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light of the Gentiles ; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." And in this is exemplified the truth of that scripture which saith, “ A true witness delivereth souls.”
Though we have great reason to rejoice, that there are any who are willing, by the help of divine grace, to bear that true testiinony by which souls are delivered, yet we have reason to regret that the number is much greater who give a contrary testimony, wbich is too successful in blinding the minds of those who are already too much in the dark. And many there are, it is to be feared, who have the words of eternal life put into their mouths, yet are fond of making a poor excuse to paliate their neglect in not letting their light shine before
May he who walketh among the golden candle sticks, make his angels spirits, and his ministers dames of fire.
PARABLE V. "And if thy right eye offend ihee, (or cause ibee to offend, which
perhaps is more just) pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should per• ish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, (or cause thee to offend) cut it off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole budy should be cast into hell." MAT. V. 29, 30.
It is evident that Christ spake these words by way of parable ; for, literally speaking, the loss of an eye or an hand would make no differ
ence with a man in a moral or a religious sense.
Some have understood that by a right eye, or a right hand, was meant those particular sins to which men were most prone or violently attached. Others suppose, that particular friends and connexions in life, who, being unfriendly to the religion of Christ, might lead us astray, or cause us to offend against the glorious cause of the Redeemer, were to be understood by right eye or hand; and as there is nothing in either explanation which can immediately tend to any gross corruption, I need not be very particular on this part of the subject ; though perhaps the latter explanation would better comport with the like passage in St. Mark, where the person is represented as maimed in consequence of parting with a hand, as parting with our friends causes the feelings of maimedness more than the parting with our sins does. Perhaps we should do well to decide in favor of the latter explanation.
We pass to take notice of the hell noted in the text. The word hell is, undoubtedly, variously used in scripture, but always means misery and trouble when used in a moral sense; in which sense it is evidently used in the above, passage. David in the 18th Psalm, 5th verse, says, the sorrows of hell compassed me about, Psalm lxxxvi
. 13. "Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” If we consider David here speaking of himself, it brings to mind that awful iniquity.of which he was guilty, and the crime for which he condemned himself before Nathan the prophet. And what quill can describe the anguish of a soul lying under the guilt of a crime of as rimson a die as any recorded in scripture? No wonder David spake so highly of
the goodness of the Lord in granting him a gracious remission of his sins, and a release from the bondage of iniquity and hell of guilt. But if we understand those words of David in a still further light, and apply them to Christ, we find him “ a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief;" and it would be still more difficult to describe the sorrows of his heart, when his soul was made an offering for sin. The dreadful perplexities into which sin so often brings us would seem a sufficient inducement to raise an everlasting hatred in our minds towards it; but perhaps we are never brought to hate sin as we ought to, until we have some knowledge of its atonement by Christ. But he, who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, knew perfectly well the consequence of sin, and therefore was able to give proper warnings and admonitions against it; and as we lack wisdom in almost all things, it would be happy for us to attend to those divine monitions given by the great lover of sinners. But it is with the most of men as with the child, they dread not the fire until they feel its anguish-giving power.
But before we dismiss this parable, we will take particular notice of its corresponding passage in St. Mark; more particularly of that fire of which it is said it shall never go out. This fire is the same, no doubt, as described in notes on former parables; perhaps the same fire is alluded to in Deuteronomy xxxii. 22. “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell,” &c. Here observe, this fire was to burn unto the lowest hell, which teaches us that sublime truth of the agency of the Divine Spirit in reproving the world of sin, and cleansing it from all iniquity by the blood of the cross. And that we are right res
pecting this fire, the conclusion will fully evince. Observe Mark ix. 49. “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Remember that we are exhorted to offer our bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service; but this cannot be done until we are salled with fire. Again, in verse 50, Christ says, " Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its saltness, where with will you season it?” that is, the sacrifice. But we are not to suppose that this divine fire can change in itself, but that it quenched in us; and therefore we are exhorted not to quench the Spirit. And Christ closes, by exhorting his disciples to have salt in themselves, (which salt is that fire which can never be quenched,) and to have peace one with another. Here, undoubtedly, we see the end of the holy fire on the altar of sacrifice used in the priesthood of the law.
ILLUSTRATION. Because it is said in Mark ix, that the fire, into which the subject should be cast, “never shall be quenched,” the passage has generally been applied to the support of the doctrine of future, eternal unmerciful punishment. And indeed, all such like passages must be applied to that use, or that doctrine must lose the credit which has, for a long time, perhaps too implicitly, been given to it.
To show that such doctrine has no natural connexion with the text and context, we may notice the following particulars.
1st. Those to whom the words of the parable were spoken
2d. The character of the speaker, as he stood in relation to those to whom he spake ; and
3d. The nature and manifest design of the fire which is never to be quenched.
1st. According to the connexion of the test, where it is found in the 5th of Matthew, Jesus spake these words to those whom he calls in the 13th verse “the salt of the earth,” and in the 14th “ the light of the world.” According to the connexion in the 9th of Mark, these words were spoken by Christ to his disciples, as may be seen by reading from the 31st verse to the end of the chapter.
2d. The character in which Jesus stood, in rela. tion to his disciples may be learned by the following scriptures. St. John xv. 12, &c. " This is mg commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I-command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth ; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." See also chap. xiii
. 34. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye
also love one another." From these scriptures we learn that Jesus acknowledged himself to be a friend to his disciples, who loved them, and was ready to lay down his life for them. The strength of his love to his disciples is also expressed in the 9th verse of the 15th of John; “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you."
3dly. The nature and manifest design of the fire which is never to be quenched, we learn, as has been observed in the notes, by observing that Je
in the 49th verse of the 9th of Mark, “For overy one shall be salted with fire, and every sacri