on Matthew 18 :35
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you - The goodness and indulgence of God towards us is the pattern we should follow in our dealings with others. If we take man for our exemplar we shall err, because our copy is a bad one; and our lives are not likely to be better than the copy we imitate. Follow Christ; be merciful as your Father who is in heaven is merciful. You cannot complain of the fairness of your copy. Reader, hast thou a child, or servant who has offended thee, and humbly asks forgiveness? Hast thou a debtor, or a tenant, who is insolvent, and asks for a little longer time? And hast thou not forgiven that child or servant? Hast thou not given time to that debtor or tenant? How, then, canst thou ever expect to see the face of the just and merciful God? Thy child is banished, or kept at a distance; thy debtor is thrown into prison, or thy tenant sold up: yet the child offered to fall at thy feet; and the debtor or tenant, utterly insolvent, prayed for a little longer time, hoping God would enable him to pay thee all; but to these things thy stony heart and seared conscience paid no regard! O monster of ingratitude! Scandal to human nature, and reproach to God! If thou canst, go hide thyself - even in hell, from the face of the Lord!
Their trespasses - These words are properly left out by Greisbach, and other eminent critics, because they are wanting in some of the very best MSS. most of the versions, and in some of the chief of the fathers. The words are evidently an interpolation; the construction of them is utterly improper, and the concord false.
In our common method of dealing with insolvent debtors, we in some sort imitate the Asiatic customs: we put them in prison, and all their circumstances there are so many tormentors; the place, the air, the company, the provision, the accommodation, all destructive to comfort, to peace, to health, and to every thing that humanity can devise. If the person be poor, or comparatively poor, is his imprisonment likely to lead him to discharge his debt? His creditor may rest assured that he is now farther from his object than ever: the man had no other way of discharging the debt but by his labor; that is now impossible, through his confinement, and the creditor is put to a certain expense towards his maintenance. How foolish is this policy! And how much do such laws stand in need of revision and amendment! Imprisonment for debt, in such a case as that supposed above, can answer no other end than the gratification of the malice, revenge, or inhumanity of the creditor. Better sell all that he has, and, with his hands and feet untied, let him begin the world afresh. Dr. Dodd very feelingly inquires here, "Whether rigour in exacting temporal debts, in treating without mercy such as are unable to satisfy them - whether this can be allowed to a Christian, who is bound to imitate his God and Father? To a debtor, who can expect forgiveness only on the condition of forgiving others? To a servant, who should obey his Master? - and to a criminal, who is in daily expectation of his Judge and final sentence?" Little did he think, when he wrote this sentence, that himself should be a melancholy proof, not only of human weakness, but of the relentless nature of those laws by which property, or rather money, is guarded. The unfortunate Dr. Dodd was hanged for forgery, in 1777, and the above note was written only seven years before!
The unbridled and extravagant appetites of men sometimes require a rigour even beyond the law to suppress them. While, then, we learn lessons of humanity from what is before us, let us also learn lessons of prudence, sobriety, and moderation. The parable of the two debtors is blessedly calculated to give this information.
on Matthew 18 :35
So likewise ... - 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 toward him as if he had not offended us.
Trespasses - Offences, injuries. Words and actions designed to do us wrong.
Remarks On Matthew 18
1. We see that it is possible to make a profession of religion an occasion of ambition, Matthew 18:1. The apostles at first sought honor, and expected office as a 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. 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 people 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 prostitute the most sacred of all offices to the worst of purposes. The apostles at this time were ignorant. They expected a kingdom in which it would be right to seek distinction. But we labor under no such ignorance. We know that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and woe to the man that acts as though it were. Deep and awful must be the doom of him who thus seeks the honors of the world while he is professedly following the meek and lowly Jesus!
3. Humility is indispensable to religion, Matthew 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 proper 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 to 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, Matthew 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 people, 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, Matthew 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.
on Matthew 18 :35