1. 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. The best way is to do good works in secret, as far as is consistent with the advancement of God's glory. The devil engages the wicked to do evil with pleasure, and the righteous to do good out of vanity. Let us wait with patience one moment; the eternal reward can neither fail us nor be delayed. To desire to be paid ready money by the hands of men, is the way to lose all; but to trust God, is to enrich ourselves forever. 2. 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. To do alms in secret is to offer a double sacrifice. A transient and momentary honour is the empty reward of vain men. Unhappy he, who, in parting with his wealth, deprives himself, by his vanity, of the heavenly riches. It is, as it were, attempting to impose upon God with a wrong title, for a man to endeavour to sell that to him which he has already sold to vain-glory. 3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: It is good to conceal our good works, even from our nearest relations, unless we are under an obligation of edifying them. We ought to proceed farther, to conceal them, as one may say, even from ourselves, by not allowing ourselves the satisfaction so much as to think on them, or to lay them before our eyes by reflections of complacency and self-love. They are given to God, and therefore they ought to be kept hid in him. £

CHAPTER VI. 85 4. That thine alms may bo in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. The substantial reward of the secret virtue of the humble is conferred openly. Our alms is our treasure; not to hide it, is to expose ourselves to being robbed. He who seeks any other approbation than that of God, forgets that he is made

only for him, and that he ought ultimately to refer all to him alone. SECT. II. — PRAYER. 5. Tf 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. In order to approach God, and to incline him to give ear to our prayer, it is necessary to pray out of the hearing of men, and without affecting to be seen by them. A man loves the world when he seeks to please it, and this love spoils the best works. God is a jealous God, and cannot share with any one what is due to himself alone; and this not out of envy, but goodness. He is not afraid of losing any thing, but of being obliged not to give, and not to bestow himself. 6. 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. The heart is God's peculiar portion ; he is the judge of it ; it belongs to him to reward. It is in this that he will be worshipped and adored. Prayer is the most secret intercourse of the soul with God, and, as it were, the conversation of one heart with another. The world is too profane and treacherous to be of the secret. We must shut the door against it, by forgetting it, and all the affairs which busy and amuse it. Prayer requires retirement, at least of the heart; for this is the closet in the house of God, which house is ourselves. Thither we ought to retire, even in public prayer, and in the midst of company. What goodness is there equal to this of God, to give not only what we ask, and more than we ask of him, but to reward even prayer itself! What advantage is it to serve a prince, who places prayers in the Vol. I.— 8

86 M A T T II E W. number of services, and reckons to Ins subjects' account even their trust and confidence in begging all things of him. 7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for

they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue, of sighs than of words, of faith than of discourse. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, in the simplicity of faith, and in the earnestness and perseverance of charity. The abundance and choice of fine thoughts, studied and vehement motions, and the order and politeness of the expressions, are things which compose a mere human harangue, not an humble and Christian prayer. Our trust and confidence ought to proceed from that which God is able to do in us, not from that which we can say to God. 8. Be not ye therefore like unto them : for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery, to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul toward heaven, and to put him in mind that there is his Father, his country, his inheritance. He is a Father to whom we pray ; let us go to him with confidence : he knows our wants; let us remove far from us all anxious disquiet and concern. 9. After this manner therefore pray ye: The prayer which Jesus Christ gives us here is the pattern of all Christian prayer, and an abridgement of the gospel. What satisfaction it is to learn, from God himself, with what words and in what manner he would have us pray to him, so as not to pray in vain ! A king, who himself draws up the petition which he allows to be presented to himself, has surely a very great desire to grant the request. We do not sufficiently conceive the value of this prayer, the respect and attention which it requires, the preference to be given to it, its fulness and perfection, the frequent use we should make of it, and the spirit which we should bring along with us to it. The order of the petitions is the order of our desires and

CHAPTER VI. 87 of our duties ; it is here we ought to be particularly mindful of them. Our Father which art in heaven, 1st, We must, in the first place, say this prayer with the heart of a heavenly child, disengaged from the earth by his

new birth, animated with the Spirit of the divine adoption, and full of desire to be reunited to his Father and Author. The heart of a child of God is a brotherly heart, in respect of all other Christians ; it asks nothing but in the spirit of unity, fellowship, and Christian charity, desiring that for its brethren which it desires for itself. Let us adore God in the unity and simplicity of his essence, in the trinity and fellowship of his persons ; as the Father of Christians, the source and model of all paternity both in heaven and earth, and the Author of all created good. Hallowed he thy name. 2d, We must say it, with the heart of a priest, all inflamed with zeal for God's glory, and for the sanctification of souls, and with the desire of that holiness, which should render him like to God as to his Father. In the sanctification of the elect and of the whole church, God is pleased to place his glory; and, therefore, this glory and this sanctification we ought to desire and to pray for before all things. Let us adore the holiness of God ; let us desire that his holy name may be everywhere known; let us labour to this purpose with all our power, beginning first with ourselves. 10. Thy kingdom come. 3d, We must say it with the heart of a faithful subject, zealous for the glory of his sovereign. When will it be, my God, that death and sin, the devil and his ministers, the world and its offences, shall cease to reign upon earth ; and that thou, after having judged the quick and the dead, separated thy elect from the reprobate, and destroyed all the powers of earth and hell, wilt thyself reign alone everywhere, in all, and forever, and thy saints with thee, and with thy Son? In order to dosire the coming of this kingdom, it is necessary to be in a condition to expect it with confidence.

88 MATTHEW. Let us adore the sovereignty of God, and labour to establish his kingdom in our own hearts. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 4th, We must say it with the heart of a wife "who studies the desires and inclinations of her husband, and seeks only to please him. God everywhere effects his will, even in those who oppose it the most ; but it is done, with and by love, in none but the saints in heaven and on earth. We acknowledge the necessity of a grace, which, by a free and predominant love, may subject our will to that of God, when we pray that "his will may be done in us as it is in heaven." It is by this that God reigns, and that his name is hallowed. Let us adore the almighty will of God, and desire that it may work in us, so as to subject us to itself.

11. Give us this day our daily bread 5th, We must say it with the heart of a sheep, which requires food from its shepherd ; and of one really in want, who begs his bread. We ought to ask of God the bread of the body; but much more the bread of the soul, — his grace, his word, the divine eucharist, the love of his law, and the accomplishment of his will. God will have us depend on him. He gives not to the body all its nourishment, nor to the soul all the grace which is necessary for it, on purpose to oblige us to pray ; and prayer, which proves that we always stand in need of this grace, proves also that we have it not always. Let us adore the providence of God, let us love to depend upon it, and let us frequently have recourse to it. 12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 6th, We must say it with the heart of a penitent who begs mercy of his God, while he affords it to his neighbour in all respects. That man condemns himself to suffer the eternal vengeance of God, who makes use of this prayer with revenge and hatred in his heart. He who observes not the condition of a transaction so advantageous, does not comprehend what he owes to God, and is a madman who resolves to perish. Let us adore the infinite love and mercy of God; and let us

CHAPTER VI. 89 beseech him to give us such a heart as is indulgent, charitable, and always ready to forgive. 13. And lead us not into temptation, 7th, We must say it with the heart of a sick person, who implores the assistance of his physician, acknowledging that he deserves to be forsaken by him. The way of salvation is a way of humility, and the Christian grace a grace of combat. There is nothing makes men more humble, renders them more vigilant, and obliges them to have recourse more frequently to the arms of faith and prayer, than their being unable to ascribe to themselves any good, their perceiving themselves capable of all evil, their having a domestic enemy who leaves them not one moment's quiet or security, and their depending continually upon a grace which is not due, and of which they are altogether unworthy. Let us adore the wonderful contrivance and wisdom of God in the work of our salvation ; and let us give up ourselves entirely to him, that he may not give us up to ourselves. But deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Lastly, we must say it with the heart of a captive, an exile, or an afflicted person, who has recourse to his deliverer. With how many snares, how many obstacles to good, how many occasions of sin, how many enemies of salvation are

we surrounded, among whom our false friends are the most dangerous ! Lord, from thee alone we expect deliverance : delay not to succour us. May the frequent combats, in which the tempter engages us, make us sigh and long after the general deliverance, which will forever banish to hell the tempter and the temptation, all disorderly affection and concupiscence, all sin and wickedness whatsoever. Let us adore the power and justice of the sovereign Judge ; let us wait like exiles, to be called home, and, like captives, to be delivered ; and let us fly to him for aid under the miseries of our banishment and slavery, and in all the assaults of our enemies. 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you : He who shows mercy to men, receives it from God. For 8*

90 MATTHEW. a king to forgive his subjects a hundred millions, and an infinite number of treasons against his authority and person, on this one condition, that they will but live peaceably with him and with one another, is what we shall never see; and yet this is but the shadow of that which Christ promises on his Father's part to all true penitents. A man must needs love his salvation but little, who refuses to purchase it at this price. 15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. He who does not awake at the sound of so loud a thunder, is not asleep, but dead. It is not without reason that Christ insists thus upon this one petition concerning the forgiveness of sins ; since this alone contains the threat of God's eternal wrath, and the necessity of brotherly love. We hazard all, if we either do not understand it, or do transgress it. SECT. III. — FASTING. 16. If 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. It is difficult to avoid hypocrisy and ostentation in external mortifications, and chiefly in fasting. He who desires to please men in that which he does by way of atonement to God, seems as if he pretended to expiate and make amends for his affection to the creatures by this affection itself. God

turns from the sinner the eyes of his mercy, in the same proportion that he endeavours to draw upon himself those of men. When a man, out of hypocrisy, affects a sad countenance, he has but little of that godly sorrow in his heart which repentance gives. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; The love of God makes us do that with joy which we do for him. Our heart is the same in respect of God, that our head and face are in respect of men. It is by the heart that he knows us, and judges of us ; it is by this that we please him. It is this victim of the heart, which we must wash with the water of our tears, and anoint with the spirit of charity, to make it an acceptable sacrifice of repentance.

CHAPTER VI. 91 18. 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. He who takes no care to avoid the sight and applause of the world, has but little desire to be seen and rewarded bv God. There is a time to show ourselves to men, through the obligation we have to edify them ; and a time to hide ourselves from them, to prevent our own destruction. Let us not be afraid that our heart will be concealed from God; but let us be afraid lest he should discover it to be greedy of the glory which comes from men, and little filled with the desire and esteem of that glory which he alone can confer. SECT. IV. — TREASURES IN HEAVEN. — THE SINGLE EYE. 10. ^ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal : What blindness is it for a man to lay up that as a treasure which must necessarily perish ! This is to degrade a heart designed for God and for eternity, to fix it upon such things as are subject to corruption, and, on their account, to set it in competition with moths. 20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal : He who frequently considers the solidity and eternity of the treasures in heaven, little amuses himself with the contemptible goods of the earth. This treasure is laid up by good works, and especially by alms. The only way to render perishing goods eternal, to secure stately furniture from moths, the richest metals from rust, and precious stones from

thieves, is to transmit them to heaven by charity. This is a kind of bill of exchange, which cannot fail of acceptance but through our own fault. 21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Happy he, who has a heart only for God, and who has only God in his heart. How misplaced is a heart, when it cleaves either to the smoke of honours, or to the dirt of riches, or to the mire of pleasures ! Let our heart, then, God, rest satisfied in thee alone, since it was made only for thee, and since thou alone art worthy of it.

92 MATTHEW. 22. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. The single eye, is the pure intention, and the unity of the end. The eye is neither single nor pure, when it looks upon two objects at once ; nor the heart, when it seeks not God and his righteousness only; when it has some other end besides his glory and his will ; when it would fain be happy in the enjoyment of some other good together with him; and when it pretends to unite God and the world, to be the servant of Christ and to please men, and to reconcile the gospel with the eager desire of earthly things. Nothing is more single than the eye of faith ; there is nothing which renders our whole conduct more uniform in goodness, than to follow singly the light of it. 23. 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 ! An evil intention corrupts the best works and renders them evil. Who can conceive the misfortune and corruption of a heart which lays up for itself a double treasure of wrath, by suffering itself to be led away to evil actions by a perverse will, and depriving itself of the fruit of good ones by a bad intention? The way of the righteous is a way of light; that of sinners is nothing but darkness. SECT. V. — GOD TO BE SERVED, NOT MAMMON. — TRUST. 24. ^ 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. The master of our heart, is the love which reigns in it ; we

are slaves to that only which we love most. A man cannot be in a perfect indifference between two objects which are incompatible ; he is inclined to despise and hate whatever he does not love in the highest degree, when the necessity of a choice presents itself. Could we ever imagine that mammon has the advantage of God in the hearts of the generality of mankind, did not experience force us to believe it? How dangerous is it to set our minds upon riches, since it is so easy to make them our god !

CHAPTER VI. 93 25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what she shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? To be so intent on the means of subsistence as to lose all the satisfaction of it, is to have but very little faith; it is even infidelity. On the other hand, to rely so much upon providence as to do nothing at all, is to tempt God. But to labour, without placing our trust and confidence in our labour, expecting all from the blessing of God : this is to obey him, to co-operate with his providence, to set the springs of it a-going, and to imitate Christ and the saints by a sedate care and an industrious confidence. In the following verses, Christ lays down several reasons why men should not disquiet themselves about the wants of life, or concerning the future. The first is the experience of greater benefits already received. He who gave us life and the body, before we could ask them of him, can he refuse us wherewith to conserve them, when we ask it with an humble confidence ? It is ingratitude to fall into distrust with respect to our great Benefactor. 26. 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 ? The second reason is the example of the lesser animals, which the providence of God feeds without their own labour, though he be not their Father. We never knew an earthly father take care of his fowls and neglect his children; and shall we fear this from our heavenly Father ? That man is unworthy to have God for his father in heaven, who depends less upon his goodness, wisdom, and power, than upon a crop of corn, which may be spoiled, either in the field or in the barn. The excellency of man consists in his being capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying God; and what ought he not to expect from God after so great a gift ? 27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? The third reason is the unprofitableness of human cares, unless God vouchsafe to bless them. What can our own uneasiness do, but only render us unworthy of the divine care ? The passage from distrust to apostasy is very short and easy ;

94 MATTHEW. and a man is not far from murmuring against providence, when he is dissatisfied with its conduct. He ought to depend entirely upon it, as well for the conservation of its gifts as for the gifts themselves. 28. And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin : The fourth reason is the example even of insensible creatures. Let us learn from hence, not, like these plants, to do nothing, but to trust to God's eye, and to commit ourselves to his almighty hand, which the least of his works discover and manifest unto us. He who makes the lilies of the field grow, cannot he augment our substance, if it be for his glory and our advantage ? Nothing is more capable of increasing our confidence toward God, than to consider his works with attention, and to meditate upon his conduct. 29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, sltall he not much more clothe you, ye of little faith V Christ confounds, at one and the same time, both the luxury of the rich in their superfluities, and the distrust of the poor as to the necessaries of life. Let man, who is made for heaven and eternity, learn from a flower of the field, from a flower of a moment's duration, how low the care of Providence vouchsafes to stoop. All our disquiets and distrusts proceed from want of faith. A man is rich when he has faith ; that supplies all wants. The poor are not really so, unless destitute of faith. i 31. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32. (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) The fifth reason is, that to concern ourselves about these wants with anxiety, as if there was no such thing as providence in the world ; with great affection toward earthly enjoyments, as if we expected no other; and, without praying to God or consulting his will, as if we could do any thing without him: this is no better than to imitate the heathens. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. The sixth reason is, because God is a good father, who

CHAPTER VI. 95 knows all our wants. It is the property of a true father to provide necessaries, and not superfluities. Not to hope for the former, is to offend his goodness; to expect the latter, is

to do injury to his wisdom. The want of what is necessary is that which generally casts men into uneasiness ahout the future; and yet it is this very thing which ought to make them easy; because this is properly the business of providence, and the care of a father. ¦ 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. The seventh reason is, because the business of our salvation ought entirely to take us up. Hither all our desires, our cares, and our inquiries ought to tend. He who first seeks God, finds him together with all these things; the righteous are never deprived of them, but only in order to their finding God more certainly, readily, and fully. He who has all his spiritual wants supplied by God himself, though he were left under the greatest wants and necessities of the body, would yet be far from complaining that God had broken his word. Grant, Lord, that I may desire and seek nothing but thee, and that I may live only for thee, and in thee. 34. 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. The eighth and last reason is, that a solicitous carefulness renders us unhappy beforehand. The future falls under the cognizance of God alone; we encroach therefore upon his rights, when we would fain foresee all which may happen to us, and secure ourselves from it by our cares. How much good is omitted, how many evils caused, how many duties neglected, how many innocent persons deserted, how many good works destroyed, how many truths suppressed, and how many acts of injustice authorized, by these timorous forecasts of what may happen, and these faithless apprehensions concerning the time to come ! Let us do in season what God then requires of us; and let us trust to him for the consequences. The future time, which God would have us foresee and provide for, is that of judgment and eternity ; and it is this alone which we will not foresee.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful