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John Calvin on Prayer

From Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion
Chapter 20.
20. Of prayer--a perpetual exercise of faith. The daily benefits
derived from it.
    The principal divisions of this chapter are,-- I. Connection of
the subject of prayer with the previous chapters. The nature of
prayer, and its necessity as a Christian exercise, sec. 1, 2. II. To
whom prayer is to be offered. Refutation of an objection which is
too apt to present itself to the mind, sec. 3. III. Rules to be
observed in prayer, sec. 4-16. IV. Through whom prayer is to be
made, sec. 17-19. V. Refutation of an error as to the doctrine of
our Mediator and Intercessor, with answers to the leading arguments
urged in support of the intercession of saints, sec. 20-27. VI. The
nature of prayer, and some of its accidents, sec. 28-33. VII. A
perfect form of invocation, or an exposition of the Lord's Prayer,
sec. 34-50. VIII. Some rules to be observed with regard to prayer,
as time, perseverance, the feeling of the mind, and the assurance of
faith, sec. 50-52.
1. A general summary of what is contained in the previous part of
    the work. A transition to the doctrine of prayer. Its
    connection with the subject of faith.
2. Prayer defined. Its necessity and use.
3. Objection, that prayer seems useless, because God already knows
    our wants. Answer, from the institution and end of prayer.
    Confirmation by example. Its necessity and propriety.
    Perpetually reminds us of our duty, and leads to meditation on
    divine providence. Conclusion. Prayer a most useful exercise.
    This proved by three passages of Scripture.
4. Rules to be observed in prayer. First, reverence to God. How the
    mind ought to be composed.
5. All giddiness of mind must be excluded, and all our feelings
    seriously engaged. This confirmed by the form of lifting the
    hand in prayer. We must ask only in so far as God permits. To
    help our weakness, God gives the Spirit to be our guide in
    prayer. What the office of the Spirit in this respect. We must
    still pray both with the heart and the lips.
6. Second rule of prayer, a sense of our want. This rule violated,
    1. By perfunctory and formal prayer 2. By hypocrites who have
    no sense of their sins. 3. By giddiness in prayer. Remedies.
7. Objection, that we are not always under the same necessity of
    praying. Answer, we must pray always. This answer confirmed by
    an examination of the dangers by which both our life and our
    salvation are every moment threatened. Confirmed farther by the
    command and permission of God, by the nature of true
    repentance, and a consideration of impenitence. Conclusion.
8. Third rule, the suppression of all pride. Examples. Daniel,
    David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch.
9. Advantage of thus suppressing pride. It leads to earnest entreaty
    for pardon, accompanied with humble confession and sure
    confidence in the Divine mercy. This may not always be
    expressed in words. It is peculiar to pious penitents. A
    general introduction to procure favour to our prayers never to
    be omitted.
10. Objection to the third rule of prayer. Of the glorying of the
    saints. Answer. Confirmation of the answer.
11. Fourth rule of prayer,--a sure confidence of being heard
    animating us to prayer. The kind of confidence required, viz.,
    a serious conviction of our misery, joined with sure hope. From
    these true prayer springs. How diffidence impairs prayer. In
    general, faith is required.
12. This faith and sure hope regarded by our opponents as most
    absurd. Their error described and refuted by various passages
    of Scripture, which show that acceptable prayer is accompanied
    with these qualities. No repugnance between this certainty and
    an acknowledgment of our destitution.
13. To our unworthiness we oppose, 1. The command of God. 2. The
    promise. Rebels and hypocrites completely condemned. Passages
    of Scripture confirming the command to pray.
14. Other passages respecting the promises which belong to the pious
    when they invoke God. These realized though we are not
    possessed of the same holiness as other distinguished servants
    of God, provided we indulge no vain confidence, and sincerely
    betake ourselves to the mercy of God. Those who do not invoke
    God under urgent necessity are no better than idolaters. This
    concurrence of fear and confidence reconciles the different
    passages of Scripture, as to humbling ourselves in prayer, and
    causing our prayers to ascend.
15. Objection founded on some examples, viz., that prayers have
    proved effectual, though not according to the form prescribed.
    Answer. Such examples, though not given for our imitation, are
    of the greatest use. Objection, the prayers of the faithful
    sometimes not effectual. Answer confirmed by a noble passage of
    Augustine. Rule for right prayer.
16. The above four rules of prayer not so rigidly exacted, as that
    every prayer deficient in them in any respect is rejected by
    God. This shown by examples. Conclusion, or summary of this
17. Through whom God is to be invoked, viz., Jesus Christ. This
    founded on a consideration of the divine majesty, and the
    precept and promise of God himself. God therefore to be invoked
    only in the name of Christ.
18. From the first all believers were heard through him only: yet
    this specially restricted to the period subsequent to his
    ascension. The ground of this restriction.
19. The wrath of God lies on those who reject Christ as a Mediator.
    This excludes not the mutual intercession of saints on the
20. Refutation of errors interfering with the intercession of
    Christ. 1. Christ the Mediator of redemption; the saints
    mediators of intercession. Answer confirmed by the clear
    testimony of Scripture, and by a passage from Augustine. The
    nature of Christ's intercession.
21. Of the intercession of saints living with Christ in heaven.
    Fiction of the Papists in regard to it. Refuted. 1. Its
    absurdity. 2. It is no where mentioned by Scripture. 3. Appeal
    to the conscience of the superstitious. 4. Its blasphemy.
    Exception. Answers.
22. Monstrous errors resulting from this fiction. Refutation.
    Exception by the advocates of this fiction. Answer.
23. Arguments of the Papists for the intercession of saints. 1. From
    the duty and office of angels. Answer. 2. From an expression of
    Jeremiah respecting Moses and Samuel. Answer, retorting the
    argument. 3. The meaning of the prophet confirmed by a similar
    passage in Ezekiel, and the testimony of an apostle.
24. 4. Fourth Papistical argument from the nature of charity, which
    is more perfect in the saints in glory. Answer.
25. Argument founded on a passage in Moses. Answer.
26. Argument from its being said that the prayers of saints are
    heard. Answer, confirmed by Scripture, and illustrated by
27. Conclusion, that the saints cannot be invoked without impiety.
    1. It robs God of his glory. 2. Destroys the intercession of
    Christ. 3. Is repugnant to the word of God. 4. Is opposed to
    the due method of prayer. 5. Is without approved example. 6.
    Springs from distrust. Last objection. Answer.
28. Kinds of prayer. Vows. Supplications. Petitions. Thanksgiving.
    Connection of these, their constant use and necessity.
    Particular explanation confirmed by reason, Scripture, and
    example. Rule as to supplication and thanksgiving.
29. The accidents of prayer, viz., private and public, constant, at
    stated seasons, &c. Exception in time of necessity. Prayer
    without ceasing. Its nature. Garrulity of Papists and
    hypocrites refuted. The scope and parts of prayer. Secret
    prayer. Prayer at all places. Private and public prayer.
30. Of public places or churches in which common prayers are offered
    up. Right use of churches. Abuse.
31. Of utterance and singing. These of no avail if not from the
    heart. The use of the voice refers more to public than private
32. Singing of the greatest antiquity, but not universal. How to be
33. Public prayers should be in the vulgar, not in a foreign tongue.
    Reason, 1. The nature of the Church. 2. Authority of an
    apostle. Sincere affection always necessary. The tongue not
    always necessary. Bending of the knee, and uncovering of the
34. The form of prayer delivered by Christ displays the boundless
    goodness of our heavenly Father. The great comfort thereby
35. Lord's Prayer divided into six petitions. Subdivision into two
    principal parts, the former referring to the glory of God, the
    latter to our salvation.
36. The use of the term Father implies, 1. That we pray to God in
    the name of Christ alone. 2. That we lay aside all distrust. 3.
    That we expect every thing that is for our good.
37. Objection, that our sins exclude us from the presence of him
    whom we have made a Judge, not a Father. Answer, from the
    nature of God, as described by an apostle, the parable of the
    prodigal son, and from the expression, _Our_ Father. Christ the
    earnest, the Holy Spirit the witness, of our adoption.
38. Why God is called generally, Our Father.
39. We may pray specially for ourselves and certain others, provided
    we have in our mind a general reference to all.
40. In what sense God is said to be _in heaven_. A threefold use of
    this doctrine for our consolation. Three cautions. Summary of
    the preface to the Lord's Prayer.
41. The necessity of the first petition a proof of our
    unrighteousness. What meant by the name of God. How it is
    hallowed. Parts of this hallowing. A deprecation of the sins by
    which the name of God is profaned.
42. Distinction between the first and second petitions. The kingdom
    of God, what. How said to come. Special exposition of this
    petition. It reminds us of three things. Advent of the kingdom
    of God in the world.
43. Distinction between the second and third petitions. The will
    here meant not the secret will or good pleasure of God, but
    that manifested in the word. Conclusion of the three first
44. A summary of the second part of the Lord's Prayer. Three
    petitions. What contained in the first. Declares the exceeding
    kindness of God, and our distrust. What meant by _bread_. Why
    the petition for bread precedes that for the forgiveness of
    sins. Why it is called ours. Why to be sought _this day_, or
    _daily_. The doctrine resulting from this petition, illustrated
    by an example. Two classes of men sin in regard to this
    petition. In what sense it is called, our bread. Why we ask God
    to give it to us.
45. Close connection between this and the subsequent petition. Why
    our sins are called debts. This petition violated, 1. By those
    who think they can satisfy God by their own merits, or those of
    others. 2. By those who dream of a perfection which makes
    pardon unnecessary. Why the elect cannot attain perfection in
    this life. Refutation of the libertine dreamers of perfection.
    Objection refuted. In what sense we are said to forgive those
    who have sinned against us. How the condition is to be
46. The sixth petition reduced to three heads. 1. The various forms
    of temptation. The depraved conceptions of our minds. The wiles
    of Satan, on the right hand and on the left. 2. What it is to
    be led into temptation. We do not ask not to be tempted of God.
    What meant by evil, or the evil one. Summary of this petition.
    How necessary it is. Condemns the pride of the superstitious.
    Includes many excellent properties. In what sense God may be
    said to lead us into temptation.
47. The three last petitions show that the prayers of Christians
    ought to be public. The conclusion of the Lord's Prayer. Why
    the word Amen is added.
48. The Lord's Prayer contains every thing that we can or ought to
    ask of God. Those who go beyond it sin in three ways.
49. We may, after the example of the saints, frame our prayers in
    different words, provided there is no difference in meaning.
50. Some circumstances to be observed. Of appointing special hours
    of prayer. What to be aimed at, what avoided. The will of God,
    the rule of our prayers.
51. Perseverance in prayer especially recommended, both by precept
    and example. Condemnatory of those who assign to God a time and
    mode of hearing.
52. Of the dignity of faith, through which we always obtain, in
    answer to prayer, whatever is most expedient for us. The
    knowledge of this most necessary.
    1. From the previous part of the work we clearly see how
completely destitute man is of all good, how devoid of every means
of procuring his own salvation. Hence, if he would obtain succour in
his necessity, he must go beyond himself, and procure it in some
other quarter. It has farther been shown that the Lord kindly and
spontaneously manifests himself in Christ, in whom he offers all
happiness for our misery, all abundance for our want, opening up the
treasures of heaven to us, so that we may turn with full faith to
his beloved Son, depend upon him with full expectation, rest in him,
and cleave to him with full hope. This, indeed, is that secret and
hidden philosophy which cannot be learned by syllogisms: a
philosophy thoroughly understood by those whose eyes God has so
opened as to see light in his light (Ps. 36: 9.) But after we have
learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary for us or
defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in
whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, that
we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it remains for
us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have learned to be
in him. To know God as the sovereign disposer of all good, inviting
us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of him,
were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one told of a
treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground. Hence the
Apostle, to show that a faith unaccompanied with prayer to God
cannot be genuine, states this to be the order: As faith springs
from the Gospel, so by faith our hearts are framed to call upon the
name of God, (Rom. 10: 14.) And this is the very thing which he had
expressed some time before, viz., that the _Spirit of adoption_,
which seals the testimony of the Gospel on our hearts, gives us
courage to make our requests known unto God, calls forth groanings
which cannot be uttered, and enables us to cry, Abba, Father, (Rom.
8: 26.) This last point, as we have hitherto only touched upon it
slightly in passing, must now be treated more fully.
    2. To _prayer_, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those
riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For
there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having
entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to
his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by
experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his
word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before
us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not
enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up
those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of
faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words
can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our
heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his
name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch
over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost
fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though
miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest
himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and
tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which
we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied
with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and
that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.
    3. But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor
both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest,
so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our
prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by
the sound of our voice?[1] Those who argue thus attend not to the
end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his
sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be
paid him by acknowledging that all which men desire or feel to be
useful, and pray to obtain, is derived from him. But even the
benefit of the homage which we thus pay him redounds to ourselves.
Hence the holy patriarchs, the more confidently they proclaimed the
mercies of God to themselves and others felt the stronger incitement
to prayer. It will be sufficient to refer to the example of Elijah,
who being assured of the purpose of God had good ground for the
promise of rain which he gives to Ahab, and yet prays anxiously upon
his knees, and sends his servant seven times to inquire, (1 Kings
18: 42;) not that he discredits the oracle, but because he knows it
to be his duty to lay his desires before God, lest his faith should
become drowsy or torpid. Wherefore, although it is true that while
we are listless or insensible to our wretchedness, he wakes and
watches for use and sometimes even assists us unasked; it is very
much for our interest to be constantly supplicating him; first, that
our heart may always be inflamed with a serious and ardent desire of
seeking, loving and serving him, while we accustom ourselves to have
recourse to him as a sacred anchor in every necessity; secondly,
that no desires, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to
make him the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place
all our wishes in his sight, and thus pour out our heart before him;
and, lastly, that we may be prepared to receive all his benefits
with true gratitude and thanksgiving, while our prayers remind us
that they proceed from his hand. Moreover, having obtained what we
asked, being persuaded that he has answered our prayers, we are led
to long more earnestly for his favour, and at the same time have
greater pleasure in welcoming the blessings which we perceive to
have been obtained by our prayers. Lastly, use and experience
confirm the thought of his providence in our minds in a manner
adapted to our weakness, when we understand that he not only
promises that he will never fail us, and spontaneously gives us
access to approach him in every time of need, but has his hand
always stretched out to assist his people, not amusing them with
words, but proving himself to be a present aid. For these reasons,
though our most merciful Father never slumbers nor sleeps, he very
often seems to do so, that thus he may exercise us, when we might
otherwise be listless and slothful, in asking, entreating, and
earnestly beseeching him to our great good. It is very absurd,
therefore, to dissuade men from prayer, by pretending that Divine
Providence, which is always watching over the government of the
universes is in vain importuned by our supplications, when, on the
contrary, the Lord himself declares, that he is "nigh unto all that
call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth, (Ps. 145: 18.) No
better is the frivolous allegation of others, that it is superfluous
to pray for things which the Lord is ready of his own accord to
bestow; since it is his pleasure that those very things which flow
from his spontaneous liberality should be acknowledged as conceded
to our prayers. This is testified by that memorable sentence in the
psalms to which many others corresponds: "The eyes of the Lord are
upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry," (Ps. 34:
15.) This passage, while extolling the care which Divine Providence
spontaneously exercises over the safety of believers, omits not the
exercise of faith by which the mind is aroused from sloth. The eyes
of God are awake to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is
likewise pleased to listen to our groans, that he may give us the
better proof of his love. And thus both things are true, "He that
keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," (Ps. 121: 4;) and
yet whenever he sees us dumb and torpid, he withdraws as if he had
forgotten us.
    4. Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our
heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into
converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind,
if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere
with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly
intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised
above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to
feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much
anxiety that the fervor of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the
holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude,
when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from
the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all
foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind
might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from
heaven, and kept groveling on the earth. When I say it must be
raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence
of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont
to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its
own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.
    5. Both things are specially worthy of notice. First, let every
one in professing to pray turn thither all his thoughts and
feelings, and be not (as is usual) distracted by wandering thoughts;
because nothing is more contrary to the reverence due to God than
that levity which bespeaks a mind too much given to license and
devoid of fear. In this matter we ought to labour the more earnestly
the more difficult we experience it to be; for no man is so intent
on prayer as not to feel many thoughts creeping in, and either
breaking off the tenor of his prayer, or retarding it by some
turning or digression. Here let us consider how unbecoming it is
when God admits us to familiar intercourse to abuse his great
condescension by mingling things sacred and profane, reverence for
him not keeping our minds under restraint; but just as if in prayer
we were conversing with one like ourselves forgetting him, and
allowing our thoughts to run to and fro. Let us know, then, that
none duly prepare themselves for prayer but those who are so
impressed with the majesty of God that they engage in it free from
all earthly cares and affections. The ceremony of lifting up our
hands in prayer is designed to remind us that we are far removed
from God, unless our thoughts rise upward: as it is said in the
psalm, "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul," (Psalm 25: 1.) And
Scripture repeatedly uses the expression to _raise our prayers_
meaning that those who would be heard by God must not grovel in the
mire. The sum is, that the more liberally God deals with us,
condescendingly inviting us to disburden our cares into his bosom,
the less excusable we are if this admirable and incomparable
blessing does not in our estimation outweigh all other things, and
win our affection, that prayer may seriously engage our every
thought and feeling. This cannot be unless our mind, strenuously
exerting itself against all impediments, rise upward. Our second
proposition was, that we are to ask only in so far as God permits.
For though he bids us pour out our hearts, (Ps. 62: 8) he does not
indiscriminately give loose reins to foolish and depraved
affections; and when he promises that he will grant believers their
wish, his indulgence does not proceed so far as to submit to their
caprice. In both matters grievous delinquencies are everywhere
committed. For not only do many without modesty, without reverence,
presume to invoke God concerning their frivolities, but impudently
bring forward their dreams, whatever they may be, before the
tribunal of God. Such is the folly or stupidity under which they
labour, that they have the hardihood to obtrude upon God desires so
vile, that they would blush exceedingly to impart them to their
fellow men. Profane writers have derided and even expressed their
detestation of this presumption, and yet the vice has always
prevailed. Hence, as the ambitious adopted Jupiter as their patron;
the avaricious, Mercury; the literary aspirants, Apollo and Minerva;
the warlike, Mars; the licentious, Venus: so in the present day, as
I lately observed, men in prayer give greater license to their
unlawful desires than if they were telling jocular tales among their
equals. God does not suffer his condescension to be thus mocked, but
vindicating his own light, places our wishes under the restraint of
his authority. We must, therefore, attend to the observation of
John: "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask
any thing according to his will, he heareth us," (1 John 5: 14.) But
as our faculties are far from being able to attain to such high
perfection, we must seek for some means to assist them. As the eye
of our mind should be intent upon God, so the affection of our heart
ought to follow in the same course. But both fall far beneath this,
or rather, they faint and fail, and are carried in a contrary
direction. To assist this weakness, God gives us the guidance of the
Spirit in our prayers to dictate what is right, and regulate our
affections. For seeing "we know not what we should pray for as we
ought," "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings
which cannot be uttered," (Rom. 8: 26) not that he actually prays or
groans, but he excites in us sighs, and wishes, and confidence,
which our natural powers are not at all able to conceive. Nor is it
without cause Paul gives the name of _groanings which cannot be
uttered_ to the prayers which believers send forth under the
guidance of the Spirit. For those who are truly exercised in prayer
are not unaware that blind anxieties so restrain and perplex them,
that they can scarcely find what it becomes them to utter; nay, in
attempting to lisp they halt and hesitate. Hence it appears that to
pray aright is a special gift. We do not speak thus in indulgence to
our sloth, as if we were to leave the office of prayer to the Holy
Spirit, and give way to that carelessness to which we are too prone.
Thus we sometimes hear the impious expression, that we are to wait
in suspense until he take possession of our minds while otherwise
occupied. Our meaning is, that, weary of our own heartlessness and
sloth, we are to long for the aid of the Spirit. Nor, indeed, does
Paul, when he enjoins us to pray _in the Spirit_, (1 Cor. 14: 15,)
cease to exhort us to vigilance, intimating, that while the
inspiration of the Spirit is effectual to the formation of prayer,
it by no means impedes or retards our own endeavours; since in this
matter God is pleased to try how efficiently faith influences our
    6. Another rule of prayer is, that in asking we must always
truly feel our wants, and seriously considering that we need all the
things which we ask, accompany the prayer with a sincere, nay,
ardent desire of obtaining them. Many repeat prayers in a
perfunctory manner from a set form, as if they were performing a
task to God, and though they confess that this is a necessary remedy
for the evils of their condition, because it were fatal to be left
without the divine aid which they implore, it still appears that
they perform the duty from custom, because their minds are meanwhile
cold, and they ponder not what they ask. A general and confused
feeling of their necessity leads them to pray, but it does not make
them solicitous as in a matter of present consequence, that they may
obtain the supply of their need. Moreover, can we suppose anything
more hateful or even more execrable to God than this fiction of
asking the pardon of sins, while he who asks at the very time either
thinks that he is not a sinner, or, at least, is not thinking that
he is a sinner; in other words, a fiction by which God is plainly
held in derision? But mankind, as I have lately said, are full of
depravity, so that in the way of perfunctory service they often ask
many things of God which they think come to them without his
beneficence, or from some other quarter, or are already certainly in
their possession. There is another fault which seems less heinous,
but is not to be tolerated. Some murmur out prayers without
meditation, their only principle being that God is to be propitiated
by prayer. Believers ought to be specially on their guard never to
appear in the presence of God with the intention of presenting a
request unless they are under some serious impression, and are, at
the same time, desirous to obtain it. Nay, although in these things
which we ask only for the glory of God, we seem not at first sight
to consult for our necessity, yet we ought not to ask with less
fervor and vehemence of desire. For instance, when we pray that his
name be hallowed--that hallowing must, so to speak, be earnestly
hungered and thirsted after.
    7. If it is objected, that the necessity which urges us to pray
is not always equal, I admit it, and this distinction is profitably
taught us by James: "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is
any merry? let him sing psalms," (James 5: 13.) Therefore, common
sense itself dictates, that as we are too sluggish, we must be
stimulated by God to pray earnestly whenever the occasion requires.
This David calls a time when God "may be found," (a seasonable
time;) because, as he declares in several other passages, that the
more hardly grievances, annoyances, fears, and other kinds of trial
press us, the freer is our access to God, as if he were inviting us
to himself. Still not less true is the injunction of Paul to pray
"always," (Eph. 6: 18;) because, however prosperously according to
our view, things proceed, and however we may be surrounded on all
sides with grounds of joy, there is not an instant of time during
which our want does not exhort us to prayer. A man abounds in wheat
and wine; but as he cannot enjoy a morsel of bread, unless by the
continual bounty of God, his granaries or cellars will not prevent
him from asking for daily bread. Then, if we consider how many
dangers impend every moment, fear itself will teach us that no time
ought to be without prayer. This, however, may be better known in
spiritual matters. For when will the many sins of which we are
conscious allow us to sit secure without suppliantly entreating
freedom from guilt and punishment? When will temptation give us a
truce, making it unnecessary to hasten for help? Moreover, zeal for
the kingdom and glory of God ought not to seize us by starts, but
urge us without intermission, so that every time should appear
seasonable. It is not without cause, therefore, that assiduity in
prayer is so often enjoined. I am not now speaking of perseverance,
which shall afterwards be considered; but Scripture, by reminding us
of the necessity of constant prayer, charges us with sloth, because
we feel not how much we stand in need of this care and assiduity. By
this rule hypocrisy and the device of lying to God are restrained,
nay, altogether banished from prayer. God promises that he will be
near to those who call upon him in truth, and declares that those
who seek him with their whole heart will find him: those, therefore,
who delight in their own pollution cannot surely aspire to him. One
of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance. Hence the
common declaration of Scripture, that God does not listen to the
wicked; that their prayers, as well as their sacrifices, are an
abomination to him. For it is right that those who seal up their
hearts should find the ears of God closed against them, that those
who, by their hardheartedness, provoke his severity should find him
inflexible. In Isaiah he thus threatens: "When ye make many prayers,
I will not hear: your hands are full of blood," (Isaiah 1: 15.) In
like manner, in Jeremiah, "Though they shall cry unto me, I will not
hearken unto them," (Jer. 11: 7, 8, 11;) because he regards it as
the highest insult for the wicked to boast of his covenant while
profaning his sacred name by their whole lives. Hence he complains
in Isaiah: "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with
their lips do honour me; but have removed their heart far from men"
(Isaiah 29: 13.) Indeed, he does not confine this to prayers alone,
but declares that he abominates pretense in every part of his
service. Hence the words of James, "Ye ask and receive note because
ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts," (James iv.
3.) It is true, indeed, (as we shall again see in a little,) that
the pious, in the prayers which they utter, trust not to their own
worth; still the admonition of John is not superfluous: "Whatsoever
we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments," (1
John 3: 22;) an evil conscience shuts the door against us. Hence it
follows, that none but the sincere worshippers of God pray aright,
or are listened to. Let every one, therefore, who prepares to pray
feel dissatisfied with what is wrong in his condition, and assume,
which he cannot do without repentance, the character and feelings of
a poor suppliant.
    8. The third rule to be added is: that he who comes into the
presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious
thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self-
confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating
any thing, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn
away his face. Of this submission, which casts down all haughtiness,
we have numerous examples in the servants of God. The holier they
are, the more humbly they prostrate themselves when they come into
the presence of the Lord. Thus Daniel, on whom the Lord himself
bestowed such high commendation, says, "We do not present our
supplications before thee for our righteousness but for thy great
mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do;
defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people
are called by thy name." This he does not indirectly in the usual
manner, as if he were one of the individuals in a crowd: he rather
confesses his guilt apart, and as a suppliant betaking himself to
the asylum of pardon, he distinctly declares that he was confessing
his own sin, and the sin of his people Israel, (Dan. 9: 18-20.)
David also sets us an example of this humility: "Enter not into
judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be
justified," (Psalm 143: 2.) In like manner, Isaiah prays, "Behold,
thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we
shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our
righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is
none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take
hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed
us, because of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father;
we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy
hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for
ever: Behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people." (Isa.
64: 5-9.) You see how they put no confidence in any thing but this:
considering that they are the Lord's, they despair not of being the
objects of his care. In the same way, Jeremiah says, "O Lord, though
our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake,"
(Jer. 14: 7.) For it was most truly and piously written by the
uncertain author (whoever he may have been) that wrote the book
which is attributed to the prophet Baruch,[2] "But the soul that is
greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that
fail, and the hungry soul, will give thee praise and righteousness,
O Lord. Therefore, we do not make our humble supplication before
thee, O Lord our God, for the righteousness of our fathers, and of
our kings." "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy; for thou art merciful:
and have pity upon us, because we have sinned before thee," (Baruch
2: 18, 19; 3: 2.)
    9. In fine, supplication for pardon, with humble and ingenuous
confession of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of
right prayer. For the holiest of men cannot hope to obtain any thing
from God until he has been freely reconciled to him. God cannot be
propitious to any but those whom he pardons. Hence it is not strange
that this is the key by which believers open the door of prayer, as
we learn from several passages in The Psalms. David, when presenting
a request on a different subject, says, "Remember not the sins of my
youth, nor my transgressions; according to thy mercy remember me,
for thy goodness sake, O Lord," (Psalm 25: 7.) Again, "Look upon my
affliction and my pain, and forgive my sins," (Psalm 25: 18.) Here
also we see that it is not sufficient to call ourselves to account
for the sins of each passing day; we must also call to mind those
which might seem to have been long before buried in oblivion. For in
another passage the same prophet, confessing one grievous crime,
takes occasion to go back to his very birth, "I was shapen in
iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," (Psalm 51: 5;) not
to extenuate the fault by the corruption of his nature, but as it
were to accumulate the sins of his whole life, that the stricter he
was in condemning himself, the more placable God might be. But
although the saints do not always in express terms ask forgiveness
of sins, yet if we carefully ponder those prayers as given in
Scripture, the truth of what I say will readily appear; namely, that
their courage to pray was derived solely from the mercy of God, and
that they always began with appeasing him. For when a man
interrogates his conscience, so far is he from presuming to lay his
cares familiarly before God, that if he did not trust to mercy and
pardon, he would tremble at the very thought of approaching him.
There is, indeed, another special confession. When believers long
for deliverance from punishment, they at the same time pray that
their sins may be pardoned;[3] for it were absurd to wish that the
effect should be taken away while the cause remains. For we must
beware of imitating foolish patients who, anxious only about curing
accidental symptoms, neglect the root of the disease.[4] Nay, our
endeavour must be to have God propitious even before he attests his
favour by external signs, both because this is the order which he
himself chooses, and it were of little avail to experience his
kindness, did not conscience feel that he is appeased, and thus
enable us to regard him as altogether lovely. Of this we are even
reminded by our Savior's reply. Having determined to cure the
paralytic, he says, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" in other words, he
raises our thoughts to the object which is especially to be desired,
viz. admission into the favour of God, and then gives the fruit of
reconciliation by bringing assistance to us. But besides that
special confession of present guilt which believers employ, in
supplicating for pardon of every fault and punishment, that general
introduction which procures favour for our prayers must never be
omitted, because prayers will never reach God unless they are
founded on free mercy. To this we may refer the words of John, "If
we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (1 John 1: 9.) Hence,
under the law it was necessary to consecrate prayers by the
expiation of blood, both that they might be accepted, and that the
people might be warned that they were unworthy of the high privilege
until, being purged from their defilements, they founded their
confidence in prayer entirely on the mercy of God.
    10. Sometimes, however, the saints in supplicating God, seem to
appeal to their own righteousness, as when David says, "Preserve my
soul; for I am holy," (Ps. 86: 2.) Also Hezekiah, "Remember now, O
Lord, I beseech thee how I have walked before thee in truth, and
with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy
sight," (Is. 38. 2.) All they mean by such expressions is, that
regeneration declares them to be among the servants and children to
whom God engages that he will show favour. We have already seen how
he declares by the Psalmist that his eyes "are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their cry," (Ps. 34: 16:) and again by
the apostle, that "whatsoever we ask of him we obtain, because we
keep his commandments," (John 3: 22.) In these passages he does not
fix a value on prayer as a meritorious work, but designs to
establish the confidence of those who are conscious of an unfeigned
integrity and innocence, such as all believers should possess. For
the saying of the blind man who had received his sight is in perfect
accordance with divine truth, And God heareth not sinners (John 9:
31;) provided we take the term sinners in the sense commonly used by
Scripture to mean those who, without any desire for righteousness,
are sleeping secure in their sins; since no heart will ever rise to
genuine prayer that does not at the same time long for holiness.
Those supplications in which the saints allude to their purity and
integrity correspond to such promises, that they may thus have, in
their own experience, a manifestation of that which all the servants
of God are made to expect. Thus they almost always use this mode of
prayer when before God they compare themselves with their enemies,
from whose injustice they long to be delivered by his hand. When
making such comparisons, there is no wonder that they bring forward
their integrity and simplicity of heart, that thus, by the justice
of their cause, the Lord may be the more disposed to give them
succour. We rob not the pious breast of the privilege of enjoying a
consciousness of purity before the Lord, and thus feeling assured of
the promises with which he comforts and supports his true
worshippers, but we would have them to lay aside all thought of
their own merits and found their confidence of success in prayer
solely on the divine mercy.
    11. The fourth rule of prayer is, that notwithstanding of our
being thus abased and truly humbled, we should be animated to pray
with the sure hope of succeeding. There is, indeed, an appearance of
contradiction between the two things, between a sense of the just
vengeance of God and firm confidence in his favour, and yet they are
perfectly accordant, if it is the mere goodness of God that raises
up those who are overwhelmed by their own sins. For, as we have
formerly shown (chap. 3: sec. 17 2) that repentance and faith go
hand in hand, being united by an indissoluble tie, the one causing
terror, the other joy, so in prayer they must both be present. This
concurrence David expresses in a few words: "But as for me, I will
come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear
will I worship toward thy holy temple," (Ps. 5: 7.) Under the
goodness of God he comprehends faith, at the same time not excluding
fear; for not only does his majesty compel our reverence, but our
own unworthiness also divests us of all pride and confidence, and
keeps us in fear. The confidence of which I speak is not one which
frees the mind from all anxiety, and soothes it with sweet and
perfect rest; such rest is peculiar to those who, while all their
affairs are flowing to a wish are annoyed by no care, stung with no
regret, agitated by no fear. But the best stimulus which the saints
have to prayer is when, in consequence of their own necessities,
they feel the greatest disquietude, and are all but driven to
despair, until faith seasonably comes to their aid; because in such
straits the goodness of God so shines upon them, that while they
groan, burdened by the weight of present calamities, and tormented
with the fear of greater, they yet trust to this goodness, and in
this way both lighten the difficulty of endurance, and take comfort
in the hope of final deliverance. It is necessary therefore, that
the prayer of the believer should be the result of both feelings,
and exhibit the influence of both; namely, that while he groans
under present and anxiously dreads new evils, he should, at the same
times have recourse to God, not at all doubting that God is ready to
stretch out a helping hand to him. For it is not easy to say how
much God is irritated by our distrust, when we ask what we expect
not of his goodness. Hence, nothing is more accordant to the nature
of prayer than to lay it down as a fixed rule, that it is not to
come forth at random, but is to follow in the footsteps of faith. To
this principle Christ directs all of us in these words, "Therefore,
I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe
that ye receive them, and ye shall have them," (Mark 11: 24.) The
same thing he declares in another passage, "All things, whatsoever
ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive," (Matth. 21.
22.) In accordance with this are the words of James, "If any of you
lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,
and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in
faith, nothing wavering," (James 1: 5.) He most aptly expresses the
power of faith by opposing it to wavering. No less worthy of notice
is his additional statement, that those who approach God with a
doubting, hesitating mind, without feeling assured whether they are
to be heard or not, gain nothing by their prayers. Such persons he
compares to a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.
Hence, in another passage he terms genuine prayer "the prayer of
faith," (James 5: 15.) Again, since God so often declares that he
will give to every man according to his faith he intimates that we
cannot obtain any thing without faith. In short, it is faith which
obtains every thing that is granted to prayer. This is the meaning
of Paul in the well known passage to which dull men give too little
heed, "How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not
believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not
heard?" "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of
God," (Rom. 10: 14,17.) Gradually deducing the origin of prayer from
faith, he distinctly maintains that God cannot be invoked sincerely
except by those to whom, by the preaching of the Gospel, his mercy
and willingness have been made known, nay, familiarly explained.
    12. This necessity our opponents do not at all consider.
Therefore, when we say that believers ought to feel firmly assured,
they think we are saying the absurdest thing in the world. But if
they had any experience in true prayer, they would assuredly
understand that God cannot be duly invoked without this firm sense
of the Divine benevolence. But as no man can well perceive the power
of faith, without at the same time feeling it in his heart, what
profit is there in disputing with men of this character, who plainly
show that they have never had more than a vain imagination? The
value and necessity of that assurance for which we contend is
learned chiefly from prayer. Every one who does not see this gives
proof of a very stupid conscience. Therefore, leaving those who are
thus blinded, let us fix our thoughts on the words of Paul, that God
can only be invoked by such as have obtained a knowledge of his
mercy from the Gospel, and feel firmly assured that that mercy is
ready to be bestowed upon them. What kind of prayer would this be?
"O Lord, I am indeed doubtful whether or not thou art inclined to
hear me; but being oppressed with anxiety I fly to thee that if I am
worthy, thou mayest assist me." None of the saints whose prayers are
given in Scripture thus supplicated. Nor are we thus taught by the
Holy Spirit, who tells us to "come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,"
(Heb. 4: 16;) and elsewhere teaches us to "have boldness and access
with confidence by the faith of Christ," (Eph. 3: 12.) This
confidence of obtaining what we ask, a confidence which the Lord
commands, and all the saints teach by their example, we must
therefore hold fast with both hands, if we would pray to any
advantage. The only prayer acceptable to God is that which springs
(if I may so express it) from this presumption of faith, and is
founded on the full assurance of hope. He might have been contented
to use the simple name of faith, but he adds not only confidence,
but liberty or boldness, that by this mark he might distinguish us
from unbelievers, who indeed like us pray to God, but pray at
random. Hence, the whole Church thus prays "Let thy mercy O Lord, be
upon us, according as we hope in thee," (Ps. 33: 22.) The same
condition is set down by the Psalmist in another passage, "When I
cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know, for
God is for me," (Ps. 56: 9.) Again, "In the morning will I direct my
prayer unto thee, and will look up," (Ps. 5: 3.) From these words we
gather, that prayers are vainly poured out into the air unless
accompanied with faith, in which, as from a watchtower, we may
quietly wait for God. With this agrees the order of Paul's
exhortation. For before urging believers to pray in the Spirit
always, with vigilance and assiduity, he enjoins them to take "the
shield of faith," "the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God," (Eph. vi. 16-18.) Let the reader
here call to mind what I formerly observed, that faith by no means
fails though accompanied with a recognition of our wretchedness,
poverty, and pollution. How much soever believers may feel that they
are oppressed by a heavy load of iniquity, and are not only devoid
of every thing which can procure the favour of God for them, but
justly burdened with many sins which make him an object of dread,
yet they cease not to present themselves, this feeling not deterring
them from appearing in his presence, because there is no other
access to him. Genuine prayer is not that by which we arrogantly
extol ourselves before God, or set a great value on any thing of our
own, but that by which, while confessing our guilt, we utter our
sorrows before God, just as children familiarly lay their complaints
before their parents. Nay, the immense accumulation of our sins
should rather spur us on and incite us to prayer. Of this the
Psalmist gives us an example, "Heal my soul: for I have sinned
against thee," (Ps. 41: 4.) I confess, indeed, that these stings
would prove mortal darts, did not God give succour; but our heavenly
Father has, in ineffable kindness, added a remedy, by which, calming
all perturbation, soothing our cares, and dispelling our fears he
condescendingly allures us to himself; nay, removing all doubts, not
to say obstacles, makes the way smooth before us.
    13. And first, indeed in enjoining us to pray, he by the very
injunction convicts us of impious contumacy if we obey not. He could
not give a more precise command than that which is contained in the
psalms: "Call upon me in the day of trouble," (Ps. 50: 15.) But as
there is no office of piety more frequently enjoined by Scripture,
there is no occasion for here dwelling longer upon it. "Ask," says
our Divine Master, "and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall
find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," (Matth. 7: 7.) Here,
indeed, a promise is added to the precept, and this is necessary.
For though all confess that we must obey the precept, yet the
greater part would shun the invitation of God, did he not promise
that he would listen and be ready to answer. These two positions
being laid down, it is certain that all who cavillingly allege that
they are not to come to God directly, are not only rebellious and
disobedient but are also convicted of unbelief, inasmuch as they
distrust the promises. There is the more occasion to attend to this,
because hypocrites, under a pretense of humility and modesty,
proudly contemn the precept, as well as deny all credit to the
gracious invitation of God; nay, rob him of a principal part of his
worship. For when he rejected sacrifices, in which all holiness
seemed then to consist, he declared that the chief thing, that which
above all others is precious in his sight, is to be invoked in the
day of necessity. Therefore, when he demands that which is his own,
and urges us to alacrity in obeying, no pretexts for doubt, how
specious soever they may be, can excuse us. Hence, all the passages
throughout Scripture in which we are commanded to pray, are set up
before our eyes as so many banners, to inspire us with confidence.
It were presumption to go forward into the presence of God, did he
not anticipate us by his invitation. Accordingly, he opens up the
way for us by his own voice, "I will say, It is my people: and they
shall say, The Lord is my God," (Zech. 13: 9.) We see how he
anticipates his worshippers, and desires them to follow, and
therefore we cannot fear that the melody which he himself dictates
will prove unpleasing. Especially let us call to mind that noble
description of the divine character, by trusting to which we shall
easily overcome every obstacle: O thou that hearest prayer, unto
thee shall all flesh come," (Ps. 65: 2.) What can be more lovely or
soothing than to see God invested with a title which assures us that
nothing is more proper to his nature than to listen to the prayers
of suppliants? Hence the Psalmist infers, that free access is given
not to a few individuals, but to all men, since God addresses all in
these terms, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver
thee, and thou shalt glorify me," (Ps. 50: 15.) David, accordingly,
appeals to the promise thus given in order to obtain what he asks:
"Thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant,
saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found
in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee" (2 Sam. 7: 27.) Here we
infer, that he would have been afraid but for the promise which
emboldened him. So in another passage he fortifies himself with the
general doctrine, "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear
him," (Ps. 145: 19.) Nay, we may observe in The Psalms how the
continuity of prayer is broken, and a transition is made at one time
to the power of God, at another to his goodness, at another to the
faithfulness of his promises. It might seem that David, by
introducing these sentiments, unseasonably mutilates his prayers;
but believers well know by experience, that their ardor grows
languid unless new fuel be added, and, therefore, that meditation as
well on the nature as on the word of God during prayer, is by no
means superfluous. Let us not decline to imitate the example of
David, and introduce thoughts which may reanimate our languid minds
with new vigor.
    14. It is strange that these delightful promises affect us
coldly, or scarcely at all, so that the generality of men prefer to
wander up and down, forsaking the fountain of living waters, and
hewing out to themselves broken cisterns, rather than embrace the
divine liberality voluntarily offered to them (Jer. 2:13). "The name
of the Lord," says Solomon, "is a strong tower; the righteous
runneth into it, and is safe." (Pr. 18:10) Joel, after predicting
the fearful disaster which was at hand, subjoins the following
memorable sentence: "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall
call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered." (Joel 2: 32) This
we know properly refers to the course of the Gospel. Scarcely one in
a hundred is moved to come into the presence of God, though he
himself exclaims by Isaiah, "And it shall come to pass, that before
they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will
hear." (Is. 65: 24) This honour he elsewhere bestows upon the whole
Church in general, as belonging to all the members of Christ: "He
shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in
trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him." (Ps. 91:15) My
intention, however, as I already observed, is not to enumerate all,
but only select some admirable passages as a specimen how kindly God
allures us to himself, and how extreme our ingratitude must be when
with such powerful motives our sluggishness still retards us.
Wherefore, let these words always resound in our ears: "The Lord is
nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in
truth," (Ps. 145: 18.) Likewise those passages which we have quoted
from Isaiah and Joel, in which God declares that his ear is open to
our prayers, and that he is delighted as with a sacrifice of sweet
savour when we cast our cares upon him. The special benefit of these
promises we receive when we frame our prayer, not timorously or
doubtingly, but when trusting to his word whose majesty might
otherwise deter us, we are bold to call him Father, he himself
deigning to suggest this most delightful name. Fortified by such
invitations it remains for us to know that we have therein
sufficient materials for prayer, since our prayers depend on no
merit of our own, but all their worth and hope of success are
founded and depend on the promises of God, so that they need no
other support, and require not to look up and down on this hand and
on that. It must therefore be fixed in our minds, that though we
equal not the lauded sanctity of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles,
yet as the command to pray is common to us as well as them, and
faith is common, so if we lean on the word of God, we are in respect
of this privilege their associates. For God declaring, as has
already been seen, that he will listen and be favourable to all,
encourages the most wretched to hope that they shall obtain what
they ask; and, accordingly, we should attend to the general forms of
expression, which, as it is commonly expressed, exclude none from
first to last; only let there be sincerity of heart, self-
dissatisfaction humility, and faith, that we may not, by the
hypocrisy of a deceitful prayer, profane the name of God. Our most
merciful Father will not reject those whom he not only encourages to
come, but urges in every possible way. Hence David's method of
prayer to which I lately referred: "And now, O Lord God, thou art
that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this
goodness unto thy servant, that it may continue for ever before
thee" (2 Sam. 7: 28.) So also, in another passage, "Let, I pray
thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word
unto thy servant," (Psalm 119: 76.) And the whole body of the
Israelites, whenever they fortify themselves with the remembrance of
the covenant, plainly declare, that since God thus prescribes they
are not to pray timorously, (Gen. 32: 13.) In this they imitated the
example of the patriarchs, particularly Jacob, who, after confessing
that he was unworthy of the many mercies which he had received of
the Lord's hand, says, that he is encouraged to make still larger
requests, because God had promised that he would grant them. But
whatever be the pretexts which unbelievers employ, when they do not
flee to God as often as necessity urges, nor seek after him, nor
implore his aid, they defraud him of his due honour just as much as
if they were fabricating to themselves new gods and idols, since in
this way they deny that God is the author of all their blessings. On
the contrary, nothing more effectually frees pious minds from every
doubt, than to be armed with the thought that no obstacle should
impede them while they are obeying the command of God, who declares
that nothing is more grateful to him than obedience. Hence, again,
what I have previously said becomes still more clear, namely, that a
bold spirit in prayer well accords with fear, reverence, and
anxiety, and that there is no inconsistency when God raises up those
who had fallen prostrate. In this way forms of expression apparently
inconsistent admirably harmonize. Jeremiah and David speak of humbly
laying their supplications[5] before God (Jer. 42: 9; Dan. 9: 18.)
In another passage Jeremiah says "Let, we beseech thee, our
supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord
thy God, even for all this remnant." (Jer. 42: 2) On the other hand,
believers are often said to _lift up prayer_. Thus Hezekiah speaks,
when asking the prophet to undertake the office of interceding (2
Kings 19: 4.) And David says, "Let my prayer be set forth before
thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening
sacrifice." (Ps. 141: 2) The explanation is, that though believers,
persuaded of the paternal love of God, cheerfully rely on his
faithfulness, and have no hesitation in imploring the aid which he
voluntarily offers, they are not elated with supine or presumptuous
security; but climbing up by the ladder of the promises, still
remain humble and abased suppliants.
    15. Here, by way of objection, several questions are raised.
Scripture relates that God sometimes complied with certain prayers
which had been dictated by minds not duly calmed or regulated. It is
true, that the cause for which Jotham imprecated on the inhabitants
of Shechem the disaster which afterwards befell them was well
founded; but still he was inflamed with anger and revenge, (Judges
9: 20;) and hence God, by complying with the execration, seems to
approve of passionate impulses. Similar fervor also seized Samson,
when he prayed, "Strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God,
that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes,"
(Judges 16: 28.) For although there was some mixture of good zeal,
yet his ruling feeling was a fervid, and therefore vicious longing
for vengeance. God assents, and hence apparently it might be
inferred that prayers are effectual, though not framed in conformity
to the rule of the word. But I answer, _first_, that a perpetual law
is not abrogated by singular examples; and, _secondly_, that special
suggestions have sometimes been made to a few individuals, whose
case thus becomes different from that of the generality of men. For
we should attend to the answer which our Saviour gave to his
disciples when they inconsiderately wished to imitate the example of
Elias, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," (Luke ix. 55.)
We must, however, go farther and say, that the wishes to which God
assents are not always pleasing to him; but he assents, because it
is necessary, by way of example, to give clear evidence of the
doctrine of Scripture, viz., that he assists the miserable, and
hears the groans of those who unjustly afflicted implore his aid:
and, accordingly, he executes his judgments when the complaints of
the needy, though in themselves unworthy of attention, ascend to
him. For how often, in inflicting punishment on the ungodly for
cruelty, rapine, violence, lust, and other crimes, in curbing
audacity and fury, and also in overthrowing tyrannical power, has he
declared that he gives assistance to those who are unworthily
oppressed though they by addressing an unknown deity only beat the
air? There is one psalm which clearly teaches that prayers are not
without effect, though they do not penetrate to heaven by faith,
(Ps. 107: 6,13,19.) For it enumerates the prayers which, by natural
instinct, necessity extorts from unbelievers not less than from
believers, and to which it shows by the event, that God is,
notwithstanding, propitious. Is it to testify by such readiness to
hear that their prayers are agreeable to him? Nay; it is, first, to
magnify or display his mercy by the circumstance, that even the
wishes of unbelievers are not denied; and, secondly, to stimulate
his true worshippers to more urgent prayer, when they see that
sometimes even the wailings of the ungodly are not without avail.
This, however, is no reason why believers should deviate from the
law divinely imposed upon them, or envy unbelievers, as if they
gained much in obtaining what they wished. We have observed, (chap.
3: sec. 25,) that in this way God yielded to the feigned repentance
of Ahab, that he might show how ready he is to listen to his elect
when, with true contrition, they seek his favour. Accordingly, he
upbraids the Jews, that shortly after experiencing his readiness to
listen to their prayers, they returned to their own perverse
inclinations. It is also plain from the Book of Judges that,
whenever they wept, though their tears were deceitful, they were
delivered from the hands of their enemies. Therefore, as God sends
his sun indiscriminately on the evil and on the good, so he despises
not the tears of those who have a good cause, and whose sorrows are
deserving of relief. Meanwhile, though he hears them, it has no more
to do with salvation than the supply of food which he gives to other
despisers of his goodness. There seems to be a more difficult
question concerning Abraham and Samuel, the one of whom, without any
instruction from the word of God, prayed in behalf of the people of
Sodom, and the other, contrary to an express prohibition, prayed in
behalf of Saul, (Gen. 18: 23; 1 Sam. 15. 11.) Similar is the case of
Jeremiah, who prayed that the city might not be destroyed, (Jer. 32:
16ff.) It is true their prayers were refused, but it seems harsh to
affirm that they prayed without faith. Modest readers will, I hope,
be satisfied with this solution, viz., that leaning to the general
principle on which God enjoins us to be merciful even to the
unworthy, they were not altogether devoid of faith, though in this
particular instance their wish was disappointed. Augustine shrewdly
remarks, "How do the saints pray in faith when they ask from God
contrary to what he has decreed? Namely, because they pray according
to his will, not his hidden and immutable will, but that which he
suggests to them, that he may hear them in another manner; as he
wisely distinguishes," (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. 22: 100: 2.)
This is truly said: for, in his incomprehensible counsel, he so
regulates events, that the prayers of the saints, though involving a
mixture of faith and error, are not in vain. And yet this no more
sanctions imitation than it excuses the saints themselves, who I
deny not exceeded due bounds. Wherefore, whenever no certain promise
exists, our request to God must have a condition annexed to it. Here
we may refer to the prayer of David, "Awake for me to the judgment
that thou hast commanded," (Ps. vii. 6;) for he reminds us that he
had received special instruction to pray for a temporal blessing.[6]
    16. It is also of importance to observe, that the four laws of
prayer of which I have treated are not so rigorously enforced, as
that God rejects the prayers in which he does not find perfect faith
or repentance, accompanied with fervent zeal and wishes duly framed.
We have said, (sec. 4,) that though prayer is the familiar
intercourse of believers with God, yet reverence and modesty must be
observed: we must not give loose reins to our wishes, nor long for
any thing farther than God permits; and, moreover, lest the majesty
of God should be despised, our minds must be elevated to pure and
chaste veneration. This no man ever performed with due perfection.
For, not to speak of the generality of men, how often do David's
complaints savour of intemperance? Not that he actually means to
expostulate with God, or murmur at his judgments, but failing,
through infirmity, he finds no better solace than to pour his griefs
into the bosom of his heavenly Father. Nay, even our stammering is
tolerated by God, and pardon is granted to our ignorance as often as
any thing rashly escapes us: indeed, without this indulgence, we
should have no freedom to pray. But although it was David's
intention to submit himself entirely to the will of God, and he
prayed with no less patience than fervor, yet irregular emotions
appear, nay, sometimes burst forth,-emotions not a little at
variance with the first law which we laid down. In particular, we
may see in a clause of the thirty-ninth Psalm, how this saint was
carried away by the vehemence of his grief, and unable to keep
within bounds. "O spare me,[7] that I may recover strength, before I
go hence, and be no more," (Ps. 39: 13.) You would call this the
language of a desperate man, who had no other desire than that God
should withdraw and leave him to relish in his distresses. Not that
his devout mind rushes into such intemperance, or that, as the
reprobate are wont, he wishes to have done with God; he only
complains that the divine anger is more than he can bear. During
those trials, wishes often escape which are not in accordance with
the rule of the word, and in which the saints do not duly consider
what is lawful and expedient. Prayers contaminated by such faults,
indeed, deserve to be rejected; yet provided the saints lament,
administer self-correction and return to themselves, God pardons.
Similar faults are committed in regard to the second law, (as to
which, see sec. 6,) for the saints have often to struggle with their
own coldness, their want and misery not urging them sufficiently to
serious prayer. It often happens, also, that their minds wander, and
are almost lost; hence in this matter also there is need of pardon,
lest their prayers, from being languid or mutilated, or interrupted
and wandering, should meet with a refusal. One of the natural
feelings which God has imprinted on our mind is, that prayer is not
genuine unless the thoughts are turned upward. Hence the ceremony of
raising the hands, to which we have adverted, a ceremony known to
all ages and nations, and still in common use. But who, in lifting
up his hands, is not conscious of sluggishness, the heart cleaving
to the earth? In regard to the petition for remission of sins, (sec.
8,) though no believer omits it, yet all who are truly exercised in
prayer feel that they bring scarcely a tenth of the sacrifice of
which David speaks, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a
broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," (Ps. 51:
17.) Thus a twofold pardon is always to be asked; first, because
they are conscious of many faults the sense of which, however, does
not touch them so as to make them feel dissatisfied with themselves
as they ought; and, secondly, in so far as they have been enabled to
profit in repentance and the fear of God, they are humbled with just
sorrow for their offenses, and pray for the remission of punishment
by the judge. The thing which most of all vitiates prayer, did not
God indulgently interpose, is weakness or imperfection of faith; but
it is not wonderful that this defect is pardoned by God, who often
exercises his people with severe trials, as if he actually wished to
extinguish their faith. The hardest of such trials is when believers
are forced to exclaim, "O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be
angry against the prayer of thy people?" (Ps. 80: 4,) as if their
very prayers offended him. In like manner, when Jeremiah says "Also
when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayers (Lam. 3: 8,) there
cannot be a doubt that he was in the greatest perturbation.
Innumerable examples of the same kind occur in the Scriptures, from
which it is manifest that the faith of the saints was often mingled
with doubts and fears, so that while believing and hoping, they,
however, betrayed some degree of unbelief, But because they do not
come so far as were to be wished, that is only an additional reason
for their exerting themselves to correct their faults, that they may
daily approach nearer to the perfect law of prayer, and at the same
time feel into what an abyss of evils those are plunged, who, in the
very cures they use, bring new diseases upon themselves: since there
is no prayer which God would not deservedly disdain, did he not
overlook the blemishes with which all of them are polluted. I do not
mention these things that believers may securely pardon themselves
in any faults which they commit, but that they may call themselves
to strict account, and thereby endeavour to surmount these
obstacles; and though Satan endeavours to block up all the paths in
order to prevent them from praying, they may, nevertheless, break
through, being firmly persuaded that though not disencumbered of all
hindrances, their attempts are pleasing to God, and their wishes are
approved, provided they hasten on and keep their aim, though without
immediately reaching it.
    17. But since no man is worthy to come forward in his own name,
and appear in the presence of God, our heavenly Father, to relieve
us at once from fear and shame, with which all must feel
oppressed,[8] has given us his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our
Advocate and Mediator, that under his guidance we may approach
securely, confiding that with him for our Intercessor nothing which
we ask in his name will be denied to us, as there is nothing which
the Father can deny to him, (1 Tim. 2: 5; 1 John 2: 1; see sec. 36,
37.) To this it is necessary to refer all that we have previously
taught concerning faith; because, as the promise gives us Christ as
our Mediator, so, unless our hope of obtaining what we ask is
founded on him, it deprives us of the privilege of prayer. For it is
impossible to think of the dread majesty of God without being filled
with alarm; and hence the sense of our own unworthiness must keep us
far away, until Christ interpose, and convert a throne of dreadful
glory into a throne of grace, as the Apostle teaches that thus we
can "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy,
and find grace to help in time of need," (Heb. 4: 16.) And as a rule
has been laid down as to prayer, as a promise has been given that
those who pray will be heard, so we are specially enjoined to pray
in the name of Christ, the promise being that we shall obtain what
we ask in his name. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name," says our
Saviour, "that will I do; that the Father may be glorified in the
Son;" "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall
receive, that your joy may be full," (John 14: 13; 16: 24.) Hence it
is incontrovertibly clear that those who pray to God in any other
name than that of Christ contumaciously falsify his orders, and
regard his will as nothing, while they have no promise that they
shall obtain. For, as Paul says "All the promises of God in him are
yea, and in him amen;" (2 Cor. 1: 20,) that is, are confirmed and
fulfilled in him.
    18. And we must carefully attend to the circumstance of time.
Christ enjoins his disciples to have recourse to his intercession
after he shall have ascended to heaven: "At that day ye shall ask in
my name," (John 16: 26.) It is certain, indeed, that from the very
first all who ever prayed were heard only for the sake of the
Mediator. For this reason God had commanded in the Law, that the
priest alone should enter the sanctuary, bearing the names of the
twelve tribes of Israel on his shoulders, and as many precious
stones on his breast, while the people were to stand at a distance
in the outer court, and thereafter unite their prayers with the
priest. Nay, the sacrifice had even the effect of ratifying and
confirming their prayers. That shadowy ceremony of the Law therefore
taught, first, that we are all excluded from the face of God, and,
therefore, that there is need of a Mediator to appear in our name,
and carry us on his shoulders and keep us bound upon his breast,
that we may be heard in his person; And secondly, that our prayers,
which, as has been said, would otherwise never be free from
impurity, are cleansed by the sprinkling of his blood. And we see
that the saints, when they desired to obtain any thing, founded
their hopes on sacrifices, because they knew that by sacrifice all
prayers were ratified: "Remember all thy offerings," says David,
"and accept thy burnt sacrifice," (Ps. 20: 3.) Hence we infer, that
in receiving the prayers of his people, God was from the very first
appeased by the intercession of Christ. Why then does Christ speak
of a new period ("at that day") when the disciples were to begin to
pray in his name, unless it be that this grace, being now more
brightly displayed, ought also to be in higher estimation with us?
In this sense he had said a little before, "Hitherto ye have asked
nothing in my name; ask." Not that they were altogether ignorant of
the office of Mediator, (all the Jews were instructed in these first
rudiments,) but they did not clearly understand that Christ by his
ascent to heaven would be more the advocate of the Church than
before. Therefore, to solace their grief for his absence by some
more than ordinary result, he asserts his office of advocate, and
says, that hitherto they had been without the special benefit which
it would be their privilege to enjoy, when aided by his intercession
they should invoke God with greater freedom. In this sense the
Apostle says that we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the
blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated
for us," (Heb. 10: 19, 20.) Therefore, the more inexcusable we are,
if we do not with both hands (as it is said) embrace the inestimable
gift which is properly destined for us.
    19. Moreover since he himself is the only way and the only
access by which we can draw near to God, those who deviate from this
way, and decline this access, have no other remaining; his throne
presents nothing but wrath, judgment, and terror. In short, as the
Father has consecrated him our guide and head, those who abandon or
turn aside from him in any way endeavour, as much as in them lies,
to sully and efface the stamp which God has impressed. Christ,
therefore, is the only Mediator by whose intercession the Father is
rendered propitious and exorable, (1 Tim. 2: 5.) For though the
saints are still permitted to use intercessions, by which they
mutually beseech God in behalf of each others salvation, and of
which the Apostle makes mention, (Eph. 6: 18, 19; 1 Tim. 2: 1;) yet
these depend on that one intercession, so far are they from
derogating from it. For as the intercessions which, as members of
one body we offer up for each other, spring from the feeling of
love, so they have reference to this one head. Being thus also made
in the name of Christ, what more do they than declare that no man
can derive the least benefit from any prayers without the
intercession of Christ? As there is nothing in the intercession of
Christ to prevent the different members of the Church from offering
up prayers for each other, so let it be held as a fixed principle,
that all the intercessions thus used in the Church must have
reference to that one intercession. Nay, we must be specially
careful to show our gratitude on this very account, that God
pardoning our unworthiness, not only allows each individual to pray
for himself, but allows all to intercede mutually for each other.
God having given a place in his Church to intercessors who would
deserve to be rejected when praying privately on their own account,
how presumptuous were it to abuse this kindness by employing it to
obscure the honour of Christ?
    20. Moreover, the Sophists are guilty of the merest trifling
when they allege that Christ is the Mediator of _redemption_, but
that believers are mediators of _intercession_; as if Christ had
only performed a temporary mediation, and left an eternal and
imperishable mediation to his servants. Such, forsooth, is the
treatment which he receives from those who pretend only to take from
him a minute portion of honour. Very different is the language of
Scripture, with whose simplicity every pious man will be satisfied,
without paying any regard to those importers. For when John says,
"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ
the righteous," (1 John 2: 1,) does he mean merely that we once had
an advocate; does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual
intercession? What does Paul mean when he declares that he "is even
at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"?
(Rom. 8: 32.) But when in another passage he declares that he is the
only Mediator between God and man, (1 Tim. 2: 5,) is he not
referring to the supplications which he had mentioned a little
before? Having previously said that prayers were to be offered up
for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that statement,
that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man. Nor
does Augustine give a different interpretation when he says,
"Christian men mutually recommend each other in their prayers. But
he for whom none intercedes, while he himself intercedes for all, is
the only true Mediator. Though the Apostle Paul was under the head a
principal member, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ,
and knew that the most true and High Priest of the Church had
entered not by figure into the inner veil to the holy of holies, but
by firm and express truth into the inner sanctuary of heaven to
holiness, holiness not imaginary, but eternal (Heb 9: 11, 24), he
also commends himself to the prayers of the faithful (Rom. 15: 30;
Eph. 6:19; Col. 4: 3.) He does not make himself a mediator between
God and the people, but asks that all the members of the body of
Christ should pray mutually for each other, since the members are
mutually sympathetic: if one member suffers, the others suffer with
it (1 Cor. 12: 26.) And thus the mutual prayers of all the members
still laboring on the earth ascend to the Head, who has gone before
into heaven, and in whom there is propitiation for our sins. For if
Paul were a mediator, so would also the other apostles, and thus
there would be many mediators, and Paul's statement could not stand,
'There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man
Christ Jesus;' (1 Tim. 2: 5) in whom we also are one (Rom. 12: 5) if
we keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace (Eph. 4: 3),"
(August. Contra Parmenian, Lib. 2: cap. 8.) Likewise in another
passage Augustine says, "If thou requirest a priest, he is above the
heavens, where he intercedes for those who on earth died for thee,"
(August. in Ps. 94:) We imagine not that he throws himself before
his Father's knees, and suppliantly intercedes for us; but we
understand with the Apostle, that he appears in the presence of God,
and that the power of his death has the effect of a perpetual
intercession for us; that having entered into the upper sanctuary,
he alone continues to the end of the world to present the prayers of
his people, who are standing far off in the outer court.
    21. In regard to the saints who having died in the body live in
Christ, if we attribute prayer to them, let us not imagine that they
have any other way of supplicating God than through Christ who alone
is the way, or that their prayers are accepted by God in any other
name. Wherefore, since the Scripture calls us away from all others
to Christ alone, since our heavenly Father is pleased to gather
together all things in him, it were the extreme of stupidity, not to
say madness, to attempt to obtain access by means of others, so as
to be drawn away from him without whom access cannot be obtained.
But who can deny that this was the practice for several ages, and is
still the practice, wherever Popery prevails? To procure the favour
of God, human merits are ever and anon obtruded, and very frequently
while Christ is passed by, God is supplicated in their name. I ask
if this is not to transfer to them that office of sole intercession
which we have above claimed for Christ? Then what angel or devil
ever announced one syllable to any human being concerning that
fancied intercession of theirs? There is not a word on the subject
in Scripture. What ground then was there for the fiction? Certainly,
while the human mind thus seeks help for itself in which it is not
sanctioned by the word of God, it plainly manifests its distrust,
(see s. 27.) But if we appeal to the consciences of all who take
pleasure in the intercession of saints, we shall find that their
only reason for it is, that they are filled with anxiety, as if they
supposed that Christ were insufficient or too rigorous. By this
anxiety they dishonour Christ, and rob him of his title of sole
Mediator, a title which being given him by the Father as his special
privilege, ought not to be transferred to any other. By so doing
they obscure the glory of his nativity and make void his cross; in
short, divest and defraud of due praise everything which he did or
suffered, since all which he did and suffered goes to show that he
is and ought to be deemed sole Mediator. At the same time, they
reject the kindness of God in manifesting himself to them as a
Father, for he is not their Father if they do not recognize Christ
as their brother. This they plainly refuse to do if they think not
that he feels for them a brother's affection; affection than which
none can be more gentle or tender. Wherefore Scripture offers him
alone, sends us to him, and establishes us in him. "He," says
Ambrose, "is our mouth by which we speak to the Father; our eye by
which we see the Father; our right hand by which we offer ourselves
to the Father. Save by his intercession neither we nor any saints
have any intercourse with God," (Ambros. Lib. de Isaac et Anima.) If
they object that the public prayers which are offered up in churches
conclude with the words, _through Jesus Christ our Lord_, it is a
frivolous evasion; because no less insult is offered to the
intercession of Christ by confounding it with the prayers and merits
of the dead, than by omitting it altogether, and making mention only
of the dead. Then, in all their litanies, hymns, and proses where
every kind of honour is paid to dead saints, there is no mention of
    22. But here stupidity has proceeded to such a length as to
give a manifestation of the genius of superstition, which, when once
it has shaken off the rein, is wont to wanton without limit. After
men began to look to the intercession of saints, a peculiar
administration was gradually assigned to each, so that, according to
diversity of business, now one, now another, intercessor was
invoked. Then individuals adopted particular saints, and put their
faith in them, just as if they had been tutelar deities. And thus
not only were gods set up according to the number of the cities,
(the charge which the prophet brought against Israel of old, Jer. 2:
28; 11: 13,) but according to the number of individuals. But while
the saints in all their desires refer to the will of God alone, look
to it, and acquiesce in it, yet to assign to them any other prayer
than that of longing for the arrival of the kingdom of God, is to
think of them stupidly, carnally, and even insultingly. Nothing can
be farther from such a view than to imagine that each, under the
influence of private feeling, is disposed to be most favourable to
his own worshippers. At length vast numbers have fallen into the
horrid blasphemy of invoking them not merely as helping but
presiding over their salvation. See the depth to which miserable men
fall when they forsake their proper station, that is, the word of
God. I say nothing of the more monstrous specimens of impiety in
which, though detestable to God, angels, and men, they themselves
feel no pain or shame. Prostrated at a statue or picture of Barbara
or Catherine, and the like, they mutter a _Pater Noster_;[9] and so
far are their pastors[10] from curing or curbing this frantic
course, that, allured by the scent of gain, they approve and applaud
it. But while seeking to relieve themselves of the odium of this
vile and criminal procedure, with what pretext can they defend the
practice of calling upon Eloy (Eligius) or Medard to look upon their
servants, and send them help from heaven, or the Holy Virgin to
order her Son to do what they ask?[11] The Council of Carthage
forbade direct prayer to be made at the altar to saints. It is
probable that these holy men, unable entirely to suppress the force
of depraved custom, had recourse to this check, that public prayers
might not be vitiated with such forms of expression as _Sancte
Petre, ora pro nobis-- St Peter, pray for us_. But how much farther
has this devilish extravagance proceeded when men hesitate not to
transfer to the dead the peculiar attributes of Christ and God?
    23. In endeavouring to prove that such intercession derives
some support from Scripture they labour in vain. We frequently read
(they say) of the prayers of angels, and not only so, but the
prayers of believers are said to be carried into the presence of God
by their hands. But if they would compare saints who have departed
this life with angels, it will be necessary to prove that saints are
ministering spirits, to whom has been delegated the office of
superintending our salvation, to whom has been assigned the province
of guiding us in all our ways, of encompassing, admonishing, and
comforting us, of keeping watch over us. All these are assigned to
angels, but none of them to saints. How preposterously they confound
departed saints with angels is sufficiently apparent from the many
different offices by which Scripture distinguishes the one from the
other. No one unless admitted will presume to perform the office of
pleader before an earthly judge; whence then have worms such license
as to obtrude themselves on God as intercessors, while no such
office has been assigned them? God has been pleased to give angels
the charge of our safety. Hence they attend our sacred meetings, and
the Church is to them a theatre in which they behold the manifold
wisdom of God, (Eph. 3: 10.) Those who transfer to others this
office which is peculiar to them, certainly pervert and confound the
order which has been established by God and ought to be inviolable.
With similar dexterity they proceed to quote other passages. God
said to Jeremiah, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my
mind could not be toward this people," (Jer. 15: 1.) How (they ask)
could he have spoken thus of the dead but because he knew that they
interceded for the living? My inference, on the contrary, is this:
since it thus appears that neither Moses nor Samuel interceded for
the people of Israel, there was then no intercession for the dead.
For who of the saints can be supposed to labour for the salvation of
the peoples while Moses who, when in life, far surpassed all others
in this matter, does nothing? Therefore, if they persist in the
paltry quibble, that the dead intercede for the living, because the
Lord said, "_If they stood before me_," (_intercesserint_,) I will
argue far more speciously in this way: Moses, of whom it is said,
"_if he interceded_,," did not intercede for the people in their
extreme necessity: it is probable, therefore, that no other saint
intercedes, all being far behind Moses in humanity, goodness, and
paternal solicitude. Thus all they gain by their caviling is to be
wounded by the very arms with which they deem themselves admirably
protected. But it is very ridiculous to wrest this simple sentence
in this manner; for the Lord only declares that he would not spare
the iniquities of the people, though some Moses or Samuel, to whose
prayers he had shown himself so indulgent, should intercede for
them. This meaning is most clearly elicited from a similar passage
in Ezekiel: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in
it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness,
saith the Lord God," (Ezek. 14: 14.) Here there can be no doubt that
we are to understand the words as if it had been said, If two of the
persons named were again to come alive; for the third was still
living, namely, Daniel, who it is well known had then in the bloom
of youth given an incomparable display of piety. Let us therefore
leave out those whom Scripture declares to have completed their
course. Accordingly, when Paul speaks of David, he says not that by
his prayers he assisted posterity, but only that he "served his own
generation," (Acts 13: 36.)
    24. They again object, Are those, then, to be deprived of every
pious wish, who, during the whole course of their lives, breathed
nothing but piety and mercy? I have no wish curiously to pry into
what they do or meditate; but the probability is, that instead of
being subject to the impulse of various and particular desires,
they, with one fixed and immovable will, long for the kingdom of
God, which consists not less in the destruction of the ungodly than
in the salvation of believers. If this be so, there cannot be a
doubt that their charity is confined to the communion of Christ's
body, and extends no farther than is compatible with the nature of
that communion. But though I grant that in this way they pray for
us, they do not, however, lose their quiescence so as to be
distracted with earthly cares: far less are they, therefore, to be
invoked by us. Nor does it follow that such invocation is to be used
because, while men are alive upon the earth, they can mutually
commend themselves to each other's prayers. It serves to keep alive
a feeling of charity when they, as it were, share each other's
wants, and bear each other's burdens. This they do by the command of
the Lord, and not without a promise, the two things of primary
importance in prayer. But all such reasons are inapplicable to the
dead, with whom the Lord, in withdrawing them from our society, has
left us no means of intercourse, (Eccles. 9: 5, 6,) and to whom, so
far as we can conjecture, he has left no means of intercourse with
us. But if any one allege that they certainly must retain the same
charity for us, as they are united with us in one faith, who has
revealed to us that they have ears capable of listening to the
sounds of our voice, or eyes clear enough to discern our
necessities? Our opponents, indeed, talk in the shade of their
schools of some kind of light which beams upon departed saints from
the divine countenance, and in which, as in a mirror, they, from
their lofty abode, behold the affairs of men; but to affirm this
with the confidence which these men presume to use, is just to
desire, by means of the extravagant dreams of our own brain, and
without any authority, to pry and penetrate into the hidden
judgments of God, and trample upon Scripture, which so often
declares that the wisdom of our flesh is at enmity with the wisdom
of God, utterly condemns the vanity of our mind, and humbling our
reason, bids us look only to the will of God.
    25. The other passages of Scripture which they employ to defend
their error are miserably wrested. Jacob (they say) asks for the
sons of Joseph, "Let my name be named on them, and the name of my
fathers, Abraham and Isaac," (Gen. 48: 16.) First, let us see what
the nature of this invocation was among the Israelites. They do not
implore their fathers to bring succour to them, but they beseech God
to remember his servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their example,
therefore, gives no countenance to those who use addresses to the
saints themselves. But such being the dullness of these blocks, that
they comprehend not what it is to invoke the name of Jacob, nor why
it is to be invoked, it is not strange that they blunder thus
childishly as to the mode of doing it. The expression repeatedly
occurs in Scripture. Isaiah speaks of women being called by the name
of men, when they have them for husbands and live under their
protection, (Isa. 4: 1.) The calling of the name of Abraham over the
Israelites consists in referring the origin of their race to him,
and holding him in distinguished remembrance as their author and
parent. Jacob does not do so from any anxiety to extend the
celebrity of his name, but because he knows that all the happiness
of his posterity consisted in the inheritance of the covenant which
God had made with them. Seeing that this would give them the sum of
all blessings, he prays that they may be regarded as of his race,
this being nothing else than to transmit the succession of the
covenant to them. They again, when they make mention of this subject
in their prayers, do not betake themselves to the intercession of
the dead, but call to remembrance that covenant in which their most
merciful Father undertakes to be kind and propitious to them for the
sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How little, in other respects,
the saints trusted to the merits of their fathers, the public voice
of the Church declares in the prophets "Doubtless thou art our
Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us
not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer," (Isa. 63: 16.) And
while the Church thus speaks, she at the same time adds, "Return for
thy servants' sake," not thinking of any thing like intercession,
but adverting only to the benefit of the covenant. Now, indeed, when
we have the Lord Jesus, in whose hand the eternal covenant of mercy
was not only made but confirmed, what better name can we bear before
us in our prayers? And since those good Doctors would make out by
these words that the Patriarchs are intercessors, I should like them
to tell me why, in so great a multitude,[12] no place whatever is
given to Abraham, the father of the Church? We know well from what a
crew they select their intercessors.[13] Let them then tell me what
consistency there is in neglecting and rejecting Abraham, whom God
preferred to all others, and raised to the highest degree of honour.
The only reason is, that as it was plain there was no such practice
in the ancient Church, they thought proper to conceal the novelty of
the practice by saying nothing of the Patriarchs: as if by a mere
diversity of names they could excuse a practice at once novel and
impure. They sometimes, also, object that God is entreated to have
mercy on his people "for David's sake," (Ps. 132: 10; see Calv.
Com.) This is so far from supporting their error, that it is the
strongest refutation of it. We must consider the character which
David bore. He is set apart from the whole body of the faithful to
establish the covenant which God made in his hand. Thus regard is
had to the covenant rather than to the individual. Under him as a
type the sole intercession of Christ is asserted. But what was
peculiar to David as a type of Christ is certainly inapplicable to
    26. But some seem to be moved by the fact, that the prayers of
saints are often said to have been heard. Why? Because they prayed.
"They cried unto thee," (says the Psalmist,) "and were delivered:
they trusted in thee, and were not confounded," (Ps. 22: 5.) Let us
also pray after their example, that like them we too may be heard.
Those men, on the contrary, absurdly argue that none will be heard
but those who have been heard already. How much better does James
argue, "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he
prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the
earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed
again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her
fruit." (James 5: 17, 18.) What? Does he infer that Elias possessed
some peculiar privilege, and that we must have recourse to him for
the use of it? By no means. He shows the perpetual efficacy of a
pure and pious prayer, that we may be induced in like manner to
pray. For the kindness and readiness of God to hear others is
malignantly interpreted, if their example does not inspire us with
stronger confidence in his promise, since his declaration is not
that he will incline his ear to one or two, or a few individuals,
but to all who call upon his name. In this ignorance they are the
less excusable, because they seem as it were avowedly to contemn the
many admonitions of Scripture. David was repeatedly delivered by the
power of God. Was this to give that power to him that we might be
delivered on his application? Very different is his affirmation:
"The righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal
bountifully with me," (Ps. 142: 7.) Again, "The righteous also shall
see, and fear, and shall laugh at him," (Ps. 52: 6.) "This poor man
cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his
troubles," (Ps. 34: 6.) In The Psalms are many similar prayers, in
which David calls upon God to give him what he asks, for this
reason, viz., that the righteous may not be put to shame, but by his
example encouraged to hope. Here let one passage suffice, "For this
shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou
mayest be found," (Ps. 32: 6, Calv. Com.) This passage I have quoted
the more readily, because those ravers who employ their hireling
tongues in defense of the Papacy, are not ashamed to adduce it in
proof of the intercession of the dead. As if David intended any
thing more than to show the benefit which he shall obtain from the
divine clemency and condescension when he shall have been heard. In
general, we must hold that the experience of the grace of God, as
well towards ourselves as towards others, tends in no slight degree
to confirm our faith in his promises. I do not quote the many
passages in which David sets forth the loving-kindness of God to him
as a ground of confidence, as they will readily occur to every
reader of The Psalms. Jacob had previously taught the same thing by
his own example, "I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies,
and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant: for
with my staff l passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two
bands," (Gen. 32: 10.) He indeed alleges the promise, but not the
promise only; for he at the same time adds the effect, to animate
him with greater confidence in the future kindness of God. God is
not like men who grow weary of their liberality, or whose means of
exercising it become exhausted; but he is to be estimated by his own
nature, as David properly does when he says, "Thou hast redeemed me,
O Lord God of truth," (Ps 31: 5.) After ascribing the praise of his
salvation to God, he adds that he is true: for were he not ever like
himself, his past favour would not be an infallible ground for
confidence and prayer. But when we know that as often as he assists
us, he gives us a specimen and proof of his goodness and
faithfulness, there is no reason to fear that our hope will be
ashamed or frustrated.
    27. On the whole, since Scripture places the principal part of
worship in the invocation of God, (this being the office of piety
which he requires of us in preference to all sacrifices,) it is
manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others. Hence it is said in
the psalm: "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched
out our hands to a strange god, shall not God search this out?" (Ps.
44: 20, 21.) Again, since it is only in faith that God desires to be
invoked, and he distinctly enjoins us to frame our prayers according
to the rule of his word: in fine, since faith is founded on the
word, and is the parent of right prayer, the moment we decline from
the word, our prayers are impure. But we have already shown, that if
we consult the whole volume of Scripture, we shall find that God
claims this honour to himself alone. In regard to the office of
intercession, we have also seen that it is peculiar to Christ, and
that no prayer is agreeable to God which he as Mediator does not
sanctify. And though believers mutually offer up prayers to God in
behalf of their brethren, we have shown that this derogates in no
respect from the sole intercession of Christ, because all trust to
that intercession in commending themselves as well as others to God.
Moreover, we have shown that this is ignorantly transferred to the
dead, of whom we nowhere read that they were commanded to pray for
us. The Scripture often exhorts us to offer up mutual prayers; but
says not one syllable concerning the dead; nay, James tacitly
excludes the dead when he combines the two things, to "confess our
sins one to another, and to pray one for another," (James v. 16.)
Hence it is sufficient to condemn this error, that the beginning of
right prayer springs from faith, and that faith comes by the hearing
of the word of God, in which there is no mention of fictitious
intercession, superstition having rashly adopted intercessors who
have not been divinely appointed. While the Scripture abounds in
various forms of prayer, we find no example of this intercession,
without which Papists think there is no prayer. Moreover, it is
evident that this superstition is the result of distrust, because
they are either not contented with Christ as an intercessor, or have
altogether robbed him of this honour. This last is easily proved by
their effrontery in maintaining, as the strongest of all their
arguments for the intercession of the saints, that we are unworthy
of familiar access to God. This, indeed, we acknowledge to be most
true, but we thence infer that they leave nothing to Christ, because
they consider his intercession as nothing, unless it is supplemented
by that of George and Hypolyte, and similar phantoms.
    28. But though prayer is properly confined to vows and
supplications, yet so strong is the affinity between petition and
thanksgiving, that both may be conveniently comprehended under one
name. For the forms which Paul enumerates (1 Tim. 2: 1) fall under
the first member of this division. By prayer and supplication we
pour out our desires before God, asking as well those things which
tend to promote his glory and display his name, as the benefits
which contribute to our advantage. By thanksgiving we duly celebrate
his kindnesses toward us, ascribing to his liberality every blessing
which enters into our lot. David accordingly includes both in one
sentence, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee,
and thou shalt glorify me," (Ps. 50: 15.) Scripture, not without
reason, commands us to use both continually. We have already
described the greatness of our want, while experience itself
proclaims the straits which press us on every side to be so numerous
and so great, that all have sufficient ground to send forth sighs
and groans to God without intermission, and suppliantly implore him.
For even should they be exempt from adversity, still the holiest
ought to be stimulated first by their sins, and, secondly, by the
innumerable assaults of temptation, to long for a remedy. The
sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted
without guilt, since God never ceases to load us with favour upon
favour, so as to force us to gratitude, however slow and sluggish we
may be. In short, so great and widely diffused are the riches of his
liberality towards us, so marvellous and wondrous the miracles which
we behold on every side, that we never can want a subject and
materials for praise and thanksgiving. To make this somewhat
clearer: since all our hopes and resources are placed in God, (this
has already been fully proved,) so that neither our persons nor our
interests can prosper without his blessing, we must constantly
submit ourselves and our all to him. Then whatever we deliberate,
speak, or do, should be deliberated, spoken, and done under his hand
and will; in fine, under the hope of his assistance. God has
pronounced a curse upon all who, confiding in themselves or others,
form plans and resolutions, who, without regarding his will, or
invoking his aid, either plan or attempt to execute, (James 4: 14;
Isaiah 30: 1; 31. 1.) And since, as has already been observed, he
receives the honour which is due when he is acknowledged to be the
author of all good, it follows that, in deriving all good from his
hand, we ought continually to express our thankfulness, and that we
have no right to use the benefits which proceed from his liberality,
if we do not assiduously proclaim his praise, and give him thanks,
these being the ends for which they are given. When Paul declares
that every creature of God "is sanctified by the word of God and
prayers" (1 Tim. 4: 5,) he intimates that without the word and
prayers none of them are holy and pure, _word_ being used
metonymically for _faith_. Hence David, on experiencing the loving-
kindness of the Lord, elegantly declares, "He hath put a new song in
my mouth," (Ps. 40: 3;) intimating, that our silence is malignant
when we leave his blessings unpraised, seeing every blessing he
bestows is a new ground of thanksgiving. Thus Isaiah, proclaiming
the singular mercies of God, says, "Sing unto the Lord a new song
(Is. 42: 10.)" In the same sense David says in another passage, "O
Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise,"
(Ps. 51: 15.) In like manner, Hezekiah and Jonah declare that they
will regard it as the end of their deliverance "to celebrate the
goodness of God with songs in his temple," (Is. 38: 20; Jonah 2:
10.) David lays down a general rule for all believers in these
words, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits
toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name
of the Lord," (Ps. 116: 12, 13.) This rule the Church follows in
another psalm, "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among
the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in
thy praise," (Ps. 106: 47.) Again, "He will regard the prayer of the
destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for
the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall
praise the Lord." "To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his
praise in Jerusalem," (Ps. 102: 18, 21.) Nay, whenever believers
beseech the Lord to do anything _for his own name's sake_, as they
declare themselves unworthy of obtaining it in their own name, so
they oblige themselves to give thanks, and promise to make the right
use of his lovingkindness by being the heralds of it. Thus Hosea,
speaking of the future redemption of the Church, says, "Take away
all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the
calves of our lips," (Hos. 14: 2.) Not only do our tongues proclaim
the kindness of God, but they naturally inspire us with love to him.
"I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my
supplications," (Ps. 116: 1.) In another passage, speaking of the
help which he had experienced, he says, "I will love thee, O Lord,
my strength," (Ps. 18: 1.) No praise will ever please God that does
not flow from this feeling of love. Nay, we must attend to the
declaration of Paul, that all wishes are vicious and perverse which
are not accompanied with thanksgiving. His words are, "In everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known unto God," (Phil. 4: 6.) Because many, under the
influence of moroseness, weariness, impatience, bitter grief and
fear, use murmuring in their prayers, he enjoins us so to regulate
our feelings as cheerfully to bless God even before obtaining what
we ask. But if this connection ought always to subsist in full vigor
between things that are almost contrary, the more sacred is the tie
which binds us to celebrate the praises of God whenever he grants
our requests. And as we have already shown that our prayers, which
otherwise would be polluted) are sanctified by the intercession of
Christ, so the Apostle, by enjoining us "to offer the sacrifice of
praise to God continually" by Christ, (Heb. 13: 15,) reminds us,
that without the intervention of his priesthood our lips are not
pure enough to celebrate the name of God. Hence we infer that a
monstrous delusion prevails among Papists, the great majority of
whom wonder when Christ is called an intercessor. The reason why
Paul enjoins, "Pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks," (1
Thess. 5: 17, 18,) is, because he would have us with the utmost
assiduity, at all times, in every place, in all things, and under
all circumstances, direct our prayers to God, to expect all the
things which we desire from him, and when obtained ascribe them to
him; thus furnishing perpetual grounds for prayer and praise.
    29. This assiduity in prayer, though it specially refers to the
peculiar private prayers of individuals, extends also in some
measure to the public prayers of the Church. These, it may be said,
cannot be continual, and ought not to be made, except in the manner
which, for the sake of order, has been established by public
consent. This I admit, and hence certain hours are fixed beforehand,
hours which, though indifferent in regard to God, are necessary for
the use of man, that the general convenience may be consulted, and
all things be done in the Church, as Paul enjoins, "decently and in
order," (1 Cor. 14: 40.) But there is nothing in this to prevent
each church from being now and then stirred up to a more frequent
use of prayer and being more zealously affected under the impulse of
some greater necessity. Of perseverance in prayer, which is much
akin to assiduity, we shall speak towards the close of the chapter,
(sec. 51, 52.) This assiduity, moreover, is very different from the
BATTOLOGIAN (Greek--English "yammering"), _vain speaking_, which our
Saviour has prohibited, (Matth. 6: 7.) For he does not there forbid
us to pray long or frequently, or with great fervor, but warns us
against supposing that we can extort anything from God by
importuning him with garrulous loquacity, as if he were to be
persuaded after the manner of men. We know that hypocrites, because
they consider not that they have to do with God, offer up their
prayers as pompously as if it were part of a triumphal show. The
Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men, no doubt
proclaimed his praises before men, as if he had wished to gain a
reputation for sanctity by his prayers. Hence that vain speaking,
which for a similar reason prevails so much in the Papacy in the
present day, some vainly spinning out the time by a reiteration of
the same frivolous prayers, and others employing a long series of
verbiage for vulgar display.[14] This childish garrulity being a
mockery of God, it is not strange that it is prohibited in the
Church, in order that every feeling there expressed may be sincere,
proceeding from the inmost heart. Akin to this abuse is another
which our Saviour also condemns, namely, when hypocrites for the
sake of ostentation court the presence of many witnesses, and would
sooner pray in the market-place than pray without applause. The true
object of prayer being, as we have already said, (sec. 4, 5,) to
carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to celebrate his praise
or implore his aid, we can easily see that its primary seat is in
the mind and heart, or rather that prayer itself is properly an
effusion and manifestation of internal feeling before Him who is the
searcher of hearts. Hence, (as has been said,) when our divine
Master was pleased to lay down the best rule for prayer, his
injunction was, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy
door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which
seeth in secret shall reward thee openly," (Matth. 6: 6.) Dissuading
us from the example of hypocrites, who sought the applause of men by
an ambitious ostentation in prayer, he adds the better course--enter
thy chamber, shut thy door, and there pray. By these words (as I
understand them) he taught us to seek a place of retirement which
might enable us to turn all our thoughts inwards and enter deeply
into our hearts, promising that God would hold converse with the
feelings of our mind, of which the body ought to be the temple. He
meant not to deny that it may be expedient to pray in other places
also, but he shows that prayer is somewhat of a secret nature,
having its chief seat in the mind, and requiring a tranquillity far
removed from the turmoil of ordinary cares. And hence it was not
without cause that our Lord himself, when he would engage more
earnestly in prayer, withdrew into a retired spot beyond the bustle
of the world, thus reminding us by his example that we are not to
neglect those helps which enable the mind, in itself too much
disposed to wander, to become sincerely intent on prayer. Meanwhile,
as he abstained not from prayer when the occasion required it,
though he were in the midst of a crowd, so must we, whenever there
is need, lift up "pure hands" (1 Tim. 2: 8) at all places. And hence
we must hold that he who declines to pray in the public meeting of
the saints, knows not what it is to pray apart, in retirement, or at
home. On the other hand, he who neglects to pray alone and in
private, however sedulously he frequents public meetings, there
gives his prayers to the wind, because he defers more to the opinion
of man than to the secret judgment of God. Still, lest the public
prayers of the Church should be held in contempt, the Lord anciently
bestowed upon them the most honourable appellation, especially when
he called the temple the "_house of prayer_," (Isa. 56: 7.) For by
this expression he both showed that the duty of prayer is a
principal part of his worship, and that to enable believers to
engage in it with one consent his temple is set up before them as a
kind of banner. A noble promise was also added, "Praise waiteth for
thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed,"
(Ps. 65: 1.)[15] By these words the Psalmist reminds us that the
prayers of the Church are never in vain; because God always
furnishes his people with materials for a song of joy. But although
the shadows of the law have ceased, yet because God was pleased by
this ordinance to foster the unity of the faith among us also, there
can be no doubt that the same promise belongs to us--a promise which
Christ sanctioned with his own lips, and which Paul declares to be
perpetually in force.
    30. As God in his word enjoins common prayer, so public temples
are the places destined for the performance of them, and hence those
who refuse to join with the people of God in this observance have no
ground for the pretext, that they enter their chamber in order that
they may obey the command of the Lord. For he who promises to grant
whatsoever two or three assembled in his name shall ask, (Matth. 18:
20,) declares, that he by no means despises the prayers which are
publicly offered up, provided there be no ostentation, or catching
at human applause, and provided there be a true and sincere
affection in the secret recesses of the heart.[16] If this is the
legitimate use of churches, (and it certainly is,) we must, on the
other hand, beware of imitating the practice which commenced some
centuries ago, of imagining that churches are the proper dwellings
of God, where he is more ready to listen to us, or of attaching to
them some kind of secret sanctity, which makes prayer there more
holy. For seeing we are the true temples of God, we must pray in
ourselves if we would invoke God in his holy temple. Let us leave
such gross ideas to the Jews or the heathen, knowing that we have a
command to pray without distinction of place, "in spirit and in
truth," (John 4: 23.) It is true that by the order of God the temple
was anciently dedicated for the offering of prayers and sacrifices,
but this was at a time when the truth (which being now fully
manifested, we are not permitted to confine to any material temple)
lay hid under the figure of shadows. Even the temple was not
represented to the Jews as confining the presence of God within its
walls, but was meant to train them to contemplate the image of the
true temple. Accordingly, a severe rebuke is administered both by
Isaiah and Stephen, to those who thought that God could in any way
dwell in temples made with hands, (Isa. 66: 2; Acts 7: 48.)
    31. Hence it is perfectly clear that neither words nor singing
(if used in prayer) are of the least consequence, or avail one iota
with God, unless they proceed from deep feeling in the heart. Nay,
rather they provoke his anger against us, if they come from the lips
and throat only, since this is to abuse his sacred name, and hold
his majesty in derision. This we infer from the words of Isaiah,
which, though their meaning is of wider extent, go to rebuke this
vice also: "Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,
and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far
from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this
people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their
wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men
shall be hid," (Isa. 29: 13.) Still we do not condemn words or
singing, but rather greatly commend them, provided the feeling of
the mind goes along with them. For in this way the thought of God is
kept alive on our minds, which, from their fickle and versatile
nature, soon relax, and are distracted by various objects, unless
various means are used to support them. Besides, since the glory of
God ought in a manner to be displayed in each part of our body, the
special service to which the tongue should be devoted is that of
singing and speaking, inasmuch as it has been expressly created to
declare and proclaim the praise of God. This employment of the
tongue is chiefly in the public services which are performed in the
meeting of the saints. In this way the God whom we serve in one
spirit and one faith, we glorify together as it were with one voice
and one mouth; and that openly, so that each may in turn receive the
confession of his brother's faith, and be invited and incited to
imitate it.
    32. It is certain that the use of singing in churches (which I
may mention in passing) is not only very ancient, but was also used
by the Apostles, as we may gather from the words of Paul, "I will
sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also,"
(1 Cor. 14: 15.) In like manner he says to the Colossians, "Teaching
and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual
songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord," (Col. 3: 16.)
In the former passage, he enjoins us to sing with the voice and the
heart; in the latter, he commends spiritual Songs, by which the
pious mutually edify each other. That it was not an universal
practice, however, is attested by Augustine, (Confess. Lib. 9: cap.
7,) who states that the church of Milan first began to use singing
in the time of Ambrose, when the orthodox faith being persecuted by
Justina, the mother of Valentinian, the vigils of the people were
more frequent than usual;[17] and that the practice was afterwards
followed by the other Western churches. He had said a little before
that the custom came from the East.[18] He also intimates (Retract.
Lib. 2:) that it was received in Africa in his own time. His words
are, "Hilarius, a man of tribunitial rank, assailed with the
bitterest invectives he could use the custom which then began to
exist at Carthage, of singing hymns from the book of Psalms at the
altar, either before the oblation, or when it was distributed to the
people; I answered him, at the request of my brethren."[19] And
certainly if singing is tempered to a gravity befitting the presence
of God and angels, it both gives dignity and grace to sacred
actions, and has a very powerful tendency to stir up the mind to
true zeal and ardor in prayer. We must, however, carefully beware,
lest our ears be more intent on the music than our minds on the
spiritual meaning of the words. Augustine confesses (Confess. Lib.
10: cap. 33) that the fear of this danger sometimes made him wish
for the introduction of a practice observed by Athanasius, who
ordered the reader to use only a gentle inflection of the voice,
more akin to recitation than singing. But on again considering how
many advantages were derived from singing, he inclined to the other
side.[20] If this moderation is used, there cannot be a doubt that
the practice is most sacred and salutary. On the other hand, songs
composed merely to tickle and delight the ear are unbecoming the
majesty of the Church, and cannot but be most displeasing to God.
    33. It is also plain that the public prayers are not to be
couched in Greek among the Latins, nor in Latin among the French or
English, (as hitherto has been every where practised,) but in the
vulgar tongue, so that all present may understand them, since they
ought to be used for the edification of the whole Church, which
cannot be in the least degree benefited by a sound not understood.
Those who are not moved by any reason of humanity or charity, ought
at least to be somewhat moved by the authority of Paul, whose words
are by no means ambiguous: "When thou shalt bless with the spirit,
how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say, Amen, at
thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
For thou verily givest thanks, but the other is not edified," (1
Cor. 14: 16, 17.) How then can one sufficiently admire the unbridled
license of the Papists, who, while the Apostle publicly protests
against it, hesitate not to bawl out the most verbose prayers in a
foreign tongue, prayers of which they themselves sometimes do not
understand one syllable, and which they have no wish that others
should understand?[21] Different is the course which Paul
prescribes, "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I
will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit,
and I will sing with the understanding also:" meaning by the
_spirit_ the special gift of tongues, which some who had received it
abused when they dissevered it from the mind, that is, the
understanding. The principle we must always hold is, that in all
prayer, public and private, the tongue without the mind must be
displeasing to God. Moreover, the mind must be so incited, as in
ardor of thought far to surpass what the tongue is able to express.
Lastly, the tongue is not even necessary to private prayer, unless
in so far as the internal feeling is insufficient for incitement, or
the vehemence of the incitement carries the utterance of the tongue
along with it. For although the best prayers are sometimes without
utterance, yet when the feeling of the mind is overpowering, the
tongue spontaneously breaks forth into utterance, and our other
members into gesture. Hence that dubious muttering of Hannah, (1
Sam. 1: 13,) something similar to which is experienced by all the
saints when concise and abrupt expressions escape from them. The
bodily gestures usually observed in prayer, such as kneeling and
uncovering of the head, (Calv. in Acts 20: 36,) are exercises by
which we attempt to rise to higher veneration of God.
    34. We must now attend not only to a surer method, but also
form of prayer, that, namely, which our heavenly Father has
delivered to us by his beloved Son, and in which we may recognize
his boundless goodness and condescension, (Matth. 6: 9; Luke 11: 2.)
Besides admonishing and exhorting us to seek him in our every
necessity, (as children are wont to betake themselves to the
protection of their parents when oppressed with any anxiety,) seeing
that we were not fully aware how great our poverty was, or what was
right or for our interest to ask, he has provided for this
ignorance; that wherein our capacity failed he has sufficiently
supplied. For he has given us a form in which is set before us as in
a picture every thing which it is lawful to wish, every thing which
is conducive to our interest, every thing which it is necessary to
demand. From his goodness in this respect we derive the great
comfort of knowing, that as we ask almost in his words, we ask
nothing that is absurd, or foreign, or unseasonable; nothing, in
short, that is not agreeable to him. Plato, seeing the ignorance of
men in presenting their desires to God, desires which if granted
would often be most injurious to them, declares the best form of
prayer to be that which an ancient poet has furnished: "O king
Jupiter, give what is best, whether we wish it or wish it not; but
avert from us what is evil even though we ask it," (Plato, Alcibiad.
2:) This heathen shows his wisdom in discerning how dangerous it is
to ask of God what our own passion dictates; while, at the same
time, he reminds us of our unhappy condition in not being able to
open our lips before God without dangers unless his Spirit instruct
us how to pray aright, (Rom. 8: 26.) The higher value, therefore,
ought we to set on the privilege, when the only begotten Son of God
puts words into our lips, and thus relieves our minds of all
    35. This form or rule of prayer is composed of _six petitions_.
For I am prevented from agreeing with those who divide it into
_seven_ by the adversative mode of diction used by the Evangelist,
who appears to have intended to unite the two members together; as
if he had said, Do not allow us to be overcome by temptation, but
rather bring assistance to our frailty, and deliver us that we may
not fall. Ancient writers[22] also agree with us, that what is added
by Matthew as a seventh head is to be considered as explanatory of
the sixth petition.[23] But though in every part of the prayer the
first place is assigned to the glory of God, still this is more
especially the object of the three first petitions, in which we are
to look to the glory of God alone, without any reference to what is
called our own advantage. The three remaining petitions are devoted
to our interest, and properly relate to things which it is useful
for us to ask. When we ask that the name of God may be hallowed, as
God wishes to prove whether we love and serve him freely, or from
the hope of reward, we are not to think at all of our own interest;
we must set his glory before our eyes, and keep them intent upon it
alone. In the other similar petitions, this is the only manner in
which we ought to be affected. It is true, that in this way our own
interest is greatly promoted, because, when the name of God is
hallowed in the way we ask, our own sanctification also is thereby
promoted. But in regard to this advantage, we must, as I have said,
shut our eyes, and be in a manner blind, so as not even to see it;
and hence were all hope of our private advantage cut off, we still
should never cease to wish and pray for this hallowing, and every
thing else which pertains to the glory of God. We have examples in
Moses and Paul, who did not count it grievous to turn away their
eyes and minds from themselves, and with intense and fervent zeal
long for death, if by their loss the kingdom and glory of God might
be promoted, (Exod. 32: 32; Rom. 9: 3.) On the other hand, when we
ask for daily bread, although we desire what is advantageous for
ourselves, we ought also especially to seek the glory of God, so
much so that we would not ask at all unless it were to turn to his
glory. Let us now proceed to an exposition of the Prayer.  OUR
    36. The first thing suggested at the very outset is, as we have
already said, (sec. 17-19,) that all our prayers to God ought only
to be presented in the name of Christ, as there is no other name
which can recommend them. In calling God our Father, we certainly
plead the name of Christ. For with what confidence could any man
call God his Father? Who would have the presumption to arrogate to
himself the honour of a son of God were we not gratuitously adopted
as his sons in Christ? He being the true Son, has been given to us
as a brother, so that that which he possesses as his own by nature
becomes ours by adoption, if we embrace this great mercy with firm
faith. As John says, "As many as received him, to them gave he power
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name,"
(John 1: 12.) Hence he both calls himself our Father, and is pleased
to be so called by us, by this delightful name relieving us of all
distrust, since no where can a stronger affection be found than in a
father. Hence, too, he could not have given us a stronger testimony
of his boundless love than in calling us his sons. But his love
towards us is so much the greater and more excellent than that of
earthly parents, the farther he surpasses all men in goodness and
mercy, (Isaiah 63: 16.) Earthly parents, laying aside all paternal
affection, might abandon their offspring; he will never abandon us,
(Ps. 27: 10,) seeing he cannot deny himself. For we have his
promise, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven
give good things to them that ask him?" (Matth. 7: 11.) In like
manner in the prophet, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that
she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may
forget, yet will not I forget thee," (Isaiah 49: 15.) But if we are
his sons, then as a son cannot betake himself to the protection of a
stranger and a foreigner without at the same time complaining of his
father's cruelty or poverty, so we cannot ask assistance from any
other quarter than from him, unless we would upbraid him with
poverty, or want of means, or cruelty and excessive austerity.
    37. Nor let us allege that we are justly rendered timid by a
consciousness of sin, by which our Father, though mild and merciful,
is daily offended. For if among men a son cannot have a better
advocate to plead his cause with his father, and cannot employ a
better intercessor to regain his lost favour, than if he come
himself suppliant and downcast, acknowledging his fault, to implore
the mercy of his father, whose paternal feelings cannot but be moved
by such entreaties, what will that "Father of all mercies, and God
of all comfort," do? (2 Cor. i. 3.) Will he not rather listen to the
tears and groans of his children, when supplicating for themselves,
(especially seeing he invites and exhorts us to do so,) than to any
advocacy of others to whom the timid have recourse, not without some
semblance of despair, because they are distrustful of their father's
mildness and clemency? The exuberance of his paternal kindness he
sets before us in the parable, (Luke 15: 20; see Calv. Comm.) when
the father with open arms receives the son who had gone away from
him, wasted his substance in riotous living, and in all ways
grievously sinned against him. He waits not till pardon is asked in
words, but, anticipating the request, recognizes him afar off, runs
to meet him, consoles him, and restores him to favour. By setting
before us this admirable example of mildness in a man, he designed
to show in how much greater abundance we may expect it from him who
is not only a Father, but the best and most merciful of all fathers,
however ungrateful, rebellious, and wicked sons we may be, provided
only we throw ourselves upon his mercy. And the better to assure us
that he is such a Father if we are Christians, he has been pleased
to be called not only a Father, but our Father, as if we were
pleading with him after this manner, O Father, who art possessed of
so much affection for thy children, and art so ready to forgive, we
thy children approach thee and present our requests, fully persuaded
that thou hast no other feelings towards us than those of a father,
though we are unworthy of such a parent.[24] But as our narrow
hearts are incapable of comprehending such boundless favour, Christ
is not only the earnest and pledge of our adoption, but also gives
us the Spirit as a witness of this adoption, that through him we may
freely cry aloud, Abba, Father. Whenever, therefore, we are
restrained by any feeling of hesitation, let us remember to ask of
him that he may correct our timidity, and placing us under the
magnanimous guidance of the Spirit, enable us to pray boldly.
    38. The instruction given us, however, is not that every
individual in particular is to call him Father, but rather that we
are all in common to call him Our Father. By this we are reminded
how strong the feeling of brotherly love between us ought to be,
since we are all alike, by the same mercy and free kindness, the
children of such a Father. For if He from whom we all obtain
whatever is good is our common Father, (Matth. 23: 9,) every thing
which has been distributed to us we should be prepared to
communicate to each other, as far as occasion demands. But if we are
thus desirous as we ought, to stretch out our hands and give
assistance to each other, there is nothing by which we can more
benefit our brethren than by committing them to the care and
protection of the best of parents, since if He is propitious and
favourable nothing more can be desired. And, indeed, we owe this
also to our Father. For as he who truly and from the heart loves the
father of a family, extends the same love and good-will to all his, so the zeal and affection which we feel for our heavenly
Parent it becomes us to extend towards his people, his family, and,
in fine, his heritage, which he has honoured so highly as to give
them the appellation of the "fulness" of his only begotten Son,"
(Eph. 1: 23.) Let the Christian, then, so regulate his prayers as to
make them common, and embrace all who are his brethren in Christ;
not only those whom at present he sees and knows to be such, but all
men who are alive upon the earth. What God has determined with
regard to them is beyond our knowledge, but to wish and hope the
best concerning them is both pious and humane. Still it becomes us
to regard with special affection those who are of the household of
faith, and whom the Apostle has in express terms recommended to our
care in every thing, (Gal. 6: 10.) In short, all our prayers ought
to bear reference to that community which our Lord has established
in his kingdom and family.
    39. This, however, does not prevent us from praying specially
for ourselves, and certain others, provided our mind is not
withdrawn from the view of this community, does not deviate from it,
but constantly refers to it. For prayers, though couched in special
terms, keeping that object still in view, cease not to be common.
All this may easily be understood by analogy. There is a general
command from God to relieve the necessities of all the poor, and yet
this command is obeyed by those who with that view give succour to
all whom they see or know to be in distress, although they pass by
many whose wants are not less urgent, either because they cannot
know or are unable to give supply to all. In this way there is
nothing repugnant to the will of God in those who, giving heed to
this common society of the Church, yet offer up particular prayers,
in which, with a public mind, though in special terms, they commend
to God themselves or others, with whose necessity he has been
pleased to make them more familiarly acquainted. It is true that
prayer and the giving of our substance are not in all respects
alike. We can only bestow the kindness of our liberality on those of
whose wants we are aware, whereas in prayer we can assist the
greatest strangers, how wide soever the space which may separate
them from us. This is done by that general form of prayer which,
including all the sons of God, includes them also. To this we may
refer the exhortation which Paul gave to the believers of his age,
to lift up "holy hands without wrath and doubting," (1 Tim. 2: 8.)
By reminding them that dissension is a bar to prayer, he shows it to
be his wish that they should with one accord present their prayers
in common.
    40. The next words are, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. From this we are
not to infer that he is enclosed and confined within the
circumference of heaven, as by a kind of boundaries. Hence Solomon
confesses, "The heaven of heavens cannot contain thee," (1 Kings 8:
27;) and he himself says by the Prophet, "The heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool," (Isa. 66: 1;) thereby intimating,
that his presence, not confined to any region, is diffused over all
space. But as our gross minds are unable to conceive of his
ineffable glory, it is designated to us by _heaven_, nothing which
our eyes can behold being so full of splendor and majesty. While,
then, we are accustomed to regard every object as confined to the
place where our senses discern it, no place can be assigned to God;
and hence, if we would seek him, we must rise higher than all
corporeal or mental discernment. Again, this form of expression
reminds us that he is far beyond the reach of change or corruption,
that he holds the whole universe in his grasp, and rules it by his
power. The effect of the expressions therefore, is the same as if it
had been said, that he is of infinite majesty, incomprehensible
essence, boundless power, and eternal duration. When we thus speak
of God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch; we must
not ascribe to him any thing of a terrestrial or carnal nature, must
not measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be
like ours. At the same time, we must put our confidence in him,
understanding that heaven and earth are governed by his providence
and power. In short, under the name of Father is set before us that
God, who hath appeared to us in his own image, that we may invoke
him with sure faith; the familiar name of Father being given not
only to inspire confidence, but also to curb our minds, and prevent
them from going astray after doubtful or fictitious gods. We thus
ascend from the only begotten Son to the supreme Father of angels
and of the Church. Then when his throne is fixed in heaven, we are
reminded that he governs the world, and, therefore, that it is not
in vain to approach him whose present care we actually experience.
"He that cometh to God," says the Apostle, "must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," (Heb.
11: 6.) Here Christ makes both claims for his Father, _first_, that
we place our faith in him; and, _secondly_ ,that we feel assured
that our salvation is not neglected by him, inasmuch as he
condescends to extend his providence to us. By these elementary
principles Paul prepares us to pray aright; for before enjoining us
to make our requests known unto God, he premises in this way, "The
Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing," (Phil. 4: 5, 6.) Whence it
appears that doubt and perplexity hang over the prayers of those in
whose minds the belief is not firmly seated, that "the eyes of the
Lord are upon the righteous," (Ps. 34: 15.)
    41. The first petition is, HALLOWED BE THY NAME. The necessity
of presenting it bespeaks our great disgrace. For what can be more
unbecoming than that our ingratitude and malice should impair, our
audacity and petulance should as much as in them lies destroy, the
glory of God? But though all the ungodly should burst with
sacrilegious rage, the holiness of God's name still shines forth.
Justly does the Psalmist exclaim, "According to thy name, O God, so
is thy praise unto the ends of the earth," (Ps. 48: 10.) For
wherever God hath made himself known, his perfections must be
displayed, his power, goodness, wisdom, justice, mercy, and truth,
which fill us with admiration, and incite us to show forth his
praise. Therefore, as the name of God is not duly hallowed on the
earth, and we are otherwise unable to assert it, it is at least our
duty to make it the subject of our prayers. The sum of the whole is,
It must be our desire that God may receive the honour which is his
due: that men may never think or speak of him without the greatest
reverence. The opposite of this reverence is profanity, which has
always been too common in the world, and is very prevalent in the
present day. Hence the necessity of the petition, which, if piety
had any proper existence among us, would be superfluous. But if the
name of God is duly hallowed only when separated from all other
names it alone is glorified, we are in the petition enjoined to ask
not only that God would vindicate his sacred name from all contempt
and insult, but also that he would compel the whole human race to
reverence it. Then since God manifests himself to us partly by his
word, and partly by his works, he is not sanctified unless in regard
to both of these we ascribe to him what is due, and thus embrace
whatever has proceeded from him, giving no less praise to his
justice than to his mercy. On the manifold diversity of his works he
has inscribed the marks of his glory, and these ought to call forth
from every tongue an ascription of praise. Thus Scripture will
obtain its due authority with us, and no event will hinder us from
celebrating the praises of God, in regard to every part of his
government. On the other hand, the petition implies a wish that all
impiety which pollutes this sacred name may perish and be
extinguished, that every thing which obscures or impairs his glory,
all detraction and insult, may cease; that all blasphemy being
suppressed, the divine majesty may be more and more signally
    42. The second petition is, THY KINGDOM COME. This contains
nothing new, and yet there is good reason for distinguishing it from
the first. For if we consider our lethargy in the greatest of all
matters, we shall see how necessary it is that what ought to be in
itself perfectly known should be inculcated at greater length.
Therefore, after the injunction to pray that God would reduce to
order, and at length completely efface every stain which is thrown
on his sacred name, another petition, containing almost the same
wish, is added, viz., Thy kingdom come. Although a definition of
this kingdom has already been given, I now briefly repeat that God
reigns when men, in denial of themselves and contempt of the world
and this earthly life, devote themselves to righteousness and aspire
to heaven, (see Calvin, Harm. Matth. 6:) Thus this kingdom consists
of two parts; the first is, when God by the agency of his Spirit
corrects all the depraved lusts of the flesh, which in bands war
against Him; and the second, when he brings all our thoughts into
obedience to his authority. This petition, therefore, is duly
presented only by those who begin with themselves; in other words,
who pray that they may be purified from all the corruptions which
disturb the tranquillity and impair the purity of God's kingdom.
Then as the word of God is like his royal sceptre, we are here
enjoined to pray that he would subdue all minds and hearts to
voluntary obedience. This is done when by the secret inspiration of
his Spirit he displays the efficacy of his word, and raises it to
the place of honour which it deserves. We must next descend to the
wicked, who perversely and with desperate madness resist his
authority. God, therefore, sets up his kingdom, by humbling the
whole world, though in different ways, taming the wantonness of
some, and breaking the ungovernable pride of others. We should
desire this to be done every day, in order that God may gather
churches to himself from all quarters of the world, may extend and
increase their numbers, enrich them with his gifts, establish due
order among them; on the other hand, beat down all the enemies of
pure doctrine and religion, dissipate their counsels, defeat their
attempts. Hence it appears that there is good ground for the precept
which enjoins daily progress, for human affairs are never so
prosperous as when the impurities of vice are purged away, and
integrity flourishes in full vigor. The completion, however, is
deferred to the final advent of Christ, when, as Paul declares, "God
will be all in all," (1 Cor. 15: 28.) This prayer, therefore, ought
to withdraw us from the corruptions of the world which separate us
from God, and prevent his kingdom from flourishing within us;
secondly, it ought to inflame us with an ardent desire for the
mortification of the flesh; and, lastly, it ought to train us to the
endurance of the cross; since this is the way in which God would
have his kingdom to be advanced. It ought not to grieve us that the
outward man decays provided the inner man is renewed. For such is
the nature of the kingdom of God, that while we submit to his
righteousness he makes us partakers of his glory. This is the case
when continually adding to his light and truth, by which the lies
and the darkness of Satan and his kingdom are dissipated,
extinguished, and destroyed, he protects his people, guides them
aright by the agency of his Spirit, and confirms them in
perseverance; while, on the other hand, he frustrates the impious
conspiracies of his enemies, dissipates their wiles and frauds,
prevents their malice and curbs their petulance, until at length he
consume Antichrist "with the spirit of his mouth," and destroy all
impiety "with the brightness of his coming," (2 Thess. 2: 8, Calv.
    43. The third petition is, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS
IN HEAVEN. Though this depends on his kingdom, and cannot be
disjoined from it, yet a separate place is not improperly given to
it on account of our ignorance, which does not at once or easily
apprehend what is meant by God reigning in the world. This,
therefore, may not improperly be taken as the explanation, that God
will be King in the world when all shall subject themselves to his
will. We are not here treating of that secret will by which he
governs all things, and destines them to their end, (see chap. 24:
s. 17.) For although devils and men rise in tumult against him, he
is able by his incomprehensible counsel not only to turn aside their
violence, but make it subservient to the execution of his decrees.
What we here speak of is another will of God, namely, that of which
voluntary obedience is the counterpart; and, therefore, heaven is
expressly contrasted with earth, because, as is said in The Psalms,
the angels "do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his
word," (Ps. 103: 20.) We are, therefore, enjoined to pray that as
everything done in heaven is at the command of God, and the angels
are calmly disposed to do all that is right, so the earth may be
brought under his authority, all rebellion and depravity having been
extinguished. In presenting this request we renounce the desires of
the flesh, because he who does not entirely resign his affections to
God, does as much as in him lies to oppose the divine will, since
everything which proceeds from us is vicious. Again, by this prayer
we are taught to deny ourselves, that God may rule us according to
his pleasure; and not only so, but also having annihilated our own
may create new thoughts and new minds so that we shall have no
desire save that of entire agreement with his will; in short, wish
nothing of ourselves, but have our hearts governed by his Spirit,
under whose inward teaching we may learn to love those things which
please and hate those things which displease him. Hence also we must
desire that he would nullify and suppress all affections which are
repugnant to his will. Such are the three first heads of the prayer,
in presenting which we should have the glory of God only in view,
taking no account of ourselves, and paying no respect to our own
advantage, which, though it is thereby greatly promoted, is not here
to be the subject of request. And though all the events prayed for
must happen in their own time, without being either thought of,
wished, or asked by us, it is still our duty to wish and ask for
them. And it is of no slight importance to do so, that we may
testify and profess that we are the servants and children of God,
desirous by every means in our power to promote the honour due to
him as our Lord and Father, and truly and thoroughly devoted to his
service. Hence if men, in praying that the name of God may be
hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done, are not
influenced by this zeal for the promotion of his glory, they are not
to be accounted among the servants and children of God; and as all
these things will take place against their will, so they will turn
out to their confusion and destruction.
    44. Now comes the second part of the prayer, in which we
descend to our own interests, not, indeed, that we are to lose sight
of the glory of God, (to which, as Paul declares, we must have
respect even in meat and drink, 1 Cor. 10: 31,) and ask only what is
expedient for ourselves; but the distinction, as we have already
observed, is this: God claiming the three first petitions as
specially his own, carries us entirely to himself, that in this way
he may prove our piety. Next he permits us to look to our own
advantage, but still on the condition, that when we ask anything for
ourselves it must be in order that all the benefits which he confers
may show forth his glory, there being nothing more incumbent on us
than to live and die to him. By the first petition of the second
part, GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, we pray in general that God
would give us all things which the body requires in this sublunary
state, not only food and clothing, but everything which he knows
will assist us to eat our bread in peace. In this way we briefly
cast our care upon him, and commit ourselves to his providence, that
he may feed, foster, and preserve us. For our heavenly Father
disdains not to take our body under his charge and protection, that
he may exercise our faith in those minute matters, while we look to
him for everything, even to a morsel of bread and a drop of water.
For since, owing to some strange inequality, we feel more concern
for the body than for the soul, many who can trust the latter to God
still continue anxious about the former, still hesitate as to what
they are to eat, as to how they are to be clothed, and are in
trepidation whenever their hands are not filled with corn, and wine,
and oil, so much more value do we set on this shadowy, fleeting
life, than on a blessed immortality. But those who, trusting to God,
have once cast away that anxiety about the flesh, immediately look
to him for greater gifts, even salvation and eternal life. It is no
slight exercise of faith, therefore, to hope in God for things which
would otherwise give us so much concern; nor have we made little
progress when we get quit of this unbelief, which cleaves, as it
were, to our very bones. The speculations of some concerning
supersubstantial bread seem to be very little accordant with our
Savior's meaning; for our prayer would be defective were we not to
ascribe to God the nourishment even of this fading life. The reason
which they give is heathenish, viz., that it is inconsistent with
the character of sons of God, who ought to be spiritual, not only to
occupy their mind with earthly cares, but to suppose God also
occupied with them. As if his blessing and paternal favour were not
eminently displayed in giving us food, or as if there were nothing
in the declaration that godliness hath "the promise of the life that
now is, and of that which is to come," (1 Tim. 4: 8.) But although
the forgiveness of sins is of far more importance than the
nourishment of the body, yet Christ has set down the inferior in the
prior place, in order that he might gradually raise us to the other
two petitions, which properly belong to the heavenly life,--in this
providing for our sluggishness. We are enjoined to ask _our bread_,
that we may be contented with the measure which our heavenly Father
is pleased to dispense, and not strive to make gain by illicit arts.
Meanwhile, we must hold that the title by which it is ours is
donation, because, as Moses says, (Levit. 26: 20, Deut. 8: 17,)
neither our industry, nor labour, nor hands, acquire any thing for
us, unless the blessing of God be present; nay, not even would
abundance of bread be of the least avail were it not divinely
converted into nourishment. And hence this liberality of God is not
less necessary to the rich than the poor, because, though their
cellars and barns were full, they would be parched and pine with
want did they not enjoy his favour along with their bread. The terms
_this day_, or, as it is in another Evangelist, _daily_, and also
the epithet _daily_, lay a restraint on our immoderate desire of
fleeting good--a desire which we are extremely apt to indulge to
excess, and from which other evils ensue: for when our supply is in
richer abundance we ambitiously squander it in pleasure, luxury,
ostentation, or other kinds of extravagance. Wherefore, we are only
enjoined to ask as much as our necessity requires, and as it were
for each day, confiding that our heavenly Father, who gives us the
supply of to-day, will not fail us on the morrow. How great soever
our abundance may be, however well filled our cellars and granaries,
we must still always ask for daily bread, for we must feel assured
that all substance is nothing, unless in so far as the Lord, by
pouring out his blessing, make it fruitful during its whole
progress; for even that which is in our hand is not ours except in
so far as he every hour portions it out, and permits us to use it.
As nothing is more difficult to human pride than the admission of
this truth, the Lord declares that he gave a special proof for all
ages, when he fed his people with manna in the desert, (Deut. 8: 3,)
that he might remind us that "man shall not live by bread alone, but
by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," (Matth. 4:
4.) It is thus intimated, that by his power alone our life and
strength are sustained, though he ministers supply to us by bodily
instruments. In like manner, whenever it so pleases, he gives us a
proof of an opposite description, by breaking the strength, or, as
he himself calls it, the _staff_ of bread, (Levit. 26: 26,) and
leaving us even while eating to pine with hunger, and while drinking
to be parched with thirst. Those who, not contented with daily
bread, indulge an unrestrained insatiable cupidity, or those who are
full of their own abundance, and trust in their own riches, only
mock God by offering up this prayer. For the former ask what they
would be unwilling to obtain, nay, what they most of all abominate,
namely, daily bread only, and as much as in them lies disguise their
avarice from God, whereas true prayer should pour out the whole soul
and every inward feeling before him. The latter, again, ask what
they do not at all expect to obtain, namely, what they imagine that
they in themselves already possess. In its being called _ours_, God,
as we have already said, gives a striking display of his kindness,
making that to be ours to which we have no just claim. Nor must we
reject the view to which I have already adverted, viz., that this
name is given to what is obtained by just and honest labour, as
contrasted with what is obtained by fraud and rapine, nothing being
our own which we obtain with injury to others. When we ask God to
_give us_, the meaning is, that the thing asked is simply and freely
the gift of God, whatever be the quarter from which it comes to us,
even when it seems to have been specially prepared by our own art
and industry, and procured by our hands, since it is to his blessing
alone that all our labors owe their success.
    45. The next petition is, FORGIVE ITS OUR DEBTS. In this and
the following petition our Saviour has briefly comprehended whatever
is conducive to the heavenly life, as these two members contain the
spiritual covenant which God made for the salvation of his Church,
"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it on their
hearts." "I will pardon all their iniquities," (Jer. 31: 33; 33: 8.)
Here our Saviour begins with the forgiveness of sins, and then adds
the subsequent blessing, viz., that God would protect us by the
power, and support us by the aid of his Spirit, so that we may stand
invincible against all temptations. To sins he gives the name of
_debts_, because we owe the punishment due to them, a debt which we
could not possibly pay were we not discharged by this remission, the
result of his free mercy, when he freely expunges the debt,
accepting nothing in return; but of his own mercy receiving
satisfaction in Christ, who gave himself a ransom for us, (Rom. 3:
24.) Hence, those who expect to satisfy God by merits of their own
or of others, or to compensate and purchase forgiveness by means of
satisfactions, have no share in this free pardon, and while they
address God in this petition, do nothing more than subscribe their
own accusation, and seal their condemnation by their own testimony.
For they confess that they are debtors, unless they are discharged
by means of forgiveness. This forgiveness, however, they do not
receive, but rather reject, when they obtrude their merits and
satisfactions upon God, since by so doing they do not implore his
mercy, but appeal to his justice. Let those, again, who dream of a
perfection which makes it unnecessary to seek pardon, find their
disciples among those whose itching ears incline them to
imposture,[25] (see Calv. on Dan. 9: 20;) only let them understand
that those whom they thus acquire have been carried away from
Christ, since he, by instructing all to confess their guilt,
receives none but sinners, not that he may soothe, and so encourage
them in their sins, but because he knows that believers are never so
divested of the sins of the flesh as not to remain subject to the
justice of God. It is, indeed, to be wished, it ought even to be our
strenuous endeavour, to perform all the parts of our duty, so as
truly to congratulate ourselves before God as being pure from every
stain; but as God is pleased to renew his image in us by degrees, so
that to some extent there is always a residue of corruption in our
flesh, we ought by no means to neglect the remedy. But if Christ,
according to the authority given him by his Father, enjoins us,
during the whole course of our lives, to implore pardon, who can
tolerate those new teachers who, by the phantom of perfect
innocence, endeavour to dazzle the simple, and make them believe
that they can render themselves completely free from guilt? This, as
John declares, is nothing else than to make God a liar, (1 John 1:
10.) In like manner, those foolish men mutilate the covenant in
which we have seen that our salvation is contained by concealing one
head of it, and so destroying it entirely; being guilty not only of
profanity in that they separate things which ought to be
indissolubly connected; but also of wickedness and cruelty in
overwhelming wretched souls with despair--of treachery also to
themselves and their followers, in that they encourage themselves in
a carelessness diametrically opposed to the mercy of God. It is
excessively childish to object, that when they long for the advent
of the kingdom of God, they at the same time pray for the abolition
of sin. In the former division of the prayer absolute perfection is
set before us; but in the latter our own weakness. Thus the two
fitly correspond to each other--we strive for the goal, and at the
same time neglect not the remedies which our necessities require. In
the next part of the petition we pray to be forgiven, "_as we
forgive our debtors;_" that is, as we spare and pardon all by whom
we are in any way offended, either in deed by unjust, or in word by
contumelious treatment. Not that we can forgive the guilt of a fault
or offense; this belongs to God only; but we can forgive to this
extent: we can voluntarily divest our minds of wrath, hatred, and
revenge, and efface the remembrance of injuries by a voluntary
oblivion. Wherefore, we are not to ask the forgiveness of our sins
from God, unless we forgive the offenses of all who are or have been
injurious to us. If we retain any hatred in our minds, if we
meditate revenge, and devise the means of hurting; nay, if we do not
return to a good understanding with our enemies, perform every kind
of friendly office, and endeavour to effect a reconciliation with
them, we by this petition beseech God not to grant us forgiveness.
For we ask him to do to us as we do to others. This is the same as
asking him not to do unless we do also. What, then, do such persons
obtain by this petition but a heavier judgment? Lastly, it is to be
observed that the condition of being forgiven as we forgive our
debtors, is not added because by forgiving others we deserve
forgiveness, as if the cause of forgiveness were expressed; but by
the use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to
solace the weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us
that our sins are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly
conscious of having forgiven others, when our mind is completely
purged from all envy, hatred, and malice; and partly using as a
badge by which he excludes from the number of his children all who,
prone to revenge and reluctant to forgive, obstinately keep up their
enmity, cherishing against others that indignation which they
deprecate from themselves; so that they should not venture to invoke
him as a Father. In the Gospel of Luke, we have this distinctly
stated in the words of Christ.
    46. The sixth petition corresponds (as we have observed) to the
promise[26] of _writing the law upon our hearts_; but because we do
not obey God without a continual warfare, without sharp and arduous
contests, we here pray that he would furnish us with armour, and
defend us by his protection, that we may be able to obtain the
victory. By this we are reminded that we not only have need of the
gift of the Spirit inwardly to soften our hearts, and turn and
direct them to the obedience of God, but also of his assistance, to
render us invincible by all the wiles and violent assaults of Satan.
The forms of temptation are many and various. The depraved
conceptions of our minds provoking us to transgress the law--
conceptions which our concupiscence suggests or the devil excites,
are temptations; and things which in their own nature are not evil,
become temptations by the wiles of the devil, when they are
presented to our eyes in such a way that the view of them makes us
withdraw or decline from God.[27] These temptations are both on the
right hand and on the left.[28] On the right, when riches, power,
and honours, which by their glare, and the semblance of good which
they present, generally dazzle the eyes of men, and so entice by
their blandishments, that, caught by their snares, and intoxicated
by their sweetness, they forget their God: on the left, when
offended by the hardship and bitterness of poverty, disgrace,
contempt, afflictions, and other things of that description, they
despond, cast away their confidence and hope, and are at length
totally estranged from God. In regard to both kinds of temptation,
which either enkindled in us by concupiscence) or presented by the
craft of Satan's war against us, we pray God the Father not to allow
us to be overcome, but rather to raise and support us by his hand,
that strengthened by his mighty power we may stand firm against all
the assaults of our malignant enemy, whatever be the thoughts which
he sends into our minds; next we pray that whatever of either
description is allotted us, we may turn to good, that is, may
neither be inflated with prosperity, nor cast down by adversity.
Here, however, we do not ask to be altogether exempted from
temptation, which is very necessary to excite, stimulate, and urge
us on, that we may not become too lethargic. It was not without
reason that David wished to be tried,[29] nor is it without cause
that the Lord daily tries his elect, chastising them by disgrace,
poverty, tribulation, and other kinds of cross.[30] But the
temptations of God and Satan are very different: Satan tempts, that
he may destroy, condemn, confound, throw headlong; God, that by
proving his people he may make trial of their sincerity, and by
exercising their strength confirm it; may mortify, tame, and
cauterize their flesh, which, if not curbed in this manner, would
wanton and exult above measure. Besides, Satan attacks those who are
unarmed and unprepared, that he may destroy them unawares; whereas
whatever God sends, he "will with the temptation also make a way to
escape, that ye may be able to bear it."[31] Whether by the term
evil we understand the devil or sin, is not of the least
consequence. Satan is indeed the very enemy who lays snares for our
life,[32] but it is by sin that he is armed for our destruction. Our
petition, therefore, is, that we may not be overcome or overwhelmed
with temptation, but in the strength of the Lord may stand firm
against all the powers by which we are assailed; in other words, may
not fall under temptation: that being thus taken under his charge
and protection, we may remain invincible by sin, death, the gates of
hell, and the whole power of the devil; in other words, be delivered
from evil. Here it is carefully to be observed, that we have no
strength to contend with such a combatant as the devil, or to
sustain the violence of his assault. Were it otherwise, it would be
mockery of God to ask of him what we already possess in ourselves.
Assuredly those who in self-confidence prepare for such a fight, do
not understand how bold and well-equipped the enemy is with whom
they have to do. Now we ask to be delivered from his power, as from
the mouth of some furious raging lion, who would instantly tear us
with his teeth and claws, and swallow us up, did not the Lord rescue
us from the midst of death; at the same time knowing that if the
Lord is present and will fight for us while we stand by, through him
"we shall do valiantly," (Ps. 60: 12.) Let others if they will
confide in the powers and resources of their free will which they
think they possess; enough for us that we stand and are strong in
the power of God alone. But the prayer comprehends more than at
first sight it seems to do. For if the Spirit of God is our strength
in waging the contest with Satan, we cannot gain the victory unless
we are filled with him, and thereby freed from all infirmity of the
flesh. Therefore, when we pray to be delivered from sin and Satan,
we at the same time desire to be enriched with new supplies of
divine grace, until completely replenished with them, we triumph
over every evil. To some it seems rude and harsh to ask God not to
lead us into temptation, since, as James declares (James 1: 13,) it
is contrary to his nature to do so. This difficulty has already been
partly solved by the fact that our concupiscence is the cause, and
therefore properly bears the blame of all the temptations by which
we are overcome. All that James means is, that it is vain and unjust
to ascribe to God vices which our own consciousness compels us to
impute to ourselves. But this is no reason why God may not when he
sees it meet bring us into bondage to Satan, give us up to a
reprobate mind and shameful lusts, and so by a just, indeed, but
often hidden judgment, lead us into temptation. Though the cause is
often concealed from men, it is well known to him. Hence we may see
that the expression is not improper, if we are persuaded that it is
not without cause he so often threatens to give sure signs of his
vengeance, by blinding the reprobate, and hardening their hearts.
    47. These three petitions, in which we specially commend
ourselves and all that we have to God, clearly show what we formerly
observed (sec. 38, 39,) that the prayers of Christians should be
public, and have respect to the public edification of the Church and
the advancement of believers in spiritual communion. For no one
requests that anything should be given to him as an individual, but
we all ask in common for daily bread and the forgiveness of sins,
not to be led into temptation, but delivered from evil. Moreover,
there is subjoined the reason for our great boldness in asking and
confidence of obtaining, (sec. 11, 36.) Although this does not exist
in the Latin copies, yet as it accords so well with the whole, we
cannot think of omitting it. The words are, THINE IS THE KINGDOM,
AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER. Here is the calm and firm
assurance of our faith. For were our prayers to be commended to God
by our own worth, who would venture even to whisper before him? Now,
however wretched we may be, however unworthy, however devoid of
commendation, we shall never want a reason for prayer, nor a ground
of confidence, since the kingdom, power, and glory, can never be
wrested from our Father. The last word is AMEN, by which is
expressed the eagerness of our desire to obtain the things which we
ask, while our hope is confirmed, that all things have already been
obtained and will assuredly be granted to us, seeing they have been
promised by God, who cannot deceive. This accords with the form of
expression to which we have already adverted: "Grant, O Lord, for
thy name's sake, not on account of us or of our righteousness." By
this the saints not only express the end of their prayers, but
confess that they are unworthy of obtaining did not God find the
cause in himself and were not their confidence founded entirely on
his nature.
    48. All things that we ought, indeed all that we are able, to
ask of God, are contained in this formula, and as it were rule, of
prayer delivered by Christ, our divine Master, whom the Father has
appointed to be our teacher, and to whom alone he would have us to
listen, (Matth. 17. 5.) For he ever was the eternal wisdom of the
Father, and being made man, was manifested as the Wonderful, the
Counselor, (Isa. 11: 2; ix. 6.) Accordingly, this prayer is complete
in all its parts, so complete, that whatever is extraneous and
foreign to it, whatever cannot be referred to it, is impious and
unworthy of the approbation of God. For he has here summarily
prescribed what is worthy of him, what is acceptable to him, and
what is necessary for us; in short, whatever he is pleased to grant.
Those, therefore, who presume to go further and ask something more
from God, first seek to add of their own to the wisdom of God, (this
it is insane blasphemy to do;) secondly, refusing to confine
themselves within the will of God, and despising it, they wander as
their cupidity directs; lastly, they will never obtain anything,
seeing they pray without faith. For there cannot be a doubt that all
such prayers are made without faith, because at variance with the
word of God, on which if faith do not always lean it cannot possibly
stand. Those who, disregarding the Master's rule, indulge their own
wishes, not only have not the word of God, but as much as in them
lies oppose it. Hence Tertullian (De Fuga in Persequutione) has not
less truly than elegantly termed it _Lawful Prayer_, tacitly
intimating that all other prayers are lawless and illicit.
    49. By this, however, we would not have it understood that we
are so restricted to this form of prayer as to make it unlawful to
change a word or syllable of it. For in Scripture we meet with many
prayers differing greatly from it in word, yet written by the same
Spirit, and capable of being used by us with the greatest advantage.
Many prayers also are continually suggested to believers by the same
Spirit, though in expression they bear no great resemblance to it.
All we mean to say is, that no man should wish, expect, or ask
anything which is not summarily comprehended in this prayer. Though
the words may be very different, there must be no difference in the
sense. In this way, all prayers, both those which are contained in
the Scripture, and those which come forth from pious breasts, must
be referred to it, certainly none can ever equal it, far less
surpass it in perfection. It omits nothing which we can conceive in
praise of God, nothing which we can imagine advantageous to man, and
the whole is so exact that all hope of improving it may well be
renounced. In short, let us remember that we have here the doctrine
of heavenly wisdom. God has taught what he willed; he willed what
was necessary.
    50. But although it has been said above, (sec. 7, 27, &c.,)
that we ought always to raise our minds upwards towards God, and
pray without ceasing, yet such is our weakness, which requires to be
supported, such our torpor, which requires to be stimulated, that it
is requisite for us to appoint special hours for this exercise,
hours which are not to pass away without prayer, and during which
the whole affections of our minds are to be completely occupied;
namely, when we rise in the morning, before we commence our daily
work, when we sit down to food, when by the blessing of God we have
taken it, and when we retire to rest. This, however, must not be a
superstitious observance of hours, by which, as it were, performing
a task to God, we think we are discharged as to other hours; it
should rather be considered as a discipline by which our weakness is
exercised, and ever and anon stimulated. In particular, it must be
our anxious care, whenever we are ourselves pressed, or see others
pressed by any strait, instantly to have recourse to him not only
with quickened pace, but with quickened minds; and again, we must
not in any prosperity of ourselves or others omit to testify our
recognition of his hand by praise and thanksgiving. Lastly, we must
in all our prayers carefully avoid wishing to confine God to certain
circumstances, or prescribe to him the time, place, or mode of
action. In like manner, we are taught by this prayer not to fix any
law or impose any condition upon him, but leave it entirely to him
to adopt whatever course of procedure seems to him best, in respect
of method, time, and place. For before we offer up any petition for
ourselves, we ask that his will may be done, and by so doing place
our will in subordination to his, just as if we had laid a curb upon
it, that, instead of presuming to give law to God, it may regard him
as the ruler and disposer of all its wishes.
    51. If, with minds thus framed to obedience, we allow ourselves
to be governed by the laws of Divine Providence, we shall easily
learn to persevere in prayer, and suspending our own desires wait
patiently for the Lord, certain, however little the appearance of it
may be, that he is always present with us, and will in his own time
show how very far he was from turning a deaf ear to prayers, though
to the eyes of men they may seem to be disregarded. This will be a
very present consolation, if at any time God does not grant an
immediate answer to our prayers, preventing us from fainting or
giving way to despondency, as those are wont to do who, in invoking
God, are so borne away by their own fervor, that unless he yield on
their first importunity and give present help, they immediately
imagine that he is angry and offended with them and abandoning all
hope of success cease from prayer. On the contrary, deferring our
hope with well tempered equanimity, let us insist with that
perseverance which is so strongly recommended to us in Scripture. We
may often see in The Psalms how David and other believers, after
they are almost weary of praying, and seem to have been beating the
air by addressing a God who would not hear, yet cease not to pray
because due authority is not given to the word of God, unless the
faith placed in it is superior to all events. Again, let us not
tempt God, and by wearying him with our importunity provoke his
anger against us. Many have a practice of formally bargaining with
God on certain conditions, and, as if he were the servant of their
lust, binding him to certain stipulations; with which if he do not
immediately comply, they are indignant and fretful, murmur,
complain, and make a noise. Thus offended, he often in his anger
grants to such persons what in mercy he kindly denies to others. Of
this we have a proof in the children of Israel, for whom it had been
better not to have been heard by the Lord, than to swallow his
indignation with their flesh, (Num. 11: 18, 33.)
    52. But if our sense is not able till after long expectation to
perceive what the result of prayer is, or experience any benefit
from it, still our faith will assure us of that which cannot be
perceived by sense, viz., that we have obtained what was fit for us,
the Lord having so often and so surely engaged to take an interest
in all our troubles from the moment they have been deposited in his
bosom. In this way we shall possess abundance in poverty, and
comfort in affliction. For though all things fail, God will never
abandon us, and he cannot frustrate the expectation and patience of
his people. He alone will suffice for all, since in himself he
comprehends all good, and will at last reveal it to us on the day of
judgment, when his kingdom shall be plainly manifested. We may add,
that although God complies with our request, he does not always give
an answer in the very terms of our prayers but while apparently
holding us in suspense, yet in an unknown way, shows that our
prayers have not been in vain. This is the meaning of the words of
John, "If we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that
we have the petitions that we desired of him," (1 John 5: 15.) It
might seem that there is here a great superfluity of words, but the
declaration is most useful, namely, that God, even when he does not
comply with our requests, yet listens and is favourable to our
prayers, so that our hope founded on his word is never disappointed.
But believers have always need of being supported by this patience,
as they could not stand long if they did not lean upon it. For the
trials by which the Lord proves and exercises us are severe, nay, he
often drives us to extremes, and when driven allows us long to stick
fast in the mire before he gives us any taste of his sweetness. As
Hannah says, "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down
to the grave, and bringeth up," (1 Sam. 2: 6.) What could they here
do but become dispirited and rush on despair, were they not, when
afflicted, desolate, and half dead, comforted with the thought that
they are regarded by God, and that there will be an end to their
present evils. But however secure their hopes may stand, they in the
meantime cease not to pray, since prayer unaccompanied by
perseverance leads to no result.


[1] French, "Dont il sembleroit que ce fust chose supeflue de le
soliciter par prieres; veu que nous avons accoustume de soliciter
ceux qui ne pensent a nostre affaire, et qui sont endormis."--Whence
it would seem that it was a superfluous matter to solicit him by
prayer; seeing we are accustomed to solicit those who think not of
our business and who are slumbering.
[2] French, "Pourtant ce qui est escrit en la prophetie qu'on
attribue a Baruch, combien que l'autheur soit incertain, est tres
sainctement dit;"--However, what is written in the prophecy which is
attributed to Baruch, though the author is uncertain, is very holily
[3] French, "il reconoissent le chastisement qu'ils ont merite;"--
they acknowledge the punishment which they have deserved.
[4] The French adds, "Ils voudront qu'on leur oste le mal de tests
et des reins, et seront contens qu'on ne touche point a la fievre;"-
-They would wish to get quit of the pain in the head and the loins,
and would be contented to leave the fever untouched.
[5] Latin, "prosternere preces." French, "mettent bas leurs
prieres;" -- lay low their prayers.
[6] The French adds, "duquel id n'eust pas autrement este asseure;"-
-of which he would not otherwise have felt assured.
[7] Latin, "Desine a me." French, "Retire-toy;"--Withdraw from me.
[8] French, "Confusion que nous avons, ou devons avoir en
nousmesmes;"-- confusion which we have, or ought to have, in
[9] Erasmus, though stumbling and walking blindfold in clear light,
ventures to write thus in a letter to Sadolet, 1530: "Primum,
constat nullum esse locum in divinis voluminibus, qui permittat
invocare divos nisi fortasse detorquere huc placet, quod dives in
Evangelica parabola implorat opem Abrahae. Quanquam autem in re
tanta novare quicquam praeter auctoritatem Scripturae, merito
periculosum videri possit, tamen invocationem divorum nusquam
improbo," &c.--First, it is clear that there is no passage in the
Sacred Volume which permits the invocation of saints, unless we are
pleased to wrest to this purpose what is said in the parable as to
the rich man imploring the help of Abraham. But though in so weighty
a matter it may justly seem dangerous to introduce anything without
the authority of Scripture, I by no means condemn the invocation of
saints, &c.
[10] Latin, "Pastores;"--French, "ceux qui se disent prelats, cures,
ou precheurs;"--those who call themselves prelates, curates, or
[11] French, "Mais encore qu'ils taschent de laver leur mains d'un
si vilain sacrilege, d'autant qu'il ne se commet point en leurs
messes ni en leurs vespres; sous quelle couleur defendront ils ces
blasphemes qu'il lisent a pleine gorge, ou ils prient St Eloy ou St
Medard, de regarder du ciel leurs serviteurs pour les aider? mesmes
ou ils supplient la vierge Marie de commander a son fils qu'il leur
ottroye leur requestes?"--But although they endeavour to wash their
hands of the vile sacrilege, inasmuch as it is not committed in
their masses or vespers, under what pretext will they defend those
blasphemies which they repeat with full throat, in which they pray
St Eloy or St Medard to look from heaven upon their servants and
assist them; even supplicate the Virgin Mary to command her Son to
grant their requests?
[12] The French adds, "et quasi en une fourmiliere de saincts;"--and
as it were a swarm of saints.
[13] French, "C'est chose trop notoire de quel bourbieu ou de quelle
racaille ils tirent leur saincts."-It is too notorious out of what
mire or rubbish they draw their saints.
[14] French, "Cette longueur de priere a aujourd'hui sa vogue en la
Papaute, et procede de cette mesme source; c'est que les uns
barbotant force Ave Maria, et reiterant cent fois un chapelet,
perdent une partie du temps; les autres, comme les chanoines et
caphars, en abayant le parchemin jour et nuict, et barbotant leur
breviaire vendent leur coquilles au peuple."--This long prayer is at
present in vogue among the Papists, and proceeds from the same
cause: some muttering a host of Ave Marias, and going over their
beads a hundred times, lose part of their time; others, as the
canons and monks grumbling over their parchment night and day, and
muttering their breviary, sell their cockleshells to the people.
[15] Calvin translates, "Te expectat Deus, laus in Sion,"--God, the
praise in Sion waiteth for thee.
[16] See Book 1: chap. 11: sec. 7,13, on the subject of images in
churches. Also Book 4: chap. 4: sec. 8, and chap. 5: sec. 18, as to
the ornaments of churches.
[17] This clause of the sentence is omitted in the French.
[18] The French adds, "ou on en avoit tousjours use;"--where it had
always been used.
[19] The whole of this quotation is omitted in the French.
[20] French, "Mais il adjouste d'autre part, que quand il se
souvenoit du fruict et de l'edification qu'il avoit recue en oyant
chanter a l'Eglise il enclinoit plus a l'autre partie, c'est,
approuver le chant;"--but he adds on the other hand that when he
called to mind the fruit and edification which he had received from
hearing singing in the church, he inclined more to the other side;
that is, to approve singing.
[21] French, "Qui est-ce donc qui se pourra assez esmerveiller d'une
audace tant effrenee qu'ont eu les Papistes et ont encore, qui
contre la defense de l'Apostre, chantent et brayent de langue
estrange et inconnue, en laquelle le plus souvent ils n'entendent
pas eux mesmes une syllabe, et ne veulent que les autres y
entendent?"--Who then can sufficiently admire the unbridled audacity
which the Papists have had, and still have, who, contrary to the
prohibition of the Apostle, chant and bray in a foreign and unknown
tongue, in which, for the most part, they do not understand one
syllable, and which they have no wish that others understand?
[22] Augustine in Enchiridion ad Laurent. 30: 116. Pseudo-Chrysost.
in Homilies on Matthew, hom. 14: See end of sec. 53.
[23] "Dont il est facile de juger que ce qui est adjouste en S.
Matthieu, et qu'aucuns ont pris pour une septieme requeste, n'est
qu'un explication de la sixieme, et se doit a icelle rapporter;"--
Whence it is easy to perceive that what is added in St Matthew, and
which some have taken for a seventh petition, is only an explanation
of the sixth, and ought to be referred to it.
[24] French, "Quelque mauvaistie qu'ayons eue, ou quelque
imperfection ou pourete qui soit en nous;"-whatever wickedness we
may have done, or whatever imperfection or poverty there may be in
[25] French, "Telles disciples qu'ils voudront;"--such disciples as
they will.
[26] The French adds, "que Dieu nous a donnee et faite;"--which God
has given and performed to us.
[27] James 1: 2, 14; Matth. 4: 1, 3; I Thess. 3: 5.
[28] 2 Cor. 6: 7, 8.
[29] Ps. 26: 2
[30] Gen. 22: 1; Deut. 8: 2; 13: 3. For the sense in which God is
said to lead us into temptation. see the end of this section.
[31] 1 Cor. 10: 13; 2 Pet. 2: 9
[32] 1 Pet. 5: 8


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