Give us day by day our daily bread.
I. WE HERE CONFESS OUR DEPENDENCE. A man may be proud of his industry, and economy, and skill; a nation may exult over their enterprise and energy; but are not these, or the qualities that win bread, and win it abundantly, themselves gifts of Heaven? "Is it not He that giveth thee power to get wealth?" The statesman or political economist who overlooks this palpable truth has little reason to boast of his discernment. All the praise of a man or of a measure — of a political leader, or of a party and its policy — that stops short of God, is like the stolidity of the heathen fisherman represented in Scripture as burning incense to his net and drag. Is it not He, that bestowed all the material constituents of wealth, the ores and gems hid in the recesses of the earth, as well as the harvests reaped from its fields; and is it not His Providence that discovers to man, in the fitting age and hour, the treasures of Nature, and suggests all the inventions of Art? He who of old guided the flight of the quails over the tents of the chosen tribes in the wilderness, is not He, the same in skill, yet guiding the crowds of the fishermen's finny spoil, beneath or far aside from their barks? Can the trapper of the Rocky Mountains, or the harpooner of the Pacific Ocean succeed, but as God maintains and guides their chosen prey? The Puritan fathers when they eked out the scanty supplies of their first years with the shell-fish of our coasts, and blessed God for showing them the "treasures," as they beautifully quoted the Scripture, "hid in the sand," were setting a lesson of pious acknowledgment, which their children in our days would do well to remember, when sifting other, and perhaps far more baleful treasures out of the golden sands of California.
II. WE HERE PLEDGE OUR SYMPATHY. And how many need this! Wherever population has become dense, and labour difficult to be obtained, pauperism has grown into a formidable evil. It is in many lands the great question of the times. The gaunt and hollow-eyed clan of the "Wants" are confronting the more sleek, but the less numerous, and the feebler house of the "Haves." Shall the sinewy grasp of Famine's bony hand be laid on the pampered throat of Luxury, and a violent social revolution assay to right for a time the dread inequality? We believe that to the lands which know not or scorn the gospel there are few enemies which they have more cause to fear than this famishing multitude — fierce, unrestrained, and illiterate — a Lazarus without a gospel and without a God, turning wolf-like in the blindness of its misery and its brute strength on a Dives without conscience and without mercy. The poor must be relieved, but not in indolence. The gospel must come in, and by its influence on personal conscience and on individual character, teach the poor self-respect, diligence, and economy and content; and require of the rich sympathy, and compassion, and bounty, for their more necessitous brethren.
III. WE HERE PROMISE BY IMPLICATION, CONTENTMENT, AND MODERATION. We ask not from our God luxuries, but necessaries. One of the sins that called down from heaven the terrific bolt of the first French Revolution was that prodigal luxury of the nobility and court, which dared to run to all excesses of riot amid a famishing people, and with a bankrupt exchequer, with the selfish cry: "After us let there come the Deluge." It came for them. Fashion and pride rob charity. When the Egyptian queen, to make a draught of unparalleled costliness, melted a most precious pearl in her goblet; and when in the days of Charles V., a merchant-prince of Germany kindled a fire of cinnamon for his kingly guest; the gem and the wood might well perhaps be spared as far as referred to any immediate use which the poor could have made of them; but if the price of them were so much deducted from what might have fed needy thousands, this destruction of value, for purposes of mere ostentation, cannot certainly be regarded as being just. "Our superfluities," said Howard, "must give place to our brother's necessities." That maxim would replenish every poor fund and mission treasury under the cope of heaven.
(W. R. Williams, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give us day by day our daily bread.