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the request of his disciples, who desired to be taught to pray, had just been delivering to them that form of prayer which is usually called the Lord's prayer; a prayer, which, although not unsuitable to any period of time, must be supposed to be peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of those for whose immediate use it was intended. One of the petitions in this prayer is, Thy kingdom come; by which the disciples were directed to pray for the establishment of that kingdom of truth and righteousness which the Messiah was sent to set up; and therefore for all those miraculous gifts which were necessary for this purpose, and which could be obtained only by prayer, at least in their utmost extent for when the apostles failed in their attempt to cure a dæmoniac, and asked Jesus why they could not cast him out, he replied, This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting; that is, the miraculous gifts necessary for casting him out can be obtained only by such earnest prayer as is accompanied with fasting. In refusing to bestow miraculous powers without prayer, there is nothing more extraordinary than in refusing to bestow them without faith, which, it is well known, was necessary for working miracles, and, in many cases, for being objects of those benefits which they produced.To encourage his disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit, with that earnestness which was necessary for obtaining it, Jesus delivers to them a parable, in which he represents a man as obtaining that by earnest and repeated request, which would not have been granted to the justice or humanity of his plea; and intimates hereby, that if they asked with the like earnestness, their petitions would be accompanied with the like success. Not that he would have them regard God as like a churlish man, who may be forced by importunity to do what he does not approve, or that which is against his will; but that if a man of such a temper may by such means be induced to grant what he is averse to bestow, God, who is infinitely benevolent, and always disposed to do good, is much more likely to bestow what they ask for with earnestness. So that he reasons not from God's being like a churlish man, but from his being so much superior to him; and his argumentr esembles that used in the
parable of the widow and the unjust judge. That Christ's language upon this occasion relates to miraculous powers to be obtained by prayer, is evident from what he says at the conclusion of this subject, verse 13th; "If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!" Christ, therefore, must here be considered not as giving assurances of success in their prayers to all Christians, in general, and with respect to every thing which they might ask for with importunity, but to the apostles only, and to them no further than respected miraculous powers.
Luke xi. 11-13. corresponds with Matt. vii. 8-11.
ix. 32-34. xii. 22-30. 43-45.
27. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lift up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed, or, "happy" is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
Having observed the wisdom which Jesus discovered in confuting the cavils of the Pharisees, she expresses her admiration of it, in a manner suitable to her sex, by declaring her happy, who had given birth to so excellent a son. But Jesus, unwilling that the people should dwell on his own praise, which this woman intended to express, although indirectly, turns their thoughts to a different subject,
28. But he said, Yea, rather, happy are they that hear the word of God and keep it.
You have pronounced her happy who gave me birth; but I tell you that they are much more worthy to be so stiled, who hear the word of God as delivered by me, and are careful to observe it by obeying his precepts: for they will be rewarded with eternal life. Christ very properly joins keeping the word of God to hearing it: for one without the other would only add to their misery.
Luke xi. 29-32. corresponds with Matt. xii. 38-42.
v. 15. vi. 22, 23.
And as he spake, or, "after he had spoken," a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him; and he went in, and sat down to meat; i. e. as if prepared to eat.
And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
The Pharisees never sat down to eat without first washing their hands, being afraid lest they might have been polluted by coming into contact with some unclean thing, and that if they touched their food with them, which was to be afterwards taken into the stomach, they might suffer double defilement. This Pharisee, therefore, who had invited Jesus to his table, was surprised to observe that he did not follow so pious an example. But our master, instead of countenancing a superstitious practice by his example, rebukes the Pharisee for placing religion in such useless ceremonies, and neglecting what was of infinitely greater moment, a right disposition of mind.
39. And the Lord said unto him,
Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, "the dish;" but but your inward part is full of ravening, " rapine," and wickedness.
There seems to be here an intermixture of a comparison and the application of it: for the inside of the cup could not be full of rapine and wickedness, but it must be the inside of men that is so; yet the sense is obvious, that the Pharisees, in maintaining a fair outward appearance, while their minds were the seat of every vice, acted as foolishly as a man who should make clean the outside of a cup, but take no pains to make clean the inside.
40. Ye fools! Did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also?
When literally rendered, "Doth not he who doeth the outside matter do the inside also? that is, Doth not he who cleaneth the outside usually clean the inside also? As in common life it would be thought very foolish and preposterous to clean the outside of a vessel, and leave the inside full of filthiness; so is it as strange, that ye should acquiesce in immoral impurities, under the cover of a specious outside demeanor to the world.
41. But rather give alms of such things as ye have, or, as ye are able;" and behold all things are clean unto you.
Christ's meaning seems to be, that to wash the body, without purifying the mind, is of no use; but that when the mind is corrected by repentance and good works, and particularly by acts of mercy, there is nothing by which it can be defiled. Such a mind will always appear pure in the sight of God.
1. Christ, in the answer which he made to the woman who pronounced his mother happy in having such a son, has given us a good rule, by which to estimate human happiness; for he has told us, that it consists principally in hearing the word of God and in keeping it. Men are apt to value themselves for other things: for being descended from renowned ancestors; for having noble or royal blood in their veins; or for giving birth to eminent personages: they esteem themselves happy in possessing such advantages, and think themselves superior to the rest of mankind on that account. But such distinctions Christ pronounces of little value. They imply no personal merit. They may belong to the ignorant and vicious, as well as to the good; they afford no real benefit. Our true happiness consists in knowing our duty, and in practising it. In this there is something meritorious and honourable; it is a mark of true wisdom and of personal excellence; it is the means of peace and joy in the present world, and the way to everlasting felicity in the next. Let us learn to judge of others, and to form our own conduct, by this rule; to esteem men happy in proportion to their moral excellence: according as they discharge the duties of life with fidelity and diligence, or not; and to look with indifference or contempt upon every other distinction. Let us make it our own ambition, not to acquire fame or to be thought great, but to live well: for this is the only just foundation of true honour and happiness.
2. We may learn from the conduct of Christ upon this occasion, how we ought to act with regard to superstitious ceremonies. In favour of conformity to that here mentioned, it might be urged, That by washing his hands before meat, he would have pleased the Pha