Page images
PDF
EPUB

Therefore what would be plenty and fulness to persons in inferior stations, would be extreme poverty to perfons placed and called to act in higher and more exalted fpheres. 1 But after we have taken in the confideration of every difference that may happen on this score, there is fome. thing in the prayer that belongs in common to perfons of all stations; namely, that we should be modest in our defires after temporal good things, and take care not to ask only to gratify a fensual inclination, but for what is really neceffary or ufeful'to us. "The last is reasonable and allowable, the other is unreasonable and justly condenined by the Apostle James. Yealk and receive not ( because ye ask amifs, that ye may confume it upon your lufts.', '; ..mi

But the first part of this request is explained by the last, contained in the words, feed me ' with food convenient for me. That we may be able to enter into the true fpirit of this petition, I shall just compare it with fome other fcripə tural forms of prayer on the same subject, and then endeavour to point out what I take to be the chief instruction intended to be conveyed to us by it. 9. iste Por

no As to the scripture forms of prayer for temporal provision, the precedence is undoubtedly due to that excellent form left us by our Saviour, in which we find this petition, Give us this day ! our daily bread.' You may next attend to the prayer put up by Jacob in ancient times: • And

Jacob

[ocr errors]

Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with 6. me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and • will givelmé breads to eat, and raiment to put ' on, fo that I come again to my father's house o in peace, then fhall the Lord be my God.' It is more than probable, that the Apostle Paul alludes to Jacob's expression, in his excellent ad vice to all Christiansi-m But Godliness with con(tentment is great gain, for we brought nothing 6 into this world, and it is certain we can carry ( nothing out: and having food and raiment, let Sus be therewith content. But they that will

be rich, fall into temptation and a' snare, and ' into many foolifh and hurtful lusts, which . drown men in deftruction and perdition ;

for the love of money is the root of all evil, • which, while fome coveted after, they have er

red from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many forrows."

, It is obvious to remark, that all these prayers and this apostolic counsel run in the same strain. They all begin and are founded upon a regard to God, and a mind rightly difpofed towards him ; * If the Lord, says Jacob;' will be with me.• Remove;' says Agur in my text,' far from

me vanity and lies.' Our Saviour begins his prayer with petitions for the glory of God, with which the happiness of our souls is inseparably connected; and the Apostle maintains godliness as the great source of contentment with our portion in this life. We were o

We

We may further observe, that there is the same method observed in all these prayers. The expressions vary a little, but the request is the fame. Jacob wishes for the divine protection, with food to eat, and raiment to put on. Agur for food convenient for him ; and in the Lord's prayer, we ask for our daily bread. There is no fpecifying of any particulars, no mention made of this or the other quantity of provision. Their desires are summed up in this general request, and the quantity and quality wholly referred to the good pleasure of God. It is certain that God hath sometimes granted to his own people riches in great abundance; and, at the same time, has given his blessing to enjoy them, and honoured the poffeffors, by enabling them to glorify him in the use and application of them. But the direct defire of riches, I do not think, hath any warrant from precept or example in his word; and when they are bestowed as a blessing, and not as a curse, it is commonly on those who by their superior concern about the better part, shew that they will put them to their proper use, as in the case of Solomon recorded in the first book of Kings.

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a

dream by night ; and God said, Ask what I 'fhall give thee?' And he said; Give thy fer

vant an understanding heart. And the speech • pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this • thing. And God fäid, Because thou haft asked this thing, and halt not asked for thyself long

« life * life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor

haft asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding, to discern

judgment:a Behold, I have done according to • thy words: Lo! I have given thee a wise and

an understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any

arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee ( that which thou hast not asked, both riches ' and honour.'...,*; et

Now this I take to be the main instruction intended to be given us with respect to our prayers for temporal mercies, that we should not pretend to set bounds to God, but leave the measure of them to his determination. '

For further explaining this truth, and at the same time, recommending it to your regard, be pleased to attend to the following obfervations.

1. Consider that God, infinitely wise, as well as gracious, is certainly the best judge of what is most fit and convenient for us. We know so little of ourselves, that we really know not how we should behave, if placed in particular circumstances, until we are tried. The world has actually seen many examples of those who were loud in their accusations of others, behaving worse when placed in the fame stations. : : And, indeed, I should naturally expect, that an impatient, envious, disobedient subject would, if raised to power, be a cruel, infolent, unjust oppreffor; that a petulant, peevith, obstinate servant would make a capricious, fevere, unreasonable master.

lant

If we were to carve out our own lot, and to have all our own desires gratified, there is great reason to presume we would throw ourselves into the most disagreable circumstances with regard to our fouls, and probably consult but ill for our peace and comfort in this world.

Let me put a few questions to every one that secretly murmurs at his state. Are you sure, that if you were advanced to a place of power and trust, you would be able to carry yourself with prudence, resolution and integrity ? Are you sure, that if you were supplied with riches in great abundance, you would not allow yourselves to wallow in pleasure, or to swell in pride ? Are you sure, that if you were raised to high rank, surrounded by flatterers, and worshipped by fervants, you would, in that standing, behave with humility and condefcenfion; or, that pressed on all hands by bufinefs, company, or amusements, you would still

religiously save your time for converfe with 6 God?

A life of piety in an exalted station, is a continual conflict with the strongest opposition. What fays experience upon this subject? Solomon did not wholly, and to the end, resist the temptation of riches and dominion. In the whole compass of history, sacred and profane, I do not remember any example of a man's behaving better in point of morals, in a prosperous than in

an

« PreviousContinue »