Page images
PDF
EPUB

have mentioned it. Instead of doing this, however, he con fines himself to smaller matters, to things of comparatively triviai interest, and says, that in these we had better take wrong than enter into strife and lawsuits.

'Coat.' The Jew's wore two principal garments. The interior, nere called the 'coat,' or the tunic, was made commonly of linen, and encircled the whole body, extending down to the knees. The coat, or tunic, was extended to the neck, and had long or short sleeves. Over this was commonly worn an upper garment, here called 'cloak,' or mantle. It was made commonly nearly square, of different sizes, five or six cubits long, and as many broad, wrapped around the body, and thrown off when labour was performed. This was the garment which is said to have been without seam woven throughout, John xix. 23.

Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile.' The word translated 'shall compel,' is of Persian origin. The king's messengers were permitted to compel any person, or to press any horse, boat, ship, or other vehicle that they might need, for the quick transmission of the king's commandments. It was to this custom that our Saviour refers. Rather, says he, than resist a public authority, requiring your attendance and aid for a certain distance, go with him peaceably twice the distance, 'A mile.' A Roman mile was a thousand paces,

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.

"Give to him that asketh thee.' It is better to give some. times to an undeserving person, than to turn away one really necessitous. It is good to be in the habit of giving. At the same time, the rule must be interpreted so as to be consistent with our duty to our families, 1 Tim. v. 8. and with other objects of justice and charity. So of a poor and needy friend that wishes to borrow. We are not to turn away, or deny him. This deserves, however, some limitation. It must be done in consistency with other duties,

43 | Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy:

The command to love our neighbour was a law of God, Lev. xix. 18. That we must, therefore, hate our enemy, was a false inference drawn from it, by the Jews. They supposed that if we loved the one, we must hate the other. They were total strangers to that great peculiar law of religion which requires us to love both. A neighbour is literally one that lives near to us; then, one that is near to us by acts of kindness and friendship. See also Luke x. 36.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ;

"Love your enemies. It is impossible to love the conduct of a man that curses and reviles us, and injures our person and property, or that violates all the laws of God; but, though we may hate this conduct, we may still wish well to the person; we may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him, and to him; we may not return evil for evil; we may seek to do him good here, and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter, Rom. xii. 17-20. This is a peculiar law of christianity, and probably the most difficult of all duties to be performed. 'Bless them that curse you. The word 'bless' here means to speak well of or to. Not to curse again, or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him. 'Despitefully use you. The word thus translated, means, wantonly and unjustly to accuse, and to injure in any way. “Persecute. See v. 10.

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

That ye may be the children of your father. In doing good to enemies, we resemble God. He makes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain without distinction, on the just and unjust. So his people should show that they imitate or resemble him, or possess his spirit, by doing good in a similar way.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

What reward have ye? The word “reward is used in the sense of deserving praise, or reward. If you only love those that love you, you are selfish, you are not disinterested; it is not genuine love for the character, but love of the benefit; and you deserve no commendation. The publicans. The publicans were tax-gatherers. Judea was a province of the Roman empire. The Jews bore this foreign yoke with great impatience, and paid their taxes with great reluctance. Those who were appointed to collect taxes were objects of great detestation. They were often of abandoned characters, oppressive in their exactions, and dissolute in their lives. By the Jews they were associated in character with thieves, and adulterers, and profane and dissolute men.

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others do not even the publicans so?

* And if ye salute your brethren,' &c. The word 'salute' here means to show the customary tokens of civility, or to treat with the common marks of friendship. See note, Luke x. 4. He says the worst men, the very publicans, would do this. Christians should do more; they should show that they had a different spirit; they should treat their enemies as well as wicked men did their friends.

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father whicn is in heaven is perfect.

‘Be ye therefore perfect. This word commonly means finished, complete, pure, holy. Originally it is applied to a machine that is complete in its parts. Applied to men, it refers to completeness of parts, or perfection, where no part is defective or wanting. Thus Job, i. 1, is said to be perfect; that is, not holy as God, or sinless; for fault is afterwards found with him, Job ix. 20; xlii. 6; but his piety was consistent and regular, as a prince, a father, an individual, a benefactor of the poor. He was .consistent every where. Be not obedient merely in loving your friends and neighbours, but let your piety be shown in loving your enemies; be perfect; imitate God; let your piety be complete, and proportionate, and regular. This every christian may be ; this every christian should be.

CHAPTER VI. I 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.

• Alms.' Liberality to the poor and needy. Any thing given to them to supply their wants. It is the nature of religion to help those who are really poor and needy; and a real christian does not wait to be commanded to do it, but only asks the tunity. See Gal. ii. 10; James i. 27; Luke xix. 8. Before men,' &c. Our Lord does not forbid us to give alms before men always, but only forbids our doing it to be seen of them, for ostentation, and to seek their praise. To a person who is disposed to do good from a right motive, it matters little whether it be in public or in private. The only thing that renders it even desirable that our good deeds should be seen is, that God may be glorified. See ch. v. 16. 'Otherwise. If your motive for doing it is to be seen of men, God will not reward you.

2 Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in

[ocr errors]

the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward.

'Do not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do.' The word 'hypocrite' is taken from stage-players, who act the part of others, or speak not their own sentiments, but the sentiments of others. It means here, and in the New Testament generally, those who dissemble or hide their real sentiments, and assume or express other feelings than their own. Those who, for purposes of ostentation, or gain, or applause, put on the appearance of religion. It is probable that such persons, when about to bestow alms, caused a trumpet to be sounded, professedly to call the poor together to receive it, but really to call the people to notice their alms. They have their reward. That is, they obtain the applause they seek, the reputation of being charitable; and as this applause was all they wished, there is of course no further reward to be looked for or obtained.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; 4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.

'Let not thy left hand know,' &c. This is a proverbial expression, signifying that the action should be done as secretly as possible. The Hebrews often attribute actions to bodily members which properly belong to persons. See ch. v. 29, 30. The encouragement for doing this is, that it will be pleasing to God; that he wili see the act, however secret it may be, and will openly reward it. Rarely, perhaps never, has it been found that the man who is liberal to the poor, has ever suffered by it in his worldly circumstances, Prov. xix. 17

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.

* And when thou prayest,' &c. Hypocrites manifested the same spirit about prayer as alms-giving; it was performed in public places. The Jews were much in the habit of praying in public places. At certain times of the day they always offered their prayers. Wherever they were, they suspended their employment, and paid their devotions. This is also practised now every where by the Mohammedans, and in many places by the Roman Catholics. It seems, also, that they sought publicity, and regarded it as a proof of great piety.

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.

· Enter into thy closet.' Every Jewish house had a place for secret devotion. The roofs of their houses were fiat places, for walking, conversation, and meditation, in the cool of the erening. See note, Matt. ix. 2. Over the porch, or entrance of the house, was, however, a small room of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement. Here, in secresy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts. In secret.' Who is unseen. Who seeth in secret.' Who sees what the human eye cannot see; who sees the secret real designs and desires of the heart. Prayer should always be offered remembering that God is acquainted with our real desires; and that it is those real desires, and not the words of prayer, that he will answer.

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.

'C'se not vain repetitions. The original word means to repeat a thing often, to say the same thing in different words, or to repeat the same words, as though God did not hear at first. An example of this we have in 1 Kings xviii. 26.

8 Be not ye, therefore, like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. 9 After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

The Lord's prayer is a composition unequalled for comprehensiveness and for beauty. This prayer is given as a model. !t is designed to express the manner in which we are to pray, evidently not the precise words or petitions which we are always to use. The substance of the prayer is recorded by Luke, ch. xi. 244.

'Our Father.' Cod is called a Father, as he is the Creator of all; the Proprietor and Preserver of those whom he has made; and in a peculiar sense of those who are adopted into his family, those who put confidence in him, who are true followers of Christ, and made heirs of life, Rom. viii. 14-17. 'Hallowed be thy name. God's name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy, everv where, and receive of all men proper honours.

« PreviousContinue »