Lawrenceburg, Ky., 1878.
BRETHREN EDITORS: - I have been requested by a friend in New York [whether a brother or not I am not informed] to give my views on the text heading this article.
I am not certain that my views on the text are correct, for they are different from the views of some of my brethren whom I consider my superiors both in intellect and acquirements. I will simply try to give what my friend has asked for, my “views,” hoping that my friend and others who may examine them will strictly scrutinize those views, and detect the error, should there be any.
Then, first, let us attend to the signification of this word “mammon.” Those whose views I have noticed on the subject have generally confined its meaning to money, wealth, &c. Although riches may be taken as a part of its meaning, it is not all. In addition to that it signifies, according to Webster, “a place where something is hid; a subterranean storehouse; the god of liberty.” I cannot conclude that the word mammon here simply means wealth, because the plural pronoun they, [they may receive you,] as used in the following connection, cannot correctly be applied to money or wealth; therefore we must apply to it a different signification. Then, suppose we conclude that the word here means, as Webster says, “a place where something is hid;” then the question would be, Where is that place? I think it was among the Gentiles. Now, we know that the Lord had a people among the Gentile nations, and that they were not yet manifested; but were a purchased possession, therefore “hid” from the mortal gaze. We know also, that the Jewish disciples were finally received into the different branches of the church among the Gentiles, and therefore received “into everlasting habitations,” for I know of no other everlasting habitation in this world but the church; but “it shall stand forever,” “shall never be destroyed.”
The Savior doubtless had a specific object in giving his disciples this command and instruction, and it seems evident to me that this object was to inform them that they would fail to find friends among the Jews, and therefore must seek to make them among the Gentiles; for the Jews were then becoming their most inveterate enemies. Will not the preceding connection justify this conclusion? In the commencement of the fifteenth chapter we are informed that the publicans and sinners [Gentiles] drew near to hear him; “and the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Then he spake to them the parable of the lost sheep, of his leaving the ninety-nine “in the wilderness,” finding and bringing home the lost one, of the rejoicing over it more than over the ninety and nine that “need no repentance.” Then comes the parable of the woman sweeping her house in search of her piece of silver that was lost; and when she finds it, calls her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her. Next we have the parable of the prodigal son and his elder brother, the prodigal to represent the reception of the Lord’s perishing children of the Gentiles, and the elder son the Jews, and their opposition to the bestowment of any favors to the Gentiles.
Immediately before addressing the disciples in the language of the text, he presents the case of the unjust steward, who I suppose still portrays the Jew and his religion, which is a fac-simile of the Arminian and his religion today. This unjust steward taught his lord’s debtors that they need not pay all they owed, a part would do, and so he was received into their houses. Just so with latter-day workmongers. They get into favor with their dupes by telling them, “O, do the best you can; the rest can be looked over.” In one respect, however, they are a little more ridiculous than was the unjust steward. He could not dig, to beg he was ashamed; neither can they dig, but they are not ashamed to beg; they can beg with a looseness.
If we confine the meaning of the word mammon to riches, I can see no propriety in the language of the passage. How is money, wealth, riches, to receive persons into everlasting habitations? But if we apply the word to the Gentiles, all seems to me plain. When Paul testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ, [at Corinth,] “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:5,6. Again, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” They went to the Gentiles, were received into the churches – received into everlasting habitations, and there found friends.
This instruction was calculated to have a salutary effect on those Jewish disciples in another respect. It is well known that there was a deep-seated prejudice in the minds of Jews, even the Jewish disciples, against the Gentiles. Witness the case of Peter at Joppa, when directed to go to the Gentiles. See Acts 10:14 &c. Letting the disciples know that they would fail among the Jews, and directing them to make to themselves friends of the Gentiles was well calculated to break down that prejudice. It did break it down, and was a matter of joy to the Jewish brethren to learn that God had “granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life.” This brought about a lasting peace and fraternal friendship; so that in this mountain [the church] they were to beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Micah 4:3. Here they may meet in a delightful asylum, a friendly sanctuary, where the same Lord over all is rich unto all, both Jew and Gentile that call upon him, making no difference between them. Thus is consummated the assertion of the Savior, saying, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd.” John 10:16. And again, says the apostle, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Eph. 2:14,15. Since this middle wall of partition, the hand-writing of ordinances, is taken out of the way, nailed to the cross, the spiritually enlightened Jew and christianized Gentile can, as friends, fraternize each other, and amicably sit down in the same sanctuary, and mutually worship the one same God in fellowship and friendship.
The foregoing views are the best I have; examine them critically, and indorse or reject them, as the scriptures may justify or condemn.
J. F. JOHNSON.