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I have mentioned the last of these as well as the first, for the prophet prays for deliverance from the temptation arifing from both extremes. Idlenefs and floth are as contrary to true religion, as either avarice or ambition; and the habit when once taken, is perhaps more difficult to
In order to treat this fubject with the greater diftinctnefs, Ishall first fhew you what we may learn in general from this prayer: fecondly, explain the particular objećt of the prophet's defire; and in the last place, make applications of what may be faid by recommending it to your choice.
I. In the first place, then, we may learn in general from this request, that it is lawful to pray for temporal bleflings. It is not unworthy of a Chriftian, whofe converfation is in heaven, to ask of God, what is neceffary to his fupport and preservation in the prefent life. If I were to mention all the examples of this in fcripture, I fhould tran fcribe a great part of the Bible. Though inferior in their nature and value to fpiritual bleffings, they are necessary in their place; and it is upon this footing they are expreff ly put by our Saviour. "Your heavenly Father knoweth "that ye have need of all these things." They are needful to the prolonging of our natural life till we finish our work, and are fitted for our reward. Therefore, though miracles are a kind of suspension of the laws of nature, and the ordinary courfe of providence, yet we find God fometimes working a miracle to fupply the wants of his fervants. It had been no more difficult for God to have kept Elijah from hungering, than to have made the ravens fetch him provifion; or to have made, as in another cafe, a barrel of meal, or a cruife of oil, the lafting and fufficient fupport of a whole family. But he choofes rather to fupply the wants of his people, than caufe them to cease, that he may keep their dependance conftantly in their view, and that a fenfe of their neceffities may oblige them to have continual recourfe to him for relief.
Again, we may here learn, that God is the real and proper giver of every temporal, as well as of every fpiri
tual bleffing--A fentiment this, of the utmost confequence, to be engraven upon the heart. We have here an inftance out of many, in which truths known and confeffed by all, have notwithstanding little hold upon the mind. How few are truly fenfible of their continual obligations to the God of life? Confider, I befeech you, that whatever you poffefs of any kind, it the gift of God. He holdeth your foul in life, and guards you by his providence in your going out and in your coming in. He covereth your table and filleth your cup. Have you riches? It is by the bleffing of the God of heaven-" The bleffing of the Lord," faith Solomon, "it maketh rich. But thou fhalt remem"ber the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power "to get wealth." Have you credit and reputation? It is God that hideth you from the ftrife of tongues. "Thou "fhalt be hid from the fcourge of the tongue, neither shalt "thou be afraid of deftruction when it cometh." Have you friends? It is he that giveth you favor in their fight. Have you talents and parts? It is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth thee understanding.
II. Let us now explain the particular tenor of this petition, and point out the object of the prophet's defire: "Give me neither poverty nor riches." It is plain we are not to fuppofe the prophet, in any degree, refusing fubmiffion to the will of God, by his thus making choice of a particular ftate of life-Doubtlefs he refolved to be at God's difpofal, and believed that he was able to fanctify to him a ftate of the highest profperity, or of the deepest adverfity. It was no diftruft of God, but felf-denial and diffidence of his own ftrength, that fuggefted this prayer. Therefore, in adjusting his defires and expectations, he pitches upon that ftate that appeared to him liable to the feweft fnares. Thus our bleffed Saviour, though it is his will that we should fear no enemy when going out in divine firength, yet teaches us to pray-"Lead us not "into temptation."
Poverty and riches are here mentioned as the two extremes; in neither of which we fhould wish to be placed, but in a fafer middle between the two; fo as, if it please
God, we may neither be urged by preffing neceffity nor over-loaded with fuch abundance as we may be in danger of abufing.
But perhaps fome will fay, where is the middle? How fhall we be able to determine what we ought to defire, fince there is fo immenfe a distance, and fo many intermediate degrees between the extremity of want, and the countless treasures of the wealthy?
But, my brethren, if we do not hearken to the illufive calls of ambition, avarice and luft, it is by no means difficult to apprehend the meaning of the prophet, and apply it to perfons of every rank. Regard, no doubt, is to be bad to the various ftations in which God hath thought fit to place us. This difference of station requires fupplies of the conveniencies of life, fuited to the part we are bound to act. That manner of life which would be decent and liberal in one ftation, would be reckoned mean and fordid in another. Therefore, what would be plenty and fulness to perfons in inferior ftations, would be extreme poverty to perfons placed, and called to act, in higher and more exalted spheres. But after we have taken in the confideration of every difference that may happen on this fcore, there is fomething in the prayer that belongs in common to persons of all stations namely, that we should be modeft in our defires after temporal good things, and take care not to afk only to gratify a fenfual inclination, but for what is really neceffary or useful to us. The laft
is reasonable and allowable, the other is unreasonable and juftly condemned by the apoftle James. "Ye afk and "receive not, because ye afk amifs, that ye may confume "it upon your lufts."
But the first part of this requeft is explained by the laft, 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 fhall juft compare it with some other fcriptural forms of prayer on the fame fubject, and then endeavor to point out what I take to be the chief inflruction intended to be conveyed to us by it.
As to the fcripture forms of prayer for temporal provifion, 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 vowed a vow, faying, if God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will "give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, fo that I "come again to my father's houfe in peace, then shall the "Lord be my God." It is more than probable that the apostle Paul alludes to Jacob's expreffion, in his excellent advice to all Chriftians. But godlinefs with content"ment is great gain; for we brought nothing into this "world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and "having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. "But they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a fnare, and into many foolish and hurtful lufts, which "drown men in deftruction and perdition-for the love "of money is the root of all evil, which while fome covet"ed after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced "themselves through with many forrows."
It is obvious to remark, that all these prayers and this apoftolic counsel run in the fame ftrain. They all begin and are founded upon a regard to God, and a mind rightly difpofed towards him: "If the Lord," fays Jacob, "will be with me"-" Remove," fays 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 fouls is infeparably connected; and the apostle maintains godliness as the great fource of contentment with our portion in this life.
We may further obferve, that there is the fame method observed in all these prayers. The expreffions vary a little, but the requeft is the fame. Jacob wifhes 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 provifion. Their defires are fummed up in this general requeft, and the quantity and quality wholly referred to the good pleasure of God. It is certain that God hath fometimes granted to his own people, riches
in great abundance; and, at the fame time, has given his bleffing to enjoy them, and honored 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 beflowed as a bleffing, and not a curse, it is commonly on those who, by their fuperior concern about the better part, fhew that they will put them to their proper ufe, as in the cafe of Solomon, recorded in the first book of Kings. "In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solo"mon in a dream by night; and God faid, afk what I "fhall give thee. And he faid, give thy fervant an un"derstanding heart. And the speech pleafed the Lord, "that Solomon had afked this thing. And God faid, be"caufe thou haft afked this thing, and haft not asked for thyfelf long life, neither haft asked riches for thy felf, "nor haft afked the life of thine enemies, but haft afked "for thyself understanding, to difcern judgment: Behold "I have done according to thy words; lo, I have given "thee a wife and an understanding heart, fo that there "was none like thee before thee, neither after thee fhall
any arise like unto thee. And I have alfo given thee "that which thou haft not asked, both riches and ho"nor."
Now this I take to be the main inftruction intended to be given us with respect to our prayers for temporal mercies; that we should not pretend to fet bounds to God, but leave the measure of them to his determination.
For further explaining this truth; and, at the fame time recommending it to your regard, be pleafed to attend to the following obfervations.
1. Confider that God, infinitely wife, as well as graci bus, is certainly the best judge of what is most fit and convenient for us. We know fo 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 feen many examples of thofe, who were loud in their accufations of others, behaving worse when placed in the fame ftations. And, indeed, I fhould naturally expect, that an impatient, envious, difobedient