Obrázky na stránke
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

OUR next step in the study of the Liturgy must be the examination of the LORD'S PRAYER; which, as was observed in the last Lecture, the people are directed to repeat at the close of the confessional or penitentiary part of the service, as if to make up for any possible defects in their performance of it.

From the representation of St. Luke, we find, that, when the disciples of our Lord had privately besought him to “ teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples,” he delivered to them that memorable and well-known prayer, which universally bears the name of its Divine Author. It appears also, from the passage in St. Matthew, whence the text is taken, that our Saviour dic


tated the same form (with some unimportant and merely verbal variations) on a more public occasion; namely, in the course of his Sermon on the Mount.

It is plain, from both accounts, that this form was designed as a model or standard of

prayer. After this manner pray ye:" that is; make use, as often as may seem expedient, of the very words of this prayer; but, in no case, pray

after different manner, or offer petitions, for which this prayer affords no precedent or authority.

It is not improbable, that, as the followers of John the Baptist considered the prayer, which he had taught them, as a kind of badge or distinction of their sect; so our Lord's disciples wished to have a peculiar form of prayer for a similar purpose. Whatever may have been their object, the views of their divine Master, in complying with their request, certainly extended much further : for the form, which he suggested to them, is not only most comprehensive, as embracing within a short compass, all the temporal and spiritual wants of a reasonable creature, but, also, by consequence, must be, in one sense, exclusive: for, if any sup

posed good, which we most earnestly desire, cannot, by fair principles of interpretation, be referred to any general head or clause herein contained, however lawfully it may be an object of our wishes, we cannot regard it as a fit object of prayer.

The Lord's Prayer is therefore to be considered as being, in substance, a perfect model for all our petitions to the supreme Being; and sufficient in itself, when the pressure of any emergency denies us time for longer forms, to “make" all “our requests known unto God.” 1

Accordingly, though it is plain that the learned and pious compilers of our Liturgy (following herein the example of the primitive Christians, and, indeed, of the Apostles themselves) were far from supposing, that no other form of words could lawfully be used; yet had they such a profound veneration for this sacred and authentic standard of supplication to God, that they never thought any act of divine service complete, unless the Lord's Prayer had a place in it.'

*Perbaps no clause of this prayer might be entirely new to our Lord's disciples; as every part of it is said to have been derived, with little variation, from forms in common use amongst the Jews: from which circumstance we may collect, that our Saviour did not affect originality, but was content to recommend to his followers what was suitable to his purpose, wherever be might find it; preferring, in this instance, what was most familiar to their


They, however, justly inferred, from the proceeding of our blessed Saviour on this occasion, that no valid objection could lie against the adoption of any set form of prayer, merely as such; provided it were conformable in spirit and substance with the prayer of our Lord. And, doubtless, a form, deliberately composed and solemnly agreed upon by a select body of the most learned men in a learned age, under the sanction of the highest authorities, must be more likely to possess all the essential qualities of legitimate, heartfelt, and acceptable prayer, and better adapted to excite and guide the public devotions

This appears to bave been the cause, that, in the morning-service now in use, which unites what was originally designed for three several periods of the day, the Lord's prayer is so many times repeated.

of a Christian congregation, than the extemporary and self-authorised effusions of any individual, however gifted with talents, or endowed with knowledge.

The Lord's Prayer is, moreover, of the highest value, as a compendious form of religious instruction. Such, indeed, is naturally the principal character of all rational prayer; of which the object cannot be, to remind the all-wise God, “ whereof we have need,” which He knows far better, than we ourselves ; but, to impress and renew upon our own minds the true nature and extent of our necessities; the source, from which they are to be supplied; and the glorious attributes of that exalted Being, whom we are thus permitted to approach.

It needs no formal or laborious discussion of this prayer, to satisfy any reasonable mind, how admirably it is adapted both to supplication and instruction: but, the more fully we enter into each particular clause, the more deeply shall we feel, that, so long as our hearts accompany our lips in the use of it, we can neither be unmindful of any petition proper to be offered to our Maker,

« PredošláPokračovať »