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it shall be abundantly compensated to thee hereafter, by the admiration and love of all the beings in the universe, who have any relish of virtue, or are capable to judge of it.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to stand in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. Our Lord is here treating of private prayer, for which reason his rules must not be extended to public devotion. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Perform thy private devotions without noise or shew, by which it will appear that thou art influenced by a sense of duty. But when ye pray. use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be hcara for their much speaking. Be not ye, therefore, like unto them; for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. Your Father not only knows, but compassionates all your wants and weaknesses. Hence much speaking in prayer, with a view to inform the Deity of our wants, or to persuade him to comply with our desires, is foolish and impious, because it casts a reflection both upon his omniscience and upon his infinite goodness. But it is far from being culpable when used with a view to excite in our minds a sense of the divine goodness, to affect us with sorrow for sin, and to beget, or cherish, in us a love of virtue; valuable ends, to which a decent length and variety in prayer may be very subservient.
After this manner, therefore, pray ye: The word ye is emphatical in opposition to the heathens, who used vain repetitions in their prayers. Christ's meaning is not that his disciples are to use the words of this prayer in all their addresses to God; for, in the Acts and Epistles, we find the apostles praying in terms different from this form: but his meaning is, that we are to frame our prayers according to this model, both in respect to matter, and manner, and style.
Our Father which art in heaven. If they are called fathers who beget children and bring them up, Almighty God has the best right to that title from every creature, and particularly from man; being the father of their spirits, [Heb. xii. 9.] the maker of their bodies, and the continual preserver of both. Nor is this all. He is our father in a yet higher sense, as he regenerates and restores his image upon our minds; so that, partaking of his nature, we become his children, and can, with holy boldness, name him by the title of that relation. In the former sense, God is the father of all his creatures, whether good or bad; but, in the latter, is the father only of such as are good. Of all the magnificent titles invented by philosophers or pocts in honour of their gods, there is none that conveys so grand and so lovely an idea as this simple name of Father. Being used by mankind in general, it marks directly the essential character of the true God, namely, that he is the first cause of all things, or the author of their being; and, at the same time, conveys a strong idea of the tender love which he bears to his creatures, whom he nourishes with an affection, and protects with a watchfulness, infinitely superior to that of any earthly parent whatsoever. But the name father, besides teaching us that we owe our being to God, and pointing out his goodness and mercy in upholding us, expresses also his power to give us the things we ask, none of which can be more difficult than creation. Ferther, we are taught to give the great God the title of Father, that our sense of the tender relation in which he stands to us may be confirmed, our faith in his power and goodness strengthened, our hope of obtaining what we ask in prayer cherished, and our desire of obeying and imitating him quickened; for natural reason teaches that it is disgraceful in children to degenerate from their parents, and that they cannot
commit a greater crime than to disobey the just commandments of an indulgent father. To conclude, we are directed to call him our Father, in the plural number, and that even in secret prayer, to put us in mind that we are all brethren, the children of ore common parent; and that we ought to love one another with pure hearts fervently, praying, not for ourselves only, but for others, that God would give them likewise daily bread, and the forgiveness of sin, and deliverance from temptation. The words, which art in heaven, do not confine God's presence to heaven, for he exists every where; but they contain a comprehensive, though short description of the divine greatness. They express God's majesty, dominion, and power; and distinguish him from those whom we call fathers on earth, and from false gods, who are not in heaven, the region of bliss and felicity, where God, who is essentially present through all the universe, gives more especial manifestations of his presence, to such of his creatures as he has exalted to share with him in his eternal felicity.
Hallowed be thy name. The name of God is a Hebraism for God himself, his attributes, and his works. To sanctify a thing is to entertain the highest notion of it, as true, and great, and good; and, by our words and actions, to testify that belief. Thus it is used 1 Pet. iii. 15. Isa. viii. 13. The meaning of the petition, therefore, is, May thy existence be universally believed, thy perfections loved and imitated, thy works admired, thy supremacy over all things acknowledged, thy providence reverenced and confided in May we, and all men, so think of the divine Majesty, of all his attributes, and of his works; and may we and they so express our veneration of God, that his glory may be manifested every where, to the utter destruction of the worship of idols and devils! The phraseology of this and other prayers recorded by the inspired writers, wherein the worshippers address God in the singular number, by saying, thou and thy to him, is retained by Christians with the highest propriety, as it intimateth their firm belief that there is but one God, and that there is nothing in the universe equal or second to him, and that no being whatever can share in the worship which they pay to him.
Thy kingdom come. By the kingdom of God, whose coming we are directed to pray for, is to be understood the Messiah's kingdom, or the gospel dispensation; because, taken in any other sense, the petition will not be distinct from that which follows, namely, Thy will be done, wherein our wishes, that the dominions of righteousness may be established in the hearts of men, are expressed.
Give us this day our daily bread. Give us day by day food sufficient to sustain life, and strengthen us for serving God with cheerfulness and vigour. Wherefore, since we are not allowed to ask provision for rioting and luxury, but only the necessaries of life, and that not for many years, but from day to day, the petition forbids anxious cares about futurity, and teaches us how moderate our desires of worldly things should be. And, whereas, not the poor only, whose industry, all acknowledge, must be favoured by the concurrence of providence to render it successful, but the sich are enjoined to pray for their bread, day by day; it is on account of the great mstability of human affairs, which renders the possession of wealth absolutely precarious; and because, without the divine blessing, even the abundance of the rich is not of itself sufficient so much as to keep them alive, far less to make them happy.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. The earth, and the fulness thereof, being the Lord's, he has a right to govern the world, and to support his government, by punishing all who presume to transgress his laws. The suffering of punishment, therefore, is a debt which sinners owe to the divine justice; so that, when we ask God in prayer to forgive our debts, we beg that he would mercifully
be pleased to remit the punishment of our sins, particularly the pains of hell; and that, laying aside his displeasure, he would graciously receive us into favour, and bless us with eternal life. The manner in which we are to ask forgiveness of our sins is remarkable, forgive us as we forgive. We must forgive others if we wish to be forgiven ourselves, and are allowed to crave from God only such forgiveness as we grant to others; so that if we do not pardon our enemies, we, in this petition, seriously and solemnly beg God to damn us eternally. For which reason, before men venture into the presence of Almighty God to worship, they ought to be well assured that their hearts are thoroughly purged from all rancour and malice.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; from the evil one, the devil. Or the clause may be translated, And lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from evil, either by removing the temptation itself when it proves too hard for us, or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. The correction of the translation proposed is built upon this argument, that to pray for an absolute freedom from all solicitation, or temptation to sin, is to seek deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which absurd; because trials and temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the Constancy and patience which they shew in afflictions. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice, when, by the divine appointment, we fall into temptations. This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome the solicitations of the world, and of the necessity of assistance from above, both to regulate our passions, and to conquer the dificulties of a religious life.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Because the government of the universe is thine for ever, and thou alone possessest the power of creating and upholding all things also, because the glory of infinite perfections remains eternally with thee; therefore all men ought to hallow thy name, submit themselves to thy government, and perform thy will; also, in a humble sense of their dependance, should seek from thee the supply of their wants, and pardon of their sins, and the kind protection of thy providence. But, because the forgiving of injuries is a duty contrary to the strongest passions in the human heart, and, at the same time, is highly proper for beings who need so much forgiveness from God, Jesus inculcated the necessity of it by assuring his hearers, that if they forgave they should be forgiven, whereas, if they did not forgive, there remained no pardon for them. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgiceRot men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses. From what our Lord says in verse 14, we are not to imagine that the forgiving of injuries alone will entitle us to pardon. Indeed, all negative declarations concerning the terms of salvation being, in their own nature, absolute, and without exception, he who does not forgive never shall be forgiven, as it is in the fifteenth verse. affirmative declarations always imply this limitation, that no other essential of salvation be wanting: because the meaning of such declarations is no more than this, the necessity of forgiving all kind of injuries, established by Jesus Christ himself, that the subject they affirm is one of the things necessary to salvation. Behold, then in opposition to the foolish opinions of the men of this world, who, associating the idea of cowardice with the greatest and most generous act, of the human mind, the pardoning of injuries, have laboured to render it shameful and vile, to the utter disgrace of human reason and common sense.
Of fasting he said, Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad