Saturday, May 27th, 2023
Eve of Pentacost
Eve of Pentacost
Trapp's Complete Commentary Trapp's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ jtc/ matthew-6.html. 1865-1868.
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 6". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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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.
Ver. 1. Take heed that ye do not your alms ] Your justice, saith the Syriac. For first, we do the poor but right when we relieve them; for they have an interest in our goods, by virtue of the communion of saints, whereupon Solomon, "Withhold not," saith he, "good from the owners thereof," i.e. thy poor brethren. God, the great author and owner of all, hath intrusted the rich (as his stewards, as his almoners) with the wealth of this world. He hath intrusted them, I say, not lent it them (to speak properly, for that which is lent is our own, at least for a time), but put it into their hands only, for this end, that their abundance may be a supply for others’ wants, 2 Corinthians 8:9 , that their full cups may overflow into others’ lesser vessels, &c., which if it be not done, they can bring in no good bills of account. a It is but justice then that we do the poor, and it is but rapine or robbery (saith St Chrysostom) not to relieve them. b Secondly, alms is called justice, to teach that alms should be given of things well gotten. In the reign of King Henry VIII there was one accused (but very unjustly) of heresy for saying that alms should not be given until it did sweat in a man’s hand. The Jews called their alms box, Kupha shel tsedacha, the chest of justice (Buxtorf, Syn.); and upon it they wrote this abbreviate, מכיא "A gift in secret pacifieth wrath," Proverbs 21:14 . Selymus the Great Turk, as he lay languishing (his incurable disease still increasing), leaning his head in the lap of Pyrrhus the Bassa, whom of all others he most loved, "I see," said he, "O Pyrrhus, I must shortly die without remedy." Whereupon the great Bassa took occasion to discourse with him of many matters; and among others, that it would please him to give order for the well bestowing of the great wealth taken from the Persian merchants in various places of his empire, persuading him to bestow the same upon some notable hospital for relief of the poor. To whom Selymus replied: "Wouldst thou, Pyrrhus, that I should bestow other men’s goods, wrongfully taken from them, upon works of charity and devotion, for mine own vainglory and praise? Assuredly I will never do it. Nay, rather, see they be again restored to the right owners;" which was forthwith done accordingly; to the great shame of many Christians, who minding nothing less than restitution, but making ex rapina holocaustum, do out of a world of evil gotten goods cull out some small fragments, to build some poor hospitals or mend some blind way: a slender testimony of their hot charity.
Before men, to be seen of them ] As those are that act their part on a stage, and would please the spectators, that they may be applauded. "He that giveth," saith St Paul, "let him do it with simplicity," with ingenuity, accounting it enough that he hath God the witness of his heart, Romans 12:8 ; not but that men may see our good works, and their praise be sought, modo tibi non quaeras, sed Christo, saith Aretius, so that you seek not yourselves therein, but set up Christ. Let your end be, that the light may be seen, not yourselves seen, Matthew 5:16 . A fool hath no delight in understanding, saith Solomon, but that his heart may discover itself, i.e. that he may have the credit of it: but he takes a wrong course. c For honour (as a shadow) followeth them that seek it not, d as the Hittites told Abraham, he was "a prince of God among them;" when himself had said a little before, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you," &c. Genesis 23:4-5 .
Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father, &c. ] Ye take up your wages all beforehand. Fruit by the wayside seldom resteth till it be ripe. The cackling hen loseth her eggs, so doth the vainglorious hypocrite his reward. He layeth up his treasure, his wages, in the eyes and ears of men; which is a chest that hath neither lock nor key to keep it.
a Proverbs 3:27 . Adeo si quid agimus, nostrum est: si quid habemus, alienum. Beddingf.
b Rapina est pauperibus non impertire. Chrysostom.
c Tantum ut vanam famam captet. Mercer. Duntaxat ad ostentationem. Bain.
d Caesar scripta sua Commentarios inscripsit, non historias. Et hoc ipso laudem veram meruit, quod falsam contempsit. Lipsius.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Ver. 2. Therefore when thou doest thine alms ] Unless thou set light by thy reward, as Esau did by his birthright; unless thou holdest heaven hardly worth having, and art of that carnal cardinal’s mind (Card. Bourbon), who preferred his part in Paris before his part in Paradise.
Do not sound a trumpet before thee ] As the Pharisees did, under a show of assembling the poor to take dole, but indeed to notify their liberality. If they had been truly liberal, they had made no noise of it. Those vessels yield most sound that have least liquor. Vasa quae magis continent, minus sonant. (Seneca.)
As the hypocrites do ] From whom as the saints differ in nature so they should in practice. We should have nothing common with them, no more than a chaste matron desires to have with a base strumpet. Song of Solomon 2:7 , the spouse desireth to know where Christ feedeth, that she may repair to him; for why should I be, saith she, as one that turneth aside (or, that is covered and veiled, which was the habit of harlots, Gen 38:15-16 ), why should I be reputed a light housewife, while I turn aside by the flocks of thy companions? She would shun and be shy of all appearance of dishonesty; so should we of hypocrisy. Those Christians of Corinth are much condemned by the apostle that carried themselves so carnally that a man could hardly discern them from other men. Richard Redman, Bishop of Ely, 1501, was not much to be commended for looking so like a Pharisee in that practice of his, of causing a bell to be rung wherever he came, to give notice to the poor of the place that they should have six pence a-piece, as many as came to him. And why are alms houses commonly built by the highway sides? &c.
That they may have glory of men ] As Jehu, Come, see what a zeal I have for the Lord of hosts. Is thine heart upright as mine? &c. A gracious heart is not a blab of his tongue, but rests and rejoiceth silently in the conscience of a secret goodness. Not so the hypocrite, the self-seeker, the stage player, for so the word "hypocrite" properly signifieth, such as though little better than rogues, yet sometimes represent the persons of princes, and carry themselves with other faces than their own, that they may have glory of men, that they may get a plaudit. a And herewith agree all the former expressions; whatsoever these men do is merely theatrical ( προς το θεαθηναι ), hypocritical, histrionical. b They sound a trumpet, as is usual on stages: they do their devoir in the synagogues, public assemblies, and streets, as stage players act in open places, and by drums and outcries get as much company together as they can. And as they can act to the life those whom they impersonate, yea, outstrip them in outward actions, so do hypocrites the true Christian. Doth the publican fix his eyes on the ground? those hypocrites in Isaiah will hang down their heads like bulrushes. Doth Timothy weaken his constitution with abstinence? the false Pharisee will not only weaken his constitution, but wither his complexion with fasting. Doth Zaecheus give half of what he hath to the poor? the pretender to piety and charity will bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and, besides, give his body to be burned, 1 Corinthians 13:3 , as Servetus did at Geneva, A.D. 1555. And all for a name, for a little glory among men, which is but a breath, and yet not able to blow so much as one cold blast upon hypocrites, when they shall be cast into unquenchable flames, when God shall wash off their varnish with rivers of brimstone. No natural face hath so clear a white and red as the painted. No rush is so green and smooth as the bulrush; he is curious to a miracle that can find a knot in it; yet within is nothing but a useless and spongy pith. c Overly fair shows are a just argument of unsoundness.
Verily I say unto you ] q.d. You would little think it, and themselves will hardly believe it: for they are an impudent kind of people, and will not soon be said. But I assever and assure you of it, in the word of Amen, the faithfill and true witness, Revelation 3:14 , all the words of whose mouth are in righteousness, there is nothing froward or perverse in them, Proverbs 8:8 , that this is the very truth, and time will prove it so. Asses that have fed on hemlock, are so stupefied thereby, that they lie for dead, and feel not till half their hides be hilded off: then they rise and run away with a foul noise. d So these.
They have their reward ] Paid them down upon the nail in ready money, and have given their acquittance. They take up all their wages before the year’s end, they receive it now and leave none till hereafter. e It is all they are ever likely to have, and let them make them merry with it. Egregiam vero laudem, et spolia ampla refertis. A poor reward, God knows; but it is that which they would have. It is their own reward, not God’s, saith St Jerome. f As Judas went to his own place, a place of his own providing, Acts 1:25 , so these have their own reward, much good may it do them. Here they have their consolation with Dives :let them look for no further reward in the day of refreshing, if they do, they are like to be disappointed, saith the Judge. To themselves they bore fruit, Hosea 10:1 , and shall therefore be turned off as empty vines; when the faithful spouse that lays up her fruit for Christ, Song of Solomon 7:13 , shall hear, "Thou art like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found," Hosea 14:8 . And albeit in her works of charity in secret, and without hope of reward from men, she may seem to cast her bread upon the waters, down the river (as we say), or on the sea to feed fishes; yet after many days she shall be sure to find it, Ecclesiastes 11:1 . That labour of love cannot be lost that we resolve to cast away (as the world accounts it) upon Christ.
a Hos Plautus vocat Holophantas, qui omnia ostentant et mentiantur. Sic Roscias Ulyssis, aut Aeneae repraesentat personaam, cum Ulysses non sit, nec Aeneas. Aretius.
b Theatrical in character or style, ‘stagey’; also fig. ‘acting a part’, hypocritical, deceitful. ŒD
c Nodum in scirpo quaerit. Isaiah 58:5 .
d Dimidia pellis parte propendente, foedum rudorem edunt. Mathiolus.
e απεχουσι , They receive it as their full pay, whence αποχη , an acquittance. Luke 6:23 .
f Mercedem suam, non Dei. Jerome.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
Ver. 3. But thou when thou doest thine alms ] The godly Christian must walk in a diverse way to a world of wicked people, as Noah did, a really reproving their darkness by his light, their pride by his lowliness, their vainglory by his modesty, their ostentation by his secret devotion; not only (planet-like) keeping a constant counter motion to the corrupt manners of the most, but also shining forth fair with a singularity of heavenly light, spiritual goodness, and God’s sincere service, in the darkest midnight of damned impiety.
Let not thy left hand know, &c. ] A proverbial speech, q.d. secrete thyself as much as may be, cast away the vain affectation of human applause. Let not thy left hand (if it had so much skill) understand what thou givest, and to whom, how much, how often, at what time, &c. God sets down every circumstance in his book of remembrance, Malachi 3:16 , as our Saviour (that true Archdeacon, as well as Archshepherd, 1Pe 5:4 ) sat and viewed the estate, mind, and gift of every one that cast money into the treasury, Mark 12:41 ; and as he took special observation of those that came to hear him, how far they had come, how long they had been there, how little opportunity they had of providing for themselves, and how soon they might faint if sent away empty, Matthew 15:32 . In pugillaribus suis omnia notat. "I know thy work and thy labour," Revelation 2:2 , saith Christ to that Church: so to us, -I know thine alms, and thy privacy. Many give much, and are little noted or noticed. It matters not, saith our Saviour, though thy left hand should not know what thy right hand doth; there is no loss in that. Some talents are best improved by being laid up. A treasure that is hid is safer from thieves. Steal we therefore benefits upon men, as Joseph did the money into the sacks. And as he made a gain of the famine, and bought Egypt; so may we of the poor we relieve, and buy heaven, Luke 16:9 ; Romans 2:10 . Ex fame quaestum captabat Iosephus, et benignitate sua emit Egyptum, nos coelum.
a Solus ipse diversa ambulavit via. Chrys. de Noa.
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Ver. 4. Thy Father that seeth in secret ] And best accepteth of secret service. Song of Solomon 2:14 ; "O thou that art in the clefts of the rocks, let me see thy face, let me hear thy voice," &c. a He is all eye ( πανοφθαλμος ), he searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins, those most abstruse and remotest parts of the body, seats of lust: and as he is himself a Spirit, so he loveth to be served like himself, "in spirit and in truth." He sets his eyes upon such, as the word here signifieth, he looketh wishedly, fixedly, steadily; he seeth through and through our secret services, not to find faults in them (for so he may soon do not a few, but those he winks at, where the heart is upright), but to reward them, as a liberal pay-master, "rich to all that call upon him," or do him any other business. b "Who is there even among you that shut the door for nought; that kindleth fire upon mine altar for nought?" Malachi 1:10 ; that gives a cup of cold water, and hath not his reward? David would not serve God on free cost, but was he not paid for his pains, and had his cost in again with usury ere the sun went down? Let him but resolve to confess his sins, and God (or ere he can do it) forgiveth him the iniquity of his sin, that in it that did most gall and grieve him, Psalms 32:5 . Let him but purpose to build God a house, God promiseth thereupon (for his good intentions) to build David a house for ever. So little is there lost by anything that is done or suffered for God. He sends away his servants (that do his work many times, and the world never the wiser) as Boaz did Ruth, with their bosom full of blessings; as David did Mephibosheth, with a royal revenue; as Solomon did the Queen of Sheba, with all the desire of her heart; as Caleb did his daughter Achsa, with upper and nether springs; or as once he did Moses from the mount, with his face shining. He shone bright, but knew not of it; yea, he hides his glorified face with a veil, and had more glory by his veil than by his face. How far are those spirits from this, which care only to be seen! and slighting God’s secret approbation, wish only to dazzle others’ eyes with admiration, not caring for unknown riches! Our Saviour (besides the veil of his humanity) says, "See ye tell no man." It is enough for him that he can say to his Father, "I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do," John 17:4 . His work he accounts a gift; his wages he looks for in another world, Matthew 6:5 . He was content his "treasures of wisdom should be hidden," Colossians 2:3 . And shall we fret ourselves, when our pittances of piety and charity are not admired? Is it not enough for us that we shall appear with him in glory, and then be rewarded openly? Colossians 3:3 .
Shall reward thee openly ] Ay, but when? at the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14 ; at that great assize and general assembly he will make honourable mention, in the hearing of angels and men, of all the good deeds of his children; how they have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, &c., that which they had utterly forgotten; not so much as once mentioning their misdoings, Matt. xxv. Yea, he shall take them to heaven with him, where the poor man’s hands have built him a house beforehand, and they shall receive him into everlasting habitations. But what shall he do in the mean while? "feed on faith" (as some read that text, Psa 37:3 ), live upon reversions. c Yea, but while the grass grows the steed starves. But so cannot a merciful man, for he shall have mercy, Matthew 5:7 ; such a mercy as rejoiceth against judgment. Yea, he that can tender mercy to God, may challenge it from God by virtue of his promise; as David doth, "Preserve me, O God, for I am merciful," Psalms 86:2 . Mercy he shall obtain, 1. In his soul, which shall be like a watered garden, fresh and flourishing. For "the liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered himself," Proverbs 11:25 . The spirits of wealth distilled in good works comfort the conscience. 2. So they do the body, too, when sick and languishing, Psalms 41:2-3 . Mercy is the best cordial, a pillow of repose, a present remedy, Proverbs 11:17 . For if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, thy health shall spring forth speedily, Isaiah 58:8 ; Isaiah 58:10 . Isaiah 58:3 . For his name: the liberal are renowned in the earth, as Abraham, that free hearted housekeeper, no penny father; and Obadiah, that hid and fed the prophets by fifty in a cave. Zaccheus and Cornelius, Gaius and Onesiphorus, how precious are their names! how sweet their remembrance! Who honours not the memorial of Mary for her spikenard, and of Dorcas for her coats and garments? Acts 9:39 . Whereas "the vile person shall no more be called liberal" (in Christ’s kingdom), nor Nabal, Nadib, "the churl bountiful," Isaiah 32:5 ; Isaiah 4:1-6 . For his estate: the most gainful art is almsgiving, saith Chrysostom. The poor man’s bosom and the orphan’s mouth are the surest chest, saith another. Whatsoever we scatter to the poor, we gather for ourselves, saith a third. d What we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord, who accounts himself both gratified and engaged thereby, Proverbs 19:17 . Neither will he fail to bless the liberal man’s stock and store, Deuteronomy 15:10 , so that his righteousness and his riches together shall endure for ever, Psalms 112:3 ; Psalms 5:1-12 . Lastly, his seed shall be mighty upon earth, Psalms 112:2 . The son of such a tenant that paid his rent duly, shall not be put out of his farm, Psalms 37:26 . And that proverb is proven false by common experience, "Happy is that son whose father goeth to the devil;" for ill-gotten goods usually come to nothing; the third heir seldom enjoyeth them, e unless it be here and there one, that by repentance breaketh off, and healeth his father’s sin by mercifulness to the poor, that the property may be altered, and so his tranquillity lengthened. Oh, therefore, that rich men would be "rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" ( ευμεταδοτους ), 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (which was a piece of praise used to be ascribed to the ancient kings of Egypt). This, this were the way to "lay up for themselves a sure foundation;" yea, to "lay fast hold on eternal life;" when those that withhold their very crumbs shall not obtain a drop with Dives , whom to vex and upbraid, Lazarus was laid in the bosom of liberal Abraham. Artaxerxes Longimanus quod manum haberet alteram longiorem, addere, dictitabat, esse magis regium, quam detrahere. (Plutarch.)
a Deus theatrum suum habet in latebris. Bucer.
b Thales interrogatus, num lateret Deos homo iniuste agens, respondit, Ne cogitans quidem. Βλεπειν παρα το βαλλειν ωπας , ab adieciendo oculos. Beza.
c Non igitur est dispendium eleemosyna sub conscientia Dei data, sed maximum compendium et praeclarissima negotiatio. Musculus. Domum in coelis manus pauperum aedificat. Chrysostom, Pascere fide. Junius.
d Eleemosgna ars omnium quae studiosissima. Chrysostom. Manus pauperum gazophylacium Christi. Quicquid pauperibus spargimus nobis colligimus.
e De male quae sitis vix gaudet tertius haeres. Horace.
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.
Ver. 5. And when thou prayest ] A duty of that necessity, that neither the immutability of God’s decree, Daniel 9:2-3 , nor the infallibility of the promises, Ezekiel 36:37 , nor the effectual intercession of our Lord Christ (who taught his disciples to pray), can dispense with us for not doing it. The Jews accounted it an "abomination of desolation" when the dally sacrifice was intermitted and suspended, as under Antiochus. Our Saviour perfumed his whole course, nay, his cross, with this incense, and thereby purchased us this privilege, paved us this "new and living way" to the throne of grace, Hebrews 10:20 ; a sure and safe way to get mercy, Hebrews 10:16 . The ark was never separated from the mercy seat, to show that God’s mercy is near unto such as affect his presence. Some favours he hath reserved to this duty, that will not otherwise be yielded, Psalms 106:23 ; Ezekiel 22:30 . As when he is fully resolved to ruin a people or person, he silenceth his servants, and forbids them to solicit him any further, as he did Samuel interceding for Saul, and Jeremiah for Jerusalem.
Be not as the hypocrites ] Who pretend to pray much, but indeed can do nothing at it, because destitute of the "spirit of grace and supplication;" without whose help we know neither what nor how to pray, Zechariah 12:10 ; Romans 8:26 : nay, Peter, James, and John will be sleeping when they should be praying in the very hour of temptation, Matthew 26:38 . There may be good words and wishes found in a worldling’s mouth, "Who will show us any good?" but none but a David can with faith, feeling, and fervency say, "Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon me," Psalms 4:6 . Balaam may break forth into wishes and woulds, "Oh, let me die the death of the righteous," &c.; but can he pray, as David in like case, Psalms 26:9 ; "Oh, take not away my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men!" A hypocrite may tell a persuasive tale for himself in earthly regards, or howl upon his bed in the want of outward comforts; cry in extremity, as a prisoner at the bar, as a pig under the knife; or importune God for grace, as a bridge to lead him to heaven, not for any beauty he seeth or sweetness he finds in it. But will he pray always, will he delight himself in God? saith Job. a No, surely, he neither doth nor can do it. When God defers to help at a pinch, as Saul, 1 Samuel 13:8 , when grief and vexations increase, he frets and meddles no more with calling upon God, but grunts against him because he handles him not after his own mind, and betaketh himself to some other course. If God will not come at his call and be at his beck, away to the witch of Endor, with Saul, 1 Samuel 28:7 ; to the god of Ekron, as Ahaziah; to Baalim and Ashteroth, with the revolted Israelites, 2 Kings 1:2 . b Wherein he is like to those barbarous Chinois, that whip their gods when they answer them not; or that resolute Ruffus, that profanely painted God on the one side of his shield and the devil on the other, with this inscription, Si tu me nolis, iste rogitat: or that desperate king of Israel, "Behold," saith he, "this evil is from the Lord, and what should I wait for the Lord any longer?" 2 Kings 6:33 . Lo, this is the guise of a godless hypocrite. Either "he calleth not upon God" (which is the description David giveth of him, Psa 14:4 ), but is possessed, as it were, with a dumb devil, both in church and chamber; or if by reading or otherwise he have raked together some good petitions, and strive to set some life upon them in the utterance, that he may seem to be well gifted; yet he doth it not to serve God, but merely to serve himself upon God: "he draweth not nigh with a true heart," Hebrews 10:22 , uprightly propounding God’s service in prayer, and not only his own supply and satisfaction. He is not brought into God’s presence with love and desire, as Psalms 40:8 . He labours not with strife of heart to worship him with his faith, trust, hope, humility, self-denial, being well content that God’s will be done, however, and truly seeking his glory, though himself be not profited, acknowledging the kingdom, power, and glory to be his, Matthew 6:13 . Lastly, working not by a right rule, from a right principle, not for a right end; he cannot undergo the strife of prayer, as Jacob, who wrestled by might and sleight (so much the Hebrew word importeth, ויאבק , Gen 32:24-26 ), much less can he continue long in it, as David, he is soon sated, soon tired, Psalms 27:4 ; Psalms 119:81 ; Psalms 119:123 . If men observe him not, applaud him not, he giveth over that course, as tedious and unsavoury, that wherein he finds no more good relish than in the white of an egg or a dry chip. And in any extraordinary trouble, instead of calling upon God, he runs from him, Isaiah 33:14 , as Saul did, 1 Samuel 28:7 .
For they love to pray standing, &c. ] Stand they might; so did the publican. And when ye stand and pray, saith our Saviour, not disliking the gesture, Luke 18:13 ; Mark 9:25 . It was commonly used among the Jews in the temple, especially at the solemn feasts, what time there was such resort of people from all parts, that they could hardly stand one by another. The primitive Christians also stood praying in their public assemblies, between Easter and Whitsuntide especially, in token of our Saviour’s standing up from the dead. Whence came that proverb among them, "Were it not for standing in prayer, the world would not stand." c Other gestures and postures of the body in prayer we read of. David and Elijah sat and prayed, 1 Chronicles 17:16 ; 1 Kings 19:4 . Peter and Paul kneeled and prayed, Acts 9:40 ; Ephesians 4:13 . Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and prayed, Numbers 16:22 . In secret prayer there is more liberty to use that gesture that may most quicken us and help the duty: Elijah put his head between his knees in prayer (as one that would strain every vein in his heart). But in public our behaviour must be such as may witness our communion and desire of mutual edification; there must he uniformity, no rents or divisions, 1 Corinthians 14:40 ; and special care taken that our inward affection answer our external devotion; that we stand not in the synagogues, as these, with desire to be seen of men (as Saul was higher than the rest by head and shoulders), for that is putrid hypocrisy, hateful even among heathens. Cicero taxeth Gracchus for this, that he referred all his actions, not to the rule of virtue, but to the favour of the people, that he might have esteem and applause from them.
That they may be seen of men ] This was the wind that set the windmill to work, the poise that made the clock strike. Pliny telleth us that the nightingale singeth far longer and better when men be by than otherwise. If Jehonadab had not seen the zeal that Jehu had for the Lord of hosts, he had been nothing so hot nor (in his own conceit) so happy. But Christian modesty teacheth a wise man not to expose himself to the fairest show, but rather to seek to be good than seem to be so. d Not so every loose and ungirt Christian: these, like Jeroboam’s wife, never put on demure apparel but when they are to speak with the prophets; are never so holy as at church, and in the presence of those whose holiness they reverence.
a Hosea 7:14 . When God is rending away his soul, he roars. Job 27:9 .
b Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo. Ab Ekron ubi colebatur Beelzebub, factus videtur, Acheron.
c Absque stationibus non substiteret mundus. Tertul.
d Sed vox tu es, praeterea nihil. Laco ad Philon. Falleris, esse aliquid si cupis, esque nihil.
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.
Ver. 6. But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, &c. ] The proper place for secret prayer (as the family is for private prayer, Acts 10:3 ; Acts 10:9 , and the church for public, Luk 4:16 ), that being sequestered from company, we may more fully descend into our own hearts, and be the freer from ostentation and hypocrisy, and from discursation and wandering of mind ( Anima dispersa fit minor ): as also for the demonstration of our faith, whereby we believe the omnipresence of God, who seeth in secret and rewardeth openly. Daniel indeed opened his windows, and prayed in an upper room, not to be more secret (as Pintus mistaketh it) but to be more seen; and yet not of vain ostentation, but of zealous and constant profession. The king had forbidden it (so did Henry III, King of France, forbid householders to pray with their famihes), Daniel did it notwithstanding, as beforetime. God must be obeyed rather than men, as not Scripture only, but nature teacheth. a He kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed; that had been his custom, and should be. David also at morning, at evening, and at noon, called upon God, and had his set times for such devotions. But the devil, as it is probable, 2 Samuel 12:2 , had caused him to come from his trench, and then did presently wound him. He knows well enough that a Christian’s strength lies in his prayer (as Samson’s did in his hair), that it buckleth all our spiritual armour close to us, and makes it useful, that a Christian can never lack help while he can pray, Ephesians 6:18 ; as they were wont to say, the pope can never lack money so long as he can hold a pen in his hand to command and send for it: that secret prayer is a soul-fattening exercise, as secret meals, we say, feed the body. The old serpent feels himself charmed and disabled to do hurt by these kinds of duties. They have "poured forth a charm ( להש ) when thy chastening was upon them," Isaiah 26:16 . Yea, he is deeply wounded and driven out of the field by those arrows of deliverance, as the king of Syria was, 2 Kings 13:17 , which therefore he keeps (what he can) from being multiplied and enlarged. Fervent prayers are the pillars of smoke wherein the Church ascendeth to God out of the wilderness of this world, and by a humble familiarity converseth, yea, parleyeth with him, b as Abram and Moses did (especially when Satan, sin, and conscience accuse), and standeth, as it were, upon interrogatories; such as are those, Romans 8:33-35 .
And when thou hast shut thy door ] So to shut out distractions, which yet will grow upon us, do what we can. For though the spirit is willing to wait upon God all the while of the duty, yet the flesh is weak. It being but partly mortified, draws away our thoughts many times; and putteth us to St Paul’s complaint, "When I would do good, evil is present with me," Romans 7:21 . Satan also will be jogging and interrupting us; and will needs be talking to us when we are most busily speaking to God, as the Pythoness troubled St Paul as he went to prayer, Acts 16:16 . Worldly things likewise are so natural to us, and so near our senses, heavenly things are so supernal and supernatural, that we cannot without watching our senses, and travail of soul, stay our spirits long upon them. For help herein, St Augustine telleth us that the ancient Christians of Egypt were wont to use only short and pithy prayers and ejaculations, c such as was that of Elijah when he contended with the priests of Baal, charging God (in two words) with the care of his covenant, of his truth, and of his glory. Many other helps there are for the curing and casting out (in a comfortable measure) these by thoughts, these birds that would rob Abraham of his sacrifice; these swarms of Egypt, that our hearts may be as so many Goshens; these creeping things innumerable, as David hath it. This among the rest, that our Saviour here prescribeth, to retire into a secret place, as Abraham did into his grove at Beersheba, planted for the purpose (though that was afterwards abused by the heathens, and therefore forbidden the Israelites, Deu 12:3 ). Isaac had his oratory in the fields, where he prayed with deep meditation or soliloquy, as the word there signifieth. Rebekah upon the struggling of the babes, "went to inquire of the Lord," Genesis 25:22 , that is, she went to some secret place to pray, and receive some revelation from God, say Calvin, Musculus, Mercer, others. Jacob had visions of God when he was all alone upon the way; Elijah prayed under the juniper; our Saviour in the garden of Gethsemane, and many times in the mount; Cornelius in some corner of his house; Peter on the leads, d where also he fell into an ecstacy or trance, and saw heaven open, his soul was separated (after a sort) from his body for the time, while he was talking with God, he was so transported and carried out of himself, ut caro esset paene nescia carnis, as St Jerome testifieth of certain devout women of his time. For the place we pray in, no matter how mean it be, so it be secret. Where there is a Jeremiah, a Daniel, a Jonas, a dungeon, a lions’ den, a whale’s belly, are goodly oratories. e Shut the door to thee, remembering the weakness of thy flesh, and the malice of the devil, watching how to distract thee. Covenant with thy senses, and bind them to the good abearance all the while: look God full in the face, as David did, Psalms 57:7 , call in and collect and focus thy thoughts, as men do the sunbeams into a burning glass: serve God with thy spirit, as Paul did, Romans 1:9 , say, "All that is within me, praise his holy name." Have thy heart at thy right hand, with Solomon’s wise man, lay God’s charge upon it to attend upon him; when it roves and wanders, call it in and chide it; judge and shame thyself for thy distractions, and strive to do better, so shall they never be imputed unto thee, Psalms 13:2 . To be wholly freed from them is a privilege proper to the estate of perfection. Some diseases will not be cured near home, but men must repair to the bath or city for help. This infirmity is not to be healed till we come to heaven. No shutting of the door will do it, nor anything else, till the everlasting door be opened unto us, till we enter in by the gates into the city of the living God, Revelation 21:24 .
Pray to thy Father which is in secret ] There are no dumb children in God’s house; the least he hath can ask him blessing. All are not alike gifted, but every godly man prayeth unto thee, saith David, Psalms 32:6 ; St Paul was no sooner converted but he was praying presently, Acts 9:11 . The spirit of grace is the spirit of supplication, and teacheth to cry, "Abba, Father," or Father, Father, Galatians 4:5 . And this very naming of the name of God in prayer (though it be no more), so it be done in faith, entitles a man to heaven, 2 Timothy 2:19 , if also he depart from iniquity; when such as have the gift of prophecy and of doing miracles shall miscarry, and be turned off at the last day, because workers of iniquity, Matthew 7:15-20 . And albeit God’s weaker children cannot utter their mind unto him in well couched words and variety of expressions, yet, if their broken language come from a broken heart, it avails more than affectation of rhetoric, without affection of prayer. Men are better pleased with the stammering and lisping of their own little ones than with all the plain speech of all the children in the town besides. Yea, because the soul is sick, the service is twice welcome. As, if a sick child reach us up a thing, we count it more than to send another of a laborious errand. "I will spare them," saith he, "as a man spares his own son that serveth him," Malachi 3:17 . The business of prayer is more despatched by sighs than speeches, by desires and groans of the heart, to our Father which is in secret, whether we can express them in words or no. "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities" (he lifteth with us and before us, as the word signifies, συναντιλαμβανεται , Rom 8:26 ), and maketh intercession in us and for us with groans unutterable. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit. As he heareth us without ears, so he understaudeth us without our words. If we can but groan out, Ah, Father, it is an effectual prayer. The voice is not simply required, John 4:24 . There is a great dispute (saith one) among the schoolmen about the speech of angels; but this they agree in, that one angel speaketh thus to another, when any one hath a conceit in his mind of anything, with a will that another should understand it, and that God should understand it, that is enough for the expression of it. So is it with the spirit of man in speaking to God: for the spirit agreeth to the angels. Yet we must pray for fit words also, Hosea 14:2 , and strive to be enriched in all utterance, and in all knowledge, 1 Corinthians 1:5 , get a habit of heavenly mindedness, let the heart meditate a good matter, f and then the tongue will be as the pen of a ready writer, Psalms 45:1 ; first prepare the heart, and then stretch out the hands, Job 11:13 . The heart should be praying a good while before the tongue; as before the seven trumpets were sounded at the opening of the seventh seal, there was half an hour’s silence in heaven, Revelation 8:1-2 . And surely if there be an honest heart and a good intention, an ability of prayer usually is in us, though we know it not; as a man may have money about him, and not know so much, till necessity make him willing to search and glad to find it. Remember, however, the promise of the Spirit’s assistance and God’s acceptance, and know, that as in singing, so in praying, the pleasing melody is in the heart, Colossians 3:16 . The voice which is made in the mouth is nothing so sweet as that which comes from the depth of the breast. As the deeper or hollower the belly of the lute or viol is, the pleasanter is the sound; the fleeter, the more grating and harsh in our ears.
And thy Father which seeth in secret ] And heareth too: as he did Moses when he cried to God, but said nothing; Exodus 14:15 . Moses egit vocis silentio ut corde clamaret. Aug. and Hannah, when she moved her lips, but uttered not herself in an audible voice, 1 Samuel 1:13 ; and Nehemiah, when he lift up his heart to God, as he spake to the king, Nehemiah 2:4 ; and as he doth still his praying people. His ears are into their prayers, saith St Peter, after David (1 Peter 3:12 , εις δεησιν αυτων . Psa 34:15 ), that though their prayers are so weak they cannot ascend to him, he will descend to them. He "hearkened and heard" those good souls in Malachi, Mal 3:16 as loth to lose any part of their precious language. Thus the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (when they are praying especially), and his ears are open to their prayers. He seeth his Church when she is in the clefts of the rocks, Song of Solomon 2:14 ; when she is gotten into a corner and praying, he looks upon her with singular delight, and with special intimations of his love (as Ahasuerus dealt with Esther), and saith unto her, as he, "What is thy petition, and it shall be given thee," Ezra 5:3 . And oh that every faithful soul, while it is sitting and feasting with God by secret prayer and other holy duties, would bethink itself what special boon it hath to beg, what Haman to hang up, what corruption to be subdued, what grace to be increased, &c. How should they be gratified, and their request granted, even to the whole of God’s kingdom. The truth is, they might have anything: and that which Zedekiah said to his courtiers flatteringly, God performeth to his people really, "The king is not he that can do anything against you," Jeremiah 38:5 . Luther was wont to say that prayer was after a sort omnipotent: for whatsoever God can do, that prayer can do. Of Luther himself, for his wrestling with God and prevailing (as he was mighty and happy that way), it was said, That man can have anything at God’s hands. Iste vir potuit quod voluit. De Luthero Justus Jonas.
Will reward you openly ] Here in part, hereafter in all perfection. He never said to the house of Israel, Seek ye me in vain, Isaiah 45:19 ; "This poor man (for instance) prayed," saith David, pointing to himself, "and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his distresses," Psalms 34:6 . God is known by hearing of prayers; it is one of his titles, Psalms 65:3 , it is his praise above all heathen gods, Isaiah 45:19-20 . By this Manasseh knew him to be God, 2 Chronicles 33:13 , and all Israel, 1 Kings 18:37 ; 1 Kings 18:39 , when it came to a matter of competition. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you," John 16:23 . If we can find a praying heart, he will find a pitying: if we open our mouths, God will fill them: and he is worthily miserable that will not make himself happy by asking. Of some heathen princes it is said that they never sent away their suitors sad or discontented: this is most true of God; let a man bring right petitions, a clear conscience, faith in the promises, and hope to wait the accomplishment, and he shall not fail of the thing he asketh, or a better: when God denied David the life of the child, but assured him of his salvation, "I shall go to him," &c., 2 Samuel 12:23 . So he denied his mother her particular request for that time, John 2:4 : and when his disciples asked him a curious question, "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" &c., that is not for you to know, saith he; but a better thing I can tell: you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, Acts 1:7-8 . But many times God is graciously pleased not only to grant a man’s prayer, but also to fulfil his counsel, Psalms 20:4 ; that is, in that very way and by that very means that his thoughts pitch on. But say he do neither of these; yet the very ability to pray in the Holy Ghost is a sweet and sure sign of salvation, Romans 10:13 . And a very grave divine writeth thus: I cannot but prefer faithful prayers for some temporal mercy far before that mercy for which I pray. Yea, I had rather God should give me the gift of prayer than (without that gift) the whole world besides. g As for those that are ita congregabiles (saith another divine of good note), so very good fellows that they cannot spare so much time out of company as to seek God apart and to serve him in secret, they sufficiently show themselves thereby to have little fellowship or friendship with God, whom they so seldom come at.
a Acts 5:29 . Sic Socrates in Apologia, respondens, εγω μιν, ω Αθηναιοι, ασπαζαμαι υμας και φιλω. πεισομαι δε τω Θεψ μαλλον η υμιν .
b 1 Timothy 2:1 , εντευξεις , parleyings with God. So 1 Peter 3:21 , επερωτημα , sc. in precibus, quae sunt electorum cum Deo colloquia. Pasor.
c Fratres Aegyptiaci brevissimis et raptim eiaculatis orationibus uti voluissent, ne per moras evanesceret et hebetarelur intentio.
d Acts 9:4 ; Acts 10:10 . εκστασις , Quasi semoto ad tempus a corpore animo, cum Deo colloquitur. Beza.
e If ye will not hear me out, send me to my prison again among my toads and frogs, which will not interrupt me while I talk with my Lord God.
f Verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur. Horat.
g Malo accipere a Deo serias preces quam sine precibus universum hunc mundum. Rolloc. in John 6:23 .
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.
Ver. 7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions ] Babble not, bubble not, saith the Syriac, as water out of a narrow mouthed vessel. Do not iterate or inculcate the same things odiously et ad nauseam, as Solomon’s fool, who is full af words (saith he); and this custom of his expressed μιμητικως , in his vain tautologies. a "A man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell?" Ecclesiastes 10:14 . Such a one also was that Battus (to whom the Evangelist here hath relation), an egregious babbler. b In common discourse it is a sign of weakness to lay on more words upon a matter than needs must: how much more in prayer! Take we heed we offer not the sacrifice of fools; God hath no need of such, 1 Samuel 21:15 ; cf. Psalms 5:5 . He "is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few," Ecclesiastes 5:2 . Prayers move God, not as an orator moves his hearers, but as a child his father ("your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things," Mat 6:8 ). Now a child is not to chat to his father, but to deliver his mind, humbly, earnestly, in few, direct to the point. St Peter would have men to be sober in prayer, that is, to pray with due respect to God’s dreadful majesty, without trifling or vain babbling, 1 Peter 4:7 . He that is fervent in spirit, prays much, though he speak little, as the publican, Luke 18:13 , and Elijah, 1 Kings 18:36 . But as a body without a soul, much wood without a fire, a bullet in a gun without powder, -so are words in prayer without spirit. Now long prayers can hardly maintain their vigour, as in tall bodies the spirits are diffused. The strongest hand long extended will languish, as Moses’ hand slacked against Amalek. It is a praise proper to God, to have "his hand stretched out still," Isaiah 9:12 . Our infirmity suffers not any long intention of body or mind. Our devotion will soon lag and hang the wing: others also that join with us may be tired out, and made to sin by weariness and wanderings. In secret indeed, and in extraordinary prayer with solemn fasting, or so when the heart is extraordinarily enlarged, our prayers may and must be likewise. Solomon prayed long at the dedication of the Temple, so did those godly Levites. Neh 9:5-38 Our Saviour prayed all night sometimes, "and rising up a great while before day, he went apart and prayed," Mark 1:35 . Of Luther it is reported that he spent constantly three hours a day in prayer, and three of the best hours, and fittest for study. c It was the saying of a grave and godly divine, that he profited in the knowledge of the word more by prayer in a short time than by study in a longer. That which our Saviour condemneth, is needless and heartlessly repetitious, unnecessary digressions, tedious prolixities, proceeding not from heat of affection or strength of desire (for so the repetition of the self-same petition is not only lawful, but useful, Dan 9:17-18 Mark 14:39 ; Psalms 142:1 ; Psa 130:6 ), but either out of ostentation of devotion, as Pharisees, or the opinion of being heard sooner, as heathens, when men’s words exceed their matter, or both words and matter exceed their attention and affection. See that these be matches, and then pray and spare not.
For they think they shall be heard for their much speaking ] As Orpheus in his hymns, and other pagans; calling, as the mariners in Jonah, "every man upon his God;" and lest they should not hit the right, closing their petitions with that Diique Deaeque omnes, to all gods and goddesses. And since this was the folly and fault of pagans, so is it also still of the Papists, whom the Holy Ghost calleth heathens, with whom they symbolize, as in many things else, so in their battologies or vain repetitions: which are so gross that the devil himself (had he any shame in him) might well be ashamed of them. d In their Jesus Psalter (as they call it) there are fifteen of these prayers: "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me. Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, help me. Jesu, Jesu, give me here my purgatory." Every of these petitions are to be ten different times at once said over for a task. So on their church and college doors, the English fugitives have written in great golden letters, Iesu, Iesu, converte Angliam, Fiat, Fiat. Jesus, Jesus convert the English, Do it, do it. These be their weapons, they say, prayers and tears. But the truth is, the Jesuits (the pope’s blood hounds) trust more to the prey than to their prayers; like vultures, whose nests, as Aristotle saith, cannot be found, yet they will leave all games to follow an army, because they delight to feed upon carrion. Their faction is a most agile sharp sword, whose blade is sheathed at their pleasure in the bowels of every commonwealth, but the handle reacheth to Rome and Spain. They strive under pretence of long prayers and dissembled sanctity, which is double iniquity ( simulata sanetitas duplex iniquitas ), to subdue all to the pope, and the pope to themselves. Satan, they say, sent Luther, and God sent them to withstand him. But that which Vegetius (i. 24) said of chariots armed with scythes and hooks, will be every day more and more applied to the Jesuits; "at first they were a terror, afterwards a scorn."
a Μη Βαττολογησατε. ‘ Εν πολυλογια πολυμωρια , In multiloquio stultilofuium.
b - sub illis
Montibus inquit erunt, et erant sub montibus illis.
Risit Atlantiades, et me mihi perfide prodis?
Me mihi perfide prodis? ait. Ovid, Met. 2. 203.
c Nullus abit dies quirt ut minimum tres horas, easque studiis aptissimas, in orationem ponat.
d Gentes sunt Antichristus cum suis asseclis. Pareus. Battologiae Pontificiae vel Satanam ipsum pudeat. Beza.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Ver. 8. Be not ye therefore like unto them ] God would not have his Israel conform to the heathens’ customs, nor so much as once name their idols, Exodus 23:13 ; Psalms 16:4 . No more should Christians (as some are of the opinion). a That of Cardinal Bembus is somewhat gross concerning their St Francis, quod in numerum Deorum ab Ecclesia Romana sit relatus. But this is like the rest; for if we may believe Baronius, we may see their lustral water and sprinkling of sepulchres in Juvenal’s sixth satire; lights in sepulchres, in Suetonius’ Octavius; lamps lighted on Saturday, in Seneca’s 96th Epistle; distribution of tapers among the people, in Macrob. Saturnals, &c.
For your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye need, &c. ] And therefore answereth many times before we ask, Isaiah 65:24 ; as he did David, Psalms 32:1-11 . He prevents us with many mercies we never sought him for; that our praises may exceed our prayers. "I am found of them that sought me not," saith God; but yet in the same place it is said, "I am sought of them that asked not for me," Isaiah 65:1 . Importing, that we never seek to him for grace till effectually called by his grace. Howbeit, no sooner is any truly called, but he presently prayeth. Say not then, if God know our needs, what need we open them to him? The truth is, we do it not to inform him of that he knows not, b or to stir up mercy in him, who is all hearts, and perfectly pitieth us: but, 1. Hereby we acknowledge him as a child doth his father when he runs to him for food, Luke 11:13 ; Luke 2:1-52 . We run that course of getting good things that he hath prescribed us, Jeremiah 29:11-12 . Which Moses and Elijah knew, and therefore the former turned God’s predictions, the latter his promises, into prayers, Exodus 9:33 ; 1Ki 18:37 ; 1 Kings 3:1-28 . Hereby we prepare ourselves holily to enjoy the things we crave; for prayer both sanctifieth the creature and increaseth our love and thankfulness, Psalms 116:1 ; Psalms 4:1-8 . Prayer prepareth us, either to go without that we beg, if God see fit, as David when he prayed for the child’s life, and was fitted thereby to bear the loss of it; or else to part with that which we have got by prayer, for the glory of God the giver of it. Those that make their requests known to God with thanksgiving, shall have (at least) the "peace of God that passeth all understanding," to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. φρουρησει , Php 4:6-7 They shall have strength in their souls, the joy of the Lord shall be their strength, the glory of the Lord shall be their rereward, Psalms 138:3 ; Nehemiah 8:10 ; Isaiah 58:8 . In their marching in the wilderness, at the fourth alarm, arose the standard of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali; these were the reguard of the Lord’s host; and to these were committed the care of gathering together the lame, feeble, and sick, and to look that nothing was left behind. Unto this the prophet Isaiah seems (in that text) to allude, and so doth David, Psalms 27:10 ; "When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will gather me;" and this comfortable assurance was the fruit of his prayer.
a Non male dixit Tertullianus, Philosophos esse Haereticorum Patriarchas.
b Non sane ut Deus instruatur, sed ut mens nostra construatur.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Ver. 9. After this manner therefore pray ye ] Forms of wholesome words are profitable. A set form of prayer is held fittest for the public, and for such weak Christians as are not yet able to express their own desires in their own words. The utterance of wisdom is given to some Christians only, 1 Corinthians 12:8 , yet all are to strive unto it, that the testimony of Christ may be confirmed in them, 1 Corinthians 1:5-6 . God will take that at first which afterwards will not be accepted. If words be wanting, pray that God who commands thee to take words and come before him, to vouchsafe thee those words, wherewith thou mayest come before him, Hosea 14:2 . Speak, as the poor man doth, supplications, Proverbs 18:23 : so did the prodigal: forecast also (with him) what thou wilt say; premeditate on the matter, disposing it in due order (as one would do that is to speak to a prince; "God is a great King," Mal 1:14 ). Some think we must never pray but upon the sudden and extraordinary instinct and motion of the spirit. This is a fancy, and those that practise it cannot but fall into idle repetitions, and be confused; going forward and backward, like hounds at a loss, saith a good divine (Parr’s Abba, Father), and having unadvisedly begun to speak, they know not how wisely to make an end. This to prevent, premeditate and propound to thyself fit heads of prayer: gather catalogues of thy sins and duties by the decalogue; observe the daily straits of mortal condition, consider God’s mercies, your own infirmities, troubles from Satan, pressures from the world, crosses on all hands, &c. And because you cannot lack matter, so neither words of prayer. The Spirit will assist, and God will accept, if there be but an honest heart and lawful petitions. And albeit we cannot vary them as some can: our Saviour in his agony used the self-same words thrice together in prayer, and so may we when there is the same matter and occasion. He also had a set form of giving thanks at meat; which the two disciples at Emmaus hearing, knew him by it, Luke 24:30-31 . A form then may be used, we see, when it is gathered out of the Holy Scriptures, and agreeable thereunto. Neither is the spirit limited hereby; for the largeness of the heart stands not so much in the multitude and variety of expressions as in the extent of the affection. Besides, if forms were unlawful, then neither might we sing psalms nor join in prayer with others, nor use the forms prescribed by God.
Our Father which art in heaven ] Tertullian calls this prayer a breviary of the gospel, and compend of saving doctrine ( breviarium totius Evangelii, et salutaris doctrinoe compendium ). It is framed in form of the decalogue; the three former petitions respecting God, the three latter ourselves and others. Every word therein hath its weight. "Our," there is our charity; "Father," there is our faith; "in heaven," there is our hope. "Father" is taken sometimes personally, as in that of our Saviour, "My Father is greater than I;" sometimes essentially for the whole Deity, so here. Now that God is in heaven, is a notion that heathens also have by nature; and do therefore in distress lift up eyes and hands thitherward. And lest man should not look upward, God hath given to his eyes peculiar nerves, to pull them up towards his habitation, that he might "direct his prayer unto him, and look up," Psalms 5:3 , that he might feelingly say with David, "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" "Unto thee I lift up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters," &c., Psalms 123:1-2 . It is reported of Farellus, that he preached so powerfully, that be seemed to thunder, and prayed so earnestly, that he seemed to carry his hearers with him up into heaven ( ut audientes in coelum usque subveheret. Melch. Adam, in Vita. ) But how often, alas, do graceless men approach God with their leaden lips; and indeed reproach him in their formal prayers with that appellation, "Our Father which art in heaven?" Those brain sick disciples of Martin Steinbach of Selestad in Germany, who would needs mend magnificat (as they say), correct the Lord’s prayer as not well composed, are not worth mentioning.
Hallowed be thy name ] i.e. "Honoured by thy Majesty." "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise," Psalms 48:10 . Now God’s name is "holy and reverend," Psalms 111:9 ; "great and terrible," Psalms 99:3 ; "wonderful and worthy," Psalms 8:1 ; James 2:7 ; "high and honourable," Isaiah 12:4 ; "dreadful among the heathen," Malachi 1:14 ; and "exalted above all praise," Nehemiah 9:5 . His glory is as himself, eternally infinite, and so abideth, not capable of our addition or detraction. The sun would shine though all the world were blind, or did wilfully shut their eyes. Howbeit to try how we prize his glory, and how industrious we will be to promote it, God lets us know that he accounts himself, as it were, to receive a new being by those inward conceptions of his glory, and by those outward honours we do him; when we lift up his name as a standard, saying, "Jehovah Nissi, The Lord is my banner," Exodus 17:15 ; when we bear ( נשא ) it up aloft (as the word used in the third commandment, whereunto this petition answers, signifieth), as servants do their masters’ badges upon their shoulders: a "Being confident" (with St Paul) "of this very thing, that in nothing we shall be ashamed" (while we hallow this holy God, Isa 5:16 ), "but that with all boldness or freedom of speech, as always, so now, Christ shall be magnified in our bodies, whether it be by life or death," Philippians 1:20 .
a Elevavit, evexit: confer Isaiah 5:26 . Elevabit vexillum ad gentes. Iudaeorum massam adhuc ira inficit fermentum Pharisaeorum, ut Messiam, quem tantis hodie exposcunt ululatibus, non ut redemptorem expectant a peccato, sed ex gentium temporali iugo. D. Prid., Lect.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Ver. 10. Thy kingdom come ] Thy kingdom of power and providence; but especially enlarge thy kingdom of grace, and hasten thy kingdom of glory. The Jews pray almost in every prayer, "Thy kingdom come," and that Bimheroth, Bejamenu, quickly, even in our days. But it is for an earthly kingdom; that which the apostles also so deeply dreamed of that our Saviour had very much ado to dispossess them. For most absurdly and unseasonably many times they would ask him foolish questions that way, when he had been discoursing to them of the necessity of his own death, and of their bearing the cross. Yea, St John very wisely interrupts him, Mark 9:34 ; Mark 9:37-38 , one time among the rest, as weary of such sad matter, and laying hold on something our Saviour had said by the by, tells him a story of another business. They were besotted with an odd conceit of honours and offices to be distributed here among them, as once in David’s and Solomon’s reign. And what shall we think of their opinion, that not content to affirm that after the fall of Antichrist, the Jews shall have a glorious conversion, and the whole Church such a happy halcyon as never before; but also that the martyrs shall then have their first resurrection, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years Revelation 20:4 . Piscator holdeth, they shall so reign in heaven. Alstedius not only saith they shall reign here on earth, but beginneth his millenary about the year of our Lord 1694. Let our hearts’ desire and prayer to God for Israel be that they may be saved, Romans 10:1 . Let us also pity and pray for such poor souls in Asia and America as worship the devil; not inwardly only, for so too many do among us, but with an outward worship. And this we should the rather do, because divines think that when all Israel shall be called, and, as it were, "raised from the dead," Romans 11:15 ; Romans 11:26 , when those "two sticks shall be joined into one," Ezekiel 37:16 , then shall many of those deceived souls that never yet savingly heard of God have part and portion in the same resurrection.
Thy will be done ] God’s will must be done by thee, ere his kingdom can come to thee. If thou seek his kingdom, seek first his righteousness. If thou pray, "Thy kingdom come," pray also, "Thy will be done." Pray it and do it; for otherwise thou compassest God with lies, as Ephraim did, Hosea 11:12 . Now the will of God is two-fold, secret and revealed, whatever Siguardus blasphemeth to the contrary. a His revealed will again is four-fold: 1. His determining will concerning us, what shall become of us, Eph 1:5
2. His prescribing will, what he requires of us, Ephesians 1:9 ; Ephesians 3:1-21 . His approving will, by the which he graciously accepts and tenderly regards those that come to him in faith and repentance, Mat 18:14
4. His disposing will, and this is the will of his providence, 1 Corinthians 1:1 ; Romans 1:10 . Now we should resign ourselves over to his determining will, as the highest cause of all things; rest in his approving will, as our chiefest happiness; obey his prescribing will, as the most absolute and most perfect form of holiness; and be subject to his disposing will, being patient in all trials and troubles, because he did it, Psalms 39:9 . David hath this commendation, that he did all the wills of God ( Θεληματα ), Acts 13:22 . And it is reported, saith Mr Bradford, that I shall be burned in Smithfield, and that very shortly. Fiat voluntas Domini. Ecce ego, Domine, mitte me. "The will of the Lord be done," said those good souls in the Acts, when they saw that Paul was peremptory to go up, Acts 21:14 . This third petition, "Thy will be done," &c., was the last text that ever Mr Beza handled, and thereupon died; and departed rather than deceased ( deficere potius quam desinere visus est. Melch. Adam.), to do God’s will more perfectly in heaven, as he had done to his power on earth. They that thus do and suffer the will of God, are his Hephzibah, My delight, Isaiah 62:4 . And it should be our constant care so to apply ourselves thereunto, that God may take pleasure in us, as in men after his own heart, and say of us, as he did of Cyrus, He is the man of my will, that executeth all my counsel, Isaiah 46:11 . This is to set the crown upon Christ’s head, Song of Solomon 3:11 . Yea, this is to set the crown upon our own heads, 2 Timothy 4:8-9 .
In earth as it is in heaven ] By those heavenly courtiers. The crowned saints have no rest (and yet no unrest), crying, "Holy, holy, holy," &c., Revelation 4:8 . They follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth, with Usquequo, Domine? "How long, Lord?" &c., Revelation 6:10 . Which words also were Mr Calvin’s symbolum, that he frequently sighed out, in the behalf of the distressed Churches. As for the glorious angels, though they excel in strength, yet they do God’s commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word, Psalms 103:20 . They rejoice more in their names of service than of honour, and ever stand before the face of our heavenly Father, as waiting a command for our good, Matthew 18:10 ; and so willing of their way that Gabriel is said to have come to comfort Daniel with weariness of flight, Daniel 9:21 . They do the will of God: 1. Cheerfully; whence they are said to have wings, six wings a-piece, Isaiah 6:2 ; Isaiah 2:1-22 . Humbly; therefore with two they cover their faces. 3. Faithfully, without partiality; with two they covered or harnessed their feet. 4. Speedily and zealously; with two they fly abroad the world upon God’s errand, and for the good of them that shall be saved, Hebrews 1:14 , burning and being all on a light fire, with infinite love to God and his saints, their fellow servants, Revelation 22:9 , whence they are called seraphims or burning creatures. 5. Constantly: Jacob saw them ascending, to contemplate and praise God, and to minister unto him, Daniel 7:10 . He saw them also descending, to dispense God’s benefits and to execute his judgments, Revelation 15:6 . This they do, 1. Justly; whence they are said (there) to be clothed in pure white linen. 2. Diligently and constantly; therefore they have their breast girded. 3. Purely, and with faith, in receiving God’s commandments: therefore are they said to have golden girdles. Go ye now, and do likewise; otherwise ye may be as angels, for gifts and good parts, and yet have your part with the devil and his black angels.
a Sunt qui voluntatis divinae distinctionem in revelatam et arcanam, quasi ipsius diaboli crepitum blasphemare audent. Sic Siguardin, admen. Christ.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Ver. 11. Give us this day ] We have not a bit of bread of our own earning, but must get our living by begging. Peter himself was to obtain his very bread by humble petition, how much more his salvation? He that shall go to God, as the prodigal did, with, "Give me the portion that pertaineth to me," shall receive the wages of sin, which is eternal death, Romans 6:23 . God "giveth meat in abundance," saith Elihu, Job 36:31 ; "That thou givest they gather," saith David, Psalms 104:28 . And again, "Thou givest them their meat in due season." Now what more free than gift? Beggars also pay no debts, but acknowledge their insufficiency, and speak supplications in a low language, as broken men ( non sum solvendo ): so must we. Oh lie daily begging at the beautiful gate of heaven: look intently upon God, as he did, Acts 3:1-8 , upon Peter and John, expecting to receive something. And because beggars must be no choosers, ask, as our Saviour here directs, (1.) for quality, bread only, not manchets a or juncates, b but downright household bread c (as the word imports), "the bread of carefulness or sorrows," Psalms 127:2 , which the singing Psalms interpret "brown bread." Our Saviour gave thanks for barley bread; and his disciples were glad to make a sabbath day’s dinner of a few ears of grain rubbed between their fingers. A very philosopher could say, He that can feed upon green herbs need not please Dionysius, need not flatter any man. And Epicurus himself would not doubt to content himself as well as he that hath most, might he have but a morsel of coarse meat and a draught of cold water. d The Israelites had soon enough of their quails: they had quaffs with a vengeance, because manna would not content them. They died with the meat in their mouths: and by a hasty testament, bequeathed a new name to the place of their burial, Kibrothhattaavah, the graves of lust: Cibus et potus sunt divitiae Christianorum, saith Jerome: Meat and drink are the Christian man’s riches. Bread and cheese (saith another) with the gospel is good cheer. Nature is content with a little, grace with less, saith a third. A godly man, as he asketh but for bread, so (2.) for the quantity, but for daily bread, the bread of the day for the day, enough to bring him home with Jacob, so much only as will bear his charges, till he return again to his father’s house. e He passeth through the world, as Israel through the wilderness, content with his omer by the day, with his statute measure, with his Father’s allowance. As he journeyeth to the promised land, he bespeaks the world, as Israel did Edom through whose country they would have passed: "Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn aside into the fields nor vineyards; neither will we drink of the water of thy wells; we will go by the king’s highway, until we be past thy country," Numbers 21:21-22 . And as a traveller when he cometh to his inn, if he can get a better room or lodging, he will; but if not, he is content, for he considereth it is but for a night. So the Christian pilgrim, if God send him in a plentiful estate, he gladly makes use of it; but if otherwise, he can live with a little: and if his means be not to his mind, he can bring his mind to his means, and live upon reversions. f Give him but necessaries, he stands not upon superfluities. Give him but daily bread, that is, bread for necessity, saith the Syriac, so much as will hold life and soul together, said Brentius. Sufficient to uphold and sustain nature, saith Beza (with the Greek scholar), that wherewith our nature and constitution may be content, and he is well paid and satisfied: g he cries out with Jacob, "I have enough;" and with David, "The lines are fallen unto me in a fair place." A little of the creature will serve turn to carry him through his pilgrimage; in his Father’s house he knows is bread enough, Luke 16:21-22 . And on the hope of that he goes on as merrily, and feeds as sweetly, as Samson did from his honey-comb, or Hunniades when he supped with the shepherds.
This day ] Or, as St Luke hath it, by the day: h for who is sure of tomorrow? May not his soul this night be taken from him? We are εφημεροβιοι , as Diogenes was wont to say of himself: i and should (as Quintillian speaketh of the birds and beasts) in diem vivere, to live for the day, taking no further thought than for the present sustenance. The Turks never build anything sumptuously for their own private use, but contenting themselves with their simple cottages, how mean so ever, commonly say, that they be good enough for the time of their short pilgrimage.
a A small loaf or roll of the finest wheaten bread. Now only arch. or dial. The bread was moulded into small loaves, round and flattish, or into rolls, thicker in the middle than at the ends. ŒD
b Any dainty sweetmeat, cake, or confection; a sweet dish; a delicacy ŒD
c Τροφην, και ου τρυφην . Horat. Opponit panem libis et placentis, 1 eph 10.
d Epicurus dicebat se cum Iove etiam paratum esse de felicitate certare, si aquam haberet et offam.
e Ale me pane praescripti vel demensi mei, Proverbs 30:8 .
f Scite et breviter. Clem. Alex. Ολιγοδεης ο σπουδαιος, Socrates ab Archelao ad facultates ampliores accersitus, ει μη ικανα , inquit, τα οντα εμοι αλλ ’ εγω τοιουτοις ικανος και ουτω κακεινα εμοι . Arian. ap. Stobaeum.
g Panem necessitatis. Syr. Vitae conservativum. Brent. In Annotat. Eum quo contenta esse possit natura et constitutio nostra. Camer.
h Επιουσιον, τουτ εστιν επι την ουσιαν ιπαρκουντα και αρμαζονται . Suid. καθ ημεραν , Luke 11:3 ; Luke 12:20 .
i Dioque erat ανεστιος, απολις, απατρος, αχρηματος, αστατος, εφημεροβιος
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Ver. 12. And forgive us our debts, &c. ] Loose us (saith the original) and let us go free, ( αφες ): for unpardoned sinners are in the bond of iniquity, as Simon Magus, Acts 8:23 ; and remission is called a relaxation ( παρεσις ), Romans 3:25 . The guilt of sin is an obligation, binding us over to condign punishment. God hath against us, Matthew 5:23 , even our handwriting which is contrary to us, Colossians 2:14 . This David confessed against himself, Psalms 32:5 , and upon his prayer obtained pardon. He only acknowledged the debt, and God crossed the book. God crossed the black lines of his sins with the red lines of his Son’s blood. Thou forgavest me, saith David, the iniquity of my sin; the malignity of it, the worst thing that was in it. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, by mine example, and obtain like favour. For our God is a sin pardoning God, Nehemiah 9:17 , none like him, Micah 7:18 . He forgiveth sin naturally, Exodus 34:6 ; abundantly, Isaiah 55:7 ; constantly, Job 1:22 . He doth take away the sins of the world. It is a perpetual act of his, as the sun doth shine, as the spring doth run, Zechariah 13:1 . The eye is not weary of seeing, nor the ear of hearing, Ecclesiastes 1:8 ; no more is God of showing mercy. All sins, yea, and blasphemies, shall be forgiven to the sons of men, saith our Saviour, Matthew 12:31 . As the sea covers not only small sands but huge rocks, Christ is the propitiation or covering for our sins, are they how many and how great soever, as was sweetly shadowed of old by the ark covering the law, the mercy seat covering the ark, and the cherubims over them, both covering one another. In allusion whereunto, "Blessed," saith David, "is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin." a A metaphor from merchants, who when they will forgive a debt, do not put it into the reckoning, and so do not impute it. Sin casteth men deep into debt and arrearages with God. It is called a debt of ten thousand talents, Matthew 18:24 ; Luke 7:47 . It casteth a man into a comfortless condition, makes him hide his face for shame, as Adam, causeth a continual sound of fear in his ears; so that he thinks every bush a bailiff, every shrub a sergeant, &c. An evil conscience hunts him, follows him up and down so close, like a blood hound, hot foot, that he sometimes serves himself, as that Jesuit in Lancashire, followed by one that had found his glove, with a desire to restore it to him; but pursued inwardly with a guilty conscience, leaps over a hedge, plunges into a clay pit behind it unseen and unthought of, wherein he was drowned. This and worse is the case of a poor bankrupt sinner, he is caught and clapped up in prison, laid fast in bonds and chains of darkness; and "what can he give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26 . There is no feeing the sergeant, nor shifting off the arrest: sooner or later conscience will serve him with a writ to appear and answer at the great assizes before God’s tribunal. Neither doth ignorance excuse him: for debt is debt, whether a man know of it or not, and will light so much the more heavily, by how much the execution is done upon him more unexpectedly. Now there is no way in the world of discharging this debt, but by the satisfaction of Christ our surety, who hath paid the utmost farthing for his elect. This good Samaritan hath discharged all for us; and God for Christ’s sake accounts of our sins as if they had never been committed. He binds them in a bundle, seals them up as in a bag, Daniel 9:24 , and casteth them behind him, as old evidences, into the bottom of the sea, and all because mercy pleaseth him, Micah 7:19 . This he doth at first conversion, when he justifieth a sinner, Romans 3:23 . And whereas in many things we sin all, James 3:2 , we have a pardon of courses for those weaknesses that are of daily incursion, included in that general pardon, which we have upon our general repentance. Only he looketh we should sue out our pardon, by daily prayer for it. Entreat we God to remit our debts; and since he must be satisfied, to take it out of his Son’s coffers who is become surety for us: and saith unto his Father, in effect, as Paul to Philemon: If this Onesimus of mine hath "wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account," Philemon 1:18-19 , so long as he prays in my name for daily pardon. But whether shall we think less excusable, those Anabaptists b in Germany that omit this petition, "Forgive us our trespasses" (as conceiving themselves to be pure, and to have no more need of remission of sins); or those Atheists in father Latimer’s days, who being not willing to forgive their enemies, would not say their Pater Noster at all. See Trapp on " Mat 6:15 "
As we forgive our debtors ] Not as if God should therefore forgive us, because we forgive others; but this is the argument. We do and can, by God’s grace, forgive them, therefore God can and will much more forgive us; since all our goodness is but a spark of his flame, a drop of his ocean. No article of our creed is so much opposed by Satan as that of the forgiveness of sin by Christ’s merits, which is the very soul of a church and the life of a good soul. All the former articles of the creed are perfected in this, and all the following articles are effects of this. Now one main means of settling us in the sound assurance of the pardon of our own debts, is, if we can forgive our debtors. He that can put away all purpose of revenge, and freely forgive his brother, may with boldness ask and expect forgiveness at God’s hands. For mercy rejoiceth against judgment, James 2:13 ; and our love to others is but a reflex of God’s love to us. It is a fruit of justifying faith, Luke 17:4-5 . It is also a sweet seal of our election, Colossians 3:12-13 , and an effectual expression of our thankfulness. For hereby our unrighteousness shall commend the righteousness of God, Romans 3:5 , both in respect of his admirable goodness in pardoning so great sins, and our thankful acknowledging of that grace in walking worthy of it.
Now if any ask, why the petition for pardon of sin is set after that for daily bread? It is answered,
1. In the four former petitions we pray for good things, in the two latter we pray against evil.
2. Our Saviour condescends herein to our infirmity, who can sooner trust God for pardon than provision, for a crown than a crust.
3. That by an argument from the less to the greater we may the more boldly beg spirituals.
a ιλασμος , 1 John 2:2 . כפית Exodus 25:17 . επιθεμα , Sept. Tectorium, operculum, Psalms 32:1-2 .
b Bullinger, cont. Anabapt. lib. i. cap. 1.
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.
Ver. 13. And lead us not into temptation ] Here we beg sanctification, as in the former petition, justification; and are taught, after forgiveness of sins, to look for temptations, and to pray against them. Temptations are either of probation (and so God tempts men) or of perdition, and so the devil. Both Abraham’s great temptations began with one strain, לד-לד Get thee gone, Genesis 12:1 ; Genesis 22:2 . Here God led Abraham into temptation, but he delivered him from evil; yea, he tempted him and proved him, to do him good in his latter end, Deuteronomy 8:6 . His usual way is to bring us to heaven by hell’s gates, to draw light out of darkness, good out of evil. As the skilful apothecary maketh of a poisonful viper, a wholesome treacle; as the cunning artificer with a crooked unsightly tool frameth a straight and beautiful piece of work; as the Egyptian birds are said to pick wholesome food out of the serpent’s eggs; or as the Athenian magistrates by giving to malefactors hemlock (a poisonous herb) preserved the commonwealth. The devil tempts either by way of seducement, James 1:15 , or grievance, 2 Corinthians 12:7 . In the former he excites our concupiscence, rubs the firebrand, and makes it send forth many sparkles, carries us away by some pleasing object, as the fish by the bait. Yet hath he only a persuading sleight, not an enforcing might: our own concupiscence carrieth the greatest stroke. In the latter (those temptations of buffeting or grievance, horrid and hideous thoughts of atheism, idolatry, blasphemy, suicide, &c.) himself, for most part, is the sole doer, to trouble us in our Christian course, and make us run heavily toward heaven. The Russians are so malicious one towards another, that you shall have a man hide some of his own goods in his house whom he hateth, and then accuse him of the stealth of them. Such is the devil’s dealing often times with God’s dearest children. He darts into their hearts his detestable injections, and then would persuade them that they are accessory to the act. Here our victory is, not to give place to the devil, but to resist steadfast in the faith: which that we may, pray we always "with all prayer and supplication," Ephesians 6:18 , pray as our Saviour did, "Father, keep them from the evil," or from wickedness, John 17:15 . Pray as our Saviour bids, "Lead us not," &c., that is, either keep us from occasions of sin, or carry us over them. Either preserve us from falling into sin, or help us to rise out of sin by repentance: grant us to be either innocent or pertinent. Deliver us from those devoratory evils (as Tertullian calleth them), such sins as might frustrate perseverance, 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ; and from that evil and wicked one, that he touch us not, 1 John 5:18 , that is, tactu qualitativo (as Cajetan expounds it), with a deadly touch, so as to alter us from our gracious disposition. Howbeit, sin and temptation come both under one name in this petition, to warn us and teach us that we can no further shun sin than we do temptation thereunto.
For thine is the kingdom ] That is, all sovereignty is originally and transcendently invested in thee. Other kings are but thy servants and feudatories, by thee they reign, Proverbs 8:15 , and of thee they receive their power, Romans 13:1 . Where then will they appear, that say to the king, Apostata, Job 34:18 , that send messages after him, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us," Luke 19:14 ; that bespeak him, as that Hebrew did Moses, "Who made thee a prince and a judge among us?" Exodus 2:14 ; should they not rather send a lamb to this ruler of the earth? Isaiah 16:1 , and bring a present to fear? Psalms 76:11 ; should they not submit to his sceptre and confess his sovereignty?
And the power ] Some have kingdoms, that yet lack power to help their subjects: as that king of Israel that answered her that had sodden her child, in that sharp famine of Samaria, where an ass’s head was worth four pounds: "If the Lord do not help, whence shall I help?" 2 Kings 6:27 . But the King of heaven is never at such a nonplus: he can do whatsoever he will; and he will do whatsoever is meet to be done, for the good of his servants and suppliants. Peter lacked power to deliver Christ, Pilate lacked will, but God lacks neither: what a comfort is that! Let us rest on his mighty arm, and cast the labouring Church into his everlasting arms, Deuteronomy 33:27 . He is "able to do more than we can ask or think," Ephesians 3:20 , and will not fail to keep that which we have committed unto him against that day, 2 Timothy 1:14 .
And the glory ] To wit, of granting our requests. Praises will follow upon prayers obtained, Psalms 50:15 ; what a man wins by prayer he will wear with thankfulness. Now "whoso offereth praise, he glorifieth me," saith God, Psalms 50:23 : and the Gentiles did not glorify God, neither were thankful, Romans 1:21 ; Romans 1:28 ; but the 24 elders ascribe unto him glory and honour, Revelation 4:11 . And this is a most powerful argument in prayer, as are also the two former. And it pleaseth God well to hear his children reason it out with him lustily, as Jacob did, and the woman of Canaan, Gen 32:9-12 Matthew 15:25 ; Matthew 15:28 . Because by showing such reasons of their requests, as our Saviour here directs us, they show proof of their knowledge, faith, confidence, &c. And besides they do much confirm their own faith and stir up good affections in prayer.
Amen ] This Hebrew word, that remaineth untranslated in most languages, is either prefixed or preposed to a sentence, and so it is a note of certain and earnest asseveration; or else it is affixed, and opposed, and so it is a note either of assent or assurance. a Of assent; and that either of the understanding to the truth of that which is uttered, as in the end of the Creed and four Gospels; or of the will and affections, for the obtaining of our petitions; 1 Corinthians 14:16 , how shall he say Amen at thy giving of thanks? Of assurance next, as in this place and many others. It is the voice of one that believeth and expecteth that he shall have his prayers granted. It is as much as so be it, yea, so it shall be.
a It is used in all languages to betoken unity of faith and spirit. Ainsworth. Christus Amen utitur quinquagies. Gerard,
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
Ver. 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses ] Our Saviour resumeth, and inculcateth the fifth petition with a repetition; because upon charity (which is chiefly seen in giving and forgiving) hangeth, after a sort, the restful success of all our suits, 2 Timothy 2:8 . Malice is a leaven that swells the heart and sours the sacrifice, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 . Out with it, therefore, that we may keep the feast or holy day ( εορταζωμεν ); that we may (as we ought to do) keep a constant jubilee, nexus solvendo, et noxus remittendo. This flesh and blood will not easily yield to. But we are not debtors to the flesh, Romans 8:12 ; we owe it nothing, but the blue eye that St Paul gave it, 1 Corinthians 9:27 , υπωπαιζω . When Peter heard that he might not recompense to any evil for evil, but most studiously seek his conversion and salvation, "Lord," saith he, "how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" this he thought a mighty deal, a very high pitch of perfection. Our Saviour tells him, till seventy times seven times, that is, infinitely, and without stint: yet he alludes to Peter’s seven, and, as it were, derides it, and his rashness in setting bounds to this duty and prescribing how often to him that was the wisdom of the Father.
This happens when my brother returneth and saith, It repents me. But what if he does not?
In forgiving an offender, say divines, there are three things: 1. The letting fall all wrath and desire of revenge. 2. A solemn profession of forgiveness. 3. Re-acceptance into former familiarity. The first must be done however. For the second, if he say, I repent, I must say, I remit, Luke 18:22 . To the third a man is bound till satisfaction be given.
Your heavenly Father will also forgive you ] Yet is not our forgiving men the cause of his forgiving us, but a necessary antecedent. The cause is only the free mercy of God in Christ. He puts away our iniquities for his own sake, Isaiah 43:25 . Nevertheless, forasmuch as he hath made us this promise here, our forgiving others (saith learned Beza) seemeth to have the nature of an intervenient cause, a cause, sine qua non, of his forgiving us. (Annot. in Luk 11:4 )
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Ver. 15. But if ye will not, &c. ] This is a matter much to be observed, therefore so often inculcated. Judgment without mercy shall be to them that show no mercy, James 2:13 . There is but a hair’s breadth between him and hell that hath not his sins pardoned in heaven. Such is the case of every one that doth not from his heart forgive his offending brother, Matthew 18:35 , or that saith, I will forgive the fault, but not forget the matter, or affect the person. Men must forbear one another and forgive one another, as Christ forgave them; and that if any man have a quarrel ( μομφην ) against any, Colossians 2:13 , for else what thanks is it? The glory of a man is to pass by an infirmity, Proverbs 19:11 . It is more comfortable to love a friend, but more honourable to love an enemy. If thou reserve in thy mind any piece of the wrong, thou provokest and daily prayest God to reserve for thee a piece of his wrath; which burneth as low as the nethermost hell, Deuteronomy 32:22 . Neither will it help any, to do as Latimer reporteth of some in his days, who being not willing to forgive their enemies, would not say their Pater Noster at all: but instead thereof, took our Lady’s Psalter in hand; because they were persuaded that by that they might obtain forgiveness of their sins of favour, without putting in such a hard condition as the forgiveness of their enemies into the bargain.
Neither will your Father forgive your trespasses ] And if he do not, who can give pardon or peace, saith he in Job? The Rhemists talk much of one that could remove mountains; God only can remove those mountains of guilt that lie upon the soul. Men may forgive the trespass; God only the transgression. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," saith David, Psalms 51:4 : and, "to the Lord our God belongeth mercies and forgivenesses," saith Daniel, Daniel 9:9 . Ministers remit sins ministerially, as Nathan did; God only authoritatively, and by his own power. "If the Son set us free, we are free indeed. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s pardoned ones? It is God that justifieth;" or, as St Austin readeth the words, interrogatively, "shall God that justifieth?" No, verily; that were to do and undo: he keepeth no back reckonings. Fear not therefore, though the devil or his imps, or our own misgiving hearts, condemn us: as the prisoner careth not though the jailer or his fellow prisoners condemn him, so long as the judge acquitteth him.
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.
Ver. 16. Moreover, when ye fast ] Fast then they must, yea, even after the Lord’s ascension, when God’s grace and Spirit was poured upon them in all abundance, Luke 5:33 . This exercise hath still the warrant and weight of a duty, as well from precepts as examples of both Testaments. Joel 2:12 ; Isaiah 22:12 ; Mat 9:14-15 Acts 13:3 ; 1Co 7:5 And he that blamed the Pharisees here for fasting amiss, will much more blame those that fast not at all. The Israelites (besides other occasional) had their annual fast appointed them by God, Leviticus 23:27 . It was called a day of expiations or atonements, in the plural; because of their many and various sins they were then to bewail and get pardon for. God had appointed them various sacrifices for several sins. But forasmuch as it might not be safe to confess some sins to the priest (as those that might bring them, by the law, in danger of death), of his grace he vouchsafed them this yearly fast, for expiation of their secret sins, and making their peace with their Maker, by a general humiliation. Now, albeit the circumstance of time be abolished, the equity of the duty abideth, and tieth us no less (if not more) than it did the Jews. Heathen Nineveh practised it: so did, in their superstitious way, the Egyptian priests, the Persian magi, Indian wizards, Priam in Homer, &c. The Turks at this day have their solemn fasts (as before the fatal assault of Constantinople), wherein they will not so much as taste a cup of water or wash their mouths with water all the day long, before the stars appear in the sky: which maketh their fasts (especially in the summer, when the days be long and hot) to be unto them very tedious. In the year of grace 1030 there arose a sect of rasters, that affirmed that to fast on Saturdays with bread and water (as they called it) would suffice to the remission of all sins; so that men bound themselves to it by oath. a And many French bishops voted with them. But Gerardus Episcopus Cameracensis withstood and abandoned them. So great ignorance was there, even then, of the merits of Christ among the governors of the Church. The Papists slander us, that we count fasting no duty, but only a moral temperance, a fasting from sin, a matter of mere policy: and outrival us, as much as the Pharisees did the disciples with their often fasting. But, as we cannot but find fault with their fasts, in that, first, they set and appoint certain fasting days however, to be observed upon pain of damnation, be the times clear or cloudy, &c. Secondly, they fast from certain meats only, not all; which is a mere mock fast, and a doctrine of devils, 1 Timothy 4:3 . Thirdly, they make it a service of God, yet consecrate it to the saints. Fourthly, they make shameful sale of it. Fifthly, they ascribe (as those older heretics) merit unto it, even to the mere outward abstinence, as these Pharisees did, and these hypocrites in Isaiah. Isa 58:3 b Now since we cannot but condemn their superstition, so neither is our forlorn indolence and dulness to this duty to be excused. God hath given us, of late especially, many gracious opportunities of public humiliations, more, I think, than ever before, since the Reformation. But, alas, how do many fast, at such times, for fashion, fear of law, or of mere form; so that they had need to send, as the prophet speaketh, for mourning women, that by their cunning they may be taught to mourn, Jeremiah 9:17 . And for private fasting, whether domestic with a man’s family, Zechariah 12:12 ; 1 Corinthians 7:5 ; Acts 10:30 ; or personal by himself, as here, Matthew 6:17 ; we may seem to have dealt with it, as the Romans with the Tarquins; they banished all of that name for Superbus’ sake. And as the Nicopolites are said so to have hated the braying of an ass, that for that cause they would not endure the sound of a trumpet: so many are departed so far from Popish fasts, that they fast not at all; and so open the mouths of the adversaries. But acquaint thyself with this duty, thou that wouldst be acquainted with God. It is a foretaste of eternal life, when in holy practices we taste the sweetness of that heavenly manna, this angels’ food, those soul-fattening provisions, that makes us for a time to forbear our appointed food. It is a help to the understanding of heavenly mysteries, as Daniel found it. Dan 9:20 It fits us for conversion, Joel 2:12 , and furthers it, Acts 9:9 . Hence it is called a day of humiliation, or of humbling the soul, Leviticus 16:31 ; because God usually by that ordinance gives a humble heart, to the which he hath promised both grace, 1 Peter 5:5 , and glory, Proverbs 15:33 . It ferrets out corruption, and is to the soul as washing to a room, which is more than sweeping; or as scouring to the vessel, which is more than ordinary washing. It subdues rebel flesh, which with fulness of bread will wax wanton, as Sodom, Jeshurun, Ephraim. c It testifies true repentance, by this holy revenge, 2 Corinthians 7:11 , while we thus amerce and punish ourselves, by a voluntary foregoing of the comforts and commodities of life, as altogether unworthy, Psalms 35:13 . What shall I say more? Hereby we are daily drawn to more obedience and love to God, faith in him, and communion with him; a more holy frame of soul and habit of heavenly mindedness. Whence our Saviour, after this direction for fasting, immediately adds that of laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven, Matthew 6:19-20 . And, lastly, our prayers shall be hereby edged, winged, and made to soar aloft, which before flagged, fainted, and, as it were, grovelled on the ground. Therefore our Saviour, here, next after matter of prayer, adds this of fasting, which is a necessary adjunct of prayer (that which is extraordinary especially), as that which very much fits the heart for prayer and the severe practice of repentance. d Hence it is that elsewhere these two, fasting and prayer, go coupled, for the most part, as Luke 2:37 ; Mat 17:21 ; 1 Corinthians 7:5 , &c. A full belly neither studies nor prays willingly. Fasting inflames prayer, and prayer sanctifies fasting; especially when we fast and weep, Joel 2:13 , fast and watch, watch and pray, and take heed to both, Mark 13:33 .
Be not as the hypocrites ] For they fast not to God, Zechariah 7:5 ; Zechariah 7:11-12 , but to themselves; they pine the body, but pamper the flesh; they hang down their heads, Isaiah 58:5 , but their hearts stand bolt upright within them. e Their fasting is either superstitious or secure; while they rest in the work done, or with the opinion of merit; whereas the kingdom of heaven is not in meat and drink, Romans 14:17 ; and whether we eat or eat not, we are neither the more nor the less accepted of God, 1 Corinthians 8:8 : they fast for strife and debate, and to make their voices to be heard on high, Isaiah 58:4 ; whereas secrecy in this duty is the best argument of sincerity. They "loose not the bands of wickedness," nor break off their sins by repentance; therefore God regards not (which they repine at), but rejects their confidence, and answers them according to the idols of their hearts. "When they fast," saith he, "I will not hear their cry," Jeremiah 14:12 , they are not a button the better for all they can do. Displeasing service proves a double dishonour ( simulata sanctitas duplex iniquitas ); their outsideness is an utter abomination: they present the great King with an empty cask, with a heartless sacrifice, with a bare carcase of religion, as the poets feign of Prometheus.
Of a sad countenance ] Make not a sour face, look not grim and ghastly, as the word signifieth; f so that one would be afraid to look on them, they do so disfigure their faces, so waste and wither their countenances, so deform and (as St Jerome rendereth it) demolish their natural complexions; pining themselves to make their faces pale and meagre, that they may be noted and noticed for great fasters. g Such a one was that none-such Ahab, and those spungy bulrushes, Isaiah 58:5 , those hollow hypocrites, Jeremiah 14:12 , that proud patriarch of Constantinople, that first affected the style of universal bishop, and is therefore pointed at by Gregory the Great, as the forerunner of Antichrist: yet by his frequent fasting, this proud man merited to be surnamed Johannes Nesteutes, John the faster. Such pains men will put themselves to for a name, so far they will trouble themselves to go to hell with credit. The Jesuits had set forth a psalter, a little before the gunpowder plot should have been acted, for the good success of a wicked counter parliament. And to increase the iniquity, with wicked Jezebel, they would colour it with a fast: yea, with blasphemous Rabshakeh, they would by their hypocritical practices bear the world in hand, that they came not up against us without the Lord.
That they may appear unto men to fast ] There is a great deal of seemingness, and much counterfeit grace abroad. The sorcerers seemed to do as much as Moses, the Pharisees to do more, this way, than the disciples. But bodily exercise profiteth little. Somewhat it may get at God’s hands, as Ahab, for a temporary repentance, had a temporal deliverance; such is God’s munificence, he is rich in mercy to all that do him any duty. But if the leaves of this exercise be so medicinable, what is the fruit? If the shadow thereof be so sovereign, what the substance? If the shell so profitable, what the kernel? Oh, let us rather seek to be good than seem to be so: h lest the Lord say of our outward shows, as Jacob said of Joseph’s coat, "The coat is the coat of my son, some evil beast hath devoured him," Genesis 37:33 . So the outward form of their fasting, praying, practising, is the form of my sons and daughters, but some evil spirit hath devoured them, that use it in hypocrisy. Lest men also say unto such, as John Capocius did to Pope Innocent III, preaching peace and sowing discord; "You speak like a God, but do like a devil." i You are fair professors, but foul sinners. And when the filthy sinner goes damned to hell, what shall become of the seeming saint? As the clown said to the Bishop of Cullen praying in the church like a bishop, but as he was duke, going guarded like a tyrant, "Whither thinkest thou the bishop shall go, when the duke shall be damned?"
They have their reward ] All they looked after, and all they are to look for. The eagle, though she fly high, yet hath an eye to the prey below all the while. So hath the hypocrite to profit, credit, or some other base respects, and let him take it, saith our Saviour. Non equidem invideo, miror magis: Breath they have for breath; much good do them with it.
a Ex illa Synodica conclusione, feria sexta ieiunare constituerat, secta ille ieiunantium originem suam habuisse videatur. Func.
b Cave, ne si ieiunare coeperis, te putes esse sanctum: haec enim virtutis adiumentum est, non perfectio sanctitatis, &c. Jerome ad Celant.
c 1 Corinthians 9:27 ; Ezekiel 16:15 ; Deuteronomy 32:15 ; Isaiah 28:1-2 . Saturitas parit ferociam.
d Ieiunium orationem roborat: oratio ieiunium sanctificat. Bern. in Quadrages., ser. 4.
e Quid prodest tenuari abstinentia corpus, si animus intumescat superbia? Jerome.
f σκυθρωποι . Demissis oculis, et subductis superciliis tetrici. Chemuit.
g αφανιζουσι . Christus alludit ad larvas, quibus Mimi veluti in theatrum prodibant, ut cum alias essent tutus festine ridiculi, repraesentarent vultum maestum. Chemnit.
h Ne appetat quisquam ultra videri quam est, ut possit ultra esse quam videtur. Greg.
i Verba tua Dei plane sunt, facta veto diaboli videntur.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
Ver. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, &c. ] Not but that a man is bound at such a time to abridge himself of the comforts and delights of life, whence it is called a day of restraint, Joel 2:15 , and of afflicting the soul. a The Ninevites sat in sackcloth, as unworthy of any covering. Others put ashes on their heads, in token that they deserved to be as far under as now they were above ground. David lay on the earth, 2 Samuel 12:16 . Daniel laid aside all delights of sense, as music, mirth, perfumes, ointments, &c. Our Saviour fasted to the humbling of his soul, Psalms 35:13 , weakening of his knees, Psalms 109:24 , macerating and enfeebling of his body, Psalms 69:10 . And when upon the cross they offered him wine mingled with myrrh, to stupefy him and make him less sensible of his pain, he received it not, Mark 15:23 . To teach us (saith a learned interpreter) in our extraordinary humiliations for our sins, to forbear all such refreshments as might hinder the course of our just griefs. "Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness," James 4:9 , such a heaviness as may be seen in the countenance, as the word importeth. b But when our Saviour biddeth anoint the head, at such a time, and wash the face, it is, as he expounds himself, "that we may not appear to men to fast:" in a private fast, eschewing wholly the show: in a public, not performing to the show, or to this end, that we may be seen.
a Vox Hebraica Tsom, significat affligere: unde Aben Ezra ait, ubicunque in scripturis afflictio animae invenitur, ibi intelligitur ieiunium. Graeci dicunt νηστειαν α νη particula privante, et στενομαι quod est validum et firmum esse. Pet. Mart. Alii α νη et εσθιειν , cibum non comedere.
b κατηφεια . Tristitia cum vultus demissione. Badaeus. Απο του κατω φαη Βαλλειν . Ne te quaesiveris extra.
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.
Ver 18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, &c. ] Hypocrites fitly resemble the glow worm, which seems to have both light and heat; but touch it, and it hath neither indeed. In the history of the world encompassed by Sir Francis Drake, it is recorded that in a certain island to the southward of Celebes, among the trees, night by night did show themselves an infinite swarm of fiery seeming worms, flying in the air, whose bodies, no bigger than an ordinary fly, did make a show, and give such light, as if every twig on every tree had been a lighted candle, or as if that place had been the starry sphere. This was but a resemblance, but an appearance: no more is that of hypocrites, but a flaunt, but a flourish. A sincere man is like a crystal glass with a light in the midst, which appeareth through every part thereof, so as that truth within breaketh out in every parcel of his life. There is in his obedience to God, 1. A universality, he doth every as well as any part and point of God’s revealed will, so far as he knows it. 2. A uniformity, without prejudice or partiality ( κατα προσκλισιν ), 1 Timothy 5:21 , without tilting the balance on one side. Inequality of the legs causeth halting, and an unequal pulse argues bodily distemper; so doth an unsuitable carriage an unsound soul, Psalms 119:104 ; Psa 119:128 Matthew 23:23 ; Matthew 3:1-17 . Ubiquity: he is the same at home as abroad; in the closet as in the congregation; and minds secret as well as open holiness. Joseph was one and the same in his master’s house, in the prison, and at court; no changeling or chameleon, not like the planet Mercury, that is good in conjunction with good, and bad with bad. The godly man’s faith is unfeigned, 1 Timothy 1:5 ; his love cordial, 1 John 3:18 ; his wisdom undissembled ( ανυποκριτος ), James 3:17 ; his repentance a rending of the heart, Joel 2:12 ; his fasting an afflicting of the soul with voluntary sorrows, till his heart be as sore within him as the Shechemites’ bodies were the third day after circumcision, Leviticus 16:31 ; Leviticus 23:37 . He truly aims at pleasing God, and not with an alterior motive. This is truth in the inwards, Psalms 51:6 ; this is that "sincerity and truth," 1 Corinthians 5:8 ; that simplicity and godly sincerity, 2 Corinthians 1:12 . A dainty word: it is a metaphor, saith one, from such things as are tried by being held up against the beams of the sun (as chapmen do in the choice of their wares) to see what faults or flaws are in them. It is properly used, saith Bp Andrews, of uncounterfeit wares, such as we may κρινειν εν ειλη , bring forth, and show them in the sun. And as a godly man is sincere, without wax or gross matter, as he is unmingled and true of heart, so he doeth truth, John 3:21 ; he will not lie, Isaiah 63:9 ; that great real lie especially. a Hypocrites in doing good, they do lies, by their delusion, as gross hypocrites; by their collusion, as close hypocrites. Thus Ephraim compassed God with lies, Hosea 11:12 . His knowledge was but a form, his godliness a figure, Rom 2:20 ; 2 Timothy 3:5 ; his zeal a flash, all he did a semblance: as these Pharisees only appeared to fast and do other duties. But every fowl that hath a seemly feather hath not the sweetest flesh; nor doth every tree that beareth a goodly leaf bring good fruit, Luke 8:18 . Glass giveth a clearer sound than silver, and many things glisten besides gold. A true Christian cares as well to approve his inside to God as his outside to the world, Hosea 6:4 ; and it is a just question, whether the desire of being or dislike of seeming sincere be greater in him. He shows his worst to men and best to God, as Moses did, when going to the mount he pulled off his veil; and shames himself often before God for that which the world applauds in him. God, he knows, seeth in secret, there is no tempting him with Ananias and Sapphira, to try whether he trieth the hearts or not. His sharp nose easily discerneth, and is offended with the stinking breath of rotten lungs, though the words or outward actions be never so scented and perfumed with shows of holiness.
Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly ] He is the rewarder of all that diligently seek him, Hebrews 11:6 , in this soul-fatting exercise: which, as it was seen and allowed by the Lord Christ, Luke 5:33 , so it was never rightly used without effect. It is called the day of reconciliation or atonement, and hath most rich and precious promises, Joel 2:13-21 . It is sure God will pardon our sins, and that carries meat in the mouth of it, Psalms 42:1-2 . It is probable that "he will leave a blessing behind him" (and the rather, that we may therewith cheerfully serve him), even a "meat offering and a drink offering to the Lord our God:" according to that of the Psalmist, "There is mercy with thee that thou mayest be feared," i.e. served. Fulness of bread was Sodom’s sin, and in those sacrificing Sodomites, Isaiah 1:10 , it was noted for an inexpiable evil, Isaiah 22:14 . They that fast not on earth, when God calls to it, shall be fed with gall and wormwood in hell; they that weep not among men shall howl among devils; whereas those that "sow in tears shall reap in joy," Psalms 126:5 ; they that mourn in time of sinning shall be marked in time of punishing; and as they have sought the Lord with fasting, Ezekiel 9:4-6 , so shall he yet again "be sought and found" of such with "holy feasting," Zechariah 8:19 ; as he hath promised and performed to his people in all ages of the Church, not an instance can be alleged to the contrary. Those three great fasters met gloriously upon Mount Tabor. The Israelites fasting (and not till then) were victorious, Judges 20:26-36 ; Jehoshaphat was delivered, Esther and her people reprieved, Daniel had visions from heaven, Ezra help from heaven. b And surely if with fasting and prayer we can wrestle with God, as Jacob, we need not fear Duke Esau with his 600 cutthroats coming against us. Si Deus nobiscum, quis contranos? If God is with us, who can oppose us? Numa being told that his enemies were coming upon him as he was offering sacrifices, thought it sufficient for his safety that he could say, At ego rem divinam facio, but I am about the service of my God. ( Εγω δε θυω , Plutarch.) When Jehoshaphat had once established a preaching ministry in all the cities of Judah, then, and not till then, the "fear of the Lord fell upon the neighbour nations, and they made no war," 2 Chronicles 17:8-10 ; albeit he had before that placed forces in all the fenced cities. Leotine Prince of Wales, when he was moved by some about him to make war upon our Henry III, replied thus: "I am much more afraid of his alms than of his armies." Judges 20:23 ; Ezr 8:23 ; 2Ch 20:1-3 Ezra 4:16 ; Daniel 9:2-6 Act 10:30 Frederic the Elector of Saxony, intending war against the Archbishop of Magdeburg, sent a spy to search out his preparations and to hearken out his designs. But understanding that the Archbishop did nothing more than commit his cause to God and give himself to fasting and prayer, Alius, inquit, insaniat ut bellum inferat ei qui confidit se Deum defensorem habiturum. Bucholcer. Let him fight, said he, that hath a mind to it: I am not so mad as to fight against him that trusts to have God his defender and deliverer. It is reported, that at the siege of Mountabone, the people of God, using daily humiliation as their service would permit, did sing a psalm after and immediately before their sallying forth; with which practice the enemy coming acquainted, ever upon the singing of the psalm (after which they expected a sally) they would so quake and tremble, crying, "They come, they come," as though the wrath of God had been breaking out upon them. The soldiers that went against the Angroginans (where God was sincerely served amidst a whole kingdom of Papists) told their captains they were astonished, they could not strike. Some others said that the ministers, with their fasting and prayer, conjured and bewitched them, that they could not fight. It was the custom of this poor people, as soon as they saw the enemy to approach, to cry all together for aid and help from the Lord, &c.; while the soldiers fought, the rest of the people with their ministers made their hearty prayer to God, with sighs and tears, and that from the morning to the evening. When night was come, they assembled again together. They which had fought rehearsed God’s wonderful aid and help, and so all together rendered thanks. Alway he turned their sorrow into joy. In the morning, trouble and affliction appeared before them, with great terror on all sides; but by the evening they were delivered, and had great cause of rejoicing and comfort.
a ειλικρινεια . Or, as the eagle tries her young against the sun. Sincerum mel, i.e. sine cera.
b Ego, inquit, formido eius eleemosynas magis certe multo quam eius copias. Powell.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Ver. 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ] This is the fourth common place handled here by our Saviour, of casting away the inordinate care of earthly things, which he presseth upon all, by nine various arguments, to the end of the chapter. By treasures here are meant worldly wealth in abundance, precious things stored up, as silver, gold, pearls, &c. All these are but earth, and it is but upon earth that they are laid up. What is silver and gold but white and yellow earth? And what are pearls and precious stones but the guts and garbage of the earth? חספא בספא Daniel 2:45 . The stone brake in piece’s the iron, the brass, the clay, and silver, &c. The prophet breaks the native order of speech, for clay, iron, brass, silver, &c., to intimate (as some conceive) that silver is clay by an elegant allusion in the Chaldee, Should we load ourselves with thick clay? surcharge our hearts with cares of this life? Luke 21:34 . It is said, "Abraham was very rich in cattle, in siiver, and in gold," Genesis 13:2 . There is a Latin translation that hath it, "Abraham was very heavy," בבז . And the original indifferently beareth both; to show, saith one, that riches are a heavy burden, and a hindrance many times to heaven and happiness. They that have this burden upon their backs can as hardly get in at the strait gate as a camel or cable into a needle, Matthew 19:24 , and that because they trust in their riches (as our Saviour there expounds himself), and here plainly intimates when he speaketh of laying up treasures, providing thereby for hereafter, for tomorrow a (so the word signifieth), and thinking themselves simply the safer and the happier for their outward abundance, as the rich fool did. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, saith Solomon, Proverbs 10:15 ; his wedge, his confidence; his gold, his god; therefore St Paul calleth him an idolater, Ephesians 5:5 ; St James, an adulterer, James 4:4 ; because he robs God of his flower, his trust, and goeth a whoring after lying vanities: he soweth the wind and reapeth the whirlwind, he treasureth up wealth but also wrath, James 5:3 ; and by counting all fish that cometh to net, he catcheth at length the devil and all. Hence it is that St James bids such (and not without cause) "weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon them." He looks upon them as deplored persons, and such as the philosopher could call and count incurable and desperate. b For the heart that is first turned into earth and mud will afterwards freeze and congeal into steel and adamant. "The Pharisees that were covetous derided Christ," Luke 16:14 , and perished irrecoverably. And reprobates are said by St Peter to have their hearts "exercised with covetous practices," 2 Peter 2:14 , which they constantly follow, as the artificer his trade, being bound apprentices to the devil, 2 Corinthians 2:11 ; "Lest Satan should get an advantage against us, or overreach us," as covetous wretches do silly novices. c These as they have served an ill master, so they shall receive the "reward of unrighteousness and perish in their corruptions," 2 Peter 2:12-13 . Their happiness hath been laid up in the earth, nearer hell than heaven, nearer the devil than God, whom they have forsaken, therefore shall they "be written in the earth," Jeremiah 17:13 ; that is, in hell, as it stands opposed to having their names written in heaven. Those that are earthly minded have damnation for their end, Philippians 3:19 . God, to testify his displeasure, knocks his fists at them, Ezekiel 22:13 ; as Balak did at Balaam. And lest they should reply, Tush, these are but big words, devised on purpose to frighten silly people; we shall do well enough with the Lord; he addeth, Matthew 6:14 ; "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it." Oh that our greedy muck moles (that lie rooting and poring in the earth, as if they meant to dig themselves through it a nearer way to hell) would consider this before the cold grave holds their bodies and hot Tophet burns their souls! the one is as sure as the other, if timely course be not taken. O saeculum nequam, saith St Bernard; O most wretched and miserable world, how little are thy friends beholden to thee; seeing thy love and friendship exposeth them to the wrath and vengeance of God, which burneth as low as the nethermost hell! d How fitly may it be said of thee, as Solinus of the river Hipanis: they that know it at first commend it; they that have experience of it at last, do not without cause condemn it! e Those that will be rich are resolved to get rem, rem, quocunque modo rem, as he saith, these fall necessarily into many noisome lusts that drown men in destruction: f desperately drown them in remediless misery (as the word signifieth). "Christ must be prayed to be gone," saith that martyr, "lest all their pigs be drowned. The devil shall have his dwelling again in themselves rather than in their pigs. Therefore to the devil shall they go, and dwell with him," &c. They feed upon carrion, as Noah’s raven; upon dust, as the serpent; upon the world’s murdering morsels, as those in Job: Job 20:15 "They swallow down riches," and are as insatiated, as the Pharisees, Luke 11:41 . But they shall vomit them up again, God shall cast them out of their bellies. g Their mouths that cry, Give, give, with the horse leech, shall be filled ere long with a shovelful of mould, and a cup of fire and brimstone poured down their wide gullets. It shall be worse with them than it was once with the covetous Caliph of Babylon, who being taken, together with his city, by Haalon, brother to Mango the great Cham of Tartary, was set by him in the midst of the infinite treasure which he and his predecessors had most covetously heaped up together, and bidden of that gold, silver, and precious stones take what it pleased him to eat, saying by way of derision, that so rich a guest should be fed with the best, whereof he willed him to make no spare. The covetous wretch, kept for certain days, miserably died for hunger in the midst of those things whereof he thought he should never have had enough, whereby he hoped to secure himself against whatsoever dearth or danger. God loveth to confute carnal men in their confidences. They shall pass on "hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth" (where they have laid up their happiness, but now lost their hopes), "and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven into darkness," Isaiah 8:21-22 , utter darkness, where their never enough shall be quitted with fire enough, but a black fire without the least glimpse of light or comfort.
Where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves, &c. ] A powerful dissuasive from earthlymindedness, by the uncertainty of riches, ever subject to a double danger or waste; 1. Of vanity in themselves; 2. Of violence from others: rust or robbery may undo us. As the fairest flowers or fruit trees breed a worm oftentimes that eats out the heart of them; as the ivy killeth the oak that beareth it; so of the matter of an earthly treasure grows moth or rust that rots it. All outward things are of a perishing nature, they perish in the use, they melt away between our fingers. St Gregory upon those words in Job 38:22 , Qui ingreditur in thesauros nivis? "Who hath entered into the treasures of the snow?"-showeth that earthly treasures are treasures of snow. We see little children what pains they take to rake and scrape snow together to make a snowball, which after a while dissolves and comes to nothing. Right so the treasures of this world, the hoards that wicked men have heaped, when God entereth into them, come to nothing. "He that trusteth to his riches shall fall," Proverbs 11:28 , as he shall that standeth on a hillock of ice or heap of snow. David, when gotten upon his mountain, thought himself cocksure, and began to crow that he should never be moved. But God (to confute him) had no sooner hidden his face but he was troubled, Psalms 30:6-7 . What is the air without light? The Egyptians had no joy of it: no more than a Christian have of wealth without God’s favour. Besides, what hold is there of these earthly things, more than there is of a flock of birds? I cannot say they are mine because they sit in my yard, "Riches have wings," saith Solomon, Proverbs 23:5 ; "great eagles’ wings to fly from us," saith a father; but to follow after us, Ne passerinas quidem, not so much as small sparrows’ wings. Whereupon Solomon rightly argues, "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?" that hath no real subsistence, that is nothing, and of no more price than mere opinion sets upon it? The world calls wealth substance, but God gives that name to wisdom only. Heaven is said to have a foundation, earth to he hanged upon nothing, Job 16:7 . So things are said to be in heaven, as in a mansion; but on earth, on the surface only, as ready to be shaken off. h Hence the world is called a sea of glass, frail and fickle, mingled with fire of temptations and tribulations, Revelation 15:2 . The very firmament (that hath its name from its firmness) shall melt with fervent heat, and the whole visible fabric be dissolved by the fire of the last day, 2 Peter 3:10 . Solomon sets forth the world by a word that betokeneth change, for its mutability. i And St Paul, when he telleth as "that the fashion of the world passeth away," useth a word of art that signifieth a bare external mathematical figure, " Cui veri aut solidi nihil subest, " saith an interpreter, that hath no truth or solidity in it at all. Gelimer, king of the Vandals, being conquered, and carried in triumph by Belisarius the Roman general, when he stood in the open field before the Emperor Justinian, and beheld him sitting in his throne of state, remembering withal what a high pitch himself was fallen from, he broke out into this speech, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." That was Solomon’s verdict, long since delivered up, upon well grounded experience. But men love to try conclusions; and when they have done, "What profit," saith he, "hath a man of all his pains?" what residue and remaining fruit (as the word signifieth) to abide with him? Ecclesiastes 1:3 . When all the account is subducted (his happiness resolved into its final issue and conclusion) there resteth nothing but ciphers. A spider eviscerateth himself and wasteth his own bowels to make a web to catch a fly; so doth the worldling for that which profiteth not, but perisheth in the use: or say that it abide, yet himself perisheth, when to possess the things he hath gotten might seem a happiness; as the rich fool, Alexander, Tamerlane, and others. Most of the Caesars got nothing by their adoption or designation, but ut citius interficerentur, that they might be the sooner slain. All, or most of them, till Constantine, died unnatural deaths and in the best of their time. "He that getteth riches and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool," Jeremiah 17:11 . God will make a poor fool of him. As he came forth from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand, Ecclesiastes 5:15 . Say his treasure escape both rust and robber, death as a thief will break in, and leave him not worth a groat. Who would not then set light by this pelf, and put on that Persian resolution, Isaiah 13:17 ; "Not to regard silver, nor be desirous of gold?" ( Animo magno nihil magnum, With a great spirit nothing is great. Senec.) Who would not tread in the steps of faithful Abraham, and answer the devil with his golden offers, as he did the king of Sodom, "God forbid that I should take of thee so much as a shoe latchet?" When great gifts were sent to Luther, he refused them with this brave speech, " Valde protestatus sum me nolle sic satiari a Deo, " I deeply protested that God should not put me off with such poor things as these. The heathenish Romans had, for a difference in their nobility, a little ornament in the form of a moon (to show that all worldly honours were mutable), and they did wear it upon their shoes, to show that they did tread it under their feet, as base and bootless. j This is check to many Christians, that have their hands elbow deep in the world, and dote as much upon these earthly vanities as Xerxes once did upon his plane tree, or Jonah upon his gourd. There is a sort of men that say of the world as Solomon’s dealer, "It is naught, it is naught:" but when they are gone apart they boast and close with the world. St Paul was none of these; for "neither at any time," saith he, "used we flattering words, as ye know; nor a cloak of covetousness, God is my witness." No, he looked upon the world as a great dunghill, and cared to "glory in nothing, save in the cross of Jesus Christ," whereby the world was crucified to him and he to the world, Galatians 6:14 . So David, "My soul," saith he, "is even as a weaned child," that cares not to suck though never so fair and full a breast. So Luther confesseth of himself, "that though he were a frail man, and subject to imperfections, yet the infection of covetousness never laid hold of him;" now I would we were all Lutherans in this, saith one.
a Θησαυρος παρα του εις αυριον θειναι .
b Aristotdes hoc iudicat αναιτους . Ethic. iv. 1.
c ινα μη πλεονεκτηθωμεν . Metaph. ab avaris illis sanguisugis viduarum domos devorantibus.
d Quod solos tuos sic solet beare amicos, ut Dei facias inimicos. Bern.
e Qui in principiis eum norunt praedicant: qui in fine experti sunt, non iniuria execrantur. Sol. c. 24.
f Βυθιζουσι . In profundum exitium demergunt, ita ut in aquae summitate rursus non ebulliant.
g τα ενοντα . Quia divitae insident avari animo. Beza.
h Εν ουρανοις, επι της γης .
i חלוף Proverbs 31:8 ; hoc est, עולם mundi, sic dicti quod transeat, nec quicquam in eo stabile sit. Kimchi.
j Baytacen habitantes odio auri coemunt hoc genus metalli, et abieciunt in terrarum profundo, ne polluti usu eius, avaritia corrumpant aequitatem. Sol. cap. 68.
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:
Ver. 20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ] That which you may draw out a thousands years hence. For in a treasure there are three things, -a laying up, a lying hidden, and a drawing out for present use. Riches reach not to eternity. Therefore while others lay hold upon riches, "Lay thou hold on eternal life," 1 Timothy 6:12 , and that "by following after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." This, this is the true treasure; this is to be rich, as our Saviour speaketh, toward God, and is opposed to laying up treasure for himself, Luke 12:21 , as here "laying up treasure in heaven" is to that of laying up treasure in earth. a Both cannot he done, because the heart cannot be in two such different places at once. The saints have their commoration on earth, but their conversation is in heaven. Here are their bodies, but their hearts are in the place where Christ their head is. Sancti ibi sunt ubi nondum sunt, et non sunt ubi sunt, saith Chrysostom. The saints are there, in their affections, whither as yet they are not come in their attainments. All their ploughing, sailing, building, planting, tends to that life that is supernal, supernatural; they run for the high prize, they strive for the crown of righteousness, they breathe after the beatifical vision, with, "Oh when shall I come and appear before God?" And as the Athenians, when they were besieged by Sulla, b had their hearts with him without the walls, though their bodies were held within by force: so the saints, though detained here for a while in a far country, yet their hearts are at home. They go through the world as a man whose mind is in a deep study, or as one that hath special haste of some weighty business; they wonder much how men can awhile to pick up sticks and straws with so much delight and diligence. The time is short (or trussed up into a narrow scantling), the task is long, of keeping faith and a good conscience; hence they use the world as if they used it not, as having little leisure to trifle. c There is water little enough to run in the right channel, therefore they let none run beside; but carefully improve every opportunity, as wise merchants, Ephesians 5:15 , and care not to sell all, to purchase the pearl of price. In a witty sense (saith Broughton out of Rabbi Bochai) Cain and Abel contain in their names advertisements for matter of true continuance and corruption. Cain betokeneth possession in this world, and Abel betokeneth one humbled in mind, and holding such possession vain. Such was his offering, sheep, the gentlest of all living beasts, and therefore the favour of God followed him. And the offering of Cain was of the fruit of the earth, as he loved the possession of this world and the service of the body (which yet can have no continuance), and followed after bodily lusts. Therefore the blessed God favoured him not. Cain’s chief care was to build cities, that he "might call his land after his own name," Psalms 49:11 , and make his son, Lord Enoch of Enoch. Not so the better sort, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, they were content to dwell in tents, as looking for a city "which hath foundations, whose maker and founder is God," Hebrews 11:10 . Abraham bought a piece of ground, but for burial only. Ishmael shall beget twelve princes, but "with Isaac will I establish my covenant;" and although he grow not so great as his brother (that man of God’s hand, that had his portion here), yet he shall make reckoning, that "the lines are fallen unto him in a fair place, that he hath a goodly heritage," Psalms 16:6 . Esau had his dukes, and grows a great magnifico; but Jacob gets first the birthright for a mess of red, red, which the hungry hunter required to be fed with, as camels are fed by casting gobbets into their mouths (so the word signifies). And after this he gets the blessing by his mother’s means. And when Esau threatened him, and had bolted out some suspicious words, she seeks not to reconcile the two brethren by making the younger yield up again what he had gotten from the elder; but prefers the blessing before Jacob’s life, and sends him away. This was to lay up treasure in heaven for her son, who took herein after the mother too ( partus sequitur ventrem ). For if Esau will but allow him to settle in the Land of Promise, a type of heaven, he will spare for no cost to make his peace. Silver and gold he hath none, but cattle good store; 550 head of them sends he for a present to make room for him, as Solomon hath it. Let heaven be a man’s object, and earth will soon be his reject. David counts one good cast of God’s countenance far better than all the grain and oil in the country. Solomon craves wisdom and not wealth. Paul counts all but dross, dung, and dog’s meat ( σκυβαλα ), Philippians 3:8 , so he may win Christ and get home to him, 2 Corinthians 5:6 . Here we have but a glimpse of those gleams of glory, we see but as in a glass obscurely, 1 Corinthians 13:12 ; "Our life is hid with Christ in God," as the pearl lies hidden till the shell be broken, Colossians 3:3 . Compare the estate of Prince Charles in his Queen mother’s womb, with his condition at full age, in all the glory of his father’s court: there is not so broad a difference as between our present enjoyments (albeit our joys here are unspeakably glorious, 1Pe 1:8 ) with those we shall have hereafter. Sursum igitur cursum nostrum dirigamus. Let therefore our affections and actions, our counsels and courses, be bent and bound for heaven: our earthly businesses despatch with heavenly minds, and in serving men let us serve the Lord Christ. The angels are sent about God’s message to this earth, yet never out of their heaven, never without the vision of their Maker. These earthly things distract not, if we make them not our treasure, if we shoot not our hearts overly far into them. The end of a Christian’s life is (not, as Anaxagoras dreamed of the life of man, to behold the heavens, but) to live in heaven. This he begins to do here by the life of faith, by walking with God, as Enoch and Elijah, those candidates of immortality (so the ancients called them), by walking before God, as Abraham and David, by walking after God, as the Israelites were bidden to do, Genesis 6:9 ; 1 Kings 9:4 ; Deuteronomy 13:4 . With God, a man walks by a humble friendship and familiarity; before him, by uprightness and integrity; after him, by obedience and conformity, by doing his "will on earth, as it is in heaven." And this is to "lay up treasure in heaven;" this is, as the apostle expresseth and interpreteth it, "to lay in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life," 1 Timothy 6:19 . There shall be stability of thy times, strength, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; "for the fear of the Lord shall be his treasure," Isaiah 33:6 .
a εις θεον πλουτειν . Hoc est, omnia praedia in Deo collocare, et ab eius unica providentia pendere. Beza in loc.
b Animos extra moenia, corpora necessitati servientes intra muros habuerunt. Paterc. St Paul’s body was at Rome, his spirit with the Colossians. Col 2:5
c 1 Corinthians 7:29 , συνεσταλμενος , terminus nauticus.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Ver. 21. For where your treasure is, &c. ] i.e. Where your chief happiness is, there your affections will be settled: where the carcase is, there will the eagles be also. Beetles delight in muck hills; but Christ’s eagles are never in their pride till farthest off from the earth: they are said (even here) to "be set together with Christ in heavenly places," Ephesians 2:6 . The Church in the Canticles hath this given her for a high commendation, that she had a "nose like the tower of Lebanon," Song of Solomon 7:4 . Si verborum faciem spectemus, saith an interpreter, quid poterit magis dici ridiculum? The words at first sight seem somewhat strange; for what so great a praise is it to have a nose like a tower? But by this expression is notably set forth that spiritual sagacity and sharpness of smell, whereby the saints resent and savour the things above, being carried after Christ, the true carcase, with unspeakable desire and delight. The earthly minded, that have their bellies filled with God’s hidden treasure, the trash of this world, and take it for their portion, Psalms 17:14 ; these have their heads so stuffed and their eyes so stopped with the dust of covetousness, that they neither see nor savour heavenly things. As they are of the earth, so they speak of the earth, and the earth hears them, John 3:31 . As the grasshopper is bred, liveth, and dieth in the same ground, so these terrigenae fratres, these muck-minded men, are wholly earth in their whole course; and as the grasshopper hath wings but flieth not, sometimes she hoppeth upwards a little, but falleth to the ground again; so these have some light and short motions to godliness, when they hear a piercing sermon, or feel a pressing affliction, or see others snatched away by sudden death before them; but this is not of any long continuance, they return to their former worldliness. The devil hath gotten full possession of them, as once of Judas by this sin; and could a man rip up their hearts he might find there fair written, "The god of this present world," 2 Corinthians 5:4 . He holds his black hand before their eyes, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine upon them. We cry, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord;" but the devil hath made a pathway over their hearts, so that the seed cannot enter. Earth is cold and dry, so are earthly minded men to any holy duty. Earth is heavy, and bears downward, so do earthly affections. Earth doth often keep down the hot exhalations that naturally would ascend; so do those, holy motions and meditations. Earth stands still, and hath the whole circumference carried about it; so are God’s mercies and judgments about earthly minded men, and they are no whit moved thereat. Grace, on the other side, as fire, is active and aspiring. And as Moses would not be put off with an angel to go before the people, he would have God himself, or none; so the true Christian must have Christ, or nothing will give him content. Christ is his treasure, and hath his heart; all his cry is, "None but Christ, none but Christ." As the sun draws up vapours, so doth the Sun of righteousness the affections of his people. And as the hop in its growing windeth itself about the pole, always following the course of the sun, from east to west, and can by no means be drawn to the contrary, choosing rather to break than yield; so the saints (as well militant as triumphant) do "follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth;" and being risen with Christ, and spiritualized by him, they seek the things that are above; their thoughts feed upon the fairest objects (such as are those set down by the apostle, Php 4:8 ), and run with much content, upon that firmament and those stars, in Daniel; that inheritance undefiled and unfadable, in Peter; a those palms and white robes, in the Revelation. They take ever and anon a turn or two on Tabor, and are there transfigured with Christ; or on Mount Olivet, where he was taken up, and have thence continual ascensions in their hearts. And as our Saviour in the interim between his resurrection and ascension, while he walked here on the earth, spake "of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," and waited for his exaltation into heaven, Acts 1:3 ; so the faithful Christian (that hath his part in the first resurrection) walks, in his measure, as Christ walked, talks as he talked, he speaks of the things concerning the King, and therein his tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, 1 John 2:6 ; Psalms 45:1 . Of Origen it is said that he was ever earnest, but never more than when he treats of Christ. b And of St Paul it is well observed, that when he speaketh of heaven he useth a transcendent, lofty kind of language, his speech riseth higher and higher, as 2 Corinthians 4:17 , a degree above the superlative: so Philippians 1:23 , to be with Christ is far, far the better: so 1 Thessalonians 2:19 . c See how the apostle’s mouth is opened, his heart enlarged, he cannot satisfy himself, nor utter his conceptions. This a Christian can do, he can sigh out a cupio dissolvi, " I desire to be with Christ," whom as he more or less enjoyeth here, in the same measure he is merry; like as birds never sing so sweetly as when they are gotten in the air, or on the top of trees. As when Christ withdraws his gracious presence and influence, he is all amort, you may take him up for a dead man. He cries after Christ, as idolatrous Micah did after his lost gods, Judges 18:14 . And as King Edward III, having the King of France prisoner here in England, and feasting him one time most sumptuously, pressed him to be merry; the French King answered, "How can we sing songs in a strange land?" So the good soul is in great heaviness while Christ absents himself, and never heartily merry till she get home to him, till she lay hold on him whom her soul loveth.
a Daniel 12:3 . αμιαντος και αμαραντος , 1 Peter 1:4 .
b Nusquam Origenes non ardet, sed nusquam est ardentior, quam ubi Christi sermones actusque tractat. Erasmus.
c Hic oratio altius assurgit, &c. Rolloc.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Ver. 22. The light of the body is the eye, &c. ] Here our blessed Saviour illustrateth what he had said before, of laying up, not on earth, but in heaven, by a fit similitude. Like as the eye is the light of the whole body, so is the mind of the whole man. "If therefore thine eye be single," that is, if thy mind be sincere, if thou have that one eye of the spouse in the Canticles, Song of Solomon 4:9 , that one heart promised in the new covenant, Ezekiel 11:19 , set upon God alone, and not divided, and, as it were, cloven asunder (which is to have a heart and a heart), but minding the one thing necessary, as the main, and be not double-minded, or corrupted from the simplicity of Christ, 2 Corinthians 11:3 , -then shall thy whole body, that is, thy whole both constitution and conversation, be lightsome, diaphanous, transparent, as a lantern that hath a candle in it, or as a crystal glass with a light in the midst, which appeareth through every part thereof. There will be a uniformity, equability, ubiquity, and constancy of holiness running through thy whole course, as the warp doth through the woof; when a double-minded man (that hath not cleansed his heart, nor washed his hands of worldly lusts) is unstable and uneven in all his ways ( διφυχος ), James 4:8 ; James 1:8 ; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind," Luke 10:27 ; "And with my mind I serve the law of God," saith Paul, which he acknowledged to be spiritual, though he were carnal in part, sold under sin. The old man is still corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (which sometimes so bemist and beguile the judgment, that a man shall think there is some sense in sinning, and that he hath reason to be mad), but be ye renewed in the spirit of your minds, in the bosom and bottom of the soul, in the most inward and subtile parts of the soul, and, as it were, the quintessence of it, Ephesians 4:22-23 . Reserve these upper rooms for Christ, and be not ye conformed to the world (who mind earthly things, and have damnation for their end, Php 3:19 ), but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, Romans 12:2 , that ye may see and prove by good experience (not by a notional knowledge only) what that good, and holy, and acceptable will of God is. Concerning the east gate of that temple in Ezekiel, thus saith the Lord, "This gate shall be shut, and shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel hath entered by it," Ezekiel 44:2 ; there by signifying, saith a divine, that although the heart, of a Christian, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost, may let many things enter into it at other gates, yet must it keep the east gate, the most illuminate and highest power and part of it, continually shut against all men; yea, against all the world; and opened only to one thing, I mean to God, who hath already entered into it, and enlightened it with his Spirit. That as at the windows of Noah’s ark there entered in no mist nor water, nothing else but one thing only, which is light; so at the east gate, no mist of human errors, no water of worldly cares, may enter in, but only the light of heaven, and a sanctified desire to be fast knit and perfectly united by faith and love to God.
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!
Ver. 23. But if thine eye be evil, &c. If the light that is in thee be darkness, &c. ] An evil eye is here opposed to a single eye, that looks on God singly abstracted from all other things, and affects the heart with pure love to him for himself, more than for his love tokens. These we may lawfully have, but they may not have us. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," 1 John 2:16 , that is, pleasure, profit, and preferment, -these three, like those three troops of the Chaldeans, Job 1:17 , fall upon the faculties of the soul, and carry them away from God the right owner. The mind is filled with greater darkness than can be expressed. How great is that darkness! "The prince that lacketh understanding is a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness," that hath not his eyes bleared and blinded with the dust of earthly mindedness,"shall prolong his days," Proverbs 28:16 ; "His watchmen are blind:" and why? "they are greedy dogs, which can never have enough, and they are shepherds which cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his gain from his quarter," Isaiah 56:10-11 . a Of this sort were those covetous Pharisees, that devoured widows’ houses; therefore blind, because covetous, Luke 16:14 ; Luke 20:47 , the property of which sin is to besot and infatuate, as it did Judas, who, though he wanted for nothing in our Saviour’s retinue, but was sufficiently provided for, yet for filthy lucre basely sold his Master, and that for thirty silverlings (the known and pitched price of the vilest slave), and had the face, after all, to ask, "Master, is it I?" when he knew Christ to be the true God, and to know all things. Blazing comets (though but comets) as long as they keep aloft, shine bright, but when they decline from their pitch, they fall to the earth. So, when men forsake the Lord and mind earthly things, they lose that light they had, and are dissipated, destroyed, and come to nothing. Good, therefore, is the counsel of Solomon, "Labour not to be rich: wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?" Or as Mercerus otherwise reads that text, "Wilt thou darken thine eyes upon them?" b As those that walk long in the snow, or that sit in a smoky corner, can see little at length. "Whoredom and wine take away the heart," saith Hosea, Hos 4:11 as they did Solomen’s; they drew out his spirits, and dissolved his reason; so doth covetousness. It makes a man that he cannot see the net that is spread before him, which every bird can do, Proverbs 1:17 : c but while he coveteth the bait, loseth his life, as Shimei did by looking for his servants; as Lot, who had like to have run the same hazard, by choosing the plain of Jordan; as Jonas, that suffered himself to be cast into the sea, that the ship with her lading might come safe to shore. How many carnal minds, like Noah’s raven, fly out of the ark of God’s Church, and embrace this present world: and like the mariners, when they found out Jonas, yet fain they would have saved him. So many will rather venture their own casting away, than cast their worldly lusts overboard. How much better Joseph, who let go his garment to save himself, as Elijah did his mantle to go to heaven, and Bartimeus his cloak to come to Christ! How much better Moses, who by faith seeing him that is invisible, and having an eye to the reward, when he was come to years, as the text noteth, and therefore well knew what he did, for he was no baby, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and the world’s darling; and choosing rather the afflictions of God’s poor people than the pleasures of sin for a season, he esteemed the reproach of Christ (the worst part of him) greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. And why all this? "for he had respect to the recompence of reward," Hebrews 11:24-26 . He set his foot, as it were, upon the battlements of heaven, and there hence looked upon these earthly happinesses as base and abject, slight and slender, waterish and worthless. The great cities of Campania seem but small cottages to them that stand on the top of the Alps: d the moon covereth herself with a pale veil and shines not at all in the presence of the sun: no more doth the beauty and bravery of the world (wherewith carnal minds are so bedazzled and bewitched) to a man that hath been in Paradise with Paul, that hath already laid hold on eternal life. The moles of the earth, that are blind and cannot see far off, that have animam triticiam, a wheaten soul, with that fool in the Gospel, and know no other happiness than to have and to hold; these have their eyes blinded by the god of this world, as Isaac had his wells stopped up with earth by the Philistines. And as a small dish being held near the eyes hideth from our sight a great mountain; and a little hill or cloud, the great body of the sun, though it be far bigger than the whole earth; so these earthly trifles being placed near men’s sight, do so shadow and cloud out those great and glorious excellencies that are above, that they can neither truly behold them, nor rightly judge of them. e When men travel so far into the south that the sight of the north pole is at length intercepted by the earth, it is a sign they are far from it: so is it, that men are far from heaven when the love of the earth comes in between their souls and the sight thereof. Earth damps quench the spirit’s lamp. Much water of affliction cannot quench that love, that yet a little earth may soon do.
a Avidus a non videndo dicitur; et Midas secundum Etymologiam Graecam caecus est.
b Proverbs 23:4-5 . Num facies obtenebrescere oculos tuos in eas? Job 11:17 ; Amos 4:13 .
c Aves quae vident rete suspensum non capiuntur, sed videntes periculum cavent. Bayn.
d Postquam in montium verticem ascenderimus parva nobis et urbes et moenia etiam videntur: sit parva videbuntur otium gloria divitiae cum coelum respicias.
e 2 Peter 1:9 , μυωπαζοντες . Muris oculos habentes, subterranei scilicet muris, hoc est, talpae. Genesis 26:15 . The poets feigned Plutus, the god of riches, to be blind. Divites facultatibus suis alligati magis aurum suspiciunt, quam coelum. Minut. Octan.
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.
Ver. 24. No man can serve two masters, &c. ] The mammonist’s mind must needs be full of darkness, because utterly destitute of the Father of lights, the sun of the soul: for ye cannot serve two masters, God and mammon. By mammon is meant earthly treasure, worldly wealth, outward abundance, especially when, gotten by evil arts, it cometh to be the gain of ungodliness, the wages of wickedness, riches of unrighteousness, filthy lucre. a When Joseph was cast into the pit by his bloody brethren, "What gain," saith Judah, "will it be if we kill him?" Genesis 37:26 . The Chaldee there hath it, what mammon shall it be? what can we make of it? what profit shall we reap or receive thereby? Now these two, God and mammon, as they are incompatible masters, so the variance between them is irreconcileable. "Amity with the world is enmity with the Lord," James 4:4 . Enmity, I say, in a sense both active and passive, for it makes a man both to hate God and to be hated by God: so there is no love lost on either side. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," that is flat. But the deeper any one is drowned in the world, the more desperately he is divorced from God, who requireth to be served truly, that there be no halting; and totally, that there be no halving. Camden reports of Redwald, the first king of the East Saxons that was baptized, that he had in the same church one altar for Christian religion and another for sacrifice to devils. b And Callenucius telleth us of a nobleman of Naples, that was wont profanely to say that he had two souls in his body, one for God and another for whomsoever would have it. The Ebionites, saith Eusebius, would keep the sabbath with the Jews and the Lord’s day with the Christians, as if they were of both religions, when, in truth, they were of neither. So Ezekiel’s hearers sat devoutly before the Lord at his public ordinances, and with their mouth showed much love, but their heart, meanwhile, was on their half-penny, it went after their covetousness, Ezekiel 33:31 . So the Pharisees heard Christ’s sermon against the service of mammon, and derided him, Luke 16:13 ; and while their lips seemed to pray, they were but chewing of that murdering-morsel, those widows’ houses that their throats (as an open sepulchre) swallowed down soon after. Thus filled they up the measure of their fathers, those ancient idolaters in the wilderness, who set up a golden calf, and then caused it to be proclaimed, "To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah," Exodus 32:5 . And such is the dealing of every covetous Christian. St Paul calleth him an idolater, St James an adulterer, for he goeth a whoring after his gods of gold and silver; and although he bow not the knee to his mammon, yet with his heart he serveth it. Now "obedience is better than sacrifice;" and, "know ye not," saith the apostle, "that his servants ye are to whom ye obey?" &c., Romans 6:16 . Inwardly he loves it, delights in it, trusts on it, secures himself by it from whatsoever calamities. Outwardly, he spends all his time upon this idol, in gathering, keeping, increasing, or honouring of it. Hence the jealous God hateth him, and smites his hands at him, Ezekiel 22:13 , and hath a special quarrel against those that bless the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth, Psalms 10:3 . As for his servants, he strictly chargeth them to have their conversation without covetousness, Hebrews 13:5 , yea, their communication, Ephesians 5:3 , yea, their cogitation, 2 Peter 2:14 ; branding them for cursed children that have so much as their thoughts exercised that way. He will not have his hasten to be rich, or labour after superfluities, no, nor anxiously after necessaries. For worldliness (I say not covetousness), when men oppress themselves with multiplicity of business, or suffer their thoughts and affections to be continually almost taken up with minding these things on earth, is a main hindrance from heaven; it fills the heart with cares, and so unfits and deads it to divine duties, c The thoughts as wings should carry us in worship even to the mansions of God, which being laden with thick clay, they so glue us to the earth that the loadstone of the word and ordinances cannot draw us one jot from it. The soul is also hereby made like a mill, where one cannot hear another, the noise is such as takes away all intercourse ( οπου ουδεις ουδεν ουδενος ακουει ). If conscience call to them to take heed of going out of God’s way, they are at as little leisure to listen as he that runs in a race; who many times runs with so much violence, that he cannot hear what is said unto him, be it never so good counsel. And having thus set their hearts and anchored their hopes upon earthly things, if ever they lose them, as it often falleth out, they are filled almost with unmedicinable sorrows, so as they will praise the dead above the living, and wish they had never been born, Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 . Lo, this is the guise and guerdon of those inhabitants of the earth, those viri divitiarum, as the Psalmist styles them, those miserable muck-worms that prefer mammon before Messiah, gold before God, money before mercy, earth before heaven; as childish a weakness as that of Honorius the emperor, that preferred a hen before the city of Rome. Mammon, saith one, is a monster, whose head is as subtle as the serpent, whose mouth is wide as hell, eyes sharp as a lizard, scent quick as the vulture, hands fast as harpies, belly insatiable as a wolf, feet swift to shed blood, as a lioness robbed of her whelps. d Ahab will have Naboth’s vineyard, or he will have his blood. Judas was both covetous and a murderer, and therefore a murderer because covetous. He is called also a thief; and why a thief but because a mammonist? Covetousness draws a man from all the commandments, Psalms 119:36 . And there want not those that have drawn the covetous person through all the commandments, and proved him an atheist, a papist, a perjurer, a profaner of God’s sabbath, an iron bowelled wretch, a murderer, an adulterer, a thief, a false witness, or whatsoever else the devil will. And can this man ever serve God acceptably? can he possibly please two so contrary masters? No; he may sooner reconcile fire and water, look with the one eye upward and with the other eye downward, bring heaven and earth together, and grip them both in a fist, as be habitually covetous and truly religious. These two are as inconcurrent as two parallel lines, and as incompatible as light and darkness. They who bowed down on their knees to drink of the waters were accounted unfit soldiers for Gideon; so are those for Christ, that stoop to the base love of the things of this life ( Βιωτακα ); they discredit both his work and his wages; which Abraham would not, that ancient and valiant soldier and servant of the most high God. For when Melchisedeck from God had made him heir of all things, and brought him bread and wine, that is, an earnest, a little for the whole, &c., he refused the riches that the king of Sodom offered him, because God was his shield and his exceeding great reward, Genesis 14:18-19 ; Genesis 14:23 ; Genesis 15:1 ; his shield against any such enemies as Chedorlaomer and his complices had been unto him, and his exceeding great reward, for all his labour of love in that or any other service, though he received not of any man, from a thread to a shoelatchet.
a Magna est cognatio divitiis et vitiis.
b Unam Deo dicatam, alteram unicuique qui illam vellet.
c τον πολλα τεχνωμενον παντα ευ τεχνασθαι αδυνατον .
d Quorum charismata, numismata, scripturae, sculpturae, quibusque ο αργυρος το αιμα εστι και ψυχη , ut vulgo dici solet.
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?
Ver. 25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no careful thought, &c. ] This life is called in Isaiah "the life of our hands" because it is maintained by the labour of our hands, Isaiah 57:10 . Nevertheless, let a man labour never so hard, and lay up never so much, his "life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth," saith our Saviour, and therefore bids, "take heed and beware of covetousness," Luke 12:15 . There is in every mother’s child of us a false presumption of self-sufficiency in our own courses, as if we by our own diligence could build the house. The devil’s word is proved too true. He said we should be like gods, which as it is false in respect of divine qualities resembling God, so is it true in regard to our sinful usurpation; for we carry the matter, for the most part, as if we were petty gods within ourselves, not needing any higher power. This self-confidence, the daughter of unbelief and mother of carking care and carnal thoughtfulness, our Saviour here by many arguments dissuadeth and decrieth. "Take no thoughtful care for your life, what ye shall eat," &c. The word here used in the original ( μεριμνα ) signifieth sometimes a commendable and Christian care, as 1 Corinthians 7:33-34 "He that is married careth how to please his wife: likewise she careth how to please her husband." It implieth a dividing of the mind into various thoughts, casting this way and that way and every way bow to give best content. And this should be all the strife that should be between married couples. This is the care of the head, the care of diligence, called by the Greeks σπουδη, μελετη, επιμελεια . But there is another sort of care here spoken against, as unwarrantable and damnable; the care of the heart, the care of diffidence, a doubtful and carking care, joined with a fear of future events, a sinful solicitude, a distracting and distempering care, properly called μεριμνα , because it tortures and tears asunder the mind with anxious in, piety and fretting impatiency. a This maketh a man, when he had done his utmost endeavour, in the use of lawful means, for his own provision or preservation, to sit down, and with a perplexed heart sigh out, -Sure it will never be, sure I shall die a beggar, be utterly destitute, &c. Surely I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul; were it not better for me to shift for myself, and to escape speedily into the land of the Philistines? 1 Samuel 27:1 . A sinful consultation, for had not God promised him both life and kingdom after Saul? but he said (very wisely) in his hasty fear, All men are liars, prophets and all, Psalms 116:11 . And again, "I said in my sudden haste, I am cut off," Psalms 31:22 .
What ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, &c. ] I would have you without carefulness about these things, saith the apostle, that ye may sit close to the Lord without distraction. b And again, "in nothing be careful." How then? Why, make your requests known to God in prayer, as children make their needs known to their parents, whom if they can please, they know they shall be provided for, Philippians 4:6-7 . Little thought do they take where to have the next meal or the next new suit, neither need they.
Oh, but we have prayed, and yet are to seek. Add to your prayer, supplication, saith the apostle there, strong cries out of a deep sense of our pressing necessities, and then see what will come of it. Δεησις est petitio opis, qua egemus, nam δειν est egere.
I have done so to my poor power; and yet it sticks. To thy supplication add thanksgiving for mercies already received, saith he; thanksgiving is an artificial begging. See something in thy most careful condition wherefore to be thankful. Praise God for what you have had, have, and hope to have.
What will follow upon this? What? "The peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep" as with a guard ( φρουρησει ) or garrison "your hearts" from cares, "and minds" from fears, "in Christ Jesus." This shall be the restful success of your prayers and praises. And is it not good that the heart be ballasted with grace ( βεβαιουθαι ), Hebrews 13:9 , rather than the body stuffed with food? What brave letters and how full of life were written by Luther to Melancthon, afflicting himself with continual cares, what would be the issue of the imperial diet held by Charles V and other states of Germany at Augsburg, about the cause of Christ’s gospel? Ego certe ore pro te, saith he, et dolce re, pertinacissimam curarum hirudinem, meas preces sic irritas facere. "I pray for thee, and am troubled at it, that thou, by troubling thyself with unnecessary cares, makest my prayers of none effect for thee." And after many sweet consolations, mixed with reprehensions, he concludes, "But I write these things in vain, because thou thinkest to rule these things by reason, and killest thyself with immoderate cares about them; not considering that the cause is Christ’s, who as he needs not thy counsels, so he will bring about his own ends without thy carefulness, thy vexing thoughts, and heart eating fears, whereby thou disquietest thyself above measure." Sed scribo haec frustra: quia tu secundum Philosophiam vestram has res ratione regere, hoc est, cum ratione insanire pergis et occidis teipsum.
Is not life more than meat? &c. ] And shall he that hath given us that which is greater and better deny unto us that which is less and worse? Shall we believe God’s promises in the main, but not God’s providence in the means: as the disciples when they had forgotten to buy bread, and as Abraham in the case of promise of issue of his body? Genesis 16:2 . Excellent is that of the apostle, "he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32 . Whereupon St Bernard, Qui misit Unigenitum, immisit Spiritum, promisit vultum, quid tandem tibi negaturus est? And to like purpose St Jerome: "Never think," saith he, "that God will deny thee anything, whom he inviteth so freely to feed upon the fatted calf." Nihil unquam et negasse credendum est quem ad vituli hortalur esum.
a μεριμτα παρα του μεριζειν τον νουν .
b ευπαρεδρον απερισπαστος , 1 Corinthians 7:32 ; 1 Corinthians 7:35 .
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?
Ver. 26. Behold (or cast your eyes upon) the fowls of the air ] Look upon them intently ( εμβλεψατε ), consider them wisely, learn of them carefully, to cast away carnal carefulness, and to cast all your care upon God, who careth for them, how much more for you? "Ask now the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee," saith Job, Job 12:7 "that there is a reward for the righteous, and a God that judgeth in the earth." As he made them at first for his own glory (that we might admire his workmanship in their multitude and variety of colours, tunes, and taste, 1Co 15:39 ), and for our both use and delight; so he knows them all, Psalms 50:11 , and maintaineth them, providing both for their use, Psalms 147:9 , and delight, Psalms 104:12 , giving us wisdom beyond them, Job 39:17 , and yet setting us to school to them, to learn dependence upon God, both for preservation from evil, Matthew 10:29 , and for provision of good, as here and Job 39:16 . He taketh care of the ostrich’s young ones, and of the young ravens that cry unto him, Psalms 147:9 . They are fed of God when forsaken of their dams and left bare and destitute, for out of their dung and carrion, brought before to the nest, ariseth a worm, which creepeth to their mouth and feedeth them. (Aristot., Hist. Animal. ix. 31.)
They sow not, neither do they reap, &c. ] They take no care, nor have any to care for them, as geese, hens, and other tame pullen; and yet they are provided for, we see. And, oh, that we would see as our Saviour here enjoins us, and behold not only the fowls of the air, but the clouds above them, and other heavenly bodies! When one asked Luther, where he could be safe and at quiet? sub coelo, under heaven, said he. And to Pontanus, the Chancellor of Saxony, he propounds to be viewed and weighed by him that most beautiful arch work of heaven, resting upon no posts nor pillars, and yet standing fast for ever and ever, merely upheld by the mighty hand of God. The clouds also, as thin as the liquid contained in them; "Behold," saith he, "how they hang and move, though weighty with their burden; they salute us only, or rather threaten us, and vanish we know not whither." a These things would be thought on, that God may be the better rested on. "Be not ye of doubtful mind," saith our Saviour, "live not in careful suspense," hang not as meteors in the air between heaven and earth, uncertain whether to keep your standing, or fall to the ground; to trust God, or otherwise, as you can, to make sure for yourselves. Meteors are matters that few men can tell what to make of; Aristotle himself confesseth that he knew little of many of them. b And as little can the distrustful person tell what to make of those infinite projects and discourses in the air that he incessantly frames for the compassing of his desires. When he needs but either to look up to the birds or down to the lilies, and learn, that if God feed and clothe them without any their care and pains, surely he will much more provide for his people that rely upon him, and with their reasonable pains and moderate care do serve his providence. Shall the great housekeeper of the world water his flowers, prune his plants, fodder his cattle, and not feed and clothe his children? Never think it. God provided for the necessity and comfort of the unreasonable creatures ere he made them; grass for the beasts, and light for all living and moving creatures, and all for man, for the man in Christ especially. Compare Psalms 8:4-5 , with Hebrews 2:6-8 , and it will appear that whatsoever is spoken there of a man is applied to Christ; and so is proper to the saints, by virtue of their union with Christ. In which respect, saith one, they are more glorious than heaven, angels, or any creature: and shall these want food and raiment?
a Non decidentes, sed velut torvo vultu nobis salutatis subito diffugiunt. Luther.
b μη μετεωριζεσθε , Luke 12:29 . Meteora dicta volunt, quod animos hominum suspensos, dubios, et quasi fluetuantes teneant. Aristoteles fatetur se de quibuadam eorum adhuc dubitare, quaedam vero aliquo modo attigisse. Magir. Physlolog.
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Ver. 27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? ] And as little able are we (though we take never so much care and pains) to add one mite to that dimension of our estate, which God by his wise and powerful providence hath allotted unto us. Every man shall have his height ( σιτομετριον , Luke 12:2 ; cf. Gen 47:12 ), his stint and proportion in his estate, as well as in his stature, to the which he shall come and not exceed. All carking care therefore is bootless and unprofitable. Men may eat up their hearts thereby, and trouble their houses, Proverbs 15:27 ; (what with labour, and what with passion, a covetous man and his household never live at heart’s ease, all is continually on a tumult of haste and hurry), but cannot add anything to their stature or estate, much less to their spiritual growth, which is hereby exceedingly hindered and hidebound: as we see in the recusant guests, the rich young Pharisee, and those other, that being called to be Christ’s disciples, were so taken up with the care of their worldly business, that they could find no present leisure to follow Christ.
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Ver. 28. Consider the lilies of the field ] Contemplate them, saith Luther: understand them well, saith Erasmus: learn how they grow, saith Beza: hang upon these fair flowers, with the busy bee, till you have sucked some sweet meditation out of them. God is to be seen and admired in all his wondrous works. A skilful artificer takes it ill that he sets forth a curious piece, and no man looks at it. There is not a flower in the whole field (the word here rendered lilies signifieth all sorts of flowers) but sets forth God to us in lively colours. a Not to see him, is to incur the curse he hath denounced against such as regard not the work of the Lord, that is, the first making, neither consider the operation of his hands, Isaiah 5:12 , that is, the wise disposing of his creatures, for our behoof and benefit. A godly ancient being asked by a profane philosopher, b how he could contemplate high things, since he had no books? wisely answered, that he had the whole world for his book, ready open at all times and in all places, and that therein he could read things divine and heavenly. A bee can suck honey out of a flower, that a fly cannot do. Our Saviour could have pointed us to our first parents clothed, and Elijah fed, the Israelites both fed and clothed extraordinarily by God in the wilderness. Never prince was so served in his greatest pomp, nor Solomon in all his royalty, as they. But because all men have not faith to believe that miracles shall be wrought for them, he sendeth us to these more ordinary and more easy instances of God’s bountiful and providential care of birds and lilies, that in them (as in so many optic glasses) we may see God’s infinite goodness and be confident.
They toil not, neither do they spin ] Neque laborant, neque nent. This is the sluggard’s posy. How much better that emperor (Severus) who took for his motto, Laboremus: Let us be doing. God made not man to play, as he hath done Leviathan, but commandeth him to sweat out his living. This was at first God’s ordinance in Paradise, that his storehouse should be his workhouse, his pleasure his task, Genesis 2:15 . After the fall, it was enjoined as a punishment, Genesis 3:19 . So that new man is born to travail, and must labour with his own hands, neither eating the bread of idleness nor drinking the wine of violence, Job 5:7 ; Ephesians 4:28 . That monk that laboureth not with his hands is a thief, saith an ancient: is a body louse, sucking the blood of others, saith a Neoterick: he shall die in his iniquity, saith God, because he hath not done good among his people, Ezekiel 18:18 . He buried himself alive, as that Vacia in Seneca; "he shall be buried with the burial of an ass" when he is dead, Jeremiah 22:19 . He shall hear, "O thou wicked and slothful servant," when he riseth again at the last day, Matthew 25:26 . God puts no difference between nequam the wicked and nequaquam, by no means an idle and an evil servant. This made Mr Calvin answer his friends with some indignation, when they admonished him, for his health’s sake, to forbear studying so hard, Quid? Vultis ut Dominus veniens me otiosum inveniret? "What! would you that Christ when he cometh should find me idle?"
a Contemplamini. Cognoscite lilia agri. Discite quomodo, &c. Generatim flores campi denotat.
b Anton. Erem. apud August. de doct. Christ. lib. 1, et Nicop. lib. 8, c. 40.
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Ver. 29. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory ] In all his bravery, which doubtless was very great, in the day of his espousals, especially, when his mother crowned him, Song of Solomon 3:11 . Herod’s cloth of silver did so dazzle the people’s eyes in a sunny day, that they deified him. a Alcisthenes the Sybarite’s cloak was sold to the Carthaginians by Dionysius for 120 talents. And Demetrius, king of Macedon, had a robe royal so stately and costly, that none of his successors would wear it, for avoiding of envy. There is no doubt but Solomon’s royal robes were very sumptuous, being so mighty and wealthy a monarch. Great ones may go arrayed according to their state; and they that are in kings’ houses wear softs, Matthew 11:8 . Yet is it reckoned as a fault in the rich man, Luke 16:19 , that he was often clothed in purple and fine linen, b and God threatened to punish even princes and kings’ children, and all other such as are clothed with strange apparel, Zephaniah 1:8 . The Jews for affecting the Chaldaean habit were soon after carried captive into Chaldea, Ezekiel 23:15 . And what heavy things are thundered against those curious dames of Jerusalem by the prophet Isaiah, who being himself a courtier, inveighs as punctually against that noble vanity as if he had lately viewed the ladies’ wardrobes. Our Saviour finds fault with the scribes that loved to go in long clothing, Mark 12:38 ; and St James with those Christians that would fawn upon a gold ring and a goodly suit, James 2:2 . In the year 1580, great ruffs, with huge wide sets, and cloaks reaching almost to the ankles, no less uncomely than of great expense, were restrained here by proclamation, saith Mr Camden. c And need we not the like law now, when so many prodigals turn rents into ruffs, and lands into laces, Singulis auribus bina aut terna dependunt patrimonia, as Seneca hath it, hang two or three patrimonies at their ears, a pretty grove upon their backs, a reasonable lordship or living about their necks. This is far from that humility wherewith St Peter would have young men clothe themselves, 1 Peter 5:5 ; and from that meek and quiet spirit, wherewith, saith he, the holy women of old adorned themselves, not with plaited hair, and golden habiliments, 1 Peter 3:3-4 . Cyprian and Austin say that superfluous apparel is worse than whoredom: because whoredom only corrupts chastity, but this corrupts nature.
a Acts 12:22 . Hunc homines decorant quem vestimenta decorant.
b ενεδιδυσκετο , Verbum est quasi frequentativum, quo luxus divitis illius epulonis arguitur.
c Vestium curiositas deformitatis mentium et morum indicium est. Bern. Fulgent monilibus, sordent moribus. Salvian. Cultus magna cura, magna virtutia est incuria. Cato.
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?
Ver. 30. The grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven ] A fit resemblance of all outward things, the subject of our carking cares, likened (when they are at best) to the flower of grass, Isaiah 40:6 ; "The sun is no sooner risen," saith St James, Jam 1:10-11 "with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways," his riches cannot ransom him. But as grass, when ripe, withereth, and is carried away, either by the teeth of beasts or hands of men; so are all, by impartial death. And as the scythe with a few strokes mows down thousands of piles and forms of grass; so do God’s judgments millions of men, Psalms 9:17 ; Proverbs 11:21 . And as grass is today a flourishing field, tomorrow cast into the oven; so are the greatest into their graves (if not into that burning fiery furnace) then when they are in their prime and pride, in their greatest flourish, in the ruff of all their jollity. As the rich fool, therefore a fool because he stuck his clothes with these flowers of the field, these fading felicities, and thought himself thereby become (as Simon Magus) some great one, Acts 8:9 ; James 1:10 . Contrarily St James makes it a sign of a convert, that though of high degree in the world, yet he is herein made low, that he hath low thoughts of these low things, which he seeth to be mutable and momentary, as the flower of the grass; and bids him rejoice in that he is exalted, in that he is now made a greater man ever since ( Animo magno nihil magnum ): being converted he is become too big for these petty businesses. As a man grown up delights to deal in lands and lays by his cherry stones. But we pity that want of wit which maketh the mind run on baubles, but never think on aught substantial.
O ye of little faith ] Ye petty fidians, ye small faiths. Unbelief is that root of bitterness whence carefulness springeth. Hence it was that the heathen so abounded in it. Strive we therefore to a full assurance of faith and hope; so shall we roll ourselves upon God for all things needful to life and godliness. Faith fears no famine ( Fides famem non formidat. Jer. ex Tert.), it quelleth and killeth distrustful fear, but awful dread it breedeth, feedeth, fostereth, and cherisheth. When a man can say with Abraham, "God will provide," he will be out of fear and doubt; when he can believe not only God’s promise, but his providence, as David, 1 Samuel 26:10-11 .
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Ver. 31. Therefore take no careful thought, &c. ] From the afore named grounds, our Saviour here resumeth and enforceth the former exhortation. Sollicitudo est aegritudo cum cogitatione, saith the orator (Cic. Tusc. 4). Carefulness is a tormentful plodding upon businesses. It is, say divines, an act of fear and distrust, taking up not only the head, but chiefly the heart, to the very dividing and disturbing thereof; causing a man inordinately and overly eagerly to pursue his desires, and to perplex himself likewise with doubtful and fearful thoughts about success. Now our Lord Christ would have none of his servants to care inordinately about anything, but that, when they have done what they can in obedience to him, they should leave the whole matter of good or evil success to his care. To care about the issue of our lawful endeavonrs is to usurp upon God, to trench far into his prerogative divine, to take upon us that which is proper to him. And it is no less a fault to invade God’s part than to neglect our own. Add hereunto, that God out of his wise justice ceaseth caring for such a one, and because he will not be beholden to God to bear his burden, he shall bear it alone, to the breaking of his back, or, at least, till he is much bowed and crushed under it. If we discern such as will put no trust in us, but love to stand upon their own ground, we give them good leave; as contrarily, the more we see ourselves trusted to, the more our fidelity is careful for them that stay upon us. Thus it is with our heavenly Father.
Saying, What shall we eat? &c. ] Our Saviour by these distrustful questions graphically expresseth the condition of covetous wretches, their endless projects and discourses in the air. They are full of words, and many questions, what they shall do, and how they and theirs shall be provided for? They have never done either moaning themselves, or consulting to no purpose, in things that either cannot be done at all or not otherwise. And so some understand that of our Saviour, Luke 12:29 , Hang not in doubtful suspenses; after he had brought in the rich fool, Matthew 6:17 , reasoning and saying, "What shall I do?" &c. a And Solomon brings in such another fool, full of words, and he recites his words, "A man cannot tell what shall be, and what shall be after him, who can tell?" Ecclesiastes 10:14 . And in the next chapter, Ecclesiastes 11:1 ; and so forward, he makes answer to many of these men’s frivolous queries and cavils, when moved to works of mercy. Old men specially are taxed of this weakness, who are apt to cark, because they fear, saith Plutarch, οτι ουκ εξουσι θρεψοντας και θαψοντας , that they shall not have enough to keep them and bring them well home, as they call it; whence some conceive that covetousness is called "the root of all evil," 1 Timothy 6:10 , because as there is life in the root when no sap in the branches, so covetousness often liveth when other vices die and decay. It groweth, as they say the crocodile, as long as he liveth.
a μη μετεωρισεσθε. διελοθιζετο . Mire convenit verbum λογιζεσθαι , quoniam istius modi homines, &c. Beza.
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Ver. 32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek ] With whom if you should symbolize in sins, or not exceed in virtue, it were a shame to you. They studiously seek these things, they seek them with all their might; as being without God in the world, and therefore left by him to shift for themselves. a When we observe a young man toiling and moiling, running and riding, and not missing a market, &c., we easily guess and gather that he is fatherless and friendless, and hath none other to take care for him. Surely this immoderate care is better beseeming infidels that know not God, but rest wholly upon themselves and their own means, than Christians, who acknowledge God most wise and all-sufficient to be their loving father, b As we differ from heathens in profession, so we should in practice; and a gross business it is, that Jerusalem should justify Sodom, and it should be said unto her, "Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins, but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they," Ezekiel 16:51 . Such as have hope in this life only, what marvel if they labour their utmost to make their best of it? Now many of the poor pagans believed not the immortality of the soul, and those few of them that dreamed of another life beyond this, yet affirmed it very faintly, and scarcely believed themselves. Socrates, the wisest of heathens, spake thus to his friends at his death: "The time is now come that I must die, and you survive; but whether is the better of these two, the gods only know, and not any man living, that is my opinion." c "But we have not so learned Christ." Neither must we do as heathens and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; since now in Christ Jesus, we who sometimes were far off are made nigh by his blood, and have an access through him by one Spirit to the Father, Ephesians 2:13 ; Ephesians 2:18 .
For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things ] Not with a bare barren notional knowledge, but with a fatherly tender care to provide for his own in all their necessities: which whoso doeth not, he judgeth him worse than an infidel. We need not be careful of our maintenance here in our minority and non-age, nor yet for our eternal inheritance when we come to full age. We are cared for in everything that we need, and that can be good for us. Oh happy we, did we but know our happiness! How might we live in a very heaven upon earth, could we but live by faith and walk before God with a perfect heart? He made himself known to be our gracious and provident Father before we were born. And did we but seriously consider who kept and fed us in our mother’s womb, Psalms 22:9-10 , when neither we could shift for ourselves nor our parents do aught for us, how he filled us two bottles with milk against we came into the light, bore us in his arms as a nursing father, Numbers 11:12 , fed us, clothed us, kept us from fire and water, charged his angels with us, commanded all winds to blow good to us, Song of Solomon 4:16 , all creatures to serve us, Hosea 2:21-23 , and all occurrences to work together for our good, Romans 8:28 , how could we but be confident? Why art thou so sad from day to day? and what is it thou ailest or needest? Art not thou the king’s son? said Jonadab to Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:4 , -say I to every godly Christian. Profane Esau could go to his father for a child’s portion; so could the prodigal, because a child; and had it. Every child of God shall have a Benjamin’s portion here, and at length power over all nations, Revelation 2:26 , and possession of that "new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," 2 Peter 3:13 . Either therefore disclaim God for your Father, or else rest confident of his fatherly provision.
" Certa mihi spes est quod vitam qui dedit, idem
Et velit, et possit suppeditare cibum. "
God that giveth mouths will not fail to give meat also.
a επιζητει , Summo studio efflagitat.
b κερδαινοντες ου κοπιωμεν . Naz.
c Utrum autem sit menus Dii immortales sciunt: hominem quidem arbitror scire neminem. Plato and Cic.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Ver. 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ] That as the end, this as the means; for grace is the way to glory, holiness to happiness. If men be not righteous there is no heaven to be had; as if they be, they shall have heaven and earth too: for godliness hath the promise of both lives; and godly men, in Scripture (Abraham, Job, David, others), were richer than any: and so men might be now if they would be as godly. The good God had furnished Constantine the Great with so many outward blessings, as scarcely any man dare ever have desired, saith St Austin. a He sought God’s kingdom first, and therefore other things sought him: and so they would do us, did we but run the same method. Riches and honours, delights and pleasures, life and length of days, seed and posterity, are all entailed upon piety, Pro 3:16-17 Deuteronomy 28:1-14 Psalms 112:2-3 . The wicked in the fulness of his sufficiency is in straits, Job 20:22 , when the godly in the fulness of their straits are in all-sufficiency. Oh, who would not then turn spiritual purchaser, and with all his gettings get godliness? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," saith divinity (first, before anything else; and first, more than any other thing). Seek ye first the good things of the mind, saith philosophy, b Caetera aut aderunt, aut certe non oberunt. But our senseless over valuing of earthly things and under valuing of heavenly is that which maketh us so carkingly careful in the one, and so recklessly affected in the other. The lean kine eat up the fat, and it is nothing seen by them. The strength of the ground is so spent in nourishing weeds, tares, or grain of little worth, that the good wheat is pulled down, choked, or starved. Earthly mindedness sucketh the sap of grace from the heart, as the ivy doth from the oak, and maketh it unfruitful. Correct therefore this ill-humour, this choke-weed: cast away this clog, this thick clay, that makes us like that deceased woman in the Gospel, that being held of a spirit eighteen years, could not look up to heaven, Luke 13:11 . And learn to covet spiritual things, labour for the meat that perisheth not. Lay hold upon eternal life, whatever you let go. Temporal things are, nec vera, nec vestra, mutable and momentary, mixed and infected with care in getting, fear in keeping, grief in losing. Besides, they are insufficient and unsatisfactory, and many times prove instruments of vice, and hindrances from heaven c Spiritual things, on the other side, are solid and substantial, serving to a life that is supernatural and supernal. They are also certain and durable, Nec prodi, nec perdi, nec eripi, nec surripi possunt. They are sound and sincere, a continual feast, without cessation or the least intermission, d they serve to, and satisfy the soul; as being the gain of earth and heaven, and of him that filleth both. Seek ye therefore first, &c. Our Saviour, in his prayer, gives us but one petition for temporals, five for spirituals, to teach us this lesson. Scipio went first to the capitol, and then to the senate, &c. Aristotle saith, first take care of divine things: that is the best policy. πρωτον περι θειων επιμελε . (Polit. vii. 8.)
And all these things shall be added unto you ] They shall be cast in as a bonus, or as those small advantages to the main bargain; as pepper and pack thread is given where we buy spice and fruit; as a handful is cast into the sack of grain, or an inch of measure to an ell of cloth. These follow God’s kingdom, as the blackguard do the court, or as all the revenue and retinue doth some great lady that one hath wedded. The night of Popery shall shame such as think much of the time that is spent with and for God; for in their superstitious zeal they were wont to say, Mass and meat hinders no man’s thrift. It would be a great stay of mind, if the king should say to us for ourselves, the same that David did to Mephibosheth, "Fear not, for I will surely show thee kindness," and "thou shalt surely eat bread at my table continually," 2 Samuel 9:7 . Or if he should say to us for our children, as David did to Barzillai the Gileadite concerning Chimham: "Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee: and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee," 2 Samuel 19:38 ; hath not God said as much here as all this, and shall we not trust and serve him, cleave to him, and rest on him without fear or distraction?
a Bonus Deus Constant. mag. tantis terrenis implevit muneribus, quanta optare nullus auderet. Aug. Civ. Dei, 5. 25.
b Quaerite primum bona amimi. Cicero.
c Lucrum in arca facit damnum in conscientia. Aug.
d Ανηρ αγαθος πασαν ημεραν εορτην ηγειται . Diog. ap. Plut.
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.
Ver. 34. Take therefore no thought for the morrow ] The Lord Christ, well knowing which way our heart hangs and pulse beats, beats much upon this string, drives this nail home to the head. When things are over and over again repeated and inculcated, it imports, 1. the difficulty, 2. the necessity, of the duty, 3. our utter averseness, or, at least, dulness to the doing of it. How hardly we come off with God in this most necessary but much-neglected duty, who knows not, feels not, bewails not? The world is a most subtle, sly enemy: and by reason of her near neighbourhood, easily and insensibly insinuates into us, and insnares the best hearts. Our Saviour saw cause to warn his disciples of the cares of life: and where was Thomas, when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples, the doors being shut, but either lurking for fear of the Jews (in probability), or packing up, and providing for one, now that his Master was slain, and taken from him? Whatever the cause was, the effect was woeful, John 20:24-25 . And albeit in both Testaments (as Scultetus observeth) the saints of God have been noted to be subject to divers infirmities, yet not tainted with this enormity of covetousness. Yet St John saw cause to say to those that were fathers also: "Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world," 1 John 2:15 . And David prays heartily, "Incline my heart to thy testimonies, and not to covetousness," Psalms 119:36 . Satan will be busy with the best this way, as he was with our Saviour himself: he knew it a most prevailing bait. And when this would not work, he fleeth from him, as if despairing of victory. "Be sober therefore" (in the pursuit and use of these earthly things) "and watch, for your adversary the devil" watcheth you a shrewd turn by them, 1 Peter 5:7 . They are so near and so natural to us, that, through Satan’s policy and malice, when we think upon them (that we may the better learn to flee and slight them) they stick to our fingers when we should throw them away; they catch us when we should flee from them; they come over us with feigned words usually, 2 Peter 2:3 ; to hide our faults from the view of others, or subtle thoughts and evasions, to blindfold the conscience, with colour of Christ, necessary thrift, &c. Whence it is called, cloaked and coloured covetousness, 1 Thessalonians 2:5 . A Christian hath ever God for his chief end, and will not, deliberately, forego him upon any terms. He errs in the way, thinking he may mind earthly things and keep God too: so being insnared with these worldly lime-twigs (like the silly bird), before he is aware, the more he struggleth the more he is entangled and disabled. All this, and more than this, our Saviour well knew; and therefore reiterates his exhortation, and sets it on with so many arguments. "Care not for the morrow," &c. "I will be careless, according to my name," said that martyr John Careless; "for now my soul is turned to her old rest again, and hath taken a sweet nap in Christ’s lap. I have cast my care upon the Lord, who careth for me," &c. And Bishop Hooper, in a letter to certain good people taken praying in Bow churchyard, and now in trouble, writeth thus: "Read the second chapter of Luke; there the shepherds that watched upon their sheep all night, as soon as they heard Christ was born at Bethlehem, by and by they went to seek him. They did not reason, nor debate with themselves, who should keep the wolf from the sheep in the mean time; but did as they were commanded, and committed their sheep to him, whose pleasure they obeyed; so let us do now we be called, commit all other things to him that calleth us. He will take heed that all things shall be well; he will help the husband, comfort the wife, guide the servants, keep the house, preserve the goods, yea, rather than it shall be undone, he will wash the dishes and rock the cradle. Cast therefore all your care upon God," &c. Judea (as one hath well observed) a lay utterly waste for seventy years. Insomuch that after the slaughter of Gedaliah, when all, man, woman, and child, fled into Egypt, there was not a Jew left in the country. Neither find we any colonists sent thither, or any displaced to make room at their return. A wonderful providence, that so pleasant a country, left destitute of inhabitants, and compassed about with such warlike nations, was not invaded not replanted for seventy years’ time; but the land kept her sabbaths, resting from tillage, &c., and God kept the room empty, till the return of the naturals. Jeremiah, immediately after he had foretold the captivity, and the Chaldeans were now besieging the city, was bidden to buy a field of his uncle’s son; which also he did, weighing him the money, and sealing the evidences: for although it might seem an ill time to make a purchase, yet he took no further care than to trust God, who had said, Houses, and fields, and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. Now God’s promises, he knew, were the best freehold, Jeremiah 32:15 . So in every seventh year’s rest, the people were taught to depend on God’s providence by faith. For though the owner of the field might gather, even on that year, for the maintenance of himself and family, Leviticus 25:6 , yet he was neither to sow his field, thereby to greaten his harvest, nor to hedge his field, or lock up his vineyard.
For the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself ] That is, the providence that brings the day shall also bring new events to comfort us over all the evils of the day. First, no man is sure of life till tomorrow, -thou knowest not what this great bellied day may bring forth. b Petrarch tells of a good old man, that being invited to a feast the next day, answered, "If you would have anything with me now, here I am: what is to be done tomorrow, think on it, you that have time before you, Ego enim, a multis annis, crastinum non habui: For I have not had, for these many years, a morrow to dispose of." Young men, he knew, may die, old men must die. Senibus mors in ianuis, adolescentibus in insidiis, saith Bernard. Old men may say, as Job, Job 17:1 "My breath is corrupt, my days extinct, the graves are ready for me." The young man, as Job, Job 16:22 "When a few years (perhaps a few hours) are come, I shall go the way whence I shall not return." Secondly, grant a man had a lease of his life, as Hezekiah had, yet who seeth it not to be extreme folly to anticipate future cares and combats before they come, yea, even those of the next day; seeing they will come time enough to our sorrow, though we send not for them by our distrustful fore thoughts, and so re-double our vexation? It is possible that we may never feel the evils we fear. God may repent upon our repentance, and be better to us than our fears. And therefore what a weakness is it, to undergo certain trouble and care about uncertainties? Or if they shall happen, we may have wit to foresee them, but no power to prevent them: and therefore to vex ourselves before they come is to be miserable before the time. It is excellent counsel, doubtless, that Solomon giveth us in this case: "Consider the works of God, for who can make that straight that he hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful," make the best of thy present comfort, "but in the day of adversity consider; God also hath set one against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him," to wit, of those things that may come upon him in the course of his life, and later times, Ecclesiastes 7:14 . He cannot by wit foresee, or by policy prevent, ensuing changes. Therefore it is a greater part of his wisdom to let certain and inevitable evils sleep, and keep in their stings till the time appointed; and not to make himself a thousand times miserable by one individual misery. Let us manage the affairs and master the miseries of the present day; and not, by too much fore thoughtfulness and painful preconceit, suffer feigned or future evils before they seize upon us. I grant that a moderate (Christian) provident care and forecast is both convenient and commanded, both for provision of necessaries and prevention of dangers. See 1 Timothy 5:8 ; 2 Corinthians 12:14 ; We read, Revelation 6:6 ; "A measure of wheat for a penny," &c. The word signifieth properly, such a measure of grain ( χοινιξ ) as was usually allowed for a day to servants. Hence that speech of Pythagoras, Super choenice non sedendum, Rest not in the provision that sufficeth for the day; but take care for the morrow. But this lawful care of necessaries both for ourselves and ours after us, Proverbs 13:22 ; (such as was that of Jacob for his own house, Genesis 30:30 , and that of the good housewife, Proverbs 26:15 ; Pro 26:21 ), is not distressful, but delightful, because enjoined by God, who sendeth us to the ant, to learn this care of hereafter, Proverbs 6:6 .
Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof ] c The strongest mind and best composed is weak enough to sustain the brunt and encounter of every day’s crosses, whereof he is sure to have his back burden. Troubles without and terrors within are the saints’ portion here. And what day shines so fair over them, wherein they meet not with a sharp shower ere night? Since therefore every day brings forth sufficient sorrow, and the heartiest man shall have his hands full, what a base and unworthy weakness is it (saith a reverend divine) to unfit and disable our already too weak minds, for a comfortable despatch, and digesting of dally uncomfortable occurrences, by such needless, fruitless, senseless distractions, vagaries of vanity, and utopian peregrinations? &c.
a Pemble on Zechariah 7:14 .
b Nescis quid serus vesper vehat.
c κακια , id est κακωσις , labor improbus.