« PreviousContinue »
crites, 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.
The word 'fast literally signifies to abstain from food and drink, whether from necessity, or as a religious observance. It is, however, commonly applied in the bible to the latter. It is, then, an expression of grief or sorrow. Such is the constitution of the body, that in a time of grief or sorrow we are not disposed to eat. Fasting, then, is the natural expression of grief. This is the foundation of its being applied to religion as a sacred rite. It is because the soul, when oppressed and burdened by a sense of sin, is so filled with grief that the body refuses food. It is, therefore, appropriated always to scenes of penitence, of godly sorrow, of suffering, and to those facts and scenes of religion that are fitted to produce grief, as the prevalence of iniquity, or some dark impending calamity, or storm, or tempest, pestilence, plague, or famine.
The Jews fasted often. They had four annual fasts-in memory of the capture of Jerusalem, Jer. lii. 7.; of the burning of the temple, Jer. li. 12; of the death of Gedaliah, Jer. xli. 1, 2; and of the commencement of the attack on Jerusalem, Zech. viii. 19. In addition to these they had a multitude of occasional fasts. It was customary, also, for the pharisees to fast twice a week, Luke xviii. 12. Of a 'sad countenance. That is, sour, morose, assumed expressions of unfelt sorrow. They disfigure their faces.' That is, they do not anoint and wash themselves as usual; they are uncombed, filthy, and haggard. It is said that they were often in the habit of throwing ashes on their heads and faces; and this mixing with their tears, seemed still farther to disfigure their faces. So much pains will men take, and so much suffering will they undergo, and so much that is ridiculous will men assume, in their foolish attempts to impose on God and men. But they deceive neither. Hypocrites overact their part. Not having the genuine principles of piety at heart, they know not its proper expression, and hence appear contemptible and abominable.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
That is, appear as you do daily. Do not assume any new appearance, or change your visage or dress. The Jews and all neighbouring nations were much in the habit of washing and anointing their bodies. This washing was performed at every
meal; and where it could be effected, the head, or other parts of the body, was daily anointed with sweet, or olive oil.
The meaning of this whole commandment is-When you regard it to be your duty to fast, do it as a thing expressing deep feeling, or sorrow for sin, or calamity; not by assuming unfelt gravity and moroseness, but in your ordinary dress and appearance; not to attract attention, but as an expression of feeling towards God.
19 | Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal :
As the orientalists delighted in display, in splendid equipage, and costly garments, their treasures consisted much in beautiful and richly ornamented articles of apparel. See Gen. xlv. 22. Josh. vii. 21. Judges xiv. 12. This fact will account for the use of the word 'moth. When we speak of wealth, we think at once of gold, and silver, and lands, and houses. When a Hebrew or an orientalist spoke of wealth, he thought first of what would make display; and included, as an essential part, splendid articles of dress. The moth would destroy their apparel, the rust their silver and gold ; thus all their treasure would waste away.
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal : 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
'Lay up treasures in heaven.' Do not exhaust all your strength, and spend your days, in providing for the life here, but let your chief anxiety be to be prepared for eternity. To have treasure in heaven, is to possess evidence that its purity and joys will be ours; to bé heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. The heart, or affections, will of course be fixed on the treasure. To regulate the heart, it is therefore important that the treasure, or object of attachment, should be right.
22. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But 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 !
“The light of the body,' &c. When the eye is directed singly and steadily towards an object, and is in health, or is single, every thing is clear and plain. If it is diseased, nothing
is seen clearly, every thing is dim and confused. The man, therefore, is unsteady. The eye regulates the motion of the body. To see clearly, to have an object distinctly in view, is necessary to correct and regulate action. So Jesus says, in order that the conduct may be right, it is important to fix the affections on heaven. Having the attections there-having the eye of faith single, steady, unwavering—the whole body, all the conduct, will be correspondent. “Thy body shall be full of light.' Your conduct will be regular and steady. All that is neediul to direct the body is that the eye be fixed right. No other light is required. So all that is needful to direct the soul and the conduct is that the eye of faith be fixed on heaven, that the affections, be there. If therefore the light that is in thee,' &c. The meaning of this passage may be thus expressed : The light of the body, the guide and director, is the eye. All know how calamitous it is when that light is irregular or extinguished, when the eye is diseased or lost. So the light that is in us is the soul. If that soul is debased by attending exclusively to earthly objects if it is diseased, and not fixed on heaven-how much darker and more dreadful will it be than any darkness of the eye!
24 T No man can serve two masters : for either he will hate the one, and love the other ; o. else he will + hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Christ proceeds to illustrate the necessity of laying up treasures in heaven from a well known fact, that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time, especially when their characters are opposite. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. This is a law of human nature. The supreme affections can be fixed on only one object. So, says Jesus, the servant of God cannot at the same time obey him and be avaricious, or seek treasures supremely on earth. One interferes with the other, and one will be and must be surrendered. “Mammon.' Mammon is a Syriac word, a name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. See Luke xvi. 9-11.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ?
The general design of the paragraph, 25—34, which closes the chapter, is to warn his disciples against avarice, and undue anxiety about the supply of their wants. This Christ does by four arguments or considerations, expressing by unequalled beauty and force, the duty of depending for the things which we need on the
providence of God. The first is stated in the 25th verse: 'Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ? God will take care of these. He has given life, a far greater blessing than meat; he has created the body, of far more consequence than raiment. Shall not He, who has conferred the greater blessing, be willing to give the less ? Shall not He, who has formed the body so curiously, and made such a display of power and goodness, see that it is properly protected and clothed ? "No thought. No undue thoughi. Be not over anxious. The word used here often denotes anxious cares and improper solicitude. See Luke viii. 14; xxi. 34. Phil. iv. 6. There is a degree of anxiety and industry about the things of this life which is proper. See 1 Tim. v. 8. 2 Thess. iii. 10. Rom. xii. 11. But it should not be our supreme concern: it should not lead to improper anxiety; it should not take time that ought to be devoted to religion. For your life. For what will support your life. 'Meat. This word here means food in general. This was the old English meaning of the word.
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?
The second argument for confidence in the providence of God is derived from a beautiful reference to the fowls of heaven. See, said th, Saviour, see the fowls of the air; they have no anxiety about the supply of their wants; they do not sow or reap : in innumerable flocks they fill the air; they perch at ease on every spray: yet how few die with hunger ! how regularly are they fed from the hand of God! how he ministers to their unnumbered wants! He sees their young open wide their mouths, and seek their meat at his hand, and how regularly are their necessities supplied ! You, said the Saviour to his disciples, you are of more consequence than they are; and shall God feed them in such numbers, and suffer you to want ? It cannot be. Better than they. Of more consequence. Your lives are of more importance than theirs, and God will therefore provide for them.
27 Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature ?
The third argument is taken from their extreme weakness and helplessness. With all your care you cannot increase your stature a single cubit. God, by his providence, orders and arranges the circumstances of your life. Beyond that appointment of his providence, beyond his care for you, your efforts avail nothing. How obvious is the duty of depending on him, and of beginning all your efforts, feeling that he only can grant you the
means of preserving life! By taking thought. By care or anxiety. One cubit.' The cubit of the scriptures is not far from twenty-two inches. Terms of length are often applied to life. Thus, it is said, ' Thou hast made my days as a handbreadth, Ps. xxxix. 5 ; . Teach me the measure of my days,' Ps. xxxix. 4. In this place it is used to denote a small length. You cannot increase your stature even a cubit, or in the smallest degree. Compare Luke xii. 26.
28 And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin : 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
The fourth consideration is taken from the lilies of the valley. Watch the growing of the lily. It toils not, and it spins not. Yet night and day it grows and spreads out its beau:y, expands its blossom and fills the air with fragrance, and meets the eye with perfect loveliness. Yet soon it will fade, and the beautiful flower will be cut down and burned. God so little regards the bestowment of beauty and ornament as to give the highest adorning to this which is soon to perish. When he thus clothes a lily-a fair flower, soon to perish-will he be unmindful of his children ? Shall they–dear to his heart and endowed with immortality-shall they lack that which is proper for them, and shall they in vain trust the God that decks the lily of the valley ? He will much more clothe you.
30 Wherefore, 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?
The most common kind of ovens were made by excavating the earth two and a half feet in diameter, and from five to six feet deep. This kind of ovens is still used in Persia. The bottom was paved with stones. It was heated by putting wood or dry grass into the oven; and when heated, the ashes were removed, and the bread was placed on the heated stones.
31 Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat ? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed ? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek ;) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
For after all these thirigs do the Gentiles seek. That is, tnose destitute of the true doctrines of religion, make it their