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TWENTY SECOND SUNDAY AFTER
THE UNGRATEFUL SERVANT.
Matthew xviii. 32, 33.
THEN HIS LORD, AFTER THAT HE HAD CALLED HIM, SAID UNTO HIM, Ο THOU WICKED SERVANT, I FORGAVE THEE ALL THAT DEBT,
BECAUSE THOU DESIREDST ME: SHOULDEST NOT THOU ALSO HAVE HAD COMPASSION
ON THY FELLOW SERVANT, EVEN AS I HAD PITY ON THEE?
THE mutual forgiveness of offences on the part of mankind one to another is a duty which was continually enforced by our blessed Saviour; so much so, that it may be said to have been a peculiar feature in the religion which He came to introduce into the world. The human
systems that prevailed among men had not attempted to inculcate it; and even the Jewish nation, notwithstanding the advantage of a Divine revelation, had rejected it. The doctrine which was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ on this subject, induced Peter to come to Him, and ask, as we are informed in the Gospel for this day, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus had been giving directions to His disciples as to the manner in which an offending brother should be treated, in order that strife and enmity might be avoided. Peter was desirous to know how often such conduct should be repeated, and inquired if it should not be limited to seven times; thinking doubtless that so frequent a repetition of forgiveness was a proof of very great forbearance. It is said that the Jewish Doctors directed that an offender should be pardoned three times and no more.
Our blessed Saviour in reply showed His Apostle how very different the doctrine which He taught was from that which was inculcated by the traditions of the elders. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, until seventy times seven; or a number which could not be counted. For he must have a very tenacious memory indeed, who could reckon up so great a number of faults which he had forgiven his brother on professions of repentance
being made. But that even the number here mentioned was not designed to be the boundary of forgiveness, appears from His saying to His disciples at another time, Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him; and if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. This seemed so hard a saying, so difficult to be accomplished, and to convey ideas so very different from what they had been accustomed to entertain on this subject, that the Apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.53 They were sensible that they needed an increase of faith, or of confidence in God that what He had commanded must be just and good, in order to induce them to obey an injunction which was so contrary to their own preconceived opinions.
For the purpose of illustrating the subject, and showing how reasonable it was that the direction which He had given should be complied with, our Saviour proceeded to enforce it by a parable. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants; or call them to account for their expenditure of the property which he had intrusted to their care.
53 Luke xvii. 3-5.
kingdom of heaven, in our Saviour's parables, usually means the gospel-dispensation: during the whole course of which, it may be said, there is a continual account taken of those who participate in its benefits. All who have had the benefit of this dispensation will sooner or later be called to give an account to God for the advantages which they have enjoyed under it. Every one of us, to whom the blessings of Christianity have been dispensed, must give an account to God for the talents which are entrusted to us. It is frequently stated to be a characteristic feature of the gospel-dispensation, that it makes those who are favoured with its privileges in a high degree accountable for their use of them. is declared, Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.5
In reference to this it
In the parable before us, when the King had begun to call his servants to account, or when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. This large sum of money is mentioned in order to show the greatness of the man's obligations to his sovereign, who had entrusted him with it; and perhaps also the hopelessness of making any repayment when it had once been dissipated. The debt of gratitude which we owe to Him in whom we
54 Luke xii. 48.
live and move and have our being,55 and who giveth us richly all things to enjoy,56 may be illustrated by this large sum of money. But much more may it denote the invaluable blessings of the redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ with which we are made acquainted under the gospel-dispensation. This is a debt which throughout eternity can never be repaid by the thankful inhabitants of the realms of bliss.
The man spoken of in the parable, instead of making a good use of the property committed to him, had abused his trust, and squandered away his lord's money; so that when he was called upon, he could give no satisfactory account of its expenditure. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. Although the produce of the sale would be very small, in comparison with the debt, yet as the man and his family would be reduced from a state of affluence to that of the lowest slavery, a punishment would be inflicted upon him for his wicked conduct, which might deter others from following his example. Similar will be the penalty of abusing the blessings of the gospel-dispensation. The unbeliever and the hypocrite will be consigned over to the bondage and captivity
55 Acts xvii. 28. 56 1 Timothy vi. 17.