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Christ continueth his sermon on the mount; speaking of alms, prayer, forgiving our brethren, fasting, where our treasure is to be laid up, of a serving God and mammon: exhorteth not to be careful for worldly things, but to seek the kingdom of God.
Anno Domini 30.
Matthew 6:1. Take heed that ye do not your alms— Your righteousness. Our translators have put alms in the text; but doubting, upon good grounds, whether that was the true reading, they have for alms put in the margin righteousness, that is to say, justice, as it stands in the Vulgate; a reading supported with great authority from manuscripts, and commentaries of ancient fathers upon the place. However, if this were a mere verbal criticism, it would less deserve to be insisted upon: but it seems much better, and more agreeable to the sense of the Evangelist, that instead of alms we read justice; for the proper reward, not only of alms, but of every other virtue, will be forfeited, if a desire of worldly applause be our motive to the practice of them; and therefore this first verse seems to be a general caution against vain-glory in our good works, which are here summed up as usual in the comprehensive name of righteousness or justice: this general caution our Lord applies in the sequel to the three principal branches into which that justice is divided; namely, first, justice to our neighbour, by acts of kindness and beneficence; for merely not to hurt him, when we can do him good, is not doing him justice: secondly, justice to God by devotion; and thirdly, justice to ourselves by mortification, Matthew 6:16., &c. which three branches of justice our Lord here treats of severally. With this view Beza, who was for restoring δικαιοσυνην, justice, into the Greek text, makes the same remark; as does also St. Austin, who found justitia in his copy. This verse therefore may be considered as a general introduction to what follows. The doctrine and precepts of the disciples,—the righteousness which they preached, was to excel the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees in the manner set forth in the preceding chapter. Our Lord goes on to speak of the righteousness which the Jewish teachers practiced, or pretended to practise; shewing that his disciples ought to excel them in that respect also. The particulars which he mentions, though few, are of great importance; namely, alms-giving, prayer, fasting, heavenly-mindedness, walking with God, and cheerful resignation. The present chapter contains four parts; first, the right intention and manner in giving alms, Matthew 6:1-4.; secondly, the right intention, manner, form, and pre-requisites of prayer, Matthew 6:5-15.; thirdly, the right intention and manner of fasting, Matthew 6:16-18.; fourthly, the necessity of a pure intention in all things, unmixed either with a desire of riches, or worldly care and fear of want, Matthew 6:19-34. This first verse is a general caution against vain-glory in any of our good works. Our Saviour does not forbid us to do works of this kind publicly; for on some occasions that cannot be avoided; but to do them publicly, with a view and design to be seen of men, and to be applauded for them. See Heylin, Wetstein, Bengelius, and Olearius.
Matthew 6:2. When thou doest thine alms— When you do good offices. Heylin. The term ελεημοσυνη, which we render alms, has a much larger signification, and imports all acts of kindness by which we can benefit others. In all these our Lord warns us against ostentation, and the desire of applause; and not only that we should not seek the praise of others upon such occasions, but also cautiously abstain from all vain-glorious reflections upon the good that we have done; which advice he couches in those emphatical words,
Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth. The phrase of sounding a trumpet before them, is generally thought to be only a figurative expression, to represent their doing it in a noisy ostentatious way, as it is certain that "to do a thing with the sound of the trumpet," is sometimes used proverbially to express a public ostentation. However, it seems not improbable, that as the Jews were wont to assemble the people by the sound of a trumpet, (Joel 2:15.) persons who affected the reputation of being extremely charitable, might sound a trumpet when they distributed their alms, on pretence, no doubt, of gathering the poor to receive them, while their real intention was to proclaim their own good works, and to receive glory of men. See Beza, and Elsner.
Matthew 6:3. Let not thy left hand know— This is a kind of proverbial expression, which may be explained to this effect: "Let no one, no, not even your most intimate acquaintance, know what you do; be ignorant of it yourselves, or forget it immediately as far as possible." It is said that the poors' chest stood on the right hand as they entered the synagogues; to which circumstance some suppose the words to all
Matthew 6:5. And when thou prayest— Our Lord is here treating of private prayer; for which reason his rules must not be extended to public devotion. The Jews of old observed stated hours of prayer: the Scripture mentions three of them; first, the third hour, answering to our nine o'clock, when the morning sacrifice was offered: secondly, the sixth hour; answering to our twelve o'clock. At this hour we find Peter praying on the house-top, Acts 10:9.; thirdly, the ninth hour, answering to our three o'clock in the afternoon; at which time the apostles Peter and John are said to have gone up to the temple, Acts 3:1. The three are mentioned together, Psalms 55:17. See also Daniel 6:10; Daniel 6:13. At these hours, therefore, the hypocrites took care to be in some public meeting or other, (for so the original word συναγωγαις may be understood,) perhaps in the market-place, or in some court of justice, or in a corner where two streets met, and where there was a concourse of passengers to behold their devotions; which they performed before all present, with a vanity extremely offensive to the great Being whom they pretended to worship. This was the affectation here blamed in the Jews as most abominable to God.
Matthew 6:6. Enter into thy closet— That is, "perform thy private devotions without noise or shew; by which it will appear, that thou art influenced by a true sense of duty." The word ταμιειον, closet, signifies any retired part of the house, any secret or separate place; and Mr. Blair piously conjectures, that Christ might use a word of such latitude, that none might omit secret prayer, for want of so convenient an apartment as they could wish to retire into. Duly to perform the great duty of private prayer, we must withdraw from the world not only our persons, but our thoughts too; we must shut out all worldly cares and considerations, as if we and God were alone in nature. Some of the fathers teach us, that our Lord here alludes not only to the closet, but to the heart: and indeed all duties, unaccompanied with integrity of heart, are utterly unavailing. "The heart," says St. Ambrose, "is a retiring-place, always private, always at hand, and ready to receive you:" indeed a mind long practised in piety can easily recollect itself in every place, and maintain devotion in the midst of a crowd. Thou when thou prayest enter into thy closet, and there enter into thyself by devout recollection; for the bodilyretirement avails nothing, but inasmuch as it serves to promote the mental; which is a disposition essentially necessary to prayer, and sometimes difficult to beginners, by reason of the contrary habit which their minds have contracted, by living ever abroad, and being dissipated among sensible objects; but a sincere endeavour will soon be accompanied by greater aid from the grace of God, if we faithfully bear in mind the fundamental truth in which our Lord here instructs us; namely, that the Almighty God is with us in our secret retirement. Pray to thy Father who is in secret,—is there present with thee. God, we know, is in all places; but his spiritual nature lies beyond the reach of bodily senses. When, therefore, you are retired from the world, and have shut the door of your closet, and of your heart too, as close as possible by devout recollection, turn all your attention to God, present with you, and present in you, and humble yourselves before him with a full assurance of faith, of actual faith I mean, that you are in his presence; and believe me,—for this is a truth of the utmost consequence,—that as the faith of the diseased woman, who touched our Saviour's clothes, drew forth a miraculous power to heal her infirmity, so this faith, wherewith we approach God in and through Christ in prayer, will infallibly draw forth the Divine co-operation to our endeavours. He is a living God, and a gracious God through Christ, and his spirit will unite with ours to help our infirmities, and enable us to offer up such prayers as will find acceptance at the throne of grace. Such is the preparation or disposition with which we should address ourselves to God in prayer. The following words instruct us in what is farther requisite for the right performance of it.
Matthew 6:7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions— The original word βαττολογησητε, is derived from one Battus, who was a great babbler. (see Ovid's Metamorph. 2. ver. 688.); and signifying "to use a vain multiplicity and repetition of words." See Mintert, Beza, and Hammond. The word is very applicable to the devotions of the Heathens. See 1 Kings 18:26. Acts 19:34. The vain repetition which Christ here forbids his disciples to use in their prayers, is plainly such as proceeded from an opinion that they were to be heard for their much speaking, after the manner of those Heathens: this opinion implying a denial either of the power, or the knowledge, or goodness of him whom we worship, is highly injurious to him; and therefore repetitions in prayer flowing from it, are culpable; but repetitions proceeding from a deep sense of our wants, and which express a vehement desire of the divine grace, Jesus by no means prohibits; for he himself made use of such repetitions in his agony, when he prayed three several times with exceeding vehemence; yet, as St. Matthew remarks, using still the same words: and indeed nothing is more beneficial, than to persevere as long as possible in the same act of desire, and to renew it again and again with fresh zeal and intenseness. This is what our Lord both taught and practised. But to repeat words without intending, or meaning them, is certainly a vain repetition; and therefore we must be extremely careful in our prayers to mean what we say, and to say only what we mean from the very bottom of our hearts. The vain and heedless repetitions, which we are here warned against, are a most dangerous, yet very common error, which has long been the reproach of Christendom, and is the principal cause why so many, even of those who still profess religion, are a disgrace to it: and how is it possible they should be otherwise, while they want the reality of all true religion, an inward devotion? See Heylin.
Matthew 6:8. Be not ye therefore like unto them— This argument would be forcible against all prayer in general, if prayer were considered only as a means of making our wants known to God; whereas it is no more than an act of obedience to our heavenly Father, who has commanded us to pray to him, chap. Mat 7:7 and made it a condition of his favours; an expression of our trust in him, and dependence on his goodness, whereby we acknowledge, that all the benefits we receive come from him, and that we must apply to him for the attainment of them. "These words, says Dr. Heylin, are highlyinstructive, and may serve to give us a solid and practical knowledge of the true nature of prayer." The proper end of prayer is not to inform God of our wants; omniscient as he is, he cannot be informed: the only thing wanting is a fit disposition on our part to receive his grace; and the proper office of prayer is, through the merit of Christ and the grace of his Spirit, to produce such a disposition in us, as to render us proper subjects for pardoning and sanctifying grace to work in; or, in other words, to remove the obstacles which we ourselves put to his goodness. Now the principal obstacles are, worldly-mindedness and self-love; whereby our desires cleave to earthly goods and corrupt selfish interests:but in prayer we suspend these desires, our heart being through grace turned so God only; and by whatever means we attain such a holy posture of mind, they are the proper means of true devotion. As long as our minds are attentive to God only, by whatever sentiment that attention is maintained, so long we pray. When such attention flags, we must renew it by passing on to some other consideration proper to keep our heart attached to God through Christ, and open to receive his pardoning or sanctifying communications.
Matthew 6:9. After this manner, therefore, pray ye— The Lord Jesus Christ gives his disciples a form of prayer, as was usually done by the Jewish masters; John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray, Luke 11:1. It is to be observed, that this prayer is almost wholly taken out of the Jewish liturgies, and from them so well adapted by our Lord, as to contain all things which can be requested of God, with an acknowledgment of his divine Majesty, and of our dependence. The word ye here is emphatical; thus pray YE, in opposition to the heathen, who used vain repetitions in their prayers. He who best knew what we ought to pray for, and how we ought to pray, what matter of desire, what manner of address would most please himself, and would best become us, has here dictated to us a most perfect and universal form of prayer, comprehending all our real wants, expressing all our lawful desires; a complete directory, and full exercise of all our devotions. Yet it does not follow, that we are to use only the words of this prayer in our address to God; for in the Acts and Epistles, we find the Apostles praying in terms different from this form. But the meaning of these words, thus, or after this manner pray ye, is, that we are to frame our prayers according to this model, both with respect to matter, manner, and style; short, close, full. This prayer consists of three parts; the preface, the petition, and the conclusion. 1. The preface,—Our Father, which art in heaven,—lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us that faith and humility, and love of God and man, with which we are to approach God in prayer. 1. If they be called fathers, who beget children, and bring them up, the Almighty God has the best right to that title from every creature, and particularly from men, being the Father of their spirits (Hebrews 12:9.), the maker of their bodies, and the continual preserver of both. Nor is this all; he is our Father in a yet higher sense, as he regenerates and restores his image upon our minds; so that, partaking of his nature, we become his children, and can with holy boldness name him by the title of that relation. In the former sense, God is the father of all his creatures; but in the latter, he is the father only of such as are regenerated by his grace. Of all the magnificent titles invented by philosophers or poets in honour of their gods, there is none which conveys so grand and lovely an idea, as this simple name of father. Being used by mankind in general, it marks directly the essential character of the true God; namely, that he is the first cause of all things, or the Author of their being; and at the same time conveys a strong idea of the tender love which he bears tohis creatures, whom he nourishes with an affection, and protects with a watchfulness, infinitely superior to that of any earthly parent whatsoever. But the name father, besides teaching us that we owe our being to God, and pointing out his goodness and mercy in upholding us, expresses also his power to give us the things that we ask, none of which can be more difficult than creation. Farther, we are taught to give the great God the title of father, that our sense of the tender relation in which he stands to us through Jesus Christ may be confirmed; our faith in his power and goodness strengthened; our hope of obtaining what we ask in prayer cherished; and our desire of obeying and imitating him quickened; for even natural reason teaches, that it is disgraceful for children to degenerate from their parents, and that they cannot commit a greater crime, than to disobey the just commands of an indulgent father. 2. Again, we are directed to call him our Father, in the plural number, and that even in secret prayer; to put us in mind, that we are all brethren, the children of one common parent, and that we ought to love one another with pure hearts fervently; praying not for ourselves only, but for others; that God may give them likewise daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from temptation. 3. The words, which art in heaven, do not confine God's presence to heaven, for he exists everywhere; but they contain a comprehensive, though short, description of the divine greatness. They express God's majesty, dominion, and power; and distinguish him from those whom we call our fathers on earth, and from false gods, who are not in heaven, the region of bliss and happiness; where God, who is essentially present through all the universe, gives more especial manifestations of his presence to such of his creatures as he has exalted to share with him in his eternal felicity.
II. 1. Hallowed be thy name— This is commonly esteemed the first of the petitions in the Lord's prayer. Wetstein, however, and several others, are of opinion that these words, as well as those in the next verse, are not to be considered as petitions so much as acts of adoration, and acknowledgments of the power and majesty of God; and accordingly they begin the petitions at the 11th verse. But I apprehend, says Dr. Heylin, in nearly these words, (and with him the greater part agree,) that this passage directly tends to our sanctification, and that we are as much personally concerned in this, as in the following petitions; for, in order to our sanctification, our notions and opinions in respect to all essential doctrines and experimental truths must first be rectified by the divine light, because our notions are in a great measure the rule of our actions; we are solicitous or indifferent about things, not according to their intrinsic merit, but according to the notions or opinions which we have conceived of them, as desirable, or of no moment; so that a change of heart and manners must ever begin in change of opinions,—in a knowledge of our fallen state, of our great Remedy, and the manner of applying it through faith. Again, before a man is truly penitent, his notions of worldly goods are lively and animated, as of things highly desirable; but his notion of God is a faint and insipid idea, as of somewhat remote, and which he cares not to be concerned with. The thoughts of wealth and glory and pleasure move his heart strongly; but the thoughtof God lies dormant in him, as a barren or disagreeable speculation. What we want, therefore, is a due and worthy notion of God; I mean a high and lively and affecting sense of him; such as may have its proper ascendant in our minds; such as may rule in our hearts, and make us behave towards him in a manner suitable to his dignity: and this I take to be the drift of these words, hallowed be thy name; for the name of God signifies, that idea or notion whereby we conceive him in our minds (see Psalms 76:1.Proverbs 18:10; Proverbs 18:10.); and to hallow or sanctify a thing, signifies to give it that distinction and preference which religion confirms: for, as things excelling upon a worldly account are honourable, so things excelling upon a religious account are called holy; and therefore, in these words hallowed be thy name, we pray, that the conception or thought of God should be so exalted in us, that all our thoughts may fall down before it, and be brought in subjection to it; that the names of grandeur, and riches, and voluptuous joy, may sink beneath the name of the Lord our God; may fade, and lessen, and vanish in his presence. This is hallowing the name of God, and treating it with the reverence that it deserves: this is the end ofall religion, and therefore first proposed in this divine prayer: the following petitions relate to the means of attaining it. Such is Dr. Heylin's interpretation. It may be proper, however, for the satisfaction of the reader, to give that which is more generally received. Now the name of God is generally understood as a Hebraism for God himself, his attributes and works; and to sanctify a thing, is to entertain the highest notion of it, as true and great and good; and by our words and actions to testify that belief. See 1 Peter 3:15.Isaiah 8:13; Isaiah 8:13. In this view, the meaning of the petition is, "May thy existence be universally believed; thy perfections loved and imitated; thy works admired, thy providence reverenced and confided in: may we and all men so think of the Divine Majesty, and of his attributes and works, and may we and they so express our veneration of God, that his glory may be manifested everywhere, to the utter destructionoftheworship of idols and devils!" See Erasmus, Barrow, Macknight, &c.
Matthew 6:10. Thy kingdom come— 2. The kingdom of God being universal and everlasting (Psalms 145:13.), these words cannot be understoodof it; but of the kingdom of the Messiah, which is also called The kingdom of God, ch. Matthew 3:2. There are in the coming of this kingdom several steps to be observed:—The resurrection of Jesus Christ, his ascension, and the sending down of the Holy Ghost, were the beginnings of it. Acts 2:32; Acts 2:36. The preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles extended it beyond the bounds of Judaea, especially when, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter extirpation of the ceremonial law, the earthly kingdom of Judaea, over which God in a peculiar sense presided, entirely ceased, and the Gospel came to be preached over the known world. This kingdom has ever since enlarged its bounds, as the Gospel has been by degrees, received in the world, and will continue to enlarge itself, till our adorable Redeemer has put all enemies under his feet. What we desire or pray for in this second petition is, the advancement and progress of the Gospel; obedience to the faith or doctrine of Christ, and his appearance in glory. See 2 Timothy 4:8. Romans 8:19; Romans 8:39. Revelation 17:18. It may be paraphrased thus: "May thy kingdom of grace come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of the earth; may all mankind, receiving thee, O Christ, for their king, and truly believing in thy name, be filled with righteousness and peace and joy; with holiness and happiness, till they are removed hence into thy kingdom of glory, there to reign with thee for ever and ever."
Thy will be done in earth, &c.— 3. In this third petition we pray not that God may do his own will, as Dr. Whitby observes, nor that the will of his providence may be done upon us; neither do we pray that we may become equal to the angels in perfection, or that God may compel us to do his will; but that, in consequence of the coming of his kingdom, or the establishment of the Gospel in the world, men may be enabled to imitate the angels, by giving such a sincere, universal, and constant obedience to the divine commands, as the present state of human nature will admit of. This is the most humble, as well as the most prudent wish, that it is possible for the creature to express; because it implies that the Supreme Being will do nothing but what is for the interest of his creatures, who simply and wholly depend upon him; and that he knows better than they what is for their real good. Dr. Heylin joins the two petitions of this verse together; because, says he, they have a mutual dependence, and may best serve to explain each other. The latter, wherein we pray that we may do the will of God on earth, as the angels do it in heaven, might seem a strange, or perhaps presumptuous, certainly an impossible request, had we not been first taught to say, Thy kingdom come. If the kingdom of God comes; that is to say, if God vouchsafes to govern us, he will subdue all our enemies under our feet; a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of his kingdom. It will bring every thought into subjection; it will animate and govern our souls, as our souls do our bodies, and make us do his will on earth as the angels do it in heaven.
Matthew 6:11. Give us this day our daily bread— 4. The word επιουσιον rendered daily in our version, is nowhere else to be found; neither in the LXX, nor in any Greek author, nor in any place of the New Testament, except in this part of the Lord's Prayer. Commentators differ much in their interpretation of it. That in Etymol. Magna, seems as just as any: 'Επιουσιος,— 'Ο επι τη ουσια ημων αρμοζων: "that which is sufficient to our life;" and so Theophylact explains it: "What will strengthen us from day to day, for serving God with cheerfulness and vigour." Bread, accordingto the Hebrew idiom, signifies all the provisions of the table. See Gen 18:5 and inthe present petition it signifies raiment also, with convenient habitation, and every thing necessary to life. See Agur's Petition, Proverbs 30:8. Since then we are not allowed to ask provision for rioting and luxury, but only for the necessaries of life, and that not for many years, but from day to day, the petition forbids anxious cares about futurity, and teaches us how moderate our desires of worldly things should be; and whereas not the poor only (whose industry all acknowledge must be favoured by the concurrence of Providence, to render it successful), but the rich also, are enjoined to pray for their bread day by day. This is on account of the great instability of human affairs, which renders the possession of wealth absolutely precarious; and because, without the divine blessing, even the abundance of the rich is not of itself sufficient to keep them alive, far less to make them happy. This petition contains a most excellent lesson, says Dr. Doddridge, to teach us, on the one hand, moderation in our desires; and, on the other, a humble dependence on divine Providence for the most necessary supplies, be our possessions or our abilities ever so great. But this petition seems to include something farther; and accordingly Erasmus, Heylin, and many others, understand it, after the Fathers, in a spiritual sense also. Bread, says Heylin, here signifies all things needful for our maintenance; the maintenance of the whole man, both body and soul; for each of these have their proper sustenance; to one belongs the natural bread, to the other the spiritual, and both are included in this petition: the natural bread means all things needful for the assistance of the body; the spiritual bread, the grace of Christ, which must also be our daily bread for the maintenance and growth of our souls in holiness. The petition, therefore, may be paraphrased: "Give us, O Father; for we claim nothing of right, but only of thy free mercy;—this day; for we take no solicitous thought for the morrow;—our daily bread; all things needful for our souls and bodies; not only the meat that perisheth, but thy grace; the food which endureth to everlasting life."
Matthew 6:12. And forgive us our debts, &c.— 5. We may observe, that this is the only petition in this prayer upon which our Lord enlarges, and indeed it is a petition of the greater consequence, and the more to be attended to by us, as we ourselves ask that which is the greatest of all things from God, even the pardon of our sins, upon a conditionvoluntarilyurged.It is hardly possible to imagine a more effectual expedient to promote the forgiveness of injuries, than thisof making it a part of our daily prayer, to ask such pardon of God, as we give to our offending brother; for in this circumstance every malicious purpose against him would turn the petition into an imprecation, by which we should as it were bind down the wrath and vengeance of God upon ourselves. (See on Matthew 6:14-15.) The earth and the fulness thereof being the Lord's, he has a right to govern the world, and to support his government by punishing all who presume to transgress his laws. The suffering of punishment therefore is a debt which sinners owe to the divine justice. So that when we ask God in prayer to forgive our debts, we beg that he would, through the infinite merit of Christ, mercifully be pleased to remit the punishment of our sins, particularly the pains of hell; and that, laying aside his displeasure, he would graciously receive us into favour, and bless us with eternal life. In this petition, therefore, we confess our sins,and testify the sense we have of our demerit, than which nothing can be more proper in our address to God. The reason is, humility and a sense of our own unworthiness, when we ask favours of God, whether spiritual or temporal, tend to make the goodness of God in bestowing them on us appear the greater; not to mention that these dispositions are absolutely necessary to make us capable of being pardoned. The expression used in this petition is very remarkable,—forgive us, as we forgive: we are allowed to ask from God only such forgiveness as we grant to others. In the mean time, when we beg forgiveness of God, like that which we grant to men, we must beware of setting our forgiveness on an equality with God's: the most perfect forgiveness which men are capable of exercising towards men falls infinitely short of the divine forgiveness necessary to repenting sinners. Besides, God himself has taken notice of the difference, Hosea 11:8-9.: because I am God, and not man, &c. We only beg that the Divine forgiveness may resemble ours in its reality. See the note on ch. Matthew 5:44., Macknight, and Olearius.
Matthew 6:13. And lead us not into temptation— And do not bring us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Doddridge. Abandon us not to temptation. Campbell. This might be translated, "And lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil; either by removing the temptation itself when it proves too hard for us, or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory." The correction of the translation here proposed is built upon this argument,—that to pray for an absolute freedom from all solicitation or temptation to sin, is to seek a deliverance from the common lot of humanity; because trials and temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of holiness and virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they shew in affliction. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice, when, by divine appointment, we fall into temptations or trials. This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome the solicitations of the world, and of the necessity of constant aid from above, both to regulate our passions, and to conquer the difficulties of a religious life. See Macknight. The petition, however, may be well understood agreeably to the common version of it,—Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us; for, as God is the only Potentate, the sole Governor of the world, so that nothing can possibly fall out but by his allowance or permission, it is upon that account not unusual, in the style of Scripture, to impute all things to him. Thus he is said to have sent Joseph into Egypt to preserve his life, though in fact his brethren, out of envy, had sold him thither. See Genesis 45:5-8. Job 1:21. And it is in this sense that God is said to lead into temptation, or expose to temptation; becauseall temptations come by his permission. The general intent, therefore, of these words, lead us not, &c. is, that, with just distrust of ourselves, and a humble sense of our weakness, we should deprecate such trials as may endanger our grace. But as some trials, that is, temptations, are necessary and inevitable, it is therefore added, but deliver us from evil. The Jews were wont to beg of God in their prayers, "That he would not deliver them into the hand of temptation;" whereby they did not desire that he would keep them from falling into temptation, but that he would not give them up to it, or suffer them to yield thereto. And indeed, to enter into temptation, ch. Mat 26:41 is to be overcome by it. After all, God never suffers us to be tempted above what we are able. See James 1:13., compared with 1 Corinthians 10:13. We may remark in conclusion ofthese petitions, and as a proof of the perfection of this prayer, that the principal desire of a Christian's heart being the glory of God, ver, 9, 10., and all that he wants for himself or his brethren being the daily bread of soul and body, or the support of life, animal and spiritual; pardon of sin, and deliverance from sin, and from the power of the devil, Matthew 6:11-13., there is nothing beside for which a Christian can wish: therefore this prayer comprehends all his desires. Eternal life is the certain consequence, or rather the completion of holiness. See Beausobre and Lenfant, Heylin, &c.
For thine is the kingdom, &c.— III. These words contain the doxology or conclusion of the Lord's prayer. The Jews used it in their liturgies; and they derived that use most probably from 1 Chronicles 29:11. Bishop Hopkins, Mr. Blair, and other excellent writers, have well observed, that it admirably suits and enforces every petition. This doxology may be paraphrased thus: "Because the government of the universe is thine for ever, and thou alone possessest the power of creating and upholding all things; and because theglory of infinite perfections remains eternally with thee; therefore all men ought to hallow thy name, submit themselves to thy government, and perform thy will:in a humble sense of their dependence should they seek from thee the supply of their wants, the pardon of their sins, and the kind protection of thy grace and providence." For ever and ever is, in the Greek, εις τους αιωνας words which express the idea of a proper eternity, though often used for a finite duration, whether past or to come. They are always to be understood, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, according to the nature and circumstances of the things to which they are applied; and consequently in this place, where kingdom, power, and glory are ascribed to God for ever, they signify absolute eternity; eternity without beginning or end. The word amen is of Hebrew original, and frequently retained by the Evangelists. St. Luke has sometimes rendered it by a word signifying yes, and at other times truly. See Luke 9:27. When it is a sign of wishing, it then signifies so be it, as the LXX have rendered it; and when added to the conclusion of our prayers, it is intended to express the sincerity and earnestness with which we desire the blessing we ask, with some cheerfulness of hope as to the success of our petitions. See the note on Deuteronomy 27:15. It is observable that, though the doxology is three-fold, as well as the petitions, and directed to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, distinctly, yet is the whole fully applicable to every person, and to the ever-blessed and undivided Trinity. See Macknight, Doddridge, and Heylin.
Matthew 6:14-15. For if ye forgive, &c.— From what our Lord here says, we are not to imagine that the forgiving of injuries will entitle us to pardon: it only places us in a condition to receive it through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, all negative declarations being in their own nature absolute, he who does not forgive never shall be forgiven, as it is in the 15th verse. Behold then the necessity of forgiving all kinds of injuries established by the Lord Jesus Christ himself! in opposition to the foolish opinions of the men of this world, who, associating the idea of cowardice with the greatest and most generous act of the human mind, the forgiveness of injuries, have laboured to render it shameful and vile, to the utter disgrace of human reason and common sense. It is a strong remark of Archbishop Wake, upon that petition of the Lord's prayer whereof these verses are explicatory, that "if we do not forgive as we hope to be forgiven, we imprecate the wrath of God upon our own heads, when we use the Lord's prayer, and do in reality pray after this desperate manner: 'Thou, O God, hast commanded me to forgive my brother his trespasses; thou hast declared that unless I do so, thou wilt not forgive me my sins. Well, let what will come, I am resolved to stand to the hazard of it. I will not forgive, nor be reconciled to my brother: do then with me as thou shalt see fit.'" Can the man of unforgiving temper see his sin and his danger in a stronger point of view?
Matthew 6:16. Moreover, when ye fast, &c.— Our Lord goes on to apply the general advice, before given, to private fasting as well as to private prayer. The Greek word σκυθρωπος properly denotes a fretful and angry countenance; but here it signifies a "face disfigured with mortification and fasting." The LXX have used the same word, Gen 40:7 to express a sad countenance. See also Proverbs 15:13. This word, as well as 'Υποκριται, hypocrites, refers to the theatre, and to those actors and dissemblers there, who put on every countenance to serve their purpose. The word αφανιζουσι, rendered they disfigure, signifies to cause to disappear, or vanish, or to destroy; and is the same word which has been rendered, in the 19th and 20th verses, corrupt. These hypocritical actors wonderfully affected the fame of extraordinary holiness. Hence they assumed very austere countenances in their fasts; they put on the appearance and dress of mourners, and induced a kind of paleness, at least as much as they could, over their countenance. In short, they made their natural face to disappear, as much as possible; putting on an artificial one, as the players of old were wont to put on their masks. See Fortuita Sacra, p. 14. Our Saviour refers here more particularly to the private and voluntary fasting of the Pharisees: they fasted on Mondays and Thursdays; but those who would be thought more devout than the rest, fasted besides on Tuesdays and Fridays, and abstained from all kind of food till sun-setting. There can be no doubt that our Saviour speaks here of private fasting only; because, when public sins and calamities are to be mourned for, it ought to be performed in the most public manner. Doddridge renders this, When you keep a fast, be not like the hypocrites, putting on a dismal air; for they deform their countenances, that, &c.
Matthew 6:17-18. Anoint thine head— That is to say, "Affect nothing which is uncommon; and, rather than put on a sad countenance, which may shew to all around you that you fast, wash, on the contrary, your face, and anoint your head." Except in times of deep mourning, or public fasting, when they used dust and ashes, which must have sadly deformed the countenance, the Jews were accustomed to wash and rub themselves with oil,which was commonly perfumed, especially on festivals. See Ruth 3:3. Ruth 3:2 Sam. 25: 2.Luke 7:37-38; Luke 7:37-38. Such were our Lord's directions to his disciples with respect to fasting, from which it appears that he approved of the duty; and indeed the usefulness of it is sufficiently evident; for by abstinence from food, the body is mortified and subjected to the spirit, and the spirit itself is better fitted for the exercises of devotion: nevertheless, in religious fasting, regard must be had to men's constitutions; for it may happen to some that a total abstinence from food would, insteadoffittingthem for the exercises of piety, render them wholly incapable thereof; in which case no more than a due degree of abstemiousness should be practised. See Macknight, Fortuita Sacra, p. 18 and Explication de Textes difficiles, &c.
Matthew 6:19-21. Lay not up, &c.— By taking a general review of what we have been hitherto taught in this divine sermon, we shall be led more distinctly to the meaning of the words now before us. After the beatitudes, our Saviour goes on to treat of justice, that is, duty in general. And first he shews the extent of it; I mean, how far its obligations reach. He begins with a general proposition, ch. Mat 5:20 and this he illustrates and exemplifies in many instances, which fill up the remainder of that chapter. After thus shewing the extent of justice, he comes in the next place to rectify the motive to it; as in the first verse of this chapter: Take heed that you do not your justice, that is, acts of justice, to be seen of men, &c. And here again he gives particular instances in the three principal acts of that justice, namely, beneficence to mankind, devotion to God, and mortification which concerns ourselves; with a strict caution to shun all vain-glory in all its forms and shapes. And as vanity is not the only wrong motive, and as the deeds of justice last mentioned are not our only occupation, but besides these we have each of us his secular employment, or worldly business to discharge; our Lord therefore goes on to regulate our whole course of action, by setting the heart right, and in a proper disposition for the performance of it. Lay not up for yourselves, &c. I should rather read, Make not for yourselves, &c. which the original imports, and the sense requires; because, whatever we place our happiness in, that we make our treasure; the treasure of the covetous is literal treasure; and that of the rest of the world consists of those things which they desire and count upon as a fund for enjoyment; for as where our treasure is, there will our heart be also; so where our heart is, there also is our treasure. As almost every animal has had its idolaters, so almost every kind of object has become a treasure to some or other of the sons of men. But as true religion is but one, so there is but one real treasure; one only that is worthy of our option, and will answer our expectation;—that which we provide for ourselves in heaven, when, pardoned through the blood of the covenant, and regenerated by the Spirit of God, in constant dependence upon divine grace, we secure in the experience and practice of all holiness and virtue, our everlasting interests there, as our Lord advises. In order the more fully to understand the words, where moth and rust doth corrupt, &c. we should remember that, in the Eastern countries, where the fashion of clothes did not alter as with us, the treasures of the rich consisted not only of gold and silver, but of costly habits and fine-wrought vessels of brass, and tin, and copper, liable to be destroyed in the manner here mentioned. See Job 27:16. James 5:2-3. Doddridge renders and paraphrases the 19th verse (understanding it singly as a caution against covetousness), "Do not make it your great care to lay up for yourselves treasures here on earth, where so many accidents may deprive you of them; where the moth, for instance, may spoil your finest garments, and the devouring canker may consume your corn, or may corrupt the very metals you have hoarded; and where thieves may dig through the strongest walls which you have raised about them; and may steal them away; but," &c. Nothing certainly can be conceived more powerful to damp that keenness with which men pursue the things of this life, than the considerationof their emptiness, fragility, and uncertainty; or to kindle in them an ambition of obtaining the treasures in heaven, than the consideration of their beingsubstantial, satisfying, durable, and subject to no accident whatever. See Heylin, Macknight, and Calmet.
Matthew 6:22-23. The light of the body is the eye—single—evil— The eye is the lamp of the body;—clear or pure;—bad or vitiated. Heylin. Mr. Locke has observed, that the modes of thinking, as he speaks, that is to say, the several operations of the human mind, are in all languages expressed by figurative terms, which belong to sensible ideas in their primary signification. Now, if all languages used the same figures, this would bring no additional obscurity to our translations; but it is well known that the oriental tongues have, upon these subjects, quite a different set of metaphors from those in use among the Greeks and Romans, and consequently among us, who so generally follow their phraseology: many difficulties in Scripture are to be imputed to this cause; and to solve those difficulties we must have recourse to the context, and collect the meaning of this unusual dialect from the occasion upon which it is spoken. It was upon this account that we made the general review of the tenor of our Lord's discourse in the preceding note, and particularly of the context, which distinctly leads us to the meaning of the difficult passage now before us. The eye is the lamp of the body: body here signifies, as it sometimes does in our own language, the person, the man himself; and eye, in the Hebrew idiom, signifies, as we observed on ch. Mat 5:29 the intention, which casts a light upon whatever it aims at; like a microscope, it magnifies its object, it illustrates it, and renders the minutest part of it conspicuous: for having made it its treasure, it treats it as such, and counts upon it as a fund for happiness; and although the object be void of real worth, yet the intention imputes to it all the advantages which a credulous desire and active fancy can suggest. Thus the intention is the force of the mind turned one way; and therefore our Lord compares it to a lamp, which, when directed to one particular object, greatly enlightens that, and makes other things visible only in proportion to their nearness. In like manner, whatever is the direct object of the intention receives from it a lustre, which shews it to the greatest advantage, and shews other things in a good or bad light, as they seem favourable or prejudicial to the execution of our design. Now, when this intention is right, our Lord calls it the single or simple eye, απλους, and with good reason; for as only one straight line can pass between two givenpoints, and as the truth upon every stated question is but one, while error and mistake are almost infinitelyvarious; so there is, there can be, but one such right intention. What that is, our Lord had just before declared, when he directed us to make for ourselves treasures in heaven, that we might be induced to collect and unite all our desires in that one thing necessary. He here calls the intention to do so the single eye; on the contrary, every other intention an evil eye; for every other deliberate purpose, which does not coincide with, or become subordinate to, the right intention, though we could suppose it innocent in itself, yet will prove an obstacle to that right intention, because the right intention cannot succeed but by a perfect renunciation of all other projects and designs; and therefore our Lord immediately subjoins, no man can serve two masters. See Heylin and Calmet. Several commentators have explained this as if our Lord intended here to urge the practice of liberality, as what would have a great influence on the whole of a man's character and conduct; and they suppose it illustrated by all those passages, where an evil eye signifies a grudging temper, and a good eye a bountiful disposition; and also by those texts in which simplicity is put for liberality. See Hammond, Whitby, Beausobre and Lenfant, &c. See the Reflections, where the passage is considered chiefly in this last point of view. See Doddridge, Olearius, and Mr. Law's Serious Call, ch. 2 for the former view of the passage.
Matthew 6:24. No man can serve, &c.—mammon— Mammon is a Syriac word for riches, which our Lord beautifully represents as a person whom the folly of men had deified. It is well known that the Greeks had a fictitious god of wealth; but I cannot find, says Dr. Doddridge, that he was ever worshipped in Syria under the name of Mammon. According to some, mammon, derived from אמן, amen, signifies whatever oneis apt to confide in: and because men put their trust generally in external advantages, such as riches, authority, honour, power, &c. the word mammon is used to denote every thing of that kind, and particularly riches, by way of eminence
Matthew 6:25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought, &c.— Be not solicitous [and so wherever it occurs]. Is not the life more than food? The Greek μεριμνατε, imports such anxietyas causes an intestine strife, by contrary reasonings with opposite hopes and fears. This is so strictly the sense of the original, that a word of the same derivation is used by our Lord, where he says, a kingdom divided against itself, μερισθεισα, cannot stand, ch. Matthew 12:25. So that this precept only forbids that perplexity and distraction of thought which are inconsistent with the single right intention, and interrupts our resignation to the divine will. St. Luke, in the parallel place, has made use of the Greek word μετεωριζω, ch. Mat 12:29 which signifies to have a wavering and doubtful mind, disquieted and tossed about with mistrust and fear. See Mintert on the word. In this view there is no need to say, with Archbishop Tillotson, Dr. Clarke, and some others, that our Lord only addresses this to his Apostles, who were to cast themselves on an extraordinary Providence, without any ways concerning themselves for their support. Mr. Blair has well proved the contrary at large, in his appendix to his fourth Sermon, vol. 1: p. 55, &c. and it is easy to observe, that the arguments urged by our Lord contain nothing peculiar to their case, but are built on considerations applicable to all Christians. Compare Php 4:6 and 1Pe 5:7 as also Luk 22:35-36 and Act 20:34 whence it appears, that the Apostles themselves were not entirely to neglect a prudent care for their own subsistence, in dependence on miraculous provisions. Our Saviour, attentive to his main argument, proceeds in these verses to shew, that all the reasons by which worldly-mindedness is usually justified or palliated are entirely overthrown, by considering the power, perfection, and extent of the PROVIDENCE of God. This grand subject he handles in a manner suitable to its dignity, by proposing a few simple and obvious instances, wherein the provision which God has made for the least and weakest of his creatures shines forth illustriously, and forces on the mind the strongest conviction of that wise fatherly care, which our gracious God takes of all the works of his hands. From what they were at that instant beholding, the birds of the air, the lilies, the grass of the field, he led even the most illiterate of his hearers to form a more elevated and extensive notion of the divine government than the philosophers attained to; who, though they allowed in the general that the world was ruled by God, had but confused conceptions of his providence, which many of them denied to respect every individual creature and action. OurDivine Prophet taught, that the great Father Almighty has every single being in his hand, and that all things are absolutely subjected to his will. This notion of Providence affords a solid ground, with constant dependence also on divine grace, for supporting that rational trust in God, which is one of the highest and best acts of the human mind, and furnishes us at all times with one of the strongest motives to holiness and virtue.
Far be it from me to widen the narrow ways prescribed in the Gospel! but to make them narrower than the literal sense imports, will render them quite unpassable. It is the glorious privilege even of men engaged in business and the tumult of the world (as the best Christians sometimes are), to be delivered from all entanglements of mind in respect to their secular interests, and from all anxiety and disquietude about future events, even where their reputation, or their fortune, or perhaps both, are at stake. This privilege every Christian is bound to look for,and may expect from the almighty grace of God; but it is to be obtained by the means alone of faith and habitual devotion. On the contrary, to say absolutely, Take no thought, is a misrepresentation of our Lord's doctrine: all his intention here was, to teach the Christian graces and virtues in the most radical manner, by extirpating the remotest tendency to the contraryvices. As under the sixth commandment, which prohibitsmurder, he forbids an angry word or malicious thought; so here, to preserve us from worldly-mindedness, he forbids all painfully solicitous care even for the necessaries of life; and he enforces his prohibition with such cogent arguments, as must convince all who piously attend to them. Is not the life more than food, and the body than clothing? "He who hath given us the greater, will he deny us the less? He who gave us our being, will he refuse what is necessary for the support of it? If is as absurd as ungrateful to distrust a benefactor, whose goodness we have already so largely experienced, and who takes upon himself the care to provide for us. Consider the birds of the air; they sow not, &c.—are ye not of greater value than they? Are ye not the children of God? And when ye see him make so plentiful a provision for his inferior creatures, can you suspect that he will leave you, his children, destitute of necessary subsistence?" See more on Mat 6:34 and the note on Psalms 94:19.
Matthew 6:27. Which of you, by taking thought, &c.— Who of you, by his solicitude, can prolong his life one hour? A version strictly literal would be, can add any length to his age; for the Greek word ηλικια signifies both age and stature, and is to be rendered by either, as the occasion requires. Our translators, have rendered it by age, John 9:21; Joh 9:23 and Hebrews 11:11. The Greek word Πηχυς indeed commonly means a cubit; but it is not unfrequent to transfer the measures of space to express those of time, as Psalms 39:5. Thou hast made my days as it were a span long. Dr. Hammond upon the place shews, that cubit has been used in the same manner. Thus far we have seen what senses the terms are capable of: what their proper sense is here, we must gather from the context. At Mat 6:25 our Lord dissuades from anxiety about food and clothing; food for the life (ψιχη in the original, that is, soul, or animal life), and clothing for the body. He then treats of these separately. The words under consideration conclude whathe said concerning the maintenance of life, to which stature is not applicable, but age. What he adds concerning the body begins at the next verse. Besides, he was speaking to adult persons, who probably had no solicitude about their stature, and certainly had no imagination that such solicitude could make them grow a foot and a half taller, but a care for the maintenance of life is the common care of all men, and apt to run into excess, where it is not moderated by religion. See Luk 12:25 and Heylin.
Matthew 6:28-29. They toil not, neither do they spin— The expression ου κοπια, they toil not, denotes rural labour, and therefore is beautifully used in a discourse of clothing, the materials of which are produced by agriculture. As the Eastern princes were often clothed in white robes (and they were generally accounted a magnificent apparel, compare Esther 8:15.Daniel 7:9; Daniel 7:9.), Calmet properly refers this dress of Solomon to the whiteness of the lilies; and, following him, Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the passage very well thus: "Even the magnificent Solomon, in all his royal glory, when sitting on his throne of ivory and gold (1 Kings 10:18.), was not arrayed in garments of so pure a white, and of such curious workmanship, as one of these lilies presents to your view." Mr. Ray thinks that the original word κρινα signifies tulips of various colours, or a purple kind of lily. See his "Wisdom of God in Creation," p. 107. In which view the passage might be paraphrased, "Solomon himself, in all his magnificence, was but poorly arrayed in comparison of the flowers of the field, whose beautiful forms, lively colours, and fragrant smell, far exceed the most perfect productions of art."
Matthew 6:30. If God so clothe—oven, &c.— The original word αμφιεννυσιν, which we render clothe, Dr. Doddridge well observes, expresses properly the putting on a complete dress, which surrounds the body on all sides, and is used with peculiar beautyfor that elegant yet strong external membrane, which, like the skin in the human body, at once adorns the tender structure of the vegetable, and likewise guards it from the injuries of the weather. Every microscope with which a flower is viewed, affords a lively comment on this text. Dr. Doddridge and others render the original word κλιβανον by still, instead of oven; but the author of the Observations strongly opposes this interpretation, and informs us, that myrtle, rosemary, and other plants, with withered stalks of herbs and flowers, are made use of in Barbary and other parts of the East, to heat their ovens as well as bagnios; which, says he, gives us a clear comment on the present passage. The grass of the field here apparently is to be understood to include the lilies of which our Lord had been speaking, consequently herbs in general. Critics have remarked this large sense of the Greek word χορτος : nor can it with any shew of reason be pretended that our Lord is speaking of the morrow in the rigid sense of the word, but of a little time after. "Behold, then, says our Lord, these lilies and fine flowers of the field! yet beautiful and magnificent as they appear one day, they are in a manner the next thrown into the oven; their dried stalks are, with the dried stalks of other plants, employed in heating the ovens of the villages around us; and will not God much more clothe you, who are my disciples?" His sentiment here plainly is, that if God covers with so much glory things of no farther value than to serve the meanest uses, will he not then take care of his servants, who are so precious in his eyes, and designed for such important services in the world? Consequently he cannot be supposed as speaking of precious flowers, distilled either for medicinal purposes, or to make rich perfumes, but of those of which men make no higher use than they do of cow-dung and stubble. See Observations, p. 142 and the note on 1Sa 2:8 and Lamentations 4:5. Our Saviour adds, O ye of little faith! which is the first place where faith occurs in the New Testament. This was a term in the Jewish as well as the Christian Theology. The root is aman, nutrivit, he nourished; from which comes Amen, veritas, truth; and Emunah, fides, faith; as it were "the reception of truth, for the nurture of the soul." So we say in English, nurture for good instruction. Nor is this a fanciful application, but most consonant to the whole tenor of Scripture style in both Testaments, where the experimental and practical truths of religion are continually expressed by the various species of nourishment, as wellmeat as drink, in all the different forms they are used for bodily sustenance. Maimonides, in his explanation of the word achal, comedit, to eat up, shews, "that it is most frequently applied to express the reception of wisdom and doctrine, and universally all information of the mind, whereby it [the mind] is maintained for growth to the perfection of its nature, as the body is maintained by the food proper for its nourishment. Thus Isaiah, Leviticus 1:0. &c., inviting men to attend to his doctrine, says, Come ye, buy and eat," &c. And after quoting two passages from the Proverbs, where the same word is used, he says, "Wherever eating and drinking are spoken of in that book, wisdom or the law of God is always to be understood as the mental food." And hence it may be inferred that the Hebrew term for faith (according to the derivation before mentioned) may denote the proper disposition given to man by the grace of God for receiving and digesting the great truths of religion. Buxtorff in his Talmud, that is to say, Lexicon, explains emunah, faith, by religion; and indeed faith frequently includes piety, or godliness. Thus the Jews understood the word in our Saviour's time; and in this sense doubtless he used it, when he reproached them with neglecting faith, which he names a weightier matter of their own law, ch. Mat 23:23 and the phrase that he used, O ye of little faith! was then common among the Jews, as is evident from many passages of the Talmud. To conclude; the term mammon, that is, riches, has, as we have observed on Mat 6:24 the same derivation with the original word for faith, or amen, and for the same reason, namely, because men are so apt to confide in riches, as a true and stable fund on which to build their happiness. When the Divine Being holds that place in our minds which worldly wealth has in the minds of covetous men, then indeed we have faith in him. See Dr. Heylin, p. 132 who,insomefollowingdissertations,finelyandfullyillustrates this definition. But we shall also give other definitions and views of faith in the course of our Commentary.
Matthew 6:32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek— It was the general character of the heathens, that they neither prayed to their gods, nor laboured themselves for any other blessings than the temporal ones here mentioned; as all their prayers and hymns to their deities abundantly prove, and as we learn in particular from the 10th satire of Juvenal; and this because they were in a great measure ignorant of God's providence and goodness, had erred fundamentally in their notions of religion, and had no certain hope of a future state. See Ephesians 2:2. We may observe that there is a noble antithesis in this verse. Christ sets God's knowledge of our wants in opposition to the anxiety of the heathens about having them supplied; to intimate that the one is much more effectual for that purpose than the other. See 1 Kings 18:27. Macknight and Wetstein.
Matthew 6:33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, &c.— That is, true religion; the advantages of the kingdom of God; righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, Rom 14:17 the treasures mentioned in Matthew 6:20. Compare 1 Kings 3:11-12. And his righteousness, that is to say, the image of God and all the fruits thereof, springingfromtheinfinitemeritofChrist,thefountainofallrighteousness,asillustrated by the Lord Jesus Christ, and not as understood by the Pharisees. See ch. Matthew 5:6. Dr. Sykes, here, by righteousness understands the Messiah; the righteous branch, who was to rule in righteousness, and in whose days the righteous were to flourish. See Sykes on Christianity, p. 35. But the former interpretation seems most agreeable to the context. The meaning of the original word προστεθησεται is, shall be added over and above; than which expression nothing could have been more proper; for these temporal blessings are by no means essential to the stipulations of the covenant of grace, but are entirely to be referred to the divine good pleasure, to add or withhold as God shall see fit. The goods of this world ought not to be looked upon by Christians as trueand essential advantages. They should make a good use of them, if God thinks proper to bless them therewith, 1Ti 4:8 but if not, their duty is, to be satisfied with their own portion, whatever it is, being possessed of spiritual goods, and hoping for those that are eternal. Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:16-17.
Matthew 6:34. Take therefore no thought; &c.— "Since the extent and efficacy of Divine Providence are so great, and since you are the objects of its peculiar care, you need not vex yourselves about futurity;" for the morrowdenotes future time in general.The morrow, continues our Lord, shall take thought for the things of itself; or rather, according to the Hebrew idiom, shall make you take thought for the things of itself; namely, in a proper time, it being sufficient that you provide the necessaries of life for yourselves as they are wanted: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Every time has abundant necessary troubles of its own; so that it is foolish to increase them by anticipating those which are to come, especially as by that anticipation it is not in your power to prevent any future evils." Such is our Saviour's doctrine with respect to Providence; and upon this subject it may be proper to remark, that though God can produce by an immediate act whatever he accomplishes by the intervention of second causes: for instance, can make heat without the sun, can communicate fruitfulness to the earth without heat, can furnish food to men without the fruitfulness of the earth, nay, can sustain life without food; yet he does all things by a series or concatenation of causes, in each of which there is as much wisdom and power displayed, as would have appeared had the end been effected by an immediate act. This plan is the most gracious that possibly could be; for the manifestations of the divine perfections are greatlymultiplied thereby, and a Providence formed in such a manner, as to be not only the subject ofhuman contemplation, but a grand foundation of our trust in God, and a powerful incitement by which we are engaged to seek his favour, who thus, by a variety of means, makes himself known as the chief good in every part of the universe. Covetousness, therefore, and worldly-mindedness, with all the other vices which derive their strength, whether from an absolute disbelief of the perfections of God, or from wrong notions of them, are by this constitution of things aseffectuallyguardedagainstasthenature of moral government will admit; but the whole of which would be utterly unavailable for the salvation of fallen man, were the Holy Spirit of God not to convince, convert, and sanctify the soul.
A fear of wanting necessaries is the most specious pretence for covetousness; and it is in order to repress the remotest tendencies to that base disposition, that our Lord is thus copious and emphatical in assuring us of the superintending care of Providence. Butletnoperversespiritmistake his declarations here as a dispensation from industry: he never meant to abrogate that sentence passed upon our whole race, in the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread. Daily labour is imposed on mankind, and is included in the daily cross which he has commanded us to take up. If we do not take up that cross, and punctually discharge our duty in that state of life to which God has called us, we have no reason to expect his fatherly protection. We must never forget that a trust in God, and a diligence in our calling, are connected like faith and obedience, which are so far from interfering, that they are in their own nature inseparable. Duty is very extensive, consisting of many parts, which must be performed at once, yet cannot be spoken at once, but must be detailed in separate precepts. True morality consists not merely in action, but also in the motive which animates it. Our course of action is taught elsewhere; and our worldly calling, which is to us the order of Providence, prescribes the daily work we have to do. The doctrine now under consideration relates to the proper motive of our actions, directing our view towards the great end to which they all ought to be ultimately referred. Our actions are upon earth; but the right motive is in heaven, where only faith can penetrate; and therefore our Lord, expostulating with his disciples upon their want of sensibility to that motive, subjoins, at Matthew 6:30, O ye of little faith! See Macknight and Heylin.
Inferences.—A show of piety is all mere pretence and mockery, and does not deserve to be called religion, much less can it be evangelical and acceptable to God, unless the heart be in it with governing aims, not at our own reputation and worldly interests, but at his glory. In every thing our requests should be made known to God, as a father, according to his direction and will; not with vain repetitions, as if we were to be heard for much speaking, but with earnest addresses, under a sense of duty, and of his being able and ready to answer us. And how much need have we to look inwards and upwards, that our hearts may be right with God under the influence of his spirit; that our principles, motives, and views may be sincere and spiritual in our fastings, prayers, alms-deeds, and all religious duties and services, as being always under his eye; and that we may be approved of him, and accepted in his sight through Jesus Christ, however we may stand in the opinion of men! Alas, what a poor reward is the vanishing breath of popular fame, compared with the love and favour of God, and the honour which comes from him! And yet this is all the advantage that hypocrites will get by their religion. What is all this pitiful, perishing, and uncertain world, compared with the great, solemn, and eternal realities of the heavenly inheritance! And yet, how fond are we naturally apt to be of things here below; how eager in our contrivances and labours, hopes and fears, wishes and cares about them; and how indolent and unmoved about the things of God and glory! But that which commands our hearts is the treasure that we choose! A little of earthly things is really enough to answer the wants of animal nature: how moderate then should we be in our appetites, desires, and cares about food and raiment, and the good things of this life! how contented with such a share of them as God orders us! And how satisfactorily may his children trust in him, that they shall never want any thing which he knows is best for them! He that takes care of birds and flowers will never neglect those who are so much higher in his account. It is sinful and heathenish to distrust him, and all our carking care about the body is unprofitable and vain. But we must have spiritual and heavenly blessings in abundance, to satisfy the longings of an immortal soul. Here then is a loud call to be earnest and early in our inquiries and pursuits; and here is room enough for growing desires, cares and pains in God's way, to amass together as much as possible of these sure and incorruptible treasures; and he who can be contented with but little of these, is like to have none at all. Oh! with what superior impression should Christ, and the righteousness and blessings of his kingdom of grace and glory, command the believers faith and hope, love and joy!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Having before rescued the law from the false expositions of the Pharisees, our Lord here shews the true religion of the heart, as expressed in the three great duties of alms, prayer, and fasting, in which these deluded teachers gloried, but erred exceedingly in the performance of them.
1. Our Lord cautions us against all ostentatious show in bestowing our alms, Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: hypocrisy is a subtle sin, and where we are least apprehensive of danger, is ever ready to insinuate itself; yet the fear of being wrong must not keep us from doing right. Alms-giving is every Christian's bounden duty; and though not to be trusted to for our acceptance before God, nor done to engage the applause of men, must nevertheless, according to our ability, be practised for God's glory, and the assistance of our brethren: and God, who is not unrighteous, will remember and reward the works of faith and labours of love.
2. He describes the methods which the hypocrites used to proclaim their own goodness, and solicit the estimation of others. They sound a trumpet, either literally to gather the poor to their doors, or they gave their alms in the most public manner, on purpose that they might be seen and admired.
3. They had the reward which they sought, and all they had to expect; the ignorant blessed their liberality, and praised their charity. Note; The hypocrite's portion is all in hand, and he has nothing to hope for hereafter.
4. Christ gives direction concerning the proper way of doing our alms. Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; the expression is proverbial, and intimates the secresy that we should use; never designedly letting others know our alms-deeds, nor desirous that they should be acquainted with them. And with regard to ourselves, we should forget them, and never dwell upon them even in our thoughts, to flatter our own vain-glory and self-conceit.
5. Such good deeds as these flowing from faith, which worketh by love, shall not fail of their reward, secret as they are. He that seeth in secret will record them; and when we have forgotten them, and would be ashamed to hear them mentioned, he will remember and recompense them openly, before men and angels, at the resurrection of the just.
2nd, Prayer next comes to be considered. It were an open declaration of impiety, irreligion, and atheism, to live without some acknowledgment of God's goodness, and profession of dependence on his care: at least, none who bear the name of Christian can be supposed to live without prayer, any more than the body can live without breath. We have two grand directions concerning this most necessary duty.
1. That it be not performed hypocritically, to be seen of men. The Pharisees chose the synagogues and the corners of the streets for the places of their devotions, that men's eyes might be upon them: standing up, that they might be more conspicuous; and loving the work, merely for the sake of the reward that they proposed to themselves; which they received,—and a miserable reward it was,—to be applauded of poor mortals like themselves, when they were abhorred of the great and holy God. Our Lord teaches his disciples to pray in a different manner; public places are unfit for private prayer. We must retire, therefore, from the observation of men as much as may be; not only to avoid ostentation, but in order to be alone with God, removed from all interruption that would distract our thoughts; and out of the hearing of others, that we may freely speak before our Father who is in secret; to whom alone it should be our desire to approve ourselves; comparatively indifferent what men may think or say of us, if he regard us with paternal love; and expecting from him the answer of our petitions, which he promises to bestow. For he who seeth in secret, though invisible to us, is yet present with us, and acquainted with our inmost soul, and will reward us openly; answering our requests in present blessings, owning us at the great day of his appearing and glory, and bestowing the promised eternal reward, a reward not indeed of debt, but of grace.
2. That we use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do, who think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; not that repetitions or much speaking in prayer are condemned; seeing that the same petitions may be often reiterated, and speak thus the deepest sensibility of our wants, and the greatest importunity of desire, Matthew 26:44. Dan 9:18-19 as also when our wants are many and great on particular occasions, and our spirit at liberty, we are never restrained from pouring out all our requests into the bosom of our compassionate God and Father; Luke 6:2. The practice censured is, (1.) The vain babblings of those who pray by rote, like the papists, as they tell their beads, repeating so many Ave-Marias, or Pater-Nosters; and constantly, without life or spirituality, going over the same dull round of words, like a packhorse with his bells, pleased with the tinkling of his own unmeaning music. (2.) The much speaking, which arises from an affectation of prolixity, especially in social prayer, where, instead of speaking to God, men love to hear the sound of their own voices, and want others to admire their gifts, their fluency, their fervency and zeal, making a vast parade of words, adoration, thanksgiving, requests, intercessions, &c. like Baal's priests, from morning unto noon, crying, O Baal, hear us: such lip labour is not only lost labour, but worse, an abomination unto the Lord, and to be avoided by all his spiritual worshippers. For our Father, who is in heaven, knoweth what things we have need of before we ask him, therefore does not want to be particularly informed, as if he were ignorant; nor is to be prevailed upon merely by our cries. But, as our Father, he expects to be called upon, and is ever ready to hear and answer us; omniscient, he knows our necessities; and all-sufficient, he will relieve them, even when we through our blindness know not what to ask, or through our ignorance ask amiss; yea, sometimes cannot ask at all, overwhelmed with distress, and speaking only in tears and groans, which cannot be uttered, Romans 8:26-27.
3rdly, Having condemned the prayers of formality and pride, our Lord suggests both matter and words for our use.
The prayer recorded in this chapter may be considered both as a form and as a directory. It is concise yet comprehensive, containing our chief wants in a few words; not that we are always bound to the use of it; but being in frequent use, we need be well acquainted with its meaning, that, when we repeat it; we may pray with the spirit, and with the understanding also.
1. The preface. Our Father which art in heaven. The great object of prayer is God alone; the encouraging motives to approach him are, that he is our Father, our reconciled God and Father in Christ Jesus, from whose paternal heart we may expect the tenderest compassions and most gracious attention; and as he is in heaven, adored by saints and angels, who knows our necessities better than we can express them, and hath all power to supply them abundantly above all that we can ask or think; so that we may come to him in faith, nothing doubting. As our common Father also, we are taught the spirit of love and charity which should breathe in all our prayers, and profess ourselves hereby a part of those many brethren who, through Christ Jesus, are with us pressing towards heaven; and for whom, as they for us, we are mutual advocates.
2. The petitions. They are six in number; the first three more immediately relate to God's glory, the last to our own wants.
[1.] Hallowed be thy name. The name of God comprehends his being, perfections, and all the manifestations that he has made of himself in his works and word. That it may be hallowed, or sanctified, signifies our ascription of praise to him, according to his excellent greatness; and our desire that he may be ever more and more exalted; that we ourselves, and all others, may believe in him, love him, fear and serve him as we ought to do, and in our lips and lives shew forth his glory; and that since all good is from him, all may be ascribed to him.
[2.] Thy kingdom come. The kingdom of the Messiah seems principally here intended, which was now ready to appear; and being once set up in the world, we are required to pray for its enlargement and final consummation. As a kingdom of grace, we beg it may be erected in our own hearts more and more, till every thought be brought into the obedience of Christ; that it may diffuse its benign influence far and wide, and the light of the gospel-word and the power of the gospel-grace cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; that God may thus complete his glorious church, and hasten that eternal kingdom of glory, when all his faithful saints collected round his throne shall, to eternity, adore him, enjoy his favour, and be made for ever happy in his service.
[3.] Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. God is glorified, and his kingdom comes, when his will is made ours, his preceptive will obeyed, his providential will acquiesced in: thus we pray, that, without dispute, we may receive the revelation which he has given us, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, receive him as our king, and approve ourselves obedient subjects to his government in all things; never murmuring against his commands as severe, or his prohibitions as grievous, but counting his will to be always holy, just, and good. We pray for resignation to all his afflictive dispensations, contentment in every station, submission under every burthen, and a heart to bless him, not only when he gives, but when he takes away: in short, that we may be as the clay in the hands of the potter, to be, act, and suffer, according to the good pleasure of his will; and this cheerfully, universally, continually, as the spirits of just men made perfect, and the spotless angels, fulfil his will in heaven. Note; (1.) It is a mockery of God to pray that his will may be done, and daily live in allowed opposition to it. (2.) None may hope to serve God in heaven, who have not on earth made his glory their end, his word their rule, his will their delight.
[4.] Give us this day our daily bread; either for our souls, the bread of life, that we may be strengthened in the inner man, and increase with the increase of God; or for our bodies, the food which is convenient for us; not delicacies, but necessaries; not such as pampered appetite craves, but what used with temperance and sobriety may best fit us for the work of our station and God's service. We ask our own bread, not what we have a right to, for all is God's gift, but what is honestly come by, neither the bread of idleness nor deceit; we are taught to ask daily for it, as acknowledging our dependence upon God for all we have and enjoy; and for this day only, not excluding a provident care, but as mindful of our jeopardy every hour, as dead to carking solicitude and perplexing suggestions about futurity, and content to trust him for the morrow, in the use of the same means which we employ to-day. And this we beg for others as well as ourselves, that they and we may praise God together, who filleth our hearts with food and gladness. Thus all repining, envy, and discontent, will be excluded; content with our allotted portion, we shall wish for nothing more.
[5.] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Our debts are our sins: having failed in the debt of duty, we become liable to the debt of punishment. These sins are innumerable, great, and aggravated; and we have nothing to pay, unable to make the least satisfaction for them to divine justice; and if God deal with us according to our deserts, we are undone for ever. Therefore we cry, Forgive, which intimates the deep and humble sense that we have of our insolvent state, and our hope in the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, for pardon. However numberless, great, and aggravated our sins may be, they are not beyond the Blood of atonement, and God's boundless grace: he can pardon even beyond all that we can ask. A plea also is put into our mouths, not as meritorious, but as an argument founded on God's promise, and an encouragement to our own souls to hope in his mercy, as we forgive our debtors; for if we do so, how much more shall the Father of mercies forgive us? Whilst, on the other hand, we must not dare to hope or pray for pardon, if we can retain allowed malice against one creature upon earth, and do not from the heart forgive our brother his trespasses. Though the offences or injuries done us may have been ever so great, we are called upon to pardon them fully, freely, without reserve or upbraiding: and how reasonable the injunction, when none can ever have offended us, as we have provoked God; since he therefore for Christ's sake hath forgiven us, so ought we to forgive one another. To offer up this petition with rancour, resentment, or ill-will abiding on the heart, would be to imprecate a curse upon our souls, instead of obtaining a blessing.
[6.] Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; conscious of our own weakness, we beg to be kept from the power of temptation, or to be supported under our trials that we may not fall: not that God can be tempted with evil, or tempteth any man; but if he withhold his grace, our own corrupted hearts naturally rush into the snare, and our adversary the devil is ever going about seeking whom he may devour: from his power, the power of that wicked one, the author of all evil, we pray to be delivered, so that, if assaulted, we may not be overcome by him; and from all the evil with which we are compassed on every side, from the evil world with all its snares, from evil men with all their wiles or violence; from our own deceitful hearts; from the evil of sin and punishment, in time and in eternity.
3. The doxology, and conclusion. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen. Which may be considered as a solemn ascription of praise to God; as an act of faith in his power and grace; and a plea to enforce our petitions, in which God's own glory is so greatly concerned. All praise and honour are in the highest to be ascribed to him, whilst, after all, we must own that he is far exalted above all blessing and praise. His power is able to supply all our wants; we may therefore confidently trust him: since his is the kingdom, we may expect protection, and his own glory engages him to grant the requests which his word and Spirit teach us to ask. We may therefore well add our warm Amen, earnest that our requests may be answered, and God therein glorified, in faith resting assured that it will be so, and therefore rising from our knees rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
4thly, Having given directions for alms-giving and prayer, our Lord proceeds to fasting; a needful, though much-neglected duty. This flesh needs the curb of constant mortification, and our sins call for such humiliation. We are,
1. Cautioned against the hypocritical show of the Pharisees. They made a vast parade of mortification, outwardly disfiguring their faces, and putting on an affected rueful countenance; pretending that deep contrition of soul which they never felt, that men might admire the austerity of their lives, and reverence them for their extraordinary sanctity; and so far they had their reward. They were highly esteemed among men; but how poor a consideration this, when, for their hypocrisy, they were an abomination in the sight of God. Note; Many who have denied the cravings of the body have fallen victims to the pride of their heart.
2. We are directed how to fast. As the humiliation is before God, we must studiously avoid all external show; appear in dress and countenance as on other days; alike dead to men's applause or censures; desiring only God's acceptance and regard in Christ Jesus, which in this way we are sure to find; and our Father, who seeth in secret, will reward us openly.
5thly, No sin is so besetting and dangerous to the professors of religion as worldly-mindedness; and where it prevails, there is no surer proof of the hypocrisy of the heart. Against this, therefore, our Lord especially warns his disciples.
1. He cautions them against laying up their treasures upon earth. Nothing under the sun should be regarded by us as our portion; nor ought we, with increasing eagerness, to be still grasping at more, and continually adding to our stores; we must neither take up our rest in these things, nor depend upon them as a substantial and abiding good; for a thousand accidents may deprive us of all. The moth may corrupt our garments; blasting, mildew, or vermin, destroy our corn, and thieves rob us of that gold and silver which we treasured up with so much care. It were folly, therefore, to count these our treasures.
2. He tells us how we may secure a better and a more enduring substance. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven: in the way of God's grace seek to secure the riches of his glory; especially by a right employment of this world's wealth, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; send your wealth before you in works of charity, and then you will find it again with abundant interest laid up in that sure place, where it will be exposed neither to corruption nor violence.
3. He enforces his advice by that weighty argument, that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also; if it be on earth, our minds will be earthly, sensual; if in heaven, our hearts will be drawn up to high and heavenly things; for as the needle follows the magnet, so do our affections pursue what we count our treasure: where this is, thither are our desires drawn out; our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, are all influenced hereby. When God is made our portion, then on him will our souls be fixed.
4. According to a man's spirit and temper, so will his conduct be. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, which was a common and well-known phrase for a liberal temper, then thy whole body will be full of light, the actions will all correspond with the principle, and the whole conversation will abound with good to the glory of God; but if thine eye be evil, if a sordid temper govern thee, thy whole body will be full of darkness, all the faculties will be enslaved by it; the whole conduct influenced by it, to use mean, avaricious, and base ways to gratify such a spirit. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! If covetousness extinguish every generous and noble sentiment in the soul, what a train of vile and unbecoming deeds will follow, whilst every consideration is absorbed in that one of gain, greedily sought by any means, lawful or unlawful; and the consequence must needs be, that such a one will sink into eternal darkness and misery. By the eye we may also understand the practical judgment; according as that is endued with just discernment, or is erroneous and corrupt, so will the corresponding practice be good or evil; and this particularly will appear in the preference given to heavenly or earthly treasures. See the Critical Notes, where this passage is considered in another point of view, which is here omitted to prevent tautology.
5. We must make our choice which world we will have, and which master we will serve, the commands of both being incompatible. There is no dividing the heart, God will have all or none; but the hypocrite wants to secure both worlds together, and to serve God just so far as consists with his interest and convenience; but no man can serve two masters, whose commands are contradictory; and never were two masters more opposite than God and mammon. God demands the heart, enjoins contentment, honesty, love, charity, deadness to this world; and bids his servants forego their ease, their gain, their honour, their esteem among men, to seek in the first place his kingdom and righteousness. Mammon commends the glittering stores of this vain world; bids his servants eat, drink, and be merry; pursue their worldly interests, honours, and esteem; mind chiefly themselves; live for themselves, spend on themselves; and by every means secure wealth, as the principal thing, and man's chief good. Thus opposite are these masters; the service of the one must be attended with abhorrence of the other; we are called upon to make our choice, and let us remember that eternity depends upon it.
6thly, Many think themselves far removed from covetousness, whose hearts, notwithstanding, are overcharged with the cares of this life; and, though not sordidly avaricious, evidently shew their affections more set on things upon the earth, than the things in heaven. We have, therefore,
1. An admonition against all inordinate anxiety about a worldly provision. Take no thought, &c. There is a thoughtfulness and care needful and commendable, Proverbs 27:23. Our families cannot be otherwise provided for, nor the duties of our station discharged. But the caution here given is levelled against tormenting solicitude, and unbelieving distrust of God's providence, which is as dishonourable to him, as distressing to ourselves. Our life is in his hands, and while we are employing the appointed means in dependence upon his blessing, we must with satisfaction cast our care upon him, to give us sickness or health, comforts or crosses, want or abundance, as he pleases; and when we do so, we have his promise to assure us that we shall have just that which is good for us.
2. Christ enforces his admonition by several considerations, which if we seriously thought upon would ever furnish us with abundant arguments to silence all disquieting carefulness.
[1.] If God gives the greater blessings, will he withhold the less? Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? If God hath freely given us the former without our thought or care, and hitherto hath preserved them amidst innumerable dangers, can it be supposed that he will suffer us to perish for want of food or raiment?
[2.] Behold the fowls of the air, numerous and voracious as they are; without any care of theirs, by the Divine Providence, a daily provision is made for them, though they sow not, nor reap, nor gather into barns. And if God thus provides for them, are ye not much better than they? more excellent in nature, and therefore much more the objects of his care: can the heirs of heaven be famished, when the fowls of heaven are fed?
[3.] Unprofitable, as well as unnecessary, are all our anxious cares. Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature? How vain and foolish then to disquiet ourselves about other things equally out of our power! We are called upon here to make a virtue of necessity, and submit quietly to the determinations of Providence.
[4.] To silence our carefulness about raiment, Christ points to the flowers which were probably near him, and made the application more beautifully striking. Consider the lilies of the field, which grow without care or culture, without toil or labour; yet even Solomon on his throne, adorned with the richest robes, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is so worthless, fading, and transitory, which to-day is in such beauty, and to-morrow is cast into the oven to burn, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Note; (1.) All our anxiety about worldly things arises from unbelief. (2.) It is the height of folly and vanity to be proud of fine clothes, when every flower of the field must far outshine us. (3.) Every object around us, if our minds be rightly disposed, will afford us arguments for faith, and quiet dependence on God's care.
[5.] Such anxiety is heathenish, and utterly unbecoming those who have the light of revelation. Gentiles indeed, who have no knowledge of a particular providence, may be concerned after these things, and imagine they must get them merely by their own care and labour; but it is a shame for Christians, who are better taught, not to shew the excellence of their principles by the nobler practice of deadness to the world and confidence in God.
[6.] Our heavenly Father knoweth we have need of all these things, and therefore we may confidently expect the supply of every want. He hath a father's bowels to feel for us; we may have a sure interest in him; he knows our wants; and, be they ever so many or great, he can abundantly relieve them. His care for us makes our anxious carefulness for ourselves needless.
3. Christ directs us to the proper object of our cares: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Religion is our great business: to be a living member of Christ's church is infinitely more our concern than how our bodies shall be fed; and his righteousness,—his righteous obedience unto the death of the cross, is the sole meritorious cause of our acceptance with God, and of every blessing that we can receive in time or in eternity: and we possessing an interest in this Divine Redeemer, internal purity must be sought with diligence, in the use of every means of grace, and in the first place; yea, we must count all dung and loss, compared with the great concerns of our souls and the eternal world, which should in a measure swallow up all other considerations. Indeed the trifles of time will sit light upon those who have the glories of eternity in view. Besides, this is the way to secure a supply of all the rest of our wants; for he who is able abundantly to supply them is pleased to assure us, that then all these things shall be added unto us; they shall be thrown in as over and above all the spiritual blessings. Oh that we were but wise to know our true interests! we should find by experience that nothing was ever lost by faith unfeigned, and diligent caring for the soul.
4. As the conclusion of the matter, we are, without solicitude about futurity, to cast our care upon God, who will care for us. Take no thought for the morrow; which does not forbid prudent foresight, or enjoin an absolute disregard about our business or our families, but all perplexing anxiety, all disquieting fears about what may never happen, or, if it do, may give us no such trouble as we apprehend; and all unbelieving distrust of God. Our business is, to mind present duty, and leave events to God: To-morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: it is folly to be disquieted about what may never come to pass. Who knows whether to-morrow belongs to time or to eternity? And if it return, he who supplied our wants to-day, will supply our wants to-morrow. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof: we need not anticipate our troubles, or torment ourselves with imaginary ills; each day has sufficient, without borrowing to-morrow's burthen to increase the load; and which not all our previous cares and fears will make the lighter. It is God's curse on the wicked world, that they are self-tormentors; while they who live by faith may always rejoice in hope.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany