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I should rather, however, chuse to understand the words of this petition as alluding to the ready and chearful obedience of the angels in heaven, which is a fit pattern for man to imitate on earth.
How they obey, indeed, we are no where particularly, and expressly informed in scripture. But, from the characters under which they are there described, we shall find no great difficulty in collecting what is the nature of their obedience. Thus, they are described, as being able “ to discern what is good and bad :” they have, therefore, a perfect knowledge of God's will. They are represented, as excelling in strength: their obedience, therefore, is active and vigorous. They are called his ministers, a flame, of fire: their obedience, therefore, is pure and fervent. They are his messengers and heralds, that do his commandments, and hearken to the voice of his word : their obedience, therefore, is ready and chearful. These then are the qualities, which mán is to copy in his obedience to the divine will, and which are peculiarly the subject of this part of the petition. And much need he has to pray, that God would enable him more and more to resemble those divine spirits, in the discharge of his duty.
The angels of God, we see, excel in knowledge: but man is blind, and seeth few things aright. We have need, therefore, in the first place, to beg of God the assistance of his Holy Spirit, to direct us to the knowledge of his will, and to lead us into all truth.
2dly, Man, again, is weak; but the angels · of God are strong. We are, therefore, to beg of God to strengthen our infirmity, and to give us grace to imitate the sacred ministers of heaven, in a lively and active obedience to his will.
3dly, Again, the ministers of God are as a flame of fire ; purged from all dross and impurity, and, therefore, ready and fervent in discharging the will of their divine Master, without any alloy or mixture of imperfection. But man is encompassed with stubborn affections, and the corruptible body presseth down the soul. His best services, therefore, are imperfect, and the struggles of the flesh against the spirit will always counteract his most pious resolutions, We have need, therefore, to pray earnestly, that we may have the pure and refined fervour of angels, in performing the will of God, and in keeping ourselves undefiled.
4thly, Once more. Man grows weary and sluggish in his duty, and, too often, performs it with sturdy reluctance, or cold indifference: but the angels of God are ever on the wing to execute the commands of their great Sovereign, and rejoice to do his pleasure. This will teach us, therefore, to pray, that we may resemble their zeal, that we may run the way of God's commandments, and do his will, with the same joy and alacrity, with which they do it.
5thly, The angels of God perform his will from a principle of real obedience, and therefore perforin it universally. They have no corrupt will of their own to mislead them; they have no sinister views or oblique considerations to warp their judgments; they have no end in view but to obey, because it is God that commands. But where, alas ! shall we find this universality and simplicity of obedience in man? Wavering and unsteady in our principles, we know not how to act aright, and whilst in some things we obey the will of God, in others we are all of us the servants of a very different master, And even in what we seem to do aright, how little proceeds from a real principle of obedience, abstracted from those worldly considerations of interest, prudence, or ostentation, which taq often are the foundation of the most shining actions of mankind. We have need, therefore, to pray to that God, who searcheth the hearts of men, not only that we may do his will, but also do it on those principles of pure and sincere obedience, on which alone we can hope to be sewarded for doing it.
6thly, The will of God is done by all the angels in heaven : for those unhappy spirits, which kept not their first estate, have long left that celestial habitation, once their own, and are now reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. There is, therefore, an universal subjection to the will of God, in heaven. But where, alas ! shall we find this universal subjection and obedience to his will, on earth? Nay, rather, where is not that will universally disobeyed, by open infidelity, or profaneness, by secret sin or avowed rebellion ? I fear, even the best of us may take shame to ourselves on this account, and may recollect many sad instances, in which we have opposed the will of God, by acting contrary to his laws, by subverting the empire of reason, by refusing to listen to the admonitions of conscience, and by quenching the Holy Spirit within
We, therefore, here pray, both for ourselves and others; that we may all have grace to obey the will of God; that the whole race of man- :
kind may become true and faithful subjects to their great Sovereign, and do his will as universally, as it is done by all his angels and saints in heaven.
Lastly, The will of God is done, in heaven, with the profoundest reverence and humility: The celestial messengers are described in scripture, as being thousands and ten times ten thou: sand in number, and enlightening the earth with their glory: yet so great is their veneration of the Deity, that they presume not to look up to him, but are represented in the majestic vision of Isaiah, as covering their faces with their wings, unable to behold the brightness of his majesty.. If then these glorious and intelligent courtiers, who have no sins or infirmities to cover their faces with confusion, perform their Maker's will with such deep humility, with what infinite reverence, with what profundity of adoration, should his sinful creatures on earth obey his commands, when they consider the immense disparity between a God of omnipotence and a worm of mortality; between a being of infinite purity and a wretched compound of sinful dust and ashes! This then is the subject of our prayer; these the measures of our obedience. And much reason have we, if we rightly consider, to pray earnestly, that God would so ,