Holiness Texts: Matthew 6:10
This series of posts highlights the primary Scripture texts cited by John Wesley and his earliest followers in defense and explanation of the doctrine of Christian Perfection. These are posted (as always) for information and possible discussion. It is not assumed that because Wesley or his followers said a certain thing, everyone else is somehow obligated to agree. The Scriptures are quoted below from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. They are followed by comments from Wesley himself, as well as some of his early followers: John Fletcher, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson.
An introduction to this series is here: The Holiness Texts of John Wesley. Links to the other posts in this series may be found on the Wesleyan Theology Page or on the Bible Studies page, listed as “The Holiness Texts of John Wesley.”
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." — Matthew 6:10, NASB.
"Thy kingdom come — May thy kingdom of grace come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of the earth: may all mankind, receiving thee, O Christ, for their king, truly believing in thy name, be filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy; with holiness and happiness, till they are removed hence into thy kingdom of glory, to reign with thee for ever and ever.
"Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven — May all the inhabitants of the earth do thy will as willingly as the holy angels: may these do it continually even as they, without any interruption of their willing service; yea, and perfectly as they: mayest thou, O Spirit of grace, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make them perfect in every good work to do thy will, and work in them all that is well pleasing in thy sight."
"Has Christ anywhere taught us to pray for what he never designs to give?
"Has he not taught us to pray, 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven?' And is it not done perfectly in heaven?
"If so, has he not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does he not then design to give it?"
"'Thy kingdom come.' — This has a close connection with the preceding petition. In order that the name of God might be hallowed, we pray that his kingdom, the kingdom of Christ, may come. This kingdom then comes to a particular person, when he 'repents and believes the gospel;' when he is taught of God, not only to know himself, but to know Jesus Christ and him crucified. As 'this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent;' so it is the kingdom of God begun below, set up in the believer’s heart; 'the Lord God Omnipotent' then 'reigneth,' when he is known through Christ Jesus. He taketh unto himself his mighty power, that he may subdue all things unto himself. He goeth on in the soul conquering and to conquer, till he hath put all things under his feet, till 'every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.'"
"'Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.' — This is the necessary and immediate consequence wherever the kingdom of God is come; wherever God dwells in the soul by faith, and Christ reigns in the heart by love.
"It is probable, many, perhaps the generality of men, at the first view of these words, are apt to imagine they are only an expression of, or petition for, resignation; for a readiness to suffer the will of God, whatsoever it be, concerning us. And this is unquestionably a divine and excellent temper, a most precious gift of God. But this is not what we pray for in this petition; at least, not in the chief and primary sense of it. We pray, not so much for a passive, as for an active, conformity to the will of God, in saying, 'Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'
"How is it done by the angels of God in heaven, — those who now circle his throne rejoicing? They do it willingly; they love his commandments, and gladly hearken to his words. It is their meat and drink to do his will; it is their highest glory and joy. They do it continually; there is no interruption in their willing service. They rest not day nor night, but employ every hour (speaking after the manner of men; otherwise our measures of duration, days, and nights, and hours, haven’t place in eternity) in fulfilling his commands, in executing his designs, in performing the counsel of his will. And they do it perfectly. No sin, no defect belongs to angelic minds. It is true, 'the stars are not pure in his sight,' even the morning-stars that sing together before him. 'In his sight,' that is, in comparison of Him, the very angels are not pure. But this does not imply, that they are not pure in themselves. Doubtless they are; they are without spot and blameless. They are altogether devoted to his will, and perfectly obedient in all things.
"If we view this in another light, we may observe, the angels of God in heaven do all the will of God. And they do nothing else, nothing but what they are absolutely assured is his will. Again, they do all the will of God as he willeth; in the manner which pleases him, and no other. Yea, and they do this, only because it is his will; for this end, and no other reason."
"Perfect love, i.e. Christian perfection, instantaneously springs from perfect faith: and as our Church would have all her members perfect in love, she requires them to pray thus for perfect faith, which must be obtained in this life or never: 'Grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ, that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved.? (St. Thomas’ Day.)
"Our Lord teaches us to ask for the highest degree of Christian perfection, where he commands us 'when we pray to say, &c, Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' And our Church, by introducing this deep prayer in all her services, shows how greatly [the Calvinist] Mr. Hill is mistaken, when he supposes that she looks upon our doctrine of Christian perfection as 'shocking.'
"Should this gentleman object that although our Church bids us pray for Christian perfection in the above-cited collects, and in our Lord’s prayer, yet she does not intimate that these deep prayers may be answered in this life: I oppose to that argument not only the word on earth, which she so frequently mentions in the Lord’s prayer, but also her own words: 'Everlasting God, who art more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than we desire, &c, pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy,? &c. (Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.) Mr. Hill must therefore excuse us, if we side with our praying Church, and are not ashamed to say, with St. Paul, 'Glory be to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,' Ephesians 3:20."
— The Last Check to Antinomianism: A Polemical Essay on the Twin Doctrines of Christian Imperfection and a Death Purgatory, Section 4.
"Verse 10. Thy kingdom come.] The ancient Jews scrupled not to say: He prays not at all, in whose prayers there is no mention of the kingdom of God. Hence, they were accustomed to say, 'Let him cause his kingdom to reign, and his redemption to flourish: and let the Messiah speedily come and deliver his people.'
"The universal sway of the sceptre of Christ: — God has promised that the kingdom of Christ shall be exalted above all kingdoms. Dan 7:14-27. That it shall overcome all others, and be at last the universal empire. Isa 9:7. Connect this with the explanation given of this phrase, Matt 3:2.
"Thy will be done] This petition is properly added to the preceding; for when the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit, is established in the heart, there is then an ample provision made for the fulfilment of the Divine will.
"The will of God is infinitely good, wise, and holy; to have it fulfilled in and among men, is to have infinite goodness, wisdom, and holiness diffused throughout the universe; and earth made the counterpart of heaven.
"As it is in heaven.] The Jews maintained, that they were the angels of God upon earth, as these pure spirits were angels of God in heaven; hence they said, "As the angels sanctify the Divine name in heaven, so the Israelites sanctify the Divine name, upon earth." See Schoettgen.
"Observe, 1st. The salvation of the soul is the result of two wills conjoined: the will of God, and the will of man. If God will not the salvation of man, he cannot be saved: If, man will not the salvation God has prepared for him, he cannot be delivered from his sins. 2dly. This petition certainly points out a deliverance from all sin; for nothing that is unholy can consist with the Divine will, and if this be fulfilled in man, surely sin shall be banished from his soul. 3dly. This is farther evident from these words, as it is in heaven; i.e. as the angels do it: viz. with all zeal, diligence, love, delight, and perseverance. 4thly. Does not the petition plainly imply, we may live without sinning against God? Surely the holy angels never mingle iniquity with their loving obedience; and as our Lord teaches us to pray, that we do his will here as they do it in heaven, can it be thought he would put a petition in our mouths, the fulfilment of which was impossible? 5thly. This certainly destroys the assertion: 'There is no such state of purification, to be attained here, in which it may be said, the soul is redeemed from sinful passions and desires;' for it is on EARTH that we are commanded to pray that this will, which is our sanctification, may be done. 6thly. Our souls can never be truly happy, till our WILLS be entirely subjected to, and become one with, the will of God. 7thly. How can any person offer this petition to his Maker, who thinks of nothing less than the performance of the will of God, and of nothing more than doing his own?
"Some see the mystery of the Trinity in the three preceding petitions. The first being, addressed to the Father, as the source of all holiness. The second, to the Son, who establishes the kingdom of God upon earth. The third, to the Holy Spirit, who by his energy works in men to will and to perform.
"To offer these three petitions with success at the throne of God, three graces, essential to our salvation, must be brought into exercise; and, indeed, the petitions themselves necessarily suppose them. FAITH, Our Father — for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is. HOPE, Thy kingdom come — For this grace has for its object good things to come. LOVE, Thy will be done — For love is the incentive to and principle of all obedience to God, and beneficence to man."
— Clarke's Commentary.
Joseph Benson comments:
[He prefaces his comments on Chapter 6 with these remarks:]
"In the foregoing chapter our Lord particularly described the nature of inward holiness. In this he describes that purity of intention, without which none of our outward actions are holy. This chapter contains four parts:
- The right intention and manner in giving alms, 1-4.
- The right intention, manner, form, and prerequisites of prayer, 5-15.
- The right intention and manner of fasting, 16-18.
- The necessity of a pure intention in all things, unmixed either with the desire of riches, or worldly care and fear of want, 19-34."
— Benson's Commentary.
"Verse 10. Thy kingdom come — This cannot with propriety be understood of that general kingdom, by which God ruleth over all the world, that being always come, and not capable of any amplification. But the kingdom of God under the Messiah, to be set up, enlarged, and perfected by the preaching of the gospel, and the exercise of Christ’s kingly power, is evidently here intended; even that kingdom which the Jews thought would immediately appear, Luke 19:11; which the pious among them expected and waited for, Luke 2:38; Mark 15:43; which both the Baptist and our Lord announced as at hand, chap. 3:2; Mark 1:15; and which Christ, in this chapter, verse 33, directs his followers to seek, in preference to all other things; and here to pray for. This kingdom of God is twofold, namely, his kingdom of grace and his kingdom of glory; the coming of both which we may be well understood to mean, when we put up this petition; desiring, 1st, that we and all men may receive the kingdom of divine grace into our hearts, and that God may reign in and over us in such a manner, that we may be his willing and loyal subjects; 2d, that, in order thereto, it would please him to give success to his gospel in all parts of the earth; that he would enlarge the borders of his Church, and bring all nations within the pale of it; and, where it is already established, that he would proceed by his grace more and more to destroy the power of sin, and the dominion of Satan; and to implant his fear and love in the hearts of all his professing people; that thus, 3d, his eternal and glorious kingdom may also be enlarged, the number of his saints be accomplished, and the blessed time come when we shall all be translated into his heavenly kingdom, when, all other powers and dominions being done away, God alone shall be exalted, and rule for ever and ever.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is heaven — It is justly observed by Dr. Whitby, that we do not pray in this petition that God may do his own will, nor that the will of his providence may be done upon and respecting us, but that, in consequence of the coming of his kingdom of grace, in the sense above explained, we, and all men, with as much readiness, alacrity, and perfection, as the imperfection of human nature will admit of, may yield obedience to his wise, holy, and good will, however made known to us, whether by revelation, natural conscience, or the dispensations of providence; and may imitate the blessed angels in a sincere, ready, constant, persevering compliance with it: and that, in order to this end, he would vouchsafe us those aids of his Spirit whereby our understanding may be enlightened, rightly to discern what is his good and acceptable will, and our wills and affections powerfully inclined, and all our executive faculties so strengthened, that we may sincerely, readily, and cheerfully perform such obedience."
— Benson's Commentary.
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