Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Notes on Chapter 6
Verse 1. That ye do not your alms— dikaiosunhn umwn mh poiein, perform not your acts of righteousness-such as alms-giving, fasting, and prayer, mentioned immediately after. Instead of dikaiosunhn, righteousness, or acts of righteousness, the reading in the text, that which has been commonly received is elehmosunhn, alms. But the first reading has been inserted in several editions, and is supported by the Codd. Vatican. and Bezae, some others, and several versions, all the Itala except one, and the Vulgate. The Latin fathers have justitiam, a word of the same meaning. Mr. Gregory has amply proved, hqdx tsidekeh, righteousness, was a common word for alms among the Jews. Works, 4to. p. 58, 1671. R. D. Kimchi says that hqdx tsidekeh, Isaiah 59:14, means alms-giving; and the phrase hqdx tn natan tsidekah, is used by the Jews to signify the giving of alms. The following passages from Dr. Lightfoot show that it was thus commonly used among the Jewish writers:
“It is questioned,” says he, “whether Matthew writ elehmosunhn, alms, or dikaiosunhn, righteousness. I answer:
“I. That, our Savior certainly said hqdx tsidekah, righteousness, (or, in Syriac atqdz zidkatha,) I make no doubt at all; but, that that word could not be otherwise understood by the common people than of alms, there is as little doubt to be made. For although the word hqdx tsidekah, according to the idiom of the Old Testament, signifies nothing else than
righteousness; yet now, when our Savior spoke these words, it signified nothing so much as alms.
“II. Christ used also the same word atqdz zidkatha, righteousness, in time three verses next following, and Matthew used the word elehmosunhn, alms; but by what right, I beseech you, should he call it dikaiosunhn, righteousness, in the first verse, and elehmosunhn, alms, in the following; when Christ every where used one and the same word?
Matthew might not change in Greek, where our Savior had not changed in Syriac: therefore we must say that the Lord Jesus used the word hqdx tsidekeh or atqdz zidkatha, in these four first verses; but that, speaking in the dialect of common people, he was understood by the common
people to speak of alms. Now they called alms by the name of righteousness, for the fathers of the traditions taught, and the common people believed, that alms contributed very much to justification. Hear the Jewish chair in this matter-For one farthing given to a poor man in alms, a man is made partaker of the beatific vision: where it renders these words, Psalm 17:15, I shall behold thy face in righteousness, after this manner, I shall behold thy face, BECAUSE OF ALMS. Bava. Bathra.
“This money goeth for alms, that my sons may live, and that I may obtain the world to come. Bab. Rosh. Hashshanah.
“A man’s table now expiates by alms, as heretofore the altar did by sacrifice. Beracoth.
“If you afford alms out of your purse, God will keep you from all damage and harm. Hieros. Peah.
“MONOBAZES the king bestowed his goods liberally upon the poor, and had these words spoken to him by his kinsmen and friends-‘Your ancestors increased both their own riches, and those that were left them by their fathers; but you waste both your own and those of your ancestors.’ To whom he answered-‘My fathers laid up their wealth on earth: I lay up mine in heaven. As it is written, Truth shall flourish out of the earth, but Righteousness shall look down from heaven. My fathers laid up treasures that bear no fruit; but I lay up such as bear fruit. As it is said, It shall be well with the just, for they shall eat the fruit of their own works. My fathers treasured up, when power was in their hands; but I where it is not.
As it is said, Justice and judgment is the habitation of his throne. My fathers heaped up for others; I for myself. As it is said, And this shall be to thee for righteousness. They scraped together for this world. I for the world to come. As it is said, Righteousness shall deliver from death.’ Ibid. These things are also recited in the Babylonian Talmud.
“You see plainly in what sense he understands righteousness, namely, in the sense of alms: and that sense not so much framed in his own imagination, as in that of the whole nation, and which the royal catachumen had imbibed from the Pharisees his teachers.
“Behold the justifying and saving virtue of alms, from the very work done according to the doctrine of the Pharisaical chair! And hence, the opinion of this efficacy of alms so far prevailed with the deceived people, that they pointed out alms by no other name (confined within one single word) than hqdx tsidekah, righteousness. Perhaps those words of our Savior are spoken in derision of this doctrine. Yea, give those things which ye have in alms, and behold all things shall be clean to you, Luke 11:41. With good reason indeed exhorting them to give alms; but yet withal striking at the covetousness of the Pharisees, and confuting their vain opinion of being clean by the washing of their hands, from their own opinion of the efficacy of alms. As if he had said, “Ye assert that alms justifies and saves, and therefore ye call it by the name of righteousness; why therefore do ye affect cleanliness by the washing of hands; and not rather by the performance of charity?” LIGHTFOOT’S Works, vol. ii. p. 153.
Before men— Our Lord does not forbid public alms-giving, fasting, and prayer, but simply censures those vain and hypocritical persons who do these things publicly that they may be seen of men, and receive from them the reputation of saints, etc.
Verse 2. Therefore when thou doest thine alms— In the first verse the exhortation is general: Take YE heed. In this verse the address is pointed-and THOU-man-woman-who readest-hearest.
Do not sound a trumpet— It is very likely that this was literally practised among the Pharisees, who seemed to live on the public esteem, and were excessively self-righteous and vain. Having something to distribute by way of alms, it is very probable they caused this to be published by blowing a trumpet or horn, under pretense of collecting the poor; though with no other design than to gratify their own ambition. There is a custom in the east not much unlike this. “The derveeshes carry horns with them, which they frequently blow, when any thing is given to them, in honor of the donor. It is not impossible that some of the poor Jews who begged alms might be furnished like the Persian derveeshes, who are a sort of religious beggars, and that these hypocrites might be disposed to confine their alms-giving to those that they knew would pay them this honor.” HARMER’S Observat. vol. i. p. 474.
It must be granted, that in the Jewish writings there is no such practice referred to as that which I have supposed above, viz. blowing a trumpet to gather the poor, or the poor blowing a horn when relieved. Hence some learned men have thought that the word rpwç shopher, a trumpet, refers to the hole in the public alms chest, into which the money was dropped which was allotted for the service of the poor. Such holes, because they were wide at one end and grew gradually narrow towards the other, were actually termed twrpwç shopheroth, trumpets, by the rabbins; of this Schoettgen furnishes several examples. An ostentatious man, who wished to attract the notice of those around him, would throw in his money with some force into these trumpet-resembling holes, and thus he might be said rpwç salpizein, to sound the trumpet. The Jerusalem Gemara, tract Shekalim, describes these twrpwç shopheroth thus-These trumpet holes were crooked, narrow above and wide below, in order to prevent fraud. As our Lord only uses the words, mh salpishv, it may be tantamount to our term jingle. Do not make a public ostentatious jingle of that money which you give to public charities. Pride and hypocrisy are the things here reprehended. The Pharisees, no doubt, felt the weight of the reproof. Still the words may be taken in their literal meaning, as we know that the Moslimans, who nearly resemble the ancient Pharisees in the ostentation, bigotry, and cruelty of their character, are accustomed, in their festival of Muhurram, to erect stages in the public streets, and, by the sound of a trumpet, call the poor together to receive alms of rice, and other kinds of food. See WARD.
Works of charity and mercy should be done as much in private as is consistent with the advancement of the glory of God, and the effectual relief of the poor.
In the synagogues and in the streets— That such chests or boxes, for receiving the alms of well-disposed people, were placed in the synagogues, we may readily believe; but what were the streets? Schoettgen supposes that courts or avenues in the temple and in the synagogues may be intended-places where the people were accustomed to walk, for air, amusement, etc., for it is not to be supposed that such chests were fixed in the public streets.
They have their reward.— That is, the honor and esteem of men which they sought. God is under no obligation to them-they did nothing with an eye to his glory, and from HIM they can expect no recompense. They had their recompense in this life; and could expect none in the world to come.
Verse 3. Let not thy left hand know— In many cases, works of charity must be hidden from even our nearest relatives, who, if they knew, would hinder us from doing what God has given us power and inclination to perform. We must go even farther; and conceal them as far as is possible from ourselves, by not thinking of them, or eyeing them with complacency. They are given to GOD, and should be hidden in HIM.
Verse 4. Which seeth in secret— We should ever remember that the eye of the Lord is upon us, and that he sees not only the act, but also every motive that led to it.
Shall reward thee openly.— Will give thee the fullest proofs of his acceptance of thy work of faith, and labor of love, by increasing that substance which, for his sake, thou sharest with the poor; and will manifest his approbation in thy own heart, by the witness of his Spirit.
Verse 5. And when thou prayest— otan proseuch. proseuch,, prayer, is compounded of prov with, and euch a vow, because to pray right, a man binds himself to God, as by a vow, to live to his glory, if he will grant him his grace, etc. eucomai signifies to pour out prayers or vows, from eu well, and cew, I pour out; probably alluding to the offerings or libations which were poured out before, or on the altar. A proper idea of prayer is, a pouring out of the soul unto God, as a free-will offering, solemnly and eternally dedicated to him, accompanied with the most earnest desire that it may know, love, and serve him alone. He that comes thus to God will ever be heard and blessed. Prayer is the language of dependence; he who prays not, is endeavoring to live independently of God: this was the first curse, and continues to be the great curse of mankind. In the beginning, Satan said, Eat this fruit; ye shall then be as God; i.e. ye shall be independent: the man hearkened to his voice, sin entered into the world, and notwithstanding the full manifestation of the deception, the ruinous system is still pursued; man will, if possible, live independently of God; hence he either prays not at all, or uses the language without the spirit of prayer. The following verses contain so fine a view, and so just a definition, of prayer, that I think the pious reader will be glad to find them here.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed,
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 gleaming of an eye,
When none but God is near
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high:
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watch-word at the gates of death,
He enters heaven by prayer
Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And say, Behold he prays!
The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word, in deed, in mind,
When with the Father and the Son
Their fellowship they find
Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus, on th’ eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes
“O Thou, by whom we come to God!
The Life, the Truth, the Way,
The path of prayer thyself hast trod,
Lord, teach us how to pray!” MONTGOMERY
Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites— upokritai. From upo under, and krinomai to be judged, thought: properly a stage-player, who acts under a mask, personating a character different from his own; a counterfeit, a dissembler; one who would be thought to be different from what he really is. A person who wishes to be taken for a follower of God, but who has nothing of religion except the outside.
Love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets— The Jewish phylacterical prayers were long, and the canonical hours obliged them to repeat these prayers wherever they happened to be; and the Pharisees, who were full of vain glory, contrived to be overtaken in the streets by the canonical hour, that they might be seen by the people, and applauded for their great and conscientious piety. See Lightfoot. As they had no piety but that which was outward, they endeavored to let it fully appear, that they might make the most of it among the people. It would not have answered their end to kneel before God, for then they might have been unnoticed by men; and consequently have lost that reward which they had in view: viz. the esteem and applause of the multitude. This hypocritical pretension to devotion is common among the Asiatics. Both Hindoos and Mohammedans love to pray in the most public places, at the landing places of rivers, in the public streets, on the roofs of the covered boats, without the least endeavor to conceal their outside devotion, that they may be seen of men.
Verse 6. But thou, when thou prayest— This is a very impressive and emphatic address. But THOU! whosoever thou art, Jew, Pharisee, Christian-enter into thy closet. Prayer is the most secret intercourse of the soul with God, and as it were the conversation of one heart with another. The world is too profane and treacherous to be of the secret. We must shut the door against it: endeavor to forget it, with all the affairs which busy and amuse it. Prayer requires retirement, at least of the heart; for this may be fitly termed the closet in the house of God, which house the body of every real Christian is, 1 Corinthians 3:16. To this closet we ought to retire even in public prayer, and in the midst of company.
Reward thee openly.— What goodness is there equal to this of God to give, not only what we ask, and more than we ask, but to reward even prayer itself! How great advantage is it to serve a prince who places prayers in the number of services, and reckons to his subjects’ account, even their trust and confidence in begging all things of him!
Verse 7. Use not vain repetitions— mh battologhshte, Suidas explains this word well: “polulogia, much speaking, from one Battus, who made very prolix hymns, in which the same idea frequently recurred.” “A frequent repetition of awful and striking words may often be the result of earnestness and fervor. See Daniel 9:3-20; but great length of prayer, which will of course involve much sameness and idle repetition, naturally creates fatigue and carelessness in the worshipper, and seems to suppose ignorance or inattention in the Deity; a fault against which our Lord more particularly wishes to secure them.” See “Matthew 6:8”. This judicious note is from the late Mr. Gilbert Wakefield, who illustrates it with the following quotation from the Heautontimorumenos of Terence:
Ohe! jam decine Deos, uxor, gratulando OBTUNDERE,
Tuam esse inventam gnatam: nisi illos ex TUO INGENIO judicas,
Ut nil credas INTELLIGERE, nisi idem DICTUM SIT CENTIES
“Pray thee, wife, cease from STUNNING the gods with thanksgivings, because thy child is in safety; unless thou judgest of them from thyself, that they cannot UNDERSTAND a thing, unless they are told of it a HUNDRED TIMES.” Heaut. ver. 880.
Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, and the simplicity of faith. The abundance of fine thoughts, studied and vehement motions, and the order and politeness of the expressions, are things which compose a mere human harangue, not an humble and Christian prayer. Our trust and confidence ought to proceed from that which God is able to do in us, and not from that which we can say to him. It is abominable, says the HEDAYAH, that a person offering up prayers to God, should say, “I beseech thee, by the glory of thy heavens!” or, “by the splendor of thy throne!” for a style of this nature would lead to suspect that the Almighty derived glory from the heavens; whereas the heavens are created, but God with all his attributes is eternal and inimitable. HEDAYAH, vol. iv. p. 121.
This is the sentiment of a Mohammedan; and yet for this vain repetition the Mohammedans are peculiarly remarkable; they often use such words as the following:
O God, O God, O God, O God!-O Lord, O Lord, O Lord, O Lord!-O living, O immortal, O living, O immortal, O living, O immortal, O living, O immortal!-O Creator of the heavens and the earth!-O thou who art endowed with majesty and authority! O wonderful, etc. I have extracted the above from a form of prayer used by Tippo Sahib, which I met with in a book of devotion in which there were several prayers written with his own hand, and signed with his own name.
Of this vain repetition in civil matters, among the Jews, many instances might be given, and not a few examples might be found among Christians. The heathens abounded with them: see several quoted by Lightfoot.-Let the parricide be dragged! We beseech thee, Augustus, let the parricide be dragged! This is the thing we ask, let the parricide be dragged! Hear us, Caesar; let the false accusers be cast to the lion! Hear us, Caesar, let the false accusers be condemned to the lion! Hear us, Caesar, etc. It was a maxim among the Jews, that “he who multiplies prayer, must be heard.” This is correct, if it only imply perseverance in supplication; but if it be used to signify the multiplying of words, or even forms of prayer, it will necessarily produce the evil which our Lord reprehends: Be not as the heathen-use not vain repetition, etc. Even the Christian Churches in India have copied this vain repetition work; and in it the Roman Catholic, the Armenian, and the Greek Churches strive to excel.
As the heathen— The Vatican MS. reads upokritai, like the hypocrites. Unmeaning words, useless repetitions, and complimentary phrases in prayer, are in general the result of heathenism, hypocrisy, or ignorance.
Verse 8. Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of— Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that THERE is his Father, his country, and inheritance.
In the preceding verses we may see three faults, which our Lord commands us to avoid in prayer:
Verse 9. After this manner therefore pray ye— Forms of prayer were frequent among the Jews; and every public teacher gave one to his disciples. Some forms were drawn out to a considerable length, and from these abridgments were made: to the latter sort the following prayer properly belongs, and consequently, besides its own very important use, it is a plan for a more extended devotion. What satisfaction must it be to learn from God himself, with what words, and in what manner, he would have us pray to him, so as not to pray in vain! A king, who draws up the petition which he allows to be presented to himself, has doubtless the fullest determination to grant the request. We do not sufficiently consider the value of this prayer; the respect and attention which it requires; the preference to be given to it; its fullness and perfection: the frequent use we should make of it; and the spirit which we should bring with it. “Lord, teach us how to pray!” is a prayer necessary to prayer; for unless we are divinely instructed in the manner, and influenced by the spirit of true devotion, even the prayer taught us by Jesus Christ may be repeated without profit to our souls.
Our Father— It was a maxim of the Jews, that a man should not pray alone, but join with the Church; by which they particularly meant that he should, whether alone or with the synagogue, use the plural number as comprehending all the followers of God. Hence, they say, Let none pray the short prayer, i.e. as the gloss expounds it, the prayer in the singular, but in the plural number. See Lightfoot on this place.
This prayer was evidently made in a peculiar manner for the children of God. And hence we are taught to say, not MY Father, but OUR Father.
The heart, says one, of a child of God, is a brotherly heart, in respect of all other Christians: it asks nothing but in the spirit of unity, fellowship, and Christian charity; desiring that for its brethren which it desires for itself.
The word Father, placed here at the beginning of this prayer, includes two grand ideas, which should serve as a foundation to all our petitions: 1st. That tender and respectful love which we should feel for God, such as that which children feel for their fathers. 2dly. That strong confidence in God’s love to us, such as fathers have for their children. Thus all the petitions in this prayer stand in strictest reference to the word Father; the first three referring to the love we have for God; and the three last, to that confidence which we have in the love he bears to us.
The relation we stand in to this first and best of beings dictates to us reverence for his person, zeal for his honor, obedience to his will, submission to his dispensations and chastisements, and resemblance to his nature.
Which art in heaven— The phrase µymçbç wnyba, abinu sheboshemayim, our Father who art in heaven, was very common among the ancient Jews; and was used by them precisely in the same sense as it is used here by our Lord.
This phrase in the Scriptures seems used to express:
Hallowed— agiasqhtw. agiazw? from a negative, and gh, the earth, a thing separated from the earth, or from earthly purposes and employments. As the word sanctified, or hallowed, in Scripture, is frequently used for the consecration of a thing or person to a holy use or office, as the Levites, first-born, tabernacle, temple, and their utensils, which were all set apart from every earthly, common, or profane use, and employed wholly in the service of God, so the Divine Majesty may be said to be sanctified by us, in analogy to those things, viz. when, we separate him from, and in our conceptions and desires exalt him above, earth and all things.
Thy name.— That is, GOD himself, with all the attributes of his Divine nature-his power, wisdom, justice, mercy, etc.
We hallow God’s name, 1st. With our lips, when all our conversation is holy, and we speak of those things which are meet to minister grace to the hearers.
2dly. In our thoughts, when we suppress every rising evil, and have our tempers regulated by his grace and Spirit.
3dly. In our lives, when we begin, continue, and end our works to his glory. If we have an eye to God in all we perform, then every act of our common employment will be an act of religious worship.
4thly. In our families, when we endeavor to bring up our children in the discipline and admonition or the Lord; instructing also our servants in the way of righteousness.
5thly. In a particular calling or business, when we separate the falsity, deception, and lying, commonly practised, from it; buying and selling as in the sight of the holy and just God.
Verse 10. Thy kingdom come.— The ancient Jews scrupled not to say: He prays not at all, in whose prayers there is no mention of the kingdom of God. Hence, they were accustomed to say, “Let him cause his kingdom to reign, and his redemption to flourish: and let the Messiah speedily come and deliver his people.”
The universal sway of the scepter of Christ:-God has promised that the kingdom of Christ shall be exalted above all kingdoms. Daniel 7:14-27. That it shall overcome all others, and be at last the universal empire. Isaiah 9:7. Connect this with the explanation given of this phrase, Matthew 3:2.
Thy will be done— This petition is properly added to the preceding; for when the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit, is established in the heart, there is then an ample provision made for the fulfillment of the Divine will.
The will of God is infinitely good, wise, and holy; to have it fulfilled in and among men, is to have infinite goodness, wisdom, and holiness diffused throughout the universe; and earth made the counterpart of heaven.
As it is in heaven.— The Jews maintained, that they were the angels of God upon earth, as these pure spirits were angels of God in heaven; hence they said, “As the angels sanctify the Divine name in heaven, so the Israelites sanctify the Divine name, upon earth.” See Schoettgen.
Observe, 1st. The salvation of the soul is the result of two wills conjoined: the will of God, and the will of man. If God will not the salvation of man, he cannot be saved: If, man will not the salvation God has prepared for him, he cannot be delivered from his sins. 2dly. This petition certainly points out a deliverance from all sin; for nothing that is unholy can consist with the Divine will, and if this be fulfilled in man, surely sin shall be banished from his soul. 3dly. This is farther evident from these words, as it is in heaven; i.e. as the angels do it: viz. with all zeal, diligence, love, delight, and perseverance. 4thly. Does not the petition plainly imply, we may live without sinning against God? Surely the holy angels never mingle iniquity with their loving obedience; and as our Lord teaches us to pray, that we do his will here as they do it in heaven, can it be thought he would put a petition in our mouths, the fulfillment of which was impossible? 5thly. This certainly destroys the assertion: “There is no such state of purification, to be attained here, in which it may be said, the soul is redeemed from sinful passions and desires;” for it is on EARTH that we are commanded to pray that this will, which is our sanctification, may be done. 6thly. Our souls can never be truly happy, till our WILLS be entirely subjected to, and become one with, the will of God. 7thly. How can any person offer this petition to his Maker, who thinks of nothing less than the performance of the will of God, and of nothing more than doing his own?
Some see the mystery of the Trinity in the three preceding petitions. The first being, addressed to the Father, as the source of all holiness. The second, to the Son, who establishes the kingdom of God upon earth. The third, to the Holy Spirit, who by his energy works in men to will and to perform.
To offer these three petitions with success at the throne of God, three graces, essential to our salvation, must be brought into exercise; and, indeed, the petitions themselves necessarily suppose them. FAITH, Our Father-for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is.
HOPE, Thy kingdom come-For this grace has for its object good things to come.
LOVE, Thy will be done-For love is the incentive to and principle of all obedience to God, and beneficence to man.
Verse 11. Give us this day our daily bread— The word epiousian has greatly perplexed critics and commentators. I find upwards of thirty different explanations of it. It is found in no Greek writer before the evangelists, and Origen says expressly, that it was formed by them, all/ eoike peplasqai upo twn euaggelistwn. The interpretation of Theophylact, one of the best of the Greek fathers, has ever appeared to me to be the most correct, artov epi th ousia kai austasei hmwn autarkhv, Bread, sufficient for our substance and support, i.e. That quantity of food which is necessary to support our health and strength, by being changed into the substance of our bodies. Its composition is of epi and ousia, proper or sufficient for support. Mr. Wakefield thinks it probable, that the word was originally written epi ousian, which coalesced by degrees, till they became the epiousion of the MSS. There is probably an allusion here to the custom of travelers in the east, who were wont to reserve a part of the food given them the preceding evening to serve for their breakfast or dinner the next day. But as this was not sufficient for the whole day, they were therefore obliged to depend on the providence of God for the additional supply. In Luke 15:12, 13, ousia signifies, what a person has to live on; and nothing can be more natural than to understand the compound epiousiov, of that additional supply which the traveler needs, to complete the provision necessary for a day’s eating, over and above what he had then in his possession. See Harmer.
The word is so very peculiar and expressive, and seems to have been made on purpose by the evangelists, that more than mere bodily nourishment seems to be intended by it. Indeed, many of the primitive fathers understood it as comprehending that daily supply of grace which the soul requires to keep it in health and vigor: He who uses the petition would do well to keep both in view. Observe 1. God is the author and dispenser of all temporal as well as spiritual good. 2. We have merited no kind of good from his hand, and therefore must receive it as a free gift: Give us, etc. 3. We must depend on him daily for support; we are not permitted to ask any thing for to-morrow: give us to-day. 4. That petition of the ancient Jews is excellent: “Lord, the necessities of thy people Israel are many, and their knowledge small, so that they know not how to disclose their necessities: Let it be thy good pleasure to give to every man, what sufficeth for food!” Thus they expressed their dependence, and left it to God to determine what was best and most suitable. We must ask only that which is essential to our support, God having promised neither luxuries nor superfluities.
Verse 12. And forgive us our debts— Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory, and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does any thing that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice, how much more is he debtor when he breaks the law by actual transgression! It has been justly observed, “All the attributes of God are reasons of obedience to man; those attributes are infinite; every sin is an act of ingratitude or rebellion against all these attributes; therefore sin is infinitely sinful.”
Forgive us.-Man has nothing to pay: if his debts are not forgiven, they must stand charged against him for ever, as he is absolutely insolvent. Forgiveness, therefore, must come from the free mercy of God in Christ: and how strange is it we cannot have the old debt canceled, without (by that very means) contracting a new one, as great as the old! but the credit is transferred from Justice to Mercy. While sinners we are in debt to infinite Justice; when pardoned, in debt to endless Mercy: and as a continuance in a state of grace necessarily implies a continual communication of mercy, so the debt goes on increasing ad infinitum. Strange economy in the Divine procedure, which by rendering a man an infinite debtor, keeps him eternally dependent on his Creator! How good is God! And what does this state of dependence imply? A union with, and participation of, the fountain of eternal goodness and felicity!
As we forgive our debtors.— It was a maxim among the ancient Jews, that no man should lie down in his bed, without forgiving those who had offended him. That man condemns himself to suffer eternal punishment, who makes use of this prayer with revenge and hatred in his heart. He who will not attend to a condition so advantageous to himself (remitting a hundred pence to his debtor, that his own creditor may remit him 10,000 talents) is a madman, who, to oblige his neighbor to suffer an hour, is himself determined to suffer everlastingly! This condition of forgiving our neighbor, though it cannot possibly merit any thing, yet it is that condition without which God will pardon no man. See Matthew 6:14, 15.
Verse 13. And lead us not into temptation— That is, bring us not in to sore trial. peirasmon, which may be here rendered sore trial, comes from peirw, to pierce through, as with a spear, or spit, used so by some of the best Greek writers. Several of the primitive fathers understood it something in this way; and have therefore added quam ferre non possimus, “which we cannot bear.” The word not only implies violent assaults from Satan, but also sorely afflictive circumstances, none of which we have, as yet, grace or fortitude sufficient to bear. Bring us not in, or lead us not in. This is a mere Hebraism: God is said to do a thing which he only permits or suffers to be done.
The process of temptation is often as follows: 1st. A simple evil thought. 2ndly. A strong imagination, or impression made on the imagination, by the thing to which we are tempted. 3dly. Delight in viewing it. 4thly. Consent of the will to perform it. Thus lust is conceived, sin is finished, and death brought forth. James 1:15. See also on Matthew 4:1. A man may be tempted without entering into the temptation: entering into it implies giving way, closing in with, and embracing it.
But deliver us from evil— apo tou ponhrou, from the wicked one. Satan is expressly called o ponhrov, the wicked one. Matthew 13:19, 38, compare with Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12. This epithet of Satan comes from ponov, labor, sorrow, misery, because of the drudgery which is found in the way of sin, the sorrow that accompanies the commission of it, and the misery which is entailed upon it, and in which it ends.
It is said in the MISHNA, Titus. Beracoth, that Rabbi Judah was wont to pray thus: “Let it be thy good pleasure to deliver us from impudent men, and from impudence: from an evil man and an evil chance; from an evil affection, an evil companion, and an evil neighbor: from Satan the destroyer, from a hard judgment, and a hard adversary.” See Lightfoot.
Deliver us— rusai hmav-a very expressive word-break our chains, and loose our bands-snatch, pluck us from the evil, and its calamitous issue.
For thine is the kingdom, etc.— The whole of this doxology is rejected by Wetstein, Griesbach, and the most eminent critics. The authorities on which it is rejected may be seen in Griesbach and, Wetstein, particularly in the second edition of Griesbach’s Testament, who is fully of opinion that it never made a part of the sacred text. It is variously written in several MSS., and omitted by most of the fathers, both Greek and Latin. As the doxology is at least very ancient, and was in use among the Jews, as well as all the other petitions of this excellent prayer, it should not, in my opinion, be left out of the text, merely because some MSS. have omitted it, and it has been variously written in others. See various forms of this doxology, taken from the ancient Jewish writers, in Lightfoot and Schoettgen.
By the kingdom, we may understand that mentioned Matthew 6:10, and explained Matthew 3:2.
By power, that energy by which the kingdom is governed and maintained.
By glory, the honor that shall redound to God in consequence of the maintenance of the kingdom of grace, in the salvation of men.
For ever and ever.— eiv touv aiwnav, to the for evers. Well expressed by our common translation-ever in our ancient use of the word taking in the whole duration of time; the second ever, the whole of eternity. May thy name have the glory both in this world, and in that which is to come! The original word aiwn comes from aei always, and wn being, or existence. This is Aristotle’s definition of it. See the note on “Genesis 21:33”. There is no word in any language which more forcibly points out the grand characteristic of eternity-that which always exists. It is often used to signify a limited time, the end of which is not known; but this use of it is only an accommodated one; and it is the grammatical and proper sense of it which must be resorted to in any controversy concerning the word. We sometimes use the phrase for evermore: i.e. for ever and more, which signifies the whole of time, and the more or interminable duration beyond it. See on “Matthew 25:46”.
Amen.— This word is Hebrew, ma, and signifies faithful or true. Some suppose the word is formed from the initial letters of man ˚lm ynwda adoni melech neetnan, My Lord, the faithful King. The word itself implies a confident resting of the soul in God, with the fullest assurance that all these petitions shall be fulfilled to every one who prays according to the directions given before by our blessed Lord.
The very learned Mr. Gregory has shown that our Lord collected this prayer out of the Jewish Euchologies, and gives us the whole form as follows:
“Our Father who art in heaven, be gracious unto us! O Lord our God, hallowed be thy name, and let the remembrance of Thee be glorified in heaven above, and in the earth here below! Let thy kingdom reign over us now, and for ever! The holy men of old said, remit and forgive unto all men whatsoever they have done against me! And lead us not into the hands of temptation, but deliver us from the evil thing! For thine is the kingdom, and thou shalt reign in glory for ever and for evermore.” Gregory’s Works, 4to. 1671, p. 162. See this proved at large in the collections of Lightfoot and Schoettgenius,
Verse 14. If ye forgive men— He who shows mercy to men receives mercy from God. For a king to forgive his subjects a hundred millions of treasons against his person and authority, on this one condition, that they wilt henceforth live peaceably with him and with each other, is what we shall never see; and yet this is but the shadow of that which Christ promises on his Father’s part to all true penitents. A man can have little regard for his salvation, who refuses to have it on such advantageous terms. See Quesnel.
Verse 15. But if ye forgive not— He who does not awake at the sound of so loud a voice, is not asleep but dead. A vindictive man excludes himself from all hope of eternal life, and himself seals his own damnation.
Trespasses— paraptwmata, from para and piptw, to fall off. What a remarkable difference there is between this word and ofeilhmata, debts, in Matthew 6:12! Men’s sins against us are only their stumblings, or fallings off from the duties they owe us; but our’s are debts to God’s justice, which we can never discharge. It can be no great difficulty to forgive those, especially when we consider that in many respects we have failed as much, in certain duties which we owed to others, as they have done in those which they owed us. “But I have given him no provocation.” Perhaps thou art angry, and art not a proper judge in the matter; but, however it may be, it is thy interest to forgive, if thou expectest forgiveness from God. On this important subject I will subjoin an extract from Mason’s Self-knowledge, page 248, 1755.
“Athenodorus, the philosopher by reason of his old age, begged leave to retire from the court of Augustus, which the emperor granted. In his compliments of leave, he said, ‘Remember, Caesar, whenever thou art angry, that thou say or do nothing before thou hast distinctly repeated to thyself the twenty-four letters of the alphabet.’ On which Caesar caught him by the hand, and said, ‘I have need of thy presence still:’ and kept him a year longer. This was excellent advice from a heathen; but a Christian may prescribe to himself a wiser rule. When thou art angry, answer not till thou hast repeated the fifth petition of our Lord’s prayer-Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors: and our Lord’s comment upon it-For if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly father forgive your trespasses.”
PRAYER to God is considered among the Mohammedans in a very important point of view. It is declared by the Mosliman doctors to be the corner stone of RELIGION, and the pillar of FAITH. It is not, say they, a thing of mere form, but requires that the heart and understanding should accompany it, without which they pronounce it to be of no avail. They direct prayer to be performed five times in the twenty-four hours. 1. Between day-break and sun-rise; 2. Immediately after noon; 3. Immediately before sun-set; 4. In the evening before dark; and 5. Before the first watch of the night.
They hold the following points to be essentially requisite to the efficacy of prayer:-1. That the person be free from every species of defilement. 2. That all sumptuous and gaudy apparel be laid aside. 3. That the attention accompany the act, and be not suffered to wander to any other object. 4. That the prayer be performed with the face toward the temple of MECCA. HEDAYAH. Prel. Dis. pp. 53, 54.
There are few points here but the follower of Christ may seriously consider and profitably practice.
Verse 16. When ye fast— A fast is termed by the Greeks nhstiv, from nh not, and esqein to eat; hence fast means, a total abstinence from food for a certain time. Abstaining from flesh, and living on fish, vegetables, etc., is no fast, or may be rather considered a burlesque on fasting. Many pretend to take the true definition of a fast from Isaiah 58:3, and say that it means a fast from sin. This is a mistake; there is no such term in the Bible as fasting from sin; the very idea is ridiculous and absurd, as if sin were a part of our daily food. In the fast mentioned by the prophet, the people were to divide their bread with the hungry, Isaiah 58:7; but could they eat their bread, and give it too? No man should save by a fast: he should give all the food he might have eaten to the poor. He who saves a day’s expense by a fast, commits an abomination before the Lord. See more on “Matthew 9:15”.
As the hypocrites-of a sad countenance— skuqrwpoi, either from skuqrov sour, crabbed, and wy the countenance; or from skuqhv a Scythian, a morose, gloomy, austere phiz, like that of a Scythian or Tartar. A hypocrite has always a difficult part to act: when he wishes to appear as a penitent, not having any godly sorrow at heart, he is obliged to counterfeit it the best way he can, by a gloomy and austere look.
Verse 17. Anoint thine head and wash thy face— These were forbidden in the Jewish canon on days of fasting and humiliation; and hypocrites availed themselves of this ordinance, that they might appear to fast. Our Lord, therefore, cautions us against this: as if he had said, Affect nothing-dress in thy ordinary manner, and let the whole of thy deportment prove that thou desirest to recommend my soul to God, and not thy face to men. That factitious mourning, which consists in putting on black clothes, crapes, etc., is utterly inconsistent with the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ; and if practised in reference to spiritual matters, is certainly forbidden here: but sin is so common, and so boldly persisted in, that not even a crape is put on, as an evidence of deploring its influence, or of sorrow for having committed it.
Verse 18. Thy father which seeth in secret— Let us not be afraid that our hearts can be concealed from God; but let us fear lest he perceive them to be more desirous of the praise of men than they are of that glory which comes from Him.
Openly.— en tw fanerw. These words are omitted by nine MSS. in uncial letters; and by more than one hundred others, by most of the versions, and by several of the primitive fathers. As it is supported by no adequate authority, Bengel, Wetstein, Griesbach, and others, have left it out of the text.
Verse 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth— What blindness is it for a man to lay up that as a treasure which must necessarily perish! A heart designed for God and eternity is terribly degraded by being fixed on those things which are subject to corruption. “But may we not lay up treasure innocently?” Yes. 1st. If you can do it without setting your heart on it, which is almost impossible: and 2dly. If there be neither widows nor orphans, destitute nor distressed persons in the place where you live. “But there is a portion which belongs to my children; shall I distribute that among the poor?” If it belongs to your children, it is not yours, and therefore you have no right to dispose of it. “But I have a certain sum in stock, etc.; shall I take that and divide it among the poor?” By no means; for, by doing so, you would put it out of your power to do good after the present division: keep your principal, and devote, if you possibly can spare it, the product to the poor; and thus you shall have the continual ability to do good. In the mean time take care not to shut up your bowels of compassion against a brother in distress; if you do, the love of God cannot dwell in you.
Rust— Or canker, brwsiv, from brwskw, I eat, consume. This word cannot be properly applied to rust, but to any thing that consumes or cankers clothes or metals. There is a saying exactly similar to this in the Institutes of MENU: speaking of the presents made to Brahmins, he says, “It is a gem which neither thieves nor foes take away, and which never perishes.” Chapter of Government, Institute 83.
Where thieves do not break through— diorussousi, literally dig through, i.e. the wall, in order to get into the house. This was not a difficult matter, as the house was generally made of mud and straw, kneaded together like the cobb houses in Cornwall, and other places. See Clarke on “Matthew 7:27”.
Verse 20. Lay up-treasures in heaven— “The only way to render perishing goods eternal, to secure stately furniture from moths, and the richest metals from canker, and precious stones from thieves, is to transmit them to heaven by acts of charity. This is a kind of bill of exchange which cannot fail of acceptance, but through our own fault.” Quesnel.
It is certain we have not the smallest portion of temporal good, but what we have received from the unmerited bounty of God: and if we give back to him all we have received, yet still there is no merit that can fairly attach to the act, as the goods were the Lord’s; for I am not to suppose that I can purchase any thing from a man by his own property. On this ground the doctrine of human merit is one of the most absurd that ever was published among men, or credited by sinners. Yet he who supposes he can purchase heaven by giving that meat which was left at his own table, and that of his servants; or by giving a garment which he could no longer in decency wear, must have a base ignorant soul, and a very mean opinion of the heaven he hopes for. But shall not such works as these be rewarded? Yes, yes, God will take care to give you all that your refuse victuals and old clothes are worth. Yet he, who through love to God and man, divides his bread with the hungry, and covers the naked with a garment, shall not lose his reward; a reward which the mercy of God appoints, but to which, in strict justice, he can lay no claim.
Verse 21. Where your treasure is— If God be the treasure of our souls, our hearts, i.e. our affections and desires will be placed on things above. An earthly minded man proves that his treasure is below; a heavenly minded man shows that his treasure is above.
Verse 22. The light of the body is the eye— That is, the eye is to the body what the sun is to the universe in the day time, or a lamp or candle to a house at night.
If-thine eye be single— aplouv, simple, uncompounded; i.e. so perfect in its structure as to see objects distinctly and clearly, and not confusedly, or in different places to what they are, as is often the case in certain disorders of the eye; one object appearing two or more-or else in a different situation, and of a different color to what it really is. This state of the eye is termed, Matthew 6:23, ponhrov evil, i.e. diseased or defective. An evil eye was a phrase in use, among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who repined at his neighbor’s prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity for God’s sake. Our blessed Lord, however, extends and sublimes this meaning, and uses the sound eye as a metaphor to point out that simplicity of intention, and purity of affection with which men should pursue the supreme good. We cannot draw more than one straight line between two indivisible points. We aim at happiness: it is found only in one thing, the indivisible and eternal GOD. It the line of simple intention be drawn straight to him, and the soul walk by it, with purity of affection, the whole man shall be light in the Lord; the rays of that excellent glory shall irradiate the mind, and through the whole spirit shall the Divine nature be transfused. But if a person who enjoyed this heavenly treasure permit his simplicity of intention to deviate from heavenly to earthly good; and his purity of affection to be contaminated by worldly ambition, secular profits, and animal gratifications; then, the light which was in him becomes darkness, i.e. his spiritual discernment departs, and his union with God is destroyed: all is only a palpable obscure; and, like a man who has totally lost his sight, he walks without direction, certainty, or comfort. This state is most forcibly intimated in our Lord’s exclamation, How great a darkness! Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn.
Verse 24. No man can serve two masters— The master of our heart may be fitly termed the love that reigns in it. We serve that only which we love supremely. A man cannot be in perfect indifference betwixt two objects which are incompatible: he is inclined to despise and hate whatever he does not love supremely, when the necessity of a choice presents itself.
He will hate the one and love the other.— The word hate has the same sense here as it has in many places of Scripture; it merely signifies to love less-so Jacob loved Rachel, but hated Leah; i.e. he loved Leah much less than he loved Rachel. God himself uses it precisely in the same sense: Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated; i.e. I have loved the posterity of Esau less than I have loved the posterity of Jacob: which means no more than that God, in the course of his providence, gave to the Jews greater earthly privileges than he gave to the Edomites, and chose to make them the progenitors of the Messiah, though they ultimately, through their own obstinacy, derived no more benefit from this privilege than the Edomites did. How strange is it, that with such evidence before their eyes, men will apply this loving and hating to degrees of inclusion and exclusion, in which neither the justice nor mercy of God are honored!
Ye cannot serve God and mammon.— wmm mamon is used for money in the Targum of Onkelos, Exodus 18:21; and in that of Jonathan, Judges 5:19; 1 Samuel 8:3. The Syriac word anwmm mamona is used in the same sense, Exodus 21:30. Dr. Castel deduces these words from the Hebrew ma aman, to trust, confide; because men are apt to trust in riches. Mammon
may therefore be considered any thing a man confides in. Augustine observes, “that mammon, in the Punic or Carthaginian language, signified gain.” Lucrum Punicä mammon dicitur. The word plainly denotes riches, Luke 16:9, 11, in which latter verse mention is made not only of the deceitful mammon, (tw adikw,) but also of the true (to alhqinon.) St. Luke’s phrase, mamwno adikiav, very exactly answers to the Chaldee rqçd wmm mamon dishekar, which is often used in the Targums. See more in Wetstein and Parkhurst.
Some suppose there was an idol of this name, and Kircher mentions such a one in his OEdip. Egyptiacus. See Castel.
Our blessed Lord shows here the utter impossibility of loving the world and loving God at the same time; or, in other words, that a man of the world cannot be a truly religious character. He who gives his heart to the world robs God of it, and, in snatching at the shadow of earthly good, loses substantial and eternal blessedness. How dangerous is it to set our hearts upon riches, seeing it is so easy to make them our God!
Verse 25. Therefore— dia touto, on this account; viz., that ye may not serve mammon, but have unshaken confidence in God, I say unto you,
Take no thought— Be not anxiously careful, mh merimnate; this is the proper meaning of the word. merimna anxious solicitude, from merizein ton noun dividing or distracting the mind. My old MS. Bible renders it, be not bysy to your life. Prudent care is never forbidden by our Lord, but only that anxious distracting solicitude, which, by dividing the mind, and drawing it different ways, renders it utterly incapable of attending to any solemn or important concern. To be anxiously careful concerning the means of subsistence is to lose all satisfaction and comfort in the things which God gives, and to act as a mere infidel. On the other hand, to rely so much upon providence as not to use the very powers and faculties with which the Divine Being has endowed us, is to tempt God. If we labor without placing our confidence in our labor, but expect all from the blessing of God, we obey his will, co-operate with his providence, set the springs of it a-going on our behalf, and thus imitate Christ and his followers by a sedate care and an industrious confidence.
In this and the following verses, our Lord lays down several reasons why men should not disquiet themselves about the wants of life, or concerning the future.
The first is, the experience of greater benefits already received. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Can he who gave us our body, and breathed into it the breath of life, before we could ask them from him, refuse us that which is necessary to preserve both, and when we ask it in humble confidence?
The clause what ye must eat, is omitted by two MSS., most of the ancient versions, and by many of the primitive fathers. Griesbach has left it in the text with a note of doubtfulness. It occurs again in Matthew 6:31, and there is no variation in any of the MSS. in that place. Instead of, Is not the life more than, etc., we should read, Of more value; so the word pleion is used in Numbers 22:15, and by the best Greek writers; and in the same sense it is used in Matthew 21:37. See the note there.
Verse 26. Behold the fowls of the air— The second reason why we should not be anxiously concerned about the future, is the example of the smaller animals, which the providence of God feeds without their own labor; though he be not their father. We never knew an earthly father take care of his fowls, and neglect his children; and shall we fear this from our heavenly Father? God forbid! That man is utterly unworthy to have God for his father, who depends less upon his goodness, wisdom, and power, than upon a crop of corn, which may be spoiled either in the field or in the barn. If our great Creator have made us capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying himself eternally, what may we not expect from him, after so great a gift?
They sow not, neither do they reap— There is a saying among the rabbins almost similar to this-“Hast thou ever seen a beast or a fowl that had a workshop? yet they are fed without labor and without anxiety. They were created for the service of man, and man was created that he might serve his Creator. Man also would have been supported without labor and anxiety, had he not corrupted his ways. Hast thou ever seen a lion carrying burthens, a stag gathering summer fruits, a fox selling merchandise, or a wolf selling oil, that they might thus gain their support? And yet they are fed without care or labor. Arguing therefore from the less to the greater, if they which were created that they might serve me, are nourished without labor and anxiety, how much more I, who have been created that I might serve my Maker! What therefore is the cause, why I should be obliged to labor in order to get my daily bread? Answer, SIN.” This is a curious and important extract, and is highly worthy of the reader’s attention. See Schoettgen.
Verse 27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?— The third reason against these carking cares is the unprofitableness of human solicitude, unless God vouchsafe to bless it. What can our uneasiness do but render us still more unworthy of the Divine care? The passage from distrust to apostasy is very short and easy; and a man is not far from murmuring against Providence, who is dissatisfied with its conduct. We should depend as fully upon God for the preservation of his gifts as for the gifts themselves.
Cubit unto his stature?— I think hlikian should be rendered age here, and so our translators have rendered the word in John 9:21, autov hlikian ecei he is of age. A very learned writer observes, that no difficulty can arise from applying phcun a cubit, a measure of extension, to time, and the age of man: as place and time are both quantities, and capable of increase and diminution, and, as no fixed material standard can be employed in the mensuration of the fleeting particles of time, it was natural and necessary, in the construction of language, to apply parallel terms to the discrimination of time and place. Accordingly, we find the same words indifferently used to denote time and place in every known tongue. Lord, let me know the MEASURE of my days! Thou hast made my days HAND-BREADTHS, Psalm 39:5. Many examples might be adduced from the Greek and Roman writers. Besides, it is evident that the phrase of adding one cubit is proverbial, denoting something minute; and is therefore applicable to the smallest possible portion of time; but, in a literal acceptation, the addition of a cubit to the stature, would be a great and extraordinary accession of height. See Wakefield.
Verse 28. And why take ye thought for raiment?— Or, why are ye anxiously careful about raiment? The fourth reason against such inquietudes is the example of inanimate creatures: The herbs and flowers of the field have their being, nourishment, exquisite flavors, and beautiful hues from God himself. They are not only without anxious care, but also without care or thought of every kind. Your being, its excellence and usefulness, do not depend on your anxious concern: they spring as truly from the beneficence and continual superintendence of God, as the flowers of the field do; and were you brought into such a situation, as to be as utterly incapable of contributing to your own preservation and support as the lilies of the field are to theirs, your heavenly Father could augment your substance, and preserve your being, when for his glory and your own advantage.
Consider— Diligently consider this, katamaqete, lay it earnestly to heart, and let your confidence be unshaken in the God of infinite bounty and love.
Verse 29. Solomon in all his glory— Some suppose that as the robes of state worn by the eastern kings were usually white, as were those of the nobles among the Jews, that therefore the lily was chosen for the comparison.
Verse 30. If God so clothe the grass of the field— Christ confounds both the luxury of the rich in their superfluities, and the distrust of the poor as to the necessaries of life. Let man, who is made for God and eternity, learn from a flower of the field how low the care of Providence stoops. All our inquietudes and distrusts proceed from lack of faith: that supplies all wants. The poor are not really such, but because they are destitute of faith.
To-morrow is cast into the oven— The inhabitants of the east, to this day, make use of dry straw, withered herbs, and stubble, to heat their ovens. Some have translated the original word klibanon, a still, and intimate that our Lord alludes to the distillation of herbs for medicinal purposes; but this is certainly contrary to the scope of our Lord’s argument, which runs thus: If God covers with so much glory things of no farther value than to serve the meanest uses, will he not take care of his servants, who are so precious in his sight, and designed for such important services in the world? See Harmer’s Observations.
Verse 31. What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? etc.— These three inquiries engross the whole attention of those who are living without God in the world. The belly and back of a worldling are his compound god; and these he worships in the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eye, and in the pride of life.
Verse 32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek— The fifth reason against solicitude about the future is-that to concern ourselves about these wants with anxiety, as if there was no such thing as a providence in the world; with great affection towards earthly enjoyments, as if we expected no other; and without praying to God or consulting his will, as if we could do any thing without him: this is to imitate the worst kind of heathens, who live without hope, and without God in the world.
Seek— epizhtei from epi, intensive, and zhtew, I seek, to seek intensely, earnestly, again and again: the true characteristic of the worldly man; his soul is never satisfied-give! give! is the ceaseless language of his earth-born heart.
Your heavenly Father knoweth, etc.— The sixth reason against this anxiety about the future is-because God, our heavenly Father, is infinite in wisdom, and knows all our wants. It is the property of a wise and tender father to provide necessaries, and not superfluities, for his children. Not to expect the former is an offense to his goodness; to expect the latter is injurious to his wisdom.
Verse 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God— See on “Matthew 3:7”.
His righteousness— That holiness of heart and purity of life which God requires of those who profess to be subjects of that spiritual kingdom mentioned above. See on “Matthew 5:20”.
The seventh reason against these worldly cares and fears is-because the business of our salvation ought to engross us entirely: hither all our desires, cares, and inquiries ought to tend. Grace is the way to glory-holiness the way to happiness. If men be not righteous, there is no heaven to be had: if they be, they shall have heaven and earth too; for godliness has the promise of both lives. 1 Timothy 6:3.
All these things shall be added unto you.— The very blunt note of old Mr. Trapp, on this passage, is worthy of serious attention. All things shall be added. “They shall be cast in as an overplus, or as small advantages to the main bargain; as paper and pack-thread are given where we buy spice and fruit, or an inch of measure to an ell of cloth.” This was a very common saying among the Jews: “Seek that, to which other things are necessarily connected.” “A king said to his particular friend, ‘Ask what thou wilt, and I will give it unto thee.’ He thought within himself, ‘If I ask to be made a general I shall readily obtain it. I will ask something to which all these things shall be added:’ he therefore said, ‘Give me thy daughter to wife.’ This he did knowing that all the dignities of the kingdom should be added unto this gift.” See in Schoettgen.
To this verse, probably, belong the following words, quoted often by Clement, Origen, and Eusebius, as the words of Christ: aiteite ta megala, kai ta mikra umin prosteqhsetai? kai aiteite ta epourania, kai ta epigeia prosteqhsetai umin. “Ask great things, and little things shall be added unto you; ask heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added unto you.”
Verse 34. Take therefore no thought— That is, Be not therefore anxiously careful.
The eighth and last reason, against this preposterous conduct, is-that carking care is not only useless in itself, but renders us miserable beforehand. The future falls under the cognizance of God alone: we encroach, therefore, upon his rights, when we would fain foresee all that may happen to us, and secure ourselves from it by our cares. How much good is omitted, how many evils caused, how many duties neglected, how many innocent persons deserted, how many good works destroyed, how many truths suppressed, and how many acts of injustice authorized by those timorous forecasts of what may happen; and those faithless apprehensions concerning the future! Let us do now what God requires of us, and trust the consequences to him. The future time which God would have us foresee and provide for is that of judgment and eternity: and it is about this alone that we are careless!
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof— arketon th hmera h kakia authv, Sufficient for each day is its own calamity. Each day has its peculiar trials: we should meet them with confidence in God. As we should live but a day at a time, so we should take care to suffer no more evils in one day than are necessarily attached to it. He who neglects the present for the future is acting opposite to the order of God, his own interest, and to every dictate of sound wisdom. Let us live for eternity, and we shall secure all that is valuable in time.
There are many valuable reflections in the Abbe Quesnel’s work, on this chapter; and from it several of the preceding have been derived.