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18. Parables

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 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. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 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. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 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: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

16. But if he shall not hear thee. The second step is, that he who displayed obstinacy, or refused to yield to one man, should be again admonished in presence of witnesses Here some object, that it will serve no purpose to call witnesses, if we have to deal with an obstinate and rebellious man, because their presence will be so far from leading him to acknowledge his guilt, that he will only make a more wicked denial. But this difficulty will be speedily removed, if we distinguish between denial and evasion He who explicitly denies the fact, and declares that he is falsely and calumniously accused, must be left alone; for it would be ill vain to press him by calling witnesses But as, in most cases, men shamelessly evade, or impudently excuse, the improper and unjust actions which they have committed, till greater authority is employed, towards such persons it is useful to observe this method.

That Christ’s discourse ought to be understood in this sense is evident from the word used, ἔλεγξον, reprove, or argue; for to argue is to convince by demonstration. 555555     “Car arguer signifie convaincre par argumens, et remonstrer par bonnes raisons;” — “for to argue signifies to convince by arguments, and to show by good reasons.” And how could I argue with a man 556556     “Or comment pourroit on arguer ou convaincre un homme, que ce qu’il a fait est mauvais?” — “Now how could we argue or convince a man that what he has done is wrong?” who boldly denies the whole matter? for he who has the effrontery to deny the crime which he has committed shuts the door against a second admonition.

We now perceive for what purpose Christ proposes to call witnesses. It is, to give greater weight and impressiveness to the admonition. As to the slightly different meaning to which he has turned the words of Moses, it involves no absurdity. Moses forbids sentence to be pronounced on a matter that is unknown, and defines this to be the lawful mode of proving, that it be established by the testimony of

two or three witnesses. At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established,
(Deuteronomy 19:15.)

Alluding to that law, Christ says that, when two or three witnesses shall rise up to condemn the obstinacy of the man, the case will be clear, at least till the Church be prepared to take cognizance of it; for he who refuses to hear two or three witnesses 557557     “Veu qu’il n’a pas voulu recevoir l’admonition qui luy a este faite en prive par deux ou trois;” — “since he did not choose to receive the admonition which was given to him in private by two or three.” will have no reason to complain that he is dragged forth to light.

Tell it to the Church. It is asked, what does he mean by the term Church? For Paul orders (1 Corinthians 5:5) that the incestuous Corinthian shall be excommunicated, not by a certain chosen number, but by the whole assembly of the godly; and therefore it might appear to be probable that the power of judging is bestowed on the whole of the people. But as at that time no Church as yet was in existence, which acknowledged the authority of Christ, and no such order had been established, and as our Lord employs the ordinary and received forms of expression, there can be no doubt that he alludes to the order of the ancient Church, as in other places also he accommodates his modes of expression to what was known and customary. 558558     “Comme aussi en d’autres passages il s’accomodi a ce qui estoit lors ordinaire, et use des termes communes;” — “as also in other passages he adapts himself to what was then customary, and employs common terms.” When he commands that:

the offering, which we intend to present, shall be left at the altar, till we are reconciled to an offended brother,
(Matthew 5:23,)

he unquestionably intends, by means of that form of the worship of God which was then in existence and in force, to teach us, that we cannot in a right manner either pray, or offer any thing to God, so long as we are at variance with our brethren. So then he now looked at the form of discipline which was observed among the Jews; for it would have been absurd to propose an appeal to the judgment of a Church which was not yet in existence.

Now since among the Jews the power of excommunication belonged to the elders, who held the government of the whole Church, Christ speaks appropriately when he says that they who sinned must at length be brought forward publicly to the Church, if they either despise haughtily, or ridicule and evade, the private admonitions. We know that, after the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, a council was formed, which they called Sanhedrim, and in Greek Synedrion, (συνέδριον) and that to this council was committed the superintendence of morals and of doctrine. This government was lawful and approved by God, and was a bridle to restrain within their duty the dissolute and incorrigible.

It will perhaps be objected that, in the time of Christ, every thing was corrupt and perverted, so that this tyranny was very far from deserving to be accounted the judgment of the Church But the reply is easy. Though the method of procedure was at that time depraved and perverted, yet Christ justly praises that order, such as it had been handed down to them from the fathers. And when, shortly afterwards, he erected a Church, while he removed the abuse, he restored the proper use of excommunication. Yet there is no reason to doubt that the form of discipline, which prevailed in the kingdom of Christ, succeeded in the room of that ancient discipline. And certainly, since even heathen nations maintained a shadowy form of excommunication, it appears that, from the beginning, this was impressed by God on the minds of men, that those who were impure and polluted ought to be excluded from religious services. 559559     “Ne devoycnt estre receus a participer aux choses sacrees appartenantes au sarvice de Dieu;” — “ought not to be admitted to take part in the sacred things belonging to the service of God.” It would therefore have been highly disgraceful to the people of God to have been altogether destitute of that discipline, some trace of which remained among the Gentiles. But what had been preserved under the Law Christ has conveyed to us, because we hold the same rank with the ancient fathers. For it was not the intention of Christ to send his disciples to the synagogue, which, while it willingly cherished in its bosom disgraceful filth, excommunicated the true and sincere worshippers of God; but he reminded us that the order, which had been formerly established in a holy manner under the Law, must be maintained in his Church

Let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican. What is here added as to heathens and publicans confirms the interpretation which I have given. For heathens and publicans having been at that time regarded by the Jews with the greatest hatred and detestation, he compares to them unholy and irreclaimable men, who yield to no admonitions. Certainly he did not intend to enjoin them to avoid the society of heathens, of whom the Church was afterwards composed; nor is there any reason at the present day why believers should shrink from associating with publicans But in order that he might be more easily understood by the ignorant, Christ borrowed a mode of expression from what was then customary among his nation; 560560     “A use d’un terme convenable a la coustume du pays;” — “used a term in accordance with the custom of the country.” and the meaning is, that we ought to have no intercourse with the despisers of the Church till they repent.


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