Scripture Notes


Matthew 5:42.

It is especially important, in the consideration of this scripture, to remember the apostolic word, that "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." To attempt to act literally according to this precept is, in our judgment, to miss altogether its blessed teachings of grace. In this discourse the Lord proclaims, as another has written, "the great essential principles which were to serve as moral foundations for His kingdom, and to characterize those who were to have part in it. The first sixteen verses of chap. 5 contain the enunciation of these principles, as well as the character and position of the sons of the kingdom." And then, after contrasting the teaching "by them of old time" with His own authoritative precepts, the Lord proceeds to point out that the true subjects of His kingdom must be the exponents of His own heart of grace. In all dispensations, indeed, the believer is to express God as revealed in that particular period, and so in the coming kingdom which Christ will establish in glory, on His appearing, His followers will have to represent Himself as they have received and known Him. They will have to act toward others as He has acted toward them. Grace, therefore, will have to govern their attitude toward all; and thus He says, "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." This does not mean, if the principles we have laid down be correct, that (if we make the application to ourselves) we are to give to everyone what he may choose to ask, or to lend whatsoever he may desire to borrow, but' rather that we must be always in a giving state, ever ready to give, and never be weary of giving, so that when a case of real need comes before us we may enjoy the privilege of meeting it, and thus be givers even as God Himself is a giver. We are not thereby exempted, it may be added, from the responsibility of our stewardship - the responsibility of acting as God would have us act as before Him, and for His glory. But we are to beware of restricted hearts; and inasmuch as we have freely received, we are to give freely. If the soul be established in grace, there will be no difficulty in the understanding of the mind of God in this scripture.


Matthew 6:2,5, 16.

It is very evident on the surface that when the Lord says of the "hypocrites" that "they have their reward," He means that they attain the object they have in view in their religious display before the eyes of men, that they, in a word, succeed in acquiring the praise of others. The following note will explain this very exactly: "'Have' is compounded with a preposition, which gives it the force of having all they have to expect, they have the whole of it already. … It is expressed in English by laying the stress on 'have.' Perhaps one might say 'have got' in the same sense." This is very solemn, because it teaches that if we are tempted to seek the admiration, the honour, or the praise of men, we may be allowed to gain it; but in that case we have nothing more to expect, inasmuch as we cannot then have God's favour and blessing. What the Lord is indeed here enforcing is that, whether in giving alms, in praying, or in fasting, it must all be done in secret before the eye of God, for, if not, none of these things will be of any avail before Him. And to encourage His disciples to this He says, "And thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee."* We need to remind ourselves of this instruction, for what is more frequently seen than the publication of the names of the donors of alms, or even private prayers presented before the eyes of others? How beautiful the words which the Lord uses of prayer! "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door" (shut out all else, even the nearest and the dearest), "pray to thy Father who is in secret" (for it is in secret that He is to be found and that His presence is to be realized); "and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee." Yea, if His eye alone, His favour alone, be sought, the end desired will be most assuredly realized. It will be readily perceived that all this applies to individual and private prayer; and yet even where two or three are gathered together in the Lord's name to pray, it is necessary to remember that we must address alone the ear of God, that we must pray to Him, and not to those who are present.

*The word "openly," in the Authorized Version has, as we might expect, no sufficient authority.