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MATTHEW v. 25, 26.
“ AGREE WITH THINE ADVERSARY QUICKLY WHILES THOU
ART IN THE WAY WITH HIM; LEST AT ANY TIME THE
There have been two important and useful expositions given of this passage, by the most able and judicious commentators. Some have considered it entirely literal, and as containing nothing more than a plain and serious direction to endeavour to terminate all litigation with as much speed as possible. In the “ adversary” they have recog. nized the plaintiff, in the person advised the defendant ; and in the other parties introduced to notice, the several officers of a court of justice. Doubtless every exhortation to adjust matters in dispute, without having recourse to a law-suit, is worthy the attention of all men; and well would it have been for multitudes of contentious persons, if they had listened to advice on this subject. What happy and harmonious results would have flowed from its adoption. Ab! if the sublime doctrines and holy precepts of
the christian religion were fully understood and esemplified by those who profess them, the evils of discord and strife, which have so often disgraced their religious name, would be known no more.
Important and valuable as such an application is, I do not, however, consider it to be the sense of the passage. I, therefore, take its metaphorical meaning as the true ode: believing that it has a most pointed reference to the necessity of seeking immediate reconciliation with God, whom, by our aggravating transgressions we have repeatedly offended. And these are the reasons on which my opinion is founded: the structure of the exhortation is too strong for any temporal matters—the unalterable nature of the sentence it denounces on the imprisoned offender - the reference to suits at law in a subsequent portion of the chapter—the superior strength and point of the argument in this signification-the confusion of image which it avoids -and the judgment of some eminent theologians in favour of this interpretation. It appears to be a cogent intreaty to turn to the Lord with all our heart, and the duty is recommended to us by the most affecting inducement. And, taking this as the principal, if not exclusive, sense of the words, I request your serious attention to the three following particulars :
I. THB SOLEMN TRUTH WHICH IT ASSUMES.
III. THE POWERPUL CONSIDERATION BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED.
Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way with him ; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”
I. THB SOLEMN TRUTH WHICH THE PASSAGE ASSUMES.
Exhortation does not always imply the existence of an evil-it might be designed to prevent one.
In this text, however, it is not so: it is founded on the broad fact of our sin and rebellion against God, by which we have made him our “ adversary,” and are become liable to be thrown into prison. This truth cannot be too often stated, or too closely pressed on the attention of mankind, and I will therefore endeavour to explore the gloomy subject by the light which revelation affords for our guidance.
The case was this: when the Almighty “ created man in his own image,” holy, wise, and happy, he put him under a law which was “just and good.” This law, which the creature was bound by every natural and moral obligation to obey, was surrounded by sanctions,-of good, if it were fully kept-of evil, if it were broken. The latter was soon the unhappy alternative, and the transgressor became exposed to its dreadful penalty. The event is concisely recorded by the sacred historian: “ And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."* The sequel shows us the result: “ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise; she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband, with her, and he did eat.”+ Then follows, in some subsequent verses, the denunciation of the sentence against the tempter and the tempted; and the account closes in this brief but comprehensive manner : “ So be drove out the man: and he placed at the east of
the garden of Eden, Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life." In this rebellion, and in this sentence, all were involved : but the guilty deed of the first parent, has been invariably repeated by every one of his children. This, therefore, is the fact-that man is a transgressor from his birth, a " lover of pleasure more than of God.” The sins by which he makes God his adversary are too numerous to be specified, and too apparent to require the detail. Think on the violations of his day—the slights of his word—the neglect of his house-the dislike of his service, and a thousand other crimes of which I cannot speak particularly.
Now it is from the knowledge of this account that we are able to understand the scriptural representation of the Most High. Both his purity and his justice combine to make him “ angry with the wicked every day.” He is “a consuming fire” to his adversaries, and his “ wrath is as the roaring of a lion.” Awfully sublime and impressive is the exhibition of his character in his word, with respect to this subject. Every idea of terror, grandeur, might, and desolation, which the conflict of elements, or the destruction of the universe can suggest, is employed to fill our minds with awe before his Divine Majesty. His indignation at sin is compared to an all-devouring flameto an impetuous torrent, or overflowing flood-to the sweeping tempest, or the desolating whirlwind in its irresistible progress.
“ Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind : it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days he shall consider it perfectly.”+
And what is the book of nature, but a confirmation of
the truth of revelation? If he but look, creation is struck with silence; and if he speak, the earth trembles at his voice. When“ judgment is his strange work,” sword, famine, and pestilence, become his ministers of destruction and death. When he frowns, the heavens are clothed with blackness, and the universe bows before his kindling indignation. The fall of Lucifer, the son of the morning, the expulsion from Paradise, the general deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the slaughter of Israel by thousands in the wilderness, their subsequent captivities and final overthrow,-were but so many judicial visitations of his tremendous resentment of iniquity. Ah! what is all the united force of the sovereigns of the world, when compared with his power; or what the rage of all the population of the globe compared with incensed Omnipotence? “ Kiss the son, therefore, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” *
II. THE RECONCILIATION WHICH THE TEXT ENJOINS.
Clothed in ceremonial language as the context is, the Saviour, by an elegant transition, passes from earthly to heavenly things, and illustrates the great duty of seeking peace with God, by an allusion to the advantage of a speedy termination of hostilities between two individuals on the point of going to law with each other.
“ Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way.” Let us consider, the work to be done, and the period prescribed for its performance.
First. The work which every man, as a sinner, has to do. It is to make his peace with God.
Psalm ii. 12.