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any fair ground for such a latitude of interpretation. Two reasons, however, have been alleged in its support. First, that it seems too sordid a request, and too mean a favour, to confine it to "the meat which perisheth :" and secondly, that this metaphoric signification is given to the word by our Lord, when he calls himself "the bread of life," and "the living bread which came down from heaven."* But, with regard to the first reason, it surely cannot be improper, or in any respect grovelling, to ask for that which we daily need to support our nature, and which the gracious Parent of the human family hath promised to give us if we ask him. Jacob thought it not beneath him, when he "vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God."+ Neither did the apostle, when he said, And having food and raiment, let us learn therewith to be content." And with regard to the second reason, there seems no shadow of ground whatever for using the term in any mystical sense in this place. It is employed without any circumstance that would, in the most remote manner, connect it with Christ, or refer it to spiritual things; and should, therefore, be understood in its common and literal import as referring to the body.
Secondly. The particularity with which it is specified : "Give us this day our daily bread." However amusing it might be to many, yet the mention of the various notions which critics have entertained of the epithet here attached to the quality of our food, would be neither instructive or profitable on this occasion. The meaning doubtless is, that as one word embraces whatever is necessary to our subsistence in the present world, so the other signifies
John vi. 36, 51.
+ Gen. xxviii. 20, 21.
that we should ask for that which is suitable for the day. Thus Agur expressed himself in the excellent prayer recorded of him: "Give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me."* Hence, observe, Thirdly. The limitation of the request: "Give us this day our daily bread." As constantly as one day succeeds another, so doth the necessity of our supply. For food nourishes us but a little while, and that which we receive now will not suffice for to-morrow. Inasmuch, therefore, as we need such constant relief, it behoves
us to make daily application. Hence, the prayer is restricted to the present necessity, and is intended to check all undue solicitude with respect to the future. In this sense it accords with the precepts of our Saviour in the same chapter: "Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on."+ And again, "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." The sum of all is, that we are not to crave abundance, such as the rich man had laid up in his barns, and which was enough for many years; but only what the necessity of the day may require. It is not," says an expositor§ of the text, a full granary, but a day's food that we are to ask, and that of the day we are entered upon. We do not, in the proper offering up this petition, desire to have an estate settled upon us for life, that so afterwards we may live of ourselves on our own income; but we are contented to live every day upon the fresh supplies of providence, and we in effect say, that we shall be well pleased if we do not want, although we have nothing before hand."
* Prov. xxx. 8. † Verse 25. + Ibid. 34. § Bishop Blackall.
II. LET US CONSIDER THE FORGIVENESS WE ARE "AND FORGIVE OUR debts, as
DIRECTED TO SEEK.
WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS."
Having asked for our daily bread, we are now encouraged to request the pardon of our sins. This is a blessing purely spiritual, and lies at the foundation of every other mercy. For who can be really happy unless their sins are forgiven them? Or who can be at peace with themselves in the possession of domestic supplies, while they stand exposed to the "wrath to come?" Without pardon, all other blessings received from an indulgent providence are but so many mercies before judgments. There seems, therefore, a congruity in the arrangement of these petitions, the less leading to the greater. If we would have the smile of God upon our table mercies, we should seek the free and full remission of our sins at his hands; for, as one has observed, "Their bread is kneaded up with a curse, and death and destruction are in their cup, whose iniquities remain against them."
For the explanation of this petition, let us make three enquiries.
First. What is the nature of the blessing here desired? It requests the remission of " debts" due to God, the Moral Governor of the Universe. The evangelist Luke uses the word "sins"* in this prayer, by which it appears that the terms are to be understood in the same signification. The meaning is, indeed, easily ascertained. We commonly employ the word "trespasses" in our public adoption of this excellent model of supplication, and either word is sufficiently expressive. The man who has trespassed on his neighbour's property or land, and has thereby done him an injury, is so far indebted to him. In
* Chap. xi. 4.
like manner, he who trespasses the law of God, and transgresses his salutary and righteous precepts, is "a debtor" to Him. This is the sense of the passage. The Divine Legislator of heaven and earth hath an irremissable claim on the obedience and homage of all his subjects; but this claim they have disallowed; or if they have verbally admitted it, they have practically denied it. Hence they are obnoxious to punishment, and the full reward or 'wages" of their sin, would be eternal death. Now it is
the remission of this penalty which is here desired, and which we are encouraged to ask; "for there is forgiveness with God that he might be feared;"*—not dreaded, but revered and honoured. Dost thou tremble, my hearer, at the thought of the tremendous obligation thou art under to the justice of God, and which thou art wholly unable to discharge? Art thou apprehensive of the sudden infliction of the sentence, and the fearful and eternal imprisonment of thy soul, till " the uttermost farthing is paid?" Ah! well thou mayest; for thy transgressions are multiplied against Him, and thine iniquities are increased over thy head-" But he waiteth to be gracious." He is "a God ready to pardon." Never a publican wept before Him, or a prodigal returned to his feet, without receiving his forgiveness. Do not his precepts encourage us to "hope in his mercy?" On what other ground could He with propriety command us to present this prayer, or in what other light can it be viewed? Surely if pardon were unattainable, and the Sovereign inexorable, it would be only mockery to direct us to implore the remission of our debts? And do not his purposes encourage us to seek his mercy? Thus He speaks by the mouth of his prophet Jeremiah: "In those days and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there
• Psalm cxxx. 4.
shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve."* But what saith an apostle? "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:-Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him: in whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."+ And what is the positive assurance of the Saviour himself? "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."‡ "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." And do not his promises declare it? "Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee." "O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come." 'He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry: when he shall hear it, he will answer thee." "They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God." "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."¶ "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned
• Jer. 1. 20. + Ephes. i. 3, 9, 10, 11.