THE PARABLES of JESUS CHRIST EXPLAINED
BY THE REV. J. CLOWES, M.A.
LATE RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE, MANCHESTER, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
Whoso readeth let him understand.—Matt. xxiv. 15.
A NEW EDITION.
PRINTED AT D. BATTEN’S OFFICE, CLAPHAM COMMON.
THE KING THAT WOULD TAKE ACCOUNT OF HIS SERVANTS
Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven like a certain King, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But for as much as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me and I will pay you all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him and forgave him the debt. But the same: servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe. And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying. Have patience with me, and I will pay you all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their Lord all that was done. Then his Lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you pleaded with me: should not you also have had compassion on your fellow-servant, even as I had pity on you? And his Lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18:23-35
By the King is here meant Jesus Christ, as to His Divine Wisdom, or Truth, and by taking account of his servants is to be understood, the exercise of judgement from that Divine Wisdom, or Truth, so as to discover the qualities of each.
The ten thousand talents denote the immense debt which every man owes to his Creator for all the mercies of creation, preservation, redemption, and regeneration, which he has received at his hands.
No one is able of himself to pay this immense debt, nor even to take account of it, because of its immensity, therefore it is said he had not to pay.
By his Lord commanding him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made, is meant, that the man was brought into trial and exercise in his own mind, from a consciousness that, unless he paid the debt which was owing, he could not escape condemnation.
The first effect produced by this trial and exercise on the part of man, was humiliation, signified by the man falling down: the second effect was acknowledgement of the Lord, His Divine Love, Wisdom, and Providence, signified by worshipping him: the third effect was intercession for a such a measure of patient endurance, as might enable him finally to discharge the debt by a full acknowledgement of the mercies he had received.
By the Lord being moved with compassion, is meant the tenderness of the Divine Love towards His penitent children, when brought into judgement concerning trespasses, and especially concerning that immense debt which they owe to the Divine Being.
By loosing him, is to be understood that his Affections were set at liberty to pursue an eternal object, in consequence of the spiritual trial and exercise through which he had passed. For such is the nature and effect of spiritual trial, that by it the powers of evil, to which the mind had been before subjected as a miserable slave, are disturbed and removed, in which case the soul regains its proper liberty, and being loosed from the bands of worldly and selfish attachments, regains its native freedom, to choose and pursue the eternal good for which it was created in the kingdom and favour of its Great Creator.
The debt which every man owes to God is forgiven, or remitted, whenever man is brought into true humiliation of heart and life, because, in such case, he is disposed gratefully to acknowledge that all his faculties, both of body and mind, are from God, and are God’s; consequently, that all his happiness, and even all his temporal property, are from the same Divine Source.
It is said of the servant that he went forth and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him an hundred pence, and that he took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe; and that his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me and I will pay you all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay the debt. From this part of the parable we learn that, notwithstanding the operation of the Divine Love and Mercy in the inner man, the outward man was not yet reduced to obedience, so as to comply with that operation by correspondent acts of kindness and charity; in other words, the external man was not yet brought into entire submission to the law of the divine life and spirit in the internal man, as it ought to have been.
By fellow-servants are meant the dictates of heavenly truth, in the external man; and by their seeing what was done, is to be understood, that all things in the external man are under the view, or instruction, of the Divine Truth; and by their being exceedingly sorry is meant, the contrariety subsisting between the dictates of heavenly truth, and the unpurified affections of the natural mind before it is regenerated; and by their telling to their Lord the things which were done is meant, the influx and communication of the Divine Truth itself with those dictates.
By the Lord calling him is to be understood, the Divine Truth itself, which has its abode in the inmost principles of every human mind; and by what the Lord says to the servant, on this occasion, is to be understood, the influx of that truth into lower principles, reproving them for not attending to the operations of the Divine Mercy respecting them, and teaching that it is the intention of this mercy to produce its saving and blessed effects in the external, or natural, man, as they are manifested in the internal, or spiritual, man, that so the whole man may become a living operative form of that mercy.
By the Lord being angry is to be understood, the contrariety subsisting between the Divine Truth and the natural propensity of the unregenerate man; and by delivering him to the tormentors is meant, the pain experienced on the occasion in the consciences of those who are about to be regenerated.
It is said, until he should pay all that was due to him, from which words we learn, that the pain of trial and temptation is continued until a total surrender is made of the human will to the Divine, attended with the grateful acknowledgement, that all of saving Mercy, Love, Wisdom, Peace, and Protection are from God, and nothing at all from man’s self; and, further, that man ought to extend in himself the operation of those Divine Virtues and Graces, by being kind, compassionate, and merciful to others, as God is to him.
The general instruction which we learn from this parable, is, that every man, from Creation, and also from Redemption, owes an immense debt to his Great Creator, and that the only method by which he can discharge this debt, is to forgive the debts of his fellow-creatures; in other words, to cherish towards them the spirit of heavenly Charity, by which he will be taught that, instead of their being indebted to him, as he must of necessity suppose in his natural and unconverted state, the truth is, that he is indebted to them, and that there is no human being to whom he does not owe obligation, more or less. We learn, further, from this parable, that it is the great intention of God to bring the internal and external man into agreement and conjunction, that so the Divine Love and Wisdom, in the internal man, may operate freely, and produce their proper fruits in the external man; but that this intention of the Divine Mercy cannot be accomplished without trials and temptations, by which the natural opposition of the external man to the Divine Rule may be overcome, and the whole man may finally be reduced to a state of total submission.