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Fifthly: The order of it. Our attention is first directed to those things which are of the first importance, and which are fundamental to those which follow. Such are sanctifying and hallowing the naine of the Lord, praying that his kingdom may come, and that his will may be done on earth as it is heaven. After this, we are allowed to ask for those things which pertain to our own immediate wants, both temporal and spiritual. This is seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The glory of God's cbaracter, and the coming of his kingdom, stand first in all his works, and therefore must have the precedence in all our prayers. The love of God stands before the love of our neighbour, or of ourselves, in the divine law; and the glory of God, before peace on earth and good will to men, in the gospel. We must subscribe to this, ere we are. allowed to ask for our daily bread, or the forgiveness of our sins. To desire salvation at the expense of the divine bonour, would be direct rebellion against the Majesty of heaven and earth. Selflove may induce a sinner to regard a doctrine which relieves him, and merely on account of its relieving him; but that which endears the gospel to a Christian is, that it reveals a way in which God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Why is it that sinners, under the preaching of the gospel, continue averse to the way of salvation ? It is not because they would not be glad to have their sins forgiven’; but having no regard for the honour of God's name, they see no need for such an interposition as the gospel exhibits, in order to sanctify it, and render forgive. ness consistent with it. Hence, like Cain, they present their offerings without an eye to the gospel sacrifice. That which some bave denominated “ disinterested love," or the love of God for what he is in himself, as far as I understand it, is ao other than hallowing his name, which is essential to true religion. Not that we are called upon to love any thing in the divine character which is not manifested in the work of saving sinners, nor to be unconcerned about our own salvation ; but to embrace the gospel as first glorifying God, and then giving peace on earth; and to seek our own interest as bound up with the honour of his name, and as tending to promote it.
We are taught to pray for even the coming of God's kingdom, and the universal prevalence of righteousness in the world, in subserviency to the honour of HIS NAME. It is to this end that God himself pursues these great objects ; to this end therefore we must pray for them. But though they are placed after the hal. lowing of his name, yet they stand before any private petitions of ours, and in this order each requires to be sought. Why is it that so little has been done from age to age, for the general interest of Christ? Is it not owing to a practical error on this subject ? placing our own private interests before his, dwelling in our ceiled houses, while the temple of God has been in ruins, 'or at mos! seeking the prosperity of a small part of the church which happens to be connected with us, to the utter neglect of the general kingdom of the Redeemer.
As Christ bas taught us to pray for the coming of God's kingdom, and the universal spread of righteousness in the world, we may rest assured that these things will come to pass. Christ would not have directed us to ask for a specific object, and without any proviso, when he knew it would never be granted. Whether the kingdom of God here means the same as the Messiab's kingdom; or whether it relates to that state of things when the kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father, and God shall be all in all, it makes no difference. The coming of the latter supposes the gradual completion of the former : to pray therefore for what is ultimate in the system, is to pray for whatever is intermediate. At present God's name, instead of being sanctified in the earth, is disregarded and blasphemed. He reigns in the hearts of but few of the children of men. Instead of earth resembling heaven, as to obedience to the divine will, it bears a much nearer resemblance to hell. But it shall not be thus always. He who taught us thus to pray, was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and destroyed they will be. And as the grand means by which this great end will be accomplished is the preaching of the cross, we have abundance of encouragement to persevere in that arduous employment. .
As there are three petitions in respect of God's name and cause in the world, so there are three which regard our own immediate
wants; one of which concerns those which are temporal, and the other two those which are spiritual.
! Give us this day (or day by day) our daily bread. Bread comprehends all the necessaries, but none of the superfluities of life. If God gives us the latter, we may receive them with thankfulness, only considering them as a trust committed to us; but are not at liberty to ask for them. Nor are we allowed to ask for what may be necessary in days to come; but, as children on their father, must depend upon God for the bread of each day as the day occurs. Still less are we allowed to ask for the bread of others, or to covet our neighbours' goods ; but must be contented with what the Lord gives us in the way of honest industry, or by the kindness of our friends. ,
Such is the spirit inculcated by this petition. How opposite to the spirit of this world! Man as a sinper aspires to be independent of God, and to raise bimself out of the reach of adversity. He cannot trust God to provide for him and his children, but desires to take the charge upon himself. Unlike the sheep of Christ's pasture, who go in and out as he leads them, he emulates the wild beasts, which roam through the forest in quest of prey for themselves and for their young ones. Ever anxious to accumulate, he has neither time nor inclination to think of any thing else, till in some unexpected hour, he is arrested in his course, and is obliged to spare time-to die! Christian, canst thou envy such a character ? wilt thou learn his ways ? No, surely!. Covet'not to be rich, lest it should cause thee to deny thy God, and by treating sacred things with lightness, to take his name in vain. Is it best for thee, is it best for thy children, even in the present world, that thou shouldest emulate the beast of prey in providing for thy young ones? Remember, the young lions do lack and suffer hunger ; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. As bread in this prayer comprehends all the necessaries of life, so the for. giveness of sin comprehends the substance of all that is necessary for the well-being of our souls. Sin is the only bar between God and man: if therefore this be removed, there is nothing left to
impede the most ample communications of his favour. · Sins are called debts, not properly, but metaphorically. All that belongs to a debt will not apply to a crime. The former, as being a mere private obligation, may be remitted by the creditor, if he please, without any satisfaction ; but the latter being a public evil, committed against God as the governor of the world, cannot be consistently forgiven without an atonement, which shall effectually distinguish that forgiveness from connivance. There is a sufficient resemblance, however, between them to justify the use of the term. We owe to God as his creatures supreme love and unre. served obedience; and in default of paying it, fall under an obligation to punishment. As a rebel against the state forfeits his life, which is bis all, to his injured country ; so, as rebels against God, we have forfeited our souls, which are our all, to bis injured government.
From this petition we learn four things. First : That we have daily sins to be forgiven. Ii is to our shame that it should be so ; but so it is. To disown it does not make it the better, but the worse. The direction of Christ contains an insuperable objection to the notion of those deluded people who imagine themselves to have attained to a state of sinless perfection. No man that it is not blinded to the spirituality of that law which requires supreme, perfect, and unabated love, can be insensible of his vast defects. The highest degree of love that we at any time attain comes immensely short of what we ought to feel, and of what we shall feel when presented faultless before the presence of the divine glory. The only reply that can be made is, that the petition may refer to past sins, and not to present ones. But is it not presented along with a petition for our daily bread, and in a prayer which is supposed to be daily offered ? Secondly: That the shedding of Christ's blood as the price of our redemption is perfectly consistent with the free grace of God, not only in providing the Saviour, but in forgiving the sinner for his sake. If we had borne the full penalty due to sin in our own proper persons, all must allow there had been no place for forgiveness. And if the union between Christ and his elect people had been so intimate, as to
render the actions or sufferings of one, the very actions and gufferings of the other, the same consequence would follow. Or if the satisfaction made by Christ in our stead had been on the principle of debtor and creditor, whatever obligation we might have been under to the surety, or to the crede itor for providing him, the debt could not be said to have been forgiven. But as we have not borne the penalty of sin in our own persons; and as sin itself is transferable to another only in its effects, we must still be considered as deservingof death, and, what. ever be the considerations on wbich God proceeds in our forgiveness, as being freely forgiven. We may plead the atopement as that for the sake of which we may be forgiven, in a way glorious to the divine character, together with the invitations and promises of the word; but this is all. We must not go as claimants, but as supplicants. Thirdly : That the perfection and perpetuity of jus. tification are consistent with a daily application to God for forgiving mercy. It is an important truth that he that beleiveth in Christ shall not come into condemnation. There is no such idea, however, held out in the scriptures as the pardon of sins, past, present, and to come. Forgiveness invariably presupposes repentance. It is not bestowed on that account, yet it is inseparably
connected with it. As justification includes forgiveness, we may - be said to be fully forgiven from the first moment that we
believe in Christ ; but it is in some such way I conceive as we are said to be glorified. The thing is rendered sure by the purpose and promise of God; but as in that case a perseverance to the end is supposed and provided for, so is repentance and a continued application for mercy through Jesus Christ in this. If it were true that a believer might not persevere to the end, it would be equally true that he might never be glorified : and if it were possible for him to live in sin, and never repent of it, it would be equally possible that he would never be forgiven-but he that has promised that which is ultimate, has provided for every thing intermediate. Fourthly : That we are not allowed to ask or hope for forgiveness at the band of God, while we refuse it to those who have offended us. It is not enough to say, we cannot expect the comfort of it: we cannot expect the thing itself. While we in.