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prophet Isaiah, “ that his house shall be called a house of prayer for all people *.”. Our Saviour quotes these very words when he cast out those that polluted the temple; and was himself a constant frequenter of divine worship, both in the temple and in the synagogues. He taught his disciples (as we shall soon see) a form of prayer, which, though very proper to be used by any single person in private, yet is throughout expressed in the plural number, and adapted to the use of several persons praying at the same time. “If two of you," says he to his disciples on another occasion, “shallagree on earth touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them t.” By St. Paul we are commanded" nọt tọ forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is..." And we find, that after our Saviour's ascension his followers "continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in prayer and supplication, praising God, and having favour with all the people g." ?.. * Isaiah lvi. 7.
I Heb. x. 25. . . Matth. xvii. 19, 20. § Acts ii. 42. 47.
It is therefore incontestably clear, that our Saviour could not possibly mean to forbid that public worship which he himself practised and commanded. His intentions could only be to confine our private prayers to private places, in which we are to keep up a secret intercourse with our Maker, withdrawn from the eye of the world, and unobserved by any other than that Almighty Being to whom our petitions are addressed.
The last instance produced by our Saviour is that of fasting. “ When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast; verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
There is very little necessity to dwell ơn this precept here, for there are scarce any in these times and in this country who seem disposed to make a show of fasting, or to be ambitious of acquiring a reputation for that kind of religious discipline; on the contrary,
.. ; it it is by great numbers entirely laid aside, and too frequently treated with derision and cons : tempt. Yet from this very passage we may learn that it ought to be considered in a much more serious light; for although our Saviour did not command his disciples to fast whilst he was with them, yet he himself fasted for forty days. He here plainly supposes that his dise ciples did sometimes fast; and gives them directions how to perform that duty in a manner acceptable to God. And it appears also, that if they did so perform it, if they fasted without any ostentation or parade, with a design not to catch the applause of men, but to approve themselves to God, he assured them they should have their reward.
Before we quit this division of the chapter, we must go back a little to that admirable form of prayer which our Lord gave to his disciples, after cautioning them against ali ostentation in their devotions.
This prayer stands unrivalled in every circumstance that constitutes the perfection of prayer, and the excellence of that species of composition. It is concise, it is perspicuous, it is solemn, it is comprehensive, it is adapted
to ał ranks, conditions, and classes of men; it fixes our thoughts on a few great important points, and impresses on our minds a deep sense of the goodness and the greatness of that Almighty Being to whom it is addressed.
It begins with acknowledging him to be our most gracious and merciful Father ; it begs that his name may everywhere be reverenced, that his religion may spread over the earth, and that his will may be obeyed by men with the same ardour and alacrity and constàncy that it is by the angels in heaven. It next entreats the supply of all our essential wants, both temporal and spiritual ; a sufficiency of those things that are absolutely nea cessary for our subsistence; the forgiveness of our transgressions, on condition that we forgive our brethren; and, finally, support under the temptations that assault our virtue, and deliverance from the various evils and calamities that every where surround us; expressing at the same time the utmost trust and confidence in the power of God, to grant whatever he sees it expedient and proper for his creatures to receive.
The full meaning then of this admirable prayer, and of the several petitions contained in it, may perhaps be not improperly expressed in the following manner;. i .
O thou great Parent of the universe, our creator, our preserver and continual benefactor, grant that we and all reasonable creatures may entertain just and worthy notions of thy nature and attributes, may fear thy power, admire thy wisdom, adore thy goodness, rely upon thy truth; may reverence thy holy name, may bless and praise thee, may worship and obey thee.
Grant that all the nations of the earth may come to the knowledge and belief of thy holy religion ; that it may every where produce the blessed fruits of piety, righteousness, charity, and sobriety; that, by a constant endeavour to obey thy holy laws, we may approach, as near as the infirmity of our nature will allow, to the more perfect obedience of the angels that are in heaven; and thus qualify ourselves for entering into thy kingdom of glory hereafter. . .
Feed us, we beseech thee, with food convenient for us. We ask not for riches and ho