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many men's hearts, their love of dominion and power, and their scorn of a meek and lowly temper in other men, that it must needs be that offences come. What lamentable testimony do the pages of church-history bear to this mournful fact! What an amount of sin and suffering has been produced by want of Christian charity and forbearance, by absence of tenderness and brotherly affection towards humble believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. How often have humility and meekness been the occasions of oppression, persecution, and contempt, instead of being rightly regarded as passports to confidence and love, and as demanding respect and cordial good-will! But woe to that man by whom the offence cometh. Let proud professors and proud churches tremble at their doom. And let us, for our own sakes, be on our guard against any thing which may drive or draw us into sin. If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, &c. (See note on ch. v. 29, 30).
In heaven their angels, that is, the angels of these little ones, these humble child-like disciples,-do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. This is one reason assigned by our Lord why we should not treat any of his meek and lowly followers with contempt or disdain; namely, that God is pleased to employ the ministry of angels in their service and for their benefit. Does the king of heaven thus delight to honour them, and shall we esteem them lightly and cast out their names as evil? And
while we do this, shall we still call ourselves Christians and children of God? Shocking inconsistency !— And there is yet another consideration in their favour. They are the objects of the Saviour's love; they are those for whom he laid down his life; and in their welfare and eternal happiness he sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied. This is the second argument by which he enforces the duty of Christian tenderness and love. For the Son of Man is come to save that which is lost. He is the good shepherd, who came to seek the poor wanderer from the fold, and even gave his life for the sheep. And shall we, by our evil example or influence, by unkind and uncharitable tempers or proceedings, labour in an opposite direction, and throw hindrances in the way of the salvation of sinners? "Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died!" Rom. xiv. 15. Rather let us concur with the gracious designs of God respecting ourselves and others, and thankfully remember, for our guidance and our comfort, that positive assertion, "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones i. e. humble, child-like disciples, meek, teachable, tractable believers,-should perish.
he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But 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.
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.
18 Verily 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.
19 'Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, 'it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
n Lev. xix. 17. Ecclus. xix. 13. Luke xvil. 3.-o Jam. v. 20. 1 Pet. iii. 1.-p Deut. xvii. 6; & xix. 15. John viii. 17. 2 Cor. xiii. 1. Heb. x. 28.-9 Rom. xvi. 17. I Cor v. 9. 2 Thes. iii. 6, 14. 2 John 10-r ch. xvi. 19. John xx. 23. 1 Cor. v. 4.-8 ch. v. 24.- 1 John iii. 22; & v. 14.
Reader. Our blessed Lord here
lays down some rules for the pre
among his followers. And it is observation of peace and good feeling servable that he has appointed the church, i. e. the particular congrega
tion to which the offending party may belong, acting with and by its proper officers, and according to its established order, as the ultimate court of appeal, or means of arbitration and adjustment. And if one who has done wrong to another should "neglect to hear the church" i.e. should refuse to submit to the admonitions of the Christian congregation of which he is a member, he must thenceforward, as long as he may continue obstinate and incorrigible, be treated "as an heathen man and a publican" i. e. be excluded from Christian fellowship. And in ver. 18 our Lord appears to intimate that church discipline, duly exercised, is ratified by divine authority; assigning, perhaps, to his inspired Apostles an extraordinary power in this matter, as in others, but implying, at the same time, that the sanction of heaven would be given to all faithful ministers or rulers of the church, in the discharge of their duty, to the end of time.
The following judicious paraphrase of verses 15-17, contains a very correct and full interpretation of the passage. "According to this compassionate tenderness of God and your Saviour, must be your dealing with one another; not to favour sins in any, but to seek by love to save the sinner. Therefore, if any one that thou hast brotherly communion with do trespass against thee, by injury, or by scandalous crimes within thy notice, go and tell him his fault privately in brotherly love and tenderness, yet showing
him the evil of his sin that he may repent. If he hear thee so as to repent and amend, thou hast won him from the danger of his guilt, which may be a comfort to thee: but if he defend his sin, or will not repent and amend, cease not thy love or labour, but take with thee one or two meet persons, that two or three witnesses may the more awe him, or credibly convict him. And if he neglect to hear them, (having exercised due patience for the trial, and fit means to convince him), then make it public by telling the church in whose communion he liveth; either by opening it in the congregation, that the church guides may reprove him, and exhort him to repent, and pray for his repentance ; or, when that is not convenient, tell it to the guides of the church, that they may make it public, and do their office. And if he neglect to hear this public exhortation, have no more communion or familiarity with him than with a heathen or a publican, but so carry it that he and others may see that thou esteemest him not as one of the Christian society whom Christ will own." With reference to ver. 18, it has been well remarked, that "what was said before to Peter is here said to all the disciples, and in them to all faithful office-bearers in the church, to the world's end. While ministers preach the word of Christ faithfully, and in their government of the church strictly adhere to his laws, they may be assured that he will own them, and stand by them, and will ratify what
they say and do, so that it shall be taken as said and done by himself.
READER. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, &c.We may learn from ver. 15-18 many important practical lessons. Let me present them to you, in few words, as they occur to my mind in looking at the passage. It appears then, First, that unity and brotherly love is a matter of great importance in the kingdom or church of Christ. The careful and precise directions for the restoration of good-will and a good understanding, when broken, point at once to this conclusion.Secondly, It should be our object, when a Christian brother may have done us any wrong, not to revenge ourselves upon the offender, but to gain him over to a right state of feeling and conduct.-Thirdly, Prirate expostulation, in a spirit of kindness, is the means which should be employed for this purpose in the first instance; and, if this should fail, the interference of Christian friends should be sought, with a view to obtain an amicable settlement of the existing difference.Fourthly, A Christian church, or a congregation of believers in which all things are done decently and in order, ought to be able and willing to arbitrate in such cases;-to this authority we should appeal, if previous measures should have proved ineffectual; and, if this Christian body should deem the party accused worthy of such punishment, and
cannot prevail upon him to acknowledge and make due reparation for his fault, then it possesses, and ought to exercise, the power of excluding him from its communion. And in such a case, we must cease to hold fellowship with him as the member of a Christian church; although we shall still be obliged to love, and pity, and pray for him as a fallen and erring fellow-creature.
Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, &c.-Having pointed out the misery and disadvantage of dissension, and the means of avoiding or healing it, our Saviour now declares one great benefit arising from Christian unity and fellowship. He represents it as contributing to the prevalence and efficacy of prayer. The harmonious petitions of united Christian brethren are peculiarly effectual at the throne of grace. By the acceptance and fulfilment of such petitions, for Christ's sake, God puts honour at once upon the ordinance of prayer, and upon the Christian grace of love and brotherly good-will. Let us beware of offering up even private prayer in an unforgiving temper ; and let us value every means and opportunity of uniting with our brethren, in the great congregation, in presenting accordant petitions to the God and Father of us all.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. How rich a promise to public Christian prayer! How great value and dignity are hereby stamped upon our assemblies of religious worship; of which we may
indeed truly say "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven !"-In these words we may find a valuable instruction respecting the true nature and objects of Christian assemblies, -the constitution and work of a true Christian church or congregation. We must meet together in mutual love or fraternal charity, and in the name of Christ. "When we come together to worship God in a dependence upon the Spirit and grace of Christ as Mediator for assistance, and upon his merit and righteousness as Mediator for acceptance, having an actual regard to him as our way to the Father, and our advocate with the Father, then we are met together in his name. We must come together by virtue of his warrant and appointment, in token of our relation to him, professing faith in him, and in communion with all that in every place call upon him ;-and then our congregation possesses all the needful marks or tokens of a Christian church, and is prepared to receive all the blessings which flow to believers from their gracious and ever present Head."
or Divine presence, was among them. -Let our minds and hearts dwell upon this most precious promise. Wherever two or three are assembled in the name of Jesus, he is in the midst of them. The number of assembled worshippers may be small, but if there be true faith and devotion and brotherly love, there is also the favourable presence of their Lord.-"Every day, perhaps every hour, two or three, or many more, may be assembled in England, in Greenland, in Africa, in Ceylon, in America, in the Sandwich Islands, in Russia, and in Judea,-in almost every part of the world,-and in the midst of them all is Jesus the Saviour." "By his common presence he is in all places, as God; but this is a promise of his special presence. Where his saints are, his sanctuary is, and there he will dwell; it is his rest (Psalm cxxxii. 14), it is his walk (Rev. ii. 1) :—he is in the midst of them, to quicken and strengthen them, to refresh and comfort them, as the sun is in the midst of the universe." May we have grace with one accord to make our supplications unto our God and Saviour, remembering for our en
There am I in the midst of them.-couragement His word of promise,
that when two or three are gathered
How plain an assertion of omnipresence, on the part of Christ, and therefore of divinity! And this assertion, easily intelligible by ourselves, must have been peculiarly emphatic in the ears of Jews, because it was a current saying among them that where two or more were gathered together for the purpose of studying the Law,-the Shechinah,