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same thing. The publicans. The publicans were tax-gatherers. Judea was a province of the Roman empire. The Jews bore this foreign yoke with much impatience, and paid their taxes with great reluctance. It happened, therefore, that those who were appointed to collect taxes were ohjects of detestation. Many of them were men who were disposed to execute their office at all hazards; who were willing to engage in an odious and hated employment; often of abandoned characters, oppressive in their exactions, and dissolute in their lives. By the Jews they were associated in character with thieves, and adulterers, and those who were profane and dissolute. 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not
even the publicans so? 47. And if ye salute your brethren, &c. The word salute here means to show the customary tokens of civility, or to treat with the common marks of friendship. The worst men, the very publicans would do this. Christians are bound to do more; they should show that they have a different spirit--they should treat their enemies as courteously as wicked men do their friends. 48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even 'as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
h Gen. xvii. 1; Lev. xi. 44, xix. 2; Luke vi. 36; Col. i. 28, iv, 12; James i. 4; 1 Pet. i. 15, 16. i Eph. v. 1. 48. Be ye therefore perfect. Our Saviour concludes this part of the discourse by commanding his disciples to be perfect. This word commonly means finished, complete, pure, holy. Originally it is applied to a piece of mechanism—as a machine that is complete in its parts. Applied to men, it refers to completeness of parts, or perfection, where no part is defective or wanting. Thus Job (i. 1) is said to be perfect; not that he was perfect in the sight of God-sinless, and without blame; he was chargeable with much sin (Job ix. 20), and in common with every other mere man, since the fall
, hy nature incapable of thinking or doing any good thing. But he is called perfect, because his principles were sound—because his piety was proportionale-had a completeness of parts---was consistent and regular. He exhibited his religion as a prince, a father, an individual, a benefactor of the poor. Ile was not merely a pious man in one place, but uniformly. Exhibit not your Christian conduct merely in loving your friends and neighbours. Let your piety manifest itself in loving your enemies. Let your love to God, your allegiance to Christ, be the governing principle of your every thought and action.
1. Upon those who have accepted of the overtures of mercy held out in the Gospel to perishing sinners, and are born of the "incorruptible seed,” God bestows the graces of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of that Holy Spirit to adorn their souls. Our Saviour, at the beginning of this chapter, discourses of the spiritual graces thus conferred upon his people. They all meet in the character of each believer. One disciple may have this or the other grace in a fuller measure than another, but every disciple is a partaker of them all. We are not, then, to suppose that they are separable, and can exist apart from each other. Where one of them exists, the others also shall be present. What a variety of colours—each one of them lovely——combine in making up the spotless purity of a sunbeam! A sunbeam appears to be altogether incomplex—simple and uncompounded. But the philosopher, admitting it into his darkened chamber, and meeting it midway with his prism, makes it diverge from its course, and separates it into the manifold tints of which it is compounded. Our Saviour analyzes the character of a believer, and exhibits by themselves the graces of which it is composed. Each
grace is beautiful in itself, and, being combined, they make up an admirable whole. Though this glorious work of the Spirit has commenced, and is going forward in the soul of every converted man, many things remain to mar and interrupt its progress. In this life it reaches not to the completeness of a perfect work. By many features it manifests itself to be from above; and although it works not here below to the total destruction of all in-dwelling depravity, it shows what its tendencies are, and in what it shall eventually issue. Its tendencies are to make the soul perfect in holiness; and these shall be brought to their consummation when the soul is emancipated from this body of sin and death, and admitted into those mansions of glory which Christ has purchased for his people—which he, as their forerunner, has already entered, and where he now waits to receive and welcome them.
2. Where the love of Christ reigns paramount in the soul, the life will be conformable to his commandments. It is not the principle of servile fear, but that of love unfeigned, which actuates the believer in his obedience to the law of his divine Master. In the estimation of an unregenerate man, the law of God is a grievous bondage; the believer delights himself in it, accounting it as his meat and drink to be walking in the path of its holy precepts. He loves Christ above his chiefest joy, and so of Christ's commandments. Whilst the love of Christ is the very essence of the believer's spiritual life, there are many considerations which ought to have much weight with him in watching with jealous care over his walk and conversation in the present evil world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid; no more can a disciple of Jesus live and die unknown and unnoticed. Many eyes are constantly upon him—some of them for good, more of them for evil. Every sin he commits brings an insinuation against the profession he makes. What will the world think of him, if he live not above the world ? It were, indeed, a small matter what the world thinks of him ; but it is a mighty one what it thinks of the Gospel. The Truth, of course, is not responsible for the weakness or wickedness of those who profess it. It is still the Truth. It remains unsullied and indestructible. The world, however, is not nice in discrimination; and it will not fail, when it finds those who make a profession of better things giving the lie to their profession, by actions which in no way correspond, to lay it to the account of a the Faith," and affect to treat it as a delusion. No one can estimate the amount of dishonour which may be brought upon the Gospel, and the amount of misery which may be entailed upon immortal souls, in consequence of the falls and shortcomings of disciples. Christ's sharpest wounds are those which he receives in the house of his friends. Believers would do well constantly to remember, that they are as a city set upon a hill. In God's sight they continually are ; nor are the eyes of the world ever withdrawn from them.
3. Towards the conclusion of the chapter, our Saviour explains the true bearing of the Divine law, and corrects the false views of it prevalent at the time. These views were very erroneous. Though furnished with the means of spiritual enlightenment, the Jews were in great ignorance of divine things. With the Scriptures in their hands, they lived in “ Egyptian darkness.” There was much that was gross and material in their ideas of God, and of the principles of his moral government of his creatures. For example, they thought that by an external obedience to its precepts the requirements of the moral law were fulfilled. This was to make God see and judge as man sees and judges. Had they understood the Scriptures, they would have known that sin is the transgression of the law—that sin is that evil thing which God hates, and which he denounces. They would have known that the form or mode of its manifestation does not affect its nature; in other words, that sin in the heart is as odious in the sight of God, and as much in opposition to his law, as sin in the outward life-a wicked thought as a wicked action. They would have known that where the heart is impure, the life cannot be good. It is greatly to be apprehended that there is too many of these Jewish notions prevalent amongst ourselves. Do we not stand more in awe of the opinion of our fellow-creatures than of the judgment of God? Has not the fear of the world more influence in deterring us from the commission of sin than the fear of God? The law is exceeding broad. It is a quick discerner, and an impartial judge, of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We cannot for one moment escape out of the presence of Jehovah, nor for one moment free ourselves from the obligation to receive his law as the only rule of our thoughts and actions.-ED.
1 Christ continueth his sermon on the mount, speaking of alms, 5 prayer, 14 forgiving our
brethren, 16 fasting, 19 where our treasure is to be laid up, 24 of serving God, and mammon: 25 exhorteth not to be careful for worldly things: 33° but to seek God's
kingdom. YAKE heed that ye do not your || alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
I Or, righteousness. Deut. xxiv. 13; Ps. cxii. 9; Dan. iv, 27; 2 Cor. ix. 9, 10. Or, with. Ver. 1. Alms. Liberality to the poor and needy. Any thing given to them to supply their wants. Our Saviour, here, does not positively command his disciples to aid the poor, but supposes that they would do it of course, and gives them direction how to do it. Religion prompts us to help those who are really poor and needy; and a real Christian does not wait to be commanded to do it, but only asks the opportunity. See Gal. ii. 10; James i. 27; Luke xix. 8. 9 Before men, &c. Our Lord does not forbid us to give alms before men always, but only forbids our doing it to be seen of them, for the purposes of ostentation, and to seek their praise. To a person who is disposed to do good from a right motive, it matters little whether it be in public or in private. The only thing that renders it even desirable that oậr good deeds should be seen is, that God may be glorified. Otherwise. If your only motive in alms-giving is to be seen of men, your alms will not find acceptance before God.
2 Therefore *when thou doest thine alms, || do not sound a trumpet before
thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
a Rom. xii. 8. | Or, cause not a trumpet to be sounded. 2. Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do. The word hypocrite is taken from staye-players, who act the part of others, or speak not their own sentiments, but the sentiments of others. It means here, and in the New Testament generally, those who dissemble or hide their real sentiments, and assume or express other feelings than their own—those who, for the purposes of ostentation, or gain, or applause, put on the appearance of religion. Such persons, when they were about to bestow alms, caused a trumpet to be sounded, professedly to call the poor together to receive it, but really to call the people to attend to it In giving alms, we are not to make a great noise about it, like the sounding of a trumpet. In the synagogues. The word synagogue commonly means the place of assembling for religious worship known by that name. Note, Matt. iv. 23. It also denotes any collection of people for any purpose.
And it is not improbable that it has that meaning here. 9 They have their reward. That is, they obtain the applause they seek--the reputation of being charitable. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand
doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself "shall reward thee openly.
Luke xiv. 14.
3, 4. Let not thy left hand know, &c. This is a proverbial expression, signifying that the action should be done as secretly as possible. The encouragement for doing this is, that it will be pleasing to God; that he will see the act, however secret it may be, and will openly reward it. Rarely, perhaps never, has it been found that the man who is liberal to the poor, has ever suffered by it in his worldly circumstances. 5 9 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they
love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their
reward. 5. And when thou prayest, &c. Hypocrites manifested the same spirit about prayer as alms-giving; it was done in public places. The word synagogues here clearly means, not the place of worship of that name, but places where many were accustomed to assemble—near the markets or courts, where they could be seen of many. The Jews were much in the habit of praying in public places. At certain times of the day they always offered their prayers. Wherever they were, they suspended their employment, and paid their devotions. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, Center into thy closet, and when thou hast
shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
c 2 Kings iv. 33.
6. Enter into thy closet. Every Jewish house had a place for secret devotion. The roofs of their houses were flat places for walking, conversation, and meditation, in the cool of the evening. Over the porch, or entrance of the house, was a small room of the size of the porch, raised a storey above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement.
Here, in secrecy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts. This is the place commonly mentioned in the New Testament as the upper room, or the place for secret prayer. The meaning of our Saviour is, that there should be some place where we may be in secret —where we may be alone with God. There should be some place to which we may resort where no ear will hear us but His ear, and no eye can see us but His eye.
It is often said that we have no such place, and can secure none. We are away from home—we are travelling—we are among
d Eccles. v. 2.
Luke xi. 2.
strangers—we are in stages and steam-boats, and how can we find such places of retirement ? The desire to pray, and the love of prayer, will create such places in abundance. There never was a prayerful heart, but it easily found a place for secret prayer.
Every season is a proper one for communing with God. It is always with us a time of need. “Watch and pray." "Pray without ceasing." The following times and occasions may be specified as peculiarly proper for prayer :- 1. In the morning. 2. In the evening. 3. Times of embarrassment and perplexity. Such times occur in every man's life, and it is then a privilege and a duty to go to God and seek his direction. 4. We should pray when we are beset with strong temptation. 5. We should pray when the Spirit prompts us to pray_when we feel just like praying—when nothing can satisfy the soul but prayer. 9 Who seeth in secret. Who sees what the human eye cannot see; who sees the secret real designs and desires of the heart. In engaging in prayer we should always remember that God is acquainted with our real desires ; and that it is those real desires, and not the words of prayer, that he will answer. 7 But when ye pray, "use not vain repetitions, as the heatlien do: ‘for they
think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: *Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
e 1 Kings xviii. 26, 29. 9. This passage contains the Lord's prayer. This prayer is given as a model. It is designed to express the manner in which we are to pray. The substance of the prayer is recorded by Luke, chap. xi. 2-4. It, however, varies from the form given in Matthew, showing that our Saviour intended not to prescribe this as a form of prayer to be used always, but to express the substance of our petitions to specify to his disciples what petitions it would be proper to present to God. That he did not intend to prescribe this as a form to be invariably used, is farther evident from the fact, that there is no proof that either he or his disciples ever used exactly this form of prayer, but clear evidence that they prayed often in other language. See Matt. xxvi. 39-42, 44 ; Luke xxii. 42; John xvii.; Acts i. 24. of Our Father. God is called Father, Ist, as he is the Creator and the great Parent of all; 2d, the Preserver of the human family, and the Provider for their wants (chap. v. 45); 3d, in a peculiar sense the Father of those who are adopted into his family, who put confidence in him, who are true followers of Christ, and made heirs of lifc. Rom. viii. 14-17. q Hallowed be thy name. The word hallow means to render or pronounce holy. God's name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, “ Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy every where, and receive of all men honour.” It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or God himself, should be held every where in veneration. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, "as it is in heaven.
& Chap. xxvi. 39, 42; Acts xxi. 14. 10. Thy kingdom come. The word kingdom here means reign. Note, Matt. iii. 2. The petition is the expression of a wish that God may reign every where ; that his laws may be obeyed; and especially, that the Gospel of Christ may be advanced every where, till the world shall be filled with his glory. 9 Thy will be done. The will of God is, that men should accept of the overtures of salvation freely offered to them in the Gospel, and so have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts through the Holy Spirit given unto them, be created anew after the image of Christ, and have their hearts and actions conformed to the divine law. To pray that God's will may be done on earth as in heaven, is to pray that his law, his revealed will, may be obeyed and loved. His law is perfectly obeyed in heaven, and his true children most ardently desire and pray that it may also be obeyed on the earth. 11 Give us this day our 'daily bread.
i Sce Job xxiii. 12; Prov. xxx, 8. u. Give us this day, &c. The word bread here denotes, doubtless, every thing necessary to sustain life. Matt. iv. 4 ; Deut. viii. 3. This petition implies our dependence on God for the supply of our wants. As we are dependent on him one day as much as another, it was evidently the intention of our Saviour that prayer should be offered every day. This is, moreover, expressed in the plural number--give us. It is evidently, therefore, intended to be used by more than one, or
h Ps. ciii. 20, 21.
by some community of people. It is not convenient for large communities and congregations to meet every day for the purposes of public prayer and worship; but families ought to do so. therefore, evident that this prayer is a strong-implied command for daily family prayer. It can no where else be used so as fully to come up to the meaning of the original intention, and no where else can it be breathed forth with so much propriety and beauty, as from the lips of a father, presiding over the church which ought to be in his house, and pleading with God for those rich blessings which a parental bosom desires on his beloved offspring. Our souls stand as much in need of continual supplies of the bread of life, as our bodies do of the bread which perishes. 12 And kforgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
k Chap. xviii. 21. 12. And forgive us our debts, &c. We have not met the claims of the Divine law. We have violated its obligations,—we are exposed to its penalty, -we are guilty; and God alone can forgive us. Debts here mean sins, or offences against God. lle that comes before Ilim, unwilling to forgive his fellow-creatures, harbouring dark and revengeful thoughts, cannot expect that God will show him that merey which he is unwilling to show to others. It is not, however, required that we should forgive debts in a pecuniary sense. To them we have a right, though they should not be pushed with an overbearing and oppressive spirit; not so as to sacrifice the feelings of mercy, in order to secure the claims of right. No man has a right to oppress; and when a debt cannot be paid, or when it would greatly distress a wife and children, a widow and an orphan; or when calamity has put it out of the power of an honest man to pay the debt, the spirit of Christianity requires that it should be forgiven. To such cases this petition in the Lord's prayer doubtless extends. But it probably refers principally to injuries of character or person, which we have received from others. If we do not from the heart forgive them, we have the assurance that God will not forgive us. 13 'And lead us not into temptation, but "deliver us from evil: "For thine is
the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
i Chap. xxvi. 41; Luke xxii. 40, 46; 1 Cor. x. 13; 2 Pet. ii. 9: Rev. iii. 10. 13. And lead us not into temptation. A petition similar to this is offered by David (Ps. cxli. 4), “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with the men that work iniquity." God teinpts no man. See James i. 13. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us, or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this petition we are comfortably assured, that God has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call upon him. 9 Deliver us from evil. The original, in this place, has the article, deliver us from Tile eril, that is, as has been supposed, the Evil One, or Satan. lle is elsewhere called, by way of eminence, the El One. Iatt. xiii. 15 ; 1 John ii. 13, 14 ; iii. 12. Deliver us from his power, his snares, his arts, his temptations. He is the great parent of evil, and to be delivered from him is to be safe. Or it may mean, deliver us from the various evils and trials which beset us—the heavy and oppressive calamities into which we are continually liable to fall. 9 Thine is the kingdom. That is, thine is the reign or dominion. Thou hast control over all these things, and canst so order them as to answer these petitions. I Thine is the power. Thou hast power to accomplish what we ask. We are weak, and cannot do it; but thou art almighty, and all things are possible with thee. Thine is the glory. That is, thine is the honour or praise. Not our honour; but thy glory, thy goodness, will be displayed in providing for our temporal and spiritual wants; thy power, in defending us; thy praise, in causing thy kingdom to spread througlı the earth.
This doxology, or ascription of praise, is connected with the prayer by the word “for," to signify that all these things—the reign, power, and glory of God—will be manifested by granting these petitions. It is not because we are to benefited, but that God's name and perfections may be manifested. His glory is, then, the first and principal thing which we are to seek when we approach him. We are to suffer our concerns to be sunk and lost sight of in the superior glory and honour of his name and dominion. We are to seek temporal and eternal life, chiefly because the honour of our Maker will be promoted, and his name be more illustriously displayed to his creatures. He is to be “ first, last, supremest, hest,” in our view; and all selfish and worldly views are to be absorbed in that great desire of the soul, that God may be “ all in all.” Approaching him with these feclings, our prayers will be answered, our devotions will rise like incense, and the lifting up our hands will be like the evening sacrifice. 1 Amen. This is a word of Hebrew origin, from a verb signifying to be firm, secure, to be true and faithful. It is a word expressing consent or strong approbation—a word of strong asseveration. It means verily, certainly, so be it.
m John xvii. 15.
n 1 Chron. xxix. II.