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been satisfied. But it is evident, that both Four, and Five thousand so fed, is an Effect infinitely above the Power of Natural Causes and Agents; and so is the Remainder of Seven, or of Twelve Baskets: be the Mea. sure of those Baskets, what it will. The Considerations therefore, on which I design to insist, and the Practical Improvements to be made of them, belonging by Parity of Reason to each Account, I shall think Both sufficiently treated of, under the Three following Observations, and the Inferences resulting from them.
I. First, Our Lord's Behaviour, before this Feeding and Distribution, taken notice of Ver. 11. when be had given thanks, be distributed, &c. Or, as St. Matthew, somewhat more expressly, looking up to Heaven, be blessed, and brake, and
Matth. xiv. 19.
II. Secondly, The fatisfying so many with so small a Store; He distributed of the loaves to his Disciples, and bis Disciples to the multitude, and likewise of the fishes, as much as they would.
III. Thirdly, The saving of the Remainders, Ver. 12. and 13. Upon these Particulars I shall endeavour to say something, that may be of Use to Us in our own respective Circumstances.
I. I begin with our Lord's Behaviour, before this Feeding and Distribution, called by the Evangelifts, Blesling, and Giving of Tbanks. By the Former, fome Interpreters understand the multiplying Virtue, which he then commanded down upon the Sustenance they were about to take ; and that marvellous Increase in the Hands of the Distributers, whereby it became a Repast sufficient for so vast a Multitude. Others, that he thus gave Thanks to his Father for, and begged his Blessing upon it, for the wholsome Nourishment of those Bodies, which were to be fed with it. And thefe Notions seem absolutely necessary to that Passage of St. Mark, who, after the mention of his giving Thanks, adds, that he
ble bed a few small fishes, and commanded to Chap. viii. 12.
set them also before the People. It is enough to warrant the indifferent Use of these two Words, that the Forms of Address to Almighty God, upon the Use of his Gifts for our Refreshment, have usually been mixed; and consist partly of Praises, and partly of Petitions. Accordingly we expressly call this Action, Giving Thanks, saying Grace, Blejjing the Table, Craving a Blessing, and the like. Because the End of such Devotions is manifestly Two-fold. They are designed to render our Acknowledgments to God for his Liberality; and also to beg, that it may be sanctified to us, by tending to promote all those good Purposes, which such Bounty is intended to serve and advance. The Whole indeed of this Service seems to have been exactly described by St. Paul, when, condemning the Erroneous Superstition of Some, who preached up the Distinction of Meats, he declares the Lawfulness of All, and, that the Danger lay not so much in the Kinds eaten, as in the Manner of Eating. For every Creature of God
(says he) is good, and nothing to be refused,
if it be received with Thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the Word of God, and by Prayer.
Hence it seems evident, that a secret Sense of God's Goodness, upon such Occasions, is by no means enough; but that it is expected, Men should make solemn and outward Expressions of it, when they receive his Creatures for their Support. This is a Service and Homage, not only due to Him, but profitable to Themselves. The Creatures are His, and therefore to be received with Thanksgiving: But the San&tifying those Creatures to Man's Use, and rendring that which is good in its own Nature, serviceable and advantageous to the Party receiving it, this depends upon the Word, or particular Blessing of the Creator; and therefore it is Our part to draw down that Word by Prayer.
1 Tim. iv. 4, 5.
This is to eat, and drink, like Men and Christians, when we perform an Act of Worship, which appears to have had a place even in Natural Religion, and the PraEtice of Heathens themselves. This was certainly observed by the Jews; This St. Paul would not omit in all the Confusion
Acts xxvii. 35
Matth. xiv. 194 of a Storm and Shipwrack: This we
xv. 36. have several Instances of in our Saviour:
Luke xxiv. 30 And This he here performed with great Seriousness and Zeal; thus teaching us, when, looking up to Heaven, that the Eyes of all ought, in the most literal Sense, to wait upon that Lord, who gives them their Meat in due Seafon.
And, What part of Religion can be better contrived, to keep up a constant Awe and Reverence of God in our Minds? Which are too apt, but will scarce find it possible, to forget him, when accustomed to call upon his Name, at every Supply of those Natural Appetites, and Necessities, which cannot but of course refresh our Memories very often. What can more effectually humble us, with a just Sense of our own precarious and depending Condition? What more dispose Men to use his Gifts moderately, to entertain them thankfully, to be content with their Portion, if it be little ; to impart of their Abundance, if it be much; to compassionate those who want the same Comforts, to recollect, that they are Stewards; and that their Orders are, to give freely of what they have received freely? What, Lastly, can be more likely to fanctify, to enlarge, and multiply our Blessings, than so decent, so publick, so devout, so humble, a Testimony of our Great Benefactor's Goodness?
II. The Second Thing, I proposed to consider on this Occasion, is, The satisfying so many with so finall a Store. And here I might observe the Zeal of these Multitudes; the Nature of that Refreshment they were provided with; the Quantity, which only was a present
I Cor. xv. 37,
undeniably plain, that, what we siw is not quickened,
except it die; and that which we fow, we
Grain; but God giveth it a Body, as it haih pleased Him ; and to every Seed his own Body.
This is what we call Natural, because it proceeds by Method and Rule, and in a Series of Causes. But if we trace Each of these to its first head, there is no less Demonftration of infinite Power and Wisdom in this Increase, than in That, which, in the Scripture now at hand, we distinguish as miraculous, because it was extraordinary and uncominon. Nay, I had almost faid, the Demonstration I am speaking of, is greater. For, when a Miracle is wrought, Nature is set aside, and its Process superseded ; the thing is done at once, in an instant, and at an heat. But in That, which we call Nature, Providence acts by Inferior Causes, and some of those, free ones too. And, albeit the whole goes on leisurely, and makes less vigorous Impressions upon the Senses: The Multiplicity however of those Causes, what Wisdom must it require to direct, what Power to influence and invigorate, what steady Management to keep them uniform? So that This is, in Effect, a long Succession of Wonders; A Chain, in which, if one Link be broken or displaced, the Whole falls to pieces. And the Links of this Chain are the Variations of every Day in the whole Year. Thus every Furrow in our Fields is loaded with Evidences of a Divine Power: And not Five thousand only, but Millions of Millions, to whom God gives Meat in due Season, are sustained by Omripotence; and not one of them ever feeds at Jess Expence than that of a Wonder, nay, of an infinite Train of Wonders.
III. The Last Head, I promised to speak to, is, Our Blessed Master's Care, that the Fragments remaining might be gathered up, and put into Baskets. For which, no doubt, this had been a sufficient Reason, that Those
might prove both the Reality of the Miracle, and the exceeding Greatness of the Increase. But, in regard our Lord assigns Another, when saying, Gather up the Fragments, that nothing be lojt: The proper Use, I think, of this Head, is, thence to form a Direction, how to manage our Substance to the best Advantage; and so to approve our felves Charitable and Kind, as at the fame time not to be Profuse and Indiscreet. Jesus, 'tis true, by setting his whole Store before the Multitudes, hath left us a Pattern of Beneficence and Largeness of Heart. The Provisions, growing so prodigiously upon his Hands, are an Emblem and Intimation of those unac, countable Accessions, which we may sometimes observe to the Fortunes of generous and merciful Persons. And, by some Passages of Scripture, an unwary Reader might be led to think, that in those Actions there could be no Excess, at least no Possibility of Offending by such Excess. But yet the same Jesus would not, that even Fragments should be loft; And herein he hath shewed, that all Reserving for the future is not unlawful; that Charity is very consistent with Frugality ; indeed not only that they may, but should go together. For God will be sure to make a mighty Difference, between the Virtue, and the specious Extreme beyond it; between the Liberal, and the Lavish Man.
That every one is bound, by the Rules both of Prydence and Religion, to moderate his Expences, to keep within his own Property, and retrench all Superfluities unsuitable to his Calling and Condition, is too notorious to need a Proof. That, which the Case before us feems rather to suggest, is, good Husbandry, in not laying out, even upon proper Objects, beyond such Proportions, as the Circumstances of our Affairs will allow. For, althos the Poor be our Care, yet are not they our only Care. The Justice of those Demands, which our Families have upon us, I had Occasion Epift. for Ad
Sunday. formerly to take notice of. But, besides