Page images
PDF
EPUB

doctrinal, the other more practical : and in attending to both I mean to proceed very impartially; never holding up a blind obedience, or practice without informationwhich is more law than gospel; and taking care at the same time, that no one shall catch a word of doctrine from me, if I can help it, without paying for the same in some practical purpose, or wholesome conviction-whether painful or pleasant agreeing therewith. For many like the sound of doctrine, and some will also aspire to take its meaning, which I endeavour to facilitate by a perspicuous style and method : but that would hardly seem worth while either, without the farther view to a just and enlightened practice. With practice the Word will do wonders: as it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. ALL THINGS WERE MADE BY HM: and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John i. 1, &c.) A practice directed by the Word of God is God's doing by the Word ; and the performer is hereby assimilated to God: but doctrine without doing is not the way to God. Therefore,

§ 1. Only in considering the first head proposed, which is the Nature of the Lord's Prayer, and of THE INVOCATION with which it begins more especially, I shall look chiefly to its principles without any disparagement to the form, which being worthy of such principles will find its best encomium in them. If the beauties of holy writ deserve consideration generally, specimens of the Word direct will deserve it particularly, and among these again more particularly his addresses to the Father, as worthy of the highest admiration, and of a degree of reverence approaching to worship, though they may not happen to have any particular reference to their human admirers; as that for example, when Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “ Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee,” (John xvii. 1,) with what follows to the end of the chapter. But most to be admired and revered, if not actually worshipped, is this

perfect form of words," the Lord's Prayer, as we call it.

So pregnant indeed is this divine composition, so prolific in good things, so abundant a well-spring of grace, that only in some of its single clauses we may find a perfect abstract almost of all our legitimate wishes and expectations; as will appear hereafter in the course of their separate consideration. Its two copies or versions which have been transmitted to us by the evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Luke*, have only the merest verbal difference that I am aware of, before the conclusion: and there St. Matthew's version seems to have the advantage, namely in the last clause before the Amen ; which is an elegant and appropriate doxology agreeing with the introductory clause, the invocation of which I have to speak; but still cannot be said to make any difference in the prayer, as being a doxology rather than a petition. These two forms or copies therefore are sufficiently agreed both for doctrine and practice, and for authority and use : and either might have served for the text or foundation of a commentary: but as St. Matthew's seems to be most used, and the doxology before mentioned is also extremely interesting, the same is here preferred on both accounts, namely, on account of its more frequent use as well as fuller instruction; that is in the principle of thanksgiving as well as petitioning to Almighty God, or rather in reducing both these parts to the same principles.

Now the principles of any production being congenial, if not identified, with its drift or design, that of the Lord's Prayer is clearly no less than to work a silent revolution in the moral and religious character of society; and just such a revolution as every friend of mankind is bound to desire for the good at once of society and himself, by

• If they do not differ much however in substance, they do in their in. troduction, though it does not seem worth while to pause hereon.

casting off a grievous yoke that presses on the foresaid moral and religious character or department, and restoring one that is equally delightful in the original Word of God; the same which was with him in the beginning and with man also at his creation. The divine Author of that invaluable production, though divinely instructed in the subject; for he knew all things belonging to human na. ture, and “needed not, that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man,” (John ii. 25,) had still acquired from observation and experience a very distinct perception of two or three rulers in the world, that were any thing but agreeable to its honour and happiness. Of these the gross majority, or world itself, being terribly self-willed, was one. That is; the world for one was as great an enemy to itself as any one in it, the very old devil not excepted, through its brutalizing influence upon itself and the many baneful preconceptions derived from him, and followed like an host of traitors and tyrants in opposition to the will of God. Away with the world, its prince, and them! “O Lord, our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.” (Isai, xxvi. 13.) “ Give us this day our daily bread,"—the merest pittance for our present need. “ Lead us not into temptation." “ For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (Tim. I. vi, 10.) And it may come near home to some of us by chance when we are repeating the Lord's Prayer, (especially if we should happen to think of his example too at the time, how inconsistently we are apt to behave in this respect; yielding ourselves up to the power of Mammon, it may be very freely, while we profess to dread and seemingly deprecate his influence before God. But who can be aware of the fascinating influence of this mighty despot, and how many PRETTY WAYS he has of working himself into the good graces even of those who are officially opposed to him; and among others, of some loo perhaps who may have thought themselves more averse to his upstart dominion than they proved to be upon trial ?—first-rate reformers perhaps some of them *,

Their dereliction of principle, however, can be no imputation on the excellence of the service to which they are attached; nor to the excellence and sincerity of this “perfect form of words,” its leading feature, in particular: as the same is fraught with good wishes or petitions for the glory of God and the blessing of his auspicious government upon earth, however feebly we may seem either to desire the one, or to deserve the other; the remainder of the composition being filled up with more specific requests for ourselves, as a people united under the said auspicious government; and all together including every wish that may become us in general as men and Christians. It points the way to a good will in every direction; dividing this way and that, without varying any way in principle; or receding in any instance from the Holy Spirit in which it originates. It is in substance the doctrine of doing and suffering with the mind and spirit of its Author, Christ; which is the whole “ mystery of godliness," or the secret of a Christian practice, shortly expressed. It is a miniature representation of the entire subject to which it relates; and, expanded in practice, the beginning of all its particulars, like the embryo of an animal or a plant. One might deduce the whole scheme of Christianity almost from this prayer, or only from one particular; “declaring the end, (as it is said of him,) from the beginning,” (Isai. xlvi. 10,-namely, from this one

• N.B. We ministers of Christ are all reformers by profession : but the prophet seemingly indicates a particular character of that sort, when he says in the style direct, or person of God, “ For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him : I hid me and was wroth; and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.” (Isai. Ivii. 17.) So perhaps did the apostle likewise allude to a particular character in his “ SOME" above mentioned: and we need not recur to the authority of prophets and apostles for examples of this sort.

most important point, its proper Object of worship, which is our Father in Heaven; not our frail friends, nor our pernicious enemies, nor any upstart tyrant upon earth, but our Almighty and most merciful Father in Heaven, from whose empire there the paternal and legitimate form of government is derived upon earth. Such is the Object of worship, and such the kind of discipline which this heavenly prayer respects; the God of glory, and a state of society becoming his glorious Presence.

Most frequently our wishes and expectations, which are prayers in mind, have no specific aim or object, except that which is indicated by the nature of the wish; as Mammon for wealth, the devil for malice, and the flesh for lust: but here, that is in the Lord's Prayer, we have an Object for every clause, and agreeing with the same throughout, named in the Invocation or beginning; as any one may perceive, by applying the several clauses to that One Object, remembering at the same time the relation of the subjects or suppliants accordingly to each other and to him. But my design

But my design at present is only to exemplify this agreement in a general way upon 1, the Object or Authority regarded in this beautiful prayer; 2, its Subject, the suppliants or petitioners, as for example,

1. The Object of the Lord's Prayer, or authority to which it should ascend by right, is the Supreme Being; not simply described as usual in his absolute name of God, but in his highest person or relation of Father to the subjects from highest to lowest, and from first to last : which gives a peculiar solemnity and interest to the invocation; at the same time, that in propriety it could not be otherwise, the second Person of the Godhead having included himself with the lowest of these suppliants as the first-born among many brethren, according to that by the Psalmist, “He shall call me, Thou art my Father, my God and my strong salvation: and I will make him my First born.” (Ps. Ixxxix. 27, 28.) Which is the reason, I presume, of believers addressing the Deity, as we often

« PreviousContinue »