Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.Matthew 6:2
'Practically at present,' Ruskin writes, in Sesame and Lilies, 'advancement in life means, becoming conspicuous in life; obtaining a position which shrill be acknowledged by others to be respectable or honourable. We do not understand by this advancement, in general, the mere making of money, but the being known to have made it; not the accomplishment of any great aim, but the being seen to have accomplished it.'
He who sincerely takes life in earnest finds it quite natural and a matter of course to do so, and therefore he does not make any great noise about it.
References.—VI. 2.—H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 19. Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 273. VI. 2-4.—E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 218. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 351.
Carlyle, after quoting this verse in his essay on 'Characteristics,' adds: 'Whisper not to thy own heart, How worthy is this action. For then it is already becoming worthless. The good man is he who works continually in welldoing; to whom welldoing is as his natural existence, awakening no astonishment, requiring no commentary; but there, like a thing of course, and as if it could not be so.' He returns to the same idea at the close of his essay on Varnhagen von Ense's Memoirs: 'Is a thing nothing because the morning papers have not mentioned it? Or can a nothing be made something, by never so much babbling of it there? Far better, probably, that no morning or evening paper mentioned it; that the right hand knew not what the left was doing!'
Brave deeds are most estimable when hidden.... What was finest in them was the desire to hide them.
In his Life of Chalmers, Dr. Hanna quotes the grateful remark of an old, unfortunate teacher: 'Many a pound-note has the Doctor given me, and he always did the thing as if he were afraid that any person should see him. May God reward him!'
Bees will not work except in darkness; Thought will not work except in Silence; neither will Virtue work except in Secrecy. Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth! Neither shalt thou prate even to thy own heart of 'those secrets known to all'. Is not shame the soil of all Virtue, of all good manners and good morals? Like other plants, Virtue will not grow unless its root be hidden, buried from the eye of the Sun. Let the Sun shine on it, nay, do but look at it privily thyself, the root withers, and no flowers will glad thee.
—Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, bk. iii. chap. iii.
References.—VI. 3.—A Scotch Preacher, The Strait Gate, p. 138. VI. 4.—W. M. Sinclair, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. 1896, p. 58. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 245. VI. 5.—E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 228. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 55. F. E. Paget, Sermons on Duties of Daily Life, p. 269. VI. 5, 6.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 373.
I. It would be impossible to say what our Lord exactly meant by closet prayer. We generally understand it to mean our bedroom. It means, literally, the place from which things are given out or dispensed. We may take it to be the spot in the background of life, that spot wherever it be which is the holiest and calmest, and where the chief supplies of thought and being lie. Our Lord Himself made the mountain His closet and the garden It is not so much the place as the spirit of the place. The great idea is privacy, modesty, and intimacy.
Observe the personal words and the possessive thou. When thou prayest enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door pray to thy Father. They are so endearing, they are so practical, and are so solemn, they bring it all so close together.
II. By its being said, Enter into thy closet, it implies of course that you are not there, but that you go there for the purpose of prayer. When you go to your closet to pray the first thing is, shut the door. It of course means, first that you are to separate yourself from all outer things, be and feel shut in with God. It has been thought, too, and this is in entire agreement with the context, that you are to shut your door in order that you may not be overheard, which implies that even in your closet you pray out loud, in a soft but in an audible voice.
III. The next thing taught us by our Saviour's words is, take as you go to prayers, take with you fatherly views of God. Let it be the prayer, not of a subject to a king, but of a child to its parent Pray to the Father. Pray to the Father who is in secret. Take care that your private communications with your Father are not vague, not such as any one else could say as well as you, but personal, confidential, and minute.
Remember that every complete prayer has in it an order, an invocation, a confession of sin, thanksgiving for mercies, a supplication for gifts and graces, intercession, arguments, and pleadings, with a doxology. There is another part of devotion which does not occupy its proper place and degree in many of our holy functions, which is very important Adoration, adoring God for what He is in Himself, not for what He gives. Simple, devout, admiring contemplation of God.
—James Vaughan, Penny Pulpit, vol. xiv. p. 25.
Recollection, said Richard Cecil, is the life of true religion. It is to the soul, said another, what sleep is to the body; without it must come fever, collapse, and death. The soul that does not gather itself together and abide steadfast at the centre will soon be spent. A return to the well-head is the condition of renewed constant vigour and fertility. We live amidst unprecedented activity and growing discontent The outward agencies of the Church were never so demonstrative; they almost keep pace with the world; but no one is satisfied with their results. 'Life hurries on, spreads itself far and wide, but the source of life dries up.' Dispersed amid the multitude of things external, Christian people are forgetting that mental and spiritual progress consist in intensifying the inward life—that abiding and fruitful Christian work can only be accomplished by serious and refreshed souls.
I. Recollection is the fixed thought of the Redeeming God carried into all things. It is the calm, collected mood of those who set the Lord always before them, to whom every common vessel has been made a sacramental chalice, because all life has become a true communion with God in Christ It is not necessarily the repression of activity; it is its intensification. If it be true that the world is in a hard strait, and that the duty of Christian men Today is to turn aside from everything and to employ their whole force to set forward the perilous course of the mighty vessel freighted with the human race, recollection will not hinder this zeal. But the 'sad heart tires in a mile'. The world will not be overcome by what St. Bernard calls evisceratio mentis—the disembowelling of the soul. The trouble of all the Churches Today is the slackening of the central impetus, and the one cure is recollection—the possession of the soul—the return to the abandoned sanctuary.
II. Some general helps to recollection may be stated, however incompletely. Perfect simplicity of life and feeling can rarely be reached without sacrificing some part of our possessions and our work. There is no rule; every believer has to find how he may best live for himself the life of the true Christian. It is certain that the demands of society are a chief foe to recollection. The last Babylon is a place of merchandise, where the souls of men are sold. John Woolman says, 'Universal love reconciles the mind to a life so plain that a little doth suffice to support it, a life of simplicity and sufficiency where the real comforts of life are not lessened'. It is assuredly true that many do nothing because they try to do much. It is not the will of God that any should undertake all kinds of labour. It is not the will of God that men should elect forms of service for which they have no capacity. He does not take the pencil from the artist, the pen from the ready writer, and turn these men into preachers. He asks each to glorify Him where he stands, to take possession for God of the channels in which his strength is flowing.
III. For true recollection we must be occupied with the immediate duty. That is really all we have to do with. Yet Christian workers in our day are being crushed with the burden of the past and the future. With these we have no concern. The past may inspire us, but looking unto Jesus we have a present help. It does not trouble us; in the kingdom of priests we are loosed from our sins. It does not dishearten us; God is with His people still. The future is His, not ours. We have no concern with one day of it. When we sit with Christ in heavenly places we pass already into the nobler order; we see all things put under Him. But the times, the seasons, the circumstances—these things should not load us with the lightest burden.
It is hardly necessary to add that the life of recollection is supremely a life of prayer—a life of prayer with others, but chiefly a life of prayer in the closet. As Pascal says, it abides in its own room. Its first precept is 'Shut to the door'. There it seeks light, peace, strength in the most hidden recollection. So the soul discovers that it has power with God. It reveals to Him its own natural longings. But its will is subordinate to His—it is at last, as a great master of the spiritual life has not shrunk from saying, 'steeped sevenfold in the blood of the Lamb'.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p. 69.
Times of Private Prayer
Whoever is persuaded to disuse his morning and evening prayers, is giving up the armour which is to secure him against the wiles of the Devil. If you have left off the observance of them, you may full any day; and you will fall without notice. For a time you will go on, seeming to yourselves to be the same as before; but the Israelites might as well hope to lay in a stock of manna as you of grace. You pray God for your daily bread, your bread day by day; and if you have not prayed for it this morning, it will profit you little that you prayed for it yesterday. You did then pray and you obtained, but not a supply for two days. When you have given over the practice of stated prayer, you gradually become weaker without knowing it. Samson did not know he had lost his strength till the Philistines came upon him; you will think yourselves the men you used to be, till suddenly your adversary will come furiously upon you, and you will as suddenly fall. You will be able to make little or no resistance. This is the path which leads to death.
—J. H. Newman.
What indeed is prayer but love—love with a want?
—EugÉnie de GuÉrin.
References.—VI. 6.—'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. i. pp. 71, 79. W. Howell Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 136. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.- VIII. p. 226. J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i. p. 244. W. Binnie, Sermons, p. 140. W. M. Sinclair, The New Law, p. 38. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 137. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 232. G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 168. E. Rees, ibid. vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 219. G. Dawson, Sermons, p. 8. VI. 6-15.—C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 185. VI. 7.—J. E. Rattenbury, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 371. VI. 7, 8.—J. G. James, Problems of Prayer, p. 113. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, p. 149. VI. 7-15.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 393. VI. 8, 9.—F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 170.
God Our Father (Trinity Sunday)
In 1865 the late Charles Kingsley wrote to Maurice, 'As to the Trinity, I do understand you. You first taught me that the doctrine was a live thing, and not a mere formula to be swallowed by the undigesting reason; and from the time that I learnt from you that a Father meant a real Father, a Son a real Son, a Holy Spirit a real Spirit, Who was really good and holy, I have been able to draw all sorts of practical lessons from it in the pulpit, and ground all my morality upon it, and shall do so more.'
We dwell only upon the first of these propositions, that 'a Father means a real Father,' and seek, like Kingsley, to draw some practical lessons from the fact. The whole Trinity is in a sense summed up in 'Fatherhood'—the Son reveals the Father, the Holy Ghost proceeds from Him, with the Son, and witnesses to our sonship. The great Duke of Wellington is reported to have said, 'The Lord's Prayer alone is an evidence of Christianity, so admirably is that prayer accommodated to all our wants'. We have now to do with only the opening invocation. Why 'our' if used in private prayer? Two reasons, including our relations to (1) God and (2) to one another.
I. Our Relations to God.—It teaches us the doctrines of (a) Mediation; (b) Sonship.
a. Mediation. We clearly see that God is not revealed as Father of the individual in the Old Testament, but as the Father of the nation (Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:10; Isaiah 63:16). True (Psalm 89:26) 'He (David) shall cry unto Me "Thou art My Father, My God".' Yet David in his most intimate approaches to the throne does not call God 'Father'. The doctrine but dimly hinted at in the Old Testament is a New Testament truth. Christ says, 'No man knoweth the Father, but the Son and He,' etc. 'I ascend unto My Father and your Father.' 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.' 'Our Father' means then Christ's Father and my Father, teaching (1) Atonement, (2) Intercession. Some would like to finish up the Lord's Prayer with the customary Christian form 'for Christ's sake,' but that is not necessary if we understand the meaning of 'Our,' which places Him in the forefront of the prayer. It also teaches:—
b. Sonship. Not only is He our Advocate, but he whom He leads to God is a son also. 'At that day ye shall ask in My name... for the Father Himself loveth you.' This is the consummation. God is 'Father' of all, even in a sense of unbelievers. This is the teaching of the parable of the Prodigal Son. But even a heathen acknowledges a distinction. Alexander the Great said, 'God is a common Father of all men, but more particularly of the good and virtuous'. Hence the necessity of the New Birth.
II. Our Relation to One Another.—Another reason for the use of the plural may be found in our relations to one another.
a. The Brotherhood of Believers. 'Our Father' means the Father of all my fellow-Christians and my Father. 'God is your Father, and all ye are brethren;' 'Members one of another'. We include in the prayer all God's children everywhere, as they include us. This obtains universal blessing. The Church is a Catholic Church. God's grace, like the sunbeams' actions upon the ocean drawing its particles up into the air in invisible vapour, draws from many hearts, widely apart as the far-stretching ocean, the common prayer of 'Our Father,' and as these particles condense into a cloud and fall in copious streams upon the earth, making it bring forth and bud, so are our common prayers answered, and widespread blessing secured for the world.
b. Common Brotherhood. 'Our Father' means the Father of all mankind and my Father. We include in our petitions those who are not in the family reconciled to God. Our Lord says in the same chapter, 'Love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you... that ye may be the children of your Father in heaven '.
III. One or Two Reflections.—1. Let us learn a lesson of confidence. We never come alone into God's presence. Every time we say 'Our Father' Christ joins with us in the petition. We go hand-in-hand with Him to the throne (the hand pierced for us), 'and Him the Father always hears '. His Holy Spirit prompting our prayers and filling them with true and vital meaning, thus the whole Trinity stand engaged to make us blest.
2. Let us be sure we can use the plural form in the highest sense of Sonship. 'As Christ is God's Son, so humbly am I.'
3. Let us not be selfish in our prayers. God's family is large, and has many needs. Mark the order of petitions in the Lord's Prayer. Those for others come first.
4. Let us not think we are lost in a crowd. The prayer is individual as well as general Scientists tell us a real solid exists nowhere in nature. Different experiments have proved invisible spaces between atoms composing a so-called solid body. Individuality is God's order—' One sparrow'. Our very hairs are numbered.
The Cosmopolitanism of the Lord's Prayer
I. Has it ever struck you how representative this prayer is in respect to human want. To my mind its very originality lies in its power to include the old desires of the heart. These six petitions are each the voice of an ancient philosophy or faith; Christ has simply gathered them in. He has counted the scattered cries and made them one choir.
II. The Jew cried, 'Hallowed be Thy name,' he wanted a God whom men could reverence for His holiness—who charged His very angels with folly, who could not look upon sin but with abhorrence. Two empires have cried, 'Thy kingdom come'—the Chinese and the Roman; they have seen heaven incarnated on a visible throne. The Brahman has cried, 'Thy will be done'; he counts his own will delusion; he wants to lose himself in the Absolute Life. The polytheist of every clime cries, 'Give us this day our daily bread'; his whole use of religion is for the needs of the hour. The Buddhist cries, 'Forgive us our debts'; he trembles lest the consequences of sin may be to bring us back after death to lower forms of being. And the Stoic cries, 'Lead us not into temptation'; his whole desire is to be free from the vain seductions of life—to ignore its jealousies, to scorn its passions, to laugh at its ambitions, to regard its gains and its losses with equal contempt.
III. These are the cries of the old world; and Christ has said, 'Come unto Me and I will give you rest!' He has not sent one of them empty away. He has gathered them together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; and there will not be one want neglected in His shower of blessings.
—G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 212.
References.—VI. 9.—E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 238. J. B. Roberts, Studies in the Lord's Prayer, p. 15. Henry Wace, Some Central Points of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 231. J. B. Brinkworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 312. C. S. Macfarland, ibid. vol. lxv. 1904, p. 333. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 94. B. Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, pp. 189, 202, 213. C. Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, p. 30. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 311. A. Saphir, The Lord's Prayer, p. 37. B. W. Randolph, Church Times, vol. lii. 1904, p. 197. G. E. Deacon, The Lord's Prayer, p. 1. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew, I.-VIII. pp. 228, 233, 241. R. F. Horton, Lyndhurst Road Pulpit, p. 165. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 155. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, pp. 283, 294. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 149. F. W. Farrar, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 11, 31, 43; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, pp. 6, 16, 29. J. Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? pp. 38, 43, 49, 52. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 34; see also Common Life Religion, p. 126. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 213. VI. 9, 10.—J. E. Roberts, Studies in the Lord's Prayer, pp. 25, 82. C. W. Stubbs, The Social Teaching of the Lord's Prayer, pp. i. 28. VI. 9-13.—Ibid. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 233. W. Boyd Carpenter, The Great Charter of Christ, p. 207. J. Jarvie, Discourses, p. 154.
On Doing God's Will
Many people make a great mistake about God's will; they think that to do God's will is hard, painful, and so they say 'God's will be done' with a sigh or a groan. They think that if God's will be done it means taking away our dear ones—that sickness and trouble will come into our homes. God's will, in their minds, is always connected with ruin, dying friends, and newly made graves. Some people never think of writing those words except on tombstones.
I. God's Will is Love.—He loves us; He is our test friend, so to do His will must be for our happiness. We obey the will of a good earthly father because we know He is doing the best for us and our future. The angels are perfectly happy because they are doing God's will. People often say: 'Oh, I have a will of my own, and I want to go in my own way'. That is pretty certain to end in misery. The prodigal leaves his father's home and comes to misery; when the sheep leaves the fold he is lost.
II. How are we to do God's Will as it is Done in Heaven?—Do you say it is too high for you? That you are here on earth and that heaven is very far away? Many mistakes are made about heaven. Heaven means the state of life where God's people do His will, and that life begins here on earth. We must begin the heavenly life here, heaven must be in us now if we are to be in it hereafter. Heaven means doing God's will. If there is no heaven in this life, we shall be the same individuals after death as now. If a man has no love for God, no love for his neighbours, no love for holy and beautiful things, if he be without prayer or praise, what would he do in heaven? We are made to do God's will, and as long as we do it we shall be happy. It is not unpleasant, it is a pleasure. The child who loves you runs quickly to do your wishes; so if we love God our greatest joy is to serve Him. God must come to us before we go to Him. God must work on us before we can do His good pleasure. 'I want to do God's will, I want to serve Him.' In answer to this cry God always comes to us—comes into our hearts in answer to our prayer.
III. The Example of Jesus Christ.—What is God's will? What would He have us do? To get the right answer we must look at Jesus Christ. He did His Father's will as it is done in heaven. He made the world better. We are like emigrants sent from home into a far country. The good emigrant constructs roads and highways. He makes the rough wilderness to blossom like the rose. He puts the wild land into cultivation and produces useful crops and sweet flowers. He builds a good house and makes the place useful and beautiful. We are sent into the world for a like purpose that we may go down into the forest of ignorance and clear the way for truth. We are sent to get the highway of life open—to pick up the stones and clear away the rocks so that poor pilgrims may not stumble. We must help our neighbours along the path of life. That is doing God's will.
The Life of the Angels
What we have to fix our gaze upon, as we use this prayer, is, the revelation that underlies it of the existence of certain spiritual beings who in heaven are doing ever the Father's will; in other words, underlying this prayer, there lies the revelation of angelic existence.
I. The point to which I wish to call your attention is the student life of the angels of God. Always and everywhere that is their condition. There is in them an intense craving to know. St. Peter speaks, in the first chapter of his first general Epistle, of things 'which the angels desire to look into'. But then, side by side with this intense craving to know, they have limited knowledge. Our Lord Himself tells us that 'of that day and that hour knoweth no man, not even the angels of God'. Therefore they are in the position of having limitations to their knowledge, a limitation which provokes them immediately into the activity of study.
II. If you look at the student life of the angels you will find that they are always revealed to us as students of theology. They seek God everywhere, they find God everywhere, they rejoice in God everywhere, and everywhere they worship God.
If you look in the Bible you will find three great spheres of angel-study comprehended in the great theology of the angels, a threefold study in which they are ever engaged.
1. The angels are revealed as studying the material world around us. 'When God laid the foundations of the earth, the sons of God shouted for joy.' And that joy has been an abiding joy; the angels are ever students of science, they are ever penetrating with enlightened gaze into all the mysteries of all physical phenomena around us.
2. But there is a second sphere of angel-study to which our attention is turned by St. Paul. He says as he goes forth upon his mission as a Christian preacher, and as the power of the Gospel is made manifest among men through his preaching, that he is acting upon the angels. And that one effect of God's wonderful working in His Church is the education of the angels themselves. 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.' So that the angels are shown to us as the students of Church history. And surely not of Church history only; are we not taught that all history is under the hand of God in some strange way?
3. The angels are revealed to us as being students of what we call theology, in the more restricted sense especially, as being students of the Incarnate. St. Paul, enumerating some of the mysteries of the Incarnation, says that 'He was seen of the angels'.
III. Our prayer is that God's will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven, which surely means that we, by God's grace, may be enabled so to live on earth as angels live above. If this be the case then one aspect of our life must be the aspect of a student. Like the angels we must seek from God the blessed gift of hunger and thirst after knowledge—after knowledge of all kinds.
1. We learn from the angels that our student life must not be narrow.
2. We should imitate the angels in the spirit in which they study. The student should be possessed above all things by the spirit of reverence.
3. The study of God, and the study of God's will whenever we seek it, is meant to influence our character and to shape our lives. We must study God's will in order that we may do it, that we may become like Him.
Theological study which is thus wide in its extent, courageous and reverent in its spirit, practical in its end—this is the ideal of student life which is revealed to us by the lives of the angels.
—G. Body, The Contemporary Pulpit, vol. viii. 1887, p. 321.
Christianity and Wealth
Our Lord Jesus Christ left no code of social legislation. He laid down no laws for Palestine in the first century, but He laid down principles for all countries, and for every century.
What does Christ say of accumulation, and what of expenditure?
I. First, how are we to understand 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on the earth'? Does He mean that we are not to save money at all? Observe that two reasons are given for this advice. First, the hoard is liable to be lost, spoilt, or stolen, before it is enjoyed; and secondly, 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'. It is assumed that wealth, whether in gold or commodities, is simply hoarded for future personal enjoyment, buried, probably under the floor; and our Lord says, as many other moralists have said: How foolish to keep the means of enjoyment till they are stolen, or spoilt, instead of using them. Well, we do not hoard money now, we invest it, which is a very different thing. But the second reason does touch us. Where is our real treasure? and where is our heart? It cannot be in both places. Those who try to 'make the best of both worlds' generally make nothing of either. We ought to know—we do know, if we are honest with ourselves—in which of these two worlds lies that which we love best and are most afraid to lose.
Is it then impossible, according to our Lord's preaching, to be a successful man of business and to have one's heart and treasure in heaven? No, assuredly not impossible. We are unlucky if we have not known several instances to the contrary. But it is difficult; so our Lord warns us; and those who have tried it will not, I think, differ from Him.
But there is another aspect of accumulation besides the self-regarding one. What is the justice of the matter? All acquisition should surely be the exchange value for some service rendered.
And the law of Christ has much to say about investments. There are some businesses which degrade all who touch them: there are others which simply waste the energies of the workmen employed upon them; there are others which are gigantic instruments of national demoralization. Are we Christians enough to resist a tempting opportunity to invest at a high rate of interest in concerns of this kind? Once more, how are the workmen treated? All these cautions seem to be covered by our Lord's principles, but it would be a great mistake to suppose that He condemns the investment of surplus income in sound enterprises, which is generally, I believe, the best way of making work for the unemployed, and one of the best uses that we can make of superfluous money—far better, certainly, than promiscuous doles.
II. Next, as to expenditure—it is strange how often one hears the old fallacy that to consume the fruits of labour is 'good for trade'. The millionaire who uses up the value of five hundred working men's time impoverishes the nation by that amount, and is by no means a benefactor. He is bound to show that he is putting in some equivalent for all that he takes out. Wealth does not release the rich man from his obligation to work, but only enables him to do unpaid work for society. A man has a legal right to the use of money which the law allows him to call his own; but morally, we have only the right to do what we ought, not what we like, or are allowed to do.
—W. R. Inge, All Saints' Sermons, 1905-1907, p. 69.
Compare the closing words of Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici: 'Bless me in this life with but the peace of my conscience, command of my affections, the love of Thyself and of my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Cæsar! These are, O Lord, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to Thy hand or providence; dispose of me according to the wisdom of Thy pleasure. Thy will be done, though in my own undoing.'
In Past and Present (chap. xv.) Carlyle describes the true reverent man as one who 'has a religion. Hourly and daily, for himself and the whole world, a faithful, unspoken, but not ineffectual prayer rises, "Thy will be done ". His whole work on earth is an emblematic spoken or acted prayer. Be the will of God done on earth—not the Devil's will, or any of the Devil's servants' wills! He has a religion, this man; an everlasting Loadstar that beams the brighter in the Heavens, the darker here on earth grows the night around him.'
References.—VI. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1778. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. pp. 244, 253. B. Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, p. 227. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, p. 304. B. W. Maturin, Church Times, vol. xxxv. 1896, p. 357. S. D. McConnell, A Year's Sermons, p. 139. C. Thirlwall, Missionary Duties, Difficulties, and Prospects, p. 5. G. E. Deacon, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 17, 25. C. Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, pp. 39, 46. J. Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? pp. 56, 60. F. W. Farrar, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 57, 73; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, pp. 45,77. T. Sims, ibid. vol. xli. 1892, p. 182. C. A. Berry, ibid. vol. li. 1897, p. 184. G. Mackenzie, ibid. vol. lii. 1897, p. 118. J. H. Bernard, ibid. vol. lvi. 1899, p. 274. W. H. Fremantle, ibid. vol. lvi. 1899, p. 376. R. Rainy, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 41. G. Campbell Morgan, ibid. vol. lxi. 1902, p. 37. F. W. Gunsaulus, ibid. vol. lxii. 1902, p. 107. F. W. Macdonald, ibid. vol. lxv. 1903, p. 244. G. Campbell Morgan, ibid. vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 251. J. R. Harmer, ibid. vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 243. F. H. Chase, ibid. vol. lxx. 1906, p. 252. T. E. Ruth, ibid. vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 108. H. T. Knight, Rational Religion, pp. 121, 137. F. E. Paget, The Living and the Dead, p. 193. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. i. p. 31. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 134, 230. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 34. W. Woods Smyth, Life and Holiness, p. 1. E. Bickersteth, 'Thy Kingdom Come' Sermons, 1887.
It is remarkable that, out of the seven petitions which compose the Lord's Prayer, only one should concern the needs of the body, while the other six concern needs of eternity. One for the body, six for heaven. And have you noticed that, for present duties, God has fixed an inverse ratio? God has said, 'Six days for work and one for worship,' but He has restored the balance, as it were, in prayer, and He has said, 'Six prayers for heaven, and one prayer for the earth'. After all, when you come to look at it from a real and honest standpoint, you cannot fail to see that the things that concern us for our short day here on earth are of secondary importance to the things that concern the eternity beyond. I wish you to look a little more closely at the believers' way of seeking temporal things from God, and first to see the piety of the prayer, and then the faith, and then the moderation.
I. The Piety.—Look at the child kneeling at his father's knee, with the love of a son looking up to his father's face, reaching up a hand for the needs of a day—our daily bread. How reasonable it all is. Who made the body, and who made the bread? Did not God make the body and the bread; and is it not God, and only God, Who can suit the bread to the body? Is it not God Who gives you the food you eat, and gives you health to eat it? Therefore, is it not reasonable that day by day, and hour by hour, you should lift your eyes to Him Who giveth all, and say, 'Give us this day our daily bread'? And besides being reasonable, is it not a joy, is it not a delight, that we should turn up loving eyes to the Father of all, and then ask Him for all our needs? 'My Father, give me enough bread for my bodily needs, give me enough sustenance to keep me alive, while Thou wilt' Would it not be a joy and a pleasure if we could look up, with the eyes of sons and daughters, look up trustingly, lovingly to our Father, and say, 'Give us this day our daily bread '? It is a beautiful thing, in the sight of God and His holy angels, to see a godly man get up in the morning, and, surrounded by his wife and children, put special emphasis upon the words of my text, 'Give us this day our daily bread'. He looks round and sees his family. He knows that the bread they eat depends more or less on his toil, and he puts an emphasis on the 'us'. He thanks God that He has made the 'us' so large that it includes all that he holds dear, his wife, his children; yes, possibly many more, and he prays, 'Give us this day our daily bread'. What does it matter if the next meal does depend upon his labour? Things may change, health may fail, trials may draw near, but it is the Lord Who changeth not; and that poor man goes forth from his knees to his work, full of joy. 'Give us this day our daily bread.'
II. The Faith.—Look at the faith of the prayer. It is a strange thing, but there is absolutely no doubt about it, we have far more difficulty in trusting God with regard to temporal matters than with regard to spiritual matters. 'Spiritual things,' we say, 'these are in God's province; for temporal things I have to depend upon myself.' Is it so? God withdraws His hand. You lie, perhaps, upon the bed of sickness, you live by charity. Do you depend upon your own powers, upon your own ability? No, it is given you, given; and what a useful lesson it is! Every morning, yes, often during the day, you should pray, 'Give us'. Why? 'Because I depend upon Thee, Great Lord, because the power of brain and body which Thou hast given me Thou canst take away, Therefore, give it me, keep it for me. Give me all that is included in the word "bread ".'
III. The Moderation.—Let us see the moderation of the prayer. We see that in time, manner, and degree. Enough for the day is the evil thereof, and enough for the day is this one prayer, 'Give us this day'. One thinks of the miser hoarding his money, hoarding penny after penny. He gloats over it. It is his worship, it is his god. He does not pray, 'Give us this day'. Do not for a moment imagine that I do not want you to make provision for tomorrow; I do. But I do not want you to make anxious provision. That is all the difference in the world. That is the difference between what is good and what is evil. God will provide. 'Give us this day our daily bread.' You know that in the East this word 'bread' is made to stand for all the necessaries of life. God knows what is necessary. We leave it a blank in God's hand. We say, give us this day all that we need for our bodily sustenance. Is not that enough of a prayer? I wonder how many of us pray that prayer as it ought to be prayed?
References.—VI. 11.—Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 163. J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. ii. p. 60. G. E. Deacon, The Lord's Prayer, p. 33. C. W. Stubbs, The Social Teaching of the Lord's Prayer, p. 54. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 260. C. Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, p. 56. F. W. Farrar, The Lord's Prayer, p. 91; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 100. S. M. Taylor, ibid. vol. lxx. 1906, p. 294. T. Sadler, Sermons for Children, p. 128. J. Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? p. 62. B. W. Maturin, Church Times, vol. xxxv. 1896, p. 389. H. T. Knight, Rational Religion, p. 155. VI. 11-13.—J. E. Roberts, Studies in the Lord's Prayer, p. 36.
Forgive Us Our Debts
In that last hour of that last day, when the silent morning light has glimmered through the window for the very last time before our failing eyes, and we feel the burden of our many sins pressing heavily upon us, there will be nothing that can give the trembling mind of the strongest man of us any comfort, unless he can say with truth, 'And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope is even in Thee.' Nothing, unless he can receive back through the familiar voice of the Spirit of God, speaking by a pure conscience, the message which our Lord gave to the sick of the palsy: 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee'. And surely it will be well, while we are in the full vigour of both mind and body,' and the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when we shall say, We have no pleasure in them,' that we consider what grounds we have for this assurance, so that when the summons comes we may have no cause why our hearts should fail us.
I. Our Lord has mercifully put into our daily prayer a reminder of how the case really stands between us and God.
There is no happiness apart from God. God is that Essence of Goodness and Perfection which fills all space, time, and eternity; Who brought everything into being; apart from Whom there is no life; Who keeps everything in health and safety; Whose perfect will is the law of the universe; and Who, by allowing you and me free will, is training us to be with Him, and share His glory of perfection for ever and ever. To Him we owe everything. It is to His bountiful Providence that we are indebted for our daily food, clothes, money, gifts, and talents. To the Goodness of His Being belong the ideals of our homes, family life, friendships, and affections. To His pervading loving-kindness we attribute our enjoyments in the present, our hopes for the future, our knowledge of Him, our understanding of His revelation, our salvation in Jesus Christ His Son and Messenger, our instruction in the ways of peace and happiness, our consolation in the troubles of this world, our comfort in the unknown terrors of that which is to come. From His loving-kindness in the gradual stages of revelation come the explanation of the bewildering mysteries of life, our conscience, our sense of duty and responsibility, our capacity to love Him, after Whose spiritual image we were formed. We owe all this to God.
II. Is there no duty we owe to Him in return? More than that, can we have these things without owing Him any duty at all? Some of them come to us by nature, and we can spoil them by neglecting our duty to God. Some of them we cannot have at all without recognizing this duty, and acting upon it. We owe God love, gratitude, reverence, trust, obedience. We find His laws for us in our consciences, in His Holy Word, in the revelation of His Son. We see that to be on the same side with all that is good, powerful, healthy, living, happy, eternal, we must give ourselves up wholly to Him. We must resign our wills into His hands; our lives, thoughts, hearts, principles, affections, all to be ruled by Him. When a heart is so willingly given up to Him, He sends His Spirit, His Grace, His Power, and does so guide and rule it. He makes the sacrifice easy. He alone can govern the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. That is what He is always waiting to do for us. That, then, is what we owe to God; in order to be what we are intended to be we have to yield up to Him all that we have and are.
III. How imperfect is the sacrifice we have made! What self-will there yet remains in some; what worldliness, what wayward affections, what folly, what weakness, what sin fulness in others! What a want of truth, candour, firmness, purity, self-control, generosity, unselfishness, love to man and love to God! Convinced of all this, we should indeed be miserably helpless, if the same message which tells us about God and our sins did not also assure us that, 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'.
IV. Therefore it is that, with the precious promises of God's Word before us, and with all the bitter remembrance of our shortcomings behind us, our Lord bids us bend daily before our gracious Father in heaven, and say in penitence and humility, in love, trust, and hope, 'Forgive us our debts'.
We are forgiven, not cheaply, because that would encourage other beings and worlds to rebel and ruin themselves. We are forgiven by the infinite and never-failing love of our All-pitying God. We are forgiven for the sake of Him Who died for us, and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us. We are forgiven, in order that God may be feared, and not defied, that He may be loved and not challenged. We are forgiven that we may ever be renewed from the past, that we may have hope for the future, and courage again and again to seek the life-giving Throne of grace to obtain help in time of need.
And among other conditions of our forgiveness there, is one of which we, poor vindictive angry souls, so ready to take offence, so unwilling to pardon, have at the same time daily to remind ourselves. In the very act of prayer, we are taught to remember it. The temper that does not forgive cannot be forgiven, because it is itself a proof that we have no idea of the debt we owe. We cannot forget the ten thousand talents, as we exact the hundred pence, and in the act of exacting we bring back the burden of that greater debt upon ourselves.
References.—VI. 12.—B. Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, p. 255. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The School of Christ, p. 44. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, p. 348. W. M. Sinclair, The New Law, p. 73. C. Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, p. 65. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.- VIII. p. 272. J. Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? p. 68. W. C. Magee, The Gospel and the Age, p. 259. G. E. Deacon, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 41, 48. F. W. Farrar, ibid. pp. 109, 129; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, pp. 109, 285. VI. 12, 13.—C. W. Stubbs, The Social Teaching of the Lord's Prayer, p. 80.
The Sources of Temptation
What are the sources of temptation? We should do wrong to narrow down our idea of temptation to incitement to evil, coming from an evil quarter. There are more sources than one, and the first we are apt to overlook; it is:—
I. God Almighty Himself.—In more than one place God reveals Himself as tempting man. God tempted Abraham by the order to slay his only son; God tempted David to number Israel by permitting the devil to suggest it. It is a common phenomenon of daily life, in which God may be seen tempting men, in His goodness, to goodness, for their good. Joseph and Daniel are tried respectively with the same temptations which tried David and St. Peter, but they emerge through degradation and the fear of death to a greater eminence than they enjoyed before. But temptations which come from God are no easy things which any one can bear; all that is ordinarily said about temptation applies to them (see 2 Corinthians 7:7-9). See men and women around us snapping under the sharp discipline of God. Yet, could they have but seen it, with the trial, coming out of it, there was the way of escape, there was the special grace enabling them to bear it, the special virtue to be developed out of it. It has been so all through the history of human experience. The sorrows of the world's sin have brought out the Church; the sufferings of the human frame have developed the healing art. Trouble has brought the unexpected store of sympathy; the depth of despair has brought close the vision of God. But the most characteristic source of temptation is:—
II. The Devil.—Now it belongs to the jugglery of the accusing angel to try and confuse in our minds attack and defeat, temptation and sin. Before any sin can be set up, three processes must be gone through. First, there is the suggestion of evil (here, per se, there is no sin); then there comes the delight, the acquiescence in the suggestion (here the sinfulness is commencing); until at last the will consents, and sin is formed, according to the strong statement of St. James, pregnant with death.
Next observe some of the regions in which Satan's temptations come upon us. We shall find these in the example of the temptation of our Blessed Lord, the model on which Satan founds many more of his attacks.
1. The appetite. This is the point where Satan is riding roughshod over the lives of thousands of human beings. Think of the terrible condition of our streets, the coarse animalism of our villages. An appetite which overmasters the will enslaves the man. On any showing grace is stronger than nature, reason than instinct, and man is higher than a brute.
2. Satan also approaches through the soul—i.e. the inner principle of life. He tampers with the policy, the aim, the motive of life by means of a view from a 'high mountain'. A view! A young man—e.g.—entering life is altogether upset by the view of riches, and enters on his work with a false aim. We have to deal with a subtle danger known as 'the world'—an influence, a mist, which mounts up from the careless lives of men, which smoothes out the distances in religion and obliterates the objects of faith. The world of religion, the world of morality, the world of ideals, we know what they mean—so that no one can let himself 'go,' so to speak, in the world. While we get good out of the world for all sorts of purposes, we have to be on our guard against this tarnishing 'mist', It is a dangerous atmosphere to which Satan tempts us to commit ourselves. He is asking us to part with our eternal inheritance at the price of the gratification of a few years; to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage.
3. Satan's third attack is through the region of the 'spirit'—e.g. 'If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down'. It is a very subtle temptation to dictate to God how He ought to treat us. Stairs, and walking down, are much too simple things for God to care for. The Son of God has a right to expect upholding angels; nothing between Him and God. It sounds well, but it is the highest presumption. It is the claim for exceptional treatment, the essence of self-complacency. Thus men would be Christians without the sacraments, without the Church, without a revelation.
III. There still remains another source—there is a temptation which comes from within. We know of two conditions for the spread of disease—an infected air and an enfeebled constitution. And so in the infected air around us our weak human nature is a distinct trial to us. True, at baptism, original sin was washed away, but there still remains 'poor human nature' as we call it. When this fails beneath the assault, where is the means of escape?
Never too much temptation—God always faithful. A way of escape through the temptation. Do we not know how a doctor will say sometimes of a sick man, 'His splendid constitution saved him'? Is there not, or should there not be, a reserve of strength within the souls of us all? There exists in all who have not quenched or driven it out, a reserve of baptismal grace. Confirmation was no mere taking upon ourselves of our baptismal vows, as is sometimes said, with strange ignorance of real meaning. Confirmation was an access of strength coming to us through the Holy Spirit. Welcomed into the soul, it stays, a store of strength, a spiritual reserve in time of need. It is not in vain that we have so often approached the altar, so often prayed, received absolution, heard the Word of God. In our spiritual gifts we shall always find a reserve of strength, so that even the memory of past grace is a way of escape.
The Christian says to God: Deliver us from evil. The Buddhist adds: And to that end deliver us from finite existence, give us back to nothingness! The first believes that when he is enfranchised from the body, he will enter upon eternal happiness; the second believes that individuality is the obstacle to repose, and he longs for the dissolution of the soul itself. The dread of the first is the Paradise of the second.
References.—VI. 13.—B. Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, pp. 266, 277. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The School of Christ, pp. 51, 58, 64. C. Gore, Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, pp. 72, 78. Bishop Creighton, The Mind of St. Peter, p. 33. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. pp. 277, 282, 289. H. T. Knight, Rational Religion, p. 169. Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 161. J. E. Cumming, The Blessed Life, p. 133. F. W. Farrar, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 149, 181, 199, 213; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 301, and vol. xliii. 1893, pp. 17, 33, 49, 65. W. M. Sinclair, ibid. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 75. E. S. Talbot, ibid. vol. lxx. 1906, p. 324. D. M. T. Willis, ibid. vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 300. J. Stalker, The Four Men, p. 31. J. Forgan, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 328. J. Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? pp. 72, 76, 80. G. E. Deacon, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 56, 63. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, pp. 363, 387. Harvey Goodwin, The Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 114. Bishop J. Percival, Sermons at Rugby, p. 148. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 509, vol. xxiv. No. 1402. VI. 14.—F. W. Farrar, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 229, 245, 257. VI. 14, 15.—D. M. T. Willis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 300. VI. 16.—E. Lyttelton, ibid. vol. Ixxi. 1907, p. 168. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. x. p. 73. VI. 16-18.—E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 264. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 417. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 298.
Fasting? Why, for a man who is trying to do his work in the best way, life is a perpetual fast.—Edward Thring.
References.—VI. 17.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 141. J. S. Maver, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 174. VI. 17, 18.—F. E. Paget, Sermons on Duties of Daily Life, p. 289. VI. 19.—S. Rigby, Sketches of Sermons, p. 1. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 275. W. B. Selbie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 212. VI. 19, 20.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 299. VI. 19-21.—Stopford A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 307. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 28. R. J. Campbell, A Faith for Today, p. 331. George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, p. 118. J. Denney, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 344. R. J. Campbell, ibid. vol. lxii. 1900, p. 68. VI. 19-22.—H. Ward Beecher, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 1. VI. 19-24.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 449. VI. 19-34.—W. Boyd Carpenter, The Great Charter of Christ, p. 233. VI. 20.—T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 367. S. Rigby, Sketches of Sermons, p. 13. VI. 20, 21.—A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. i. p. 155.
Where the pursuit of truth has been the habitual study of any man's life, the love of truth will be his ruling passion. 'Where the treasure is, there the heart is also.' Every one is most tenacious of that to which he owes his distinction from others.
The character of a man depends on that which is his confidence.... If you can persuade a covetous man that money is not Song of Solomon bouclier ni sa grande récompense, but that God is, you change him from a covetous man into a pious man.... The thing in which I put my confidence for happiness has necessarily a directing influence over my whole being; it communicates its own nature to me in some measure.
Erskine of Linlathen.
References.—VI. 21.—H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 211. A. F. Winnington Ingram, Church Times, vol. lviii. 1907, p. 690. H. Harris, Short Sermons, p. 230. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 302.
The Eye of the Soul
I. If we would see aright, we must cultivate the imagination.
II. Have faith in conscience as a trustworthy witness.
III. Educate them both in the things of God. If one of us was asked to judge a piece of music to see if it were Handel's, we should be sure to judge wrongly, if we did not know Handel's style; we must study our composer; we must read into his thoughts and note his expressions, and then we shall know if the piece has a true ring or not. So it is with the things of God: something comes before you purporting to be from God: are you in a position to judge? Not if you have never studied God's ways, not if you know nothing of His love, not if you never pray, not if you are drifting on, careless of your faith, not if you only care for your intellect and leave conscience and imagination to dwindle and to die: then you will decide against the revelation of God; for the light that is in you will be darkness, and if the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! But if, on the other hand, with humble patience and modest fearlessness you turn yourself towards the opening heaven; if with fresh untarnished powers you compare that external revelation with the light already gathered by those powers within; if, to sum it all up, in the words of the text, your eye is single, then the opening revelation shall flood your soul with light; nay! your whole body shall be full of light; you shall breathe light, speak light, act light; and you shall inherit the blessing pronounced on those who have 'not seen and yet have believed'.
—Bishop Winnington Ingram, Oxford University Sermons, p. 1.
References.—VI. 22.—W. G. Rutherford, The Key of Knowledge, p. 182. J. J. Tayler, Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty, p. 267. R. C. Moberly, Church Times, vol. xlviii. 1902, p. 76. VI. 22, 23.—J. G. James, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 118. S. Milburn, ibid. vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 152. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2nd Series), p. 100. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 175. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 335. VI. 22-24.—E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 282.
He put things in such a way that his hearer was led to take each rule or fact of conduct by its inward side, its effect on the heart and character; then the reason of the thing, the meaning of what had been mere matter of blind rule, flashed upon him. The hearer could distinguish between what was only ceremony and what was conduct; and the hardest rules of conduct came to appear to him infinitely reasonable and natural, and therefore infinitely prepossessing.
Human life at the best is enveloped in darkness; we know not what we are or whither we are bound. Religion is the light by which we are to see our way along the moral pathways without straying into the brake or the morass. We are not to look at religion itself, but at surrounding things with the help of religion. If we fasten our attention upon the light itself, analysing it into its component rays, speculating on the union and composition of the substances of which it is composed, not only will it no longer serve us for a guide, but our dazzled senses lose their natural powers; we should grope our way more safely in conscious blindness. 'When the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!' In the place of the old material idolatry we erect a new idolatry of words and phrases.
—Froude on Calvinism.
Reference.—VI. 23.—Hugh Price Hughes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 161.
It would almost appear as if one half of mankind started on their career in life for the purpose of proving that this saying of our Lord's was not true.
Mammon, cries the generous heart out of all ages and countries, is the basis of known gods, even of known devils. In him what glory is there that ye should worship him? No glory discernible; not even terror: at best, detestability, ill-matched with despicability!
—Carlyle, French Revolution (towards close).
Our deity being no longer Mammon—O Heavens, each man will then say to himself: 'Why such deadly haste to make money? I shall not go to Hell, even if I do not make money! There is another Hell, I am told!'
—Carlyle, Past and Present, Iv.
Nature gives herself to those who are determined to possess her, but she will be exclusively loved.
—Millet, 'Notes on Art'.
Go and argue with the flies of summer that there is a power Divine yet greater than the sun in the heavens, but never dare hope to convince the people of the South that there is any other God than Gold.
—Kinglake in Eothen, chap. vii.
This is the meaning of St. Francis's renouncing his inheritance; and it is the beginning of Giotto's gospel of works. Unless this hardest of deeds be done first;—this inheritance of mammon and the world cast away—all other deeds are useless. You cannot serve, cannot obey, God and mammon. No charities, no obediences, no self-denials, are of any use, while you are still at heart in conformity with the world. You go to Church, because the world goes. You keep Sunday, because your neighbours keep it. But you dress ridiculously, because your neighbours ask it; and you dare not do a rough piece of work, because your neighbours despise it. You must renounce your neighbour, in his riches and pride, and remember him in his distress.
It is impossible to read those impassioned words in which Jesus Christ upbraids the pusillanimity and; sensuality of mankind, without being strangely reminded of the more connected and systematic enthusiasm of Rousseau. 'No man,' says Jesus Christ, 'can serve two masters. 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.' If we would profit by the wisdom of a sublime and poetical mind, we must beware of the error of interpreting literally every expression it employs. Nothing can well be more remote from the truth than the literal and strict construction of such expressions as Jesus Christ delivers. He simply exposes, with the passionate rhetoric of enthusiastic love towards all human beings, the miseries and mischiefs of that system which makes all things subservient to the subsistence of the material frame of man. He warns them that no man can serve two masters—God and mammon; that it is impossible at once to be high-minded and just and wise, and to comply with the accustomed forms of human society, seek power, wealth, or empire, either from the idolatry of habit, or as the direct instruments of sensual gratification.
—Shelley, Essay on Christianity.
'But, you may tell me, the young people are taught to be Christians. It may be want of penetration. But I have not yet been able to perceive it. As an honest man, whatever we teach, and be it good or evil, it is not the doctrine of Christ.... Take a few of Christ's sayings and compare them with our current doctrines:—
'Ye cannot, he says, serve God and mammon. Cannot? and our whole system is to teach us how we can!...
'Take no thought for the morrow. Ask the successful merchant; interrogate your own heart; and you will have to admit that this is not only a silly but an immoral position. All we believe, all we hope, all we honour in ourselves or in our contemporaries, stands condemned in this one sentence, or, if you take the other view, condemns the sentence as unwise and inhumane. We are not then of the "same mind that was in Christ". We disagree with Christ. Either Christ meant nothing, or else He or we must be in the wrong....
'To be a true disciple is to think of the same things as our Prophet, and to think of different things in the same order. To be of the same mind with another, is to see all things in the same perspective; it is not to agree in a few indifferent matters near at hand and not much debated; it is to follow him in his farthest flights, to see the force of his hyperboles.... You do not belong to the school of any philosopher because you agree with him that theft is, on the whole, objectionable, or that the sun is overhead at noon. It is by the hard sayings that discipleship is tested.' Whereupon the writer ends, as he began, by vehemently denying the claim of modern Christians (so-called) to the name and mind of Christ. When the hard sayings of Christ conflict with modern practice, the whole fellowship of Christians, he contends, 'falls back in disappearing wonder'.
—R. L. Stevenson.
References.—VI. 24.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (Sermon-Sketches), vol. ii. p. 5; see also 2nd Series, vol. ii. p. 126. J. K. Popham, Sermons, p. 156. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 303. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 182. E. Fowle, Plain Preaching for Poor People (10th Series), p. 85. H. Scott Holland, Church Times, vol. lvi. 1906, p. 347; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 195. F. W. Farrar, ibid. vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 49. A. M. Fairbairn, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 229. VI. 24, 25.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 311; see also Creed and Conduct, p. 184, and Sermons Preached in Manchester, p. 261.
The Lord Will Provide (Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity)
The verses in Today's Gospel are about 'taking no thought'. What does that mean? Our Lord mentions it five times (vv. 25, 27, 28, 31, 34), so it must be important. Is it that we are not to think at all about life, raiment, food, etc.? No; God has given us reason, judgment, prudence, eta, to use for His glory; but it is that we are not to think too much, so as to be full of care, and anxiety, as though God were not caring for His children's wants (Php 4:6). Now, our Lord says we may take a lesson in this—
I. From the Birds (v. 26). We see them flying about in the air—hopping here and pecking there. 'They sow not,' that they may have a good crop; 'they reap not,' that they may have a good provision in store. But do they ever want? You never see them in need of anything. Why? Because God provides them with all, and watches over them (Job 38:41). He knows them (Psalm 50:11). He is acquainted with their ways (Jeremiah 17:11). He provides their dwelling (Psalm 104:16-17). He hears their cry (Psalm 147:9). He gives man a law concerning them (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). The sparrow lying dead upon the housetop does not escape the eye of God (Matthew 10:29).
II. From the Flowers (v. 28).—' Consider the lilies, how they grow.' A bulb is put into the ground. It appears lost in winter, but rises in spring (Song of Solomon 2:11-12; John 12:24; 1 Corinthians 15:36-38). They are 'of the field,' ready therefore to perish (Psalm 103:15-16). 'They toil not,' etc. There is no labour on their part. Yet how beautiful the lilies are! The glory of Solomon was great (1 Kings 10). But to what does 'the greater than Solomon' compare Himself (Song of Solomon 2:1-2)?
III. And all this is for our Learning.
a. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need (v. 32). If He provides for the birds and lilies which 'take no thought,' surely He will provide for me, His own child (Psalm 23:1; Luke 11:13).
b. We are not, however, to be idle, and fancy God will do all. That is tempting, not trusting. Be diligent with what God gives, and leave the rest to Him (Proverbs 13:4; Matthew 25:24).
c. One thing we are to 'take thought' about—that is, our soul's welfare (v. 33). That first and last should engage our attention (Php 2:12; 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:14).
References.—VI. 25.—F. W. Farrar, Sin and Its Conquerors, p. 94. Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 245. A. B. Bruce, ibid. 1896, p. 179. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 95. VI. 25-34.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 483. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 288. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 26. A. J. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv. p. 140. J. M. Neale, Sermons to Children, p. 204. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, vol. i. No. 16. C. Kingsley, Discipline and Other Sermons, p. 168. VI. 26.—R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 140. E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 385. A. H. Bradford, ibid. vol. lviii. 1900, p. 151. VI. 26-30.—G. Elmslie Troup, ibid. vol. xl. 1891, p. 197. VI. 27.—H. Ward Beecher, Sermons (2nd Seriess), p. 220.
I. Probably the lily of Galilee was our Lord's favourite flower. I am not aware that He mentioned any other. And if we were capable of considering the lily, not by chemical analysis, but by the laws of philosophic thought, and knowing how it grew, we should discover that the whole history of created (or, rather, derived) life was bound up in the nature of that flower. If we could trace it back to its very first beginning we should have solved the riddle of life, and discovered—as Tennyson said of the flower in the crannied wall—the secret of God and man.
II. A lily, our Lord implies, is the analogy of a man; but it is an analogy with a difference. So far as we can judge, the lily is irresponsible. It appears to us to be evolved solely by the direct action of the Creative Spirit operating in natural law; its growth and beauty are the automatic result of the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations. Our life, like the life of the lily, is from above—that is, from within. It is Divine; but it may be helped by our care or hindered by our neglect; that which in the lily is probably mechanical and unconscious must be with us a willing exercise of spiritual energy. We are not responsible for where we are planted. 'My Father is the Husbandman.' The environment into which I am born is His affair, not mine; and all lilies have not the same environment to overcome, or the same difficulties to meet. There are some planted in pleasant gardens, protected from trial; there are others, like the beautiful water-lily, whose whole growth is a continuous struggle, who must rise from the very depths, and lift their heads above the pressure around them, and there, resting on the surface of the very difficulty they have overcome, open out their golden petals and feed upon the sunshine. The power of rising in the water-lily is calculated exactly according to the depth of the water in which the natural law has planted it. There hath no temptation taken it but such as it shall be able to overcome. There is within the stem of the water-lily an elaborate apparatus, consisting of an elastic spiral coil, which expands and contracts, giving it power to rise or sink as the water deepens or diminishes, so that it may be always above the pressure in which it lives, and face to face with the life-giving sun.
III. Is the spiral coil, the Divine nature, thus lifting each one of us? The grace we do not exercise, the power we do not exert, like the limb we do not use, or the faculty we do not expand, atrophies, withers, weakens. The first step is to believe in the power, and the next to suffer the life to come out. The saying about not 'toiling and spinning' has reference only to the production of Christian character, and it means that Christian character is not a mosaic of moralities, painfully built up in imitation of a model, but a life; not hand-made, like Solomon's robes, but God-evolved, like the lily's flower.
—B. Wilberforce, Speaking Good of His Name, p. 47.
A Sermon for Springtide
I like at this season of the year to speak sometimes on the ministry of nature, and to discover what that meant for Jesus.
I. In this matter there is one thing which strikes me, and that is the contrast between Christ and Paul. You never feel that Paul is at home in the country. You always feel that Paul is at home in the city. When he would illustrate the things of grace, he does not turn to the vine or the lily. He turns to the soldier polishing his armour; to the gladiator fighting before ten thousand eyes; to the free-born citizen whose civic charter had been won in the senate of imperial Rome. Not in the city did Jesus find His parables, save when He saw the children in the market-place. He found them in the lily of the field, with which even Solomon could not compare.
II. Again, if Christ is different from Paul in this matter, He is equally distinguished from His Jewish ancestry. Remember He was a Jew after the flesh. Yet when we read His teaching about nature, we feel we have moved away from the Old Testament. And I want to try to show you whereon that difference of interpretation rests, and what is the fact that underlies it.
1. Open your Old Testament, and tell me the aspect of nature which you most often find there. It is not the world of sunshine and of flower. It is the world of vast and mighty things. In things that were greater and grander than all others, in hurricane and storm, in wild and unmastered forces—it was in these preeminently that the Jew awoke to the presence and the power of God. Now turn to the teaching of the man of Nazareth—'Consider the lilies of the field'. It is no longer the things that tower aloft; it; is no longer the things that shock or startle—it is not these that to the man of Nazareth are richest in Divine significancy. It is the vineyard on the sunny hill; it is the lily waving in the field. It is things common and usual and silent which no one had had eyes to see before. Never is love richer in revelation than when it consecrates all that is quiet and lowly.
2. One thing more, which helps to illuminate the mind of Christ. It is how often, when He speaks of nature, He deliberately brings man upon the scene. He could not look at the lilies of the field but He saw Solomon in all his glory. And it all means that while the love of nature was one of the deepest passions in Christ's heart, it was not a love that led to isolation, but found its crowning in the love of man. There is a way of loving nature that chills a little the feeling for mankind. There is a passion for beauty that may be a snare, for it weakens the ties that bind us to humanity. But when a man loves nature as Jesus Christ loved nature, it will deepen and purify the springs of brotherhood, and issue in service that is not less loyal because the music of hill and dale is in it.
—G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 164.
References.—VI. 28.—W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 85. George Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 286. T. Sadler, Sermons for Children, p. 135. E. C. Paget, Silence, p. 123. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life, p. 39. J. Coats Shanks, God Within Us, p. 126. J. Service, Sermons, p. 136. W. H. Shawcross, A Sermon Preached at a Flower Service. C. Silvester Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 308. C. Clay, ibid. vol. 1. 1896, p. 103. G. A. Chadwick, The Intellect and the Heart, p. 83. VI. 28, 29.—E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 3. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 296. S. Martin, Rain Upon the Mown Grass, p. 28. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 151. VI. 29.—F. Stanley Van Eps, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 189. VI. 28, 29, 30.—H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 145.
Christ and Nature
I. 'If God so clothe the grass.' There is a little faint tone of depreciation in that remark. Perhaps we have not detected it before, but the depreciation is contrastive. We must place the emphasis not on 'the grass,' but on the contrast which the grass is cited to vivify and exemplify. 'If God so clothe the grass of the field '—so small and insignificant a thing as the grass that grows under your feet—what will He do for you, His sons, His daughters, His children redeemed and in process of final anointment and sanctification? The argument is progressive, and is an instance of a fortiori reasoning. If in the little, how much in the great: a favourite teacher in the ministry of Jesus Christ. If ye being evil know how to give bread and comfort to your children, how much more——That is the ascending argument. It outlines itself like a temple dome.
I wish we could believe this argument drawn from the grass. There is no want of beauty in the grass meadows. The landscape would be poor without the homely field where the cattle are, the cows and the sheep and other living things connected with home and farm life. Jesus did not despise the grass; He was only contrasting it with something other.
II. There is a religious mystery in all growing things. I do not know that there is much mystery, though there is a little, in a stone wall. A stone wall is a kind of proposition in geometry, but there is no ghostly margin, none of the stones seem to quake under a weight greater than their own, all the stones seem to be fastened in their places by a pressure more than fifteen pounds to the square inch; there is no religious mystery of a very perplexing or elevating kind about a stone wall, but there is about a nettle, that wasp of the vegetable world. 'If God so clothe the grass of the field, which Today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven——' Here is something, you see, perishable, yet typical. The grass is always on the way to something else; not to nothingness. The grass may be on the way to the sustentation of life. All these grass-blades may go to feed the lamb, and the lamb goes to feed the man, and the man goes to feed the other Man, the ever-coming Man, the Adam of the eternal purpose.
III. The Saviour on another occasion, in the Gospel according to John, makes use of the same figure; He says, 'The fields are white unto the harvest'. Jesus Christ could never get rid of the harvest idea; you will be surprised if you gather together the passages in which the word harvest occurs in the utterances of Christ. 'The harvest truly is plenteous;' 'the fields are already white unto the harvest' You say there are but three months to harvest; why, the harvest is ripe now—out with the sickle, forward to the field, reap sheaves for God.
The blessed Saviour could not have lived if He could not have seen the harvest. It is because He is the End that He can bear to be the Beginning. 'I am Alpha because I am Omega.' To be Alpha is to be in agony, to be both Alpha and Omega is to-be at rest, is to exemplify and to realize the peace of God.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 78.
References.—VI. 30.—H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 201. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 33; see also Penny Pulpit, No. 461. VI. 31-33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2973. VI. 31-34.—W. Leighton Grane, Hard Sayings of Jesus Christ, p. 87. VI. 32.—W. Boyd Carpenter, The Great Charter of Christ, p. 31. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. i. p. 109.
Seeking God's Kingdom and Righteousness (Septuagesima)
With an endless choice of things before us which we can do if we please, we want some great rule to help us how to choose, and to make a plain pathway for us when everything seems so tangled and crooked. The text gives us Christ's rule. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.'
I. We are bidden to seek God's kingdom, and the first and easiest way of seeking it is by prayer; and that prayer Christ Himself puts into our mouths, 'Thy kingdom come'.
What then is God's kingdom? We may see our way a little toward answering that question by considering our own kingdom, that kingdom for which we beseech God every time we offer up the prayer for the High Court of Parliament. It is our laws and government stretching themselves among us in ways which we too often forget, that keep our lives and goods in safety, and allow us to pursue our several callings in peace. But God's kingdom is over men's minds and spirits as well as their bodies: not one secret chamber of their hearts can they call wholly their own. His kingdom also is a kingdom of laws, and His Almighty power can never be put forth against His own laws; and the laws of the Gracious and Holy One must needs be gracious and holy too. All good human laws are faint and partial copies of His. And just as human laws bind members of one people to each other, and compel each man to respect the rights of his fellows, so the laws of God's kingdom bind men to each other by ties of the spirit, not of the body, by love and mutual trust and self-denial and devotion. Each of us obeys the laws of God's kingdom just so far as he performs the task in life which God has set him.
II. Christ sent His Apostles to preach the good news of the kingdom, and they rejoiced to declare that it was already come. But though it is among us, there is rebellion enough against it. God has given to men the power of choosing between good and evil. Any one who has thought or care for the welfare of the world must needs pray with all his heart that God's kingdom may come more and more, and that its blessed laws may be daily better known and better obeyed. And thus having begun with seeking God's kingdom by prayer he will go on to seek it in all his daily life.
III. But we are bidden to seek not only God's kingdom, but also His righteousness. For God's righteousness is itself the very spirit of His own kingdom. Christ does not here tell us merely to seek righteousness, though elsewhere we are thus bidden; but to seek God's righteousness. Any righteousness which is of our own making, which we try to gain by standing aloof from Him, is worth nothing at all.
'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,' says Christ. So far as we can make that the aim of our lives, so far shall we find our way straight and plain before our face.
—F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 81.
The kingdom of God, the grand object of Christianity, is mankind raised, as a whole, into harmony with the true and abiding law of man's being, living as we were meant to live.
Every man is worth just as much as the things are worth about which he is concerned.
'Above all things,' Professor Drummond once told the Harvard students, 'do not touch Christianity unless you are willing to seek the kingdom of heaven first. I promise you a miserable existence if you seek it second.
We forget that there may be many duties, but that among them all there is a first and a last, and that we must not fulfil the last before fulfilling the first, just as one must not harrow without ploughing.
The whole of duty is modified when we change the hierarchy of duty. How significant is the etymology of 'prerogative,' the section that was asked first for its opinion! There lies the whole force of our ideal. Which do you consult first? Everything else will be different.... That which gives life its keynote is not what men think good, but what they think best.
References.—VI. 33.—E. S. Talbot, Sermons at Southwark, p. 1; see also The Kingdom of God, vol. i. p. 17. J. Martineau, Hours of Thought on Sacred Things, pp. 17, 31. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. vi. p. 228. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 194. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford, p. 275. H. C. Beeching, Inns of Court Sermons, p. 79. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 230. G. A. Gordon, ibid. vol. liii. 1898, p. 254. R. J. Campbell, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 392. E. Lyttelton, ibid. vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 173. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 113. W. J. Knox-Little, Church Times, vol. xxx. 1892, p. 385. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1864; vol. xliii. No. 2515. Beveridge, Works, vol. v. p. 413. Tillotson, Sermons, vol. vi. p. 149. Jay, Short Discourses, vol. iii. p. 395. J. C. Hare, Sermons, vol. i. p. 283. Isaac Williams, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 134. Lord A. Hervey, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 222. Fairbairn, City of God, p. 317. Selections from Pusey, p. 91. Kingsley, Sermons for the Times, No. xiii. Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i. p. 213, and Pulpit Analyst, vol. i. p. 252, and Homiletic Analysis of Matthew. Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i. p. 349: vol. iii. p. 402. Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii. p. 64. Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 123; vol. vi. p. 128. Beecher, vol. xii. p. 164; vol. xvi. p. 133; vol. xviii. p. 388. Bruce's Chief End of Revelation, p. 297. Macleod's Gentle Heart, p. 87. Pulpit Analyst, vol. iii. p. 352; vol. v. p. 596. Alford, Advent, Creation, and Providence, p. 223. Dr. Alex. Whyte, Expositor (3rd Series), vol. ii. p. 224. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1864.
Anxiety and Ennui are the Scylla and Charybdis on which the bark of human happiness is most commonly wrecked.
—W. E. H. Lecky.
References.—VI. 33, 34.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part i. p. 203; see also One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 302.
Our Lord in this sentence, 'Be not over anxious about tomorrow,' which is an excellent instance of His homely teaching, warns us against the commonest of all faults, worrying ourselves about troubles that may never happen.
I. It cannot be concealed that people who are sound and orthodox in all their beliefs, who have no doubts about the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and so on, are often in practice discontented self-tormentors. Their religious being seems divided into two distinct compartments; one contains the doctrines confessed every Sunday, the other contains the precepts ignored all through the week. Do not let your faith only assure you of the truth of the articles of the Creed. The faith that is required of you is not only an intellectual assent to certain propositions, it is a living belief in a Father which should keep you from fretfulness and over-anxiety in common life.
II. Cast all your care upon Him. But it is useless to tell us to cast our care on God unless we really and truly believe that He cares for us. No man can cast his care upon an It. If a man does not believe in God, when the pressure of care becomes too heavy for him to bear it alone one of two results will follow; either the creed will break down or the man will break down. Hence we have so often seen unbelievers commit suicide. Take God out of the world, and you will have no one on whom you can with any hope of satisfaction cast your care.
But though we may never have said what the fool says in his heart, though rarely with his lips, 'There is no God,' do we really believe that 'God cares for me'? It is easier to believe that God cares for the universe as a whole than to believe that He cares for individuals. He is a Father, and He has room in His infinite heart for each one of us. It is a mistake to suppose that some cares are too insignificant to take to God in prayer.
And in so doing we shall often see our cares and worries in a different light and realize how unnecessary some of them are. For what is it, too often, that men worry about? Christ goes to the root of the matter. It is 'tomorrow'; almost always 'tomorrow'.
III. But move the subject up into a higher plane. Is it possible that Christ forbade men to be anxious about their moral and spiritual future? Did He say, 'Do not be over anxious about what awaits you after this life?' He guards Himself against any misconception in the same passage by saying: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,' and so on. If we give the first place in our thoughts and anxieties to the kingdom of God and to true righteousness, we shall find the little worries of life fall into the background of their own accord.
—C. H. Butcher, The Sound of a Voice that is Still, p. 196.
Illustration.—I have read somewhere a very quaint proverb: 'White ants pick a carcase quicker and cleaner than a lion'. Do you see the force of the saying? It means that little cares may even more effectually destroy our peace than a single great trouble, if, in a mistaken reverence for God's greatness (which is really unbelief) we refuse to cast them upon Him.
—C. H. Butcher.
I prefer the Revised Version for our text, 'Be not anxious for the morrow'; but, even so, this is one of the words of the Lord which absolutely startle us with the greatness of their claim. This is one of the words which brings it home to us how great and strenuous a matter it is to be a Christian man. 'Be not anxious for the morrow;' yet we remember that all the world, beginning with ourselves, seems to be clouded over with a great anxiety.
But, subtle as the temptation is to worry and to be anxious, there is no question that it is a quite different temper which the Christian man is bidden and expected to learn. There is no question about the Lord's phrase; there is no question for the Christian man about the absolute disloyalty of worry and anxiety.
Well, then, if Christ is true, it is the Father's intention to make of every life a great matter. Christ, with His miraculous power, brings the steadfast and sober spirit into our life—'See, there is not one thing that happens to Me without My Father; shall I not wait My Father's time?' If we could only believe that we mattered we could bear upwards through the pain, could we not? There, at all events, would be a foundation under us if we could know that the little things of little forgotten lives came home to an unforgetting God.
And think what Christ brought home, and brings home, to His own world, His own disciples. His character, His miracles, His words—they are all part of the same earnest assurance that God is alive, with a great and wonderful meaning for every person; and though the miracles have ceased—at least, some miracles have ceased, certain matters of outside miracles have ceased—yet the miracles were never more than a sign, the attention of the world was always taken from them right through to the thing they signified; and the one great thing that the miracles of Jesus signified was this—that we are the absolute assurance to the world of the Divine Providence, of its purpose, and of its power.
But there are two things which are necessary if this conviction of the Providence of God is to become a reality for us.
I. The first thing is that we should accept the Mastery of Jesus. It is to His disciples that He brings peace. Are we disciples?
II. And the second thing is the resolution to live one day at a time 'Be not anxious for the morrow,' for, after all, it is only Today that we have to live. We look forward and try and think out how we will act, and tomorrow it is all so different, and meanwhile we have exhausted the nerve and we have used the energy which God intended to give us anew for the fresh day's work. There was no gathering of the manna for more than one day at a time.
What is content? The true answer to that is—A world of bliss and rest. It is not helpless submission to necessity. It is not the fulfilment of all roving desires. It is a sublime condition, the product of knowledge and faith and hope and love. One of its conditions is the perception of our proper place in the universe, and the belief that we have strictly a vocation. Another is that cheerful humility of spirit which honour upholds, and which makes no extravagant demands on the universe or on Providence. Another is the alchymic eye to see much in little—the spirit which made the old woman say to Bishop Burnet, as she held up her crust, 'All this and Christ'!
John Rosedew went to his home—a home so loved and fleeting—and tried to comfort himself on the road with various elzevirs. Finding them fail, one after another, for his mind was not in cue for them, he pulled out his little Greek Testament, and read what a man may read every day, and never begin to be weary; because his heart still yearns the more towards the grand ideal, and feels a reminiscence such as Plato the divine, alone of heathens, won.
John Rosedew read once more the Sermon on the Mount, and wondered how his little griefs could vex him as they did. That sermon is grander in English, far grander, than in the Greek; for the genius of our language is large, and strong, and simple—the true spirit of the noblest words that ever on earth were spoken. Ours is the language to express; and ours the race to receive them.
What man, in later life, whose reading has led him through vexed places—whence he had wiser held aloof—does not, on some little touch, brighten, and bedew himself with the freshness of the morning, thrill as does the leaping earth to see the sun come back again, and dashing all his night away, open the power of his eyes to the kindness of his Father?
John Rosedew felt his cares and fears vanish like the dew-cloud among the quivering tree-tops; and bright upon him broke the noon, the heaven where our God lives.
—R. D. Blackmore, Cradock Nowell, chap. li.
My thoughts are always rambling over past or future scenes; I cannot enjoy the present happiness for anticipating the future, which is about as foolish as the dog who dropped the real bone for its shadow.
References.—VI. 34.—J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 38. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 108. T. DeWitt Talmage, Sermons, p. 96. H. Ward Beecher, ibid. (4th Series), p. 1. A. MacLeod, Days of Heaven Upon Earth, p. 119. A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 257. R. C. Anderson, ibid. vol. lii. 1897, p. 171. H. Scott Holland, ibid. vol. lvi. 1899, p. 177; see also vol. lxi. 1902, p. 173; see also Church Times, vol. xlii. 1899, p. 319.
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.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
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.
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.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
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.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
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!
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.
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?
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?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
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?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
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.