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On the Lord’s Prayer in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chap. vi. 9, etc. to the Competentes.19651965 These were the last of the classes into which the catechumens were distributed, and were so called because they were now so far advanced as to “seek for baptism.” See Serm. 216. 1 (Ad competentes, quid enim aliud sunt competentes, quam simul petentes) and Serm. 228. 1 (Competentes dicebantur quoniam materna viscera, ut nascerentur, petendo pulsabant). Bingham, Antiqu. B. x. ch. ii. sects. 5–12. See Conf. B. ix. 6 (14).
1. The blessed Apostle, to show that those times when it should come to pass that all the nations should believe in Christ had been foretold by the Prophets, produced this testimony where it is written, “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”19661966 Joel ii. 32. For before time the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth was called upon amongst the Israelites only; the rest of the nations called upon dumb and deaf idols, by whom they were not heard, or by devils, by whom they were heard to their harm. “But when the fulness of time came,” that was fulfilled which had been foretold, “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” Moreover, because the Jews, even those who believed in Christ, grudged the Gospel to the Gentiles, and said that the Gospel ought not to be preached to them who were not circumcised; because against these the Apostle Paul alleged this testimony, “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved;”19671967 Rom. x. 13, etc. he immediately subjoined, to convince those who were unwilling that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, the words, “But how shall they call upon Him, in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? or how shall they hear without a preacher? or how shall they preach except they be sent?” Because then he said, “how shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?” ye have not first learnt the Lord’s Prayer, and after that the Creed; but first the Creed, where ye might know what to believe, and afterwards the Prayer, where ye might know whom to call upon. The Creed then has respect to the faith, the Lord’s Prayer to prayer; because it is he who believeth, that is heard when he calleth.
2. But many ask for what they ought not to ask, not knowing what is expedient for them. Two things therefore must he that prays beware of; that he ask not what he ought not; and that he ask not from whom he ought not. From the devil, from idols, from evil spirits,19681968 Dæmonibus. must nothing be asked. From the Lord our God Jesus Christ, God the Father of Prophets, and Apostles, and Martyrs, from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things in them, from Him must we ask whatsoever we have to ask. But we must beware that we ask not of Him that which we ought not to ask. If because we ought to ask for life, thou ask it of dumb and deaf idols, what doth it profit thee? So if from God the Father, who is in heaven, thou dost wish for the death of thine enemies, what doth it profit thee? Hast thou not heard or read in the Psalm, in which the damnable end of the traitor Judas is foretold, how the prophecy spake of him, “Let his prayer be turned into sin?”19691969 Ps. cix. 7. If then thou risest up, and prayest for evil on thine enemies, thy “prayer will be turned into sin.”
3. You have read in the Holy Psalms, how that he who speaks in them imprecates, as it would seem, many curses upon his enemies. And surely, one may say, he who speaks in the Psalms is a righteous man; wherefore then does he so wish evil upon his enemies? He does not wish, but he foresees, it is a prophecy of one who is telling things to come, not a vow of malediction; for the prophets knew by the Spirit to whom evil was appointed to happen, and to whom good; and by prophecy they spake as if they wished for what they did foresee. But how canst thou know whether he for whom today thou art asking evil, may not to-morrow be a better man than thyself? But you will say, I know him to be a wicked man. Well: thou must know that thou art wicked too. Although it may be thou takest upon thyself to judge of another’s heart what thou dost not know; but as for thine own self thou knowest that thou art wicked. Hearest thou not the Apostle saying, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief?”19701970 1 Tim. i. 13. Now when the Apostle Paul persecuted the Christians, binding them wherever he found them, and drew them to the Chief Priests to be questioned and punished, what think ye, brethren, did the Church pray against him, or for him? Surely the Church of God which had learnt instruction from her Lord, who said as He hung upon the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,”19711971 Luke xxiii. 34. so prayed for Paul (or rather as yet Saul), that that might be wrought in him which was wrought. For in that he says, “But I was unknown by face to the churches of Judæa which are in Christ: only they heard that he who persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed; and they magnified God in me;”19721972 Gal. i. 22, etc. why did they magnify God, but because they asked this of God, before it came to pass?
4. Our Lord then first of all cut off “much speaking,” that thou mightest not bring a multitude of words unto God, as though by thy many words thou wouldest teach Him. Therefore when thou prayest thou hast need of piety, not of wordiness. “For your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before ye ask Him.”19731973 Matt. vi. 8. Be ye loth then to use many words, for He knoweth what is needful for you. But lest peradventure any should say here, If He know what is needful for us, why should we use so much as a few words? why should we pray at all? He knoweth Himself; let Him then give what He knoweth to be needful for us. Yes, but it is His will that thou shouldest pray, that He may give to thy longings, that His gifts may not be lightly esteemed; seeing He hath Himself formed this longing desire in us. The words therefore which our Lord Jesus Christ hath taught us in His prayer, are the rule and standard of our desires. Thou mayest not ask for anything but what is written there.
5. “Do ye therefore say,” saith he, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Where ye see ye have begun to have God for your Father. Ye will have Him, when ye are new born. Although even now before ye are born, ye have been conceived of His seed, as being on the eve of being brought forth in the font, the womb as it were of the Church. “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Remember then, that ye have a Father in heaven. Remember that ye were born of your father Adam unto death, that ye are to be born anew of God the Father unto life. And what ye say, say in your hearts. Only let there be the earnest affection of prayer, and there will be the effectual19741974 Exaudientis effectus. answer of Him who heareth prayer. “Hallowed be thy Name.” Why dost thou ask, that God’s Name may be hallowed? It is holy. Why then askest thou for that which is already holy? And then when thou dost ask that His Name may be hallowed, dost thou not as it were pray to Him for Him, and not for thyself? No. Understand it aright, and it is for thine own self thou askest. For this thou askest, that what is always in itself holy, may be hallowed in thee. What is “be hallowed?” “Be accounted holy,” be not despised. So then you see, that the good thou dost wish, thou wishest for thine own self. For if thou despise the Name of God, for thyself it will be ill, and not for God.
6. “Thy kingdom come.”19751975 Matt. vi. 10. To whom do we speak? and will not God’s kingdom come, if we ask it not. For of that kingdom do we speak which will be after the end of the world. For God hath a kingdom always; neither is He ever without a kingdom, whom the whole creation serveth. But what kingdom then dost thou wish for? That of which it is written in the Gospel, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” 19761976 Matt. xxv. 34. Lo here is the kingdom whereof we say, “Thy kingdom come.” We pray that it may come in us; we pray that we may be found in it. For come it certainly will; but what will it profit thee, if it shall find thee at the left hand? Therefore, here again it is for thine own self that thou wishest well; for thyself thou prayest. This it is that thou dost long for; this desire in thy prayer, that thou mayest so live, that thou mayest have a part in the kingdom of God, which is to be given to all saints. Therefore when thou dost say, “Thy kingdom come,” thou dost pray for thyself, that thou mayest live well. Let us have part in Thy kingdom: let that come even to us, which is to come to Thy saints and righteous ones.
7. “Thy will be done.”19771977 Matt. vi. 10. What! if thou say not this, will not God do His will? Remember what thou hast repeated in the Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.” If He be Almighty, why prayest thou that His will may be done? What is this then, “Thy will be done”? May it be done in me, that I may not resist Thy will. Therefore here again it is for thyself thou prayest, and not for God. For the will of God will be done in thee, though it be not done by thee. For both in them to whom He shall say, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world;”19781978 Matt. xxv. 34. shall the will of God be done, that the saints and righteous may receive the kingdom; and in them to whom He shall say, “Depart ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,”19791979 Matt. xxv. 41. shall the will of God be done, that the wicked may be condemned to everlasting fire. That His will may be done by thee is another thing. It is not then without a cause, but that it may be well with thee, that thou dost pray that His will may be done in thee. But whether it be well or ill with thee, it will still be done in thee: but O that it may be done by thee also. Why do I say then, “Thy will be done in heaven and in earth,” and do not say, “Thy will be done by heaven and earth?” Because what is done by thee, He Himself doeth in thee. Never is anything done by thee which He Himself doeth not in thee. Sometimes, indeed, He doeth in thee what is not done by thee; but never is anything done by thee, if He do it not in thee.
8. But what is “in heaven and in earth,” or, “as in heaven so in earth?” The Angels do Thy will; may we do it also. “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth.” The mind is heaven, the flesh is earth. When thou dost say (if so be thou do say it) with the Apostle, “With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin;”19801980 Rom. vii. 25. the will of God is done in heaven, but not yet in earth. But when the flesh shall be in harmony with the mind, and “death shall be swallowed up in victory,”19811981 1 Cor. xv. 54. so that no carnal desires shall remain for the mind to be in conflict with, when strife in the earth shall have passed away, the war of the heart be over, and that be gone by which is spoken, “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would;”19821982 Gal. v. 17. when this war, I say, shall be over, and all concupiscence shall have been changed into charity, nothing shall remain in the body to oppose the spirit, nothing to be tamed, nothing to be bridled, nothing to be trodden down; but the whole shall go on through concord unto righteousness, and the will of God will be done in heaven and in earth. “Thy will be done in heaven and in earth.” We wish for perfection, when we pray for this. “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth.” In the Church the spiritual are heaven, the carnal are earth. So then, “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth;” that as the spiritual do serve Thee, so the carnal being reformed may serve Thee also. “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth.” There is yet another very spiritual19831983 Pius. meaning of it. For we are admonished to pray for our enemies. The Church is heaven, the enemies of the Church are earth. What then is, “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth”? May our enemies believe, as we also believe in Thee! may they become friends, and end their enmities! They are earth, therefore are they against us; may they become heaven, and they will be with us.
9. “Give us this day our daily bread.”19841984 Matt. vi. 11. Now here it is manifest, that it is for ourselves we pray. When thou sayest, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” it requires explanation how it is that it is for thyself thou prayest, not for God. When thou sayest, “Thy will be done;” here again is there need of explanation, lest thou think that thou art wishing well to God in this prayer, that His will may be done, and not rather that thou art praying for thyself. When thou sayest, “Thy kingdom come;” this again must be explained, lest thou think that thou art wishing well to God in this prayer that He may reign. But from this place and onwards to the end of the Prayer, it is plain that we are praying to God for our own selves. When thou sayest, “Give us this day our daily bread,” thou dost profess thyself to be God’s beggar. But be not ashamed at this; how rich soever any man be on earth, he is still God’s beggar. The beggar takes his stand before the rich man’s house; but the rich man himself stands before the door of the great rich One. Petition is made to him, and he maketh his petition. If he were not in need, he would not knock at the ears of God in prayer. And what doth the rich man need? I am bold to say, the rich man needeth even daily bread. For how is it that he hath abundance of all things? whence but because God hath given it him? What should he have, if God withdrew His hand? Have not many laid down to sleep in wealth, and risen up in beggary? And that he doth not want, is due to God’s mercy, not to his own power.
10. But this bread, Dearly beloved, by which our body is filled, by which the flesh is recruited day by day; this bread, I say, God giveth not to those only who praise, but to those also who blaspheme Him; “Who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and on the unjust.”19851985 Matt. v. 45. Thou praisest Him, and He feedeth thee; thou dost blaspheme Him, He feedeth thee. He waiteth for thee to repent; but if thou wilt not change thyself, He will condemn thee. Because then both good and bad receive this bread from God, thinkest thou there is no other bread for which the children ask, of which the Lord said in the Gospel, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs?”19861986 Matt. xv. 26. Yes, surely there is. What then is that bread? and why is it called daily? Because this is necessary as the other; for without it we cannot live; without bread we cannot live. It is shamelessness to ask for wealth from God; it is no shamelessness to ask for daily bread. That which ministereth to pride is one thing, that which ministereth to life another. Nevertheless, because this bread which may be seen and handled, is given both to the good and bad; there is a daily bread, for which the children pray. That is the word of God, which is dealt out to us day by day. Our bread is daily bread; and by it live not our bodies, but our souls. It is necessary for us who are even now labourers in the vineyard,—it is our food, not our hire. For he that hires the labourer into the vineyard owes him two things; food, that he faint not, and his hire, wherewith he may rejoice. Our daily food then in this earth is the word of God, which is dealt out always in the Churches: our hire after labour is called eternal life. Again, if by this our daily bread thou understand what the faithful19871987 St. Augustin throughout these Sermons, as we see in other parts of his works, speaks with great reserve of the Holy Eucharist, as before those who were some of them unbaptized; fideles was the name of the baptized (Serm. 113. 2),—“fidelibus dico eis quibus Christo Corpus erogamus dico;” and in this sense it seems to be used in our Church Catechism: “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.” This reserve of the ancient Church in itself implies the high doctrine of the Holy Eucharist; modern views have nothing to reserve. receive, what ye shall receive, when ye have been baptized, it is with good reason that we ask and say, “Give us this day our daily bread;” that we may live in such sort, as that we be not separated from the Holy Altar.
11. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”19881988 Matt. vi. 12. Touching this petition again we need no explanation, that it is for ourselves that we pray. For we beg that our debts may be forgiven us. For debtors are we, not in money, but in sins. Thou art saying perchance at this moment, And you too. We answer, Yes, we too. What, ye Holy Bishops, are ye debtors? Yes, we are debtors too. What you! My Lord.19891989 Domine. Be it far from thee, do not thyself this wrong. I do myself no wrong, but I say the truth; we are debtors: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”19901990 1 John i. 8. We have been baptized, and yet are we debtors. Not that anything then remained, which was not remitted to us in Baptism, but because in our lives we are contracting ever what needs daily forgiveness. They who are baptized, and forthwith depart out of this life, come up from the font19911991 Ascendunt. without any debt; without any debt they leave the world. But they who are baptized and are still kept in this life, contract defilements by reason of their mortal frailty, by which though the ship be not sunk, yet have they need of recourse to the pump. For otherwise by little and little will that enter in by which the whole ship will be sunk. And to offer this prayer, is to have recourse to the pump. But we ought not only to pray, but to do alms also, because when the pump is used to prevent the ship from sinking, both the voices and hands are at work. Now we are at work with our voices, when we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” And we are at work with our hands when we do this, “Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the houseless poor into thine house.19921992 Isa. lviii. 7. Shut up alms in the heart of a poor19931993 The LXX. is, σύγκλεισον ἐλεημοσυνην ἐν τοῖς ταμειοις σου, καὶ αὕτη ἐξελεῖταί σε ἐκ πάσης κακώσεως. man, and it shall intercede for thee unto the Lord.”19941994 Ecclus. xxix. 12, Vulgate.
12. Although therefore all our sins were forgiven in the “laver of regeneration,” we should be driven into great straits, if there were not given to us the daily cleansing of the Holy Prayer. Alms and prayers purge away sins; only let not such sins be committed, for which we must necessarily be separated from our daily Bread; avoid we all such debts to which a severe and certain condemnation is due. Call not yourselves righteous, as though ye had no cause to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Though ye abstain from idolatry, from the consolations19951995 Constellationibus. (Bened.) Meliores notæ MSS. a consolationibus mathematicorum. of astrologers, from the cures of enchanters, though ye abstain from the seductions of heretics, from the divisions of schismatics; though ye abstain from murders, from adulteries and fornications, from thefts and plunderings, from false witnessings, and all such other sins which I do not name, as have a ruinous consequence, for which it is necessary that the sinner be cut off from the altar, and be so bound in earth, as to be bound in heaven, to his great and deadly danger, unless again he be so loosed in earth, as to be loosed in heaven; yet after all these are excepted, still there is no want of occasions whereby a man may sin. A man sins in seeing with pleasure what he ought not to see. Yet who can hold in the quickness of the eye? For from this the eye is said to have received its very name, from its quickness.19961996 Oculus a velocitate. Who can restrain the ear or eye? The eyes may be shut when thou wilt, and are shut in a moment, but the ears thou canst only with an effort close: thou must raise the hand and reach them, and if any one hold thy hand, they are kept open, nor canst thou close them against reviling, impure, or flattering, and seducing words. And when thou hearest any things thou oughtest not to hear, though thou do it not, dost thou not sin with the ear? for thou hearest something that is bad with pleasure? How great sins doth the deadly tongue commit! Yea, sometimes sins of such a nature, that a man is separated from the altar for them. To the tongue pertains the whole matter of blasphemies, and many idle words again are spoken, which are not convenient. But let the hand do nothing wrong, let the feet run not to any evil, nor the eye be directed to immodesty; let not the ear be open with pleasure to filthy talk; nor the tongue move to indecent speech; yet tell me, who can restrain the thoughts? How often do we pray, my brethren, and our thoughts are elsewhere, as though we forgot before whom we are standing, or before whom we are prostrating ourselves! If all these things be collected together against us, will they not therefore not overwhelm us, because they are small faults? What matter is it whether lead or sand overwhelm us? The lead is all one mass, the sand is small grains, but by their great number they overwhelm thee. So thy sins are small. Seest thou not how the rivers are filled, and the lands are wasted by small drops? They are small, but they are many.
13. Let us therefore say every day; and say it in sincerity of heart, and do what we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” It is an engagement, a covenant, an agreement that we make with God. The Lord thy God saith to thee, Forgive, and I will forgive. Thou hast not forgiven; thou retainest thy sins against thyself, not I. I pray thee, my dearly beloved children, since I know what is expedient for you in the Lord’s Prayer, and most of all in that sentence of it, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors;” hear me. Ye are about to be baptized, forgive everything; whatsoever any man have in his heart against any other, let him from his heart forgive it. So enter in, and be sure, that all your sins which ye have contracted, whether from your birth of your parents after Adam with original sin, for which sins’ sake ye run with babes to the Saviour’s grace, or whatever after sins ye have contracted in your lives, by word, or deed, or thought, all are forgiven; and you will go out of the water as from before the presence of your Lord, with the sure discharge of all debts.
14. Now because by reason of those daily sins of which I have spoken, it is necessary for you to say, in that19971997 Velut quotidiana mundatione istâ. daily prayer of cleansing as it were, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors;” what will ye do? Ye have enemies. For who can live on this earth without them? Take heed to yourselves, love them. In no way can thine enemy so hurt thee by his violence, as thou dost hurt thyself if thou love him not. For he may injure thy estate, or flocks, or house, or thy man-servant, or thy maid-servant, or thy son, or thy wife; or at most, if such power be given him, thy body. But can he injure thy soul, as thou canst thyself? Reach forward, dearly beloved, I beseech you, to this perfection. But have I given you this power? He only hath given it to whom ye say, “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth. Yet let it not seem impossible to you. I know, I have known by experience, that there are Christian men who do love their enemies. If it seem to you impossible, ye will not do it. Believe then first that it can be done, and pray that the will of God may be done in you. For what good can thy neighbour’s ill do thee? If he had no ill, he would not even be thine enemy. Wish him well then, that he may end his ill, and he will be thine enemy no longer. For it is not the human nature in him that is at enmity with thee, but his sin. Is he therefore thine enemy, because he hath a soul and body? In this he is as thou art: thou hast a soul, and so hath he: thou hast a body, and so hath he. He is of the same substance as thou art; ye were made both out of the same earth, and quickened by the same Lord. In all this he is as thou art. Acknowledge in him then thy brother. The first pair, Adam and Eve, were our parents; the one our father, the other our mother; and therefore we are brethren. But let us leave the consideration of our first origin. God is our Father, the Church our Mother, and therefore are we brethren. But you will say, my enemy is a heathen, a Jew, a heretic, of whom I spake some time ago on the words, “Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth.” O Church, thy enemy is the heathen, the Jew, the heretic; he is the earth. If thou art heaven, call on thy Father which is in heaven, and pray for thine enemies: for so was Saul an enemy of the Church; thus was prayer made for him, and he became her friend. He not only ceased from being her persecutor, but he laboured to be her helper. And yet, to say the truth, prayer19981998 Vide Sermon xl. (xc. Bened.) 9. was made against him; but against his malice, not against his nature. So let thy prayer be against the malice of thine enemy, that it may die, and he may live. For if thine enemy were dead, thou hast lost it might seem an enemy, yet hast thou not found a friend. But if his malice die, thou hast at once lost an enemy and found a friend.
15. But still ye are saying, Who can do, who has ever done this? May God bring it to effect in your hearts! I know as well as you, there are but few who do it; great men are they and spiritual who do so. Are all the faithful in the Church who approach the altar, and take the Body and Blood of Christ, are they all such? And yet they all say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” What, if God should answer them, “Why do ye ask me to do what I have promised, when ye do not what I have commanded?” What have I promised? “To forgive your debts.” What have I commanded? “That ye also forgive your debtors.” How can ye do this, if ye do not love your enemies? What then must we do, brethren? Is the flock of Christ reduced to such a scanty number? If they only ought to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,” who love their enemies; I know not what to do, I know not what to say. For must I say to you, If ye do not love your enemies, do not pray; I dare not say so; yea, pray rather that ye may love them. But must I say to you, If ye do not love your enemies, say not in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors”? Suppose that I were to say, Do not use these words. If ye do not, your debts are not forgiven; and if ye do use them, and do not act thereafter, they are not forgiven. In order therefore that they may be forgiven, ye must both use the prayer, and do thereafter.
16. I see some ground on which I may comfort not some few only, but the multitude of Christians: and I know that ye are longing to hear it. Christ hath said, “Forgive, that ye may be forgiven.”19991999 Luke vi. 37. And what do ye say in the Prayer which we have now been discussing? “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” So, Lord, forgive, as we forgive. This thou sayest, “O Father, which art in heaven, so forgive our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” For this ye ought to do, and if ye do it not, ye will perish. When your enemy asks pardon, at once forgive him. And is this much for you to do? Though it were much for thee to love thine enemy when violent against thee, is it much to love a man who is a supplicant before thee? What hast thou to say? He was before violent, and then thou hatedst him. I had rather thou hadst not hated him even then: I had rather then when thou wert suffering from his violence, thou hadst remembered the Lord, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”20002000 Luke xxiii. 34. I would have then much wished that even at that time when thine enemy was violent against thee, thou hadst had regard to the Lord thy God speaking thus. But perhaps you will say, He did it, but then He did it as being the Lord, as the Christ, as the Son of God, as the Only-Begotten, as the Word made flesh. But what can I, an infirm and sinful man, do? If thy Lord be too high an example for thee, turn thy thoughts upon thy fellow-servant. The holy Stephen was being stoned, and as they stoned him, on bended knees did he pray for his enemies, and say, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”20012001 Acts vii. 60. They were casting stones, not asking pardon, yet did he pray for them. I would thou wert like him; reach forth. Why art thou for ever trailing thy heart along the earth? Hear, “Lift up thy heart,” reach forward, love thine enemies. If thou canst not love him in his violence, love him at least when he asks pardon. Love the man who saith to thee, “Brother, I have sinned, forgive me.” If thou then forgive him not, I say not merely, that thou dost blot this prayer out of thine heart, but thou shall be blotted thyself out of the book of God.
17. But if thou then at least forgive him, or let go hatred from thy heart, it is hatred from the heart I bid thee forego, and not proper discipline. What if one who asks my pardon, be one who ought to be chastised by me! Do what thou wilt, for I suppose that thou dost love thy child even when thou dost chastise him. Thou regardest not his cries under the rod, because thou art reserving for him his inheritance. This I say then, that thou forego from thy heart all hatred, when thine enemy asks pardon of thee. But perhaps you will say, “he is playing false, he is pretending.” O thou judge of another’s heart, tell me thine own father’s thoughts, tell me thine own thoughts yesterday. He asks and petitions for pardon; forgive, by all means forgive him. If thou wilt not forgive him, it is thyself thou dost hurt, not him, for he knows what he has to do. Thou art not willing to forgive thine own fellow-servant; he will go then to thy Lord, and say to Him, “Lord, I have prayed my fellow-servant to forgive me, and he would not; do Thou forgive me.” Hath not the Lord power to release his servant’s debts? So he, having obtained pardon from his Lord, returns loosed, whilst thou remainest bound. How bound? The time of prayer will come, the time must come for thee to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors;” and the Lord will answer thee, Thou wicked servant, when thou didst owe Me so great a debt, thou didst ask Me, and I forgave thee; “shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?”20022002 Matt. xviii. 32, 33. These words are out of the Gospel, not of my own heart. But if on being asked, thou shall forgive him who begs for pardon, then thou canst say this prayer. And if thou hast not as yet the strength to love him in his violence, still thou mayest offer this prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Let us pass on to the rest.
18. “And lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,”20032003 Matt. vi. 13. we say because of past sins, which we cannot undo, that they should not have been done. Thou canst labour not to do what thou hast done before, but how canst thou bring about, that that which thou hast done should not be done? As regards those things which have been done already, that sentence of the prayer is thy help, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” As regards those into which thou mayest fall, what wilt thou do? “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” that is, from temptation itself.
19. Now these three first petitions, “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth,” these three regard the life eternal, for God’s Name ought to be hallowed in us always, we ought to be in His kingdom always, we ought to do His will always. This will be to all eternity. But “daily bread” is necessary now. All the rest that we pray for from this article, regards the necessities of the present life. Daily bread is necessary in this life; the forgiveness of our debts is necessary in this life. For when we shall arrive at the other life, there will be an end of all debts. In this life there is temptation, in this life the sailing is dangerous, in this life something is ever stealing its way in through the chinks of our frailties, which must be pumped out. But when we shall be made equal to the Angels of God; no more need to say and pray to God to forgive us our debts, when there will be none. Here then is the “daily bread;” here the prayer that our “debts may be forgiven;” here that we “enter not into temptation;” for in that life temptation does not enter; here that we may be “delivered from evil;” for in that life there will be no evil, but eternal and abiding good.
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