The Lord's Prayer
By Thomas Watson
The PREFACE to the Lord's Prayer
Having gone over the chief grounds and fundamentals of
true religion—and enlarged upon the decalogue, or ten commandments, I shall
speak now upon the Lord's prayer.
"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in
heaven." Matthew 6:9
In this Scripture are two things observable: the
introduction to the prayer—and the prayer itself.
The introduction to the Lord's prayer is, "This, then, is
how you should pray." Our Lord Jesus, in these words, gave to his disciples
and to us a directory for prayer. The ten commandments are the
rule of our life, and the sum of our faith—and the Lord's prayer is
the pattern of our prayer. As God prescribed Moses a pattern of the
tabernacle (Exod 25:9), so Christ has here prescribed us a pattern of
prayer. "This, then, is how you should pray," etc. The meaning is, let
this be the rule and model according to which you frame your prayers.
[We ought to examine our prayers by this rule.] Calvin. Not that we are tied
to the exact words of the Lord's prayer. Christ says, "This, then, is how
you should pray" that is, let all your petitions agree and harmonize
with the things contained in the Lord's prayer; and well may we make all our
prayers consonant and agreeable to this prayer. Tertullian calls this
prayer, "a breviary and compendium of the gospel!" It is like a heap of
The preciousness of this prayer appears in the dignity of
the Author. This prayer has commendation from its Author; it is the
Lord's prayer. As the moral law was written with the finger of God, so
this prayer was dropped from the lips of the Son of God. [The voice is not
that of a man—but that of God!] The preciousness of the prayer appears in
the excellence of the matter. It is "as silver tried in a furnace, purified
seven times." Psalm 12:6. Never was prayer so admirably and intricately
composed as this. As Solomon's Song, for its excellence is called the
"Song of songs," so may this be well called the "Prayer of prayers". The
matter of it is admirable:
1. For its comprehensiveness. It is short and
pithy—a great deal said in a few words. It requires most art to meticulously
draw the earth in a little map. This short prayer is a system, or
body of divinity.
2. For its clearness. It is plain and intelligible
to every capacity. Clearness is the grace of speech.
3. For its completeness. It contains the chief
things that we have to ask, or God has to bestow.
Use. Let us have a great esteem of the Lord's
prayer; let it be the model and pattern of all our prayers. There is a
double benefit arising from framing our petitions suitably to this prayer.
Hereby error in prayer is prevented. It is easy to write correctly, after
this copy. We cannot easily err, when we have our pattern before us. Hereby
mercies requested are obtained; for the apostle assures us that God will
hear us when we pray "according to his will." 1 John 5:14. And sure we pray
according to his will—when we pray according to the pattern he has set us.
So much for the introduction to the Lord's prayer, "This, then, is how you
The prayer itself consists of three parts:
1. A Preface.
3. The Conclusion.
1. The preface to the prayer includes, "Our
Father;" and, "Who is in heaven."
I. The first part of the preface is "Our Father."
Father is sometimes taken personally, "My Father is greater
than I" (John 14:28); but Father in the text is taken essentially for the
whole Deity. This title, Father, teaches us that we must address
ourselves in prayer to God alone. There is no such thing in the Lord's
prayer, as, "O saints or angels, hear us"; but, "Our Father in
In what order must we direct our prayers to God? Here the
Father alone is named. May we not direct our prayers to the Son and Holy
Though the Father alone is named in the Lord's prayer—yet
the other two Persons are not excluded. The Father is mentioned because he
is first in order; but the Son and Holy Spirit are included because they are
the same in essence. As all the three Persons subsist in one Godhead. So, in
our prayers, though we name but one Person, we must pray to all.
To come more closely to the first words of the preface,
"Our Father." Princes on earth give themselves titles expressing
their greatness, as "High and Mighty." God might have done so—and expressed
himself thus, "Our King of glory, our Judge:" but he gives himself another
title, "Our Father," an expression of love and condescension. That he might
encourage us to pray to him—he represents himself under the sweet notion of
a Father. "Our Father." [Sweet is the name of Father.] The
name Jehovah carries majesty in it—the name Father
carries mercy in it!
In what sense is God a Father?
(1) By creation; it is he who has made us: "We are
also his offspring." Acts 17:28. "Have we not all one Father?" Mal 2:10. Has
not one God created us? But there is little comfort in this; for God is
Father in the same way to the devils by creation; but he who made
them will not save them.
(2) God is a Father by election, having chosen a
certain number to be his children, upon whom he will entail heaven. "He has
chosen us in him." Eph 1:4.
(3) God is a Father by special grace. He
consecrates the elect by his Spirit—and infuses a supernatural principle of
holiness, therefore they are said to be "born of God." 1 John 3:9. Such only
as are sanctified can say, "Our Father in heaven."
What is the difference between God being the Father of
Christ—and the Father of the elect?
He is the Father of Christ in a more glorious and
transcendent manner. Christ has the primogeniture; he is the eldest Son, a
Son by eternal generation; "I was set up from everlasting, from the
beginning, before the earth was." Proverbs 8:23. "Who shall declare his
generation?" Isaiah 53:8. Christ is a Son to the Father, as he is of the
same nature with the Father, having all the incommunicable properties of the
Godhead belonging to him. But we are sons of God by adoption and
grace, "That we might receive the adoption of sons. Gal 4:5.
What is that which makes God our Father?
Faith. "You are all the children of God by faith
in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:26. An unbeliever may call God his Creator—and his
Judge—but not his Father. Faith legitimizes us—and makes us of the
blood-royal of heaven. "You are the children of God by faith." Baptism makes
us church members—but faith makes us children. Without faith the devil can
show as good a coat of arms as we can.
How does faith make God to be our Father?
As it is a uniting grace. By faith we have union with
Christ—and so the kindred comes in; being united to Christ, the natural Son,
we become adopted sons. God is the Father of Christ; faith makes us Christ's
brethren—and so God comes to be our Father. Heb 2:11.
Wherein does it appear that God is the best Father?
(1) In that he is most ANCIENT. "The Ancient
of days did sit." Dan 7:9. A figurative representation of God, who was
before all time, which may cause veneration.
(2) God is the best Father, because he is PERFECT.
"Your Father in heaven is perfect;" he is perfectly good. Matthew
5:48. Earthly fathers are subject to infirmities; Elijah, though a prophet,
"was a man subject to like passions" (James 5:17); but God is perfectly
good. All the perfection we can arrive at in this life, is sincerity.
We may resemble God a little—but not equal him; he is infinitely perfect.
(3) God is the best Father in respect of WISDOM.
"The only wise God." 1 Tim 1:17. He has a perfect idea of
wisdom in himself; he knows the fittest means to bring about his own
designs. The angels light at his lamp. In particular, one branch of his
wisdom is, that he knows what is best for us. An earthly parent knows not,
in some intricate cases, how to advise his child, or what may be best for
him to do; but God is a most wise Father; he knows what is best for us; he
knows what comfort is best for us: he keeps his cordials for fainting. "God
who comforts those who are cast down." 2 Cor 7:6. He knows when
affliction is best for us—and when it is fit to give a bitter potion.
"If need be you are in heaviness." 1 Peter 1:6. He is the only wise God;
he knows how to make evil things work for good to his children. Romans 8:28.
He can make a sovereign remedy of poison. Thus he is the best Father for
(4) He is the best Father, because the most LOVING.
"God is love." 1 John 4:16. He who causes affection in others, must needs
have more love in himself. The affections in parents are but marble and
adamant, in comparison of God's love to his children; he gives them the
cream of his love—electing love, saving love. "He will rejoice over you with
joy; he will rest in his love; he will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph
3:17. No father like God for love; if you are his child you cannot love your
own soul so entirely, as he loves you.
(5) He is the best Father, for RICHES. He has
land enough to give to all his children; he has unsearchable riches. Eph
3:8. He gives the hidden manna, the tree of life, rivers of joy. He has
treasures that cannot be exhausted, gates of pearl, pleasures that cannot be
ended. If earthly fathers should be ever giving, they would have nothing
left to give; but God is ever giving to his children—and yet has not the
less. His riches are imparted, not impaired; like the sun that
still shines—and yet has not less light. He cannot be poor who is
infinite. Thus he is the best Father; he gives more to his children than
any father or prince can bestow!
(6) God is the best Father, because he can REFORM his
children. When his son takes bad courses, a father knows not how
to make him better; but God knows how to make his elect children better—he
can change their hearts. When Paul was breathing out persecution against the
saints, God soon altered his course—and set him praying. "Behold, he prays."
Acts 9:11. None of those who belong to the election are so roughcast and
unhewn—but God can polish them with his grace—and make them fit for the
(7) God is the best Father, because he NEVER DIES.
"Who alone has immortality." 1 Tim. 6:16. Earthly fathers die—and
their children are exposed to many injuries—but God lives forever. "I am
Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending." Rev 1:8. God's crown has no
Wherein lies the dignity of those who have God for their
(1) They have greater honor than is conferred on the
princes of the earth; they are precious in God's esteem. "Since
you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable." Isaiah 43:4. The
wicked are dross (Psalm 119:119)—and chaff (Psalm 1:4); but God numbers his
children among his jewels. Mal 3:17. He writes all his children's names in
the book of life. "Whose names are in the book of life." Phil 4:3. Among the
Romans, the names of their senators were written down in a book. God enrolls
the names of his children—and will not blot them out of the register. "I
will not blot his name out of the book of life." Rev 3:5. God will not be
ashamed of his children. "God is not ashamed to be called their God." Heb
11:16. One might think it were something below God—to father such children
as are dust and sin mingled; but he is not ashamed to be called our God.
That we may see he is not ashamed of his children, he writes his own name
upon them. "I will write upon him the name of my God;" that is, I will
openly acknowledge him before all the angels—to be my child. I will write my
name upon him, as the son bears his father's name. Rev 3:12. What an honor
and dignity is this!
(2) God confers honorable titles upon his children.
He calls them the excellent of the earth, or the magnificent, as
Junius renders it. Psalm 16:3. They must needs be excellent, who are of the
blood royal of heaven! They are the spiritual phoenixes of the world, the
glory of the creation. God calls his children his glory. "Israel, my glory."
Isaiah 46:13. He honors his people with the title of kings. "And has
made us kings." Rev 1:6. All God's children are kings, though they have not
earthly kingdoms. They carry a kingdom about them. "The kingdom of God is
within you." Grace is a kingdom set up in the hearts of God's children. Luke
17:21. They are kings to rule over their sins, to bind those kings in
chains. Psalm 149:8. They are like kings. They have their ensigns of royalty
and majesty. They have their crown. In this life they are kings in disguise;
they are not known, therefore they are exposed to poverty and reproach. "Now
are we the sons of God—and it does not yet appear what we shall be." 1 John
3:2. Why, what shall we be? Every son of God shall have his crown of glory,
and white robes. 1 Peter 5:4; Rev. 6:2: Robes signify dignity—and white
(3) The honor of those who have God for their Father is,
that they are all heirs! The youngest son is an heir. God's
children are heirs to the things of this life. God being their Father, they
have the best title to earthly things, they have a sanctified right to them.
Though they have often the least share, they have the best right; and with
what they have they have the blessing of God's love and favor. Others may
have more of the venison—but God's children have more of the blessing. Thus
they are heirs to the things of this life. They are heirs to the eternal
world. "Heirs of salvation" (Heb 1:14); "Joint heirs with Christ" (Romans
8:17). They are co-sharers with Christ in glory. Among men—the eldest son
commonly carries away all; but God's children are all joint-heirs with
Christ, they have a co-partnership with him in his riches. Has Christ a
place in the celestial mansions? So have the saints. "In my Father's house
are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2. Has he his
Father's love? So have they. "That the love with which you have loved me,
may be in them." Psalm 146:8; John 17:26. Does he sit upon a throne? So do
God's children. Rev 3:21. What a high honor is this!
(4) God makes his children equal in honor to the angels.
Luke 20:36. They are equal to the angels; nay, those saints who have God for
their Father, are in some sense superior to the angels; for Jesus Christ
having taken our nature—has ennobled and honored it above the angelic. Heb
2:16. God has made his children, by adoption, nearer to himself than the
angels. The angels are the friends of Christ: believers are his
members—and this honor have all the saints. What a comfort is this, to
God's children who are here despised—and loaded with calumnies and
invectives! "We are made as the filth of the world," etc. 1 Cor 4:13. But
God will put honor upon his children at the last day—and crown them with
immortal bliss, to the envy of their adversaries!
How may we know that God is our Father? All
cannot say, "Our Father." The Jews boasted that God was their Father. "We
have one Father, even God." John 8:41. Christ tells them their true
pedigree. "You are of your father the devil!" ver 44. Those who are of
Satanic spirits, and make use of their power to beat down the power of
godliness, cannot say, God is their Father; they may say, "Our father, who
is in hell." How then may we know that God is our Father?
(1) By having a CHILDLIKE disposition, which
is seen in four things.
 To melt in tears for SIN, as a child weeps for
offending his father. When Christ looked on Peter, and Peter remembered his
sin in denying him—he fell to weeping. Clement reports of Peter—that he
never heard a rooster crow, but he wept. It is a sign that God is our Father
when the heart of stone is taken away—and there is a gracious thaw in the
heart; and it melts into tears for sin. He who has a childlike heart, mourns
for sin in a spiritual manner, as it is sin he grieves for, as it is an act
of pollution. Sin deflowers the virgin soul; it defaces God's image; it
turns beauty into deformity; it is called the plague of the heart. 1
Kings 8:38. A child of God mourns for the defilement of sin; sin has to him
a blacker aspect than hell.
He who has a childlike heart, grieves for sin, as it is
an act of enmity towards God. Sin is diametrically opposed to God. It is
called walking contrary to God. "If they shall confess their iniquity—and
that they have walked contrary unto me." Lev 26:40. It does all it can to
spite God; if God is of one mind—sin will be of another; sin would not only
unthrone God—but strike at his very being! If sin could help it—God would no
longer be God! A childlike heart grieves for this; "Oh!" says she, "that I
should have so much enmity in me, that my will should be no more subdued to
the will of my heavenly Father!" This springs a leak of godly sorrow.
A childlike heart weeps for sin, as it is an act of
ingratitude. It is an abuse of God's love; it is taking the jewels of his
mercies—and making use of them to sin. God has done more for his children
than others; he has planted his grace and given them some intimations of his
favor; and to sin against kindness, dyes a sin in grain—and makes it
crimson; like Absalom, who soon as his Father kissed him, and took him into
favor, plotted treason against him. Nothing so melts a childlike heart in
tears, as sins of unkindness. "Oh, that I should sin against the blood of a
Savior—and the affections of a Father! I condemn ingratitude in my child—yet
I am guilty of ingratitude against my heavenly Father." This opens a vein of
godly sorrow—and makes the heart bleed afresh. Certainly it evidences God to
be our Father, when he has given us a childlike frame of heart, to weep for
sin as it is sin, an act of pollution, enmity and ingratitude. A wicked man
may mourn for the bitter fruit of sin—but only a child of God can
grieve for the odious nature of sin.
 A childlike disposition is to be full of SYMPATHY.
We lay to heart the dishonors reflected upon our heavenly Father. When we
see his worship adulterated—and his truth mingled with the poison of error,
it is as a sword in our bones, to see his glory suffer. "I beheld the
transgressors, and was grieved." Psalm 119:158. Homer describing Agamemnon's
grief when forced to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, brings in all his
friends weeping and condoling with him; so, when God is dishonored, we
sympathize—and are as it were, clad in mourning. A child that has any good
nature, is cut to the heart to hear his father reproached; so an heir of
heaven takes a dishonor done to God, more heinous than a disgrace done to
 A childlike disposition, is to LOVE our heavenly
Father. He is unnatural, who does not love his father. God who is
crowned with excellency, is the proper object of delight; and every true
child of God says as Peter, "Lord, you know that I love you!" But who will
not say that he loves God? If ours be a true genuine love to our
heavenly Father—it may be known by the effects. Then we have a holy fear.
There is the fear which rises from love to God, of losing the visible tokens
of his presence. Eli's "heart trembled for the ark." 1 Sam 4:13. It is not
said his heart trembled for his two sons Hophni and Phinehas; but his heart
trembled for the ark, because the ark was the special sign of God's
presence; and if that were taken, the glory was departed. He who loves his
heavenly Father, fears lest the tokens of his presence should be removed,
lest profaneness should break in like a flood, lest Popery should make
headway—and God should go from his people.
The presence of God in his ordinances, is the glory and
strength of a nation. The Trojans had the image of Dallas—and they had an
opinion that as long as that image was preserved among them, they would
never be conquered; so, as long as God's presence is with a people they are
safe. Every true child of God fears lest God should go—and the glory depart.
Let us try by this whether we have a childlike disposition. Do we love
God—and does this love cause fear and jealousy? Are we afraid lest we should
lose God's presence, lest the Sun of Righteousness should move out of our
horizon? Many are afraid lest they should lose some of their worldly
profits—but not lest they should lose the presence of God. If they may have
health and wealth—they care not what becomes of the ark of God. A true child
of God fears nothing so much as the loss of his Father's presence. "Woe to
them when I depart from them." Hos 9:12.
Love to our heavenly Father is seen by loving his
children. "Everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too." 1 John
5:1. If we love God, the more we see of him in any—the more we love them. We
love then though they are poor, as a child loves to see his father's
picture, though hung in a poor frame. We love the children of our Father,
though they are persecuted. "Onesiphorus was not ashamed of my
chain." 2 Tim 1:16. Constantine kissed the hole of Paphnusius's eye, because
he suffered the loss of his eye for Christ. They have no love to God, who
have no love to his children; they care not for their company; they have a
secret disgust and antipathy against them. Hypocrites pretend great
reverence to departed saints; they canonize dead saints—but
persecute living ones! I may say of these, as the apostle in Heb
12:8: they are "bastards, not sons."
If we love our heavenly Father, we shall be advocates for
him—and stand up in the defense of his truth. He who loves his father will
plead for him when he is traduced and wronged. He has no childlike heart, no
love to God, who can hear his name dishonored and be silent. Does Christ
appear for us in heaven—and are we afraid to appear for him on earth? Such
as dare not own God and true religion in times of danger, God will be
ashamed to be called their God; it will be a reproach to him to have such
children, as will not own him.
A childlike love to God is known by its degree. We
love our Father in heaven above all other things; above estate, or
relations, as oil runs above the water. Psalm 73:25. A child of God seeing a
supereminence of goodness and a constellation of all beauties in God—is
carried out in love to him in the highest measure. As God gives his children
electing love, such as he does not bestow upon the wicked, so his children
give to him such love as they bestow upon none else. They give him the
flower and best of their love; they love him with a love joined with
worship; this spiced wine they keep only for their Father to drink of.
 A childlike disposition is seen in HONORING our
heavenly Father. "A son honors his father." Mal 1:6.
We show our honor to our Father in heaven, by having a
reverential awe of him upon us. "You shall fear your God." Lev 25:17. This
reverential fear of God, is when we dare do nothing that he has forbidden in
his Word. "How can I do this great wickedness—and sin against God?" Gen
39:9. It is part of the honor a son gives to a father—that he fears to
displease him. We show our honor to our heavenly Father, by doing all we can
to exalt him and make his excellencies shine forth. Though we cannot lift
him up higher in heaven—yet we may lift him higher in our hearts—and in the
esteem of others! When we speak well of God, set forth his renown, display
the trophies of his goodness; when we ascribe the glory of all we do to him;
when we are the trumpeters of his praise—this is honoring our Father in
heaven—and a sure sign of a childlike heart. "Whose offers praise, glorifies
me." Psalm 123.
(2) We may know God is our Father by RESEMBLING him.
The child is his father's picture. "Each one resembled the children
of a king", every child of God resembles the king of heaven. Judg 8:18.
Herein God's adopted children and man's adopted children differ. A man
adopts one for his son and heir, who does not at all resemble him; but
whoever God adopts for his child is like him; he not only bears his heavenly
Father's name—but his image. "And have put on the new man, which is renewed
after the image of him that created him." Col 3:10.
He who has God for his Father, resembles him in holiness,
which is the glory of the Godhead. Exod 15:11. The holiness of God is the
intrinsic purity of his essence. He who has God for his Father, partakes of
the divine nature; though not of the divine essence—yet of the
divine likeness; as the seal sets its print and likeness upon the wax, so he
who has God for his Father, has the print and image of his holiness stamped
upon him. "Aaron, the saint of the Lord." Psalm 106:16. Wicked men desire to
be like God hereafter in glory—but do not want to be like him here in grace;
they give it out to the world that God is their Father—yet have nothing of
God to be seen in them; they are unclean: they are not only without his
image—but hate it.
(3) We may know God is our Father by having his SPIRIT in
 By having the INTERCESSION of the Spirit. He is a
Spirit of prayer. "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of
his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." Gal 4:6. Prayer is the
soul's breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father. None of God's
children are born dumb. [The Holy Spirit fills his instrument—and the Spirit
of God touches the hearts of the saints like the threads of harp-strings.
Prosper] "Behold, he prays." Acts 9:11. But it is not every prayer that
evidences God's Spirit in us. Such as have no grace, may excel in gifts, and
affect the hearts of others in prayer, when their own hearts are not
affected; as the lute makes a sweet sound in the ears of others—but itself
is not sensible.
How shall we know our prayers to be indited by the
When they are not only vocal—but mental; when they are
not only gifts—but groans. Romans 8:26. The best music is in concert: the
best prayer is when the heart and tongue join together in concert.
When they are zealous and fervent. "The effectual fervent
prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16. When the eyes melt in
prayer—and the heart burns. Fervency is to prayer—as fire to incense, which
makes it ascend to heaven as a sweet perfume.
When prayer has faith mingled with it. Prayer is the
key of heaven—and faith is the hand which turns it. "We cry, Abba,
Father." Romans 8:15. "We cry," there is fervency in prayer; "Abba, Father,"
there is faith. Those prayers suffer shipwreck, which dash upon the rock
of unbelief. We may know God is our Father, by having his Spirit praying
in us; as Christ intercedes above, so the Spirit intercedes within.
 By having the RENEWING of the Spirit, which is
nothing else but regeneration, which is called a being born of the
Spirit. John 3:5. This regenerating work of the Spirit is a transformation,
or change of nature. "Be transformed, by the renewing of your mind." Romans
12:2. He who is born of God has a new heart: new, not for substance—but for
qualities. The strings of a violin may be the same—but the tune is altered.
Now, there are spiritual pangs, much heart-breaking for sin. It is called a
circumcision of the heart. Col 2:11. In circumcision there was a pain
in the flesh; so in spiritual circumcision there is pain in the heart; there
is much sorrow arising from a sense of guilt and wrath. The jailor's
trembling was a pang in the new birth. Acts 16:29. God's Spirit is a spirit
of bondage, before He is a spirit of adoption. This blessed
work of regeneration spreads over the whole soul; it irradiates the mind; it
consecrates the heart—and reforms the life! Though regeneration is but in
part—yet it is in every part. 1 Thess 5:23. Regeneration is the signature
and engraving of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, the new-born Christian is
bespangled with the jewels of the graces, which are the angels' glory.
Regeneration is the spring of all true joy. At our first birth—we come
weeping into the world—but at our new birth there is cause of rejoicing; for
now, God is our Father—and we are begotten to a living hope of glory. 1
Peter 1:3. We may try by this our relation to God. Has a regenerating work
of God's Spirit passed upon our souls? Are we made of another spirit, humble
and heavenly? This is a good sign of sonship—and we may say, "Our Father in
 We know God is our Father by having the CONDUCT of
the Spirit. We are led by the Spirit. "As many as are led by
the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Romans 8:14. God's Spirit does
not only quicken us in our regeneration—but leads us on until
we come to the end of our faith. It is not enough that the child has life—but
he must be led every step by the parent. "I taught Ephraim to go,
taking them by their arms." Hos 11:3. As the Israelites had the cloud and
pillar of fire to go before them—and be a guide to them, so God's Spirit is
a guide to go before us—and lead us into all truth—and counsel us in all our
doubts—and influence us in all our actions. "You shall guide me with your
counsel." Psalm 73:24. None can call God Father but such as have the conduct
of the Spirit. Try then what spirit you are led by. Such as are led by a
spirit of envy, lust, and avarice--are not led by the Spirit of God! It
would be blasphemy for them to call God their Father! They are led by the
spirit of Satan, and may say, "Our father, who is in hell."
 By having the WITNESS of the Spirit. "The Spirit
himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
Romans 8:16. This witness of the Spirit, suggesting that God is our Father,
is not a vocal witness or voice from heaven. The Spirit in the Word
witnesses: the Spirit in the Word says—he who is a hater of sin and a lover
of holiness—is a child of God, and God is his Father. If I can find such
qualifications wrought in my heart—it is the Spirit witnessing with my
spirit that I am a child of God. We may carry it higher. The Spirit of God
witnesses to our spirit by making more than ordinary impressions upon our
hearts, and giving some secret hints and whispers that God has purposes of
love to us, which is a concurrent witness of the Spirit with conscience,
that we are heirs of heaven, and God is our Father. This witness is better
felt than expressed; it scatters doubts and fears, and
silences temptations. But what shall one do, who has not this witness of the
Spirit? If we lack the witness of the Spirit, let us labor to find
the work of the Spirit; if we have not the Spirit testifying,
let us labor to have him sanctifying, and that will be a support to
(4) If God is our Father, we are of PEACEABLE spirits.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9. Grace infuses a sweet, amicable disposition; it files off the
ruggedness of men's spirits; it turns the lion-like fierceness into a
lamb-like gentleness. Those who have God to be their Father, follow peace as
well as holiness. God the Father is called the "God of peace," Heb 13:20:
God the Son, the "Prince of Peace," Isaiah 9:6: God the Holy Spirit, a
Spirit of peace; "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph 4:3.
The more peaceable, the more like God. God is not the Father of those who
are fierce and cruel, as if, with Romulus, they had sucked the milk of a
wolf! "The way of peace have they not known." Romans 3:17. They sport in
mischief, and are of a persecuting spirit, as Maximinus, Diocletian,
Antiochus, who, as Eusebius says, took more tedious journeys, and ran more
hazards in vexing and persecuting the Jews, than any of his predecessors had
done in obtaining victories. These furies cannot call God their Father. If
they do, they will have as little comfort in saying Father, as Dives had in
hell, when he said, "Father Abraham." Luke 16:24.
Nor can those who are makers of division. "Mark those who
cause divisions, and avoid them." Romans 16:17. Such as are born of God, are
makers of peace. What shall we think of such as are makers of divisions?
Will God father these? The devil made the first division in heaven. They may
call the devil their father! They may give the cloven foot in their
coat of arms; their sweetest music is in discord; they unite to divide.
Samson's fox tails were tied together only to set the Philistine corn on
fire. Judges 15:4. Papists unite only to set the church's peace on fire.
Satan's kingdom grows up by making divisions. Chrysostom observes of the
church of Corinth, that when many converts were brought in, Satan knew no
better way to dam up the current of religion—than to throw in an apple of
strife, and divide them into parties: one was for Paul, and another for
Apollo—but few for Christ. Can Christ endure to have his body rent? Surely,
God will never father those who are not sons of peace. Of all those whom God
hates, he is named for one who is a sower of discord among brethren.
(5) If God is our Father, we shall love to be near him,
and to have CONVERSE with him. A sincere child delights to
approach near to his father, and go into his presence. David envied the
birds which built their nest near God's altars, when he was debarred his
Father's house. Psalm 84:3. True saints love to get as near to God as they
can. In the Word they draw near to his holy oracle; in the Lord's
Supper they draw near to his table. A child of God delights to be in his
Father's presence; he cannot stay away long from God; his heart has been
often melted and quickened in an ordinance; he has tasted that the Lord is
good, therefore he loves to be in his Father's presence; he cannot keep away
long from God. Such as care not for ordinances cannot say, "Our Father in
heaven." Is God the Father of those—who cannot endure to be in his presence!
Use 1. For INSTRUCTION. See the amazing
goodness of God, that he is pleased to enter into the sweet relation of a
Father to us. He had no need not to adopt us. He did not need a son—but we
needed a Father! He showed power in being our Maker—but mercy
in being our Father. When we were enemies, and our hearts stood out as
garrisons against God—he conquered our stubbornness, and made us his
children! He wrote his name, and put his image upon us, and bestowed a
kingdom of glory on us! What a miracle of mercy is this! "How great
is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children
of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1. Every adopted child may say,
"Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight." Matthew 11:26.
If God is a Father, then I infer—that whatever he does to
his children, is in love.
(1) If he smiles upon them in PROSPERITY, it is in love.
They have the world not only with God's leave—but with his
love. He says to every child of his, as Naaman to Gehazi, "Take two
portions." So God says to his child, "I am your Father—take two portions.
Take health—and take my love with it; take an estate—and take my love with
it. Take two portions!" His love is a sweetening ingredient in every mercy.
How does it appear that God gives his children worldly
things in love?
Because he has a good title to them. God is his father,
therefore he has a good title. A wicked man has a civil title to the
creature—but no more; he has it not from the hand of a father; he is like
one who takes up cloth at the draper's, and it is not paid for. But a
believer has a good title to every foot of land he has—for his Father has
settled it upon him!
A child of God has worldly things in love, because they
are sanctified to him. They make him better, and are loadstones to draw him
nearer to God. He has his Father's blessing with them. A little that is
blessed by God, is sweet. "He shall bless your bread and your water." Exod
23:25. Esau had the venison—but Jacob got the blessing. While
the wicked have their food sauced with God's wrath; believers have
their comforts seasoned with God's blessing. Psalm 78:30, 31. It was a
sacred blessing from God, which made Daniel's vegetables nourish him more,
and made him look fairer than those who ate of the king's food. Dan 1:15.
A child of God has worldly things in love, because
whatever he has is a pledge of more; every bit of bread is a pledge of
(2) God being a Father, if he frowns, if he dips his pen
in gall, and writes bitter things, if he DISCIPLINES—it is all done in love!
A father loves his child as well when he chastises and
disciplines him—as when he settles his inheritance on him. "Those whom I
love—I rebuke and discipline." Rev 3:19. "Afflictions are sharp arrows,"
says one—"but they are shot from the hand of a loving Father!" Correction is
God's gymnasium. Correction is God's school of character. God afflicts His
children--in love! He does it to humble and purify. Gentle
correction is as necessary as daily bread; nay, as needful as ordinances, as
Word and sacraments. There is love in all! God smites—that he may save. "For
the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He
receives." Hebrews 12:6. "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share
in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10
(3) God being a Father, if he DESERTS and hides his face
from his child—it is in love. Spiritual desertion is sad in
itself—it is a short hell. Job 6:9. When the light is withdrawn, the
dew falls. Yet we may see a rainbow in the cloud—we may see
the love of a Father in all this. God hereby quickens grace. Perhaps grace
lay dormant. Canticles 5:2. It was as fire in the embers, and God
withdrew comfort to invigorate and exercise it. Faith like a star, sometimes
shines brightest in the dark night of desertion. Jonah 2:4. When God hides
his face from his child, he is still a Father, and his heart is towards his
child. As when Joseph spoke roughly to his brethren, and made them believe
he would take them for spies—his heart was full of love, and he was glad to
go aside and weep. Just so, God's affections yearn towards his children when
he seems to look harshly on them. "In a little wrath I hid my face from
you—but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you." Isaiah 54:8.
Though God may have the look of an enemy—yet still he has the heart of a
Learn hence the deplorable case of the wicked. They
cannot say, "Our Father in heaven." They may say, "Our Judge," but not "Our
Father." They fetch their pedigree from hell—"You are of your father—the
devil." John 8:44. Such as are unclean and worldly, are the vile brood of
the old serpent, and it would be blasphemy for them to call God their
Father! The case of the wicked is deplorable; if they are in misery, they
have none to make their moan to. God is not their Father! He disclaims all
kindred with them. "I never knew you! Depart from me—you who work iniquity."
Matthew 7:23. The wicked, dying in their sins, can expect no mercy from God
as a Father. Many say, He who made them will save them; but
"It is a people of no understanding; therefore he who made them—will not
have mercy on them." Isaiah 27:11. Though God was their Father by
creation—yet because they were not his children by adoption, therefore He
who made them would not save them.
Use 2. For INVITATION. Let all who are yet
strangers to God, labor to come into this heavenly kindred; never cease
until they can say, "Our Father in heaven."
But will God be a Father to me—who has profaned
his name, and have been such a great sinner?
If you will now at last seek God by prayer, and break off
your sins, he has the affections of a Father for you, and will never cast
you out! When the prodigal arose and went to his father, "his father
had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him!" Luke 15:20.
Though you have been a prodigal, and almost spent all upon your lusts—yet if
you will give a bill of divorce to your sins, and flee to God by repentance,
know that he has the affections of a Father; he will embrace you in the arms
of his mercy, and seal your pardon with a kiss. What though your sins have
been heinous? Your wound is not so broad—as the plaster of Christ's blood.
The sea covers great rocks. Just so, the sea of God's compassion can
drown your great sins! Therefore be not discouraged, go to God, resolve to
cast yourself upon his Fatherly compassion. He may be entreated of you, as
he was of Manasseh. 2 Chron 33:13. "No matter how deep the stain of your
sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even
if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool!"
Use 3. For comfort. Here is comfort for such
as can, upon good grounds, call God their Father. There is more sweetness in
this word Father, than if we had ten thousand worlds! David thought
it a great matter to be son-in-law to a king. "What is my father's family,
that I should be son-in-law to the king?" 1 Sam 18:18. But what is it to be
born of God, and have him for our Father!
Wherein lies the happiness, of having God for our Father?
(1) If God is our Father—he will TEACH us.
What father will refuse to counsel his son? Does God command parents
to instruct their children, and will not he instruct his children?
Deut 4:10. "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit." Isaiah
48:17. "O God, you have taught me from my youth." Psalm 71:17. If God is our
Father, he will give us the teachings of his Spirit. "The natural man
receives not the things of God, neither can he know them." 1 Cor 2:14. The
natural man may have excellent notions in theology—but God must teach us to
know the mysteries of the gospel after a spiritual manner. A man may see the
figures upon a dial—but he cannot tell how the day goes unless the sun
shines; so we may read many truths in the Bible—but we cannot know them
savingly—until God by his Spirit shines upon our soul. God teaches not only
our ear—but our heart! He not only informs our mind—but
inclines our will. We never learn anything—until God teaches us. If
he is our Father, he will teach us how to order our affairs with discretion
(Psalm 112:5) and how to live wisely. "David behaved himself wisely." 1 Sam
18:5. He will teach us what to answer when we are brought before governors;
he will put words into our mouths. "You shall be brought before governors
and kings for my sake; but take no thought how or what you shall speak; for
it is not you who speaks—but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
Matthew 10:18, 19, 20.
(2) If God is our Father—he has great LOVE towards us.
If it is so unnatural for an earthly father not to love his
child, can we think God can be defective in his love? All the affections of
parents come from God—yet are they but a spark from his flame. He is
the Father of mercies. 2 Cor 1:3. He begets all the mercies and
affections in the creature; his love to his children is a love which passes
knowledge. Eph 3:19. It exceeds all dimensions; it is higher than heaven, it
is broader than the sea!
That you may see God's fatherly love to his children:
Consider, God makes a precious valuation of them. "Since you were precious
in my sight." Isaiah 43:4. A father prizes his child above his jewels. Their
names are precious, for they have God's own name written upon them.
"I will write upon him the name of my God." Rev 3:12. Their prayers
are a precious perfume. God bottles their tears. Psalm 56:8. He
esteems his children as a crown of glory in his hands. Isaiah 62:3. God
loves the places where they were born, for their sakes. "Of Zion it
shall be said, This and that man was born in her"; this and that believer
was born there. Psalm 87:5. He loves the ground his children tread upon;
hence, Judea, the seat of his children and chosen ones, he calls a
delightsome land. Mal 3:12. It was not only pleasant for situation and
fruitfulness—but because his children, who were his Hephzibah, or
delight, lived there. He charges the great ones of the world not to
injure his children, because their persons are sacred. "He allowed no man to
do them wrong, yes, he reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not my
anointed ones!" Psalm 105:14, 15. By anointed is meant the
children of the high God, who have the unction of the Spirit, and are set
apart for God.
He delights in their company. He loves to see
their face, and hear their voice. Canticles 2:14. He cannot refrain long
from their company; let but two or three of his children meet and pray
together, he will be sure to be among them. "Where two or three are gathered
together in my name—there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20. He
bears his children in his bosom, as a nursing father does the sucking child.
Numb 11:12; Isaiah 46:4. To be carried in God's bosom shows how near his
children lie to his heart. He is full of solicitous care for them. "He cares
for you." 1 Peter 5:7. His eye is always upon them, they are never out of
his thoughts. A father cannot always take care for his child, he sometimes
is asleep; but God is a Father who never sleeps. "He shall neither slumber
nor sleep." Psalm 121:4. He thinks nothing too good to part with, for his
children; he gives them the honey out of the rock, and "wine on the lees
well refined." Isaiah 25:6. He gives them three jewels more worth than
heaven—the blood of his Son, the grace of his Spirit, and the light of his
Never was there such an indulgent, affectionate Father.
If he has one love better than another, he bestows it upon them; they have
the cream and quintessence of his love. "He will rejoice over you, he will
rest in his love." Zeph 3:17. He loves his children with the same love as he
loves Christ. John 17:26. It is the same love, for the unchangeableness of
it. God will no more cease to love his adopted sons—than he will to love
Christ, his Son.
(3) If God is our Father—he will be full of SYMPATHY
towards his children. "As a father pities his children, so the
Lord pities those who fear him." Psalm 103:13. "Is Ephraim my dear son? my
affections are troubled for him." Jer 31:20. God pities his children in two
 In case of infirmities. If the child is
deformed, or has any bodily distemper—the father pities it. Just so, if God
is our Father, he pities our weaknesses: and he so pities them as to heal
them. "I have seen his ways, and will heal him." Isaiah 57:18. As he has
affections to pity, so he has balm to heal.
 In case of injuries. Every blow to the child
goes to the father's heart; so, when the saints suffer, God sympathizes. "In
all their affliction he was afflicted." Isaiah 63:9. He did, as it were,
bleed in their wounds. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" When the
foot was trod on—the head cried out! God's soul was grieved for
the children of Israel. Judges 10:16. As when one string in a lute is
touched, all the rest sound; so when God's children are stricken, his
affections sound. "He who touches you touches the apple of his eye." Zech
(4) If God is our Father—he will take notice of the least
good he sees in his children. If there is but a sigh for
sin—he hears it. "My groaning is not hidden from you." Psalm 38:9. If there
is but a penitential tear which comes out of the eye—he sees it. "I
have seen your tears." Isaiah 38:5. If there is but a good intention,
he takes notice of it. "Since it was your desire to build a temple for My
name, you have done well to have this desire." 1 Kings 8:18. He punishes
intentional wickedness, and crowns intentional goodness. "You
have done well to have this desire." He takes notice of the least spark of
grace in his children. "Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." 1 Peter 3:6.
The Holy Spirit does not mention Sara's unbelief, or laughing at the
promise. He puts a finger upon the scar, winks at her failing, and
only takes notice of the good that was in her—her obedience to her husband.
Nay, that good which the saints scarcely take notice of in themselves, God
in a special manner observes. "I was hungry and you gave Me something to
eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. Then the righteous
will answer Him—Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty
and give You something to drink?" Matthew 25:35, 37. They as it were
overlooked and disclaimed their own works of charity—but Christ takes notice
of them—"I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat." What comfort is
this! God spies the least good in his children! He can see a grain of corn
hidden under chaff. He can see a little grace, hidden under much
(5) If God is our Father—he will take all we do in good
part. Those duties which we ourselves censure—he will crown. When
a child of God looks over his best duties, he sees so much sin cleaving to
them—that he is confounded. "Lord," he says, "there is more sulphur
than incense, in my prayers." But for your comfort, if God is your
Father, he will crown those duties which you yourselves censure. He sees
there is sincerity in the hearts of his children—and this gold,
though light, shall have grains of allowance. Though there may be many
defects in the services of his children, he will not cast away their
"The Lord healed the people." 2 Chron 30:20. The tribes
of Israel, being straitened in time, lacked some legal purifications; yet
because their hearts were right, God healed them and pardoned them. He
accepts of the good intention. 2 Cor 8:12. An earthly father kindly
receives a letter from his young child—though there are blots and bad
spelling in it. What blottings are there in our holy things! Yet our Father
in heaven accepts them. "It is my child!" God says, "I will look upon him,
through Christ—with a merciful eye!"
(6) If God is our Father—he will correct us, in measure.
"I will correct you, in measure." Jer 30:11. This he will do two ways. It
shall be in measure—for the kind. He will not lay upon us more than
we are able to bear. 1 Cor 10:13. He knows our frame. Psalm 103:14. He knows
we are not steel or marble, therefore will deal gently—he will not
over-afflict. As the wise physician, who knows the temper of the body, will
not give too strong a medicine for the body, nor give one grain too much; so
God, who is not only the great Physician—but has the affections of a loving
father, will not lay too heavy burdens on his children, lest their spirits
God will correct in measure—for duration; he will
not let the affliction lie too long. "The rod of the wicked shall not
rest upon the lot of the righteous," Psalm 125:3. It may be there—but
not rest there. "I will not contend forever." Isaiah 57:16. Our
heavenly Father will love forever—but he will not contend
forever. The torments of the damned are forever. "The smoke of their torment
ascends up forever and ever." Rev 14:11. The wicked shall drink a sea of
wrath—but God's children only taste of the cup of affliction, and
their heavenly Father will say, "let this cup pass away from them." Isaiah
(7) If God is our Father—he will intermix mercy with all
our afflictions. If he gives us wormwood to drink—he will
mix it with honey. In the ark, the rod was laid up and
manna; so with our Father's rod there is always some manna.
Asher's shoes were iron and brass—but his foot was dipped in oil.
Deut 33:24, 25. Affliction is the shoe of brass which pinches. But there is
mercy in the affliction—there is the foot dipped in oil. When God afflicts
the body, he gives peace of conscience; there is mercy in the affliction. An
affliction comes to prevent falling into sin—there is mercy in an
affliction. Jacob had his thigh hurt in wrestling—there was the affliction.
But when he saw God's face, and received a blessing from the angel—there was
the mercy in the affliction. Gen 32:30. In every cloud, a child of
God may see a rainbow of mercy shining. As the painter mixes dark
shadows and bright colors together—so our heavenly Father mingles
the dark and bright together, crosses and blessings; and is not this a great
happiness, for God thus to chequer his providence, and mingle
goodness with severity?
(8) If God is our Father—the evil one shall not prevail
against us. Satan is called the evil one, emphatically. He
is the grand enemy of the saints; and that both in a military sense,
as he fights against them with his temptations; and in a legal sense,
as he is an accuser, and pleads against them; yet neither way, shall he
prevail against God's children. As for shooting his fiery darts, God will
bruise Satan shortly under the saints' feet. Romans 16:20. As for his
accusing, Christ is an advocate for the saints, and answers all bills of
indictment brought against them. God will make all Satan's temptations
promote the good of his children:
 As they set them praying. 2 Cor 12:8.
Temptation is a medicine for carnal security.
 As they are a means to humble them. "Lest I
should be exalted above measure, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh,
the messenger of Satan." 2 Cor 12:7. The thorn in the flesh was an
affliction; but it was to pick the bladder of pride.
 As they establish them more in grace. A tree
shaken by the wind is more settled and rooted; so the blowing of a
temptation does but settle a child of God more in grace. Thus the evil one,
Satan, shall not prevail against the children of God.
(9) If God is our Father—no real evil shall befall
us. "There shall no evil befall you." Psalm 91:10. It is not
said, no trouble; but, no evil. God's children are privileged
people; they are privileged from being hurt by anything. "Nothing shall by
any means hurt you." Luke 10:19. The hurt and malignity of the affliction is
taken away. Affliction to a wicked man has evil in it; it makes him worse.
"Men were scorched with great heat—and blasphemed the name of God." Rev
16:9. But no evil befalls a child of God; he is bettered by affliction.
"That we might be made partakers of his holiness." Heb 12:10. What hurt does
the furnace to the gold? It only makes it purer. What hurt
does affliction to grace? Only refine and purify it. What a
great privilege it is to be freed, though not from the stroke—yet
from the sting of affliction! No evil shall touch a saint. Christ
has drawn the poison out of every affliction, that it cannot injure a child
of God. Again, no evil befalls a child of God, because no condemnation.
"No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1. God does not
condemn them, nor does conscience. When both jury and judge acquit—no evil
befalls the accused; for nothing is really an evil—but that which damns!
(10) If God is our Father—we may go with cheerfulness to
the throne of grace. Were a man to petition his enemy—there
is little hope; but when a child petitions his father—he may hope
with confidence to succeed. The word "Father" works upon God; it touches his
very heart. What can a father deny his child? "If his son asks bread—will
he give him a stone?" Matthew 7:9. This may embolden us to go to God
for pardon of sin, and further degrees of sanctity. We pray to a Father of
mercy—sitting upon a throne of grace! "If you then, being
evil, know how to give good gifts to your children—how much more shall your
heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" Luke 11:13. This
quickens the church, and adds wings to prayer. "Look down from heaven."
Isaiah 63:15. "Doubtless you are our Father"; ver 16. For whom does God keep
his mercies but for his children? Three things may give boldness in prayer:
We have a Father to pray to.
We have the Spirit to help us to pray.
We have an Advocate to present our prayers.
God's children should in all their troubles—run to their
heavenly Father, as the sick child in 2 Kings 4:19: "He said unto his
father—My head, my head." So pour out your complaint to God in prayer.
"Father, my heart, my heart! My dead heart—quicken it! My hard heart—soften
it in Christ's blood! Father, my heart, my heart!" Surely God, who hears the
cry of ravens, will hear the cry of his children!
(11) If God is our Father—he will stand between us and
danger. A father will keep off danger from his child. God calls
himself a shield. As a shield he defends the head, guards the vitals,
and wards off dangers from his children. "I am with you, and no man shall
set on you to hurt you." Acts 18:10. God is a hiding-place. Psalm 27:5. As
God has a breast to feed—so he has wings to cover his
children. "He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall
you trust." Psalm 91:4. He appoints his holy angels to be a lifeguard
about his children. Heb 1:14. Never was any prince so well guarded, as a
 The angels are a numerous guard. "The mountain
was full of horses of fire round about Elisha." 2 Kings 6:17. "The horses
and chariots of fire" were the angels of God to defend the prophet Elisha.
 The angels are a strong guard. One angel, in
one night, slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand. 2 Kings 19:35. If one
angel slew so many, what could an army of angels have done?
 The angels are a swift guard; they are ready
in an instant to help God's children. They are described with wings to show
their swiftness: they fly to our help. "As soon as you began to pray, an
answer was given, which I have come to tell you." Dan 9:23. Here was swift
motion for the angel, to come from heaven to earth between the beginning and
ending of Daniel's prayer.
 The angels are a watchful guard; not like
Saul's guard, asleep when their king was in danger. 1 Sam 26:12. The angels
are a vigilant guard; they watch over God's children to defend them. "The
angel of the Lord encamps round about those who fear him." Psalm 34:7. There
is an invisible guardianship of angels surrounding God's children.
(12) If God is our Father—we shall not lack anything that
he sees to be good for us. "Those who seek the Lord shall not
lack any good thing." Psalm 34:10. God is pleased sometimes to keep his
children on hard fare—but it is good for them. As sheep thrive best on short
pasture, so God sees that too much may not be good for his people;
plenty might breed surfeit. [In prosperity, men's characters run riot.] God
sees it good sometimes to diet his children, and keep them light—that
they may run the heavenly race the better. It was good for Jacob that there
was a famine in the land; it was the means of bringing him to his son
Joseph. Just so, God's children sometimes see the world's emptiness,
that they may acquaint themselves more with Christ's fullness. If God
sees it to be good for them to have more of the world—they shall have it. He
will not let them lack any good thing.
(13) If God is our Father—all the promises of the Bible
belong to us. His children are called "heirs of the promise." Heb
6:17. A wicked man can lay claim to nothing in the Bible, but the curses; he
has no more to do with the promises—than a ploughman has to do with the city
charter. The promises are children's bread; they are the breasts of
the gospel, milking out consolations; and who are to suck these breasts—but
God's children? The promise of pardon is for them. "I will pardon all
their iniquities, whereby they have sinned against me." Jer 33:8. The
promise of healing is for them. Isaiah 57:19. The promise of
salvation is for them. Jer 23:6. The promises are the supports of faith;
they are God's sealed deed; they are a Christian's cordial. Oh, the heavenly
comforts which are distilled from the promises! Chrysostom compares the
Scripture to a garden: the promises are the fruit trees which grow in this
garden. A child of God may go to any promise in the Bible, and pluck comfort
from it! He is an heir of all the promises!
(14) If God is our Father—he makes all his children
conquerors. They conquer themselves; [he who conquers
himself is stronger than he who conquers the stoutest ramparts.] The saints
conquer their own lusts; they bind these princes in fetters of iron.
Psalm 149:8. Though the children of God may be sometimes foiled, and lose a
single battle—yet not the final victory.
They conquer the world. The world holds forth her
two breasts of profit and pleasure—and many are overcome by it. But the
children of God have a world-conquering faith. "This is the victory that
overcomes the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4.
They conquer their enemies. How can that be, when
their enemies often take away their lives? They conquer—by not complying
with them; as the three children would not fall down to the golden image.
Dan 3:18. They would rather burn—than bow. Thus they were
conquerors. He who complies with another's lust, is a captive; he who
refuses to comply, is a conqueror. God's children conquer their
enemies by heroic patience. A patient Christian, like the anvil,
bears all strokes invincibly. Thus the martyrs overcame their enemies by
God's children are more than conquerors. "We are more
than conquerors." Romans 8:37. How are they more than conquerors? Because
they conquer without loss, and because they are crowned after death, which
other conquerors are not.
(15) If God is our Father—he will now and then send us
some token of his love. His children live far from home, and meet
sometimes with coarse usage from the unkind world; therefore, to encourage
them, he sends them tokens and pledges of his love. What are these? He gives
them an answer to prayer, which is a token of love. He quickens and enlarges
their hearts in duty, which is a token of love. He gives them the first
fruits of his Spirit, which are love tokens. Romans 8:23. As he gives the
wicked the first fruits of hell—horror of conscience and despair; so he
gives his children the first fruits of his Spirit—joy and peace, which are
foretastes of glory. Some of his children, having received those tokens of
love from him, have been so transported, that they have died for joy, as the
glass often breaks with the strength of the wine put into it.
(16) If God is our Father—he will indulge and spare us.
"I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him." Mal 3:17.
God's sparing his children, imports his clemency towards them. He does not
punish them as he might. "He has not dealt with us after our sins." Psalm
103:10. We often do that which merits wrath, grieve God's Spirit, and
relapse into sin. God passes by much and spares us. He did not spare his
natural Son—and yet he spares his adopted sons. Romans 8:32. He threatened
Ephraim to make him as the chaff driven with the whirlwind—but he soon
repented. "Yet I am the Lord your God." Hos 13:4. "I will be your king;" ver
10. Here God spared him, as a father spares his son. Israel often provoked
God with their complaints—but he was merciful towards them; he often
answered their murmurings with mercies. Thus he spared them,
as a father spares his son.
(17) If God is our Father—he will put honor and renown
upon us at the last day.
 He will clear the innocence of his children. His
children in this life are badly misrepresented. They are loaded with
invectives. They are called factious, seditious; as Elijah, the troubler
of Israel; and Luther, the trumpet of rebellion. Athanasius was
accused to the Emperor Constantine as the raiser of tumults; and the
primitive Christians were accused as "killers of their children, guilty of
incest." Tertullus reported Paul to be a pestilent person. Acts 24:5.
Wycliffe was called the idol of the heretics, and reported to have died
drunk. If Satan cannot defile God's children—he will disgrace
then; if he cannot strike his fiery darts into their consciences—he will put
a dead fly to their names! But God will one day clear their innocence; he
will roll away their reproach. As he will make a resurrection of bodies,
so of names. "The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all
faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth." Isaiah
25:8. He will be the saints' vindicator. "He shall bring forth your
righteousness as the light." Psalm 37:6.
The night casts its dark mantle upon the most
beautiful flowers; but the light comes in the morning and dispels the
darkness, and every flower appears in its orient brightness. So the wicked
may by misreports darken the honor and repute of the saints; but God will
dispel this darkness, and cause their names to shine forth. "He shall bring
forth your righteousness as the light." Thus God stood up for the honor of
Moses when Aaron and Miriam sought to eclipse his fame. "Wherefore then were
you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" Numb 12:8. So God will
one day say to the wicked, "Why were you not afraid to defame and traduce my
children? Having my image upon them, how dared you abuse my picture?" At
last his children shall come forth out of all their calumnies, as "a dove
covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." Psalm 68:13.
 God will make an open and honorable recital of all
their good deeds. As the sins of the wicked shall be openly mentioned,
to their eternal infamy and confusion; so all the good deeds of the saints
shall be openly mentioned, "and then shall every man have praise of God." 1
Cor 4:5. Every prayer made with melting eyes, every good service, every work
of charity, shall be openly declared before men and angels. "I was hungry,
and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was naked, and
you clothed me." Matthew 25:35, 36. Thus God will set a trophy of honor upon
all his children at the last day. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as
the sun in the kingdom of their Father!" Matthew 13:43.
(18) If God is our Father—he will settle a good
inheritance upon us. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus, who has begotten us again unto a living hope—to an incorruptible, and
undefiled inheritance." 1 Peter 1:3, 4. A father may have lost his goods,
and have nothing to leave his son but his blessing; but God will settle an
inheritance on his children, and an inheritance no less than a kingdom! "It
is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32. This
kingdom is more glorious and magnificent than any earthly kingdom; it is set
out by pearls, precious stones, and the richest jewels. Rev 21:19. What are
all the rarities of the world, the coasts of pearl, the islands of spices,
the rocks of diamonds, compared to this glorious heavenly kingdom! In this
heavenly kingdom—are satisfying, unparalleled beauty, rivers of pleasure—and
that forever! "At your right hand are pleasures for evermore." Psalm 16:2.
Heaven's eminence is its permanence; and this kingdom God's children
enter into immediately after death.
There is a sudden transition and passage from death—to
glory! "Absent from the body—present with the Lord!" 2 Cor 5:8. God's
children shall not wait long for their inheritance; it is but a wink—and
they shall see God! How should this comfort those of God's children who are
low in the world! Your Father in heaven will settle a kingdom upon you at
death, such a kingdom as eye has not seen; he will give you a crown not of
gold—but glory; he will give you white robes lined with
immortality. "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!"
(19) If God is our Father—it is a comfort in case of the
loss of relations. Have you lost a father? If you are a believer,
you are no orphan, you have a heavenly Father, a Father who never dies. "Who
alone has immortality." 1 Tim 6:16. It is comfort in case of your own death.
God is your Father—and death is but going to your Father! Well might Paul
say, "death is yours!" 1 Cor 3:22. Death is your friend, which will
carry you home to your Father! How glad are children when they are going
home! It was Christ's comfort at death that he was going to his Father. "I
am leaving the world, and am going to the Father." John 16:28. "I ascend
unto my Father." John 20:17. If God is our Father, we may with comfort, at
the day of death, resign our souls into his hand. Thus did Christ. "Father,
into your hands I commend my spirit." Luke 23:46.
If a child has any jewel, he will in time of danger put
it into his father's hands, where he thinks it will be kept most safe; so
the soul, which is our richest jewel, we may resign at death into God's
hands, where it will be safer than in our own keeping. "Father, into your
hands I commend my spirit." What a comfort it is that death carries a
believer to his Father's house, where are delights unspeakable and full of
glory! How glad was old Jacob when he saw the wagons and chariots to carry
him to his son Joseph! "The spirit of Jacob revived." Gen 45:27. Death is a
triumphant chariot, to carry every child of God to his Father's
(20) If God is our Father—he will not disinherit us.
He may for a time desert his children—but will not disinherit
them. The sons of kings have sometimes been disinherited by the cruelty of
usurpers; but what power on earth can hinder the heirs of the promise from
their inheritance? Men cannot, and God will not cut off his
children. The Arminians hold falling away from grace, so that a child
of God may be deprived of his inheritance. But God's children can never be
degraded or disinherited, and their heavenly Father will not cast them off
from being his children.
It is evident that God's children cannot be finally
disinherited, by virtue of the eternal decree of heaven. God's decree
is the very pillar and basis on which the saints' perseverance depends. That
decree ties the knot of adoption so fast, that neither sin, death, nor hell,
can break it asunder. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called," etc.
Romans 8:30. Predestination is nothing else but God's decreeing a
certain number to be heirs of glory, on whom he will settle the crown of
heaven; for whom he predestinates, he glorifies. What shall hinder God's
electing love, or make his decree null and void?
Besides God's decree, he has engaged himself by
promise, that the heirs of heaven shall never be put out of their
inheritance. His promises are not like blanks in a lottery—but as a sealed
deed which cannot be reversed; they are the saints' royal charter; and one
promise is, that their heavenly Father will not disinherit them. "I will
make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them;
but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."
Jer 32:40. God's fidelity, which is the richest pearl of his crown,
is engaged in this promise for his children's perseverance. "I will not turn
away from them." A child of God cannot fall away while he is held fast in
these two arms of God—his love, and his faithfulness. Jesus
Christ undertakes that all God's children by adoption, shall be preserved in
a state of grace until they inherit glory. The heathens feigned of
Atlas—that he bore up the heavens from falling; but Jesus Christ is that
blessed Atlas—who bears up the saints from falling away.
How does Christ preserve the saints' graces, until they
come to heaven?
(1) By the influence of the Spirit. He carries
on grace in the souls of the elect, by the influence and working of his
Spirit. He continually excites and quickens grace in the godly; he by his
Spirit blows up the sparks of grace—into a holy flame. The
Spirit is Christ's vicar on earth—his proxy, his executor, to see
that all that he has purchased for the saints—be made good. Christ has
obtained for them an inheritance incorruptible, and the Spirit is his
executor, to see that the inheritance be settled upon them. 1 Peter 1:4, 5.
(2) He carries on his work perseveringly in the souls of
the elect, by the prevalence of his intercession. "He ever lives
to make intercession for them." Heb 7:25. He prays that every saint may hold
out in grace—until he comes to heaven. Can the children of such prayers
perish? If the heirs of heaven should be disinherited, and fall short of
glory—then God's decree must be reversed, his promise broken, and Christ's
prayer frustrated, which would be blasphemy to imagine.
(3) That God's children cannot be disinherited, or put
out of their right to the crown of heaven, is evident from their mystic
union with Christ. Believers are incorporated into him; they are
knit to him as members to the head, by the nerves and ligaments of faith, so
that they cannot be broken off. "The church, which is his body." Eph 1:22,
23. What was once said of Christ's natural body, is as true of his mystic
body. "A bone of it shall not be broken." As it is impossible to separate
the leaven and the dough when they are once mingled and
kneaded together; so it is impossible, when Christ and believers are once
united, that they should ever, by the power of death or hell—be separated.
Christ and his spiritual members make one Christ. Is it possible that any
part of Christ should perish? How can Christ lack any member of his mystic
body—and be perfect? Every member is an ornament to the body, and adds to
the honor of it. How can Christ part with any mystic member, and not part
with some of his glory too?
By all this it is evident that God's children must needs
persevere in grace—and cannot be disinherited. If they could be
disinherited, the Scripture could not be fulfilled, which tells us of
glorious rewards for the heirs of promise. "Truly there is a reward for the
righteous." Psalm 58:11. If God's adopted children should fall away finally
from grace, and miss of heaven—what reward would there be for the righteous?
This would open a door to despair.
But the doctrine of final perseverance, and the certainty
of the heavenly inheritance may lead to carnal security, and unholy walking.
Corrupt nature may suck poison from this flower; but he
who has felt the efficacy of grace upon his heart, dares not abuse this
doctrine. He knows that perseverance is attained in the use of means, and
walks steadily, that in the use of the means he may arrive at perseverance.
Paul knew that he would not be disinherited, and that nothing could separate
him from the love of Christ; but who more holy and watchful than he was? "I
keep my body under subjection." 1 Cor 9:27. "I press toward the mark." Phil
3:14. God's children have a holy fear which keeps them from self-security
and wantonness; they believe the promise, therefore they rejoice in
hope; they fear their hearts, therefore they watch and pray.
Thus you see what strong consolation there is for all the
heirs of the promise. Such as have God for their Father are the happiest
people on earth; they are in such a condition that nothing can hurt them;
they have their Father's blessing, all things conspire for their good; they
have a kingdom settled on them, and know that they can never be
disinherited. How comforted should they be in all conditions, let the times
be what they will! Their Father who is in heaven rules over all. If troubles
arise, they carry them sooner to their Father. The more violently the wind
beats against the sails of a ship, the sooner it is brought to the haven;
and the more fiercely God's children are assaulted, the sooner they come to
their Father's house. "Therefore comfort one another with these words." 1
Use 4. For exhortation. Let us behave as the
children of such a Father.
(1) Let us depend upon him in all our straits and
exigencies; let us believe that he will provide for all our needs.
Children rely upon their parents for the supply of their needs. If we trust
God for salvation, shall we not trust him for a livelihood?
There is a lawful and prudent care to be used. But beware of being
distrustful. "Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; and God
feeds them." Luke 12:24. Does God feed the birds of the air, and will
he not feed his children? "Consider the lilies how they grow: they
spin not; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;"
ver 27. Does God clothe the lilies, and will he not clothe his
lambs? Even the wicked taste of his bounty. "Their eyes stand out with
fatness." Psalm 73:7. Does God feed his slaves, and will he not feed
His children may not have a liberal share in the things
of this life; they may have but little meal in the barrel; they may be drawn
low, and almost dry; but they shall have as much as God sees to be good
for them. "Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Psalm
34:10. If God gives them not what they want—he will give them what is good
for them. If he gives them not always what they crave—he will give
them what they need. If he gives them not a feast—he will give
them enough along the way. Let them depend upon his fatherly
providence; let them not give way to distrustful thoughts, distracting
cares, or sinful means. "Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for
you." 1 Peter 5:7.
An earthly parent may have affection for his child, and
would gladly provide for him—but may not be able; but God is never at a loss
to provide for his children, and he has promised an adequate supply. "Truly
you shall be fed." Psalm 37:3. Will God give his children heaven, and will
he not give them enough to bear their charges there? Will he give them a
kingdom, and deny them daily bread? O put your trust in him, for
he has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Heb 13:5.
(2) If God is our Father, let us imitate him.
The child not only bears his father's image—but imitates him in his speech,
gesture and behavior. If God is our Father, let us imitate him. "Be
followers of God, as dear children." Eph 5:1.
Imitate God in forgiving injuries. "I have blotted
out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions." Isaiah 44:22. As the sun
scatters not only thin mists—but thick clouds, so God pardons great
offences. Imitate him in this. "Forgiving one another." Eph 4:32. Cranmer
was a man of a forgiving spirit: he buried injuries and requited good for
evil. He who has God for his Father, will have him for his pattern.
Imitate God in works of mercy. "The Lord frees the
prisoners." Psalm 146:7. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every
living thing. Psalm 145:16. He drops his sweet dew upon the thistle—as
well as the rose. Imitate God in works of mercy; relieve the needs of
others; be rich in good works. "Be merciful, as your Father also is
merciful." Luke 6:36. Be not so hard hearted as to shut out the poor from
all charity. Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread, and Dives was
denied a drop of water!
(3) If God is our Father, let us submit patiently to his
will. If he lay his strokes on us, they are the corrections of
a Father—not the punishments of a judge. This made Christ himself
patient. "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" John
18:11. He sees we need affliction. 1 Peter 1:6. He appoints it as a
nutritious drink, to purge and sanctify us. Isaiah 27:9. Therefore dispute
not—but submit. "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we
gave them reverence." Heb 12:9. They might correct out of ill humor—but God
does it for our profit. Heb 12:10. Therefore say as Eli, "It is the Lord:
let him do what seems good to him". 1 Sam 3:18. What does the child get by
struggling—but more blows? What did Israel get by their murmuring and
rebelling—but a longer and more tedious march, until, at last, their carcass
fell in the wilderness!
(4) If God is our Father, let it cause in us a childlike
reverence. "If I am a father, where is my honor?" Mal 1:6. It is
part of the honor we give to God—to reverence and adore him; if we have not
always a childlike confidence, let us always preserve a childlike
reverence. How ready are we to run into extremes, either to despond or
to grow wanton! Because God is a Father, do not think you may take liberty
to sin; if you do, he may act as if he were no Father, and throw hell into
your conscience. When David presumed upon God's paternal affection, and
began to wax wanton under mercy—God made him pay dearly for it, by
withdrawing the sense of his love; and, though he had the heart of a
Father—yet he had the look of an enemy. David prayed, "Make me to
hear joy and gladness." Psalm 51:8. He lay several months in desertion, and
it is thought never recovered his full joy to the day of his death. O keep
alive holy fear! With childlike confidence, preserve a humble reverence. The
Lord is a tender Father, therefore love to serve him; he is the mighty God,
therefore fear to offend him.
(5) If God is our Father, let us walk obediently.
"As obedient children." 1 Peter 1:14. When God bids you to be humble
and self-denying, deny yourselves; part with your bosom sin. Be sober in
your attire, savory in your speech, grave in your deportment. Obey your
Father's voice; open to him as the flower to the sun. If you expect your
Father's blessing, obey him in whatever he commands, both in first and
second table duties. When a musician would make sweet music, he touches upon
every string of the lute. The ten commandments are like a ten-stringed
instrument, and we must touch every string, obey every commandment, or we
cannot make sweet melody in religion. Obey your heavenly Father, though he
commands things contrary to flesh and blood; when he commands to mortify
sin, the sin which has been most dear—pluck out a right eye, that you may
see better to go to heaven; when he commands you to suffer for sin. Acts
Every good Christian has a spirit of martyrdom in him,
and is ready to suffer for the truth rather than the truth should suffer.
Luther said he had rather be a martyr than a monarch. Peter
was crucified with his head downwards, as Eusebius relates. Ignatius called
his chains his spiritual pearls, and wore his fetters as a bracelet of
diamonds. We act as God's children, when we obey his voice, and count not
our lives dear, so that we may show our love to him. "They loved not their
lives unto the death." Rev 12:11.
(6) If God is our Father, let us show by our cheerful
looks that we are the children of such a Father. Too much
drooping and despondency disparages the joyful relation in which we stand to
him. What though we meet with hard usage in the world! We are now in a
strange land, far from home; it will be shortly better with us when we are
in our own country, and our Father has us in his arms. Does not the heir
rejoice in hope? Shall the sons of a king walk dejected? "Why are you, being
the king's son, so lean?" 2 Samuel 13:4. Is God an unkind Father? Are his
commands grievous? Has he no land to give his heirs? Why, then, do his
children walk so sad? Never had children such privileges as those who are of
the seed-royal of heaven, and have God for their Father. They should
rejoice—who are within a few hours of being crowned with glory!
(7) If God is our Father, let us honor him by walking
very holily. "Be holy; for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16. A young
prince, having asked a philosopher how he should behave himself, the
philosopher said, "Remember you are a king's son; do nothing but what befits
the son of a king." So let us remember we are the adopted sons and daughters
of the high God, and do nothing unworthy of such a relation. A debauched
child is the disgrace of his father. "Is this your son's coat?" said they to
Jacob, when they brought it home dipped in blood. So, when we see a person
defiled with malice, passion, drunkenness, we may say, "Is this the coat of
God's adopted son? Does he look like an heir of glory?" It is blaspheming
the name of God to call him Father—and yet live in sin. Such as profess
God to be their Father and live unholily—they slander and defraud; they are
as bad to God as the heathen. "Are you not as children of the Ethiopians to
me, O children of Israel? says the Lord." Amos 9:7. When Israel grew wicked,
they were no better to God than Ethiopians, who were uncircumcised, a base
and ill-bred people. Loose, scandalous livers under the gospel are no better
in God's esteem than Pagans; nay, they shall have a hotter place in hell.
Oh! let all who profess God to be their Father, honor him by their unspotted
Scipio abhorred the embraces of a harlot, because he was
the general of an army. Abstain from all sin, because you are born of God,
and have God for your Father. "Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1 Thess
5:22. It was a saying of Augustus, that "an emperor should not only be free
from crimes—but from the suspicion of them." By a holy life you should bring
glory to your heavenly Father, and cause others to become his children. The
fragrance of virtue, is attractive. Causinus, in his writings, speaks of a
dove, whose wings being perfumed with sweet ointments, drew the other doves
after her; so the holy lives of God's children are a sweet perfume to draw
others to true religion, and make them to be of the family of God. Justin
Martyr says, that which converted him to Christianity was beholding the
blameless lives of the Christians.
(8) If God is our Father, let us love all that are his
children. "How pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
unity!" Psalm 133:1. It is compared to ointment for its sweet fragrance.
"Love the brotherhood." 1 Peter 2:17. The motion of the soul is the same
towards the image and the reality. The saints are the walking pictures of
God. If God is our Father, we shall love to see his picture of holiness in
believers. We pity them for their infirmities—but love them for their
graces; we shall prize their company above others. Psalm 119:63. It may
justly be suspected that God is not the Father of those who love not his
children. Though they retain the communion of saints in their creed, they
banish the communion of saints out of their company.
(9) If God is our Father, let us show
heavenly-mindedness. Those who are born of God, set their
affections on things that are above. Col 3:2. O you children of the high
God! do not disgrace your high birth by sordid covetousness. What, a son of
God—and a slave to the world! What, born from heaven—and buried in the
earth! For a Christian, who pretends to derive his pedigree from heaven,
wholly to mind earthly things, is to debase himself; as if a king should
leave his throne, to play wih marbles. "Do you seek great things for
yourself?" Jer 45:5. As if the Lord had said, "What you Barak, you who are
born of God, akin to angels, and by your office a Levite—do you debase
yourself, and spot the silver wings of your grace by besliming them with
earth! Do you seek great things? Seek them not." The earth chokes the fire;
so earthliness chokes the fire of good affections.
(10) If God is our Father, let us own him as such in the
worst times, stand up in his cause, and defend his truths. If
suffering comes—do not deny God. He is a bad son who denies his father. Such
as are ashamed to own God in times of danger, he will be ashamed to own for
his children. "Whoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in
this adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when he comes in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels." Mark 8:38.
II. The second part of the preface is, "Who is in
heaven." God is said to be in heaven, not because he is so
included there as if he were nowhere else; for "the heaven of heavens cannot
contain you." 1 Kings 8:27. But the meaning is, that he is chiefly resident
in what the apostle calls "the third heaven," where he reveals his glory
most to saints and angels. 2 Cor 12:2.
What may we learn from God being in heaven?
(1) That we are to raise our minds in prayer above the
earth. God is nowhere to be spoken with, but in heaven. He never
denied that soul its suit—who went as far as heaven to ask it.
(2) We learn his sovereign power. "Our God is
in the heavens: he has done whatever he has pleased." Psalm 115:3. In heaven
he governs the universe, and orders all occurrences here below for the good
of his children. When the saints are in straits and dangers, and see no way
of relief, he sends from heaven and helps them. "He shall send from heaven,
and save me." Psalm 57:3.
(3) We learn his glory and majesty. He is in
heaven; therefore he is covered with light. Psalm 104:2. He is "clothed with
honor." Psalm 104:1: He is far above all worldly princes, as heaven is above
(4) We learn his omniscience. All things are
naked and unmasked to his eye. Heb 4:13. Men plot and contrive against the
church; but God is in heaven, and they do nothing but what he sees. If a man
were on the top of a tower or theater, he might see all the people below;
God in heaven, as on a high tower or theater, sees all the transactions of
men. The wicked make wounds in the backs of the righteous, and then pour in
vinegar; but God writes down their cruelty. "I have surely seen the
affliction of my people." Exod 3:7. God can thunder out of heaven upon his
enemies. "The Lord thundered in the heavens; yes, he sent out his arrows,
and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and routed them." Psalm
(5) We learn comfort for the children of God.
When they pray to their Father, the way to heaven cannot be blocked up. One
may have a father living in foreign parts—but the way, both by sea and land,
may be so blocked up, that there is no coming to him; but you, saint of God,
when you pray to your Father, he is in heaven; and though you are ever so
confined, you may have access to him. A prison cannot keep you from your
God; the way to heaven can never be blocked up.
III. I shall next speak of the pronoun "our."
There is an appropriation of the appellation, "Father." "Our Father."
Christ, by the word "our," would teach us thus much—that in all our prayers
to God, we should exercise faith. Father denotes reverence: Our Father,
denotes faith. In all our prayers to God we should exercise faith. Faith
baptises prayer, and gives it a name; it is called "the prayer of faith."
James 5:15. Without faith, it is speaking, not praying. Faith is the
breath of prayer; prayer is dead unless faith breathes in it. Faith is a
necessary requisite in prayer. The oil of the sanctuary was made up of
several sweet spices, pure myrrh, cassia, cinnamon. Exod 30:23, 24. Faith is
the chief spice or ingredient in prayer, which makes it go up to the Lord as
sweet incense. "Let him ask in faith." James 1:6. "Whatever you shall ask in
prayer, believing, you shall receive." Matthew 21:22.
"Lord," said Cruciger, "I pray, though with a weak
faith—yet with faith." Prayer is the gun we shoot with, fervency
is the fire that discharges it, and faith is the bullet which
pierces the throne of grace. Prayer is the key of heaven, faith is the hand
that turns it. Pray in faith, "Our Father." Faith must take prayer by the
hand, or there is no coming near to God. Prayer without faith is
unsuccessful. If a poor craftsman, who lives by his labor, has ruined his
tools, so that he cannot work, how shall he exsist? Prayer is the tool we
work with, which procures all good for us; but unbelief spoils and blunts
our prayers, and then we get no blessing from God. A faithless prayer is
fruitless. As Joseph said, "You shall not see my face, except your brother
be with you" (Gen 43:3); so prayer cannot see God's face unless it brings
its brother faith with it. What is said of Israel, "They could not enter in
because of unbelief," is as true of prayer; it cannot enter into heaven
because of unbelief. Heb 3:19. Prayer often suffers shipwreck because it
dashes upon the rock of unbelief. O mingle faith with prayer! We must
say, "Our Father."
What does praying in faith imply?
Praying in faith implies having faith, and the act
implies the habit. To walk implies a principle of life; so to pray in
faith implies a habit of grace. None can pray in faith but believers.
What is it to pray in faith?
(1) It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where
there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith.
(2) It is to pray in Christ's meritorious name. "Whatever
you shall ask in my name, that will I do." John 14:13. To pray in Christ's
name, is to pray with confidence in Christ's merit. When we present Christ
to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say,
"Lord, we are sinners—but here is our surety; for Christ's sake be
propitious," we come to God in Christ's name; and this is to pray in faith.
(3) It is to fix our faith in prayer on God's
faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of
God. Isaiah 64:7. By prayer we draw near to God, by faith we take hold of
him. "They cried unto the Lord;" and this was the crying of faith. 2
Chron 13:14. They "prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their
fathers;" ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God,
is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions,
"is to abuse and put a scorn on God." By praying we seem to honor God; by
not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, "Almighty, merciful Father;"
by not believing, we blot out all his titles again.
How may we know that we truly pray in faith?
(1) When faith in prayer is humble. A presumptuous
person hopes to be heard for some inherent worthiness in himself; he is so
qualified, and has done God good service, therefore he is confident God will
hear him. See an instance in Luke 18:11, 12: "The Pharisee stood and prayed
thus, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners,
unjust. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess." This
was a presumptuous prayer; but a sincere heart evinces humility in prayer as
well as faith. "The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much
as his eyes unto heaven—but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful
to me a sinner." "God be merciful," there was faith; "to me a sinner," there
was humility and a sense of unworthiness. Luke 18:13.
(2) We may know we pray in faith, when, though we have
not the thing we pray for, we believe God will grant it, and are
willing to wait his leisure. A Christian having a command to pray, and a
promise, is resolved to follow God with prayer, and not give up; as Peter
knocked, and when the door was not opened, continued knocking until at last
it was opened. Acts 12:16. So when a Christian prays, and prays, and has no
answer, he continues to knock at heaven's door, knowing an answer will come.
"You will answer me." Psalm 86:7. Here is one that prays in faith. Christ
says, "Pray, and faint not." Luke 18:1. A believer, at Christ's word, lets
down the net of prayer, and though he catches nothing, he will cast the net
again, believing that mercy will come. Patience in prayer, is nothing but
faith spun out.
Use 1. For reproof of those who pray in
formality, not in faith; those who question whether God hears—or will grant.
"You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss." James 4:3. He does not
say, you ask that which is unlawful; but you ask amiss, and therefore you
receive not. Unbelief clips the wings of prayer, that it will not fly to
the throne of grace! The rubbish of unbelief—stops the current of prayer!
Use 2. For exhortation. Let us set faith to
work in prayer. The farmer sows in hope; prayer is the seed we sow, and when
the hand of faith scatters this seed, it brings forth a fruitful crop
of blessing. Prayer is the ship we send out to heaven; when faith makes an
adventure in this ship, it brings home large returns of mercy. O pray in
faith; say, "Our Father." That we may exercise faith in prayer, consider:
(1) God's readiness to hear prayer. Did God
forbid all addresses to him, it would put a damp upon the trade of prayer;
but his ear is open to prayer. One of the names by which he is known, is, "O
you who hear prayer." Psalm 65:2. God is both ready to hear and
grant prayer, which should encourage faith in prayer. Some may say, they
have prayed—but have had no answer. God may hear prayer, though he does not
immediately answer it. We write a letter to a friend, he may have received
it, though we have yet had no answer to it. Perhaps you pray for the light
of God's face; he may lend you an ear, though he does not show you
his face. God may give an answer to prayer, when we do not perceive
it. His giving a heart to pray, and inflaming the affections in prayer, is
an answer to prayer. "In the day when I cried you answered me, and
strengthened me with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3. David's inward
strength was an answer to prayer. Therefore let God's readiness to hear
prayer, encourage faith in prayer.
(2) That we may exercise faith in prayer, let us consider
that we do not pray alone. Christ prays our prayers over again.
His prayer is the ground why our prayer is heard. He takes the dross out of
our prayer, and presents nothing to his Father but pure gold. He mingles his
sweet fragrances with the prayers of the saints. Rev 5:8. Think of the
dignity of his person, he is God; and the sweetness of his relation, he is a
Son. Oh, what encouragement is here, to pray in faith! Our prayers are put
into the hand of a Mediator. Christ's prayer is mighty and powerful.
(3) We pray to God for nothing but what is pleasing to
him, and he has a mind to grant. If a son asks nothing but what
his father is willing to bestow, it will make him go to him with confidence.
When we pray to God for holy hearts, there is nothing more pleasing to him.
"This is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1 Thess 4:3. We pray
that God would give us hearts to love him, and there is nothing he more
desires than our love. How should it make us pray in faith, when we pray for
nothing but what is acceptable to God, and which he delights to bestow!
(4) To encourage faith in prayer, let us consider the
many sweet promises that God has made to prayer. The cork
keeps the net from sinking, so the promises are the cork to keep faith from
sinking in prayer. God has bound himself to us by his promises. The Bible is
bespangled with promises made to prayer. "He will be very gracious unto you
at the voice of your cry." Isaiah 30:19. "The Lord is rich unto all who call
upon him." Romans 10:12. "You shall find me, when you shall search for me
with all your heart." Jer 29:13. "He will fulfill the desire of those who
fear him." Psalm 145:19. The Syrians tied their god Hercules with a golden
chain, that he should not leave; God has tied himself fast to us by his
promises. How should these animate and spirit faith in prayer! Faith gets
strength in prayer—by sucking from the breast of a promise.
(5) That we may exercise faith in prayer, consider that
Jesus Christ has purchased that which we pray for. We may think
the things we ask for in prayer too great for us to obtain—but they are not
too great for Christ to purchase. We pray for pardon. Christ has purchased
it with his blood. We pray for the Spirit to animate and inspire us. The
sending down of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, is the fruit of Christ's
death. It should put life into our prayers, and make us pray in faith, to
reflect that the things we ask, though more than we deserve—yet they are not
more than Christ has purchased for us.
(6) To pray in faith, consider there is such
bountifulness in God, that he often exceeds the prayers of his people.
He gives them more than they ask! Hannah asked a son, and God not only gave
her a son—but a prophet. Solomon asked wisdom, and God gave him not only
wisdom—but riches and honor besides. Jacob prayed that God would give him
food and raiment, and he increased his pilgrim's staff into two bands. Gen
32:10. God is often better to us than our prayers, as when Gehazi asked but
one talent, Naaman would needs force two upon him. 2 Kings 5:23. We ask one
talent, and God gives two. The woman of Canaan asked but a crumb, namely, to
have the life of her child; and Christ gave her more, he sent her home with
the life of her soul.
(7) The great success which the prayer of faith has
found. Like Jonathan's bow, it has not returned empty. The
little word father, pronounced in faith, has overcome God. "Deliver me,
I pray you." Gen 32:11. This was mixed with faith in the promise. "You said,
I will surely do you good;" ver 12. This prayer had power with God, and
prevailed. Hos 12:4. The prayer of faith has opened prison doors, stopped
the chariot of the sun, locked and unlocked heaven. James 5:17. The prayer
of faith has strangled the plots of enemies in their birth, and has routed
their forces. Moses' prayer against Amalek did more than Joshua's
sword; and should not this hearten and encourage faith in prayer?
(8) If all this will not prevail, consider how heartless
and comfortless it is not to pray in faith! The heart misgives
secretly that God does not hear, nor will he grant. Faithless praying must
needs be comfortless; for there is no promise made to unbelieving prayer.
It is sad sailing where there is no anchoring; and sad praying where
there is no promise to anchor upon. James 1:7. The disciples toiled all
night and caught nothing; so the unbeliever toils in prayer and catches
nothing; he receives not any spiritual blessings, pardon of sin, or grace.
As for the temporal mercies which the unbeliever has, he cannot look upon
them as the fruit of prayer—but as the overflowing of God's bounty. Oh,
therefore labor to exert and put forth faith in prayer!
But so much sin cleaves to my prayer, that I fear it is
not the prayer of faith, and God will not hear it.
If you mourn for this, it hinders not but that your
prayer may be in faith, and God may hear it. Weakness shall not make void
the saint's prayers. "I said in my haste, I am cut off." Psalm 31:22. There
was much unbelief in that prayer: "I said in my haste:" in the Hebrew, "in
my trembling," David's faith trembled and fainted—yet God heard his prayer.
The saints' passions do not hinder their prayers. James 5:17. Therefore be
not discouraged, for though sin will cleave to your holy offering, yes,
these two things may comfort you—that you may pray with faith—though with
weakness; and God sees the sincerity—and will pass by the
How shall we pray in faith?
Implore the Spirit of God. We cannot say, "Our Father,"
but by the Holy Spirit. God's Spirit helps us, not only to pray with sighs
and groans—but with faith. The Spirit carries us to God, not only as to a
Creator—but a Father. "God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your
hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Gal 4:6. "Crying:" there the Spirit causes us
to pray with fervency. "Abba, Father:" there the Spirit helps us to pray
with faith. The Spirit helps faith to turn the key of prayer, and then it