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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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MATTHEW CHAPTER 18

Verses 1-6. See also Mark 9:33-41; Luke 9:46-60. Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? By the kingdom of heaven they meant the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up-- his kingdom as the Messiah. They asked the question because they supposed, in accordance with the common expectation of the Jews, that he was about to set up a temporal kingdom of great splendour; and they wished to know who should have the principal offices and posts of honour and profit. This was among them a frequent subject of inquiry and controversy. Mark 9:34 informs us that they had had a dispute on this subject in the way. Jesus, he says, inquired of them what they had been disputing about. Luke 9:47 says, that Jesus perceived the thought of their heart;--an act implying omniscience, for none can search the heart but God, Jeremiah 17:10. The disciples, conscious that the subject of their dispute was known, requested Jesus to decide it, Matthew 18:1. They were at first silent through shame, Mark 9:34 but perceiving that the subject of their dispute was known, they came, as Matthew states, and referred the matter to him for his opinion.

{u} "At the same" Mark 9:33; Luke 9:46; 22:24

Verses 2-3. Except ye be converted. The word "converted," means changed, or turned. It means, to change or turn from one habit of life, or set of opinions, to another, James 5:19; Luke 22:32. See also Matthew 7:6; 16:23; Luke 7:9, etc., where the same word is used in the original. It is sometimes referred to that great change called the new birth, or regeneration, Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 9:5; Acts 3:19 but not always. It is a general word, meaning any change. The word regeneration denotes a particular change--the passing from death to life. The phrase, "except ye be converted," does not imply of necessity that they were not Christians before, or had not been born again. It means, that their opinions and feelings about the kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed that he was to be a temporal Prince. They expected that he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had. And they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices, Jesus told them they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed, or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

And become as little children. Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they should become like them. They should lay aside their ambitious views, and pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station--a very lowly one. Mark 9:35 says that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that "if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least, and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us, is humility. And it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are. But pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.

{v} "ye be converted" Psalms 51:10-13; John 3:3
{w} "little children" 1 Corinthians 14:20; 1 Peter 2:2

Verse 3. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:2"

Verse 4. The same is greatest, etc. That is, shall be the most eminent Christian; shall have most of the true spirit of religion.

{x} "humble himself" Luke 14:11; James 4:10

Verse 5. And whoso shall receive one such little child. That is, whoso shall receive and love one with a spirit like this child--one who is humble, meek, unambitious, or a real Christian.

In my name. As a follower of me; or, because he is attached to me. Whoso receives one possessed of my spirit, and who, because he has that spirit, loves him, loves me also. The word "receive" means, to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in the time of need. See Matthew 25:35-40.

Mark 9:38 and Luke 9:49 add a conversation that took place on this occasion, that has been omitted by Matthew. John told him that they had seen one casting out devils in his name, and they forbade him, because he followed not with them. Jesus replied, that he should not have been forbidden, for there was no one who could work a miracle in his name that could lightly speak evil of him. That is, though he did not attend them, though he had not joined himself to their society, yet he could not really be opposed to him. Indeed they should have remembered, that the power to work a miracle must always come from the same source, that is, God; and that he that had the ability given him to work a miracle, and that did it in the name of Christ, must be a real friend to him. It is probable from this, that the power of working miracles in the name of Christ was given to many who did not attend on his ministry.

{z} "shall offend" Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1,2

Verse 6. Whoso shall offend. That is, cause to fall, or to sin; or who should place anything in their way to hinder their piety or happiness; See Barnes "Matthew 5:29".

These little ones. That is, Christians, manifesting the spirit of little children, 1 John 2:1,12,18,28.

It were better for him that a millstone, etc. Mills anciently were either turned by hand, See Barnes "Matthew 24:41" or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These were of the larger kind; and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. This was one mode of capital punishment practised by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other surrounding nations. The meaning is, it would be better for him to die before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.

{z} "shall offend" Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1,2

Verse 7. Woe unto the world because of offences. That is, offences will be the cause of woe, or of suffering. Offences, here, mean things that will produce sin; that will cause us to sin, or temptations to induce others to sin. See Barnes "Matthew 5:29".

It must needs be, etc. That is, such is the depravity of man, that there will be always some attempting to make others sin; some men of wickedness endeavouring to lead Christians astray, and rejoicing when they have succeeded in causing them to fall. Such, also, is the strength of our native corruption, and the force of passion, that our besetting sins will lead us astray.

Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh. He who draws others into sin is awfully guilty. No man can be more guilty, life wickedness can be more deeply seated in the heart, than that which attempts to mar the peace, defile the purity, and destroy the souls of others. And yet, in all ages, there have been multitudes, who, by persecution, threats, arts, allurements, and persuasion, have endeavoured to seduce Christians from the faith, and to lead them into sin.

{a} "for it must" 1 Corinthians 11:19; Jude 1:4
{b} "but woe" Jude 1:11

Verse 8,9. If thy hand, etc. See Barnes "Matthew 5:29,30". The meaning of all these instances is the same. Temptations to sin, attachments, and employments of any kind that cannot be pursued without leading us into sin, be they ever so dear to us, must be abandoned, or the soul must be lost.

It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed-with one eye, etc. It is not meant by this, that when the body shall be raised it will be maimed and disfigured in this manner. It will be perfect. See 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. But these things are said for the purpose of carrying out or making complete the figure, or the representation of cutting off the hands, etc. The meaning is, it is better to go to heaven, without enjoying the things that caused us to sin, than to enjoy them here, and then be lost.

Halt. Lame.

Maimed. With a loss of limbs.

Into hell fire. It is implied in all this, that if their beloved sins are not abandoned, the soul must go into everlasting fire. This is conclusive proof that the sufferings of the wicked will be eternal. See Barnes "Mark 9:44", See Barnes "Mark 9:46", See Barnes "Mark 9:48".

{c} "Wherefore if thy hand" Matthew 5:29,30; Mark 9:43,45

Verse 9. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:8"

{d} "enter into life" Hebrews 4:11
{e} "two eyes" Luke 9:25

Verse 10. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, etc. That is, one who has become like little children--or, a Christian. Jesus then proceeds to state the reason why we should not despise his feeblest and obscurest follower. That reason is drawn from the care which God exercises over them. The first instance of that care is, that in heaven their angels do always behold his face. He does not mean, I suppose, to state that every good man has his guardian angel, as many of the Jews believed; but that the angels were, in general, the guards of his followers, and aided them, and watched over them, Hebrews 1:14.

Do always behold the face of my Father, etc. This is taken from the practice of earthly courts. To be admitted to the presence of a king; to be permitted to see his face continually; to have free access at all times, was deemed a mark of peculiar favour, 1 Kings 10:8; Esther 1:14 and was esteemed a security for his protection. So, says our Saviour, we should not despise the obscurest Christians, for they are ministered to by the highest and noblest of beings; beings who are always enjoying the favour and friendship of God.

{f} "angels do always" Acts 12:15
{g} "behold" Psalms 17:15

Verse 11. For the Son of man, etc. This is a second reason why we should not despise Christians, for the Son of man came to seek and save them. He came in search of them when lost; he found them; he saved them. It was the great object of his life; and though obscure and little in the eye of the world, yet that cannot be worthy of contempt which the Son of God sought by his toils and his death.

Son of man. See Barnes "Matthew 8:19,20".

That which was lost. Property is lost when it is consumed, mislaid, etc.--when we have no longer the use of it. Friends are lost when they die--we enjoy their society no longer. A wicked and profligate man is said to be lost to virtue and happiness. He is useless to society. So all men are lost. They are wicked, miserable wanderers from God. They are lost to piety, to happiness, and heaven. These Jesus came to save by giving his own life a ransom, and shedding his own blood that they might be recovered and saved.

{h} "save that" Matthew 1:21; Luke 9:56; 19:10; John 3:17; 10:10; 12:47
1 Timothy 1:15

Verses 12-14. To show still farther the reason why we should not despise them, he introduced a parable showing the joy felt when a thing lost is found. Man rejoices over the recovery of one of his flock that had wandered, more than over all that remained. So God rejoices that man is restored, seeks his salvation, and wills that not one thus found should perish. If God thus loves and preserves the redeemed, then surely man should not despise them, See this passage farther explained in Luke 15:4-10.

{i} "if a man" Luke 15:4

Verse 13. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:12"

Verse 14. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:12"

{k} "one of these" 2 Peter 3:9

Verses 15-20. Moreover if thy brother. The word brother, here, evidently means a fellow-professor of religion. Christians are called brethren because they belong to the same redeemed family--having a common Father, God, and because they are united in the same feelings, objects, and destiny.

Trespass against thee. That is, injure thee in any way, by words or conduct. The original word means, sin against thee. This may be done by injuring the character, person, or property.

Go and tell him his fault. This was required under the law, Leviticus 19:17. In the original it is, "go and reprove him." Seek an explanation of his conduct; and if he has done wrong, administer a friendly and brotherly reproof. This is required to be done alone:

(1.) That he may have an opportunity of explaining it. In nine cases out of ten, where one supposes he has been injured, a little friendly conversation would set the matter right, and prevent difficulty.

(2.) That he may have opportunity of acknowledging his offence, or making reparation, if he has done wrong. Many would be glad of such an opportunity, and it is our duty to furnish it by calling on them.

(3.) That we may admonish them of their error, if they have done an injury to the cause of religion. This should not be blazoned abroad. It can do no good. It does injury. It is what the enemies of religion wish. Christ is often wounded in the house of his friends; and religion, as well as an injured brother, often suffers by spreading such faults before the world.

Thou hast gained thy brother. To gain means, sometimes, to preserve, or to save, 1 Corinthians 9:19. Here it means, thou hast preserved him, or restored him, to be a consistent Christian. Perhaps it may include the idea also, thou hast reconciled him--thou hast gained him as a Christian brother.

{l} "if thy brother" Leviticus 19:17; Luke 17:3
{m} "if he shall hear thee" James 5:20

Verse 16. If he will not hear thee, etc. That is, if he spurns or abuses you, or will not be entreated by you, and will not reform.

Take one or two more. The design of taking them seems to be,

(1.) that he might be induced to listen to them, Matthew 18:17. They should be persons of influence or authority; his personal friends, or those in whom he could put confidence.

(2.) That they might be witnesses of his conduct before the church, Matthew 18:17. The law of Moses required two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; John 8:17.

{n} "witnesses" Deuteronomy 19:15

Verse 17. Tell it unto the Church. See Barnes "Matthew 16:18". The church may here mean the whole assembly of believers; or it may mean those who are authorized to try such cases--the representatives of the church, or those who act for them. In the Jewish synagogue there was a bench of elders, before whom trials of this kind were brought. It was to be brought to the church, in order that he might be admonished, entreated, and, if possible, reformed. This was, and is always to be, the first business in disciplining an offending brother.

If he neglect to hear the Church, let him be, etc. The Jews gave the name heathen or Gentile to all other nations but themselves. With them they had no religious intercourse or communion.

Publican. See Barnes "Matthew 5:47". Publicans were men of abandoned character, and the Jews would have no intercourse with them. The meaning of this is, cease to have religious intercourse with him, to acknowledge him as a brother. Regard him as obstinate, self-willed, and guilty. It does not mean that we should cease to show kindness to him, and aid him in affliction or trial; for this is required towards all men; but it means that we should disown him as a Christian brother, and treat him as we do other men not connected with the church. This should not be done till all these steps are taken. This is the only way of kindness. This is the only way to preserve peace and purity in the church.

{o} "let him be unto" Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14

Verse 18. Whatsoever ye shall bind, See Barnes "Matthew 16:19". These words were spoken to the apostles. He had used the same words to Peter, Matthew 16:19. He used them here to signify that they all had the same power; that in ordering the affairs of the church he did not intend to give Peter any supremacy, or any exclusive right to regulate it. The meaning of this verse is, whatever you shall do in the discipline of the church shall be approved by God, or bound in heaven. This promise, therefore, cannot be understood as extending to all Christians or ministers; for all others but the apostles may err.

{p} "whatsoever ye shall bind" Matthew 16:19; John 20:23; Acts 15:23-31
2 Corinthians 2:10

Verse 19. Again I say unto you, That if two of you, etc. This is connected with the previous verses. The connexion is this: The obstinate man is to be excluded from the church, Matthew 18:17. The care of the church--the power of admitting or excluding members--of organizing and establishing it--is committed to you, the apostles, Matthew 18:18. Yet there is not need of the whole to give validity to the transaction. When two of you agree, or have the same mind, feelings, and opinion, about the arrangement of affairs in the church, or about things desired for its welfare, and shall ask of God, it shall be done for them. See Acts 1:14-26; 15:1-29. The promise here has respect to the apostles in organizing the church. It cannot, with any propriety, be applied to the ordinary prayers of believers. Other promises are made to them, and it is true that the prayer of faith will be answered; but that is not the truth taught here.

{q} "it shall be done" Mark 11:24; John 16:24; 1 John 5:14

Verse 20. For where two or three, etc. This is a general assertion, made to support the particular promise made Matthew 18:19 to his apostles. He affirms that wherever two or three are assembled together in his name he is in the midst of them.

In my name. That is,

(1.) by my authority, acting for me in my church. John 10:25;; 16:23

(2.) It may mean, for my service, in the place of prayer and praise, assembled in obedience to my command, and with a desire to promote my glory.

There am I in the midst of them. Nothing could more clearly prove that Jesus must be everywhere present, and, of course, be God. Every day, perhaps every hour, two or three, or many more, may be assembled in every city or village in the United States, in England, in Greenland, in Africa, in Ceylon, in the Sandwich Islands, in Russia, and in Judea--in almost every part of the world--and in the midst of them all is Jesus the Saviour. Millions thus at the same time, in every quarter of the globe, worship in his name, and experience the truth of the promise that he is present with them. It is impossible that he should be in all these places, and not be God.

{r} "gathered together" John 20:19; 1 Corinthians 5:4

Verses 21,22. Then came Peter, etc, The mention of the duty Matthew 18:15 seeing a brother when he had offended us, implying that it was a duty to forgive him, led Peter to ask how often this was to be done.

Forgive him? To forgive is to treat as though the offence was not committed--to declare that we will not harbour malice, or treat unkindly, but that the matter shall be buried and forgotten.

Till seven times? The Jews taught that a man was to forgive another three times, but not the fourth. Peter more than doubled this, and asked whether forgiveness was to be exercised to so great an extent.

Until seventy times seven. The meaning is, that we are not to limit our forgiveness to any fixed number of times. See Genesis 4:24. As often as a brother injures us, and asks forgiveness, we are to forgive him. It is his duty to ask forgiveness, Luke 17:4. If he does this, it is our duty to declare that we forgive him, and to treat him accordingly. If he does not ask us to forgive him, yet we are not at liberty to follow him with revenge and malice, but are still to treat him kindly, and to do him good, Luke 10:30-37.

{s} "forgive him" Mark 11:25; Luke 17:4; Colossians 3:13

Verse 22. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:21"

Verse 23. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened, etc. This phrase has reference to the church, or to the way in which God will deal with his people. It shall be in my church as it was with a certain king; or, God will deal with the members of his church as a certain king did with his servants. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2". This parable Matthew 13:3 is related to show the duty of forgiving others. It is not necessary to suppose that it was a true narrative, but only that it illustrated the truth which he was teaching. At the same time, it may be true that such an occurrence really took place.

Would take account of his servants. To take account means to reckon, to settle up the affairs. Servants here means, probably, petty princes, or, more likely, collectors of the revenue or taxes. Among the ancients, kings often farmed out, or sold for a certain sum, the taxes of a particular province. Thus, when Judea was subject to Egypt, or Rome, the kings frequently sold to the high priest the taxes to be raised from Judea, on condition of a much smaller sum being paid to them. This secured to them a certain sum, but it gave occasion to much oppression in the collection of the taxes. It is probable that some such persons are intended by the word servants.

{t} "take account" Romans 14:12

Verse 24. Ten thousand talents. A talent was a sum of money, or weight of silver or gold, amounting to three thousand shekels. A silver shekelwas worth, after the captivity, not far from half a dollar of our money. A talent of silver was worth 1519 dollars, 23 cents, [or 342 3s. 9d.] of gold, 24,309 dollars, 88 cents, [or 5,475.] If these were silver talents, as is probable, then the sum owed by the servant was 16,180,000 dollars, [or about 8,421,876 sterling]; a sum which proves that he was not a domestic, but some tributary prince. The sum is used to show that the debt was immensely large, and that our sins are so great that they cannot be estimated or numbered. Compare Job 27:5.

{1} "thousand talents" "A talent is 750 ounces of silver, which,
at 5s, the oz., is 187l. 10s."

Verse 25. His lord commanded him to be sold, etc. By the laws of the Hebrews, they were permitted to sell debtors, with their wives and children, into servitude for a time sufficient to pay the debt. See 2 Kings 4:1; Leviticus 25:39-46; Amos 8:6.

{u} "be sold" 2 Kings 4:1; Isaiah 1:1

Verse 26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him. This does not mean that he paid him religious homage, but that in a humble, and reverent, and earnest manner, he entreated him to have patience with him. He prostrated himself before his lord, as is customary in all eastern nations, when subjects are in the presence of their king. See Barnes "Matthew 2:2".

{1} "worshipped" or, "besought him"

Verse 27. The lord of that servant was moved with compassion, etc. He had pity on him. He saw his distressed condition. He pitied his family. He forgave him the whole debt. This represents the mercy of God to men. They had sinned. They owed to God more than could be paid. They were about to be cast off. But God has mercy on them, and in conexion with their prayers, forgives them. We are not to interpret the circumstances of a parable too strictly. The verse about selling the wife and children is not to be taken literally, as if God was about to punish them for the sins of their father; but it is a circumstance thrown in to keep up the story; to make it consistent; to explain why the servant was so anxious to obtain a delay of the time of payment.

{v} "loosed him" Psalms 78:38

Verses 28,29. He found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence. The Penny was a Roman coin, worth about fourteen cents [seven pence] of our money. Consequently, this debt was about fourteen dollars [three pounds three shillings]-- a very small sum compared with what had been forgiven to the first servant. Perhaps our Saviour, by this, meant to teach that the offences which our fellow-men commit against us are very small and insignificant, compared with our offences against God. Since God has forgiven us so much, we ought to forgive each other the small offences which are committed.

Took him by the throat. Took him in a violent and rough manner; half choked, or throttled him. This was the more criminal and base, as he had himself been so kindly treated, and dealt so mildly with, by his Lord.

Besought. Entreated, pleaded with him.

{2} "Penny" "The Roman penny is the 8th part of an ounce, which at
5s, the ounce, is 7d. half-penny." Matthew 20:2

{w} "saying" Matthew 18:26

Verse 29. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 18:28"

Verse 30. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 31. So when his fellowservants, etc. This is a mere circumstance thrown into the story for the sake of keeping, or making a consistent narrative. It cannot be intended to teach that other Christians should go and tell God What a brother had done; for God well knows all the actions of his children, and does not need us, surely, to inform him of what is done. It is abusing the Bible, and departing from the design of parables, to press every circumstance, and to endeavour to extract, from it some spiritual meaning. Our Saviour, in this parable, designed most clearly to exhibit only one great truth--the duty of forgiving our brethren, and the great evil of not forgiving a brother when he offends us. The circumstances of the parable are intended only to make the story consistent with itself, and thus to impress the general truth more fully on the mind.

Verse 32. No Barnes text on this verse.

{x} "wicked servant" Luke 19:22

Verse 33. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 34. Delivered him to the tormentors. The word tormentors, here, probably means keepers of the prison. Torments were inflicted on criminals, not on debtors. They were inflicted by stretching the limbs, or pinching the flesh, or taking out the eyes, or taking off the skin while alive, etc. It is not probable that anything of this kind is intended, but only that the servant was punished by imprisonment till the debt should be paid.

Verse 35. So likewise, etc. This verse contains the sum or moral of the parable. When Christ has explained one of his own parables, we are to receive it just as he has explained it, and not attempt to draw spiritual instruction from any parts or circumstances which he has not explained. The following seems to be the particulars of the general truth which he meant to teach:

(1.) That our sins are great.

(2.) That God freely forgives them.

(3.) That the offences committed against us by our brethren are comparatively small.

(4.) That we should, therefore, most freely forgive them.

(5.) That if we do not, God will be justly angry with us, and punish us.

From your hearts. That is, not merely in words, but really and truly to feel and act towards him as if he had not offended us.

Trespasses. Offences, injuries. Remarks and actions designed to do us wrong.

{y} "So likewise" Proverbs 21:13; Matthew 6:12; James 2:13

REMARKS ON MATTHEW CHAPTER 18

(1.) We see that it is possible to make a profession of religion an occasion of ambition, Matthew 18:1. The apostles at first sought honour, and expected office in consequence of following Christ. So thousands have done since. Religion, notwithstanding all the opposition it has met with, really commands the confidence of mankind. To make a profession of it may be a way of access to that confidence; and thousands, it is to be feared, even yet enter the church merely to obtain some worldly benefit. Especially does this danger beset ministers of the gospel. There are few paths to the confidence of mankind so easily trod, as to enter the ministry. Every minister, of course, if at all worthy of his office, has access to the confidence of multitudes, and is never despised but by the worst and lowest of mankind. No way is so easy to step at once to public confidence. Other men toil long to establish influence by personal character. The minister has it by virtue of his office. Those who now enter the ministry are tempted far more in this respect than were the apostles; and how should they search their own hearts, to see that no such abominable motive has induced them to seek that office!

(2.) It is consummate wickedness thus to prostrate the most sacred of all offices to the worst of purposes. The apostles, at this time, were ignorant. They expected a kingdom where it would be right to seek distinction. But we labour under no such ignorance. We know that his kingdom is not of this world, and woe to the man that acts as though it were. Deep and awful must be the lot of him who thus seeks the honours of the world, while he is professedly following the meek and lowly Jesus.

(3.) Humility is indispensable to religion, Matthew 18:3. No man, who is not humble, can possibly be a Christian. He must be willing to esteem himself as he is, and to have others esteem him so also. This is humility. And humility is lovely. It is not meanness; it is not cowardice; it is not want of just self-esteem. It is a view of ourselves just as we are, and a willingness that God and all creatures should so esteem us. What can be more lovely than such an estimation of ourselves? And how foolish and wicked is it to be proud; that is, to think more of ourselves, and wish others to think so, than we really deserve! To put on appearances, and to magnify our own importance, and think that the affairs of the universe could not go on without us, and to be indignant when all the world does not bow down to do us homage-- this is hypocrisy, as well as wickedness; and there may be, therefore, hypocrites out of the church, as well as in it.

(4.) Humility is the best evidence of piety, Matthew 18:4. The most humble man is the most eminent Christian. He is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The effect of sin is to produce pride. Religion overcomes it by producing a just sense of ourselves, of other men, of angels, and of God. We may, therefore, measure the advance of piety in our own souls by the increase of humility.

(5.) We see the danger of despising and doing injury to real Christians, and more especially the guilt of attempting to draw them into sin, Matthew 18:6. God watches over them. He loves them. In the eye of the world they may be of little importance, but not so with God. The most obscure follower of Christ is dear, infinitely dear, to him; and he will take care of him. He that attempts to injure a Christian attempts to injure God; for God has redeemed him, and loves him.

(6.) Men will do much to draw others into sin, Matthew 18:7. In all communities there are some who seem to live for this. They have often much wealth, or learning, or accomplishment, or address, or professional influence; and they employ it for the sake of seducing the unwary, and leading them into ruin. Hence offences come, and many of the young and thoughtless are led astray. But He who has all power has pronounced woe upon them, and judgment will not always linger. No class of men have a more fearful account to render to God than they who thus lead others into vice and infidelity.

(7.) We must forsake our dearest sins, Matthew 18:8,9. We must do this, or go to hell-fire. There is no way of avoiding it. We cannot love and cherish those sins, and be saved.

(8.) The wicked--they who will not forsake their sins--must certainly go to eternal punishment, Matthew 18:8,9. So said the compassionate Saviour. The fair and obvious meaning of his words is, that the sufferings of hell are eternal. And Christ did not use words without meaning. He did not mean to frighten us by bugbears, or to hold up imaginary fears. If Christ speaks of hell, then there is a hell; if he says it is eternal, then it is so. Of this we may be sure, that EVERY WORD which the God of mercy has spoken about the punishment of the wicked is Full OF MEANING.

(9.) Christians are protected, Matthew 18:10. Angels are appointed as their friends and guardians. Those friends are very near to God. They enjoy his favour, and his children shall be safe.

(10.) Christians are safe, Matthew 18:11-14. Jesus came to save them. He left the heavens for this end. God rejoices in their salvation. He secures it at great sacrifices, and none can pluck them out of his hand. After the coming of Jesus to save them--after all that he has done for that, and that only--after the joy of God and angels at their recovery--it is impossible that they should be wrested from him and destroyed. See John 10:27,28.

(11.) It is our duty to admonish our brethren when they injure us, Matthew 18:15. We have no right to speak of the offence to any one else, not even to our best friends, until we have given an opportunity to explain.

(12.) The way to treat offending brethren is clearly pointed out, Matthew 18:15-17. Nor have we a fight to take any other course. Infinite Wisdom--the Prince of Peace--has declared that this is the way to treat our brethren. No other can be right; and no other, therefore, can be so well adapted to promote the peace of the church And yet how different from this is the course commonly pursued! How few go honestly to an offending brother, and tell him his fault! Instead of this, every breeze bears the report--it is magnified-- mole-hills swell to mountains, and a quarrel of years often succeeds what might have been settled at once. No robber is so cruel as he who steals away the character of another. Nothing can compensate for the loss of this. Wealth, health, mansions, and equipage, all are trifles compared with this. Especially is this true of a Christian. His reputation gone, he has lost his power of doing good; he has brought dishonour on the cause he most loved; he has lost his peace, and worlds cannot repay him.

'Who steals my purse, steals trash: 'tis something, nothing: 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed."

(13.) We have every encouragement to pray, Matthew 18:20. We are poor, and sinful, and dying, and none can comfort us but God. At his throne we may find all that we want. We know not which is most wonderful, that God deigns to hear our prayers, or that men are so unwilling to use so simple and easy a way of obtaining what they so much need.

(14.) We should never be weary of forgiving our brethren, Matthew 18:22. We should do it cheerfully. We should do it always. We are never better employed than when we are doing good to those who have injured us. Thus doing, we are most like God.

(15.) There will be a day in which we must give up our account, Matthew 18:23. It may wait long; but God will reckon with us, and everything shall be brought into judgment.

(16.) We are greatly indebted to God--far, far beyond what we are able to pay, Matthew 18:24. We have sinned, and in no way can we make atonement for past sins. But Jesus the Saviour has made atonement, and paid our debt, and we may be free.

(17.) It is right to pray to God when we feel that we have sinned, and are unable to pay the debt, Matthew 18:26. We have no other way. Poor, and needy, and wretched, we must cast ourselves upon his mercy, or die--die for ever.

(18.) God will have compassion on those who do it, Matthew 18:27. At his feet, in the attitude of prayer, the burdened sinner finds peace. We have nowhere else to go but to the very Being that we have offended. No being but He can save us from death.

(19.) From the kindness of God to us we should learn not to oppress others, Matthew 18:28.

(20.) It is our true interest, as well as duty, to forgive those that offend us, Matthew 18:34. God will take vengeance; and in due time we must suffer if we do not forgive others.

(21.) Christians are often great sufferers for harbouring malice. As a punishment, God withdraws the light of his countenance; they walk in darkness; they cannot enjoy religion; their conscience smites them; and they are wretched. No man ever did, or ever can, enjoy religion, who did not from his heart forgive his brother his trespasses.

(22.) One reason why Christians ever walk in darkness is, that there is some such duty neglected. They think they have been injured, and very possibly they may have been. They think they are in the right, and possibly they are so. But mingled with a consciousness of this is an unforgiving spirit; and they cannot enjoy religion till that is subdued.

(23.) Forgiveness must not be in word merely, but from the heart, Matthew 18:35. No other can be genuine; no other is like God.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 18". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=018>.  

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