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BUT AND IF THAT EVIL SERVANT SHALL SAY IN HIS
HEART, MY LORD DELAYETH HIS COMING, AND SHALL BEGIN TO SMITE HIS FELLOW SERVANTS, AND TO EAT AND DRINK WITH THE DRUNKEN; THE LORD OF THAT SERVANT SHALL COME IN A DAY WHEN HE LOOKETH NOT FOR HIM, AND IN AN HOUR THAT HE IS NOT AWARE OF, AND SHALL CUT HIM ASUNDER, AND APPOINT HIM HIS PORTION WITH THE HYPOCRITES : THERE SHALL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH. MATT. xxiv. 48, et seq.
The monition here delivered, is in the style of a parable, and contains the history and catastrophe of a careless Christian. It is not aimed at all wicked men in general, whether Jews, Turks, or Heathens, but at those only, who professing themselves to be the servants of God, forget him, and go over to the service of the world. So that by the evil servant here mentioned, we are to understand the apostatizing or worldly-minded Christian, who bears the name of a servant of the Lord Christ, but in practice employs himself in the business of another master, who has gotten the possession of his affections.
If we wish to see a perfect description of any man, we must in the first place be made acquainted with his principles. He appears then to be one, who deceives himself, and says in his heart, my Lord delayeth
his coming. He lays it down as a principle of action, that no account, at least no immediate account, of his actions will be required. He has a lord or master, who for a while is absent; and the report goes amongst his fellow-servants, that this lord will return and reckon with him: but this reckoning, in his estimation, is either none at all, or so distant, that he is under no necessity of paying any regard to it. His lord has been absent so long, and wicked men have been so often threatened with his return to no purpose, that it is more probable he will never return any more.
Principle and practice have as natural a dependence on each other as the cause and the effect. An evil life grows naturally from an evil heart; and an evil heart will necessarily produce an evil life. The servant here spoken of begins with thinking as an infidel, and then proceeds to act as a brute: he begins to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken. Thus it is in every other case of the kind; immoral and sensual practices being the natural offspring of some false delusive principle, which is first said in the heart: neither can man follow his own corrupt inclinations, till he has either denied or perverted the revealed will of God.
But the parable proceeds to teach us, that although a man may cheat his understanding for a while, the deception is not long to be enjoyed. The day, which he puts from him, will certainly come, and be the more terrible for being unexpected. The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of. His false principle will then be overthrown by a matter of fact. He says within himself, day after day, my lord delayeth his coming; till his lord actually is come; and then
his folly is manifest, when there is no time left to make any advantage of the discovery. Such as he is, he is seized upon, and brought before his master to give an account of himself, and receive the due punishment of his insolence: which is the thing declared in the words that conclude the parable; he shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The parable then consists of these four particulars, 1. The unbelief. 2. The careless life. 3. The conviction. And 4. The condemnation of an evil servant, who, knowing his lord's will, and preparing not himself, is to expect a punishment beyond the measure of other wicked men.
Before I expound these things at large, it is proper to inform you, that the words of the text allude very plainly to the wickedness and punishment of the idolatrous Israelites in the wilderness. The people who had submitted to the authority of Moses, to be guided by him to the land of Canaan, were too well affected to the religion and morals of Egypt; both of which were irreconcileable with the faith and practice of the servants of God. When it became necessary that their ruler Moses should depart from them for a while into the mount of God, he gave this charge to the elders; tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you. Having thus assured them of his return, he continued forty days and forty nights in the mount; but he had not left them long, before they began to reason about his absence, and to make their use of it; when they saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, they gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, up, make us Gods which shall go before us ; for as to this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. In this they discover the first workings of an evil heart of unbelief, which doubts of an event that must necessarily follow in the course of things; and of which it hath received all possible assurance. Moses had departed from them, only to return better furnished and instructed for the execution of his ministry; and without his return, his departure could have no meaning. Of this, however, the people doubted; and from unbelief they proceeded to ungodly living and profaneness. The evil servant in the text, having put off the day of reckoning, begins to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken: as the disobedient Israelites, taking advantage of the delay of Moses, sat down before an idol to eat and drink, and rose up to play; first encouraging a principle of unbelief, and then defiling themselves with corrupt practices.
But the Lord of these servants came in a day when they looked not for him, and in an hour that they were not aware of. Moses, whose authority they had renounced, and whose very person they had almost forgotten, comes down from the mount unlooked for, and surprises them in the midst of their ungodly mirth. They had eaten and drank to excess, and were now busy in singing and dancing before the golden calf. Their folly and ingratitude were now manifest: there was no time for repentance, neither were they disposed for it, while they were in the midst of their sin. Their judge was come upon them; and nothing remained, but that they should receive the punishment of their apostacy. This is the last article, wherein the evil servant resembles the rebelHous Israelites. He, according to the terms of this parable, is to be cut asunder, and to have his portion with the hypocrites, where shall be weeping and gnashing
of teeth ; so they were instantly cut asunder with the sword. For Moses said, who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to. gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses, and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
St. Paul hath wisely exhorted us, not to be ignorant of the history of those servants, who were before us in the church of God: because the things which are recorded of them happened for ensamples to us, and are written for our admonition. Their trials were the same in kind with ours, and our miscarriages were foreshewn in their disobedience. Amongst other particulars of their history, the Apostle hath selected that which we are now considering, and applied it as a warning to all Christians: neither, says he, be ye idolaters, as were some of them: as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. In this he hath followed the doctrine of our blessed Saviour, who hath represented this story to us in other words, and applied it for our admonition. This history of the idolatrous Israelites, and his parable of the evil sertant, consist of the same particulars, succeeding in the same order, and requiring the same interpretation ; which observation will be of much use to us in applying the words of the text to Christ and the Christian Church; of whom the person of Moses, and the camp of Israel in the wilderness were the most considerable figures the world ever saw.
The Lord, mentioned in the text, is without all