« PreviousContinue »
Vers. 25. But he that doeth wrong, shall receive for the
wrong which he hath done : and there is no respect of persons.
In the foregoing verse the Apostle had encouraged servants to perform their duty properly, by proposing a reward to them: Now he stimulates them to the same duty by threatening a punishment. But there are two parts of this verse. The first contains a commination, or threatening of punishment to all who shall fail in their duty; He that doeth wrong, &c. The latter contains an anticipation of an implied objection, which seems to lessen the certainty of the punishment threatened ; And there is no respect of persons.
He that doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he halh done.] Some think this punishment threatened to wicked masters for the comfort of servants : as though the Apostle had said, If your masters shall be unjust and wicked, let not your minds be dejected, do not neglect to perform for them whatever is in your power; but leave your revenge to God, who will avenge whatever injuries shall be done to you.
Imperious and impious masters are accustomed to wrong their servants in many ways. Sometimes they defraud them of their clothing, food, or due wages ; Sometimes they load and urge them by labours beyond their strength; sometimes they affict them with reproaches and unjust stripes : almost all which things happened to the people of God in the Egyptian servitude; Exod. v. For wrongs of this kind, let not servants rise against their masters through impatience or anger, or leave the tasks imposed upon them through idleness, says the Apostle. Whoever, in fine, he shall be who does these wrongs to his servant, he shall receive from God himself for the wrong which he bath done : that is, he shall feel vengeance and punishment corresponding to his iniquity. We have a sample of this Divine vengeance upon the Egyptian oppressors; whom God af. flicted with much heavier punishments than they were able to affict their Israelitish servants: and upon Saul, who is punished in his posterity for the wrong done to the slaughtered Gibeonites, 2 Sam, xxi.
Other interpreters refer this commination to servants themselves: as though tie Apostle had said, If the expectation of the heavenly reward cannot inflame you to fulfil your duty; this at least should excite you, that God himself will punish, either your contumacy, or your idleness. For contumacious servants, who despise their masters and regard them not of a straw, do wrong to them, as far as they do not pay them due obedience and reverence: the slothful and deceitful also are deemed to wrong their masters, because they either do not yield them due submission, or not with that faith and sincerity of heart with which they should have done, If, then, servants, by these or any other means, do wrong to their masters, they shall receive for the wrong done: that is, they shall be punished for their dishonesty by God, the judge and avenger. We have on record the example of Gehazi, 2 Kings v.
But I think with Jerome that both interpretations should be united; as well because the Apostle addresses all generally, as especially because he has placed this commination between the duties of servants and masters, that it may extend to both, and that equally. Thus, then, I explain the words of the Apostle ; He that doeth wrong; whether he be the master, by afflicting his servant unjustly; or the servant, by despising or defrauding his master; each shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, that is, shall be severely punished by the Supreme Lord God according to the weight of his sin.
Instructions. 1. In all sin (although men may indulge the hope of impunity, yet) it is determined by God himself that the punishments which impend over sinners shall be inficted. And what can it profit to have avoided the avenging hand of men, and to fall into the hands of the living God?
2. Earthly masters, with whatever power they may be armed, cannot safely or with impunity trample upon those subjected to them: for themselves also are subject to God; and every sovereignty is under a still higher Sovereignty, says Seneca.
3. In dealing with subjects or servants, they who are set over them ought always to consider, whether what they do is of that nature, that it may also be cleared from the charge of wrong by God the Judge: for an account must be rendered at his tribunal.
4. They are the most miserable of all mortals, who mostly afflict others by miseries : for they themselves shall receive for all those wrongs which they have done. They, therefore, doat who think themselves happy in this power of doing wrong. Thus Sylla obtained the surname of Felix, even because he could with impunity murder his innocent fellow citizens at will.
5. They who are under the rule and the power of others, ought to be induced by no wrongs to neglect their duty: but rather to continue at their duty, and leave their revenge to God. Thus much of the commination.
And there is no respect of persons.] There is in these words an anticipation of a lurking objection. For it might be objected on the part of masters, Who shall call us to account for evil intreating a servant ? Servants were accounted as nothing. It is understood, according to the opinion of Lawyers, that no wrongs could be done to servants. But suppose that we are arraigned ; we shall either escape through favour, or we shall avoid it by power, or we shall bribe the judge himself by money. The Apostle meets these notions; and affirms, that the rule of Divine and of human justice is not the same. Human tribunals are very much like a spider's web: they enfold the powerless and weak; but the mighty and the rich break through by main force. But that Supreme Judge is not terrified by power, nor turned aside by favour, nor bribed by the money of the wicked: there is at his tribunal no respect of persons. This is well depicted by Job, xxxiv. 19, He accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the VOL. II.
rich more than the poor : for they all are the work of his hands. Upon this passage Ambrose writes in Ephes. vi. The Lord is the just Judge ; he discerns causes, not persons.
But it might also be objected on the part of servants, What ? if we do not obey these earthly masters heartily ; can it therefore be thought that God himself will avenge them upon us wretches? It is sufficient that we have experience of miseries in going through life under these hard and imperious masters; we may expect compassion from God rather than punishment. The Apostle cuts off this vain hope also in these persons, and denies that God is any other than just and good, or can favour the poor out of compassion, or withhold from the rich out of envy what is their due. Nay, he hath even removed this respect of persons by that broad law in Exod. xxiii. 3, Thou shalt not countenance a poor man in his cause; and Levit. xix. 15, Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment : Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty. There is, therefore, no respect of persons with God, who, as the poet (Phocylides) rightly said, Distributes just rights to erery one, und warps not judgment to favour. *
Instructions. 1. Not only those wrongs which are done to kings and the great, but those to subjects and servants, have God alike for their avenger.
2. We must therefore equally avoid both, that we may not sin in either; since both will equally subject us to Divine vengeance.
3. It behoves those who act for God upon the earth, to imitate this Divine justice, and, laying aside all respect of persons, render what is due to every one. Well said Archytas, that the judge amd the altar are the same : for we flee to either as often as wrong is done to us.t. Therefore, that a
• PHOCYLIDES, a Greek Poet and Philosopher; a native of Miletus, who flourished about 540 years before the Christian æra. The poem which is extant and goes by his name, is accounted not genuine by some critics.
+ ARCHYTAs of Tarentum, a soldier, a mathematician, and a celebrated philosopher; eminent alike for his valour and his wisdom. He was repeat.
Judge may be a sanctuary, he ought to protect the poor and men of the lowest estate, as well as the rich and great.
edly chosen general of the Tarentines, and was Plato's instructor, it is said, in geometry. He was one of the first who applied the theory of mathema. tics to practical purposes, and gave a method of finding two mean proportionals between two given lines, and thence the duplication of the cube, by means of the conic sections. Many marvellous stories are related of his skill in mechanics, such as his constructing a wooden pigeon which could fly, &c. He flourished about 400 years before the birth of Christ, and after acquiring great reputation both in his legislative and military capacity, and being distinguished equally for his modesty and self-command, he was ship. wrecked in the Adriatic sea, and his dead body thrown upon the Apulian coast. Horace has finely alluded to this fate of Archytas, in his lib. i. od. 28 :
Te maris et terræ numcroque carentis arena
Mensorem cohibent, Archyta,
Munera ; nec quidquam tibi prodest
Percurrisse polum, morituro! A treatise on the Universe, ascribed to him, and from which probably our Expositor cites the above passage, has been twice printed, at Leipsic, 1564, and at Venice, 1571, both in 4to.