Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

appear, when the several parts of it come to be distinctly explained. But though such explanation will show, both the purport and the excellency of it, more fully ; yet, they are to every eye visible in the main, without any explanation at all. And, therefore, let us conclude at present with devoutly offering it up to God.

Our Father, which art in heaven; hallowed “ be thy name. Thy kingdom come.

Thy will “ be done in earth, as it is in heaven. “ this day our daily bread. And forgive us our * trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass " against us. And lead us not into temptation, “ but deliver us from evil." For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and

Amen.

Give us

ever.

LECTURE XXX.

THE Lord's PRAYER.

Our Father, which art in Heaven ; hallowed be

thy Name.

THE prayer which our blessed Saviour taught his disciples, doth not need be explained, as being, in itself, and originally, obscure. For, no words could be more intelligible to his Apostles, than all those which he hath used throughout it. And even to us now, there is nothing that deserves the name of difficult; notwithstanding the distance of time, the change of circumstances, and the different nature and turn of the Jewish tongue from our own.

But still, in order to apprehend it sufficiently, there is requisite some knowledge of religion, and the language of religion. Besides, as we all learnt it when we were young, whilst we had but little understanding, and less attention ; it is not impossible, but some of us may have gone on repeating it to an advanced age, without considering it near so carefully as we ought. And this very thing, that the words are so familiar to us, may have been the main occasion, that we have scarce ever thonght of their inport. Now we are sensible, it would be great unhappiness to have our devotion as the Church of Rome have the principal part of theirs, in a language that we could not understand. But surely it is as great a fault, if when we may so easily understand them, we do not; or if, though we do not understand them, when we think of the matter, we think about it so little, that, as to all good purposes, it is much the same with praying in an unknown tongue. The Lord's Prayer, in itself, is very clear, very expressive, very coinprehensive. But all this is nothing to us, if we say it without knowing, or without minding what we say. For how excellent words soever we use, have no meaning to them, this can be no praying. And, therefore, to make it really beneficial to us, we must fix deeply in our thoughts what it was intended by its Author to contain.

Now, it consists, you may observe, of three Parts. I. An Invocation, or calling upon God. II. Petitions offered. III. Praises ascribed to him.

The Invocation is in these words, “ Our Father, " which art in heaven.” And, few as they are, they express, very fully, the grounds on which divine worship stands.

As the whole world derives its being from God, he is on that account styled, the “ Father of all.” í But as rational creatures are produced, not only by him, but in his image and likeness; he is in a

if we

(1) Eph. iv. 6.

12 and co the sons,

stricter sense the Father of these. And, therefore, angels and men are called in Scripture, what the animals beneath them never are, the “ offspring of God :"3 in which sense the Prophet saith, “() Lord, thou art our Father, and

we are all the work of thy hand."4 . Now, as our Creator, he is evidently not only our Father, but also our Sovereign Lord.

A second title God hath to his name, from that fatherly providence and goodness which he exercises every where continually : and of which mankind hath large experience; not only in the many employments, comforts, and deliverances, that he grants us, but even in the afflictions which he sends us, always for our benefit ; then more especially “ dealing with us as with children, whom “ he loveth."5

But there is yet a third reason why we call him our Father, peculiar to us as Christians; and founded on our being united by faith to his Son, “our head,"6 “and begotten again, through his

Gospel, to a lively hope, to an inheritance re“ served in heaven for us ;“7 privileges so invaluable, that though he is doubtless a father, and a tender one, to our whole species, yet his word speaks for us as the only persons, in comparison, that have a right to consider him in this view.

many as received him," that is, our blessed Saviour, "to them gave he power to become the

sons of God; even to them that believe in his " name.”8 “ The Lord is good to all :"9 but singularly good to those who become, by the influences of the Christian Covenant, singularly fit objects of his goodness. They have promises of the greatest blessings, to which nothing but pro

66 As

(2) Job. i. 6. ii. 1. xxxviii. 7. (3) Acts xvii. 29. (4) Isa. lxiv. 8.

(5) Heb. xii. 6, &c. (6) 1 Cor. xi. 3. Eph. i. 22. (7)1 Cor. iv. 15. 1 Pet. i. 1,3,4, (8) John i. 12.

(9) Psalın cxlv. 9.

3 יי

mise can intitle: pardon of sin, assistance of the holy Spirit, and life eternal; by which last they are made, in the happiest sense, the “children of “ God, being the children of the resurrection." } Let us learn, then, as often as we say, Our Father, to magnify in our souls that gracious Redeemer, who hath made him to us, more than he is to others. Let us often repeat the thankful reflection of St. John, “Behold what manner of love the Father “ hath bestowed on us, that we should be called “ the sons of God :"2 and joyfully argue, as St. Paul doth, “if children, then heirs; heirs of God, “ and joint heirs with Christ.”*3

Thus, then, the words, “Our Father," express not only the absolute authority, but the unspeakable goodness of God; and the next, “which art in

heaven," acknowledge his glory and power.

I have already, observed to you, in explaining the sixth Article of the Creed, that as God cannot but be, so he cannot but be every where: for there is nothing in any one part of space, to confine his presence to that, rather than to any other. Besides, his providence is continually acting every where and wherever he acts he is. Therefore, Solomon justly declares, “ the heaven, and the hea“ ven of heavens cannot contain thee." But still the Scripture represents him as manifesting the more visible tokens of his inexpressible majesty in one peculiar place : where he receives the homage of his holy angels, and issues forth his commands for the government of the world. This they call his “throne,” 5 and “tabernacle of heaven 6 of which the earthly tabernacle of Moses was designed to be a figure ; being directed to be “made accord“ ing to the pattern showed him in the Mount."7_ That earthly tabernacle was honoured for a long

994

(1) Luke xx. 36. (2) 1 John iii. 1. (3) Rom. viii. 17.
(4) 1 Kings viii. 27. 2 Chron. ii. 6. vi. 18. (5) Psalm xi. 4o
(6) Heb. viii. 1, 2. (7) Heb. viii. 6.

time with splendid marks of the divine residence : on which account, even after they were withdrawn, the Jews would be apt to consider God, as dwelling at Jerusalem in the Temple, and " sitting between the cherubim." 8

But our blessed Lord, being about to abolish the Mosaic ordinances, enlarges the views of his disciples, and raises them to that higher habitation of inconceivable glory, to which they should hereafter be admitted ; and on which they were, in the mcan while, to set their hearts, as the seat of all blessedness.

But further, being in heaven denotes, likewise, the almighty power of God : agreeable to that of thie Psalmist,“Our God is in the heavens : he “ hath done whatsoever he pleaseth."9 For, as a higher situation gives a superior strength and command; and, accordingly, in all languages, being exalted or brought low, signifies an increase or lessening of dominion or influence : so representing God, as placed above all, is designed to express, in the strongest manner, that “his king“ dom ruleth over all.”]

When, therefore, we call upon “ Our Father, · which is in heaven," we profess to God our belief, that he is the author and preserver of the universe, who governs all things with paternal care; but extends his favours especially to those, who, by imitating and observing him, show themselves his true children; and, therefore, most especially to such as having acquired, by the merits and

grace of his Son, the nearest relation and resemblance to him, have, thereby, a covenant right to an eternal inheritance in that blessed place, where he exhibits his glory, and reigos, possessed of sovereign authority and beundless power.

Now, applying thus to God, under the notion

(8) Ps. xcix. 1.

(9) Ps. cxv. 3.

(1) Ps. ciji. 19.

« VorigeDoorgaan »