Having entreated of the first petition touching the holy estimation of God's Name, we are consequently to speak of those six that concern ourselves, whereof the first three are spent in praying for that which is good, in the other three we pray for the removing of evil. The first two petitions, or the sum of them, is excellently expressed by the Prophet and by our Saviour; for agreeably to the words of David and of Christ our Saviour, in the first petition we ask for 'glory,' and seek for 'the kingdom of God;' in the second, for grace and righteousness; in the third, for the good things of this life, but shall be ministered unto them that upon earth do seek God's kingdom and the righteousness thereof.
Wherefore, as of things which concern our good, the first both in order and nature is the Kingdom of God; for the first thing in our desire ought to be the Kingdom of God according to the commandment of our Saviour, and we are to 'account all things but dung' in respect of it. Hereunto is required 'the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, 'That may teach us to contemn all earthly pleasures in respect of the heavenly kingdom.'
Here our Saviour condemneth that capital vice that reign in those men which in the world live of their own, and take no further care but to establish for themselves a kingdom upon earth. But, if, according to His direction, we fix our desire upon the Kingdom of heaven, and by despising the world do labour for the virtue which consists in the purity of the heart, [390/391] then shall we have the blessing that is promised to' the pure in heart,' that is, they shall be exalted to 'see God.'
Now when He saith, 'None shall see My face and live,' they that truly make this prayer shall behold His face in the Kingdom of glory.
These two first petitions have relation to the invocation; for as God by the word 'Father' doth express His love to us, and for that He is in heaven doth give us hope for a heavenly estate, so we in these petitions do first desire that whereby our love towards Him may appear, while we prefer the sanctifying of His name before the regard of our own good. Secondly, we declare our heavenly hope that may come of being partakers of His heavenly Kingdom.
Howsoever God will not have any man's name hallowed or glorified but His own, as He speaks of Himself, 'My glory will I not give to another;' yet He will communicate His kingdom to us, and therefore in our behalf we are taught to pray, 'Thy kingdom come.'
In the petition we are to consider two things; first, the Kingdom itself, secondly, the coming of his Kingdom.
Touching the first point it may be objected, how it is that Christ teacheth us to make this petition; for 'God's kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and His dominion endureth throughout all ages.' How then is it said to 'come?' For the answer of this doubt, the Kingdom of God must be distinguished. First, God hath an universal Kingdom, such a Kingdom as ever was and for ever shall be; of which it is said, 'the Lord is King, be the people never so impatient; He ruleth as King, be the people never so unquiet.' Secondly, there is a kingdom of glory, that whereof our Saviour speaketh, 'Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you,' &c. And the thief upon the cross said, 'Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.'. And this is the Kingdom which in the first place Christ teacheth us to pray for; we pray for this Kingdom, that it may come; we pray for our own good, for it is a kingdom of power, and therefore able to defend us; and therefore our Saviour in the conclusion of His prayer addeth this, 'For thine is the kingdom.' According to which the Prophet [391/392] David saith, 'Thy saints give thanks to Thee, they shew the glory of Thy Kingdom, and talk of thy power.
The government of His kingdom is committed to Christ, of Whom it was said by God, 'I have set My King upon My holy hill of Sion.' In which regard He doubteth not to affirm of Himself, Data est Mihi omnis potestas, &c. 'All power is given Me in heaven and in earth.' And not withstanding God reigneth as King, yet that is verified which the Prophet complaineth of, 'O Lord God, other gods besides Thee have ruled over us;' for Satan taketh upon him to be king, and hath played the tyrant, and hath prevailed so far as that the greatest part of the world are subdued unto him; in which he regard our Saviour calleth him 'the prince of the world,' and by the Apostle he is termed 'the god of this world,' for that he 'blindeth men's eyes,' and maketh them subject to the kingdom of darkness.
Secondly, there is a kingdom of sin, against which the Apostle exhorteth: 'Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies;' which he meaneth when he saith, that 'sin hath reigned unto death.'
Thirdly, the Apostle sheweth that death hath a kingdom, when he saith, that by means of sin 'death reigned from Adam to Moses.'
These are enemies to the Kingdom of God; for while the devil reigneth by means of sin, as he doth so long as he 'worketh in the children of disobedience,' he taketh away the glory of god's kingdom, and death takes away the power of it.
And in regard of Satan's kingdom, he is said to be a 'king over all the children of pride.' For he makes the whole world rebel against God, so that they are not ashamed to deny Him to His face; and that is true not only of the common sort of the world, but even of a great many of the Church, of which number are those that stick not to say, 'We will not have' Christ 'to rule over us.'
Again, there are many stumbling-blocks for the hindrance of God's Kingdom, that the Kingdom of God cannot come; and therefore we do worthily pray as well that the kingdom of Satan and sin may be overthrown, as for the removing of those offences.
[392/393] God having exalted His son in to the highest heaven saith unto Him, 'Sit Thou at My right hand, till make Thine enemies Thy footstool.'
'The last enemy that is to be destroyed is death.' Wherefore our desire is, that there may be such a Kingdom, as wherein the Law of God may be exactly kept, and that it would please God in this kingdom, to 'tread down Satan under our feet,' that not only death itself, but he that hath 'all the power of death being destroyed, 'God may be all in all.'
When we behold the state of the world, and see that good men are trodden under feet, and the vessels of wrath and sin are exalted and prosper, then we may know that that is not the true kingdom, and therefore we pray that God will set up His kingdom in our hearts, and govern us by his Spirit.
And therefore this point doth not only concern ourselves but also God, for unless His kingdom come, His name cannot be sanctified of us.
As there are temporal kingdoms, so there is a spiritual Kingdom, called the Kingdom of grace, whereof our Saviour speaketh, 'The Kingdom of God is within you.'
As before we prayed for the Kingdom of glory, so now for this Kingdom of grace; for without this we shall never be partakers of that other kingdom.
The glory of other kingdoms is the reformation of things that were before amiss, but the glory of the Kingdom of grace is, that as during the tyranny of Satan 'sin reigned unto death,' so now under this Kingdom 'grace may reign through righteousness by Jesus Christ.'
That we may have interest in both these kingdoms, we must hearken to that which Christ. proclaimeth, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God draweth near.' As it draweth near to us, so we must draw near to it, else we shall never enter into it, for 'except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.'
And that we may begin to draw near to it, there is an outward regiment to be used, which is a token of the grace of God bearing rule in our hearts; we must by the Kingdom of God within us cast out devils. We must entreat God by the power of His Spirit to plant in our hearts that which is [393/394] good, and to root out and remove out of them that which is bad. We must displace Satan and sin that they set not up their thrones in our hearts, and instead of it we must set up God's kingdom ruling in us by His Spirit; for the Kingdom of God stands 'in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
If we find these virtues in us, they are sure pledges of the Kingdom of grace, and we may assure ourselves that after this life is ended we shall be received into the Kingdom of glory.
And howsoever He hath appointed kings and rulers over us for our outward safety and defence, yet they have their sceptre from Him, and the end of their rule is to further God's kingdom, as the Apostle speaketh, 'that we may live under them in all godliness and honesty.'
Touching the coming of His kingdom, it may be demanded why we pray that it may come to us, seeing that it were meeter that we should come toward it. But hereby Christ giveth us to understand what our corruption is. It is with us as with the Israelites, that were so addicted to the flesh-pots of Egypt that they cared not to go into the promised land; likewise we are so in love with this present world, as that we have no mind of heaven.
Besides, there are so many stumbling blocks in our way as that the Kingdom of God must come unto us, or else we shall never possibly come unto it. Therefore, as we pray that God would lighten our blind eyes, and inflame our hard hearts with a love of His heavenly Kingdom, so also that He would send His 'angels' to gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend.
The things that we pray against are the kingdom of Satan, darkness and sin, that they may depart from us, and that the inward Kingdom of grace may take place in our hearts; but the principal kingdom that we desire is the Kingdom of glory, whereof our Saviour said, 'Behold, I come quickly.'
This is the Kingdom which the saints desire, saying, 'Come quickly, Lord Jesus;' and all creatures do wait for this Kingdom, looking when they shall be 'made free from the bondage of their corruption.' For whereas now all things are [394/395] 'subject unto vanity,' then there shall be a kingdom that shall not perish.
It is not for the wicked to desire the coming of His kingdom: 'Woe be to you that desire the coming of the Lord, it is darkness and not light.' The wicked shall say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us;' for the wrath of the Lord, no man is able to abide it. But to the godly it is a day of comfort, 'Lift up your heads, for the day of redemption draws near.
Howsoever, He will render vengeance to the ungodly that have not known nor disobeyed the Gospel of the God. Yet he comes to make a garland to crown the godly, and to set them in His throne; they shall be received into His kingdom of glory, where they shall enjoy the things which 'neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath ever entered into the heart of man, which He hath prepared for them that love Him.
Therefore St. Paul saith, 'I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.' Simeon's desire is 'Lord, now let Thou Thy servant depart in peace.'
Thus the remembrance of the day of our redemption is a joyful remembrance to them, and the chief thing that they desire, so that they are willing to depart, in regard of their future hope, rather than to tarry here; and howbeit that Christ defers His kingdom and coming, yet we are to be watchful, 'for it will come as a snare,' and when He cometh He will rather be for us than against us.