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[1.] In maintaining a quiet, easy, composed frame of spirit, fitted for the exercise of religious duties, though under trying dispensations of providence,
[2.] When we justify God, and lay the blame on ourselves, whatever afflictions we are exercised with. Thus the Psalmist speaks of himself as deserted, and God as far from helping him, he acknowledges the equity of his dispensations, when he says, Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel, Pal. xxii. 1. 3. or, as he elsewhere expresses himself, The Lord is upright, he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him, Psal. xcii. 15.
[3.] When we are disposed to bless God, at the same time, when he takes away outward mercies, as well as when he gives them: Thus Job, when he was stripped of all he had at once, says, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord, Job i. 24. We are now to consider,
III. The manner in which the will of God is to be done : Accordingly we are taught to pray, that it may be done in earth as it is in heaven; not that we are to suppose that the best of saints can arrive, while in this world, to the perfection of the heavenly state; so that it is possible for them to do the will of God in the same manner, or degree, as it is done in heaven: Therefore the particle AS respects similitude, rather than equality, and all that we can infer from hence is, that there is aome analogy or resemblance between the obedience of the saints here, and that of the inhabitants of heaven. This implies in it a desire,
1. That it may be done with great humility and reverence. Thus the angels, who have the character of Seraphims, are represented, in that emblem or vision which the prophet Isaiah saw, of the Lord sitting on his throne, Isa. vi. 1, 2. and the Seraphims attending him, as having their faces covered with their wings, in token of reverence and humility. And others are described as casting their crowns before the throne, Rev. vi. 10. intimating, that all the glory that is put upon them, is derived from him that sits on the throne, and that their honour is not to be regarded or mentioned, when compared with him who is the fountain thereof.
2. This expression farther implies in it a desire to do the will of God with all cheerfulness. Some think that this is intended in the vision which John saw concerning the seven angels, who were employed to inflict the seven last plagues on the church's enemies, when they are represented as doing it ·with harps in their hands, and as singing the praises of God at the same time, Rev. xv. 1-3.
3. We are said to do the will of God on earth, as it is done by the angels in heaven, when we do it with faithfulness: Thus
when they are represented as ministering to God's people, and, as such, having the charge over them to keep them in all their ways, they are spoken of as doing this faithfully; as it is said, They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone, Psal. xci. 11, 12.
4. The angels are farther represented as a pattern of diligence in doing the will of God: Thus it is said of the angel Gabriel, that when the word of command was given him to carry a message to Daniel, he fied swiftly, being expeditious in fulfilling the work he was employed about, Dan. ix. 21.
5. They are said to do the will of God, with zeal and fervency; and, for this reason, some think they are called, in the scripture but now mentioned, seraphims; or, as they are else where styled, A flaming fire, Psal. civ. 4.
6. The angels are said to do the will of God sincerely: Thus the inhabitants of heaven are represented, as having no guile found in their mouths, and being without fault before the throne of God, Prov. xxii. 2.
7. They are said to do the will of God with constancy : Thus we read of them as serving him day and night in his temple, chap. vii. 15. and the angels, which are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation, are said always to behold the face of God in heaven, Mat. xviii. 10. that is, they never give out, or are weary of his service: We have herein an excellent example set before us, and are exhorted to pray, that in our measure we may yield the like obe. dience to God, though we fall very short of doing it, as they do who are in a perfect state. We are therefore herein taught to lift up our hearts to God, in a way of adoration, confession, and supplication, q. d. "We acknowledge, O Lord, that thou "hast a right to the obedience of all creatures, and hast been "pleased to give them thy law as the rule thereof. It is our "glory, as well as our happiness, to be thy servants; for thy "law is holy, thy commandment holy, just and good: But we " acknowledge and confess before thee, that we have rebelled "against thee, and have refused to yield obedience to thy "commands: And when we behold the universal corruption "of human nature, we blush and are ashamed to think how "little glory is brought to thy name, by the service and obe"dience of thy creatures here below. In heaven thy will is "done perfectly, by those who serve thee with the greatest de "light and pleasure; but on earth thou hast but little glory; "it is an instance of condescending goodness that thou hast "not, long since, abandoned and forsook it, and thereby ren"dered it like hell: But, we beseech thee, take to thyself thy great power, and reign in the hearts of men; subdue their "wills thyself, that they may cheerfully and constantly obey.
"thy commanding will, and submit to thy providential will, "as being satisfied that all thy dispensations are right, and "shall tend to thy glory, and the welfare of all that fear thy "name."
QUEST. CXCIII. What do we pray for in the fourth petition? ANSW. In the fourth petition, [which is, Give us this day our daily bread,] acknowledging, that in Adam, and by our sin, we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God, and to have them cursed to us in the use of them; and, that neither they of themselves are able to sustain us, nor we to merit, or by our own industry, to procure them, but prone to desire, get, and use them unlawfully; we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day, in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and, as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them, and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal sup port and comfort.
N order to our understanding this petition, we must first consider what is meant by bread. Some have thought that our Saviour hereby intends spiritual mercies, as denoting that bread which is suited to the necessities of our souls, and particularly that we may have an interest in Christ, who is called, The bread of life, John vi. 35. The living bread which came down from heaven, ver. 51. But though it must be allowed, that this is a blessing far exceeding all those that are of a temporal nature, as much as the happiness of the soul is preferable to that of the body; and it is, doubtless, to be made the subject of our daily and importunate requests to God, q. d. give me an interest in Christ, or else I can have no delight or pleasure in any of the enjoyments of life: Yet this does not seem to be intended by our Saviour in this petition; but that bread which we pray for has a more immediate respect to the blessings of this life, which, according to the scripture-mode of speaking, are often set forth by bread. Thus God tells Adam, after his fall, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, Gen. iii. 19. by which we are to understand, that he should take a great deal of pains to provide for himself the necessaries of life. So when God promises outward blessings to his people, he tells them, that bread shall be given them, and
their waters shall be sure, Isa. xxxiii. 16. And elsewhere, I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread, Psal. cxxxii. 15. This is what we are taught to pray for in this petition; in which we may observe,
I. That there are some things supposed, namely,
1. That, by our sins, we have forfeited a right to the outward blessings of this life. This was the consequence of the forfeiture of life itself; and it was a part of the curse, that we were exposed to by our rebellion against, and apostacy from God. If he should deprive us of all the conveniences of life, and thereby imbitter it to us; so that we should be almost inclined to make that unhappy choice that Job did, of strangling and death, rather than life, Job vii. 15. there would be no reason to say, there is unrighteousness with God.
2. It is farther supposed, that outward blessings are God's free gift to us. Whether we have a greater or a smaller portion thereof, they are to be acknowledged as the fruits of divine bounty: It is God that spreads a table for us; to some he gives a small measure, and to others a larger share of temporal good things; but, whatever we enjoy, it is to be owned as the effect of his providential goodness. This, indeed, does not exclude the use of those means that are ordained for the preserving of life, and our obtaining the good things thereof; but we must, at the same time, acknowledge, that all that wisdom, industry, and success that attends our endeavours, is from God; it is he that giveth power to get wealth, Deut. viii. 18. or, as it is elsewhere said, The rich and poor meet together; thst is, they both agree in this, that the Lord is the Maker of them all, Prov. xxii. 2. that is, whatever be their circumstances in the world, it is he that provides, what they have, for them. And if what we enjoy is sweetened and sanctified to us for our good, so that we have not only the conveniences of life, but a blessing with them, and are enabled to make a right use and improvement of them, to the glory of God and the advantage of ourselves and others; this must also be reckoned an instance of divine favour, or the gift of God.
3. It is farther supposed, that temporal good things may lawfully be prayed for. As the providence of God does not, as was before observed, exclude the use of means; so it is not inconsistent with, but rather an inducement to prayer; and, indeed, prayer is an ascribing glory to God, as the fountain of all we enjoy; without which, it would be an affront to the divine Majesty, to expect any blessing from him. This is applicable to prayer in general, and, in particular, to our making supplication for outward blessings.
I. We shall consider the subject-matter of the petition, or
what we are to understand when we say, Give us this day our daily bread.
1. The thing prayed for, is bread; whereby our Saviour intimates, that we are to set due bounds to our desires, when we are pressing after outward blessings. He does not order us to importune with God for the great things of this life; but rather for those things which are necessary, in the enjoyment whereof, we may the better be enabled to glorify him: He does not put his followers upon asking for crowns and sceptres, as though his kingdom were of this world, as some, who were influenced by carnal motives, fondly imagined, being ready to expect that many worldly advantages would accrue from their adhering to him; and, when they found themselves mistaken, shamefully deserted his cause, and relinquished the profession that they once made of him: But Christ never gave his people ground to expect that their secular interest should be promoted by embracing the gospel: Accordingly, when any one seemed desirous of being his disciple, he generally put this trying ques tion to him; whether he was content to leave all, and follow him, or to lead a mean life in the world, and be hated of all men for his name's sake? His disciples, indeed, were some times filled with too great solicitude about their future cir cumstances in life; but he encourages them to hope for necessary provisions, when he says, Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things, Matt. vi. 32. and it is always found, that where there is the greatest degree of faith, it tends to moderate our affections as to the things of this world; and if at any time, they are apt to exceed their due bounds, it gives a check to them, as the prophet says to Baruch: Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not, Jer. xlv. 5. We have an admirable instance of this in Jacob; who, when he was in a most destitute condition, flying from his father's house, to Padan-aram, did not know what entertainment he should meet with there. The principal thing which he desires, together with the divine presence and protection, is, that he might have bread to eat, and raiment to put on, Gen. xxviii. 20. He does not ask, that people and nations might bow down to him; or that God would take away the life of his brother Esau, whose malicious design against him, occasioned his present hazardous journey; he is not anxiously concerned for the great things of this world, but only desires that he may have the necessaries of life. And Agar's prayer is not unlike this, who says, Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, Prov. xxx. 8. Such a frame of spirit our Saviour supposes them to have, who thus address themselves to God in prayer for bread, or the outward accommodations of life.