« PreviousContinue »
bly take, you may not prolong your lives one moment beyond the period assigned it in the divine decree. 28. And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow;
* they toil not, neither do they spin. By the lilies of the field, our Lord understood the flowers of the meadows in general; for in the following verse he calls them the grass of the field. He mentions the flowers, because they are made not so much for use as for beauty, in which light his argument is the stronger. 29. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Solomon, when in the height of his prosperity he was dressed in his most magnificent apparel, was but poorly arrayed in comparison of the flowers of the field, whose beautiful forms, lively colours, and fragrant smells, far exceed the most perfect productions of art. He mentions Solomon rather than any other prince, because in wealth, and power, and wisdom, which are the instruments of magnificence and splendour, he excelled all the kings that had been before him, or were to come after him. 30. Wherefore, if God se 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? If an inanimate thing, so trifling in its nature ad uncertain in its duration, is thus beautifully adorned, will not God take care to clothe you, are more valuable as ye are men endowed with reason, but espe
rime. Among the heathens, the expression took its rise from their allegorical fable of the thread of lise, which the Parcæ or Fates spun out for every nian, and which they no sooner cut, than the person for whom it was designed died. Taken in this light, a subit, added to the thread of one's life, will siguity the shortest duration imaginable. Yet it is not certain that the Jews borrowed this way of speaking from the hea: hens; for in the Old Testament we find the life of man compared to measures of length, a band-breadıl, and a spar. This interpretation of Haixia is confirmed by Luke. For in the parallel passage, he calls the adding of a cubit, that wbich is least, the thing is which the interposition of the divine providence least appears, as it really is, if you understand it of the addition of a single moment to the length of one's life. Whereas, applied to a man's stature, the addition of a cubit is a very great matter, Luke xii. 23. And svbich of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature (age). 26. If ye then be not able to do ibe obing which is least, wby take ye thought for the rest? Why are ye anxiousiy solicitous (reegiperets) about things moch more difficul, and therefore much more out of your power.
Ver. 28. They toil not.] 8XOTIC, this word denotes rural labrur, 2 Tim. ü 6. and therefore is beautifully used in a discourse of clotbing, the materials of which are produced by agriculture.
+ Ver. 30 And to-morrow is cast into the oven.] Knieavey is interpreted by some a still for distilling herbs: but there is no reason to alter the translatior, since it appears from Mart. xiii. 10. that they used some kinds of vegetable substances for fuel, particularly tures, which, if they were annuals, might be sufficiently dry for immediate use by the time they were cut down, as the herb of the field is here said to be. Or to-morrow in the text, may mean not the day immediately after the herbs are cut down, but any time soon after, (see the Paraphrase on ver. 34. in the following page), the expression being proverbial, and easily adinitting of this signification.
In no part
cially as ye are my servants and friends ? He calls them who distrust the providence of God (oroso1501) men of little faith, yet it does not follow from hence, that it is an exercise of faith to sit with our arms foided, expecting support from the divine providence without any action of our own. But after having done what prudence directs for providing the necessaries of life, we ought to trust in God, believing that he will make our labours effectual by his blessing. 31. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? (32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.) It was the general character of the heathens, that they prayed to their gods, and laboured themselves for no blessings but the temporal ones here mentioned, as is plain from the tenth Sat. of Juvenal; and that because they were in a great measure ignorant of God's goodness, had erred fundamentally in their no. tions of religion, and had no certain hope of a future state. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
of this discourse does Jesus call God the father of the fowls, but he calls him our Father, to make us sensible that men stand in a much nearer relation to God than the brute crea. tion does, and consequently that we may justly expect much greater expressions of his love. Farther, there is a noble antithesis in this passage. Christ sets God's knowledge of our wants in opposition to the anxiety of the heathens about having them supplied, to intimate that the one is much more effectual for that purpose than the other.
33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unts you : Let it be your chief aim to obtain the happiness of the life to come; and in order thereto, make it your principal care to acquire that universal goodness which God possesses, which he sets you a pattern of, which he has declared he will accept, and which is necessary to your enj wyment of him in heaven. For these are objects far more worthy of your attention than the perishing goods of this life. Besides, if you seek the kingdom of God first and principally, all things pertaining to this life shall in the course of the divine Providence be bestowed on you, as far as they contribute to your real welfare ; and more you would not desire.34. Take therefore no thought for the morrow.
In the Hebrew idiom, to-morrow signifies futurity. Thus the word is used, Gen. xxx. 33. Since the extent and efficacy of the divine providence is so great, and since you are the objects of its peculiar care, you need not vex yourselves about futurity :-for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself; or rather, according to the Hebrew idiom, shall make you take thought for the things of itself, viz. in a proper time; it being sufficient that you provide the necessaries of life for yourselves as they are wanted. Besides,—sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Every time has abundant necessary troubles of its own; so that it is foolish to increase presene distresses by anticipating those that are to come, es. pecially as by that anticipation it is not in your power to prevent any future evil *.
Having thus condemned covetousness, Jesus proceeded in his discourse, and forbade all rash and unfavourable judgments
, whether of the characters of others in general, or of their actions in particular. Matt. vii. 1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. Be not censorious, lest you make both God and man your enemies. Luke, in the parallel passage, ch. vi. 37. adds, Condemn not, and у?
shall not be condemned. From this it is plain, that the judge ing which Jesus reproves in the present passage, comprehends not only that restless curiosity of prying into the character and actions of others, which is so prevalent among men ; but that proneness to condemn them upon the most superficial enquiry, which men discover always in proportion to their own wickedness.-Accordingly it is added, 2. For with what judgment you judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. If you judge charitably, making proper allowances for the frailties of your brethren, and are ready to pity and pardon their faults, God and man will deal with you in the same kind manner. But if you always put the worst construction on every thing that it will bear, and are not touched with a feeling of your brother's infirmities, and shew no mercy in the opinions you form of his character and actions, no mercy will be shewed to you from any quarter ; God will treat you as you deserve, in the just judgment he shall pass upon your actions, and the world will be sure to retaliate the injury. Our Lord does not forbid judging in general, but rash and uncharitable judging of such actions and characters as can easily admit of a favourable interpretation.-Last of all, he pressed self-reformaVOL. I. 30
Wi regard to providence it may be remarked, that though God can produce by an immediate act, whatever he accomplishes hy the intervention of sex cond causes, for instance, can make heat without the sun, can communicate fruitfulness to the earth without heat, can furnish food to men without the fruitfulness of the earth, nay, can sustain life without food, yet he does all things by a series or concatenation of causes, in each of which there is as much wisdom and power displayed, as would have appeared had the end been effected by an immediate ace. This plan is the most gracious that possibly could be, for the mapi. festations of the divine perfections are greacly multiplied thereby, and a providence formed in such a manner as to be not only the subject of human contemplation, but the foundation of our trust in God, and the grand incitement by which we are engaged to seek his favour, who thus by a variety of means makes himself known as the chief good in every part of the universe. Covetousness, therefore, and worldly-mindedress, with all the other voices which derive their strength, whether from an absolute disbelief of the perfections of God, or from wrong not:ons of them, are by this conscicucion of things as effccrually destroyed as the nam ture of moral government will perniit.
tion upon them, as absolutely necessary in those, whose office it is to reprove and reform others. 3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Nothing can be more unreasonable than to observe and condemn the faults of your brethren, while you yourselves are guilty of the same. Or though you should be free from them, to remonstrate against them is absurd, if you are contaminated with worse pollutions.—4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye, and behold a beam is in thine own eye? With what countenance can you
undertake to reprove others, while you are guilty of much greater faults yourselves, and neither are sensible of them, nor have the integrity to amend them.--5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.. As by the cye we judge of things relating to the body, so by the understanding we judge of things pertaining to the soul. You may therefore lay down this as fixed and certain, that the more exalted your own virtue is, the better will you be able to judge of your brother's faults, and the better qualified, both in point of skill and authority, to reclaim him. Your judgment of his character and actions will be so much the more charitable, and for that reason so much the more just ; your rebukes will be so much the more mild, prudent, and winning; and your authority to press a reformation upon him so much the more weighty. How happy would the world be, if all who teach the Christian religion, would conscientiously observe the precept given them here by their Master!
These are the several branches of the righteousness which the reformers of mankind ought to practise ; yet to render their labours successful, there must be in mankind a willingness to receive instruction ; if that is wanting, it is needless to attempt reclaiming them. Wherefore, our Lord added, 6. Give net that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you. Do not reprove persons of a snarling or sottish disposition, because the effect which advice has upon such, is generally bad. They will be provoked by it to do you a mischief, or at least will despise both you and your admonition. Persons of this kind will not be instructed, far less will they receive a direct rebuke. You may warn others against them, you may weep over them, and you may pray for them, but you cannot reprove them with success or safety; for which cause they are by all means to be avoided.
But lest the disciples should have imagined that his precepts were above the reach of human attainment, he directed them to seek from God the aids of his Spirit, with all the other blessings necessary to their salvation. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you-Withal, he encouraged them to pray for these things with earnestness and perseverance *, from the consideration of the divine goodness, the blessed operations of which attribute, he illustrated by what proceedeth from the feeble goodness of men. 8. For every one that asketh, viz. from God, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ? Will he deny him the necessary food that he asks, or give him in its stead something useless or hurtful ?—The words (Tos os upewr) which of you, are emphatical, giving great strength to our Lord's argument. If, said he, the wickedest wretches among yourselves, the most peevish, weak, and ill natured of you all, will readily give good gifts to your children when they cry for them, how much rather will the great God, infinite in goodness, bestow blessings on his children, who endeavour to resemble him in his perfections, and for that end ask the assistance of his holy Spirit ? 11. If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things (Luke xi. 13. the holy Spirit) to them that ask him ?--And because he was referring them to what passed within themselves, he took occasion to ingraft upon those feelings the noblest precept of morality that ever was delivered by any teacher. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do
do ye even so to them. Look inward, and consider what sentiment the doing or not doing to others the things about which you deliberate, would raise in you towards them, were you in their situation and they in yours; think seriously what you would in these circumstances approve of as just and equitable, and what you would think yourselves entitled to demand. Consult, I say, with your own hearts, and on all occasions do to others as you would be done to. This rule has a peculiar advantage above all other rules of morality whatever. For by making the selfish passions operate in behalf of others, it altogether changes the in, fluence of their suggestions. And so these passions, instead of prejudicing us, and rendering us blind to the rights and interests of others, become so many powerful advocates in their favour. Our self-love thus changes its object for a little, and presents to our view every humane sentiment that can be urged in behalf of our neighbour. Properly speaking, therefore, this is not so much a rule of action, as a method both of preparing our understandings for the impartial discernment, and of disposing our hearts unto the sincere approbation of what is just and honourable in 3 0 2
See on Luke xviii. 1. See likewise Luke xi. 5,–13, which may be conRidered as parallel to the above passage in the sermon on the mount.