« PreviousContinue »
For the Text is really difficult, and, as several other figurative Speeches, is liable to different Interpretations, which will likewise yield a different Connexion. I shall not pretend to enumerate the many several Glosses have been put upon the Words by Commentators; but there being two or three, that seem to me each of them
very probable and agreeable to the Context, and our Saviour's Scope and Design, I shall take the Freedom to consider them particularly. That the Words are not to be taken in a Proper, but in a Figurative and Metaphorical Sense, all the Interpreters are agreed; for besides that the literal Maiming of the Body is against Reason and Scripture, it would no way answer the End, which is to keep us from falling off from our Duty into the
ways of Sin; for so the Word here Translated to offend, or as it is in the Margin of our Bibles, to cause to offend or Scandalize, doth import. For if the Right Eye were pulled out, we might still be guilty of impure or covetous Looks with the Left; and if the Right Hand were cut off, we might make the Left an Instrument of sinful Practices,
Taking the Words then in a figurative Sense, there are three Things, which seem to me to bid fairest for the Meaning of them, and do all of them teach us some useful part of Duty; and if the Words will bear it, I shall be of Opinion our Saviour had an Eye to them all; for his Expresa fions have a very full Significancy, and I hope wą shall find the Senses I am going to mention are not inconsistent with each other.
1. First then, It is very probable that the Words Eye and Hand may be understood here properly, and that the Figure is only in the Words pulling
out and cutting off, for denying or mortifying. So that by these Expressions the pulling out of the Eye, and cutting off of the Hand, when they prove the Occasions or Instruments of Sin, may be meant the governing of the Members and Senses of the Body in such a manner, that they shall not be gratified to be made the Instruments or Occasions of Sin, but shall be restrained, kept in, and mortified upon all such Accounts. And in this Sense the Connexion will be plain thus : 9. d. If then thine Eye lead thee to Sin by lusting after any prohibited Object, deny it the use of any such Sights, as if thou hadft no Eye; at least suppress the Luftings which such Sights might be apt to raise in thy Heart. For thou hadst better be without the use of the Eye on such Occasions, than by Gratification thereof, to plunge thy self into eternal Perdition. And if thy Hand prove the Instrument in this or any other Sin, deny thy self the use of it upon such Occasions, as if it were cut off; for thou hadst better do so, than by gratifying thy self in the finful Use of it, to bring thy self to Hell at the last. It cannot be denied that this is a Sense that has a very clear Dependence on the preceding Doctrine, prohibiting the looking on a Woman to lust after her. Yet there is one Objection against this Interpretation ; namely, that it is not barely faid, if thine Eye offend thee, and if thy Hand offend thee, but if thy right Eye, and thy right Hand offend thee; as if the Emphasis were to be laid on the right Eye, and right Hand; that is to say, any thing that is ever so Dear or Useful. But to this two things may be answered: First, That the right Eye being more universally employed, VOL. II.
in seeing, especially in taking a Level, or Thooting at a Mark, than the Left, this doth not hin, der but that the Discourse may relate still to the Objects of Sight, commanding us to restrain and govern them in such a manner that the Occasion of the Temptation may be removed. And the like Observation will hold for the right Hand, which is much more employed in Acting than the Left. Secondly, We may answer to this Objection, that in the parallel Places, where this fame Text feems to be quoted, it is not faid thy right Eye, and right Hand, but barely thine Eye and Hand, as ye may see Matt. xviii. 8, 9. where it is not said, if thy right Hand, or thy right Foot, or thy right Eye offend thee, but only 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 balt 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 baving two Eyes to be cast into Hell Fire. And so Mark ix. 43, 45, and 47. there is no distinction made of the right or left, but only the Hand, Foot, and Eye are mentioned. Which makes it really very probable, that the Emphasis is not to be laid on the right Eye and right Hand; and there- . fore that the Design here was only to govern the Senses of Seeing and Touching, that they might not prove the Instruments of Sin, particularly of this Sin of Uncleanness our Saviour had been speaking of.
2. Secondly, Because the Words right Eye and right Hand are often used figuratively for any
Perfons or Things that are exceeding dear and useful to us; therefore a Second Senle of the Words may
be this. First, If any Person who is as dear to thee as thy right Eye, and as useful and necessary to thee as thy right Hand, fhould prove the Instrument or Occasion of thy falling into this or any other Sin, at any rate shake off the Influence, Authority, or even Company or Society of such a Person; thou hadft better deny thy self any such Gratification, by which piece of Self-denial thou mayst save thy Soul, than indulging thy self in it, be engaged in sinful Courses, and by that Means come to Hell at last. And what is here faid of Perfons may, Secondly, be understood likewise of such Things, as engage us in finful Courses; such as a Sinful, though profitable Trade or Calling; the Favour of some great Man, which perhaps cannot be kept but by finful Compliances : Some Honourable or Profitable Place, for the holding of which we do Violence to our Consciences, and are led into sinful Courses; the accepting some Gift, Profit, or Service, which misleads us in our Opinion or Practice. Now it must be confessed, That this is a very easie and natural Sense of the Words, and has a good Connexion and Dependance with what went before.
d. If it be then fo dangerous to look upon a Woman to Lust after her, have a care of all those Persons of either Sex that prove Tempters to this, or any other Sin; and have a care of all such Engagements and Obligations which involve you in sinful Courtes : Be those Persons or Things ever so Taking, ever so Useful, like a Right Eye, or a Right Hand, by all Means cut them off; disengage your self from any Relation, Attachment, or Inclination to them, as ye would save
your Souls from Hell.
3. Thirdly, The Words may be understood of any predominant beloved Lust, which we love like a Right Eye or a Right Hand: And in this Sense have a very apt Connexion with what went before. d. If there is so much Danger not only in the gross Acts, but in the secret Thoughts and Impressions of Wickedness, then beware of harbouring any secret beloved Lust. But if
ye have any such, that
love like a Right Eye, or Right Hand, by all means part with it, for it will be the ruin of you, if ye are not the ruin of it. And though it be so incorporated, as it were, in
your Nature, that ye can hardly live without it, yet treat it as we do a gangren’d Member, an Eye infected with incurable Rheum, or a Leg rotten with a Gangrene ; pull it out, cut it off, if thou wouldīt save thy Body in Life.
Now there being so fair Probability for all these Senses, and they not being inconsistent; for in order to our not being ensnared by Sin, we are here advised to cut off all the Occahons of it; and all these Three are Occasions of Sin; First, Ungovernable Members of the Body. Secondly, Bad Company and Sinful Advantages. Thirdly, A Predominancy of Love to any Sins: I shall therefore consider them more particularly, and explain and press them, as if they were three distinct Exhortations from the Text.
I. First then, We are taught by these Words to govern the Members of our Body, and to deny our selves the Use of them whenever they would lead us to Sin. Our Saviour mentions only the Eye and the Hand, as being most Instrumental in Offences, that is, Temptations to Sin, particularly those he was speaking of, the Sins of Uncleanness