1. Take heed that ye do not your alms--But the true reading seems
clearly to be "your righteousness." The external authority for both
readings is pretty nearly equal; but internal evidence is decidedly in
favor of "righteousness." The subject of the second verse being
"almsgiving" that word--so like the other in Greek--might easily be
substituted for it by the copyist: whereas the opposite would not be so
likely. But it is still more in favor of "righteousness," that if we so
read the first verse, it then becomes a general heading for this whole
section of the discourse, inculcating unostentatiousness in all
deeds of righteousness--Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting being, in that
case, but selected examples of this righteousness; whereas, if we read,
"Do not your alms," &c., this first verse will have no reference
but to that one point. By "righteousness," in this case, we are to
understand that same righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, whose
leading features--in opposition to traditional perversions of it--it is
the great object of this discourse to open up: that righteousness of
which the Lord says, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven"
To "do" this righteousness, was an old and well-understood
expression. Thus, "Blessed is he that doeth righteousness at all times"
It refers to the actings of righteousness in the life--the
outgoings of the gracious nature--of which our Lord afterwards said to
His disciples, "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;
so shall ye be My disciples"
before men, to be seen of them--with the view or intention of being
beheld of them. See the same expression in
True, He had required them to let their light so shine before men that
they might see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in
But this is quite consistent with not making a display of our
righteousness for self-glorification. In fact, the doing of the former
necessarily implies our not doing the latter.
otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven--When
all duty is done to God--as primarily enjoining and finally judging of
it--He will take care that it be duly recognized; but when done purely
for ostentation, God cannot own it, nor is His judgment of it even
thought of--God accepts only what is done to Himself. So much for the
general principle. Now followthree illustrations of it.
2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before
thee--The expression is to be taken figuratively for blazoning it.
Hence our expression to "trumpet."
as the hypocrites do--This word--of such frequent occurrence in
Scripture, signifying primarily "one who acts a part"--denotes one who
either pretends to be what he is not (as here), or dissembles what he really is (as in
Lu 12:1, 2).
in the synagogues and in the streets--the places of religious and
that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you--In such august
expressions, it is the Lawgiver and Judge Himself that we hear speaking
They have their reward--All they wanted was human applause, and they
have it--and with it, all they will ever get.
3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right
hand doeth--So far from making a display of it, dwell not on it even in
thine own thoughts, lest it minister to spiritual pride.
4. That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father which seeth in
secret himself shall reward thee openly--The word "Himself" appears
to be an unauthorized addition to the text, which the sense no doubt
5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt--or, preferably, "when ye pray
not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and in the corners of the streets--(See on
that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have,
&c.--The standing posture in prayer was the ancient practice, alike
in the Jewish and in the earlyChristian Church. But of course this
conspicuous posture opened the way for the ostentatious.
6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet--a place of
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--Of course, it is not the simple publicity of prayer which
is here condemned. It may be offered in any circumstances, however
open, if not prompted by the spirit of ostentation, but dictated by the
great ends of prayer itself. It is the retiring character of true
prayer which is here taught.
7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions--"Babble not" would be
a better rendering, both for the form of the word--which in both
languages is intended to imitate the sound--and for the sense, which
expresses not so much the repetition of the same words as a senseless
multiplication of them; as appears from what follows.
as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their
much speaking--This method of heathen devotion is still observed by
Hindu and Mohammedan devotees. With the Jews, says
LIGHTFOOT, it was a
maxim, that "Every one who multiplies prayer is heard." In the Church of
Rome, not only is it carried to a shameless extent, but, as
justly observes, the very prayer which our Lord gave as an antidote to
vain repetitions is the most abused to this superstitious end; the
number of times it is repeated counting for so much more merit. Is not
this just that characteristic feature of heathen devotion which our Lord
here condemns? But praying much, and using at times the same words, is
not here condemned, and has the example of our Lord Himself in its
8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what
things ye have need of before ye ask him--and so needs not to be
informed of our wants, any more than to be roused to attend to
them by our incessant speaking. What a view of God is here given, in
sharp contrast with the gods of the heathen! But let it be carefully
noted that it is not as the general Father of mankind that our Lord
says, "Your Father" knoweth what ye need before ye ask it; for it is not
men, as such, that He is addressing in this discourse, but His own
disciples--the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, hungry and
thirsty souls, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who
allow themselves to have all manner of evil said against them for the
Son of man's sake--in short, the new-born children of God, who, making
their Father's interests their own, are here assured that their Father,
in return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor
to be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to
Him, and links all His promised supplies to their petitions for them;
thus encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk
with Him, to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus
asking we shall receive--thus seeking we shall find--thus knocking it
shall be opened to us.
9. After this manner--more simply "Thus."
therefore pray ye--The "ye" is emphatic here, in contrast with the
heathen prayers. That this matchless prayer was given not only as a
model, but as a form, might be concluded from its very nature.
Did it consist only of hints or directions for prayer, it could only be
used as a directory; but seeing it is an actual prayer--designed,
indeed, to show how much real prayer could be compressed into the fewest
words, but still, as a prayer, only the more incomparable for that--it
is strange that there should be a doubt whether we ought to pray that
very prayer. Surely the words with which it is introduced, in the second
utterance and varied form of it which we have in
ought to set this at rest: "When ye pray, say, Our Father."
Nevertheless, since the second form of it varies considerably from the
first, and since no example of its actual use, or express quotation of
its phraseology, occurs in the sequel of the New Testament, we are to
guard against a superstitious use of it. How early this began to appear
in the church services, and to what extent it was afterwards carried,
is known to every one versed in Church History. Nor has the spirit
which bred this abuse quite departed from some branches of the
Protestant Church, though the opposite and equally condemnable extreme
is to be found in other branches of it.
According to the Latin fathers and the Lutheran Church, the petitions
of the Lord's Prayer are seven in number; according to the Greek
fathers, the Reformed Church and the Westminster divines, they are only
six; the two last being regarded--we think, less correctly--as
one. The first three petitions have to do exclusively with God:
"Thy name be hallowed"--"Thy kingdom come"--"Thy
will be done." And they occur in a descending scale--from
Himself down to the manifestation of Himself in His kingdom; and from
His kingdom to the entire subjection of its subjects, or the complete
doing of His will. The remaining four petitions have to do with OURSELVES: "Give us our dailybread"--"Forgive
us our debts"--"Lead us not into temptation"--"Deliver
us from evil." But these latter petitions occur in an
ascending scale--from the bodily wants of every day up to our
final deliverance from all evil.
Our Father which art in heaven--In the former clause we express His
nearness to us; in the latter, His distance from us. (See
Holy, loving familiarity suggests the one; awful reverence the other.
In calling Him "Father" we express a relationship we have all known and
felt surrounding us even from our infancy; but in calling Him our
Father "who art in heaven," we contrast Him with the fathers we all
have here below, and so raise our souls to that "heaven" where He
dwells, and that Majesty and Glory which are there as in their proper
home. These first words of the Lord's Prayer--this invocation with
which it opens--what a brightness and warmth does it throwover the
whole prayer, and into what a serene region does it introduce the
praying believer, the child of God, as he thus approaches Him! It is
true that the paternal relationship of God to His people is by no means
strange to the Old Testament. (See
Jer 3:4, 19;
Mal 1:6; 2:10).
But these are only glimpses--the "back parts"
if we may so say, in comparison with the "open face" of our Father
revealed in Jesus. (See on
Nor is it too much to say, that the view which our Lord gives,
throughout this His very first lengthened discourse, of "our Father in
heaven," beggars all that was ever taught, even in God's own Word, or
conceived before by His saints, on this subject.
First Petition: -
Hallowed be--that is, "Be held in reverence"; regarded and
treated as holy.
thy name--God's name means "Himself as revealed and manifested."
Everywhere in Scripture God defines and marks off the faith and love and
reverence and obedience He will have from men by the disclosures which
He makes to them of what He is; both to shut out false conceptions of
Him, and to make all their devotion take the shape and hue of His own
teaching. Too much attention cannot be paid to this.
Second Petition: -
10. Thy kingdom come--The kingdom of God is that moral and spiritual
kingdom which the God of grace is setting up in this fallen world, whose
subjects consist of as many as have been brought into hearty subjection
to His gracious scepter, and of which His Son Jesus is the glorious
Head. In the inward reality of it, this kingdom existed ever since there
were men who "walked with God"
and "waited for His salvation"
who were "continually with Him, holden by His right hand"
and who, even in the valley of the shadow of death, feared no evil when
He was with them
When Messiah Himself appeared, it was, as a visible kingdom, "at hand."
His death laid the deep foundations of it. His ascension on high,
"leading captivity captive and receivinggifts for men, yea, for the
rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them," and the
Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, by which those gifts for men
descended upon the rebellious, and the Lord God was beheld, in the
persons of thousands upon thousands, "dwelling" among men--was a
glorious "coming" of this kingdom. But it is still to come, and this
petition, "Thy kingdom come," must not cease to ascend so long as one
subject of it remains to be brought in. But does not this prayer stretch
further forward--to "the glory to be revealed," or that stage of the
kingdom called "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Not directly, perhaps, since the petition that follows this--"Thy will
be done in earth, as it is in heaven"--would then bring us back to this
present state of imperfection. Still, the mind refuses to be so bounded
by stages and degrees, and in the act of praying, "Thy kingdom come,"
it irresistibly stretches the wings of its faith, and longing, and
joyous expectation out to the final and glorious consummation of the
kingdom of God.
Third Petition: -
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven--or, as the same words
are rendered in Luke, "as in heaven, so upon earth"
--as cheerfully, as constantly, as perfectly.%%%%