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for the Gentiles, who, before this, were unacquainted with the way of salvation, they had Christ preached to them, and many churches were gathered from among them ; by which means his kingdom was advanced, and a foundation laid, for the propagation and flourishing state of the gospel in all succeeding ages, the effects whereof are experienced at this day. Therefore, when this petition relating to the coming of Christ's kingdom, was used by those who lived at this time, when our Saviour gave this direction about it; that which was principally intended thereby, was, that Christ might be preached to the Gentiles, and believed on in the world ; that the veil, or the face of the covering that was spread over all nations, might be taken away, and the way of salvation might be known by them, who, before this, sat in the region and shadow of death : Though, when it is used by us, we signify our desire that this invaluable blessing may be still continued, and the promises relating to the greater success thereof, may have a more full accomplishment. The apostles, indeed, in executing their commission, are said to have preached the gospel to all nations, that is, to a very considerable part of the heathen world: However, it does not appear that every individual nation of the world has been yet favoured with this privilege ; and therefore, what was foretold concerning the earth's being full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, Isa. xi. 9. and other predictions to the like purpose, do not seem hitherto to have had their full accomplishment *. And it is very evident, that many nations, who once had the gospel preached to them by the apostles, are now wholly destitute of it. And though it is true, a considerable number of the Jews at first, believed in Christ; yet the greatest part of that nation were cast off, and all remain, at this day, strangers and enemies to him : There fore we cannot but suppose, that those prophecies which respect their conversion, in the latter day, together with the fulness of the Gentiles being brought in, shall be more eminently accomplished than they have hitherto been t. This is therefore what we are to pray for when we say, Thy kingdom come; and, in order thereto, we are to be importunate with God,
(1.) That his interest may be still maintained, and the glory may not depart from his church; but that it may still enjoy the ordinances of his grace, and those privileges by which it is distinguished from the world, notwithstanding all the attempts of hell, and persecuting powers to undermine and overthrow it. And, though it be brought to a very low ebb at this day, that he would revive his work in the midst of the years, till he be
See Vol. II. page 376
| Sec Vol. II. page 376, &c.
pleased to cause that glorious day to dawn, which his people are now desiring, waiting and hoping for; and in order hereunto, we are to pray,
(2.) That there may be a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit, which is absolutely necessary to the advancement of Christ's kingdom ; a farther reformation of the church, and a greater spread of the gospel in those nations where it is not known at present.
(3.) We are to pray, that the church may be furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances that are necessary hereunto. Not that we are to pray, that new ordinances may be insti. tuted, which, at present, are not known, which we have no warrant from scripture to expect ; but that God, by the good hand of his providence, would send his ordinances, namely, the word, sacraments and prayer, which are his outward and ordi. nary means of salvation, into those parts of the world, which are, at present, strangers to them. Accordingly we are to pray,
[1.] That whereever God has a people who thirst after the word, but enjoy not the preaching thereof, especially with that zeal and clearness as is necessary to their spiritual advantage and edification in Christ, that he would send faithful labourers among them, that their souls may not pine, starve, and be in danger of perishing, for lack of knowledge.
[2.] That where the word of God has been preached with success, so that many believe in Christ, who, nevertheless, have not the advantage of walking together, for their mutual edification, in a church-relation, that God would over-rule and order matters so, that they who have given up themselves to the Lord, may encourage and strengthen the hands of one another, by joining together in religious societies, owning Christ's kingly government, and worshipping him in all those ordinances which he has given to his churches. And,
[3.] That there may be proper officers, spirited, qualified, and raised up, in subserviency thereunto ; that there may be a constant supply of pastors according to his heart, which shall feed with knowledge and understanding, Jer. iii. 15. These are necessary to the well-being of a church; and though extraordinary gifts are not to be expected, in like manner as God was pleased to bestow them on his apostles in the first planting of the gospel ; yet there are some gifts which Christ has purchased, and we are to pray for, that are particularly adapted to the furnishing them, who are called to minister as officers in his churches, for the promoting his cause and interest therein, and thereby advancing his spiritual kingdom.
(4.) We are to pray, that the church may be purged from those corruptions that tend to defile, and are a great reproach to it, and very unbecoming the relation that it stands in to Christ. It is not, indeed, to be supposed, that any church in the world, is so pure that there are no corruptions in it, which appear to the eye of the heart-searching God: But some are visible to the world, being notorious and inconsistent, not only with the purity, but, if allowed of, with the very being of a church of Christ; which are matter of lamentation to the godly, and a reproach to those who are chargeable therewith; and, as the apostle styles them, a root of bitterness springing up and troubling them, whereby many are defiled, Heb. xii. 15. These corruptions are either such as respect the faith, or conversation of professors.
[1.] As to what respects corruption in matters of faith. These consist in the denying the most important doctrines, which are necessary to be known and believed, in order to our salvation ; and with respect hereunto, we are to pray, thať Christians may not depart from the faith, which was once delivered to the saints, being carried about with divers and strange doctrines, chap. xiii. 9. or, as it is said elsewhere, soon removed from him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, Gal. i. 6. We are also to pray, that he would root out those errors and heresies which are inconsistent with the church's purity; and have a greater tendency to bring about its ruin than all the persecutions it can meet with from its most enraged enemies.
[2.] There are other corruptions that more especially respect the conversation of those who are called Christians, that walk not as becomes the gospel of Christ, by which means there is no visible difference between the church and the world: Thus the apostle tells the church at Corinth, 1 Cor. iii. 3. that some of them were carnal and walked as men; that is, notwithstanding the profession of religion that they made, in their conversation they differed little from the men of the world : And he also speaks of others who profess that they know God, but in works deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, Tit. i. 16. Now, with respect to these, we are to pray, that their profession may be adorned by a holy life; that none may cast a stumbling-block in the way of these who watch for their haltings, and are glad to take all opportunities to improve the falls and miscarriages of Christians against them; and that God, by his providence, or rather, by his Spirit, poured out from on high, would refine and purify his church, purge away the dross, and take away all the tin, as the prophet expresses it, Isa. i. 25.
(5.) We are farther to pray, that the ordinances of Christ may be purely administered, without any mixture of human nventions, which tend to debase, and are far from adding any beauty or glory to them. It is natural, indeed, for man to be fond of, and pleased with, those ordinances, which take their rise from himself; but God, who is jealous for the purity of his own worship, can in no wise approve of them, and they are so far from advancing Christ's kingdom, that God reckons it no other than setting our threshold by his thresholds, and our post by his, which he calls a defiling his holy name, by the abominations which they herein commit, which will be the ground and reason of his consuming them in his anger, Ezek. xliii. 8. Therefore, we are to pray, that whatever intrudes itself into any branch of the worship of God, as not receiving any warrant or sanction from himself, may be removed out of
way, that hereby his church may be reformed, and its destruction prevented.
(6.) We are to pray, that the church may be encouraged by civil magistrates, that their government may be subservient to Christ's spiritual kingdom ; that, according to God's promise, kings may be its nursing fathers, and their queens its nursing mothers, Isa. xlix. 23. that, by this means, it may have peace and safety, and not be exposed, as it has often been, to the rage and fury of persecuting powers ; and also, that magistrates may be guardians, not only of the civil, but religious liberties of their subjects, which is necessary to complete the happiness of a nation, and bring down many blessings from God upon it. We are also to pray, that God would not only incline them to advance religion, by rendering the administration of civil government, subservient thereunto, but that, by a steady adherence to it themselves, they may strengthen the hands of the faithful, and encourage many others to embrace it: And if, on the other hand, they are disposed to exercise their power, in such a way, as tends to the discountenancing religion, and weakening the hands of those who profess it ; we are to pray, that God would over-rule their counsels, and incline them to deal favourably with those who desire stedfastly to adhere to it.
(7.) We are taught, in this petition, to pray, that the means of grace may be made effectual to the converting of sinners, and to the confirming, comforting, and building up of belieyers; that a great and effectual door may be opened for the success of the gospel, and that it may come not in word only, but also in power, 1 Thess. i. 3. so that, by this means, the Lord would be pleased to add to the church daily, such as shall be saved, that hereby Christ's government, or spiritual kingdom, may be promoted in the hearts of his people, and they enabled to testify a ready and willing subjection to his authority, and yield obedience to him, with all the powers and faculties of their souls. Vol. IV.
(8.) We are to pray for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, at his second and glorious coming; when the work of grace shall be brought to its utmost perfection; and all the elect, who shall have lived from the beginning to the end of time, shall be gathered together, and brought into Christ's kingdom of glory, as they have formerly been into his kingdom of grace, when the highest honours shall be conferred upon them, and they shall reign with him for ever and ever. As the church, under the Old Testament-dispensation, prayed that Christ's kingdom of grace might coine, viz. be administered, as it has been, and now is, under the gospel-dispensation, and, as it is expressed, that he would be like a roe, or like a young hart upon the mountains of Bether, Cant. ii. 17. or, that the desire of all nations would till his house with glory : So the New Testament-church is represented as praying, that Christ would come quickly, according to his promise, Rev. xxii. 20. and put a fival period to every thing that has had a tendency to detract from the glory of his kingdom, or the happiness of his subjects; and, in order hereunto, we must pray, that the elect, who are Christ's mystical body, may be gathered, and brought in to him ; and then we may be sure that he will hasten his coming. And, till this is done, we are to wait patiently, as the husbundman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, in the desired harvest, Jaines v. 7. and, in the mein time, we are to pray, that he would be pleased to exert his power, and make the dispensations of his providence in the world, conducive to answer these ends, and more particularly, with respect to ourselves; that hereby we may have, not only an habitual, but an actual meetness for the heavenly kingdom; that when our Lord shall come, we may not be like those virgins mentioned in the parable, who all slumbered and slept, Matt. xxv. 5. but, upon the first alarm, may go out to meet him with joy and triumph; and, as an evidence hereof, that we may be enabled to walk as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, or, as those who desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, Heb. xi. 13, 16. and that we may keep up an intercourse with Christ, that we may be ready to entertain him with delight and pleasure, whenever he comes; that when he, who is our Life, our Hope, and Saviour, as well as our King, shall appear, we may appear with him in glory. Thus concerning the administration of Christ's Kingly government, as the subject-matter of this petition : And, that we may be farther as. sisted in directing our prayers to God agreeable thereunto, we may consider his
children as addressing themselves to him to this purpose : “ We adore and magnify thee, O God our Sa“ viour, as the Governor of the world ; who dost according to