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not by this, or any other Works of Righteousness, which we do, but according to his Mercy; which He hath shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ; that being justified by: bis Grace, we may be Heirs of eternal Life'. Our pardoning others is no more than a Qualification, requifite to our receiving that final Pardon from God, which our Saviour, through the Divine Goodness, hath merited by his Deach, on that Condition. Nor is it the only Qualification necessary, though it be a principal one. For the rest of God's Laws were given in vain, if observing this one would secure his Favour: and Chrift would be found the Minister of Sin', if He had taught, that the single good Disposition of Forgiveness would be sufficient, let a Person have ever so many bad
But it is plain, that throughout the whole sermon on the Mount, in which this Prayer is delivered, He makes the Performance of every part of our Duty the Condition of our Acceptance. In the very Beginning of it, He hath promised Heaven to several other Virtues, as well as here to this : and the Meaning is, not that Perfons may get thither by any one, that they will; for Nobody sure is so bad as to have none at all: .but that each of them shall have its proper Share, in fitting us for that Mercy and Reward, which however, with less than all of them, we fall never obtain. Our Imperfections in all will indeed be pardoned: but not our Continuance in a wilful Neglect of any.
Still, though a Spirit of Forgiveness to our Brother is by no Means the whole, that God requires in order to forgive Us; yet it is a Quality, often so difficult, al ways so important, and so feculiarly needful to be exercised by us, when we are intreating our Maker to exercise it towards us; that our Saviour had great Reason to place it in the strong Light which he hath done; and even to place it single; since his Design could not easily be understood to be any other, than to engage our particular' Attention to what deserves it so much. For if
• Gal. ii. 170
we will not, for the Love of God, and in Obedience to his Command, pardon our Fellow-Creatures the few and small Injuries, which they are able to do us; (when perhaps we may have done many Things to provoke them, and comparatively can have done little to oblige or serve them) bow should we ever expect, that He will forgive us the numerous and heinous Offences, which we have committed against Him; from whom we have received all that we have, on whom we depend for all that we can hope for, to whom therefore we owe the most unreserved Duty, and the most affectionate Gratitude?
Let us remeniber then, that since we pray to be forgiven, only as we forgive ; so often as we use these Words, we pray in Effect for God's Vengeance upon ourselves, instead of his Mercy, if we forgive not. And therefore let us apply to Him continually for Grace to do in earnest, what we profess to do in this Petition : let us carefully examine our Hcarts and our Conduct, that we may not cheat ourselves, for we cannot cheat God; with falle Pietences of observing this Duty, while jodeed we tranfgress it; let us utterly put away from us, all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Clamour, and Evil-speaking, with all Malice; and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another; even as we hope, that God, for Christ's Sake, will forgive us".
Eph. iv. 31, 32.
LE C T UR E
And lead us not into -Temptation ; but deliver us
from Evil: for thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
E should be very unfit to ask for the Pardon
of our paft Sins; and could neither hope to obtain it, nor indeed continue long the better for it; if
we did not earnestly desire, at the same Time, to avoid Sin for the future. And therefore, after the Petition, Forgive us our Trespasses, most properly follows, and lead us not into Temptation.
The Word Temptation very often fignifies no more, than Trial ; any Oppofition or Difficulty, that may call forth our Virtues into vigorous Practice, and, by so doing, both strengthen and make them known: not indeed to God, who always knows our Hearts ; but to ourselves and others; to those around us at present; to all Mankind, and the holy Angels hereafter. Now in this gen:ral Sense, our whole Life on Earth is, and was intended to be, a State of Temptation : in which, as the Scripture expresses it, God hinilelf tempts Mena; that is, proves and exercises them. And accoid. ingly, St. James directs us to count it all yoy, when we fall into divers Temptations ; adding a very good Reason for it: Blessed is the Man, that endureth Temptation : for when he is tried, he shall receive the Crown of Life; which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him". The more Love to God we thus shew; the more we exert our inward good Principles and Habits, and by exerting, improve them ;
Reward we shall obtain. When therefore we fay, Lead us not into Temptation; we do not pray, that we may not be tried at all: for we know, that we must, even for our own Good.
But the Word here stands for dangerous Trials, Provocations and Enticements to Sin: under which we are likely to sink, instead of overcoming them. Now there is indeed scarce any Thing in Life, that may not be a Temptation to us, in this bad Sense. Our Tema pers, our Ages, our Stations and Employments in the World, be they ever so different, may, each in their different Ways, risk our Innocence. They that are poor, are grievously tempted, either to repine against God; or take unlawlul Methods of relieving themselves. And they, that will be rich, Experience, as well as the
a Gen, xxii, 1. Deut. iv. 34. 2 Chron, xxxii. 31.
James i. 2, 12.
Apostle, may teach us, fall into Temptation and a Snares and into many foolish and hurtful Luft's. Both Adversity and Prosperity, Business and Leisure, Company and Solitude, have their respective Hazards. And somea times these Hazards are fo dreadfully heightened by particular Circumstances; and, at others, trying Incidents, totally unforeseen, happen so unseasonably; that, though they may only rouse and animate our Virtue; yet they may also, 'more probably, overbear, and destroy it. And therefore we must know very little of our natural Frailty, the Strength of our Paffions, and the Deceitfulness of Sind; if we do not think it the more prudenty. as well as modeiter Part, to decline, than venture the Conflict, if it be God's Will: and do not accordingly beg of Him, that He would not lead us into such Temptation.
God, indeed, tempts no Man', in the Sense of alluring and inviting him to Sin; as the Devil, and wicked People, and our own bad Hearts do. And therefore to pray, in this Senfe, that He would not lead us into Temptation, would be great Irreverence, instead of Piety: for it is inconsistent with the Holine's of his Nature, that He should. But as nothing comes to pass, but with his Knowledge and Sufferance; and every thing is subject to his Direction and Superintendency; the Scripture: speaks, as if every Thing was done by Him, when the Meaning, as appears by other Passages of it, is only to acknowledge, that Nothing is done without Him : and, agreeably to the Manner of speaking in the Eastern Countries, Things are ascribed to Him, which He only permits, and afterwards turns to the Furtherance of his own good Purposes. Now God may very justly permit us to be led into the severest Temptations, if we do not pray to Him against it: because a great Part of the Danger proceeds from that Weakness, which we have wilfully, or carelessly brought upon ourselves; and Prayer is one of the Means, that He hath appointed for our Prefervation and Relief : which Means if we use as we ought, He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are Tim. vi. 9.
James i. 13:
a Heb. iii. 13•
able; but will, with the Temptation, also make a Way to escape, that we may be able to bear it f.
But if, through Pride or Negligence, we will not ask for his Help, we must not expect it. And though we do for Form's Sake ask it, if we have little Faith in it, or Dependence on it, St. James hath foretold the Event: Let not that Man think that he shall receive any Thing of the Lords. Yet on the other Hand, if we carry our Dependence so far, as presumptuously to run into those Dangers, out of which we beg Him to keep us; or at least, will do little or nothing to keep ourselves out of them, instead of doing every Thing that we can; or if in the Dangers, in which He may think fit to place us, we will not use our best Endeavours to stand, as well as pray that we may not fall; such Prayers can never be likely to avail for our Protection. But fervent Devotion, hearty Resolution, and prudent Care, united and continued, will do any Thing. By whatever Difficulties we are surrounded, and how little Poflibility soever we may fee of getting through them ; ftill Commit thy Way unto the Lord, put thy Trust in Him, and He Mall bring it to pass h.
In the second part of this Petition. But deliver us from Evil; the Word Evil may fignify, either Sin and its Consequences; or the great Tempter to Sin, the evil or wicked One: for by that Name the Devil is often called in the New Testamenti. The Number indeed of wicked Spirits is probably very great: but notwithstanding this, being united, under one Head, in one Defign of obstructing our Salvation, they are all comprehended under one Name. And since, in our present State of Trial, we have not only, as Experience shews, Flesh and Blood to wrestle against; our own bad Dispofitions, and the Sollicitations of a bad World, to resist; but also, as the Word of God informs us, Principalitiis and Powers, and spiritual IV ickedness in high Places k, an
8 James i. 7.
ń Psalm xxxvii. 5. Matth. xiii. 19, 38. John ii. 13, 14. iii. 12. v. 18. * Ephi vi.
fi Cor. X. 13.