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tion to preserve an unblemished character, they should be careful to join prudence in delivering their instructions; not attempting to enforce them upon those to whom they were so far from being likely to do good hereby, that they would only excite in them an inclination, and afford them an opportunity, to insult and injure them. It was usual with the ancient professors of wisdom, among the Chaldeans, Hebrews and Egyptians, to deliver their precepts under figures or parables. An example of this kind our Saviour has given us in the present instance.
By that which is holy, or, as the word is more properly rendered, the sacrifice, we are to understand the Christian doctrine, or religious instruction: the same thing is likewise to be understood by the pearls, which are a fit emblem of any thing that is of uncommon excellence. Dogs were held in great detestation by the Jews: by dogs therefore are here represented men of odious character, and impudent opposers of the gospel: such were the Jews of Antioch, who were contradicting and blaspheming, and who are therefore said to have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life*.---Other Jews, of the same turn of mind, the apostle Paul likewise calls by this appellation, Philip. iii. 2. “Beware of dogs."
By swine we are likewise to understand men of nearly the same character, who do not indeed contradict and blaspheme, like the former, yet, by the impurity of their lives, shew in what contempt they hold the admonitions which they receive. It is the disposition of swine to trample under foot whatever may be thrown to them, however precious; and of dogs to bite the hand that feeds them. The same malignant temper frequently appears in men of abandoned character: they are disposed to tear in pieces those who venture to offer them religious instruction, or to reprove them for their vices. Considering the pro fessors of the truth and the teachers of religion as enemies to their interests, and as reflecting disgrace upon them by superior excellence of manners, they conceive a violent hatred against them, and are ready to employ all kinds of violence against them themselves, or to instigate the common people, or those in power, to accomplish their wicked purposes. This both Christ and his apostles experienced, wherever they preached; but especially among the Jews. Upon such men he would not have us throw away instruction. We must not, however, imagine that he would have us leave all wické ed men to themselves, without attempting to reform them; for we find that he himself preached to publicans and sinners, and that he had some proselytes from that class of people.
* Acts siii. 45, 46.
It is only after men have been found by experience to be refractory and obstinate, that they are to be abandoned.
7. Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
We are here shewn the manner in which we may obtain those things which are necessary for enabling us to walk constantly in that way which Christ has pointed out to us. He had shewn before the necessity of the eyes of the understanding being enlightened, in order to direct the affections aright; he would therefore have us implore light from heaven, and that by earnest prayer. The same may be said of all the other things which Christ has enjoined in the sermon upon the mount: by earnest prayer to God we shall be enabled to perform them.
Asking, seeking and knocking are only different words to express the same thing, the earnestness of our prayers. No exception is here made to our success; we are not to imagine, however, that mere asking will procure the object of our petition.
From other parts of scripture we learn that we must not regard iniquity in our hearts; otherwise God will not hear our prayers; and that we must not only be worshippers of God, but also doers of his will. Particularly, as we have learnt from this discourse of Christ, when we pray for forgiveness of our sins, we must be disposed to exercise forgiveness towards others.
8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
In the common affairs of life, the things which men seek for with earnestness and diligence, they may hope to obtain, either from their own labours or the bounty of their friends; but if they will not seek for them, or do it with negligence, they must expect to be left without them. From the success of men in their temporal concerns, an argument may be drawn for encouraging them to pray for spiritual blessings; or Christ may here mean to appeal to the experience of those who have actually engaged in prayer, with suitable earnestness and perseverance, accompanied also with the dispositions above mentioned, they having never prayed in vain; but either obtaining the particular object for which they asked, or those virtuous and pious dispositions of mind which it is the great end of prayer to cultivate.
9. Or what man is there of you whom if his son ask bread, rather,
rather, "a loaf,” he will give him a stone?
10. Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ?
ll. If ye then, being evil, i. e. compared with God, who is perfect goodness, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
From the well-known readiness of parents to fulfil the wishes and to comply with the requests of their child
ren, Christ encourages men to apply by prayer to God, who is the Father of mankind by being the author of their existence, and who preserves for them more than parental affection. The relation in which he stands to the human race, and the perfect benevolence of his nature, lay a foundation for a well-grounded confidence that he will bestow upon them all things which are really for their good. Christ here speaks of good things in general; but in the correspondent passage in Luke, the
Holy Spirit only is mentioned, by which we are to understand miraculous powers.---" How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them which ask him?" One of the gifts of the Spirit was supernatural wisdom, or the knowledge of the divine will; to this James has been supposed to refer, when he speaks of the efficacy of prayer, (i. 5.) “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” To this supernatural wisdom or knowledge Paul has likewise been supposed to refer, when he prays for the Ephesians, (i. 17.) that the Father of glory would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him; the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, that they might know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.---The gifts of the Holy Spirit, whether they consist in the knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel, communicated by revelation, or in the power to work miracles in confirmation of its divine origin, are doubtedly good things, by way of eminence; and these are probably what Christ refers to, and assures his disciples that they may obtain by asking for them; bụt there appears no sufficient reason for supposing that these were the only good things to which Christ refers; on the contrary, it is reasonable to suppose that under that term he included every blessing which we are encouraged to ask for in prayer.
12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you,
do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Christ here orders us to do to others, that, which reason tells us, we might not unjustly demand from them. We are directed to this method of learning our duty, because, for the most part, we see better what is equitable, when we consider what others owe to us, than by considering what we owe to them. In order to judge justly therefore we must change persons with our brethren, and determine to do that to others which we should expect from them in our circumstances.
“ This is the law and the prophets." By observing this rule, we shall fulfil every thing which is said in the law and the prophets respecting the duties which we owe to each other; for as to the duties which relate to the worship of God, they are comprehended in another precept,“ Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. There seems to be no particular connection between this verse and those which go before, and it is imagined that the word therefore, with which it begins, is only an expletive, not connecting this verse with the preceding, but pointing out a transition from one subject to another.
1. From what Christ has said of the necessity of correcting our own failings, before we correct the failings of others, the ministers of religion may learn a useful lesson. They may see that, in order to become successful reformers of mankind, as well as to preserve consistency of character, they must begin with reforming themselves. Vicious indulgencies darken the understanding as well as harden the heart; they prevent