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How specially important must be those words which the Lord thought proper thus to repeat, and which have been recorded, sometimes in the same Gospel, more than once ! What the Lord here says of scandals He had said before, but in another order, and in another connexion. So also on this duty of forgiveness, we have already had from His lips a saying resembling this, though not the same. We have here, according to the custom of the Jews, a definite number put for an indefinite. Seven was with them a perfect number. Our forgiveness must be perfect, and therefore unlimited, like the Divine.5 “ There is nothing more dangerous to such as have need of an infinite mercy, than to set bounds and limits to their own.” 6 The rebuke our Lord speaks of must be one likely to attract, not repel; the language of brother to brother. “All that is gained by rebuking him in a harsh manner is ... to make us want his pardon who before wanted ours.” 6 The twelve Apostles, as distinct from the general body of disciples, make a request, which proceeded doubtless from a sense of the difficulties they met with not only as members but as ministers of Christ's Church. Already they feel their need of faith to overcome these. This fruit at least they had gathered from their failures. We shall not pray in earnest for faith till we have realized our want of it. Yet some faith this discovery and prayer betokens. Their preferring this request to their Master shows that they had already learnt to look upon Him as God. The earnest prayer for faith proves that
1 St. Matt. xviii. 6, 7.
2 On the abuse of this saying, Hooker (Eccl. Pol. IV. xii. 2) observes : _“The common conceit of the vulgar sort is, whensoever they see anything which they mislike and are angry at, to think that every such thing is scandalous, and that themselves in this case are the men concerning whom our Saviour spake .. that is, as they construe it, whosoever shall anger the meanest and simplest artisan which carrieth a good mind, by not removing out of the Church anch rites and ceremonies as displease
him ... But bard were the case of the Church of Christ if this were to scandalize . . . At good things evil men may take occasion to do evil; and so Christ Himself was a rock of offence in Israel." “Good things" (he quotes from Tertullian) scandalize none save only evil minds."
3 St. Matt. xviii. 15, 21, 22.
5 " Thou hast been all mercy to us, grant that we may be so to all other." -Bp. Wilson, Sacra Privata,
we are not altogether destitute of it. The Lord's answer
" shows that they did well to pray for this. They had not exaggerated its virtue. And he proceeds to enlarge on this in words which resemble, and yet in some respects differ from, what He says on two other occasions as to this same
power of faith.
St. Luke xvii. 7-10.
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat ? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken ; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do.
The Lord now in a brief parable warns His servants of two dangers. The first, that of being weary in well-doing. This He illustrates by the case of a master with his servant. This domestic picture would be perfectly understood in the East, where the scene it describes was taking place every day. The servant, in the double capacity of field-labourer and household servant, first does his master's work on the
i St. Matt. xiv. 31. Prayer owes its birth to faith, but faith owes its increase to prayer.”--Quesnel.
2 The two other occasions are both recorded in the same Gospel, St. Matt. xvii. 20; xxi. 21. If they had been in different Gospels, it would have been said by some that there was a confusion. On the former occasion our Lored had just come down from the
Mount of Transfiguration; on the latter, He had in view the Mount of Olives. The “mulberry tree,” to which He pointed here, is not the same as the "fig tree" which there He withered. Here, too, there is nothing suid of the mountain, as in the first of the three instances nothing is said of the sea.
farm, and then comes in to wait at his master's table in the house, nor considers his day's work ended till both these things are done. He girds himself, gathers up his flowing garments according to the manner of the East, as cheerfully to the one task as to the other; proceeding to each in its turn as a matter of course ; nor looks for rest and refreshment till after all his labour. Such unwearied service has its sustaining promise of recompense. For in ancient times, where the institution of slavery existed, to admit a slave to the table of his lord was a mode of manumission, or setting free. Patient continuance in well-doing is not without such prospect. This is the first part of the parable. The latter part seems directed against the danger of pride, as the former against impatience. The Lord reads His servants a lesson also of humility. The Master does not hold himself specially beholden to the servant for doing no more than his duty. Who of all of us has ever done so much as that? Even if we had done all those things which are commanded us, we could not claim to be profitable servants. We should but have done that which it was our duty to do,-no more.5
1“ The waiting at table with the doing God a favour in serving Him... dress succinct, or girded up, was a that our service at best is poor. . mark of servitude, which to keep in The two wrong states of mind, springmind makes niore wonderful the con- ing from the same evil root, are to descension of the Son of God in his be met by the same remedy, by the saying, Luke xii. 31, and in his learning to know what our actual doing, Jolin xiii. 4.”—Abp. Trench. relation to God is,-that it is one of 2 Heb. xi, 25, 26.
servants to a master; and being such, 3 " Such appears the lesson of the it precludes us alike from all right of first part of the parable,—that we do claiming release when we please, and not, after we have made some exer- so also from all right to extol or exalt tion, smaller or greater, account that ourselves for the doing of that which, we have a claim to be exempted by the very laws of our condition, we henceforth from strenuous toil; but are bound to,—which not to do were ever, on the contrary, as we have sur- a great guilt, but which to do is no mounted one hill of labour, perceive merit.”—1d. a new one rising above it, and gird
5 Bengel says,
"Wretched is the ourselves for the surmounting of that
man whom the Lord calls an unprofitalso."—Abp. Trench.
able servant (St. Matt. xxv. 30), but + “ It is ... humility that is en- happy he who so esteems himself.”— joined, the confession that we are not Art. xiv. Of Works of Supererogation.
St. Luke ix. 51-56.
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and
, sent messengers before his face : and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
Our Saviour's immediate work in this world ended with His Ascension into Heaven. The days were now being fulfilled which led to that consummation.” He knew what was before Him, the Cross in the way to the Crown. He does not shrink from it. Step by step He goes. He set His face like a flint. He could not perish out of Jerusalem. So He walks to-day and to-morrow and the day following, facing towards Jerusalem. He is a King even in the day of His humiliation, and sends His messengers before His face 5 to make ready for Him. The Lord is a lover of order. He would not bring His followers into that village without sending on an advanced guard to make the necessary preparations. To leave things as it were to chance and to the moment, is simply to invite confusion. The Samaritans who had received Him on a former occasion when He was going the reverse way, now acted otherwise. They knew the treatment he had received from the authorities at Jerusalem, and perhaps had been in hope that it might have the 1 St. John xvi. 28.
4 St. Luke xiii. 33. ? See the original.
5 St. Luke x. I. 3 Is, 1. 7.
* St. Johu iv. 3, 1, 10.
effect of leading Him to countenance their rival Temple and system. As politicians, who act from passion rather than from principle, when ill-treated by their own party, sometimes throw themselves into the arms of the opposite. When however they perceive that, notwithstanding all, He will not desert what He thus shews to be the right cause, nor give the weight of His influence to schismatic services, they will not show Him common courtesy. This moves the indignation of two of His attached followers in particular. “The sons of thunder will be lightning straight.”? These two
fiery disciples” had before requested the first places in the Kingdom, and now by this zeal they would prove their fitness to sit the one on His right hand and the other on His left. They remembered that in this same Samaria Elijah had called down fire from Heaven to consume those that molested the Prophet of the Lord. “There is nothing more perilous than to draw all the actions of holy men into examples. But, having first turned round, He rebuked them. We can see His gesture. Instead of being commended, they are reproved. As before they knew not what they asked, so here they knew not what manner of spirit they
“Come and see," said furious Jehu, “my zeal for the Lord,” 5 And what we flatter ourselves is zeal for the
after all be nothing more than the indulgence of our own imperious temper. There may be the same spirit in ourselves that we reprove in others. It may be but another manifestation of the same temper. It is sad that religion should be made a cause of strife. From how many
I St. John iv. 22.
cumstances, or being able to produce ? Bp. Hall, The motion of the two the same warrants, fiery disciples repelled.
0 2 Ki. x. 16. 3 2 Ki. i. 3, 9, 10.
6 “ That which should have taught * Bp. Hall. We have seen this ex- the Apostles to be charitable, and the emplified in the history of our country, Samaritans hospitable, was made a in the conduct of the Puritans, who, pretence to justify the unhospitablewhile professing peculiar regard for ness of the one and the uncharitablethe Gospel, prosecuted those who dared ness of the other. ... Yet St. James to differ from them with a rigour and St. John were so discreet as not unknown under the Law, and to think themselves infallible. Therejustified their tyranny by such cases fore they asked their Lord.” — Jer. as that of Samuel with Agag, without Taylor: Ser. On the Gunpowder considering the difference in the cir- Treason.