Fifth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Matt.5.v.20 Monday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
Monday MeditationGOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift."
For this outward show of the Pharisees, without the inward virtue, seeking thereby not the glory of God,but their own praise, and taxing others for every trifle, seeing so little a thing, as a mote in another mans eye, but not a beam in their own. straining at a little gnat forsooth,and swallowing down so huge a beast as a Camel with such a great bunch on his back, Christ calleth them Hypocrites or dissemblers.
Which intention of their own praise, & preeminence before others,if their works were never so good in their own nature, it diminished the merit thereof very much, though it be but a secondary end or intention mixed with that which is right; but if the intention be ill and principally intended, it maketh the work vicious and ill, though never so good in its own nature, for as the soul giveth life to the body, so doth our intention to our works: the end or intention in moral actions (as the Philosopher sayth)giveth life,and specification thereunto, that is to say, their being that which they are, and their merit if it be in actions of their own nature not evil: but if they be evil, they cannot be bonafide, or made good by no good intention whatsoever; & hereof Christ sayth thus in the Gospel, If thy eye, to wit thy intention or end, be simple & right,all thy works is good, if bad all thy work is bad.
Christ compareth our intentions to leaven which being but a little (as our intention is in comparison of the work) seasoned a great lump of Dough, and therefore Christ in the Gospel biddeth us, beware of the leaven of the pharisees which was hypocrisy,and feigned holiness,for their own sinster ends and intentions,and this not only in their life, but also in their doctrine, teaching the people as it should seem here by the words of Christ, that it was a just and sufficient observation of the fifth commandment of the Decalogue,to abstain from the outward act of murder,though they were angry never so much, or reviled them never so much, or desired to kill or murder never so much.
And in another place he taxed them for Covetousness, teaching and persuading children, that it was more pious to give unto them then to relive the necessities of their Parents, for which,and for their other practices of Covetousness, Christ said, they were full of rapine: he accused them, that they did all things tobe seen, & praised of men,he calleth them painted Sepulchers,that make a fair outward show, & inwardly are full of stinking bones and putrefied flesh: for all these causes Christ called the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, & warneth us to beware of the leaven of the pharisees, which he calleth hypocrisy: their intention being by reprehension of small faults in others, to hide and conceal their own greater, and to justify themselves.
Woe be to them,sayth St.Jerome, unto whom the vices of the Pharisees, and their imperfect observation of the old Law, are descended in the new, of whom Christ requireth much more perfection, saying:You have heard it was said to them of the old law, Thu shalt not kill, but I say, whosoever is angry with his brother&c. Wherefore in all our good works we must do as they did that re edified, and built again the Temple and walls of Jerusalem,who by reason of their adversaries that lay before the walls and impugned their work, were feign to work with one hand, and hold a sword in the other, to defend their work:so must we do our good works with the right hand, and hold a sword in the left,to defend them from a sinister end & intention.
And in our prayers & devotions we must have care,not only to have a pure and good intention, but also a diligent attention, for such also Christ calleth hypocrites or dissembler, and sayth that they seem to honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from him.
We read in the holy Scripture, that Abraham being commanded of God, to sacrifice certain beasts, which he cut in two parts,and lay the one part on one side of him, and the other on the other, a good distance from him, to sacrifice the day;the fowls of the air came down so thick upon it,to feed thereupon that he had work enough to drive them away, and when he drove them from one side, they would go to the other, & this they did all the day long, in so much that Abraham at night was so toiled,that very weariness made him fall asleep,& being asleep, for his reward, had a comfortable vision from God, and a revelation of a great benediction he should have, to wit, of the delivery of his people out of the captivity of Egypt&c.
This exact narration of Abraham's laboring to drive away the birds from his sacrifice, all the day, we must not think to be without mystery or some secret allusion to some matters of greatest importance then the bare historical relation thereof, which was but a trifle.
The meaning was, that even so the flying birds of idle and vain distractions,are busy to pitch upon the sacrifice of our prayers and devotions, to hinder and defile them,and to devour or diminish our merit: in which case we must be as busy, and diligent, as Abraham was to drive them away,and we shall have reward for it as Abraham had, & peradventure as great,and greater then if we did pray without any distractions at all.