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The Fourth Petition in the Lord’s Prayer
‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Matt 6: 11.
In this petition there are two things observable — the order, and the matter.
I. First, we pray, ‘Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done,’ before we pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ God’s glory ought to weigh down all before it; it must be preferred before our dearest concerns. Christ preferred his Father’s glory before his own as he was man. ‘I honour my Father, I seek not mine own glory.’ John 8: 49, 50. God’s glory is that which is most dear to him; it is the apple of his eye; all his riches lie here. As Micah said, ‘What have I more’ (Judges 18: 24), so I may say of God’s glory, what has he more? His glory is the most orient pearl of his crown, which he will not part with. ‘My glory will I not give to another.’ Isa 42: 8. God’s glory is more worth than heaven, more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls; better kingdoms be demolished, better men and angels be annihilated, than God lose any part of his glory. We are to prefer God’s glory before our nearest concerns; but before we prefer God’s glory to our private concerns, we must be born again. The natural man seeks his own secular interest before God’s glory. He is ‘of the earth, earthly.’ John 3: 31. Let him have peace and trading, let the rock pour out rivers of oil, and let God’s glory go which way it will, he minds it not. A worm cannot fly and sing as a lark; so a natural man, whose heart creeps upon the earth, cannot admire God, or advance his glory, as a man elevated by grace does.
Use. For trial. Do we prefer God’s glory before our private concerns? Minus te amat qui aliquid tecum amat, quod non propter te amat [He loves thee too little, who loves anything as well as thee which he does not love for thy sake]. Augustine. (1) Do we prefer God’s glory before our own credit? Fama pari passu ambulat cum vita [Credit keeps pace with life]. Credit is a jewel highly valued; like precious ointment, it casts a fragrant smell; but God’s glory must be dearer than credit or applause. We must be willing to have our credit trampled upon, that God’s glory may be raised higher. The apostles rejoiced ‘that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name;’ that they were graced so far as to be disgraced for Christ. Acts 5: 41. (2) Do we prefer God’s glory before our relations? Relations are dear, they are of our own flesh and bones; but God’s glory must be dearer. ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, he cannot be my disciple.’ Luke 14: 26. Here odium in suos [hatred towards one’s own kin] is pietas in Deum [devotion towards God]. ‘If my friends,’ says Jerome, ’should persuade me to deny Christ, if my wife should hang about my neck, if my mother should show me her breasts that gave me suck, I would trample upon all and flee to Christ.’ (3) We must prefer God’s glory before estate. Gold is but shining dust: God’s glory must weigh heavier. If it come to this, I cannot keep my place of profit, but God’s glory will be eclipsed, I must rather suffer in my estate than God’s glory should suffer. Heb 10: 34. (4) We must prefer God’s glory before our life. ‘They loved not their lives unto the death.’ Rev 12: 2. Ignatius called his fetters his spiritual jewels; he wore them as a chain of pearl. Gordius the martyr, said, ‘It is to my loss, if you bate me anything of my sufferings. This argues grace to be growing and elevated in a high degree. Who but a soul inflamed with love to God can set God highest on the throne, and prefer him above all private concerns?
II. The second thing in the petition is, the matter of it. ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ The sum of this petition is, that God would give us such a competency in outward things as he sees most excellent for us. It is much like that prayer of Augur, ‘Feed me with food convenient for me;’ give me a viaticum, a bait by the way, enough to bear my charges till I come to heaven, and it suffices. Prov 30: 8. Let me explain the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ The good things of this life are the gifts of God; he is the donor of all our blessings. ‘Give us.’ Not faith only, but food is the gift of God; not daily grace only is from God, but ‘daily bread;’ every good thing comes from God. ‘Every good gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.’ James 1: 17. Wisdom is the gift of God. ‘His God does instruct him to discretion.’ Isa 28: 26. Riches are the gift of God. ‘I will give thee riches.’ 2 Chron 1: 12. Peace is the gift of God. ‘He maketh peace in thy borders.’ Psa 147: 14. Health, which is the cream of life, is the gift of God. ‘I will restore health unto thee.’ Jer 30: 17. Rain is the gift of God. ‘Who giveth rain upon the earth.’ Job 5: 10. All comes from God; he makes the corn to grow, and the herbs to flourish.
(1) See our own poverty and indigence. We all live upon alms and upon free gifts — ‘Give us this day.’ All we have is from the hand of God’s royal bounty; we have nothing but what he gives us out of his storehouse; we cannot have one bit of bread but from God. The devil persuaded our first parents, that by disobeying God, they should ‘be as gods;’ but we may now see what goodly gods we are, that we have not a bit of bread to put in our mouths unless God give it us. Gen 3: 5. That is a humbling consideration,
(2) Is all a gift? Then we are to seek every mercy from God by prayer. ‘Give us this day.’ The tree of mercy will not drop its fruit unless shaken by the hand of prayer. Whatever we have, if it do not come in the way of prayer, it does not come in the way of love; it is given, as Israel’s quails, in anger. If everything be a gift, we do not deserve it, we are not fit for this alms. And must we go to God for every mercy? How wicked are they, who, instead of going to God for food when they want, go to the devil, and make a compact with him; and if he will help them to a livelihood, they will give him their souls? Better starve than go to the devil for provender. I wish there were none in our age guilty of this, who, when they are in want, use indirect means for a livelihood; they consult with witches, who are the devil’s oracles, whose end will be fearful, as that of Saul was, whom the Lord is said to have killed, because he asked counsel at a familiar spirit.
(3) If all be a gift, then it is not a debt, and we cannot say to God as that creditor who said, ‘Pay me that thou owest.’ Matt 18: 28. Who can make God a debtor, or do any act that is obliging and meritorious? Whatever we receive from God is a gift; we can give nothing to him but what he has given to us. ‘All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. ’ 1 Chron 29: 14. David and his people offered to the building of God’s house gold and silver, but they offered nothing but what God had given them. ‘Of thine own have we given thee.’ If we love God, it is he that has given us a heart to love him; if we praise him, he both gives us the organ of tongue, and puts it in tune; if we give alms to others, he has given alms to us first, so that we may say, ‘We offer, O Lord, of thine own to thee.’ Is all of gift, how absurd, then, is the doctrine of merit? That was a proud speech of the friar, who said, redde mihi Vitam Eternam quam debes; give me, Lord eternal life, which thou owest me. We cannot deserve a bit of bread, much less a crown of glory. If all be a gift, then merit is exploded, and shut out of doors.
(4) If all be a gift, then take notice of God’s goodness. There is nothing in us that can deserve or requite God’s kindness; yet such is the sweetness of his nature, that he gives us rich provision, and feeds us with the finest of the wheat. Pindar says it was an opinion of the people of Rhodes that Jupiter rained down gold upon the city. God has rained down golden mercies upon us; he is upon the giving hand. Observe three things in his giving:
 He is not weary of giving; the springs of mercy are ever running. He not only dispensed blessings in former ages, but he gives gifts to us; as the sun not only enriches the world with its morning light, but keeps light for the meridian. The honeycomb of God’s bounty is still dropping.
 He delights in giving. ‘He delighteth in mercy.’ Mic 7: 18. As the mother delights to give the child the breast, God loves that we should have the breast of mercy in our mouth.
 God gives to his very enemies. Who will send in provisions to his enemies? Men spread nets for their enemies, God spreads a table. The dew drops on the thistle as well as the rose; the dew of God’s bounty drops upon the worst. God puts bread in the mouths that are opened against him. Oh, the royal bounty of God! ‘The goodness of God endureth continually.’ Psa 52: 1. He puts jewels upon swinish sinners, and feeds them every day.
(5) If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery.’ Jer 5: 7. Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God! — to strike the hands that relieve us! How many make a dart of God’s mercies and shoot at him! He gives them wit, and they serve the devil with it; he gives them strength, and they waste it among harlots; he gives them bread to eat, and they lift up the heel against him. ‘Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.’ Deut 32: 15. They are like Absalom, who, as soon as David his father kissed him, plotted treason against him. 2 Samuel 15: 10. They are like the mule who kicks the dam after she has given it milk. Those who sin against their giver, and abuse God’s royal favours, the mercies of God will come in as witnesses against them. What smoother than oil? But if it be heated, what more scalding? What sweeter than mercy? But if it be abused, what more dreadful? It turns to fury.
(6) If God gives us all, let his giving excite us to thanksgiving. He is the founder and donor of all our blessings, and should have all our acknowledgements. ‘Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.’ Eccl 1: 7. All our gifts come from God, and to him must all our praises return. We are apt to burn incense to our own drag, to attribute all we have to our own second causes. Hab 1: 16.
Or , We often ascribe the praise to second causes and forget God. If friends have bestowed an estate, we look at them and admire them, but not God who is the great giver; as if one should be thankful to the steward, and never take notice of the master of the family that provides all. Oh, if God gives all, our eye-sight, our food, our clothing, let us sacrifice the chief praise to him; let not God be a loser by his mercies. Praise is a more illustrious part of God’s worship. Our wants may send us to prayer, nature may make us beg daily bread; but it shows a heart full of ingenuity and grace to be rendering praises to God. In petition we act like men, in praise we act like angels. Does God sow seeds of mercy? Let thankfulness be the crop we bring forth. We are called the temples of God, and where should God’s praises be sounded forth but in his temples? 1 Cor 3: 16; ‘While I live will I praise the Lord, I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.’ Psa 146: 2. God gives us daily bread, let us give him daily praise. Thankfulness to our donor is the best policy; there is nothing lost by it. To be thankful for one mercy is the way to have more. Musicians love to sound their trumpets where there is the best echo, and God loves to bestow his mercies where there is the best echo of praise. Offering the calves of our lips is not enough, but we must show our thankfulness by improving the gifts which God gives us, and as it were putting them out to use. God gives us an estate, and we honour the Lord with our substance. Prov 3: 9. He gives us the staff of bread, and we lay out the strength we receive by it in his service; this is to be thankful; and that we may be thankful, let us be humble. Pride stops the current of gratitude. A proud man will never be thankful; he looks upon all he has either to be of his own procuring or deserving. Let us see all we have is God’s gift, and how unworthy we are to receive the least favour; and this will make us much in doxology and gratitude; we shall be silver trumpets sounding forth God’s praise.
 Thus we argue from the word “Give”, that the good things of this life are the gifts of God; he is the founder and donor; and that it is not unlawful to pray for temporal things. We may pray for daily bread. ‘Feed me with food convenient for me.’ Prov 30: 8. We may pray for health. ‘O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.’ Psa 6: 2. As these are in themselves good things, so they are useful for us; they are as needful for preserving the comfort of life as oil is needful for preserving the lamp from going out. Only let me insert two things:
(1) There is a great difference between praying for tempera] things and spiritual. In praying for spiritual things we must be absolute. When we pray for pardon of sin, and the favour of God, and the sanctifying graces of the Spirit, which are indispensably necessary to salvation, we must take no denial; but when we pray for temporal things, our prayers must be limited; we must pray conditionally, so far as God sees them good for us. He sometimes sees cause to withhold temporal things from us: when they would be snares, and draw our hearts from him; therefore we should pray for these things with submission to God’s will. It was Israel’s sin that they would be peremptory and absolute in their desire for temporal things; God’s bill of fare did not please them, they must have dainties. ‘Who shall give us flesh to eat?’ Numb 11: 18. God has given them manna, he fed them with a miracle from heaven, but their wanton palates craved more: they must have quails. God let them have their desire, but they had sour sauce to their quails. ‘While their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them and slew them.’ Psa 78: 31. Rachel was importunate in her desires for a child. ‘Give me children, or I die;’ God let her have a child, but it was a Ben-oni, a son of my sorrow; it cost her her life in bringing forth. Gen 30: 1; Gen 35: 18. We must pray for outward things with submission to God’s will, else they come in anger.
(2) When we pray for things pertaining to this life, we must desire temporal things for spiritual ends; we must desire these things to be as helps in our journey to heaven. If we pray for health, it must be that we may improve this talent of health for God’s glory, and may be fitter for his service; if we pray for a competency of estate, it must be for a holy end, that we may be kept from the temptations which poverty usually exposes to, and that we may be in a better capacity to sow the golden seeds of charity, and relieve such as are in want. Temporal things must be prayed for for spiritual ends. Hannah prayed for a child, but it was for this end, that her child might be devoted to God. ‘O Lord, if thou wilt remember me, and wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life.’ 1 Sam 1: 11. Many pray for outward things only to gratify their sensual appetites, as the ravens cry for food. Psa 147: 9. To pray for outward things only to satisfy nature, is to cry rather like ravens than Christians. We must have a higher end in our prayers, we must aim at heaven while we are praying for earth. Must we pray for temporal things for spiritual ends, that we may be fitter to serve God? Then how wicked are they who beg temporal mercies that they may be more enabled to sin against God! ‘Ye ask that ye may consume it upon your lusts.’ James 4: 3. One man is sick, and he prays for health that he may be among his cups and harlots; another prays for an estate; he would not only have his belly filled, but his barns; and he would be rich that he may raise his name, or that, having more power in his hand, he may now take a fuller revenge on his enemies. It is impiety joined with impudence to pray to God to give us temporal things that we may be the better enabled to serve the devil.
If we are to pray for temporal things, how much more for spiritual? If we are to pray for bread, how much more for the bread of life? If for oil, how much more for the oil of gladness? If to have our hunger satisfied, much more should we pray to have our souls saved. Alas! what if God should hear our prayers, and grant us these temporal things and no more, what were we the better? What is it to have food and want grace? What is it to have the back clothed and the soul naked? To have a south land, and want the living springs in Christ’s blood, what comfort could that be? O therefore let us be earnest for spiritual mercies! Lord, not only feed me, but sanctify me; give me rather a heart full of grace than a house full of gold. If we are to pray for daily bread, the things of this life, much more for the things of the life that is to come.
Some may say we have an estate already, and what need we pray, ‘Give us daily bread’?
Supposing we have a plentiful estate, yet we need make the petition, ‘Give us daily bread;’ and that upon a double account.
(1) That we may have a blessing upon our food, and all that we enjoy. ‘I will bless her provision.’ Psa 132: 15. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ Matt 4: 4. What is that but a word of blessing? Though the bread is in our hand, yet the blessing is in God’s hand, and it must be fetched out of his hand by prayer. Well, therefore, may rich men pray, ‘Give us our bread,’ let it be seasoned with a blessing. If God should withhold a blessing, nothing we have would do us good; our clothes would not warm us, our food would not nourish us. ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul;’ that is, they pined away, and their meat did not nourish them. Psa 106: 15. If God should withhold a blessing, what we eat would turn to bad humours, and hasten death. If God do not bless our riches, they will do us more hurt than good. ‘Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.’ Eccl 5: 13. So that, granting we have plentiful estates, yet we had need pray, ‘Give us our bread;’ let us have a blessing of what we have.
(2) Though we have estates, yet we had need pray, Give, that we may hereby engage God to continue these comforts to us. How many casualties may fall out! How many have had corn in their barn, and a fire has come on a sudden and consumed all! How many have had losses at sea, and great estates boiled away to nothing! ‘I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.’ Ruth 1: 21. Therefore, though we have estates, yet we had need pray, ‘Give us;’ Lord, give us a continuance of these comforts, that they may not, before we are aware, take wings and fly from us. So much for the first word in the petition, Give.
 Secondly, us. ‘Give us.’
Why do we pray in the plural, ‘Give us’? Why is it not said, give me?
To show that we are to have a public spirit in prayer. We must not only pray for ourselves, but others. Both the law of God and the law of love bind us to this, we must love our neighbour as ourselves; therefore we must pray for them as well as ourselves. Every good Christian has a fellow-feeling of the wants and miseries of others, and he prays God would extend his bounty to them; especially he prays for the saints. ‘Praying always for all saints.’ Eph 6: 18. These are children of the family.
Use 1. Should we have a public spirit in prayer? It reproves narrow spirited men who move within their own sphere only; who look only at themselves, and mind not the case of others; who leave others out of their prayers; if they have daily bread, they care not though others starve; if they are clothed, they care not though others go naked. Christ taught us to pray for others, to say, ‘Give us;’ but selfish persons are shut up within themselves, as the snail in the shell, and never speak a word in prayer for others. These have no commiseration or pity; they are like Judas, whose bowels fell out.
Use 2. Let us pray for others as well as for ourselves. Vir bonus aliis prodest aeque ac sibi [A good man benefits others as much as himself]. Spiders work only for themselves, but bees for the good of others. The more excellent anything is, the more it operates for the good of others. Springs refresh others with their crystal streams; the sun enlightens others with its golden beams: the more a Christian is ennobled with grace, the more he besieges heaven with his prayers for others. If we are members of the mystic body, we cannot but have a sympathy with others in their wants; and this sympathy would lead us to pray for them. David had a public spirit in prayer. ‘Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good.’ Psa 125: 4. Though he begins the Psalm with prayer for himself, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God,’ yet he ends the Psalm with prayer for others. ‘Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion.’ Psa 51: 1, 18.
Use 3. It is matter of comfort to the godly, who are but low in the world, that they have the prayers of God’s people for them; who pray not only for the increase of their faith, but their food, that God will give them ‘daily bread.’ He is like to be rich who has several stocks going; so they are in a likely way to thrive who have the prayers of the saints going for them in several parts of the world.
 The third word in the petition is ‘This day.’ We pray not give us bread for a month or a year, but a day. ‘Give us this day.’
Is it not lawful to lay up for the future? Does not the apostle say, that he who provides not for his family, ‘is worse than an infidel’? 1 Tim 5: 8.
True, it is lawful to lay up for posterity; but our Saviour has taught us to pray, ‘Give us this day our bread,’ for two reasons:
(1) That we should not have anxious care for the future. We should not set our wits upon the tenter, or torment ourselves how to lay up great estates; if we do vivere in diem [live for the day], if we have but enough to supply for the present, it should suffice. ‘Give us this day:’ ‘Take no thought for the morrow.’ Matt 6: 34. God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness, and he fed them from hand to mouth. Sometimes all their manna was spent; and if anyone had asked them where they would have their breakfast next morning, they would have said, ‘Our care is only for the day: God will rain down what manna we need. If we have bread to-day, let us not distrust God’s providence for the future.’
(2) Our Saviour will have us pray, ‘Give us bread this day,’ to teach us to live every day as if it were our last. We are not to pray, Give us bread tomorrow, because we do not know whether we shall live till to-morrow; but, ‘Lord, Give us this day;’ it may be the last day we shall live, and then we shall need no more.
If we pray for bread for a day only, then you who have great estates have cause to be thankful. You have more than you pray for; you pray but for bread for one day, and God has given you enough to suffice all your life. What a bountiful God do you serve! Two things should make rich men thankful. (1) God gives them more than they deserve. (2) He gives them more than they pray for.
 The fourth thing in the petition is, ‘Our bread.’
Why is it called ‘Our bread,’ when it is not ours, but God’s?
(1) We must understand it in a qualified sense; it is our bread, being gotten by honest industry. There are two sorts of bread that cannot properly be called our bread: the bread of idleness and the bread of violence.
The bread of idleness. ‘She eateth not the bread of idleness.’ Prov 31: 27, An idle person lives at another body’s cost. ‘His hands refuse to labour.’ Prov 21: 25. We must not be as the drones, which eat the honey that other bees have brought into the hive. If we eat the bread of idleness, it is not our own bread. ‘There are some which walk disorderly, working not at all; such we command that they work, and eat their own bread.’ 2 Thess 3: 11, 12. The apostle gives this hint, that such as live idly do not eat their own bread.
The bread of violence. We cannot call that ‘our bread’ which is taken away from others; that which is gotten by stealth or fraud, or any manner of extortion, is not ‘our bread,’ it belongs to another. He who is a bird of prey, who takes away the bread of the widow and fatherless, eats the bread which is not his, nor can he pray for a blessing upon it. Can he pray God to bless that which he has gotten unjustly?
(2) It is called our bread by virtue of our title to it. There is a twofold title to bread.  A spiritual title. In and by Christ we have a right to the creature, and may call it ‘our bread.’ As we are believers we have the best title to earthly things, we hold all in capite [in chief]. ‘All things are yours;’ by what title? ‘ye are Christ’s.’ 1 Cor 3: 23.  A civil title, which the law confers on us. To deny men a civil right to their possessions, and make all common, opens the door to anarchy and confusion.
See the privilege of believers. They have both a spiritual and a civil right to what they possess. They who can say, ‘our Father,’ can say ‘our bread.’ Wicked men that have a legal right to what they possess, but not a covenant right; they have it by providence, not by promise; with God’s leave, not with his love. Wicked men are in God’s eye no better than usurpers; all they have, their money and land, is like cloth taken up at the draper’s, which is not paid for; but the sweet privilege of believers is, that they can say, ‘our bread.’ Christ being theirs, all is theirs. Oh, how sweet is every bit of bread dipped in Christ’s blood! How well does that meat relish, which is a pledge and earnest of more! The meal in the barrel is an earnest of our angels’ food in paradise. It is the privilege of saints to have a right to earth and heaven.
 The fifth and last thing in this petition is, the thing we pray for, ‘daily bread.’
What is meant by bread?
Bread here, by a synecdoche, species pro genere [the particular for the whole class], is put for all the temporal blessings of this life, food, fuel, clothing, &c. Quicquid nobis condicut ad bene esse [Whatever serves for our well-being]. Augustine. Whatever may serve for necessity or sober delight.
Learn to be contented with the allowance God gives. If we have bread and a competence of outward things, let us rest satisfied. We pray but for bread, ‘Give us our daily bread;’ we do not pray for superfluities, nor for quails or venison, but for bread which may support life. Though we have not so much as others, so full a crop, so rich an estate, yet if we have the staff of bread to keep us from falling, let us be content. Most people are herein faulty. Though they pray that God would give them bread, as much as he sees expedient for them, yet they are not content with his allowance, but over greedily covet more, and with the daughters of the horse-leech, cry, ‘Give, give.’ Prov 30: 15. This is a vice naturally ingrafted in us. Many pray Agur’s first prayer, ‘Give me not poverty,’ but few pray his last prayer, ‘Give me not riches.’ Prov 30: 8. They are not content with ‘daily bread,’ but have the dry dropsy of covetousness; they are still craving for more. ‘Who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied.’ Hab 2: 5. There are, says Agur, four things that say it is not enough, the grave, the barren womb, the earth, the fire; and I may add a fifth thing, the heart of a covetous man. Prov 30: 15. Such as are not content with daily bread, but thirst insatiably after more, will break over the hedge of God’s command; and to get riches will stick at no sin. Cui nihil satis est, eidem nihil turpe [The man for whom nothing is enough holds nothing shameful]. Tacitus. Therefore covetousness is called a radical vice. ‘The root of all evil.’ 1 Tim 6: 10. Quid non mortalie pectora cogis, auri sacra fames? [Oh cursed hunger for gold, to what dost thou not drive the hearts of men?] The Greek word for covetousness, pleonexia, signifies an inordinate desire of getting. Covetousness is not only in getting riches unjustly, but in loving them inordinately, which is a key that opens the door to all sin. It causes (1) Theft. Achan’s covetous humour made him steal the wedge of gold which cleft asunder his soul from God. Josh 7: 21. (2) It causes treason. What made Judas betray Christ? It was the thirty pieces of silver. Matt 26: 15. (3) It produces murder. It was the inordinate love of the vineyard that made Ahab conspire Naboth’s death. 1 Kings 21: 13. (4) It is the root of perjury. Men shall be covetous; and it follows, truce-breakers. 2 Tim 3: 23. Love of silver will make men take a fall — oath, and break a just oath. (5) It is the spring of apostasy. ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.’ 2 Tim 4: 10. He not only forsook Paul’s company, but his doctrine. Demas afterwards became a priest in an idol-temple, according to Dorotheus. (6) Covetousness will make men idolaters. ‘Covetousness which is idolatry.’ Col 3: 5. Though the covetous man will not worship graven images in the church, yet he will worship the graven image in his coin. (7) Covetousness makes men give themselves to the devil. Pope Sylvester II sold his soul to the devil for a popedom. Covetous persons forget the prayer, ‘Give us daily bread.’ They are not content with that which may satisfy nature, but are insatiable in their desire. O let us take heed of this dry dropsy! ‘Be content with such things as ye have.’ Heb 13: 5. Natura parvo dimittitur [Nature is satisfied with little]. Seneca.
Use. That we may be content with ‘daily bread,’ that which God in his providence carves out to us, and not covet or murmur, take the following considerations:
(1) God can bless a little. ‘He shall bless thy bread and thy water.’ Exod. 23: 25. A blessing puts sweetness into the least morsel of bread, it is like sugar in wine. ‘I will bless her provision.’ Psa 132: 15. Daniel, and the three children, ate pulse, which was a coarse fare, and yet they looked fairer than those who ate of the king’s meat. Dan 1: 12, 15. Whence was this? God infused a more than ordinary blessing into the pulse. His blessing was better than the king’s venison. A piece of bread with God’s love is angels’ food.
(2) God, who gives us our allowance, knows what quantity of outward things is fittest for us. A smaller provision may be fitter for some; bread may be better than dainties. Everyone cannot bear a high condition, any more than a weak brain can bear heavy wine. Has any one a larger proportion of worldly things? God sees he can better manage such a condition; he can order his affairs with discretion, which perhaps another cannot. As he has a large estate, so he has a large heart to do good, which perhaps another has not. This should make us content with a shorter bill of fare. God’s wisdom is what we must acquiesce in; he sees what is best for every one. That which is good for one, may be bad for another.
(3) In being content with daily bread, though less than others have, much grace is seen. All the graces act their part in a contented soul. As the holy ointment was made up of several spices, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia, so contentment has in it a mixture of several graces. Exod 30: 23. There is faith. A Christian believes that God does all for the best. There is love, which thinks no evil, but takes all God does in good part. There is patience, submitting cheerfully to what God orders wisely. God is much pleased to see so many graces at once sweetly exercised, like so many bright stars shining in a constellation.
(4) To be content with daily bread, though but sparing, keeps us from many temptations which discontented persons fall into. When the devil sees a person just of Israel’s humour, not content with manna, but must have quails, he says, Here is good fishing for me. Satan often tempts discontented ones to murmuring, and to unlawful means, cozening and defrauding; and he who increases an estate by indirect means, stuffs his pillow with thorns, so that his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die. If you would be freed from the temptations which discontent exposes to, be content with such things as ye have, bless God for ‘daily bread.’
(5) What a rare and admirable thing is it to be content with ‘daily bread,’ though it be coarse, and though there be but little of it! Though a Christian has but a viaticum, a little meal in the barrel, yet he has that which gives him content. What he has not in the cupboard, he has in the promise. That bit of bread he has is with the love of God, and that sauce makes it relish sweet. The little oil in the cruse is a pledge and earnest of the dainties he shall have in the kingdom of God, and this makes him content. What a rare and wonderful thing is this! It is no wonder to be content in heaven, when we are at the fountain-head, and have all things we can desire; but to be content when God keeps us to short commons, and we have scarcely ‘daily bread,’ is a wonder indeed. When grace is crowning, it is no wonder to be content; but when grace is conflicting with straits, to be content is a glorious thing, and deserves the garland of praise.
(6) To make us content with ‘daily bread,’ though God straitens us in our allowance, think seriously of the danger there is in a high, prosperous condition. Some are not content with ‘daily bread,’ but desire to have their barns filled, and heap up silver as dust; which proves a snare to them. ‘They that will be rich fall into a snare.’ 1 Tim 6: 9. Pride, idleness, wantonness, are three worms that usually breed of plenty. Prosperity often deafens the ear against God. ‘I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear.’ Jer 22: 21. Soft pleasures harden the heart. In the body, the more fat, the less blood in the veins, and the less spirits; so the more outward plenty, often the less piety. Prosperity has its honey, and also its sting; like the full of the moon, it makes many lunatic. The pastures of prosperity are rank and surfeiting. Anxious care is the mains genius, the evil spirit that haunts the rich man, and will not let him be quiet. When his chests are full of money, his heart is full of care, either how to manage or how to increase, or how to secure what he has gotten. Sunshine is pleasant, but sometimes it scorches. Should it not make us content with what allowance God gives, if we have daily bread, though not dainties? Think of the danger of prosperity! The spreading of a full table may be the spreading of a snare. Many have been sunk to hell with golden weights. The ferry-man takes in all passengers, that he may increase his fare, and sometimes to the sinking of his boat. ‘They that will be rich fall into many hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition.’ 1 Tim 6: 9. The world’s golden sands are quicksands, which should make us take our daily bread, though it be but coarse, contentedly. What if we have less food, we have less snare; if less dignity, less danger. As we lack the rich provisions of the world, so we lack the temptations.
(7) If God keeps us to a spare diet, if he gives us less temporal, he has made it up in spirituals; he has given us the pearl of price, and the holy anointing. The pearl of price, the Lord Jesus, he is the quintessence of all good things. To give us Christ, is more than if God had given us all the world. He can make more worlds, but he has no more Christs to bestow; he is such a golden mine, that the angels cannot dig to the bottom. Eph 3: 8. From Christ we may have justification, adoption, and coronation. The sea of God’s mercy in giving us Christ, says Luther, should swallow up all our wants. God has anointed us with the graces, the holy unction of his Spirit. Grace is a seed of God, a blossom of eternity. The graces are the impressions of the divine nature, stars to enlighten us, spices to perfume us, diamonds to enrich us; and if God has adorned the hidden man of the heart with these sacred jewels, it may well make us content, though we have but short commons, and that coarse too. God has given his people better things than corn and wine; he has given them that which he cannot give in anger, and which cannot stand with reprobation, and they may say as David, ‘The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’ Psa 16: 6. Didimus was a blind man, but very holy; Anthony asked him, if he was not troubled for the want of his eyes, and he told him he was; Anthony replied, ‘Why are you troubled? You want that which flies and birds have, but you have that which angels have.’ So I say to Christians, if God has not given you the purse, he has given you his Spirit. If you want that which rich men have, God has given you that which angels have, and are you not content?
(8) If you have but daily bread enough to suffice nature, be content. Consider it is not having abundance that always makes life comfortable, it is not a great cage that will make the bird sing. A competency may breed contentment, when having more may make one less content. A staff may help the traveller, but a bundle of staves will be a burden to him. A great estate may be like a long trailing garment, more burdensome than useful. Many that have great incomes and revenues have not so much comfort in their lives as some that go to hard labour.
(9) If you have less daily bread, you will have less account to give. The riches and honours of this world, like alchemy, make a great show, and with their glistening, dazzle men’s eyes; but they do not consider the great account they must give to God. ‘Give an account of thy stewardship.’ Luke 16: 2. What good hast thou done with thy estate? Hast thou, as a good steward, traded thy golden talents for God’s glory? Hast thou honoured the Lord with thy substance? The greater revenues the greater reckonings. Let it quiet and content us, that if we have but little daily bread, our account will be less.
(10) You that have but a small competence in outward things, may be content to consider how much you look for hereafter. God keeps the best wine till last. What though now you have a small pittance, and are fed from hand to mouth? You look for an eternal reward, white robes, sparkling crowns, rivers of pleasure. A son is content though his father give him but now and then a little money, as long as he expects his father should settle all his land upon him at last; so if God give you but little at present, yet you look for that glory which eye has not seen. The world is but a diversorium, a great inn. If God give you sufficient to pay for your charges in your inn, you may be content, you shall have enough when you come to your own country.
How may we be content, though God cut us short in these externals; though we have but little daily bread, and coarse?
(1) Think with yourselves that some have been much lower than you, who have been better than you. Jacob, a holy patriarch, went over Jordan with his staff, and lived in a mean condition a long time; he had the clouds for his canopy, and a stone for his pillow. Moses, who might have been rich, as some historians say, that Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him for her son, because king Pharaoh had no heir, and so Moses was like to have come to the crown, yet leaving the honours of the court, in what a low, mean condition did he live in, when he went to Jethro, his father-in-law! Musculus, famous for learning and piety, was put to great straits, even to dig in a town ditch, and had scarcely daily bread, and yet was content! Nay, Christ, who was heir of all, for our sakes became poor. 2 Cor 8: 9. Let all these examples make us content.
(2) Let us labour to have the interest cleared between God and our souls. He who can say, ‘My God,’ has enough to rock his heart quiet in the lowest condition. What can he want who has El-Shaddai, the all-sufficient God for his portion? Though the nether springs fail, yet he has the upper springs; though the bill of fare grow short, yet an interest in God is a pillar of support to us, and we may, with David, encourage ourselves in the Lord our God.
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