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not,” come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Be reconciled to the person whom thou hast injured, immediately, by acknowledging the fault, or making reparation; for from what is done among men, we may form a just conclusion as to what we are to expect from God. Among men, when an offence is committed, he makes the best terms who yields in time; whereas he who holds out till the matter is brought into a court of justice, and refuscs to submit to its decision, is condemned in the whole penalty, and obliged at length to submit to the sentence, without favour or abatement. So it is with God, against whom we offend when we injure our fellow creatures: early repentance obtains pardon; but repentance deferred provokes severity. The language of Christ in this instance only points out the evil effects of delay in religious matters: the counterpart, or the benefits arising from an early reconciliation, are suppressed as being too obvious to need to be mentioned.
27. Ye have heard that it was said to them of old; thou shalt not commit adultery:
28. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,
Christ has here in view a person, whose mind, being the seat of impure lust, cherishes the evil passion by the sight: for it is by the eye that lust enters the heart and acquires strength there. The object of this unlawful desire is a woman; which may mean any woman; and then he is to be understood as speaking of fornication, which he certainly condemned, whether he do it in this passage or not: but he probably means a married woman in this instance; for it is of adultery that he has been speaking before. Men, who can only judge by external actions, give the name of a crime merely to the last act; but in the estimation of God, who searches the heart, he hath committed the crime who hath intended to do it, or hath wished that it were done. The law of the ten commandments does not expressly prohibit all offences; but only such as are the most atrocious of their kind. Thus it does not prohibit all falshood to our neighbour, but false witnessing against him; nor every injury to his property; þut theft; nor all unlawful commerce between the sexes; but only adultery: but Christ here informs us, that whoever indulges himself in any thing which may lead to that offence, is guilty, in a certain degree, of the crime of adultery.
29. And if, « if even," thy right eye offend thee, or,“ be leading thee to sin,” pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee, “it is better for thee,” that one of thy members should perish, and not that is than that" thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30. If even thy right hand be leading thee to sin, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, than that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
In these two verses Christ is replying to a tacit objection, which, he was aware, might be made to what was said before: for some would plead, that it is extremely difficult to prevent the eye from leading the heart to transgress, and to ayoid the influence of an improper passion upon the mind. To this he answers,
to be chember of; if a
that when two evils offer themselves, the less of them is to be chosen: if a gangrene should seize an important member of the body, we think it right to suffer it to be cut off, rather than permit the disease to spread over the whole body: how much more proper then is it to sacrifice our inclinations to our duty, when the destruction of the whole body and soul is threatened, if we gratify them in an unlawful manner! However, says Christ, I do not require so much as this; but only that you avert your eyes from improper objects, and your hands from what is unlawful. The word Gehenna, here translated Hell, signifies, as we have already mentioned, the valley of the son of Hinnom; but it was so commonly applied to the punishments of a future state by the Jews, that Christ employs it for that purpose without any explanation.
we gratify theme whole body and our duty, when
1. Since the gospel of Christ prohibits intemperate anger, and its usual concomitant, reviling language, let us make it a point of duty to guard against it.---Let masters of families especially, and those who are surrounded with many servants or dependents, be upon their guard; for they are most liable to transgress.---Wretched is the condition of those men who are the property of tyrants, who may maim and abuse their bodies, or take away their lives, in the violence of their resentment; unhappy also are they who are under the authority of masters who treat them with the most opprobrious language, without the smallest provocationi, or for only a very slight offence! Let us remember that they are our brethren, possessing the same common nature and entitled to the same Christian privileges, as ourselves; they are therefore entitled to some degree of respect from us, however inferior to us in ti
lents and condition, and ought not to be used like brutes or beings of another species. Or if these considerations are not of sufficient weight to restrain us, let us at least have a regard to our own future salvation, which is endangered by immoderate passion and harsh epithets. Those Christians transgress this rule of Christ, who give to their brethren who differ from them in less important matters, opprobrious names; calling them, in their passion, heretics, sceptics, deists and atheists; men who are as firm believers in Christianity as themselves, and agree with them in all the essential doctrines of religion.
2. Happy may we esteem that man who, when he has been guilty of injuring his brother, can go and acknowledge his fault and ask forgiveness; he discovers a degree of humility, piety and true dignity of character which few have attained; for when men have committed one injury against a brother, they are generally disposed to commit another; in order to make mankind believe that they had good reason for their conduct in the first instance: but such persons should remember, that while their offences are unrepented of and unrepaired, their gifts and their offerings, their prayers and their praises, are not acceptable to God, who considers all mankind as his children, and regards every offence against them, as committed against himself.
3. The restraints which Christ lays upon the gratification of the passions, condemning an improper look or any evil wish, will appear to many severe; and it must be owned that they by no means correspond to the licentious principles and practices of the times; when men think that they incur no guilt, if they abstain from the last and highest act of criminality: but the infinite mischiefs which are brought upon individuals, and upon society in general, by an unrestrained indulgence of the passions, shew the necessity of providing some remedy for the evil; nor can any be suggested more easy and more effectual, than prohibiting the first beginnings of unlawful desires, and the use of all those means which may tend to excite them: for this excludes the enemy, and keeps him at a distance: but if he once find an entrance into the heart, all our endeavours to expel him afterwards will probably prove fruitless Let those who regard this restraint as hard to endure, consider, how much harder to endure will be the evils arising from an unrestrained indulgence of their passions----shame, remorse and disease in this life, and in the life to come, the dreadful torments of hell-fire. Let them then ask themselves whether one is not far preferable to the other.
Lastly; We see that different degrees of punishment are appointed in a future state for different sins, according to the degree of guilt accompanying them; that angry passions, opprobrious words and evil thoughts and intentions, will expose men to future misery, as well as adultery and murder. This ought to fill us with great alarm for our own safety; for we see that men who are free from gross sins and open immoralities, may yet be condemned to the punishments of hell. Let every one therefore be careful that he do not indulge himself in the smallest and most secret sín, lest it prove his ruin.
Matthew v. 31----97. 31. It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.
Christ here again refers to what was said by Moses, by divine command. The Jewish law permitted the husband to divorce his wife; but not the wife to divorce the husband; as was the case in the Roman law. This difference had its origin in the superior rights which were allowed him by that constitution, and which placed his wife almost entirely in his power. In the