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When we say to God, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we acknowledge that to his providence we are indebted for every thing, and we look to him for the supply of our temporal necessities, (for the word bread is to be taken in a sense thus extensive.) We do not implore what would satisfy luxury, or vanity, or covetousness, but what would satisfy a modest and reasonable mind. We request this, day by day, to testify our dependence upon God from one moment to another, and our willingness to be thus dependent.
Happy should we be, if our temporal necessities were the only ones from which we need seek deliverance: but, alas! there are other miseries under which we groan; miseries more oppressive, more formidable: these are our sins. Our Saviour, therefore, teaches us to add, “ Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”
When we utter this petition, what should be our sentiments ? We should have a deep persuasion of our guilt and unworthiness; we should feel that our transgressions deserve punishment from God, and that this punishment cannot be prevented except through his mercy; we should remember that all our hopes of the remission of our iniquities must be delusive, if rancour, enmity, or revenge, still are cherished in our hearts. 5 Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us:" not that this single act of obedience will be sufficient to secure our final felicity, whilst we neglect the other precepts of the gospel, but to show us that without this we must lie down for ever under the weight of unpardoned sin.
The remembrance of our past sins must fill us with griet; but the anticipation of the future must also dis
quiet and distress us. Surrounded on all sides by temptations; exposed to the assaults of the numerous and powerful enemies of our salvation; bearing within us a frail and treacherous heart, must we not fall each moment into sin, if the Supreme Arbiter of all events do no avert from us numberless dangers and seductions, if he do not communicate to us by his Spirit the strength requisite to enable us to resist those that assail us; if he do not deliver us from the attacks of evil, and secure us against the violence of the evil one ; if he do not lead us by the hand every step that we take,ona road so slippery, and a path so surrounded by precipices? This is what we pray for, when we say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Not that God ever allures and incites men to sin; to assert this would be the height of blasphemy; but because God, in the scripture style of speaking, is said to do that which he does not interpose to prevent; he is, therefore, said to lead us into temptation when he does not interfere to deliver us from evil; the evil of sin, or the power of the evil one.
After presenting these petitions to God, how can we better conclude our devotions than by acknowledging that his is the kingdom, the rightful authority and dominion over all his creatures; his the power, by which all our good deeds are performed, and all our happiness obtained; and that, therefore, his should be the glory, of all that we do, or possess, or hope for? And who is there, who, after listening to these supplications and homages, does not acquiesce in them with all his heart, and say, Amen ?
Thus we have briefly reviewed this prayer of our Lord; let us now make some inferences from it.
1. The first three petitions have for their object the glory of God; the last three, the needs of man.
This arrangement teaches us, that whatever concerns the glory of God should engage the first and most ardent desires of believers, and that their own particular interests should ever be esteemed a subordinate object. This is a rule uniformly laid down in the holy volume. It is a rule, the justice of which must be acknowledged by every one, who has proper
ideas of the greatness, the glory, and the rights of God; but, alas! it is a rule which is seldom observed ; which is even seldom thought of. How small is the number of those who habitually ask themselves such questions as these : Will these actions, these conversations, these plans, tend to the glory of God ? By them will his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, his will be done ? The most of men, animated only by selfish and interested motives, never thus raise their thoughts to heaven.
2. Another instruction. This prayer shows us that brotherly love is the badge of the disciples of the Saviour. He does not permit each of us, when praying for himself, to separate his interests from those of his brethren. He requires us to ask for them the same blessings that we implore for ourselves. If, therefore, we repeat this prayer, not only with our lips, but also with our heart, we shall not willingly deprive them of the benefits which we ask for them, but, on the contrary, will strive to confer on them these benefits.
3. The forgiveness of injuries is recommended to us with an energy which nothing can exceed. The Saviour not only bids us say in the prayer, * and forgive us our trespasses;" but also solemnly adds, immediately after, “ For if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Revengeful and implacable
men! is not this declaration sufficient to induce
you to pardon and be reconciled to your brother? What more terrible threatening could God make, than that of refusing his forgiveness to you? This threatening he will infallibly execute, if you nourish enmity against your brother.
This threatening you daily request him to execute. By your very prayer you brave his vengeance; you supplicate him not to have mercy upon you; you utter the most fatal imprecation against yourselves; you beg him to consign you to everlasting damnation.
4. Since we ask of God our daily bread, let us sincerely acknowledge, and deeply feel, that there is no day, no moment, in which the hand of God that has formed us, must not support and preserve us ; that in him we live, move, and have our being ; that to him all those second causes which benefit us are indebted for their efficacy. Let us moderate our desires for the things of earth; it is bread that we ask. Let us, while we diligently employ the means of supplying our wants, which his providence has afforded us, cheerfully rely on his care and goodness, persuaded that he, who giveth the young ravens their food, will not abandon us. Let us not indulge those solicitudes and fears for the morrow, which do little credit to our faith and religion.
5. We ask from him the forgiveness of our sins. Unless we appear before his throne like the hypocritical pharisee, we shall present this petition, feeling our guilt, repenting of our offences, and resolved to renounce them. We shall present it, rejoicing that there is forgiveness with God, and filled with gratitude for that love which gave the Eternal Son to expiate for our sins. Assured that this is the only asylum of sinners, we shall penitently, and ardently recur to the infinite grace of Him who, having reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, is ready to forgive our sins, when we confess and forsake them.
6. Finally: in concluding our prayers, we testify that we fear temptations, when we pray that God would not lead us into them. Let our conduct always show the same holy fear and self-distrust. Let us flee every appearance of evil. Let us avoid every temptation which it is possible to avoid, and never expose ourselves to any, without an absolute necessity. Then we may be assured of the divine support, in those trials to which duty calls us; and we shall pass from triumph to triumph, until we arrive at that world where temptations shall never assail us, and where our supplications shall be changed into thanksgivings and hallelujahs.