect that, we may have cause for ever to repent, but perhaps never have time to repair our Folly. Be wife therefore in time, and agree with thine Adverfary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him, lest thou hie ihortly sent there, where tho thou canst not pay the least, yet the utmost Farthing will be exacted from thee.
This is the whole of this Day's Gospel ., which may
\. To carry our Righteousness above and beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees: they were curious about the Outside, and were fair and beautiful without, but within full of Filth and Rottenness. But let us endeavour to cleanse the. Heart, aud fee that matters be right within. They stuck to the Letter of the Law, without minding the true Intent of it ^ but let us look more to the spiritual Sense and Meaning of it, and observe it in the full Extent of it. They condemn'd gross Sins, and conniv'd at less; and if they ahstain'd from the outward Act, could allow themT selves in the inward Motions, Occasions, and Tendencies to it: but \tt us lay the Ax to the very Root, and cut down every Branch of Iniquity. They rested in the external Acts of Religion, as of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving
without 'without regarding the true Ends or Manner of performing them-, but let us look more to our Aims and Intentions in. these Duties, that they may be rightly directed to the Glory of God, and the Good of our own and others Souls. In a wor,d, the Pharisees were proud, partial, and hypocritical in their Righteousness ; and therefore let us exceed them in the Humility, Integrity, and Sincerity of ours: for since Heaven and Happiness lie beyond the Bounds and Extent of their Righteousness, we must inevitably perish and miscarry with them, if we go not farther than they.
2. Let our Obedience to God's Laws extend to the whole Design and Intention of them : In the affirmative Precepts, let it reach to all the Means, Motives, and IncenJ tives requisite to the Observance of them; in the negative Precepts, let it take in all the Occasions, Steps, and Tendencies to the breach of them. Particularly in keeping the sixth Commandment against killing, here mention'd, let us' avoid all rash and causeless Anger, all Malice and Hatred, that naturally lead to if, for Malice is a frequent Occasion and Forerunner of Murder, and St. John tells us, that he that hateth his Brother is a Murderer, 1 John 3.15. for Hatred is attended with a Delire of taking away the Object.of it, either by himself or another. Moreover, let us avoid all virulent and opprobrious Speeches, such as calling our Brother Racha, or Fool, a vain, empty, witless, and wicked Fellow; which commonly provoke to Rage, and draw on Murder. In short, Let all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil-Speaking be put away from us, with all Malice; especially when we draw nigh to holy things: and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven its , reconciling our selves to our greatest Foes. And let that be done quickly, lest it be too late:, and so by living in Peace and Charity with God and Man here, we shall live in eternal Peace and Joy with both hereafter: which God grant, &c,