At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
6. But whosoever shall offend one of those little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were sunk to the bottom of the sea. 7. Woe to the world on account of offenses! for offenses must come; but woe to the man by whom the offense cometh! 8. But if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee;  for it is better for thee to enter lame or maimed into life, than that, having two hands or two feet, thou shouldst be cast into the everlasting fire. 9. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee;  for it is better that thou shouldst enter into life having one eye, than that, having two eyes, thou shouldst be cast into hell-fire. 10. Beware of despising one of these little ones; for I say to you, That their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
42. And whosoever shall offend one of the little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck, and that he were thrown into the sea. 43. And if thy hand shall offend thee, cut it off; for it were better for thee to enter lame into life, than that, having two hands, thou shouldst go into hell, into the unquenchable fire:  44. Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. 45. And if thy foot shall offend thee, cut if off; for it were better for thee to enter lame into life, than that, having two feet, thou shouldst be cast into hell, into the unquenchable fire: 46. Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. 47. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; for it were better for thee to enter with one eye into the kingdom of God than that, having two eyes, thou shouldst be cast into hell-fire: 48. Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.
1. And he said to his disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come; but woe to him by whom they come! 2. It were better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck, and that he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Matthew 18:6. But whosoever shall offend one of those little ones. This appears to be added for the consolation of the godly, that they may not be rendered uneasy by their condition, if they are despised by the world. It is a powerful obstruction to the voluntary exercise of modesty, when they imagine, that by so doing they expose themselves to contempt; and it is hard to be not only treated disdainfully, but almost trodden under foot, by haughty men. Christ therefore encourages his disciples by the consoling truth, that, if their mean condition draws upon them the insults of the world, God does not despise them.
But he appears to have had likewise another object in view; for a dispute had arisen amongst them as to the first place of honor, from which it might naturally have been inferred that the Apostles were tainted with sinful ambition. Every man who thinks too highly of himself, or desires to be preferred to others, must necessarily treat his brethren with disdain. To cure this disease, Christ threatens a dreadful punishment, if any man in his pride shall throw down those who are oppressed with poverty, or who in heart are already humbled.
Under the word offend he includes more than if he had forbidden them to despise their brethren; though the man who gives himself no concern about offending the weak, does so for no other reason, than because he does not render to them the honor to which they are entitled. Now as there are various kinds of offenses, it will be proper to explain generally what is meant by offending If any man through our fault either stumbles, or is drawn aside from the right course, or retarded in it, we are said to offend him.  Whoever then desires to escape that fearful punishment which Christ denounces, let him stretch out his hand to the little ones who are despised by the world, and let him kindly assist them in keeping the path of duty; for Christ recommends them to our notice, that they may lead us to exercise voluntary humility; as Paul enjoins the children of God to
condescend to men of low estate, (Romans 12:16,)
and again says that
we ought not to please ourselves, (Romans 15:1.)
To hang a millstone about a man's neck, and drown him in the sea, was the punishment then reckoned the most appalling, and which was inflicted on the most atrocious malefactors. When our Lord alludes to this punishment, we are enabled to perceive how dear and precious those persons are in the sight of God, who are mean and despised in the eyes of the world.
7. Woe to the world on account of offenses! This passage may be explained in two ways. It may be taken actively, as meaning that Christ pronounces a curse on the authors of offenses; and then by the term world, we must understand all unbelievers. Or it may be taken passively, as meaning that Christ deplores the evils which he perceives to be rapidly coming on the world on account of offenses; as if he had said, that no plague will be more destructive, or attended by more fearful calamities, than the alarm or desertion of many on account of offenses. The latter meaning is more appropriate; for I have no doubt that our Lord, who had spoken on another occasion about offenses, proceeded to discourse more largely on this subject; in order to make his disciples more attentive and watchful in guarding against them. That Satan may not gain advantage over us through our sluggishness, our Lord breaks out into an exclamation, that there is nothing which we ought to dread more than offenses; for as Satan has innumerable kinds of them in his hand, he constantly, and at almost every step, throws new difficulties in our way; while we, through excessive tenderness or sloth, are too ready to yield. The consequence is, that there are few who make tolerable progress in the faith of Christ; and of the few who have begun to walk in the way of salvation, there is scarcely one in ten who has the courage to persevere till he reaches the goal.  Now since Christ intended to strike his disciples with terror on account of offenses, and thus to arouse them to exertion, woe to our indifference, if each of us does not earnestly apply himself to overcome those offenses
For offenses must come. To awaken more powerfully their care and anxiety, our Lord reminds his disciples that there is no possibility of walking but in the midst of various offenses; as much as to say, that this is an evil which cannot be avoided. Thus he confirms the former statement; for Christ shows us how great are the inconveniences which arise from offenses, since the Church never will be, and indeed never can be, free from this evil. But he does not state the reason of this necessity, as Paul does, when, speaking of heresies, he says that they arise, that the good may be made manifest, (1 Corinthians 11:19.) It must be held by us as a fixed principle, that it is the will of God to leave his people exposed to offense, in order to exercise their faith, and to separate believers, as the refuse and the chaff, from the pure wheat. Does any one object or complain, that blame attaches to our Lord for giving loose reins to Satan, to accomplish the destruction of wretched men? It is our duty to think and speak with the deepest reverence of the secret purposes of God, of which this is one, that the world must be disturbed by offenses
But woe to the man by whom the offense cometh. After having exhorted his disciples to beware of offenses, he again breaks out against those who occasion them. To impart the greater vehemence to the threatening, he adds, that neither a right eye nor a right hand ought to be spared, if they occasion offense to us; for I explain these words as added for the purpose of amplification. Their meaning is, that we ought to be so constant and so zealous in opposing offenses, that we would rather choose to pluck out our eyes, or cut off our hands, than give encouragement to offenses; for if any man hesitate to incur the loss of his limbs, he spares them at the risk of throwing himself into eternal perdition. What dreadful vengeance then awaits those who by offenses shall bring ruin on their brethren!  As those two verses have been already explained  under Matthew 5:29,30, it was sufficient, on the present occasion, to glance at the reason why Christ repeats here the same statement.
10. Beware of despising one of these little ones As pride is the mother of disdain, and as contempt hardens men in giving offense, our Lord, for the purpose of applying an appropriate remedy for curing this disease, forbids his disciples to despise the little ones. And certainly, as we have already hinted, no man who has a proper care for his brethren will ever allow himself, on light grounds, to give them offense This conclusion of our Lord's discourse has the same tendency as the commencement of it, to remind us that we ought to strive with each other who shall be most submissive and modest; for God embraces with wonderful love the little ones It would be strange indeed that a mortal man should despise, or treat as of no account, those whom God holds in such high esteem. He proves this love from the fact, that angels, who are ministers of their salvation, enjoy intimately the presence of God. Yet I do not think that he intended merely to show what honor God confers on them by appointing angels to be their guardians, but likewise to threaten those who despise them; as if he had said, that it is no light matter to despise those who have angels for their companions and friends, to take vengeance in their behalf. We ought therefore to beware of despising their salvation, which even angels have been commissioned to advance.
The interpretation given to this passage by some commentators, as if God assigned to each believer his own angel, does not rest on solid grounds. For the words of Christ do not mean that a single angel is continually occupied with this or the other person;  and such an idea is inconsistent with the whole doctrine of Scripture, which declares that the angels encamp around (Psalm 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful. Away, then, with the fanciful notion of a good and evil angel, and let us rest satisfied with holding that the care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require. It will perhaps be asked, Do the angels occupy a station inferior to ours, because they have been appointed to be our ministers? I reply, Though by nature they take rank above us, this does not prevent them from rendering service to God  in dispensing the favor which he freely bestows upon us. For this reason they are called our angels, because their labors are bestowed on us.
 "Et le iette [arriere] de toy;" -- "and cast it behind thee."
 "Et le iette [arriere] de toy;" -- "and cast it behind thee."
 "Au feu qui ne s'esteint point;" -- "into the fire which is not quenched."
 "L'Escriture dit que nous oftensons ou scandalizons cestuy la." -- "Scripture says that we give offense or scandal to that man."
 "Qui persevere courageusement iusqu'a la fin;" -- "who perseveres courageously to the end."
 "Lesquels par scandales auront donne occasion de faire perdre et damner leurs freres;" -- "who by offenses shall have given occasion to bring ruin and damnation on their brethren."
 Harmony, vol. 1 p.
 "Les mots n'emportent pas qu'un Ange n'ait autre charge que de veiller tousiours sur cestuy-ci ou sur cestuy-la;" -- "the words do not bear that one Angel has nothing else to do than to watch continually over this or that man."
 "Cela n'empesche point que Dieu n'use de leur service;" -- "that does not hinder God from employing their services."
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12. What think you? If a man shall have a hundred sheep, and one of them shall go astray, doth he not leave the ninety-nine, and go to the mountains, and seek that which had gone astray? 13. And if he happen to find it, verily, I say to you, he rejoiceth more on account of that sheep than on account of the ninety-nine which had gone astray. 14. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of those little ones should perish.
1. And all the publicans and sinners drew near to him to hear him. 2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3. And he spoke to them a parable, saying, 4. What man is there among you, who hath a hundred sheep, and, if he shall lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which was lost, till he find it? 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing: 6. And coming home, he calleth his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found the sheep which was lost. 7. I say to you, that in like manner there will be greater joy in heaven over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need repentance. 8. Or what woman having ten pieces of money,  if she shall lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? 9. And when she hath found it, she calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10. In like manner, I tell you, there will be joy in the presence of the angels of God over one repenting sinner.
Matthew 18:11. For the Son of man cometh Christ now employs his own example in persuading his disciples to honor even weak and despised brethren; for he came down from heaven to save not them only, but even the dead who were lost It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed. And even if the weak labor under imperfections which may expose them to contempt, our pride is not on that account to be excused; for we ought to esteem them not for the value of their virtues, but for the sake of Christ; and he who will not conform himself to Christ's example is too saucy and proud.
12. What think you? Luke carries the occasion of this parable still farther back, as having arisen from the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes against our Lord, whom they saw conversing daily with sinners. Christ therefore intended to show that a good teacher ought not to labor less to recover those that are lost, than to preserve those which are in his possession; though according to Matthew the comparison proceeds farther, and teaches us not only that we ought to treat with kindness the disciples of Christ, but that we ought to bear with their imperfections, and endeavor, when they wander, to bring them back to the road. For, though they happen sometimes to wander, yet as they are sheep over which God has appointed his Son to be shepherd, so far are we from having a right to chase or drive them away roughly, that we ought to gather them from their wanderings; for the object of the discourse is to lead us to beware of losing what God wishes to be saved The narrative of Luke presents to us a somewhat different object. It is, that the whole human race belongs to God, and that therefore we ought to gather those that have gone astray, and that we ought to rejoice as much, when they that are lost return to the path of duty, as a man would do who, beyond his expectation, recovered something the loss of which had grieved him.
Luke 15:10. There will be joy in the presence of the angels. If angels mutually rejoice with each other in heaven, when they see that what had wandered is restored to the fold, we too, who have the same cause in common with them, ought to be partakers of the same joy But. how does he say that the repentance of one ungodly man yields greater joy than the perseverance of many righteous men to angels, whose highest delight is in a continued and uninterrupted course of righteousness? I reply, though it would be more agreeable to the wishes of angels (as it is also more desirable) that men should always remain in perfect integrity, yet as in the deliverance of a sinner, who had been already devoted to destruction, and had been cut off as a rotten member from the body, the mercy of God shines more brightly, he attributes to angels, after the manner of men, a greater joy arising out of an unexpected good.
Over one repenting sinner. The word repentance is specially limited to the conversion of those who, having altogether turned aside from God, rise as it were from death to life; for otherwise the exercise of repentance ought to be uninterrupted throughout our whole life,  and no man is exempted from this necessity, since every one is reminded by his imperfections that he ought to aim at daily progress. But it is one thing, when a man, who has already entered upon the right course, though he stumble, or fall, or even go astray, endeavors to reach the goal; and another thing, when a man leaves a road which was entirely wrong, or only starts in the right course.  Those who have already begun to regulate their life by the standard of the divine law, do not need that kind of repentance which consists in beginning to lead a holy and pious life, though they must groan  under the infirmities of the flesh, and labor to correct them.
 "Dix drachmes;" -- "ten drachmas."'
 "Tant que nous sommes en ce monde;" -- "as long as we are in this world."
 "Quand celuy qui estoit du tout esgare tourne bride pour commencer a bien faire;" -- "when he who had altogether gone astray turns round to begin to do well."
 "Combien qu'il soit tousiours necessaire de gemir;" -- "though it be necessary for them always to groan."
How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
15. But if thy brother hath sinned against thee, go and reprove him between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16. But if he shall not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be confirmed: and if he shall not hear them, tell the church. 17. And if he shall not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican. 18. Verily, I say to thee, What things soever you shall bind on earth  shall be bound also in heaven; and what things soever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven. 19. Again, I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as to every thing which they shall ask,  it will be done to them by any Father who is in heaven. 20. For where two or three are assembled  in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
3. Be on your guard. If thy brother shall sin against thee, reprove him; and if he shall repent, forgive him.
Matthew 18:15. But if thy brother shall sin against thee. As he had discoursed about bearing the infirmities of brethren, he now shows more clearly in what manner, and for what purpose, and to what extent, we ought to bear with them. For otherwise it would have been easy to reply, that there is no other way of avoiding offenses, than by every man winking at the faults of others, and thus what is evil would be encouraged by forbearance. Christ therefore prescribes a middle course, which does not give too great offense to the weak, and yet is adapted to cure their diseases; for that severity which is employed as a medicine is profitable and worthy of praise. In short, Christ enjoins his disciples to forgive one another, but to do so in such a manner as to endeavor to correct their faults. It is necessary that this be wisely observed; for nothing is more difficult than to exercise forbearance towards men, and, at the same time, not to neglect the freedom necessary in reproving them.  Almost all lean to the one side or to the other, either to deceive themselves mutually by deadly flatteries, or to pursue with excessive bitterness those whom they ought to cure. But Christ recommends to his disciples a mutual love, which is widely distant from flattery; only he enjoins them to season their admonitions with moderation, lest, by excessive severity and harshness, they discourage the weak.
Now he distinctly lays down three steps of brotherly correction. The first is, to give a private advice to the person who has offended. The second is, if he shall give any sign of obstinacy, to advise him again in presence of witnesses. The third is, if no advantage shall be obtained in that way, to deliver him up to the public decision of the Church. The design of this, as I have said, is, to hinder charity from being violated under the pretence of fervent zeal. As the greater part of men are driven by ambition to publish with excessive eagerness the faults of their brethren, Christ seasonably meets this fault by enjoining us to cover the faults of brethren, as far as lies in our power; for those who take pleasure in the disgrace and infamy of brethren are unquestionably carried away by hatred and malice, since, if they were under the influence of charity, they would endeavor to prevent the shame of their brethren.
But it is asked, Ought this rule to be extended indiscriminately to every kind of offense? For there are very many who do not allow any public censures, till the offender has been privately admonished. But there is an obvious limitation in the words of Christ; for he does not simply, and without exception, order us to advise or reprove privately, and in the absence of witnesses, all who have offended, but bids us attempt this method, when we have been offended in private; by which is meant, not that it is a business of our own, but that we ought to be wounded and grieved whenever God is offended. And Christ does not now speak about bearing injuries, but teaches us in general to cultivate such meekness towards each other, as not to ruin by harsh treatment those whom we ought to save. 
Against thee. This expression, as is evident from what we have said, does not denote an injury committed against any one, but distinguishes between secret and open sins.  For if any man shall offend against the whole Church, Paul enjoins that he be publicly reproved, so that even elders shall not be spared; for it is in reference to them that he expressly enjoins Timothy, to
rebuke them publicly in presence of all, and thus to make them a general example to others,
And certainly it would be absurd that he who has committed a public offense, so that the disgrace of it is generally known, should be admonished by individuals; for if a thousand persons are aware of it, he ought to receive a thousand admonitions. The distinction, therefore, which Christ expressly lays down, ought to be kept in mind, that no man may bring disgrace upon his brother, by rashly, and without necessity, divulging secret offenses.
If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Christ confirms his doctrine by its usefulness and advantage; for it is no small matter to gain to God a soul which had been the slave of Satan. And how comes it that those who have fallen do not often repent, but because they are regarded with hatred, and treated as enemies, and thus acquire a character of hardened obstinacy? Nothing, therefore, is more appropriate than meekness, which reconciles to God those who had departed from him. On the other hand, he who inconsiderately indulges in foolish flattery willingly places in jeopardy the salvation of a brother, which he had in his hand.
According to Luke, Christ expressly enjoins us to be satisfied with a private reproof, if the brother be brought to repentance Hence, too, we infer how necessary it is that mutual freedom of reproof should subsist among believers. For, since each of us in many ways commits daily offenses, it would be outrageous cruelty to betray, by our silence and concealment, the salvation of those whom we might, by mild reproof, rescue from perdition. Though it does not always succeed, yet he is chargeable with heinous guilt, who has neglected the remedy which the Lord prescribes for promoting the salvation of the brethren. It is also worthy of notice, that the Lord, in order to render us more zealous in performing our duty, ascribes to us that honor which is his own; for to him alone, and to no other, does it belong to convert a man; and yet he bestows on us this applause, though we did not deserve it, that we gain a brother who was lost.
16. But if he shall not hear thee. The second step is, that he who displayed obstinacy, or refused to yield to one man, should be again admonished in presence of witnesses Here some object, that it will serve no purpose to call witnesses, if we have to deal with an obstinate and rebellious man, because their presence will be so far from leading him to acknowledge his guilt, that he will only make a more wicked denial. But this difficulty will be speedily removed, if we distinguish between denial and evasion He who explicitly denies the fact, and declares that he is falsely and calumniously accused, must be left alone; for it would be ill vain to press him by calling witnesses But as, in most cases, men shamelessly evade, or impudently excuse, the improper and unjust actions which they have committed, till greater authority is employed, towards such persons it is useful to observe this method.
That Christ's discourse ought to be understood in this sense is evident from the word used, elenxon, reprove, or argue; for to argue is to convince by demonstration.  And how could I argue with a man  who boldly denies the whole matter? for he who has the effrontery to deny the crime which he has committed shuts the door against a second admonition.
We now perceive for what purpose Christ proposes to call witnesses. It is, to give greater weight and impressiveness to the admonition. As to the slightly different meaning to which he has turned the words of Moses, it involves no absurdity. Moses forbids sentence to be pronounced on a matter that is unknown, and defines this to be the lawful mode of proving, that it be established by the testimony of
two or three witnesses. At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established, (Deuteronomy 19:15.)
Alluding to that law, Christ says that, when two or three witnesses shall rise up to condemn the obstinacy of the man, the case will be clear, at least till the Church be prepared to take cognizance of it; for he who refuses to hear two or three witnesses  will have no reason to complain that he is dragged forth to light.
Tell it to the Church. It is asked, what does he mean by the term Church? For Paul orders (1 Corinthians 5:5) that the incestuous Corinthian shall be excommunicated, not by a certain chosen number, but by the whole assembly of the godly; and therefore it might appear to be probable that the power of judging is bestowed on the whole of the people. But as at that time no Church as yet was in existence, which acknowledged the authority of Christ, and no such order had been established, and as our Lord employs the ordinary and received forms of expression, there can be no doubt that he alludes to the order of the ancient Church, as in other places also he accommodates his modes of expression to what was known and customary.  When he commands that:
the offering, which we intend to present, shall be left at the altar, till we are reconciled to an offended brother,
he unquestionably intends, by means of that form of the worship of God which was then in existence and in force, to teach us, that we cannot in a right manner either pray, or offer any thing to God, so long as we are at variance with our brethren. So then he now looked at the form of discipline which was observed among the Jews; for it would have been absurd to propose an appeal to the judgment of a Church which was not yet in existence.
Now since among the Jews the power of excommunication belonged to the elders, who held the government of the whole Church, Christ speaks appropriately when he says that they who sinned must at length be brought forward publicly to the Church, if they either despise haughtily, or ridicule and evade, the private admonitions. We know that, after the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, a council was formed, which they called Sanhedrim, and in Greek Synedrion, (sunedrion) and that to this council was committed the superintendence of morals and of doctrine. This government was lawful and approved by God, and was a bridle to restrain within their duty the dissolute and incorrigible.
It will perhaps be objected that, in the time of Christ, every thing was corrupt and perverted, so that this tyranny was very far from deserving to be accounted the judgment of the Church But the reply is easy. Though the method of procedure was at that time depraved and perverted, yet Christ justly praises that order, such as it had been handed down to them from the fathers. And when, shortly afterwards, he erected a Church, while he removed the abuse, he restored the proper use of excommunication. Yet there is no reason to doubt that the form of discipline, which prevailed in the kingdom of Christ, succeeded in the room of that ancient discipline. And certainly, since even heathen nations maintained a shadowy form of excommunication, it appears that, from the beginning, this was impressed by God on the minds of men, that those who were impure and polluted ought to be excluded from religious services.  It would therefore have been highly disgraceful to the people of God to have been altogether destitute of that discipline, some trace of which remained among the Gentiles. But what had been preserved under the Law Christ has conveyed to us, because we hold the same rank with the ancient fathers. For it was not the intention of Christ to send his disciples to the synagogue, which, while it willingly cherished in its bosom disgraceful filth, excommunicated the true and sincere worshippers of God; but he reminded us that the order, which had been formerly established in a holy manner under the Law, must be maintained in his Church
Let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican. What is here added as to heathens and publicans confirms the interpretation which I have given. For heathens and publicans having been at that time regarded by the Jews with the greatest hatred and detestation, he compares to them unholy and irreclaimable men, who yield to no admonitions. Certainly he did not intend to enjoin them to avoid the society of heathens, of whom the Church was afterwards composed; nor is there any reason at the present day why believers should shrink from associating with publicans But in order that he might be more easily understood by the ignorant, Christ borrowed a mode of expression from what was then customary among his nation;  and the meaning is, that we ought to have no intercourse with the despisers of the Church till they repent.
18. What things soever you shall bind. He now repeats the same words which he had formerly used, (Matthew 16:19,) but in a different sense; for there he intended to maintain their authority in doctrine, but here he appoints discipline, which is an appendage to doctrine. There Christ declared that the preaching of the Gospel would not be without effect, but that the odor of it would either be life-giving or deadly, (2 Corinthians 2:15,2 Corinthians 16: here he affirms that, though wicked men ridicule the judgment of the Church, it will not be ineffectual. We must attend to this distinction, that there our Lord's discourse relates to the preached word, but here to public censures and discipline. Let the reader go to that passage for the import of the metaphor, binding and loosing. 
The substance of it is this: Whoever, after committing a crime, humbly confesses his fault, and entreats the Church to forgive him, is absolved not only by men, but by God himself; and, on the other hand, whoever treats with ridicule the reproofs and threatenings of the Church, if he is condemned by her, the decision which men have given will be ratified in heaven. If it be objected, that in this way God is made a sort of petty judge, who concurs in the sentence of mortal men, the reply is at hand. For when Christ maintains the authority of his Church, he does not diminish his own power or that of his Father, but, on the contrary, supports the majesty of his word. As in the former case (Matthew 16:19) he did not intend to confirm indiscriminately every kind of doctrine, but only that which had proceeded out of his mouth, so neither does he say in this place that every kind of decision will be approved and ratified, but only that in which he presides, and that too not only by his Spirit, but by his word. Hence it follows, that men do no injury to the authority of God, when they pronounce nothing but what comes from his mouth, and only endeavor faithfully to execute what he has commanded. For, though Christ alone is the Judge of the world, yet he chooses to have ministers to proclaim his word.  Besides, he wishes that his own decision should be pronounced by the Church; and thus he takes nothing from his own authority by employing the ministry of men, but it is Himself alone that looses and binds
But here a question arises. Since the Church endures many hypocrites, and likewise absolves (or looses) many whose professions of repentance are hypocritical, does it follow that such persons will be absolved (or loosed) in heaven? I reply, the discourse is addressed to those only who are truly and sincerely reconciled to the Church. For Christ, wishing to administer comfort to trembling consciences, and to relieve them from fear, declares that any who may have offended are freed from guilt in the sight of God, provided that they be reconciled to the Church For he has appointed this as the pledge of heavenly grace, which has no reference to hypocrites, who pervert the proper use of reconciliation, but awakens in the godly no ordinary confidence, when they hear that their sins are blotted out before God and angels, as soon as they have obtained forgiveness from the Church
In the other clause, Christ's meaning is not at all ambiguous; for, since obstinate and haughty men are strongly inclined to despise the decision of the Church on this pretense, that they refuse to be subject to men -- as wicked profligates often make bold appeals to the heavenly tribunal  -- Christ, in order to subdue this obstinacy by terror, threatens that the condemnation, which is now despised by them, will be ratified in heaven. He encourages his followers, at the same time, to maintain proper severity, and not to yield to the wicked obstinacy of those who reject or shake off discipline. 
Hence, too, we may see how absurdly the Papists torture this passage to cloak every species of tyranny. That the right of excommunication is granted to the Church is certain, and is acknowledged by every person of sound judgment; but does it follow that any individual, even though not called by the Church, but elected  by a mitered and disguised beast, shall at his own caprice throw out the useless squibs of excommunications?  On the contrary, it is evident that the lawful government of the Church is committed to elders, and not only to the ministers of the word, but to those also who, taken from among the people, have been added to them for the superintendence of morals. And yet, not satisfied with this impudence, they endeavor even to prove from this passage that we must bear all the burdens which they shall impose. I do not mention that the power which has been granted to the Church is basely seized and carried off by those outrageous enemies of the Church; and I only mention that, since Christ speaks only about correcting offenders, those who by their laws ensnare souls are chargeable with not less folly than wickedness in abusing this passage. Of the same stamp is their defense of their auricular confession on this pretense; for if Christ intended that those who by their own fault had been brought even to a public sentence should be reconciled to the Church, he does not therefore lay an obligations  on every individual to pour his sins into the ear of the priest. But their fooleries are so ridiculous, that it is unnecessary to spend any longer time in refuting them.
19. Again I say to you. He confirms the former statement; for not only will God bestow the spirit of wisdom and prudence on those who ask it, but he will also provide that not one thing which they shall do according to his word shall want its power and effect. By uniting agreement with prayer, he reminds us with what moderation and humility believers ought to conduct themselves in all religious acts.  The offender must be admonished, and, if he does not receive correction, he must be excommunicated. Here it is not only necessary to ask counsel at the sacred mouth of God, so that nothing may be determined but by his word, but it is proper at the same time to begin with prayer. Hence appears more clearly what I have formerly stated, that men are not allowed the liberty of doing whatever they please,  but that God is declared to have the sole claim to the government of the Church, so that he approves and ratifies the decisions of which he is himself the Author. Meanwhile, when believers assemble, they are taught to unite their prayers and to pray in common, not only to testify the unity of faith, but that God may listen to the agreement of them all. So then, as God frequently promises in other passages that he will graciously listen to the private requests of each individual, so here Christ makes a remarkable promise to public prayers, in order to invite us more earnestly to the practice of them.
20. For where two or three are assembled in my name. This promise is more extensive than the former; for the Lord declares that he will be present,
wherever two or three are met together in his name, to guide them by his counsel, (Psalm 73:24,)
and to conduct to a prosperous result whatever they shall undertake. There is therefore no reason to doubt that those who give themselves up to his direction will derive most desirable advantage from his presence. And since it is an invaluable blessing to have Christ for our director in all our affairs, to bless our deliberations and their results; and since, on the other hand, nothing can be more miserable than to be deprived of his grace, this promise ought to add no small excitement to us to unite with each other in piety and holiness.  For whoever either disregards the holy assemblies, or separates himself from brethren, and takes little interest in the cultivation of unity, by this alone makes it evident that he sets no value on the presence of Christ.
But we must take care, first of all, that those who are desirous to have Christ present with them shall assemble in his name; and we must likewise understand what is the meaning of this expression; for we perceive how ungodly men falsely and impudently, as well as wickedly, cover their conspiracies with his sacred name. If therefore we do not wish to expose Christ to their ridicule, and at the same time to overturn what he has here promised, we must know first of all what is meant by this phrase. It means that those who are assembled together, laying aside every thing that hinders them from approaching to Christ, shall sincerely raise their desires to him, shall yield obedience to his word, and allow themselves to be governed by the Spirit. Where this simplicity prevails, there is no reason to fear that Christ will not make it manifest that it was not in vain for the assembly to meet in his name
In this is displayed the gross ignorance of the Papists, who exclaim that Councils could not err, and that all ought to abide by their decisions, because, as often as two or three are assembled in the name of Christ, he is in the midst of them But we ought first of all to inquire whether those persons, as to whose faith, and doctrine, and dispositions, we are in doubt, were assembled in the name of Christ. When the Papists leave out or perplex this matter, who does not see that they dexteroasly confound the distinction between holy and profane assemblies, so that the power of doing any thing is taken from the Church and conveyed to the sworn enemies of Christ? Let us therefore know that none but the pious worshippers of God, who sincerely seek Christ, are encouraged to entertain the confident hope that he will never leave them. Disregarding the bastard and abortive Councils, which out of their own head have woven a web, let Christ alone, with the doctrine of his Gospel, be always exalted amongst us.
 "Toutes choses que vous lierez sur la terre;" -- "all things which you shall bind on earth."
 "De toutes choses qu'ils demanderont;" -- "of all things which they shall ask."
 "Ou il y en a deux ou trois assemblez;" -- "where there are two or three of them assembled."
 "Que toutesfois on retiene tousiours ceste liberte de reprendre ce qui est a condamner;" -- "so as at the same time to reserve always that liberty of reproving what is worthy of condemnation."
 "Lesquels nous devions plustost tascher d'amener a salut;" -- "whom we ought rather to attempt to lead to salvation."
 "Mais pour distinguer et mettre difference entre les pechez secrets, et les offenses manifestes;" -- "but to distinguish and put a difference between secret sins and open offenses."
 "Car arguer signifie convaincre par argumens, et remonstrer par bonnes raisons;" -- "for to argue signifies to convince by arguments, and to show by good reasons."
 "Or comment pourroit on arguer ou convaincre un homme, que ce qu'il a fait est mauvais?" -- "Now how could we argue or convince a man that what he has done is wrong?"
 "Veu qu'il n'a pas voulu recevoir l'admonition qui luy a este faite en prive par deux ou trois;" -- "since he did not choose to receive the admonition which was given to him in private by two or three."
 "Comme aussi en d'autres passages il s'accomodi a ce qui estoit lors ordinaire, et use des termes communes;" -- "as also in other passages he adapts himself to what was then customary, and employs common terms."
 "Ne devoycnt estre receus a participer aux choses sacrees appartenantes au sarvice de Dieu;" -- "ought not to be admitted to take part in the sacred things belonging to the service of God."
 "A use d'un terme convenable a la coustume du pays;" -- "used a term in accordance with the custom of the country."
 See page 293 of this volume.
 "Il vent toutesfois cependant que les ministres soyent ambassadeurs pour porter et publier sa parole;" -- "yet he wishes that ministers should be ambassadors to carry and publish his word."
 "Comme souventesfois on verra de meschans garnemens sans crainte de Dieu, qui diront tout haut et hardiment qu'ils appellent au jugement celeste;" -- "as we shall often see wicked profligates without the fear of God, who will quite loudly and boldly say that they appeal to the heavenly tribunal."
 "Qui reietteront la discipline, et n'y voudront ployer le col;" -- "who will reject discipline, and will refuse to bend the neck to it."
 "Mais estant cree et ordonne;" -- "but being created and appointed."
 "Et les face peter pour faire peur a qui bon luy semble;" -- "and make them crack to frighten whomsoever he pleases."
 "Il ne s'ensuit pas pourtant qu'il ait impose loy."
 "En tous actes concernans la service et la parolle de Dieu;" -- "in all acts relating to the service and the word of God."
 "Tout ce que bon leur semble;" -- "whatever they think right."
 "A nous lier les uns avec les autres en toute sainctete et crainte de Dieu;" -- "to link ourselves with each other in all holiness and fear of God."
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
21. Then Peter approaching him said, Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? 22. Jesus saith to him, I say not to thee till seven times, but till seventy times seven. 23. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is compared to a king, who wished to make a reckoning with his servants. 24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents. 25. But as he was unable to pay, his master commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26. And that servant falling down, entreated him, saying, Master, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27. And his master, pitying that servant, forgave him, and acquitted him of the debt. 28. But that servant, having gone out, found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred pence: and laying hands on him, saying, Pay me what thou owest. 29. And his fellow-servant, fallind down, entreated him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30. But he would not, but went out, and threw him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31. And when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were deeply grieved, and came, and related to their master all that had been done. 32. Then his master called him, and said to him, Wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou didst implore me: 33. Oughtest not thou also to pity thy fellow-servant, even as I pitied thee? 34. And his master, being enraged, delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that he owed him. 35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts their offenses.
4. And if seven times in a day he shall offend against thee, and seven times in a day he shall turn to thee, saying, I repent, forgive him.
Matthew 18:21. Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me? Peter made this objection according to the natural feelings and disposition of the flesh. It is natural to all men to wish to be forgiven; and, therefore, if any man does not immediately obtain forgiveness, he complains that he is treated with sternness and cruelty. But those who demand to be treated gently are far from being equally gentle towards others; and therefore, when our Lord exhorted his disciples to meekness, this doubt occurred to Peter: "If we be so strongly disposed to grant forgiveness, what will be the consequence, but that our lenity shall be an inducement to offend?"  He asks, therefore, if it be proper frequently to forgive offenders; for, since the number seven is taken for a large number, the force of the adverb, (heptakis) seven times, is the same as if he had said, "How long, Lord, dost thou wish that offenders be received into favor? for it is unreasonable, and by no means advantageous, that they should, in every case, find us willing to be reconciled." But Christ is so far from yielding to this objection, that he expressly declares that there ought to be no limit to forgiving;  for he did not intend to lay down a fixed number, but rather to enjoin us never to become wearied.
Luke differs somewhat from Matthew; for he states the command of Christ to be simply, that we should be prepared to forgive seven times; but the meaning is the same, that we ought to be ready and prepared to grant forgiveness not once or twice, but as often as the sinner shall repent There is only this difference between them, that, according to Matthew, our Lord, in reproving Peter for taking too limited a view, employs hyperbolically a larger number, which of itself is sufficient to point out the substance of what is intended. For when Peter asked if he should forgive seven times, it was not because he did not choose to go any farther, but, by presenting the appearance of a great absurdity, to withdraw Christ from his opinion, as I have lately hinted. So then he who shall be prepared to forgive seven times will be willing to be reconciled as far as to the seventieth offense.
But the words of Luke give rise to another question; for Christ does not order us to grant forgiveness, till the offender turn to us and give evidence of repentance.  I reply, there are two ways in which offenses are forgiven. If a man shall do me an injury, and I, laying aside the desire of revenge, do not cease to love him, but even repay kindness in place of injury, though I entertain an unfavorable opinion of him, as he deserves, still I am said to forgive him. For when God commands us to wish well to our enemies, He does not therefore demand that we approve in them what He condemns, but only desires that our minds shall be purified from all hatred. In this kind of pardon, so far are we from having any right to wait till he who has offended shall return of his own accord to be reconciled to us, that we ought to love those who deliberately provoke us, who spurn reconciliation, and add to the load of former offenses. A second kind of forgiving is, when we receive a brother into favor, so as to think favorably respecting him, and to be convinced that the remembrance of his offense is blotted out in the sight of God. And this is what I have formerly remarked, that in this passage Christ does not speak only of injuries which have been done to us, but of every kind of offenses; for he desires that, by our compassion, we shall raise up those who have fallen.  This doctrine is very necessary, because naturally almost all of us are peevish beyond measure; and Satan, under the pretense of severity, drives us to cruel rigor, so that wretched men, to whom pardon is refused, are swallowed up by grief and despair.
But here another question arises. As soon as a man by words makes profession of repentance, are we bound to believe him? Were this done, we must of necessity go willingly and knowingly into mistake; for where will be discretion, if any man may freely impose on us, even to the hundredth offense? I answer, first, the discourse relates here to daily faults, in which every man, even the best, needs forgiveness.  Since, then, amidst such infirmity of the flesh, our road is so slippery, and snares and attacks so numerous what will be the consequence if, at the second or third fall, the hope of forgiveness is cut off? We must add, secondly, that Christ does not deprive believers of the exercise of judgment, so as to yield a foolish readiness of belief to every slight expression, but only desires us to be so candid and merciful, as to stretch out the hand to offenders, provided there be evidence that they are sincerely dissatisfied with their sins. For repentance is a sacred thing, and therefore needs careful examination; but as soon as the offender gives probable evidence of conversion, Christ desires that he shall be admitted to reconciliation, lest, on being repulsed, he lose courage and fall back.
Thirdly, It must be observed that, when any man, through his light and unsteady behavior, has exposed himself to suspicion, we may grant pardon when he asks it, and yet may do so in such a manner as to watch over his conduct for the future, that our forbearance and meekness, which proceed from the Spirit of Christ, may not become the subject of his ridicule. For we must observe the design of our Lord himself, that we ought, by our gentleness, to assist those who have fallen to rise again. And certainly we ought to imitate the goodness of our heavenly Father, who meets sinners at a distance to invite them to salvation. Besides, as repentance is a wonderful work of the Spirit, and is the creation of the new man, if we despise it, we offer an insult to God himself.
23. The kingdom of heaven is compared. As it is difficult to bend us to mercy, and as we are quickly seized with weariness, particularly when we have to bear with many faults of brethren, our Lord confirms this doctrine by a most appropriate parable, the substance of which is, that those who will not yield to pardon the faults of brethren judge very ill for themselves, and subject themselves to a very hard and severe law; for they will find God to be equally stern and inexorable towards themselves. There are three parts in which the resemblance mainly consists; for the master is contrasted with the servant, the large sum of money with small or ordinary sums, and extraordinary kindness with extreme cruelty. By attending to these three points, it will be easy to ascertain Christ's meaning; for what are we, if we are compared with God? And how large is the sum which every one of us owes to God? Lastly, how inconsiderable are the offenses, with which brethren are chargeable towards us, if we take into account our obligation to God? How ill then does that man deserve the compassion of God, who, though oppressed with an immense load, implacably refuses to forgive even the smallest offenses to men like himself? So far as regards the words, the kingdom of heaven here denotes the spiritual condition of the Church; as if Christ had said, that the state of matters between God and men, in regard to the soul and the nature of spiritual life, is the same as between an ordinary or earthly master and his servants, in regard to money and the affairs of the present life.
25. His master ordered him to be sold. It would be an idle exercise of ingenuity to examine here every minute clause. For God does not always display severity at first, till, constrained to pray, we implore pardon, but rather meets us with undeserved goodness. But Christ only shows what will become of us, if God shall treat us with the utmost severity; and again, if He shall choose to demand from us what we owe, how necessary it is for us to betake ourselves to prayer, because this is the only refuge that remains for transgressors. We must also attend to the wide difference of the sums; for, since one talent is worth more than a hundred pence, what proportion will a hundred pence bear to ten thousand talents?
31. When his fellow-servants saw what was done. Though we ought not to search for mystery in these words -- because they contain nothing but what nature teaches, and what we learn by daily experience -- we ought to know that the men who live among us will be so many witnesses against us before God; for it is impossible but that cruelty shall excite in them displeasure and hatred, more especially, since every man is afraid that what he sees done to others will fall upon his own head. As to the clause which immediately follows, it is foolish to inquire how God punishes those sins  which he has already forgiven; for the simple meaning is this: though he offers mercy to all, yet severe creditors, from whom no forgiveness can be obtained, are unworthy of enjoying it.
34. Delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that he owed. The Papists are very ridiculous in endeavoring to light the fire of purgatory by the word till; for it is certain that Christ here points out not temporal death, by which the judgment of God may be satisfied, but eternal death.
 "Incitera les autres a mal faire, et a nous offenser;" -- "shall induce others to do ill, and to offend us."
 "Mais tant s'en faut que Christ ait esgard a ceste objection pour lascher quelque chose de son dire, que mesmes il dit notamment et expressement que sans fin ne terme on doit tousiours pardonner;" -- "but so far was Christ from paying regard to that objection, to extenuate any thing that he had said, that he even says plainly and expressly, that without end or limit we must always forgive."
 In the French copy he adds: -- "Car il semble par ce moyen qu'il commande aux siens de tenir leur coeur contre les pervers, et leur refuser pardon;" -- "for it appears in this way that he commands his followers to shut their heart against the obstinate, and to refuse them pardon."
 "Ceux qui sont cheus et ont failli;" -- "those who are fallen and have transgressed."
 "Esquelles les plus parfaits mesmes ont besoin d'estre supportez, et qu'on leur pardonner;" -- "which even the most perfect need to be borne with and forgiven."
 "Comment il est possible que Dieu punisse;" -- "how it is possible for God to punish."
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch 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 thee 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 fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.