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2. “Take heed that ve do not ronr alms before men, to be scen of them.”—The things which is here forbidden, is not barely the doing good in the siglt of men ; this circumstance alone, that others see what we do, makes the action neither worse nor better; but the doing it before men, “to be seen of them,” with this view, from this intention, only. I say, from this intention only; for this may, in some cases, be a part of our intention ; re may design that sonic of our actions should be seen, and yet they may be acceptable to God. We may intend that our light should shine before men, when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, that our ultimate end in designing they should see our good works, is, “ that they may glorify our Father which is in heaven." But take heed that ye do not the least thing with a view to your own glory : take hecil, that a regard to the praise of men have no place at all in your works of mercy. If ye seek your own glory, if you have any design to gain the honour that cometh of men, whatever is done with this view is nothing worth; it is not done unto the Lord; he accepteth it not; “ye have no reward [for this] of your Father wbich is in heaven.”
3. “Therefore when thou doest thinc alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may bave praise of men.”—The word Synagogue does not here mean i place of worship, but any place of public resort, such as the Market-place, or Exchange. It was a common thing among the Jews, who were micn of large fortunes, particularly among the Pharisees, to cause a trumpet to be somded before them in the most public parts of the city, when they were about to give any considerable alms. The pretended reason for this was, to call the poor together to receive it; but the real design, that they might have praise of men. But be not thou like wto them. Do not thou cause a trumpet to be sounded before thee. Use no ostentation in doing gooil. Aim at the honour wbich cometh of God only. They who seek the praise of men, have their reward : they shall bave no praise of God.
1. “But wheu thou doest alms, let pot thy left hand know what thy right hand docth."-This is a proverbial expression, ihe meaning of which is,-Do it in as sccret a manner as is possible; ils secret as is consistent with the doing it at all, (for it must not be leti uvdoue; out no opportunity of doing good, whether secretly or openly;) and with the doing it in the most citectual manuci. For here is also an exception io be made :
When you are fully persuaded in your own mind, that by your not concealing the good which is done, either you will your, self be enabled, or others excited, to do the more good, then you may not conceal it : then let your light appear, and “shine to all that are in the house." But, unless where the glory of God and the good of mankind oblige you to the contrary, act in as private and unobserved a manner as the nature of the thing will admit;-" that thy alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly;” perhaps in the present world,-many instances of this staud recorded in all ages; but infallibly in the world to come, before the general assembly of men and angels.
II. l. From works of charity or mercy, our Lord proceeds to those which are termed works of Piety. “And when thou prayest,” saith he, “ 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."-" Thou shalt not be as the bypocrites are.” Hypocrisy, then, or insincerity, is the first thing we are to guard against in prayer. Beware not to speak what thou dost not mean. Prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God: all words of prayer, without this, are mere hypocrisy. Whenever therefore thou attemptest to pray, see that it be thy one design to commune with God, lo lift up thy heart to him, to pour out thy soul before him; not as the hypocrites, who love, or are wont, “to pray standing in the synagogues,” the Exchange, or Market-places," and in the corners of the streets," wherever the most people are, that they may be seen of men:” this was the sole design, the motive and end, of the prayers which they there repeated. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”—They are to expect none from your Father which is in heaven.
2. But it is not only the having an eye to the praise of men, which cuts us off from any reward in heaven; which leaves us no room to expect the blessing of God upon our works, whether of piety or mercy. Purity of intention is equally destroyed by a view to any temporal reward whatever. If we repeat our prayers, if we attend the public worship of God, if we relieve the poor, with a view to gain or interest, it is not a whit more acceptable to God, than if it were done with a view to praise. Any temporal view, any motive whatever on this side eternity, any design but that of promoting the glory of God, and the happiness of men for God's sake, makes every action, however fair it may appear to men, an abomination unto the Lord. 3. “ But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, prav to thy Father which is in secret.”—There is a time when thou art openly to glorify God, to pray to and praise him in the great congregation. But when thou desirest more largely and more particularly to make thy requests known unto God, whether it be in the evening, or in the morning, or at noon-cay, “enter into thy Closet, and shut thy door." Use all the privacy thou canst. (Only leave it not undone, whether thou hast any closet, any privacy, or no. Pray to God, if it be possible, when none secth but He; but, if otherwise, pray to God.) Thus “pray to thy Father which is in secret ; ” pour out all thy heart betore bim ; "and thy Father which secth in secret, he shall reward thee openly.”
4. “But when ye pray," cren in secret, “use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; Moni Barto207957,7a. Do not use abundance of words without any mucaning. Say not the same thing over and over again ; think not the fruit of your prayers depends on the length of them, like the licathens; for “they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
The thing bere reproveu, is not simply the length, any more than the shortness, of our prayers ;-but, First, length without meaning; speaking much, and meaning little or nothing; the using (not all repetitious; for our Lord himself prayed thrice, repeating the same words; but) vain repetitions, as the heathens did, reciting the names of their gods orer and over; as they do among Christians, (vulgarly so called,) and not among the Papists only, who say over and over the same string of prayers, without ever feeling what they speak :--Secondly, the thinking to be heard for our much speaking, the funcying God jucasures prayers by their length, and is best pleased with those which contain the most morils, whick sound the longest in his cars. These are .«: iustinies of superstition and folly, as all who are wamed by the name of Christ should leave to the heathens, to them on whom the glorious light of the Gospel hath never shined.
5. “ De not ye therefore like muto them.''-who have lasted of the grace of God in Christ besys, are thoroughly convinced, “ your Father knowcil what things ye lave peed of, before ye ask him." So that the end of your praying is not to inform God, as though he knew not your waty already; but the million do ta the wrisispofthoserants norr decek in 11! Hoces, itin tin Chit of your continua? dependance on Him, who only is able to supply all your wants. It is not so much to move God, who is always more ready to give than you to ask, as to move yourselves, that you may be willing and ready to receive the good things he has prepared for you.
IlI. 1. After having taught the true Nature and Ends of Prayer, our Lord subjoins au Example of it; even that divine form of prayer, which seems in this place to be proposed by way of pattern, chietly as the model and standard of all our prayers : “ After this manner therefore pray ye.” Whereas, elsewhere he enjoins the use of these very words, “ He said unto them, When ye pray, say.” (Luke xi. 2.)
2. We may observe, in general, concerning this divine prayer, First, That it contains all we can reasonably or innocently pray for. There is nothing which we have need to ask of God, nothing which we can ask without offending him, which is not included, either directly or indirectly, in this comprehensive form. Secondly, That it contains all we can reasonably or innocently desire ; whatever is for the glory of God, whatever is needful or profitable, not only for ourselves, but for every creature in heaven and earth. And indeed our prayers are the proper test of our desires; nothing being fit to have a place in our desires which is not fit to have a place in our prayers ; wliat we may not pray for, neither should we desire. Thirdly, That it contains all our duty to God and man; whatsoever things are pure and holy, whatsoever God requires of the children of men, whatsoever is acceptable in his sight, whatsoever it is whereby we may profit our neighbour, being expressed or implied therein,
3. It consists of three parts, the Preface, the Petitions, and the Doxology, or Conclusion. The Preface, “Our Father which art in heaven," lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers, with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers, or our lives should find acceptance with him.
4. “ Our Father:"-If he is a Father, then he is good, then he is loving to his children, And here is the first and great reason for prayer. God is willing to bless ; let us ask for a blessing. « Our Father;"-our Creator; the Author of our being; He who raised us from the dust of the eartb; who breathed into us the breath of life, and we became living souls. But if he made us, let us asli, and he will not withhold any good thing from the work of his own hands. “ Our Father ;”-our Preserver; who, day by day, sustains the life he has given; of whose continuing love we pow' and every moment receive lile, and breatii, and all things. So much the more boldly let us come to him, and !e shall “ obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of necd.” Above all, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all that believe in him; who justifies us “ freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus ; ” who hath “ blotted out all our sins, and healed all our infirmities;" who bath received us for bis own children, by adoption and grace; and, “because [we] are sons, hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into (our] hearts, crying, Abba, Father ; ” who “ hath begotten us again of incorruptible secd,” and “created us anew in Christ Jesus.” Therefore we know that he hcareth us always ; therefore we pray to him without ceasing. We pray, because we love; and “we love him because he first loved us.”
5. “Our Father:"_not mine only who now cry unto him, but ours in the most extensive sense. The God and “ Father of the spirits of all flesh; " the Father of angels and men : so the very Heathens acknowledge him to be, Ilátog uvöp wY TE SEW TE. The Father of the universe, of all the families both in heaven and carth. Therefore with him there is no respect of persons. He loveth all that he hath made. “ He is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all bis works.” And the Lord's delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy; in them that trust in him through the Son of his Love, knowing that they are “accepted in the Beloved.” But “if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another; ” yea, and all mankind; seeing “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” even to die the deatli, that they “ pright not perish, but have everlasting life.”
6. “Which art in heaven :”-high and listed up; God over all, blessed for ever: who, sitting on the circle of the heavens, beholdeth all tbings both in heaven and carth ; whose eye perrades the whole sphere of created being; yea, and of uncreated night; into whom “are known all his works,” and all the works of every creature, not only “from the beginning of the world,” (il poor, low, weak translation) but an'aiwyos, from all eternity, from everlasting to everlasting ; who constrains the host of heaven, its well as the children of men, to cry out with under and amazement, () the depth! “The depth of