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any temporal view, particularly by seeking the praise of men. Against this our blessed Lord more peculiarly guards us in the words of the text. "Moreover, when ye fast, be ye not as the hypocrites, such were too many who were called the people of God," of a sad countenance :" sour, affectedly sad, putting their looks into a peculiar form. "For they disfigure their faces," not only by unnatural distortions, but also by covering them with dust and ashes: "That they may appear unto men to fast :" This is their chief, if not only design. "Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward;" even the admiration and praise of men. "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face." Do as thou art accustomed to do at other times; "That thou appear not unto men to fast," let this be no part of thy intention: if they know it without any desire of thine, it matters not, thou art neither the better nor the worse, "but unto thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
2. But, if we desire this reward, let us beware, secondly, of fancying we merit any thing of God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to establish our own righteousness, to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts: fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for his unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of ours, he hath promised freely to give us his blessing.
3. Not that we are to imagine the performing the bare outward act will receive any blessing from God." Is it such a fast that I have chosen, (saith the Lord :) a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?" Are these outward acts, however strictly performed, all that is meant by a man's "afflicting his soul?-Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?" No surely. If it be a mere external service, it is all but lost labour Such a performance may possibly afflict the body. But, as to the soul, it profiteth nothing.
4. Yea, the body may sometimes be afflicted too much, so as to be unfit for the works of our calling. This also we are diligently to guard against for we ought to preserve our health, as a good gift of God. Therefore care is to be taken, whenever we fast, to proportion the fast to our strength. For we may not offer God murder for sacrifice, or destroy our bodies to help our souls.
But at these solemn seasons, we may, even in great weakness of body, avoid that other extreme, for which God condemns those who of old expostulated with him for not accepting their fasts. "Where
fore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Behold in the day of your fast you find pleasure, saith the Lord." If we cannot wholly abstain from food, we may, at least, abstain from pleasant food; and then we shall not seek his face in vain.
5. But let us take care to afflict our souls as well as our bodies. Let every season, either of public or private fasting, be a season of
exercising all those holy affections, which are implied in a broken and contrite heart. Let it be a season of devout mourning, of godly sorrow for sin such a sorrow as that of the Corinthians, concerning which the Apostle saith, "I rejoice not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance. For ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow" (ʼn κατα Θεον λυπη) the sorrow which is according to God, which is a precious gift of his Spirit, lifting the soul to God from whom it flows, "worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of." Yea, and let our sorrowing after a godly sort, work in us the same inward and outward repentance: the same entire change of heart, renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness; and the same change of life, till we are holy as he is holy in all manner of conversation. Let it work in us the same carefulness, to be found in him, without spot and blameless; the same clearing of ourselves, by our lives rather than words, by our abstaining from all appearance of evil; the same indignation, vehement abhorrence of every sin; the same fear of our own deceitful hearts: the same desire to be in all things conformed to the holy and acceptable will of God; the same zeal for whatever may be a mean of his glory, and of our growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: and the same revenge against Satan and all his works, against all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 9, &c.
6. And with fasting let us always join fervent prayer, pouring out our whole souls before God, confessing our sins with all their aggravations, humbling ourselves under his mighty hand, laying open before him all our wants, all our guiltiness and helplessness. This is a season for enlarging our prayers, both in behalf of ourselves and of our brethren. Let us now bewail the sins of our people, and cry aloud for the city of our God: that the Lord may build up Zion, and cause his face to shine on her desolations. Thus we may observe the men of God, in ancient times, always joined prayer and fasting together. Thus the Apostles in all the instances cited above: and thus our Lord joins them in the discourse before us.
7. It remains only, in order to our observing such a fast as is acceptable to the Lord, that we add alms thereto; works of mercy, after our power, both to the bodies and souls of men. "With such sacrifices also God is well pleased." Thus the angel declares to Cornelius, fasting and praying in his house, " Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God," Acts x. 4. And this God himself expressly and largely declares, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt
thou call, and the Lord shall answer: thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.-If [when thou fastest] thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul: then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make thy bones fat and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not," Isa. lviii. 6, &c.
ON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
"But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !"-MATTHEW Vi. 19-23.
1. FROM those which are commonly termed religious actions, and which are real branches of true religion, where they spring from a pure and holy intention, and are performed in a manner suitable thereto, our Lord proceeds to the actions of common life, and shows that the same purity of intention, is as indispensably required in our ordinary business, as in giving alms, or fasting, or prayer.
And without question, the same purity of intention, "which makes our alms and devotions acceptable, must also make our labour or employment, a proper offering to God. If a man pursues his business, that he may raise himself to a state of figure and riches in the world, he is no longer serving God in his employment, and has no more title to a reward from God, than he who gives alms that he may be seen, or pray that he may be heard of men. For vain and earthly designs are no more allowable in our employments, than in our alms and devotions. They are not only evil when they mix with our good works, with our religious actions, "but they have the same VOL. 5.-P p
evil nature when they enter into the common business of our employments. If it were allowable to pursue them in our worldly employments, it would be allowable to pursue them in our devotions. But as our alms and devotions are not an acceptable service, but when they proceed from a pure intention, so our common employment cannot be reckoned a service to him, but when it is performed with the same piety of heart."
2. This our blessed Lord declares in the liveliest manner, in those strong and comprehensive words which he explains, enforces, and enlarges upon, throughout this whole chapter. "The light of the body is the eye. If, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The eye is the intention: what the eye is to the body, the intention is to the soul. As the one guides all the motions of the body, so does the other those of the soul. This eye of the soul is then said to be single, when it looks at one thing only; when we have no other design, but to "know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent :" to know him with suitable affections, loving him as he hath loved us: to please God in all things: to serve God (as we love him) with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength : and to enjoy God in all,—and above all things, in time and in eternity.
3. "If thine eye be thus single," thus fixed on God, "thy whole body shall be full of light." "Thy whole body,"-All that is guided by the intention, as the body is by the eye. All thou art : all thou dost: thy desires, tempers, affections; thy thoughts, words, and actions. The whole of these shall be full of light :" full of true divine knowledge. This is the first thing we may here understand by light. "In his light thou shalt see light. He who of old commanded light to shine out of darkness, shall shine in thy heart." He shall enlighten the eyes of thy understanding, with the knowledge of the glory of God. His spirit shall reveal unto thee, the deep things of God. The inspiration of the Holy One shall give thee understanding, and cause thee to know wisdom secretly. Yea, the anointing which thou receivest of him, "shall abide in thee, and teach thee, of all things."
How does experience confirm this? Even after God hath opened the eyes of our understanding, if we seek or desire any thing else than God, how soon is our foolish heart darkened! Then clouds again rest upon our souls. Doubts and fears again overwhelm us. We are tossed to and fro, and know not what to do, or which is the path wherein we should go. But when we desire and seek nothing but God, clouds and doubts vanish away. We "who were some times darkness, are now light in the Lord." The night now shineth as the day and we find, "the path of the upright is light." God showeth us the path wherein we should go, and maketh plain the way before our face.
4. The second thing which we may here understand by light, is holiness. While thou seekest God in all things, thou shalt find him in all, the fountain of all holiness, continually filling thee with his
own likeness, with justice, mercy and truth. While thou lookesť unto Jesus and him alone, thou shalt be filled with the mind that was in him. Thy soul shall be renewed day by day, after the image of him that created it. If the eye of thy mind be not removed from him, if thou endurest "seeing him that is invisible," and seeking nothing else in heaven or earth, then as thou beholdest the glory of the Lord, "thou shalt be transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."
And it is also matter of daily experience, that "by grace we are thus saved through faith." It is by faith that the eye of the mind is opened, to see the light of the glorious love of God. And as long as it is steadily fixed thereon, on God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, we are more and more filled with the love of God and man; with meekness, gentleness, long-suffering; with all the fruits of holiness which are through Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father.
5. This light which fills him who has a single eye, implies, thirdly, happiness as well as holiness. Surely "light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to see the sun." But how much more to see the Sun of Righteousness, continually shining upon the soul! And if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any peace that passeth all understanding, if any rejoice in hope of the glory of God, they all belong to him whose eye is single. Thus is his "whole body full of light." He walketh in the light as God is in the light, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks, enjoying whatever is the will of God concerning him in Christ Jesus.
6. "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.' "If thine eye be evil :" we see there is no medium between a single and an evil eye. If the eye be not single, then it is evil. If the intention, in whatever we do, be not singly to God, if we seek any thing else, then our "mind and conscience are defiled."
Our eye therefore is evil, if in any thing we do, we aim at any other end than God; if we have any view, but to know and to love God, please and serve him in all things: if we have any other design than to enjoy God, to be happy in him both now and for ever.
7. If thine eye be not singly fixed on God, "thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The veil shall still remain on thy heart. Thy mind shall be more and more blinded, by "the god of this world, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon thee." Thou wilt be full of ignorance and error touching the things of God, not being able to receive or discern them. And even when thou hast some desire to serve God, thou wilt be full of uncertainty as to the manner of serving him; finding doubts and difficulties on every side, and not seeing any way to escape.
Yea, if thine eye be not single, if thou seek any of the things of earth, thou shalt be full of ungodliness and unrighteousness: thy desires, tempers, affections, being all out of course, being all dark, and vile, and vain. And thy conversation will be evil, as well as thy