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all men, in a general way. Our alms being thus distributed according to our ability, and the necessities of the object, without ostentation, and in secret, our munii
. I cent Father, who sees in secret, will openly reward us.
How many rich men are there in the world, who have made great and costly entertainments for their rich friends, neighbours, and relations (and if their substance be so great, that it is not felt by them, they had the more need to remember the poor); when they never so much as spare the tithe of it to them, though the poor have ten times the need of it, and though Christ says, “ When thou makest a feast, invite not thy rich friends
, for they will invite thee again ; but call the poor, lame, and the blind,” &c.
“ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men; verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” Verse 5. “ But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet
, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Verse 6.
“ But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Verse 7. “ Be not ye therefore like unto them; for your
Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask him." Verse 8.
Prayer is absolutely necessary for the being and wel. being of an inward reformed christian ; an outside formal christiarr may use the form, though unreformed; but it availeth little without reformation. And private prayer, according to Christ's rule, is effectual and rewardable, agreeable to his doctrine. He also speaks against hypocrisy, and loving to be seen of men, wich a command not to be like unto them. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet.” When we feel and are sensible of a divine call, this must of course be the right and best time (for Christ has not set us a dis
tinct hour), then we are to enter into the closet of an humble heart or mind, or some secret place in private. : This is Christ's order for particular persons in a general way; but is not intended to prevent such who are rightly concerned to pray in the public assemblies, or gathering of the church; for we have Christ for our example, who prayed openly and publicly with his disciples.
“ But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do; for they think to be heard for their much speaking.” Formal repetitions of prayer, repeated day by day, when they are not according (but contrary) to the states of those to whom they are read or repeated, must needs be vain, and people may vainly make use of the Lord's own form in that case (though it is the best in the world), and to think to be heard for their much speaking, is to run into the error of the heathen.
6 Be not ye (says Christ) therefore like unto them; for your Fa. ther knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Prayer is a gift from God, and from Christ, and as we wait on God in Christ's name and power, he will give us that gift, when he sees we stand in need of it, or it will be for our edification. For he has promised to pour out the spirit of prayer, and of supplication, upon his people. And our great apostle said, “ If he prayed, he would pray with the spirit.” In another place he says, “ We know not what we should pray for, as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Likewise the same apostle says, “ The spirit also helpeth our infirmities. Those had not found out the way of reading prayers unto the people in common, neither of making of them; though it will be acknowledged that it had as much of the mind of Christ, as any of our modern prayer makers or sayers; and since there is no form like that of Christ's, it is here set down, that people might take diligent care to learn it, and to teach it to their children. But if they learn it rightly, they must also learn to live in it: that is, live according to it; otherwise they will mock, instead of serving him, who made both it and them for his own honour, and the glory of his name.
“ After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Verse 9.
Thy kingdom come: thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Verse 10.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Verse 11.
“ And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Verse 12.
“ And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Verse 13.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your hearenly Father will also forgive you.” Verse 14.
“ But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Verse 15.
A short form, and but few words, but of excellent composition. And truly happy are those, who live so in their conversation, that they may, when they use them, do it without falsehood, or deceit; enjoying the answer of peace in the practice of them, and the sense of grace influencing the soul.
Ist. “ Our Father who art in heaven.” The great Creator is indeed our Universal Father, hath made us all, and all nations, of one blood; but there is another, a nearer relation than this, to be a child of God by regeneration; for otherwise, if we live in an unregenerate state, in our natural sins and lusts, all which are of satan, then Christ says, “ Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do;" a strong reason ; but in another place, “ Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” It is into this relation that the soul ought to come, that can truly and religiously say, “Our Father,” &c. .
2d. « Hallowed be thy name.” Do we sanctify the holy name of the God of the whole earth? Do we religiously observe to fear and serve him? Do we profane his awful name, by taking it in vain, and living
in sin and vanity? Which, instead of hallowing and sanctifying his name, is to dishonour and reproach it on our part, though he will hallow and honour his own name in justice and judgement, on profane and ungodly livers, at the last day, when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead by Jesus Christ; God will not be mocked; such as every one sows, such shall they reap, whether sin unto death, or righteousness unto life.
3d. “ Thy kingdom come.” His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. Happy souls! who seek the rightcousness of it betimes, and continue in it to the end. If this kingdom come, satan's (which is a kingdom of sin and unrighteousness) must needs fall.
Oh! that the rising generation might be strong to overcome the wicked one, and to be instruments to pull down his kingdom, and promote the kingdom of God, and his Christ; and if we do not believe that satan's power and kingdom may and ought to be destroyed in us, how can we pray without hypocrisy for the coming of God's holy kingdom? Believing we must live and die in sin, is a great support to satan's kingdom, and a great hindrance of the coming of the kingdom of the dear Son of God.
4th. “ Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Most certainly the will of God is punctually and perfectly done in heaven: hardly any who makes use of this blessed form but believes it; but this is the misery of many souls, to believe it not possible for them to do God's will here on earth, as it is done in heaven. So that such pray in unbelief, or without a true faith ; 'as the apostle says, “ What is not of faith is sin.” Is it not also a kind of charging Christ with commanding that which cannot be done? It is worthy our sedate consideration. He hath sown grace, and ought in justice to reap it from all mortals. The great sower, Christ, sows in all sorts of men or grounds: the grace of God appears to all men, and teaches them to deny ungodli. ness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in the present world. But antichrist teaches that it cannot be done here on earth as in heaven.
5th. “Give us this day our daily bread.” We not being capable, without his blessing, of procuring our bodies or souls bread, either natural or supernatural; and because our souls cannot live without the last, no more than our bodies without the first, therefore we ought to pray to our heavenly and most holy Father for both, without doubting: and this should be done daily, either in words, holy sighing, or spiritual groans, the Almighty knowing the language of the soul in the one, as well the other. 6th. “ Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Or, as one of the evangelists hath it,
“ Our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us :" which is to the same end and purpose. For if a debtor is indebted to us, and happens, through some accident or other, to be insolvent, and hath not wherewith to pay, we are to forgive him, else how can we expect God to forgive
For we are all his debtors, and have nothing (that we can call our own, in a religious way) to pay that great debt, which we owe to him, our mighty creditor ; who might lawfully cast us into an eternal jail. But, Oh! his infinite mercy and love is very great to us, poor mortals : and he would have us to imitate him, and forgive one another, as we expect he should forgive us. And since offences and trespasses will come, we must forgive, and the more freely, when the person offending sues, by humble petition, to the offended for it. Then if we forgive not, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses.
7th. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil; for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
That is to lead us into truth and righteousness, which is the same with leading us out of sin, and out of temptation : for we pray to be led out of it, by praying not to be led into it: seeing we are not to understand that the Almighty will tempt any man to evil. “ If (says the apostle) any man is tempted, let him not say that he is tempted of God, for God tempteth no man, but he is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust."