|« Prev||Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.||Next »|
Give us this day our daily bread.
WE are now come to the second sort of petitions, that concern ourselves, as the former did more immediately concern God. Now you may observe the style in the prayer is altered. It was before, Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will; now it is, Give us, and Forgive us, &c. Before, our Lord had taught us to speak in a third person, ‘Thy will be done;’ and now in a second person, ‘Give us this day:’ which is not so to be understood as if we were not at all concerned in the former part of the Lord’s Prayer. In those petitions, the benefit is not God’s, but ours. When his name is sanctified, his kingdom cometh, and his will is done; these things do not only concern the glory of God, but also our benefit. It is our advantage when God is honoured by the coming of Christ’s kingdom and the subjection of our hearts unto himself. But these latter petitions do more immediately concern us. Now, among these, in the first place, we pray for the necessary provisions of the present life. Some make a scruple why such a prayer should be put in the first place. Surely not to show the value of these things above pardon and grace; but this is the last of the supplications. The Lord’s Prayer may be divided into supplications and deprecations. Among the supplications, there we prayed, first, for the glory of God; next, for the kingdom of God; next, for our subjection to that kingdom; and, in the last place, we pray for daily bread, or sustentation of the present life. But the other two are deprecations; and that either of evil already committed, and so we pray for pardon of sin, ‘Forgive us our trespasses;’ or deprecation of evil that is likely to be admitted, and so we pray against temptation, ‘Lead us not into temptation:’ so that this request is put into a fit order. First, we seek God’s glory as the end; his kingdom as the primary means; our subjection to that kingdom as the next means; and last of all, our comfortable subsistence in the world as a remote subservient help, that we may be in a capacity to serve and glorify God.
In this petition there is:—
I. The thing asked, and that is bread, by which is meant all things necessary for the maintenance of this life.
Now this is set forth:—
1. By a note of propriety, our bread.
2. By an adjunct of time, daily bread.
II. The manner of asking, give; we ask it as a gift of God.
III. The persons for whom we ask, Give us; as many as are 150supposed to be in a family together. Those that can call God Father by the Spirit, they may come with most confidence to God about daily supplies.
IV. The renewing of our request, σήμερον, ‘this day:’ there is very much in that; we ask but from morning till night: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’
Before I come to explain these circumstances, let me observe in general:—
Doct. 1. That it is the Lord which doth bestow upon us freely and graciously the good things of this life.
It is bread we ask, and we ask it of God, and to God we say, ‘Give.’ All which circumstances do fully make out the point.
This point again must be made good by parts:—
1. That God giveth it.
2. That he freely and graciously giveth it.
First, I shall show you how God is interested in the common mercies we do enjoy; and how every one, high or low, rich or poor, full or in a mean condition, of what rank soever they be, even those that have the greatest store and plenty of worldly accommodations, they must come from morning to morning and deal with God for daily bread.
Those common mercies which we do enjoy:—
[1.] God gives us the possession of them, for he is the absolute Lord of all things both in heaven and in earth, and whatsoever is possessed by any creature, it is by his indulgence; for the primitive and original right was in him: Ps. xxiv. 1, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.’ It is all God’s; we hold it in fee from him, for he is the great landlord who hath leased out all these blessings to the sons of men. The earth is first the Lord’s, and then by a grant he hath given it to men to enjoy: Ps. cxv. 16, ‘The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.’ He hath given it to men partly by a general grant, and leave given to enjoy and occupy it as the place of our service. But that is not all; he doth not only give the earth in general to men, but he makes a particular allotment; the particular designation of every man’s portion of what he shall enjoy in the world, it is of God. And so it is said, Acts xvii. 26, ‘He hath determined the bounds of their habitation.’ God hath not only appointed in general the earth to be the place of our service for a while, but he hath determined how much every one shall possess, what shall fall to his share. These things come not by chance, or by the gift of others, or by our own industry, but by the peculiar designation of God’s providence. However they come to us, God must be owned in the possession; whether they come to us by donation, purchase, labour, or by inheritance, yet they are originally by God, who by these means bestoweth them upon us. If they come by donation, or the gift of others, the hearts of men are in God’s hands, and he it was that disposed them to be bountiful to us, that appointed them to be instruments of his providence, to nourish us. He that sends a present, he is the giver, not the servant which brings it. So, though others be employed as instruments, it is the 151Lord which made them able and willing to do us good. If they come to us by inheritance, it is the providence of God that a man is born of rich friends and not of beggars: Prov. xxii. 2, ‘The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.’ He that hath cast the world first into hills and valleys, it was he that disposed of men, some into a high, and some into a low condition. If they come to us by our own labour and purchase, still God gave it to us: Deut. viii. 14-18, ‘Take heed that thine heart be not lilted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.’ He doth not leave second causes to their own power and force, as if he were only an idle spectator in the world. No, he gives the skill and industry to manage affairs, and success upon lawful undertakings; the faculty and the use, it is all from God. Though a man hath never so many outward advantages, yet, unless the Lord concur with his blessing, all would be to no purpose.
[2.] As God gives us the possession, so he gives us a right and title to them. There is a twofold right to these common blessings; a providential and a covenant right. Dominium politicum fundatur in providentia; ‘Our civil right to things is founded upon God’s providence:’ but Dominium evangelicum fundatur in gratia; ‘Our gospel right to things is founded upon God’s grace.’ (1.) He gives the providential right, and thus all wicked men possess outward things, and the plenty they enjoy is as the fruits and gifts of God’s common bounty; it is their portion, he hath given it to them: Ps. xvii. 14, ‘Which have their portion in this life,’ whatever falleth to their share in a fair way, and in the course of God’s providence; they are not usurpers merely for possessing, but for abusing, what they have. They have not only a civil right by the laws of men, to prevent the incroachment of others, but a providential right before God; and are not simply responsible for possession, but for their ill use and administration. (2.) There is a covenant right to these blessings: so only believers have a right to creature comforts by God’s special love; and so, ‘That little that a righteous man hath is better than the treasures of many wicked,’ Ps. xxxvii. 16; as the mean fare of a poor subject is better than the large allowance of a condemned traitor. Every wicked man is a traitor to God, and hath only an allowance until he be destroyed. But that little which a man hath, seasoned with God’s love, is better than all the mighty increase of wicked men. Now, this covenant right we have by Christ, who is ‘heir of all things,’ Heb. i. 2; Christ hath the original right to them, and we by him come to have a covenant right. So it is said, 1 Cor. iii. 23, ‘Things present, and things to come, all are yours.’ As things to come, the day of judgment is theirs; so things present are theirs by a new title from him. So it is said, 1 Tim. iv. 5, marriage, meats, and drinks, and all creatures, are made for them that believe. They that believe have only a gospel right to them. To draw it to the present thing, we do not only beg a possession of these things, but a right; not only a providential, but a covenant right, that we may enjoy them as the gifts of God’s fatherly love and compassion to us, that we may take our bread out of Christ’s hands, that we may look upon it as swimming to us in his blood, and all our mercies as wrapt 152up in his bowels; and then they will be sweet, and relish much better with a gracious soul, because he can not only taste the creature, but the love of God in the creature.
[3.] He gives the continuance of our blessings, that we may keep what we have; for unless the Lord do daily support us, we cannot keep our comforts for one day. How soon can God blast them! It is at his pleasure to do what he will with you. He gave Satan power over Job’s estate: chap. i. 12, ‘Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.’ Our life, it is continued to us by the indulgence of God, and by his providential influence and supportation. For as the beams of the sun are no longer continued in the air than the sun shineth, or, as the water retains the impress and stamp no longer than the seal is kept on it, so when God takes off his providential influence, all vanisheth into nothing. Thus he is said, Heb. i. 3, to ‘uphold all things by the word of his power.’ As a weighty thing is upheld in the hand of a man, when he looseneth his hand all falls to the ground; so it is said, Job xii. 10, ‘In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.’ God by his almighty grasp holdeth all things in his own hands, and if he should but let loose his hand, all would fall to nothing and disappear: Job vi. 9. For it is from the intimate support and influence of his providence that we have our lives. So our comforts, they are continued to us by God. Alas! in themselves they are poor fugacious things! Haman was to day high in honour, and to-morrow high upon the gallows. ‘Riches make themselves wings, and fly away as an eagle towards heaven:’ Prov. xxiii. 5. The Holy Ghost seems there to compare riches to a flock of birds, which pitcheth in a man’s field to-night, but to-morrow they are gone. Who is the richer for a flock of wild fowls because they pitch in his field now? So all these outward things are so flying that they are soon gone by many accidents, unless he preserves them and continues our possession of them. For God he can give a charge and commission to the fire, to the fury of men, one way or other, to deprive us of these things: ‘Behold, all he hath is in thy hands,’ Job i. 12. When a man hath gotten abundance of worldly comforts about him, and seemeth to be intrenched and provided against all hazards, the man is taken away, and cannot enjoy what he had heaped together with a great deal of care and solicitude.
[4.] We beg leave to use them. It is good manners in religion to ask God’s leave in all things. It is robbery to make use of a man’s goods, and to waste and consume them without his leave. We must ask God’s leave upon this account, because, though God gives these good things to men, yet he still reserves the property in himself; for by distributing blessings to the creature, he never intended to divest himself of the right. As a husbandman, by scattering his corn in the field, did not dispossess himself, but still keeps a right and means to have the increase; so when the Lord scattereth his blessings, we only receive them as stewards, not as owners and proprietors: God still is the supreme Lord, and only hath the property and dominion. In life it is clear man is not dominus vitae, but custos; not lord of his life, but only the steward and guardian of it; he cannot live or die at his own pleasure: if a man kills himself he runs the danger of God’s law. 153What is said of life is true also of his estate: he is not an owner so much as a steward; that is the notion of our possession: we are stewards, and must render an account to God.: Hos. ii. 9, ‘I will return and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax.’ Though God hath communicated these things to the children of men, yet he hath reserved the dominion in his own hands: so Hag. ii. 8, ‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.’ He never disposed anything so into the creature’s hands, but still he hath reserved a right and interest in it; and therefore it is, Gen. xiv. 19. that the Lord is not only called the creator of heaven and earth, but ‘possessor of heaven and earth.’ He is not only the possessor, of heaven where he dwells, which he hath reserved to his own use, but he is possessor of earth, which he hath committed to the use of men. And God will have his right acknowledged from day to day.
[5.] It is he that giveth us ability to use them: we beg that we may not only have the comforts, but life and strength to use them; for God can blast us in the very midst of our enjoyments. It is the case of many, when they have hunted after a worldly portion, and begin to think, now I will sit down and enjoy it; when the gain is come into his hands, and he thinks to waste2424 Qu. “taste?”—ED. that which he hath got in hunting, death takes him away, and he hath not power to use them. Thus it was with the rich fool; when he began to sing lullabies to his soul, and enjoy what he had got, he is taken away by death: Luke xii. 29, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ And it is said, Num. xi. 33, when those people had gotten quails, that ‘while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people; and the Lord smote them with a very great plague.’ And that nobleman which saw plenty in Samaria, but could not taste of it: 2 Kings vii. 19. So Job xxi. 23, ‘One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet:’ when he has gotten abundance of worldly comforts about him, death seizes on him of a sudden.
[6.] God yet is further interested in these mercies, so as to give us a sanctified use of them, that we may take our bread out of God’s hands with prayer and thanksgiving, and due acknowledgments of God. In 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5, ‘Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.’ Then are the creatures sanctified to us, when we enjoy God in them; when our hearts are raised to think of the donor, and can love him the more for every gift. Carnal men, like swine, raven upon the acorns, but look not up to the oak from whence they drop. In the Canticles, the spouse’s eyes are compared to dove’s eyes. They which make the allusion say this is the meaning: look, as a dove pecks, and looks upward; so upon every grain of mercy, we should look up to the God of mercies: it is not enough to taste the sweet of the creatures, but also to own God, his love and Bounty in them, so to have them sanctified to us. This is the privilege we have as men, that we can know the first cause, and who is the benefactor. All creatures subsist upon the first cause, but are not 154capable of knowing it. And this is our privilege as Christians, to have this capacity reduced into act. It is of the Lord’s grace to give us a sanctified use of these things.
[7.] We beg of God the natural blessing upon the holy use of out ward comforts, so as they may continue us in health and vigour for the service of God; for nothing will prosper with us but by his blessing: Ps. cvi. 15, ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls;’ that is, they had no natural comfort by that which they had obtained. God may give a man meat, yet not an appetite; he may not give him the comfortable use of it, a blessing with it. And therefore the apostle makes it to be an argument of God’s bounty to the heathen, that as he gave them food, so he gave them gladness of heart: Acts xiv. 17, ‘He gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness;’ that is, gave them a comfortable use, a blessing upon the use of outward things. And Lev. xxvi., you will find a distinction between ‘bread,’ and the ‘staff of bread.’ We may have bread, yet not the staff of bread. Many have worldly comforts, but not with a natural blessing: Eccles. iii. 13, ‘That every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour; it is the gift of God:’ not only that he should have increase by his labour, but enjoy good; to have the comfortable use of that increase.
[8.] Contentation is one of God’s blessings that we ask in this prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ that is, such provisions as are necessary for us, contentment and quiet of mind in the enjoyment: Joel ii. 19, ‘Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith.’ It is not only a blessing we should look after, but contentment, that our minds may be suited to our condition, for then the creature is more sweet and comfortable to us. The happiness of man doth not lie in his abundance, but in the suitableness of his mind to his estate: Luke xii. 15, ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.’ There is a twofold war within a man, both which must be taken up before a man can have comfort; there is a war between a man and his conscience, and this breeds trouble of mind; and there is a war between his affections and his condition, and this breeds murmuring and envious repining. Say, Yea, Lord, and let us be contented with thy gift. This for the first thing, how God is concerned in these outward comforts.
Secondly, That the Lord doth freely and graciously give these good things to us, that is, merely out of his bounty and goodness. It is not from his strict remunerative justice, but out of his grace. The very air we breathe in, the bread we eat, our common blessings, be they never so mean, we have them all from grace, and all from the tender mercy of the Lord. Ps. cxxxvi. 25, you have there the story of the notable effects of God’s mercy, and he concludes it thus: ‘Who giveth food to all flesh; for his mercy endureth for ever.’ Mark, the psalmist doth not only ascribe those mighty victories, those glorious instances of his love and power, to his unchangeable mercy, but our daily bread. In eminent deliverances of the church we will acknowledge mercy; yea, but we should do it in every bit of meat we eat, for the same reason is rendered all along. What is the reason his people 155smote Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and rescued his people so often out of danger? Tor his mercy endureth for ever.’ And what is the reason he giveth food to all flesh?’ For his mercy endureth for ever.’ It is not only mercy which gives us Christ, and salvation by Christ, and all those glorious deliverances and triumphs over the enemies of the church; but it is mercy which furnisheth our tables, it is mercy that we taste with our mouths and wear at our backs. It is notable, our Lord Jesus, when there were but five barley loaves and two fishes, John vi. 11, ‘He lift up his eyes and gave thanks.’ Though our provision be never so homely and slender, yet God’s grace and mercy must be acknowledged.
But to evidence this by some considerations that certainly it is of the mercy of the Lord that he giveth bread to the creature: God giveth these mercies—
1. To those that cannot return any service to him.
2. To those that will not return any service to him.
3. When we are at our best we cannot deserve them.
4. We deserve the quite contrary.
[1.] He giveth these mercies to those that cannot return any service to him; the beasts, and fowls of the air, the young ravens: Ps. cxlv. 16, ‘Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.’ What can the beasts, or fishes, or fowls of the air deserve at God’s hand? What honour and service can they bring to him? Only they have a bountiful Creator, from whom they receive their allowance.
So as to infants. Alas! what can they deserve at his hand? When God rocks their cradles, and nourisheth them from the dug, what service can they do to God? Isa. xlvi. 3, 4, ‘By me,’ saith the Lord, ‘you are borne from the belly, and carried from the womb; and even to your old age, I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you.’ Mark, not only in old age, when we have done God service, doth he maintain us; but from the womb, the belly, before we could do any thing for him, we were tenderly handled by him. He alludeth to parents and nurses, which carry their younglings in their arms. In infancy we are not in a capacity to know the God of our mercies, and look after him; yet he looked after us then, when we could not perform one act of love and kindness to him. The psalmist takes notice of this: Ps. xxii. 9, 10, ‘Thou art he that took me out of the womb; thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb; thou art my God from my mother’s belly.’ Christians, before ever you could do anything for him or yourselves, before you could improve his mercy, when you could not know who was your benefactor, who it was that nourished and cherished you, yet then God rocked your cradles, kept you from many dangers, nursed you, and brought you up, and carried you in the tender arms of his providence.
[2.] God gives these mercies to those that will not serve him when they can: Isa. i. 2, ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.’ There are many in the world whom God protects, supplies, and provides them of all necessaries, yet they return nothing but disobedience, contempt, rebellion, and unthankfulness. 156The sun doth not shine by chance, but at God’s disposal: Mat. v. 45, ‘He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ Most of those which are fed at God’s table, and maintained at his expense and care, they are his enemies; and many times the more men receive from him the worse they are. Look, as beasts towards man, when they are in good plight they grow fierce, and are ready to destroy those which nourish them, so, when we are plentifully supplied, we kick with the heel, wax wanton, and forgetful of God. Or as a froward child scratcheth the breast which suckles it, so we rebel against God that nourished us, and brought us up, and dishonour our heavenly Father that provides these blessings for us. Parisiensis hath a saying, ‘They which hold the greatest farms many times pay the least rent.’ So the great ones of the world, they which have most of God’s bounty, give him the least acknowledgment.
[3.] When we do our best we cannot deserve these mercies, or merit aught at God’s hands; for all we do is already due to God, as we are his creatures, and the paying new debts will not quit old scores. The question is propounded: Job xxii. 2, ‘Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?’ See the answer: chap. xxxv. 7, ‘If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?’ And wherein is God profited if a man’s ways be perfect? And, therefore, whatever God doth for creatures, he doth it freely, because he cannot be obliged by any act of ours and pre-engaged. Thus Adam in innocency could not obtain the blessing but by virtue of the covenant, nor merit aught at God’s hands, that is, put any obligation upon God; and, therefore, certainly now we cannot. And partly, too, because whatever we do, it will not carry a proportion with these common mercies. We are proud creatures, and think of a condignity of works, and to merit from heaven these mercies. But, alas! there is no comparison; and if God would deal with us upon merit and strict commutative justice, we cannot give him a valuable compensation for temporal mercies: Gen. xxxii. 10, ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies which thou hast showed unto thy servant.’ Though none of God’s mercies can simply be said to be little, for whatsoever comes from a great God should be great in our value and esteem, as a small remembrance from a great person is much prized; therefore no mercy is simply little, but comparatively. Now the least mercies some have, and others the greatest temporal things. When we are put into the balance, we ‘and all our worth and deservings cannot counterpoise the least mercy, or merit the daily bread we have from God. And then the little good we do, it is merely by the grace that we have received. If one man differs from another, who made him differ? It is but a new gift, he is the more indebted to God.
[4.] We deserve the contrary. We have forfeited our lives, and all our comforts; we have put ourselves out of God’s protection by sin. Death waylaid us when we were in our mother’s womb; and as soon as we were born there was a sentence in force against us: Rom. v. 12, ‘Death came upon all, for that all have sinned.’ And still we continue the forfeiture. We provoke God to cut us off. It is a kind 157of pardoning mercy by which we subsist every moment. This is sensible in case of sickness, when our lives and comforts slide from us, when there is but a step between us and death, when the old covenant comes to be put in suit, and God seems to be executing the sentence of the law. And that is the reason why the temporal deliverance of the wicked and impenitent is called a remission: as Ps. lxxviii. 38, ‘But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not.’ And Mat. xviii. 26, 27, 28, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and forgave him the debt.’ Why is it called a remission? Improperly, because it was a reprieve from the temporal judgment for a time; it was not an executing the sentence which was in force against us; and it was not from anything in the sinner, but from God’s pity over his creatures. And a godly man, every time his life and comforts are in danger, hath a pardon renewed at that time: Isa. xxxviii. 17, ‘Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.’ They are loved out of danger, and loved out of sickness; the pardoning mercy of God is indeed renewed to them.
Use 1. For information, in two branches:
First, That God will give his people temporal things. Not only pardon, and grace, and glory; but ‘no good thing will he withhold:’ Ps. lxxxi. 11. Many say they can trust God for eternal life, but can not trust him for daily bread. This is an utter mistake. Certainly it is far more easy to trust God for daily bread than for eternal life; because there are more difficulties, more natural prejudices, against these greater mercies of pardon and eternal life, than there can be against the daily effects of God’s bounty. It is a harder matter to work through our natural prejudices, which lie against eternal life, than to work through that distrust which lies against God’s care over us and provision for us. Why? For God’s common bounty it reacheth to all his creatures, even to the smallest worm; his mercy is over all his works. And surely it is more easy to believe his common bounty than his special love, which runs in a distinct channel to such a sort of men.
But because many have too weak a faith about temporal things, let us consider how willing God is to distribute and give out these supplies. Several things I might mention.
1. God’s respect to the bodies of his people is a mighty ground and encouragement. God is in covenant with the body as well as the soul. Jesus Christ proves the resurrection from thence, that God is ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:’ Mat. xxii. 32. This argument can never be made good, but upon the supposition that God is in covenant with Abraham’s body, with the whole believer; and therefore the mark of circumcision was in their flesh, as the water of baptism is sprinkled upon our bodies. Well, then, if the bodies of the saints be in covenant with God, certainly some of the promises of the covenant do concern the body and sustentation of the present life. But that is not all, but Jesus Christ hath purchased both body and 158soul: 1 Cor. vi. 20, ‘Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ Not only the soul is Christ’s, but the body.
You will say, That is ground of service; but what! can it be inferred that therefore God will provide for us? It is not only a ground of our service, but of Christ’s care of us. If Christ had only purchased our service, yet it were a ground of hope. If you expect work and service from a body, you will give maintenance to that body. But Christ’s purchase implieth his care over that he hath purchased; for the interest God hath in us in redemption is a gracious interest, God had an interest in us before we were redeemed; we could not make void his right by any rebellion of ours. But then God hath such an interest in us as engaged and solicited him to destroy us. Look, as a prince hath an interest in his subjects, if they rebel and revolt from their obedience, they cannot disannul his right, but it is such a right as binds him to pursue and chastise them until they return to their duty, so God hath a right to the fallen creature, but it was such a right as solicited vengeance. But the right Christ purchased was a gracious right, that God might protect and preserve us. Well, then, if Christ purchased body and soul, he hath obtained, not only that God should be gracious to our souls, but gracious to our bodies; then the argument runs clearly for confirming the faith of the saints in expectation of temporal benefits.
2. God hath given us greater things, therefore he will not stand upon the less; when a man hath been at great cost, he will not lose it. The Lord hath given us his Christ: Rom. viii. 32, ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ Can any man be so illogical, so ill-skilled in consequences, as not to conclude from thence, if God give us Christ, with him he will give us all things? So Mat. vi. 33, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you.’
3. These things are dispensed to inferior, yea, to the worst of his creatures: Ps. cxlvii. 9, ‘He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.’ Will God maintain the beasts of the field, and will he not maintain his children? It is monstrous and unnatural to think thus, that God will not support you, and bear you out in your work. This is Christ’s own argument: Mat. vi. 34, ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ Daily bread is in your Father’s power, and he gives it graciously to all his creatures, and therefore certainly he will give it to you. Thus you may see with what confidence you may expect daily supplies.
Secondly, It informs us that we may ask temporal things, if we ask them lawfully. It is true, prayers to God for spiritual things are more acceptable. As your child pleaseth you better when it comes to you to be taught its book, rather than when it comes for an apple, so it is more pleasing to God when you come for the Mediator’s blessing and spiritual things: Acts iii. 26, ‘God hath sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.’ But yet we may 159ask other things. Why? For they are good and useful to us in the course of our service, and without them we are exposed to many temptations. And prayer easeth you of a deal of carking about them: Phil. iv. 6, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.’ We may ask them, but it must be lawfully; and that, for order, not in the first place. That is howling, when we come to God merely for corn, wine, and oil; when we prefer these things before his favour and the graces of his Spirit. Then it must be lawful, too, as to the manner: a moderate proportion, not to set God a task to maintain you at such a rate, but to ask a moderate allowance. Christ teacheth us here to pray for bread, which is a necessary allowance: Prov. xxx. 8, ‘Feed me with food convenient for me.’ And, 1 Tim. vi. 8, ‘If we have food and raiment, let us therewith be content.’ And then ask them with humility and submission to the will of God. We ought to say, as in James iv. 15, ‘If the Lord will, we will go to such a place, and get gain.’ And then lawfully, too, as to the end; not for an unlawful end, for. ostentation and not, that we may live at large and at ease: James iv. 3, ‘Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.’ But we must ask it for a good end: Ps. cxv. 1, ‘Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.’ Lord, not for our ease, or our plenty, but that thy name may be glorified, that we may be supported in service. And then again, law fully as to the plea. We must not come and challenge it, as if it were our due; we must not use the plea of merit, but of mercy. Our Saviour doth not say, Let this bread come to us anyhow, as he saith, ‘Let thy will be done;’ our subjection to God is due; but, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ acknowledging the Lord’s mercy.
Use 2. Let us not place our confidence in second causes, but in God, by whose goodness and providence over us all temporal things do come unto us; for without him all our carking and labour is nothing; and if we have our wishes without labour, yet we shall not have our comfort and blessing without God: Mat. vi. 27. Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature?’ By taking thought, he meaneth anxious care about success. We cannot change the colour of a hair by all our anxious thoughts. We cannot make ourselves stronger or taller. Many a man is pierced through with worldly cares, and still the world frowns upon him, so all his care comes to nothing. Prov. x. 4, it is said, ‘The hand of the diligent maketh rich.’ Compare it with ver. 22, and it is said, ‘The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.’ Most commonly they that are diligent they thrive with their diligence; yea, but if that be all, if they have not the Lord’s blessing, they have not that sweetness and peace when they have gotten abundance. Oh, therefore, let us place our confidence, not in second causes, but in God.
Use 3. Let us be thankful to God for these worldly things that we enjoy. I urge this:—
First, Because of the danger of ingratitude. Usually we never forget God more than when he remembereth us most. When men have what they would have, then God is neglected; they grow careless 160in prayer, or flat and cold in the performance of it. There is a great deal of difference between men poor and rich. When poor, they will seem to put a natural fervency into their prayers; but when rich, they grow cold and careless. Mark what the Lord saith, Hos. xiii. 6, ‘They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.’ Oh, how frequent is this, that many having been kept under a great sense of God in a low condition, but when they have been well at ease, then they bear it up as if they could live without God. The bucket comes to the river with an empty mouth, gaping to receive its fulness, as it were; but when it is full, the bottom is turned towards it. So it is very usual with men to turn their backs upon the mercy-seat, and when the Lord hath given them great in crease in worldly things, and leased out a great estate to them, he hath very little rent from them. Now, because this is usual, therefore those whom God hath blessed with the supplies of the present life, how should they study thankfulness!
Secondly, Because of the equity of it. Consider what an equity there is, that we should be thankful for outward blessings.
1. They are good in themselves.
2. They come from God.
3. They come from the Lord’s grace and mercy.
[1.] They are good in themselves. Food and raiment is good, and ‘every creature of God is good,’ 1 Tim. iv. 4. They are good things, though not the best things. They are good for ourselves, that we may serve God more cheerfully. The Lord would have the Levites and priests have their portion, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord: 2 Chron. xxxi. 4. Now these things are good to encourage us, and support us in our work. Man consists of two parts, of a body and of a soul. Now whether we look to the one or the other, you will have many arguments to love and praise God, not only for what he hath done for our souls, but likewise for our bodies. And they are good, because they prevent many snares and temptations: Prov. xxx. 9, ‘Lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.’ Diseases which arise from fulness are more common; but diseases which arise from indigence and emptiness, they are more dangerous. So diseases of prosperity they are more common, it is a rank soil and yields more weeds; but diseases which arise from poverty breed atheism, irreligion, and rebellion against God. They are good, as they make us more useful for God and man. For God, as having more advantages for the honouring of God: Prov. iii. 9, ‘Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase.’ And of doing good to others: ‘That we may have to distribute to them that need,’ Eph. iv. 28. Oh, we should all covet and affect mightily, to have wherewith to relieve the necessities of others.
[2.] As they are blessings, so they are blessings which do not come by chance, or by man’s providence: 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘The living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.’ The people of God are plentifully provided for. Your tables are well furnished, backs well clothed; it is God which gives you richly to enjoy them, and he must be acknowledged. As David doth: 1 Chron. xxix. 14, ‘For all things 161come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.’ Then, ver. 16, ‘O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name, cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.’ Though you yourselves have been purchasers of your own estate, and carvers of your own fortune (as man is most apt to forget God there), yea, but though you have prepared and brought together a great deal of store, yet, Lord, all comes from thee. It sweeteneth the mercy. When you are at the table, to be carved to by a great person, their remembrance is counted a greater favour than the meal itself. So it is not barely the comfort we have by the creature which sweeteneth it, but when we think of the donor, that the great God should think of us, that it is God who spreads our table for us, that doth put this meat and drink before us. It was he that ‘gave seed to the sower, and bread for food.’ 2 Cor. ix. 10. When we take it immediately out of God’s hands, it is much sweeter. And not only so, but also it is the more sanctified. When we look to second causes, we shall surely abuse the mercy: Hosea ii. 8, ‘For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold.’ What then?’ Therefore she prepared it for Baal.’ When God’s kindness is not taken notice of, when we do not see God in our mercies, we shall not use them for God. That man will surely improve his comforts ill that doth not see God in them. Now that which comes from God leads the heart to God again, then the creature is sanctified. Therefore acknowledge God in these outward things. We should say of every morsel of bread, This is God’s gift to me; of every night’s sleep, This is the Lord’s goodness. When God is acknowledged in these outward things, he takes it the more kindly, and we are the better for it; the mercy is the sweeter and the more sanctified.
[3.] They not only come from God, but from the Lord’s free grace and mercy. These are two distinct notions, by which God’s goodness is set out, and they are both significant and expressive in the present case: Grace, that doth all freely; mercy, that pitieth the miserable.
(1.) Then we have them from grace. Grace is at liberty to give them to whom it will. Well, there is grace in these outward things; for God gives them to whom he will; to some, not to others. Oh, when we consider the distinction between us and others every one hath not such liberal supplies, nay, many of those of whom the world is not worthy—surely this is merely the Lord’s goodness. Prov. xxii. 2, ‘The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the maker of them all.’ They had the same maker that you had (others which are destitute), therefore why is it you have more than they? It is merely from grace. Why is one vessel framed for an honourable use, and another for a baser use? So it pleased the potter. God, as the great master of the scenes, appointeth to every man what part he shall act, merely out of his own grace; he is bound to none. It was a good speech of Tamerlane, the great conqueror of the East, to Bajazet: What did God see in thee, that are blind in one eye, and me, that am lame of one leg, that he should make us, passing by many others, the lords of so many opulent and mighty kingdoms? A savoury speech from an infidel! What did God see in any of us, to exalt, cherish, and supply us, and let pass many others, who, for moral excellencies 162and virtuous endowments, do far exceed us? When we consider this distinction, then, ‘Even so, Father, because it pleased thee ‘There is a kind of election and reprobation in these common mercies; that is God will dispense them to one and not to another; he will be glorified in their poverty and glorified in thy wealth; and therefore there is grace in it.
(2.) There is a mercy in it, that pitieth the miserable. How doth it appear these good things come from mercy? Because of our want and because of our forfeiture.
(1st.) Our want and our indigence. Oh, when we think what shiftless creatures we should have been if he had not provided for us Ps xl. 17, ‘I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.’ If we were but sensible of our own weakness, and emptiness, and manifold necessities we would admire that God should think of us, such forlorn and wretched creatures; or that our baseness and poverty doth not make us contemptible to God: Ps. xxxiv. 6, ‘This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.’ He doth not say, This wise man, this eminent saint, but this poor man. This was the doctrine of the Gentiles—That the divine power did only care for the great and weighty concernments of the world, but other things he left to their own event and to their own chance; as if God, in the great throng of business, were not at leisure to attend every private mans request. These were the fond surmises the Gentiles had of God; but we are taught better. ‘This poor man cried unto the Lord and he heard him.’ Poor men in the world, when they have anything to do with great persons, they must look long, wait, pray, and pay to seek their face and favour, and at length meet with a rough answer and sour look. But God will not shut the door; the throne of grace lies open for every comer. You will say, this would sweeten mercies to the poor. Nay, it concerns not only those that are actually poor but the great ones of the world (for they are poor and shiftless in themselves if God did not provide for them); others are but glasses where they might see their own misery. If they did well weigh the wants and necessities of others, they might see what would have been their own case if the Lord had not been merciful unto them. As Austin when he saw a beggar frisking and leaping after his belly was filled,’ the spectacle wrought much upon him that he had not such rejoicing in God, who tasted so much of his abundance. Saith Chrysostom If you are not thankful for health, go to the spittals and lazar-houses and see what might have been your own case. Thus if you are not thankful for abundance, go to the families where there are children that want bread. It is the Lord’s mercy to the richest, for they were miserable and indigent. It is a great mercy to relieve those from hand to mouth; but you that have abundance, it is a double mercy to you, for he prevents the necessity before it was felt. As Ps. xxi. 3, ‘Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness.’ David takes notice of the goodness of God to him. Before the need is felt and observed, you are stored; and this should be a great endearment of the Lord’s mercy to you.
(2d.) It is mercy, if we consider not only our want, but our forfeiture. It is not only mercy, but pardoning mercy; at least a reprieving from 163trouble, for we deserved the contrary. There is a kind of temporary pardon, which continueth all these blessings. It is as great a curse as possibly David could thunder out against obstinate sinners and God’s implacable enemies: Ps. xxviii. 4, ‘Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours.’ Do we think this would be matter of mischief only to David’s enemies? No; every one of us, if we had our deserts, we should soon be shift less, harbourless, begging from door to door, yea, howling for one drop of mercy to cool our tongues. Oh, then, surely the Lord is to be praised and acknowledged in bestowing the good things of this present life. Well, then—
As these blessings come from God, let them carry up your heart to God again. As all rivers they run from the sea, and they discharge themselves into the sea again, so let all be returned to God with thankfulness, with acknowledgments that you have received them from God. I shall urge it with one example: Jesus Christ, though he were heir, Lord of all things, ‘Who thought it no robbery to be equal with God,’ yet you find him ever giving thanks when he used the creatures: Mat. xv. 36. And it is the main thing John taketh notice of, and passeth by the miracle: John vi. 23, ‘Where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks.’ Nigh to Tiberias, there was the place where our Lord fed many with five loaves and two fishes; but he only saith this, ‘Where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks.’ He saw this was a notable circum stance, so he doth but cursorily mention the miracle, only calls it eating bread, but expressly mentioneth Christ’s blessing the creature. He would teach us that the blessing of all enjoyments is in God’s hand.
Use 4. If the Lord be the donor and giver of all these outward things, let us beware we do not abuse these gifts of God, as occasions of sinning against the giver, that we fight not against him with his own weapons. Jesus Christ, speaking to his own disciples, though they were trained up with him, a company chosen out, and select family, who were to be his heralds and ambassadors to the world, yet he gives them this caution: Luke xxi. 34, ‘Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.’ He saw it needful to warn his own disciples. We had two common parents, Adam and Noah, and one miscarried by eating, and the other by drinking; these sins are natural to us. The throat is a slippery place, and had need well be looked unto. Mark, Christ there doth not mean surfeiting and drunkenness merely in a gross notion. When we hear of surfeiting and drunkenness, we think of spuing, staggering, reeling, vomiting, and the like; but we are to consider it in a stricter notion: ‘Take heed lest the heart be overcharged.’ The heart may be overcharged when the stomach is not; that is, when we are less apt to praise God, grow more lumpish and heavy, or rather when we settle into a sensual frame of spirit, and by an inordinate delight in our present portion, are taken off from minding better things. Look, as the heart is overcharged with the cares of the world, so likewise with creature delights and comforts of this world, when it is set for ease and vanity. Many that would be leathers of the other drunkenness, 164yet are guilty of this kind of surfeiting and drunkenness; the heart is overcharged with an inordinate affection to present things. There cannot be a more heavy judgment than when our table is made our snare: Ps. lxix. 22. A snare, it is God’s spiritual judgment; when the comforts of this life serve not so much to lengthen and strengthen life, but when their hearts are hardened in sin, and they grow neglectful of God and heavenly things. Raining snares is an argument of God’s hatred. First, ‘The Lord shall rain snares;’ and then, ‘Brim stone and an horrible tempest shall be their portion.’ Ps. xi. 6. So it makes way for his eternal anger.
Use 5. Let us be contented with that portion which God hath given us of worldly things, if the Lord be the donor. Why?
1. Because God stands upon his sovereignty; you must stand to God’s allowance, though he gives to others more and to you less; for God is supreme, and will not be controlled in the disposal of what is his own. The goodman of the house pleaded, Mat. xx. 13-15, ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong; is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’ The fulness of the earth and all is his; and, therefore, though others have better trading, and finer apparel, and be more amply provided for than we are, God is sovereign, and will give according to his pleasure, and you must be content.
2. Nothing is deserved, and therefore certainly everything should be kindly taken. If a man be kept at free cost, and maintained at your expense, you take it very ill if he murmur and dislike his diet. Certainly we are all maintained at free cost, and, therefore, we should with all humble contentation receive whatever God will put into our hands.
3. God knows what proportion is best for us; he is a God of judgment, and knows what is most convenient for us, for he is a wise God. It is the shepherd must choose the pasture, not the sheep. Leave it to God to give you that which is convenient and suitable to your condition of life. A shoe may be too big for the foot, and a garment too great for the body, as Saul’s armour was too large for little David: 1 Sam. xvii. God will give you that which is convenient, that which is agreeable to you. A garment, when too long, proves a dirty rag; we may have too much; and therefore God he carves out our allowance with a wise hand.
4. God doth not only give suitable to your condition, but suitable to your strength, such a portion as you are able to bear. God layeth affliction upon his people, and he gives them mercies as they are able to bear; if they had more, they would have more snares, more temptations. You find it hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven: Mat. xix. 24. A man may take a larger draught than he is able to bear; so God proportioneth every man’s condition according to his spiritual strength; every man is not able to bear a very high prosperous estate: Heb. xiii. 5, ‘Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;’ then you will live upon the promise. But when men set God a task, and he must maintain them at such a rate, that ends in mischief and distrust: Ps. lxxviii. 19, ‘Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?’ &c.165
5. Contentation is one of God’s gifts that we ask in this prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ that is, we ask to be contented with our portion. Contentment and quietness of mind with what we do enjoy, it is a great blessing: Joel ii. 19. See what the Lord saith. there by his prophet: ‘I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith.’ The bare and simple blessing doth not speak so much of God’s love as when we are satisfied, when we have contentment in it; that is the greater blessing. When our minds are suited to our condition, then the creature is more sweet, more comfort able. Your happiness lies not in abundance, but in contentment: Luke xii. 15. This doth not make a man happy, that he hath much; but this, that he is contented; he hath what God will give him. All spiritual miseries may be referred to these two things: a war between a man and his conscience, and a war between his affections and his condition.
6. There may be as much love in a lesser portion as in a greater. There is the same affection to a small younger child, though he hath not so large an allowance as the elder brother; yet, saith he, My father loves me as well as him; not that I have a double portion, but I have as much of my father’s love. So a child of God may say, God loves me, though he hath given another more and me less. Be content with what falls to your share, and with your allowance by the wise designation and allotment of God’s providence. Thus much for the first point.
A word of a second, viz.:—
Doct. 2. In asking temporal things, Christ hath stinted us to a day, ‘Give us, σήμερον, this day, our daily bread.’
God in an extraordinary manner fed his people in the wilderness; the manna stank if they had kept it another day; they had it from day to day. What is the reason Christ saith, ‘Give us this day’?
1. That every day we may pray to God. Therefore it is not, Give us this month, or year, but day; because every day God will hear from us: 1 Thes. v. 17, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ God would not have us too long out ‘of his company, but by a frequent commerce he would have us acquainted and familiar with him. This is required, that you should not let a day pass over your head but God must hear from you, for your patent lasts but for a day; you have a lease from God of your comforts and mercies, but it is expired unless you renew it again by prayer. How much do they differ from the heart of God’s children, that could be contented, like the high priest of old, to come to the mercy-seat but once a year! Now the Lord would have us come every day to the throne of grace.
2. Every day, because there should be family prayer; for all that take their meat together are to come, and say to God, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ It is not said, ‘Give me,’ but ‘Give us.’ Therefore you see how little of love and fear of God is there, where, week after week, they call not upon God’s name.
3. To make way for our gratitude and thankfulness. Our mercies, they flow not from God all at once, but some to-day, and some to morrow, for we take them day by day; all together, they are too heavy for us to wield and manage: Ps. lxviii. 19, ‘Who daily loadeth us 166with benefits.’ Our mercies, they come in greater number and a greater measure than we are able to acknowledge, make use of, or be thankful for. Therefore, this is the burden of gracious hearts, that mercies come so thick and fast they cannot be thankful enough for them; but to help us, God distributes them by parcels. Who loadeth us daily, some to-day, some to-morrow, and every day, that we may not forget God, but may have a new argument to praise him.
4. To show us every day we should renew our dependence upon God for temporal things. There is no day but we stand in need of the Lord’s blessing, of sanctification, of comfort, that they may not be a snare, that there is still need of new strength, new grace, and new supplies.
5. Again, ‘Give us this day,’ that we may not burden ourselves with overmuch thoughtfulness, that we might not solicitously cark for to-morrow: Mat. vi. 34, ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ Every day affords business, trouble, care, and burden enough; we need not anticipate and pre-occupy the cares of the next day; God would not have us overborne with solicitude, but look no further than this day.
6. Christ would teach us that worldly things should be sought in a moderate proportion; if we have sufficient for a day, for the present want, we should not grasp at too much. Ships lightly laden will pass through the sea, but when we take too great a burden, the ship will easily sink with every storm. We have sore troubles to pass through in the world; now when we are overburdened with present things we have more snares and temptations.
7. Christ would train us up with thoughts of our lives’ uncertainty: James iv. 13, ‘Say not, This and this I will do to-day or to-morrow: What is your life? it is but a vapour.’ One being invited to dinner the next day, said, For these many years I have not had a to-morrow; meaning he was providing every day for his last day. We do not know whether we have another day, but are apt to sing lullabies to our souls, and say, ‘Soul, take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many years,’ Luke xii. 19. We are sottishly secure, and dream of many years, whereas God tells us only of to-day.
8. To awaken us after heavenly things. When we seek bread for the present life, then give us ‘this day;’ but now come to me, saith Christ, and I will give you bread that shall nourish you ‘to eternal life,’ bread that endureth for ever: John vi. 27, ‘Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto ever lasting life.’ There is meat that will endure for ever, but for the present we beg only for this day: 1 Pet. i. 4, ‘To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.’ That is an eternal state, this but of a short and of a small continuance. You see what need you have to go to God, that he will most plentifully provide for you.167
|« Prev||Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version