Which words are an appendix to the three first petitions; for though it be added to the third which concerneth the doing of His will, yet the ancient Fathers refer it also to the two former; so that we are to pray no less that God's name may be sanctified in earth as it is in heaven, and that His kingdom may be consummate in earth as it is in heaven, than that His will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven.
Wherefore we may observe by this complement of the three first petitions that God respects not only the doing of that which He requireth but chiefly the manner of it; for it sufficeth not simply to do God's will as others do on earth, but we must do it as it is done in heaven; for adverbs please God better than verbs, and He respecteth more in the doing of His will the manner of the doing of it than our doing itself.
The Greeks distinguish the will of God by both the words of Q_lhma and eÙdoka. When we do God's will without any regard how, so it be done, that is His Q_lhma, but when God's will is done with a sicut, and in such sort as He requireth, that is His god pleasure, and eÙdoka.
God's will was done of the people when they sacrificed any beast whatsoever, but if they chose out the fittest then the sacrifice was the more acceptable; so in this prayer we so not only desire to do God's will utcunque, without regard [405/406] how, whether with willingness and cheerfulness or against our wills, but we desire to do it in the best manner 'as it is in heaven,' wherein we offer that sacrifice or service to God which is as the fat of rams, for the sanctifying of His name.
The Apostle saith, that 'at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, both of things in heaven, in earth, and things under the earth.' Both our desire is so to reverence the name of Jesus as the things in heaven reverence it.
Of God's kingdom it is said, that Christ is 'ruler both in the midst of His enemies and also that in the days of His power the people shall as friends offer free-will offerings with a holy worship But we pray that God's kingdom may come among us not as among His enemies, but that we may willingly submit ourselves to His will and government.
Lastly, for the doing of His will the Prophet said, 'Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, in earth, and in the sea.'
We desire that His will may be performed in us, not as in the deep places but as in heaven, for this prayer contains two sicuts: the one pertains to God, teaching us how to love Him; the other concerns our neighbour, where we pray so to be forgiven as we forgive our debtors; so that, as heretofore we have noted, lege operandi lex statuitur supplicandi, though there were no law to require the love of God and our neighbour, yet this form of prayer doth teach us how to love God, and what perfect love we owe to our neighbour.
In the thing itself we are to observe three points: first, a qualification; secondly, an elevation of the soul; thirdly, an application.
In the qualification we are to enquire what is meant by heaven and earth, either tanquam continetia or else we may understand them as things contained therein; then, how God's will is done therein.
Howsoever our tongue or dialect speaks of heaven singularly, yet both Greek and Latin imply a plurality of heavens, for there are three heavens: first, the air, where the birds fly, whence they are called volucres coeli; secondly, the heaven of heavens, where the sun, moon and star, are set to give light; thirdly, that which the Apostle calls 'the third [406/407] heaven,' whereunto he was taken up, which is the place of blessedness, where God's majesty is especially resident.
In all these heavens which contain other bodies, in them we shall find that God's will is done.
Of the lower heaven the Prophet saith that it is obedient to God's will, and fulfils His word by sending down snow and fire and wind.
In the second heaven, which Solomon calls the 'heaven of heavens,' God's will is done, for there at God's commandment, 'sun and moon stood still,' contrary to their usual course, 'till the people of god avenged themselves of their enemies.'
Thirdly, the earth itself, and things contained in it, do yield obedience to heaven; for if the heaven be favourable in sending down 'rain and fruitful seasons,' the earth answerably will bring forth her increase for the good of man, but if the 'heaven be brass, the earth also will be iron.'
Lastly, as the powers of the heaven are such as that they can draw up clouds from the earth. Which do distil rain upon earth, which do distil rain upon the earth, to 'water the furrows thereof,' so we desire that the spiritual heaven may transform us into a heavenly nature, not setting our minds on earthly things but on things above.
For the things contained in heaven, as they are heavenly, so we desire that we living on earth may have 'our conversation in heaven,' that earthly man to whom God said, Terra es, may by this means be made heavenly.
In the third heaven is contained, in respect of His humanity, first Christ Himself, Who is both in heaven and earth; for as He us called 'the head of the His Church,' He is in heaven, but in respect of His body Which is called Christ He is on earth. Therefore we pray that Christ on earth, that is, the Church, may do God's will, even as Christ the Head Who is in heaven hath done it; that as Christ our head came not 'to do His own will, but the will of Him That Him,' so the whole body of Christ may labour to fulfil the same.
Secondly, in heaven thus are Angels, 'which fulfil His commandment, and hearken to the voice of His word.' So our prayer is, that men to whom God hath made the promise that they shall be "s£ggeloi, may labour to be 'like the Angels' [407/408] in doing God's will, as they hope to be like them in nature.
Thirdly, in heaven there is the 'congregation of the first born,' that is, the saints departed; wherefore our prayer is, that as they have and still do carefully fulfil God's will, so the saints on earth and Church militant may do the same.
Again, whereas St. Cyprian our of the sixteenth Psalm and second verse, and the nineteenth and first verse saith, that heaven is here upon earth; for when the Psalmists saith, The heavens declare the glory of God, the Apostle applieth that to himself and to the rest of the Apostles, of whose preaching he saith, 'No doubt their sound went out in to all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world,' so that the Apostles were heavens living on earth; so our prayer is, that as they living on earth lived a heavenly life and began heaven here, so our carnal heart may be applied to the meditation of heaven, that we may be 'saints in earth.'
The Wise Man saith of the body, that it being 'dust,' at the hour of death 'turns itself to dust from whence it came, and that the spirit returns to God That gave it.' Thus must the spirit return to God in our lifetime, and we must while we be on earth and 'bear the image of the earthly man' seek still to be in heaven, and here labour more and more to 'bear the image of the heavenly.' As the heavenly part of man, that is, his spirit, is willing and doth not only 'consent that God's law is good but delight in it,' so must we be careful to bring our flesh in subjection, that our old man and outward man may conform himself to the inward and new man.
Secondly touching the question how God's will is done in heaven, the answer is, that where His will is both dulcis and amara voluntas, 'a sweet and bitter will,' it is there obeyed and performed in both minds; for the heavens do not only at God's commandment keep a continual motion which is agreeable to nature, but against nature sun and moon stand still at His will, whose obedience tells us that our duty is to do His will, not only in things agreeable, but when His will is contrary to our liking.
This obedience was performed in Christ: 'Not My will, but Thine be done:' and in the Angels, which at God's commandment are ready not only to ascend but also to descend, [408/409] to shew that they are content not only to appear in heavenly glory which is their nature, but also to be abased according to the Apostle's rule, 'I can abound, and I can want.' The heavenly bodies do service to all nations, and the Angels are 'ministering spirits.'
As naturally they have a desire to ascend to bear rule, so at God's commandment they are content to descend to do service here below, they do altogether 'fulfil God's will;' whereas the nature of man doth hardly grant to obey God's will in that which seemeth strange to flesh and blood, as Agrippa affirmeth of himself, 'Thou somewhat persuadest me.'
The saints in heaven confess to God, 'Thou hast created all things, and for Thy will's sake they are and were created,' and therefore refuse not to subject their will to the will of God, be it pleasant to them or not; but as our Saviour speaketh, 'Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but for that ye did eat of he loaves and were filled,' so if we do that which God requireth, it is rather for our own sake with regard to our own private profit than to do God's will.
The heavenly Angels do God's will with willingness and readiness of mind, which is the fat of their sacrifice; and therefore they are said to have, every one 'six wings.' From whose example we must learn to 'do all things' commanded of God 'without murmuring or disputing and that because it is God's will we should do it.
In earth, when God willeth any thing that is not pleasant to our wills, we 'make excuse' or we post if off to others as Peter said to John Quid autem hic? We are ready to communicate with 'flesh and blood,' and to say with the disciples, Durus est hic sermo, 'This is a hard speech.' If we cannot shift if off from ourselves, yet as the devil reasoned, Cur venisti ante tempus? And as the people say, 'It is not time yet to build the house of the Lord,' so we are ready to defer and prolong the doing of God's will as much as may be, when we do it; as the unclean spirit would not come out of the child but with much crying and renting of him, so we cannot do God's will in this sort, they do it not as it is done in heaven by the Angels and saints that willingly obey [409/410] it, but as the devils in hell which against their wills fain to do it. Therefore our rule in this behalf is, that we do God's will, k lÚphj, but k kapdaj, not 'grudgingly 'but cheerfully 'from the heart,' accounting it our 'meat' to do the will 'of our heavenly Father.
Secondly, for the elevation, it is true that the qualification is signified by æs, not Óson, and our prayer is that we may do God's will 'as is done in heaven,' but not as much, with like readiness of mind but not in like measure - for that is impossible for earthly men; we desire to fulfil God's will in the manner, but not in the same degree of obedience, which may be expressed by the words 'image' and 'likeness.' Our obedience may be the likeness of the Angels, but not the image.
The character or stamp of the Angels' obedience is that which is equal in proportion, but such obedience is not like to be found; there may be a beam of it, answerable in likeness and quality, not in quantity. So in likeness we are conformes imagini Christi, and 'bear the image of the heavenly' man, as endeavouring thereunto, but yet we cannot attain to it.
But albeit it is hard for flesh and blood which our Saviour required, 'Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,' yet there is a use of such precepts; first ut fermaur ad perfectionem, 'that we may be led on to perfection.' Secondly, we must have an heroical and 'free spirit,' which may stir us up to wish that we could do more than we can, which consists of aspiration and suspiration. We must aspire to the greatest perfection with David: Concupivit anima mea, 'My soul hath lusted to keep Thy righteous judgments for ever.' And, 'O that my ways were so directed.'
This is an angelical perfection, which we cannot attain unto in this life: therefore we must suspirare, when we consider that Law saith, 'Thou shalt not lust,' and yet find that we do lust, we are to sigh and say with the Apostle, 'Who shall deliver us from this body of death?'
If we consider that we cannot love our God with all our heart and soul as we ought, then to say with the Prophet, Væ mihi, quia prolongatus est incolatus meus in terrâ! 'Woe is me that my dwelling is prolonged in the tents of Kedar.'
We must desire to do more than we can, and grieve that [410/411] we cannot do so much as we ought; that as we do what we can, so what we cannot do we should supply it voto, desiderio, animo, 'with our hearty wish, desire and mind.'
Thirdly, the supplication is of two sorts, real and personal. Touching the first, as the grace of God is multiformis gratia so the will of God being one is of many sorts, and contraineth divers particulars; therefore, as we generally pray that the will of God may be done, so when by the word of God we understand what is the will of God in particular, we are to desire no less that it may be performed: 'this is the will of God, even your sanctification.' Therefore our desire must be, that this will of His may be done and fulfilled in us. This is a special remedy against the temptations of the flesh, which oppose themselves against God's will.
There is another will of God for patience, for He would have us to suffer for Christ's sake without murmuring, that so 'we stop the mouths of ignorant men.' Therefore we are to pray that this will of God also may be done in us.
As Joseph was careful to do God's will touching sanctification, and Job to obey God's will in suffering patiently, both which are now saints in heaven, so must we after their examples be both holy, and careful, and patient.
It may be were are willing to obey God's will in particular, but we will say Nondum venit hora, 'It is not yet time;' therefore we must learn to practise the Prophet's resolution, 'I made haste, and prolonged not the time to keep the law.'
When God revealeth His will to us, we must presently put it in practice, and as Saul did, and not counsel with flesh and blood; and this is the real application.
Then persons to whom the doing of God's will is to be applied, are not only the whole earth - which is also to be wished, as the Prophet sheweth 'Set up thyself, O God, above the heaven and thy glory above all the earth,' but the earth or land wherein we dwell as the Prophet speaks, 'that glory may dwell in terrâ nostrâ, 'in our land.' So we pray that God's will may be done in all lands, but especially in our land and country, that so He may bestow His blessings upon it; but yet we are every one of us particularly to a ply to ourselves for to man it was said by God Terra es to Man it was said 'Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of [411/412] the Lord.' So we desire that God's will may especially be done and fulfilled in that part of the earth whereof God hath made us, that is, that in these our earthly vessels, which we carry about with us, we may be careful to do that which God requireth at our hands.