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L E C T U RË XXX.
The LORD'S PRAYER.
Our Faiber, which art in Heaven, ballowed be
HE Prayer, which our blessed Saviour taught
his Disciples, doth not need to be explained, as being, in itself, and originally, obscure. For no Words could be more intelligible to his Apoftler, than all those, which he hath ufed throughout it. And even to Us now, there is Nothing that deserves the Name of difficult; notwithstanding the Distance of Time, the Change of Circumstances, and the different Nature and Turn of the Jewith Tongue from our
But still, in order to apprehend it sufficiently, there is requisite fome Knowledge of Religion, and the Language of Religion. Besides, as we all learnt it when we were young, whilst we had but little Understanding, and less Attention; it is not impossible, but some of us may have gone on repeating it to an advanced Age, without considering it near so carefully, as we ought. And this very 'Thing, that the Words are so familiar to us, may have been the main Occafion, that we have scarce ever thought of their Import. Now we are sensible, it would be a great Unhappiness to have our Devotions, as the Church of Rome have the principal Part of theirs, in a Language that we could not understand. But surely it is as great a Fauit, if, when we may so easily understand them, we do not; or if, though we do understand them, when we think of the Matter, we think about it so little, that, as to all good Purposes, it is much the same with praying in
an unknown Tongue. The Lord's Prayer, in itself, is very clear, véry exprellive, very comprehensive. But all this is Nothing to us, if we say it without knowing, or without minding, what we say. For how excellent Words foever we use; if we add no Meaning to them, this can be no praying. And therefore, to make it really beneficial to us, we must fix deeply in our Thoughts what it was intended by its Author to contain.
Now it consists, you may observe, of three Parts. I. An Invocation, or calling upon God. II. Petitions offered. III Praises ascribed to Him.
The Invocation is in these Words, Our Father which art in Heaven. And, few as they are, they express very fully the Grounds on which Divine Worship stands.
As the whole World derives its Being from God, He is on that Account ftiled, the Father of alla. But as rational Creatures are produced, not only by Him, but in his Image and Likeness, He is in a stricter Sense the Father of these. And therefore Angels and Men are called in Scripture, what the Animals beneath them never are, the Sans
. , and the Offspring of Gode : in which Sense the Prophet faith, O Lord, thou art cur. Father, and we are all the 11 ork of thy Handd. Now, as our Creator, he is evidently not only our Father, but also our sovereign Lord.
A second Title God hath to this Name, from that fatherly Providence and Goodness, which he exercises every where continually: and of which Mankind hath large Experience; not only in the many Enjoyments, Comforts, and Deliverances, that He grants us, but even in the AMictions which He sends us, always for our Benefit; then more especially dealing with us as with Children, whom He loveth
But there is yet a third Reason, why we call Him our Father, peculiar to us as Christians; and founded
a Eph. iv. 6. Ifa, Ixiv, 8,
Job i. 6. ii. 1. xxxviii. 7, · Heb, xii. 52 &C..
• Acts. xvii. 29.
on our being united by Faith to his Son our Head', and begotten again, through his Gospel, to a lively Hope, to an Inheritance reserved in Heaven for us %: Privileges so invaluable, that though He is doubtless a Father, and a tender one, to our whole Species, yet his Word speaks of Us, as the only Persons, in Comparison, that have a Right to consider Him in this View. As many as received Him, that is, our blessed Saviour, to them gave He Power to become the Sons of God; even to them that believe on his Name ". The Lord is good to alli: but fingularly good to those, who become, by the Influences of the Christian Covenant, fingularly fit Objects of his Goodness. They have Promises of the greatest Bleffings, to which Nothing, but Promise, can intitle: Pardon of Sin, Alistance of the Holy Spirit, and Life eternal; by which last they are made, in the happiest Sense, the Children of God, being the Children of the Resurrection k. Let us learn then, as often as we say, Our Father, to magnify in our Souls, that gracious Redeemer, who hath made Him fo to us, more than He is to others. Let us often repeat the thankful Reflection of St. John, Behold what Manner of Love the Father bath bestowed on us, that we should be called the Sons of God', and joyfully argue, as St. Paul doth, If Children, then Heirs; Heirs of God, and joint Heirs with Christm.
Thus then the Words, Our Father, express, not only the absolute Authority, but the unspeakable Goodness of God: and the next, which art in Heaven, acknowledge his Glory and Power.
I have already observed to you, in explaining the fixth Article of the Creed, that as God cannot but be, so He cannot but be every where : for there is Nothing in any one Part of Space to confine his Presence to that, rather than to any other. Besides, his Providence is continually acting every where: and wherever He acts,
1 Cor. xi. 3. Eph. i. 22.
1 Cor. iv. 15. 1 Pet. i. 3, 4. John i Psalm cxlv. g.
k Luke xx. 36. i John iii. 1. m Rom. viii, 17.
He is. Therefore Solomon justly declares, The Heaven and Heaven of Heavens cannot contain thee". But still the Scriptures represent Him as manifesting the more visible Tokens of his inexpreffible Majesty in che peculiar Place: where He receives the Homage of his boly Angels, and issues forth his Commands for the Government of the World. This they call his Throneo, and Tabernacle in Heaven P: of which the earthly Tabernacle of Moses was designed to be a Figure; being disėcted to be made according to the Pattern, shewed him in the Mount That earthly Tabernacle was honoured for a long Time with splendid Marks of the Divine Residence : on which Account, even after they were withdrawn, the Jews would be apt to consider God, as dwelling at Jerusalem in his Temple, and fitting between the Cherubimi'. But our bleffed Lord, being about to abolith the Mosaic Ordinances, enlarges the Views of his Disciples, and raises them to that higher Habitation of inconceivable Glory, to which they should hereafter be admitted ; and on which they were in the mean while to set their Hearts, as the seat of all Blessedness.
But further, being in Heaven denotes likewise the almighty Power of God: agreeably to that of the Pral. mift, Our God is in the Heavens : He hath done whatsoever He pleaed'. For as a higher Situation gives a superior Strength and Command; and accordingly in all Laaguages, being exalted or brought low, lignifes an increase or Leftening of Dominion or Influence: To representing God, as placed above all, is designed to express, in the strongest Manner, that His Kingdoin ruleth over all!,
When therefore we call upon our Father which is in Heavan, we profess to God our Belief, that He is the Author and Preserver of the Universe, who governs all Things with paternal Care; but extends his Favours
* 1 Kings viii. 27. P Heb. viii. 1, 2.
Plalm cxv. 3.
2 Chron. ï. 6. vi. 13.
4 Heb. viii. 5. * Pralm ciii. 19.
opf. xi. 4. . Plalm xcix. I.
especially to those, who by imitating and obeying Him shew themselves his true Children: and therefore most especially to such, as having acquired, by the Merits and Grace of his Son, the nearest Relation and Resemblance to Him, have thereby a Covenant-Right to an eternal Inheritance in that blessed Place, where He exhibits his Glory, and reigns, possessed of sovereign Authority, and boundless Power.
Now applying thus to God, under the Notion of our Father, is excellently fitted to remind us, both of the dutiful Regard, which we ought to have for him, as He himself pleads, If I be a Father, where is mine Honour ? and also, of the Kindness, which we may expect from him, according to our Saviour's Reasoning, II, ye, being evil, know how to give good Gifts unto your Children ; how much more fhall your heavenly Father give bis Holy Spirit to them that ask him * ? Nor is this Expreffion less fitted to admonish us of copying the Good nefs, which we adore, and exercising Mercy and Bounty towards all our Fellow-Creatures, as far as we can, that we may be, in this excellent Sense, the Children of our Father, which is in Heaven: for he maketh his Sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth Rain on the just and on the unjuk. And this ndmonition is greatly strengthened, as each of us is directed to address himself to God, not as to his own Father merely, but as to our Father, the common Parent of Mankind. For there is inexprcfsible Force in that Argument, Have we not all one Father, hath net one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously, or in any Respect un: juftly or unkindly, every Man against hii Brother ? And yet with greater Force still doth it hold, to preVent mutual Injuries or Unkindness amongst Chriftians: who being, in a much closer and more endearing Senfe, Children of God, and Brethren one to another, than the rest of the World ; surely ought never to be, what they are too often, remarkably deficient in that reciu Mal. i. 6. * Luke xi. 13.
* Matth. t. 45. Mal, ii. 10.