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LUKE XI. 2.
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
T was always a matter of great uncertainty
and perplexity, even in the most enlightened parts of the heathen world, in what way men should address their devotions to the supreme Governor of the universe, under whatever forms they conceived him to exist. Without a guide to direct their footsteps, and without light to refine and illuminate their conceptions, they wandered amidst doubts and shadows; some times raised to the visionary elevations of a blind enthusiasm, at other times sinking into the dark abyss of despair, and, at all times, the sport of every gale of novelty, the prey of every vain phantom of delusion.
In such a state, therefore, we cannot wonder to find them breaking out into the tender language of the prophet of old: "Wherewith shall "I come before the Lord, and bow myself be"fore the high God?"--earnestly, as it were, calling out for somebody to take them by the hand, and to direct those devotions which they were willing, but knew not how, to direct aright to the throne of God. Nor, for the same reason, can we wonder to find them flying to every species of superstition, which a fearful, or a fanciful imagination dictated. The uncertainty of all expedients, led them to try every expedient. And hence arose that multitude and variety of ritual institutions, sacrifices, and oblations, which overspread the earth ;—the infliction of corporal austerities, the libations from the pure elements, -the rivers of oil,—the blood of slain beasts,and the more shocking and detestable rites of those, who offered their sons and daughters unto devils, the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. And from this same perplexing uncertainty it was, that the admirable Socrates, who strongly felt and owned the necessity of some superior guide to carry him through the whole of his duty, declared it to his noble pupil Alcibiades, as a matter of the greatest joy and consolation," that, in due time, a divine person "should come into the world, who, out of his
care and tender regard to mankind, should remove all their doubts, disperse all darkness, "and fully instruct them how to present their prayers and praises and religious offerings, to "the supreme Being, in a pure and acceptable "manner."
This remarkable prediction of a wise and good heathen, we have the happiness to have seen fully accomplished, in the person of our divine Master, who came down from heaven to shew us the infallible way thither, and who has taught us to direct all our petitions thither, with full assurance of success, in that admirable form of prayer which he left behind him, as the rule, the pattern, and the ground-work of all our addresses to God. It is, therefore, with great joy and consolation, that every Christian can pray to his Father in heaven; since he is assured, that he speaks in a language acceptable to him, and utters no requests, but such as are fit to be made known unto God.
The first petition we are taught to present to him, is that contained in my text, Hallowed be thy name.
And, indeed, we cannot but remark, that there is a peculiar fitness and propriety in thus beginning
beginning our address to God, with expressing our zeal for his glory and majesty. For if we are, in truth, the children of God, it will be our first duty to consider and promote the advancement of our Father's honour.-Nor would it be decent or becoming to solicit temporal blessings for ourselves, in preference to the veneration of his great and adorable name, from whom those blessings are all derived. The Apostle, therefore, very fitly tells us, "seek ye first the king"dom of God, and his righteousness;" both as being the most decent, and also the most likely way, of obtaining temporal blessings.
After this remark, I shall consider,
First, What is meant by hallowing the name of God; and,
Secondly, What are the sentiments and duties suggested to us, from the use of this petition.
To hallow signifies properly, to separate and set apart, or to regard, as holy.
In the former of these senses, God is said, in scripture, to hallow the sabbath-day; that is, to separate and set it apart as a holy day, peculiarly appropriated to himself, and to the exercise of
those religious duties which he commanded. And, in the latter sense, men are commanded to hallow the sabbath; that is, to regard and use it as holy, by a strict observation of those holy purposes for which the sabbath was instituted.
And we shall see a very clear necessity for attending to this distinction, if we consider the. word as applied to God, or to his creatures. For, as applied to God, it certainly cannot imply a wish, that he may be set apart or made holy, who is in himself essentially holy, and the fountain of all holiness in others: we can only mean by it, to express our own veneration and regard for his sovereign majesty, and essential purity, and our devout wishes, that his transcendent holiness may every where be known, and admired that all the nations of the world may adore him; and that his name, which is great, wonderful, and holy, may every where be duly reverenced and acknowledged.
As applied to his creatures, whether things or persons, it expresses only a designation and application to religious uses: and, in this sense, the petition will imply our wish, that whatever belongs, or is dedicated, more immediately to God and his service, may be treated with reverence and decency, not as having any intrinsic holiness