Luke 11The learned Mr. Mead upon this place apprehends, that it was the custom of the Jewish doctors to deliver some certain form of prayer to their disciples to use, at least that John the Baptist had done so to his disciples; thereupon our Saviour's disciples besought them, that he also would give them in like manner some form of his own composing, that they might pray with their master's spirit, as John's disciples did with his. Accordingly our Saviour gives them here a form of his own, and commands them when they pray to use it. Indeed he had given them this prayer about a year and a half before, in his Sermon upon the Mount. Matt 6:9
After this manner pray ye: where it is probable that the disciples looked upon it only as a pattern of prayer, and not as a form; for had they thought that Christ hd given them a form of prayer before, they had not asked him for one now; therefore says Christ, When ye pray, say. Certainly this gives us to understand that our Saviour intended and commanded it for a set form of prayer unto his church.
Learn hence, that the Lord's prayer is both a pattern and platform, according to which all our prayers ought to be framed; and also an exact form of prayer, which ought to be used by us in our addresses to the throne of grace: After this manner pray ye, says St. Matthew; When ye pray, say, says St. Luke.
Observe here, the favor which Christ does us in prescribing a form of prayer to us; a great favor no doubt, though the world grows weary of it: we know not alas what to ask, but he himself teaches us, and frames our application for us, that it may be accepted. Should a king's son draw a petition for a poor subject, to be put up to his father, what a ground of hope would there be, that whatever is desired would be obtained! If any of us then think meanly of our Lord's prayer, oh how meanly may He think of us, and of our prayers!
The sense and signification of this best of prayers is this: "O thou our Father in Jesus Christ, who remains in thy throne in heaven, and art there perpetually praised and perfectly obeyed by glorious angels and glorified saints. Grant that thy name may be glorified, thy throne acknowledged, and thy holy will obeyed here on earth below by us thy sons and servants, as readily, as cheerfully, and sincerely, and in some degree of proportion to what is done in heaven above. And because, by reason of the frailty of our natures, we cannot subsist without the comforts and supports of life, we crave our daily bread at thy bountiful hand; even such a proportion of the good things of this life as thy wisdom shall be convenient for us. And knowing that thy holiness and justice does oblige thee to punish sin and sinners, we plead with thee, for the sake of thy Son's satisfaction, to forgive us our daily trespasses; for it is our desire and endeavor, heartily to forgive those that have offended us. And seeing this wicked world wherein we live is so full of snares and temptations of all sorts, we pray that by the power of thy grace, and the concurrence of our own careful endeavors, we may be kept from Satan's temptation, from the world's allurements, and from our own evil inclinations, and be preserved unblamable to thine everlasting kingdom. And in testimony of our desires and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen, so be it; even so, O Lord, let it be forever."
1. That God is the Father of all his people: as a Father he knows all his children, he loves them and takes care of them: as his children, it is our duty to honor him, to obey him, to imitate him, to cast our care upon him, and to long for the enjoyment of him.
2. From the word our, learn that it is our duty to pray for others, as well as for ourselves. We cannot pray acceptably for ourselves, if we pray only for ourselves.
3. That the hallowing, honoring, and sanctifying of God's name, as it is the first thing we are to pray for, so it ought to be preferred before all other things whatsoever: we pray for it before we pray for our own salvation; we say, Hallowed be thy name, before we say, Forgive us our debts.
4. Learn, that sins are debts, and sinners are indebted to divine justice. Sin is an infinite debt, a multiplied debt, an inexcusable debt, and if not discharged by our surety, we must lie in prison to all eternity for non-payment of this debt.
5. That God has made our forgiveness of others, the condition of his forgiving us: the word as, is not a note of equality, but of similitude; we cannot equal God in forgiving, but we must imitate him.
6. No sooner is sin pardoned, but Satan will be busy with his temptation: Forgive us our sins, and lead us not into temptation.
7. That it is a greater mercy to be delivered from the evil of temptation, than from temptations to evil. The evil of temptations is the evil of sin, but temptation to evil is at most but the evil of punishment. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; suffer us not to be led into temptation, or, if so, leave us not when we are tempted.
The design of our blessed Saviour in these, and the following verses, is to excite and stir up his disciples to fervency, importunity, and constancy, in the duty of prayer, and to this purpose he makes use of a double argument, the one of a friend, and the other of a father. He lays before them the parable of a friend, coming to his friend at midnight, and by his importunity obtaining that of him which otherwise he must have gone without.
From whence our Lord leaves us to infer that if an impudent and bold beggar can obtain so much from a man, what cannot an humble, earnest, and daily petitioner obtain from God? What friend is so faithful and helpful to his dearest friend, as God is to us his children?
From the whole note,
1. That a man must be brought into a state of friendship and reconciliation with God, if he hopes his prayers shall be accepted.
2. That when any of the friends of God are in necessities and straits, he allows them the liberty at all hours to call upon him, and pray unto him: at midnight as well as at mid-day, God's ear is open to his praying friends.
3. That Almighty God takes pleasure in being urged in prayer by the holy importunity of his friends: never is he better pleased, than when his people, with holy Jacob, wrestle with him, and will not let him go till he hath blessed them.
4. That such holy and humble importunity shall not only obtain what we desired, but more than we expected: only three loaves were desired here, but because of importunity he had as many as he needed; more is given in the concession, than was desired in the supplication. The original word here rendered importunity, signifies impudence, according to that saying among the Jews. The impudent man overcomes the modest and the bashful; how much more God, who is goodness itself?
Our Saviour here goes on to urge us to importunity and constancy in prayer; he bids us ask, seek, and knock, and assures us we shall be accepted, heard, and answered.
1. That man is a poor indigent creature, full of wants, but unable to supply them.
2. As man is an indigent and insufficient creature, so God is an all-sufficient good, able to supply the wants, and to relieve the necessities, of his creatures.
3. That Almighty God stands ready to supply all our wants, not temporal only, but spiritual also, affording his grace, and the assistance of his Holy Spirit, to them that ask it.
4. If therefore we want the grace of God, and the asistance of his Holy Spirit, it is our own fault, and not God's; it is either for want of seeking, or for want of earnestness in asking; for our Saviour expressly assures us, that God denies it to none; but every one that asketh receiveth.
The second parable which our Saviour makes use of, is that of a father to his children; Christ represents the care and kindness of God towards us by the affections which earthly parents bear to their natural children, who though they be many times evil themselves, yet are not wont to deny their children necessary good things, when they dutifully and decently beg them at their hands: If ye being evil - how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit; that is, the continual presence and influence of his Holy Spirit to all the purposes of guidance and direction, of grace and assistance, of comfort and support, in our Christian course.
Learn hence, that the presence and assistance of God's Holy Spirit, to enable us to do what God requires, shall never be wanting to those that desire it, and endeavor after it. But we must always remember that the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, though it be offered and tendered to us, yet it is not forced upon us; for if we beg the Holy Spirit and his assistance, but refuse to make use of it; or if we cry to him for his help to mortify our lusts, but do not put forth our own endeavors; we forfeit the divine assistance, and God will certainly withdraw his Holy Spirit from us.
A relation is here given of a famous miracle wrought by our Saviour in casting a devil out of a possessed man. It is called a dumb devil, because of the effect upon the poor possessed person in restraining the use of his tongue.
Learn here, 1. That among the many calamities which sin has rendered human nature liable and obnoxious to, this is one, to be bodily possessed by Satan.
Observe, 2. That one demonstration of Christ's divine power, and a convictive evidence of his being truly and really God, was his casting out devils by the word of his power.
Observe, 3. What a sad and contrary effect this miracle had upon the wicked Pharisees, through their own own blindness, obstinacy, and malice: instead of magnifying his divine power, they maliciously accuse him for holding a correspondence with the devil, and acting by a power derived from him; as If Satan should lend our Saviour a power against himself, and that for the destruction of his own kingdom. Lord, how dangerous is a willful opposition against the truth! It provokes the Almighty to deliver persons up to the most unreasonable infidelity, and obstinate obduracy.
Observe, 4. Our Saviour knowing their thoughts, makes a just apology for himself, by showing how improbable and unlikely, how unreasonable and absurd, it is once to imagine or suppose that Satan should cast out himself, and any ways seek to oppose or destroy his own kingdom. Now, if I have received (says Christ) my power from Satan, for casting out Satan, then is the devil like a family divided within itself, and like a kingdom against itself, which can never stand, but must be brought to destruction.
Observe, lastly, our Saviour tells the Pharisees, that they might with as much reason attribute all other miracles to the power of the devil, as those wrought by himself; for there were certain Jews among them that cast out devils in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now our Saviour asks them by what power these their children cast them out? They acknowledged that what they did was by the power of God, and there was no cause but their malice, why they should not acknowledge that what he did was by the same power; If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? But if I with the finger of God cast them out, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you; that is, the long expected kingdom of the Messiah is certainly come, and I having wrought these miracles by my own power, is a demonstrative proof that I am the promised Messiah.
Our Saviour having sufficiently shown that he did not work his miracles by the power of the devil, he next informs the Pharisees from whence he had that power, even from God himself; accordingly he compares Satan to a strong man armed with weapons to defend his house; and himself clothed with divine power, he compares to one that is stronger than the strong man. So that the argument runs thus: the devil is very strong and powerful, and there is no power but only God's that is stronger than his: if, then says Christ, I were not assisted with a divine power, I could never cast out this strong man, who reigns in the bodies and souls of men, as in his house; for it must be a stronger than the strong man that shall bind Satan; and who is he but the God of strength?
Learn thence, that only Christ's divine power is superior to Satan's strength: he only can vanquish and overrule him at his pleasure, and drive him out of that possession, which he holds either in the bodies or souls of men: The strong man armed keeps the house, till a stronger than he comes upon him, and overcomes him. When the unclean spirit goeth out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
1. That Satan is an unclean spirit, he hath lost his original purity, his holy nature in which he was created, and is by sin become universally sinful and impure; no means being allowed by God, for the purging of his filthy and impure nature; yea, he is a perfect enemy to purity and holiness; maligning all that love it, and would promote it.
2. That Satan is a restless and unquiet spirit; being cast out of heaven, he can rest no where; when he is either gone out of a man by policy, or cast out by power, he has no content or satisfaction, until he returns into a filthy heart, where he delights to be, as the swine in miry places.
3. That wicked and profane sinners have this unclean spirit dwelling in them: their hearts are Satan's house and habitation, and the lusts of pride and unbelief, malice and revenge, envy and hypocrisy, these are the garnishings and furniture of Satan's house. Man's heart was God's house by creation, it is now Satan's by usurpation and judiciary tradition.
4. That Satan by the preaching of the gospel, may seem to go out of persons, and they become sober and civilized; yet may he return again to his old habitation, and the latter end of that man be worse than the beginning.
Observe here, 1. How ready we are to admire persons for their external privileges, and the favors of divine Providence, and pronounce such blessed: Blessed is the womb that bare thee.
Observe, 2. That Christ makes another judgment of persons, and pronounces them more blessed that bear him in their hearts by faith, than his own mother, who bare him in her womb by sense. The blessedness of being an obedient believer, is far greater than that of being the mother of our blessed Saviour.
Blessed be God, this great and gracious privilege is not denied unto us now. Although we cannot see Christ, yet love him we may; his bodily presence cannot be enjoyed by us, but his spiritual gracious presence is not denied us. Though Christ be not ours in house, in arms, by affinity, by consanguinity; yet in heart, in faith, in love, in service, he is or may be ours; verily spiritual regeneration, and an obediental doing of God's will, brings men into a more honorable relation to Christ, than natural generation ever did: Yet, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
The sign which the Pharisees here desired of our Saviour, was a miracle wrought by him. Now our Saviour, though he was very ready to work miracles to encourage and confirm his hearers' faith, yet not to satisfy the unbelieving Pharisees' curiosity: and accordingly he tells them, they should have no other sign than that of his resurrection, which Jonas was a type of.
Next he threatens them for their obstinacy and infidelity, which he aggravates from the example of the queen of the south, and the men of Nineveh.
From thence learn, that the sins of infidelity and impenitency are exceedingly heightened, and their guilt aggravated, from the means afforded by God to bring men to faith and obedience. The sin of the Pharisees was infinitely greater in rejecting the evidence of Christ's miracles, than the sin of the Ninevites would have been in refusing to hearken to Jonas's ministry; therefore the Ninevites shall condemn the Pharisees.
Our Saviour in these words does these two things:
1. He declares, that although his ministry had no effect upon the proud and obstinate Pharisees, yet he would not hide the light which he came into the world to bring, nor conceal that heavenly doctrine which his Father had committed to him to communicate to the children of men; teaching us that such as are enlightened by God, with the knowledge of his word and will, ought not to conceal and hide this knowledge within themselves, but communicate it to others, and improve it for the good and benefit of others: No man that lighteth a candle putteth it under a bushel.
2. Our Saviour here discovers the reason why the Pharisees continued blind under so clear a light as that of his ministry; namely, because the eye of their understanding was darkened, not so much with ignorance as with prejudice, whereby they opposed Christ and his holy doctrine: for if the mind be clearly enlightened by the word and Spirit of God, that light will diffuse and spread itself in the soul, as the bright shining of a candle does in the house, enlightening all the inward faculties, and directing all the outward actions, and communicating its light also to the enlightening of others.
Observe here, 1. The free conversation of our blessed Saviour, how readily he complies with the Pharisees' invitation to dine with him. I do not find that, when Christ was invited to any table, that ever he refused to go; if a Pharisee, if a publican invited him, he constantly went, not so much for the pleasure of eating, as for the opportunity of conversing and doing good. Christ feasts us when we feed him: he says of himself, that he came eating and drinking, that is, allowing himself a free, though innocent, conversation with all sorts of persons, that he might gain some.
Observe, 2. The exception which the Pharisee takes at our Saviour's not washing his hands before dinner. This they made (but without any warrant for it) a religious act; abounding in external washings, but neglecting the inward purgation of their hearts and consciences from sin and uncleanness. Thus Pharisaical hypocrisy puts God off with outward cleansing instead of inward purity; regarding more the outward cleanness of the hand, than the inward purity of the heart.
Observe, 3. Our blessed Saviour does not condemn any external decency and cleanliness in conversation, but his design is to show the vanity of outward purity without inward sanctity, and to convince them of the necessity of cleansing the heart, in order to the purifying and reforming the life. The Pharisee washed his hands clean, but left his soul full of uncleanness; not considering that he that made the soul as well as the body, requires that both should be kept pure, all the impiety of men's lives proceeding from the impurity of their hearts and natures.
As if Christ had said, the way to purify your meats, and drinks, and estates, from all pollution cleaving to them, and to have them sanctified blessings to you, is (in conjunction with other graces) by doing works of mercy, and by liberal alms-giving according to your ability.
Learn, that charity and alms-giving according to our ability and opportunity, is a special means to sanctify our estates to us, and to cause us wholly and comfortably to enjoy whatever we do possess: Give alms of such things as ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you.
As if Christ had said, your temporal enjoyments are unclean, that is, unlawful to be used by you, until you have sanctified them by some act of charity, which will procure a blessing upon your substance.
Our Saviour here denounces a woe against the Pharisees for their strict and scrupulous observing the lesser things of the law, as tithing mint and rue, while they were regardless of the principal and substantial duties which they owed both to God and man.
Learn hence, that although some duties are of greater moment and importance than others, yet a good man will omit none, but make conscience of all, both great and small, in obedience to the command of God. There is no duty so little as to be neglected, no command so small as to be disobeyed; but yet there is a difference in duties, and our first regard ought to be to the greater, then to the less. Christ does not condemn them for tithing mint and rue, but for passing over judgment and the love of God.
The next woe denounced against the Pharisees is for their ambition, pride, and popularity, affecting the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the markets; where their fault was, not in taking, but in affecting these uppermost places. God is the God of order; there may and ought to be a precedency amongst persons. Honor is to be given to whom honor is due, and that by God's command. But pride and ambition are detestable vices, especially in such as are preachers, and ought to be patterns of humility.
Another woe is here denounced against the Pharisees, for cheating and deceiving the people with an outward show and appearance of piety and religion. They were like graves and sepulchres grown over with grass, which though they held dead men's bones, yet the putrefaction not outwardly appearing, men walked unawares over them, and so were polluted by them, intimating, that the inward rottenness and filthy corruptions of the Pharisees not appearing unto men, the people were easily deceived by outward shows of Pharisaical sanctity, and so fell into a dangerous imitation of them.
Learn thence, that the great design of hypocrites is to cheat the world with an empty show of piety: the hypocrite's ambition is to be thought good, not to be so.
Learn, 2. That nothing is more fatally dangerous to the souls of men, and draws persons to an admiration and imitation of hypocritical professors, like their outward shows of sanctity, and their extraordinary appearances of devotion and piety. This it was that gained the Pharisees such a veneration and esteem among the people, that it became a proverb among them. "If but two men went to heaven, the one must be a Pharisee." But their counterfeit piety being double iniquity, they did receive for it double damnation.
The former woes were denounced by our Saviour against the Pharisees, who had their names from an Hebrew word, which signifies to separate, because they were persons separated and set apart for studying the law of God, and teaching it to others.
The next woe is here denounced against the lawyers, that is, the scribes of the law, of which there were two sorts: the civil scribe and the ecclesiastical scribe.
The civil scribe was a public notary, or a register of the synagogue, employed in writing bills of divorce, and sentences on the phylacteries. The ecclesiastical scribe was an expounder of the scripture, an interpreter of the law; men of great learning and knowledge, whose decrees and interpretations the Pharisees strictly observed. This lawyer here insolently calls our Saviour's reproof a reproach: however, our Saviour, who never feared the face or regarded the person of any man, gives them their portion, and lets them know wherein they were faulty as well as the Pharisees, and accordingly pronounces a woe unto them also, for a threefold crime.
1. For their laying heavy burdens upon others' shoulders, which they would not touch with one of their fingers. These burdens in general were a rigid exaction of obedience in the whole ceremonial law, and in particular the burden of traditions, certain austerities and severities, which they imposed upon the people, but would not undergo any part of them themselves. In vain do we hope to oblige our hearers to follow those rules of life, which we refuse or neglect to put in practice ourselves.
The second crime which Christ reproves in these men, is their grand hypocrisy, in pretending great honor to the saints departed, building their tombs, and garnishing their sepulchres, declaiming against their fathers' impiety, that had they lived in their days, they would not have been partakers with them in their sins.
Now their hypocrisy appeared in three particulars:
1. In that they continued in their own wickedness, and yet commended the saints departed; they magnify the saints, but multiply their sins, and instead of imitating their virtues, they content themselves with garnishing their sepulchres.
2. In professing great respect to the dead saints, and at the same time, persecuting the living. Palpable hypocrisy! And yet, as gross as it is, it prevails to this day. The church of Rome, which magnifies martyrs, canonizes saints departed, have added to their number, by shedding of their blood.
3. In taking false measures of their love to the saints departed, from their building their tombs, and garnishing their sepulchres. Whereas the best evidence of our love to them, is the imitating their virtues, and cherishing their followers. It is gross hypocrisy to pay respect to the relics of saints, and veneration to their images, and at the same time to persecute and hate their followers.
From the whole, note, 1. That the world has all along loved dead saints better than living ones. The dead saint's example, how bright soever, is not scorching and troublesome at a distance, and he himself stands no longer in other men's light; whereas the living saint's example is a cutting reproof to sin and vice.
Note, 2. That there is a certain civility in human nature, which leads men to a just commendation of the dead; and to due estimation of their worth. The Pharisees here, though they persecuted the prophets while alive, yet did they pretend to a mighty veneration for their piety and virtue after they were dead, and thought no honor too great to be done unto them.
Note, 3. That it is the greatest hypocrisy imaginable to pretend to love goodness, and at the same time to hate and persecute good men. These Pharisees and lawyers pretended high to piety and religion, and at the same time killed the prophets.
Note, 4. That the highest honor we can pay to the saints departed, is not by raising monuments, and building tombs to their memory, but by a careful imitation of their piety and virtue, following the holiness of their lives, and their patience and constancy at their death.
Lastly learn, that it is a righteous thing with God to punish children for the impiety of their parents when they walk in their ungodly parents' footsteps: upon you shall come the blood of all the prophets, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias: yet must this be understood of temporal evils, not of eternal punishments; no man for his father's sins shall lie down in everlasting burnings: as our fathers; faith will not let us into heaven, so neither will their impiety shut us into hell. At the day ofjudgement every man shall be separately considered according to his own deeds.
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