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in sensual pleasures or in worldly cares, and he had acquired no relish for the pure and refined pleasures of contemplation and devotion. Although enjoying the richest bounties of Providence, he had not thought of the beneficent author, nor acknowledged his obligations to him. Such a man, although free from the stain of other crimes, has contracted much guilt, and is not qualified for the enjoyment of heaven. From his doom let the rich learn their own danger, and be careful that they do not fall into the like errors.
3. This parable teaches us the dreadful nature of the sufferings of the wicked in a future world. The rich man is represented as burning in the fire; the most terrible punishment which we are acquainted with; and although this language may be considered as metaphorical, yet it must be allowed to represent some painor suffering equally formidable, if not more so. To this, whatever it may be, must those who have forgotten God and neglected their duty submit, without hope of alleviation. They cannot leave their dismal abode for a moment; they shall not be allowed a drop of water, the apparently most trifling favour, to ease their distress; but they must endure all that God has appointed for them, and for as long a time as he shall think proper. Let sinners seriously think of this, and then they will not regard sin as so trifling a matter, but shun it as the greatest evil into which they can fall.
4. If the ordinary methods of instruction with which God has furnished us in the scriptures do not reclaim men from their vices, it is not likely that this effect will be produced by any extraordinary means.— The rich man thought that his brethren would have been frightened out of their sins by the appearance of one from the dead, who had seen all the horrors of the damned. But the same arguments, whatever they were, which rendered their minds unmoved by the threatenings of the law and the prophets, would probably make them equally insensible to those which might be delivered by such a messenger. This observation justifies the conduct of Providence, in not having re
course to new and unusual methods of reforming mankind, when those which have been employed have failed of success; and it ought to render us contented with our present advantages.
Luke xvii. 1, 2. corresponds with Matt. xviii. 6, 7. 3, 4. 21, 22.
Luke xvii. 5-19.
5. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
What particular circumstance induced the apostles to make this request, this writer does not inform us. They had often been reproved by their master for their want of faith in his or their own miraculous powers; and the propriety of the present request might have been suggested to them by a consciousness of their own deficiency in this respect; or it might be made immediately after their having failed to cure the epileptic youth, mentioned by Matthew (xvii. 14 and 15), and after our Lord's telling them, verse 20, that they had failed through unbelief. By these reproofs and the exhorta tion which Christ delivers to his disciples, (Mark xi. 22), Have faith in God; or, as it is better rendered in the margin of our bibles, Have the faith of God, that is, a strong and mighty faith; it appears that he considered faith as in their own power to acquire. There can be no doubt, however, that Jesus, by performing in their presence miraculous works of an extraordinary nature, was able to give them much assistance in strengthening their faith; and therefore there was no impropriety in their applying to him for this advantage. But petitions thus addressed to Christ by his disciples, while he was present with them, will by no means justify offering prayer to him, now he is in heaven; which prayers he cannot hear, unless he be present in every place at the same time, an idea which we can entertain of none but God.
To remove the difficulty attending this verse, it has been conjectured* that it ought to be translated, not Increase our faith, but, Propose to us faith, i. e. an example of faith; such an example as may illustrate its efficacy and strengthen our own. This explanation will correspond very well with the reply of Christ on this occasion, in which he shows what wonders a strong faith is capable of performing; but it is not authorised by the original.
6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine-tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it shall obey you.
Christ does not mean by this language that they should literally be able to do this thing; but that a strong faith would enable them to do things as extraordinary and wonderful as removing a sycamine-tree into the sea; which was a proverb among the Jews, to express any thing that was deemed impossible.
The words which follow seem to have no connection with the preceding, but to have been delivered upon some occasion, to teach the disciples humility. This Jesus has done in the form of a parable. They were disposed to think that if they had discharged one part of their duty well, they might sit down, satisfied with what they had done; but Jesus informs them that several things were expected from them, and that when they should have done all, there was nothing of which they might boast.
But which of you, having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him, by and by when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat;
This verse will be more intelligible, if translated in rather a different manner, by altering the punctuation of the words, and transposing them a little. "But
See Wakefield's Note.
which of you, having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him, when he is come from the field, Come straitway, and sit down to meat; that is, neglecting me."
8. And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink.
It is not sufficient for an hired servant, that is to plough or to be a shepherd, that he do that one business for which he is principally hired; but other common offices there are, which belong indifferently to all servants, such as waiting at table and other things; and when he has done his work in the fields, for which he was hired, such as ploughing or tending cattle, he must set himself cheerfully to perform the other offices, before he thinks that he has done his duty, or expects to receive his ordinary food, his daily wages. So, although it be your principal business to preach the gospel, work miracles and propagate my religion in the world, think not that this is the whole of your duty. There are other things of less moment, which are also expected from you, but for which, however, you will deserve no thanks.
9. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not, "I think not."
10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.
As the servant who waited upon his master when he came from the field deserved no thanks from him for what he had done, because it was no favour, and nothing more than what was expected from all servants,
so ye, when ye have done every part of your duty, acknowledge that ye are servants who have conferred no favour, and therefore can claim no reward. The word unprofitable, by no means corresponds with the idea intended to be conveyed here: for the servant spoken of in the parable was not a useless servant, but one who had merited no thanks, in as much as he had done nothing more than what he was required and expected to do: therefore the persons who correspond to him in the explanation must be such as come under the same description, that is, persons who have conferred no favour on God by their services, and can consequently merit no thanks. This representation was well calcu lated to check all pride and boasting. It is true, however, that God can derive no profit from the services of any of his creatures, and in that view they may be all considered as unprofitable; but this is not the idea which Christ intends to convey.
11. And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
That is, through Galilee first and Samaria afterwards, which lay between that country and Jerusalem. So John tells us (iv. 4.) that when Jesus left Judæa to into Galilee, he must needs go through Samaria.
12. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off.
Persons afflicted with this disease were considered by the Jewish law as unclean, and therefore ordered to be kept without their camp, when in the wilderness, and without their cities, when settled in Canaan. There were ten persons in this disorder, without the village through which Jesus passed; who, being excluded from all intercourse with other persons, associated with each other, in the same manner as we find four lepers without the gates of Samaria, when it was besieged by the Syrians, 2 Kings, vii. 4.