Verse 35. "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you" - The goodness and indulgence of God towards us is the pattern we should follow in our dealings with others. If we take man for our exemplar we shall err, because our copy is a bad one; and our lives are not likely to be better than the copy we imitate. Follow Christ; be merciful as your Father who is in heaven is merciful. You cannot complain of the fairness of your copy. Reader, hast thou a child, or servant who has offended thee, and humbly asks forgiveness? Hast thou a debtor, or a tenant, who is insolvent, and asks for a little longer time? And hast thou not forgiven that child or servant? Hast thou not given time to that debtor or tenant? How, then, canst thou ever expect to see the face of the just and merciful God? Thy child is banished, or kept at a distance; thy debtor is thrown into prison, or thy tenant sold up: yet the child offered to fall at thy feet; and the debtor or tenant, utterly insolvent, prayed for a little longer time, hoping God would enable him to pay thee all; but to these things thy stony heart and seared conscience paid no regard! O monster of ingratitude! Scandal to human nature, and reproach to God! If thou canst, go hide thyself-even in hell, from the face of the Lord! Their trespasses.] These words are properly left out by GREISBACH, and other eminent critics, because they are wanting in some of the very best MSS. most of the versions, and in some of the chief of the fathers. The words are evidently an interpolation; the construction of them is utterly improper, and the concord false.
In our common method of dealing with insolvent debtors, we in some sort imitate the Asiatic customs: we put them in prison, and all their circumstances there are so many tormentors; the place, the air, the company, the provision, the accommodation, all destructive to comfort, to peace, to health, and to every thing that humanity can devise. If the person be poor, or comparatively poor, is his imprisonment likely to lead him to discharge his debt? His creditor may rest assured that he is now farther from his object than ever: the man had no other way of discharging the debt but by his labour; that is now impossible, through his confinement, and the creditor is put to a certain expense towards his maintenance. How foolish is this policy! And how much do such laws stand in need of revision and amendment! Imprisonment for debt, in such a case as that supposed above, can answer no other end than the gratification of the malice, revenge, or inhumanity of the creditor. Better sell all that he has, and, with his hands and feet untied, let him begin the world afresh. Dr. Dodd very feelingly inquires here, "Whether rigour in exacting temporal debts, in treating without mercy such as are unable to satisfy them-whether this can be allowed to a Christian, who is bound to imitate his God and Father? To a debtor, who can expect forgiveness only on the condition of forgiving others? To a servant, who should obey his Master?-and to a criminal, who is in daily expectation of his Judge and final sentence?" Little did he think, when he wrote this sentence, that himself should be a melancholy proof, not only of human weakness, but of the relentless nature of those laws by which property, or rather money, is guarded. The unfortunate Dr. Dodd was hanged for forgery, in 1777, and the above note was written only seven years before! The unbridled and extravagant appetites of men sometimes require a rigour even beyond the law to suppress them. While, then, we learn lessons of humanity from what is before us, let us also learn lessons of prudence, sobriety, and moderation. The parable of the two debtors is blessedly calculated to give this information.