but of a momentary reflection on the presence of the Omniscient, or of the short ejaculation which is occasioned by some present proof of his benevolence or justice, though less restricted, may habitually assume the form of scriptural allusion, or be breathed in the language of David or St. John.

§ 5. But no argument in favour of a prescribed method of Prayer can be so coercive as the express command of our Divine Instructor; who when requested by his disciples to teach them how to pray, as a set form had always customarily been adopted by the teachers of God's people, distinctly enjoins a certain form of his own : "After this manner pray ye;" and "When ye pray, say" that which we hence denominate the Lord's Prayer. Our blessed Master does not mean by this to exclude from the devotions of his Church all other prayers, for this were inconsistent with his other precepts, and with his own example; but we are to understand that all our addresses to heaven should be so consistent with this formulary, both in spirit and in order, that they may resemble their Divine Model, and avoid the faults which are to be condemned as incompatible with a sincere and spiritual worship. The two accounts which the Evangelists give of the institution of this brief form of Prayer, imply thus much-that we should never pray orally, either in public or private, without making use of this divinely authorized summary, and that our other prayers should be, like it, short and comprehensive, consisting of devout acknowledgement expressive of firm trust in God, in petition, primarily, for the supply of our spiritual, and secondarily, of our bodily wants; and that all be to the praise and glory of

Him, from whose power and bounty all good gifts proceed.

$ 6. The Lord's Prayer consists of a preface,-of certain petitions for spiritual blessings,-of others for temporal gifts, and of a conclusion, or ascription of praise to God.

In the Preface, or solemn compellation of the Deity, we plead our relationship to him as the work of his hands who created the universe and every thing which it contains, as the objects of his paternal care and constant preservation, and, above all, as his adopted children, the accepted brethren of Christ, his only-begotten Son, and as the heirs, through promise, of immortal life. In this light we offer up the sacrifice of our lips, in acknowledgement of the filial fear, reverence, trust, love, and obedience of our hearts. If we be deficient in these affections, we mock God by calling him our Father.

We are taught to pray in the words our Father, and not my Father, by way of confession that the Almighty is the universal Father of all men, but especially of Christians, whom he regards, without respect of persons, as co-heirs with his eternal Son,that we are brethren one of another, and therefore bound to exercise fraternal charity towards each other.

When we say, "Our Father which art in heaven,” we are reminded that we should entertain the most profound respect and awe for all the temples of the omnipresent Deity, but especially for that holy place in which his majesty and glory are most conspicuously revealed;-to set our affections on things in heaven, and not on things on the earth, that our

treasure being there, and our heart where our treasure is, we may have a pious submissive desire to be with God, and to enter into possession of the promised joys which are at his right hand for evermore.

§ 7. We pray, in the first petition, that the Name of God may be hallowed, that that great and glo. rious Name which is in itself infinitely holy, and cannot be rendered more or less so by the respect or disrespect of mortal lips, may yet receive the honour and worship which are justly due to the Sovereign of the universe, the Preserver of our bodies, the Redeemer and Sanctifier of our souls; and the honour and worship of which God declares that he is jealous, and will not be defrauded :—we pray, that true religion, the knowledge and service of God, as they are propounded in the Gospel, and a pure faith in the doctrines of salvation, may flourish and abound in fruit to the praise and glory of God;-that no blas phemy or vain conversation may tarnish the purity of our thoughts and speech relating to God and sacred things; that all our words, actions, and thoughts, inay magnify the power, and conduce to the honour of God's most holy Name.

§. 8. In the second petition we pray, that the Kingdom of God may come-that the word of the Gospel may penetrate and enlighten our hearts;-that the dominion of Christ on earth may supersede the power and supremacy of the devil, who reigns in all wicked men, and may be established in full extent and efficacy, in God's good time, throughout the world; that the influence of Christ's religion may be felt and seen in the holy and righteous lives of all

who profess to be his disciples; so that we may serve him as loyal and obedient subjects, and be enabled by his authority and Spirit to subdue those enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, which oppose his sway;-that those who are already admitted into the kingdom of God here, the covenant of grace, may continue in faith and persevere in good works, and may be admitted, through the merits of the Saviour, into the kingdom of glory and happiness hereafter.

§ 9. In the third petition we pray, that the will of God may be done by men on earth as it is by angels and saints in heaven, that each one in his appointed station may rightly perform his duty and obey the Law;--that we, who by nature are disqualified from serving God, according to his will, who of ourselves cannot do any thing as of ourselves, having been regenerated and transferred from a state of wrath to a state of grace by the Holy Spirit, may be enabled by the same Spirit to perform the Divine will, so far as our imperfect and corrupted nature will permit, and daily to improve in obedience, and in that love of God which manifests itself by the keeping of his commands, and by zealous adherence to the Gospel of his Son ;-that we may implicitly acquiesce in all the appointments and visitations of Providence, and cheerfully obey the summons which shall call us from this probationary scene.

Thus far the Prayer has reference to the most important, that is, spiritual benefits, rather than those which regard the necessities of the body. The order is distinct. We first pray for the true acknowledgement of God,-then for the effect of this, that we may be governed by the Holy Spirit,-and thirdly,

that each in his vocation and ministry may truly and piously serve God. Next follow petitions for corporeal blessings.

§ 10. In the fourth petition we pray, that God will give us each day our daily bread-that he will of his bounty be pleased to impart to us whatever seems, in infinite wisdom, to be expedient and sufficient for us, according to the station in which we have been placed,-that no superfluous riches, or sensual indulgences, may lead us into pride, and vanity, and forgetfulness of God, that no distress or pains of poverty may tempt us to blaspheme or distrust the benevolence of Him who clothes the very grass of the field. We acknowledge, also, in the terms of this petition, that we are bound to use our own honest endeavours to gain our own livelihood, and to depend upon God for the success of them,that, as we are convinced no efforts on our part, without the Divine blessing, or permission, can secure us even sustenance for a single day, we must not be too careful for the morrow; but doing that which is right and provident, must rely on the Divine good, ness for future provision and prosperity.

§ 11. The fifth petition implies a confession, that all men are sinners, and consequently that all stand in need of forgiveness-that we continually sin, and must therefore unceasingly implore the Divine mercy. We pray, that God will forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us-that if we heartily and unreservedly pardon those who offend against ourselves, our heavenly Father will be pleased, according to his gracious promises, to pardon our

« VorigeDoorgaan »