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suaded that our requests are framed according to his will, we need have no distrustful anxiety about their success, for he will enforce them with all the merit of his own blood ; and therefore we may confidently hope to obtain what we ask, in that time and way which unerring wisdom sees best for us : “For this,” says the Apostle John, “is the confidence which we have in the Son of God, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us : and if we know that he heareth us, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him," 1 John v. 14, 15.
This, my brethren, is an abundant source of consolation and joy : and though our desires are limited to such things as are agreeable to the will of our Redeemer; yet by this very limitation our comfort is extended, and prayer becomes a privilege of infinitely greater value than otherwise it would be. An unconfined liberty in our addresses to God, would, in most cases, (to such ignorant and unthinking creatures as we are), amount to nothing better than the choice of the means and manner of our own destruction: Eccl. vi. 12. « For who knoweth what is good for man in this life.” Whereas our glorious High Priest, who is perfectly acquainted with our state, can never be at a loss to know what is good for us; and the costly proofs he hath already given of his mercy and love, leave us no room to suspect his concern for our welfare. The least reflection on his sufferings, may easily convince us, that he sincerely intends our happiness, and can disapprove of nothing but what is hurtful to our interest. Neither hath he left it to the uncertain conjectures and doubtful reasonings of our own niinds, to find out what
agreeable to him; this is clearly revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. And to render the discovery of it still more easy to us, he hath furnished us with a short but perfect model of devotion, in this comprehensive prayer which he taught his disciples; by attending to which, we may learn from his own mouth, after what manner we Vol. II.
should address the throne of grace, and what ought to be the matter and order of our desires. Hereby the surest foundation is laid for our confidence and hope; and whatever is according to this divine pattern, we may ask with full assurance of faith, being confident that he who hath secured for us all the blessings which we need, will certainly listen to those desires which he himself hath excited and authorised. " And if we know that he heareth us," we may from thence certainly conclude, “ that we shall have the petitions we desired of him."
I shall not detain you with any account of the several parts of this excellent prayer, nor the particular design for which our Lord introduced it in this sermon; only, to make way for the instructions I propose to lay before you on this occasion, I shall observe in general,
That prayer is not only an acknowledgment of our dependence upon God for the blessings we ask, but it likewise imports a sincere resolution, on our part, to put ourselves in the way of those blessings, and to use all proper means for obtaining them. Thus, when we pray for daily bread, we do not mean that God should indulge our idleness, and feed us in a miraculous way; but only, that he would countenance our honest endeavours, and prosper them by his blessing, which alone maketh rich. In like manner, when we pray as in my text, that the kingdom of God may come, we certainly intimate our own consent to be employed as instruments in carrying on this design, and must be understood as binding and obliging ourselves, by tliis petition, to do every thing in our sphere that may contribute to promote it.
Accordingly, I shall endeavour, in dependence upon the divine aid,
First, To explain and illustrate the petition itself. And,
Secondly, To shew what may reasonably be expected from us, in consequence of our using it.- Or rather, indeed, what is absolutely necessary to prove that we are sincere, when we thus pray, Thy kingdom come.”
It is scarcely to be supposed, that any who read their Bibles, can be ignorant of what is here meant by the kingdom of God. This form of speech was very common among the Jews, especially about the time of our Saviour's appearance ; and was used by them, to signify that grand revolution foretold in ancient prophecy, which was to be brought about by the Messiah, their long expected King. Thus, we find the Pharisees (Luke xvii. 20.) inquiring " when the kingdom of God should come;" that is, as the context explains it, when the reign of the Messiah should commence: and John the Baptist proclaimed the approach of this glorious Person in the same style, saying, “ Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matth. iii. 2.). There are several other passages in the New Testament, where the same phrase occurs; from which it doth still more plainly appear, that by the
kingdom of God” is meant the gospel dispensation, in which subjects were to be gathered to God, by his Son, as the reconciling Mediator, and by him formed into a church or spiritual kingdom, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail ; which is to subsist on earth, and enlarge itself in spite of all opposition, till at length it shall become perfect in heaven, and triumph in eternal glory.
Now, this kingdom is either External, comprehending all who make an open profession of faith in Christ, and submit to the ordinances which he hath instituted; or Internal, consisting in that dominion which he exercises over the hearts of his subjects, converting them by his grace to the faith and obedience of the gospel, enlightening their minds, renewing their wills, and purifying their affections; filling them with“ righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" that is, with true Christian virtue, and all the blessed fruits and effects of it. And no doubt the
petition respects both these views of the kingdom of God; for though the last, viz. the dominion of grace in the heart, or the kingdom of God within us, is beyond comparison the most valuable of the two, and therefore chiefly to be desired by us; yet, as this kingdom is introduced and established by means of the ordinances which Christ hath appointed, we ought likewise to be much concerned for the preservation and enlargement of the visible church, or that external kingdom within which these ordinances are dispensed, and to pray for the one in order to the other.
So that this petition may be considered, as directing us to pray for these following things :
1st, That the gospel may be propagated throughout the world, and all nations brought to the knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.
It appears from the prophetic writings of the Old Tes. tament, that no less than universal dominion was promised to the Lord Redeemer. “ Ask of me,” says God, (Psal. ii. 8.), “ and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” It was foretold, (Psal. lxxii. 8, 11, 17.), 66 that his dominion should reach from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; yea, that all kings should bow down before him, and all nations should serve him ; that men should be blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed.” And that remarkable passage, (Dan. vii. 13, 14.), is a clear and express declaration on this head. " I saw," says the Prophet,“ in the night-visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him ; and there was given hiin dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve hin."
Now it is evident, that the extent of his kingdom doth not yet equal these magnificent descriptions of it. There are still many dark corners of the earth upon which the Sun of Righteousness hath never arisen: others, which were once visited with his healing and comforting light, have had their candlestick long removed ; and the Jews whose return to their own Messiah shall so remarkably enrich the church, and give such life and beauty to it, that Paul compares it to a “resurrection from the dead," (Rom. xi, 15.) do still retain their prejudice against him, and obstinately refuse subjection to him,
We ought therefore to pray that the gospel, which hitherto has been confined within very narrow bounds, may gradually spread and extend itself on every side, till at length it obtain possession of the whole earth, and “ all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ,” (Rev. xi. 15.).-But,
2dly, We are more especially to pray for a divine bles. sing to accompany the means of grace ;
That the gospel may come to men, not in word only, but also in power, and prove effectual for turning “ them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”—That where Christ doth already reign in his external ordinances, there he would also erect his throne in the hearts of men, subduing sinners to himself, and training up his saints, by the influences of his holy Spirit, to a meetness for that undefiled inheritance which he hath purchased for them. And,
3dly, We are likewise authorised by this petition to pray, that whatever stands in opposition to the kingdom of our Redeemer, either with respect to the extent or in fluence of it, may be removed out of the way :
Particularly, that Antichrist, that “man of sin and son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God,” (2 Thess. ii. 2, 3, 4.), and hath long been “ drunk with the blood of the saints,” (Rev. xvii. 6.), may be brought to the ground, and never arise any more: that the delusions of the false prophet, and blasphemous