Out of the words of our Saviour, in the sixth chapter of Matthew verse the thirty-third, we have elsewhere set down the order of these three petitions which concern ourselves, for the first is the petition of glory and of God's kingdom which our Saviour willeth us to seek in the first place. The second is the petition of grace and of God's righteousness, wherein we pray that God's will may be done. The third petition tendeth to this end, that, as the Prophets speaks, God would not withhold any temporal blessing needful for this life, but that He would give us all things that are necessary for us.
The things pertaining to glory, for which we pray in the first place, are eternal; those that concern grace are spiritual, and the blessing of this life which we desire may not be withheld from us are natural and temporal.
This is nature's prayer, for not only we but all creatures above and beneath make the same suit to God by the voice of nature. 'The ravens' of the air call upon God, that He would feed them; 'the lions' beneath, 'roaring for their prey, do seek their meat at God;' and therefore no marvel that we, inasmuch as we are creatures, do seek to God Who is the God of nature to supply the defects of nature that we find in ourselves as other creatures. And yet there is a difference betwixt us and them, for they call upon God only for corporal food that their bellies may be filled; but the prayer that we make for outward things is not without respect to things [413/414] spiritual, and this petition followeth upon the other by good consequent and order; for, as the heathen man saith,
Haud facile emergunt quorum virtutibus obstat
Res angusta domi
so we shall be unfit to seek God's kingdom, and to do His will, unless we have the helps of this life.
Therefore we desire that God will give us the things of this life, those things without which we cannot serve Him; that as we desire to the glory of His kingdom, and the grace of His Spirit, whereby we may be enabled to do His will, so He will minister to us all things for the supply of our outward wants in this life, the want whereof hath been so great a disturbance to the saints of God in all times, that they could not go forward in godliness as they would.
Abraham, by reason of the great famine that was in Canaan was fain to 'go down into Egypt.' The same occasion moved Isaac to go down to Abimlech at Gerar; and Jacob, to relieve his family in the great dearth at this time, was fain to send his sons, the patriarchs, into Egypt to buy corn. The children of Israel, when they wanted bread or water, 'murmured against' God and His servants; the disciples of our Saviour were so troubled in mind because they had forgotten to take bread with them, that they understood not their Master when He gave them warning to 'beware of the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees.' So the want of outward things doth distract our minds, and make us unfit for God's service.
Therefore, that we may in quietness of mind intend those things that go before in this prayer, our Savour hath indited us a form of prayer to sue to God, as well for things temporal, as spiritual and eternal; for it is lawful for us to pray for them so that we do it in order.
The first petition that the natural man makes is for his daily bread, but our care must be first for the Kingdom of God, next for the fulfilling of God's will and doing that righteousness which God requires at our hands; and after, we may in the third place pray for such things as we stand in need of during our life.
This blessing the Fathers observe out of the blessing which Isaac pronounced upon his sons; Jacob's blessing was first 'the dew if heaven' and then 'the fat of the earth,' shewing that the godly do [414/415] prefer heavenly comfort before earthly, Esau's blessing was first 'the fatness of the earth,' and next 'the dew of heaven,' was to teach us that profane persons do make more reckoning of earthly commodities than of heavenly comforts.
Therefore in regard of the spiritual account we are to make of God's kingdom and the doing of His will, we are to wish them in the first place, and then David's Unim petii a Domino, 'One thing I have required of the Lord.' And that which Christ. saith to Martha, Unum est necassarium, 'One thing is needful,' would bring us to Solomon's two things, 'Give me not poverty, nor riches, but feed me with food convenient for me, lest being full I deny Thee and say, Who is the Lord? or being poor I steal, and take the name of my God in vain.' And that is it which we are bold to do by Christ's own warrant, for He hath taught us first to pray for His kingdom, then for the working of righteousness; or for the doing of God's will, and lastly for daily bread.
If we first pray for the two former, then we may be bold in the this place to sue to God for the latter, for He hath promised to 'withhold no good thing from them that lead a godly life;' if the doing of God's will be our meat, then requiem dedit timentibus Se, 'He hath given rest to them that fear him.'
In the petition we are to observe, from six words, six several points: first, the thing that we desire, that is 'bread;' secondly, the attribute 'our bread;' thirdly 'daily bread;' fourthly, we desire that this 'bread' may be 'given us;' fifthly, not 'to me,' but nobis, 'to us;' sixthly, hodie, and as long as we say hodie, 'to-day.'
To begin with giving. Hitherto the tenor of this prayer ran in the third person: now we are to pray in the second, saying Da Tu, 'whereupon the Church hath grounded a double dialect of prayer, which comes all to one effect; for that which the Church prayeth for,' God be merciful unto us and bless us is no less a prayer than if she should say in the second person, Miserere nostri, 'O Lord be merciful to us, and bless us;' and that which is added, 'and lift up his countenance,' is all one as if the Church speaking to God should say, 'Lift up the light of Thy countenance.'
This change or alteration of person, proceedeth from the confidence which the saints are to gather to themselves in [415/416] prayer; for having prayed for the sanctifying of God's name for the accomplishment of His kingdom, and for grace and ability to do His will, Christ assureth us that we may be bold to speak to God for our own wants.
Out of the 'giving' we are to note three things: first, our own want, for if we had it of ourselves we would not crave it of God. This confession of our want and indigence is a great glory to God, that all the inhabitants of the earth usque ad Regem Davidem should profess and say, 'I am poor and needy but the Lord careth for me;' they do profess themselves to be his beggars, not only by the voice of nature which they utter for outward things as other unreasonable creatures do, but by those prayers which they make for the supply of grace, whereby they may be enabled to do God's will, so that not only Regnum Tuum, 'Thy Kingdom' is God's gifts, but also panem nostrum, 'our bread,' we acknowledge to be His gift. It is from God from Whom we receive all things, as well the 'good givings' as the 'perfect gifts.' He is the author not only of blessings spiritual but of benefits temporal; He gives us not only grace to obey His will, but, as the Prophet speaketh, dat escam, 'He giveth us meat.'
The idolatrous people say of their idols, I will go after my lovers that give me bread, and my water, my oil, and my wine; but God saith after, 'It is I That gave her corn, and it is My wine and My flax and My oil.' Ipse dat semen sementi,, et panem manducanti, 'He ministereth seed to the sower, and good bread for food.' We are destitute of the meanest blessings that are, it is God only from Whom we receive all things; therefore to Him we pray, acknowledging our own want, Da nobis panem, 'Give us Bread.'
Secondly, we must consider the word Da, as it is set in opposition to Veniat, or Habeam panem; it must not content us that we have bread, but we must labour that we may have it of God's gift. Esau said of things temporal which he enjoyed, 'I have enough not,' acknowledging from whom Balaam cared not how he came by promotion so he had it, and therefore he is said to have 'loved the wages of unrighteousness: but we must labour not so much to have good things as to have them from God; and Pilate is to acknowledge that the power which he hath was 'given him from above,' and not to vaunt of any usurped power.
[416/417] It is said of God Tu aperis manum Tuam, 'Thou openest the doors of salvation So we are not so much to labour for temporal things by our own endeavour, as that we may have them from God.
Thirdly Da, opposed to rendering, teacheth us that it is not of our own endeavour, but it is of God's free bounty and liberality that we have bread and other things, which while we seek for of God's gift we confess that to be true which Solomon saith, Non est panis sapientis; be a man never so wise, yet he hath not always to supply his need. As he that is highest gets not always the goal, nor the strongest man the victory, so saith our Saviour, 'Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?'
All our endeavours for the things of this life are unprofitable without God's blessing: 'It is vain to rise up early, and to go bed late.'
And when He blesseth our labour, then He is said to give us 'bread,' and therefore we are to confess with David that whatsoever we have received, we have received it at His hands.
Now the means of God's giving is of four sorts: first, God giveth bread when He blesseth the earth with plenty, when He gives force to the heaven; when the heaven heareth the earth, the earth heareth the corn, the wine, the oil, and they hear man.
Secondly, He give when He sets us in some honest trade of life, and vouchsafeth His blessing to our endeavours therein, that we may get our living, and 'eat the labour of our hands,' without which the first giving will do us no good.
Thirdly, He gives us bread not only in His blessing the earth with increase, and by blessing our honest pains in our vocation, but when He give us baculum panis, 'the staff of bread;' for at His pleasure He useth to 'break the staff of bread,' and to make it of no power to nourish us: then are they but beggarly elements, 'when we eat and have not enough.' Therefore our prayer is, that He would cause the earth to yield us bread, so that to the bread He would infuse a force to 'strengthen man's heart for which end it is ordained.'
Fourthly, because Moses says, 'Man lives not by bread [417/418] only but by the word of God,' therefore we pray that as our bread by His blessing is made to us panis salubris, so it may be panis sanctus that He will give us grace to use His creatures to the end that we may the better serve Him; otherwise, howsoever they nourish our bodies, yet they will prove poison to our souls.
God performeth these three former givings to the heathen, so that their bellies are full with bread, but withal He 'sendeth leanness their souls. But Christian men have not only the earth to yield her fruit, God's blessing being upon their labours, and a blessing upon the creature itself that it is not in vain but nourisheth, but also it is sanctified to them, and that bread is properly theirs because they are God's children, et panis est filiorum, 'it is the children's bread.'
Secondly, the thing we desire to be given is 'bread,' concerning which because the decays and defects of our nature are many, so as it were infinite to express them severally, therefore our Saviour Christ doth here comprehend them all under the term of 'bread,' using the same figure which God Himself useth in the Law, where under one word many things are contained.
Howsoever our wants be many yet the heathen bring them all to these two, pabulum et latibulum, 'food and covering,' as they do, so doth not only Moses in the Law where all that pertains to his life is referred to victum and amictum, but also St. Paul in the first Epistle to Timothy, Habentes victum et amictum, his contenti simus.
So then under this petition is contained, not only that God would give us bread by causing the earth to bring forth corn, and all good seasons for that purpose, but that withal He will give us health of body, and not plague us with sickness as He did the Israelites. Then, that we may have peace, without which these outward blessings would afford us no comfort, and that as He fills our bellies with food, so He will give us lætitiam cordis, that is, all manner of contentment in this life.
Howbeit, this petition stayeth not here, for the prayer of Christian men must differ from the lion's roaring and the ravens' crying. The end of their praying is that their bellies may be filled, but we must have as great a care for the food of our souls; therefore where we call it panem nostrum, we do [418/419] not mean panem communem, 'such bread as is common' to us with other creatures, but that spiritual bread which is proper to man, which consists not only of body, but of soul and body, which must be both fed. And where we pray that God would give ¥rton pioÚsion, we ask such bread as is apt and meet for our sustenance; that is, not only earthly but heavenly bread, because we consist not only of a terrestial but also of a celestial substance: so then our desire is, that God would give us not only panem jumentorum, but panem Angelorum, 'the bread of Angels,' and our suit is, as well for panis coeli, as for earthly bread.
The bread of the soul is God's word, which hath a great reverence to earthly bread; and therefore speaking of the sweetness of that bread Job saith 'I have esteemed of the words of His mouth, more than my appointed food.' And David saith, 'Thy word is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.'
In the New Testament the Apostle, to shew the nourishing force of God's word, saith that Timothy was enutritus verbis fidei. And, to shew the taste or relish that it hath as well as natural food, saith gustaverit bonum Dei verbum, 'hath tasted the good word of God.' So the food of the soul is to be desired at God's hands as well as the bodily food.
There is 'a famine' as well of 'God's words' as of bread; there is a 'hungering and thirsting after righteousness;' therefore we are to pray that God would supply the wants, not only of the body but of the soul likewise
But there is a spiritual food both for body and soul, that which our Saviour promiseth, 'He that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst;' that is the hidden Manna that God hath promised for us in heaven, whereof it was said, 'Blessed is he that eateth bread in the Kingdom of God.'
Thus by how much the leanness of the soul is worse than bodily famine, so much the more earnestly are we to pray for the spiritual food than for the food of the body.
Thirdly, for the first attribute, we pray not simply for 'bread,' but for 'our bread.'
The word 'our' hath respect not only to use, but to property and right. [419/420] This right or property is double: first, that which was appointed in the beginning, In sudore vultûs tui comedes panem tuum. Our request to God is for that food which is gotten by honest pains taken in our calling, whereiniunto God hath made a promise 'Thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands,' and without which we have no right to this bodily food, for qui non laborat non manducet, 'he that laboureth not, let him not eat.' Now we would have God supply our wants with bread by right, and this right is general to all adventurers.
Secondly, as we would have made it ours by the labour of our vocation, so by the duty of invocation, that this corporal food which is common to other creatures may be proper to us by calling upon God for His blessing upon it, which if we do we have a promise it shall be truly ours. 'Open thy mouth, I will fill it'. For 'the creatures of God are sanctified to us by the word of God and prayer.'
This put a difference betwixt the Christian man's bread and that which the profane man eats: for first, those slothful persons whom the Apostle calls, 'slow bellies,' cannot say this prayer as they ought; for they are nothing but idle upon the earth, and fruges consumere nati, 'born to eat and drink;' they labour not for the living, but eat panem alienum, not suum, which the Apostle requires.
Secondly, those that 'eat the bread of violence,' and feed upon 'bread that is gotten by deceit,' do not eat panem suum but subdititium, they eat not panem datum a Deo, but a dæmone.
Thirdly 'Esau having filled his belly rose without giving God thanks after he had eaten, as without calling upon God for his blessing before.' For the which also he is said to be 'profane.' So are all those that eat of God's creatures without praying to Him for His blessing, and for a sanctified use of them; which thing if they refuse to do as Atheists and profane persons, their bread may be panis salubris but not sanctus, it may be able to nourish their bodies, but it shall bring leanness to their souls.
Fourthly, the other attribute of bread is 'daily,' concerning we must consider four things.
First, from the Latin word quotidianum which hath relation to the time; by which word, as we acknowledge our daily [420/421] want, and God's continual care and providence for the supply thereof, (of whom it is said, 'Thou givest meat in due season') so Christ teacheth us daily to praise and magnify God's care daily extended towards us, and to uses that Psalm of thanksgiving wherein the Church confesseth God's goodness in that behalf.
Secondly, from the Gk word pioÚsion, which signifieth bread, 'apt and meet for our substance.'
Now, for as much as man consists of body and soul, his prayer to God must not be only for such meat as is meet to nourish the body, but also for the food which agreeth with the soul; for it is vain to have food, except it be nutritive and convenient for us.
Thirdly, the Syriac word used by our Saviour signifieth panem necessitatis meæ which hath relation to the quality of the bread, teaching us not to pray for dainty meat but such as is fit to relieve our hunger. Tribue victui meo necessaria, not meat which is above my estate; Da panem necessitatis non lasciciæ, 'bread of necessity not wantonness.'
The Israelites lusted after the flesh-pots of Egypt; and therefore God gave them quails from heaven, but - which was the heavy judgment of God upon them - they perished 'while the meat was in their mouths.'
The Apostle willeth us therefore not to set our minds upon superfluity; but contrarily, coutej trof_n ka skep£smata, 'food and raiment, let us therewith be content.'
Fourthly, the Hebrew word used, Proverbs the thirtieth, hath relation to the quantity; for it signnifieth panem dimensi mei non gulæ, and it teacheth us not to seek abundance, but to desire of God to measure us out so much as He knoweth to be meet for us and (as Christ speaketh) 'to give us our portion of meat in due season.' For the Scripture telleth us what inconvenience cometh of abundance of meat: Dilectus Meus impinguatus recalcitravit, 'My beloved, when he waxed fat, spurned with his heel,' and the sin of Sodom was 'fulness of bread,' and the people by excessive eating and drinking of wine 'made themselves sick.' Therefore Christ diligently warneth His disicples to take heed of 'surfeiting and drunkenness' for this cause, ne graventur corda, 'that your hearts wax not heavy.'
[421/422] Fifthly, in the word nobis we must consider two things: first, a reason, secondly, a limitation. For the first, we desire that this bread should be given us.
First, because we are God's creatures; He refuseth not to hear the lions and ravens in this behalf, when they cry to Him. And our Saviour saith, that our heavenly Father feedeth the fowls of the air. And therefore we, in regard we are His creatures as well as they, we may by right make this prayer to Him.
Secondly, inasmuch as we are men, we may be bold to crave that favour at His hands which He sheweth indifferently to all men, for He suffereth the 'sun to shine on the evil and on the good.' And as David saith, Oculi omnium suspiciunt in Te, 'The eyes of all wait and look up to Thee,' therefore we are to pray that God will give bread not only nobis animalibus but nobis hominibus, not only as to 'living creatures' but as 'to men.'
Thirdly, 'the Gentiles,' and heathen people, which only 'seek after these things,' do obtain them at God's hands; much more will God grant them to us, which profess ourselves Christians and His children.
Secondly, for the limitation, it is not mihi non meum, but 'Give us,' and 'Give our.' The reason is that as Solomon says, 'our wells may flow out abroad,' and there may be 'rivers of waters in the streets,' and that not only we may not be burdensome to others but that we 'may have to give to them that have need.'
Sixthly, for the word hodie, our Saviour teacheth us to pray, 'Give is bread this day,' and as the Apostle speaks, dum dicitur hodie: the reason is, because life is but only dies, not sæculum. And the Wise Man saith, 'Talk not of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.' We may not say to our soul, 'Soul, thou hast store of goods laid up for many years.' We see by his example what may fall out. Forasmuch as the continuance of our life is uncertain, our desire must be that God would give us sufficient for our present want.
Howbeit, this makes not for them that are careless for the time to come, for such are sent to learn wisdom of the ant, which provided for winter; and not only for the saints at [422/423] all times have been careful and provident for outward things, as Joseph who counselled Pharaoh beforehand to lay up corn to feed him for seven years space during the famine, but our Saviour Himself gives charge that that which remaineth should be saved, and 'nothing lost.' And it was His pleasure that Judas should bear the bad for his and their provision, to teach us that He alloweth provident care for things earthly.
But by this word 'daily' our Saviour condemneth mermuan, or immoderate care for worldly things, whereby the soul is rent and divided, and not that prÒuoia which is required of every man for 'his own household' and is both lawful and honest.
Here ariseth an objection, how a man having filled his belly, or being ready to leave this world, may say this prayer. The answer is first, Multi dormierunt divites qui surrexerunt pauperes; therefore, our desire is, that as we have enough now, so we may be preserved in this estate, and that God would not change plenty into poverty. Again, though we have bread, and it continue with us, yet it is nothing without that beata paxa: therefore, though we have the thing itself, yet we are to desire that which is the life of bread, which is a power to nourish, then that God will give us the sanctified bread, which is the heavenly manna, and grace, that as we work for bread in our vocations, so we remember to sanctify it by invocation; for else it is usurped bread.