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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 18

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Matthew 18:1

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven

I. The occasion of this question. The payment of the tribute money (Matthew 17:1-27.) They might have learnt from hence humility and obedience to princes, though tyrants exacting that which is not due; and a willingness to part with their right rather than to offend. But prejudice makes Christ’s humility an occasion of evil. Some of the Fathers were of opinion that the disciples, when they saw Peter joined with Christ in this action of the tribute, did imagine that he was preferred before them. The true explanation is that “We trusted that this had been he” (Luke 24:21). Can Christ do this, and thus submit Himself? Can He be a king that thus pays tribute. This, instead of teaching the disciples humility, foments their pride.

II. The persons that move the question-“The disciples.” The disciples had been instructed that the kingdom of Christ was not of this world, yet conceit shut their understanding against the truth. “Ambition finds a pillow to sleep on even in the bosom of disciples themselves.” Satan makes snares of our own desires. He maketh curious nets, entangles our fancy, and we straight dream of kingdoms. “Who shall be greatest?” They are not always the worst men that put this question.

1. And this we need not much marvel at, if we consider the nature of this vice. It is a choice vice, preserved by the devil to abuse the best; this weed only grows in a fat soil, Base natures seldom bear it. What cares the covetous person for honour, who will bow to dirt?

2. It is a vice to which the world is much beholden, and therefore finds more countenance than any. Ambition has been productive of the world’s chiefest books and deeds.

3. It is a vice which amongst many men hath gained the reputation of virtue. It is the kindler of industry.

Inferences:-

1. Prejudice kept the disciples so long from the true knowledge of the Messias who had been so long with them. Prejudice puts out the eye of our judgment. So dangerous was it to the disciples that no words or miracles could root it out; not till the fiery tongues consumed it (Acts 2:2-3).

2. Since the devil made use of this error of the disciples, and attempted them where they were most open to him, let us as wise captains used to do, double our watch, and strengthen our weakest part. If the disciples leave all and follow Christ, he will tempt them with honour.

3. Let us not seek the world in the Church, nor honours and preferments in the kingdom of Christ. Let us not fit religion to our carnal desires, but lay them down at the foot of religion. Let Christianity swallow up the world in victory. Let us clip the wing of our ambition, and the more beware of it because it carries with it the show of virtue.

III. The question itself. The disciples were mistaken in the terms of their question, for neither is greatness that which they supposed, nor the kingdom of heaven of that nature as to admit of that greatness which their fancy had set up. In this kingdom Lazarus may be ruler over Dives. The difference between this kingdom and the kingdoms of this world.

1. The subjects of this kingdom are unknown to any but God Himself.

2. Of this kingdom there is no end.

3. The seat of this kingdom is the hearts of the faithful.

4. Their laws are different. It is a common error amongst men to judge of spiritual things by carnal. Goodness is greatness. Let us seek for honour; but seek for it in its own coasts; let us look up to the highest heavens where its seat is. (A. Farindon, B. D.)

Prejudice fruitful of mistake

For all mistake is from the eye, all error from the mind, not from the object. If the eye be goggle or misset, if the mind be dimmed with malice or ambition and prejudice, it puts upon things what shape it pleaseth, receiveth not the true and natural species they present, but views them at home in itself, as in a false glass (which renders them back again as it were by reflexion), which is most deceitful. This makes gods and sets up idols in itself, and then worships them. And this is the reason why Christ is so much mistaken, why the gospel of Christ receives such different entertainment. Every man lays hold on it, wrests it to his own purpose, works it on his own anvil, and shapes it to his own fancy and affection. (A. Farindon, B. D.)

Desires turned into snares

The craft of Satan is various, and his wiles and devices manifold. He knows in what breast to kindle lust, into which to breathe ambition. He knows whom to cast down with sorrow, whom to deceive with joy, whom to shake with fear, and whom to mislead with admiration. He searcheth our affections, he fans and winnows our hearts, and makes that a bait to catch us withal which we most love and most look upon. “He fights,” as the father speaks, “with ourselves against ourselves;” he makes snares of our own desires, and hinds and fetters us up with our own love. If he overcome us with his more gross temptations, he insults: but if he fail there, he then comes towards us with those temptations which are better clothed and better spoken. He maketh curious nets, entangles our fancy, and we straight dream of kingdoms. Like a wise captain, he plants all his force and artillery at that place which is weakest and most attemptable. We see the disciples’ hearts were here the weakest, and here lay most open: hither therefore the devil directs his darts, here he placeth his engines, to make a breach. So dangerous a vice is ambition; and so hard a thing it is even for good men, for mortified persons, for the disciples of Christ to avoid it! (A. Farindon, B. D.)

Greatness adds nothing to virtue

Nothing accrues to a good man when he rises and comes on in the world; nothing is defalked from him when he falls and decays. The steed is not the better for his trappings; nor doth the instrument yield sweeter music for its carved head, or for the ribbon which is tied unto it. (A. Farindon, B. D.)

Greatness adds nothing to comfort

It is but a fancy, and a vain one, to think there is most ease and most content in worldly greatness, or that we sleep best when our pillow is highest. Alas! when our affrighted thoughts shall awake each other, and our conscience put forth her sting; when those sins shall rise up against us, by which we have climbed to this pitch; all the honour of the world will not give us ease. (A. Farindon, B. D.)

Ambition corrected

I. A strange inquiry.

1. They did not inquire about character, but persons.

2. They did not perceive the nature of His kingdom.

3. They thought of the crown without the cross.

4. They set up a mistaken claim.

5. They forgot the Saviour’s omniscience.

II. An instructive reply.

1. It shows a danger.

2. It teaches a necessity.

3. It speaks a privilege.

(Congregational Pulpit.)

The peerage of the kingdom

I. The question. It showed ignorance, pride, selfishness.

II. The answer. Learn: The way of entrance. The principle of recompense, not merit; not personal worth and greatness. The acknowledgment of unworthiness even to get in at all. (H. Bonar D. D.)

The members of Christ’s kingdom

I. None but the childlike are in the kingdom at all. The entering implies a “conversion,” a turning of the back upon the old course of life, and setting the face in the opposite direction.

II. The most childlike are the greatest. That which is most admirable in a Christian man, and the mark of truest greatness, is childlike humility.

III. The childlike are Christ’s truest representatives in the world. (Dr. Culross.)


Verses 1-35

Verses 3-5

Matthew 18:3-5

And Jesus called a little child unto Him.

Christian humility

The question of the disciples brings them very distinctly before us, and makes them very real to us, as men like unto ourselves. Nothing can be more artless, and evidently truthful, than their representation in these Gospels of their own thoughts and conduct. How beautifully does Jesus rebuke all this. What a profound and original idea of greatness does this unfold!

I. The commendation of humility. That humility is not set forth as the sole condition of the heavenly estate, The Saviour’s words do not limit the entire range of Christian character to this one quality. It is its secret fountain. What humility is not.

1. Humility is not a weak and timid quality. It must be distinguished from a grovelling spirit. We should think something of our humanity, and not cast it under men’s feet. Servants to all; servile to none.

2. It is not to be confounded with that morbid self-abasement which grows out of certain religious views. We may well be humble when we see the infinite love against which we have sinned.

3. Genuine humility is not incompatible with a consciousness of merit; for a secret persuasion of power is the spring of noble enterprise.

The consciousness of possessing something is essential to the sense of deficiency which makes us truly humble.

1. Now see how humility lies at the base of all true greatness. We instinctively associate humility with greatness. We always suspect ostentation.

2. The weakness which pride covers, but does not obviate, in the matter of dress and show. It is a great thing for a man to know and feel that he is a man; it is a great thing for him to understand where he is, and to profess what he is. Humility is the spring of all intellectual greatness; also of religious. The man who is convinced that he is perfect, the farthest from being perfect. “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the spring of all real acquisition in religious things. The child’s humility is unconscious; man’s humility is reached by experience.

3. The child-like relation in all who in any degree enter into the sphere of Christian faith and feeling. Christ would bring all men to filial dependence upon God. There is no humility without love and confidence; subjection to a tyrant is not humility; but the reverence which I give to a father. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Greatness determined by use, not extent

When you take the loftiest standards in comparison, who is filling a great sphere in God’s universe? What king, what president, what statesman, what man of pride and renown, is filling a great sphere? But the moment you come down and take the ordinary earthly standards, the true test of any man’s condition is the uses to which he puts it-and to which the Almighty Himself puts it. The uses of a thing make it great, not its extent. The uses of the wayside spring, that refreshes the traveller’s march; or the flower that grows at the foot of awful ice-peaks and battlemented crags, unfolding all the summer long its beautiful parable of Providence and love-who can limit the usefulness of that? and who can say that it is nothing, because its sphere is little? (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Humility the spring of intellectual greatness

The humbler men are, the greater they are. What are the proudest triumphs of our day, intellectually speaking? They are in little things. The great men of our day do not construct cosmologies; do not sit down and build up great theories of the universe. We laugh at such things; we suspect their soundness at once. When a man comes to us and tells us that he has a new theory of creation, we begin to think whether he had not better have a theory of his own sanity. The things which occupy the greatest minds of our day are the little sparks of electricity, the little wayside shells, the blossoms, the infusoriae myriad-fold that hang in a single drop of water. Down in the little lowly things men find the great secret of the world; away down they begin to find the spring and sources of things, and the profoundest books of science are founded on these little ordinary, unobserved affairs. Humility is the spring of all intellectual greatness. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

The unconscious humility of a child combined with the experience of a man

But we have-and let us thank God that we have-something better than childhood’s innocence, if we have lived truly and Christ-like. We have strength to overcome evil which the child must learn; we have a power to trample sin underneath us that the child must undergo much to gain; we have not the innocence of Eden, but by God’s help and Christ’s example we may have the victory of Gethsemane. It is a great thing to have the humbleness of a child. But it is to be joined with the consciousness and the effort of the man. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

The spiritual worth of childhood

But, moreover, there is testimony in Christianity, not only for the love of God to the child, but to the spiritual worth of the child. The child illustrates the value of the soul as Christ brings it before us here. Now, observe, there is no materialistic theory that would be consistent with the way in which Christ treats the child, because, on the materialistic theory, everything grows upward, grows wider and better. But the doctrine of the text is not the doctrine of development; we must go back to childhood again; we don’t develop humility. We may develop physical strength; we may develop intellectual splendour; we may develop imagination or reason, but we do not develop humility. In that the child has the advantage of us. If it were merely material, why should not the child have less humility than the man? No; we come back to the child’s condition, in some respects; and that illustrates the child’s share of our common spiritual nature, And here is the reason why we find the element of greatness set forth as it is by Jesus Christ. Greatness is in spiritual power; it is not an outward attainment that the man can attain and the child can not. It is not any outside clothing; it is not in crowns; it is not in the world’s fame; it is a spiritual quality, and the child has that spiritual quality which is the condition of all greatness. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

The nature and necessity of conversion

I. The nature of conversion. A change of character (Psalms 51:13; Acts 13:19; James 5:20) implies-

1. A change of mind.

2. A change of heart.

3. Followed by a change of conduct. Regulated by the word of God.

II. The effect of conversion. Its subjects become as little children, not, indeed, in every respect-ignorance, idleness, etc. But.

1. In the affectionate dispositions of their hearts towards each other.

2. In simplicity and sincerity.

3. In humility and lowliness of mind.

III. The necessity of conversion.

1. What we are to understand by the kingdom of heaven.

2. The necessity of conversion in order to enter into this kingdom. The unconverted have no right to, and no meetness for, this kingdom. Were it possible for them to enter they would still be unhappy. (R. Treffrey.)

The necessity of conversion

I. The nature of the kingdom of Christ, and what is implied in entering into it.

1. The kingdom of Christ is, His reign in and over mankind. It must be considered in two states and periods-

2. We enter this kingdom by becoming members of Christ’s true Church-militant, triumphant.

II. The nature of this conversion, or in what sense we must be converted and made like little children, in order to our entering into this kingdom.

1. It implies being turned from self to Christ; from the world, and sin, etc.

2. It implies being inwardly changed, understanding enlightened, etc.

3. Conversion makes us like little children-sincere, humble, etc.

4. The works of conversion. Light in the understanding; love to the godly; obedience to all God’s commands; hatred to, and victory overall known sin; avoiding temptation, etc.

III. The absolute necessity of this conversion. Unconverted persons are unfit for heaven. (Joseph Benson.)

Conversion

The occasion of this remark was like the manifestation of a desire for preeminence.

I. The nature of conversion.

II. The evidence of it is the disposition of a child.

1. A disposition which is the opposite of an ambitious spirit.

2. A child is confiding. It trusts its parents.

3. A child is submissive.

III. Why this change is necessary. Because the disposition of a child is the only one that agrees with our relation to God. This will apply-

1. To our ignorance.

2. To our weakness.

3. To our guilt and pollution.

IV. The blessedness of this disposition.

1. The peace it gives.

2. The security it affords. God cares for us.

3. It places us in our normal relation to God.

4. It secures our admission into the kingdom of God, of which Christ is the head and centre. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

This teaches us all

I. The necessity of humility in order to salvation.

II. That even converted souls have need of a daily conversion.

III. How abominable in the eyes of God ambition and pride are in any, especially in ministers of the gospel.

IV. That in the Church the way to be great is to be humble.

V. That true humility consists in a mean opinion of ourselves, not minding high things, not being wise in our own conceits, in honour preferring one another. (M. Pool.)

Conversion

Let us see what “turn” is necessary before we can be Christians.

I. It is evident that we are all too much men and women, else it would not have been said, “Turn and be children.”

1. We as men fancy ourselves independent and self-sufficient; we must get back to simplicities, self-renunciation, to a babyhood of trust.

2. To be a little child is to be in a state to receive. Be a little child in the lowest form and receive discipline.

3. This image does not convey the idea of a perfectly new being, but of an old being begun again, that it may do better.

4. There is another beautiful trait of childhood, purity. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Conversion; its nature, effects, and importance

I. Its nature.

II. The evidences of conversion.

1. A child is inquisitive.

2. Teachable in his disposition.

3. A child believes the testimony of his parents.

III. Its necessity. (J. Williams, M. A.)

Conversion

I. The temper that distinguishes the subjects of divine grace. “AS little children.” Not like them in ignorance, not in fickleness, not in waywardness. Little children are teachable and ready of belief; are devoid of malignity; are characterized by humility.

II. The way in which we are to attain it. We must be “converted” and “become as little children.”

1. The temper we are required to possess is not in us naturally, but is the consequence of a Divine change.

2. The change is to be judged of by its effect.

III. The importance of possessing this temper. “Ye shall not enter,” etc. This exclusion-

1. The most awful.

2. The most unavoidable. “Without holiness man shall see the Lord.”

3. The most universal.

4. What a difference there is between the opinion of the world and the judgment of God. (W. Jay.)

I. Childlikeness is the test of greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Resemblance to children, not in ignorance or in fickleness, but-

1. In a teachable spirit (Acts 9:6; Acts 10:33; Acts 16:30).

2. In a consciousness of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13).

3. In a dependent spirit (Matthew 6:31; Philippians 4:18-19).

4. In freedom from ambition (Romans 12:16).

5. In a forgiving temper (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:32).

II. The degree of childlikeness is the measure of greatness.

1. Because it raises its possessor in the scale of our excellence.

2. Because it qualifies its possessor for higher usefulness.

3. Because it assimilates its possessor more nearly to the Redeemer.

4. Because it secures for its possessor a more exalted position in the heavenly world.

Humility

1. Some are naturally more humble than others; there is a natural humility.

2. Still lower than this, there is a humility of word, love, and manner, which is a mere worldly ornament to be put off and on.

How shall we cultivate humility?

1. Be sure that you are loved. We are all inclined to be proud to those whom we think do not like us.

2. Realize yourself the object of great mercy.

3. Seek to be reverent in worship, for if humble before God you will be before men.

4. Always try to re-live the life of childhood, to think and feel as when you were a child.

5. Deal often with your real self in some of the humbling parts of your history.

6. Exercise inward discipline to meet the first buddings of pride.

7. Do acts of humility.

8. God always empties before He fills; He will humble before He will use a person.

9. It is a great thing to have much intercourse with little children. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

A lesson of humility

The question of the disciples reveals the appearance and the nature of the kingdom of heaven. To these disciples it was the most natural question in the world.

I. The ambition to be greatest is a very common weakness in our nature. But there are very many considerations which wonderfully qualify this desire to be first.

1. It is a thing of great responsibility.

2. You may be first and be very miserable.

3. It is utterly inconsistent with the religion of Jesus Christ.

II. How our Lord taught the lesson of humility to his disciples. He not only spoke about it to them, but He showed it to them. What is the ground of comparison between that beautiful boy and a true disciple-a disciple in the right spirit?

1. The per-fact non-resistance of a child. Christ called the child, and the child came, etc. There was no resistance. The very reverse of this was the case with the disciples. Give instances. They did not, like the little child, yield and come the moment the Master called. They resisted the Spirit of Christ; the darkness in them opposed the light that came from Him. There is very much in the best of us that resists Christ.

2. Perfect trust and the absence of all fear. It was so with this child. To be a Christian is to trust Christ perfectly, and to cast all fear to the wind. In our darkness and ignorance, etc. In our sin and weakness. In our trials and perplexities. And when death comes.

3. Humility. Observe what Christian humility is-Coming when Christ calls, etc., without endeavouring to appear to be anything that we are not. Conclusion. The dignity and glory of true humility. (Thomas Jones.)

The nature of humility

It is not at all the thing that people suppose it to be. Take Christ’s exposition of it. The child humbles himself. How did the child humble himself? He came when Christ called, he suffered himself to be embraced, and he stood where Christ put him, without pretending to be anything more than he was, an honest, fine, healthy-looking boy. Christ calls that humility. People think that going and moping about the world and saying, “I am very imperfect,” is humility. Protect me from such humility. Some of the proudest creatures I ever met in the world were the most humble, if that be humility-people who complained about themselves; but if you were ever to say to them, “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, madam, I know you really are bad,” they would turn round and say, “Who told you so? What do you know about me?” That is not Christian humility. Humility is that of the boy coming when Christ called, suffering himself to be embraced, standing there as long as Christ wanted him to stand, without endeavouring to appear to be anything that he was not. That is Christian humility. There is a real charm in this child, if you will only think of it, in his unconsciousness. He never thought he was doing anything praiseworthy; it never entered into his little head that there was anything beautiful in his little actions. That is the essence of the thing. He came quickly when the Master called, he looked happy in His arms, he stood where Christ put him, and he never thought for one moment that there was any praise due to him for that. He was moved to confidence; the instincts of the boy were moved by the tenderness of Christ’s voice and the expression of His face. The little man went under his natural instincts and never thought for a moment that there was any virtue or beauty in his actions. What; is that? That is Christian humility-to yield ourselves to Christ, to serve Him, to serve our brothers and our sisters, going about doing good, beautiful as lamps in the darkness, sweet and fragrant as the breeze from the south. Go and do this, live this beautiful life, yet never showing that we are conscious of its beauty, never letting it escape the lip that we know we are doing anything grand. What is the most beautiful thing in the world? A man or a woman living a high Christian life-without ever letting it escape the lip or the expression that they consider there is anything beautiful or grand in it. It is the unconsciousness of the child that constitutes the highest climax of the Christian life. To be great, to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is to excel in that direction. I have looked lately at some large fruit trees covered with fruit; and a rich fruit tree is a very beautiful object; it has a massive trunk and far-stretching boughs; the foliage is rich, the dew of the morning is wet upon its leaves, and the sun plays in the little crystal drops, and the branches bending under their fruit barely move in the very gentle movement of the wind. There are very few things in nature more beautiful than a tree like that, and a man of sensibility, a man with a right state of heart, looking upon such a thing cannot but admire it. But if (which of course it is folly to suppose) that tree for one moment could be self-conscious, if it had the power of speech for one instant and let out the secret that it thought itself very beautiful, it would be a different thing to us the moment it had spoken. It is the unconsciousness, the absence of the knowledge of self, that is one charm of the vegetable world. So in character. It is very difficult to be this, my brethren; it is very difficult for me to stand here Sunday after Sunday and speak to you without revealing some little bit of vanity, some little bit of self-consciousness; but if I have not got it I cannot show it. Two great preachers in Wales met at a public meeting. It was usual then, I am sorry to say, as it is now, for men of different denominations to justify their appearing before each other. One of them was a very eloquent man, one of the greatest preachers in the Principality, and he said he had left his party zeal at home before he started. Another as great as he got up and said, “Well, I thank God I had none to leave, and I came here just as I was at home.” Let a man be free from vanity and self-consciousness, and it will not appear. This is Christian humility as taught by the Savior. (Thomas Jones.)

The desire to be great natural

Now this ambition to be the greatest is a very common weakness in our nature,-to be great, to be first, to be the greatest anywhere, however small the little kingdom may be, to be the first “minister in the kingdom, or, if you can, to be the king of the little kingdom. Better reign anywhere than serve in high positions. To have power, to see our own thoughts carried out, to make men, and things, and circumstances, do as we like,-it is very delightful, exceedingly fascinating, and it has a great charm for our minds, believe somewhat of it is natural, and I do not think it is altogether sinful. The natural is not sinful. Whatever God has put in us is right. A lad has fine powers and God has put ambition into the lad to use his powers, so that if he is at school he desires to take the first place. Do not blame him; it is quite natural; the ambition is in him. But, on the other hand, I must say what is true about this. There are very many considerations which wonderfully qualify this desire to be first. (Thomas Jones.)

The responsibility of greatness overlooked

To be first in the world is a thing of great responsibility. To be first is very pleasant. Yes but it has a burden of responsibility. To be the first poet-the fierce rays of criticism beat upon you; to be the first preacher, the first minister-it is a most solemn responsibility. Nothing is expected of a delicate flower but that it should be beautiful and just give a little fragrance. Everybody is satisfied with the flower if it will do these two things. But a large tree upon which nature has expended years of time and care, and made the trunk massive, and the boughs wide, and the foliage thick and rich, a tree that nature has taken years of trouble with, much is expected front that Oh, delicate flower, if thou art beautiful and hast a little fragrance nobody wilt blame thee; but a great, massive tree, everybody will blame thee and thy foliage, and thy massiveness, except thou bringest forth much fruit. Like the delicate flower is the man with one talent, the humble Christian man, doing his duty walking humbly with God. I think myself that is the finest life in the whole world, incomparably the most blessed life in the world-not to be rich not to b,-very poor, to have a little home of your own, surrounded by those you love and by whom you are loved, unobserved by the world around, like the delicate flower, just being beautiful and giving forth fragrance. The world never critise you, never says anything about you: you pass on doing your duty, you lay your throbbing head down in death, you shall rest and go home and be with God, and the report of your doings shall be read in another world than this. The responsibility of being first is very great, and the criticism upon those who are first is very fierce. Plant the sapling in the valley, it shall have shelter,-put the same sapling on the mountain top, and the fury of every element shall be expended upon it. There are men in England, authors, statesmen, and preachers, upon whom every element, good, bad, and indifferent, at the command of criticism comes in all its fury expending its strength upon them. I would not be one of them for any earthly consideration. I would not be first in England for the possession of a nobleman’s estate. To be in such a position, especially as Tennyson says, “in the fierce light of the throne,” is to he in a position of solemn responsibility. My friend, if God has not called you to be very prominent you have reason to thank God that He has consented you should live a quiet, reverent, honest, generous, Christian life uncriticised, unpraised, and unabused. (Thomas Jones.)

Child-like non-resistance

There is very much in the best of us that resists Christ. We are not like that little child. Christ calls (it is all the better for you if I am not speaking truth), but there is no answer; Christ commands, but we do not obey; Christ stands at the door, and we do not open; He has been there long, He is there now, and will be there to-morrow and many of you keep Him out. The comparison in the Bible to express this want of child-likeness, this want of non-resistance, is a rock. The rain comes, the rock is not softened; the winds blow, the rock makes no response; the sun shines, the rock is not made fertile; summer comes, autumn comes, winter comes, spring comes-spring, summer, autumn, winter find and leave the rock the same cold hard, insensate thing as it ever was. I do not know you, but I am describing exactly the state of many hearts even in the Church of God. The gospel comes like rain showers upon the rock, but it has not softened you; breezes from the eternal mountains blow upon you-they are not vivifying; God’s eternal love shines upon you-it has not changed you; life with its wonderful lessons comes-you grow very little better. Do you not know men in the circle of your acquaintance who are not at all better than they were ten years ago? Success came-they were no better; disappointment came; the marriage morning came, they were the same “. the funeral day-they were the same. All the elements of the gospel, all the influence of the Divine Spirit, all the wonderful events of life, all its friendships, all its love, left them where they were. They resist God, they resist His influences. Brethren, I ought to be a better man, having enjoyed the friendship of many of you for many years; I should be unworthy of that friendship, if I were not wiser and better, and more humble and more reverent. You ought, as day after day carries you nearer to eternity, to resist God less. Oh, my friends, be as little children; lean to Christ, resist not the Holy Spirit of God. (Thomas Jones.)

The mission and ministry of infants in the family and in the world

I. Some of the doctrinal lessons taught us by the mission of infants.

1. By man’s original transgression temporal death ensued to infants as a part of the race.

2. Universal atonement.

3. Their immortality.

4. Their resurrection.

II. Some of the practical, lessons.

1. The duty of parental watchfulness and tender care over the helplessness of infancy.

2. The duty of self-sacrifice is taught by the mission of infants.

3. The solemn responsibility of a most important trust.

4. The duty of resignation to the work of God, in the dispensations of His Providence.

5. The ministry of infants in the family is intended to teach patience.

6. It teaches the highest Christian virtues, such as innocency, dependence.

7. God’s providential care over childhood.

8. That the path of true greatness lies through the vale of humility. (J. E. Edwards, D. D.)

God’s care of little children

A poor little boy was found standing in the streets by a kind-hearted man. The child was lean and thinly clad, bearing the marks of hunger and poverty. “What are you doing here?” inquired the man. The boy replied: “I am waiting for God to come.” “What do you mean?” inquired the man, touched by the novelty of his reply. The poor little boy responded: “Mother and father, and nay little brother died, and nay mother said God would come and take care of me. Won’t He come? … Yes,” replied the man, “I have come.” “Mother never told me a lie,” said the little boy; “I knew you would come; but you have been so long on the way.”

Childhood educates man on the best side of his nature

It is probable that every one of the traits of higher manhood in adults springs from the drill and the training which little children require and inspire. I doubt whether preceptual teaching could ever have brought into this world any considerable degree of disinterested affection. I doubt if self-denial and heroism in that direction could ever have been propagated in this world as a matter of duty. Conscience never brings forth love. Intellectual reasoning never produces rich and warm caresses. It is the economy of God’s providence to set men and women together in the household, and give them little children, and draw them toward these little children by the instinct of love dinstinct in the early day, and companionable love in a later day, and out of this love to develope all the character, forethought, and industry which are necessary for the good of these children. There are men who are very selfish toward their neighbours, very selfish in their business, very selfish in their pleasures; there are men who, as citizens, are not true to the laws under which they live, not true to commonwealth, but who, if you go into their households, and see how they deal with their children, seem to have an entirely different nature. They lay aside their selfishness. The pride and greediness which characterize them out-of-doors are gone when they are indoors. Indeed, the faults which they exhibit outside are often faults which they take on for the sake of being able to take care of the little children that are inside. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ in a child

There is an old story, a kind of Sunday fairy tale, which you may sometimes have seen represented in pictures and statues in ancient churches, of a great heathen giant who wished to find out some master that he should think worthy of his services-some one stronger than himself. He went about the world, but could find no one stronger. And, besides this, he was anxious to pray to God, but did not know how to do it. At last he met with a good old man by the side of a deep river, where poor wayfaring people wanted to get across and had no one to help them. And the good old man said to the giant, “Here is a place where you can be of some use, and if you do not know how to pray, you will, at any rate, know how to work, and perhaps God will give you what you ask, and perhaps also you will at last find a master stronger than you.” So the giant went and sat by the river-side, and many a time he carried poor wayfarers across. One night he heard a little child crying to be carried over; so he put the child on his shoulder and strode across the stream. Presently the wind blew, the rain fell, and as the river beat against his knees, he felt the weight of the little child almost more than he could bear, and he looked up with his great patient eyes, and he saw that it was a child glorious and shining, and the child said, “Thou art labouring under this heavy burden because thou art carrying one who bears the sins of all the world.” And then, as the story goes on, the giant felt that it was the child Jesus, and when he reached the other side of the river, he fell down before Him. Now he had found some one stronger than he was, some one so good, so worthy of loving, as to be a master whom he could serve. (Dean Stanley.)

Nature of countersign

Converting grace makes persons become like little children; both like those just born, and those who are a little grown.

I. Converts resemble little children newly born.

1. Children enter the world with much difficulty and hazard. So God’s children have a difficult entrance into a state of grace.

2. An infant has always a principle of life and motion; so converts have a principle of spiritual life infused into their souls.

3. The child bears the image of the father; so converts bear a likeness to God; they have His image.

4. A child comes weeping into the world; so God’s children are crying children.

5. There is a natural instinct in children, as soon as born, to seek the mother’s breast; so a gracious soul, when newly converted, desires “ the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.”

6. Converts resemble little children in their weakness and dependence.

7. There is a resemblance between little children and converts in their harmlessness.

II. Converts represent children a little grown.

1. In their guileless disposition. Little children are generally plain and downright, what they seem to be, and do not dissemble.

2. They are of a gall-less disposition; they may be angry, but bear no malice.

3. They are submissive to correction.

4. They are full of jealousies and fears.

5. They are very affectionate.

6. They are very inquisitive.

7. They are generally tractable.

8. They do all for their parents, and acknowledge them in all they have; so the child of God does nothing for himself but for God’s glory.

9. Converts resemble little children in their growth.

10. They are mostly of an humble and condescending disposition. Application-

Marks of a true conversion

I. What are we to understand by our Lord’s saying? The words imply-

1. That before you or I can have any well-grounded, scriptural hope, of being happy in a future state, there must be some great, some notable and amazing change pass upon our souls.

2. That little children are not perfectly innocent, but in a comparative and rational sense.

3. That, as to ambition and lust after the world, we must in this sense become as little children; we must be as loose to the world, comparatively speaking, as a little child.

4. That we must be sensible of our weakness, as a little child.

5. That, as little children look upon themselves to be ignorant creatures, so those that are converted, do look upon themselves as ignorant too.

6. That, as a little child is looked upon as a harmless creature, and generally speaks true, so, if we are converted, we shall be guileless as well as harmless. (George Whitefield.)

Humility aids spiritual vision

He that is in the low pits and caves of the earth, sees the stars in the firmament, when they who are on the tops of the mountains discern them not. He that is most humble, sees most of heaven, and shall have most of it; for the lower the ebb, the higher the tide; and the lower the foundation of virtue is laid, the higher shall the roof of glory be over-laid. (John Trapp.)


Verse 6

Matthew 18:6; Matthew 18:9

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee.

Renouncing things that hinder

The every-sided development of all our faculties, the inferior, as well as the more elevated, is certainly to be regarded as the highest attainment, yet he who finds by experience that he cannot cultivate certain faculties-the artistic for example-without injury to his holiest feelings, must renounce their cultivation, and make it his first business, with painstaking fidelity, to preserve entire the innermost life of his soul, that higher life imparted to him by Christ, and which, by the dividing and distracting of his thoughts, might easily be lost, nor must it give him any disturbance, if some subordinate faculty be thus wholly sacrificed by him. Assuredly, however, we must add, that this loss is only in appearance, for, in the development of man’s higher life, everything of a subordinate kind which he had sacrificed is again restored with increase of power. (Olshausen.)

Better suffer than sin

It is not merely that we should abstain from actual wrong-doing. That of course. It is not even that we should shun the avenues of sin; but, whatever the pain or loss involved, we are utterly to renounce that which we find to be the occasion of sin. The merely literal and outward is not the thing to dwell open. A man might cut off both hands, or pluck out both eyes, and yet leave the root of sin untouched. What Christ summons to is the surrender of everything, however pleasant, or dear, or seemingly necessary for the present life, and whatever suffering there may be in the surrender, rather than sin against God. The boldly figurative language well expresses the intensity of the change. (Dr. Culross.)

Moral surgery

I. That the sinner’s sin is his own-a part of himself. “Thy right hand.” Few people admit the ownership of their sins.

II. That deliverance from sin can be effected only through the sinner”s own act. “Cut it off’.”

1. Painful. “Cut it off.”

2. Promptness. “Cut “ with a determined stroke.

3. Persistent. “Cut it off.”

III. That heroically, in order to make reformation a permanent blessing, must the sinner abandon his sin. “Cast it from thee.”

1. This figure is suggestive of danger. The last resort.

2. The great Physician Himself urges the operation.

3. Every consideration, past, present, and future calls upon the sinner to decide. “It is profitable for thee.”

4. The fearful consequences of neglect. “Cast into hell.” (J. Kelly.)

Self-discipline

The Rev. R. Cecil possessed remarkable decision of character. When he went to Cambridge he made a resolution of restricting himself to a quarter of an hour daily in playing the violin-on which instrument he greatly excelled, and of which he was extravagantly fond; but, on finding it impracticable to adhere to his determination he cut the strings, and never afterwards replaced them. He had studied for a painter; and retained through a life a fondness and taste for the art. He was once called to visit a sick lady, in whose room there was a painting which so strongly attracted his notice, that he found his attention diverted from the sick person and absorbed by the painting; from that moment he formed the resolution of mortifying a taste which he found so intrusive, and so obstructive to him in his nobler pursuits and determined never again to frequent the exhibition.

Self-mortification

This is the circumcision of the heart, the mortifications of earthly members, which is no less hard to be done than for a man with one hand to cut off the other, or to pull out his own eyes, and then rake in the holes where they grew. And yet, hard or not hard, it must be done; for otherwise we are utterly undone for ever. Hypocrites, as artificial jugglers, seem to wound themselves, but do not: as stage-players, they seem to thrust themselves through their bodies, whereas the sword passeth only through their clothes. But the truly religious lets out the life-blood of his beloved lusts, lays them all dead at his feet, and burns their bones to lime, as the king of Moab did the king of Edom (Amos 2:1). As Joshua put down all the Canaanites, so doth grace all corruptions. As Asa deposed his own mother, so doth this, the mother of sin. It destroys them not by halves, as Saul; but hews them in pieces before the Lord, as Samuel. (John Trapp.)


Verse 7

Matthew 18:7

Woe unto the world because of offences.

Christian Influence

Some sinners defend themselves by saying that if they had not tempted their comrades to evil, some one else would. If your action made no difference in the man’s ultimate course, it is not excused. It may be true that the temptation would have come without you; it by no means follows that it would have been equally powerful if you had not put it in the way; your example may have given it special force. How often is this so between friends and near kindred! Obedience to God extends to the temptation that is likely to lead to sin. The eye, the hand, must be plucked out, cut off, if it proved a temptation too strong for the man’s resistance. If the temptation is clearly too much for you, you are bound to put yourself in such a position that it shall not be able to reach you. But our Lord not only requires a man to deal thus with himself, but also with his neighbour. We are not allowed to suppose that our brother’s conduct is indifferent to us. We are to have regard to the effect of our conduct upon others. Let us consider the form which this teaching takes in sonic of the ordinary relations of life.

I. Look at life in our own homes. The doctrine that each must look only to himself would not be admitted here. We are ready to interfere with what affects our comfort; are we as ready with loving care to remove stumbling-blocks. It is easy to expose selfishness, but not so easy to be perpetually setting an example of sacrifice.

II. The relationship of master and servant is peculiarly one which calls for the constant care for one another. How many temptations can we remove from the path of servants if we give our thoughts to it. Living in a household, servants imbibe the principle of their masters. What a power for removing temptation from a child does every servant possess.

III. Look at society and see how the rule applies there. In a Christian country society should have regard for the weaknesses of humanity; to mould the customs of society so as to put as few temptations as possible in the way of these weaknesses. True, the demand for this is not so strong here as in our own homes; but it is easier to recognize. In the home you deal with individuals, peculiarity and diversity of temperament, and it may be hard to recognize what is a temptation, and what the best way of removing it; but in regard to society we have no such difficulties; here we have to deal with the effects of temptation on thousands, and this does not admit of much doubt. Every member of society is responsible for his share in customs which create temptation.

IV. Consider this rule as applied to legislation. No act of legislation ought to pass without consideration as to its moral effects, its likelihood to increase or diminish the temptations of the people. It is often urged that man gains strength by conflict with temptation, and that the removal of temptation is a weakness. This not the entire truth: the removal of temptation is often the only thing which gives the soul time to gather the forces of grace to triumph. (Bishop Temple.)

Offences

I. Let us inquire why it must needs be that offences come.

1. Not from any fault in the gospel of the Redeemer.

2. Not that God necessitates men to lay before others these hindrances in the path to heaven, and encouragements to sin.

3. Why then? “Light has come into the world, and men love darkness,” etc. He does not interpose by omnipotent force.

II. Let us examine what are the chief offences against which we should guard?

1. False sentiments in religion, and doctrines inconsistent with the Word of God often prove an offence and tend to lead others away from felicity.

2. The influence of unholy examples.

3. Persecution.

4. The unsuitable walk of professing Christians.

III. Illustrate the propriety of the double woe pronounced by our Lord.

1. Woe to the world because of offences, for many will be seduced by them.

2. Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.

Offences inevitable and evil

A caution this, as Jerome has well observed, “particularly necessary for the disciples at this time striving for superiority; for if they had continued in that spirit, they would have turned out of the way those they had gained to the faith.” Let us inquire-

I. What we are to understand here by “offences.” Stumbling-blocks in the way that leads to heaven. Figurative expression (Romans 14:13; Romans 14:21): offences may be taken when they are not given. Offences may be given when they are not taken. Stumbling-blocks are of three kinds-

1. Such as God has laid in the way.

2. Such as are laid in the way by the subtlety and malice of the devil and his children. Such as false doctrine, reproaches, etc.

3. Such as, through the devices of the grand adversary, are laid in the way by the inattention, folly, and misconduct of those who are, or profess to be, the children of God (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:9).

II. How it appears that it must needs be that offences come.

1. Offences of the kind first mentioned must come (Matthew 2:6). These are only stumbling-blocks in our apprehension. They that stumble at these, stumble at their own mercies and salvation.

2. Offences of the second kind will come, not, strictly speaking of necessity, but in the nature of things. For the devil and his children will hate the children of God, etc. (Zechariah 3:2; 1 Corinthians 11:19; Acts 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:26).

3. Offences of the last kind will also come, as appears from the text, and from (Luke 17:1), where the Greek word imports it is not to be expected, etc. He does not appoint or ordain these offences. He does not withhold the grace whereby they may be avoided. But He permits, or does not absolutely hinder them.

III. Why our Lord pronounces a “woe” upon the world because of offences, and upon that man by whom the offence cometh.

1. By “the world,” may be here meant, those that know not, and love not, God (John 15:16; John 15:19; John 17:9; John 17:14; 1 John 5:19). Through offences, especially those of the last-mentioned kind, many of these perish eternally. Therefore, woe to them! They dishonour God, obstruct and injure others, and lose their own souls.

2. “The world,” may mean mankind in general, including even the people of God.

3. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” For he dishonours God in a manner none else can do-he does the work of the devil and pleases him-he confirms the wicked in their prejudices, etc. All this mischief will be required at his hands, etc.

Application-

1. See that you offend not (Matthew 18:6).

2. See that you be not offended yourself (Matthew 18:8-9). (Joseph Benson.)

A discourse of offences

1. The unavoidables of offences.

2. The woes pronounced against them.

I. What we are to understand here by offences.

II. From whence the unavoidableness of them doth arise.

III. That offences are of woeful consequence, both to men in general, and to those particular persons by whom they come. (Bishop Fowler.)

Ways of offending..

1. The drawing of our brethren into erroneous opinions; such as have an ill-influence on men’s lives and manners.

2. Enticing men to sin by wicked advice and solicitations.

3. Affrighting or discouraging others from being religious, or from the doing of their duty in particular instances: such things as

4. Offering an evil example. (Bishop Fowler.)

Necessity of scandals arising

Let us grant that in individual cases a man may give such care and attention as not to sin, yet it is impossible that-taking all contingent events in the lump-a man should not sometimes be remiss, and fail or slip. For this is the infirmity of the mind of man since the Fall. In the same way it is necessary that the most skilful archer, who to a certainty hits the mark as often as he chooses to do so, should sometimes miss it, if he is perpetually shooting at it. For this is a condition and result of human weakness-that mind, hand, or eye cannot long keep up the strain of their attention, that a man should hit the mark a hundred times running. He must miss sometimes. (Lapide.)


Verse 9

Matthew 18:6; Matthew 18:9

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee.

Renouncing things that hinder

The every-sided development of all our faculties, the inferior, as well as the more elevated, is certainly to be regarded as the highest attainment, yet he who finds by experience that he cannot cultivate certain faculties-the artistic for example-without injury to his holiest feelings, must renounce their cultivation, and make it his first business, with painstaking fidelity, to preserve entire the innermost life of his soul, that higher life imparted to him by Christ, and which, by the dividing and distracting of his thoughts, might easily be lost, nor must it give him any disturbance, if some subordinate faculty be thus wholly sacrificed by him. Assuredly, however, we must add, that this loss is only in appearance, for, in the development of man’s higher life, everything of a subordinate kind which he had sacrificed is again restored with increase of power. (Olshausen.)

Better suffer than sin

It is not merely that we should abstain from actual wrong-doing. That of course. It is not even that we should shun the avenues of sin; but, whatever the pain or loss involved, we are utterly to renounce that which we find to be the occasion of sin. The merely literal and outward is not the thing to dwell open. A man might cut off both hands, or pluck out both eyes, and yet leave the root of sin untouched. What Christ summons to is the surrender of everything, however pleasant, or dear, or seemingly necessary for the present life, and whatever suffering there may be in the surrender, rather than sin against God. The boldly figurative language well expresses the intensity of the change. (Dr. Culross.)

Moral surgery

I. That the sinner’s sin is his own-a part of himself. “Thy right hand.” Few people admit the ownership of their sins.

II. That deliverance from sin can be effected only through the sinner”s own act. “Cut it off’.”

1. Painful. “Cut it off.”

2. Promptness. “Cut “ with a determined stroke.

3. Persistent. “Cut it off.”

III. That heroically, in order to make reformation a permanent blessing, must the sinner abandon his sin. “Cast it from thee.”

1. This figure is suggestive of danger. The last resort.

2. The great Physician Himself urges the operation.

3. Every consideration, past, present, and future calls upon the sinner to decide. “It is profitable for thee.”

4. The fearful consequences of neglect. “Cast into hell.” (J. Kelly.)

Self-discipline

The Rev. R. Cecil possessed remarkable decision of character. When he went to Cambridge he made a resolution of restricting himself to a quarter of an hour daily in playing the violin-on which instrument he greatly excelled, and of which he was extravagantly fond; but, on finding it impracticable to adhere to his determination he cut the strings, and never afterwards replaced them. He had studied for a painter; and retained through a life a fondness and taste for the art. He was once called to visit a sick lady, in whose room there was a painting which so strongly attracted his notice, that he found his attention diverted from the sick person and absorbed by the painting; from that moment he formed the resolution of mortifying a taste which he found so intrusive, and so obstructive to him in his nobler pursuits and determined never again to frequent the exhibition.

Self-mortification

This is the circumcision of the heart, the mortifications of earthly members, which is no less hard to be done than for a man with one hand to cut off the other, or to pull out his own eyes, and then rake in the holes where they grew. And yet, hard or not hard, it must be done; for otherwise we are utterly undone for ever. Hypocrites, as artificial jugglers, seem to wound themselves, but do not: as stage-players, they seem to thrust themselves through their bodies, whereas the sword passeth only through their clothes. But the truly religious lets out the life-blood of his beloved lusts, lays them all dead at his feet, and burns their bones to lime, as the king of Moab did the king of Edom (Amos 2:1). As Joshua put down all the Canaanites, so doth grace all corruptions. As Asa deposed his own mother, so doth this, the mother of sin. It destroys them not by halves, as Saul; but hews them in pieces before the Lord, as Samuel. (John Trapp.)


Verse 10

Matthew 18:10

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.

Contempt

Look at the sources of contempt; and what are its correctives.

I. The sources of contempt.

1. Want of knowledge will produce contempt. You could not despise the smallest and meanest in God’s great universe if only you had a true and enlarged conception of what that universe is. God watches over all; how can we treat with contempt the meanest object of His care.

2. Want of wisdom produces contempt. I cannot imagine it being said it is hardly true that enlarged knowledge diminishes contempt. As we grow older we find out the weaknesses of those we were taught to reverence. But no wisdom lies in that. A wise man newt despises; he reads beneath the surface. There is an angel behind the meanest form.

3. Want of reverence produces contempt.

II. The remedy. Sympathy is the antidote to contempt, as love is the restorative of all the ills of the universe. This shows that in the meanest men there are splendid possibilities, (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

Contempt for the little impossible, when regarded as part of a great whole

And just as surely as a crushed finger is understood and felt by the thrill and ache in the brain, so the wounded one here, or the little one injured and offended and despised here, is not simply a thing isolated from the rest of God’s universe, but one bound with it in the whole relationship and web of life so intimately connected, that its grief and its sorrow and its wound is felt right away up there, where God sits enthroned. As He gives us that conception of life, so He says it it impossible now you should despise. Let a larger knowledge of being enter rote your thoughts, and then you will see all creation is interlocked and interlaced in such a way that to understand one is to understand the whole; that there is no creature, however mean, that is outside the range of Divine superintendence and Divine knowledge, “Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

Contempt banished by insight

A wise man never despises. See one moment. Unwise men are ready to despise because they do not understand, or think out the meaning of little things. But the man of wisdom sees there is nothing in the world, however mean, that cannot have a real significance, and that just as you can see that the universe is one so you may see in a single thing the whole universe reflected. Here is the man who will not despise. Other men have been looking day by day at the same thing, but they have not had the wisdom to read beneath the surface. To them this is merely a bit of broken crystal; but the eyes of the man of wisdom look underneath the fractured morsels and see the law of form. This is but a swinging lamp in the eye of the world; but this man sees in it the angel of the law of movement. There again is only a falling stone, and yet he, with his keen eye, shall read beneath it the law of order in the universe. Surely, it is true, where great wisdom exists there is an inclination to banish contempt, for contempt hinders the growth of knowledge. (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

Contempt ignoble

The man who is above all these things looks with profound disdain upon the toys of the little children around him. Do you think he is nobler at that moment when he says he is above all these things, than that other who stoops from out of his range of knowledge to help the little child with the broken toy? There is a contrast of character. The one has knowledge and conceit, which is always twin brother to contempt, and the other has the sympathy and the reverence, and these are linked in their kinship together. Or it takes the form in another man’s nature of that determination to view himself as exempt from the laws which govern other men. Other men are studious, other men are prayerful, and other men watch their characters and examine themselves. He says, “I never could do that sort of thing.” There is the spirit of contempt for that which is the help of others. But is it a great thing to hold ourselves above our fellows, or is it not the very teaching of Jesus Christ that the noblest thing for man is to recognize that he is man and that his best manliness is in submitting himself to those laws and orders which are needful for the education and discipline of man? It is always Satan’s method to say, “Ye shall be as gods;” and it drops in well with our conceit, and it ministers to our contempt. (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

The Nemesis of contempt

There comes a time when we esteem ourselves so great and others so little, we get into a habit of a nil admirari, and we never think it noble or great to show pleasure or admiration at anything. And thus it happens that a human being, born into God’s world with all the rich glories of creation falling thick and fast in light and form and colour about him, stands there where thousands and tens of thousands of men, poets, painters, orators, and historians, have stood and gazed upon that world, with its growth and beauty, with admiration aghast, and he sees nothing to admire in it. What a miserable distortion of humanity! What a miserable falling back into a vain and irretrievable egotism, because he has allowed the spirit of contempt to get hold of him! (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

The dullest life has angelic light behind it

Is it not true also in regard to human life? Over all the dark angel of contempt hovers. But is there not, if we look wisely at human life, a marvellous display of real angelic force? Mark this life you will be disposed to despise. Who can find anything of angel ministers and poetry in that of a mere labourer of the fields, whose to-day is just like yesterday-rising early, ploughing, casting in the seed, reaping, and with an ignorant and dull brain following the plough, and pursuing the field labour from day to day, no other thought leaping up in his mind but a moody anticipation of next year’s harvest. Yet, if you look aright, there is a light as of an angel’s presence behind such a life as that. This is one of God’s ministers. Is it nothing to stand before the face of the great Creator and receive from His hand, as the disciples did of old, the bread to be distributed to the sons of men? Behind the most prosaic life there is an angel form for those who look through it. Take the dull round of the man of medicine. With its weariness there grows upon him the feeling that life is nothing but a monotonous round of visits-fruitless visits if he has to minister to the miserable hypochondriac-and then follows despair that his life is a useless one. Yet behind it there is the light of the angel’s wing, for when he is present that poor hypochondriac has her powers and energies strengthened to excite themselves against the weakness of her nature. His is the soothing hand that restores to the tired nerves their power. Yes, the dullest life, the hardest existence, the most monotonous career, has an angel of light behind it. (Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

Guardian angels

The offices of the guardian angels are-

1. To avert dangers both of the body and the soul.

2. To illuminate and instruct those committed to their charge, and to urge them to good works.

3. To restrain the devil, that he may not suggest wicked thoughts, or furnish occasions for sin.

4. To offer to God the prayers of him whom He guards.

5. To pray for him.

6. To correct him if he sin.

7. To stand by him at the hour of death, to comfort and assist him in his last struggle.

8. After death to convey the soul to Paradise. (Lapide.)

I. How great is the dignity of souls, that they have angels for their guardians.

II. How great is the condescension of God, that He assigns to us such guides.

III. How great is the humility and love of the angels, who do not disdain these offices, but delight in them. (Lapide.)

The guardian angels of nature

The knowledge of nature is a conception which has broadened our thoughts and ensured our convictions. And in proportion as this is true, does not the thought rush upon us that this great creation, with its law, and system, and organization, becomes ministerial in its aspect? Everything ministers to another. Our angels are not vanished, but our conception of angel ministers is enlarged. We need not to wait for some angelic beings as guardian angels to direct our steps and hold us up in their hands. Now every law and every force becomes God’s angel. The flame that leaps up from our hearths, the wind that beats in our face, and star that shines in the sky, these are God’s angels as much as ever were the guardian around us. The flowers that dispelled their fragrance in our faces, the great blue sky, and the cheery breezes, all these excited our admiration and stimulated our reverence. (Bp. Carpenter.)

Training the little ones

Ministry of angels to Christian children. Practical lessons.

I. Beware lest you put stumbling-blocks is their WAY. It is impossible to say how early the real moral and spiritual character begins to form itself-long before we can externally trace what is going on. Flowing from this is the great blessedness of being allowed to deal with such creatures. “Workers together with God.” The great danger that you should do your work badly through any fault of yours. The nurse who lets the child drop and gets crippled for life never forgives herself. But what if they should become spiritual cripples!

II. He guards against doing this. Knowing what the treasure is that is committed to you. Not a class, but souls, for whom Christ died, etc. This idea, once laid hold of, settles all difficulties about what should be taught. Deal with them separately. (S. Wilberforce, D. D.)

Value of a little child

Louis IX., king of France, was found instructing a poor kitchen boy, and, being asked why he did so, replied, “The meanest person hath a soul as precious as my own, and bought with the same blood of Christ.” Despising the little ones:-Anniversary address to parents. We all need this text and its kindly warning, for we are all in danger of “ despising the little ones.” See how-

I. By undervaluing the influence they can exert. Especially on a mother. On a home. In saving men from vice.

II. BY underestimating the care and help they need if they are to grow up good.

III. By misunderstanding the peculiarities of the little ones.

IV. By cherishing the notion that they must be big before they can really love and serve Christ. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

What value Christ sets on every man

1. Think of His words, and you will see that Jesus isolates each of us, setting us man by man apart: “despise not one”; “if one of them be gone astray.” He who counts our hairs, much more counts us.

2. Jesus measures the worth of each human being by God’s special and separate care of him. Feebleness commends us to His care; much more does sin. He has more pity even for the “lost,” more than for the “little ones.” He seeks them.

3. Such teaching from the lips of Jesus was a new thing in the world, and wrought a revolution. How cheap men held human life till Jesus taught the equal worth of manhood.

4. It deserves special notice in what way it is that the teaching of Jesus has cut the roots from that self-valuing or self-praising which has always led men to undervalue and despise others. There are two ways in which to correct the boastful man’s estimate. I may seek to sober his conceit by showing him man’s littleness at his best. Christ did not lower the dignity of human nature; He came to cure contempt for the little and lost by making us think more. He came to put our self-esteem on its true footing; not on what is accidental or peculiar to one man, but on what is common to the race. In such an atmosphere as Christ lived in pride dies.

5. Let me show you one or two of these inward prerogatives which assert your personal value in God’s reckoning to be as great as any other man’s.

Self-respect inspired by the view of a common manhood

I pray you note how at one stroke Jesus has thus annihilated our pride and heightened our self-respect. Pride lives on the petty pre-eminences which here for a little lift one mortal an inch or two higher than another; an extra handful of gold, a better education, a longer pedigree, a title, a serener, and less tempted life. Among the ups and downs of society these look mighty things, as straws and leaves look large to emmets’ eyes, and they fill the foolish hearts of men with vain conceit and unbrotherly scorn. From the height from which God and His Son Jesus survey this human world, such paltry degrees of more and less dwindle into insignificance, and are lost in the broad, equal level of a common manhood. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

Self-respect inspired by the Divine culture of men

Next, from the moment of birth, God subjects each person to a separate course of training. Men never appear before God’s sight clustered in crowds; never like the countless pines which on the lower ranges of the Alps stand undistinguishable, row behind row, in thickset serried masses like a host; but like the singled vines of the vineyard, each of which the husbandman knows and tends with a care that is all its own. To each of you He has ordained your own career, with its early influences, domestic or educational, its companionships, its experiences, its trials, duties, losses, labours. All through your life He is moulding it to suit both what He made you to begin with and what He means you to become at last; so that from your deathbed you look back along a life history, wholly your own and not another’s, the match of which no mortal man ever lived through before. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

Despising the little ones

I. A strict prohibition, and that ushered in with a severe charge by way of caveat (Take heed!).

1. Whom Christ means by these little ones.

2. What it is to despise them.

II. A solemn reason given for the prohibition; and this reason backed with our Saviour’s own authority and sacred Word. Those little ones have angels for their guardians and attendants, and those angels none of the lower form, but the most eminent favourites, who continually stand in God’s presence, and do always behold His face. (Adam Littleton.)


Verse 11

Matthew 18:11; Matthew 18:13

If a man have an hundred sheep.

Seeking the lost

1. The image under which it pleases God to describe His creatures upon earth, “Sheep” “gone astray.”

2. What is said as to the dealings of God with His creatures under these circumstances, “seeketh,” etc.

3. The feelings with which the Shepherd is described as regarding the sheep when found, “He rejoiceth more,” etc.

4. The general deduction which our gracious Saviour draws from these several particulars “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

The example of saving the lost

I. Who are they that are here described as persons lost, and what is meant by the expression? Our blessed Saviour means all who did not receive Him as the messenger and interpreter of the Divine will to mankind.

II. In what sense our blessed Saviour is here said to have come to save mankind.

III. How far should the example of Christ, in this particular of saving that which was lost, be imitated by us. The natural means, those of instruction and of example, which He made use of in His life-time for reforming mankind, and improving their morals, these are what we may copy after Him. (Nich. Brady.)

A needful caution

I. A needful caution. “Take heed that ye despise not,” etc.

1. To despise them is fearfully dangerous.

2. The interest taken in them by the highest intelligences should prevent us from thinking lightly of them.

3. The high destiny which awaits them.

II. A blessed announcement. “For the Son of Man is come,” etc.

1. The title assumed.

2. The act declared, not merely to improve, but to save.

3. The miserable objects regarded.

III. A familiar comparison. “How think ye” (Matthew 18:12). These words may be considered:

1. In their literal signification. The recovery of lost property is a principle of human nature.

2. In their spiritual allusion.

IV. As encouraging inference. “Even so it is not the will of My Father,” etc.

1. The harmony that existed between the mission of Christ and the purposes of the Eternal Father.

2. If it is not the, will of God that the most despised and insignificant believer should perish, their salvation is assured. (Expository Outlines.)

The Son of Man the Saviour of the lost

I. A proof and statement of the Saviour’s work and errand.

1. One feature of the mediatorial character is particularly displayed in the very name in which the Saviour is introduced to our attention, “the Son of Man.”

2. These words point out the fact of the Saviour’s incarnation, “The Son of Man is come.”

3. This description of the object of His coming we may contrast with another, when He comes a second time into this our world.

II. View the Saviour’s errand and work as it is exhibited to us in that figurative illustration that follows the text,

1. He represents the state of the guilty sinner whom He came into the world to save under the idea of a wandering sheep. Prone to wander.

2. The care and kindness of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Manifests particular care over case of individual sinner.

3. Christ’s search for the lost embraces all the means used for the salvation of sinners.

4. He carries back the sheep when He has found it. To prevent exposure to danger.

5. His joy.

III. The great principle of the divine conduct that is developed in the work to which we have turned your attention, “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven,” etc.

1. The connection that is here obviously formed between the end in view, and the means for the accomplishment of that end.

2. In redemption the will of the Father and Son are equal.

3. The work of Christ was designed to accomplish that intention, and is efficacious to its accomplishment.

4. Magnify the fulness of Christ’s work.

5. Have you learnt that your characters are that of lost sheep? (R. H. Cooper.)

God’s minute and all-inclusive care of the universe

I. He is the Shepherd of the flock.

II. His love is impartially shown to all who are in the fold.

III. The salvation of the least is worth all the efforts of the highest. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The shepherd faithfulness of the Son of Man in seeking the lost

I. Let us notice the consolation in His comparing them with sheep who have gone astray.

1. It reveals to us how dear every single soul is to the Lord.

2. He misses each sheep as soon as it is lost.

3. He will leave the ninety and nine on the mountains and hunt for only one that has gone astray.

4. He rejoices over the one that is found.

II. For what does it render us responsible?

1. That we keep watch over those who are liable to go astray.

2. The shepherd-faithfulness of our Lord renders you responsible for compassion on the lost.

3. Also for active, zealous seeking and leading home all who are willing to be saved.

4. It requires us to rejoice over every one who lets himself be saved. (T. Christlieb, D. D.)

The lost sheep and the seeking Shepherd

I. The figure of the one wanderer

1. All men are Christ’s sheep. All men are Christ’s because He has created them. “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

2. The picture of the sheep as wandering, “which goeth astray.” It pictures the process of wandering; not the result as accomplished. The sheep has gone astray, though when it set out on its journey it never thought of straying; more mischief is wrought from want of thought than by an evil will.

3. The progressive character of our wanderings from God. A man never gets to the end of the distance that separates between him and the Father if his face is turned away from God. Every moment the separation is increasing.

4. The contrast between the description given of the wandering sheep in our text and in St. Luke. Here it is represented as wandering, there it is represented as lost. God wants to possess us through our love; if He does not we are lost to Him.

II. The picture of the seeker. The incarnation of Christ was for the seeking of man. (Dr. Maclaren.)


Verse 13

Matthew 18:11; Matthew 18:13

If a man have an hundred sheep.

Seeking the lost

1. The image under which it pleases God to describe His creatures upon earth, “Sheep” “gone astray.”

2. What is said as to the dealings of God with His creatures under these circumstances, “seeketh,” etc.

3. The feelings with which the Shepherd is described as regarding the sheep when found, “He rejoiceth more,” etc.

4. The general deduction which our gracious Saviour draws from these several particulars “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

The example of saving the lost

I. Who are they that are here described as persons lost, and what is meant by the expression? Our blessed Saviour means all who did not receive Him as the messenger and interpreter of the Divine will to mankind.

II. In what sense our blessed Saviour is here said to have come to save mankind.

III. How far should the example of Christ, in this particular of saving that which was lost, be imitated by us. The natural means, those of instruction and of example, which He made use of in His life-time for reforming mankind, and improving their morals, these are what we may copy after Him. (Nich. Brady.)

A needful caution

I. A needful caution. “Take heed that ye despise not,” etc.

1. To despise them is fearfully dangerous.

2. The interest taken in them by the highest intelligences should prevent us from thinking lightly of them.

3. The high destiny which awaits them.

II. A blessed announcement. “For the Son of Man is come,” etc.

1. The title assumed.

2. The act declared, not merely to improve, but to save.

3. The miserable objects regarded.

III. A familiar comparison. “How think ye” (Matthew 18:12). These words may be considered:

1. In their literal signification. The recovery of lost property is a principle of human nature.

2. In their spiritual allusion.

IV. As encouraging inference. “Even so it is not the will of My Father,” etc.

1. The harmony that existed between the mission of Christ and the purposes of the Eternal Father.

2. If it is not the, will of God that the most despised and insignificant believer should perish, their salvation is assured. (Expository Outlines.)

The Son of Man the Saviour of the lost

I. A proof and statement of the Saviour’s work and errand.

1. One feature of the mediatorial character is particularly displayed in the very name in which the Saviour is introduced to our attention, “the Son of Man.”

2. These words point out the fact of the Saviour’s incarnation, “The Son of Man is come.”

3. This description of the object of His coming we may contrast with another, when He comes a second time into this our world.

II. View the Saviour’s errand and work as it is exhibited to us in that figurative illustration that follows the text,

1. He represents the state of the guilty sinner whom He came into the world to save under the idea of a wandering sheep. Prone to wander.

2. The care and kindness of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Manifests particular care over case of individual sinner.

3. Christ’s search for the lost embraces all the means used for the salvation of sinners.

4. He carries back the sheep when He has found it. To prevent exposure to danger.

5. His joy.

III. The great principle of the divine conduct that is developed in the work to which we have turned your attention, “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven,” etc.

1. The connection that is here obviously formed between the end in view, and the means for the accomplishment of that end.

2. In redemption the will of the Father and Son are equal.

3. The work of Christ was designed to accomplish that intention, and is efficacious to its accomplishment.

4. Magnify the fulness of Christ’s work.

5. Have you learnt that your characters are that of lost sheep? (R. H. Cooper.)

God’s minute and all-inclusive care of the universe

I. He is the Shepherd of the flock.

II. His love is impartially shown to all who are in the fold.

III. The salvation of the least is worth all the efforts of the highest. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The shepherd faithfulness of the Son of Man in seeking the lost

I. Let us notice the consolation in His comparing them with sheep who have gone astray.

1. It reveals to us how dear every single soul is to the Lord.

2. He misses each sheep as soon as it is lost.

3. He will leave the ninety and nine on the mountains and hunt for only one that has gone astray.

4. He rejoices over the one that is found.

II. For what does it render us responsible?

1. That we keep watch over those who are liable to go astray.

2. The shepherd-faithfulness of our Lord renders you responsible for compassion on the lost.

3. Also for active, zealous seeking and leading home all who are willing to be saved.

4. It requires us to rejoice over every one who lets himself be saved. (T. Christlieb, D. D.)

The lost sheep and the seeking Shepherd

I. The figure of the one wanderer

1. All men are Christ’s sheep. All men are Christ’s because He has created them. “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

2. The picture of the sheep as wandering, “which goeth astray.” It pictures the process of wandering; not the result as accomplished. The sheep has gone astray, though when it set out on its journey it never thought of straying; more mischief is wrought from want of thought than by an evil will.

3. The progressive character of our wanderings from God. A man never gets to the end of the distance that separates between him and the Father if his face is turned away from God. Every moment the separation is increasing.

4. The contrast between the description given of the wandering sheep in our text and in St. Luke. Here it is represented as wandering, there it is represented as lost. God wants to possess us through our love; if He does not we are lost to Him.

II. The picture of the seeker. The incarnation of Christ was for the seeking of man. (Dr. Maclaren.)


Verse 14

Matthew 18:14

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven

The children’s friends

I.
The children around us have friends.

1. They have Divine Friends. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, are these Friends.

2. They have angelic friends.

3. They have human friends. Some in heaven; also on earth.

II. Lessons.

1. These thoughts should encourage anxious parents.

2. These thoughts should encourage despondent teachers.

3. These thoughts should encourage neglected and sorrowing children. (J. Morgan.)

The children’s foes

1. Among the children’s foes may be reckoned physical diseases and ailments.

2. Among the children’s foes must be ranked evil passions.

3. Among the children’s foes are to be found many vile and malicious demons.

4. Among the children’s foes are to be found many foolish and wicked men.

Hidden force in a child

For they are the men and women of the future, and within them lurk wondrous possibilities and powers which shall be developed and manifested and felt another day. Naturalists tell us that in every single drop of water in the ocean there is electricity enough to generate two thunder-storms. The power is there silent and’ hidden, nevertheless ready at any moment to leap forth and do terrible execution. So within the soul of every little child in our homes, in our schools, and in our streets, there is a moral force lying hidden on which two utterly opposite eternities hang. (J. Morgan.)

Children in danger of perishing

The children around us are in danger of perishing. What that means none of us can fully describe or imagine. We may have seen a superb mansion perish by a fire, or an extensive mill perish by an explosion, or a magnificent ship perish in a storm, and may have attempted to estimate the loss, and have mourned over the wreck and ruin. But for a child, with a God-given, a God-endowed, and a God-redeemed nature to perish, must be something far more terrible than the loss of any mansion, or mill, or ship that ever was built, however elaborately finished, or expensively furnished. (J. Morgan.)

God’s love for little children

1. It is a love of utter unselfishness.

2. It is the love of delight in them.

3. It is a love of compassion toward them.

4. It is the love of trust in the almost infinite capacities of children. (T. Gasquoine, B. A.)

Destitute children

I. A careful regard should be paid to children. Ii. They are liable to perish.

1. Through lack of food.

2. Through lack of knowledge.

3. In a moral sense they are liable to perish.

III. It is not the will of the parent of good that these little ones should be included in peril and ruin. (D. Ace, M.A.)

I. The dangerous exposure of mankind.

II. The will of the father respecting us.

III. How that will is to make effect. (J. N. Pearson, M. A.)

God’s care for His children

1. The existence of things which put in peril the souls of them that may be the children of God.

2. It is contrary to God’s will that these dangers should be fatal to the salvation of His people.

3. The means which God has provided for the accomplishment of His gracious will in the salvation of the little ones.

4. The encouragement which the text affords to those who are desirous of imparting that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation. (Bishop Sumner.)

The Father and the little ones

I. The truth asserted. God’s will is for their welfare.

1. Because He is their Creator.

2. Because He is Love.

3. These words apply to the whole realm of childhood. They are not limited to children of the good and wealthy.

II. A sad truth implied. That notwithstanding God’s will children may ripen for evil and be lost. (C. Vivace.)

Not an ideal child

I saw some time ago a great painter’s representation of this scene. He makes this child so noble-featured, full of brightness and beauty, standing there as a young prince, fetched for the purpose from a fair palace. That is artistic, but it does not answer the purpose. What was done was done on the spot. The Master did not send for and bring the fairest and best-trained child that Galilee contained. No; it was a street loiterer He called to Himself. Some little one busy at play in the market-place, or one looking on wondering at the edge of the crowd-the first little one on which His eyes could rest; and taking him with gentle hands, with all the roughness in which He found him, the Master pointed to him, and said: “Do not despise him; deem him not unworthy of your regard, but rather with all yore” powers influence him for good. Win his heart for God. Open to him the gates of heaven, and do all you can to smooth his path. Do not despise one of these.” (C. Vivace.)

Men must co-operate with the will of God

Still there is room for human labour. What would the earth be without it? Suppose that where we see the corn ripening we saw only a barren waste; if the ground had not been ploughed, or the seed not sown, or the plants not tended, could we look on it and say, “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight? “ No; we should have to say: “It is not according to God’s will; God’s goodness has been defeated, and man’s badness crowned with triumph.” God in the course of providence ordains that our work and effort should be used to produce that on which He has set His heart. When a house is being built, there are different sets of labourers. On a certain day you see the work standing still, and on inquiry as to the cause you find that one set of men were idlers, they had gone holiday-making, and all the others were baffled and could do nothing. Look into the sluggard’s garden; the sun is there, and the dew, and they cannot do anything; the showers descend; all God’s celestial workers are there; but they cannot do anything because man is idling, has not dug the earth, has not scattered the seed; therefore God’s means can do nothing. This is one of the great mysteries of the universe. I wonder that God did not determine to do it all Himself, and not wait for our work, and have His purposes baffled, because we do not do our share of the labour. (C. Vivace.)


Verse 15

Matthew 18:15; Matthew 18:18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee.

How to meet offences

Observe the method Christ has laid down-

I. The trespass supposed, whether accidental or designed. Whether it regards reputation, or property, or feelings, etc. Then, the direction given-

II. Seek a private interview. That he may explain, if possible. Better adapted for him to confess. More faithfully and affectionately admonished.

III. If this fail, take one or two more. Let them be unobjectionable, peaceable, prudent persons. These are to witness and aid by their counsel and influence. If this fail-

IV. Bring it to the church. Do so for these reasons:

1. For the offender’s sake. He may hear the Church.

2. For Christianity’s sake.

3. For the world’s sake, that they may see we are neither indifferent or malevolent. If he refuse to hear the Church, then he must-

V. Be removed from christian communion. This is the last act, and if this is rightly done, it is ratified in heaven (Matthew 18:18). Do not let us neglect this order. You object “He is not worthy of all this,” etc.; “ This is troublesome,” etc. But it is your duty; Christ demands it. (J. Burns, LL. D.)

Tell the offender his fault

A person came one day to see Mr. Longdon, of Sheffield, and said, “I have something against you, and I am come to tell you of it.” “Do walk in, sir,” he replied; “you are my best friend. If I could but engage my friends to be faithful with me, I shall be sure to prosper. But, if you please, we will both pray in the first place, and ask the blessing of God upon our interview.” After they rose from their knees, and had been much blessed together, he said, “Now I will thank you, my brother, to tell me what it is you have against me.” “Oh,” said the man, “I really don’t know what it is; it is all gone, and I believe I was in the wrong!” (Anon.)

Private reproof

A reprover is like one that is taking a mote out of his brother’s eye-now this must be done very tenderly. For this purpose it would be convenient, where it may be, that reproofs be given privately. “If thy brother offend thee, tell him his fault between him and thee.” The presence of many make him take up an unjust defence, who in private would have taken upon him a just shame. The open air makes sores to rankle-other’s crimes are not to be cried at the market. Private reproof is the best grave to bury private faults in. (Swinneck.)

Brotherly reproof

I. Whom are we to reprove? Our brother. This term, in general, comprehends all mankind.

II. For what are we to reprove our brother? It is for trespassing against us.

III. How we are to reprove.

1. Be sure that the person whom you are about to reprove is really guilty of the sin.

2. See that the sin, which you are about to reprove, be that heinous sin which you have taken it to be. We are not for every trifle to fly in the face of our brother, and to hale him before our tribunal.

3. When you are about to reprove a brother, you should consider whether there is any probability of your doing him any good by your reproofs. If the goldsmith were persuaded that his toil and sweat at the refining pot would answer no good but to injure his health, and perhaps to shorten his days, he would sooner break his utensils in pieces, and burst his bellows apart than engage in such unprofitable and unhealthy employment. Equally fruitless ii is to reprove some men. To reprove successfully requires no small degree of dexterity and penetration. It must be the combined work of a cool head, and a gracious compassionate heart.

4. When you are about to reprove a brother, go to him yourselves. Do not wait until he comes of his own accord to you.

5. He who would reprove with success, should be as unblemished as possible in his own conduct.

IV. For what end we are to reprove him. Not to please ourselves, or to gratify our private resentments-not to triumph over his infirmities or to display our superiority to him; not to insult him, or to make ourselves merry with his faults; but that we may win him over from the camp of the aliens, and restore him to his rightful owner. (Daniel Rowland.)

The necessity of ecclesiastical discipline

I. The gospel cannot be preserved without salt; nor-

II. Fraternal love without frankness; nor-

III. A particular Church without discipline; nor-

IV. The Church in general without a spirit of discipline. (J. P. Lange.)

Correction of fault a duty

He who sees his brother commit a sin and keeps silence, is equally in fault with him who does not forgive him who repents. The very elements teach us the benefit of this correction. For so fire chastises, and by burning purifies the air. The air by the blasts of winds chastises and purifies the water. In like manner, so does the water the earth. There can be no Christian charity in any one unless he afford the medicine of correction to an erring brother. (Anon.)

Private admonition best

It is true open sinners deserve open censures; but private admonitions will best suit private offences. While we seek to heal a wound in our brother’s actions, we should be careful not to leave a scar upon his person. We give grains of allowance in all current coin. That is a choice friend who conceals our faults from the view of others, and yet discovers them to our own. That medicine which rouses the evil burnouts of the body, and does not carry them off, only leaves it in a worse condition than it found it. (Archbishop Secker.)

Do not parade other people’s faults

They are fittest to find fault in whom there is no fault to be found. There is no removing blots from the paper by laying upon them a blurred finger. What do you get by throwing stones at your enemy’s windows while your own children look out at the casements? He that blows into a heap of dust is in danger of putting out his own eyes. (Archbishop Secker.)

Test of friendship

It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend of his faults. If you are angry with a man, or hate him, it is not hard to go to him and stab him with words; but so to love a man that you cannot bear to see the stain of sin upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words-that is friendship. But few have such friends. Our enemies usually teach us what we are at the point of the sword. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 18

Matthew 18:15; Matthew 18:18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee.

How to meet offences

Observe the method Christ has laid down-

I. The trespass supposed, whether accidental or designed. Whether it regards reputation, or property, or feelings, etc. Then, the direction given-

II. Seek a private interview. That he may explain, if possible. Better adapted for him to confess. More faithfully and affectionately admonished.

III. If this fail, take one or two more. Let them be unobjectionable, peaceable, prudent persons. These are to witness and aid by their counsel and influence. If this fail-

IV. Bring it to the church. Do so for these reasons:

1. For the offender’s sake. He may hear the Church.

2. For Christianity’s sake.

3. For the world’s sake, that they may see we are neither indifferent or malevolent. If he refuse to hear the Church, then he must-

V. Be removed from christian communion. This is the last act, and if this is rightly done, it is ratified in heaven (Matthew 18:18). Do not let us neglect this order. You object “He is not worthy of all this,” etc.; “ This is troublesome,” etc. But it is your duty; Christ demands it. (J. Burns, LL. D.)

Tell the offender his fault

A person came one day to see Mr. Longdon, of Sheffield, and said, “I have something against you, and I am come to tell you of it.” “Do walk in, sir,” he replied; “you are my best friend. If I could but engage my friends to be faithful with me, I shall be sure to prosper. But, if you please, we will both pray in the first place, and ask the blessing of God upon our interview.” After they rose from their knees, and had been much blessed together, he said, “Now I will thank you, my brother, to tell me what it is you have against me.” “Oh,” said the man, “I really don’t know what it is; it is all gone, and I believe I was in the wrong!” (Anon.)

Private reproof

A reprover is like one that is taking a mote out of his brother’s eye-now this must be done very tenderly. For this purpose it would be convenient, where it may be, that reproofs be given privately. “If thy brother offend thee, tell him his fault between him and thee.” The presence of many make him take up an unjust defence, who in private would have taken upon him a just shame. The open air makes sores to rankle-other’s crimes are not to be cried at the market. Private reproof is the best grave to bury private faults in. (Swinneck.)

Brotherly reproof

I. Whom are we to reprove? Our brother. This term, in general, comprehends all mankind.

II. For what are we to reprove our brother? It is for trespassing against us.

III. How we are to reprove.

1. Be sure that the person whom you are about to reprove is really guilty of the sin.

2. See that the sin, which you are about to reprove, be that heinous sin which you have taken it to be. We are not for every trifle to fly in the face of our brother, and to hale him before our tribunal.

3. When you are about to reprove a brother, you should consider whether there is any probability of your doing him any good by your reproofs. If the goldsmith were persuaded that his toil and sweat at the refining pot would answer no good but to injure his health, and perhaps to shorten his days, he would sooner break his utensils in pieces, and burst his bellows apart than engage in such unprofitable and unhealthy employment. Equally fruitless ii is to reprove some men. To reprove successfully requires no small degree of dexterity and penetration. It must be the combined work of a cool head, and a gracious compassionate heart.

4. When you are about to reprove a brother, go to him yourselves. Do not wait until he comes of his own accord to you.

5. He who would reprove with success, should be as unblemished as possible in his own conduct.

IV. For what end we are to reprove him. Not to please ourselves, or to gratify our private resentments-not to triumph over his infirmities or to display our superiority to him; not to insult him, or to make ourselves merry with his faults; but that we may win him over from the camp of the aliens, and restore him to his rightful owner. (Daniel Rowland.)

The necessity of ecclesiastical discipline

I. The gospel cannot be preserved without salt; nor-

II. Fraternal love without frankness; nor-

III. A particular Church without discipline; nor-

IV. The Church in general without a spirit of discipline. (J. P. Lange.)

Correction of fault a duty

He who sees his brother commit a sin and keeps silence, is equally in fault with him who does not forgive him who repents. The very elements teach us the benefit of this correction. For so fire chastises, and by burning purifies the air. The air by the blasts of winds chastises and purifies the water. In like manner, so does the water the earth. There can be no Christian charity in any one unless he afford the medicine of correction to an erring brother. (Anon.)

Private admonition best

It is true open sinners deserve open censures; but private admonitions will best suit private offences. While we seek to heal a wound in our brother’s actions, we should be careful not to leave a scar upon his person. We give grains of allowance in all current coin. That is a choice friend who conceals our faults from the view of others, and yet discovers them to our own. That medicine which rouses the evil burnouts of the body, and does not carry them off, only leaves it in a worse condition than it found it. (Archbishop Secker.)

Do not parade other people’s faults

They are fittest to find fault in whom there is no fault to be found. There is no removing blots from the paper by laying upon them a blurred finger. What do you get by throwing stones at your enemy’s windows while your own children look out at the casements? He that blows into a heap of dust is in danger of putting out his own eyes. (Archbishop Secker.)

Test of friendship

It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend of his faults. If you are angry with a man, or hate him, it is not hard to go to him and stab him with words; but so to love a man that you cannot bear to see the stain of sin upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words-that is friendship. But few have such friends. Our enemies usually teach us what we are at the point of the sword. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 19-20

Matthew 18:19-20

For when two or three are gathered together in My name.

The presence of Christ in the sanctuary

I. What is implied in this promise or the divine presence. God comes not here as to a court of assize, but to a Bethesda, to dispense mercy.

II. The conditions under which the promise will be fulfilled.

1. TO meet in the Saviour’s name is to seek its exaltation.

2. His name must be pleaded as the ground of approach to God.

3. The sole authority of Christ must be recognized if we would meet in His name.

III. The Jewish church as well as the Christian had God’s gracious presence.

1. The incarnation was substituted for the Shekinah-a symbol.

2. The bodily exercises, carnal ordinances are at an end in the Christian worship.

3. We have the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.

4. Let us expect the Divine blessing.

5. If the presence of God be promised, how is it that professors are content with an occasional visit to the sanctuary? (J. S. Pearsall.)

The presence of Christ in the meetings of His people

I. Thy promise.

1. There is a sense in which it is true that Jesus is present with all men at all times.

2. But in the text He meant something different from that to which we have referred. Jacob at Bethel.

3. It implies a readiness on the part of Christ to do for His people what they ask.

4. It implies a gift of those graces which are fitted to sweeten the spiritual intercourse of the soul with Himself, and to enrich it with those Divine ornaments which shall best display the lustre of His own glory.

II. That in order to realize the riches of the promise the disciples must be gathered together. Also to meet in the name of Christ. Acknowledge on our part all fulness and power in Christ. (W. Willson.)

I. When the people of God meet together for religious worship it should be in the name of Christ.

1. With His authority.

2. Agreeably to His directions.

3. That our expectations of success are founded on the influence which may connect itself with His name.

II. When Christians are thus gathered together they may expect their master’s presence.

1. A large number not necessary.

2. A particular class not necessary.

3. A particular place not necessary. Christ once present.

III. The redeemer has important ends to accomplish in connection with the vouchsafement of his presence when his disciples are assembled. (T. Bradshaw.)

Christ’s presence consecrating His Church

I. The speaker.

1. The beaming of His essential glory.

2. How our Lord claims to Himself omnipresence.

3. That our Lord here claims to Himself self-existence, independent existence.

4. Our Lord does not contemplate His own existence as a contingency.

II. The acknowledged relation in which Christ stands to his church.

1. Our Lord declares His headship.

2. The declaration which He here makes of His mind towards the Church

III. The view here given by Christ himself of the church.

1. The amount, “two or three.” The Church small in the world.

2. The unobstrusibe, humble character of the Church.

3. The special bond of the Church.

IV. The gracious promise which christ here makes to the church as thus exercised. (J. Macdonald, M. A.)

United prayer

I. United prayer is to those who exercise it a means of grace.

1. In recognizing this, you will get a clue to the advantages to be derived from united prayer as an agency for personal and relative spiritual advancement.

2. United prayer strongly tends to draw out the souls of those engaged therein in sympathy and care, and love for one another, and for Christians generally.

II. Untied prayer is an instrument of service for Christ. Some phases of service to which Christians are called. The cultivation of personal spiritual life. The development and maintenance of the true nature, status, and influence of the Church of Christ. Effort to save souls.

III. How shall we, as Christians, avail ourselves to this means of grace and instrument of service for Christ? Exercise united prayer for the outpouring of God’s Holy spirit upon the Church, etc. For the conversion of men, women, and children. For the agencies employed, that they may accomplish the devout ends they have in view. (John, Thomas.)

I. The religion of jesus christ is social. “Two or three.” Man is a social being. The gospel raises men to considerations of the highest nature, and to a uniting order of things. The servants of God have similarity of views; a common ground of dependence, a common relation to Christ; the same object of endeavour; oneness as to cause and interest, look for the same blessed end. We are not surprised that they “meet together.”

II. Wherever they meet Christ is in the midst of them.

1. It is His word, grace, and spirit that forms the Church.

2. It is the love of Christ that prompts and influences them.

3. This subject constitutes a criterion of discipleship.

4. It may serve to encourage us when few in number.

5. It animates our thought in view of the eternal world. In heaven there will be a great gathering. (J. Rift.)

An august visitor

I. The place. “Where,” etc. A meeting place is intended; simple; it may be lonely.

II. The presence. A spiritual presence. The world sees Him not. Time was when He granted sensible tokens of His presence to man; burning bush, Jacob; Christ incarnate; now the Comforter is come.

III. The purpose. He is in the midst for

Jesus present in worship

More than the numbers stated here have thus met. Christ is here. If we had met this evening to discuss questions concerning geography, we should probably have felt ourselves honoured with the presence of such a man as Sir Roderick Murchison or Dr. Livingstone. Had the discussion related to history, to antiquity, to chemistry, with what elatedness and bated breath should we have listened to that prince of historians, the late Lord Macaulay, to the world-renowned Layard, and to the wonder-working Faraday. Had this been a congress of nations-a meeting of crowned heads-planning the course of politics, disposing of the destinies of nations, and marking the limits of empires, how important should we have deemed the occasion! Notable visitors from other climes, men of mark and might from other lands, would have attracted our observation-have riveted our attention; our interest would have risen with the occasion. But we meet with other ends in view. We come together about our souls’ affairs; our present peace, and our everlasting salvation, are the matters which concern us. Compared with these other things are temporary and trivial. (J. Basley.)

Jesus present in a simple sanctuary

“Where two or three are gathered together.” There is evidently a meeting-place intended. Proud mortals love display. When Henry of England and his neighbour monarch of France met with friendly greetings, it was amid the most gorgeous glitter on the Field of Cloth of Gold. Christ makes no demand for parade or ostentatious display. It forms no condition in the terms upon which He will visit us. We have not a tesselated pavement; we can worship God without it. We have no encaustic tiles: Christ does not want them. (J. Basley.)

Jesus present to inspect

He is Light. He is the Searcher of hearts, the great Revealer. He visits thus all His Churches. He knows them all-their constitution, their practice, their state. He visits them as the florist visits his garden, to watch the progress of choice plants and flowers. He visits them as the shepherd does his flock, to inspect the condition of his sheep. He visits them as the officer does his soldiers, to see if they are at their post, if their discipline is as it should he, and their arms in good condition. What a sight for Christ do some churches professedly Christian present! How must His holiness loathe the worldliness, selfishness, pride, and the many foul abominations that are covered with a Christian name! Christ is here for inspection. No member, no character, no practice, no thought, word, wish, or feeling, escapes the notice of His eye. Christian professor! Christ sees thee. Thou art fully and thoroughly known to Him. (J. Basley.)

Four present, but only one visible

When it was decided to close the prayer-meeting m a certain village, a good woman declared that she would be there if no one else was. She was true to her word, and when the next morning some one said to her rather jestingly, “Did you have a prayer-meeting last night?” “All! that we did,” she replied. “How many were present? … Four,” she said. “Why,” said he, “I heard that you were there all alone.” “No,” she said; “ I was the only one visible but the Father was there, and the Son was there, and the Holy Spirit was there, and we were all agreed in prayer.” Before long there was a revival prayer-meeting and a prospering church. (J. Basley.)

In My name

I. The place which the name of Jesus occupies in christianity. The subject of knowledge. The object of faith and love. Doctrines, duties, precepts permeated with His name. Does not imply nominality, as the name of a book; but He is the substance of the thing. He is the life of Christianity.

II. On what ground does the name of jesus occupy this place in Christianity.

1. The Father’s appointment.

2. On His own authority as Messiah.

3. His Divine nature.

4. His perfect manhood.

5. His mediatorship.

Jesus

1. The central force of Christianity.

2. The radiating glory of Christianity.

3. The attractive power of Christianity.

4. The ultimate victory of Christianity.

5. Who then will be ashamed of the name of Jesus? (J. Bate.)

Public worship acceptable to God

No doubt the prayers which the faithful put up to heaven from under their private roofs were very acceptable unto Him. But if a saint’s single voice in prayer be so sweet to God’s ear, much more the church choir. His saints’ prayers in consort together. A father is glad to see any one of his children, and makes him welcome when he visits him, but much more when they come together; the greatest feast is when they all meet at his house. The public praises of the Church are the emblem of heaven itself, where all the angels and saints make but one consort. There is a wonderful prevalency in the joint prayers of His people. When Peter was in prison, the Church meets and prays him out of his enemies’ hands. A prince will grant a petition subscribed by the hands of a whole city, which may be he would not at the request of a private subject, and yet love him well, too. There is an especial promise to public prayer “Where two or three,” etc. (Gurnall)


Verse 21-22

Matthew 18:21-22

Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?

The forgiveness of injuries

I. The best exemplification of the spirit of forgiveness is our Lord’s own life. There were two kinds of sin in these days of which Christ took cognizance; those against society or the race, and those against Himself. To each He applied the principle of the text. He forgave the vilest sinners who came to Him; and Saul who persecuted His Church. But we find the highest illustrations of His love when we mark His dealings with the souls He seeks to save. Christ does not turn against the man who rejects Him.

II. This principle is intended to guide us in our actions towards our fellows.

1. Shall not Christians be forbearing towards other men. Let us bear wrong in as generous a spirit as we can. The feeling of brotherhood must be kept higher than that of revenge.

2. This law must be observed in the family.

3. Christ teaches the spirit in which we must regard offenders whose sin is against society. Unlimited forgiveness you will say is unpractical. Put it into action, and let it fail. Christianity conquers by failing; its martyrs are its victors. This is not a dead law; but life-giving. (A. J. Griffith.)

Forgiveness of offences

I. A personal offence is anything whereby we are personally injured in our feelings, our reputation, our person or estate. A public offence is one by which the Church is injured by any of its interests.

II. The question is, what is our duty in reference to personal offences?

1. We should not cherish any malignant or revengeful feelings towards those who injure us.

2. We should not retaliate, or avenge ourselves on our offenders.

3. We should cherish towards those who offend us the feelings of kindness, regarding them with that benevolence which forbids our wishing them any harm.

4. We should treat them in our outward conduct with kindness, returning good for evil and acting towards them as though they had not injured us.

III. When are we to forgive? There are two classes of passages which bear upon this subject.

1. Those which prescribe the condition of repentance (Luke 17:3).

2. Those in which no such condition is prescribed (Matthew 6:14; Matthew 18:21; Matthew 5:44-45). So Christ prayed for His crucifiers. So Stephen prayed. So is God in His dealings with us. These passages are not inconsistent. The word forgiveness is used in a wider or a stricter sense. In the wider sense, it includes negatively, not having a spirit of revenge; and positively, exercising a spirit of kindness and love, and manifesting that spirit by all appropriate outward acts. This is forgiveness as a Christian’s duty in all cases. In a more restricted sense it is the remission of the penalty due to an offence. This is illustrated in the case of an offence against the Church. Repentance is the condition only of the remission of the penalty, not of forgiveness in the wider sense. There are penalties proper to private as well as public offences.

IV. Grounds of the duty.

1. God’s command.

2. God’s example.

3. Our own need of forgiveness. Our sins against God are innumerable and unspeakably great.

4. The threatening that we shall not be forgiven unless we forgive others.

5. It is a dictate of Christian love. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The duty of forgiveness

I. Is urged by a consideration of the greatness of God’s mercy to us.

II. Of the lightness of our brother’s sins.

III. Of the terrible consequences of indulging an unforgiving spirit. (Dr. Dobie.)

The forgiveness of sires

1. If God commands us thus to forgive, there must be an infinite ocean of forgiving love in His own heart.

2. That God’s forgiveness is altogether above man’s conception of it. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

A forgiving spirit essential to vital religion

I. The Christian duty of forgiveness.

II. The consequences of refusing to fulfil that duty. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The duty of forgiving offences

There are many wrong notions about forgiveness. Consider the following conspicuous points-

I. The principle of forgiveness is single.

II. Forgiveness and forbearance are two separate principles of action.

III. The object of the Christian religion is to make like God, and therefore the Christian is called upon to imitate God in his action.

IV. Compassion and forgiveness are very different things.

V. Forgiveness has an element of justice in it. (N. Schenck, D. D.)

Limited forgiveness

This question was framed in the very spirit of the old law of retaliation. By proposing any limit whatever to forgiveness, Peter showed that he still considered that to forgive was the exceptional thing, was to forego a right which must some time be reassumed, was not an eternal law of the kingdom, but only a tentative measure which at any moment may be revoked; that underneath the forgiveness we extend to an erring brother, there lies a right to revenge which we may at any time assert. This feeling, wherever it exists shows that we are living with retaliation for the law, forgiveness for the exception. But Christ’s law is, that forgiveness shall be unlimited. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)

Injuries not to be made public

A man strikes me with a sword, and inflicts a wound. Suppose, instead of binding up the wound, I am showing it to everybody, and after it has been bound up I am taking off the bandage constantly, and examining the depths of the wound, and making it fester, is there a person in the world who would not call me a fool? However, such a fool is he who, by dwelling upon little injuries or insults, causes them to agitate and influence his mind. How much better were it to put a bandage on the wound and never look to it again. (Simeon.)

The superior influence of forgiveness

A soldier in the American army heard of the severe illness of his wife. He applied for leave of absence but was refused. He left the army, but before he got away he was retaken, and brought in as a deserter. He was tried, found guilty, and summoned before the commanding officer to receive his sentence. He entered the tent, saluted, and stood perfectly unmoved while the officer read his fearful doom-“To be shot to death with musketry on the next Friday.” Not a muscle of his face twitched, not a limb quivered. “I deserve it, sir,” he replied, respectfully; “I deserted from my flag. Is that all, sir? … -No,” replied the officer-“I have something else for you;” and, taking another paper, he read aloud the doomed man’s pardon. The undaunted spirit which severity had failed to move was completely broken down by clemency. He dropped to the ground, shaking, sobbing, and overcome, and, being restored to his regiment, proved himself grateful for the mercy shown him, and was soon promoted for good conduct.

Forgiveness awakens gratitude

A private was court-martialled for sleeping at his post. He was convicted, sentenced to death, and the day fixed for his execution. But, the case reaching the ears of the President, he resolved to save him; he signed a pardon and sent it to the camp. The day came. “Suppose,” thought the President, “my pardon has not reached him.” The telegraph was called into requisition; but no answer came. Then, ordering his carriage, he rode ten miles and saw that the soldier was saved. When the Third Vermont charged upon the rifle-pits, the enemy poured a volley upon them. The first man who fell, with six bullets in his body, was William Scott, of Company K. His comrades caught him up; and, as his life-blood ebbed away, he raised to heaven, amid the din of the war, the cries of the dying, and the shouts of the enemy, a prayer for the president. (Moore.)

Forgiveness

Peter’s question showed that he wholly misunderstood the nature of forgiveness. He thought it was something he might withhold or give as he pleased. Our Lord shows that it is a state of the heart which cannot be called forth by order or calculation.

I. Both in the parable and in the teaching of our Lord here it is admitted that all men have claims on one another. These are not to be compared, in point of magnitude, with the claims which God has on all, but still they are claims. The man who is debtor towards God may be a creditor towards somebody, and the man who has committed most wrongs may be able, in his turn, to say that there is some one who has wronged him.

II. Admitting to the full the claims which one man has against another in the way of personal offences, yet there is something of more importance still than the rectifying of a wrong act or word. His of importance to have the wrong righted, but Jesus Christ has more respect still to the character, repentance, and restoration of the individual who has offended. It is difficult to realize that the offender has inflicted a worse injury on himself than on the offended, the injury he has wrought on his own spirit. This truth will come out more clearly when you consider the precepts Christ gives for guidance in the matter, and the great result of success-“Tell him his fault between thee,” etc., “Thou hast gained thy brother.” This is above all personal gain. Charity is victory.

III. This duty of forgiveness is enforced by a parable where our claims on others are placed in contrast with God’s claims on us. We have no hope but in forgiveness. If we feel the need of Divine compassion, have we not learned the worth of it towards our fellow-creatures. (A. Watson, D. D.)

Forgiveness not a matter of calculation

Suppose a man were to put the question, How often must I admire what is beautiful and great in creation? how often must I cherish affection for my child? how often must I honour God? how often must I practise the duty of kindness? or how often must I feel sympathy for the unhappy and the suffering? You will see that any answer which could be given to such a question would be misleading, simply because the question proceeded on a false notion of what admiration, or affection, or sympathy is. To give a direct answer to such questions, you could only say, in Christ’s words, “Until seventy times seven “i.e., numbers have nothing to do with the matter. Forgiveness is a simple state of mind, like admiration of God’s creation, for which all that a man needs is a sense of beauty and order in his nature, Forgiveness is a state of heart, just as affection or sympathy is. And no man thinks of determining how often and how far he must feel sympathy, or how often and how far he must love those who are dear to him. The sympathy is always there, the love is always in the heart, and it requires only to be appealed to and touched to come forth. You could not imagine a man of genuine tenderness of heart making up his mind and calculating whether he should feel pity for a case of distress or not. You could not imagine a friend debating with himself whether he would sympathize with his friend in some calamity. Sympathy is free and spontaneous; it does not come and go at one’s call: love is only love; sympathy is only sympathy, when it can’t help itself. (A. Watson, D. D.)

The offender the greatest sufferer, and therefore needs pity most

If a man, in robbing us of a trifle, were to meet with an accident which disabled him and made him a sufferer for life, we should feel that his punishment far exceeded our loss; and most of us would have the heart to commiserate him, even though he had only himself to blame. And if the injury is not to life or limb, but to the immortal part of the man-if he destroys his own spiritual life-we should commiserate him all the more. (A. Watson, D. D.)

Forgiveness must be real and true

We may not forgive with our lips, and bear malice in our hearts. Such sham forgiveness is only too common. A man was lying on his sick bed, and the clergyman by his side was urging him to be reconciled to some one who had injured him. After much persuasion the man said, “If I die I will forgive him, but if I live he had better keep out of my way.” And again, our forgiveness must be willing, not forced from us. (Buxton Wilmot.)

Forgive and forget

How many are there who profess to forgive, but cannot forget, an injury. Such are like persons who sweep the chamber, but leave the dust behind the door. Whenever we grant our offending brother a discharge, our hearts also should set their hands to the acquittance. (Archbishop Secker.)

A sensibility to injury not sinful

We may without sin he sensible of injuries (a sheep is as sensible of a bite as a swine); but it must be with the silence of a sheep, or at utmost the mourning of a dove, not the roaring of a bear, or bellowing of a bull, when baited. All desire of revenge must be carefully cast out; and if the wrongdoer say, “I repent,” you must say, “I remit,” and that from the heart; being herein like that king of England of whom it is said that he never forgot anything but injuries. (John Trapp.)


Verses 23-35

Matthew 18:23-35

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

The unmerciful servant

I. That we are all God’s debtors. Debt in the New Testament is a common figure for sin; but duty is a moral thing, not a commercial. It is used figuratively to denote an obligation which one has failed to meet. Let us compare our character with the requirements of God’s law.

II. That none of us has anything wherewith to pay his debt to God. Few will admit this. They say, “Have patience with me and I will pay thee all.” They will try to make themselves better.

III. That God is willing to forgive us all our debt.

IV. That the reception of this forgiveness by us involves in it the obligation to forgive those of our fellow-men who have trespassed against ourselves. How far this obligation extends. It does not imply that we are to take no notice of the wrong done us; this would be selfish indifference alike to our brother and his guilt. But how comes it that the obligation to cherish this forgiving spirit is connected with our reception of God’s mercy. All who accept God’s pardon are at the same time renewed into His image by the power of the Holy Spirit; and so resembling Him in character, they seek to do unto others as He has done to them. Gratitude will take this form (Ephesians 4:32). Lessons:

1. That our sins against God are vastly greater than our neighbour’s trespasses against us.

2. We are constantly needing the forbearance of God and the long-suffering of our fellow-man.

3. That implacability on our part is an evidence that we are as yet unforgiven by God. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Man’s unavailing effort to pay his sin debts

Commonly the very last thing which he will admit is that he can do nothing to make atonement for it. He will go about to establish his own righteousness. He will try to make himself better. He will promise future obedience, as if that could be a satisfaction for the sins of the past. It is thus with him as it is too often with business men in a time of embarrassment; for, no matter how involved his affairs may be, the very last thing that a merchant will admit is that he is hopelessly insolvent. Hugh Miller, in his autobiography, thus describes what he learned by his experience as a clerk in the branch bank of Linlithgow: “I found I could predict every bankruptcy in the district; but I usually fell short from ten to eighteen months of the period in which the event actually took place. I could pretty nearly determine the time when the difficulties and entanglements which I saw, ought to have produced their proper effects, and landed in failure; but I missed taking into account the desperate efforts which men of energetic temperament make in such circumstances, and which, to the signal injury of their friends and the loss of their creditors, succeed usually in staving off the catastrophe for a season.” So the sinner, in his attempts to work out his own redemption, sinks only the deeper into the mire. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Forgiveness-one law for lord and servant

It is a parable to show us that our life must be a repetition “of the life of God. “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? “

I. The answer of the Lord, folded up in this parable, is “as often as God forgives us.” As soon as the lord began to reckon with his servants, he found this great defaulter; in any company God would immediately find such an one. What our Lord represents as one act, is really a continued flow of acts; every hour we are the subjects of forgiveness. Just as often you are to let forgiveness flow forth to others; the heart of the servant must be in unison with the heart of the master.

II. God’s mercy to us is to be a spring of mercy in us to others. The unmerciful servant would not resemble his master. We are receivers mainly that we may be givers. Observe the circumstances in which as Christians we are expected to exercise a forgiving spirit. Christ does not ask us to make bricks without straw. Everything that we need for the fulfilment of the command is provided. The Holy Spirit is given to mould us to the form of mercy which is in Him. It is a reasonable and ample provision. Christ endeavours to open our hearts by kindness; not by reproaches or commands, but by forgiveness. He dies that our transgressions may be put away. If the power to forgive be greater in us in this way than any other, the responsibility under which we lie to put forth that power is enormously increased.

III. We must take the entire gift, or lose all. The entire gift of the king was something more than forgiveness. It was also a forgiving heart. It is the gift of a new life. He took the liberty, joy, relief, and then stopped. He took the remission of his debt; but not the debt-remitting heart. Pardon is not salvation; there must be holiness as well. (A. Macleod, D. D.)

God’s mercy reproduced in the life of the Christian

If you cleave a stem of rock crystal into fragments, every fragment will be found a repetition more or less complete of the unbroken crystal. In a single drop of seawater you will find all the elements of the sea itself. Pluck a leaf from the oak, the beech, the plane, or any forest tree; place it between you and the light-you will find that the profile of the leaf is the profile of the perfect tree. Look at its veins; they are a little map of the branches of the tree. The tree reproduces itself in the leaf; the leaf is a picture of the whole tree. The form of the fragment, of the drop, of the leaf is the form of the whole to which it belongs. This law holds throughout the wide variety of nature. A single bone reveals the animal: a single ray of light contains the mysteries of all light; the pebble you start with your foot is an epitome of the globe we inhabit. (A. Macleod, D. D.)

The unmerciful servant-

This parable.

I. The circumstances which led to its delivery. Our Lord had been giving instructions to his disciples concerning the restoration of an erring brother. The injured party should be ready to forgive.

II. The several parts of which it is composed. The king is intended to represent the Most High; but He is not too exalted to attend to the concerns of His subjects.

1. A servant is in debt to his sovereign.

2. One servant in debt to another: even to him who had been so heavily in debt himself, but was most generously released from all his obligations.

III. The practical lessons it enforces. (Expository Outlines)

Twenty-seceded Sunday after Trinity

Warn against misapplications of the parable.

1. It would be an error to apply it to the subject of property obligations and money-debt.

2. Neither does it relate to civil punishments (Romans 13:1-5).

3. Neither are we to see in this parable the history of any particular persons, but simply the exhibition of the nature and working of the Divine principle of grace first in absolving us, and then in the temper which it begets in the hearts of those who are the subjects of it.

4. Neither is it intended to teach us by this parable that our exercise of forgiveness is in any way the procuring cause of God’s forgiveness.

The way thus cleared, consider some of the elements of the parable itself.

1. Man is an immense debtor.

2. Sad is man’s estate in view of this enormous indebtedness. There is a way, however, for these terrible consequences to be averted.

4. But there may be great debtors to whom the Lord’s word of entire forgiveness has been spoken, who yet in the end fail of the advantages of it.

5. God’s forgiveness is not bestowed that we may indulge our selfishness and greed.

6. There are other servants spoken of besides the two debtors. “When they saw what was done they were very sorry.” This is the form which true charity takes when called to witness sinfulness. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

The unmerciful servant

I. The practice of forgiving injuries.

II. The principle of forgiving injurious. (W. Arnot.)

Mercy uncommunicated, not truly received

If the channel of his heart had really been inserted into the fountain-head of mercy for receiving, mercy would infallibly have flowed in the way of giving, wherever the need of a brother made an opening; if the vessel had been charged, it would certainly have discharged. No compassion flowed from that heart to refresh a fellow-creature in distress, because that heart had never truly opened to accept mercy from God; the reservoir was empty, and therefore the outbranching channels remained dry. (W. Arnot.)

The magnitude of injury determined by our temper towards it

Most of the injuries with which we are called to deal are small, even in relation to human capacity; they are, very often precisely of the size that our own temper makes them. Some people possess the art of esteeming great injuries small, and some the art of esteeming small injuries great. The first is like a traveller who throws a great many stones out of the burden which he carries, and so walks with ease along the road; the other is like a traveller who gathers a great many stones on the wayside, and adds them to his burden, and is therefore soon crushed by the load. (W. Arnot.)

Man freed from an unforgiving temper by the gentle influences of the Divine love, not by self-determination

A traveller in Burmah, after fording a certain river, found his body covered all over by a swarm of small leeches, busily sucking his blood. His first impulse was to tear the tormentors from his flesh; but his servant warned him that to pull them off by mechanical violence would expose his life to danger. They must not be torn off, lest portions remain in the wounds and become a poison; they must drop off spontaneously, and so they will be harmless. The native forthwith prepared a hath for his master, by the decoction of some herbs, and directed him to lie down in it. As soon as he had bathed in the balsam the leeches dropped off. Each unforgiven injury rankling in the heart is like a leech sucking the lifeblood. Mere human determination to have done with it, will not cast the evil thing away. You must bathe your whole being in God’s pardoning mercy; and these venomous creatures will instantly let go their hold. You will stand up free. (W. Arnot.)

A wide view of heavenly good lessens the power of earthly wrongs

While a few acres of cold barren moorland constitute all your heritage, if a neighbour encroaches on it by a hair’s-breadth, you assert your right and repel the aggression; possibly you may, in your zeal, accuse him of an intention to trespass, if you see him digging his own ground near your border. While your property is very small, you are afraid of losing any of it; and perhaps you cry out before you are hurt. But if you become heir to a broad estate in a fertile valley, you will no longer be disposed to watch the motions of your neighbour, and go to law with him for a spadeful of moss that he may have taken from a disputed spot. Thus, while a human soul has no other portion than an uncertain shred of this uncertain world, be is kept in terror lest an atom of his property should be lost; he will do battle with all his might against any one who is, or seems to be, encroaching on his honour, or business, or property: but when he becomes a child of God, and an heir of an incorruptible inheritance-when he is a prince on the steps of a throne, he can afford to overlook small deductions from a possession that is insignificant in itself, and liable to be taken away at any time without an hour’s warning. (W. Arnot.)

The forgiving spirit aided by prayer

The miller, finding that some of the lumps are large and hard, and that the mill-stones are consequently almost standing still, goes quietly out and lets more water on. Go you, and do likewise. When injuries that seem large and hard are accumulated on your head, and the process of forgiving them begins to choke and go slow under the pressure, as if it would soon stop altogether; when the demand for forgiveness grows great, and the forgiving power in the heart is unable to meet it; then, enter into your closet and shut your door, and pray to your Father specifically for more experience of His forgiving love; so shall your forgiving love grow stronger, and overcome every obstacle that stands in its way. (W. Arnot.)

Sin as debt

I. That sin is a debt, a vast debt; or that there is much, yea great, exceeding great evil in sin, considered as a debt.

II. That sinners are debtors, and have nothing to pay, and therefore are forgiven freely, as an act of God’s mercy, all their debts without any satisfaction made by them.

III. That God doth and will call sinners who are debtors to Him, to an account, be they willing or no.

IV. That a pardoned person, or one that God hath forgiven, does forgive from his heart all those that have injured him, and they that do not so are not, nor shall be ever forgiven. (Benjamin Keach.)

Evil of sin

1. Sin is a vast debt, or an exceeding great evil in respect of God, against whom it is committed.

2. Sin is a vast debt, considering what wrong it hath done to God; it is a crossing His will, a violation of His law, a contemning His authority, a despising of His sovereignty and dominion, a defacing His image, and resisting His spirit, abuse of His patience, and a slighting of all His love, mercy, and goodness.

3. Sin is a great debt, because all men, yea, all the saints of the earth, nor angels of heaven can pay this debt.

4. Sin is a vast debt, because it exposes the sinner to eternal wrath and vengeance. (Benjamin Keach.)

Ways of being debtors

1. By owing money.

2. By being a trespasser, offender, or guilty person.

3. By robbery of a man’s goods or good name.

4. By violating a covenant.

5. By receiving kindnesses. He owes the debt of gratitude and thankfulness. (Benjamin Keach.)

Sinners like debtors

1. In their unwillingness to be called to account.

2. Attended with shame.

3. They have many shifts and delays.

4. Do not like to meet their creditor.

5. Continually afraid of arrest. (Benjamin Keach.)

Compassion God-like

There is nothing that makes a man so unlike to God, as a hard heart; without pity, without patience. In the tabernacle, the doors of the sanctum santorum were of olive-wood (1 Kings 6:31); which is the hieroglyphic of mercy: but the gates of that fearful dungeon, which is hell, are said to be of brass and iron; “He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (Psalms 107:16); the signs of hard hearts and instruments of destruction. Which serves to show, that the way to hell is by inhumanity; to heaven, by pity. Of all the passions in us, compassion is the best; and a man without this tenderness, is but the statue of a man; a mere stone in a human figure. The very stones will seem to weep, when foul weather is a-coming; and as if they had been once so full of sorrow for Christ’s sufferings, that their solid breasts could no longer contain it, they brake in pieces. There be men harder than stones, that have hearts more impenetrable, obdurate, and unrelenting, and less capable of remorse; nay, instead of pitying the wounds of the miserable, they make those miserable wounds. (T. Adams.)

Influence of forgiveness

The fate of the unmerciful servant tells us in the plainest language that the mere cancelling of our guilt does not save us. It tells us that unless the forgiveness of God humbles us, and begets within us a truly meek and loving spirit, we cannot be owned as His children. The best assurance that we are ourselves forgiven is the consciousness that the very spirit of the forgiving God is working in our own hearts towards others. (Marcus Dods.)

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is cheaper than revenge, and is sweeter and more valuable. Prudence as well as piety, counsels quiet to men under reproof or reproach. If a bee stings you, will you go to the hive and destroy it? Would not a thousand come upon you? If you receive a trifling injury, don’t be anxious to avenge it. Let it drop. It is wisdom to say little respecting the injuries you have received. When enemies see they have hit you they know where to strike next time, while if you show no signs of disquiet, they think their stroke must have missed its mark. Lie quiet, and you will be likely to be let alone. (H. L. Hastings.)

The parable of the king that took account of his servant

Note-

I. The great goodness and clemency of god. Delay was asked for, and remission was given. How great the love; the gift exceeds the petition.

II. The great power of humility. The servant kneeled down and prayed in a few simple words, and he was forgiven his debt. Certain lions spare a prey that prostrates itself before them.

III. The punishment is one thing, the fault is another. There is a freeing from the dominion of Satan, and then there is a remission of the punishment. Two distinct acts. Absalom was pardoned, yet he was not admitted to David’s presence (2 Samuel 14:28).

IV. The inconstancy and mutability of man.

V. The need we have to forgive injuries. Like our blessed Lord and St. Stephen, we must pray for our murderers. (From the Latin.)

The just account

I. The sublimity of the judicial condition. “A certain king,” endowed with the highest powers, will be our judge-Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:16). His three attributes are-

1. Infallible knowledge.

2. Inflexible justice.

3. Invincible power.

Hence He is to be greatly feared (Jeremiah 10:7).

II. The impossibility of final avoidance-“which would take account.”

III. The necessity of obedient subjection. “Servants,” implying total subjection to Him (Leviticus 19:37). (From the Latin.)

Our great creditor

God is our great creditor on account-

I. Of original sin (Ephesians 2:3).

II. Of actual sin (Isaiah 59:2).

III. Of obedience by natural and Divine law (Romans 2:14-15).

1. Natural. God is our creator (Acts 17:28). Jesus Christ is our Redeemer.

2. Divine. He is our King (Romans 13:1). We are His spiritual subjects and followers.

IV. Of gratitude for all blessings. Temporal and spiritual (1 Corinthians 12:6-11).

V. Of earnest love for any good which we may have done. To Him be all the praise and honour (Psalms 115:1). (From the Latin.)

The tormentors

The torment of this place of tormentors (Matthew 25:30), arises from-

I. The hopelessness of escape. The imprisonment here knows no end (Matthew 3:12; Matthew 25:46; Isaiah 66:24).

II. The weight which presses down the condemned.

III. The unceasing torment. Never any relief; not a moment’s ease or forgetfulness (Revelation 14:11).

IV. The weariness and pain of being. A wakeful night seems multiplied into three. The same round, or rather, unvarying sameness, which makes an agony of itself.

V. The spectators of this wretchedness (Revelation 14:10; Revelation 6:16-17). This formed the agony of Samson ( 16:27-28). It carries shame here; it will increase the agony of hereafter. (From the Latin.)

The debt of man

Let us consider the nature of our debt.

I. To god. Pay the debt of

II. To ourselves. Pay thy debt of

III. To our neighbour. Pay thy debt of

Epilogue.

1. Husband and discipline every resource.

2. Strive and pray honestly to meet this triple debt. (From the Latin.)

What contrasts are here!

I. God, the King of kings, towards a servant; and again, a servant towards his fellow-servant.

II. An infinite debt, and again, a small debt.

III. Impossibility and inability; and again, possibility and ability.

IV. Compassion and kindness; and again, hardheartedness and cruel behaviour. (Heubner.)

The sinner’s debt

This “servant,” or “minister,” must have been some high functionary of state, who manipulated the revenues of provinces. He represents the sinner-every sinner. The debt for which every sinner is accountable, or liable, to God is enormous. It is not easy to determine exactly what was the value of the Hebrew talent. It contained 3,000 shekels of the sanctuary, and is supposed by some to have corresponded exactly to the Greek AEginetan talent, which exceeded the common Attic commercial talent. This common Attic talent is estimated by Boeckh as equivalent to 1,375 German thalers. Taking the German thaler as equivalent to 3s. sterling, a single Attic talent would amount to a little above £200; so then ten thousand talents would be something more than £2,000,000 sterling, an immense sum, more especially in those ancient times, when the relation of bullion to commodities was such that the prices of commodities in bullion were far smaller relatively than now, with our vast importations of gold from America and Australia. This immense sum, almost; baffling ordinary conception, represents the sinner’s spiritual debt or guilt. (J. Morison, D.D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 18:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-18.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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