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essential of the necessaries of life; nor to be bound by the obligation to dispose of their property in any other way, further than as that was the natural, practical result of the assurance of an extraordinary provision to be made and expected in their own behalf, for such a supply of the wants of life, independent of themselves, as should go to that extent, but no further.
In establishing the truth of the first of these assumptions, I shall consider first the statement, construction, and extent of the general principle itself; and then the particular reasons by which it is enforced.
Now this statement is so expressed, that the general principle of the assurance involved in it cannot be supposed to imply less than a total abandonment of all personal care and concern about themselves, on the part of those who are required to be actuated by it; nor consequently, less than an absolute, unconditional reliance on something else. "For this reason I say to you, Take no thought "for your soul, what ye may eat; nor for your body, what ye may put on." And again; "And "do not ye seek what ye may eat, or what ye may "drink and be not of wavering mind." The command in both these instances is positive and peremptory. It inculcates a specific duty not to take thought, not to seek or inquire, for such and such. things, without exceptions, limitations, or qualifications; without defining the mode or degree, within which such taking of thought, or such seeking, was to be restricted. It is not the taking of thought even in a moderate, and much less in an immoderate sense, but the taking of thought in any sense at all,
for the particular purpose of procuring the wants of life, which the words of the prohibition, as they stand, must be acknowledged to forbid.
It may be answered, perhaps, that the original term, which we render taking of thought, implies of itself such a degree of care or concern as is unnecessarily anxious, and immoderate; and therefore that the prohibition is levelled against such a degree of it as that. But for this supposed meaning of the original verb, I find no authority either in the etymon of the word itself, or in the ordinary instances of its use and application. The root of the verb in Greek is merely a noun which denotes care, concern, or trouble, in general, whether accompanied with the perception of uneasiness and anxiety or not; and the verb derived from it can mean no more than the exertion or feeling of such a care, concern, or trouble, whether with or without the further sense of personal anxiety and solicitude about its object. It
b That no particular stress is necessarily to be laid on the word μέριμνα, (whence μεριμνάω,) appears from the following instances:
κλαγγαίνεις δ ̓ ἅπερ κυὼν μέριμναν οὔποτ ̓ ἐκλιπὼν πόνου.
Eschyl. Eumenides, 131.
εἰσὶν γὰρ οἵ σου, κἂν ἐγὼ θυραῖος ὦ,
Euripid. Heraclidæ, 342. εἰ γὰρ ἕξομεν
κἀκεῖ μερίμνας οἱ θανούμενοι βροτῶν, καὶ, τ. λ. -Cf. Ion. 247. 407. Andromache, 970. Orestes, 622.
χαλεπὰς δὲ θεοὶ δώσουσι μερίμνας.
Hesiod. Opera et Dies, 176.
εἴη μοι πλουτοῦντι κακῶν ἀπάτερθε μεριμνῶν
does not necessarily denote an immoderate degree of care, nor a corresponding degree of anxiety and uneasiness. It expresses the act of caring or being concerned about something, absolutely; but as to the degree of personal feeling which enters into that care and concern, its meaning is neutral.
To allow of the utmost that might be inferred even in an extreme case, from the connexion of the verb with its root, it would still denote only such a degree of care about any thing, as was perhaps accompanied by doubt, uncertainty, and distraction of thought; that which, for instance, might arise from a sense of the constant want of the necessaries of life, attended by an ignorance where to find them, and by a perplexity about the means of procuring them. But this would be a construction of its meaning in the present instance, which instead of disproving the inference I am endeavouring to draw from the language of the precept, would rather support and confirm it. If the object of the assurance was to relieve the hearers from all sense of a natural anxiety about themselves, under such circumstances as would otherwise occasion it; what was more likely to produce that effect, than to tell them that they might rely with confidence on another, who was both able
αἰεὶ μὲν φρένας ἀμφὶ κακαὶ τείρουσι μέριμναι.
κουφὰς δὲ διδοῖ ποθέοντι μερίμνας.
We see thus, that epithets are combined with the word, which qualify the nature and degree of the care in question denoted by it, accordingly; and that consequently, without such specific additions and characteristics, the word itself would denote neither a light degree of care nor an heavy one; neither an evil care nor a good care.
and willing to take that anxiety upon himself, and to provide for their wants, without any trouble or concern of their own?
If we refer to St. Matthew's account of the same injunctions, as delivered on the former occasion, it will appear that the prohibition of taking thought about the ordinary wants of nature, was stated then also with the same positiveness, absoluteness, and generality of the expressions, as now. We may argue from this coincidence not only in the sense, but likewise in the letter, of the same doctrine, as delivered on two several occasions-in favour of its literal construction alike upon each. If not only the substance of the same sentiments, but even the expressions, are a second time repeated, this is a presumptive proof, that the meaning of the speaker was the same on each occasion; that his language, in neither instance, was to be understood as signifying either more or less, than it appeared to do.
Had our Saviour so expressed himself on the former occasion, that his doctrine might have been liable to some misconstruction of its proper drift and application, (could such a supposition be admissible, even as a possible case, of teaching which proceeded from him,) he had now an opportunity of guarding against the same ambiguity of his language, and the same misapprehension of his meaning, by stating the point of duty more clearly and precisely, than he had done before; of which we may justly presume that he would have availed himself accordingly. More especially, if the liability of his doctrine to misconstruction before, had consisted in the possibility of such injunctions being understood absolutely, as were intended only relatively; and
had the particular defectiveness of his language on that occasion, been due to the absence of such exceptions, distinctions, and limitations, as must always have been wanted to define the scope and application of precepts, delivered generally, yet not meant to be received and applied in their utmost extent; it is reasonable to presume, that he would have supplied the omission on this second occasion; and not have left the point and article of the duty, as intended to be declared and stated by him, open to the same mistake as before, for want of the necessary explanation and qualification. That he does not do this-but that he repeats even with more absoluteness and peremptoriness of manner, what had been said with no restriction or reserve, in reference to the same subject, before; is a sufficient reason for inferring that his language stood in no need of correction or limitation either on the former occasion, or on this; that he meant to be understood and expected to be understood, on both occasions, to the utmost extent that the simple construction of his words would admit of.
It is, in my opinion, a dangerous and truly objectionable principle on which to proceed either in ascertaining the speculative doctrines, or in defining the practical duties of revealed religion; to assume that the words of scripture in a given instance, and with reference to the particular article of faith or moral obligation, dependent upon them, were ever intended to mean either more or less than to the common sense of the great bulk of mankind, (for whose benefit and instruction they were intended,) when properly exercised upon them, they appear to mean, or can really be shewn to mean. Nor do I