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Lastly, at ver. 43, we have that sweet doctrine of not revenging, but patiently bearing, and readily forgiving of injuries, and loving enemies, and doing good to all. This does not bar any calm way of self-righting, to which there is sometimes an obligation; but men over-stretch it, and passion and self-love domineer, under this pretext. Therefore, the words sound a little extreme, as a counter-bowing of our crooked hearts, but it is to bring them straight. Let Julian and other atheists laugh at it, but it is the glory of Christians. No doctrine or religion in the world, presses so much clemency and innocency, and bounty as theirs, even to sworn enemies. This, we say, is its glory. And whereas it seems to render men sheepish, to make them less than men, it makes them indeed more than men, even like God. Benignity and mercy are Divine and Godlike, chief traits of God's image in his children. His sun rises, and his rain descends on the just and the unjust. So, a diffusive, sweet, bountiful soul, is still desiring to do good, by hand, by counsel, by any comfort within its reach towards all, rewarding good for evil. These things, deeply thought on and really practised, would make Christians indeed, children like their Heavenly Father.
CHRIST's business upon earth was, to bring man to Heaven. He came down, and became man, for that purpose; came forth from God, to bring us back to God. 1. Pet. iii. 18. As his life and death, so, his Divine doctrine tends to that, to enlighten the minds of men with the right knowledge, and inflame their hearts with the real love of God. We are drowned in sense and the love of earthly things; and in spiritual things, our hearts are sensual and earthly. Now you perceive the doctrine of this chapter, clearly aiming at the raising of men's
hearts to Heaven. That is the end of the Gospel and all preaching, that men may learn in all their actions, to eye God more and man less; to be less earnest and careful for earth, and more for Heaven. This is the scope of the chapter. These two main evils in the heart of man, hypocrisy and earthliness, spring from ignorance and forgetfulness of God. Deep persuasions of God and heavenly things, would set men and earthly things very low in our hearts. Would it be possible for men to love the praise of men more than the praise of God, if they considered what He is, and what man is; how high and how lasting a good is His liking and approbation, how poor and vanishing a thing in man's good opinion? Oh, atheism, atheism! hence springs the love of present things. Both these go under that name, present esteem, and present possessions. The one, the love of air, (as I may say,) the other, the love of earth; and both spring from want of belief and love of Heaven, so high above both. This is the great work, to call off the eye from this low prospect, to raise it up higher, to look not on things seen, but on things not seen. And Oh, the odds! Things that are seen, are temporal; things that are not seen, are eternal. 2 Cor. iv. 18. At this our Saviour aims his discourse, to persuade men to singleness of heart in their performance of religious duties, and moderation of mind in their provision for earthly necessities.
Having spoken of doing good in the former chapter, he speaks now of the manner and intention which is chiefly to be heeded, to exceed the Pharisees, who did many outward actions, particularly of these here specified, but spoiled all by the wretched desire of vain glory; a subtle evil preying most on best things, alms, prayer, &c.,-a moth that breeds in and corrupts the finest garments.
The duties he particularly names, are these three, Alms, Prayer, Fasting. Alms I scruple not to call a religious duty, though of the Second Table, upon the apostle St. James's warrant, Jam. i. 27. And the way of it which our Saviour here teaches, will make it religious indeed; to regard God in it,
not to seek to appear to man, yea, to seek not to appear to man; to hide and cover it all that thou canst from men.
are commanded, indeed, in the former chapter, to let our light shine before men: this here is not contrary, yea, that is the same with this: this barring vain self-glory, that directing to God's glory. Let your light shine, but so shine, (like the sun that gives light and scarcely suffers you to look upon itself,) that they may see your works, yourselves as little as may be, and may glorify, not you, but your Heavenly Father. Good actions cannot well be hid, and possibly, some even of this sort, giving of alms. Yea, sometimes it may be necessary for example and exciting others, that they should know of it. But take heed that vanity creep not in under this. And further than either unavoidable necessity, or some evident further good of thy neighbour carries it, desire to be unknown and unseen in this. When it must be public, let thy intention be secret. Take no delight in having the eyes of men on thee; yea, rather count it a pain, and still eye God alone, for He eyes thee. And remember it, even in public acts of charity, and other such like, He sees in secret. Though the action be no secret, the spring, the source of it is, and He sees by what weights the wheels go, and He still looks upon that; views thy heart, the hidden bent and intention of it, which man cannot see. So then, though in some cases thou must be seen to do, yet, in no case do to be seen: that differs much, and where that is, even the other will be as little as may be. Thou wilt desire rather, and, where it can be, still choose to do unseen, that others should know as little of thy charity as may be, besides the party that receives it; yea, if it might be, that even the party might not know,-as he that stole in money under his sick friend's pillow; yea, to let thy very self know as little as possible, as our Saviour here expresses it, Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. An excellent word! Reflect not on it as thy action, with self-pleasing; that is the left hand in view; but look on God's goodness to thee, that thou art not in the receiver's room, and he in thine; that He makes
thee able to relieve another, which many are not, and being able, makes thee willing, which far fewer are. For both, thou art to bless Him, and be the humbler, the more thou dost. Take thy very giving to thy distressed brother, as a gift from God, a further obligation on thee. Though He is pleased to become thy debtor for a further reward, yet, truly, the thing itself is His gift, and a great one, as David acknowledges excellently in their offering to the Temple, 1 Chron. xxix. 14: But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly, after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee. Not only the power, but the will is from God, both of Thine own which we give Thee.
Oh, how far are the most from this direct looking to God, this heart-enlarging love of God! And therefore are they so close-handed to the necessities of the poor, even of the saints, where some enforcing occasion, some eye of men, some wretched side respect or other, draws it not forth. A thousand objections are raised: either they need it not, or will not accept of it, or have this fault or that, are proud or idle, &c. But does not thy God see what is at the bottom of all this logic, these disputes before they come off with any thing? And when thou dost give, how much of self, and how little of God is there in it! The left hand knows, yea, it is done with the left hand, though the bodily right hand do it. Most men's charity is altogether left-handed: sinister respects and intentions are the main movers in it.
But how noble and happy a thing is a truly liberal heart! Even natural liberty hath much beauty in it, but much more that which is spiritual and Christian. According to thy power, abounding in good works, that is riches,-rich in good works; and he that soweth plentifully, shall reap plentifully. And be cheerful in it, and do this for God, out of love to Him. And for the fruit, how rich is that! So much as it is fit to look to reward, look to God's only. Take Him as thy debtor upon His word, rather than present payment from men.
Theirs is present indeed, and our carnal hearts are all for the present, but consider, as it is present, so it passes presently, and is straightway spent. God's reward, though to come, is yet certain, and when come, is abiding, everlasting. Thus, in respect of all good actions, and a holy self-denying course of life, in nothing take pay of men. How vain, what smoke is it, their breath, and how soon will it be spent! And then, when thou shouldst come to look for a reward from God, to know it is done, that you are paid already! That well judged, is one of the saddest words in all the scripture, the hypocrite's doom. He hath no more to look for; he would be seen, and was seen; he would be praised of men, and praised he was; he is paid, and can expect no further, but that reward which he would gladly miss, the hypocrite's portion, eternal fire.
As to Prayer, how foolish and wretched a thing is it, to speak to God, and look to men! What is there wherein the heart will be single and abstracted from men, and commune with God alone, if not in prayer?
Another evil, much like to that of shew, is here corrected, an affected, empty, babbling, length in prayer, without affection. The want of that, makes a short prayer long and babbling; while much of that, makes a long prayer short: as in a speech, the quality is the measure of the quantity, a long speech may be very short. This affected length we incline to very much in holy exercises; many beads are dropped, and paternosters said, &c. We lay too much stress on the continuance and length; think all's well, if enough be done; whereas God's thoughts are far other, and ours should conform to his. It is enough if well done. If the heart is close to him in ever so short a prayer, there is much said in a little. We usually speak many words, and say little. For help in this, the most excellent model given by our Saviour, is here inserted; the beautiful order and full comprehensive matter of which, can never be enough admired.
Then as to Fasting, which is a necessary help of Prayer; it does unclog and free the wings of the soul to mount to