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Oar most fervent prayers, the devoutest breathings of our souls, must not only be purged from that defilement which cleaves to them, but even in their greatest purity, they must be offered up in his censer, in order to their acceptance, and can only ascend by the incense of his sacrifice.
It sliould therefore be our first care, in all our approaches to the throne of grace, to solicit the favour of this powerful Mediator, and to procure his friendly interposition in our behalf; and then we shall have no cause to dread a repulse; for his intercession is, and must be, always prevalent. The dignity of his person, his relation to the Father, and especially the perfection of that sacrifice upon which his intercession is founded, effectually secure acceptance to us; so that if once we are fully persuaded that our requests are framed according to his will, we need have no distrustful anxiety about their success, for he will enforce them with all the merit of his own blood; and therefore we may confidently hope to obtain what we ask, in that time and way which unerring Wisdom sces best for us: “For tliis," says the apostle John, “is the confidence which we have in the Son of God, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he heareth us, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him." 1 John v. 14, 15.
This, my brethren, is an abundant source of consolation and joy; and though our desires are limited to such things as are agreeable to the will of our Redeemer; yet by this very limitation our comfort is extended, and prayer becomes a privilege of infinitely greater value than otherwise it would be. An unconfined liberty in our addresses to God would, in most cases (to such ignorant and unthinking creatures as we are) amount to potb
ing better than the choice of the means and manner of our own destruction. (Eccl. vi. 12.) “ For who knoweth what is good for a man in this life :" Whereas our glorious High Priest, who is perfectly acquaioted with our state, can never be at a loss to know what is good for os; and the costly proofs he hath already given of his mercy and love, leave us no room to suspect his concern for our welfare. The least reflection on his sufferings may easily convince us, that he sincerely intends our happiness, and can disapprove of nothing but what is hurtful to our interest. Neither hath he left it to the uncertain conjectures and doubtful reasonings of our own minds, to find out what is agreeable to him; this is clearly revealed to us in the holy Scriptures: and to ren. der the discovery of it still more easy to us, be hath fur. nished us with a short but perfect model of devotion in this comprehensive prayer which he taught his disciples; by attending to which, we may learn from his own mouth after what manner we should address the throne of grace, and what ought to be the matter and order of our desires. Hereby the surest foundation is laid for our confidence and hope; and whatever is ac. cording to this divine pattern, we may ask with full assurance of faith, being confident that he who hath se. cured for us all the blessings which we need, will certainly listen to those desires which he himself hatb excited and authorised. “And if we know that he heareth us," we may from thence certainly conclude, “ that we shall have the petitions we desired of him."
I shall not detain you with any account of the several parts of this excellent prayer, nor the particular design for which our Lord introduced it in this sermon: Only, to make way for the instructions I propose to lay before you on this occasion, I shall observe in general,
That prayer is not only an acknowledgment of our dependance upon God for the blessings we ask, but it likewise imports a sincere resolution on our part to put ourselves in the way of those blessings, and to use all proper means for obtaining them. Thus, when we pray for daily bread, we do not mean, that God should indulge our idleness, and feed us in a miraculous way; but only, that he would countenance our honest endeavours, and prosper them by his blessing, which alone maketh rich. In like manner, when we pray, as in my text, that the kingdom of God may come, we certainly intimate our own consent to be employed as instruments in carrying on this design, and must be understood as binding and obliging ourselves, by this petition, to do every thing in our sphere that may contribute to promote it.
Accordingly, I shall endeavour, in dependance upon the divine aid,
First. To explain and illustrate the petition itself. And,
Secondly. To show what may reasonably be expected from us in consequence of our using it. Or rather indeed, what is absolutely necessary to prove that we are siocere, when we thus pray " thy kingdom come.”
Ir is scarcely to be supposed, that any who read their Bibles, can be ignorant of what is here meant by the 0 kingdom of God. This form of speech was very com
16 mon among the Jews, especially about the time of our Saviour's appearance; and was used by them, to signify that grand revolution foretold in ancient prophecy which was to be brought about by the Messiah, their
IN long expected king. Thus we find the Pharisees (Luke xvii. 20.) inquiring " when the kingdom of God should come;" that is, as the context explains it, when the reign
of the Messiah should commence. And John the Baptist proclaimed the approach of this glorious Person in the same style; saying, “ Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matth. iii. 2. There are several other passages in the New Testament, where the same phrase occurs; from which it doth still more plainly appear, that by the “ kingdom of God” is meant the gospel-dispensation, in which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son as the reconciling Mediator, and by bim formed into a church or spiritual kingdom, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail ; which is to
; subsist on earth, and enlarge itself in spite of all opposition, till at length it shall become perfect in heaven, and triumph in eternal glory.
Now, this kingdom is either External, comprehend ing all who make an open profession of faith in Christ, and submit to the ordinances which he hath instituted; or Internal, consisting in that dominion which he exercises over the hearts of his subjects, converting them by his grace to the faith and obedience of the gospel, enlightening their minds, renewing their wills, and purifying their affections; filling them with “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Gbost;" that is, with true Christian virtue, and all the blessed fruits and ef. fects of it. And no doubt the petition respects both these views of the kingdom of God: for though the last, viz. the dominion of grace in the heart, or the dominion of God within us, is beyond comparison the most valuable of the two, and therefore chiefly to be desired by us; yet, as the kingdom is introduced and established by means of the ordinances which Christ hath appointed, we ought likewise to be much concerned for the preservation and enlargement of the visible churcb, or that external king
dom within which these ordinances are dispensed, and to pray for the one in order to the other.
So that this petition may be considered as directing us to pray for these following things:
1st. That the gospel may be propagated throughout the world, and all nations brought to the knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.
It appears from the prophetic writings of the Old Teg. tament, that no less than universal dominion was, pro. mised to the Lord Redeemer. 6 Ask of me," says God, (Psal. ii. 8.) “and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” It was foretold, (Psal. Ixxii. 8, 11, 17.) “ That his dominion should reach from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth; yea, that all kings should bow down before him, and all nations should serve him; that men should be blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed.” And that remarkable passage (Dan. vii. 13, 14.) is a clear and express declaration on this head. “I saw," says the Prophet, " in the night visions, and bebold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the An. cient of Days, and they brought him near before bim; and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” Now, it is evident, that the extent of his kingdom doth not yet equal these magnificent descriptions of it. There are still many dark corners of the earth upon which the Sun of Righteousness hath never arisen; others, which were once visited with his healing and comforting light, have had their candlestick long remov. ed; and the Jews, whose return to their own Messiah sball so remarkably enrich the church, and give such