1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
1 CHAPTER VI.
NOTES ON CHAP. VI.
Verse 1. That ye do not your alms] δικαιοσυνηνυμωνμη
ποιειν, perform not your acts of righteousness-such as
alms-giving, fasting, and prayer, mentioned immediately after.
Instead of δικαιοσυνην, righteousness, or acts of righteousness,
the reading in the text, that which has been commonly received is
ελεημοσυνην, 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, tsidekeh,
righteousness, was a common word for alms among the Jews. Works,
4to. p. 58, 1671. R. D. Kimchi says that tsidekeh,
means alms-giving; and the phrase 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 ελεημοσυνην,
alms, or δικαιοσυνην, righteousness. I answer:-
"I. That, our Saviour certainly said tsidekah,
righteousness, (or, in Syriac 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 tsidekah, according to the idiom of the
Old Testament, signifies nothing else than righteousness; yet now,
when our Saviour spoke these words, it signified nothing so much
"II. Christ used also the same word zidkatha,
righteousness, in time three verses next following, and Matthew
used the word ελεημοσυνην, alms; but by what right, I beseech you,
should he call it δικαιοσυνην, righteousness, in the first verse,
and ελεημοσυνην, alms, in the following; when Christ every where
used one and the same word? Matthew might not change in Greek,
where our Saviour had not changed in Syriac: therefore we must say
that the Lord Jesus used the word tsidekeh or
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, Ps 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 tsidekah,
righteousness. Perhaps those words of our Saviour 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, Lu 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.
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, &c.
2Therefore 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.
2 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 pretence 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 honour." 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
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 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 σαλπιζειν, to sound the trumpet.
The Jerusalem Gemara, tract Shekalim, describes these
shopheroth thus-These trumpet holes were crooked, narrow above and
wide below, in order to prevent fraud. As our Lord only uses the
words, μησαλπισης, 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, &c., for it is not to be
supposed that such chests were fixed in the public streets.
They have their reward.] That is, the honour 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.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
3 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.
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
4 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 labour 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.
5 ¶ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
5 Verse 5. And when thou prayest] οτανπροσευχηπροσευχη,
prayer, is compounded of προς with, and ευχη 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, &c. ευχομαι
signifies to pour out prayers or vows, from ευ well, and
χεω, 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 endeavouring 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.
Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites] υποκριται. From υπο
under, and κρινομαι 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 endeavoured 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 endeavour to conceal their
outside devotion, that they may be seen of men.
6 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.
6 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: endeavour 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, 1Co 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!
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
7 Verse 7. Use not vain repetitions] μηβαττολογησητε, Suidas
explains this word well: "πολυλογια, 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 fervour.
See Da 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 Clarke on Mt 6:8.
This judicious note is from the late Mr. Gilbert Wakefield, who
illustrates it with the following quotation from the
Heautontimorumenos of Terence:-
"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 splendour 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, &c.
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
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, &c. 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, &c. 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 υποκριται, like the
hypocrites. Unmeaning words, useless repetitions, and
complimentary phrases in prayer, are in general the result of
heathenism, hypocrisy, or ignorance.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
8 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:-
1st. HYPOCRISY. Be not as the hypocrites. Mt 6:5.
2ndly. DISSIPATION. Enter into thy closet. Mt 6:6.
3rdly. MUCH SPEAKING, or UNMEANING REPETITION, Be not like the
heathens. Mt 6:7.
9After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
9 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
fulness 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
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 honour,
obedience to his will, submission to his dispensations and
chastisements, and resemblance to his nature.
Which art in heaven] The phrase , 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:
1st. His OMNIPRESENCE. The heaven of heavens cannot contain
thee. 1Ki 8:27: that is, Thou fillest immensity.
2dly. His MAJESTY and DOMINION over his creatures. Art thou not
God in heaven, and rulest thou not over all the kingdoms of the
heathen? 2Ch 20:6.
3dly. His POWER and MIGHT. Art thou not God in heaven, and in
thy hand is there not power and might, so that no creature is able
to withstand thee! 2Ch 20:6.
Our God is in heaven, and hath done whatsoever he pleased.
4thly. His OMNISCIENCE. The Lord's throne is in heaven, his
eyes behold, his eye-lids try the children of men. Ps 11:4.
The Lord looketh down from heaven, he beholdeth all the sons of
men. Ps 33:13-15.
5thly. His infinite PURITY and HOLINESS. Look down from thy holy
habitation, &c. De 26:15.
Thou art the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose
name is holy. Isa 57:15.
Hallowed] αγιασθητωαγιαζω. from a negative, and γη, 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, &c.
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
4thly. In our families, when we endeavour 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.
10Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
10 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 sceptre of Christ:-God has promised
that the kingdom of Christ shall be exalted above all kingdoms.
Da 7:14-27. That it shall overcome all others, and be at last
the universal empire. Isa 9:7. Connect this with the
explanation given of this phrase, Mt 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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment
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.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
11 Verse 11. Give us this day our daily bread] The word επιουσιαν
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, αλλεοικεπεπλασθαιυποτωνευαγγελιστων.
The interpretation of Theophylact, one of the best of the Greek
fathers, has ever appeared to me to be the most correct, αρτοςεπι
τηουσιακαιαυστασειημωναυταρκης, 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 επι and
ουσια, proper or sufficient for support. Mr. Wakefield thinks
it probable, that the word was originally written επιουσιαν,
which coalesced by degrees, till they became the επιουσιον of the
MSS. There is probably an allusion here to the custom of
travellers 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 Lu 15:12, 13, ουσια
signifies, what a person has to live on; and nothing can be more
natural than to understand the compound επιουσιος, of that
additional supply which the traveller 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
vigour: 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, &c. 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.
12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
12 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 cancelled, 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 neighbour to suffer an hour, is himself
determined to suffer everlastingly! This condition of forgiving
our neighbour, though it cannot possibly merit any thing, yet it
is that condition without which God will pardon no man.
See Mt 6:14, 15.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
13 Verse 13. And lead us not into temptation] That is, bring us
not in to sore trial. πειρασμον, which may be here rendered sore
trial, comes from πειρω, 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.
Jas 1:15. See also on Mt 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] αποτουπονηρου, from the wicked one.
Satan is expressly called οπονηρος, the wicked one.
Mt 13:19, 38, compare with Mr 4:15; Lu 8:12. This epithet of
Satan comes from πονος, labour, 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, Tit. 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
neighbour: from Satan the destroyer, from a hard judgment, and a
hard adversary." See Lightfoot.
Deliver us] ρυσαιημας-a very expressive word-break our chains,
and loose our bands-snatch, pluck us from the evil, and its
For thine is the kingdom, &c.] 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 Mt 6:10, and
explained Mt 3:2.
By power, that energy by which the kingdom is governed and
By glory, the honour that shall redound to God in consequence of
the maintenance of the kingdom of grace, in the salvation of men.
For ever and ever.] ειςτουςαιωνας, 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 αιων comes
from αει always, and ων being, or existence. This is
Aristotle's definition of it. See Clarke on Ge 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 Clarke on Mt 25:46.
Amen.] This word is Hebrew, , and signifies faithful or
true. Some suppose the word is formed from the initial letters of
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,
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
14 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
15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
15 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] παραπτωματα, from παρα and πιπτω, to fall
off. What a remarkable difference there is between this word and
οφειληματα, debts, in Mt 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 practise.
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.
16 Verse 16. When ye fast] A fast is termed by the Greeks νηστις,
from νη not, and εσθειν to eat; hence fast means, a total
abstinence from food for a certain time. Abstaining from flesh,
and living on fish, vegetables, &c., is no fast, or may be rather
considered a burlesque on fasting. Many pretend to take the true
definition of a fast from Isa 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, Isa 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 Clarke on Mt 9:15.
As the hypocrites-of a sad countenance] σκυθρωποι, either from
σκυθρος sour, crabbed, and ωψ the countenance; or from
σκυθης 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.
17But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
17 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, &c., 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.
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.
18 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.] εντωφανερω. 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.
19 ¶ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
19 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, &c.; 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, βρωσις, from βρωσκω, 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] διορυσσουσι, 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 Mt 7:27.
20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
20 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.
21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
21 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
22The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
22 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] απλους, 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 colour to what it really is. This state of the eye is
termed, Mt 6:23,
πονηρος 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 neighbour'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.
23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
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.
24 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 honoured!
Ye cannot serve God and mammon.] mamon is used for
money in the Targum of Onkelos, Ex 18:21;
and in that of Jonathan, Jud 5:19; 1Sa 8:3. The
Syriac word mamona is used in the same sense, Ex 21:30.
Dr. Castel deduces these words from the Hebrew 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 Punic� mammon dicitur. The word plainly
denotes riches, Lu 16:9, 11, in which latter verse mention is
made not only of the deceitful mammon, (τωαδικω,) but also of the
true (τοαληθινον.) St. Luke's phrase, μαμωνοαδικιας, very
exactly answers to the Chaldee 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!
25Therefore 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. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
25 Verse 25. Therefore] διατουτο, 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, μημεριμνατε; this
is the proper meaning of the word. μεριμνα anxious solicitude,
from μεριζειντοννουν 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 labour without placing our confidence in
our labour, 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
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 Mt 6:31, and there is no variation in any of the MSS. in
that place. Instead of, Is not the life more than, &c., we should
read, Of more value; so the word πλειον is used in Nu 22:15,
and by the best Greek writers; and in the same sense it is used in
Mt 21:37. See the note there.
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. Are ye not much better than they?
26 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 labour; 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 labour 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 labour 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 labour. Arguing therefore from
the less to the greater, if they which were created that they
might serve me, are nourished without labour 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 labour 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.
27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
27 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 ηλικιαν should be rendered age
here, and so our translators have rendered the word in Joh 9:21,
αυτοςηλικιανεχει he is of age. A very learned writer
observes, that no difficulty can arise from applying πηχυν 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,
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.
28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
28 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
flavours, 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, καταμαθετε, lay it
earnestly to heart, and let your confidence be unshaken in the God
of infinite bounty and love.
29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
29 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.
30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
30 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
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
κλιβανον, 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.
31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
31 Verse 31. What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? &c.]
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.
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
32 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] επιζητει from επι, intensive, and ζητεω, 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
Your heavenly Father knoweth, &c.] 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 offence to his goodness; to expect the latter is injurious to
33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
33 Verse 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God]
See Clarke on Mt 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 Clarke on Mt 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
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. 1Ti 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
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
ταεπουρανιακαιταεπιγειαπροστεθησεταιυμιν. "Ask great
things, and little things shall be added unto you; ask heavenly
things, and earthly things shall be added unto you."
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
34 Verse 34. Take therefore no thought] That is, Be not therefore
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] αρκετοντηημεραη
κακιααυτης, 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 Abb� Quesnel's work,
on this chapter; and from it several of the preceding have been