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THE LORD'S PRAYER A SPIRITUAL LADDER.
The Lord's Prayer is not only to be Used as it stands, it is also to serve as a model for all our prayers. All are to employ it; therefore it is suited to all. The seven clauses of which it is composed are adapted to the wants of all men. So simple that a child may learn them, they are yet comprehensive enough to suit the states of all human beings in every stage of their spiritual development. The least wise, and the wisest, can alike be profited by its utterance.
There are several peculiarities in this prayer which deserve notice, and which might escape the observation of the cursory reader. It may be viewed as a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. In this respect it is similar to various other portions of the Sacred Word. Every clause of it is an ascent or descent in a distinct series. Every separate clause of it is based on that which follows it, and leads to that which precedes it.
To illustrate this peculiarity:—it will be seen that the first prayer of a wicked man who is desirous of turning from his iniquities, must be Deliver us from evil. The wicked who have not yet repented are never tempted. Temptation consists in the struggle between the knowledge of what we ought to do, together with some desire to do it, and the disposition to commit sin. Those who have given themselves up to iniquity know nothing of the struggle. Deliver us from evil is the most universal petition of the whole prayer. It also represents the lowest, the commencing state of the regenerate life, the first prompting of the desire to reform. It is, in this sense, the base from which the other portions of the prayer ascend.
The whole philosophy of temptation applies to a farther state of spiritual growth. The petition referring to temptation expresses man's consciousness of his own weakness. Until we begin to strive against evil we never know how weak we are. Only when the soul has deeply craved to be delivered from evil does it learn to realize the want impressed in Lead us not into temptation. Only when the soul has learned its own exceeding sinfulness, and the misery of sin, does it desire to be led by the Lord. Prior to this spiritual experience, it follows "the devices and desires of its own heart," its thoughts are quick to do evil, and slow to do well. It either denies, doubts, or is indifferent to the fact that God is willing to lead, able to lead, or that He has promised to lead, all who seek His guidance. Men have to enter into the fold, and to become adopted by repentance into the flock, before they recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd, or will follow where He guides them. This clause of the prayer represents the spiritual state of a large class of Christians. It is, as it were, the second step of the great ladder.
There are many sincere persons who have begun to repent of their sins, who desire to be delivered from evil, who have learned their own weakness, and yet who have not found perfect peace, the sweet assurance of forgiveness. They have not yet realized the blessed privilege of feeling able to freely forgive others. Their belief is founded on the hearing of the ear rather than on the conscious experience of their souls. They feel rather hope than trust. Yet hope is the means whereby trust is reached; the belief of testimony, the loving acceptance of Divine Truth, is the beginning of regeneration. The petition referring to forgiveness portrays a higher state. Deep is the confidence, and abiding the joy, of those who can stand on this step of the ladder and know that the blessing therein described is theirs. They must have passed over the other two: been delivered from evil; been led by the Lord to conquer the temptation to animosity, self-assertion, hatred of those who may have injured them; they must have been led by the Lord into realizing the blessedness of being forgiven, by having received the precious power to forgive.
The Lord bestows all needful good things on His servants who trust in Him. Those trust most in Him who are conscious of having received most from His hands. The next clause is the expression of perfect trust in the Lord. It asks from Him all the good which He sees we require—our daily bread. It seeks to be fed by the Lord, to live, therefore, from the Lord. This clause portrays a higher state of spiritual life than those clauses from which it ascends. Man can only truly enter into this state by having entered into the states depicted in the clauses which follow it. The clauses which follow it point to sinfulness and sin, the forgiveness of sin, the temptations to sin, the evil which is in sin. Those three clauses are fitted to the mouths and expressive of the desires of sinners conscious chiefly of their sins, who have yet to "taste and see that the Lord is good," and doubt and fear no more. Give us this day our daily bread points only to good, the good things of peace, of joy, of trust, of comfort, of light, of heaven.
Thus to be fed by the Lord, the soul can farther learn the lesson of full submission to the Divine Will. Thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth, becomes the great exponent of its desires. It seeks to have only what God wills it to have; it joyfully foregoes what He would have it to forego. Life is indeed a state of blessedness when the soul becomes altogether moulded to the will of God. It is heaven coming down to earth, and penetrating our earthly life with its peace. What an immense advance is implied between the first wish of the penitent, to be delivered from evil, and this holy desire that our wills should become, not absorbed into, but one with the will of God! Both the heaven and the earth are in man. The heaven here means the inmost desires of the soul for goodness. The earth means our natural and external life. The petition means, May our external lives be brought into full conformity with our internal desires for goodness, purity and peace. It implies that we have attained the state of having such desires. This is a high state, an advanced state of spiritual life. Yet the intermediate stages of spiritual experience are distinctly marked, and divinely exhibited in the subsequent petitions of the prayer.
Only by the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven, does the kingdom of God really come into the soul. The Lord is truly the ruler only where His will is supreme. With all the glory of His presence, the joy of His countenance, the fulness of His peace, the amplitude of His wisdom, can the Lord enter into the sanctified souls of His children who attain this state, and having entered He can reign therein for ever and ever. They truly pray in desire, in thought and in life, Thy kingdom come I In them fear is then swallowed up in certainty, doubt is lost in knowledge, sin ceases to trouble, for where God is there is holiness. Such, if such there be on earth, sail along the river of life lifted up far beyond the reach of storms, or the dread of shipwreck; and when the friendly messenger of death comes to close their eyes to this mortal sphere, they wake and rise in heaven.
Those who have realized this high state of spiritual union with God can then learn how fully to claim the parentage of the Lord, and only to seek to hallow His name. This petition of the prayer is suited to the lips, as it describes the state of the angels. To them God is all, and they are what they are by immediate derivation of live from the Lord. They are the "sons of God," truly formed and fashioned after His image and likeness, having no other wish and seeking no other purpose than to make the name of their Father holy in themselves, holy by themselves, and holy in and by all others.
The lofty height of this condition of thought and feeling is attainable through the previous steps. Deliver us from evil, in order that we may be led by the Lord,—that so we may forgive and be forgiven,—that so we may be fed in every state by the Lord,—that so His will may be done—that so His kingdom may come,—that so His name may be hallowed,—that so He may indeed be "Our Father," and we his sons and daughters! The petitions are linked together descriptive of every state of the regenerate life. They form the ladder of prayer that first descends from heaven to earth, and on which also man may afterwards re-ascend from earth to heaven.
The Lord's Prayer is thus the inimitable perfection of all prayer, God-given for the use of God-seeking souls. We cannot exhaust its significance, we cannot transcend its application, we cannot add to its fulness. Every other prayer is referable to some portion of this; or it is the amplification of some of its clauses. May we reverently use it, and devoutly feel the meaning and value of its petitions when we pray! - J.
DUTCH AND JEWISH TRADING.
NOTES OF A SERMON BY THE REV. O. PRESCOTT HILLER.
"Behold the Lord makelh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down."—Isaiah xxiv. 1.
The world, at present, is truly, as the text declares, "turned upside down." That which should be at the head is at the foot: that which should be at the foot is at the head. The things of self and the world, which should be last, are put first—and the things of heaven and eternity, which should be first in man's regard, are little thought of. The love of self is the ruling principle, and with too many, the neighbour and his interests are counted as nothing, trampled under foot.
The Church has come to its end. The state is upon us, described and foretold in the 24th of Matthew: "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
The Church no longer knows its Lord. The Divinity is split into three persons, and which of the three to address no one is sure. Whether it is faith or works that saves, men are at a loss to tell. As a verse in this chapter (Isa. xxiv. 6) declares, "the inhabitants of the earth are burned up, and few men left." By the earth is signified the Church: by being "burned up" is meant, filled with the fire of selfish and evil passions, for, as declared, "wickedness burnetii as a fire." There are few true men—few in God's image and likeness,—few that know the Lord and live according to His commandments—few " in the measure of a man, that is, of an angel."
Such is the state of the world at large. But the Lord is now establishing a new Dispensation in which and by which the world is to be reformed and remodelled. And we who have been permitted the happy privilege of seeing the light of this New Church, should have distinct ideas as to those great points of practice as well as theory which men generally are in the dark upon.
I wish to speak to-day particularly in regard to the love of the world—business—profits.
The doctrine of the New Church teaches that a man's end should be use, and money only the means to that end. But to have money as the end, and to have one's business, profession or employment, only as the means, is a perversion of the true order. This is plainly enough seen if we look at some high use, as that of the ministry for instance. What would be thought of a minister, whose first end was his salary and getting money, and usefulness and duty only the means to that end? Would any one respect that man? Yet the earth is turned "upside down" even in this particular. This is shown from the very expression used in the Established Church—a "living:" a person, we hear, is appointed to a "living of £500 a year." Does not this expression show what idea is uppermost in men's thoughts !—not to do good, and save souls, but to have a comfortable livelihood. All who reflect, feel this to be a perversion of Divine order.
So with a statesman: what should we think of a man who sought to be prime minister or a judge, if he had honour and salary first in his mind, and serving his country last 1
In these marked cases, all can see that use should be first, money or profit or self last. But what is true in these cases is true in all. In common business and trading, the doctrine of the New Church teaches that the use of the business should be first is a man's mind and profits last; use the end and money the means. This our author calls Dutch trading: but the opposite he terms Jewish trading.*
Yet we know how widely at this day "Jewish trading" prevails, that is, having the making of money or profits as the end, and busi
* See "The Christian Religion," 801.