XXVI. Offences.

MATT, xviii. 7. “It must needs be that
offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”
THIS passage is at once very transparent and very
abstruse. A child may understand it, and yet it involves
a startling antithesis and a great enigma.
It is a child that is the occasion of this warning. We
have all the feebler qualities, if not the nobler characteristics,
of a child’s nature. We have all some element of weak-
ness which makes us dependent on others. Imitation is
the law of the child’s nature. And the force of example
will always be more potent than the earnest appeals of
the preacher and the convincing logic of the apologist.
Personal influence is contagious as the atmosphere
which envelops us. Hence the category of Christ’s little
ones is as wide as the Church or mankind. Hence the
severity of the language.
Who after eighteen centuries will venture to say that the
warning is unneeded? The scandals of Christendom have
been far more deadly to the souls of men than the fiercest
rage of the persecutor.
Wholesale barbarities committed by men of an alien race
and religion have called forth a cry of righteous indigna-
tion. But are the pages of our ecclesiastical annals so clear
that we can claim for ourselves a monopoly of humane
sentiments and impulses? There is no stronger proof of
the inherent power of Christianity than that it should have
trampled over those scandals of Christendom. Islam can
claim the support of her creed; we did those things in
defiance of our creed.
Still Christ’s little ones are falling by thousands on every
side. Still the woe is gathering strength and volume for
its discharge. When the Christian apologist wields the
weapons of disingenuousness and fraud in defence of the
truth,—when the Christian preacher uses words of lofty self-
denial, and lives the worldliest of lives,—the cry of Christ’s
fallen and engulfed little ones rises up, Lord, how long?
J. B. Lightfoot, D.D.