« AnteriorContinuar »
only thus kind to us all in general, it would certainly be our Duty to acknowledge his Kindness, and pray for the Continuance of it. But as we learn from Scripture further, that his Providence extends, even in the minutest Instances, to each of us in particular ; and that not the smallest Thing comes to pass, but by his Appointment, or wise Permission; this furnishes additional Reasons for applying to Him, that his continual Superintendency may be ever exercised towards us for our Good. We know not indeed with Certainty, in thefe Matters, what will be good for us. But still, fince He hath given us Desires, inseparable from our Frame, of enjoying Life to its ordinary Term; with a competent Share of the several Accommodations which contribute to make it agreeable ; it must be lawful to express those Desires to Him in a proper Manner. And this our Saviour directs us how to do, when He bids us pertion for our daily Bread.
The Word Bread, as it frequently signifies in Scripture all Sorts of Food, so it may very naturally signify, what it doth in this Prayer, all sorts of Things requifite in human Life. This Agur meant, when he pray , ed, that God would feed him with Food (in the Original it is Bread) convenient for him. And this we mean in common Discourse, as often as we speak of Persons geto ting their Bread. But then it must by no Means be extended beyond Things requisite; those, without which we are unable either to subfift at all, or however conveniently and comfortably. Not that Defires of further Advantages in the World are universally unlawful, But they are so apt to enlarge, and swell into extravagant and sinful Paffions; into Schemes of Luxury, or Vanity, or Covetousness; that we have usually much more Need to restrain and check, than authorize them, by asking the Accomplishment of them from God; left we be guilty of what St. James condemns, asking amiss, that we may consume it upon our Lufts.
• Matth. X. 29, 30. Luke xii. 6,7
Prov. xxx. 8. Jam. iv. 3.
It is therefore only for such a Share of worldly Good, as to a reasonable and moderate Mind will appear sufficient, that our Saviour allows us here to pray; in the Spirit which Agur, in the Prayer just mentioned, expreffes, Give me neither Poverty nor Riches : feed me with Food
convenient for me. Left I be full, and deny Thee, and fay, Who is the Lord? or left I be poor, and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain'. For indeed, though the Temptations of extreme Poverty are very great ; yet the Tendency of Wealth and Ease and Power, to Sensuality and Pride and Forgetfulness of God, is so exceeding strong, that a well-inftructed and confiderate Mind would rather submit, than chuse to be placed in a Condition of Abundance and Eminence. For preserving the Order, and conducting the Affairs of the World, fome must be in such Station's: but let all who are, look well to their Ways; and let none of their Inferiors envy them.
It ought to be further abfcrved here, that our blessed Lord hath not only confined us to pray for our Bread, but our daily Bread; to be given us, as we ask for it, Day by Day: intending, doubtless, to make us remember and acknowledge that our Dependance on God is continual, from one Moment to another : that they, who have the most of this World, have it only during his Pleasure; and are bound, both to ask, and receive, every Day's
Enjoyment of it, as a new Gift from Him: while, at the fame Time, they who have least may be assured, that what He hath commanded them to pray for, He will ordinarily not fail to bestow. upon them; by blesfing their Endeavours, if they are able to use Endea
vours; or by stirring up the Charity of others towards -them, if they are not.
For as to those who can labour, Industry is the Method by which God hath thought fit to give them their Bread; and, therefore, by which they ought to seek it. They have no Title to it any other Way ; St. Paul having directed, that if any one will not work, neitherahould f. Prove XXX. 8, 9:
be cat. Nor must they work only to supply their prefent Neceflities: but, by Diligence and Frugality, lay up something, if possible, for future Exigencies also: learning of the Ant, which provideth her Meat in the Summer, and gathereth her Food in the Harvest h.
So that applying for our daily Bread to God, is far from excluding a proper Care to use the appointed Means of procuring it for ourselves. But if our Care be a presumptuous one, and void of Regard to the Disposer of all Things; we provoke Him to blast our fairest Hopes. And if it be an anxious and distrustful one, we think ; injuriously of Him to whom we pray; who can as easily give us the Bread of To-motrow, as He gave us that of Yesterday. Nay, if our worldly Cares, though they do not disquiet our Minds, yet engross them; if we carry our Attention to this World so far as to forget the next; or imagine ourselves to be securer in Stores, laid up for many Years', than in God's good Providence ; this alto is very unsuitable to the Spirit, both of our Lord's Prayer, and of his whole Religion; which commands us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his Righte61/ness', and not to trust in uncertain Riches, but in Him, who giveth us richly all Things to enjoy!.
I shall only add two Observations more, which have been made very justly on this Petition m: that, since we ask our Bread from God, we ought not to accept it from the Devil; that is, to gain our Subsistence by any unlawful Means: and ihat, since we do not say, Give me my daily Bread; but, Give us ours; we entreat God to supply the Wants of others, as well as our own, Now the Means which He hath provided for supplying the Wants of the helpless Poor, is the Charity of the Rich. And to pray Him, that they may be reJieved, and yet withheld from them what He hath designed for their Relief, is just that Piece of Inconfiftence or Hypocrisy, which St. James so strongly exposes. If a Brother, or Sifter, be naked, and destitute of daily Food; 8 2 Thess. jii. 10.
n Prov. vi. 8.
1 Luke xii. 19. B Match. vi. 33.
1 Tim, vi 17
In By Bp. Blackhall.
and one of you say unto them, Depart in Peace, be ye warmed, and'he ye filled; notwithstanding ye give them not thejë 7 hings which are needful to the Body; what doth it profit"?
From our temporal Wants, we proceed 11:xt to a much more important Concern, our spiritual ones : and here we alk in the first place, what it is very fit we. fhould, Pardon and Mercy. Forgive us our Trespasjes, as we forgive them that trespass against us. The Forgive. ness of Sins having been already explained, under that Article of the Creed, which relates to it; I fall only take notice at prefent of the Argument, which we are directed to use in pleading for it, which is likewile the especial Condition of our obtaining it; that we also forgive', as we hope to be forgiven, And concerning this, two Things ought to be understood: what that For giveness is, to which we are bound ; and how far the Exercise of it will avail us.
Now the Obligation to Forgiveness means, not that the Magistrate is to omit punishing Malefactors; for he is the Minister of God, a Revenger, to execute Irath upon him, that doth Evil: mot that the Rulers of the Church are to forbear spiritual Censures against notorious Offenders ; for the Scripture hath appointed them for the Amendment of Sinners, and the Preservation of the Innocent, when they are likely to have these good Effects: not that private Persons do amiss in bringing Transgreffors to Justice ; for neglecłing it would be in general only a seeming Kindnels to them, and a real Mischief to human Society : not that we are forbid to make reafonable Demands on fuch, as withhold our Duos, or do us any Damage; for recovering a Debt is a very different Thing from revenging an Injury: nor lastly, that we are always bound, when Persons have behaved ill to us,
either to think as well of them as before ; which may be impossible; or to trust and favour them as much; which may be unwise. But our Obligation to forgive doth mean, and absolutely require, that civil Gover
. Luke xi. 4.
P Rom. xiii. 4.
* James ii. 15, 16.
nors be moderate and merciful; and ecclefiaftical ones make use of Discipline to Edification, not to Destruction 9: that, in our private Capacity, we pats by all Offences, which, with Safety to ourselves, and the Public, we can: that where we must punish, we do it with Reluctance; and as gently, as the Cafe will permit: and where we muft defend or recover our Rights; we do it with the least Expence, and the least Uneafiness to the adverse Party, that may be: that we never be guilty of Injustice to others, because they have been guilty of it to us; and never refuse them proper Favours, merely because we have been refused such Favours by them; much less, because we have not obtained from them what it was not fit we should : that we look upon little Provocations, as Trifes ; and be careful, not to think great ones greater than they are: that we be willing to make those, who have displeased us, all such Allowance to the full, as our common Frailty and Ignorance demand: that we always with well to them; and be ready, as soon as ever we have real Cause, to think well of them; to believe their Repentance; and, how great or many soever their Faults may have been, to accept it; and restore them to as large a Share of our Kindness and Friendship, as any wise and good Person, uninterested in the Question, would think safe and right: always remembering, in every Case of Injury, how very apt we are to err on the severe Side; and how very much better it is, to err on the merciful one.
This is the Temper of Forgiveness to our FellowCreatures: and it is plainly a good and fit Temper. Let us therefore now consider further, what Influence it will have towards our Maker's forgiving us. Our Saviour undoubtedly lays a peculiar Stress on it for this Purpose ; both by inserting it, as a Condition, into the Body of his Prayer; and insisting on it, as a necessary one, in his Words immediately after the Prayer. But ftill, we must observe, He doth not mention it as the Cause, that procures our Forgiveness : for God saveth us, 2 Cor. x. 8. xiii. 10.