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Such is the parable of the unforgiving servant, which I am sure has not only been heard but felt by every one here present. It requires no comment or explanation; the bare repetition of it is sufficient: indeed it cannot be expressed in any other words than its own, without impairing its beauty and its strength. Notwithstanding the frequency of its recurrence in the course of our church service, there is no one, I believe, that ever hears it without emotion and delight. Amidst so much excellence as we meet with in the Gospel, it is not easy to say what is most excellent; but if I was to select any one parable of our Lord's as more interesting, more affecting, coming more home to the feelings, and pressing closer on the hearts of men than any other of the rest, I think it would be this. Certain it is, that in all the characters of excellence, in perspicuity, in brevity, in simplicity, in pathos, in force, it has no equal in any human composition whatever. On its beauties therefore, I shall not enlarge, but on its uses and its application to ourselves, I must say a few words.

And in the first place I would observe, that the object of this parable is not only to enforce the duty of cultivating a placable disposition, but a disposition constantly placable, always ready to forgive the offences of our brother, however frequently he may repeat those offences. For it was immediately after our Lord had told Peter that he was to forgive his brother not merely seven times, but seventy times seven, that he added this parable to confirm that very doctrine; therefore, says he, is the kingdom of heaven like unto a certain king, &c. But then it is only upon this condition, that the offender is sincerely penitent, and entreats forgiveness. This is evident from the parallel passage in St. Luke, which expresses this condition: "If thy brother 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."* Yet even this will to many people appear a hard saying, and will not very well agree with those high spirited passions, and that keen sense of injuries, which too generally prevail, and which instead of forgiving repeated offences, will listen to no entreaties, no expressions of contrition, even for a single one. But are you then content that your heavenly Father should deal out the same measure to you that you mete to your brother? Are you content that one single offence should exclude you for ever from the arms of his mercy? Are you not every day heaping up sin upon sin; do not you stand as much in need of daily forgiveness as

* Luke, xvii. 4.

you do of your daily bread; and do you think it an excess of indulgence, an overstrained degree of tenderness and compassion, that your Maker should pardon you seven times a day, or even seventy times seven?

2. In the next place I would remark, that this parable is a practical comment on that petition in the Lord's prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us ;" and it shows what infinite stress our divine Master lays on this duty of forgiveness, by the care he takes to enforce it in so many different ways, by this parable, by making it a part of our daily prayers, and by his repeated declarations that we must expect no mercy from our Maker "unless we from our hearts forgive every one his brother their trespasses. "*To the same purpose are those irresistible words of St. Paul: "Be ye therefore kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Let the hard-hearted unrelenting man of the world, or the obdurate unforgiving parent, advert to these repeated admonitions, and then let him, if he can, indignantly spurn from him the repenting offender entreating pardon at his feet in those heart-piercing words, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all."

And yet it is dreadful to state, as I must do in the last place, what very little regard is paid to this precept by a large part of mankind.

No man, I believe, ever heard or read the parable before us without feeling his indignation rise against the ungrateful and unfeeling servant, who, after having a debt of ten thousand talents remitted to him by his indulgent Lord,' threw his fellow servant into prison for a debt of an hundred pence. And yet how frequently are we ourselves guilty of the very same offence?

Who is there among us that has not had ten thousand talents forgiven him by his heavenly Father? Take together all the offences of his life, all his sins and follies from the first hour of his maturity to the present time, and they may well be compared to this immense sum; which immense sum, if he has been a sincere penitent, has been all forgiven through the merits of his Redeemer. Yet when his fellow-christian owes him an hundred pence, when he commits the slightest offence against him, he too often refuses him forgiveness, though he fall at his feet to implore it.

In fact do we not every day see men resenting not only real

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injuries, but slight and even imaginary offences, with extreme vehemence and passion, and sometimes punishing the offender with nothing less than death? Do we not even see families rent asunder, and all domestic tranquillity and comfort destroyed frequently by the most trivial causes, sometimes on one side, and sometimes on both, refusing to listen to any reasonable overtures of peace, haughtily rejecting all offers of reconciliation, insisting on the highest possible satisfaction and submission, and carrying these sentiments of implacable rancour with them to the grave? And yet these people call themselves Christians, and expect to be themselves forgiven at the throne of mercy!

Let then every man of this description remember and most seriously reflect on this parable; let him remember that the unforgiving servant was delivered over to the tormentors till he should pay the uttermost farthing. Let him recollect that all the world approves this sentence; that he himself cannot but approve it; that he cannot but feel himself to be precisely in the situation of that very servant, and that of course he must at the last tremendous day expect that bitter and unanswerable reproach from his offended Judge: "O thou wicked servant! I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me; shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?"



THE passage of Scripture which I propose to explain in the present Lecture, is a part of the 19th chapter of St. Matthew, beginning at the 16th verse.


"Behold," says the evangelist, "one came and said unto him (meaning Jesus) Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother : and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.'

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The conversation here related between the young ruler (for so he is called by St. Luke) and our blessed Lord, cannot but be extremely interesting to every sincere Christian, who is anxious about his own salvation. A young man of high rank, and of large possessions, came with great haste and eagerness; came running, as St. Mark expresses it, to Jesus; and throwing himself at his feet, proposed to him this most important question: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" This was not a question of mere curiosity, or an insidious one, as the questions put to our Lord (especially by the rulers) frequently were, but appears to have been dictated by a sincere and anxious wish to be instructed in the way to that everlasting life, which he found Jesus held out to his disciples. His conduct had been conformable to the precepts of that religion in which he was born and educated, the religion of Moses; for when our Lord pointed out to him the commandments he was to keep, his answer was, "all these


things have I kept from my youth up;" and his disposition also, we must conclude, to have been an amiable one; for we are told that Jesus loved him, beheld him with a certain degree of regard and affection. In this state of mind then he came to Jesus, and asked the question already stated; "Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"

Our Lord's answer was, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. The young man saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." In this enumeration, it is observable that our Lord does not recite all the ten commandments, but only five out of those that compose what is called the second table. Now we cannot imagine that Jesus meant to say that the observation of a few of God's commands would put the young man in possession of eternal life. His intention unquestionably was, by a very common figure of speech, to make a part stand for the whole; and instead of enumerating all the commandments, to specify only a few, which were to represent the rest. Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, and so of all the other commandments, to which my reasoning equally applies." Nor does he only include in his injunction the ten commandments, but all the moral commandments of God, contained in the law of Moses; for he mentions one which is not to be found in the ten commandments: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This therefore points out to the young man his obligations to observe all the other moral precepts of the law. "The young man saith unto him, all these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?" The probability is, that he flattered himself he lacked nothing; that his obedience to the moral law rendered him perfect, qualified him to become a disciple and follower of Christ here, and gave him a claim to a superior degree of felicity hereafter. It was to repress these imaginations, which Jesus saw rising in his mind, that he gave him the following answer; an answer which struck the young man with astonishment and grief, and which some have represented as more harsh and severe than his conduct merited. "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." In the parallel place of St. Mark, it is, "Come and take up the cross and follow me." The meaning is, although God is pleased to accept graciously your obedience to the moral law, yet you must not flatter yourself that your obedience is

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