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 6:1Running through this chapter are two lines of thought that become one in the deep underlying truth:—
I. The Father's claim. Born of God, we are bound to Him in the deepest, closest, most abiding relationship. This great love of our Father has its claim upon us. His love would have us come close to Him, not as suppliants who knock at the outer door, not as strangers who tarry in the hall and stately courts of the king, but as His children who come right into the inner chamber of the Father's presence (Matthew 6:6). By these claims let us test ourselves and all the conditions of our life. We are the sons of God, and we have no business anywhere or in anything that conflicts with the will of our heavenly Father. Because we are sons of God we are to find in this relationship a power strong enough to order all our life's places for the service and pleasure of our Father. Surely it is not too much to demand that such a relationship, with all its glorious possibilities, should be able to inspire us with a purpose as steady and resolute as that which the student finds in learning, or the merchant in money-making.
II. The soul's supply. Thus our Lord bids us beware of what we may call a natural religious life—a religious life that is born of self and sustained of self, that has no higher source and no other aim. It prays and gives alms and fasts; but all that is only the price it pays for the good opinion of others. It gives its gold to buy men's admiration, and has it; that is its reward. Very different, in all its course, is the life of holiness. It is born of God; we can only receive this life from Him, and we can only retain it by continually receiving—of Him, for Him, to Him, is its ceaseless round. To all life as we know it, derived and dependent, there are the same wants, in plant and in animal, in body and soul—air, warmth, exercise, food, light, society, sleep. There may be a kind of existence without some one or two of these; but the abundant life is only for him who will secure each. And these are the conditions of that healthy spiritual life which is holiness.
M. G. Pearse, Thoughts on Holiness, p. 89.
Reference: Matthew 6:1.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Laws of the Kingdom, p. 135.
Matthew 6:1-4The Law kept by Sincerity.
I. It was the custom for great personages—princes and governors and such like—when making high procession through some favoured province, to sound a trumpet before them, and scatter largess of gold and silver, whereby they gained the good will of the poor. Our Lord likens the almsgiving of the Pharisees to this kind of lordly display of munificence. Their alms were never distributed without their taking good care, one way or other, to let the good deed be known, so that they might get honour among men.
II. Note that the guilt of this conduct lay entirely in the spirit which actuated them. Jesus detected that spirit. It was not the publicity of their conduct in itself which He blamed, but the ungodly motive which led to that publicity; and I think it is necessary to bear that in mind, lest we may get in the way of judging others, and judging them unjustly, by the mere external appearance. The really compassionate and liberal man is often put into the front, and obtains a prominence from which he would otherwise gladly shrink; and he gets this position, not with the view of exalting him, but in order that his example may stimulate and encourage others. The difficulty is to reconcile these two things: to avoid all ostentation, and yet at the same time to get all the advantage of generous Christian example.
III. The phrase, "Let not the left hand know what the right hand doeth," is a proverbial expression, implying that our charity is not to be done ostentatiously so as to be seen of men, nor yet self-righteously so that we may pride ourselves upon it. That almsgiving is, and always will be, a duty is plainly involved here. The charity which does not let its left hand know what its right hand doeth is manifestly a spirit of meekness and simplicity, which neither courts the observation of others, nor cares to dwell on its own excellence, but drops its beneficence like dews, in the silence and darkness, so that its presence is known only by the blessing which it leaves behind. But the man who gives an alms, and then settles down in the pride and contentment of his own deed, hath therein his reward. He has taken all the beauty from his work. It has lost its Divine character as a deed of true pity, and become an act of merest vanity.
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 162.
References: Matthew 6:1-6, Matthew 6:16-28.—E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 35. Matthew 6:1-8.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 521.
Matthew 6:2Here we have—
I. A profound truth about human nature. Man, as man, works, as our Lord calls it, for a reward.
II. A tragic contrast—"their reward." There is another reward than theirs—another and a higher.
III. A judicial sentence which the Divine speaker passes upon some of the men of His time. It is the language of fine irony; it is the language, too, of deep compassion.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 968.
References: Matthew 6:2-4.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Laws of the Kingdom, p. 153. Matthew 6:4.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iv., p. 245. Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:6.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Laws of the Kingdom, p. 175.
Matthew 6:5-9I. "When thou prayest," the Lord says, "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." Neither the synagogues nor the streets were the appointed places of prayer. But a custom had risen, since the days of Daniel the prophet, to pray seven times a day, at certain appointed hours; and when these hours came the Pharisee turned at once to his devotions. Very probably the iniquity of the Pharisee grew up in a very natural way, beginning with a scrupulous but honest observance of religious forms, and gradually sliding into a pretentious and hypocritical display as he found himself a growing object of respect and esteem among men. We also have need to be on our guard, and to watch and pray, and pray and watch, against this snare.
II. Our Lord enjoins that His people, when they pray, should enter into their closet, and shut to the door, and pray to the Father which seeth in secret. The true idea of prayer lies in the shutting of the door. You may make a closet for yourself out of the veriest crowd, provided you shut out the world from your thoughts and lift up your soul to God alone.
III. We are not to be like the heathen, who think they shall be heard for their much speaking. With them prayer was a kind of bodily and mechanical process, supposed to be efficacious just in proportion to the number of times they could repeat the same cry. Christ says that theirs is not true prayer such as becomes His children, and that we are not to do as they do, for our Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him.
IV. When we pray, we should come believing in the unseen Father, and trusting in His gracious disposition. True prayer is just the cry of children to their Father, and it is the childlike feeling of trust in Him which gives to their prayer all its efficacy.
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 178.
Matthew 6:6I. By the word "closet" our Saviour is understood to convey an allusion to the room in the ancient Jewish dwelling which was set apart for the office of lonely prayer. Yet as
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage,"
for the soul, neither are they, nor any material boundaries answering to them, essential to make the soul's closet of devotion. Even the Jew who lived in the dullest age of ceremony felt this. "The angel said unto me," writes Esdras, "Go into a field of flowers where no house is builded, and pray unto the Highest continually" (2Esther 9:24). Abraham found a closet when, arched in the wavering twilight of the grove, "he called upon the name of the Lord." Jesus found a closet when, high up in the tranquil mountain air, the morning star found Him where the evening star left Him, "alone, yet not alone." A closet for the spirit is whatever helps to close the spirit in from all distraction, and thus makes it feel alone with God.
II. But the phrase "thy closet" conveys an additional meaning. It means more than mental seclusion in some unexpected place and time. "Thy closet" is the soul's own fixed familiar place of resort for communion with God. It may be hill or hollow, chamber or secret wood-path, or the walk over the sheet of seaside sand—no matter, but it must be thine own. The Saviour assumes that each disciple has some such habitual retreat, the shrine of his most blessed recollections, the place where the soul feels most at home, enjoys its Sabbaths, its home of vision, and its walks with God. This is what He means by "thy closet."
C. Stanford, Family Treasury, July, 1861.
Our Lord a Pattern of Private Prayer.
I. Our Lord's example teaches us the great necessity of prayer. The mind of Christ is the mind of heaven, and none ever prayed like Christ. Does not this show most clearly that he who would be ever fit for heaven must begin by learning to delight in his prayers? Ought it not with reason to alarm those to whom prayer is a burden and weariness? It is not only that they lose the blessing they ask—that God will not hear them for that time: their loss is far greater than that; they are living and are like to die, without any practice of that temper which must be practised if they would be happy in heaven.
II. Our Lord's example teaches us the best way of praying, so that one's prayers may be heard. If we knew it no other way, we might be sure from our blessed Lord's pattern that God is never so well pleased with us as when we approach Him with the deepest reverence of heart. This, we may believe, was one reason of His withdrawing Himself—as we read that He did repeatedly—to places where He might be least interrupted, and where He might unreservedly pour out His Divine soul. This made Him fall down in so lowly postures, sometimes kneeling, sometimes lying prostrate. This breathed over all His prayers, of which there are several in the Gospels, that unspeakable mixture of majesty and humility, which no words can describe, but of which surely one effect ought to be to make every Christian man very fearful lest he be found drawing near the High and Holy One with any other than the most serious words and thoughts.
III. One part of this reverence will be, that men will pray to God regularly; not at random, and as it may happen, now performing and now omitting their devotions, just as they may chance to be minded for the time.
IV. Next to regularity in times of prayer, a wise choice of a place to pray in is of no small consequence. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet"—that is, have a set place for prayer.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 71.
Here is our Saviour's own sanction and blessing vouchsafed to private prayer, in simple, clear, and most gracious words. It is necessary to insist upon the duty of observing private prayer at stated times, because amid the cares and hurry of life men are very apt to, neglect it; and it is a much more important duty than it is generally considered, even by those who perform it. It is important for the two reasons which follow:—
I. It brings religious subjects before the mind in regular course. Prayer through the day is indeed the characteristic of a Christian spirit, but we may be sure that in most cases those who do not pray at stated times in a more solemn and direct manner will never pray well at other times. Stated times of prayer put us in that posture in which we ought ever to be; they urge us forward in a heavenly direction, and then the stream carries us on.
II. Besides tending to produce in us lasting religious impressions, stated private prayer is also a more direct means of gaining from God an answer to our requests. We do not know how it is that prayer receives an answer from God at all. It is strange indeed that weak man should have strength to move God; but it is our privilege to know that we can do so. Now, at stated times, when we gather up our thoughts to pray, and draw out our petitions in an orderly and clear manner, the act of faith is likely to be stronger and more earnest; then we realize more perfectly the presence of that God whom we do not see, and Him on whom once all our sins were laid. Then this world is more out of sight, and we more simply appropriate those blessings which we have but to claim humbly, and they are really ours.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 244.
Moral Benefits of Private Prayer. Take our Lord's words in the text, and consider how much, according to them, prayer really offered in secret must mean.
I. God "dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto." To hold any communication with Him is a work of very great faith. Before you can in earnest think a thought of God, or speak a sincere word to Him, your hearts must be lifted up to a height far above whatever you see and know. He who seriously and sincerely thinks of God when he prays must for the time at least lift up his soul far above all earthly things; and doing this, he must be deeply interested in the high thoughts which come over his soul. He must perceive and feel, for the time, that nothing is truly great but what is immortal, and no being worth living and dying for but Him of whom and by whom are all things.
II. To any considerate person the thought is indeed inexpressibly awful that, when he prays, he is speaking to the "Father which is in secret." It is made, however, still more awful by reflecting on what our Lord next adds: "Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Although He dwells so high in heaven, yet He continually "humbleth Himself" to behold the things that are in this lower earth. Therefore no devout worshipper need fear that any one of his hearty prayers will be lost. Even if he cannot pray in words, God knows the meaning of his heart, and has ways of setting it all down. On the other hand, a person who, being alone, prays carelessly, cannot plead, with the patriarch Jacob, "The Lord is in this place, and I knew it not," for by the very act of praying at all he confesses that "God is in this place." Whoever, then, considers at all must behave well at his prayers, and so doing he gives the strongest pledge of behaving well afterwards when his prayers are over, and the grace then asked for is to be tried in active life. The fragrance of the holy offering will continue some little while with him, and dispose him to live in some measure according to his prayers.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times." vol. i., p. 79.
References: Matthew 6:6.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 33; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 35; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 16; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 556; vol. vi., p. 15. Matthew 6:7-15.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Laws of the Kingdom, p. 195.
Matthew 6:9(with Romans 8:15)
I. I observe, first, as suggested by the place where we find the words "Our Father," that when we can truly and intelligently call God by this name new life is given to our devotions. It is not without significance that the prayer, so simple in its terms and so wide in its comprehensiveness, which Jesus gave us, both as a model and a form, should begin with these homely words. They bid us pause a moment and definitely realize what God is to us, and in what relationship we stand to Him, before we go forward to present our petitions.
II. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father new joy is given to the discharge of duty. Duty, considered simply as such, is a cold, stern thing, and needs love to inspire it before it can become joy. Duty thinks mainly of the work to be done; love thinks of the person for whom it is performed. Until, realizing that God is our Father in Jesus Christ, our hearts glow with affection toward Him, every attempt which we make to do His will must be simply and only an effort to do duty. But when, through faith in Jesus Christ, we get to know and love God as our Father all this is changed. Duty is transfigured into delight.
III. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father a new significance is given to our earthly trials. Discipline is a privilege that the Father reserves for His own children. All our trials are tokens of our Father's affection.
IV. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father a new glory is given to our conception of the heavenly world. Jesus teaches us to say, "Our Father which art in heaven," and so leads us to look upon that land as our home. Home is the centre of the heart, and so, by enabling us to call God our Father and heaven our home, Jesus centres our hearts there, and gives us such an idea of its blessedness that we scarcely think of the outward accessories of its splendour, because of the delight and anticipation that we cherish of being there "at home with the Lord."
W. M. Taylor, The Limitations of Life, p. 95.
Matthew 6:9The Hallowed name of Father.
I. There is no greater secret of all truth and holiness and joy than to have correct and grand views of the fatherly relationship and character of God. Therefore, by all strange ways, the enemy of our peace tries to misrepresent it. One method which he uses is this: He will even set forth Christ as a most loving, gentle, attractive Being, that he may, through Him, disparage and distort the Father. "Christ," he says, "came in between the severity of God, the wrath of the Father, and the sinner," concealing that there is no such thing in the whole Bible as the Father's being reconciled to us; but that it was the Father's own pre-ordaining love which planned and executed the whole scheme, whereby we are reconciled to Him.
II. God has made the father His metaphor. It is the strictest and most beautiful of all the metaphors of that great One who can only be spoken of by metaphors. (1) A father's love must of necessity precede the love of the child; long before the child can really know or love him, he has known and loved the child. The child's love is the response and echo after long intervals. You cannot conceive the time when God began to love you; but you can easily date almost the hour when you began to love Him. (2) Just as a father, being a man, trains his child for manhood, so God, being eternal, trains His creatures for eternity. You can only read a father's love in that light. It is always prospective love. Mysterious—just because God sees a future which His child does not see.
III. A father's love is a very wide thing. It takes in with a large embrace all the little things and all the great things in his child's life—all and everything.
IV. A father's love never dies. Whatever the child may do, whatever the father may be constrained to do, upon whatever his child does, it does not alter a father's love. He may punish, he may be angry, he may hide himself; but his love is unchanging. In this his relation approaches and assimilates to God's relation to His creatures.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 29.
The Spirit of this Invocation is the Spirit of Faith.
I. Consider the filial spirit of the believer. (1) The filial spirit is a childlike spirit. In receiving the spirit of adoption we are not only admitted into the family of God, but we are converted and become as little children. (a) A child is earnest; (b) a child is unsuspicious and frank; (c) a child submits to discipline in faith. (2) The filial spirit is a spirit of dignity and perfection. There is not merely a filial relation, there is also a filial resemblance. The filial spirit is the spirit of perfection. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." To resemble God, to walk worthy of Him, to be conformed to the image of Christ the Elder Brother, to be filled with the Spirit,—this is the aim and the standard of the spiritual life.
II. The spirit of the invocation is the spirit of love. "Our" is a word of love; its character is Pentecostal, for Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The new covenant is now established, and God has a people who dwell in Him and He in them. (1) "Our" we say, for, belonging unto Christ the Head, we belong unto all, we are debtors to all, and servants of the brethren for Christ's sake. (2) Honouring and loving all men, let us cultivate especially fellowship with the saints. (3) We must be very near to God if we wish to get near our brother's heart. (4) Love is the soul of communion; and love means self-sacrifice.
III. The spirit of the invocation is the spirit of hope. "Our Father which art in heaven." The child asks, "Where is heaven?" The thought of riper years asks, "What is heaven?" Yet the child's question is true and deep; unless we view heaven as a reality, our thought of heaven as a state will become vague and unreal. Heaven is a place, and not merely a state. Philosophy may think it more rational and spiritual to suppose that, as God is in every place, He is in no place more than another. Scripture maintains most emphatically the omnipresence of God and the spiritual character of worship, and yet as distinctly teaches that there is a heavenly sanctuary, a throne of grace, the dwelling-place of the Most High. We regard heaven, (1) as the place where Christ now lives; (2) we remember that all spiritual blessings are treasured up for us in heaven.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p, 95.
Matthew 6:9God is the proper subject of our first desires in prayer,—God in all, and in ourselves as parts of all: if He is served by men, we, who take our stamp and our habits from the age in which He places us, shall serve Him better also; if His will is done here as it is in heaven, we, who are here, shall bear our part in doing that will. And so we pray first for these wider blessings, these which will bring others in their train, and the very desiring of which draws our thoughts to their right aim and object, and divests us of all mere selfish regards. And among them stands foremost this petition: "Hallowed be Thy name."
I. What is Thy name? The name of God in Scripture signifies that revelation of Himself which He has made to His creatures; that preached and written and recorded character of God which at the age in which men live He has been pleased to manifest to our race. Thus, when we say, "Hallowed be Thy name," we mean, "May that revelation of Thyself which Thou hast made in Thy Son Jesus Christ be hallowed."
II. And how hallowed? Not made holy; this it needs not. When we say, Let Thy name be "held holy," we mean, Let Thy revelation of Thyself, as a reconciled Father in Christ, be known and appreciated by men as belonging to and penetrating their character and hopes, in a way in which the ungodly world can never know nor appreciate it; let all men be put in possession of its secret, and make it to themselves the highest reality of their being. It is indeed a missionary prayer in the highest sense; for to this end all the labours of the Church and ministry tend, and when this is so, then will Christ's kingdom have come, and God's will be done, in the very highest and most blessed degree.
III. But he who prays for all includes also himself. God's name should be hallowed in and by us, (1) in our thoughts, (2) in our conversation.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 149.
I. What is meant by the name of God? (1) God has revealed His name in creation; He has written it on our heart and conscience. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork." The things that are made declare His eternal power and Godhead. The conscience also beareth witness, and thoughts within us could not accuse, did they not know justice and purity, love and truth. (2) God revealed His name to Israel. He revealed it (a) by special revelations, (b) in the history of the nation, (c) in His law. (3) Christ, the Word of God, is the name. And having received Christ the name, the next commandment is to hallow the name.
II. "Hallowed be Thy name." What is meant by the name of God being hallowed? The petition implies: (1) The desire to know God's name. The name of God is now simple—the highest, deepest, most comprehensive name, the name above every name, even Jesus. To hallow the name of God is to look unto Christ. (2) To hallow the name of God is to treat it as a reality—to remember God is what He calls Himself. (3) To hallow the name of God is to rejoice in it. The more we know of God, the more comprehensive is our view of Christ; the more many-sided our conception and experience of God's attributes and works, the greater will be our joy in His name. (4) To hallow God's name is to keep it separate, distinct from our own opinions, and the corrupt thoughts and desires of the heart. (5) To hallow God's name means not to divide the name of God, but to regard it as one, sacred and inviolable in its unity. (6) To hallow God's name is to live and walk in Christ, as the Apostle Paul speaks of his ways which are in Christ Jesus. (7) To hallow God's name means that we ourselves should be manifestations of God, reflecting His image, showing forth His will, resembling His character. Christ was the name of the Father sent by Him into the world; even thus are we called by Christ's name and sent by Him, that the world may see in us His love and spirit.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 125.
Matthew 6:9This petition evidently involves a request—
I. That the glory of God may be revealed. God's name cannot be hallowed until it is known, and it must be told us before it can be known. Our want of reverence springs partly from our ignorance. To see God at once leads to service and love. We do not know God's name. Bits of it we can make out. Something of His power we can read in nature; something of His wisdom; something of His general kindliness. And these we put in, rightly enough, as part of His great name. But the rest of His name is obscure. To know God is no light blessing, but is the great one which takes precedence of all others. (1) To see God is a converting and quickening experience; (2) and as all sanctity depends on it, so all consolation flows from it. Therefore, in the foreground of all your petitions put the prayer for God's revelation of Himself, and present and urge it until in richest fulness the answer comes to your heart.
II. This petition prays for a reverent use of all the knowledge of God that comes to us. We can abuse all things, even the mercy and the truth of God. And it is possible for the name of God to be imparted to us in some degree, and yet for us to lose all the service it was meant to render. We have, therefore, to pray that the revelation of God may meet with reverence from us and others, that every result which God's disclosure of Himself ought to have on us may be realized. If you analyze the general idea of hallowing God's self-revelation, you will find it to contain various qualities of gracious character. (1) The prayer for power to hallow God's name is a prayer for faith; (2) it is a prayer for obedience as well; (3) it is a prayer for zeal for God's glory; (4) it asks for a worthy estimate of man. It is thus no formal petition and no mere doxology, no compliment merely, or word of homage. It is a great prayer—man's darkness begging light, and man's weakness begging strength.
R. Glover, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 7.
I. God is our Father (1) by creation; (2) by regeneration; (3) by adoption.
II. The petition "Hallowed be Thy name" relates to what is called "declarative glory"—a prayer that God's name may be made known, and honoured by all His creatures. The desire that God's name may be hallowed implies—(1) that we have a just sense of His majesty and holiness; (2) it is a prayer that all people may learn to love and obey that gracious Father in whose service we find such freedom and delight; (3) it should remind us of the various ways in which our heavenly Father is treated with disrespect and contempt.
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 59.
The Messianic Kingdom.
I. Who is the King? In one sense the King is God the Father. It is to "our Father in heaven" that the petition is addressed, "Thy kingdom come." His glory, His self-manifestation, is the one great purpose of God, and His is the kingdom, for of Him and to Him are all things. But the Father has appointed Jesus His Son to be the King, even as Christ is the Vine, while the Father is the Husbandman. Christ was appointed from eternity to be King, (1) as the Son of man; (2) as the Son of David; (3) as the Son of man and of David after His humiliation, suffering, and death. The Son of God became man, not merely to suffer and to die, but to reign. He took upon Him our nature, that through suffering He might enter into glory; as man, even as the Lord, whom they have pierced, He is to reign in righteousness and peace, the glory of Israel as well as the light to lighten the Gentiles.
II. When will the kingdom be established? It is to be brought about not gradually, but suddenly; not without observation, as is the kingdom of grace in the heart, but with great and mighty signs. The essential features of the kingdom are: Satan bound, the earth renewed, Israel converted and restored, the Church glorified, and Antichrist judged and vanquished; and the crisis, the turning-point, to bring about these changes, is one—it is the direct interference of God, the appearing of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
III. The character of this kingdom. (1) In manifested power on earth. The kingdom is to be on earth. Christ and the glorified saints reign over Israel and the nations. Jerusalem is the centre of the world; the land of Israel is restored to wonderful fertility and blessedness. (2) It is spiritual. It is a kingdom of grace, in which spiritual obedience is offered, and in which men worship God with renewed and sanctified hearts. The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah. The eternal principles of righteousness and love which were embodied in the Mosaic law will then reign upon earth in the spirit of liberty and power.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 173.
References: Matthew 6:9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 213; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 45; G. W. McCree, Ibid., vol. x., p. 216; J. A. Spurgeon, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 209; A. P. Peabody, Ibid., pp. 289, 309; P. J. Turquand, Ibid., vol. xii., p. 344; M. Dods, The Prayer that Teaches to Pray, p. 25; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 303; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 349; F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 1, 13; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 34; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 409; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, pp. 396, 408; J. M. McCulloch, Sermons, p. 60; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 24.
Matthew 6:9-10I. Mark the force of this petition. (1) Simultaneously with our discernment of the Redeemer's right to rule us, there is the regretful discovery made that we have withheld our hearts, and our fellowmen have withheld their hearts, from this gracious sovereignty. Recognizing this successively, we long that He would establish and extend His kingdom in our heart. (2) We pray also for the establishment and extension of Christ's kingdom amongst men. His kingdom is not a secret sovereignty over individual hearts alone, but an empire over the united commonwealth of the Christian Church. A common allegiance to the Redeemer has created the great brotherhood of the Church of Christ. And that Church, united in faith, love, hope, duty, is the Saviour's kingdom. And as the devout heart feels that for itself the establishment and extension of the Saviour's secret kingdom within is the thing supremely to be desired, so it feels that for the world the establishment and extension of the Saviour's kingdom in it is the thing most earnestly to be sought. Those who do not pray see not the glory of the Church, nor the essential service she has rendered and can render to mankind.
II. Consider the duty of offering this petition more earnestly. Who is there that offers it daily, as he is in the habit of asking for daily bread? Is it not the case that even the devoutest desire almost everything about Jesus Christ more than His sovereignty? We want His comfort, we want His teaching, we want His promises, we want His protection, we want His support. But His rule, His command, how many of us are there that put that first and foremost before daily bread? It is vain for us to ask for mercy, and joy, and assurance, and rapture, and heaven, and not give ourselves up to be moulded, inspired, enlarged, guided by God. And therefore this petition of surrender is the salt of the whole, that which makes all the others answerable. We wish to be useful, and feel that the only value in life is usefulness. We shall be useful only in the degree in which our obedience to the Saviour is a living and continuous thing.
R. Glover, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 30.
Matthew 6:9-10The comprehensive scope and intercessory character of the three petitions. The spirit of a Christian drawing near unto God is a royal spirit. He asks great things for himself and for others.
I. For himself. It is written, "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss." And one of the errors of our prayer may be, that our aim is not high enough—that in coming to a King, whose delight is to be bountiful, we do not bring with us a royal spirit and large desires, but a contracted spirit and limited petitions. (1) High ought to be our thoughts of acceptance and favour in the sight of God. The very light of God's countenance is our aim. And as every repentant and believing sinner is at liberty immediately to pass out of the cold—the Arctic regions of the law, with its condemnation—into the sunny paradise of this infinite love, those who have believed are still further assured of their perfect blessedness. (2) Peace is thus ours. Only those who know the God of Peace know the peace of God. Only those who know that Christ is our Peace understand fully what He means when He says, "My peace I give unto you." (3) And do we seek joy in God? It is written, "Thou wilt make them joyful in Thy house of prayer." Christ's joy is to be in us. Perfect love of God, perfect peace of God, perfect joy of God,—such are royal thoughts and petitions.
II. For others. Prayer in the name of Christ must needs be prayer for the manifestation of God's glory in the good of man. Intercession is the distinguishing mark of the Christian. The penitent, the inquirer, pray for their own personal safety. The accepted believer prays for others as well as himself; he prays for the Church and for the world. It is in intercession that the Christian most fully enters into his glorious liberty. He fulfils the measure of prayer, for Christ and the Church are one.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 235.
I. Consider the exact meaning of this petition. Resist God as we will, we and all our actions will yet be included in the sweep of some Divine plan, and everything we do, even our evil, be made contributive to some gracious results. But if instead of resisting Him we fall in with His desires—become workers together with Him—then the Fatherly plan, fullest of mercy and of love, is realized. If we be plastic to His touch, He moulds us into vessels of honour; if crude and unyielding, it is still He that is the Potter, and we are still moulded on His wheel, but He can only fashion us into some vessel of less honourable use. In this prayer we recognize that God's will may, through our dulness or waywardness, fail of its accomplishment; and so, for ourselves, our friends, and for mankind at large, we pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
II. Consider the consolation suggested by the petition. Perplexed with the entanglements and burdened with the responsibilities of life, this word comes to us with the sustaining thought that, while we are unable to plan it aright, God has planned it for us; that in the Divine mind there is an ideal plan which embraces every object at which we should aim—the perfecting of our being, our daily protection, the averting of all injury to our essential being, our present and our eternal joy. To the thoughtless this consolation may seem slight; to the thoughtful it will appear supreme.
III. Consider the wisdom of adopting this petition as our. own. All who can realize that God will take the trouble to plan our life for us will at once admit that the wisest course we can adopt is to pray and labour that His plan may be carried out. And the more we think of it, the more we see the wisdom of praying that it may be so. For (1) we have not in ourselves either the knowledge or experience which would permit us even to plan with wisdom* our outward and earthly lot. (2) Little as we can guess what would be best for us here, still less can we guess what course and what experiences of life would most secure our well-being in the life to come. When we wake to the sense of our immortality, and are moved by the gracious solicitude which it awakens, the first and last action of instinctive wisdom is to commit the whole ordering of our life to God, and to say, "Thy will be done."
R. Glover, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 45.
References: Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:10.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 515; R. Glover, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 280; W. H. Dallinger, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 125; C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day and other Sermons, p. 357; Ibid., Sermons for the Times, p. 130.
Matthew 6:9-11(with Matthew 7:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Jam 4:3; Jam 5:16)
A question about which there has been a good deal of discussion of late years is the question of prayer. Are our prayers answered? If so, if we admit in general the efficacy of prayer, what ought we to pray for? Should we confine our prayers to petitions for spiritual benefits? or may we also ask for temporal blessings?
I. I suppose no one will deny that there are no prayers more right and more natural than those offered by one who is himself sick, and by his friends on his behalf, that he may receive the blessings of patience, resignation, and cheerfulness; and yet we know that it is universally agreed that a state of mind marked by these virtues is conducive to the recovery of the patient. And even in other cases, where the effect on the material by answer to prayer for spiritual blessings is less obvious, it still seems to be equally real, even though our petition be directed to an object which appears to be far removed from the material world.
II. We hold that prayer can affect the physical world. We do not hold that to each prayer, regarded by itself, without respect to all its surroundings and to all its consequences, there is a certain answer. The answer is what God sees to be best, is in perfect accordance with His will. We believe that every prayer has some answer—an answer in the shape of a blessing or a curse, according as it is the prayer of faith or by lack of belief in the petitioner is little better than a mocking of God. We believe that some prayers are specially answered in the way desired; that if so, it is not that God's will is altered, but because the prayer and its answer are completely in accord with that will.
III. This is our faith. To render it tenable, it is no way essential that we should be able to quote specific instances of the definite answer of prayer. We are here distinctly in the region of faith; it is sufficient if we show that there is nothing in God's ordering of the universe inconsistent with our belief. If we once accept it, we are left to the guidance of revelation alone; and this speaks to us with no hesitating voice: "Ask, and it shall be given you;" "The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working."
A. J. C. Allen, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, April 24th, 1884.
I. The force of this petition. (1) This prayer constrains us to forego all bread but that which God gives. We can get bread from one or other of two deities: the god of this world will give it us, or our Father in heaven. When we say, "Our Father in heaven, give us daily bread," we turn our back on the other giver of bread, on all evil ways of making a living or augmenting our fortune, and ask only such comforts of God's providence as can come to us in an honourable way. (2) This petition requires us, next, to put away all greed, ambition, and anxiety. For it asks only "bread"—nay, only today's bread. Enough to sustain, not enough to pamper us. Enough for comfort, not enough for display. Enough to free us from needless care, not enough to free us from wholesome dependence upon God. (3) Let us remember in our prayers and in our actions the needs of others besides ourselves. In all this prayer the plural number is prescribed. We have to come always thinking of others, and naming their wants with our own. (4) The prayer requires us to recognize that God is a great Giver of all good. The great Father lays up for the children. He opens His hands, and all things are full of good. Just below the surface and behind the appearance of things God is at work, and all good that comes to us comes from Him.
II. Some reasons for offering this petition. (1) The adoption of this prayer will give us peace. Not, indeed, all peace; but peace from worldly anxiety and from innumerable disturbances of the heart. (2) The adoption of this petition will hallow all our life. For the largest part of the work of all men is directed to the getting of the means of living; and if in the pursuit of our trade this gracious prayer moderates all selfishness, destroys all greed, and brightens with the smile of God all our activities, it will be found that the whole of life is somehow graciously affected by the one petition. (3) The use of this prayer will vastly enlarge our knowledge of God.
R. Glover, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 60.
Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:12I. The request. (1) We are in debt to God. We have only to listen to the voice of conscience to admit this at once. For amongst the deepest of all our instincts is the sense of responsibility—a feeling that some things are due from us. (2) The Saviour's word, assuming the guilt of sin, proclaims at the same time the possibility of its pardon. How sweet is the suggestion of this word that forgiveness is granted to those who seek it! For forgiveness is a great word. It means forth-giving—that is, the absolute dismissal and sending away of that which we acknowledge. This precept assumes the cross which is to follow, on which, owning the sin of men, sharing its curse and praying for its pardon, Christ makes propitiation for the sins of the world. It teaches us that "without money and without price" this most needed and richest of all gifts is to be obtained.
II. The clause which is added to the petition, "As we forgive our debtors." The Saviour does not take away with one hand what He gives with the other, and the addition of this clause does not proceed from any desire to limit the outflow of pardoning grace. He wants, on the contrary, to get the hearts of all who offer this petition into the mood which shall be most receptive of God's infinite gift. Observe: (1) A certain fitness to use and profit by God's blessings is uniformly a condition of their bestowment. Common mercies may be bestowed irrespective of spiritual character. But all His higher gifts are bestowed where they are welcomed, enjoyed, improved—where they will be productive of some Divine result. (2) Penitence is the condition of heart to which alone God can impart forgiveness. (3) Wherever there is repentance it is easy to forgive our debtors. When the spirit of all grace has touched us, and our soul has become tenderly sensitive to the greatness of its Saviour, regardful of the claims of man, and obedient to the promptings of its own higher life, then humility beholds no fault equal to its own; and the heart, purged of its selfishness by its contrition, pities those who have injured it, and so penitence easily pardons every fault by which it has been injured.
R. Glover, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 74.
Matthew 6:10The Kingdom of Grace within us.
I. If the kingdom has to come to us, we must be by nature outside of it. This petition reminds us, then, of the fall and its consequences. True, the kingdom of God is around us; the light shineth into the darkness; love seeks the banished ones, even the rebellious; but the place whence this petition now is offered is a province fallen from the King. It is the longing of the soul that God would visit and redeem us.
II. We cannot go to the kingdom; it must come to us.
"Come unto us the peace of Thy dominion,
For unto it we cannot of ourselves,
If it come not, with all our intellect."
When we feel the desire to be restored to God, it is natural that we should think of returning to God, and we hope that, after a long journey, we may reach the kingdom. Prayer, good works, piety, we imagine to be the road to God. But we cannot thus go to the kingdom; it must come to us. The door is before the narrow way, and the door is very nigh unto us—even Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners.
III. Father, Son, and Spirit bring with them righteousness, peace, and joy. Every kingdom is based on righteousness; the condition and manifestation of its prosperity is peace; the crown and fulness of peace is joy.
IV. In this kingdom there is greatness or dignity and liberty. Humility is the dignity of the kingdom; obedience is its liberty.
V. Think now of the extent and the comprehensiveness of the kingdom. The kingdom of grace in the individual is to be all comprehensive. Having its centre in the heart (out of which are the issues of life), it is to extend to all our desires, thoughts, words, and notions. All that we are and have belong to God, and that always.
VI. The character of this kingdom as long as we are on the earth is antagonistic. It is in opposition to sin within and around us. The more we seek to follow and serve God, the more clearly and painfully we become conscious of the evil of our heart, of our unbelief and worldliness. It is not yet the time for rest, for exclusive praise and thanksgiving, for unmingled joy; but the time of warfare, of prayer and fasting, of manifold temptations. The Solomonic reign has not yet commenced. It is the period of David, of exile and wandering, of humility and patience, of danger and of struggle.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 153.
In these words themselves it is revealed that the kingdom is an actual thing future, not a metaphorical thing present; a thing to be brought in, completed, as a new state, not any increase of Gospel blessings in the present state. What do we know from Scripture of such a kingdom?
I. It was prefigured by the constitution of God's people Israel under Himself as their King. They were a chosen people, and He dwelt in the midst of them, ruling them and upholding them. We find allusions to it in the writings of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Scripture testimonies show that we are to look for a kingdom of Christ, not as a spiritual figure, but as a matter of fact to be accomplished in the future; a kingdom closely associated with His coming again to us; a kingdom wherein His saints shall reign with Him; a kingdom to be established over and in this earth of ours, wherein it, being fully rescued from sin and the curse, will be completely subject to its rightful Lord and Redeemer. It is of that kingdom that our Lord Jesus taught us to say, "Thy kingdom come."
II. Let us now trace a few of its characteristics. (1) It is a kingdom of peace and love. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain;" "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (2) It is a kingdom of purity. Only the pure in heart shall see God. And if we search deeper for this purity of heart, we shall find that it can spring but from one source—the new birth by the Holy Spirit. (3) It is a kingdom whose very glory and chief attribute it is that Christ is present and ruling in it. (4) Again, it is a kingdom of joy; and those who pray for its coming hope and yearn for the blessedness of its approach. The joy of their hearts is not here, but hidden with Christ, and waiting its manifestation with Him. (5) This kingdom is a kingdom of hope, and we are prisoners of hope, and all who really pray for it hope for it. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 230.
What do we mean when we say to God, "Thy kingdom come"? And is the wishing or praying enough? or if we wish and pray, is there aught besides which we ought to do?
I. To wish from the heart and pray with the whole soul are enough, if there is nothing else for us to do. But all prayer to God implies that we act as we pray. God wills to knit in one His own work and ours. He wills so to unite His creatures with Himself that He would bring about His own work through them. He willed to allow His kingdom to shine out or to be darkened, to widen or to be narrowed; to enfold the known world, or to be hemmed in and struggle, as it were, almost for life. All these changes and ebbs and flows of His grace He allowed to be as man was faithful or disobedient to His will. So is it as to His threefold kingdom, whereby God rules in the souls where He dwells. He wills so to employ us, His creatures, in His work of love, that through us His kingdom should come in the single soul, through us should His kingdom throughout the whole world be enlarged, through us should the kingdom of His everlasting glory be hastened.
II. God's condescension involves our corresponding duty. He wills that through the power of His grace, and for the merits of our crucified Lord, which alone make us acceptable to Him, by aid of man accepted in Him, man should be brought to the knowledge of Him, and should be saved. He wills that through the merits of His all-holy thoughts, words, and deeds, our words and deeds, wrought and spoken through His grace, should reach, affect, win to Him our fellow-sinners. May none of us be slothful servants, saying listlessly, "Thy kingdom come," yet acting as if we cared for nothing less. But may God give us grace so to use faithfully what He has for this short time entrusted to us, that we may see in that day with joy those whom our prayers, our alms, our words, our deeds, our lives, have helped to love our God.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons for the Church's Seasons, p. 43.
I. Christ's kingdom on the earth may be divided into three parts—nature, providence, grace. And the kingdom of grace, again, is triple. There is the kingdom in our own hearts, there is the kingdom over the earth, and there is the kingdom of the glory of the Second Advent. We are praying for all three.
II. Our great work is evangelization. More we cannot do. We cannot convert, but we can evangelize. We can make Christ known to every inhabitant of this earth. The rest is with God. Missionary work is not like other work—mere natural cause and effect. It is on a much higher level. It is different from all ordinary undertakings. It is Christ's own power, to do Christ's own work, for Christ's own glory. It is a King—the King of kings—asserting His right and taking His kingdom. He has purchased it; He has predestinated it; He has done it. We are working with promises; we are cooperating with faith; we are leaning on majesty; we are allied to omnipotence.
III. Our Lord's own prayer and directions give us clear instructions for what we are chiefly to pray. (1) For union of the Church, as the highest testimony and the truest sermon in the whole world: "That they all may be one," etc. (2) For increase of missionaries. His prescient eyes foresaw the universal difficulty which there would be in every age—not of openings, not of money, but of men. (3) For grace to give power to truth: "Sanctify them through Thy truth." (4) The far end: "Glorify Thy name." (5) Nearness to that end: "Thy kingdom come."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 14th series, p. 141.
I. The kingdom of God, though not a temporal one, is a real one. The language of the Bible cannot be explained away as simple metaphor.
II. The kingdom for whose advancement we so often pray is a peaceable kingdom, and one which is constituted in the very person of the King Himself.
III. The kingdom of our blessed Lord, for whose prosperity we are permitted to pray and labour and endure, admits of unlimited extension throughout the world.
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 67.
Matthew 6:10I. As it is in heaven. The nature and manner of heavenly employments are not precisely known to us. But of some of the qualities of that perfect doing of God's will we can treat from what we know of ourselves, who, a little lower than the angels, are, like them, beings with reason and affections and spiritual life before God. And we may observe (1) that their doing of God's will is without selfishness. No idol set up within interferes with the proper aim and end of action. (2) Again, their conformity to God's will is all real and genuine—the act first of the heart and of affections and desires, then of the tongue and outward bearing. (3) Their work is done without intermission or weariness. They cease not day nor night.
II. Man's glory is to suffer. In this sense let us consider the words, "Thy will be done." Let us regard them as expressing the intelligent resignation, on the part of an imperfect and erring being, of his ways and his prospects, into the hand of an almighty and merciful Father. And thus viewed they imply: (1) A knowledge of the relation between God and himself. God is to him a Father watching over him, careful and solicitous for his welfare. Hitherto He has done well for His people; He has not forsaken them that trust in Him. The most adverse circumstances have in the end proved for their good; God has led them by a way that they knew not. All this dwells on the Christian's mind, and from such evidence as this, strengthened by his own spiritual experience that the Lord is gracious, he learns to trust Him, and to say respecting Himself, "Thy will be done." (2) "Thy will be done." And what if that will be not only afflictive, but dark and mysterious also? What if God be pleased to wound just when we believed we wanted cherishing? What He does we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. I remember, on a glorious day of all but cloudless sunshine, passing in view of a well-known line of bare and majestic downs, then basking in the full beams of noon. But on one face of the hill rested a mass of deep and gloomy shadow. On searching for its cause, I at length discovered one little speck of cloud, bright as light, floating in the clear blue above. This it was which cast on the hillside that ample track of gloom. And what I saw was an image of Christian sorrow. Dark and cheerless often as it is, and unaccountable as it passes over our earthly path, in heaven its token shall be found; and it shall be known to have been but as a shadow of His brightness whose name is Love.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 134.
Let us view this petition—
I. As a description of the kingdom of Christ. When Christ comes to reign earth will rejoice. Israel, renewed by the Spirit, and gifted in the richest measure with humility and fervent zeal, will be the first-born among the nations; and then the Saviour's saying, "Salvation is of the Jews," will find its perfect fulfilment. When the Holy Ghost shall write the law of God in their hearts, then shall be seen the spectacle of a righteous nation; and, imitating them, all kingdoms shall conform themselves to the will of our Father in heaven.
II. As a description of the angelic obedience, the standard and pattern of ours. To do God's will is the delight of angels, and His will is His self-manifestation on earth. Angels are interested in the earth that God may be glorified, even as Satan and his servants are interested in it to retard the progress of God's kingdom and to obscure His glory. The obedience of angels is in humility and perfect submission. They obey because God commands. Thus ought we to accustom and train our hearts to reverential obedience.
III. As pointing to the Lord Jesus, the ladder between heaven and earth, in and by whom this petition is fulfilled. The Son of God has become the Author of eternal salvation to all believers. By His obedience we are constituted righteous. By His sacrifice we have gained the position of children. In Him we are reconciled and renewed; one with Him, we receive the Father's love and the gift of the Holy Ghost; and thus—
IV. God's will is done in us and by us. When we think of the will of God, our hearts are at peace. The secret will of God is a mystery, into which it is not for us to search; but we know that, while clouds and darkness are round about Him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne. We see His revealed will in the gift of Christ and the Spirit. We know this is the will of God, that all who believe in Jesus should have eternal life, and that He should raise them at the last day. This also is His will, even our sanctification, that Christ by the Spirit should dwell and live in us, and that, in union with the true Vine, we should bring forth fruit.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 203.
The Obedience of Angels.
I. An angel, by his very nature, is a servant doing God's behest. It is laid upon him; it is a necessity and law of his being. With us service is too much an occasional thing—put on at times; done and left. It must not be so if you are to be like an angel. It must be an essential part of every moment of life—reality; the sum and substance, the whole of your existence; continuous, obedient service.
II. The angels behold the face of the Father, and hence their power and their joy. They go wherever they go straight from the immediate presence of God. So they carry their sunshine; so they carry their might; so must you.
III. And no one can doubt that an angel's obedience is the obedience of a happy being. You will not do much, you will not even obey well, till you are happy.
IV. It matters nothing to an angel what the work is which is given him to do. It may be for a babe, or it may be for a king; it may be for one, or it may be for multitudes; it may be for the holiest, or it may be for the vilest. It is just the same to him. It cannot be too menial or too lofty; it cannot be too little or too much. It is simple obedience. It is reasonable because it is not reasoning service.
V. An angel's response to an order is always instant, and the course the quickest and the straightest. Witness the visit of the angel Gabriel to Daniel. The obedience to the command is always minute, always accurate, and always entire.
VI. If your obedience would be like the obedience of angels, it must always be primarily to Christ. It must touch Him. It must have a savour of Him. There, in that beautiful world where the angels live, Christ is the centre of everything. There is not an eye there that is not fastened on that Master. It would be no obedience at all which did not go up and down upon that altar.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 246.
I. We begin by inquiring into the meaning of the words. They are often uttered and not felt. They are sometimes spoken in a sense which is very different from, nay opposed to, the whole teaching of Christ. We shall gain a truer idea of the prayer if we begin by clearing away the thoughts respecting God's will which are opposed to the idea of a Father. (1) There is a tendency in man to confuse God's will with the thought of an irresistible force. This confusion may rise very naturally from the consciousness of human insignificance. Contemplating the grandeur of God, and overwhelmed before the majesty that rules the universe at His pleasure, man may submit to God's will because it seems to be an awful power which cannot be resisted. This conception of God's will as an irresistible force springs from forgetfulness of the great difference between God's rule in the kingdom of matter and His will in the kingdom of souls. The essential feature of spirit is its capacity for resisting God. (2) Again, there is a tendency in man to confound the will of God with the thought of an unsearchable self-will. This thought may spring from a sense of ignorance. Enfeebled by conflict, a man's own will may be calm, and yet not surrendered to God in the faith that He does all things well. In that spirit he may say in all quietness, "Thy will be done," but because he has submitted to a mere will, not to a righteous will. (3) It is Christ who teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done." And we may therefore feel that that will, though sovereign, is for our highest good, though working darkly, for our greatest blessedness. We may look out from our poor finite thought on life and the universe to the everlasting will of a gracious and loving Father.
II. There is no other rational law of life than this. In a life of obedience, every struggle, every sorrow, every tear, has a bearing on the future. They chasten the spirit, and help to purify it from its earthliness. Every victory over self-will strengthens the soul and makes it "more than conqueror."
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 191.
How is God's will done in heaven?.
I. It is certainly done zealously.
II. The angels in heaven do God's will reverently.
III. God's will is also done in heaven with cheerful alacrity.
IV. God's will is done in heaven perseveringly.
V. Angels do God's will in heaven harmoniously.
VI. God's will is done in heaven perfectly.
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 74.
I. Human life is one great want.
II. This want should turn human life into one noble aspiration.
III. This aspiration can only be noble as it is lifted up towards a Father.
IV. This Father must be asked to come in all the power and splendour of a kingdom.
Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 271.
References: Matthew 6:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1778; T. Lessey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p., 234; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. vi., p. 316; vol. xi., p. 164; W. Hubbard, Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 193; R. A. Armstrong, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 314; H. Price Hughes, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 261; E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 319; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 117; M. Dods, The Prayer that Teaches to Pray, pp. 50, 76; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 152; F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, p. 25; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, pp. 415, 421; Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 211; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, pp. 418, 431; R. Heber, Sermons Preached in England, p. 193.
Matthew 6:11I. The Giver of bread is our Father in heaven. God is the only giver, and yet least recognized. Because He gives so constantly, so quietly, we forget to notice and to thank Him. (1) God gives, for there is none beside Him. (2) God gives good gifts, for He is God and He is our Father. (3) God delights in giving. (4) God gives simply. (5) God never takes back his gifts.
II. The gift—bread. (1) The daily necessity for food may well teach us humility. We have no life in ourselves. (2) Bread is the gift of the Creator through Christ. The earth would be a wilderness were it not for that tree on which Christ was made a curse for us. (3) Bread is the gift of God, and, as all God's gifts, it has a deep and eternal meaning. The Saviour called Himself the Bread of life. Only God in Christ is life-sustaining food; all else, being dead in itself, can neither give nor sustain life.
III. The expansion of the gift—our bread. The spirit of the Lord's prayer is filial towards God, brotherly towards man. The little word "our" excludes evidently every calling which is injurious to the interests of our fellowmen. None can offer this petition who are enriched by that which brings misery to others. The word "our" implies also labour. If we eat the bread of idleness and sloth, we enjoy what is not rightfully ours. Toil is the consequence of sin, but labour belonged to Paradise.
IV. The limitation of the gift. "Give us today our daily bread." Christ would have us free from anxious care. The spirit of the world is feverish and restless; men think of the future and of its possible wants and evils, and are burdened with its weight. We cannot be delivered from such anxiety until we understand that it is not merely foolish but sinful, that it is incompatible with the spirit of adoption, with the attitude of faith.
God wants us to be rich; nay, He wants us to possess all things. But the way to riches is, Give up all, even ourselves.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 250.
I. Notice how this prayer is placed. "Thy will be done." That takes the soul right away up into the very highest glory and perfection of heaven. "Forgive us our sins." That reaches right down into the dark deeps into which our trespasses have plunged us. From those great deeps, "our debts," to those heights, "as it is in heaven," we are to rise. Yet between these two comes my text, "Give us this day our daily bread;" a prayer for our business and our basket, lying kindly, tenderly between the depth of our fall and the height of our call. It is as much as to say, that our God can make our bread-winning to help our heaven-winning.
II. The prayer takes it for granted that we are always under the watchful care of our heavenly Father, and yet how much we give way to fretful doubts and anxious cares. The prayer points steadily and surely to the wisdom of being contented with little, and of avoiding all anxious concern about tomorrow.
III. The model prayer has no exclusiveness. It is a stranger to selfishness. It is not, Give me my daily bread. "Our Father" owns our brotherhood, and our brotherhood cares for the wants of others as well as our own; and we cannot use this prayer aright unless we are open-hearted and open-handed to our brother's honest need.
IV. The prayer breathes absolute dependence. You and I are pensioners, and God must give strength to gain it, skill to earn it, power to eat it: all are from Him. What have we that we have not received?
J. Jackson Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 62.
Consider this petition as carrying the wants of the day to God's throne of grace, and pleading for their supply. And in thus considering it, it will be plain that two senses of the words are admissible, and indeed necessary; a temporal and a spiritual sense, according as the daily bread is the sustenance of the body, or that of the immortal spirit.
I. And first for the lower and more obvious of these. "Give us today the daily bread of the body." Let us see what is here implied. The petition is one for our physical well-being in general; for food and raiment and shelter, and all that climate and circumstances render necessary to us; and it is admirably expounded in our Church Catechism: "I pray unto God that He will give us all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies." Thus simply, thus entirely, do we commend day by day our physical frames unto our Father's hand. It was He who at first fearfully and wonderfully made them; it is He who every moment holds the balance on the nice adjustment of which depends the continuance of their animal vitality. All this goes on without our care. Can He not and will He not also keep them in His charge, in those further provisions from without for which our labour is by His appointment necessary?
II. Let us pass now to the second and higher import of the words of the text. Like the natural life, the spiritual life has its infancy, its youth, its maturity; but unlike natural life, it is not subject, unless violently extinguished by declension into ungodliness, to decay or death. And as it grows upwards its daily bread is necessary for its maintenance, its desires are boundless. Not faith nor love nor holiness, nor anything short of Christ Himself, can feed the spiritual being of man. It is He who must be taken into the soul; and all things that stop short of Him are not nourishment—are but the meat that perisheth, not that which endures unto everlasting life. To apprehend Christ as mine, to lay hold on Him by the hand of faith, and feed on Him by spiritual participation in Him, this is the nourishment of the life of the soul.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 163.
Routine Observance Indispensable.
We need to keep fixed times, or appointed rounds of observance, as truly as to be in holy impulse; to have prescribed periods in duty as truly as to have a spirit of duty; to be in the drill of observance, as well as in the liberty of faith.
I. Notice first the very obvious fact that the argument commonly stated, as against the obligation of fixed times and ways of observance in religion, contains a fatal oversight. It is very true that mere rounds of observance, however faithfully kept, have in themselves no value, nothing of the substance of piety; but they have an immense value, when kept and meant to be, as the means of piety. It is equally true that nothing is acceptable to God which is not an offering of the heart. But it does not follow, by any means, that we are therefore to wait doing nothing till the inclinations or impulses of the heart are ready.
II. Look next at the grand analogies of time and routine movement in the world we live in. Without routine it would be only a medley of confusion, a chaos of interminable disorder.
III. I refer you again to the analogy of your own courses in other things, and also to the general analogies of business. As we are by nature diurnal creatures in the matter of waking and sleep, so we are voluntarily creatures of routine and of fixed hours in the matter of food. How is it also in the matter of business, or the transactions of trade and industry? If there is nothing men do with effect in the world of business despising the law of times, how does it happen that they can expect, with any better reason, to succeed in the matter of their religion, their graces, charities, and prayers?
IV. Consider the reason of the Sabbath, where it is assumed that men are creatures, religiously speaking, of routine, wanting it as much as they do principles, fixed times as much as liberty. The design of the fourth commandment is to place order in the same rank with principle, and give it honour in all ages as a necessary element of religion, of the religious life and character.
V. The Scriptures recognize the value of prescribed times and a fixed routine of duty in other ways. The true way to come into liberty and keep ourselves in it is to have our prescribed rules, and in some respects, at least, a fixed routine of duties.
H. Bushnell, The New Life, p. 308.
The petition for daily bread seems small, because (1) we ask for what so many already possess; (2) we ask it only for the small circle around our table; (3) we ask it only for today. It is, nevertheless, a great petition, because (1) we ask that earthly bread may be changed into heavenly; (2) we ask God to feed all those who are in want; (3) we ask Him to supply the daily necessities of a waiting world; (4) we ask it today, and ever again today. The fact that we thus apply to our heavenly Father teaches us—
1. Our dependence upon Him.
2. A wholesome lesson of contentment.
3. A lesson of frugality and patient labour.
4. A lesson of moderation.
5. A lesson of benevolence.
6. A lesson of faith.
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 82.
References: Matthew 6:11.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 257; M. Dods, The Prayer that Teaches to Pray, p. 99; F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, p. 55; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 427; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 422; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. ii., p. 50.
Matthew 6:12Knowledge and Confession of Sin.
I. Self-examination may become morbid, and produce nothing but torture and despondency. Let us not, however, overlook the necessity of systematic, or rather active self-examination, as the condition of thoughtful confession. It is evident that the commencement of Christian life is absolutely impossible without some knowledge of self. To seek pardon, we must know our sin; to pray for renewal, we must know the evil of our heart. Why is self-knowledge so difficult? The great difficulty in the work is, that we do not like our vanity to be wounded, our pride to be brought low; the more skill we obtain in examining our heart and life, the deeper will our humiliation be. Self-love blinds us, and sin brings with it the darkening atmosphere to hide it from our eyes.
II. True, candid, and full confession depends chiefly on our realizing the Divine presence—the presence of a forgiving and loving God. The very petition which we are now considering is the greatest help to self-examination. Our relation to our fellowmen and to those that trespass against us is the chief test of our actual condition before God. If our hearts are humble and loving towards God, our attitude to our neighbour will be kind and forgiving. He who feels his sin and unworthiness is able to bear the unjust opinion and the severe criticism of men; without bitterness he will endeavour to profit by every humiliating experience. He who rejoices in God and praises Him for His goodness and patience will be cheerful, long-suffering, and hopeful in his dealings with others. If we know God, and if the countenance of Christ is our study, we shall be able not merely to praise the dead and to build the graves of the prophets, as the Pharisees were wont to do, but to help and comfort the disciples as we have opportunity.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer; p. 314.
Sin and Salvation.
I. Even without the announcements of Scripture we notice the existence and we feel to some extent the evil of sin. (1) Sin is a great mystery. The origin and future of sin are alike hid in darkness impenetrable. It is a great enigma, it is irrational, and defies explanation; and yet most problems of human character and conduct are solved by it. (2) Sin prevails everywhere, yet few know it. They who are most familiar with it and most obedient to its sway are least acquainted with its true character and feel least its tyranny. (3) Sin has a wide dominion and many servants. (4) Sin is courageous and defies Heaven; it rebels against the will of Omnipotence; it attacks the immovable pillars of God's throne: yet sin is a coward; when the voice of the Lord is heard at even-time it flees in horror. (5) Sin obscures God, hides Him from our view, like a dark cloud intercepting the light, like a huge mountain separating us from God.
II. How precious is now the Gospel. Forgiveness of sin is connected with the deepest sorrow and the greatest joy. Here are both Mara and Elim. Consider the joy which arises out of the forgiveness of sin. (1) The Triune God rejoices over the sinner saved. And with God all angels rejoice, while they behold the mystery of godliness and adore the Lamb that was slain. (2) The incarnation of the Son of God, His life on earth, His spotless and perfect obedience, filled the Father with joy. Christ fulfilled the commandment which He received of the Father. This obedience is our salvation; it was and ever is a source of joy unto God. (3) The expiation of the cross by His blood is a source of joy. He is the Mediator of the better covenant, and His death is ever precious in the sight of God. It has gained not merely the acquittal of the Judge, but the unspeakable favour and abundant love of the Father. (4) For God, by redeeming us, has betrothed Himself to us. Christ is our Saviour, but by His death on the cross He has also become our Bridegroom. He gave Himself for us, that He might sanctify and cleanse us to be His bride, beloved and glorified throughout eternity.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 295.
Matthew 6:12Is there not a depth of sadness in that little word "and" which connects the prayer for pardon with the preceding petition for daily bread? It reminds us that as our daily wants return, so do likewise our sins; that we need daily forgiveness as much as the daily supply of our earthly wants. The fourth petition is one of humility and dependence, the fifth one of repentance and contrition. The one reminds us that we are creatures, the other that we are sinners.
I. The daily bread of our souls is daily forgiveness. This is our daily bread—that we see Jesus, our crucified Redeemer, our Righteousness in heaven; that we behold the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. Love cannot be silent. Love must acknowledge sin—not to itself merely, but to the loved one against whom sin is committed. Not in doubt, in the spirit of bondage, but in the trustful and loving spirit of adoption, we ask our heavenly Father to forgive us our debts.
II. Sin is debt. What do we owe God? We owe ourselves to Him; all that we are, body, soul, and spirit, is His, and we ought to be His and to give all to Him, and that always. And this debt is daily growing; for God is always giving, and we are always misappropriating His gifts. We cannot get rid of our debt except by becoming still more His debtors. He forgives us; and now we owe Him more than ever; for as the Apostle says, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." So Christ expects from the sinner to whom much is forgiven that he will love much.
III. God forgives in heaven; we forgive on earth. God forgives to manifest His glory in the salvation of sinners, thus establishing His kingdom in the renewed hearts of believers, who are conformed to the image of Christ. The object of God's showing mercy to us is that we may be not merely forgiven, but that the mind of Christ may be in us; we obtain mercy in order that we may be merciful. The Saviour Himself has clearly explained that he who has not received the spirit of forgiveness has not truly received the gift of pardon. He enforces this in the most impressive and solemn manner in the parable of the unmerciful servant. He shows us that the love of God cannot truly rest on us if it does not also dwell in us.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 276.
Christ teaches distinctly (1) that sin needs forgiveness; that is to say, that it is not merely a disease that needs a remedy, or an imperfection that is to be gradually got rid of, but that it is a guilt, an offence, or transgression that needs forgiveness. He teaches (2) that this sin may be forgiven, that the penalty attaching to it may be remitted. He teaches (3) that what He does for us—His life and death—in some way or other is necessary to this forgiveness. Now it is this part of His teaching that is excepted against. We are asked, Why should this be necessary? And why should it be necessary to add to the words, "Our Father, forgive us," for Jesus Christ's sake? Is not this making God less merciful than a good man?
I. The only one case in which we can imagine complete forgiveness as possible is a case as between two equal individuals, one of whom has wronged the other. Has it ever occurred to you to think that that is just the one position in which no man can stand respecting God? We cannot injure God; our goodness does not extend to Him, neither does our evil. Therefore the answer of the understanding, of the merely sceptical mind, of man to this question, "Can God, the Supreme, forgive?"—the only answer it can make is, "God is the only one Being who cannot possibly forgive." If you think of God as the Author of the inexorable system of law, as the Creator of the whole system of necessary penalty and suffering, I ask again, Where is the hope of the easy forgiveness of which men speak? Is it such a very easy thing to imagine that God can forgive?
II. Let us picture to ourselves some worshipper under the old Jewish polity. David is standing beside the altar and offering up his sacrifice to God. Imagine revealed to that man for a moment all these intellectual difficulties about forgiveness—imagine the glowing fire of love and hope in such a heart chilled as by a cataract with all these chilling thoughts on the impossibility of forgiveness. And then, when his heart was beaten down to the very earth, and in despair he was giving up the very thought of forgiveness, would it seem to him so very terrible a revelation to be told this?—"It is indeed impossible for you to be forgiven under any law, under any condition of things that you can imagine, but there is for you a revelation of a time that is to come when a miracle shall be wrought upon earth. You whose heart yearns for the blessing of human forgiveness, know you this, that one day shall walk upon earth a Son of man, whose heart shall quiver and throb at the suffering of the very least of His creatures. Understand you this, that God and man shall become one for your deliverance. Learn, then, of a life given for a life, and yet becoming the life of all other lives."
III. Forgiveness is in very deed a mystery of mysteries. It is a mystery as between man and man; it is a mystery as between man and God. The mysteries of the faith are to us just what the shadow on the face of the sun is in the hour of eclipse to the astronomer—a dark shadow, and yet a shadow round the margin of which science is ever making discoveries that teach us the immensity of the system in which we live, and tell us that the life that is here and the life that is there are the same.
Bishop Magee, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 503.
There are two things which this text cannot mean. (1) It cannot mean that sinful man is to set an example by which the Divine administration is to be conducted. (2) It cannot mean that God's forgiveness of man is a mere equivalent for something that man himself has done.
I. In suggesting an interpretation of this prayer, let it be observed that this is not the first petition in the prayer. This fact sheds a morning glory around this mystery of the night. Who are the men who say, "Forgive as we forgive"? They are men who have said (1) Our Father; (2) Thy kingdom come; (3) Thy will be done on earth. God takes our prayers at the very highest point of their inspiration, and enlarges them into the fullest meaning they can bear, and He will answer the highest, and not merely the lowest of our aspirations.
II. Superficial men who listen to our prayers hesitate not to say that we are inconsistent, because we do not act up to the high level of our petitions. It is forgotten that we express in prayer, not what we are, but what we would be; prayer is not an attainment, but an aspiration; prayer is not history, but hope; prayer is not victory, it is fighting.
III. Confession and contrition are the necessary conditions of forgiveness. It is impossible to forgive a man in the full sense in which we wish God to forgive us apart from these conditions.
Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 266.
Matthew 6:12This petition presents our heavenly Father in the character of a great creditor, to whom we are deeply in debt, and at whose hands we humbly seek for release.
I. Do you ask, How are we indebted to God? (1) We owe Him a debt of obedience. (2) We owe Him a debt of gratitude.
II. The forgiveness of God, when granted to the returning penitent, is universal and complete. There is, however, a condition attached to this petition for pardon, in the text, which is the turning-point of the whole matter: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 90.
References: Matthew 6:12.—S. Coley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 1; F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, p. 73; M. Dods, The Prayer that Teaches to Pray, p. 122; W. Milligan, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 130; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 433; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 456. Matthew 6:12-15.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 325.
Matthew 6:13Temptation—from God and from Satan.
I. Speaking of Satan's temptation is in itself a temptation, unless in humble dependence upon God our object is practical, to guard against the enemy, and to be prepared and strengthened for the conflict. The world does not know or remember Satan's existence and his aims. This is one of his stratagems. The young Christian does not sufficiently think of his strength and subtlety. How ample is Scripture's teaching on Satan—ample for guidance and instruction, though not to satisfy curiosity. The origin of evil we may not know, but our chief anxiety ought to be to know its destruction—the victory over evil—as far as we are concerned. (1) It is of the utmost importance in our conflict with Satan to know what is his real and ultimate aim. His object is to diminish, to obscure, if possible to take away, God's glory, and this object he wishes to effect through the fall and ruin of man. (2) Satan's method is to alter your attitude towards God. He suggests to Eve to examine God's word as standing on a level with God, or rather for the time being surveying and criticizing God's command. (3) Satan suggests that God's threatenings will not come true, and that His love is not great. (4) Satan promises glory apart from God and in rebellion against God.
II. God tempts. His motive is love; His object is our good. Even during the temptation He weighs with fatherly pity the burden and our strength, and with the temptation He makes a way to escape. The trial of our faith will be formed unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Temptations sent by God bring to light hidden sins and infirmities; they are meant to deepen our humility, that, sinking deep in self-abasement, we may rise higher in simplicity and strength of faith. Such temptations prepare us for closer fellowship with God, they prepare us for greater usefulness in the world, and they manifest unto angels and devils the power of Divine grace in human hearts.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 327.
I. There is one little word in this petition which we have not yet noticed. It is the word "us." It seems to suggest three important thoughts. (1) It reminds us of the universality of temptation. All children of God are taught to offer this petition, because they are all in danger of temptation. (2) Whenever you notice the sins and failings of your fellow-Christians and of others, remember they were tempted. Think not so much of their guilt as of their actual condition, and come to their rescue. (3) If we say, "Lead us not into temptation," we profess to be concerned about the safety of others as well as our own.
II. Consider the special temptations of the believer. It is in the nature of things that the presence of God should rouse the opposition of evil. When Jesus draws near the soul temptation immediately arises, and we are kept from the Saviour either through the love of our sin or through the love of our righteousness. When Jesus enters the heart the conflict is decided, but only to begin in a new form.
III. Consider the safety of the believer. The believer may fall, but he cannot fall away. This doctrine, like all Scripture truths, is salutary and comforting to earnest, prayerful, God-loving souls; misleading and dangerous to the formalist and prayerless. Christians cannot fall away, but they may fall. And is this not a great evil? Our life may be embittered and our usefulness impaired. Let none of us, therefore, think of the safety of the believer in a manner which would be at once foolish and ungenerous, without true love to ourselves and to our most merciful God. We are safe in Him if "near the Cross abiding." Christ is our High Priest, and we are safe. As the names of the children of Israel were engraven on the shoulders and breastplates of Aaron, even thus are we represented in heaven by the Lord who died for us. We are protected by His power and blessed in His love. Golden chains secure the precious stones, so that none can ever be lost. Christ will present us unblamable unto the Father, and the Lord will perfect that which concerneth us, for we are the work of His hands.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 348.
Matthew 6:13I. Evil is around us and within us. (1) The evil that is around us may by God's grace be converted into a channel of blessing, and thus belong to the all things which work in harmony for good; and yet let us not forget that from this external evil, also, we ask to be delivered. Let us not forget that all misery is the consequence of sin, and as such evil, which God regards with displeasure, and from which it is His purpose ultimately to deliver. (2) Sin dwells in us; it is not a visitor, but an inmate. "When I would do good, evil is present with me." It is not merely an inmate, but a bold, ever-watchful, persistently interfering enemy. "I see another law striving in my members." It is not merely an enemy, but it has established itself in adaptation to my organization, mental and physical, and through long habit become a law, working almost unconsciously, and with a regularity and force which are appalling. No wonder the believer exclaims, "Deliver us from evil."
II. But who delivers? The evil is so great, so deep, so widespread, that none can deliver but God. Our Father who loves us—our Father who is in heaven, whose power is infinite, whose glory is above all—He is willing, He is able. Here are the hills to which we lift up our eyes, imploring help. But how does God deliver us? He delivers us by Christ. "Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom." Who delivers the true Israel from all evil? Who else but the Angel, the Messenger of the Covenant.
III. Look, in conclusion, at the promise involved in the petition. At the appearing of Christ our life shall be made manifest, our salvation shall be revealed, our adoption, even the redemption of the body, shall be complete. Blessed and peaceful as is our condition immediately after death, only when Jesus comes again shall we receive the crown of righteousness and the perfect glory.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 362.
Matthew 6:13I. We take a sevenfold view of praise. (1) Prayer ends in praise; but God, who sees the end from the beginning, sees praise in every petition. (2) Praise is the language of the soul in communion with God. (3) Though praise is essentially contained in every supplication, and all meditation and the whole inner life of the Christian is in constant adoration, yet we may regard praise as the culminating point of prayer. (4) Let us learn, too, that the doxology is an argument. We say, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." We expect to be heard, not on account of anything in ourselves, not because of what we are or promise to be; but our sure and only hope is in God, His character, His name, His promise. (5) Praise is faith, and it is more than faith. It stands on the borderland—very bright indeed; for faith itself is in light—between faith and vision, between earth and heaven. (6) The great bond of union is praise. (7) Praise is God's gift, the flower of redemption, the breath of the Spirit, the voice of Jesus in the Church.
II. Consider the threefold ascription of praise. (1) "Thine is the kingdom." It is not ours; it is altogether His. He prepared it from all eternity. He founded it on a sure foundation. In nature, in providence, in grace, He is sovereign; and there is a kingdom of glory which He is preparing through these subordinate kingdoms. (2) As the kingdom is His, so power belongeth unto the Lord. He is able to do all things which please Him. Christ is the Word of His power. By Him all things were created, and by Him they are upheld. The power of God is manifested through His Son. (3) His is the kingdom, and by His power will it be established, for the end of all Divine works and ways is His glory.
III. The kingdom, power, and glory belong to the Triune God, and for ever.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 379.
I. The Church may reckon the doxology amongst the treasures which it inherited from the synagogue and the Temple. The Greeks did not invent it; they adopted it. In fact, we may find the doxology ready made, so to speak, in the Old Testament itself (1 Chron. 29). David was not peculiar in his utterance; his mode of speech became a common mode in the Jewish Church; the ascription of glory became an almost necessary adjunct of Jewish prayer. The addition of these words as a crowning sentence to the Lord's prayer in the Liturgy of the Primitive Church may be regarded as an unconscious prophecy of the eventual triumph of the Cross.
II. The doxology, which the piety of early times or the inspiration of the Holy Ghost added to the original words of the Lord's prayer, and which the instinct and conscience of Christendom have ever recognized as a worthy addition, has an interesting and valuable bearing upon primitive Church history and primitive Church feeling. But it is for ourselves still more interesting and still more valuable, as suggesting thoughts concerning the nature of prayer in general, and the manner and temper in which men ought to pray. Petition melts into praise; asking has its climax in ascription; thanksgiving from man to God is as essential an element of prayer as any giving of good things from God to man. It is when petitions turn into doxologies, and doxologies accompany and qualify petitions, transforming the mere demand of a beggar into the ethereal essence of communion with God, that prayer is most truly offered on earth and most acceptable in heaven.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, The Oxford Review, Feb. 4th, 1885.
I. If we ask in what way "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory" belong unto God, it is obvious to answer that they are His because He is the one self-existent supreme God, the I am that I am, He who owns no origin, who has no cause of being besides Himself. But there is another way in which we may think of a kingdom and power and glory belonging to God, and which other way has a nearer connection with us as Christians than that general way of looking upon such things as belonging to God in right of His being the supreme God and Creator of all things; I mean that our Father who is in heaven has established a right to the title of King of men, and has given men better cause to give in ascribing power and glory to Him, by what He has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord.
II. If the kingdom, and the power, and the glory do indeed belong to God, then doubtless it is our duty, yea our very highest duty, to recognize in our lives and practice that such is the case. (1) If God be really your King, take care that you really fear and obey Him; if in your prayers you ascribe the kingdom to God, then do not in your lives ascribe the kingdom to any person or anything else. There are many competitors for the crown: there is Satan in all his manifold forms; there is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; there is that usurping king which governs so large a part of the world, that tyrant self; take care that none of these become your masters, and usurp that throne which belongs to God, which belongs to Him by every right which can give Him a title to you. (2) Let us further illustrate by our lives these other words, "Thine is the power;" let us endeavour to live practically in the faith that all power belongs to God. We are in a world of much confusion and difficulty, and we feel that we ourselves are weak and feeble; but surely our God is a God of power, powerful to preserve from evil, powerful to keep us from sin, powerful enough to give us peace in our death and a happy resurrection after it. (3) If you ascribe in your prayers glory to God, then see to it well that you do ascribe glory to God in your lives, glorifying God with your bodies and your spirits, which are His.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 143.
Matthew 6:131. The word "Amen" is a word of venerable history in Israel and in the Church.
2. The word Amen announces God's truth and faithfulness. Prayer is a great reality. It is speaking to the living God. The object of prayer is not that we may speak, but that God may hear. Amen assures us we have spoken to Him who is, and who is truth. God lives; "faithful is He that calleth you."
3. Amen is the name of Christ. "All the promises of God are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus."
4. We view Amen as the seal of prayer.
5. Amen is the voice of faith.
6. Amen is the answer of a good conscience.
7. It is a renewal of our dedication to God.
A. Saphir, Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, p. 404.
References: Matthew 6:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1402; vol. ix., No. 509; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 98; M. Dods, The Prayer that Teaches to Pray, p. 151; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 339; W. Hubbard, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 155; R. Payne-Smith, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 9; F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 89, 117; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 440; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 471.
Matthew 6:16-18Let us ask what is the use of fasting, for so we shall best come to understand the true methods and degrees of fasting. All bodily discipline, all voluntary abstinence from pleasure of whatever sort, must be of value either as a symbol of something or a means of something. These two functions belong to it as being connected with the body, which is at once the utterer and the educator of the soul within. No man can be a better man save as his pride is crushed into repentance, and as the sweltering, enwrapping mass of passions and indulgences that is around him is broken through, so that God can find his soul and pour Himself into it. This, then, is the philosophy of fasting. It expresses repentance, and it uncovers the life to God. It is the voluntary disuse of anything innocent in itself, with a view to spiritual culture.
I. Consider first the value of fasting as a symbol. It expresses the abandonment of pride. But it is the characteristic of a symbolic action that it not merely expresses but increases and nourishes the feeling to which it corresponds. And if abstinence is the sign of humility, it is natural enough that as the life abstains from its ordinary indulgences the humiliation which is so expressed should be deepened by the expression. Thus the symbol becomes also a means.
II. Note the second value of fasting—its value directly as a means. The more we watch the lives of men, the more we see that one of the reasons why men are not occupied with great thoughts and interests is the way in which their lives are overfilled with little things. The real Lent is the putting forth of a man's hand to quiet his own passions and to push them aside, that the higher voices may speak to him and the higher touches fall upon him. It is the making of an emptiness about the soul, that the higher fulness may fill it. Perhaps some day the lower needs may themselves become, and dignify themselves by becoming, the meek interpreters and ministers of those very powers which they once shut out from the soul. There will be no fasting days, no Lent, in heaven. Not because we shall have no bodies there, but because our bodies there will be open to God, the helps and not the hindrances of spiritual communication to our souls.
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 200.
Properly speaking, fasting is not so much a duty enjoined by revelation as it is the natural expression of certain religious feelings and desires. There is but one special fast ordained in the Old Testament, and there is none at all ordained in the New. Yet one cannot fail to see that the exercise is nevertheless quite in accordance with the whole tenour of a true religious life of all ages; and that, if it is not expressly commanded, it is only because nature itself teaches us in certain circumstances thus to afflict the soul. These circumstances which would obviously suggest this exercise are twofold.
I. Fasting is the natural expression of grief, and therefore the natural accompaniment of godly sorrow. It is a mistaken kindness to press dainties on the heart when it has no appetite for aught but its sorrow. Better let it have its fill of grief—better every way for body and mind. Spiritual sorrow in the same way suggests, and is the better for, this exercise of fasting.
II. Fasting is also a wise method of keeping down the law of the flesh which is in our members. Rich and poor will be the better for a fast now and then, to mortify the flesh, to weaken the incentives to evil, to subdue in some measure the carnal nature, and give freer play and power to the spiritual man within.
III. Our Lord counsels His people, (1) that their fasting must be real, sincere, genuine—a thing to be seen, not of men, but of God; (2) that fasting in the Christian Church should be altogether private, and even secret, not only not in order to be seen of men, but absolutely hidden from them. Religion does not consist in a sour visage or morose habit—nay, more, religion is not properly a sorrowful thing. The Gospel was not sad tidings, but glad tidings for all mankind, and we are not acting fairly by it unless we strive so to present it, in all its winning and attractive beauty, that men shall be led to seek after Jesus. Christianity has its godly sorrow, has its heart-grief for sin, has its fasting and mortifying of the flesh; yet we do it utter injustice unless we also make it appear that it is, taken as a whole, the only true blessedness and peace and joy, the only walk with God which is gladness everlasting.
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 193.
Reference: Matthew 6:16.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 133. Matthew 6:16-18.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Laws of the Kingdom, p. 219; C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. i., p. 263. Matthew 6:16-21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 57; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 94. Matthew 6:17.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i., p. 141. Matthew 6:17, Matthew 6:18.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 131.
Matthew 6:19-21When Christ said these words, were there young people standing by? If so, they must have sounded very strangely in their ears. For youth does not realize that life on earth grows pale, nor in the midst of its treasures dreams that the day will come when they shall fail. But on the ears of older men and women His words fell with a profound meaning. They struck home to that which is bitterest in human life; more sharply felt, because more constant, than even the special sorrows which, breaking in from time to time on life, still leave us intervals of peace. It is the sense of the passing away of all things, the knowledge that day by day and hour by hour the moth and rust are at work; that time, as it slips by, steals with it our treasures, and with them our heart out of our bosom.
I. What are those true treasures which can never be exhausted? It is time we should seek and find these things, if they may be found. Do they exist? Oh, yes! There are things immortal, ever young. No moth corrupts the garment of a pure spirit; no rust consumes the armour of God—the shield of faith, the sandals of the Gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the breastplate of truth. No thief can rob us of the love of God, the knowledge of His will, the peace of Christ and His joy, which the world cannot give or take.
II. The first of these treasures is Truth, and its correlative, Constancy; for that which is true endures all shocks. Give half the intensity to it you give to money or fame or human love, and it is yours—nay, give to its pursuit one week of the same consuming thought you give to anything you set your heart on, and it is yours for ever.
III. And righteousness, treasure of treasures, lord of all other treasures, protector and securer of all we care for upon earth, win it at all costs. For it is sin that is the rust and the moth that devour the joys and welfare of our lives.
IV. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." The desire of earth will be towards heaven, because there will be full enjoyment there of these perfect things. We want fulfilment; we must have perfection, fulness of love and truth and purity, to be filled with all the fulness of God. Nothing less than that will satisfy the boundless thirst of the human soul. It is like the gulf in the Forum—till the most precious treasure is cast into it, it will not close. Therefore we cannot rest; therefore all the whole earth cannot give peace to one of us. Where our treasure is, not only our heart's desire, but our very selves shall be at last.
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 307.
The Law kept by Faith.
I. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth." This word of Christ's, and others of a similar character, which He spoke on other occasions, did not mean literally to forbid the natural accumulation of capital and property, which certainly would have placed the Gospel in opposition to some of the laws of social progress. And that it did not so mean is further proved by the fact that, in reality, the civilization of the modern world keeps pace with the advance of Christian faith; and those countries in which the Gospel is upheld in greatest purity, and manifests its greatest living power, are precisely those which are most signally known for their successful prosecution of all honest industry.
II. The special reason given here for inculcating this lesson is, that "moth and rust corrupt them, and thieves break through and steal." These treasures are precarious at the best, and perishable certainly in the long run. And it is altogether unworthy of a creature fitted to hold converse with God and truth and all that is most elevating and Divine, to degrade himself to mean pursuits whose highest fruits are a little meat and drink, and mouth-honour and vain display.
III. By the laying up of treasures in heaven, I understand the pursuit not of things carnal but spiritual. It is to set our hearts on obtaining the knowledge and wisdom, the virtues and graces, of God's true sons. It is to seek moral worth and truth and love above all possessions and honours of this world. It is to labour to do good, rather than to get profit of any kind; for such good works are kept in God's treasury carefully. Or, to sum up all in one word, it is to win Christ, and be found in Him, and He in us. These are the real treasures, and they are eternal—treasures of knowledge and wisdom, all hid in Christ; riches of grace and peace, all found in Christ. Understand that these are the true wealth and glory of man; and then "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 208.
References: Matthew 6:19.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 188. Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20.—J. O. Davies, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 264; C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 3rd series, p. 49. Matthew 6:19-21.—G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, p. 118. Matthew 6:19-34.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., p. 213.
Matthew 6:20I. This is one of those passages in which God takes hold of a strong master-passion of the human mind, and turns it to great spiritual account. The love of accumulation is such a principle in our nature that it will be doubted whether there is any man who is altogether free from the power of its fascination. Whatever it be there is being heaped up, two consequences always follow. (1) One is that, however indifferent the matter was at first, yet the very fact that you have a possession in it, and that that possession is increasing, makes you love it. Your own self becomes associated with the growing store; and, therefore, it becomes dear to you. And this seems to me the exact intention of our Saviour's words, when He says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (2) If we have desired to gather much, we always desire to gather more. The larger the property grows, the faster swells the ambition to augment that heap. And this again lies in our Lord's deep sentence, when He meets this very feeling, and says, "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given."
II. Notice the manner in which a Christian may lay up treasure in heaven. (1) Is not each departed companion and friend an actual increase of the deep and holy treasure which is awaiting us in another state? To the man of Christian friendships death only sweeps the field to house the harvest. (2) The joy that surpasses all other joys which we carry with us from this world will be the meeting again with those to whom we have been useful in this life. They are our treasure laid up in heaven. (3) Every man has his time and his talents, and his influence and his money, as working materials. If in the use of these he is constantly considering their value for eternity, that man is putting by treasures gradually into God's bank; and he looks, and has a right to look, for favour in eternity. (4) By holy contemplation on the joys and scenes of heaven, we do actually, through the power of faith, grow into such a holy familiarity with the joys and scenes of heaven, that, in part, they are all ours. Like the breathing substance of some oft-repeated fancy, eternity will be to us the great realization of the laid-up treasures of our heart.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 151.
References: Matthew 6:20.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 431. Matthew 6:21.—H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 211; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 182.
Matthew 6:22The idea conveyed by a "single eye" appears to be, from its etymology, threefold. First, it means clear, with no film; secondly, it means in opposition to double, seeing one object at a time; and thirdly, it means concentration, centred upon a focus. These three thoughts mainly go to make up the word "single,"—distinctness, oneness, fixedness.
I. Many things may give a dulness to the moral sight. (1) If it be impaired by disuse—if you do not exercise the spiritual perception which God has given you, by meditation, by prayer, and religious thought—then the perception must grow weak. (2) Things coming in between veil and darken that higher vision. A worldly life is sure to do it. Much care will do it. Luxury will do it. But, still more, any wilful unbelief or any strong prejudice.
II. A clear eye must be often cleared. It is the great secret of a happy, holy life—to have made up your mind, once and for all, to live for one thing—to do what is right, and to live to the glory of God. And then upon that one object you must concentrate yourself. Your whole mind, affections, hopes, interests, must meet there. You converge your eternity upon God.
III. There are two worlds around us—a seen world and an unseen world; and we move equally in the midst of both. And the unseen system is far more beautiful, and far grander, and more important than the system that we see. The seen is mainly the type and the shadow of the unseen. It is the unseen which is the real, for that unseen is for ever and ever. But it is not all of us who see the unseen. Few of us are seeing the unseen very distinctly, and none of us are seeing it as we might; and the reason is the state of the eye of the soul, which is as really an eye to see the unseen as that natural eye by which you gaze upon a star or by which you admire a flower.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, p. 197.
Our responsibility for the light given us includes two things, distinct in themselves, though closely connected—viz., our responsibility for living and acting according to that light; and our responsibility for having and seeing the light itself—that is, our responsibility for acting consistently with our belief and opinions, and our responsibility for our belief and opinions, for their formation and hold upon our minds. The two run into each other. But I wish at present to keep in view mainly the latter.
I. On the whole, the government of our minds is in our own hands. That great instrument of reason given to us, we can play on it much as we will, well or ill, wisely or foolishly; and the result is the complex fabric of habitual thought, opinion, conviction, faith, on which we have to live. Who can reasonably say that for this we are not responsible? It is, then, a matter of supreme importance how we hear, how we reach our conclusions and build up our beliefs. We cannot remind ourselves too often or too seriously that the questions which are so freely discussed among us now are questions of life or death to human hope; not in one particular form and under one set of conditions only, but in any form intelligible to our minds. Our time is a time to be watchful over both life and intellect, watchful over the way we handle the grave questions we may be called upon to handle, and over the way in which we prepare ourselves to handle them.
II. A great conflict is going on between Christianity and ideas and beliefs which would destroy or supplant it. We remark on the improved character of the discussion; the times of Voltaire, we observe with satisfaction, are past. But with all the literary power, and all the real and often pathetic earnestness shown in it, there is wanting often an adequate sense of the full issues raised by it, a sense of what in fact depends on it. If we must lose Christianity, let us be alive to what we are doing, and face with open eyes the consequences. Let us have the seriousness which befits the surrender of such a hope, with which a vanquished state surrenders territory or independence to the necessities of defeat, with which, in the old strife of parties, a beaten statesman surrendered his life and fate to the law. Let us recognize the thinker's duties, his temptations, and his safeguards. Remember what an element time is in all growth. By simply waiting our horizon widens—widens almost without our knowing it. Those who undertake to woo truth by their own courage must not stumble at her conditions. They must not think it strange if for that Divine Bride they have to serve the seven years, and then the seven years again.
Dean Church, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, Nov. 15th, 1877.
I. Conscience is the organ that stands between the intelligence of man and the spiritual world, just as the eye stands between the intelligence of man and the world of physical nature, and brings the two together. It is the opened and unopened window through which flows the glorious knowledge of God and heaven; or outside of which that knowledge waits, as the sun with its glory or the flower with its beauty waits outside the closed eye of a blind or sleeping man.
II. When one declares this, that through the conscience man arrives at the knowledge of unseen things, and conceptions of God and spiritual force and immortality reveal themselves to his intelligence, at once the suggestion comes from some one who is listening, Can we be sure of the reality of what thus seems to be made known? How can we be sure that what the conscience sends in to the understanding are not mere creations of its own? These are the same questions which have always haunted man's whole thought about his vision of the world of nature. The questions which haunt the conscience are the same as those which haunt the eye. And as the eye deals with its questions, so will the conscience always deal with its.
III. There is an openness of conscience, a desire and struggle to do right, which is distinctly turned away from God and the world of spiritual things, so that, even if they were there, it would not see them. On the other hand, there is an openness of conscience, a desire and struggle to do right, which is turned towards God and the supernatural, which is expectant of spiritual revelation; and to that conscience the spiritual revelation comes.
IV. We are led thus to that which Jesus teaches in the text—the critical importance of a pure, true conscience, of a steady, self-sacrificing struggle to do right Godward. So only can the channel be kept open through which the knowledge of God, and of the spiritual things which belong to Him, can enter into our souls. As long as man is able to do right Godward, to keep his conscience pure and true and reverent, set upon doing the best things on the highest grounds, he carries with him an eye through which the everlasting light may, and assuredly will, shine into his soul.
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 74.
I. What is here meant by singleness of eye. It is being wholly decided for Christ; that is, having an eye to Christ alone.
II. The consequences of having the eye single: (1) there will be light, first of all, in regard to God and His dealings; (2) there is light in regard to our own position and character; (3) there is light in regard to revelation; (4) there is light in regard to our own experience.
W. Park, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 596.
References: Matthew 6:22.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 79. Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 335; W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 392; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 186; C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons chiefly Practical, p. 15; S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 259; J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 463.
Matthew 6:22-24The illustration of the text has a twofold reference. It bears on what went before, and also on what follows. If we lay up treasures on earth, that will produce an evil eye; if we try to serve God and mammon, that will destroy the single eye. Look at the passage in both these aspects.
I. If the light within you be true, if it be your real heart's desire to see what is right, if your affections are set on those things which are just and pure and lovely, the things heavenly and eternal, then shall your eye be single, and as ye look forth on the world ye shall be able to estimate its treasures at their proper value, for they will have lost to you the glamour and the fascination which they exercise over others. Their inherent emptiness, their essential vanity, their utter precariousness, their certain brevity will be all naked and open to the clear vision of faith, which sees them in their true character and values them at their proper worth.
II. Consider next the evil eye, as it is produced by the effort to serve both God and mammon. The influence of utter and unmitigated worldliness, when a man gives himself to it heartily and without scruple or drawback; that is, as we have seen, to blind his mind altogether to the higher concerns of the spiritual world. Therefore he never troubles himself about them; can see no need of them, and no value in them. That is a sad state of darkness; but it is a sort of honest darkness, and is consistent with a certain genuineness of character. But the effort to serve both God and mammon produces a kind of self-deception, which is to my mind greatly more pernicious and worse to overcome than the former. The thorough worldling knows himself to be so, and his evil eye sees nothing else worth troubling himself about. The other, however, fondly persuades himself that he is not a worldling, that he is, indeed, far superior to the worldling; his evil eye sees, in a measure, what is right and good, but only regards it so far as may be necessary to keep his mind easy in its worldliness. Thus the light which is in him serves more effectually the purpose of darkness.
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 224.
Reference: Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 378.
Matthew 6:24I. It is very difficult to make men believe these words; so difficult, that our Lord Himself could not make the Jews believe them, especially the rich and comfortable religious people among them. They thought that they could have their treasure on earth and in heaven also; and they went their way, in spite of our Lord's warnings, and made money,—honestly, no doubt, if they could; but if not, why, then dishonestly,—for money must be made at all risks.
II. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God; the government of God; the laws and rules by which Christ, King of kings—and king, too, of every nation and man on earth, whether they know it or not—governs mankind; that is what you have to seek, because it is there already. You are in Christ's kingdom. If you wish to prosper in it, find out what its laws are. That will be true wisdom. For in keeping the commandment of God and obeying His laws, in that alone is life—life for body and soul, life for time and eternity.
III. And the righteousness of God, which is the righteousness of Christ—find out what that is, and pray to Christ to give it to you; for so alone will you be what a man should be—created after God in righteousness and true holiness, and renewed into the being and image of God. The merely assenting, merely respectable, even the so-called religious and orthodox life will not let you into the kingdom of heaven, either in this life or the life to come. No; that requires the noble life, the pure life, the just life, the Godlike life, which is perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. But how will this help you to rise in life? Our Lord Himself answers: "All these things shall be added unto you." Honour and power, wealth and prosperity, as much of them as is justly good for you, and as much of them as you deserve—that is, earn and merit by your own ability and self-control—shall come to you by the very laws of the universe and by the very providence of God. You shall find that godliness hath the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 290.
References: Matthew 6:24.—T. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 30; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 141; W. Stubbs, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 177; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 182; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 240; F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 157.
Matthew 6:24-25I. Anxious thought is contrary to the teaching of nature. (1) You are obliged to trust God for your body, for its structure, for its form, for its habitudes, and for the length of your being; you are obliged to trust Him for the foundation—trust Him for the superstructure. (2) God gives you the life of the body, and God's greater gifts are always inclusive of God's little gifts. When He bestows the thing, He bestows the consequences of the thing as well. (3) Look at God's way of doing with all His creatures. The flowers of the field are so clothed that we may learn the lesson that it is a fair Spirit and a loving Spirit and a bountiful Spirit, and a royal heart, that presides over the bestowments of creation and allots gifts to men. (4) Much of the force of what Christ says here depends on the consideration of the inferiority of those creatures who are thus blessed. (a) These creatures labour not, and yet are they fed. Much more may we, whom God has blessed with the power of work and gifted with force to mould the future, be sure that He will bless the exercise of the prerogative by which He exalts us above inferior creatures and makes us capable of toil. (b) These creatures cannot say "Father," and yet they are fed. (c) Today it is, and tomorrow it is cast into the oven. Their little life is thus blessed and brightened. How much greater will be the mercies that belong to them who have a longer life upon earth, and who never die!
II. Anxious care is contrary to all the lessons of religion or revelation, which show it to be heathenism. "After these things do the Gentiles seek."
III. Finally, Christ tells us that thought for the morrow is contrary to all the scheme of Providence, which shows it to be vain. Tomorrow has anxieties enough of its own, after and in spite of all the anxieties about it today, by which you try to free it from care when it comes. Every day will have its evil, will have it to the end; and every day will have evil enough for all the strength that a man has to cope with it. So that it just comes to this—anxiety. It is all in vain. It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but it empties today of its strength. We have always strength to bear the evil when it comes; we have not strength to bear the foreboding of it. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, 1st series, p. 243.
References: Matthew 6:24-34.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 349; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 91; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., p. 224; A. Whyte, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 224. Matthew 5:25.—A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 137; J. W. Haffenden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 109; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,783; F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 313.
Matthew 6:25-34In Matthew 6:25-26 we have an argument against giving place to the cares of this world, on the ground that they are unworthy of an immortal being like man; and also an illustration pointedly leading to the exercise of faith.
I. The question before the Lord was not whether we should be as idle as the birds, but only whether we should, like them, cast off care and trust our heavenly Father. Toil is man's lot. He must sow and reap. We cannot expect the daily manna unless we go and gather it. The argument is not against labour, but against worldly care; and this is the purport of it: God cares for the little birds; He provides their food in due season; and they, instead of burdensome anxiety, in their unconscious gratitude are ever hymning His praise. Now this God is your Father; ye are the children of the Highest; and if He provides for the very birds, how much more will a Father's love and watchfulness care for each of you. Only trust Him, therefore, and all shall be well.
II. The Lord exhorts us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is the pith and kernel of the whole matter. What He means is, that they are not to set their hearts on the kingdom, the possessions, of this world—its riches and honours, and pampering indulgences and vain displays; neither are they to vex their hearts with cares concerning these, as the Gentiles do, sinking thereby into a like degradation with them, but they are to make it their foremost object to obtain spiritual treasures—meekness, temperance, patience, faith, love, and all things just and true and honest and pure and lovely, which are the true riches and real honours of man, the only dignities acknowledged in the kingdom of God. Now the way to obtain these is through faith in God and His Christ. Their great effort, therefore, should be to believe that God reigns, and to trust Him with a most loyal and unswerving devotion. This is obviously what is here meant by seeking the kingdom of God. The righteousness of God here meant is the righteousness of His government—His all-holy and wise administration, which we are to cherish with a steadfast faith.
W. C. Smith, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 239.
References: Matthew 6:25-34.—J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 146. Matthew 6:26.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 26; A. J. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 140; J. M. Neale, Sermons to Children, p. 204. Matthew 6:26-28.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, vol. i., No. 16.
Matthew 6:26, Matthew 6:28-29Consider the Lilies of the Field .
I. What has this text to do with Easter Day? Let us think a while. Life and death; the battle between life and death; life conquered by death; and death conquered again by life. Those were the mysteries over which the men of old time thought, often till their hearts were sad. And because our forefathers were a sad and earnest folk; because they lived in a sad and dreary climate, where winter was far longer and more bitter than it is, thank God, now: therefore all their thoughts about winter and spring were sad; and they grew to despair, at last, of life ever conquering death, or light conquering darkness. All living things would die. The very gods would die, fighting to the last against the powers of evil, till the sun should sink for ever, and the world be a heap of ashes. And then—so strangely does God's gift of hope linger in the hearts of men—they saw, beyond all that, a dim dream of a new heaven and a new earth, in which should dwell righteousness; and of a new sun, more beautiful than ours; of a woman called "Life" hid safe, while all the world around her was destroyed, fed on the morning dew, preserved to be the mother of a new and happier race of men. And so to them, heathens as they were, God whispered that Christ should some day bring life and immortality to light.
II. "So it pleased the Father," says St. Paul, "to gather together in Christ all things, whether in heaven or in earth." In Him were fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, the dim longings, the childlike dreams, of heathen poets and sages, and of our own ancestors from whom we spring. He is the Desire of all nations, for whom all were longing, though they knew it not. And now we may see, it seems to me, what the text has to do with Easter Day. Be not anxious, says our Lord, for your life. Is not the life more than meat? There is an eternal life which depends not on earthly food, but on the will and word of God your Father; and that life in you will conquer death. Consider the lilies of the field. All the winter they are dead, unsightly roots, hidden in the earth. What can come of them? But no sooner does the sun of spring shine on their graves than they rise into sudden life and beauty as it pleases God, and every seed takes its own peculiar body. Even so is the resurrection of the dead.
C. Kingsley, Discipline and Other Sermons, p. 168.
Matthew 6:27It is well for men to think that there are some things which, with all their power, they cannot do. The inquiry of the text serves to rebuke our anxiety and humble our impious ambition, by asking us questions which conduct us still farther into the glory and the mystery of God's kingdom.
I. Which of us by taking thought can find out God? "The world by wisdom knew not God." The world dreamed, guessed, groped—and the result was an acknowledgment of the Unknown. The world in the fulness of its wisdom found its way to an unexplained shadow, and there it stood, terrified by its own discovery, dumb through fear, skulking from a spectre which it could never brighten into a god.
II. Which of you by taking thought can direct his own life? This we have tried to do many a time, so we can speak with all the distinctness and emphasis of experience. There are some things which your heavenly Father takes into His own hands. There are some keys which He never takes off His own girdle and puts into the possession of cherub, seraph, or man, seeing that you are beaten at every point, and thrown back hopelessly in many of your endeavours. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."
III. Which of you by taking thought can discover a plan for redeeming and saving the soul? This is a subject on which we have expended thought. Still there is unrest in our souls; there is bitterness in our chief joy. If you cannot add one cubit unto your stature, how can you save the world?
IV. This great fact of the Divine limitation of human power is to rule us in the deepest of our studies and in the profoundest of our worship. If we lay hold of this truth, and have a clear, deep, tender conviction of it, three great effects ought to be produced upon our life: (1) it should foster the most loving and confident trust in the goodness of God; (2) it should moderate our tone respecting opinions which are not decisively settled by revelation; (3) this truth should encourage us to cultivate with fuller patience and intenser zeal the powers which we know to be capable of expansion.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 297.
Carefulness of a certain kind is not only allowed; it is required. But anxiety is forbidden. Due care is a moderate amount of thought. Anxiety is that immoderate degree of thought about anything which distracts the mind and disquiets the heart. Due care assists effort, making the eye single, the hand steady, the foot firm. Anxiety embarrasses exertion, making the eye evil, the hand tremulous, the foot feeble.
I. Anxiety is evidently useless about things not under our own control. The duration of life is one of these things. Anxiety may abbreviate, and certainly it does embitter life, but it never can prolong it. Health and disease are other things in connection with which anxiety is useless. Anxiety brings disease and cherishes it, instead of preventing and checking it. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?"
II. Anxiety is useless in matters under our own management. Now, it is God's ordinance that we should earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, and the most honourable men are those who have to do it and who do it. Now, anxiety will not furnish opportunity of earning bread or arm us with power. Anxiety never opened a port, or brought a foreign order, or improved the money market, or filled and ripened an ear of corn.
III. The utility of anxiety is nowhere apparent. It does not attract to us the notice of God. It does not induce God to care for us. He cares for us irrespective of our carefulness. Moreover, there is no promise made to anxiety. There are great promises made to diligence, to prudence, to faith, to hope, to trust—especially to trust; but there is not one to an anxious mind. Anxiety is dealt with as a moral disease.
IV. The strongest possible proof that there is no advantage in anxiety is found in the fact that Jesus bids you get rid of it. He never tells us to part with anything that is worth keeping. Cast it off, then, and get rid of it. "Casting all your care on Him, for He careth for you."
S. Martin, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 318.
References: Matthew 6:27.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 168; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 164; J. Keble, Sermons' for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 74.
Matthew 6:28I. Consider the lilies—and identify little things with God's care. Can you make a lily? You cannot make a sun; can you make one drop of dew? God writes minutely as well as largely. He writes the great letters of the stars; He writes also the small letters of the violets and daisies.
II. Consider the lilies—and see the superiority of the natural over the artificial. Let the glorious dress of the king represent the artificial. God makes the original; man makes the copy. For all originality—mental and moral, as well as physical—we must go to the Father.
III. Consider the lilies—and look on things beneath, as well as on things above. Look for God when thou lookest at the dust. The dust is alive with the life of God.
IV. Consider the lilies—and have faith in your Father. Think of God clothing the grass and forgetting the child! It is impossible. Let a lily detach itself from its root, and it must perish. So with man. Let him cut himself off from God, and he will become as a withered and driven leaf.
Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 366.
I. The first thought in the sermon of the lilies is a lesson of trust—confidence in God, repose, rest in Him. "O man!" they seem to say, "think of us; our life is very brief, but what beauty is bestowed upon us, for we are, every one of us, a thought of God! We die so speedily, and yet God cares for us: ye are much better than we. Consider how many things had to meet together to make a lily beautiful, and the thing of joy it is for ever! Consider how we grow: we are not careworn as you are; wrinkles do not fret our fair leaves; our heavenly Father feeds us with earth from beneath and moisture from above.
II. Consider how they grow. Consider, (1) how miraculously they grow. Surely if anywhere we have the handwriting of God, it is here! This growth is no new life; it is only that daily change which is development. If any one professed himself unable to see a God I would point him to a flower; I would say, Consider the lilies. (2) Consider with what beauty and loveliness they grow. They show the obviousness of inner beauty; it is all very calm and sweet and quiet—all from within; they attract to themselves essences and helps from the whole earth, but they must be in harmony with the proper spirit of the plant. (3) Consider by what improbable auxiliaries they grow; consider by what a hidden life they grow. Is it not strange that such purity should spring from the black earth—strange that such whiteness should shoot up from the soiled ground? It is a mighty miracle, and it is ever going on. (4) Consider how yieldingly and complyingly they grow. (5) Consider to what Divine uses they grow. They have no use to the sense—only to the heart.
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 33.
References: Matthew 6:28.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 278; A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 357; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 137, vol. xx., p. 14; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 149; New Outlines of Sermons on the New Testament, p. 7; Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 183; A. J. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 182; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 129; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Hurstmonceux Church, vol. ii., p. 443; J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 76.
Matthew 6:28-29I. The lilies of the field, as God's workmanship, reveal the Fountain of life and being. Flowers show nothing of boundless might and of high wisdom, but they do reveal the calm beauteousness of the Source whence all living things flow.
II. The lilies of the field embody and express Divine conceptions—thoughts of God. The image of every flower was in the mind of the Creator before creation. He designed the lilies of the field and the glorious company of their kindred.
III. The lilies of the field are God's workmanship. In the fine arts the conceiver is the worker. In other departments one designs and plans, and others execute. Flowers are the work of God's fingers.
IV. The lilies of the field are God's care. This is not manifest to the eye of the body. No man, like Adam, has seen or heard the Lord God in any garden. In the providential sense there are no wild flowers. There are children without father and mother, or with evil fathers and mothers, but there are no flowers without Divine care.
V. The lilies of the field exhibit God's bountifulness. All flowers, alike of the field and of the garden, render some ordinary service—are of some use. They furnish food, medicine, clothing, shelter, to innumerable living things. But are they not created, in part at least, to be pleasant to the eye? Surely they are made to be things of beauty and sources of joy.
VI. The lilies of the field are propagated and developed by the working of various natural laws. There is a tendency in some minds to look only on the hard and rigorous side of law. But law is good. The moral law of God obeyed will bring forth nothing but love.
VII. The lilies of the field are parts of a perfect whole.
VIII. The lilies of the field show us a sense of beauty in the nature of God, and a satisfaction in its expression.
IX. The lilies of the field are what they are through various affinities and relationships. They are the children of the sun, of the rain, of the dew, and of the air. In this condition of floral life we see one of the conditions of our own existence.
X. The lilies of the field are supposed to find in the nature of man that which will respond to their attractiveness.
XI. The lilies may teach us freedom from care, and from morbid self-consciousness.
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 28.
I. We know that at the creation of the world "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." Some of the works, then, of the visible creation were good because they were useful and necessary, and because the life of man could not be supported without them; others were good because they were full of beauty, and, as objects for the eye, imparted the greatest pleasure and delight to beings who were endowed with reason, and who were gifted with the perceptions whereby they could discern this beauty. It is of these latter objects of nature that our Lord speaks on the occasion mentioned in the text. We ought then to be able to rejoice in those parts of the creation which were designed especially to give us delight. The admiration of God's natural creation is not an earthly, but an exalted and a pure delight. It is a joy fit for spiritual beings, who are admitted to the knowledge of God and the adoration of His goodness and glory.
II. The lower kind of pleasure, which thoughtless and unreflecting people sometimes derive from the beauties of visible nature, is not accompanied by any thought about the human soul itself, which is the perceiver of it; it does not bring up any solemn thought about themselves as thus admitted to this insight into Divine order and beauty. The proper delight in visible nature sends men to the thought of themselves and their own souls. And this is the very direction taken in our Lord's observations upon nature as given in the text. He immediately goes from external nature to the human soul; He reminds us how precious a thing the human soul is, how high its rank is in God's sight, how vast its interests are, how glorious its prospects. "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" This is the lesson in which His discourse upon nature ends—the great truth of the worth and value of the human soul; its great superiority above all other things in this world; the supremacy it holds in the created universe.
J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 151.
Consider the lilies. There is ample opportunity to do so. Flowers stay with us, rooted in the earth. Consider; that is, think of this beauty, see what you make of it. The word itself indicates at once the great stress laid by our Lord on the teachings of nature. Our text has two sides: a negative and a positive—what the plant does not, what it does.
I. Negative: "They toil not, neither do they spin," etc. (1) Here is a wonderful and beautiful effect, without care or anxious toil. (2) The lilies do not attempt what is impossible. They do what they can; they were never made to toil or spin; yet wait a few months, and a blossom is quietly matured that all the striving and curious ingenuity of man can, at the best, but distantly imitate.
II. Consider the lilies, how they grow. (1) Growth, for the most part, is secret; it is work done at the heart of things—work within, and not on the outside. (2) Growth is an unfolding. As the beauty of the flower is unfolded by the creating spirit from within, so all true beauty of heart, moral and spiritual beauty, so all real adornment of human nature, must unfold by the same almighty power from within.
G. Walker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 166.
References: Matthew 6:28, Matthew 6:29.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 37; E. R. Conder, Drops and Rocks, p. 199. Matthew 6:30.—H. P. Liddon, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 11.
Matthew 6:31-32I. There is a kind of low-toned care which is heard, as it were, in the distance, surging and moaning as it breaks upon the shore of human life; and many a man's music is this melancholy dirge or undertone of human life. Those that have it not are often called children of levity, and those that have it are often called serious, sober, earnest, religious people. Now, our Master tells us that this particular form of mental activity is useless—that nothing good ever comes of it. He who works in a spirit of fear and solicitude and anxiety doubles and trebles the laboriousness of labour.
II. Not only does this spirit of reprehensible care make the burdens of life heavier and the experiences of life sadder, but it converts one of the most joy-inspiring of our faculties into a minister of misery. The element of faith, that which we call imagination, the peculiar constitution of the understanding by which it brings home to itself things invisible, that power of the mind by which the whole of our life is largely opened into the future—this is perverted by care.
III. Then another ill-effect is that it takes away good-nature. Good-nature is the generic form which is produced by all the Christian graces. As light is white, although it is made up of all the other coloured rays, so I think hope and love and joy and peace, mingled together, make good-nature. A man who has good health and good-nature, and is a good man through and through, asks no favours of fortune and asks none of God; he asks only that he may be grateful to God for such blessings. And there is nothing that pecks at a fair life, and scratches its brilliant surface and undermines it, sooner than this anxious care. It is a sort of south-east wind of the soul, that does not rain, but chills everything.
IV. No craven-hearted man was ever fit to be a citizen. Courage is the source of patriotism. In looking upon the commonwealth, believe in providence, believe in God, believe in the blessedness of the future.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 252.
Reference: Matthew 6:31-33.—C. Kingsley, Sermons for the Times, p. 203.
Matthew 6:32I. In every suffering of body or mind the eternal God knows and measures most exactly our afflictions, be they what they may, great or small. The doctrine was known of old to the Psalmist, and was evidently a great and solid comfort to him. But it was most expressly declared by our Saviour Christ Himself: "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." As much as to say, It is not that God is ignorant of man's distresses, or that, knowing them, He is indifferent about them; but He has good reasons for sending such and such afflictions on such and such persons. If they are truly wise, they will take them, as sent by Him, with constancy, penitence, and hope; if vain and self-willed, they will fret and disturb themselves with useless anxieties, and be in the end nothing the better for what their compassionate Father meant to be of the greatest good to them.
II. But it will be said, If God sees His faithful servants in affliction, and knows what things they have need of, why does not He, the Father of mercy, listen to their supplications and supply their wants? To this what can we answer? Can we say any of us that we are faithful servants—so faithful as to deserve His blessings, so diligent as not to deserve His chastisements? Can any of us venture to say this of ourselves? Besides, we do not know what reasons God may have for afflicting us. Some of these reasons may be plain to a considerate person, but there may be others beyond our reach.
III. Let us bear in mind that we are not placed in the world to enjoy ourselves, but to be exercised and disciplined in order to our admission to a world of real enjoyment, lasting happiness, eternal rest. Let our life be a life of prayer, of constant aspirations after the aid of the Holy Spirit, without which we cannot but fall, without which we have no strength.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 109.
Anxiety must be a sin. And it must be a sin very deep in the heart. So large a portion of the Sermon on the Mount would never have been directed against anxiety, and so many arguments would not have been heaped up, if the sin were not very large and its grasp very wide.
I. Anxiety does two things. (1) It makes you unhappy, and unhappiness is not a matter for pity, it is a matter for blame. For whoever is unhappy and disquieted is, in so far, unfitted for the duties of life—he can do nothing as he ought to do. And, as far as he is concerned, he is frustrating the purposes of Almighty God, for the design of God was a happy creation. (2) Every shade of anxiety which passes over a man's mind is a positive wrong done to God,—it distrusts Him; it sets aside one of His attributes, it gives the lie to one of His promises.
II. The whole stress of Christ's argument rests on the fatherly character of God. We live in our great Father's house, and may look on all the treasures in His creation; we may go up and down in the immensity of the universe; we may travel for ever and ever among the promises; we may survey all the bounties of the vast profusion of God's grace in Christ Jesus,—and they are all for the children. You may read it written on all the host of them, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."
III. Remember, that you may expect God to supply your wants as bountifully as He supplies the birds—but on the same condition. The birds work from morning to night; they have not a grain but they have sought it, and sought it with patient labour. But if you do this, and still the untrodden path of your future life looks dark, and every tomorrow wraps itself in a thick cloud, do not be afraid, only believe. The same act which made you a child of God pledged Him, as your heavenly Father, to supply all you want for body and soul.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 169.
Reference: Matthew 6:32, Matthew 6:33.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 93.
Matthew 6:33Prosperity shall follow true piety. When it is said "Seek first" it means first in both senses of the term—first in time, and first in emphasis. The intensity is on both of them combined. Aim mainly at the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the proper ends which you seek in this world shall be added to you—that is the statement.
I. Now, what is this righteousness? What is this kingdom? The Old Testament is full of the doctrine of righteousness; and nowhere in the New Testament is that doctrine, as it is enunciated in the Old Testament, rebuked. The methods of seeking after gain are there criticized, but the ideal of manliness in body, in affection, in soul, in understanding, as it was held by the riper minds of the Old Testament dispensation—manliness as the effect of striving for God's Spirit with our natural faculties—that ideal of the Old Testament not only never was rebuked, but was adopted by the New Testament. He who, as first in importance, as first in his purpose, and as first in time, seeks to establish in himself a true Christian manliness, giving it the precedence from the beginning of his life clear down to the end, shall have all these other things added to him.
II. True piety, moderation of desire, restraint of appetite, and the unfolding of these sweeter affections which are developed by faith and the love of God, tends, (1) to make true health, which is the primitive, original, first element of success in life; (2) true piety, with its control over the passions, whereby it holds them in and harnesses them, prevents the waste which destroys men who give themselves the swing of full indulgence in passion. (3) The element of success in life is largely founded on good judgment, good "common sense." True piety tends to give this. (4) There is another element in the success of life—justice. Men that are just are always men who have a considerable regard for the rights of other people, and are sensitive to them. The man who keeps about him a clear atmosphere of benevolence, and lives in the true spirit of the Gospel, which says, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," and is concerned for the prosperity of those who are round about him, and is not swallowed up by his own prosperity—he is gradually being prepared for success in life.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 164.
The whole thought hinges upon a point of order. Indeed, all religion, practically, is a point of order. The Christian places heaven first, and this world in a very distant second. To the man of secular mind this world is always large in the foreground; while the life to come is far-off, dim, and unreal in the distance.
I. The important word in the text is "first." For if we set aside the very ungodly, there are very few who do not seek, or who do not at some time or other mean to seek, the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He who knew the heart as none other ever knew it, He saw the necessity of this precept. And the reason of all the disappointment and all the unhappiness which there is in this world is, that that great precept of order is not kept.
II. The kingdom of God is an empire with three provinces. One province is a man's own heart, when the throne of Christ is once really set up in it; another province is the Church, as it is set up on earth; and another is that final and magnificent condition of all things when Christ shall come and reign in His glory. There are, then, before every one, these three primary objects: the first is to have the whole of his heart in subjugation to God; the second is to extend the Church; and the third is to long, and pray for, and help on the Second Advent. To strive after these things is to seek the kingdom of God.
III. What is God's righteousness? There is a righteousness such as that in which man was originally made upright—a righteousness which consists in the due sense and performance of all the relative duties which we owe to God, to ourselves, and to our fellow-creatures. There is a righteousness which is a part of the character of God, whereby it is now become a just thing with God to save those for whom Jesus died. And there is a righteousness composed of all the perfections of the life of Christ, which is given to every one that believes. This triple righteousness is what every good man is seeking after. First, something which will justify him before God, and then something which will justify him to his own conscience and to the world in believing that he is justified before God.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 286.
References: Matthew 6:33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1864; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 402; vol. viii., p. 64; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 388; J. M. Wilson, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 113; F. O. Morris, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 188; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,959; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. i., p. 283; J. Martineau, Hours of Thoughts, vol. i., p. 17.
Matthew 6:34I. In considering this text the question naturally arises, Is not the Christian character essentially a provident one? Is it not the very nature of the new life which is within us, that, taking all its interests and affections out of the present, as it passes, it throws them on to that which is coming, and always is living in the future? All this is perfectly true; and perhaps the very habit of a Christian's mind in looking always onwards has a tendency to make his temperament anxious. Every duty has its dangers; every height has its precipice; every light has its shadow. But this is true only of an early and imperfect religion. As a believer grows, his tomorrow becomes more and more eternity. So it comes to pass that the very forethought of the Christian, which becomes the law and condition of his being, turns into the remedy for every unhappy disposition, and he takes no thought for the morrow, being engrossed in the thought of that never-ending eternity which lies before him.
II. Consider the benefit of living by the day. (1) As respects our pleasures. Just as snow-clad mountains in the distance give a distinctness to the nearer prospect, so every child of God knows well how the joy is heightened by the privilege of not having to dilute it by anxiety for any future good. (2) As respects our pains. It is the sorrow and the pain which are coming which are so hard to bear. The unknown and the undefined are always the largest weights; and in the same proportion suspense is always the greatest of evils. So that he has well-nigh found a panacea who has thoroughly imbued his mind with the truth of the text. It will be a sweet, a prevailing argument with God, every moment—"O Lord, think of me this day; for this is that tomorrow of which Thou didst command me not to think." And as you do this the yesterdays will become memory's witnesses to God's mind, and the tomorrows will be fields for faith's peaceful exercise.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 221.
I. There are two classes of persons who take no thought for the morrow. There are those who live heedlessly and giddily, absorbed in each new fancy or pleasure as it passes, without any definite aim or aspiration, and only free from anxiety because they are free from all serious thoughts whatever. There are also those who are careless for the morrow, because they are careful for today. They have a firm trust in God. They believe that every day is His, and that their powers are His, and that if every moment as it comes is given to Him, He will provide for the future. The first class may be said to be below anxiety, the second to be above it. It is very important to ask ourselves whether we are not in the first of these two classes. May it not be that even the reproofs, even the warnings and cautions of Christ presuppose a degree of strength to which we have not yet attained? Can it be that the words of the text speak with a certain irony to some of us?
II. Christ was speaking mainly to poor men. They were anxious, as the poor always are, about very simple things. They were anxious about food and clothing for themselves and for their families. Christ addressed Himself to the special needs of those He saw before Him. How does He address Himself to ours? The principle of His admonition is, "Do not be anxious about the future. One thing is needful. Trust your Father in heaven to send you all other things." To those who fear they will not be able to hold out either in diligence or goodness, Christ says, "Take no thought for the morrow." Do right today. Make one thing clearly your first object. Seek to know and to do God's will, and then all other good things will be added unto you. Best of all good things, greater spiritual strength, a more habitual consciousness of Christ's presence, a truer delight in feeling, "I am His and He is mine;" a growing power of confessing Him before others, a growing impossibility of denying Him in anywise.
III. If we dream of what we shall do tomorrow, we shall do nothing today. We have read of sieges in which resistance was protracted day after day and week after week, with apparently scarcely a possibility of ultimate success. If we question the defenders, they tell us that they looked forward very little. The duties of each day, the hope of being able to know at the close of each evening "The city is still ours," were sufficiently absorbing, and did not allow the mind to be unnerved by the contemplation of the extreme improbability of final escape. If our warfare is to end triumphantly, if we are to hold out against temptation till relief comes, we must take counsel of this sober short-sightedness—this wise refusal to anticipate evil. "Give us this day our daily bread." Let this be our prayer for all wants of the body. "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin." Let this be our simple prayer for all wants of the soul.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 108.
I. It is most obvious that in these words Christ could not have meant to say, "Live only in the present; be forgetful of the future." His precepts direct men to think of the future. The whole tendency of Christianity is to produce the deepest thoughtfulness for the morrow, for its spirit prompts men to stand ever "with their loins girt and their lights burning"—ready alike for the coming trials of life and the change of death. It is evidently of the evil of the future that Christ is speaking, and, therefore, it is the anxious restlessness which springs from fear of that evil which He condemns. Regarding the words in this light, they present to us the Christian law of living: "Do the day's work God gives you, bear the day's burden God sends you, and be not anxious about the evil which the morrow may bring."
II. In showing that this is both possible and necessary for the Christian man, we must regard this injunction as Christ here regards it, as flowing from faith. Faith may rise in three different ways, each of which seems to give it a different aspect. It may be intuitive, reflective, or submissive. In our hopeful moments it rises from the intuition of love; in our thoughtful hours it is the offspring of intellectual reflection, and when depressed and sorrowful it is the profound outgoing of trust in One who is stronger than we. (1) The highest faith is that which rises from the intuition of love, and the essential feature of such faith is this—that it thinks not of the future, but grasps eternity as a present reality. The necessary result of such faith is a defiance of life's evils, for the love of God, when realized in Christ, dares all futurity, and angels, and principalities, and powers to sunder it from God. It prevents our taking thought for the morrow. (2) Again, faith rises from reflection on the revelation of God. Is it possible that faith in a Father can exist with an anxious care for the morrow which makes the work of today restless and confused? The mighty calmness of nature shames our restlessness into repose. We cannot trace the Father in the glory of His universe, and yet disbelieve in the provision of His care for us. (3) Once more, faith rises from the conscious feebleness of man. Times of childlike trust and submission, arising from a sense of infirmity, help to the fulfilment of Christ's injunction, "Take no thought for the morrow." For the more powerfully we are conscious of our ignorance and helplessness, the more utterly can we leave the future in God's hands.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 52.
On a Particular Providence.
I. Perhaps one of the most important uses of the Old Testament is, that it points out to us how clearly what the world calls chance is to be attributed to providential interposition. The veil is uplifted, and the finger of God is seen. It is true, indeed, that the word chance is used in Scripture, as in Ecclesiastes 9:11.; but there it is used to denote, not what infidels mean when they speak of chance, but merely such accidents as have occurred contrary to the expectations and designs of men God Himself being mediately or immediately the cause.
II. The doctrine of a special providence lies between two extremes, as all truth does; between the system which denies to man any power, and that which refuses to recognize the occasional interference of the Deity.
III. Only let us from the heart believe in the special providence of God, and then no notion of expediency will induce us, in any single instance, to do evil that good may come; or, which is a greater trial, to fear to do good lest evil should ensue. The true Christian, strong in the faith of God's special providence, and he only, is the really consistent man, whom neither the frown of the tyrant, nor the preferments of the powerful, nor the flattery of the crafty can drive or allure from the narrow path; who can alike defy lawless power and public opinion—that is, the opinion of the thoughtless many, as opposed to the truth possessed by the thoughtful few; he only can resolutely oppose the spirit of the age, when the spirit of the age is not in accordance with the Spirit of God.
IV. See the influence of the doctrine of a special providence on the duty of prayer. If we believe that God does sometimes interfere and interpose, under circumstances apparently the most trivial, we shall most assuredly pray to God, whenever we have any object at heart, that by His good providence our exertions may be rendered successful; we shall feel that whatever is worthy of our labour is worthy of our prayers; and prayer will thus sanctify our actions, while our energy of action will give incitement to our prayers.
W. F. Hook, Sermons on Various Subjects, p. 25.
I. Christ's thought in the text, as I imagine it, is this: As the birds and the flowers, in a sort of necessary way, keep the laws of their nature, under the kindly care of their Father, all their wants are met; they sing and feed, they bloom and live out their brief lives in glad perfection. But the secret of it lies in their unconscious obedience to the laws of their being; it is in obedience that the watchful care of God is realized. Hence, when Christ comes to apply the matter to men, He introduces the condition. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and food and drink and raiment will follow. He by no means says, Live as careless as a bird; but rather, Be as true to your law of righteousness as a bird is to the law of its condition, and you may be as free from anxiety.
II. Christ does not here hold us back from forethought and care, and even a sort of anxiety. Seek, He says, first and always; and no seeking, no search, worthy of the name, can be made without care. The matter turns, then, on the thing that is to engage our thought and care. Not meat and drink and raiment; not the things the Gentiles seek after. Let your search be after righteousness. Put your solicitude, your careful thought, your strife, where they belong—in the realm of righteous obedience—and there will be no occasion for anxiety elsewhere.
III. Christ takes pains to tell us why and how we may trust. His reasons are as solid as the world, as sure as the process of nature, as true as God Himself. (1) We are put into the sure order of nature, and this order is one of supply of wants. (2) We are put under a law of righteousness, and this law also works towards a supply of wants. (a) A righteous man, by the habit and law of his being, sows seed for the bread of tomorrow. (b) Righteousness puts a man into such relations to his fellowmen that it builds for him houses of habitation for all his mortal years.
IV. Why does Christ in this inaugural discourse devote so much time to such a matter as anxiety—a thing that hardly comes within the range of morals? He treated it as a matter of great importance: (1) because it is a source of great unhappiness; (2) to create an atmosphere of peace about the soul.
T. T. Munger, The Appeal to Life, p. 149.
In regard to the future, there are two wrong feelings which we are apt to cherish. There is the feeling of over-confidence, the feeling which results in what the old proverb warns us against, "boasting one's self of the morrow." And there is the opposite extreme—the feeling of anxiety, of distrust, of fear, which shows itself in dark forebodings of the future. It is this second extreme our Lord admonishes us to avoid.
I. There is the testimony of life. However trying your circumstances may be, your life is a witness that you are not forsaken by God. Next to Christ, life is the supreme gift of the Creator. And it is life pre-eminently which announces His presence.
II. Whatever your circumstances may be, the minutest of them is under the power of God. Our Lord introduces us to the blessed fact that no creature is unimportant in His sight. "Behold the fowls of the air," He says: for "they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them." God's providence is indeed broad and universal in its plans, and it does work in great tracts and circles of toil; but it finds room and time to visit the nest and supply the table of every sparrow that chirps upon the hedge. Hear the gospel of the birds.
III. Whatever sorrow or distress there may be in your lot, God is abler to help than you yourself are, and His way of helping is better than your own. Do not doubt the power, or the pity, or the care of God. And do not cherish the evil thought that your own ordering of your affairs would be better. He who crowns the lily with its glory can supply you, if you will patiently wait for it at His hands, with a blessedness which can never be taken away.
IV. He who best knows the reality, who came down from heaven to tell us what is in God, gave us the assurance of a Father. God is our Father, and we are bound to trust Him with the trustfulness of a child, and we are free to expect from Him a child's inheritance.
V. Be not, then, wistful about the future; be not filled with anxieties about the morrow. If you have made this loving God your soul's dwelling-place, no evil can come near you. "The young lions may lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing."
A. Macleod, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 119.
To accept this saying as a rule of life makes life easier, and it makes work for others surer, wiser, better, and more joyous.
I. Put your whole force into the work of today, not troubling about the next day. If you do that, you will not at least be troubled by the anxieties about work which ought to have been done in the past, and you will be free from all back trouble when the morrow comes. And if it is duty you do, it will arrange itself rightly in the world, for others and for you. It is true you may fail, but God will not allow our failure to bring ruin to the cause of man, though it may spoil our own life for a time. But even then there is so much time before us that we need not despair. In kindlier weather, in a brighter world, we may repair the past, resume the half-written life, re-knit the broken web, accomplish the love which duty here forbade. For we abide for ever, and we have a Father who will not let us fail for ever.
II. It is plain that when Christ said, "Take no thought for the morrow," He did not mean that to embrace the whole of life, or of His teaching on the subject. He did not mean, do not work in the present for the future, but do not spoil your work in the present by over-care for a future not in your own hands; He did not mean, do not look forward for yourself, nor consider how your acts now will bear on time to come; but He did mean, do not let anxiety, care for meat and drink and the visible things of life, so crowd and disturb your mind that you cannot give that free, wise, sober, unfearful consideration to the education of yourself, your children, your nation, and mankind that is most noble in a man. He did not mean, think only of yourself and your joy, but have your view so free from self-trouble that you may think for others, your life so full of joyous freedom that you may be able to act with unfettered energy for others.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 68.
References: Matthew 6:34.—T. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 195; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 244; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 193; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 367; C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. ii., p. 325; C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day and Other Sermons, p. 365; Ibid., The Good News of God, p. 276; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. i., p. 265. Matthew 6:34.—J. Vaughan, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 11.
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.