« PreviousContinue »
their further encouragement, our Lord assured them, that authority and power should not only attend the actions of their united body in spiritual concerns, but wherever two of them should think proper to ask for divine illumination, or for a miracle to confirm their determinations, it should be immediately granted; for, though invisible, he should be essentially present to shew, hy all proper interposition, the regard he had to their interest and
prayers. Since our divine Lord had so strongly reconimended the virtue of humility, we should study to be perfect in it; for which purpose, let us carefully practise the lessons he gave to his apostles. As children are so dear in the sight of their heavenly Father and his beloved Son, they ought to be instructed, by those who have the care of their education, to honour and obey God; for as it is not the will of God that one of these little ones should perish, whoever is negligent of their religious improve. ment will be answerable in a great measure for whatever impiety they may afterwards commit. What a strong incitement does our Lord's declaration afford for giving religious instruction to the children of the poor!
Qur Lord's rules for the conduct of his apostles in respect to quarrels and contentions, are of general appli. cation, and will be found highly conducive to peace and reconcilement.
There is one part of this 'section, relating to hell, which requires particular attention; namely, "Where the warm dicth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the sålt bave lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt ix yourselves, and have peace one with another,"
These are the words of our Saviour himself, and they openly imply, that the punishment in hell will
be everlasting, and that the fire is of such a nature as to preserve from corruption; so that the wicked will be for ever tormented, but never destroyed. The expres. sion “ Every sacrifice shall be 'salted with salt," inti. mates that divine grace will purify and preserve
from corruption every soul that devotes itself to God's ser. vice. This salt is certainly good; but whoever grows careless and inattentive to his duty will lose its savour. It should, therefore, be the earnest endeavour of every one to secure the inestimable blessing of divine grace, and one principal mean of doing so is to live in charity with our fellow.creatures.
One caution is particularly necessary in this age of speculative enquiry. Not to amuse our minds with curious questions concerning the nature and duration of kell torments, we should rather turn our thoughts to the means of avoiding them. That there is a place of dread. ful punishment for the wicked, and that there is also a place of perfect happiness for the good, numberless texts of Scripture asšure i usur: No circumstance affords more satisfaction in the icontemplation of the latter, than the thoughts of its joys: being eternal; and on the other side, nothing is so likely to strike the wicked with awe, as the thoughts of never-ending torment. Let us, there. fore, leave to others the investigation of points more curious than useful, and rest satisfied, that God will act towards all men with perfect equity, and impartial unerring judgment. Those who endeavour to do their duty,
and who place their faith and trust in a crucified redeemer, therefore, have no occasion to fear that they shall be doomed to everlasting misery any more than those who are obedient to the laws of the government they live under in this world, have reason to dread that they shall suffer those punishments which are provided for delinquents.
CONTINUATION OF OUR LORD'S INSTRUCTIONS CON.
CERNING FORGIVENESS.-THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT.
From Matthew, Chap. xviii.-Mark, ix. Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him till seven times ?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until sevin times : but, until seventy times seven,
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened 'unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents,
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made, .
The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with con. passion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellow-seryant fell down' at his feet, and be sought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will
pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into pri. son, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then if ye
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity 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,
from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their
trespasses. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us; and we forbade him, because he followeth not us.
But Jesus said, Forbid him not : for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly -speak evil of me. For he that is not against us, is on our
part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward *.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
Peter, apprehending, perhaps, that our Lord's in. junctions for the accommodation of differences inight be abused by ill-disposed persons as an encouragement to offer injuries, and desirous to know how he himself ought to'act towards those who offended him, put the question concerning forgiveness. Our Lord's reply taught him, that no man should set bounds to his clemency in this
* What was said hy John concerning a person who was not a professed disciple casting out a devil, is inserted in the midst of our Saviour's discourse on humility, which is in a former section; but as the explanation of it in that place would have broken the thread of our Lord's argumení, it was reserved till now..
particular, since every human being stands in need of forgiveness from God for nomberless offences, infinitely greater than any he can receive from his fellow.creatures.
The parable which our SAVIOUR made use of to'enforce this precept, is so clear, that it were needless to attempt an illustration of it. It is however proper to observe, that the sum supposed to be owing to the king amounted to one million eight hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds; that by the servant to his fellow, only to three pounds two shillings and sixpence of our money.
This parable alludes to the debt of sins, which every human being contracts to a greater or less amount, by neglecting or refusing to obey the commands of God, to whom we owe perfect obedience. If the SUPREME Being should proceed against us with the rigour of strict justice, we should be 'utterly lost, because we are incapable of making satisfaction even for our least of. fences; hut Gop is graciously pleased, of his infinite mercy, through CHRIST, to accept our faith and repent. ance instead of payment, if we humnble ourselves before him, and resolve to amend ; and he will not only have patience with us, but will forgive us all that we have formerly done amiss. But if we are cruel and un. forgiving to our fellow-creatures, we justly provoke the indignation of God. Let us then constantly bear in inind the infinite compassion of our heavenly FATHER towards us' sinfnl creatures, and banish from our minds every sentiment of malice and revenge; since our own prayers for pardon will not find acceptance at the throne of grace, unless we, from our hearts, forgive those of. fences which our brethren have committed against us.
Whether John, from a consciousness that he deserved blame, wished to put an end io the subject, or thought the remarks he should make would lead to a farther