« ForrigeFortsæt »
ever offensive, must be proclaimed in the most open and public manner----from the house-tops.
3. The persecutions to which the first preachers of the gospel were exposed afford us a striking proof of the folly or depravity of mankind. They behaved like enemies to those who were their best friends; who endeavoured to confer upon them the greatest benefit, by giving them wise and good laws for the regulation of their conduct; by bringing the glad tidings of the pardon of sin, and a resurrection to eternal life: they opposed those who were accompanied with evident seals of a mission from heaven; and they were thus found fighting against God, as well as against themselves.---What stronger proof could they give of their perverseness or want of discernment! Other men who have professed obnoxious truth could not boast of a commission from heaven; nor pretend that the doctrines which they taught were of equal importance with the fundamental principles of the Christian revelation; yet to persecute them is to punish them for being honest and upright; for endeavouring to do good at the hazard of their property or their lives. Is this just and wise?
4. The sufferings which others have endured, in propagating the truth, ought to reconcile our minds to those evils to which we may be exposed in the same
If the master of the hosue, the innocent and holy Jesus, has been accused of malicious intentions, and charged with being a confederate with wicked spirits; if the apostles, who were employed in publishing the most important message which was ever conveyed to men, were hated of all men on this account; leť not inferior servants in the houshold complain, if they meet with like treatment, in spreading what they deem to be important truth; if they are denominated by hard names, or incur universal odium.
It is an honourable testimony to their integrity and zeal; it ranks them with Christ and his apostles, the most eminent servants of God, and the greatest benefactors
of the human race. Let them rejoice that they are accounted worthy to suffer shame in such company,
Matthew x. 28. to the end.
28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Men will not scruple to inflict upon you the greatest evils in their power, for the profession of my religion, not excepting death itself; but do noť fear what they are able to do unto you.
The life which they are able to take away is only that of the body; the soul is beyond the reach of their malice; whereas, by denying the Christian faith, in order to save your lives, you will expose yourselves to the displeasure of the Almighty Being, who can punish the soul as well as the body in hell. The word which we here render, to destroy, signifies also, to punish; so that we cannot infer from this passage, as some have done, that wicked men will be annihilated; but it has been observed that Christ speaks of the soul and body being in hell together; as if he had no idea that the one could exist without the other.
29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? the tenth part of a Roman
penny; about three farthings of our money; And one of them, “even one of them, will not fall on the ground without your Father.
That is, One of them will not perish or die, unless he orders or permits it. Christ here teaches us that the Providence of God extends to all living creatures, not excepting the meanest individuals of them. Epicurus denied a Providence entirely: Aristotle, although he allowed a Providence, confined it to the heavens: some Arabians have thought that it employed itself about things in general, but not about particular events and individual beings. Some of the Hebrews thought that Providence was employed about men, but not about beasts; but this passage declares that the Providence of God is universal; that he has under his inspection and care all living things; and that nothing can happen to any of them without his permission. This doctrine was of particular importance to the disciples of Christ at this time, when they were about to be exposed to great evils: it would afford them great consolation to know, that, since the knowledge and power of God are infinite, and it appears that he has on many occasions altered the course of nature, whatever was permitted to befal them was permitted with a certain and wise design; God being able to prevent it, if he thought proper.
30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
This is a proverbial expression, signifying that their smallest concerns are regarded by God: a hair being used, both by the Greeks and Latins, for the smallest thing. What men reckon valuable they are accustomed to count; but things which are of no estimation they will not take the trouble to number. There is another Hebrew phrase which bears some resemblance to this, and may help to illustrate it.
When they mean to express that the smallest evil shall not befala man, they say, a hair of him shall not perish. It seems as if an emphasis was intended to be laid upon the word your in this passage----your head, who are not only men, but the messengers of divine truth, and whom God therefore takes under his special protection. Since, therefore, you are his particular.care, be assured that, however men may rage against you, no loss shall happen to you, except what will be for your benefit, and that of others.
31. Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.
If God take care of beasts and fowls, for the services which they are able to render to man, he will much more take care of you, who can be so useful in promoting his own designs; your lives are too valuable to be unnecessarily exposed to danger.
32. Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
To confess Christ before men, is not only to acknowledge that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, but likewise publicly to profess his doctrines, to whatever evils and dangers that profession may expose us.---This Christ requires from us: it is not sufficient to believe with the heart; it is also necessary to confess with the mouth: he has given us no reason to complain that he has imposed npon us a hard commandment, if we consider the reward with which obedience to it will be accompanięd; that of being owned by Christ, as his faithful disciples, before God and men. To those who shall refuse to confess Christ in this manner, he has threatened that he will publicly deny them.
As the preceding promise, however, includes a secret condition of perseverance, so, this threatening is to be understood as having in itself, likewise, a tacit condition, which leaves room for repentance. If, after having denied Christ, men repent of their fault, and alter their
conduct, they will avert the threatened evil. in this manner that Peter was saved.
34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
. Though all my precepts and exhortations tend to enforce good-will among men, and to establish among them the most firm and lasting peace, expect not that this will be the effect: for, through the ignorance or wickedness of mankind, it will prove the occasion of much animosity and variance. By the word sword, here used, we are not to understand war, but division: for it was the office of the sword to divide and separate, as well as to kill. Accordingly, in the parallel passage in Luke, it is, “suppose ye that I am come to send peace on earth? I tell you nay; but rather divis. ion.” It is obvious to remark, that by sending a sword we are not to understand the design of Christ, all whose counsels and wishes tend to peace and concord, but rather the event: unless we suppose that he speaks in reference to a foreknowledge of the event, and a firm design to propagate the truth, notwithstanding.
35. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father; and the daughter against her mother; and the daughter-in-law against her mother-inlaw,
36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own houshold.
Christ here shews that times were coming, not less dangerous than those which Micah deplores, vii. 6. and therefore repeats that prophet's words. His doctrine, he foretels, will produce division and animosity among the nearest relations and most intimate friends; and he warns his disciples of it, lest they should be surprised or offended at the event.