Page images

or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. The correction of the translation proposed is built upon this argument, that to pray for an absolute freedom from all solicitation or temptation to sin, is to seek a deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which is absurd, because trials and temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they shew in afflictions. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice when by the divine appointment we fall into temptations. This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome the solicitations of the world, and of the necessity of assistance from above, both to regulate our passions and to conquer the difficul ties of a religious life. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Because the government of the universe is thine for ever, and thou alone possessest the power of creating and upholding all things, also because the glory of infinite perfections remains eternally with thee, therefore all men ought to hallow thy name, submit themselves to thy government, and perform thy will; also in a humble sense of their dependence should seek from thee the supply of their wants, the pardon of their sins, and the kind protection of thy providence-But because the forgiving of injuries is a duty contrary to the strongest passions in the human heart, and at the same time is highly proper for beings who need so much forgiveness from God, Jesus inculcated the necessity of it, by assuring his hearers that if they forgave they should be forgiven, whereas if they did not forgive, there remained no pardon for them. 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Fa ther forgive your trespasses. From what our Lord says in yer. 14,


From a, semper,

Ver. 13. Thine is the kingdom for ever.] Els Tas diwrα5= comes alav, eternitas, quasi ases wv, semper existens, and divios, sempiterna. But though these words express the idea of a proper eternity, they often denote a finite duration, whether past or to come, but of a long continuance. Thus, Gen. alix. 26. og av aswylwy, the ancient bills; 2 Tim. i. 9. #go zgovar alavian, before ancient times; Prov. xxii. 28. ogie niwice, ancient land marks. Farther, ewy and

vios, and the Hebrew, signify sometimes such a duration only as the thing they are applied to is capable of. Hence, av is used to denote the life of man, the duration of the world, the world itself, and that in both numbers (in OLIVE) which significations the Latin secula likewise hath. Wherefore the words bby, alwves alaves, being ambiguous, are always to be understood according to the nature and circumstances of the things to which they are applied, and conse quently, in the conclusion of the Lord's prayer, where kingdom, power, and glory, are ascribed to God for ever, His Tes didvas, it signifies absolute eternity, eternity without beginning or ending.

we are not to imagine, that the forgiving of injuries alone will entitle us to pardon. Indeed all negative declarations concerning the terms of salvation being in their own nature absolute, and without exception, he who does not forgive never shall be forgiven, as it is in the 15th verse. But affirmitive declarations always imply this limitation, that no other condition of salvation be wanting Because the meaning of such declarations is no more than this, that the subject they affirm is one of the things necessary to salvation. Behold then the necessity of forgiving all kinds of injuries, established by Jesus Christ himself, in opposition to the foolish opinions of the men of this world, who, associating the idea of cowardice with the greatest and most generous act of the human mind, the pardoning of injuries, have laboured to render it shameful and vile, to the utter disgrace of human reason and common sense.


Of fasting he said, 16. Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. Do not follow the example of the hypocrites, who, in order to shew that they fast, veil themselves, or, it may be, disfigure their countenances by sprinkling ashes on their heads. I assure you, persons of this character shall have no other reward but the esteem of those whom they deceive by such appearances.-But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face, come abroad in thine ordinary dress: 18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly: That desiring the approbation of God, and not the applause of men, thou mayest chiefly be solicitous to appear before God as one that fasteth; and God, who is ever with thee, and knoweth thy most secret thoughts, shall openly bestow on thee the rewards of a true penitent, whose mortification, contrition, and humility, he can discern without the help of looks, or dress, or outward expressions of any kind. But it must be remember3 N 2 ed,

* Ver. 16. Sad countenance] Exvdeos signifies one who has a peevish, austere, mortified look, such as false devotees affect, who place piety in grimace and outward shew, rather than in true goodness.

Ibid. They disfigure their faces, &c.] Αφανίζεσι γαρ τα προσωπα, they make their faces to disappear, they veil them; for in ancient times, mourners, and those who were in deep grief, used to cover their faces with their garments, 2 Sam. xv. 30. Esther vi. 12. This appears likewise from Horace, "Tecto capite ut si filius immaturus obii-set." Or the word may be taken in the sense which the English translators have affixed to it, they disfigure their faces, for it was the custom anciently to express bitter sorrow, by sprinkling ashes and clay upon their heads, 2 Sam. i. 2. Esther iv. 1, Isa. lxi. 3. Ezek. xxvii. 30. Or if their griefs were of a lesser kind, they shewed them by neglecting to wash and anoint themselves, Dan. x. 3. a custom which it is probable our Lord had now in his eye, for he added, 17. But thou when thou fastest, anvint thine bead and wash thy face.

ed, that our Lord is speaking here of private fasting, to which alone his directions are to be applied; for when public sins or calamities are to be mourned over, it ought to be performed in the most public manner *.

Having thus spoken of fasting, he proceeded to consider heavenly-mindedness, which he inculcated with peculiar earnestness, because it was a virtue which the Jewish doctors were generally strangers to, but which he would have his disciples eminent for, Matth. x. 9. being an excellent ornament to the character of a teacher, and adding much weight to what he says. This virtue our Lord powerfully recommended by shewing the deformity of its opposite, covetousness, which has for its object things perishable. 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. In the eastern countries, where the fashion of clothes did not alter as with us, the treasures of the rich consisted not only of gold and silver, but of costly habits, and fine wrought vessels of brass, and tin, and copper, liable to be destroyed in the manner here mentioned. See Ezek. vi. 69. Job xxvii. 16. James v. 2, 3. 20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust deth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Nothing can be conceived more powerful to damp that keenness with which men pursue the things of this life, than the consideration of their emptiness, fragility, and uncertainty; or to kindle in them an ambition of obtaining the treasures in hea ven, than the consideration of their being substantial, satisfying, durable, and subject to no accident whatever. These considerations therefore were fitly proposed by our Lord on this occasion. He next shewed them that covetousness always leads a man astray, by corrupting the faculties of his mind. 21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: if your treasure is upon earth, your affections will be earthly and sensual; and consequently piety, resignation, and charity, will in a great measure be banished from you. 22. The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, (anλes) simple, not mixed with blood and other noxious humours, but clear and sound, thy whole body shall be full of light, every member of thy body shall be enlightened by the light of thine eye, and directed to perform its proper office. 23. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness, none of thy members shall be able to perform its


* Thus Jesus directed his disciples with respect to fasting; from which it appears that he approved of the duty. And truly the usefulness of it is evident; for by abstinence from food, the body is mortified and subjected to the spirit, and the spirit itself is better fitted for the exercises of repentance. Nevertheless, in religious fasting regard must he had to mens constitutions; for it may happen, that to some a total ab.tiner.ce from food, would, instead of fitting them for the .exercises of piety, render them wholly incapable thereof; in which case it ceases to be a duty.

office. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness? If the organ of the body, whose office it is to supply light to every member, does itself occasion darkness, how great, how pernicious is that darkness! Reason performs to the mind the office which the eye does to the body. Therefore, as the body must be well enlightened if its eye is sound and good, or greatly darkened if it is spoiled with noxious humours; so the mind must be full of light, if reason, its eye, is in a proper state; or full of darkness, if it is perverted by covetousness and other worldly passions, but with this difference, that the darkness of the mind is infinitely worse than the darkness of the body, and attended with worse consequences, in as much as the actions of the mind are of far greater importance to happiness than those of the body. In the third place, he assured them, that it is as impossible for a man to be heavenly-minded and covetous at the same time, as it is for one to serve two masters. For to make the most favourable supposition imaginable, though their commands should not be contrary, they must be at least different. And experience shews us, that the faculties of the human mind are so limited, that the generality of mankind cannot mind two things at once, with any tolerable degree of earnestness. By this means it must always happen, that he who serves two masters will attach himself either to the one or to the other. And therefore while he employs himself in the service of the one, he must of course neglect the interest of the other. 24. No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Lastly, he insinuated, that all the arguments by which covetousness is usually justified or palliated, are entirely overthrown by considering the power, perfection, and extent of the providence of God. This grand subject he handled in a manner suitable to its dignity, by proposing a few simple and obvious instances, wherein the provision that God has made for the least and weakest of his creatures, shines forth illustriously, and forces on the mind the strongest conviction of that wise and fatherly care which the Deity takes of all the works of his hands. From what they were at that instant beholding, the birds of the air, the lilies, the grass of the field, he led even the most illiterate of his hearers to form a more elevated and extensive notion of the divine government than the philosophers attained to, who, though they allowed in general that the world was ruled by God, had but confused conceptions of his providence, which many of them denied to respect every individual creature and action. He taught them,

[ocr errors]

• Ver. 24. Mammon.] Mammon is a Syriac word signifying riches, which are here represented under the idea of a person that had been deified, or rather raised to universal lordship and dominion by the folly of men; see the derivation of this word in the note on Luke xvi. 11. § 95.

them, that the great Father Almighty has every single being in his hand and keeping, that there is nothing exposed to fortune, but that all things are absolutely subjected to his will. This notion of providence affords a solid foundation for supporting that rational trust in God which is the highest and best act of the human mind, and furnishes us at all times with the strongest motives to virtue. 25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. The thought for our life, our food, and our raiment, which Christ forbids us to take, is not that which prudent men use in providing sustenance for themselves and friends; for in other passages of Scripture, diligence in business is inculcated, that men, instead of being useless loads on the earth, may at all times have it in their power to discharge the several duties of life with decency, Tit. iii. 14. But it is such an anxious care as arises from want of faith, that is, from improper conceptions of God's perfections, and wrong notions of his providence, and therefore such an anxious solicitude as engages all the desires, engrosses all the thoughts, and demands the whole force of the soul, to the utter exclusion of spiritual affections and pursuits. Is not the life more or a greater blessing than meat, and the body than raiment? And will not he who has given the greater blessing give the lesser also? 26. Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them: why are ye anxious about food? (see ver. 28.) look to the fowls of the air that now fly round you. Without foreseeing their own wants, or making provision for them, they are preserved and nourished by the unwea ried benignity of the divine providence. Are ye not much better than they? Are ye not beings of a nobler order, and destined for a higher end than they, and therefore more the objects of the divine care? Moreover, 27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? By all the pains you can possi


Ver. 25. Therefore.] If the illative particle here connects this verse with the preceding, the meaning is, seeing ye cannot serve God and mammon at the same time, do not serve the latter by taking thought for your life— Or if we refer the particle, as often we must, to what follows it in the sentence, the connection will stand thus: Is not the life more than meat? &c. therefort take no thought, &c.

+ Ver. 27. Stature] Hixia in this passage be translated age, because the caution is against anxious care about the preservation of life, and about food, the means of prolonging it; not to mention that Jesus is speaking here to full grown men. Besides the measure of a subit agrees much better to a man's age than to his stature, the smallest addition to which would have been better expressed by an hair's breadth, or the like, than by a cubit, which is more than the fourth part of the whole height of most men. We find the phrase imitated, Stobæus, p. 528. where Mimnerius uses a 4xvier 171 Xgever, ad tempus cubitale, to signify a short


« PreviousContinue »