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CCXXVIII. THE INSOLVENT DEBTORS.

Luke vii. 40—42. And Jesus answering, said unto him, Si~ mon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. Andhesaith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor, which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other, fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.

PARABLES are well calculated to convey reproof in the most convincing, and at the same time in the least offensive, manner—

Nothing could exceed the beauty and efficacy of Nathan's parable to David—

That also in the text was admirably adapted to the occasion»—

I. The parable itself

It presents to our view three important truths

1. We all, though in different degrees, are debtors

unto God

[There is not a man on earth who has not violated the law of God—

But though all are guilty in his sight, some are far more so than othersb—

The profane and profligate sinner is doubtless worse than the more decent moralist—

We must not, however, compare ourselves with others,6 but try ourselves by the standard of God's law—

And if we bring ourselves to this test, we shall find no cause for boasting, even though we may have been preserved from gross offences—]

No man, however little he may owe, can discharge his own debt

[If we could obey the law perfectly in future, our obedience would no more compensate for our past disobedience, than our ceasing to increase a debt would discharge a debt we had already contracted—

But we cannot fulfil all that is required of us, or indeed perform any one action that is absolutely free from all imperfection—

How then shall we discharge our debt, when, with all our care, we cannot but daily increase it?—

1 Here the occasion should be briefly stated. b See the text. c 2 Cor. x. 12.

Nor will repentance obliterate our offences against God's law, any more than it will those committed against human laws— .

If therefore neither obedience nor repentance can cancel our debt, we must confess that " we have nothing to pay"—]

3. But God is willing freely to forgive us all [There is no such difference between one and another as can entitle any one to a preference in God's esteem, or procure him a readier acceptance with God—

Every one who truly repents and believes in Christ,d shall surely obtain mercy— No recompence or composition is required to be offered by use

On the contrary, an attempt to offer any to God would absolutely preclude us from all hope of favourf

None can be accepted who will not come as bankrupts; nor shall any who come in this manner, be rejected*—]

Such being the import of the parable, we proceed to II. The improvement that is to be made of it

Our Lord evidently intended to reprove Simon, while he vindicated both the woman's conduct and his own. Hence it seems proper to improve the parable

1. For the conviction of self-righteous Pharisees [Persons who think their debts small, feel little love to

the Saviour themselves, and are ready to censure those who do love him—

While they approve of zeal in every thing else, they condemn it in religion-— *

But this disposition shews that their seeming piety is mere hypocrisy—

If they had any true grace, they would delight to see Christ honoured, and to honour him themselves—]

2. For the vindication of zealous Christians

[We would not plead for a zeal that is without knowledge—

But such a zeal as this grateful penitent discovered, must be vindicated, though the whole world should condemn it—

4 The parable was not intended to set forth the doctrines of redemption, but merely the effect which a sense of great obligations will produce. And, if we would infer that we have no need of faith in the atonement, because the parable makes no mention of it, we must infer also that we may be forgiven without repentance, since there is no mention made of that.

e Isai. Iv. 1. f Gal. v. 4. • Isai. i. 18. and lv. 7.

Are there any then who weep at the Saviour's feet, and who seek by all means in their power to honour him? Let them go on boldly, yet modestly, fearing neither loss nor shame in so good a cause—

And let them know, that He, for whom they suffer, will soon testify his approbation of them before the assembled universe—]

3. For the encouragement of all penitent sinners [Our Lord, both in the parable, and in his address to the woman, shewed that no sinner, however vile, should be spurned from his feet—

He even declared to her accusers, and revealed to her own soul, that he had pardoned her sins—

Henceforth then let no man despair of obtaining mercy at his hands—

Only let us acknowledge to him our inability to pay our own debt—

And he will say to us, dfe to the woman, " Depart in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee"—]

CCXXIX. THE STRONG MAN ARMED.

Luke xi. 21, 22. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

THE miracles wrought by our Lord were too manifest to be denied even by his most inveterate enemies— Some however endeavoured to evade the force of them by ascribing them to a confederacy with Satan—Our Lord shewed them the absurdity of such an idea—The expelling of evil spirits was a confimation of our Lord's doctrine—Consequently it tended to the destruction of Satan's kingdom, and the establishment of his own— This Satan could not but be aware of—He would therefore never concur in an act, which must terminate in his own ruin—Hence it appeared that the power, which Jesus exercised over the evil spirits, was not only without the concurrence of Beelzebub, but in spite of his utmost exertions to withstand it—To illustrate this truth our Lord delivered the parable before us—

Vol. III. F

Extreme caution should be used in explaining the parables, that we may not refine upon them too much, or give to any part a sense which it was not designed to bear—But some parables were certainly intended to be minutely applied in all their parts"—That which is now before us seems to be of that number—We shall therefore open it in a way of familiar exposition—

Satan is fitly compared to a strong man armed [The strength and power of Satan are frequently mentioned in the holy scriptures—His very names, Apollyon* the great Dragonf and the God of this world,d evidently characterize him as possessed of exceeding great power—As an angel, he excelled in strengthe—Nor, though he has lost his original purity, has his native energy been at all impaired —He is rendered more formidable too by "his armour"— Alas! what fiery darts has he in his quiver!*"—With what inconceivable subtlety does he plan his seasons and methods of assault^—Nor can he have so long engaged in this warfare, without having learned much by experience—]

The hearts of unregenerate men are "his palace" [He has the most intimate access to the hearts of men— He entered into the heart of Judas, and prompted him to betray his Lordb—By the same invisible agency he urged Ananias and Sapphira to lie unto the Holy Ghost'—In the same manner he stimulates all his vassals to the commission of sin— He rules within them as a monarchk—And lords it over them with most despotic swayi—Every apartment of the palace is occupied by his attendants—The understanding, the will, the affections, the memory, the conscience, are all under his controul—If seven spirits only possess some, Legion is the name of othersm—]

While he takes up his abode in them, he keeps all in peace

[One would think that a soul possessed by him should be filled with horror—But he contrives to divert the thoughts of men from all their spiritual concerns—He blinds their minds 60 that they cannot see their real state—He fills them with a presumptuous confidence that they shall do well at last"—Perhaps he makes them laugh at the idea of satanic influence—"

1 Matt. xiii. 18—23. and 36—40. b Rev. ix. 11.

c Rev. xii. 7. d 2 Cor. iv. 4. e Ps. ciii. 20.

f Eph. vi. 16. e 2 Cor. xi. 3. Eph. vi. 11.

b John xiii. 27\ > Arts v. 3. k Eph. ii. 2.

i 2 Tim. ii. 26. m Luke xi. 26. with viii. 30.

n Comp. 1 Kings xxii. 22. with Jer. vi. 14.

He suggests that God is too merciful to inflict eternal punish-' ment—And that all apprehensions of divine wrath are the effects of superstition or enthusiasm—If at any time they are impressed by the word of God, he catches it away, lest they should believe it and be saved0—Thus he continually deceives his vassals, and lulls them asleep in a most fatal security—]

There is One however, even Jesus, who is stronger than he

[Satan indeed is a roaring lion; but Jesus is the all-powerful lion of the tribe of JudahP—Satan is the serpent that bruised the heel of Jesus; but Jesus is the woman's seed that effectually bruised his headi—Jesus vanquished him in repeated combats>—And at last triumphed over him upon the cross' —Yea, and led him captive in his resurrection and ascepsion1 —Nor does he exercise less power in his people, than he then didyir them"—His grace is sufficient to fortify us against the fiercest assaults of Satan"—Nor shall the weakness of his people counteract or retard his career of victory''—]

Nor can Satan any longer retain his hold when Jesus comes to eject him

[Satan strove indeed to the utmost to keep possession of the bodies of men—Nor relinquished them at last without the most strenuous efforts to destroy them»—Thus will he maintain a conflict with Jesus in their souls—If he be driven from the outworks, he will defend himself in the citadel—Sometimes he may appear for a season to defy omnipotence itself—But in due season he is invariably overcome—His strong holds, one after another, are demolished*—And he is constrained to surrender the palace which he can no longer keep—]

Jesus having driven him from the soul, will turn all its powers against him

[A sinner, while under Satan's dominion, has many things which prove serviceable to that wicked fiend—His wisdom, riches, influence are all pressed into the service of the devil— All are used to strengthen his power, and to undermine the authority of Christ—But when Jesus has gained possession of a soul, he instantly secures all its powers—And turns the artillery of Satan against himself—Whatever wealth or influence the man possessed, is now made subservient to the Redeemer's interests—The gold of Egypt is formed into vessels

0 Luke viii. 12. t Rev. v. 5. « Gen. iii. 15.

r Matt. iv. 10. John xiv. 30. and xvi. 11. • Col. ii. 15.

r Eph. iv. 8. » 1 John iv. 4. '* 2 Cor. xii. 7—9.

y Rev. vi. 2. * Mark ix. 20,26. • 2 Cor. x. 5.

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