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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 6

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-34

Matthew 6:1 . Take heed that ye do not your alms before men. It is a dispute whether alms or righteousness be the true reading. The old copies had righteousness. Chrysostom in one place has righteousness, in another alms. Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Daniel 2:27. Righteousness is the sense, alms the gloss. The jews often described alms by the former term; and alms is allowed to be one branch of the righteousness we owe to our neighbour. The pharisees largely taught that charities expiated sin; and there are many texts, which by being misunderstood, seem to say the same. Give alms of such things as ye possess, and behold all things are clean unto you. And again, charity covereth a multitude of sins. But pure theology knows of no propitiation for sin, except the blood of Christ; and it classes the preseding texts only with the promise, that the merciful shall obtain mercy. And fasting, alms, and prayer do most assuredly bring us into a temper to receive mercy solely through the blood of the covenant. Let us avoid all ostentation, and study secresy in our kindness to the poor, aiming solely at pleasing God, who is the orphan’s father and the widow’s friend. Ostentation will feed the latent pride of our heart, and it wounds the receiver to be needlessly exposed. All men should hallow their riches by oblations to the poor, and by encouragements to ministers who labour in the Lord.

Matthew 6:6 . When thou prayest, enter into thy closet. Prayer, as well as alms, must be performed in secret. In our Saviour’s time, the jews used about eighteen prayers, and he is here understood to reduce those prayers to this short form, that the great body of his disciples might readily retain and repeat it. So Dr. Lightfoot, who quotes the substance of it from the Hebrew prayers. Jesus here teaches us to call God our Father, for grace allows of that great liberty to penitent man. But when he is addressed as a Father, the Godhead or whole Divinity is understood, of Father, Son, and Spirit. He teaches us to hallow the name of God, for all his names designate his perfections. This also implies worship, reverence, and the abstaining from unholy imprecations. We pray next for the kingdom of God to come to all the earth, as in chap. Matthew 3:2; and then his will shall be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 60:21. We pray for daily bread, both for body and soul. The farmer lives by the fruits of the year, but saints by daily supplies of grace. We have a Father to provide. But we must forgive one another, and be indulgent to man, as God is indulgent to us. We pray farther, that we may not be led into temptation, for God is often said to do that which he only suffers to be done; rather, may God deliver us from all the evils of Satan, and of wicked men.

Matthew 6:9 . After this manner therefore pray ye. John had taught his disciples to pray, whom he found lost in ignorance, and destitute of books. Under these circumstances, forms of prayer must be beneficial; yet no forms can utter the enlargements of the heart, and all the expanse of thought in addressing the Eternal Father, and Lord of all.

Our Father, ever kind and good, whose paternal care and bounty extend over all creatures. Oh Father, Son, and Spirit, Jehovah Elohim, display thy glory to our view, as reflected by the whole creation, and as brought to our minds by the dispensations of thy providence. Who is like unto thee in heaven or earth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, abundant in goodness and in truth.

Hallowed be thy name. Adored and exalted be thy perfections, by the unceasing songs of all nature, and by all the worship of the church. Let us behold thy glory till we resemble thee. Let us adore and worship at thy feet till thy name be written on our hearts, and our souls are transformed into the glory of thy likeness.

Matthew 6:10 . Thy kingdom come. Oh glorious Messiah, Father, Redeemer, and Lord. Oh hasten the days when salvation shall come out of Zion in the fullest sense; when the tyranny of Satan and the cruelty of wars shall cease, and when righteousness shall cover the earth, as the waters do the sea. Open, oh Lord thy reign of righteousness, of peace and joy in the heart; and let it spread with beams of righteousness to the ends of the earth, till the name of idols shall exist no more.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Hitherto the will of the prince of darkness has been done on earth, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. The murderer from the beginning has reigned in endless wars, to the excision of nations; the liar has reigned, imposing on men the worship of idols, as the gods that made the heavens and the earth. But, oh great Healer of the nations, let thy will be done; let the new and regenerate nature, which delighteth greatly in thy commandments, be as the little leaven which leaveneth the whole lump:

“Till all mankind shall learn thy name, Shall all stretch out their hands to thee.”

Matthew 6:11 . Give us this day our daily bread. Earthly bread may not be needed for to-morrow. Thus the birds and beasts are fed, and thus the young lions seek their meat from God. While the farmer prepares for the coming year, while the merchant provides for his voyage, and while domestic prudence has regard to winter, let each in his way and calling do his best, and leave the issues with a superintending providence. The life of faith, which lives for the present hour, is the happiest life on earth. We then live free from care, trusting in the Lord, and joyful in hope.

Matthew 6:12 . Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This is the purer law of nature and of nations. We are bound to ask grace for our neighbour, as well as for ourselves. But my neighbour has made me no satisfaction for the wrongs, the grievous wrongs, he has done to my character, and to my property. These are difficulties, not arguments. He may yet repent, he may be in glory a brighter saint than you. We must therefore pray for pardon on the principle of remission, else our prayers will be sent back as disregarded vows.

Matthew 6:13 . Lead us not into temptation. These words indicate trials, exercises, and difficulties, from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Cover us, oh Lord, with thy shield, against all the fiery darts of the wicked one. But if the pleasure of our heavenly Father should be otherwise, he will say, my grace is sufficient for thee. He will be with us in the water, and in the fire; he will never leave us, but will accompany us through the valley of the shadow of death. He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and how to reserve the unjust to the day of evil. Some have been tempted and tried as Abraham was; some have been stripped of all, like Job; but God in the issue is pitiful and tender hearted, and his righteousness opens as the morning light.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power to deliver, and to complete the work which grace has begun in the heart. Thine also is the glory, in which cloud all our sufferings, sighs and tears, shall be swallowed up. Thine, oh Lord, and thine for ever is the worship and the glory of the church throughout all ages, world without end. Thus our frail and humble addresses to the throne of grace, begun with so much weakness on earth, shall rise to songs of exultation in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:16 . When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites. Religious fasting, associated with alms and prayers, has been the universal practice of the church, though perhaps in no age less regarded than the present. David fasted when his child was sick. The elders of the christian church were ordained with fasting and prayer. Acts 14:23. St. Paul tells us he fasted often. See also on Zechariah 7:3. But the point here is, as in alms and prayer, to fast and pray for private good in a secret and devout manner. The good man wishes none but God to hear his prayer, and none but God to behold his fast. On this head, the prophets constantly remark, that if we fast for particular blessings, we must be the foremost to show mercy to the indigent, and in remission of debts to the insolvent.

Matthew 6:19 . Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth. The moths will eat your drapery, and the rust will tarnish your gold: the style and furniture of your mansion will all decay. The vain boasting of your riches also will tempt the thieves to rob your house. King Hezekiah, after the angel had destroyed the Assyrians, leaving all their armour and plunder on the field, became the richest king, after Solomon, of all David’s line; but those treasures were all carried to Babylon. Crœsus, after him, was the richest of all gentile kings, and Cyrus plundered all his wealth. Above all, riches will steal away your heart from God. You will often count your gold in secret, and live in fear of fraud; and your eye will delight in seeing the shining ore. The heathen writers speak against this sordid passion in the strongest terms. “As money encreases, so does the love of it.” An apostle also adds,

“the love of money is the root of all evil.” Money, like manure, is of no use till it is spread abroad. Do good in your life, and do not meanly keep the gripe of gold till death shall chill your hand, lest your heir should ruin his soul by defrauding the poor of your bequests.

Matthew 6:20 . Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Seek to adorn your mind with heavenly wisdom, and your heart with every moral excellence: then the remunerations of the Lord shall recompense you at the resurrection of the just.

Matthew 6:22 . The light of the body is the eye. The Greeks had a similar saying. Καθαρον αν τον νουν εχης απαν το σωμα καθαρος ει . If your mind be pure, your whole body is pure. Our whole mind should follow after love to God, and truth and righteousness towards men; for all criminal passions becloud the understanding with darkness.

Matthew 6:24 . Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon is a Chaldaic word designating money. Behold the fowls, consider the lilies, they lack neither food nor raiment. Oh base heart that fears to trust a God.

Matthew 6:33 . Seek ye first the kingdom of God, as in Matthew 3:2. God must be supreme in the heart; religion must not be a secondary passion. Here is the remedy for avarice, and the love of the world. To fallen man, the regaining of his paradise in this promised kingdom, must be the first and grand concern of his whole heart and life.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/matthew-6.html. 1835.
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