« AnteriorContinuar »
In the text God is represented as the universal Benefactor, Maintainer, and Supporter of all, out of whose hands every one must receive his portion; and to whom Christ sends rich and poor, to beg their bread of him. And here see,
1. What we are to seek of him, for our bodies, bread, i. e. all the means of life, necessaries and conveniences; for a man may be killed with thirst, and starved with cold, though he had abundance of other things, if he want things necessary in these cases.
2. What bread, daily bread, i. e. a competent portion of the good things of this life; God as the great Steward giving to all their portion meet for them, as a master or Steward of a family gives to every member his stated allowance.
3. What sort of daily bread, our own; such as we lawfully come by; for what is unlawfully gotten, and we have no right to by God's gift, Satan puts it in men's hands, not God.
4. When we are to seek it, this day, i. e. every day. God keeps all men hanging on him for every day's provision. In respect of God, those who have the greatest fulness live from hand to mouth; and they are indebted to God for every day's mercies as well as the poor.
5. How we are to seek it, Give us, i. e. by way of free gift. We cannot plead the merit of a crumb; but grounding our plea on mercy through Christ, we may seek all we need.
6. Lastly, For whom we are to seek, us, i. e. for ourselves and others; for we are one needy company, and must be all furnished from the same hand.
Before I proceed to a particular consideration of this petition, I shall observe this point of doctrine from it, viz.
DOCT. Men depend wholly and entirely on God's bounty, for all the means and comforts of life.' There are some who are quite broken, have nothing left them, and can do nothing for a livelihood: how do they live? they hang on about their friends hands, and they have nothing but what they give them. That is the case of all men with respect to God, the best friend of the creatures; and have what ye will, ye know not your own state, if ye know not that ye thus depend on him.
To confirm this point, consider,
1. God is the Creator of all things. He made us and all things, and particularly those which contribute to the support and comfort of our lives, Psal. c. 3. What a precious thing is the life of man, for which so many hands are set on work to maintain it? They that have a great family to maintain, will have several hands employed in several pieces of work, and all to provide for them. All mankind depend on God; his family of nature is a vast one: and he has made the hands to be employed in it accordingly. He made the corn, and the beasts of the earth, for this end; the earth itself to produce the one, and feed the other; and the heavens, with the glorious bodies therein, to influence the earth for that effect. For this cause the sun, that great servant of the world, is constantly going about, making day and night, seed-time and harvest, &c. and all for the support of the family.
2. He preserves them all in their being, Heb. i. 3. The whole frame of the universe, and all the creatures in it, are upheld by him, as a ball in the air: which would presently fall down, if he should withdraw his supporting hand. The being of the creatures is in a continual flux; there is no necessary connection betwixt their being one moment and another; so that if God should withdraw his hand, they would immediately dwindle into nothing. Our food would all evanish, the beasts disappear, the whole globe of the earth go like ashes in. the wind, and the sun go out like a candle burnt to snuff, without his supporting influence.
3. He is the Proprietor of us, and of all the creatures that we have the benefit of, in heaven or earth. He has given you the use of them, but the property remains with him: he is the true Owner and Lord of all. Have you got the corn into your barns or barn-yards to feed you, and the wool to clothe you? remember, God says, it is my corn and my wool,' Hos. ii. 9. Have you the hills plenished with your store? remember, God's mark is upon them all, small and great, Psal. 1. 10. As it is his earth that bears us, and his air that we breathe, so it is his food that maintains us, and his raiment that clothes us,
4. All things that have life are maintained on his charges, man not excepted, Psal. cxlv. 15, 16. The eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due scaThou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.' He makes grass to grow for the cattle,
and feeds the young ravens that cry. The same heavenly Father whom we seek our daily bread from, feeds the fowls of the air, Matth. vi. 26. If God should close his hand upon the creatures that wait on him for their food, where would man's comforts be, that are drawn from them, for the support of his body.
5. All the usefulness and comfort of the creatures to us depends on God. Matt. xix. 17. Whatsoever good is in them is dropt into them from the fountain of goodness. The creature is a mere empty nothing in itself, and is foisonless without the blessing from the Lord, Matth. iv. 4. No crea ture can be more to another than God makes it to be, Hos. ii. 21, 22. The corn cannot hear Jezreel, nor the earth the corn, nor the heavens the earth, unless God hear first; and then the heavens will hear the earth, the earth the corn, and the corn Jezreel.
6. Wherefore God has a negative on all the creatures; Should they all say, Yea, if he say No, nothing can be done, Lam. iii. 37. He is the spring that sets all the wheels of the creation a-going. Should he stop, and deny his influence, then all of them are motionless that moment. Thou hast bread; but what will it avail thee without his blessing? if he withdraw it, thou mayst eat, and not be satisfied, Hos. iv. 10. Thy clothes could not warm thee without it. Ye might plough and sow, and get nothing for your pains, if he but lay his charge on the earth to deny her fruits. Ye might tend your cattle and flocks and do your best for them, and all to no purpose, if he keep back his own, Psal. xcv. 4. which he cannot crave as a debt. Ye might rise early, and sit up late, and ply your business with the utmost diligence; but when thou hast done all thou canst do by art or industry, remember what Moses says to the Israelites, Deut. viii. 17, 18. Thou say in thine heart, My power, and the might of my hand, hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.' And consider what the Lord says, Psal. cxxvii. 1, 2. Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.'
7. Lastly, Our comforts and supports of life are never out
of God's reach. If they were in ever such a flourishing condition, he can blast them to us in a moment. One day saw Job exceeding rich and poor to a proverb, Job. i. 13. &c. having seven thousand sheep in the morning, and not a living one among them all at night. How often has it been, that a fair braird has brought little into the barn-yard? When it has been ready for the hook, or cut down in the field, shaking winds and rotting rains have made it little worth, Hos. ii. 9. When it is brought to the barn-floor, even then we are not sure of it, Hos. ix. 2. The floor and the wine-press shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.' When the corn is made in bread, the Lord can take away the whole stay of bread, Isa. iii. 1. When
goes down the throat he can make it choke us, and when it is in the belly, he can turn it,' and make it the gall of asps within us,' Job. xx. 14.
I proceed to the petition itself, in which we pray, That, of God's free gift, we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.'
In discoursing from this petition, I shall shew,
I. What is meant by bread in it.
II. What is the import of this petition for bread.
I. I am to shew what is meant by bread in this petition. Not the spiritual bread, which is Jesus Christ; that we pray for in the second petition. Not the sacramental bread neither; that is prayed for in the fifth petition, being a seal of the pardon of sin. But, as I have already observed, bread for the sustenance of our bodies, bread for our own tables, for nourishing the clay bodies in their present earthly state. So this petition concerns our bodies. Hence,
Observe, That we are allowed to be concerned for our bodies, and their sustenance. The neglect of it is a sin against God, Col. ii. ult. And the care of it is necessary to fit us for serving God in our several stations, as the horse must be seen to by him who would make out his journey. And if we be the Lord's children, our bodies are the Lord's by a peculiar title; they are the members of Christ, and temples
of his Spirit. And therefore we owe them a particular ho nour and regard,
Yet there is but one petition here for the body, while there are two for the soul, Forgive us our debts,' &c. ́ And lead us not into temptation,' &c. Whence,
Observe, Our main concern should be for our souls; and so it is indeed with the saints. This is that better part of the man, which is worthy of double honour, double care and concern, Matth. xvi. 26.
1. The body is of the earth, the soul is from heaven, By the body we are allied to the beasts, but by our souls to the angels. The one is the brutal part of the man, the other the angelical part. And as heaven is above the earth, so should the care of our souls be beyond that of our bo dies.
2. Our bodies are mortal, but our souls immortal. When one dies, his body goes to sleep in the dust till the resurrec tion; but his soul goes to God who gave it, to live either in heaven or hell. Shall we not then have a greater concern for the immortal inhabitant, than the clay cottage, the weak tabernacle in which it dwells?
3. Caring chiefly for the soul, we secure the happiness of the body too, in this life, Matth. vi. 33. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you; and also in the life to come, Rom. viii. 11. But if the Spirit of him, that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you; he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.' But caring chiefly for the body, we lose the soul and the body too, Matth. x. 39. He that findeth his life shall lose it.' And there is no compen sating of this loss.
USE. How far are the most part of men from this duly divided concern! Alas! does not the body get the double portion of desires, cares, and concern; and is not the soul admitted only to the least part? For the quantity it gets more, and for the quality too; we being vigorous and lively in our concerns for the body, but careless and indifferent in those for the soul: which is the very reverse of the frame which grace puts the heart into.
Under the name of bread here is comprehended not only