The Adoring Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
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The ADORING Spirit of the Lord's Prayer.
"For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen." Matthew 6:13
What a truly sublime and appropriate close of this marvelous prayer! It ends, as it began, with God. It begins with His parental, and ends with His regal relationship. It opens by teaching us to love Him as a Father, it closes by teaching us to adore Him as a King. Leighton remarks that prayer moves as in a circle, always conducting us back to the point from whence we set out--"the GLORY of that God to whom we pray, and who is the God that hears prayer." We may with equal fitness illustrate prayer by the magnificent rainbow which appeared in the apocalyptic vision of John round about the throne. One end of this divine and resplendent arch--the rainbow of prayer--rests upon the earth, where in childlike love we cry, "Abba, Father" then, vaulting into the skies, it spans the throne of the Eternal, and, descending again to earth, meets once more at the spot where the suppliant breathings of the child are exchanged for the adoring homage of the subject--"Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory!" Within this sacred arc is embraced the personal history of each child of God. Blended with its sacred tints is every petition of the believing soul, from the first sob of penitential grief--"God be merciful to me a sinner"--to the last note of joyous triumph--"Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Believer in Jesus! live as under this divine crescent. Go where you may, it encircles you. From the lowest depth of your soul's need it springs into heaven, sweeps past the lowering clouds, touches the golden altar where Christ our High Priest appears in the presence of God for us, and returns freighted with blessing. No prayer of faith, wafted to heaven in the name of Jesus, shall fail of a response. Let your believing eye rest where God's complaisant eye reposes, upon the rainbow of prayer. The rays of the Sun of Righteousness reflected through the tears of a humble, sin-burdened suppliant, will paint this symbol upon the cloudiest sky, filling the heart with hope that when God beholds it, He will answer, forgive, and bless.
It may be proper in the outset to remark, lest we should be thought indifferent to the fact, that a few Greek copies do not contain this last clause of the Lord's Prayer, and that some critics have noticed its omission by Luke. We see no just reason, however, to question its integrity. Found as it is in the Syriac copy, the most ancient version of the New Testament--standing as it does in close harmony with the very first petition of the prayer--and maintaining a strict analogy with the whole tenor of God's Word, we feel no difficulty in accepting it as genuine. Then, with regard to its omission by the evangelist Luke, as Dr. Williams very forcibly puts it--our Lord was often used, in recording the same thing, to avoid an exact repetition of Himself, and frequently, in reproducing a parable or a saying, presented it in a somewhat disjointed or fragmentary form. And, in addition to this, when He communicated the prayer to Matthew, His audience was chiefly composed of an indiscriminate mass of hearers, many of whom were totally ignorant of divine truth, while others were armed with prejudice and hostility both to Him and His mission. On the other hand, when reiterating the same formulary in the hearing of Luke, He was more immediately surrounded by His disciples, who would, by their subsequent teaching on the mediatorial work of Jesus, be able to supply any apparent vacuity or break in the prayer. On these grounds, then, and on others which it may not be necessary to mention, we give an unhesitating and unqualified assent to the accuracy of the passage, accepting it as a genuine clause of the prayer. Let us now briefly examine its teaching.
"Yours is the KINGDOM." To WHOM could these words be properly addressed, but to Jehovah? All other kings are but mimics of Him, and all other kingdoms but shadows of His. They exist and reign by God's will, and as instruments for the accomplishment of His purpose--the setting up of His kingdom of righteousness and truth in the earth. And when earthly monarchs vaunt themselves of their power, and give not God the glory, He knows how to abase them.
What a solemn illustration of this is presented in the history of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon! Listen to the narrative--"At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken--The kingdom is departed from you." But oh, unutterably blessed the truth God taught him by the overthrow and humiliation to which he was subjected--just the truth this page seeks to unfold. "At the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him that lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation." Seven years of mental derangement, of dethronement from his kingdom, and of eating grass with the beasts of the field, were needed to abase the pride of this haughty and vain-glorious monarch, and to teach him that the sovereignties of the earth belonged to God, who puts down one and raises up another; and to discipline and fit him for re-establishment in his kingdom more firmly and amid more glory and power than ever.
Is God dealing in a similar way, my reader, with you? Lifted up by your position, and boastful of your gifts and achievements, you have not given God the glory. He has, perhaps, drawn a momentary cloud-shade over your mental powers, or has incapacitated you physically for the trust confided to your hands, and, like the deposed monarch, He has removed you from place and power into a school to you, the most humiliating and painful. But, be still, and know that He is God. A bright light shines in this dark cloud. God's thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, and not of evil. Humble yourself under His mighty hand, and He will exalt you in due time. Yield not to despondency, still less to distrust and despair. God will not forsake you, nor Christ cease to pray that your mind be preserved, and that your tried and sifted faith may not fail. All these emptyings and ploughings are but to prepare you for larger blessings and greater fruitfulness. Thus was it with the king of Babylon, and thus will it be with you. "At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and brightness returned unto me; and my counselors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment--and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." Cheer up, then, O afflicted saint of God! happier days and brighter scenes await you.
"Your is the kingdom" of NATURE. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." This beautiful world, beautiful in its very ruin, belongs to God, and is the theater upon which Christ is carrying forward His designs with regard to the salvation and gathering together of His redeemed Church. The Christian mind delights to recognize this magnificent and important world as belonging to God. He created it, ordained its laws, appointed its seasons, sustains its existence, and supplies its sources of fertility. He rides upon the wind, flashes the lightning, rolls the thunder, controls the storm, and makes the clouds His chariot. "Yours, O Lord, is this beautiful kingdom and its government; seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, the drought and the deluge, the heat and the cold come at Your command, and are Your servants doing Your will, and accomplishing Your purpose. All nature illustrates Your power, exhibits Your goodness, evidences Your wisdom, reflects Your beauty, is fragrant with Your breath, and shows forth Your glory. Oh, give me grace to see You in every flower that blooms, in every star that shines; in the golden beams of the sun, in the silver rays of the moon, and in the gentle gale that wafts to us the fragrance of a thousand sweets. Through all the varieties, beauties, and grandeur of this Your creation, may my heart ascend in adoring love to You, the wonderful, the bountiful Creator of all."
"Yours is the kingdom" of PROVIDENCE. This world is not--a kingdom without a throne--a throne without a sovereign--or a sovereign without a scepter. By no blind accident are the affairs of this planet governed. God is in the history of the world--its past, its present, and its yet unshapen future. The statesman and the politician may not recognize this fact; but it is so. And did the Christian mind more distinctly see it, how much more instructive would history be; what new light would the passing events of each day throw upon the inspired page.
The Bible and history are closely linked. The Bible foretells history, predicts its events, and shapes its outline. History accumulates its evidence around the Bible, affirms its divinity, fulfils its predictions, and authenticates its truth. No Christian should study either past or present history but with God's Word in his hands. This is the chart, this the map, this the lamp by which he shall be able, spiritually and intelligently, to study God's providential government of the world in connection with the increase and final destiny of His Church. God preserves and governs the world for the Church. For her sake the world exists and is ruled, the "pearl of great price" is quarried in the world; and having purchased the field for the sake of the pearl, Christ is carrying on its government, working His own mine, with a view to the gathering together unto Himself a people "prepared beforehand unto glory."
Yours, then, O Lord, is this kingdom of providence. Your hand is moving and controlling all events and circumstances, national and social, public and private; giving birth, and shape, and tint to those phenomena in the history of nations, and to those affairs in the history of individuals, which to human perception are often enshrouded in mystery so dreadful and profound. Let this view of God's providential reign hush all murmurings at our lot, making us content with such things as we have, assured that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Let it bow our soul in meek submission to His sovereign will, in view of those painful and inexplicable events which sometimes cast the darkest shade upon our sunniest landscape, and dash from our lips their sweetest cup of joy. Let it incite our gratitude for the blessings loaned us so long, though now removed, and for the blessings which still remain to soothe, and gladden, and cheer us onward. Let it strengthen our faith, in the Divine assurance that our daily bread shall be given us, our path shielded amid engirdling evil, and our soul, guided by His counsel and kept by His power, eventually and safely conducted home to glory. Yes, Lord, the kingdom of providence is Yours, and I would see Your hand, and trace Your wisdom, and taste Your goodness in all the shaping and tinting of my whole history. I would deal alone with You in all the lights and shadows of my daily life. Those lights and shadows are of Your penciling, O Lord. If joy thrills my heart, it is of Your inspiration; if sorrow breaks it, it is of Your sending. Teach me that I have, in all things, to do only with You. Preserve me from seeking to please man at the expense of Your glory. Pleasing the creature never entered, Jesus, into Your life. And yet Your whole life was labor, and suffering, and love for man--seeking not Your own glory, and pleasing not Yourself but the Father who sent You.
"Yours is the kingdom" of GRACE. This is Christ's highest kingdom in the world; and for the setting up and completion of this kingdom, both the kingdom of nature and ofprovidence exist and are subservient. This kingdom, as we have shown in a preceding part of our work, is both internal and external. There is the kingdom of grace in the soul of the believer--"the kingdom of God is within you"--and there is the kingdom of grace in the world, "the Church of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth." This kingdom is the Lord's. It is His kingdom of grace--He is the King of grace; His reign is the reign of grace; His people are the subjects of grace; His throne is the throne of grace; and the benedictions which He so lavishly and so freely bestows, are the blessings of grace. Thus, "by grace are you saved." Precious truth! the chimes of heaven fall not more sweetly on the ear of the glorified saints than do these words--"Saved by grace,"--on the ear of a sinner taught by the Spirit his vileness, poverty, and helplessness. Not by human works, not by self-doing, not by creature merit, but by God's sovereign, unpurchased, unmerited, most free grace, is the sinner saved. This is the truth that empties, humbles, and abases the soul in the dust!
We enter, for the most part, this kingdom of grace through the "north gate," with a deep conviction of sin, and dreadful apprehension of wrath. But we are led out by the "south gate" into the pleasant garden of God's free, forgiving love, to pluck the fruit of peace, and joy, and hope, and to recline upon the sunny slopes and by the side of the quiet waters of that River that makes glad the Church of God. Let nothing, then, dare deter or prohibit your coming to Christ. Come with an empty hand, come with a dry vessel, come with filthy rags; come just as you are--for your salvation is the gift of free grace. There is not a round in the ladder that lifts you from earth to heaven--from the first, down in your dark dungeon, to the highest, bathed in the sunshine of glory--but is of grace. And as you mount higher and higher, your song will grow sweeter and louder--"Grace, Grace, GRACE!"
Be not afraid of little grace. It is not the quantity, but the reality of grace, that sanctifies and saves. Nor let us be dismayed if indwelling grace is sometimes, through indwelling sin, much dimmed, impaired, and obscured. As the fruits we receive from a southern climate partake not of the freshness, and the sweetness, and the fragrance of their original perfection, so our graces during this present life must necessarily be defective, and will remain so until we reach that heaven of glory from whence they came, and where they grow; and then we shall eat of the tree of life bending over on either side of the river--our grace full, our graces perfect, and the anthem of grace floating in the sweetest music from the soul.
If then, this kingdom of grace is the Lord's, recognize His right to rule and reign singly and supremely in your soul. He may dislodge the idols that divide, and overthrow the rivals that usurp His possession and sovereignty. The kingdom is Christ's--let Christ reign alone. Rebel not against the mode He adopts to preserve you entirely for Himself. Murmur not at His dealings. Repine not under His dispensations. You are Christ's--Christ is your King--your soul is His empire--your heart is His throne--you are His subject--"From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." This sometimes is done by the spirit of fire and of burning. Nevertheless, if He did not love you, were not His gracious kingdom within you, He would not take the pains He does to cast out from it everything that would taint its purity, shade its luster, and impede its growth. "Lord, the kingdom within my soul is Your own; Yours let my heart be, Yours my obedience, Yours my service; Yours my life--all, all Your own."
But this adoring acknowledgment of God's regal glory includes a yet future and yet wider kingdom. "Yours is the kingdom" of GLORY. This kingdom yet to be set up, while it will include the kingdom of nature, of providence, and of grace, will yet be a kingdom distinct from, and independent of, them all. It will be the fulfillment, the consummation, the crown of each. It will include all the beauties of the first; it will explain all the mysteries of the second; and it will perfect all the glory of the third. This is the kingdom of which the prophet Daniel thus writes--"And in the days of these kings, [the ten kings or kingdoms into which the Roman empire is divided, symbolized by the ten tribes,] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, [as the Babylonian monarchy was to the Medes, and as the Persian monarchy was to the Greeks, and the Grecian monarchy was to the Romans; it shall be left to the saints of the Most High;] but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Again--"And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him."
To this end we pray, "Your kingdom come." And what will be the sign and the period of its coming? The apostle Paul tells us, "I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom." Thus it is clear that the Second Advent of Christ, and the coming of His kingdom of glory, harmonize as to character, and synchronize as to time, and will, in fact, be identical and contemporaneous. The Lord Jesus Christ will come as the King of Glory, and then will transpire those magnificent events already referred to in a preceding chapter of this work--the overthrow of Antichrist, the resurrection of the saints, the ingathering of the Jews, and the final and most blessed of all, the creation of a new heaven and a new earth--the fit and eternal dwelling place of the now gathered and glorified Church. Then will ascend from a multitude which no man can number, and with a shout such as never reverberated through the universe before, "Yours is the kingdom!"
"And the POWER." God is a Great King, and His power is commensurate with His greatness. It is infinite, "Twice have I heard this, that power belongs unto God." All the power of the creature is derived. He receives it from God, he holds it by permission of God, and employs it under the restraint of God. The power of an earthly sovereign is lodged in his subjects. He may have power to command, but he has no power to enforce obedience. His power to exact compliance with his will rests with the affections and the loyalty of his people. But God possesses a power essentially His own. He has power not only to make laws, but to exact compliance; not only to issue commands, but to enforce obedience. "Your people shall be willing"--willing to love, willing to do, willing to come--"in the day of Your power."
His is the power of conversion. His power breaks the chain, dislodges the enmity, and erects the kingdom of grace within the soul. His power guards and carries forward the work thus begun. His power keeps the feet of His saints, preserves them from falling, and brings them unto His heavenly kingdom. "Yours is the power." All this power, saint of God, is on your side. All power on earth and in heaven belongs to our Immanuel. There is no foe from whom He cannot defend you; not a difficulty from which He cannot deliver you; not a need from which He cannot relieve you; not a sin which He cannot subdue in you; not a good which be cannot bestow upon you. Yours is the power!
All power is essentially and mediatorially Christ's. Is anything, then, too hard for Him? "You have given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." This power, O believer, is pledged to bring you safely to glory. No one shall wrest you from its grasp, none shall ever pluck you from Christ's hands. "All power on earth and in heaven is mine." Come, O you timid dove, and shelter beneath the wing of Jesus' power. Come, O weak believer, and learn that He perfects His strength in weakness. Come, O child of God who have no might, and learn that to such He increases strength. Yours, O Lord, is the power! In You have I righteousness and strength. Yours is the power to dethrone every form of Antichrist, to remove out of the way every impediment to the progress of Your kingdom and the triumph of Your truth. Yours the power to overthrow error, to foil Satan, to crush Your foes, to defend Your gospel, and to conduct Your Church to a final and triumphant victory over all her enemies.
This is one of the greatest and most sanctifying lessons in our education for heaven--the power of God. And this lesson is only learned in connection with yet another--our own utter weakness. We become experimentally acquainted with both at one and the same time, in one and the same school of temptation, trial, suffering, and service. Oh, it is a grand thing to know when we are weak! All secret declensions of soul, all outward backslidings from God, may be traced to an ignorance of this. If he thought his bow weak, would the archer trust to it? If he thought his boat fragile, would the mariner go to sea in it? If he thought his foundation insecure, would the architect build upon it? Trace David's, and Solomon's, and Peter's fall to its cause, and you will find that it was overrated strength, unconscious weakness--a forsaking of God's power, and a reliance upon their own fancied strength.
But is our weakness a disadvantage to us? By no means; it is all in our favor. Should it discourage us? Not at all; it should cheer and animate. When the vessel is empty, it will receive more of the ocean. When we have come to the extreme of our weakness, we approximate the nearest to Almighty power. God's power is never exercised but in alliance with man's weakness. Thus the apostle could reason, paradoxical though it may be--"When I am weak, then am I strong." God sometimes withholds assisting strength, that He may exhibitsupporting strength in upholding weak grace. He allows the believer, as it were, to go to the end of his tether before He comes to his rescue. His strength shall be perfected in weakness. Thus, oh how strong the almightiness of weakness! When I am weak, then am I strong--strong as David when he slew the lion, destroyed the bear, laid the vaunting Goliath in the dust.
"It may be you are a poor, trembling soul--your faith weak, and your assaults from Satan strong; your corruptions great, and your strength little; so that, in your opinion, they rather gain ground on your grace; yes, now and then you are apt to dread that you shall one day be cast as a wreck on the devil's shore. And yet to this day your grace lives. You are still longing, panting, desiring, wishing, and groaning after God. Is it not worth while to turn and see this strange sight?--A broken ship, with masts and hull ripped and torn through a tempestuous sea--not tempestuous only, but thickly-set with armadas of sins, afflictions, doubts, and temptations, brought safely into God's harbor. To see a poor candle in the face of the boisterous winds, and liable to the frequent dashes of quenching waves, yet not blown out! In a word, to see a weak stripling in grace held up in God's arms until all enemies are under His feet. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."
Thus does our conscious weakness serve us well. It weans us from self; it endears to us Christ; it allies us with God; and it schools us experimentally in the knowledge of that blessed doxology, "Yours is the power!" Yours the power, Lord, by reason of which Your poor, bruised reed is not broken--Your faint, smoking flax is not quenched--Your feeble, tremblingchild is enabled to hold on His way through many sharp trials of faith, and many sore thrusts of Satan, and many sad sins and failures, and many infirmities, tribulations, and sufferings--"faint, yet pursuing," with the certainty of arriving in glory at last. Will You plead against me with Your great power? No--but You will put strength in me. Your power is all on my side. It is pledged to perfect itself in my weakness; in waiting upon You, to renew my strength; out of weakness, to make me strong; to keep me through faith unto salvation, and to present me faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy. Yours, Lord, is all this power.
"Yours is the GLORY." Power and glory are essential properties of God. They are attributes of earthly sovereigns; but are divine and infinite perfections of Jehovah. He is "clothed with majesty and strength." The great end of all that God does, is His own glory. All things, and all events, terminate in Himself. "He has made all things for Himself"--that is, all things were created by Him and for Him, and all shall contribute to His supreme and endless praise. It has ever been the confederate effort of Satan and fallen man to thwart God in this His purpose; in other words, to rob Him of His glory. By impeaching His veracity and questioning His goodness, Satan accomplished the fall of our first parents in a yet perfect Eden. The moment the Divine glory was invaded and shrouded, the creature was seduced from his love and allegiance to God. Since that fatal moment--fatal, indeed, to the eternal happiness of myriads of the race--it has been man's way, having learned his lesson from an apostate father, to rob God of the glory justly due to His great and holy Name from every part of His vast empire.
The Pantheist robs Him of His glory in nature by deifying it. The Atheist robs Him of the glory of His being by a denial of His providence. The Rationalist robs Him of the glory of His revelation by the homage of reason. The Ritualist robs Him of the glory of His worship by superstitious ceremonial. Such is the fearful sacrilege of which fallen man is guilty, than which we can conceive of no crime of greater magnitude, or one which more strongly evidences man's deep depravity and total alienation from God. Are we giving God the glory that belongs to Him? Are we ascribing to Him the supreme, undivided glory of our talents, and usefulness, of our wealth, rank, and influence? Do we ascribe the glory of our salvation to His electing love, His sovereign mercy, His free grace? And is our daily life as a sweet cloud of incense, ever ascending to the honor and praise of Him who, in the exercise of His unmerited mercy and discriminating love, has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light? Can we honestly say, "For me to live is Christ?"
Oh, give Christ the glory, all the glory, the unrestrained, the most free, willing ascription of glory, for all that He is, and for all that He has done. Yours, O Son of God, is the glory! To Your everlasting love, to Your precious blood, to Your justifying righteousness, to the power that holds me up moment by moment, and to Your grace, pledged to preserve me unto Your heavenly kingdom, I ascribe the praise, honor, and glory most justly Yours. Oh, give God in Christ the glory! Take not one note from the anthem of His praise, separate not one beam from the sun of His renown--lay all at His feet, exclaiming, "You are worthy!"
But richer far will be the glory that will accrue to God from the SALVATION of His Church. The "many crowns" which deck the Savior's brow when He appears the second time, will pale before the splendor of the diadem of Redemption. Redemption will be the crown of crowns. This was the master-work of Deity. In it He embarked His whole resources, His entire being. To take out of this fallen world a people for His praise; to redeem them by the sacrifice of His Son; to regenerate them by His Spirit, and to preserve them by His grace, and finally to bring them to glory, the wonder and admiration of principalities and powers, will constitute a source of glory, honor, and praise, lasting as His throne, endless as His being.
The redeemed and glorified Church will be the grand Censer of the restored world, from which will ascend a cloud of adoration, praise, and glory, encircling the throne, and filling the universe through eternity. Oh, we have but the faintest conception of the glory that will arise to the Triune Jehovah from the scenes of Bethlehem, and Gethsemane, and Calvary, and the new tomb in the garden, in which was never man laid, save the God-man, the Resurrection and the Life. Thus will redemption, from first to last, fill heaven with glory, and replenish eternity with song. His, also, will then be the glory of that universal kingdom of whose dominion, and government, and honor there shall be no end. All empires shall then resign their sovereignties into His hands, and all kings shall lay down their crowns at His feet, and all scepters shall be broken before Him, and God in Christ shall be all in all.
"Our song employs all nations, and all cry,
'Worthy the Lamb! for He was slain for us;'
The dwellers in the vales and on the rock;
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy;
Until, nation after nation, taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosannas round."
Could this work more gracefully close than with the words which, in his spiritual exposition of the Lord's Prayer, Leighton, of seraphic piety, has woven into impressive petitions which every devout reader of these pages will make his own--"Good reason we should desire earnestly the sanctifying of Your name, and the coming of Your kingdom, and obedience to Your will, seeing these are so peculiarly due to you, namely, kingdom, and power, and glory. And seeing You are so great and rich a King, may we not crave with confidence at Your hands all needful good things to be bestowed on us, and that all evil may be averted from us; that we may find You gracious to us, both in giving and forgiving; and as in forgiving us the guiltiness of sin, so, in freeing us from the power of sin, and preserving us from the power of our spiritual enemies that would draw us into sin. We are under Your royal protection, we are Your subjects, yes, Your children. You are our King and Father, so that Your honor is engaged for our defense. Whatever sum our sins amount to, they are not too great for such a King to forgive; they cannot rise above Your royal goodness; and whatever be our enemies, all their force is not above Your scepter--though they be strong, too strong for us, yet You are much too strong for them; for power is Yours. And this we know, that all the good You do to us will bring back glory to Your name; and it is that we most desire, and that which is Your due; the glory is Yours."
"FOREVER." Significant and solemn words! "Forever!" We are born to live forever. Immortality is our birthright. Sin has forfeited, but grace restores its endless bliss. Blissful word to you who through grace believe in Jesus, who are looking for the coming of the Lord, and anticipate the privileges and the glories of the New Jerusalem. "So shall you be with the Lord forever."
But what, O sinner, will be your "forever?" What, O you unconverted man and woman, will be your endless future? Alas, dying as you live, yours will be a "forever" of woe! The fires of Tophet--forever! The gnawings of the worm--forever! The shrieks of agony and the groans of despair--forever! The society of demons and the companionship of the condemned--forever! The wrath of God--forever and ever! No cessation of being, no eternal sleep, no annihilation of existence will be the condition of those who die in their sins, die unconverted, die out of Christ. What a boon would annihilation be to such! But it is not theirs. You recoil from death now--you will seek it then! You fence, you foil, you keep at bay the "last enemy" now. Then you will beseech and implore him to come--but he comes not. "And in those days shall men seek death and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them."
Heaven and hell are alike eternal. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Reader! what will your "forever" be?--a forever of hell, or a forever of heaven! There yet is hope! "Christ died for the ungodly." "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." He receives all, and casts out none who come to Him. His mission authorizes Him to save sinners. His work engages Him to save sinners. His love constrains Him to save sinners. His power enables Him to save sinners. His grace pledges Him to save freely and to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. Lose not a moment in coming to Christ. Come away from your sins, from your self-righteousness, from your ritualism, from your formalism, from your infidelity, from your worldliness, from your carnality, from your empty profession, your soul-deception, your false hope, from the foundation of sand upon which your solemn and interminable future of happiness is built. From all this before long you will "go away"--but where? Escape from it now, and run to Jesus--the City of Refuge, the Hiding Place from the wind, the Covert from the storm, the Savior from the wrath that is to come, lest your lamentation through eternity should be--"I am not saved!--not saved--NOT SAVED!"
"Where can a sinner flee?
Who, oh who, will rescue me?
Dreading my deserved sentence,
Weeping tears of deep repentance!
Yawning grave! I fear to die,
Such burdens on my conscience lie.
"Hark! I hear the Savior say,
'I can take your guilt away;
I have bled that men might live,
Full salvation I can give!
I will help you, soul distrest,
Come unto Me--I'll give you rest!'
"Almighty Lord! I know Your voice,
In You believing I rejoice,
My Prophet, Priest, and King!
Now I can sing of joys on high;
O grave, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
"AMEN." Thus closes a Prayer which for its simplicity and sublimity, its spirit and comprehensiveness, is unequaled. The word "Amen" is of Hebrew origin. It was of frequent use among the Jews, and was afterwards imported into the Christian Church and engrafted on its more simple and spiritual worship. It signifies that which is itself true, which the mind accepts in faith, and for which the heart expresses its ardent desire, assured hope, and firm belief that all shall be fulfilled. To all the revealed doctrines, to all the holy precepts, to all the precious promises, to all the animating hopes, to all the devout petitions, and to the doxology of praise, thanksgiving, and glory contained in this sublime Prayer, taught us by the Lord, let us breathe our believing, solemn, and lasting--"Amen!" "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that lives forever and ever."
"Abba Father! high in glory
Is Your everlasting seat,
Where ten thousand hallelujahs
Wake their music at your feet;
Let Your pilgrim sons and daughters
Catch the echo--and repeat.
"While we sojourn still in Mesech
On the barren mountain side,
Let 'Your kingdom come' within us,
Sit You at the helm and guide,
Until by every tongue and people
Jesus shall be glorified.
"Should You lay Your hand upon us,
Bringing clouds across our sun,
And our 'pleasant' household 'pictures'
Fade in darkness--one by one;
Take Your dove into Your bosom
There to weep--'Your will be done.'
"Day by day give to scatter
Manna on the desert floor,
'Give us food convenient for us,'
From Your never-failing store,
And with Christ, the bread of heaven,
Satisfy us evermore.
"Lord, with You there is forgiveness,
Mercy nestles 'neath Your wing,
Drop the precious 'balm of Gilead'
On our burning bosom-sting,
Send us forth to show our brother
Mercy is a pleasant thing.
"From the byways of temptation
Keep us, Savior, lest we stray,
Oh, preserve us from the evil
Ever lurking round our way.
Let our path grow clearer, brighter,
Until it end in 'perfect day.'
"Hallelujah! power and glory
And dominion be to Thee!
Even here we strike the key-note
Of our song of Jubilee–
'Unto him who loved and washed us'
Be the praise eternally!"
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