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29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him,
saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not : but went and cast him into prison, till he
should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were
very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was
done. 32 Then 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: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow
servant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors,
till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you,
if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Our Saviour introduced this parable, as an answer, or rather as an illustration of his answer to Peter, when he inquired how often he should forgive his brother. Peter asked if it were sufficient to forgive his brother until seven times ? whereupon Christ answered; “I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven :" he then introduced this parable, whereby he signified that if we forgive not our brother, God will deal with us as the king did with this servant; who would not forgive his fellowservant a small debt, when his lord had forgiven him so much.
Ye have before been taught, that in the kingdom of God, where he reigneth by his gospel, there is no exacting of the law, neither any dealing by it, but only grace, mercy, and forgiveness. That there is no wrath, revenge, or punishment; but charity, brotherly love, and well-doing one toward another. We are not however to understand by this, that the civil law is abrogated by the preaching of the gospel: for many being yet far from the kingdom of God, the civil law, whereby crimes are punished, is necessary for the safety of our lives and property, against the assaults and encroachments of the wicked, who have no respect for the laws of God.
The ruler, therefore, who governs his people well, and the magistrate who takes care that justice is equally and impartially administered to all, so that offenders are punished, crimes prevented, and the peace and good order of the community preserved, do well, and are worthy of commendation. It is also the duty of every one, to pay due reverence to the laws of the country wherein he may reside ; provided he can do so without disobeying the commands of God, or the dictates of his own conscience. Were it not for the civil law, the rights of citizens would not be respected, the tranquillity of the state would not be maintained, but every thing would be turmoil and confusion. This, then, though an institution of man, is a wise and salutary one; which in the depraved condition wherein mankind are by nature, can in no wise be dispensed with.
But this law was not ordained for those that are in the kingdom of grace ; and though we observe this law ever so strictly, we have no cause to glory, neither must we imagine that we are therefore just before God; for we may still be unrighteous in his sight. He that is governed only by the laws of men, who doth good only through restraint or compulsion, and who exacteth the law of his brother, is yet far from the kingdom of heaven. For as in this kingdom all our sins and transgressions are forgiven us, we are also required to forgive our brother, or our neighbour, if we have aught against him.
Let us see how this subject is illustrated in the parable. In the first place, the lord, having compassion on his servant, forgiveth him all the debt : but the servant, instead of extending the same charity to his fellow-servant, taketh him, and casteth him into prison: whereupon the lord was wroth, and cast this servant into prison also, till he should pay
all that was due to him. After having spoken this parable, Christ addeth in conclusion, “So likewise shall
my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Hence it appears, that if we belong to the kingdom of God, and have been made partakers of his divine grace, we must harbour no malice, hatred, or revenge ; but freely forgive all who have trespassed against us. And as it is taught in this same chapter, a little before the text, though our neighbour should sin against us even seventy times seven, we must willingly forgive him all ; because God hath forgiven us, although we have committed more and greater sins against him, than it is possible for our neighbour to have committed against us.
The kingdom of Christ is so constituted, that the grace which reigneth therein must at no time cease, but abide continually; so that how low soever we may fall, if we sincerely repent, we may rise again and be restored ; provided we are willing to forgive all who have offended against us. But if our hearts are not thus affected, if we are not willing to forgive our neighbour, we belong not to this kingdom, neither are we partakers of that grace which cometh through the gospel of Christ.
Although the preaching of the gospel is heard by many, yet it reacheth not the heart of every one, neither is it profitable to all that hear it. therefore be necessary to state, who they are that receive it, and are benefitted thereby. It is not received by those who deal lightly with it, and esteem it as a thing of little consequence, and only worthy a small share of their attention ; it doth not profit those false professors, who presume upon it as giving license to live in lust and licentiousness : and who think that because the gospel holds forth nothing but mercy and forgiveness, they can commit sin with impunity. The gospel hath reached none of these; for they belong to the kingdom of the world, and
Tequire the restraint of civil law to prevent them from doing what they list. The gospel is received by such only as feel their necessity and dependence; which was the case with the servant in the parable: wherefore, if we examine the text attentively, we shall find this subject fully illustrated.
In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a certain king who determined to take account of his servants : and when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents, but had nothing to pay. The king therefore ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children, and all his effects. The servant is hereupon brought into great perplexity and distress : he falleth down and worshippeth his master, craveth his mercy, and promiseth more than he will ever be able to perform ; saying, “ Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.”
Thus it also cometh to pass between God and us. When the Lord would reckon with us, he sendeth forth the preaching of his law, whereby we learn what we ought to have done. This is the book of accounts, in which is written what we owe: this he taketh in his hand, and reading it before us, saith, “These things thou oughtest to have done; thou oughtest to have feared, loved, and worshipped me alone : thou oughtest to have trusted only in me, and to have placed thy confidence in none other. But thou hast done otherwise; thou art therefore mine enemy: thou hast not believed in me, but hast reposed thy trust in others; and in short, thou hast not even observed one single point of the law.”.
When the preaching of the law hath taken hold on the conscience, we then see what we ought to have done, and what we have not done. convinced that we have not kept the law in any respeet, and that we have totally neglected to perform ihat duty and obedience which God justly requireth
of us. When the sinner is brought to this state, he is greatly distressed in mind, and knoweth not what to do. He is sensible that he hath merited eternal punishment, and is brought to the very brink of despair. The law bringeth no consolation, but indig. nation, wrath, and punishment: it delivereth the sinner to satan, it casteth him down to hell, and leaveth him no hope of escape.
This condition in which the law placeth the sinner, is the same as that of the servant when his master commanded him and all that he had to be sold, to satisfy the demand. And as the servant, when he heareth this sentence, falleth down and prayeth his master that he will have patience with him; thinking that he shall yet be able to pay the debt, so also doth the sinner. When he is brought to a sense of his own wretched and miserable condition, his heart is indeed contrite and bumble ; but instead of depending entirely upon the merits of a Saviour, and praying to God for mercy and free pardon, he runneth hither and thither, seeking to be delivered from his sins by his own works, and promising even more than the angels in heaven could perform
When the sinner is thus oppressed by the burden of sin, it is an easy matter to persuade him to do any thing whereby he thinketh to be delivered. And hence the cause of so many pilgrimages; the founding of so many monasteries; the institution of masses, and such like trifles. When we were among the papists, we were commanded thus; go on such a pilgrimage, give so much toward the building of a church, get thyself admitted into a holy monastery, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee. We pined under fastings, we scourged ourselves with whips, we were made monks and nuns, thinking that God, having respect to our good works, would therewith besatistied: and our consciences relieved from the bur