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MODESTY AND REASONABLENESS OF
. JACOB'S DESIRE.
GEN. XXVIII. 20.
AND JACOB VOWED A VOW, SAYING, IF GOD WILL BE WITH ME, AND WILL KEEP ME IN THE WAY THAT I GO, AND WILL GIVE ME BREAD TO EAT, - AND RAIMENT TO PUT ON, SO THAT I COME . AGAIN TO MY FATHERS HOUSE IN PEACE, THEN SHALL THE LORD BE MY GOD, &c.
The only thing that I intend to consider upon this place of holy Scripture, is the modesty and reasonableness of Jacob's Defire. He doth not defire greatness of wealth, or honour, or power, or splendor, or great equipage in this world; but all that he desires in reference to this world, is, 1. That the comfortable presence and the sense of the favour and love of God should be with him: If Godwill be with me. 2. That the protection of the Divine Providence may be continually over him; and will keep me in the way that I go: 3. That he would supply him, not with curiosities or delicates, but with necessaries; and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on.
And the truth is, this should be the rule and measure of every good man, in reference to this life, and the enjoyments of it, and the desires of them, until he come to his Father's house in peace; that house wherein there are many manfions, that the great Father, of whom all
the the family in heaven and earth is named, hath provided for such as fear, and love, and obey him. others wants by virtue of a Divine command ; but Almighty God is under no other law of conferring benefits, but of his own bounty, goodness and will.
Indeed the two former of these, though they be no more than what the bountiful God freely affords to all that truly love him, and depend upon him, are of a strange and vast extent. First, the comfortable pre.. sence of God supplies abundantly all that can be de. fired by us, and abundantly countervails whatsoever else we seem to want ; it is better than life itself. And when the antients would express all that seemed beneficial or prosperous in this life, they had no fuller and comprehensive expression of it than that God was with him ; as of Joseph: “And when his master saw ' that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made call that he did to prosper! The wisdom and courage and succefs of David is resolved into this one thing, The Lord was with him?
But certainly, though the divine presence should not manifest itself in external successes and advantages, the very sense of the favour and comfortable presence of God carries with it an abundant supply of all other deficiencies 3. The light of the countenance of Al. mighty God is the most fupereminent good, and oca : casions more true joy and contentment, than the re- . dundance of all external advantages. Secondly, the Divine Protection and Providence is the most sure and safe protection, and supplies the want of all other. : The munition of rocks is thy defence ; and all other defences and refuges, without this, are weak, impotent, and failing defences. “Except the Lord watch the 'city, the watchman watcheth but in vain.'
· That therefore which I shall fix upon is the last of
his three desires : ' If he shall give me bread to eat and , 'raiment to put on.'
. The desires of a good man, in relation to the things of this life, ought not to be lavish and extravagant; not to be of things of grandeur, or delicacy, or excess: but to be terininated in things of neceffity for his preGen. xxxix. 3. l Sam. xviii. 14. 28. 2 Sam. 6.10. Psal. iv. 6.7...
sent subsistence, convenient food and raiment. If Almighty God give more than this, it is matter of the greater gratitude, as it was to Jacob: 'I am not wor. thy of the least of all thy mercies, &c. for with my staff, I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands 1.' But if he gives no more, we have enough for our contentation. Almighty God, who is never worse than his word, but most commonly better, hath not given us any promise of more, neither hath he given us commission to expect or ask for more. If he gives more than necessary, he exalts his bounty and beneficence : and yet, if he gives no more, it is bounty that he gives so much; and is matter both of our contentation and gratitude.
Thus the wise man Agur, made his request: ‘Give 'me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food con
venient for me? This our Lord teacheth us to ask, in his excellent form of prayer, “Give us this day our • daily bread;' and this is that which the apostle prescribes, for the rule of our contentation: And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content 3,
And truly, if it pleaseth God to allow us a sufficiency, and competency, for the necessity of our nature, we have very great reason to be contented with it, not only as it is a duty enjoined unto us, but upon most evident conviction of sound reason, both in regard unto Almighty God, in regard of ourselves, and in regard of others. I shall mingle these reasons together.
1. It becomes us to be contented, because whatsoever we have, we have from the free allowance and goodness of God: He owes us nothing ; but what we have, we have from free gift and bounty. If a man demands a debt of another, we think it just he should be paid what he demands; but if a man receives an alms from another, we think it reasonable that he should be content with what the other gives, without prescribing to the mea sure of his bounty. But the case is far stronger here; we are under an obligation of duty to be charitable to Gen. xxxii, 10. ? Prov. xxx. %. 31 Tim. vi. 8.
2. It becomes us to be content, because our nessure and dole is given unto us, as by him that is abiolute Lord of his own bounty, so by him that is the silent dispenser of his own benefits: He knows, far better than we ourselves, what proportion is fittest for us : He hath given us enough for our neceflity, and we are desirous to have somewhat more; the wise God knows, it may be, that more would do us harm, would undo us; would make us luxurious, proud, infolent, domineering, forgetful of God: The great Lord and Malter of the great family of the world, knows who are, and who are not able to bear redundancy: And therefore if I have food convenient for me, I have reason to be content, because I have reason to believe the great and wise God knows what proportion best fits me; it may be, if I had inore, I were ruined..
. 3. We must know that we are but slewards of the very external bleiling of this life, and at the great audit, we must give an account of our stewardship, and those accounts will be strictly perused by the great Lord of all the family in heaven and earth. Now if our external benefits be but proportionable to our necessities and neceífıry use, our account is easily and safely made : Impr:33.is, I have received so much of thy external blelings as were neceffary for my food and cloathing, and for the feeding and cloathing of my family : But on the other side, where there is superfluity and redundance given over and above our necessary fupport, our account is more difficult. Where in'ch is given, nuch will be required. There will be an account required, how the redundant overplus was employed; how much in charity, how much in other good works; and God knows that too, too often very pitiful accounts: are made of that surplurage and redundancy of a liber: estate ; which will be to far from abating the account, is it will enhance it : Steill, so much in excess,
debauchery and riot; so much in collly apparel, fo much in magnificence and vain ihews, and the like.
4. Our natures may be well enough supplied with little; natura paucis contenta l; and whatsoever is redundant, moll commonly turns to the damage and dea triment of our nature, unless it meet with a very wise proprietor: For the excess in the abuse of superfluities in eating and drinking, and gratifying our appetites, or the excess of care and pains in getting, or keeping, or disposing fuperfluities and redundance, commonly dɔth more harm, even to our natural complexions and conftitution, than a mediocrity proportionable to the neceffities of nature.
5. Whatsoever is more than enough for our natural support, and the necellary supply of our families, and so employed, is in truth, voin, itfeless, unserviceable; and such a man is rich but in fancy and notion, and not in truth and reality : For the use of externals is to fup. ply our natural necessities; if I have a million of money, and yet an hundred pounds are sufficient, and as much as I shall use to bring me to my grave, the rest is vain and needless to me, and doth me no good: It is indeed my burthen, and my care, and my trouble; but it is of no more use to me in my chest, than if it were in the centre of the earth. It is true, I have thereby a happy opportunity if I have a large and wile heart to dispose of it for the glory and service of God, and the good of mankind, in works of piety, charity, and humanity: but if I keep it in my cheit, it is an impertinent trouble, neither useful for myself, because I need it not, I have enough without it; nor as I order it, is it useful for others, no more than if it were an hundred fathoms under ground.
6. A fate of inediociily, or supplies proportionate to my neceility, is infinitely 979 jafe to me, even in respect of myself, than an estate of glory, wealth, power, and abundance. An estate of mediocrity and con. mensurateness to our exigence and neceility, is the nature is content with a little.