1: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? - Which
of us shall be thy prime minister? They still dreamed of a
2: And Jesus calling to him a little child - This is supposed to
have been the great Ignatius, whom Trajan, the wise, the good
Emperor Trajan, condemned to be cast to the wild beasts at Rome!(Mk 9:36,Lu 9:47).
3: Except ye be converted - The first step toward entering into
the kingdom of grace, is to become as little children: lowly in
heart, knowing yourselves utterly ignorant and helpless, and
hanging wholly on your Father who is in heaven, for a supply of
all your wants. We may farther assert, (though it is doubtful
whether this text implies so much,) except ye be turned from
darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God:, except
ye be entirely, inwardly changed, renewed in the image of God,
ye cannot enter into the kingdom of glory. Thus must every man
be converted in this life, or he can never enter into life eternal.
Ye shall in no wise enter - So far from being great in it.(Mt 19:14).
5-6: And all who are in this sense little children are
unspeakably dear to me. Therefore help them all you can, as
if it were myself in person, and see that ye offend them not;
that is, that ye turn them not out of the right way, neither
hinder them in it. (Mt 10:40,Lu 10:16,Joh 13:20).
7: Wo to the world because of offences - That is, unspeakable
misery will be in the world through them; for it must needs be
that offences come - Such is the nature of things, and such the
weakness, folly, and wickedness of mankind, that it cannot be
but they will come; but wo to that man - That is, miserable is
that man, by whom the offence cometh. Offences are, all things
whereby any one is turned out of, or hindered in the way of God.
8-9: If thy hand, foot, eye, cause thee to offend - If the most
dear enjoyment, the most beloved and useful person, turn thee
out of, or hinder thee in the way Is not this a hard saying?
Yes; if thou take counsel with flesh and blood.(Mt 5:29,Mk 9:43).
10: See that ye despise not one of these little ones - As if
they were beneath your notice. Be careful to receive and
not to offend, the very weakest believer in Christ: for as
inconsiderable as some of these may appear to thee, the very
angels of God have a peculiar charge over them: even those of
the highest order, who continually appear at the throne of the
Most High. To behold the face of God seems to signify the
waiting near his throne; and to be an allusion to the office of
chief ministers in earthly courts, who daily converse with their
11: Another, and yet a stronger reason for your not despising
them is, that I myself came into the world to save them.(Lu 19:10).
14: So it is not the will of your Father - Neither doth my Father
despise the least of them. Observe the gradation. The angels,
the Son, the Father.
15: But how can we avoid giving offence to some? or being
offended at others! Especially suppose they are quite in the
wrong? Suppose they commit a known sin? Our Lord here teaches
us how: he lays down a sure method of avoiding all offences.
Whosoever closely observes this threefold rule, will seldom
offend others, and never be offended himself. If any do any
thing amiss, of which thou art an eye or ear witness, thus
saith the Lord, If thy brother - Any who is a member of the
same religious community: Sin against thee,
Go and reprove him alone - If it may be in person; if that
cannot so well be done, by thy messenger; or in writing.
Observe, our Lord gives no liberty to omit this; or to exchange
it for either of the following steps. If this do not succeed,
Take with thee one or two more - Men whom he esteems or loves,
who may then confirm and enforce what thou sayest; and afterward,
if need require, bear witness of what was spoken. If even this
does not succeed, then, and not before,
Tell it to the elders of the Church - Lay the whole matter
open before those who watch over yours and his soul. If all
this avail not, have no farther intercourse with him, only such
as thou hast with heathens.
Can any thing be plainer? Christ does here as expressly command
all Christians who see a brother do evil, to take this way, not
another, and to take these steps, in this order, as he does to
honour their father and mother.
But if so, in what land do the Christians live?
If we proceed from the private carriage of man to man, to
proceedings of a more public nature, in what Christian nation
are Church censures conformed to this rule? Is this the form
in which ecclesiastical judgments appear, in the popish, or even
the Protestant world? Are these the methods used even by those
who boast the most loudly of the authority of Christ to confirm
their sentences? Let us earnestly pray, that this dishonour to
the Christian name may be wiped away, and that common humanity
may not, with such solemn mockery, be destroyed in the name of
Let him be to thee as the heathen - To whom thou still owest
earnest good will, and all the offices of humanity.(Lu 17:3).
18: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth - By excommunication,
pronounced in the spirit and power of Christ. Whatsoever ye
shall loose - By absolution from that sentence. In the primitive
Church, absolution meant no more than a discharge from Church
censure. Again I say - And not only your intercession for the
penitent, but all your united prayers, shall be heard. How
great then is the power of joint prayer! If two of you - Suppose
a man and his wife. (Mt 16:19).
20: Where two or three are gathered together in my name - That is,
to worship me. I am in the midst of them - By my Spirit, to quicken
their prayers, guide their counsels, and answer their petitions.
22: Till seventy times seven - That is, as often as there is
occasion. A certain number is put for an uncertain.
24: One was brought who owed him ten thousand talents - According
to the usual computation, if these were talents of gold, this
would amount to seventy - two millions sterling. If they were
talents of silver, it must have been four millions, four hundred
thousand pounds. Hereby our Lord intimates the vast number and
weight of our offences against God, and our utter incapacity of
making him any satisfaction.
25: As he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold - Such
was the power which creditors anciently had over their insolvent
debtors in several countries.
30: Went with him before a magistrate, and cast him into prison,
protesting he should lie there, till he should pay the whole debt.
34: His lord delivered him to the tormentors - Imprisonment is a
much severer punishment in the eastern countries than in ours.
State criminals, especially when condemned to it, are not only
confined to a very mean and scanty allowance, but are frequently
loaded with clogs or heavy yokes, so that they can neither lie
nor sit at ease: and by frequent scourgings and sometimes rackings
are brought to an untimely end. Till he should pay all that was
due to him - That is, without all hope of release, for this he
could never do.
How observable is this whole account; as well as the great
inference our Lord draws from it:
The debtor was freely and fully forgiven;
He wilfully and grievously offended;
His pardon was retracted, the whole debt required,
and the offender delivered to the tormentors for ever.
And shall we still say, but when we are once freely and fully
forgiven, our pardon can never be retracted?
Verily, verily, I say unto you, So likewise will my heavenly
Father do to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one
his brother their trespasses.