Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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Almighty, not as the Creator of the World nor the King of the
Universe, but as standing to human suppliants in the relation of
Father. We are not to ask God for anything because he made
us, or because he rules us, but because we are his children and he
is our Father. So many myriads of tongues have addressed him
in this w r ay since the days of Jesus, that we fail to realize what a
revelation this was. God is never addressed as "Father " in the
Old Testament.* The relation is alluded to as the ground of re-
proach for the bad behavior of the people, as in the first chapter
of Isaiah and the first chapter of Malachi, where God is repre-
sented, in the first passage, as saying that lie had nourished children
who were rebels, and in the other demanding the service due from
child to father ; or, as Alford says, " as the last resource of an
orphan and desolate creature," as in the passage in the sixty-third
chapter of Isaiah, where, nevertheless, no address is made or peti-
tion presented on the ground of the fatherhood of God. But now
Jesus lays it at the foundation of all religion, because the basis of
all prayer. It is the starting-point of both his theology and his
philanthropy. The appeal is to be made to the father-heart in
God. And this shows what all praying really must be. It is not
the appeal of a slave at the feet of his master, nor a subject at
the feet of his king. It is not to be an attempt to wring from
reluctant power a favor which he who prays earnestly desires. It
is to be such communion with God as sons do have with fathers.
Tins abolishes at once that fearful element of most forms of reli-
gion, in which it is assumed that the interests of God are one
thing, and those of the suppliant another, and the struggle

* The learned Bengcl well remarks I adduced are either dissimilar or mod-
fliat the examples which Lightfoot has I crn.


between man and his Maker is as to the obtaining and the with-
holding. Every child's interest is identical with that of the father,
as the father's is with that of the son. So now, when a man who
receives the teaching of Jesns goes to his prayers, he begins by
feeling that he ought to desire simply what God wills, and that
God wills exactly the thing which is best for his child. That
makes the communion at once tender and confidential.

The brief doxological addition to the sublimely simple title,
"Our Father," is " The One in the heavens." The employment
of this phrase does two things: it prevents undue familiarity with
even the Father, who is represented as infinite and glorious, resi-
dent in all the heavens that are, being wherever anything heavenly
is, and perhaps intimating that his presence makes what is heav-
enly ; and it declares his personality, thus separating Jesus from
all the teachers of pantheism. Prayer is not to be a vague address
to any indefinite phantasy, but to a " him," to a " one," to a person
having place and personality, the infinite Progenitor of a countless
number of sons and daughters, each 'of whom so derives his or her
personality from the Great Father, that if he were not a Personal
Peing neither could they be.

There is another thought suggested by this form of address to
God. It is to be a perpetual assertion and reasscrtion of the
brotherhood of man. It is " our," not " my." I am to acknowl-
edge that lie is as much the Father of every other human being
who utters this prayer as lie is my Father. I am to offer a prayer
for every other human being when I pray for myself, and if I em-
ploy this prayer which Jesus sets before me I shall do that very
thing. Selfishness in prayer is proscribed forever. ' A man may
not ask after blessings on his body and on his soul for his own per-
sonal comfort and own personal salvation alone. When he com
mimes with the Father it must be for the good of the whole fam-
ily. It lifts the lowly and humbles the proud. An unspotted
queen on her throne feels that while her royal lips say " Our
Father," the hunger-parched mouth of the frail and abandoned
woman, who crouches beside the doorsteps in the dark night, is
saying the same words to the same Peing, with the same truth and
meaning in them ; and the two women, if they are really praying,
are praying each for the other. This is the basis and method of
philanthropy set forth by Jesus.

After the address the prayer has six petitions, which, it is to be



observed, arc not doxologies, but real prayers, and as sncli are to
signify what are the things which above all others we feel that we
need, and having which we shall be satisfied that other things may
come and go as they will. It should interest any student of
human history to know what are the six things which such a per-
son as Jesus believed ought to be paramount in the desires of all
mankind. It will be noticed that three of them relate to God and
three to man.

The prayers in the first part are, that the Name of the heav-
enly Father should be hallowed, that his kingdom should come,
and that his will should be done. There is this phrase added to
the last of these petitions, " as in heaven so on earth." The hear-
ers of, Jesus must have understood by the word " heaven " the
special abode of Jehovah, of all holy intelligent spirits that have
not fallen, and of all the human spirits that have been purified
and saved. From his making this a model of prayer they must
have gathered that the state of affairs in that world is the normal,
and the state of affairs in this world is the abnormal condition
of the universe, and that to have this world brought to the condi-
tion of that world should be the highest desire and the most irre-
pressible longing of every true heart. It is the first outburst of
the so\d. The phrase "as in heaven so on earth" is not therefore
to be confined to the last of these three petitions, but is to cover
them all.* "As in heaven so on earth be thy name hallowed;"
"as in heaven so in earth thy kingdom come ; " " as in heaven so
on earth thy will be done."

The foundation of all true religion in the heart of man must
be found in its pure ideas of God. Men cannot add to His holi-
ness, but their own conceptions of His .character may become very
exalted. Errors in religion arise from false ideas of God, in re-
garding Him as vengeful, or weakly lenient, or indifferent, or in
some way other than what lie really is. In heaven the souls of
the holy have only holy, that is, true thoughts and conceptions of
II i in. Each soul is like a perfect mirror. The souls of men are

* This is the view of the Council of
Trent, as set forth in the Catechism. I
am aware that the Codices which omit
the petition, "Thy will be done," in the
corresponding passage in Luke xi. 2 y
omit also these words, " as in heaven so

in earth ;" nevertheless the spirit of the

prayer, and its peculiar construction, by
which so much condensation is obtained,
semi to mc to justify the interpretation
given in the Roman Catholic Catechism.


full of flaws. God's name means God's character, that by which
lie should be called or described. As in heaven the purest, truest
thoughts of God are held, so ought it to be desired that upon earth
all men shall "sanctify the Lord their God in their hearts."

And the acknowledgment of his kingdom by all men, and their
total submission to his beneficent reign, so that there should be
no rebellion against the benign sovereignty of the Father-King, ig
to be the aspiration and desire of all who pray. There is a sense
in which that kingdom does always as much prevail on earth as in
heaven, namely, in the actual rule of God over all things; but in
heaven all intelligences comprehend this, accept it, and rejoice in
it; on earth men do not submit, do not willingly and gladly ac-
cept it, but are striving to reach their happiness in their own ways,
and not by being willing subjects of their Father, who is their
Lord. Each man that prays should desire that that kingdom be
set up wholly in his own soul, and that he should always be free
from all other paramount riders."

The third petition prays that on earth the will of God may be
done as it is in heaven. It is to be observed how the personality
of God is preserved throughout, and humanity as distinct from
God. So that prayer is not the mere human addressing itself or
voiding its deepest feelings on the unfeeling universe. Man is as
autocratic in his sphere as God is in his. God may do the will
of man, or man may do the will of God, or their wills may bo
made to clash. If the last do not take place one of the former
must. "Which docs the good governance of the universe in gen-
eral, and the good of both parties in particular, demand? Shall
the Infinite be obedient to the finite, the power of the Omnipo-
tent Immaculate be made subservient to the caprices of the will
of sinful Feebleness? If the latter were the case, then, for a
moment, we might have peace. But the submission of Omnipo-
tence to a mind that may at any moment make a mistake, and to
passions that every moment are rushing on blindly, would be a
ruinous anomaly. There is no way in which peace and progress
and happiness can be secured but by the direct bending of all the
energies of man to the will of God. And thus is man to bo
ennobled. He loses no freedom of his will, he is not absorbed in
God, he is not doing compulsory work, but he is freely choosing

* So Augustine says: "Ut in nobis I optamus." Serm. 50.
veuiat, optamus ; ut in illo inveniamur, I


to direct all his great energies to the accomplishment of the good
designs of the tenderest and lovingest Father in all the universe.
In the case of man it would be many fitful wills attempting to
rule ; in the case of God, it is One will, the will of the infinitely
wise and good Father.

And thus, by a natural and logical transition, from petitions
touching the estate of God the suppliant is taught to pass to peti-
tions touching his own estate.

The first prayer is for subsistence : "bread proper for our suste-
nance give us to-day." The epithet which precedes " bread "
occurs in the New Testament only in this passage and in Luke xi.
3. It is one of the most disputed words in all these writings. In
Greek it is lirtovaiav. In the common English version it is trans-
lated " daily." The Vulgate has " panem nostrum superstantia-
lem," which is followed by the Rhenish version, "our superstan-
tial bread." In the Arabic and Ethiopian versions it is " to-
morrow's bread," * which does not accord with the desire that it
may be given to-day. I have endeavored in the translation given
above to render what seemed to me to embrace all the possible
and practicable meanings of the word as used by Jesus. f The
prayer is for the preservation of the whole man. What is need-
ful for his body is bread, and therefore aprov is used. And that
symbolizes what is necessary for his intellect and for his soul.
What is now necessary to sustain us as men is to be prayed for,
and nothing more. No anxious care for the morrow is allowed,
for if our prayer be answered to-day the same prayer will be an-
swered to-morrow. No luxuries are to be craved. Life, in which
to do the Father's will, this is all the child is to seek. What I
may use now for physical, mental, and spiritual sustenance and
strength, I may ask of God. But bread, real bread for the body,
is the thing set forth in this petition explicitly, and all other needed
things implicitly.

The second thing to be asked is forgiveness. Sin is represented
under the figure of debt. To be in debt oppresses a sensitive
mind as with a load of guilt. There can be no security, no
peace, no happy action of the powers while a man lives in the

* And in the "Gospel according to the
Hebrews," Jerome says that he found
for irriovffiav the word -wi*, that is, " to-


f Those who desire to see all the mean-
ings assigned may consult Alford's Ore* Ic
Testament, Lange's Comment., and Bon*
■■>, in loco.


consciousness of having committed sins which are not forgiven
him. Every true man longs for that. Whatever pleasure he may
have found in sinning, the moment the heat of Inst or passion
subsides the sense of the offence against his heavenly Father
overpowers him. lie can do no more, he can enjoy no more,
until the sin be forgiven. It has become the extreme necessity of
his life. The pain of guilt is the one intolerable agony.

And here the communion element of the Prayer is made to ap-
pear again distinctly. The petitioner prays that all sins, his owr
and those of others, may be forgiven. And that there may be a
general amnesty, he first forgives all who have sinned against him,
all who have gotten in debt to him by their failure to do for him
what they were bound as human brothers to do. Then he goes
to the heavenly Father and prays that the same may be done for
him. " Forgive us our debts like as we also have forgiven our
debtors." It does not place the plea of forgiveness on the ground
that we have forgiven our debtors, those who have sinned against
us ; nor does it make the forgiveness we grant to others the meas-
ure of the Father's forgiveness of us : " Forgive us as much as we
have forgiven others ;" but rather means that what we have done
towards them lie should do towards us, referring to the nature of
the act of forgiveness rather than to the degrees of its exercise.

The last prayer is for redemption. Trials of faith, tests of
character, discipline that strengthens, these are what no man has
need of dreading. But that the providences of the heavenly
Father may not lead us into such positions as shall make the
solicitation to evil on the part of others specially influential over
our lives and conduct, we may request. Being forgiven, we have
a horror of the same circumstances as those in which we fell.
This petition seeks to put the suppliant under the special provi-
dence of the Father in all coming life. And then, as a climax,
it exhibits the consummation of the Christian life. " Rescue us
from evil ! " When that prayer is answered, there is nothing
more to pray for: it is the completeness of redemption from all
physical, intellectual, and spiritual evil, — from disease, from
error, and from sin. It indulges the vision of perfection, and
ardently longs that in the suppliant it may have complete realiza-
tion. And what he asks for himself he solicits for all others who
pray. It is a prayer for the destruction of all evil.

Every fresh analysis of this Pbayee lets us more and more into


the inird of Jesus. It is to be noticed that each petitioner is in-
structed by his very prayer to regard the glory of God as the first
thing, and the supply of his own wants as quite secondary. A
man who rushes to his heavenly Father with requests for his own
deliverance and enlargement, not feeling more concerned that
God may be adored than that he may be helped, is a selfish and
undevout worshipper. The rule is : Worship first and help after-
ward. Again, there seems to be this connection implied, that the
petitioner desires sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance from
evil, that he ma} r be able to contribute towards rendering the
name of the Father holy in the hearts of all men, and bringing
all men to submit to his kingship and devote themselves to carry-
ing out his will. Nor must the practical effect of the sincere
offering of this prayer upon the character of the petitioner
escape our attention. A man sJtould pray only for what he
really, truly, and earnestly desires. If he do not desire what he
asks, he adds to deceit a dreadful mockery of the omnipotent
and loving Father. This prayer indicates whal he should desire,
the proper adoration of God, the complete acknowledgment as
well as continuance of his rule in the universe, and the beautiful
harmony and beneficent progress which shall follow the adjust-
ment of man's moral energies to the decisions of the will of God :
and in order that these things may be accomplished, for himself
the petitioner desires only sustenance, forgiveness, and safety.
What then must life be ? Simply the devotion of man's powers
to gain these tilings. A life so ordered would necessarily become
not only satisfactory but sublime. The petitioner would no longer
be seeking the things that were degrading or even unnecessary.
He would never idle. He would strive to obtain proper food for
his bod} T , proper culture of his intellect, proper growth of his
soul, that he might be able to do more to carry forward God's
great design of making the universe the domain of a rule which
should develop it into a boundless estate of inconceivable glory.
Petty cares would lose their hold upon such a man; but nothing
would be neglected. In the most trivial matters he would be
just and faithful. For every possible emergency he would be
ready. The poets have not dreamed of a man surpassing him
who should labor to have this prayer fulfilled in all equipoise of
passions and intellect, in all completeness of self-government and
energy of action. He would come into a grandeur and a beauty


which would justify humanity in its claim of being offspring of
Deity. Can the parallel of this Prayer be found elsewhere in
literature ?


The Teacher steps back a moment to enforce the duty of for-
giveness as a necessary precedent of prayer. The word is changed
For if ye forgive men from that which signifies a debt to that which
their blunders, your s] v n ifi es a s j; p a f a ]] a defeat, a blunder. In the

heavenly Father will ° . *

also forgive you; but if translation I have chosen the last, as perhaps com-

ye forgive not men, prising in gome se] , ge all tlie others< T ] ie ] esson
neither will your Fa- - 1 ~

ther forgive your biun- plainly is, that whatever other preparation a man
may have for prayer, if he have not forgiven
others his petitions will be inefficient. It is utterly useless to go to
God for forgiveness if I have not forgiven all others, considering
their sins against me as defeats in a conflict which I must charita-
bly suppose they waged with the temptations to do wrong ; for
that is the view which God charitably takes of my wrong actions.
I owe him service. It is a debt. I fail to pay. Praying for for-
giveness shows that I acknowledge the debt and have tried to pay,
but failed, and was defeated. This blundering life He forgives,
but not until I have forgiven those who thus stand related to me.
The English version of Matthew has a doxology at the close of
the petitions, a very simple and very noble doxology. put as in
a history of Jesus we can consider only his well-ascertained words,
this addition must be rejected. Its absence from the Sinaitic, the
Vatican, and the Beza Codices ought to settle the question that,
however excellent it may be, it was not a part of the prayer which
Jesus delivered to his disciples for their use, and to be the model
of all prayer used by his followers in all times. To the absence
from the oldest Greek manuscript versions must be added the
fact that the earliest Christian authors failed to comment on it.
If we found in dissertations upon what is called Oratio Dominica,
" The Lord's Prayer," the doxology expounded as part of the
prayer, that fact would create a violent assumption that it existed
in manuscripts older than any which have survived, older than
the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates back to the fourth century.
Or, if we had relied upon the Codex Vatica?ms, which up to the
discovery of the Codex Sinailicus was our oldest, and then upon the
discovery of this latter had found that it contained the doxology,



it would have strengthened the conviction that it existed in the
very first records made of the words of Jesus. But when none
of these versions have it, and all the Latin Fathers fail to make
mention of it, when expressly explaining the prayer, sound criti-
cism compels us to reject it.

The question naturally occurs to a thoughtful reader, How, then,
did it appear in the text of Matthew ? It is manifestly liturgical.
When liturgies sprang up in the Church it was added,* and then,
when copies of the Gospels were made, it was easily transferred
from the liturgy by the memory and habit of the copyist, into the
margin or directly into the text. Ambrose, j - who was born in the
middle of the fourth century, implies that the doxology was re-
cited by the priest alone, after the people had recited " The
Lord's Prayer." It is quite easy to see how this Epiphonema, as
Ambrose calls it, should have come into the text. But the proof
thus far is all against its being part of the original prayer.

The Third Example is


The teaching here is quite plain. Hypocrites — men playing a
part for the purpose of securing the applause of men — make all
of the part they can, look sad and worn, that men Am1 whm ye fag( . be _
may praise their saintliness. And men do. The}'' come not as the hyp-
have their reward, and they exhaust it. They "TZ/^ZnT^i
have none of that inner culture which comes of faces that they may be

i i c i • i r i , • f ,i i seen of men to be fast-

rcal self-denial, of abstinence from the usual en- m? For veri]y x ^y
joyments of life because the soul is afllicted with unto yon, They exhaust

. ~ . , p r\- •% tp th 1

Beives treasure in hea- treasure, namely, himself — his character. Other

ven, where neither
moth nor rust disfigure,

things go. This stays. Other things are earthly;

and where thieves do this is heavenly.

not break through and -»r a* ■ it' A i T

steal, ror where is thy Moreover, a connection appears m this, that Je-
treasure there is also sus was setting a transparent character in con-
trast with hypocrisy. The Pharisees were worldly-
minded to the core, while all their external appearance was reli-
gious. They were blowing trumpets before their alms, in the
graphic description of Jesus, were making long prayers in market-
places while devouring the substance of widows, and fasting, osten-
tatiously while heaping up treasures on earth. Having set forth
the manner in which the prominent duties of religion ought to
be discharged, the Teacher inculcates the entire consecration of
the life, in the heart and soul of a man. It is to be marked how
he adheres to one theme. It is not because all earthly possessions
are liable to destruction from the wear and tear of time, or the
force or fraud of men, nor for the safety of the possessions, that
Jesus insists that all things shall be contrived into an investment
in spiritual and eternal things, but for the effect upon the charac-
ter, for the heart's sake ; for " where is thy treasure there is also

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 29 of 77)