« PreviousContinue »
SE R M ON V.
Seeking a Competency in the Wisdom of
PROV. xxx. 8.
Give me neither poverty, nor riches; feed me with
food convenient for me.
PROCEED now to consider the second branch
of the Prophet's prayer, which regards his outward condition, or circumstances in the present world. On this subject he expresses himself thus :
Give me neither poverty nor riches.'
Do not think, my brethren, that this is a subject of little importance, or that it is unconnected with the spiritual life. On the contrary, there are few things of more moment, than to have our desires of temporal bleflings limited and directed in a proper manner.
Not only is worldly
mindedness the everlasting ruin of those who are entirely under its dominion, but even good men are liable to many temptations from the fame quarter. They may hurt their own peace, give offence to others, or lessen their usefulness by a finful excess in their attachment to the world, or by a criminal negligence in not giving a prudent and proper attention to it. Be not surprised that I have mentioned the last of thefe as well as the first, for the Prophet prays for deliverance from the temptation arising from both extremes. Idleness and sloth are as contrary to true religion, as either avarice or ambition ; and the habit, when once taken, is perhaps more difficult to remove.
In order to treat this subject with the greater distinctness, I shall, first, thew you what we may earn in general from this prayer ; fecondly, explain the particular object of the Prophet's 'defire; and, in the last place, make applications of what may be said, by recommending it to
I. In the first place, then, we may learn in general from this request, that it is lawful to pray for temporal blessings. It is not unworthy of a Chriftian, whose converfation is in heaven, to ask of God wliat is neceffary to his support and preservation in the present life. If I were to mention all the examples of this in fcripture, I fhould tranfcribe a great part of the Bible. Though inferior in their nature and value to
fpiritual spiritual bleslings, they are necessary in their place; and it is upon this footing, they are expressly put by our Saviour.
Your heavenly • Father knoweth that ye have need of 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 course of providence ; yet we find God sometimes working a miracle to fupply the wants of his servants. It had been no more difficult for God to have kept Elijah from hungering, than to have made the eagles fetch him provision; or to have made, as in another cale, a barrel of meal, or a cruise of oil, the lasting and sufficient fupport of a whole fainily. But he chooses rather to supply the wants of his people, than cause them to cease, that he may keep their dependence constantly in their view, and that a sense of their necessities may oblige thein to have continual recourse 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 spiritual blefling. A fentiment this, of the utmost confequence, to be engraven upon the heart. We have here an instance out of many, in which truths known and confessed by all, havé notwithstanding little hold upon the mind. How few are truly sensible of their continual obligations to the God of life ? Consider, I beseech you, that whatever you posless of any kind, it is the gift of God. He holdeth your Coul in life, and guards you by his providence in your going out and your coming in. He covereth your table and filleth your cup. Have you siches ? It is by the blessing of the God of, Bieaven.-- The blessing of the Lord,' saith the Pfalmift, it maketh rich. But thou shalt re'member 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 írom the stripes of tongues. , ' Thou lhalt be 'hid from the scourge of the tongue, neither
shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it ' cometh.' Have you friends ? it is he that giveth you favour in their fight. Have you talents and
? 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 suppose the Prophet, in any degree, 'refusing submission to the will of God, by his thus making choice of a particular state of life. Doubtless he refolved to Be at God's disposal, and believed that he was able to fanctify to him a state of the highest profperity, or of the deepest adversity. It was no diftrust in God, but self-denial and diffidence of his own strength that suggested this prayer.
Therefore, in adjusting his desires and expectations, he pitches upon that state that appeared to him liable to the fewest snares. Thus our bleffed Saviour, though it is his will that we should fear no enemy when going out in divine ftrength, 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 should with to be placed, but in a safer middle between the two, fo as, if it please God, we may neither be urged by pressing neceflity, nor overloased with fuch abundance, as we may be in danger of abusing.
But perhaps some will say, Where is the middle ? How shall we be able to determine what we ought to delire, since there is so immenfe distance, and so many intermediate degrees, bear tween the extremity of want and the countless treasures of the wealthy ?
But, my brethren, if we do not hearken to the illusive calls of ambition, avarice and lust, it is by no means difficult to apprehend the meaning of the Prophet, and apply it to persons of every rank. Regard, no doubt, is to be had to the ya-, rious stations in which God hath thought fit to place us. This difference of station requires fupplies of the conveniences of life, suited to the part we are bound to act. That manner of life which would be decent and liberal in one station, would be reckoned mean and fordid in another..