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done your duty, it is best, not to exult upon the occasion, but to think of farther improvement.
In repeating this heavenly composition, (the Lord's Prayer, I mean,) whether in public or in private, one might (such is the frailty of human nature, which will not allow us even to repeat a prayer without sin) be apt to wander sometimes, taking the Lord's name in vain ; therefore one would not so, especially if one could help it, at the clause I am endeavouring to illustrate and enforce, “ Forgive us this day our trespasses :” and if one could then think seriously enough likewise of the trespasses in general which one prays to have forgiven, it may be something, it may be hailed as a symptom of grace.
You will say perhaps, We do not know enough of our trespasses to think of them as we ought : we are willing to implore the divine forgiveness on every trespass of which we have any perception ; and trust, we shall not be punished for others. But do you deal with your inferiors and dependents in this manner; with your ignorant neighbours, your children, your brutes ? Do you never punish them for their ignorance? Or in punishing them do you remember the original cause of transgression, visiting accordingly the principles of the offender rather than his person?
“ And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. vii. 3.) Does it never occur to you to consider what share the same root of evil might have had also in the conduct of another party? Is the aggression wholly unprovoked ? For it seems to me, and may have been also observed by others before now, that frequently the person who thinks himself aggrieved is the first and greatest aggressor: and if in such a case the person should happen to double and quadruple his offence by punishing its object, the party injured, instead of its subject, bimself, the baughty aggressor,—what answer will he make to the judge who never does wrong in that case; or what
new plea will he set up for the general forgiveness of trespasses of which he stands in need, and for trespasses of this aggravated sort especially? A man should judge between his neighbour and himself with the same impartiality as he would between two foreigners in a case of supposed trespass; should judge as God judges between himself and his enemies. And—“ That be far from thee (said the glorious patriarch Abraham, as he fruitlessly interceded with God for filthy Sodom,) that be far from thee, to do after this manner,—to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ?” (Gen. xviii. 25.) And so we may say, shall not the judge of a little corner in the earth, or perhaps of only one household, and, it may be, that none of the biggest,-shall not he, a poor wretch, who has done so much wrong in other respects, shall not he do right for once in fining or punishing himself, his own guilty self, or guilty principles—his head-quarters, rather than the hapless person, be it a servant, child, or wife, with whom he is unjustly offended ?
If a man could only exercise his best judgment coolly and impartially between himself and others in this manner, he might reap the benefit of the same richly every way; as, for example, not only in the love and respect of those around him, but, what is of more consequence, in himself—in the blessed constituents of piety and humility towards God,-mercy and forgiveness, with every other branch of charity, toward mankind. In his instance the wolf would dwell with the lamb: (Isai. xi. 6 :) his natural ferocity would subside into something like Christian meekness; the stony heart would be taken out of his Aesh, and a heart of flesh put instead of it. (Ezek. xi. 19.) But too often,-indeed, I believe, in most cases; when a man wrongs his neighbour, and sins against God,-instead of being softened and humbled, and melted to contrition by a sense of his guilt, he becomes not only more
thoughtless of God continually, but more obdurate and unforgiving toward them that trespass, or only seem to trespass--against him; a natural consequence of the dissatisfaction that reigns in his guilty breast, and a very material part or preparative of his punishment. Thus a man's ill humour being once excited by secret uneasiness, is ever ready to pour forth against any object it may happen to meet, and on which it can safely alight: servants, horses, cattle,—nay, children and wife, friends and acquaintance-must all then fly before the offender, if they do not then fly from him in disgust, as they will be glad to do hereafter.
Sometimes indeed with all our frowardness, we may have, or wish to have patience with brutes when they are untoward ; because we say, They know no better : and should we not shew the same indulgence, as far as we safely may, to those of our own species, who may have the misfortune to be brutish as we say, that is, too obstinate and ignorant for men ? I think we should. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF REACTION IN THE SPLEEN OF A CHRISTIAN : with others revenge and impunity are sweet; but with him, to forgive others, and be forgiven of God, -as it is written, “ Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. v. 7.) And which would be the most rational speculation toward God; impunity, or forgiveness ?-to say with the blasphemers, “ Tush, how should God perceive it? Is there knowledge in the Most High ?” (Ps. Ixxiü. 11 ;) or to endeavour by a kind, merciful and forgiving carriage toward our fellow mortals, to experience a return of forgiveness from One to whom both we and they are finally accountable ?
O God; if we be reckoned among the hasty, and that is an affliction, let us not be reckoned among the unfor. giving; for that is a curse.“ Pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity :” and “ forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." Give us plentifully, O Lord, of that sweet, forgiving spirit which thou givest and requirest in those who are forgiven. Not only in this, but in every respect do thou look upon us as we upon others through thy blessed influence; and then forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them theirs.
“ And lead us not into temptation ; but deliver us from evil.”
Matt. vi. 13.
As I know this is not the first time that the design of illustrating the Lord's Prayer in which I am engaged has been attempted, I presume the difficulty of doing justice to the same which I feel continually, must have been felt likewise by others before now. And again, for times without number, if any one consenting, or not exactly consenting with myself in other respects, should be inclined to attempt the same unequal task, I hope he will not be the worse for it: as our Saviour says, “ Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” (Mark ix. 39.) Every production in the form of a prayer must be superior to criticism, and almost to comment, to be worthy of the divine Object to whom it is addressed. As that Object is a Spirit, the prayers that are offered up to him should be all spirit; as the royal preacher observes, “God is in Heaven ; and thou art upon earth : therefore, let thy words be few.” (Eccles. v. 2.) There should not be a superfluous word, to say nothing of “vain repetitions” (Matt. vi. 7) in it. And if ever there was an example of a such prayer, that is, of one more spiritual than literal-more divine than human-absolutely free from superfluities, and as different as possible from the “long prayer” of the Pharisees, (Ib. xxiii. 14,) here it is in this divine composition, emphatically called, The Lord's Prayer. That is what makes it so difficult, and almost next to a miracle, to speak of the same in adequate language. And it is right we should feel that so extraordinary a theme is not to be handled without extraordinary aid, that we may not forget to ask it.
For beside commenting on the Prayer itself, I wish to point out its relation to other matters as I go on, and the relation also of the matters contained therein to each other. And now I have to notice particularly an agreement between the two clauses of the present petition, “ Lead us not into temptation ; but deliver us from evil:" and those of the preceding, “Give us this day our daily bread : and forgive us our trespasses :" inasmuch as, 1, to deliver us from evil, and that essentially in the way of absolution were the same of our heavenly Father, to my poor judgment, as giving or restoring to us the bread of grace which was assigned for our spiritual nourishment, first in the creation, and next in the redemption of our kind, as I have lately signified; because the evil that is in us being removed, the good so given and restored would necessarily shew itself; death being destroyed, life would naturally prevail: 2, not leading us into temptation, as we deserve to be led much farther than we are, would be like suspending the natural operation of causes in our favour, -like cutting off the entail of guilt, and unseating it in our imagination; it would be, in short, an essential forgiveness of trespasses, and at the same time very similar to the first mentioned part of grace for a new life and delivery from evil. For let the cause be removed, and the effect will cease: temptation is the way to evil, evil the way to misery; then take away temptation, and you take away objective evil; take away this, and you take away subjective evil or misery, even misery eternal. Thus for