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petition of our Church, this day; that 'He from whom all good things do come,' would * grant us, not only by his holy inspiration to think those things that be good, but, by his merciful guiding, to perform the same, through our Lord Jesus
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
PRAYER TO THE FATHER IN CHRISTS NAME.
John xvi. 23. Verily, verily,'I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask
the Father in my name, he will give it you.
[Text taken from the Gospel for the Day.] It is natural to man to feel his own weakness. Continually in want of things, which he cannot procure by his own power, and continually surrounded with difficulties, which, by his own power, he cannot remove or overcome, it is impossible but that he must be sensible of his imperfections. In the common course of things, it must be so. It is also natural to man to look up to a Being more powerful than himself, for that support in his difficulties, and for that supply of his wants, which his own abilities are not capable of furnishing. I call it natural: for a sense not only of the existence of a Power above us, but also of our dependence upon it, appears to be implanted in us by Providence. And accordingly in every age, and in the most remote countries of the world, and in every state of civilization, we find men all agreeing together in asking blessings from some being or beings, whom they suppose more powerful than themselves.
But the corruption and folly of our nature, and, at the same time, our misery in our natural state, are in nothing, perhaps, more impressively manifested, than in the circumstances which attend the religious worship of those nations, that have not been enlightened by the dayspring from on high. Look to the objects, to which that worship is addressed; and you will find them such, as cannot be contemplated without disgust by reason or by religion: 'images made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.'
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[lloin. i. 23.] Look to the manner, in which that worship is paid; and vou will find it suitable to the objects to which it is offered, but totally unworthy of being offered by a reasonable creature like man, much more of being presented to a being of infinite perfections as God. Look again to the * hope of benefits' to be derived from such religious worship; and on what authority does it rest? The heathen, who offers his prayers to his imaginary deities, has no a-wurance, that those deities are either able or willing to hear him and assist him. It is a sense of his own impotence, rather than a well-grounded persuasion of their power, which induces him to entreat their assistance: his prayer is the language of despair, when he looks to himself, rather than of confidence when he looks to them. He prays because he knows and feels, that he is unable to help himself: but he does not know, that his imaginary gods will or can help him.
As the gospel of Christ has been and is * a light to lighten the Gentiles' in all other particulars relating to the nature of God, and the welfare of man, so in this more especially it is intended to give us that instruction, which in our natural state was hidden from our eyes. Taking for its foundation those feelings, which God appears to have interwoven with our existence, namely, a sense of our own weakness and our desire of superior assistance, it directs us in the right way of procuring the assistance which we want; and it assures us, that if we walk in that way, the assistance shall certainly be granted. 'Verily, verily,' saith our blessed Lord, * I say unto you. Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.' Was the heathen ignorant of the object, to which his religious worship should be paid? Our Saviour tells us that we must ask the Father, 'that uncorruptible God,' whose * glory the heathen changed into a corruptible image, whose truth they changed into a lie; whose seat is in heaven, and whose kingdom ruleth over all.' Did the heathen mistake the manner, in which religious worship is to be offered? Our Saviour tells us to ask the Father in his name, who is the one Mediator between God and man. Had the heathen no wellgrounded hope, no reasonable assurance, that his worship would be accepted and his petitions granted? Our Saviour promises, in terms admirably qualified to dispel all apprehensions as to the success of our entreaties, * Verily, "verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.'
1. Considering the words before us in these three divisions, they direct our thoughts, in the first place, to that perfect Being, to whom our prayers must be offered. 'Ye shall ask the Father.' And to whom can they, with any appearance of propriety, be offered, but to that God, who is the Father and Lord of all, who by his excellent wisdom made the heavens, and who upholdeth all things by the word of his power?
He is described in the text under the appellation of ' the Father.' Consider him as such. Consider him as the Father of the universe: to him belong * the kingdom, the power, and the glory:' his is the dominion over all things; his is the power of disposing of all things at his will; to him is due all the glory, which his humble creatures are capable of giving by the expression of their lowly submission to his authority, and reliance upon his bounty, in prayer. Consider him as 'the Father of mankind," whom he formed in his own image, after his own likeness, and bestowed upon them the gift of reason: in whose service can that reason be employed as a religious exercise, but in devout adoration of its author? Consider him again 'as the Father of his redeemed,' of those whom he hath * elected according to his foreknowledge through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:' [1 Pet. i. 2.] what blessing and worship are not due to him, * who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that faileth not away, reserved in heaven for them, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.' [1 Pet. i. 4.] Once more: consider him as 'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' whom out of his free and unbounded love to the world he sent into the world, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life: and how can we refrain from lifting up our hearts to him in prayer, and adoration, and thanksgiving, believing, that ' he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall, with him, also freely give us all things?' Thus considering Almighty God, as his blessed Son hath been pleased to denominate him, under the appellation of the Father; and in the several relations, which under that appellation he bears, as the father of the universe, as the father of mankind, as the father of Christians, as the father of our Lord aud Saviour Jesus Christ; it appears that unto him we ought to ' give the honour due unto his name,' that it is he, whom we are to * worship in the beauty of holiness.'
One thing only I would remark under this head, as a caution against those who would infer from the text before us, that, whereas we are here directed to offer our prayers to the Father, we ought not therefore to offer them to the Son; namely, that we are elsewhere told by him, who here directs us to ask of the Father, that * all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father,' [John v. 23.] and that he assigns the reasons of the duty when he assures us, that ' he and the Father are one." [John x. 30.] In fact, the New Testament continually represents Christ to be the object of religious worship as well as God the Father: nor, if prayer is not to be made unto him, is it possible to account for the conduct of the apostle St. Paul during his life, or of the first martyr St. Stephen at his death, • full,' as they both were, 'of the Holy Ghost.'
2. But to proceed. When we offer our prayers to God the Father, we are to offer them ' in the name of the Son:' • Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name,' saith Christ in the text: and herein he was only repeating what he had already told his apostles more than once in the course of this his farewell exhortation to them, before he was to be taken away. And thus St. Paul, applying the same direction to another branch of religious worship, namely, the giving of thanks for mercies received, admonishes the Ephesians to 'give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ:' [Eph. v. 20.] and again, more generally to the Colossians, ' Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.' [Col. iii. 17.]
To pray to the Father in the name of Christ, may lead our thoughts to several important particulars in the discharge of our religious duties, as necessary to make our prayers an acceptable service.
To pray in the name of Christ, is, in its first and most obvious signification, to make open mention of him in our prayers; to offer them to the Father in and through his meritorious name, and to appear with him for our Mediator at the throne of grace. No better model for our devotions can be found, than those forms of prayer which the Church prescribes in her Liturgy: and as in others, so in this particular, those forms are very deserving of our attention, in that they always teach us to present ourselves before our almighty and merciful Father, in the name of his well-beloved Son.
Again; to pray in the name of Christ, is not only to make open mention of him in our prayers, but to place a real and heartfelt reliance upon his merits alone, to recommend us to his heavenly Father. Unworthy as we are to appear in the presence of that Being, whose name is ' holy,' and who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, by the imputed righteousness of Christ, we become well-pleasing in his sight. It is that righteousness alone, which can recommend us to Almighty God; and it is that alone, which we must plead in our recommendation, not with our lips only, but in our hearts.
Further; to pray in the name of Christ, carries with it an obligation to imitate that humility of soul, that submission of will and inclination, which, in his human character, he set us the example of practising. 'Not my will,' said he in that character to his heavenly Father, 'not my will, but thine be done!' Earnestly as we may desire that, which we pray to have granted, we must desire it with all resignation to Him, whose will it should be our most earnest desire and longing to perform: nor, without such a submission of our will to his, can we be truly said to pray in the name of Christ, inasmuch as, without it, we cannot be truly said to be his disciples and followers.
To pray in the name of Christ, may be understood as implying, moreover, that we pray with a steadfast resolution to obey the laws of Him, to whom we are petitioning for mercies. • When, in the days of his flesh, Christ had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared,' (or ' for his piety,' as it is rendered in the margin of our bibles;) though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And if his piety was a recommendation even of his prayers to his heavenly Father, what are we, that we should presume ' to name his name' in our