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beauty or glory to them. It is natural, indeed, for man to be fond of, and pleased with, those ordinances, which take their rise from himself; but God, who is jealous for the purity of his own worship, can in no wise approve of them, and they are so far from advancing Christ's kingdom, that God reckons it no other than setting our threshold by his thresholds, and our post by his, which he calls a defiling his holy name, by the abominations which they herein commit, which will be the ground and reason of his consuming them in his anger, Ezek. xliii. 8. Therefore, we are to pray, that whatever intrudes itself into any branch of the worship of God, as not receiving any warrant or sanction from himself, may be removed out of the way, that hereby his church may be reformed, and its destruction prevented.
(6.) We are to pray, that the church may be encouraged by civil magistrates, that their government may be subservient to Christ's spiritual kingdom; that, according to God's promise, kings may be its nursing fathers, and their queens its nursing mothers, Isa. xlix. 23. that, by this means, it may have peace and safety, and not be exposed, as it has often been, to the rage and fury of persecuting powers; and also, that magistrates may be guardians, not only of the civil, but religious liberties of their subjects, which is necessary to complete the happiness of a nation, and bring down many blessings from God upon it. We are also to pray, that God would not only incline them to advance religion, by rendering the administration of civil government, subservient thereunto, but that, by a steady adherence to it themselves, they may strengthen the hands of the faithful, and encourage many others to embrace it: And if, on the other hand, they are disposed to exercise their power, in such a way, as tends to the discountenancing religion, and weakening the hands of those who profess it; we are to pray, that God would over-rule their counsels, and incline them to deal favourably with those who desire stedfastly to adhere to it.
(7.) We are taught, in this petition, to pray, that the means of grace may be made effectual to the converting of sinners, and to the confirming, comforting, and building up of believers; that a great and effectual door may be opened for the success of the gospel, and that it may come not in word only, but also in power, 1 Thess. i. 3. so that, by this means, the Lord would be pleased to add to the church daily, such as shall be saved, that hereby Christ's government, or spiritual kingdom, may be promoted in the hearts of his people, and they enabled to testify a ready and willing subjection to his authority, and yield obedience to him, with all the powers and faculties of their souls.
(8.) We are to pray for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, at his second and glorious coming; when the work of grace shall be brought to its utmost perfection; and all the elect, who shall have lived from the beginning to the end of time, shall be gathered together, and brought into Christ's kingdom of glory, as they have formerly been into his kingdom of grace, when the highest honours shall be conferred upon them, and they shall reign with him for ever and ever. As the church, under the Old Testament-dispensation, prayed that Christ's kingdom of grace might come, viz. be adminis tered, as it has been, and now is, under the gospel-dispensation, and, as it is expressed, that he would be like a roe, or like a young hart upon the mountains of Bether, Cant. ii. 17. or, that the desire of all nations would fill his house with glory: So the New Testament-church is represented as praying, that Christ would come quickly, according to his promise, Rev. xxii. 20. and put a final period to every thing that has had a tendency to detract from the glory of his kingdom, or the happiness of his subjects; and, in order hereunto, we must pray, that the elect, who are Christ's mystical body, may be gathered, and brought in to him; and then we may be sure that he will hasten his coming. And, till this is done, we are to wait patiently, as the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, in the desired harvest, James v. 7. and, in the mean time, we are to pray, that he would be pleased to exert his power, and make the dispensations of his providence in the world, conducive to answer these ends, and more particularly, with respect to ourselves; that hereby we may have, not only an habitual, but an actual meetness for the heavenly kingdom; that when our Lord shall come, we may not be like those virgins mentioned in the parable, who all slumbered and slept, Matt. xxv. 5. but, upon the first alarm, may go out to meet him with joy and triumph; and, as an evidence hereof, that we may be enabled to walk as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, or, as those who desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, Heb. xi. 13, 16. and that we may keep up an intercourse with Christ, that we may be ready to entertain him with de light and pleasure, whenever he comes; that when he, who is our Life, our Hope, and Saviour, as well as our King, shall appear, we may appear with him in glory. Thus concerning the administration of Christ's Kingly government, as the subject-matter of this petition: And, that we may be farther assisted in directing our prayers to God agreeable thereunto, we may consider his children as addressing themselves to him to this purpose: "We adore and magnify thee, O God our Sa"viour, as the Governor of the world; who dost according to
<<thy will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants " of the earth. Thy power is irresistible, and thy works won
derful: But it is matter of the highest astonishment, that thou should exercise that gracious government, in which << thou condescendest to be called the King of saints. What is man, that thou shouldst thus magnify him, and set thine heart upon him; that they, whom thou mightest have dealt <with as traitors, and enemies to thy government, and, as “such, have ruled them with a rod of iron, and broken them
in pieces, like a potter's vessel, should be admitted to par"take of the privileges which thou art pleased to bestow on "thy servants and subjects! Thou hast often invited us, by "holding forth thy sceptre of grace, to come and acknowledge "thee to be our Lord and Sovereign; but our hearts have "been filled with rebellion against thee. We have served "divers lusts and pleasures, and been in confederacy with "hell and death, yielding ourselves slaves to Satan, thine "avowed enemy: But now, we desire to cast ourselves down "before thy foot-stool; and, while we stand amazed at thy "clemency, we accept of the overture of a pardon which "thou hast made in the gospel, with the greatest thankful"ness, accounting it our highest privilege, as well as our in"dispensable duty, to be thy subjects. Write thy law, we "beseech thee, in our hearts; bring down every high thought "and imagination, which sets itself against thine interest, and "make us entirely willing to be thy servants, devoted to thy "fear. We also beg, that thou wouldst take to thyself thy "great power and reign. Let Satan's kingdom be destroyed, "thy gospel propagated throughout the world. May thine "ancient people, the Jews, who now refuse that thou shouldst "reign over them, be called and inclined to own thee as their "King; and may the dark parts of the earth see thy salvation. "Reform thy churches; let them be constantly supplied with "those who shall go in and out before them, and shall feed "them with knowledge and understanding. May they be "purged from those corruptions which are a reproach to thy <6 government; let not the commandments of men be received, "instead of thine holy institutions; may thine ordinances be "purely dispensed, that thy people may have ground to hope "for thy presence therein; and may they be made effectual for "the converting of sinners, and establishing thy saints in their "holy faith. And let all the dispensations of thy providence "in the world, have a tendency to advance thy kingdom of grace, that, as thou hast, in all ages, appeared in the behalf of thy church and people; so it may be preserved and carried 16 through all the difficulties that it meets with, and be secured
"from the attempts of thine enemies against it, till they who rejoice in thy government here, shall be received into thy heavenly kingdom hereafter."
QUEST. CXCII. What do we pray for in the third petition?
ANSW. In the third petition, [which is, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven] acknowledging that, by nature, we, and all men, are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God, but prone to rebel against his word, to repine and murmur against his providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the Devil: We pray, that God would by his Spirit, take away from ourselves and others, all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart, and by his grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to his will in all things, with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven.
OR the understanding of this petition, we must enquire,
I. What is meant by the will of God, and how it is said to be done by us. We have, under a foregoing answer, considered, that this is distinguished into his secret and revealed will, and shewn that as the former of these is the reason of his own actings, and determines the event of things; the latter is what we are more especially concerned about, as it is a rule of duty to us. It is also farther distinguished into his perceptive and providential will; the former of which we are to obey; the Jatter, to admire, submit to, and be well pleased with: Accordingly, when we pray, Thy will be done, we desire, that his laws might be obeyed, and thereby his universal dominion, and right to govern the world, practically acknowledged; and that, by this means, sin might be prevented, and this earth might not become so much like hell as it would be, in this method, which God has taken to direct our actions, and give a check to our corruptions, were wholly disregarded by us. When we consider God as the Creator of man, the next idea we have of him is, that he exercises his dominion and sovereignty in giving laws to him; which he is under a natural obligation to obey; otherwise he disowns himself to be a creature, or a subject, which is the highest affront that can be offered to the divine Majesty, and exposes him to that punishment which is due to those who are found in open rebellion against him: This is
* See Vol. I. Quest. xii. p. 471.
:what we are to pray against in this petition, in which there is something supposed, namely, (a)
(a) It has beeen said, that there cannot be any reason or motive to pray, or make any petition, to an unchangeable God, whose design cannot be altered, and who has fixed all events, without a possibility of any change.
Before any attempt is made to remove this objection, and supposed difficulty, it must be observed, that it equally lies against the foreknowledge of God. For if God certainly foreknows every thing that will take place, then every event is fixed and certain, otherwise it could not be foreknown. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." He has determined, and passed an unchangeable decree, with respect to all that he will do to eternity. Upon the plan of the objection under consideration, it may be asked, What reason or motive can any one have to ask God to do any thing for him, or any one else, since he infallibly knows from the beginning what he will do, and therefore it is unalterably fixed? Therefore if it be reasonable to pray to an omniscient God, it is equally reasonable to pray to an unchangeable God. For the former necessarily implies the latter. But in order to show that the objection is without foundation, the following things must be observed.
1. If God were not omniscient and unchangeable, and had not foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, he would not be the proper object of worship, and there would be no foundation, reason, or encouragement to make any petition to him.
This, it is presumed, will be evident to any one who will well consider the following observations.
First. If there were no unchangeable, omniscient Being, there would be no God, no proper object of worship. A being who is capable of change, is necessarily imperfect, and may change from bad to worse, and even cease to exist, and therefore could not be trusted. If we could know that such a being has existed, and that he was once wise, and good, and powerful, we could have no evidence that he would continue to be wise or good, or that he is so now, or that he is now disposed to pay any regard to our petitions, or is either willing or able to grant them; or even that he has any existence. What reason of encouragement then can there be to pray to a changeable being? Surely none at all. Therefore, if there be no reason to pray to an unchangeable God, there can be no reason to pray at all.
Secondly. If God be infinitely wise, and good, and omnipotent, supreme and independent; then he certainly is unchangeable, and has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. This has been proved above, or rather is self-evident. But if he be not infinitely wise and good, &c. then he cannot be trusted; he cannot be the object of that trust and confidence which is implied, and even expressed, in praying to him.
Thirdly. The truly pious, benevolent, devout man would not desire, or even dare, to pray to God for any thing, if he were changeable, and disposed to alter his purpose and plan, in order to grant his petitions. Therefore he never does pray to any but an unchangeable God, whose counsel stands forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations. He is sensible that he is a very imperfect creature; that his heart, his will, is awfully depraved and sinful; that he knows not what is wisest and best to be done in any one instance; what is best for him, for mankind in general, for the world, or for the universe; what is most for the glory of God, and the greatest general good; and that it would be infinitely undesirable and dreadful to have his own will regarded so as to govern in determining what shall be done for him or any other being, or what shall take place. If it could be left to him to determine in the least instance, he would not dare to do it, but would refer it back to God, and say, “Not my will, but thine be done." But he could not do this, unless he were certain that the will of God was unchangeably wise and good, and that he had decreed to do what was most for his own glory, and the greatest good of the whole; at the