This last petition concerneth the last of those three evils which we desire to have removed from us; under which we comprehend all miseries and calamities of this life, for that is it which our Saviour understandeth by 'the evil of the day' in the last verse of this chapter.
So there is a plain opposition betwixt this petition and the fourth.
As there by 'daily bread' we understood all things necessary for this present life, so when we say 'Deliver is from evil,' we seek to be delivered from all such things as are laborious and troublesome to us in the same.
There are that make but six petitions of this prayer, saying that the two last are but one, but they have no warrant for it.
The ancient church hath always divided it into seven, and this division they grounded upon the motive which caused our Saviour Christ to pen this prayer, which was the avoiding of that tantologa used by the heathen, into which they cannot choose but fall which affirm that these two last petitions contain but one thing; wherein they are deceived, for temptation and evil are not of one scantling.
Every evil is not temptation, neither is every temptation evil. Some things are evil in their own kind, as wolves and kites; other things are not only evil in themselves but bring forth evil affects, for our sins are not only evil but the calamities and miseries which our sins bring upon us are also evil; and therefore we are to pray no less against the one than against the other.
[449/450] Touching the misery of this life, we are to pray as the Prophet wills us, for the deliverance from them, 'Call upon Me in the day of thy trouble.'
That this and the former cannot be one petition, in manifest: for when we pray that we be not led into temptation, we desire that we may do no evil; when we pray that we may be delivered from evil, our desire is that we may suffer no evil.
In the first we pray against malum culpæ, 'the evil of sin,' in the second against malum poenæ,' the evil of punishment.
The first is an evil of our own doing the other of God's doing, as the Prophet speaks, Non est malum in civitate quod non fecit Dominus. 'There is no evil in a city but the Lord hath done it.'
As before sin committed we desired non induci, 'not to be led into it,' so here when we have committed sin our desire is that God would not deliver us to our ghostly enemy that he may afflict us in this life with temporal plagues, nor in the life to come keep us in eternal torments.
When we desire that God will deliver us from the miseries of this life and of the life to come, we have these things to consider: first, that the case of Christian men is not like the state of heathens, for they had Joves, white gods, from whom they received good things, and black gods, whom they called depulsores malorum, 'deliverers from evil,' but Christians have but one God to fly to, Whom they acknowledge to be both DwtÁra and EwtÁra, a God That doth not only give us good things but takes from us those that are evil. So God testifieth of himself to Abraham, that He is not only his 'exceeding great reward.' but also his 'shield,' both which we are to consider in this, that in Scripture He is compared to a rock.
Secondly, that the devil hath a desire to carry us away into sin and transgression, to the end he many endanger our souls; and if he cannot hurt us that way, then he will labour to do us some outward mischief; if he cannot prevail as a tempter, he will endeavour that he may hurt us as a tormentor.
So he dealt with job, who for that he was just and perfect man, so as Satan could not tempt him to sin against God, therefore his desire was that he might touch his body [450/451] and torment him with outward losses, for his delight is evermore in doing of mischief; if he can no longer vex the soul of man, yet he will crave this leave that he may torment the poor hogs.
Thirdly, that we have two kinds of helps against this evil: first, that precaution which our Saviour telleth us of in the former petition, that before we commit sin we pray non induci, 'not to be led into it,' that neither temptation come at us nor we at it. Secondly, that albeit we by sin are fallen into evil, yet there is a qerapea or 'salving' to be looked for of God, Who will deliver us after that we are delivered into the hands of our adversary, As in the first petition we pray that we may not fall into evil by yielding to temptation, so here if we be fallen yet God would deliver us out of it. Both these helps are ascribed to God.
Of the first it is said to him, he that maketh his prayer for His help, 'The enemy shall not be able to do him hurt, and the son of wickedness shall not come night him.' Of the other, 'Let not the waterflood drown me, nor the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut upon me.'
Touching the evil from which we desire to be delivered, Chrysostom and the rest of the Greek Church expound if of the devil, who is lerna malorum, or the greatest evil that can befall us, which exposition is grounded upon the article ¢pÕ toà. But this exposition is too narrow, for the holy word is best expounded when it is most enlarged; so that we shall have a full understanding of this matter if under the word 'evil' we include whatsoever is evil, and so desire generally to be delivered from it; but if we desire to be delivered from whatsoever is evil, then from ourselves, saith Augustine; for we are evil, and so we have need to pray. For as, when we ask forgiveness of sins, it is from those sins unto which our lust hath already drawn us away into sin, so when we say, Libera nos a malo, 'Deliver us from evil,' it is from that infirmity of the flesh and necessity of sinning which doth accompany our nature, in regard whereof the Apostle saith, Quis me liberabit de hoc corpore mortis? 'Who shall deliver me from this body of death?'
So Augustine under the word 'evil' doth include not only tÕn pouhrÕn but pouhran.
But Cyprian's exposition is, when we pray, Libera nos a [451/452] malo, 'deliver us from evil,' we desire not to be delivered from this or that evil, but generally from all evil, by which he meaneth not pouhrÕn nor pounran but pÒuon, that is, all manner of trouble and calamity, and whatsoever turns away good from us, especially that evil which keeps us from God Which is the chiefest good thing. So then our desire is not only to be delivered from the devil who is the beginning of all evil, as that which is opposed to our chief good, but from that which may turn away from us the meanest blessing which we stand in need of outwardly, which also are bona data, 'good gifts.'
If we understand by evil, Satan, then we pray to be delivered from him not only when he playeth the subtle serpent, and changeth himself into an 'Angel of light,' but when he playeth the 'lion.' First, to be delivered from his jaws, that he swalloweth us not down - for then there is no help for us - that is, that God would save us from 'the nethermost hell,' that which is called 'the second death' and a"wna kÒlasij.
Secondly, from his claws, under which are comprehended all temporal calamities; first, the loss of life, against which the Apostles being in a great tempest pray unto Christ that He would save them, 'Master, carest Thou not that we perish?'
Secondly, of good names, whereof the Prophet saith, ibera me a contrariis hominibus.
Thirdly, the loss of goods, concerning which, when the Lord had formed grasshoppers to destroy their fruit, the Prophet [Amos] prayed, 'O Lord God spare, I beseech thee.' And this is the remedy in all outward afflictions, as Solomon saith: If there be dearth in the land though blasting, caterpillar or grasshopper, then it the people come into the temple and say Libera nos a malo, 'Deliver us from evil,' God will hear their prayers and deliver them. Therefore in that dearth which is spoken of, Revelation the sixth, where corn was given by measure and weight, the remedy they had was prayer; 'How long, Lord dost thou defer to avenge our blood?' The reason why we pray to be delivered from these miseries is, that we may the better intend God's service: so said David, 'Deliver me from the slanders of men, that I may keep Thy commandments.'
Christ doth not expressly name tribulation, affliction, and [452/453] calamity, though they be comprehended under the word evil, wherein we are to observe that in this petition as in the rest He tempers His style with great wisdom; for outward trouble may co-operate to our good, and therefore He teacheth us not to pray that God will deliver us from them absolutely, but from that evil which is in them; and in this sense we may pray to be delivered a malo panis, 'from the evil of plenty,' as well as a malo famis, 'from the evil of scarcity;' for bread, which of itself is good, may turn to our hurt; and therefore Solomon prayeth, 'Give me not riches, lest I shall be full, and say, Who is the Lord? neither give me poverty, lest through want I be driven to steal, and take the name of my God in vain.'
There is both evil and good in both, and therefore we pray to be delivered from the evil; for if God see that it is good for us to be humbled with want, then we are not to pray against it.
When we desire to be delivered, first, we acknowledge how little we are able ourselves. A hair or crumb of bread oftentimes is enough to cast away a man; for the meanest creatures are able to hurt us except God deliver us, and as we cannot help ourselves so if we look about us there is none to succour us. So will the King himself tell us, who of all others seemeth most able to help, 'If the Lord do not succour thee, where with can I help thee?'
Wherefore we may not trust to ourselves, nor to any other foreign help or power, but to God the great Deliverer, to Whom Christ hath taught us tom pray, Libera nos a malo, 'deliver us from evil.'
Secondly, herein we acknowledge our desire, which is to be delivered. The word is ·àsai, which implieth such a deliverance which doth rid us from bondage or captivity; wherefore we use this word as a motive that God will the rather deliver us, because if the evil which lieth upon us continue long it will make us the devil's bond-men. Now we are God's servants, and desire that the devil may not take us captives at his will, but that we may come out of 'his snare' to do God service; and not only so, but that our service may be done freely and with cheerfulness, for that we are His children and He our Father; that is, as the Prophet speaks, 'When God hath set our hearts at liberty, we may run the way of His commandments.'
[453/454] But if we will be delivered from the devil indeed, we must have this freedom of Christ, the Son of God, of Whom it is said Si Filius vos liberaverit, vere liberi eritius, 'If the Son shall make ye free, ye shall be free indeed,' for only He is able perfectly to save us out of the thraldom of Satan.
The devil indeed is subtle and playeth the serpent, but Christ is the Wisdom of God, and knoweth well enough to keep us from temptation.
The devil is cruel, and roareth like a lion; but Christ, Who 'is the power of God,' is able to free us from evils, to save us from him.
The means and ways whereby the Son of God, Who is His wisdom and power, doth free us from evil, are first, non inducendo, that is, not to suffer us to be tempted at all, for so we should be freed both from evil of son and from the evil of punishment which is the effect of sin; for as much as there is none upon whom the devil hath not at least laid his nails, and as it were scratched with his claws by outward afflictions, we are not to look for that means of deliverance; the Apostles themselves had not this privilege, for St. Paul that was 'a chosen vessel had the messenger of Satan to buffet him, even the corruption of his flesh which still did tempt him to sin. And for outward affliction, it is the case of all Christians generally, 'All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.
So that the godly may not look for their paradise on earth, Christ hath foretold, 'In the world you shall have trouble;' as for their joys and comfort, it is elsewhere to be had, Merces vestra magna est coelis, 'Your reward is great in heaven.' But if they be without tribulation in this life, if they be in the state of those that come 'into no misfortune like others,' it is an evil sign, and they little differ from the world 'which have their portion in this life,' whereas the troubles and miseries of this world are to the godly a pledge of the joys that are to come. And yet sometimes He giveth them a taste if His future mercy, by blessing them on earth, 'I have set before thee an open door, because thou hast a little strength.'
But we pray here for a deliverance after we are fallen into evil, and this deliverance is performed four ways: first, when God doth quickly take the evil from us, and not suffer it to continue to our utter overthrow. Such a deliverance is that [454/455] when He suffereth His wrath to endure but a little season, when, 'though He send heaviness over night, yet He causeth joy to come in the morning.'
It was a great cause of grief to the Apostles, that Christ speaking of His departure from them said, 'A little while and ye shall not see Me;' but He delivered them out of this grief by comforting them with the hope of His speedy return, when He said, 'And yet a little while, and ye shall see Me again; and, as St. Paul saith, this is a great means to deliver us out our afflictions, when we know that it is but tÕ parantka lafrÕn tÁj qyewj, 'a tribulation that as it is but light itself so it is but momentary.'
Secondly, God doth deliver us from evil when He doth mix some comfort with our affliction, that may make us to bear it the better. Such comfort it pleased God to mix with Joseph's trouble, who was first sold to be a salve by his own brethren, after cast into prison by means of his wicked mistress; but in the midst of his affliction God did not only bring him out of prison, but brought him into favour with Pharaoh, which made him forget all his labour and travail. Wherefore he called his first son Manasseh, of forgetting,
Thus God tempered the affliction of David, as himself confesseth: 'In the multitude of the sorrows of my heart Thy comforts have refreshed my soul.' And the Apostle saith, 'Blessed be God, for He giveth us comfort in all our tribulation, so as we are able to comfort others with the same comfort that He ministered to us.
Thirdly, when He gives us patience to endure our affliction, which is a greater benefit than the former; for if we suffer wrong and take it patiently, then there is thanks with God, and we follow the example of Christ Who suffered for us 'though He had done no sin; and as it is a thing thankworthy to God,' so the Prophet saith, 'Blessed is the man whom Thou chastiseth, O Lord, that Thou mayest give him patience in the time of adversity.' Wherefore the Apostle [James] exhorteth, 'Let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.
Christ was for a time forsaken of His Father, that He might comfort Himself with patience; and so it is required of us, [455/456] that in our afflictions we 'possess our souls with patience,' for so we shall apply ourselves to be found in faith and the love of God, and to be lacking in no duty which God requireth at our hands.
Fourthly, when out of evil He brings good, and turns the evils that are come us to our greater good; for to this end God afflicteth His children, and therefore Christ saith not, Deliver us from calamity or tribulation, but from evil; for God in His wisdom doth so dispose of the afflictions of the godly, that they shall have cause to 'rejoice and glory in tribulations.'
Now, they have cause to rejoice in their tribulations in two respects.
First, quando crux liberat a crciatu, 'when the cross delivereth from anguish or vexation;' for so the Apostle saith, that God 'doth chasten His children in this life, that they should not be condemned with the world.
Secondly, quando crux convertitur in coronam 'when their cross is turned into a crown;' for so St. Paul saith, 'That the afflictions of the godly, which they suffer here, are but light and momentary, and yet procure unto us a surpassing and everlasting weight of glory, such as cannot be expressed.'
And the same Apostle. saith, 'I have made my reckoning and now find that the afflictions of this life are not worthy or comparable to the glory that shall be revealed in the world to come.'
Now, we may not limit God to any of these ways of deliverance; but our desire must be, that He will deliver us from evil that way which seemeth best unto Him.
Lastly, seeing it is God's will that we shall undergo the cross in this life, our prayer to God must be, that of the crosses that were on Mount 'Calvary' ours may be like to Christ's cross, that we may suffer innocently for the name of Christ; 'For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience towards God endure grief, and suffer wrong undeserved.
Secondly, if not innocently, yet that our suffering may be like the good thief that confessed he suffered worthily, for he repented of his sin, and by faith conceived comfort that albeit his body were crucified yet his soul should be received with Christ into glory; but in any ways our desire must be, [456/ 457] that we suffer not like the wicked and reprobate thief that blasphemed Christ, and died without repentance.
The persons to be delivered are expressed in the word nos, 'us,' which implieth a twofold reason, first in regard of the word libera, 'deliver.' We are Thy servants, therefore make us free, and suffer us not to be slaves to Satan. So the Prophet reasoneth.
Secondly again 'deliver us,' for we are Thy children, those whom Thou hast taught to call Thee Father; therefore though we be Mephibosheths, yet shew Thyself a Father to us; and of servants, though we be not only 'unprofitable,' but evil and wasteful, yet because we are Thy servants, 'deliver us.'
Thirdly, we are Thy workmanship, therefore 'despise not the works of Thine hands.'
Fourthly, we are Thy 'image.'
Fifthly, the 'price' of 'thy Son's blood.'
Sixthly, 'vessels' to carry Thy name: we are they 'upon whom Thy name is called,' therefore 'deliver us,' else we shall be a reproach to them that are about us.
Seventhly, we are the 'members' of Thy 'Church,' which is the 'body,' of Christ Jesus our Saviour, our 'Head.'
The other reason is from the word malo, 'evil:' the devil as he is our enemy so he is God's, and he hateth us because we are Thine, and therefore laboureth to draw us from Thee; but save Thou us that we fall not from Thee, as he hath done.
Lastly, 'us,' for we may not pray for ourselves alone, but for our brethren also, that God will be good to them likewise; and though we be out of trouble, yet because we be of the body, we may truly say, 'Deliver us,' when we pray in the behalf of our brethren that are under the cross.
Until the 'last enemy, death, be destroyed,' we shall never be fully freed, but have one evil or other. Therefore we are to pray for that time 'when we shall hunger and thirst no more, when God shall wipe all tears from our eyes,' at the least, if He take us not presently out of the world, yet 'to keep us from the evil of the world,' till that day when there shall be 'no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain.' But God shall be all in all to us for ever.