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Our Lords Sermon On The Mount by St. Augustine

Chapter IV.

15. But now we have to consider what things we are taught to pray for by Him through whom we both learn what we are to pray for, and obtain what we pray for. |After this manner, therefore, pray ye,| says He: |Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.| Seeing that in all prayer we have to conciliate the goodwill of him to whom we pray, then to say what we pray for; goodwill is usually conciliated by our offering praise to him to whom the prayer is directed, and this is usually put in the beginning of the prayer: and in this particular our Lord has bidden us say nothing else but |Our Father who art in heaven.| For many things are said in praise of God, which, being scattered variously and widely over all the Holy Scriptures, every one will be able to consider when he reads them: yet nowhere is there found a precept for the people of Israel, that they should say |Our Father,| or that they should pray to God as a Father; but as Lord He was made known to them, as being yet servants, i.e. still living according to the flesh. I say this, however, inasmuch as they received the commands of the law, which they were ordered to observe: for the prophets often show that this same Lord of ours might have been their Father also, if they had not strayed from His commandments: as, for instance, we have that statement, |I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me;| and that other, |I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High;| and this again, |If then I be a Father, where is mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is my fear?| and very many other statements, where the Jews are accused of showing by their sin that they did not wish to become sons: those things being left out of account which are said in prophecy of a future Christian people, that they would have God as a Father, according to that gospel statement, |To them gave He power to become the sons of God.| The Apostle Paul, again, says, |The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant;| and mentions that we have received the Spirit of adoption, |whereby we cry, Abba, Father.|

16. And since the fact that we are called to an eternal inheritance, that we might be fellow-heirs with Christ and attain to the adoption of sons, is not of our deserts, but of God's grace; we put this very same grace in the beginning of our prayer, when we say |Our Father.| And by that appellation both love is stirred up -- for what ought to be dearer to sons than a father? -- and a suppliant disposition, when men say to God, |Our Father:| and a certain presumption of obtaining what we are about to ask; since, before we ask anything, we have received so great a gift as to be allowed to call God |Our Father.| For what would He not now give to sons when they ask, when He has already granted this very thing, namely, that they might be sons? Lastly, how great solicitude takes hold of the mind, that he who says |Our Father,| should not prove unworthy of so great a Father! For if any plebeian should be permitted by the party himself to call a senator of more advanced age father; without doubt he would tremble, and would not readily venture to do it, reflecting on the humbleness of his origin, and the scantiness of his resources, and the worthlessness of his plebeian person: how much more, therefore, ought we to tremble to call God Father, if there is so great a stain and so much baseness in our character, that God might much more justly drive forth these from contact with Himself, than that senator might the poverty of any beggar whatever! Since, indeed, he (the senator) despises that in the beggar to which even he himself may be reduced by the vicissitude of human affairs: but God never falls into baseness of character. And thanks be to the mercy of Him who requires this of us, that He should be our Father, -- a relationship which can be brought about by no expenditure of ours, but solely by God's goodwill. Here also there is an admonition to the rich and to those of noble birth, so far as this world is concerned, that when they have become Christians they should not comport themselves proudly towards the poor and the low of birth; since together with them they call God |Our Father,| -- an expression which they cannot truly and piously use, unless they recognise that they themselves are brethren.

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