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Rejoice to embrace every opportunity of hearing “the word of recon ciliation" declared by the “ambassadors of Christ,” the “ stewards of the mysteries of God.” In using all the means of grace, in a constant and careful attendance on every ordinance of God, live up to (at least till thou canst go beyond) “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.”
Thirdly: fall not short of a Pharisee in doing good. Give alms of all thou dost possess.
Is any hungry? Feed him. Is he athirst? Give him drink. Naked ? Cover him with a garment. If thou hast this world's goods, do not limit thy beneficence to a scanty proportion. Be merciful to the uttermost of thy power. Why not even as this Pharisee ? Now "make thyself friends," while the time is, “ of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when thou failest," when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, they “may receive thee into everlasting habitations.".
13. But rest not here. Let thy righteousness “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." Be not thou content to“ keep the whole law, and offend in one point.” Hold thou fast all his commandments, and “all false ways do thou utterly abhor.” Do all the things, whatsoever he hath commanded, and that with all thy might. Thou canst do all things through Christ strengthening thee; though without him thou canst do nothing.
Above all, let thy righteousness exceed theirs in the purity and spirituality of it. What is the exactest form of religion to thee? The most perfect outside righteousness ? Go thou higher and deeper than all this! Let thy religion be the religion of the heart
. Be thou poor in spirit; little, and base, and mean, and vile in thy own eyes ; amazed and humbled to the dust at the love of God which is in Christ Jesus thy Lord ! Be serious : let the whole stream of thy thoughts, words, and works, be such as flows from the deepest conviction that thou standest on thc edge of the great gulf, thou and all the children of men, just ready to drop in, either into everlasting glory or everlasting burnings! Be meek: let thy soul be filled with mildness, gentleness, patience, long suffering towards all men; at the same time that all which is in thee is athirst for God, the living God, longing to awake up after his likeness, and to be satisfied with it. Be thou a lover of God, and of all mankind. In this spirit, do and suffer all things. Thus “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisces," and thou shalt be
called great in the kingrom of heaven."
SERMON XXVI.-Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: other wise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
“ 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.
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth : that thine alms. may be in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
“ 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.
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter 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.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
“Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things yo have need of, before ye ask him.
“ After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hal. lowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. 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.
“ For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
" But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgivo your trespasses,” Matt. vi, 1-15.
1. In the preceding chapter our Lord has described inward religion in its various branches. He has laid before us those dispositions of soul which constitute real Christianity; the inward tempers contained in that “ holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord;" the affections which, when flowing from their proper fountain, from a living faith in God through Christ Jesus, are intrinsically and essentially good, and acceptable to God. He proceeds to show, in this chapter, how all our actions likewise, even those that are indifferent in their own nature, may be made holy, and good, and acceptable to God, by a pure and holy intention. Whatever is done without this, he largely declares, is of no value before God. Whercas, whatever outward works are thus consecrated to God, they are, in his sight, of great price.
2. The necessity of this purity of intention, he shows first, with regard to those which are usually accounted religious actions, and indeed are such when performed with a right intention. Some of these are commonly termed works of piety; the rest, works of charity or mercy. Of the latter sort, he particularly names almsgiving; of the former, prayer and fasting. But the directions given for these are equally to be applied to every work, whether of charity or mercy. 1. 1. And, First, with regard to works of mercy.
6. Take heed," saith he, “ 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.” “That ye do not your alms :"-Although this only is named, yet is every work of charity included, every thing which we give, or speak, or do, whereby our neighbour may be profited; whereby another man may receive any advantage either in his body or soul. The feeding the hungry, the clothing the naked, the entertaining or assisting the stranger, the visiting those that are sick or in prison, the comforting the afflicted, the instructing the ignorant, the reproving the wicked, the exhorting and encouraging the well doer; and if there be any
other work of mercy, it is equally included in this direction.
2. “ Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.”—The thing which is here forbidden, is not barely the doing good in the sight of men; this circumstance alone, that others see what we do, makes the action neither worse nor better; but the doing it before men, “to be seen of them,” with this view, from this intention, only. I say, from this intention only; for this may, in some cases, be a part of our intention ; we may design that some of our actions should be seen, and yet they may be acceptable to God. We may intend that our light should shine before men, when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, that our ultimate end in designing they should see our good works, is, “ that they may glorify our Father which is in heaven." But take heed that ye do not the least thing with a view to your own glory: take heed, that a regard to the praise of men have no place at all in your works of mercy. If ye seek your own glory, if you have any design to gain the honour that cometh of men, whatever is done with this view is nothing worth; it is not done unto the Lord; he accepteth it not; " ye have no reward [for this] of your Father which is in heaven."
3. “ 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 praise of men.”—The word synagogue does not here mean a place of worship, but any place of public resort, such as the market place, or exchange. It was a common thing among the Jcws, who were men of large fortunes, particularly among the Pharisees, to cause a trumpet to be sounded before them in the most public parts of the city, when they were about to give any considerable alms. The pretended reason for this was, to call the poor together to receive it; but the real design, that they might have praise of men. But be not thou like unto them. Do not thou cause a trumpet to be sounded before thee. Use no ostentation in doing good. Aim at the honour which cometh of God only. They who seek the praise of men,
have their reward : they shall have no praise of God.
4. “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."- This is a proverbial expression, the meaning of which is,- Do it in as secret a manner as is possible; as secret as is consistent with the doing it at all, (for it must not be left undone ; omit no opportunity of doing good, whether secretly or openly;) and with the doing it in the most effectual manner. For here is also an exception to be made: when you are fully persuaded in your own mind, that by your not concealing the good which is done, either you will yourself be enabled, or others excited, to do the more good, then you may not conceal it: then let your light appear and "shine to all that are in the house." But, unless where the glory of God and the good of mankind oblige you to the contrary, act in as private and unobserved a manner as the nature of the thing will admit;- " that thy alms may be in secret ; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly;". perhaps in the preseut world,-many instances of this stand recorded in all ages; but infallibly in the world to come, before the general assembly of men and angels.
II. 1. From works of charity or mercy, our Lord proceeds to those which are termed works of piety. “And when thou prayest,” saith he, " 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. “ Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are.” Hypocrisy, then, or insincerity, is the first thing we are to guard against in prayer. Beware not to speak what thou dost not mean. Prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God: all words of prayer, without this, are mere hypocrisy. Whenever therefore thou attemptest to pray, see that it be thy one design to commune with God, to lift up thy heart to him, to pour out thy soul before him; not as the hypocrites, who love or are wont, to pray standing in the synagogues," the exchange, or marke places, “and in the corners of the streets," wherever the most people are " that they may be seen of men :" this was the sole design, the motive and er
of the prayers which they there repeated. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”—They are to expect none from your Father which is in heaven.
2. But it is not only the having an eye to the praise of men, which cuts us off from any reward in heaven; which leaves us no room to expect the blessing of God upon our works, whether of piety or mercy, Purity of intention is equally destroyed by a view to any temporal reward whatever. If we repeat our prayers, if we attend the public worship of God, if we relieve the poor, with a view to gain or interest, it is not a whit more acceptable to God, than if it were done with a view to praise. Any temporal view, any motive whatever on this side eternity, any design but that of promoting the glory of God and the happiness of men for God's sake, makes every action, however fair it may appear to men, an abomination unto the Lord.
3. “But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret."--There is a time when thou art openly to glorify God, to pray to and praise him in the great congregation. But when thou desirest more largely and more particularly to make thy requests known unto God, whether it be in the evening, or in the morning, or at noonday, “enter into thy closet, and shut thy door," Use all the privacy thou canst. (Only leave it not undone, whether thou hast any closet, any privacy, or no. Pray to God, if it be possible, when none seeth but he; but, if otherwise, pray to God.) Thus “ pray to thy Father which is in secret ;" pour out a'l thy heart before himr; “ and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly."
4. “But when ye pray,” even in secret, use rot vain repetitions as the heathen do; um Burtodo, nonte. Do not use abundance of words without any meaning. Say not the same thing over and over again; think not the fruit of your prayers depends on the length of them, like the heathens; for “they think they shall be heard for their much speaking."
The thing here reproved, is not simply the length, any more than the shortness, of our prayers ;—but, First, length without meaning ; speaking much, and meaning little or nothing; the using (not all repetitions ; for our Lord himself prayed thrice, repeating the same words : but) vain repetitions, as the heathens did, reciting the names of their gods over and over; as they do among Christians, (vulgarly so called,) and not among the Papists, only, who say over and over the same string of prayers, without ever feeling what they speak :--Secondly, the thinking to be heard for our much speaking, the fancying God measures prayers by their length, and is best pleased with those which contain the most words, which sound the longest in his ears. These are such instances of superstition and folly, as all who are named by the name of Christ should leave to the heathens, to them on whom the glorious light of the gospel has never shined.
5. “Be not ye therefore like unto them.”—Ye who have tasted of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, are thoroughly convinced, “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” So that the end of your praying is not to inform God, as though he knew not your wants already ; but rather to inform yourselves ; to fix the sense of those wants more deeply in your hearts, and the sense of your continual dependance on him, who only is able to supply all your wants. It is not so much to move God, who is always more ready to give than you to ask, as to move yourselves, that you may be willing and ready to receive the good things he has prepared for you.
III. 1. After having taught the true nature and ends of prayer, our Lord subjoins an example of it; even that divine form of prayer, which seems in this place to be proposed by way of pattern, chiefly as the model and standard of all our prayers : “ After this manner therefore pray ye.”? Whereas, elsewhere he enjoins the use of these very words, “ He said unto them, When ye pray, say,” Luke xi, 2.
2. We may observe, in general, concerning this divine prayer, First, That it contains all we can reasonably or innocently pray for. There is nothing which we have need to ask of God, nothing which we can ask without offending him, which is not included, either directly or indirectly, in this comprehensive form. Secondly, That it contains all we can reasonably or innocently desire; whatever is for the glory of God, whatever is needful or profitable, not only for ourselves, but for every creature in heaven and earth. And indeed our prayers are the proper test of our desires; nothing being fit to have a place in our desires which is not fit to have a place in our prayers; what we may not pray for, neither should we desire. Thirdly, That it contains all our duty to God and man; whatsoever things are pure and holy, whatsoever God requires of the children cf men, whatsoever is acceptable in his sight, whatsoever it is whereby we may profit our neighbour, being expressed or implied therein.
3. It consists of three parts, the preface, the petitions, and the doxology, or conclusion. The preface, “ Our Father which art in heaven," lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers, with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers or our lives should find acceptance with him.
4. “Our Father :"-If he is a Father, then he is good, then he is loving to his children. And here is the first and great reason for prayer. God is willing to bless ; let us ask for a blessing. “Our Father;"
our Creator ; the author of our being; he. who raised us