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I have mentioned the last of these as well as the first, for the prophet prays for deliverance from the temptation arising from both extremes. Idleness and floth are as contrary to true religion, as either avarice or ambition ; and the habit when once taken, is perhaps more difficult to remove.
In order to treat this subject with the greater distinctness, I shall first shew you what we may learn in general from this prayer: fecondly, explain the particular object of the prophet's desire; and in the last place, make applications of what may be said by recommending it to
I. In the first place, then, we may learn in general from this request, that it is lawful to pray for temporal bleflings. It is not unworthy of a Christian, whose conversation is in heaven, to ask of God, what is necessary to his support and preservation in the present life. If I were to mention all the examples of this in fcripture, I should tran. fcribe a great part of the Bible. Though inferior in their nature and value to fpiritual blessings, they are necessary in their place; and it is upon this footing they are expressly put by our Saviour. “Your heavenly Father knoweth “that ye have need of all these things.” They are needful to the prolonging of our natural life till we finish our work, and are fitted for our reward. Therefore, though miracles are a kind of suspension of the laws of nature, and the ordinary course of providence, yet we find God fometimes working a miracle to supply the wants of his fervants. It had been no more difficult for God to bave kept Elijah from hungering, than to have made the ravens fetch him provision; or to have made, as in another case, a barrel of meal, or a cruise of oil, the lasting and fufficient support of a whole family. But he chooses rather to fupply the wants of his people, than cause them to ceale, that he may keep their dependance constantly in their view, and that a sense of their necessities may oblige them to have continual recourse to him for relief.
Again, we may here learn, that God is the real and proper giver of every temporal, as well as of every fpiri. tual blessing--A sentiment this, of the utmost consequence, to be engraven upon the heart. We have here an instance out of many, in which truths known and confessed by all, have notwithstanding little hold upon the mind. How few are truly sensible of their continual obligations to the God of life? Consider, I beseech you, that whatever you possess of any kind, it the gift of God. He holdeth your soul in life, and guards you by his providence in your going out and in your coming in. He covereth your table and filleth your cup. Have you riches? It is by the blessing of the God of heaven-" The blessing of the Lord,” faith Solomon, “it maketh rich. But thou shalt remem- ber the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power “ to get wealth.” Have you credit and reputation? It is God that hideth you from the Atrife of tongues.
" Thou “ fhalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue, neither shalt
thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.” Have you friends ? It is he that giveth you favor in their fight. Have you talents and parts? It is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth thee understanding.
II. Let us now explain the particular tenor of this petition, and point out the object of the prophet's desire : " Give me neither poverty nor riches." It is plain we are not to suppose the prophet, in any degree, refusing submission to the will of God, by his thus making choice of a particular state of life-Doubtless he resolved to be at God's disposal, and believed that he was able to fanctify to him a llate of the highest prosperity, or of the deepest adversity. It was no distrust of God, but felf-denial and diffidence of his own strength, that suggested this prayer. Therefore, in adjusting his desires and expectations, he pitches upon that state that appeared to him liable to the fewest snares. Thus our blefled Saviour, though it is his will that we should fear no enemy when going out in divine strength, yet teaches us to pray-"Lead us not " into temptation."
Poverty and riches are here mentioned as the two ex. tremes; in neither of which we should wish to be placed, but in a safer middle between the two; fo as, if it please God, we may neither be urged by pressing necessity nor over loaded with such abundance as we may be in danger of abufing.
But perhaps fome will say, where is the middle? How shall we be able to determine what we ought to defire, fince there is so immense a distance, and so many intermediate degrees between the extremity of want, and the countless treasures of the wealthy ?
But, my brethren, if we do not hearken to the illusive calls of ambition, avarice and lust, it is by no means diffi. cult to apprehend the meaning of the prophet, and apply it to persons of every rank. Regard, no doubt, is to be bad to the various stations in which God hath thought fit to place us. This difference of station requires supplies of the conveniencies of life, fuited to the part we are bound to act. That manner of life which would be decent and liberal in one station, would be reckoned mean and fordid in another. Therefore, what would be plenty and fulness to perfons in inferior stations, would be extreme poverty to persons placed, and called to act, in higher and more exalted spheres. But after we have taken in the consideration of every difference that may happen on this score, there is fomething in the prayer that belongs in common to persons of all stations namely, that we should be modest in our desires after temporal good things, and take care not to ask only to gratify a fensual inclination, but for what is really necessary or useful to us. The last is reasonable and allowable, the other is unreasonable and justly condemned by the apostle James. “Ye ask and “ receive not, because ye afk amifs, that ye may consume " it upon your lufts."
But the first part of this request is explained by the last, contained in the words, “ feed me with food convenient " for me.” That we may be able to enter into the true spirit of this petition, I shall just compare it with some other fcriptural forms of prayer on the same subject, and then endeavor to point out what I take to be the chief instruction intended to be conveyed to us by it.
As to the fcripture forms of prayer for temporal provi. fion, the precedence is undoubtedly due to that excellent
form left us by our Saviour, in which we find this petition, “ Give us this day our daily bread.” You may next attend to the prayer put up by Jacob in ancient times. “ And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, if God will be with “ me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will
give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I “ come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the “ Lord be my God.” It is more than probable that the apostle Paul alludes to Jacob's expression, in his excellent advice to all Christians. “ But godliness with content“ment is great gain; for we brought nothing into this
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and
having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. “ But they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a “ snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lults, which “ drown men in destruction and perdition--for the love " of money is the root of all evil, which while some covet“ ed after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced “ themselves through with many forrows."
It is obvious to remark, that all these prayers and this apostolic counsel run in the same strain. They all begin and are founded upon a regard to God, and a mind rightly disposed towards him: “ If the Lord,” says Jacob, á will be with me” _“ Remove,” says Agur in my text, “ far from me vanity and lies.” Our Saviour begins his prayer with petitions for the glory of God, with which the happiness of our souls is inseparably connected; and the apostle maintains godliness as the great source of contentment with our portion in this life.
We may further observe, that there is the same method observed in all these prayers. The expressions vary a little, but the request is the same. Jacob wilhes for the divine protection, with food to eat, and raiment to put on. Agur for food convenient for him; and in the Lord's prayer we ask for our daily bread. There is no specifying of any particulars--no mention made of this or the other quantity of provision. Their desires are fummed up in this general request, and the quantity and quality wholly referred to the good pleasure of God. It is certain that God hath sometimes granted to his own people, riches in great abundance; and, at the same time, has given his blessing to enjoy them, and honored the possessors, by enabling them to glorify him in the use and application of them. But the direct delire of riches, I do not think, hath any warrant from precept or example in his word. And when they are bestowed as a blessing, and not a curse, it is coinmonly on those who, by their superior concern about the better part, lhew that they will put them to their proper use, as in the case of Solomon, recorded in the first book of Kings. “In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solo“ mon in a dream by night; and God laidd, ask what I “ shall give thee. And he said, give thy servant an un.
derstanding heart. And the speech pleased the Lord, " that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said, be“ cause thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for " thyself long life, neither haft asked riches for thyself, "nor haft asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked “ for thyself understanding, to discern judgment: Behold “ I have done according to thy words; lo, I have given “thee a wise and an understanding heart, so that there
was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall
any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee " that which thou hast not asked, both riches and ho. "nor.”
Now this I take to be the main instruction intended to be given us with respect to our prayers for temporal mer. cies; that we should not pretend to set bounds to God, but leave the measure of them to his determination,
For further explaining this truth; and, at the same time recommending it to your regard, be pleased to attend to the following observations.
1. Consider that God, infinitely wise, as well as graci. bus, is certainly the best judge of what is most fit and convenient for us. We know so little of ourselves, that we really know not how we should behave, if placed in par. ticular circumstances, until we are tried. The world has actually seen many examples of those, who were loud in their accusations of others, behaving worse when placed in the same stations. And, indeed, I should na. turally expect, that an impatient, envious, disobedient