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clearly taught us in the prayer which our Saviour gave his disciples, as the guide and model of their worship. And its essential character is sufficiently described in the words of my text :-“ Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” He who always prays with this spirit, and who cherishes and preserves it as the director of all his affections and conduct, has that true holiness which will fit him for the blessed society above, whose constant delight is to do the will of God. That we may improve the words of the text to the cultivation of this spirit of prayer, let us consider, first, the meaning of these petitions : “ Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven;" and, secondly, the spirit with which they should be offered
I. We are to consider the meaning of these petitions; “ Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Although these petitions are distinct the one from the other, they have, in fact, the same import, and are directed to the accomplishment of the same object. For were the kingdom of God fully come; that is, did it embrace and govern all men; then would his will indeed be done in earth as it is in heaven. The latter petition, therefore, may be considered as explanatory of the former. In order, then to ascertain the meaning of both, we have only to inquire what is meant in the text by the expression, " Thy will." “ Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
Of the nature of God's will, as an attribute of his Divine mind, we know nothing. How far it resembles our own, and how immensely it differs from it, we must be for ever ignorant.
" Canst thou by searching, find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know ?" This should lead us to be very humble and modest in all our speculations concerning God's sovereign will and pleasure; how he truly purposes every event that takes place, and yet in such a way as to leave man's free agency and accountability entirely unimpaired. We should rest satisfied with the plain and express declarations of Scripture on this subject, and make them the ground of our faith and confidence in God, without venturing to attempt its explanation by
“ Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of his law."
But though the nature of God's will is thus concealed from us, we may know much of its effects from what his word teaches us of the great object of his will, and of the means which he uses to accomplish this object. The object of God's will is the display of his own glorious perfections, in order that the greatest happiness of his intelligent creatures may be promoted by leading them to admire and love this display. To accomplish this object, he has created beings capable of knowing, of loving,
our own reason.
and of serving Him. He has passed before them, and will yet pass, in such manifestations of himself as are calculated to exhibit his goodness in its most attractive, and his justice in its most awful forms. He has given them, as a rule of conduct, the law of holiness, and connected with the violation of this law a most dreadful penalty. It is by the obedience of this law among some of his subjects, and by others suffering the punishment which it denounces against transgressors, that his throne will be established in the heavens, his name glorified among his saints, and all who love him rendered completely and eternally happy. Why it is necessary, in order to promote God's glory, and the greatest good of his creatures, that sin and suffering should exist, we cannot fully discover. I pretend not to shorten the line of those who venture to fathom these deep. and awful subjects. “ Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." But to those whose eye can measure but a little way the boundless ocean of God's providence, and who, sensible of the darkness of their minds, exclaim with the Apostle, “O the depth and riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out !"-to such, one plain declaration of Scripture is more satisfactory than all the speculations of human reason. From God's word they learn that he will be glorified by the punishinent of transgressors, and by those very events which are brought to pass by means of their disobedi
ence; that this very disobedience and punishment, however, were foreseen by him from eternity ; nay, that he permits them to exist, and sustains in being the very agency of man by which they are produced, yet in such a way as to preserve his own holiness and justice unblemished, and to render the sinner guilty and inexcusable. With this the believer is satisfied. He knows that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and he adopts the submissive language of our Saviour: “Even so, Father ; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
This will of God, which relates to the existence of sin and suffering, is a part of what is often termed his secret will. Our text, I apprehend, does not so much refer to this as to the revealed will of God. Still it may indirectly refer to it, and then the meaning of the petition would be, that with regard to the future existence of evil, either natural or moral, the believer reposes the most entire confidence in the wisdom and justice of God, praying that he would direct events according to the counsel of his most holy will, and so overrule the wickedness of man, as that good may come out of evil, and the Throne of Heaven be established by the entire overthrow of all its enemies. But to pray that sin may exist, either under a general or particular shape ; to cease to detest it as the abominable thing which God hateth, or to remit a single prayer or a single effort against it; to do this is to act contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture. It is to suffer some speculative difficulties and theories to sway our
minds, instead of the plain and practical precepts of the Gospel.
But, as I before observed, the petitions contained in our text, refer chiefly to the revealed will of God, as contained in that law which he has given us as our rule of action. This law, as explained by our Saviour, requires that we should “ love the Lord our God with our whole soul and strength and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves.” This is that spirit of love and benevolence which pervades the breasts of the angels in heaven; and we are directed to pray that it may equally control the affections and conduct of our fellow-men. That such may be the happy resemblance of earth to heaven, it is first necessary that the kingdom of God should come in all its majesty and dominion. Jesus Christ must take to himself his great power, and reign King of nations, as he now is King of saints. The heathen must be given to him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.' All must bow to his sceptre and submit to his laws.
Alas ! how sadly different from this state of things is the present aspect of our world! Look for a moment, my brethren, through the vast tribes of your fellow-men, of those whose pulse beats with blood like yours, whose souls are immortal like your own, and, like yours, need to be created anew in Christ Jesus. How little is our earth like heaven! How much more does it resemble the infernal world! We have reason to fear that multitudes of