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more disobedient; till at length the inhabitants of the whole earth, instead of being the happy subjects of God's rightful empire, became, by immoral lives, and idolatrous worship, most wretched slaves to the usurped dominion of the wicked one. The wisdom and goodness of God made immediate provision, through his only Son, our Lord, to oppose that kingdom of darkness, as soon as it appeared in the world; not by his absolute power-for obedience loses its value, unless it proceeds from choice-but by the rational method of instructions, promises, and warnings from heaven, superadded to what nature taught, and suited to the circumstances of every age.
These he gave at first by the Patriarchs to all men promiscuously; and whoever acknowledged his authority and obeyed his laws, was a good subject, and true member of his kingdom. But when afterwards, notwithstanding this care, the corruption of mankind was become general, he chose the posterity of his servant Abraham, and distinguished them by his especial favour; not as casting off the rest of the world; for, "in every "nation," at all times, "they that fear God, and "work righteousness, are accepted with him ;"2 but that, in this people at least, the profession of faith in him, and subjection to him, might be kept alive; not merely for their own benefit, but the information of others also. With them, therefore, was the kingdom of God, in a peculiar degree, for fifteen hundred years. While they flourished in their own land, they held forth the light of truth to all the nations round them. And when they were led captive, or dispersed into other lands, they spread it yet farther; and thus were great instruments in preparing the rest of mankind for that general re-establishment of obedience to the
(2) Acts x. 35.
true God, as King and Lord of all, which our blessed Saviour came to effect.
The Gospel dispensation therefore having this for its end, and being much more perfectly fitted to attain it, than any preceding manifestation of religion had been; the Scriptures, in a distinguished manner, calls it "the kingdom of God, "or of heaven;" both which words denote, in exactly the same view, that dominion, which in Daniel it is foretold "the God of heaven should 66 set up, and which should never be destroyed." 3 Our Saviour was then, after John the Baptist, only giving notice of its approach, and opening the way for setting it up, when he first directed his disciples to pray that it might come. By his death he raised it on the ruins of the Devil's usurpation, over whom he triumphed in his 66 cross ;" 4 and now it hath been many ages in the world. But still it is by no means come, in that extent, and to that good effect, which we have reason to beg that it may, and to believe that it will. The largest part of mankind hath not, so much as in profession, entered into this kingdom; but lies overwhelmed in pagan idolatry, Jewish unbelief, or Mahometan delusion. The largest part of Christians have corrupted the doctrine of Christ with grievous errors; and those who preserve the purest faith, too generally lead such impure and wicked lives, that, though the kingdom of God hath indeed taken place amongst them, in outward appearance, yet in that sense, which will prove at last the only important one, they are still far from it. "For the kingdom of "God," saith our Saviour, "is within you ;"5 and consists, as the Apostle further explains it, "in righteousness, and peace, and joy in" the grace of the Holy Ghost." "
(3) Dan. ii. 44. (4) Col. ii. 15. (5) Luke xvii. 21. (6) Rom. xiv. 17.
Here then is great room, and great need, for praying; that the Heathen may become "the
inheritance of Christ, and the uttermost parts "of the Mahometan world his possession ;" 7 that the Jews, "from whom, for their unbelief, the kingdom of God hath been so long taken" away, may be restored to a share in it; as the Prophets, both of the Old and New Testament, have foretold they shall; and lastly, "that all "who profess and call themselves Christians, may "not only be led into the way of truth, but hold "the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, "and in righteousness of life." 2 How little prospect soever there may be at present of such happiness as this, yet we have a sure word of prophecy" for the ground of our prayers, that the time shall come, when "the kingdoms of this "world shall be the kingdoms of our God and of "his Christ," in a degree that they have never been yet; when "all the people shall be righte <6 ous, "3 and "know the Lord from the greatest
"unto the least." 4
But the kingdom of God upon earth, even in its best estate, is comparatively but short-lived and imperfect; indeed, a mere introduction to that glorious and eternal manifestation of it in heaven, which ought ever to be the object of our most ardent desires and requests. For, as the governor, and the governed, and the great fundamental laws of government, are still to be the same, in the present state of trial, and the future one of recompence, they both make up together but one kingdom of God. And therefore when we pray for the coming of it, we pray in the last place, for the arrival of that time, when the King and Judge of
(7) Psalm ii. 8.
(9) Prayer for all conditions of men. (2) Rev. xi. 15, (3) Isaiah 1x. 21.
(8) Matt. xxi. 43.
(1) 2 Pet. i. 19.
all "shall sit upon the throne of his glory," 5 and "reward every man according to his work ;"6 when "the righteous shall shine forth, as the sun, "in the kingdom of their Father," even that "kingdom, which was prepared for them from "the foundation of the world ;" and "shall "reign with him in it for ever and ever." 9
But then, as we pray for this time, we must prepare for it also; else we do nothing but ask our own condemnation, as the Prophet Amos hath most awfully warned us; "Woe unto you "that desire the day of the Lord. To what end "is it for you; the day of the Lord is darkness, " and not light."1
To instruct us therefore on what it is that our share in the kingdom of God depends, our Saviour immediately subjoins another petition, expressing it very clearly; "Thy will be done in "earth as it is in heaven." "For, not every one "that saith unto him, Lord, Lord, shall enter "into the kingdom of heaven," 2 but they only who do the will of God, shall receive his "promise." 3
Indeed what God wills to do himself, that " he "doth accordingly, both in the army of heaven, "and amongst the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand." 4 But what he wills us to do, that he only requires of us, as we value his favour, or fear his displeasure; leaving us designedly that power of not doing what he bids us, without which, doing it were no virtue. But though disobedience to his will is in our power, yet obedience is not so, without the assistance of his grace; which, therefore, in these words, we desire for ourselves, and for all men; and since,
(5) Matt. xxv. 31, (8) Matt. xxv. 34. (2) Matt. vii. 21.
(6) Matt. xvi. 27.
(7) Matt. xiii. 43.
by the means of prayer, we may have strength to obey his will granted us; we are certainly, with as much justice, expected to obey it, as if we had the power already of our own.
Now the will of God consists in these two things: that we suffer patiently what he lays upon us, and perform faithfully what he commands us. The former of these, to bear with resignation whatever, in any kind, God sees proper to inflict; and though we may wish and pray for the prevention or removal of sufferings, yet to be content, nay desirous, that his will should "be "done, not ours; 99 5 may often prove a difficult, but is always an evident and necessary duty. For to indulge a contrary disposition, is to set up ourselves above our Maker; to rebel against his authority, deny his wisdom, and distrust his goodness. The ability therefore of submitting meekly to his pleasure, is undoubtedly one great thing that we are to request, and endeavour to obtain.
But still, as the blessed inhabitants of heaven surely have little or no occasion for this kind of obedience, we have reason to think that the other, the active sort, is the point which our Saviour designed we should principally have in view, when we beg, that God's will may be done by us, as it is by them; by "his angels, that fulfil his com "mands, hearkening unto the voice of his word ; "those ministers of his, that do his pleasure." Not that we can hope to equal the services of beings placed so much above us; but only aspire to such resemblance of them, that our obedience may bear the same proportion to our abilities, which that of the heavenly spirits doth to theirs. Their knowledge of God's will is clear and distinct; on which account, the highest character given of human wisdom is, to be "as an angel of
(5) Luke xxii. 42.
(6) Psalm ciii. 20, 21.