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ment, of many persons, is chiefly a wish to be seen of men; a compliance with custom, a mode of maintaining decent respectability ?
How gracious is the accompanying promise ? How encouraging to fervent prayer, whether in public or private services ! Thy Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Prayer is our privilege, as well as our duty: and yet the exercise of our privilege is followed by a reward.
7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.
9. After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name ;
10. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven;
11. Give us this day our daily bread. 12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you :
15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your
Father forgive your trespasses. Our Lord had before said, “First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” And now he says, “ Forgive men their trespasses, as you hope to be yourselves forgiven.
And having described the temper in which prayer must be offered, he leaves with us a form of prayer, both for our use and our imitation. After this
manner pray ye. Consider, therefore, the nature of this prayer; the thoughts it expresses : the tendency of its petitions.
Our hearts are first raised towards the majesty of Him whom we are addressing, our Father which is in heaven : and we are reminded, what ought to be our chief desire, that his authority should be recognized, his holy name adored. Hallowed be thy name !
Thy kingdom come!
This is not the first thing which men, of their own accords, would be inclined to pray for. But, happy indeed would it be, if his kingdom were universal here on earth : if he, who “ruleth over all,” were acknowledged by all as ruler! Then they might be able to look forward, with more scriptural hope, to the coming of his heavenly kingdom.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
This earth would, comparatively, resemble heaven, if the will of God were followed in it. The transgression of his will is the chief cause of the misery which abounds. The whole creation groaneth under the effects of sin. Let it be our desire, at least, to pay that obedience, and to be employed in that service here, which is the distinguishing happiness of angels above.
Give us this day our daily bread,
“Our heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask him." Still he “ will be inquired of” by his people. But while we seek the supply of temporal wants, let Him see, who sees the heart, that “a famine of bread in the land”
is far less dreaded by us, than “of hearing the word of the Lord.”
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
We are, then, trespassers : we need forgiveness. Our hearts must be ill-instructed in the divine law, if they do not tell us that it is so. And he who lives through mercy, must show mercy. An unforgiving spirit would mar the effect even of this Christian prayer, because it would betray a most unchristian state of mind.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There are temptations which “are common to men." We see throughout all Scripture, that it is God's will that his people should be tried. But who, that knows his frailty, and the infirmity of his best purposes, will not pray that he may be kept from temptation, and delivered from the evil one?
If these petitions are granted, it will be the Lord's doing. To his name be all the praise. For thine, O Lord, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Matt. vi. 16—23.
16. Moreover, when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
These verses introduce us to another species of hypocrisy, outward mortification. The hypocrite knows that there is a disposition to admire one who appears to be above the world, and to despise what others value. People shall perceive, said the Pharisee, that I am not like themselves. I fast thrice in the week : I put sackcloth on my limbs, and ashes on my head. They will respect these signs of mourning and penitence: they will be astonished at so much holiness and self-denial.
Strange as this particular kind of vain glory may appear to us, it is not unnatural, as the practice of the Faquirs and other devotees in India may still testify. The ages are different, and the countries distant; but corrupt nature is still the same.
Let us now consider what the Christian's behaviour would be, in this same particular of selfdenial. In the course of his conflict against sin dwelling within him, he might find, by experience, that the indulgence of one appetite provoked another : and that the more he restrained bis bodily inclinations, and refused to gratify them, the better he was able to serve God in all things, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Therefore he might determine with himself to fast: i.e. to eat sparingly, and of the simplest things ; such as are least likely to provoke a sinful thought or action. Or he might regulate himself according to a rule which has been recommended by eminent Christians, and
deny himself” in some thing every day ; on the principle of the apostle, where he says. “All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any:" I will not make them necessary to me. But this would be a matter between himself and God; his nearest friend would not be aware of it: much less would he proclaim it to the multitude. Thou when thou fastest, (our Lord seems to imply that self-denial is essential to his disciples,) anoint thy head and wash thy face : that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret. He who seeth in secret, will, at the day of account, lay open much hypocrisy which had here, perhaps, received unmerited applause, and will reward concealed acts of piety and charity.
Let it be our care so to live, that we may rejoice in knowing, that our heavenly Father does