Page images

not now, as it was at first, liable to be all lost for the fault of one; but, to be all saved, if it will, for one's worth. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous; that, as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord;" (Rom. v. 19, 21;) which is by the eternal Word. So David says again, "The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing." (Ps. xxiii. 1.) And the Lord says himself, "I am the door of the sheep. I am the door: by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. -I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. -My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (John x. 9, &c.)

§ 2. Encouragements like these may induce us, I say, to hope for a more lasting continuance and enjoyment in life under the Second. Man, or Last Adam, than could ever have been under the first, more under the Word that was made flesh, than in any flesh besides, "For all flesh is as grass; and all the glory of man, as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever." (Pet. I. i. 24, 25.) We find indeed, 1, opposed to these encouragements some trifling Difficulties in our text as well as elsewhere; also, 2, some striking Evidences in favour of such encouragements and the general doctrine of the Lord's Prayer: which taken together, namely, the difficulties and evidences, will constitute the argument of its Affirmation, or Amen: and be a great help, if it serve to counterbalance the natural hesitation before alluded to; that we may be able to say "Amen!" with all our heart

to this KINGDOM PRAYER, or Prayer of the Kingdom, if I may be allowed so to call it by way of eminence. Wherefore,

1. As a specimen of Objections probably occurring or likely to occur, on our text, I shall mention

1, One relating to the Acknowledgement in this text at the conclusion of the Prayer of an accident that is prayed in the beginning. For on praying first, "Thy Kingdom come," and then acknowledging its presence, as if it was come, so soon after, it may be thought whether such a change as this can ever have taken place in the world, or in any single epitome of the same, like one of us; namely, as to enter, or be entered by, the Kingdom of God, which is what I understand by its coming, in so short a space of time as the Lord's Prayer, or the part only between these two clauses, will take in repeating. This may appear very sudden and abrupt to those who have not considered the way of the Spirit, however it may appear to those who have let me, therefore, be allowed a word or two by way of explanation on that head.

-1, In the first place, then, the coming of the Kingdom to us, and its entering us, or our entering it, are two very different occurrences. The Kingdom of God may come, and be so near to us, that it shall seem almost as if we could touch it, without coming any farther; as it happened to a scribe for once, who, as we read, was "not far from the Kingdom of God:" (Mark xii. 34:) but we do not read of his entering it.

-2, In the next place, the acknowledgment and petition here compared relate to different accidents, which are a transitive and a substantive, and as different as coming and standing still, if not as presence and absence: and in that respect, there can be no contradiction between the said acknowledgment and petition. Or,

-3, Even admitting their relation to one fact, such as the Kingdom of God both coming and being here at the same instant; which is quicker than thought, there can

be no reason set up against the Word of Omnipotence effecting so sudden an alternation between the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; or at least, that the Kingdom of God may be come and to remain for ever with any one at the moment of asking. "For (our Saviour tells us) every one that asketh receiveth; (Matt. vii. 8;) not shall receive: so that it seems very probable. And when could there be a more suitable opportunity for receiving the Kingdom of God, than while a man was praying for the same, and so very intent upon it? "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (Cor. II. vi. 2.)

But, as for the existence of this Kingdom, the Kingdom of God in Christ: which seems the real, and perhaps only meaning of the acknowledgment, "For thine is the Kingdom," I thank God, it does not depend on our prayers to be, if it take this mean for one, to bless us with its presence.

And for another thing may we also be thankful,—that "the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation:" (Luke xvii. 20:) so. there is no running away from it. The coming of the Kingdom of God is, from its silent effect," as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that, the full corn in the ear." (Mark iv. 26, &c.) These are our Saviour's own words. For if we cannot see the corn or seed grow, we can how it is grown, with a little patience; if we cannot observe or discover the process, we may be sensible of the effect. And I trust that they who are aware of what I have formerly * remarked on the intromissive order of the spiritual Kingdom,

* In Christian Modes, Vol. I. p. 24.

and they who may only be enough acquainted with the kingdoms of Nature to have observed the same as now intimated--that they, I say, may be able to comprehend so far the manner in which the Kingdom comes, and is regularly developed. It is, as it were, first by the expanding of a seed in the earth, then, by the unfolding and progress of its root, buds, branches, flowers, and fruits: which seem to spring again from the gross earth, and one out of another continually by the word of God,-no man, nor angel either, perhaps, knows how, into infinite space,the sphere in which it all originated. "It is like a grain of mustard seed (particularly): which a man took, and sowed in his field: which is indeed the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." (Matt. xiii. 31, 32.) The grain of mustard seed was in the earth, and no where else before it was sown, or even grown: the Kingdom of God was in the world, and no where else but there, and with him as soon as the world began: but, as the seed is now a new integral existence; so is the Kingdom of God to every several subject among us to whom it comes by the Word of his grace, with prayer and sacraments, and faith, and charity, and such other means of grace as he is pleased to appoint.

2, Therefore with respect to ever praying for what must always be of itself, whether we pray or no; as the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, or of light and love -being the same with God and righteousness; which seems another difficulty; it must be remembered that we pray relatively for ourselves also in conjunction with these objects, that we may be one with them, namely, with love and righteousness, and they with us; as our Saviour prays the Father for his disciples, "That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.-I in them, and thou in me, that we may be made perfect in one;



and that the world may know, that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John xvii. 21, 23.) We do not pray absolutely for the Kingdom of God, which ruleth over all, (Ps. ciii. 19,) and is independently of all for ever and ever; but relatively for that to rule in our hearts for ever: that is, in your hearts and mine; my brethren, and in all our friends; and in those who are not our friends, that they may be such; much more in the hearts of those who are not so good friends with our highest friend as they should be; that they "also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." (John I. i. 3.)

3, Lastly; it may be considered: but that is not an objection; if it be indeed even a question of much difficulty, Whether, understanding the Prayer of the Kingdom, as I lately called it, to be so perfect in itself, that there can be nothing wanting to it, nor any room therein for improvement,—whether it may be considered, that the Author of this most perfect prayer intended by saying to his disciples, "After this manner, therefore, pray ye," that they should use the very words which he then repeated to them-the matter, as we may say, of the address; or only to adopt its spirit? To which it may be answered, that of these two elements, namely, matter and spirit, or the wording and meaning of our pattern-prayer, or of any of its derivatives, the spirit or meaning is most considerable, there can be no doubt: there can hardly be two opinions of the spiritual part being the principal, if we may be enabled to make an offering of the spirit to the throne of grace, with the same filial reverence in which it was conceived; making such spirit the standard of our religious feelings and sentiments, or our measure, as I may say, in that respect. At the same time, every one must own the importance of the matter or expression as a vehicle for the spirit or meaning, and as a mean likewise to perpetuate the existence of the same among us.

« PreviousContinue »