On Restitution
Luke 19:1-10
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.…

I shall speak to you at large concerning the necessity of restitution, and the obligations to it; because when this point is established, the performance of it speedily and completely will appear to be unquestionable parts of this duty. I say that we are obliged to restitution — first, as we are men, by the law of nature. It is an original law, graven on the hearts of all men, that every man ought to possess, and have the undisturbed use of his own proper goods. Now, can any acquisition, which was unjust in the moment wherein it was made, become just, and a man's rightful property, in succeeding moments? Can it be lawful to keep what it was unlawful to take? Therefore restitution is the only method by which these disorders can be repaired; and it is indispensably necessary on natural principles. But his natural honesty was further instructed on this point by the revealed law. Considered as a Jew, he was under an additional obligation by the law of Moses. For the Levitical law regulated exactly the proportions in which restitution was to be made in different cases; as, "five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." To this argument may be added that which arises from the example of holy men under the Old Covenant, whose conscience would not suffer them to retain goods obtained unjustly, and who considered the law of restitution as sacred and inviolable. Among which examples, that of Samuel is remarkable, in the eleventh chapter of his first book: "And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I am old and grey-headed." Zaccheus thought himself bound to restitution on a third principle — as a penitent, by the conditions of repentance. There is, in one respect, a remarkable difference betwixt robbery and most other sins. The crime of the latter may pass away, and be cancelled, upon our sincere repentance, and prayers for the Divine forgiveness; but the crime of the former continues as long as we retain the fruits of it in our hands. Does any man think of presenting his robberies to God and to His Church? Many persons, I fear (in former times particularly), have sought to make this impious exchange, pretending to give unto God what they had stolen from their neighbour. Besides this general engagement to make restitution, as a penitent, by the conditions of repentance, Zaccheus found himself under a fourth — and that a particular obligation, derived from the nature of his occupation, as a publican; that is, a collector of the tribute which the Jews paid to the Romans. Thus it is, that a reformed Christian, or one converted to Christianity, must begin the exercise of his religion. And it is in this fifth view that I consider Zaccheus making restitution; namely, as a proselyte, or convert to Jesus Christ. The Divine grace had now touched his heart, and inspired him with a resolution to break those bonds of iniquity in which he had been holden, and to qualify himself for that forgiveness which Christ offers to sinners only on this condition. Enough has been said, I trust, to show the necessity of restitution. A few words will be sufficient to show that it ought to be performed speedily and completely. I am willing (says one) to restore even at present; but I must be allowed to compound the matter: I cannot resign the whole, but I am ready to give up a part. This is the last mistake and fault which the example of Zaccheus condemns and corrects, when he declares, "I restore fourfold." Now, this surplus, is it justice, or liberality? It partakes of both. For it is just to restore beyond the exact amount; because, besides the lawful interest of his money which our neighbour has been deprived of, every robbery occasions some inconvenience and detriment that cannot be completely repaired by a mere restitution of the things taken. It is better, therefore, to exceed than fall short.

(S. Partridge, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

WEB: He entered and was passing through Jericho.

Top of Page
Top of Page