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The words are false, if they mean that we, or any other men, have a right to exterminate their fellow-creatures. But they are true, and more true than the people who use them fancy, if they are spoken not of man, but of God. For if men will not obey the laws of God's kingdom, God does actually civilize them off the face of the earth. Great nations, learned churches, powerful aristocracies, ancient institutions, has God civilized off the face of the earth before now. Because they would not acknowledge God for their king, and obey the laws of his kingdom, in which alone are life, and wealth, and health, God has taken his kingdom away from them, and given it to others who would bring forth the fruits thereof. The Jews are the most awful and famous example of that terrible judgment of God; but they are not the only ones. It has happened again and again. It may happen to you or me, as well as to this whole nation of England, if we forget that we are in God's kingdom, and that only by living according to God's laws, can we keep our place therein.
And this is what the parable teaches us. The king tries to teach the servant one of the laws of his kingdom—that he rules according to boundless mercy and generosity. God wishes to teach us the same. The king does so, not by word, but by deed, by actually forgiving the man his debt. So does God forgive us freely in Jesus Christ our Lord.
But more than this, he wishes the servant to understand that he is to copy his king; that if his king has behaved to him like a father to his child, he must behave as a brother to his fellow-servants. So does God wish to teach us.
But he does not tell the man so, in so many words. He does not say to him, I command thee to forgive thy debtors as I have forgiven thee. He leaves the man to his own sense of honour and good feeling. It is a question not of the law, but of the heart. So does God with us. He educates us, not as children or slaves, but as free men, as moral agents. He leaves us to our own reason and conscience, to reap the fruit which we ourselves have sown. Therefore about a thousand matters in life he lays on us no special command. He leaves us to act according to our good feeling, to our own sense of honour. It is a matter, I say, of the heart. If God's law be written in our hearts, our hearts will lead us to do the right thing. If God's law be not in our hearts, then mere outward commands will not make us do right, for what we do will not be really right and good, because it will not be done heartily and of our own will.
But the servant does not follow his Lord's example. Fresh from his Lord's presence, he takes his fellow-servant by the throat, sayingPay me that thou owest. His heart has not been touched. His Lord's example has not softened him. He does not see how beautiful, how noble, how divine generosity and mercy are. He is a hard-hearted, worldly man. The heavenly kingdom, which is justice and love, is not within him. Then, if the kingdom of heaven is not in him, he shall find out that he is in it; and that in a very terrible way:
Thou wicked servant, unworthy of my pity, because there is no goodness in thine own heart. Thou wilt not take into thy heart my
law, which tells thee, Be merciful as I am • merciful. Then thou shalt feel another and an ' equally universal law of mine. As thou doest
so shalt thou be done by. If thou art merciful, * thou shalt find mercy. If thou wilt have ' nothing but retribution, then nothing but . retribution thou shalt have. If thou must • needs do justice thyself, I will do justice * likewise. Because I am merciful, dost thou * think me careless ? Because I sit still, that I 'am patient ? Dost thou think me such a one as • thyself ?' And his lord delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due unto him.
My dear friends, this is an awful story. Let us lay it to heart. And to do that, let us pray God to lay it to our hearts; to write his laws in our hearts, that we may not only fear them, but love them; not only see their profitableness, but their fitness ; that we may obey them, not grudgingly or of necessity, but obey them because they look to us just, and true, and beautiful, and as they areGodlike. Let us pray, I say, that God would make us love what he commands, lest we should neglect and despise what he commands, and find it some day unexpectedly alive and terrible after all. Let us pray to God to keep alive his kingdom of grace within us, lest his kingdom of retribution outside us should fall upon us, and grind us to powder.