« PreviousContinue »
ye have need of before ye ask him. Your Father not only knows, but compassionates all your wants and weaknesses. Hence, much speaking in prayer, with a view to inform the Deity of our wants, or to persuade him to comply with our desires, is foolish and impious, because it casts a reflection both upon
his omniscience, and upon his infinite goodness; see Isa. Ixv. 24. But it is far from being culpable, when used with a view to excite in our own minds a sense of the divine goodness, to affect us with sprrow for sin, and to beget or cherish in us a love of virtue ; valuable ends, to which a decent length and variety in prayer may be' very subservient.-9. After this manner, therefore, pray ye. The word ye is emphatical, in opposition to the heathens, who used vain repetitions in their prayers. Christ's meaning is not, that his disciples are to use the words of this prayer in all their addresses to God; for in the Acts and Epistles, we find the apostles praying in terms different from this form ; but his meaning is, that we are to frame our prayers according to this model, both in respect of matter, and manner, and style.--Our Father which art in heaven. If they are called fathers who beget children, and bring them up, Almighty God has the best right to that title from every creature, and particularly from men; being the father of their spirits, Heb. xii. 9. the maker of their bodies, and the continual preserver of both. Nor is this all : He is our father in a yet higher sense, as he regenerates us and restores his image upon our minds, so that partaking of his nature we become his children, and can with holy boldness name him by the title of that relation. In the former sense, God is the father of all his creatures, whether good or bad; but in the latter, he is the father only of such as are good. Of all the magnificent titles invented by philosophers or poets in honour of their gods, there is none that conveys so grand and so lovely an idea as this simple name of Father. Being used by mankind in general, it marks directly the essential character of the true God, namely, that he is the first cause of all things, or the author of their being; and at the same time, conveys a strong idea of the tender love which he bears to his creatures, whom he nourishes with an affection, and protects with a watchfulness, infinitely superior to that of any earthly parent whatsoever. But the name father besides teaching us that we owe our being to God, and pointing out his goodness and mercy in upholding us, expresses also his power to give us the things we ask, none of which can be more difficult than creation. Farther, we are taught to give the great God the title of Father, that our sense of the tender relation in which he stands to us may be confirmed, our faith in his power
and Compassionates all our wants.] For Oide answers to the Hebrew Jadang, which signifies not simply to know, but to know with such an affection of mind as the matter to which it is applied requires.
and goodness strengthened, our hope of obtaining what we ask in prayer cherished, and our desire of obeying and imitating him quickened; for natural reason teaches, that it is disgraceful in children to degenerate from their parents, and that they cannot commit a greater crime than to disobey the just commandments of an indulgent father. To conclude, we are directed to call him our Father, in the plural number, and that even in secret prayer, to put us in mind that we are all brethren, the children of one common parent, and that we ought to love one another with pure hearts fervently, praying not for ourselves only, but for others, that God may give them likewise daily bread, and the forgiveness of sin, and deliverance from temptation.-The words which art in heaven, do not confine God's presence to heaven, for he exists every where, but they contain a comprehensive, though short description of the divine greatness. They express God's majesty, dominion, and power, and distinguish him from those whom we call fathers on earth, and from false gods, who are not in heaven, the region of bliss and felicity, where God who is essentially present through all the universe, gives more especial manifestations of his presence, to such of his creatures as he has exalted to share with him in his eternal felicity *.-Hallowed be thy name. The name of God is a Hebraism for God himself, his attributes, and his works. To sanctify a thing, is to entertain the highest notion of it as true, and great, and good, and by our words and actions to testify that belief. Thus it is used, 1 Pet. iii. 15. Isa. viii. 13. The meaning of the petition therefore is, May thy existence be universally believed, thy perfections loved and imitated, thy works admired, thy supremacy over all things acknowledged, thy providence reverenced and confided in. May we and all men so think of the divine Majesty, of his attributes, and of his works, and may we and they so express our veneration of God, that his glory may be manifested every where, to the utter destruction of the worship of idols and devils +.-The phraseology of this and other prayers
* Erasmus's gloss on this first member of the prayer is beautiful: "Pater voca tur, ut clementem et benignum intelligatis. In cœlis esse dicitur, ut illuc sustol latis animos vestros, neglectis bonis terrenis. Vestrum appellatur, ne quis sibi proprium aliquid vindicet, cum ex unius beneficentia proficiscatur omnibus quicquid habent; et hac in parte est regum atque servorum equalitas.”
This ballaring of his name, God commands us to ask in prayer, not out of vanity, but because it is absolutely necessary to the happiness of his creatures. The heathens in general did not sanctify the name of God at all, for they had no knowledge of the one supreme God, and attributed to their deities all the infirmi ties, passions, and vices of men. Even the Jews themselves had but an imperfect idea of him, when they represented him as attached more to rites and ceremonies, and better pleased with them than with the rules of morality; and confined his goodness within the verge of a single nation, and the few proselytes that joined them, as if God had not had the least concern for the rest of mankind. There
recorded by the inspired writers, wherein the worshippers address God in the singular number, by saying thou and thy to him, is retained by all Christians with the highest propriety, as it intimateth their firm belief that there is but one God, and that there is nothing in the universe equal or second to him, and that no being whatever can share in the worship which they pay to him. -10. Thy kingdom come. By the kingdom of God, whose coming we are directed to pray for, is to be understood the Messiah's kingdom, or the gospei dispensation, because, taken in any other sense, the petition will not be distinct from that which follows, namely, Thy will be done, wherein our wishes, that the dominion of righteousness may be established in the hearts of men, are ex-pressed. Besides, we shall acknowledge this to be the meaning of the petition, if we consider that wherever the gospel is received, God may truly be said to rule even over the wicked, because they acknowledge his authority in outward profession; whereas, though he be absolute Lord of mankind, he cannot be said to govern, at least in a moral sense, those who either are ignorant of him, or do not acknowledge him. In the apostles time, a prayer for the coming of God's kingdom was altogether necessary, because the gospel dispensation was not then established in any nation; nay, it is a proper subject of the prayers of Christians still, as there are many countries in the world where the gospel is not known. The truth is, till all nations are converted to Christianity, our wishes for that happy event ought to be continued without interruption.Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In this petition, we pray not that God may do his own will, as Dr Whitby observes, nor that the will of his providence may be done upon us, neither do we pray that we may become equal to the angels in perfection, nor that God may compel us to do his will; but that, in consequence of the coming of his kingdom, or the establishment of the gospel in the world, men may be enabled to imitate the angels, by giving such a sincere, universal, and constant obedience to the divine commands, as the imperfection of human nature will adınit of. This is the most humble, as well as the most prudent wish, that it is possible for the creature to express; because it implies, that the supreme Being wills nothing but what is for the interest of his creatures, and that he
fore, as matters then stood, it was highly proper in our Lord's time to pray, that mankind might be blessed with better notions of the divine attributes. And though the face of the world be much changed in respect of knowledge since that timr, there is soill great reason to ask this very blessing, not only in behalf of the Jews and Pigans, who continue to have low and false concipiions of God, but in behalf of ans thenselves, many of whom di-honour God exceedingly, by attributing to, him their own imperfeccions and vices, imagining that he will accepe them, notwithstanding they continue in their sins.
knows better than they what is so.-11. Give us this day our * daily bread. Give us from day to day food sufficient to sustain life, and strengthen us for serving God with cheerfulness and vigour. Wherefore, since we are not allowed to ask provision for rioting and luxury, but only the necessaries of life, and that not for many years, but from day to day, the petition forbids anxious cares about futurity, and teaches us how moderate our desires of worldly things should be. And whereas not the poor only, whose industry all acknowledge must be favoured by the concurrence of providence to render it successful, but the rich are enjoined to pray for their bread day by day, it is on account of the great instability of human affairs, which renders the possession of wealth absolutely precarious; and because, without the divine blessing, even the abundance of the rich is not of itself sufficient so much as to keep them alive, far less to make them happy. Erasmus, following St Jerome and St Ambrose, takes this petition in a spiritual sense. "Ale pater quod genuisti: prospice nobis ne nos deficiat panis ille tuus doctrinæ cœlestis, ut ea quotidie sumpto confirmemur, et adolescamus, et vegetique reddamur at tua jussa perficienda."-12. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. The earth, and the fulness thereof, being the Lord's, he has a right to govern the world, and to support his government by punishing all who presume to transgress his laws. The suffering of punishment, therefore, is a debt which sinners owe to the divine justice; so that when we ask God in prayer to forgive our debts, we beg that he would mercifully be pleased to remit
Ver. 11. Daily bread.] According to the Hebrew idiom, bread signifies the whole provisions of the table. Thus (Gen. xviii. 5.) Abraham says, I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort your bearts, yet with the bread he brought butter, and milk, and the calf he had dressed. Farther, bread in the petition comprehends raiment also, with convenient habitation, and every thing necessary to life.— Commentators differ in their interpretations of the epithet added to the word bread. The fathers, Jerom and Ambrose, translate agrov Eж180109, panem supersubstantialem, by which the latter understood the bread of life, mentioned John vi. 48. necessary to sustain the substance of the soul. Amb Sacram. lib. v. Others imagine that the word #18010 may signify advenientem, bread for the time to come, bread for to-morrow, because, Acts vii. 26. în eñıyon nuɛga, signi. fies the day following, the morrow. But as 8 and 10 are different words, this interpretation may be disputed. Elsner thinks that agro o signifies here, our promised bread, the portion of good things which as God's children we have a right to by inheritance, founding his opinion on Luke xv. 12, 13. where you signifies riches, an inheritance, or such a portion of either as a father gives to any of his children. The Latin version in Jerom's time, had panem quotidianum, which rendering our translators have copied, because in the parallel passage, Luke xi. 3. το καθ' ημέραν is joined with επιεσιον. But the interpretation given of this epithet, in Etym. Mag. seems as just as any: 7185105, o 181 TE void nuwv aquo?wy, that rebich is sufficient to our life: what will strengthen us from day to day for serving God with cheerfulness and vigour.
the punishment of our sins, particularly the pains of hell; and that laying aside his displeasure, he would graciously receive us into favour, and bless us with eternal life. In this petition therefore we confess our sins, and express the sense we have of their demerit, namely, that they deserve death, than which nothing can be more proper in our addresses to God. The reason is, hu-, mility and a sense of our own unworthiness, when we ask favours of God whether spiritual or temporal, tend to make the goodness of God in bestowing them on us appear the greater; not to mention that these dispositions are absolutely necessary to make us capable of being pardoned. The condition on which we are to ask forgiveness of our sins is remarkable, forgive us as we forgive. We must forgive others in order to our being forgiven ourselves, and are allowed to crave from God only such forgiveness as we grant to others; so that if we do not pardon our enemies, we in this fifth petition seriously and solemnly beg God to damn us eternally. For which reason, before men venture into the presence of Almighty God to worship, they ought to be well assured that their hearts are thoroughly purged from all rancour and malice *.-13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; año To orgy, from the evil one, the devil. Or the clause may be translated, And lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil, either by removing the temptation itself, when it proves too hard for us, or by mitigating its force, VOL. I. 3 N
In the petition there is no express mention made of repentance, as necessary on the part of our enemies to entitle them to forgiveness, yet the nature of the petition itself, and the parable of the two servants debtors to one lord, Matt. xviii. 23. which may be considered as a commentary upon it, seem to intimate that repentance is necessary. For since we pray, forgive us our debts, as we fargive our debtors, making acknowledgment of our sins, and asking forgiveness, and since God forgives none but such as repent, the meaning of the petition certainly is, Forgive us who now confess our sins and resolve to amend, even as we forgive those who repent of the injuries they have done us. In the mean time, when we beg forgiveness of God like that wh ch we grant to men, we must beware of setting our forgiveness on an equality with God's. The most perfect forgiveness that men are capable of exercising towards men who repent, falls infinitely short of the divine forgiveness necessary to repenting sinners; as is plain from this, that in the best the flesh resists the spirit. Besides, God himself has taken notice of the difference, Hos xi 8, 9. Because I am God, and not man, &c. we only beg that the divine forgiveness may resemble ours in its reality. In this petition, therefore, we are taught the necessity of forgiving really and from the heart, all who repent of the evil they have done us. In other passages, however, the doctrine of forgiveness is carried still higher. We must love our enemies, and bless them that curse us, and do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. And with respect to those who, instead of repenting, continue to do us injuries, we must forgive them so far as to abstain from rendering evil for evil, and must do them all the good offices we would have done them had they not offended us; and even in thinking upon the injury, must endeavour, by proper considerations, to repress that aversion which the notion of an injury naturally excites. See on Matt. v. 44.