1At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
1 CHAPTER XVIII.
NOTES ON CHAP. XVIII.
Verse 1. At the same time] Or hour; but ωρα is frequently
used to signify some particular time: however, instead of ωρα,
three MSS., all the Itala but four, and Origen, read ημερα,
day. Origen says both readings were extant in MSS. in his time.
Who is the greatest] Could these disciples have viewed the
kingdom of Christ in any other light than that of a temporal one?
Hence they wished to know whom he would make his prime
minister-whom his general-whom his chief chancellor-whom supreme
judge, &c., &c. Is it he who first became thy disciple, or he who
is thy nearest relative, or he who has most frequently entertained
thee, or he who is the oldest, merely as to years? Could this
inquiry have proceeded from any but the nine disciples who had not
witnessed our Lord's transfiguration? Peter, James, and John,
were surely more spiritual in their views! And yet how soon did
even these forget that his kingdom was not of this world!
See , &c.; , &c.
The disciples having lately seen the keys delivered to Peter, and
found that he, with James and John, had been privileged with being
present at the transfiguration, it is no wonder if a measure of
jealousy and suspicion began to work in their minds. From this
inquiry we may also learn, that the disciples had no notion of
Peter's supremacy; nor did they understand, as the Roman Catholics
will have it, that Christ had constituted him their head, either
by the conversation mentioned ,
or by the act mentioned in the conclusion of the preceding
chapter. Had they thought that any such superiority had been
designed, their present question must have been extremely
impertinent. Let this be observed.
2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
2 Verse 2. A little child] But this child could walk, for he
called him to him. Nicephorus says, this was Ignatius, who was
afterwards bishop of Antioch, and suffered martyrdom under, and by
command of, the Roman Emperor Trojan, in the 107th year of our
Lord. But this good father is not much to be depended on, being
both weak and credulous.
3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
3 Verse 3. Except ye be converted] Unless ye be saved from those
prejudices which are at present so baneful to your nation,
(seeking a temporal and not a spiritual kingdom,) unless ye be
clothed with the spirit of humility, ye cannot enter into the
spirit, design, and privileges of my spiritual and eternal
kingdom. The name of this kingdom should put you in mind of its
nature.-1. The KING is heavenly; 2. His SUBJECTS are
heavenly-minded; 3. Their COUNTRY is heavenly, for they are
strangers and pilgrims upon earth; 4. The GOVERNMENT of this
kingdom is wholly spiritual and divine. See on .
And become as little children] i.e. Be as truly without
worldly ambition, and the lust of power, as little children are,
who act among themselves as if all were equal. The following
saying from the Boostan of the poet Saady is very appropriate.
"The hearts of infants being free from avarice, what care they for
a handful of silver more than for a handful of dust?"
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
4 Verse 4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself] So great is
the disparity between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of
this world, that there is no way of rising to honours in the
former, but by humility of mind, and continual self-abasement.
The same is greatest] Thus our Lord shows them that they were
all equal, and that there could be no superiority among them, but
what must come from the deepest humility; he intimates also, that
wherever this principle should be found, it would save its
possessor from seeking worldly honours or earthly profits, and
from seeking to be a ruler over his brethren, or a lord in God's
5And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
5 Verse 5. One such little child] As our Lord in the preceding
verses considers a little child an emblem of a genuine disciple,
so by the term in this verse he means a disciple only. "Whosoever
will receive, i.e. show unto such a child-like, unambitious
disciple of mine, any act of kindness for my sake, I will consider
it as done to myself."
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
6 Verse 6. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones] But,
on the contrary, whosoever shall cause one of the least of those
who believe in me to be stumbled-to go into the spirit of the
world, or give way to sin-such a one shall meet with the most
Let those who act the part of the devil, in tempting others to
sin, hear this declaration of our Lord, and tremble.
A millstone] μυλοςονικος, an ass's millstone, because in
ancient times, before the invention of wind and water mills, the
stones were turned sometimes by slaves, but commonly by asses or
mules. The most ancient kind of mills among the inhabitants of
the northern nations, was the quern, or hand-mill. In some places
in Ireland, Scotland, and the Zetland Isles, these still exist.
Drowned in the depth of the sea.] It is supposed that in Syria,
as well as in Greece, this mode of punishing criminals was
practised; especially in cases of parricide; and when a person was
devoted to destruction for the public safety, as in cases of
plague, famine, &c. That this was the custom in Greece, we learn
from the Scholiast on the Equites of Aristophanes, οτανγαρ
κατεποντουντιναςβαροςαποτωντραχηλωνεκρεμων. When a person
was drowned, they hung a weight, (υπερβολονλιθον, Suidas,) a vast
stone about his neck. See the ancient Scholia upon the Equites,
lin. 1360, and Suidas, in υπερβολονλιθον. We find also that it
was a positive institute of the ancient Hindoo law. "If a woman,"
says the precept, "causes any person to take poison, sets fire to
any person's house, or murders a man, then the magistrate, having
bound a stone to her neck, shall drown her." Halhead's Code of
Gentoo Laws, 4to. edition, page 306.
7 ¶ Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
7 Verse 7. Wo!] Or, alas! ουαι. It is the opinion of some
eminent critics, that this word is ever used by our Lord to
express sympathy and concern.
Because of offences] Scandals, stumbling-blocks, persecutions,
For it must needs be that offences come] αναγκεγαρεστιν
ελθειντασκανδαλα, for the coming of offences is unavoidable.
Such is the wickedness of men, such their obstinacy, that they
will not come unto Christ that they may have life, but desperately
continue deceiving and being deceived. In such a state of things,
offences, stumbling-blocks, persecutions, &c., are unavoidable.
Wo to that man] He who gives the offence, and he who receives
it, are both exposed to ruin.
8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
8 Verse 8. - 9. If thy hand, &c.] See the notes on .
9And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
9 Verse 9. .
10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
10 Verse 10. One of these little ones] One of my simple, loving,
Their angels-always behold] Our Lord here not only alludes to,
but, in my opinion, establishes the notion received by almost all
nations, viz. That every person has a guardian angel; and that
these have always access to God, to receive orders relative to the
management of their charge. See ; .
Always behold the face] Hence, among the Jews, the angels were
styled , malakey panim, angels of the face, and Michael
is said to be , sar ha-panim the prince of the face. This
is an allusion to the privilege granted by eastern monarchs to
their chief favourites; a privilege which others were never
permitted to enjoy. The seven princes of Media and Persia, who
were the chief favourites and privy-counsellors of Ahasuerus, are
said to see the king's face.
; see also , and .
Our Lord's words give us to understand that humble-hearted,
child-like disciples, are objects of his peculiar care, and
constant attention. The clause, ενουρανοις, in the heavens,
is wanting in several MSS., versions, and fathers.
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
11 Verse 11. For the Son of man, &c.] This is added as a second
reason, why no injury should be done to his followers. "The Son
of man has so loved them as to come into the world to lay down his
life for them."
That which was lost.] απολωλος. In , Satan is called
απολλυων, Apolluon, the destroyer, or him who lays waste. This
name bears a near relation to that state in which our Lord tells
us he finds all mankind-lost, desolated, ruined. So it appears
that Satan and men have the nearest affinity to each other-as the
destroyer and the destroyed-the desolator and the desolated-
the loser and the lost. But the Son of man came to save the lost.
Glorious news! May every lost soul feel it! This verse is
omitted by five MSS., two versions, and three of the fathers; but
of its authenticity there can be no doubt, as it is found in the
parallel place, , on which verse there is not a
single various reading found in any of the MSS. that have ever
been discovered, nor in any of the ancient versions.
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
12 Verse 12. Doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into
the mountains] So our common translation reads the verse; others,
Doth he not leave the ninety and nine UPON THE MOUNTAINS, and go,
&c. This latter reading appears to me to be the best; because, in
it is said, he leaveth the ninety and nine IN THE DESERT. The
allusion, therefore, is to a shepherd feeding his sheep on the
mountains, in the desert; not seeking the lost one ON the
Leaving the ninety and nine, and seeking the ONE strayed
sheep:-This was a very common form of speech among the Jews, and
includes no mystery, though there are some who imagine that our
Lord refers to the angels who kept not their first estate, and
that they are in number, to men, as NINETY are to ONE. But it is
likely that our Lord in this place only alludes to his constant
solicitude to instruct, heal, and save those simple people of the
sea coasts, country villages, &c., who were scattered abroad, as
sheep without a shepherd, (,) the scribes and Pharisees
paying no attention to their present or eternal well-being. This
may be also considered as a lesson of instruction and comfort to
backsliders. How hardly does Christ give them up!
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
13 Verse 13. He rejoiceth more] It is justly observed by one, on
this verse, that it is natural for a person to express unusual joy
at the fortunate accomplishment of an unexpected event.
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
14 Verse 14. It is not the will of your Father] If any soul be
finally lost, it is not because God's will or counsel was against
its salvation, or that a proper provision had not been made for
it; but that, though light came into the world, it preferred
darkness to light, because of its attachment to its evil deeds.
15 ¶ Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
15 Verse 15. If thy brother] Any who is a member of the same
religious society, sin against thee, 1. Go and reprove him
alone,-it may be in person; if that cannot be so well done, by thy
messenger, or in writing, (which in many cases is likely to be the
most effectual.) Observe, our Lord gives no liberty to omit this,
or to exchange it for either of the following steps. If this do
16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
16 Verse 16. 2. Take with thee one or two more] Men whom he
esteems, who may then confirm and enforce what thou sayest; and
afterwards, if need require, bear witness of what was spoken. If
even this do not succeed, then, and not before,
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
17 Verse 17. 3. Tell it unto the Church] Lay the whole matter
before the congregation of Christian believers, in that place of
which he is a member, or before the minister and elders, as the
representatives of the Church or assembly. If all this avail not,
Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.] To whom
thou art, as a Christian, to owe earnest and persevering good
will, and acts of kindness; but have no religious communion with
him, till, if he have been convicted, he acknowledge his fault.
Whosoever follows this threefold rule will seldom offend others,
and never be offended himself.-Rev. J. WESLEY.
Reproving a brother who had sinned was a positive command under
the law. See . And the Jews have a saying, that one of
the causes of the ruin of their nation was, "No man reproved
another." On the word Church, .
18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
18 Verse 18. Whatsoever ye shall bind, &c.] Whatever
determinations ye make, in conformity to these directions for your
conduct to an offending brother, will be accounted just, and
ratified by the Lord. See on ; and, to what is there
said, the following observations may be profitably added.
οσαεανδησητεκαιοσαεανλυσητε. Binding and loosing, in
this place, and in , is generally restrained, by
Christian interpreters, to matters of discipline and authority.
But it is as plain as the sun, by what occurs in numberless places
dispersed throughout the Mishna, and from thence commonly used by
the later rabbins when they treat of ritual subjects, that binding
signified, and was commonly understood by the Jews at that time to
be, a declaration that any thing was unlawful to be done; and
loosing signified, on the contrary, a declaration that any thing
may be lawfully done. Our Saviour spoke to his disciples in a
language which they understood, so that they were not in the least
at a loss to comprehend his meaning; and its being obsolete to us
is no manner of reason why we should conclude that it was obscure
to them. The words, bind and loose, are used in both places in a
declaratory sense, of things, not of persons. It is ο and
οσα, in the neuter gender, both in chap. 16, and here in this:
i.e. Whatsoever thing or things ye shall bind or loose.
Consequently, the same commission which was given at first to St.
Peter alone, (,) was afterwards enlarged to all the
apostles. St. Peter had made a confession that Jesus was the
Christ, the Son of God. His confession of the Divinity of our
Lord was the first that ever was made by man; to him, therefore,
were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven: i.e. God made
choice of him among all the apostles, that the Gentiles should
first, by his mouth, hear the word of the Gospel, and believe. He
first opened the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles, when he
preached to Cornelius. It was open to the Jews all along before;
but if we should suppose that it was not, yet to them also did St.
Peter open the kingdom of heaven, in his sermon at the great
pentecost. Thus, then, St. Peter exercised his two keys: that
for the Jews at the great pentecost; and that for the Gentiles,
when he admitted Cornelius into the Church. And this was the
reward of his first confession, in which he owned Jesus to be the
promised Messiah. And what St. Peter loosed, i.e. declared as
necessary to be believed and practised by the disciples here, was
ratified above. And what he declared unlawful to be believed and
practised, (i.e. what he bound,) was actually forbidden by God
I own myself obliged to Dr. Lightfoot for this interpretation of
the true notion of binding and loosing. It is a noble one, and
perfectly agrees with the ways of speaking then in use among the
Jews. It is observable that these phrases, of binding and
loosing, occur no where in the New Testament but in St. Matthew,
who is supposed to have written his Gospel first in Hebrew, from
whence it was translated into Greek, and then the force and use of
the expression will better appear. Dr. Wotton's Miscell.
Discourses, vol. i. p. 309, &c., &c.
"The phrases to bind and to loose were Jewish, and most
frequent in their writers. It belonged only to the teachers
among the Jews to bind and to loose. When the Jews set any apart
to be a preacher, they used these words, 'Take thou liberty to
teach what is BOUND and what is LOOSE.'" Strype's preface to the
Posthumous Remains of Dr. Lightfoot, p. 38.
19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
19 Verse 19. Again I say unto you] The word αμην, verily, is
added here, in ninety-eight MSS., (many of which are of the
greatest antiquity and importance,) seven editions, all the
Arabic, the Slavonic, and several of the Itala. The taking in or
leaving out such a word may appear to some a matter of
indifference; but, as I am fully convinced Jesus Christ never
spoke a useless or a needless word, my maxim is, to omit not one
syllable that I am convinced (from such authority as the above) he
has ever used, and to take in nothing that he did not speak. It
makes the passage much more emphatic-Again, VERILY I say unto you,
If two of you shall agree] συμφωνηστωσιν, symphonize, or
harmonize. It is a metaphor taken from a number of musical
instruments set to the same key, and playing the same tune: here,
it means a perfect agreement of the hearts, desires, wishes, and
voices, of two or more persons praying to God. It also intimates
that as a number of musical instruments, skilfully played, in a
good concert, are pleasing to the ears of men, so a number of
persons united together in warm, earnest, cordial prayer, is
highly pleasing in the sight and ears of the Lord. Now this
conjoint prayer refers, in all probability, to the binding and
loosing in the preceding verse; and thus we see what power
faithful prayer has with God!
It shall be done for them] What an encouragement to pray! even
to two, if there be no more disposed to join in this heavenly
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
20 Verse 20. For where two-are gathered together in thy name]
There are many sayings among the Jews almost exactly similar to
this, such as, Wherever even two persons are sitting in discourse
concerning the law, the Divine presence is among them. See much
more in Schoettgen. And the following, among the ancient Hindoos,
is like unto it: "When Brahma, the Lord of creation, had formed
mankind, and at the same time appointed his worship, he spoke and
said, 'With this worship pray for increase, and let it be that on
which ye shall depend for the accomplishment of all your wishes.
With this remember God, that God may remember you. Remember one
another, and ye shall obtain supreme happiness. God, being
remembered in worship, will grant you the enjoyment of your
wishes: he who enjoyeth what hath been given unto him by God, and
offereth not a portion unto him, is even as a thief. Know that
good works come from Brahma, whose nature is incorruptible;
wherefore, the omnipresent Brahma is PRESENT IN THE WORSHIP." See
the Bagvat Geeta, p. 45, 46.
In my name] Seems to refer particularly to a public profession
of Christ and his Gospel.
There am I in the midst] None but God could say these words, to
say them with truth, because God alone is every where present, and
these words refer to his omnipresence. Wherever-suppose millions
of assemblies were collected in the same moment, in different
places of the creation, (which is a very possible case,) this
promise states that Jesus is in each of them. Can any, therefore,
say these words, except that God who fills both heaven and earth?
But Jesus says these words: ergo-Jesus is God. Let it be
observed, that Jesus is not among them to spy out their sins; or
to mark down the imperfections of their worship; but to enlighten,
strengthen, comfort, and save them.
21 ¶ Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
21 Verse 21. Till seven times?] Though seven was a number of
perfection among the Hebrews, and often meant much more than the
units in it imply, yet it is evident that Peter uses it here in its
plain literal sense, as our Lord's words sufficiently testify. It
was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice:
Peter enlarges this charity more than one half; and our Lord makes
even his enlargement septuple, see .
Revenge is natural to man, i.e. man is naturally a vindictive
being, and, in consequence, nothing is more difficult to him than
forgiveness of injuries.
22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
22 Verse 22. Seventy times seven.] There is something very
remarkable in these words, especially if collated with ,
where the very same words are used-"If any man kill LAMECH, he
shall be avenged seventy times seven." The just God punishes sin
in an exemplary manner. Sinful man, who is exposed to the stroke
of Divine justice, should be abundant in forgiveness, especially
as the merciful only shall find mercy. ,
and on .
The sum seventy times seven makes four hundred and ninety. Now
an offence, properly such, is that which is given wantonly,
maliciously, and without ANY PROVOCATION. It is my opinion, that,
let a man search ever so accurately, he will not find that he has
received, during the whole course of his life, four hundred and
ninety such offences. If the man who receives the offence has
given any cause for it, in that case, the half of the offence, at
least, towards his brother, ceases.
23 ¶ Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
23 Verse 23. Therefore is the kingdom] In respect to sin,
cruelty, and oppression, God will proceed in the kingdom of heaven
(the dispensation of the Gospel) as he did in former times; and
every person shall give an account of himself to God. Every sin
is a debt contracted with the justice of God; men are all God's
own servants; and the day is at hand in which their Master will
settle accounts with them, inquire into their work, and pay them
their wages. Great Judge! what an awful time must this be, when
with multitudes nothing shall be found but sin and insolvency!
By servant, in the text, we are to understand, a petty king, or
tributary prince; for no hired servant could possibly owe such a
sum as is here mentioned.
24And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
24 Verse 24. Ten thousand talents] μυριωνταλαντων, a myriad of
talents, the highest number known in Greek arithmetical notation.
An immense sum, which, if the silver talent be designed, amounts
to 4,500,000 sterling; but if the gold talent be meant which is by
far the most likely, then the amount is 67,500,000 sterling, a sum
equal to the annual revenue of the British empire! See the note
The margin above is incorrect.
25But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
25 Verse 25. He had not to pay] That is not being able to pay.
As there could not be the smallest probability that a servant,
wholly dependent on his master, who was now absolutely insolvent,
could ever pay a debt he had contracted of more than 67 millions!
-so is it impossible for a sinner, infinitely indebted to Divine
justice, ever to pay a mite out of the talent.
Commanded him to be sold-his wife-children, &c.] Our Lord here
alludes to an ancient custom among the Hebrews, of selling a man
and his family to make payment of contracted debts. See ;
This custom passed from among the Jews to the Greeks and Romans.
I have already remarked (see ) that in the Burman empire
the sale of whole families, to discharge debts, is very common.
26The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
26 Verse 26. Fell down and worshipped him] προσεκυνειαυτω,
crouched as a dog before him, with the greatest deference,
submission, and anxiety.
Have patience with me] μακροθυμησονεπεμοι, be long-minded
towards me-give me longer space.
The means which a sinner should use to be saved, are, 1. Deep
humiliation of heart-he fell down. 2. Fervent prayer. 3.
Confidence in the mercy of God-have patience. 4. A firm purpose
to devote his soul and body to his Maker-I will pay thee all. A
sinner may be said, according to the economy of grace, to pay all,
when he brings the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus to the throne of
justice, by faith; thus offering an equivalent for the pardon he
seeks, and paying all he owes to Divine justice, by presenting the
blood of the Lamb.
27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
27 Verse 27. Moved with compassion] Or with tender pity. This is
the source of salvation to a lost world, the tender pity, the
eternal mercy of God.
28But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
28 Verse 28. A hundred pence] Rather denarii. The denarius was
a Roman coin, worth about seven-pence halfpenny English. The
original word should be retained, as our word penny does not
convey the seventh part of the meaning. A hundred denarii would
amount to about 3l. 2s. 6d. British, or, if reckoned as some do,
at seven-pence three farthings, the sum would be 3l. 4s. 7d.
Took him by the throat] κρατησαςαυτονεπνιγε. There is no
word I am acquainted with, which so fully expresses the meaning of
the original, επνιγε, as the Anglo-saxon term throttle: it
signified (like the Greek) to half choke a person, by seizing his
29And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
29 Verse 29. Fell down at his feet] This clause is wanting in
several ancient MSS., versions, and fathers. Several printed
editions also have omitted it; Griesbach has left it out of the
Pay thee all.] παντα, all, is omitted by a multitude of MSS.,
versions, and fathers.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
30 Verse 30. And he would not, &c.] To the unmerciful, God will
show no mercy; this is an eternal purpose of the Lord, which never
can be changed. God teaches us what to do to a fellow-sinner, by
what HE does to us. Our fellow-servant's debt to us, and ours to
God, are as one hundred denarii to ten thousand talents! When we
humble ourselves before him, God freely forgives us all this
mighty sum! And shall we exact from our brother recompense for
the most trifling faults? Reader, if thou art of this unmerciful,
unforgiving cast, read out the chapter.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
31 Verse 31. His fellow-servants saw what was done] An act of
this kind is so dishonourable to all the followers of Christ, and
to the spirit of his Gospel, that through the respect they owe to
their Lord and Master, and through the concern they feel for the
prosperity of his cause, they are obliged to plead against it at
the throne of God.
32Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
32 Verse 32. His lord, after that he had called him] Alas! how
shall he appear! Confounded. What shall he answer? He is
33Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
33 Verse 33. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion]
ουκεδεικαισε, Did it not become thee also? What a cutting
reproach! It became ME to show mercy, when thou didst earnestly
entreat me, because I am MERCIFUL, It became thee also to have
shown mercy, because thou wert so deep in debt thyself, and hadst
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
34 Verse 34. Delivered him to the tormentors] Not only continued
captivity is here intended, but the tortures to be endured in it.
If a person was suspected of fraud, as there was reason for in
such a case as that mentioned here, he was put to very cruel
tortures among the Asiatics, to induce him to confess. In the
punishments of China, a great variety of these appear; and
probably there is an allusion to such torments in this place.
Before, he and all that he had, were only to be sold. Now, as he
has increased his debt, so he has increased his punishment; he is
delivered to the tormentors, to the horrors of a guilty
conscience, and to a fearful looking for of fiery indignation,
which shall devour the adversaries. But if this refers to the day
of judgment, then the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is
not quenched, are the tormentors.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
35 Verse 35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto
you] The goodness and indulgence of God towards us is the
pattern we should follow in our dealings with others. If we take
man for our exemplar we shall err, because our copy is a bad one;
and our lives are not likely to be better than the copy we
imitate. Follow Christ; be merciful as your Father who is in
heaven is merciful. You cannot complain of the fairness of your
copy. Reader, hast thou a child, or servant who has offended
thee, and humbly asks forgiveness? Hast thou a debtor, or a
tenant, who is insolvent, and asks for a little longer time? And
hast thou not forgiven that child or servant? Hast thou not given
time to that debtor or tenant? How, then, canst thou ever expect
to see the face of the just and merciful God? Thy child is
banished, or kept at a distance; thy debtor is thrown into
prison, or thy tenant sold up: yet the child offered to fall at
thy feet; and the debtor or tenant, utterly insolvent, prayed for
a little longer time, hoping God would enable him to pay thee all;
but to these things thy stony heart and seared conscience paid no
regard! O monster of ingratitude! Scandal to human nature, and
reproach to God! If thou canst, go hide thyself-even in hell,
from the face of the Lord!
Their trespasses.] These words are properly left out by
GREISBACH, and other eminent critics, because they are wanting in
some of the very best MSS. most of the versions, and in some of
the chief of the fathers. The words are evidently an
interpolation; the construction of them is utterly improper, and
the concord false.
In our common method of dealing with insolvent debtors, we in
some sort imitate the Asiatic customs: we put them in prison, and
all their circumstances there are so many tormentors; the place,
the air, the company, the provision, the accommodation, all
destructive to comfort, to peace, to health, and to every thing
that humanity can devise. If the person be poor, or comparatively
poor, is his imprisonment likely to lead him to discharge his
debt? His creditor may rest assured that he is now farther from
his object than ever: the man had no other way of discharging the
debt but by his labour; that is now impossible, through his
confinement, and the creditor is put to a certain expense towards
his maintenance. How foolish is this policy! And how much do
such laws stand in need of revision and amendment! Imprisonment
for debt, in such a case as that supposed above, can answer no
other end than the gratification of the malice, revenge, or
inhumanity of the creditor. Better sell all that he has, and,
with his hands and feet untied, let him begin the world afresh.
Dr. Dodd very feelingly inquires here, "Whether rigour in exacting
temporal debts, in treating without mercy such as are unable to
satisfy them-whether this can be allowed to a Christian, who is
bound to imitate his God and Father? To a debtor, who can expect
forgiveness only on the condition of forgiving others? To a
servant, who should obey his Master?-and to a criminal, who is in
daily expectation of his Judge and final sentence?" Little did he
think, when he wrote this sentence, that himself should be a
melancholy proof, not only of human weakness, but of the
relentless nature of those laws by which property, or rather
money, is guarded. The unfortunate Dr. Dodd was hanged for
forgery, in 1777, and the above note was written only seven years
The unbridled and extravagant appetites of men sometimes require
a rigour even beyond the law to suppress them. While, then, we
learn lessons of humanity from what is before us, let us also
learn lessons of prudence, sobriety, and moderation. The parable
of the two debtors is blessedly calculated to give this