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may appear unto men to fast; verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, which is in se cret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly*.

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In all these passages the point to be noticed is a strong and marked disapprobation of every thing that looks like estentation, parade, vain-glory, insincerity, or hypocrisy, in the discharge of our Christian duties. They show in the clearest light the spirit and temper of the Christian religion, which is modest, silent, retired, quiet, unobtrusive, shunning the observation and the applause of men, and looking only to the approbation of him, who seeth every thought of our hearts, and every secret motive of our actions.

They establish this as the grand principle of action for every disciple of Christ, that in every part of his moral and religious conduct he is to have no other object in view but the favour of God. This is the motive from which all his virtues are to flow. If he is actuated by any other; if he courts the applause of the world, or is ambitious to acquire, by a show of piety, a character of sanctity among men, he may, perhaps, gain his point; but it is all he will gain. He will have his reward here; he must expect none hereafter.

Having made this general observation upon the whole, I shall now proceed to remark on the particular instances adduced, in order to establish the leading principle.

And, first, we are directed to give our alms so privately, that (as our Lord most emphatically and elegantly expresses it) our left hand shall not know what our right hand doeth." This evidently implies the ut most secresy in the distribution of our charity; and this is undoubtedly the rule we are in general to observe. But it is by no means to be inferred from hence, that we are never, on any occasion, to give our alms in publie. In some cases, publicity is so far from being culpable, that it is necessary, useful, and laudable. In contributing, for instance, to any public charity, or to the -relief of some great calamity, private or public, we cannot well conceal our beneficence, or if we could we

* Matt. vi, 16-18.

ought not. Our example may induce many others to exert a similar generosity; and, besides this, there are persons in certain situations, who are expected to be charitable, and who should give proofs to the world that they are so. And accordingly, in these and in such like cases, we are required to make our "light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father, which is in Heaven." As far, therefore, as the reason of this command goes, it is not only allowable, but our duty, to let our generous deeds be sometimes known to the world. But then we ought to take especial care at the same time, that we bestow a much larger proportion of our alms in secresy and in silence; that we suffer no one to witness our beneficence, but him, who must see every thing we do, and that we have no other object whatever in view, but his approbation, and his immortal rewards.

The next instance, adduced to confirm the general principle of seeking the approbation not of men but of God, is that of prayer.

"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. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

This passage has been made use of by some writers as an argument against all public prayer, which they say is here plainly prohibited. But for this there is not the smallest foundation. It is of private prayer only, that our Lord is here speaking; and the hypocrites, whom he condemns, were those ostentatious Jews, who performed those devotions, which ought to have been confined to the closet, in the synagogues, and even in the public streets, that they might be noticed and applauded for their extraordinary piety and sanctity. But this reproof could not possibly mean to extend to public devotions in places of worship. This is evident from the corners of streets being mentioned; for those are places in. which public devotions are never performed. But, besides this, we find in Scripture, that public worship is

* Matt. v, 16.

enjoined as a duty of the highest importance. It made a considerable part of the Jewish religion, and the Mosaic law is filled with precepts and directions concerning it. God declares by the prophet Isaiah," that his house shall be called a house of prayer for all people *." Our Saviour quotes these very words when he cast out those that polluted the temple; and was himself a constant frequenter of divine worship, both in the temple and in the synagogues. He taught his disciples (as we shall soon see) a form of prayer, which, though very proper to be used by any single person in private, yet is throughout expressed in the plural number, and adapted to the use of several persons praying at the same time. "If two of you," says he to his disciples on another occasion, "shall agree on Earth touching any thing, that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father, which is in Heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of themt." By St. Paul we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some ist.' And we find, that after our Saviour's ascension, his followers" continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in prayer and supplication, praising God, and having favour with all the people §.

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It is, therefore, incontestably clear, that our Saviour could not possibly mean to forbid that public worship, which he himself practised and commanded. His intentions could only be to confine our private prayers to private places, in which we are to keep up a secret intercourse with our Maker, withdrawn from the eye of the world, and unobserved by any other than that Almighty Being to whom our petitions are addressed.

The last instance produced by our Saviour is that of fasting. "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 thy 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."

• Isaiah Ivi, 7.

: Heb. x, 25.

+ Matt. xviii, 19, 20.
Acts ii, 42, 47.


There is very little necessity to dwell on this precept here, for there are scarce any in these times and in this country who seem disposed to make a show of fasting, or to be ambitious of acquiring a reputation for that kind of religious discipline; on the contrary, it is by great numbers entirely laid aside, and too frequently treated with derision and contempt. Yet from this very passage we may learn, that it ought to be considered in a much more serious light; for although our Saviour did not command his disciples to fast whilst he was with them, yet he himself fasted for forty days. He here plainly supposes that his disciples did sometimes fast; and gives them directions how to perform that duty in a manner acceptable to God. And it appears also, that if they did so perform it, if they fasted without any ostentation or parade, with a design not to catch the applause of men, but to approve themselves to God, he assured them 66 they should have their reward."

Before we quit this division of the chapter, we must go back a little to that admirable form of prayer, which our Lord gave to his disciples, after cautioning them against all ostentation in their devotions.

This prayer stands unrivalled in every circumstance that constitutes the perfection of prayer, and the excellence of that species of composition. It is concise, it is perspicuous, it is solemn, it is comprehensive, it is adapted to all ranks, conditions, and classes of men; it fixes our thoughts on a few great important points, and impresses on our minds a deep sense of the goodness and the greatness of that Almighty Being to whom it is addressed.

It begins with acknowledging him to be our most gracious and merciful Father; it begs that his name may everywhere be reverenced, that his religion may spread over the earth, and that his will may be obeyed by men with the same ardour, and alacrity, and constancy that it is by the angels in heaven. It next entreats the supply of all our essential wants, both temporal and spiritual; a sufficiency of those things that are absolutely necessary for our subsistence; the forgiveness of our transgressions, on condition that we forgive our brethren; and, finally, support under the temptations that assault our virtue, and deliverance from the various evils and calamities that everywhere surround us; expressing at the same time the utmost trust and confidence in the power of God, to

grant whatever he sees it expedient and proper for his creatures to receive.

The full meaning, then, of this admirable prayer, and of the several petitions contained in it, may perhaps be not improperly expressed in the following manner :

O thou great Parent of the universe, our Creator, our Preserver, and continual Benefactor, grant that we and all reasonable creatures may entertain just and worthy notions of thy nature and attributes, may fear thy power, admire thy wisdom, adore thy goodness, rely upon thy truth; may reverence thy holy name, may bless and praise thee, may worship and obey thee.

Grant that all the nations of the earth may come to the knowledge and belief of thy holy religion; that it may everywhere produce the blessed fruits of piety, righteousness, charity, and sobriety; that, by a constant endeavour to obey thy holy laws, we may approach, as near as the infirmity of our nature will allow, to the more perfect obedience of the angels that are in heaven; and thus qualify ourselves for entering into thy kingdom of glory hereafter.

Feed us, we beseech thee, with food convenient for us. We ask not for riches and honours; give us only what is necessary for our comfortable subsistence in the several stations which thy providence has allotted to us; and, above all, give us contented minds.

We are all, O Lord, the very best of us, miserable sinners. Be not extreme, we beseech thee, to mark what we have done amiss, but pity our infirmities, and pardon our offences. Yet let us not dare to implore forgiveness from thee, unless we also from our hearts forgive our offending brethren.

We are surrounded on every side with temptations to sin; and such is the corruption and frailty of our nature, that without thy powerful succour we cannot always stand upright. Take us then, O gracious God, under thy almighty protection; and, amidst all the dangers and difficulties of our Christian warfare, be thou our refuge and support. Suffer us not to be tempted above what we are able to bear, but send thy Holy Spirit to strengthen our own weak endeavours, and enable us to escape or to subdue all the enemies of our salvation.

Preserve us also, if it be thy blessed from spiritual, but from temporal evil.

will, not only Keep us ever

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