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risee who had invited him to his house, and might, perhaps, have lessened the prejudices of the whole sect against his character and pretensions; that compliance in so trifling an instance could not possibly do any harm; whereas a refusal would expose him to the charge of obstinacy, or the suspicion of irreligion. But these were . all motives of human policy, in the opinion of Christ; he knew that such practices were no where enjoined by the law of God, and that to inforce them upon men's consciences, as of religious obligation, was to weaken the authority of the law, by representing it as defective and insufficient; he therefore refused to conform to the custom of the Pharisees. Influenced by the example of Christ, and acting upon the principles by which he was governed, Protestants have rejected many of the ceremonies of the church of Rome; and in the same manner we, as Dissenters, have refused to comply with many rites which have been retained by Protestant churches; such as the use of the cross in baptism, kneeling at the Lord's supper, bowing at the name of Jesus, and turning the face to the east in particular parts of religious worship. These things have the appearance of piety and devotion in the opinion of many, and by others are thought but trifles, which it does not become wise men to oppose. But to these arguments for conformity, the example of Christ furnishes us with a ready answer: for he refused to conform to a custom of the Pharisees, in a case exactly similar.
3. Let us remember in what high estimation acts of mercy, or giving of alms, are held by Christ. He has declared that nothing can defile those who perform such actions; that is, not those who give alms to be seen of men, as was the case with the Pharisees, and whom he has elsewhere condemned; but those who do it from a principle of compassion to their brethren, and from a regard to the will of God. Men may observe ceremonies without number, and for as long a time as they please; they may also make long prayers, and pretend to great zeal for religion; yet, without the virtue from which such actions as these proceed, such pracVol. 2.]
tices are of no more use than making clean the outside of the cup, while the inside is full of all filthiness: but those who are possessed of it, whatever external forms they neglect, are pure in the sight of God. Ceremonies, in regard to them, have answered their purpose, and may be safely laid aside. Let us be careful then to cultivate a virtue which holds so high a rank in the Christian religion, and which is so necessary to the happiness of the human race; and remember, that in times when the distresses of our brethren are extraordinary, our endeavours to alleviate or remove them ought to be proportionally great.
13. And one of the company, or "multitude," said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
That he keep no more than what is justly due to him, and allow me an equitable share. It is probable hence, that it was usual with the Jews, in order to settle differences, and to prevent expensive litigations, to appoint arbitrators, of acknowledged wisdom and equity, to whose opinion causes were submitted. Some person of the multitude, who was led to entertain a high opinion
of Christ, from hearing his discourses, wished him to undertake this office between himself and his brother, whom he considered as claiming a larger share of the patrimony than what belonged to him. But Jesus declined the office, because he was not invested with authority for exercising it.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
I have no authority for either of these offices, and will not therefore exercise them; lest ye should apply to me the same language which was applied to Moses, when he attempted to reconcile two Israelites that were at variance. See Exodus ii. 14, where the same words are used in the Greek translation as in this place. Jesus satisfied himself with giving general rules of equity; and left it to others to apply them to particular cases, without interfering in the affairs of individuals. It does not appear which of these brothers was in the wrong; yet, as one of them must have been to blame, and his ill conduct must have proceeded from too eager a desire to get wealth, Jesus proceeds to caution his disciples against that failing.
15. And he said unto them, Take heed and beware of covetousness, rather," of an inordinate love of money."
It is not a niggardly disposition, leading persons to deny themselves the common enjoyments of life, in order to become rich, which is what we usually understand by covetousness, against which our Lord here cautions his disciples; but that fondness for money which proceeds from a desire of gratifying the senses and indulging the appetites, as appears from what fol
For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
That is, his great possessions will not secure the continuance of his life. That this is the sense of this passage appears from the parable which our Lord subjoins.
16. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.
His wealth increased not from rapine, injustice or op pression, nor from denying himself the common comforts of life, nor from his own laborious exertions; but in the most innocent way possible, by the bounty of Providence in making the earth more fertile than usual, and in giving him a most plentiful harvest, the produce of which he was at first at a loss how to dispose of.
17. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18. And he said, This will I do. I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods; the extraordinary produce of the present year and all my for
He was at first afraid that he should not be able to preserve the plenty which the fertility of his fields had produced; but a little deliberation suggested to him a scheme for securing it, not only for the present, but likewise for many years to come; this was enlarging
his store houses.
19. And I will say to my soul, to myself, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, rather, "feast thyself."
Thou art amply furnished with the means of subsistence for many years: sit down now, and enjoy thyself freely, without fear of exhausting or of losing what thou hast acquired. This rich man valued wealth not for its own sake, as many do; but for the sake of the gratifications which it would afford him in eating and drinking and other delights. In this respect he showed himself wiser than those who hoard up wealth, for no other purpose than that of contemplating it, and have no heart to make use of it. But in counting upon many years of ease and enjoyment, he was guilty of great presumption and folly, as appears by the next verse.
20. But God said unto him, not in words, but by his decree, Thou fool, this night thy soul "thy life" shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
Thou fool, thus to forget thy own mortality and thy dependence upon me, thy supreme Lord! Thou hast presumed upon many years of enjoyment of thy riches; but thou shalt be removed from them immediately.Then to whom shall thy wealth belong? Certainly not to thee.
21. So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.
So great a fool is he who amasses riches on earth, and is not rich in acts of charity; which are called a treasure in the heavens, which faileth not, verse 33*,
This parable was very applicable to the occasion on which it was delivered. The man who had desired Jesus to speak to his brother, to divide the inheritance with him, was more anxious to obtain his assistance in securing what might indeed be due to him, but which was not necessary for the support of this frail life, than about directions how to obtain eternal life; which
Matt. vi. 20. 1 Tim. vi. 18, 19,