Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

our

do, in his first person only; that is, when we address him either in a fatherly respect, or by some fatherly consideration for him in whose name we venture to address him. Indeed I question—for having never examined this point I cannot take upon myself to assert it, but I question, if, in our whole liturgy, which is adapted to the worship of God in three relations or persons, the Father being first, this sacred name be ever used alone, except in such particular instances, and under peculiar circumstances like that before mentioned. Thus it is in the General Confession, which must necessarily regard the Father as its proper object; the Son being proposed at the same time as our Mediator with him, and the Harbinger of his mercy: also in our General Thanksgiving; where the principal ground of adoration is the Father's gift of “ Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory;" also in its distinct addresses to the Holy Trinity, where either Person happens to be mentioned severally in the order of procession, as in our beautiful Litany: which Persons being all and equally one God, we still have, or ought to have, always the idea of their distinction in such unity, in order to worship or invoke either correctly. Or if we cannot always be so exact as we ought to be in this respect, we ought at least to be so in invoking either for ends becoming his character and relation; as here, the Father for ends becoming a father, and the Fountain of perfection: that our practice may be consistent with our principles and professions.

Having alluded to the particulars of this sacred name of Father before now, and being also more bound to the spirit than to the letter of my text at present, I shall not now revert to them any farther than they concern this association, and find enough perhaps to observe hereupon; though the same, namely, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,” in which it occurs, would only seem to signify a respectful invocation, meant

• In Christian Modes, Vol. II. p. 328, &c.

as usual to usher in the various ends to be promoted in the prayer by its divine Object's grace or permission. For according to a precept of its Author recorded in another part of the Gospel, “Our Father," would seem a peculiar and distinctive epithet of the Deity, or the name only of that only Father which we, or some of us, may have in Heaven; that is, as our Saviour elsewhere signifies, if we be his children; which we may be by ways and means, such as loving our enemies, &c. (Matt. v. 44, 45.) His words in the precept alluded to are these, “ And call no man your father upon the earth : for one is your father, which is in Heaven.” (Ib. xxiii. 9.) To judge from this precept, therefore, it would seem, I say, as if our Saviour meant appropriate the venerable name of Father to God in Heaven exclusively, considering it much too good to be applied to any man on earth. While we are on the subject, therefore, it may be worth remarking, that our Saviour could never mean to reprove this application of the paternal name in one instance; which be justified by his own regular example; as by his doctrine be also upheld the ties of blood more than some who were lavish of the titles thence derived; (Matt. xv. 3, &c. ;) whatever distinction he might be pleased to put between the material affinity that we only bear sometimes to our earthly parents, and the immaterial that we must bear to the Best of beings, if we bear it not to the worst. He only meant to reprove the use of empty titles, the use of flattery, the use of a very common figure of speech, as no figure is more common than flattery; whereby this sounding epithet came to be used almost universally in the East at the time, and was subsequently imported therefrom into the western churcb with some other eastern and heathenish usages of about the same value, contrary to our Saviour's forecited prohibition. For such Aattering custom or usage was evidently the object of such prohibition, and that we should not salute every man who wore a beard and a good coat at the same time by this venerable name. For Christians especially to bestow such a name in respect of incidentals, or property, on every minion of fortune, or train-bearer to Mammon, as our Saviour bestowed it on One above, of whom it has been said, “Holy and Reverend is his name;" (Ps. cxi. 9;) or that the name of any man on his getting into a certain situation any how should forthwith become holy and reverend with the venerable epithet of Father beside,-as if it were Heaven--that situation I mean; all that, and every thing of the kind, was what our Saviour and the Founder of our religion meant to reprove; and ever will, let his HUMBLE FOLLOWERS think as they like of it*.

If Elijah could say, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, (Kings I. xix. 10, our Saviour could say farther, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up :" (John ii. 17:) and any honest heart might perceive the same devouring chagrin, when it observes the venerable name of our universal Parent so abused as it is in the world by its rank misapplication. To our natural parents the simple term of Father and Mother is as due as that of man and woman, or any other name to its proper object; so is that of Godfather and Godmother to those who have happily begotten us to God; but still in point of affection and reverence Our Father in Heaven is to be regarded as One of a thousand, or rather-of" ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;" and more to every one individually than his own dear parents, even in point of affinity,--so that, however we may love them on our own account, we must needs love him more; nay, much more : so much more indeed, that the affection we bear to them will be like hatred itself in comparison; as our Saviour says, “If any man come to me, and bate not his

• That many an humble Christian in reality has consented to bear this unbecoming epithet we cannot doubt. He did it perhaps for the sake of an opportunity to do good ; (scil, a bishoprick,)- or thinking, perhaps, that the pretty names bestowed on himself would ultimately attach to his employer. (See what is said before about Pretty ways, p. 262.) May God be merciful to them in his way! but I think they were mistaken in theirs.

father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters; yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke xiv. 26.)

Therefore the proper as well as most encouraging and agreeable sense of the appellation “Our Father which art in Heaven," is that of the same dear relation to God as we bear to our next greatest benefactor on earth; but prodigiously exalted and refined: being also one in which the Higher Correlative then supposed has an advantage that many earthly fathers would be happy to possess, and their children not the worse for conceding oftener than they do; if we may here understand by Heaven that intellectual empire or dominion prevailing universally, of which the human heart is one little department. For here the heavenly Father takes his station among those whom he deigns to own and honour with his presence: and by the motions which he here directs are we advanced continually toward the attainment of the greatest good of which we were either made capable in creation, or have since become capable by the knowledge of the truth, " pressing (as it is said) toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. iii. 14.)

2. Then such being the Object of the Lord's Prayer, the divine Authority to which it is addressed, its general Object, and an Object for every clause or petition; we may thence infer by analogy, or by a parity of principles as aforesaid, who are its proper Subjects, who the suppliants or petitioners by whom it may be properly offered to its Object. For since our Saviour does not allow the app lation of Father to be given as a title or epithet to any authority upon earth, but only to our Father in Heaven, it cannot become any beside his children to use the same in earth or elsewhere. And who may be his children? Is it the seed of Abraham particularly? His seed it is no doubt. And who may be the seed or children of Abraham? “They which are of faith are the children of Abraham:" (Gal. iii. 7:) and “whosever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is

born of God.” (John I. v. 1.) But there are two kinds or degrees as well of the children of Abraham, as of the children of God. Some are not half children to Abraham as our Saviour told some, but rather children of the devil: and he is their real object of worship, whatever they may profess or pretend. “If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham," says he: “if God were your Father ye would love me: for I proceeded forth, and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning; and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (John viii. 42, &c.)

And so with regard to the children of God; all are not equally, or not in an equal degree such at present, and none perhaps as they will be, if I rightly understand that saying of St. John's, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (John I. iii. 2.) But foremost and unparalleled as yet among the proper subjects or due repeaters of the Lord's Prayer is to be reckoned its Author and Teacher, “the first born among many brethren, who also daily offers it with us.” “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," (Matt. xviii. 20,) says he: and as it was said by him prospectively, “I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the people: and I will sing unto thee among the nations." (Ps. lvii. 10.) And well may it then whet our devotion to have him on our side at prayer, as it would our courage on

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »