RPM, Volume 17, Number 21, May 17 to May 23, 2015

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 6

By Albert Barnes

Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Baker Book House, 1949.
Enlarged Type Edition Edited by Robert Frew, D.D. with Numerous Additional Notes and a Series of Engravings vols. 1 (Matthew and Mark)-2 (Luke-John): 1949


MATTHEW Chapter 6

Verse 1. Alms. Liberality to the poor and needy. Anything given to them to supply their wants. Our Saviour, here, does not positively command his disciples to aid the poor, but supposes that they would do it of course, and gives them direction how to do it. It is the nature of religion to help those who are really poor and needy; and a real Christian does not wait to be commanded to do it, but only asks the opportunity. See Ga 2:10; Jas 1:27; Lu 19:8.

Before men, etc. Our Lord does not forbid us to give alms before men always, but only forbids our doing it to be seen of them, for the purpose of ostentation, and to seek their praise. To a person who is disposed to do good from a right motive, it matters little whether it be in public or in private. The only thing that renders it even desirable that our good deeds should be seen is, that God may be glorified. See Mt 5:16.

Otherwise. If your only motive for doing it is to be seen of men, God will not reward you. Take heed not to do it to be seen, otherwise God will not reward you.

{1} "?????" or, "righteousness" {2} "of your Father" or, "WITH your Father"


Verse 2. Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do. The word hypocrite is taken from stage-players, who act the part of others, or speak not their own sentiments, but the sentiments of others. It means here, and in the New Testament generally, those who dissemble or hide their real sentiments, and assume or express other feelings than their own; those who, for purposes of ostentation, or gain, or applause, put on the appearance of religion. It is probable that such persons, when they were about to bestow alms, caused a trumpet to be sounded, professedly to call the poor together to receive it, but really to call the people to attend to it, or perhaps it may mean that they should not make a great noise about it, like sounding a trumpet.

In the synagogues. The word synagogue commonly means the place of assembling for religious worship known by that name. See Barnes "Mt 4:23".

It might mean, however, any collection of people for any purpose. And it is not improbable that it has that meaning here. It does not appear that they made a noise in bestowing charity in the synagogues, or that it was commonly bestowed there; but it was probably done on occasion of any great assemblage, in any place of concourse, and at the corners of the streets, where it could be seen by many.

They have their reward. That is, they obtain the applause they seek, the reputation of being charitable; and as this applause was all they wished, there is of course no further reward to be looked for or obtained.

{1} "sound a trumpet" or, "cause a trumpet to be sounded"


Verses 3,4. Let not thy left hand know, etc. This is a proverbial expression, signifying that the action should be done as secretly as possible. The Hebrews often attribute actions to members which properly belong to persons. The encouragement for doing this is, that it will be pleasing to God; that he will see the act, however secret it may be, and will openly reward it. If the reward is not greater in this life, it will be in the life to come. In multitudes of cases, however, alms given to the poor are "lent to the Lord," (Pr 19:17) and will be repaid in this life. Rarely, perhaps never, has it been found that the man who is liberal to the poor, has ever suffered by it in his worldly circumstances.


Verse 4. No Barnes text on this verse.

See Barnes on "Mt 6:3"

{n} "reward thee openly" Lu 8:17; 14:14


Verse 5. And when thou prayest, etc. Hypocrites manifested the same spirit about prayer as alms-giving: it was done in public places. The word synagogues, here, clearly means not the place of worship of that name, but places where many were accustomed to assemble-- near the markets, or courts, where they could be seen of many. Our Lord evidently could not mean to condemn prayers in the synagogues. It might be said that he condemned ostentatious prayer there, while they neglected secret prayer; but this does not appear to be his design. The Jews were much in the habit of praying in public places. At certain times of the day they always offered their prayers. Wherever they were, they suspended their employment, and paid their devotions. This is also practised now everywhere by the Mohammedans, and in many places by the Roman Catholics. It seems, also, that they sought publicity, and regarded it as proof of great piety.

{o} "they have their reward" Pr 16:5; Jas 4:6


Verse 6. Enter into thy closet. Every Jewish house had a place for secret devotion. The roofs of their houses were flat places for walking, conversation, and meditation, in the cool of the evening. See Barnes "Mt 9:2".

Over the porch, or entrance of the house, was, however, a small room of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement, in secrecy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts. To this place, or to some similar place, our Saviour directed his disciples to repair when they wished to hold communion with God. This is the place commonly mentioned in the New Testament as the upper room, or the place for secret prayer. The meaning of the Saviour is, that there should be some place where we may be in secret--where we may be alone with God. There should be some place to which we may resort where no ear will hear us but His ear, and no eye can see us but His eye. Unless there is such a place, secret prayer will not be long or strictly maintained. It is often said that we have no such place, and can secure none. We are away from home; we are travelling; we are among strangers; we are in stages and steam-boats, and how can we find such places of retirement? I answer, the desire to pray, and the love of prayer, will create such places in abundance. The Saviour had all the difficulties which we can have, but yet he lived in the practice of secret prayer. To be alone, he rose up "a great while before day," and went into a solitary place and prayed. With him, a grove, a mountain, a garden, furnished such a place; and though a traveller, and among strangers, and without a house, he lived in the habit of secret prayer. What excuse have they who have a home, and who spend the precious hours of the morning in sleep, and who will practise no self-denial that they may be alone with God? O Christian! thy Saviour would have broken in upon these hours, and would have trod his solitary way to the mountain or the grove, there he might pray. He did do it. He did it to pray for thee, too indolent and too unconcerned about thy own salvation and that of the world, to practise the least self-denial in order to commune with God! How can religion live thus? How can such a soul be saved?

The Saviour does not specify the times when we should pray in secret. He does not say how often it should be done. The reasons may have been,

(1.) that he designed that his religion should be voluntary--and there is not a better test of true piety than a disposition to engage often in secret prayer. He designed to leave it to his people to show attachment to him by coming to God often--and as often as they chose.

(2.) An attempt to specify the times when this should be done would tend to make religion formal and heartless. Mohammed undertook to regulate this, and the consequence is a cold and formal prostration at the appointed hours of prayer all over the land where his religion has spread.

(3.) The periods are so numerous, and the seasons for secret prayer vary so much, that it would not be easy to fix rules when this should be done. Yet without giving rules--where the Saviour has given none--we may suggest the following as times when secret prayer is proper:

(1.) In the morning. Nothing can be more appropriate when we have been preserved through the night, and when we are about to enter upon the duties and dangers of another day, than to render him thanks, and to commit ourselves to his fatherly care.

(2.) In the evening. When the day has closed, what more natural than to render thanks and to implore forgiveness for what we have said or done amiss, and to pray for a blessing on the labours of the day; and when about to lie down again to sleep, not knowing but it may be our last sleep, and that we may awake in eternity, what more proper than to commend ourselves to the care of Him "who never slumbers nor sleeps."

(3.) We should pray in times of embarrassment and perplexity. Such times occur in every man's life, and it is then a privilege and a duty to go to God and seek his direction. In the most difficult and embarrassed time of the American revolution, Washington was seen to retire daily to a grove in the vicinity of the camp at Valley Forge. Curiosity led a man to observe him on one occasion, and the father of his country was seen on his knees supplicating the God of Hosts in prayer. Who can tell how much the liberty of this nation is owing to the answer to the secret prayer of Washington?

(4.) We should pray when we are beset with strong temptations. So the Saviour prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, (Comp. Heb 5:7,8) and so we should pray when we are tempted.

(5.) We should pray when the Spirit prompts us to pray; when we feel just like praying; when nothing can satisfy the soul but prayer. Such times occur in the life, of every Christian; and they are "spring- times" of piety--favourable gales to waft us on to heaven. Prayer to the Christian, at such times, is just as congenial as conversation with a friend when the bosom is filled with love; as the society of father, mother, sister, child is, when the heart glows with attachment; as the strains of sweet music are to the ear best attuned to the love of harmony; as the most exquisite poetry is to the heart enamoured with the muses; and as the most delicious banquet is to the hungry. Prayer, then, is the element of being; the breath; the vital air; and then the Christian must and should pray. He is the most eminent Christian who is most favoured with such strong emotions urging him to prayer. The heart is then full. The soul is tender. The sun of glory shines with unusual splendour. No cloud intervenes. The Christian rises from the earth, and pants for glory. Then we may go alone with God, We may enter the closet, and breathe forth our warm desires into the ever-open ear of God, and he who sees in secret will reward us openly.

In secret. Who is unseen.

Who seeth in secret. Who sees what the human eye cannot see; who sees the secret real designs and desires of the heart. Prayer should always be offered, remembering that God is acquainted with our real desires; and that it is those real desires, and not the words of prayer, that he will answer.

{p} "seeth in secret" Ps 34:15; Is 65:24


Verse 7. Use not vain repetitions. The original word here is supposed to be derived from the name of a Greek poet, who made long and weary verses, declaring, by many forms and endless repetitions, the same sentiment. Hence it means to repeat a thing often, to say the same thing in different words, or to repeat the same words, as though God did not hear at first. An example of this we have in 1 Ki 18:26: "They Called on Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us;"*

The heathen do. The original word is one commonly translated Gentile. The world was divided into two parts, the Jews and the Gentiles; that is, in the original, the "nations," the nations destitute of the true religion. Christ does not fix the length of our prayers. He says that they should not repeat the same thing, as though God did not hear. And it is not improbable that he intended to condemn the practice of long prayers. His own supplications were remarkably short.

{q} "as the heathens do" Ec 5:2 {*} The following is a specimen of the vain repetitions of the Romans.

"Pious Antonine, the Gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the Gods preserve thee. Gentle Antonine, the Gods preserve thee."

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 6 - Verse 8Verse 8. No Barnes text on this verse.

{s} "Father knoweth"

Lu 12:30; Joh 16:23-27


Verses 9-13. This passage contains the Lord's prayer, a composition unequalled for comprehensiveness and for beauty. It is supposed that some of these petitions were taken from those in common use among the Jews. Indeed, some of them are still to be found in Jewish writings, but they did not exist in this beautiful combination. This prayer is given as a model. It is designed to express the manner in which we are to pray, evidently not the precise words or petitions which we are to use. The substance of the prayer is recorded by Lu 11:2-4. It, however, varies from the form given in Matthew, showing that he intended not to prescribe this as a form of prayer to be used always, but to express the substance of our petitions, to specify to his disciples what petitions it would be proper to present to God. That he did not intend to prescribe this as a form to be invariably used is farther evident from the fact, that there is no proof that either he or his disciples ever used exactly this form of prayer, but clear evidence that they prayed often in other language. See Mt 26:39-42,44; Lu 22:42; Joh 17:1-26; Ac 1:24.

{t} "Our" Lu 11:2 {u} "Father" Ro 8:15 {v} "which art in heaven" Ps 115:3 {w} "Hallowed be thy name" Ps 111:3; 139:20

Verse 9. Our Father. God is called a Father,

(1.) as he is the Creator and the Great Parent of all.

(2.) The Preserver of the human family, and the Provider for their wants, Mt 5:45; 6:32.

(3.) In a peculiar sense the Father of those who are adopted into his family, who put confidence in him, who are true followers of Christ, and made heirs of life, Ro 8:14-17.

Hallowed be thy name. The word hallowed means, to render or pronounce holy. God's name is essentially holy; and the meaning of this petition is, "Let thy name be celebrated, and venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive of all men proper honours." It is thus the expression of a wish or desire, on the part of the worshipper, that the name of God, or God himself, should be held everywhere in proper veneration.


Verse 10. Thy kingdom come. The word kingdom here means reign. See Barnes "Mt 3:2".

The petition is the expression of a wish that God may reign everywhere; that his laws may be obeyed; and especially that the gospel of Christ may be advanced everywhere, till the world shall be filled with his glory.

Thy will be done. The will of God is, that men should obey his law, and be holy. The word will, here, has reference to his law, and to what would be acceptable to him; that is, righteousness. To pray, then, that his will may be done on earth as in heaven, is to pray that his law, his revealed will, may be obeyed and loved. His law is perfectly obeyed in heaven, and his true children most ardently desire and pray that it may also be done on the earth. The object of these three first petitions is that God's name should be glorified, and his kingdom established; and by being placed first, we learn that his glory and kingdom are of more consequence than our wants, and that these should be first in our hearts and petitions before a throne of grace. *

{*} The following clauses respecting this prayer are found in the writings of the Jews, and were doubtless familiar in the time of Christ: "That prayer," say the Rabbins, "in which there is no mention made of the kingdom of heaven, is not a prayer.' "What," say they, "is a short prayer? Ans. Do thy will in heaven, and give rest to the spirits fearing thee below." Give us this day, etc. The Jews had a prayer like this: "The necessities of thy people are many, and their knowledge small; so that they do not know how to make known their wants: let it be thy good pleasure to give to each one what is necessary for his sustenance," etc. Deliver us from evil. The Jews prayed, "Be it thy good pleasure to free us from an evil man, and an evil event; from evil affections, from an evil companion and neighbour, from Satan," etc. The prayers of the Jews were generally closed with a doxology, or ascription of praise, not unlike this in the Lord's prayer. The people, at the close of the prayer, generally responded, "Amen!"


Verse 11. Give us this day, etc. The word bread here denotes, doubtless, everything necessary to sustain life, Mt 4:4; De 8:3. This petition implies our dependence on God for the supply of our wants. As we are dependent on him one day as much as another, it was evidently the intention of our Saviour that prayer should be offered every day. This is, moreover, expressed in the plural number-- give us. It is evidently, therefore, intended to be used by more than one, or by some community of people. No community or congregation can meet every day for worship but families. It is therefore evident that this prayer is a strong implied command for daily family prayer. It can nowhere else be used so as fully to come up to the meaning of the original intention; and nowhere else can it be breathed forth with so much propriety and beauty as from the lips of a father, the venerable priest of his household, and the pleader with God for those rich blessings which a parental bosom desires on his beloved offspring.

{z} "daily bread" Pr 30:8; Is 33:16


Verse 12. And forgive us our debts, etc. The word debts is here used figuratively. It does not mean literally that we are debtors to God, but that our sins have a resemblance to debts. Debtors are those who are bound to others for some claim in commercial transactions; for something which we have had, and for which we are bound to pay according to contract. Literally, there can be no such transaction between God and us. It must be used figuratively. We have not met the claims of law; we have violated its obligations; we are exposed to its penalty; we are guilty; and God only can forgive, in the same way, as none but a creditor can forgive a debtor. Debts here, therefore, mean sins, or offences against God-- offences which none but God can forgive. The measure by which we may expect forgiveness is that which we use in reference to others. See Ps 18:25,26; Mt 18:28-35; Mr 11:25; Lu 11:4.

This is the invariable rule by which God dispenses pardon. He that comes before him unwilling to forgive, harbouring dark and revengeful thoughts, how can he expect that God will show him that mercy which he is unwilling to show to others? It is not, however, required that we should forgive debts in a pecuniary sense. To them we have a right, though they should not be pushed with an overbearing and oppressive spirit; not so as to sacrifice the feelings of mercy, in order to secure the claims of right. No man has a right to oppress; and when a debt cannot be paid, or when it would greatly distress a wife and children, a widow and an orphan, or when calamity has put it out of the power of an honest man to pay the debt, the spirit of Christianity requires that it should be forgiven. To such cases this petition in the Lord's prayer doubtless extends. But it was probably intended to refer principally to injuries of character or person, which we have received from others. If we cannot from the heart forgive them, we have the assurance that God will never forgive us.

{z} "forgive us our debts" Mt 18:21-35; Lu 7:40-48


Verse 13. And lead us not into temptation. A petition similar to this is offered by David, Ps 141:4 "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity." God tempts no man See Jas 1:13. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us, or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call upon him. The word temptation, however, (See Barnes "Mt 4:1") means sometimes trial, affliction, anything that tests our virtue. If this be the meaning here, as it may be, then the import of the prayer is, "Do not afflict or try us."

Deliver us from evil. The original, in this place, has the article-- deliver us from THE evil--that is, as has been supposed, the evil one, or Satan. He is elsewhere called, by way of eminence, the evil one, Mt 13:19; 1 Jn 2:13,14; 3:12.

Deliver us from his power, his snares, his arts, his temptations. He is supposed to be the great parent of evil, and to be delivered from him is to be safe. Or it may mean, deliver us from the various evils and trials which beset us, the heavy and oppressive calamities into which we are continually liable to fall.

Thine is the kingdom. That is, thine is the reign or dominion. Thou hast control over all these things, and canst so order them as to answer these petitions.

Thine is the power. Thou hast power to accomplish what we ask. We are weak, and cannot do it; but Thou art almighty, and all things are possible with thee.

Thine is the glory. That is, thine is the honour or praise. Not our honour; but thy glory, thy goodness, will be displayed in providing for our wants; thy power, in defending us; thy praise, in causing thy kingdom to spread through the earth.

This doxology, or ascription of praise, is connected with the prayer by the word "for," to signify that all these things--the reign, power, and glory of God--will be manifested by granting these petitions. It is not because we are to be benefited, but that God's name and perfections may be manifested. His glory is, then, the first and principal thing which we are to seek when we approach him. We are to suffer our concerns to be sunk and lost sight of in the superior glory and honour of his name and dominion. We are to seek temporal and eternal life, chiefly because the honour of our Maker will be promoted, and his name be more illustriously displayed to his creatures. He is to be "first, last, supremest, best," in our view; and all selfish and worldly views are to be absorbed in that one great desire of the soul that God may be "all in all." Approaching him with these feelings, our prayers will be answered, our devotions will rise like incense, and the lifting up our hands will be like the evening sacrifice.

Amen. This is a word of Hebrew origin, from a verb signifying to be firm, secure, to be true and faithful. It is a word expressing consent or strong approbation, a word of strong asseveration. It means verily, certainly, so be it. It is probable that this word was used by the people in the synagogue to signify their assent to the prayer that was uttered by the minister. And to some extent, it was probably so used in the Christian church. See 1 Co 14:16. It may be proper to remark, that this doxology, "for thine is the kingdom," etc., is wanting in many manuscripts, and that its authenticity is doubtful.

{b} "from evil" Joh 17:15 {c} "For thine" Re 5:12,13


Verse 14. If ye forgive If ye pardon.

Trespasses. Offences, faults. If ye forgive others when they offend or injure you. This is constantly required in the Bible. Our Saviour says we should forgive even if the offence be committed seventy times seven times, Mt 18:22. By this is meant, that when a man asks forgiveness, we are cordially and for ever to pardon the offence; we are to declare our willingness to forgive him. If he does not ask forgiveness, yet we are still to treat him kindly; not to harbour malice; not to speak ill of him; to be ready to do him good; and be always prepared to declare him forgiven when he asks it.


Verse 15. No notes from Barnes on this verse.

{d} "forgive your trespasses"

Eph 4:31; Jas 2:13


Verse 16. Moreover when ye fast, etc. The word fast literally signifies to abstain from food and drink, whether from necessity or as a religious observance. It is, however, commonly applied in the Bible to the latter. It is, then, an expression of grief or sorrow. Such is the constitution of the body, that in a time of grief or sorrow we are not disposed to eat; or, we have no appetite. The grief of the soul is so absorbing as to destroy the natural appetites of the body. Men in deep affliction eat little, and often pine away and fall into sickness, because the body refuses, on account of the deep sorrow of the mind, to discharge the functions of health. Fasting, then, is the natural expression of grief. It is not arbitrary; it is what every person in sorrow naturally does. This is the foundation of its being applied to religion as a sacred rite. It is because the soul, when oppressed and burdened by a sense of sin, is so filled with grief, that the body refuses food. It is, therefore, appropriated always to scenes of penitence, of godly sorrow, of suffering, and to those facts connected with religion that are fitted to produce grief, as the prevalence of iniquity or some dark impending calamity, or storm, or tempest, pestilence, plague, or famine. It is also used to humble us, to bring us to reflection, to direct the thoughts away from the comforts of this world to the bliss of a better. It is not acceptable except it be the real expression of sorrow, the natural effect of feeling that we are burdened with crime.

The Jews fasted often. They had four annual fasts, in commemoration of the capture of Jerusalem, (Jer 52:7) of the burning of the temple, (Zec 7:3) in memory of the death of Gedaliah, (Jer 41:4,) and in memory of the commencement of the attack on Jerusalem, Zec 8:19. In addition to these, they had a multitude of occasional fasts. It was customary, also, for the Pharisees to fast twice a week, Lu 17:12.

Of a sad countenance. That is, sour, morose, assumed expressions of unfelt sorrow.

They disfigure their faces. That is, they do not anoint and wash themselves as usual; they are uncombed, filthy, squalid, and haggard. It is said that they were often in the habit of throwing ashes on their heads and faces; and this mixing with their tears, seemed still farther to disfigure their faces. So much pains will men take, and so much suffering will they undergo, and so much that is ridiculous will they assume, to impose on God and men. But they deceive neither. God sees through the flimsy veil. Human eyes can pierce a disguise so thin. Hypocrites overact their part. Not having the genuine principles of piety at heart, they know not its proper expression, and hence appear supremely contemptible and abominable. Never should men exhibit outwardly more than they feel; and never should they attempt to exhibit anything for the mere sake of ostentation.

{e} "appear unto men to fast" Isa 57:3,5


Verse 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint, etc. That is, appear as you do daily. Do not assume any new appearance, or change your visage or dress. The Jews and all neighbouring nations were much in the habit of washing and anointing their bodies. This washing was performed at every meal; and where it could be effected, the head, or other parts of the body, was daily anointed with sweet or olive oil. In a warm climate, exposed to the great heat of the sun, this practice conduced much to health, preserved the skin smooth and tender, and afforded a most grateful sensation and odour. See Mr 7:2,3; Jas 5:14

Mr 6:13; Joh 12:3. The meaning of this whole commandment is, when you regard it to be your duty to fast, do it as a thing expressing deep feeling, or sorrow for sin; not by assuming unfelt gravity and moroseness, but in your ordinary dress and appearance; not to attract attention, but as an expression of feeling towards God, and he will approve and reward it.


Verse 18. No notes from Barnes on this verse.


Verse 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures, etc. Treasures, or wealth, among the ancients, consisted in clothes, or changes of raiment, as well as in gold, silver, gems, wine, lands, and oil. It meant an abundance of anything that was held to be conducive to the ornament or comfort of life. As the Orientalists delighted much in display, in splendid equipage, and costly garments, their treasures, in fact, consisted much in beautiful and richly ornamented articles of apparel. See Ge 45:22, where Joseph gave to his brethren changes of raiment; Jos 7:21, where Achan coveted and secreted a goodly Babylonish garment. See also Jud 14:12. This fact will account for the use of the word moth. When we speak of wealth, we think at once of gold, and diver, and lands, and houses. When a Hebrew or an Orientalist spoke of wealth, he thought first of what would make display; and included, as an essential part; splendid articles of dress. The moth is a small insect that finds its way to clothes and garments, and destroys them. The moth would destroy their apparel, the rust their silver and gold; thus all their treasure would waste away.

{f} "upon earth" Pr 23:4; Lu 18:24,35; Heb 13:5


Verse 20. Lay up treasures...in heaven. That is, have provision made for your eternal felicity. Do not exhaust your strength, and spend your days, in providing for the life here, but let your chief anxiety be to be prepared for eternity. There nothing corrupts, nothing terminates, no enemies plunder or destroy. To have treasure in heaven is to possess evidence that its purity and joys will be ours. It is to be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. The heart, or affections, will of course be fixed on the treasure. To regulate the heart, it is therefore important that the treasure, or object of attachment, should be right.


Verse 21. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verses 22,23. The light of the body, etc. The sentiment stated in the preceding verses--the duty of fixing the affections on heavenly things--Jesus proceeds to illustrate by a reference to the eye. When the eye is directed singly and steadily towards an object, and is in health, or is single, everything is clear and plain. If it vibrates, flies to different objects, is fixed on no one singly, or is diseased, nothing is seen clearly. Everything is dim and confused. The man, therefore, is unsteady. The eye regulates the motion of the body. To have an object distinctly in view, is necessary to correct and regulate action, Rope-dancers, in order to steady themselves, fix the eye on some object on the wall, and look steadily at that. If they should look down on the rope or the people, they would become dizzy and fall. A man crossing a stream on a log, if he will look across at some object steadily, will be in little danger. If he looks down on the dashing and rolling waters, he will become dizzy, and fall. So Jesus says, in order that the conduct may be right, it is important to fix the affections on heaven. Having the affections there--having the eye of faith single, steady, unwavering--all the conduct will be correspondent.

Single. Steady, devoted to one object. Not confused, as persons' eyes are when they see double.

Thy whole body shall be full of light. Your conduct will be regular and steady. All that is needful to direct the body is that the eye be fixed right. No other light is required. So all that is needful to direct the soul and the conduct is that the eye of faith be fixed on heaven, that the affections be there.

If therefore the light that is in thee, etc. The word light, here, signifies the mind, or principles of the soul. If this be dark, how great is that darkness! The meaning of this passage may be thus expressed: The light of the body, the guide and director, is the eye. All know how calamitous it is when that light is irregular or extinguished, as when the eye is diseased or lost. So the light that is in us is the soul. If that soul is debased by attending exclusively to earthly objects--if it is diseased, and not fixed on heaven--how much darker and more dreadful will it be than any darkness of the eye! Avarice darkens the mind, obscures the view, and brings in a dreadful and gloomy night over all the faculties.

{h} "is the eye" Lu 11:34,36


Verse 23. No Barnes text on this verse.

See Barnes on "Mt 6:22"


Verse 24. No man can serve two masters, etc. Christ proceeds to illustrate the necessity of laying up treasures in heaven from a well- known fact, that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. One he would love, and the other hate. To the interests of one he would adhere, the other he would neglect. This is a law of human nature. The supreme affections can be fixed on only one object. So, says Jesus, the servant of God cannot at the same time obey him and be avaricious, or seek treasures supremely on earth. One interferes with the other, and one will be, and must be surrendered.

Mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word, a name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. It has the same meaning as Plutus among the Greeks. It is not known that the Jews ever formally worshipped this idol, but they used the word to denote wealth. The meaning is, ye cannot serve the true God, and at the same time be supremely engaged in obtaining the riches of this world. One must interfere with the other. See Lu 16:9-11.

{i} "two masters" Lu 16:13 {k} "cannot serve God and mammon" Ga 1:10; 2 Ti 4:10; Jas 4:4


Verses 25-34. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought, etc. The general design of this paragraph, which closes the chapter, is to warn his disciples against avarice and anxiety about the supply of their wants. This he does by four arguments or considerations, expressing, by unequalled beauty and force, the duty of depending for the things which we need on the providence of God. The first is stated in the 25th verse: "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" In the beginning of the verse he charged his disciples to take no thought--that is, not to be anxious--about the supply of their wants. God will take care of these. He has given life, a far greater blessing than meat; he has created the body, of far more consequence than raiment. Shall not he, who has conferred the greater blessing, be willing to confer the less? Shall not he, who has formed the body so curiously, and made such a display of power and goodness, see that it is properly protected and clothed? He who has displayed so great goodness as to form the body, and breathe into it the breath of life, will surely follow up the blessing, and confer the smaller favour of providing that that body should be clothed, and that life preserved.

No thought. The word thought, when the Bible was translated, meant anxiety, and is so used frequently in old English authors. Thus Bacon says, "Haweis died with thought and anguish before his business came to an end." As such it is here used by our translators, and it answers exactly to the meaning of the original. Like many other words, it has since somewhat changed its signification, and would convey to most readers an improper idea. The word anxiety would now exactly express the sense, and is exactly the thing against which the Saviour would guard us. See Lu 8:14; 21:34; Php 4:6.

Thought about the future is right; anxiety, solicitude, trouble, is wrong. There is a degree of thinking and industry about the things of this life which is proper. See 1 Ti 5:8; 2 Th 3:10; Ro 12:11.

But it should not be our supreme concern; it should not lead to solicitude or anxiety; it should not take time that ought to be devoted to religion.

For your life. For what will support your life.

Meat. This word here means food in general, as it does commonly in the Bible. We confine it now to animal food, or the food of animals. When the Bible was translated, it denoted all kinds of food, and is so used in the old English writers. It is one of the words which has changed its meaning since the translation of the Bible was made.

Raiment. Clothing.

{l} "no thought for your life" 1 Co 7:32; Php 4:6


Verse 26. Behold the fowls of the air. The second argument for confidence in the providence of God is derived from a beautiful reference to the fowls of heaven. See, said the Saviour, see the fowls of the air: they have no anxiety about the supply of their wants; they do not sow or reap; in innumerable flocks they fill the air; they fill the grove with music, and meet the coming light of the morning with their songs, and pour their notes on the zephyrs of the evening, unanxious about the supply of their wants; yet how few die with hunger! how regularly are they fed from the hand of God! how he ministers to their unnumbered wants. He sees their young "open wide their mouths, and seek their meat at his hand, and how cheerfully and regularly are their necessities supplied! You, said the Saviour to his disciples, you are of more consequence than they are; and shall God feed them in such numbers, and suffer you to want? It cannot be. Put confidence, then, in that Universal Parent that feeds all the fowls of the air, and fear not that he will also supply your wants.

Better than they. Of more consequence. Your lives are of more importance than theirs, and God will therefore provide for them.

{m} "Father feedeth" Job 38:41; Lu 12:24


Verse 27. Which of you by taking thought. The third argument is taken from their extreme weakness and helplessness. With all your care you cannot increase your stature a single cubit. God has ordered your height. Beyond his appointment your powers are of no avail, and you can do nothing. So of raiment. He, by his providence, orders and arranges the circumstances of your life. Beyond that appointment of his providence, beyond his care for you, your efforts avail nothing. Seeing, then, that he alike orders your growth, and the supply of your wants, how obvious is the duty of depending on him, and of beginning all your efforts, feeling that He only can grant you the means of preserving life!

One cubit. The cubit was originally the length from the elbow to the end of the middle finger. The cubit of the Scriptures is not far from twenty-two inches. Terms of length are often applied to life; and it is thought by many to be so here. Thus, it is said, "Thou hast made my days as a handbreadth," Ps 39:5; "Teach me the MEASURE of my days," Ps 39:4. In this place it is used to denote a small length. You cannot increase your stature even a cubit, or in the smallest degree. Compare Lu 12:26.

Stature. This word means height. The original word, however, means oftener age, Joh 9:21,23. In these places it is translated age. If this be its meaning here, it denotes that a man cannot increase the length of his life at all. The utmost anxiety will not prolong it one hour beyond the time appointed for death.


Verses 28,29. The fourth consideration is taken from the lilies of the valley. Watch the growing of the lily. It toils not, and it spins not. Yet night and day it grows. With a beauty which the most splendid monarch of the East never knew, it expands its blossom and fills the air with fragrance. Yet this beauty is of short continuance. Soon it will fade, and the beautiful flower will be cut down and burned. God so little regards the bestowment of beauty and ornament as to give the highest adorning to this which is soon to perish. When he thus clothes a lily--a fair flower, soon to perish--will he be unmindful of his children? Shall they--dear to his heart and imbued with immortality--lack that which is proper for them, and shall they in vain trust the God that decks the lily of the valley? He will much more clothe you.

Even Solomon in all his glory, etc. The common dress of eastern kings was purple. But they sometimes wore white robes. See Es 8:15; Da 7:9. It is to this that Christ refers. Solomon, says he, the richest and most magnificent king of Israel, was not clothed in a robe of so pure a white as the lily of the valley.


Verse 29. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes on "Mt 6:28"


Verse 30. Is cast into the oven. The Jews had different modes of baking. In early times they frequently baked in the sand, warmed with the heat of the sun. They constructed also moveable ovens, made of clay, brick, or plates of iron. But the most common kind, and the one here probably referred to; was made by excavating the earth two and a half feet in diameter, and from five to six feet deep. This kind of oven still exists in Persia. The bottom was paved with stones. It was heated by putting wood or dry grass into the oven; and when heated, the ashes were removed, and the bread was placed on the heated stones. More commonly, however, the oven was an earthen vessel, without a bottom, about three feet high, smeared outside and inside with clay, and placed upon a frame, or support. Fire was made within it, or below it. When the sides were sufficiently heated, thin patches of dough were spread on the inside, and the top was covered, without removing the fire as in the other cases; and the bread was quickly baked. The preceding representation of it is taken from Niebuhr.


Verse 31. No Barnes text on this verse.

{n} "no thought" Ps 37:3; 55:22; 1 Pe 5:7


Verses 32-34. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. That is, those destitute of the true doctrines of religion, unacquainted with proper dependence on Divine Providence, make it their chief anxiety thus to seek food and raiment. But you, who have a knowledge of your Father in heaven, who know that he will provide for your wants, should not be anxious. Seek first his kingdom; seek first to be righteous, and to become interested in his favour, and all necessary things will be added to you. God has control over all things, and he can give you that which you need. He will give you that which he deems best for you,

Take therefore no thought, etc. That is, no anxiety. Commit your way to God. The evil, the trouble, the anxiety of each day as it comes is sufficient, without perplexing the mind with restless cares about another day. It is wholly uncertain whether you live to see that day. If you do, it will bring its own trouble; and it will also bring the proper supply of your wants. God will be the same Father then as to-day, and will make then, as he does now, proper provision for your wants.

The morrow shall take thought. The morrow shall have anxieties and cares of its own, but it shall also bring the proper provision for those cares. Though you shall have wants, yet God will provide for them as they occur. Do not, therefore, increase the cares of this day by borrowing trouble respecting the future. Do your duty faithfully now, and depend on the mercy of God and his Divine help for the troubles which are yet to come.


1. Christ has here forcibly taught the necessity of charity, of prayer, and of all religious duties.

2. We see the necessity of sincerity and honesty in our religious duties. They are not done to be seen of men. If they are, they cannot be performed acceptably. God looks on the heart, nor is it possible to deceive him. And of what avail is it to deceive men? How poor and pitiable is the reward of a hypocrite! How contemptible the praise of men when God is displeased! How awful the condition beyond the grave!

3. Christ has here, in a particular manner, urged the duty of prayer. He has given a model for prayer. Nothing can equal this composition in simplicity, beauty, and comprehensiveness. At the same time that it is so simple that it can be understood by a child, it contains the expression of all the wants of man at any age, and in every rank.

The duty of prayer is urged by every consideration. None but God can provide for us; none but he can forgive, and guide, and support us; none but he can bring us into heaven. He is ever ready to hear us. The humble he sends not empty away. Those who ask, receive; and they who seek, find. How natural and proper, then, is prayer! How strange that any can live, and not pour out their desires to God! How strange that any are willing to go to eternity with this sad reflection, "I have gone through this world, spent my probation, wasted my strength, and am dying, and have never prayed!" How awful will be the reflection of the soul through all eternity," I was offered eternal life, but I never asked for it! I lived from day to day, and from year to year, in God's world; breathed his air, rioted in his beneficence, forgot his goodness, and never once asked him to save my soul!" Who will be to blame if the prayerless soul is lost?

Secret and family prayer should be daily. We daily have the same necessities, are exposed to the same dangers, tread on the borders of the same heaven or hell. How should the voice of praise and prayer go up as incense in the morning, and rise as a rich perfume in the shades of each evening! What more lovely object than one, in the bloom of health and the dew of youth, bending with reverence before the King of heaven, seeking forgiveness, peace, guidance, and life! And what a strange, misguided, and piteous object is a soul that never prays!

4. Forgiveness is essential in prayer. If we come to God harbouring malice, and unwilling to forgive, we have his solemn assurance that we shall not be ourselves forgiven.

5. Avarice is alike foolish, and an insult to God, Mt 6:19-24. It is the parent of many foolish and hurtful lusts. It alienates the affections from God, produces envy of another's prosperity, leads to fraud, deception, and crime to obtain wealth, and degrades the soul. Man is formed for nobler pursuits than the mere desire to be rich. He lives for eternity, where silver will not be needed, and where gold will be of no value. That eternity is near; and though we have wealth like Solomon, and though we be adorned as the lily, yet like Solomon we must soon die, and like the lily our beauty will soon fade. Death will lay us alike low; the rich and the poor will sleep together; and the worm will feed no more sweetly on the unfed and unclothed son of poverty, than on the man clothed in fine linen, and the daughter of beauty and pride. As avarice is, moreover, the parent of discontent, he only that is contented with the allotments of Providence, and is not restless for a change, is happy. After all, this is the true source of enjoyment. Anxiety and care, perplexity and disappointment, find their way more readily to the mansions of the rich than the cottages of the poor. It is the mind, not mansions, and gold, and adorning, that gives ease, and he that is content with his situation will smile upon his stool, while Alexander weeps upon the throne of the world.

6. We see how comparatively valueless is beauty. How little it is regarded by God! He gives it to the lily, and in a day it fades and is gone. He gives it to the wings of the butterfly, and soon it dies and its beauty is forgotten. He gives it to the flowers of the spring, soon to fall; to the leaves of the forest, soon to grow yellow and decay in the autumn. How many flowers, lilies, and roses, does he cause to blossom in solitude, where no man is, where they "waste their sweetness on the desert air!" How many streams ripple in the wilderness, and how many cataracts, age after age, have poured their thunders on the air, unheard and unseen by mortals! So little does God think of beauty. So the human form and "face divine." How soon is that beauty marred; and, like the lily, how soon is its last trace obliterated ! In the cold grave, among the undistinguished multitudes of the dead, who can tell which of all the mouldering host was blessed with a lovely "set of features or complexion"? Alas! all has faded like the morning flower. How vain, then, to set the affections on so frail a treasure!

7. We see the duty and privilege of depending for our daily wants on the bounties of Providence. Satisfied with the troubles of today, let us not add to those troubles by anxieties about tomorrow. The heathen, and they who know not God, will be anxious about the future; but they who know him, and have caught the spirit of Jesus, may surely trust him for the supply of their wants. The young lions do roar, and seek their meat at the hand of God, Ps 104:21. The fowls of heaven are daily supplied. Shall man only, of all the creatures, vex himself, and be filled with anxious cares about the future? Rather, like the rest of the creation, let us depend on the aid of the universal Parent, and feel that HE who hears the young ravens which cry, will also supply our necessities.

8. Especially is the remark of value in reference to those in early life. Life is a stormy ocean. Over that ocean no being presides but God. He holds the winds in his hands, and can still their howlings, and calm the heaving billows. On that ocean the young have just launched their frail bark. Daily they will need protection; daily they will need supplies; daily be in danger, and exposed to the rolling of the billows, that may engulf them for ever. Ignorant, inexperienced, and in danger, how should they look to God to guide and aid them! Instead of vexing themselves with anxious cares about the future, how should they place humble reliance on God! Safe in his hand, we shall outride the storm, and come to a haven of peace. He will supply our wants if we trust him, as he does those of the songsters of the grove. He will be the guide of our youth, and the strength of our manhood. If we seek him, he will be found of us. If we forsake him, he will cast us off for ever, 1 Ch 28:9.

9. From all this, how evident is the propriety of seeking first the kingdom of God! First in our affections, first in the objects of pursuit, first in the feelings and associations of each morning, be the desire and the aim for heaven. Having this, we have assurance of all we need. God, our Father, will then befriend us; and in life and death all will be well.


Verse 33. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes on "Mt 6:32"

{o} "seek ye first" 1 Ti 4:8 {p} "shall be added" Le 25:20,21; 1 Ki 3:13; Ps 37:25; Mr 10:30


Verse 34. No Barnes text on this verse.

See Barnes on "Mt 6:32"

For Remarks on Chapter 6, See Barnes "Mt 6:34, end of verse.

{q} "the things of itself" De 23:25; Heb 13:5,6

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