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giveness; and a condition, without which, we confess ourselves not fit recipients of the benefit.
Prayer for the forgiveness of sin, implies the sense of responsibility to divine justice, for the commission of it. And this is more pointedly expressed in the passage, as it stands in one of the evangelists; which, for “trepasses,” has “ debts;” thus explicitly acknowledging, that we are under the debt of obedience to the sovereignty of God; and in the failure of payment, under the debt of punishment to his justice. This petition ought to be used by Christian people, under a due apprehension, on the one hand, of the deadly nature of sin, as an alienation of the soul from God, and an exposing to his righteous judgments, and on the other hand, of the only ground of the forgiveness of it, in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ; concerning whom “it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that he came into the world to save sinners.”*
The condition to which we acknowledge ourselves bound in every repetition of the Lord's Prayer, is the forgiving of the trespasses of others, against ourselves. And this is a very serious consideration; since without a compliance with the condition, we declare our approbation of the denial of the benefit, and our submission to the loss of it.
The forgiveness of our neighbour is not to be understood in such a sense, as would forbid punishment by the magistrate, or be injurious to just au• thority of any sort; because whatever is done in this way, has for its object not revenge, but the sustaining of order and good morals, in publick and in private life.
Neither does the duty exact, that we take no note of a difference in the dispositions and the characters of people; and under this, of any knowledge which
• 1 Tim. i. 15.
may have been the fruit of our own sorrowful experience. But it is an unlimited prohibition of revenge; and of whatever feelings would either prevent our good offices, when they might otherwise be rea. sonably expected; or dispose us to be gratified by any incident of misfortune, or of mortification.
These are positions, which apply to serious injuries: And it is hardly necessary to add, how much they aggravate the harbouring of a vindictive sense of what more commonly occur in life-Offences taken at what touches vanity, more than either fortune or reputation; or at what, if it may reasonably be expected to be wounding to the feelings, would be better opposed by consistency of character, than by such a degree of susceptibility, as indicates there being somewhere a defect.
If we have need of divine mercy for the past; we have also need of divine grace, in relation to the future. Therefore the prayer goes on to say—“And lead us not into temptation." This word admits of a twofold sense: First, as the same with probation or trial. In this sense, the whole course of providence, sets before us a continued test of the stability of our virtue: And the supposition of the divine administration in this respect, cannot be the object of the petition. It is the matter in the view of St. James, where he exhorts—“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”* He alludes to the persecutions, then incident to Christians: And the only point of view in which he could have considered them as a cause of joy, was the connexion in which they were seen with the fortitude, which divine grace administered for the sustaining of them.
The other sense of the word, is as a suasion to sin. Agreeably to this distinction, the same apostle enjoins "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God."* But although God does not tempt us, the devil may; through the medium of our corruptions, and by presenting the images of suitable objects to create them. Still, what can be done in this way, is not force, but suasion. And it will hold invariably true, when the same apostle Says—“Resist the devil, and he will fee from you.”+
* 1. 2.
The praying against temptation, implies care to avoid it; and is especially inconsistent with a voluntary exposure to its assaults. It will be sure to overtake us in the path of duty; but when we go in quest of it, the present petition may be uttered by the lips, but cannot be the language of the heart, It is worse than mere form, and amounts to mockery of God; when we throw temptation in the way of others, while we pray to be delivered from it ourselves.
From temptation—the mean of evil-the prayer proceeds to this itself: “But deliver us from evil:” Some have contended, that the proper translation would be “ from the evil one.” But the original, al. though it sometimes denotes this, has also a more indefinite signification, as where it is said " I say unto you, that ye resist not evil;"I which seems the best suited to the comprehensive nature of this prayer.
Still, a prominent object of the petition must be, preservation against falling under the power of an enemy; the danger of which requires, as St. Paul intimates, “ that we should not be ignorant of his devices.”
Doubtless what is principally intended, is preservation from sin; but yet the sense reaches to safety from evil of every sort; from sickness, and every other species of bodily suffering; from losses and disappointments in our temporal concerns; and from the sorrows which may befall us in the per
• i. 13. tiv.7. Matt. v. 39. 52 Cor, ii, 11.
sons and in the interests of our relatives and friends. Whereinsoever there is cause of gratitude for what we possess; there must be cause of prayer, that the possession may be continued to us.
It is an important property of the subject, as it respects temporal evil, that the putting up of such a petition has a tendency to remind us of the preserving and protecting providence, to which we are indebted for life, for health, and for safety: and to fill us with gratitude for the past; and with humble confidence, not without submission, as to the future.
The petition offers a still weightier admonition, relatively to preservation from such evil as may as. sault the soul; dictating an acknowledgment of the
Los < sufficient for us;” and encouraging, affiance in it for the time to come; as that, which alone can keep from falling
There remains the Doxology of this instructive prayer—"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever." Although this is not included in the Catechism, as being not strictly prayer, and accordingly omitted by one of the evangelists; yet it is here attended to, for the sake of pointing out the relation subsisting between what is petitionary, and these words of praise to the great Being who had been addressed.
Having invoked him throughout the prayer in the character of father, we now acknowledge him in that of a great king; and ourselves as the sub. jects of his " kingdom.” His power, being without bounds, is looked to with encouragement, as being competent to the performing of what has been asked for. And his glory being that to which all human actions should have a tendency; the use of the word in this place, is a consent to and an antici. pating of that end. The addition of the words “for ever" is founded on that attribute of God, which makes him always the hearer of prayer; being eternally and unchangeably the same.
It would seem impossible, to have been so long engaged in this admirable prayer; without finding cur attention occasionally drawn to the circumstance, that although it abounds with excitements of our best affections, it is entirely destitute of whatever agitates those mere animal sensibilities, which so often give vent to effusions, thought by some to be the evidence of what is called the gift of prayer. And the appeal may be made with confidencewhether on the supposition of any person uttering of a devotional exercise, equal-if it were possibleto that dictated by the Divine Author of our religion, and adorned by the same description of sentiment and of expression; it would be thought to merit the commendation of the favourers of the extravagances here referred to. If this can only be answered in the negative—as is here supposed most evident—there must surely be errour at the bottom of them; although, how far the errour is essential, is what charity would forbid our endeavouring to ascertain.
The author, in the course of his life, has occasionally been within the hearing of a prayer; in which he thought there was the expression of a degree of passion, not suited to that sacred exercise. But on every such occasion he has remarked, that when the officiating minister reached the Lord's Prayer as his conclusion, the whole manner was immediately changed. It could not, without monstrous impropriety, be made to harmonize with the rest, in the delivery. Is there not evidence in this, that the spirit of devotion was very different in the respective supplicants?
The Church, having demanded and received the repetition of the Lord's Prayer, proceeds to give her sense of the contents of it. The catecumen, on being asked_“What desirest thou of God in this prayer? answers as follows:
"I desire my Lord God our heavenly Father"