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beginning. And although he directs the movements of the thousands and the tens of thousands of planets that are travelling through all space, yet he superintends the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hair of the head. It is underived knowledge. It does not come from any communications we can make at his footstool. It is not acquired through the medium of external objects. It is a prescience that dwells in the Deity, as water in a fountain,—clear— abundant-inexhaustible-eternal. It is supplied by no river; replenished by no source. For the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed."* "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things to whom be glory for ever, Amen."† And it is efficient knowledge. It is the knowledge of a parent; but not of a parent like ourselves. "He is able to make all grace to abound towards us :" and his fidelity engages Him to do it. He is equally "a God at hand and afar off;" He has every thing under his controul, and " will perfect that which concerneth us." In many cases we may know, indeed, the wants and desires of our children; our bowels may yearn over their sorrows, and we may strive by every effort which affection can dictate, to assuage their grief; but all may fail. There are wounds which none can heal, and there is an anguish which none can mitigate, but the Divine Physician and the Heavenly Parent of man; and with Him "all things are possible.”
Fourthly. The argument which this perfection of the Almighty supplies. This knowledge is mentioned by our
1 Sam. ii. 3.
† Rom. xi. 33-36.
Lord, with a view to prevent his followers from adopting the foolish practice of the heathen, and the sinful imitation of that practice by the Jews, with reference to the frequent and disgusting tautologies contained in their prayers. The point of instruction laid down in this passage on the subject is, that such a method is wholly unnecessary: and it is applicable to every species of superstitious zeal, and excessive austerity; to all formal attendance on the house of God, and to the multiplication of public services, to the neglect of domestic and closet duties, or the injury of health; and to the great mistake which some commit, who measure the value of their devotion rather by its repetition and length, than by the spirituality of their minds in its performance. The omniscience of Jehovah is too perfect to need, and his mercy too great to require, any fervent and protracted supplication which may be hurtful to our physical powers, with a view to inform him of our necessities, or to persuade him to relieve them. Such I consider to be the meaning of the precept; and I shall therefore hasten to close the present exercise by three observations.
First. The sin of neglecting prayer is here implied. In a subsequent part of this sermon of our Lord's, the duty of "watching unto prayer," is forcibly inculcated; here, however, it is assumed. There are some who have absurdly concluded, that because God is omniscient, it was not their duty to pray. They have argued the question thus: He who knows all things, cannot need to be informed by the creature; and He who is always ready to bestow that which is necessary and proper on his children, cannot require them to ask for their wonted supplies. Now the inference here drawn is not warranted either by the text, or by analogy. Not by the text,-for our Lord does not say-seeing your Father which is in heaven knows what you need without your telling Him, therefore it is
wholly useless to pray; but, that He knows before we ask Him what we really want. Nor is it supported by analogy --for it might be as reasonably said,—it is useless to endeavour to preserve and prolong life by taking food, or by the use of medicine to remove disease; because God hath foreseen and determined the measure of health, and the length of life. But who was ever known to argue thus? And can you name one thing which the foreknowledge of the Almighty did not embrace, which it is nevertheless our duty to discharge? Both manual labour and mental application are necessary for the production of food and the acquisition of knowledge; and it is equally unphilosophical to question the propriety of prayer to obtain the blessings of his grace, as it would be to question the use of these means for the purposes of life, and the information of the mind. But, besides all this, prayer is so valuable in itself, to cherish a dependence on the Lord, to work suitable affections in the heart, and to restrain from the commission of evil; that they who live without it lose a great privilege, as well as neglect a most Christian duty.
Secondly. It is necessary to receive these instructions, and seek the spirit of prayer and supplication. Remember, that the mere utterance of words, whether they are "vain repetitions," or duly pondered, without the accompanying homage of the heart, is as offensive to God, as any of the reprobated and superstitious observances of the Jews. The "calves of the lips" are no better than "the calves of the stall." It is possible to avoid the errors of the heathen on this point, and yet be guilty of
* See some admirable remarks on this subject, in “Thoughts preparative or persuasive to private Devotion." By John Sheppard. Second Edition.
Let us, therefore, beware of this evil in every part of divine worship, whether it be private or public. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." "Man looketh at the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Formal service and devout expressions, however carefully arranged, are "vain repetitions" in his sight.
Finally. Let this subject relieve us of all unbecoming anxiety. You have a Father in heaven, and what then ought to distress those who look to Him, and trust in Him? It is your privilege to draw near to Him in this character, and He has graciously condescended to give you "access with confidence by faith in the Lord Jesus." Guard, therefore, against unbelief; for "let not him that wavereth expect to receive anything at his hands." Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," is his own command and promise; and if you approach Him in the true spirit of filial love and submission, you will not be guilty of the sin of the Pharisees, though you should call upon Him every hour in the day. With this frame of heart, you may “pray without ceasing," the more frequent the better. "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." Amen.
MATTHEW vi. 9.
" "AFTER THIS MANNER THEREFORE PRAY YE, OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN."
We now enter on the consideration of that "form of sound words," which is commonly designated, “The Lord's Prayer," and which He delivered as a model to direct us in all our addresses at the divine footstool. It includes four branches of our duty in that holy employment; namely―invocation, intercession, supplication, and ascription; these are comprised in the general term, "prayer," and are essential to the beauty of that spiritual exercise. The reason of its being given is obvious:-it was to preserve all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, from the "vain repetitions" which the heathen used in their devotions, when they called on their idol deities. Having admonished them against the superstitions which had crept into the pompous and hypocritical professions of piety among the Jews, it was desirable that He should lay down a simple, but comprehensive scheme, which every one "who gives himself unto prayer" may safely and profitably follow. This He has, therefore, done, by first telling us how we are not, and then how we are, to pray.
It has been well observed by a late distinguished