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things, to direct our feet into the ways of righteousness and peace, to instruct our minds in the wisdom of revelation, and lift our affections from the transitory gratifications of earthly joy to fix them upon the pure and imperishable pleasures of heavenly things.
More than this at present we cannot say, but surely we have said enough to induce us to bow down in adoration before the throne of Heaven, and to thank our Father and our God for that he hath taught us thus to pray, and to beseech him to give us a heart and a mind to understand and to feel it.
MATT. VI. 11-13.
"Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our
debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.'
Things spiritual and things temporal. These are the only things that men can want or wish. The life that now is, and the life that is to come. These are the only states of being upon which man is doomed to enter. Both are ordained for him by Providence; and whether he wander in his mortal body upon the earth, or stand with the immortal body of his resurrection before the throne of the Almighty, Providence can still make that body to be the seat of pleasure or of pain, and assign to him a portion either of wretchedness or bliss. It is to God, therefore, that we must pray, whether we desire the things that are, or the things that are not, seen; and whether we seek to be sustained and comforted here, or to be received and blessed hereafter. But then, the lasting and fundamental difference which there is between what we are, as strangers and pilgrims upon the earth below, and what we shall be, as saints and sons of God in Heaven above, must never be forgotten or confounded, in the prayer
of a godly mind. What is time when compared with eternity ? It is but as the little tributary stream which runneth away apace, and hasteneth to mingle its scanty waters with the living waves, and be lost for ever in the boundless immensity of the ocean. God forbid, then, that we should ever be found to regard the course of this transitory life as more worthy the attention sof our thoughts, than the awful greatness of that eternity to which it tends. God forbid, that we should lust after things carnal and temporal, either more often or more sincerely, than after things everlasting and spiritual. Yet Nature will be heard, when she claims from us an attention to the concerns of our bodies as well as of our souls; and neither reason nor religion demand that we should refuse to listen to the voice of Nature, upon those occasions in which she requires the satisfaction only of the innocent desires and feelings of our hearts. We may, therefore,
righteously wish and devoutly pray, that the course of this world may run smooth, untroubled by sorrow, and unsullied by impurity. This only doth the Lord require at our hands, that we should not reckon the sufferings or the blessings which fall upon man on this side the grave, ás worthy to be compared with those sufferings and blessings which are revealed to him beyond it. This only doth the Lord expect in our devotions, that, first of all we should seek the “ kingdom of God and his righteousness;" after which we may lawfully' venture to pour forth the desires of our hearts, for raiment, for a dwelling, and for food.
Such is the preference of heavenly to earthly things, which the Lord himself hath taught us, when commanding us to begin to pray in those holy words, whose meaning and power I endeavoured to impress upon you in my last Discourse. We were there instructed, first of all to turn in piety to the great Author of our being and hopes, and to pray that his name may be reverenced, his truth made known, his religion accepted, and his laws obeyed by every creature upon earth, with the same willingness and universality with which they are obeyed amongst the angels in Heaven. When we have thús fulfilled our duty in praying for things spiritual, and for others, then, and then only, are we authorized to turn our views to things temporal, and to ourselves. When we have said, “ Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven;" then, and not till then, are we permitted to utter a petition for food, that we may live. Then, and not till then, do we read, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Do thou, O Father give us our daily bread; because thou art our father, because, as children, we are helpless and dependent upon thee, and look not to others for the continuance, any more than for the commencement, of our being. Give it us, for, whether we eat or drink, we must needs acknowledge, in our utter helplessness and dependency, that it is the gift of thy unmerited mercy. We may haste to rise up early, and we may late take rest, but we cannot eat even the bread of carefulness in the sweat of our brow, except it be the will of God that we should eat it, and except his goodness should be pleased to grant success to the labours of our heads and of our hands. Therefore it is, that the Saviour of the world hath enjoined us to ask of God, that he would give us our daily bread, and in asking it as a gift, to confess and feel how altogether we hang upon his fatherly kindness and care, and how