Attendite ne justitiam vestram exerceatis coram hominibus, ut spectemini ab eis: alioquin mercedem non habetitis apud Patrem vestrum qui est in Coelis.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
The drift of our Saviour in these words is, to separate that which is vile, from the pretious, Jeremiah the fifteenth chapter, to sever the tare of vain glory from the good corne of righteousnesse and mercie: But as Christ gives charge, That while his Disciples laboured to gather away the tares, they should beware that they pluck not up the good corne, Matthew the thirteenth chapter: So while we labour to pluck up the tares of vain glorious intentions; we must take heed that we doe not withall pluck up the good corne of good works; for heretofore the good seed of the Doctrine of good works was not so taught, but presently the Devil sowed in mens hearts the wicked opinion of merit of works, as tares among the good corne. And while men laboured to take away the opinion of merits, then he takes away out of mens hearts the care of works.
In the counsel of Christ two things are to be noted, First, the corn must be sowed, take heed ye doe good works: Secondly, the tares must be plucked up, [522/523] but doe them not to be seen. We must doe righteousness both privately in our own consciences, and publiquely before men, as the Apostle sheweth, Provide for things honest before all men, Romans the twelfth chapter. But the tares are to be avoided, that is, to be seen; ut videamini; where we have a command. First, Christ will not have us doe good works to this end, to be seen. Secondly, That we may not, we must take heed; as if he should say, My will is, ye shall not give almes to this end, to be seen. Thirdly, That ye may avoid this fault, ye must take heed: Whereby he signifieth that to doe almes to this end, to purchase praise to our selves, is a hurtful thing. And to avoid this fault, is a matter of great difficulty.
For the first point, Christ saith, When ye give almes, doe not blow a trumpet; when ye fast or pray let not all the world know of it, neither let the end be ut videamini. Touching which, we are to know, that our good works, are not worse in themselves for being seen, but are the better; even as the goodnesse of a colour stands in the lightnesse of it, so our good works are more commended if they be known: And they of themselves desire the light, as Christ sheweth in John the third chapter and the twenty first verse: But such is our corruption, that if we think our works are known, we with our pride doe corrupt them. For as pride is the way to dry up the fountain of Gods grace, as James saith, God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble, James the fourth chapter. So the sight of good works is a means to overthrow our humility. The Pharisees knew this full well, which purposing to tempt Christ, covered their hooks with praise, Seeing we know that thou art a teacher come from God, and regardest no man, tell us, is it lawfull? Matthew the twenty second chapter: But Christ, to teach us what a dangerous thing it is to be praised, would not accept their praise, but answered them, Why tempt ye me, O ye Hypocrites? And when one said to him, Magister bone, good Master, which was a praise of simplicitie not of hypocrisie, as the other, he refused it, and said, Why dost thou call me good? Mark the tenth chapter. When one said, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, he repelled that saying, Nay rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it, Luke the eleventh chapter and the twenty eighth verse. For as the shewing of the Kings treasure was the means of the betraying them, Isaiah the thirty ninth chapter; so when we shew our good works, with a desire to be praised for them, it takes away all commendation from them.
This thing being dangerous, if notwithstanding we be desirous to have our good deeds seen, that shall be fulfilled which Sirach saith, He that loveth dangers shall perish therein, Qui amat periculum peribit in eo, cap. 3.27. But to disswade us from this, the Apostle saith, Be not desirous of vain glory, Galatians the fifth chapter, and Philippians the second chapter and the third verse. The Preacher saith, all is vanity which men seek after in this life, and therefore concluded, Time Deum, Ecclesiastes the twelfth chapter, to teach us, that without God all the praise of the world is but vanity. Now as we fail in having respect to [523/524] God: First, when we make not him the fountain of our praise: Secondly, if we make him not the end of it; so in doing good workes to be seen, we commit two vanities. First, when we content not ourselves with this perswasion, that God sees our works, and will reward them: unlesse man see them and praise us for them; The tryall, whether we make God the fountain of our praise, is if we seek it by wayes agreeable to his will, not by wickednesse. Secondly, not by vanity, for his delight is not in beautie, riches, or strength; he deligtheth not in any man's Legs in the hundred and fourty sixt[h] Psalme. Thirdly, not by falshood, as the Apostle saith, I will not glory of anything which the Lord hath not wrought by me, in the second to the Corinthians and the eleventh chapter: Hereby we shall seek the grace of God, rather than of men in the twelfth chapter of John: nay though they seek praise by righteousnesse and doing good works, yet they make not God the fountain of their praise: the Hypocrites when they would be praised, did those works that were most glorious, as to offer sacrifice in the temple, but they neglected mercy and justice, which are the chief things that God respecteth, in the twenty third chapter of Matthew: They washed not their hearts in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, which God especially regardeth, but looked only to outward things, and they that doe mercy and justice, which are the chief things of the Law, yet they will not doe them, but when they may be seen: Whereby they shew, that they make not God the fountain of their praise; and so the praise they seek for, is hatefull to God.
Secondly, this desire of vain glory is injurious to God; when we make not him the end of our praise, for we may doe good works coram, in the sight of men, but not with purpose to have them seen, that so we may receive glory: For God hath given us the joyes and use of all his Creatures, but reserveth the glory of them to himself: therefore the Apostle saith, howsoever ye have the joy of Gods Creatures in eating and drinking, yet let God have the glory: Doe all to the glory of God, in the first to the Corinthians the tenth chapter, and the thirty first verse: For though he giveth us the use of all things, yet gloriam meam alteri non dabo, in the fourty second chapter of Esay: Therefore if we doe good works to commend our selves, and not to glorifie God, wee are injurious to him; for he hath testified, that he will not give his glory to any other. And therefore Peter and John say, It is not by our own godlinesse that we have made this man whole, but it is in the name of Christ and faith in him, that hath raised him, in the third chapter of Acts: Therefore not only Nabuchadnezar when he snatched God's glory to himself, was punished, in the fourth chapter of Daniell: But even Herod also, because he did but suffer that glory to rest upon him, that was attributed to him by others, when he should had ascribed all to God, in the twelfth chapter of the Acts and the twenty second verse. Then as it is injurious to God, so it is hurtful to our selves; for though we see many miracles wrought by Christ, yet they are afraid to confesse and believe him, [524/525] because they love the praise of men more than the praise of God, in the twelfth chapter of John and the fourty third verse: And therefore Christ saith How can you believe, which seek glory one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh of God alone? quomodo potestis credere, qui gloriam sibi quaeritis? in the fift[h] chapter of John and the forty fourth verse: Secondly, as it is an obstacle to grace; so it is a provocation to all wickedness: For the Jews doubted not to crucifie the Lord of glory, to get praise of the wicked.
Secondly, that we may doe this, Christ willeth us to take heed; for there is a double corruption in us: First, a rebellion against Gods precept, which make us say quare, as Pharaoh, in the fift[h] chapter of Exodus and the second verse: Who is the Lord that I should hear his voice? And as the Scribes and the Pharisees said to Christ, By what authority doest thou these things? in the twenty first chapter of Matthew and the three and twentieth verse: Secondly, the blindnesse of our understanding which makes us ask Quomodo? which is the question of ignorance; so that it is not without cause, that he bids us to take heed, that we beware of this sinne, as being a hard precept, both for our rebellion to yeeld unto, and also in regard of our ignorance: which is such, as we cannot see how it should be lawfull to seek praise by well doing; the hardnesse of avoiding this sinne, is of two causes. First, it ariseth from the nature of sinne itself: for as we are corporall and visible; so we are most affected with those things that are visible, as John reasoneth, He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, in the first Epistle of John and the fourth chapter: whereupon it commeth to passe, that our corruption, that though we believe the reward of God to be great: yet because it is invisible, and the worlds reward is present, therefore pleaseth us more. Secondly, from the original of vain glory; for when the woman looked upon the fruit, albeit it greatly pleased her, yet that which did strike the stroak, was eritis sicut dii, in the third chapter of Genesis, the hope of present glory. And this was the first sinne, that came into the soul of the woman; and as the Philosopher saith, that the heart is primum vivens & ultimatum moriens; so vain glory, as it first took possession in the heart of man, so it is last and with most difficulty dispossessed: So that when a man hath mortified all his lusts, and subsued all sinnes, yet pride and the desire of glory revives again.
And whereas the sinnes of the world are three, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life, the first Epistle of John the second chapter and the sixteenth verse. The sinne of pride is such a one as doth not only corrupt all virtues, but subdueth all other sinnes, and prevails against them; for gluttony or the lust of the flesh is come under the power of pride: So as men take a pride in excess of meat, whereas gluttony would be contented with a little; for the belly is sooner filled than the eye satisfied. Secondly, For Covetousnesse, What makes men to exceed in the cares of getting riches, but only pride and desire of glorie: For knowing that the borrower is a servant to the lender, Proverbs the tenth chapter, and all things obey money, Preacher the [525/526] tenth chapter: In respect of the excellencie of wealth, they are so covetous, that albeit they have more than enough, yet they still gather together, that they may have all men in subjection to them; so hard it is to suppresse the desire of vain glory: And the harder, because where other sinnes be resting upon a man, this sinne comes creeping upon him, and flattereth him, as a thing most agreeable to his nature. Howbeit it is to be avoided with all heedfulness, for it comes from good things as the root. Secondly, A man is proud oftentimes even of humilitie, not only when they outwardly humble themselves with fasting, but also when they are inwardly humbled, Joel the second chapter. Secondly, it is the harder, because it comes with a colour and shew of reason; for it is Gods will that we should not only doe good works, but that it should be done openly, as Christ saith, to shine and be seen of men sic splendeat lux, Matthew the fifth chapter and the sixteenth verse; both that God may be glorified by us, and that we may give good example to others: But notwithstanding we must beware that we doe them not to purchase praise to our selves.
Secondly, The question of ignorance is, How we should avoid this desire of glorie, which is so bred in us? The answer to this doubt is by meditation and prayer: For as God hath laid this Curse upon the earth, That it should bring forth thorns and thistles of it self, but if we will have any good of it, we must bestow labour upon it; So this curse is laid upon our soules, that good things will not come into our mindes, without diligent meditation; but pride and such sinnes will take place of themselves without any further trouble. Wherefore as to avoid all temptations, we must occupie our selves in godly meditation, as Augustine saith, Semper te Diabolus inveniat occupatum; so there are speciall meditations for the avoiding of pride and the desire of vain glory: First, To think of the uncertainty of worldly glorie, that Christ that today should have been crowned King by the Jews, was the next day crucified by them. Secondly, Of the emptinesse and vacuity of it; as that all the glory that Haman had did not content him when he had received but one little disgrace by Mordechai, Esther, the fifth chapter. Thirdly, of the punishment of this sinne; for whereas he spares other sinnes, if he see withall some token of goodnesse, so as he will quench the smoaking flax, Isaiah the fourty second chapter, he will not defer his judgements from the Hypocrites and ambitious, but will withdraw his graces from them here, and punish them eternally in the world to come. Fourthly, We should think of our own hearts, if we doe good without regard of mens praise. Fifthly, Of our own inability, how little we are able to doe of ourselves, except God move our hearts, and work in us both to will and to doe, Philippians the second chapter and the thirteenth verse, that so we may ascribe the praise of all our good deeds to him, as the only author of them.
These meditations will kindle a fire in us, that we shall have a desire to speak as Psalm the thirty ninth, as the Prophet having considered, that God did command us to keep his testimonies, saith presently, [526/527] O that my wayes were so directed that I might keep them, Psalme the hundred and nineteenth. But as by those meditations we conceive a desire to avoid that which we are forbidden so unto our desire we must add resolution, Psalme the nine and thirtieth, I said I will take heed to my wayes, Dixit custodiam vias meas. The other means is prayer; For when we have done all we can to avoid this desire by our private meditations, yet that will not serve, till we cry for Gods assistance, to strengthen us and help us, for vain is the help of man, Psalme the hundred and eighth: So though the Apostle doe will the Ephesians to put on the armour of God, yet he saith the chief weapon to fight with the Devil is prayer, Ephesians the sixt[h] chapter; For except the Lord keep the City, the watch-men watch in vain, Psalme the hundred twenty seventh. We must not only say the general prayer, which concerneth all sinnes, Lead us not into temptation, but, particularly against this sin, say with David, Psalme the thirty sixth, Let not the foot of pride come neer me and Psalme the hundred and fourteenth, Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give the praise.
The perswasion is For then ye shall lose your reward. As before to doe good, was the good corn that is to be sown; but to doe it to be seen, is the tares that must be plucked up: So the perswasion is thus to be taken, Doe good works sincerely, and ye shall have a reward, though not in this world; but if ye doe them in hypocrisie to be seen, ye shall lose your reward: When the holy Ghost implyeth, that our good works shall have a reward; and so perswadeth us to the practice of them. He condescends to our infirmity; for there are more weighty causes to move us to doe good, As the shedding of Christs blood, whereby he redeemed us to himself, to be zealous of good works Titus the second chapter and the fourteenth verse: But because he knows whereof we be made, and that we are weak, he perswades us with hope of reward; and herein he hath regard, Non as gloriam operis sed as zelum operantis, of the reward of works done in sincerity heretofore.
Of these that are done in hypocrisie note two things. First, How true it is that they lose their reward, Concerning which, howsoever Hypocrites, have a reward in this world, yet they have not alwaies; and though they had, yet this reward doth not last for ever: Honor fugientem sequitur sequentem vitat. We see Saul, Judas, Ananias, and Saphira, while in hypocrisie they made a shew of good workes to procure themselves glorie, were disappointed, and they felt the judgement of God upon them: But though it have a reward in this world, yet not apud Patrem vestrum caelestem: Which is thus to be taken, That if they have glory, yet it is not God, that gives them this praise. And as the putrifying of Manna was a figure that it came not from the blessing of God, Exodus the sixteenth chapter. And when the Manna of the wicked rotteth, it is a signe that it was not Gods gift, Proverbs the tenth chapter. So in that the glorie of hypocrites doth not last, it is a token, that it is not a praise given them of God. Again it signifieth, That though they have reward in earth yet not in Heaven, [527/528] for then to hypocrites that say, we have cast out Devils and preached in thy name, he shall say, Depart from me I know ye not, Matthew the seventh chapter.
Secondly, Note how powerfull this persuasion is, to make us avoid vain glory, and the desire of it. Here Christ saith, non habetis mercedem, ye have no reward: In the next verse he saith, you have your reward, habetis mercedem, to shew, that the worldly reward is nothing in respect of the heavenly reward that God will give; Gods reward is by grace in this life, for to them that forsake father and mother, he promiseth an hundredfold, Matthew the nineteenth chapter and the twenty ninth verse; Then by glory in the world to come, the glory of a Kingdome, Luke the twelfth chapter It is my Fathers pleasure to give you a kingdome: Than which glory none is greater; and therefore he will say, Come ye blessed, possesse the kingdome. Secondly, such a Kingdome as shall be void of all affliction, that might take away the glory, I know the afflictions of this life are not worthy of the glory to come, Romans the eighth chapter. And howsoever no Kingdome is so glorious, but either eye hath seen or eare hath heard, or at least the heart may conceive of a Kingdom of more glorie; yet such is the glory provided for them, that by well doing seek the praise of God, and not of men, as neither eye hath seen, the first epistle to the Corinthians, the second chapter and the ninth verse. So that if we knew the gift of God, John the fourth chapter; if it would please him to open the eyes of our minde, that we might see the excellencie of the Heavenly reward, Ephesians, the first chapter and the eighteenth verse; and the basenesse and uncertainty of the worlds gift, we would not only, not desire, but even carefully avoid and be afraid of the worlds glory, and would abhor the desire of it, as a thing not only injurious to God, but hurtful to our selves.