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bread strictly so called, but generally the good things of this life for the support of our bodies.
1. Necessaries, without which life cannot be sustained, viz. food and raiment, For, as I formerly noticed, a man may be killed with thirst, and starved by cold, though he had plenty of other things, 2 Tim. vi. 8. Thus the scripture uses the word bread, Eccl. xi. 1. Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.'
2. Conveniences, which one cannot live comfortably without, Prov. xxx. 8. Feed me with food conveient for me.' God does not pen up his people to what is absolutely necessary for keeping in their life, but allows them for conveniency and delight, both as to desire and use. This varies according to the several stations in which men are placed in the world, that being abundance to one which would quite hamper another. And so in this men are allowed to beg of God, such a portion of the good things of this life, as is agree. able to the condition which he has placed them in.
Now, all necessaries and conveniences of life are compre hended under bread: (1.) Because bread is, generally speaking, the most necessary support of life. (2.) The most com. mon and ordinary, the entertainment of the poor and of the rich, and what by a special providence so ordering it, men are least apt to loath.
II. I proceed to shew what is the import of this petition for bread. That I may the more distinctly handle this, I shall consider it in the several parts thereof, by shewing the import of the words, Give bread, Give us bread, Give us our bread, and Give us our daily bread.
First, I shall show what is the import of these words, Give bread. Our Lord teaches all his people to come unto God, and say, Our Father-give us bread. It imports,
1. That we are allowed to lay our temporal concerns and wants before the Lord in prayer, as well as our spiritual concerns, Prov. iii. 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him.' The praying Christian is a trader with heaven, and he may trade there in small things as well as in great things; nay, he ought to do it. For the covenant comprehends the small things of this life, the bread and the water, Isa. xxxiii. 16. discretion in managing of his affairs, Psal. cxii. 5; and the success of his management, Psal. i. 3; as well as the great things of eternal salvation, 1 Tim. iv. 8. And much of God
may be seen in answers of prayers of that kind. Gen. xxxiii. 10.
2. That men depend entirely on heaven for the means and comforts of life. Our country in this world is nourished by the King's country: and if the communication betwixt them were stopt, we would all starve, Hos. ii. 21, 22. He is the Creator, Preserver, and Proprietor of all the creatures; and their Provisor. There are some who, having nothing of their own, do live by hanging on about the hands of their friends. And that is the case of all men with respect to God, the great Friend of the creatures.
3. That we need bread. While we are in this world, we will need it. The clay tabernacle in its present state, like an old ratched house is still needing reparation : but in a little time we will need no more. Death puts an end to all these needs; and after the resurrection our bodies will be supported without these things which are now necessary.
4. That it is God who giveth us bread. The necessaries and conveniences of life are distributed by his hand, Psal. cxlv. 16. Though you get your bread by your labour, you have it from God; for it is God that gives success to your labours. Though others give it you of their own, it is from God; for it is he that opens their hearts to bestow it on you, Deut. viii. 17, 18. Neither your industry nor interest can procure it without him.
Lastly, That our bread is God's free gift of mercy, with. out any merit of ours, Gen. xxxii. 10. The least rag for our clothing, crumb for our food, breathing in God's air, &c. is what we deserve not at the hand of God, Luke xvii. 10. In Adam we forfeited our right to God's creatures, Gen. ii. 17; and by that sin of breaking the first covenant, and many other rebellions against the Sovereign God, we have deserved to be stript of all our comforts: So that all that we get is God's free undeserved gift.
Quest. What needs one pray for bread, when he has it al ready? He that has it in his house, yea, upon his table, has good reason to pray for it; because,
1. Without the efficacy of the divine appointment, it cannot be bread to us, it cannot nourish us, Matth. iv. 4. Without that our bread will not strengthen us, more than ashes, if God break the stay and staff of it, Isa. iii. 1.
2. Without God's good-will and favour with it, there is
a curse in it, Mal. ii. 2. And cursed bread makes but a sad meal.
Secondly, What is the import of these words, Give us bread? It imports,
1. That we may and ought to look to the Lord, not only for our own provision, but for the provision of our families, 1 Pet. v. 7. He that has laid it on masters of families to provide for their families, will make them welcome to pray for their provision. They who have had nothing to provide them with, have got them provided this way: and those who have had enough for them, little or nothing of it has come to their hand, when God has seen it meet to make it so.
2. That we should be concerned for others also, that they may have bread as well as we. Good men are merciful men, and will give to others that need, and much more wish them well, Jam. ii. 15, 16. We are all of one common nature, which requires this sympathy; and it well becomes those who are full to remember those who are hungry.
Thirdly, What is the import of these words, Give us our bread? There are three things imported in it, as desired by
1. That whatever portion of the good things of this life be bestowed on us, we may have a right to them, and so may look on them as our own bread.
(1.) A covenant-right to them, through Jesus Christ, by whom the lost right to the creatures is restored to believers, 1 Cor. iii. 22. For if one be in Christ, he enjoys his bread by a new tenor, the tenor of the covenant, Isa. xxxiii. 16: And that makes dry bread sweet.
(2.) A civil right to them, that it be such bread as we come lawfully by; that it be our own, not another's coming to us in an unjust way, 2 Thess. iii. 12. One had better want, than be sustained on the gain of injustice; for upon that one can never expect God's blessing.
(3.) That God would bless our lawful endeavours for bread. That is a promise of the covenant; and what God has promised we may pray for, Psal. cxxviii. 2. • Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands.' One must not think to get his bread by praying for it, with folded hands, Prov. x. 4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand." Nor is working for it without prayer to God, the way to obVOL. III. 3 N
tain it, Hag. i. 6, 9. But God's blessing and man's industry must go hand in hand towards it.
3. That our bread thus brought to our hands may be blessed of God to us, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5. As an ingenuous child loves rather to take his bread out of his father's hand, than to take it to himself; so the bread which is ours, as aforsaid, the children of God do by prayer put again into God's hand, that they may receive it out of his hand again with his blessing. Lord, do thou give us our bread.
Fourthly, What is the import of praying for daily bread? It imports,
1. That we are to confine our desires of the good things of this life to a competency, and not extend them to wealth and riches, Prov. xxx. 8. Give me neither poverty, nor riches.' We are to pray for daily, not weekly and yearly bread. Riches are a snare to our corrupt hearts, Matth. xix. 23. and they who are anxious for them, court their own harm, 1 Tim. vii. 9. If God lay them to your hand, as he has done to some of his own, ye are to be thankful for them; but beware the heart go not out after them, but use them for the honour and service of God.
2. That we are to be content to live from hand to mouth, having daily bread, without anxiety for the time to come, Matth. vi. 34. Surely we have enough, if God provide for every day as it comes.
Fifthly, What is the import of praying, Give us this day our daily bread? It is not, Give us to-morrorw our daily bread. It teaches us,
1. That we are not to be anxious about to-morrow's provision, Matth. vi. 34.
2. That God will have us every day coming to him for the supply of our needs. He likes to have his people about his hand; and therefore never furnishes them so one day, but they need to come again another day.
3. That we are not sure of to-morrow. Every day may be our last. For what is our life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,' Jam. iv. 14. We may die this day, and need no more. So that there is no occasion for praying for any more than provision suitable to the day when it comes.
I conclude this subject with a few inferences.
the good things of this life. We owe it all to him; and therefore let us take all we have as out of his hand, whatever we do for it; for it is at his charges we live. Let us then be thankful to God, and own ourselves debtors to him, for all our mercies; for he it is that giveth rain and fruitful seasons. That there is food for man and beast among us, is the effect of his free bounty. And it is owing to the same cause that we have peace to enjoy the fruit of our labours, and that God has not put it in the hands of enemies to eat it up. Let us admire his bounty to a sinful generation; and see and notice with wonder, how he does good to the unthankful and unholy, and how strictly he observes his promises, Gen. viii. ult. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.' That year the general deluge happened, there was no seed-time, nor harvest; but since they have never failed.
2. Let us look to God, and depend by faith on him for future mercies; and particularly look to him, for his blessing on the winter and spring season, on which so much depends with us. Whatever strait he may be pleased to bring, let us accept it humbly off his hand, since he owes us nothing, and may do with his own what he will. Look to him for removing of it, and patiently wait his time. Pray for his blessing on your substance, and on the work of your hands. You see the petition is put in your mouths for it every day. And therefore being offered through Christ, it will be accepted.
3. Let us be content with the measure he sees meet for us. Though others may have more than we, we have more than we can crave as debt? and it becomes us not to pretend to teach the ruler of the world, to whom he should give more, and to whom less, Matth. xx. 15.
4. Let us make God our friend through the mediation of his Son, Acts xii, 20. Repent, and turn from your sins; and reform yourselves and families. Sin is the only makebate betwixt God and us: put that away, since ye depend entirely on him for all you have. It is a strange thing to be provoking him, and grieving his Spirit, by a course of sin, on whom we depend for all things.
5. Beware of abusing God's good creatures to gluttony, drunkenness, sensuality, and luxury. Be not like the horse