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question is asked, What do ye more than others ? nature is ready to reply, What should we do more than others ? But, evidently, more is expected. The laws of the master must be the rules of the master's family; not those which may be observed elsewhere. “Be ye holy, as He who hath called you is holy;" be ye patient, as He is patient; be ye merciful, as He is merciful. So ye may prove yourselves the children of your Father which is in heaven. The child is to do more in obedience to the father than strangers; he is to be more active in service, more devoted in love. If we are no better than 6 the children of this world ” in our character and conduct, we shall be no better in our everlasting condition. If we expect to rise beyond others in glory, we must go beyond others here on earth in obedience. Nay, we are to be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. We are to set before us this example of supreme excellence; we are to “be followers of God, as his dear children;" to be as merciful, as forgiving, as desirous to benefit others, as God himself is, the author of all good things.
This is what we are required to do. Yet how prone are our hearts to act otherwise ! Even the apostles were willing to draw down “fire from heaven” against their adversaries, till their Lord warned them, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of." Learn, therefore, to pass by in silence reproachful language, instead of rendering “ railing for railing;" try to forget insults and evil falsely spoken, instead of cherishing the injury in your minds. Aspire after the praise which belonged to a great man of former times, concerning whom it was currently said, that whoever desired to receive a benefit from him, might become sure of it by first doing him an injury.
Divine grace alone can enable us to maintain this exalted temper. Implore the aid of the Holy Spirit, that ye may “walk as Christ walked;" may show that kindness, that forgiveness towards others, which He has shown towards you, and which all desire and hope to find when standing before the judgment-seat of God.
5 Luke ix. 54, &c.
HYPOCRISY IN ALMSGIVING AND PRAYER.
MATT. vi. 1-6.
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. 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
ou, They have their reward. 3. “ But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy
right hand doeth : 4. “ That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in
secret himself shall reward thee openly.” THESE words expose further the hypocrisy of those who were admired in that day as patterns of righteousness. Their object was, to have the praise of men: and as almsgiving is naturally popular, and commands applause, they would argue, that meaning to be well spoken of, they must be ready to distribute ; but, at the same time, contrive that what they gave should be no secret, otherwise they would lose the return they were seeking. Therefore, said our Lord, the hypocrites sound a trumpet before them in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be seen of men.
Now how will the Christian feel in this matter? The words of St. John will be an actuating principle within him : “Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” Therefore he will make it a regular part of
1 John iii. 17.
his expenditure, to give, according to his ability, in whatever way he deems most really beneficial to his fellow-creatures. But this will not be blazoned abroad. Few will be aware of it. His left hand will not know what his right hand doeth. His concern is not with man, but with God : who alone will see that he holds himself as a steward who must give account of the talents intrusted to him, and that the only reward he looks for, is the favour of his Father which seeth in secret.
At the same time, there may be proper seasons and fit occasions, when a Christian's liberality should be public and seen of men. He is to be a pattern of good works that others may imitate them.
All depends upon the intention. If the object is present applause, present applause will be the sole reward. If the object is the glory of God, the charity will be either public or private, according as God is likely to be glorified by it most successfully. Just as in prayer, of which our Lord proceeds to speak. If it is sincere, it will not be ostentatious. Yet Daniel is not blamed, but praised, though he made what may be called an ostentatious prayer, a prayer which might be seen of men, when, in defiance of the impious decree which forbade him, “ he went into his house
and his windows being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” In his case this was as much his duty, as it was the duty of the Pharisees to avoid the hypocritical practice which Jesus here condemns. 5. “ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are ; The hypocrisy which is here exposed, though still common in Eastern countries, is so unlike the manners of our time and nation, that we might seem to be in no danger of a like error. Consider, however, what the error is. It is the performance of religious duties for the sake of appearances, and not from a feeling of religion. It is the doing that to be seen of men, which ought to be done from piety towards God. And is there no reason amongst ourselves, to fear that the attendance of some persons at church, or at the holy table, arises from a like impure motive? is rather a compliance with custom, than an exercise of devotion ? a mode of maintaining decent respectability, rather than of satisfying the desire of piety and faith? Thus much is certain. The stated and ceremonial worship of the Church is less to be depended on as a proof of the truly spiritual mind, than the secret prayer of the private chamber. It is no disparagement to either, to say that religious feeling will not be satisfied with one without the other. It will not be satisfied without the public worship of God. David, our teacher in devotion, has exclaimed, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” But the same David has also said, “ Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." 4
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. 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.”
2 Dan, vi. 10.
“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord : in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice."" That spiritual aid by which we may be strengthened, and overcome our besetting sins: those mercies which are most needful to ourselves and our families: the blessings of providence and of grace which we individually need,—these must be sought in private prayer. We 3 Ps. lxxxiv. 1-3.
5 Ps. y. 3. 6 Ps. lv. 17.
4 Ps. iv. 4.
cannot be so alone, but God is with us; we cannot whisper so gently, but He heareth us; we cannot pray so imperfectly, but He will answer us. He seeth in secret, and He rewardeth openly. So He rewarded Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore ;" “ she spake in her heart: only her lips moved : but her voice was not heard.” Not heard of men : but not unheard of God: and the “God of Israel granted the petition that she asked of Him.” So likewise was Cornelius rewarded, openly rewarded, as the first Gentile to whom the Gospel was made known. He had shut his door against the world and its cares, and prayed to his Father who is in secret. As he explained to Peter the reason why he had sent for him to Joppa, 8 “Four days ago, I was fasting unto this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in mine house, and, behold a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance before God."
Thus Hannah and Cornelius experienced that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears open unto their prayers.” A still greater encouragement is granted to the believer in Christ Jesus, to whom belongs the privilege that he should be called a child of God, who has received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ;" concerning whom the Lord declared, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God :" and again," I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you ; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”
Having therefore such exceeding great and precious promises,” we come boldly to the throne of grace,
* " and in everything by prayer and supplication
7 1 Sam. i. 10.
8 Acts x. 30. i Rom. viii. 15.
9 See 1 John iii. 1. 2 John xx. 17.