Imatges de pÓgina
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posed that this must intend never ending punishments ; as it is thought that the servant can never pay what is due. If this be the true meaning of the text, it is evident that the disciples of Jesus were exposed to this never ending punishment; for it was to them the parable was spoken, and it was to them that Jesus applied it, saying, 'So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.' If the disciples of Jesus Christ were exposed to never ending punishment for the offence of an unforgiving moment, it may be just to conclude that not only they, but every individual of the human race, will be thus punished, as it is not reasonable to suppose that any are clear from such a character. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All have come short of loving their neighbors as themselves. But the foregoing parable was evidently designed to teach real christians the necessity of the exercise of the spirit of forgiveness. See the introduction, verse 21, 22: Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven.' Then Jesus introduces the parable, with reference to what he had told Peter, saying, 'Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened,' &c. This christian duty is urged by St Paul, Eph. iv, 31, 32: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.' Such is the imperfection of our present state, and such are the various circumstances to which we are incident, that so far

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from feeling himself secure from sin, the christian ought to be continually guarded on every side. So far are the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and the faith and hope which the gospel inspires, from taking away our moral obligations, or lessening our duty, that these are extended and multiplied in the same ratio as the mind is enlarged. The general sentiment of divines, that believers in Christ can sin with less expence to themselves than unbelievers, is unscriptural as well as unreasonable. It may be proper to ask, if the belief of the gospel removes any moral duty or obligation to which a man feels himself holden before he is a believer in the gospel? The answer must be in the negative. Is it not a fact, that the knowledge of the grace of God, which bringeth salvation to the soul, gives the believer new lessons in morality, which are more extensive and sublime than those which he had learned before? This question must undoubtedly be answered in the affirmative. Then surely the words of our Lord will well apply in this case: See St. Luke xii, 47, 48: 'And that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.' If there be more committed to the believer than there is to the unbeliever, then certainly more is required, and greater is the punishment in case of disobedience. But the general opinion maintained by the schools, is that the sins of the unbeliever are of such a nature as to render it just that he should be punished eter

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nally, while there is no danger of the believer in this respect, though he commit much greater crimes than the unbeliever. On the one hand, we have the wisdom of God, and on the other hand, we have the wisdom, I was just going to say, of man: but the text says, To whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.' As I cannot say, the wisdom of man, I will leave the reader to say. See Titus ii, 11, 12: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.' Now if the grace of God teaches thus, is it not supposable that we do not have this teaching unless we are taught it by this grace? And if so, then by this teaching more duty is made known, more is required, and greater is the punishment in case of disobedience.

Perhaps some inquiring mind may wish to ask, in this place, whether the grace of God, in extending our knowledge, by its teaching, and consequently our duty, is a blessing on the whole? To this it may be proper to reply, that as all rational happiness consists with a proper and just exercise of those abilities and graces which our heavenly Father has mercifully bestowed on us, the higher we rise, and the broader we extend in the knowledge of moral holiness, righteousness and truth, the more happy we are capable of being, while disposed to do our Master's will.

That man who, while he professes to glory in the goodness of God to him, and to rejoice that he has obtained a pardon of his sins for Christ's sake; and at the same time condemns his neighbor, especially if he condemns him to endless misery, is the character to which the above parable justly applies. In such

an one, where is that meek and quiet spirit which, in the sight of God, is an ornament of great price? Where is that divine charity which never faileth? Where is that faith which works by love and purifies the heart? Where is that hope which maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart?

Christian reader, our blessed Redeemer has manifested in his life, delineated in his preaching, and required in his commands, that duty which comports with his doctrine of divine mercy. He came into

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the world to seek and to save that which was lost? God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. God commended his love towards us, in that, while we were sinners Christ died for us. quired no condition of the creature, in relation to the above grace; man did not even ask God to make the promise of the saviour, nor did God promise this gift on conditions. This gift is the foundation of our salvation, and this foundation is universal. There is no exception; the Jew and the Gentile are here alike embraced. The one Mediator gave himself a ransom for all; he tasted death for every man; he was delivered for our offences, and rose again for our justification. Thus God has manifested pardon, forgiveness, and justification of all men, to those who know the truth as it is in Jesus. Here then is the proper ground on which the believer ought to forgive his fellow servant, as his lord has forgiven him. If contrary to the above argument, God had revealed, through Christ, that but a small part of the human race was embraced in the dispensation of mercy, and that but a few were justified in Christ, through the redemption

of his blood, then, that the character of the believer might be like that of his master, he must extend forgiveness in the same limited circle. And though he obtain forgiveness of his many sins, even of ten thousand talents, yet if he find one of his fellow servants who owes him but an hundred pence, why should he forgive him, if he does not believe him to be a subject of divine pardon? If he believe this his fellow servant to be an object of eternal vengeance, and doomed to endless torments, would it not be a light thing if he should take him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest? Surely, God does not require us to be more merciful than himself; and as a general thing, it may be remarked, that religious people copy the character which they attribute to God. The in quisition of the papists, was significant of their views of divinity; and every order of professing christians have something by which it is easy to determine the character of their deity. That unforgiving spirit which people attribute to the divine being, they will, generally, more or less, justify in themselves. But the consequences they cannot avoid: to the tormentors they must be delivered, until they are willing to forgive their fellow servants. Just as much want of forgiveness as any soul possesses, just as much torment it must feel; and it must continue to feel the same, until it ceases to possess this unforgiving spirit.

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