Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Romans 2:9; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8; Psalm 9:17. But their neglect of doing good to him and his people may be the "public" reason of condemning them:
1. Because he wished to give pre-eminence to those virtues, to excite his followers to do them.
2. People should be punished for neglect as well as for positive sin. Sin is a violation of the law, or refusing to do what God commands.
3. Nothing better shows the true state of the heart than the proper performance of those duties, and the true character can be as well tested by neglecting them as by open crimes.
If it is asked how the pagan who never heard of the name of Christ can be justly condemned in this manner, it may be answered:
1. that Christ acknowledges all the poor, and needy, and strangers of every land, as his brethren. See Matthew 25:40.
2. that by neglecting the duties of charity they show that they have not his spirit are not like him.
3. that these duties are clearly made known by conscience and by the light of nature, as well as by revelation, and people may therefore be condemned for the neglect of them.
4. that they are not condemned for not believing in Christ, of whom they have not heard, but for a wrong spirit, neglect of duty, open crime; for being unlike Christ, and therefore unfit for heaven.
1. In a departure from God, so as never more to have any favour from him.
2. In a sense of pain and misery, exceeding that which fire causeth to a body consuming with it.
In this life wicked men are capable of some presence of God with them, and receive several favours from God, in gifts of common providence and common grace; which might serve either as encouragements to allure them, or means to help them, in turning to God: but having abused these, the righteous God in that day will totally depart from them, and they shall receive no more tokens of kindness and favour from him; and whereas, by the advantages they had from such a presence of Divine providence, as God was pleased in this life to allow them, they lived in some degrees of pleasure and liberty, which they were not thankful for, they shall at that day be condemned to eternal torments. Nor shall the justice of God be impeached for disproportioning eternal torments to temporary sinnings; for the infiniteness of the Majesty offended, to which satisfaction is due, is to be considered, and is so amongst men, who think it reasonable to recompense a prince or nobleman for an injury done to them with ten thousand pounds, which they would not recompense to an equal with so many shillings.
Beside that, every sinner hath sinned in suo infinito, to the utmost line of his time, and wanted nothing but more time to have sinned more, for he had a will to have sinned infinitely. This everlasting fire is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels; not because it was not also prepared for men, but the evil angels were condemned to it before man had sinned, so that man comes but into a share with the evil angels; and by this God also lets us know that they are the children of the devil by evil works, John 8:44 1Jo 3:8. Having determined their punishments, and pronounced their sentence, he comes to justify himself in it: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat, &c. For here may be interpreted as a causal; for though none merits his own salvation, yet every sinner’s destruction is of himself, and he meriteth his condemnation. The mentioning only of sins of omission, and those only as to acts of charity, doth not only teach us that sins of omission are enough to damn us, but that omissions of acts of charity to the distressed members of Christ are such sins, as, if not repented of, and washed off with the blood of Christ, are enough to condemn us to the pit of hell; and such things as God doth keep in mind, and will in a more special manner reckon with men for. I cannot pass by a reflection which I find almost all interpreters make upon this text: If those in the day of judgment shall be sent to hell who do not feed the poor members of Christ, and give them to drink when they are thirsty, what shall be done to those who pluck the bread out of their mouths which they have got in the sweat of their face, and spill the drink which their own labours or others’ liberality hath given them to drink? If those shall have their portion with the devil and his angels who give not entertainment to them when they are banished and strangers, what shall become of them who are instruments of their banishment, and to make them strangers? If it shall go so hard with those that clothe them not when they are naked, what shall become of those who any way help to strip them naked? If those shall not escape the vengeance of God who do not visit them when they are sick, and in prison, where shall they appear who cast them into prisons, and are means of those diseases that shorten their lives, by their barbarous usages of them? Those that smite their fellow servants had need be sure that it be not for well doing. Our Lord here tells us, that the wicked in that day will say, When saw we thee an hungred, &c. they did not deny that they had refused to give bread to the hungry; but they deny that they ever saw Christ an hungred, and did not feed him. Persecutors have always ill names to give the servants of God, pretending still a great reverence for God and Christ. But mark our Lord’s answer, and that with an oath:
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. It is no matter what you thought of or called those to whom you showed no mercy; you see they are here at my right hand. You might have known them to be my sheep, you saw them hear my voice, and following me: you, in casting them into prison, cast me; in starving them, you starved me; and in stripping them of their goods, you stripped me. Therefore, go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
saying, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me: since they had given no food not to the least of his brethren and friends that stood at his right hand, no not to anyone of them; not so much as the least bit of bread to them when hungry, nor a drop of water to them when thirsty; had not taken them into their houses, nor provided the meanest lodging for them, when they were exposed in the streets to the inclemency of the weather, and insults of men; nor gave them the least rag to cover them, when they were almost naked, and ready to perish; nor did they minister to their wants, either physical, or food, or give attendance, when on sick beds, and in prison houses; therefore he reckoned this neglect of them, and want of compassion to them, all one as if he himself in person had been so treated: and if then judgment will righteously proceed against men for sins of omission, much more for sins of commission; and if such will be dealt with in this manner, who have taken no notice, and shown no respect to the members of Christ; what will the end be of those, who are injurious to them, their persons, and properties, and persecute and kill them?Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)45. Inasmuch as ye did it not] Men will be judged not only for evil done, but for good left undone.Matthew 25:45. Τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων, of the least of these) Our Lord does not add, My brethren, as in Matthew 25:40. The wicked are ignorant of the relation which the righteous stand in to Christ, and will remain so.Verse 45. - Inasmuch as, etc. The Judge at once disallows all such pleas. He exacts nothing which any good man, Christian or not, might not have done. As before, identifying himself with the human race, he shows that, in neglecting to perform acts of mercifulness and charity to the afflicted, they disregarded him, despised him. dishonoured him. One of the least of these. He adds not "brethren," as above (ver. 40), because the evil acknowledge no such brotherhood; they live for self alone, they own not their real relation to the whole family of man.
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