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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 18 - Verse 35
Verse 35. So likewise, etc. This verse contains the sum or moral of the parable. When Christ has explained one of his own parables, we are to receive it just as he has explained it, and not attempt to draw spiritual instruction from any parts or circumstances which he has not explained. The following seems to be the particulars of the general truth which he meant to teach:
(1.) That our sins are great.
(2.) That God freely forgives them.
(3.) That the offences committed against us by our brethren are comparatively small.
(4.) That we should, therefore, most freely forgive them.
(5.) That if we do not, God will be justly angry with us, and punish us.
From your hearts. That is, not merely in words, but really and truly to feel and act towards him as if he had not offended us.
Trespasses. Offences, injuries. Remarks and actions designed to do us wrong.
REMARKS ON MATTHEW CHAPTER 18
(1.) We see that it is possible to make a profession of religion an occasion of ambition, Mt 18:1. The apostles at first sought honour, and expected office in consequence of following Christ. So thousands have done since. Religion, notwithstanding all the opposition it has met with, really commands the confidence of mankind. To make a profession of it may be a way of access to that confidence; and thousands, it is to be feared, even yet enter the church merely to obtain some worldly benefit. Especially does this danger beset ministers of the gospel. There are few paths to the confidence of mankind so easily trod, as to enter the ministry. Every minister, of course, if at all worthy of his office, has access to the confidence of multitudes, and is never despised but by the worst and lowest of mankind. No way is so easy to step at once to public confidence. Other men toil long to establish influence by personal character. The minister has it by virtue of his office. Those who now enter the ministry are tempted far more in this respect than were the apostles; and how should they search their own hearts, to see that no such abominable motive has induced them to seek that office!
(2.) It is consummate wickedness thus to prostrate the most sacred of all offices to the worst of purposes. The apostles, at this time, were ignorant. They expected a kingdom where it would be right to seek distinction. But we labour under no such ignorance. We know that his kingdom is not of this world, and woe to the man that acts as though it were. Deep and awful must be the lot of him who thus seeks the honours of the world, while he is professedly following the meek and lowly Jesus.
(3.) Humility is indispensable to religion, Mt 18:3. No man, who is not humble, can possibly be a Christian. He must be willing to esteem himself as he is, and to have others esteem him so also. This is humility. And humility is lovely. It is not meanness; it is not cowardice; it is not want of just self-esteem. It is a view of ourselves just as we are, and a willingness that God and all creatures should so esteem us. What can be more lovely than such an estimation of ourselves? And how foolish and wicked is it to be proud; that is, to think more of ourselves, and wish others to think so, than we really deserve! To put on appearances, and to magnify our own importance, and think that the affairs of the universe could not go on without us, and to be indignant when all the world does not bow down to do us homage— this is hypocrisy, as well as wickedness; and there may be, therefore, hypocrites out of the church, as well as in it.
(4.) Humility is the best evidence of piety, Mt 18:4. The most humble man is the most eminent Christian. He is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The effect of sin is to produce pride. Religion overcomes it by producing a just sense of ourselves, of other men, of angels, and of God. We may, therefore, measure the advance of piety in our own souls by the increase of humility.
(5.) We see the danger of despising and doing injury to real Christians, and more especially the guilt of attempting to draw them into sin, Mt 18:6. God watches over them. He loves them. In the eye of the world they may be of little importance, but not so with God. The most obscure follower of Christ is dear, infinitely dear, to him; and he will take care of him. He that attempts to injure a Christian attempts to injure God; for God has redeemed him, and loves him.
(6.) Men will do much to draw others into sin, Mt 18:7. In all communities there are some who seem to live for this. They have often much wealth, or learning, or accomplishment, or address, or professional influence; and they employ it for the sake of seducing the unwary, and leading them into ruin. Hence offences come, and many of the young and thoughtless are led astray. But He who has all power has pronounced woe upon them, and judgment will not always linger. No class of men have a more fearful account to render to God than they who thus lead others into vice and infidelity.
(8.) The wicked—they who will not forsake their sins—must certainly go to eternal punishment, Mt 18:8,9. So said the compassionate Saviour. The fair and obvious meaning of his words is, that the sufferings of hell are eternal. And Christ did not use words without meaning. He did not mean to frighten us by bugbears, or to hold up imaginary fears. If Christ speaks of hell, then there is a hell; if he says it is eternal, then it is so. Of this we may be sure, that EVERY WORD which the God of mercy has spoken about the punishment of the wicked is Full OF MEANING.
(9.) Christians are protected, Mt 18:10. Angels are appointed as their friends and guardians. Those friends are very near to God. They enjoy his favour, and his children shall be safe.
(10.) Christians are safe, Mt 18:11-14. Jesus came to save them. He left the heavens for this end. God rejoices in their salvation. He secures it at great sacrifices, and none can pluck them out of his hand. After the coming of Jesus to save them—after all that he has done for that, and that only—after the joy of God and angels at their recovery—it is impossible that they should be wrested from him and destroyed. See Joh 10:27,28.
(11.) It is our duty to admonish our brethren when they injure us, Mt 18:15. We have no right to speak of the offence to any one else, not even to our best friends, until we have given an opportunity to explain.
(12.) The way to treat offending brethren is clearly pointed out, Mt 18:15-17. Nor have we a fight to take any other course. Infinite Wisdom—the Prince of Peace—has declared that this is the way to treat our brethren. No other can be right; and no other, therefore, can be so well adapted to promote the peace of the church And yet how different from this is the course commonly pursued! How few go honestly to an offending brother, and tell him his fault! Instead of this, every breeze bears the report—it is magnified— mole-hills swell to mountains, and a quarrel of years often succeeds what might have been settled at once. No robber is so cruel as he who steals away the character of another. Nothing can compensate for the loss of this. Wealth, health, mansions, and equipage, all are trifles compared with this. Especially is this true of a Christian. His reputation gone, he has lost his power of doing good; he has brought dishonour on the cause he most loved; he has lost his peace, and worlds cannot repay him.
'Who steals my purse, steals trash: 'tis something, nothing:
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed."
(13.) We have every encouragement to pray, Mt 18:20. We are poor, and sinful, and dying, and none can comfort us but God. At his throne we may find all that we want. We know not which is most wonderful, that God deigns to hear our prayers, or that men are so unwilling to use so simple and easy a way of obtaining what they so much need.
(14.) We should never be weary of forgiving our brethren, Mt 18:22. We should do it cheerfully. We should do it always. We are never better employed than when we are doing good to those who have injured us. Thus doing, we are most like God.
(15.) There will be a day in which we must give up our account, Mt 18:23. It may wait long; but God will reckon with us, and everything shall be brought into judgment.
(16.) We are greatly indebted to God—far, far beyond what we are able to pay, Mt 18:24. We have sinned, and in no way can we make atonement for past sins. But Jesus the Saviour has made atonement, and paid our debt, and we may be free.
(17.) It is right to pray to God when we feel that we have sinned, and are unable to pay the debt, Mt 18:26. We have no other way. Poor, and needy, and wretched, we must cast ourselves upon his mercy, or die—die for ever.
(18.) God will have compassion on those who do it, Mt 18:27. At his feet, in the attitude of prayer, the burdened sinner finds peace. We have nowhere else to go but to the very Being that we have offended. No being but He can save us from death.
(19.) From the kindness of God to us we should learn not to oppress others, Mt 18:28.
(20.) It is our true interest, as well as duty, to forgive those that offend us, Mt 18:34. God will take vengeance; and in due time we must suffer if we do not forgive others.
(21.) Christians are often great sufferers for harbouring malice. As a punishment, God withdraws the light of his countenance; they walk in darkness; they cannot enjoy religion; their conscience smites them; and they are wretched. No man ever did, or ever can, enjoy religion, who did not from his heart forgive his brother his trespasses.
(22.) One reason why Christians ever walk in darkness is, that there is some such duty neglected. They think they have been injured, and very possibly they may have been. They think they are in the right, and possibly they are so. But mingled with a consciousness of this is an unforgiving spirit; and they cannot enjoy religion till that is subdued.
(23.) Forgiveness must not be in word merely, but from the heart, Mt 18:35. No other can be genuine; no other is like God.
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