The sum of all our desires is set down by those words of the Prophet, where he saith, 'The Lord shall give glory and peace, and no good thing shall be withheld from them that live uprightly;' and our Saviour doth excellently express the same. 'Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things shall be ministered.'
The petitions of glory and God's kingdom have already been handled. Now in this third--which is the second of those which concern ourselves -we are suitors for the grace of God in this life, whereby we may be enabled to do His will here, that so we may obtain the Kingdom of glory in the world to come; for the Kingdom of God and of glory is the Heaven that we desire all to arrive at; and grace and righteousness is the gale of wind that drives us forward thereunto, and our suit to God in this petition is, that by doing of his will here on earth 'grace may reign' in our hearts 'by righteousness,' that so hereafter we may reign with Him in glory.
He doth not only will us to 'seek God's kingdom,' and tells us that there is one 'prepared for us before the foundation of the world,' but also how we may find it and attain to it: 'Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of God, but he that shall do the will of My Father Which is in heaven.'
Therefore touching the order of this prayer, as of those things which concern our good, the first he, that God's kingdom may come to us, so the door whereby we must enter [396/397] into the same is the doing of God's will; and therefore in the second place we are taught, that the Kingdom of God shall come, not by wishing or desiring but by doing of God's will, as Christ saith, 'The Kingdom of God is come near you.' So Christ tells us, 'If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.'
Touching the will of God it may be demanded, why we should demand and ask this petition; for as the Psalmist saith, 'Our God is in heaven, He doth whatsoever He will.' 'Whatsoever the Lord willed, that did He in heaven, in the earth, and in all deep places;' and 'Who hath resisted His will? No counsel or wisdom can prevail against the Lord.' And if any do oppose themselves against His will, yet they do but kick against the pricks.
The answer to this objection is, that we pray not so much that God's will may be done, but rather that what God willeth may be our will; for there is one will of God which we may resist, another which we may not resist.
For the distinction of God's will, it is either hidden and secret, or revealed and open: the one is that which the Prophet calls 'the counsel or thought of His heart;' the other is that will of His word, wherein He declareth and openeth to men what His will is.
His secret will is, voluntas beneplaciti, 'the good pleasure of His will;' His revealed will is, voluntas signi, which is disclosed to us. God's secret will is voluntas quam Deus vult, 'that will which God willeth;' His revealed will, voluntas quam Ipse nos velle vult, 'that will which He willeth us to will.' The secret will of His heart is, voluntas adoranda non scrutanda: he that curiously searcheth the glory of heavenly things, shall not enter into glory. How 'unsearchable are his judgments;' and 'Who hath known the will of the Lord? or who was His counsellor?' But the open and revealed will of God is voluntas scrutanda et facienda, 'both to be searched out, and to be done of us.' Be not unwise, but understand what is the will of God. The knowledge of His will is not enough, but as Christ saith, 'If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.'
Of the secret will of God, that is true which the Apostle [[397/398] saith, 'Who hath resisted His will ?'and therefore we pray not that that will may be done.
Of His revealed will, that is verified which Christ complaineth, Quoties volui congregare vos, et noluistis? 'How often would I gather you together, but ye would not?' God oftentimes willeth when we will not, and therefore we have need to pray that His revealed will may be accomplished in us.
Moses thus distinguished God's will: Secreta Deo nostro quæ autem revlavit nobis et filius nostris, 'The things that are secret belong to God, but the revealed are for us and our children.' The secret will of the Father is, 'that of all that He hath given Me, I should lose nothing.' The revealed will of Him That sent Me is, that every one that seeth the Son, and 'believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.'
God's 'judgments' which are the fountain of reprobation, are abyssus magna; and His mercy, extended to all that by faith apprehend the same, is abyssus et profunditas, 'a great depth.' Therefore we are not curiously to enquire and search out of God's secret touching reprobation or election, but to adore it.
His revealed will doth especially concern us, which is expressed in his commandments, whereby He declareth whatsoever He desireth at our hands, and therefore our study must be to frame our lives and actions according to that will.
Unto both these wills we must give a fiat, but severally. The first will is passive, and forasmuch as the secret will of God shall be done whether we will or no, we crave that with patience we may submit ourselves to whatsoever He in His secret will hath appointed to bring upon us. The other will active, and therein we desire that we may willingly practise that which He willeth in his word.
There is voluntas de nobis, and voluntas in nobis: for the first, we desire that we may approve it, thought it be done without us; in the second, we desire not only an approbation, but a co-operation.
Touching His secret will, when we say Fiat voluntas Tua we pray that nihil Dei displiceat nobis, 'that nothing which God commands displease us,' and in respect of His will [398/399] declared our desire is, that nihil nostrûm displiceat Deo, 'that nothing we do displease God.'
Touching His secret will, so long as it is not plain--within His own counsel He will compass--we may dissent from it, for a man may bonâ voluntate velle quod Deus nonvult, 'he may with a good will that which God wills not:' so Samuel's will was good when he wept for Saul, whom God would not have him to bewail.
Secondly, we may bonâ voluntate nolle quod Deus vult, 'with a god will not will that which God willeth;' as a child may be unwilling of the death of his father, whom notwithstanding God's will is shall not recover.
Thirdly, men may malâ voluntate velle quod nonvult, 'with an ill will he may will that which God willeth not;' the Patriarchs in a corrupt will would go into Egypt, whom God would not go thither.
And fourthly, they may in a corrupt will be unwilling to that which God willeth: so it was God's will that Saul should be king, when as the people were unwilling to it; and this the state of the will of the creature, so long as it is not acquainted with the will of His creator.
But when once it pleaseth God to reveal His will, then we must say with the people, Fiat consilium Domini, 'Let the counsel of the Lord come to pass.' We must not wrestle nor struggle against it, but patiently submit our wills to His, not only when God's will voluntas dulcis, 'when His will is to do us good,' as Bethuel spake concerning the marriage of his daughter, but when it is amara et aversa voluntas, we must submit our wills to His, when it pleaseth Him to cross us, either outwardly by taking away those that are beneficial too us (in which case it was said by some that bewailed the departure of St. Paul, 'the will of the Lord be done') or in the ourselves, in which case we may say with Christ, 'I would have this cup pass from Me; yet O Father, if Thy will b e otherwise, not My will but Thy will be done.
This lesson had David learned; for albeit he had complained of the great affliction that he had suffered, yet he saith Tacui tamen Domine And as he was content to bear this so he gave God thanks for them, acknowledging that it was good for him that he had been in trouble.
[399/400] We must learn Job's fruits as well as Bethuels; and these being joined, we shall perfectly conform our wills to God's secret will.
Concerning the will of God declared, or the will of His word, the Lord by his Prophet saith of His Church, 'My will is in it;' but David speaks more plainly of this revealed will, 'Thou hast charge that we should keep Thy commandments diligently.
The Apostle speaks more particularly, Hæc est voluntas Dei sanctificatio vestra and 'This is the will of God, that by well doing ye should stop the mouths of ignorant and foolish men.'
This is the revealed will of God, and we must not only take notice of it, but labour to practise that which in our understanding we know is meet to be done. As the Apostle saith Ostende mihi fidem ex operibus tuis, 'Shew me thy faith by thy works,' so we must shew our desire that we have unto God's kingdom by obedience of His will; for not they that sing or say or wish that God's will be accomplished, but qui fecerit, 'he which doth the will' of God, 'shall enter into the kingdom of God.'
To the doing of God's will two things are required; first, that we lay aside our own will, for they as will sanctify God's name must say with David, 'Not to us, but to Thy name give the praise.' So that God's will may be done we must say with Christ, 'Not my will but Thy will be done;' we must abridge ourselves of our will, that God's will may take place.
The better sort that are regenerate do assent to the law of God that it is good, and have a delight to it, but yet they see 'another law in their members, which leadeth them unto the law of sin' and death. Every man finds that to be true in himself that 'the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh and the will of man.'
We must pray unto God, Converte meum nolle in Tuum velle, [400/401] 'Convert my froward and unwilling will into Thy will;' and because Thy will is the true will, insere oleam voluntatis Tuæ oleastro voluntastis meæ, 'ingraft the true olive of Thy will into the wild olive of my will.'
If our will be contrary unto God's will and will not be subject unto it, then we must scatter it and pull it up by the roots, In chamo et fræno condtringe maxillas meas saith an ancient Father; and upon the words of Christ, 'compel them to enter that My house may be full,' saith he, Compelle me Domine intrare, so vocare non est satis.
Secondly, that God's will may be done in is, we must be possessed with a baser conceit of our own will, and have a high and reverent opinion of God's will, we must be persuaded that our will is blind and childish and perverse, and therefore Solomon saith, Ne innitaris &c., 'Do not lean to thine own wisdom.' Every man is a beast by his own knowledge. And to express the fault of man's will, Job saith that man is tanquam pullus asini, 'like a wild ass's colt,' which of all other beasts is most foolish. But be he never so wise naturally, yet he is but a fool in heavenly things, as St. Paul witnesseth.
Men, 'speak evil of things which they know not, yea, even in those things which they know naturaly they are but beasts.' All our reason and understanding hath not in itself sufficient direction for our will; and therefore Christ saith of St. Peter, that 'flesh and blood did not reveal' to him that knowledge that is attained by God's spirit; and in spiritual things St. Paul, he 'counselled not with flesh and blood.'
Lastly, our will is wholly inclined to that which is evil: wherefore one saith truly, tolle voluntatem tuam, et ego extinguam infernum, 'Take away thine own will, and I will quench hell fire.'
They that are given over to Satan as the incestuous Corinthian, may be restored, but those whom God giveth over to their own will, their case is desperate; and therefore we have the more cause to think the more humbly of our own will, and willingly submit ourselves to the holy will of God.
Touching both St. Paul saith, 'The Law is holy, and the Commandment is holy and just, and good,' and, 'The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold unto sin.'
[401/402] But we must think honourably of God's will, and this we cannot but do if we consider that His will is so perfect as it needeth no rule to be guided by; but our will being crooked and perverse must of necessity be directed by the rule of His will, or else we shall swerve out of the way.
Our will is blind and foolish, but His will is full of counsel and wisdom; our will is crooked and perverse and froward, but His will is full of all goodness; which we are to understand hereby, that he sheweth Himself a Father to us. If a child be left to his own will, it is as much as his life is worth: therefore 'withhold not correction,' but strike him with the rod, and he shall not die; and our will being childish, we must be abridged of it, or else we shall fall into danger. Therefore we do pray that we may not only submit our will To God's but that we may utterly deny our own will being foolish, that God's most holy will may take place in us; but we do not only pray that we may have a will, and desire to do God's will, but also ability and power, for of ourselves we have no strength to do it. That appeareth by the petition itself, Nam quid stultius quam petere id quod penes nos est? 'What is more foolish than to ask those things that are in our own power?' And the Apostle saith, 'We are not sufficient of ourselves to think' a good thought. Such is our corruption, that though God will, yet we will not.
We cannot speak unto God; for 'no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.' We do not find either will or ability, but it is God That giveth both; and though the 'spirit be willing, yet the flesh is but weak.'
Therefore we are petitioners for the grace of God, and for power from Him, without which we cannot do God's will; so that our desire is to obtain something from God whereby His will may be accomplished in us; for it is not said, Faciamus or Fac Tu Tuam voluntatem, 'Let is do,' or Do thou Thy will; but Fiat voluntas Tua, 'Thy will be done.'
Wherein we are to consider, a quo et perquem fiat, 'from whom and by whom it is to be done;' we pray not that we of ourselves may do the will of God, for no man can rise up to heaven unless he first receive a grace from heaven; 'he that is of the earth speaketh of the earth.' Therefore our [402/403] suit is not only for good thoughts, and heavenly desires, but also for ability of grace: but this grace is either active or passive.
The passive grace is that which proceeds from God towards us, which standeth in offering grace, as God is said to do, or when He causeth His grace to 'appear to all men;' and that is not enough unless we be made capable of it, as it is in vain that light doth shine unless we have eyes to see it; and therefore as He offers grace, so He must give us grace and enable us to draw grace form Him. That He would pour grace into us, that He would sow in our hearts good thoughts, change our affections, and make them conformable to His will; and so though the thoughts of His heart seem hard to flesh and blood, may for all that please us.
And last, our desire is, ut induamur virtute ex alto, and He doth offer His grace, and doth pour it into us. Then we must have that active grace, by which the will of God may be done in us, of which the Prophet saith Omnia opera nostra operatus es in nobis, 'Thou, Lord hast wrought all our works in us.' God must not only sanare cogitationem et mutare affectum, 'heal the thought and change our affection,' but perducere ad actum, that is 'He must bring to pass' that as He gives us ability to do His will, so His will may be done by us; we must say with the Prophet, 'Thou art my help, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.'
As he prevents us with His grace by giving us both a will and a power, so He must still follow us with His grace that we may go forward in doing of His will, for our case is compared to the state of the Israelites which in their fight with Amalek did prevail as long as 'Moses held up his hand but when he let it down' they were put to the worse. We may see it in the case of St. Peter who was able to walk upon the water while Christ held him up, but when he was left to himself he sunk; therefore we must have not only a preventing but also an accomplishing grace that may still follow us in our works, ne cessent in effectum, 'that they fail not in the upshot,' whereof the Evangelist makes mention, that from Him Who is full of grace, 'we must receive grace for grace.'
It was not the grace of God only that wrought in St. Paul, stirring him up to holiness, but also gratia Dei s_n moi, 'the [403/404] grace of God with me. And when the Angels say eÙdoka n ¢nqrèpsij, towards men good will, they do not only wish that God will shew good will towards men, but that He would accomplish it in them by infusing grace into their hearts.
Our desire therefore is, that the will of God may be done and fulfilled in us, but yet by his grace and the assistance both of His preventing and following grace. And as for sanctifying of God's name our desire was that it may be sanctified of us, but if not yet that it may be by others, so here though the will of God be not done in us, yet ut fiat quovis modo, 'that it be done howsoever,' that it may be done in others; but especially in our own behalf, that when we are either unwilling or unable to do His revealed will it may please him to give us the knowledge of it, and to put into us the obedience of it, that being assured in our consciences that we have done the will of God we may have that peace and joy of the Holy Ghost wherein the Kingdom of grace standeth, which may be to us a pledge of the Kingdom of glory whereby unto we shall be exalted after this life, if we be careful both to submit our wills to God's secret will, and to frame our will and the actions of our life to that declared and open will of God which for our direction He hath revealed in His word.