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§ 183. Caution against imprudent Zeal in Preaching the Gospel.

Akin to the wisdom thus recommended to the Apostles is the rule of preaching the truth given in Matt., vii., 6, Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. “Valuable as pearls are to men, they would only enrage hungry swine, who would trample them, and rush upon him that had so deceived their hunger.” Under this vivid illustration, Christ enjoined his disciples to guard against hastily offering the sacred truths of the kingdom to minds carnally unfit for them, and destitute of a sense of spiritual need; the holy pearls would be valueless in the eyes of such. To meet them on their own ground, and yet offer them nothing to satisfy their carnal desires, would only rouse their evil passions, and expose valuable lives, which ought to be preserved for the kingdom of God, without doing any good. The witness for the truth must needs be zealous and courageous, but he need not be imprudent or indiscreet.

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The Apostles, then, were cautioned against the error into which some later missionaries have fallen, of offering the Gospel, under the impulse of inconsiderate zeal, without regard to the proprieties of time and place. Still, it by no means followed that they were not to preach under circumstances in which the Word might prove a stone of offence to some, while it pricked others to the heart; the Word was destined, of necessity, to sift the various classes of men that should hear it. Nor was the caution neglected by Christ himself, when he refused to allow the rage of carnal and narrow-minded hearers to hinder him from uttering his truths boldly, and without regard to consequences, revealing a spiritual power that defied all opposition; or when he punished their obduracy by ceasing to condescend to their weakness and prejudice, and by offering the truth in its sharp and naked outlines, even although it excited the wrath of some, while it led others to reflection.

The apophthegm that we have just considered was in itself a judgment and a prediction. The more immediate application of such sayings depended upon the circumstances under which they were uttered; to interpret them, it is not sufficient to have their letter only, but also the life-giving Spirit which originally inspired them.

An ancient and wide-spread tradition ascribes to Christ the following saying: “γίνεσθε τραπεζιται δόκιμοι: become approved money-changers.’ This expression bears the stamp of Christ’s figurative manner of speech; and the external and internal evidence is in favour of its genuineness.500500   See Fabricii, Cod. Apocryph. N. T., i., 330; iii., 524. We find this saying in apocryphal writings, both heretical and Catholic; and many imitations of it seem to have been made by the ecclesiastical teachers of the first century, which could not have happened at that time had it not been uttered by Christ or one of the Apostles. Paul (whose writings contained many allusions to Christ’s words, and sentiments taking their hue from them) perhaps had this saying in mind in 1 Thess., v., 21, as has been supposed by Hansel, with whose view of the apophthegm I agree.—(Stud. u. Krit., 1836, I.) If this expression be deemed akin to the parable of the Talents, its sense could be given thus: “Be like acute money-changers; adding daily to the capital intrusted to you.” But the principal figure in the parable of the talents is not the money-changer, but the person who puts money at interest with him; and, besides, the money-changers did not gain money with borrowed capital, but with their own. We must, therefore, look for an interpretation more in accordance with the business of the broker. Ecclesiastical antiquity, which perhaps first received these words of Christ in connexion with others that explained them, affords us such an interpretation. It was part of the business of the money-changer to distinguish genuine from counterfeit coin. So Christ might have given this rule, capable of manifold application in the labours of the Apostles; to imply a careful circumspection in order to distinguish the true from the apparent, the genuine from the counterfeit, the pure 279from the alloyed; not to condemn hastily, but, on the other hand, not to trust lightly. -


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