Thy kingdom come.
Christ having taught us to pray for the sanctifying of GodŐs name, in the former petition, doth in this, and the rest which follow, as it were, expound the same, by directing us to the means whereby GodŐs name is hallowed of us; for then do we glorify GodŐs name, when He sets up His kingdom in us; and we suffer Him to rule in our hearts, when we do His will, depend upon His providence for the things of this life, trust in His mercy for the pardon of our sins, and on His power and strength against temptation. Now of them all, this second hath the nearest dependence upon the former, as being an especial means thereof; for men ought to glorify GodŐs name on earth, but of themselves they cannot do it till God rules in their hearts by His Word and Spirit, and so set up His kingdom in them.
GodŐs kingdom is twofold: general and special.
1. GodŐs general kingdom is His absolute power and sovereignty, whereby He ruleth all things in heaven, in earth and in hell, even the devils themselves; (Psa. 103:19), The Lord hath prepared His throne in heaven, His kingdom ruleth over all; and this we acknowledge in the end of this prayer, For thine is the kingdom. Now this we pray not for, because it is always everywhere, no creature can hinder it, no not all the devils in hell; for every creature is subject hereunto, and can do nothing but that which God either willeth or permitteth (Dan. 4:35), according to His will He worketh in the army of heaven, and in the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hands nor say, What doest thou?
2. GodŐs special kingdom is that whereby He ruleth His elect and chosen people, working His will not only by them, as He doth in His general kingdom, by the devils themselves, but in them also by His Holy Spirit; and it is called special, because it is not exercised over all the world, but only over the elect, whom He hath ordained to eternal life.
This special kingdom of God is twofold: either of grace or of glory.
(1) The kingdom of grace is a spiritual estate wherein God makes men willingly subject to His written Word by His Spirit. I call the kingdom of grace a spiritual estate both because it is principally exercised in the conscience, and also because this regiment in the conscience is by the Spirit of God. Secondly, I shew wherein it consists; namely, in a voluntary subjection of the whole man in soul, and body, and spirit, to the will of God revealed in the Word; (Psa. 110:3), Thy people shall come willingly in the day of assembling thine army, in holy beauty. And this subjection standeth in three things: in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17).
(i) In righteousness, that is, first, in ChristŐs righteousness imputed; and secondly, in the righteousness of a good conscience; the ground whereof is sanctification of the Spirit, which Christ gives them whom He doth justify.
(ii) In peace, that is, peace of conscience towards God, and peace with GodŐs church; yea, with all creatures, so far forth as is needful for them. Now under peace, we must comprehend love, and all duties of love; for as righteousness concerns the person in soul and body, so peace respects all duties and actions of the life. Righteousness is the root from whence springeth this peace with every action thereof; for when the heart is sanctified, the life is reformed.
(iii) Lastly, in joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a fruit of both the former, respecting especially the state of affliction, for when a man is justified and sanctified, and hath peace towards God, then ariseth in his heart a spiritual delight in God, in all estates; yea, though great afflictions light upon him for GodŐs cause, yet he beareth them with inward joy and delight, knowing that the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon him, and that he shall be glorified with Christ, if he suffer with Christ; which things, while he compareth together, he little esteemeth the afflictions of this life, in respect of the glory that shall be revealed; (2 Cor. 4:17), For the light affliction that is but for a moment, causeth unto us a far more excellent and eternal weight of glory. These are the branches of this spiritual subjection, which whosoever hath, is a good subject in the kingdom of grace; as the apostle saith in the next verse (Rom. 14:18), He that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable unto God, and approved of men.
(2) The kingdom of glory is the blessed estate of GodŐs elect in heaven, whereby God in Christ becomes all things unto them immediately (1 Cor. 15:28). This estate of glory is a subjection also, but yet such a subjection as is indeed a glorious regiment; for there we reign with Christ, in whom and through whom God Himself becomes honour, peace, health, food, raiment, and all things needful to the perfection of felicity.
Now these two being GodŐs kingdom, differ thus: the state of grace is the beginning and entrance of the state of glory; and the state of glory is the perfection of the state of grace. This state of glory is the city, and the state of grace, as it were, the suburbs of it. In this life, we live in the kingdom of grace; but the kingdom of glory is reserved for the life to come; and this special kingdom of God in both these estates, do we here pray for.
This imports that there is another kingdom, even the kingdom of Satan, which is a kingdom of darkness, full of all disorder and confusion through sin, which greatly hindereth and annoyeth GodŐs kingdom of grace especially.
That is, to us men in the world; and then it cometh when God doth erect and establish the same in their hearts. Now unto perfection it comes in five degrees:
(1) When God gives unto men the outward means of salvation, wherein He doth reveal His grace and favour in Christ; as the gospel is preached, which is therefore called the Word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). And so Christ (having relation to His preaching, which He confirmed by miracles among the Jews) saith, The kingdom of God is come unto you (Luke 11:20). And being demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come; He tells them that it was among them (Luke 17:21), meaning that is was brought unto them by the ministry of John Baptist, of Himself, and of His disciples; although indeed it were without profit to many of them.
(2) When the Word preached enlightens the mind, so as a man knows and understands the mysteries of the gospel, which is the law of this kingdom.
(3) When a man is thereby regenerated, and so brought into this kingdom; for by regeneration we have effectual entrance into the state of grace, wherein Christ rules in us by His Word and Spirit, and we yield subjection unto Him.
(4) At the end of this life, when the body goes to the earth, but the soul to God that gave it, being translated to the joys of heaven, in the glory of this kingdom.
(5) At the last judgment, when body and soul being united again, are both made partakers of the glory of this kingdom; and this is the full and perfect coming of it.
So then, our request to God in this petition is to this effect: O Father, let thy kingdom come to us that be pilgrims and strangers here on earth, prepare us for it, and enter us into it, that be yet without; renew us by thy Spirit, that we may be subject to thy will, confirm us also in this estate, that our souls after this life, and both soul and body at the day of judgment, may be fully glorified; yea Lord, hasten this glory to us, and to all thine elect.
1. Wants to be bewailed.
The wants we are to bewail in this petition, either concern ourselves, or others.
(1) First, we must lament and mourn for our own miserable estate by nature, whereby we are the servants of sin, and so in thraldom and bondage under Satan. Sin leads us into bondage, for he that committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34). And where sin reigneth, there the devil hath dominion. And hence it comes that we rebel so much against the kingdom of God, and refuse to stoop to the sceptre of His Word. Indeed this bondage is weakened in GodŐs children, but none is wholly freed from it in this life, as PaulŐs complaint declares (Rom. 7:14), The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. The natural man is dead in sin and feels it not; we therefore must labour to feel in ourselves this spiritual bondage under sin; and when we feel it, we must bewail it, and so shew some life of grace to be in us. This Paul did (Rom. 7:24), O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Look as the prisoner feels his bolts and fetters, so sensibly should we feel the chain of sin, wherewith our souls are kept in bondage; and till we feel it and bewail it, the kingdom of Christ doth not come unto us. We must therefore every day, cry unto Christ our Lord, that He would shew Himself to be our Redeemer by breaking the fetters of sin wherewith our souls are kept in bondage, and giving us that free spirit which may fully erect His blessed kingdom in our hearts; for where the Spirit is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
(2) Secondly, we must bewail the sins of all the world in the transgression of GodŐs law, whereby God is dishonoured and His kingdom hindered, and the kingdom of darkness furthered. (2 Pet. 7,8), Just Lot vexed his righteous soul with the unclean conversation of the wicked of his time. (1 Kin. 19:10), When Elijah saw the children of Israel forsake GodŐs Covenant, break down His altars and slay His prophets with the sword, he became very zealous for the Lord of hosts. (Psa. 119:136), Mine eyes (saith David) gush outwith rivers of water, because they keep not thy law; (v. 139), My zeal hath even consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy law. (Mark 3:5), Christ mourned for the hardness of the hearts of the people; and (Luke 19:41,42), He wept over Jerusalem, for that they knew not the day of their visitation. Now look how these were affected with the reigning sins of their times. So must we also mourn for their sins that reign among us; as atheism, and profaneness, contempt of GodŐs Word, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, oppression, cruelty and pride. All good subjects are grieved much when they see foreign enemies display among them banners of victory; how much more then ought the godly to grieve, when they see impiety practised with an high hand, which is as it were a flag of defiance in the kingdom of Christ, and a special ensign of SatanŐs triumphing in the increase of his kingdom of darkness? When the devil sees one that hath lived in sin, but cast a look toward the kingdom of Christ, he rageth greatly, and labours by all means to turn him back; and when we see those that have made profession of religion, return again to the lusts of their former ignorance, O it should grieve our souls, and cause us to pray, Thy kingdom come. Do we perceive the Turk or pope, or any instrument of Satan, either by subtilty or tyranny, to hinder the gospel preached, which is the sceptre of ChristŐs kingdom, and the arm of God whereby He pulls men from the kingdom of darkness? O then we should mourn. Or do we see the want of GodŐs ordinance in preaching, sacraments and discipline, which serve for the furtherance of ChristŐs kingdom; or the LordŐs people to ignorant or idle ministers, to scandalous teachers, either for life or doctrine? In all these we have cause of mourning, and they should stir up our hearts to cry unto the Lord, Thy kingdom come.
2. Graces to be desired.
As we must mourn for the wants and hindrances of ChristŐs kingdom, so we must hereby learn to have our hearts inflamed with spiritual desires after all helps and furtherances unto GodŐs kingdom, both in ourselves and others:
(1) As first, for the preaching of the gospel, and all other divine ordinances, whereby GodŐs kingdom is erected and maintained. Our heartsŐ desire to God must be that these may be set up and continued where they are wanting, and that God may bless them, where they are vouchsafed.
(2) Secondly, that God would enlighten the eyes of our minds that we may see the wonders of His law, as David did (Psa. 119:18), that so the LordŐs ordinance may be blessed unto us.
(3) Thirdly, that we may be wholly subject unto Christ, and that of conscience, not only in outward behaviour, but in mind and heart and will, and in all our affections. We must make sure this holy desire be in us indeed, and therefore must deny ourselves, and subject ourselves wholly unto God, as a willing people to serve Him, and none but Him. And then we may be sure His kingdom is come unto us.
(4) Fourthly, we must desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ in the kingdom of glory, for this end, that we may make an end of sinning, and become more obedient subjects unto Christ; yea, wholly ruled by Him; though for the good of others, we must be content to live.
(5) Fifthly, That Christ would come in judgment, when all things shall be subdued unto God, and all His obedient subjects shall be fully glorified. This we may desire in heart, though we must leave the time to GodŐs good pleasure, still waiting for it by faith in His promise.
(6) Sixthly, that God would enlarge His sanctuary here on earth, gather His elect more and more, and still defend and maintain His church in every place in the world.
When these desires affect our souls, then do we truly say, Thy kingdom come.
3. Duties to be practised.
Whatsoever we ask in prayer, that must we endeavour after in life and conversation, else we mock God, saying well, and doing nothing.
(1) First, therefore, as we say, Thy kingdom come, so must we seek to meet it, and strive to enter into it. For this end God gives us time to live in this world, that here we might enter the gate of grace, and wait for the fruition of glory. And therefore we must diligently frequent the suburbs of this heavenly Jerusalem, even the preaching of the Word, and therein labour both for true humiliation and conversion, or else we cannot enter into this kingdom (Matt. 18:3; John 3:5). First, we must have the pride of our hearts pulled down, and become as little children, being humbled in ourselves through the knowledge of our sins, and the feeling of that misery which is due unto us for them. Yea, we must confess them unto God, and cry unto Him for mercy, and by this means lay aside this burden, which hinders our entrance into the gate of grace. Secondly, we must be converted and changed by the renewing of our minds, our hearts must cleave unto God, and we must carry therein a resolute purpose not to sin. When these things be in us, we enter into GodŐs kingdom; but till we endeavour after them in some truth, we say in vain, Thy kingdom come.
(2) Secondly, we must be careful to bring forth the fruits of this kingdom; for therefore doth He send it among men, and for want hereof doth He take it from them (Matt. 21:43). Now these fruits are righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17), whereof we have spoken before; all which we must labour to find in our hearts, and to express in our lives, else this kingdom shall be taken from us, and we shall never see the glory of it.
(3) Thirdly, hence we must learn to be contented in all estates of this life whatsoever, the hope of the glory of this kingdom which we pray for, must swallow up all the sorrows that earthly calamities can bring upon us. This it was that made the Patriarchs to walk contented in the state of pilgrims and strangers here on earth (Heb. 11:13,14). Yea, this renews (2 Cor. 4:16-18) the inner man, it cheers the heart, and keeps it from fainting, though the outward man perish, to look after the joys of this kingdom, which are the things not seen; and therefore Christ herewith comforts His disciples against the sorrow of affliction, saying, Fear not little flock, it is your FatherŐs good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
(4) Fourthly, we must all labour in our places and callings to bring one another into this kingdom, one neighbour another, and one friend another. (Ezek. 18:30), Return (saith the Lord to the house of Israel), and cause one another to return. This the prophet Isaiah noteth as a practice of the subjects of this kingdom, that they shall say one to another, come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord (Isa. 2:3). But masters of families especially must look to the practice of this duty, and labour to bring GodŐs kingdom into their families. For this end they must see to these things: First, that there be no manifest or open sin permitted in their families. Rid thy house of such a person, if thou canst not reform him (Psa. 101:7). Secondly, instruct thy family in the way of the Lord, that they may know to live righteously and uprightly both before God and man. Thirdly, set up and maintain the private worship of God in thy family, join thou with them in holy duties, especially in daily calling upon the name of God. In regard of these, and such like duties, it is that the Scripture (Luke 19:9) ascribes salvation to a family, where the master or the governor of the house is converted to the faith. As for the practice hereof, the holy Patriarchs are commended to all posterity. God saith of Abraham (Gen. 18:19), I know him, that he will command his sons, and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord. And Jacob (Gen. 35:2) commands his family to put away their strange gods, and to cleanse themselves. And Joshua (Josh. 24:15) professed publicly that he and his family would serve the Lord.
(5) Fifthly, hence we must learn every day to prepare ourselves to die; for by death our souls enter into the glory of this kingdom, which we pray may come unto us; and therefore we must be ready to receive it every day, that whensoever our king cometh unto us, either by death or in the last judgment, we may pass from grace to glory. And indeed we cannot with comfort make this petition unless we be in some measure prepared for death, and that every day. Now being prepared, we must wait, as Job did (Job 14:14), every day till our changing come. Look how the godly in the Old Testament looked for ChristŐs first coming in the flesh; so must we wait for his coming to us, either by death or judgment; neither must anything dismay us in this waiting, no not death itself; for the sooner we die, the sooner we may enter into glory. And here we may take a view of the monstrous hypocrisy of the world; for who will not say these words: Thy kingdom come? But yet the most men neglect to prepare themselves for entrance into this kingdom; nay, many contemn the word and prayer, which are the means whereby we have admittance into the state of grace and are prepared for the kingdom of glory.
(6) Sixthly, we may here learn of our Saviour Christ the practice of humility, and in all things to give all glory to God; for though this kingdom pertain equally to Him (as He is God) with the Father; yet because He hath it from the Father, as He is the Son, therefore he will have it wholly attributed unto Him; for He teacheth us to say, Our Father, Thy kingdom come.
(7) Lastly, here observe the necessity of this petition, in respect of our outward estate; for the coming of this kingdom to any estate is a special cause of prosperity and happiness unto us; for where this kingdom is, GodŐs hand of blessing and protection is in a special manner; here the Lord reigneth, and His glorious and blessed angels, which are mighty in strength and power, keep watch and guard in that kingdom, and about that people who have the Lord for their King and God. Hence it is that this our kingdom hath so long enjoyed peace and protection from many dangerous assaults, because we embrace and profess the gospel, which is the sceptre of GodŐs kingdom; and if we could do it in sincerity, and walk worthy of the Lord our King, our prosperity should be as the floods, and our peace as the sun and moon in heaven. And therefore they that love the peace of this kingdom, must embrace and obey the gospel, and pray for the happy and flourishing estate thereof; for therein stands our peace.
Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
This petition dependeth on both the former thus: as a means whereby we do that which we desire in the first petition, for GodŐs name is glorified when His will is done; and as a manifestation of that which we desire in the second petition, for there we pray that GodŐs kingdom may come unto us, and He rule in our hearts by His Word and Spirit. Now here we crave that we may do His will, and so testify ourselves to be His loyal subjects.
This petition is propounded in a comparison which naturally standeth thus: As thy will is done in heaven, so let thy will be done in earth. And it hath two parts: The first respects the grace of obedience which we pray for: Thy will be done in earth. The second shews the right manner of performing it: As it is in heaven.
For the first, Thy will be done in earth, GodŐs will is only one, considered in itself, as God is one; yet from understanding, it may be thus distinguished: It is either absolute or revealed.
GodŐs absolute will is the will of His good pleasure whereby according to His eternal counsel, He determines of all things what shall be done or what shall not be done, and in what manner. This absolute will extendeth over all creatures and over all their actions (Eph. 1:11), We are predestined according to the purpose of Him that worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. (Rom. 9:19), Who hath resisted His will? (Matt. 10:29), Without this will of God, a sparrow cannot fall to the ground. And this absolute will of God is hidden from us till God reveal it by the event.
GodŐs revealed will is the sacred doctrine of God in His Word, whereby He signifieth unto man, so far as concerns his happiness and salvation, what he ought to do or what he ought not to do. This is not GodŐs absolute will, but rather an effect thereof concerning man, revealing unto him, not what he simply and absolutely willed to be done, for that must needs be done; but what is pleasing or displeasing unto Him done by man, and what he will have man to do, or not to do, if he desire to come to life, and would not be condemned. And this revealed will comprehendeth both the law and gospel, with all their commandments, prohibitions, threatenings, exhortations, promises, and such like, whereto the apostle hath revelation when he saith, Prove what is the good will of God, and acceptable (Rom. 12:2). Now this distinction of GodŐs will being according to the Scripture, hath his use in this place; for when we say, Thy will be done, we mean not the absolute, but the revealed will of God.
Reasons. 1. The absolute will of God is always done, and cannot be resisted. My counsel shall stand (saith the Lord (Isa. 46:10)) and I will do whatsoever I will; and again (Rom. 9:19), Who hath resisted His will? That is, His absolute will; for His revealed will is generally transgressed by men, and men do that which seemeth good in their own eyes, notwithstanding God reveal His will to the contrary.
2. A man may sometime dissent from the absolute will of God without sinning, so be it he still submit himself to the will of God, resting therein, when it is revealed. Thus Abraham (Gen. 18:23-32) prayed for the safety of Sodom (yet submissively) which God willed and decreed to destroy; and David (2 Sam. 12:16-19) prayed for the life of his child, which God would have to die; and our Saviour Christ (Matt 26:39) prayed for the removal of that cup which God had absolutely decreed He should drink of, yet submitting His will unto His FatherŐs. And Paul (Acts 16:7), according to his apostolic function, desired to preach the gospel in Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered him not; which sheweth plainly it was not the will of God that he should preach there, and yet he desired it religiously, without sin, as did the rest before mentioned. And as in will, so in affection a man may dissent from GodŐs absolute will without sin. Christ as the Son of God knew His FatherŐs will concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34), yet He wept for it, in a tender compassion over their misery to come; and so the brethren at Caesarea (Acts 21:13) wept and lamented for PaulŐs going to Jerusalem, though Agabus prophesied that God would have it so. Neither must this seem strange to us, for two things may remain both good, and yet differ one from another; and so may manŐs created will differ from GodŐs absolute and uncreated will, and yet both remain good.
Having found that this petition must be understood of the revealed will of God, we now come to search out the special branches of GodŐs revealed will; which we shall find in several places of the Holy Scripture.
The first is the conversion of a sinner (Ezek. 33:11), As I live (saith the Lord), I will not the death of a sinner, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.
The second is that we deny ourselves and rely wholly on our Saviour Christ Jesus for life and salvation. (John 6:40), This is the will of God, that he that seeth the Son, and believeth in Him, should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The third is our sanctification in soul and body and spirit (1 Thess. 4:3), For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.
The fourth is that everyone that lives in the church of God, beside his general calling of a Christian, should have a particular calling to live in, wherein he must seek the glory of God in the good of others. (1 Cor. 7:20), Let every man abide in the same vocation wherein he is called, and therein walk with God (v.24).
The fifth part of GodŐs will is to subject ourselves under the hand of God in all crosses and afflictions whatsoever. When the brethren at Caesarea saw PaulŐs resolution to go to Jerusalem, notwithstanding the bonds that there remained for him, they said (as it were expounding this petition), The will of the Lord be done (Acts 21:14).
According to the Scripture there be two degrees of doing GodŐs will: the first is prescribed in the gospel, to wit, a sincere endeavour and strife according to all the power of grace that God hath given us, to do the will of God; and this especially is here meant. The second is commanded in the law, and it is a fulfilling of GodŐs will, doing that which God commandeth in the manner of perfection which he commandeth. But this is not attained unto us in this life; and therefore our desire of God in this petition is that He would give us grace, sincerely to endeavour to do His whole will here on earth, and to hasten that time and state unto us, wherein we shall do it perfectly as the law requires.
1. Wants to be bewailed, both in ourselves and others.
(1) This petition teacheth us to bewail our natural disposition, whereby we are prone to rebel against the will of God, being wholly bent to disobedience in doing that which is evil.
(i) We must bewail our natural hypocrisy, even that which remaineth in us after grace received; for though we may say these words, yet we cannot possibly have our hearts affected with such a perfect desire after obedience to GodŐs will, as we ought to have.
(ii) Though we have never so much grace, yet here we must labour and bewail our want of obedience in all good duties; for though we give ourselves to do good things, yet the best of us all fall in the manner of doing them; as in hearing the Word, in receiving the sacraments, and prayer; so as we must be humbled for our wants, and confess that we are unprofitable servants, when we have done all that is commanded us (Luke 17:10).
(2) Secondly, we must bewail the sins of others, whereby they disobey the will of God, and so rebel against Him; hereby God is dishonoured, and therefore in zeal of GodŐs glory, and love to our brethren, we must be grieved when others sin. Thus was David affected (Psa. 119:136), and Paul (2 Cor. 12:21), I fear lest when I come to you, my God abase me among you, and I shall bewail many of them that have sinned already.
2. Graces to be desired.
As we must bewail the wants that hinder the doing of GodŐs will in ourselves and others; so must we stir up our hearts unto heavenly desires after those graces whereby GodŐs will may be done.
(1) As first, that we may have grace to deny ourselves, our own wills and affections; for naturally we are herein unlike God and like the devil; and this must everyone learn that would be ChristŐs disciple (Luke 9:23).
(2) Secondly, that God would incline and dispose our hearts towards His holy Word, that we may not only know, but obey GodŐs revealed will. This was DavidŐs usual request (Psa. 119:27), Make me to understand the way of thy testimonies; and (v.36), Incline my heart to thy testimonies. For how should we do the will of God, unless we know it? And how shall we know it, unless our hearts affect the means of grace and of obedience.
(3) Thirdly, that God would hasten that time and state unto us, wherein we shall perfectly do the will of God: that is our state of glory.
(4) Fourthly, that under every cross which God shall lay upon us, we may possess our souls with patience, and so subject ourselves to GodŐs absolute will. Thus Paul prays in behalf of the Colossians, that God would strengthen them by the power of his might, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:11).
(5) Fifthly, that God would turn the hearts of men from sin, and bring them everywhere to the obedience of His will.
3. Duties to be practised.
Because we must seek to practise that which we ask in prayer, therefore hereby we are also taught to endeavour ourselves after these good duties:
(1) First, to prove what is the good will of God, and acceptable (Rom. 12:2). We must by often trial of our actions by the Word of God, become expert in GodŐs will; use in all things make perfect, and therefore in all our affairs we must consult with God, whether the thing we go about be agreeable to His will. Most men will have an eye to the laws of the land in their civil affairs, as in buying and selling; and why should we not be as wise for our souls in the matter of God? Do we not dissemble with God when we say with our tongues, Thy will be done, and yet in life and conversation, have no regard to square our works thereby?
(2) Secondly, we must be strict in the matter of sin, making conscience of every evil way; yea, even of the first motions unto sin, that never come to consent; for this petition for obedience respects not only our words and deeds, but our secret thoughts; for even they must be brought to obedience to God (2 Cor. 10:5).
(3) Thirdly, we must seek to cut off all things that hinder us from doing GodŐs will. We must mortify and crucify the lusts of the flesh, and all sinful motions of our corrupt hearts; for these make us rebels against God in transgressing His will. This is an hard thing to do, and unto a natural man of himself altogether impossible, and therefore we must use spiritual means; for the deeds of the flesh must be mortified by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). Now the ground of this work is the death of our Saviour Christ applied by faith to our corrupt heart; for the old man is crucified with Him (as the apostle Paul saith, Rom. 6:6), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. This therefore must we do, if we think ourselves to have part in Christ; we must persuade our hearts that when our Saviour Christ was upon the cross in our room and stead, bearing the punishment of our sins, then were we, in regard of the old man, crucified with Him; the virtue and efficacy whereof we shall undoubtedly find in ourselves, for the mortifying of sin, when we do truly believe; for our fellowship with Christ begins in His death; and if we be dead to sin, how can the motions thereof yet live and reign in us? When a malefactor is put to death, he ceases from his bad courses; and so, if our corruption be crucified with our Saviour Christ, it must not reign in our hearts, to bring forth the fruits of sin. Let us therefore meditate on the death of our Saviour Christ, and apply it to ourselves by faith, and consider the vileness of our sins, in the bitterness of His passion; and then no doubt we shall be moved to strive against evil motions: For if we be ChristŐs, we have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24).
(4) Fourthly, we must not live inordinately, but in that sort which God enjoineth Christians in His Word. Everyone must have a double calling: the general calling of a Christian, common to all that live in the church, concerning the service of God, in righteousness and holiness; and a particular lawful calling, in some set state of life, tending to the good of the church, commonwealth or family, wherein a man must glorify God in the good of men. This is to live in order, and he that wanteth both, or one of these, lives inordinately, for God would have every man to abide in that vocation wherein He hath called him. Everyone therefore according to his gift and grace received from God, must live in a lawful calling, and he that doth not so, resisteth GodŐs will. Whereby we see that wandering beggars are not to be suffered in the church or commonwealth; for they live without any calling, and so transgress GodŐs will. Yea, their course of life is here also condemned that spend their life in sports and gaming; for such a life is rebellion against God, who will be glorified in works done by virtue of our lawful calling.
(5) Fifthly, it is the will of God that through manifold afflictions we should enter into His kingdom; and therefore when any cross befalls us walking in our lawful callings, we must endeavour to subject ourselves patiently to the will of God therein. In prosperity we are cheerful and thankful, but when affliction comes, our nature would repine. O remember we say in all estates, Thy will be done; and therefore in the most bitter crosses that can befall us, we must labour to say with Job, The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). So did the prophet David being banished from his kingdom by his own son (2 Sam. 15:26), But if He thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good in His eyes. And (2 Sam. 16:10,11), when Shimei cursed him, he stayed Abishai from revenge, upon consideration of GodŐs will to have it so, saying, Suffer him to curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.
In earth as it is in heaven.
Having spoken of the grace of obedience desired in this petition, we now come to the manner how it must be performed; to wit, In earth as it is in heaven; that is, of us men living on earth, as the blessed angels and glorified saints do it in heaven; for the angels that excel in strength, do GodŐs commandments in obeying the voice of His Word (Psa. 103:20). And because this exposition is generally received, I will not stand to prove it; this only must we remember: that here we pray not to perform obedience equal in measure and degree to the obedience of the saints and angels in heaven, but such as is like unto it. For this note of comparison here imports a likeness and resemblance, and not equality.
Now this likeness here stands in four things:
1. First, in cheerfulness and willingness; for the holy angels obey the commandment of God freely and readily, without murmuring or constraint. For this cause they are said to come and stand before God (Job 1:6), and to behold His face (Matt. 18:10), to express their voluntary service unto God. And so should GodŐs children obey God, as Paul speaketh of (Phile. 14) PhilemonŐs beneficence, it must not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. As in the case of alms-giving, God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), so in all obedience He likes a cheerful doing. And therefore He saith (2 Cor. 8:12), If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath. In this regards, Peter besought the elders (1 Pet. 5:2), to feed the flock of God, depending on them; and to care for it; not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. And the apostle Paul saith (1 Cor. 9:17), If I do it willingly, I have a reward. This virtue the prophet David expressed notably (Psa. 40:6-8), when God as it were bored new ears in his soul, then he said, Lo I come, I desire to do thy will.
2. Secondly, in priority. So the angels prefer to do the will of God before all other things; and therefore they are said to stand in His presence continually as it were waiting upon His pleasure. And the like affection for obedience unto God must be in all His children. This Abraham notably testifies, when at GodŐs command he would have killed Isaac; testifying thereby that he preferred obedience unto God before the dearest thing in the world. This also we may see in David (Psa. 119:14), I have had a great delight in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches. And (v. 127), I love thy commandments above gold, yea above much fine gold. And in our Saviour Christ, who said, when He was weary and hungry, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work (John 4:34).
3. Thirdly, in speed and quickness; for the angels do GodŐs will without all delay or slackness, which the Scripture signifies by their wings, and flying, which it ascribeth unto them. And the like whereby should GodŐs children shew in their obedience unto God (Psa. 119:60), I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
4. Fourthly, in faithfulness. The angels do not GodŐs will by halves or piecemeal, but thoroughly and perfectly, whereinsoever God employeth them. And so should we be faithful in doing GodŐs will, endeavouring to yield sincere obedience, not to some, but to all GodŐs commandments which concern us. I shall not be confounded when I have respect unto all thy commandments (Psa. 119:6). King Josiah turned to the Lord with all his soul, with all his heart, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses (2 Kin. 23:25), an example to be followed of all GodŐs children, that so they may be like to the blessed angels.
1. Wants to be wailed.
(1) First, this pattern of angelical obedience here propounded for our imitation, must teach us to acknowledge and bewail the natural hardness, deadness and untowardness of our hearts, in yielding obedience unto the will of God. If we feel not this dull and untoward heart, we may suspect ourselves of the want of grace, for every gracious heart feels it more or less, and bewails it unto God; and so must we do if we say in truth, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
(2) Secondly, we must here also bewail the want of sincerity and faithfulness in doing GodŐs will. Our maimed and halt obedience shews how far we come short of this angelical example. Many content themselves with the outward service of the body and never regard the inward worship of the heart; and others have respect to outward duties of piety that concern God, but for uprightness and mercy toward men, they little regard. This the angels do not.
2. Graces to be desired.
Hereby also we must learn to pray for the spirit of freedom whereby we may be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and so may the more freely and cheerfully and heartily endeavour to do GodŐs will. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and stablish me by thy free Spirit (Psa. 51:12). The Holy Ghost is therefore called the free Spirit, because it gives liberty from the bondage of sin, and makes the heart free and forward, and cheerful in GodŐs service; for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
3. Duties to be practised.
Because we must practise the good things we pray for, therefore here we are taught to frame our lives to an holy imitation of the blessed angels. Though we cannot attain to the measure of their obedience, yet we must endeavour after their manner of obedience in readiness etc., and so by following them, begin our heaven in this world. This will not stand with their honour, who account zeal in religion, affected preciseness. But such as call God Father in sincerity, must set before them the obedience of the holy angels as a pattern for their imitation. Now in them we may observe these things for us to follow:
(1) First, they desired before ChristŐs incarnation to look into the mystery of our redemption as wrought by Christ (1 Pet. 1:12); although it concerns them not as it doth us; for they never fell, and they are established by another grace than of redemption. Now herein we must follow the angels, or (if it were possible) go beyond them, for Christ took not the angels but the seed of Abraham (Heb. 2:16). His redemption concerns us, and therefore we much more must be diligent searchers out of this mystery in the gospel.
(2) Secondly, the angels are maintainers of true religion, and of the worship of God; for the law was given by angels (Gal. 3:19). The most of DanielŐs visions were shewed by an angel; and so was the revelation unto John (Rev. 1:1). The angels brought the apostles out of prison to preach the gospel sundry times. They are enemies to idolatry, for (Rev. 19:10), when John would have worshipped the angel, he forbade him saying, See thou do it not, worship God. Herein also we must be followers of angels, by furthering the gospel and true worship of God to the uttermost of our power; by hindering all idolatry, and shewing ourselves enemies to all the enemies of God and of His truth.
(3) Thirdly, the angels were always serviceable unto Christ. They brought the tidings of His birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:9,10); they ministered unto Him in His temptation (Matt. 4:11); in His agony (Luke 22:43); in His resurrection (Matt. 28:2); and in His ascension (Acts 1:10). And so should we perform unto Christ all the service we can.
(4) Fourthly, they spend their time in praising and lauding the name of God; and so should we labour to have our hearts enlarged for His glory, and our mouths filled with His praises.
(5) Fifthly, they be serviceable for our good, if we be GodŐs children, though they be far better than we are. They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for their sakes which shall be heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). They are as nurses to bear GodŐs children in their hands, (Psa. 34:7), The angel of the Lord pitcheth round about them that fear Him. And all this they do unto us of love, as though it were not enjoined them. So we after their example must employ ourselves in soul and body, calling, credit, and all we have for the good of men.
(6) Sixthly, the angels are joyful when sinners are humbled and converted from sin unto God (Luke 15:10); and they are grieved when men by sin dishonour God. And the like affections should be in us. We should mourn for all sin in ourselves and others whereby God is dishonoured; and have our own hearts to leap for joy when sinners repent and turn unto God. In the world to come we shall be like the angels in heaven in glory (Matt. 22:30). Let us therefore here testify this hope by beginning our heaven upon earth, in becoming like to the angels, though not in glory, yet in obedience.
(7) Here, lastly, observe what honour we are to give to the angels of heaven, namely, the honour of imitation, becoming like unto them in obedience, and treading in the steps of their virtues. But for the honour of invocation, that is due to God alone, and we must not give it to angels. Damnable therefore is the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome, who pray unto the angels, and give unto them the honour of God in religious worship.