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ST. MATTHEW VI. 10.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
We know that God's will is perfectly fulfilled in heavThe Angels stand ready to perform His pleasure: the Saints are made perfect in holiness: and, because the Divine will is thus accomplished, heaven is a place of perfect happiness. It is the wish and prayer of the Christian, that earth may in this respect resemble heaven: that men may cease from preferring their own pleasure to that of their Creator: and that, as angels are all ministering spirits, ready to fulfil whatever embassy the great Lord of all may assign to them; so men also may learn to do the will of God, by performing all those works of righteousness, which He hath commanded and appointed. The men of this world earnestly wish for their own happiness; and occasionally feel a desire to promote the general good : but they do not consider, that, so long as the will of GoD is not fulfilled, much happiness is not to be expected. From whence come almost all the pains and miseries which are experienced in our passage through life? come they not from the indisposition of man to do the will of GOD? May the time soon arrive when the earth shall resemble heaven in holiness: then will it also resemble heaven in happiness. Hasten the time, O LORD, when Thy kingdom shall come, and Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
ST. MATTHEW VI. 11.
Give us this day our daily bread.
MAN is a creature so constituted, that daily food (or bread) is nece cessary for his continuance in life. This is the great law of his earthly condition. We are therefore taught in this prayer to pray daily to God for the supply of this our great and continually returning necessity. We are instructed to implore of our heavenly Father, that He will sustain these our perishable bodies, which would otherwise come day by day into new peril of death. We are taught to acknowledge, that, unless He, who created us, will also constantly preserve us, the life, which He has bestowed, would end; and vain would be all the help of man. Such is the obvious meaning of this brief request. It implies moreover, that prayer is one of the appointed means of supplying our daily wants and that the very food, which we earn by the sweat of our brow, is His gift. For is it not His sun, His wind, and His rain, which ripens every blade of corn which we eat? Is it not GOD, who gives health and strength to the reaper? and does not the same God bestow those bodily and mental powers, by which we earn whatever we exchange for our necessary food? Is it not He, who blesses all our daily industry, and
causes our substance to increase?
But this petition must be understood in an extensive Bread being the principal thing which we need, it stands for all other necessaries. Whatever the weakness and helplessness of man desires from his heavenly Father during his passage through this mortal lifewhether of a temporal, or of a spiritual nature-is represented, in this short comprehensive prayer, by the term
Bread." Although, therefore, the words in the passage are few, the meaning is large. "GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD:"-It is to say, "Give us all things which Thou knowest to be needful to us. Supply, oh Lord, all our wants: we confess, that we cannot sustain ourselves; and that all our support is derived from Thee. We are helpless as to our bodies; and helpless as to our souls: and we, therefore, lift up our prayer to Thee, for whatsoever things we need. Give unto us this day bread to support our bodies; and give unto us this day grace to sustain our souls for on Thee alone do we depend." Such is the meaning of the prayer; and exactly as our hearts tell us, that our wants are, so let our supplications also be. They who think only of temporal blessings, will be likely to consider the prayer as referring only to these; but they, who feel their spiritual poverty, will also pray, while they utter these words, that their spiritual wants may be supplied.
ST. MATTHEW VI. 12.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
By the word "debts" is here evidently meant passes" or sins; for the word "trespasses” is used in the same prayer, instead of "debts," in- another part of Scripture. By our trespasses, we may be said to become debtors to GOD; for we incur a penalty proportioned to the sins which we commit. Now the debts, which we thus incur, we cannot pay. There is no hope that we shall ever pay them; for the future obedience of our
whole lives, even if it should be perfect, can never cancel the trespasses, which are past: just as the paying regularly all our future debts can never cancel a debt, which is already standing out against us. We are, therefore, taught, in this prayer, to implore a free forgiveness; and we are in it likened to debtors who have nothing to pay; and who, therefore, can only ask a free discharge. We are enabled by other parts of Scripture to know on what ground it is that we obtain this pardon of our sins. That we ought to pray for pardon is all that we are here taught. The more particular doctrine of the manner of that pardon was to be divulged and explained when CHRIST should have paid the ransom of His death. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins."* Let us not be surprised that the doctrine of the Atonement is not here declared. The Atonement was to be made, before it was to be distinctly revealed. That the sins of men might be forgiven; and that the GOD of the Christian is a God rich in mercy, was information enough for this place and it is information which should be unspeakably prized by every one, who knows that he is a sinner; who perceives, also, that his sins are so many debts due to GOD; and that he must be bound hand and foot, and cast into prison, having nothing to pay, unless GOD will freely forgive them all.
But it is also said, “Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors;" and in another place, 'Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." By means of these words we are required, in our very prayer, to profess that we are in the habit of forgiving freely the debts, or trespasses of our neighbours; a profession, indeed, which every Christian ought to be able confidently to make; appealing, as he makes it, to that GOD who searcheth and knoweth the heart.
Let us, then, take care, that, while we put up this prayer
*Col. i. 14. Ephes. i. 7.
† St. Luke, xi. 4.
for pardon, we do it in the spirit of free forgiveness to all others. It is necessary to feel this temper, in order to our praying acceptably, that our own sins may be forgiven. GOD rejects, with abhorrence, the prayer of that man who is not forgiving towards his neighbours. If we are unrelenting to others, GoD will be unrelenting to us. We may gather from this test, whether our supplications shall be accepted. We need not ascend into Heaven, nor, desire to have thence a special revelation to tell us, whether our prayers shall be heard, or not. If we draw near to GOD, in the spirit of the humble publican, smiting on our breasts, and saying, "LORD, be merciful to me a sinner;" and if, at the same time, we feel, within us, a spirit of fervent charity towards all men, and of unreserved and free forgiveness towards those, in particular, who have in any way offended us, let us not doubt, that our heavenly Father hears the voice of our supplication, and will have compassion upon us. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
ST. MATTHEW, VI. 13.
And lead us not into temptation.
THE excellency of this part of the LORD's prayer will be best understood by those who are most acquainted with the weakness of man, and his liability to be overcome by temptation. We are very apt to be severe on others when they fall into sin; little thinking how likely to yield we ourselves should be, in case we should be thrown into the