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give it you.” Barely calling Christ Lord, and making use of his name in our prayers, will not secure a favourable an
But if we pray to God, as disciples of Jesus, and according to the directions which he has given; then it may be very reasonable to hope, that whatever we ask, Gud will give it unto us.
Once more, it must be supposed, that after our Lord's ascension the apostles did pray in his name, and as his disciples. Nevertheless in their epistles are found prayers and praises, which are not offered up through Christ, or in his name expressly. Prayers without that expression may be seen in Acts i. 24, 25; Col. i. 9-11; 1 Thess. v. 23; and elsewhere.
We quoted some while ago two places of the epistle to the Romans, where St. Paul thanks God, and gives glory to God through Jesus Christ. So also Eph. iii. 20, 21, “ Now unto bim that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think- unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.". But in 1 Tim. i. 17, omitting by or through Christ, he says: “ Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever
Amen.” And Philip. iv. 20, “ Now unto God, even our Father, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” And St. Jude concludes his epistle with these words. “ To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.”
I beg leave to observe farther, that the apostles never pray to God to grant them any thing for the sake of Christ. Nor is God any where in the New Testament said to vouchsafe blessings to men for Christ's sake. We read in our version, Eph. iv. 32, “ And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hatlı forgiven you.” But a more exact translation would be," as God in Christ," or through Christ,
“ “ has forgiven you.” So the apostle says at the beginning of the same epistle to the Ephesians, ch. i. 3, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Through Christ God dispenseth all blessings to men, and particularly forgiveness of sins. Through him forgiveness is vouchsafed to all who repent. And men are called and invited to repent, with the gracious promise and assurance of forgiveness of sins, without taking on them the burden of the law of Moses. Luke xxiv, 47, “ And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his
name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Acts x. 43, “ To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” See likewise ch. ii. 19; and ch. xiii. 38,—“ through his name is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." And see 2 Cor. v. 19; and Rom. vi. 23, " The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
APPLICATION. I now proceed to mention some remarks by way of application; which also may be of use for farther illustrating this point.
1. We hence perceive that prayers and praises ought generally, if not always, to be offered to God the Father.
Says our Lord: “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, be will give it you.” In St. Stephen, Acts vii. 59, is an instance of a prayer addressed to Christ, saying, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And St. Paul, 1 Thess. iii. 11,
“ Now God himself, even our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” But usually in the Acts and in the epistles, prayers are directed to God the Father, to whom our Lord himself prayed when on earth.
Doubtless our blessed Lord, in his state of exaltation in heaven, knows all things done on this earth. And if he be intercessor for us, as we are taught in the New Testament, it is requisite he should know all the prayers that are offered by his people for whom he intercedes. Before he left the disciples he assured them, John xiv. 13, “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do," I will take care it shall be done, " that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Jesus Christ, likewise, as constituted Lord and Judge of the world, must intimately know all things done therein. This knowledge of things he claims and manifests in his messages and warnings sent to the churches in the Revelation. Rev. ii, 18, 19, “ And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira, write, These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a Aame of fire. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and patience,"ver. , 23, “ And all the churches shall know, that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. And I will give unto every one of you, according to his works.” Nevertheless, as we have seen, prayers and praises are usually in the New Testament presented to God the Father. And so St. Paul directs, Eph. v. 20, “ Giving thanks always for all things unto God, even the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And Heb. xiii. 15, “ By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.
2. We are now able to solve that question, concerning
the prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, and is recorded in Matt. vi. and Luke xi, whether it be proper to, be used, since Christ's ascension.
For some have argued in this manner. Jesus Christ, say they, in St. John's gospel, a little before he left his disciples, directed them to pray in his name.'
But his name is not mentioned in the Lord's prayer. Therefore it was designed for the use of the disciples only, till he was risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
But that argument is of no force, according to the interpretation now given of asking the Father in Christ's name, that is, according to his directions, as his disciples, in a way, suited to the sublimity of his institution. Such certainly is this prayer. It is truly evangelical, according to the utmost perfection of the rules delivered by Cbrist concerning prayer. For here spiritual blessings are asked in the first place, temporal good things with moderation,“ daily bread,” a à sufficiency only. And when we offer up this prayer, we pray with a benevolent, forgiving temper of mind. Finally, the overruling providence of God in all things is acknowledged, and we pray to be preserved from evil, or to be supported and strengthened under it, so as that we may not fall, and sin against God. All the petitions of this prayer therefore are evangelical. And if offered with a suitable temper, the prayer will be accepted.
There is another objection against the use of this prayer, which also will appear to be of no moment. Here we pray, that the “ kingdom of God may come :” whereas, say they, the kingdom of God is already come. The kingdom of God, or the gospel-dispensation, was set up, and made known
Christ's ascension. And his apostles soon preached the gospel every where, and Jews and Gentiles were received into the church of God.
But in answer to this, it is obvious to say, that “ God's name may [yet] be hallowed,” and “ bis kingdom may come” more universally. And we may therefore reasonably pray, that it may be upheld and advanced.
This prayer then, in every part of it, is still very proper to be used, and without inserting Christ's name. For if the petitions be offered with a suitable temper, the petitioner prays “ in the name of Christ, as a disciple of his."
This prayer therefore may be still very fitly used. But I do not say, that it ought to be always used, or that we ought never to address ourselves to God, without saying
3. We can now understand those words of Christ to
thë disciples: “ Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name."
The meaning is not, as some have supposed, hitherto you have not made use of my name in your prayers;
but hitherto you have not prayed, as my disciples ought to do. Hitherto your prayers have wanted somewhat of that spirituality, and heavenly-mindedness, which becomes my doctrine.
It is well known to all, that for a good while Christ's disciples had ambitious and worldly views, and desires of pre-eminence; which produced jealousies and eniulations, inconsistent with the perfection of mutual love. But our Lord's death, and resurrection, and ascension to heaven, together with illuminations received from above, would enable them fully to understand the tenour of his doctrine, and raise their minds to things above. The glory of God, the interests of religion, and the real welfare of mankind, would then be their prevailing concerns, and they would be able to pray in Christ's name, as his disciples, and according to the rules, which he had given concerning prayer.
We are led to this interpretation by the words, immediately following those of the text. “ These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs," or parables. «The time cometh, when I shall no more speak to you in proverbs. But I shall shew, you plainly of the Father.”
Our Lord had told the disciples “ all things,” John xv. 15, the whole scheme of the gospel ; as we may clearly discern from the accounts of his ministry, which have been left us by the evangelists. But their prejudices, strengthened too by carnal affections, made them slow of understanding. Our Lord therefore now says to them: • My, discourses oftentimes have appeared to you obscure, and you have not fully perceived my intention. Nor could I speak so plainly, as was to be desired. Because of the danger of offending you, some truths have been represented in am
biguous expressions. But now the time is coming, when • all your prejudices will be removed, and you will clearly
understand how God is to be worshipped, and you will comprehend and observe the directions which I have given you, as my disciples. Then you will be able to pray in a spiritual and acceptable manner. Ver. 26, “ In that day ye shall” or will á ask in my name. And I
bot unto you that I will pray the Father for yoủ. For the Father
himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have • believed, that I came out from God.” Your requests will • then be so reasonable and acceptable, that I need not in
tercede for you, though I certainly shall do so. For your praying, and acting in other respects, as my disciples, the • Father himself will love you, and manifest himself to you, • and grant whatsoever you ask.
* In that day, and thenceforward, you will not ask to sit, one of you on my right hand, and another on the left, in
my kingdom; whilst the rest are offended, and jealous of • partial respects for such petitioners ; apprehensive, lest • they should obtain a pre-eminence, to which they are not • entitled, and prejudicial to others. But you will all de• sire the best things, in the first place. Such things you ' will desire for yourselves, and for each other, and for all Your most earnest desires will be, that
be • faithful to God, and that others may be so likewise, and so act in all things as to obtain eternal life.'
4. It is reasonable to infer, that all christians should be desirous to pray in the name of Christ, or, as his disciples, agreeably to the nature of bis doctrine, and according to the rules which he has given concerning prayer.
So we ought to endeavour to pray, both in private and in public, particularly in public. There, especially, we ought to be careful to pray, as disciples of Jesus. Some will bring into their prayers their own particular notions about the fall of Adam, and its consequences, original sin, the corruption of the human nature, the incomprehensible order of divine decrees, election, grace, and other points. Others, and possibly the same persons, at other times, will introduce their particular system of the Trinity, or the person of Christ, and his transactions. But public prayer should be such as all christians can join in. We are not in our prayers to strive to impose our own notions upon others, or to exclude any christians from joining in the addresses we present to God. A minister, in his public prayers, is to offer up common requests and praises, the unfeigned devotions of the assembly. Public prayers are not to be Lutheran, nor Calvinistical, nor Arminian, but christian, and scriptural. There should be in them neither Arianism, nor Nicenism. How contrary to the christian and apostolical rule, to offer petitions, or make declarations in prayer, to which a sincere christian cannot assent, or about which he has doubts and scruples! For according to St. Paul's argument in Rom. xiv, « The kingdom of God is not meat and drink,” or doubtful, contested, intricate systems and speculations : “ but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of (wise] men.