Page images

vency; and yet it was a frequent practice among the Jews*, as we learn both from various passages of the Old Testament and from Josephus; and we are told by several intelligent travellers, that insolvency is one of the causes of slavery in Africa at this very hour. So perfectly conformable to fact and to the truth of history is every circumstance that occurs in the sacred writings. "The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him," prostrated himself at his master's feet, and in the most moving terms besought him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will thee all." Then the lord of that servant pay was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants which owed him an hundred pence (a very trifling sum); and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, "Pay me that thou owest." He assailed him with far greater violence and brutality than his lord had used towards himself for a debt of ten thousand talents. "And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying,

* Exod. xxii. 3.

Lev. xxv. 47.


"Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all;" the very same supplicating attitude, the very same affecting words that he had himself made use of towards his lord; "and he would not, but went and cast him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry" sorry for the sufferings of the unhappy debtor; sorry for the disgrace brought on human nature by the unfeeling creditor; " and they came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O 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? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if from ye hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." 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



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 émotion 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 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

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 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 * Luke, xvii. 4.

well very



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 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 shews 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

*Matth. xviii. 35,

+ Eph. iv. 32. unrelenting

« PreviousContinue »