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The relation of our Lord and his disciples to the religion of the day (continued); vide Matthew 5:17, note. (b) Our Lord turns from cases which could be directly deduced from the Law to those which belonged only to recognized religious duty. Of these he instances three: alms (Matthew 5:2-40.5.4), prayer (Matthew 5:5-40.5.8, Matthew 5:9-40.5.15), fasting (Matthew 5:16-40.5.18). It is, indeed, true that the performance of these duties on special occasions was implied in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 26:12-5.26.15); but there are no regulations concerning their observance in ordinary and daily life. These were matters of custom and tradition; to this the Law, in its original aim and method, did not extend. There was therefore the more need for the Law to be supplemented by the instructions of the Jewish leaders. These our Lord does not reject, but only corrects.
Matthew only. Take heed; προσέχετε [δέ] (Westcott and Hort). If "but" is genuine, as is on the whole more probable, our Lord places this warning in close relation to the preceding charge. Aim at "perfection," but beware of mere show. Rather you must consider the estimate that will be formed of you by your Father which is in heaven. That ye do not your alms; Revised Version, your righteousness (so the manuscripts). Although one of the Hebrew words for "righteousness" (הקרץ) was used especially for the righteousness of almsgiving (cf. Deuteronomy 6:25, LXX.; and 'Psalms of Solomon,' 9.6, where see Professor Ryle's and Mr. James's note), yet it is improbable that τὴν δικαιοσύνην should here be rendered "alms," because
(1) it has this meaning nowhere else in the New Testament;
(2) the word for "alms" (ἐλεημοσύνη) comes in the next verse;
(3) the emphatic position of τὴν δικαιοσύνην (μὴ ποιεῖν), in contrast to ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην (verse 2), points to it being a collective expression of which the various parts are mentioned in the following verses. The form also of the sentence, "when," etc., at the head of each of the other subjects, (verses 5,16) shows that these are co-ordinated with verse 2. Your; in contrast to that of the typical Jews. The limitation implied in ὑμῶν, gives a more partial and probably more external meaning to "righteousness" (cf. Ezekiel 18:22, Ezekiel 18:24) than is to be seen in the corresponding phrase in 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7. To be seen of them (πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς. Having for your final purpose (cf. Ellicott on 1 Corinthians 9:18) to be gazed at by them (cf. Matthew 23:1-40.23.39. Matthew 23:5; Acts 1:11; and T.R. of Acts 8:18; at. supra, Matthew 5:28). Otherwise (Winer, § 65:3. c). Ye have no reward (Matthew 5:12, note). Of your Father; Authorized Version margin and Revised Version, with; the thought being not that it is given by him, but that it is laid up with him (παρὰ τῷ Πατρὶ ὑμῶν). Perhaps, however, the preposition rather means "in the judgment of" (cf. 1 Peter 2:4). Your Father (Matthew 5:16. note). Notice the frequent repetition of the phrase in this context (Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:8, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 6:18 bis).
Almsgiving. Matthew only.
Therefore. A deduction from the general principle laid down in Matthew 6:1. When thou doest alms (ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην). The exact phrase comes here and Matthew 6:3 only. In Luke 11:41 and Luke 12:33 (δότε) alms are con-sidereal rather as a gift; in Acts 9:36; Acts 10:2; Acts 24:17 (ἐλεημοσύνας), rather as to their separate occasions and materials; here quite generally but rather as an action, a work. Do not sound a trumpet (μησῃς). Probably a purely metaphorical expression (cf. our "He is his own trumpeter"). Edersheim, 'Temple,' etc., p. 27 (cf. Schottgen) sees rather in it an ironical allusion to the form and name of the treasure-chests in the court of the women. "The Lord, making use of the word 'trumpet,' describes the conduct of those who, in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as 'sounding a trumpet' before them—that is, carrying before them, as it were, in full display one of these trumpet-shaped alms-boxes (literally called in the Talmud, 'trumpets'), and, as it were, sounding it." This interpretation would have been less fanciful if the substantive had been used instead of the verb. Others (e.g. Calvin, Bengel) have taken it of a literal trumpet; but of this practice there is no evidence whatever. "I have not found, although I have sought for it much and seriously, even the least mention of a trumpet in almsgiving" (J. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'). Before thee; part of the metaphor, since one holds a trumpet up to one's mouth. As the hypocrites do. The comma after "do" in the ordinary text of the Authorized Version (not in Scrivener) connects "do not sound a trumpet before thee" with "in the synagogues," etc., and more readily suggests the literal interpretation of "trumpet" to the English reader. The hypocrites (οἱὑποκριταί). In Attic usage the word means those who play a part upon the stage. Hence, by an easy transition to the moral sphere," hypocrisy" became used in later Greek of "the assumption of a part which masked [men's] genuine feelings, and made them appear otherwise than they were" (cf. Bishop Lightfoot, on Galatians 2:13). Persons who assumed this part would indeed often be identical with ὁἀσεβεῖς οἱπαράνομοι, and the term ὑποκριταί may sometimes be used as synonymous with these (an extension of language which would be the more easy as the Hebrew word for "hypocrite" (פנח) implies not so much hypocrisy as pollution by sin); but there seems no need to see any other connotation in the New Testament than "hypocrite." To wilfully and continuously attempt to produce a false impression—especially in religion—is, after all, a mark of extreme distance from the truth-loving God. In the synagogues and in the streets (Acts 24:5, note). That they may have glory of men (ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν); instead of this glory being given to God (Acts 5:16). The thought, however, of the word is rather of the glory given than of their welcome reception of it (δόξαν λαμβάνειν, John 5:44; contrast Luke 4:15). Verily (Acts 5:18, note). They have; Revised Version, they have received (ἀπέχουσιν). The force of the preposition is "correspondence, i.e. of the contents to the capacity, of the possession to the desire, etc., so that it denotes the full complement" (Bishop Lightfoot, on Philippians 4:18). That which fully corresponds to their desires and their rightful expectation they have to the full. They therefore have (ἔχουσι) no other reward left for them to receive (Acts 24:1). Schottgen gives several examples of Jewish sayings about men receiving their reward in this life only (cf. Ign., 'Polyc.,' § 5, "If a man boast [of his chastity], he is lost").
But when thou; "thou" emphatic. Let not thy left hand know, etc. So little effect should thy kind action have upon thy memory. There should be no self-consciousness in it.
And thy Father which seeth in secret (comp. Matthew 6:6, note). Himself. Revised 'Version omits, with the manuscripts. Shall reward thee; Revised Version, shall recompense thee (ἀποδώσει σοι). Shall give to thee in full measure corresponding to the contents of that which is really due (cf. Isaiah 65:6, Isaiah 65:7, LXX.). When this" recompense" shall be given is not stated. If, as is probable, our Lord is thinking of the" reward" of Matthew 6:1 and Matthew 5:12, it would naturally be given at the judgment-day. Openly. Revised Version omits, with the manuscripts; similarly Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:18. The interpolation was probably made not only because of the contrast suggested by "in secret," but also to indicate more precisely the time when God would do this.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be, etc.; Revised Version, plural. Matthew 6:5 is addressed to the disciples generally, Matthew 6:6 to them individually. (For the future, cf. Matthew 5:48, note.) As the hypocrites are (Matthew 6:2, note). The 'Didache,' § 8., following this passage, says, "Neither pray ye as the hypocrites," referring, like our Lord, to practices affected chiefly by the Pharisees. For they love (ὅτι φιλοῦσι). Not to be translated "they are wont." Our Lord points out the cause of this their custom. It was not that the synagogue was more convenient (he is, of course, thinking of their private prayers), or that they were accidentally overtaken by the prayer-hour when in the street, but their innate love of display made them choose these places "that they may be seen of men" (cf. Matthew 6:16, and contrast Matthew 6:2). To pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets; to stand and pray, etc. (Revised Version), giving, however, slightly more emphasis on "stand" than its position warrants. The emphasis is really on the place, not on the posture, which was only what was usual among Jews. There is no thought of taking up their position, standing still (σταθέντες, Acts 5:20; cf. Luke 18:11, Luke 18:40). They have, etc. (Matthew 6:2, note).
But thou (emphatic) when thou prayset, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray, etc. An adaptation of Isaiah 26:20 (cf. also 2 Kings 4:33). The prophet's language describing the action befitting a time of terror is used by our Lord to express what ought to be the normal practice of each of his followers. Observe that the widow of one of the sons of the prophets so acted when she was about to receive the miraculous supply of oil (2 Kings 4:4, 2 Kings 4:5). Closet; Revised Version, inner chamber, more readily suggesting the passage in Isaiah to the English reader. To thy Father which is in secret. Not "which seeth in secret," as in the next clause. The thought here may be partly that to be unseen of men is a help to communion with him who is also unseen by them, but especially that the manner of your actions ought to resemble that of your Father's, who is himself unseen and works unseen. And thy Father which seeth in secret. You will be no loser, since his eyes pass by nothing, however well concealed it be from the eyes of men. Shall reward thee openly (verse 4, notes).
But when ye pray (προσευχόμενοι δέ). The Revised Version, and in praying, shows that our Lord is only continuing the subject, and not turning to a new one, as in Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16. But while he has thus far thought of prayer as an external act, he now speaks of the substance of the prayers offered, the δέ indicating a transition to another aspect of the same subject. Use not vain repetitions; "Babble not much" (Tyndale). The word used (μὴβατταλογήσητε) is probably onomatopoeic of stuttering. The Peshito employs here the same root (see Arabic word) as for μογιλάλος, Mark 7:32 (Arabic word). But from the primary sense of stuttering, βατταλογεῖν, naturally passed to that of babbling in senseless repetitions. As the heathen do (οἱἐθνεικοί, Gentiles, Revised Version; Matthew 5:47, note). Thinking that the virtue lies in the mere utterance of the words. Even the Jews came perilously near this in their abundant use of synonyms and synonymous expressions in their prayers (cf. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'). Perhaps it was this fact that assisted the introduction of the reading "hypocrites" in B and the Old Syriac. For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. In the continuance (ἐν) of their external action lies their hope of being fully heard (εισακουσθήσονται).
Be not ye therefore like. Revised Version omits "ye," as the emphatic personal pronoun is not expressed. The connexion of thought is—Seeing you are expected to shun heathen error (Meyer), do not allow yourselves to reproduce heathen practices. By observing these you would be taking a definite way of becoming like (passive, or rather middle, ὁμοιωθῆτε) those who ordinarily practise them. For; i.e. you stand on a different footing altogether from the heathen; you are intimately related to One above, who knows your wants, even before you express them to him. Your Father; Revised Version margin, "some ancient authorities read God your Father." So )*, B, sah. (ὁΘεός is bracketed by Westcott and Hort). The insertion is at first sight suspicious, but as there is no trace of such an addition in Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:14. Matthew 6:18 (in Matthew 6:32 only )*), it is hard to see why it should have been interpolated here. Its omission, on the other hand, is easily accounted for by its absence in those passages. The internal evidence, therefore, corroborates the strong external evidence of )*, B. Our Lord here said "God" to emphasize the majesty and power of "your Father." Knoweth; i.e. intuitively (οἶδεν); el. Matthew 6:32.
The pattern of prayer. Parallel passage: Luke 11:2-42.11.4. For most suggestive remarks on the Lord's Prayer, both generally and in its greater difficulties of detail, compare by all means Chase, 'The Lord's Prayer in the Early Church:' (Cambridge Texts and Studies).
(1) If the prayer had already been given by the Lord in the sermon on the mount, "one of his disciples" would hardly afterwards have asked him to teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples (Luke 11:1-42.11.54. l). It is much more easy, therefore, to consider that the original occasion of its utterance is recorded by St. Luke, and that it therefore did not belong to the sermon on the mount as that discourse was originally delivered.
(2) A question that admits of a more doubtful answer is whether the more original form of the prayer is found in Matthew or in Luke. It will be remembered that in the true text of his Gospel, the latter does not record the words, "Which art in heaven," "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," "But deliver us from evil," besides reading "day by day" instead of "this day," "sins" instead of "debts," and "for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us" instead of" as we also have forgiven our debtors." Most writers suppose St. Matthew's form to be the original, and St. Luke's to be only a shortened form. In favour of this are the considerations that
(a) St. Matthew's words, "Forgive us our debts," represent an older, because parabolic, form of expression than the apparently interpretative "Forgive us our sins" in St. Luke.
(b) St. Matthew's words, "as we also," seem to be expanded into "for we ourselves also," in St. Luke.
(c) St. Luke's "day by day" occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in his writings (Luke 19:47; Acts 17:11), so that it is likely to be his own phrase, and therefore less original than St. Matthew's "this day" (cf. Weiss, 'Matthiaus-Ev.,' and Page, Expositor, III. 7.436). On the ether hand, the words, "Which art in heaven," are so characteristic of St. Matthew (Matthew 10:32, Matthew 10:33; cf. Matthew 12:50; Matthew 15:13; Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14, Matthew 18:19, Matthew 18:35; Matthew 23:1-40.23.39. Matthew 23:9), and especially of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 7:11, Matthew 7:21; cf. Matthew 5:45, Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:26, Matthew 6:32), that it seems more natural to suppose that this clause at least was added by him or by the authors of his sources to the original form, rather than that it was omitted by St. Luke. In connexion with this it may be pointed out how easy it was for our Lord to say only "Father" (Luke 11:2) immediately after his own prayer to him (Luke 11:1).
Taking everything into consideration, it seems reasonable to arrive at two conclusions. First, that the form in Luke presents, as a whole, the more primitive and original instruction of the Lord, and that that given in Matthew presents the Lord's words as fully developed, partly perhaps by himself directly, partly by his indirect guidance of Christian usage. St. Matthew's Gospel would thus at once both show the effect and be the cause of the preference for the longer form in liturgical use. Secondly, and more exactly, that both the evangelists record the prayer after it had passed through some development in different parts of the Church, St. Matthew giving it a generally later stage, but preserving one or two clauses in an earlier and better form.
After this manner therefore. Therefore; in contrast to the heathen practice, and in the full confidence which you have in your almighty Father's intuitive knowledge of your needs. After this manner (οὕτως). Not "in these words;" but he will most closely imitate the manner who most often reminds himself of it by using the words. Pray ye. "Ye" emphatic—ye my disciples; ye the children of such a Father. Our Father. In English we just lack the power to keep, with a plural possessive pronoun (contrast "father mine"), the order of Christ's words (Πάτερ ἡμῶν) which other languages possess (Pater noster; Vater unser). Christ places in the very forefront the primary importance of the recognition of spiritual relationship to God. There is no direct thought here of God as the All-Father in the modern and often deistic sense. Yet it is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 17:28; cf. Luke 15:21), and spiritual relationship is perhaps only possible because of the natural relationship (cf. Matthew 5:16, note). Our. Though the prayer is here given with special reference to praying alone (Matthew 6:6), the believer is to be reminded at once that he is joined by spiritual relationship to many others who have the same needs, etc., as himself. Which art in heaven (ὁἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς). Added in this fuller form of the prayer (vide supra), on the one hand to definitely exclude the application of the words however mediately to any human teacher (cf. Matthew 23:1-40.23.39. Matthew 23:9), and on the other to remind those who pray of the awful majesty of him whom they address. "They are a Sursum corda; they remind us that now we have lifted up our hearts from earth and things earthly to another and a higher world" (Trench, 'Sermon on the Mount'). Hallowed be thy name. The first of the three prayers for the furtherance of God's cause. Their parallelism is seen much more clearly in the Greek than in the English order of the words. Thy name. We look on a name almost as an accidental appendage by which a person is designated, but in its true idea it is the designation of a person which exactly answers to his nature and qualities. Hence the full Name of God is properly that description of him which embraces all that he really is. As, however, the term "name" implies that it is expressed, it must, when it is used of God, be limited to that portion of his nature and qualities which can be expressed in human terms, because it has been already made known to us. The "name" of God, here and elsewhere in the Bible, therefore, does not mean God in his essence, but rather that manifestation of himself which he has been pleased to give, whether partial and preparatory as under the old covenant (cf. Genesis 4:26 [Genesis 16:13]; Genesis 32:29; Exodus 6:3; Exodus 34:5), or final as under the new (cf. John 17:6); or again (to take another division found in Exell's 'Biblical Illustrator,' in loc.) the manifestation of himself through nature, through inspired words, through the Incarnation. Compared with the Glory (δόξα) "the Name expresses the revelation as it is apprehended and used by man. Man is called by the Name, and employs it. The Glory expresses rather the manifestation of the Divine as Divine, as a partial disclosure of the Divine Majesty not directly intelligble by man (comp. Exodus 33:18, ft.)" (Bishop Westcott,' Add. Note' on 3 John 1:7). Hallowed be. Ἁγιασθήτω cannot here, as sometimes (Revelation 22:11; cf. John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:23), mean "be made holy," for this God's manifestation of himself already is; but "be counted holy," i.e. in human judgment. The prayer is that God's manifestation of himself may be acknowledged and revered as the one supreme standard of truth and the one means of knowing God and approaching him; of 1 Peter 3:15, where "ἁγιάζω obviously means 'set apart, enshrined as the object of supreme, absolute reverence, as free from all defilement and possessed of all excellence'" (Johnstone, in lee.); cf. also Isaiah 29:23. The same thought appears to have been the basis of the early Western alternative petition for the gift of the Holy Spirit; i.e. the address to the Father was followed by a prayer for purification by the Holy Spirit preparatory to the prayer, "Thy kingdom come." A man must accept God's manifestation of himself before he can take part in the spread of the kingdom. Gregory of Nyssa says distinctly, "Let thy Holy Spirit come upon us and purify us;" but he substitutes this prayer for the words, "Thy kingdom come." (For the support afforded by this to the theory that the Lord's Prayer circulated in a varying form, cf. Chase, loc. cit.) Gregory's petition, as affecting only humanity, is less comprehensive than that found m o r Gospels.
Thy kingdom come. Let there come the full establishment of thy realm. The prayer passes from the personal acceptance in the heart of God's revelation of himself to the consequent result. The clause has a much wider meaning than the development and spread of the Church, or even the personal return of Christ at the second advent. It speaks of that which shall be the issue of both this and that, the final and perfect establishment of God's realm, in which all men will do him willing service, and all habits and customs, individual and social, will be such as he approves of. Dr. C. Taylor ('Sayings,' etc., Exc. 5.) points out that the coming of the kingdom and the sanctifying of the Name are brought together in Zechariah 14:9; Weiss, ' Life,' 2:349, with many others, says that our Lord probably adapted the frequent Jewish prayer for the coming of the kingdom of Messiah. Thy will be done. Let thy will come into complete existence (γενηθήτω; of. "Let there be light," Genesis 1:3, LXX.). The thought is not merely God's will realized in this or that action, whether performed or endured by us (cf. Matthew 26:42; Acts 21:14), but God's will as a whole coming into full being. God's will is always in ideal until it is accomplished in act. The connexion of the clause with what has gone before is therefore this—the acceptance of God's manifestation of himself leads to the establishment of his realm, and this to the realization of his will, which until then is only ideal (cf. Matthew 5:18, note, end). If this be all the meaning of the words, they express, in fact, only the ultimate result of the consummation prayed for in the preceding clause (hence this portion of the prayer was in itself complete without our present words; cf. Luke 11:2); but since it is so far a distinct thought that it would not immediately suggest itself, it has a worthy place in the fuller form of the prayer. Possibly, however, more may be intended. The full establishment of the kingdom may be only a part of his loving will, which may, for all we know, have countless other things in view. The highest prayer that we can make in the furtherance of God's cause is that his gracious purpose, his will may be fully brought about. In earth, as it is in heaven; as in heaven, so on earth (Revised Version). Probably the words are to be joined to only the immediately preceding clause. In heaven God's will is already realized; not yet on earth, where sin has entered.
Give us this day our daily bread τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον Here begin the petitions for our personal needs. The first is for earthly food, the means of maintaining our earthly life. For "in order to serve God it is first of all necessary that we live" (Godet, on Luke). Give us. The order in the Greek emphasizes not God's grace in giving, but the thing asked for. This day. Parallel passage: Luke 11:3, "day by day (τὸ καθ ἡμέραν)." The thought suggested there, of continuance in the supply, is seen also in the verb (δίδου). Daily (ἐπιούσιον); and so Luke. It will be sufficient to do little more than indicate the chief lines of proposed derivations and interpretations of this ἅπαξ λεγόμενον.
(a) physical, "for subsistence,"" sufficient or necessary to sustain us;"
(b) spiritual, "for our essential being" (cf. Jerome's rendering with a literalism that recalls the rabbis, super-substantially.
(2) Ἐπι "to be," "bread which is ready at hand or suffices" (similarly Delitzsch, in Thayer, s.v.). The chief and fatal objection to both (1) and (2) is that the form would be ἐπούσιος.
(3) Ἐπι εἶμι, "to come;"
(a) with direct reference to "bread"—our "successive," "continual," "ever-coming" bread (so the Old Syriac, and partly the Egyptian versions), that which comes as each supply is required; the prayer then meaning, "Our bread as it is needed give us to-day";
(b)derived mediately from ἐπιοῦσα sc. ἡμέρα (cf. Acts 16:11; Acts 20:15; Acts 21:18), "bread for the coming day," i.e. the same day, if the prayer be said in the morning; the next day if it be said in the evening (so Bishop Lightfoot). Between (3) (a) and (3) (b) it is very difficult to decide. Against (a) is the fact that it is hard to say why the common form ἐπίοντα would not have served; against (b), while the use of the word is perfectly consistent with casting all care upon God for to-morrow (Matthew 6:34), there still remains the fact that there is some tautology in saying, "Our bread for the coming day give us to-day," or even the formula in the parallel passage in Luke, "Our bread for the coming day give us day by day." On the whole, perhaps (3) (a) presents the least difficulties. Bread. It is very doubtful if to use this petition of spiritual food is anything more than a legitimate application (made, indeed, as early as the 'Didache,' § 10.) of words which in themselves refer only to material food (see further Chase, loc. cit.).
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgive; a change in God's relation to us and our sins. No plea is urged, for the atonement had not yet been made. Our debts (τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν) parallel passage in Luke, τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν). It is probable that Matthew took one meaning, perhaps the more primary, and Luke another, perhaps the more secondary, of the original Aramaic word (אבוח); but, as "debtors" comes in the next clause, it seems reasonable to suppose that Matthew represents the sense in which our Lord intended the word to be understood. Luke may have avoided it as too strongly Hebraic a metaphor, even though he does use ὀφειλέται of men in relation to God (Luke 13:4). The 'Didache,' 8., gives the singular, ὀφειλήν (cf. infra, Matthew 18:32), which Dr. Taylor thinks is preferable. The singular, especially with "debtors" following, would very naturally be corrupted to the plural. Sins are termed "debts," as not rendering to God his due (Matthew 22:21; cf. Matthew 25:27). As we; Revised Version, as we also (ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς). In the same way as we have—a comparison of fact, not of proportion (cf. Matthew 8:13; Matthew 18:33). (For the thought, cf. Ecclesiasticus 28:2.) Luke's "for we ourselves also" (καὶ γὰρ αὐτοί) lays more stress on our forgiving others being a reason for God forgiving us. Forgive; Revised Version, have forgiven, in the past (aorist). Luke's present is of the habit. Our debtors. Luke individualizes (παντιλοντι ἡμῖν
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Luke omits the second half. And lead us not (καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς); and bring us not (Revised Version), for εἰσφέρω thinks rather of the issue (cf. Luke 5:18, Luke 5:19 : Luke 12:11) than of the personal guidance. This first clause is a prayer against being brought into the fulness and awfulness of temptation. As such it cannot, indeed, always be granted, since in exceptional cases this may be part of the permission given to the prince of this world. So it was in our Lord's case (cf. Matthew 26:41, and context). The words are a cry issuing from a deep sense of our personal weakness against the powers of evil. Into temptation; i.e. spiritual. External trials, e.g. persecution, may be included, but only in so far as they are the occasion of real temptation to the soul. But. Do not bring us into the full force of temptation, but, instead, rescue us now and at any other time from the attack of the evil one (vide infra). Thus this clause is more than a merely positive form of the preceding. It is a prayer against even the slightest attacks of the enemy when they are made. Deliver us (ῥῦσαι ἡμὰς). The thought is not merely preserve (σώζειν τηρεῖν) or even guard (φρουρεῖν, φυλάσσειν) from possible or impending danger, but "rescue" from it when it confronts us. From. If we may press the contrast to Colossians 1:13 (ἐρύσατο … ἐκ), ἀπὸ suggests that the child of God is no longer actually in the power (1 John 5:19) of the evil one. but has been already delivered thence. The peril is, as it were, something outside him (compare, however, Chase, loc. cit.). Evil. So also the Revised Version margin; but the evil one (Revised Version). In itself τοῦ πονηροῦ might, of course, be either neuter or masculine, but in view of
(a) Matthew 13:19,
(b) the many passages in the New Testament where the expression is either certainly or probably masculine; e.g. 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14; 1Jn 5:18, 1 John 5:19; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3;
(c) the many allusions to the masculine reference of this petition shown by Bishop Lightfoot and Mr. Chase (lot. cit.) to exist in early Christian literature—there seems little doubt that the Revised Version is right. Chase (loc. cit.) shows that the primary notion of both πονηρός, and its Hebrew equivalent ער, is not malignity (Trench), but worthless ness, essential badness. For thine is the kingdom, etc. Omitted in the Revised Ver sion on overwhelming authority (e.g. א, B, D, Z, Old Latin, Memphitic, "all Greek commentators on the Lord's Prayer except Chrysostom and his followers," Westcott and Hort, 'App., q.v.). In the 'Didache,' §§ 8., 9., 10., however, we find our doxology with very little other variation than the omission of "the kingdom," this itself being explained in the two latter sections by the immediately preceding mention of the kingdom. Similar omissions of one or more of the three terms, "kingdom, power, glory," are found in the Old Syriac, an "African" text of the Old Latin, and the Thebaic. "It was probably derived ultimately from 1 Chronicles 29:11 (Hebrews), but, it may be, through the medium of some contemporary Jewish usage: the people's response to prayers in the temple is said to have been 'Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever'" (Westcott and Hort, loc. cit.). Indeed, it was so usual for doxologies of one kind or another to be added by the Jews to prayers, that, though we cannot for one moment accept the words here as genuine, we must consider it very doubtful in the Lord's Prayer was ever used in Jewish circles without a doxology, or that our Lord, as Man, ever intended it to be so used. At all events, the feeling of the Christian Church in using the doxology is fully justified by its contents; for it places us more emphatically than ever in a right relation to God. By our praise to him it induces in us the remembrance that it is to God's kingdom that we belong, having him for King and Source of law; that it is by God's power that we live on earth and stand freed from Satan's grasp; that it is for the furtherance of God's glory that all has been done for us, all wrought in us, all these petitions are now made and all our hopes and aims are directed. Hereafter, as Bengel says. the whole prayer will be doxology: "Hallowed be the Name of our God. His kingdom has come; his will is done. He has forgiven us our sins. He has brought our temptation to an end; He has delivered us from the evil one. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen."
Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, etc. Matthew only. To insert the reason for having said, in the Lord's Prayer, "as we forgive our debtors," emphasizes the necessity of such forgiveness. Trespasses; παραπτώματα, not ὀφειλήματα (verse 12). Our Lord uses a word which would forbid any limitation to pecuniary matters. Their trespasses. Omitted by Tischendorf, and bracketed by Westcott and Hort. The omission more sharply contrasts "men" and "your Father."
Fasting. The third in the series of recognized religious duties (Matthew 6:1, note). (On the prominence given to fasting, see 'Psalms of Solomon,' 3:9, with Ryle's and James's note, and Schurer, II. 2:118; cf. Matthew 9:14.) Observe
(1) Christ does not abolish it, but regulates it;
(2) yet fasting is mentioned much less often in the true text of the New Testament than in that which, developed contemporaneously with eccle-siasticism, became the Received Text. Be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. The Revised Version, by inserting a comma between "not" and "as," shows that the true emphasis of the warning lies, not on resemblance to the hypocrites themselves, but on being of a sad countenance, as in fact also the hypocrites were. The hypocrites (Matthew 6:2, note; cf. also 'Didache,' § 8., "But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites," where, however, the thought is rather of hypocrites as representing the Pharisaic, the typically Jewish party). The early Jewish Christians are bidden in the 'Didache' to avoid the fasting-days chosen by the Jews. Be not. Our Lord does not forbid even this sad countenance if it be, so to speak, natural; but do not, because you fast, therefore purposely become so (μὴ γίνεσθε), i.e. in sign of your supposed sorrow for sin (cf. Ecclesiasticus 19:26). Of a sad countenance (σκυθρωποί); gloomy, especially- in knitting the brows. In Daniel 1:10 (Thee-dotion) used of merely physically bad looks (cf. 'Test. XII. Patr.,' § 4, of the look of a man whose liver is out of order). In the New Testament elsewhere only Luke 24:17, "And they stood still, looking sad," Revised Version (cf. Genesis 40:7; Ecclesiasticus 25:23). For they disfigure. The play on the words points to the 'Gospel having been originally composed in Greek. It is curious that ἀφανίζω comes elsewhere in Matthew only in verses 19, 20, while in the whole of the New Testament it only comes twice besides: Acts 13:41 (from the LXX.) and James 4:14 (ἀφανισμός, Hebrews 8:13). As verse 19 is peculiar to Matthew, and verse 20 is a corollary to it though in part found also in Luke 12:33, the whole passage Luke 12:16-42.12.20 is probably either due to the author of the First Gospel or else derived by him from some one source. In this connexion it may be noticed that κρυφαῖος comes in the New Testament only in Luke 12:18 (twice). Physical disfigurement, common in many nations as a sign of grief, such as tearing or marking the flesh, is not to be thought of, since this was forbidden (Le Luke 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1). Ἀφανίζειν, too, has no such connotation, but rather hiding out of sight, hence causing to vanish, destroy (Luke 12:19); here, in the sense of giving a strange, unpleasant appearance, e.g. by ashes, or by not washing, or even by covering part of the face or the head (cf. Ezekiel 24:17; 2 Samuel 15:30; Esther 6:12). That they may appear unto men to fast; Revised Version, that they may be seen, etc.; i.e. not the mere appearance, as though there were appearance only, but the being seen as fasting—conspicuousness, not mere semblance. Hence νηστεύοντες is expressed (contrast Luke 12:5), since while in Luke 12:5 not the praying but the piety that induced it is to be made apparent, here it is the very fact itself of fasting, which, except for these external signs, might escape human notice. They have (Luke 12:2, note).
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face. If both these were, among the Jews, done daily, Christ's command would mean—make no external sign of fasting; dress and appear as usual. But as anointing, at least, cannot be proved to have been a daily habit (though expressly forbidden during the stricter kinds of fasts, see Schurer, II. 2.212), especially with the mixed classes whom our Lord was addressing, and as it was with the ancients rather a symbol of special joy, it is safer to take it in this sense here. Thus our Lord will mean—so far from appearing sad, let your appearance be that of special joy and gladness. "By the symbols of joy and gladness he bade us be joyful and glad when we fast" (Photius, in Suicer, 1:186).
Which is in secret (τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ); Matthew 6:6, note. Shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:4, note).
(3) General principles regarding the relation of the disciples to wealth and to men.
(1) The principle of regarding God alone in our religious actions is also to be maintained in the relation that we hold to wealth in the broadest sense. Matthew 6:19-40.6.21 : seek true wealth, because earthly wealth, though gathered, may be rendered useless by earth's chances. Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23 : further, because it is the single eye that receives the light. Matthew 6:24 : in fact divided service is impossible. Matthew 6:25-40.6.34 : place God first, and he will provide.
Matthew 6:19 comes here only, but Matthew 6:20, Matthew 6:21 have much in common with Luke 12:33, Luke 12:34. They are there in the middle of a long discourse (Luke 12:22-42.12.53), which immediately follows the parable of the rich fool, itself spoken on the occasion when a man wished his brother to divide the inheritance with him. There seems no reason to believe that that discourse is at all necessarily in historical position, and that our verses belong originally to it and to its occasion rather than to the present place in Matthew.
Lay not up … but lay up (Matthew 6:20). Lay up treasure indeed, but in the right place (cf. a still more striking case in John 6:27); observe that in both cases it is "for yourselves." Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.,' on verse 1) quotes an interesting Haggada from Talm. Jeremiah,' Peah,' 15b (equivalent to Talm. Bob., 'Baba Bathra,' 11a), in which "Monobazes, the king," when blamed for giving so much to the poor, defends himself at length: "My fathers laid up their wealth on earth; I lay up mine in heaven," etc. But our Lord here does not mean to limit his reference to almsgiving. He thinks of all that has been mentioned since Matthew 5:3 (cf. Weiss) as affording means of heavenly wealth. Upon earth; upon the earth (Revised Version). Our Lord here wishes to emphasize the locality as such (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς): in Matthew 5:20 rather the nature and quality of the locality (ἐν οὐρανῷ). Where moth (cf. James 5:2, James 5:3; Isaiah 51:8, especially LXX.). Either directly or by its larvae, whether the treasure be clothes or food. Or rust. Any power that eats, or corrodes, or wastes (βρῶσις). Doth corrupt; Revised Version, doth consume. "Corrupt" "has now a moral significance, which does not in any degree appertain to the Greek" (Humphry). Ἀφανίζει (Matthew 5:16, note) is here used of the complete change in the appearance or even of the complete destruction caused by these slow but sure enemies of earthly wealth. And where thieves. Before, physical or non-responsible agents; here, human beings. Break through (διορούσουσιν); "dig through" (cf. Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; cf. Job 24:16, LXX.). Where the houses are so frequently made of mud or sun-burnt bricks, this would be comparatively easy.
But lay up (Matthew 6:19, note).
For where. A further reason for laying up treasures in heaven: wherever they are they have a positive effect on the soul. Your treasure; thy (Revised Version). The singular was altered by the copyists so as to correspond with the plural found in the earlier part of the utterance and in the undisputed text of Luke. But our Lord loves to speak to each soul individually. Your heart (Matthew 5:8, note).
Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23
The light of the body is the eye, etc. Parallel passage: Luke 11:34-42.11.36, where it immediately follows the illustration of putting a lamp under the bushel (Matthew 5:15). The excessive difficulty of Luke's verse 36 points to Luke having preserved on the whole the more original form of the saying; but it seems quite impossible to say which is its more original position. It suits the context quite as well in Matthew as in Luke, while the mere verbal similarity of λύχνος may have caused it to be placed in Luke after his verse 33 (cf. verse 24, infra, note). The light of the body; the lamp (Revised Version); ὁλύχνος (Matthew 5:15, note). The thought of the power which treasure has of attracting the heart forms the transition to the need of a pure and steady "eye" heavenwards. The bodily eye is taken as the symbol of the outlooking power of the soul, not the soul—the inner man—itself, but its outlooking power. As the body is illuminated by the eye, i.e. as by the eye the bodily constitution learns its environment, and naturally, almost automatically, tends to accommodate itself to it, so is it with the gaze of the soul. If this be upon the things of this world, the soul perceives, and tends to accommodate itself to the things of this world; if upon things in heaven, it perceives, and tends to accommodate itself to, the things in heaven. The Authorized Version "light" is, therefore, imperfect, for the gaze of the soul is not "light" (φῶς), but a "lamp" (λύχνος). As the bodily eye is not itself light, but only an instrument for receiving and imparting light, so in the mere gaze of the soul there is no inherent light, but it is the means of receiving and imparting light to the soul. If therefore thine eye be single. The word "single" (ἁπλοῦς) presents some difficulty.
(1) If it meant "undivided," it would doubtless continue the illustration of the lamp, with an undivided as contrasted with a divided wick, but it has no such meaning.
(2) It states the opposite, not to divisions, but to folds (vide Trench, 'Syn.,' § 56.); it is "single" as opposed to "plicate," and therefore can hardly contain any direct reference to the lamp. Its meaning rather appears to be purely metaphorical, and the word seems to be applied 'directly to the functions of the eye in relation to the body. If the eye be "single" and (to use another but related metaphor) straightforward in its working, then the body receives through it the light that it ought to receive. So is it with the gaze of the soul in its effect on the inner man.
(3) Perhaps, however, ἁπλοῦση is here used in the sense of non-compound; in this case free from any foreign substance to bar the light from passing through it (cf. Matthew 7:3, and Basil, 'De Spiritu Sancto,' 9. § 23, sqq.). Thy whole body shall be full of light (φωτινὸν ἔσται). Well-lighted in itself, and bright in appearance to others (cf. s, νεφέλη φωτινή, Matthew 17:5). The word chosen seems to indicate, not merely that the body is, through the eye, lighted, but also that it itself becomes in measure, like the eye, full of light for others. All one's powers become illumined with the Divine light, and the illumination shines through. But if thine eye be evil, etc. Evil (πονηρός); verse 13, note. Vitiated, worthless. As an eye that does not fulfil its natural function, so is that gaze of the soul which is directed only earthward. To limit tiffs, with Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.'), to covetousness, is far too partial an interpretation. Such an earthward and selfish gaze of the soul may often issue in selfishness as regards money (cf. Matthew 20:15), but the full meaning of the phrase includes very much more. Thy whole body shall be full of darkness. What the heart craves to see it sees; but in this case, not light makes its entrance, but darkness, which, as in the case of the light, permeates the frame. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness; rather, is darkness; the change here to the indicative (ει)... ἐστίν) indicating that the last preceding clause is assumed as fact. The light that is in thee. Our Lord does not say, "the light that comes through the eye," for he means more than this, viz. that the very information, so to speak, brought first by the outlook of the soul, comes into us and remains in us. He assumes that this, which ought to be light, is darkness. How great is that darkness! i.e. the darkness (Revised Version)just spoken of, which comes through the eye. So, probably, Luke 11:35. If' the gaze which should bring light brings only darkness, how terrible in its nature and effects must that darkness be! It is, however, possible to understand our Lord to refer in this verse to the natural darkness of the soul before it looks out of itself. In this case the thought is—you need a fixed gaze heavenwards; if your gaze is not heavenwards, it brings darkness instead of light; how black, then, must be the natural darkness! (cf. especially Trench, ' Sermon on the Mount'). It will be noticed that in these verses darkness, though scientifically only negative—the absence of light—is here represented as positive, because it is the symbol of sin and evil.
No man can serve two masters, etc. In Luke 16:13 the saying is found almost word for word immediately after the parable of the unjust steward. As the word "mammon" comes twice in that parable, but nowhere else in the New Testament, it is probable that its occurrence caused the insertion of this saying in that place (cf. Luke 16:22, note). No man can serve two masters. The thought is still of earnestness of purpose and singleness of heart. Our Lord here speaks of the impossibility of such divided service as he has been warning his disciples against attempting. No man can give due service to two masters. For, apart from the extent of the claim of each master—total bond-service (δουλεύειν)—thorough service of two masters is incompatible with the effects produced upon the servant himself. The result of service is to incline him towards the one master and against the other. Notice how our Lord continues his plan of setting forth the moral effect of modes of thought or action upon the agents themselves (cf. Romans 6:16). For either he will hate the one (τὸν ἕνα), and love the other. Because human nature is such that it must attach itself to one of two principles. "Cor hominis neque its vacuum esse potest, ut non serviat ant Dee aut creaturae: neque simul duobus servire" (Bengel). Or else he will hold to the one (ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται). The Revised Version omits "the." The stress here is on "one—not both." Hold to; in steadfast application (cf. Ellicott, on Titus 1:9). Ye cannot serve God and mammon; "Ye moun not serve god and ricchesse" (Wickliffe). A repetition of the statement of the impossibility of serving two masters, but more than a repetition, for it is enforced by defining who the masters are. Mammon. The change in the Revised Version from a capital to a small m has probably been made to prevent "mammon" being understood as the proper name of some god. The derivation of the word (μαμωνᾶς, אנומם) is very doubtful. The most probable suggestion is that it is formed from the stem of הנם, and is equivalent to that which is apportioned or counted. Hence its well-known meaning of property, wealth, especially money. Observe that our Lord does not here contrast God and Satan; he is emphasizing the thought which he has been adducing since Luke 16:19, viz., the relation that his disciples must hold to things of earth, which are summed up by him under the term "mammon" as with us under the term "wealth." Observe also that it is not the possession of wealth that he condemns, but the serving it, making it an object of thought and pursuit. Gathering it and using it in the service of and according to the will of God is not serving mammon (cf. Weiss, 'Matthaus-Ev.').
These verses, with the exception of the last, which should perhaps hardly be included, are very similar to the parallel passage, Luke 12:22-42.12.32. It seems probable that in the differences Luke preserves the more original form. What their original position was is another question. Their immediate sequence in Luke to the parable of the rich fool is no doubt perfectly natural, and is accepted by most commentators as original; but the connexion with the context here is so close that, especially with the probabilities of the case in verses 22, 23, and verse 24, St. Matthew may, after all, have recorded them in their original place.
Our Lord says in these verses, "Dare to follow out this warning that I have given you about double service into your daily life. Do not give way to anxiety about the things of life, but look up to God in steady gaze of faith; he will provide." 'Or, more in detail—If God has given you life, shall he not add the food and the clothing (verse 25)? Anxiety about the support of your life is needless (witness the birds, verse 26) and powerless (witness the limit of a man's life, verse 27); while as for clothing, it is equally needless (witness the flowers, verse 28) and comparatively powerless (witness Solomon's own case, verse 29). Remember your relation to God (verse 30). Therefore do not give way to the least anxiety about these things (verse 31), because this is to fall to the level of the Gentiles, and also because God, whose children you are, knows your needs (verse 32). But make his cause, without and within, your great object, and all your needs shall be supplied (verse 33). Therefore be not at all anxious, bear the burden of each day only as each day comes round (verse 34).
Therefore (διὰ τοῦτο). Because of this fact last mentioned, the impossibility of dividing your service. Cease to be anxious about things of this life, for anxiety about these is a mark of your attempting this impossibility. I say unto you. Though the absence of the personal pronoun (unlike Matthew 5:22, etc.) shows that he is not here contrasting himself with them or with others, yet he still emphasizes his authority. Take no thought; Revised Version, be not anxious (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε). The translation of the Authorized Version, which was quite correct in its day (cf. also 1 Samuel 9:5), is now archaic, and therefore often misunderstood. For the popular derivation of μεριμνάω ("division," "distraction"), of. 1 Corinthians 7:33, "But he that is married is anxious for (μεριμνᾷ) the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided (μεμέρισται)." Observe that forethought in earthly matters was practised by our Lord himself (John 12:6). For your life (τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν). In the Gospels ψυχή is the immaterial part of man, his personality as we should say, which survives death (Matthew 10:28), and is the chief object of a man's care (Matthew 10:39, where see note). What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink. Although the second clause is omitted by א and a few chiefly "Western" authorities, it is probably genuine, especially as there is no trace of it in Luke. Is not the life more than meat? i.e. you possess the greater, shall there not be given to you the less? Humphry compares Matthew 23:17. Meat; Revised Version, the food (τῆς τροφῆς); i.e. the Revised Version
(1) changes "meat" to its modern equivalent,
(2) defines with the Greek the food as that which is necessary for the body. Similarly before "raiment."
Parallel passage: Luke 12:24. The less general term, "ravens", and the change of construction apparent in "which have no store-chamber nor barn," point to St. Luke having preserved the more original form of the saying. So also does the presence in Matthew of the Matthean phrase "heavenly." On the other hand, Matthew's "consider" (verse 28, vide next note) is perhaps more original. Behold (ἐμβλέψατε). Look on, use your natural eyes. In verse 28 "consider" (καταμάθετε), learn thoroughly. Our Lord, in the present verse, bids us use the powers we possess; in verse 28 he bids us learn the lessons that we can find round us. Luke has in both places the vaguer term κατανοήσατε, "fix your mind on." The fowls of the air; Revised Version, the birds of the heaven (so Matthew 8:20; Matthew 13:32); a Hebraism. For the thought, of. Job 38:41; Psalms 147:9; of. also Mishna, 'Kidd.,' 4.14, "Rabbi Simeon ben Eliezer used to say, Hast thou ever seen beast or bird that had a trade? Yet are they fed without anxiety." For; that (Revised Version); what you will see if you will look. They sow not, etc. They carry out as regards their food nolle of those operations which imply forethought in the past or for the future. Yet; and (Revised Version). Also what you will see. Your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16, note). Are ye not much better than they? of much more value (Revised Version). The thought is of value in God's eyes (cf. Matthew 10:31; Matthew 12:12), as men and as his children, not of any superiority in moral attainment.
Luke 12:25 almost verbally. While Luke 12:26 insisted on the needlessness of anxiety, since, though birds show it not, they are provided for, Luke 12:27 insists on its uselessness, since after all it can effect so little. You wish to lengthen your life by it if only to a trifling extent; but you cannot do so. Which of you by taking thought (Luke 12:25, note) can add one cubit? "Hic videtur similitude petita esse a studio, quod erat trecentorum cubitorum: ἡλικία est cursus vitae" (Wetstein). Unto his stature. So even the Revised Version; but the Revised Version margin "age," and so most modern commentators (cf. the rendering preferred by the American Committee, "the measure of his life"). "Age"
(1) is so much nearer the immediate subject, preservation of life,
(2) is so much more frequent an object of anxious care,
(3) gives so much more suitable a meaning to "cubit," a most trifling addition (Luke 12:26), that it is, without any doubt, the true meaning of ἡλικία (cf. John 9:21-43.9.23; Hebrews 11:11; cf. Psalms 39:5).
Parallel passage: Luke 12:26, Luke 12:27. Luke's is longer and seemingly more original. But in the absence of external evidence, it must always be a matter of opinion whether Matthew has compressed the longer form of the words, or vice versa. And why take ye thought for raiment? In verses 25-27 our Lord had spoken of food; in verses 28-30 he speaks of dress. He insists on the needlessness (verse 28) and on the comparative uselessness (verse 29) of anxiety about it, since even the king who had the greatest opportunities could not vie in clothing with a single lily. Flowers have this glorious clothing (verse 30), though they are so perishable: much more shall you be clothed. Consider (verse 26, note). The lilies (τὰ κρίνα). Though there are many kinds of lilies in Palestine, and some of brilliant colouring (particularly the purple and white Huleh lily found round Nazareth), yet none of them grows in such abundance as to give the tone to the colouring of the flowers generally. It seems, therefore, probable that the word is employed loosely. So, perhaps, in the LXX. of Exodus 25:31, Exodus 25:33, Exodus 25:34, and other passages, where it represents the "flowers" (חרַףֶּ) on the candlestick. It appears, too, that נשֶׁוֹשׁ ("lily," Authorized Version in Canticles) is also used by the Arabs of any bright flower. If a single species is to be thought of, Canon Tristram would prefer the Anemone coronaria of our gardens, which is "the most gorgeously painted, the most conspicuous in spring, and the most universally spread of all the floral treasures of the Holy Land". Of the field. Matthew only in this phrase (but cf. verse 30, note). Its insertion emphasizes the spontaneity of origin, the absence of cultivation, the "waste" as not grown for the comfort or pleasure of man. How they grow. Professor Drummond's beautiful remarks upon this verse ('Natural Law,' etc.) do not belong to exegesis, but to homily, for the stress of our Lord's words lies on "grow," not on "how;" he is thinking of the fact, net the manner of their growth. They toil not; to produce the raw material. Neither do they spin; to manufacture it when produced. "Illud virorum est, qui agrum colunt; hoc mulierum domisedarum" (Wetstein).
Luke 12:27 almost verbally. Even Solomon … was not. The Greek lays still more stress: "not even Solomon." Arrayed. The idea of splendour, which in modern usage is often attached to "array," is wanting in περιεβάλετο. The simple rendering in Wickliffe, "was covered" (Vulgate, coopertus est), is less misleading. And so in Luke 12:31. Perhaps (vide Cart) the middle voice has its full reflexive meaning: Solomon with all his efforts failed. Like one of these. Even one, much less like all taken together. "Horum, demonstrativum" (Bengel).
Luke 12:28 with slight differences. Luke's rather harder phraseology is in Savour of it being the more original form. Wherefore; but (Revised Version). The Authorized Version is too strong for the simple δέ. If God so clothe. The insertion by the Revised Version of "doth" brings out the thought of the indicative mood and of the ever-presence of the action. Observe with the processes and the agencies in the development of these colours our Lord's advice has nothing to do; origin, develop-merit, and result are all Divine. The grass (τὸν χόρτον). Possibly literally the grass among which the lilies grow (Weiss, 'Matthaus. Ev.'), but probably the herbage (Genesis 1:11; cf. also probably Isaiah 40:6, Isaiah 40:7; 1 Peter 1:24), including that of which special mention has been made—the lilies. Of the field (verse 28, note). Luke's ἐν ἀγρῷ lays even more stress on the place in which it receives this glory. Which to-day is; rather, though to-day it is (σήμερον ὄντα). And to-morrow is cast; before our very eyes (βαλλόμενον). Into the oven. Not the fixed but the portable oven (εἰς κλίβανον), "a large jar made of clay, about three feet high, and widening towards the bottom... heated with dry twigs and grass" (Smith's 'Dict.'); cf. also Carr for a description of the Indian method of making chupatties. Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 'Ὀλιγόπιστοι, except in the parallel passage of Luke, comes in Matthew alone in the New Testament (Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31; Matthew 16:8), in each case referring to want of faith under the pressure of earthly trials. It is the New Testament expression of Proverbs 24:10.
Luke 12:29 has the difficult phrase, "Neither be ye of doubtful mind." Therefore take no thought (μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε). The shade of difference here and Luke 12:34 from Luke 12:25 cannot be expressed in an English translation. In Luke 12:25 a state of anxiety, here and Luke 12:34 : one anxious thought, is forbidden.
Parallel passage: Luke 12:30. Save in reading "but" instead of the second "for," Luke's seems the more original. (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek;) for your heavenly Father knoweth, etc. The Revised Version removes the marks of parenthesis. For...for; these are probably co-ordinate, and adduce two reasons for our not being for one moment anxious about earthly things:
(1) it is like the heathen (cf. the thought of Matthew 5:47);
(2) your Father knows your need of them. Heavenly (Matthew 5:16, note). Knoweth (verse 8, note).
Parallel passage: Luke 12:31, which is shorter. But; i.e. in contrast to such seeking as he has just spoken of. Our Lord at length gives a distinct promise that if God's cause is made the first aim, all the necessaries of life shall be provided. Seek ye first. The difference between ζητεῖν here and ἐπιζητεῖν in Luke 12:32 seems to be only that the latter points out more clearly the direction of the search. First. If the search for earthly things be put into a secondary place, it may be allowable. The kingdom of God, and his righteousness; his kingdom and his righteousness (Revised Version). "Of God" must almost certainly be omitted with א (B); of. Westcott and Hort, 'App.' The first phrase represents rather the external, the second the internal aim. Seek ye the spread and accomplishment of God's kingdom; seek ye personal conformity to his standard of righteousness. Both thoughts are of fundamental importance for this "sermon" (kingdom, of. Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:10, Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:10; righteousness, especially Matthew 5:17-40.5.20), which treats essentially of the way in which the subjects of the Divine kingdom should regard the Divine righteousness and conform to it. And all these things shall be added unto you; of. the apocryphal saying of our Lord, repeated by Origen (Clem. Alex.), "Jesus said to his disciples, Ask great things, and the small shall be added to you; and ask heavenly things, and the earthly shall be added to you".
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for ,the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew only. Luke's conclusion to this section ("Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom") is perhaps more closely connected with the preceding verse, and also grander as dwelling upon God's side; but Matthew's is more practical, dealing with the subject from man's side. Christ says, "Because all needful things shall be added, do not have one anxious thought for the future, even for what is coming on the very next day." Such anxiety shows a want of common sense, for each day brings its own burden of anxiety for itself. Christ here seems to allow anxiety for each day as it comes round. "But," he says, "put off your to-morrow's anxiety until to-morrow." If this be done, the greater part of all our anxiety is put aside at once, and, for the rest of it, the principle will apply to each hour as well as to each day (cf. Bengel). The Christian will ever try to follow the inspired advice of St. Paul (Philippians 4:6) and St. Peter (1 Peter 5:7). The morrow shall take thought for; "be anxious" as supra. The things of itself; for itself (Revised Version); αὑτῆς. The unique construction of the genitive after μεριμνάω led to the insertion of τὰ by the copyists (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-46.7.34). Sufficient unto the day, etc.; Tyndale, "For the day present hath ever enough of his own trouble." Sufficient (Matthew 10:25, note).
The third part of the sermon: the danger of unreality.
I. THE FIRST EXAMPLE: ALMSGIVING.
1. The spiritual estimate of actions. The Christian's righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. They did their righteousness, their good works, before men, to be seen of them. It must not be so with us. Indeed, we are bidden to let our light shine before men. A holy life hath a persuasive eloquence, more persuasive far than holy words; it must not be hidden; its influence is far too precious to be lost. Men must see the fair deeds which spring from holiness, and so be led to glorify the most holy God, from whose grace and presence all holiness comes. Good works must sometimes be done before men. This is not the thing condemned, but the unworthy motive, "to be seen of them." As Chrysostom says, "You may do good deeds before men, and yet seek not human praise; you may do them in secret, and yet in your heart wish that they may become known to gain that praise." This earthly motive poisons the life of the soul; it destroys all the beauty of good deeds. Nay, good deeds are not good when they are done for the sake of display; their goodness is only outside show; it has no depth, no reality. For every moral action has its two parts, the outward and the inward. We see the outward only. That may seem to be good; but it is a mere falsehood unless it springs from worthy motives. The real action is the inward part, the inner choice of the will. It is the motive that gives colour, character, spiritual meaning to the act, that determines the spiritual value of the action. If the motive is holy, the act is holy and beautiful in the sight of God, though it may be the gift of two mites, which make a farthing. If the motive is low and selfish, the outward action, though to men it may seem magnificent, heroic, is spiritually worthless; it hath no reward of our Father which is in heaven.
2. The false motive. Unreality is hypocrisy; it is acting. The hypocrite acts a part before men; he assumes a character which is not really his. He gives alms in the streets; he wishes to be seen. He does not in his heart pity the afflicted; he is not merciful; he does not really care to do good. His one desire is to win the praise of men; he forgets that God seeth the heart. In the synagogue, in the church, he gives for the poor, for the work of the Church; but even there, in the house of God, he forgets the presence of the all-seeing God; he thinks only of the many eyes that see his outward act, not of the One that sees its inward meaning and estimates its true value. Such men have their reward, the Saviour says; they have it to the full, they have it all in this world. What they looked for was the praise of men. They do not always get it; even men sometimes see through the hypocrite, and feel the hollowness of his life. But if they get it, it is all they get. God has no reward for them; they did not care for that praise which cometh only from him; they sought it not, and they have it not.
3. The true motive. The glory of God. The Christian gives out of love—love to God and love to man; he seeks not glory of men. He gives in all simplicity, in the singleness of his heart. He does not dwell in self-complacency on his good deeds, his self-denials; he rather hides them, as far as may be, from the sight of men. For he lives in faith, and faith is the evidence of things not seen; he lives in the presence of the unseen God; he seeks above all things to be well pleasing to him. Our Father seeth in secret; it is an awful thought. He sees the real meaning of our life, of all our words and deeds. It is vain to act a part before him. The hypocrite's mask will not conceal the littleness, the meanness of his soul. God seeth in secret; he will reward those who live in the faith of that unseen presence, and try in secret, in the secret thoughts and motives of the heart, to live as he would have them to live, in holy love, in deep humility, in quiet obedience. He will reward them openly. The word "openly" may be of doubtful authority here; but we know that the reward will be conferred in the sight of men and nations. All nations will be gathered before the King when he cometh in his glory, and all his holy angels with him. He will reward them. Eternal life is a gift—the gift of God; it comes from his free and generous bounty, unearned and undeserved. It is wholly incommensurate in its exceeding blessedness with the poor unworthy services which the best of men can render to the Lord. But in his love and. condescension he accepts them as done unto himself, and calls his gracious gift—that gift which is above price, passing all that heart can conceive—a reward for our mean and humble offerings.
II. THE SECOND EXAMPLE: PRAYER.
1. The false prayer. The prayer of the hypocrite is no true prayer; it is only acting; it goes no deeper than the lips. Men may hear it; it reaches not the ear of God. The sound of many voices goes up from the crowded church; they are alike in the perception of men. God can distinguish them; he knows which is meant for his ear only, and which, though the sacred Name is used, is addressed really to the congregation, and not to God. The hypocrites have their reward. They sought to be heard of men; they are heard. They sought not to be heard of God; God heareth them not.
2. The true prayer.
(1) "Enter into thy closet, shut the door." It is not the place, Chrysostom says, that God regards, but the heart and the motive. Enter into thy closet; it profits not unless God is with thee there. Shut the door; it profits not it' worldly thoughts can enter. You may find a closet in the densest crowd, if you hush your heart into the solemn consciousness of the presence of the God that heareth prayer.
(2) "Pray to thy Father." In true prayer the world is shut out of the heart; the Christian is alone with God, solus cum solo; he puts himself solemnly into the presence of God when he begins his devotions; his great effort throughout is to realize that Divine presence, and to keep distracting thoughts away. True prayer requires the exercise of all our highest faculties—thought, feeling, desire, love. True prayer requires the continual help of the Holy Spirit of God. Pray to thy Father, not to the world; not to catch the ear of men, but only to God. Thou art speaking; he is listening; he heareth, if the prayer is really said to him. Other motives, the thought of men, the desire of human praise, destroy the value of the prayer, empty it of its meaning; it is lost, dissipated among earthly things; it reaches not the ear of God.
(3) "Use not vain repetitions." The Lord repeated the same words of prayer thrice in his great agony. The repetition is not condemned, but the multitude of words without thought; the idea that much speaking in itself, apart from spiritual earnestness, ensures a favourable answer. Much speaking is not always much praying. There may be more prayer in a torment of intense supplication than in hours of mere talk; more real prayer in the silent uplifting of the heart to God than in the loudest cries. The priests of Baal cried from morning until evening, "O Baal, hear us!" but there was neither voice nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. Hannah prayed in silence; her voice was not heard, but her prayer reached the mercy-seat. The penitent thief lifted up one earnest prayer in his mortal agony; the prayer was answered, and his soul was saved. There is no need of much speaking to give God information of our state and our necessities; he knows what is for our good better than we know ourselves. What is necessary is the hungering and thirsting after righteousness, the intense single-hearted desire of pardon and acceptance with God.
III. THE LORD'S PRAYER. The Lord Jesus gives us a model for our prayers—a prayer very different from the vain repetitions, the much speaking, against which he has been warning us; but, though short and simple, comprehensive and complete. It expresses every possible desire of the instructed Christian; all that we need to ask, whether for the greater glory of God, for ourselves, or for others. He has taught us what we should pray for; we know it, we learned it long ago; we have said it daily from our childhood. It is easy to learn the sacred words, but, alas! hard to pray them. The Spirit helpeth our infirmities; he maketh intercession for us, with us, m us. He is the great Teacher; he, only he, can teach the great, holy, blessed, difficult art of true acceptable prayer. May he teach us, of his infinite mercy!
1. The address.
(1) "Our Father." We Christians are taught to approach God as our Father. That form of address is not common in the Old Testament Scriptures; it occurs here and there incidentally. But now we have received the adoption of sons; the Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, gives unto those that are his power to become the sons of God. "I ascend," he said, "to my Father and your Father:" his Father, indeed, in a far deeper and more mysterious sense, but yet our Father too; for God hath knit together his elect in the mystical body of Christ, and, being made one with Christ, the Eternal Son, they too are sons of God. "Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." He bids us say, "Father," our Father. God is our Father by creation; he made us; he sustains us: all that we are and have is his. He is our Father by adoption: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." He is our Father, if we be Christians in heart and in truth, by a yet holier bond: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." We come to him, we say, "Father." The word implies a great fulness of most blessed meaning. It tells of love, tender care, wisdom, power, on the one side; on the other, of confiding affection, reverence, trustfulness, obedience, undoubting faith. Our Father—our; that little word is full of meaning; it tells us that we are all one in Christ Jesus, all equal in the sight of God. There must be no envy, strife, party spirit, in our hearts, least of all in the hour of prayer; for we are one in Christ. One is our Father, even God; and all we are brethren. Earthly distinctions do not reach into the sphere of religion. "The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all." We come to God not merely as individuals, but as members of a great community, a fellowship, a Church. In the hour of prayer we think not only of ourselves; we pray for others—relations, friends, neighbours, all who are of the household of faith, all the children of the one great Father. The Lord's Prayer teaches in its opening clause the duty of intercession.
(2) "Which art in heaven" "Be not rash with thy mouth," saith the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 5:2), "and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." The child gives reverence to its earthly father; our Father is in heaven, and we are here below. We must hush our hearts into solemn reverence when we come before him in prayer. tie is the great and awful God; the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. But yet he is our Father; he is very near to us, listening to the words of humble prayer, ready to help and save. We come before him with mingled feelings—love, awe, humility, penitence, blending into one full utterance of adoration.
2. The first petition. "Hallowed be thy Name." As yet we ask nothing for ourselves; we think only of God. Prayer lifts us out of self, out of the narrow range of selfish thoughts, feelings, hopes, into that communion with God which is the very life of the soul. God will be "all in all" in the regeneration; the highest end of prayer is to raise us nearer and nearer to that blessed consummation, that he may become even now "all in all" to us. This petition, "Hallowed be thy Name," stands first in the Lord's Prayer, as if to teach us that we must come before God with reverence and godly fear. There can be no true prayer without reverence, without a deep sense of God's awful holiness and our utter unworthiness. Therefore we begin by asking God to give us grace to feel the holiness of his great Name, that we may never fall into the sin of taking his Name in vain, but may always regard it as most sacred, and pronounce it with solemn reverence. The Name of God in Scripture language means all that can be known of God—God as he has revealed himself to us (comp. John 17:6, "I have manifested thy Name unto the men which thou gavest me"). We see him not yet face to face, as he is. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son hath declared all that we can know of him, all that we need to know for our salvation. "Hallowed be thy Name." The seraphim cry, "Holy, holy, holy!" The four living creatures in heaven rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy!" Christ bids his Church on earth to take up the angels'song. In the striking words of Stier, "The 'Holy, holy, holy!' of 'the highest heavens fills not yet all lands and all hearts." We pray that it may be so. We pray that his great Name may be hallowed in ourselves; that we may walk before him always in lowly obedience, that we may come before him in prayer with solemn, awful reverence, and yet with childlike love. We pray that it may be hallowed not in ourselves only, but in the hearts of others also. May all men feel the power of the holiness of the Lord God of hosts, and so be led to worship him in spirit and in truth! It is only by sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15) that we can pray that prayer aright, that we can learn that "Holy, holy, holy!" which we hope one day to chant in heaven.
3. The second petition. "Thy kingdom come." The kingdom of God is:
(1) The Messianic kingdom, the Church of Christ, the net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind. The prayer is a missionary prayer. We pray that God may enlarge the borders of his Church; that the heathen may be gathered in; that the stone cut out without hands may, according to his Word, speedily become a mountain and fill the whole earth.
(2) The kingdom of grace in the heart. The kingdom of God is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." We pray that our hearts may become the kingdom of God; that sell' may be dethroned; that the Lord may reign within us; that all our thoughts, wishes, motives, may, by the blessed influence of his Holy Spirit, be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
(3) The kingdom of glory. "Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom." The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of God and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever, King of kings, and Lord of lords. We pray (with awe, it must be; but yet, if we are his, with hope and trustfulness) that it may please him, of his gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of his elect, and to hasten his kingdom. That kingdom must come, we know; but oh! may it please him first to make our hearts wholly his, and to spread the knowledge of his blessed gospel through all the dark places of the earth.
4. The third petition.
(1) "Thy will be done" This is indeed the Lord's prayer—his prayer in a double sense; he taught it, and he prayed it. It is the deepest, holiest prayer of all prayers; the hardest prayer to learn, but full of blessed peace to those who by his grace have learned it.
(a) "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." We pray that God's will may be done within us; that we may have grace and power to work out our own salvation, by his Spirit working in us both to will and to do. God's will is that we should be holy. "Be ye holy, for! am holy." We pray that that gracious will of God may have its full range, its perfect work; that our wills, rebellious and wayward as they are, may be subdued and chastened into conformity with the holy will of God.
(b) May God's will be done by us as we walk before him in the path of holy obedience. He has given us each a work to do; let us see that we do it. Faith without works is dead; the life of sanctification within the heart must bring forth the fruits of holy living.
(c) God's will is better than our will; he knows better than we what is for our real good. We must pray the prayer of resignation, "Thy will be done." It is very hard sometimes to pray that prayer when troubles come thick upon us, when we are afflicted with pain and sickness, when those whom we have very dearly loved are taken from us. In those times of great sorrow we must think of the Lord as he knelt that awful night in the garden, when his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood failing down to the ground. We may ask, as he did, for relief: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But, if we have learned of him, we shall always add those holy words of his, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." There is no peace like the great peace of entire resignation.
(2) The standard. "In earth, as it is in heaven." There the holy angels ever do the blessed will of God; they do it perfectly, they do it cheerfully, without self-denial, without painful effort. There is no place in heaven for a will opposed to the Divine will. The presence of such a will would be a contradiction to the everlasting harmony, a note of discord in the angelic song. It is not so here. Our wills are distorted by inherited corruption, by our own consent to sin. Hence the need of daily self-denial. The sinless, instinctive obedience of the holy angels is above our reach; but it is the model proposed to us for our imitation. Our Father is in heaven; there they do his will. Our citizenship is there; our treasure, our heart, should be there; we must try to live the heavenly life on earth. How would a holy angel live if he were set in our position, among our surroundings? As he would live, so we should strive to live. It is our high calling; nothing short of this ought to satisfy us; it is what we pray for daily. We should ever be looking upwards, striving to live, as each day passes by, more nearly as we pray.
5. The fourth petition. Hitherto we have spoken only of God, now we speak of our own wants. The prayers already uttered are three, and yet one. The first lifts our thoughts to the heavenly Father; the second, to the kingdom which is given to the eternal Son; the third, to the Holy Spirit, by whose help alone we sinful men can do the holy will of God. The prayers are three, and yet one; all meet in the first clause of the angelic hymn, "Glory be to God on high." Now for the first time we speak of ourselves, of our own daily needs. "Give us this day our daily bread." It is a prayer of faith, of trustfulness, of contentment. He is the Lord of the harvest; the increase of the earth cometh from him; it rests with him to give or to withhold; we own it in our daily prayer. We trust him; he is our Father; he knows that we have need of these things; his blessed Son bids us ask. We ask for the supply of our earthly needs in trustfulness, but in submission, remembering the last petition, "Thy will be done." He encourages us to ask, but only for what is needful—our daily bread. We ask for it each day as it passes; it is enough for us; we learn contentment from our prayers. Our daily bread, we say; we pray for others, not only for ourselves; our prayer binds us to feed the hungry. But man doth not live by bread alone. We ask not only for common food when we say the prayer which Christ himself hath taught us. We ask, if we are his indeed, for the living Bread—himself, the Food of the soul, which if a man receive he shall never hunger. We need that Food every day, every hour; without it the spiritual life must pine away and die.
6. The fifth petition.
(1) "Forgive us our debts." We owe a debt to God, each one of us—a great debt; it has been accumulating day after day, year after year; it is like the vast sum, the ten thousand talents, which the servant owed in the parable. Like him, we have nothing to pay. But if we have learned to say, "Our Father," if we have arisen from the life of sin and carelessness and gone to our Father, we know that he will forgive. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." They are precious words. Our Father sees the first symptoms of repentance; he goes forth to meet the penitent; he embraces him with the arms of his mercy.
(2) "As we forgive our debtors," We cannot really believe in the forgiving love of God unless we find a shadow of it in our own hearts; if we forgive not, if we are hard, stern, unforgiving, we can have no sense of forgiveness. If we forgive others, it is an evidence of our own forgiveness. "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." The much love proves that she is forgiven; but the soul that hath not love hath no forgiveness. The Lord shows the importance of this law of love by returning again to it. It is the one clause of the prayer which he enforces by an additional warning. God will not forgive the unforgiving; such men turn the prayer which the Lord himself has taught us into a curse upon themselves. We must learn of him who said, "Father, forgive them," the blessed lesson of forgiveness; we must learn it for our soul's salvation, for "he that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
7. The sixth petition. "Lead us not into temptation." God, we believe, so putteth away the sins of those who truly repent that he remembereth them no more. He cleanseth from all unrighteousness those who confess their sins. We have made our confession now; we have asked for forgiveness; we have pledged ourselves to lead a life of Christian love, to forgive those who have offended us. But still the Lord bids us pray," Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil." The strife with sin will not be ended while we remain in the flesh. We need the grace of God every day, we shall need it to the end. God tempteth no man; he solicits no man to sinful compliance; that is the work of Satan. But God doth prove us; he cloth suffer his people to be disciplined with many trials for the more confirmation of their faith. His providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; we ask him so to order the circumstances of our lives as not to suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. It is a prayer of humility. We know our weakness; we mistrust ourselves; we fear the power of the tempter. This prayer should teach us never to expose ourselves to temptations unnecessarily. We must not run into that danger against which we pray. It should teach us not to judge our brethren hastily; God only knows the power of the temptations which beset them.
8. The seventh petition. It is deeper, more wide-reaching than the sixth. Temptations from without would not endanger us if there were not evil in our hearts. We ask to be delivered from it. "Draw us away from the evil," we say (as the words literally mean), quite away from it; away from evil of every kind, away from the power of the evil one, away from the defiling contact with evil in the world, away from the snares of those sins which do so easily beset us. Evil is all around us. The evil one is always alluring us with his accursed temptations. The world is very evil; it lieth in wickedness—perhaps, rather, in the evil one, in the sphere of his activity, his influence (1 John 5:19). Our own heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; our will is weak and corrupted. There is need of a power greater than our own to draw us away from the dominion of the strong man armed; there is need of a mighty counteracting attraction to draw us away from the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. That power is the grace of God; his is the kingdom and the power. That attraction is the love of Christ, the constraining influence of the cross. "Draw me, we will run after thee." This prayer pledges us to follow the drawing of God, to enter into the Lord's battle against the devil, the world, and the flesh. We pray daily to be delivered from evil; we must strive against it, fighting the good fight of faith; or the words of prayer, though they are the holy words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, will not avail to help us.
9. The doxology. We may be compelled by the stern laws of criticism to omit it from the text; but we shall never omit it from our prayers. If it is a liturgical addition, it was made by holy men, men full of the Holy Ghost. It is a precious ending to a precious prayer. The address and the doxology bind the seven petitions together into one perfect prayer. All flow out of the address. He is our Father; he will hear the cry of his children. All rise in faith to the doxology. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory. The kingdom is his. He is King of kings. His kingdom wilt come in his own good time; then shall his Name be hallowed, and his will be done in earth as it is now in heaven. His is the power. He can give us what is needful for our bodies; he can feed us with the bread of life; he can take away our sins and give us the victory over temptation, and save us from every form of evil. His is the glory. Here is our hope of glory, Christ in us; for he saith, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them." In the last words of the Lord's Prayer we echo the first words of the angelic anthem with which his birth was hailed. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory, and that for ever. Here is our hope of everlasting life. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away. His saints shall reign with him. We say our "Amen;" it is *,he response of the believer. May God the Holy Ghost make that "amen" the true expression of the inner assent of our hearts, teaching us to pray this holy prayer in the full assurance of faith!
IV. THE THIRD EXAMPLE: FASTING.
1. The fast which the Lord hath chosen. The Pharisee in the parable pleads his fasting twice in the week as a merit before God. The hypocrites made a show of their self-denials. What they really sought was the reputation of righteousness, the praise of men. They might possibly gain it; it was all that they could gain.
2. The true fast. The Lord classes fasting, as a religious exercise, with almsgiving and prayer. He gives similar rules for its due observance; he promises the like reward. What is necessary is reality; everything that savours of affectation must be banished. Our Father seeth in secret. The whole of our religious, life must be referred to him; our business is with him, with him only. What men think of us matters little; his judgment is of momentous importance. The Christian rule is, "Live unto the Lord, seeking only to please him, referring the whole life of thought and action only to him. He will reward those who give, who pray, who fast, as in his sight, thinking only of him who seeth in secret.
1. Above all things be real. "All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
2. Learn of the Lord the sacred words of prayer. Meditate upon them; make them your own—words to take with you.
3. Pray to God the Holy Ghost to teach you to pray them, making them the voice of your heart.
4. Deny yourselves. There is a blessing for those who fast in faith and in simplicity.
The fourth part of the sermon: self-consecration.
I. THE WHOLE MAN MUST BE GIVEN TO GOD.
1. The heart. God asks for it. "Give me thy heart," he says to each of us. The heart will be where the treasure is. Where is our treasure, our chief good, the object of our strongest desires? If it is on earth, it will fail us at the last. "I must leave all this! I must leave all this!" was the sad cry of the great French statesman, Cardinal Mazarin, when, stricken already by the hand of death, he took his last view of the treasures of art, the costly adornments of his earthly home. God bids us trust our precious things to him. He is able to keep that which we have committed unto him against that day. He asks it for our sake; it is safe in his keeping. Then lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven—the treasure of holy thoughts, holy aspirations, holy deeds. Above all, let Christ himself be the Treasure, the dearest Possession of our hearts, the Joy of our souls. Earthly treasures are but as dross to those who win Christ, the heavenly Treasure. If our treasure is heavenly, our heart will become heavenly too—filled with heavenly affections, heavenly hopes; and this hope maketh not ashamed.
2. The intellect. The eye receives the light of the sun. If it is blinded, all is dark; if it is diseased, the image presented to the mind is no longer clear, distinct, single, but confused, distorted, double. The intellect is the eye of the soul; but earthly affections distort and pervert it. If the heart is set on low, carnal objects, the intellect cannot discern clearly things high and heavenly; it cannot receive the light of the Sun of Righteousness; its vision is obscure, darkened. And if the intellect cannot see with a single eye the blessedness of religion, still more, if it becomes dark, how great must be the darkness of the whole soul! The consecrated heart enlightens the intellect; for God dwelleth in the heart that is given to him, and his presence is the light of the soul.
II. THE GIFT MUST BE ENTIRE, THE SURRENDER COMPLETE.
1. The two masters. "God spake these words, and said; I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt have none other gods but me." It was the first of the commandments of Mount Sinai; the Lord repeats it from the Mount of the Beatitudes. There are two masters who divide the allegiance of mankind. Some serve the living and true God; some serve mammon—riches, earthly things. No man can serve both; it is impossible. The heart cannot be divided between the two; its chiefest affection must be set on one great centre. The true Master cannot be despised; he may be hated. Those who set their love on mammon will end in hating God. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." He who clings to God, the heavenly Treasure, will despise the good things of this world. There is nothing upon earth that he desireth in comparison with God. To serve mammon is to desert the true God, to set up an idol in the heart. Covetousness, Holy Scripture tells us, is idolatry. There is no escape from this solemn, this awful, alternative—God or mammon, Jehovah or Baal, heaven or the world. There is no middle way, no compromise. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thing heart;" "Love not the world."
2. The one Master: his loving care for his servants.
(1) Those who serve him must not be divided in mind; they must not allow over-anxiety concerning their earthly needs to distract their heart. They have been taught to address God as their Father; they must trust his fatherly love, his gracious providence. It is over-anxiety, not carefulness, that Christ forbids; he does not commend the thoughtless and careless. Holy Scripture bids Christian men to "work with quietness, and eat their own bread;" it condemns those who provide not for their own, and specially for those of their own house. What Christ forbids is distracting anxiety for the future. We must do our duty in the present and leave the future to God, trusting him with loving faith. The body, the life, come from him. He made the body; he breathed into the nostrils the breath of life. He who gave the greater will give the less; he will give the things needful for that human life which is his gift.
(2) Examples of his care.
(a) The fowls of the air. The Lord of nature, he by whom the worlds were made, directs us to the study of nature: "Behold the fowls," "Consider the lilies." lie loved to contemplate the works of God, and to draw from them lessons of holy, heavenly wisdom. The vine, the fig tree, the corn-land, the sheep of the pasture, the fishes of the sea, supplied subjects for his parables. He has sanctified the love of nature, and elevated it by his own example. Doubtless in his early life he had watched the countless birds in the clear skies of Palestine, from the soaring eagle to the humble sparrow. He watched them not in vain; he draws lessons of holy trustfulness from their free, wild life. "They sow not, neither do they reap; your heavenly Father feedeth them"—your Father. He is not the Father of the irrational creature in the same holy, blessed sense in which he bids us call him "our Father." Yet he careth for the birds of the air; how much more doth he care for us, his children by adoption and grace! Therefore let us trust him. We cannot by the most anxious thought add to our lives a cubit's length, a day or an hour. Let us imitate the birds of the air in their happy, bright contentment, in their freedom from distracting care.
(b) The lilies of the field. God has shown his love not only in providing for our actual needs by flocks and herds and harvests. He has clothed the earth with beauty; mountain and valley, sunlit seas and waving woods and gleaming rivers, bear witness to the goodness of the Lord. "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." The sin of man has marred the primeval loveliness of creation. But there are yet traces of that first beauty left. The flowers of the fields are relics of Eden's bowers—
"As pure, as fragrant, and as fair
As when they crowned the sunshine hours
Of happy wanderers there."
The Lord gazed on the wealth of gorgeous flowers that deck the hills of Galilee in the spring; they were very fair in his sight; more delicately beautiful, more radiant in their bright colours, than any work of human art or skill. He draws a holy lesson from them: "They toil not, neither do they spin;" but God clothes them with beauty. He bids us learn the happy secret of their calm loveliness. He bids us trust in God with quiet faith; he will give us food and raiment who feeds the ravens when they cry, and adorns the lilies of the field with brilliant colour.
3. We must trust him. He knoweth our needs; he bids us ask him for our daily bread; he listens to our prayer. His children must not be like the heathen. They have far higher privileges; they must live a higher life. The heathen seek eagerly after the good things of this world; Christians must "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"—that kingdom of grace in the heart, which is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." That must be the first and paramount object of the Christian's hope and earnest effort; the glad submission of his whole heart, with all its fears and hopes, all its joys and sorrows, all its desires and all its thoughts, to the heavenly King, who would make that heart his dwelling-place, reigning there with undivided sovereignty. Seek that first, above all things else—above riches, honour, comfort, ease, even above the love of those who are nearest and dearest. Seek that first, seek it of God with unresting, unwearied energy of supplication; and for other things trust his love. He bids us ask him for our daily bread, not to be over-anxious for the morrow. We must not allow distracting fears for the morrow to interfere with the calm performance of the duties of the day. Each day has its burden, its difficulties, its temptations; each day, too, brings its help from God, its grace, its mercies, to his children. "Take therefore no thought for the morrow Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Give your whole energy, all your thoughts, to the work of the day, the duty which is present: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Do not allow the day to be darkened, and its work to be marred, by gloomy forebodings of possible troubles in the future. They may never come; we may pass away before they come; if they should come, God will give his people strength and wisdom. Do your duty; and then leave the future in his hands, to whom alone the future is known; who has promised to make "all things work together for good to them that love him."
1. "Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven."
2. Make no compromises; give the whole heart to God.
3. God careth for his children; trust in him, be not over-anxious.
4. The present is yours; the future is God's. Do your duty, and trust.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Having spoken of the duties of everyday social life, our Lord now passes on to deal with specifically religious actions—almsgiving, prayer, fasting. One thing he condemns in regard to all of these actions, viz. ostentation. His great requirement is sincerity, and, with this, simplicity and humility.
I. THE CHARACTER OF OSTENTATIOUS RELIGION. It is a theatrical performance, carried through before the eyes of men and in order to secure their admiration. In so far as it is ostentatious it does not aim at the service of God at all Attention is not given to his will and approval. The lower sphere is all that is thought of.
1. Ostentatious charity. This was largely practised in the days of Christ, so that the very word "righteousness" came to be narrowed down to the meaning of almsgiving. But it is still prevalent. A person gives not to help the needy or to honour God, but to gain a reputation for generosity. His name must figure in the subscription list. If he were to have no public acknowledgment of his charity, he would withdraw his contributions. Why is it that some people will give more when they "subscribe" than when they put an offering in a "collection" for the very same object?
2. Ostentatious payer. We do not observe the Oriental practice of praying out in the streets. But great attention to public services with neglect of private devotion is of the same character. Or if when at church there is the utmost decorum of behaviour with bent knee and bowed head, while the mind is not in the worship but wandering after idle fancies, this is a show and a sham.
3. Ostentatious self-denial. There are numerous opportunities for self-denial in ways invisible to man. It, therefore, a person passes these by and studies his own comfort in private, while he makes a show of fasting in public, he proclaims himself an "actor;" he is but playing a part. His self-denial is self display, for his own glory, and therefore no real self-denial at all.
II. THE FAILURE OF OSTENTATIOUS RELIGION.
1. Its inutility. It has its reward in the admiration of beholders. The hypocrite is praised—till he is found out. Nevertheless, he really fails. For if religion means anything, it means the soul's relations with God. But if in all this foolish display the thought of God is lost, the supposed worshipper is not worshipping. Praying so as to be seen of men, he forgets the one Being whom it is his supreme duty to please.
2. Its positive wickedness. The conduct of the ostentatious worshipper is odious in the sight of God.
(1) It is false. Pretending to be what it is not, claiming admiration for a charity, a piety, and a self-denial that do not really exist.
(2) It is selfish. Worship should be the surrender of self to God.:But this show of worship is all for the sake of self.
(3) It is worldly. The admiration of men is cultivated, but there is no thought of a higher Witness. A purely temporal, earthly gain is all that such a religion can contemplate.
(4) It is an insult to God. What can be more awfully impious than to prostitute the soul's great privilege of communion with God so as to make it a mere decoration of personal vanity? This is rank hypocrisy, of all things the most hateful in the sight of God.—W.F.A.
These words are not intended to discourage the practice of public worship. The contrast they afford to the ostentatious worship of the Pharisees. makes it clear that our Lord is not alluding to the general prayers of a congregation. For with the synagogue he associates the street corner (Matthew 6:5), thus showing that he is thinking of a man's personal devotions throughout, although in the case of the Pharisee these are made indecently public, and therefore do not deserve the name "private" which is usually attached to them in contrast with what is called the "public" worship of the Church. The secret prayer in private is commended to us.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PRAYER. Jesus is very explicit in regard to these details, although his object is simply to obtain reality and spirituality of worship, because we are largely influenced by the scenes among which we live. The private chamber and the closed door are necessary for the devotion which Christ approves of.
1. Unostentatiousness. This is readily secured. We cannot think of winning the applause of men when we have shut out all observers. Yet even here the danger may return if we let it he known that we resort to seclusion for prayer. Therefore the very act of retirement should be kept private.
2. Freedom from distraction. The noise and glare of the world are withdrawn, and we are left alone with God. This need not l)e in a room. Christ found it on the mountain.
3. A personal approach to God. Each soul must seek God separately. There is a loneliness of personality, a deep seclusion of the interior life. We do not really pray until we open this up to God.
II. THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER. The end is not secured by the mere act of going into seclusion. We may carry the world into our chamber; and we shall do so if the world is in our hearts. We may not meet God there; and we shall not find him if he is "not in all our thoughts." The accessories are but favourable conditions. Still, we need the spiritual effort of devotion, which is to draw near to our Father—the highest act of human experience. When that is truly attained, the accessories cease to be very important. We may find the soul's secret chamber in the heart of a crowd, while walking through the busy street, or while rushing over the country in a railway carriage full of fellow-travellers, if we can withdraw our minds into inwardness of thought, into the seclusion of private meditation; we have but to shut to the door of observation, and we are alone with God. But this is only possible in proportion as our worship is a really spiritual approach to God. We have just to consider what worship is—not a performance, but a communion.
III. THE RESULT OF THE PRAYER.
1. Observed by God. He sees in secret. He sees the secret hollowness, vanity, falsehood, and blasphemy that lie behind the decorous worship of ostentation. He also sees the prayer that is but a thought,
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near."
2. Rewarded by God. The reward of prayer is to hear and answer it. We are not to expect to be paid for our goodness in being unostentatious. It is enough that God meets us in secret prayer, that he condescends to respond and to visit our chamber, transforming it into a temple. That is the reward.—W.F.A.
The Lord's Prayer.
This is the model prayer. It is not simply one form of prayer intended to supersede all others, or to take its place among prayers of a different character. It is the type and pattern of all prayer. "After this manner therefore pray ye." Let us note its leading characteristics.
I. IN FORM IT IS BRIEF, CLEAR, AND SIMPLE. This is offered in contrast to the vain repetitions of the heathen. It is not the length of a prayer, but the reality of it, that finds acceptance with God. He does not need to be urged with piteous entreaties, the frantic shrieks, leaping, and gashing with knives that the dervishes of Baal resorted to. He is close at hand; he is always ready to hear; he knows what we need. Some prayers are sermons preached to God. We have neither to inform God as though he were ignorant, nor to persuade him as though he were reluctant to help. We have simply to make him the confidant of our hearts' desires.
II. IT IS ADDRESSED TO THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD. The "Pater noster" has its key-note struck in its two opening words.
1. God's fatherly nature. The character of our prayer depends on our conception of God. Christ delighted to set before us the picture of God as our Father. Here is the basis of faith. All confidence is justified by this great face.
2. Our relation to God. He is not merely the "All-Father." He is "our Father;" this personal appropriation of God is necessary for the most real prayer.
III. IT HONORS THE HOLINESS OF GOD. God loathes adulation, but he accepts adoration. High-sounding titles and elaborate ascriptions of praise mar the simplicity of genuine worship. It is enough to address God as "our Father." Still we must remember that he is in heaven. The familiarity of love must not forget the reverence due to holiness. The essence of prayer is worship.
IV. IT SEEKS THE GLORY OF GOD. Thoughts of God come first—that his Name may be treated with reverence; that his kingdom may come, his will be done. Many prayers are too narrow, selfish, and worldly. The model prayer fills our minds and hearts with large thoughts of God and his kingdom. If we have the Christian spirit in us, these thoughts will lie very near to our hearts; if that spirit is developed and enlarged, they will be predominant, so that we shall more eagerly wish for the coming of the kingdom and the doing of God's will than for the satisfaction of our personal desires. But, alas! few of us have reached that standard.
V. IT TRUSTS GOD'S DALLY CARE. Now we come down to the personal prayer. It begins with a most simple, universal want—daily bread.
1. Bodily food. This comes from God, who makes the corn grow, and finds us the providential means of a livelihood. Christ recognizes the need of common earthly things; God supplies them.
2. Necessaries. Merely "bread."
3. The moment's need. "Daily" bread. We can leave the morrow.
VI. IT CONFESSES SIN AND ASKS FORGIVENESS. This is of universal application. The saint must confess sin as well as the sinner. This is of daily necessity. We sin daily. But this recognizes God's forgiving grace—to cover all sin. Yet it is conditioned by our forgiving spirit.
VII. IT CRAVES DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL. If possible we would be spared temptation. If we must be tempted, we pray to be saved from the power of the evil one. Our Father is our great Deliverer. in view of darkest dangers we cry for his raving help.—W.F.A.
The two treasuries.
The earthly and the heavenly treasuries are first compared together, and then the reason is given for preferring the latter.
I. THE EARTHLY TREASURY.
1. Its locality. A treasury on earth. The thought is of the accumulation of material wealth. This may be of the choicest kind—works of art, gold, and jewels. Still, it is all earthly, and it does not imply any share in heavenly things, any portion in the unseen world.
2. Its imperfection. Even while its treasures remain in it they may be spoiled. The moth devours the Babylonish garment; the rust corrodes the bright steel and tarnishes the polished silver. Shares depreciate in value while we hold the scrip. Worse than all this, the value to us of earthly treasure may be corrupted; because we may toil successfully for wealth, and yet when we have got it we may discover to our dismay that we have lost the capacity to enjoy it.
3. Its insecurity. What cannot be spoiled by insect or atmosphere may be stolen. Without waiting for the slow action of rust and moth, riches may take themselves wings and flee away. The thief may dig through the mud-built house (see Job 24:16); the skilled burglar may break open the iron safe; the trusted banker may abscond with the stock that is lodged with him. At last the great thief death will rob us of all our earthly store by one irresistible stroke.
II. THE HEAVENLY TREASURY.
1. Its nature. What is this heaven in which we are to store our treasures? Heaven is not an astronomical locality, nor is it simply the abode of the blessed dead; it is wherever God's presence is manifested and enjoyed. Therefore to lay up treasure in heaven is to store it with God; to have our possessions in him; to entrust our all to him; to know that when we go to God we shall find our wealth.
2. Its riches. The nature of the treasury determines the sort of wealth that is to be stored in it. Possessions of land cannot be kept in a cash-box; works of art must not be stowed away in a wine-cellar. If heaven is our treasury, only heavenly riches can be collected there. It will not do for us to reckon our property by gold or any material things, for heaven has no room for such sordid wealth. The "unsearchable riches of Christ" are there—faith and love, pardon and peace, life and gladness, purity and power.
3. Its security. This heavenly treasury is safe. No corruption can breathe in the pure atmosphere of heaven; no thief can break open its mighty gates; death is powerless to enter its realm of eternal life. Nothing can destroy or rob us of our spiritual possessions in Christ.
III. THE GROUNDS OF CHOICE. Enough reason for preferring the heavenly treasury might be found in the great contrast between its security and the deceptive insecurity of all earthly treasuries. But Christ introduces a much higher consideration. "Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also." Therefore if the treasury is on earth, the heart will dwell in this lower region; but if the treasury is in heaven, the heart will soar to the heights of God. Our thoughts, our very selves, dwell with what we prize most highly. Here is a greater danger than that of the disappointment of loss—viz. that of the permanent degradation of a low affection. The chief reason for choosing heavenly treasures is that we may not set our affections on things of the earth, that we may have our thoughts and desires drawn up to what is heavenly. Thus only shall we escape from the sordid mind that gloats over sordid treasures, and win the pure and heavenly mind that aims at highest good.—W.F.A.
Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23
Simplicity of conscience.
The illustration seems to be this—We see only through our eyes. All the light that the body enjoys comes through that pair of delicate organs. Thus, as the means of bringing light to us, our eyes are our lamps. Now, if the two eyes are confused so that they see double, they distort our vision. They must form a single image between them for us to be able to see clearly. If worse should happen, and our eyes should be blinded, all the blaze of noon can bring no light to us. This is the physical analogue; let us now look at its spiritual counterpart.
I. CONSCIENCE IS THE EYE OF THE SOUL. It is to our spiritual nature what the organ of vision is to the bodily structure. It is the avenue through which light enters. A man without a conscience could know no spiritual truth. He might understand a multitude of facts about religion. The history of Israel and the biography of Jesus Christ might be very familiar to him. Doctrines of theology might be studied by him as systems of philosophy or theories of science are studied. But the knowledge thus acquired would not be spiritual. God would be hidden; the way of life would remain undiscovered. Righteousness and sin, faith and redemption, would be but names for abstract ideas; and the conception of these ideas would not help practically. But God speaks in the conscience. There his Spirit touches our spirit. There he impresses us with the force of moral distinctions, and draws us on to the better life.
II. CONSCIENCE NEEDS TO BE SIMPLE IN ORDER THAT IT MAY BE CLEAR. It is possible for the inward vision to see double. This will not happen so much when we seem to have a conflict of duties as when we confuse the very idea of duty with lower considerations. If we act conscientiously even when perplexed by a diversity of claims, we cannot make a very great mistake. But the terrible confusion arises when Conscience is not permitted to speak by herself; when she is interrupted by a babel of clamorous voices speaking out of self-interest, insisting on worldly maxims, and assuming wisdom and pleading policy. These interruptions are fatal to a sound decision. Conscience must be cleared of all accessories. We must look straight to one point. The one question for conscience is—What is right? It is absolutely necessary to keep this question simple by separating it from every other consideration.
III. THE PERVERSION OF CONSCIENCE IS THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL DARKNESS. He is in the dark who turns from the light; but far greater is the darkness of a blind man who cannot see in the light; and darkest of all is the mistake of one so deluded and demented as to take night for day, darkness for light, so that he follows darkness as a guide. It is bad to disregard conscience. Still, conscience remains, a warning beacon that cannot be utterly quenched, and we are aware that we are going without its guidance. Far worse is it to pervert the conscience. Better face a dark coast than the false lights of wreckers; better have no compass than one that will not point to the north; better be without a pilot than be steered by a pirate. The scribes and Pharisees darkened conscience with casuistry; Jesuits have been accused of doing the same; but our own hearts are our greatest deceivers. "Keep conscience as the noontide clear."—W.F.A.
The two masters.
Christ here passes from the consideration of thoughts and desires to the large world of action. His rule of life touches us all round. It begins with the heart—the inner chamber, the sanctuary. It also applies to the life, the work, the scenes of daily life in the world. Now, we are carried out to this busy world to consider the principles that rule our conduct there.
I. WE MUST HAVE A MASTER. This is assumed. Christ considers two forms of service. He does not contemplate the absolute freedom in which we are our own masters. We profess to be free, and claim to rule our own conduct; but that is only because the chains are gilded, or because the silken threads are invisible, because our obedience to our chosen master has become a second nature, i.e. because we serve from love and not from constraint. But all true service is heart-service; it springs from love; it is given willingly; and therefore it does not perceive the yoke of servitude. Yet he who escapes from the service of God as an irksome burden, irksome because his heart is not in the service, will certainly fall into the clutches of some other master—mammon, sin, evil habit, lust, fashion, etc.—all of them being but representatives of the great usurper.
II. WE HAVE A. CHOICE OF TWO MASTERS.
1. God. It is not enough to think of God as our Benefactor; we must remember that he claims our service. This is implied by his Fatherhood, because a father expects obedience on the part of his children. Now, it is not to be denied that the service of God is a very difficult service. It involves the renunciation of sin and the practice of self-denial. It requires absolute submission of the will in interior desire as well as in visible work. In our own strength it is impossible (Joshua 24:19). But God gives strength equal to the task. The reward of his service is immeasurable, not only in subsequent wages, but in the present joy of serving so good a God, delighting to do his will (Psalms 40:8).
2. Mammon. One form of low service. The unworthy service may assume other forms. But this is most prevalent and tempting. It is seen in the race for wealth, in the greed of covetousness, in the slavery of material pleasures and earthly desires. It is degrading to the soul, and it ends in weariness, disgust, and bitter disappointment (Matthew 6:19).
III. WE CAN SERVE BUT ONE MASTER. This is not a question of simple inconsistency and incongruity; it is a matter of absolute impossibility. Christ does not say, "Ye ought not;" he says, "Ye cannot." There can be but one true service rendered by our real selves. Yet nothing is more common than the foolish attempt to achieve the impossible. The result is the miserable failure of a distracted life. The man who would serve two masters has no success or joy in either pursuit. When trying to serve mammon, he is haunted by a disturbing conscience that restrains him from going as far as he would, and vexes him with muttered reproaches. When endeavouring to serve God, he is invaded by a host of foolish fancies and worldly anxieties. He cannot give himself to the worship and service of God, and therefore these things are a weariness of the flesh. Thus he fails, and. is miserable whatever he does. The secret of happiness is whole-heartedness. There is no joy on earth like the deep and satisfying gladness of a complete surrender to God as our one Lord and Master. Happily the principle is a safeguard for the true servant of God. The service of God excludes the service of mammon, and so keeps us safe.—W.F.A.
Christ's remedy for anxiety.
Having touched upon the active ministry of life, our Lord at once proceeds to treat its besetting trouble with an amplitude of illustration which shows how important he considered it to be.
I. THE NATURE OF THE EVIL. We are misled by the word "thought," which has dropped one of its old meanings since the Authorized Version of the New Testament was issued. Christ is not depreciating an intellectual exercise, much less is he encouraging improvidence. What he really says is, "Be not anxious for your life."
1. The evil is in vexatious anxiety. If, after we have done all that is in our power, we fret ourselves with presentiments of possible mischief; or if, in the midst of our work, we let care about its issue take possession of our minds, we make the mistake our Lord deprecates.
2. The evil is concerned with bodily needs. The life, the food, the raiment. The idea is of being absorbed with deep concern for these temporal and external things.
3. The evil prevents concern for our higher interests and duties. Here is its greatest condemnation, not simply that it pains us, but that it injures us. Jesus does not advise freedom from anxiety merely on its own account, that we may have the satisfaction of being at peace. He sees that worldly anxiety fills the mind and heart,-and so keeps out thoughts of the great purpose of life. "The cares of this world" are tares that choke the Word. "The life is more than the food." We are to cast aside anxiety about food and clothes, that we may be free to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
II. THE CURE OF THE EVIL. All deplore it; but few see how to conquer it. Some even regard the words of Christ as applicable only to an idyllic state of society—possible among the flowers and sunshine of Galilee in those old dreamy days, but quite impracticable in the busy, crowded West of to-day. Let us see if there are not permanent lessons in this teaching of our Lord.
1. The spirit of nature. Our Lord was preaching on a mountain, with flowers at his feet and birds above his head. His illustrations lay close at hand; but his choice of them was evidently suited to his object. He touches on the beauty and fresh life of nature, so that his very language is soothing. It carries us quite away from the fret and fever of life. If we would spend more time in considering the lilies we should be calmed and refreshed. Wordsworth re-echoes this wholesome lesson.
2. The analogy of the lower world. God cares for the grass that is enamelled with flowers in the spring, then scorched by the sun and burnt as fuel in the summer. He feeds the wild birds. Nature is wonderfully adjusted in its mutual ministries so as to support its most fragile creatures. If we can "live according to nature" we shall be provided for. This does not mean becoming savages—who are not in a state of nature at all. It means observing the laws of nature, as flowers and birds are bound to do, but as men do not.
3. The revelation of our Father's care. He knows our need. He does not despise it, or suppose that we can face it with Stoical indifference. Therefore we can entrust it to him. Faith is the great antidote to care.
4. The call to higher duty. It is wrong to waste our lives in anxiety. It is incumbent on us to give ourselves to the service of God. When we do this we shall find it easier to trust God. Then the evil may come; but we need not snatch at it prematurely. It can wait for its day, and when that arrives we shall find that as our day is so our strength will be.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
As to the duty of giving alms.
The matter of the discourse of our Lord proceeds from his illustration of the hitherto unpractised and unnoticed spiritual significance, depth, and far-reachingness of the Law, to admonitions which must ever be so sure to be needed—of simplicity of motive and purity of heart in our works of "righteousness," or, as perhaps we should more naturally describe them in modern phrase, of religion. It must be noted that the Received Version reads mistakenly, in Matthew 6:1, "alms" instead of "righteousness." This last word, recalling our thought to Matthew 6:20, easily keeps for us unbroken the thread of Christ's discourse. The more specific of these admonitions as to our religious actions are three in number, and concern the duty of giving alms (Matthew 6:1-40.6.4), of praying (Matthew 6:5-40.6.15), and of lasting (Matthew 6:16-40.6.18). Notice—
I. THAT THE PRINCIPLE CONTAINED IN THE INJUNCTION CHRIST HERE UTTERS IS NOT THAT HIS DISCIPLES SHOULD ARTIFICIALLY AND UNNATURALLY SMOTHER AND COVER UP IN DARKNESS EVERY ACT OF CHARITY.
1. This would be to the derogation of a previous and important injunction of this very discourse, that they should "so let their light shine before men that," as a consequence, "they might see their good works, and glorify their Father in heaven."
2. The present injunction is explicitly worded to the effect that such good works as almsgiving are not to be done for the purpose of being seen of men, and thereby winning a most superficial glory of them.
II. THE INJUNCTION IS THAT THE WORKS OF CHARITY SHOULD TRAVEL SO DIRECT FROM THE HEART TO THE OBJECT OF THEM THAT THEY SHOULD IN NO WISE CONTEMPLATE ANY OUTER OBSERVATION, AND SHOULD, SO FAR FROM THIS, EVEN ELUDE THAT OF THE LEFT HAND WHEN DONE BY THE RIGHT HAND.
III. THAT ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS, ANY ADMIXTURE OF SECRET, UNSAFE, UNHEALTHY, CRAVING FOR HUMAN NOTICE AND PRAISE, IS OF A DISENABLING SORT, AND PRECLUDES THE CONTINUAL DEW OF THE DIVINE APPROVAL AND REWARD.
IV. THAT NEVERTHELESS OUR WORKS OF CHARITY ARE FREE AND OPEN—NAY, RATHER, ARE EVEN TO BE ENCOURAGED TO SUBMIT THEMSELVES—TO THE INSPECTION OF THE ONE CLEAR, CALM, UNERRING, AND UNHARMING GAZE OF THE DIVINE EYE, AND THERE HAVE THEIR REWARD.—B.
As to the duty of prayer.
As, in those duties of religion which take the shape of charitable action towards man, the first law of all is that they be rendered with purity of motive and with directness of aim, free from self-consciousness and free from consciousness, either morbid or calculated upon, of the gaze of others, so certainly in that duty (identical at the same time with highest privilege) which marks the intelligent personal approach of men to God, viz. their approach in prayer, is it necessary—
I. THAT IT BE PERFORMED WITHOUT ANY OSTENTATION OF SANCTITY BEFORE MEN.
II. THAT IT BE ADDRESSED TO GOD WITH UNDIVIDED HOMAGE, UNDISTRACTED THOUGHT.
III. THAT IT CONSIST OF PETITIONS OF KNOWN AND DISTINCT MEANING, NOT VAGUE, NOT REPETITIOUS, NOT MULTIPLIED FOR MUCH SPEAKING'S SAKE ONLY.
IV. THAT WE REMEMBER THAT IT IS NOT EITHER TO TELL GOD WHAT HE DOES NOT ALREADY KNOW, OR TO DICTATE OR SUGGEST TO HIM WHAT TO DO OR WHAT TO GIVE; BUT TO CONFESS TO HIM THAT WE DO KNOW AND FEEL OUR OWN NEEDS, TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE KNOW HE ONLY CAN SUPPLY THEM, AND TO SUBMIT THE TIME AND THE CHOICE OF THE WAY TO DO SO, TO HIM AND HIS ALL-SOVEREIGN WISDOM.—B.
As to the manner of prayer.
The occasion was one in which our Lord knew that the teaching of his lips would be best brought home to the mind by an example to illustrate his meaning. What a sequel that example of prayer has itself had! and what fruitfulness it has had in teaching the "manner of prayer"! This "manner" taught by our Lord gives us first a name, or title, by which to address God in prayer. In this notice—
I. THE GRACIOUS AUTHORITY IT GIVES TO THE CREATURE, AS SOON AS HE TURNS HIS HEART IN PRAYER TO GOD, TO CLAIM THE RELATIONSHIP OF GOD TO HIM AS THAT OF FATHER. In whatever way this relationship of God to man might be argued from the nature of things (Psalms 103:13), or inferable from indirect permission in the teaching of God's favoured and chosen people since Abraham (Isaiah 63:16), it is certain that, previously to this teaching of Christ himself, we read no direct authorization whatsoever of it. It is the gift of this prayer, therefore, that with this title we come "boldly to the throne of grace."
II. THE LOVING AND HOPEFUL TONE OF SUPPLIANCY IT AUSPICIOUSLY AVAILS TO AWAKEN. The spirit of demand, the temper of dictation, the mutterings of discontent, the murmurings of impatience, are all held in willing, sure, sweet abeyance, when on bended knees we say, "Our Father." "How," we say rightly," will he not give to his sons, to whom first he has given this greatest gift, that they should be, and be called, sons!" And, again, how shall not we desire, in practice as in prayer, to comfort ourselves in harmony with our new-given relationship—the Divine "adoption of sons"!
III. THE HEALTHFUL, INSPIRITING, UNLIMITED, CATHOLICITY WHICH THE TWO WORDS "OUR FATHER" BETOKEN AND AUGUR. It speaks in all innocent trustfulness, instinctive expectation, grateful expanded prospect, of the vast family, of an ever-swelling brotherhood, of the one Father's many-mansioned house. It strikes the key-note of the music of universal charity.
IV. THE ELEVATED LEVEL TO WHICH OUR CONCEPTIONS OF THE DIVINE RELATIONSHIP ARE SO SILENTLY AND, AS IT WERE, SO UNSUSPECTINGLY DRAWN UP—THE FATHER IN HEAVEN. HOW helpful to our hope and confidence, how salutary to our modesty and patience, how dignifying to all our spiritual tone and aspiration, to remember that this Father is in heaven, while as yet we are at heaven's footstool—the earth!—B.
Matthew 6:9 (end of verse)
The first petition.
The sentence in which this is contained cannot mean that God's own holiness can be added to or its sanctity improved; but that we "give thanks at the remembrance" of it; pause to observe the very highest conceivable rendering of the fifth commandment; and help to teach others to pay all most solemn homage to his Name.
I. THE PETITION IS AN INSTANCE AND EXPRESSION OF A MOST SIGNIFICANT ACT OF OUR REGENERATE NATURE, AKIN TO ITS VERY HIGHEST REACHES OF ACHIEVEMENT, WHEN, IRRESPECTIVE OF EVERYTHING ELSE, WE DESIRE THAT FIRST OF ALL GOD'S HOLY NAME BE HELD SACRED AND BE GLORIFIED.
II. THE PETITION PURPORTS THE EXALTATION, IN MEN'S REVERENT REGARD, OF THAT NAME, SO GREAT, ADDRESSED AND APPEALED TO IN PRAYER. The petition beautifully embraces the deep wish that that Name may be ever growing in adored sacredness in the silent heart of the individual petitioner first, as well as further in and through all creation.
III. THE PETITION MANIFESTLY POSTULATES SUCH SYMPATHY, HOWEVER ELEMENTARY, WITH THE HOLY NATURE OF THE FATHER, THAT ITS FULFILLING CANNOT FAIL TO BE ALSO A SURE FULFILLING OF GOOD TO HIM WHO PRAYS IT. It evidently proceeds on the ready and willing acknowledgment of the fact that the perfect holiness of the Father in heaven is the condition and the essential that lies at the very root of the welfare of the man who is praying, and of the vast universe.—B.
Matthew 6:10 (first part)
The second petition.
The words of this brief petition pray that; the kingdom of God may come in this world. And it would sufficiently satisfy the requirements of the words to understand them to pray for the further growth and more perfect developing and advance of the kingdom and the principles of it. So far also as the word "kingdom" might be considered equivalent to "rule," that rule had always been a reality and a very patent fact in the world. But in the light of the preaching of John the Baptist, and of the preaching entrusted to the twelve and the seventy disciples in Christ's commission, it is probable that the petition in this prayer describes the final and perfect form of God's kingdom, as growing out of the truth of Christ, in all its entirety, rooted in his incarnation, vital in the efficacy of his cross and blood, and triumphantly evidenced in his resurrection, ascension, and sending or the Holy Ghost. For a kingdom, a new kingdom, a reign of "abundance of peace," and of every most distinguished type of blessing, the favoured but degenerate nation had now long been looking with very mistakenly directed vision; while the truer and the really devout of them had been earnestly longing and waiting for it—not, indeed, much better informed in their mind, but very much better disposed in their heart. These, therefore, were to some real degree disposed to understand Christ's kingdom, differently conditioned as even to them it was compared with their expectations. And now the petition is enthroned that purports this—May the kingdom of God in Christ come! Dwell on—
I. THE SPIRITUAL CHARACTER OF THIS KINGDOM. Explain what is really meant by a spiritual character, illustrating this by:
1. The wonders of the way in which the kingdom was founded on earth.
2. The methods by which it gains and holds its own.
3. The objects which it seeks both near at hand and ultimately.
II. THE SPIRITUAL FORCES WHICH GIVE IMPULSE TO THIS KINGDOM AND WHICH RULE IT, AS MANIFEST AS THEY ARE INVISIBLE. Give here leading illustrations of the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit working at the same time with human servants, but himself unchallengeably the mainspring.
III. THE CATHOLICITY OF THIS KINGDOM. Point out the implications of this fact. Show the enormously strong, growing indications, or evidences, or already concluded proofs of it.—B.
Matthew 6:10 (latter part)
The third petition.
Beautifully does Chrysostom note how, in this petition, following closely upon "Thy kingdom come," Jesus would" bid us, before we come to heaven, make this earth into heaven." Dwell, in this simplest petition, on the following simplest but greatest and most significant facts. If the will of God is done on earth as it is done in heaven, so—
I. IT WILL IT BE DONE BY ALL. It is done by all in heaven, and the very form of this petition is not worded for the individual, but for all the wide, the various, the saddened but the beautiful world.
II. IT WILL BE DONE WITH THE FULLEST CONSENT OF THE HEART, AND WITH THE UNITED, UNDISTRACTED CONSENT OF ALL THE POWERS.
III. IT WILL BE DONE WITH AN EVER-GROWINGLY SYMPATHETIC UNDERSTANDING OF IT. It is beyond us to say that God's will is done even in heaven with (or much less for the mere reason of) a perfect understanding of it. Nay, some of its value may result there, as here, from its being both accepted and "done" in spite of its not being understood. But how much of our understanding of it is blocked by weak sympathy with it, or by absence of sympathy with it; and surely these obstacles will be gone, or ever be giving way! The clearness of sight and of understanding that a perfect sympathy gives, as compared with fitful and imperfect sympathies, must be all gain to the doing of God's will on earth as in heaven.
IV. IT WILL BE DONE WITHOUT THAT BITTER PAIN, THAT WORST WEARINESS, THAT COME OF VAIN ENDEAVOUR AND EFFORT SO OFTEN FAILURE. Such descriptions, or even such mere glimpses, as are given to us in Scripture of the worship or the work in heaven are ravishing indeed to meditate. To these we can never absolutely attain "in earth.". To them, nevertheless, we may ever be approximating. The petition teaches us this; and, as offered by countless millions of lips, generation after generation, it is gradually and blessedly leading on to this.—B.
The fourth petition.
Introduce by a few remarks on the sublime simplicity of the petitions of this prayer, typified in none better perhaps than in this. Give also simple explanation of the word rendered here "daily," to the effect that it does not repeat the meaning contained in "this day," but designates rather the natural requirement of any one, and the portion needful and allotted to him by parental care and love. Then the petition may be vivified, and a grateful realizing of its significance and beauty may be helped by speaking of it as—
I. THE HUMBLE PRAYER OF CREATURE-NEED. Instance comparisons of the dependence of all life,
(2) animate and conscious;
(3) animate, conscious, and intelligent; and show how fatal the fault when to these great facts of nature that of religious devoutness is not found added (Psalms 104:27, Psalms 104:28; Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16).
The very sense of creature-need may be comfort, and help lead us to think on whom that need is permitted and invited to draw. How different our youth's presumptuous challenge of responsibility from the craving after relief from that very thing in maturer life, mellower character, and declining age!
II. THE HAPPY PRAYER OF CHILD-DEPENDENCE. The youngest child unconsciously depends for its portion every day upon its parents. And it becomes so natural to it that it knows not a doubt or fear for the same as years go on, till with the springing up of thought and the teaching of goodness and wisdom it becomes an effort to acknowledge its child-dependence and the grace that supplies it. That effort is healthful and useful. The very beginning of this prayer warrants us in this petition to ask, as the asking of the dependence that gives the child its claim, and a claim in its character something in advance of that which it utters as a creature.
III. THE TRUSTFUL PRAYER OF NECESSITY INDEED, YET UNANXIOUS NECESSITY. When the portion that the day wants has changed from milk to bread, and from milk and bread to wine and strong meat, there are yet other imperious forms of necessity that it takes. In one known word, there is "strength equal to the day" wanted. Various is the day, very various such days! The strength of healing, of pity, of pardon, of gracious and unusual intervention, is wanted; and is to be prayed for, and may be even begged for; but then most successfully when from the calm, deep heart of trustful unanxiety (Psalms 37:1-19.37.40., passim).—B.
The fifth petition.
It is to be pointed out that the Gospel version of the Lord's Prayer uses here in this petition the words "debts" and "debtors;" while, in what may be regarded as a parallel passage (Luke 11:4), the prayer reads, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors" It might, possibly, and not altogether unplausibly, be held that this last form of the words designs to avoid bringing into near comparison the dread reality we call sin against God, with our sins (though still justly so called) against one another. At any rate, the version may suggest profitably the thought. Vast also and indeed immeasurable the difference between what we owe to God and what any one can owe to us; still these facts more naturally both fall under the description of "debts." Again, though the words "debts" and "debtors" are virtually commented upon by the "trespasses" of Matthew 6:14, it is not impossible that they suggest the sequence of this petition upon the one preceding it. We have just prayed, "Give us this day," etc. What debts, indeed, God's daily innumerable givings, as Creator to all creation, as Father to all his family, entail upon them! These are not less to be thought of because they partake so much of a moral character, and are so analogous to those which children owe to their earthly parents. Though parents must give for the sake of the life of those to whom they give, their claim upon the gratitude, obedience, devotion, of their offspring is indefeasible, and the high, solemn sanctions of that claim in Scripture are second to none. Dwell on the consideration of—
I. THE EXISTENCE OF THIS GREAT THING, THIS GREAT FACT, IN THE WORLD—"FORGIVENESS:" WHAT DOES IT MARK?
1. It is a convincing proof of a moral element present in the world's social structure.
2. It is a convincing proof that that moral element is not of the nature of a level, stern, logical justice by itself, without elasticity, without any possible method of compensation, without any provision of remedy, in the event of incursions of error, accident, fault.
3. The outward practice of forgiveness (leaving out of question any cultivating of the spirit of forgiving)is found an absolute necessity for carrying on the community of social life.
4. The three foregoing particulars may be viewed as a strong supporting argument of the species of analogy, justifying the article of the apostolic Creed, that says, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." And they may be viewed so yet the more in the light of the second clause of the petition now before us, "as we forgive our debtors."
II. THE WIDE RANGE THROUGH WHICH PRAYERS FOR GOD'S FORGIVENESS NEED TO BE OFFERED.
1. For debts in the matter of mercies innumerable and priceless, of which so little account has been made, and for which so little fruitful return has been shown.
2. For our debts in the matter of innumerable faults—faults of omission and of carelessness.
3. For our debts in the solemn matter of what can be described as nothing less than sin against God; and which we must know to be such by reason, by conscience, by education, by the education further of his revealed Word, and by the most explicit and most tender revelation of his love in Christ Jesus.
4. For all the debts of all that vast family of which we are a part, and for which our "prayers and intercessions" are permitted and invited.
III. THE EXCEEDINGLY SOLEMN FORM UNDER WHICH WE ARE TAUGHT TO ENTREAT GOD'S FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS, VIZ. "AFTER THE MANNER" OF OUR OWN FORGIVENESS OF OUR BROTHER. The thrilling suggestions of warning that lie plain to every gaze in these words of prayer fitted to our lips by Jesus, emphasized in Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15, and so often repeated by us, are only equalled by the matchless condescension of them.—B.
Matthew 6:13 (first part)
The sixth petition.
Point out that the word "lead" is not an exactly correct rendering, and but for long use would be pretty certainly a somewhat misleading one. The plain meaning of the petition is that we may be spared the conflict and the danger and the pain of temptation, so far as may be accordant with Divine wisdom and the Divine will. Hence a very old version renders "carry," and the Revised Version renders "bring;" and for this may be substituted such other words as "put," or "place." Though indeed circumstances, as we call them (and God certainly uses not unfrequently the ministry of circumstance), may be largely described as partaking of the nature of leading, yet the last intended implication of the petition is that God would, by unconscious leading, betray us into temptation, so that we should be more liable to fall by it. Consider—
I. THE NATURE OF THE THING CALLED TEMPTATION.
1. It is not the word rightly used, unless the person is free to choose, to do, or to refuse to do.
2. It is not the word rightly used, unless the thing that tempts is for some reason evil—evil not necessarily in itself, but for us at the time being.
3. It involves our facing what is either intrinsically evil, or in this sense evil; wishing or being inclined to wish or liable to wish it; and finally either mastering and banishing the wish, or yielding to it, and turning it into action.
II. THE OBJECTS OF TEMPTATION.
1. To reveal to the nature of an inquiring, intelligent being what forces there are without him, for good or for bad, in this world.
2. To reveal to that nature the forces that are within it also; and to waken its knowledge as much of their difference in kind as of their existence.
III. THE USES OF TEMPTATION.
1. To challenge, determine, fix the tone and direction of the character of any and every person.
2. To strengthen greatly, by decision and by exercise, goodness, if temptation is resisted and mastered; or if the opposite, at any rate to acquaint the sufferer with what is going on in his life.
IV. THE JUSTIFICATION OF PRAYING AGAINST THE ORDEAL OF TEMPTATION.
1. Such praying expresses a very permissible, just, modest distrust of self. It expresses the opposite of self-confidence.
2. It expresses a just and natural dread of being worsted of our worst enemy.
3. It expresses a justifiable shrinking from the conflict, and the pain of being tempted, even if we are not victims to the danger of it. That "the cup may pass away" we know is a lawful and even hallowed prayer, if coupled with submission still to the Divine will, and with the resolute drinking of it if it be still held to our lips. Such praying may be regarded as the fit response also to the most gracious utterances of all the ages; e.g. "Like as a father pitieth his children … for he knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust."—B.
Matthew 6:13 (latter part)
The seventh petition.
This latter clause of what might be viewed almost as one petition, though expressed in the shape of two antithetic parts, confirms what may be called the common-sense interpretation of the words, "Lead us not into temptation." All the matter of temptation is evil. The evil that is without, its material; the evil that is within, its occasion and fearful purchase. The attraction of what is good, and any readiness within us to yield to that attraction, we do not designate temptation. But now the petition, "Lead us not into temptation," all the material of which is evil, is pronouncedly followed by this other," But deliver us," i.e. draw us away, rescue us, save us, "from evil," or from the evil one, in every form and in every degree. The petition is, therefore, certainly not mere repetition of the former, nor the former put in somewhat different shape, but it is substantial addition to it. Notice, then, that the prayer—
I. BREATHES THE EARNEST DESIRE TO BE DELIVERED FROM THE WHOLE BODY OF EVIL. That which was ever round us; that which is ever too likely to he within us, though dormant, perhaps; that which might still invade our peace and safety. We need to be set free from that which has in past time, and perhaps long, dominated us.
II. EXPRESSES THE CONVICTION THAT THE FINAL, COMPREHENSIVE THING TO BE DESIRED IS TO BE DRAWN BY DIVINE POWER FROM EVIL. We need to be both
(1) weaned from the love of it and all native inclination to it, so far as it takes any shape, by virtue of which we may wish for the time to east in our lot with it; and
(2) rescued and, if need be, snatched from its tyrannical hold and merciless thraldom. The significance of the position of this petition, last of all, so placed by Christ himself, well deserves notice and enforcing.
III. RECOGNIZES AND RECORDS OUR CREED THAT EVIL HAS ITS MASTER; AND THAT WE KNOW WHO THAT MASTER ALONE IS; OUR DEPENDENCE ON HIM, AND OUR INDEBTEDNESS TO HIM. To him we rightly carry our solemn, suffering, last appeal against it, whether the fault of it be more or less chargeable on ourselves. A short life, which nevertheless dragged even its very briefness, its "days few and evil," as though tedious time needed to be "killed," may have witnessed a careless indifference to evil on our part; again, an utter misestimate of its nature, malignity, mass of resistance; again, a mere defiant attitude towards it; again, a self-confident assurance of our own power over it, when only we should choose to rise to the occasion, and put forth that supposed power; and once again, after many a shameful fall, as the natural reaction, a crouching, craven, crushed, despairing dread of it! The humbling tale of these self-condemning transformations, and of the innumerable by-victories of evil, own to one safe outcome, one only! It is this—put into our lips by Jesus himself—the sad, intensely earnest, all-trusting, last appeal against it, addressed to that Master of it, before whom itself has ever quailed, "Deliver us from evil."—B.
The manner of fasting.
As, of the three specific admonitions regarding our personal religious exercises, the first on "the manner of almsgiving," and the second on "the manner of praying," have had their gracious treatment; so now the third follows, on "the manner of fasting." We have not here any express injunction to fast, nor had we any to give alms or to pray. In each case the prefatory words are in the same form, "when thou doest thine alms;" "when thou prayest;" and now, "when ye fast." However, not only is there not one disparaging word uttered at the expense of fasting, but directions are given for the right observance of it; and, above all, it is to be noted that it is ranked with the two ever undisputed duties and virtues of the Christian life, viz. charitableness and prayer.
I. THE OSTENTATION OF SANCTITY IS STRUCK AT. No two things could less agree, no two extremes less conceivably for one moment meet.
1. The very origin and reason of fasting disallow display; for its design is to search out and reckon with certain discreditable, subtle tendencies and temptations to sin, ever too actively working in the body, and through the lower appetites of our nature, and unfailingly warring against the soul—hindrances to religious life, the poison of devotion. Of the genuine, solemn attempt to sap the strength of such enemies within as these, who could dare to take opportunity to make parade? And if the solemnity of that attempt be nothing but an occasion of seeking the praise of men, and itself an "art of deceit," what can measure the guilt of the vanity of that "hypocrite"? The spiritual vanity, and yet more the spiritual pride, that sows itself in the spare soil of fasting, only then good if spare, is too sure, by the surest Nemesis, to grow a crop, briar, bramble, thistle, malignant in their fertility.
2. The meagre littleness of human sanctity, at its best, disallows display under any conditions. Nothing so certainly proves to demonstration that littleness as any proffer of ostentation on the part of it. Sanctity can only grow in the prevailing sense and overshadowing conviction of that Divine holiness from which exclusively it comes, and by the side of which it is meantime ever reduced to a drop in the ocean. "Fasting," said one of old, "should show you, but not you your fasting." And again, "Christ says not, 'Be not sad,' but 'Make not yourselves sad of countenance.'" And, once more, "If he who fasts, and makes himself of a sad countenance, is a hypocrite, how much worse he who does not fast, yet assumes a fictitious sadness of face as a token of fasting!"
II. THE NATURAL METHODS, OF HONEST MOTIVE AND OF DEEP RELIGIOUS DESIRE, HELD UP FOR IMITATION. The unconsciousness of daily habit is recommended by Christ for the outward appearance of the man most deeply convinced of the need of strenuous measures to cope with spiritual danger within. The sable garb and habit may well be left unstudied, unaffected, unput on, because of the sabler penitential habit of the heart. No "artifice of deceit" is anything but out of place and out of season, except it be that most skilled artifice of all, to make the least show of self, and over self's own sacreder self to throw the concealing veil of voluntary retiringness. The man who fasts as a Christian and for Christian purpose is not to proclaim it by word or by sign, nor is he to proclaim it at all. If in the light of his life it proclaims itself by his own light, he is then free from the responsibility of the disclosure, and it will be found that he is the very last to know of that disclosure.
III. THE EVER-OBSERVING EYE, WHICH MEN MAY RIGHTLY OBSERVE. Having guarded against all possible variety of danger that may arise from men's notice, or our own supposition of it, consciousness of it, or craving for it, our one legitimate desire and "contrivance" in the matter should be that nothing divert, distract, or disturb the singleness of eye that should feed its gaze on God—himself secret from the world, accepting and receiving us secret from the world. Where singleness of eye and simplicity of heart and transparency of motive are so indistinguishable from one another, one look aside from God, one moment relish for human praise, one listening for report of self, will dispel the holiness, and the holy fruit of any spiritual exercise. It is to the eye that is as unseen as it sees, as kind as it is searching, as searching as it is all-seeing and everywhere seeing, that the one safe appeal of our eye is to be directed, for guidance here, for encouraging approval here, and for its final unerring award.—B.
The treasure laid up on earth.
It is most unimportant, in meditating on the succeeding portions of this wonderful discourse of our Lord, to insist on tracing some imagined connection between them. If on the surface it be plain, or if by careful examination it becomes plain, let us love to notice it, and to learn its continual contribution to the instructiveness and beauty of the teaching. Otherwise there is no incumbent necessity or advantage in stringing such pearls as these, at any rate. With this proviso, it is possible to suggest that there is a connection to be traced, not fanciful, between what we have here and the foregoing eighteen verses—that whereas the solemn refrain of each of the three examples which they comprise has been that no heritage of human praise be sought, but only that surest intrinsic reward, the approving eye of him who sooth in secret, now the subject launches out into the open; he who speaks, lovingly admonishes all, at all times, under all conditions, whether they give alms, or pray, or fast, "or whatsoever they do," to take heed and beware, not only of the lust of human praise—one particular shape of earthly treasure—but of seeking or storing in any sort the unsafe treasures of earth. The ground now rested upon for this admonition is, in one general word, the untrustworthiness of treasures laid up on earth. But this untrustworthiness has deepening shadows and a deepening suspicion as it is deeper looked into. The place, indeed, Jesus Christ says, of treasure laid up upon earth lays it open to suspicion, and to more than suspicion, to condemnation, in the matter of a right and wise investment. For of such treasure it is to be said that—
I. IT IS INSECURE. By the perfection of figurative language, in brevity, force, and clearness, this insecurity is set forth by the operation of:
1. Rust; an agent so silent, so constant, so natural, so certain, that nothing seems wanting to perfect the figure, for all that wide sweep of earthly wealth which iron, the king of metals, may be held to typify.
2. The moth; the stealthy destroyer of all the vesture and texture by which, again, another such wide stretch of earthly wealth is typified; but not only so, such a wide field of human vanity of wealth displayed.
3. The thief; who the more precious and less destroyable what remains may be, so much the more eagerly and skilfully compasses the grasping of it. So earthly treasure is cumulatively insecure by its unconscious and inanimate enemy, by its unconscious but animate enemy, and by its very conscious and very animate enemy.
II. IT IS TEMPORARY, EVEN WHEN AT THE SECUREST. If it is laid up on earth, it is bound to be left down on earth. The whole wide world of men all always have known that earth is not their abiding country; that if they are to be always, it is just the opposite of fact that they are to be always on earth; and that if the earth, in a sense, "abideth for ever," its fleeting generations the very opposite.
III. IT Is LOWERING INSTEAD OF ELEVATING, IMPOVERISHING INSTEAD OF ENRICHING, EVEN WHEN LEAST "TEMPORARY," AND EVEN WHEN MOST "SECURE." This is not said of a right use of earthly advantages, a use that does not abuse. But neither is it this at which Christ aims when he says, "Lay not up treasure on earth." No; the "for" which Christ uses here so emphatically, and the most weighty clause which it leads in, tells his most significant meaning. A treasure laid up on earth chains the heart with it to earth; "for" wherever the treasure is the heart is; whatever the treasure is, it is fashioning the heart to it. "What folly to store your treasure in the place you must soon leave!" What folly to have as treasure that which enslaves but never ennobles! What folly to have as treasure that which condemns thought never to think high, and which dooms affection's growth to be opposite of lasting in any upward direction, and, so far as its downward direction goes, the deeper its roots, the deeper its torments! Human nature and character only then rise, grow, purify, and are blessed as the heart of man rises and becomes purer, till its upward tendency is secured and its sanctification safe.—B.
Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23
The lamp of the body.
Make a few introductory remarks on the brevity, the force of suggestion, and the depth of significance of these words of Jesus Christ. Explain that "the light of the body" should be rendered "the lamp of the body;" and that the word is distinct from the last word of the verse, rightly rendered "light." From the inattention that arises from so great familiarity with one of the grandest wonders of our life, both bodily and intelligent, strive to win this gracious illustration of Christ, and seek to secure solemn heedfulness to it. Consider—
I. A MARVELLOUS WORK OF GOD—THE BODY FULL OF LIGHT—HOW HE DOES IT. The living lamp, the eye, lets light into "the whole body," and even pours light into it. The mysterious susceptibility and energy of the brain receive and distribute it, and that brain acts accordingly. It is so that the body, or rather the man, is said to have sight. Sight avails for two things:
1. To admit a wide variety of impression and knowledge.
2. To initiate, and direct, and conduct, a wide variety of intelligent action. The body, which otherwise would be only an opaque mass of living, throbbing energy, but groping because of darkness, losing the right way, missing aim and vainly beating the air, wasting terribly the vital force it had, becomes by that "lamp" all suddenly, as it were, endowed with capability. It is a capability of the higher sort—based on immense contributions of knowledge, and not on mere addition of physical strength. It is perhaps impossible to make any well-founded comparisons among the works of God, and it approaches irreverence to attempt it; but among them all, when we think fixedly of it, where can we find one more to amaze us, and more to be admired for the way it is obtained and the results it obtains, than "the body full of light"?
II. A MARVELLOUS WOE OF MAN—THE BODY ALL DARK—AND HOW HE COMES WITH IT SO. The body is "all dark" when the lamp that God made for it or meant for it is not there or is not alight. And this may be so, whereas it never was there, the man being born blind; or whereas it was once there and alight, yet some "accident" has put it out and destroyed it; or whereas it was once there and alight, yet disease, and perhaps disease that was more or less the direct consequence of sin and vice, had put it out and destroyed it. In each and all of these cases what suggestion of serious thought and solemn wonder or searching inquiry there is!
III. A MARVELLOUSLY AGGRAVATED FORM OF THIS HUMAN WOE—WHAT AND WHENCE IT IS. This is when the lamp is there, and when it is lighted, but its light is contradictory, confusing, bewildering, and worse than any ordinary darkness. It is a distemper of the eye, that falsifies all incoming impressions, misleads and misdirects all outgoing action. The result may be termed "darkness," but only because it is not light, and of this darkness it must be added, "how great" it is! Or, as there is present the lamp, and as there is in action the eye, the result may for one briefest moment be termed "light," but only the very next moment to incur the comment and. criticism of the unerring Discerner and Judge of all things: "If therefore the very light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
IV. A MARVELLOUS PORTRAIT AND TYPE—OF THE MIND—TAKEN FROM THE BODY. Reason, instinct, conscience, the instruction of revelation, the highest possible instruction, that of the Spirit, each and all are the lamp and light of the mind. But what are they when they are not each severally "single;" when they are made "evil;" when error adulterates truth; when impurity, and self-seeking, and self-confidence, and undocility, and resistance of holy motions, and the doing of despite to the Spirit;—when one or more or all of these baulk or block the straight, steady advance and operating of the good and true and holy? If error prostitutes truth, and an evil spirit usurps the seat of the good Spirit, then the state of that man, in whom scenes of mischief and disaster such as these have their way, is worse than if he had not reason or conscience, and had been left unvisited of Divine instruction and Divine importunity.—B.
Singleness of service.
To the most suggestive instruction and warning respecting singleness of eye follows now the subject, an evident sequel, of singleness of devotion. The most perfect perception and intelligence are certainly no guarantee of devotion of service, loyal and unswerving; but if there be the ready mind and honest disposition to this, then the sight, clear and quick, and perception unerring, will be most tributary to that service. The vainest waste of effort, the most prodigal dissipation of energy, must be the reward of the man who does not see with a perfect sight this—that he cannot "serve two masters." Lead in the great lessons belonging to this language of our Lord by generally and lightly dwelling upon the meditation of.—
I. HOW PERVADING AND PENETRATING A FACT OF HUMAN LIFE SERVICE IS; THAT IT VINDICATES ITSELF AS NOTHING LESS THAN A LAW OF HUMAN NATURE, INEVITABLE, USEFUL, HONOURABLE; AND THAT ITS VARIOUSNESS, DRAWING WITHIN ITS BENEFICENT RANGE EVERY AGE AND EVERY MANNER OF INTEREST, IS MOST NOTABLE.
II. HOW SERVICE IS BOUND UP IN THE VERY NAME, THE NATURE, AND HIGHEST ASPECTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF WHAT MEN CALL RELIGION.
III. HOW, THEN, IT MUST BE THE GREATEST OUTRAGE ON REASON, RIGHT, CONSCIENCE, AND THE SOUL SO TO SERVE AS TO UNDO WITH THE ONE HAND WHAT IS DONE WITH THE OTHER; AND THAT THIS IT IS, WITH THE MOST CHARITABLE CONSTRUCTION, TO ESSAY TO "SERVE TWO MASTERS."
IV. BUT, LASTLY, HOW (WHEN A LITTLE MORE CAREFULLY CONSIDERED) THAT OUTRAGE IS ONE WHICH MEANS VERY TREASON IN THE HEART ITSELF. IT MEANS NOT WASTE ONLY NOR FOLLY ONLY, BUT INFIDELITY; AND THE SETTING AT NOUGHT OF ALL PROMISE AND ENGAGEMENT OF THE HEART TO THE "FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT."—B.
The condemnation of the toil of the world.
These ten verses form one section and cover one subject. Its connection with that of the foregoing verse is pronounced. "Therefore," because of this, "I say unto you." We are not in any doubt as to it, and the fact guides us to the understanding of the principle that forms the basis of the section. Notice here four ways in which this section may be exhibited.
I. THE CONDESCENSION—AN UNDIVIDED SERVICE IS CLAIMED; BUT IT IS MET BY THE OFFER OF AN UNDIVIDED TRUSTINGNESS TO BE REPOSED AND TO BE REWARDED.
II. SIN'S NATIVE DOOM OF TOIL LIFTED OFF BY THE INVITING GOSPEL OF TRUSTING DEPENDENCE; IT IS THE GOSPEL OF A LEGITIMATELY AUTHORIZED DEPENDENCE; AND OF ONE GUARDED FROM SLOTH.
III. THE ABJECT SLAVERY OF AN UNREASONABLE TOIL SUPERSEDED BY THE SWEET FREEDOM OF CHILDREN'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THEIR FATHER.
IV. THE LOYAL SEEKING AND FOLLOWING OF THE SOVEREIGN GOOD FOR LIFE AND HEART, THE SUREST EARNEST OF ALL OTHER THINGS FINDING THEIR PLACE; AND OF TO-DAY AND TO-MORROW BEING PROVIDED FOR.—B.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
Sermon on the mount: 4. Ostentatious religion.
After indicating the righteousness which admits to the kingdom of heaven, our Lord proceeds to warn against a flaw that vitiates the goodness of many religious people, and to illustrate it in connection with three chief characteristics of the religious life of those days—alms-giving, prayer, and fasting.
I. ALMSGIVING has been recognized as one of the first duties by most religions. Under the Jewish Law the poor were well provided for. It was probably in connection with the receptacles for alms in the women's court of the temple that ostentatious liberality was most frequently indulged in. "Sounding a trumpet" is not to be taken literally, but is only a figure implying that when you do a charity you are not to make a noise about it, but do it so quietly that your own left hand may not know what your right hand is doing, not even letting it dwell much before your own mind, much less craving for acknowledgment from others. We are not beyond the danger of giving, either that we may not be outdone by others, or because our love of applause is stronger than our love of money, and we think it a good use of it if by giving it away we can purchase the good will of our acquaintances.
II. IN CONNECTION WITH PRAYER THERE WAS MUCH ROOM FOR OSTENTATION IN THE JEWISH RELIGION. AS the Mohammedan of the present day spreads his prayer-carpet wherever the hour of prayer overtakes him, so the Jew was called on three times a day to pray towards the temple. In every town the synagogues were open at the hour of prayer, and there were also places of prayer, chiefly on the banks of the rivers, that the necessary ablutions might be made on the spot. The Pharisee often allowed himself to be surprised by the hour of prayer in the public square. Ostentation implies insincerity, and insincerity begets vain repetition. Our Lord sets this down as a specially heathen trait, and it is one which abundantly characterizes their practice to this day. But his warning against long prayers and vain repetitions applies to all affectation of continuance in prayer merely because it is the custom and is expected; and to that which arises from indifference and from a want of some clear definite object of desire which we can ask for in plain, simple terms.
For the correction of these faults our Lord gives us an example of simple brief prayer, and also adds the assurance that no elaborate explanations are required, because before we pray our heavenly Father knoweth the things we have need of. He does not shape his answer with only our petition for his guidance, but, knowing before we do what we have need of, he gives us that good gift which we only vaguely conceive. This may suggest the thought—Why pray at all? Does not even the earthly parent consider and seek his child's good without waiting to be asked? Is it otherwise with God? But we are commanded to pray, and this of itself is sufficient justification. Also it is natural—the great mass of men having prayed without command. This, if not a justification of the practice, shows we should see clearly before refusing to fall in with it. Moreover, it is by coming in practical contact with his father's ideas that a child learns to know his father and himself; and the father often keeps back a gift till the uttered request of the child shows he is ripe for it. So by measuring our desires at each step of our life with the will of God, we learn to know him and ourselves, and through the things of this life are brought into true relation with things eternal. The form of prayer which our Lord here gives, he gives chiefly as a model To argue from it that he meant us to use forms of prayer is inconsequent. They have their uses—in private to suggest and stimulate; in public to provide for uniformity and seemliness of worship. But when they are used to the extinction or discouragement of unwritten prayer they do harm in private and in public. The practice of private prayer here inculcated is one of the most difficult duties we have to attempt in life. It is often at this point the battle is lost or won. None of the deeper elements of character can grow without much prayer and converse with God. There are some virtues which can be produced by strength of will, but those which spring from the deeper root of reverence, penitence, tender and solemn feeling, can only grow in the retired and peaceful atmosphere of God's presence. Prayer is the door opened for God into the whole life of man, and to shut him out here is to shut him out wholly. Our Lord himself could not sustain his life without prayer; it is vain, therefore, for us to expect to do so. But, though all this is recognized, private prayer decays. If we can use in the world only that power for good which we receive from God, and if prayer is the gauge of this power, it will register an almost infinitesimal strength. We grudge to our intercourse with God either the time or the consideration we give to any communication that concerns our business or our friendship. And this means that duties that are seen of men we do, but such as are only seen of our Father, who "seeth in secret," we neglect. It means that we are practically atheists, and do not believe there is a Father who sees in secret. The general scope of the passage is a warning against hypocrisy. The hypocrite who is so intentionally is rare. The hypocrisy which is common is that which is unconscious, and in which the hypocrite is himself deceived. He seeks the praise of men more than the praise of God; but he is not himself aware of it. This makes it a fault most difficult to eradicate. But to such men there can be no religion; human judgment is the highest they seek to be approved by. It is their supreme. Even in the religious world men are liable to put the expectations of their co-religionists above the judgment of God. They fear to rebel lest they be considered as falling away from religion. Such persons, as our Lord says, have their reward. They earn the reputation of sanctity by sacrificing the real possession of it. Is it another reward that awaits you? Are you conscious that God, who sees in secret, has laid up in his remembrance many true prayers, many holy desires, many earnest searchings of heart that he has seen in you? Nothing but learning to live in his presence will deliver us from falseness and self-deceit and from courting the favour of men.—D.
Sermon on the mount: 5. Thought for the morrow.
There has been set before us a righteousness, perfect in its outward expression and in its root, and if now we ask—How are we to attain this? we are told—By loving it. That is the only way. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Your likings are the eyes of your inner man; if they are rightly placed your whole life will be right. Just as a man has an organ to guide him in the physical world, so he has an organ for his guiding in the moral and spiritual world. If the eye is sound, the whole body is full of light, that is, every member receives through the eye all the light it requires. But if the eye be unsound, no other organ can play its part. It is vain for you to give the blind man more light; it is not more light but other eyes he needs. And so, says our Lord, it is vain to profess that your heart is where in fact you see no treasure at all. Rather humbly own that you do not see as you ought, and seek to have your vision cleared by him "who came into this world that they that see not might see." In the remainder of the passage our Lord addresses himself to those who, though not drawn by the attractiveness of the heavenly treasure, yet wish to have it along with the earthly. He had seen how the fear of poverty influenced men, and seeks, by a variety of arguments, to root out undue thought for the morrow.
I. IF GOD GIVES YOU LIFE, HE WILL ALSO GIVE YOU SUITABLE FOOD AND CLOTHING. The greater gift implies the less. The heavenly Father who could produce so marvellous a work as the body, and who could originate life, has certainly power for the common, everyday achievement of providing you with food and clothing.
II. YOU ARE MORE VALUABLE IN GOD'S ESTIMATION THAN THE LOWER ANIMALS, and, if even they are well provided for, much more will you be cared for. The strength of the argument lies in two points. First, we are better equipped for providing against the future than the birds are, and should therefore be more free from care. No doubt their cheerfulness arises from ignorance, but our ability to look forward is abused if it only makes us despondent and fearful. Second, it is your heavenly Father who feeds them. The other creatures are only a kind of step-children. And if God delights in the happiness of myriads of creatures who cannot know and thank him, is it justifiable that we should in any circumstances question his desire to bless us? Clearly this amounts to an assertion of the doctrine of special or particular providence, and there is no one who may not from our Lord's words draw encouragement to expect providential care and intervention.
III. UNDUE SOLICITUDE ABOUT THE FUTURE DOES NO GOOD. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" There is a legitimate and necessary consideration of the future with which our Lord has no quarrel. Reckless improvidence is a fault no less than over-providence. The taking thought which our Lord rebukes is a vain inoperative brooding over possible disasters—a brooding to which the mind returns for the very reason that nothing is effected by it; were anything effected by it, it would cease.
IV. EACH DAY HAS SUFFICIENT BURDEN OF ITS OWN. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." If the evil that should be met to-day is not to lie over and follow on into to-morrow, then your whole strength is needed for immediate duty. You must adopt the great military rule if you are to be successful; you must break up your life into small portions, and conquer in detail. The best preparation for to-morrow is to do the duty of to-day. This is a great practical rule which, if followed, eases life of most of its burden. For what causes anxiety is commonly something that has not happened, which belongs to to-morrow rather than to to-day. Are you sufficient for the duty of today? Then be satisfied, and leave to-morrow till it comes. Learn to live one day at a time.
But all these considerations only serve to lead up to the great precept, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." All men would be willing to make the kingdom of God the second thing, but each man would like to choose his own first thing. Every man has some first object, it may be life, or honour, self-respect, or a pure conscience which he would rather preserve than anything else. But the demand here made is no more than saying we are moral creatures, made in God's image; and morality, if not supreme, is not morality. To put it in the second place is to annul it. Further, we all admire the men who have conspicuously practised this precept; who have shown themselves superior to the world, that they might be free to find the truth or to relieve the miseries of their fellow-men. Such men have shown us bow independent of the world a man of free spirit can be, and how he can give himself to the highest work of man as freely and effectively here and now as in any conceivable world. Greatness of character in this respect is nothing else than greatness of love. Practically this precept is in most cases reversed. We must secure food and raiment; we shall welcome righteousness afterwards. The earthly is the essential, the heavenly the supplementary. Our earthly interests are so pressing, we must in the first place put them on a satisfactory basis, and we do not recognize the highest conceivable morality as that which can alone put our business on a satisfactory footing. But righteousness is not to be postponed to anything else; and if the spirit of Christ cannot be carried into the forms which business has taken, these forms must go. Those who would postpone the kingdom of heaven to other interests should consider whether it is likely that, after they shall have lived for the world for a few years longer, they will be more inclined than now to seek the kingdom of God.—D.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Underlying this subject is that of social inequality. Without the latter there would be no necessity and therefore no opportunity for alms-giving. Poverty is not an unmitigated evil. Affluence is not an unmixed good.
I. SOCIAL INEQUALITY IS A BENEFICENT ARRANGEMENT.
1. It aids the progress of civilization.
(1) Civilization lies in the development of the resources of nature. Such developments are embodied in arts and sciences.
(2) Stimulus is necessary to this progress. Man in his original purity and elevation might, for sheer love of science and art, develop the resources of nature; but in his fallen state his tendencies are savage-ward. When the spontaneity of the soil is overtaxed by the increase of population, then comes the alternative of labour or exterminating war.
(3) Under Christian influence labour is preferred to war. Here social inequality comes in. For industry will be rewarded with plenty, while idleness has to suffer privation, Civilization meanwhile is advanced by industry. The continued growth of population stimulates inventiveness. This reaps its rewards and gives employment to labour. New elements of social inequality now come in, and the arts and sciences are further advanced.
2. It educates the moral qualities.
(1) Social virtues are called forth. If no labouring class existed, no class could be exempt from toil. The rich, therefore, are indebted to the poor for their ease and honour. Were there no poor there could be no rich. Gratitude and equity alike require that the rich should treat the poor with consideration. Hence what is given to the poor is said to be their due (see Proverbs 3:27).
(2) The poor, in like manner, are bound to treat their employers with respectful gratitude for finding for them remunerative employment.
(3) We are herein reminded of our duties to our Maker. We could have no conception of our dependence upon God but for our experience of dependence upon the things he has made. The mutual dependence of the social classes brings this lesson more forcibly home. The beast and devil in our fallen nature are restrained by the sense of our responsibility to God.
(4) Scope is afforded for the exercise of Christian graces. Patience is tested and educated. Opportunity is afforded for beneficence. Thought is raised to the contemplation of the suffering and love of Christ.
3. Poverty is not without advantages.
(1) The poor are comparatively free from artificial wants and cares. They can relish plain and wholesome food. They are relieved from the cares of fashion. They are free from the anxiety of keeping wealth, which is much greater than that of getting it. Of all poverty the artificial is the deepest.
(2) The poor are free from the temptations of affluence. To the indulgence of self. To the forgetfulness of God. Let no man murmur at his lot.
(3) The poor are not so mean as they seem. The possession of human nature is vastly grander than the possession of estates. To be a man is greater than to be a monarch. Christ did not refuse to become a man, though he refused to be made a king. The purest aristocracy is that in which manhood is honoured by virtue. This bluest of all blue blood may be acquired by the poorest.
II. BENEFICENCE SHOULD BE WITHOUT OSTENTATION,
1. Otherwise it will encourage hypocrisy.
(1) Obviously it will encourage this in the almsgiver. His very object is to gain the applause of men. He seeks this by an affectation of piety towards God.
(2) It will encourage it likewise in the recipient. There is fearful hypocrisy in ostentatious poverty. Vagabonds moving compassion by feigning fits, wounds, mutilations, lameness, etc. These public hypocrites are the people who catch the charity of ostentation. They hear the sound of the Pharisee's trumpet. They trumpet the Pharisee that he may have his reward.
(3) True beneficence will search out this hypocrisy and expose it, so that the worthy poor may not be cheated by it. It will seek out the worthy poor who suffer in seclusion. To do this may entail trouble, but the steward of wealth should make it his business to disburse faithfully his Lord's money.
2. Unostentatious charity will encourage industry.
(1) God helps those who help themselves. We should imitate God in helping the industrious. Charity should find employment for the needy. It may be "business" to buy in the cheapest market, but this' is not the rule of charity.
(2) In helping a poor man in his trade, his self-respect is not wounded as it must be by an ostentatious charity. We should remember that every poor man is another one's self.
3. Charity should seek its rewards from God.
(1) In condemning ostentation modesty is enjoined. Barely being "seen" while doing good is a circumstance purely indifferent. To be seen so as to glorify God is positively good (cf. Matthew 5:16; Matthew 10:32, Matthew 10:33). To be seen that we may be admired and honoured of men is the offence. For God, not man, is the Source of reward.
(2) "Let not thy left hand know," etc. So do good things as to be, as little as possible, conscious of it yourself. Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone. So the godly shine, though to themselves their shining is unseen.
(3) To the truly charitable God is a Rewarder. The pocket of poverty is a safe bank, for God is the Banker. He converts paper into gold—returns spiritual value for material gifts (cf. Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 19:17; 1 Timothy 6:17-54.6.19).
(4) The burden of hoarded property is heavy upon the pillow of death. God will confront the miser in the judgment (cf. Luke 16:9; James 5:1-59.5.4).
LESSONS. Avoid monopoly. Spend not upon the rich. Be your own executor.—J.A.M.
The duty of prayer is assumed. To be without prayer is to be without religion. "Behold, he prayeth," is another way of saying," He has become a Christian" (Acts 9:11). Prayer is the language and homage of dependence. The idea is that of coming to God for a blessing with a vow (προσεχῦη, from πρὸς," with," and εὔχη," a vow"), viz. to fulfil the conditions upon which his blessings are promised. The elements of acceptable prayer are—
1. The prayer of the hypocrite is deception.
(1) He deceives his fellow. His object is to be seen of men to pray. But his piety to God is but a semblance. God sees no prayer in it. The men who credit the hypocrite with piety are deceived.
(2) He deceives himself. He gets what he seeks, viz. the praise of men. But what is it? It is inconsiderate. It is fickle. It is short-lived. And vain as it is, it is not deserved.
2. The prayer of the hypocrite is idolatry.
(1) The true God is not worshipped. The hypocrite's prayer is a slight upon him. His praise is not even sought.
(2) In seeking the praise of men, the hypocrite, like other idolaters, makes his god in his own image. His prayer is to men. They are his idols.
(3) In seeking the praise of men, the hypocrite worships himself. He sees himself in his idol. Idolatry is an inverted self-worship.
3. The true man's prayer is true.
(1) He prays to God as his Father. He has kindredness of nature to the God of truth. To be seen of men is not in his calculation.
(2) He seeks the commendation of his God. This is to him the one thing infinitely desirable.
II. SIMPLICITY. The expedients of hypocrisy are avoided.
1. As to posture.
(1) Standing is not, in itself, a posture unsuitable to prayer. The change of posture from kneeling to standing may be found helpful to the spirit of prayer.
(2) Standing "to be seen of men" is quite another thing. Kneeling, if this be its purpose, is equally reprehensible.
(3) The spirit may kneel to God in humility, or stand before him in ready obedience, when the body is otherwise engaged.
2. As to place.
(1) The "synagogue" was the proper place for public prayer. Note: In public worship we should avoid whatever might tend to make our personal devotion remarkable.
(2) The synagogue was not the place for private devotions. The custom of opening churches for private worshippers tends to encourage hypocrisy.
(3) The "corners of the streets" where the people were in concourse were favourable to ostentation. The hypocrites "loved to pray" there. They did not love to pray.
(4) Secret prayer should be in secret. The true God is himself in secret. In secret he is sought and found. God seeth in secret (cf. John 1:48; Acts 9:11). By secret prayer we give God the glory of universal presence. The true man may find a closet in the busy throng. The closet is in the heart. There we may shut the door against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Secret prayer should be in retirement to avoid
Isaac went into the field (Genesis 24:63); Christ went up into a mountain; Peter found a closet on the housetop.
3. As to manner.
(1) Long prayers are sometimes proper (cf. 1 Kings 18:26; Luke 6:12; Acts 19:34). But in this case the virtue does not lie in their length.
(2) Long prayers are to be avoided as tending to weary, and therefore to distract the suppliant (cf. Job 9:14; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Hosea 14:2).
(3) They are to be avoided as encouraging vain repetitions. To repeat words without meaning is especially vain. Repetitions suppose ignorance or inattention on the part of God. They are heathenish (see 1 Kings 18:26, 1 Kings 18:36). True prayer is not the language of the lip, but of the heart.
(4) Those who would not be "as the hypocrites" in action and manner must not be "as the hypocrites" in spirit and temper.
1. Prayer gives no information to God.
(1) "Thy Father seeth in secret." God reads all hearts.
(2) "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of." God knows his own resources.
(3) He knoweth "before ye ask him." "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning."
2. -Prayer is enjoined to help us to feel our need.
(1) God requires the sense of their need in suppliants for their own sake, viz. that they may value the blessings they may receive.
(2) Prayer is admirably suited to awaken and deepen this sense of need.
(3) By the sense of our need we "make known our requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).
3. It is also enjoined to encourage our faith in God.
(1) We come to God as our "Father." He is our Father by creation. By covenant.
(2) He has the heart and resources of a Father. What merit is there in our prayers? Yet such is the heart of kindness of our Father that he places them amongst our services. "Thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee."
(3) He is our heavenly Father. So his rewards contrast with those received from men by the hypocrite. While the hypocrite in gaining the praises of men "has received his reward," and has no more to expect, the true man will evermore continue to receive his rewards from the everlasting Father. That eye of God which is formidable to the hypocrite is bliss to the sincere and true.—J.A.M.
Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:10
The Lord's Prayer (part 1).
In the Gospel of Luke this prayer is given in still briefer form. The occasion there was that the disciples, after the Lord had prayed, said to him, "Lord teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say." Here, however, "After this manner pray ye." The use of forms is sanctioned; so is extemporary prayer. Better a "form of sound words" than no family worship. Consider—
I. THE ADDRESS TO GOD.
1. It is a great truth that God is our Father.
(1) He is the Creator, not the Father, of his other works. Ethers; minerals; vegetables; animals. No kindredness of nature to God in these.
(2) He is the "Father of spirits." Every attribute of the human spirit is the image of a corresponding Divine attribute. Intellects; affections.
(3) Even the body of man was made after the similitude of the Lord (cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:7). The body is the material image of the soul. When God revealed himself to man, his similitude was the appearance of a man (see Ezekiel 1:26-26.1.28).
2. This Divine title is proper to the gospel dispensation.
(1) It is a notable fact that the title "Father" seldom occurs in Old Testament Scripture. Nowhere is God there invoked as a Father.
(2) There is a reason of propriety. The spirit of the Law was fear. The Law was given amidst horrors and alarms. Its rites imposed an oppressive burden.
(3) It is also a notable fact that the title "Father" is of frequent occurrence in the New Testament. It is the familiar title in Christian invocation. The Lord's Prayer is the model for all Christian prayer.
(4) There is also a reason of propriety here. The spirit of the gospel is love. It is the spirit of sonship and liberty. This is all embodied in the mystery of the incarnation of the proper Son of God (see Galatians 4:1-48.4.7).
3. Note the plural, OUR Father.
(1) The use of the singular is very sweet. It is suited sometimes to the closet. Sometimes to ejaculatory prayer.
(2) The plural recognizes the common Fatherhood of God. So the common brotherhood of man. Its use should cure war, strikes, domestic feuds.
(3) It recognizes brotherhood in Christ. He is every man's Brother (cf. Genesis 9:5). The family of God is named after him (cf. Ephesians 3:14, Ephesians 3:15).
(4) In its common use all the sons of God pray for each. This is better than each praying exclusively for himself. Better for each, better for all.
4. Note the place of his residence.
(1) God is in the mechanical heavens. He moves the spheres. He give the tides. So the seasons. The elements are his servants. His miracles evince his presence in nature. His providence in nature is constant. So he can make nature respond to prayer.
(2) He is in the supernal heaven. The heaven of heavens. The third heaven. The palace of angels. The place of vision.
(3) He that rules all heavens is our Father! What an honour! How superior should we be to the meanness of sin!
II. THE ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE.
1. The Name of God stands for himself.
(1) It; represents his nature (cf. Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5-2.34.7).
(2) It is his Word. Christ is the Revealer of the Father (cf. Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21; Isaiah 52:5; John 1:18; Joh 8:19; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5).
2. To hallow is to revere God's Name.
(1) "Father" is a title in which reverence, as well as love, is claimed. So it was understood by the sons of the prophets. So by Joash King of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14).
(2) Cheerful obedience is the true reverence of love (see Matthew 23:9).
(3) To hallow the Name of the Father is to honour the Father in the Son (cf. John 5:22, John 5:23; 1 John 2:23).
3. The Name of the Father should be everywhere revered.
(1) It is revered in heaven (cf. verse 10; Isaiah 6:1-23.6.3; Revelation 4:8-66.4.11).
(2) But is it so revered on earth? In the sanctuary it is revered. The Church is the kingdom of heaven upon earth. But in the world the sacred Name is horribly blasphemed.
(3) The blessed day is coming when the glory of the Lord will fill the earth as now it fills the heavens. Pray for this. Strive for this.—J.A.M.
Matthew 6:10, Matthew 6:11
The Lord's Prayer (part 2).
The verses before us contain three of the seven petitions of this model prayer. These are—
I. THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD MIGHT COME.
1. God's absolute empire is in his arm.
(1) It was there before the creation. From everlasting. Essentially.
(2) Millions of possible universes now slumber in that arm.
2. The kingdom coming is the gospel in triumph.
(1) The kingdom came in the advent of the King. It was manifested in his mighty works of wisdom and love. The essence of sovereignty resides in laws. The gospel laws are immutable wisdom and love. They are the laws of heaven, and therefore the voice of the sovereignty of heaven.
(2) The kingdom comes spiritually when the gospel triumphs in the believer. When it informs his mind. When it directs his will. When it captivates his affections. When it rules his life.
(3) It will come visibly. The fifth monarchy of Daniel describes the coming kingdom (see Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:26, Daniel 7:27). In this kingdom the Lord from heaven will bring with him the angels of heaven. It will be the kingdom of the first resurrection (Revelation 20:1-66.20.15.). In it the Redeemer will be "King of kings, and Lord of lords; "for his saints will then be "kings and priests unto God."
3. We should pray for the coming of Christ in his kingdom.
(1) Visibly. Righteousness will then replace oppression and distraction. Peace will replace violence and war. Joy will replace misery and sorrow.
(2) Spiritually. The suppliant should seek himself to become an epitome of heaven. Loyalty to Christ the King. No rebel in the soul. Perfect love.
II. THAT THE WILL OF GOD MIGHT BE DONE.
1. In the heavens it is perfectly done.
(1) In the mechanical heavens. The stellar heaven. The atmospheric heaven.
(2) In the angelic heaven. The ear of angelic obedience is sensitive. The wing of angelic obedience is swift. "They go and return like a flash of lightning."
(3) There is no prayer here that the will of God may be done in heaven or in the heavens. The way in which it is done there is taken as a pattern for us.
2. The will of God is man's highest wisdom.
(1) Necessarily so, for it is the wisdom of God. See its expressions in nature. Uses; adaptations; balancings.
(2) See its expressions in the gospel. Design; means to the end.
(3) We have it in the example of Christ (see Matthew 7:21; Matthew 12:50). Therefore choose religion (cf. Joshua 24:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
(4) The will of love pledges help. We cannot trust ourselves to fulfil God's Law. We may trust the help of his Spirit.
III. THAT WE MAY BE NOURISHED IN HIS SERVICE.
1. Bread stands for the necessaries of life.
(1) Ἄρτον, like מחל, expresses all these (cf. Genesis 49:20).
(2) Things necessary for the life of the body. Food. Coverings, viz. raiment and habitation. "Our bread." This is a prayer for remunerative labour (cf. Genesis 3:19; 1Th 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). What we eat without labour is not our own bread.
(3) Things necessary for the life of the Spirit. Nourishment. From the Word—in the ordinances. Protection. From the wrath of God. From the power of evil.
2. This is the language of pilgrims.
(1) "This day." Life is a day.
(2) "Daily bread." The manna was gathered daily. So is our spiritual as well as our natural food. Supply us with profitable subjects for thought—affection. These are the food of the mind. God gives angels what to think and love.
(3) God is the Giver and the Gift. The Lord himself is the Bread. Still he cometh down from heaven.
(4) Take no anxious thought for the morrow. As to the temporal supply. As to the spiritual. We do not receive the grace for dying until we are called to die. We should now be most solicitous about the grace to live. God knows our need. His resources are ample. His heart is good.—J.A.M.
The Lord's Prayer (part 3).
Having considered three of the seven petitions of this wonderful prayer, we come to consider those remaining, which have reference to the forgiveness of evil and deliverance from the evil one.
I. THE FORGIVENESS OF EVIL.
1. We need this.
(1) For we inherit depravity with its guilt. God deals with individuals as belonging to a race. We are our brothers' keepers. We are responsible for our children. So are we responsible for our fathers. The individual is not lost in the public conscience. Directors of joint-stock companies should remember this.
(2) For sins of personal rebellion. From our youth up. Ever since we have professed to be Christians.
(3) For service imperfectly rendered. Imperfect obedience does not meet the requirements of a Law which, like the Lawgiver, is perfect. Has our conduct before men been faultless? Has our spirit before God bees faultless?
2. It is conditionally promised.
(1) "Forgive us our debts, as we " The Bible knows nothing of unconditional mercy. Man is ever treated by God as a moral agent.
(2) The atonement of Christ is a condition of mercy. "Our debts," equivalent to "trespasses" (Matthew 6:14), equivalent to "sins" (Luke 11:4). Sin contracts a debt to be paid in suffering. If we shelter not in the vicarious suffering of Christ, we must still suffer in person for the satisfaction of the Law of God.
(3) Repentance also is a condition of mercy. Note: A condition not of merit, yet of necessity. We cannot receive the atonement without it. The hearty reception of the atonement is the perfecting of repentance.
(4) There is no mercy for the unmerciful. "Forgive us as we also have forgiven." Not that our forgiving merits God's forgiveness. Here it is as in earth so in heaven (see Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15). Confer also the parable of the debtors (Matthew 18:35). The ten thousand talents are equivalent to £2,400,000; while the one hundred pence are equivalent to £3 10s. Can the sinner ever pay all his debt to God? He asks eternal vengeance on himself who, with an implacable heart, prays this prayer.
II. DEFENCE AGAINST THE EVIL ONE.
1. Lead us not ,into temptation.
(1) God is not the Author of temptation (see James 1:13). Note: Temptation is ever in our way.
(2) This is an entreaty that God should not abandon us in temptation. So to abandon us would be to deliver us over to Satan (cf. Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:18).
(3) This prayer implies that we should have such diffidence of our own strength as to lead us to deprecate any severe trial of our fidelity. We should not covet martyrdom, lest in the trial we should fail.
(4) The spirit of this prayer will restrain us from rushing into circumstances of exposure to temptation. It is wanting in those who make haste to be rich (see 1 Timothy 6:9). This passion leads to business gambling. To lotteries. Raffling at Church bazaars gives a sacred sanction to some of the worst evils of the world. The spirit of this prayer is wanting in those who coquette with the world in any of its evils.
2. Deliver us from the evil one.
(1) Then is Satan ubiquitous? For this petition ascends simultaneously from millions scattered over the world. In his emissaries he is, as the British monarch is representatively in all our colonial dependencies and in all foreign courts.
(2) Satan's representatives are "legion." His hosts are marshalled under his generalship. What a call to us for vigilance!
(3) God alone can curb the power of Satan. The power of Satan was sufficient to delay Gabriel for one and twenty days. To triumph over Satan Gabriel needed the help of Michael, i.e. of Christ (see Daniel 10:6, Daniel 10:13). Foolish is the man that would at his own charges engage in a warfare with such an antagonist. Foolish is the man who holds out in rebellion against the Conqueror of Satan.
(4) To be delivered from the evil one is equivalent to the hallowing of the Name of God. The petitions of this prayer, first and last, are wondrously interdependent.—J.A.M.
This is nowhere in the gospel enjoined as a duty. It is, like the profession of the Nazarite, left to individual freedom. The service of freedom is the service of love (cf. Luke 2:37; Acts 10:30; Acts 13:3). The spirit of the fast is in the heart (cf. Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58:5-23.58.7). The usefulness of fasting is recognized in the directions here given as to the manner of its use. It is useful as a means to dispose us to the fulfilment of duties enjoined. Note—
I. THAT THE PIETY OF OSTENTATION IS SPURIOUS,
1. It is an inversion of the highest propriety.
(1) For it prefers human to Divine applause. However indebted we may be to our fellows, we are infinitely indebted to God. For life. For health. For all things.
(2) To seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God is the superlative of impudence and folly.
(3) It is supreme ingratitude to take all from God and give him no thanks.
2. It is shameful hypocrisy.
(1) Fasting is an expression of humiliation and mourning (cf. Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58:5-23.58.7). The disfigured face was produced by ashes and earth, with disordered hair and austere and doleful looks (see 1 Kings 20:38). Under such disguises the Pharisee concealed proud and contemptuous thoughts and a callous heart.
(2) The falsehood is aggravated by its affectation of religion. The Pharisee seeks the praise of men on account of a religion towards God which he does not possess, else he would rather seek the praise of God. The cheat is played off upon God.
3. This is fearfully demoralizing.
(1) The habit of falsehood becomes the character of falsehood. The devil is the original liar. He is here the model in his most odious character of the angel of light.
(2) We seek to resemble those with whom we would ingratiate ourselves. Imitation is the sincerest praise. We cannot rise higher than our standard. Men are our standard when we seek the praise of men.
(3) If our standard be below us, the result is degradation. Instead of growing into the "increase of God," the hypocrite is shrivelling into the degradation of a devil.
4. The piety is doubtful of our ostentatious mourning for the dead.
(1) If we believe the departed to be enjoying the exquisite bliss of Paradise, what reason have we to mourn (cf. John 14:28)? Is it not heathenish to mourn for the glorified?
(2) If we fear the departed are suffering the torments of perdition we may well mourn. But is it decent to publish this to the world in our clothes?
(3) If our mourning be simply that of natural affection, is it necessary to proclaim to the world that we have natural affection? Should we parade our grief? If the grief be not there, why, in deference to fashion, hang out the symbol of a lie?
(4) Ostentations mourning for the dead is often ruinously expensive to the poor.
II. THAT GOD REWARDS AND PUNISHES MEN BY GIVING THEM THE DESIRES OF THEIR HEARTS.
1. True men have praise of God.
(1) They seek this above all things.
(a) By the fasting of the mind from the delights of sin.
(b) By hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
(c) By trusting in the blood of Christ with a heart unto righteousness.
(d) By delighting in good works—works of piety, works of benevolence.
(2) They have it:
(a) In the assurance of his favour. By the Spirit of adoption and regeneration.
(b) In the light and guidance of his grace.
(c) In triumph over death.
(d) In the "Well done!" of the judgment.
(e) In the rewards of immortality.
(3) The true man performs the duties of his spiritual fasting with cheerfulness. His face is "washed" in purity—" anointed" with benevolence. Rejoicing in the favour of God, he is dead alike to the praise and censure of men (see Psalms 69:10, Psalms 69:13).
2. False men receive the praise of their fellows.
(1) They seek this in preference to the praise of God, and they get what they seek. But what do they get? Dishonesty. The hypocrite is dishonest in taking praise he has not deserved.
(2) From whom do they get this? From the simple, who cannot see through their knavery. Or from the sycophant, who does not object to be the accomplice of the knave.
(3) True men would reprove their wickedness after the example of Christ with the Pharisees of his time.
3. From God they have no praise.
(1) They do not seek his reward. To ensure this they must sacrifice sin and pride, which they are unwilling to do.
(2) In greed after the finite they miss the infinite. In greed after the evanescent they miss the enduring. They forfeit heaven.
(3) Moreover, they incur the anger of God. The perdition of hell is his retribution upon their insolence and folly.—J.A.M.
The all-absorbing desire of humanity is happiness. A depraved heart naturally seeks this in the world. Money, which "answereth all things," is the exponent of the world's good. Hence the feverish desire to accumulate money. Wealth comes to be loved and laid up because it is loved. This hoarding is sin.
I. MAKING PROPER PROVISION FOR THE FUTURE IS NOT HERE CONDEMNED.
1. God commends this prudence in his system of nature.
(1) He has so ordered the seasons that one harvest yields enough to serve us until the next. The elements that ripen fruits in the soil tend to rot those gathered the preceding year. God cannot be displeased at our following his providence.
(2) He impresses his providence upon the instincts of animals. Thus the bee stores in summer the honey that will serve it for the winter. The morals of nature are for our profit.
2. He commends it in the economy of grace.
(1) The term of our natural life is given as a probation to be utilized for eternity. It is the seedtime which, if neglected, will leave us to reap a harvest of thorns and thistles.
(2) The God of grace is also the God of providence. The principles of grace, therefore, have their lessons of providence for us.
3. He commends it in the lessons of providence.
(1) History and experience teach us that not only in Egypt in the days of Joseph, but in all lands and in all ages, seasons of plenty are followed by seasons of scarcity. Hence the proverbial "rainy day."
(2) We see the sufferings of improvidence. The artisan, in times of plenty thrifty, will not need in duller times to sing through the streets for charity. While the asylum of the workhouse is no disgrace to the unfortunate, it is a disgrace to the improvident. The injunction of the text is that we are not so to lay up treasures upon the earth as to deprive us of the more precious and enduring treasure in heaven.
II. HOARDING IS DEPRECATED AS SINFUL AND PERNICIOUS.
1. The hopes of riches are delusive.
(1) They do not give immunity from anxiety. The moth, the rust, and the thief, like spectres, haunt the dreams of the wealth-lover. He finds more anxiety in preserving than he found in acquiring his treasure. Men are killed by money.
(2) They do not raise us above the fear of want. Millionaires have been so haunted with this fear, that to relieve them their friends procured for them parish relief, and have set them to work for wages on their own estates.
(3) Gold cannot purchase health.
(4) It cannot remove the terrors of a guilty conscience.
2. The love of riches is degrading.
(1) The heart will be with its treasure. Its treasure, therefore, should be worthy of it. If heaven be the treasure, then the heart will be ennobled; for the God of purity is its glory. No moth, no rust, no thief, can deprive us of that treasure:
(2) If the hoard be the treasure of the heart, degradation is inevitable. The heart cannot be separated from its treasure. Upon this principle it is that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," etc. (Matthew 19:24).
(3) It hardens the heart. Monopoly is selfishness. The heart of the miser is hardened by a systematic resistance to the promptings of benevolence. We may challenge the world to produce a tender-hearted miser (see 1 John 3:7).
3. Riches invest death with additional terrors.
(1) For they have to be relinquished. Garrick conducted Johnson over his mansion, and, directing his attention to valuable pictures and other articles of treasure, expected to be praised for his taste; but the moralist said, "Ah, David, these are the things that make death terrible!" A clergyman walking with an elder brother through his grounds in Yorkshire remarked, "This is a lovely place. You ought to be happy here." "Yes, man," was the reply, "but there is that damned death!"
(2) The guilty steward is also haunted by the terror of the account he will have to render to his judge (see James 5:1-59.5.4). The wail, not of the poor only, but of lost souls who might have been saved had the Lord's money been invested in Christian enterprise, will pierce and alarm his conscience when death stares him in the face.
4. Hoarded treasure is often a pernicious inheritance.
(1) How often is such an inheritance dissipated in prodigality! Young men who hope to inherit fortune are seldom disposed to grapple with the difficulties of gaining a profession. Habits of indolence lead to dissipation.
(2) Sometimes the hoard inherited becomes the nucleus of a greater. To become a millionaire, or something like it, the inheritor will sell his very soul for gain.
(3) How different is the history of the youth who has to rely upon his education and the blessing of God, and who helps the cause of God and humanity with the fruits of his industry! His heart is light. He dies in faith.
III. HOW DOES THE GOOD STEWARD MANAGE HIS ESTATE?
1. He claims no absolute right of acquisition.
(1) He owns the Source of his prosperity (see Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18).
(2) He confesses that God could instantly reverse the tide of his success.
(3) He never says, "I can do what I like with my own."
2. He accepts his maintenance from God.
(1) He is entitled to his food, raiment, and habitation, for himself and those depending upon him.
(2) He is, moreover, entitled to a provision against sickness and old age.
(3) He is authorized in giving his family an education and a start in life.
(4) God will himself add to all this the spiritual rewards of well-doing.
3. With the rest his problem is to secure the maximum of good.
(1) To this end he will study the needs of men. This may be troublesome; but it is the business of the steward. God will not approve a slovenly disbursement of his money.
(2) He will also study the best means of meeting the needs of men. The merits and claims of the great evangelical and philanthropical societies will have due consideration.
(3) He will cultivate the spirit of Christ, so that he may relieve the needs of men without wounding their sensibilities or injuring their self-respect.
(4) In all things he will seek direction from God in prayer.—J.A.M.
Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23
The eye is the symbol for the purpose, motive, or intention of the heart. It is also put for the understanding. The head is powerfully influenced by the heart. Consider—
I. THE EYE IN RELATION TO THE LIGHT.
1. The eye is not self-luminous.
(1) It is the "lamp" rather than the "light" of the body. God is the Light. True motives are from God.
(2) The "single eye" is the motive to serve God alone. So in Matthew 6:24 it is thus stated: "We cannot serve God and mammon."
(3) We have nothing that we do not receive.
2. It is the capacity for receiving light.
(1) The light of the world would avail little without the lamp of the body. The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord (Proverbs 20:27).
(2) The image of God in man capacitates him for union and fellowship with God.
(3) The capacity for receiving light partakes of the nature of light. Hence the eye is said to enlighten the body.
3. The capacity for God may be destroyed.
(1) The eye—the motive—may become constitutionally evil. "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness." The eye may lose its lustre by disuse. It may lose it by abuse,
(2) The evil eye is the perverted heart, the covetous heart, the envious heart, the avaricious heart. The evil eye of the Pharisee sought the applause of men rather than the glory of God.
(3) The double eye is the hypocritical heart. The eye is double when we profess to honour God and contrive to honour ourselves. When we seek our own things under colour of seeking the things of Christ.
II. THE EYE IN RELATION TO THE BODY.
1. Motive gives quality to conduct.
(1) As the eye stands for the motive, so does the body stand for the whole deportment, conversation, or conduct of the man.
(2) The eye brightens while looking at God, the essential Light; and it enlightens the whole body.
(3) The dark eye involves the body in darkness. Evil motives corrupt the conversation (cf. Psalms 82:5).
2. The matter is therefore momentous.
(1) Truth is satisfying. The whole body shall be full of light, as if all eye. Truth brings grace; it brings comfort.
(2) Truth is generous. So will the motive be that is true (cf. Proverbs 22:9; James 1:5).
(3) How great is that light! It enlightens the whole body. It is infinitely greater than the body.
(4) Conversely, how great is that darkness! Error here; despair hereafter for ever.—J.A.M.
After discoursing of our treasure (Matthew 6:19-40.6.21), and of the motive that should influence conduct (Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23), our Lord here indicates two competitive services, viz. the service of God and the service of mammon. We have submitted to our acceptance—
I. THE SERVICE OF GOD.
1. This implies trust in him.
(1) Trust in God, viz. for deliverance from the tyranny of sin. Ilia help is pledged in his holiness.
(2) Trust in God for his help against temptation. He urges us to resist the evil one. He expressly promises his aid.
(3) Trust in God for strength to obey him. We need this, for our nature is prone to evil His grace is sufficient.
2. It implies love to God.
(1) His Law surveys the motives of the heart. Love is the fulfilling of the Law.
(2) The spiritual Master cannot be served without love. Love is the master of the heart.
(3) God is infinitely lovable. Truth itself. Essential goodness. The eye will be to the Master's hand (Psalms 123:1, Psalms 123:2). The servants of God will not serve mammon.
3. It implies imitation of God.
(1) Imitation is the sincerest love.
(2) There are things of God which are inimitable, e.g. omnipotence, infallibility. To attempt to imitate these would be outrageous presumption.
(3) The imitable things of God are those qualities in which we were created after his image. Knowledge, righteousness, holiness.
(4) To aid us in this we have the Spirit of Christ, who is emphatically the Image of God.
II. THE SERVICE OF MAMMON.
1. This is the service of sin.
(1) Mammon is a name for worldly riches (cf. Matthew 6:19-40.6.21; James 4:13).
(2) It is any illicit love—anything of which money may be taken as the exponent. It may be appetite (Philippians 3:19). It may be ease. It may be honour: Pharisees.
2. It is the service of Satan.
(1) Mammon is supposed to have been a Chaldean idol corresponding to the Greek Pluto. It is here put for Satan as opposed to God. Sinners do not sufficiently consider the kind of master they serve.
(2) Mammon has still his images. Sometimes they take the form of coin, of bonds, of scrip, of estates. Sometimes of furniture, equipages, dress, food.
III. THESE SERVICES ARE IRRECONCILABLE,
1. God is an imperial Lord.
(1) He claims the complete homage of all our powers by his absolute right of creation. This high claim is consistent with all legitimate secondary claims.
(2) By his right of providence. By his providence our existence is every moment preserved.
(3) By his right of redemption. Service here is claimed as gratitude for love.
(4) Servitude to God is blessed slavery. It is such a slavery as brings perfect liberty. It is slavery to truth and love.
2. Satan is an imperious tyrant.
(1) Half-service will not satisfy him. Lucifer would be like the Most High.
(2) Where he cannot drive, he will lure his victims to destruction. His resources of ingenuity are vast. His persistency is unflagging.
(3) Slavery to Satan is drudgery to cruelty. Human nature is too willing to be ruined.
3. The masters are contrary.
(1) "God and mammon;" "light" and "darkness."
(2) The services are as the masters. The orders of the masters are contrary. A man of the world cannot be a religious character. The servants of mammon hate God in their hearts.
(3) The attempt to reconcile these services is folly. Those persons try to serve two masters who strain consistency to steer close to the vortex of worldliness. Those who try to make religion serve their secular interests. "The pretending mother was for dividing the child." The Samaritans found the attempt sorrowful to fear the Lord and serve other gods (2 Kings 17:33). "It is but supposition that gain is godliness."—J.A.M.
Lessons of the fields.
God has so constituted the natural world that it furnishes apt similes to illustrate spiritual things.
I. THE FIELDS TEACH US TO BLESS GOD.
1. They serve admirable material uses.
(1) They furnish us with food (see Genesis 1:29, Genesis 1:30). From the Creation to the Deluge vegetable food only was used. This diet is still, especially in warm climates, the more wholesome.
(2) Vegetables are also useful for medicine. Partly because of its medicinal properties the tree of life appears to have had its name. The principal remedies of the pharmacopoeia are from the vegetable kingdom.
(3) Vegetables have also valuable economic uses. Timber, fibres, gums, and oils.
2. They soothe and delight the sense.
(1) Colour. The elements of all calorific harmony are found in the prevailing green of the earth, with the blue and red of the heavens.
(2) Form. This may be admired in the graceful curvature and flexure of branches of trees and plants. Also in the varieties of leaves and flowers.
(3) Texture. So exquisite is the clothing of the lily, that the dress of an Eastern monarch, rich in the choicest productions of the loom and needle, with its gorgeous colouring and profusion of jewellery, sinks in the comparison. Test them severally under the microscope.
3. They serve high moral purposes.
(1) They raise our thoughts to God (see Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16). The food and medicine of vegetable nature suggest the nourishment and healing of the economy of grace.
(2) The eloquence of the fields stirs our gratitude to God. It raises our thoughts to the Creator blessing us in the benevolence of acts. To our Redeemer blessing us in the benevolence of suffering.
II. THE FIELDS TEACH US TO TRUST PROVIDENCE.
1. As they illustrate our dependence.
(1) Plants are dependent for nourishment upon the earth.
(2) The rain also is necessary for their life.
(3) They need likewise the sun and the air, in the vibratory motion of which they breathe.
(4) The birds of the air and animals of the earth in turn depend upon vegetation.
(5) All second causes depend upon God (cf. John 3:27; 1 Corinthians 4:7).
2. As they illustrate God's thoughtful care.
(1) The comparison of the flower of the lily to clothing is not only poetically beautiful; it is botanically just. The flower serves the purpose of clothing to the seed-vessel.
(2) This is evinced in the many exquisite contrivances, such as the provision of tendrils and claspers by which the tender vine avails itself of the strength of the oak.
(3) The instincts by which birds are fed, without their sowing, or reaping, or gathering into barns, have their lessons of providence.
III. THE FIELDS TEACH US TO DESIRE DIVINE CLOTHING.
1. There is a laudable attention to dress.
(1) When our Lord asks, "Why take ye thought for raiment?" he does not advise that we should be reckless as to our attire. He tells us, on the contrary, that our heavenly Father "knoweth that we have need of these things"—that he will "add" them to those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
(2) Our clothing exerts a moral influence. By it we may create prejudice favourable to usefulness or otherwise.
(3) But there is another extreme. There are those who make clothing more than the body. There are those who plume themselves rather upon their clothes than their virtues. Who despise those who do not appear in gay attire.
(4) How this vanity is rebuked in the clothing of the lily that goes into the oven, and by the plumage of insignificant birds! When Croesus sat upon his throne in all the glory of his ornaments, and asked Solon whether he had ever seen a fairer spectacle, the philosopher replied, "Pheasants and peacocks; for they are clothed with a natural splendour and exceeding beauty."
2. We should be clad in virtues rather than in velvets.
(1) Is there no reference to the clothing of the spirit in the beauties of holiness in verse 317 God does not, in his providence, clothe our bodies in the sense in which he clothes the grass of the field. In this sense he does clothe our souls in righteousness. The robe of righteousness is emphatically a Divine robe.
(2) This is clothing of surpassing beauty. The spiritual is greatly superior to the material. Then "shall he not much more," not only as a matter of certainty, but also in glory and beauty, "clothe you" (see 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Peter 3:4)?
(3) This spiritual raiment is put on by faith. "Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (cf. Romans 3:21, Romans 3:22).
3. We should look for the clothing of the resurrection.
(1) The body of the resurrection is represented as a clothing (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2 2 Corinthians 5:4). Under the expression "much more" this idea also may be included.
(2) The resurrection is aptly illustrated by vegetable similes. The revival in spring (cf. Job 14:1, Job 14:2-18.14.7, Job 14:9-18.14.14, Job 14:15).
(3) Our Lord compares the resurrection to the revival of seed-corn (see John 12:23, John 12:24).
(4) What is there incredible in a resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-46.15.38)? What exquisite floral forms bloom from the dunghill!—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The Christian law of giving.
In this second part of the sermon our Lord teaches his disciples how they should stand related to the recognized and usual expressions of religious life. In those days everybody who professed to be religious sought to show people their religion by giving alms, praying, and fasting. But Jesus taught that character, motive, spirit, were the things of supreme importance; and so here he virtually says, "Take care of the motives that inspire religions acts. They win the praise of men, and you may be doing them for the sake of that praise." Our Lord did but state the universal fact when he said, "Ye have the poor always with you." War, limited trade, inefficiently treated disease, and bad governments, have always tended to make a large proportion of Eastern people indigent and beggars. In every religious system the duty of caring for them has been commended.
I. ALMSGIVING IN ITS SOCIETY FORM For, apart from all religious considerations, the sympathetic care of the poor is a society duty. And it should be seen that the poor among us have their mission to society, as truly as society has its mission to them. The poor bless us as well as receive a blessing from us.
1. They culture the hallowing sentiment of the "brotherhood of humanity," by calling for brotherly help.
2. They nurture the finer graces of human character; sympathy, gentleness, charity. It is the dark side of civilization that it has so changed our relation to the poor. Hospitality and personal service were the virtues of the simple East. Family isolation, and delegation of service, are the weaknesses of the guileful West. Modern society-relations seem to multiply the poor, so that they get beyond society-control. There are the poor
(1) by bodily disability;
(2) by unfortunate birth-associations;
(3) by exigencies of trade;
(4) by temporary distress;
(5) by the wrong-doing of others. Almsgiving is still a great society claim and duty.
II. ALMSGIVING IN ITS CHRISTIAN FORM. Then it is seen as service directly rendered to Christ. It is a part of the way in which we do his work in the world; and, in doing it, express our love to him. But the loyalty to Christ makes the Christian wholly indifferent to the opinion of men concerning his almsgiving. It leads him
(1) to estimate his means so that he may be able to give;
(2) to carefully consider the claims presented, so that he may give wisely;
(3) to strive to make his gifts a help to moral character, and a witness for his Lord; and
(4) to cherish a holy indifference to men's praise or blame.—R.T.
Character shown in religious duties.
There is no certain evidence of such a custom as our Lord here refers to. Rich men sometimes had a certain day on which they distributed their alms. Then they may have sent round with a trumpet to call the poor people together. "In some cities Saturday is beggars' day, and every merchant, shopkeeper, and housewife lays by a store of coppers and remnants of food." Probably our Lord only used a figure, such as we employ when we speak of the "flourish of trumpets" by the boastful man. The chests in the temple to receive alms were trumpet-shaped, and were called trumpets; and no doubt some almsgivers would fling their coins into these trumpets so as to make a ringing noise, and call public attention to their benevolence. The point our Lord presents is this: alms-giving, as a recognized religious duty, finds expression for character—and it cultures the character through finding it expression—but let us be very careful that our charity finds expression for Christian character.
I. NATURAL CHARACTER FINDING NATURAL EXPRESSION. There is such a thing as the "milk of human kindness." Some people are born with amiable, sympathetic, charitable dispositions. Doing kind things is simply natural to them. It costs no effort. It involves no self-denial. They give freely. They give so pleasantly that we do not realize how little the giving costs them. We may thank God for the "charitably disposed" among us, and accept thankfully their help toward the perfecting of the human brotherhood.
II. DETERIORATED CHARACTER FINDING REPRESENTATIVE EXPRESSION, This is the case which Christ presents as a warning. Guileful persons, with lowered characters, will make their charity serve their selfish ends. You will see, by the way in which the gilt is made, the publicity of it; the anxiety about a suitable report being made of it; the mean advantage taken of the recipient of it; and the continuous after-brag about it; that a very deteriorated character, with very low and poor motives ruling it, was at the back of the gift. If we accept the gift, we cannot approve the giver.
III. SANCTIFIED CHARACTER FINDING PIOUS EXPRESSION. Our Lord puts the pious expression into these forms. The disciple with the qualities indicated in the Beatitudes
(1) keeps his giving secret from other people;
(2) he even keeps it a secret from himself, and tries not to think about it (Matthew 6:3); and
(3) he does his kindness for his heavenly Father's sake, and because he wants to be a worthy child of him who is continually doing good.—R.T.
The Father's open rewards.
"Shall reward thee openly." This turn of the sentence somewhat surprises us. It is not precisely what we expected. Making so much of giving in secret, and the Father seeing in secret, we expect to read, "shall reward thee in secret ways." Probably the "open reward" is promised because the man who makes a show of religion does so in order to get open and public fame. (It should, however, be duly noticed that the best manuscripts and most modern editors omit the word "openly.") Plumptre thinks the addition of the word "openly" weakens and lowers the force of the truth asserted. The difficulty of dealing with the word is clearly seen in the notion of some writers that "openly" must mean "before men and angels at the resurrection of the just," about which, at the time, our Lord was neither speaking nor thinking. A good point, and one which is practically important, is this: sincere and humble piety, finding gracious expression in kindly, thoughtful, generous, and self-denying service, will be sure to gain open and public recognition. Christian goodness is no violet "born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air." Men want that Christian goodness in all the life-spheres; and they are quick enough at recognizing it when they see it.
I. CHRISTLY-TONED CHARITIES WIN MEN'S ADMIRATION. We are all keen enough to discern the differences in gifts. We qualify our admiration when we recognize giving on mere impulse; or to get credit; or to outdo others; or to bring business. We keep our highest admiration for evident cases of self-denial, simple benevolence, and Christian principle. Those who abuse Christianity admire the Christian charity which it inspires.
II. CHRISTLY-TONED CHARITIES WIN MEN'S CONFIDENCE. This is clearly shown in the very patent fact that, whenever there is a local or a national calamity, application is first made for help to the Christian people. There is a universal public confidence that, if any good work needs to be done, the Christians will be found ready for the doing. This is their open reward. Place, influence, power, in every generation comes into the hands of the sincerely good; and in this way God gives the reward which men are ever seeking, to those who do not seek it.—R.T.
Properly, the hypocrite is simply the "actor;" but the word has come to mean "one who acts a part with a view to deceive others, and get undeserved praise for himself." Standing at prayer was usual. Praying in the synagogues was usual. Praying in the streets, if you happen to be in the streets when the prayer-call sounds, is quite usual in the Mohammedan East of to-day. Our Lord does not reprove these things. Our Lord referred to a bad custom of his day. Men went into the synagogues, and stood apart as if absorbed in prayer, while secretly they were glancing round to see the impression which their superior devotion was making. "Prayer standing is the characteristic of the Jews to this day; and though not often to be seen on the streets in the East, is frequent on shipboard."
I. TEST THE CASE SUPPOSED BY THE PROPER OBJECT OF PRAYER, Here is a man who prays so as to draw attention to himself—prays for the sake of getting men's admiration of his praying. Now, is that the proper aim to set before us in praying? Does it matter what our fellow-men may think of us? We ought to pray simply to gain God's help and blessing. Prayer should be the expression of conscious need; it should be the utterance of fervent desire; it should be wholly concerned with the need, and with God, from whom the supply of the need is sought.
"Men heed thee not: men praise thee not.
The Master praises; what are men?"
II. TEST THE CASE SUPPOSED BY THE PROPER SPIRIT OF PRAYER. Prayer is uttered dependence. Prayer is supplication. It is precisely the feeling of dissatisfaction with self which inspires us to pray. And anything like self-exhibition is altogether foreign to prayer. A man must be satisfied with himself who confidently makes an exhibition of himself; and such a man wants nothing, and has nothing to pray for. In illustration of this point, reference may be made to the subtle peril which lies in emotional moods. There is a pride in religious feelings, which gets expression in beautiful prayers; and when pride is at the heart of them they cease to be prayers at all. There is much danger of insincerity in extempore public prayers, which must fail to be real prayers if they are "addressed to an audience," and intended to be admired by them rather than heard and answered by God.—R.T.
The law of personal prayer.
That which relates to the individual. Private prayer. "Prayer is the offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the Name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." Our Lord assumes that his disciples will recognize the need for private prayer, and feel the impulse to private prayer, as distinct from the claim to join in the public prayers of synagogue and temple. "Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." "Enter into thy closet," etc. Our Lord's laws for private prayer seem to take a fourfold form.
I. HAVE A PLACE. The "closet" here is really the "store-chamber" of the house. Usually a dark closet, in which the articles used by night are stored away by day. In an Eastern house privacy could be secured in it. Our Lord made a place of prayer on the hillside or in the garden. St. Peter made a place of the quiet housetop. Washington was seen to retire daily to a grove in the vicinity of the camp at Valley Forge. The late General Gordon daily put a sign outside his tent to indicate that he wished to be alone for a while. The sailor-boy made a place at the mast-head; the little servant made a place in the coal-cellar. Of this it may be said, "Where there's a will there's a way."
II. BE ALONE. And feel alone. "Shut the door." "One great advantage of a chamber set apart for prayer is that it keeps us free from many distractions. Our hearts are ready enough of themselves to wander;" and so we need every outward help we can gain. The sense of being undisturbed is most helpful to concentration of thought. Illustrate how God took Moses and Elijah to be "alone with him," before he could speak freely to them. There is nothing so solemnizing as the feeling of being shut up with God.
III. SPEAK FREELY. Then we may do so, because there is no one near to hear us, and either admire or reproach us. We can be simply and entirely our own true selves before God. Even in private prayer Easterns spoke aloud; and for us to do so would give directness, point, and power to our petitions.
IV. CHERISH CONFIDENCE. Always keep in mind that you are speaking to the Father, and may have the good child's assurance. And confidence asks much. John Bunyan tells how beggars used to carry with them a bowl when they went to beg at a house. Some of them brought only small bowls; and so, however rich and bountiful the householder might be, he could not give them more than their bowl could contain; others brought great bowls, and carried them home full.—R.T.
The dualities of the Lord's Prayer.
Of this prayer Ward Beecher says, "One knows not which most to admire in this form—its loftiness of spirit, its comprehensiveness, its brevity, its simplicity, or its union of human and Divine elements. All prayer may be said to have crystallized in this prayer. The Church has worn it for hundreds of years upon her bosom, as the brightest gem of devotion." Forms of devotion seem to have been provided by the ecclesiastical rulers. New forms had been given by John the Baptist. It was quite natural that our Lord's disciples should ask either selections from existing forms, or new forms, of prayer from him. Teaching them the spirit of prayer, they naturally asked him also to give them a suitable form in which that spirit might find expression. Now notice the Hebraic form in which the prayer is set. It is a series of dual sentences, the second repeating the first, with some amplification, after the familiar style of Hebrew writing.
I. THE FATHER-NAME. "Our Father." "Hallowed be thy [Father] Name." In this new name for God may be found the very essence of the revelation Jesus brought. He taught "good news of God;" right thoughts of God. Everything else follows from that; for to know God is eternal life. How far was the Father-Name a new revelation? Certainly, as used by Christ, it carries a new meaning and force. What is hallowing a Father-Name? Showing the obedience and devotion of sons. Remember Jesus called God "Holy Father," "Righteous Father."
II. THE KINGDOM OF THE WILL. "Thy kingdom come." "Thy will be done." These are plainly the same thing; for God's kingdom must be the "rule of his will." A living, active will creates a kingdom. If God's will were fully done, God's kingdom would have come. A kingdom of moral beings; ruled by a supreme and holy will. To pray for the kingdom to come is to yield ourselves to the service of the will.
III. GIVING AND FORGIVING. This part of the prayer concerns man's necessities. Our Father in heaven is interested in our daily needs. "Give!" is the cry of the needy child. "Forgive!" is the cry of the sinful child. Both attitudes are of supreme interest to our heavenly Father. "Bread" stands for all our bodily needs; "forgiveness" for all our soul-needs.
IV. DEFENDED AND DELIVERED. Treating ourselves as frail and weak, and yet exposed to evil. "No one can tell beforehand how he will be affected by persistent, insidious, and vehement temptations. If it is a duty to avoid evil, it is surely permissible to solicit Divine help thereto." This ]s the prayer of self-distrust and dependence. Compare "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."—R.T.
The moral influence of fasting.
The three expressions of the religious life introduced here—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—are not treated as duties which we are bound to fulfil, but as things to which we are inwardly impelled by the movements of that religious life. Fasting especially is a personal resolve rather than a prescribed duty—helpful and useful, if a man thus voluntarily brings his body into self-restraint; a snare if, without a man's will, it is done in order to gain merit. Religious fasting had long prevailed among the devout Jews. It had been perverted by ascetics on the one hand, and by Pharisees on the other. Because misused, our Lord dealt with it thus in the way of correction. He assumes that it is quite possible his disciples may desire to fast; he therefore deals with the proper spirit of fasting.
I. FASTING IS AS ACT OF SELF-RESTRAINT. It belongs to the sphere of self-discipline. And that is strictly a personal and private matter. A man may help his brother by his example, showing the results of self-discipline. No man is called to show his brother the process of self-discipline; indeed, he must spoil the process if he attempts to show it. There is a growth of the plant which must go on in the soil and in the dark. You can never safely expose rootings. Our Lord teaches, that all moral discipline and bodily restraint—which may be gathered up and represented by fasting—belong to a man's private life, and should not even be made publicly known by the man's appearance. It is, indeed, a distinct failure of self-restraint to want to show others our self-restraint.
"Else let us keep our fast within,
Till Heaven and we are quite alone'
Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
Before the mercy-seat be thrown."
II. FASTING AS AN ACT OF HUMILIATION. Distinctly the design of fasting is to enfeeble appetite and to humiliate passions. It is noticed that appetites for self-indulgence are strong when the body is pampered with luxurious food. But it is no humiliation to show our humiliation, and get our restrainings praised. That does but change body-pride for heart-pride, which is more defiling. Note this danger: in fasting to restrain bodily appetite we may come to think that evil is in the body.—R.T.
The treasures of character.
"Treasures in heaven." "Here moral excellence is put in contrast with material treasure. Men are to seek nobility of character, riches of feeling, strength of manhood, and not perishable wealth." Character is called "treasure in heaven," because it alone goes with us into the unseen world. It belongs to us; it cannot be parted from us. It is not something that we have; it is that which we are, wherever we are.
I. THE INSECURITY OF ALL TREASURE IN' THINGS. Everything man sets value on is a perishable thing. To him it is perishable, either by decaying as he holds it, or by removal from him. "The fashion of this world passeth away." "Riches take to themselves wings, and flee away." "We've no abiding city here." This hardly seams so evidently true in our modern times, when wealth gains more apparent fixity, as it did in Eastern lands, when wealth largely consisted in garments, and governments failed to ensure stability and security. Moth and rust (corrosion) would destroy most things, and the thieves would carry off the rest. The truth is as true to-day as it ever was—man can never guarantee his hold on anything he may possess. He has it to-day; he is never sure of it to-morrow. This is true not only of purely material things, but even of such things as skill of body and furniture of mind—things that a man may gain, but which still are outside the real man; only things that he has. Whatever a man only has is in peril.
II. THE SECURITY OF ALL TREASURE IN CHARACTER. What a man is, and what a man becomes, are unaffected by any known decaying forces. Character is the investiture of the soul, in which it passes to the eternal realms. Illustrate the forces that affect our things, and show how powerless they are against our character. See the case of Job. Try death as against the sanctified character that a man may have become. Death can strip a soul absolutely bare of all acquired things. "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out." Death can take the soul from the body. But death cannot touch character, which is the soul's garment. So he is rich for ever who has won "character."—R.T.
The inspiration of a noble aim.
"The light of the body is the eye." Different versions give "lantern," or "candle," or "lamp." Then the idea is, that the aim and purpose a man has in life will be like a light shining on all his life and work and relations. If the aim be a high and noble one, it will brighten and ennoble all his doings. If it be a low and ignoble one, it will discolour and degrade all his doings. Or, to take another view: a man's aim in life will be like the eye, through which he comes into relation with everything. If it be clean and healthy, everything is seen as it is. If it be impure and diseased, it is as if a man saw everything through coloured glasses. Then the anxiety of a Christian disciple should concern fixing the right aim, settling the one supreme purpose of life. Christ says our aim should be "righteousness." We do but put the same thing in another form when we say it should be Christ-likeness. "Singleness of intention will preserve us from the snare of having a double treasure, and therefore a divided heart." The question to press on attention is—What are you living for?
I. NOTHING. There are thousands of persons who are just living on, they know not and care not how or why. Enough for them is the butterfly-life of self-indulgence. Neither whence they came, nor what they are here for, nor whither they are going, troubles them in the least. And theirs is but as the life of the "dumb, driven cattle," who have no "uplooking eyes."
II. SOMETHING LOW AND POOR. Such things as wealth for wealth's sake, position for position's sake, power for power's sake. A soul has but a low aim who only asks, "What shall we eat? what shall we drink?" and lets the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life '" decide what his aim shall be.
III. SOMETHING NOBLE FROM HUMAN STANDPOINTS. The world has its heroes in all its spheres. We may fix on one, find his aim, and make it ours, and let it inspire us to noble things.
IV. SOMETHING DIVINE. Here show that God has been pleased to come into our human spheres, in the Person of Jesus Christ, that he might make himself our inspiring and sanctifying aim.—R.T.
The proper limits of human anxiety.
The evil dealt with in this passage is "undue secular anxiety." "Think of the uncertainty of almost everything we have—life, health, friendship, domestic relationships and affections, riches, commerce. Life has many sad surprises and disappointments. Our own day is full of care." Where is abundant cause for anxiety. But Christ reminds us of a truth which should put our earthly care into strict limitations. We have a Father who is actually and effectively concerned in securing the constant and the highest well-being of his children. The children ought to have proper children's anxieties, but they should not take upon them cares which belong to their Father, who "knoweth what they have need of before they ask him."
I. THE EARTHLINESS OF THE UNEARTHLY MAN. Think of the Christian as the "unearthly man," and then see that his unearthliness ought not to be all-absorbing. It should be placed under wise limitations. He is in the body. He stands in relations. He has duties and responsibilities. It is no true spirituality to escape from common earthly responsibilities into monasteries, nunneries, and hermit-cells. "The Son of man came eating and drinking." Human interests were sought by him, and human cares were borne by him. A saint must never forget that he is husband, or father, or brother, or friend, or citizen. Earthly anxiety is God's present burden for his saints; and it has to be cheerfully taken up and borne.
II. THE UNEARTHLINESS OF THE EARTHLY MAN. This is turning the figure round, in order to warn the spiritual man how very absorbing earthly care may become, and to advise him that his supreme anxiety should be soul-culture. "Taking thought" is but an older form of our idea of "worrying," which is "anxiety overdone." "What the Lord bids us guard against is conjectural brooding over the possible necessities of the future, and our possible lack of the resources required for their supply." The spiritual man should be "using the world as not abusing it." In safe limitations keeping both earthly and unearthly.—R.T.
Matthew 6:26, Matthew 6:28
The God of the fowls and the flowers.
The point which seems to be prominently suggested here is this: Fowls and flowers represent the creatures and the adornments of the Father's house. Disciples represent the children of the Father's house. It is fair and forcible argument; it comes close home to us, by its appeal to our common everyday observations and experiences, that if the Father cares, in a very marked way, for the creatures and the adornments (show a mother's daily care to feed her birds and tend her flowers), he will much more anxiously care for every welfare of his children (see the way of that same mother with her babe). The following line of thought will be readily illustrated.
I. Man is a part of God's creation, just as truly as fowls and flowers are, and must be just as fully included in the Creator's daily care. "The eyes of all wait on thee."
II. But, if included, man must he included as man, and as God knows man, and all his wants, bodily and spiritual, seeing that God created him, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
III. For God's care—if we are to conceive of it as worthy of God—must be in precise adaptation to each creature for whom he cares.
IV. Then we may be sure that God cares for man so far as man is kin with the fowls and the flowers.
V. Then we may be sure that God cares for man so far as man is superior to the fowls and the flowers. Remember Mungo Park's reflection when, in a time of utter despair, he found a small moss, and, admiring its root, leaves, and capsule, thought thus: "Can that Being who planted, watered, and brought to perfection, in this obscure part of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after his own image? Surely not." That reflection inspired new effort, which resulted in Park's rescue.—R.T.
The first object of human pursuit.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." In a former homily on this chapter it is shown that the kingdom of God is the dom, or rule, of God's will. There is a traditional sentence given by Origen, and by Clement of Alexandria, which our Lord might have uttered, for it is very like this authentic passage: "Ask great things, and little things shall be added to you; ask heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added to you." Man is made for God. "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God, and enjoy him for ever." "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." In this text our Lord says, "There is one great end and purpose of your being, and that you must voluntarily make your one, first, chief end." There may be intermediate ends and objects which rightly call for your attention, but there is one which must never be forgotten. You were made for God; to love him, to serve him, to praise him, to live in fellowship with him, to do and to bear his holy will. The true order of our human pursuits should be—first, God; second, others; third, self. Or, to put it in another way—first, righteousness; second, duty; third, pleasure. Or some point and freshness may be gained by making a distinction between the kingdom and the righteousness.
I. GOD'S KINGDOM IS THE REIGN OF HIS WILL. And that concerns conduct. God's will covers and concerns all our doings and relations.
II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS HIMSELF. And that is character; concerns character; stands as model for the moulding of character. Then man's two supreme ends—which are really erie—which he must always and everywhere put in the first places, are:
1. God's character—to be like him.
2. God's will—to serve him. It will be a joyful surprise to any man to find how all life goes into place, and everything gets provided for, when he seeks first the kingdom and righteousness.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany