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To doth the Lord pity them that fear him. In the Mount of the Lord it will be seen, was a proverbial Saying among the Jews, to fignify, that God will help his People out of the greatest Straits, and appear for them in the height of their Extremities. So he did for the Ifraelites in the Wilderness, giving them Food from Heaven, when earthly Provifions fail'd them; when they were hungry and thirfty, and their Souls ready to faint within them, he fupported them by Miracles, and fed them with extraordinary and celestial Provifions. So did Chrift here for the Multitude that follow'd him; he nourish'd them in a Defart, where little or nothing could be had, by an extraordinary Providence; and by his multiplying Virtue furnish'd a Meal for vaft Numbers out of a fmall Pittance: their Neceffity was his Opportunity, and his Compaffion was higheft when their Condition was loweft, and thereby teaches us to hew Bowels of Pity and Compaffion upon those that are in the greatest Want. Our Bleffed Saviour commended the good Samaritan for pitying and providing for the wounded Traveller, when he could find no Relief from the hard-hearted Prieft and Levite in his greatest Diftrefs; whereas he, good Man, commiferated his Condition, brought him to an Inn, pour'd in Wine and Oil into his Wounds, and at his own Expence took the care of him. This Chrift commended as an Act worthy of Imitation, and bid his Difciples go, and learn to do likewife; Luke 10. 33, 37. He that hath this World's Goods (faith St. John) and feeth his Brother lack and perish with Hunger, how dwelleth the Love of God in him? And indeed they that fuffer any to ftarve for lack of Neceffaries, will be charg'd with the Death of those whom they might and ought to have reliev'd.
Fourthly, We may obferve farther, that the Perfons here reliev'd, or fed by Chrift, were thofe that attended his Perfon, and follow'd him both to hear his Doctrine, and behold his Miracles. I have Compaffion (faith he) on the Multitude, because they have been with me, moving from place to place with me, to fee my Works, and to receive mine Inftructions; and for the space of three days have had no manner of Suftenance, and I cannot fee them lack Neceffaries, who have dearly loved and ftuck to me in all my Travels. He will not fuffer them to want corporal Food, who come to him for spiritual; neither will he deny them the temporal Food of their Bodies, who labour for the im
mortal Food of their Souls. And this may teach us to prefer in our Charity thofe that attend the Service of God, and adhere to, the Ways and Duties of Religion; and to relieve the honeft, vertuous and pious Poor, before the wicked, careless and wandring Beggars the beft Charity to thefe is Correction, and forcing them to work; for Solomon hath order'd a Scourge for the Sluggard, and a Rod for the Fool's Back, Prov. 26.3. And our Laws have appointed the fame for all lazy and fturdy Beggars, who will not labour in any Calling to get an honeft Livelihood, but idly live upon the Labours of others, without taking any care either to ferve God or themselves. The Apoftle wills us in doing good, to have an efpecial Regard to them that are of the Houshold of Faith, Gal. 6. 10. We cannot indeed relieve all, our Stock or Substance will not reach to that, neither are we to impoverish our felves to feed others, nor to be fo profufe in our Charity, as to render our felves the Objects of it; for Charity may and ought to begin at home, tho it must not end there: we are, in the firft place, to mind and provide for our own Subfiftence, and then to give to others what we can fpare from our own Neceffities and Abundance.
And here too our Charity must be guided by the Rules of Prudence and Difcretion; that is, fo to diftribute to the Exigencies of others, as not to rob or wholly to deprive our felves: nor yet to be fo liberal in our Distribution to one or more, as to have nothing left for the Succour of others. But above all, we are to have our firft and principal regard to the honeft and laborious Poor, who by Age, Sickness, Want of Work, or any unavoidable Cafualties, are reduc'd to Poverty; and to relieve them before and above others, who are poor because they will not endeavour to be otherwife, and inftead of working with their Hands the thing that is good, reach out their Hands to picking and ftealing, and to do all manner of Evil. Moreover, we are taught here only to relieve Mens prefent Wants, and not to provide against all future Contingencies, which Mens own Care and Providence ought prudently to forefee and prevent. Thefe Leffons we learn from the Perfons to whom this Miracle did extend.
But what was the Difciples Anfwer to our Saviour's compaffionate Care and Concern for the Relief of this numerous and neceflitous Multitude? Why, the Difciples an
Smered him, From whence can a Man fatisfy thefe Men with Bread here in the Wilderness? An Anfwer much like that of the murmuring and distrustful Ifraelites, Can God furnih a Table in the Wilderness? He fmote the ftony Rock indeed, fo that the Waters gushed out, and the Streams flowed withal; but can he give Bread alfo, and provide Flesh for his People? Pfal. 78. 19, 20. They forgat what God had done (faith the Pfalmift) and the wonderful Works that he had Thewed for them; viz. The marvellous things he did in the fight of our Forefathers in the Land of Egypt; how he divided the Sea, and let them go thorow, and made the Waters to ftand on a heap, which fell down and overwhelm'd their Enemies; how he led them with a Cloud by Day, and in the Night with a Light of Fire, &c. things great enough to be had in everlasting Remembrance, and to banish all Doubts of his Power, and Willingness to provide for them. And yet they kept not his Goodness in Remembrance, but were difobedient at the Sea, even at the Red-Sea, where fuch great things had been done for them; as we read at large in that feventy eighth Pfalm. The like Stupidity feem'd here to poffefs the Minds of the Difciples, who had let flip the Memory of Chrift's mighty Works, and forgat the Operations of his Hand; elfe, inftead of asking how they fhould be fatisfy'd with Bread here in the Wilderness, they would fay with David, Thou shalt prepare a Table for me in the fight of mine Enemies, thou shalt anoint my Head with Oil, and my Cup fhall be full: Pfal. 23. But what Reply did our Saviour make to thefe diftruft ful Words? Why, Chrift takes no notice of their Diffidence, knowing it to proceed from the Weakness of their Faith, and the Infirmity of their Mind, but applies himself to another Method for their Conviction; asking them, How many Loaves have ye? intending to add fuch a multiplying Virtue and Bleffing to them, as fhould fill them with Aftonishment, and make then lay afide all Doubts and Fears about future Provisions. The Anfwer they gave as to the Number of the Loaves, was feven, in St. Matthew it is but five barly Loaves, and two fmall Fishes: Slender Viands for fo great a Multitude, especially having come fo long a Journey, and being in fo hungry and fainting a Condition.
However, Our Saviour commanded the People to fit down. on the Ground, which being a green graffy Place, as St. John tells us, gave them the Convenience of fitting or leaning upon one another, the Pofture us'd in those Days in eating.
And when they were thus plac'd, He took the feven Loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his Difciples to fet before them, and they did fet them before the People. Where his giving of Thanks before his diftributing the Creatures to them, fignifies his rendring Acknowledgments to God for his Bounty, and making outward and folemn Expreffions of it, before we ufe or receive his Creatures for our Refreshment: whofe excellent Example herein may teach us to do the fame, to render unto God the Praise of his Gifts, and to lift up our Eyes unto him, who openeth his Hand, and filleth all things living with Plenteousness; fetting out to every one their Portion, and giving them their Meat in due feafon. This is a Tribute of Homage we owe to the Almighty Donor for all his Bleflings, and is a piece of Service highly profitable for us, and acceptable to him.
It follows, And they had a few Small Fishes; and be bleffed, and he commanded them to fet them alfo before them: Where his bleffing the few Fishes, denotes not only his Acknowledgments to God for his Liberality, but his fanctifying them to us for our Support and Comfort; for all the Creatures are fanctify'd by the commanding Word of God, and his Bleffing is deriv'd upon them by Prayer and Thanksgiving.
But what Comfort did the Multitude reap from those fmall Provifions? Why, that the next words tell us; So they did all eat, and were filled. Wonderful! that fo fmall a Quantity of Provifions fhould increafe and multiply to the filling of fo vaft a Multitude: for the next Verfe tells us, that they were about four thoufand; and St. Matthew, that they were about five thousand, befide Women and Children. And what is more ftrange than all this, 'tis here faid that they took up of the broken Meat, that was left, feven Baskets; or, as St. Matthew hath it, twelve Baskets full; which was vaftly more than was at firft before them : after which they were all fent away fully fatisfy'd.
But tho this Miracle be prodigiously great and astonishing, yet there is fomething far more wonderful and amaz ing, that occurs every day to a wife Obferver; and that is the feeding and filling not of Thousands only, but of Millions of Creatures, with daily and hourly Provifions by natural and ordinary Means; which being common and conftant, are not fo much admir'd as fome rare and uncommon Occurrences, which in themselves are far lefs wonderful. However, both are Matters of our loudeft Praifes and
Thanksgivings: and whofo is wife will ponder these things, and be fhall understand the Loving-kindness of the Lord.
Thus we fee the Miracle held forth in the Gospel for this Day; the Improvement and Application whereof being made at large in the Gospels for the fourth Sunday in Lent, and the laft Sunday after Trinity, I fhall not need to repeat it here, but refer the Reader to them.
The EPISTLE for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.
Rom. viii. 12-18.
Brethren, we are Debtors, not to the Flesh, to live after the Flefb; for if ye live after the Flefb ye fball die; but if ye, thro the Spirit, do mortify the Deeds of the Body, ye shall live: for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God, &c.
HE Collect for this Day befeeches God, whofe never-failing Providence ordereth all things, both in Heaven and Earth, to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us.
Now the things hurtful to us are chiefly the Works of the Flefh, which lead to Death and Damnation; and the things profitable for us are the Fruits of the Spirit, which lead to Life and Salvation. Accordingly, the Epiftle for the Day treats of both thefe, exhorting us to put away the one, and to put on the other. It begins with the kind Compellation of Brethren, Brethren (faith he) we are Debtors, &c. Where the Apostle takes these new-converted Romans into the Relation of a fpiritual Fraternity, ftiling them Brethren, hoping by that loving and endearing Title the better to in