Imágenes de páginas

Christ indeed, for no man cometh to the Father but by Him; still it is of the Father especially that we think. In the second petition we think more directly of the Son, whose work it was to establish the kingdom of the Father on the earth. In the third petition we think of the Holy Ghost, whose special work it is to influence human wills, and bring them into accord with the will of the Father. And in the threefold prayer we have the full response of the believing heart to the celestial anthem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, among men of goodwill."

But here, again, we find a remarkable disposition to divert this third petition from its proper object. In the first place, there is the same tendency that we have already observed to relegate it to another and future sphere of existence. There is a disposition to despair of the earth as a place where it is at all possible that the will of God can be done; practically to surrender it, as it is, to "the god of this world," comforting ourselves the while with the reflection that we shall soon be out of it, and then by and by it will be burnt up, and in its place will come heaven; so that, instead of praying to have the will of God done on earth as it is in heaven, we rather look forward to the abolition of earth, and the substitution of heaven, as the only hope for the future. Surely this is not a faithful use of the Lord's Prayer, especially of this third petition, which so expressly specifies the earth as the place where God's will is to be done.

Even when the prayer is rescued from the future, and made a matter of real present interest, we find a tendency to narrow it down in a most unwarrantable manner. In one of the most admirable of our many modern collections of spiritual songs, by an editor

whose name is a guarantee for high excellence of work, there is a series of hymns founded on the Lord's Prayer, and of all the hymns, in number twenty-four, set under the third petition, there is not one which has the slightest reference to the main substance of the petition. They are all hymns of personal resignation; the pronouns. which run through them all are "I," "mine," "me;" the prayers in them all are for personal blessings; there is not a single reference to the earth at large. I should not think it proper to refer to this if it were a solitary or an exceptional instance; but I do so because it is an indication of a common tendency of Christian people to turn this grand universal petition for blessing to the earth on which we live, into a matter of personal religion merely. For once that the sacred words "Thy will be done" are used in Christian language for a missionary aspiration, they are probably used a hundred times in reference to circumstances of personal history which call for resignation. This is probably to be accounted for by the influence of our Saviour's memorable words in the garden, "Not My will, but Thine, be done." There we have our great lesson in resignation. There we have a passage which will serve as a sufficient inspiration for one of the sweetest and most difficult of the Christian graces. By all means let the sacred words be used for this sacred purpose, and let hymns be written on the touching theme to guide and cheer the troubled souls of God's afflicted ones. But when there is so lovely and perfect a text for the important subject of Christian resignation (and there is no scarcity of similar texts throughout the Bible), why should an inroad be made upon the Lord's Prayer for another? why should this wide and grand petition be robbed of the grandeur of its meaning as a missionary prayer, and made a mere

duplicate of another text, however beautiful and precious that text may be? It is true, indeed, that the grace of resignation is implied in this third petition. When we say "Thy will be done on earth," we of course include the few inches of the earth on which we stand. But it is one thing to remember that personal matters are included in the grand whole, and quite another to make personal matters the "be-all and end-all" of a petition which manifestly was intended to soar far above and stretch far beyond all mere personal considerations, and take the whole world in its wide embrace.

To illustrate the practical difference between the plain and obvious sense of the petitions, and that other meaning which too often takes its place in the thoughts of Christian people, let us look at it in relation to missionary funds. A man may pray for God's glory in the abstract, day after day, and year after year, and all the while it may cost him nothing. How can the glory of Him, who "dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto," be either advanced or hindered by any effort or sacrifice of mine? Similarly a man may pray for the coming of Christ in the clouds without his prayer disturbing the clasp of his purse. What can money do to bring Christ down again from above? And for the same reason it need not cost him anything to sigh and long for the holiness of the heavenly country; and as for resignation to the troubles of life, though it is one of the most difficult of all Christian duties, it does not tax any financial resources. But let a man pray that God's name may be hallowed by all beneath the skies; that Christ's kingdom may come here and now, all around him, and to the uttermost ends of the earth; that holiness may prevail among the men that are his own contemporaries; and, unless he be a hypocrite, and deceiving himself, he

will be constrained both to work and to give for the proclamation of that Gospel which makes known the blessed name; for the heralding of the good news of the kingdom to all the nations of mankind; for the making known to all men of the presence and grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to secure that the I will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the one case there is an impulse to the exercise of grace, undoubtedly, but it is the passive grace of contemplation, adoration, or submission; in the other case there is a mighty impulse, as well, to the highest and most devoted activity, to the consecration of all we are and all we have to that great cause which is enthroned in our hearts. The life to which the one points is like that beautiful ideal in Thomas à Kempis; the life to which the other points is that quite as beautiful and far grander life of the apostle Paul, who could say in a far higher sense than the other, "To me to live is Christ."

We have seen that it is necessary, for the sake of the heavenly part of the Lord's Prayer, that its relation to the earth should be remembered; that the heavens of our thought should not belong to "a happy land, far, far away," but to this very earth on which we live. The next thing will be to notice that as the heavens cannot do without the earth, neither can the earth do without the heavens. If the heavens must have the earth beneath to make them our heavens, the earth must have the heavens above it to make it habitable and enjoyable. And accordingly we shall find that when the first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer are given their proper place of prominence, the last three, far from being hindered, are very much helped thereby.

This is sufficiently obvious in regard to the fourth

petition. As long as a man is living for himself, without any very great enthusiasm, without any very wide horizon around him, it is very hard to persuade him to be contented with daily bread. When a military officer is living in London he is as particular as any other subject of the Queen as to his quarters, and surroundings, and style of living. But let him set out on service in the field, and he scorns these things. He is willing to sleep, if need be, on the bare ground; to live on the homeliest of fare, and to submit to hardship and privations of all kinds. So will it be in the service of Christ. So long as our thoughts are confined to the narrow sphere of our personal life, we shall find it hard to restrain the desire for more and more comforts, conveniences, and luxuries; and only after these growing demands have been fully satisfied shall we be ready to take into consideration the claims of the world at large. But let us realise that we are not now living quietly at home, that we are out on service in the field, and therefore that loyalty to our Sovereign ("Hallowed be Thy Name "), patriotic devotion to our country ("Thy Kingdom come"), and thorough. consecration to the enterprise before us ("Thy Will be done on earth"),—that these are the claims which take precedence of all others; and we shall scorn to seek our own ease or pleasure; we shall be contented with the humblest fare, with the barest surroundings, with scanty rations, if need be, if only success attend our efforts in the great campaign! We should feel the soldier spirit rise within us, as it did in Uriah when, in answer to a suggestion addressed to his natural love of ease and pleasure, he said, "The ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house to eat and to drink? . . . As thou livest


« AnteriorContinuar »