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no necessary connexion with the subject, but whose strokes and shades are intended to bring out the subject into a bolder relief, and a more commanding attitude. The expressions and allusions from which you could draw some of the ideas we have mentioned, are mere incidental strokes of the artist, which are not to be examined separately, but viewed in connexion with the leading subject.
What then is the master idea of this passage ? Unbounded forgiveness toward the repentant offender. This is here enforced by, The strong language of Christ, The example of the great God, and, The terrible doom of the unforgiving.
I. THIS GREAT SUBJECT OF UNBOUNDED FORGIVENESS IS ENFORCED BY THE STRONG LANGUAGE OF CHRIST.
- Until seventy times seven,” said Christ. Peter's question, which was probably started in his mind by what the Son of God had just said (vv. 15-17), concerning the manner of dealing with an offended brother, implies a twofold impression : that it was his duty to exercise forgiveness towards an offender, and that that forgiveness from the Christian should be of a marvellously generous character.
“Till seven times?” says he, feeling no doubt that this was wondrously liberal, and would meet with the commendation of his great Master. And it was liberal for unrenewed human nature, which seldom forgives even once; liberal even for the Hebrew Saint; for three times and no more did the old Hebrew religion require the exercise of forgiveness.
Peter might have been led to specify the particular number“seven,” because that number was a matter in discussion among the Jews, who, according to Lightfoot, pardoned the third, but not the fourth, offence. The apostle here more than doubles that number, as if to go to the greatest lengths
No doubt he considered himself prodigiously merciful in stating "seven times;" and confidently expected a high commendation from his Master for such an extraordinary stretch of mercy. But he was disappointed, and would soon feel humbled on account of the meagreness of his heart
" I say not unto thee," says Christ, “until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” As if he had said, There is no limit to the exercise of a merciful disposition. In Luke xvii. ver. 3, we hear Him inculcating the same sentiment. “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." In other places He intimates that unless we forgive our enemies, we have no reason to hope for forgiveness from God. “If ye forgive men their trespasses your Heavenly Father will forgive you." How earnestly, moreover, does Paul inculcate the same unbounded•mercifulness of disposition. “Put off anger, malice; forbearing one another, forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any ; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
The unbounded mercifulness of disposition which Christ here in this seventy times seven inculcates on Peter, serves two important purposes :
First : To expose the unchristianity of the Church in this respect. Turn over the pages of Ecclesiastical history and show me where has been the display of this spirit. I read of acrimonious controversies, of uncharitable accusations, of wretched bigotries, of malicious persecutions, of sanguinary wars in connexion with what has been called the Church, but I confess that since the Apostolic age I can discover scarcely a vestige of this wonderful spirit. “The eye for an eye,” and “the tooth for a tooth,” spirit, I see everywhere ; but scarcely any sign of this seventy times seven spirit of forgiveness. Great Emmanuel, how the conventional Church has misrepresented thy spirit to the world!
Again, the unbounded mercifulness here expressed, serves :
Secondly: To indicate the vastness of His forgiving love towards the world. He inculcated only the principle on which He himself acted. He abundantly pardons. “Though your sins be as scarlet,” &c.
II. THIS GREAT SUBJECT OF UNBOUNDED FORGIVENESS IS ENFORCED BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE GREAT GOD. The "certain king" here represents the Almighty; and see how He acts towards the man who owed him 10,000 talents. Sin is an enormous debt. The sum here stated, if the silver talent was meant, would be about £3,431,875 sterling; but if the gold talent, about sixteen times as much. The idea is an immense
“Who can understand his errors ?” This enormous debt the sinner cannot discharge. The debtor was unable to pay a fraction towards this overwhelming amount. "Sinners” says Matthew Henry, "are insolvent debtors; the scripture, which concludeth all under sin, is a statute of bankruptcy against us. Silver and gold will not pay our debt. Sacrifice and offering would not do it; our good works are but God's works in us, and cannot make satisfaction." This enormous debt unless removed will entail the utmost ruin. “His lord commanded him to be sold and his children and all that he had, and payment to be made.” What misery is involved in all this ! Only a faint picture, however, of hell
. True penitence will obtain full and instànt relief. This is the reigning truth here, and the most glorious truth to man,—the gospel itself.
The debtor offered the penitential prayer, “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all;" and what followed ? “Then ”—at once, without a moment's delay“ Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” He forgave all; cancelled every fraction of the mighty sum.
Here, then, in the example of God, you have illustrated the doctrine of unbounded forgiveness.
But this example is brought out here in bold and magnificent relief, by being placed side by side with the conduct of a mere human creditor towards his debtor; and that creditor, too, the very man whose enormous debt the king had just cancelled. “But the same servant went out and found one of his fellowservants which owed him an hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest,” &c. Think of three things :
First : That the man who thus severely treated his debtor, had been a debtor himself; but the heavenly King has never been under obligation to any one. One might have expected that he, a debtor so mercifully dealt with, would have been tenderly considerate of others similarly circumstanced. Secondly: That the man who thus severely treated his debtor had but a very insignificant claim compared with that of the heavenly King. The one owed only a hundred pence, the other ten thousand talents. Thirdly: That the man who thus severely treated his debtor was of the same class in life as the debtor,—a fellowservant; the other infinitely superior to either, the glorious sovereign of heaven and earth. How does God's forgiving mercy shine forth by the comparison !
HERE ENFORCED BY THE
III. THE GREAT SUBJECT OF UNBOUNDED FORGIVENESS IS
TERRIBLE DOOM OF THE UNFORGIVING. Mark the conduct of the sovereign towards the servant who treated his debtor, a fellowservant too, not only with an unforgiving spirit, but with cruel severity. “His lord”-the very sovereign who, with munificent generosity, had cancelled his debt of ten thousand talents~"said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredest me: shouldest not thou, also, have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had on thee ? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should
pay all that was due unto him. So, likewise, shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Four general truths are discoverable here :-First: That the great God marks the actions of our social life. The king had his eye upon the conduct of his servant, not merely in its relation to himself, but in its relation to his fellowservant. Heaven sees how we act towards each other. Secondly: That His mercifulness towards us heightens the enormity of our severity towards others. “I forgave thee all that debt"_"That debt,” &c. Therefore, the peculiar aggravation of thy severity. Thirdly : That the punishment which will overtake the unmerciful will be very terrible. “And his lord was very wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.” Two things here suggest the terribleness of the punishment :-(1) Its exquisite fitness to the sufferer's sense of justice. He only received that which he himself had inflicted upon his own fellowservant. He had laid hands upon his fellowservant, taken him by the throat, and, notwithstanding all the heartrending entreaties of his victim, cast him into prison. He only gets back what he had given. He has no ground for complaint. His "conscience must say Amen to his doom. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” This congruity of doom with conscience is a primary ingredient in the punishment of the damned. (2) Its utter destitution of any prospect of relief. How long is he to remain in the prison? “Till he should pay all that was due to him." How long will that be ?—Ah how long ! Fourthly: That any merciful conduct to be virtuous, must be virtuous in spirit. “So, likewise, shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Germs of Thought.
SUBJECT :- Abijah: or, The Pious Youth in an Ungodly
Family. “In him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel.”—1 Kings, xiv. 13.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Fifty-fifth. “WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime, were written for our learning.” “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” While all Scripture is instructive, the biography of the book is specially so. Nothing is