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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 otku emours 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
Heaven; and in some respects, it is a help to alms too. The. same rule must here be observed, to appear as little as may be ; for the affected discovery spoils and loses all, yea, the needless discovery runs too much hazard, therefore it is by all means to be avoided. Personal fasting should be conducted secretlý. Practise constant temperance. Better to let the bridle be always short held on thy appetite, than sometimes to pull it in extremely, and then lay the reins loose again; that is the way to stumble and fall in both.
Ver. 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.] In these words our Saviour enforces the other point of moderation. The heart in Heaven, and fixed on the true treasure there, is the only way to regulate and moderate the desires in all things on earth. For it is the distempered love of earthly things, that causes all the distracting care about them; and the cause of that distempered love to earth, is ignorance of Heaven, and disaffection to it. Men may discourse of many considerations, and sometimes think soberly, how foolishly man turmoils, and is disquieted in vain, heaping up, and not knowing who shall possess, and knowing certainly that not he very long, that he is shortly to leave all. But these things will not prevail ; men keep their hold. Not only their hands, but their hearts are still fastened to what they have, and what they would have still more of, rather than of those excellent things which would call thein off from earthly enjoyments, to fix them on Heaven and immortality, if these were really believed.
Where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.] Inward decay, and outward hazards ! The treasure above is free from both. Oh, that ours were there! But hearts that are so little there, make it very questionable. . Oh, for an eye single and pure, enlightened to behold that blessed hope, and to fix upon it! Can an heir of Heaven be much troubled upon earth ? Impossible. If at any time his heart bends that way, will he not straightly check himself, and think, What am I doing? Is this my business ?
The Gentiles seek for them, and look for no more; they must make the best of them; but would I be content with this for my portion ? Where lies my treasure ? Who is my master ?
Ver. 24—34. No man can serve two masters. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life.] Our Saviour here argues against the service of the world ; first, as unworthy a servant of Christ ; secondly, as impossible for him; thirdly, as needless, and that at large. Your heavenly Father knows your need, and cares for you. Ye need not both care ; his care is sufficient. Further, it is fruitless: such your perplexing care is, for due diligence in one's calling, is not barred; yea, that is to be used, that we may care the less.
we may care the less. Then, it avails nothing: Ver. 27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Lay these things together. Your Father will care and provide. He that clothes the lilies, and feeds the birds, will he allow his children to starve and go naked ? Then think how preposterous and absurd to distrust him in these petty things, when you trust him in so much greater.
Ver. 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God. A kingdom! Oh, seek that, and account, as he does, all things else but accessaries, a parcel by the bye, to be cast in. But alas ! little see we of that great inheritance, that kingdom, and therefore these little, poor things still seem so great with us.
We have here continued the dropping of the Divine doctrine of Christ, distilling as the dew in several brief rules, as pure pearly drops of heavenly wisdom, in divers particulars of main use and concernment.
First, there is a direction concerning judging of men,
ver, 1-6. Then, another, regarding the supplicating of God, ver. 7-11. After that, the straight rule of equity given us, ver. 12. And then, the straight way of happiness recommended, ver. 13, 14. Lastly, a double word of caution to undeceive us, both in the discerning of others' teaching, and our own learning, ver. 15—27: we are to beware that we be not deluded by false teachers, and that we delude not ourselves, being false learners under the teaching of truth. These are most weighty points ; but light vain hearts are little taken with them.
Ver. 1-5. Judge not, that ye be not judged.] This is a most common evil in man's perverse nature. Even moral men have taken notice of it; yea, almost every man perceives and hates it in another, and yet hugs it in himself. This is the evil-unequal judging; sharp-sightedness in the evils of others, and blindness in our own. And this very evil itself, of unequal judging, we can perceive in another, and overlook in our own bosom. What discourse fills most societies, and consumes their time, but descant on the conditions and actions of others !
Lawful judgments in states, for the censuring and punishment of crimes, are not barred; nor, in private persons, a prudent discerning of what is evil and sinful in others, and judging accordingly of it. But this judging is, the usually taking the chair to censure all persons and affairs about us ; the prying into the actions, yea, even the intentions of men, either through a false glass, seeing faults where there are none, or through a magnifying and multiplying glass, making them appear many more than indeed they are. This is done, first, by a curious searching into the actions of others; secondly, by the censuring of good and indifferent actions as evil; thirdly, by hasty, rash censuring of doubtful actions, though a little suspicious ; fourthly, by a true censuring of evil actions, yet not with a good intention, not to amend but to defame thy brother; and, fifthly, by a desperate sentencing of the final estate even of the worst.
This is here declared to be dangerous and preposterous. 1st. Dangerous, by drawing an answerably severe censure and judgment upon ourselves, usually even from men, but however, certainly from God. Thou that playest the arch critic on all around thee, art thou without fault ? Hast thou flattered thyself into such a fancy, as to think that thou art above all exception? Is there nothing, either a true or a seeming blemish, for any to point at in thee ? Surely there is something, some part lying open, that men may hit thee; and they will surely not miss to do it, if thou provokest them. However, remember, if thou shouldest escape all tongues, and pass free this way, yet, One unavoidable searching hand thou must come under ; His judgment who sees thee to the bottom, and can charge thee with the secret sins of thy bosom. He can, and will so pay thee home, all thy unjust judgments of thy brethren, with just judging of thy ways and thoughts, that thou thyself shalt confess no wrong is done to thee. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.
Then, 2dly. It is absurd and preposterous. First cast the beam out of thine own eye. If thou wouldst, to any good purpose, take knowledge of thy brother's failings, begin at home; so clear thine eye as to discern aright. A heart well purified, speaks the most suitable and pertinent reproofs, and they prove the most piercing and powerful.
Shall these things prevail, my brethren ? Weie it love to God, a fire of holy zeal, it would seize first on things nearest it; but it is a flying, infernal wildfire, running abroad and scattering itself. Is not this the grand entertainment ? Sucha-one is a foolish person ; another, proud; a third, covetous. And of persons professing religion, yet will ye say, They are as contentious, and bitter, and avaricious as others; or, at best, if you have nothing to say against them particularly, yet, All is dissimulation ; they are but hypocrites. And while a mind is of this vein, believe me, the most blameless track of life, and in it the very best action, how easy is it to invent a sinister sense of it, and blur it !