Page images

he had been addressed more immediately in the latter character, but the prerogatives of his divinity are not on that account to be put out of view. "Who is the giver of all goodness:" this is especially the attribute, which encourages to draw near to him, in faith and hope. "That he would send his grace to me, and to all people." "His grace:" the only mean of salvation."Tome". who feel my need of it. "And to all people:" this social property of the duty being implied in the plural opening of the prayer. "That we may worship him: in prayer and praise. "Serve him:" in the devoting to him of our souls and of our bodies. "And obey him:" in a strict observance of his commands. "As we ought to do:" the extent of the obligation being thus acknowledged; whatever deficiency there may be in the performance. "And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies:" This extending of the subject to the soul is founded on the sense of the Church, that the bread of life, as well as the bread of the world, is comprehended under a word alike expressive of each. "And that he will be mer ciful unto us, and forgive us our sins:" performance of the condition on our part being supposed; with. out which, it would be a mockery of God, to offer up to him this prayer. "And that it will please him. to save and defend us in all dangers both of soul and body:" deliverance from all evil being alike ap. plicable to both; but especially to what follows in the next article; to which also applies preservation from temptation. "That he will keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our spiritual enemy, and from everlasting death." The matter of this prayer, however excellent in itself, would give occasion rather of despondency, than of encouragement; if there were not, in the divine promises, reason of hope of the obtaining of what had been asked for. But on the ground of those promises, the catecumen is encouraged to add "And this I trust he

will do, of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ:" that is, not because of any worthiness of the petitioner, but of mere grace; and this extended through the merits of the propitiatory sacrifice of the Redeemer. Finally, the catecumen adds "And therefore I say amen, so be it:" in order to express, in one word, his sincere assent to, and the desire of his heart, in all that had gone before.

Such are the contents of the Lord's Prayer, as expounded by our Church: And perhaps her view of its weighty sense may derive some confirmation from the following commendation of an eloquent ecclesiastical author, who wrote within the second century. He says-" In this short compend, how many declarations of prophets, how many speeches, parables, and precepts of our Saviour, and at the same time, how many duties towards God are contained! There is profession of faith in the Father an honouring of his name-resignation to his willhope in his kingdom-petition for what pertains to life confession of sin-and watchfulness against temptation. How wonderful! God alone could teach, in what way he would be prayed to."

Agreeably to the plan proposed in the first lecture, I shall now take occasion, first to appreciate the provisions of our Church, in a point on which we differ from many other professors of Christianity; and then, to suggest the proper influence of the spirit of prayer, on the heart and on the life.

The point alluded to under the first head, is the question of praying with a form. There is designed, not a full discussion of the subject, which will occur again in another lecture; but only to show the bear. ing on it of the prayer before us.

It has been contended, even by the more moderate opponents of forms of prayer, that the present was enjoined, not as a form, but only as a pattern.

... in:

34440 49.


* Tertullion.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

And the plea is rested on the expression in St. Matthew" After this manner pray ye." It is not denied in opposition to us, that St. Luke has it"When ye pray, say:" the words to be said following immediately. And as for the place in the other evangelist, the word translated "in this manner,"* may well be rendered "thus," as appears in a passage not far before. The passage now referred to, is in the fifth and sixth verses of the second chapter of the same gospel. It there appears, that Herod having asked of the chief priests and scribes-" Where Christ should be born;" he received for answer, "In Bethelem of Judah; for thus it is written by the prophet; and thou Bethelem, in the land of Judah, art not the least of the princes of Judah." They therefore answered him that the prophet had written" Thus," or "in these words:" And if the principle of interpretation be applied to the place in question, it will be-" Pray ye thus," or in these words. [See Dissertation VI.J


But I hasten to the other matter proposed-The proper influence of the spirit of prayer, on the heart and on the life. The test to which it is wished to refer this part of the subject, is the very prayer which has been before us; considered as embrac ing petition, confession, praise, and intercession.

That we should be in the practice of petitioning our heavenly father, for what we know to be needful to our souls and to our bodies-and that we should do this daily, as appears from the very letter of the prayer, to have been intended-and yet, that so holy an exercise should not sustain the recollection of his will, as the rule of conduct, and of his omniscience, as bringing it always under observation; is as glaring an inconsistency as can be imagined.!


Confession, if it issue from a corresponding state of mind, breathes the spirit of sorrow and self


dissatisfaction: And therefore, whether it relate to such sins as may have been the results of the ordinary frailties of nature, and from the not having maintained sufficient vigilance over their operations; or to such sins as are more flagrant offences either against God or against our neighbour; sensibility to the penalty which has been sustained, cannot but produce an hatred of and a guarding against the cause of it.

Praise unfolds to the mind of man those perfections of his great Creator, which constitute him the pattern of whatever is worthy of admiration, of esteem, and of affection. So that here is seen the "rationale" or ground work, of whatever can help to constitute a sublime and evangelical morality. And when, under the head of praise, we introduce acts of thanksgiving for divine benefit to ourselves; there is laid open the source of the affections, which cannot exist towards God, without similar emotions, where they are the most due, towards men. Now these are properties, which the most eminently dignify and adorn: For while other exercises of devotion are expressive of wants, and weaknesses, if not of sin; this exercise is what we join in with the highest angels around the throne of the Most High.


#1 *

Intercession, which carries us beyond the sphere of our own concerns to those of our fellow men, implies an interest taken in their joys and in their sorrows; and therefore maintains the mind in a constant state of readiness to do them good, as opportunity may serve and means enable. And then, to injure those, concerning whom we pray to God that he would do them good; is surely an inconsistency, to which it cannot be rash to apply that reproof of Scripture " Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."*


Let it be noted, that these consequences are 療 * Acts, v. 4.

pointed out, not merely as what ought to attend habitual and evangelical devotion; and because of inconsistency where they are wanting; but as what necessarily grow out of the subject: So that where such fruits are not discerned; the service must be in hypocrisy, or else in mere form. And the latter of these evils is not confined to the formal using of prescribed words; because the spirit of prayer may be pleaded for, while this itself may be in form.

The result of the whole is, in the first place, that we should avoid whatever is meant in Scripture, under the expression of "giving the sacrifice of fools:"* Which applies to every allowed state of the affections, opposed to the genius of the sacred exercise. The next thing is, that agreeably to the intimation of an apostle, we should pray every where; that is, not only in the publick service of the Church, but in our families and in our closets; "lifting up holy hands,"† that is, hands not practising any unrighteousness; and in correspondency with a holy state of heart. Finally; where this cannot be done, there yet remains a resource of acceptable prayer: It must be such as issues from a mind humbling itself before God, under the sense of its sinful state. Even in that, there may be put up the petition-"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."+ Such prayer, issuing from such a state of the affections, will reach the ears of him to whom the psalmist has made the address, so full of encouragement alike to saints and to penitent sinners:-"O thou that hearest the prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come."

Eccles. v. 1. † 1 Tim. ii. 8. Ps. li. 10. § Ps, lxv. 2.

« PreviousContinue »