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The account, and the conclusion, of the whole matter, is plainly this“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth : but, if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, then have we fellowship with him, and HIS BLOOD CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.
. 1 John vi..
SE R M O N XI.
PREACHED JUNE 20, 1773.
MARK ix. 49.
For every one shall be salted with fire, and
every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
This is generally esteemed one of the most difficult
passages in the four Gospels. I confess, I take no pleasure in commenting on such passages, especially in this place; because the comment only serves, for the most part, to gratify a learned curiosity, and is, otherwise, of small use.
But, when a difficult text of Scripture can be explained, and the sense, arising out of the explanation, is edifying and important, then it falls properly within our province. to exert our best pains upon
This I take to be the case of the difficulty before us, which therefore I shall beg leave to make the subject of the present discourse.
There are two very different interpretations, of which the words are capable: and they shall both of them be laid before
ye may adopt either, as ye think fit; or even reject them both, if ye do not find them sufficiently supported.
To enable you to go along with me in what follows, and to judge of either interpretation, whether it be reasonable or not, it is necessary to call
your attention to the preceding verses of this chapter, to which the text refers, and by which it is introduced.
Our blessed Lord (for the words, I am about to explain, are his) had been discoursing to his Disciples on offences, or scandals ; that is, such instances of ill-conduct, such indulgences of any favourite and vicious inclination, as tended to obstruct the progress of the Gospel, and were likely to prevent either themselves,
or others, from embracing, or holding fast, the faith. Such offences, it was foreseen, would come: but woe to that man (as we read in the parallel passage of St. Matthew's Gospel) by whom the offence comethp.
And, to give the greater effect to this salutary denunciation, our Saviour proceeds, in figurative, indeed, but very intelligible terms, to enforce the necessity of being on our guard against such offences, what pain soever it might cost us to subdue those passions, from which they were ready to spring. No virtue of selfdenial was too great to be attempted in such a cause. A hand, a foot, an eye, were to be cut off, or plucked out ; that is, inclinations, as necessary and as dear to us, as those members of the body, were to be suppressed or rejected by us, rather than the woe, denounced against the indulgence of them, bę incurred. This woe is, that the offenders should be cast into hell-fire, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched : and it is subjoined three times, in the same awful words, to so many instances of supposed criminal indulgence, in the case alledged stor, rather, to one and the same species of ill-conduct, differentlyi modified, * busca de pets,
p Matty xviii. or. This
and, to make the greater impression upon us, represented under three distinct images. After the last repetition of it, the text immediately follows---for every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
I. Now, taken in this connexion, the words may clearly, and, according to our ideas, of interpretation, most naturally do, admit this sense; that the offenders, spoken of, shall be preserved entire to suffer the punishment threatened, though it might seem that they would, in no long time, be totally destroyed by it: as if our Lord had expressed himself thus" I have repeated this woe three times, to shew you the degree and duration of it; as well as the certainty of its execution; the worm shall not die, that is, the sense of suffering shall continue, even in circumstances, which may seem proper and likely to put an end to it: for such, as are worthy to be cast into this fire,' shall be salted, or preserved from wasting (salt being the known emblem of incorruption, and thence of perpetuity) by the very fire itself. And [you may easily conceive how this shall be, for] every sacrifice, the flesh of every animal to be offered up to God in
your Jewish sacrifices, is kept sound and fit for use by being (as the Law directs in that case)