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their lusts without considering the wants and necessities of other people.
It is too often the case in times of plenty, as it was with the prodigal in the gospel, when God gives men their portion, they squander it away in riotous living: and a mercy it is when they are reduced to want, if they have the grace to see and repent of their evil ways.
And indeed the very best of us should be admonished by this scarcity and dearth, how often we have misspent the good gifts of God, which now would have been of blessed use to help those who have hungry bellies.
But above all, the glutton and the drunkard should be ashamed, and blush, and bitterly repent, for having abused and wasted the good gifts of God, which are given for the support and comfort of man, not to make men into beasts.
But I must not forget my subject: Give us this day our daily bread. How often have we said this: how often repeated this petition, without considering what a sad condition we should be in, if God should deny us our daily bread; what a miserable condition those many are in who now feel the want of it; and lastly what a much worse condition they are in, who have enough and to spare, and will not help those that want their daily bread, but upon terms that ruin them.
Let me tell you a truth which few know, and fewer will believe; that the rich owe more to the poor for their prayers than the poor owe to the rich for the relief they give them...
This is a truth as certain as the gospel: I was an hungred, saith Christ, and ye gave me meat; thirsty, and ye gave me drink.* Do but consider, when Jesus Christ will say this to those that have relieved his poor members. Why, even then when he is going to pass the sentence of everlasting life or eternal death, upon mankind.
This shews us that the rich, as well as the poor, have reason to beg of God to give them their daily bread; that they may have an opportunity of forwarding their own salvation, by shewing their gratitude to God for his more especial favours to them.
If God gives any of us more than our daily bread, it is not because he loves us better than those that want it; but to try our faith, whether we will ascribe to him the blessings we enjoy, or to ourselves, and our own endeavours and industry.
Men are but too apt to sacrifice, as the scripture speaks, to their own net; that is, to ascribe the blessings they enjoy to their own industry, good fortune, care or skill; and yet all this will not do without the blessing of God upon their labours. We see and feel this now to our sorrow; and that there is a necessity, besides our own industry, of begging of God to give us our daily bread; or it will be with us as St. Peter told our Lord, We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.
As often, therefore, as we use this petition, Give us this day our daily bread, we do acknow
• Matth. xxv. 42.
ledge our whole dependence to be upon God, our heavenly Father, for all things necessary for our souls and bodies. And then, to preserve in our minds a constant sense of this our dependence, we ask these blessings for the present day, knowing, that if we pray for these blessings to-morrow, God will then have the same fatherly care of us, and supply us with what is then necessary and convenient for us.
And observe, that we are directed to pray for bread only; that is, for the necessaries of life; because, as we are sinners, and in a state of trial and penance, it becomes us to ask no more than what is necessary to carry us through a state of trial.
Lastly; we are obliged to pray every day for bread, that we may every day remember to whom we are indebted for life, and breath, and all the comforts of life and health.
Let us now consider, how this petition ought to be put in practice.
And first; the return of every meal should oblige us to beg that we may receive God's gifts with his blessing. Man does not live by bread alone, but by food which God gives a blessing to, to fit it for the nourishment of the body.
And then, forasmuch as this prayer is designed for the use of all, poor and rich, high and low; when the rich, pray for their daily bread, they are supposed to beg of God his grace, that they may not be corrupted by his gifts, if he has given them more than the plain necessaries of life; and the poor, that they may not forfeit their right by their idleness or discontent; but
that God may give his blessing upon their honest endeavours for a livelihood. And at the same time that they pray for their daily bread, they ought to pray for grace to be content with what God thinks proper to give them; that they may neither murmur, nor envy those that have more than their daily bread, nor attempt to get more, and better their condition by unjust ways.
In short; our present wants force us to see, and to feel, our dependence upon God, and to apply to him for help. He is by these judgments punishing the abuse of his former mercies. Our duty is to repent of those sins which have brought upon us this visitation, and to resolve, by his grace, which we must also pray for, that whenever it shall please God to turn this scarcity into plenty, (for he only can do it) that we do not forget what we now feel and fear, by falling again into the sins of luxury, intemperance, and prodigality.
Let us remember, that frugality is every man's interest as well as duty, that the rich may have to give to him that needeth, and that the poor may not be tempted to get bread by ways which may ruin their souls as well as bodies.
Rather let us all that suffer in these hard times remember, that though afflictions of this kind are grievous to nature, yet, with regard to another life, they are of great advantage, when, through the grace of God, they are borne with patience and resignation to the divine will.
And may Almighty God sanctify all their bodily wants to the salvation of the souls of all
that now feel the want of bread; and may his blessing be upon those who, having more than their daily bread, are ready to give and glad to distribute, laying up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,* always remembering, that the measure of God's bounty and favour to them, ought to be the measure of their kindness to those that are in want.
Lastly; Let us never forget, whether poor or rich, that whenever we pray for our daily bread, we beg of God not to deny us the bread that nourisheth to eternal life, which God hath promised to give to them that ask him.
This our Lord hath provided for us in the Holy Sacrament. And as we want bread every day to support our mortal bodies, so we want grace every day to support our immortal souls, and to save us from death eternal.
May he, of his infinite mercy and goodness, vouchsafe us this blessing; and his will be done for the rest, for Jesus Christ's sake.
To whom, with the Father, &c.
• 1 Tim. vi. 19.