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.
[Take heed, that ye do not your alms, &c.] It is questioned, whether Matthew writ alms, or righteousness. I answer;
I. That our Saviour certainly said righteousness...I make no doubt at all; but that that word could not be otherwise understood by the common people than of alms, there is as little doubt to be made. For although the word righteousness, according to the idiom of the Old Testament, signifies nothing else than righteousness; yet now, when our Saviour spoke those words, it signified nothing so much as alms.
II. Christ used also the same word righteousness in the three verses next following, and Matthew used the word alms: but by what right, I beseech you, should he call it righteousness, in the first verse, and alms in the following,--when Christ every where used one and the same word? Matthew might not change in Greek, where our Saviour had not changed in Syriac.
Therefore we must say, that the Lord Jesus used the word righteousness in these four first verses: but that, speaking in the dialect of common people, he was understood by the common people to speak of alms.
Now they called alms by the name of righteousness, in that the Fathers of the Traditions taught, and the common people believed, that alms conferred very much to justification. Hear the Jewish chair in this matter:
"For one farthing, given to a poor man in alms, a man is made partaker of the beatifical vision." Where it renders these words [Psa 17:15] 'I shall behold thy face in righteousness,' after this manner; 'I shall behold thy face because of alms.'
One saith, "This money goes for alms, that my sons may live, and that I may obtain the world to come."
"A man's table now expiates by alms, as heretofore the altar did by sacrifice."
"If you afford alms out of your purse, God will keep you from all damage and harm."
"Monobazes the king bestowed his goods liberally upon the poor, and had these words spoke to him by his kinsmen and friends, 'Your ancestors increased both their own riches and those that were left them by their fathers; but you waste both your own and those of your ancestors.' To whom he answered, 'My fathers laid up their wealth on earth; I lay up mine in heaven; as it is written, Truth shall flourish out of the earth, but righteousness shall look down from heaven. My fathers laid up treasure that bears no fruit; but I lay up such as bear fruit; as it is said, It shall be well with the just, for they shall be at the fruit of their works. My fathers treasured up where power was in their hands; but I where it is not; as it is said, Justice and judgment is the habitation of his throne. My fathers heaped up for others; I for myself; as it is said, And this shall be to thee for righteousness. They scraped together for this world; I for the world to come; as it is said, Righteousness shall deliver from death.'" These things are also recited in the Babylonian Talmud.
You see plainly in what sense he understands righteousness, namely, in the sense of alms: and that sense not so much framed in his own imagination, as in that of the whole nation, and which the royal catechumen had imbibed from the Pharisees his teachers.
Behold the justifying and saving virtue of alms from the very work done, according to the doctrine of the Pharisaical chair. And hence the opinion of this efficacy of alms so far prevailed with the deceived people, that they pointed out alms by no other name (confined within one single word) than righteousness. Perhaps those words of our Saviour are spoken in derision of this doctrine; "Yea, give those things which ye have in alms, and behold all things shall be clean to you," Luke 11:41. With good reason, indeed, exhorting them to give alms, but yet withal striking at the covetousness of the Pharisees, and confuting their vain opinion of being clean by the washing of their hands, from their own opinion of the efficacy of alms. As if he had said, "Ye assert that alms justifies and saves; and therefore ye call it by the name of righteousness: why, therefore, do ye affect cleanness by the washing of hands, and not rather by the performance of charity?" See the praises of alms, somewhat too high for it, in the Talmud.
"R. Jannai saw one giving money openly to a poor man; to whom he said, It is better you had not given at all, than so to have given."
[Otherwise ye have no reward.] He therefore seems the rather to speak of a reward, because they expected a reward for their alms-doing without all doubt; and that, as we said, for the mere work done.
"R. Lazar was the almoner of the synagogue. One day going into his house, he said, 'What news?' They answered, 'Some came hither, and ate and drank, and made prayers for thee.' 'Then,' saith he, 'there is no good reward.' Another time going into his house, he said, 'What news?' It was answered, 'Some others came, and ate and drank, and railed upon you.' 'Now,' saith he, 'there will be a good reward.'"
2. Therefore when thou doest thinealms, 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.
[Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets.] It is a just scruple, whether this sounding a trumpet be to be understood according to the letter, or in a borrowed sense. I have not found, although I have sought for it much and seriously, even the least mention of a trumpet in almsgiving. I would most willingly be taught this from the more learned.
[Please see Court of the Women for Alfred Edersheim's explanation of these trumpets in his book "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services."]
You may divide the ordinary alms of the Jews into three parts:
I. The alms'-dish. They gave alms to the public dish or basket: Tamchui (according to the definition of the author of Aruch, and that out of Bava Bathra in the place lately cited) was a certain vessel, in which bread and food was gathered for the poor of the world. You may not improperly call it the alms-basket; he calls it a dish. By the poor of the world are to be understood any beggars, begging from door to door; yea, even heathen beggars. Hence the Jerusalem Talmud in the place above quoted, The alms-dish was for every man. And the Aruch moreover, This alms was gathered daily by three men, and distributed by three. It was gathered of the townsmen by collectors within their doors; which appears by that caution; The collection of alms may not separate themselves one from another, unless that one may go by himself to the gate, and another to the shop. That is, as the Gloss explains it, they might not gather this alms separately and by themselves; that no suspicion might arise, that they privily converted what was given to their own use and benefit. This only was allowed them; when they went to the gate, one might betake himself to the gate, and another to a shop near it, to ask of the dwellers in both places: yet with this proviso, that withal both were within sight of one another. So that at each door it might be seen that this alms was received by the collectors. And here was no probability at all of a trumpet, when this alms was of the lowest degree, being to be bestowed upon vagabond strangers, and they very often heathen.
II. The poor's-chest. They gave alms also in the public poor's-box: which was to be distributed to the poor only of that city. The alms'-dish is for the poor of the world, but the alms'-chest for the poor only of that city. This was collected of the townsmen by two Parnasin, of whom before, to whom also a third was added, for the distributing it. The Babylonian Gemarists give a reason of the number, not unworthy to be marked: "A tradition of the Rabbins. The alms'-chest is gathered by two, and distributed by three. It is gathered by two, because they do not constitute a superior office in the synagogue less than of two, and it is distributed by three, as pecuniary judgments are transacted by three."
This alms was collected in the synagogue, on the sabbath (compare 1 Corinthians 16:2), and it was distributed to the poor on the sabbath-eve. Hence is that, "The alms'-chest is from the sabbath-eve to the sabbath-eve; the alms'-dish, every day."
Whether, therefore, the trumpet sounded in the synagogue when alms were done, it again remains obscure, since the Jewish canonists do not openly mention it, while yet they treat of these alms very largely. Indeed, every synagogue had its trumpet. For,
1. They sounded with the trumpet in every city in which was a judiciary bench, at the coming in of the new year. But this was not used but after the destruction of the Temple.
2. They sounded with the trumpet when any was excommunicated. Hence among the utensils of a judge is numbered a trumpet. For the instruments of judges, as appears there, were a rod, a whip, a trumpet, and a sandal. "A trumpet (saith the Gloss) for excommunication and anathematizing: and a sandal for the taking off of the shoe of the husband's brother." And in the same place mention is made of the excommunicating of Jesus, four hundred trumpets being brought for that business.
3. The trumpet sounded six times at the coming in of every sabbath: that from thence, by that sign given, all people should cease from servile works. Of this matter discourse is had in the Babylonian Talmud, in the tract of the Sabbath.
Thus, there was a trumpet in every synagogue; but whether it were used while alms were done, I still inquire. That comes into my mind, "The collectors of alms do not proclaim on a feast-day, as they proclaim on a common day: but collect it privately, and put it up in their bosom." But whether this proclamation did publish what was giving by every one, or did admonish of not giving any thing, but what might rightly be given; let the more learned judge by looking upon the place.
III. They gave alms also out of the field, and that was especially fourfold: 1. The corner of the field not reaped. 2. Sheaves left in the field, either by forgetfulness, or voluntarily. 3. The gleaning of the vintage; of which see Leviticus 19:9,10, Deuteronomy 24:19. And, 4. The poor's tenth; of which the Talmudists largely in the tracts, Peah, Demai, and Maaseroth. To the gathering of these, the poor were called, "By three manifestations in the day; namely, in the morning, and at noon, and at Minchah," or 'the evening.' That is, the owner of the field openly shewed himself three times in the day, for this end, that then the poor should come and gather: in the morning, for the sake of nurses; because, in the mean time, while their young children slept, they might the more freely go forth for this purpose: at noon, for the sake of children, who also at that time were prepared to gather: at Minchah, for the sake of old men. So the Jerusalem Gemarists, and the Glossers upon the Babylonian Talmud.
There were the ordinary alms of the Jewish people: in the doing which, seeing as yet I cannot find so much as the least sound of a trumpet in their writers, I guess that either our Saviour here spoke metaphorically; or, if there were any trumpet used, that it was used in peculiar and extraordinary alms.
The Jews did very highly approve of alms done secretly; hence the treasury of the silent was of famed memory in the Temple; whither "some very religious men brought their alms in silence and privacy, when the poor children of good men were maintained." And hence is that proverb, He that doth alms in secret is greater than our master Moses himself. And yet they laboured under such an itch to make their alms public, lest they should not be seen by men, that they did them not without a trumpet; or, which was as good as a trumpet, with a proud desire of making them known: that they might the more be pointed at with the finger, and that it might be said of them, 'These are the men.'
3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
[Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth.] He seems to speak according to the custom used in some other things; for in some actions, which pertained to religion, they admitted not the left hand to meet with the right. "The cup of wine which was used to sanctify the coming in of the sabbath, was to be taken with the right hand, without the assistance of the left." "Let not man receive into a vessel the blood of the sacrifice, bring it to the altar, or sprinkle it with his left hand." And in the same tract, it is related of Shammai, that he would feed himself only with one hand.
5. 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.
[They love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corner of the streets.] 1. They prayed standing, Luke 18:11,13, Mark 11:25. "It is written, 'And Abraham rose early in the morning at the place where he had stood before the Lord.' But to stand was nothing else than to pray: as it is said, And Phineas stood and judged."
"One entereth into the synagogue, and found them standing in prayer." "Let scholar of the wise men look downwards, when he stands praying." And to name no more, the same Maimonides asserts these things are required in prayer; that he that prayeth, stand; that he turn his face towards Jerusalem; that he cover his head; and that he fix his eyes downwards.
II. They loved to pray in the synagogues. "He goes to the synagogue to pray."
"Why do they recite their phylacteries in the synagogue, when they are not bound to do it? R. Josi saith, They do not recite them in the synagogue for that end, that so the whole office of the phylacteries may be performed, but to persevere in prayer. For this recitation was to be said over again, when they came home."
Rabbenu Asher hath these words: "When any returns home in the evening from the field, let him not say, 'I will go into my house'; but first let him betake himself to the synagogue: and if he can read, let him read something; if he can recite the traditions, let him recite them. And then let him say over the phylacteries, and pray."
But that we be not too tedious, even from this very opinion, they were wont to betake themselves to the synagogues, because they were persuaded that the prayers of the synagogue were certainly heard.
III. They prayed in the streets. So Maimonides; "They prayed in the streets on the feasts and public fasts." "What are the rites of the fasts? They brought out the ark into the streets of the city, and sprinkled ashes upon the ark, and upon the head of the president of the Sanhedrim, and the vice-president; and every one put ashes upon his own head. One of the elders makes this exhortation; 'It is not said, O brethren, of the Ninevites, that God saw their sackcloth, or their fastings; but, that he saw their works,' &c. They stand praying, and they set some fit elder before the ark, and he prays four-and-twenty prayers before them."
But doth our Saviour condemn all prayers in the synagogue? By no means. For he himself prayed in and with the synagogue. Nor did he barely reprove those public prayers in the streets, made by the whole multitude in those great solemnities, but prayers everywhere, both in the synagogues, and the streets, that were made privately, but yet publicly also, and in the sight of all, that thereby he that prayed might get some name and reputation from those that saw him.
I. While public prayers were uttered in the synagogue, it was customary also for those that hunted after vainglory, to mutter private prayers, and such as were different from those of the synagogue, whereby the eyes of all might be the more fixed upon him that prayed.
"Hath not a man prayed his morning prayers? When he goes into the synagogue, does he find them praying the additionary prayer? If he is sure he shall begin and end, so that he may answer 'Amen' after the angel of the church, let him say his prayers."
II. They prayed also by themselves in the streets. "R. Jochanan said, I saw R. Jannai standing and praying in the streets of Tsippor, and going four cubits, and then praying the additionary prayer."
Two things especially shew their hypocrisy here:
1. That so much provision is made concerning reciting the phylacteries, and the prayers added (that it might be done within the just time), that wheresoever a man had been, when the set time was come, he presently betakes himself to prayers: "A workman, or he that is upon the top of a tree, he that rides on an ass, must immediately come down, and say his prayers," &c. These are the very instances that the canonists give, which, with more of them, you may find in the tract Beracoth. Hence, therefore, those vainglorious hypocrites got an occasion of boasting themselves. For the hour of the phylacterical prayers being come, their care and endeavour was, to be taken in the streets: whereby the canonical hour compelling them to their prayers in that place, they might be the more seen by all persons, and that the ordinary people might admire and applaud both their zeal and religion. To which hypocritical pride they often added this also, that they used very long pauses, both before they began their prayers, and after they had done them: so that very usually, for three hours together, they were seen in a praying habit and posture. See the Babylonian Talmud. So that the Canonists played the madmen with some reason, when they allowed the space, from the rising of the morning to the third hour of the day, for the phylacterical prayers; because those three-hour praying men scarcely despatched them within less space, pausing one hour before they began prayer, and as much after they were ended.
2. They addicted themselves to ejaculations, prayers, and blessings, upon the sight almost of any thing meeting them either in the streets or in the way. "When one saw a place, wherein some miracle was done for Israel; a place, from whence idolatry was rooted out; or a place, where an idol now was, a short prayer was to be used. When any saw a blackamoor, a dwarf, a crooked, a maimed person, &c. they were to bless. Let him that sees a fair tree, or a beautiful face, bless thus, Blessed be He, who created the beauty of the creature," &c.
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.
[ROSARY, a chaplet of roses or beads used as an aid to memory in the repeating of prayers, as the Paternosters and Ave Marias. There are various patterns in use; one is a rosary of fifty-five beads, fifty small ones for the Ave Marias, separated into groups of ten by five large ones to mark Paternosters. Hindus, Mohammedans, and Buddhists all employ the rosary. The name is also given to a series of prayers ("Rosary of the Blessed Virgin") consisting of fifteen decades, comprising fifteen paternosters and doxologies, and 150 Ave Marias, divided into three parts.--Universal Standard Encyclopedia
ROSARY. Part of the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church is the rosary, fifteen groups or series of prayers, each series consisting of a Paternoster (Lord's Prayer), ten Aves (salutes to the Virgin Mary), and a Gloria. The string of beads used in counting the prayers is also called a rosary. It is symbolic, for the large beads stand for Paternosters (Our Father's) and Glorias, and the small beads for Aves (Hail Mary's), while the crucifix on the pendant symbolized the Apostles' Creed. The groups of beads are "decades"; generally only five decades are said at one time. Instead of a large bead at the end and at the beginning of each decade, only one bead is used to represent the Gloria and the Paternoster. During the telling of the beads in each decade, the worshiper meditates on one of the fifteen mysteries of the life and death of Christ.
In the Greek Church, the monks, and not the lay members of the congregation, recite their prayers with the rosary, which is composed of a hundred beads of equal size. In the Russian Church, the rosary consists of 103 beads which are divided into groups by four larger ones, representing the Evangelists. Rosaries are also used by Buddhists and Mohammedans.--The Wonderland of Knowledge Encyclopedia, 1965]
[Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do] See the civil battology [vain repetitions] of the heathen in their supplications: "Let the parricide be dragged: we beseech thee. Augustus, let the parricide be dragged. This is the thing we ask, let the parricide be dragged. Hear us, Caesar. Let the false accusers be condemned to the lion. Hear us, Caesar. Let the false accusers be condemned to the lion. Hear us, Caesar," &c.
"Antoninus the pious, the gods keep thee. Antoninus the merciful, the gods keep thee. Antoninus the merciful, the gods keep thee." See also Capitolinus, in the Maximini.
Those words savour of vain repetition in prayer, 1 Kings 18:26; "The priest of Baal called upon the name of Baal from morning to noon, saying, O Baal, hear us."
After the same manner almost as the heathen mixed vain repetitions, in their prayers, did the Jews in their using divers words importing the same thing: not repeating, indeed, the same thing in varied phrases; which appears sufficiently to him that reads their liturgies through, as well the more ancient as those of a later date. And certainly the sin is equally the same in using different words of the same thing, as in a vain repetition of the same words; if so be there were the same deceit and hypocrisy in both; in words only multiplied, but the heart absent.
And in this matter the Jew sinned little less than the heathen. For this was an axiom with them, Every one that multiplies prayer is heard. Christ, therefore, does not so much condemn the bare saying over again the same petitions, either in the same words, or in words of the same import (for he himself spake the same things thrice, when he prayed in the garden), as a false opinion, as if there were some power, or zeal, or piety, in such kind of repetitions; and that they would be sooner heard, and more prevail with God. While he strikes the heathen, he strikes the Jews also, who laboured under the same phrensy: but there is mention only of the heathen, partly because this savoured rather of heathen blindness than of the profession of true religion, which the Jews boasted of; partly, and especially, that he might not condemn the public prayers of the Jews without cause, in which they sinned not at all by using synonymous expressions, if it were done out of a pious and sincere heart.
9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
[After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father, &c.] Some things, which seem more difficult about this divine form of prayer, will perhaps pass into a softer sense, if certain things, very usual in the Jewish church and nation, be observed, to which the apostles could not but have regard when they clearly acknowledged here the highest conformity with them. For that it was customary with our Saviour, for the most part, to conform himself to the church and nation, both in religious and civil matters, so they were lawful, most evidently appears also in this form of prayer. Let these things, therefore, be observed:
I. That the stated prayers of the Jews, daily to be said at that time when Christ prescribed this form to his disciples, were eighteen in number, or in a quantity equalling it. Of this number of their prayers, the Gemarists of both Talmuds treat at large. Whom consult.
Whether they were reduced to the precise number of eighteen, in the order that they afterward appeared in while Christ was upon earth, some scruple ariseth from some things which are said by the Babylonian Talmudists in the place alleged: but it might be plainly proved, if there were need, that little, or indeed nothing at all, wanted of the quantity and bulk of such a number. "The Rabbins have a tradition (say they), that Simeon Pekoli reduced into order the eighteen prayers according to their course, before Rabban Gamaliel in Jafne. Rabban Gamaliel said to the wise men, 'Is there any that knows to compose a prayer against the Sadducees?' Samuel the Little stood forth and constituted one," &c. That Rabban Gamaliel, which is here spoke of, was Paul's master. For, although Rabban Gamaliel (who was commonly styled 'Jafnensis,' of Jafne) was the nephew of Paul's master. Gamaliel, and this thing is mentioned to be done in Jafne; yet Paul's master also lived in Jafne: and that this was he of whom is the story before us, sufficiently appears hence, because his business is with Samuel the Little, who certainly died before the destruction of the city.
Under Gamaliel the elder, therefore, were those daily prayers reduced first into that order wherein they were received by the following ages. Which, however it was done after the death of our Saviour, in regard of their reducing into order, yet so many there were in daily use at that time when he conversed on earth. Now he condemned not those prayers altogether, nor esteemed them of no account; yea, on the contrary, he joined himself to the public liturgy in the synagogues, and in the Temple: and when he delivereth this form to his disciples, he extinguisheth not other forms.
II. When all could not readily repeat by heart those numerous prayers, they were reduced into a brief summary, in which the marrow of them all was comprised; and that provision was made for the memory, that they should have a short epitome of those prayers, whom the weakness of their memory, or sometime the unavoidable necessity of business, permitted not to repeat a longer prayer, or to be at leisure to do it. This summary they called a fountain. "Rabban Gamaliel saith, 'Let every one pray the eighteen prayers every day.' R. Joshua saith, Let him pray the summary of those eighteen. But R. Akibah saith, If prayer be free in his mouth, let him pray the eighteen; but if not, let him pray the summary of those eighteen." That our Saviour comprised the sum of all prayers in this form, is known to all Christians; and it is confessed that such is the perfection of this form, that it is the epitome of all things to be prayed for, as the Decalogue is the epitome of all things to be practised.
III. It was very usual with the doctors of the Jews,
1. To compose forms of short prayers, and to deliver them to their scholars (which is asserted also of John, Luke 11:1); whereof you will find some examples, and they not a few, in the Babylonian Gemara, in the tract Beracoth, and elsewhere. Not that by those forms they banished or destroyed the set and accustomed prayers of the nation; but they superadded their own to them, and suited them to proper and special occasions.
2. To the stated prayers, and others framed by themselves, it was very usual to add some short prayer over and above, which one may not amiss call 'the concluding prayer.' Take these examples of these prayers: "R. Eliezer, when he had finished his prayers, was wont to say thus, 'Let it be thy good pleasure, O Lord, that love and brotherhood dwell in our portion,' &c. R. Jochanan, when he had finished his prayers, was wont to say thus, 'Let it be thy good pleasure, O Lord, to take notice of our reproach, and to look upon our miseries,'" &c. In like manner,
1. Our Saviour, while he delivers this form to his disciples, does not weaken the set forms of the church; nor does he forbid his disciples not to use private prayers: but he delivers this most exact summary of all prayers, to be added, over and above, to our prayers; his most perfect to our most imperfect.
2. The apostles, sufficiently accustomed to the manners of the nation, could not judge otherwise of this form. In interpreting very many phrases and histories of the New Testament, it is not so much worth, what we think of them from notions of our own, feigned upon I know not what grounds, as in what sense these things were understood by the hearers and lookers on, according to the usual custom and vulgar dialect of the nation. Some inquire by what authority we do subjoin or superadd the Lord's Prayer to ours; and feign arguments to the contrary out of their own brain. But I ask, whether it was possible that the apostles and disciples, who from their very cradles had known and seen such forms instituted for common use, and added moreover to the set prayers and others, should judge otherwise of this form given by our Lord; which bore so great conformity with those, and with the most received rite and custom of the nation?
IV. That church held it for a just canon, and that indeed no discommendable one neither, He that prays ought always, when he prays, to join with the church. Which is not strictly to be understood only of his presence in the synagogue (that is elsewhere and otherwise commanded many times over), but wheresoever in the world he be placed, yea, when he is most alone, that he say his prayers in the plural number: for thus the Gloss explains it, Let none pray the short prayer (that is, one different from the set prayers) in the singular number, but in the plural. In which number our Saviour teacheth us also to pray in this form; and that upon very good reason, when, in whatsoever solitude or distance we are, yet we ought to acknowledge ourselves joined with the church, and to pray for her happiness as well as for our own.
[Our Father which art in heaven.] I. This epithet of God was very well known among the Jews, and very usual with them:
"Our Father which art in heaven, deal so with us as thou hast promised by the prophets." And in another place this is thrice recited; "Whom have we whereon to rely, besides our Father which is in heaven?" "Blessed are ye, O Israelites; who cleanseth you? Your Father, who is in heaven." "Ye gave not to your Father, who is in heaven, but to me the priest."
II. But in what sense did the Jews call God their Father in heaven, when they were altogether ignorant of the doctrine and mystery of adoption, besides that adoption whereby God had adopted them for a peculiar people? I answer, For that very cause they were taught by God himself so to call him, Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 32:6, &c. Nor was there any among them who not only might not do this, but also who ought not to do it. While the heathen said to his idol, 'Thou art my father,' Jeremiah 2:27, the Israelite was bound to say, Our Father which art in heaven, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8.
III. When Christ useth this manner of speech so very well known to the nation, does he not use it in a sense that was known to the nation also? Let them answer who would have the Lord's Prayer to be prayed and said by none but by those who are indeed believers, and who have partook of true adoption. In what sense was our Saviour, when he spake these words, understood of the hearers? They were thoroughly instructed, from their cradles, to call God the Father in heaven: they neither hear Christ changing the phrase, nor curtailing any thing from the latitude of the known and used sense. Therefore let them tell me, Did not Peter, John, and the rest of the apostles, think that it was as lawful for all Christians to say to God, Our Father which art in heaven, as it was lawful for all Jews? They called God Father, because he had called them into the profession of him, because he took care of them, and instructed them, &c. And what, I beseech you, hinders, but all Christians, obtaining the same privileges, may honour God with the same compellation? There is nothing in the words of Christ that hinders, and there is somewhat in the very phrase that permits it.
9,10. 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.
[Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.] This obtained for an axiom in the Jewish schools; That prayer, wherein there is not mention of the kingdom of God, is not a prayer. Where these words are also added: "Abai saith, Like to this is that of Rabh to be reckoned, that it is a tradition I have not transgressed thy precepts, nor have I forgotten them" (they are the words of him that offereth the first-fruits, Deuteronomy 26:13). "'I have not transgressed,' that is, by not giving thanks: 'And I have not forgotten them'; that is, I have not forgot to commemorate thy name, and thy kingdom."
[Thy will be done, as in heaven, &c.] "What is the short prayer? R. Eliezer saith, Do thy will in heaven, and give quietness of spirit to them that fear thee beneath," or in earth.
11. Give us this day our daily bread.
[Our daily bread.] That is, provide to-morrow's bread, and give it us to-day, that we be not solicitous for to-morrow...
"The necessities of thy people Israel are many, and their knowledge small, so that they know not how to disclose their necessities; let it be thy good pleasure to give to every man what sufficeth for food," &c.
13. 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.
[Deliver us from evil.] "Rabbi [Judah] was wont thus to pray: 'Let it be thy good pleasure to deliver us from impudent men, and impudence; from an evil man, and from an evil chance; from an evil affection, from an evil companion, from an evil neighbour, from Satan the destroyer, from a hard judgment, and from a hard adversary,'" &c.
[For thine is the kingdom, &c.] I. In the public service in the Temple, the commemoration of the kingdom of God was the respond; instead of which the people answered Amen, when the priests ended their prayers. "For the tradition is, that they answered not 'Amen' in the house of the sanctuary. What said they then? Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever." Hence in the tract Joma (where the rubric of the day of Expiation is), after various prayers recited, which, on that day, the high priest makes, is added, "And the people answered, Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever." See the places of that tract noted in the margin. There a short prayer of the high priest is mentioned, in which he thus concludes; "Be ye clean before Jehovah"; and these words are added, "But the priests and people standing in the court, when they heard the name Jehovah pronounced out in its syllable, adoring, and falling prostrate upon their face, they said, Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever." See also the tract Taanith, where a reason is given of this doxology in the Gloss there.
II. This also they pronounced softly, and in a gentle whisper, while they were reciting the phylacteries. It is said of the men of Jericho, that they folded up the Schemah. It is disputed what this means; "And R. Judah saith, That they made some small pause after the reciting of this period, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord': but they said not, 'Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever.' But by what reason do we say so? R. Simeon Ben Levi explains the mystery, who saith, Our father Jacob called his sons, and said, 'Gather yourselves together, and I will declare unto you.' It was in his mind to reveal to them the end of days, and the Holy Spirit departed from him: he said, therefore, 'Perhaps there is something profane in my bed, (which God forbid!) as it was to Abraham, from whom proceeded Ishmael; and to Isaac, from whom proceeded Esau.' His sons said unto him, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord'; as, in thy heart, there is but one; so, in our hearts, there is but one. At that time our father Jacob began, and said, Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever. The Rabbins said, What shall we do? Shall we say this doxology? Our master Moses said it not. Shall we not say it? Our father Jacob said it. Therefore it was appointed to say it softly," &c.
You see how very public the use of this doxology was, and how very private too. Being a response, it was pronounced in the Temple by all with a loud voice; being an ejaculation, it was spoken in the phylacterical prayers, by every single man, in a very low voice. And you see how great an agreement it hath with the conclusion of the Lord's prayer, "For thine is the kingdom," &c.
III. As they answered Amen, not at all in the public prayers in the Temple, so they seldom joined it to the end of their private prayers. In the synagogue, indeed, the people answered Amen to the prayers made by the minister: and also at home, when the master of the family blessed or prayed; but seldom, or indeed never, any one praying privately joined this to the end of his prayers.
And now, to apply those things which have been said to the matter under our hands, consider the following things:
1. That this prayer was twice delivered by our Saviour: first, in this sermon in the mount, when he was not asked; and afterward, when he was asked, almost half a year after, Luke 11.
2. That this conclusion is added in St. Matthew, "For thine is the kingdom," &c.; but in St. Luke it is not. In St. Matthew is added moreover the word Amen; but in St. Luke it is wanting. Upon the whole matter, therefore, we infer,
I. That Christ, in exhibiting this form of prayer, followed a very usual rite and custom of the nation.
II. That the disciples also, receiving this form delivered to them, could not but receive it according to the manner and sense of the nation, used in such cases: since he introduced no exception at all from that general rule and custom.
III. That he scarcely could signify his mind, that this prayer should be universally and constantly used, by any marks or signs more clear than those which he made use of. For,
First, He commanded all, without any exception or distinction, "After this manner pray ye"; and, "When ye pray, say, Our Father," &c.
Secondly, As, according to the ordinary custom of the nation, forms of prayer, delivered by the masters to the scholars, were to be used, and were used by them all indifferently, and without distinction of persons; so also he neither suggested any thing concerning this his prayer, either besides the common custom, or contrary to it.
Thirdly, The form itself carries along with it certain characters, both of its public and private and constant use. It may certainly with good reason be asked, Why, since Christ had delivered this prayer in such plain words in his sermon upon the mount, this command moreover being added, "After this manner pray ye," it was desired again, that he would teach them to pray? What! had they forgotten that prayer that was given them there? Were they ignorant that it was given them for a form of prayer, and so to be used? But his seems rather the cause why they desired a second time a form of prayer, namely, because they might reckon that first for a public form of prayer; since this might easily be evinced, both by the addition of the conclusion so like the public response in the Temple, and especially by the addition of Amen used only in public assemblies: therefore, they beseech him again, that he would teach them to pray privately; and he repeats the same form, but omits the conclusion, and Amen, which savoured of public use. Therefore you have in the conclusion a sign of the public use, by the agreement of it to the response in the Temple; and of the private, by the agreement of it to the ejaculation in the phylacterical prayers. A sign of the public use was in the addition of Amen; a sign of the private use was in the absence of it: a sign of both in the conformity of the whole to the custom of the nation. Christ taught his disciples to pray, as John had taught his, Luke 11:1: John taught his, as the masters among the Jews had theirs, by yielding them a form to be used by all theirs daily, verbatim, and in terms.
16. 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.
[They disfigure their faces.] That is, they disguised their faces with ashes; as he heretofore upon another cause, 1 Kings 20:38: "In the public fasts every one took ashes, and put upon his head. They say of R. Joshua Ben Ananiah, that, all the days of his life, his face was black by reason of is fastings. Why is his name called Ashur? (1 Chron 4:5). Because his face was black by fastings."
Here let that of Seneca come in; "This is against nature, to hate easy cleanliness, and to affect nastiness."
17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
[But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, &c.] For those that fasted neither anointed themselves nor washed. "On the day of Expiation it was forbidden to eat, to drink, to wash, to anoint themselves, to put on their sandals, to lie with their wives. But the king and the bride may wash their faces, and a midwife may put on her sandals." See the Babylonian Gemara here. See also the Babylonian Talmud in the tract Taanith, concerning other fasts, and the fasts of private men.
They were wont to anoint their bodies and heads upon a threefold reason:
I. For finer dress. "Anointing is permitted to be used on the sabbath, whether it be for ornament, or not for ornament. On the day of Expiation both are forbidden. On the ninth day of the month Ab, and in the public fasts, anointing for dress is forbid; anointing not for dress is allowed."
II. They anointed themselves often, not for excess, or bravery, or delight, but for the healing of some disease, or for the health of the body. He that is troubled with the head-ache, or on whom scabs arise, let him anoint himself with oil.
"A tradition of the Rabbins. It is forbidden [in fasts] to wash a part of the body, as well as the whole body. But if it be defiled with dirt or dung, let him wash according to the custom, and let him not be troubled. It is also forbidden to anoint a part of the body, as well as the whole body: but if a man be sick, or if a scab arise on his head, let him anoint himself according to the custom."
Hence, when the apostles are said "to anoint the sick with oil, and to heal them," Mark 6:13, they used an ordinary medicine, and obtained an extraordinary and infallible effect.
Hence that of St. James, chapter 5:14: "Let the sick man call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord": that is, to that ordinary medicine, namely, anointing for recovery of health, let the prayers of the ministers of the church be used.
III. They used sometimes a superstitious anointing of the head, and nothing differing from magical anointing: He that mutters, let him put oil upon his head, and mutter. this muttering is to be understood concerning the manner of saying a charm upon the wound, or some place of the body that feels pain; muttering over the wound; of which mention is made in the tract Sanhedrim. Mention also is made in the tract Schabbath now alleged, that some used this enchanting muttering in the name of Jesus: "One being sick, a certain person came to him, and muttered upon him in the name of Jesus of Pandira, and he was healed." And a little after; "R. Eliezer Ben Damah was bitten by a serpent. James of Capharsam came to heal him in the name of Jesus: but R. Ismael permitted him not," &c. See Acts 19:13.
If the words of James before alleged be compared with this cursed custom, they may well sound to this sense; 'It is customary for the unbelieving Jews to use anointing of the sick joined with a magical and enchanting muttering; but how infinitely better is it to join the pious prayers of the elders of the church to the anointing of the sick!'
20-24. 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.
[If thine eye be single. If thine eye be evil.] That the business here is about a covetous, or a not covetous mind, may be gathered,
I. From the context on either hand: for, verse 20, 21, the discourse is concerning treasures either earthly or heavenly, and, verse 24, concerning serving either God or Mammon.
II. From a very usual manner of speech of the nation. For a good eye, to the Jews, is the same with a bountiful mind; and an evil eye is the same with a covetous mind. "This is the measure of the Truma" (or, of the oblation yielded to the priests), A good eye yieldeth one out of forty; that is, the fortieth part. "The school of Shammai saith, One out of thirty. A middling eye, one out of fifty. And an evil eye, one out of sixty. He that gives a gift, let him give with a good eye: and he that dedicates any thing, let him dedicate it with a good eye." See Matthew 20:15. Hence covetousness is called the lust of the eyes, 1 John 2:16. Therefore our Saviour shows here with how great darkness the mind is clouded and dimmed by covetousness, and too much care of worldly things.
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 you not much better than they?
[The fowls of the air, they sow not, &c.] "Have you ever seen beasts or fowls that had a workshop? And yet they are fed without trouble of mind," &c. See also Midras Tillin.
30. Wherefore, 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?
[O ye of little faith.] Small of faith, a phrase very frequent in the Talmudists. He that prayed with a loud voice, is to be numbered among those that are little of faith. The Israelites in the wilderness were of little faith. R. Abuhabh in the preface to Menorath hammaor; "R. Eliezer saith, 'Whosoever hath but a small morsel in his basket, and saith, What have I to eat to-morrow, behold, he is to be reckoned among those of little faith.'"
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.
[Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.] There is enough of trouble in the very moment.