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best, is desirous to remove all obstacles out of his way, and to put him into a position the most favourable for the faithful and acceptable discharge of duty. Accordingly, His command in reference to alms-giving is, "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." So strong, so allabsorbing ought to be our anxiety to glorify our heavenly Father, that, far from seeking the praise of men, we should strive to hide the deed of charity even from ourselves, lest, "being puffed up, we should fall into the condemnation of the devil." This almost total unconsciousness of our own good deeds is a high attainment of the Christian, and indicates a lively acting of the Divine life in the soul. The movements of a living body are never more healthy than when they take place unconsciously; but the moment that any one of the functions attracts the notice of the individual, that moment is disease to be apprehended; and so it is with the actings of the spiritual life. The believer dwells in God, and if grace be matured, every thought, and word, and action, has a reference to Him. God is the pole-star by which the believer steers his course. He has reached the exactly opposite point from the unbeliever, for God is now in all his thoughts. He gives to the poor because God hath commanded him, and under the influence of that sanctified compassion which the Spirit of God hath wrought in his heart. He does it, therefore, in secret,
concealing the act as it were even from himself, that God may be honoured and his brother relieved. Not that we can possibly be unconscious of our own deeds, but the Redeemer uses this strong language to show how anxious he is to exclude every other motive but the right one- -a desire to "please God as
And while the believer thus deals exclusively and alone with his heavenly Father, even in acts of kindness and benevolence to his fellow-men, the Redeemer informs us that the day is coming when there will be an open recognition before an assembled universe of these secret acts of Christian sympathy and love. The cup of cold water which was given to refresh the parched lips of yonder humble, obscure believer, shall not lose its reward. In that solemn day when "the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest," "the Father who seeth in secret shall reward His people openly." He will acknowledge them as His own, clothed in the righteousness of His own Son, and sealed by His own Spirit, and every work of faith, and every labour of love, though hidden from the view of others and even of themselves, shall meet with its corresponding reward, and their's shall be the welcome invitation, "Come ye blesssed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
1. What a beautiful exhibition does this passage
afford of the ethics or morality of the New Testa-> ment. Philosophers have often inquired into the nature of virtue or moral goodness, and the conclusions at which they have arrived on this important subject have been various and conflicting. Some have taught that an action is virtuous when it is agreeable to the fitness of things; others when it is conformable to nature; others to reason, and others to truth, while in more recent times the doctrine has been extensively held that an action is virtuous only when it is useful. But the centre point of the morality taught by Jesus is God. His revealed will is the only standard of virtue, and its very nature consists in conformity to the will of God. But entering deeper still into the workings of moral principle, the Redeemer sets forth the important truth that even a good action may be vitiated by an improper motive, that though the action may be one which is expressly commanded by God, still if it is not done with a supreme desire to honour God it cannot be acceptable in His sight. And this ought to lead us,
2. To a strict inquiry as to the motive from which our actions habitually flow. Do we set God constantly before us, and live and act as in His sight, and in full view of the coming judgment? If not, then let us not deceive ourselves; we are strangers to the power of the Spirit's working in the heart. Every act, every impulse of the Spirit in the soul has a re
ference to God. Pray to God then, reader, that you may be brought into such a state, that a desire to promote the divine glory will be the reigning, the allimpelling motive of your conduct. unity, a consistency, a harmony to
This will give a
your whole life,
for "whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, you will do all to the glory of God."
MAT. VI. 5-8.
Jesus having shewn that the righteousness of the Pharisees was defective in so far as almsgiving is concerned, proceeds to the second great duty in which they abounded, the solemn and delightful duty of prayer.
V. 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.”
Prayer is viewed by the child of God as at once a duty, a privilege, a pleasure, and a benefit. Prayer is the Christian's vital breath. He lives by prayer; and no surer proof can any man give that he has not
yet been made alive unto God, than the habitual omission or the careless performance of this solemn duty. And how does the Lord himself prove to Ananias the reality of the conversion of Saul, but by this indication, Behold he prayeth. The first act of spiritual life is the prayer of faith, "O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul." Prayer is well described as an "offering up of the desires of the heart," and it is not until a man has had spiritual desires implanted within him, that he will really pray. He may have often bowed the knee, he may have honoured God with his lips, but he has hitherto been far from God. And, accordingly, in the verse before us, the Redeemer draws an important distinction between true, acceptable prayer and the prayer of the hypocrite, which, as coming from a wicked heart, is an abomination in the sight of God. "Be not," says He, "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." An exercise of this kind is destitute of the essential peculiarity of prayer, and the peculiarity, indeed, of all the operations of the Christian life; it is not an exclusive dealing with God. The hypocrite and the formalist love to perform their religious duties in the most public places and in the most open manner, because they have no higher aim than to be seen of men. When