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“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
AN OLD PRAYER FOR A NEW YEAR.
BY THE REV. CIARLES VINCE.
“Thy will be done on earth.” The more we look at God's works, the more we learn wbat a vast amount of skill and beauty the great Creator can crowd into the smallest space. In the merest drop of water, in the leaf of the least flower, in the wing of the tiniest insect, there is to be found a whole world of wonder-working. Whoever examines these or similar portions of creation will be amazed to find that in a thing so little so much of Divine wisdom and power can be embodied. We take what seems to be an atom of dust, scarcely visible to the naked eye. We look at it closely through the microscope, and find it to be a shell exquisitely inished. We remember that that shell was the home of a living thing, and hat the body of that living thing had its different members, each one with listinct functions to discharge, and each one doing its assigned work. How itterly impossible it would be for man to put an equal amount of skill and Jeauty into a thing so invisibly small! He could as easily build up a mountain 'ange as high as the Alps, or dig a gulf as deep and broad as that which holds he waters of the Atlantic. The minuteness of God's works as much defies cuman imitation as their magnitude. It is in this capacity of comprehending o much in a space so small that God's omnipotence mocks our feebleness, and hat the Divine Creator passes by the wisest of his creatures, and "leares our arthest-reaching skill at an infinite distance behind.”
Is it not possible, yea, easy, to trace this game Divine presence displaying he same kind of power in the teaching of Jesus ? Are not his words in this espect very like the works of God? For an all-comprehending brevity never lan spake like this Man. Into a single sentence he could put a whole volume ftruth. All moral laws he gathered up into two precepts" Thou shalt love le Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy:lf.” The substance of the Gospel he set forth in words so few, that the frailest temory can scarcely forget them—“God so loved the world that he gave his aly-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but ave everlasting life.” Into that brief verse he condensed all Bible teaching
to the free love of God, the sacrificial work of the Saviour, the lost estate of lan, and the simple faith whereby the provisions of Divine mercy are approriated and made our own.
It has often been noticed that, for a vast amount and variety of truth exressed in a few words, there is nothing, even in the recorded utterances of esus, superior to tlmit portion of Suripture which, by common consent of the
universal Church, bears the honoured name of “ the Lord's Prayer.” Truth. fully does one say, that when first we learned it we thought it very short, but the longer we live, and the more we know of ourselves and of others, the more do we see that, if it be measured by its thoughts rather than by its sentences, the Lord's Prayer must be deemed a very long prayer. The fulness of meaning to be found in its six brief petitions testifies so powerfully of a wisdom more than human, that we do not wonder at Madame De Stael's statement, that she could rest her faith in the inspiration of the Bible upon the character of this one portion of it alone.
That petition from the Lord's Prayer which is to constitute the theme of this article, is marked, in no small degree, by this remarkable union of brevity and comprehensiveness. It includes
I. An active, cheerful, and constant obedience to all God's laws, whether they 1; be written on the conscience or revealed in his holy word. Such obedience was found in the purity of Joseph, in the prayerfulness of Daniel, in the determi. nation of the three Hebrew youths not to bow down to the golden image, and in the conduct of Stephen, spending his last breath in lifting a prayer to heaven for mercy on his murderers, and thereby keeping the law which bids us love our enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use us. A perfect illustration of this “doing of God's will" is found in the life of Him who left us an ensample that we should follow in his steps. The first recorded words of Jesus are words relating to obedience. “ Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" For eighteen years we have no record of his deeds, but as he goes into that prolonged concealment, the last glimpse we have of him reveals him in the attitude of filial obedience. “ He went down to Nazareth with his parents, and was subject to them." As' we watch him coming out of that eighteen years' obscurity, the first glimpse we have of him reveals him manifesting that same spirit of obedience. He goes forth seeking baptism at the hands of John, and silencing the reverential objections of his forerunner with the words, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
II. The blessing sought in this petition includes, secondly, a spirit which promptly and docilely follows all the leadings of God's providence. There are general duties devolved by Divine Law on all men. There are special duties devolved by Divine Providence on particular individuals. God calls one mar to one kind of work, and another man to another kind of work. He says to this one, “Stay here," and to another, “ Go yonder.” When men earnestly strive to find out where God would have them to go, and what God would have them to do, and when each one goes to his post, believing that God has called him thither, and when each one devotes himself to his work-be it secular or sacred--because he thinks God has bidden him do it, then is there in part the answer to this prayer, “ Thy will be done on earth.” Of this spirit Abraham was an illustrious example. In some way it was made known to him that he must leave his native land, and go forth in search of another country. The place of his birth and his fathers' sepulchres was dear to him, but at the voice of Providence he turned his back upon it for ever, and went forth not knowing whither he went. The future was dark before him, but he obediently stepped into the gloom and went fearlessly forward, by deeds if not in words exclaiming, “ Thy will be done." We read in the Old Testament of six men-Moses, Bezaleel, Aaron, Joshua. Samuel, and David. . As to high moral character and holy living, God com, manded all these men exactly the same things, but as to their places and their work in the world, his will was different in each case. Moses was to be lawgirer, from him to the people; Bezaleel was to construct the tabernacle, and fashion all it tressels of beauty for holy service; Aaron was to be a consecrated priest, using iacred things which Bezaleel had made, and carrying out the ritual laws which
Moses in the Lord's name had given ; Joshua was called to be captain of the host, leading the people to battle and to victory; Samuel was to be a prophet, instructs ing the people in the will of God, and striving evermore to keep them in the paths of righteousness; David was to be a king, ruling according to Divine law and wisdom, and 80 consolidating the kingdom and prospering the people.' It came to pass that Moses the lawgiver, and Bezaleel the skilled artisan, and Aaron the anointed priest, and Joshua the brave soldier, and Samuel the wise judge, and David the successful monarch, did all obey the indications of Gods
will concerning them, and went and did that part of the world's work which he E had marked out for them. Such universal following of God's guiding hand is
part of the blessing we long for when we say, “Thy will be done on earth.”
Of this kind of obedience also we have a perfect example in the life of Jesus. He remained in completest retirement, and toiled as one of the world's ordinary workmen, until the time appointed for his manifestation. When he went into the wilderness to be tempted, he was not carrying out his own desires, but following a divine impulse. Three times his temptation is recorded, and each historian is careful to tell us that "he was led of the Spirit.” He had come into the world for one reason expressly, to engage in that conflict. The first promise concerning him pertained to his struggle with, and victory over, the great adversary. Yet how patiently he waited for the warfare, and thought not of entering upon it until the Spirit of God called him thither. For thirty years he tarried, and then as soon as the voice of God sounded the battle-blast in his hearing, he girded on the sword of the Spirit, and hastened to the momentous conflict as one whose life-long prayer was, “ Thy-will be done." In reference to the sphere of his labour, how carefully he kept to the narrow sphere mysteriously assigned to him. The will of God made him the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. In obedience to that, “he tasted death for every man.” The same Divine will confined his earthly ministering to the inhabitants of Palestine. In obedience to that, he passed not beyond the boundaries of the Holy Land. His loving sympathies - embraced the whole world. Gladly would he have preached the good tidings to all mankind. This, however, was with bim sufficient reason for remaining in that small section of the earth, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Most assuredly these and kindred incidents which might be eited, prove that. " in the days of his flesh," the Son of Man as implicitly followed the leadings of God's providence, as did the Jewish people when they halted or marched according as the pillar of cloud rested or moved onward, in its majestic silence proclaiming the will of the Lord. His followers may learn from his conduct what is included in the prayer he taught them. They may often long for a wider sphere, and vaster powers, and greater means of doing good. Let them cheerfully submit to the will of God in these as in other matters, remembering Him who kept to his appointed scene of labour without a murmur, although it was so restricted, and, moreover, one in which "he was despised and rejected of
This prayer includes
III. A confiding and cheerful contentment respecting the difficulties and musa teries of this present state. There are many matters in this world which perplex and distress us, and baffle all our endeavours to explain them, or to réconcile them with our most cherished convictions as to the love of God. There are the prevalence and power of temptation, the difficulties that are associated with the pursuit of righteousness, the awful ease with which ruin of all kinds can be Teached, and the adversity which good men often suffer side by side with bad men who are full of prosperity. These, and kindred things, greatly bewilder us. and often" prompt the question, "Why are they suffered to abide in a world where an all-merciful Being has authority which cannot be questioned, and
power which cannot be resisted P” We must learn to see the will of God concerning them. He, for wise reasons, permits them still to continue, and we, in becoming subject to his infinite wisdom, must submit to them without chafing, without losing our confidence in his goodness, without allowing our. selves to cherish the shadow even of a harsh thought respecting him and the righteousness of his government. After describing the mysterious state of things in which, for reasons unknown to us, some obtain mercy and some are left to the hardening of their hearts, the Apostle Paul points out no other refuge but that of simple submissiveness. To the angry or anxious question of the indignant or perplexed objector, this is the answer of inspiration,-“ Nay but, О man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
Again we refer to the example of Jesus. He found a strange and perplexing state of things. The appointed interpreters of God's word had become blind to its spiritual meaning. Though they were ardently longing for the Messiah, and constantly studying Divine descriptions of him, they knew him not when he came to them. They 80 mistook him as to deem him one whom it was their duty to put to death. While those who sat on Moses's seat were en wrapped in this darkness, young children, and the poor amongst the people, had piercing eyes, that looked through the vail of Christ's poverty, and saw some of the glory which lay beneath. While those who 'ought to have been the first to receire him cried, “Away with him," those in whom ignorance would have been less guilty, were the first to recognise him, and to lift their glad songs to the skies, as they cried, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord." These things were hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. Before this mystery, the Son of Man bowed with confiding contentment, exclaiming, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” • The blessing solicited in this prayer includes
IV. A patient and hopeful spirit in all the severe discipline through which God may call us to pass, and under all the heavy afflictions he may see fit to lay upon us. This is the most difficult part of human obedience. To stand and suffer without a murmuring word or a rebellious thought, is often a far greater proof of saintly character, than to go and work with a busy hand and an ungrudging heart. In this arduous matter, however, many of God's servants have found his grace sufficient for them. Bible biographies are not scanty in illustrations of the resigned and trusting mind, which out of the depths of adversity can say, “Tby will be done." The case of Moses is quite to the point. Desirous of delivering his brethren, he left the court of Pharaoh, and cast in his lot with the afflicted and the enslaved. He would set them free if he could, or suffer with them if he could not. Soon it was made known to him that God would have it otherwise. At present he must neither break their bonds nor wear them himself. Neither must be return to the forfeited honours and hopes of the Egyptian palaces. He was sent to the wilderness, and so it seemed as if all his sacrifices had been made for nothing. He had lost the position of " the son of Pharaoh's daughter," without gaining the honour of being Israel's deliverer. Instead of being king of Egypt, as he might have been, instead of being champion of the oppressed, as he longed to be, he was only a keeper of sheep in the land of Midian. For forty years he had to live in this compa rative solitude and adversity; all the pleasures of his youth lost for ever, and all the hopes of his manhood apparently blighted beyond all possibility of realisation. Yet he murmured not, but endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. Fostering contentment with God's arrangements, he patiently pursued the noiseless tenor of his way, and ultimately came out of that long affliction, not with a spoiled temper and a fretful heart, but with a gentle and submissive spirit, which secured for him this testimony, “Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth."