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CONTINUATION OF OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE
From Matthew, Chap. vi. 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.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face : 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.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and 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 ihe one,
and despise the other. Ye cannot serve GOD and Mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on; Is not the life more than meat, and the body than rainient?
Behold the fowls of the air : for they sow not, nei. ther do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your - heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye much better than they?
Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature ?
And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.
And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, Oye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we 1 be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have no need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righte. ousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow : for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: suffi. cient unto the day is the evil thereof.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. It was customary for the Jews, not only to observe days of public national humiliation, but to keep private fasts. These our Lord approved of, as excellent means to promote piety; but he cautioned them against osten<tation in this duty, as well as in that of prayer; advis. ing them not to make any alteration in their outward appearance at such time, since it was sufficient if they humbled their souls before God. What Isaiah spake to the Jews by Divine inspiration, will be the best com. ment on this part of our Lord's discourse; and it may be applied both to private and national fasts.
Is such then the fast which I choose ? that a man should afflict bis soul for a day? Is it that he should bow down his head like a bulrush; and spread sackcloth and ashes for his couch ? Shall this be called a fast, and a day acceptable to JEHOVAH ?
Is not this then the fast which I choose? To dissolve the bands of wickedness; to loosen the oppressive burdens; to deliver those that are crashed by violence; and that pe shall break asunder every yoke ?
Is it not to distribute thy bread to the hungry; and to bring the wandering poor into thy house? W ben thou seest the naked, that thou clothe him; and that thou hide not thy. self from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy wounds shall speedily be healed over: and thy righteousness shall go up before thee; and the glory of Jehovah shall bring up.thy rear.
Then shalt thou call, and JEHOV 2H shall answer; thou shalt cry, and be shall say, Lo, I am here! If thou remove from the midst of thee the yoke; the pointing of the finger and the injurious speech.
If thou bring forth thy bread to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day.
And JEHOVAH shall lead thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in the severest drought; and he shall renew thy strength; and thou shalt be like a well-watered garden, and like a flowing spring.
Having instructed his disciples how to pray and fasi in a manner acceptable to God, our Lord proceeds to exhort them against covetousness, for which the Phari. sees were notorious ; and to teach them to place their confidence in Divine Providence, instead of worldly treasures.
Every article in which riches comsist is liable to de. struction and loss ; the finest garments are subject to injury; fruit and grain of all kinds are in danger of being spoiled by various accidents; gold, silver, and jewels, are temptations to robbers, who may in one night de. prive the possessor of what he has spent years in accu. mulating. But the love and favour of God, everlasting life, and uninterrupted happiness, the treasures of heaven, are out of the reach of every casualty : no one can rob a man of these, neither will they wax old and decay. It is therefore highly essential that every christian should form a right judgment in respect to the superior value of heavenly treasures, lest he become subject to the en. ticing allurements of earthly riches.
A man intent merely on worldly gain, is in a state of deplorable darkness; the light of religion is extinct, which would illuminate his mind, and enable him to distinguish real from imaginary good; and teach him, that liberality is productive of more substantial blessings than covetousness can possibly obtain. But he who has learnt from the Gospel to make a proper use of God's bounty to him, has a sure rule to go by, and may be said to be full of light. The numerous schemes and projects which are requisite to obtain a plentiful fortune, by human wisdom, have a natural tendency to alienate the affections from God. ' A man engaged in the immoderate pursuit of wealth, is, in fact, an idola. tor; therefore our Saviour speaks of riched as one of
those imaginary deities which the heathen worshipped, to whose service the covetous are devoted, instead of that: of their CREATOR ; and exhorts his followers to throw aside all anxious cares in respect to what they shall get to wear when their present clothes are worn out, and what they shall have to eat when their present stock of food is exhausted ; and to rely on the goodness of their beavenly FATHER, who, having given them life, is cer. tainly able to bestow whatever is necessary for its prescrvation.
If the animals, and even the inanimate creation, which are neither capable of sowing or reaping, or laying up a, stock of food and raiment, are clothed and sustained by God's Providence, surely his children, who are much more valuable in his sight, and better furnished with the means of providing for themselves, have no cause at any time to suspect his want of care. No one can increase the period of his life; but, giving way to anxiety, will rather is pair the constitution, and bring on grey hairs and premature death.
Our Lord's allusion to the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field, are very beautiful, and teach us to de. rive instruction from the objects that surround us. When we behold the feathered race flying with constant gaiety, from place to place, and hear them chant forth their melodious songs from tree to tree, let us remember to place our conficence in the same beneficent Being whol provides for the r mcessities; and imitate, as far as is consistent with our condition, their cheerfulness. When we admire the beauty of the flowers, which no human art can equal, let us remember, that they are thus adorned by our CREATOR, who knoweth that, from the constin tution of our bodies, we have need of clothing, and who will certainly furnish us with the means of procuring it..