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37. He that loveth father or mother, more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me.
That is, He whose attachment to his nearest relatives is stronger than his attachment to the truth, is unfit to be my disciple, and will find it inipossible to be so: for he will perceive that he cannot be faithful to me, and, at the same time, preserve their affection. Christ here speaks of attachment to his doctrine, and not to his person.
He had recommended to his disciples the love of peace, and pronounced those blessed who endeavour to preserve or promote it; but he here cautions them against suffering their love of peace to overcome their love ot' truth. So the apostle Paul, commanding us to cultivate peace with all men, adds this proviso, “as much as in you lies:" for truth ought to be dearer to us than peace, even with our nearest relatives.
38. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
There is a reference here to the custom of making the person who was to be crucified, carry his cross to the place of execution. Crucifixion was the most cruel and infamous of the punishments inflicted by the Romans: hence the cross came to be used, metaphorically, for all kinds of evils: to bear or take up the cross, therefore, and follow Christ, is to expose ourselves with fortitude to the greatest evils in his cause. The expressions of Christ are general, and may be applied to any great sufferings: yet it is not unlikely that he had a particular reference, in what he said, to crucifixion; signifying, that they were not to decline that cruel and ignominious punishment, in the profession of the truth. Peter and some others of the apostles and martyrs were called to this severe trial, after it had been consecrated by the death of their master
39. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life, for my sake, shall find it.
These words may be considered as a military proverb; since it is found by experience that cowardly soldiers expose themselves to that danger and ruin which they seck to avoid by a shameful flight; but that the brave, by acting boldly, and encountering danger with intrepidity, make the best provision for their own safety. "The same thing may be said of the disciples of Christ, whether we regard this life or that which is to succeed it: those who courageously persevered in the profession of Christianity, often escaped from the greatest dangers, contrary to all expectation; as Peter did from prison, and Paul from shipwreck; and, in the time of the Jewish war, the disciples, being divinely admonished, retreated in season to Pella, and hereby withdrew themselves from danger; while, on the other hand, Judas, who, that he might enjoy the good things of this life, apostatized from Christ, hastened his own death; and those who returned to the Jews were involved in the common calamities of the nation. If we regard another life, which Christ had always and principally in view as the only true life, the justness of his words will appear much more clearly: he who apostatizes from Christ, shall not find, or shall not long keep, this short life, which he studies by that means to preserve, and will certainly incur the loss of the next: but, on the contrary, he who is constant, will expose his present life to danger, but will not immediately lose it; or, if he do, will receive it again with usury from the hand of God.
40. He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.
Christ now proceeds to comfort his disciples, by shewing them that, among so many enemies, they would not want consolations from pious and good men, whom God would stir up for this purpose by proposing to them great rewards. He first tells them that to receive them, would be considered as an act of duty equally meritorious with receiving himself; and that this was the same thing as receiving God himself, whose messenger he was, and whose words he brought: for such service no small reward would be bestowed.
41. He that receiveth a prophet, or, rather, “a teacher,” in the name of a teacher, shall receive a teacher's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward.
He who received a teacher, in that character, and out of regard to his office, shall receive the reward of a teacher, that is, a large reward, such as used to be conferred upon those who were engaged in so difficult · and honourable an employment; and he that receiveth a righteous man, a genuine disciple of Christ, who, although no teacher of religion, recommends it by his example, shall receive the reward of those who bear that excellent character. Lot and Abraham entertained angels, but without knowing them to be angels; but the widow of Zarephath received Elijah in the character of a prophet; and Laban received Jacob as a righteous man; and they all received their rewards.
42. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, i. e. as a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall by no means lose his reward.
Christ calls his disciples little ones, not on account of stature or of age, but because they were at this time young in knowledge; agreeably to which idea, such persons are, in other places, called babes in Christ; or; they may be called little ones, because they wanted that knowledge and dignity which are deemed necessary to denominate men great. With little knowledge, however, they had much docility and love of the truth. The smallest act of kindness performed for such persons, would not pass unnoticed.
From this passage we learn, that the value of our good actions depends upon the reference which we have, in performing them, to God, and to Jesus Christ.
1. What a delightful view does Christ here give us of the divine government! Its care extends to the smallest and meanest being alive, no less than to the most excellent: it suffers nothing to befal any individual, throughout the creation, which may counteract the wise and benevolent designs of God. How numerous must this great family of the Almighty be! Who can count the millions of beings of which it is composed, when we take into our account the various animals which swarm in the air, the earth and the sea! Yet each of these is watched over, and provided for, with as much care as if there were no other being in the universe. What benevolence must dwell in that heart, from which flow so many streams of good! How comprehensive is that mind, which can attend to so many things at once, without embarassment! Let us live contented and easy under his government: if any trouble or affliction befal us, we should remember that it is with his knowledge and permission; it shall proceed no further, and continue no longer, than he allows, From evil in his hands, and under his direction, we have nothing to fear; in discharging our duty to such a Being, we may chearfully expose our lives to danger: for we may be assured that they cannot be destroyed without leave from him, and that, whatever we may suffer, we shall lose nothing in his service.
2. Let us observe how strongly Christ enforces upon his disciples, and, through them, upon us, the open profession of the truth: it is an important service, which we must not decline, although we hereby occasion great divisions in the world; although we should alienate the affections of our best friends, disturb the peace of private families, and endanger our own lives. If, from the love of ease and quiet, we refuse to perform it, we are declared to be unworthy of Christ; to be unfit to be his disciples; he will deny any relation to us at the day of final judgment; saying, Depart from me ye workers of iniquity; I never knew you; and for our cowardly endeavours to escape pain and reproach, in his service, he will condemn both body and soul to endure the torments of hell.
Have you then discovered the will of Christ? Are you acquainted with the genuine doctrines of Christianity, which others have corrupted and defaccd? Remember your obligation to profess them openly, and to use your best endeavours to propagate them in the world: plead not as an excuse that you shall offend your friends; that you shall destroy the comfort of the most valuable connections in life; that you shall injure your worldly interests, or endanger your lives. All these things Christ plainly foresaw: but he did not think that they were sufficient to justify you in being silent and inactive.-What you are called upon to perform, is not a service of choice or discretion, which you may execute or neglect, as you find convenient; but it is a sacred and important duty, which you are to discharge in all circumstances. To confirm your resolution to expose yourself to all kinds of evil, in professing and propagating the truth, consider not only the greater evils which you will incur, by attempting to flee from them; but