« VorigeDoorgaan »
And we might add, of all inclination to personal injury, unless we rather chose to consider the tenth commandment as intended to regulate sentiment and inclination of every kind; as well as that which immediately tends to infringe the Laws of Property. (For Traditions, see my Lectures in Divinity, Book iv. on Article vi. Sect. iii.)
3. Our Saviour then forbade not only murder, but all approaches to it; and to every approach he annexed a punishment proportioned to its guilt. Earthly tribunals might do what they were able; but to prevent sins of secrecy, some sanction was wanted, which might reach the Heart. This I take to be the general meaning of the passage: the particular offences and punishments which our Lord specifies, are expressed in terms peculiar to those to whom he spoke; but seem rather to be of the nature of intimations, and comparisons, or allusions, than literal delineations of facts. Our Lord often spoke obscurely, sometimes almost ænigmatically; leaving room for after thought; for recollection and consideration: and no doubt for the wisest reasons. Nevertheless it may be proper to take such information relative to the particulars as antiquity affords.
Our Lord's first declaration is this; "But I say unto you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment:" That he did not mean literally an earthly tribunal, appears sufficiently from hence, that no earthly tribunal can take cognizance of the offence: an earthly tribunal might condemn a man for mischievous acts caused by anger, but not for being angry without a cause. The meaning therefore is, that not only actual murder is punishable, but such a disposition as leads men to it, or to any violence approaching to murder. And though the mere disposition cannot incur human punishment, yet there shall be a judgment at the last day, as much to be dreaded as any judgment of the Jews, which will be perfectly able to take cognizance of the guilt of needless anger.
We are told, (a) that what is here called the Judgment was amongst the Jews a Court of twenty three
Judges, who could inflict punishments; some sorts of capital punishments, but not the most painful.
To denounce such punishment as Christ denounced belongs to the office of a religious teacher; and had Moses been rightly explained, he would have come much nearer to it than he was understood to come by the Scribes and Pharisees.
We should here notice the expression of St. John ; as connecting actual murder with the sentiments which lead to it; and as placing the punishment in a future world. "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; "and ye know that no murderer hath eternal Life abiding in him". 1 John iii. 15.
4. Our Saviour proceeds;" whosoever shall say "to his Brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the Coun"cil". The Council, or Sanhedrim, was the highest Court of Judicature amongst the Jews; could inflict capital punishments, the most painful and ignominious. (b) -Raca means vain, empty, insignificant, despicable: he who calls any one Raca, would make him an object of contempt certainly a very likely thing to begin enmity; and enmity is apt to occasion violence.
Brother means Israelite, as opposed to stranger: under Christ these coincide; though a Christian may be opposed to a Heathen, as a Brother to an alien: the meaning then of this part of the text seems to be, you esteem your Council a most solemn Court of Judicature; and would be very unwilling to come under its • condemnation; but I give you assurance, that though you may avoid actual murder, yet if you treat your brother in such an insolent and contemptuous manner as must naturally tend to provoke him to anger, and drive him to desperate measures, a punishment will • await you, at least as much to be dreaded as any which 6 even the Sanhedrim could inflict'.
5. The last declaration is this; "Whosoever shall Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire". Here both the punishment and the offence require some explanation. There was a pleasant Valley near Jerusa
lem, which, in very ancient times, belonged to the son of Hinnom: Jos. xv. 8. it afterwards acquiredthe name of Gehenna: because it was a pleasant scene, it was chosen for the purpose of sacrificing; sacrifices were there offered to Moloch, the Idol of the Ammonites, and to other Idols: these rites were of the most savage and barbarous nature: human sacrifices, sacrifices of children; whose cries and shrieks were so piercing, that drums or tabors were beat to drown the dreadful noise; whence the word Tophet, which signifies a drum or tabor, came to be used, with relation to this scene Any heathen sacrifices would have made the place an abomination to the Jews, but such as these made it par ticularly odious and detestable. And therefore constant fires were kept in it, in later ages, (c) and every thing was thrown into them which could hinder men from feeling any degree of idolatrous veneration. Thus a Gehenna of fire, meant properly the Valley of Hinnom with fires in it: but the combination of ideas connected with it, made it to be conceived as resembling the fire of Hell. And it may be doubted whether our Translation of the Bible would not have been as useful and intelligible as it now is, if, instead of "shall be in danger "of hell fire" we had read, shall be in danger of a
• Gehenna of fire'; for the metaphor, or comparison, would then have been evident. There was no such legal punishment amongst the Jews as burning in the Gehenna of fire, or in the Valley of Hinnom; which is another proof that our Saviour meant to denounce invisible punishments; but if any person had been desirous to fix on that punishment which would excite the greatest dread and horror in the mind of a Jew, he could not have imagined any thing more likely to answer his purpose than burning in the Valley of Hinnom. Our Lord therefore shewed that he knew what was in man, when he intimated punishment analogous to this.
The word Fool seems in Scripture fo mean, a man without principles, of Virtue or Religion. "The fool "hath said in his heart their is no God". Psalm xiv. 1. "It is abomination to fools to depart from evil". Prov. xiii. 19. A fool is one abandoned and flagitious;
can place no confidence, (d) Whosoever called a man a fool, in this sense, would mean to represent him as a person to be generally avoided and abhorred: which would be, in effect, to cut him off from human Society-to do this, "without a cause", would be a most grievous injury.
Our Saviour's meaning then in this last clause pro→ bably was, Whosoever shall indulge his anger or rancourso far as to take away the religious and moral cha racter of his brother, though he may not kill, takes away that without which life is of little value
thereby incurs the danger of dreadful punishment; of 'punishment, at which he has as much reason to shudder, as if he were in danger of being committed to a Gehenna of Fire'.
6. On the whole, our Saviour, using the words now examined, may be conceived to intimate something of this sort; The expounders of the Mosaic Law, those whom you follow as Moses himself, have thought fit to teach you, that you have nothing farther to take care of, with regard to mens Persons, than to avoid killing your neighbour with your own hands; and that all the punishment you have to dread is that of the civil Magistrate; but my disciples must at all times be sensible, that although the Magistrate can only punish overt acts, the wrath of God is to be feared for every Sentiment and word that tends to murder : that if, for instance, they are captious and take offence unnecessarily; or if by any contumelious or sarcastic language, they render their neighbour contemptible; or if, by any calumny or detraction they destroy his character as a moral and religious man, thereby depriving him of estecm, attachment and confidence, they may have reason to apprehend the from divine justice, punishments proportioned to their real internal guilt; such as they cannot evade, and perhaps in some degree analogous to those which are aimed at by human • tribunals'.
7. Let us now take another portion of scripture, where ideas are suggested, relative to the regulation of anger, which seem peculiar to Revelation. We may
find more passages answering to this description in the same chapter from which the last are taken. "have heard", says our Saviour, "that it hath been "said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but "I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever "shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the "other also. And if any man will sue thee at the Law, " and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain". Matt. y. 38—41.
8. If our notion be admitted, that Christ, in his Sermon on the mount, intended to correct, not so properly the Law of Moses itself, as traditional errors arising out of it, we shall here be allowed to conceive, that he meant to correct some traditional errors arising out of the Laws concerning retaliation in particular. And as in the preceding instance, the words quoted, ("thou shalt not kill") were really in the Mosaic Law, so are they in the present instance: " Eye for eye, "tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot". Exod. xxi. 24. But as in the instance relating to Murder, and personal wrongs, we understand our Saviour not as blaming the true intent and meaning of Moses, but only traditional glosses on his words, so may we understand him here. It is not indeed easy to ascertain, in all cases, the particular errors which our Lord intended to correct; because, as they were familiarly known, it would have seemed superfluous and impertinent to describe them minutely; they can therefore only be collected from the nature of each case, and from what our Saviour opposed to them. Such investigation may be worth our labour, as tending to clear our ideas, and set the doctrines of Christ in their true light; but the knowledge of the Jewish errors is by no means so important as that of the Doctrines by which they are corrected: the one being only historical, the other the foundation of Christian Virtue,
If we apprehend that our historical knowledge may sometimes be defective, yet we can assure ourselves, that what is to guide our practice is as fully laid open to us as to any other men,