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who "loveth his own unto the end." He was now looking forward to the persecution which he foreknew to be awaiting these little ones: he foreknew how they would be offended, tempted, led into occasions of sin, or even turned aside from the faith, by the bad example of corrupt friends, or the persecution of avowed enemies. Such circumstances were in his mind, as occurred at Jerusalem, when a great persecution took place against the church there, and the believers were all scattered abroad: and "Saul entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison." Therefore he said, It must needs be that offences come! Such is the course of this world, such the corruption of the heart, such the power of Satan, that much must be expected to occur, which will make the way of eternal life narrow: not always easy to find, and always difficult to keep. But woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh: woe to him who by oppression or opposition deters others from embracing the faith; or who, by conduct unworthy of his profession, gives occasion of exultation to the enemies of God. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea, than that he should offend, cause to stumble and fall from the faith, one of these little ones which believe in me.

And this offender might be one dearest in friend ship, or nearest in relationship. The Lord had already said, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." A man shall "be at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother," * Ch. x. 35,36.

3 Acts viii. 1—4.

A mother might so act towards her daughter, or a father against his son, as to deter him from confessing himself a Christian. Now a parent, a wife, a child, are to men as the members of their body: dear to them as a hand, and valuable as an eye. 5 But as an eye or a hand must be sometimes sacrificed, in order that life itself may be preserved; so ought even the nearest friend, the dearest relation to be abandoned, rather than the faith should be denied that faith, by which alone a man is delivered from the wrath of God, and made an inheritor of his heavenly kingdom.

8. Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

9. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

10. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

12. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

13. And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

14. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

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Χειρα καὶ ποδα καὶ ὀφθαλμον, τους φίλους νοει, οὓς ἐν τάξει μedov éxoper. Theoph.

Angels, who are before the Father's throne, and behold his face in heaven, are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." 6 And if angels watch over them, shall man despise them? Perhaps they are tender in age; humble in condition; perhaps their faith is as yet weak and wavering. Still they are not to be offended. Their helplessness, their feebleness does not disparage them in the opinion of their Saviour. Nay, it recommends them to him. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. And ought any to be lightly esteemed, whom he has thus taught us to value? "Through thee," through thy opposition, or thy seduction, or thy neglect, "shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?"7

Further, God looks upon them, now that they are brought into his fold, as a shepherd looks upon a sheep which had gone astray, and been recovered. How then will he resent it, if one be afterwards decoyed away: be either left to perish through neglect, or wantonly destroyed! For it is not his will. that one of these little ones should perish. He suffers them indeed to undergo temptation, and fall into various trials. It is part of the plan on which he governs the world. But he watches over them and supports them; and has "a crown of life" in store for them, if they "endure unto the end." It was the merciful character of the Saviour, that he should not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax" that he should "gather the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead them that are with young.' So that whosoever offends the little ones which believe 7 See 1 Cor. viii. 11, &c.

6 Heb. i. 14.


in Christ, offends their Lord: and whosoever receiveth them in his name, receiveth him :-nay, "receiveth the Father which sent him :" for it is not the will of his Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.



MATT. xviii. 15-20.

15. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.1

17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

We have here an important passage concerning the behaviour of Christians one towards another. If thy brother shall trespass against thee. This must be expected, and provided for. Those to whom it was spoken, were partakers of human nature: had

So it is written, Mark ix. 37; Luke ix. 48.

1 Such was the rule of the law of Moses: Deut. xix. 15. “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established." See also Numb. xxxv. 30; Deut. xvii. 6.

fallen by Adam's transgression: had the corrupt heart, out of which trespasses proceed: were prone to self-love, which is the fruitful source of envy, fraud, ill-will, and slander. Even when the heart is under a course of renewal by the Spirit of Christ, yet this renewal is a gradual work, incomplete and imperfect. It might therefore happen, even among apostles, even among such as formed the company of the first disciples of Christ, that brother should trespass against brother. What is the usual practice in such cases? The offended person whispers his complaint to his friends and neighbours, and the rent is made worse by misrepresentation and exaggeration. This had been perceived by Solomon, who directs, "Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself, and discover not thy secret to another."" now our Lord says, go and tell him his fault, between thee and him alone: it may be that he hear thee: he may see his error, he may regret it, and make reparation; and thou hast gained thy brother: thou hast gained him as a friend: for if there is grace in his heart, he feels that his soul is profited, and that has endeared thee to him: and thou hast gained him as a worthy disciple to Christ: for "if any do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." "


Perhaps he will not hear thee. A man is a bad judge in his own cause, and may think himself offended, rather than an offender. Therefore take with thee one or two more, whose opinions and au3 James v. 20.

2 Prov. xxv. 9.

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