« AnteriorContinuar »
precedence of things in dignity or necessity; the full brevity, the deep plainness, the comely simplicity of expression, the lowly reverence signified therein, accompanied with due faith and confidence: these and the like virtues directive of our devotion we might observe running generally through the whole contexture of this venerable form. But we shall rather choose to take notice of them as they shall offer themselves in their particular places, to the consideration of which in order we now do apply ourselves.
Our Father ; upon this title we may first observe, that although our Saviour prescribeth this form as a pattern and an exercise of private prayer, to be performed in the closet and “alone in secret," as is expressed in the Gospel, yet he directeth us to make our addresses to God in a style of plurality, saying, not My Father, but Our Father ; thereby, it seems, implying: (1) That we should in our prayers consider and acknowledge the universality of God's power and goodness; (2) that we should not in our conceit proudly and vainly appropriate or engross the regard of God unto ourselves, but remember that our brethren have an equal share with us therein; (3) that in all our devotions we should be mindful of those common bands which knit us together as men and as Christians,—the band of nature and huinanity, the
I Matt, vi. 6, 9.
more strict ties of common faith and hope, of manifold relations unto God that made us, and our Saviour that redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit who animateth and quickeneth us, and combineth us in spiritual union; (4) that we should bear such hearty good will and charitable affection toward others, as not only to seek and desire our own particular and private good, but that of all men ; especially of all good Christians, who in a peculiar manner are God's children and our brethren. “He did not bid us say My Father, but, Our Father, who art in heaven; that, being taught that we have a common Father, we might show a brotherly good-will one toward another,” saith St Chrysostom.
As for the appellation Father ; it doth mind us of our relation to God, who upon many grounds and in divers high respects is our Father. By nature, for that he gave us our being, and made us after his own image; by providence, for that he continually preserveth and maintaineth us; by grace, for that he reneweth us to his image in righteousness and holiness; by adoption, for that he alloweth us the benefit and privilege of his children, assigning an eternal inheritance to us. Of this relation, which as creatures, as men, as Christians, we bear to God, it mindeth us; and, consequently, how we ought in correspondence thereto to behave ourselves, yielding to Him all respect, affection, and observance; demeaning ourselves in all things as becomes such a relation and rank. This indeed of all God's names, titles, and attributes, is chosen as most suitable to the nature of the present duty, as most encouraging to the performance thereof, as most fully implying the dispositions required in us, when we apply ourselves thereto. Our Saviour used to compare prayer to a son’s asking nourishment of his father ;' arguing thence what success and benefit we may expect from it; we come therein to God, not directly, as to a lord or master, to receive commands, but rather as to a father, to request from him the sustenance of our life and supply of our needs 5; to render withal unto him our thankful acknowledgments for having continuedly done those things for us, and to demonstrate our dutiful respect and affection toward him.
It is natural for children in any danger, strait, or want, to fly to their parents for shelter, relief, and succour;
and it is so likewise for us to have recourse unto God, in all those cases wherein no visible means of help appear
from elsewhere. And to do so the title of Father doth encourage us, signifying not only power and authority over us, but affection and dearness towards us. The name God, importing his excellent perfections, the name Lord, minding us of his power and empire over us, with the like titles declarative of his supereminent majesty, might deter us, being conscious of our meanness and unworthiness, from approaching to him. But the word Father is attractive and emboldening; thinking on that, we shall be apt to conceive hope, that how mean, how unworthy soever, yet being his children he
· Matt. vii. 9; Luke xii. 11.
will not reject or refuse us : for“if men being evil do give good gifts unto their children ; how much more will our Father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?"
It also plainly intimates how qualified and disposed in mind we should come to God, namely, with high reverence, with humble affection, with hearty gratitude; as to the Author of our being, to him that hath continually preserved and brought us up, from whose care and providence we have received all the good we have ever enjoyed; from whose merey and favour we can only expect any good for the future. By calling God, Father, we avow ourselves obliged to honour and love him incomparably beyond all things. We also declare our faith and hope in God; that we believe him well-affected toward us, and willing to do us good; and that we thence hope to receive the good desirable from him, the which are dispositions necessary to the due performance of this duty. It also implieth that we should come thereto with purity of mind and good conscience, which is also requisite to the same intent: for if we are conscious of undutiful and disobedient carriage toward God, how can we call him Father? with what heart or face can we assume to ourselves the title of children? If, saith St Peter, ye call upon him as Father, who impartially judges according to every man's work, that is, who only esteemeth them for his children who truly behave themselves as becometh children, pass the time of
· Matt. vii, 11. ? Matt. xxi. 22; 1 Tim. ii. 8 ; James i. 6.
your pilgrimage in fear, or in reverence toward God. We may add, that we also hereby may be supposed to express our charity toward our brethren, who bear unto God, the Father of all men, the same common relation.
WHICH ART IN HEAVEN.
God Almighty is substantially present everywhere; but he doth not everywhere, in effect, discover himself alike, nor with equal splendour in all places display the beams of his glorious majesty. The Scripture frequently mentioneth a place of his special residence, seated in regions of inaccessible light, above the reach, not only of our sense, but of our fancy and conception, where his royal court, his presence chamber, his imperial throne, are, where he is more immediately attended upon by the glorious angels and blessed saints; which place is called heaven, the “highest heavens,” the “highest places ;” by his presence wherein God is described here, as for distinction from all other parents here on earth, so to increase reverence in us toward Him, while we reflect upon his supereminent glory and majesty, and to raise our hearts from these inferior things unto desire and hope and love of heavenly things ; "withdrawing," saith St Chrysostom, "him that prays from earth, and fastening him to the places on high, and to the mansions above."