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children and servants may have derived some benefit from the example. Their own souls they did not regard, as is evident from their neglect of secret prayer at home; and their own souls, therefore, shall receive no benefit on that day which shall determine the eternal state of the soul.
But it is time to turn from such characters to the serious Christian. He fulfils that precept of our SAVIOUR which we are considering. He "en'ers into his closet and shuts his door:" that is, he takes the best opportunity of being private, which is afforded to him; though he will rather pray in a low voice, in the presence of others, than not pray at all. He prays "unto his Father which is in secret;" that is, he pours out his heart in prayer, and he prays for every blessing which he needs: for pardon of sin, for strength against temptation, for deliverance from his cor ruptions, for victory over the world, for direction in difficulties, for consolation under afflictions, for submission under pains and losses; for the increase, in short, of faith, of hope, and of charity; and for all the graces of God's Holy Spirit. And leading this life of fervent and secret prayer, that "GOD who seeth him in secret rewards him openly." He is rewarded by his obtaining evidently the very things which he asks. By the means of secret prayer put up his closet, strength, to fulfil openly in the sight of men all the various duties of life, is imparted to him. He is raised above the power of those temptations by which the merely formal worshippers are overcome. You see this man con quer his passions, and sustain his trials, and suffer little (compared with the worldly man) under afflictions. You behold him upright and faithful to his God in all companies; daring to be religious in the midst of the profane world; and reproving that vice which the formal worshipper is too timid to contradict or to resist. He, who prays earnestly to GOD in secret, will generally be a decided character in public; aud surely there is more comfort, as well as more respectability, in being thus consistent, than in being a saint with saints, and a worldly man with the worldly. In
this sense, then, we may probably interpret and apply the passage. That peculiar strength of character, which the world admires in some religious persons, may be referred to the efficacy of those secret prayers, of which the world takes no cognizance. They bow their knees before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and "He strengthens them with might by His Spirit in the inner man." Day by day they implore His grace; and, day by day, in answer to their prayers, He pours down upon them a portion of His own Spirit: and thus they are made strong to fulfil every task which is required of them; and to endure whatever trials may befal them: they are made happy in themselves, and often honourable in the sight of men; and thus they are rewarded openly.
ST. MATTHEW, VI. 9.
After this manner therefore prav ye: Our Father which art in heaven.
THE LORD's prayer is often in the mouths of many by whom it is ill understood. We shall endeavour to afford a clear and just interpretation of it. We must, however, premise, that it was given by our SAVIOUR to His disciples, for the purpose, not only of explaining the general object and nature of prayer; but, also, of pointing out the manner in which they were to pray, in order to avoid those "vain" or useless "repetitions," and that "much speaking," which He had been blaming in the heathen.
The LORD's prayer is, therefore, extremely short, much shorter than we know some prayers to have been, which were put up by our SAVIOUR himself. We doubtless ought to imitate the general matter of this prayer, rather than the length of it.
"OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN" We are thus taught to begin, by addressing GoD as "our Father." all have earthly parents, to whom we are accustomed to look up. We know, that we have been depending on them; that we have received from them many good things; and that we owe them, in return, our reverence, affection, and submission. By means, therefore, of this relation to our earthly parents, an intimation is given us of the nature of our relation to GOD: which is a very easy and simple mode of being instructed in it, and the best, undoubtedly, of which we are capable. Have we fathers after the flesh? GoD also is our Father. To Him we owe all, and indeed more than all, that as children we ever owed to our natural parents. But GOD, also, is our Father which is in Heaven; our parents dwell with us on earth:-they are seen among us from day to day;—God is that parent who can be seen only by the eye of faith so long as we live in this world; for His dwelling place is in heaven. The first sentence in the LORD's prayer implies, therefore, a profession of our faith in Him who is invisible; as well as an acknowledgment of our being related to Him, as a child is to its parent. Let us not attempt too much refinement in explaining the LORD's prayer.
Nothing can be more simple, nothing more easy to understand, than this opening of it is. There is, however, a more peculiar sense in which some men are called in Scripture the children of GOD. Believers are said to be adopted into His family. We are all, says the Apostle, "the children of God by faith in CHRIST JESUS”*. "and if children, then heirs, heirs of GoD, and joint heirs with CHRIST." May we be enabled to put up this prayer in the spirit of adoption; and thus to add a further meaning to the more obvious one-may we do this, through the help of that SPIRIT, which, as the Scripture expresses it, enables us to say Abba, Father."
* Gal. iii. 26
† Rom. viii. 17.
ST. MATTHEW, VI. 9.
Hallowed be thy Name.
HALLOWED BE THY
THE name of God, means commonly in Scripture the same as GOD Himself: and "hallowed" means had in reverence, or honour. The expression NAME" is, therefore, one by which we imply, that we consider all honour as due to God, and wish it to be rendered to Him. This disposition of the heart to ascribe praise and honour to Gon is a very sublime and excellent part of religion. It is that branch of prayer which is commonly called adoration. In thus adoring GoD, we, as it were, forget ourselves. We adore Him for what He is, essentially in Himself, and generally to all His creatures, rather than for what He is particularly to us. By addressing Him in this manner, our ideas of Him become exalted in the beginning of our prayer: and we, then, descend to our more particular petitions, with the greater reverence for Him, to whom we offer our supplications. We have an example of the spirit of adoration in that sublime language of the Psalmist, in which he calls upon all created things to unite with him in praising God. "Praise Him, all ye angels of his; praise Him, all his host; praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars of light; praise Him, all ye heavens, and ye waters that are above the heavens :"* "Oh, praise God in his holiness, praise Him in the firmament of his power. Let every thing that hath breath, praise the LORD."t
* Ps. cxlviii. 2—4.
† Ps. cl. 1, 2, 6.
ST. MATTHEW, VI. 10.
Thy Kingdom come.
THE establishment of the religion of CHRIST in the world is represented in Scripture under the figure of the erection of a kingdom. The kings of the earth have their separate territories, over which they reign, and their several interests, which they endeavour to extend; and he is deemed the greatest and most successful monarch who is best able to maintain and enlarge his empire. GoD also has a kingdom in this world. It interferes not, however, with those of earthly princes; for it is a spiritual kingdom, consisting partly indeed of a visible church, but chiefly in an empire over the hearts of men. This Kingdom of God extends itself over many kingdoms of the world; for the subjects of the MESSIAH are of every nation, and tongue, and people, and language. For the more complete establishment of this Kingdom we are taught by CHRIST to pray, before we proceed to present our private petitions. The LORD's prayer therefore supposes the success of the gospel is to be near our hearts. Let us who so often use these words, ask ourselves whether it be our ardent wish to see the gospel every where flourish? We long for the aggrandisement of our native country. We wish our rivals to be laid low, and our own land to become great and victorious. But do we bear in mind the far more important interests of the kingdom of CHRIST?
May the LORD take to Himself his great power and reign! may all kings fall down before Him, and all nations do Him service! may He go on, conquering, and to conquer, until all His enemies shall be laid under His feet!