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The Third Sermon upon the Lord’s Prayer
Adveniat regnum tuum. — Matt. vi. 10.
Thy kingdom come.
This is the second petition of the Lord’s prayer. I trust you have not forgotten the two lessons before rehearsed unto you. First, the beginning of the Lord’s prayer, what a treasure of doctrine is contained in every word: “Our,” what it signifieth: “Father,” what it meaneth: and then, this addition, “which art in heaven”: how many things is to be noted by every one of those words. And I trust also, you have remembered the contents of the first petition, Sanctificetur nomen tuum, “Hallowed be thy name.” ‘Here I told you wherein standeth the holiness of his name, and what it meaneth; namely, we require that his name may be sanctified in us, that is to say, we require that all our conversations may be to the honour of God, which followeth when we endeavour ourselves to do his pleasure; when we hear his word with great diligence and earnest reverence, and so walk in the works of our vocation, every man whereunto God hath appointed him. And because the word of God is the instrument and fountain of all good things, we pray to God for the continuance of his word; that he will send godly and well learned men amongst us, which may be able to declare us his will and pleasure; so that we may glorify him in the hour of our visitation, when God shall visit us, and reward every one according unto his desert. One thing we must well consider and not forget it, namely, that our Saviour teacheth us to pray and desire of God that his name may be hallowed. Where he painteth us in our own colour, and would have us to confess our own imperfections; that we be not able to do any thing according to God’s will, except we receive it first at his hands. Therefore he teacheth us to pray, that God will make us able to do all things according to his will and pleasure.
Adveniat regnum tuum. This is our request, “Thy kingdom come. Thou Father, we beseech thee, let thy kingdom come to us.” Here we pray that the kingdom of God come not to one only, but to us all. So that when I say this prayer, I require God that he will let his kingdom come to you as well as to me. Again, when you pray, you pray as well for me as for your own selves. “Let thy kingdom come.” You must understand that, to speak properly, these words are not to be understood of God’s inferior kingdom, of his earthly kingdom, as though it did hang upon our petitions, so that he could not be Lord and ruler over the earth except we pray for him. No: we pray not for his inferior kingdom to come, for it is come already: he ruleth and governeth all things. He is called in scripture Rex regum, “The King above all kings,” Dominus dominantium, “the Lord above all lords.” Therefore he ruleth and governeth all things according to his will and pleasure, as scripture saith, Voluntati ejus quis resistet, “Who will withstand his will?” So our Saviour reporteth, saying, Pater meus operator usque modo, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work also”: What worketh he? He worketh the works of governance. For at the first beginning he did create all things but he left them not so: he assisteth them, he ruleth them, according to his will. Therefore our Saviour doth not teach us to pray for his worldly kingdom to come; for he ruleth already as Lord and King; yea, and all the kings and rulers rule by him, by his permission, as scripture witnesseth: Per me reges regnant, “Through me,” that is, “by my permission, kings reign.” I would wish of God that all kings and potentates in the world would consider this well, and so endeavour themselves to use their power to the honour and glory of God, and not to presume in their strength. For this is a good monition for them, when God saith, Per me reges regnant, “Through me kings do reign”: yea, they be so under God’s rule, that they can think nothing nor do any thing without God’s permission. For it is written, Cor regis in manu Domini, et quo vult vertit illud; “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, and he turneth the same whithersoever it pleaseth him.” This is good to be considered; and specially subjects should mark this text well. When the rulers be hard, and oppress the people, think ever, Cor regis in manu Domini, “The king’s heart is in the governance of God.” Yea, when thou art led to prison, consider that the governor’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. Therefore yield obedience: make thy moan unto God, and he will help, and can help. Surely I think there be no place in scripture more pleasant than this, “The heart of the king is in the hand of God”; for it maketh us sure, that no man can hurt us without the permission of God, our heavenly Father. For all those great rulers, that have been from the beginning of the world till now, have been set up by the appointment of God; and he pulled them down when it pleased him. There have been principally four monarchies in the world: the first were the Babylonians, which had great and many nations underneath them: which was God’s ordinance and pleasure, for he suffered them so to do. After those came the Persians, which were great rulers and mighty kings; as it appeareth by stories written of learned men at that time. Then came in the Greeks, and took the dominion from the Persians, and ruled themselves for awhile, till they were plucked down. At the last came the Romans, with their empire, which shall be the last: and therefore it is a token that the end of the world is not far off. But wherefore were those mighty potentates plucked down? Marry, for wickedness’ sake. The Babylonians, Persians, and Grecians, and a good part of the Romans were cast down for wickedness’ sake. What were their doings? They would not execute justice: the magistrates were wicked, lofty, and high-minded: the subjects, taking ensample of their magistrates, were wicked too, and so worthy to be punished together. Therefore the wisdom of God saith, Vidi sub sole in loco judicii impietatem et in loco justitiae iniquitatem: “In the place where poor men ought to be heard, there have I seen impiety; I have seen oppression and extortion; this I have seen: yea, and in the place of justice, there I have seen bearing and bolstering.” So for these causes’ sake, these great emperors were destroyed: so shall we, if we follow their wicked ensamples. Esay, that hearty prophet, confirmeth the same, saying, Exspectavi ut facerent judicium, et ecce iniquitas; exspectavi ut facerent justitiam et ecce clamor. “I looked they should execute justice, defend the good, and punish the ill; but there was nothing but crying.” This is a great matter; clamor populi, “the cry of the people.” When subjects be oppressed, so that they cry unto God for deliverance, truly God will hear them; he will help and deliver them. But it is to be pitied that the devil beareth so much rule, and so much prevaileth both in magistrates and subjects, insomuch that he beareth almost all the rule. Not that he ought to do so; for God he is the lawful ruler of the world; unto him we owe obedience: but the devil is an usurper; he cometh to his dominion by craft and subtilty, and so maketh himself the great ruler over the world. Now he, being the great ruler, would have all the other rulers to go after him, and follow his ensample, which commonly happeneth so. For you know there is a common saying, Similis simili gaudet, “Like to like.” Therefore he useth all homely tricks to make all rulers to go after him: yea, he intendeth to inveigle even very kings, and to make. them negligent in their business and office. Therefore such kings and potentates were pulled down, because they followed the instructions of the, devil.
But our Saviour speaketh not of such worldly kingdoms, when he teacheth us to say, “Thy kingdom come.” For these worldly kingdoms bring us not to perfect felicity; they be full of all manner of calamities and miseries, death, perditions, and destructions. Therefore the kingdom that he speaketh of is a spiritual kingdom; a kingdom where God only beareth the rule, and not the devil. This kingdom is spoken of every where in scripture, and was revealed long ago; and daily God hath his preachers, which bring us to knowledge of this kingdom. Now we pray here, that that kingdom of God may be increased, for it is God’s fellowship; they are God’s subjects that dwell in that kingdom; which kingdom doth consist in righteousness and justice; and it delivereth from all calamities, and miseries, from death and all peril. And in this petition we pray that God will send unto us his Spirit, which is the leader unto this kingdom; and all those which lack this Spirit shall never come to God. For St Paul saith, Qui Spiritum Christi non habet, non est ejus; “Whosoever hath not the Spirit of Christ, he pertaineth not unto him.” Likewise our Saviour saith, Regnum Dei intra vos est; “The kingdom of God is within you:” signifying, that those which have the Spirit of God shall be sure of that kingdom: yea, it beginneth here in this world with them that be faithful.
The instrument wherewith we be called to this kingdom, is the office of preaching. God calleth us daily by preachers to come to this kingdom; to forsake the kingdom of the devil; to leave all wickedness. For customable sinners, those that be not content to leave sin, they pertain not to that kingdom; they are under the dominion of the devil; he ruleth them: like as our Saviour saith to the Jews, Vos ex patre diabolo estis; “The devil is your father.” Item, Qui facit peccatum ex diabolo est; “He that doth sin is of the devil.” Therefore by this petition we pray, that we may be delivered from all sin and wickedness, from the devil and his power. We desire God, that we may be his subjects; which is a very godly and needful prayer.
Further, by this petition we be put in remembrance what we be, namely, captives of the devil, his prisoners, and bondmen; and not able to come at liberty through our own power. Therefore we desire God’s help and aid, as Christ hath taught us to call him Father. He knew his affections; therefore he commandeth us to call him Father, and to desire his help to be delivered out of the kingdom of the devil. Happy are those which are in this kingdom, for they shall lack nothing! And this kingdom cometh to us by preaching, by hearing of God’s word. Therefore those that find scholars to school, they are helpers and furtherers toward this kingdom; and truly it is needful that there be made some provision for them. For except schools and universities be maintained, we shall have no preachers: when we have no preachers, when we have none which shew unto us God’s word, how shall we come to that blessed kingdom which we desire? What availeth it when you have gotten many hundred pounds for your children, and lack God’s word? Therefore I say, this office must needs be maintained: for it is a necessary office, which furthereth to this kingdom; of which our Saviour speaketh in the gospel to the Jews, saying, Instat regnum coelorum; “The kingdom of God is come near.” Likewise he saith to one, Sequere me, et annuncia verbum Dei; “Follow me, and preach the kingdom of God.” So ought all preachers to do: they ought to allure every man to come to this kingdom, that this kingdom may be replenished. For the more that be converted, the more is the kingdom of God. Again, those that be wicked livers, they help to multiply the kingdom of the devil. To this heavenly kingdom our Saviour exhorteth us, saying, Quaerite primum regnum Dei et justitiam ejus, et cetera omnia adjicientur vobis; “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all other things shall come upon you unlooked for.” Jacta super Dominum curam tuam; “Cast all thy care upon God,” as David saith. Then our principal study shall be to hear God’s word, and when we have heard it, we shall believe it and follow it, every man in his vocation. Then servants shall yield their obedience to their masters, as God requireth of them. Then the parents shall bring up their children in the fear of God. Then the children shall be obedient to their parents. Then subjects shall be obedient to their king and prince, and all his officers under him. So go throughout all estates, every one shall live uprightly in his calling. Then God will bless us, so that we shall lack no necessaries in this world; and then, at the end, we shall come to that perfect felicity and joy, that God hath laid up and prepared for them that study here to live according to his will and commandment. But we must labour and travail; as long as we be in this world we must be occupied. For St Paul saith, Si quis non vult operari, nee manducet; “Whosoever will not labour, let him not eat.” Likewise David saith, Labores manuum tuarum comedes, et bene tibi erit; “Thou shalt eat the labours of thy hand, and it shall go well with thee.” For he that will labour, and is content to travail for his living, God will prosper him; he shall not lack. Let every man therefore labour in his calling; for so did our Saviour himself, which came into this world to teach us the way to heaven, and to suffer death for us. Now how diligent he hath been in his office, it appeareth every where. For the evangelist saith, Loquebatur illis de regno Dei; “He talketh with them of the kingdom of God.” Mark here, he taught them of the kingdom of God, he taught them nothing of the kingdom of this world. For he saith, standing before Pilate, Regnum meum non et de hoc mundo; “My kingdom is not of this world.” He reigneth by faith, through his Holy Ghost, in all those which pertain unto him. He is not an earthly king, as the Jews hope to have their Messias. Therefore when I feel such motions within me, then is it time to call upon God; for such motions come of the devil: therefore I must run to God, saying, “Thy kingdom come, most loving Father; help thou; fight thou for me against my enemies; suffer me not to be taken prisoner; let not my enemies have the victory over me.” So we must call upon God without intermission. For you may be sure we shall never be without battle and travail; and we are not able to withstand our adversary by our own power: therefore it is most needful for us to call and cry unto him for help. When we do so, then we shall have grace to withstand the devil; for he cannot, neither is he able to strive with God, for all his craft. For the scripture saith, Non est consilium contra Dominum; “No wisdom, no craft can prevail against the Lord.” He will help and deliver us when he seeth his time; for commonly the nature of God is to help when all man’s help is past. When the devil thinketh himself cock-sure, then God cometh and subverteth his wicked intents; as it appeared in our Saviour himself: for when the devil had brought the Jews to such a madness that they went and crucified him, when this was done, the devil triumphed and made merry; he thought himself sure enough of him. But what was the end of it? His triumphing was turned to his own destruction. For Christ hanging upon the cross did by his death destroy the power of the devil. So we see how God suffereth the devil for awhile, and then when he seeth his time, he cometh with his gracious helping hand. But, as I told you before, the devil hath many inventions, many impediments and lets, wherewith he trappeth us. For we see there be a great many gospellers, which begun very well and godly, but now the most part of them become ambitious and covetous persons; all the world is full of such fellows. But what then? God will preserve his kingdom; he will wrestle with the devil’s kingdom, and so shall prevail and pull it down to the bottom. Therefore all those which be in the kingdom of God must wrestle, strive, and fight with the devil: not as the carnal gospellers do, which commonly begin well at the first, but now having rest and tranquility, and all things going with them, they leave the gospel, and set their minds upon this naughty world. Therefore it is good and needful for us to have afflictions and exercises; for, as St Augustine saith, Sanguis Christianorum est veluti semen fructuum evangelicorum; “The blood of Christians is, as it were, the seed of the fruit of the gospel.” For when one is hanged here, and another yonder, then God goeth a sowing of his seed. For like as the corn that is cast into the ground riseth up again, and is multiplied; even so the blood of one of those which suffer for God’s word’s sake stirreth up a great many. And happy is he to whom it is given to suffer for God’s holy word’s sake! For it is the greatest promotion that a man can have in this world, to die for God’s sake, or to be despised And contemned for his sake: for they shall be well rewarded for their pains and labours. Merces vestra multa est in coelis: “Your reward,” saith our Saviour, “shall be great in heaven.”
Further, when we pray, Adveniat regnum tuum, “Thy kingdom come,” we desire of God that there may come more and more to the knowledge of God’s word. And secondarily, we desire of God to bring those which be come already to the perfect knowledge of his word, and so to keep them in it still to the very end: for not he that beginneth, but he that endureth shall be saved. This kingdom of God is double, regnum gratiae, et regnum gloriae, “The kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory, honour, joy, and felicity.” As long as we be in this world, we be in the kingdom of grace; when we are gone, then we shall come to the kingdom of glory. For as long as we be here, God sheweth himself unto us by grace; he ascertaineth us through his Spirit of his favour, and so he reigneth within us by grace. But when we be once gone, then we shall see him face to face; which we cannot as long as we be here. For he exhibiteth himself unto us, not so plainly as he doth unto his angels, which be with him in the kingdom of glory. Therefore when we say, “Thy kingdom come,” we desire of God that he will help us to this perfect kingdom, that he will deliver us out of this troublous world, and give us everlasting rest.
I fear there be a great number in England, which if they knew what they meant in speaking these words, “Thy kingdom come,” they would never say them. For they are so given to the world, and so set their mind upon it, that they could be content that there should never be any end of it. Such worldlings, when they say these words, “Thy kingdom come,” they pray against themselves: for they desire God to take them out of this world speedily, and yet they have all their delight in it. Therefore such worldlings when they say, “Thy kingdom come,” either they mock God; or else they understand not the meaning of these words. But we ought not to trifle with God: we should not mock him: he will not be despised. Quicquid petimus, ardenter petamus, tanquam cupientes habere; “Let us pray heartily unto him, desirous to have the thing wherefore we pray.” But the customable impenitent sinner cannot say from the bottom of his heart this prayer; for he would have no end of this worldly life; he would have his heaven here. Such fellows are not meet to say, “Thy kingdom come”; for when they do, they pray against themselves. Therefore none can say this petition, but such as be aweary of this world. Such faithful folk would have him to come speedily, and make an end of their miseries. It is with the Christians like as it is in a realm where there is a confusion, and no good order: those which are good would fain have a parliament; for then they think it shall be better with them, they trust all things shall be well amended. Sometimes the councils be good, but the constitutions like not the wicked, and so they begin to cry out as fast as they did before. Sometimes the councils be naught, then the good people cry out; and so they be never at rest. But there is one parliament that will remedy all the matters: be they never so weighty or heavy, it will despatch them clean. And this parliament will be sufficient for all realms of the whole world: which is the last day. Where our Saviour himself will bear the rule, there shall be nothing done amiss, I warrant you; but every one as he hath deserved, so he shall have: the wicked shall have hell, the good shall possess heaven. Now this is the thing that we pray for when we say, “Thy kingdom come:” and truly the faithful penitent sinners do desire that parliament, even from the bottom of their hearts. For they know that therein reformations of all things shall be had: they know that it shall be well with them in that day; and therefore they say from the bottom of their hearts, “Thy kingdom come.” They know that there shall be a great difference between that parliament that Christ shall keep, and the parliaments of this world. For in this world this is the common rule, Quo sceleratior eo fortunatior; “The more wicked, the better luck.” Which is a wonderful thing to consider how it cometh to pass, that for the most part wicked bodies have the best luck. They are in wealth and health; insomuch that a man may much marvel at it, as Esdras, David, and others do: specially considering that God curseth them in his laws, and threateneth them that they shall have none of his benefits: Si non audieris vocem Domini, maledictus in agro; “If thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, thou shalt be cursed in the field, &c.” These be the words of God, which he speaketh against the wicked; and it must needs be so, but yet we see by experience daily the contrary. Wherefore doth God suffer the wicked to subvert his order? The order is, that those which do well shall receive good things at God’s hand; they shall be blessed, and all things shall go well with them. Now, how chanceth it that we see daily the wicked to be blessed of God, to have and possess his benefits, and the good to be cursed, which is a wonderful thing? God the Almighty, which is most true, yea, the Truth itself, doth it not without a cause. One cause is, that it is his pleasure to shew his benefits as well unto the wicked as to the good. For he letteth them have their pastime here, as it is written, Solem summ oriri sinit super justos et injustos; “He letteth his sun shine as well over the wicked as over the good.” And I tell you, this is for the exercise of those which serve God with godly living: they are promised, that it shall go well with them, and yet have they all the ill. This maketh them to think that there is another world, wherein they shall be rewarded; and so giveth them occasion to hawk and hunt for the other world: whereas otherwise they would forget God, if they should have all things according to their hearts’ desire, as the wicked have; which in very deed do forget God, their mind being so occupied with other business, that they can have no leisure to inquire for God or his kingdom. Again, he suffereth them to turn his order, to the intent that they may be brought to repentance, when they see his great goodness shewed unto them; in that, notwithstanding all their wickedness, he suffereth them to enjoy the good things of the world. And so by his benefits he would give them occasion to leave sin and wickedness: as St Paul saith, Dei bonitas te ad poenitentiam adducit; “The goodness of God allureth us to amendment of our life.” But when they will not amend, then Cumulant sibi ipsis iram in die irae, “They heap up to themselves the wrath of God in the day of wrath.”
Now you have heard the causes, wherefore God suffereth the wicked to enjoy his gifts. But I would will and desire you most heartily, for God’s sake, to consider that the judgment of God at the latter day shall be right, according unto justice: it will then appear who hath been good or bad. And this is the only comfort of all christian people, that they know that they shall be delivered from all their troubles and vexations. Let us therefore have a desire that this day may come quickly. Let us hasten God forward. Let us cry unto him day and night, Adveniat regnum tuum; “Most merciful Father, thy kingdom come.” St Paul saith, Non venfet Dominus nisi veniat defectio; “The Lord will not come till the swerving from faith cometh”: which thing is already done and past. Antichrist is known throughout all the world. Wherefore the day is not far off. Let us beware, for it will one day fall upon our heads. St Peter saith. Finis omnium appropinquat; “The end of all things draweth very near.” If St Peter said so in his time, how much more shall we say so! For it is a long time since St Peter spake these words. The world was ordained to endure, as all learned men affirm and prove it with scripture, six thousand years. Now of that number there be passed five thousand (five hundred) and fifty-two; so that there is no more left but four hundred and forty-eight. And furthermore, those days shall be shortened: it shall not be full six thousand years. Nam abbreviabuntur dies propter electos; “The days shall be shortened for the elect’s sake.” Therefore all those excellent learned men, which without doubt God hath sent into this world in these latter days to give the world warning; all those men do gather out of scripture that the last day cannot be far off. And this is most certain and sure, that whensoever he cometh, he cometh not too timely; for all things which ought to come before are passed now: so that if he come this night or tomorrow, he cometh not too early. Therefore, good people, let us make ready towards his coming. And though he cometh not at this time, yet let us make ready; for we are not sure when we shall be called to make account before the Lord. All good and godly people since the world began endeavoured themselves to make ready towards this day. But, O Lord, how wretched and miserable, yea, and how careless we be! Therefore it will be like as he saith: Cum dixerint, Pax et tranquillitas, “When they say, all thing is well and quiet,” tunc repentinus superveniet illis interitus, “then they shall be suddenly taken, and perish”; like as dives epulo, that, rich glutton, did. He ate and drank, he builded a new barn, (for the old was too little for him,) then he said to himself, “Now my soul, now be merry and take thy pleasure; for thou hast riches enough for many years.” But what said God? What said he? Stulte, hac nocte, “Thou fool, this night they will fetch thy soul from thee: whose shall those riches be then which thou hast heaped up?” And so shall all those be taken and trapped like this epulo, which will not make ready, which refuse the warnings of God; they shall be taken so suddenly to their everlasting wo. For scripture giveth warning unto every one, saying, Sicut in diebus Noah, &c. “Like as in the days of Noah, they will eat and drink, and marry, &c.” To eat, and to drink, and marry, is godly and lawful; but to do it otherwise than God hath commanded, it is wicked and damnable. To eat without thanksgiving, or to eat other men’s flesh, or to play the glutton more than sufficeth nature, this is wicked. Item, to marry upon other respects than God hath appointed and expressed in his most holy laws, is wicked and damnable: else, Honorabile conjugium inter omnes, “Marriage is honourable amongst all men”; but to marry for wantonness’ sake, that is wicked. Viderunt filii Dei filias hominum; “The sons of God saw the daughters of men.” This did Noah rebuke in his time, but they laughed at it. He prepared the ark, and went into it: at the length the flood fell upon their heads. Sicut in diebus Loth, “As in the days of Lot”: what did they? Ingressus es advena, “Thou art come hither a stranger.” Regarding nothing God’s word, which was shewed unto them through that good man Lot, they were wicked, whoremongers, drunkards, covetous persons. But what followeth; what followeth, I say? Consider the end: “The fire from heaven fell upon them suddenly and consumed them all.” At nos non sumus in tenebris; “We be not in darkness.” We have the word of God, we know what is his will; therefore let us watch, for he will come like a thief in the night. Happy are we if he shall find us watching!
This is the effect of this petition, wherein we desire that God will send down faith from heaven; that he will continue in me my faith, and every man’s, so that we may be ready to go with him when his kingdom shall come. Now as many as pertain to this kingdom of God, shall have one property amongst other things, they shall have an earnest mind and stedfast purpose to leave sin, according to St Paul’s saying, Ne regnet igitur peccatum in vestro mortali corpore; “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies.” God’s kingdom shall reign in us, and not the devil’s. Therefore when the devil tempteth thee, withstand him; give not over; let him not get the victory. As for an ensample: when thou seest a fair woman, an ill desire riseth up in thy heart towards her: this lust is of the devil. Call therefore for help; let him not occupy thy heart. Then surely God will help, for he hath promised, Nulla condemnatio iis qui sunt in Christo; “There is no condemnation to such as are in Christ Jesu”; when we do not allow sin, nor agree unto it. Therefore dispose yourselves so to live according unto his will, which can and will preserve us from the devil, and bring us into his kingdom. Which grant us God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost! Amen.
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