on Matthew 25 :35
I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat - Every thing which is done to a follower of Christ, whether it be good or evil, he considers as done to himself, see Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4, Acts 9:5; Hebrews 6:10. Of all the fruits of the Spirit, none are mentioned here but those that spring from love, or mercy; because these give men the nearest conformity to God. Jesus had said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; and he here shows how this promise shall be fulfilled. The rabbins say: "As often as a poor man presents himself at thy door, the holy blessed God stands at his right hand: if thou give him alms, know that he who stands at his right hand will give thee a reward. But if thou give him not alms, he who stands at his right hand will punish thee." Vaiyikra Rabba, s. 34, fol. 178.
A stranger, and ye took me in - Συνηγαγετε με, ye entertained me: Kypke has fully proved that this is the meaning of the original. Literally, συναγειν signifies to gather together. Strangers are sometimes so destitute as to be ready to perish for lack of food and raiment: a supply of these things keeps their souls and bodies together, which were about to be separated through lack of the necessaries of life. The word may also allude to a provision made for a poor family, which were scattered abroad, perhaps begging their bread, and who by the ministry of benevolent people are collected, relieved, and put in a way of getting their bread. O blessed work! to be the instruments of preserving human life, and bringing comfort and peace into the habitations of the wretched!
While writing this, (Nov. 13, 1798), I hear the bells loudly ringing in commemoration of the birth-day of E. Colson, Esq., a native of this city, (Bristol), who spent a long life and an immense fortune in relieving the miseries of the distressed. His works still praise him in the gates; his name is revered, and his birth-day held sacred, among the inhabitants. Who has heard the bells ring in commemoration of the birth of any deceased hero or king? Of so much more value, in the sight even of the multitude, is a life of public usefulness than one of worldly glory or secular state. But how high must such a person rank in the sight of God, who, when Christ in his representatives was hungry, gave him food; when thirsty, gave him drink; when naked clothed him; when sick and in prison, visited him! Thou blessed of my Father! come. Thou hast been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, and now thou shalt eternally enjoy the true riches.
The Supreme God is represented in the Bhagvat Geeta as addressing mankind, when he had just formed them, thus: "Those who dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin." Geeta, p. 46.
on Matthew 25 :35
I was an hungered - The union between Christ and his people is the most tender and endearing of all connections. It is represented by the closest unions of which we have knowledge, John 15:4-6; Ephesians 5:23-32; 1 Corinthians 6:15. This is a union - not physical, but moral; a union of feelings, interests, plans, destiny; or, in other words, he and his people have similar feelings, love the same objects, share the same trials, and inherit the same blessedness, John 14:19; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:21; Romans 8:17. Hence, he considers favors shown to his people as shown to himself, and will reward them accordingly, Matthew 10:40, Matthew 10:42. They show attachment to him, and love to his cause. By showing kindness to the poor, the needy, and the sick, they show that they possess his spirit, for he did it when on earth; they evince attachment to him, for he was poor and needy; and they show that they have the proper spirit to outfit them for heaven, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:17; James 2:1-5; Mark 9:41.
Was a stranger - The word "stranger" means a foreigner or traveler; in our language, one unknown to us. To receive such to the rites of hospitality was, in Eastern countries, where there were few or no public houses, a great virtue. See Genesis 18:1-8; Hebrews 8:2.
Took me in - Into your house. Received me kindly.
Naked - Poorly clothed. Among the Jews they were called "naked" who were clad in poor raiment, or who had on only the "tunic" or inner garment, without any outer garment. See the Matthew 5:40 note; also Acts 19:16 note; Mark 14:51-52 notes; Job 22:6 note; Isaiah 58:7 note.
on Matthew 25 :35
25:35 I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink - All these works of outward mercy suppose faith and love, and must needs he accompanied with works of spiritual mercy. But works of this kind the Judge could not mention in the same manner. He could not say, I was in error, and ye recalled me to the truth; I was in sin, and ye brought me to repentance. In prison - Prisoners need to be visited above all others, as they are commonly solitary and forsaken by the rest of the world.