« ÎnapoiContinuă »
tion of a father engages to. Thus when we draw nigh to God as our Father, we express our love to him, which is founded in his divine excellencies, which render him the object of the highest delight and esteem.
8thly, He that has a child-like disposition, retains a grateful sense of the obligations that he is under to his Father. Thus we ought to be duly sensible of all the favours which we have received from God, which are more than can be numbered; the contrary hereunto, is reckoned the basest ingratitude and disingenuity, altogether unbecoming the temper of children. Thus Moses says to Israel, Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father who hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? Deut. xxxii. 6. A believer's obligations to God are so very great, that he cannot look back upon his former state, or consider what he was, how vile and unworthy of any regard from him, how miserable and unable to help himself, when he first had compassion on him, without seeing himself under the strongest engagements to be entirely, and for ever, his; which is a becoming behaviour towards such a Father.
9thly, Love to all that are related to us as children of the same Father, is another child-like disposition. In like manner our love to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, is a temper becoming the children of God; and, indeed, it is no other than a loving God in them, as we behold his image instamped upon them; and hereby we express the high esteem we have for regenerating grace, whereby God is denominated our common Father; and we, being acted by the same principle, are obliged and inclined to love as brethren. Thus they who love God, are induced to love his children, as the apostle says, Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him, 1 John v. 1. and he also assigns this as an evidence that we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren, chap. iii. 14. Thus concerning our drawing nigh to God, as to a Father, as we are taught to do in this prayer.
2. We are directed, in this prayer, to draw nigh to God, as being in heaven; which is the most glorious part of the frame of nature, in which his power, wisdom, and goodness is eminently displayed, as he designed it to be an eternal habitation for the best of creatures, to whom he would discover more of his glory than to any others; and in this respect it is called his throne, Acts vii. 49. And this leads us,
(1.) To have high and awful thoughts of the majesty and greatness of God, whom all the hosts of heaven worship, with the utmost reverence, and are satisfied with the immense treasure of his goodness. We therefore take occasion from hence to admire his infinite condescension, that he will look upon
creatures here below; thus Solomon, in his prayer says, Will God, indeed, dwell on the earth? behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, 1 Kings viii. 27. will he therefore look down upon those, who are so mean, deformed, and destitute of his image, as we are, who dwell in houses of clay, and deserve to be banished out of his sight?
(2.) It should also be improved by us to teach us humility and modesty, in our conceptions and discourse, concerning God, and divine things: It is but a little that we know of the affairs of the upper world, and the way and manner in which God is pleased to manifest himself to his saints and angels there; and we know much less of his divine perfections, which the inhabitants of heaven adore, being sensible of the infinite distance they stand at from him, as creatures, upon which account they cannot comprehend, or find out the Almighty to perfection; and shall we pretend to search out the secrets of his wisdom, or express ourselves in prayer, as though we were speaking to one that was our equal, or could fathom the infinite depths of his unsearchable counsels? Thus Solomon's advice may be well adapted to this case, Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few, 1 Kings viii. 27. We are not to think that we may say what we please, or be rash and inconsiderate in what we say, when we are before the Lord; for he is in heaven: And when it is farther inferred, that therefore our words should be few, that is, we should not think that the efficacy of our prayers depends upon the multitude of our words; or if we speak more or less to God, our expressions ought not to be bold, rash, hasty, or inconsiderate, but with a becoming decency and reverence, as those who are speaking to the majesty
(3.) It should put us upon meditating frequently on the glory of the heavenly state, as those who hope at last, to be joined with that happy and numerous assembly, who are, in God's immediate presence, in heaven: and therefore our conversation should be there; and we should profess ourselves to be sojourners here on earth, seeking a better country, looking and waiting for the glorious appearing of the great God, our Saviour; and hoping, that when he comes, he will receive us to heaven, where our hearts are at present, as our treasure is there.
3. We are, in this prayer, farther taught, that it is our duty to pray with, and for others, as we say, Our Father: Hereby we signify our relation to, and concern for, all the members of Christ's mystical body; therefore, if we do not join with others in prayer, we are to have them upon our hearts, who are the
objects of Christ's special love and care.. This argues, that we have a sympathy with all those who are exposed to the same wants and miseries with ourselves; and we take a great deal of delight in considering them as subjects of the same common Lord, joining in the same profession with ourselves; concerning whom, we desire and hope that we shall be glorified together.
Moreover, if we join with others in prayer, so that the whole assembly make their supplications by one that is their mouth, to God; this is what we call social worship: Therefore it is our duty to pray with, as well as for others; and in this case we must take heed that nothing be contained in united prayer, but what the whole assembly may join in, as being expressive of their faith, desires, or experiences; other wise there cannot be that beautiful harmony therein, such as the nature and design of the duty we are jointly engaged in, calls for: and this is agreeable to social or united prayers, in which all the petitions are to be adapted to the particular case of every one who addresses himself to God, how numerous soever the worshipping assembly may be; and therefore we are obliged to make use of that mode of expression, in which we are taught to say, Our Father.
Thus our Saviour directs us how we should begin our prayers to God; and, inasmuch as this ought to be reduced to practice, I shall give a summary account of what is contained in this preface; that we may be furnished with matter taken from thence, in order to our addressing ourselves to God in prayer, in a way agreeable thereunto, when we come into his presence with such a frame of spirit as the importance of the duty requires; accordingly we are to express ourselves to this purpose, "O our God, we desire to draw nigh to thee with "a becoming reverence, and an awful sense of thine infinite "perfections: When we consider thee as a jealous God, and "ourselves as sinful, guilty creatures, we might well be afraid "to come before thee; but thou hast encouraged us to ap"proach thy presence as to a Father, in, and through the "merits and mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ; and there"fore we come with an humble boldness before thy throne of grace, confessing that though we are called thy children, we "have been very undutiful and rebellious against thee, and "therefore unworthy of that relation or of the inheritance "which thou hast laid up for those whom thou hast ordained "to eternal life. Thou, O Lord, hast established thy throne "in the heavens, where there is an innumerable company of "angels and spirits of just men made perfect, who all behold "thy face, and are made completely blessed in thine imme"diate presence: As for us, we dwell in houses of clay; but
"we earnestly beg that we may be made meet for, and then "admitted into that happy society, that we may worship thee "in a more perfect manner than we are capable of doing in "this imperfect state. May all the powers and faculties of "our souls be renewed, and influenced by thy holy Spirit, that 66 we may have our conversation in heaven, whilst we are here "below, and in all things, may be enabled to approve ourselves thy children, have a constant sense of duty, and the manifold obligations thou hast laid us under, that we may love, de"light in, and submit to thee in all things, and have a fervent "zeal for the honour of thy name as becomes thy children, "that we, together with all thy faithful servants, may be under "thy safe protection here, and be received to thy glory here"after."
QUEST. CXC. What do we pray for in the first petition?
ANSW. In the first petition [which is, Hallowed be thy Name,] acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright, we pray that God would, by his grace, enable and incline us, and others, to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by, and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed; that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to him; and, by his over-ruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.
HAVING considered the to the Lord's the
next part of which it consists, is petitions; and these are six, which are laid down in this method.
1. We are taught to pray for what concerns God's glory, which is the highest and most valuable end; and therefore ought first to be prayed for: And this is the subject-matter of the three first petitions.
2. We are directed to pray for what respects our own advantage, which is contained in the three last petitions, in which we are directed to pray for outward blessings, as in the fourth petition, and then for spiritual, without which outward blessings would afford us no relish or savour, nor render us truly happy. These spiritual blessings include in them either forgiveness of sin, and this we pray for in the fifth petition; or our being sanctified and delivered from the prevalency of corruption and temptation, together with all the evils that sin exposes us to; this we pray for in the sixth petition. That which
we are more particularly to consider in this answer, is, what we are taught to pray for in the first petition, which is contained in these words, Hallowed be thy name. By the name of God we are to understand every thing, by which he is pleased to make himself known to his creatures, as when he discovers himself in his divine perfections, which are either essential or personal, absolute or relative; and in his glorious titles, as the Lord of Hosts, the God and Rock of Israel, the hope of Israel, the God that cannot lye, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace and glory, the preserver of man; which have all a tendency to raise in us the highest veneration for, and esteem of him. He has also made himself known by his ordinances, words, and works: These are the subject-matter of this petition; and when we pray that they may be sanctified, we are not to understand hereby that they may be made holy; but that the holiness and glory thereof may be demonstrated by him, and that we may be enabled to adore and magnify him agreeably thereunto.
Now the name of God may be said to be sanctified either by himself or by his people in different respects; accordingly,
I. We pray that God would sanctify, that is, demonstrate the glory of his own name, or proclaim and make it visible to the world, so as to excite that adoration and esteem which is due to him. His name, indeed, has been eminently glorified in all ages, in the various methods of his providence and grace; whereby his power, wisdom, and goodness have been illustrated in the eyes of angels and men; and, in all his works, he has appeared to be a God of infinite holiness: We therefore pray that he would continue to glorify these perfections, and enable us to improve the displays thereof to our spiritual advantage.
This is a subject of the highest importance, without which we cannot give to God the glory due unto his name; therefore, as praise is joined with prayer, it is necessary for us to take a view of the various ways by which God has manifested the glory of his holiness. We might here consider how he did this in his creating man at first, without the least blemish or disposition in his nature to sin, and enstamped his own image upon him, which principally consisted in holiness, which was the greatest internal beauty and ornament that he could be endowed with.
But that which we shall principally consider, is, how the holiness of God is demonstrated in his dealings with fallen man. His suffering sin to enter into the world, was not inconsistent with the holiness of his nature, since his providence, as has been observed elsewhere, was not conversant about it, by 3 A