Which words contain the second part of this invocation; for as in the word 'Father' we call upon the bowels of God's mercy so these words 'Which art in heaven,' so we do invocate the arm of His power--for so it is termed by the Prophet in the Old Testament 'Stir up Thy strength and help us.' 'Rise up, thou arm of the Lord.' So that as the leper's doubt is taken away by the consideration of God's fatherly goodness, so that when we know that this 'our Father' hath His being in heaven, it takes away that doubt which we use to make of His power, Domine si quid potes, 'Lord, if Thou canst do us any good.' For the style of God in respect of our necessities consists of His goodness and greatness, which as they are both expressed by the heathen in the title optimus, maximus so the power of God in these words which they use, t_ ÑlÚmpia dèmat: [coutej,] 'dwelling in heavenly habitations.'
Christ willing to express the greatness of God's power doth it by that place where His glory and power are most manifest, and that is heaven whereof the Prophet saith, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handy work.' For when we see a poor cottage, we presently guess that the dweller is no great person; but if we meet with some great house, we conjecture that some person of account dwells there; and therefore Job saith, that the baseness of man in respect of the Angels is great, for that he 'dwells in the houses of clay, whose foundation is of the dust.' But here our Saviour tells us, that God 'our Father' hath His [372/373] dwelling in the stately tabernacle of heaven; whereby we may gather what is the greatness of His power.
But before we come to these things which are particularly to be considered in these words, first, we are to take heed that we run not into their error which so confine and compass God in heaven as if He had nothing to do in earth, such as they who say. 'How should God know? can He judge through the dark cloud? the clouds cover Him that He cannot see?' For when He is said to have His being in heaven, the Holy Ghost thereby doth not express His presence but His power; therefore we are to know that God is not so in heaven that He is not in earth also, for so doth the Old Testament witness of Him, Coelum et terram Ego inpleo. 'Behold the heavens, and heavens, and the heaven of all heavens, are not able to comprehend Thee.' And the Prophet David saith, 'If I go up to heaven, Thou art there; if I go down to hell, Thou art there also.' Whereby it appeareth that we may not limit God's power and presence to any one place, Who is every where present, for when God is said to be in heaven, we learn thereby what his excellency is, which doth especially shew itself there; for as the glory and majesty of earthly princes doth chiefly appear in their thrones, so the glory and majesty of God doth especially shew itself in 'heaven,' which is his throne. He hath not His denomination from earth a place of worms and corruption, but from heaven a place of eternal glory and happiness.
Secondly, the use of this is to temper our confidence in God; for albeit we love Him as He is 'our Father,' yet withal we must fear Him forasmuch as He dwelleth in heaven; as we may in regard of His goodness pray unto Him with confidence, so withal considering His power we must pray with due devotion and reverence unto His majesty, for He is not as an earthly father that dwelleth in houses of clay; but His dwelling is in heaven, and therefore as He is 'a Father,' and consequently will be honoured, so because He is our Lord He requireth fear at our hands. 'With Thee is mercy, that Thou mayst be feared.' Whereby the Prophet would have us so esteem of God's mercy, that withal we be bound to fear him; and that we be not like those that contemn the riches of God's mercy, the more that He laboureth with His [373/374] bountifulness and goodness to bring us to 'repentance;' for as sweet things have an obstructive power to stop the passages which are in our bodies, and on the other side sour and bitter things do fret and consume and so open the veins, so it fareth with the soul; for it is stopped when we consider nothing but the mercy of God, and contrariwise when we cast our eyes too much upon the majesty and power of God the force thereof casts us into an astonishment and brings to desperation; and therefore, that we neither have nimiam trepidationem, 'too much terror,' nor nimiam ostenttationemn , 'too much security, we must know that God is so in heaven as yet He is Father, and as He is a Father so not an earthly but a heavenly Father; and we cannot but fear and reverence God, if we in humility consider our baseness in respect of him; for though He be our Father, yet so long as we be on earth we are strangers and exiles form Him, and howsoever it please Him to account us sons, yet as it fared with Absalom we cannot see our Father's face until He take us hence, that we may be at home with Him in His kingdom of glory.
Thirdly, these words lead us also to a confidence in God, and serve to raise up our faith. There is Paternitas both in heaven and earth; there are 'fathers of the flesh,' and Fathers of the spirit. But when the Holy Ghost saith that God our Father hath His being in heaven, we are thereby to distinguish Him from other fathers. If he be a heavenly Father, He is of more excellent nature than other fathers that are earthly and carnal, for they are mortal; as they live on earth, so by death they shall be brought sub terris and forsake us, but our heavenly Father is immortal, 'His years change not;' and though our fathers and mothers forsake us, yet the Lord will take us up and succour us. Secondly, though earthly fathers were immortal, yet they are mutable, and their affections are turned away, either by means of some lewd part in the children, or for that they bear not that natural affection towards their children which they ought. But God is immutable in His love; so that although Jacob will not acknowledge us, and Abraham will not know us, yet God will be our Father.
The Apostle saith, there are wicked parents that are [374/375] ¥storgoi, 'without natural affection.' And it falleth out that sometimes a woman will deal cruelly wither her own child; but though she 'forget' it, yet God our heavenly Father 'will not forget' His children, nor turn His fatherly affection from them; and therefore Tertullian saith, Nullus pater tam pater, 'No father so fatherly.' Thirdly, though they wish us never so well, yet many times they cannot do us that good they would for want of ability; yea though they be never so able, yet they cannot deliver from sickness and death, for the sons of princes die daily; they can give us 'bread' and 'fish,' they have a care to provide and 'lay up for their children, but it is such 'treasure' as the 'moth and rust will corrupt.' But God our heavenly Father can deliver us from evil, He can give us not only bread and fish, and other things necessary for this life, but His 'Holy Spirit' if we ask it.
The treasure that God layeth up for us is not earthly, but 'an inheritance in corruptible and undefiled,' such things as 'neither eye hath seen nor ear hath heard.' For God is not only careful in this life for our well doing (the knowledge of that is spes mortua, 'a dead hope', but His care extendeth to the life to come; and therefore the Holy Ghost. saith not, Pater in coelo, sed in coelis, 'in the heavens,' whereby He 'hath begotten us unto a lively hope.' Quæcunque optant vel timent homines, 'whatsoever things men either wish for or are afraid of,' all things come from heaven, whether it be rain, drought, or contagion, or plague, and from the first heaven, ubi vultures coeli.
From this heaven St. Paul tells the heathen, that God sends us 'rain and fruitful seasons.' And when Job saith that God sends rain, and frosts, and snow; and thundereth, and worketh marvellous things, &c. that is done in primo cælo, 'in the first heaven.' But in the second heaven are the eclipses of the sun and moon: there He works in the sign of heaven, He binds the seven stars together; whatsoever wonders are wrought there it is God that worketh them, and therefore He saith to His sons, Nolite timere a signis cæli, 'be not dismayed at the signs of heaven;' He is in the second heaven, and will not suffer any thing to hurt them.
The third heaven is that whereunto the saints of God shall be received in the life to come, where St. Paul 'heard things' [375/376] that were not lawful to be uttered. So that as God will not suffer the first or second heaven to do us hurt, so He will bring us to the happiness of the third heaven, for is Pater noster in cælis, 'Our Father in the heavens.' Whereby we have hope and comfort not in this life only, which is but a dead hope, but a lively hope touching the life to come. For Christ doth not express God's power by an action, saying, 'Our Father Which madest heaven and earth,' nor 'Which ridest upon the heavens,' but by a local word, to shew that as God is in heaven, so we have an interest in the same place, and that He will at the length bring us to the same place where He is.
Fourthly, this word 'heaven' serveth to prepare us to prayer, to the end that we should lift up our hearts and affections from earth to heaven, seeing we speak not to an earthly father bur to One That is in heaven, and this is that Sursum Corda, 'Lift up your hearts.' Touching which thing one saith, Aquilarum est hoc negotium, 'This business belongs to eagles,' which as they fly highest so they look most steadfastly upon the sun, non talaparum, 'not belonging to moles,' nor of such as are blind and will not open their eyes; nec milvorum, 'neither to kites,' which albeit they fly aloft yet cast their eyes still downwards to the dunghill. We must wish with the Prophet, 'O that I had the wings of a dove,' and labour more ands more to fly up with the eagle into heaven, into the presence of God the Father, and His Son Who sitteth at the right hand bodily, for ubi cadaver ibi congregantur aquilæ, 'wheresoever the body is there will the eagles be gathered together.'
As the consideration of God's majesty Who is in heaven doth bring us down and make us 'bow our knees' before God our Father, so it must cause levare manus et corda, 'to lift up our hands and hearts, and to lift up our eyes to the hills,' and to have such a continual meditation of His power that we may with David , Providebam Dominum in conspectu meo semper, 'I have set the Lord always before me.'
Fifthly, this word doth admonish us what things we should sue unto God for. He is a heavenly Father, therefore we must ask of Him heavenly things; His answer to the sons of Zebedee was, 'Ye ask ye know not what;' honour and [376/377] wealth are not things proportionable to Him That is in heaven, and an earthly prince will count it a disgrace if a man ask at his hands mean things, such as may be had of every man.
The gifts we are to ask of our heavenly Father are, the eternal salvation of our souls, the gift of the Holy Ghost, which Her hath promised 'to them that ask it,' and 'all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.'
God is a Father, as Abraham was; and as he had moveable goods which he gave to the sons of Keturah, so he bestowed the inheritance which was immoveable upon his son Isaac. So we that are 'the children of the promise as Isaac was,' must seek for the inheritance of Isaac, and not content ourselves with that portion which was given to the sons of Keturah.
Solomon saith not amiss, 'Two things have I desired of the Lord.' But David saith better, Unum petit a Domino, 'I have sought one thing of the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord;' that I may be partaker of grace in this life, and may be received into glory in the life to come.
Unto Martha that was troubled about many things our Saviour said, Unum et necassarium, 'one thing is necessary;' and this is the reason why it is not said, Qui es in terris,' Which art in earth,' for God sheweth Himself a Father rather in heaven than in earth; Deus Pater est in cælis, He is in heaven by assuring us of God's heavenly blessings, for they are the sign of God's fatherly bounty to such as are His heirs by promise. As for the earthly things He sheweth Himself in them rather the sons of Keturah than to Isaac, and in respect of this world Martha is said to have chosen 'the better part.'
Sixthly, as it teacheth us what we must pray for, so also we learn hereby what we are to judge of ourselves, and now we are to dispose of our minds when we come to pray: if God our Father be in heaven, then because we are yet on earth, we must esteem ourselves as strangers and pilgrims. This did all the Fathers acknowledge: 'I am a stranger, and a sojourner upon earth as all my father were;' and therefore having a longing to be in our city, 'Woe is me that I am constrained to dwell in Mesech,' The Apostles Peter and Paul confessed the same: the one writing to the Church of God, called them 'pilgrims and strangers;' the other reporteth [377/378] of the Fathers, that they confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth. And in saying these things they shew that they sought a country, not the land of Canaan from whence they came - for they had time to return thither 'if they had been mindful of it' - but they sought a better, that is, an 'heavenly city; and 'we have no abiding city here, but do look for one to come.'
These show us that albeit we have our dwelling in earth, and be subject to many calamities, yet for all this our exile we do genus de cælo ducere, 'we take our pedigree from heaven.' When therefore, as the Poet saith, Os homini sublime dedit, it is a shame for us to have our hearts downward; we must remember that we are of a more excellent nature than other creatures, Toà g_r ka g_uoj sm_n, 'for we are His offspring;' we have received from God a soul and a spirit endowed with many heavenly qualities which being dissolved from the body, 'returneth to God That gave it.'
During this our exile and pilgrimage, we are not only to consider that we look upwards with our faces, (which moved the heathen to meditate of heaven) but chiefly, that in our soul we have the image of God imprinted, which ought to move us to think of God, and to 'set our minds on things above.' Albeit we be here in a far country, far from our Father's dwelling, yet we must not forget our Father's dwelling house.
The portion is in heaven which our Father will give us, and therefore we must seek to be acquainted with the laws for that country where our inheritance lieth, that we may guide our lives according to the same, lest being rebellious we deprive ourselves of our right and be disinherited.
Secondly, seeing we know that we are not in our own country, we must say as Absalom did, 'Why am I come hither, if I may not see the king's face?' He, being an ungracious son, was desirous to see his Father: then it shall be a shame for us that are 'all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus,' if we have not a longing desire to come before the presence of God our Father. If we have a desire to enter into 'the courts of the Lord,' if with the Apostle 'we desire to be dissolves and to be with Christ,' the first begotten of many brethren; and if with our Father God we lay up our treasure in heaven, and count it our chief felicity to be there, then [378/379] would we think upon heaven more than we do, for 'where our treasure is there must our hearts be also.' But because we altogether set our hearts on earthly things, therefore it falls out that our heart is as a heavy clod of earth, and unable to lift itself up to heavenly meditation.
Thirdly, as we desire to be in heaven in our Father's house, so our conversation, must be polteuma pour£uion, we must (Phil3:20) not live by the laws of earthly princes, and acts of parliaments, but by a heavenly law. Though we be strangers on earth, yet we are citizens of heaven, and must carry ourselves according to the laws of our country, being always desirous to do that which pleaseth our heavenly Father, though there were no human law to compel us thereunto; and whereas natural men have for the end of their civil actions, bonum commune, 'a common utility,' we that are spiritual must make bonum coeleste, 'the heavenly good,' our end; we must do well, because God will behold our well-doing favourably, and the Angels of heaven will be glad of it.
Christ, Who is 'the Lord from Heaven,' did subject Himself to the will of God His Father; 'Not My will, but Thy will be done.' 'And as He that is heavenly,' so must they that will be 'heavenly:' as we now bear the image of the earthly, so shall we portare imaginem cælestis, 'bear the image of the heavenly.'
He, while He lived on earth, did guide Himself by a heavenly law, and we that remain on earth must express His image by the imitation of His obedience. It is true which both our Saviour Christ and John Baptist said, that 'that is born of the flesh is flesh, and so that that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth.' But there must be an imitation, and we must set ourselves forward to our heavenly country. But because it is not in our power to do this of ourselves, for that, as Christ saith, 'No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him,' therefore we must pray with the Church in the Canticles, Trahe me, 'Draw me.' And to this end doth the holy exercise of fasting and mortification serve greatly, that we may, as it were with dove's wings, fly up into heaven.
As the word 'Father' doth shew us not only our dignity, but our duty also, so the word, 'heavenly' doth not only give [379/380] us hope of heaven, but also teacheth us that seeing our Father is heavenly we must live by the laws of heaven. As we are careful to be made partakers of the inheritance which God hath prepared for us, so we must be as careful to please Him and to do those things which are agreeable to His will. We must not only know quid sperandum, 'what is to be hoped for' but quid præstandum, 'what is to be performed by us.' If we pray not only with confidence, because God doth take us for his sons, but also with invocation, with devotion and reverence, knowing that our father hath His dwelling in heaven, and we are pilgrims in earth, thus shall we veri adoratores, 'true worshippers.' As we know we shall have our part in heaven, so we must begin our heaven here on earth; and this shall be done if we add our endeavour to those things which we pray for at the hands of God, as Augustine prayeth: Da, Domine, ut pro quibus oramus, pro iis laboremus, 'Grant Lord, that the things we pray for and crave of Thee, for them we may also labour.'