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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Luke 11

 

 


Other Authors
Verse 1

Luke 11:1

Lord, teach us to pray

The Christian taught to pray

I.
WHAT THE REQUEST IMPLIES.

1. A conviction of the importance of prayer. This, in this ease, seems to have had its origin in the habits and example of Christ. He prayed often and much; in sorrow, and in joy; alone, and with His disciples.

2. This request implies also some knowledge of the real nature of prayer. The disciples had heard their Master pray. They had witnessed His fervour, the seriousness, the abasement, and perhaps something of the elevation, of His spirit in His supplications, and their understandings were opened. Prayer appeared to them in a new light. Before, it was a ceremony; it was now an inward, spiritual service. They regarded it for the first time as the work of the heart, and conscious that their own hearts had hitherto been but little engaged in it, their request was, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They wished their prayers to be in future of a higher and more spiritual character, and, beyond this, they scarcely knew, perhaps, their own meaning or object.

3. An impression, too of the difficulty of prayer is plainly to be traced in the disciples’ words. And this undoubtedly sprung out of their conviction of its importance, and their newly-acquired knowledge of its real nature. That which is so important must, they concluded, be done aright; and that which is so spiritual, they were conscious they could not do at all; and thus they were constrained to seek help and instruction.

4. Besides intimating a conviction of the importance, the real nature, and the difficulty of prayer, it plainly indicates also a desire for an increased ability to pray.

II. How MAY WE EXPECT SUCH A PETITION AS THIS TO BE ANSWERED? In the instance before us, it was answered at once. We owe to it the well-known prayer we call the Lord’s prayer--a model of supplication, which claims at once our admiration and gratitude. But with all its excellencies it is in itself powerless. It could not teach these disciples to pray. It showed them indeed what their prayers ought to be, but it did not communicate to them the power of making their prayers like it. Our Lord well knew this. Accordingly, as soon as He had given His disciples a pattern for their supplications, we find Him immediately directing them where to go for the ability to follow it. He sends them to the Holy Spirit for the inward principle of prayer, urging them to importunity in their petitions for His grace, and assuring them at the same time that their importunity shall not be lost. How then does this Holy Spirit teach us to pray? In many ways. Among others, in these four:

1. By discovering to us our spiritual poverty; showing us our wants and helplessness, or giving us a more lively sense of them.

2. Affliction, too, is often made to answer the same gracious end.

3. At other times Christ stirs up the soul to prayer, by glving it an enlarged view of the Divine promises and goodness.

4. Sometimes the Holy Spirit carries us yet farther. He teaches us to pray by giving us clearer views of Christ as a Mediator and Intercessor. You are aware, brethren, that I might still go on. I might say, Christ teaches us to pray by much that is passing around us, by what we call accidents--events that make, perhaps, a whole parish or nation start; crushing, and crushing in an hour, the hopes and prospects and happiness that seemed almost out of the reach of decay or change. And He teaches us by deliverances, by bringing us to the edge of some precipice, and then, as our foot goes over it, snatching us away from it; showing us in the same moment our danger and our deliverance. (G. Bradley, M. A.)

Christ the Teacher of prayer

I. THE DISCIPLES’ REQUEST:--

1. This was a pertinent request, considering them as dependent, needy, sinful, and dying creatures.

2. A seasonable request, as Christ had been just now praying before them, and was shortly to be taken from them.

3. A short and comprehensive request, much being contained in a few words.

4. It would also appear to have been an acceptable request, for it was immediately answered, and that in a very gracious manner.

II. WHAT WAS IMPLIED IN THE REQUEST.

1. A consciousness of the importance and necessity of prayer. The breath of the newborn soul. Prayer softens our affections, sweetens our enjoyments, and is the principal means of keeping up an intercourse with heaven. God approves of it, and the soul is every way benefited by 2:2. A sense of weakness and inability, and that this duty cannot be performed aright without Divine assistance.

3. It also implies that those who are appointed of God to instruct others, will, among other things, teach them to pray.

III. THE PROPRIETY OF THIS APPLICATION, AS MADE TO CHRIST:--

1. None ever prayed like Christ--so pertinently, fervently, and effectually.

2. As none ever prayed, so none ever taught like Christ.

3. It was Christ who taught John to pray, else He could not have taught His disciples. He teaches those who are teachers of others. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The disciples’ request

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THIS REQUEST? Clearly it implies--

1. A conviction of the propriety of prayer.

2. It implies a sense of their need of being taught.

3. It implies a sincere desire to learn.

4. It implies something of the true spirit or disposition of prayer already possessed.

5. The request implies a high opinion of the ability and grace of Christ.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE REQUEST WAS REGARDED. We may observe, in the general, it was answered. The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The Lord Jesus did teach them.

1. By convincing us more clearly of the necessity of prayer,

2. By giving us more impressive views of our wants.

3. By strengthening our faith in Divine promises.

4. By instructing us in the great utility of His own mediation.

5. By increasing our pleasure and delight in the duty. (T. Kidd.)

Lord, teach us to pray

After listening to a fervent prayer we sometimes say, “We wish we could pray like the person who has offered it”; how much more should we have thus wished, if we had heard Jesus Christ pray! No doubt His manner was very impressive, sincere, fervent, reverent.

1. “Lord, teach us to pray,” because we are ignorant in asking. St. Paul says, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” A consciousness of inability to pray aright grows with a Christian’s growth.

2. Again, a sense of our sinfulness, as well as of our ignorance, should cause us to offer the petition in our text. Who does not feel at times as if it was a wonder of mercy that God does not cut us down in anger, even while in the act of praying, so miserable and defective are our purest offerings! What a gift of prayer would it be if our God would enable us always to delight in the duty, restrain every wandering thought, and fix our whole soul in sweet and full communion with Him! Can you think of many things more desirable in this world, Christians, than the perfect spirit of prayer? If we could enjoy always as much as we do in our happiest devotional seasons, that would be a blessed privilege; but, alas! our happy seasons are few and far between, and even in them “there was much imperfection. “Lord, teach us to pray.”

3. To make us prevalent in prayer, we have need also to offer the petition in our text. We might have unnumbered mercies more than we do enjoy if we prayed for them aright. There are favours in God’s right hand for ourselves, our children, our friends, and fellow-creatures, the bestowal of which is suspended on our faithfulness in asking. Here is more than life, here is eternal welfare resting on our prayers to God.

4. And who can so well teach us how to pray as that blessed Saviour to whom the request of our text was addressed! Prayer was His frequent work on earth, intercession is His employ in heaven. He knows what pleas will prevail with God, and He can put them into our hearts and order them aright upon our tongues. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Teach us to pray

1. It would be difficult, I think impossible, to prove that our Lord ever commanded His disciples to pray. He always assumes that they pray; teaches them plainly that unless they pray they cannot do what they must do. He moved His disciples to pray, not by telling them to do so, but by exciting in them desires which compelled them to supplication. You cannot pray by direct force of resolution. You must put yourself under conditions which will inspire desire for communion with God.

2. When we pray, we are forbidden to use vain repetitions as the heathen do. There are men, good men, men meaning to be honest, who think their prayers must be right if couched in Scriptural phrases. Many say prayers every night and morning, who never pray except when they are scared. Repeating David’s or Isaiah’s petitions, or even our Lord’s Prayer, is not necessarily praying because we do it on our knees. Saying over even the Lord’s Prayer is for us a vain repetition until we so understand its meaning and so sympathize with its spirit that the words express our real desires. For “vain repetitions” are simply “empty phrases,” sayings which do not express what we really mean. The cure for this habit of making vain repetition lies in creating right desires. We must learn to know what we need, and to desire that. Therefore we are told--

3. When we pray, to pray after this manner. The prayer tells us what we need, but rarely crave. If we were sure that one wish, and one only, would be granted us this day for the asking, would that wish be the petition which stands first in the Lord’s Prayer?

(a) That we cannot pray effectually until we can sincerely pray in the manner of our Lord’s Prayer,

(b) That few of us can yet do that.

(c) That we need to learn to do so. (W B. Wright.)

Barrenness in prayer

There are, no doubt, many who have experienced at times an intense dissatisfaction with their prayers. They seem so lame, so cold, so profitless, till you are inclined to exclaim, “What a weariness, what a mockery it is!” You are constantly disappointed with yourselves. The heart that seemed so full has run empty ere you reached your knees. You have nothing to say; all your thoughts have fled from you; and the intense longing comes across your heart that some one would teach you how to pray. I do not pretend to supply the want here indicated; but I wish to touch upon some of the causes of this trying sense of barrenness in prayer.

I. SELF-CONCEIT. We are very slow to learn the lesson of our own inability. We feel at some time, perhaps, that our hearts are prompted by an earnest desire to pray. We grow keenly alive for the moment to our own wants; but when we attempt to pray, we find the edge of that sense of need is gone. The heart appeared full, but when we knelt we found it empty. Vexed and disappointed, we murmur at our privation, but are too blind to see its cause. We cannot see that our own self-conceit lies at the root of our failure. We thought we could do it of ourselves--we anticipated rich heart communion; but we were miserably mistaken, because we did not realize that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our whole sufficiency is of God. We need, then, to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the very dawn of spiritual light, the very threshold of prayer.

II. SELF-IGNORANCE. They tell God that they have sinned, that they have grievously broken His commandments; they ask God to give them true repentance, and to forgive them for Jesus Christ’s sake. Such a prayer might be from a certain heart a true and noble expression of spiritual longing; but with the persons alluded to this prayer is the stereotyped plate from which all their prayers for themselves, morning and evening, are struck off. With very little variation, and in the most conventional way--though, perhaps, with very real desire--they confess that they are sinners, unworthy and polluted, but there is not the confession of a single definite sin, or if there is, it is perhaps the result of some very rare circumstance which has impressed some special transgression more vividly upon their minds. To realize our sinfulness, we must adopt a more particular mode of dealing with our own hearts, taking them to task; recalling each special sin, and confessing it before God.

III. SELFISHNESS IN PRAYER. By this I mean that spirit in prayer which confines all our supplications to our own individual needs. Often God visits us with barrenness because we fail to grow in heart-sympathy and Christian longing for the welfare of others. It is the very law of Christ that His love should spread, as it is the law of hydrostatics that pressure should circulate in all directions through a volume of water; and when we in a niggardly forgetfulness of others violate that law, we are met with the punishment of a straitening in ourselves. (Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)

Acceptable prayer, the gift of Christ

I. I shall begin by mentioning TWO QUALIFICATIONS THAT ARE INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY, AS PREPARATORY TO ACCEPTABLE PRAYER.

1. The first of them is a due sense of our wants. Christ alone by His Spirit, teacheth this first preparatory lesson. “Lord, teach us to pray,” by revealing to us our guilt and misery, our vileness and our helplessness.

2. The second qualification which is indispensable, as preparatory to acceptable prayer, is an acquaintance with the true way of access to God. Alas! the tendency of our corrupt hearts is, to resist this Divine appointment. O, then, what need is there to ask of the Lord a right understanding, a cordial approbation, of that way which He hath appointed.

II. Supposing you, then, to have made some proficiency in these two preparatory lessons, I proceed, in the second place, to mention SOME PARTICULARS, WITH RESPECT TO WHICH EVEN THE WELL-INSTRUCTED CHRISTIAN WILL HAVE PERPETUAL OCCASION TO USE THE LANGUAGE OF MY TEXT, “Lord, teach me to pray”

1. The power of devout attention while praying is one of those gifts which we must obtain by prayer.

2. Spirituality in our devotional exercises is another gift, for which we must often pray.

3. Furthermore, the Christian has need to pray for simplicity and godly sincerity in his prayers.

4. We must request of the Saviour that a patient confidence in God may accompany all our prayers. (J. Jowett, M. A.)

The rule of direction in prayer

I. WE NEED DIRECTION IN PRAYER. This is evident from--

1. God’s greatness.

2. Our own guiltiness.

3. The importance of the subject.

4. Our weakness and aptness to go wrong.

5. The danger of mistaking and miscarrying in prayer.

II. WHAT RULE GOD HAS GIVEN for our direction in prayer.

1. A general rule in the whole of the Bible, where His will is revealed.

words in the Bible, that we may use them according to our needs Hosea 14:2).

2. There is a special rule given us by Jesus Christ for that end, namely, that form of words which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer.”

Inferences:

1. How gracious and ready to hear prayer is our God, who has been pleased Himself to direct us how to pray to Him!

2. Let us acquaint ourselves with the blessed Word, that contains such a full rule of practice as well as faith; and study the Holy Scriptures, that we may be the better instructed to pray.

3. See the absolute necessity for prayer in a Christian life. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Prayer

What is prayer?

I. IT IS AN OFFERING UP OF OUR DESIRES TO GOD. These are, as it were, the soul of prayer, without which the most elegant and warm expressions that can possibly be invented and used would not be acceptable to God.

II. Our request must be FOR SUCH THINGS AS ARE AGREEABLE TO THE WILL OF GOD. Things which are not so it is not fit we should receive; and for that reason we should not be rash and hasty to utter anything before God.

III. Our prayers are to be offered up to God IN THE NAME OF CHRIST for His sake; in dependence upon the merit and intercession of the beloved Son of God, in whom the Father is well pleased.

IV. CONFESSION OF SIN IS A BRANCH OF THAT WORSHIP WE CALL PRAYER.

V. A THANKFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD’S MERCIES justly claims a place in this part of Divine worship. (John Whitty.)

Prayer

I. WHAT IS PRAYER? The presenting of our requests to God, and breathing out our desires before Him. In prayer--

1. The heart must be the agent.

2. God is the object.

3. Jesus Christ the medium.

4. Prayer must be our constant exercise.

II. WHY SHOULD WE DESIRE TO BE TAUGHT HOW TO PRAY?

1. Because of the importance of prayer.

2. Because of our natural ignorance of this duty.

3. Because God desires us to be proficient in this duty.

III. WHY SHOULD WE DESIRE THE LORD TO TEACH US HOW TO PRAY?

1. Because He was distinguished for this holy exercise.

2. Because He is our Master, and in all things we are to hear Him.

3. Because with Him is the spirit of prayer.

4. Because He is our great High Priest.

Application:

1. Let us cultivate the gift of prayer.

2. Covet the true spirit of prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5).

3. Commence and conduct all our affairs in connection with prayer Philippians 4:6.)

4. Continue instant in prayer (Luke 18:1).

5. In the exercise of faith look for the returns of prayer. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Forms of private prayer

In the case of public prayer the need of forms is evident; but it is not at first sight so obvious that in private prayer also we need use written forms, instead of praying extempore (as it is called); so I proceed to show the use of them.

1. Let us bear in mind the precept of the wise man, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.” Prayers framed at the moment are likely to become irreverent. What need have we of humble, sober, and subdued thoughts I as becomes creatures, sustained hourly by His bounty; as becomes lost sinners who have no right to speak at all; and still more, as grateful servants of Him who bought us from ruin at the price of His own blood. Therefore, to avoid the irreverence of many or unfit words and rude half-religious thoughts, it is necessary to pray from book or memory, and not at random.

2. In the next place, forms of prayer are necessary to guard us against the irreverence of wandering thoughts. A chief use of them is that of fixing the attention.

3. Next, they are useful in securing us from the irreverence of excited thoughts. They are accused of impeding the current of devotion, when, in fact, that (so called) current is in itself faulty, and ought to be checked. To be excited is not the ordinary state of the mind, but the extraordinary, the now-and then state. Nay, more than this, it ought not to be the common state of the mind; and if we are encouraging within us this excitement, this unceasing rush and alternation of feelings, and think that this, and this only, is being in earnest in religion, we are harming our minds, and (in one sense) I may even say grieving the peaceful Spirit of God, who would silently and tranquilly work His Divine work in our hearts.

4. Further, forms are useful to help our memory, and to set before us at once, completely, and in order, what we have to pray for. It does not follow that when the heart is really full of the thought of God, and alive to the reality of things unseen, then it is easiest to pray. Rather the deeper insight we have into His majesty and our innumerable wants, the less we shall be able to draw out our thoughts into words.

5. And further, the use of a form as a help to the memory is still more obvious, when we take into account the engagements of this world with which most men are surrounded. The cares and businesses of life press upon us with a reality which we cannot overlook. Shall we trust the matters of the next world to the chance thoughts of our Own minds, which come this moment, and go the next, and may not be at hand when the time of employing them arrives, like unreal visions, having no substance and no permanence?

6. And this use of forms in prayer becomes great, beyond power of estimating, in the case of those multitudes of men, who, after going on well for a while, fall into sin. Chance words and phrases of the Church’s services adhere to their memories, rising up in moments of temptation or of trouble, to check or to recover them. And hence it happens, that in the most irreligious companies a distinction is said to be observable between those who have had the opportunity of using our public forms in their youth, and those whose religious impressions have not been thus happily fortified; so that, amid their most reckless mirth, and most daring pretence of profligacy, a sort of secret reverence has attended the wanderers, restraining them from that impiety and profaneness in which the others have tried to conceal from themselves the guilt and peril of their doings.

7. Such is the force of association in undoing the evil of past years, and recalling us to the innocence of children. Nor is this all we may gain from the prayers we use, nor are penitent sinners the only persons who can profit by it. Let us recollect for how long a period our prayers have been the standard forms of devotion in the Church of Christ, and we shall gain a fresh reason for loving them, and a fresh source of comfort in using them. I know different persons will feel differently here, according to their different turn of mind; yet surely there are few of us, if we dwelt on the thought, but would feel it a privilege to use, as we do (for instance, in the Lord’s Prayer), the very petitions which Christ spoke. He gave the prayer and used it. His apostles used it; all the saints ever since have used it. When we use it we seem to join company with them. Who does not think himself brought nearer to any celebrated man in history, by seeing his house, or his furniture, or his handwriting, or the very books that were his? Thus does the Lord’s Prayer bring us near to Christ, and to His disciples in every age. No wonder, then, that in past times good men thought this form of prayer so sacred, that it seemed to them impossible to say it too often, as if some especial grace went with the use of it. Nor can we use it too often; it con-rains in itself a sort of plea for Christ’s listening to us; we cannot, so that we keep our thoughts fixed on its petitions, and use our minds as well as our lips when we repeat it. And what is true of the Lord’s Prayer, is in its measure true of most of those prayers which our Church teaches us to use. It is true of the Psalms also, and of the Creeds; all of which have become sacred, from the memory of saints departed who have used them, and whom we hope one day to meet in heaven. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Forms of prayer

Common sense tells us, that when people unite together in public worship, if their thoughts are to run in the same channel, they must agree beforehand what is to be the subject of their petitions, and the very words in which they are to be offered, if there is to be any certainty, satisfaction, and regularity in devotion. To sing out of a book is the same in principle as praying out of a book, and if the one is spiritual and right, so is the other also. Public worship should embrace confession, penitence, implorations, ascription, and thanksgiving. The prayer offered to God in His holy place should be sober, solemn, reverential, filial, scriptural, offered in faith, through the merits of the Divine Redeemer. Such, most emphatically, are the devotions of the Prayer Book. A Presbyterian minister, no less distinguished for his abilities than for his Christian charity, has lately given this little sketch from his pastoral experience. In looking up scholars for a mission-school, he was led to visit a poor woman, on her sick-bed, in the upper room of a crowded, comfortless tenement-house. The room was entirely dark, the only inlet of illumination being the swinging, twopaned ventilator overhead. Waiting until his eyes became accustomed to the dimness, he discovered that the apartment was merely a small closet, about six feet square. A shapeless mass of humanity was buried under a heap of coarse, tumbled coverlets, the victim of rheumatism; having occupied the same comfortless room for fourteen years. Although a member of the Church, no minister of the city knew of her existence, she having come from another place, and bringing no certificate of membership to commend her to pastoral care and oversight. When asked by the visitor whether she had ever given up her faith and hope, her pale, shrivelled face lighted up, as she answered, very decidedly, “Never!” She declined his kind offers of pecuniary aid, but thankfully accepted his proposal to pray with her. He was struck with the fact that, in his repeated visits, she avoided speaking much of herself, and seemed to prefer to spend all the time in talking of God’s love, and the Saviour’s abundant grace. Remembering the strong attachment of Churchmen for the Prayer Book, the Presbyterian minister learned several of the beautiful collects by heart, and one day, while praying, suffered his voice quietly to run into the form. The sick woman recognized the first sentence of the dear old words with a start of surprise; then she began to repeat the petitions aloud with him; and when he finished she sobbed aloud, with humble, grateful tears. It was a repetition of good George Herbert’s dying expression of childlike affection for his spiritual mother: “Give me the prayers of my mother the Church, no other prayers are equal to them!” (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

How to pray

Would you pray to God in a proper way--

1. React a few verses of the Bible before you pray. Much of the language of Scripture is in the form of prayer, and by using it we find help in our approches to God.

2. Always go to God with faith in Jesus Christ. In His name you may ask for every blessing; and through His merits, and for His sake, you may find all that can make you happy in this world, with a pardon of your sins, and a good hope of heaven.

3. Seek for the aid of the Holy Spirit, for He will show us what we need, help our weakness, put right desires into our hearts, and teach us how to pray aright.

4. Have something to say to God. Do not say words in an unmeaning way. Spend a few minutes in thought before you begin to pray, that you may not “mock God with a solemn sound.”

5. Leave the answer to the love and wisdom of God. He will give to us those things which it is best for us to receive.

The praying Christ

We owe our knowledge of the prayers of Jesus principally to the Evangelist Luke. This fact tallies with the many other characteristics of the third Gospel which mark it as eminently the story of the Son of Man. Consider, then--

I. How PRECIOUS THE PRAYERS OF JESUS ARE, AS BRINGING HIM VERY NEAR TO US IN HIS TRUE MANHOOD.

II. THE HIGHEST, HOLIEST LIFE NEEDS SPECIFIC ACTS AND TIMES OF PRAYER.

III. CHRIST’S OWN PRAYERS DO, IN A VERY REAL SENSE, TEACH US TO PRAY.

1. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as a rest after service.

2. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as a preparation for important Luke 6:12, &c.).

3. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as the condition of receiving the Spirit and the brightness of God. There were two occasions in the life of Christ when visible signs showed His full possession of the Divine Spirit and the lustre of His glorious nature--Baptism, and Transfiguration. Now on both these occasions, our Gospel, and our Gospel alone, tells us that it was whilst Christ was in the act of prayer that the sign was given (see Luke 3:21-22; Luk_9:29).

4. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as the preparation for sorrow. Gethsemane. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Desire and prayer

Prayer is an attestance of desire, and desire is so natural to man that no man who lives is quite without it. Our human life is created in great part by desire. When men, who have been created to desire, turn themselves towards a Being who is supposed to have power over their destinies, desire naturally renders itself into prayer. The Son of God imparting to His disciples the true knowledge of the Father, did not fail to teach them concerning prayer. In His own practice He sets an example of earnest and sustained prayer. He deliberately taught His disciples to pray; He bade them pray out of the fulness of their hearts, and not only so, but He gave His sanction to the use of forms by prescribing to them a form of words which would show them the desires they ought to entertain, and be a perpetual encouragement to such desires. We may derive a double benefit from our Lord’s lofty teaching; we may be delivered from the covetous, self-regarding prayers which dishonour Him to whom they are offered, and have no healing or exalting influence on the worshipper who offers them; and at the same time the true spirit of prayer, which is effectual with God, and on the wings of which we may rise upwards towards Him, may through His teaching be breathed into our hearts. The most Christian kind of prayer will be the utterance of a desire in our souls which is in harmony with God’s purposes, and which we may believe to be breathed into us by God’s Spirit. And though the essence of prayer is inward and spiritual, we rightly put it into words, and even use fixed words of prayer, because it belongs to our nature to translate our thoughts into words, and because forms are necessary modes of our life, and especially indispensable for whatever we are to do jointly or in common. (D. Davies, D. D.)

Jesus the Teacher of prayer

I. WHY JESUS IS TO BE REGARDED AS THE TEACHER OF PRAYER. It should be taken for granted that knowing how to pray is the first of all essentials. If we want information we may have it. There was once a man in Palestine who said that He was the Son of God, and what He did proved that what He said was true. When we would know how to pray, we, like the first disciples, think that if any one can tell us He can. He is the Teacher of prayer. That is His business. Now He is ascended, His disciples are always learning to pray, and He is always teaching. In all our approaches to the Infinite Unseen, we have first to do with Jesus; every prayer must reach His ear before we have the answer to it.

II. How HE TEACHES.

1. Sometimes by means of an overheard prayer. It was so in the chapter of events to which the text belongs.

2. Jesus teaches us to pray by our troubles. “Nature in an agony is no atheist.”

3. Jesus teaches prayer by revealing Himself as the one medium of prayer.

4. Jesus teaches us to pray by making His own Spirit the spirit of our lives.

5. Jesus teaches to pray by quickening the sense of difficulty.

Every one of us can understand the entry made by homely William Smith of Coalville, in the diary of his soul: “While at prayer my mind was rather shifting. I had to bring it back and ask it to sit down.” We are baffled and weighted by ignorance, by infirmity, and by countless things, which together make such a total that we feel inclined to think with Coleridge that “the act of praying, in its most perfect form, is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable.” The difficulty does not begin when we begin to pray under the teaching of Christ, but the sense of it does; and this He uses for carrying on His purpose. When you have made acquaintance with a thing through difficulties you are more sure of your ground. By quickening the sense of difficulty the Angel wrestles us into strength, and teaches the suppliant to say, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” (Dr. Stanford.)

It is remarkable that Jesus only teaches prayer, never the philosophy of prayer. The sentiment of not a few appears to be, that this philosophy is the very thing that we have first to learn. The first questions, even of Christians, are too often simply speculative; and in almost every one of the many treatises on prayer they have given to the world in recent years, a large space is taken up with the discussion of such questions. More than they are aware, they are influenced in this direction by the spirit of the times. Each young believer is now likely to be brought more or less in contact with some theorist who owns no higher teacher of religion than science, who smiles down upon him, assures him that the discoveries of science prove the alleged power of prayer to be impossible; and says, “It is useless for you to expect that the laws of nature will be set aside because you pray!” “Who wants the laws of nature to be set aside?” might be the reply. “Assuredly I do not. I know very little about the laws of nature, and even you know very little more. For aught your science can show, it may be quite possible for God to answer prayers, without in the least degree touching the settled constitution of the universe.” Our conviction is that we find wrought into our very nature, as one of its primary principles, the instinct that prompts to prayer. (Dr. Stanford.)

A prayer about prayer

In this verse there are certain arguments for and encouragements to prayer, worthy of careful attention.

I. PRAYER IS INSTINCTIVE. Four classes of persons here mentioned. In some respects very different from each other. One thing, however, they had in common, namely, prayer. Christ prayed. His disciples prayed. John prayed. His followers were like him. The world here in miniature. Man a praying being.

II. PRAYER IS CHRISTLIKE. Prayer was His habit. “I give myself unto prayer,” was the experience of both David and David’s greater Son. To some this is perplexing. They cannot understand why our Lord should pray. There would, however, have been far more mystery had He never prayed at all. The holier we become, the more frequent and fervent is our communion with our Heavenly Father.

III. PRAYER IS CONTAGIOUS. The word is used for want of a better. What led His disciples to say, “Teach us to pray”? Had the Master been speaking of prayer? Not a word. It was on quite another occasion that He said, “Men ought always to pray.” How was it, then, that the desire for increased power in devotion was awakened? It was through hearing and seeing our Lord pray. Prayer begets prayer. One live coal kindles another. There is an Eastern proverb, as true as it is poetic, “I am not the rose; but I have been with the rose, and therefore I am sweet.”

IV. PRAYER IS EFFECTUAL. “Teach us to pray.” That petition was granted. And real prayer is always answered. It cannot fail. As Bishop Hall says: “I am sure that I shall receive either what I ask, or what I should ask.”

V. THE EXPRESSION, “AS JOHN ALSO TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES,” HAS MORE IN IT THAN AT FIRST SIGHT APPEARS. It is not the cry of false conservatism. We shall err if we suppose that he who uttered it simply wanted our Lord to follow in the track of another. Surely there was an argument, and a fine one, in the words. What did it mean? Something like this: “John was Thy servant, and he helped the devotion of his followers; wilt Thou, great Master, do less? John was only a herald and a forerunner, but he watched over his disciples; wilt not Thou, the promised and predicted One, do the same to us?” It was good reasoning. Better logic cannot be imagined. Let us take the benefit of it. Inspired by the faith which it teaches, be our prayers both frequent and fervent. (T. R. Stevenson.)

Influence

We have here a simple illustration of the silent involuntary influence of our Lord. One of His disciples had observed Him praying, and struck with the grandeur and sweetness of the act, he asks to be taught how to pray. Without a commandment but by the power of His example, He influenced His disciple.

I. IT IS A REAL INFLUENCE THAT OF EXAMPLE. He who is most a child of God in faith, hope, and love, is most of a king for God over himself and over others, wielding an irresistible power, and gaining widest triumphs.

II. EXAMPLE OF THE INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE. You see it in Christ in this incident. Teach me to pray, said the disciple; but he had more than half learned the lesson when he had looked on Christ praying. The evangelists never pause to extol the life of the Master. To tell the life was best to praise it. On the way to the cross, Jesus does not recommend patience--He is patience. On the cross, He does not speak of love--He is love as He never was before.

III. THE APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH.

1. TO those who need encouragement. Some feel much the uselessness of their lives--no money, little knowledge, or eloquence. But you are not useless if you are true to what is pure and gentle and brave--true to Christ. Influence is not the less powerful because it is silent.

2. This truth speaks to those who need warning. Remember that no one lives to himself. The influence of selfish aims, unregulated tempers, illiberal gifts, goes forth where you little think, and does evil you would dread to acknowledge. What a minister for evil the very presence of an unrevered man is wherever he goes. But if you come to Jesus, though with souls most feeble and most sinful, you may become through Him most magnetic and mighty for the highest issues and the widest influences. (Dr. W. Graham.)

Prayer necessary to maintain the spiritual life

The first true sign of spiritual life, prayer, is also the means of maintaining it. Man can as well live physically without breathing, as spiritually without praying. There is a class of animals--the cetaceous, neither fish nor sea-fowl, that inhabit the deep. It is their home; they never leave it for the shore; yet, though swimming beneath its waves, and sounding its darkest depths, they have ever and anon to rise to the surface that they may breathe the air. Without that these monarchs of the deep could not exist in the dense element in which they live, and move, and have their being. And something like what is imposed on them by physical necessity, the Christian has to do by a spiritual one. It is by ever and anon ascending up to God, by rising through prayer into a loftier, purer region for supplies of Divine grace, that he maintains his spiritual life. Prevent these animals from rising to the surface, and they die for want of breath; prevent him from rising to God, and he dies for want of prayer. “Give me children,” cried Rachel, “or else I die.” “Let me breathe,” says a man, gasping, “or else I die.” “Let me pray,” says the Christian,” or else I die.” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The difficulty of true prayer

I have no difficulty,” said he (Coleridge), “in forgiveness; indeed, I know not how to say with sincerity the clause in the Lord’s Prayer which asks forgiveness as we forgive. I feel nothing answering to it in my heart. Neither do I find, or reckon, the most solemn faith in God as a real object, the most arduous act of the reason and will. Oh no, my dear, it is to pray, to pray as God would have us; this is what at times makes me turn cold to my soul. Believe me, to pray with all your heart and strength, with the reason and the will, to believe vividly that God will listen to your voice through Christ, and verily do the thing He pleaseth thereupon--this is the last, the greatest achievement of the Christian’s warfare upon earth. Teach us to pray, O Lord!” And then he burst into a flood of tears, and begged me to pray for him. (Ed. Coleridge’s Table Talk.)

Thought in prayer

A prayer must have thought in it. The thought may overburden it so that its wings of devotion are fastened down to its sides, and cannot ascend. Then it is no prayer, only a meditation or a contemplation. But to take the thought out of a prayer does not insure its going up to God. It may be too light as well as too heavy to ascend. I saw once, in a shop window in London, a placard which simply announced, “Limp Prayers.” It described, I believe, a kind of a prayer-book in a certain sort of binding, which was for sale within; but it brought to mind many a prayer to which one had listened, in which he could not join, out of which had been left the whole backbone of thought, and to which he could attach none of his own heart’s desire. (P. Brookes.)

Forms of prayer

I. And, first, on the use of prepared forms of prayer for public worship, or liturgies as we call them. That these were of Divine appointment under the Jewish dispensation there can be no question. The songs of Moses and Miriam, and the titles prefixed to a large number in the Book of Psalms, bear evidence of being composed for congregational use. Besides, through the writings of Josephus and other Hebrew historians, no inconsiderable part of the ancient Jewish liturgies have been preserved to us, and a remarkable coincidence has been discovered between the order and method of these early compositions with our own Book of Common Prayer. The forms of which we know the most are two--one for the service of the Temple, and the other for that of the Synagogue. In the synagogue form the order of public worship was prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and preaching. Their prayers, though not always the same, were always pre-composed, the most commonly used being eighteen, said to have been composed by Ezra at the time of the Captivity, all containing many sentences out of his Book. These forms were in use among the Jews in our Lord’s time, and both Jesus and His apostles joined in them. Unsafe, therefore, as it might be, as a rule, to base an argument on the silence of Scripture, yet we can hardly suppose, that if our Lord had intended that in such an important particular the Christian worship was to differ from the Jewish, He would not have told His disciples so plainly, rather than first join in such pre-composed devotions Himself, and then institute a form, which from being expressed throughout in the plural number, must have been supposed to have been intended for public and social use. Here, then, is good reason to believe that the only recited congregational prayer preserved in the New Testament--I mean that contained in the 4th chapter of the Acts--was a form commonly used by the early Christians as suited to a time of persecution, for the whole assembly recited it together--“Then lifted up they their voice to God with one accord.” The scriptural evidence, therefore, as far as it goes, is clearly in favour of set and prepared forms of public prayer. If we join to this the testimony of ecclesiastical history, there is no more doubt about the apostolic usage as a question of fact, than there is as a question of fact about the persecution of Domitian or the siege of Jerusalem. Even Pliny’s letter to Trajan, at the beginning of the second century, alludes (contemptuously, of course) to these Christians meeting for daily worship, and reciting, as he says, a composed form; whilst the liturgies attributed to St. Mark, St. Peter, and St. James, respectively, from which a good deal of our own liturgy is taken, whether really composed by those apostles or not, can be traced to a period sufficiently early to make the alleged authorship by no means impossible. Other testimonies might be cited, more convincing, because merely incidental, all assuming the usage itself to be one of common notoriety.

II. Let me advert to a point which we shall all feel to be of great importance, namely, the use of prepared forms in our private devotions. Let me proceed, then, to point out some objections to prepared forms of private prayer, however spiritual and excellent they may be, if they be used exclusively. Thus it is obvious we are thereby confined in regard to the matter of our prayers, we restrict our conversation with heaven to a fixed routine of subjects, and preclude the mention of those hourly spiritual experiences, which though unseen, and unknown to the world, make up the great incidents of the soul’s life, and may give, day by day, a new complexion to its prayers. We live in a world of change, and in the countless vicissitudes to which mind, body, and estate are alike exposed; the soul is subject to infinite varieties of emotion, for which no prepared form can provide corresponding expression. Again, there is a danger lest the exclusive use of forms should have a tendency to deaden the spirit of prayer. Let me conclude with a few practical directions which, whether with or without forms, cannot be neglected by those who would be taught how to pray.

1. As first, when you enter your closet, be composed, and reverent, and thoughtful.

2. Again, be honest and faithful with yourselves; let there be a great searching both of heart and life.

3. I say, aim to be comprehensive and yet specific.

4. Lastly, we must be earnest and persevering. The confession is humiliating, but it must be made. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The instructions of the Bible as to the matter and manner of prayer

The best of men need direction in prayer. Who may not adopt the language, “Teach us what we shall say unto Him: for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness”? The Bible is a sufficient rule of conduct in all things pertaining to life and godliness. The subject-matter for prayer is to be found in the Word of God. There is not one of its doctrines, in all their richness and variety, that does not contain truths which the lips of prayer may make use of, and turn to good account at the throne of grace. The point is too plain to require either illustration or proof, that the mind must be furnished with the truth of God in order to be furnished with matter for prayer. The precepts of the Bible also teach us how to pray. They describe the spirit of prayer; while they teach us what graces to ask for, and for what duties we need strength. The promises of the Bible are revealed for our instruction and encouragement in prayer. They teach us what blessings God is willing to bestow, and how willing He is to bestow them. The threatenings of the Bible teach us what we have reason to fear and deprecate; while the very sins that are there recorded teach what we should pray against and deplore. God has also recorded a multitude of facts in His Word, that are comments upon its truths, its promises, and its threatenings, of which He condescends to permit His people to remind Him, and which furnish them with powerful considerations in pleading at His mercy-seat. There are instances of prayer, too, there recorded, which show us its spirit, its comprehensiveness, its appropriateness to times, and places, and circumstances, and men, as well as its fruit and power; and which show us for what it is to be offered, and God’s readiness to hear and answer. More than this; the Bible teaches us where to go for assistance in prayer. “For through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” In every act of true devotion, there is a concurrence of the Spirit’s influence. Let your mind be richly furnished with all God’s truth, and let your bosom be filled with devotional emotions, and then freely utter your requests before God. There is thought in prayer; strong thought, and often close, compact, and connected thought. There is emotion, too, heavenly emotion. There is memory, too, in prayer; and there is conscience and even imagination. This formula, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, contains the substance of prayer for His disciples. A question arises here, if we may not use this form in our supplications at the throne of grace? The Christian ought not to be so much the enemy of forms, as to depreciate this most beautiful form of prayer; nor so much of a formalist, as not to pray without it. Jesus Christ has nowhere authorized a restriction to any set form of prayer. The prayers of Abraham were not written prayers. Nor was the prayer of Eleazar at Haran; nor the prayer of Jacob at Peniel; nor the prayers of Moses and Aaron for Egypt and Israel. The prayer of Joshua at the defeat of Ai, the prayer of Manoah, of Samson, of Hannah, of Samuel at Mizpeh, of Elijah at Mount Carmel, of Hezekiah against Sennacherib, of Jabez, of Ezra, of Nehemiah, of Job, of Daniel, of Jonah, and of Habakkuk, were none of them dictated by the pen. Nor was the prayer of Zacharias, nor that of the publican, nor that of the disciples in any one exigence of their history. In the next place, forms of prayer invert the order of prayer; they make the words lead the heart, and not the heart the words. True prayer flows from the heart; the heart is the seat of supplication. Another objection to forms is, that they check the teachings of the Holy Spirit. Still another objection to forms of prayer is, that no set of prayers is, or ever can be, adequate to the necessities of the Church. It has been said that the example of the Primitive Christians is in favour of forms. Much has been written to prove the antiquity of liturgies, and Bishop Bull has strongly urged the probability of their being of Apostolic origin. The posture of the primitive Christians in prayer was such as to render it impossible to read prayers. They stood with their arms crossed on their breasts, their heads back, and their eyes often closed. It is confidently asserted by those who have made close search, that there is not such an expression as “reading prayers,” to be found in the history of the first four centuries. In favour of forms, it is also said, that it is important to have matter to ponder upon, to pray with intelligence. We have only to reply, most certainly it is so; but then there is more matter in the Bible than in a Book of Common Prayer. It is further urged, and we confess the objection has some weight that in extempore prayers, too much latitude is given to the speaker, that, on the one hand, his prayers may often be barren and dry; and on the other, they may be redundant, and sometimes filled even with wild and extravagant notions. This is true; it is an evil to be guarded against: and we have only to say, that we expect too much, when we expect perfect prayers from imperfect men. Once more, it is objected to prayers that are not thus formed, that the people cannot join in them. (G. Spring, D. D.)

The abridgment of the whole Gospel

Such plentiful rivers stream from this seven-headed fountain. So that as the seven arms of Nilus watered and made fertile all Egypt; so doth this prayer, springing from seven petitions, which are deprecative or optative, water the whole Christian world, preventing and deprecating all mishaps, and supplying our wants. So that in this short prayer, as in a little orb, the Sun of Righteousness moves; from hence doth every star, every faithful servant and counsellor of Christ (for they are incarnate stars) borrow a ray of light to illuminate and sanctify the body of his meditations. The Church in her liturgy and the preacher both enjoined to use it. A small quantity of this leaven seasons a great lump of devotion, and a few spirits give taste and quickness to much liquor. This prayer is a quintessence extracted by the greatest chemist that ever was, from Him that brought nature out of chaos, separated light from darkness, and extracted the four elements out of nothing. All parts of it are spirits. Quae enim spiritualior oratio? And the mixture of a few grains thereof with our prayers proves the strongest and best Christian antidote. (Archdeacon King.)

Giving God His own in prayer

It is a familiar and friendly tribute to present God with His own; a petition clothed in Christ’s words, will find the ready way to heaven, and a speedy access into the ears of God. (Archdeacon King.)

The parts of the Lord’s Prayer

So consider this prayer as it now lies all together, the plates and joints and several matters make but one Christian buckler to ward and avert all necessities that may befall us; yet resolved into parcels, every limb and member, and gradation, is a perfect buckler to bear off our particular wants. It is like that famous target of Ajax that was Clypeus Septemplex, consisted of seven folds; this is Oratio Septemplex, a prayer consisting of seven requests. That buckler was dart-proof, impenetrable, and this prayer an impenetrable shield to resist the fiery darts of Satan. If I would insist upon the allusion to the number of these petitions, I might compare this whole prayer to the constellation of the Pleiades, or seven stars in heaven; or to the seven stars in the right hand of the Son of Man, being fit lights and tapers for the seven golden candlesticks there mentioned, to be set up in those seven Churches, and not in them alone, but in all the Churches of the world, where Christ’s name is known and adored. Or I may liken the parts of this prayer to the seven planets, eminent above all other stars of the firmament. For as some of those planets move nearer to the earth, others higher and farther off, so is the motion of these seven petitions; some of them move and solicit God for earthly things, as the four last of them; others for heavenly and eternal, as the three first, “Hallowed be Thy name, and Thy kingdom come,” &c. Saint Augustine hath taken their just height and motion, Tres petitiones superiores aternac sunt, quatuor sequentes ad hanc vitam pertinent. (Archdeacon King.)

Praying from a copy

I do not deny him a good artizan that works by the strength of his own phantasy: yet all will grant he works truest that works from a copy. And though a voluntary expressed upon an instrument show the sufficiency of the musician, yet I should think that musician who undervalues all set lessons in comparison of his voluntaries hath more of arrogance than skill. Just so is it in prayer. I prejudice no man’s gift, and let me advise no man so much to prejudice this excellent gift of Christ’s Prayer as to exalt his own meditations above it. (Archdeacon King.)

The Lord’s Prayer perfect

The matter is every way found complete and perfect. Every word in it hath its weight. There is not a superfluous word in it that could be spared. Nor is it any way defective. Whatsoever is lawful, needful, and meet to be asked in prayer is therein contained: yea, whatsoever is to be believed or practised by a Christian is therein implied. (William Gouge.)

The Lord’s Prayer little, yes great

The sense of it is as large as the body is little. (Archdeacon King.)


Verses 1-13

Verse 2

Luke 11:2

When ye pray, say

Sermonic hints on the Lord’s Prayer

1.
Not a prescription of words. A great merit in prayer is that it most naturally expresses the feeling of him who offers it. A child’s prattle is more acceptable to a parent than stately utterances put into his mouth. In Raphael’s cartoon the adoring disciples surround the risen Lord in various attitudes, one kneeling, one with clasped hands, one with open palms, one with bowed head, and one shows excited reverence by the fact that he is allowing his robe to trail in the dirt; the great artist having seen that the highest expression of religious emotion must be the natural outcome of the soul, and bear the mark of the worshipper’s individuality. Horace Bushnell used to go to sleep, as he said, talking with God. Liturgies are useful to stimulate spirituality; but should be used to suggest, never to limit, religious thought.

2. The manner of the prayer is in general--

3. Analyzing more particularly the sentiments of the prayer, we observe that the model prayer gives a portraiture of a model man.

The Lord’s Prayer like the Decalogue

The Lord’s Prayer, like the Decalogue, falls in two: two tables of law, two leaves of petition. The first table of the law concerns our duties to God; the first leaf of the prayer concerns the glory of God. The second table respects our duties to man; the second leaf respects the needs of man. The first table contains the laws that are the hardest to obey sincerely; the first leaf, the petitions that are the hardest to pray sincerely. Obeying the laws of the first table is what qualifies us to obey those of the second. Praying the petitions of the first leaf is what qualifies us to pray those of the second. Yet we never suppose that the prayer was composed with any reference to the Decalogue. All resemblance ceases to be interesting as soon as it is felt to be imitation. Resemblance by imitation betrays the mechanic; resemblance without imitation argues the artist, the creator. The earth did not become spherical to imitate the sun, nor do the leaves on one branch become serrate to imitate each other. Those leaves unfold up into an outward likeness because they unfolded out of an inward likeness. The Decalogue was not made, it unfolded. The prayer was not made, it unfolded; it was not built, it grew. And because Decalogue and prayer both are unfolded from out the one mind of God, leaves upon one branch, blossoms upon one stem, they show the same hues and take the same orderly arrangement. (C. H.Parkhurst, D. D.)

The Lord’s Prayer indicates the right way of looking at things

There is a fearful tendency in us all, which has infused itself most mischievously into our theology, to look first at our necessity or misery, only afterwards at our relation to God, and at His nature. The last are made dependent upon the former. We are conscious of a derangement in our condition; simply in reference to this derangement do we contemplate Him who we hope may reform it. We have just been tracing this process in heathenism. A mischief is felt; if there is a mischief there must be a deliverer. Undoubtedly the conscience bears this witness, and it is a right one. But the qualities of the deliverer are determined by the character or locality of that which is to be redressed, or by the habits of those who are suffering from it. From this heathenish habit of mind the Lord’s Prayer is the great preserver. Say first, “Our Father.” This relation is fixed, established, certain. It existed in Christ before all worlds, it was manifested when He came in the flesh. He is ascended on high, that we may claim it. Let us be certain that we ground all our thoughts upon these opening words; till we know them well by heart, do not let us listen to the rest. Let us go on carefully, step by step, to the Name, the Kingdom, the Will, assuring ourselves of our footing, confident that we are in a region of clear unmixed goodness; of goodness which is to be hallowed by us; which has come and shall come to us, and in us; which Is to be done on earth, not merely in heaven. Then we are in a condition to make these petitions, which we are ordinarily in such haste to utter, and which He, in whom all wisdom dwells, commands us to defer. Last of all comes this “Deliver us from evil.” When we are able to look upon evil, not as the regular normal state of the universe, but as absolutely at variance with the character of its Author, with His constitution of it, with the Spirit which He has given to us, then we can pray, attaching some real significance to the language, deliver us from it. Then we shall understand why men looked with faith to the aid of their fellow-men; to princes, and chieftains, and lawgivers, and sages. They were sent into the world for this end, upon this mission. They were meant to act as deliverers. They were to be witnesses of a real righteous order, and to resist all transgressors of it. We can understand why strong men felt that they had better act for themselves, than depend upon foreign help. For the Father of all put their strength into them, that they might wield it as His servants in His work; it was His Spirit who made them conscious of their strength, and of that purpose for which they were to use it. We can see why these hopes were so continually disappointed though they had so right a foundation; why they were driven to think of higher aid, of invisible champions, because those upon the earth proved feeble, or deserted the cause, and served themselves. It is true that the hosts of heaven are obeying that power which the hosts of earth are commanded to obey; that they are doing His service by succouring those who are toiling below; it is true, because He who rules all is not a destiny, but a loving will; not an abstraction, but a person; not a mere sovereign, but a Father. All creation is ordered upon this law of mutual dependence and charity; but it is only in the knowledge and worship of the Highest, that we can apprehend the places and tasks of the lower; when He is hidden, these are forgotten; society becomes incoherent; nothing understands itself; everything is inverted; the deliverer is one with the tyrant; evil and good run into each other; we invoke Satan to cast out Satan. See, then, what a restorative, regenerative power lies in this prayer! (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Introductory remarks

1. The first thing to be noted is the brevity of this prayer. In most religions the efficacy of prayer has been supposed to depend on its length. The notion is that the gods will do nothing for men unless they are teased. This prayer rebukes and corrects that idea.

2. How was this prayer to be used?

The peculiar worth of the Lord’s Prayer

Not so much in particular expressions, as rather in the tenor and spirit, in the arrangement and climax of the whole, lies its peculiar worth, and those who can assert of the “Pater Noster” that it is only a joining together of Rabbinic expressions, might assure us with the same right that from a suitable number of single arms, legs, and members, one could compose an animated human body. We honour much more the wisdom of the Saviour in this, that He would teach His disciples no chords which would have been entirely strange to their unpractised lips, and in vain do we seek here for the traces of a limited Judaistic spirit. So brief is it, that it does not even weary the simplest spirit, and yet so perfect that nothing is therein wholly forgotten: so simple in words that even a child comprehends it, and yet so rich in matter that the principal truths and promises and duties are here presupposed, confirmed, or impressed, so that Tertullian rightly named it “breviarium totius evangelii.” How often soever it may have been misused, especially where it has been turned into a spiritless formula of prayer, while men have forgotten that it only expresses the lofty fundamental ideas which must prevail in the exercise of prayer, it remains yet continually a gold-mine for Christian faith, a standard for Christian prayer, a prop for Christian hope. (Van Oosterzee.)

The Lord’s Prayer

Edwin Booth, the celebrated tragedian, was a man who threw into his impersonations an amount of heart and soul which his originals could scarcely have equalled. He did Richard III. to the life, and more. He had made human passions, emotions, and experiences his life’s study. He could not only act, but feel rage, love, despair, hate, ambition, fury, hope, and revenge with a depth and force that amazed his auditors. He transmuted himself into the hero of his impersonation, and he could breathe a power into other men’s words which perhaps never was surpassed. And what is rather remarkable, when he was inclined to give illustrations of this faculty to private circles of friends, he nearly always selected some passages from Job, David, or Isaiah, or other holy men of old. When an inquiring young professor of Harvard University went to him by night to ask a little advice or instruction in qualifying himself for an orator, the veteran tragedian opened the Bible and read a few verses from Isaiah in a way that made the Cambridge scholar tremble with awe, as if the prophet had risen from the dead and was uttering his sublime visions in his ears. He was then residing in Baltimore, and a pious, urbane old gentleman of the city, hearing of his wonderful power of elocution, one day invited him to dinner, although strongly deprecating the stage. A large company sat down to the table, and on returning to the drawing-room, they requested Booth, as a special favour to them all, to repeat the Lord’s Prayer. He signified his willingness to gratify them, and all eyes were fixed upon him. He slowly and reverentially arose from his chair, trembling with the burden of two great conceptions. He had to realize the character, attributes, and presence of the Almighty Being he was to address. He was to transform himself into a poor, sinning, stumbling, benighted, needy suppliant, offering homage, asking bread, pardon, light and guidance. Says one of the company present: It was wonderful to watch the play of emotions that convulsed his countenance. He became deathly pale, and his eyes, turned tremblingly upwards, were wet with tears. As yet he had not spoken. The silence could be felt; it had become absolutely painful, until at last the spell was broken as if by an electric shock, as his rich-toned voice, from white lips, syllabled forth, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” etc., with a pathos and fervid solemnity that thrilled all hearts. He finished; the silence continued; not a voice was heard, nor a muscle moved, in his rapt audience, until, from a remote corner of the room, a subdued sob was heard, and the old gentleman (the host) stepped forward, with streaming eyes and tottering frame, and seized Booth by the hand. “Sir,” said he, in broken accents, “you have afforded me a pleasure for which my whole future life will feel grateful. I am an old man, and every day, from boyhood to the present time, I thought I had repeated the Lord’s Prayer; but I never heard it before--never!” “You are right,” replied Boeth; “to read that prayer as it should be read caused me the severest study and labour for thirty years, and I am far from being satisfied with my success.”

The fulness of the Lord’s Prayer

I used to think the Lord’s Prayer was a short prayer; but as I live longer, and see more of life, I begin to believe there is no such thing as getting through it. If a man, in praying that prayer, were to be stopped by every word until he had thoroughly prayed it, it would take him a lifetime. “Our Father”--there would be a wall a hundred feet high in just those two words to most men. If they might say “Our Tyrant,” or “Our Monarch,” or even “Our Creator,” they could get along with it; but Our Father--why, a man is almost a saint who can pray that. You read, “Thy will be done”; and say to yourself, “Oh! I can pray that;” and all the time your mind goes round and round in immense circuits and far-off distances: but God is continually bringing the circuits nearer to you, till He says, “How is it about your temper and your pride? how is it about your business and your daily life?” This is a revolutionary petition. It would make many a man’s shop and store tumble to the ground to utter it. Who can stand at the end of the avenue along which all his pleasant thoughts and wishes are blossoming like flowers, and send these terrible words, “Thy will be done,” crashing down through it? I think it is the most fearful prayer to pray in the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

The Lord’s Prayer contains the essence of the Old Testament

When at Jerusalem I read this prayer to one of the rabbis, he said, “There is not one single prayer, not one single demand, which is not already contained in the Old Testament.” I said, “Very well, let us see.” “Now,” I said, “can you give me a parallel passage to ‘Hallowed be Thy name?’” He quoted in an instant the forty-third verse of the eighth chapter of First Kings. “Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place … that all people of the earth may know Thy name to fear Thee.” And farther, he said, “‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’; what means this but ‘Hallowed be Thy name’?” “Let us go on--‘Thy kingdom come!’” He immediately gave me the passage from the seventy-second Psalm. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” “Let us go on--‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven!’” “Does not the psalmist tell us--‘Teach us to do Thy will, O Lord?’” “Let us proceed--‘Give us this day our daily bread?’” “You find this prayer in the Proverbs--‘Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me.’” “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors!”

“This you find in the one hundred and thirty-second Psalm--‘Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions,’ and in the seventh Psalm, and the fourth verse--‘If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me.’” “Lead us not into temptation.” He said at once--“O Lord, correct me with judgment; not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.” And then he quoted the Apocrypha, with which he was well acquainted. “Take away the desire of sensuality; to the spirit of licentiousness do not deliver me.” “What is this but ‘Lead us not into temptation’?” “Deliver us from evil.” He quoted--“Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.” I said, “Have you done?” He said, “Yes.” “Then,” I said, “you have just shown that our blessed Lord was in the right, when He told the Jews, that He ‘came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it.’ And have you in the whole of the Old Testament a prayer which is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer?” He admitted that there was not one. So you see how this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, according to the testimony of a Jew opposed to Christianity, is an abridgment, a wonderful abridgment, of the whole of the gospel, and of the whole of what Moses and the prophets have told us. So that the great and holy Stolberg says--“the child prays in it in simplicity, and the learned in vain tries to fathom its depths.” (J. Wolff, D. D.)

The Lord’s prayer

In the prayer our Lord taught His disciples, all the relationships in which we stand to God are taken up. The believer prays as--

I. A CHILD FROM HOME. “Our Father,” &c.

II. A WORSHIPPER. “Hallowed,” &c.

III. A SUBJECT. “Thy kingdom come.”

IV. A SERVANT. “Thy will be done.”

V. A BEGGAR. “Give us,” &c.

VI. A DEBTOR. “And forgive us,” etc.

VII. A SINNER AMID TEMPTATION AND EVIL. “And lead us not,” &c. (Classified Gems of Thought.)

The Lord’s prayer given as a pattern

We have here a ground-plan to fill in, and on whose lines we may build the structure of our petitions every time we pray.

I. Observe, IT IS NOT ONE OF OUR LORD’S OWN PRAYERS THAT IS GIVEN FOR A PATTERN. It is out of the question that we should offer for our daily prayer the very words once used to express the prayers of Christ for Himself. When, therefore, the disciples asked for a pattern of prayer that they might pray just like Christ, the spirit of this the opening sentence in His reply was--“No, your prayers are not to be just like Mine. I pray after that manner. After this manner, pray ye. I pray as the Lord; but when ye pray, say”--and then He gave them these words.

II. You will take notice that this pattern was granted after the petition--Teach us to pray AS JOHN ALSO TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES. The speaker, and those for whom he was the spokesman, had no doubt, been in the school of John before they had come into that of Jesus. Yet you are ready to wonder how they could have thought of Him just then. They had just overheard that sacred secret, a secret prayer of Jesus. You say each one ought to have felt his whole being tenfold alive and awake in that moment of glory and exaltation, and you think there ought then to have been no room for the memory of anything mortal. Yet that prayer at once reminded them of their old Master, and their first wish was that Jesus would use John’s method of teaching them to pray. He must have been a tremendous man to leave an impression on the minds of his scholars that was keen even in the sharpness of such an excitement. There was much imperfection in this petition. The disciples had no right to speak to their Lord in anything like the tone of dictation. While they asked Him to teach them, they told Him how to do it, and indicated the kind of teaching they preferred. But Jesus passed by the fault, recognized the necessity, and was pleased to formulate a prayer for the help of their weakness, and also of our own; for on us also His eye rested as He gave it, and all who are trying after closer fellowship with God, may now feel their way, think their way, and pray their way, through these great words.

III. Take note of the fact that THIS PATTERN WAS GIVEN TWICE. Christ had already given it in the Sermon on the Mount. These suppliants, as if they had never heard of it, asked Him to give what He had already given. How was this? We suppose that besides the disciples who came from John to Jesus at the commencement of his ministry, and the story of whose call is told in the opening of the Fourth Gospel, there were others whose enrolment came later, and that some of these having been with John during the first delivery of the Lord’s prayer, made the appeal which led to this, the second delivery. Strange that they should have been content to miss so much! Why did they stay with John after he had pointed out Jesus to be the Saviour? and how could they stop looking at the finger-posts instead of travelling in the road? Perhaps they con sidereal themselves, so to speak, to be all the time, scholars in Christ’s school, though in John’s class, and as spiritual infants still needing his elementary lessons. They had come late to school. They had more to learn than their classmates. They had missed the Sermon on the Mount. Their new companions, spiritually dull and slow, had not told them that the Lord had already given a pattern of prayer; they therefore asked for one, and the compassionate Saviour gave them the substance of His former words. This was only like Himself, the Teacher who has infinite patience with our dulness, stoops to us, repeats His lesson, and is for ever saying, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

IV. THIS PATTERN OF PRAYER MUST ALWAYS BE TAKEN IN CONNECTION WITH, AND BE EXPLAINED BY, THE WHOLE OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION. It is a mistake to take this, or any other sectional part of revelation, as if it were the whole--a mistake to treat this as Christ’s final disclosure of grace.

V. THE PATTERN IS MEANT FOR THE USE OF ALL THE CHILDREN OF GOD, WHATEVER THEIR DIFFERENCES IN AGE, CAPACITY, OR ATTAINMENT. It fits the child, it fits the man, it fits the father and mother, it fits the youngest saint, and the saint with reverend head.

VI. THIS PATTERN IS INTENDED TO FURNISH CERTAIN RULES AND METHODS OF PRAYER.

1. Petitioners are here taught brevity.

2. They are taught to shun vain repetition. (See Matthew 6:7.)

3. They are taught to pray using these very words. The second announcement of the pattern was prefaced by the phrase, “When ye pray, say,” etc. But mark the proviso. The point is that we may only say it when we do pray. Prayer is a distinct thing from the vehicle of prayer. Beautiful as this frame is, it is only a vehicle of praying life, not a substitute for it.

4. It is a social prayer.

5. They are taught to pray after this manner.

VII. IT IS RIGHT TO CALL THIS PATTERN PRAYER THE LORD’S PRAYER. Some would prefer to call it the Rabbi’s prayer. Others the Disciples’ prayer. We might as well say of the Remembrance Feast, that it is not the Lord’s Supper but the Disciples’ Supper, for only the disciples are to keep it. As the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance feast, this is a remembrance prayer, always to be in our ears, always before our eyes, to show what we should pray for, and how we should pray; until, “at our Father’s loved abode our souls arrive in peace.” (Dr. Stanford.)

Our Father, which art in heaven

The preface of the Lord’s Prayer

I. WHAT OUR BEING DIRECTED TO CALL GOD “FATHER” IN PRAYER TEACHES US.

1. That the children of God alone can pray acceptably.

2. That it is through Jesus Christ we have access to God in prayer Ephesians 2:18), because it is through Him alone that God becomes our Father; by Him, for His sake, we are adopted into the family of heaven John 1:12).

3. That coming to God in prayer, we must come in the name of His Son, as the alone foundation of all our confidence in and expectation from God John 14:13).

4. That the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of Christ in His people, is the principle of all acceptable praying to God; for by Him it is that we are enabled to call God Father (Galatians 4:6), and therefore it is called” inwrought prayer” (James 5:16).

5. That we should draw near to God in prayer with child-like dispositions and affections towards Him.

II. WHAT OUR BEING DIRECTED TO CALL GOD “OUR FATHER” TEACHES US. Negatively: not that we may not pray, saying “My Father,” or that we are always to speak plurally, saying, “We pray.” For we have Scripture examples for praying in the singular number (Ezra 9:6; Luke 15:18-19). But--

1. That we are not only to pray secretly by ourselves alone, but with others, joining with them in public and private.

2. That we are to pray, not only for ourselves, but for others also, according to Scripture example and precept (Acts 12:5; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Praying with and for others is a piece of the communion of saints. And it is one of the privileges of God’s family on earth, that they have the prayers of all the family there.

III. WHAT WE ARE TAUGHT BY OUR BEING DIRECTED TO ADDRESS OURSELVES TO GOD AS “OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.”

1. That we are to eye His sovereign power and dominion over all, in our addresses to Him, believing that He is able to help us in our greatest straits, that nothing is too hard for Him, but He can do whatsoever He will Psalms 115:3). This is a noble ground for faith.

2. That we should be filled with heavenly affections in prayer (Psalms 123:1). And that God’s glorious greatness above us should strike an awe upon us in our approaches to Him (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

3. God’s glorious and wonderful condescension, who vouchsafes to look from His throne in heaven unto us poor worms on earth (Isaiah 66:1-2).

4. That we go to God as those who are strangers on this earth, and to whom heaven is home, because it is our Father’s house (1 Peter 1:17), looking on this world as the place of our pilgrimage, and the men and manners of it as those we desire to leave, that we may be admitted into the society of angels, and consort with the spirits of just men made perfect.

Inferences:

1. Let us see here the miserable condition of those who have no ground to call God Father.

2. There is no right praying without faith. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The preface of the Lord’s prayer

I. TO WHOM WE ARE TO DIRECT OUR PRAYERS to God, the omnipresent God, who fills heaven and earth. He can hear a thousand, or ten thousand million petitioners at the same time, if there were so many, and know distinctly what every one asks. And further, we pray to an infinitely wise God, who knows what is fit should be granted us, and what not.

II. UNDER WHAT CHARACTER OR DENOMINATION God (according to our Saviour’s direction here) is to be addressed; as our Father in heaven.

1. God sustains the character of a Father in the Scripture style in a threefold respect; that is, with reference.

2. We are to call upon Him as our Father in heaven. Lord, art not Thou God in heaven? O Lord God of heaven. But Christ would direct us to make our supplications to God with the deepest humility, in consideration of the infinite distance between God and us, and with admiration of His amazing condescension in permitting us to speak to the great possessor of heaven, and to implore His presence and blessing who is exalted infinitely above us.

III. THE MATTER, AND THE MANNER, of prayer. The Lord’s Prayer may be considered--

1. As a directory.

2. We may take the Lord’s Prayer as a method.

3. We may consider the Lord’s Prayer as a form. (John Whitty.)

Pater, Father

I can conceive of two ways or methods of reaching the notion of a fatherhood in the Deity, or of arriving at the use of this form of address to the Supreme Being, and calling Him Father. The first may be characterized as an ascending, the second as a descending, process; the first having its rise in an earthly and human relation, the second in a relation that is heavenly, and Divine.

I. The earthly and human relation of a child to a parent-a son to a father--is very close and tender.

II. Here we touch the other and higher view which, as I think, Scripture suggests and warrants of the relation now in question; the relation in respect of which we call God Father, and invoke Him as Our Father. It is essential to the very being of the Supreme that He should be a Father, and that of Him there should be a Son. From all eternity, accordingly--in the terms of the Creed of the Council of Nice--the Son is of the Father, “be gotten of His Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” He is “the everlasting Son of the Father,” “begotten, not made.” The relation therefore of paternity or fatherhood in God precedes creation, as well as redemption; and is indeed from everlasting. For before all worlds the Son is in the bosom of the Father. And the infinite, ineffable complacency subsisting between the Father and the Son, realized in the unity of the Holy Spirit with them both, is the true prototype and original model or pattern of the fatherly relation and the fatherly affection of which all who are in the Son are partakers, and in virtue of which they call God Father, and invoke Him as their Father. (R. S.Candlish, D. D.)

Pater noster, Our Father

The use of the plural form in this invocation is surely significant. We are taught, not only to call upon God as Father, but to call upon Him as our Father. We are to say, Our Father; and that too even in secret prayer. Plainly, therefore, thou dost not apprehend thyself, even in such secrecy, to be quite alone with thy God as thy Father. Others are associated by thee with thyself in this filial utterance, and in the fellowship of filial relationship which it expresses. One at least, or more than one, must be felt by thee to be embraced along with thyself in the invocation. Otherwise thou couldst not well say, with a full and deep sense of reality and truth, Our Father.

I. One at all events there surely is--the Master Himself who gives thee this gracious form of address. The Lord Jesus joins Himself to thee, and invites thee to join thyself to Him, so that the invocation may be common to both;--a joint invocation; jointly His and thine--“Our Father.”

1. Let us consider here, in the first place, the gracious condescension of the blessed Son of God in His joining Himself to us at the first. Let us behold Him drawing near to us as a brother, in order that we and He together may say, Our Father. For it is as a brother that He draws near to us and stands by us; it is in the character of a brother, “a brother born for adversity.” He takes our nature. He takes our place. He takes as His own the very relation in which we stand to God as apostate rebels, disobedient subjects, guilty and condemned, outcast and estranged. He sounds the lowest depths of its degradation, and tastes the bitterest agony of its curse. He makes common cause with us.

2. And now--thou art at home. The gracious interview is over. The reconciliation is complete. The Father hath met thee, and embraced thee, and welcomed thee as His child. Thou canst scarcely believe for very joy. But thou shalt see greater things than this. For now, secondly, in that Father’s dwelling thou hast constant fellowship with Him as a Father. And in that fellowship thou art permitted and enabled to join thyself still always to Him who in thy distress joins Himself to thee.

II. But when we say, Our Father, we associate with ourselves others in this fellowship of prayer besides the blessed Lord. He indeed is preeminently our fellow, in this act of filial devotion; and others are so, and can be so, only in Him. But there is room in this fellowship for a wide enough brotherhood.

1. All who are within the reach of saving mercy and redeeming love may be comprehended in its embrace. Men--all men--become dear and precious to me now. To every man--to any man--I can now go, and with all tenderness of fraternal pity and brotherly affection, plead--Brother, Brother--weary and wasted in that far country! To thee, as to me, Christ Jesus, the elder brother, cries, Come! Let us go, thou and I together--let us go home with Him, the elder Brother, saying--all three of us together-Our Father.

2. But a narrower line, at least as regards this earth, must hero be drawn. I am called to sympathize with the blessed Jesus, not merely in His going forth among the lost and guilty children of men, that He may win them back to His Father’s dwelling, and get them to unite with Himself in saying to Him, Our Father. But I am to sympathize with the blessed Jesus also in His going in and out among those whom He has actually brought again to that dwelling, and whom He is ever presenting there as His brethren to His Father and theirs. Let them all have a place in our heart when we say with Christ, Our Father. And that we may make room in our hearts for them all, let us see that by the help of that very Spirit of adoption--that Spirit of His Son--which the Father sends forth into our hearts--the Spirit “not of bondage and of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”--we banish whatever tends to harden, or deaden, or straiten our affections.

3. Is this all the family? Is this the whole brotherhood? Is it merely the comparatively small company of believers among men that we have to associate with us, when in Christ, and with Christ, we say, Our Father? Nay; if there be a narrow limit to the household of faith on earth, there is ample room and verge enough elsewhere. For, not to speak of the multitude of the redeemed already around the throne, have we not the holy angels for our fellows in this filial address to God? For they also, as well as we, have an interest in the Son; “the first-begotten,” whom the Father bringeth into the world, saying, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Reverently--believingly--they worship Him--though, alas! too many of the bright host, through pride and unbelief, refuse. The chosen ones kiss the Son, and in the Son receive themselves the adoption of sons. (R. S.Candlish, D. D.)

What sacred associations cluster round the word Father! The very mention of it carries us back to the dawning of our consciousness, when we learned our earliest lessons at a parent’s lips. But to the thoughtful and religious soul the earthly significance does not exhaust the meaning of this holy name; for God at first designed that the human fatherhood should be the miniature of that relationship in which He stood to men, and He wished them to understand that the love of parents to their children on earth is but as a drop to the ocean of fatherly love which is in Himself.

I. When we can truly and intelligently call God “our Father,” NEW LIFE IS GIVEN TO OUR DEVOTIONS. I am persuaded that much of our lack of enjoyment in prayer, and much of the lifelessness and artificialness in our devotions generally, must be traced to the fact that we have not thoroughly received the spirit of adoption, and have lost the idea of God’s Fatherhood. Why should we be in terror of a father? What liberty is that which our own son enjoys! See how he comes bounding into our room, calculating that we will be thoroughly interested in all he has to say, and knowing that when he lays hold of our heart he has taken hold of our strength! But is it different with God?

II. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father, NEW JOY IS GIVEN TO THE DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Heaven’s own sunshine would illuminate our pathway, if every morning we went forth to do our Father’s business; and the driest and most uninteresting things of daily life would acquire a new importance in our eyes, and would be done by us with gladsomeness, if we but felt we were doing them for a Father. Let us try this heavenly specific and we shall soon find that the glory of love will halo for us all common things with its own celestial radiance, and duty will merge into delight.

III. When we can truly and intelligently call God Father, a NEW SIGNIFICANCE IS GIVEN TO OUR EARTHLY TRIALS. The Lord Himself hath said by the month of Solomon, “He that spareth the rod hateth the child,” and He is too wise a Father to think of training His children without discipline. By trials He keeps them from falling away; He leads them to bethink themselves and return when they have been backsliding, and He prepares them for the discharge of arduous and important duties. Some time ago, while sojourning in the Housatonic valley, I was greatly interested in passing through a paper manufactory and observing how the filthy rags were put through process after process, until at length the pulp pressed between heavy rollers came out upon the other side a seamless web of fairest white, having the mark of the maker woven into it. Let this illustrate God’s purpose with His children. When He subjects them to one species of trial after another, it is only that at the last they may come forth purified and refined, having enstamped upon them His name and character, to be “known and read of all men.”

IV. When we can truly and intelligently call God our Father, a NEW GLORY IS GIVEN TO OUR CONCEPTION OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD. Jesus teaches us to say, “Our Father which art in heaven,” and so leads us to look upon that laud as our home. Home is the centre of the heart, and so, by enabling us to call God our Father and heaven our home, Jesus centres our hearts there, and gives us such an idea of its blessedness that we scarcely think of the outward accessories of its splendour, because of the delightful anticipation that we cherish of being there “at home with the Lord.” O that God, through faith in Jesus Christ, would give to each of us this noble conception of heaven! Then, on true and rational principles we shall desire the better country, and at length have fulfilled to us the beautiful German beatitude, “Blessed are the home-sick, for they shall reach home.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Christ’s revelation of the Fatherhood of God

I believe that the word “Father” is applied to God seven times in the Old Testament; among the innumerable references to the Supreme Being which crowd almost every chapter of all the books of the Old Testament but one, He is mentioned just seven times as a Father--five times as the Father of the Hebrew people, twice as sustaining that relation to individuals. Of these two intimations that God is the Father of individual men, one is a promise to David that God will be a Father to his son Solomon; the other is a prediction that by and by men will pray to God calling Him Father--a prediction fulfilled in this prayer. For there is not any record of any prayer in the Old Testament in which God is addressed as Father. “In the vocative case, as an address to God in prayer,” says Dean Mansel, the name of Father “does not occur in the Old Testament.” It was, then, practically a new thought about God which our Saviour gave His disciples when He taught them about God. They had always known Him as the Eternal, the Creator, the Self-Existent One, the Supreme Ruler, the Judge, the Lord of Hosts and of Battles, the Captain of the armies of heaven; but this thought of Him as the Father in heaven was one that was very far from all their common thoughts of Him. This word took them into a new world. It was to them as if they had been standing for a long time before the grim outer wall of some old castle which they had been summoned to enter--standing there and looking doubtfully at the forbidding granite battlements, with cannon and sentries on the ramparts with suggestions of gloomy passages and dungeons and chains within--when all at once a little door opened, and they saw within the wall a pleasant garden, with flowers and fountains and cool retreats, and caught a breath of the sweetest odours, and heard a burst of melody from singing birds and happy children playing in the sun. Such an opening into the very heart of God did this word “Father” make for all who had stood for long in the cold shadow of the old monarchical conception of His character. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Inferences

1. The truth contained in this new name of God is the true constructive idea in all theological science. Build all your theologies on this foundation. Hold fast to the idea of uniform law, of a nature of things which God has established, under which sin is punished; but when you speak of the personal character and government of God, of His direct interference in the affairs of men, of what He does supernaturally, in the order of history, remember that He is our Father.

2. The word suggests to us also the dignity of human nature. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. He who was before all worlds, He whose will is the source of all laws, He who is the life of all that live, the Omnipotent, the All-Wise, the Eternal God, is our Father.

3. The word not only lifts up and glorifies every humblest human creature, it binds together in one brotherhood, in one family, all that dwell upon the face of the earth. It is the grand leveller of ranks and hierarchies; the charter of fraternity; the prophecy of peace and goodwill among men.

4. Again, what help and inspiration there is for us in the thought of the relationship here pointed out. Take it home to yourself. Try to make out something of what it means when you say that God is your Father.

5. Our Father in heaven! Where it is I know not; what it is no man fully knows. But it is where our Father is. And whoever is with Him is not far from heaven. Something of the melody of its music, something of the fragrance and the beauty of its sweet fields, steal into his heart even while he walks along the dusty ways of this lower world. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Our Father

I. The expression implies that God has communicated to us His own QUALITY OF LIFE (see Genesis 1:27; Colossians 3:10). Traces of the Divine in man, though marred by the fall.

1. Our intellectual faculties.

2. Our aesthetic nature.

3. Our power of loving.

4. Our moral Sense.

5. Our native impulses to goodness.

6. Our disposition for Divine communion.

7. Our hopefulness.

8. Our free agency.

II. The expression implies also that God holds us In INTIMATE RELATION TO HIMSELF.

1. He holds us in the intimacy of affection (John 17:23).

2. He holds us in the intimacy of communion. A parent desires the society of his children.

3. He visits us with an intimacy of service.

Our Father, in heaven

I. THE RELATION OF GOD TO US AS A FATHER.

1. God is a Father three ways.

2. The next thing observable, is the particle Our, Our Father: which notes to us, that God is not only the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but He is the Father of all men, by creation and providence, and especially the Father of the faithful, by regeneration and adoption.

II. The next expression SETS FORTH HIS GLORY AND GREATNESS--“which art in heaven.” “But is not God everywhere present? Doth He not fill heaven and earth, and all things?” True. But this expression is used--

1. Because heaven is the most glorious place of God’s residence, where He hath more especially established His throne of grace, and there sits upon it.

2. Our prayers are directed to our Father in heaven, because, though He hears them wheresoever they are uttered, yet He nowhere hears them with acceptance but only in heaven. And the reason is, because our prayers are acceptable only as they are presented before God through the intercession of Christ. Now Christ performs His mediatory office only in heaven; for He performs it in both natures, as He is God and Man; and so He is only in heaven. And, therefore, we are still concerned to pray to our Father in heaven.

The opening Invocation

This Invocation lifts upwards the child’s brow, and claims in heaven and in the King of that country a filial interest.

I. The FILIAL he sees in the Most High a Father.

II. The FRATERNAL he comes not with his private needs and vows alone, but with those of his race and brotherhood, “Our Father.” And--

III. The CELESTIAL though we are now of the earth, and attached to it by these mortal and terrene bodies, we are not originally from it, nor were we made to be eternally upon it. We are of heaven, and for heaven; for there and not here our Father is, and where He is our true home is.

Conclusion. Let the Churches ponder these great truths. In the filial principle of our text they will find life and earth made glorious, by the thought that a Father made and rules them; and, above all worldly distinctions, they will prize and exult in their bonds through Christ to Him--rejoicing, mainly as Christ commanded His apostles to rejoice, in thisthat their names are written in heaven. In the fraternal principle we shall aright learn to love the Church and to compassionate the world; and in the principle celestial, we shall be taught to cultivate that heavenly-mindedness which shall make the Christian, though feeble, suffering, and forlorn in his worldly relations, already lustrous and blest, as Burke described in her worldly pomp, and in the bloom of her youth, the hapless Queen of France: “A brilliant orb, that seemed scarce to touch the horizon.” More justly might the saint of God be thus described; having already, as the apostle enjoins, his conversation in heaven, and shedding around the earth the splendours of that world with which he holds close and blest communion, and towards which he seems habitually ready to mount, longing to depart that be may be with Christ, which is far better. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

The Divine Father

Rev. Dr. Jonas King once went to visit the children in an orphan asylum. The children were seated in a schoolroom and Dr. King stood on a platform before them. “So this is an orphan asylum,” said he. “I suppose that many of you children would tell me that you have no father or mother, were I to ask you.” “Yes, sir; yes, sir,” said some little voices. “How many of you say you have no father? Hold up your hands.” A forest of hands were put up. “So you say, you have no father?” “Yes, sir; yes, sir.” “Now,” said Dr. King, “do you ever say the Lord’s prayer? Let me hear you.” The children began: “Our Father who art in heaven Stop, children,” said Dr. King; “did you begin right?” The children began again: “Our Father who art in heaven” “Stop again, children,” said Dr. King. “What did you say? Our Father? Then you have a Father; a good, rich Father. I want to tell you about Him. He owns all the gold in California; He owns all the world; He can give you as much of anything as He sees is best for you. Now, children, never forget that you have a Father. Go to Him for all you want, as if you could see Him. He is able and willing to do all that is for your good.”

God’s headquarters

“Why do we say in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Who art in heaven,’ since God is everywhere?” asked a clergyman of some children. For a while no one answered; at last, seeing a little drummer-boy who looked as if he could give an answer, the clergyman said: “Well, little soldier, what say you?” “Because it’s head-quarters,” replied the drummer.

The address

The first part of the Lord’s prayer I have called the address, or the invocation because in it we invoke or call upon God by name, and tell Him, as it were, that we are going to speak to Him, and beg Him to listen to what we are about to say.

1. The name of “Father,” by which we are commanded to call upon God, is one of the most remarkable things in the whole prayer. To us, indeed, who have been accustomed to it from infancy, it may seem almost a matter of course to call God, Father. But to do it, and that too with a certainty that He approves of it, is so far from being a matter of course that, if God had not expressly authorized and commanded us, we should never have dared to address Him by that name; we should have felt it too great a presumption to claim relation with the Lord of the universe. Any one may see what a step Christ gave us toward heaven by com-rounding us to address our Maker, not as our God and King, but as our Father. Any one may see and feel what a pledge the name contains that God will listen to our prayers.

2. Every privilege has its corresponding duty. Let us consider what duties the privilege, which Christ has bought for us, of calling God our Father, brings with it.

Our Father

We are commanded to say “Our Father,” and not my Father, to teach us not to pray for ourselves alone, but for the whole family of God and Christ on earth. When we say “Our Father,” we ought to bear in mind that God has other children beside us, children who have equal claims on His mercy and love, children whom He loves as well as us. We should remember, too, that, if we are all the sons of one common Father, we must all be brothers and sisters. Here is a fruitful subject for self-examination. Do we love as brothers? Do we live together as brothers ought to live, in peace and concord? Do we help each other to the utmost of our power? Do we rejoice in our brother’s prosperity, though the like may not befall ourselves? Do we feel that concern for their welfare, not in body only, but in soul, which ought to live in the hearts of all such as declare themselves before God to be members of one great family, but in the same breath for our brethren also? (A. W. Hare.)

Which art in heaven

Remember where that Father dwells. It is a Father which is in heaven that you are to pray to. Therefore He must be--

1. Most gracious; or He would never have allowed you to call Him by such a name.

2. He must be most powerful; for He is high above all things.

3. He must be most wise; for He made the world.

4. He is everlasting, and will endure without a change, when the heavens and the earth have passed away. Having then a Father, who is so powerful and so wise, and who is also unchangeable and everlasting, what an anchor of hope must this thought be to us! (A. W. Hare.)

Our Father

Does this familiar conception of the Fatherhood of God impair our reverence for Him? Let the children of the most loving parents answer the question.

1. This view of the Divine nature has its momentous bearings on the type of piety which we should cherish in ourselves and promote in others. The child of kind human parents shows his piety to them, not by despising their gifts and spurning the tokens of their love, but by enjoying all of them to the full, with his loving parents constantly in his thoughts, using their gifts as they would have them used, and deeming himself most happy when he can pursue his pleasure in their presence, and with their participation. By parity of reason, the true child of God manifests his piety, not by dashing from him the cup of joy put full to his lips, but by making his joy gratitude, his gladness thanksgiving, by using the world as not abusing it, by close adherence to the laws which always accompany the gifts and make them immeasurably the more precious, and by never losing thought of the benignant presence of Him who has all a Father’s gladness in seeing His children happy.

2. Were these views made prominent in religious teaching, and especially in the religious culture of the young, religion would not be the unwelcome theme it now is to so many, nor would the offices of Christian worship be regarded with the indifference now so sadly prevalent.

3. Fatherhood implies distinctive love for the individual child, and thus, of necessity, a personal interest in the child’s well or ill-doing, right or wrong conduct, good or bad character.

4. Whether the child finds privilege and happiness, or restraint and irksomeness, in the human father’s well-ordered household, depends on his own choice, his own character. God’s child, too, can be happy in His universal house, only through love of the father, and conformity to the ways of the house. The child of God who has not a child’s heart must go to his own place, and that cannot be a place of privilege or joy. But he is self banished, self-punished. He has forsaken his own mercies. It is not God’s love that is withdrawn from him; but he has taken himself from the shelter and joy of that love. (Prof. Peabody, D. D. , LL. D.)

Carlyle and the Lord’s prayer

“‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy will be done’--what else can we say? The other night, in my sleepless tossings about, which were growing more and more miserable, these words, that brief and grand prayer, came strangely into my mind, with an altogether new emphasis, as if written and shining for me in mild pure splendour on the black bosom of the night there; then I, as it were, read them word by word, with a sudden check to my imperfect wanderings, with a sudden softness of composure which was much unexpected. Not for perhaps thirty or forty years had I once formally repeated that prayer; nay, I never felt before how intensely the voice of man’s soul it is--the inmost aspiration of all that is high and pious in poor human nature, right worthy to be recommended with an ‘After this manner pray ye.’” (Thomas Carlyle.)

God realized as a Father

I have been told of a good man, among whose experiences, which he kept a record of, this, among other things, was found after his death, that at such a time in secret prayer, his heart at the beginning of the duty was much enlarged, in giving to God those titles which are awful and tremendous, in calling Him the great, the mighty, and the terrible God; but going on thus, he checked himself with this thought, “And why not my Father?” (Matthew Henry.)

The Fatherhood of God

A Jew entered a Persian temple, and saw there the sacred fire. He said to the priest, “How do you worship fire?” “Not the fire: it is to us an emblem of the sun and of his animating light,” said the priest. Then asked the Jew, “Do you adore the sun as a deity? Do you know that he also is a creature of the Almighty?” The priest answered that the sun was to them only an emblem of the invisible light which preserves all things. The Israelite continued, “Does your nation distinguish the image from the original? They call the sun their god, and kneel before the earthly flame. You dazzle the eye of the body, but darken that of the mind; in presenting to them the terrestrial light, you take from them the celestial.” The Persian asked, “How do you name the Supreme Being?” “We call Him Jehovah Adonai; that is, the Lord who was, who is, and shall be.” “Your word is great and glorious, but it is terrible,” said the Persian. A Christian approaching said, “We call Him Abba, Father.” Then the Gentile and the Jew regarded each other with surprise. Said one, “Your word is the nearest and the highest; but who gives you courage to call the Eternal thus?” “The Father Himself,” said the Christian, who then expounded to them the plan of redemption. Then they believed and lifted up their eyes to heaven, saying, “Father, dear Father,” and joined hands and called each other brethren. (Krummacher.)

Of the preface to the Lord’s prayer

I. The INTRODUCTION to the Lord’s prayer--“After this manner, therefore, pray ye.” Our Lord Jesus, in these words prescribed to His disciples and us a directory for prayer. The ten commandments are the rule of our life; the creed is the sum of our faith; and the Lord’s prayer is the pattern of our prayer. As God did prescribe Moses a pattern of the tabernacle, so Christ hath here prescribed us a pattern of prayer--“After this manner, therefore pray ye,” &c. Not that we are tied to the words of the Lord’s prayer; Christ saith not, “after these words, pray ye”; but “after this manner”; that is, let all your petitions agree and symbolize with the things contained in the Lord’s prayer; and indeed, well may we make all our prayers consonant and agreeable to this prayer, it being a most exact prayer. Tertullian calls it, a breviary and compendium of the gospel; it is like a heap of massy gold. The exactness of this prayer appears--

1. In the dignity of the Author; a piece of work hath commendation from the artificer, and this prayer hath commendation from the Author; it is the Lord’s prayer. As the moral law was written with the finger of God, so this prayer was dropt from the lips of the Son of God.

2. The exactness of this prayer appears in the excellency of the matter. I may say of this prayer, it “is as silver tried in the furnace, purified seven times.” Never was there prayer so admirably and curiously composed as this. As Solomon’s Song, for its excellency, is called “the song of songs,” so may this well be called “the prayer of prayers.”

The matter of it is admirable.

1. For its succinctness; it is short and pithy, multum in parvo, a great deal said in a few words. It requires most art to draw the two globes curiously in a little map. This short prayer is a system or body of divinity.

2. Its clearness. This prayer is plain and intelligible to every capacity. Clearness is the grace of speech.

3. Its completeness. This prayer contains in it the chief things that we have to ask, or God hath to bestow. There is a double benefit ariseth from framing our petitions suitably to the Lord’s prayer.

1. Hereby error in prayer is prevented. It is not easy to write wrong after this copy; we cannot easily err, having our pattern before us.

2. Hereby mercies requested are obtained, for the apostle assures us God will hear us when we pray “according to His will.” And sure we pray according to His will, when we pray according to the pattern He hath set us.

II. THE PRAYER ITSELF, which consists of three parts:

The preface to the prayer.

1. “Our Father.”

2. “Which art in heaven.” To begin with the first words of the preface. “Our Father.” Father is sometimes taken personally--“My Father is greater than!”: but Father in the text is taken essentially for the whole Deity. This title, Father, teacheth us to whom we must address ourselves in prayer; to God alone. Here is no such thing in the Lord’s prayer as, “O ye saints or angels that are in heaven, hear us!” but “Our Father which art in heaven.” In what order must we direct our prayers to God? Here is only the Father named; may not we direct our prayers to the Son, and Holy Ghost? Though the Father only be named in the Lord’s prayer, yet the ether two Persons are not hereby excluded; the Father is mentioned because He is first in order; but the Son and Holy Ghost are included, because they are the same in essence. Princes on earth give themselves titles expressing their greatness, as “high and mighty”; God might have done so, and expressed Himself thus, “Our King of glory, our Judge”; but He gives Himself another title, “our Father,” an expression of Jove and condescension. God, that He might encourage us to pray to Him, represents Himself under this sweet notion of a father, “our Father.” The name Jehovah carries majesty in it, the name of Father carries mercy in it. In what sense is God a Father?

1. By creation; it is He that hath made us--“We are also His offspring”; “Have we not all one Father?” But there is little comfort in this; for so God is Father to the devils by creation; but He that made them will not save them.

2. God is a Father by election.

3. God is a Father by special grace. Such only as are sanctified can say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” What is the difference between God being the Father of Christ, and the Father of the elect? God is the Father of Christ in a more glorious transcendent manner. Christ hath the primogeniture. What is that which makes God our Father? Faith--“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” An unbeliever may call God his Creator, and his Judge, but not his Father. Faith doth legitimate us and make us of the blood-royal of heaven--“Ye are the children of God by faith.”

Wherein doth it appear that God is the best Father?

1. In that He is most ancient--“The Ancient of days did sit.” A figurative representation of God who was before all time, this may cause veneration.

2. God is the best Father, because He is perfect--“Our Father which is in heaven is perfect”; He is perfectly good. Earthly fathers are subject to infirmities.

3. God is the best Father in respect of wisdom--“The only wise God.” He hath a perfect idea of wisdom in Himself; He knows the fittest means to bring about His own designs; the angels light at His lamp. In particular this is one branch of His wisdom, that He knows what is best for us. An earthly parent knows not, in some intricate cases, how to advise his child. He is the only wise God; He knows how to make evil things work for good to His children. He can make a sovereign treacle of poison; thus He is the best Father for wisdom.

4. He is the best Father, because the most loving--“God is love.” The affections in parents are but marble and adamant in comparison of God’s love to His children; He gives them the cream of His love, electing love, saving love. No father like God for love! If thou art His child, thou canst not love thy own soul so entirely as He loves thee.

5. God is the best Father, for riches; God hath land enough to give to all His children, He hath unsearchable riches. He gives the hidden manna, the tree of life, rivers of joy. God is ever giving to His children, yet hath not the less; His riches are imparted, not impaired; like the sun that still shines, yet hath not the less light. He cannot be poor who is infinite.

6. God is the best Father, because He can reform His children.

7. God is the best Father, because He never dies--“Who only hath immortality.” Earthly fathers die and their children are exposed to many injuries’ but God lives for ever.

Wherein lies the dignity of such as have God for their Father?

1. They have greater honour than is conferred on the princes of the earth; they are precious in God’s esteem.

2. God confers honourable titles upon His children; He calls them the excellent of the earth, or the magnificent, as Junius renders it.

3. This is their honour who have God for their Father--they are all heirs; the youngest son is an heir.

4. God makes His children equal in honour to the angels. How may we know that God is our Father? All cannot say, “our Father”: the Jews boasted that God was their Father--“We have one Father, even God.” Christ tells them their pedigree: “Ye are of your father the devil.” They who are of satanical spirits, and make use of their power to beat down the power of godliness, cannot say, God is their Father; they may say, “our father which art in hell.”

Well, then, how may we know that God is our Father?

1. By having a filial disposition. This is seen in four things. First. To melt in tears for sin. A child weeps for offending his father. He grieves for sin

How do we show our honour to our Father in heaven?

1. By having a reverential awe of God upon us--“Thou shalt fear thy God.”

2. We may know God is our Father, by our resembling of Him; the child is his father’s picture. Wicked men desire to be like God hereafter in glory, but do not affect to be like Him here in grace; they give it out to the world that God is their Father, yet have nothing of God to be seen in them; they are unclean; they not only want His image, but hate it.

3. We may know God is our Father, by having His spirit in us.

4. If God be our Father, we are of peaceable spirits--“Blessed be the peacemakers, they” shall be called the children of God.” Grace infuseth a sweet, amicable disposition; it files off the ruggedness of men’s spirits; it turns the lion-like fierceness into a lamb-like gentleness. They who have God to be their Father, follow peace as well as holiness,

5. If God be our Father; then we love to be near God, and have converse with Him. An ingenuous child delights to approach near to his father, and go into his presence. David envied the birds that they built their nests so near God’s altars, when he was debarred his Father’s house. See the amazing goodness of God, that is pleased to enter into this sweet relation of a Father. God needed not to adopt us; he did not want a Son, but we wanted a Father. God showed power in being our Maker, but mercy in being our Father. If God be a Father, then hence I infer, whatever He doth to His children, is love. But will God be a Father to me, who have profaned His name, and been a great sinner?

Wherein lies the happiness of having God for our Father?

1. If God be our Father, then He will teach us. What father will refuse to counsel his son? A man may see the figures upon a dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes, unless the sun shine; we may read many truths in the Bible, but we cannot know them savingly, till God by His Spirit shine upon our soul. God teacheth not only our ear, but our heart; he not only informs our mind, but inclines our will; we never learn till God teach us.

2. If God be our Father, then He hath bowels of affection towards us. If it be so unnatural for a father but to love His child, can we think God can be defective in His love? That you may see God’s fatherly love to His children:

3. If God be our Father, He will be full of sympathy--“as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him”--

4. If God be our Father, He will take notice of the least good He sees in us; if there be but a sigh for sin, God hears it. God spies the least good in His children; He can see a grain of corn hid under chaff, grace hid under corruption.

5. If God be our Father, He will take all we do in good part. A father takes a letter from his son kindly, though there are blots or bad English in it. What blottings are there in our holy things?

6. If God be our Father, then He will correct us in measure. “I will correct thee in measure”; and that two ways: First, It shall be in measure, for the kind; God will not lay upon us more than we are able to bear. He knows our frame. He knows we are not steel or marble, therefore will deal gently. Second, He will correct in measure for the duration; He will not let the affliction lie on too long. A sting a-wing.

7. If God be our Father, He will intermix mercy with all out afflictions; if He gives us wormwood to drink, He will mix it with honey. In every cloud a child of God may see a rainbow of mercy shining, As the limner mixeth dark shadows and bright colours together, so our heavenly Father mingles the dark and bright together, crosses and blessings; and is not this a great happiness, for God thus to chequer His providences, and mingle goodness with severity?

8. If God be our Father, the evil one shall not prevail against us. God will make all Satan’s temptations promote the good of His children.

9. If God be our Father, no real evil shall befall us--“There shall no evil befall thee.” It is not said, no trouble; but no evil. What hurt doth the furnace to the gold? it only makes it purer. What hurt doth afflictions to grace? only refine and purify it. What a great privilege is this, to be freed, though not from the stroke of affliction, yet from the sting! Again, no evil befalls a child of God, because no condemnation--“no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

10. If God be our Father, this may make us go with cheerfulness to the throne of grace. Were a man to petition his enemy, there were little hope; but when a child petitions his father, he may hope with confidence to speed.

11. If God be our Father, He will stand between us and danger; a father will keep off danger from his child. God calls Himself a shield. God is a hiding-place. God appoints His holy angels to be a lifeguard about His children. Never was any prince so well guarded as a believer.

12. If God be our Father, we shall not want anything that He sees is good for us; “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” God is pleased sometimes to keep His children to hard commons, but it is good for them.

13. If God be our Father, all the promises of the Bible belong to us; God’s children are called “heirs of promise.”

14. God makes all His children conquerors. First, They conquer themselves. Though the children of God may sometimes be foiled, and lose a single battle, yet not the victory. Second, They conquer the world. Third, They conquer their enemies; how can that be, when they oft take away their lives? God’s children conquer their enemies by heroic patience. A patient Christian, like the anvil, bears all strokes invincibly; thus the martyrs overcame their enemies by patience.

15. If God be our Father, He will now and then send us some tokens of His love. God’s children live far from home, and meet sometimes with coarse usage from the unkind world; therefore God, to encourage His children, sends them sometimes tokens and pledges of His love. What are these? He gives them a return o! prayer, there is a token of love; He quickens and enlargeth their hearts in duty, there is a token of love; He gives them the firstfruits of His Spirit, which are love-tokens.

16. If God be our Father, He will indulge and spare us--“I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”

17. If God be our Father, He will put honour and renown upon us at the last day.

18. If God be our Father, He will settle a good land of inheritance upon us--“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who hath begottenus again to a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.” God’s children shall not wait long for their inheritance; it is but winking, and they shall see God.

19. If God be our Father, it is a comfort, first, in case of loss of relations. Hast thou lost a father? Yet, if thou art a believer, thou art no orphan, thou hast an heavenly Father, a Father that never dies, “who only bath immortality. Second. It is a comfort in case of death; God is thy Father, and at death thou art going to thy Father. If God be our Father, we may with comfort, at the day of death, resign our souls into His hand: so did Christ--“Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” If a child hath any jewel, he will, in time of danger, put it into his father’s hands, where he thinks it will be kept most safe. Our soul is our richest jewel, we may at death resign our souls into God’s hands, where they will be safer than in our own keeping. What a comfort is this, death carries a believer to his Father’s house, “where are delights unspeakable and full of glory!”

Let us behave and carry ourselves as the children of such a Father, in several particulars.

1. Let us depend upon our Heavenly Father, in all our straits and exigencies; let us believe that He will provide for us.

2. If God be our Father, let us imitate Him.

3. If God be our Father, let us submit patiently to His will. What gets the child by struggling, but more blows? What got Israel by their murmuring and rebelling, but a longer and more tedious march, and at last their carcases fell in the wilderness?

4. If God be our Father, let this cause in us a childlike reverence--“If I be a Father, where is My honour?” If you have not always a childlike confidence, yet always preserve a childlike reverence.

5. If God be our Father, let us walk obediently--“As obedient children.”

6. If God be your Father, show it by your cheerful looks that you are the children of such a Father. Too much drooping and despondency disparageth the relation you stand in to God.

7. If God be our Father, let us honour Him by walking very holily--“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” A young prince asking a philosopher how he should behave himself, the philosopher said, “Remember thou art a king’s son.” Causinus, in his hieroglyphics, speaks of a dove, whose wings being perfumed with sweet ointments, did draw the other doves after her. The holy lives of God’s children is a sweet perfume to draw others to religion, and make them to be of the family of God. Justin Martyr saith, that which converted him to Christianity, was the beholding the blameless lives of the Christians.

8. If God be our Father, let us love all that are His children--“How pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

9. If God be our Father, let us show heavenly-mindedness; they who are born of God do set their “affections on things that are above.” What, a son of God, and a slave to the world! What, sprung from heaven, and buried in the earth I

10. If God be our Father, let us own our Heavenly Father in the worst times; stand up in His cause, defend His truths.

What may we learn from this, that God is in heaven?

1. Hence we learn that we are to raise our minds in prayer above the earth. God never denied that soul his suit who went as far as heaven to ask it.

2. We learn from God’s being in heaven, His sovereign power. “By this word is meant, that all things are subject to His governing power.” “Our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatever He pleased.” God being in heaven governs the universe, and orders all occurrences here below for the good of His children.

3. We learn God’s glory and majesty; He is in heaven, therefore He is covered with light; “clothed with honour,” and is far above all worldly princes as heaven is above earth.

4. We learn, from God’s being in heaven, His omnisciency. “All things are naked, and opened to His eye.”

5. We learn from God’s being in heaven, comfort for the children of God; when they pray to their Father, the way to heaven cannot be blocked up. One may have a father living in foreign parts, but the way, both by sea and by land, may be so blocked up, that there is no coming to Him; but thou, saint of God, when thou prayest to thy Father, He is in heaven; and though thou art ever so confined, thou mayest have access to Him. A prison cannot keep thee from thy God; the way to heaven can never be blocked up. “Father,” denotes reverence; “Our Father,” denotes faith. In all our prayers to God we should exercise faith--“Our Father.” Faith is that which baptizeth prayer, and gives it a name; it is called “the prayer of faith”; without faith, it is speaking, not praying. Faith is the breath of prayer; prayer is dead unless faith breathe in it. Faith is a necessary requisite in prayer. The oil of the sanctuary was made up of several sweet spices, pure myrrh, cassia, cinnamon: faith is the chief spice, or ingredient in prayer, which makes it go up to the Lord, as sweet incense--“Let him ask in faith”; “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Faith must take prayer by the hand, or there is no coming nigh to God; prayer without faith is unsuccessful. As Joseph said, “You shall not see my face, unless you bring your brother Benjamin with you,” so prayer cannot see God’s face, unless it bring its brother faith with it. This makes prayer often suffer shipwreck, because it dasheth upon the rock of unbelief.

O sprinkle faith in prayer! We must say, “our Father.”

1. What doth praying in faith imply? Praying in faith implies the having of faith; the act implies the habit. To walk implies a principle of life; so to pray in faith implies a habit of grace. None can pray in faith but believers.

2. What is it to pray in faith?

3. How may we know that we do truly pray in faith? We may say, “our Father,” and think we pray in faith, when it is in presumption: how, therefore, may we know that we do indeed pray in faith?

1. It reproves them that pray in formality, not in faith; they question whether God hears or will grant--“Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss.” Unbelief clips the wings of prayer, that it will not fly to the throne of grace; the rubbish of unbelief stops the current of prayer.

2. Let us set faith a work in prayer, “our Father.” O pray in faith I Say, “our Father.” And that we may act faith in prayer, consider

Himself to us by His promises. The Bible is bespangled with promises made to prayer.

Our Father which art in Heaven

I. From these words we learn, first, that GOD IS A FATHER--“When ye pray, say ‘Father!’” At the very outset, let us beware of taking this blessed word, Father, figuratively, or, to use the language of the theologians, as au accommodation. Rather is it precisely the opposite. It is the human fatherhood which is an accommodation to the Divine, not the Divine which is an accommodation to the human. For the spiritual exists before the material, as the substance exists before the shadow it casts. The meaning, the final cause, of the earthly fatherhood itself, what is it but to testify to and interpret the heavenly? Hence the deep solemnity of the Parental Institution. The parent is to the infant the image and representation of the Parent in Heaven. And the first lesson the infant learns is Fatherhood. Happy if in learning it he learns the Divine Father hood as well as the human! Thus, the parental institution is the Heavenly Father’s means of lifting His earthly children to His own Divine Fatherhood. And now let us ponder the Divine Fatherhood in light of the human, and note some of the meanings it has for us. And, first, Fatherhood means sirehood, or communication of nature. Animals are God’s creatures; men are God’s children. This is the very point which the Lord urges when He exhorts His disciples to trust the Heavenly Father. “Behold the birds of the air; they are not God’s children; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them; will He not much more feed you, who are His sons?” This Divine inspiration or inbreathing it is which makes man God’s image, God’s offspring, God’s son. How august the Divine record of man’s genealogy: “Who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.” Sirehood, then, is entailment of nature, and sonhood is inheritance of nature. As the difference between parent and babe is a difference in degree rather than in kind, so is the difference between God and man. Man shares finitely in God’s infinite nature. And this is true for all men. God is not only a Father; God is the Father. True, Holy Scripture speaks of adoption, or a spectral sonship. As an earthly father discriminates between his children, admitting the dutiful ones to special intimacies, partnerships, bequests, and the like, so it is with the Heavenly Father. There is a sonship of nature in the sphere of manhead; and there is a sonship of grace in the sphere of Christhead. Again: Fatherhood means authority. The government by the Father is natural, direct, personal, supreme, inextinguishable. And this is God’s government. It is based on Fatherhood. Just as an earthly father has the natural right to rule his offspring, so it is with the heavenly. Parentage, in simple virtue of its being parent age, is imperative. God is Father-King. And authority means the right--and, when needful, the duty--to punish. Alas, how often in this fallen world is punishment needed, e.g., to vindicate authority or to amend character! And observe precisely the basis of the right to chasten: it is not age, or strength, or stature; it is Fatherhood. No man has the right to punish his neighbour’s child, however vicious he may be: none but the child’s own father has that right; and he has that right because he is father. Let us beware then of sentimental views of God’s Fatherhood. But let us beware of the opposite extreme. There may be slavish views of God as well as sentimental. Particularly is this the case among the heathen; their God is force. Witness Jupiter Tonans, Thor, Siva, and the like And so, once more, Fatherhood means Love. The Heavenly Father’s love is shown in the realm of Providence. Just as an earthly father reveals his fatherhood by arranging the conditions and providing for the welfare of his children, so does the Heavenly Father reveal in the same way His Fatherhood. And as the earthly father does not leave the wants and affairs of his children--their market and clothing and school and health and holiday expenses--robe regulated by machinery, but exercises over them his personal vigilance and guardianship, being, in short, a sort of Providence; so the Heavenly Father does not leave the wants and affairs of His children to the blind operations of Nature’s laws and the inexorable sequences of fate, but He exercises over them a personal vigilance, protection, and guidance. What man, accustomed to take broad and observant views of human history, does not see that the wisest and strongest of men are often but as little infants in the Heavenly Father’s hands, sheltered by Him, guarded by Him, led by Him, arranged by Him? God’s Providence grows out of God’s Fatherhood. But the crowning proof that the Heavenly Father loves us is seen in the Incarnation of His Son,

II. But our text teaches a second lesson. It is this: ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS--“When ye pray, say: ‘Our Father’” Each is to carry the race with him,making his closet the world’s oratory. As long as He who is no respecter of persons, and with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning, invites Jew and Gentile, Mongolian and Caucasian, Nubian and Anglo-Saxon, to call Him Father, so long are Jew and Gentile, Mongolian and Caucasian, Nubian and Anglo-Saxon, brothers. These two words--Our Father--for ever settle the question of the moral unity of the race. Mankind is more than an aggregate of individuals; it is a family group; we are members of one another. Moreover, these words for ever settle the missionary question. In these words--Our Father--is born and fostered and will triumph the missionary enterprise, the true “Enthusiasm of Humanity.”

III. But our text teaches a third lesson; it is this: GOD IS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER--“When ye pray, say: ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.’” And first, negatively: the term Heaven, as occurring in our text, must not be taken in the local sense. Containing in Himself all things, God cannot be contained in anything. “Lo, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee.” Affirmatively: the heaven of our text is the moral heaven rather than the local. To express moral excellence by terms of altitude is an instinct. How naturally we use such phrases as these: “Exalted worth, high resolve, lofty purpose, elevated views, sublime character, eminent purity!” How naturally, too, we use opposite phrases: “Low instincts, base passions, degraded character, grovelling habits, stooping to do it!” In like manner, pagans instinctively localize their gods on mountain-crests: e.g., the Persians on Caucasus, the Hindoos on Meru, the Greeks on Olympus. So the Jews themselves, when fallen into idolatry, consecrated high places and hill-tops. Doubtless here, too, is the secret of the arch, and especially the spire, as the symbol of Christian architecture--the Church is an aspiration. Loftiness being the symbol of whatever is morally excellent, to say that our Father is in heaven is to ascribe to our Father every moral excellence. And, first, heaven suggests our Father’s immensity. Nothing seems so remote from us or gives such an idea of vastness as the dome of heaven. Again: heaven suggests our Father’s sovereignty. Be not rash, then, with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a word before God: for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few. Again: heaven suggests our Father’s spirituality. Nothing seems so like that rarity of texture which we so instinctively ascribe to pure, incorporeal spirit, as that subtle, tenuous ether which it is believed pervades the clear, impalpable sky, and, indeed, all immensity. Again: heaven suggests our Father’s purity. Nothing is so exquisite an emblem of absolute spotlessness and eternal chastity as the unsullied expanse of heaven, untrodden by mortal foot, unswept by aught but angel wings. Again: heaven suggests our Father’s beatitude. We cannot conceive a more perfect emblem of felicity and moral splendour than light. Once more: heaven suggests our Father’s obscurity. For though God Himself is light, yet there are times when even the very heavens themselves obscure His brightness. “Why has Christ commanded us to add to the address, Our Father, the words, Who art in heaven?” asks the Heidelberg Catechism. And the answer is: “That we may have no earthly thought of the heavenly majesty of God.” A true and noble answer. The term--Father--expresses God’s relation to us--it is fatherly. The term--heaven--expresses that Father’s character--it is heavenly. Thus our text give us God for Father, man for brother, heaven for character. (G. D.Boardman, D. D.)

Our Father in heaven

I. A TENDER RELATIONSHIP.

1. A tender relationship between us and God: “Our Father in heaven. Well, when you pray, what do you do? to whom do you speak? I fancy some speak to themselves, some to those to whom they say their prayers, many to no one at all. The heathen sees his idol, and speaks to it, and you cannot understand that. But you see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, and so when you close your eyes and pray, it is as if you had no one to speak to. But you know how it is when you write to your absent father. You see or hear or feel nothing, and yet you know that you are speaking to him, and that the words you are writing will one day come under his eye, and serve the purpose in view. And so with your “Father in heaven.” He is a real personal God, not who was once, but who is now, “which art in heaven.” When you think of God, you often think of Him with fear, with terror. He is such a holy God, He so hates sin, and is so just in punishing it, and so mighty. And when you pray, if you think at all about the matter, your thoughts of God are such as these, and you only fear Him. But what says the text? “Our Father in heaven.” You may be afraid of others, not of a father. You may stand in doubt of others, not of a father. If there is any one you can trust and love and feel at home with, it is a father. There is a little child crying as if his heart would break. I do all I can to pacify him, but can make nothing of it. My well-meant efforts seem only to make him worse. But when his father comes in sight, how the little one stretches out his hands, how his face is lighted up, and when once fairly in his father’s arms, how his sorrow is hushed! Who is so kind and considerate and tender as a father? And such is God. I wish I could persuade you to believe in God’s love and tenderness as a Father. There is nothing which you may not tell Him. There is nothing which you may not ask of Him. There is nothing too little--too trifling. I wish I could convince you of that heavenly Father’s love. What it would do for you! I can suppose that, in the spring or summer time of the year, when the flowers are so beautiful, you have a little favourite flower. You planted it with your own hand, you water it daily, you watch it constantly, you are bent on seeing it come into bloom. The plant is somewhat sickly, and the long-watched bud seems as if it would drop off without ever opening, till you bring it out of the shade, and set it in the sun; and what you could not force in any other way, takes place quite naturally under the genial heat and sunshine of a summer’s day. Such is the effect of coming under the sunshine of the heavenly Father’s love. It would do for you what the shining sun does for the flowers--making them healthy and beautiful, a joy to all onlookers. The very word, how it should melt, and draw, and gladden you--“Our Father!” What a word this is to be applied to God! what a name for us to call Him by! There is no petition which we could address to Him at all equal to it. It is a prayer in itself, the most powerful that could be offered. Let me suppose that one of you boys or girls were drowning, that from the sea, or from some neighbouring lake or river, one of you were to send the shrill cry, “Father!” I need not tell you what would follow: I need not describe how your father would be up and off in a moment, how he would rush to the quarter from which the sound came. Not a word more would be needed, it would ask all you required, it would contain at once petition and argument--no prayer would be like it--“Father!” A mother once told me, that from the time her children began to call her “mother,” the word had a power over her which she could not describe. She might be in the attic, busily at work, but if, three stories below, she heard her boys calling “Mother!” it went to her heart. The very name was so sweet--it had such a power over her--that she would at once throw down her work and hurry to them. And now that they are grown-up men, it is still the same. I have heard the call, and soon has followed the sound of hurrying footsteps, and the gentle, “Well, dear?” in reply. Now, if this be so, if the name father or mother has such a power with earthly parents, what power may we not suppose that word, “Our Father,” from the lips of His children, to have with the “Father in heaven”? I do not know any words sufficient to express the honour of standing in such a relationship to God. Nor would it be easy to tell what we should be to such a God, how we should love and serve and obey Him. Let me just make one remark here. Those who call God “Father,” should be like Him. Have you not often been struck with the likeness of children to their parents? There are not a few children whom I could name, though I had never seen them before, just from their likeness to their parents. I have said to a child on the street, “Your name is so-and-so; isn’t it?” “Yes.” “I was sure of it: he is so like his father.” Now, so should it be with those who call God “Father.” The likeness should be such that everybody should see it. Ay, and the name should help us to be like Him. I cannot, for very shame, use that name and do as I have been doing. Just as an ill-doing son might well change his name, and try to be as unlike his father in appearance as possible, as feeling it a disgrace to be so unworthy of him; so, many of us would almost do well to give up this name, unless we are more worthy of it. Not long ago, the chaplain in one of our prisons told me, that among the prisoners to whom he ministered, he had met with a soldier whose name had been on the prison-books again and again, but who had always given a false name, assigning as the reason, that he could not bear the thought of his father’s honoured name being on the prison-books in the person of his unworthy son.

2. A tender relationship between us and Christ. This remark explains the last. This is necessary in order to the last. But for this, the other could not be. We were not always sons. We were strangers. We were enemies. “Ye are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Predestinated unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ.” The relationship between us and Christ is that of brotherhood.

3. A tender relationship between us and others. No believer needs to be, is, can be, alone. Whenever he comes to Christ, he comes into the family.

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUE PRAYER.

1. It should be trustful: “Our Father--our Father in heaven.” Trustful as regards His ability to do what is asked. Little children have extraordinary notions as to what their fathers can do. To hear them speak, you would almost think they believed in a father’s power to do anything. You must have noticed this in others, or in yourselves. If there is a heavy load to be lifted, which a child cannot move, more than likely he will tell you his father could lift it. If any one threatens to do him harm, though a far stronger man, he says he will tell his father, as if he could put all to rights. Prayer should be trustful, as regards God’s willingness to do anything, His love: “Our Father.” Once more, prayer should be trustful, as regards God’s wisdom: “Our Father in heaven.” How often do others give us what our fathers would deny! I find the thought on which I have been dwelling, of trust in “our Father,” beautifully illustrated in a most interesting little book, entitled, “Nettie’s Mission: Stories illustrative of the Lord’s Prayer.” Three little children were spending the evening together, when a violent thunderstorm came on, which obliged them to stay where they were, all night. “Just before prayer time, Mr. Thorn told them that they might each choose the Bible verse they liked best, and tell why they loved it. ‘I know what my verse will be for this night,’ said Margery. ‘I don’t know where to find it, but it says, ‘The Lord of glory thundereth.’ ‘Why did you choose that verse, Margery?’ asked Mrs. Thorn. ‘Because I think it so nice, when you hear that awful noise, to know it is God. It makes me think of one day long ago. Aunt Annie was out, and I heard a great noise up in the loft, when I thought I was all alone in the house; and I was so frightened, I screamed, and father’s voice called out, “Don’t be afraid, little Margie; it’s only father.” And now, when it thunders very loud, it always seems as if I heard God say, “Don’t be afraid, little Margie; it’s only Father;” and I don’t feel a bit frightened. “Don’t you think it’s a real nice verse?’” In travelling lately in a railway carriage, a friend told me the following facts with which he was personally conversant. Some years ago, a vessel, crossing to this country from the Continent, was overtaken by a storm. One of the passengers, much alarmed, asked a young sailor-boy on board, if there was danger. He said there was, but added, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” The ship reached the port in safety, and not long since the fact was called to mind in this interesting way: On board one of our steamers, a clergyman told the captain what I have told you, adding that he was the passenger, and that the boy’s trustful word had had such effect on him, that it had led him to seek the Saviour, and ultimately to become a minister of the gospel. “And I,” answered the captain, “am that sailor-boy!” I give you the story, in substance, as it was told to me; that Christian sailor and his friend being, I believe, still alive.

2. Prayer should be reverent: “Our Father in heaven.” The word “Father” implies that, still more “in heaven.” How particular you are when you speak to one higher in rank than yourself! What thought it gives you beforehand! How anxious you are to have all right, as regards your dress, your hair, &c., how in the porch outside, you might been seen, with your cap or your handkerchief, wiping the dust off your shoes; and after you have rung the bell, how your heart beats before the door is opened, and you are ushered in! With what reverence people appear before and speak to the Queen! The highest men among us would be not a little anxious today, if they had to appear before her Majesty to-morrow. And what about appearing before God, and speaking to God?

3. Prayer should be in the name of Jesus.

4. Prayer should be unselfish. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

God a Father

A strong and practical belief of the Divine being and presence lies at the basis of all true devotion. An atheist cannot pray. “He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Prayer is the language of nature, because it is the language of want; it is the language of a creature to his Creator, of a child, dependent, helpless, benighted, to his unearthly Parent. From whatever station in human life, or portion of the world, or degraded state of human society; from whatever throne or dungeon, from whatever liberty, or whatever servitude, any one of the vast family of man may affectionately and dutifully address his thoughts to heaven, he shall find a Father’s ear, and the heart of a Father. His family is large and widely dispersed; it is composed of millions upon millions, scattered over every continent and island, every sea and shore, every mountain and valley, every palace and every log-cabin; nor is any one of them denied the relation of children. One of the obligations of piety is founded on this natural relation which men sustain to God as the parent source of their being. When we adopt the language, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we are also reminded of the still more endearing relation which exists between their Heavenly Father, and those who constitute His spiritual family. The Scriptures and facts instruct us that every son and daughter of Adam is by nature alienated from God, and a child of wrath. Even under the old dispensation, the people of God were not denied the hopes and consolations of this filial relation. The language of Moses to the people of Israel is, “Ye are the children of the Lord your God.” “Doubtless Thou art our Father,” is the language of the prophet. The beautiful language of his prayer is, “Our Father.” There are two thoughts of interest in this emphatic phraseology. “Thou art my God,” says the Psalmist, “and I will exalt Thee.” Elsewhere he says, “God, our own God, shall bless us.” There are the actings of an appropriating faith in words like these. But this is not all which these cheering words express. The social character of this prayer may not be passed over in silence. It is “Our Father.” The social character of religion is too little known by the men of the world, and appreciated too little by Christians. True piety has indeed much to do with individual character and obligations. It cannot exist without secret meditation, and solitary communion with God. Yet is it designed to call into exercise and consecrate all the social principles of our nature. There are common interests, and there are individual interests, to be prosecuted in joint supplication. God is not only the hearer of prayer, but the hearer of social prayer. The social relations flourish only under the genial influence of Christianity. They have never been known in their purity in Pagan lands, however elevated by science, and refined by the courtesies of life. The gospel alone purifies and elevates them, and gives them principle. “Our Father who art in heaven!” how strong the bond! Here the worst affections are subdued, and the best called into exercise. The powers of earth and sin are here subdued, suspicion and jealousy, envy and hatred. Nor may the thought be lost sight of, that union is the soul and strength of prayer. If “united action is powerful action,” so is united prayer powerful prayer. Why should the social principle be pressed into every other service, save the service of God; and why, while men associate for the purposes of business, pleasure, literature, accomplishments, science, and the arts, are there so few associations for prayer? Shall every other society be sought, rather than the society of God’s children? There is also in this brief address a sublime ascription. “Our Father, who art in heaven! “The Divine Being is not confined either to the heavens or the earth. He filleth all in all”: He is in heaven; highly exalted as God over all; reigning there in invisible majesty, and dwelling in light that is inaccessible and full of glory. He is venerable for His greatness. He decks Himself with light as with a garment, and is arrayed in majesty and excellency. There is great imperfection in earthly parents compared with God. Earthly parents know not how to adapt their bounty at all times to the wants of their children. There is no such defect, and no such mistake with God. But nothing restricts God’s power to give: giving does not impoverish, withholding does not enrich Him. The love of earthly parents is strong; it survives separation, annihilates distance, forgives disobedience, rebellion, and neglect. It does not perish even with the infamy of its objects, nor will it yield its claims to the stern and inevitable demands of the grave. It outlives life; feeds on recollected joys and hopes, and lavishes on the marble and on the turf that tenderness of which the dead are unconscious. It is a self-sacrificing and uncomplaining, coveting even weariness, and watchings, and pain for those it loves. But it is not indestructible. Let the spirit of this first sentence in the Lord’s prayer counsel us to cherish more befitting impressions of the God we worship. He is no unbending tyrant, no hard master; but the best and kindest of fathers. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Our Father

1. Christ here teacheth us to call God “Our Father”; and by God’s providence and fatherly goodness we are incorporated as it were and kneaded together, that by softness of disposition, by friendly communication, by mutual praying, we may transfuse ourselves one into another, and receive from others into ourselves. And in this we place the communion of saints.

2. In the participation of those privileges and characters which Christ hath granted and the Spirit sealed, calling us to the same faith, baptizing us in the same laver, leading us by the same rule, filling us with the same grace, sealing to us the same pardon, upholding us with the same hope.

3. In those offices and duties which Christ hath made common, which Christ requires of His Church: “Where my fear watcheth not only for myself, but stands sentinel for others; my sorrow drops not down for my own sins alone, but for the sins of my brethren; my joy as full with others’ joy; and my devotion is importunate and restless for the whole Church.” I cry aloud for my brother, and his prayers are the echo of my cry. We are all joined together in this word noster, when we call God “our Father.” (A. Farindon.)

Love abroad

Our love is so chained to ourselves that she cannot reach forth a hand to others. She is active and vocal at home, but hath the cramp and cannot breathe for the welfare of our brethren, impetu cogitationis in nobis ipsis consumpto, “having consumed and spent herself at home.” (A. Farindon.)

Of applying God’s Fatherhood to ourselves

A particular persuasion of God’s fatherly affection to ourselves is then especially requisite when we pray unto Him. We cannot in truth say unto Him, “Our Father” without such a persuasion. The benefits of that particular persuasion are great and manifold. For--

1. It distinguisheth the sound faith of true saints from the counterfeit faith of formal professors and trembling faith of devils. They may believe that God is a Father, but they cannot believe that God is their Father.

2. It maketh us more boldly to come to the throne of grace. “I will go to my Father.”

3. It maketh us to rest upon God more confidently for provision for all things needful, and protection from all things hurtful. For this particular relation of God’s fatherhood to us showeth that God taketh an especial care of us, to whom the promise of God’s care especially belongeth.

4. It doth much uphold us in all distresses.

5. It strengtheneth our faith in all the properties and works of God.

6. It affordeth much comfort against our manifold infirmities.

7. All that can be said of God’s fatherhood will bring no comfort to a man unless he can apply it to himself. Children do not go to a man for the things they want because he is a father of other children, but because he is their own father. (William Gouge.)

God hath abundance of blessing for all

Concerning the abundance of blessing which this our common Father hath, it appeareth to be sufficient for all, in that Christ directeth all to go to Him, and that for others as well as for themselves, and not to fear to put Him in mind that He is the Father of others as well as of ourselves, and that He hath others to bless as well as us. So as God is not like Isaac, who had bet one blessing, and having therewith blessed one son, could not bless the other. He is as a springing fountain which ever remaineth full, and continueth to overflow, though never so much be taken out of it. Men that are very chary in keeping standing ponds private to themselves suffer springs to flow in common for others. Thus doth God’s fatherly bounty flow out to all that in faith come to partake thereof. (William Gouge.)

Of God’s being in heaven

How is God’s greatness set forth? By His mansion place which is in heaven. A mansion place is an usual means of greatness or meanness. When we see a little thatched ruinous cottage we may imagine that he is a poor mean person that dwelleth there. Thus Eliphas setteth out the baseness of men who “dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust.” But if we see a fair and stately palace, we think that he is a great personage that inhabiteth there. Great Nebuchadnezzar did thus set out his own greatness: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom and for the honour of my majesty?” Many do so pervert this description of God’s greatness, as thereby they much impeach the excellency of His majesty. For--

1. Some thence infer that God may be circumscribed and compassed in a place.

2. Others thence infer that He is so high as He cannot see the things below, which Eliphas noteth to be the mind of the profane in his time who say, “Is not God in the height of heaven? How doth God know?”

3. Others thence infer that though it be granted that God secth the earth and all things done thereon, yet He ordereth them not, which was the conceit of many philosophers.

Why is God thus set forth?

1. To make our souls ascend as high as possibly can be when we pray unto Him. Above heaven our thoughts cannot ascend.

2. To distinguish God from earthly parents, and to show that He is far more excellent than they, even as heaven is higher than the earth, and things in heaven more excellent than things on earth.

3. To show that He is free from all earthly infirmities, and from that changeableness whereunto things on earth are subject.

4. To set Him forth in the most glorious manner that can be. As kings are most glorious in their thrones, so is God in heaven, which is His throne.

5. Because His glory is most manifested as in heaven, so from heaven.

What direction doth it give for the manner for prayer?

1. That in prayer we conceive no image of God. For whereunto can He, who is in heaven, be resembled?

2. That we conceive no earthly or carnal thing of God who is in heaven.

3. That we measure not God, His Word, nor works by the last of our reason. He is in heaven; we on earth. This, therefore, is to measure things heavenly with an earthly measure, which is too Scanty.

4. That we apply all the goodness of earthly parents to God after a transcendent and supereminent manner. For as the heaven is higher than the earth, so great is His mercy, &c.

5. That with all reverence we prostrate ourselves before God our Father in heaven.

6. That we make no place a pretext to keep us from prayer. For as the heaven and the sun therein is everywhere over us so as we cannot withdraw ourselves out of the compass thereof, so much more is God in every place over us. Is our Father which is in heaven tied to one country, or to one place in a country more than to another? An heathenish conceit[

For the heathen imagined their Apollo, from whom they received their oracles to be at Delphi, Cuma, Dodona, and such other places.

7. That we lift up pure hearts in prayer. For heaven, where God is on His throne of grace, and whither our souls in prayer ascend, is a pure and holy place.

8. That our prayers be made with a holy subjection to God’s will.

9. That in faith we lift up eyes, hands, and hearts into heaven.

10. That our prayers be so sent forth as they may pierce the heavens where God is. This is to be done with extension not of voice, but of spirit. The shrillest sound of any trumpet cannot reach unto the highest heaven, nor the strongest report of any cannon. But ardency of spirit can pierce to the throne of grace.

11. That we pray with confidence in God’s almighty power.

12. That we pray with courage, not fearing what any on earth can do to hinder the fruit and success of our prayers. (William Gouge.)

Of the direction which God’s being in heaven giveth us for the matter of prayer

What direction doth this placing of God in heaven give us for the matter of prayer? It teacheth us what things especially to ask.

1. Things of weight and worth meet for such a Majesty to give. When subjects prefer a petition to their sovereign sitting on his throne, or chair of estate, they do not use to make suit for pins or points. This were dishonourable to his majesty. Shall we then make suit to this highest Majesty being in heaven for toys and trifles? Shall a dice-player pray that he may win his fellow’s money? Shall an angry man pray to God that he may be revenged on him with whom he is angry? Shall any one desire God to satisfy his lusts?

2. From this placing of God in heaven we are taught to crave things heavenly, which are

As when a man purchaseth manors and lands, the wood in hedgerows for fire-boot, plough-boot, and other like purposes is given in the gross. Or more plainly, when a man buyeth spice, fruit, comfits, of any such commodities, paper and packthread is given into the bargain. So if thou get heavenly blessings, temporal things, so far as they are needful for thee, shall be cast in.

3. From placing God in heaven we are taught to crave heaven it§elf, that we may be where our Father is, and where we may most fully enjoy His glorious presence. (William Gouge.)

Our Father which art

From the greatness of His love to us when we call Him Father. From the liberal communication of His goodness to us in that we say “Our Father.” From the immutability of His essence, intimated in these words, Qui es, “Which art.” From the high domination and power He hath over us when we say In Coelis, “Which art in heaven.” (Archdeacon King.)

“Our,” better than mine and thine

Meum and Tuum, these words, “Mine” and “Thine,” have been the seeds of envy and contention ever since the world was habitable. From these little grains hath the law’s large harvest grown up. These were they which at first invented, and ever since exercised our terms--the common barristers, causes of all rents and schisms in the commonwealth’s body. These have blown the coals of strife, occasioned brothers to go to law with brothers, nay, brothers to destroy one another. If Abel should have asked Cain upon what quarrel he killed him, he could have stated his controversy in no other terms but Meum and Tuum--“Thy sacrifice is better accepted than mine.” These have been the accursed removers of neighbours’ bounds and landmarks, have entitled the vigilant oppressor to another’s patrimony. These were the bloody depositions that cost Naboth his life; had he relinquished his right to the vineyard, and not called it mine--“I will not give thee my vineyard”--he had preserved a friend of Jezebel and a life too. These two little monosyllables, “mine” and “thine,” they are the great monopolists that span the wide world, that, like Abraham and Lot, divide the land betwixt them, yet cannot agree, but are ever wrangling and quarrelling about their shares; like these two factious brethren, Eteocles and Polyniees, who never could be reconciled, living nor dead, for when they had slain one the other, and were put on one hearse, one funeral pile, their ashes fought, and the flames that burnt the bodies, as sensible of the mortal feud which was betwixt them living, divided themselves. How many actions and suits begun upon these terms “mine” and “thine” have survived those that commenced them first, and descended from the great-grandfather to the heir in the fourth generation? Since then these two had occasioned so much strife, so much mischief in the politic body, Christ would not have them admitted to make any faction or rent in the mystical body of the Church. But as He was the Reconciler of God and man by His blood, so would He show Himself the Reconciler of man and man, shutting up all opposition of mine and thine in this one word, as the common peacemaker, Noster, Our Father. (William Gouge.)

A lesson of humility

He would not have any to prize themselves so much as to scorn and disvalue all below them. God is a God of the valleys as well as the hills, nor is He a Father of the rich and noble, but of the poor too. Be their qualities and degrees never so different in the account of the world, summed up in the account of this prayer, they are all even. As but one sacrifice was appointed for the rich and poor, so Christ hath appointed but one prayer, but one appellation for them all, Pater Nester, Our Father. The king and the beggar, the lord and the slave, all concur and say, “Our Father.” God is no partial Father, nor is His ear partial; He hears and accepts the one as soon as the other. For our prayers do not ascend in their ranks, nor doth the poor man’s petition stay to let the great ones go before; but when we pray, God comprehends us all under one common notion of sons and suitors. (William Gouge.)

God our Father

The spirit of adoption is shed abroad in our hearts, and its cry is “Abba, Father.” Now I need not say, I am sure, that of all feelings in the world there is none which is so likely to exhibit itself by outward signs and proofs as this--none so impossible to conceal, and of the existence of which, in consequence, we need have so little doubt. In the first place, then, let us see what proofs there may be of this love of God within us I First, as a matter of course, like any other passion or strong feeling which takes possession of us, it will be constantly present to us. Let the urgent business be over, and the burthen, so to say, removed from the mind, it returns like an unstrung bow instantly to its own bent. It delights to recover its liberty, and those beloved thoughts which for the moment had been driven into the background, resume their natural place, and become the first without an effort. Thus it is, as we all know, that the man of pleasure finds thoughts of pleasure uppermost; he does not seek for them; they come. The man whose heart is set on gain finds worldly speculations occupying him whether he will or not, I believe without exception, and so on through all the varieties of human pursuit! The favourite thought comes! Now this is what I mean in regard to God. In all the intervals which our worldly occupations leave, which in those whose hearts are not given up to them, are very many, it is the thought of our heavenly Father which presents itself most naturally and unaffectedly to us. Secondly. There is another principle which flows naturally out of this constant presence of the thought of God in our secret souls, and it is one of the most delightful, if not the most so, which comes out of those treasures of grace which enrich the converted soul, even the feeling of trust, an entire confidence without reserve or drawback, in Him whom we love. It is just that sort of reliance, without check or a doubt of suspicion, which you see in an innocent child towards an affectionate parent. Thirdly. Another proof of the love of God, as a real living principle within us, is the readiness with which men encounter difficulties, or make what the world calls sacrifices of gain or pleasure, in order to further the holy will of Him whom they serve. Fourthly. Another evidence of the love of God or not, is the delight, or otherwise, with which the soul traces out in all things the signs of God’s presence, and the proof of His manifold mercies towards us. Finally, there is another sign of this love of God, which is, perhaps, the strongest and best of all. I mean love to other men’s souls, and a longing for their eternal happiness. (J. Garbett, M. A.)

Hallowed be Thy name

On hallowing God’s name

1. A man does not hallow the name of God who does not speak of Him most reverently. He helps to hallow it who endeavours to prevent others from profaning it.

2. The man who would hallow the name of God should be very diligent in publicly worshipping Him: he who is diligent in attending on the public worship of God thereby honours God Himself, and also protests against the conduct of those who honour Him not; and may not he who wishes to hallow the name of God do something by his influence towards persuading others to hallow it?

3. Every man who wishes to do as he prays should be careful to honour God in his household; the master of a house should hallow God’s name by daily gathering his family about him, and praising Him and making supplication before Him; he should hallow God’s name, too, by teaching his children to fear it, by bringing them up in the fear of it; he should make it his constant effort that God should be recognized as the Lord of that house that His name should be hallowed in his family however it may be profaned in others. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

Hallowing God’s name

This petition relates to what is called “declarative glory”--a prayer that God’s name may be made known, and honoured by all His creatures.

1. The desire that God’s name may be “hallowed” implies that we have a just sense of His majesty and holiness. He who is really anxious for the honour of God’s name will respect His Holy Word, His house, His day, His sacraments, and all the institutions of His Church.

2. The petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is a prayer that all people may learn to love and obey that gracious Father in whose service we find such freedom and delight.

3. This petition should also remind us of the various ways in which our Heavenly Father is treated with disrespect and contempt.

4. Once more, the petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” may be regarded as a devout response of faith and hope to the prophet’s vision of coming glory Malachi 1:2).

Two classes of persons should consider the subject of this sermon as applicable to them.

1. It speaks loudly to those who, while living upon the daily bounty of a gracious providence, to all intents and purposes ignore the very existence of God. The greatest miracle in the world is our heavenly Father’s patience toward the unthankful and the evil.

2. Must not even the professed followers of Christ acknowledge, with deep mortification, their own neglect to promote the honour of God? (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The petition for the advancement of God’s glory

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE NAME OF GOD. The “name” of God is any perfection ascribed to Him, whereby He has been pleased to make Himself known to men.

1. God’s titles are His name.

2. God’s attributes are His name. And there are two ways whereby God has made known Himself and His name to us: by His works and by His Word.

II. WHAT IT IS TO HALLOW THIS NAME OF GOD. We can add nothing to His infinite perfections, nor to the lustre and brightness of His crown; yet then are we said to sanctify and glorify God, when, in our most reverend thoughts, we observe and admire His holiness and the bright coruscations of His attributes; and when we endeavour by all holy ways to declare them unto others, that they may observe and admire them with us and give unto God that holy veneration which is due unto Him.

III. WHAT IS CONTAINED IS THIS PETITION.

1. In that Christ hath taught us to make this the first petition in our prayer to God, we may learn that the glory of God is to be preferred by us before all other things whatsoever.

2. In that this petition is placed in the beginning of the Lord’s prayer, it intimates to us that in the very beginning and entrance of our prayers, we ought to beg assistance from God, so to perform holy duties that God may be glorified and His name sanctified by us in it. It is a good and needful request to beg of God the aid and help of His Spirit to enable us to hallow His name in the succeeding requests we are to make.

3. Observe that when we present this petition before God we beg three things of Him.

Hallowing God’s name

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE NAME OF GOD.

1. God Himself. Names are put for persons.

2. Everything whereby He makes Himself known to His creatures.

II. IN WHAT SENSE GOD’S NAME IS TO BE HALLOWED OR SANCTIFIED. Not effectively. “Holy is His name”; it cannot be made more so.

2. But manifestly and declaratively, viz., when the holiness of His name is manifested, declared, shown, and acknowledged, “They shall sanctify My Isaiah 29:23). The holy name in the dark parts of the earth andin the dark men of the earth is a candle under a bushel; it has a glorious light, but it is not seen; the bushel being removed, and the splendour breaking forth to open view, it is hallowed; men then show, declare, and acknowledge it.

III. WHY GOD’S NAME IS SAID TO BE HALLOWED OR SANCTIFIED RATHER THAN GLORIFIED.

1. Because God’s holiness is His glory in a peculiar manner.

2. Because it is the manifesting of His holiness, in the communicating of it to the creature, that brings in the greatest revenue of glory from the creature to God. The truth is, none are fit to glorify Him but those who are 1 Peter 2:9).

IV. THE IMPORT OF THIS PETITION God’s name is hallowed--

1. By Himself, manifesting the glory of His holy name. And this He doth in all the discoveries which He makes of Himself to His creatures.

2. By His creatures, they contributing to His glory, by showing forth His praise, and declaring the glory of His name. So we pray in this petition.

V. WHY IS THIS PETITION PUT BY OUR SAVIOUR FIRST INTO OUR MOUTHS? The reason is, because the glory of God or honour of His name is the chief end of our being and of all others. And therefore it should lie nearest our hearts (Romans 11:36). Inferences--

1. The dishonour done to God by one’s own sin and the sins of others must needs go near the heart of a saint (Psalms 51:4).

2. Habitual profaners of that holy name are none of the children of God, whose main care is to get that name hallowed.

3. Holiness is the creature’s glory, and its greatest glory, for it is God’s glory, and therefore unholiness is its disgrace and dishonour. (T. Boston, D. D.)

What the first petition implies

I. We must pray that God will enable us to sanctify Him in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

1. In our hearts. We must pray that holiness to the Lord, the holy Lord God, may be engraven there. We must pray further: that we may always maintain in our hearts a reverent esteem of God, as a Being of infinite, unblemished purity, &c.

2. We must likewise pray, that we may sanctify the name of God with the tongue.

3. We are here directed to pray, that we may sanctify the name of God by practical obedience.

II. We must likewise pray, that God by His providence will dispose of all things for His own glory, as the universal Lord and Ruler, of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things, and whose throne is for ever and ever; who has the hearts of all in His hand, universal nature at His command, from the meanest worm or insect to the highest of all the angelic orders in heaven; and who has wisdom and power sufficient to govern all in the best manner and to promote the best end. (John Whitty.)

The hallowing of God’s name

I. THE TERMS OF THE PRAYER. To implore that God’s name may be hallowed, is to ask that it may be treated with due reverence, as befits the holy. In heaven it is so treated (Isaiah 6:3). But what is God’s “name”? It stands for His character, and includes all those signs and deeds by which God makes known to us His moral essence;--all the manifestations which He has given of His nature and purposes;--as well as in the narrower sense of the titles and appellations which He has chosen to proclaim as His own. As His Scripture, or His Word, is a fuller and clearer manifestation of His character than is contained in this material structure--the handiwork of God, the visible Creation; so, consequently, this volume of Divine Scripture and the revelation there made are an important part of His name. As the Son, in His incarnation, yet more clearly” and yet more nearly manifested God, He, the embodying Messiah, is called the Word of God.

For as the word or speech is the embodiment of human thought, so His humanity was the embodiment of the Divine thought, or rather, of the Divine Spirit. Moses had, when sheltered in the cleft of the rock, heard the name proclaimed. Elijah caught its “still, small voice.” But Christ was the distinct, full, and loud utterance of the name--articulate, legible, and tangible--complete and enduring. And all the institutions which Christ Himself established, or which His apostles after Him ordained by His authority, since those institutions bear His name, or illustrate His character, are to be regarded as coming within the scope of the text.

II. THE SINS CONDEMNED BY THIS PETITION.

1. The profanity which trifles with God’s name and titles is evidently most irreligious; and it is, though so rife a sin, most unnatural, however easily and however often it be committed. Other sins may plead the gratification of some strong inclination--the promise of enjoyment or of profit, which they bring with them, and the storm of emotion sweeping the tempted into them. But what of gain or of pleasure may be hoped from the thoughtless and irreverent--the trivial or the defiant use of that dread name, which angels utter with adoring awe? That the sin is so unprovoked adds to its enormity. That it is so common, fearfully illustrates the wide removal which sin has made of man’s sympathies from the God to whom he owes all good;--rendering him forgetful alike of his obligations for past kindnesses, and of his exposure to the coming judgment. How murderously do men guard the honour of their own paltry names, and how keenly would they resent, on the part of a fellow-sinner, though their equal, the heartlessness that should continually, in his narratives, and jests, and falsehoods, call into use the honour of a buried father, and the purity of a revered and departed mother, and employ them as the expletive or emphatic portions of his speech--the tacks to bestud and emboss his frivolous talk. And is the memory of an earthly, and inferior, and erring parent deserving of more regard than that of the Father in heaven, the All-holy, and the Almighty, and the All-gracious? And if profanity be evil, what is perjury, but a daring endeavour to make the God of truth and justice an accomplice in deception and robbery? The vain repetitions of superstitious and formal prayer; the acted devotions of the theatre, when the dramatist sets up worship on the stage as a portion of the entertainment; and the profane intermixture in some Christian poets of the gods of heathenism with the true Maker and Ruler of Heaven, re-installing, as poets both Protestant and Catholic have done, the Joves and Apollos, the Minervas and Venuses of a guilty mythology, in the existence and honour, of which

Christianity had stript them--will not be passed over, as venial lapses, in the day when the Majesty of heaven shall make inquisition of guilt and requisition for vengeance. And so, as to those institutions upon which Jehovah has put His name, just as an earthly monarch sets his seal and broad arrow on edict and property, the putting to profane and common uses what God has claimed for sacred purposes, betrays an evident failure to hallow His name.

2. But from the sins in act, which this prayer denounces, let us pass to the sins more secret, but if possible yet more deadly, those of thought--the errors and idolatries of the heart. Jehovah’s chosen and most august domain is that where human legislators cannot enter or even look--the hidden world of man’s soul. And in the speculations, and in the mute and veiled affections of that inner sphere, how much may God be profaned and provoked.

III. Consider the DUTIES to which this prayer, for a hallowing of our Father’s name, pledges us.

1. As, in order to hallow God’s name, we must ourselves become holy, repentance and regeneration are evidently required to acceptable service before the Lord our God. Are Christians called vessels of the house of God? It is needful that they be purified “to become vessels meet for the Master’s use.”

2. And, as a consequence of this growing holiness, Christians must grow in lowliness and self-abasement.

3. Pledged thus to holiness, and to lowliness as a consequence of understanding the true nature and the wide compass of holiness, Christians are again, in crying to their Father for the sanctification of His name, pledged to solicitude for the conversion of the world. (W. R.Williams, D. D.)

The sacred name

What “name” is this that our Lord here teaches us to “hallow” in our prayers? God has been known by many names. He was first revealed as Elohim, the God of nature, the Creator--a name to which in the early Scriptures no moral attributes are attached. He was known also to the early patriarchs as El-Schaddai--the God Almighty. He was known also as the Holy One of Israel, and as the Lord of Hosts. Above all, He declared Himself by that name which in our version is rendered Jehovah--or for which the word LORD in small capitals is substituted,--which seems to mean the Self-existent and Eternal Being. And now Jesus teaches us to address Him as our Father. Which of these names are we here bidden to hallow? As soon as we ask this question, it at once becomes plain that “name” is not used herein the narrow verbal sense of which we have been speaking, but in a wider and larger sense. It is not merely the letters and syllables that spell the name by which God is known, that our Lord teaches us here to sanctify. The petition includes, I suppose, all the names by which God has revealed Himself. There is no word that is large enough to hold all the truth that God has told men about Himself. He must needs choose many different words under which to declare to men different attributes and phases of His character. And when all these words are uttered, the half is not told. And it is not only by words that He has made Himself known. In the order and the beauty of the universe He discloses Himself; in the movements of the race; in the person of His Son; and in the heart of the humble and contrite believer. Indeed the whole of creation, the whole of providence, the whole of history, is simply God’s method of revealing Himself. Now, as I understand this first petition, it includes the thought that all these distinct but conspiring revelations of God are to be reverenced. Whatever helps us to a fuller knowledge of Him--His nature, His character, His purposes, His works--ought to be held sacred. But the name of God stands for God Himself, and I suppose that when we intelligently offer this prayer we express the desire not only that the various revelations which God has made to men may be reverently treated, but that God Himself may be honoured in our thoughts and in our conduct. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

On hallowing God’s name

To hallow is either to make holy or to consider and recognize as holy. We cannot by our words nor by our deeds add any essential holiness to the Holy One of Israel; but we can think holy thoughts about Him; we can sanctify Him in our hearts. And in this petition we are taught to ask that our thoughts of God may be freed from error and cleansed from corruption; that our conception of His character may be corrected and enlarged and hallowed, so that it shall come nearer to the ineffable Divine reality. Moreover, the name of the Lord is hallowed, by our adding, as we can, to the respect and honour in which His name is held among men. The true child of God desires that all men should love and revere his Father in heaven; that not only the goodly fellowship of the prophets, &c., should praise Him, but that all men everywhere should honour Him; that earth as well as heaven should be filled with the majesty of His glory.

1. We cause His name to be hallowed in the earth by telling the truth about Him. One reason why many men do not hallow His name is simply that they do not understand His character. They have been told many things about Him that are not true. You are not hallowing the name of God when you make statements about Him which give the impression that He is unjust, or tyrannical, or cruel.

2. We can cause His name to be hallowed, also, by showing men that we honour and love Him. Good as well as bad sentiments are contagious. The unconscious influence of reverent hearts and praising lives will help to lift the thoughts of others to the same sublime realities.

3. Of praising lives, I said. For it is not chiefly by the reverent demeanour and the devout speech of God’s children that the glory of their Father is promoted, but by the fidelity and nobility and beauty of their conduct. If we proclaim that He is our Father, then those who do not acknowledge Him will look to see what manner of spirit we are of. And if in our lives men see the purity and truth, the manliness and honour, the fidelity and charity that belong to all who learn of Him and abide in His fellowship and are transformed into His image, they cannot help honouring Him in whom we live and move and have our being. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Selfishness excluded

This first petition of the Lord’s prayer, without saying anything about it, deals a most effective blow at the central evil of human nature--our selfishness. Men are apt to be nearly as selfish in their religion, nearly as egotistic in their prayers, as in any other part of their lives. But this petition turns their thoughts wholly away from themselves. “Our Father, who art in heaven,” we say; and now that our thought is lifted up to the Infinite Giver, what shall we ask for first? For the easing of our pains, the supply of our wants, the pardon of our sins, the saving of our souls, the welfare of our friends? No; these are things to ask for, but not first. “Hallowed by Thy name”! Away from ourselves to God our thought is quickly turned. “Begin to pray,” this petition says, “by ceasing to think of yourselves; by remembering that your small personality is not the centre round which this universe revolves.” “Seek first the kingdom,” &c., is the Master’s great command, and here He frames it into the first petition of the prayer that is to be always on our lips. “After this manner, therefore pray ye. Self must be the fulcrum on which your prayer will rest, but it is not the power that lifts you heavenward. It is by looking out and not in, up and not down, that a man escapes from the bondage of sin into the liberty of the sons of God. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Some things upon which God has recorded His name

1. Outward nature is stamped with the Divine name. Our Lord set us the example of sending worshipful thoughts to the Heavenly Father at the hint of the grass, the lilies, the sparrows, our hair, fountains, clouds, &c. The man of science ought to be the most devout of all, for, as Max Muller says: “The eye of man catches the eye of God beaming out from the midst of all His works.”

2. Our human nature bears the name of God. To revere God fully, I must revere His image in myself. To abuse my nature in any way is blasphemy. Especially are conscience, the impulse to pure love, faith, hope, &c., Divine characters impressed upon us, to ignore or debauch any of which is sacrilege.

3. Providences, especially those in connection with our own lives, are to us God’s names. Every blessing is a souvenir inscribed with the name of the Giver; and every affliction is the branding which the Great Shepherd of our souls has put upon us to mark us and assure us that we are His.

4. The Bible bears God’s name. It is a series of His Fatherly letters to us.

5. Jesus Christ is, above all, the name of God, which could only be articulated in the pulsations of a grand life. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

Hallowing God’s name

God’s name--that is, His nature or character. It is for the hallowing of this that Jesus teaches us to pray. Not that God’s name can be more truly holy in itself at one time than another. The name of the Holy One of Israel is always equally holy in itself; just as the sun is always equally hot and glorious. To us, however, the sun is sometimes hotter and sometimes colder, sometimes brighter, and sometimes less bright; sometimes, too, we lose sight of it altogether, and are left in night and darkness. So it is with God’s name. Though in itself it is always holy, all-holy, yet by us sinners it is more reverenced and more hallowed at one time than another. There is a summer of the soul, when we look in the sunshine of God’s countenance; and there is also a winter of the soul, when our souls are cold and wither for the want of His cheering, enlivening presence. There is a night, too, of the soul, when we lose all sense and feeling of His holiness, and are, as it were, left in the darkness of sin. Therefore, in praying that God’s name may he hallowed, we pray that there may be no more spiritual winter, no more spiritual darkness, but that the souls of all men may at all times feel the same bright and gladdening sense of God’s true nature and character; we pray that all men may at all times think of God truly as He is. Now there is much need, believe me, of praying for this.

I. There is much need of praying that we may all of us always cherish true and holy and reverent thoughts about God.

1. The hardened sinner dishonours God’s name, by robbing Him of His justice and hatred against sin.

2. The despairing sinner dishonours God in another way, by forgetting His mercy and lovingkindness. When we pray that God’s name may be hallowed among the sons of men, we pray, in other words, that they may have such a true and lively sense both of His justice and of His mercy, as may lead them at once to fear and to love Him.

II. But since we are made up of soul and body, not only does it behove us to sanctify and hallow our Father and Saviour in our hearts and souls, we must also hallow Him with our bodies, and with outward actions-for instance, with our tongues and voices--by telling forth all His praise, especially by joining in the public service of the Church.

III. Let us hallow God’s name by reverencing everything belonging to Him, His Word, His day, His sacraments, His ministers, His people. (A. W. Hare.)

Religious reverence

Reasons for the decline of it.

1. Technical theology, in attempting to delineate the Divine attributes, has dwarfed them, by using about them terms that describe human necessities and limitations, even human infirmities and passions.

2. There are certain stages of scientific research that are unfavourable to religious awe and devotion. Reverence and science have, however, no essential antagonism, and cannot be permanently or long divorced.

3. Another reason for the decline of reverence among us has been the decline of parental authority and domestic discipline.

4. There is also a style of religious instruction for the young which generates irreverence. I refer to the mania for explanation, which belittles all that is great, and degrades all that is lofty in the endeavour to make truths vast as immensity and eternity comprehensible by the youngest and feeblest mind. (Prof. Peabody, D. D. , LL. D.)

The primal obligation of reverence

If there is One, by and in whom alone I live, to whom my whole consciousness lies open, whose power and love throb alike in every pulse of light from the far-off stars, and in every beat of my own heart; to whom there is no far nor near, no great nor small; to whom my least needs are known, and my least desires precious; who is to me more than I can comprehend in the dearest names of human love, and is no less the tender and compassionate Father of myriads upon myriads in every realm of His universe--to feel all this is to worship and adore, and to say, in profoundest reverence, “Hallowed be Thy name.” (Prof. Peabody, D. D. , LL. D.)

Irreverence in speech

Trifling with a name is disrespect to the person to whom it belongs. In the filial relation irreverence of speech and the corresponding deficiency in conduct uniformly coincide, the two being reciprocally cause and effect. The former, however, would of itself produce the latter. Were a son who really honoured his father and mother tempted by bad example to talk flippantly about them, and to call them by names unworthy so sacred a relation, irreverence in feeling and conduct would be the swift and inevitable consequence. The Hebrews dared not pronounce, even on solemn occasions or in reading the Scriptures, Jehovah, the most sacred name of God--a reticence which must have made blasphemy the rarest of sins. Would that we might take a lesson from them as to the needless use of the Divine name, even at sacred times and on sacred themes, much more as to its utterance on ordinary occasions! The frivolous or profane use of that name cannot long co-exist with a reverent spirit. Early and of necessity it lapses into practical atheism. It is a social offence against which no stress of indignation can be excessive. As lese-majeste against the Sovereign of the universe, it is the climax of human audacity. As a sin against one’s soul, I will not say that it is irreparable; for I do not believe that recuperative power is denied to any being under the reign of infinite love; but of all forms of guilt and wrong it has this bad preeminence, that it fouls the only fountain for its own cleansing, desecrates the very shrine before which lowly, awe-stricken worship is its only token of repentance and condition of forgiveness. (Prof. Peabody, D. D. , LL. D.)

Of the first petition in the Lord’s prayer

This petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is set in the forefront, to show that the hallowing of God’s name is to be preferred to all things.

I. It is to be preferred before life: we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” before we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When some of the other petitions shall be useless and out of date; we shall not need to pray in heaven, “Give us our daily bread,” because there shall be no hunger; nor, “Forgive us our trespasses,” because there shall be no sin; nor, “Lead us not into temptation,” because the old serpent is not there to tempt: yet the hallowing of God’s name shall be of great use and request in heaven; we shall be ever singing hallelujahs, which is nothing else but the hallowing of God’s name. Every Person in the blessed Trinity--God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--must have this honour, to be hallowed; Their glory being equal, and Their majesty co-eternal--“Hallowed be Thy name.”

1. What is meant by God’s name?

2. What is meant by hallowing God’s name? To hallow, is to set apart a thing from the common use to some sacred end. As the vessels of the sanctuary were said to be hallowed, so to hallow God’s name, is to set it apart from all abuses, and to use it holily and reverently. In particular, hallowing of God’s name is to give Him high honour and veneration, and render His name sacred. When a prince is crowned, there is something added really to his honour; but when we go to crown God with our triumphs and hallelujahs, there is nothing added to His essential glory; God cannot be greater than He is, only we may make Him appear greater in the eyes of others.

8. When may we be said to hallow and sanctify God’s name?

God, gives Him His titles of honour--“Blessed be the most high God”; “Blessed be Thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

(10) We hallow and sanctify God’s name when we lift up God’s name in our praises. God is said to sanctify, and man is said to sanctify. God sanctifies us by giving us grace, and we sanctify Him by giving Him praise. Especially, it is a high degree of hallowing God’s name, when we can speak wall of God, and bless Him in an afflicted state--“The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!” Many will bless God when He gives, but to bless Him when He takes away is in an high degree to honour God and hallow His name.

(11) We hallow and sanctify God’s name when we sympathize with Him; we grieve when His name suffers.

(a) We lay to heart His dishonour. How was Moses affected with God’s dishonour! He broke the tables.

(b) We grieve when God’s Church is brought low, because now God’s name suffers.

(12) We hallow and sanctify God’s name when we give such honour to God the Son as we give to God the Father.

(13) We hallow God’s name by standing up for His truths. Much of God’s glory lies in His truths; God’s truths are His oracles. God’s truths set forth His glory; now when we are zealous advocates for God’s truths, this is an honour done to God’s name.

(14) We hallow and sanctify God’s name, by making as many proselytes as we can to Him; when, by all holy expedients, counsel, prayer, example, we endeavour the salvation of others.

(15) We hallow God’s name when we prefer the honour of God’s name before the dearest things.

(a) We prefer the honour of God’s name before our own credit. This is a hallowing God’s name, when we are content to have our name eclipsed, that God’s name may shine the more.

(b) We prefer the honour of God’s name before our worldly profit anti interest--“We have forsaken all and followed Thee.”

(c) We prefer the honour of God’s name before our life--“For

Thy sake are we killed all the day long.”

(16) We do hallow and sanctify God’s name, by an holy conversation--“Ye are a royal priesthood, a peculiar people: that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you.”

1. See the true note and character of a godly person; he is a sanctifier of God’s name “Hallowed be Thy name.”

2. I may here take up a sad lamentation, and speak, as the Apostle Paul, weeping, to consider how God’s name, instead of being hallowed and sanctified, is dishonoured. Theodosius took it heinously when they threw dirt upon his statue; but now, which is far worse, disgrace is thrown upon the glorious name of Jehovah. Let us hallow and sanctify God’s name. Did we but see a glimpse of God’s glory, as Moses did in the rock, the sight of this would draw adoration and praise from us.

That we may be stirred up to this great duty, the hallowing, adoring, and sanctifying God’s name, consider--

1. It is the very end of our being. Why did God give us our life, but that our living may be a hallowing of His name? Why did He give us souls but to admire Him; and tongues, but to praise Him? The excellency of a thing is, when it attains the end for which it was made; the excellency of a star is to give light, of a plant to be fruitful; the excellency of a Christian, is to answer the end of his creation, which is to hallow God’s name, and live to that God by whom he lives.

2. God’s name is so excellent that it deserves to be hallowed--“How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!” “Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.” God is worthy of honour, love, adoration. We oft bestow titles of honour upon them that do not deserve them; but God is worthy to be praised; His name deserves hallowing. He is above all the honour and praise which the angels in heaven give Him.

3. We pray, “Hallowed be Thy name”: that is, let Thy name be honoured and magnified by us. Now, if We do not magnify His name, we contradict our own prayers.

4. Such as do not hallow God’s name, and bring revenues of honour to Him, God will get His honour upon them--“I will get Me honour upon Pharaoh.”

5. It will be no small comfort to us when we come to die that we have hallowed and sanctified God’s name: it was Christ’s comfort a little before His death; “I have glorified Thee on the earth.”’ (T. Watson.)

“Hallowed be Thy name”

Now there are two reasons why this prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is especially needful. The first springs from our own limitations as finite creatures. Sons of God though we are, we are finite, and God is infinite; and, therefore, our conceptions of Him will be commensurate with ourselves: that is to say, will be finite; and, so far, imperfect, meagre, unworthy. But there is a second reason why we ought to offer this prayer. “Hallowed be Thy name!” We are not only finite, and therefore, must necessarily have stinted conceptions of God; we are also fallen, and, therefore, must necessarily have sinful conceptions of Him. How we mistake God’s character, purposes, providences, justice, love, authority--in one word, His Fatherhood! To hallow our Heavenly Father’s name, then, is to have His name hallowed in the sphere of our own thoughts, feelings, desires, purposes, in a word, our characters. It is to pray: “Enlarged be our conceptions of Thee, O infinite One! Chastened be our feelings toward Thee, O Holy One! Exalted be our purposes in reference to Thee, O Mighty One! Celestialized be our characters before Thee, O All-seeing One!” Again: To hallow our Heavenly Father’s name is to have it hallowed in the sphere of our own words. Once more: To hallow our Heavenly Father’s name is to have it hallowed in the sphere of our own lives. For the life without answers to the life within. Our opinions concerning God control our practices. Remembering, then, that our lives represent our views of God, what constant need there is of praying: “Father, Hallowed be our lives!” In drawing our meditation to a conclusion, I ask you to observe. First--That the knowledge of God’s name has been an unfolding purpose. Again: The hallowing the Heavenly Father’s name is the purpose or final cause of creation itself. (G. D.Boardman, D. D.)

“Hallowed be Thy name”

Regarding this petition I have three remarks to make.

I. The PLACE which this petition occupies in the Lord’s prayer. It occupies the very first place, as the most important thing in all the prayer. There is a young artist, who has spent many a weary day on a painting, which, as his masterpiece, will, he hopes, secure for him both fame and fortune. No one may enter the room but himself. He carries the key in his pocket. His first thought is his picture. If any harm were to befall it, he would be a ruined man. But one day you see the smoke issuing from his house, and then the flame darts out, and all is in a blaze, There can be no coming back. Whatever he most values, each must seize at once, and run for life, so that the choice tells the value he attaches to his burden. Not a look does he cast at his precious piece of workmanship, but through smoke and flame you see him bearing, not the picture, but his old bedridden father!-so important to him as to eclipse all else. Now, just as the youth regarded the interests of his father, as momentous above all else, so what concerns God should, with every man, come before what concerns himself; and that, not as differing from, but as having pre-eminently to do with, himself. How often most of us have passed this great petition lightly by, with little thought of what it meant, and with little desire that our prayer should be granted, when we said, “Hallowed be Thy name.” And yet it concerned ourselves and others, the Church and the world, unspeakably more than anything of a temporal kind we could have asked.

II. The MEANING of this petition. The name of God is that by which He makes Himself known. I remark, that the prayer asks--

1. That God’s name may be known. Unless it be known, it cannot be hallowed. You have seen a person’s shadow: you could learn something about him even from that. You have seen one of those likenesses taken from the shadow which the head casts on the wall; you can gather something from that. But when you see a well-finished portrait, it makes all the difference. It is almost as good as seeing the person himself. Now God in His works gives us the shadow, the dim profile. But God in His Word, and, above all, God in His Son, Jesus Christ, gives us His likeness, His portrait, so that we find Jesus saying, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

2. That the name of God may be reverenced and honoured. He is the King; He is the Creator; He is God. He made all things. He upholds all things. The hosts of heaven praise Him night and day.

3. That the name of God may be loved. This is higher than the last.

III. The BEARING of this petition. See its bearing--

1. On the literal name of God. Everything pertaining to God is holy, and should be reverenced and honoured. Especially, “holy and reverend is His name.” We have here the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” turned into a prayer.

2. Its bearing on God’s House. Long ago, the temple was called the holy place, as the place where God had His dwelling.

3. Its bearing on God’s Word. The Bible is God’s letter, and may well be honoured and prized. And yet how often is it other wise, both with the book itself, and what it says! Look at the back of it, and what have you there? “The Holy Bible.” In all your dealings with your Bible, reading it or listening to it, or otherwise having to do with it, remember that word, “Hallowed be Thy name.”

4. Its bearing on God’s Day. It is called the Lord’s Day. He calls it, “My holy day.”

5. Its bearing on the Son of His love. This was the best of all God’s gifts--His only-begotten and well-beloved Son. He was peculiarly the name ofGod--the Revealer of the Father, regarding whom He says, “My name is in Him.” (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

The name of God hallowed

In expressing this first and greatest desire of every devout mind, it is of some importance to institute the inquiry, How is so desirable an end to be brought about? We confess our inability to honour God aright. We ask that He would make us fit to honour Him, and to give Him the glory which is due.

1. This is done, in the first place, by our becoming acquainted with God. Many a man fails of receiving due honour from his fellow-men, because he is not known. It needs but to become acquainted with his excellencies, in order to love and respect him. His excellencies may be unpresuming and retired, and need searching out; or they may be obscured by his humble condition or covered by a veil of prejudice, and require to be inspected by an impartial eye, that they may be appreciated, No man honours God while he remains ignorant of Him. We respect the Deity, from a consideration of His Divine excellence; nor can we fail, at least, to respect him, if we know Him.

2. The name of God is also hallowed by a reverential treatment of Him in our thoughts, words, and actions. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Low, unworthy thoughts of God, will lead neither to complacency, gratitude, nor honour.

3. God’s name is hallowed by a suitable regard to all His institutions and ordinances. Just as “truth is in order to goodness,” institutions are for the sake of principles. And such are all the institutions of a pure Christianity. The institutions which the Great Founder of religion has appointed, coincide with the great end for which the entire system of Christianity itself was revealed. They are the visible symbols of great and important principles, and the means by which they are advanced and perpetuated. The gospel cannot live without them. Prostrate these, and you exterminate true religion from the earth.

4. The name of God is also hallowed by the exhibitions which He Himself makes of His own excellence. When we pray that God’s name may be hallowed, we pray that He Himself would make it holy and venerable, by more and more extended and refulgent exhibitions of His glory. There is another general inquiry, the answer to which may serve still further to illustrate the import of this petition: Why does this petition hold so high a place in this summary of prayer; and why is it so desirable and important that God’s name should be hallowed? Great and eternal interests depend upon the honours of His name.

We shall dwell a few moments upon the reasons which justify these general remarks.

1. Our Heavenly Father’s name and honour are justly great and endeared. It is the greatest, most endeared name in the universe. Angels cannot bear to see it dishonoured, because He is God their Maker and Sovereign; His children cannot, because He is their Father, and they have all the honourable, honoured sentiments of children.

2. That God’s name should be hallowed, is also demanded by the great interests of holiness in our world.

3. Inseparable from these suggestions also is the thought that the happiness of creatures requires that God’s name should be hallowed. Let God be brought into view, and a holy mind will be happy; let God be withdrawn, and it is miserable. The happiest moment of the Christian’s life, is when he enjoys the most enlarged and most impressive views of God, and dwells with adoring wonder on His boundless and unsearchable perfections. (G. Spring, D. D.)

God’s name our first regard in prayer

Could we raise our devotion to this pitch, it were indeed in its proper zenith. But our prayers for the most part are blemished with some partialities and by-respects, and ourselves are more respected in them than God. If they be petitory, we request some good for ourselves; if eucharistical, we give thanks for some good we have received; if deprecatory, we request to be preserved from some evil. Still ourselves have the chiefest part; and our prayers are like the Parthian horsemen, who ride one way, but look another; they seem to go towards God, but indeed reflect upon ourselves. And how many of us would fall down before God if we did not stand in need of Him? And this may be the reason why many times our prayers are sent forth like the raven out of Noah’s ark, and never return. But when we make the glory of God the chief end of our devotion, they go forth like the dove, and return to us again with an olive-branch. It is a nice observation of Quadrigarius in Gellius, that darts and arrows which are shot upward do fly more level, and more surely hit the mark, than those which are shot downwards. But it is most true in our prayers, which are called “ejaculations,” because they are darted from us as shafts out of a bow: those that fly upward to God, and aim at His glory, do more fix upon and take Him than those other which fly downward upon ourselves. (A. Farindon.)

Of the particulars to be prayed for under the first petition

Unto how many heads may those particulars which in the first petition we are taught to pray for, be referred? Unto three especially. For we are taught there to desire--

1. Such graces in ourselves as may enable us to hallow the name of God.

2. Such graces in others as may enable them thereto.

3. Such an overruling providence in God, as may direct everything thereto. What are the graces which we desire for ourselves to the foresaid end?

Such as are requisite for every power of our soul, and part of our body to make them fit instruments of hallowing God’s name, as--

1. For our understanding, we desire knowledge of God; that (as the apostle prayeth) “God would give to us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

2. For our will, we desire a thorough and full submission of it to God, as to our sovereign Lord.

3. For our mind and will jointly together, we desire faith, whereby we give all due credence to the truth of God’s Word, and believe in Him. This is a great honour done to God; “for he that receiveth His testimony, hath set to his seal thus God is true.”

4. For our heart, we desire that it may be wholly set upon God; and that He may be made the object of all our liking affections.

5. For our speech, we desire to mention the name of God, as we have occasion, with all reverence; yea, and to take all occasions of speaking of the glory of His name.

6. For our life and outward actions, we desire that they be holy, just, and blameless. What graces do we desire for others to the hallowing of God’s name? All those which we are to desire for ourselves.

What things do we desire that God by His overruling providence would turn to the hallowing of His name? Everything whatsoever, as--

1. The virtues of His saints, whereby else they may be puffed up.

2. The peace and prosperity of His saints, whereby else they may be drawn away from God.

3. The failings and folly of His saints, as He did turn the envy of Joseph’s brethren to the accomplishment of His word.

4. The troubles and crosses of His saints, that they sink not under the burden of them.

5. The wicked plots and practices of His enemies, and of the enemies of His Church.

6. All that all creatures do; that thus in all places, at all times, in and by all things, the name of God may be hallowed. All things whereby we ourselves are enabled to hallow God’s name; whether in our soul, as the gifts and graces thereof; or in our body, as health, strength, agility, and dexterity to anything that maketh to that end; or in our calling, whether it appertain to Church, Commonwealth, or family; or in our outward estate. (W. Gouge.)

To what heads may the duties, which by reason of the first petition we are bound unto, be referred? What are we bound unto in regard of ourselves? To make the best use that we can of all the means which God affordeth to enable us to hallow His name, by giving us knowledge of God.

1. So to behold the creatures, and meditate on them, as we may discern the stamp of God in them, and the evidences which they give of His wisdom, power, justice, mercy, providence, &c. David also by this means had his heart even ravished with an holy admiration of God (Psalms 8:1, &c.).

2. To take more distinct notice of God in and by His Word. The Scriptures are they that testify of God.

3. To take all occasions of stirring up our glory (as David styleth our tongue) to speak of, and to spread abroad the glory of God’s name.

4. To order the whole course of our life, so as it may be worthy of the Lord, and a means to bring honour to His name. What are we bound unto in regard of others?

To do our uttermost endeavour to draw on others to hallow God’s name; for this end we ought--

1. To instruct such as are ignorant of God in the knowledge of God.

2. To draw them to set their whole heart on God, by commending to them the greatness and goodness of God, so as they may be enamoured therewith.

3. To encourage them to all good works whereby God is glorified. (W. Gouge.)

What are we to bewail in regard of the first petition?

1. Atheism, which is aa utter denying of God.

2. Ignorance of the true God.

3. Errors of God.

4. Light esteem of God.

5. Neglect of due worship.

6. Undue using of His name.

7. Profaneness, and all manner of impiety.

8. Contempt of His image in such as He hath set over us. (W. Gouge.)

The conquering name

This petition stands in the head of the troop, being brought up before the others to acknowledge the power of that name which could give success to all we sought for in the rest of them. Constantine wore that victorious motto in his banner, In hoc vinces. Well may I write upon the front of this petition, Hoc nomine vinces; by this name shalt thou obtain the victory. (Archdeacon King.)

Thought better than speech

Thy understanding will be more sharp and clear to discern Him without a name. Better is it only to conceive than to name God, for our conceit is more ample than our language; and ‘tis more glory to God, when in a silent contemplation we confess Him far greater than we can utter. Let us be religious to sanctify, not curious to search His name. For thy service and adoration thou needest know no other name but God. That title is enough to give aim to thy petitions; that object powerful to grant them. (Archdeacon King)

God’s attributes

Rather I should think it a good moral way of expressing God’s infinity by an infinite number of attributes. What hurt or blemish is it to the diamond, though you put several rates upon it? the quantity and the lustre is still one and the same; so is God. Neither do those attributes of His which began in time, cause any alteration or change in His eternity. One and the same piece of money is successively called a price, a debt, a pawn, a tribute; yet those appellations change neither the metal, nor the weight, nor the impression. How much easier, then, may we apprehend the immutability of God’s substance amidst these His attributes--“In whom there is no shadow of change.” (Archdeacon King.)

Thy kingdom come:--

God’s kingdom

I. THE KINGDOM FOR WHICH CHRIST HAS TAUGHT US TO PRAY. A spiritual kingdom. The prayer has for its objects--

1. The spread of the gospel among men.

2. The saving reception of the gospel by man.

II. WHY THE COMING OF THIS KINGDOM IS ACCOUNTED DESIRABLE. Tills will appear when we consider the numerous and valuable blessings which it invariably brings: such as--

1. The light which it spreads.

2. The liberty which it grants.

3. The peace which it promotes.

4. The laws which it enforces.

5. The purity which it establishes.

III. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SHOULD INDUCE US TO PRAY FOR THE COMING OF THIS KINGDOM. We have an inducement in the consideration--

1. That the Sovereign of this kingdom has an indisputable right to universal rule.

2. This kingdom has not yet come to the full extent of the dominion promised.

3. The universal establishment of this kingdom is ultimately certain.

IV. THE DUTY OF THOSE WHO PRAY FOR THE COMING OF THIS KINGDOM. It is their duty--

1. Personally to receive the gospel.

2. Personally to promote the spread of the gospel.

3. Personally to persevere in prayer for the success of this gospel. (W. Naylor.)

Reasons for missionary exertions

I. We pray that the kingdom of God may come, because of THE WRETCHEDNESS WHICH PREVAILS WHERE HIS KINGDOM IS NOT ESTABLISHED. The very religion of the heathen is their misery.

II. THE GOSPEL IS IN ITSELF A MIGHTY BLESSING.

III. We desire that the gospel may be carried into all lands, because IT LEADS TO UNSPEAKABLE BLESSINGS HEREAFTER. (Archbp. Sumner.)

The reign of heaven

The mere mention of a kingdom suggests the idea of power and glory.

1. The kingdom of God, although not a temporal one, is a real one.

2. The kingdom for whose advancement we so often pray is a peaceable kingdom, and one which is constituted in the very person of the King Himself.

3. The kingdom of our blessed Lord, for whose prosperity we are permitted to pray and labour and endure, admits of unlimited extension throughout the world.

4. We should offer this petition for ourselves, that the Spirit of God may so rule in our hearts that every thought and desire may be subdued to the obedience of Christ. It is heart work, much more than head work, which is to make us fit for this kingdom. Religion is an inward principle, calling for personal self-denial and effort; and as vegetation is more advanced by the gentle dews and showers than by violent torrents of rain, so is it with the growth of grace in the soul.

5. When we offer the petition, “Thy kingdom come,” we not only pray for ourselves, but also for those who enjoy fewer religious privileges than we do. The philanthropist is not satisfied to enjoy his abundance, nor the patriot his liberty, alone. The true Christian, like his Divine Master, would have all to be saved, and he feels pity for those who know not the way of life. Zeal for the honour of God, and for the advancement of His kingdom, may be exercised without the slightest infringement on the rules of Christian charity. One of our American bishops, on entering a beautiful church in Spain, was accosted by a Romish priest, who inquired if he was a Catholic. “Yes,” was the prompt reply, “Catholic, but not Roman.” The good priest grasped his hand and said, “It is sad that those who love Jesus should differ. We will tell it to Him, and, some day, His prayer will be answered, and we shall all be one.” As the two parted for ever this side the grave, the Spanish priest said, with evident sincerity and emotion, “Pray for me!” Whenever such a spirit shall prevail among the disciples of Christ, the dawn of the millennium will be close at hand. The acting upon St. Augustine’s famous rule will be helping the good cause: “In things essential, unity; in things questionable, liberty; in all things, charity.” (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The coming of God’s kingdom

1. We must distinguish of God’s kingdom. Now the kingdom of God is twofold; either universal, or more particular and peculiar. The one is His kingdom of Power; the other is His kingdom of grace. It is this latter that is meant here. Now this kingdom of grace is His Church, and may be considered two ways.

2. The next thing in order is, to show how this kingdom of God is said to come. This word, “come,” implies that we pray for a kingdom that is yet in its progress; and hath not yet attained the highest pitch of that perfection which is expected and desired. Now this peculiar kingdom is said to come in three respects.

3. In the next place, we must inquire what it is we pray for when we say, “Thy kingdom come.”

(a) We pray that God would be pleased to plant His Church where it is not.

(b) This petition intimates our earnest desire that the Churches of Christ, where they are planted, may be increased in the numbers of the faithful: that those, who are as yet enemies to the name and profession of Christ may be brought into the visible Church; and that those in it who are yet strangers to a powerful work of grace, may, by the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost, be brought in to be members of the invisible Church.

(c) We pray that all the Church of Christ, throughout the world, may be kept from ruin. That they may not be overrun with superstition or idolatry: that God would not, in His wrath, remove His candlestick from them; as

He hath, in His righteous judgment, done from other Churches which were once glorious and splendid: we pray, likewise, that God would make up all breaches, and compose all differences, and silence all controversies.

(d) It intimates our humble request to God that His ordinances may be purely and powerfully dispensed.

(a) We may well pray that the whole body mystical of Jesus Christ, and every member of it, may be brought to the full fruition of heaven and happiness; that daily more may be admitted into the heavenly fellowship, till their numbers as well as their joys be consummate.

(b) We may also pray that the bodies of all the saints may be raised again, united to their souls, and made glorious in the kingdom of heaven. (Bp. Hopkins.)

Thy kingdom come

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD. A fourfold kingdom.

1. The kingdom of His power.

2. The kingdom of His gospel.

3. The kingdom of His grace.

4. The kingdom of His glory.

Use

1. Submit yourselves contentedly to the disposals of Providence. If God be King over all, is there any fault in the administration; nay, is not all well done, yea, best done?

2. Submit yourselves to the good sceptre. Are ye subjects of the gospel-kingdom? Then it becomes you to be subject to the laws, to observe the ordinances, and to be submissive to the officers of the kingdom.

3. Let our royal Master have your hearts for His throne, and set up His kingdom of grace there.

4. Labour and be restless till ye get your interest in the kingdom of glory secured And this is done by closing with Christ for all the ends for which He is given of God. It is dangerous to delay this.

II. THE IMPORT OF THIS PETITION. The four kingdoms are sweetly linked together, and stand in a line of subordination, the end of which is the kingdom of glory, the kingdom of grace being subordinate to it, the gospel-kingdom to that of grace, and the kingdom of power to the kingdom of the gospel. Therefore I must begin with the kingdom of glory.

1. What is the import of this petition with reference to the kingdom of glory? It imports--

2. What is the import of this petition with reference to the kingdom of grace? There is no getting into the kingdom of glory but by coming through that of grace. So that desiring the coming of the former is desiring the coming of the latter too. It imports--

3. What is the import of this petition with reference to the kingdom of the gospel? By it one is brought into the kingdom of grace. So desiring the coming of the one, we desire also the coming of the other. It imports--

4. What is the import of this petition with reference to the coming of God’s kingdom of power? It is by the power of God that all these great things must be brought about. So the desiring of the coming of the gospel, is the desiring of the coming of this kingdom too. It imports--

III. THE REASONS OF THE CONCERN OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD FOR THE COMING OF HIS KINGDOM.

1. The new nature in them moves that way (Isaiah 43:21).

2. It is their Father’s kingdom. How can they help being concerned for it?

3. Their own interest lies in it.

Use

1. Of information.

2. Of trial. Try by this whether ye be of the family of God or not. Have ye a kindly concern for the coming of His kingdom? Do your hearts say within you, “Thy kingdom come”? If it be not so, God is not your Father; but if so, He is. (J. Boston, D. D.)

The prayer for the coming of God’s kingdom

I. What is meant by the KINGDOM?

1. Not that general kingdom of God which extends to all the world, and all ages of it.

2. Nor the kingdom of grace, whereby God rules in the hearts of His people; for God always has thus ruled in such as He was pleased to subdue to Himself. This cannot, therefore, be what Christ directly pointed at, though the increase of that kingdom, by the addition of real members to His Church, may be included in that petition.

3. Our Saviour did not direct His disciples to pray that a worldly kingdom may be set up under the Messiah.

4. Nor can we judge that Christ directed them to pray that the kingdom of glory might come immediately, or in a short time. For the gospel was to be preached to all nations, and a Church to be gathered to Christ through a succession of many ages before that end would come. However, that glorious everlasting kingdom seems to be included.

5. The gospel dispensation, which was to be put under Christ, God’s anointed, as the Lord and head of it, to whom all judgment was committed, was plainly intended in this place.

II. What we are to understand by the COMING of this kingdom. This includes, we may suppose, three things.

1. That the prophecies which related to the kingdom of the Messiah might be accomplished. That that kingdom might be actually set up, of which it was said, it should have no end; that throne of God erected, of which David wrote, “that it should be for ever and ever.” In a word, that all that God had spoken by His prophets of that nature might be fulfilled; and that the commencement of that kingdom might soon take place, which John had preached as then at hand.

2. That it might appear that Christ was the Lord’s anointed, though His kingdom would not come with observation, with such external pomp and splendour as would raise admiration.

3. The coming of the kingdom of God must be understood as meaning the increase and advancement of it, as well as its commencement.

III. What were the DISCIPLES to pray for in this petition? Undoubtedly they were to pray for the completion of those things which had been promised and prophesied concerning the kingdom of Christ.

IV. What are we to pray for in this petition? Are we not to offer up this request in the very same sense, to ask the very same thing the disciples of Christ did, to whom He delivered these instructions about prayer, how to pray, and what to pray for? I answer, no; undoubtedly we are not to use these words in the same sense they did. It was proper for those who lived before Christ’s coming, and looked for redemption, to pray for the advent of the Messiah; that the desire of all nations might come: it would be absurd and impertinent for us to do so, since we know that in this sense the kingdom (i.e., the gospel dispensation)
began almost two thousand years ago.

1. We must pray, that the kingdom of Satan may be destroyed.

2. We must pray, that the borders of Christ’s kingdom may be enlarged; that more of the kingdoms of the earth may be added to it; that His interest may grow and flourish; and the kings and princes of this world, who are not yet acquainted with Christ, the universal Lord, may bring their glory and honour into His Church.

3. We must pray, that the number of true believers may be increased: that Christ may have numerous faithful subjects subdued to Him, a willing people, to whom His yoke is easy, and His burden light; who do not only confess His name, and attend upon His ordinances and the like, but sincerely honour, esteem, and love Him, and desire grace to enable them to adorn their holy profession by strict obedience to His gospel. And we should pray that in all the Churches of Christ truth and holiness and peace may prevail; that the true gospel doctrine may be universally and faithfully preached, gainsayers convinced, and their mouths stopped, errors confuted, and all corruptions removed as to worship or Church-government. And that holy discipline according to the gospel direction, may be kept up, where it is already used; and restored, where it is dwindled away into nothing, through lukewarmness and negligence, or by pride and ambition and covetousness turned into tyranny and oppression.

4. Under this head of prayer we may make mention of ourselves, and pray that our own souls may be subdued to Christ, and that His kingdom may come in us.

5. We should pray for that glorious state of the Church, which the Scripture gives us ground to believe there will be before the end of the world. A millennium, or thousand years’ reign of Christ, is spoken of in the Revelations, when the devil is to be bound a thousand years, and Christ to reign in some eminent sense for that term.

6. We are directed by this petition to pray that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

Practical reflections:

1. We should heartily commiserate the unhappy parts of the world where the gospel of the kingdom is not preached, and from whom the mystery of redemption is altogether hidden.

2. We should be heartily thankful that unto us it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

3. It is a shame and reproach to such a nation as this, that so little of the holy fruit of the gospel is to be seen among us; and so much vice and impiety, as (all things considered) can hardly be equalled among the heathen. Will they not rise up in judgment with us in the last day, and condemn us as more guilty than themselves?

4. We should fear the righteous judgment of God, and pray that God will pour out His Spirit upon us; upon magistrates, ministers, and all sorts of people; that the glory may not depart from us, but that the kingdom of God may be advanced and flourish among us, in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and that that kingdom may come in our own hearts.

5. Those that pray that the kingdom of Satan may be destroyed, should take care that they do not anything to promote it by practising unlawful things themselves, or by conniving at such things, or encouraging them in others. Should we do this, our own prayers would condemn us. (John Whitty.)

The coming of God’s kingdom of grace

The kingdom here intended is the dominion of His grace--that provision of His infinite mercy, by which He is to subdue our sinful race into cheerful allegiance, and exulting homage, and general service. This, as yet, has come but in part. Its full and final establishment has been long the theme of prophecy, and the burden of prayer. The movements of God in His kingdom of Providence had respect from the beginning to the development of this kingdom of grace. Let us now consider the several aspects of this kingdom.

I. It is spiritual. As man’s noblest nature is his inner, invisible, and spiritual one, it is to this mainly that God and the religion of God look. The power that is to change the face of earth, and the history of the race, is not an army, not a fleet, not a treasury; but a word of salvation--something of the mind, and for the mind--and it is a Spirit renewing and sanctifying--the creative Spirit come down, to rear again and restore our fallen, created spirits. Now, as the Holy Ghost is the great primal agency in advancing and upholding the spiritual dominion of God on earth, aught that grieves or repels Him--aught that assumes to replace Him in His prerogatives, or claims to mortgage Him to a certain ecclesiastical communion, or to imprison Him in certain ordinances, as dispensed by a certain order of men, and, above all, aught that forgets our dependence on Him, or affects independence of Him and His aids, is so far a hindrance in the way of the coming of this spiritual empire. To enter ourselves Christ’s Church, or to aid others in advancing it, we must be born of the Spirit.

II. It is social. Though religion begins with the individual, it, after having renovated the inner world of the heart, necessarily affects the outer world, or the man in all his relations to his fellow-creatures; both those of like feelings with himself, or men spiritually minded, and those also who are not yet in affinity and sympathy with him, or, as the Scripture calls this last class, the men who are carnally minded. If a man is a true disciple of Jesus, he is, or ought to be, the better man in all his relations to worldly society, as far as those relations do not assume to control and overtop his duties and relations to heaven. Education and commerce and art--so far as they keep themselves in a position of due deference to a pure Christianity--will elevate and bless society. So far as they shall rival or defy her, they cannot fail to disappoint the hopes which they excite, and to bleat the body politic into a diseased appearance of prosperity, the unsoundness of which any great reverse of affairs will soon betray. Pauperism, slavery, and the question of labour in our times can be reached most safely and effectively by Christian principles diffused throughout the community.

III.

But whilst this religion, beginning in the individual and spiritual man, works inevitably its way outward upon all social relations and interests and maladies, it is, unlike the government and institutions of earth, eternal. So Daniel described it, “a dominion that shall never end.” The Churches of earth are but like the receiving-ships of a navy, from which death is daily drafting the instructed and adept recruit for his entrance upon service in the far and peaceful seas of the heavenly world. Christ asks the heart and the homage of the deathless spirit; and, as death moulders and disperses for a time the bodily tabernacle, He neither loses His rights in, nor His care over, the spirit which that bodily tabernacle for the time housed. Now the kingdom of heaven has already known, amid seeming and local reverses, its stages of regular extension and advancement. It has overspread a large portion of the globe. The most powerful nations of the world are its nominal adherents. Missions are diffusing it on this very Sabbath amongst tribes whose names even our fathers knew not, and in empires which those fathers deemed hopelessly barred against the access of our faith. Prophecy assures us that this shall go on with still augmented zeal, and still expanding conquests. The Jews shall be brought in. Mahommedanism shall fall, and is even now evidently withering. Antichrist shall be shattered. These are stages in the social development of Christ’s blessed kingdom. But behind and above them come higher developments in the individual Christian. The righteous here have in their earthly homes but lodges in the wilderness. The most prosperous of earthly churches is but a green booth, reared by pilgrims beside the fountains of Elim, and which is soon to be forsaken in their onward march beyond the line of the present visible horizon. But in the heavenly Canaan there is a fixedness of tenure, and perpetual repose, and fulness of felicity--of knowledge--and of holiness. Towards this crowning and culminating state of the Redeemer’s kingdom all the earlier and inferior stages tend. Zion’s sorrows are disciplinary; her reverses but school her for a more successful onset on the powers and strongholds of darkness; and with the destinies of her Redeemer embarked in her, and with infallibility and Omnipotence united in her Helmsman, her course, like His, is “conquering and to conquer.” Now, when the Word of God speaks of this kingdom, it sometimes alludes to its incipient, and sometimes to its advancing, and sometimes again to its final stages. In its spiritual and individual beginnings it is within us. In its social leaven reaching the tribe, the nation, and the race, it is around us. In its last and triumphant day it is no longer a matter of time and earth. It is beyond and above. It has come in splendour never to wane, in power never to be lessened; and the kings of the earth bring their glory into its gates never to be closed. To pray, then, for Christ’s kingdom, is to pray for the conversion of sinners and the edification and sanctification of disciples. (W.

R. Williams, D.D.)

Thy kingdom come

1. Consider the boldness of Christ in speaking these words. Here is a single thought of His, which is the sublimest ideal ever presented in human speech--something which, heretofore, was utterly unknown on earth, in its truescope and fulness. Christ here announces the fellowship of the human with the Divine nature, the sanctification of man’s will and temper, and its union with God’s purpose and plan. In the midst of all the rivalries of the race, Christ stands as the index of a spiritual kingdom, for the prevalence of which His disciples are to pray. He perfectly, they--timid and passionate--very imperfectly, represented the kingdom of God to be set up in theworld.

2. Think what light is cast upon the gospel by this utterance of the Son of God. The Word of life was to regenerate the world.

3. The true standard by which we are to measure society. The test is, How far is the Divine idea realized? Is the kingdom of God set up?

4. Here, again, we find the criterion of judgment as to what constitutes individual renown in history.

5. We are reminded by these words of the great opportunity of life. We may co-operate with God in bringing, first our own souls into harmony with His will, and then leading other spirits under the sweet dominion of His royal law. (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)

The eternal kingdom

The kingdom of God is in its essence a spiritual kingdom; the seat of His dominion is in the thoughts and affections of men; the tokens of its sway are a deepening purity and a growing love among the children of men. Of course it takes hold on things outward also, and shapes them by its law; it changes the manners and the fashions and the laws and the social relations of men; it is not in its essence meat and drink, but it rules the lives of men who are its loyal subjects whether they eat or drink or whatever they do. Still it affects the forms and fashions of men only as it transforms the thoughts and the desires of men; it works from within outward; its forces are all spiritual, though its manifestations are visible in all the realms of life. And it includes everything that is true, everything that is pure, everything that is lovely, everything that is honest and brave and sound and sweet in the universe. Whatsoever is good is of God, and is a sign of the rule of His kingdom in the world. Whatsoever shows improvement--whether it is from good to better, or from worse to better--is a token of the progress of God’s kingdom in the world.

Wherever morality and purity are gaining, wherever the vile are becoming less vile, and the cruel less cruel, and the coveteous less coveteous, there the kingdom of God is advancing. “There is none good but one, that is, God,” said our Lord Himself; and there is no good in any man, from the feeblest virtue in the worst man to the grandest integrity in the best man--there is no good in any beneficent institution, or in any kindly custom, or in any refinement of social life--that is not a Divine inspiration; that is not the result of obedience to the Divine law; that is not, therefore, a token of the presence and the prevalence in some degree of God’s kingdom. When we intelligently offer this petition, then, we are asking for nothing less than this, that the light and love and power of God may increase and abound everywhere in the world. “But why, then,” it may be asked, “should we say, ‘Thy kingdom come’?” If God’s kingdom is the sum of all beneficent forces, of all holy influences, of all truth and all love and all righteousness, why should we pray that it may come? It is here already. The world has never been wholly destitute of righteousness. God has never been without a witness on the earth. Why then do we pray, “Thy kingdom come”? Why do we wish or ask in March that summer may come? That would surely be a proper wish, and might be a fitting prayer. Yet all the elements of the summer are here to-day. The earth, from whose fruitful breast the summer springs, lies waiting here; in her veins a myriad lives are throbbing; the mighty prince of light is shining down on us every day; air and light, and moisture and warmth, all the forces that make the summer, are here; every day the sun is wheeling his chariot a little higher into the sky; every day the empire of the light enlarges, and the realm of night is narrowed; yet, though the elements and forces out of which the summer comes are here, we might wish to have them here in greater fulness and in greater power. And so this petition asks, not that righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost may begin on the earth, for they began to be long ago, but that they may continue, and that they may increase. Probably it is the increase of this kingdom that is more specifically intended. It is a fuller, a broader, a more glorious manifestation of these great principles and forces. It is a prayer that the lives which are not now under their sway may be brought into subjection to them; that the institutions that now are ruled by selfishness and strife may be pervaded by them; that the homes in which vice and greed and worldliness now reign may be cleansed and hallowed by the spirit of purity and love; that the societies in which frivolity and vanity now rule may be ruled by soberness and modesty and quietness; that many lands which are now habitations of cruelty may hear and obey the gospel of goodwill. It is not a prayer that the leaven may be brought and placed in the measures of meal, but that its subtle, transforming influence may extend until it shall pervade the whole lump. It is not a prayer that the mustard seed may be planted, but that its growth may be hastened by the gentle dews of God’s grace and the sunlight of His truth until it shall become a great tree, whose branches shall be vocal with the songs of Paradise, and in whose shade all the weary of the world may rest. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

The most comprehensive petition

This is the most comprehensive petition of the Lord’s prayer. Indeed, it is the most comprehensive petition that it is possible for man to utter; there is hardly anything that we ask for that is not summed up in this prayer. It is a prayer that the whole world may grow better and brighter; that all the people in the world may grow gentler and stronger, and truer and kinder, and happier year by year. And it is a recognition of the fact that this can come to pass only as the world is filled with the knowledge of God and ruled by His law; only as the people in the world come to know Him better and to obey Him more perfectly. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Answers to this petition

People sometimes question whether prayer is ever answered; but here is a prayer that Christians have been offering now for eighteen hundred years, and if you want to know whether it has been answered, read the whole of history since Christ ascended. “Thy kingdom come!” the disciples prayed, and presently a bloody persecution fell upon them in Jerusalem, and drove them forth from the holy city, and made them homeless wanderers. That was a strange way of answering the prayer. But “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” Up and down the rugged roads of Palestine they went proclaiming the glad tidings of great joy. It was not long before the messengers found their way over the heights of Mount Taurus, and here and there a centre of light was kindled in the dark provinces of Asia Minor; then the voice came to Paul summoning him to Macedonia, and Europe was invaded by the intrepid apostle, who planted the standard of the gospel on the classic fields of Philippi and on the heights of the Areopagus. From these small beginnings the leaven of Christianity has spread, until now nearly a third part of the human race acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord “Thy kingdom come!” good Christians prayed. And He who hears the cry of His children came down to earth and stretched forth His hand to woman, so long the slave of man’s power, and the drudge of his indolence, and the victim of his passions, and lifted her up, and clothed her motherhood with dignity, and her womanhood with divinity, and gave us by her hand the blessings of home, the best of all earth’s precious things. “Thy kingdom come!” the strong of faith were crying; and a Presence unseen by men stood among the prisoners in the dungeons that were festering dens of disease and vileness, and laid its gentle hand upon these hapless children of the evil, and lifted the weight of hate and scorn that made their lot so desperate, and sought to lead them forth to ways of purity. “Thy kingdom come!” God’s children cried; and the victims of insanity saw a beam of hope through the mental darkness in which they were walking, and found themselves no longer chained and scourged like criminals, but gently led and kindly treated. “Thy kingdom come!” was the voice of millions who groaned in slavery, and of millions more who remembered their brethren in bonds as bound with them; and one by one the fetters have snapped asunder--the strong shackles of the Roman law, the wounding cords of feudal villenage, the degrading toils of British slavery, the prescriptive manacles of Russian serfdom--until even in our own land, and in our own day, “our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” as He comes proclaiming liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof. “Thy kingdom come!” the children of the light were pleading; and the hierarchies that sought to confine the thought of men were baffled and paralyzed, and the Bible was unchained, and the ways that lead to the mercy-seat were opened to the feet of all penitent believers. Thus it is by these mighty changes which have liberated and elevated and enlightened the children of God that God’s kingdom has been coming through all the ages, with increasing glory and enlarging power. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Ways in which we may hasten the coming of God’s kingdom

Even the children can help to bring, in many places, this kingdom of God for which they daily pray. I heard a mother telling the other day of her children who had quarrelled sometimes, as many children do, I fear, but who had both been made so thoroughly sorry and ashamed on account of one of their quarrels that they were careful for many days after that not to say a bitter word, or to do a hateful deed. So peace came to that home through the prayer and the watching of these two Christian children; and peace, you know, is one of the signs of the kingdom of God in the world. And I hope that when the children offer this prayer, they will remember that this is one of the ways in which it is answered, and in which they may help in answering it. And wherever we help one another to the living of better lives--to be more truthful or upright or honourable or kind, to be more faithfulin our duties to God or to men--there we are helping to answer our prayer, and to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Loyalty to God

Reverence recognizes the majesty of God; loyalty His authority. We might revere a foreign king; we are loyal only to our own. Many are able to feel the former sentiment who are apparently uninfluenced by this. They go in crowds to worship, confessing that it is good and seemly to do so, but never think of leaving their homes for the sake of obeying a Divine precept in doing an act of justice or charity in God’s name. Lord -Bacon was a very reverential man, but not loyal, for he was an unrighteous man. Robert Burns must have had some hallowing sense of Divine things to have written the “Cotter’s Saturday Night”; but he was not an honest subject of God, for he did not keep the seventh commandment. “The kingdom” is that condition in which God’s laws are perfectly kept, and His promises fulfilled. The kingdom of God, with its hallowing influences, presses against our generation, and against every man in it, as really as the upper ether presses against the earth’s atmosphere. The righteousness of the kingdom presses upon our consciences; our moral natures are as sensitive to it as our nerves are to the slightest motional influence. We cannot keep out the sense of justice and judgment, awakening complacency or dread, according to our lives. We are all and always conscious of spiritual realities about us and within us. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask that the same righteousness which makes heaven perfect may come to reign in all men’s lives, not dimly discerned through conscience and reflected in the Bible precepts, but as it is in the character of God our King. We pray that the love which makes heaven happy may fill every human soul, not as we feel it in our kindliest charity, but as it is in God who “is love”: we pray that Christ may come, in whom Divine righteousness and love were embodied, and win all hearts to His sway. And if we are honest in the prayer we open our own hearts to receive the kingdom, that upon it may be put those laws of holiness and love. The petition sincerely uttered is thus a formula of consecration. An illustration of spiritual loyalty to our King may be taken from a historical scene. When William the Conqueror assumed dominion in England, each of his barons knelt before him bareheaded, and, placing his hands within those of his superior, swore--“Hear, my lord, I become liege-man of yours for life and limb and earthly regard, and I will keep faith and loyalty to you for life and death. God help me.” Whereupon the kiss of the king invested him with his portion of the land. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

Appreciation of God’s kingdom

It is the state of a man’s mind which qualifies him to enjoy any one of God’s kingdoms. What is the celestial kingdom of suns and stars to him whose eye is downward looking? Tell him that in yonder space “there are 1,000 stars seen by the naked eye, and each of them is the centre of a planetary system; that it has been computed that 100,000,000 might be seen by the telescope were they explored”; but his soul is not awakened to these stupendous and distant realities, and that celestial kingdom rings no peal of harmonies, no everlasting chime in his ears. The world is what we make it. It is a marketplace, or the portico of a temple, or a school where character is disciplined for eternity, or a sphere of government where the ground wears the stamp of God’s footsteps to the observant eye; the world is either of these to us according to our culture, our knowledge, our life. So this kingdom of God is to you according to your point of observation. It is appreciated or neglected as you are wont to prize or to despise the spiritual world and spiritual influences. Do you think that the greatest thing in the world is a soul ruled by God? A soul receptive of influence to guide its convictions and to give conscience dominion over the passions? Are you wont to think that falsehood, excess, enmity, impurity, ignorance--the curses which turn the earth into a wilderness--shall be weeded up as sure as there is a God in heaven; weeded up out of the soil of men’s affections by the mighty power and all-subduing love of the gospel of His Son? Is it a bent of your mind, a resolute habit of thought, that you will not dishonour your Maker’s purpose or character by suspecting that He could make this earth for a horde of guilty and unbridled passions to riot in; for war and cupidity, for envy, lust, and avarice; that it is no part of your creed that disease and the cry of the lazar-house are the natural state of man kind? No; they were brought in by evil, by malignant influences; brought into a world which its Maker pronounced to he “very good”; brought in by sin. But as God did not bring them in, He will rid the earth of them. Their sentence is already pronounced. The throne is set. Judgment is passed. Let them revel their appointed time. To your eye they are doomed; creation has groaned under their weight too long already, but the hour of its redemption is come; to your ear it is already striking; and “Behold, I make all things new: new heavens, and a new earth.” “Belief is something towards its own realization.” Grotius, in de scribing the success of the Batavians in breaking the Spanish yoke, says beautifully, “credendo fecerunt.” By believing they could do it--they did it. So he who prays, “Thy kingdom come,” from his heart, hastens its coming, and sees it come. (B. Kent.)

A slave’s definition of the words, “Thy kingdom come.”

A female slave in Travaneore, at a public examination of candidates for baptism, in reply to the question, What is meant by the words, “Thy kingdom come”? (when the silence of others made it her turn to speak), modestly said, “We therein pray that grace may reign in every heart.” The most learned divines could not have answered the question better.

God’s kingdom not of this world

No doubt many of us have heard the well-known story which is told of the early Dominican monk, St. Thomas of Aquinum. He was one day sitting in the Vatican with Pope Innocent the Fourth, and large masses of gold and silver were being carried into the treasury. “The day has passed, you see,” said the Pope, in a self-satisfied manner, “when the Church could say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “Yes,” replied St. Thomas, “and with it has also passed the day when she could say to the paralytic, ‘Rise up and walk.’” No, it is not endowment but fidelity which God regards--the establishment of a connection between the Church of any country and the State must never, in any sense, be regarded as an establishment of the “kingdom of God.” (W. S. Carter, M. A.)

God’s threefold kingdom

What is this kingdom, the coming of which our Lord thus commands us to ask and wish for? The kingdom of God, so far as we have any concern with it in this prayer--so far as it is still to come, and must therefore be something different from that rule and dominion which He is always exercising over every part of His creation--is a threefold kingdom.

I. There is His kingdom and authority over the souls of all true believers, which we call His SPIRITUAL KINGDOM.

II. There is His kingdom upon earth, or His Church, which we call HIS VISIBLE KINGDOM, because it is visible to all men, and all may see it.

III. There is His HEAVENLY KINGDOM, which is to come after the resurrection, and to last for ever. (A. W. Hare.)

Thy kingdom come

I never felt the power of this petition more impressively than when once standing in the midst of a leafless wood. It was a clear day in early spring. Every cloud had been withdrawn from the canopy. The trees were perfectly naked, and their great branches were like arms outstretched in prayer. To me they seemed to be saying: “O spring, come and clothe us with thy beauty; summer, come and enrich us with thine abundance; we are patiently waiting for thee; through the long winter storm we have tarried for thee; thy kingdom come.” I, too, a poor, leafless human tree, lifted up my entreaty, saving, with a full heart, “O fairer Spring, O richer Summer, O purer Light, come, clothe me, adorn me, make me beautiful; O, Saviour, Thy kingdom come.” (Dr. J. Parker.)

Thy kingdom come

1. Human life is one great WANT.

2. This want should turn human life into one noble ASPIRATION.

3. This aspiration can only be noble as it is lifted up towards A FATHER.

4. This Father must be asked to come in all the power and splendour of A KINGDOM. (Dr. J. Parker.)

The kingdom of God

I. WHAT IS THIS KINGDOM?

1. The term in its primary signification no doubt suggests a material territory, with a personal sovereign, laws, offices, institutions. But without any effort we transfer this organization to that which is ideal, and use the term in a figurative sense. We are accustomed to speak of a kingdom as representing some particular section of created things; as, for example, the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the kingdom of letters. The principle of life, and not any particular mode or form of its development, must be the same in the several members of the kingdom. In like manner, the phrase “kingdom of God” is intended to comprise all who are spiritually related to God-all who are partakers of the Divine nature, and are subservient to the Divine rule and government. The complete development of that kingdom is, I take it, the meaning of the term here; and towards that our prayer is directed, though in reality the kingdom itself has already come.

2. This thought suggests another. We have spoken of a common life, a Divine life which constitutes citizenship in the kingdom of God, of laws by which this life is governed, of principles by which it is animated. Let us amplify this idea, so as to see what are the moral forces at work within the kingdom. “The kingdom of God is within you.” It is not a thing to be seen; it is a power to be felt. This view of the kingdom is purely a personal one. Its principles must be apprehended, so that he who is enrolled as its subject may possess the moral qualities pertaining to it. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

II. WHOSE IS THIS KINGDOM? It is the kingdom of God. But not of God only as God. It is the kingdom of the Father. Whose Father? My Father? Our Father.

III. TO WHOM IS THE GOVERNMENT OF THIS KINGDOM COMMITTED? TO Him who by the mysterious incarnation was at once Son of God and Son of Man. Both natures are needed in His capacity of Prince and Ruler. As God, He rules with Divine attributes; as man, He knows and feels for the governed. Let us take care to be in readiness to recognize this kingdom when it comes. (T. Lessey.)

Thy kingdom come

A soul truly devoted to God joins heartily in this petition, “Thy kingdom come!”

1. In these words this great truth is implied--that God is a King. He who hath a kingdom can be no less than a king--“God is the King of all the earth.” And He is a King upon His throne--“God sitteth upon the throne of holiness.” He hath His kingly prerogatives; He hath power to make laws, to seal pardons, which are the flowers and jewels belonging to His crown. Thus the Lord is King.

2. He is a great King, “a King above all gods.” He is great in and of Himself; and not like other kings, who are made great by their subjects.

3. God is a glorious King--“Who is this King of glory? He hath internal glory--The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty.” Other kings have royal and sumptuous apparel to make them appear glorious to the beholders, but all their magnificence is borrowed; but God is clothed with majesty, His own glorious essence is instead of royal robes, and “He hath girded Himself with strength.”

He sets up His throne where no other king doth; He rules the will and affections; His power binds the conscience.

1. (1) If God be so great a King, and sits King for ever, then it is no disparagement for us to serve Him. “To be a servant of God is to reign as a prince”; it is an honour to serve a king. If the angels fly swiftly upon the King of heaven’s message, then well we may look upon it as a favour to be taken into His royal service. Theodosius thought it a greater honour to be God’s servant than to be an emperor. Therefore as the queen of Sheba, baying seen the glory of Solomon’s kingdom, said, “Happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee,” so, happy are those saints who stand before the King of heaven, and wait on His throne.

It is counted great policy to be on the strongest side.

3. Comfort to those who are the subjects of the King of heaven; God will put forth all the royal power for their succour and comfort.

4. Terror to the enemies of the Church. What kingdom doth Christ mean here?

Neg. 1. He doth not mean a political or earthly kingdom.

2. It is not meant of God’s providential kingdom; “His kingdom ruleth over all”; that is, the kingdom of His providence. This kingdom of God’s providence we do not pray should come, for it is already come. What kingdom then is meant here when we say, “Thy kingdom come”?

Positively. 1. The kingdom of grace, which kingdom God exercises in the consciences of His people--this is God’s lesser kingdom. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come”--

(a) We pray that we may be brought out of the kingdom of darkness.

(b) That the devil’s kingdom in the world may be demolished.

(a) We pray that the kingdom of grace may be set up in our hearts and increased.

(b) We pray that the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that we may in God’s good time be translated into it.

These two kingdoms of grace and glory differ not specifically, but gradually; they differ not in nature, but only in degree. The kingdom of grace is nothing but the inchoation or beginning of the kingdom of glory; the kingdom of grace is glory in the seed, and the kingdom of glory is grace in the flower; the kingdom of grace is glory in the daybreak, and the kingdom of glory is grace in the full meridian; the kingdom of grace is glory militant, and the kingdom of glory is grace triumphant. There is such an insepatable connection between these two kingdoms, grace and glory, that there is passing into the one kingdom but by the other. At Athens there were two temples, a temple of virtue and a temple of honour, and there was no going into the temple of honour but through the temple of virtue; so the kingdoms of grace and glory are so close joined together, that we cannot go into the kingdom of glory but through the kingdom of grace. Many people aspire after the kingdom of glory, but never look after grace; but these two, which God hath joined together, may not be put asunder; the kingdom of grace leads to the kingdom of glory. How many ways is a natural man in the kingdom of darkness?

1. He is under the darkness of ignorance--“having the understanding darkened.”

2. Let us pray that God will bring us out of this kingdom of darkness. God’s kingdom of grace cannot come into our hearts till first we are brought out of the kingdom of darkness. Why should not we strive to get out of this kingdom of darkness? Who would desire to stay in a dark dungeon? Go to Christ to enlighten thee--“Christ shall give thee light”; He will not only bring thy light to thee, but open thine eyes to see it. That is the first thing implied in “Thy kingdom come”; we pray that we may be brought out of the kingdom of darkness.

II. The second thing implied in “Thy kingdom come,” we do implicitly pray against the devil’s kingdom, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be demolished in the world. Satan hath a kingdom; he got his kingdom by conquest; he conquered mankind in paradise. Satan’s kingdom hath two qualifications or characters.

1. It is a kingdom of impiety.

2. It is a kingdom of slavery. Let us pray that Satan’s kingdom, set up in the world, may be thrown down.

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” here is something positively intended.

1. We pray that the kingdom of grace may be set up in our hearts and increased.

2. That the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that we may, in God’s due time, be translated into it. I begin with the first, the kingdom of grace.

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray that the kingdom of grace may come into our hearts.

1. Why is grace called a kingdom? Because, when grace comes, there is a kingly government set up in the soul. Grace rules the will and affections, and brings the whole man in subjection to Christ; grace doth king it in the soul; it sways the sceptre, it subdues mutinous lusts.

2. Why is there such need that we should pray that this kingdom of grace may come into our hearts?

3. How may we know that the kingdom of grace is set up in our hearts?

1. I cannot discern grace. A child of God may have the kingdom of grace in his heart, yet not know it. The cup was in Benjamin’s sack, though he did not know it was there; thou mayest have faith in thy heart, the cup may be in thy sack, though thou knowest it not. The seed may be in the ground, when we do not see it spring up.

2. Before the kingdom of grace come into the heart there must be some preparation for it; the fallow ground of the heart must be broken up; I fear the plough of the law hath not gone deep enough; I have not been humbled enough, therefore I have no grace. God doth not prescribe a just proportion of sorrow and humiliation; the Scripture mentions the truth of sorrow, but not the measure.

3. If the kingdom of God were within me it would he a kingdom of power; it would enable me to serve God with vigour of soul; but I have a spirit of infirmity upon me, I am weak and impotent, and untuned to every holy action. There is a great difference between the weakness of grace and the want of grace: a man may have life, though he be sick and weak.

4. I fear the kingdom of grace is not yet come, because I find the kingdom of sin so strong in me. Had I faith, it would purify my heart; but I find much pride, worldliness, passion. Those sins which you did once wear as a crown on your head are now as fetters on the leg; is not all this from the Spirit of grace in you? Sin is in you as poison in the body, which you are sick of, and use all Scripture antidotes to expel.

5. Where the kingdom of grace comes it softens the hears; but I find my heart frozen and congealed into hardness; I can hardly squeeze out one tear. Do flowers grow on a rock? Can there be any grace in such a rocky heart? There maybe grief where there are no tears, the best sorrow is rational. Labour to find that this kingdom of grace is set up in your hearts; while others aspire after earthly kingdoms, labour to have the kingdom of God within you.

The kingdom of grace must come into us before we can go into the kingdom of glory.

1. This kingdom of God within us is our spiritual beauty; the kingdom of grace adorns a person, and sets him off in the eyes of God and angels.

2. The kingdom of grace set up in the heart is our spiritual defence.

3. The kingdom of grace set up in the heart brings peace with it--“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace.” There is a secret peace breeds out of holiness.

4. The kingdom of grace enriches the soul; a kingdom hath its riches.

5. When the kingdom of grace comes, it doth fix and establish the heart--“O God, my heart is fixed!” Before the kingdom of grace comes the heart is very unfixed and unsettled, like a ship without ballast.

6. This kingdom of grace is distinguishing; it is a sure pledge of God’s love.

How should we do to obtain this kingdom?

1. In general, take pains for it; we cannot have the world without labour, and do we think we can have grace? “If thou seekest her as silver.”

2. Such as have this kingdom of God set up in them, it calls for gratulation and thanksgiving. What will you be thankful for, if not for a kingdom? If God hath crowned you with the kingdom of grace, do you crown Him with your praises. The second thing intended by our Saviour in this petition is, that the kingdom of grace may increase, that it may come more into us. And this may answer a question. Why do we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” when the kingdom of grace is already come into the soul? Till we come to live among the angels we shall need to pray this prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Lord, let Thy kingdom of grace come in more power into my soul; let grace be more augmented and increased. When doth the kingdom of grace increase in the soul?

When is it a flourishing kingdom?

1. When a Christian hath further degrees added to his graces; there is more oil in the lamp, his knowledge is clearer, his love is more inflamed; grace is capable of degrees, and may rise higher as the sun in the horizon.

2. Then the kingdom of grace increaseth when a Christian hath gotten more strength than he had. That grace which will carry us through prosperity will not carry us through sufferings; the ship needs stronger tackling to carry it through a storm than a calm.

3. Then the kingdom of grace increaseth when a Christian hath most conflict with spiritual corruptions.

4. Then the kingdom of grace flourisheth when a Christian bath learned to live by faith--“I live by the faith of the Son of God.”

5. When s Christian is arrived at holy zeal

6. Then the kingdom of grace increaseth when a Christian is as well diligent in his particular calling as devout in his general.

7. Then the kingdom of grace increaseth when a Christian is established in the belief and love of the truth.

8. Then the kingdom of grace increaseth in a man’s own heart when he labours to be instrumental to set up this kingdom in others.

Wherein appears the needfulness of this, that the kingdom of grace should be increased.

1. This is God’s design in keeping up a standing ministry in the Church, to increase the kingdom of grace in men’s hearts.

2. We had need have the kingdom of grace increase, in respect we have a great deal of work to do, and a little grace will hardly carry us through.

3. If the kingdom of grace cloth not increase, it will decay--“Thou hast left thy first love.” If grace be not improved, it will soon be impaired.

4. To have grace increasing is suitable to Christianity. The saints are not only jewels for sparkling lustre, but trees for growth. They are called the lights of the world. Light is still increasing: first there is the daybreak, and so it shines brighter to the meridian.

5. As the kingdom of grace increaseth, so a Christian’s comforts increase.

How may they be comforted, who bewail their want of growth, and weep that they cannot find the kingdom of grace increase?

1. To see and bewail our decay in grace argues not only the life of grace, but growth.

2. If a Christian doth not increase in one grace, he may in another; if not in knowledge, he may in humility. If a tree cloth not grow so much in the branches, it may in the root; to grow downwards in the root is a good growth.

3. A Christian may grow less in affection when he grows more in judgment. As a musician when he is old, his fingers are stiff and not so nimble at the lute as they were, but he plays with more art and judgment than before; so a Christian may not have so much affection in duty as at the first conversion, but he is more solid in religion, and more settled in his judgment than he was before.

4. A Christian may think he doth not increase in grace because he doth not increase in gifts; whereas there may be a decay of natural parts, the memory and other faculties, when there is not a decay of grace. Parts may be impaired, when grace is improved.

5. A Christian may increase in grace, yet not be sensible of it. I come to the second thing intended in this petition, “That the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that we may in due time be translated into it.” When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” here is something positively intended. We pray, 1st, that the kingdom of grace may be set in our hearts; 2nd, that it may increase and flourish; 3rd, that the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that God would in His due time translate us into it.

1. What this kingdom of glory is.

2. What are the properties of it.

3. Wherein it exceeds all other kingdoms.

4. When this kingdom comes.

5. Wherein appears the certainty of it.

6. Why we should pray for its coming.

First. What this kingdom of glory is. By this kingdom is meant that glorious estate which the saints shall enjoy when they shall reign with God and angels for ever. If a man stand upon the seashore he cannot see all the dimensions of the sea, the length, breadth, and depth of it, yet he may see it is of a vast extension; so, though the kingdom of heaven be of that incomparable excellency that neither tongue of man or angels can express, yet we may conceive of it to be an exceeding glorious thing, such as the eye hath not seen. 1st. What the kingdom of heaven implies.

I. It implies a freedom from all evil.

1. A freedom from the necessities of nature. What need will there be of food when our bodies shall be made spiritual? Though not spiritual for substance, yet for qualities. What need will there be of clothing when our bodies shall be like Christ’s glorious body? What need will there be of armour when there is no enemy? What need will there be of sleep when there is no night?

2. In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from the imperfections of nature. Since the fall our knowledge hath suffered an eclipse.

3. In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from the toilsome labours of this life. God enacted a law in paradise, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Where should there be rest but in the heavenly centre? Not that this sweet rest in the kingdom of heaven excludes all motion, for spirits cannot be idle; but the saints glorified shall rest from all wearisome employment; it shall be a labour full of ease, a motion full of delight; the saints in heaven shall love God, and what labour is that? Is it any labour to love beauty? They shall praise God, and that sure is delightful; when the bird sings, it is not so much a labour as a pleasure.

4. In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from original corruption: this is the root of all actual sin. There would be no actual sin if there were no original; there would be no water in the stream if there were none in the fountain. What a blessed time will that be, never to grieve God’s Spirit more!

5. In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all sorrows--“There shall be no more sorrow.” Our life here is interlarded with trouble. Either losses grieve, or lawsuits vex, or unkindness breaks the heart. We may as well separate moisture from air, or weight from lead, as troubles from man’s life.

6. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from the immodesty of temptation.

7. In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all vexing cares.

8. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from all doubts and scruples. In this life the best saint hath his doubtings, as the brightest star hath his twinkling.

9. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from all society with the wicked.

10. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from all signs of God’s displeasure.

11. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from all divisions.

12. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, be freed from vanity and dissatisfaction.

II. In the kingdom of heaven there is a glorious fruition of all good. Concerning the fruitions and privileges of this heavenly kingdom--

1. We shall have an immediate communion with God Himself, who is the inexhausted sea of all happiness; this divines call “the beatific vision.” God hath all excellencies concentred in Him. If one flower should have the sweetness of all flowers, how sweet would that flower be! All the beauty and sweetness which lie scattered in the creature are infinitely to be found in God; therefore to see and enjoy Him will ravish the soul with delight. We shall so see God as to love Him, and be made sensible of His love.

2. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, with these eyes see the glorified body of Jesus Christ. If the glory of His transfiguration was so great, what will the glory of His exaltation be?

3. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, enjoy the society of “an innumerable company of angels.”

4. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, have sweet society with glorified saints; then the communion of saints will be illustrious.

5. In the kingdom of heaven there shall be incomprehensible joy.

6. In heaven there is honour and dignity put upon the saints. A kingdom imports honour. When all the titles and ensigns of worldly honour shall lie in the dust--the mace, the silver star, the garter--then shall the saints’ honour remain.

7. We shall, in the kingdom of heaven, have a blessed rest. This rest is when the saints shall lie on Christ’s bosom, that hive of sweetness, that bed of perfume.

8. The saints shall, in the kingdom of heaven, have their bodies richly bespangled with glory; they shall be full of clarity and brightness, as Moses’ face shined that Israel were not able to behold the glory. The bodies of saints glorified shall need no jewels when they shall shine like Christ’s body.

9. In the heavenly kingdom is eternity; it is an eternal fruition; they shall never be put out of the throne, “they shall reign for ever and ever.” It is called “the everlasting kingdom,” and “an eternal weight of glory.” The flowers of paradise, of which the saints’ garland is made, never wither. Well may we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

What are the properties or qualifications of the kingdom of heaven?

1. The glory of this kingdom is solid and substantial; the Hebrew word for glory signifies a weight, to show how solid and weighty the glory of the celestial kingdom is. The glory of the worldly kingdom is airy and imaginary, like a blazing comet, or fancy.

2. The glory of this kingdom is satisfying--“With Thee is the fountain of life.” How can they choose but be full who are at the fountain-head? “When I awake, I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness.” The soul is never satisfied till it hath God for its portion and heaven for its haven.

3. The glory of heaven’s kingdom is pure and unmixed; the streams of paradise are not muddied. There is ease without pain, honour without disgrace, life without death.

4. The glory of this kingdom is constantly exhilarating and refreshing; there is fulness, but no surfeit. Worldly comforts, though sweet, yet in time grow stale; a down-bed pleaseth a while, but within a while we are weary, and would rise.

5. The glory of this kingdom is distributed to every individual saint. In an earthly kingdom the crown goes but to one, a crown will fit but one head; but in the kingdom above the crown goes to all, all the elect are kings. God hath land enough to give to all His heirs.

6. Lucid and transparent. This kingdom of heaven is adorned and bespangled with light.

7. The glory of this kingdom is adequate and proportionable to the desire of the soul. The excellency of a feast is when the meat is suited to the palate; this is one ingredient in the glory of heaven--it exactly suits the desires of the glorified saints.

8. The glory of this kingdom will be seasonable. The seasonableness of a mercy adds to its beauty and sweetness; it is like apples of gold to pictures of silver. After a hard winter in this cold climate will it not be seasonable to have the spring-flowers of glory appear, and the singing of the birds of paradise come?

Wherein the kingdom of heaven infinitely excels all the kingdoms of the earth.

1. It excels in the architect; other kingdoms have men to raise their structures, but God Himself laid the first stone in this kingdom. This kingdom is of the greatest antiquity; God was the first King and Founder of it; no angel was worthy to lay a stone in this building.

2. This heavenly kingdom excels in altitude; it is higher situated than any kingdom, the higher anything is the more excellent; the fire being the most sublime element is most noble. The kingdom of heaven is seated above all the visible orbs. If wicked men could build their nests among the stars, yet the least believer would shortly be above them.

3. The kingdom of heaven excels all others in splendour and riches; it is described by precious stones. Those who are poor in the world, yet, as soon as they come into this kingdom, grow rich, as rich as the angels; other kingdoms are enriched with gold, this is enriched with the Deity.

4. The kingdom of heaven excels all other kingdoms in holiness. Kingdoms on earth are for the most part unholy; there is a common sewer of luxury and uncleanness running in them. Holiness is the brightest jewel of the crown of heaven.

5. The kingdom of heaven excels all other kingdoms in its pacific nature; it is a kingdom of peace. Peace is the glory of a kingdom. A king’s crown is more adorned with the white lily of peace than when it is beset with the red roses of a bloody war. There is no beating of drums or roaring of cannons; but the voice of harpers harping, in token of peace.

6. The kingdom of heaven excels in magnitude; it is of vast dimensions. As every star hath a large orb to move in, so it shall be with the saints when they shall shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven.

7. The kingdom of heaven excels in unity; all the inhabitants agree together in love; love will be the perfume and music of heaven; as love to God will be intense, so to the saints. Perfect love, as it casts out fear, so it casts out envy and discord. There Luther and Zuinglius are agreed; Satan cannot put in his cloven foot there to make divisions; there shall be perfect harmony and concord, and not one jarring string in the saints’ music. It were worth dying to be in that kingdom.

8. This kingdom exceeds all earthly kingdoms in joy and pleasure; therefore it is called paradise.

9. This kingdom of heaven excels all earthly kingdoms in self-perfection. Other kingdoms are defective; they have not all provisions within themselves, but are fain to traffic abroad to supply their wants at home; King Solomon did send to Ophir for gold; but there is no defect in the kingdom of heaven; it hath all commodities of its own growth.

10. This kingdom of heaven excels all others in honour and nobility.

11. This kingdom of heaven excels all others in healthfulness. In the heavenly climate are no ill vapours to breed diseases, but a sweet aromatical smell coming from Christ; all His garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.

12. This kingdom of heaven excels in duration; it abides for ever. It is founded upon a strong basis, God’s omnipoteney; this kingdom the saints shall never be turned out of, or be deposed from their throne, as some kings have been, namely, Henry VI., etc., but shall reign for ever and ever. When shall this kingdom be bestowed? This glory in the kingdom of heaven shall be begun at death, but not perfected till the resurrection. Wherein appears the certainty and infallibility of this kingdom of glory?

That this blessed kingdom shall be bestowed on the saints is beyond all dispute.

1. God hath promised it--“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”; “I appoint unto you a kingdom.” The whole earth hangs upon the word of God’s power; and cannot our faith hang upon the word of His promise?

2. There is a price laid down for this kingdom. Heaven is not only a kingdom which God hath promised, but which Christ hath purchased; it is called a “purchased possession.”

3. Christ prays that the saints may have this kingdom settled upon them: “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am,” that is, in heaven.

4. The saints must have this blessed kingdom by virtue of Christ’s ascension: “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Where lies the comfort of this? Here it lies--Jesus Christ ascended to take possession of heaven for all believers. As a husband takes up land in another country in the behalf of his wife, so Christ went to take possession of heaven in the behalf of all believers--“I go to prepare a place for you.”

5. The elect must have this blessed kingdom, in regard of the previous work of the Spirit in their hearts.

6. The elect must have this blessed kingdom by virtue of their coalition and union with Jesus Christ. They are members of Christ; therefore they must be where their Head is.

Why should we so earnestly pray for this heavenly kingdom, “Thy kingdom come”?

1. Because it is a kingdom worth the praying for.

2. We must pray for this kingdom of glory, because God will not bestow this kingdom on any without prayers” They seek for glory and immortality”; and how do we seek but by prayer?

3. We must pray that the kingdom of glory may come, that by going into it we may make an end of sinning. I think sometimes what a blessed time it will be never to have a sinful thought more! We must not pray, “Thy kingdom come,” out of discontent, because we would be rid of the troubles and crosses of this life.

4. Because that all Christ’s enemies shall be put under his feet.

5. We must pray earnestly that the kingdom of glory may come, that we may see God “face to face,” and have an uninterrupted and eternal communion with Him in the empyrean heaven.

1. From all this you see then that there is nothing within the whole sphere of religion imposed upon unreasonable terms. When God bids us serve Him, it is no unreasonable request; He will out of free grace enthrone us in a kingdom. When we hear of repentance, steeping our souls in brinish tears for sin, or of mortification, beheading our king-sin, we are ready to grumble, and think this is hard and unreasonable--“But do we serve God for nought?” Is it not infinite bounty to reward us with a kingdom? This kingdom is as far above our thoughts as it is beyond our deserts. Our service cannot be so hard as a kingdom is sweet.

2. See hence the royal bounty of God to His children, that He hath prepared a kingdom for them, a kingdom bespangled with glory; it is infinitely above the model we can draw of it in our thoughts.

3. See hence that religion is no ignominious, disgraceful thing. Would a prince regard the slightings of a few frantics when be is going to be crowned? You who are beginners, bind their reproaches as a crown about your head, despise their censures as much as their praise; a kingdom is a-coming.

4. See what contrary ways the godly and the wicked go at death; the godly go to a kingdom, the wicked to a prison; the devil is the jailor, and they are bound with the “chains of darkness.”

5. See then that which may make us in love with holy duties; every duty spiritually performed brings us a step nearer to the kingdom. As every flower hath its sweetness, so would every duty, if we would look upon it as giving us a lilt nearer heaven.

6. It shows us what little cause the children of God have to envy the prosperity of the wicked.

7. Is there a kingdom of glory a-coming? then see how happy all the saints are at death; they go to a kingdom; they shall see God’s face, which shines ten thousand times brighter than the sun in its meridian glory. The godly at death shall be installed into their honour, and have the crown royal set upon their head. In the kingdom of heaven the saints are crowned with all those perfections which the human nature is capable of. In the kingdom of heaven there is glory in its highest elevation; in that kingdom is knowledge without ignorance, holiness without sin, beauty without blemish, strength without weakness, light without darkness, riches without poverty, ease without pain, liberty without restraint, rest without labour, joy without sorrow, love without hatred, plenty without surfeit, honour without disgrace, health without sickness, peace without war, contentation without cessation. O the happiness of those who die in the Lord I they go into this blessed kingdom. And if they are so happy when they die, then let me make two inferences.

8. See the wisdom of the godly; they have the serpent’s eye in the dove’s head; wise virgins. Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.” It was a wise, rational choice; he knew if he suffered he should reign. At the day of judgment those whom the world accounted foolish will appear to be wise; they made a prudent choice, they chose holiness; and what is happiness but the quintessence of holiness?

9. See the folly of those who, for vain pleasures and profits, will lose such a glorious kingdom. Lysimachus, for a draught of water, lost his empire; so for a draught of sinful pleasure these will lose heaven. We, too, much resemble our grandfather Adam, who for an apple lost paradise; many for trifles, to get a shilling more in the shop or bushel, will venture the loss of heaven. If Satan could make good his brag, in giving all the glory and kingdoms of the world, it could not countervail the loss of the celestial kingdom.

Of reproof.

1. It reproves such as do not at all look after this kingdom of glory; as if all we say about heaven were but a romance, they do not mind it. That they mind it not, appears because they do not labour to have the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts. If they have some thoughts of this kingdom, yet it is in a dull, careless manner. Luther spent three hours a day in prayer. “Anna, the prophetess, departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” How zealous and industrious were the martyrs to get into this heavenly kingdom I They wore their fetters as ornaments, snatched up torments as crowns, and embraced the flames as cheerfully as Elijah did the fiery chariot which came to fetch him to heaven; and do we not think this kingdom worth our labour?

2. It reproves such as were once great zealots in religion, and did seem to be touched with a coal from God’s altar, but since have cooled in their devotion, and have left off the pursuing the celestial kingdom.

Whence is this?

1. For want of a supernatural principle of grace. That branch must needs die which hath no root to grow upon.

2. From unbelief--“An evil heart of unbelief, departing from the living God.”

3. Men leave off pursuing the heavenly kingdom; it is from some secret lust nourished in the soul, perhaps a wanton or a covetous lust. Demas for love of the world forsook his religion.

4. Men leave off pursuing the kingdom of heaven out of timorousness; if they persist in religion they may lose their places of profit, perhaps their lives.

How shall we know this kingdom is prepared for us? If we are prepared for the kingdom. How may that be known? Would we go to the kingdom of heaven? are we heavenly?

1. Are we heavenly in our contemplations? Do our thoughts run upon this kingdom?

2. Are we heavenly in our affections? Do we set our affections on the kingdom of heaven? This is the temper of a true saint; his affections are set on the kingdom of God, his anchor is cast in heaven, and he is carried thither with the sails of desire.

3. Are we heavenly in our speeches? Christ after His resurrection did speak of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Are your tongues tuned to the language of the heavenly Canaan?

4. Are we heavenly in our trading? Is our traffic and merchandise in heaven? Do we trade in the heavenly kingdom by faith? A man may live in one place and trade in another; he may live in Ireland, and trade in the West Indies; so, do we trade in the heavenly kingdom? They shall never go to heaven when they die who do not trade in heaven while they live.

5. Are our lives heavenly?

Of exhortation to all in general.

1. If there be such a glorious kingdom to come, believe this great truth.

2. If there be such a blessed kingdom of glory to come, let us take heed lest we miss of this kingdom, let us fear lest we lose heaven by short shooting. Trembling in the body is a malady; in the soul a grace.

How many steps may a man take in the way to the kingdom of God, yet miss of it!

1. He may be adorned with civility, he may be morally righteous, he may be prudent, just, temperate, he may be free from penal statutes; this is good, but not enough to bring a man to heaven.

2. He may hang out the flag of a glorious profession, yet fall short of the kingdom.

3. A man may be a frequenter of ordinances, and yet miss of the kingdom.

4. A man may have some trouble for sin, and weep for it, yet miss of the heavenly kingdom.

5. A man may have good desires, yet miss of the kingdom--“Let me die the death of the righteous!”

6. A man may forsake his sins, oaths, drunkenness, uncleanness, yet come short of the kingdom.

Secondly, this fear is necessary, if we consider what a loss it is to lose the heavenly kingdom.

1. The eyes of the wicked shall be opened to see their loss; now they care not for the loss of God’s favour, because they know not the worth of it.

2. A second aggravation of the loss of this kingdom will be, that sinners shall be upbraided by their own conscience.

3. A third aggravation of the loss of heaven will be to look upon others that have gained the kingdom.

4. A fourth aggravation is, this loss of the kingdom of heaven is accompanied with the punishment of sense.

5. A fifth aggravation of the loss of this kingdom will be to consider on what easy and reasonable terms men might have had this kingdom.

6. Aggravation of the loss of this kingdom, it will be an eternal, irreparable loss; heaven, once lost, can never be recovered. What shall we do that we may not miss of this kingdom of glory?

1st. Take heed of those things which will make you miss of heaven.

1. Take heed of spiritual sloth.

2. Take heed of unbelief. Unbelief kept Israel out of Canaan; so we see “they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

3. If you would not miss of the heavenly kingdom, take heed of mistake, imagining the way to the kingdom of heaven to be easier than iris; iris but a sigh, or, “Lord have mercy!”

4. If you would not miss of the heavenly kingdom, take heed of delays and procrastinations.

5. If you would not come short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of prejudice. Many take a prejudice at religion, and on this rock dash their souls.

6. If you would not miss of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of presumption.

7. If you would not miss of the heavenly kingdom, take heed of the delights and pleasures of the flesh.

8. If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of worldly-mindedness; a covetous spirit is a dunghill spirit, it chokes good affections, as the earth puts out the fire.

9. If you would not come short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of indulging any sin.

10. If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of inordinate passion; many a ship hath been lost in a storm, and many a soul hath been lost in a storm of unruly passions.

11. If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of injustice in your dealings; defrauding lies in two things. Mixing commodities--as if one mix bad wheat with good, and sell it for pure wheat, this is to defraud.

12. If you would not miss of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of evil company.

13. If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of falling off; beware of apostasy; he misseth of the prize who doth not hold out in the race; he who makes shipwreck of the faith cannot came to the haven of glory. 2nd. The second means for the obtaining of the kingdom is serious consideration; most men fall short of heaven for want of consideration. 3rd. The third means for obtaining this kingdom is to keep up daily prayer. 4th. If you would obtain the heavenly kingdom get a love to heaven. Love puts a man upon the use of all means to enjoy the thing loved. 5th. If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, make religion your business. 6th. If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, bind your hearts to God by sacred vows. 7th. If you would obtain the kingdom, embrace all seasons and opportunities for your souls--“Redeeming the time.” 8th. We obtain the kingdom of heaven by uniform and cheerful obedience. Obedience is the road through which we travel to heaven. 9th. If we would obtain this kingdom, be much in the communion of saints; one coal of juniper will warm and inflame another. 10th. If we would attain to this kingdom of heaven, let us be willing to come up to Christ’s terms.

Many will be cheapening, and bid something for the kingdom of heaven; they will avoid gross sin, and will coma to church, and say their prayers; and yet all this while they are not willing to come up to God’s price. How doth a Christian hold on till he comes to the kingdom? How doth he persevere?

1. By the aid of the Spirit. God carries on a Christian to perseverance by the energy and vigorous working of His Spirit.

2. Christ causeth perseverance and carries on a saint till he come to the heavenly kingdom by His intercession. The kingdom of heaven cannot be obtained without labour. A boat may as well get to land without oars, as we to heaven without labour. We cannot have the world without labour, and do we think to have heaven? What striving is there for earthly kingdoms, which are corruptible, and subject to change? With what vigour and alacrity did Hannibal’s soldiers continue their march over the Alps and craggy rocks, and Caesar’s soldiers fight with hunger and cold! Men will break through laws and oaths, they will swim to the crown in blood; will they venture thus for earthly promotions, and shall not we strive more for an earthly kingdom? This is “a kingdom which cannot be moved,” a kingdom where there is unparalleled beauty, unstained honour, unmixed joy; a kingdom where there shall be nothing present which we could wish were removed, nor nothing absent which we could wish were enjoyed. (T. Watson.)

Thy kingdom come

First: there is His natural kingdom, or His kingdom over the material creation. Secondly: there is God’s supernatural kingdom, or His kingdom over the moral creation. For, let it be noted, our Father’s kingdom, like all things of life, is a growth. And first, the kingdom of God, viewed as an inception, has its beginning with and in Jesus Christ. Not that the kingdom of God, as a spiritual sway, had not existed before the Incarnation. Prophets and patriarchs were members of it; but they were members of it anticipatively. The kingdom of God, then, surveyed as a beginning, had its root in Jesus Christ: and so it is called His kingdom, the kingdom of the Son, the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And thus surveyed, the kingdom of God has already come. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying: Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. From that time, Jesus Himself began to preach and to say: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel.” Again: the kingdom of God, viewed as a growth, has its unfolding in the Holy Ghost. For, being a spiritual kingdom- the building up of a spiritual character--it needs a spiritual architect, a spiritual workman, a spiritual aedile. God’s kingdom is not food and drink, a matter of ceremonial distinction between clean and unclean; it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. As such, the kingdom of God, since the Son departed and the Spirit came, has ever been and still is coming. The conversion of each separate sinner through all these centuries has been the setting up of a new and distinct duchy or principality in the empire of the Father. Once more: the kingdom of God, viewed as a consummation, has its end and completion in the Father. The kingdom for whose coming we are here taught to pray is, as we have seen, the kingdom of the consummation, when God shall be all in all. But as the coming of what is ultimate involves the coming of what is intermediate, and as the Christ must continual reigning till He hath made all His enemies His footstool, the prayer for the coming of our Father’s kingdom involves prayer for the coming of His Son’s. But it is not enough that we simply pray, “Thy kingdom come!” We must also work in theline of our prayer. (G. D. Boardraan, D. D.)

Thy kingdom come

He who is “our Father:” is also a King. This is a prayer which even children may offer. This is a matter with which even children have to do. In the war that not long since was raging on the continent of Europe, the interest and the work were not confined to those who were grown up. Not only in the universities and among the students, but in the schools, and among the young people generally, there was not only enthusiasm, but effort. They all felt that they could do, and should be doing, something. The war-spirit seemed to have made its way into the very infant schools. The very infants were quite becoming little soldiers. “What could such children know about these things?” you ask. Perhaps the best answer I can give, is to read to you an extract which I cut out of a newspaper at the time: “The energy, concord, and practical good sense shown by the Genoese ladies, in their labour of charity and patriotism, were marvellous. The first instalment of supplies for the wounded had been despatched on the 20th ult., under the superintendence of surgeons and their dressers. The chests contained bandages, compressers, lint, and shirts. They were forwarded to the central depot at Milan, and not a day too soon. Every class has vied in these offerings. Even the children of the infant schools had given up their money allowance for fruit, and for some weeks had eaten dry bread at their noonday meal, and, with the money thus saved, had bought materials for their contributions.” Shall the names of Italy’s king and captains be household words among the people? Shall the children of Italy be familiar with the names of Garibaldi, and Victor Immanuel, and La Marmots, and Cialdini, and rise into enthusiasm at the very mention of them? Shall they be interested in the movements of their armies, and talk among themselves of winning Venetia and Rome to the Italian crown, and shall our boys and girls take no interest in the coming of that kingdom of righteousness and peace, of which our text speaks? We do not want fighting of that kind, we want praying. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

I. THE PRAYER: “Thy kingdom come!” What is implied in it?

1. The destroying of the kingdom of Satan. Satan, too, is a king--a mighty king--the head of a kingdom, with wide-spread dominion, and many subjects. I have spoken of Italy. Not long since, that country was divided into a number of petty kingdoms and states. In some of these the people were groaning under the yoke of their oppressors. Their prisons were loathsome and filthy dungeons, filled with miserable prisoners, who were there for what, in this country, would not have been accounted crime at all. For having a Bible or tract in their possession, for getting it out of its hiding-place at dead of night, and gathering a few neighbours together to hear it read, for telling about Jesus and the way of salvation, they were imprisoned and banished. Don’t you think, when they heard the tidings of Garibaldi’s wonderful exploits, and of what he and his band of brave red jackets were bent upon doing for the whole country, as they listened to the distant bugle sound, and then to the crack of musketry closer at hand, as they heard it coming nearer and nearer--oh, don’t you think they would devoutly pray, “Thy kingdom come,” as they thought of the approach of one who would give them civil and religious liberty, who would break off the fetters from the prisoner and open the prison doors, and bring the reign of terror to an end? During the Indian Mutiny, when our countrymen were hemmed in on all sides by bloodthirsty rebels, who had been guilty of the most dreadful atrocities, and were waiting, like beasts of prey, ready to rush in whenever an opening was made, and subject their victims to what was worse than death--how they longed for the coming of the British soldiers, to break the power of the enemy, and bring to a speedy close his brief but dreadful supremacy! Had the mutineers got their will, we can hardly think what might have been--how women and little children would have been mercilessly tortured and slain, and brave men would have died a lingering and shameful death. Oh, how their hearts yearned for the quiet and safety of their far-off home; and as they went back, in thought, to the land of their birth, how earnestly they sighed, “Thy kingdom come!” And when at last there was the sound of distant bagpipes, telling that Sir Colin Campbell and his brave Highlanders were coming to the rescue, and their colours at length appeared flying in the wind, and the boom of cannon fell upon the ear, who shall ever tell how welcome it was, sad how they wept for joy, as the restoration of British rule saved them from the hands of cruel foes? This petition asks the destroying of Satan’s power

(7) Heathenism.

They must cultivate the ground, sowing and planting, and prevent the springing up again of what is evil or useless by growing what is useful and good. When the ground is merely cleared, the work is but half done. If you were getting a property into your hands, with a house on it that was ugly to look at, and dangerous to live in, a ruin, it would not be enough that you took down the old house, and cleared away the rubbish. That would be necessary, indeed, but it would merely be a step in the right direction--a means towards an end. The old house once away, a new one would have to be set up in its place. You would have forthwith to begin to build, strongly and beautifully, and the perfection of the thing would be, to have, instead of the ruin, not a mere vacant site, but a comfortable and elegant dwelling. Now all this is just what must be in the other case. Satan’s kingdom may be so far destroyed, but if the kingdom of God is not set up in its stead, Satan will come back again, and get firmer possession than ever. Just such a picture we have in Matthew (Matthew 12:43-45), drawn by the hand of Jesus Himself.

Let us see, then, what is meant by the advancing of the kingdom of grace.

3. This petition implies the hastening of the kingdom of glory. We come now to consider--

II. OUR DUTY in connection with it.

1. To pray. Many of us say this prayer who never pray it. Many repeat the words who have no desire for the thing. At the last great exhibition in London, there was one object that excited special interest. It was a speaking-machine, so contrived as to give utterance to certain sounds, like those of a human voice. Many of our prayers are as worthless as if they were uttered by such a machine, because they are not the prayers of the heart. Why, just suppose that the children of any town or district were to combine to get something they wanted very much from their parents or teachers, and were with one voice to ask it, would it not be a very difficult thing to refuse the request? Would they not be almost sure to carry their point? One great complaint just now, throughout the Churches, is the want of missionaries. Men cannot be got to go and tell the heathen the story of redeeming love, and preach among them the unsearchable riches of Christ. Would it not be a sad thing, if, on a harvest day, when the fields are covered with waving corn, all ready to be cut down, no one could be got to reap it, so that the grain began to fall out of the ear, or to rot upon its stalk? That is just a picture of the heathen world now. What would help to get them? One thing, I know, would help wonderfully--the prayers of our children. Another complaint in many quarters is, the want of blessing where the missionaries are. The hearts of some of them are failing, because there seems to be so little fruit of all their labours. They need--they ask your help. I saw lately, the picture of a party of children who had gone a bird-nesting. The nest was on the face of a cliff. One of the boys had a rope tied firmly round his waist, and was let gently down. In one sense he did the work; but did not everything depend on the others holding the rope? And when, having robbed the nest, he was attacked by the mother bird, I can fancy he was not so much afraid of that as of their letting him go; so that I think I hear his cries to those above, on whom all depended, “Hold the rope! Hold the rope!” One of the first missionaries who left this country to unfurl the gospel standard in India, said he would only consent to go down into the mine, on condition that his friends, whom he left behind, should thus “hold the rope.” That is what they want and expect you to do now. They have gone instead of you; and from all lands, the missionaries’ cry, to the children at home, amid all their dangers and discouragements, is, “Hold the rope! Hold the rope!” The holding of the rope is the offering of earnest believing prayer.

2. To work. It is not enough to pray. We must work as well as pray. The two should always go together--praying and working. Perhaps you say, “What can the like of us do? We cannot preach to people; we cannot go out as missionaries; we don’t see that we can be of any use--that we can do anything at all ill this matter.” Well, you can do many things else. Many of you have a wonderful amount of energy. I have seen many of you at your games, and have watched you with not a little interest and pleasure as you made such tremendous efforts to come off first in the contest. Young people, who can master such difficult lessons at school, who can acquire a knowledge of Latin and Greek, and French and German; who are so well versed in geography, and arithmetic, and mathematics; who carry off prizes, and get no end of praise for your abilities and good qualities, you can surely do something for Christ. There is much of children’s work that is lost. There is, perhaps, good got from it as regards the promoting of the general health of the body, but very little as regards the direct result. There are some things which a child cannot do so well as a man. There are some kinds of work which he cannot do at all--some burdens which he cannot carry. But there are things which he can do every whir as well--some better. A little body can get in at some openings where a big one cannot. A little hand can do some things which a big one cannot. In our large factories, children can go where old people cannot, and can do what others cannot. So in field labour. Work for Christ is often compared to the sowing of seed. Now, sometimes a young hand can drop a seed where an older one cannot. We are told of a Scotchman in another land, that missing the thistle of his native country, and longing to see it as at home, he procured a supply of seed, and when travelling to and fro, scattered it from his carriage window wherever he went. Dropping it here and there, it was not long ere the Scotch thistle bristled all over that region. Now, a child’s hand can do that, and sow better seed than the Scotch thistle. It can sow the incorruptible seed of the Word in human hearts. Let me give you some illustrations. There is one who is described as “neither believing in heaven nor hell, God nor devil.” There is no way of getting at him. Ministers and others have tried in vain to reach him. “He said if any parson dared to enter his room, he would smash his brains out with the poker.” He is an infidel, and he is ill how shall he be got at? A little girl repeats to him a hymn she has learned at the Sabbath-school, and as she goes on, he covers his face and weeps. The door is thus opened, and the man’s heart reached, and when, a while after, he dies, among the last words he utters are three lines of that child’s hymn, which he has learned to make his own:--

“See smiling patience smooths my brow,

See the kind angels waiting now,

To waft my soul on high”;

and his last wish is to have a sermon preached from the text “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

3. To give. It does not matter though it is little you have to give, Children should be early accustomed to give to the cause of Christ, and to give what is their own. Every family should be a little missionary society--praying, working, giving. “Sir,” said a working man to Mr. Knill, of St. Petersburg, “I went last night to the missionary meeting, and I heard you speak of the love of Christ, and of the responsibility of Christ’s people to seek the salvation of the heathen. I have professed many years to be a Christian, but I have never yet given anything to the Christian cause. I have come now to say that, by good health and constant work, I have saved up £10; and I have brought it, begging your acceptance of it, as my first contribution to the missionary society.” Don’t make a show of giving, any more than of working. Be like a youth in a small country town in Scotland, who afterwards became a good and useful man. His ambition was to give a piece of gold to the cause of Christ; and, when at last he had a half-sovereign, and the day had come when he was to put it into the plate at the church door, the attention of the two eiders at the door was attracted by the careful way in which the lad put down his penny. On lifting it, there, between two pennies, lay the yellow coin! (J. H. Wilson, M. A )

The kingdom of God on the earth

We shall have still clearer views of this kingdom by specifying some of its great features. It possesses very remarkable characteristics, and is unlike every other kingdom.

1. It is emphatically distinguished by the character and authority of its Great Prince. At all times, under all circumstances, and in its whole procedure and administration, this kingdom is subjected to Him as its great and sole Monarch. Its common law and its positive statutes may be prescribed by no earthly and secular power. In no one particular may His decisions be departed from.

2. Another peculiarity of this kingdom will be found in the principles by which it is administered. “Justice and judgment are the habitation of God’s throne”; these are the great principles on which it is built and stands firm. And in this preeminently consists the force and excellence of His claims upon the hearts of His subjects. His very law is clothed with new power by the grace that bringeth salvation. Principles which thus originate with the heart of the Deity, are fitted to address themselves to the hearts of men.

Hence one peculiarity of the laws of this kingdom is the fact that they are spiritual, and go beyond the exterior man. They aim at the heart.

3. Another peculiarity of this kingdom is found in the character of its subjects. The subjects of this kingdom are they who are redeemed by the blood of its Prince, and sanctified by His Spirit. They possess a congeniality of mind with the spirit and tenor of God’s Word; while their practical compliance with it is the effect of the love of God shed abroad in their hearts.

4. Another peculiarity of this kingdom, therefore, consists in its benevolent and hallowed influence. Depraved as the world is, its great security, under God, is in the practical influence of this Divine kingdom.

5. Another of the distinctions of this kingdom is, that it is a happy kingdom. The kingdom of God has come to them as suffering, perishing men, with the abundance of its light, the plenitude of its pardons, the redundancy of its grace. The malady and the misery which consisted in their departure from God, are healed by their being restored.

6. The only remaining characteristic of this kingdom on which I shall dwell is its perpetuity. It is a kingdom which “shall never be destroyed”: it shall “not be left to other people”: it shall “stand for ever.” “Of this kingdom,” said the angel Gabriel to Mary, “there shall be no end.” The “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The means of extending God’s kingdom

It is destined to advance; but the inquiry is one of interest, How and by what means is its advancement to be secured? Its conquests are not physical, nor political, nor military conquests; but spiritual victories, and are achieved by a spiritual armour.

1. There are preparatory measures by which the minds of men are rendered accessible to its influences. There is an intimate connection between the system of providence and the method of grace. One of the selected and ordained means of advancing the kingdom of God, ever has been the revolutions and conduct of His own mighty providence. His providence, in ways unseen, as well as seen, prepares the way for His gospel, and is the appointed precursor to herald its approach. The history of the past, as well as events that are taking place under our own observation, abundantly show how the many overturnings in the affairs of men, subserve the purpose of His mediatorial reign. Even the sword of the conqueror receives its commission from Him who purposes to follow it with the sword of His Spirit.

2. In addition to these preparatory arrangements, there are moral instrumentalities by which this kingdom is to be advanced.

3. Another of the means by which this kingdom is advanced, is the religious education of the young. I remark, then, once more, there is an appropriate place for another powerful agency in advancing the kingdom of God: I mean the power of prayer. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Thy kingdom come

In this petition we have three words, and all very observable.

I. A noun--“Kingdom”;

II. A pronoun--“Thy”; and--

III. A verb--“Come.”

I. The kingdom which here we are commanded to pray for is not that which the Chiliasts or Millenaries fondly dream of, the enjoyment of pomp and pleasure and all temporal happiness upon earth for a thousand years together after the resurrection. This fancy they fetch from Revelation 20:1-15. and other places.

II. I now proceed further, to unfold the nature of the kingdom of God. It is Regnum Tuum, “Thy kingdom.” Which puts a difference betwixt this and other kingdoms. To speak something of these in their order.

1. First. In the kingdom of Christ and His laws neither people, nor senate, nor wise men, nor judges had any hand. The laws of Christ are unchangeable and eternal, but all human constitutions are temporary and mutable.

2. The second head wherein the difference of this kingdom from others is seen, is the power of it, which is extended not to the body alone, but to the soul also. Magistrates promulge laws, threaten, bind the tongue and hand; but have no influence nor operation on the hearts and wills of men. But in this our spiritual kingdom the King doth not only command, but gives us His helping hand that we may perform His command. But we must remember it is a kingdom we speak of; and Christ is a King, not a tyrant.

3. We pass now to the third head of difference, which consists in the compass and circuit of this kingdom, which is as large as all the world. In this respect all kingdoms come short of it, every one having its bounds which it cannot pass without violence. A foolish title it is which some give the Emperor of Rome, as if he had power over the most remote and unknown people of the world. Bartolus counts him no less than a heretic who denies it. But his arguments are no better than the emperor’s title, which is but nominal. “The gospel must be preached to all nations,” saith our Saviour (Mark 16:15). But as the sun hath its race through all the world, but yet doth not shine in every part at once, but beginneth in the east, and passeth to the south, and so to the west; and, as it passeth forward, it bringeth light to one place, and withdraweth it from another: so is it with the Sun of Righteousness; He spreads His beams on those who were in darkness and the shadow of death, and makes it night to them who had the clearest noon. Not that His race is confined, as is the sun’s, but because of the interposition of men’s sins, who exclude them selves from His beams.

4. And now to proceed to our fourth head of difference: As this is the largest of all kingdoms, so it is the most lasting.

5. We will conclude with the riches of this kingdom. If money were virtue, and earthly honour salvation; if the jasper were holiness, and the sapphire obedience; if those pearls in the Revelation were virtues; then that of our Saviour would be true in this sense also, “The kingdom of heaven would be taken by violence” (Matthew 11:12). The covetous, the ambitious, the publicans and sinners, would all be candidati angelorum, “joint-suitors and competitors for an angel’s place.” Behold, then, in this kingdom are riches which never fail; not money, but virtue; not honour, but salvation; not the jasper and the sapphire, but that pearl which is better than all our estate. Having now made the comparison, the choice is easy. And a great folly it were to prefer the world to the Church. In the world the laws are mutable, here everlasting. In the world they have tongues many times to speak, but not hands to strike; here they both thunder and lighten. There power beats the ear, here it pierceth the very heart. The kingdoms of the world are bounded by place and time; this is unconfinable: more scope in the Church than in the world. The riches of the one are fading and transitory, of the other everlasting. And of this just and mighty and large and rich and everlasting kingdom we cannot but say, Adveniat, “Let it come.”

III. We pass now to the petition itself, to the verb Adveniat, “Let it come.” Which breathes itself forth in an earnest desire to draw this kingdom nearer. Whether you take it for the gospel, which is the manifestation of God’s will; or for the receiving of the gospel, which is the performing of His will; whether you take it for the kingdom of grace here, or for the kingdom of glory hereafter; A dveniat, “Let it come!” That is the language of every true Christian. “Where it is not yet come, ‘let it come’; it cannot come soon enough. And when it is come, let it come nearer. When it is within us, let it be established there; and when it is established, let it be eternized there. Remove all obstacles, supply all helps, ut adveniat, ‘that it may come’; that Thy kingdom of grace may entitle us to Thy kingdom of glory.” I might name here many hindrances of the growth of the gospel; as heresy, which is a most poisonous viper biting not the heel but the very heart of it; infidelity, which robs Christ of His subjects, contracts His kingdom into a narrow room and into a small number; disorder, which rends it, which works confusion there.

1. Further: this Adveniat reacheth to the second advent of Christ, even to the end of all things. For of His kingdom of glory we say, “Let it come.” And it is a word of desire, not of impatience. For though we cry out, “How long, Lord? how long?” (Revelation 6:10) yet we are willing to stay His leisure. For it is also a word expressing our hope. And hope as it doth stir and quicken our desire, so doth it also temper it, that it be not irregular.

2. Secondly. Adveniat is a word expressing our faith. Though hope takes a long day, yet faith lays hold on the promises as if they were present, being “the substance, the evidence,” the presence, “of things to come” Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the life of hope, without which it cannot have existence. Hope doth suppose faith; but faith may be where there is no hope at all.

3. Lastly. This Adveniat, as it is the language of our hope and faith, so is it the dialect also of our charity and love both to God and our brethren. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Of the difference betwixt the kingdoms of grace and glory

The kingdoms of grace and of glory are but one and the same kingdom, distinguished into two parts, which differ in six circumstances.

1. In time. The kingdom of grace is now present while here we live. The kingdom of glory is to come.

2. In place. This of grace is on earth; that of glory in heaven.

3. In condition. This is continually warfaring against many enemies, in which respect it is styled the Church militant; that triumpheth over all the enemies, in which respect it is called the Church triumphant.

4. In order of entering into them. This is to be entered into, and passed through before we can enter into that. The priest was to enter through the sanctuary into the sanctum sanctorum.

5. In the manner of government. This is governed and ordered by many subordinate means, as magistrates, ministers, and sundry ordinances. That immediately by God Himself.

6. In continuance. This hath a date, and is to come to an end. That is everlasting without end. (W. Gouge.)

How ought we to pray for particular Churches whose estate we know?

We ought to frame our prayers according to that we hear, see, or otherwise know of any. As--

1. If any especial blessing be bestowed on any, to pray that it may be continued and increased.

2. If any mischievous plots be practised against any, to pray that they may be prevented.

3. If ministers or other members of any Churches be surprised, to pray that they may be delivered.

4. If persecution be raised against any Church, to pray that either that fire may be quenched, or else that sufficient courage and strength may be given to such as are persecuted to hold out, and endure the uttermost trial.

5. If any noisome weeds of idolatry, heresy, schism, or the like, sprout up in any Church, to pray that they may be rooted out. To sharpen our prayer herein, we ought oft to call to mind that which in this case is promised by Christ, “Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” This is that true use which we are to make of the knowledge that we have of the estate of any of God’s Churches. (W. Gouge.)

Of the things to be bewailed under the second petition

All such things as any way make to the disadvantage or disparagement of the kingdom of Christ. As--

1. That great sway which Satan hath in the world.

2. The small circuit of Christ’s kingdom.

3. The mixture of Satan’s subjects with Christ’s in that small circuit.

4. The many clouds which obscure the light of the gospel. I mean the clouds of error, superstition, human traditions and such like.

5. The spoils of the Church made by open enemies.

6. Treacheries of false-hearted brethren.

7. Unfaithfulness in magistrates.

8. Unfaithfulness in ministers.

9. Desolation of seminaries.

10. Disorder of families.

11. Professors’ unworthy walking.

12. Reproaches cast upon the saints.

13. Persecution raised against the Church.

14. Timorous backsliding of professors.

15. Schisms, sects, and dissensions in the Church. (W. Gouge.)

Prayer for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom

1. The first motive, to which I request your attention, is the Divine command. We ought to pray for the advancement of this kingdom, because God, our rightful Sovereign, requires it of us.

2. A second motive, which should induce us to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom is, that by this desirable event the Divine glory will be greatly promoted.

3. The benefits which will result to mankind from the coming of God’s kingdom, furnish another powerful motive to induce us to pray for its advancement. The number and value of these benefits, as they respect the present life, may in some measure be inferred from a consideration of the nature and tendency of Christ’s kingdom. It essentially consists, as has already been observed, in righteousness, peace, and holy joy.

4. We may therefore add, as another motive which should induce us to pray for the universal spread of Christ’s kingdom, that He has promised, and even sworn by Himself, that this event shall infallibly take place.

5. As a farther inducement to do this, permit me to remind you that the time allotted for their fulfilment is rapidly advancing, and that the present appearance of the world and the dispensations of Providence plainly indicate that God is about to finish His work and out it short in righteousness, and that the latter day of Christ’s kingdom is beginning to dawn.

6. As a farther motive to induce you to this, consider the happy effects which it will have upon yourselves. Nothing can more directly or more powerfully tend to destroy every baleful, malignant passion in your breasts, or promote in them the growth of Divine benevolence, than frequently praying for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. That our prayers for this event may be acceptable to God, two things are indispensably necessary.

Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth

Doing God’s will

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WILL OF GOD.

1. The will of God’s commands (Hebrews 13:24; Matthew 7:21). God’s will may be reduced to two heads:

2. The will of God’s providence (Psalms 135:6). It may be considered--

II. BY WHOM GOD’S WILL IS DONE IN HEAVEN.

1. By the heavenly bodies--sun, moon, and stars.

2. By the angels.

III. THE IMPORT OF THIS PETITION.

1. With reference to the will of God’s command.

(a) The will of God is not done on earth as it is in heaven,

(b) There is in all men naturally an utter indisposition and unfitness for the will of God’s commands.

(a) It is the grief of their hearts, that God’s will is not done by themselves or others, as it is done in heaven (Matthew 21:29).

(b) That God by the power of His grace is able to reform this, and to frame the souls of men on earth to the doing His will, as in heaven.

(a) That He would by His grace remove from themselves and others all spiritual blindness and cause them to know His will

Ephesians 1:17-18).

(b) That God by His grace would remove from themselves and others all weakness, indisposition, and perverseness, and cause them to obey and do His will, as it is done in heaven (Psalms 119:35). And here as in a glass we may see what sort of doing the will of God the saints aim at and desire. It is--

(i) To do it evenly, without stumbling or changing their course.

(ii) To do it unweariedly.

(iii) To do it universally.

(iv) To do it humbly.

(v) To do it cheerfully.

(vi) To do it readily, without delay.

(vii) To do it constantly.

2. With reference to the will of God’s providence.

(a) Of a natural aptness in all men to quarrel, repine, and murmur against the methods and disposals of Providence (Numbers 14:2).

(b) Of a natural backwardness to fall in with the designs of providence of one sort or other.

(a) of the saint’s sorrow for this disposition of heart crossing the will of God;

(b) of the faith of the power of grace to subdue the will to this conformity.

IV. WHY the saints have such a concern that the will of God may be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

1. Because it is most just, holy, reasonable, and equitable, in all things, and they see it so (Psalms 119:128).

2. Because the glory of God, which of all things is dearest to the saints, is deeply interested in this matter.

3. Because this would make a heaven on earth. If there were such a harmony betwixt earth and heaven, that God’s will were done in the one as in the other, it would make on earth--

On doing God’s will

This petition is often quoted as if it were merely a prayer for meek resignation; or, as though it contained but an echo of the sobbings of Gethsemane. But whilst this is certainly included, the prayer seems to comprise much more; and to ask for Christian energy as well as for Christian endurance; and for diligence as much as patience. It is not only the motto of that blessed Redeemer, as He is beheld mutely suffering, but also as He is presented incessantly and effectually larbouring. All Christ’s obedience in life, as well as His obedience unto death, is embraced in the sentiment and spirit of the petition before us. There would be another incongruity in giving to the present sentence merely the narrow construction of resignation to suffering; it is that angels and saints in heaven could scarce be presented to us in the manner in which here they are, as our patterns. Patterns they could not well be of those who are enduring evils, since from all evil they are now and for evermore exempt. But give to the petition the wider scope of conformity to the Father’s will--in action as well as in submission--let it be the Lord’s will done, aswell as the Lord’s will borne--endeavoured as well as endured--and you may readily see how the glorified worshippers on high--those who continually and perfectly and cheerfully obey the Father’s wishes--may well be made models for our imitation, and their zeal furnish a burning incentive to our flagging emulation. It is the language of adoring obedience.

I. WHAT IS GOD’S WILL? There are depths and heights in His will yet but very partially known. It is His will of control--that sovereign and all-governing purpose, which foresees and uses all occurrences and all influences, and all resistances even--providing for the eruptions and avalanches of our revolt, and of our sinful disregard of Him, and of our league with hell, and weaving even these into His wide plans. Much of this controlling and overruling Will is among those “secret things” which, as Moses declared, belong only to the Lord; whilst the “things revealed” belong more properly to us and to our children. The great outlines and last results of this controlling and sovereign purpose He has made known; but its details and many of its relations are as yet inscrutable to our limited faculties. But there is another aspect of His will. It is His will of command; what He requires of us, and what He disapproves in us. This He makes known by the voice of reason and conscience in part, but more perfectly in the book of His Scriptures, and by the influences of His Spirit. We see in human beings, even the just and the wise of the race, the same distinction between their will of control, and their will of command or counsel. Take, for instance, the illustrious Howard the missionary martyr, of benevolence to the imprisoned and forsaken. This good man had devised, from his experience and observation, certain rules for the better construction and governance of prisons. Now, if his will of counsel or command, so to speak (his precepts of wisdom and kindness), had been heeded by evil-doers, they would not be the inmates of prisons; and the other portion of Howard’s studies, his law of control, would be no longer needed. But if men, in the abuse of their freedom, did wrong, then in his controlling will--his disposition to bring out of the case as it stood, not as he had wished it, but as they made it, the most good to society and to the transgressor himself--he had his prisons prepared and arranged for the detention and restraintof the evil-doer. So too, a civil government, upright and equitable, whose just laws are threatened with resistance by a portion or by an entire province of its subjects, may by its will of counsel or command, urge sincerely and kindly the men of the province to abide the civil law; but if they scorn the milder legislation, it may in its will of control, proclaim, and that justly and inevitably, martial law for the repression of the revolt, and for the avengement of its own dishonoured and imperilled authority. Now sin is an anomaly in God’s dominions. He, allowing to His creatures in the angelic and human races the exercise of freedom, may have permitted sin to occur, whilst His will of command or legislation sincerely and strictly condemns it; but He so permits it only because in His will of control He will ultimately restrain its ravages, and make its wrath to praise Him. His precepts are one thing; His decrees, in the event of our rejecting His precepts, another. To leave room and range for the exhibition of man’s real character, for the evolving of the blossom and the full-blown flower of his depraved heart--to allow verge and margin enough for the existence of a world of probation, and for the manifestation of Satan’s nature and will, and for the true fruits of the tempter’s infernal counsels--God gives but the will of His command to be fully known; and keeps as yet in reserve and comparative darkness the will of His control; just as a legislator, having given his subjects, ere their revolt, just and full statements as to his statutes, is not bound, if they spurn these, to add a full and minute plan of His campaigns, when, as the avenger, He comes forth to punish them for the infringement of those statutes. It is enough for justice, that the sinner should know that his transgression, persisted in and remaining unrepented of, will be assuredly and eternally visited.

II. WHAT DOES THIS PETITION COMPRISE? Very comprehensive.

1. In offering this request, we by necessary implication ask that we may have grace earnestly and honestly to inquire, in all the channels through which it is to come to us, What His wishes are, and what He would have us His children do? So did Paul in the first agony of his conversion--“Lord, what wouldest Thou have me to do?” Conscience, then, will be cherished, and kept not as a tarnished but as a burnished mirror, that it may more clearly reflect the light and images cast upon it. Scripture will be pondered, habitually and prayerfully and practically. And as none of these petitions are isolated and selfish, but grasp our brother’s needs as well as our own--to pray that God’s will may be known is virtually to implore that thetwo Testaments of Revelation, the Old proclaimed by the prophets of the Saviour, and the New by the apostles of the Saviour, may be diffused abroad. It is to pledge ourselves at the mercy-seat that the prayers we offer shall be accompanied by plans and alms, and efforts for the translation and dispersion of these Scriptures among the whole brotherhood of our race.

2. It is, again, a prayer explicitly that the will, being once and in any way--by reading or hearing, by conscience or Scripture, or by the ministrations of the nursery, of the Sabbath-school or the pulpit--made known, it may be done by us. It is thus a prayer that God would give us the grace of obedience in action, that our lives and words and thoughts may practically carry out His law and exemplify His gospel.

3. But though obedience in action be required, it is not the sole meaning of the petition. Obedience must be shown in suffering as well as in toiling. And the obedience of suffering submits itself not only to the will of God’s command, as requiring us to encounter all sacrifices of reputation and interest and ease that obedience to his precepts may occasion us; but it subjects itself also to the will of God’s control, to His Sovereign and inscrutable Providence, which orders all events and overrules even the wickedness and wrath of man and of devils, for the accomplishment of its own wise purposes. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

The reign of grace viewed in relation to the work of righteousness

I. IT IS HERE ASSUMED THAT THE WILL OF GOD IS DONE BY ALL THE INHABITANTS OF HEAVEN AS HE HIMSELF REQUIRES. The place, the parties, and the practice to which this statement refers, must, in succession, receive a distinct though brief consideration.

1. To determine the locality of heaven beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt will, probably, for ever exceed the ability of man while on earth.

2. If, however, we cannot fix the locality of heaven, we can describe its inhabitants.

3. Having shown who the inhabitants of heaven are, we have to consider how they act. Every individual of this innumerable company serves God day and night in His temple. The obedience of each begins and ends in love. This sacred passion is fixed supremely on the Lord.

II. THERE IS HERE A DOCTRINE TO BE ESTABLISHED. The phrase, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven,” certainly shows that in the opinion of its author God not only has, but will exercise the same authority over men on earth as over saints and angels in heaven.

1. Our first proof is to be obtained from the dictates of conscience. By conscience we mean that power of the human mind which approves the actions it considers right, and condemns those which it thinks wrong. By all its operations it recognizes a greater than human authority.

2. This momentous doctrine admits of further confirmation from the deductions of reason. The will of God is declared in His laws. These are framed with an especial reference to either matter or mind; forming, in the one case, the basis of natural, and in the other, the foundation of a moral government.

3. To adduce direct evidence from Scripture in support of the doctrine the text implies. There are two individuals introduced to our notice on the sacred page, to whose history we need do little more than refer, for a confirmation of the truth that God will not suffer the wicked to prosper in their wickedness. These are Adam and Noah.

III. A DUTY TO RE ENFORCED.

1. The objects for which the Christian is here taught to pray must be noticed in the order of their own importance. They are two--the one evidently supreme, and the other subordinate. As an ultimate object, we are to pray that the will of God may be done on earth as it is done in heaven; and as though conscious that this end could be secured by no other means, we are to pray that His kingdom may come.

2. The importance of our prayers in regard to this matter will immediately appear, if we consider the manner in which they affect our own minds, and the numerous promises God has made both to hear and answer them.

1. That obedience to the will of the Creator is absolutely essential to the welfare of every intelligent creature.

2. Moreover, it is obvious that had there been no sin there would have been no suffering.

3. It is, therefore, certain that in order to be happy we must be in a state of acceptance with God. (J. Jukes.)

How is God’s will done in heaven?

A Sunday-school teacher was once questioning his class as to the meaning of the petition, “Thy will be done,” when he said, “And how do you suppose that the angels, who are to be our patterns, do God’s will?” Several very proper answers were given, and, at last, a little girl arose, and said, “Why, sir, they do it without asking any questions!”

I. It is certainly done zealously. No lagging nor loitering; no lame excuses for neglecting God’s will. Can we claim to be zealous, even in a moderate degree? Are we zealous enough to do things which really call for no special sacrifice nor endurance?

II. The angels in heaven do God’s will REVERENTLY. Contrast the four-and-twenty elders, whom St. John beheld in his vision, falling down before the Divine Redeemer, and casting their golden crowns in the dust Revelation 4:11), with the conduct of sinful mortals who treat God s Holy Temple with disrespect, and whose stubborn knees refuse to bend in prayer, and then say whether the lesson which the reverent behaviour of the angels shall teach has been very perfectly learned.

III. God’s will is also done in heaven WITH CHEERFUL ALACRITY. The grand passage from the vision of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-3) need hardly be quoted to prove this point.

IV. Again: God’s will is done in heaven PERSEVERINGLY. The angelic host “serve Him day and night in His Temple” (Revelation 7:15); and “they rest not day and night” (Revelation 4:5) in their exalted ascriptions of praise. While the weakness of our moral nature obliges us to rest, even from the offices of our religion, the blessed spirits in the better land move swiftly, without sense of weariness, and worship God with undistracted soul. What a change must come over us before those who fancy that they are patterns of propriety--because they attend public worship for a brief hour, morning and evening, on Sunday--will be prepared to serve God day and night, in the heavenly sanctuary.

V. Angels, moreover, do God’s will in heaven HARMONIOUSLY. Jealousy and envy find no admittance there.

VI. Once more: God’s will is done in heaven PERFECTLY. Imperfections and frailties mar our best services on earth. Angels no sooner learn the will of God, than it is promptly and perfectly obeyed. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The doing of God’s will

I. THE PETITION ITSELF.

1. What this will of God is.

2. What will it is we pray may be done.

(a) The great reluctancy and opposition of corrupt nature against it. The Law is spiritual; but we are carnal, and sold under sin (Romans 7:14).

(b) God’s glory is deeply concerned in the doing of His will. For it is the glory of a king to have his laws obeyed. And so is it God’s.

(c) Our own interest is deeply concerned in it.

(a) Because the will of God’s purpose is secret and unknown, and therefore cannot so immediately concern us in point of duty; for secret things belong to God, but revealed things belong to us and to our children Deuteronomy 29:29).

(b) Because this will of God shall, within the periods set by His eternal decrees, have its most perfect and full accomplishment. For, though His revealed will may be resisted and hindered, yet neither men nor devils can hinder His secret will and the purposes of His counsels: these shall take place, notwithstanding all their spite and oppositions; and therefore it seems act altogether so proper matter for our prayers.

(c) Many things come to pass by the will of God’s purpose which we ought not to pray for; yea, which we ought to pray against. As--not to instance in God’s will of permitting the sins and wickednesses of men, which, beyond all exceptions, we ought to deprecate--let us but consider, common charity obligeth us not to pray for any evil of suffering to befall either ourselves or others; and yet we know that it is oftentimes the will of God’s purpose to bring great and sore judgments upon kingdoms, and upon families and persons. And if we may indefinitely pray that this will should be done, this would be nothing else but to pray for the death and ruin of many thousands, whom yet the revealed will of God commands us to pray for, and to desire all good and prosperity to them. But yet, notwithstanding all this, we may doubtless pray that the will of God’s purpose may be done, so far as it brings to pass those things which we are obliged to pray for by the will of His precept.

(a) That all men in the world, renouncing the will of Satan and their own corrupt wills, may readily subject themselves unto the will of God.

(b) We pray that we may employ and improve the few and short days of this mortal life to the best advantage.

II. THE MEASURE AND PROPORTION OF THE PETITION. That we may the more fully understand what it is we pray for, we shall inquire how the holy angels and blessed spirits do the will of God in heaven.

1. Their obedience is absolutely perfect.

2. Their obedience is cheerful, not extorted by fear.

Practical reflections

I. We should not think it hard to be subject to the Divine government, obliged to do the will of God, and to submit to it. This is more reasonable, and more profitable for us, than to be left to our own liberty, to follow our own pleasure, and to choose our own circumstances. But we are not easily persuaded to think so. I suppose some will say, God, who is the Father of spirits, and the author of all the powers of the soul, has given us senses and appetites; and is it not lawful for us to gratify them? Doubtless it is; but within due bounds. God has given man reason too, by which his sensual inclinations and appetites are to be governed, as the superior faculty whereby we are distinguished from beasts; and He has given us His Word, containing His will, the law of nature, and positive ordinances, to which, as the subjects of God, we know we ought to endeavour to conform our heart and life. Now, if we will not use our understanding, if we follow not the dictates of reason, nor regard the voice of conscience, even natural conscience, and give up ourselves to sensual lusts and appetites, then we transform ourselves into brutes, and render ourselves contemptible to God, and to all wise men.

II. Let us bless God that His will is revealed to us.

III. Let us desire and endeavour to know the will of God as it is revealed to us. To have it in the Scripture is one thing, and to have it in the understanding, the memory, the heart, is another.

IV.

Let us do the will of God.

“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” The meaning is, that knowledge, without obedience, is so far from excusing men when they sin, or from extenuating the guilt, that it aggravates it.

V. Let us go to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy to pardon our opposition to the will of God in thought, word, or deed; and for grace to help us proportioned to the work He has given us to do, and to our infirmities which disable us for it; that His grace may be sufficient for us, and His strength made perfect in our weakness.

VI. Let us be exhorting one another to an obediential regard to the Divine law. So we are taught to do in many places of the Sacred Word. And let us take great care that we do not, on the contrary, lay a stumblingblock in the way of others, and tempt them to offend. We have guilt enough of our own, let us not be partakers of other men’s sins; let us not enter into a confederacy against God.

VII. Let us all labour to be prepared for that world wherein dwelleth righteousness. Where there will be no sin nor temptation to it, no inclination nor allurements to oppose the will of God; where we shall not tempt others, and where there Will be none to tempt us. Happy place I where the holy God will rule without opposition. (John Whitty.)

The blessed will

This petition doubtless conveys to many of those who use it a lesson of simple submission. And undoubtedly it includes this. Sometimes the will of God conflicts with our plans, runs counter to our wishes, disturbs our repose, and then it is necessary that we should submit. In such times it is good for us to be able to say from the heart, “Thy will be done”; and therefore it is well for us to settle it in our thoughts beforehand that His will is a good will, and ought to be done; and that though for the present it may seem grievous, it is sure to bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness in all who trust Him and wait upon His Word. There is a mistake just here, however, against which we must be watching. It is possible to be too submissive. Submissiveness may degenerate into supineness. We ought to be measurably sure that the ills that threaten us are coming upon us by the will of God before we submit to them. A man is sitting upon a steep hill-side in the spring-time when he hears a noise, and, looking up, perceives a huge rock that has been loosened by the frost rolling down upon him. It is evident that the rock will pass directly over the place where he is sitting, and though there is time for him to escape, he sits still, saying, “It seems to be the will of the Lord that I should perish here, and His will be done.” But this is not the will of God in the truest sense of the word. The will of God is that the man shall escape; the noise that warns him is the call that summons him to escape; his sitting still is not trusting God, nor submitting to God, but tempting God most wickedly. A man is suffering from dyspepsia, the result of his own imprudence in the use of food; or from nervous headache, the result of an intemperate indulgence in tobacco; and though he does not mend his habits, we hear him talk in the midst of his sufferings about being submissive to the trial God has put upon him. All suffering, lie says, comes from the hand of God; it is His will that I should suffer; His will be done. But it is not God’s will that this man should suffer; this is not the portion that God has chosen for him; it is the portion that he has chosen for himself, tie is altogether too submissive. It is only in a secondary sense that suffering can ever be said to be the will of God. His will is expressed in His laws; obedience to His laws brings health and happiness and peace; disobedience brings suffering. The suffering is a warning against disobedience, and a dissuasive from it. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

On doing God’s will

To do God’s will we must know what it is. How shall we find it out? The first and most obvious answer to this question is that His will has been revealed, and that we find it in His Word. It is especially to be found in the teaching of Christ and His apostles. Our Lord Himself has condensed the whole of God’s law into two short commandments--“Thou shalt love,” etc. He who perfectly obeys these two commandments perfectly does God’s will. So then we find in this Holy Book such a declaration to us of the will of God as may serve to guide our feet into the ways of obedience. If we study the Word with a prayerful and teachable mind, we shall know more of His will than we shall ever find time and strength to do. And if, in all our study of the Bible, we sought this mainly--to find things to do--to get hints as to the kind of work God has for us, in the cleansing of our lives, and in the serving of Him and of our neighbours in the world; if we went to it as to an order-book in which we expected to find some definite direction for the doing of God’s will today--I am sure that our study of the Bible would do us much more good than it now does. We are too apt to read the Bible and study the Bible as a mere perfunctory service. It is a thing to be gone through with, there is so much Bible-reading or Bible study to be done; it is a duty, and when it is done it is done, like any other duty. Or else we fall into the habit of thinking that there is a certain charm about it; that the study of the Bible in some mysterious way has a kind of alterative effect upon the character; so that to spend a certain time every week reading it will prove to be a means of grace. If we could get rid of all such formal and superstitious notions, and just remember that our main business with the Bible is to find out from it what God wants us to do, the book would speedily come to have new meaning and value. Mr. Matthew Arnold says that conduct is three-fourths of life, and that the Bible, far above all other books, is the book of conduct. We shall be safe, I am sure, in adopting his maxim, so that while we pray, “Thy will be done,” we may search the Scriptures to find each day how to help in answering our prayer--what part of God’s will we ought each day to be doing. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

God’s will to be discovered in nature and providence

God’s will is revealed not only in the Bible, but also in nature and in providence. We learn the will of God as we learn the will of a man, net only by attending to what He has said, but by observing what He is doing. His works, quite as distinctly as His words, indicate His will. So when I pluck in the meadow a violet or a crowfoot bloom, and look it in the face and see how deftly its petals are carved and how daintily they are painted, then I learn a little of what God’s will is. Such a thing of beauty as this is an expression of His thought and of His love. He no more wills that I should be holy than that this flower should be beautiful. And although the flowers are not all perfect; although in an unkindly environment some of them have been maimed and scarred; yet of this we are always sure, that the flower which is most beautiful comes nearest to being the flower that God meant to make, and did make in the beginning. So when we see a human being of full stature and fair proportions, with a clear eye and a ruddy skin, and the wholesome beauty that springs from perfect health, we are able to say with equal assurance that God’s will is revealed in the body which the soul inhabits, however poorly it may be done by the inhabitant. And though there are many decrepit and diseased bodies in which human beings make their homes, yet we are sure that those bodies which are soundest and most symmetrical and most beautiful are the nearest like what God means all the bodies of men to be. In like manner when we meet with a human life that is upright and modest and pure and beneficent, based on firm principles of justice and honour, working quietly but energetically for the building up of righteousness, we know that God’s will is revealed in such a life as this more perfectly than any words can tell it, more clearly than any flower can show it, more fully than the shapeliest form and the comeliest face can reveal it. And when we go into a home in which love is the law, in which each member of the household seeks to live worthily, and in which all conspire together to seek one another’s welfare and happiness, so that the law of the home seems to be, Each for all and all for each--then we are sure that God’s will is made known to us in the life of this household; that something like this is what He would have every home to be. And if we should find ourselves in a community where peace, and order, and temperance, and thrift, and industry, and contentment abounded; where there was no squalid poverty, and no filth, breeding pestilence, and no enormous fortunes, and no profligate expenditures of wealth, and no extortionate capitalists who kept themselves wholly aloof from the workpeople by whose labour they were enriched, and cared not, so long as their dividends were undiminished, how fast the labourers were pauperized and brutalized; where there were no eye-servants, that worked only when they were watched, and no discontented, and surly, and suspicious employers; where the law of goodwill had prevailed over the law of supply and demand, making peace where there once was strife, and spreading plenty where there once was poverty--if we ever should find such a community as that we should know of a surety that God’s will had found expression in its corporate life; we should say with confidence that every community on earth would be like this community when His will should be done on earth as it is done in heaven. (Washington Gladden, D. D. )

A conformed spirit: unquestioning submission

This exceeds mere loyalty. A man is loyal to an earthly kingdom if he keeps its laws, and pays the due tribute; but, at the same time, he may criticize the laws and wish they were different; may regard the Government’s policy as unwise and an infringement of his personal liberty; and dislike the individuals having the administration. Gladstone is a loyal Englishman, though in the so-called Opposition. But the Christian who can use this petition would have no opposition party within God’s kingdom. He loves the Sovereign, would delight in the administration, and desires that the details of the Divine will may become his will also. To fulfil the sentiments of the petition there must bed

1. Comformity of natural desire to His Providence.

2. Conformity of moral desire to His Law.

3. Conformity of spiritual desire to all His truth as taught either in His Word or by his Spirit. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

God’s will must be the rule of our life

If a man lay a crooked stick upon an even level ground, the stick and ground ill suit together, but the fault is in the stick; and in such a case, a man must not strive to bring the even ground to the crooked stick, but bow the crooked stick even with the ground. So is it between God’s will and ours; there is a discrepancy and jarring betwixt them; but where is the fault? or rather, where is it not? not in the will of God, but in our crooked and corrupt affections; in which case we must not like Balaam seek to bring God’s will to ours, but be contented to rectify and order the crookedness of our wills by the rectitude and sanctity of the will of God, which must be the ruler and moderator of our wills; for which cause we are to cry out with David, “Teach me, O Lord, to do Thy will”; and with the whole Church of God, in that pattern of wholesome words, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”; never forgetting that, too, of Christ Jesus Himself in the midst of His agony and bloody sweat, “Father, not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). (Augustine.)

God’s will the best

A man must be untrue to his own moral convictions who can say to a God that violates his ideas of sanctity and Divine excellence, “Reign, rule.” There must be presented to the human soul a deity that is better than man, in each and in every respect--so much better that it shall seem an infinite and unspeakable blessing that such a God should control all things, and should constrain men to become like Himself. Men have taught that God had a right to rule, simply because He was the strongest. It is true that the wisest, the best, and the strongest must take precedence. It is true, therefore, that God has a right to reign in heaven and on earth--everywhere--but not because He has power to reign. It is true that when you see the use that God makes of His power, you cannot help following with those that in the apocalyptic vision worshipped His power, and acclaimed praise to it; but when you look at the question narrowly and reduce it to its basis, no being in heaven or on earth has a right to reign, simply because he has power. Right goes with moral quality. If God’s conscience is pure, and supreme over all consciences; if God’s moral sentiments are themselves the very fountains from which our moral sentiments flow; if His wisdom is supreme and unerring; if His love is broader, deeper, higher, wider, and more full of bounty than any other love, these qualities raise him to supremacy. But the mere fact that God made men, is no more an argument that He owns them, than is the fact that I have children an argument that I own them. I have obligations to rear them; but when they come to man’s estate, is the mere fact of paternity a reason why I may wring their necks off, or why I may make a slave of one, and put one in hateful preference cycle another? Paternity gives no one a right to set at naught the great moral distinctions which love and conscience have established in the world. It does not among men, and still less does it in God. Those dec trines, therefore, are inconsistent with a cheerful reliance upon the will of God, which have taught that God had a right to reign simply because He had power to do it; that we had no business to question that Divine power; and that, when men set up their images of ideas, their idols of teaching, saying “This is God,” if men questioned them, they questioned the real God because they questioned these theoretic gods. And this idea that God had a right to reign simply because He was able to do it, would be despotism in heaven, as much more hateful than despotism is upon earth, as the sphere is broader, and the Being wiser and more comprehensive. God’s wisdom, God’s justice, God’s truth, God’s love, God’s fidelity--these give Him--shall I say right?--necessity, to reign. These exalt Him, and on these stand the throne of the universe. (H. W. Beecher.)

Willingness that God should rule

Begin and say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come”--stop! if you say the next sentence, it is all gone--you are His “Thy will be done.” What? In you? In your reason? In your taste? In your affections? In God’s providential counsels for you in the affairs of your family? Stand then, mother, over your little child that lies sick in the cradle, and say, if you can, “Our Father which art in heaven”--then God is your Father, and He loves your child better than you do--“Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come”--now do you dare look down into the face of your little child and say, “Thy will be done,” if it is the will of God to take the child? Look upon your estate, that seems trembling, and about to totter and fall. Look upon your property that seems to take to itself wings and fly away. In my boyish days, in just such weather as this, in old Bethlehem, Connecticut, where I studied Latin by hunting pigeons, I have stood and seen among the young and tender leaves, thousands, myriads of pigeons. The trees seemed laden with them. And I see in the city here, rich men, all of whose branches are loaded down with money. At the report of a gun, or the flight of a stone, or a little shout, the pigeons, with a rip and a roar, all rose, and the air was clamorous, as they flew every whither; and in a minute the wood was still, with the exception, perhaps, of the bark of a squirrel. They had taken to themselves wings and flown away. And so the man that yesterday was branch-ful, to-day is branch-less. Everything is stripped from him, and gone. And can you stand in your barrenness and say, “Thy will be done”? Between two there has come the shadow and the darkness, and both hearts sorrow, and both yearn. Can you both say, in the sight of final, everlasting separation-in this world, everlasting--“Thy will be done”? Can you stand in the house of your pride, and say, “Thy will be done”? Is your God such a one that, for the sake of the sweetness in Him, for the sake of the beauty in Him, for the sake of the joy that you have in Him, for the sake of His glorious excellence, you can say of your pride, “God’s will be done therein”? Can you say is of your vanity? Can you hush every passion to sleep with the name of God? (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s will, not ours

This is the petition with which we have the closest concern. It shows us what ought to be the great aim and end of our lives--that we may be able to do the will of God. After praying to our Fatherthat His name may be hallowed, and that His kingdom may come, we pray that His will may be done; for, unless His will be done, His kingdom cannot come, His name cannot be hallowed. Can a father be said to be honoured by his children while they are disobeying him? Can a king be said to reign over His subjects while they are rebelling against him? At the Fall man set up his own will against God’s; and so his will became corrupt and tainted, as everything must become when God’s purifying Spirit leaves it. Man set up his own will. This is the great disease and the main evil of our nature. It comes to us from our parents; it shows itself soon after our birth; and the seeds of it continue to lurk, even in the best of men, as long as they remain in the body. Having thus found out the cause of the disorder, we may more easily see how it is to be cured. We must get rid of that cause; we must root out that self-will which is the source of the whole evil. We must take God’s wilt for our rule and guide, and must endeavour by all the means in our power, by prayer, by meditation, by self-denial, to bring our own will first into complete obedience to God’s, and then to make it one with God’s. Then there is another portion of God’s will which must also be taken into account. I mean that portion of it which is done towards us, and which exercises our patience and our faith, as that portion of it which is to be done by us exercises our obedience and activity. We must sacrifice our wills to the will of God, not merely by doing His will, but by suffering His will, with faith, submission, and contentment. (A. W. Hare.)

The measure and degree in which God’s will ought to be done by us

“As it is done in heaven.” The measure which Christ lays down for us is always an infinite measure, and the pattern is always a heavenly pattern. As Moses was commanded to make the tabernacle for the children of Israel according to the pattern showed to him in the mount, so we, too, are to frame the tabernacle of our Christian life, and all things belonging thereto, according to the perfect model of heaven. We are to pray and to strive that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven; that is, we are to do it as the angels do it.

The spirit of true resignation

As Richard Baxter lay dying, in the midst of exquisite pains which arose from the nature of his disease, he said, “I have a rational patience and a believing patience, though sense would recoil, Lord, when Thou wilt, what Thou wilt, how thou wilt.”

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven

-This petition consists of two parts.

I. The matter--“doing of God’s will.

II. The manner--“as it is in heaven.”

I. The matter of this petition is, “the doing of God’s will”: “Thy will be done.”

1. What is meant by the will of God?

2. What do we pray for in these words, “Thy will be done”? We must know God’s will before we can do it; knowledge is the eye which must direct the foot of obedience. Knowing God’s will may make a man admired, but it is doing God’s will makes him blessed.

3. Why is the doing of God’s will so requisite?

(10) If we are not doers of God’s will, we shall be looked upon as contemners of God’s will; let God say what He will, yet men will go on in sin. This is to contemn God--“Wherefore do the wicked contemn God?”

4. In what manner are we to do God’s will, that we may find acceptance? The manner of doing God’s will is the chief thing. The schoolmen say well, “The manner of a thing is as well required as the thing itself.” If a man build a house, if he cloth it not according to the mind of the owner, he likes it not, but thinks all his charges lost; so if we do not God’s will in the right manner, it is not accepted. We must not only do what God appoints, but as God appoints; here lies the very life-blood of religion. So I come to answer this great question, “In what manner are we to do God’s will, that we may find acceptance?”

(a) we do God’s will as the angels do it in heaven when we do God’s will regularly; we go according to the Divine institutions, not decrees of councils, or traditions. This is to do God’s will as the angels: they do it regularly; they do nothing but what is commanded. Angels are not for ceremonies; as there are statute laws in the land which bind, so the Scripture is God’s statute law which we must exactly observe. The watch is set by the dial; then our obedience is right when it goes by the sundial of the Word. If obedience hath not the Word for its rule, it is not doing God’s will, but our own; it is will-worship. There is in many a strange itch after superstition; they love a gaudy religion, and are more for the pomp of worship than the purity. This cannot be pleasing to God, for, as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner how He will be served, man will be so bold as to prescribe for Him. To thrust human inventions into sacred things is a doing of our will, not God’s; and He will say, “Who hath required this at your hand?”

(b) We do God’s will as it is done by the angels in heaven when we do it entirely, without mutilation; we do all God’s will. He who is to play upon a lute must strike upon every string, or he spoils all the music. God’s commandments may be compared to a ten-stringed lute--we must obey God’s will in every command, strike upon every string, or we can make no good melody in religion. The badger hath one foot shorter than the other; hypocrites are shorter in some duties than others. Some will pray, not give alms; hear the Word, not forgive their enemies; receive the sacrament, not make restitution. How can they be holy who are not just? But who is able to do all God’s will? Though we cannot do all God’s will legally, yet we may evangelically, which is--First: When we mourn that we can do God’s will no better; when we fail, we weep. Second: When it is the desire of our soul to do God’s whole will. Third: When we endeavour to do the whole will of God.

(c) We do God’s will as it is done in heaven by the angels when we do it sincerely. First: To do God’s will out of a pure respect to God’s command. Thus the angels do God’s will in heaven; God’s command is the weight that sets the wheels of their obedience a-going. Second: To do God’s will sincerely is to do it with a pure eye to God’s glory.

(d) We do God’s will as it is done in heaven by the angels when we do it willingly, without murmuring. The angels love to be employed in God’s service; it is the angels’ heaven to serve God. “There is no virtue in that to which we are compelled.” A pious soul goes to the Word as to a feast, or as one would go with delight to hear music. Not that a truly regenerate person is always in the same cheerful temper of obedience: he may sometimes find an indisposition and weariness of soul; but his weariness is his burden--he is weary of his weariness; he prays, weeps, useth all means to regain that alacrity and freedom in God’s service that he was wont to have. Love is as musk among linen, that perfumes it; love perfumes obedience, and makes it go up to heaven as incense.

(e) We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do God’s will fervently. The angels serve God with fervour and intenseness. Formality starves duty; when we serve God dully and coldly, is this like the angels? Duty without fervency is as a sacrifice without fire; we should ascend to heaven in a fiery chariot of devotion.

(f).We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we give God the best in every service. The Jews might not offer to the Lord wine that was small or mixed, but the strong wine, to imply that we must offer to God the best, the strongest of our affections. Domitian would not have his image carved in wood or iron, but in gold: God will have the best we have; golden services.

(g) We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it readily, and swiftly. The angels do not dispute or reason the case, but as soon as they have their charge and commission from God, they immediately obey.

(h) We do God’s will as the angels in heaven when we do it constantly. The angels are never weary of doing God’s will; they serve God day and night. Constancy crowns obedience. Our obedience must be like the fire of the altar which was continually kept burning.

Use 1. Branch 1: See hence our impotency; we have no innate power to do God’s will. What need we pray, “Thy will be done,” if we have power of ourselves to do it?

Branch 2: If we are to do God’s will on earth as it is done by the angels in heaven, see then the folly of those who go by a wrong pattern; they do as the most of their neighbours do. We must make the angels our patterns, and not our neighbours. If our neighbours do the devil’s will, shall we do so too? If our neighbours go to hell, shall we go thither too for company?

Branch 3: See here that which may make us long to be in heaven, then we shall do God’s will perfectly as the angels do. Alas, how defective are we in our obedience here I Let us be doers of the will of God--“Thy will be done.” First: It is our wisdom to do God’s will. Keep and do these statutes, “for this is your wisdom.” Second: It is our safety. Hath not misery always attended the doing of our own will, and happiness the doing of God’s will?

(a) Misery hath always attended the doing of our own will. Our first parents left God’s will to fulfil their own, “in eating the forbidden fruit.” And what came of it?

(b) Happiness hath always attended the doing of God’s will. Daniel did God’s will contrary to the king’s decree; he bowed his knee in prayer to God, and did not God make all Persia bow their knees to Daniel?

(c) The way to have our will is to do God’s will. You see you lose nothing by doing God’s will. This is the way to have your will: let God have His will in being obeyed, and you shall have your will in being saved.

5. How shall we come to do God’s will aright?

II. In this petition, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” we pray that we may have grace to submit to God’s will patiently in what He inflicts. The text is to be understood as well of suffering God’s will as of doing it.

1. What this patient submission to God’s will is not. There is something looks like patience which is not, namely, when a man bears a thing because he cannot help it; he takes affliction as his fate and destiny, therefore he endures that quietly which he cannot avoid. This is rather necessity than patience.

2. What is it may stand with patient submission to God’s Will?

3. What is it that cannot stand with patient submission to God’s will?

(1) Discontentedness with Providence. Discontent hath a mixture of grief and anger in it, and both these must needs raise a storm of passion in the soul.

(3) Discomposedness of spirit cannot stand with quiet submission to God’s will. To be under a discomposure of mind is as when an army is routed, one runs this way, and another that, the army is put into disorders: so when a Christian is in a hurry of mind his thoughts run up and down distracted, as if he were undone. This cannot stand with patient submission to God’s will.

4. What is this patient submission to God’s will?

1. When we have hard thoughts of God, and our hearts begin to swell against Him.

2. When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty.

3. We do not submit as we ought in God’s will when we labour to break loose from affliction by indirect means.

The means for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are--

1. Judicious consideration--“In the day of adversity consider.” Consideration would be as David’s harp to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent. Frowardness and unsubmissiveness of will to God is very sinful.

(4) Frowardness and unsubmissiveness to God’s will is evil in the effects. It unfits for duty; it is bad sailing in a storm. Unsubmissiveness to God’s will is very imprudent. We get nothing by it; it doth not ease us of our burden, but rather makes it heavier. The more the child struggles with the parent, the more it is beaten. The mischief of being unsubmissive to God’s will in affliction, it lays a man open to many temptations. To bring our wills to God in affliction doth much honour the gospel; an unsubmissive Christian reproacheth religion, as if it were not able to subdue an unruly spirit. It is weak physic which cannot purge out ill humours; and surely it is a weak gospel if it cannot master our discontent and martyr our wills. We may the more cheerfully surrender our souls to God when we die, when we have surrendered our will to God while we live.

The second means to bring our will to God in affliction is to study the will of God.

1. It is a sovereign will; He hath a supreme right and dominion over His creatures. A man may cut his own timber as he will.

2. God’s will is a wise will; He knows what is conducive to the good of His people.

3. God’s will is a just will--“shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

4. God’s will is a good and gracious will; it promotes our interest. God’s flail shall only thrash off our husks.

5. God’s will is an irresistible will; we may oppose it, but we cannot hinder it. The rising of the wave cannot stop the ship when it is in full sail; so the rising up of our will against God cannot stop the execution of His will--“Who hath resisted His will?” Who can stay the chariot of the sun in its full career? The third means to submission to God in affliction is, get a gracious heart; all the rules and helps in the world will do but little good till grace be infused. The bowl must have a good bias, or it will not run according to our desire; so till God puts a new bias of grace into the soul, which inclines the will, it never submits to God. The fourth means to submission to God in affliction is, to get an humble spirit; a proud man will never stoop to God. Fifth means: Get your hearts loosened from things below; be crucified to the world. (T. Watson.)

“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”

Observe, then, that there are two ways of doing the Father’s will: a right way, as, for instance, it is done in heaven, and a wrong way, as, for instance, it is done on earth. Not but that on earth our Father’s will can be, and often is, done in a right way. But the cases, comparatively speaking, are so rare, that we must look elsewhere for our model, even as mariners in mid-ocean take their bearings, not from anything they can see around them, but from the heavenly bodies above them. What we are bidden, then, to pray is this: As Thy will is done in heaven, so, Father, may Thy will be done on earth! And now let us glance at some of the particulars of the way in which our Father’s will is done in heaven And first, our Father’s will is done in heaven voluntarily. There are two kinds of loyalty. There is the loyalty of necessity. Such is the loyalty of the material creation. There is not an atom of matter throughout measureless immensity but that obeys God’s will instantly, completely, everlastingly. The star nearest the outskirts of creation and the atom nearest earth’s centre alike join in an obedience profound and unquestioning. But in all this profound obedience there is no liberty of choice. And this in large measure is the loyalty of earth. For even wicked men, as we have seen, are doing God’s will; but they do it reluctantly, in spite of themselves. And this brings us to consider the other kind of loyalty, the loyalty of choice. This is the supreme prerogative of the moral creation as distinguished from the material. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven consciously. Not always, not even generally, is it thus done on earth. Wicked men, as we have seen, are doing God’s will; but they do it unconsciously. Not in way of personal absorption into Deity, as the Buddhist craves, but in way of conscious response, do the angels in heaven do their Father’s will. It is their will to do His will. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven totally, with the whole nature. Alas! it is not so done on earth. Take even the saintliest of His children; with what a partial, fractional heart do they serve Him! Though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. In heaven reason, judgment, memory, imagination, language, motive, choice, resolve, tendency, activity, obedience, cheerfulness, humility, gratitude, conscience, faith, hope, love, reverence, worship--every sensibility, every power, the nature as a whole and in each and every part, all, and without alloy, and in every one of the heavenly hosts, blend in a common incense of service and adoration. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven joyously. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven universally. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven concurrently. And to each dweller in heaven is assigned his own part, be it voice or finger, in the ever-varying music of the skies; and each fulfils his own part in perfect time and chime, so that not a note is wanting or superfluous, not a note dissonant, in the universal choir--archangel and saint, principality and firstborn--all heaven itself, evermore moving in majestic concurrence and beatific melody. Again: Our Father’s will is done in heaven uninterruptedly and everlastingly. How irregular and fitful is the obedience of many of God’s children on earth! In way of conclusion, let it be observed: One there is who, in the sphere of manhood, has done the Father’s will on earth even as the angels do it in heaven. “Then said I, Lo! I am come--in the volume of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God!(G. D.Boardman, D. D.)

“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”

You learn here what it is that makes heaven to be heaven. It is that God’s will is done there--perfectly, always, in everything. That is what makes heaven. It makes heaven anywhere, everywhere. It brings heaven into a heart. It brings heaven into a home. It brings heaven into a street, or city, or land. If universal, it would make it to be heaven all the world over. When Garibaldi, the hero of Italy, entered on his career of conquest, ore rather I should say, of emancipation, many parts of Italy were groaning under oppression and tyranny; the prisons were crowded; justice was not to be had; liberty there was none. Ignorance and crime and misery was everywhere to be met with. As he advanced, throwing open the prison doors, giving the people freedom, leaving the way clear for all good influences being brought to bear on them, you might have asked, What makes the difference between one town or province and another lying close beside it, where no such changes had taken place? And you might have been told in answer, “The will of the Liberator, or of his royal Master, is done here!” And the same explains the difference between one heart and another, between the happy and good, and the evil and wretched among men; they are the one or the other, just according as the will of God is done among them, or not.

I. A GREAT AUTHORITY--the will of God: “Thy will.” If a master and a servant give opposite orders, I do not hesitate to obey the master; and if I am asked the reason, I say, He is my authority. At the mills, or any public works, if a foreman were giving certain orders, the workman or mill-girl might point to the printed regulations, signed by the manager, and having the seal of the company attached, and say, “That is my authority, which I may not disregard.” If a railway servant were asked or bribed to do something that was a violation of rule, he would pull his instructions out of his pocket, and having first pointed to the paragraph that forbade him, he would put his finger on the signature of the manager, and say, “That is my authority; I dare not.” Now, I wish you were just as particular in the respect you pay to the authority of God as the mill-worker or railway-man is in his regard to the authority of his manager, deciding everything by the will of God.

1. The will of God is above that of magistrates and kings.

2. The will of God is above that of masters and mistresses.

3. The will of God is above that of parents.

4. The will of God is above our own will.

II. A HARD LESSON--submission to the will of God: “Thy will be done.” I have heard of a lady who, on being visited by a friend, said: “I was just trying to learn the Lord’s prayer as you came in.” “What,” said her friend, “have you never learned the Lord’s prayer?” “No,” was the reply; “I have just got the length of the third petition, and I find it hard to learn: I cannot say yet, ‘Thy will be done!’” It is called, “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The hardness lies in us--in our being so sinful and depraved, so ignorant and self-willed. If you were to take a straight rule, wouldn’t you find it a hard thing to get a tree that had grown crooked and gnarled to lie alongside of it, so as just to answer to it? Luther got so far as to say, it was not, “Thy will be done,” but “My will be done,” so much had Goal’s will become his. There is a godly woman sick unto death. She is asked whether she would live or die. “Which God pleaseth,” is her reply. “But if God should refer it to you, which should you choose?” “Truly if God should refer it to me, I should even refer it to Him again.” See that deaf and dumb boy. As the school where he is is being examined, the question is written on a slate, “Why were you born deaf and dumb, while I can hear and speak?” “Never,” says the narrator, “shall I forget the look of holy resignation and chastened sorrow which sat on his countenance as he took up the chalk and wrote, “Even so, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight.” There is a Christian officer, well up in years, with an only and beloved son. During a siege, they are sitting together in their tent, when a shot carries off the son’s head. What shall the father do? “He immediately arose, first looked down on his headless son, and then, lifting up his eyes to heaven, while the tears rolled down his cheeks, said, ‘Thy will be done!’” Faith in God alone can bring us to this. Sight and sense will not suffice. There is a merchant travelling with a considerable amount of money, overtaken by a heavy rain and thoroughly drenched. He is inclined to murmur, and upbraid Him who sent it; but just as he comes to a wood, he gets other thoughts to occupy him, for a robber lies awaiting him, and the next moment the muzzle of a gun is pointed at him, the trigger is drawn, its click is heard, but the gun will not go off, for the rain has drenched the powder; and putting spurs to his horse, the traveller gets back in safety to his wife and family. The rain that he so grumbled at was the means of saving him. How this is to be got at--this submission--I cannot tell better than in the words of one who had his full share of trouble, but was never heard to repine: “I can teach you my secret with great facility; it consists in nothing more than making a right use of my eyes. In whatever state I am, I first of all look up to heaven, and remember that my principal business is to get there; I then look down upon the earth, and call to mind how small a place I shall occupy in it; I then look abroad into the world, and observe what multitudes there are who are in all respects more unhappy than myself. Then I learn where true happiness is placed, where all our cares must end, and what little reason I have to repine or complain.”

III. A HOLY PRAYER--that God’s will may everywhere be supreme: “Thy will be done on earth,” &c. Our last remark had reference more especially to the providence of God, this to the commands of God. The one spoke of submission, the other speaks of obedience. For, notice, the prayer is, that the will of the Lord may be done. He has a work and a will to be done, and we and others must be the doers. And then notice, it is “on earth.” Many are willing that God’s will should be done in heaven, not on earth. “We shall do His will when we get there.” Nay, but in earth as in heaven. How can that be? Chiefly in the spirit of it. And how do they serve in heaven? The Word gives us glimpses, from which we may gather--

1. That they do the will of God promptly. There is nothing of doubt or uncertainty--nothing of hesitation, or hanging back, or deferring.

2. They do it cheerfully.

3. They do it with all their might. Oh, what a waste of power there is on earth.

4. They do it always, constantly, unweariedly. “They serve Him day and night in His temple.”

5. All do it. “Are they not all ministering spirits? “Like the different threads in a loom, all combine to make up the fair fabric with its leaves and flowers, so delicate in colour, and elegant in form, that delights the eye of the onlooker. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

The will of God performed on earth

God’s right thus to give law is founded on His original and underived supremacy. The eternity of His existence, the supremacy of His wisdom, power, and goodness, so infinitely above those of all creatures, give Him the throne and make Him the monarch. That it is the perceptive will of God to which this prayer refers, cannot admit of a question. An object obtained cannot be the object of petition. This request cannot relate to God’s purpose, because His purpose is accomplished as well on the earth as it is in heaven. “His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure.” But it is not so with His law. His perceptive will is accounted as a strange thing; it is transgressed, abused, and vilified. How then is the will of God done in heaven?

1. The will of God is there done in all its parts. There is no form or modification of holy affection toward God, which does not there exist and is not acted out. Nor are there any violations there of the great law of love to fellow intelligences. There is no murderous hand, or malignant intention; no furious and revengeful passion; no harshness or cruelty; no unkindness, or even inattention and negligence. There are no revolting scenes of impurity, no haunts of licentiousness, and no lascivious eye. There is no lying tongue or covetous desire.

2. The will of God is there obeyed also by all its inhabitants. There is no jar in their society, and no discord in their song.

3. In heaven the will of God is also done with sincerity and cheerfulness. There is no hypocrisy there; no formal sacrifice is offered on that altar. In this low world, true religion is an exotic; an unnatural and unindigenous plant, confined and stinted in its growth, and sometimes a meagre, dwarfish, and ungainly thing. It partakes of the cold soil and cheerlessness of this low earth, never arrives at maturity, and sometimes blooms to fade. But what pencil can paint, or what poetry describe its beauty and fragrance, when transplanted to the skies? No longer some depressed and drooping floweret, it is like Sharon’s rose, unfolding its leaves on its native bed.

4. In heaven the will of God is likewise done perfectly and for ever. The flow of holy affections is there constant and resistless, and “clear as crystal” and their strength and vigour remain for ever unabated. There are no seasons of langour and declension, and no apostasy and backsliding.

5. It is not out of place to submit the remark, that the law of God is no less binding on the earth than it is in heaven. While every man should obey the law of God, merely because it is law, and an expression of His will, it is a right rule to which he is subject. It is as reasonable that the will of God be done on earth, as that it should be done in heaven. Is it reasonable for those immortal princes to obey their sovereign, and is it unreasonable for man?

6. Obedience to God’s will would produce a high degree of happiness in the earth as well as in heaven. The foundation on which the happiness of thinking beings rests, is their obedience to the Divine will.

7. Still further: God would be as truly honoured and glorified by the obedience of earth, as He is by the obedience of heaven. He is eminently exalted by the sinless per faction of the heavenly world.

8. Nor is this all. In some respects, God is even more honoured by the obedience of earth, than by the obedience of heaven. The planet on which we dwell is a peculiar world. It has properties and relations altogether peculiar to itself. There are no such expressions of the Divine goodness made to any other world as are made to this. Nowhere does it assume the form of favour to the guilty, except to men. Others have gained the heavenly inheritance by their own righteousness; inhabitants of earth are the purchase of the Saviour’s blood, and the reward of His obedience unto death.

9. Mournfully affecting to every Christian mind is the present condition of the Church and the world.

10. Yet, notwithstanding this, does this very prayer suggest a ground of hope. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Of the manner of following a perfect pattern

How can we do God’s will as they do it, seeing they in all points do it most perfectly, and it is impossible for us to attain to such a perfection?

1. In such a manner as they do may we also de God’s will, though not in so complete a measure. A candle giveth light in an house, even as the sun doth in the world: in such a manner, not in so great measure. There may be in quality and likeness a comparison betwixt things that are in quantity and measure very unequal.

2. All the saints even on earth have the beginning of that heavenly perfection wrought in them, which beginning the apostle styleth “the first fruits of the Spirit.” Now we may be “confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: that we may be blameless in that day.”

3. Our desire and endeavour may and must be beyond our ability, as shall be proved by and by. (W. Gouge.)

We are very prone to follow imperfection

As a stream where a breach is made will leave the channel to run in that breach, and by striving to run therein will make the breach greater and greater; so we, where we see any defect in the pattern, are ready not only to fail by that defect, but to be far worse. A proselyte made by a Pharisee proved twofold more a child of hell than the Pharisee. We are, by that corruption of nature which is in us, prone to swerve from the pattern which is set before us, even where the pattern itself is good and right. How much more shall we swerve when the pattern is defective? Yet by a perfect pattern we shall be kept the nearer, and held the closer to perfection. (W. Gouge.)

High shooting

A man that shooteth at a mark within his reach may shoot short for want of putting out his full strength. (W. Gouge.)

What are the particulars for which by virtue of the third petition we ought to pray?

1. Such as concern the petition itself.

2. Such as concern the direction added thereto. To how many heads may the things which concern the petition itself be referred? To four especially. Which are these--

1. The rule itself, in this word “will.”

2. The restraint of it, in this particle “Thy.”

3. The extent of it, in this phrase “be done.”

4. The place where it is to be done, “in earth.” What desire we in regard of the rule?

1. Knowledge of God’s Word; for in and by God’s Word is His will revealed, and knowledge thereof is the ground of true obedience, “Give me understanding,” saith the Psalmist, “and I shall keep Thy law: yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.” Desire of obedience without knowledge is very preposterous. An ignorant man practise is like a blind man’s wandering in by-ways. How can it otherwise be, but that such should fall into many dangers?

2. A conformity of our will to God’s; or a readiness in our will and heart to yield to whatsoever we shall know to be God’s will.

3. Strength of memory to hold fast God’s Word, and that in the good directions and sweet consolations, in the precepts and promises thereof.

4. Life of conscience, both to cheer us up in doing the will of God, and also to check us when we swerve from the same, and not to suffer us to be quiet till we turn to it again.

5. Love of God’s Word: that our hearts be so set upon it, as we make it our joy and delight.

6. Renovation of our outward parts, that they may be made instruments in their several functions, to execute God’s will: that thus as there is a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also.

What desire we in regard of the restraint of the fore-named rule in this word “Thy”?

1. A distinct understanding of the excellency and perfection of God’s will.

2. A right discerning of the vanity and corruption of the creature’s will, especially when it is not agreeable to God’s.

3. A denial of our own will.

4. Mortification of the flesh. For “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would.”

What desire we in regard of the extent of the fore-named rule? (be done).

1. An accomplishment of whatsoever God hath determined.

2. A contented submission to everything which God bringeth to pass.

What desire we in regard of the place here specified for doing the will of God, “in earth”?

1. Grace well to use the time of this mortal life. For the time while we abide on earth is the day wherein we may work, and the time of doing good.

2. Universal subjection to God’s will throughout this world. For this indefinite phrase, in earth, showeth that our desire ought to be extended to all that are on the face of the earth. To how many heads may their manner of obedience be reduced? To six especially: which are these that follow:--

1. Sincerity.

2. Integrity.

3. Alacrity.

4. Sedulity.

5. Ardency and zeal.

6. Constancy. (W. Gouge.)

Of sins against the manner of doing good

What are failings against the direction which we ought to bewail? An evil manner of performing good things; as when they are performed.

1. Hypocritically, in show and appearance only, and not in truth.

2. Partially, or by halves; so far as seemeth good to ourselves, but no further.

3. Grudgingly, as if it were done more by compulsion then by any free disposition of will.

4. Negligently, and carelessly, without heed-taking, or such respect as beseemeth so weighty a matter.

5. Lukewarmly, without any fervour of affections.

6. Inconstantly, as if we repented of that good we had done, and thereupon refuse to hold on therein. (W. Gouge.)

Liberty is clogged with restraint

It is a negative freedom, like that which is indulged to prisoners who are allowed the liberty of the prison, to go freely about the house, but may not exceed that circuit (if you can call it a liberty not to wear shackles) or else have leave to walk abroad with their keepers, or be confined to one room, this is such: man is not left indifferent to himself, but still waited on by an abridgment. To speak more properly, man hath such a freedom over his will, as keepers have over lions in their grates, who permit them a kind of liberty: they do not tie them up, but let them walk about in their cells, and can choose, keeping them within those bounds, whether they shall do any hurt; but it were a dangerous presumption to inlarge them further, as dangerous in their boldness, who dare impute to man the liberty of doing well, or give the latitude and scope to will, which, if it be not bridled and with a strait band held in, is wilder than the wildest of creatures. Man may rudely cast and project good things, intend and mean towards well, yet all this is but purpose, but pretence, it is not action. He must wait on God for the finishing his good intents. For though he may cast the model, lay the platform of virtue, he cannot raise the work without higher assistance. “Except the Lord build the house,” in vain is all other endeavour. (Archdeacon King.)

God’s will seen in His Word

We will here call down our contemplation, and as they that look on the sun reflected in the water, see him more perfectly and more safely than if they should gaze on him in his own sphere wherein he moves; so will we behold the glorious Will of God by reflex in His Word. Thus looking on it, we shall be able to satisfy ourselves in so much as becomes Christians, not over-curious to understand. (Archdeacon King.)

A bad copy

We must lead our lives in, but not by the world, Sicut in Coelis, non sicut in Terra, earth is a bad copy, lame and imperfect. Let beasts make that their object, the level of their thoughts. Man’s exalted strait form bids him look up, invites his contemplation to the things above, not the things below. That man degenerates from nature much, from grace more, that proposes unto himself low ignoble patterns. (Archdeacon King.)

Knowing God’s will not enough

It is not enough to know the Bible, or be able to repeat the several volumes of His will, unless a practice be joined to this speculative science of Christianity. Knowledge what to do, and forbearance to do what we know, hastens our condemnation, and adds weight to it. (Archdeacon King.)


Verse 3

Luke 11:3

Give us day by day our daily bread

The petition for daily bread

Human nature is made up of two parts, soul and body, and the Lord’s prayer is so framed as to have direct reference to the wants of both.
The petition for “daily bread,” while, apparently, it is one of the smallest, is really one of the greatest of them all. It seems small, because--

1. We ask for what so many already possess;

2. We ask it only for the small circle around our table; and

3. We ask it only for today.

It is, nevertheless, a great petition, because--

1. We ask that earthly bread may be changed into heavenly.

2. We ask God to feed all those who are in want.

3. We ask Him to supply the daily necessities of a waiting world.

4. We ask it to-day, and ever again to-day. All the blessings of this life, as well as those of the life to come, were forfeited by man’s transgression in Eden, and the Almighty has a right to withhold, or to give, just as He sees fit.

I. The fact that we thus apply to our Heavenly Father, teaches us our DEPENDENCE UPON HIM.

II. A wholesome lesson of CONTENTMENT.

III. FRUGALITY AND PATIENT LABOUR

IV. MODERATION.

V. BENEVOLENCE. From whence do all good things come? Is not God the Author and Giver of them? Ought not those whom He has blessed with abundance be glad to share it with the children of want and suffering? Aye, can we, with a quiet conscience, offer the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” while our ears are deaf to the piteous appeals of the needy?

VI. FAITH. The wants of the body are certainly important, but those of the soul are much more so. The petition which we are considering has reference to both. Not only do we implore our Heavenly Father to give us needful supplies of food for our bodily health, but nourishment for the soul. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Prayer for daily bread

I. The order. And that is remarkable upon two accounts.

1. Whereas this petition is placed in the midst, and encompassed about with others that relate unto spiritual blessings; so that, after we have prayed for the glory of God, our Saviour teacheth us to make mention of our temporal wants, and so to pass on again to beg spiritual mercies for our souls: this may instruct us, in the government of our lives, to use worldly comforts as here we pray for them. Spiritual and heavenly things are our greatest concernments, and should be our greatest care. With these we should begin, and with these we should end.

2. It is observable that though we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, with a promise that all other earthly things shall be added to us; yet here our Saviour places the petition for temporal blessings before the two petitions we present to God for spiritual blessings.

II. The petition itself.

1. The matter of this petition, or that which we pray for, and that is bread: Give us our bread. By bread here is meant all temporal and earthly blessings, that contribute either to our being or to our well-being in this life.

(a) They are needful for us as the means that God hath appointed for the preservation of our temporal life and being; in which we have so many opportunities to serve and glorify Him, and so many advantages to secure heaven and glory to our souls.

(b) As temporal good things are needful for us, so God hath promised to give them to us.

(a) By producing them and bringing them to us.

(b) God gives them by blessing them to us.

2. Let us consider the specification of this blessing, or the kind and quality of it, our daily bread.

3. In the words of this petition are designed our right and propriety to this daily bread: Give us our daily bread.

(a) That God would give us the good things of this life, to be obtained by us in a lawful regular manner.

(b) That He would bless and increase those good things that are rightfully our own.

(c) That He would bestow upon us a spiritual right in whatsoever we enjoy, through Jesus Christ, who is the Heir and Possessor of all things.

(d) We pray that we may not desire nor covet that which is another’s: for we are taught to pray only for that which we may justly call ours, to which we have as well a civil as a spiritual right and title.

4. We have in the words the limitation of the petition in respect of time. “Give us this day our daily bread.” And, indeed, there is great reason why we should pray for it this day; for we every day stand in need of relief and supplies from God. Our wants and our troubles grow up thick about us, and unless God make daily provisions for us we shall be overrun by them. Food nourishes but a day, and that which we receive this day will not suffice us to-morrow. There is a continual spring and fountain of necessities within us; and, therefore, we must have continual recourse unto God by prayer, that He would daily satisfy and supply our wants as they daily rise up about us. Again, by teaching us to pray for our temporal comforts this day, our Saviour tacitly intimates to us that we should be content with our daily allowance. It is enough, if we have our dimensum, our appointed food for the day. (Bishop Hopkins.)

Our daily bread

“Bread.” Life’s commonest necessity, our physical care and craving; and this most practical of gifts lies in the very middle of Christ’s own model prayer for daily use! And yet there are people who regard the Christian religion as visionary, contemplative, a matter that lies outside the circle of the actual; a something above, beyond, and apart from the ordinary acts and experiences of life! Yet here it is! a thing of the pantry and the pocket, mingled and wrapped up with pardon and paradise. It is a golden ladder, this religion of Jesus, bright with the vision of angels, and with its top among the stars, and resting hard by the throne of God. And yet it is set up on earth amid tools and toil, business and bread. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That cannot be the bread of idleness. It cannot properly be applied to the food which is received in charity, when there is no earthly reason why we should not go forth in manly independence, and earn our own loaf. The prayer is net--“Give me this day somebody else’s bread--give us this day bread anyhow, and from any quarter”; but, give us our bread: that which has fairly and honestly become ours, by the sweat of our own brow, by the honest toil of our own hands. I remember reading the memoir of some good and successful man, who says, in reference to his first start in the world: “That was a sweet loaf, both crust and crumb, that I bought and paid for out of my first wages.” You see, it was his daily bread. Now, whatever our station, our lot in life may be, let us seek, in this respect, to exhibit true self-respect and self-reliance; and while we ask our God to give us daily bread, let us ask and strive, too, that it may be ours, not other people’s; ours, not our creditors’; ours, not by fraud or wrong, but our own genuine property, which God hath enabled us to win. But I must point your attention to one word more in this petition: “Give us our daily bread.” The model prayer has no exclusiveness. It is a stranger to selfishness. It is not, “Give me my daily bread.” “Our Father” owns our brotherhood, and our brotherhood cares for the wants of others as well as our own; and we cannot use this prayer aright, cannot hope to win the Father’s gracious answer to it, unless we are open-hearted and open handed to our brother’s honest need. Jesus would that we remember the poor. The Jews have a capital proverb, “He that prays for another is heard for himself.” Let us break our bread to the hungry, so shall our daily bread be sweeter to the palate and come more surely to the hand. It is said of a certain lad who had listened long to his well-to do father’s prayers for the poor and needy, that after they rose from their knees, the boy appeared moody and silent. “What are you thinking about, my son?” said the father, who probably thought his prayers were bearing fruit in the boy. “I was thinking, father, that if I had your corn-bags, I would soon answer your prayers.” I am afraid there is a good deal of similar devotion. Brothers I when ye pray, say, Give us this day our daily bread! And do your best among God’s poor ones to help to answer your own petitions. “The bag is full,” said a kindly farmer, “though enough has missed the mouth to give the birds a dinner.” “Give us this day our daily bread.” It breathes absolute dependence. You can’t buy. God must give. Strength to gain it, skill to earn it, power to eat it--all are from Him. From Him the soil, the seed, the sun, the harvest. What hast thou that thou hast not received? How long the gifts have come to you! How bountiful they have been and still are I And, once again, before stern winter comes with shivering blast across the bare and empty fields--He hath sent bread enough and to spare. Our Father! May our hearts be filled with gratitude and our lives with praise. (J. J.Wray.)

The prayer for our daily bread

We are to regard this petition as a request for the supply of bodily needs, but we are not to stop there. It includes a prayer for the instruction of God’s Word, which is often compared to food (Job 23:12; Amos 8:11; 1 Timothy 4:6); and for the assistance and support of His grace, for strength to do His will, for that Bread which endureth unto everlasting life, which is contrasted by our Lord with the perishing support of the perishing life of earth.

I. IT IS A PRAYER OF FAITH.

1. A cry of nature (Psalms 104:21; Psa_104:28).

2. By it man acknowledges his Benefactor.

II. THE LESSON OF TRUST AND RESIGNATION follows naturally in thought from the spirit of faith which this prayer inculcates. First, “Thy will be done”; then, if it be in accordance with Thy will, “give us” what to us seems needful.

III. CONTENTMENT WITH OUR LOT will naturally flow from this believing regard of God as the Giver of all good, and from resignation to His wise and loving will.

1. We ask for “bread,” necessaries, not luxuries.

2. We ask not that our storehouses may be replenished and goods laid up for many years, but for the supply of the need of the coming day Proverbs 30:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:8; Matthew 6:34).

IV. OUR MUTUAL DEPENDENCE ONE UPON ANOTHER, as well as our COMMON DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. Meum and tuum do not belong to the Christian vocabulary; -Pater noster is the Christian prayer and rule. We are stewards of God’s bounty, which we must use for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 6:2; 1 Timothy 6:17-18; 1 Peter 4:10). This rule applies not only to gifts of money, but also to the expenditure of time, of ability, and talent of any kind. (A. C. A. Hall, M. A.)

Enjoyment of God’s daily mercies

I will say here, that if you would enjoy the blessing of daily bread which God gives you, you will do so best by receiving it and recognizing it as a gift from God. Two men go out to their labour until the evening; one reckless of God his Maker, and labouring because he knows he must work or starve; the other goes out, after raising the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” to obtain an answer to his prayers in the sweat of his brow, and he toils because that is the way in which it pleases God to give him his daily bread, and he bears in mind who is the giver of it, and he takes it as bread sent to him from heaven, and eats it with thankfulness. Which man will have most enjoyment of God’s blessings? I think this last; for indeed, Christian brethren, we miss much of the happiness which may still be had in this world, because we are self-sufficient, and think we are indebted to ourselves for the supply of our wants, and not to God. Daily labour is hallowed, by being the means of supplying that for which we pray; and it is a great thing for us thus to connect our daily work with our prayers; the prayers which a man has offered up before commencing his task of toil in the morning, will shoot a ray of light through the occupations of the day, and tinge them with a glory which nothing else can give. And I would wish you thus to connect your daily life with your prayers; your prayers should be the life of your life, and your actions should be a comment upon your prayers. A man who would enjoy this life, in the way in which it was intended to be enjoyed, ought to look upon it in the spirit of the prayer, “Give us day by day our daily bread”; as a pensioner on God’s mercy from day to day and from hour to hour, he will eat his bread with thankfulness, and will recognize in all mercies vouchsafed to him the hand of Him who gives him daily bread, and he will not live as a man separate from God, but as one bound to Him by very near ties. (Bishop Havey Goodwin.)

Lessons on this petition

1. Reliance on God’s Providence. You must not trust in your strength; you say you earn your bread for yourself, but who gives you strength to labour for it? in this, as in much higher things, “it is God that worketh in you”; a breath from Him and your strength may be laid low, and who will give you your bread then?

2. Christian simplicity. We pray for bread, and bread only according to our wants; what a protest is here against the spirit of the world, the spirit of ever getting and never being contented; the spirit which does not belong to Christ and ought not to belong to His people.

3. The gratitude due to God for all His manifold favours to us. For if we pray for daily bread for the time to come, doubtless we must in our hearts give thanks for what we have already received.

4. When you use the words, “Give us this day our daily bread,” think how incapable the mere bread of this world is of feeding your souls to immortality, and how lamentably poor, how poor beyond any beggary which words can describe, you must be, if having bread to eat and raiment to put on, you have no food for your souls and no covering to hide you from the wrath of God. (Bishop Havey Goodwin.)

The prayer for bread

As we repeat this formula with its bread and private interests deferred to the second leaf, I think it will occur to us sometimes how much has still to be wrought within us before the order of desires in our heart will conform to the order of desires in this prayer, and before we can sincerely comply with the requirement of our Lord, “After this manner, therefore, pray ye.” So much for the place which the petition of our text occupies in the prayer. Another of its features of interest is that it authorizes us to carry our religion into the details and every-day affairs of life--Give us bread. It singles out a common matter and puts us in religious relation to it. It lets religion into the interior of life, instead of putting it upon the margin as an appendix or after-thought. There is no danger of giving to religion an exaggerated greatness, but there is of giving to it an isolated greatness--holding it apart, pushing it into the firmament, and making an inaccessible sun of it, instead of making of it the familiar sunshine, enswathing every little thing with light, lying down among all the valleys, putting a finer life into every blade of grass, and a beautiful tint on every bead of dew. There is truth in what an Englishman has said: “We are not to look at religion itself, but at surrounding things with the help of religion.” Our text reminds us that we may look at so common a thing as bread with the help of religion. Another fact of which our text reminds us is, that God is the Author and Dispenser of our common benefits; that God is personally near us, and that His thought and interest run out into all our little concerns. “O God, do Thou give to us bread!” This petition is composed in the spirit with which the whole of Scripture is animated, that God is personally immanent in all which transpires, and personally sympathetic with all which needs and suffers. “He watereth the hills from His chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.” “Consider the grass, God arrayeth it; the lilies, God clotheth them; the ravens, He feedeth them.” Give us this day our daily bread. All this is full of childlikeness and simple-mindedness. It makes God’s relation to us very immediate, and His goodness to us very direct and personal. It almost lifts us over on to the inner-side of God’s mercy-seat, and sets us almost at the exact spot where God keeps His bounties. It is, I say, a very childlike way of putting the case, “Give us bread to-day.” It sounds a little foreign and strange when uttered by persons of thoughtful and mature years. It sounds like an echo from out different times and distant generations. Children pray in that way to-day, but adults do not unless they are praying an inherited prayer brought in from another age. And it is remarkable that although our Lord’s prayer is so short, room was made in it for the doctrine that in every event of nature God is the personal agent. That is all involved in the petition of our text. The last thing we shall notice about this petition is that it teaches us to ask God for one day’s benefits at a time: Give us this day (give us to-day) our daily bread. It looks as though the petition contemplated quite another condition of things and state of society from what now exists. Christ and His disciples could appreciate the exact form of this request. We cannot. It is not easy to pray devoutly for sustenance that we already have in store. We are not concerned for to-day. Our desires outrun the clock. We pray about to-day, but think about to-morrow and the day after. We have all we need now, but are afraid we shall not have by and by. No man is contented with enough; and yet a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. To be discontented is to desire to find a week’s manna fallen on the morning of each day. “Give us this day our daily bread,” then, means that the Christian policy of life is to receive life’s necessities, bear its burdens, meet its temptations, encounter its uncertainties, and endure its griefs one day at a time, and to depend upon God to make us sufficient for each day’s crosses and emergencies. It is better to go to sleep to-night thanking God for what He has helped us to do to-day than asking Him to help us do as much, and more, tomorrow. “Give us to-day our daily bread,”--there is nothing in the Lord’s prayer about to-morrow. It is Christian to feel as the night-traveller does, who knows that the road before his feet will become light just as fast as it is illuminated by the candle which he carries and which moves as he moves. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Lessons from the fourth petition

1. Let us, as our Lord advises, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” This, if we will hearken to the Son of God, is our wisdom. Let us hear His counsel and obey His voice; they that sin against Him wrong their own souls. We may be happy without abundance of the world, nay, without more than enough, more than a sufficiency for ourselves and our families; and even without so much as that, as all those poor are, who are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love Him. But we can never be happy without an interest in that kingdom; we should not if we were possessors of all the world, all the treasures and glory of it. Let us make our spiritual and eternal interest our first care, because it is, without doubt, the most important. Let us apply ourselves to our worldly business, only in subordination to our spiritual concerns.

2. Let none indulge themselves in idleness, and expect to be provided for by the labours or the charity of others, when they are able to take care of themselves.

3. On the other hand, let not our hearts be overcharged with the cares of thin life.

4. Let us not indulge distrustful thoughts of God’s providence; no, not even when our affairs seem to be in the most discouraging situation.

5. Let such as have but little in the world be satisfied, if they have enough; nay, if they have not enough of their own which is the case of many who have a greater interest in God’s fatherly love than those who have a larger share of the outward blessings of His providence.

6. Let not such as are in low circumstances envy such as are in possession of a larger share of the good things of the world. As the flower of the grass they pass away. A man that lives by his labour may be as happy as the wealthiest man in the nation.

7. Let such as have plenty of the world willingly contribute towards the support of such as are in want. God has given them a right to daily bread; let us not withhold from them what God has given them.

8. Let us all labour after an interest in the true riches, a treasure in heaven that faileth not. The world, and all the enjoyments of it are passing away; but there is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that never fades; a world in which all will be rich, sit down with Christ in His throne, in glory, honour, and immortality. What great matter is it, if those who, (through God’s peculiar grace) are heirs of that kingdom, if for the little while they are here they have no more than their daily bread? (John Whitty.)

The prayer for daily bread

I. WE HERE CONFESS OUR DEPENDENCE. A man may be proud of his industry, and economy, and skill; a nation may exult over their enterprise and energy; but are not these, or the qualities that win bread, and win it abundantly, themselves gifts of Heaven? “Is it not He that giveth thee power to get wealth?” The statesman or political economist who overlooks this palpable truth has little reason to boast of his discernment. All the praise of a man or of a measure--of a political leader, or of a party and its policy--that stops short of God, is like the stolidity of the heathen fisherman represented in Scripture as burning incense to his net and drag. Is it not He, that bestowed all the material constituents of wealth, the ores and gems hid in the recesses of the earth, as well as the harvests reaped from its fields; and is it not His Providence that discovers to man, in the fitting age and hour, the treasures of Nature, and suggests all the inventions of Art? He who of old guided the flight of the quails over the tents of the chosen tribes in the wilderness, is not He, the same in skill, yet guiding the crowds of the fishermen’s finny spoil, beneath or far aside from their barks? Can the trapper of the Rocky Mountains, or the harpooner of the Pacific Ocean succeed, but as God maintains and guides their chosen prey? The Puritan fathers when they eked out the scanty supplies of their first years with the shell-fish of our coasts, and blessed God for showing them the “treasures,” as they beautifully quoted the Scripture, “hid in the sand,” were setting a lesson of pious acknowledgment, which their children in our days would do well to remember, when sifting other, and perhaps far more baleful treasures out of the golden sands of California.

II. WE HERE PLEDGE OUR SYMPATHY. And how many need this! Wherever population has become dense, and labour difficult to be obtained, pauperism has grown into a formidable evil. It is in many lands the great question of the times. The gaunt and hollow-eyed clan of the “Wants” are confronting the more sleek, but the less numerous, and the feebler house of the “Haves.” Shall the sinewy grasp of Famine’s bony hand be laid on the pampered throat of Luxury, and a violent social revolution assay to right for a time the dread inequality? We believe that to the lands which know not or scorn the gospel there are few enemies which they have more cause to fear than this famishing multitude--fierce, unrestrained, and illiterate--a Lazarus without a gospel and without a God, turning wolf-like in theblindness of its misery and its brute strength on a Dives without conscience and without mercy. The poor must be relieved, but not in indolence. The gospel must come in, and by its influence on personal conscience and on individual character, teach the poor self-respect, diligence, and economy and content; and require of the rich sympathy, and compassion, and bounty, for their more necessitous brethren.

III. WE HERE PROMISE BY IMPLICATION, CONTENTMENT, AND MODERATION. We ask not from our God luxuries, but necessaries. One of the sins that called down from heaven the terrific bolt of the first French Revolution was that prodigal luxury of the nobility and court, which dared to run to all excesses of riot amid a famishing people, and with a bankrupt exchequer, with the selfish cry: “After us let there come the Deluge.” It came for them. Fashion and pride rob charity. When the Egyptian queen, to make a draught of unparalleled costliness, melted a most precious pearl in her goblet; and when in the days of Charles V., a merchant-prince of Germany kindled a fire of cinnamon for his kingly guest; the gem and the wood might well perhaps be spared as far as referred to any immediate use which the poor could have made of them; but if the price of them were so much deducted from what might have fed needy thousands, this destruction of value, for purposes of mere ostentation, cannot certainly be regarded as being just. “Our superfluities,” said Howard, “must give place to our brother’s necessities.” That maxim would replenish every poor fund and mission treasury under the cope of heaven. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

The convenient food

This is the first petition that expresses a personal want of the petitioner. We have not thought as yet of our own necessities. Our minds have been led away over the universe of God; we have been made to take in the great purposes of the Divine love and the great attributes of the Divine character; and now with this preparation we come to think of our own personal needs. Plainly, we shall not be quite so selfish, quite so insistent, quite so querulous in our petitioning as we should have been if we had not been lifted up and led forth along these higher paths.

1. Our dependence on Him to whom we pray. For health to earn our daily bread, for wisdom to keep it and use it, we depend upon His Goodness. The habit of connecting our commonest gifts with the great Giver sanctifies and ennobles life.

2. For daily bread we are bidden to ask. Plain and simple food. A prayer the epicure would hardly think of offering.

3. Daily bread. Sufficient or necessary. Lesson of moderation in wants. We are not to pray for banks; or bins--or barns--or cellars-full, but only for our daily bread.

4. Our daily bread. Given to us; yet ours--ours when we have earned it, when by our own labour we have provided it for ourselves. Bread that we beg is not ours; bread that we take as lazy pensioners on some one else’s bounty is not ours; bread that we steal is not ours; bread that we get from other people by fraud and extortion and overreaching is not ours; only the bread that we have earned by honest work and fair traffic is ours.

5. There are some who may seem to be absorbed by their circumstances from the duty of offering this prayer. Here is a man whose larders are full, whose cellars are crowded, whose barns are bursting with gathered grain, whose bank account shows a daily balance of many thousands. Is it not a little superfluous for him to say this prayer? No; for the prayer is not, “Give me my daily bread”; nor is it, “Give me and my household our daily bread”; it is “Give us this day our daily bread.” It includes all mankind. He who thoughtfully takes these words upon his lips takes at the same time all human wants by sympathy upon his own soul, and craves the outpouring of the infinite bounty upon every needy human brother. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Prayer for daily bread

1. This is the first petition of the prayer in which we ask anything for ourselves, and we have reached the middle of it. The chief anxiety of the Christian should not be for his own good, not even for his spiritual good, but to exalt God. One will make most spiritual progress as he keeps self in the background. The essence of godliness is in becoming God’s man.

2. Of the various petitions for our own good, this one alone relates to our secular interests; the others are moral or spiritual aspirations. Evidently our Lord thought it of comparatively little concern how these bodies brought us through the world, if they brought us through with moral safety. They are the rafts on which we cross the narrow time-river; and when the oldest man bends over the map of his eternity that time-river seems less than one of his own silvered hairs fallen upon it.

3. This petition for secular good is a very moderate one. Bread enough--that is all. Why did our Lord never teach us to ask for luxury, landed estates, bank stock, annuities, life insurance, &c. Perhaps He thought how little happiness depends upon these things; that they are more hurtful than helpful to average character; that they load a man with accountability which he cannot meet unless he keeps growing nobler, more unselfish and spiritual as worldly goods increase--which is quite apt not to be the case. He saw that most people would have enough to do to discharge the ordinary duties of common life; to conquer temptations that spring out of every man’s flesh, without adding to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.

4. Jesus here teaches us that we should have the habit of recognizing God in the commonest blessings of life.

5. Though Jesus chose a commonplace thing to remind us of our dependence upon God, it was not a commonplace thing in the sense of being little or trivial. Bread-Providence is one of the most astounding exercises of God’s goodness and power. What marvels in the growth of grain and the chemistry of nutrition--that standing miracle of the connection of food and life! What wonders of local productiveness to meet the emergencies of crowded settlements. Observe the providence of God also in the trade-system of the globe, by which the products of one portion of the earth are enjoyed by the inhabitants of other portions. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

Our bread not merely bodily sustenance

The prayer of Christian men must differ from the lion’s roaring and the raven’s crying. The end of their praying is that their bellies may be filled, but we must have as great a care for the food of our souls, wherefore we call it “panem nostrum,” our bread. We do not call it “panem communem,” such bread as is common to us with other creatures, but that special bread which is proper to man, who consists not only of body, but of soul and body, which must both be fed. (Bishop Andrewes.)

God’s gift of bread

Does God give us our bread? Is it not a thing that we ought to work for, and not to pray for, unless we really desire to see manna come down out of the heavens again? Bread and earthly blessings generally represent to us human energy, wisdom, and prudence; and it will be a great loss to the world when they cease to do so. But so much the more reason is there that we should pray for bread, for then our prayer really approaches God as He is--a God working through secondary causes in His management of the earthly interests of men. Those first petitions of the Lord’s prayer are prayers that a man’s soul can appreciate, and to that soul God can and does speak directly. But leave those to stand alone, and we see God as of necessity one who does work at first hand; and that He is not and cannot be. It does not add to God’s glory to think of Him as such a one. That throne of His, toward which we look up and pray with all our hearts, “Thy kingdom come,” would not be more powerful or more kindly if it were where every commonest hand could touch it. That name of His, which lies close to our secret thoughts, would not be more hallowed if He walked among us, giving us our bread with His own hand. It is more wonderful to think of Him as bringing food to generation after generation through so many various and appropriate channels. It is kinder to think of Him as one who stimulates His children respecting their powers; showing Himself in a thousand different ways, rather than by bringing supplies in one evident open way. Bread-fruit growing on the trees does not tend to the development of devotional or religious men. The countries in which you find the one do not show you the best specimens of the other. The inhabitants of those tropical lands look up just high enough to see the tree, and are satisfied. But bread brought from the earth by hard labour, eaten in the sweat of the brow, makes the man rise and praise God with all his developed faculties, and say, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself,” and all the more wonderful because of that. (Arthur Brooks.)

The best answer to this prayer

A man comes and says to you, “Give me bread.” It is the easiest way to give him the price of a loaf: it is harder, it is wiser, it is kinder, to find him work, to stimulate his energy, to encourage his flagging spirits, to procure friends for him. Sometimes he is passing through an intermediate wilderness, where he needs a little manna rained down for a time; and you are to imitate your God in doing it. Bat that is not the rule of working; nor is it God’s. And yet, when you had thus set a man upon his feet, you would not for a moment think that you had not answered his cry for bread, or did not deserve his thanks. You would expect them all the more, and they would be more valuable as they came from the lips of an independent man, instead of from the parrot-like phrases of a pauperized human being. So we pray, and the best answer God can give is to make us men. We see its answer in every friend, in every strong thought, virtuous resolution, and energetic impulse. We learn to acknowledge Him everywhere. We trace Him from our table to the sunbeam that on some distant prairies ripened the wheat. He is diffused in all places. He is a God of wonderful resources. He is our God, meeting us at every point, speaking to us of the greatness and happiness of life. The prayer makes us respect ourselves, as we see God thus ready to mingle His power with ours, and to work with us everywhere. (Arthur Brooks.)

Our bread, not Thine

Give us our bread, not Thine. Let it be ours. It comes from God; our prayer shows that; and, therefore, when prayer has established that relation strongly, we need not be afraid to give that possessive pronoun all its force. Human possessorship is dangerous only when no such prayer is offered. Let the gifts come marked with your own name, speaking of personal responsibility, of personal duty, and God will become glorified more than ever. (Arthur Brooks.)

Our bread, not mine

You do not, you must not, want your neighbour’s bread; you must want him to have that. Where is there a chance for dishonesty, where for oppression, when we pray such a prayer as that? No grinding the face of the poor, no withholding their wages, no reliance on their helplessness, when we have prayed that God would give them their bread. It is theirs, God gave it them; and we are to see that our hand never keeps back the blessing. “for which” we pray (Arthur Brooks)

Prayer or each day’s proper bread

There is another expression the prayer which we must not overlook. In Matthew it reads, “Give us this day our daily bread”; in Luke, “Give us day by day our daily bread.” In both, therefore, is that distributive idea of allotting to each day the proper character and quantity of its bread. For how the days do differ! At one time it is the diminution of supply that is wanted, to abate our pride, to increase our sense of dependence, to chasten and soften us; at another only a full table and prosperity can give us strength and encouragement. We labour on the same, day after day, trying to get all we can, the best and the most. We know not how to regulate our own lives; we are beyond ourselves. Our lives are too delicate for our hands to manage, and so we leave it to God. We can do nothing else, for we cannot see either the poverty or the fever of our blood. Unrequited labour is no contradiction, therefore; unexpected and apparently cruel disappointment is not to seem unaccountable. Neither of them is to make us say, “I will not labour, or I will not enjoy to be happy again.” It is right for us to keep the stream of human life full of activity and work. Only He who presides over us, “our Father,” knows when and where that flood shall be brought to bear on the machinery of life, so that it shall either produce the greatest results, or just let us have enough, perhaps scarcely enough to live on. In our earliest, simplest prayer, we embody this trust, which it is the work of all life to learn perfectly. We would not leave it out, as we see on every side men making shipwreck of themselves because they think that they know and understand all the wants of their own life. We can only determine to say and use it more constantly, to remember it under disappointment, to rejoice in it in prosperity, to feel sure that the Father alone can feed us with food convenient for us. (Arthur Brooks.)

Christ and daily bread

You cannot separate the external and the internal in life, and therefore you cannot separate Christ and our daily bread. The catechism phrase is, “I desire that God will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies.” God’s gift to a world calling for bread is not a stone, no dead gift, but the presence of His Son. By that He strengthens us; we take up the old work stronger and better, and our prayer for daily bread is answered every day. (Arthur Brooks.)

The pilgrim fathers and the drought

It is well known that many of the good men who were driven from England to America by persecution, in the seventeenth century, had to endure great privations. A numerous party, who came out about 1620, were for a time supplied with food from England, and from the natives of the western wilderness. Bat as these resources were uncertain, they began to cultivate the ground. In the spring of 1623 they planted more corn than ever before, but by the time they had done planting their food was spent. They daily prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread”; and, in some way or other, the prayer was always answered. With a single boat and fishing-net they caught bass, and when these failed they dug for clams. In the month of June their hopes of a harvest were nearly blasted by a drought, which withered up the corn, and made the grass look like hay. All expected to perish with hunger. In their distress the pilgrims set apart a day for humiliation and prayer, and continued their worship for eight or nine hours. God heard their prayers, and answered them in a way which excited universal admiration. Although the morning of that day was clear, and the weather very hot and dry during the whole forenoon, yet before night it began to rain, and gentle showers continued to fall for many days, so that the ground became thoroughly soaked, and the drooping corn revived.

Daily bread

“God always hears when we serape she bottom of the flour-barrel.” So said the child of a poor widow to his mother, one morning, after she had prayed as only the needy can, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Beautiful faith of childhood! Why may it not be ours? God always hears the prayers of His children, and He knows when to answer. Our spiritual as well as temporal wants are known to Him, and every sincere cry for help enters His compassionate ear. When we feel entirely our dependence on Him; when our stock of pride and self-confidence is exhausted; when earthly friends and earthly comforts fail us, the humble cry of “O my Father,” the oftenest bring the speedy answer, “Here, My child.” God always hears when we have reached the depths of need, and cry to Him for help.

Routine observance indispensable

This is a prayer for each morning--a daily prayer for daily bread, even for this day’s bread. To offer this prayer, therefore, as many do, after the day or every repast of the day is finished, is to make it a thing of form, when it is nothing in the fact; which is about the worst dishonour that could any way be done it. Whether Jesus means this prayer to be used every morning or not, He does, at least, give honour and sanction to the daily observance of morning prayer. And it is under His sanction thus given, that I draw out now, for your consideration, this great law of practical Christian living: THAT WE NEED TO KEEP FIXED TIMES, OF APPOINTED ROUNDS OF OBSERVANCE, AS TRULY AS TO BE IN HOLY IMPULSE TO HAVE PRESCRIBED PERIODS IN DUTY AS TRULY AS TO HAVE A SPIRIT OF DUTY TO BE IN THE DRILL OF OBSERVANCE AS WELL AS IN THE LIBERTY OF FAITH.

1. The argument, commonly slated, as against the obligation of fixed times and ways of observance in religion, contains a fatal oversight. It is very true that mere rounds of observance, however faithfully kept, have in themselves no value; nothing of the substance of piety; but they have an immense value when kept, and meant to be, as the means of piety. This, in fact, is the very particular blessing of prayer, that when we are averted from it, and slacked in all our inclination toward it, we may still get our fire kindled by it. When we go to it, therefore, by fixed times of observance, we do just what is necessary to beget fixed inclinations, and train the soul into a habit of abiding impulse.

2. Let me ask your attention now to the grand analogies of time and routine movement in the world you live in. What could we do in a world where there are no appointed times, no calculable recurrences, no grand punctualities? Such a world would be really valueless; we could do nothing with it, and simply because it has no fixed times. And for just this reason God has consented to inaugurate the sublime routine necessary to its uses, determining the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation. And so very close does God come to us in this matter of times or of natural routine;-that our hearts beat punctually in it, our breath heaves in it like the panting tides of the ocean, and the body itself, and with it also the mind, is a creature of waking and sleeping, of alternating consciousness and unconsciousness, like the solar day and night of the world. And yet some cannot think it a matter sufficiently dignified to have any prescribed times in religion. Though God Himself is a Being of routine, though the everlasting worlds are bedded in routine, though their very bodies and minds are timed in it, like a watch, or the earth’s revolution, still they are jealous of any such thing in religion, and refuse it, as an infringement on their liberty.

3. I refer you again to the analogy of your own courses in other things, and also to the general analogies of business. Which do we suppose to be in the best conditions of comfort, dignity, and good keeping, the savage tribes that have no set times for their meals, or we that feed in the exact routine of the civilized table? What figure of success will any man make in business who has no fixed hours? If, then, there is nothing men do with effect in the world of business, despising the law of times, how does it happen that they can expect, with any better reason, to succeed in the matter of their religion--their graces, charities, and prayers? Wherein does it appear to be absurd, to assume that the soul wants times of feeding as regular, and frequent, and punctual, as the body.

4. Consider the reason of the Sabbath, where it is assumed that men are creatures, religiously speaking, of routine, wanting it as much as they do principles, fixed times as much as liberty. A very considerable part of the value of the Sabbath consists in the drill of its times; that it comes when we do not ask for it, commands us to stop when we desire to go on, calls us off to worship by a summons astronomically timed, and measured by the revolutions of the world.

5. The Scriptures recognize the value of prescribed times and a fixed routine of duty in other ways more numerous than can be well recounted. Thus in the old religion, the sacrifices, great feasts, &c. The holy men had all their times. If we have no times in religion but such as we take by mere impulse or inclination, we shall fall away at last from all times and all duties. Let anyone take the ground, for example, that he will never pray except when he is drawn to it, and he will less and less frequently be drawn. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

Our daily bread

The prayer for daily bread need not he a selfish one. It may be the expression of a pure and lofty desire. Our meat and drink and other most common necessities have a noble as well as a mean side. In this selfish world there may be found some men who do not live for self and by whom the supports and comforts of life are sought and valued only as a means to the better doing of God’s will. In their prayers the petition for bread follows naturally, “Thy will be done.” The prayer for daily bread is a confession of our dependence upon God. All the prayer in the world, however, will not provide food for the man who is too lazy to work. We are creatures of manifold needs. The phrase, “necessaries of life,” includes many other things than those which are required for our physical wellbeing. The higher part of our nature requires its daily bread.

1. To starve our finer faculties is no mote allowable than to starve our bodies. The majority of men and women do not realize what it is to starve the mind.

2. But man is a social as well as an intellectual being. The social nature requires its appropriate food. We cannot be satisfied from ourselves. We require help and sympathy from others, and we require to give help and sympathy to others, as we require our daily bread.

3. But we have deeper wants still, which cannot be satisfied by the hardest work, the largest knowledge, or the dearest love. We have an inward spiritual life which can only be fed in communion with the Divine. We need God. Jesus spoke of Himself as “the Bread of Life.” His mission was to feed the Divine life of the world. When we pray “Give us,” etc., we pray for the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the fellowship of the Spirit, for faith in an eternal righteousness, for a sense of the unseen things, for earnest aims and holy affections, and immortal hopes, for everything that ministers to the growth and perfection of the spiritual life. (J. Hunter.)

Day by day

Not bread for to-morrow, but bread for today. We need not be anxious about the future. In this world and in all the worlds we are the children of a Father’s tenderness and care. (J. Hunter.)

Us, not me

The Lord’s prayer is the prayer of a family, world-wide, bound together by all the sympathies of a common Fatherhood. We are not separate beings with separate interests, but children at a common table, with common needs. The want of one is the want of all. If we pray the Lord’s prayer in the Lord’s spirit, we pray that the hungry may be fed, that the ignorant may be taught, that the idle may find work, that the lives of the lonely may be blessed with love, that men everywhere may be in communion with God, and partakers of the spirit of Jesus Christ, and we rise from our knees to live and work as we pray, to help God to give to His children and our brethren their daily bread. (J. Hunter.)

Bread

Observe what it is we are to pray for. Not for delicate food, or fine clothes, or a large house; no, we are to ask for bread. Now what are we to understand by this word bread? Surely not a crust of bread alone. For this plain reason, that there are other things as needful for our bodies as bread itself. What should we do without clothes to cover us, or a roof to put our heads under at night? We may be sure that our Saviour did not mean us to disregard such things as these. Therefore, when He tells us to pray for bread, we may reasonably understand that petition as including all things which are really needful for our bodies. (A. W. Hare.)

Daily bread

A little girl in a wretched attic, whose sick mother had no bread, knelt down by the bedside, and said slowly, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then she went into the street and began to wonder where God kept His bread. She turned around the corner and saw a large well-filled baker’s shop. So she entered confidently and said to the baker, “I’ve come for it.” “Come for what?” “My daily bread,” she answered, pointing to the tempting loaves. “I’ll take two, if you please--one for mother and one for me.” “All right,” said the baker, putting them into a bag and giving them to his little customer, who started at ones into the street. “Stop, you little rogue!” he said roughly; “where’s your money?” “I haven’t any,” she said, simply. “Haven’t any!” he repeated. “You little thief, what brought you here, then?” The hard words frightened the little girl, who, bursting into tears said,” Mother is sick, and I am so hungry. In my prayers I said, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ and then I thought God meant me to fetch it, and so I came.” The rough but kind-hearted baker was softened by the child’s simple tale, and instead of chiding her, said, “You poor dear child.” Here, take this to your mother,” and filled a large basket full for her. (Henry T. Williams.)

Bread the gift of God

I by chance let fall a piece of bread; the burgomaster and two peasants rushed forward, and, raising the fragment, placed it on the window-sill: “You have let fall the gift of God,” said they. (One Year in Sweden.)

Of the fourth petition in the Lord’s prayer

In this petition there are two things observable.

I. The order.

II. The matter.

I. The order. First we pray “Hallowed be Thy name,” before “Give us this day our daily bread.” Hence we learn that the glory of God ought to be preferred before our personal concerns.

1. Do we prefer God’s glory before our own credit?

2. Do we prefer God’s glory before our relations?

3. We must prefer God’s glory before estate; gold is but shining dust, God’s glory must weigh heavier.

4. We must prefer God’s glory before our life--“they loved not their own lives to the death.” Who but a soul inflamed in love to God can set God highest on the throne, and prefer Him above all private concerns?

II. The second thing in the petition is the matter of it--“Give us this day our daily bread.”

1. See our own poverty and indigence; we live all upon alms, and upon free gifts--“Give us this day.”

2. Is all a gift? then we are to seek every mercy from God by prayer--“Give us this day.” The tree of mercy will not drop its fruit, unless shaken by the hand of prayer. Better starve, than go to the devil for provender.

3. If all be a gift, then it is not a debt. We cannot say to God, as that creditor said, “Pay me that thou owest.”

4. If all be a gift, “Give us this day”; then take notice of God’s goodness. There is nothing in us can deserve or requite God’s kindness; yet such is the sweetness of His nature, He gives us rich provision, and feeds us with the finest of the wheat. Observe three things in God’s giving.

5. If all be a gift, see then the odious ingratitude of men, who sin against their Giver. How many make a dart of God’s mercies, and shoot at Him? He gives them wit, and they serve the devil with it.

6. If God gives us all, let God’s giving excite us to thanksgiving; He is the Founder and Donor of all our blessings, let Him have all our acknowledgments. “All the rivers come from the sea, and thither they return again”; all our gifts come from God, and to Him must all our praises return. We are apt to burn incense to our own drag; to attribute all we have to our own second causes.

First, give. Hence I note--

1. That the good things of this life are the gifts of God; He is the Founder and Donor.

2. From this word “give,” I note, that it is not unlawful to pray for temporal things; we may pray for daily bread.

Some may say, We have an estate already, and what need we pray, “Give us daily bread.” Supposing we have a plentiful estate, yet we need make this petition, “Give us daily bread,” and that upon a double account.

1. We must understand it in a qualified sense; it is our bread, being gotten by honest industry. There are two sorts of bread that cannot properly be called our bread--the bread of idleness; the bread of violence.

2. It is called “our bread” by virtue of our title to it. There is a twofold title to bread.

If we have bread, a competency of these outward things, let us rest satisfied.

1. God can bless a little, “He will bless thy bread and thy water.” A blessing puts sweetness into the least morsel of bread, it is like sugar in wine.

2. God, who gives us our allowance, knows what quantity of these outward things is fittest for us; a smaller provision may be fitter for Some; bread may be better than dainties; every one cannot bear an high condition, no more than a weak brain can bear heavy wine.

3. In being content with daily bread, that which God carves for us, though it be a lesser piece; much grace is seen in this: all the graces act their part in a contented soul. As the holy ointment was made up of several spices--myrrh, cinnamon, cassia; so, contentment hath in it a mixture of several graces. There is faith, a Christian believes God doth all for the best; and love, which thinks no evil, but takes all God doth in good part; and patience, submit ring cheerfully to what God orders wisely. God is much pleased to see so many graces at once sweetly exercised, like so many bright stars shining in a constellation.

4. To be content with daily bread, the allowance God gives, though but sparingly, doth keep us from many temptations, which discontented persons fall into. When the devil sees a person just of Israel’s humour, not content with manna, but must have quails, saith Satan, Here is good fishing for me. Satan oft tempts discontented ones to murmuring, and to unlawful means, cozening and defrauding.

5. What a rare and admirable thing is it to be content with daily bread, though it be coarse, and though there be but little of it! What he hath not in the cupboard, he hath in the promise.

6. To make us content with daily bread, though God straitens us in our allowance, think seriously of the danger that is in an high prosperous condition.

7. If God keeps us to a spare diet, if He gives us less temporals, He hath made it up in spirituals; He hath given us the pearl of price and the holy anointing.

8. If you have but daily bread enough to suffice nature, be content. Consider it is not having abundance makes the life always comfortable; it is not a great cage will make the bird sing: a competency may breed contentment, when having more may make one less content; a staff may help the traveller, but a bundle of staves will be a burden to him. A great estate may be like a long trailing garment, more burdensome than useful. Many that have great incomes and revenues have not so much comfort in their lives as some that go to their hard labour.

9. If you have less daily bread, you will have less account to give. The greater revenues the greater reckonings; this may quiet and content us, if we have but little daily bread, our account will be less.

10. You that have but a small competency in these outward things, your provisions are short, yet you may be content to consider how much you look for hereafter. God keeps the best wine till last. (T. Watson.)

Not long prayers

A dozen half-pennies look much more valuable than a single shilling. I saw a little girl lately, who began to cry when a sixpence, which she had got, was taken from her; but she thought she had made a wonderfully good exchange, and dried her tears, when, instead of the little sixpence, she got a big penny. And yet, you know how many large pieces of copper or bronze it would take, to equal in value a small piece of silver, and, still more, to be worth a piece of gold. So there are many long prayers which are not worth half so much as some very short ones. There are some, the repetition of which would take a quarter of an hour, of far less value than others that would not take you a quarter of a minute. A big crown piece, or a big copper penny, does not come so far short of the value of a gold guinea, as many long prayers do of the shortest petitions. It is the importance of the things asked, the need for them at the time, and the spirit of the prayers offered, that give them any real value, irrespective of the number of words made use Of.

Give us this day our daily bread

You will also find the same prayer, in Slightly different words, in Luke 10:3 : “Give us day by day our daily bread.” Let me, first of all, even at the risk of virtually repeating what I said at the beginning of a former address, call your attention to the place which this petition occupies in the Lord’s prayer. I have seen a gentleman bringing his old mother into a room, leaning upon his arm. He got the best seat for her. He helped her before any one else. “Wouldn’t I be unworthy of a son’s name and place if I did not consult my mother’s wishes before my own, and seek her pleasure above my own, and make what was mine ever second to what was hers?” Just so with God and His children. His will, His honour, His glory--these should ever be first; so that, even before getting the wants of the body supplied, before thinking of their daily bread, they must think of Him.

I. This petition teaches the lesson of DEPENDENCE and THANKFULNESS: God the Giver of all good, and we the receivers. That is implied in the opening word, “Give.” It acknowledges our dependence on God.

II. This petition teaches the lesson of CHARITY--of caring for others as well as for ourselves. It does not say, “Give me my bread.” I have seen two orphans. The elder, a girl, has her arm clasped round her brother, and as she looks at his pale cheeks, and bare feet, and tattered clothes, all heedless of herself, and only mindful of him, she says, “Have pity on us; help us; give us.” That has a power that “give me” never would have had. This is a prayer for others. It is a prayer for the family, the father asking the blessing for all his household.

III. This petition teaches the lesson of DAILY TRUST IN GOD. “Give us this day.” When Israel was in the wilderness, we can fancy this prayer to have suited them well, “Give us this day our daily bread.” They had no store, and yet they had no fear. How apt we all are to fear for the future, alike in youth and age. I might mention many instances of a more ordinary kind, occurring in common life, all pointing in the direction of trusting in God in any emergency. I prefer, however, to call your attention to one or two well-authenticated instances of a more remarkable, though without pretending at all to be of a miraculous, kind. I dare say many of you are familiar with the history of those Christians in the valleys of Italy, so well known as “the Waldenses,” alike for their sufferings for the truth and their unflinching steadfastness. On one occasion they had been driven out from their homes, and when a large number, consisting of many hundreds, returned, what with the assaults of their enemies, and the want of food, their case seemed quite desperate. At this juncture, however, a thaw came on in these stormy regions, and, in the course of a night, the snow had so melted away, that next morning there stood a field of corn ready to be cut, almost as if it had come there by miracle, sustaining these Christian martyrs till other supplies came. During the persecution that raged in France at the time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, when so many Protestants perished, a minister, named M. Merlin, chaplain to the good Admiral de Coligny, hid himself in a hay-loft. Here, however, he was in danger of dying from starvation, and would have perished, but that every day a hen came and laid an egg near where he was, which preserved his life! We are told of another witness for the truth--a godly woman, who had great faith in God’s providence, that, on being brought before a judge, and condemned for her religion, he tauntingly said to her, “I shall send you to prison, and then how will you be fed?” Her reply was, “If it be my Heavenly Father’s will, I shall be fed from your table.” And so it was. The wife of the judge, hearing this, was so struck with the woman’s steadfastness and faith in God, that she supplied her with all she needed during her imprisonment, and herself found the same Saviour for whom the other suffered. Surely the Lord is worthy to be trusted. An old writer say of the child of God, “What he hath not in the cupboard, he hath in the promise!”

IV. This petition teaches the duty of PRAYER FOR ALL COMMON MERCIES. We are told here to pray for “bread”; and bread includes all that is needed for the supply of our bodily wants. And then, “this day,” implies that the prayer, as it is needful, so it should be offered every day. One day’s food will not do for another, and So one day’s prayer will not do for another.

V. This petition teaches the lesson of DILIGENCE, HONESTY, AND CONTENTMENT--“our bread.”

1. It must be earned.

2. It must be honestly come by. Otherwise, you cannot say “our bread.”

3. It must be “food convenient for you.” You may not get all you would like. You may not get what other people regard as best for you. Look into that cottage, and see the aged saint, whose home it is, sitting at an uncovered table, with a crust of bread and a cup of water. The head is reverently bowed, the face is lighted up with a look of content, and thanks are given before partaking, for “All this, and Christ too!” Not long since, one whom I knew, a tradesman in humble life, was dying of consumption. Those who went about him remarked his contentment and his thankfulness. One day a bunch of grapes was handed in for the invalid, and when this, so much better than the “daily bread,” was given, his heart was so full, that the only way in which he could get outlet to what he felt, was by asking his young wife to lock the door, that undisturbed, they might have family worship, in acknowledgment of this gift of God. When a friend of mine went in, a little after, they had just concluded their exercise, and the dying man, holding up the grapes, said, with a beaming face,” This is just like one of the clusters of Esohcol, telling what the promised land will be!

VI. This petition teaches the lesson of MODERATION IN OUR DESIRES--“Our daily bread.” (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

Nor is it the penniless alone who must offer this prayer. The millionaire must offer it not less than the pauper. For, observe how many steps are involved in the obtaining a single loaf of bread. Trace the history of wheat from the day it is sown as grain in the poor man’s field to the day it reappears as bread on the rich man’s table. Look first at the grain itself. Tiny and simple as a kernel of wheat is, man, although skilful and strong enough to build empires, is not skilful and strong enough to build a solitary wheat-kernel. Each kernel is the product and gift of our Heavenly Father. This is the first step. Again: Wheat cannot grow without soil. And soil man cannot make. True, he can modify its character. But he and all the chemists in the world, sitting in conclave with Liebig at their head, cannot create one of those ingredients, which in their union constitute soil. Soil is the product and gift of our Heavenly Father. This is the second step. Again: The best quality of wheat may be put into the best quality of soil, and yet there be no harvest. Moisture, heat, light, electricity, chemical elements and agencies in most complicated and delicate forms, and these in due order and proportions--all these are indispensable to the sprouting, growing, and ripening of the wheat. And not one of them can man make. He may modify them, indeed; but not one of them can he create. They are the product and gift of our Heavenly Father. This is the third step. Again: The wheat may be cradled and gathered into granaries, and yet there be no bread. Skill is needed to take advantage of the laws of mechanics and of chemistry, to invent the machine that shall thresh and winnow it, and the mill that shall grind it, and the yeast that shall leaven it, and the oven that shall bake it. And skill, although man prides himself on it as though it were his own creation, is the gift of our Heavenly Father. This is the fourth step. Again: The wheat may already be in the form of bread, and yet not find its way to the table. Numerous and complicated laws of finance, laws of demand and supply, of labour and capital, of exchange and circulating medium, intervene between the producer and the consumer. And these laws are aa much beyond the power of human alteration as the winds of heaven. True, man may modify their action, as the mariner does the action of the winds when he adjusts his canvas to the breeze. But he can no more create or alter or annihilate them than the mariner can turn an easterly wind into a westerly, or Euroclydon into a zephyr. (G. D. Boardman, D. D.)

Dependence for temporal blessings

Let us enforce the great principles contained in this request.

I. One of these is, THAT FOR SHE SUPPLY OF THEIR TEMPORAL WANTS, MEN ARE DEPENDENT ON GOD. When the Saviour puts the petition into our mouths, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He not only teaches the abstract doctrine of our dependence, but that we should be in the habit of acknowledging it. Temporal enjoyments are no more the result of chance and contingency than the beautiful and wondrous world in which we dwell. Natural causes may be the means and instruments of their production, but they are not the authors of them. Nature herself teaches us that our insufficiency is absolute, while God’s sufficiency is boundless. How many secondary causes, not one of which is under any human control, must be preserved in successful operation in order to secure his daily subsistence to a single individual of the human family! What a delicate and nice adjustment of all the laws of nature, in order to furnish him food to eat and raiment to put on! What a multitude of bodies in the planetary system must be constantly and wisely directed, in order to shelter him from the summer’s heat and the winter’s cold! To instructions like these we may also add the lessons of personal experience. You began the world poor; and God has not only taken care of you, but given you unexpected prosperity.

II. Another principle contained in this request is, that WHAT IS THUS SUPPLIED TO THE CHILDREN OF MEN, IS TO THEM A MERE GRATUITY. It is all of His mercy, and not of our own deserving. Gabriel himself cannot say Of the smallest and obscurest gem that adorns his crown that it is of his own procuring. And if man’s dependence renders his daily bread God’s gift, much more does his sinfulness render it so. As a sinner, he has no right to Divine blessings of any kind. It is not a thought to which the minds of Christian men are strangers, that their daily bread is conveyed to them in channels opened at the Cross.

III. There is also another principle of great practical import contained in this request. It strongly inculcates AN IMPLICIT RELIANCE ON THE DIVINE GOODNESS AND BOUNTY FOR ALL THAT WE NEED. It is a great privilege to trust with undisturbed tranquillity on the bountiful providence of our Father who is in heaven.

IV. There is yet another great principle involved in this request--it is THAT OUR DESIRES FOR TEMPORAL GOOD SHOULD BE MODERATE. “Give us this day our daily bread,” This prayer regulates the amount of our wants, and the measure of our desires. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Prayer and pains

Although He is the great Giver of all temporal blessings, yet if it be by wisely appointed means and instruments that He gives, the application of these means and instruments is indispensable to the gift. It is so for every gift which God bestows. Men, in the common affairs of human life, never think of acting upon any other principle.

1. In the first place, there is nothing in man’s dependence that dispenses with his own industry. The moral virtue of men depends, in no small degree, upon their industry and enterprise.

2. Another of the means, without which we may look in vain for temporal good to God as the Giver, is economy. He who wastes what God gives him, may not complain if He ceases to give. Nature and Providence are constantly reading us this lesson. One law is made to subserve a thousand purposes, and acts everywhere. Nothing is thrown away; nothing lost; nothing but accomplishes its appropriate end. If, then, such is the wise economy in the kingdom of nature; if the most worthless mineral, or the meanest vegetable, when decomposed, is resolved into elements which immediately enter into new combinations, and in other forms assist in carrying on the designs of Providence, surely nothing was given to men to destroy.

3. Nor do we hesitate, in the next place, to specify among the means of temporal prosperity, a sacred regard to the Lord’s Day.

4. Another of the means of worldly good is a sacred regard to truth. Truth between man and man is the only solid basis of human intercourse. Without it there can be no confidence in the transactions of business; no order, no happiness in human society.

5. Another means of temporal prosperity is that genuine rectitude and integrity of character which secure honesty in our dealings with one another.

6. One more thought deserves consideration, as connected by the Divine appointment with temporal prosperity--it is a filial, respectful, and dutiful deportment towards parents. “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Such are the ordinary means of procuring temporal blessings. Where these are faithfully adopted and pursued, men may consistently pray, “Give us this day our daily bread!” (G. Spring, D. D.)

Foresight

Now consider how many movements not under human control are necessary in order to secure the simple bread of a single child in the household of God on earth. Think of the large plans of God’s providence which the putting of the loaf on the table implies. The word “providence” means “foresight.” To provide is pro-video, to “see before.” What forethought the Father has had I what a long way He can see ahead! It is well that we have such a Father to think for us and to look ahead for us. I remember a striking passage in the Rev. William Arthur’s “Fernley Lecture” which illustrates this truth with much philosophic precision and fulness. I cannot forbear quoting a sentence or two. “Our corn sprouts in direct dependence on a world distant from ours by millions and tens of millions of miles; and whether water or wind drives the mill that grinds the corn, the water runs and the wind blows immediately under the influence of sun and moon, which, so far as we know, have within their own bounds no miller waiting to grind, and no eater asking for bread. This order between sun and fields evidently is not ordained to terminate with the fields; but is aimed at a point farther on, where order must be kept up between them and beings of fragile mould, who can exist only by virtue of complex harmonies being sustained between themselves and the earth and the sun.” “He that would if he could, crib and confine all human thought within the human sphere is forced by a question of bread to confess that the wheels which grind for the children of men their corn, are all turning in silence outside of the human sphere,”… “rolling round in manifest relation with the daily renewed hunger of this needy family of ours.” Science teaches that there are sources of supply higher than the clouds. The Saviour here teaches us that the sources of supply are to be referred back beyond the solar system, even to the Father in heaven, who keeps the windmills and watermills of the universe going, to grind for the children the bread He gives. This is the forethought of the Father, the Father looking ahead. Other instances of this truth might be given. Physical science is showing us with bewildering wealth of illustration that the Father’s foresight is infinite, and that the delicate movement and perfect adjustment of sun and earth, of solar system and our corn-sown fields, directly touches the question of our daily bread.

The Father’s providence carries us back to ages long before this earth-home was ready for the family. He was then laying in stores of coal and mineral for future use. Iron was laid up in the store-house of the earth incalculable ages before man was created; it was put there for man; and without it the vast system of our commerce and civilization could not have existed. There are also our coal-beds. The luxuriant tropical forests of prehistoric ages were engulfed and pressed, and changed by chemical action into coal for our use. You put a piece of coal on the fire; it ignites; combustion takes place; the gases and sunlight escape which were stored up there ages ago. It grew a tree which drank in the sunlight and gases of the atmosphere, and stored them to be released in the bright fire that warms you. Thus the same forethought of the Father gives us fuel that gives us food. Our Heavenly Father provides us with food and firing. The Father laid stores in the earth-home before the family came to live in it. (J. H.Batt.)

Bread in answer to prayer

The value of praying over these matters is seen in times of extremity. As God fed Elijah by means of ravens--birds of a ravenous disposition--so He sometimes in answer to prayer employs instrumentalities of a most unlikely kind to be almoners of His bounty. The following story is told in the Sword and Trowel for January, 1884:--“Thomas Hownham, who lived in the North of England, a good many years ago, was once reduced to great straits. Having tried in vain to get work, he went out in the moonlight to a spot some way from his cottage, and there poured out his soul in prayer, his wife and children having gone to bed supperless, the little ones crying themselves to sleep. In an hour or two he returned. To his surprise he found inside the door a joint of meat and a half-peck loaf. He woke his wife and children, and they had a hearty meal together. How it came there he could not find out till twelve years after, when a rich but very miserly farmer died. Then a respectable servant who had lived long in his employ spoke of his master as having done one act of charity in the course of his life, though he afterwards regretted it. On the night in question he dreamed three times over that Hownham and his family were starving, and at last it had such an effect on him that he woke his two servants, and sent his man with bread and meat, which he left at the cottage. Next morning he was so vexed with himself at what he had done, that he charged both his servants never to say a word about it as long as he lived, or he would discharge them.” (J. H. Batt.)

Of praying for temporal blessings

What are we taught by the mention of bread of this prayer? Temporal things are to be prayed for.

1. These are good things in themselves.

2. They are very needful and useful. Needful (as means sanctified of God) for preserving our being in the world, which, like a lamp, would soon be extinguished if a continual supply of new oil were not added thereto.

3. The want of them is a great hindrance to the work of our calling, to works of charity and piety, and a temptation to injustice. (W. Gouge.)

What instruction are we taught by this word “daily”? Our desire must be for no more than is needful for us. What may be accounted needful?

1. That which very nature requireth, as meat and drink to feed the body, and clothing to keep it warm; without these the body cannot but pine away and perish.

2. That which is meet for the estate wherein God hath set us, as fit instruments for artificers, books for scholars, ammunition for captains and other soldiers.

3. That which is requisite for the charge committed to us. As, if a man have wife and children, that which is meet for them, as well as for himself, may justly be accounted needful.

4. That which is apparently needful for the time to come. Fathers ought to lay up for their children. (W. Gouge.)

How doth God give bread, and the things here comprised under it?

1. By causing them to be brought forth.

2. By bringing them to us, so as we may partake of the use of them. Thus saith God to Israel, “I gave her corn, and wine, and oil,” &c. (Hosea 2:8).

3. By giving them a blessing.

4. By sanctifying them to us. (W. Gouge.)

What are the particular good things for which, by reason of the fourth petition, thanksgiving is required?

1. Life itself. For every day that is renewed unto us affordeth matter of thanks even for that life which is lent us.

2. Health and strength in that life.

3. Sufficient means to preserve these. This Moses giveth in express charge to Israel, saying, “When thou hast eaten and filled thyself, thou shalt bless the Lord thy God.”

4. Recovery of health and strength. For this did Hezekiah (as a perpetual testimony of his thankfulness) indite a psalm of praise, and cause it to be registered for all ages.

5. Good success in our pains. For this doth Abraham’s servant give express thanks unto God (Genesis 24:26-27; Gen_31:5, &c.).

6. The extent of God’s providence to our family, and to such as we ought to provide for. Jacob acknowledgeth thus much (Genesis 33:11; Gen_33:20).

7. God’s bounty extended to the places where we dwell. Sion was the city of David, and in Jerusalem was his habitation; he doth therefore praise the Lord for that peace, plenty, safety, and other like blessings which God had bestowed thereupon.

8. God’s providence in keeping away, or removing any evils, as famine, plague, sword, plots and practices of enemies, with the like.

9. The common blessings which God bestoweth on the whole world.

The consideration whereof much enlarged David’s heart to praise the Lord. What are the duties after which we ought to endeavour by reason of the fourth petition?

1. Diligence in our calling.

2. Good conscience in getting the things that are needful for us.

3. Confidence in God for His blessing.

4. Faith in the Lord Jesus for a right to what we have.

5. Faithfulness in nourishing and cherishing our bodies with that which we have.

6. Temperance in using such things as are most usual and useful for us.

7. Contentment in that which God bestoweth on us.

8. Providence for such as belong to our charge.

9. Liberality to such as need. The extent of this particle “us” reacheth to all of all sorts.

10. Joy in the occasions of rejoicing which others have for God’s blessing on their temporal estate. (W. Gouge.)

Who may be accounted guilty of neglecting their own welfare?

1. They who care not what hurt they do to their bodies.

2. They who over-rigorously punish their bodies. Many blinded with superstition and besotted with idolatry.

3. They who through too eager a pursuit of what they like, waste their natural vigour, as Esau, who followed his hunting till he was faint.

4. They who by immoderate passion shorten their days. It is taxed as a fault in Rachel, that she refused to be comforted.

5. They who through niggardliness afford not themselves things needful.

6. They who cast themselves into needless dangers.

7. Self-murderers. It is the main scope of this petition to desire preservation of life. (W. Gouge.)

This petition is our first step to earth

In the three former we made our ascents and approaches towards heaven; here our devotion flies at a lower pitch, and stoops at the world. By nature’s rule, when things are at the highest, they must descend. When the sun hath climbed up to the remotest part of our tropic, and is placed at greatest distance from our hemisphere, he traverses his course, and by another tropic falls nearer to us again. In the three first petitions we were nearer the sun, nearer that place where the throne of God is fixed, and the sun of righteousness moves, heaven. Here we, as it were, cut the line, are in a new climate; the two globes of earth and heaven here divide themselves, this being the first side of the terrestrial. (Archdeacon King.)

Rescued from the curse

When Adam forfeited his obedience, and shut God out of his heart, the ear of God and the bounty of nature were at once barred against him; for at first the earth wore her commodities in her forehead, visible and eminent; but after man’s fall, she, by God’s command, called in her blessings, concealed her fruits, and instead of that plenty wherein once she was apparelled, now only wears that barren attire which God’s curse cast upon her-thorns and thistles--from which curse nothing can rescue or redeem her but prayer and labour; prayer to open the ear of God, and labour to open the earth and search for those riches which lie hid within her bosom. (Archdeacon King.)

Love before bread

We see in the common practice that till the custom be paid the trade is not free or open; so whilst the firstfruits, which are God’s custom, rest unpaid, we cannot expect a profitable traffic with Him, or success in our own affairs. The story tells us that when Jacob, pressed by the famine which reigned in the land, sent to Egypt for victuals, he considered the dignity of the governor before his own necessity, and honoured him with a present, the best he could provide, before he asked for corn. We were not true Israelities if we more regarded meats and drinks than to do the will of God, or preferred panem quotidianum, “our daily bread,” before the hallowing of His Name. Certainly to begin with God is a fair introduction to all other blessings.

Daily bread

A large provision for so short a voyage as life is a perplexity, not a help; and a burthen, not a supply. (Archdeacon King.)

Our daily bread

As no part of the body was made only for itself, so no man. We are all one body, whereof Christ is head, and therefore one another’s members. As we are all parts of that mystical body, so are we also of a political. Of which body, as the King is the head, and the counsellors the brain, so the rich man is the stomach that receives the good of the land. Now as the stomach receives the meat not to retain it still there, but to disperse it into all the parts of the body, which must be fed by that nourishment, so have rich men their wealth not to hoard up, but to disperse amongst the needy; for dispersit, dedit pauperibus, is the rich man’s office and commendation too. Do but observe how God waters the earth by several veins and channels. Shall the channel say to the dry ground, I will retain my waters, and shut up my banks from relieving your barrenness? when the channel is but the conveyance of that blessing to the world. God oftimes reaches unto us His benefits by other’s hands. He hath made the rich His almoner, his hand to contribute unto the necessities of his brethren; for per eum qui habet juvat egentem,per eum qui non habet probat habentem. If then he be of such a cruel retention to close and shut up himself against the poor, he resists the ordinance of God, by withholding that good which He intended to convey to others by him. Christ teaches us to say “Our bread” and “Give us.” (Archdeacon King.)

This day

As it is the date of the petition, so must it also be the date of our solicitude. From whence I shall only raise these short lessons, and so end. First, we must know that our care of temporal blessings ought not to be prolonged so far as either to impede devotion or make life tedious. Care is a useless companion to Christians. (Archdeacon King.)

A motive to quicken our piety, and invite us to a continual exercise of prayer

Do not thou, like a fortified town, because thou art victualled for many months, presume upon thy strength, or stand upon thy own guard, as if thou couldst hold out a siege against all necessities, like the rich man in the gospel, who, having filled his barns and storehouses, bid his soul rest securely in the confidence of his wealth. Know that God, with one fit of an ague, can shake thy strongest fortification, that He can cut off thy supplies, and break thy staff of bread, as He did Israel’s, and by the battery of one hot disease even in a night’s skirmish beat thy soul out of her frail citadel. Think it not enough to come to church upon Sundays, or serve God once a week, and forget Him till the next Sabbath’s “All in” awake thee. As it was a constant daily sacrifice which the priest offered in the old law, so must thou offer up to God a sacrifice of prayer for the sanctification of this day, and each present day unto thee. Now as thou must not discontinue God’s service, so neither must thou anticipate putting two days’ devotions into one, or think to serve God so long at once as will serve for thrice. (Archdeacon King.)

Every day

Let us not still look downward, lingering after the bread or the temporal benefits of this life, as Israel did after the fleshpots of Egypt; but address ourselves for a new voyage, remembering that when our strength and stomach shall fail, when age shall cast a general numbness over us, when this our bread shall grow insipid, and our palate tasteless, there is a new table and another kind of bread provided for us in the kingdom of Christ. Instead of this panis quotidianus, “our daily bread,” pants crastinus (for so Saint Hierome writes that some Hebrews true, slated this place), a “future bread,” which we shall eat the morrow after this world’s day concludes. Such bread, which, when we have once tasted, will leave no more hunger to succeed it; and such a morrow which shall have no new day apparent to inherit that light which died the evening before. For this life’s hodie, which we call “to-day,” shall be turned into a quotidie, “every day,” in the next, but without difference, or vicissitude, or alteration. (Archdeacon King.)


Verse 4

Luke 11:4

And forgive us our sins

On the forgiveness of sin

I.
THAT OUR SINS ARE OUR DEBTS.

1. HOW we come to be in debt to God, how this debt is contracted, and what is the ground of the action. That I may keep to the comparison, not forcing it, but fairly following it, you shall see that we fairly run in debt to God, as the children of men run in delft to one another.

2. Having opened to you the several ways how we come into this debt to God, let us next inquire what kind of debt sin is.

3. Having seen what kind of debt sin is, let us next see what kind of debtors sinners commonly are; and we shall find them like other unfortunate debtors, that are going down in the world, and have no way to help themselves.

4. To affect you the more with the misery of an impenitent, unpardoned state, having showed you what your debt is, I shall next lay before you the danger we are in by reason of this debt. Many who owe a great deal of money, yet are furnished with considerations sufficient to make them easy, but they are such as our case will not admit.

II. The sins we are to repent of, being our debts to God, THE MERCY WE ARE TO PRAY FOR IS THE FORGIVENESS OF THESE DEBTS.

1. Let us inquire what is included in this mercy of the forgiveness of sin as a debt, and what steps God graciously takes therein toward us, when we repent, and return, and believe the gospel. He acts as a merciful and compassionate creditor toward a poor debtor who lies at his mercy.

2. Having seen how much is included in God’s forgiving us our debts, because it is so great a favour, that we may be tempted to think it too much for such worthless unworthy creatures as we are to expect, let us next inquire what ground we have to hope for it? How is it that a God infinitely just and holy should be thus readily reconciled to a guilty and polluted sinner upon his repenting?

3. What is expected and required from you, that you may obtain this favour, and that your debts may be forgiven? Christ, as a surety for us, has made satisfaction; but what must we do that we may have an interest in that satisfaction?

1. Do not delay to come to an account with your own consciences, but search diligently and impartially, that you may see how matters stand between you and God.

2. Be thoroughly convinced of your misery and danger by reason of sin; see process ready to be taken out against you, and consider what is to be done.

3. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; make your peace with God, and do it with all speed. You need not send to desire conditions of peace; they are offered to you, if you will but accept of them; and they are not only easy but very advantageous.

4. In order to the making of your peace with God, make sure your interest in Jesus Christ, and make use of Him daily for that purpose: retain Him of counsel for you in this great cause on which your all depends, and let Him be not only your plea but your pleader, for that is His office.

5. Renew your repentance every day for your sins of daily infirmity, and be earnest with God in prayer for the pardon of them. Lastly, let those to whom much is forgiven, love much. (Matthew Henry.)

The forgiveness of sins

I. Notice the connection and dependence. Having prayed for our daily bread, we are next taught to pray for pardon. And this method is, indeed, most wise and most rational. For--

1. The guilt of sin many times withholds from us those earthly comforts we stand in need of.

2. Without pardon of sin, all our temporal enjoyments are but snares and curses unto us.

II. The words themselves.

1. The petition.

(a) The infinite multitudes of thy debts.

(b) That God, who is thy creditor, is strict and impartial.

(c) That the least of all those thy debts makes thee liable to be cast into the prison of hell, and to be adjudged to eternal death and punishments.

(d) Consider, thou canst never pay God, nor discharge the least of thy debts for ever.

(a) Consider what the pardon of sin is.

(b) The pardoning grace of God, in respect of us, is altogether free and undeserved.

(c) The pardoning grace of God is not free, in respect of Christ; but it cost Him the price of blood. Let us consider unto whom this petition for pardon is directed. And that is, as all the rest are, to our Father, whose laws we have violated, whose justice we have offended, whose displeasure we have incurred, and to whose vengeance we have made ourselves liable and obnoxious, to Him we sue for pardon and remission. Hence we may collect this note: That it is the high prerogative of God alone to forgive sins.

If, then, it be the prerogative of God alone to pardon sin, hence we may, for our abundant comfort, be informed--

(a) That our pardon is free and gratuitous.

(b) It is God that pardons, therefore our pardon is full and complete.

(c) Is it God that pardons? Then, for thy comfort, know that He can as easily forgive great and many sins, as few and small.

(a) We pray that God would discover to us the horrid odious nature of sin.

(b) We pray that God would humble us under the sight and sense of our manifold transgressions; that, as our sins have made us vile in God’s eyes, so they may make us vile in Our own, to loath ourselves in dust and ashes for them.

(c) We pray that God would give us His Spirit, to enable us to confess our sins cordially, and sincerely to pour forth our hearts before Him, and to acknowledge our manifold provocations with shame and godly sorrow, upon which God promised to grant us pardon and forgiveness.

(d) We beg a more clear understanding of the sacrifice and atonement made by Jesus Christ, through which alone all pardon is purchased and procured; to know both what it is and why ordained; and, likewise, the knowledge of God’s rich and free mercy; and the conjunction of this sacrifice and mercy together, in the great mystery of the freeness of Divine grace, and the satisfaction of Jesus concurring to the remission of our sins and the salvation of our souls.

(e) We pray that we may have a high esteem of Christ, and may hunger and thirst more after Him and His righteousness, through whom alone pardon of our sins is to be obtained.

(f) We pray that we may be brought over to close with the Lord Jesus Christ by a lively faith; that His righteousness thereby may be made ours, and we, by that righteousness, may obtain pardon of our sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified.

2. The condition or plea annexed to this petition.

(4) The proportion or resemblance, in particle “as.” Our forgiving of others must have these qualifications--

(a) It must be unfeigned and cordial from thy very heart and soul; for so thou wouldst have God forgive thee.

(b) Thou art obliged likewise to forgive freely, without any recompense or satisfaction from others.

(c) We must forgive others fully and completely; for God doth so. (Bp. Hopkins.)

The forgiveness of sins

I. SINS ARE TRESPASSES AGAINST GOD.

1. Against the perfections of God.

2. Against the authority of God.

3. Against the express commandments of God.

4. Against the counsels and exhortations of God.

5. Against His warnings and threatenings.

6. Against His grace revealed to us in the gospel.

7. Against His patience.

II. GOD IS WILLING TO FORGIVE US THOSE TRESPASSES, though very great, and daily repeated. This we may conclude--

1. From God’s natural goodness and love to mankind.

2. From the declarations He has made of Himself, His mercifulness, and unwillingness that any should perish.

3. From His express promises.

4. From examples of His wonderful mercy recorded in the Scripture, for the encouragement of all truly humble penitents, though their guilt may be exceeding great, and they may have been sinners above others.

5. from the covenant made with Christ the Redeemer, that He should see the fruit of the travail of His soul, and justify many by bearing their iniquities. And as Christ the Redeemer was faithful to Him that appointed Him, and bare our sins, according to the counsel and command of the Father; so the Father will be Truthful to Him: and whosoever believeth on Him shall be justified from all things, and shall never come into condemnation, never perish, but have everlasting life.

III. QUALIFICATION OR DISPOSITIONS which must be found in all such as receive the forgiveness of sin.

1. In order to the forgiveness of sin, there must be repentance towards God, a confession of sin, and forsaking it; otherwise we have no ground (from anything that is written in the Scripture) to hope for mercy.

2. God requires, in order to a reconciliation, that we must believe in His Son whom He hath sent.

3. Our Saviour here mentions our forgiving those that trespass against us, as a qualification or disposition necessary to be found in us who hope to receive the forgiving grace of God to ourselves for our trespasses against Him: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Practical reflections:

1. Let us seriously consider and admire the condescension and goodness of God, in proposing to be reconciled to us, when He can gain nothing by such a reconciliation, but all the advantage is ours.

2. Let us pray for the forgiveness of our daily trespasses.

3. If we would receive the remission of sin, let us pray, and labour, that we may have those dispositions which are found in all such as receive a pardon from God.

Unwillingness to acknowledge guilt

If left to our own proud blindness, how loth are we to acknowledge our guiltiness before God, and to sue in His courts for the boon of pardon, in the deep sense of our spiritual poverty and moral unworthiness. There was, in the early ages of the Christian era, a lying magician and philosopher, Apollonius of Tyanea, whom some of the ancients tried to set up as a rival, in wisdom and might and miracles, with our blessed Saviour. One of the speeches attributed to this Apollonius by his biographer is, “O ye gods, give me my dues.” Instead of holding himself indebted to heaven, he regarded heaven as debtor to him, for what he supposed his blamelessness and eminent virtue. There bleated out the proud and impious folly of the unrenewed heart. But, as Coleridge beautifully said, in the later and more Christian years of his life, the men who talk of earning heaven by their own merits, might better begin by earning earth. Who of us really has deserved what he in daily enjoying of good, even chequered as that good may be, in this sublunary state, with mingling sorrow and joy? But, surely, in our more sober and meditative hours, even the unregenerate feel, more or less distinctly, their own guiltiness. This it is that makes solitude dreadful, and diversion so necessary, in order to kill time and drown thought. This it is that clothes death with terrors, and renders the image of a God--holy and the hater of sin--so irksome and formidable an idea to us. But how do men strive to lessen this irksome, yet inevitable, consciousness, by vain pleas and extenuations and criminations of their fellows, as these last have been their tempters, abettors, and accomplices. How do they seek to obliterate the record against them by flattering, and at times by bribing heaven. But can our richest gifts buy the All-rich, and our most lavish flatteries cheat the All-wise God? How can such a God be appeased, so that He shall efface the record of our moral indebtedness? We must recognize and confess our sin. And the devout mind, after every preceding petition in the Lord’s prayer, prepares to drop in the utterance of the petition now before us, as into the dust of lowliest self-abasement. Is He our Father? this fatherhood has been spurned by His ingrate children. Is He in heaven, our native home and our proper end? We have lived as if we had sprung from earth and were ripening only for hell. His name, dread and pure, is it worthy, always stud by all, to be hallowed? How have our daring levity and defiance profaned it; and trailed its sacred honours, as in the mire of our scorn and our filth; and hung what is the dread blazonry of heaven over deeds and tempers sprung of the pit. Is His kingdom to be hailed and extended? How have we played, toward its glories and authority, the part of the rebel and the traitor. Is His will deserving of all obedience and study and conformity? How have we preferred to it our own will, and the will of the murderer and deceiver, Satan. Gives He still, kind and long-suffering, our daily bread? How have we “crammed and blasphemed our Feeder” I To subdue this sin, will it be sufficient to secure forgiveness for the past? Not--unless we staunch the fountain of evil, and provide against its out-gushings for the future. To this later work the succeeding petitions of the prayer refer. When Jesus came down to meet our debt, and to justify us by His righteousness and death, He also made provision and purchase of the Holy Spirit to renew and to sanctify. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

The test of our spiritual state

God calls us to a daily and domestic scrutiny. We do not show a forgiving and generous spirit, in order that thus we may earn heaven; but we are warned that the indulgence of a contrary spirit necessarily forfeits heaven. We test our spiritual condition, not by asking how our feelings are towards the dead--to our best friends--or towards angels. The Pharisees could praise dead saints, and canonise prophets, when once safe and mute in their graves. But we ask, What are my feelings towards the living prophets and witnesses of heaven--to my living neighbour, and rival, and enemy? When our Saviour healed the sick man of his long and sore infirmity, and bade him take up his bed and walk; the poor man’s lifting of his couch and flinging its light weight on his rejoicing shoulders, was not the means of his cure, or the condition of his healing. It was the evidence, tangible and visible to himself and others, in the streets along which he passed, and in the home he re-entered, that he had encountered a great Prophet, and had received a miraculous healing. And so, when the leper, purged of his leprosy, was bidden to go and show himself to the priest, as he bared the skin now clear and white to the glance of the Levite, he was not fulfilling a condition of the cure, but receiving an authentication, a public and unimpeachable and official endorsement of it. And even thus is it, in this prayer. It is not our placability that purchases for us remission. Had the imperturbable countenance which Talleyrand was accustomed to wear, even when insulted, been the index of as imperturbable a soul, free from all malicious remembrances, it would not in itself have merited eternal blessedness. But God would furnish, as it were, in the forgiving spirit of His people, a portable crucible, so to speak, in which to try and purge daily the fine gold of our own heavenly hopes. To arm us against the selfishness which Be clings to us, this petition, like all those preceding it, is not for the solitary suppliant. He asks not for himself, though like the prophet’s penitents he “mourns apart”; but he implores in unison and sympathy with the absent. He says not, Forgive me, but forgive us. And then going beyond all the other petitions, he makes reference not to the absent only, but to the alienated--the injurious--the hostile. (W. R.Williams, D. D.)

The forgiving grace

We want from God a full and free forgiveness, that has mingled with it no grudges and no coolnesses; a forgiveness that blots out our transgressions, that takes away all our iniquity, and receives us graciously and loves us freely; and that mercy which we want from Him we must be ready to show to others. We stultify ourselves by asking our Heavenly Father to extend to us a measure of forgiveness that we are not willing to extend to our brother. Such a prayer is mockery, and we know that it is when we offer it. What is more, we cannot receive the fulness of the Divine forgiveness until we are ready ourselves freely to forgive--even to give ourselves for--those who have wronged us. The trouble is not with the phraseology of the prayer, but with the facts of the case. You say that the desert is a desert because no rain falls upon it; but that is only half the truth. No rain falls upon it because it is a desert. The heated air rushing up from its arid surface disperses the vapours that would descend in rain. Some moisture there must be on the earth, else there cannot be rain from heaven. So in your heart this forgiving disposition must be, else you cannot rejoice in the fulness of God’s forgiving grace. The pardon may wait in the sky above you, but it cannot descend to you until that mind is in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Enmity is incompatible with profitable prayer

You have seen enmities and jealousies and grudges growing up between neighbours and brethren in the Church; and in every such case you have noticed that the spiritual life of these quarrelling Christians grew feeble and fruitless; that there was no fervour in their prayers, no joy in their praises, no sign of heavenly influence in all their holy convocations. And then you have seen a better mind take possession of them; mutual confessions and reconciliations followed; those who had been long estranged came together and forgave each other, and renewed the old bonds of charity and brotherhood. And then, how quickly, to the assemblies so long frigid and forlorn, the warmth of holy love and the consciousness of the Divine presence returned; how the pulse of the Church was quickened; and the new life from above issued in abundant fruits I Every great religious awakening is preceded by such works of reconciliation; and no wise servant of Christ expects any real spiritual growth or progress among those who are divided by petty feuds and contentions. It is not till we are ready to forgive that we find any profit in our prayers. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

An unforgiving spirit

What would you think of one who prayed, “O Lord, forgive me the many sins which I have committed against Thee; but I will not forgive my fellow-creature who has offended me”? An unforgiving spirit will stand in the way of any one being pardoned who indulges it. While the good remember kindnesses, and forget injuries, the bad practise the opposite. There are too many who, even when they claim to have forgiven others with their lips, cherish in their hearts the spirit of the old Highland chief, in the days when clan met clan in deadly feud. A man of God, who visited him on his death bed, and urged him to make peace with his enemies, in order that he might receive the forgiveness of God, at last so far prevailed, that the word passed his reluctant lips. Then, as if the death-chamber had been a stage, and the old chieftain an actor, who, having played his part, throws off the mask which he has for the time assumed, he turned his cold gray eye on one of his stalwart sons, and said, “I leave you a father’s bitterest curse if you ever forgive them!” (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Judgment without mercy

Between a mother and her daughter there had sprung up a serious quarrel. One house could not hold them. At length filial affection triumphed over pride, and the daughter repaired to her early home. No welcome met her at the door. She humbled herself to her mother--on bended knees imploring her forgiveness. She appealed to the bosom that had nursed her; but might as well have knocked on a coffin; there was no response. Nor--though imploring her by the mercies of God, and entreating her to forgive as she desired to be forgiven--could I, called in as a peacemaker, bend that stubborn will. By and by to this lonely house came another visitor. Death, who would not be denied admittance, arrived, summoning her to a bar where they shall have judgment without mercy who have shown no mercy. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Forgetting and forgiving

Prince Bismarck was once asked by Count Enzenberg to write something in his album. The page on which he had to write contained the autographs of Guizot and Thiers. The former had written, “I have learnt in my long life two rules of prudence. The first is, to forgive much; the second is, never to forget.” Under this Thiers had said, “A little forgetting would not detract from the sincerity of the forgiveness.” Prince Bismarck added, “As for me, I have learnt to forget much, and to ask to be forgiven much.”

We must forgive, if we would be forgiven

During the Middle Ages, when the great lords were always at war with each other, one of them resolved to take signal vengeance upon a neighbour who had offended him. On the very evening when he had formed this bloody purpose, he heard that his enemy would pass near his castle, with only a few attendants, and this seemed an excellent opportunity for gratifying his revenge. He mentioned the plan in the presence of his chaplain, who tried in vain to persuade him to give it up. The clergyman said much about the sinfulness of revenge; but it was like talking to the wind. Seeing that his words had no effect, he added, “Well, my lord, since I cannot persuade you to give up this plan of yours, will you at least consent to come with me to the chapel, that we may pray together before you set off?” The duke agreed; and the two kneeled down before the altar. “And now,” said the chaplain, “please repeat with me the prayer which our Lord Jesus Christ taught to His disciples.” “I will do it,” answered the duke. The prayer was said without hesitation until they reached the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Here the duke was silent. “Will you be so good as to continue to repeat the words after me?” asked the chaplain. “I cannot,” replied the duke. “Well, God cannot forgive you, for He has said so. You must, therefore, give up your revenge, or give up the use of this prayer. To ask God to pardon you as you pardon others, is to ask Him to take vengeance on you for all your sins.” The iron will of the duke was broken, and he hastily exclaimed, “I will finish my prayer. My God, my Father, pardon me!” For the first time in his life he understood the Lord’s prayer.

And forgive us

At this point of the Lord’s prayer we get the first use of the conjunction, and there is a great deal of beauty in that word, “and forgive us.” What was the former petition, and what is the use of the conjunction? “Give us our daily bread.” This verbal link is itself a beautiful representation of the mysterious bond that actually unites body and soul. A man who simply had bread would be a poor creature indeed, who simply had the comforts of this life. It is quite right that you should pray to have bread; but the prayer must be conjoined to a prayer for some spiritual blessing. (S. Coley.)

There are two things which this text cannot mean.

1. It cannot mean that sinful man is to set an example by which the Divine administration is to be conducted.

2. It cannot mean that God’s forgiveness of man is a mere equivalent for something that man himself has done. In suggesting an interpretation of this prayer, let it be observed that this is not the first petition in the prayer. Who are the men who can say, “Forgive us,” etc.? They are the men who have said--

1. “Our Father.”

2. “Thy kingdom come.”

3. “Thy will be done on earth. (Dr. Parker.)

Of the fifth petition in the Lord’s prayer

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Before I speak strictly to the words I shall take notice--

1. That in this prayer there is but one petition for the body--“Give us our daily bread”; but two petitions for the soul--“Forgive us our trespasses,” “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Hence observe, that we are to be more careful for our souls than for our bodies; more careful for grace than for daily bread; more desirous to have our souls saved than our bodies fed. In the law, the weight of the sanctuary was twice as big as the common weight, to typify that spiritual things must be of far greater weight with us than earthly. The excellency of the soul may challenge our chief care about it. It it be well with the soul, it shall be well with the body; if the soul be gracious, the body shall be glorious, for it shall shine like Christ’s body. Therefore it is wisdom to look chiefly to the soul, because in saving the soul, we secure the happiness of the body.

2. From the connection in the text, as soon as Christ had said, give us “daily bread,” He adds, “And forgive us.” Christ joins this petition of forgiveness of sin immediately to the other of daily bread, to show us, that though we have daily bread, yet all is nothing without forgiveness. If our sins he not pardoned we can take but little comfort in our food. As it is with a man that is condemned, though you bring him meat in prison, yet he takes little comfort in it without a pardon; so, though we have daily bread, yet it will do us no good unless sin be forgiven. Daily bread may satisfy the appetite, but forgiveness of sin satisfies the conscience.

Use 1. It condemns the folly of most people. If they have daily bread, the delicious things of this life, they look no further, they are not solicitous for the pardon of sin; if they have that which feeds them, they look not after that which should crown them.

Use 2. Let us pray that God would not give us our portion in this life, that He would not put us off with daily bread, but that He would give forgiveness. This is the sauce that would make our bread relish the sweeter. Daily bread may make us live comfortably, but forgiveness of sin will make us die comfortably. In what sense is sin the worst debt?

1. Because we have nothing to pay; if we could pay the debt, what need we pray, “Forgive us”?

2. Sin is the worst debt, because it is against an infinite majesty. Sin wrongs God, and so it it an infinite offence.

3. Sin is the worst debt, because it is not a single, but a multiplied debt--forgive us “our debts;” we have debt upon debt. We may as well reckon all the drops in the sea, as reckon all our spiritual debts; we cannot tell how much we owe. A man may know his other debts, but we cannot number our spiritual debts.

4. Sin is the worst debt; because it is an inexcusable debt in two respects.

(a) Other debts, if the debtor dies in prison, cannot be recovered, death frees them from debt; but if we die in debt to God, He knows how to recover it; as long as we have souls to strain, God will not lose His debt. Not the death of the debtor, but the death of the surety, pays a sinner’s debt.

(b) In other debts men may flee from their creditor, leave their country, and go into foreign parts, and the creditor cannot find them; but we cannot flee from God.

5. Sin is the worst debt, because it carries men, in ease of non-payment, to a worse prison than any upon earth.

Wherein have we the properties of bad debtors?

1. A bad debtor doth not love to be called to an account. There is a day coming when God will call His debtors to account.

2. A bad debtor is unwilling to confess his debt, he will put it off, or make less of it; so we are more willing to excuse sin than confess it.

3. A bad debtor is apt to hate his creditor; debtors wish their creditors dead; so wicked men naturally hate God, because they think He is a just judge, and will call them to account. The debtor cloth not love to see his creditor. We would think it strange if writs or warrants were out against a man, or a judgment granted to seize his body and estate, yet he is secure and regardless, as if he were unconcerned. God hath a writ out against a sinner, nay, many writs, for swearing, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, yet the sinner eats and drinks, and is quiet, as if he were not in debt; what opium hath Satan given men?

If sin be a debt--

1. Let us be humbled. The name of debt, saith St. Ambrose, is grievous.

2. Let us confess our debt.

3. Labour to get your spiritual debts paid, that is, by our surety Christ. “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to Luke 11:4).

What forgiveness of sin is?

1. By opening some scripture.phrases--

2. The nature of forgiveness will appear by laying down some Divine aphorisms or positions. Every sin is mortal, and needs forgiveness; I say, mortal, that is, deserves death. It is God only that forgives sin. To pardon sin is one of the royal prerogatives. That God only can forgive sin, I prove thus:--No man can take away sin unless he is able to infuse grace; for, as Aquinas saith, with forgiveness is always infusion of grace; but no man can infuse grace, therefore no man can forgive sin. He only can forgive sin who can remit the penalty, but it is only God’s prerogative royal to forgive sin. But the Scripture speaks of the power committed to ministers to forgive sin “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.” Ministers cannot remit sin authoritatively and effectually, but only declaratively. They have a special office and authority to apply the promises of pardon to broken hearts. As it was with the priest in the law, God did cleanse the leper, the priest only did pronounce him clean, so it is God who, by His prerogative, doth forgive sin; the minister only pronounceth forgiveness to the sinner, being penitent. Power to forgive sin authoritatively in one’s own name was never granted to mortal man. Forgiveness of sin is purely an act of God’s free grace. Forgiveness is through the blood of Christ. Free grace is the inward cause moving. Christ’s blood is the outward cause meriting pardon--“In whom we have redemption through His blood.”

But if Christ laid down His blood as the price of our pardon, then how can we say, God freely forgives sin? If it be by purchase, how is it by grace?

1. It was God’s free grace that found out a way of redemption through a mediator.

2. It was free grace moved God to accept of the price paid for our sins; that God should accept a surety; that one should sin, and another suffer; this was free grace. In forgiveness of sin, God remits the guilt and penalty. What is that remorse and sorrow which goes before forgiveness of sin? It is a holy sorrow, it is a grieving for sin, as it is sin, and as it is a dishonoring of God, and a defiling of the soul. The greatest sins come within the compass of forgiveness. Zaccheus, an extortioner; Mary Magdalene, an unchaste woman, out of whom seven devils were east; Manasseh, who made the streets run with blood; yet these had pardon. Some of the Jews who had a hand in crucifying Christ were forgiven. God blots out not only the cloud, but “the thick cloud”; enormities as well as infirmities. When God pardons a sinner, He forgives all sins--“I will pardon all their iniquities”: “having forgiven you all trespasses.” The mercy-seat covered the whole ark; the mercy-seat was a type of forgiveness, to show that God covers all our transgressions. They whose sins are forgiven must not omit praying for forgiveness--“Forgive us our trespasses.”

Believers who are pardoned must be continual suitors for pardon. Sin, like Samson’s hair, though it be cut, will grow again. We sin daily, and must as well ask for daily pardon as for daily bread.

1. From this word, “forgive,” we learn that if the debt of sin be no other way discharged but by being forgiven, then we cannot satisfy for it. Sin being forgiven, clearly implies we cannot satisfy for it.

2. From this word “us,” “Forgive us,” we learn that pardon is chiefly to be sought for ourselves. What I will another’s pardon do us good? Every one is to endeavour to have his own name in the pardon. In this sense, selfishness is lawful, every one must be for himself, and get a pardon for his own sins--“Forgive us.”

3. From this word “our,” “Our sins,” we learn how just God is in punishing us. The text says, “Our sins”; we are not punished for other men’s sins, but our own. Sin is our own act, a web of our own spinning; how righteous therefore is God in punishing us? When we are punished, we but taste the fruit of our own grafting.

4. From this word “sins,” see from hence the multitude of sins we stand guilt), of. We pray not forgive us our sin, as if it were only a single debt, but sins, in the plural. So vast is the catalogue of our sins, that David cries out, “Who can understand his errors?” Our sins are like the drops of the sea, like the atoms in the sun, they exceed all arithmetic. If pardon of sin be so absolutely necessary, without it no salvation, what is the reason that so few in the world seek after it?

If they want health, they repair to the physician; if they want riches, they take a voyage to the Indies; but if they want forgiveness of sin, they seem to be unconcerned, and do not seek after it; whence is this?

1. Inadvertency, or want of consideration; they do not look into their spiritual estate, or cast up their accounts to see how matters stand between God and their souls--“My people do not consider.”

2. Men do not seek after forgiveness of sin, for want of conviction.

3. Men do not seek earnestly after forgiveness, because they are seeking other things; they seek the world immoderately. When Saul was seeking after the asses, he did not think of a kingdom. The world is a golden snare. You would judge that prisoner very unwise, that should spend all his time with the cook to get his dinner ready, and should never mind getting a pardon.

4. Men seek not after the forgiveness of sin, through a bold presumption of mercy; they conceit God to be made up all of mercy, and that He will indulge them, though they take little or no pains to sue out their pardon.

5. Men seek not earnestly after forgiveness, out of hope of impunity.

6. Men do not seek earnestly after forgiveness through mistake; they think getting a pardon is easy, it is but repeating at the last hour a sigh, or a “Lord have mercy,” and a pardon will drop into their mouths. But, is it so easy to repent, and have a pardon? Tell me, O sinner, is regeneration easy? Are there no pangs in the new birth? Is mortification easy?

7. Men do not look after forgiveness through despair. My sins are huge mountains, and, can they ever be cast into the sea? Despair cuts the sinews of endeavour; who will use means that despairs of success?

Having answered this question, I shall now come to press the exhortation upon every one of us, to seek earnestly after the forgiveness of our sins.

1. Our very life lies upon the getting of a pardon; it is called “the justification of life.”

2. There is that in sin may make us desire forgiveness. Sill is the only thing that disquiets the soul.

3. There is nothing but forgiveness can give ease to a troubled conscience. There is a great difference between the having the fancy pleased, and having the conscience eased. Worldly things may please the fancy, but not ease the conscience; nothing but pardon can relieve a troubled soul. Suppose a man hath a thorn in his foot which puts him to pain; let him anoint it, or wrap it up, and keep it warm; yet, till the thorn be plucked out, it aches and swells, and he hath no ease; so when the thorn of sin is gotten into a man’s conscience, there is no ease till the thorn be pulled out; when God removes iniquity, now the thorn is plucked out.

4. Forgiveness of sin is feasible; it may be obtained. Impossibility destroys endeavour; but, “There is hope in Israel concerning this.” The devils are past hope; a sentence of death is upon them, which is irrevocable; but there is hope for us of obtaining a pardon--“There is forgiveness with Thee.”

5. Consideration, to persuade to it: Forgiveness of sin is a choice eminent blessing; to have the book cancelled, and God appeased, is worth obtaining; which may whet our endeavour after it. That it is a rare transcendent blessing, appears by three demonstrations.

(a) No mere created power in heaven or earth could expiate one sin, or procure a pardon; only Jesus Christ--“He is the propitiation for our sins.” No merit can buy out a pardon.

(b) Christ Himself could not procure a pardon, but by dying; every pardon is the price of blood.

(c) Christ, by dying, had not purchased forgiveness for us if He had not died an execrable death; He endured the curse.

(a) God puts forth infinite power; when Moses was pleading with God for the pardon of Israel’s sin, He speaks thus, “Let the power of my Lord be great.” God’s forgiving of sin is a work of as great power as to make heaven and earth, nay, a greater; for, when God made the world, He met with no opposition; but when He comes to pardon, Satan opposeth, and the heart opposeth.

(b) God, in forgiving sins, puts forth infinite mercy--Pardon, I beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of Thy mercy.”

(a) It makes, way for temporal good things. It bring, s health. When Christ said to the palsied man, “Thy sins are forgiven,” this made way for a bodily cure--“Arise, take up thy bed and go into thine house.” The pardon of his sin made way for the healing of his palsy.

(b) It makes way for spiritual good things. Forgiveness of sin never comes alone, but hath other spiritual blessings attending it. Whom God pardons, He sanctifies, adopts, crowns. It is a voluminous mercy; it draws the silver link of grace, and the golden link of glory after it.

6. Consideration: That which may make us seek after forgiveness of sin is, God’s inclinableness to pardon--“Thou art a God ready to pardon.” We are apt to entertain wrong conceits of God, that He is inexorable, and will not forgive--“I knew that Thou art an hard man.” But God is a sin-pardoning God.

7. Consideration: Not to seek earnestly for pardon is the unspeakable misery of such as want forgiveness; it must needs be ill with that malefactor that wants his pardon.

1. From the imbecility and weakness of faith.

2. A man may be pardoned and not know it, from the strength of temptation. But why doth God sometimes conceal the evidence of pardon?

Though God doth pardon, yet He may withhold the sense of it a while--

1. Because hereby He would lay us lower in contrition.

2. Though God hath forgiven sin, yet He may deny the manifestation of it for a time, to make us prize pardon, and make it sweeter to us when it comes.

How then shall we know by the word whether our guilt is done away, and our sins pardoned?

1. The pardoned sinner is a great weeper. Have we been dissolved into tears for sin? God seals His pardons upon melting hearts.

2. We may know our sins are forgiven by having the grace of faith infused--“To Him give all the prophets witness, that whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” In saving faith there are two things, renunciation, and recumbency.

3. The pardoned soul is a God-admirer--“Who is a God like Thee, that pardoneth iniquity?”

4. Wherever God pardons sin, He subdues it--“He will have compassion on us, He will subdue our iniquities.” Where men’s persons are justified, their lusts are mortified.

5. He whose sins are forgiven is full of love to God. He whose heart is like marble, locked up in impenitency, that doth not melt in love, gives evidence his pardon is yet to seal.

6. Where the sin is pardoned, the nature is purified. Many tell us, they hope they are pardoned, but were never sanctified; yea, but they believe in Christ; but what faith is it? A swearing faith, a whoring faith; the faith of devils is as good.

7. Such as are in the number of God’s people, forgiveness of sin belongs to them--“Comfort ye My people, tell them their iniquity is pardoned.” He whose sins are forgiven, is willing to forgive others who have offended him--“Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgivenyou.” A king may pardon a traitor, but will not make him one of his privy council; but whom God pardons, He receives into favour. Forgiveness of sin makes our services acceptable; God takes all we do in good part. A guilty person, nothing he doth pleaseth God. Forgiveness of sin is the sauce which sweetens all the comforts of this life. As guilt embitters our comforts, it puts wormwood into our cup; so pardon of sin sweetens all; it is like sugar to wine. Health and pardon, estate and pardon, relish well. Pardon of sin gives a sanctified title! and a delicious taste to every comfort.

If sin be forgiven, God will never upbraid us with our former sins. Where God pardons sins, He bestows righteousness. With remission of sin goes imputation of righteousness--“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” A pardoned soul needs not fear death. He may look on death with joy who can look on forgiveness with faith. To a pardoned soul death hath lost his sting. Death, to a pardoned sinner, is like the arresting a man after the debt is paid; death may arrest, but Christ will show the debt-book crossed in His blood. Now follow the duties of such as have their sins forgiven. Mercy calls for duty. Be much in praise and doxology.

1. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” Hath God crowned you with pardoning mercy? set the crown of your praise upon the head of free grace.

2. Let God’s pardoning love inflame your hearts with love to God.

3. Let the sense of God’s love in forgiving make you more cautious and fearful of sin for the future. O Christians, do you not remember what it cost you before to get your pardon I

4. If God hath given you good hope that you are pardoned, walk cheerfully--“We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we havereceived the atonement.” Who should rejoice, if not he that hath his pardon?

5. Hath God pardoned you? Do all the service you can for God--“Always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Let your head study for God, let your hands work for Him, let your tongue be the organ of His praise. The pardoned soul thinks he can never love God enough or serve Him enough. The last thing is to lay down some rules or directions, how we may obtain forgiveness of sin.

We must take heed of mistakes about pardon of sin.

1. That our sins are pardoned, when they are not. Whence is this mistake? From two grounds.

2. That pardon is easy to be had; it is but a sigh, or, “Lord have mercy.” “As we forgive our debtors;” or, “As we forgive them that trespass against Matthew 6:12). I proceed to the second part of the petition, “As we forgive them that trespass against us.” “As we forgive.” This word, “as,” is not a note of equality, but similitude; not that we equal God in forgiving, but imitate Him.

How can I forgive others, when it is only God forgives sin? In every breach of the second table there are two things; an offence against God, and a trespass against man. So far as it is an offence against God, He only can forgive; but so far as it is a trespass against man, so we may forgive. Let it persuade us all, as ever we hope for salvation, to pass by petty injuries and discourtesies, and labour to be of forgiving spirits, “forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.”

1. Herein we resemble God. He is “ready to forgive,” He befriends His enemies, He opens His hands to relieve them who open their mouths against Him.

2. To forgive is one of the highest evidences of grace. When grace comes into the heart, it makes a man, as Caleb, of another spirit. It makes a great metamorphosis; it sweetens the heart, and fills it with love and candour. When a scion is grafted into a stock it partakes of the mature and sap of the tree, and brings forth the same fruit; take a crab, graft it into a pepin, it brings forth the same fruit as the pepin; so he who was once of a sour crabby disposition, given to revenge, when he is once ingrafted into Christ, he partakes of the sap of this heavenly olive, and bears sweet and generous fruit; he is full of love to His enemies, and requites good for evil. As the sun draws up many thick noxious vapours from the earth, and returns them in sweet showers; so a gracious heart returns the unkindnesses of others with the sweet influences of love and mercifulness--“They rewarded me evil for good; but as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, I humbled my soul with fasting.” This is a good certificate to show for heaven.

3. The blessed example of our Lord Jesus; He was of a forgiving spirit.

4. The danger of an implacable, unforgiving spirit; it hinders the efficacy of ordinances; it is like an obstruction in the body, which keeps it from thriving. A revengeful spirit poisons our sacrifice, our prayers are turned, into sin; will God receive prayer mingled with this strange fire?

5. God hath tied His mercy to this condition; if we do not forgive, neither will He forgive us--“If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” A man may as well go to hell for not forgiving, as for not believing.

6. The examples of the saints who have been of forgiving spirits.

7. Forgiving and requiting good for evil is the best way to conquer and melt the heart of an enemy. Our sins are innumerable and heinous; is God willing to forgive us so many offences, and cannot we forgive a few? No man can do so much wrong to us all our life, as we do to God in one day.

But how must we forgive? As God forgives us.

1. Cordially. God doth not only make a show of forgiveness, and keep our sins by Him, but doth really forgive; He passeth an act of oblivion.

2. God forgives fully; He forgives all our sins. Hypocrites pass by some offences, but retain others. Would we have God deal so with us to remit only some trespasses, and call us to account for the rest.

3. God forgives often; we run afresh upon the score, but God multiplies pardon. (T. Watson.)

Our Father’s forgiveness

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” Matthew 6:12). “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Ponder, first, the prayer for forgiveness--Forgive us our debts. This word” debts” first claims our attention. There are two senses in which man may be said to be a debtor to the Heavenly Father. First: Man is a debtor in the sense of dutifulness: a dutifulness unconditional, complete, unbroken, ceaseless, absolute; and this because God is Father, and he God’s son. Of course, from a debt like this no son, so long as he remains loyal, can ever expect or even wish to be released. To owe the Father in heaven immortal obedience, thanks, trust, love, is man’s blessedness and glory. But there is a second and terrible sense in which man may be said to be a debtor to his Heavenly Father: he owes Him arrears, or the debt of default in dutifulship. And this second debt is beyond the possibility of payment. And now, if Gabriel with all his spotless innocence and celestial strength is unable to outrun his duty or do work of supererogation, what shall be said of poor, fallen, miserable man? A child of dust, conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, by nature, in the very fact of birth, a child of wrath, talking of making amends to God for past failure!

“O Judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason!”

As well might the thief claim the watch he has stolen as the reward due to his knavery, or the assassin the love and esteem of the dead man’s friends as the reward due to his deed of blood. But will God answer the prayer?

Can He, will He, forgive our debts? Most certainly He can and He will; and this precisely for the reason that He is what He is, our Heavenly Father. Were He something else, were He simply a Creator, or a Monarch, or a Judge, He might coldly say, “No! My Government must be maintained. Justice must be satisfied. The law must take its course. Or, if I forgive, it can only be in view of a consideration, the payment of an equivalent.” But precisely because God is something more than this, precisely because He is Father as well as Creator and Monarch and Judge, He says nothing of the kind. Overcoming us by a love so infinite that it must vent itself in a cross, He recreates our characters by subduing us into penitence, amendment, loyalty, sonship; and so He transfigures us from bankruptcy into sonhood. This is the way in which our Heavenly Father forgives us for His Son’s sake our debts. And now let us ponder, secondly, the standard of forgiveness: “As we forgive” (or, as it probably should read, as we have forgiven) “our debtors.” And, first, what does it mean to forgive our debtors? Precisely what forgiveness means when our Heavenly Father forgives us our debts. And you know how He forgives us, at least those of us who have accepted His forgiveness; for His pardon, as we have seen, does not really go into operation till we have actually accepted it. Recall, then, how the Heavenly Father has forgiven us. He has forgiven us freely, without stipulation or compensation. He has forgiven us fully, every one of our debts, and they are as countless as earth’s sands: He has forgiven us infinitely more than we can ever be called upon to forgive others. He has forgiven us sincerely, from the depths of His own infinite Heart. He has forgiven us everlastingly, world without end. Most wonderful of all, He Himself has taken the initiative, offering us His forgiveness in advance of our even asking for it. And as He has forgiven us, so we are to forgive one another. Take, then, the initiative in forgiving thy brother. But while it is true that our Father’s forgiveness of us is the model for our forgiveness of our brothers, yet this is not the point which the Lord sets before us in the pattern prayer. Elsewhere in Holy Scripture forgiveness begins in heaven and descends to earth; here forgiveness begins on earth and ascends to heaven--“Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Not that there is any merit in our forgiving one another. No, our Father does not forgive us our debts because we have forgiven our debtors; but our having forgiven our debtors is a condition of our Father’s forgiving us our Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 11:4; Mark 11:25; Jam 1 John 4:20). For he shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy. Again: our forgiving our brother is not only a condition of our Father’s forgiving us; our forgiving our brother is also, so to speak, the standard or measure of our Father’s forgiving us: Forgive us our debts, as, in the same spirit that, we have forgiven our debtors. It would be difficult to find in history, or in philosophy, or in Holy Writ, a more pregnant or more affecting sign of man’s greatness than this little phrase, “As we forgive our debtors.” Elsewhere in the Word we are taught to regard God as the standard of man’s action; but here we are taught to regard man as the standard of God’s action. Here is a man who has been bitterly wronged by another; he says to him, “I forgive you this, but I cannot forget it.” He enters his closet and prays: “Father, forgive me, as I have forgiven him! Say to me in words that Thou forgivest me, but do not forget my offences! Blot them not out of the book of Thy remembrance! Do to me as I do to him!” Oh, how often does this prayer, if offered sincerely, mean a curse! Once more: our forgiving our brother is not only the standard or measure of our Father’s forgiveness of us; not only a condition of His forgiving us; it is also a sign of our having been ourselves forgiven by our Father. In other words, our feelings towards those who have wronged us furnish us with a decisive test of our standing before our Father in Heaven. As a forgiving state implies a forgiven, so an unforgiving state implies an unforgiven. Ah, this is the meaning of these human relations of ours: this is the final cause of the incorporation of us into human society. The feelings we secretly cherish, as in the discharge of our daily duties we mingle among our fellows--these are the best interpreters of Christ’s doctrine of forgiveness. Let us not waste our time in judging ourselves by theoretical, distant, shadowy tests. Let us deal with our own hearts as directly and practically as Christ’s tests require. (G. D.Boardman, D. D.)

A confession before pardon

I. A CONFESSION. That naturally comes first. With God as with man, the confession must go before the pardon. But, more particularly, as bringing out the alarming nature of these debts, notice these things regarding them:

1. The countless numbers of them.

2. They are always increasing. If they were lessening, however slowly, there would be hope. But, so far from diminishing, they are growing.

3. They are all taken account of. God’s eye sees them all.

4. They are all to be reckoned for.

5. We can do nothing to meet them.

II. A PRAYER--“Forgive us our debts.” The word “forgive” means remit, discharge, send away. The word is touchingly suggestive. About this forgiveness, and as a help to our asking it, I may make these three remarks.

1. It is free and gracious.

2. This forgiveness is complete; it takes in “all sin.” It does not merely lessen it; it removes it, and leaves none remaining. I was once sent for, in great haste, to see a man who reminded me, more than any one I ever saw, of Bunyan’s “man in the iron cage.” He had at one time been on board a slave ship, and had taken part in the cruelties perpetrated against the poor negroes, and as the spectacle of their sufferings rose up before him, he was in utter despair. When I was shown into his room, he was dashing his clenched hands against the wall at the back of his bed, crying out, “Oh my sins I my sins! hundreds I thousands! If ye would but take away the half of them I could bear it. I’ve been worse than ever Paul was, and he said he was the chief of sinners,” &c. I never felt more the blessedness of having God’s free, immediate, complete pardon to offer, as I told him that God never pardoned the half of any man’s sins, that His way was to pardon all or none, that He Himself had put the prayer into the sinner’s lips, “Take away all iniquity,” and that He offered him now this present and full pardon for the sake of His dear Son.

3. This forgiveness is everlasting: the sins, the debts, never come back. They are cancelled. They are covered. This is an intercessory prayer, that is, a prayer for others. “Forgive us our debts.” We come now to look at another element in this petition of the Lord’s prayer, which I stated thus:

III. AN ENCOURAGEMENT, AND A PROMISE OR OBLIGATION--“As we forgive our debtors”; “for we also forgive.”

1. It may be regarded as an encouragement to ask for giveness from God. “Forgive us, as we forgive”: “for we forgive.” In so far as there is anything good in us, it was God who put it there. In this respect, God has made us like Himself. If I might so speak, it is a little bit of God’s image in us. On a May morning, as you are crossing a field, you see a little bit of glass, or a little drop of dew on a blade of grass, shining like a little sun. That reflection of it gives you some idea of what the sun is.

2. We may regard this clause as containing a promise, or obligation, under which we come when we pray this prayer. It is more than a promise, but it has that wrapped up in it. It is a declaration that we have forgiven all who have wronged us, for the verb is in the past tense--“as we have forgiven our debtors.” I am not fit to be forgiven,--I am not capable of receiving forgiveness, if I am unforgiving. If a child has his hand filled with a stone, and you offer him gold, or food, or ought else that is desirable, he cannot receive the one without casting away the other. His hand cannot take it in. It is indispensable, in the very nature of things, that he part with the stone, in order to be able to take the gold, without attributing any merit to/he casting away of what filled his hand before. And so, where an unforgiving spirit takes possession of any one--enters into and fills any heart--that heart cannot take in God’s forgiveness. There is not the power to receive forgiveness. The unforgivingness must be cast out, that pardon from God may be a possibility.

And after what fashion is it that this forgiveness must be exercised?

1. Heartily. It is of no use merely to say it in words. “If ye from the heart forgive not,” says Christ.

2. Universally--entirely. What kind of wrongs am I to forgive? Every kind; not only the lesser, but also the greater,

3. Habitually. Not only now and then, but constantly. Few things touch us more to the quick than unkind and abusive letters. Some Christian people have been sorely tried by these. The late Dr. Cotton Mather received many of them. After his death, they were found among his papers, tied up in a packet, with these words written on the cover, “Libels--Father, forgive them.” (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

Prayer for forgiveness

1. The most superficial view of the nature and objects of prayer cannot fail to teach us that such a request as this should be offered with great seriousness of mind. We would not go into the presence of an earthly prince, even though it were to solicit an ordinary favour, without forethought and preparation; much less would we come as culprits to his throne to beg the interposition of royal prerogative in the exercise of the pardoning power, without respect and reverence.

2. There is also an honesty of intention, a simplicity and godly sincerity, in the man who offers this request, without which he may not hope to find access. A cold, formal, listless mind when the transgressor pleads for mercy, is in ill keeping with the object of his prayer.

3. There is earnestness in the man who, touched with his lost condition as a sinner, comes in sober verity to the foot of the throne, to crave pardon from a forgiving God, that bespeaks the struggles that are within.

4. To be offered either in seriousness or in sincerity, this request must also be offered in penitence.

5. It is a delightful thought, too, that associated as this request is with the name of Christ, it is offered in hope. Despair cannot pray.

A forgiving spirit

Our task is comparatively easy, therefore, as we proceed to show why the spirit of forgiveness in men is made a revealed condition of their obtaining forgiveness from God. The reason why a man of unforgiving spirit cannot obtain forgiveness is, that he is destitute of all true and genuine piety. The force of this remark may perhaps be the better perceived by something like the following observations.

1. Such a man has no true sense of his own sins.

2. Nor do we see how such a man can have any true sense of the Divine mercy.

3. It is equally true that a man of an unforgiving spirit has no love to God in his heart.

4. Nor may we overlook the thought, that where the spirit of forgiveness is wanting, there can be no honest regard for the interests of human society. The laws of Christ’s kingdom do not allow any man to live for himself alone. History furnishes an affecting illustration of the need of a spirit of forgiveness, in order to the retaining of our evidence of forgiveness from God. There was in the Church at Antioch, in the third century, a minister by the name of Sapricius, and a layman by the name of Nicephorus, who after long intimacy had fallen into an unhappy quarrel, and carried it so far that they would not speak to each other when they met. After a while Nicephorus relented, and took every measure for reconciliation, but in vain. He even threw himself at the feet of his former friend, and entreated forgiveness for the Lord’s sake, but without effect. About this time, a new storm of persecution arose, and Sapricius was marked out as one of the victims. The magistrates ordered him to obey the Emperor, and sacrifice to the heathen god. But he appeared ready to witness a good confession, and replied in an expression of his higher allegiance to the King of kings, “Perish idols, which can do neither harm nor good!’ The torture was applied, and he bore it firmly. The magistrate then commanded him to be beheaded, and while he was led out to execution, Nicephorus followed him, entreating his forgiveness. But it was in vain; Saprieius’s unforgiving temper remained to the last. At this juncture did the Saviour make good His word, “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” For at this trying period, all Sapricius’s firmness forsook him; the fear of death overpowered him, he recanted, and saved his life, while seemingly on the point of seizing the crown of martyrdom. While at the same time the Saviour’s faithfulness was remarkably expressed towards the individual who had manifested a forgiving spirit. Nicephorus, annoyed at so unexpected a change in Sapricius, exhorted him to adhere to the faith, but in vain. And then himself flaming with zeal for the Christian cause, so dishonoured, turned to the executioners and said, “I believe in the name of the Lord Jesus, whom he has renounced.” This was reported to the Emperor, and Nicephorus received the crown of martyrdom! We cannot rely upon the Divine mercy for ourselves while indulging an unforgiving and unchristian spirit towards others. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Sins ours

1. First, of them that shift the guilt of their sins upon Adam, and allege original corruption for an excuse of their transgressions.

2. But now, in the next place, if we cannot shift our sins upon Adam and that original weakness which we derived from his loins, we may perhaps upon the serpent, upon the devil.

3. We come now to the last complaint; which is most unjust of all, as being put up against the justice and goodness of God, “who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5).

4. And now, in the last place, as they are only ours, so they are fully and totally ours; and if we strive to make a defalcation, we add unto their bulk, and make them more mountainous than before. And as we do minuendo numerum augere, “by seeking to make our sins fewer than they are, sin more, and so increase their number”; so, by attempting to make them less, we make them greater. (A. Farindon.)

Called aboard again

Thus you see, like men set on shore for refreshment and provision of some necessaries for their voyage, we are called aboard again; Christ did only land us upon the world’s shore in that middle petition, to refresh us in the midst of our travels, but He purposed not to afford us any long stay; for you may see man’s meditations here embarked for the furthest point of life’s voyage. For the clearing of which passage to his last home he uses all diligence in these three last petitions, which are, as it were, His harbingers to remove all impediments which might retard Him in the course of His future beatitude. See in this, man making his peace with God and the world, compounding with his creditor, God, and with his debtors, men, at one and the same rate--“Forgive us,” &c., as “we forgive them,” &c. There is nothing more dangerous to a Christian than to slight or diminish an offence. (Archdeacon King.)

No venal sins

The smallest leak which is sprung at sea may, if neglected, let in water to drown the tallest ship. Therefore, if the tide of sin have washed, though never so lightly, over thy bank, if a temptation have floated in upon thy soul by any of thy five ports, thy senses, make up the breach betimes, lest a tide or two more overwhelm, and lay thee quite under water. Despise not the smallest sin, for even that is a step to a greater. Remember thou mayest multiply pence till they come to a talent, so thou mayest link sin to Sin, till they make a chain long enough to drag thee into perpetual bondage with the prince of darkness, long enough to reach from earth to hell, till the multiplication of those acts grow into a habit, become great and strong, and heavy enough to sink thee into the bottomless pit. Remember too, that as the least coins, even to the farthing, have their value, so also the least sins shall have their punishment. (Archdeacon King.)

Our debts

There is not so naked, so penurious a thing as man. “Naked was he born, and naked shrill he return,” divested of all but his sins. We have no peculiar but this, nothing that we can call ours, but only our faults. Except that luckless patrimony, I know not what we can lay claim to, either that is without us, or in us. Bona Fortunce, wealth acknowledgeth no sovereign but fortune, we are not masters of it; and though it abide with us as a hireling, perhaps till the end of our days, then it surely takes leave, often before that, becoming any one’s save his whose it it last was. Nothing of all we had goes along with us but our winding sheet; for other things we have gathered, the Psalm says, “We know not who shall enjoy them”; sure we are, we shall not. And for that form which makes so many enamoured of themselves, can any call it theirs? when all the Parget’s art hath invented are not able to coat it against the violence of time and weather, nor by all their fillings to repair those decays and bleaches which sickness hath wrought upon it. The breath we draw, is that ours? Is it not sucked and borrowed from the next air? Our best part, the soul, is it any more than a loan, deposited for some years with the body, after whose expiration it reverts to I-lira that gave it. And, lastly, for our body, is it anything else but a lump of walking clay, a little earth inanimated; the certain restitution whereof we owe unto the dust from whence it was taken. What is there, then, of our whole selves which we can call ours, unless our sins? These are effects springing from our own depraved nature, the fruits of a vicious crooked will, our true legitimate issue, though born against all law, both human and Divine. They are nostra, “ours,” by many assurances, curs by all titles both of right and possession. (Archdeacon King.)

Of duties to be observed because every sin is mortal

The knowledge of the nature of every sin, and of the due desert thereof, ought to make us diligent in searching into the law of God, that thereby we may know what is sin, for “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” And knowing sin, carefully and consciously to avoid it; for “the wages of sin is death.” And no way make ourselves accessories to the sins of others, for so we bring the blood of others upon our own heads. And if we have committed sins ourselves, or made ourselves accessory to the sins of others, not to soothe our consciences with the smallness thereof, and thereupon remain secure, not caring to repent thereof. “Except ye be born again ye shall perish.” To work the more thorough repentance we ought thoroughly to search ourselves, and from time to time strictly to examine our thoughts, words, and actions. And as we discern any transgressions or alterations in any of them, instantly to crave pardon for them. Yea, because we cannot be ignorant that many sins unawares pass from us, to desire a general discharge of all other sins (which two points are expressly noted in this fifth petition). As we crave pardon for all sins past, so ought we to be watchful over ourselves for the time to come, even so watchful as to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” Not regarding the common scoffs against preciseness, as the world termeth Christian, careful and conscionable watchfulness over a man’s self. Commonly the wickeder sort do most justify themselves, and the upright most judge themselves. The upright use to judge themselves for their very ignorances and negligences. And surely sins of ignorance or negligence were better be judged, that they may be destroyed, then excused that they should be nourished. For “every thing must be brought to judgment,” and “of every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account in the day of judgment.” Let not therefore the small sins be slighted. Floods are made with small drops. Water soaketh through small chinks, the ship is therewith filled, and if the pump be not plied the ship is drowned. (W. Gouge.)

Of the many debts wherein we stand bound to God’s justice

1. Our souls will be the more wounded and humbled for them. The benefit whereof will be that God will be the more moved with pity and compassion towards us.

2. Our desire of discharge will be the more fervent. Whereby the Lord will the rather be moved to grant our desire.

3. The long-suffering of God in bearing with so many sins, so many ways committed against Him, and from time to time heaped one upon another will be the better discerned.

4. The riches of God’s mercy in forgiving not a few pence, nor yet a few talents, but “many thousand talents” will be the more admired and magnified; and He Himself the more loved. (W. Gouge.)

Revenge is a kind of fire

which if it be not presently quenched, will soon prove unquenchable. Nay, it is a deadly poison, which if it once seize on the soul will soon destroy it. No fire, no poison of a more increasing nature than revenge. Did men know what a wolf, what a tiger, what a viper wrath and revenge were, they would at the first sight thereof be startled, and get themselves as far from it as they could. If scorpions and apes were in men’s houses, what pains would they take to cleanse their houses, that they might dwell securely? But they keep anger, wrath, malice, hatred, revenge, which are so many scorpions and serpents, and cleanse not the house of God, which is their heart. Yea, such a perverse disposition have many, as they use all the means they can to retain and nourish revenge, and to keep it in mind and memory. By oath, by imprecation, and other ways they will bind themselves not to forgive. They forbear not to say, “I may forget the wrong, but I will never forgive it.” Hereby they provoke God to keep their sins in perpetual memory, and to bind Himself to execute vengeance on them. (W. Gouge.)

Of the force of this particle “as” in the condition annexed to the fifth petition

This note of resemblance, therefore, is not here used as it was in the third petition, for--

1. There that from whence the resemblance is taken is more eminent. Here much meaner, It is there taken from those that are in heaven. But here from us on earth.

2. There it noteth a pattern for doing. Here, an evidence of doing.

3. There it is used for direction, to show what we should do. (W. Gouge.)

Pretences for not forgiving

1. He that hath wronged me is a base fellow. What more base to thee, than thou art to God?

2. The wrong done is unsufferable. What! more unsufferable than thy sins against God?

3. It is not the first time that he hath wronged me. Didst thou never but once sin against God?

4. He may wrong me again and again if I put it up. Why dost thou think so uncharitably of thy brother? But mayest thou not sin again and again against God?

5. It beseemeth not my place and honour to put up wrongs. Is God so accounted for bearing with sins? If God do thus, why art thou so much incensed with wrath, when any doth any wrong to thee? Thou shouldest rather behold thyself, how thou hast carried thyself against God. If anything will make thee forgive, surely this will. (W. Gouge.)

God’s mind toward us

Learn hereby how to know God’s mind towards thee. Thou needest not to climb up to heaven there to behold the face of God, whether He frown or smile, whether love or anger be seated in His eyes, but dive into thine own heart, and there observe what is thy mind towards thy brother. No looking-glass can give a truer representation of thy face than thine own heart a demonstration of God’s heart towards thee. “We love, because He first loved us,” and we forgive because He first forgave us. (W. Gouge.)

God’s mercy is operative as fire

It warmeth that heart in which it abideth, and worketh mercy therein. Where, therefore, no mercy to man can be found, there is just cause to suspect no mercy of God hath been showed. The soul of an unmerciful man is no fit receptacle of the mercies of God. It abuseth, it perverteth them. (W. Gouge.)

The prayer for forgiveness

I. Let us consider THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL FORGIVENESS. This is His right. It belongs to Him; it is His property; and He is jealous of it. “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses.” “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” But not only is it the right and prerogative of God: it is His glory. It floweth out of His mercy. Forgiveness is but the stream, and it ariseth from the goodness and the mercy of God. And the reason why I lay stress on this, and I do it often, is because I see so frequently, and find so often in my own heart, this principle--a sort of harsh principle as it regardeth God; a loving principle as it regardeth Jesus, but some stem view as it regardeth the Father; whereas the glory of the gospel is, that if we have free forgiveness, it floweth out, like the bubbling stream from the overflowing fountain; it cometh forth from His glory; it is His glory. And yet it flows in a pure and unsullied channel; if you and I love God as we ought to love Him, we should say, I would not have mercy at the expense of Thy holiness. I want no exhibition of God’s goodness upon the ruins of His holiness; I do not want to see the wreck of God’s holy law, in order that He may exhibit His forgiving love. It emanates forth from the glory of God; and gloriously does He exercise it. It is indeed a bubbling fountain, ever full and ever running over. Hast thou ever seen the honeycomb drop honey out of its fulness? Did any argument of thine persuade it to drop? Why did it drop? Because it was full of honey. And why doth God forgive? Because He is God; and that which He doeth, He doeth like Himself, gloriously. Oh! yes, what God doth, He doth as God; and when He forgiveth, He forgiveth as God. And when one asks what are those sins that He forgives, see how the Holy Ghost describes them: sins deep as scarlet, and red as blood.

II. HE LEADS THEM TO PRAY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS--“Forgive us our sins.” And there seems, too, I think, involved in this petition, an imploring of God for all the blessings that spring out from forgiveness.

III. THE PLEA WHICH OUR LORD PUTS INTO THE HEARTS OF HIS DISCIPLES--“For we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” (J. H. Evans.)

And lead us not into temptation

Lead us not into temptation

I. WHAT SUGGESTS SUCH A PRAYER AS THIS?

1. Watchfulness.

2. Next, it seems to me to be the natural prayer of holy horror at the very thought of falling again into sin. I remember the story of a pitman who, having been a gross blasphemer, a man of licentious life and everything that was bad, when converted by Divine grace, was terribly afraid lest his old companions should lead him hack again. He knew himself to be a man of strong passions, and very apt to be led astray by others, and therefore in his dread of being drawn into his old sins, he prayed most vehemently that sooner than ever he should go back to his old ways he might die. He did die there and then. Perhaps it was the best answer to the best prayer that the poor man could have offered. I am sure any man who has once lived an evil life, if the wondrous grace of God has snatched him from it, will agree that the pitman’s prayer was not one whit too enthusiastic. It were better for us to die at once than to live on and return to our first estate and bring dishonour upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. He who has once been caught in the steel trap carries the scars in his flesh and is horribly afraid of being again held by its cruel teeth.

3. The third feeling, also, is very apparent; namely, diffidence of personal strength. The man who feels himself strong enough for anything is daring, and even invites the battle which will prove his power. “Oh,” says he, “I care not; they may gather about me who will; I am quits able to take care of myself and hold my own against any number.” He is ready to be led into conflict, he courts the fray. Not so the man who has been taught of God and has learned his own weakness; He does not want to be tried, but seeks quiet places where he may be out of harm’s way.

4. This prayer seems to me to arise also somewhat out of charity. We should not be too severe with those persons who have done wrong, and offended us; but pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation.”

5. This prayer breathes the spirit of confidence in God. Of course He will lead me, now that I am His child. Moreover, now that He has forgiven me, I know that He will not lead ms where I can come to any harm. This my faith ought to know and believe, and yet for several reasons there rises to my mind a fear lest His providence should conduct me where I shall be tempted. Is that fear right or wrong? It burdens my mind; may I go with it to my God? May I express in prayer this misgiving of soul? May I pour out this anxiety before the great, wise, loving God? Will it not be impertinent? No, it will not, for Jesus puts the words into my mouth and says, “After this manner pray ye.”

II. WHAT ARE THESE TEMPTATIONS WHICH THE PRAYER DEPRECATES? or say rather, what are these trials which are so much feared.

1. Men may be led into temptation by the withdrawal of Divine grace.

2. Another set of temptations will be found in providential conditions.

3. There are temptations arising out of physical conditions. Diseased livers, palpitating hearts, and injured brains are hard things to struggle against.

4. Mental conditions often furnish great temptations.

5. There are temptations arising out of personal associations, which are formed for us in the order of providence.

III. LESSONS.

1. Never boast your own strength.

2. Never desire trial.

3. Never go into temptation.

4. Do not lead others there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Temptation and deliverance

I. WHAT TEMPTATIONS ARE. Temptation, according to the proper signification of the word, is no other but a trial or probation. And this may be of two kinds--exploratory, or suasory. There is an exploratory temptation; to search out and to discover what is in man, what his graces and corruptions are. There is a suasory or enticing temptation, that inclines the will and affections to close with what is presented to them.

1. Now, in general, we may observe five several sorts of temptations: whereof some are of the former, others of the latter kind.

Now among these many various kinds of temptations which have been reckoned up, those temptations which we are to pray against are of three sorts--such as proceed from our own lusts and corruptions; such as proceed from other men’s persuading us, either by motives or examples unto that which is evil; or, lastly, such as proceed from the devil. Or, else, they may be reduced to these two heads--the temptations which proceed from our own inbred lusts and corruptions and those which proceed from the devil; for, indeed, wicked men are but his agents and instruments, when they tempt us to that which is evil.

2. Now, that our Saviour Christ should make it the great matter and object of our prayers to beg of God that we may not be led into temptation, we may observe that it is a Christian’s duty, not only to keep himself from sin, but also to endeavour to keep himself from temptation to sin. For--

II. How GOD MAY BE SAID TO LEAD MEN INTO TEMPTATION.

1. God is said to lead us into temptation when He providentially presents outward objects and occasions which do solicit and draw forth our inward corruptions.

2. God is said to lead us into temptation when He withdraws the influences of His grace from us, and leaves us under the power of a temptation.

3. God is said to lead men into temptation when He permits Satan and wicked men his instruments to tempt us--yea, sometimes He gives them commission as well as permission; and appoints and sends them to do it.

III. DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL.

1. The thing here prayed against.

(a) It is greatest in the nature of it, as being the only thing that is contrary to the greatest good, even God.

(b) It is the greatest evil, in the effects and consequences of it.

2. And whereas we are taught by our Saviour to beg this of God our Heavenly Father, we may observe that it is only the almighty power of God that can keep us from sin.

3. It now remains to show you the ways and methods that God takes to do it.

Now that which we pray for in this petition is--

1. That if it shall please God to lead us into temptation, yet that He would not leave us under the power of temptation; but, with every temptation, “He would make a way for us to escape, that we may be able to bear it.”

2. That if, at any time, temptation should get the upper hand, and prevail over us to the commission of sin, yet that God would not leave us under the power of that sin; but raise us up again, by true repentance and godly sorrow, that so, at last, we may he delivered from the great and soul-damning evil of obduration and impenitency.

3. That God would not only deliver us from gross and self-condemning impieties; but from every evil way and work, and preserve us blameless to the heavenly kingdom of His Son.

4. That He would be pleased not only to deliver us from that which is in itself evil, but from all the occasions and all the appearances of evil--for these also are evil, if not in effect, yet in tendency. (Bishop Hopkins.)

The sixth petition

I. THE MEANING OF THIS PETITION. Keep us from all occasions of sin, such objects as would prevail upon us to commit it. Suffer us not to yield to temptation, and to fall into the sin to which we are enticed--let us not be left to ourselves when we are tempted. Permit us not to be brought into any temptation or snare. Suffer us not to be entangled in any dangers and difficulties which may not be easily supported by us. That God will give us a way of getting out of any temptation that befals us. That we may not be overcome by temptation; or that we may be kept from any such combat in which there would be great danger of our being vanquished. Such a request we are encouraged to offer up to God by these words in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” It is our duty to watch and to take heed; this is required of us--but the grace of God alone is sufficient to keep us from falling.

II. WHAT THIS PETITION SUPPOSES AND INCLUDES.

1. A real sincere belief of the particular providence of God, and especially towards His faithful servants.

2. Trust in God, His care, His wisdom and goodness to direct us.

3. Deliberate, firm, steadfast resolutions to follow the Divine conduct.

4. Fear of offending God, and of backsliding, and falling into a loose, careless way.

5. Watchfulness against temptations.

6. Courage to resist it, even the strongest temptation, such as falls in with our greatest infirmity, attacks us on our weakest side, such am promises us pleasure or worldly gain.

7. Fortitude to support us under troubles, to enable us to bear affliction for Christ’s sake, and to suffer for Him rather than deny Him.

III. WHAT GROUNDS WE HAVE to hope that God will answer this request, and not suffer us to be tempted (if we take proper care of ourselves, and do not provoke Him to forsake us, and leave us to ourselves; which we may do, and which is actually too often done); or, that if we must fall into temptations and snares (which is unavoidable in the present life), God will concern Himself for our confirmation and establishment under all such trials of our faith and patience. The grounds of hope of a gracious audience and acceptance, in our humble petitions of this kind, are such as the following--

1. That God is able to strengthen, stablish, and settle us, to deliver us from evil, and to secure us under the greatest dangers.

2. That there are some promises in the Word of God which encourage us (such at least as desire to be faithful) to hope that He will vouchsafe us this grace.

3. That we find in reading the Scripture, that such grace has been granted; and why may not God be favourable to us, as well as to others, if we are not negligent and careless ourselves?

4. You may derive hope (such of you as are the children of God, give me leave to use the Scripture style, you may derive hope) from your filial relation to God, that He will not suffer you to be seduced entirely from Him by any temptation that may befal you.

5. The intercession of Christ gives you such hope. Does He direct you to pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation?” He Himself makes such intercession for you, “Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou wilt keep them from the evil.”

6. You may go boldly to the throne of grace with this petition, because you are commanded to do it.

IV. PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS.

1. Let us pray that we may not be tempted above what we are able (by the grace of God with us) to bear; that we may never enter into temptation, and--for our boldness and adventurousness, and want of a just sense of our own weakness, and a due fear of God--be there left; left to ourselves, to the devil and his instruments to seduce us, and to lead us into sin and ruin. And let this petition in our prayer proceed from faith and trust in God.

2. Let us watch, as well as pray, against temptation.

3. When we are tempted to sin, and commit it, let us not say we are tempted of God; either externally, by His putting us into such circumstances as to necessitate our sinning; or internally, by corrupting our minds, raising sinful thoughts in us, and exciting us to sinful practices: this, I observed, is the devil’s work, not God’s.

4. When we pray that God will not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil, and the evil one, and not suffer the devil to lead us captive, let us not tempt one another. This would be no other than to be the instruments and servants of the grand enemy of mankind, the great seducer, who was the occasion of the first breach between God and man, and has found some to promote his interest ever since.

5. When we fall into temptation, let us with steadfast resolution resist it, and endeavour to keep ourselves from the evil to which we are tempted.

5. Let us succour them that are tempted, by good instructions, and serious advice and earnest persuasion; so you may be instruments of delivering others from evil, and perhaps of saving them from death. All Christians should be like their Lord, and have compassion on them that are out of the way, or going out, seduced by temptation, and do what they can to prevent their error. (John Whitty.)

Lead us not into temptation

I. DOES GOD LEAD ANY ONE INTO TEMPTATION?

1. God allows temptations which are devoid of the strictly moral element: trials (James 1:2).

2. God allows temptations which have in them some sinful suggestion, for the sake of our moral discipline. Job. Augustine’s natural passions kept pressing him even after conversion, but drove him to hide himself more completely in God. A Christian lady was noted for the serenity of her disposition; no one heard from her a complaint in whatever trial she might have been. She confessed to a naturally irritable temper which the Lord never took from her. She was so afraid of giving way that she ceaselessly prayed for restraining grace. It was the Divine peace that we saw, which descended about her like a halo sent down from heaven.

3. God allows sinful temptations to come against us as a consequence, and thus a punishment, for past transgression. But at the same time He saves all who call upon Him from their own undoing.

III. OBSERVE THE CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN THIS AND THE FORMER PETITION, “Forgive us our debts.” Only when the guilt of sin has been discharged at the Cross does the sanctifying influence follow. This will account for the failure of many of our cries, “Lead us not into temptation.” We have not established a basis for help, because we have not yet been forgiven.

IV. WE ARE SAVED FROM TEMPTATION BY USE OF THE PRAYER. It would be a grand thing to withstand sin if we could do it in our own strength; but it is a grander thing to stand in God’s strength, and to know that we have His and not our own keeping. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

The danger of self-sought temptations

If we walk without care and without vigilance, if we acknowledge not God in our ways, and take counsel at Ekron, and not at Zion--leaving the Bible unread and the closet unvisited--if the sanctuary and the Sabbath lose their ancient hold upon us, and we then go on frowardly in the way of our own eyes, and after the counsel of our own heart, we have reason to tremble. A conscience quick and sensitive, under the presence of the indwelling Spirit is like the safety-lamp of the miner, a ready witness and a mysterious guardian against the deathful damps, that unseen but fatal, cluster around our darkling way. To neglect prayer and watching, is to lay aside that lamp, and then though the eye see no danger and the ear hear no warning, spiritual death may be gathering around us her invisible vapours stored with ruin, and rife for a sudden explosion. We are tempting God, and shall we be delivered? And if this be so with the negligent professor of religion, is it not applicable also to the openly careless who never acknowledged Christ’s claims to the heart and the life? With an evil nature, and a mortal body, and a brittle and brief tenure of earth, you are traversing perilous paths. Had you God for your friend, your case would be far other than it is. Peril and snare might still beset you; but you would confront and traverse them, as the Hebrews of old did the weedy bed of the Red Sea--its watery walls guarding their dread way, the pillar of light the vanguard, and the pillar of cloud the rear-guard of their mysterious progress--the ark and the God of the ark piloting and defending them. But without God’s blessing, and committed blindly to Satan’s guidance--returning prayerless from a prayerless sanctuary to a prayerless home, and seeking a prayerless couch at night, and beginning on Monday a prayerless week, which is to find on Saturday evening its still prayerless end--you are like a presumptuous and unskilful traveller, passing under the arch of the waters of Niagara. The falling cataract thundering above you--a slippery, slimy rock beneath your gliding feet--the smoking, roaring abyss yawning beside you--the imprisoned winds beating back your breath--the struggling daylight coming but mistily to the bewildered eyes--what is the terror of your condition, if your guide, in whose grasp your fingers tremble, be malignant and treacherous and suicidal, determined on destroying your life at the sacrifice of his own! He assures you that he will bring you safely through, upon the other side of the fall. And SUCH IS SATAN. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

In what sense we may pray against temptation

But you may say that if temptation is thus the lot of all men, we ought not to pray as in the text, “Lead us not into temptation.” This does not follow: sickness is the lot of our race, and yet we may pray to God for health, and God will send it to us so far as He sees it to be good for us; indeed we may pray for all things, if only we use the proviso which our Saviour added to His prayer, “Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done!” and thus we may pray against temptation, because it is a dangerous thing, and a thing painful to endure, even though we should come off victorious in the end. But after all, I conceive the spirit of the prayer against temptation is to pray quite as much for grace to withstand temptation as for freedom from it, quite as much for strength when tempation comes as for the happiness of its not coming at all: the man who prays against temptation, who fears to encounter Satan, who is always alarmed lest he should find his enemy at his elbow enticing him to sin, this man will in his prayer most certainly include another for grace and strength; he prays against temptation, at the same time he knows that it is not likely that he will be exempted from that which falls to the lot of all, and therefore he trusts that he may by God’s grace be found ever ready for the conflict, armed with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit; he prays that no temptation may come upon him greater than he has strength to bear, but that God will make a way for him to escape that he may be able to bear it, and that however strong that enemy of his soul may be, there may he ever with him one stronger than the strong, even the Holy Spirit of God (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

The temptations that surround us

We carry about us an internal enemy, in that heart “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” a traitor not plotting without and at the gates, but in the inmost citadel, cherishing even there his proneness to backslide from Shaddai to Diabolus, and but too eager to sell afresh the town of Mansoul to its old tyrannous usurper. We are surrounded by evil influences and ensnaring examples in the world which hems our path. “Ill-speech” is not only shouting his proclamations at “Ear-gate”; but in the frivolous and foul literature of our times, this orator and herald of Diabolus is sending his letters missive to “Eye-gate” as well, in ceaseless profusion. Then, let us remember the accursed alchemy of sin in us and in our tempters, both the visible and invisible--that hellish heart of corruption which can make God’s works and choice gifts occasions of temptation to us, and render our very blessings a curse. Thus, a mother’s kindness may injure the child on whom it is lavished. Friendship and kindred, and home and love, all may ensnare us. Wealth, in itself God’s gift, how often is it made, by man’s coveting, “filthy lucre.” Knowledge, the food of the soul, how may it become the poisonous and baleful fruit of the forbidden tree; and worldly honour and worldly power, what crimes have they incited, and palliated, and protected. Life, may become--as in the case of many of the antediluvians it seems to have done--though its every hour throughout its long centuries were a new favour of Heaven--may become, in consequence of the treachery of man’s heart misinterpreting its lessons, a fresh and stronger temptation to persevere in sin; and its extension may but serve to foster the hopes of prolonged impunity in wickedness. Our Bibles, and Sabbaths, and sanctuaries, and religious privileges, may be all so used or relied upon as to become but a seal of aggravation to our guilt, and of hopelessness as to our final conversion. The prophets’ tombs, and Abraham for an ancestor, helped to make the Pharisees the more the children of hell. Social progress may become the watchword of revolt against revelation and God--liberty be perverted into an occasion of licentiousness--and the very ordinances and creeds of Christianity be transmuted into a veil and den for Antichrist. The power of immoral transmutation, of turning good into evil, possessed by our fallen nature, is most tremendous and appalling. Aye, the blood of a scorned Saviour, may be made, by your unbelief and mine, the deadliest element in our present sin and in our coming woe. Despite done to the Spirit of grace may convert His benign ministerings and proffered comfortings into the foundation of the sin that hath no remission before God, and no hope for all eternity. And in no scene of earth--in no condition--are we exempt from the incursions of temptation. If we flee to the desert, and brook not the sight of our fellow-creature’s face, we bear thither the fiend within; we cannot build out or bar out the indwelling devil. The gratings of the monastery cannot exclude the wings of the fallen seraph, nor solitude sanctify the unregenerate heart. In the garden or the grove, the palace or the hermitage, the crowded city or the howling wilderness, sin tracks us, and self haunts us. If the poor is tempted to envy and dishonesty; the rich, as Augur testified, is equally endangered by pride and luxury. If the man of ten talents is puffed up with self-confidence and arrogant impiety; the man of one talent is prone to bury slothfully the portion intrusted to him in the earth, and then to quarrel with its Holy Giver. The great adversary has in every scene his snares, and varies his baits for every age and variety of condition and character. Each man and child of us has his easily besetting sin. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

Temptation may be advantageous to us

Temptations drive the Christian to the grace and throne of Christ. And the victory of the plaintive, and feeble, and mortal disciple over the proud, and subtle, and mighty, but fallen archangel--notwithstanding all that archangel’s talents and resources--illustrates to all worlds the wisdom, and faithfulness, and goodness of God. According to promise, “the worm Jacob” is made a brazen “flail to thresh the mountains.” Our twining, pliant, and vine-like weakness, becomes in God’s hand, rigid, piercing, and irresistible strength. Even here, we can see Paul profiting by the messenger of Satan, the thorn in his flesh, sent to buffet him. We see Luther towering into new boldness of faith, and shooting as from the pinnacles of temptation to a loftier height the rocket of his testimony; as, in Christ’s strength, he goes to encounter the temptations of worldly wrath and Satanic hate, at the city of Worms, though, as he says, the devils he may meet there be many as the tiles on the roofs of its houses. You see Cranmer, out of the coil of the temptation that had once pinioned and thrown him, rising to a noble martyrdom, and thrusting resolutely into the blaze the guilty hand that had once denied his Lord’s truths. And, as Luther said, such discipline, rugged and keen as it may for the time be, is necessary to Christian usefulness. “Prayer, meditation, temptation,” said that reformer, make the true minister of Christ. Men learn the source of their strength, and the might of their Helper, and the love of their Heavenly Father; and “that the way of man is not in himself,” but that our sufficiency is of God. (W. R. Williams, D. D.)

The great salvation

This petition recognizes the fact that every man has his weakness and limitations, and that it is safer” for him to be surrounded with good influences than with evil influences; that character grows better in a congenial than in an uncongenial atmosphere. We must encounter evil, our daffy duty will bring us often face to face with it; but some paths are safer than others, some associations are less hostile to virtue than others; and the prayer is that God will lead us into those paths where the danger is least; that, so far as it is consistent with duty, His kind providence will keep us out of associations where our virtue will be assailed. To ask God that He will not lead us into such exposures is not to imply that He is likely to do this, and must be besought not to do it; it means, simply, lead us out of and away from temptation. The petition contains something like what the logicians call a negative pregnant, in which the negative of one thing implies the affirmation of the opposite.

1. The petition implies that God will lead us if we ask His guidance.

2. It also implies that if we will follow Him, He will lead us into safe places, and away from the snares that are set for our feet.

3. It expresses our desire to be kept, so far as may be without neglecting duty, from exposure to the allurements of vice and sin; to be surrounded with virtuous rather than with vicious influences.

4. It confesses our faith that God will so keep us if we put our trust in Him. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

To the young

When you offer the Lord’s prayer, do not forget to let your desire rest firmly and fervently on this petition. Ask the Lord to keep you away from bad company; from the society of those who are vicious, and corrupt, and profane; from association with those whose minds are filthy, and whose talk is vile; from all communion with evil minds, and, so far as possible, from all knowledge of evil things. People talk about seeing the world, about getting their eyes opened, and all that; but do you see just as much of the good of the world as you can, and just as little of the evil. Get your eyes open as wide as you can to behold the truth of nature and the beauty of the Lord, but shut them tight upon visions of sin and shame. I tell you, young people, that familiarity with evil words and evil ways bring no gain to you--nothing but loss and sorrow. There is one kind of ignorance you need never blush for--ignorance of the names, or of the arts, of vice and crime. If your too knowing associates jeer at you for such verdancy, thank God that you are not proficient in such knowledge. The less you know of the things that you are ashamed to speak of, the better for you. If by any possibility you have learned such things, forget them as soon as you can. And always remember, that, except as you seek to overcome evil with good, the safest way is to shun the evil. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

An intercessory petition

We must not overlook the plural form of this petition. It is not only a personal request, it is an intercessory petition. “Lead us; deliver us.” Our thought takes in others besides ourselves; the shelter and deliverance that we implore for ourselves, we ask for all our fellow-men. And surely if we ask the Lord to keep our neighbours out of temptation, we shall be careful how we ourselves do anything to place temptation in their way; we shall do all that we wisely can to make the surroundings of their lives helpful, and not corrupting, to their virtue. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

To parents

When we pray that our children may not be led into temptation, let us do what we can to choose for them a place to live, and a manner of life in which they shall be exposed to the least possible temptation. Many a man prays at the family altar, “Lead us not into temptation,” and then rises from his knees, packs his movables, and goes with all his family, where Lot went, straight down to Sodom. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Parental folly

In modern days the first aim of all Christian parents is to place their “children in circumstances where the temptations (which they are apt to call “opportunities’) maybe as great and as many as possible; where the sight and the promise “of all these things” in Satan’s gift may be brilliantly near, and where the act of “falling down to worship me” may be partly concealed by the shelter, and partly excused as involuntary, by the pressure of the concurrent crowd. (John Ruskin.)

Prayer against temptation

I have read in history that two men were condemned to die as martyrs in the burning days of Queen Mary. One of them boasted very loudly to his companion of his confidence that he should play the man at the stake. He did not mind the suffering, he was so grounded in the gospel that he knew he should never deny it. He said that he longed for the fatal morning even as a bride for the wedding. His companion in prison in the same chamber was a poor, trembling soul, who could not and would not deny his Master; but he told his companion that he was very much afraid of the fire. He said he had always been very sensitive of suffering, and he was in great dread that when he began to barn the pain might cause him to deny the truth. He besought his friend to pray for him, and he spent his time very much in weeping over his weakness and crying to God for strength. The other continually rebuked him, and chided him for being so unbelieving and weak. When they both came to the stake, he who had been so bold recanted at the sight of the fire and went back ignominiously to an apostate’s life, while the poor trembling man whose prayer had been, “Lead me not into temptation,” stood firm as a rock, praising and magnifying God as he was burnt to a cinder. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The reach and worth of Christian intercession

“Lead us not into temptation.” O strange and mysterious privilege, that some bedridden woman in a lonely garret, who feels that she is tempted to distrust the love and mercy of Him who sent His Son to die for the helpless, should wrestle with that doubt, saying the Lord’s prayer; and that she should be thus asking help for those who are dwelling in palaces, who scarcely dream of want, yet in their own way are in peril great as hers; for the student, who, in his chamber, is haunted with questions which would seem to her monstrous and incredible, but which to him are agonizing; for the divine in his terrible assaults from cowardice, despondency, vanity, from the sense of his own heartlessness, from the shame of past neglect, from the appalling discovery of evils in himself which he has denounced in others, from vulgar outward temptations into which he had proudly fancied that he could not fall, from dark suggestions recurring often, that words have no realities corresponding to them, that what he speaks of may mean nothing, because to him it has often meant so little. Of all this the sufferer knows nothing, yet for these she prays--and for the statesman who fancied the world could be moved by his wires, and suddenly finds that it has wires of its own which move without his bidding; for her country under the pressure of calamities which the most skilful seek in vain to redress; for all other countries in their throes of anguish which may terminate in a second death or a new life. For one and all she cries, “Lead us not into temptation.” Their temptations and hers, different in form, are the same in substance.

They, like her, ate tempted to doubt that God is, and that He is the author of good, and not of evil; and that He is mightier than the evil; and that He can and will overthrow it, and deliver the universe out of it. This is the real temptation, there is no other. All events, all things and persons, are bringing this temptation before us; no man is out of the reach of it who is in God’s world; no man is intended to be out of the reach of it who is God’s child. We must not crave quarter from the enemy: to choose for ourselves where we shall meet him, is to desert that guardianship in which is all safety. But we may cry, “Lead us not into temptation,” and praying so we pray against ourselves, against our evil tendencies, our eagerness for that which will ruin us. Praying so, that which seemed to be poison becomes medicine; all circumstances are turned to good; honey is gathered out of the carcase; death itself is made the minister of life. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Lead us not into temptation

Dr. Talmage once stood on an anniversary platform with a clergyman who told this marvellous story: “Thirty years ago two young men started out to attend Park Theatre, New York, to see a play which made religion ridiculous and hypocritical. They had been brought up in Christian families. They started for the theatre to see that vile play, and their early convictions came back upon them. They felt it was not right to go, but still they went. They came to the door of the theatre. One of the young men stopped and started for home, but returned and came up to the door, but had not the courage to go in. He again started for home, and went home. The other young man went in. He went from one degree of temptation to another. Caught in the whirl of frivolity and sin, he sank lower and lower. He lost his business position. He lost his morals. He lost his soul. He died a dreadful death, not else star of mercy shining on it. I stand before you to-day,” said that minister, “to thank God that for twenty years I have been permitted to preach the gospel. I am the other young man.”

Temptation

1. It is not implied in the petition that God is our tempter. But--

2. It does imply that, in some way, God has a control over the influences or the powers that tempt us.

3. The petition implies on the part of us who offer it--

We must not flatter ourselves that this petition will be granted in its full extent. We must not flatter ourselves that God will enable us to go through life without being exposed to any sort of temptation. For this world is a place of trial and discipline. Now without some kind of temptation we should have no trials, and no opportunity of exercising several of the Christian graces. It is only in war and in battle that the soldier--and the Christian, remember, is God’s soldier--can learn his duty thoroughly. He may learn to handle his arms in peace; but the coolness, the quickness, the watchfulness, the caution, the steady, unbending courage, which distinguish the veteran from the recruit, are only to be gained on actual service. So it is only by actual service against God’s enemies, it is only by passing through temptations and trials, that the Christian can be trained to his work. He needs to be taught the lesson of his own weakness. He needs to be taught to watch and guard against the surprises and stratagems of the foe. He needs to be perfected in faith and patience. How is all this to be done, if he is kept, like a plant under a glass, from every breath and touch of temptation? No; we shall assuredly be led into temptation whether we pray against it or not; because there is no earthly road to heaven but has its own pitfalls and its own snares. This is a sad but certain truth; and I should only deceive you were I to tell you otherwise. (A. W. Hare.)

The sixth petition in the Lord’s prayer

Lead us not into temptation.” Doth God lead- into temptation? God doth permit sin, but doth not promote it. He who is an encourager of holiness cannot be a patron of sin. God doth not tempt to that which He hath an antipathy against. What king will tempt his subjects to break those laws which he himself hath established? But is it not said, God tempted Abraham? Tempting there was no more than trying. God tried Abraham’s faith, as a goldsmith tries gold in the fire; but there is a great deal of difference between God’s trying His people’s grace, and exciting their corruptions. Whence do temptations come? From ourselves. The heart is the breeder of all evil. The heart is a perfect decoy.

2. Temptations come from Satan. He is called “the tempter”; he lies in ambush to do us mischief, “he is always ready for battle”; the devil lays a train of temptation to blow up the fort of our grace. A saint’s whole life, saith Austin, is a temptation. That we may see in what danger we are of Satan’s temptations--consider

(a) If he gets the least advantage by temptation, he pursues it to the utmost. If his motion to sin begins to take, he follows it close and presseth to the act of sin.

(b) Again, Satan’s diligence in tempting is seen in this, the variety of temptations he useth. He doth not confine himself to one sort of temptation, he hath more plots than one. He will tempt them to leave off ordinances; he will pretend revelations. Error damns as well as vice; the one pistols, the other poisons. Consider

(a) He, as a spirit having an intellectual being, can convey himself into the fancy, and poison it with bad thoughts.

(b) Satan, though he cannot compel the will, yet he can present pleasing objects to the senses, which have a great force in them.

(c) The devil can excite and stir up the corruption within, and work some inclinableness in the heart to embrace the temptation; thus he stirred up corruption in David’s heart, and provoked him to number the people. Satan can blow the spark of lust into a flame.

(d) Herein lies much of his power, that he being a spirit, can so strangely convey his temptations into our minds, that we cannot easily discern whether they come from Satan, or from ourselves; whether they are his suggestions, or the natural births of our own hearts. A bird may hatch the egg of another bird, thinking it is her own; often we hatch the devil’s motions, thinking they come from our own hearts.

(e) Satan’s power in tempting appears by the long experience he hath gotten in the art; he hath been a tempter well nigh as long as he hath been an angel. Who are fitter for action than men of experience? Who is fitter to steer a ship than an old experienced pilot?

(a) The devil observes the natural temper and constitution. The devil doth not know the hearts of men, but he may feel their pulse, know their temper, and so accordingly can apply himself. As the husbandman knows what seed is proper to sow in such a soil, so Satan finding out the temper, knows what temptations are proper to sow in such a heart. That way the tide of a man’s constitution runs, that way the wind of temptation blows; Satan tempts the ambitious man with a crown, the sanguine man with beauty, the covetous man with a wedge of gold. He provides savoury meat, such as the sinner loves.

(b) Satan chooseth the fittest season to tempt in. As a cunning angler casts in his angle when the fish will bite best; the devil can hit the very joint of time when a temptation is likeliest to prevail. There are several seasons he tempts in. In our first initiation and entrance into religion, when we have newly given up our names to Christ. The devil tempts when he finds us idle, unemployed. When a person is reduced to outward wants and straits, now is the devil’s tempting time. Satan tempts after an ordinance. Why cloth Satan choose this time to tempt in, after an ordinance? One would think this were the most disadvantageous time, for now the soul is raised to an heavenly frame. Malice puts Satan upon it. The ordinances that cause fervour in a saint, cause fury in Satan. As after a full meal, men are apt to grow drowsy, so after we have had a full meal at an ordinance, we are apt to slumber and grow secure, and now Satan shoots his arrow of temptation, and hits us between the joints of our armour. Satan tempts after some discoveries of God’s love. Satan, like a pirate, sets on a ship that is richly laden; so when a soul hath been laden with spiritual comforts, now the devil will be shooting at him to rob him of all. Satan tempts when he sees us weakest. He breaks over the hedge where it is lowest. A subtle policy of Satan in tempting is, he baits his hook with religion; the devil can hang out Christ’s colours, and tempt to sin under pretences of piety. Now he is the white devil, and transforms himself into an angel of light. Subtlety of Satan is, to tempt to sin gradually. The old serpent winds himself in by degrees, he tempts first to lesser sins, that so he may bring on greater. Satan’s policy is to hand over temptations to us by those whom we least suspect. Some, like the spunge, suck in Satan’s temptations. There are five sorts of persons that Satan cloth most fit for brooding upon by his temptations.

1. Ignorant persons. The devil can lead them into any snare; you may lead a blind man any whither.

2. Satan tempts unbelievers. An unbeliever will stick at no sin; luxury’, perjury, injustice.

3. Satan tempts proud perseus; these he hath more power of. None is in greater danger of falling by a temptation than he who stands high in his own conceit.

4. Melancholy persons. Melancholy is a black humour, seated chiefly in the brain. Melancholy clothes the mind in sable; it doth disturb reason; Satan doth work much upon this humour. Subtlety of Satan is, to give some little respite, and seem to leave off tempting a while, that he may come on after with more advantage. Satan, by feigning a flight, and leaving off tempting a while, causeth security in persons, and they think they are safe, and are become victors, when on a sudden, Satan falls on, and wounds them. Subtlety of the old serpent is, either to take men off from the use of means, or to make them miscarry in the use of means. Satan endeavours to discourage from duty by objecting want of success. Satan knows duties done superficially were as good to be left undone. That prayer that doth not pierce the heart will never pierce heaven. Satan can colour over sin with the name and pretence of virtue. The next subtlety of Satan is, he labours to ensnare us by lawful things. More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison; gross sins affright, but how many take a surfeit and die, in using lawful things inordinately? Subtlety of Satan is to make the duties of our general and particular calling hinder and justle out one another. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to misrepresent true holiness, that he may make others out of love with it. He paints the face of religion full of scars, and with seeming blemishes, that he may create in the minds of men prejudice against it. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to draw men off from the love of the truth to embrace error, “that they should believe a lie.” Satan is called in Scripture not only an unclean spirit, but a lying spirit. As an unclean spirit, so he labours to defile the soul with lust; and as a lying spirit, so he labours to corrupt the mind with error; and indeed this is dangerous, because many errors do look so like the truth, as alchemy represents true gold. Satan thus beguiles souls. Another subtlety of Satan is, to bewitch and ensnare men, by setting pleasing baits before them: the riches, pleasures, honours of the world “all this will I give thee.” How many doth Satan tempt with this golden apple! Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to plead necessity. The tradesman pleads a necessity of unlawful gain, else he cannot live; another pleads a necessity of revenge, else his credit would be impaired; thus Satan tempts men to sin, by telling them of the necessity. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to draw men to presumption. Presumption is a confidence without ground; it is made up of two ingredients, audacity and security; this temptation is common. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to carry on his designs against us under the highest pretences of friendship; he thus puts sugar upon his bait, and dips his poisoned pills in sugar. Subtlety is, when Satan hath tempted men to sin, he persuades them to keep his counsel; like them that have some foul disease, they will rather die than tell the physician. Subtlety of Satan is, to make use of fit tools and engines, for the carrying on of his work; that is, he makes use of such persons as may be likely means to promote his tempting designs. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, he, in his temptation, strikes at some grace more than others; as in tempting, he aims at some persons more than others, so he aims at some grace more than others; and if he can prevail in this, he knows what an advantage it will be to him. If you ask, what grace is it that Satan in his temptations doth most strike at? I answer, it is the grace of faith; he lays the train of his temptations to blow up the fort of our faith. “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king.” So faith is, as it were, the king of the graces; it is a royal, princely grace, and puts forth the most majestic and noble acts, therefore Satan fights chiefly with this kingly grace.

1. Because this is the grace doth Satan most mischief; it makes the most resistance against him--“whom resist steadfast in the faith.” No grace doth more bruise the serpent’s head than faith.

2. Satan strikes most at our faith, and would weaken and destroy it, because faith hath a great influence upon the other graces; faith sets all the graces a-work. Like some rich clothier, that gives out a stock of wool to the poor and sets them all a-spinning, so faith gives out a stock to all the other graces, and sets them a-working. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, in broaching those doctrines that are flesh-pleasing. Satan knows the flesh loves to be gratified, it cries out for ease and liberty; it will not endure any yoke unless it be lined and made soft. The devil will be sure so to lay his bait of temptation as to please and humour the flesh. He who sells cheapest shall have most customers; the devil knows this is a cheap easy doctrine, which will please the flesh, and he doth not doubt but he shall have customers enough. Subtlety of Satan in tempting to the act of sin is, the hope of returning out of it by speedy repentance. Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to persuade men to delay their repenting and turning to God. He saith, “the time is not come.” Subtlety of Satan in tempting is, to infringe and weaken the saints’ peace. If he cannot destroy their grace, he will disturb their peace.

By what arts and methods doth Satan, in tempting, disturb the saints’ peace?

1. Satan slily conveys evil thoughts, and then makes a Christian believe they come from his own heart. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, but it was of Joseph’s putting in; so a child of God often finds atheistical, blasphemous thoughts in his mind, but Satan hath cast them in.

2. Satan disturbs the saints’ peace, by drawing forth their sins in the most black colours, to affright them, and make them ready to give up the ghost.

From this subtlety of Satan in tempting, let me draw three inferences.

1. It may administer matter of wonder to us how any soul is saved.

2. Is Satan subtle? See then what need we have to pray to God for wisdom to discern the snares of Satan, and strength to resist them. Why doth God suffer his saints to be so hurried and buffeted by Satan’s temptations?

The Lord doth it for many wise and holy ends.

1. He lets them be tempted to try them. “Temptation is the touchstone of sincerity.” By temptation God tries our love.

2. God suffers His children to be tempted that they may be kept from pride. The thorn in the flesh was to prick the bladder of pride; better is that temptation that humbles me, than that duty which makes me proud.

3. God lets His people be tempted, that they may be fitter to comfort others who are in the same distress; they can speak a word in due season to such as are weary. A man that hath rid over a place where there are quicksands, is the fittest to guide men through that dangerous way.

4. God lets His children be tempted to make them long more for heaven, where they shall be out of gunshot; there they shall be freed from the hissing of the old serpent.

What rocks of support are there, or what comfort for tempted souls?

1. That is not our case alone, but hath been the case of God’s eminent saints.

2nd Rock of support, that may comfort a tempted soul, is, that temptations, where they are burdens, evidence grace.

3rd Rock of support or comfort is, that Jesus Christ is near at hand, and stands by us in all our temptations.

1. Christ’s sympathy in our temptations.

2. Christ’s succour in temptation. Christ’s agility in succouring. How and in what manner doth Christ succour them that are tempted? Several ways:

4th Rock of support. The best man may be most tempted.

5th Rock of support. Satan can go no farther in tempting than God will “give him leave”; the power of the tempter is limited.

6th Rock of support. It is not the having a temptation makes guilty, but the giving consent.

7th Rock of support. Our being tempted is no sign of God’s hating us.

8th Rock of support. Christ’s temptation was for our consolation.

9th Rock of support. The saints’ temptation shall not be above their strength. The lutenist will not stretch the strings of his lute too hard.

10th Rock of support. These temptations shall produce much good. See in what continual danger we are. See man’s inability of himself to resist temptation. Here is matter of humiliation, that there is in us such an aptitude and proneness to yield to temptation. See hence, a Christian’s life is no easy life; it is military. Exhortation: Let us labour that we be not overcome by temptation.

1. Avoid solitariness.

2. If you would not be overcome of temptation, beware of the predominancy of melancholy.

3. If you would not be overcome of temptation study sobriety; “be sober, because your adversary walketh about.”

4. Be always upon your guard; watch against Satan’s wiles and subtleties.

5. Beware of idleness; Satan sows most of his seed in fallow ground.

6. Make known thy case to some godly friend; the hiding a serpent in the bosom is not the way to be safe.

7. Make use of the Word. This the apostle calls “the sword of the Spirit”; a fit weapon to fight against the tempter.

8. Let us be careful of our own hearts that they do not decoy us into sin.

9. If you would not be overcome of temptation, flee the “occasions of sin.” Occasions of sin have a great force in them to awaken lust within.

10. If you would not be overcome by temptation, make use of faith--“above all things take the shield of faith.”

11. If you would not be overcome of temptation, be much in prayer.

12. If you would not be overcome of temptation be humble in your own eyes: such are nearest falling who presume of their own strength.

13. If you would not be foiled by temptation, do not enter into a dispute with Satan.

14. If we would not be overcome of Satan, let us put on Christian fortitude.

15. If we would not be overcome of a temptation, let us call in the help of others.

16. If we would not be overcome of temptation, let us make use of all the encouragements we can. (J. Watson.)

“And lead us not into temptation”

I. This, then, is the meaning of life: it is a probation. The real problem of every man’s existence is his own character, what it is and how it shall issue. And to this end everything is probing him. Adversity is probing him; prosperity is probing him; and not only life in its generals, but life in every one of its details, is probing him: Every influence he feels, whether of the Holy Spirit, or of the angels, or of his fellow-men, or of demons, probes him.

II. Observe now, that our heavenly Father, in His wise love, is sometimes pleased to subject us to unusual temptation, testing, probing. This is implied in the petition which His Son, our Lord, has taught us to offer: “Father, lead us not into temptation!” There is in this word “lead” a distinct, emphatic recognition of the Father’s administration, or, as we say, providence. Our circumstances in life are not the result of chance on the one hand, or of fate on the other. Thus He led Abraham when He commanded him to offer up Isaac. It came to pass that God did tempt, i.e., try, prove, Abraham. And all this explains the prayer which our Lord bids us repeat: “Father, lead us not into temptation.” It is the prayer of genuine humility and profoundest self-distrust.

III.

Observe now, that each one is to offer this prayer not only for himself, but also for the whole world.

Human society is a brotherhood of peril; let it therefore also be a brotherhood of intercession and sympathy and mutual help.

In drawing our meditation to a close, let me beseech you to keep away from temptation as well as to pray against being led into it. And yet our heavenly Father, for purposes of testing us, of revealing us to ourselves, of developing, fortifying, and perfecting our characters, of animating others by the example of our steadfastness, may deem it best not to grant the petition which His own Son has taught us: “Lead us not into temptation.” “Prayer, meditation, temptation, make the theologian,” said the great Augustine; and, let us add, not the theologian only, but also the Christian. Nothing so buttresses character as a great victory over a great foe. (G. D. Boardman, D. D.)

Temptation deplored

All the changes that men meet with are trials of their character. Hero was a very different man while the pupil of Seneca from what he was as the emperor of Rome. Solomon was a very different man in the early part of his reign from what he was in those voluptuous periods of his history during which he brought such reproach upon the throne. Men do not know themselves. Hazael the subject was a very different man from Hazael the prince. Who would have thought the youthful Mary, the Queen of England, the translator of the Gospels, would ever have deserved the appellation of the “bloody Mary”? Who would have supposed that Robespierre, once so sensitive to the sufferings of his fellowmen that he resigned a lucrative office under the government rather than condemn a culprit to the scaffold, would have filled Paris with blood; or that William Dodd, once so celebrated for his usefulness as a minister of Christ, would have been executed at Tyburn for forgery? Sometimes a mere change Of place, an unexpected conflict with an individual or a party, an unhappy alliance in business, or an unlooked-for alteration in public affairs, proves a touchstone to the character, before which truth and integrity wither, and gives a blow to the spirit of self-confidence, which is never so renewed that the sufferer can lift up his face before the world. Sometimes these very incidents result in a well-tested integrity and honour, prepare those who endure the trial for still severer conflicts, and furnish them for exemplary toil and sacrifices. They had this effect upon Abraham, Joseph, Nehemiah, Job, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, and thousands of others in later times.

1. The man who offers this request with a becoming spirit contemplates his exposure. The world is full of those who have been led away by temptation, who, before they were led astray, would have said that it could have had no influence upon them. Most of the boasting among men proceeds from the want of being tried. It should never be forgotten that a pardoned sinner is not past all peril. “Watch and pray,” says the Saviour, “that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” This exposure to sin arises principally from the following sources: In every human being this side the grave there is a melancholy tendency to evil. There is a great deceiver, too, who is not only permitted to have the power, but is long practised in the arts of seduction.

2. This petition more especially contemplates as great an exception from this exposure as is consistent with the designs and will of God. While the petition, “lead us not into temptation,” therefore, does not contemplate an entire exemption from temptation, it contemplates as great an exemption as is consistent with the will of our Father who is in heaven. (G. Spring, D. D.)

Of leading into

Our English maketh a manifest difference betwixt “unto” and “into,” which is worth the noting in this place. The latter implieth a degree further than the former. A man that cannot swim may be led unto a deep pool, and yet be safe enough; but if he be led into it he is in great danger of drowning except he be pulled out again. They who translate it, “Cast us not into temptation,” do well express the sense. (W. Gouge.)

Of the many ways of delivering from evil

How may one be delivered from evil?

1. By keeping away that evil which is ready to fall upon him. Thus were the Israelites delivered from the host of the Egyptians that eagerly pursued them.

2. By assisting him on whom the evil is fallen, so as he is not overwhelmed and overcome therewith. For this purpose read Psalms 69:14-15.

3. By altering the nature of the evil, and turning it to a man’s good. Thus God turned Joseph’s abode in Egypt to much good. Herein this proverb is verified, “I had perished if I had not perished.”

4. By taking away the force of the evil; as the force of the fire was taken away so as it burned not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This deliverance Christ promised to His disciples.

5. By removing the evil clean away. Thus God delivered Israel from the devouring pestilence.

6. By taking one away from the evil to come. Thus the good son of wicked Jeroboam, thus the good king Josiah, thus many righteous men have been delivered. (W. Gouge.)

Of the general points for which we are taught to pray in the last petition

What are we to pray for by virtue of the last petition? Such things asconcern the whole petition in general, or the distinct parts thereof in particular.

1. In regard of the whole, we ought to pray for sanctification. Thus doth St. Paul pray for the Thessalonians: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” As our own happiness moveth us to pray for justification, in the former petition, that we may be acquitted of sin, for which we should otherwise be damned, so the honour of God should move us to pray for sanctification. For this is the will of God, our sanctification, and thereby is the holy God much honoured.

2. In regard to the manner of setting down this petition negatively, we are taught to pray for freedom against the power of sin, as the Psalmist doth where he saith, “Cleanse me from secret faults: keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.” For in sin there is a guilt which maketh us liable to God’s vengeance (this is prayed against in the fifth petition) and a power which holdeth us in bondage, and maketh us such slaves thereto as we cannot serve God.

3. For this end we are taught to pray for participation of the power of Christ’s death; and--

4. Participation of the Spirit of Christ. For in Christ’s death there is distinctly to be considered a merit and a power. The merit thereof freeth from the guilt and punishment of sin; the power thereof from the dominion, yea, and by degrees from the very act of sin, which in the saints, after the death of their body, shall utterly cease. Of this power of Christ’s death thus speaketh the apostle: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death,” &c. And again: “Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” This power of Christ’s death is conveyed into us by the Spirit of Christ. For we are “dead in sin.”

What are the particulars to be prayed for under the first part of the sixth petition?

1. Knowledge of our spiritual enemies. Without knowledge of them there will be no fear of them, no desire of help and succour against them, or of freedom from them.

2. Sight of the danger wherein we are by reason of them. When Elisha’s servant saw the host of Aram that compassed the place where he was, then he cried out, “Alas, my master, how shall we do?”

3. Wisdom to discern their wiles, their many cunning stratagems, and kinds of assaults. David, who obtained such wisdom, undoubtedly prayed for it Psalms 119:98-100).

4. Understanding of our own weakness.

5. Knowledge of the almighty power of God. Thus doth the apostle expressly pray in behalf of the Ephesians that they may know what is “the exceeding greatness of His power towards them that believe.”

6. Restraint of Satan’s power. This the angel intended when he said to the devil, “The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9).

7. Assistance from God; for though Satan be restrained, yet cannot we stand of ourselves, but shall fall, even through our own weakness.

8. Confidence and courage in God.

9. Sufficient grace to bear out assaults when we are tempted; for sometimes it is needful for us to be tempted.

10. Power over the flesh.

11. Contempt of the world.

12. Patience under all crosses.

13. Removal of judgments.

14. A blessed departure out of this world. So long as we are in this world we are subject to many evils, which lie and press sore upon us. (W. Gouge.)

Of the things for which we ought to give thanks in the last petition

What are the things for which thanks is to be given by virtue of the last petition.

1. Every sanctifying grace.

2. Freedom from the power of darkness. For both these we have the express pattern of the apostle. In regard of the former he saith: “I thank my God for the grace of God.” Under this indefinite word “grace” he compriseth every particular sanctifying grace. Wherefore he addeth: “In every thing” (that is, in every grace) “ye are enriched.” And “Ye are not destitute of any gift.” In regard of the latter he also saith: “I give thanks to the Father, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.” We heard before that sanctification was the sum of this petition. Rut particular sanctifying graces--whereof nine are reckoned up together (Galatians 5:22-23)--are the parts and members which make up that sum. Of these, therefore, we must take notice, and for these we must give thanks. Now, because that sum is implied under the negative, we are answerably to give thanks for freedom from the contrary, which the apostle styleth “power of darkness.” Under darkness he compriseth sin, death, devil, and damnation. While we are under the power of these we are their vassals. It is therefore a blessing worthy of all praise to be freed from them. Other particulars generally concern the distinct parts of this petition. (W. Gouge.)

Of the particulars for which thanks is to be given by virtue of the first part of the last petition

What are the particulars for which the first part of the sixth petition requireth thanks to be given?

1. Understanding of the law, whereby we know what sin is when we are tempted thereto, how fearful a thing it is to yield to such temptations, how wretched their case is that are left to the power of temptation. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” That, therefore, which giveth us notice of so great danger is a thing praiseworthy, especially if we have understanding thereof. In way of thankfulness doth David oft acknowledge this.

2. Wisdom to discern our enemies and their assaults. This proceedeth from the former, and goeth a degree farther; and in that respect it bindeth us to more thankfulness. With thankfulness saith the Psalmist to God: “Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies.”

3. The victory which Christ hath gotten over our spiritual enemies. It is in praise of Christ that the Psalmist saith to Him, “Thou hast led captivity captive.” By captivity he meaneth the world, the flesh, sin, death, the devil, and all other enemies of our soul. Were not these by Christ made captives, and so chained, restrained, and kept in, we could not stand against them; they would soon lead us captives. For our sakes did Christ enter combat with them and get victory over them. We reap the benefit thereof; we therefore must give the thanks to Christ, and say (as the heavenly spirits do): “We give Thee thanks because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned, and destroyed them that destroy the earth.”

4. Strength to withstand our enemies. As Christ Himself hath overcome them, so by His Spirit He giveth us power to overcome, in which respect it is said: “He hath given to us the spirit of power.” On which ground saith the apostle: “I thank Him who hath enabled me.”

5. Resolution to yield to no allurements, whether they come from the flesh or the world. A true, settled resolution is a great means to keep us safe. This comes from God; for by nature our disposition is wholly inclined to the world and to the flesh. Wherefore, as David blessed God for assuaging his passion, and keeping him from shedding blood, so we must praise God (whensoever our mind is alienated from the world and flesh) for that alteration of our disposition.

6. Patience to bear out all brunts. Afflictions to our weak flesh are sore temptations; but by patience we are kept from being swallowed up by them. In which respect the apostle saw great cause to thank God for the patience of the Thessalonians.

7. Power in all conflicts to overcome. Such, though they be led unto temptation, are not led into temptation. It is expressly noted of them that had gotten victory that they sang a song of praise. (W. Gouge.)

Of the particulars for which thanks is to be given by virtue of the last part of the last petition

What are the things for which the second part of the last petition requireth thanks?

1. Repentance after sin committed. This is a sure evidence of deliverance from a great evil. Therefore the Church glorified God because He had granted repentance.

2. Rescue out of Satan’s clutches. If Satan have at any time got any advantage against us, as he getteth great advantage against witches and sorcerers, yea, and against other impudent and audacious sinners whom he hath fast in his clutches, to be rescued and recovered out of his hands affordeth just cause of much thanks, which Mary Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, well knew to be most due, and therefore, in testimony of thankfulness, she followed Christ, and ministered to Him of her substance.

3. Recovery out of the world. The apostle ascribeth glory to Christ for delivering us from this present evil world.

4. Conquest of the spirit over the flesh. For by the spirit’s conquest are we freed from the dominion of the flesh. For this, therefore, the apostle giveth express thanks.

5. Removal of judgments. Judgments and all manner of crosses are in their kind evils; and removal of them is a deliverance from those evils; whereupon the saints have been thankful for such deliverances. The Israelites give thanks to God for freeing them from the Egyptian bondage; and David for causing the plague to cease; and Hezekiah for taking away a deadly disease; and the Church for returning her captivity.

6. Victory over death. Death in itself is a dreadful evil, the very entrance into damnation. But by Christ the sting of it is pulled out, the nature of it is altered. It is made a gate into eternal glory. This is that victory for which St. Paul giveth thanks.

7. Hope of resurrection to life.

8. Hope of eternal glory. These are full and final deliverances from all evil. God’s promise of these to such as believe is as a performance of them our hope, therefore, resting on God’s promise for these, affordeth just occasion of rejoicing and praising God, as St. Peter doth, and St. Paul also. (W. Gouge.)

Of duties required in the last petition

What duties are we to endeavour after by virtue of the last petition?

1. To abstain from all sin; for this is the main thing here prayed against. This is it which maketh temptation so hurtful as it is. The more we forbear sin, the less damage shall we receive from any temptations. Many, many, therefore, are the dehortations of Scripture against sin.

2. To perfect holiness; for under the avoiding of any evil an endeavouring after the contrary good is always in Scripture implied; yea, they are very oft joined together. Now, holiness is perfected both by adding one grace to another, and also by continual growth in every grace. These two duties arise from the general sum of the last petition.

3. To be jealous over ourselves, fearing lest at any time we should be overcome by any temptation; for we are not only weak, easy to be overtaken and overthrown by every temptation, but a]so very prone to yield to Satan’s temptations, because they are either agreeable to our corrupt humour, or else we so fearful as to think we shall never stand out against them. This Christian jealousy will make us the more instantly and constantly to seek help of God.

4. To avoid all occasions of evil. Occasions of evil are temptations to evil. Should not they, then, who pray against temptations avoid them as much as possibly they can?

5. To withstand beginnings. So did the apostle when he would not give place to false brethren (who were dangerous tempters), no, not for an hour. Thus much also he intendeth in this exhortation, “Give no place to the devil,” which is as if he had said, “If Satan at any time tempt you, yield not an inch to him; let him get no advantage at all, which he cannot but get if at the beginning ye yield any whit at all to him.” Much good is got by a due observation of this duty, and much wisdom is manifested thereby; for that evil which in the beginning is easily prevented can hardly, if at all, without very much damage, be redressed after it hath found some entrance. Instance poisonous and pestiferous diseases, fretting and festering sores, fires, breaches of water, and enemies entering within the walls of a city.

6. To watch continually. This is a duty whereunto in Scripture we are much exhorted, and that not without cause; for our spiritual enemies are always ready to tempt us, narrowly prying where to get any advantage against us. And soon they will get too great advantage if we be not the more watchful. To show that this duty is fitly inferred out of this petition, Christ expressly joineth it with prayer against temptation, saying, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

7. To be sober and temperate. Where these are not, every tempter will rule as he list; for intemperance and all excess blind the understanding, and open a passage to all manner of evil desires and filthy lusts, and make us unfit to pray, to watch, to fight, and to defend ourselves against our spiritual enemies.

8. To cast off every burden. By burdens are meant not only such things as are simply evil in themselves, but such also as being in their nature good, and may lawfully be used, yet through our weakness and inability to use them well, prove impediments to us in our spiritual combat; as the riches of that ruler whom Christ advised to sell all that he had, and to give it to the poor. Thus if honours, offices, recreations, companies which we frequent, or any worldly thing wherein we delight, prove a burden to us, and make us unfit to resist temptations--yea, rather make us yield to temptations--we are to cast them off, to avoid and forsake them.

9. To mortify our members on the earth. The flesh--that is, our corrupt nature--which containeth in it the mass of all sin, is styled a body. This body is made up of several particular lusts and evil motions, as a body of members. And as a body exereiseth all functions by the members, so the flesh executeth all mischiefs by particular lusts; and one lust helpeth another, as one member another, and as dear are these lusts to the natural man as the members of his body. Those particular lusts are therefore fitly styled members, and they are said to be members on the earth.

10. To beat down our body. This is done by forbearing to pamper ourselves, and to satisfy our carnal desires, that so the flesh may not wax wanton, and, like a pampered jade, become unruly; but that we may live within the compass prescribed and limited by God’s Word.

11. To renounce the world. The world is such a tempter, as the friendship of it is enmity with God. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Demas, that old disciple Demas, by embracing the world, was brought to renounce his Christian profession. It is therefore most meet that “the world be crucified to us, and we to the world”; that our hearts be clean alienated one from another, and that we have no more to do one with another than the living with the dead. Thus shall we be sure not to be overtaken by the temptations of the world.

12. To resist the devil. This is the only way to escape his temptations. He is like a wolf, which fiercely pursueth, and never leaveth such as fearfully fly from him, but flieth from such as manfully stand against him. So saith the apostle: “Resist the devil, and he will fly from you.”

13. To put our trust in God. To what end do we else pray unto God?

14. To suffer afflictions patiently. All crosses and afflictions are temptations. By a patient enduring of them we keep ourselves from being overcome by them. Let patience, therefore, have her perfect work. The last twelve duties arise from the first part of the last petition.

15. To avoid that which is any way evil. This we, praying against, must carefully avoid. The apostle exhorteth to “abstain from all appearance of evil.”

16. To return from that evil whereinto we have fallen; for they which pray to be delivered from evil must not lie in evil. All the exhortations in the Scripture to repent tend to this purpose.

17. To take heed of relapse. A relapse in bodily diseases is dangerous; much more in the soul’s disease. (W. Gouge.)

Of duties required in the last petition in regard to others

What duties doth the last petition teach us in the behalf of others?

1. To consider one another.

2. To keep others from sin.

3. To edify others. They who are well built up in grace are well armed against all temptations.

4. To encourage others against their enemies. What a notable encouragement is this of the apostle: “Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong.” Another like, but more large encouragement, is set down (Ephesians 6:10-13, &c.).

5. To strengthen the weak. This did Christ expressly give in charge to Peter.

6. To keep others from falling from the grace of God. The apostle adviseth to look diligently hereunto (Hebrews 12:15).

7. To restore such as fall.

8. To save the obstinate with fear.

9. To receive the penitent.

10. To pray for others. (W. Gouge.)

Lead us not into temptation

My first task is to show God is no cause of sin. For is there any so far gone in error as to suppose the clear fountain of all goodness can be the foul sower of sin? Can good and evil flow from the same head? Or can the Judge of all the world play booty with His clients, receive a prayer with one hand and deal a curse with the other? It is true the tongue can bless and curse with the same breath; but God, who gave it motion, making it the organ of speech and interpreter of the heart, made not the perverse language which the tongue utters. Cursings were never stamped in His mint, but cast by him who is the author of lies and forgeries. Contraries never rose from one spring, nor do the brackish and sweet waters flow from the same rock. What a monster then should that man breed in his imagination that should pronounce God the author of sin! If nature abhor to teem with opposites in one and the same womb; if the grape and the thorn, the fig and the thistle, be births which one stock bears not; if bitter and sweet be qualities which necessarily derive themselves from a different parentage; then much more are good and evil births which the God of nature never yet reconciled in His acts. And sooner shall nature run counter to herself, inverting her even course; sooner shall the congealed frost lodge with the fire, and winter become the preposterous mother of the harvest, than the true Father of Light be brought to father the spurious issue of night, sin, and error. (Archdeacon King.)

Presumption

There is no ship so tall built or strongly ribbed which can be confident she will not founder in the next storm, nor is there any man of such a confidence who, if a tempest or temptation rise up against him, can be assured that at the instant he can call up so much reason and religion as to withstand it. Would you not judge him mad who, being come to an anchor in a safe road, would, like the dolphin, hunt the storm, and choose to ride it out at the main sea? Is it not enough thou hast an antidote to expel poison, but thou must turn empiric upon thyself, hazard the empoisoning of thine own body, to try the power of thy medicine? It is no discreet religion which seeks out dangers, and glories in temptations; nor is he wise to salvation who presents himself to that hazard which Christ taught him to pray against. “Fateor imbecillitatem meam, nolo spe pugnare victoriae ne perdam aliquando victoriam,” saith St. Hierome. To hazard a set battle in hope of a doubtful victory is to outdare a man’s judgment. It is possible that he who exposes himself to the danger of a fight may overcome, but it is probable he may fall. The peril is certain, the victory doubtful. In unneedful temptations I had rather distrust myself than make trial of my strength in apparent disadvantage. (Archdeacon King.)

Meeting temptations

Which are so many that, if we will compute our danger, we need not send out our wishes to meet temptations or bring them home to us; they come too swiftly, and unbidden, like rough winds that blow from every corner of the sky; and in that number, as if each minute were computed by them, so plentiful is the spawn of sin in our waters. (Archdeacon King.)

The devil lights his temptations

To make which more plausible it is ever his cunning practice to attire them in that dress and livery which best suits each man’s humour and complexion. To the fantasy of the melancholy he whispers nothing but horror, plying him with all objects that may bring him to madness or despair. To the sanguine complexion he presents those wanton delights whereunto naturally it leans. The phlegmatic, like marshes which every tide overflows, he seeks to lay quite under water by the habit of that moist vice, which like a deluge covers the greater part of the earth--drunkenness. Lastly, the furious and choleric he prompts to quarrels,cherishing that unruly flame so long till he has made them believe that murder is the triumph of reputation; so causing them to purchase the opinion of an unhappy valour by bloodshed. At which luckless period he leaves them to the torture of a guilty conscience in this life and the fearful expectation of vengeance in the next. Thus doth the devil, like a politic engineer, besiege us in our own works, turning our passions, like daggers, upon our own breasts. (Archdeacon King.)

But though the devil be the chief instigator of sin, the flesh is the instrument. Nay, saith Origen, “Etiam si, Diabolus non esset, heroines haberent appetitum ciborum et Venereorum”--Were there no other devil, we have one at home, an invisible devil that lodgeth in the blood, the seditious appetite which urges us to perpetual mutiny against the good motions of God’s Spirit. (Archdeacon King.)

Prayer the only protection

We are assured, though there be many windows and ports and doors for temptation to enter at, there is but one key to let us out or to lock us up against it, God’s assistant or prevenient grace. (Archdeacon King.)

Which promise He performs either by giving us ability to decline them when they offer themselves at us, or by allaying them in such fashion that they become healthful medicines to cure, not poisons to corrupt us, and happy probations not to waste but to refine us. As gold runs purest from the furnace, finding no abatement of the substance, but the dross only, or by apportioning them to our strength that they do not overmatch us, so though He gives us not peace, yet He gives us means, by a fair defensive war, to hold out the siege against them. Be this then our comfort, that as temptation hath some ill in it, so it hath much good. It was said of the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, “If in that action there were anything of glory, it belonged to Brutus, but all the malice and cruelty of the design was imputed to Cassius. I make a juster application: Whatsoever good is occasioned by temptation we must ascribe it to God, but the malignity which accompanies it belongs to the devil. (Archdeacon King.)

Fear of temptation

God has given to most of His creatures an instinct that leads them to fear, and as far as possible to avoid danger. If you lift your hand against any of the lower animals they will do their utmost to avoid the stroke. God has made that a part of their nature. If they see danger coming they try to get out of its way; and if that cannot be, they do their best to provide against it. You may have seen a flock of sheep, when a storm began to gather, all crowding together as if for mutual defence, and hurrying to that part of the field where they would be most likely to be safe from the fury of the blast. So common and natural is this fear of, and desire to avoid danger, that we wonder when we see anything else. When we see the moth fluttering about the evening lamp, attracted by its brightness, unwarned even after the flame has once and again taken the edge oft its wing, darting at length into the very heart of the flame, and falling lifeless on the table, we wonder at that; and while we pity, we cannot help thinking and calling it a silly foolish creature. Now we, too, have got the same instinctive fear of outward danger. We fear disease, and do everything we possibly can to keep out of its way. We tremble at the thought of cholera coming among us. Fire-escapes, immense ladders, and other apparatus in towns, life-boats on land, and life-preservers on board ship, and many things else, tell how we fear, and will do the utmost we can to escape, approaching danger. One thing more dangerous and terrible than any of these we do not fear, we do not avoid. I mean that which is not necessarily sin in itself, though it so often leads to sin--temptation.

I. A THREATENING DANGER--“temptation.” When I speak of danger, you expect to hear of something alarming. When you were ill, and the doctor came to see you twice a day, you understood what was meant by there being danger. But when I speak of temptation, that alarms few or none. If you were to go over all the thousands that fill the cells of our prisons, they would all have something to say about having been tempted--that if they have not been tempted they would not have committed the crime, and so would not have been there. Every cell would re-echo the word “temptation,” and, as you leave it, I can fancy I hear you saying, “What a dangerous and dreadful thing it must be to be tempted!” These temptations or solicitations to evil are so dangerous.

1. Because of the quarter from which they come--the devil, the world, and the flesh.

2. Their suddenness and unexpectedness make them dangerous. Ordinarily they give us no warning; they take us by surprise. During the mutiny in India, where warning was given, precautionary measures were at once taken; and when the enemy came our countrymen were ready for him, and, in more cases than one, were able to hold out. In this way the British Residency at Nagpore was saved through the instrumentality of that noble-hearted missionary, Stephen Hislop. But temptations, for the most part, give no warning.

3. Their power makes them dangerous.

II. A CRY FOR HELP--“Lead us not into temptation.” Perhaps some one asks, “Is it not interfering with God’s providence to pray this prayer?” I answer, No. I am allowed to pray that I may be kept out of *,he way of other dangers, such as disease, or poverty, or death. And may I not ask that I may be kept from this danger as well as from these others? It may be needful and good that the temptation or the trouble otherwise should come, but I may lawfully pray to be kept from both. Perhaps some one asks, “Is it not cowardly to pray this prayer? Is it not shrinking back from the battle instead of manfully fighting it?” It is indeed an acknowledgment of weakness. It tells that I fear. But fear is one thing, and cowardice is another. Let us see, then, more particularly what this prayer asks.

1. It asks that we may be kept out of the way of objects that might entice to evil. To see certain things, to be in certain places, is enough, in many cases, to constitute a formidable temptation. There is a girl of dishonest tendency. The mere sight of money within her reach might again secure her fall. Surely she may well pray that things may be so ordered, that it may not be needful that she should go near them at all.

2. It asks that opportunities of evil may be kept out of my way. Oh, how much sometimes depends for my doing evil on my having the opportunity that favours it.

3. It asks that solicitations to evil may not come to us. I may be of a soft, yielding nature--very easily advised, very open to persuasion, not able to say, No.

4. It asks that examples of evil may be kept out of our way. How much the seeing of evil done influences others to do the like. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

But deliver us from evil:--

The prayer for deliverance from evil

The Italian poet, in painting the world of woe, ranges its several dreary mansions along a narrowing and descending volute. The lower it sunk the narrower it grew in his vision. Escape from the influence of hell is, in the structure of the Lord’s prayer, represented by an image the converse of the poet’s. The higher the way of escape mounts, the broader it becomes. As by the winding pathway and the successive stages of this form of supplication we are borne upward out of the bowels of the pit into which the Fall had plunged us, so we find the path widening perpetually as it goes on ascending; as we proceed from one grade and platform of prayer to another the subject of request extends itself out more and more widely. As we climb the heavenly heights, new and broader prospects open around us. We begin by deploring sins within ourselves, and grope about the narrow and dark den of our own hearts; we then expand our petitions by reference to the temptations in the circle around and without us; and finally, in the words now before us, we look beyond the limits of sin in us and temptations around us, to the sorrow and pain which may remain, even where sin is renounced and where “temptation is resisted. Beyond this state of probation we look to evil as it shall be recompensed and perpetuated in the world of retribution, and to yet another world, where all effects and traces of evil are effaced from the heart and lot of the blessed. Taken in this sense, then, the sentence includes a prayer for the repeal of the primal curse on man and earth.

I. The cry of our text, STAMMERED, as by the unregenerate and heathen world, it universally is. The burden of the text is heard in the voice of the new-born babe, sending back the first draught of air which its tiny lungs have made, in wailing, as it lies back on its nurse’s arm; and it is found in the death-rattle of the gray-headed grandsire, breathing his last after well-nigh a century’s experience of life, and its toils and its woes. Each contest that sets man against his fellows--from wars like those of Tamerlane or Napoleon, that littered a continent with their millions of dead, down to the street-fray or the village lawsuit; each statute, tribunal, and prison, and penalty; each party-gathering and each party-badge; each form, and voice, and look of human anguish; the pauper’s thin and trembling hand; the maniac’s shriek, and the captive’s asking eye; the sick man’s hollow cheek; all the diseases that crowd the beds of the hospital, and perplex the physician’s skill, and crowd the volumes of a medical library; all the remedies and diversions that seek to while away care or suppress thought; the drunkard’s bowl, and the song of the reveller, and the gambler’s dice-box--all the wild utterances of human revenge and hate; murder scowling on the brother whose presence it cannot abide, and jealousy and envy nibbling at character, and hinting dislike; all the ills of childhood, maturity, and age; each bead of sweat rolling from the brow of honest toil; each tear that falls from the eye, and each sigh that quits the burdened heart; every pang felt, and every complaint uttered? but waft upward to God or send around to our fellow-man the one sad, monotonous cry, “Deliver us from evil.”

II. That cry ARTICULATED, as by the penitent and Christian, now taught to know the plague of his own heart; it is--

1. Taught of God’s Word, he traces back all evil, social and physical, to moral evil, and finds the guilt of its introduction into our world resting on his race, and of its continuance resting on himself.

2. But who shall satisfy for past offences, and who uproot the strong tendencies for ill within him? Is there help in his fellows? They may aid and instruct and cheer him onward. The Christian Church, like travellers in arctic climes, watching to detect the first evidence of frost seizing the face of a fellow-traveller, its unconscious victim, and applying promptly the remedy, may aid him in watching against the frost of spiritual death, that unsuspected would else steal upon him. But they cannot make the atonement, or work the regeneration which he needs. May he look higher than earth and man? He must; for man and earth cannot solve his doubts or quell his fears. He is dying--who shall unsting death? He is to live and bide the doomsday? Oh, who shall give him acquittal there? God could, but will He? To Him he resorts.

III. That cry answered, as it is, by God come down to our deliverance. (W. R.Williams, D. D.)

The great deliverance

There is none righteous, no not one.” Such is the Word of the Book. It is true. Rather startling to the moral man, who believes that he is doing the right thing; paying his way; just to all; owing no man; paying 20s in the f. But it is true. Examine yourselves, and see what answer your conscience will give. “I am no worse than my neighbours,” says one. Yes, there is a good deal of this negative goodness in the world. People are very anxious to declare what they have not done. But are they doers of good? Few, if they speak the truth, will dare to say, as did the Jewish Rabbi, “If there are ten righteous people in the world, my son and I belong to the ten; and if five, we belong to the five; and if two, we are the two; and if one, I am the one.” No, the Scripture is true--“There is none righteous, no not one.” “We have left undone those things that we ought to have done, and have done those things we ought not to have done.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Well, then, we may pray--“Deliver us from evil.” “Evil is ever present with us.” Look around. It starts in loathsome guise from the pavements of our streets. It staggers from the glaring gin-palace at the corners of our highways. It rears its leprous form, sin-spotted, in palace as well as in hovel. It has left its mutilated wrecks in our hospitals and infirmaries. It lifts its hydra-head and horrifies us almost wherever we go. Nor need we go far to meet with it. It is near at hand. It is among our friends and acquaintances. It separates father from son, and son from father; mother from daughter, and daughter from mother. It comes between friends, who seemed made to cling together, and cleaves them asunder for the rest of their lives. It enters our very homes. It sits at our tables. It is at our firesides. Nay, it is in our very hearts. Well, then, may we pray--“Deliver us from evil.” Evil has been said to be perversion of good. It has also been defined as absence of good. But if we accept either of these negative definitions, the question naturally presents itself--“What is good?” Goodness is obedience to God. Evil, then, must be disobedience.

I. THE PRAYER IMPLIES THE NECESSITY OF DELIVERANCE. Sin springs from three causes.

1. From the influence of Satan or his emissaries over the hearts of men. Quaint old John Bunyan has well illustrated the power of Satan thus in his “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Christian is passing through the valley, close to the mouth of hell; and the evil ones step up to him, and whisper foul blasphemies into his ear, so insidiously that the poor pilgrim thinks they are the utterances of his own heart. May God deliver us all from this evil.

2. Another fruitful source of sin is our own lusts--our own passions. Man is, in his structure and his appetites, but a superior animal, moved by the same instincts, by kindred wants and wishes implanted in him, as in the inferior animals, for his own preservation, and the propagation of his species. But he has what is with them wanting--the moral control. God has breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Man has become a “living soul.” And that God who created him with these passions gave him power to control them, a power fatally weakened and largely lost by a long course of inherited sin, but which can be strengthened by the heartfelt wish expressed in the prayer “Deliver us from evil.”

3. Then there are the temptations afforded by the world. In our business, and in our pleasures, evil is continually present with us. The customs of business, the exaggerations of trade, the pushing manners of our own times, the very anxiety, laudable as it is, to be in the forefront in our walk in life, all these are fruitful sources of evil. And in the street, and in tram, and ‘bus, and rail, on the way to and from our business, evil continually assails us, in the daily, habits and customs of those with whom we are brought in daily contact. Our pleasures too often lead us astray. Amusements, innocent in themselves, cause us to neglect the serious duties of life, and thus become positive evils.

II. THE PRAYER IMPLIES THE NECESSITY OF DELIVERANCE FROM ANOTHER SOURCE, We cannot deliver ourselves. (The Weekly Pulpit.)

Deliver us from evil

I. A VERY GENERAL PETITION.

1. Evils not specified, because--

2. Anything sinful is a real evil in itself.

II. ALL MORAL EVILS ARE ONE.

1. No such thing as a little evil.

2. No evil that belongs only to the individual.

3. No temporary evil coming from sin.

III. THE POWER OF EVIL IS PERSONAL.

IV. THE UNITY AND PERSONALITY OF EVIL A HOPEFUL FACT. Jesus has conquered the evil one. A “roaring lion” will be cowed by the glance of his conqueror. If we are with Christ, the devil will slink away. (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)

Deliver us from evil

The revelation of sonship is also the revelation of evil. Until we know God is Father, and we His dear children, we do not know how evil a thing is sin. You can see the reason of this. The slave, who has no idea of freedom, is content to wear his fetters. The man to whom this world is all does not feel it to be a prison. But let the revelation come: “Ye are not the son of the bondwoman, but of the free; ye have not received the spirit of bondage, but the spirit of adoption, whereby ye cry, ‘Abba, Father,’” then how galling the fetters become, and what longing there is for the liberty of the children of God. Let the revelation of a man’s true nature and destiny come to him, then the world is too little for him--it is stifling in its narrowness and closeness. His spirit wants a broader and loftier breathing-place. It is not the things God has made that can satisfy him tie wants God Himself. His heart and flesh cry out for God, for the living God. His prayer is, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” And as long as evil comes between him and the light of his Father’s face, his prayer must be, “Deliver us from evil.”

I. THE PRAYER OF GOD’S CHILD--“Deliver US from evil.”

1. The evil God’s child prays to be delivered from. It is necessary to have clear ideas upon this point. Many things we call evil are not so in reality. They may be but the hiding of some good, deeper than our poor minds can grasp, or the painful shocks that are bringing health and freedom for some captive child of God. The only real evil is sin. When we pray to be delivered from evil, we do not pray to be delivered from suffering, but from repining in suffering; from the blindness which does not see the hand of God in it. We do not pray to be delivered from poverty, or calamity, or death, but from the evil in us which would prevent us from turning every loss into gain, every trial into strength, and every vicissitude in out changing experience into a means of spiritual progress. In a word, we want to be delivered from the impulses and sway of the old nature, that we may enter into the life and freedom of the new. We want to escape the corruption that is in us, through becoming “partakers of the Divine nature.”

2. This prayer is in perfect harmony with God’s purpose in redemption. The student of the Bible and of history must see that deliverance from evil is the great object of the Divine discipline and culture of our nature. The Old Testament is a revelation of the righteousness of God. Its aim, from beginning to end, is to expose evil that men may know it and escape its thraldom. Even the judgment that followed swiftly upon transgression had at its heart a yearning desire for the deliverance of the sons of God. It was not because God delighted in vengeance, but in mercy, that departure from righteousness brought pain, and obedience, blessedness. And what is the purpose of the New Testament but emancipation from evil? Its light and its love--the revelation of the mind and heart of God in Jesus Christ--what is its aim if not salvation from the evil? The ideal of manhood as realized in Jesus shows you that you were not made to be the slaves of sin, but the free sons of God. The cross--the at-one-ment between humanity and God- shows you how through crucifixion of the evil your nature may be brought into complete and responsive harmony with God’s, and so be delivered from the evil.

3. The desire of the prayer shall be completely realized. This is a blissful assurance to the man whose sense of evil is keen. He longs to be free from it, and would willingly die if so be he might become as stainless as the light, as pure as the heart of God. Now, use this prayer. Jesus would not have taught it you if He had meant to mock you. He would not have shown you the evil, if He had not intended to deliver you from it. He would not have carried light into your prison, and troubled you with a Divine discontent, if He had not intended to save. The same spirit which makes you cry, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” will put a new song into your mouth, “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

II. THE REASONS FOR USING THIS PRAYER

1. The evil is within us. A man cannot flee from the plague of his own heart by going into a desert or shutting himself up in a cell. Dore, in his picture of the Neophyte, by a touch of genius all his own, has shown how the ideal the young man has chosen is failing to realize his hopes. In that beautiful face of his, so marvellously expressive, we see hope trembling between fear and disappointment; we see the shadows gathering over the beauty of the young man’s ideal. The brutal countenances of some of the men that surround him, the stern scowl of others, the sensual look of most, these surely cannot express the purity and beauty of God’s ideal. No; the young man has made a mistake. The picture says: The cloister is no more sacred than the world. Escape from the world is not escape from sin. See, these men still live in the old sensual nature. Escape from that. Come out of the old nature into the new. Live, not in the flesh,-but in the spirit. Let Christ be formed in you, His spirit possess you, and then you shall be free. “For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

2. Then the evil is so subtle. Just here is our danger and our need of this prayer.

3. We must be delivered from evil before our salvation is complete. The evil destroys our peace, and comes between our souls and God. It dims our vision to all that is most beautiful in His character, and most Divine in His works. (W. Hetherington.)

Deliver us from evil

I. This petition implies THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A WORLD IN WHICH IS THE PRESENCE OF EVIL.

II. This petition implies THAT THOSE WHO USE IT ARE UNDER A SENSE OF BEING IN BONDAGE TO EVIL.

III. This petition implies THAT NOTHING LESS THAN THE OMNIPOTENT ARM OF GOD CAN DELIVER US FROM THIS EVIL.

IV. This petition implies THAT NOTHING CAN BE SATISFYING TO THE CHRISTIAN BUT THE ENTIRE EXPULSION OF EVIL FROM THE WORLD. (W. Dodsworth.)

Deliverance from evil

The first of these three petitions asks for forgiveness; the next that we may he spared the grievous inducements to the sins which need such forgiveness; and the following and concluding prayer embraces deliverance from all the power and all the consequences of sin. Deliver us from evil--from all the wretched fascination and all the miserable results of sin, from its blindness and insensibility, from its unspirituality and rebellion, from its hardness and its punishment, from all that dishonours God and ruins the soul, from its guilt, its power, its shame and its doom. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

It is worth while to remark the difference between the notion of evil which the Bible teaches and that which the world teaches. If you ask a man of the world what evil is he will tell you everything that gives you pain, or annoys you, or makes you uncomfortable. Bad health, for instance, he will say, is an evil; a lazy servant, a hard master, a quarrelsome neighbour, a damp house, poverty, afflictions of all kinds are evils. In short, evil, according to the worldly man, is whatever troubles the body, or interferes with our worldly comfort or prosperity. But is this the Christian’s notion of evil? Is this the answer which St. Paul or St. John would have given if any one had asked them what evil is. They would tell you that the only evil of any consequence is what is against the will of God. So that the devil is above all the evil one; because he is the great opposer of that goodness which God wills and delights in. Worldly afflictions are indeed grievous so long as they last, so that we may indeed pray against them. But such a prayer must be offered up with a full sense of their comparative insignificance, lest we be troubled by them above measure. It must be offered up moreover in humble reliance on the wisdom and goodness of our Heavenly Father, lest peradventure we should be praying against a blessing. In a word, we must pray against them with an if. But our sins need no if in praying against them. Their danger, their burthen, their grievousness, their shame, their curse, we know too well from sad experience. God Himself has declared them to be evil. Therefore they should be the uppermost evil in our minds when we say, “Deliver us from evil.” (A. W. Hare.)

Deliverance from evil

The wildest legends of the mediaeval times usually contain within them an incrustation of fable, a precious germ of truth. Here is one which strikes us. A certain noble lady of Assisi had quitted her father’s house by stealth, and had become a Franciscan. Her little sister Agnes, ten or eleven years of age, filled with love to her sister, and burning with religious fervour, followed her into her seclusion. Naturally enough, the parents could not endure that a second child should be lost to their home. They gathered together a company of armed men, attacked the sister’s retreat with rude violence, and tore the child away despite her tears and entreaties. As she would not accompany them of her own will, they began to drag her away by main force. Friends were helpless even to attempt a rescue; but the story tells us that she suddenly became heavy as lead in the arms of her captors, so that they could not carry her further, and were obliged to let her lie upon the ground. Despite their united efforts, she seemed to have become immovable, and they were compelled to leave her in the wood. When they were all gone, the child joyfully arose, and returned to her sister, never to be separated again. Strip the whole story of its unnaturalness, and its superstitious wonders, and you see what God does for His children when sin would make them its prey. At first the world would fain drag the young convert back to his former ways and pleasures. It comes with the rude force of persecution or temptation, and attempts to make a captive of one who has fled from it. When the young convert is utterly unwilling to be seduced from his consecration to his Lord, it is not long before he becomes “as a burdensome stone” to those who would bear him away. There is a weight of character, a solidity of grace, a sobriety of thought, and possibly a strangeness of manner about him, which is too much for them. He is not good company; even as a target for their jests he is a failure. They do not understand the reason, but they quit their hopeless work. Henceforth they admit the reality of the religion which at first they ridiculed as a temporary fancy, Right gladly delivered from the further solicitations of the worldly, the convert returns to his brethren, and rejoices in the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Temptation to be avoided

The writer saw at Chicago notices placed on several houses with the warning, “Smallpox is here”; “Fever is here.” Only those having necessary business, or bound on errands of affection and philanthropy, would enter such a house. But may not the mark of moral pestilence be seen on the forehead of many a boon-companion, and over the entrance of many a saloon of pleasure? Is it not inscribed on every fascinating temptation to sin? Should we be less cautious regarding the health of the soul than of the body. (Newman Hall.)

The devil’s chief servants

The devil has a great many servants, and they are all busy, active ones. They ride in the railway trains, they sail on the steamboats, they swarm along the highways of the country and the thoroughfares of the cities; they do business in the busy marts, they enter houses and break open shops; they are everywhere, and in all places. Some are so vile-looking that one instinctively turns from them in disgust; but some are so sociable, insinuating, and plausible, that they almost deceive at times the very elect. Among this latter class are to be found the devil’s four chief servants. Here are their names. “There’s no danger.” That is one. “Only this once.” That is another. “Everybody does so.” That is the third. “By-and-by.” That is the fourth. When tempted from the path of strict rectitude, and “There’s no danger” urges you on, say, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” When tempted to give Sabbath up to pleasure, or to do a little labour in the workshop, or the counting-house, and “Only this once” or “Everybody does so” whispers at your elbow, do not listen for a moment to the dangerous counsel. If the Holy Spirit has fastened upon your conscience the solemn warnings of a faithful teacher or friend, and brought to mind a tender mother’s prayers for your conversion, do not let “By-and-by” steal away your confidence, and, by persuading you to put away serious things, rob you of your life. All four are cheats and liars. They mean to deceive you, and cheat your soul of heaven. “Behold!” says God, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” He has no promises for “By-and-by.” (Dr. Talmage.)

But deliver us from evil

What evil do we pray to be delivered from? First, in general, “deliver us from evil”: we prey to be delivered from the evil of sin. Not that we pray to be delivered immediately from the presence and in-being of sin, for that cannot be in this life, we cannot shake off this viper; but we pray that God would deliver us more and more from the power and practice, from the scandalous acts of sin, which cast a reflection upon the gospel. That sin is the most execrable evil, appears several ways.

1. Look upon sin in its original; it fetcheth its pedigree from hell. Sin is of the devil.

2. Look upon sin in its nature, and so it is evil.

3. Look upon sin in the judgment and opinion of the godly, and it will appear to be the most prodigious evil. The primitive Christians said, they chose rather to be devoured by lions without than lusts within. The godly testify sin is a great evil, in that they desire to die upon no account more than this, that they may be rid of sin.

4. Look upon sin in the comparative, and it will appear to be the most deadly evil.

Afflictions are love-tokens--“As many as I love, I rebuke.” But when we commit sin, God withdraws His love; it is the sun overcast with a cloud, nothing appears but anger and displeasure. There are many encouragements to suffer affliction. Thus sin is worse than affliction; there are encouragements to suffer affliction, but no encouragement to sin. When a person is afflicted, only he himself suffers; but by sinning openly he