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2. It is called, our bread; the meaning of which is, that there is a distinct property which every one has, by the allotment of providence, in those outward blessings which God has given him, whatever be the measure or proportion thereof: This we are taught to acknowledge with thankfulness, q. d. Thou didst not design that one man should take possession of the whole world, or engross to himself all its stores, and that the rest should starve and perish for want of the necessaries of life; herein thy wisdom and sovereignty appears, and to this it is owing, that there are some things which we have a right to, distinct from others: not without, but by the gift and blessing of providence. And therefore, whatsoever God thinks fit that we should receive, we call our own, and as such, pray for it; otherwise we are not in the least to desire or covet it, inasmuch as we are taught to pray only for that which we may call ours, as having a natural or civil right to it, which we have not to that which belongs to another.
Now there are two ways by which we are said to receive outward blessings, which we may call our own from the hand of God, which are more especially included in this petition.
(1.) As God, by his distinguishing hand, gives us that measure of outward blessings which he sees convenient for us, and that either, by succeeding our endeavours, or by supplying our wants in some way which was altogether unexpected by us, and thereby making provision for the comfort of our lives.There is sometimes a chain of providences concurring hereunto; as God speaks of his hearing the heavens, Hos. ii. 21, 22. that, when they want store of water, he may furnish them therewith, and they may hear the earth, so as to moisten it with showers, when parched, and becoming unfruitful; and that the earth may hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, so as to produce them; and that these may hear, that is, may be distributed among God's people, as he sees they want them; and the Psalmist says, He watereth the hills from his chambers: The earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart, Psal. civ. 13-15. So that there are various causes and effects, subservient to each other, which are all owing to the blessing of providence, whereby we come to possess that portion of the good things of this life, which are allotted for us.
(2.) The outward blessings of this life may be called ours. when God is pleased to make them blessings to us, and give us the enjoyment thereof. He must add his blessings to all the mercies he bestows, or else they will not conduce to our
happiness; nor can the general end, designed hereby, be answered; without this, the bread we eat, would no more nourish us, than husks or chaff; our garments, without this, could no more contribute to our being warm, than if they were put upon a statue; and the air we breathe, would rather stifle than refresh us. Thus it is said, Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God, Deut. viii. 3. that is, not barely by second causes, or the means we use, in order to the maintaining life and health, or any of the .comforts thereof; but, by the blessing of God, or his power and providence, that these ends are answered.
And it is he alone who can give us the comfortable enjoyment thereof: This all have not; their tables are plentifully furnished, but they want that measure of health which is necessary for their taking in, or receiving advantage from them; as it is said of the sick man, that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat, Job xxxiii. 20. Such do, as it were, starve in the midst of plenty. And there are others, who, though they have a great deal of the world, and are not hindered from the enjoyment of it by the weakness or decays of nature; yet they are made unhappy by the temper of their minds; as there are some that abound in riches, who may, nevertheless be said to be poor, because they want an heart to use what they have, which is God peculiar blessing: Thus the wise man says, Every man to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour, this is the gift of God, Eccl. v. 19. For these things we are dependent on him; and this is what we intend, when we pray that God would give us pur bread.
3. We are farther taught to pray, that God would give us our bread this day, thereby denoting that we are to desire to have our present necessities supplied, as those who cannot be certain that we shall live till to-morrow. How often does God break the thread of our lives in an instant, without giving us any notice of it beforehand? And therefore we may truly say in the midst of life, we are in death, and are advised to take no thought for the morrow, but to leave that entirely to the providence of God: Food nourishes but for a day, so that what we now receive will not suffice us to-morrow. Nature is always craving supplies, and therefore we are taught to have a continual recourse to God by prayer for them: And, if we look farther than this present time, it is to be with this condition, that the Lord has determined to prolong our lives, and thereby renders it necessary for us to pray for those things that will be needful for the support thereof: This seems to be the meaning of that variation of expression, which the evangelist Luke
makes use of, when he says, Give us day by day our daily bread, Luke xi. 3. And it may obviate an objection, as it will be inferred by some, that if we are not to pray for what respects our future condition in this world, we are not to make provision for it: Whereas, this is contrary to what we are exhorted to do, by being led to consider the provision which the smallest insects make for their subsistence; The ant provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest, Prov. vi. 8. And the apostle says, If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel, 1 Tim. v. 8. This therefore we ought to do; and accordingly we are to pray, that God would succeed our lawful endeavours, in order thereunto; though we must do it with this limitation, as maintaining a constant sense that our times are in his hand, so that if he should be pleased to grant us a longer or shorter lease of our lives, which to us is altogether uncertain, we are to beg of him, that we may never be destitute of what is necessary for our glorifying him therein,
4. This petition is to be considered as respecting others as well as ourselves; Give us, &c. whereby we express a concern for their advantage in what respects the good things of this life. The blessings of providence flow from an inexhaustible fountain; and therefore we are not to think that, by desiring that others may have a supply of their wants, there will not be enough remaining for us,
And this should always teach us to bear our part in relieving others, that they may not, through our neglect, perish for want of the necessaries of this life: Thus we are exhorted to deal our bread to the hungry, to bring the poor that are cast out to our houses, and when we see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide ourselves from our own flesh, Isa. viii. 7. And Job having been severely accused by his friends, as though all those afflictions that befel him, were in judgment for his having oppressed and forsaken the poor, and violently taken away an house which he builded not, as Zophar insinuates, Job xx. 19. vindicates himself from the charge in the strongest terms, when he says, I have not withheld the poor from their desire, nor caused the eyes of the widow to fail; nor eaten my morsel myself alone, so that the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; nor seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering, chap. xxxi. 16-19. This is not only to pray, that God would give others their daily bread; but to help them, so far as it is in our power, which is very agreeable to what we pray for in their behalf, as well as our own, when we say, as in this petition, Give us this day our daily bread.
Thus concerning the matter of this petition, as explained in
this answer; of which we shall give a summary account in the following meditation, which may be of use for the reducing our Saviour's direction into practice: Accordingly we address him in this manner, "Our eyes wait on thee, O thou preserver of 66 men, who givest to all their meat in due season. We are 66 poor, indigent creatures, whose necessities oblige us to re"quest a daily supply, for our outward as well as spiritual "wants. Thou hast granted us life and favour; and, having "obtained help from thee, we continue unto this day. Thou preparest a table for us; our cup runneth over; we have "never been wholly destitute of those outward blessings which "tend to make our pilgrimage, through this world, easy and "comfortable: We therefore adore thee for the care and good"ness of thy providence, which continues to us forfeited "blessings. We have, by our sins, deserved to be deprived "of all the good things we enjoy, which we have not used to "thy glory, as we ought to have done. We acknowledge our"selves less than the least of all thy mercies; yet thou hast "encouraged us to pray and hope for the continuance thereof: "We leave it to thine infinite wisdom, to chuse that condition
of life which thou seest best for us. It is not the great "things of this world that we are solicitous about, but that portion thereof which is necessary to our glorifying thee "therein. Thou hast made it our duty, and accordingly we "desire, to use that industry which is necessary to attain a "comfortable subsistence in the world; yet we are sensible "that the success thereof is wholly owing to thy blessing: We "therefore beg, that thou wouldst prosper our undertaking; "since it is thy blessing alone that maketh rich, and addeth "no sorrow therewith. Keep our desires after the world with"in their due bounds; and enable us to be content with what "thou art pleased to allot for us, that our hearts may not be "turned aside thereby, from an earnest pursuit after that bread "which perisheth not, but endureth to everlasting life. If thou "art pleased to give us the riches of this world, let not our "hearts be set upon them; and if thou hast ordained that we "should be in low circumstances therein, may the frame of our "spirits be suited thereunto, and this condition of life be sanc"tified, that it may appear, that we are not too low to be the "objects of thy special regard and discriminating grace; that "having nothing, we may really possess all things, in having "an interest in thy love. As to what concerns our future "condition in this world, though thou hast made it our duty "to use a provident care that we may not be reduced to those "straits that would render the last stage of life uncomfortable;
yet we would do this with a constant sense of the uncertainty of life, since our times are in thy hand, our circum
"stances in the world at thy disposal, and we rejoice that they are so: Therefore we earnestly beg, that if it be thy sove"reign will to call us soon out of it, that we may be as well "pleased to leave, as ever we were to enjoy it, as being blessed "with a well-grounded hope of a better life: And, if it be con"sistent with thy will, that our lives be prolonged in the "world, Give us day by day our daily bread, that we may, at "all times, experience, that thou dost abundantly bless our pro"vision, and satisfy us with those things which thou seest "needful for us, till we come to our journey's end, and are possessed of that perfect blessedness which thou hast re"served for thy saints in a better world."
QUEST. CXCIV. What do we pray for in the fifth petition? ANSW. In the fifth petition, [which is, Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors] acknowledging that we, and all others, are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt. We pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in his Beloved, continue his favour and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness, which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we, from the heart, forgive others their offences.
AVING been directed, in the former petition, to pray for
outward blessings; we are now led to ask for forgiveness of sin; and it is with very good reason that these two petitions are joined together, inasmuch as we cannot expect that God should give us the good things of this life, which are all forfeited by us, much less, that we should have them bestowed on us in mercy, and for our good, unless he is pleased to forgive those sins, whereby we provoke him to withhold them from us: Neither can we take comfort in any outward blessings, while our consciences are burdened with a sense of the guilt of sin, and we have nothing to expect, as the consequence thereof, but to be separated from his presence; therefore we are taught to pray, that God would forgive us our sins, as one evangelist expresses it, or our debts, as it is in the other.