Imatges de pÓgina
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DISCOURSE FIRST.

men.

Matthew vi. 5. And when thou prayest, thou

shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of

Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father,

which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as

the heathen do: for they think that they shall be

heard for their much speaking. 8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your

Father knoweth what things ye have need of

before ye ask him. 9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father

which art in heaven; Hallowed be thy name.

10. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth,

as it is in heaven. 11. Give us this day our daily bread. 12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our

debtors. 13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us

from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

Amen.

In the beginning of this passage, our Saviour corrects two errors into which mankind are extremely apt to fall in their acts of devotion. In the first place, it has been the misfortune of men in every age to make even their acts of solemn piety subservient to the nourishment of their feelings of vanity, and either to perform their devotions so as to be seen of men, or at least to flatter themselves when they are in communion with God only, with the idea of the praises which they would obtain, if their secret prayers were observed by mankind. Our Saviour's first direction, therefore, regards the importance of suppressing, when we appear before God, every feeling of vanity or ostentation, and of thinking only respecting the greatness and omniscience

of that Being to whom our prayers are offered. His direction upon this topic is thus expressed at the 5th verse : .“ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet ; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret ; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

There is, however, another mistake into which men have always been prone to fall. Considering the act of prayer as a species of service which they pay to God, they are disposed to believe that they shall be more certain of acceptance, if they avoid no labour in the performance of this duty. They are apt, therefore, to flatter themselves with the idea, that, by repeating their petitions, they must either prevail by their importunity, or become meritorious by their perseverance; and, forgetting that it is to the state of the heart chiefly that God looks, they have generally been more attentive to the number of their words, than to the humility, and

fervour, and devout temper of their minds. This therefore was another error, which it became our Saviour to correct; and he has accordingly thus expressed himself at the 7th verse : 266 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking : be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.”

These directions were obviously of the very highest value,-most congenial to the views of Him who came from heaven to purify and elevate all our feelings,—and marked by all that excellence which ought to characterize any instructions that came from the mouth of the Son of God. This, however, was not all that our Saviour did for perfecting the devotion of his followers; for, having given these directions respecting the manner in which our acts of piety should be performed, he proceeded to exemplify his precepts, by furnishing a model of prayer.

This is what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer; and we are only expressing the universal opinion of the Christian world, when we say, that it is not possible to con

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