This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,**— Matt. vl 10.
In explaining this petition many have treated the first clause, "Thy will be done," without reference to the second, which qualifies and restricts it. Proceeding in this manner, they have inculcated from the text a resigned acquiescence in the arrangements of Providence, so that even in the midst of adversity the pious man will say, *• Thy will, O God, be done ! Thou hast not only a sovereign right to order matters for me as Thou seest fit, but I am persuaded that Thy guidance of me must be the best for my own interests." This is a most salutary lesson. It is the chief of Christian graces to be possessed of such confidence in God, that we give up our own will for his, under the persuasion that his designs for our happiness are better than our own. It is thus that the Christian is enabled to rejoice in tribulation, and to say of the loss of his health, his fortune, or his child, ''All is well, for it has befallen me under the superintendence of a God as wise as He is merciful. Nothing can come wrong; everything must come right, from the hand of Him who has given me his Son." Of this surrender of our own will to the will of God we have a striking example in
the conduct of our Lord. When his soul was agonized nigh to death, and when He prayed that the bitter cup of mental darkness should, if possible, pass away, He,
nevertheless, acquiescently subjoined, " Not my will, but Thine be done."
Although, however, this lesson of acquiescence in the arrangements of the divine providence be one most salu* tary and frequently taught* in other parts of Scripture, yet such is not the lesson taught in the verse more immediately before us, nor presented as the object of prayer. The first clause must be explained in consistency with the second, which consistency requires that the will
of God be understood as denoting his will as expressed in the holy law given to his creatures, and the doing of that will as denoting the performance of the duties of this law so as to yield Him honour and delight.
Now, when the object of the petition is that this earth be so transformed as to present a scene of holiness in the obedience of its inhabitants to the will of God as beautiful in virtue as that which heaven displays, the reference is evidently to the service of angels in the celestial court But on our way upwards to that kingdom, we may glance as we pass at some other scenes of obedience to the will of the Most High.
The Jews were accustomed to enumerate three different heavens — the atmospheric, the starry, and the heaven of heavens, where God specially manifests his glory. As just noticed, it is only the last of these to which our text refers; but as we are ascending to its vision, we may learn something from the two other heavens through which we pass. Ah, brethren ! when a soul possessed of the love of God, and ardent for his honour, surveys the scene of rebellion which rages against Him over the whole surface of this accursed earth, it is a relief to rise above it, though it should be never so little, and contemplate how the breezes, the vapours, and the lightnings of the atmos-
"THY WaL BE DONE." 209
phere are all faithful in their service to their Ood. These continue steadfast in their allegiance, and testify against the apostasy of man, an apostasy in which he may find countenance when he looks darkly downwards into those regions of blasphemy where Satan reigns ; but upwards he cannot look without finding himself condemned by everything above him, from the lowest to the highest heaven. There is nothing fantastical in this representation. It abounds in the Scripture. He "maketh his angels spirits/' says the Psalmist, and "his ministers a flaming fire." " Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour ; stormy wind fulfilling his word : ... let them praise the name of the Lord ; for his name alone is excellent." Yea, verily, the
Lord is not without loyal testimony borne to his Godhead. If man wickedly refuse it. He has in the winged lightnings obedient servants of his power. How I love those loyal thunderbolts for the service which they do their Lord, so speedily, so efficiently ; especially when I anticipate the faithful service they will do their King at no distant day in scattering and consuming the confederate host of the apostates t
But as from the atmosphere we ascend to the astronomical heaven, the scene of obedience becomes still more impressive. Think of the glorious sun, how for thousands of years he has so regularly come forth in the morning and run his course for the light and joy of the world ; think of the beauteous moon, how she observes her season and trims her lamp for the cheering of the night; think of the planets, how accurately they make their circuits and preserve the order of the firmament ! " Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number : he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might (Arcturus,
Orion, and Pleiades), for that he is strong in power; not one faileth (to obey)/' Alas for man, that in the midst of all this order he should have left the way of his God and wandered into paths of disobedience and guilt ! What had become of the universe had all rebelled like man ?
But it is the scene still higher and more glorious of the heaven of heavens to which the text directs our attention. Brethren, let us imagine ourselves made, for a little, witnesses of the service which angels render before the throne of the Eternal, and learn to be weary of the manners of this apostate earth, and pray earnestly that God would come forth, and make all things new according to his promise. Behold those spirits, how busy they aref busier than the busiest sons of commerce who run to and fro on our streets, and reflect that all this work which proceeds so eagerly is service done with no other view than the pleasure of their holy King. To be so earnest
about God as this is what we can form no conception of from anything we see on this earth, where it is accounted much if, as a matter of task, men shall cease from their employments on Sabbath, and adjourn to the house of prayer for the few minutes' singing of a psalm, and to sit peaceably under the preaching of the Word.
What may be the various occupations of these celestial intelligences it is not my province at this time to attempt to explain, so much as to consider the manner in which they perform whatever in their circumstances may be the pleasure of God. The duty of angels and men is in some points the same, but in others it is different ; so that the prayer of our text must refer rather to the manner of performance than the substance of the duty itself.
Observe, then, in the first place, that the will of God is obeyed, by the angels universally. I mean that every
"THY WILL BE DONE." 211
one of them is engaged with its performance. Throughout it is a kingdom of loyal subjects. An exception is nowhere to be found of a disaffected or unwilling heart. The loyalty is entire, notwithstanding the innumerable multitude of the subjects. Down here on earth, as it i» at present constituted, the difficulty is to find one in whom you can repose confidence that he fears the Lord and serves Him with integrity ; at all events, the widest charity must confess with grief that the overwhelming majority is regardless of Qod, and spurns his authority, that the impious are an innumerable host, and that the righteous are but a little flock which a child may number. Oh, what a revolution must be wrought on this earth before it be assimilated to that heaven where every individual is a faithful servant of God! That is, indeed, properly no wonder. It is the rebellion against a King so great and good which is the wonder, and not the loyalty to Him. Nevertheless we, who move in the midst of the rebellion, and are so glad when our small minority is increased by the accession of one or two from the ranks of the disaffected, are ready sceptically to
wonder if there shall ever be a time when godliness shall have the monopoly ; yea, when it shall gain the majority of the population of this polluted world.
Observe, in the second place, that the will of God is done by the angels harmoniously. I mean that they are of one heart and mind in the service. They have separate departments of duty to perform, but the great work is the same, and they see eye to eye in the execution of it. There are no envious divisions among them. They are united in the sweetest harmony. There are emulations among them, but not the bitter emulations of proud and selfish rivals. They are emulations of the members of an
afieciionaie family provoking one another to a higher honour of their common parent.
Tou will perceive, brethren, how this again bears on the circumstances of this earth, and how much it is for which we pray, when, in the words of this petition, we entreat that it may be assimilated to heaven. Not to speak of the bloody wars of the world, •although the whole earth were christianised after the fashion of that Christianity which is at present professed, how much would remain to be accomplished! Think of the present state of the Church, of this division of sects, of this self-seeking of party interest and aggrandizement, this abounding theological odium, this want of concurrent endeavour to advance the divine glory, and, worst of all, this bitterness and want of mutual accommodation and forbearance among the members of individual ohurches — this almost universal distraction. How hard the harmony of angels bears on us for condemnation by its contrast ! That cannot be said of them which can be said of us — that of one blood hath God made them all — and yet they are more affectionate brethren than we — we, brethren! Is more of the rancour of the spirit of foes to be found anywhere than what discovers itself among the professed disciples of the Redeemer ? Impute it not to religion. The time approaches when testimony
shall be given by the Prince of Peace, that the blame is to be burdened on his unworthy followers, even in that day when not less than He inflicts judgment on the world shall He rebuke the Church for its shame.
Observe, in the third place, that the will of God is done by the angels unremittingly. To perform the divine pleasure is the whole of their work. They have no other interest to divide their attention and distract their
"THY WILL BE DONE." 21S
pursuits. And having no other work, neither do they ever sit down in idleness as if they wearied of the service. How unlike to this is the present condition of this earth, where the multitude have no Sabbath at all ; where many
of them who have one spend it in such listlessness ; where many of them, who appear to spend it in activity, act as if they denied that God had aught to do with the other six days of their time, and believed that they have a right to spend them with no regard to his commandment! How changed the earth shall be when all its work is dedicated to God, when all, busy as men are at present, shall .be busier than ever, and that in the service of God !
I might evidently multiply such observations to a great extent, but I shall content myself with having produced a specimen of them after making a fourth. It is that the service of angels is a service of love and zeal. They are persuaded of God that He is the most amiable of beings. They are filled with admiration of Him. Besides, He has been bountiful to themselves, which bounty they gratefully acknowledge. Therefore, they rejoice to do his will. It is their honour and delight. Besides being their duty, it is gratifying to their hearts. It is their meat and drink to be allowed to do it. It is a privilege conferred on them when they receive his commissions, and are summoned to engage in the anthem of his praise. Alas, for this earth again, when we add this to all the other points of contrast; when, having selected the holiest of its inhabitants, we find 80 much merely of conscientious duty in their
conduct, so much merely of the cold calculation of what is just and reasonable, and so little of that fervid affection which the divine character is fitted to excite! What with those who blaspheme God, what with those who are
careless about Him, what with those who do their duty grudgingly, and what with those who perform it coldly as a mere task of propriety, it is a wretched earth, and must have wonders done for it before it can be compared with the heaven of the angels.
I proceed now to inquire if this third petition be a prayer of yours. Are you possessed with a godly discontentment with the manners of this earth ? Are you
offended at its abominations ? Are you vexed at its impieties ? Independently of any evil which its immoralities may occasion yourselves, are you afflicted that God should be denied his glory ; and having risen in meditation to survey how differently matters move on in heaven, are you delighted with the scene of angel work and angel praise ; and can you say within your hearts, '* Oh, that it were thus down in our own home on earth "?
How few there are who will stand this test! The great multitude are content with this world as it is. They may wish they had more of its wealth and carnal pleasures ; but so far as the cause of piety is concerned, they would rather there were less of it than more — that even the little of it which exists were completely extinguished. It is no false or slanderous testimony which I bear against the generation with which the earth is at present peopled, when I declare of them that there are many who, rather than that the society of heaven were brought down to surround them with its sanctity of the worship of the Lord and consecration of itself to his service, would prefer that the society of hell were brought up from beneath to countenance them in their sin — provided they were secure from all personal injury. I speak the words of soberness. When we make such testimonies there are some who judge that we do it
" THY WILL BE DONE." 215
merely in the way of saying something that is strong and startling. But I appeal to yourselves, brethren. Look abroad over the earth — ^yea, take a survey of this same city in which we dwell — is it not evident that the great multitude have more sympathy with the ungodliness of devils than with the devotion of angels ? How few are they who prefer the company of the holy man whose discourse turns on the ways and works of God to that of the profane wit who turns godliness to laughter !
I now proceed shortly to inquire and state what are the qualities of mind which enable a man to present this petition. The Lord's Prayer is not only an excellent rule
for the guidance of devotion, but forms one of the best tests of character. How, for instance, can a revengeful man pray that fifth petition, " Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors " ? In the mouth of such a one it becomes an imprecation of a curse upon himself.
In like manner this third petition tries a man first of his friendship for God — of his friendship, I say, for God. Why does the expression appear strange to any one? The Scripture says Abraham was the friend of God ; and we cannot submit our profession to a better test than by trying it with this thought. If we feel interested in the honour of God, as when a man feels interested in the honour of his friend, grieved that his name should be so widely blasphemed, and rejoicing in the prospect of its universal praise, where shall such a state of friendly feeling towards the Eternal One be found ; where, but in that gospel which reveals ELim reconciling us to Himself by the mission of his Son to die for sins ?
Secondly, the petition tries us of our philanthropy. No selfish heart can pray it; even a mei-ely patriotic heart is not adequate to the task. It requires a sympathy
with the whole of human nature — a loving acknowledgment of the universal brotherhood — a heart afflicted by considerations of their woe, and made glad by the prospect of their deliverance. What does it signify to many that China, that India, that Africa, that the whole world, be in a state of revolt from God, and through this revolt in a condition of misery, so long as they themselves and their families have a comfortable home ? It just signifies this, that they exclude themselves from uniting with the whole Catholic Church in the prayer of our text It needs a man-loving as well as a God-loving heart to pray the Lord's Prayer.
This introduces the inquiry if, when we use the words of this prayer, our sincerity be evinced by our rising from our knees and working vigorously towards the praycd-for
end. I consider our text to have a special respect to the millennial kingdom — that new latter-day dispensation of Christianity, as new when compared with the present as the present was when compared with that which preceded it, and which will be introduced and established by the supernatural exercise of the power of God. But he who generously loves the millennial prospect will labour to have as much as possible of its scene of sanctity and happiness realised at present. And especially when the present labours of the Church are constantly represented as necessaiy for preparing the way of the Lord, and hastening the kingdom, he who longs for that kingdom will, by his evangelising exertions and contributions, approve the sincerity and genuineness of his prayer for its coming.
Finally, brethren, let us embrace the consolation of the text. Observe, that when at any time God commands us to pray for a particular object, the commandment becomes
"THY WILL BE DONE." 217
a promise that we shall obtain the object, if we observe the prescribed conditions. But there is more than this. The object may be one which God has absolutely decreed to accomplish, whether we pray for it or not, but for which He commands us to pray, to show our happy expectation of what He has decreed for us ; or it may be the hastening of its accomplishment. This is the case with the combined petitions of the Lord's Prayer — "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." This prescription to pray is resolvable into the high promise of Ood that, at the appointed time, He will take to Himself his great power and reign, and assimilate this wicked and wretched world of men to the holy and happy heaven of the angels.
What need, brethren, we have of this consolation, when, notwithstanding all the boasted advancement in civilization by two of the most advanced kingdoms of Europe, humanity is at the present time* making such an exhibition of savagism I But for the promise of God
that He will supematurally interfere — I do not mean only with these two contending powers, but with the administration of the whole world — we might be ready to despair of the human race ever attaining to any high degree, either of virtue or happiness. But with that promise let us compose the commotions of our minds. Let kings and peoples fight on more savagely for a little season, and, what is worse, let infidel philosophers blaspheme more hoarsely, we will compose ourselves. The kingdom is coming, when " The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains^ and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000