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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - MATTHEW 6
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    CHAPTER 6

    SERMON ON THE MOUNT--continued.

    Mt 6:1-18. FURTHER ILLUSTRATION OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE KINGDOM--ITS UNOSTENTATIOUSNESS.

    General Caution against Ostentation in Religious Duties (Mt 6:1).

    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" (Mt 5:20). To "do" this righteousness, was an old and well-understood expression. Thus, "Blessed is he that doeth righteousness at all times" (Ps 106:3). 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" (Joh 15:8).
    - before men, to be seen of them--with the view or intention of being beheld of them. See the same expression in Mt 5:28. 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 heaven (Mt 5:16). 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 follow three illustrations of it.

    Almsgiving (Mt 6:2-4).

    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 secular resort.
    - 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 to us.
    - 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 suggested. (See 1Ti 5:25; Ro 2:16; 1Co 4:5).

    Prayer (Mt 6:5, 6).

    5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt--or, preferably, "when ye pray ye shall."
    - not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets--(See on Mt 6:2).
    - 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 early Christian 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 retirement.
    - 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.

    Supplementary Directions and Model Prayer (Mt 6:7-15).

    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 THOLUCK 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 favor.

    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 Lu 11:2, 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.

    Model Prayer (Mt 6:9-13). 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 daily bread"--"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.

    Invocation:
    - Our Father which art in heaven--In the former clause we express His nearness to us; in the latter, His distance from us. (See Ec 5:2; Isa 66:1). 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 throw over 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 De 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 63:16; Jer 3:4, 19; Mal 1:6; 2:10). But these are only glimpses--the "back parts" (Ex 33:23), if we may so say, in comparison with the "open face" of our Father revealed in Jesus. (See on 2Co 3:18). 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" (Ge 5:24), and "waited for His salvation" (Ge 49:18); who were "continually with Him, holden by His right hand" (Ps 73:23), and who, even in the valley of the shadow of death, feared no evil when He was with them (Ps 23:4). 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 receiving gifts 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 Christ" (2Pe 1:11)? 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" (Lu 11:2) --as cheerfully, as constantly, as perfectly.%%%%

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